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October 2015

I’ve Got Some Good News and Bad News

Our latest blog series on BGW is about our Best and Worst days, as writers. Or Worst and Best, depending on how you want to mix it up.

My Best Day was the night I queried my agent, thinking, “There is NO WAY she’ll want to represent me. Let me get this over with and deal with the rejection.” I’d met her at two different conferences and she oozed professionalism and business savvy. Nicole knew what she was doing, knew the industry and what she wanted in a client. Why would she ever want me? She had NYT & USA Today Best Sellers on her list. I’m just little ole me.

Within ten or fifteen minutes of hitting send, she emailed me back, saying something to the effect of, “YES! I love this. I want more. Send me the full!”

AHHH

First of all, that uber impressive agent wanted my full manuscript? Secondly, my timing was 100% pure luck. She must have been checking her email at the time my submission popped in and there I was, at the top of the inbox. 🙂 I received her response some time after 10pm and proceeded to wander around my house for the next two hours in complete and total shock. Once the shock wore off, the panic set in. I had to get the story finished and polished immediately (forever indebted to my CP and fellow Bad Girl, Laura Trentham for being super speedy with my emergency), but I sent the full off a few days later and my agent loved it. We emailed back and forth and chatted on the phone. She offered representation and I accepted. I was over the moon for days! We went on to sell my next story in a three book deal (still flying high about that), but the very best day was when I received Nicole’s email of enjoyment and interest. In the dark of night, when I had no hope of her wanting to rep me, and didn’t think anyone would ever want to read me, my dream agent said she loved my story.

The Worst Day was when it became apparent I would not break into NY with the first series we sent on submission. It was just after RWA Nationals last year, and while editors loved my voice and the characters, for a debut author, the series needed a stronger, more original hook.

Now, I get it. I absolutely see why they had concerns about the series marketability and sales, since I’m a new voice in the genre. Now, I know how I’d change the series to make it a stronger sell, but at the time, I was devastated. All of my friends had sold their first time out, and I fell into that comparison game even though I know it’s a no win competition.

But along with the rejection came a lot of great feedback. Every house was open to seeing my next project and now I could create a series from scratch, with my agent’s feedback in mind. I learned a lot from those rejections, and I stopped worrying about the comparison game. In fact, that game is almost non-existent for me now. I’m stronger for not getting a yes right away, but man oh man, it suuuuucked when it happened. I cried and emailed my CPs/executive committee. Of course they were all fabulous and supportive. They were fabulous and supportive again, when I DID sell; screaming on the phone with me, doing the happy dance no matter where they were. I can honestly say they believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.

That’s the takeaway here, writers and Bad Girlz of the world. Best Day or Worse, you will learn from both. You will find your true friends through both. Success and Failure are of equal importance, and I believe you can’t fully appreciate one without the other. Now go out there, grab the words by the horns, and write those stories!

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Any excuse to use this gif. Because Deadpool. 😀

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My Best and Worst Days as a Writer

rollercoaster-156027_1280The life of a writer has a lot of ups and downs. Why I chose a career that would send me on a roller coaster ride when I hate roller coasters, I have no idea. Oh yeah, that’s right, I didn’t like math and science. So when considering today’s blog topic, I had to sit here and stare at the computer screen for a while, remembering a lot of the highs and lows of my career.

For the highs, there have been wonderful moments — winning two Golden Heart Awards, finaling in the contest eight times, winning two Maggie Award of Excellence medallions, seeing my first cover for the first time, signing my first book contract. Well, you get the idea. But I have a feeling my best day is the same as it is for lots of writers — the day I sold my first book. As it happens, on a personal level it wasn’t all that great a day. Let me explain. After 11 years of rejection and unsold manuscripts that numbered in the teens, my agent finally called me with the news that Razorbill/Penguin had bought my first two young adult manuscripts. Yay! Now for the bad part. I was sick as a dog when I got the call, in bed with an all-over body rash and fever as a result of a bad reaction to antibiotics I’d been given for the foot infection (caused by shoes I’d worn to the RWA National Conference 10 days before) and sinus infection raging in my head. I could barely talk because of my sore throat. Yeah, I was a big, pitiful mess. I was so excited, but I could only stay up long enough to call or e-mail a couple of people at a time, and then I had to go back to bed because my fever would spike. Good times! It really was an awesome feeling to get that call, however. I’d very nearly given up a year earlier. I’m so glad I didn’t.

WinterLongingNow for the lows. There were those 11 years of rejection letters hitting my mailbox, not winning contests, harsh critiques/contest feedback, etc. But there isn’t much that feels worse than being orphaned by a publisher. Odd how the call about sales from Razorbill were my high moment, but my lowest moment came because they declined to sign me to another contract even before the second book on my first two-book contract came out. Like a year before.I was convinced I was going to have the shortest publishing career in history, that they were wondering why in the world they’d bought books from me. The truth was that my contemporary tearjerker YA books were hitting the market right when paranormal YA was exploding all over the place. Razorbill decided to go that direction instead.

HeartbreakRiver2_1200x1800But in a lemonade-from-lemons scenario, I eventually got the rights back to those two books, gave them new covers, ditched the pen name I’d had for those two books, and re-released them. Now they’re available in e-book format as well and in countries outside the U.S., neither of which were the case when they were originally released.

There have been highs and lows since that day I was orphaned, and I have no doubt there will continue to be both in the future. It’s just the nature of this business we’ve all embraced because it’s what calls to us. I’ll just try to enjoy the view from the top of the roller coaster before I scream my fool head off on the way down and try not to pass out.

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I Heart Halloween

I love Halloween. It’s not that I’m a fan of scary stuff (I can only watch The Walking Dead in the full light of day, surrounded by pillows, with my eyes closed for about half the show.) What I love about Halloween is the pretend element!

Look, I spend my days talking to fictional people. Reality is not where I live.

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Throwback Thursday to the year my guys were Men In Black, way back before my son discovered texting and Axe body spray:
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And my artistic husband has carved some excellent jack-o-lanterns over the years without the benefit of tracing or kits. Last year’s:

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Last spring, it occurred to me that with all the books I’ve written that revolve around a holiday (Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s, Thanksgiving…even St. Patrick’s Day!) I’d never written a Halloween story before. Well, I’ve fixed that!

IF SHE DARES, my October Blaze, tells the story of Riley Kendrick, a feisty Atlanta woman who has become uncharacteristically skittish after being robbed at gunpoint. Her sexy new neighbor, forensic artist Jack Reed, has vowed to never again get romantically involved with someone who lives in his building, yet he can’t resist the challenge of helping Riley rediscover her daring side. Below is an excerpt from the book where the two of them go costume shopping.

I’d love to know what you think—and I’d love to know what you’re planning to be for Halloween!

*****

They passed several rows of creepy decorations, then into the adjoining room with costumes–or, more accurately, the scraps of material and fishnet the proprietors had mislabeled as costumes. Lord have mercy. She’d joked about leather thongs at the lingerie store, but she was more likely to find one here.
“Wow.” Jack’s tone was reverent. “I feel like a kid who was just given the keys to the candy store. Any idea where you want to start?”
“Nope.” She went to a column of masks. These weren’t rubber witch faces or the iconic, elongated Ghostface from Scream; they were more like Mardi Gras masks, elegant and mysterious. She couldn’t resist trailing her finger over a sapphire-blue one, edged in black sequins. The thought of feeling like someone else for the night was thrilling.
She stole a glance at Jack’s profile as he browsed a shelf of accessories. Could she convince him that an affair would be like a prolonged masquerade? Not real life, not a real relationship, but something temporary and fun and cathartic.
“Pfft.” He shook his head at a pair of cheap plastic handcuffs, his voice full of disdain. “Like I’d spend money on these when I have friends who’d let me borrow the real thing.”
She couldn’t recall having any handcuff fantasies–in the past, she’d liked men who knew just how to use their hands–but suddenly she was intrigued. She watched Jack, assessing, wondering. What would it be like to have such a big, strong guy at her mercy, to take all the time she wanted to drive him completely crazy with desire? Her fingers curled at her side, as if she were trying to keep herself from reaching for him.
He raised an eyebrow at whatever he saw in her expression. “You look like you’ve switched back into Evil Riley Mode. I don’t know what’s going through your mind, but I think I like it.”
So do I.
“Hey!” His gaze went just beyond her, and he grinned. “Superhero stuff. It’s our lucky day. You wanted to be a superhero as a kid? Well, here you go.” He lifted a star-spangled gold-and-red bustier from the rack. “Oooh. This is…patriotic.”
She eyed the top, considering. It was revealing, but no more so than bathing suits she’d worn in the past. Daring, but not tacky, which was more than she could say about the Naughty Nurse or Passionate Bo Peep costumes. Actually, the top was kind of badass. The bottom half of the outfit consisted of gold shorts with a skirt flap over them.
Jack wiggled the hanger. “Dare you to try it on.”
“Okay.” She wasn’t sure which of them was more surprised by her agreement.
“Really?”
“If they have it in my size, yeah. And in return, I dare you to try on this.” She held up a men’s superhero outfit that was essentially a body stocking with a belt and a pair of Speedos over it.
He studied it with a mixture of skepticism and horror. “That…I…”
She clucked soft chicken noises under her breath, and he yanked the costume away from her.
“Fine,” he relented. “You’re on.” He turned toward the changing room in the corner while she browsed the rack for a bustier that would fit tightly enough to be supportive without leading to any unflattering spillover. Then she grabbed a pair of bottoms and, on a whim, checked the shoe shelf for knee-high boots. Might as well complete the outfit–nobody likes a half-ass superhero. Once she found what she needed, she impulsively grabbed one final accessory for Jack and returned to wait by the fitting room.
The doors were saloon style, two halves that didn’t fully reach the ground or go to the ceiling. He flung them open like the ticked-off lead in a cowboy movie who’d been given the wrong wardrobe assignment for the day.
“Look your fill,” he grumbled, “because this thing is coming off in the next two minutes, and I’m never putting it on again.”
She didn’t need to be told to look—she was already actively ogling. Hello. It was probably for the best that he wasn’t planning to wear this to the building party. Female tenants, too busy staring to watch where they were going, would end up plummeting off the roof. The bright color and his annoyed expression should have lent a comical element, but all she could think about was the toned, taut male perfection in front of her. Her gaze started at his broad shoulders and slowly traveled downward. By the time she reached the belt and beyond, she was feeling lightheaded.
“Riley.” His tone was considerably silkier than it had been a moment ago. “I have to admit, the way you’re looking at me makes this almost worth it. But I should definitely change now.”
“Wait! One more thing. Humor me?” She stepped toward him with the mask that matched his costume. It was a partial mask, meant to cover only the eyes. She stretched up to smooth it over his face, reveling in the excuse to be this close. “I just wanted to get the full effect.”
His dark eyes gleamed from behind the fabric, and her fingers stilled at his temples. Their faces were close enough that they could share breaths, except she didn’t think either of them was breathing.

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Orphaned Calves and Rescued Stories

bittersweet creekAs of today I have a week before my second novel hits the shelves. I’m a little. . . . antsy.

Before I figured out I was a bona fide southern fiction writer, I experimented with a lot of different genres. Bittersweet Creek was supposed to be a Harlequin Superromance, but it had too much cow.

My philosophy on pretty much all stories

My philosophy on pretty much all stories

I’d just written my first attempt at a Harlequin American–working title Married to the Mortician–so you would think I might be close to getting a clue about how I don’t fit in with genre.

Alas, no.

Months later as I was leaving car pool I would almost slam on my brakes with an exclamation of “Holy sh*t!” as I realized that my newly finished The Happy Hour Choir featured the mortician from what would one day be Better Get to Livin’ and that the dive where Romy and Julian sing “Islands in the Stream” in Bittersweet Creek was the same Fountain where Beulah played. Maybe I thought I was writing different stories, but, no, I had been subconsciously setting all of my stories in my own little postage stamp of the universe. Even better? Yessum is a lot easier to say and spell than Yoknapatawpha.

Bittersweet Creek (then called Starcrossed and later Starcrossed and Moonblind) is a coming home story. It’s also a mashup of Romeo and Juliet and the Hatfields and the McCoys with a touch of Progressive Farmer and the barest glimmer of Southern Living. Once again I had hit the jackpot of things people supposedly don’t want to read about: poor farmers, cows, a rural story with literary allusions. For you-know-what-and-giggles, I also threw in a little psychology on nature versus nurture: can we (people or animals) be made mean or are we born that way?

Granny's House

This is a painting of my Granny’s house. The Satterfield homeplace is modeled on her house so the house will live on long in my novel even after the original house is gone. I teared up when I saw the painting because I’d already written the novel, but the art really is worth all ninety thousand of my words.

But the one thing I discovered about Bittersweet Creek–once I’d written it–was that it’s my love letter to West Tennessee. Sure, I had to add some villains to make for a good story, but look at the good characters. Look at the animals, the verdant countryside, and Romy’s struggle to balance her rural roots with a world that prizes the urban and the commercial. I think I’m most nervous about Bittersweet Creek because I don’t want a novel that includes so many of things I love about where I grew up to fail.

And, speaking of my childhood home, I want to introduce you to a bodacious badass bovine bad girl named Rosie. For some reason, Rosie’s mom didn’t take to her just as Star’s mom doesn’t take to her in my novel. Unlike Star, however, poor Rosie probably didn’t get what nourishment she needed in time and had some health issues that led to an early demise. Writing Star was my way to let Rosie live on.

Rosie

Here’s Miss Rosie.

My mom bottle-fed Rosie, who quickly adopted her as a suitable mother facsimile. She would come to my mom barreling toward her in a way that would give anyone pause once she got bigger. The most remarkable thing that Rosie did, however, was untie my mom’s shoes. Weird little heifer! I’ve never seen a cow do that before or since, so I gave that special skill to little Star in Bittersweet Creek.

BittersweetCreekjarI hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of Bittersweet Creek this Tuesday. It’s available wherever fine books are sold. If you’re in the Atlanta area and would like to stop by Foxtale Book Shoppe on October 29th for my launch party, I’ll have a special mason jar-type glass complete with color changing straw so we can tell if you’re feeling bitter or sweet.

P.S. Dear all–but mostly mom–I’d like to preemptively apologize for the amount of cursing that takes place in this book. Um. I didn’t realize until I was in the page proof stage that the language is a little. . . blue? I guess that’s another nod to the Bard.

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Welcome BadGirl for the Day: Madeline Martin!

Laura here, jumping in quickly to introduce Madeline Martin, author of smoking hot Scottish historicals! Not only is Madeline a talented writer, but she loves to give back. Her website is chock-full of great marketing information for authors, and she hosts a Free Book Friday on her Facebook author page each week for readers! Make sure you check out all her links at the end of the post (including buy links:) With no further ado, I’ll let Madeline take it away and tell us why she and her heroine Mariel are BadGirlz…

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If there’s any one thing I never thought I’d learn writing romance, it would be how to be a badass. That is until I wrote Mariel Brandon.

Mariel Brandon is the heroine in Deception of a Highlander – an English spy whose parents succumbed to the plague and left her the sole caregiver of her young brother, Jack. They lived on the streets until Jack fell ill, then she was forced to accept help from a stranger and unknowingly thrust herself into the clutches of London’s dark underlord. In order to keep her brother alive, she was not only forced to spy, but also eventually act as an assassin if she can’t obtain the information she needs from Scottish laird, Kieran MacDonald.

Writing Mariel was complicated. I had to make her relatable and I had to make her tough. Imagining her emotional turmoil was all too easy with my too active imagination, but those fight scenes were proving a little difficult. So, I decided to try my hand at martial arts.

GloveNBookPicI’d love to say I just walked in, found my niche and went from writer to badass in a matter of days, but that’s not how it worked. Not even close, actually.

I signed up for Tae Kwon Do and was all excited that first day in my white ankle-skimming pajama like karate outfit thing (not the technical name – also it’s not NEARLY as comfortable as it looks cuz it’s all scratchy and not made for freakishly long limbed people). Not only was I the white belt in the class, I was also the only adult. And those kids were ruthless. Let’s just say I came away with a couple bruises and a dinged up sense of pride. Sidebar – it’s a good thing the nun chucks were blue Styrofoam because I may or may not have clocked myself in the noggin a few times.

But blue Styrofoam nun chucks and getting my butt kicked by ten year olds wasn’t exactly badass.

I think the owner of the place had pity on me because he kept suggesting I take the Krav Maga self defense class. I’m one of those stubborn people who sticks with an idea once it’s lodged into my head, so I kept refusing and kept subjecting myself to elementary school beatings. Because, hey, it had to get better right?

It didn’t.

Then one day, all these men came into the class. And when I say men, I mean like the tall, good looking, ripped kind of men. I shot a WTF look to the owner and mouthed “What are they here for?” He smirked in that I-told-you-so kind of way and said, “Krav Maga self defense class.”

Guess what I started taking? FeelinTough

My first day of Krav Maga, I learned how to get out of  a chokehold on the ground by grabbing a man by his head with my knees, throwing him to the floor, breaking his nose with my heel, standing up while snapping his shoulder out of joint and being ready to fight some more. Badass. I kept up with that class for the duration of writing Deception of a Highlander and truly enjoyed the experience.

I just signed another three book deal for my next series, The Broken Dolls, where noblewomen who fall from society’s good graces are swept into an underground organization of all female spies. I’m thinking I need to go back to Krav Maga and dig a little deeper into my inner badass.

CestMoiAuthor website: www.MadelineMartin.com 
Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MadelineMartinAuthor 
Author Twitter: @MadelineMMartin
*Email questions should be sent to: MadelineMartin@Ymail.com

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Battle of the Bulge

Back in the spring when winter’s cold faded and it was time to break out my shorts, I realized that wearing yoga pants and T-shirts for four months straight was a comfortable, but poor choice. Why? Because my shorts had actual waistbands. Let’s just say, things were not good.

I was (am) under the deadline gun and was spending every spare moment with my butt in my computer chair. This led to other problems besides an expanding backside…my sciatica started acting up and I’m not *that* old, for the love of Pete!

My husband and I had been talking about purchasing a piece of exercise equipment we could both use, and I talked him into a treadmill. I knew of other authors using a treadmill desk while writing, and something had to change in my routine, because I also knew of other authors who’d battled serious health issues due to the “writing lifestyle” which (surprise!) isn’t sitting around eating bon-bons in fuzzy kitten heels.

Finding a treadmill turned out to be easy. Go search Craig’s List or your local swap-and-shop or Play It Again Sports. Treadmills are one of those items that people purchase, use a hand-full of times before turning into a giant clothes hanger or dust receptacle. I casually mentioned my plan to a friend, and he offered up the treadmill that had been taking up a corner of his garage for a solid year. It’s not as nice as the ones found in your local gyms, but it’s electronic and better than a base model.

The only requirement is to find a treadmill with longish, straight handles for your “desk.”

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Once we got the treadmill up the stairs to our playroom (which was the hardest part of the deal), I scavenged our garage and found a piece of leftover plywood. (My hubby offered to cut it off straight, and I could probably pretty it up…but do you know me? I really don’t care what it looks like:)

I initially slapped my laptop on the plywood and went to town. After a week of writing, I discovered that the solution was almost worse than the fix. I’m tall (~5ft 9in) and the plywood was too low. I was having to look down to see the monitor, and my neck and shoulders were killing me after a few hours. Plus, my old nemesis, carpal tunnel kicked in, especially my right wrist since I was using a full-size mouse.

I came up with a not very pretty but very effective solution. Two plastic bins—a bigger one for the laptop and smaller one for the mouse.

IMG_1697Yes, I am from the South, why do you ask? Does it look like the redneck treadmill desk version of a car up on jacks in the yard?

The results have been fabulous! Not only does the treadmill keep me focused, but I walk 4.5-7 miles a day when I’m writing on it (depends on how fast I reach my word count goal.) I’ve been using it regularly since the first of September. Have I lost weight? I haven’t checked, to be honest, but I feel way better. No sciatica pain and great word output.

The deets: The consensus is a 2 mph pace works well. Like I said, I’m tall and actually found myself bumping into the desk because of my long stride, but any faster jostled me too much. I compromised by raising my incline. I vary the incline from 3-6% depending on how tired my legs are. This pace/incline works great for me. I work up a sweat, but my breathing isn’t affected. Best of all, drinking coffee isn’t a problem. I can do a regular mug, but usually use the travel variety. As a side note, while I’m not particularly athletic, I am coordinated when walking. That’s what being in the marching band does for you!

The only downside is the extra typos. I don’t know whether it’s the laptop keyboard or the movement, but I definitely make more. I do all my drafting on the treadmill, but when I reach my final editing pass or when I’m doing page proofs, I sit and use my regular computer. Plus, I have a dual monitor set-up that works well when incorporating changes or referring to on-line resources like a thesaurus.

I’ve been super happy and hope I’ve inspired some of you to give the treadmill desk a shot!

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I Read It For The Articles

From the moment I walked into my very first RWA chapter meeting some four odd years ago, I was hooked. I met amazing people who thought it was perfectly normal to talk about crazy writer eyes and drink mimosas while discussing marketing and beat sheets. Ladies who wanted to talk plot bunnies and gentlemen who were prepared to compare lists of dream agents at a moment’s notice.

stepbrothers-did-we-just-become-best-friendsSimply put, I’d found my tribe. The folks who understand me and accept me, and who I understand in a way I don’t think I can entirely explain.

These people are the reason I get up on the second Saturday of every month and trek all the way across town to go to meetings. They’re the reason I make every effort possible to get to as many conferences as I can. Not workshops. Not networking. But people. Friends.

But the funny thing is that no matter why I go, I go. I attend at least half a dozen workshops per year at my local chapter meetings, and that many again in a single weekend at a conference. And in spite of myself I keep learning things.

When it came time to plot my latest book, what did I do? I found the handouts from four different plotting workshops I’d been to. Crafting a synopsis? I referred to my notes from the synopsis clinic my chapter-mate put on. Trying to get excited about writing yet another love scene? I even have a handout for that. Self-publishing, copyright law, writer software, editing. You name it, I’ve probably seen someone speak about it.

The business and craft of being a writer are complicated, nuanced things, and the simple fact is that at any stage in a person’s career, there are still new things to learn. We have to keep growing and evolving and finding ways to keep our practice as writers fresh.

I may not have thought I was going to all those meetings and conferences for the workshops. But damn if I haven’t accidentally learned a lot from them all the same.

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If I can do it…

you can do it gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I’m fresh from the Georgia Romance Writers Moonlight and Magnolias Conference for a much needed weekend of bonding with my fellow authors. Attending conferences always renews my enthusiasm for my work and recharges my creativity. Then, like always, life gets in the way again and tries to shove my writing to the backseat, somewhere under the preschool papers and the towel I keep there in case the dog pukes on a road trip.

This year, though, I had the opportunity to attend a craft workshop led by Candace Havens: Fast Draft/Revision Hell. This was an amazing experience! In Fast Draft, she explains a process that will lead to–you guessed it–extremely fast drafting! How fast? Pretty much fast enough to get a bare-bones, messed up first draft of a novel done within a two week period. Now, I’m not going to be spreading her trade secrets around, but I will tell you this: a big part of her method is about accountability, and moving forward. Sounds like obvious, common sense, but somehow, it all clicked like it never would have in a million years had I not heard it in the way she presented it.

I’ll admit, I’m not really fast drafting as she prescribes it. I have a manuscript to finish, and with about 30% left to go, I was sputtering on fumes. So, as soon as I got home, I decided to apply her techniques to my situation, and as of Day 3, I’ve accomplished so much, that I’ll be finished within about three more days worth of similar output. It’s not quite the true fast-drafting output, but it’s easily double the word count of what I’d previously considered a “full” writing day.

I’m not a fast writer. I fiddle and fuss, I re-read and edit as I go. That’s against the rules in Fast Draft! I still deliberate over what I put on the page, but I keep moving forward. You mean moving forward results in more productivity? I know!! Imagine! Ooh! Ooh! Guess what else!! I quit wasting so much damn time! Instead of starting the day with email and internet nonsense, I wait until after writing time. I leave my phone downstairs. In my writing time, I just write. And damn, if it isn’t working!

Accountability is also a big motivator, so I’m checking in daily with fellow fast-drafting Bad Girlz for a daily review of our respective ass-kicking and name-taking. I don’t know exactly how something so simple works so well, but it’s totally clicked and I’m feeling the magic. If any of you feel like you need that little extra kick in the pants to really get motivated and get some results, I highly recommend this workshop!

Oh, also, Candace says it’s very important to reward yourself after making a goal. So here’s a GIF of the bassist from the Clash taking his shirt off….. You’re welcome.

 

simonon

 

 

 

Happy writing!

 

 

 

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Back to Basics

Alright guys, I’m going back to basics here. Basis basics.

Around four years ago, I entered my first writing contest through an RWA chapter. I thought I had an amazing book. And even if the entire book wasn’t amazing, the first chapter was–because I’d polished that puppy until it wagged it’s fluffy little tail at me.

Mind you – I had not had anyone critique or beta read my entry. Not one person. Let me throw it out there and see what happens.

And you know when you love something and think it’s good, you think you’re gonna final, right? And if you don’t final, you’ll at least get amazing scores–even they weren’t amazing enough to final. Because that FIRST book with ZERO critique is gonna be a NYT Bestseller.

That was all sarcastic and poking fun at MYSELF four years ago. (P.S. I wasn’t that vain, but I did think it was a good book)

drama queenAnd then I get my scores and they were so bad…so so bad. So bad that I cried. Then I cursed out all the judges (in my head, of course) who didn’t know ANYTHING! Then I stepped back, because I quit writing after that. (draaaammmmmaaaa)

And then looked at the feedback again, and thought: Man, that does suck. It sucks monkeys. How could I ever turn that in for people to judge??

So here’s my advice – from someone who’s been there before. “STOP, DROP, shut ’em down open up shop…” No, wait, that’s the lyrics to the “Ruff Ryders Anthem” Get out of my head DMX!

For real, though – If you are totally new to writing or if you are writing for the first time in YEARS –

Review the BASICS: I’m talking mechanics, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, when to start a new paragraph, how to format dialogue. You need to review all of this before you even THINK about submitting your work to anyone (Including your Cps and betas). You need to know the absolute basics of writing.

PLOT or OUTLINE: I know pantsers are cursing at me write now, but one of the biggest things I see with new writers (including myself back in the day) is that the ideas are all over the place. And sometimes they aren’t fully fleshed out. Or finished. It’s just a jumble from scene to scene with no transition and no…where the hell is this going??? I’m not saying 50 page outlines. But do yourself a favor and write your ideas in short sentences or bullet points. Then you’ll know where you need to explain or add more depth.

ASK WHY: Do it now. Why? Why? Why? You should know the WHY of everything you are doing. And everything your characters are doing. One tiny question can bring out so much. Random Example (not from any of my work): Heroine went to Duke. Why? Because her parents made her. Why? Because they both went there. Why? Because Duke had the best medical program and both of her parents are Drs. <<<<Oh my Damn! Look how much info we just got about the heroine and her family and motivation?? Read between those lines. Lots of pressure. High powered jobs. You can go on and on with WHY.  Make a like a 2 year old and ask WHY! Why? Because I said so. (That answer doesn’t work here, either.)

DON’T RUSH: You have time!! Seriously, there’s no pressure. I know you may go to RWA meetings and conferences see friends and chapter mates who are at a certain stage in their career and IT’S EXCITING!! And you want that!! But there is no rush!! It took those people time to get there. TIME, CRAFT, EDITING (and then repeat those 50 million times). I can’t say it enough. Don’t rush!!

EDIT EDIT EDIT: You know this. You’ve heard this a million times. And there’s a reason for that.

I leave you with the “Ruff Ryders Anthem” because: 1.) Publishing is a Ruff Ride and 2.) I can’t get the song out of my head now. (sorry for any offensive lyrics. I tried to find the clean version)

 

Sophia Henry writes Heartfelt Flirty Fiction featuring hot, hockey-playing heroes. DELAYED PENALTY and POWER PLAY, the first two books in the Pilots Hockey series from Random House Flirt, are available now at all major e-book retailers.

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Epic Birthday Goals/ Bad Idea!

October 1st!.  Excuse me as I breathe a deep sigh of relief. You see the reason I say this is because September is a HUGE birthday month for me, my family and friends. Lots and lots of Virgo/Libra babies around here. In turn, September tends to be very active with gift shopping, dinners and parties. However, I’ve noticed as people get older we tend to slow down with the parties and only really celebrate the epic birthdays. You know, the ones that come with a decade attached to them.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve been guilty of setting some sort of goal or deadline for my big birthdays. I’m sure I’m not alone. How many of you out there in bad girl land, have said .  . .

“I will be THIS or do THIS before I’m thirty, forty, fifty, etc.”

Trust me when I tell you, this is a bad idea!

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about setting goals and having a plan when it comes to writing and life in general. For example, I have weekly goals. Word count goals, family goals, house and yard work goals. I try diligently to make monthly and yearly goals also. Have you ever sat in a job interview and been asked the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” And you should ask yourself that question. Having a plan can be helpful and motivating. However, I’ve learned the hard way to avoid associating these goals, especially my writing goals, with epic birthdays.

I’ve made this colossal mistake twice and let’s just say, these two particular birthdays came in with a big dark cloud of disappointment attached to them.

First Birthday Goal Mistake: “I’ll be published and have a book deal, by the time I’m blank.” I said these exact words and when this big day came around without a contract in sight it was painful.

Then I turned around and did it again!

Second Birthday Goal Mistake: “If I don’t sell a book, by the time I’m blank, I’m going to quit writing.”  How pathetic is that? A writer just can’t quit writing because she or he reaches a certain age. It’s part of our DNA. It’s a good thing too because I received my book contract one year after that big birthday had passed. What if I had given up like I’d originally planned?

My advice to you is this, be diligent about setting daily, weekly, and monthly goals and even five-year goals, just keep them away from your birthday. And learn to be a little lenient with these goals- slash-deadlines. Life is unpredictable.

I will write five thousand words this week.

I will start conditioning, so I can run that 5K in the spring.

I will actually get out of my yoga pants and put on real clothes this weekend. Small goals are important too. 🙂

Writers, we cannot predict what day or year we will get our first contract or our fifth for that matter. Nevertheless, we can keep working hard to see that dream come to pass. We can write our 10,000 words this week. We can submit to ten agents this month. We can take ten writing workshops this year.

Remember, birthdays are for celebrating! Celebrating the day you were born and another glorious year of life!! So please learn from my mistakes and don’t shadow your special day with the burden of deadlines.

If you do find these special days start to add up to special decades and you’ve yet to meet all the goals you were hoping to, that‘s okay. Keep dreaming. Keep believing in yourself.  You can do it!

Have you made the same epic birthday goal mistakes as I have? I would love to hear about them.

Remember to dream big!

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