Lucky 7 & An Unlucky Fairy Godmother

One of my very favorite indie authors, Kait Nolan, tagged me for the Lucky 7 challenge. The rules?

Go to page 7 or 77 in your current WIP.

  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 sentence or 7 lines — as they are!
  • Tag 7 people and do the same

A Little Fairy Dust coverSo here’s my entry from page 7 of A Little Fairy Dust, the next short story coming out (hopefully) in August! Faye is a fairy godmother in training, Jet is her ex, and she gets caught working a little magic.

“What is it, Faye?”

“Why should I tell you?” I dropped my caught-off-guard tone and moved to my he’s-still-a-liar tone. He’d hid plenty from me, so whatever I was up to was none of his business.

“Because you might be doing something else to sabotage the team.”

“Something else? What did I do before?”

Jet tilted his head and held up his casted hand, like it was a smoking gun.

“I didn’t do that,” I answered. “You punched the wall.”

[Now imagine a serious, booming voice.] “Why did Jet punch the wall? Why is he blaming Faye? Is Faye sabotaging the football team? Why is this guy named after a plane?

“Find out when you read A Little Fairy Dust — coming soon!” 🙂

ROW80 Goals

It’s time again to announce my goals for the next round of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Last round, I set only five goals and did reasonably well reaching them. I’m going to keep it streamlined once again.

1. Finish editing Sharing Hunter, young adult contemporary novel. I’m already making better progress on this, by the way.

2. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. Release dates will probably be mid-August and late September.

3. Read 12 books. This remains a good number for me, and my reading will include both fiction and nonfiction.

4. Attend RWA Conference and Day of YA in San Antonio and follow-up as needed. The conference is July 23-26.

That’s it! A few specific goals that are do-able, yet stretch me all the same.

I am forgoing sponsor duty this time around, since summers are kind of crazy for me, but I’m glad to stay involved. ROW80 has been a boost to my work productivity and a great chance to support other authors. If you’re a writer looking for some inspiration, motivation, and/or accountability, check it out here.

How’s your writing or your week gone? What goals have you set for yourself? And, just for fun, who’s your favorite fairy in fiction?

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4 Tips for Writing a Short Story

I recently wrote a guest article at Writers in the Storm on 6 Reasons to Write a Short Story. So that was a bit of why, but how do you craft an effective short?

While there is much advice about writing novels that translates to writing short fiction, other aspects don’t seem to apply. For instance, the story structure for novels — with various theories, diagrams, acrostics, and outlines — doesn’t fit a lot of successful short stories.

By researching, taking an RWA course on short stories, reading other stories to see what worked (and what didn’t), and using trial-and-error, I came up with my own tips for writing a short story.

1. Limit your characters. You don’t have enough time and space to develop many characters. Just as you wouldn’t introduce twelve people in chapter one of a novel, don’t overload the short story reader with too many names and faces.

Make sure every character must be there.

  • Does each character contribute to this particular storyline?
  • If you have two secondary characters each serving a purpose, can you mesh their purposes and create a composite character?
  • Does your main character need so many friends or family members?
  • Can you refer to a character by their profession or appearance, such as “the police officer” or the “red-headed cheerleader”?

If you need to mention several people, maybe you can link them more generally. For instance, you could refer to a group of friends by their leader’s name, like “Rudy and his gang.” Or group them in a memorable way.

In my upcoming short, A Little Fairy Dust, the main character, a fairy godmother-in-training, has three sisters, all with names beginning with F. Having their names all start with the same letter allows the reader to immediately recognize a sister without needing to know exactly who’s who. Although be careful not to be gimmicky; have a story reason for your choices as well.

2. Forget those subplots. Choose a main plotline, and maybe one subplot. You can’t weave several plots together the way you can in a novel. Know who and what your story is about, and stick to that.

If you’ve ever written a query, synopsis, back cover copy, or an “elevator pitch,” you already understand this principle. When describing a novel, you stick to the main story with the protagonist, the antagonist, the primary conflict, and its resolution. Approaching a short requires the same perspective: Whittle away at the whole convoluted story to find the core element within.

Indie author Kait Nolan does this well in her Meet Cute romances, a series of shorts celebrating the first meeting of a romantic couple. As she explains, “You’ve got a very narrow window that requires quick and ruthless worldbuilding and leaves no room for you to get distracted by other stories beyond your main plot—and that includes backstory. Don’t overcomplicate by trying to tell more than one story.”

3. Squish the timeline. One of my stories happens in the course of a few hours, and another occurs over the course of four months. But in both, the timeline is truncated—by choosing a single event or by sharing only slivers of the whole story.

Shrinking the timeline to a single day or hours can give your short story a sense of urgency—that now-or-never feel.

My Sister's Demon book coverOr you can cover a longer period of time, but expect to leave stuff out and do a little telling to catch readers up. This can work well with internal or external dialogue as the main character reflects on something that happened during a time gap. For instance, there’s a month gap each between most chapters in My Sister’s Demon, so at one point the main character summarizes:

In the last month, she’s bought all kinds of not-Nickie stuff—everything from a black-and-blood-red clothing line to bags of marijuana to creepy wooden idols she found in some weird magic shop.

With one sentence, the reader gets the overall picture: things got worse. Slid seamlessly into real action time, you can keep the reader up-to-date, cover a greater time span, and maintain your focus.

4. Remember the arc. While studying up on short stories, I read many examples from writers that weren’t stories at all. They were scenes or interesting premises, but conflict and a growth arc were missing. A beautifully described scene or character is not a short story. The same character arc applies to short fiction: Your hero must face an obstacle and change as a result.

Make your main character face his fears, encounter difficulties, wrestle with a villain, fight for true love. There should still be an inciting incident, crossing of a threshold, building of stakes, a climax, resolution.

You won’t have as many plot points as you would in a well-structured novel, but you might be surprised how well you can cover a character arc even in a short story. Think of how many times in your own life you’ve learned something important from a single, attitude-altering event.

Just like in a novel, make each word count in your short story. But feel free to use a little trial and error yourself. Shorts can be a great way to step out of your comfort zone, tell an impactful story, and hone your writing skills.

ROW80 Wrap-Up

Yep, this is the final report for Round 2 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life.

1. Read 12 books. I read 13 books and one short story. In case you’re curious, here’s the list:

  • Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point-of-View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson (nonfiction craft)
  • Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (YA paranormal)
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain (nonfiction craft)
  • The Collector by Victoria Scott (YA paranormal)
  • The Quantum League: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. Kirby (middle grade paranormal)
  • Self-Publishing Attack by James Scott Bell (nonfiction craft)
  • Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro (YA contemporary)
  • After the Scandal by Elizabeth Essex (historical romance)
  • Stupid Cupid by Tina Ferraro (YA contemporary short)
  • Defiant by Jessica Trapp (historical romance)
  • How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles (YA contemporary)
  • No More Christian Nice Girl: When Just Being Nice–Instead of Good–Hurts You, Your Family, and Your Friends by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer D. PhD Degler (nonfiction)
  • Sketchy Behavior by Erynn Mangum (YA suspense)
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (YA contemporary)

2. Finish editing SHARING HUNTER, a young adult contemporary novel. Once again, I did not complete this. But I’m so amped about where I am now that I almost don’t care. (Almost.) I’ll push this goal to next round, but I expect to get it done soon.

3. Edit one short story to publication quality. Last week, I still hadn’t hear back from everyone about my next cued story, A Little Fairy Dust. But I’d rather hold that one until I’m absolutely certain it’s ready for publication. It’s almost there. But I also did the last polish and formatting for another short in the series.

4. Publish and promote two short storiesMy Sister’s Demon was published on May 15, and I flipped my planned sequence and released The Vampire Exclusive on Friday, June 27.

The Vampire Exclusive cover
Click for link to Amazon

5. Stay on top of ROW80 sponsor duties. In total, I visited 64 ROW80 updates, and I think I hit everyone who participated in this round at one time or other. I truly find it inspirational to see how other writers are progressing by setting manageable goals and taking important steps in their writing journey.

Are you a fan of short stories? What tips do you have from reading or writing shorts? And how was your week or your round?

Baton Blog Hop: My Writing

The marvelous Kait Nolan tagged me for the baton blog hop. So I’m answering the questions and tagging three others at the end of the post.* 

Julie sitting at laptop
Writing at my local coffee shop

What am I working on? Two major projects right now. The first is my series of six young adult paranormal short stories, which begins with the first story, My Sister’s Demon. I’m editing, polishing, formatting, and loading them up one at a time. This self-published series is titled Paranormal Playground. (See the first cover here.)

Then I’m editing again through Sharing Hunter, my young adult contemporary novel — which has been a labor of love and madness, depending on which day you ask me. Actually, I adore these characters and their story, so I’ve taken extra time and effort to get it right. I’m planning to pursue traditional publishing with this novel.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? If you’ve visited my blog for a while, you might have noticed a new tag line up there: A handful of real life, a heartful of story. Writing YA paranormal and contemporary, my tag line is true for both of these. I hope to capture a slice of real life, something we can all relate to, but then tell a story that brings your heart into the equation. That “heartful” could be the tender feelings of romance, the intense desire to solve a mystery, the pounding nerves of fear, etc. But I hope having my characters deal with whatever they face — be it a crush on the boy next door or the need to exorcise a demon — can encourage the reader to take life on and come out a winner.

As for the uniqueness of my writing, I’m a snarky girl. And it comes across on the page. So I hope to bring some wit to the stories as well.

Why do I write what I do? I actually answered this question recently in a post I did for the A Round of Words in 80 Days blog:

I think part of what keeps me wanting to write YA and MG is when I ask myself, “If I could write for one and only one niche group, who would it be?” And it’s young girls struggling with who they are in those formative ages. That’s when I fell in love with stories, when books sent me to worlds I didn’t know and got me out of the frustrating one I was in, when fiction sometimes seemed far more real than the stupid drama of junior high and high school. It’s when I realized that books could be friends.

How does my writing process work? I call myself a “plantser” (I think I got that word from author Roni Loren). For me, what tends to happen is I write a first chapter by the seat of my pants based on some scene, premise, character, etc. If I can tell there’s something to this, I step back and develop the idea further.

I write a plot outline, which at this point includes things like the opening, inciting incident, plot points, setbacks, climax, wrap-it-up. I don’t get much more detailed than that before I start writing. My story often changes as I write, and that’s fine. I can easily adjust a plot outline, but when I try to plot individual scenes in advance, my brain tends to get overwhelmed and my writing gets stymied.

One part of the “writing process” that’s often ignored is editing! I’ve written about editing tips I’ve learned, and Margie Lawson’s Deep Edits program has also really helped. Quality writers have to be willing to dig into their WIPs again and again to get them to the level they can and should be for readers to fully enjoy the story. I continue to learn how to best do that, but I love seeing the story take shape.

Tag, you’re it.

Since I know they have upcoming releases, I’m tagging Melinda VanLone, Catie Rhodes, and S.J. Maylee for this blog hop. If they wish to participate, they can answer these questions on their own blogs and tag 3 more writers to pass the baton.

ROW80 Update

1. Read 12 books. Read Stupid Cupid short story by Tina Ferraro, but I’m not counting that. I also read a nonfiction book and started North of Beautiful by Justina Chen. Halfway through — 6 of 12 books read.

2. Finish editing SHARING HUNTER, a young adult contemporary novel. I edited a little bit, which was something. But now that my short stories are in a good place, I am moving this goal to the forefront. A little forward progress — like a Mother May I baby step.

3. Edit one short story to publication quality. I finished the rewrite of one short story, and I’m happy with the result. This was the last story in the Paranormal Playground series that needed to be completed, and it will be released this fall. Meanwhile, I read through the next release of the series, A Little Fairy Dust, and made editing notes. I need to rewrite sections of the first chapter, but the rest of the story seems solid. Once I get that first chapter in place, I’ll send it to my beta reader. Happy with this progress.

4. Publish and promote two short stories. I finished the Scrivener Compile course offered by Gwen Hernandez, compiled and uploaded the first story — My Sister’s Demon — to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It should go up this week. *fingers crossed* Halfway there!

5. Stay on top of ROW80 sponsor duties. Visited 8 blogs this week. Done!

So what projects — writing or otherwise — are you working on? And how was your week?

*For future reference, I’m hit or miss with these things, so if the chain letter means a lot to you, I’m probably not the best person to tag! :S)

In Case of Stress, Grab Cookie Dough and Write: #ROW80

This week, I should simply take a large red Sharpie and make an X through my goals. I didn’t even try to tackle them. Instead, I’ve been working on curriculum, supply shopping, and other preparation for another church camp.

This camp is on the Medina River near San Antonio, Texas, and it is the camp I went to for all of my childhood years–from age 8 through 18. Now I’m in my 7th year of working with the children’s group (9 to 11 year olds), and this year we’ll have a whopping 120 students just in that age range.

I found myself super-stressed several times this week trying to put together everything I need to make next week a good experience for all. By Thursday, I had broken down and bought the Big Stress Crutch for me–Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough. Instead of the tube (which I’ve been known to attack with a spoon in tense moments), I went for the pre-measured dollops, so that I eat only one cookie at a time. One uncooked cookie. With chocolate chips. Yum.

And while I expected to set aside the ROW80 goals, I found that I couldn’t walk away from writing. Writing indeed has a therapeutic effect on me, so I let myself tinker with some plot bunnies and logged around 3k words this week on different projects. Some of those will go nowhere, but it was wonderful to throw words down on a page.

Last night, I pulled up one of those stress-moment exercises and read what I had written. It’s not Tolstoy, but I was pleased to discover that a few years into this, my writing has substantially improved. With knowledge, practice, training, and perseverance, a writer does get better. And the process of writing did indeed relieve some stress.

So this week’s progress, for what it’s worth:

  • Edit 50 pages per week of my young adult contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER MILLS. Nope.
  • Send one agent query per week for SHARING HUNTER MILLS. Nope.
  • Finish reading Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Nope. I started reading James Scott Bell’s Revision & Self-Editing instead because it seems more relevant while I’m living in Revision City. Finished four chapters.
  • Exercise twice a week. Nope.
  • Check in with ROW80 participants according to my role as a sponsor for Round 3. Yep!

How are your writing goals coming along? What do you do in super-stressful moments?

Wishing my fellow ROWers a terrific week!

Note: Like I said, I’m at a camp this week in the middle of Texas Hill Country. Very limited internet. My blog posts are scheduled for the week, but I may not be able to get here to respond to comments. If not, I’ll catch up with y’all next week. Blessings!

My Declaration of Interdependence: #ROW80

I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Writers are not created equal, that a few are unfairly endowed by their Creator with talent that runs from their earlobes to their toe hair while the rest of us must learn how to successfully charm our muse into cooperation or beat our muse into submission, but that we all have certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, the Liberty to Write, and the pursuit of Publication. To secure these rights, A Round of Words in 80 Days was instituted (by Kait Nolan) among Writers, deriving their powers from the consent of over the protests of their families, friends, co-workers, and their eighth grade English teacher who said they wouldn’t know where to put a comma if it slapped them silly.  Yada, yada, yada . . . I therefore declare my interdependence.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.” I love it because I can set my goals according to what’s currently happening in my own world; each round is long enough to get something done but short enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel; and it has fabulous people involved! But even if it was fun, it wouldn’t be worth it if I didn’t see progress.

What I have learned in my several rounds of participation is that I like stating my goals to others, reading what other writers are aiming to achieve, participating in #ROW80 and #teamsprinty word sprints, checking in to post my progress and read others’ progress, and generally doing this writing thing with others. I get more done when I set goals and have accountability to others. And I’m happy to be there for the other participants too. I appreciate the interdependence.

You see, it doesn’t take long to figure out that if you want to be a successful writer, you won’t do it alone. Along the way, you will need others to edit and critique your work, to assist you in making important contacts, to promote you and your books, to buy your books, and (hello, family!) to put up with you and your whining about this character and that one as you try to craft a whole book out of the jumble of words spinning in your head.

So why not get the benefit of interdependence now? Why not fully enjoy the support and–okay, I’ll say it–love you get in the writer community? If you have not participated in ROW80 and are interested, go for it! You have nothing to lose. You have plenty to gain. Give it a go and see where it takes you!

And now for the declaration of my goals for Round 3, which begins tomorrow, July 2. I am keeping it short and sweet this go-round, because summer sanity hangs by a thread when school is out.

That’s it. I am subscribing to Robert Browning’s statement of “Less is more.”

Have you participated in ROW80 before? Are you in this round? If not, are you interested? I’m happy to provide more information if you have questions.

A Belated ROWnd-Up: #ROW80

Not an actual pic of Kait, but the girl has skills!

How very odd. A Sunday passed, and I did not provide an update on my progress in A Round of Words in 80 Days. However, the round was officially over on Thursday, June 21, just as I was struggling with a nasty migraine that made me wonder if beheading myself would relieve the pain. I spent the weekend catching up and relaxing.

Thankfully, migraines are extremely rare for me (regular migraine sufferers have my unlimited sympathy), and I’m back on track now. So here I am to give a final update on Round 2 of “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.” Here were my goals:

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. Finished on May 15.
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. Completed as of last week. Now I’m going through a second time.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20).  I pitched at the conference and am currently polishing my synopsis.
  • Send in queries to four agents for SHARING HUNTER. Queries will be sent this week (probably Wednesday).
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Didn’t happen this round.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Read about a hundred pages, then stalled. This goal will follow me into Round 3.
  • Read through issue of The Writer’s Digest. Read about half.
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. I’m on book #9: Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas.
  • Exercise three times a week–length of time to be determined. Signed up for Zumba classes, which helped me get in at least two sessions of exercise per week.
  • NEW GOAL: Finish church camp lessons due by June 23 to be sent to the 8-10 teachers who will lead Bible classes. Submitted the lessons to the camp’s director on Saturday, June 23.

I’m pleased with the overall progress, even though life continues to interrupt my well-laid plans. My kids are at camp this week, so I’m hoping to knock out quite a bit of work in their absence.

I did not do as well as a sponsor in Round 2 as I would have liked. I was slow commenting on updates, and I want to improve that in the next round.

Because yes, Kait Nolan has lassoed me into sponsoring Round 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days! (I bet you didn’t know Kait had such wicked rope skills.) We’ll begin again on July 2, and next time I will have fewer goals to focus on over the summer.

In the meantime, give a few back-pats and high-fives to the participants of Round 2 by checking in with them HERE. Happy writing, y’all!

Summer Sanity and #ROW80

Summer has begun in my home. School is out. Kids are home. Summer activities begin. Moreover, this summer, I am co-directing a four-day church camp and writing and presenting curriculum for a much larger week-long church camp. Consequently, my days of everyone being gone and facing a 4-6 hour window of work time are over for the next few months. If this were ink, there would have been a smudge on that last sentence where my pitiful tear fell.

Don’t get me wrong: I love summer! I love my family! I love the camps! I love the beach — which I will now visit because it’s summer!

But my goals don’t go away just because summer is here. So I now have to get creative about when I will write/edit. I will likely be spotted some days at a local coffee shop downing caffeine and working early in the morning or late into the night while hubby keeps our boys from setting the house on fire. I may need to carry my laptop here, there, and everywhere, grabbing a ten-minute window when I can.

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft.
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. Editing now!
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). Working on my queries to send next week. Four agents on my list from the conference.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Read 4 chapters.
  • Read through issue of The Writer’s Digest. Scanned, but didn’t really read.
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Finally catching up.
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read 8 books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; The Heart-Shaped Box; One of Our Thursdays is Missing; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children; and Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunfrey. Next up: Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas.
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. Go ahead and make me accountable. I didn’t exercise once.

There are only 3 1/2 weeks left of this round. I am going to take a break from sponsoring, given the schedule I mentioned above. If you are interested in sponsoring, contact Kait Nolan. Also, cheer on our fellow ROWers HERE.

How are y’all doing? Whether you’re in ROW80, let me know how your personal goals are going? Will the summer calendar affect your plans?

What I Learned in DFW and #ROW80

NYT Bestseller James Rollins & Me

If you did not attend the DFW Writers’ Conference, you may be tired of hearing those of us who did talking about how AWESOME it was. Rather than go on and on about how everything is bigger and better in Texas, even writers’ conferences 😉 , how about some general take-aways?

  • As long as you aren’t stalking or incredibly annoying, you can strike up conversations with agents because they are real people, at a conference to meet writers, and like talking about what they do (see Top 10 Things to Do at a Writers’ Conference). At the 2011 conference, I spoke to one agent — the one I had a pitch appointment with. This time, I walked away with six different agent names to send my work to after personal contact at the pitch session and agent/writer reception. So chat it up! What have you got to lose?
  • When you attend a conference, you are paying for it. Don’t feel obligated to attend a workshop you don’t need or to stay in one that wasn’t at all what you expected. I attended a class that was titled one thing and ended up being something else. (That was not common, by the way.) Ten minutes in, I gathered my stuff and left the room as quietly as possible. The teacher has no idea why someone leaves early — a pitch? a phone call from home? sickness? I wasn’t dissing her; the class simply wasn’t a topic I needed after all. I walked into a class next door and was SOOOO glad I did.
  • You can learn as much from chatting with other writers as you can get from the conference classes. I gleaned so much knowledge from conversations with Jenny Hansen, Donna Newton, Kristen Lamb, Tiffany A. White, Nigel Blackwell, David N. Walker, Jess Witkins, Kait Nolan, Jillian Dodd, Piper Bayard, and others that my brain was tingling with electricity by Saturday night. Asking others about their writing process, publishing plans, and life in general enlightened me in ways that made my trip to Big D well-worth all those hours and money.
  • No matter who you are, you can always learn more. It was marvelous to step into a workshop and see several published authors in the class as well. Taking notes. Learning more. Improving their craft.

What workshops did I attend? In case you’re interested, here’s a quick rundown: How to Pitch to an Agent (Rosemary Clement-Moore); The Changing Face of Publishing (an expert panel); Writing Love Scenes (Roni Loren – incredible); Anatomy of a Book Launch (Laurie McLean-agent, Kristen Lamb, Kait Nolan); Fast Draft (Candace Havens); Inside Publishing (Jill Marsal-agent); Revision Hell (Candace Havens); Writing Emotion (Lori Wilde); Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction (Laurie McLean-agent).

Bayard/Lamb 2012: Foxie with (literal) Moxie

Links to some FABULOUS posts about the conference from fellow speakers/attendees:

Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb encourages writers to push themselves in The Comfort Zone is for Pets, Not Professionals.

Romance author Roni Loren summarizes what agents like and don’t like in queries and first pages with What Will Make an Agent Gong Your Pages.

Writer (and my awesome conference roommate!) Jess Witkins discusses lessons learned in Celebrating My Writing Slump.

Jenny Hansen reports progress on her conference goals and teases us about Fast Draft (thanks, Candace Havens) with Bestselling Authors, DFWcon, and the Flu…Oh My!

Donna Newton makes me kick myself in How to Hook an Agent…The ‘SOO’ Publishing Way. How has this Brit managed to shoot so much stuff when I (a born-and-bred Texan) have yet to meet my goal of firing a real gun?!!

Jess Witkins, Me & Donna Newton

I also posted on Friday about What’s Next? The Hybrid Author, which was partially culled from my conference experience.

(I guarantee I forgot someone else’s wonderful post; I may update this later.)

One last pic: Me & Tiffany White

Enough already. Here are my ROW80 goals and progress report!

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. DONE.
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I started revising, using the notes from my class with editor Tiffany Lawson Inman and tips from Candace Havens’s Revision Hell workshop.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). Did it! Pitched. Need to send my queries.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. I can’t find the March/April issue, so I started working through the issue that just arrived in the mail.
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Slowly catching up!
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read six books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; The Heart-Shaped Box; One of Our Thursdays is Missing. Reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Keeping up.
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. Skipped Zumba. May I count the four hours of helping with our church youth’s group car wash on Saturday? I know I burned some calories there.

So how’s your ROW80 week? Be sure to cheer on fellow writers HERE.

And if you are interested in attending the DFW Writers’ Conference in 2013, they are offering a super early-bird registration price of $225 (early-bird is $295) until June 1. The conference will be held May 4-5, 2013 at the Hurst Conference Center. I will be there!

Howdy from Big D and #ROW80

Inspired by Kristen Lamb and Jenny Hansen, I’m vlogging from Dallas today, where I am attending the DFW Writers’ Conference. I have been blessed to meet some of the fabulous fellow writers who have been my cyberpals and encouragers for over a year now. Here’s a quick hello:

And now for the weekly ROW80 update:

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. I wrote 6,555 words on Monday and Tuesday and completed the first draft of SHARING HUNTER!
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. I’m waiting until I return from the DFW Writers’ Conference this weekend. While it’s tempting to try to get through an edit, I’d rather hold off that pressure and use my time to prepare for the conference.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). I pitched this weekend. I give this experience a thumbs-up.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Took a break from this goal until after the DFW Writers’ Conference.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. Now I can’t even find the magazine. *facepalm*
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Working on the second assignment and plan to hit this hard next week, as it will help with edits for SHARING HUNTER.
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read five books so far: The Killer Inside Me; Getting Rid of Bradley; Graceling; The Man Who Was Thursday; and The Heart-Shaped Box.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Here I am!
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. I went to Zumba twice this week, but one of those sessions was 1 1/2 hours instead of the usual 1 hour, so I feel pretty good about this.

I will check back with my fellow ROW80ers next week once the conference high dies down a bit. Y’all have a great week!

Kayak or Cruise Ship? How do you want to write?

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday — when I plunge into whatever topic seems juicy and crunchy and ready for devouring. Today’s topic is about how you want to write.

I never used to read the Acknowledgments section in a novel. Now that I have penned a couple of novels and am working on my third, I am vastly interested in knowing who the author credits with making the dream come true.

When I first imagined becoming a novelist, I pictured me and a laptop in a mountain cabin with scant contact with the masses – the Hermit Author discovering worlds of creativity and expression in her own soul.

Blah, blah, blah.

For one thing, there are no Starbucks or Schlotzsky’s near that mountain cabin, so that’s out. But more importantly, I don’t want to go it alone! Since I starting conversing in the blogosphere, chatting social media world, joining writers’ groups, and attending conferences, I’ve discovered that the understanding and encouragement of other writers is like a steady buoy in the tumultuous sea of writing and publication.

No, forget it. It’s not a buoy. We’re way more fun than that! We’re like a Carnival cruise ship with a pool, umbrella-laced frozen drinks, dancing, and hilarious stories of our lives and our writing adventures.

Yes, I am an introvert, but I like people. I like their insight. I like their expertise. I like their support. I even like their wallowing-in-the-dirt-with-a-mouthful-of-sand moments because I can be there to offer them one of those frozen concoctions: “Would a virtual margarita help?”

You can go it alone out there with a kayak and a survival kit and hope the sharks don’t get you. Or you join a group of fabulous, fun writers who will make the journey an exciting and memorable one. How about coming aboard the A Round of Words in 80 Days cruise liner?

A Round of Words in 80 Days is “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.” Rather than suggest the same goal for the person who gets to write 20 hours a week and the one who’s squeezing in one hour a day after the full-time job and juggling four kids and three dogs, you set your own goals. Your goals can be anything you like, as long as they are measurable — such as word count, pages written or edited, time spent.

You check in twice weekly for progress updates. That keeps us accountable, but even more so encouraged. Because then you and others visit one another’s progress posts, and do virtual cartwheels and pom-pom shaking.

Here are some things I love about A Round of Words in 80 Days, aka ROW80:

  • Setting my own goals. I set my own goals and adjust them within the round if necessary. This happened last round: I was diagnosed with mononucleosis, my energy level dropped to blech, and I lowered my expected word count as a result. When I felt better, I upped it again.
  • The length of each round — 80 days. I’ve seen some writing challenges that last for a month. I can’t write a book in a month, but I might be able to churn out a first draft or edit through a novel in eighty days. In fact, 80 days is a good length to accomplish quite a bit, but you still see a finish line.
  • The #ROW80 hashtag. The #ROW80 hashtag on Twitter is a great place to connect. We can post updates and chat about how it’s going, and I’ve benefitted tremendously from the word sprints there. Most days, around 1:00 CST a group of word sprinters can be found at #ROW80 or #teamsprinty. You can write or edit during the hour, but others send woots! and attagirls (or attaboys) your way at the end for your progress.
  • The organization. Okay, I admit to having some OCD traits. Not enough of them to have a clean house or anything, but enough that I want information to be organized and accessible. Kait Nolan launched A Round of Words in 80 Days, and she has done a great job of keeping the website updated, the sponsors in the loop, and the participants informed and supported. You can expect weekly posts from sponsors to give insight with your writing or goals, reminders to post updates, and an easy-to-navigate website with answers to your questions at your fingertips.
  • The people. ROW80 people rock! They are some of the most supportive, fun writer friends I have. They are also a smart bunch of writers who have more than once given me advice that was exactly what I needed. If you’re going to board a writing challenge cruise liner, you want to take the trip with interesting and exciting people. You’ll find that with the ROW80 writing challenge.

So to sum it up: Great writing challenge. Round 2 for 2012 starts April 2. Sign up HERE.

By the way, the other writer connection that has been invaluable to me is #MyWANA (stands for We Are Not Alone), which is the Love Revolution sponsored by social media Jedi Master Kristen Lamb.

I am thrilled to be a sponsor for this next Round of Words in 80 Days. I enjoyed wearing the Sponsor tag last round and can’t wait to cheer on a marvelous group of writers. The cruise ship is boarding. Let’s get this ocean par-tay going!

Are you coming aboard SS ROW80? What writing challenge do you enjoy? What groups of writers have been most helpful for you?