Tag: goals

Banishing Fear in the New Year

The next time you visit my website to read a new blog, it will be 2017. Which means it’s time for me to think about a new theme to guide my posts and thoughts in the New Year.

Thanks to plenty of reflection (and facing a few scary things), I’ve decided to banish fear in the New Year.

Let’s recap the past few years:

  • Be the change

  • Think Positive

  • An Attitude of Gratitude

D30Those are the themes from 2014 forward. That was the first year I decided that if I had a key thought, it acted like a beacon for me, guiding my writing and decisions.

In truth, these three things have become ingrained in my character. My worldview has been altered by these themes.

Now when I see a problem, I ask myself how I can affect change to help solve it. When something bad happens, I stop myself and search for the positive in the situation.

And rather than opening my mouth to complain, I speak words of thanksgiving. Well, probably not all the time because I’m only human. But most of the time if I start to complain, my gratitude-meter will ask me to check the words before I spew them.

Fear is a bully. The election last month proved this more than anything I’ve experienced recently.

And I don’t like bullies. I advocate for allies to stand up against acts of bullying.

So my theme is going to take on the biggest bully in our world: fear.

New Year New Theme

nofearthemememe

That’s the theme in a nutshell.

It’s inspired by several things.

The first is a verse from the Bible. The man known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” penned these words.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment” (1 John 4:18).

Several years ago the same preacher friend who ingrained “accentuate the positive” into my vocabulary delivered a sermon on this verse.

The essence of his message: fear is the opposite of love.

People want to talk about hate being the opposite of love, but if you look at this verse and consider its truth, can’t you see how fear is the real enemy?

We learn to hate what we fear. But if we could be made perfect in love, there would be no room for fear in our hearts.

And no fear = no hate.

Notice how John the apostle said fear has torment. That’s what I mean when I say fear is a bully. Bullies live to torment those they perceive as weaker than them. Tormenting other people makes them feel powerful, confident, in charge.

In order to chain the bully of fear, I’m going to have to learn how to love more perfectly.

Lion Taming in 2017

The biggest bully in a Christian’s world is our adversary the devil. Yes the one Peter calls a lion in his letter (1 Peter 5:18).

The roaring lion is on the prowl to do more than pick on people. He’s looking for a meal. He wants to devour everyone who claims to follow Christ.

The good news: greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I have an advocate, an ally. He stands with me against the hungry lion of fear.

He’s already defeated that lion. And I don’t mean tamed him or caged him. The devil is sentenced to a thousand years chained in the bottomless pit and then an eternity in the lake of fire.

That’s why he’s so hungry now. He knows his time is short. So he plans to step up his game and take out as many unsuspecting sheep as he can.

And I’m no match for him.

But I can defeat fear. Through the love of God.

At this point, I’m planning to post about defeating fear in different areas of life. Each month I’ll address a different area. At the moment the topics are family, career, future, today, tomorrow, friendships, world issues, health and death.

Do you have any other areas where fear corners you? Leave a comment and I’ll see if I can address it in a future post.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.


	

What winning NaNoWriMo is really about

National Novel Writing Month continues. As I promised last week, this post is about winning.

Since I’ve won 100 percent of the times I’ve participated, I might know a little bit about this subject. (That sounded a little pompous in my head. I didn’t mean it that way. Really.)

The truth about NaNoWriMo:

There are no losers.

That just harelipped my cousin (*winks at the silly Okie*) and some others who think everything needs to be black and white. Win or lose.

Sometimes it really is about the way you play the game. Or in this case put your seat in the chair and churn out the words.

The Point of NaNoWriMo

According to the creators of National Novel Writing Month, the point is to have fun. They value enthusiasm and determination and see that both are required to complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

What about working on deadline? Some people think that’s an extra motivator and stimulant. Well, they’re all about that at nanowrimo.org.

In short, writing is a creative pursuit with the power to imbue writers with stronger character and impart truth to readers.

Here’s their mission statement:

National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

Whatever you believe about writing a novel, the point of this exercise is to expand your horizons beyond a single project. Think bigger. Think bolder.

What is the point of any creative pursuit?

Print

Winning NaNoWriMo

If you verify a document of 50,000 or more words before midnight on November 30, the NaNoWriMo gurus will declare you a winner.

And there are prizes for winning.

Most of them are free trials of discounts for writer-specific software and services. For example, the folks at Literature and Latte have sponsored every year I’ve participated. They generally offer Scrivener at 50% off to winners.

Wish I would have known this before I bought it at full price. Of course, that happened a year or so before I every participated in the national month of insanity.

I’m hoping they will offer their new iOS application for half off to winners this year. I really want to try it out since I use my iPad for writing almost as much as I use my computer. And it travels SO much easier.

Everyone Wins

Everyone who participates in NaNoWriMo can walk away as a winner.

And not just because plenty of sponsors offer freebies and discounts to all participants.

Attempting to write at a professional pace for a month teaches you many valuable lessons.

To name a few:

  • The knowledge you can write every day and not just when you feel like it
  • The ability to push past the roadblocks while writing
  • Learning to write fast
  • Discovering the joy of creating when you’re so focused (or brain-fried) that your inner editor is quiet for a change
  • New ways to write: maybe jumping around when scenes aren’t flowing or writing from the end
  • Meeting a community of like-minded people to talk writing with
  • Discovering new software and services to help you write better

What are some other things you’ve learned from participating in NaNoWriMo?

Just for fun, here are my stats from the three National Novel Writing Months I competed in:

2013

DOW CoverThis was my first year in the competition. I was writing the third novel in a young adult fantasy series, Gates of Astrya: Daughter of Destiny.

I wrote 66,616 words in 23 days, a resounding win for my first year.

Although this novel hasn’t seen the light of day since I wrote it, I was a big winner that year. Writing at this incredible pace taught me that I could keep up with professional writers.

I began calling myself a professional writer after this. Talk about a WIN!

2014

I was a Rebel this year. I wrote a collection of four short stories called Real Life with a Twist of Lime.

That netted me 50,816 words in 21 days.

What about those stories? One of them has been recently expanded into a novel. Once I survive this year’s National Crazy Writing Month, I will begin revisions on the manuscript, as suggested by the four beta readers who are previewing it for me.

2015

My quick-made cover to post at nanowrimo.org

Last year I wrote the young adult novel on speculation for a publisher. Read more about that here and here.

In 20 days I wrote 67,640 words, making it my quickest win to date. I wrote 3,382 words per day (although I probably wrote more since I didn’t write on weekends).

Although this novel was rejected by the publisher who requested it, I may still resurrect it either for independent publishing or to shop to other agents and publishers. It’s a unique story.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

	

How to Write 50,000 words this month

I’ve been a full-time writer since July of 2013. Since November of 2013, I’ve been participating in the insanity called National Novel Writing Month. But this year, things will look a little different on my calendar.

If you’re interested in what NaNoWriMo is or how it came to be, check out the official website here. There’s more than you’ll ever want to know.

Once you decide to join the craze (it’s a little late for 2016, but November 2017 will be here before you know it), check out my profile. My nanowrimo user name is slhughson. We can buddy up. It will be fun.

My writing schedule in 2016 will look slightly different than it has in the past several years. Why? Because I plan to continue substitute teaching two days per week AND I have an author event to plan and attend.

Yes, there are plenty of people who work full-time jobs and plan to write 1,667 words per day. At this pace, they will complete 50,000 words in the month of November and WIN NaNoWriMo (more on winning next week).

I admire them. I am not them, however. I am a full-time author who does some teaching in order to feed my writing habit. Because those royalty-only contracts don’t generate a paycheck that will cover the costs associated with writing.

Someday, I will write a best-seller and the royalty checks will look better than the $175 per day I earn subbing in a local classroom.

A Tale of Two Schedules

2014

I chose not to use last year because I had given myself an earlier deadline because we traveled to the beach the week of Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to cart my writing brain with me. By the end of November, it’s pretty much a frazzled bundle of haywire.

My writing schedule compasses only a five-day week. My husband is off work on weekends, and I like to be available so we can jaunt off to a home remodeling show or to the movies. And Sunday is not even my day. They don’t call it The Lord’s Day for nothing.

So, I look at the November calendar and decide how many full writing days I will have. In this case, twenty or less. I wanted to finish by November 25 so I would have the weekend of Thanksgiving free and time on the 26th to prep my pie and rolls (what I generally take to the Hughson family Thanksgiving feast).

50,000 divided by 17 (available writing days) meant I needed to write 2,941 words per day to reach my goal. So I set a goal of 3,000 per day (which is about three hours of writing for me if I get in the groove and nothing interrupts me).

According to the Nanowrimo website, I finished 50, 816 words by November 21.

That happened to be the Late Night Write-in at the local library. I lugged my laptop there and huddled with six or eight other novelists. They all rejoiced with me when I uploaded my novel and had the words verified before 10pm.

Winner! If you do the math, I averaged 3,387 words per day to accomplish the win.

It’s all about setting daily goals and meeting them.

It isn’t as hard as it sounds. Lock yourself into your writing space until the word count is achieved. Update the word count on nanowrimo.org and celebrate.

2016

Why does this year look so different? Why can’t I just schedule the 3,000 words per day and call it good?

Because I’m a realist.

And I don’t like to fall behind in the word count.

When I look at the calendar for November this year, I have to subtract two days from each of the first three weeks of the month (hoping I will substitute teach on those days).

Now a normal person might ask, “Why can’t you write after you’ve done a sub job?”

My brain will not be in a “writing space” after a day in the classroom. Even if it is a wonderful room filled with engaged students and an engaging lesson plan.

My introverted self will use up every drop of emotional energy to interact with people all day long. That’s a fact. I know it, so I can plan around it.

Of course, I’d like to finish the novel before Thanksgiving again this year. That holiday is on November 24, a little earlier than usual because the month starts on a Tuesday.

Let’s do the math. This is simple math. My writing brain can handle it.

Ten days.

I have ten days to write 50,000 words. Even I can do the division in my head. I need to write 5,000 words per day.

The good thing about my goals is I itemize them by week. Week one I must write 10,000 words. If for some reason I only reach 8,000 by end of day on Friday, I will force myself to write 2,000 on Saturday.

And, yes, I keep my word count in a spreadsheet. At least until I meet my daily and weekly goals.

By the time I attend my author event at the middle school on November 9, I will have written 15,000 words in a new novel.

Before I can enjoy the second weekend, I will need to have written 25,000 words. Halfway to completion before November 15.

Can I do it?

Yes. I’m determined I can.

How do you plan to meet your goals? (Please don’t say you don’t plan. Please. No plan is a plan to fail.) Share your wisdom in the comments.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author disc

2015: My Year in Review

Image from mustang-times.com

The ball will drop in Times Square. Another countdown with celebratory kisses and confetti is only four days away. But where, oh where, has 2015 gone?

This is my year in review…

January

  • Crazy revisions on two separate manuscripts to get them off to beta readers.
  • Two deadlines made. Two deadlines met.
  • (This seems so long ago that I’m having trouble remembering)
  • Researched short story markets and agents for YA fantasy

February

  • My fiction debut. I become a published author with the appearance of “Dream Architect” in the romance anthology Accidental Valentine. *Happy Dance*
  • Manuscripts come back for my fictionalized novella.
  • Wrote and submitted two short stories. One is accepted (in April) the other rejected.

March

  • I seek and employ a freelance editor to line edit my manuscript, Reflections from a Amazon PH CoverPondering Heart.
  • A cover designer is contracted and we shoot ideas back and forth over Facebook messaging.
  • All but one of my beta manuscripts for Doomsday Dragons is returned, but since that one is coming from an actual published YA fantasy author, I decide to hold off on making revisions.

April

  • Wrestled with the CreateSpace publishing platform for the first time.
  • Uploaded my cover and interior with weeks to spare before the release.
  • Put the Kindle up for pre-order
  • Wrote another short story and submitted it. Rejection received.

May

  • Release day for my independently published women’s fiction Reflections from a Pondering Heart
  • Hosted my first ever release party on Facebook
  • Successfully generated hundreds of adds on Goodreads by running a giveaway
  • Mailed out nearly fifty signed copies of the book
  • Wrote a 20,000-word novella for a ten-author collaboration

June

  • Sent Matchmaker: Reality to beta readers
  • Wept bitterly when my image of Doomsday Dragons was shattered by my good friend and beta reader
  • Went to work revising according to the feedback
  • Received two thumbs up on the rewritten first fifty pages

Willamette-Writers2July

  • Purchased tickets for Willamette Writer’s Conference
  • Purchased two pitch sessions at the event (to pitch Doomsday Dragons)
  • Perfected the pitches
  • Finished polishing the complete manuscript and proofread it
  • Had a wonderful visit with my cousin from Oklahoma
  • Brainstormed a dragon story and an origin story

August

  • Attended the conference
  • Pitched the book twice – got two requests for pages
  • Sent out a batch of ten queries to agents and the pages requested at the conference
  • Finished Matchmaker: Reality (the novella mentioned in May which was supposed to release in an indie collection in October)
  • Heard from a publisher of a SHH-secret short story anthology that they might be interested in a novel in the same universe
  • Wrote an origin story for this universe

September

  • Wrote a military themed short story and submitted it
  • Worked out a ten-point outline of a novel to present to the publisher who expressed interest
  • Experienced vertigo from mood swings of fear, anxiety, excitement and disbelief
  • Finished writing a study book and devotional based on Psalm 119
  • Short story was accepted for publication in a January anthologyHeartsofValor_eBook_CVR
  • Polished the origin short story and submitted it. Rejection received.

October

  • Wrote the study guide for an updated version of Reflections
  • Scrambled to research settings and characters for the novel my editor was pitching to the publisher
  • First round of edits accomplished on “Hero of her Heart” (the romance accepted in September
  • Outline and character sketches ready for November
  • Organized scene cards in the new Scrivener file
  • Hired a cover artist for the study book
  • Completed author bio, blurb and excerpt for “Hero of her Heart”
  • Prepared a presentation for National Novel Writing Month to give to local writers in November

November

  • Wrote the first draft of a 68,000-word young adult dystopian with sci-fi and fantasy elements in 20 days
  • Completed second-round edits on “Hero of her Heart”
  • Logged rejections from eight of twelve agents regarding Doomsday Dragons
  • Began classes to become a licensed substitute teacher
  • Edited and uploaded the manuscript for the study book
  • Uploaded the cover
  • Wrote parts for a Christmas program at church
  • Spent a week at the coast with my husband and a wonderful Thanksgiving with my sister
  • Wrestled with CreateSpace over cover specs and interior issues on the study book, Poet Inspired

PoetInspired3DDecember

  • Sent Matchmaker: Reality for editing
  • Released a second edition of Reflections
  • Finished training for sub teaching and jumped through licensing hoops
  • Ordered and approved proof of Poet Inspired
  • Worked on the Christmas program parts (my first foray into voice acting – I think I’ll stick with writing)
  • Released Poet Inspired in print only
  • Worked on marketing tasks for these releases and the upcoming January release
  • Editor notes on Matchmaker: Reality asked for extensive additions and changes
  • Wrote a (15,000-word) fantasy romance for a future anthology (to be revised, edited, polished, and submitted in January 2016)
  • Added to and revised Matchmaker:Reality
  • Somehow managed to get ready for my son’s wedding

Don’t forget that I publish original blogs bi-weekly on my personal website and weekly on my church’s blog. So I wrote all of these every month amidst all the other work.

I would like to say I’m reaping huge benefits from all this writing and submitting. Monetarily, it hasn’t happened yet. All of my contracts are “royalties only.”

As for my independently published title, I have sold around 55 print books, and 100 e-books were downloaded during promotional periods when it was free.

I’m still an unknown. But I’m pushing forward, closer to meriting the title I give myself “full-time author.”

Looking forward to 2016

A new calendar year is about to dawn.

I’ll have new goals. They’ll be written in my business plan.

Among them:

  1. Increase my newsletter mailing list (not sure how to accomplish this at the moment, since I follow all the industry advice and have 22 subscribers after a year)
  2. Submit the dystopian novel to the publisher by May
  3. Write another study book (or two) and publish them for print on demand
  4. Write and submit six short stories to anthologies (one is written for a February 2016 deadline)
  5. Work on the grief memoir/Bible study I’ve outlined (possibly ready to pitch by the summer)
  6. Write the rest of the dystopian series
  7. Land a book publishing contract

What accomplishments from 2015 do you want to shout about? What’s on your list for 2016?

It’s all about the Attitude

positive-attitude quotespositive

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen the daily memes. They’ll stop soon. There can’t be 365 unique quotes about having a positive attitude.

Life should be an adventure. And as I learned on my biking trip in Hawaii, the key to enjoying an adventure is to have the right attitude.

Some people would say there are only two types of attitudes: positive and negative. Or maybe good and bad. But I think attitudes are colored in shades of gray.

Negative

At the black end of the spectrum is the naysayer. You know who I’m talking about. They just won the lottery – and complain about the amount of taxes they have to pay.

Any normal person takes at least a few minutes to jump around like a maniac, shrieking in delight. But a blackened attitude doesn’t see a good side.

It’s difficult to spend more than a few minutes with this person. Why? You feel like crying. Or strangling them. Or jumping off the nearest cliff.

Or heading back to bed – with earplugs so you don’t have to listen to their downer-isms any longer.

It’s Eeyore, but without the cuteness.

Bad-ish

Thankfully, there aren’t too many people with a full-blown negative attitude. At least not as a permanent fixture in their personality.

We can excuse it when they’ve had a bad day, been fired from their job, wrecked their car or lost someone they loved. If they were all sunshine and roses in those moments, we’d question their mental health.

The type of person that bugs me is the dark gray bad attitude. This is the person who takes it upon themselves to rain on everyone’s happiness.

“I just got a raise.”

“Uncle Sam thanks you for the additional taxes he’s getting,” Says Big Gray. Really? How about a “congratulations” before you burst my joy with your sharp words?

This type of person is worse than Mr. Black because I can’t be myself around them. I’m constantly keeping my excitement about life inside because I don’t want it sullied by their caustic commentary.best-quotes-on-attitude

Average

Somewhere at the mid-scale gray is where most of us reside. We have good days when we can spout appropriately positive remarks upon hearing the good news.

We’re quick to agree with those whose day was less than charming, consoling them with a few black comments of our own. All in the name of being there for them.

Good-ish

There is a silver-hued attitude. We know some people like this. They always have something upbeat to say no matter what the situation.

“I lost my job.”

“That’s terrible, but truthfully, you’ve seemed pretty unhappy with it the past few months anyway. Now you can find something better.” Oh the brilliance of their shiny silver-tongued words.

But do they mean them?

Often, the people who are eternally optimistic make me suspicious. It’s not that I don’t believe you can have a positive outlook all the time (we’ll get to that next), but because sometimes turning the tables on a disaster is the wrong move.

Don’t they care that I lost my job? Their positive spin minimizes my anguish over the bad turn I must endure.

Positive

What on earth does she think a positive attitude looks like, then? If it isn’t the person who always has something nice to say, what else is there?

True empathy.

“We had to put my dog to sleep.”

If you try to put a positive spin on this, you’ll alienate that person. Go ahead. Try it. Give me your positive comment below.

Sometimes no words are the most positive thing you can offer. Sharing their tears and wrapping them up in a hug are great ways to fill the silence.

Seriously.

How is this positive?

When that person thinks back on that difficult time, your kindness will stand out. They might even tell you how much they appreciated that you didn’t try to console them with words.

I’m a writer, but sometimes there are no words that are situation-appropriate.

The person with the crystal-white positive attitude exercises wisdom with their tongue. They have upbeat words when that is what fits the moment. Helpful words flow from their lips when a person spews negativity and there is a positive antidote.

Ms. Positive knows that sometimes a smile, shared tears, or physical comfort is the positive “shot in the arm” to remedy truly heartbroken moments of negativity.

In the end, life is all about the attitude you face it with. Where are you on this scale? Or maybe you see it in black and white. Let’s discuss it.

Another New Year – Another chance to NOT Break a Resolution

I’ve joined the multitudes that don’t actually make New Year’s Resolutions. Most of the time, I break them. Statistically, most resolutions are broken by February 1st.

In the past five years, I’ve set goals for myself in several broad areas: physical, spiritual, emotional and relational. I wish I could say I had met all my goals. Most years I meet as many as I don’t meet. Last year, I met all but one goal.

Since I’ve embarked on the journey toward fulfilling my life-long dream of becoming a published author, I’ve mixed up my categories for the coming year. My categories are: hobbies, physical, spiritual, writing and other.

My Goal sheet
My Goal sheet

I made a handy-dandy chart and have my goals for the first two months already filled in. Why didn’t I complete the whole year?

I want to be realistic. I’m not setting myself up for failure, but I might need to keep a goal for several months before actualizing the desired result.

For example, you’ll notice that my physical goal for January and February is to lose five pounds. I intend to lose five or more pounds each month. I didn’t fill in the goal for March because if I haven’t achieved my goal weight (or more specifically the correct fit of my clothes), I might repeat the weight loss goal for another month.

Since I already have stated word count goals for my writing, I wanted to use project goals in that category. The reason I didn’t put a goal for March is because I’m not sure if I will actually be finished revising the first book of my series in a month. Since this is my initial revision phase, I’m not certain how long the process will take.

Of course, it’s obvious I expect the book to be ready for other eyes by March. My goal in the “other” classification for that month is to get the first book in the trilogy out to beta readers.

Most of my publishing goals and deadlines have been entered in the “other” category. Writing and publishing are separate aspects of my new career. If I’m going to be a professional writer, I need to always write (or rewrite) and not sit on my hands once I begin the quest for an agent or publisher.

What do you think about using goals to motivate you at the start of a new year? Do you still make resolutions? Is setting goals the same as making a resolution?

 Related Posts:

10 Resolutions for 2014

Welcoming 2014

It’s another new year. I can hardly believe how quickly the calendar flipped in 2013.

Are you ready for another year? I love a new year because it promises a fresh start. Another opportunity to set and meet goals presents itself. The calendar is a clean slate – so why not my life?

What are your aspirations for 2014? Mine are simple: finish the novel and see it published. Simply stated, not so easily accomplished.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me.

Happy New Year! Let’s make it a great one.

The Many Faces of Winning

2013-Winner-Square-ButtonIf you’re my friend on Facebook, you know I spent November writing between 2,000 and 5,000 words every weekday to “win” the distinction of writing a novel in 30 days. People wanted to know what the prizes were for winning.
Let me explain National Novel Writing Month.
The purpose of having a month focused on writing a novel is to generate excitement for reading and writing. The idea of writing 1667 words every day to complete 50,000 words in 30 days helps aspiring authors to understand a professional writing pace.
For more information, you should visit the website. The event has become internationally recognized. I was buddies with a woman in Ireland.
What do you win? There are five faces to winning National Novel Writing Month:
Bragging Rights
This competition is a big deal. People everywhere have heard about it. Over 300,000 writers signed up to participate this year. Only a fraction of them complete 50,000 words in 30 days.
I can say, “I wrote a novel in a month.” Can you?
Free and Reduced Price Goods
A ton of businesses sponsor this event. Their name gets bandied around by the thousands of participants. In exchange, they grant special offers to participants and winners. Yes, you can get a discount just for trying to write a book in a month.
Some of the sponsors this year were: Createspace, Scrivener (which I used to write my novel but had already purchased for full price months ago), Wattpad, Lulu.com, Storyist Software, Swoon Reads, Leanpub, Aeon Timeline, Jukepop Serials and eight others. Check out the list here.
A Network of Writing Allies
When I wrote this post, there were 79,635 users online at nanowrimo.org. That’s only a small percentage of total participation.
People I’ve never met friended me on Facebook and wrote encouraging comments on my word count updates. I returned the favor.
Published authors shared their wit and wisdom during the event. Most of the people I’ve met in the industry reach out to us newbies and offer authentic help. Networking is important in any industry but is especially helpful for beginning writers.
Enthusiasm for your Project
When days go by between visits to the fantasy world of my creation, I become less than excited about the story. I forget what my characters want and I lose touch with their voices.
Some writers experience drought during November, but I never stalled. Will every scene be perfect? Doubtful. I kept writing though and my characters threw in a few surprises.
I’ve been lukewarm about this project since scrapping my first attempt at the first book. I forced myself to go through the motions and write the new story. I didn’t connect with it though.
I’m connected now. I know when I go back and revise the first book, my knowledge of my characters and my passion for their story will make it stronger. All because I sat down with the intention of “winning” NaNoWriMo.
Success
I finished a book. In fact, I was done on November 23. The first day to officially “win” was November 25.
Writing requires diligence and the payoff is far in the future. Someday an agent will sign me. Someday my book will hit the shelves. Someday I’ll get a paycheck for my hours of labor.
When I finished this challenge, success became reality.
For a writer, these final three items are essential. Writing is a lonely profession. During my writing time, I interact solely with my cast of characters (oh, and my cat when he checks in on me from time to time).
Most of the time, no one knows how many words I’ve written in a day or how many hours it took me to write them. During November, we post our word count daily on the website. We’re encouraged to make status updates about it on Facebook. Accountability is one of the things that keeps fledgling writers from throwing in the towel halfway through the month.
Would I have liked a cash prize? Only a liar would say no. But the intrinsic value of winning the contest in its current format is priceless.
I now know that I can write at a 3,000 words per day pace. This is a professional rate of work. Once I revise the novel, I’ll know my revision rate. Then I can combine the two and be able to tell my agent and editor exactly how many books they can expect from me in a year. I’m going to guess either three or four.
That’s crazy! But it means I can do this “professional author” gig.
If I hadn’t won NaNo, I might still be wondering if I’d made the right decision in quitting my day job to pursue my dream.

Reaching a Goal

Image courtesy of depositphotos.com

On Thursday, June 6th, I received a notification from WordPress that I had my 100th follower. It surprised me that I didn’t do a bigger happy dance.

Since reading Kristen Lamb’s book Are you there Blog? It’s me, Writer in August 2012, I had set some goals for my blog. One goal was to have 100 followers by my one year anniversary – February 2013.

I missed that target by nearly four months.

Of course, I’m not out and about spreading the love to other bloggers the way Kristen encourages new bloggers to do. Who has the time? I was pleased when I managed to get the two blog posts I had committed to up every week.

I still don’t get regular comments on my posts, which was one of my goals.

How do I encourage comments?

I noticed that when I did the Round of Words in 80 Days challenge, I scored quite a few more comments. Part of the requirements for the challenge is to visit five different blogs each time we post our updates. I believe I will participate in this challenge again…whenever it starts next.

Of course, I’m reaching my overarching goal of graduating from college. Once I’m finished with that, I can’t take a break. I need to start toward my next goal right away.

Here are the goals I expect to accomplish in the next six months:

  • Complete A Round of Words in 80 Days challenge with higher word count goals than last time
  • Bump blog posts up to three days per week.
  •             I’m considering making a page just for samples of my writing. Do any of my readers have any thoughts or experiences with that?
  • Finish my WIP by the end of October
  • Send out one article/story for publication
  • Visit more blogs on a regular basis and leave comments
  • Start a Facebook page

What is your secret to setting goals that you can complete?

The Book, the Key or the Goblet

Dewy cedar mingles with brisk pine as I inhale deeply the fragrant woods.  A familiar path stretches before me, yet the mist that hovers near the ground lends a mysterious, unknown quality to the hard-packed dirt track under my feet.  Light from the rising sun filters through the treetops, a slight breeze sends the branches overhead into applause and whisks the mist around my ankles like a friendly feline.  Turning to the left, the path begins to rise, and ahead I see the outline of a cabin.

Immediately, I sense that no structure was in evidence the last time I walked this way.  I quicken my pace, up
the slight incline, breath quickening and calves burning.  Aside from the clapping branches, the woods are strangely silent; no birds twitter a greeting to the rising sun and no bugs hum in the pre-dawn coolness.

Cresting the hill, the cabin comes completely into view, a small one-room shack resembling the pump house at my grandmother’s retirement home in Idaho. Painted hunter green, just like that one, the exterior blends with the surrounding foliage.  As I pause to catch my breath, it seems as if the trees shrink away from the little building.  The sound of running water reaches my ears, but there isn’t a creek nearby and the sound is out-of-place.

While I glance around and puzzle over the sound of rushing water, the door of the house swings open,
creaking on its hinges and scraping against the wooden floorboards in the same manner Gram’s pump house door always did.  A woman with a wicker basket over her arm emerges from within.  Strangely, a veil covers her face, clashing with the light blue polyester slacks and black rain slicker she’s wearing.  Even though she moves confidently, her shoulders are slightly hunched which gives the impression that she’s older. Her
figure is full, soft, and grandmotherly even though she’s several inches shorter than I am.

When she is just a few feet away, she stops and speaks.  Holding the basket out toward me, I see lying within it on a scrap of red silk a dusty tome, an antique key and a simple pottery goblet.  She invites me to take one, or all, of the items from her basket, promising they will give me special knowledge about myself.

My fingers itch to touch the hardbound book.  It appears to be a journal with a faded navy leather cover.  Red ribbon peeps from the top indicating a silky bookmark inside.  My eyes rest upon the antique key briefly.  It’s small, somewhat discolored from age and so old-fashioned I can’t fathom what it would open.  The goblet is fired to a pearly sheen; marbled purple, lavender and ivory clay gives the cup shape and appeal.

Reaching with my right hand, I gently lift the book from the basket, which tilts and sways as I remove the small volume. My eyes sweep over the other two items again, but instead of reaching for anything else, I clutch the book with both hands, pulling it protectively toward my chest.  The cover feels warm and supple beneath my fingers.

The woman commends my choice. When her hands cover mine, they are rough and calloused but warm in the cool morning air.  Her knuckles , wrinkled and spotted with age, are knobby from arthritis.  After releasing my hands, she steps closer until we are only inches apart and pulls the veil away from her face.

Tears prick the back of my eyes because the face belongs to my much-loved grandmother.  Every wrinkle, every smile line, the silver, wire-framed glasses, the white hair in its short, wind-tousled style belongs to my Gram.  Every inch of the face is just as I remember, and then she smiles – angelic. The clearing brightens and I’m sure I hear musical calls of several birds.  Even as I return her smile, I feel the hot moisture on my face. I’ve missed her so much!

“Ask me one question about your life so far,” she says.  “Any question you want and I’ll answer you the best I know how.”

I’m speechless with joy and sorrow, overwhelmed that I’m getting another opportunity to talk to her.  I really just want one of her hugs.  I’ve missed them more than anything.  Only Gram could hug me in a way that made me feel cherished and accepted. Who knew a hug could say so much?

“Did you write this book?” I finally ask, holding the thin volume up slightly.

“You’re asking me about the book when you could ask me about anything?”

I nod, my eyes memorizing her every feature, knowing she’ll be gone soon. I don’t want to forget anything about this moment.

She shakes her head slightly, “I didn’t write the book,” she says quietly. “You did.”

Author’s Note: I wrote this story as part of an assignment for my nonfiction workshop in February 2011. My grandmother had been gone just over a year and I cried the whole time I wrote it. Gram believed in my dream. I’m pursuing my writing career with gusto now – in honor of her unfailing support and unconditional love.