Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

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Writers’ motto: Never give up

February 10, 2010

If there was a theme in what the many published writers said at the Austin SCBWI conference a couple weeks ago, it was that perseverance is an important part of their success.

Three of this year’s ALA winners were there — Jacqueline Kelly (The Evolution of Capurnia Tate), Marla Frazee and Liz Garton Scanlon (All the World illustrator and author) and Chris Barton (The Day-Glo Brothers) — and they all told tales of facing many rejections before publication and of pursuing their dreams of being published for years before making them a reality.

Kirby Larson, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor book Hattie Big Sky, said she received piles of rejection letters before her publishing career began. Finally, after many years of trying and taking a 10-day course that happened over her daughter’s birthday — what a sacrifice — she sold her first picture books. A few more followed, but then she didn’t sell anything for seven years. That’s when she tried a different type of writing and Hattie Big Sky was born.

Former editor and now full-time author Lisa Graff explained that for her last book, Umbrella Summer, she wrote 18 complete drafts.

Yesterday, this theme was reinforced in an article in the Los Angeles Times about non-fiction author Rebecca Skloot, whose The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks appeared on Amazon’s bestseller list immediately after the book debuted on Feb. 2. This was all after Skloot spent 10 years working on the book and went through three publishing houses, four editors and two agents.

All these writers shared something in common: They didn’t give up.

So, the motto for today: Never give up.

Write On!

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Writer treat: Whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

January 29, 2010

Manuscript update: I’m going to reward myself with this treat when I get the perfect query letter and synopsis written.

Writing a novel isn’t easy, and we writers should reward ourselves when we reach a goal, no matter how small. Here’s one suggestion, Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies

Imagine these cookies speckled with brown whole wheat grain.

Chocolate chip cookies from scratch have been a staple in our home for years. We even have a special tin, and all our friends know there’s always some in there. I use the regular Tollhouse recipe on the back of the Tollhouse Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips bag, but I’ve tried to make them a little better for us over the years with a few substitutions:

  • Replace the granulated sugar with Splenda. The difference is neglible.
  • Remove the egg yolks and use just the egg whites. With between 9 and 10 minutes in the oven, the cookies have a nice crisp outside and chewy, cakey inside.
  • Add some more flour. I buy free range eggs, and they seem to be bigger than regular eggs. So to compensate, I’ve had to add in some more flour to keep the right consistency.

Now here’s my latest discovery:

  • Replace 1 cup of the total flour with whole grain flour and use regular white flour for the rest of the required amount.

Over Christmas, when I made a bunch of cookies that were a bit more healthful than the usual recipes, I found an awesome recipe for Whole Grain Snickerdoodles. I got the idea for the whole grain flour substitution in the chocolate chip cookies from those snickerdoodles, and it gives the chocolate chip cookies a really nice texture — not to mention having some whole grain flour in there is a little better for you.

So, next time you achieve one of your writing goals, no matter how big or small, try these for a (somewhat) healthful treat.

How do you reward yourself?

Write On!

P.S. If you’ve got a burning question about ghostwriting, you’ve got until Sunday night to enter it to be answered by writer Laura Cross, and have a chance to win a PDF copy of Cross’ informative book Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent: Everything You Need to Know to Become Successfully Published. Cross’ answers to all the ghostwriting questions — and the winner of the book — will be on the blog on Feb. 12.

P.P.S. I’m going to the Austin SCBWI conference tomorrow, so next week look out for reports about the speakers, including Arthur Levine editor Cheryl Klein; Farrar, Strauss and Giroux editor Lisa Graff; Bloomsbury editor Stacy Cantor; agent and former editor Andrea Cascardi; agent Mark McVeigh; agent and blogger extraordinaire Nathan Bransford and many, many more.

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Commit to writing

January 13, 2010

Revision update: Moving along smoothly. I’m about two-thirds off the way through. Still hoping to be done by the end of the month. Fingers crossed.

I’ve talked about setting goals for writing a lot on this blog. But there’s more to commiting to your writing than setting goals. Procrastinating Writers has a great idea: Sign a writing goals contract with yourself.

As PW says, a contract takes away excuses, keeps you on track for your goals and helps remind you what’s important—your writing.

PW has a sample contract on their blog post, but I suggest modifying it to add something specific, like, I’ll write something every day, or I’ll write at least five days a week, whatever is reasonable and doable. Then, write it up or print it out and paste it on your fridge.

Since being laid off from my job, I’ve committed to working on my book in the morning then working on my job search in the afternoon.

What do you want to commit to?

Also, got a question on ghostwriting? Leave it in the comments and author Laura Cross will answer it here on Feb. 12. Your question also could win you a PDF copy of Laura’s book, Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent: Everything You Need to Know to Become Successfully Published.

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Opportunities

January 8, 2010

Revision update: It’s coming along, but I’ve slowed down a bit.

There’s that old saying that when a door closes, another opens. Call me an optimist, but I believe in this. I acknowledge that the second one doesn’t always open immediately, but with some patience, a lot of hard work, dedication and, perhaps most of all, faith, it will open. God provides, I believe, and I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

On Wednesday morning, I heard that the job I have held for the past 10 years was being eliminated, pretty much effective immediately. I knew change was coming, but hadn’t expected it quite so quickly and didn’t expect this type of change. But there it is. I’ve been laid off, which nowadays isn’t an unusual thing. I’ve joined the many many many others who have lost their jobs lately thanks to the economic climate.

I’m not one who worries too much about change. I lived in four different countries by the time I was 12, so change is nothing new. It can be exciting, strange, daunting, but mostly, it’s something that happens, and you just roll up your sleeves and deal with it.

Change can also bring opportunities, that other door opening. Who knows what we’ll find through that door, but no matter what, it will be a new chance to learn, at the very least.

When I put the news of my job’s demise on Facebook, a writer friend of mine wrote back: “Bummer! but more time for the novel selling/writing ;-)” 🙂 Now that’s looking at the bright side!

I don’t know what will be in store for me in the near future. I’m looking for a new job and freelance work (anyone need an expert editor/writer with 15 years experience?) and I do plan to also spend more time on my novels. Whatever happens, though, this is an opportunity. I plan to make the most of it.

And now, I’ve got an opportunity for you.

On Feb. 12, I’ll be posting an interview with Laura Cross, author of Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent: Everything You Need to Know to Become Successfully Published. See, I told you, opportunities!

But here’s the real opportunity. Laura will be answering YOUR questions, and the best one will WIN a PDF copy of her book.

Here’s some info about Laura:

Laura Cross’s family and friends in Detroit, Michigan knew she would move on to bigger and better things when she began writing and performing plays for them as a child. Actually they hoped she would move on to bigger and better things–they were tired of being her only audience!

When Laura packed up the moving van it was to head to California where she earned Certificates in Writing and Feature Film Writing for the UCLA Writer’s Program. Laura’s writing life has included magazine writing, script reading for production companies and literary agencies, leading writing workshops and blogging about screenwriting and non-fiction writing. She’s also written some absolutely fabulous non-fiction books but sadly, as a ghost writer, she has to keep the titles under wraps! Laura divides her time between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

For our interview, we’ll tap into Laura’s private life: ghostwriting, although I’m sure Laura will answer other burning questions if you have them. Ghostwriting is one of those lucrative opportunities that, if you’re like me, also seems elusive. How can you tap into this market? How does the process work? How much ghostwriting is really done in publishing? Ok, there’s three questions from me, but I’m sure you guys have plenty more.

Please put your questions in the comments of this post before Jan. 31. If someone else has already submitted a question you’d like answered, keep thinking and put in a different one. All the questions will be sent to Laura on Feb. 1, and her answers along with the winner of the PDF copy of Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent will be posted on Feb. 12. The winner will be chosen by Laura as the one with her favorite question, so please make sure you post your question with a name, not anonymous, so we can contact you for your prize.

Good luck, and Write On!

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Getting inspired

December 17, 2009

Revision update: I’ve been sick all week, so nothing done. Very frustrating.

This is my first writing for the week, thanks to a fast-acting yucky cold. I did a little revising last night as I couldn’t sleep — a byproduct of sleeping most of the day for the last three days — but other than that, I’ve done nada, and it’s bothering me. Today, I am feeling a bit better, but those few days away from my book have worked on my insecurities, and I’m feeling a little apprehensive about getting back to it. Nothing that jumping into the deep end won’t fix, but I figured I’d do this post first.

Given my lack of inspiration right now, I thought it was fitting that I found in one of the Yahoo groups I follow a link to Jennifer Blanchard‘s blog post 43 Most Inspiring Writing Advice Posts of 2009. (Thanks, Greg P., for the heads up.) Procrastinating Writers blog founder Jennifer Blanchard compiled the most inspiring blog posts she read over the year and shared them. I have a few favorites from her list (but check out the whole list, because you’ll probably find more that speak to you):

Seven Productivity Tips: This was probably my favorite blog post because it’s stuff I haven’t really thought about before, but it’s good, get-your-butt-in-gear stuff.

Learning to Accept Responsibility for Yourself: This is another great one, because so often, we use other things as excuses for why we didn’t write, but it still comes down to our choice.

You Won’t Break Into the Business By Imitating Other Writers: This is a writing post as opposed to a make-the-time-to-write post, but it’s all great advice.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait for Inspiration: This one follows posts I’ve written here on DayByDayWriter about making time to write consistantly.

How to Defeat Burnout and Stay Motivated: I tend to push myself hard and take on a lot, so I liked this one as a reminder that it’s ok to take it slow.

Get Rid of “Should” Once and For All: This is another great one, because we all have the tendency to say “I should be writing” too much. I know I do. And when I do, I don’t feel good about it. I feel much better when I can say, “I have written.”

What’s inspiring you today?

Now, on to my revision…

Write On!

P.S. How do you like my snow?

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Never give up

November 18, 2009

Revision update: I got some good stuff done today, and I feel like I’m finally getting a hang of these first few chapters, like things are finally starting to fit into place. Fingers crossed.

My father-in-law is coming to stay with us tomorrow, so, naturally, tonight I was cleaning up. As I put away all the papers and stuff that always accumulate in the kitchen, I came across a fortune cookie that had come with our Chinese food delivery last weekend. Instead of throwing it away, I cracked it open for a quick snack, and it was the best fortune I’ve ever gotten — even if it’s not technically a fortune. Anyway, it said: “Never give up.”

This is the best fortune cookie a writer, or anyone trying to do succeed at anything, can get, better than, “You will come into a lot of money.” That could be from the lottery, but it won’t get us what we want.

Because what we want requires never giving up. No matter how often we wonder if we’re writing our scene the best way, no matter how often we question our word choice, no matter how often we send out query letters, no matter how often we get rejections, if we want to succeed, we must never give up. This is the same when we’re trying to get an agent, when our agent is trying to sell our book, when we’re trying to market our book after it’s released on shelves, when our agent is selling our next book, and so on. No matter what, we must never give up.

If I was writing that fortune cookie, I would add one thing: “Work hard … and never give up.”

What would your perfect fortune cookie say?

Write On!

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Inspiration in a difficult week

October 3, 2009

Sorry that I’ve been absent from this blog for most of this week. I’ve been absent from most things.

My husband and I had a loss Wednesday morning when our dog passed away. It was quick, which was a good thing, but it was a terrible shock for us.

My husband and I don’t have children yet, but Newton was our child, our boy. He acted like a very hairy five-year-old with a limited vocabulary. He even loved opening presents at Christmas. He went just about everywhere with us that dogs could go, and his absence has been very difficult to deal with.

SirNewton8x10Newtie is also the inspiration behind my Sir Newton books (the picture is the promotional photo we gave to kids at book signings), and when he died, I couldn’t imagine working on another book. I had a lot of plans for these books. During the last year, I’ve focused on my novels in an effort to get those moving along with an agent and publishers, so the next book in the series, Sir Newton’s Color Me Florida, has been sitting in my computer mostly done. I planned to finish it when I had more time, and I planned to expand the series to every state in the U.S. as well as every Caribbean island and then the world, each one following the same pattern as the first two and providing funds to local children’s charities in each area the books describe. With my real Sir Newton gone, I couldn’t imagine doing another book. But my husband said, “You have to keep doing them for him.”

You see, one of the amazing things about Newtie was how happy he was. He was always wagging his tail, even the day before he died, he was wagging his tail, bright eyed, tongue hanging out. The amazing thing about this is that Newtie had a lot of health problems throughout his life, but, to quote his vet, “to look at him, you’d never know he had been sick.”

Newton was born with a herniated diaphragm; part of his intenstines rested in his chest cavity, keeping his right lung partly closed. When we adopted him, Newtie had been on the streets of South Central, Los Angeles, for a few months, we estimate. He had horrible mange and a rotting ear (we have pictures and they’re not pretty). He was three days away from being euthanized at the pound, because no one would adopt a dog in this state, when a rescue worker with the Much Love organization picked him up. The group paid for all his vet bills to get him fixed up then found him a foster home, which happened to be some friends of ours. I went with our friend to pick him up, a hairless dog except for a little white mohawk with the best and most friendly personality of any dog I had ever met in a situation like that. I was immediately smitten.

Newton quickly became a part of our family, and was with us for around five years. He enlived our lives more than I can describe, and everyone who met him called him “the happy dog.”

Last year, he was diagnosed with cancer. I prayed and prayed for him, for my boy, and God answered my prayers. After his first round of chemo, Newt was in remission the following morning. He had had tumors the size of golf balls under his mouth, but when we woke up the next morning, they were competely gone. Our vet had told us it would take a couple weeks to see a difference, best case scenario a few days. But he was in full remission the morning after.

We continued his full treatment and, as happens with chemo, Newtie lost a lot of hair again. But he started growing his hair back two months before he was done with his chemo treatment, which the vet kept saying was “amazing.”

His vet continued to be impressed with Newt’s recovery, and his follow up tests since he finished chemo were clean. Then a couple weeks ago, Newtie started to show signs of something being off. He was still wagging his tail and squeeking his toys and running up and down the stairs like a puppy, though. On Tuesday, I took him to the vet for some tests. They thought maybe his cancer had returned, and the next day, I had planned to get the results and see where we went from there. That night, I prayed again. I prayed and prayed that God would take care of him, to take care of my boy. After Newton passed away around 6:30 the next morning, my husband said God did answer my prayers; He did take care of Newton. He made it quick and relatively painless. That is a comfort. Newton was a very special dog — and I’m quoting my vet, so you know I’m not being biased (although I don’t mind if you think I am biased, because I am) — and he had had enough problems in his life. He didn’t deserve any more pain.

Comfort as it was, however, it’s still very hard to so suddenly have him not in our lives.

So, I’ve been pretty much feeling in a coma for the last few days. I had emails sitting in my inbox waiting to be answered. I haven’t done anything on my books. I haven’t even looked at my blog. Then, yesterday, my husband and I were talking about Newt — again — and remembering how happy he was all the time despite all the hardships he had to deal with during his life. And it was then that I realized that Newton was much better than me. I have none of the health problems he had, and although I’m generally very happy, I have my worries, concerns, over really small things. When Newton died, I didn’t feel like doing anything, not even one of my favorite things: writing. I want to be a novelist full time, to tell stories all the time, but when he died, I didn’t care about it. It just seemed like it didn’t matter.

But remembering Newt’s tail swinging back and forth, and his shining eyes as his pink tongue hung out of his mouth, his running around and squeeking his toy even though he only had one and a half good lungs, I realized that remembering is much better than mourning. Remembering all the wonderful things he did is the best way to honor him. And to aim to be as happy as him no matter what is the best way to be.

My husband encouraged me to return the emails I needed to return today, some from prospective agents, so I did, with images of Newtie wagging his tail at my feet.

Things will never be the same without our Newtie, our Sir Newton (who often lived up to his pen name), but I’m getting back on my horse, so to speak, and trying to remember that he wouldn’t worry or be sad; he’d smile and wag his tail.

This blog post is for him.

Write On

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Goals keep you motivated

September 8, 2009
  • Current word count: 35,826
  • New words written: 539
  • Words til goal: 4,174 / 188 words a day til the end of September

I’m almost at the end of this novel, and it’s exciting. In the chapter I just started, a bunch of questions from earlier will be answered; it’s an ah ha moment. Then I have the climactic battle chapter and the wrap-up chapter and it’s done.

I’m a list person. When I have a lot of things to do, I like to write lists and get the satisfaction of crossing items off when they’re done. So, for me, one of the things that I think has really motivated me the most during the writing of this novel is the word counts I’ve been putting at the top of each blog post. After each writing session, I’m itching to be able to cross off what I did that morning, so to speak.

And lately, one of the biggest motivations for me has been seeing  the “words a day til the end of September” number going down. This is how many words I have to write each day to make my goal of finishing the novel by the end of September. It’s the “words til goal” number (my goal being 40K) divided by the number of days left until the end of September (a date I aimed for after being imspired by other bloggers aiming for the same date). Today is the first day that number is less than 200.

Each day that I write more than my necessary goal, the lower that “words a day til the end of September” number gets and the more of a reality it becomes that I will make — or even exceed — my goal. I’m now hoping I’ll be finished the book by the end of this week, but this week could be busy, so I’m not sure I’ll achieve that. We’ll see. I’m still way ahead for my end of September goal, and that keeps me motivated.

I think making goals like this is a great way to keep yourself accountable with your writing, but make sure the goals are doable, and keep long-term goals and short-term, even every day goals like this. Each day that you achieve your daily goal will make you feel good and hungry to achieve another one. Before you know it, you’ll have finished another novel.

What are your short- and long-term goals?

Write On!

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Never feel alone as a writer

August 19, 2009

Current word count: 22,588

New words written: 729

Words til goal: 17,412 / 415 words a day til the end of September

Another good writing day. I’m waiting the well to dry up! hahaha Hopefully, not til I’m done.

Writing is very solitary work. It’s just you, a computer or notebook and your story in your head. It’s great to have others that you can bounce ideas off of, but, sometimes that can be difficult as everybody has their own lives and no one else is as obsessed about our book as we are. 🙂

But as much as we’re the only one who can actually write our story, we are not alone as writers, and that has never been more clear to me than yesterday when I was catching up on some blog reading. We have friends on the blogosphere who are going through the exact things we are going through.

In blogs online, writers are talking about their experiences from all different levels, like Will (21st Century Paperback Writer blog), who posted a comment on my blog post yesterday and is a long-time reader who’s currently outlining his first novel; Brit (Dream the Dream blog), who’s currently working on her first novel; Katie Anderson (Plot This blog with Sarah Francis Hardy), who like me has written and revised her novel and is seeking an agent; Beverly (Prana Island of Witches blog), who has just signed with an agent; and Shelli (Market My Words blog), who has a number of books already in the market.

In the blogosphere, we’re not alone, no matter where we are on the writing road. And no matter what, we can always find help, comfort and encouragment in the experiences of others.

So, build up a set of go-to blogs, keep adding to the list whenever you find new ones, and anytime you feel alone, start browsing and reading. We’re all going through the same things in front of our computers.

And if you ever feel like you need help with anything, I think I speak for all bloggers by saying, just reach out. Post a comment saying what you’re feeling. You won’t be alone.

If you want help in setting up a go-to set of blogs, check out the ones listed on the right. And if you’ve got favorites you think I should add, post them in the comments.

Write On!

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Why I need to write every day

July 5, 2009

Current word count: 9,744

Words written today: 504

Words to goal: 30,246/ 348 per day til end of September

Congrats to all those who have been posting their progress in the comments of this blog. It’s great to see, and is encouraging me to strive forward. I hope my word counts are doing the same for you.

I set my alarm and got up early again this morning so I could get in an hour of writing before church. It’s Sunday, and I would love to have slept in and fitted in my writing later in the day, especially after staying up late last night watching a movie. But I learned something on Friday, something I already knew but needed a good reminder: I really need to make sure I write every day, AND, unless I get up early and do it in the morning, I most likely won’t fit it in at all.

Like many people, I had Friday off from work. I had one main plan for that day: Write. I did want to get to the gym, as my husband and I go every weekday, and I had to go grocery shopping, do some laundry and make a desert to take to a friend’s house for her Fourth celebration, but other than that, I planned to write.

As I had the day off, I figured I’d let myself sleep in instead of setting my alarm early and writing like I usually do. That was my big mistake. By the time I had gotten up, eaten breakfast, and gone to the gym, it was 11. The rest of the day went just as fast, and needless to say, I didn’t get any writing done. I was thinking about my writing all the time, though, and I did manage to do some research about point of view, which I wrote about that evening.

But I didn’t get any time to actually sit at my computer and create. And, here’s the funny thing, I felt annoyed all day.

Come Saturday, I set my alarm and got a good two or three hours in. Then this morning, I set my alarm and did an hour. And, here’s the other funny thing, I felt happy both days. Tired, but happy.

A friend of mine and I have had many conversations about this, and I think it’s common among writers. For those of us who have that itch that keeps us coming back to our stories no matter what’s going on in our lives, we’re better off when we’re writing — despite whether we’re published or not.

Anyone else feel their day isn’t the same unless they do at least something on their manuscript?

 Write On!