Goals, 2012

Now that 2012 is upon us, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish in the new year. I toyed with the idea of writing down some resolutions, but somehow that felt flat, like making  a bunch of empty promises. I just haven’t found the motivation to do it.

Still, I’ve been setting some mental goals (most significantly: write at least a thousand new words, Monday-Friday, and keep up with my current exercise routine). Then I read a post by my brilliant friend Erin Bowman referencing writer  Jessica Corra, who blogged about how she picks a Word of the Year instead of making traditional resolutions. She strives to keep that one word in mind throughout the year.  Jessica said: Resolutions are too compartmental, too specific and practical. I prefer a word, an attitude, a way of being.

I love this idea. In fact, I love it so much I want to do it too!

I’d planned to mull over my word for a few days, until I’d settled on the perfect one, one that would express the attitude and mental posture I want to adopt for the entirety of the upcoming year. But, there was one word that popped into my head almost immediately, one I kept coming back to over and over again. What is that word?


Resolve kind of encompasses all the goals I’ve set for the year, big and small, and it will hopefully help me to accomplish them. For me, resolve means, simply, setting my mind to something and making it happen. Choosing to make responsible decisions even when they’re not easy or fun or popular…

Ordering a salad over a cheeseburger at Red Robin. Walking my dogs even if it’s windy and cold. Writing to my daily word goal, regardless of whether I’m tired or grumpy or uninspired. Starting my day early, with yoga, even when my bed feels warm and cozy. Reading my prerequisite one craft book per month even when there’s a hot new release I’d rather pick up. Walking past my daughter’s M&M treat even though they look incredibly tasty. Staying strong, mentally and physically.

So, that’s it.


Hold me to it, would ya? 🙂

And on that note, I’ll be taking a bit of a blog-cation over the next several weeks. I’ve come to the realization that my writing vs. blogging time has become a bit unbalanced, and that’s something I need to remedy. I mean, what’s the point of keeping an “Aspiring Author” blog if I’m not really, um, authoring anything?

I’ve got some lofty aspirations for this New Year, specifically: Finish the rewrite of tentatively entitled Cross My Heart, and complete a first draft of something shiny and pretty and exciting and new. Plus, my husband’s deployment will come to an end in approximately six (SIX!) weeks, and I’ve got lots to do to prepare for his homecoming.

That’s not to say that this blog will be entirely wordless. I still plan on participating in some of YA Highway‘s Road Trip Wednesdays, and I’ll definitely  share some Bookanista recommendations, but things around here will be quieter. Sort of like her…

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What are YOUR goals (writing or otherwise) for 2012? And what will your one word be?


Surviving Revising…

Ah, another round of revisions is coming to a close. Good news: I just have this feeling that I’ve made some super successful changes… yay! Sort of bad news: The whole thing has been quite a challenge. As I’m sure most of you can attest to, the revision process is full of musing, second-guessing, doubt, and tons of hard work. I feel like I’ve been staring at my computer for ten days straight, and thinking about this story nonstop.

Oh, how to deal? Well, there are a few things I  do to survive the madness of revisions. I’ve compiled my best tips and tricks to share with you today…

Sleep on it. Feedback, I mean. If you’re anything like me, the first reading of a revision letter is met with a certain degree of mental resistance. We want to believe our work is perfect as-is, but deep down we know it’s not. That’s we why ask for feedback in the first place, right? I find if I take a night or two (or a week–whatever works) to absorb and ponder revision notes, they feel a lot less personal and a lot more helpful. My mind starts to mentally work out the problems that need addressing, and suddenly I’m excited to dig in.

Set a completion goal date. If I don’t give myself a deadline to work toward, I’ll procrastinate for hours (or days!) before I ever get down to being truly productive. When I’m really struggling with motivation, I take goal-setting a step further and break my workload into days, like: Revise 30 pages on Monday, or Address supporting character (Chelsea) on Tuesday.

Draft a scene-by-scene To-Do List. I’m intrinsically organized and an enthusiastic list-maker, so seeing all the work I need to do in bullet points makes the revision process a lot less daunting. If I can trick myself into thinking it’ll be easy, that it’s totally manageable, then I’m able to dive in with a whole lot more confidence. Also, I make a point to highlight each scene on my list as I compete it. It’s so encouraging to watch each item on my list transition to bright yellow, one by one!

Tackle the big stuff first, but keep a running list of “little things” to go back to later. This works for me because it keeps me on task. I find as I’m revising overall story elements (theme, pacing, character arc, whatever), little things consistently pop up that also need altering. But it’s a serious waste of minutes and momentum to stop, back up, and take care of a tiny detail. Still, I don’t want to forget about these important bits, so I keep a separate list  at the bottom of my scene-by-scene To-Do List. It’s something of a reward to run through and change each one as the revision comes to a close.

Sign off. Like, from everything BUT your manuscript. I know, I know… it’s so hard NOT to check Twitter and email and Facebook. It’s no fun to cancel social engagements because you have to work. It’s annoying to see all your favorite TV shows backed up on your DVR. It sucks to watch a fine layer of dust accumulate on your coffee table (okay, that might just be me). But I have to let go of all those outside distractions in order to get into my revision mindset. The only real “breaks” I give myself are quality time with my daughter (obviously), exercise, reading (but just a little!), and the occasional blog post.

Enjoy that final read-through. When I’m “done” and it’s time to begin my last overall read-through, I try to ditch Revising Writer Katy and settle into Casual Reader Katy. This way, I’m able to catch problems I might not have noticed otherwise. Little things, like a slight voice inconsistency or an overuse of a character’s name. Also, it’s an incredibly pleasant and gratifying experience to read through all my hard work as an eventual book-buyer might.

When all else fails, have a treat. This healthy little faux brownie got me through this latest revision. I ate one nightly, and I didn’t gain even a pound!

1. Spray a microwave safe bowl with Pam.
2. Combine 2 egg whites, half of one mashed banana, and 1/4 pumpkin puree.
3. Add 2 T almond meal, 1 T Stevia, 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder (I love Hershey’s Special Dark!), and 1/4 t baking powder.
4. Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
5. (Optional) Add a sprinkling of bittersweet or dark chocolate chips. (I love the Ghirardelli brand). Combine.
6. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on your machine and altitude.

This recipe yields one enormous faux brownie that can be enjoyed on its own, or topped with peanut butter, almond butter, whipped cream, or ice cream (depending on what kind of day you’re having :)).

So, how do you endure the challenges of revising? Any tips to share?

RTW: Early Bird? Night Owl?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What time do you prefer to do your writing? Early Worm? Night Owl ? Any five seconds you can grab?

Um, can I go with All of the Above?

When my husband is deployed (often), I am essentially a single parent. My daughter does not take naps anymore (*sob*) and she participates in lots of activities (swimming, ballet, pre-school, etc…), activities I get to shuttle her to. On the rare days we’re home and not out and about, I really try to devote as much of my time to her as possible. Sure, I’ll pop in a movie occasionally and get a little bit of work done, but for the most part she dominates my day. (Good thing she’s so fun, right? :))

So, that means I get to do the bulk of my writing, revising, editing, critiquing, and blogging while my daughter is asleep. I wake up between 5:30 and 6:00 every morning (this happens naturally, in case you’re wondering… no alarm for me!) and work until my kiddo wakes up (usually around 7:30 or 8:00). Then I get back to work at bedtime and go until I can’t keep my eyes open. During the pre-school year, I also get a few hours during the week to work, which is such a treat.  (Too bad the Borders I like to go to is closing… Grr!)

So, I claim Early Bird AND Night Owl, and occasionally everything between.

When do you like to write?

Time Management (Or Not)

Lately I’ve thinking a lot about 2006. It was a weird year. I was living in Tennessee about two-thousand miles from my family and lifelong friends,my husband was deployed, and I was childless. Since I’d had a roommate or lived in a sorority house all through college and my husband and I got married two weeks after graduation, 2006 was my first experience with living completely alone. It was cool. I could eat whatever I wanted, watch whatever I wanted on TV, sleep whenever I wanted, go wherever I wanted. Granted, I was teaching full-time, but from about 4pm to 11pm, I could do as I pleased.

Now, whenever I think about 2006, I ponder with equal parts bewilderment and annoyance the following questions: WHY THE HELL DID I WASTE ALL THAT FREE TIME?! WHY DON’T I HAVE ANYTHING TO SHOW FOR IT?! WHY WASN’T I WRITING SERIOUSLY BACK THEN?!

Lately, there just does not seem to be enough time in the day. Thanks to yet another deployment (the fourth of my eight year marriage, in case you’re curious), I am essentially a single parent. Luckily, I have a sweet, well-behaved, awesome-to-hang-out-with child, but holy cow does she keep me busy! I feel like I’m running her all over Western Washington (ballet and swimming and play dates and Spanish) all day everyday, and when we aren’t rushing to one of her activities, there’s grocery shopping and lawn mowing and house cleaning and bill paying and dog walking… plus, I’ve recently decided to run an organized 5K, so there’s exercise to fit in to the day as well.

Did you notice that I didn’t list writing on my above list of activities? That’s because by the time my kiddo goes to bed, I’m too exhausted to sit up straight, let alone add to my WIP word count. Still, I’m trying hard to fit it in. I’ve got three different projects in varying stages of crazy completion. Where Poppies Bloom is close to being “done” and hopefully on submission, Cross My Heart is being replotted and rewritten (I’m REALLY excited about where it’s going!), and Bus WIP is… well, very much still a WIP.

I’ve come to the realization that I’m going to have to do some serious prioritizing to ensure that I’m getting everything I need to get done DONE, and that includes writing. But for me, there are a few things that will always come before I sit down at my computer to work:

~Family. My daughter (and my husband, when he’s home) come first.
~My health, including exercise and nutrition (I will never be one of those people who’s working so hard that oops, I forget to eat).
~The cleanliness of my house. I simply can’t clear my head enough to write when I’m surrounded by clutter.
~Reading. I consider it professional development, plus, I really enjoy it.

And there are some things I’m more than happy to let go of in order to get the words down on paper:

~TV, Movies, Magazines. Thank goodness for DVR and Netflix. 🙂
~Hobbies. Once upon a time, I fancied myself a quilter (no, I am not eighty), but that little pastime has kind of gone by the wayside over the last few years.
~My Social Life. If you don’t have a four-year-old who my daughter likes to play with, I’m probably not spending a lot of time with you. Sad but true.
~Sleep. Overrated.
~Social Media. This is a hard one because often it goes hand-in-hand with a successful writing career. BUT, there’s no writing career if there are no complete manuscripts.

So, I’m curious… how do you prioritize your time? What are you willing to sacrifice for writing? What comes first for you?