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And the winner is…

“I won! I won!” she yelled as she bounced around the room like a rubber ball…  Okay, seriously.  I just found out that I won the Contemporary category of the Heart-to-Heart Contest for Unpublished Authors, sponsored by the San Francisco Area Romance Writers of America. Woo hoo!

Just to make sure it doesn’t go to my head, I also found out today that I didn’t even move to the final round of the Gateway to the Best Contest sponsored by the Missouri Romance Writers of America. And so it goes.

As nice as it is to get kudos for my writing, my main goal in entering the contests was to receive feedback from other writers in the industry. And I did. My manuscript has changed quite a bit from the original entry. The entry the editors and agent judged in the final round was six pages shorter–and hopefully more engaging–than what the first round judges had to read.

And, in the months since I entered these contests, I’ve been picking up more skills and ideas from my fellow Southern Magic members, my critique partner, writing seminars, and the many writing books that I’ve been reading. I feel confident that every book I write will be better than the last.

So, I’m one step closer to being published, even if I don’t receive any requests for this manuscript. I’m pretty intrinsically motivated, and I’ll keep plugging away even without the positive strokes of others.

Of course, I’m still going to enjoy the glow and have my own little celebration. After all, it never hurts to feel a little love, and everyone likes to be a winner.

My Aha! Moment with GMC & BIF

In August, I had the good fortune to attend a workshop by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love based on their great book, Break Into Fiction (hereafter called BIF). I read the book beforehand, and went through the workshop thinking how great all of the templates are because they force you to answer the tough questions about your characters and plot. But, still, I struggled with filling them out. They get into details I wasn’t ready to produce yet.

I had an “Aha!” moment yesterday when I realized that filling out the GMC charts for my characters provided me the macro view of their lives and story that I needed to have in order to complete the micro-focused BIF templates. By completing the GMC work first, I can make sure I’m not spending my time on the BIF templates until I’m fairly sure my story will work.

So, after moving 20K words (ouch!) into my Unused Scenes folder (a topic for another day), I’m pretty much starting over.  But, this time I’m going to try it with the help of the GMC and BIF tools. The great news is that I’m pumped up about my story again. My goal is to have a completed rough draft by January 31. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Chalk it all up to lessons learned and, like Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep moving.”

BTW, if you ever have a chance to take a class from Mary or Dianna, you won’t be disappointed. Both of them are incredibly giving of their time and insights, and will answer endless questions with patience.

My Ideal Office: Missing the SLO Life

When I was in grad school at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA (or SLO, pronounced “slow” by the locals), one of the things I loved about the campus was all of the outdoor nooks and crannies where I could hole up and study while surrounded by trees and plants. The weather was spectacular year-round, and I took every opportunity to be outside.

What a great environment for writing! If I could, I’d tote my MacBook and a sack lunch to Cal Poly–or nearby Shell Beach!–every day and write for hours. Unfortunately, I’m a few thousand miles away, but, the longing got me thinking about my ideal office. I came up with a short list of things my perfect writing space would have.

  1. Lots of light, but no glare (maybe even a sky light)
  2. Plenty of greenery, both inside and out
  3. Lots of windows to let in the light, the breeze, and the view
  4. A great view, preferably with some water in it
  5. A desk at the perfect height for typing on a laptop
  6. A comfortable office chair
  7. A cozy chair for curling up to read, or taking a break from the desk (I like the one-and-a-half-sized armchairs)
  8. Large dry erase and magnet boards
  9. A tall bookshelf

I’m sure I could go on, but I really should start working on my book…

What would your ideal workspace be like?

P.S. My site’s header photo is from a spot in Shell Beach (one of my favorites in the world) just below Spyglass Park.  You can tell I took the photo in winter because the mountains are green instead of yellow.

Goal, Motivation & Conflict

I thought I’d start my blog by talking about one of the best books I’ve read on the craft of writing. “Goal, Motivation & Conflict” by Debra Dixon. I had seen this book mentioned so many times in articles and other books that I finally bit the bullet and bought it–a decision I will not regret.

Understanding GMC will help me with my query letters, the dreaded synopsis, and, of course, crafting a story that can stand up to 300 pages of prose. Making sure each major character (and even the minor ones, if you want) have a clear goal, a reason for wanting that goal, and something keeping them from getting it, is key. The concept seems so simple, and yet it’s incredibly powerful.

I’ve decided to figure out the GMC for the hero and heroine of some of my favorite books by other authors in hopes of gaining insight into what successful authors do. After applying the method to my own work, some issues that I’d been struggling with became clear.

I’d like to know if GMC has helped you solve a problem or find a new direction with your own story.

Happy Writing!