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Fun, sexy reads

Fun, sexy reads

Looking for fast-paced, sexy romantic suspense with military heroes? Blind Fury (#1) is a hot friends-to-lovers story in D.C. Blind Ambition (#2) is a sexy, second-chance romance on the run in the Caribbean.

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Scrivener Training for Everyone

Scrivener Training for Everyone

Need help with Scrivener? I provide Scrivener training to individuals and groups all over the world through online courses, in-person workshops, and private training sessions.

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Resources for Writers and Scrivener Users

Resources for Writers and Scrivener Users

A great reference for new and experienced Scrivener users, a guide to software and apps that help with productivity, and essays on every facet of writing from the Writer Unboxed contributors.

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It’s. Her. Job.

Nora Roberts isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Every time I see or read an interview with her, I’m impressed. Her recurring theme when asked how she manages to pump out five books per year, year after year, is, well…it’s her job.

Or, in typical writer-style emphasis: It’s. Her. Job.

She sits down 5-6 days a week for 6 or more hours and writes. Huh.

You just have to keep writing, even when everything you write sucks, because as she once said, “You can fix a bad page. You can’t fix a blank page.” (Love that quote!)

So, I’m aspiring to be like Nora Roberts. Yes, eventually, a sliver of her success, or more, would be great. But, for now, I’m focusing on being the type of writer she is. Consistent and prolific.

Canceling my Internet service might help.

Why computer monitors are like raisins

Just like two scoops of raisins are better in your bran cereal, two computer monitors are definitely better on your writing desk.

I used the two-monitor trick to great effect when I worked in the technical realm. Now in my ongoing quest to improve my productivity–and make use of that extra screen that’s been lying around–I’m putting the two-monitor method to work in my writing life.

I use a laptop, but on my current desk (read: dining room table), I have a flat screen monitor at the ready that I can plug into my MacBook any time I want another screen.

Why would I possibly want another screen? How about this?

  • Instead of printing the comments your critique partner/contest judge gave you, just move that file to the extra screen and refer to it while you make changes.
  • Open your character profiles or other reference materials and move them to the extra screen so they’re at the ready while you’re typing away.
  • Open your Internet browser on the extra screen and you can reference your findings without leaving your manuscript.

The opportunities for multi-tasking, saving paper, being more productive, and procrastinating are endless!

Just today, I browsed the blogs while checking my Facebook page. Ahem. That is, I updated my query letter based on my critique partner’s comments, without having to switch back and forth between the two documents, or waste paper by printing her file.

What’s your favorite productivity trick?

Query Letter Purgatory

Have I mentioned how much writers hate crafting query letters? Yes? Oh, fine.

Well, maybe it’s just me, but trying to boil my story down to 2-3 paragraphs that will catch an agent’s eye is excruciating.

Today, I spent some time perusing blogs by literary agents Nathan Bransford and Kristin Nelson, looking for inspiration. I also looked at agent Janet Reid’s Query Shark blog. All of these are great resources for the aspiring writer looking to understand the mind of an agent and what he or she is looking for, but in the end, the most help has come from my awesome critique partner, Christine. (Thanks, C!)

I will get a decent letter out there soon, and then the long wait will begin.

While I’m waiting, whatever shall I do? Hmm. Maybe I should write a book…

My discipline needs a tune-up

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

According to success guru, Brian Tracy, it takes 21 days of repetition to form a good habit–although bad ones seem to require a much shorter period! So, how does one form a habit of excellence?

Discipline! I’ve heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert at something. But continued practice requires discipline. I think my discipline needs a tune-up.

Over the years, Brian Tracy’s books (try Eat That Frog!) and seminars (Try Psychology of Achievement or How to Master Your Time) have helped me increase my productivity with effective time management strategies, ideas for overcoming procrastination, and goal-setting techniques.

I applied these ideas regularly when I worked in the business world, but somehow when I started writing, I threw it all out the window. Other than a to-do list with deadlines, I haven’t been as disciplined or productive as I’d like.

Why? No clue.

So, after a less-than-productive day/week/month (although I did manage to pound out 1,000 words today), I’ve decided to make a daily plan/productivity strategy. It looks something like this…

  1. Write 1,500+ net words/day at least 5 days/week (I track this in a file in Scrivener)
  2. Finish daily goals on to-do list (e.g. write query letter or synopsis, submit contest entry, critique for partner, etc.)
  3. Only check email three times/day (mid-morning, lunch, before bed) unless daily goals are met
  4. Work out early, or wait until afternoon slump
  5. Limit Facebook and blog visits to once/day unless daily goals are met
  6. No reading for fun unless daily goals are met

I’m trying to pay attention to my best times of day to tackle different tasks. For example, I know I am better at writing before 10:30 in the morning, and again in the late afternoon/evening. Other things, like educational reading, working out, or running errands, are best handled during my less productive hours.

My daily plan is a work in progress–like my manuscript–but if I keep working on it, hopefully I can move closer to excellence.

Back to Work!

Okay, celebration over. It’s time to get back to work. (Productivity guru Brian Tracy would be so proud.) Winning doesn’t mean anything except that a few people liked my writing enough to vote for it. If I want to get that writing published, there’s work to do!

With helpful feedback from my awesome critique partner, Christine, I am working on a query letter to send to several agents. Writing query letters almost ranks up there with writing synopses on the list of Things Writers Hate to Do, but I’ll muddle through. It has to be done, and it makes sense to capitalize on my recent win and get those letters out ASAP.

But then what? Well, I need to keep working on the next book, of course. Even if an agent snatched up Counting on You and sold it instantly (insert wishful thinking here), one book doesn’t make a career.

Ultimately, I’m a writer–whether I ever sell a book or not–and writers write. Huh.

So, after the painful 20,000-word cut, I’m back to plotting, character development, and writing scenes for my next story, tentatively titled Floater.

Floater is a new challenge for me because it’s romantic suspense, something I haven’t tried before. Figuring out how to create an interesting suspense plot, plus weave in the sexual tension and keep it all moving, is a fun challenge.

Ask me how I feel about it in a couple of months. 😉

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.