Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Four Lessons from Round 2 . . .

For those of you who've been inspired by ROW80 for a while, these ideas may already be engrained in your writing practice. This last round has been humbling, for while I've worked "hard," as I looked over the goals I set back in April, I see how much drift occurred. Not many of my original goals have been met. So here are my hard-won lessons that will (I hope) lead me forward in Round 3.

#1 Simplify . . . OBJECTIVES.

This last round, I've been confronted by long "to do" lists related to my writing projects. The more I've tried to identify what to do next, the longer the list becomes -- writing, research, marketing, and working on craft.  I do make progress in all categories in some looping, intuitive way, but sometimes I feel scattered and easily distracted from what I want to achieve.

So, to move forward, if I can be disciplined enough to SIMPLIFY my OBJECTIVES, they will be clearer. I won't get lost in details. My weekly goals, what I need to do to reach those objectives, will be clearer.

#2 Clarify . . . MEASURABLE GOALS.

My next step is to be quite clear about exactly what I need to do and how I will measure progress.

In other words, saying I will complete revisions on my current wip is a very big and measurable goal. Either I'm done with revision or revision continues. But what I found in Round 2 is that my sense of what needs revision keeps changing. For me, a more measurable goal would be: Work 2 hours a day on revising my wip to complete all revisions by June 30.

#3 Prioritize . . . EACH WEEK

I have appreciated the welcoming and non-judgmental tone that ROW80 sets. For sure, I can be very critical of my work and of my progress. This is the writing group that recognizes real life can get in the way of the writing -- and yet reminds us we are accountable week by week for reaching those goals we have set.

As I read what others have achieved (and what they are wrestling with as writers), I sometimes smile and sometimes feel sad. But I'm always inspired. Keeping that commitment to myself to report each week means re-assessing, thinking about what worked last week and what didn't, what got done -- and what didn't.

It's OK to be flexible . . . IF I remember the 'big picture'

#4 Visualize . . . THE FUTURE.

I'm learning that ROW80 is good for my writing because it keeps me accountable day by day and week by week, BUT I'm also learning that my weekly goals shift around the moment, keeping me rather stuck in the present.

That takes me right back those OBJECTIVES. What do I really want to accomplish long term as a writer? I know it so well that it could be tattooed on my forehead. And you do too.

What have you learned from this second round of ROW80?

What would you add to my list -- or take away?

May you find rest and balance in these few days off and come back refreshed for Round 3.

Giraffes wild and free,
on the Serengheti Plain, Tanzania (Camp 2012)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday morning . . . Summer days, Fabric, and the Buddha.

Does everyone flinch at the end of another round? Those goals I set back in April seem so far away from what happened. Small progress this last week. Some writing, but not enough. My mantra shall be: Simplify! Simplify!

For the coming week, top priority remains:

---Continue revising Years of Stone (20 more chapters).
---Make final changes to The Mermaid Quilt for Smashwords.

As for the rest of the coming week:

---Continue writing warm-up experiment every day.
---Read 3 writing craft magazines (currently 3 mags behind).
---Contact indie bookstore re reading/presentation.
---Draft interview questions for guest post.
---Critique or sub 1x to NOVELS-L at The Internet Writing Workshop
---Update travel blog, writing blog.
---Exercise 4x a week. Yoga 2x this week. Daily walks with hubby.
---When all else fails, quilt, and, for heaven's sake, plan the meals before Tuesday (grocery shopping day).

Two events transpired to make this last week hectic.I helped two days at my daughter's garage sale. Whew! A grand letting go, running around, hauling boxes, and chasing that dear one-year-old who can almost crawl faster than I can run!

The second: A fabric sale at the Fairgrounds. A family held this fabric sale, the 'stash' of a lifelong quilter who somehow morphed into a fabric hoarder. How could one person accumulate so much? Two giant rooms were filled with several thousand bolts at $2/yard. Thousands of bundles of cut fabrics, hundreds of kits and partially finished quilts. Fabrics arranged by color. By theme. Sewing notions. Patterns. Quilting books.

I was there the first day. Stood in line for 40 minutes with hundreds of quilters and bargain hunters. Returned the second day to no line at all, still many, many lovely selections. I stayed within budget but such an excess makes me think of how many projects I now have. Oh, but I found matching fabrics for three charity quilts. This is nearly worse than writing. So many choices, directions, possibilities. Tropical birds and fishes. Mermaids. Batiks. Blue fabrics. I was not exactly practical in my choices. What treasures and pleasures.

And then I turn to K. M. Huber's blog this morning: "On Again, Off Again Buddhism" with her reminder that nothing stays the same. Her post brings calm and renewed appreciation for this day. We at ROW80 plan, set goals, and strive to reach them. But each day is itself new.

Even quilters and writers balance the 'now' of making something beautiful with the reality that change is constant. That life is about embracing and letting go.

In the same moment.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday Update: Great vs. Good progress

Finally, finally, this week, I finally received critiques from the Pacific Northwest Writers Assn literary contest for Years of Stone. Both judges gave extensive comments. One wrote, "I've made significant comments to help the author as much as possible to fix the mechanics and turn this into a great novel." I don't think this judge was talking about verb agreement! The other judge spotted no mechanical errors at all. But I didn't get a "5" in any category -- except "Would you read more?"

Both judges echoed Allen's critique ' earlier this week re need for greater sensory detail, logical sequencing of 'camera' as the reader moves closer to the main character and is pulled back by setting, authorial intrusion, or breaks in POV . An additional plus:  Very helpful feedback on the synopsis, which is always so difficult to write. Here, the judges commented with editing suggestions to make the synopsis more appealing to potential agents/publishers.

One judge wrote, "Has the makings of an excellent story with both a strong story line and characters. The setting is the wild card here, and if done right would really put this book in an excellent place for editors/publishers." 

This last comment means I should go to Tasmania somehow -- if I believe in myself and the story. Even if Lawrence Thornton wrote Imagining Argentina without ever having been there. Overall, the comments suggest this is still a working draft, not a final.

First reaction:  My gosh, how am I going to revise to these high standards.

Second reaction: Thank you for reading my synopsis and first 30 pages so thoughtfully.

Third reaction:  I've got a lot of work to do! 

Fourth reaction: I can't afford to spend $6,000 on a trip to Tasmania. Nor can I afford an editor.

As I am now two years into Years of Stone, I'm questioning my stamina. Do I want to write 'the best novel I can' or strive to greatness? Doubts leap out. 'I am old, Father William.' I do work every day, minimum of two hours. But do I -- or does any writer -- have the vision and tenacity to revise to greatness? I'm distracted by that goal of creating a 'great' novel. I just want to write a good story that some readers will find satisfying. Maybe a secondary goal is to make some money to cover a research trip or two. I truly enjoy finding nuggets of history and weaving them into story.

Bottom line: Persevere. Finish my personal goal of 'plug the plot holes' in June and then attack the revision round once again. Make a decision about self-publishing (once again, postponed) or indie publishing by Allen's birthday (August 16).

ROW80 UPDATE: Some good progress. Feel a bit scattered. I'm now beginning each day with (following the recommendation, I believe, of Francene Stanley). Well, thanks should go to whoever recommended this great site. Morning pages (750 words) begin each day. I earned a penguin for writing 7 days in a row (I started June 2). I'm using these to worry through scenes that aren't working, stories people tell me, ideas for blog posts. Even yesterday -- a poem on "Frida as Mermaid". 

I'll keep it simple for next week: 

---Work on revision for Years of Stone
---Get The Mermaid Quilt up on Smashwords. 

As for the rest of the list:

---Contact indie bookstore re reading/presentation
---Write a REVIEW of a writing craft book 
---send interview questions for guest post to Judy Leslie
---Continue 750 words a day warm-ups
---Critique or sub to NOVELS-L at The Internet Writing Workshop
---Work on Marketing Plan
---Keep working on web skills
---Maybe write another poem
---When all else fails, quilt, take a walk, or cook!

May your week go well . . . and your writing even better!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Weds Update: Three forward, One back . . .

Warm sun. High of 78 today. Here's my Weds update -- short and sweet: 

WRITING: Write 500 words or work 2 hours a day. UPDATE: Hitting the goal every day, perhaps partly because a ROW80 kind soul recommended -- No prompts here, just a blank page and a goal of 750 words a day. 

Making steady progress on Section 1. Still haven't received critiques of the opening but they should arrive by Friday, and I got very useful editing strategies from my harshest critic that reminded me to:
  1. Emphasize the five senses for greater reader involvement
  2. Keep checking "camera movement" to make sure focus on characters remains consistent
  3. Watch out for editorial comments or too much back story prematurely
  4. Keep working on letting Deidre's forceful personality reveal itself through action and dialogue
 Haven't touched Afterword . . . yet.

ONLINE:  Blogs: Update travel blog and writing blogs. UPDATED both blogs, but not the topics I anticipated! For the travel blog, I ended up writing about Chris Andersen (Bird Man) and basketball. For the writing blog, Kristen Lamb's writing advice seemed a perfect fit for this week's work. For those folk who might spend years revising and editing, she advocates following R-TUTE (Resist the Urge to Edit).

Keep working on transferring photos from CD's to flash drive. UPDATE: No progress on transferring photos BUT I sent a batch of photos as possible covers for both books in process to my graphic design friend. Also added a page (finally) on Years of Stone to my writing blog -- with photos. Staying current with ROW80 reads and appreciate every single person who reads my posts. Thank YOU.

STILL NEED TO DO: Do a critique for NOVELS-L. Currently reading Ruth Nestvold’s SF collection.  Also catch up on 3 writing craft magazines.

MARKETING: Updated description of The Mermaid Quilt on Barnes & Noble (proof that Amazon's wider distribution has kicked in). Still following a price drop on Amazon they said they would fix. This reinforces the importance of doublechecking online book listings now and then to make sure all prices are accurate. This also means the paperback version of The Mermaid Quilt through Amazon is now $3.41 instead of $5.99 -- a bargain IF you want to take advantage of the price glitch. Also found out enough about ISBNs to decide just to go with the  freebie through CreateSpace.

STILL NEED TO DO: Draft marketing article/post. Call local indie bookstore and our library re Mermaid presentation/reading.

OTHER: Work on WSQ at least ONCE each day. Priorities:  Education project. Presence online. Prep for board meeting next week. UPDATE: Still not making this goal, but I did get some quilting done. 

Possible photo for cover for Standing Stones
Ring of Brogar, Scotland (Camp 2009)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday: Row80 Synch and go . . .

I saw a killdeer cross the road near our home, and June begins with rain, lots of it. Those lush pink and white rhododendrons are now in full bloom. I left the window open last night and my body woke up cranky this morning (I was feeling just fine, thank you). Yoga took care of the body. 

Big excitement this week: The Country Register came out with my first press release! They even produced my cover in color! That was cool as they also published my longish article on charity quilts. Now to the coming week. Also posted a review of For the Love of Ireland by Judy Leslie.

WRITING: Write 500 words or work 2 hours a day. Section 3 on Years of Stone is now complete, so this week's focus will be to revise Section 1 for the umpteenth time. I'm waiting for a few critiques to come in on the opening (Big disappointment this week: YOS was not selected as a finalist in this year's PNWA Literary Contest). Need to draft Afterword. 

ONLINE:  Blogs: Update travel blog and writing blogs. For writing blog, maybe do a riff on Paul Theroux's statement, "Writing gives us a second chance that life denies us." And for the travel blog, maybe something about the difference between visiting and living in a foreign country; this week in Turkey, riots over the Prime Minister's decision to close Taksim Park, tip of the iceberg there.

Keep working on transferring photos from CD's to flash drive. Still need to revamp MERMAID pages and add a separate page for Years of Stone on writing blog. Daily: Read 3-5 posts for ROW80. Goal this week for NOVELS-L? SUB A CHAPTER. Do a critique. READ and Review Ruth Nestvold’s SF collection.  Also catch up on 3 writing craft magazines.

MARKETING: Draft marketing article/post.  What have I learned so far? Maybe start with pre-launch. Hard work means accepting some days are not as productive as others, even if all the steps are followed. I see so many really fine blogs and websites, yet the 'best' way to reach/build a market for my writing is not certain. Keep working the lemons!

OTHER: Work on WSQ at least ONCE each day. Priorities:  Education project. Presence online. Prep for board meeting next week. Quilting: Learn how to use top stitching with fused applique (this takes real courage). Practice piece: Sashkio Salmon wall hanging . Work on hand quilting when weather permits. Keep the office uncluttered. Focus on aging with grace. Cherish each moment.

WIP: Salmon Sashiko Wall Hanging (Camp 2013)