Inspirational words for 2013

Welcome to the new year, everyone!  This is the time I normally take stock of what I’ve done the previous year and blog about my goals for the upcoming one.  More on that in a later post: I want to do something a little different and talk about my four words for 2013.

They’re going to be four inspirational words that will be prominent in both in my personal and writing life.  Words that can be as broad as I want to make them, but will ultimately keep me on track to achieve my goals.  So let’s take a look at the first one:

productivityiconThis one is a given, I think.  To me, it means butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard and doing work.  And not just writing either – blog posts, emails, website content, anything where there will be a tangible result.  I love Dorothy Parker’s quote, “I hate writing but I love having written”, and I also love to see proof of my efforts i.e. page count.  The key for me is to have the next project on the go at the same time I’m finishing up the last, because if I’m not sure what my next is, I tend to flounder and stuff around and end up shopping at the Book Depository instead of writing 😀 So productivity is my top goal this year.

patienceicon

I think this one will be a biggie for me this year, because I am not naturally patient (I am quite at home with the iPodGen, thanks very much :smile:).  This year my boy starts high school (!) which means lots of changes to his learning and thinking.  Definitely will need patience for that!  Also, with my planned projects, I will need patience when submitting, waiting to hear back, editing, (possible) rejections, etc.  I will need to take time to understand that sometimes things are out of my control, decide which things matter and pursue those, then let the others go.

peaceicon

Another biggie.  I think everyone needs to pursue areas in which you can quieten your mind and find peace, be it a bath, an afternoon shopping without the kids or a writing retreat for one.  Stopping to appreciate what I have, realize there’s some things I just never will have (like a fast metabolism or the willpower to resist books and handbags :grin:) and coming to terms with that is important for optimum productivity.

joyiconLast one – not a P word this time!  I love this word.  I love all the connotations it conveys, like fun, delight, good times, laughter, happiness and optimism.  Sometimes when you’re in deadline hell, everyone wants your attention, work sucks, a family member is ill, you hate your new book cover or you just keep getting rejection after rejection, it’s hard to find joy.  Which means I turn to stuff that makes me happy.  For you it could be walking your dog, an intimate dinner with your loved one, music, surfing the internet or checking out your next story inspiration pictures.  There’s lots of opportunities to experience joy so go ahead and seek them out!

Do you have any inspirational words for the new year?  Want to share them?

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School, exercise and other assorted challenges to my writing schedule

Reading: Rebel Angels by Libba Bray
Watching: Star Wars: the Clone Wars season 3
Listening to: One Last Breath by Creed

So my 11 year old started Year 6 at the beginning of this month.  What makes this year different is it’s a brand-new school – smaller, better, and more expensive.  It’s also – if you’d been reading my Facebook posts late last year – a 45 minute drive away, as opposed to the public travesty that was a 5 minute walk down the street.  Public transport is not an option (at least, not right now) so I have a 1.5 hour round trip to take, Monday to Friday, until further notice.

Challenge Number 1.

I also changed gyms around Christmas, one that has electronic equipment, because I’ve started back into running (with the help of a fabulous app called Ease into 5K – TOTALLY recommend it!), plus I wanted a more intense weight workout than my 30min Contours could provide.   Problem?  It’s at the start of that 45minute drive.  And in my totally optimistic way, I assumed I would jump out of bed at around 6.30 and do my workout, get home in time for a shower, breakfast, bag pack and then drive to school.  I did not take into account the fact that it’s still dark at that time, plus getting darker as we head into winter.  Oh, and I suck at mornings – with half an hour until we have to walk out the door, I always, ALWAYS end up losing time.  How on earth can I get ready (after being at the gym) on time?

Challenge Number 2

My PC is at home, with my email and internet connection.  It’s where I write.  It’s where the coffee is.  It’s where I can shut the door and write to deadline for a few hours.  But it’s now 45 minutes away.

Challenge Number 3.

So what to do about these challenges?  First, own up to them.  I understand that I suck when it comes to getting out the door on time.  I realize there is simply NO WAY I will get to the gym before school, so I investigated other options and found a fitness centre that met my needs in the town over from school.  I joined up today, at a cheap off-peak rate.  Yes, it’s an additional fee, but I can put it on hold during school holidays, plus I know I feel 100% better when I exercise, so the benefits outweigh the money issue.  Two problems solved right away, which means I won’t have to a) stress about not getting to the gym and b) feel shitty and guilty about it.

Now, the writing thing.  I have a MacBook.  I have noise-cancelling headphones and the iPod loaded with music, books and movies.  I have a power cord, a cooler bag (for a packed lunch) and water.  I am a one-woman roving office.  I can get to a local library which has free wireless (yes, I am using it as I write this, listening to Leona Lewis singing Bleeding Love  :grin:), then head off to the gym after a light lunch, before picking up my son for the drive home.

So my lesson learned in all this?  I have made important changes that allows me to ultimately meet my writing deadlines, my desire for exercise and my son’s educational and emotional needs.  It meant a flip in my thinking, getting used to doing stuff differently (which I sometimes have a problem with) and allowing a transition time.  So as of tomorrow, I’ll be an official member of two gyms, and that person typing furiously at the table in the back of the library.  And if you happen to see me there, looking distracted and with headphones on, mouthing the words of songs you can’t hear, don’t disturb!  I’m working, okay? 😎

exciting stuff for February

Reading: Lucky Stiff by Deborah Coonts
Listening to: In My Arms by Plumb
Watching: Star Wars (the original trilogy!!!)

So it’s been a while, right?  How are you all?  I’ve just crawled out of the deadline cave (book # 7 is off into cyberspace) so it’s time to surface and let you guys know what I’ve been doing.

Whenever I finish a book, I always end up learning something, be it a writing process, a better way of plotting and/or organizing my time more efficiently, or just a different way of writing.  For this book, I learned:

  • I can write through the Christmas holiday period (not that I wanted to, but I did)
  • Writing at night, in bed, when everyone is asleep and can’t interrupt with dumb questions, dinner choices or “can I have a lolly?” is FAB
  • A looming deadline will always make me finish the book, even through the horror that is the public library (think screaming kids, curious onlookers and noisy browsers and you’re nearly there)
  • I can write 10,000 words in a week (not that I wanted to, but I did)
  • I will not wither away and die if I don’t watch the latest episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, Private Practice or House

I also learned a very interesting writing technique — getting my characters from mistrust to trust.  See, in this last book my hero and heroine are two complete strangers and have an intense distrust of each other at the start of the story.  So how to go about showing that gradual change to total trust (then, obviously, love) by the end?  It’s something I’d struggled with so I wrote an article about it because that’s how I roll 🙂  I’ll post it as soon as I finish.

If you don’t follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook (and you should because I talk A LOT so you might miss something important), Promoted to Wife? (aka Zac and Emily’s story) has been nominated for Favourite Short Category Romance of 2011 in the Australian Romance Readers Association’s awards!  Yay! (insert happy Snoopy dancing here – oh, hang on….>>>>>)  Thank you everyone who voted.  So very thrilled to be up there with some of my most favourite people 🙂  Oh, and ARRA also asked me to be their guest speaker on the night 😎  It’s  11th February in Sydney if you want to come along for a fab time – wear lots of bling!

Another event this month is my talk/workshop at Burwood Library, NSW on the 18th February (12.30-1.30pm).  I’ll be talking about the nuts and bolts of writing romantic fiction, plus there’ll be some giveaways.  This is a free event but bookings are preferred.  Call the library on (02)  9911 9999 or email them.

In other exciting news, Bed of Lies is on the shelves this month (March for Australia) – gorgeous cover, right?  Make sure you rush out and buy it.  😀  Here’s the blurb:

Her Darkest Secret… Revealed
Banker Luke De Rossi must sell the Australian beach house he inherited from his mobster uncle, fast. But then he runs up against Beth Jones. Is she the rightful tenant? A reporter out for a scoop? His uncle’s lover? Luke wants answers – almost as much as he wants Beth.

The last thing Beth needs is this hunky magnet for media attention breathing down her neck. She has a lot to hide. And falling hard for Luke as he gets closer – and tries to evict her! – isn’t helping things. Separately, they have each made their bed. Now they’ll lie in it… together.

the one where I take the high road

Reading: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Watching: Private Practice
Listening to: The Kill by 30 Seconds to Mars

Odds on, if you’ve published a book (be it traditionally, e or self-),  someone will read it.  Hopefully, many someones.  And hopefully, those many someones will like it – even love it.

But there’s also a chance a reader will not feel the same way about your creation that you do.  And that is equally fine.  Every reader is entitled to their own opinion as much as I am entitled to write whatever I want.  I’m not so precious and sensitive about my work that I expect total and utter worship for the way I arrange words on the page :grin:.

And as an author, you are also in control of how you chose to react to those negative reviews.  It never ceases to amaze me how some, faced with this choice, will pick the ‘OMG, no!  CAR CRASH!!!!’ option over a dignified silence.  Witness the recent Twitter flurry of BigAl’s review of “The Greek Seaman” and the author’s resulting comebacks (sorry, but how is telling everyone to publicly “f*&^ off” anything but bad for an author?).

Yes, thanks to the internet, reviews and critiques can be instantly published, searched and commented on in a matter of days.  And just like there’s two sides to every story, there are two sides to every review.  Some are insightful, constructive and well-written.  Some are variations of ‘not to my taste’.  Some have nothing whatsoever to do with your story (like giving it a 1 star Amazon review and commenting “the postage was too high”.  Or hating the title).  And some are vitriolic rants specifically designed to insult and/or push the reviewer’s agenda.

So what to do with a negative review?

It may be cathartic to compose a strongly worded email, post or comment, publicly refuting and defending your work if you feel the reviewer has missed the point/got it wrong/didn’t seem to even read the book.  But unless you’re Carla Cassidy, this can easily backfire, and you’ll be forever known in Google searches as ‘what not to do as an author’.

My advice?  For those reviewers who are genuinely interested in and reviewing your genre, a polite thank you for reading your work  and a “I hope my next release is more to your taste” would be okay.  For those reviewers whose sole purpose is to provide outdated stereotypical ‘stupid dumb romance genre’ comments to make them feel intellectually superior, then take the high road and just ignore them.  Tempting as it is to come out with guns blazing, it’s important to realize that they are not your target market and nothing you say will ever make an impact on their prejudices.

Then go and re-read those little shining comments from your satisfied readers.  I guarantee those are the ones that matter 🙂

What do you want to achieve in 2010?

Last Movie Watched: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Latest Song on The Ipod: Desensitized by Invertigo

Every month when my writing group meet, we’ve gotten into the habit of setting writing goals.  We check what’s been done that current month,  then set our goals for the next one.  We may not achieve all we’ve set out to do but it does ensure we get at least something done.  And every December we devote some time to goal setting for the following year.

I never used to set goals.  “I can’t tie myself down to a list,” was one excuse.  “I can’t be bothered,” or “I’ll never meet them anyway,” were two more.  But if you want to achieve something – writing a book, plotting a series, saving up for that holiday – then you need to have a plan.

So, how to set your goals.  By following the SMART rule:

Specific:  “I will complete my next historical manuscript by October.”
M
easurable:  “I will write x amount of words a week.”
A
ttainable:  “I will get published this year” is NOT in your hands, so committing to this is a fast track to failure.  Instead, focus on what you can control – your word count, where and when  you submit your book, spending x hours on your writing.
R
ealistic:  saying “I’ll write a chapter a day, every day” may seem like a noble goal, but if you have kids, a partner, sick relatives, a full-time job, etc, you may be overstretching.  I write during school hours and after the gym, so realistically, my writing time is from 10.30-2.30pm, Monday to Friday.    I have done midnight stretches when I’m on an editing deadline but I really hate doing that so I’m aiming to plan a bit better this year. 😀 I also like to use a weekly page goal, so I don’t beat myself up if life intervenes and stops me from writing every day.
Timely: give yourself a time frame or limit to aim for – by next week, next month, before conference.

So, for example, “I will write a chapter a week, and complete the first draft of my 50k manuscript by June. ”

While I make my goals for primarily writing-related things, you can apply it to almost anything – “I will exercise at least 3 times a week and cut down to one cup of coffee a day.”  “I will tackle one drawer a day and have my wardrobe spring cleaned by the end of the month.”

Another important aspect of goal setting is to WRITE IT DOWN  – on a list above the computer, in a diary, Outlook, wall calendar.  Or, if you’re like me, all of them 😀  If I can’t see it, I forget about it.  You can also enlist your partner/parent/writing group to keep you on track.  But ensure you pose limits on their well-meaning, “have you written/gone to the gym/drunk your coffee today?”  Because there’s nothing worse than someone who nags you about stuff you know you should be doing 😛

So, my goals.  Since reading Vicki Hinze’s most excellent To-Do List (reprinted here in Melinda Goodwin’s article) I have a few to focus on each year.   They are:

Writing/Sales

  • I’ll complete two books by the end of school term 3 (October)
  • I’ll finish a new proposal and begin querying agents by June

Promotion

  • I will post to my blog at least every two weeks
  • I will design and develop two new promotional products for RWA’s conference (August)

Business

  • I’ll attend RWA’s national conference in August
  • I’ll enrol in Theresa Meyer’s “Developing your Author Brand” on-line workshop (Feb)
  • I’ll visit Harlequin’s Sydney office (Jan) and become more familiar with their roles and responsibilities

Craft Education (developing/strengthening skills)

  • I will seek out online courses and/or workshops to develop my world-building skills
  • I’ll begin a series of weekly blog posts on writing a book in three months (also listed under Outreach)

Reading

  • I’ll read at least two new-to-me authors

Outreach (helping others)

  • I will judge for at least one RWAust contest
  • I will read for RWAmerica’s RITA contest
  • I’ll begin a series of weekly blog posts on writing a book in three months

Whew!  So there you have it.  My goals for this year.  Feel free to use my headings to set your own goals, and even make a mission statement about what you want to achieve this year.  I’d love to hear yours!

Well, it came… and went

P6050009Down here in the Southern Hemisphere, it was my birthday. My 40th, to be precise. Now, when you get on in years, there’s not a lot you can provide for the never-gets-old question, “what do ya want for ya birthday?” I had suggested a pair of slippers (check), but above that, I was stumped. So I was VERY thrilled to unwrap a gorgeous yellow leather handbag, courtesy of my parents and their recent trip to Canada.

Now before you go, “yellow??!!” it’s actually kinda nice. Sunny yellow, actually. It’s got heaps of pockets and zips and better still, doesn’t have a flap-over (which I can’t stand – just like to dig right on in there). Last trip o/s my mum bought me a sky-blue suede bag with rhinestones and brown leather. It’s gorgeous. Apparently my dad said something like, “a bag? Doesn’t she already have one?” To which my mum replied, ” It’s Paula.” And  really, that says it all.

P6050010I also got a beautiful commemorative silver dollar coin, engraved with my birthdate and message – the photo here doesn’t really do it justice, believe me.

And so the day went. Suddenly, with tantrums, tears and dramas associated with a Gemini (me) and a hyperactive 8yo (son) who’s been quarantined from school for the last week on account of grandparents returning from Canada, swine flu outbreak country. Convincing an 8yo he still has to do school work when you’re at home with a computer and other assorted distractions… arghh!!!!

Anyway, peace has been restored. It’s night, he’s asleep and my brother and nephew/nieces are visiting tomorrow. Lamb roast, here we come!