Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back and Looking Forward

I hope you all had a blessed holiday season. If you're like me, you're probably holidayed-out by the time it all ends. My daughter-in-law was telling me, even on Christmas eve, that their family was already sugared-out

I'm always eager to start a new year. I keep a personal diary, which I like to read at the end of each year to see where I started, what happened, what I was feeling, and what I did. Feelings always lead to life-course corrections. Sometimes the spirit needs to prompt stubborn ole' me for a very long time, but eventually, I'm ready to let go of something and start down a better path.

There's peace after that happens, and an opening for new dreams or callings.

The biggest thing I let go of this year, regarding my writing, was the dream of being published in the Young Adult secular market. God had been showing me in numerous ways, for 18 months, that that wasn't where I should be. I finally let go in June. Yes, it was hard to let go of a manuscript I'd worked on (very part-time) for four years.

Should I have let it go, when I didn't even look for an agent to represent it?

I had sent it to several contests in June, and the judges' responses, in addition to several other industry professional responses (here's one of them) led me to believe that the story wouldn't sell. It wasn't because of my writing abilities, which is often a huge stumbling block for aspiring authors. More, it was the story concept itself. And if a concept won't sell, no matter how good the crafting, there's no point in working on it any longer.

I don't know how many people told me it read like Glee Fan Fiction. Ironically, I have never watched a single episode of Glee. The worst bad luck came when Glee did an entire season, apparently, on West Side Story, which played large in my book as well. I had my idea two years prior to Glee's West Side Story season, but in the scheme of things, that doesn't matter at all.

There were other reasons for moving away from YA, which I won't go into.

When I finally made peace with my decision to abandon the manuscript--and all the time and effort it would take to try to find an agent for a work that probably wouldn't sell in today's market--it opened time and space for me.

Time and space to work in a genre that, frankly, is better suited to my inclinations, knowledge and skills.

I switched to writing for the adult inspirational historical romance market, and between July 11 and now, I completed a 70,000 word manuscript. I am now in the early stages of revising it.

In 2013, after a lifetime of raising kids and working outside the home, I finally had the freedom to make writing my "full time job." I never keep hourly track, however I do spend as many hours at it each day as possible. I estimate that I spend about 20-30 hours each week on actual work on a manuscript.

If you asked my husband, he'd probably say it's all I ever do.

But he's wrong! ; )  There are always many other things that take up my time. The holidays are a recent example. Vacations are another. Or helping to move farm machinery. Or babysitting grandkids, which happens frequently. Or working to complete the (seemingly endless) list of home updates . . . Darned big things, not simple, daily housekeeping chores.

There are personal diversions as well, which are often necessary. In 2013, I needed to learn how to improve my (diabetic) health. I also spent quite a bit of time scrapbooking. It was wonderful to finally have that freedom!

With so much to do, I sometimes asked myself if I still wanted a writing career, after so many years of yearning for it. Wasn't that ironic? 

In the same way that I had resented how working full time at the library had kept me from working on my writing, the tables shifted. I discovered that I began resenting how working full time on my writing was keeping me from scrapbooking. Isn't that hilarious?

There was a difference, of course. No one was forcing me to write and not scrapbook. So when I was like an addict needing a scrapbooking fix, I took it.

There was a time during the year when my writing room was so full of notebooks and loose files and books, I felt overwhelmed, and like the walls were closing in on me. They probably were; the room was so full. I needed to remove at least half of what was in it, which I did, but have you ever had to deal with the sick feeling you get when everything you touch is laden with negative emotion? It wasn't like cleaning out a garage, or the kitchen, which is generally an emotionless process (for me).

I was removing boxes of books and putting them either in the storage-room library (adult fiction), or on the basement bookshelves (children's and YA fiction), or in boxes that would be donated to the library's book sale.

The storage room and basement shelves were also filled with books. Some, I had already read. Others, I still wanted to read, but realized, sadly, that I would probably never have the time to read most of them.

Unless I gave up my own writing dream, and opened space and time for it. 

Additionally, my writing room was filled with a closet full of notebooks that held my life's writing output. All the novels I've written, the journals I've kept, and all the information I've amassed. Physically, it was dozens of notebooks and reams of printed paper. None of that got tossed, but everything was so heavy when I moved it to another place.

"Is writing worth it?" I asked myself, with one of those ever-so-heavy notebooks in my hand.

Certainly, if I were doing it for the money, my time would be better spent working at a "real" job with a paycheck and benefits, which is what I had done for most of my life. Selling my time = paycheck.

But what was I getting now for selling my time?

Other than all the notebooks and several gigabites' worth of electronic files, there wasn't much, really, to show for it. 

Of course, if I want to make myself feel better, I can also realize that people who spend hours each day in front of the TV, or playing video games, or socializing on Facebook, or even reading fiction, have very little to show for their time, either. They are the consumers of life, certainly not the creators. Consumers are passive. Creators are active. Which one would you rather be?

Always, the writing calls me back.

It has helped me to better understand myself, other people, and my world.

Fiction is the platform where I can work with the same values and beliefs, and themes, that I might work with, were I to create a nonfiction website.

But writing fiction allows me to do it in an artful way. A way that goes deeper, by bypassing the rational mind and speaking directly to the heart.

And so I am beginning 2014 with the intent to keep writing fiction, at a rate of 20-30 hours each week. After I complete the revision of The Perfect Wife in (hopefully) two months, I'll enter it into ACFW's Genesis Contest (which requires a completed manuscript). Then I'll start a new one. I'll also start looking for an agent and/or editor for The Perfect Wife.

If the past 20 years of writing is an indication, I suspect that there will always be new ideas to explore, via the art form of fiction.

What about you? What did you learn about writing, or yourself, or (yourself + writing), in 2013? What is that leading you to pursue in 2014?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Weekly Update: "Ain't that the most beautiful snow you've ever seen?"

That's what hubby said when we got up yesterday and looked out the window. 

We're in for some VERY cold weather over the next two weeks. The temperature will remain in the teens at all times, with the wind-chill factor bringing it to below zero. Brrr!

Snow is significant to us. If it hadn't snowed, the cold weather probably would've frozen out the fall wheat we planted in September and October. If that happened, we would need to replant it in the spring, which is expensive. It could mean the difference between earning a livable income in 2014, or not.

But it snowed, and so we are safe for now. Snow acts like a blanket to insulate the crops from the ravages of too-cold weather, same as a blanket helps to keep us from freezing to death.

Last week's highlights: 

(I am shamelessly borrowing some of my heading titles this week from Molly, who writes extraordinary posts--thanks, Molly!)

Thanksgiving was wonderful. My three children, their spouses and our grandchildren all came for dinner. Everyone got along. No one pushed anyone's buttons, like last year. Yay!

We ate a feast at 4:30 that included turkey, of course, but also a melt-in-your-mouth seasoned prime rib from Costco. While the gals spent hours in the kitchen fixing dinner, the guys and the grandkids were outside tooling around on their motorcycles and four-wheelers and making movies with Mike's new GoPro camera. Between dinner and dessert, we watched the GoPro movies on our big-screen TV. The grandkids also decorated a gingerbread house.  

Some good friends invited us to their house for dinner on Saturday night. Thanks, Sharon! Check out her blog for a wonderful acappella version of Little Drummer Boy. Afterwards, we saw Catching Fire. 

It was a disturbing movie, but I wanted to see it in order to be aware of what popular culture is viewing these days. Regarding TV shows, I don't keep up with popular culture at all--except to watch Homeland. But I do like to take in some of the current movies. 

Currently Reading:

I am working through Darren Rouse's e-books on how to make your blog successful. For $107, which is 47% off the price of buying each e-book separately, I got the following e-books:
31 Days to build a Better Blog
First Week of Blogging
Blogging for Business
Blogger's Guide to Online Marketing
Blog Wise-Do More with Less
Scorecard for Blogging
I've finished First Week of Blogging; Blog Wise--Do More with Less; Scorecard for Blogging and am currently on day 18 of the 31-Days e-book. I am learning so much. If you've been blogging for a while, you don't need the information in First Week of Blogging, but as it came as part of the package, I decided to blast through it anyway. You never know when you might learn something new. 

Based on what I'm learning, and if I were to grade my blog, I would give my current level of effort about C-. 

The e-books are filled with links to online articles and sources of information that greatly enhance your understanding of the materials, so if you buy the e-books, do not neglect to read the additional links.  


No writing this past week, however I did spend two days looking at the stats on each of my 437 published blog posts and putting the information into various categories in a spreadsheet. This is helping me to understand more fully which area readers are embracing, and which areas are duds. It will help me think of new post ideas as well as new directions for my blog.

Are you interested to know which areas get the largest page views? The biggest duds?

Largest number of page views: In general, the category of posts that consistently gets the largest number of page views are our flying adventures. There are isolated posts from all of my 26 categories that have gotten more reads than many of the flying posts, but as a category, the flying posts consistently get the most hits.

Duddy page views: The categories which are a total dud for me, meaning that the posts each garner 50 page views or less, belong to the categories of Holiday Posts and Seasonal Posts . . . i.e. Autumn on the Palouse ... Winter on the Palouse ...


I ordered some pens for my Silhouette Cameo Portrait so that I can use it to draw as well as to cut. Eventually, I might order the Designer Software, so that I can create my own designs and upload them to the Silhouette store for sale. (Or am I only dreaming?) I completed a scrapbook layout of our flight to Kamiah, Idaho. 

On the horizon: 

My book group meets tomorrow night, and my women's club is having its annual Christmas luncheon on Friday. Hubby's getting interested in taking up skiing again, and so we plan to go skiing when the weather warms. 

Oh, and there is a manuscript to finish ... 

How was your week? 

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