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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?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Weekly Writing Update


I've run across countless blog posts lately that give tips on how to maintain a writing schedule during the holidays

I have no doubt that it's possible, with a little planning and organization. 

But I would rather not. Maybe my age is seeping through, but I have too many memories of too many years' worth of crazy, stress-filled behavior, of me trying to do it all, including making time to write. 

So I am reporting that last week was delightful and full, but I wrote only 2,000 words on the WIP



I have been working up our Christmas letter. As most people like to do, I decided to write about the highlights of our year, many of which I blogged about. 

Bible Student conventions: Mike had the honor of serving at several conventions this year. It meant weekend trips to:
1.       Orlando, Florida (we arrived several days before the convention and did some touring)
2.       Boise, Idaho
3.       Sturgis (Saskatchewan, Canada) (we flew our airplane to Canada)
4.       Seattle, Washington (precisely, Seabeck, on the Olympic Peninsula).

We took a lot of Flying Adventures this year, in the RV7 that Mike built: 
      1.       Sturgis, Canada.
2.       Kamiah, ID
3.       Joseph, OR
4.       Sandpoint, ID
5.       Lake Roosevelt (Grand Coulee Dam), WA
6.       Painted Hills, OR
7.       Palouse Falls, WA

Ground Adventures, Holidays and Celebrations:
1.       A trip to Disneyland in January with our son and his family
2.       A bicycle ride along the Centennial Trail, which connects Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and Spokane, Washington
3.       A Father’s Day celebration at Boyer Park with the family
4.       Celebrating the 4th of July in Canada with the brethren
5.       A Color Mob 5K Fun Run in Colfax for Cathy, Jessie and the grandkids. Hubby and son followed on their bike (Mike) or in his Samauri (Jeremy), taking pictures
6.       FIVE grandchild birthday parties
7.       A trip to Silverwood Theme Park with a daughter and her family
8.       Taking the grandkids to the county fair in September (babysitting them for three days while their mom and dad had a booth for Best-Fit Bath in the Commercial Building)
9.       Tagging along with the grandkids as they Trick-or-Treated in downtown Moscow, Idaho
10.   Thanksgiving at our house with the whole family
11.   Christmas eve (upcoming!) at our house with the family—this tradition’s been going on for 30 years

Updates to the house:
1.       A bathroom remodel: we gutted the third-floor bathroom, including stripping off the wallpaper to create a 100% new room. Excellent work, done by Best-Fit Bath(bestfitbath.com) (our son–in-law)
2.       A bedroom update: we painted our bedroom, replaced the carpet, and bought a new headboard, bedspread and curtains in a pattern reminiscent of Hawaii
3.       We painted the laundry room, kitchen and family room
4.       A new deck; excellent work done by Best-Fit Bath
5.       Cathy upgraded the flowerbed along the north side of the house

Health and fitness updates:
A change in diet. We discovered that Mike is gluten intolerant, and Cathy is diabetic. After a change in diet habits, Mike’s lost 20 pounds (and need not lose a pound more). Cathy’s lost 22 pounds, and is within a normal BMI range (barely). Since she is already on a severely carbohydrate-restricted diet, she’s not interested in being on a calorie-restricted diet as well. Normal weight, though she is not skinny, is good enough!

Other:
Mike likes to fly the Kit Fox all around the county, landing on the hilltops of our stubble fields. He bought a GoPro camera and has had a great time making movies with the camera attached either beneath a wing tip, or on the tail wheel.

Mike is beginning to play the guitar again. Some evenings, Cathy will hear him strumming.

Cathy retired from her job managing the Youth Services department at Latah County Library District on August 1, 2012. Since then, she’s acquired a part time job during spring and fall work, helping to move our farm machinery from ranch to ranch.  

Cathy’s 88-year-old father visited us during the summer. He drove across Washington state all by himself. We were all worried that the old boy might not be up to it, but Dad knew that he could, and proved it to everyone.

Cathy is still writing and blogging. She wrote an inspirational historical romance manuscript this year, and entered the first few chapters into several national contests. She is a finalist in two of them. Key editors and agents will be reading her entry. If they like what they read, they might ask her to submit the full manuscript to them.  

Cathy is also very happy to have become a member of a women’s group and a book group.

Cathy also continues to love scrapbooking. Recently, she sorted their 2013 pictures and arranged them in Microsoft Publisher (which she uses to get an idea for how the pictures will look in layouts). In all, there will be 69-two-page layouts for 2013. That’s enough for five or six albums. While making each individual, two-page layout, she is working through the year chronologically, and is currently in July. 



That not only sums up my week, but also my year.
I plan to take a blogging break until January 1, 2014. 

I hope you will all have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year. 
See you then . . . 

I love your comments and read every single one of them, so if you wish to comment, please do! Sometimes, I manage to answer them. 



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Weekly writing update


Christmas is quickly approaching, with its delightful activities. I am being pulled away from writing more and more, and that's quite all right. But during the past two weeks, I didn't do any writing at all, and most of that cannot be blamed on Thanksgiving or Christmas activities, but on the reading I was doing.  

Reading: 

I'm almost done reading the e-books purchased from ProBlogger, which I had bought with the idea of improving my blogging and possibly monetizing my blog. I have a very long list of to-dos as a result. I became aware of hundreds, maybe thousands of other blogs, almost all of them outside of writing and book reviewing. I discovered that the audience for even the biggest writing and book review blogs is tiny compared to many of the other subjects out there. That said, it might behoove us as writers to do what social media experts have been telling us all along: branch out and get to know people outside of our small niche. Write about the topics we're interested in besides writing (or goal updating!).  

I've decided I probably won't monetize my blog, after all. People do make money off their blogs. Some people actually earn a living from blogging, but they're working at it full time, and they usually have a half dozen or more blogs. Even then it depends on a blogger's niche and her skills, as to her level of success. 


It looks as though it probably wouldn't be crazy difficult to earn $500/YEAR off a blog, but more than that would take significant effort.  

Though I don't intend to monitize at this time, I will probably make the switch to WordPress sometime in the next six months and design my website using Brandgasm, rather than paying someone else to design it. I will probably change the themes of my posts. I still need to decide the topics that I plan to write about. I have several ideas, but I need to figure out if I truly am interested enough in them to post about the subject(s) on a regular basis. 

For example, there isn't a massive amount of information being written on the Enneagram, and I have a deep knowledge of that, as well as in Life Coaching. 
  

Writing: 

As I said before, I went without writing for two full weeks. (But I didn't go without eating.) Yesterday, when I sat down to write again, I was happy to slip right into it, no anxieties. Generally when I'm away from writing for that long, anxiety eats me up for several hours. 

I still need to write 10,000 words, and then I will have a full draft of THE PERFECT WIFE. 


If you're interested, the contests that I am a finalist in have posted the finalists' names to their websites. My manuscript is called THE PERFECT WIFE. 

Windy City RWA 2013 Four Seasons contest finalists 

Mid-America Romance Writers Fiction from the Heartland contest finalists 

I'll learn on December 20 if I won the inspirational category in the Windy City contest. I'm one of eight overall finalists in the Mid-America contest, which does not select finalists by category. I'll learn on February 1 whether I won that one. 


For me, entering wasn't about winning as it was about getting feedback, which was outstanding! It was also, especially, for the chance to have key agents and editors read my work. 


What inspires me: 

The blogs I discovered over the past two weeks inspire me. Having ventured
outside my writing communities (Young Adult, Inspirational Romance), I discovered a much bigger world of writers. One of the biggest communities is BlogHer. If they decide to feature one of your posts, you could be read, potentially, by 90 million readers. That just blows me away. They also pay you $50 for your post. 

It's where Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond was discovered, and we all know that she has completely conquered the world. Her blog's popularity ranks under 5600 globally. By contrast, mine ranks 8,000,000 globally. If you want to see what yours ranks, go to Alexa and type in your blog addy.    



What else I'm up to: 

Christmas activities. I've been attending two or three Christmas functions each week. We're shopping in Spokane today. 


How was your week, reading, writing, or otherwise?






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.  

Writing: 

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 ...

Crafting: 

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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