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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Relief

An event took place November 24th that left me with a smile spread across my face and a load off my shoulders.

After months spent rewriting
Violets & Violins and weeks polishing the first three chapters until they shone so brightly I needed sunglasses to read them, my dear Gwynly took me to the Post Office. David, one of the many friendly and knowledgeable clerks who has processed my contest entries throughout the past four years, took the package from my trembling hands. The box containing my hopes and dreams, as well as six copies of my 2010 Golden Heart entry and a CD containing the complete manuscript, was on its way. When I told David this was the most important contest of the year, he smiled and said, "Then you want the insurance on this, don't you?" He's got the drill down.

Getting to the point where I could release my story wasn't easy. I experienced a moment of panic the night before and told Gwynly and my awesome critique partner, Anne Barton, I needed to read the entire story one more time. After ensconcing myself in the comfy armchair before our pellet stove, I toasted my tootsies and began turning pages.

Three and a half chapters into the manuscript, reality dawned. I had one day before our daughter was due home for her Thanksgiving break and a number of tasks to complete prior to picking her up. There weren't enough hours left in which to read a 100,000 word story and prepare for our long-awaited visit from the Fashion Queen. Enough was enough. The time had come to put family first.

A tremendous sense of relief washed over me when I walked out of the Post Office last Tuesday. Not only was my entry on its way, but I'd achieved a minor victory. I'd allowed pragmatism to triumph over perfectionism, not an easy task for me as Gwynly and Anne know. Because of my decision, Gwynly, the Fashion Queen and I enjoyed a relaxed Thanksgiving and had fun cutting our tree and decorating the house the day after.

In other contest news, I received my brooch from the Lone Star Contest last week. I like the way the Northwest Houston RWA chose to combine the star with a pen. I'll wear this beautiful bit of bling proudly.

And what's next?

I've started sending chapters of V&V to Anne, who is working her magic on them. Not only does she catch the pesky typos and grammatical goofs I missed, but she also comes up with great words to replace some weak ones that slipped past me. And when it comes to wonderful chapter ending hooks, she's downright masterful. With her help, V&V is better than I dreamed possible. When I think of all the things I'm thankful for this year, having Anne as my CP is high on the list. But far more important than that, I'm grateful for her steadfast support and friendship.

• • • • •

Are you a recovering perfectionist? If so, how do you force yourself to let go of a project?

Are you more of an easygoing person. If so, what tips can you offer those of us who have a hard time knowing when to stop?

Do you have a person who supports you in your creative endeavors? What are some of the greatest blessings you derive from the relationship?

What are some things you're thankful for?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friendly Fridays: Celebrations & Commiserations

Friendly Fridays are dedicated to you, my friends and followers.

I want to know what's going on in your lives.
.

Celebrations

What celebrations can I join in this week? If you've received good news, achieved a goal or made progress, I'd love to hear about it.

  • My author friend Jody Hedlund learned that the title of her debut novel with Bethany House is official. Great news, Jody! I'm looking forward to reading The Preacher's Daughter.
  • Several of my writer friends/blog followers completed first drafts recently, including Eileen Astels Watson, Jennifer Shirk, Sue Mason and Wendy. Congrats to each of you! There's nothing quite like reaching The End to fill a writer with a great sense of accomplishment. Enjoy the thrill.
  • My awesome critique partner Anne Barton also completed a first draft. I've read a portion of it and can't wait to enjoy the rest of her great story.
  • My writer friend Carla Gade completed her new writing studio. She created an inspirational atmosphere she loves. I hope you're enjoying that new space, Carla.

Commiserations

Did you experience doubts or discouragement, heartaches or hurts, sadness or setbacks this week? If so, I want to come alongside you with sympathy and cyber hugs.

  • My writer friend Donna Kohlstrom, who battles chronic illness, is dealing with a flare-up. My heart goes out to you, Donna. How difficult that must be. I hope you experience some relief soon.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: The Home Stretch

I'm not much of a ball player. In fact, I was the last one picked when softball teams were chosen in my P.E. classes. Who want's a player who rarely brings the bat in contact with the ball?

On the rare occasion when I did get a viable hit, I could run. I'm a sprinter, so I sped around the diamond. Heading for home isn't something I got to do very often, which made the experience all the more thrilling when it did occur.

Tonight, I'm running for home. I'm less than an hour from finishing the rewrite of Violets & Violins. I plan to complete the final chapter before I put my head on the pillow

The race to the end is exciting, to be sure, but I know I have more to do. The final quarter of the book needs polishing, since I didn't take time to do so as I went along. I will also have the feedback from my CPs to incorporate. But the major work is behind me, and it feels great.

• • • • •

Have you finished a major project recently? How did you feel?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friendly Fridays: Celebrations & Commiserations

Friendly Fridays are my new posts dedicated to you, my friends and followers.

I want to know what's going on in your lives.
.

Celebrations

What celebrations can I join in this week? If you've received good news, achieved a goal or made progress, I'd love to hear about it.

  • My writer pal Katie Ganshert received a very important phone call this past week. Top-notch literary agent Rachelle Gardner offered Katie representation, which she wisely accepted. Way to go, Katie! You can read her emotionally charged blog post here.
  • My author friend Laura Frantz, who wrote The Frontiersman's Daughter, returned home after a successful trip to promote her book at the Kentucky Book Fair. Glad things went so well for you, Laura.
.

Commiserations

Did you experience doubts or discouragement,
heartaches or hurts, sadness or setbacks this week? If so, I want to come alongside you with sympathy and cyber hugs.

  • Although I heard this sad news a couple of weeks ago, I want to offer my condolences to my frequent blog visitor Edna, who lost her beloved brother last month. Hugs to you, Edna. May the love of family and friends uphold you when you feel down.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Endings

Physically, I'm healing. After four weeks battling what turned out to be the Swine Flu, the end is in sight. I'm finally beginning to feel better. Although I'm still not 100%, I have my doctor's approval to rejoin society. After a month of being house-bound, I'm ready to get out again.

With the return of my energy, I was able to make significant progress on Violets & Violins. I now have three-quarters of the story polished and am sending those chapters to my critique partner a couple at a time. I have some work to do on the final quarter of the book, but thanks to a great suggestion from of one of my contest judges, I know what to do to fix a weak plot point, one that had bothered me. I'm eager to reach The End. I'll have to figure out a way to celebrate.

In contest news, I tweaked the first two chapters of Violets & Violins and sent them off for final round judging in the Finally A Bride contest. I did hear last Monday that the story is a finalist in the Launching a Star contest.

I also edited four excellent chapters and a synopsis for my critique partner this week.

• • • • •

How do you celebrate when you reach the end of a major project?

What are some projects you've brought to fruition lately?

What are you doing to avoid the Swine Flu?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap: Momentum

Momentum.

My online dictionary offers two definitions. The first sounds like something my science teacher hubby could recite by heart: the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity. The second sounds more applicable to creative endeavors such as writing: the impetus and driving force gained by the development of a process or course of events.

My momentum has been hampered by the bug I've been battling the past three weeks. The quantity of motion of my body has diminished greatly. Gwynly has convinced me it's time to seek medical attention for my lingering cough, sore chest muscles and fatigue. First thing Monday morning I will call my doctor's office for an appointment.

(Update: I did see the doctor. Diagnosis: Swine Flu. That explains why this bug has been such a pest. She said I should start feeling better in a week or so.)

On the creative front, however, Violets & Violins continues to gain momentum. A course of events has been unfolding unlike anything I could have imagined.

Let me take you back to the year 2007. I had completed five manuscripts in two years, all of them inspirational historicals. I began entering four of them in contests. Between July and November of that year, I prepared and submitted thirty-three entries. I kept one of the copiers at my local Office Max busy and my postal clerks scratching their heads as I explained exactly how each entry must be packaged and posted. I knew no other writers and had not discovered the world of writers in cyberspace, so I craved feedback from contest judges.

To my surprise and delight, I actually finaled in some of the contests. I ended up taking a first, two seconds, two thirds and an honorable mention. I also finaled in the Golden Heart with two of my four entries. (The two that didn't final came in the bottom half, so that humbling reality left me wondering what to think.) I'm no math whiz, but with the help of my trusty calculator I figured out I finaled about once for every four entries.

When I began entering Violets & Violins in contests, I chose carefully. I made sure there was an inspirational category (or sub-category as in The Emily.) I also looked to see who the final judges were, since I hoped to have my entry seen by some of them.

I ended up choosing ten contests to enter and promptly did so. With my history, I thought that way I might end up with two or even three finals. Of course, I'd have the preliminary judges' comments no matter what, which I value greatly.


Imagine my surprise when the first result came back. I was a finalist in The Maggies. Talk about incredulous. That was me. The successes that have followed have been nothing short of staggering. Violets & Violins has taken three firsts. It is pending placement in three more contests, having made the finalist list in The Southern Heat and Finally a Bride this weekend. I've pinched myself so often I'm going numb.

Violets & Violins has momentum. If asked why this story, a revision of one of those I entered in 2007, is doing so well, I have to say I'm not sure. I give much of the credit to my husband, who is my awesome plotting partner. His ideas for re-energizing the beginning of the story were awesome. My faithful critique partner, Anne Barton, has been with me every step of the way, listening to my struggles and successes and offering wonderful suggestions. My other critique partner, CJ Redwine, pointed out some weaknesses I'd been blind to as well.

For my part, I've spent the past two years studying craft and working to improve my writing. I've attended conferences and my local RWA chapter meetings, have visited more blogs for writers than I can count and have read many books in my genre. Plus, painful though it was, I rewrote three-quarters of the book, incorporating the great input of my partners.

As thrilled as I am at the success Violets & Violins is having on the contest circuit, I feel a bit guilty. I know there are many writers who would be encouraged by a contest final, and I've kept some of them from getting a spot. I never expected to garner so many myself, honestly. I like to share the joy of accomplishments. In fact, once the good news began pouring in, I ceased entering contests. I've four entries pending, but I won't be entering Violets & Violins again. I consider this story officially retired from the unpublished contest circuit.

In spite of my lack of physical momentum, I have managed to polish the first twenty chapters of Violets & Violins and am getting wonderful feedback on them from my CPs. I have yet to rework the ending to eliminate a weak plot point several judges pointed out but will do so soon. I'd like to be moving faster, but a body has limits. Once I get mine restored to health, though, watch out.

• • • • •

How do you maintain momentum when you're not at your peak?

Have you ever experienced success that overwhelmed you?

What have been your biggest victories this week?

What challenges are you facing?