Still Writing on Wednesday

and every day since the first of the year, when my Hundred Word group started a new challenge.  Today is Day 39, and while some of us have skipped a day for one reason or another, we’re all still at it.   The group started on March 10, 2007, so we’re only about a month short of our fifth anniversary.  Some members have dropped off along the way, but we’ve added a few new ones this year.

The challenge we began five years ago was to write one hundred new words a day (on a work-in-progress–blogs, journals, and shopping lists don’t count) for one hundred days.  Over time we’ve each adjusted that a bit to suit our circumstances, usually allowing a certain amount of editing or plotting to substitute for writing new words.  Sometimes that actually amounts to cutting the total word count, but that’s okay. 

I started a new project on New Year’s Day, working title Jinn on the Rocks, and I’ve managed to produce fifteen pages so far.  Not much of an accomplishment, but without the challenge I’d probably still be thinking about it.   I’m ony beginning to figure out where this story is going–no, that’s not true.  It’s a romance.  It’s going toward that Happily Ever After ending we all love.  But it started with a totally unexpected goblin, who surprised both the heroine and me by popping out from behind a headstone in a quiet cemetary, bringing a new assignment for my changeling heroine.  Meanwhile my hero, the jinn of the title, is trying to get out of a landfill, a task complicated by the fact that he doesn’t know how he got there, or even where there is.

Meanwhile I’ve done some editing on Bathtub Jinn.  Technically I finished the book on Thanksgiving weekend, just in time to send it off to this year’s Golden Heart® contest, but it still needs work.  The ending is there, but it needs expanding, and every time I read a section to my wonderful critique group, I find (or rather they find) something to improve.  This week we read chapter 18, and I definitely have a couple of clunkers to fix.  Bathtub Jinn involves a trip through a markedly warped Land of Oz, complete with some thoroughy nasty winged monkeys.  (Watch that movie again–there are some seriously scary bits. It’s not all Lollipop Guild and Over the Rainbow.)  So when I saw this sign at Half-Price Books recently, I couldn’t resist.  It’s now hanging in my writing alcove.  If I don’t go write my poor hero out of his predicament (and into a worse one) those monkeys may just come after me!


And a Happy New Year!

I don’t think I wrote my New Year’s Resolutions down last year, but I’m probably making the same ones again this year (and they will be here to haunt me on January 1, 2013).

Write More:  Our Hundred Word group starts a new challenge today.  We have eight or ten people participating this time.  The loop started on March  10, 2007, so we’re coming up on five years.  We’ve had people drop off and come back, and a few new ones join over the years, and I think everyone who has participated has benefitted.  I know I’ve been taking a holiday from my novel writing since I “finished” Bathtub Jinn over Thanksgiving weekend.  Without the impetus of the Hundred Word Challenge, and the definite starting date of January 1 (what could be easier to keep track of?), I’d probably drift along for another month.  As it is, I have a lot of editing to do on my existing manuscripts, but I think I’ve also got the opening of the next project.  In my head.  Next step, get it on paper.  Tonight.

Read More:  My friend Cheryl Bolen teases me a lot about my addictive book collecting, but that doesn’t slow me down.  I read 43 books in 2011:  16 romances, 7 mysteries, 9 science fiction novels, 6 mainstream novels, and 5 nonfiction books.  I bought at least twice that many, but that’s neither here nor there.  Back in the day, when I wasn’t working full time, I read a lot more.  Now I come home through Houston traffic and put my feet up in front of the TV set.  It’s harder to get lost in a book when you find yourself analyzing story structure and point of view, watching for typos and grammatical errors, and generally thinking more like a writer than a reader.   I’ve become a multiple-book reader in the last couple of years.  Right now I’m reading a mystery on paper (currently located on the shelf above my bed), a user’s guide to Facebook (I’m still resisting, but the book is on the coffee table in the living room), a mainstream novel by a friend (on my Kindle, currently on the coffee table but often carried in my purse), and a book on conflict and suspense in writing (also on the Kindle).  Those will be the first four books on my 2012 list.

Lose a Few Pounds:  Or at least stay healthy.  I lost quite a bit of weight a few years ago, and about ten pounds have found their way back.  My jeans are getting tight. 

Contest judging has been keeping me busy,

and it won’t let up for a while.  I have three favorite RWA chapter writing contests that I try to judge regularly, and they all land in my inbox in the fall, one after another over a couple of months.  Six weeks to judge four or five entries sounds like a generous amount of time, until you remember, once again, how much time each entry can take.

Judging is worth every bit of the effort, and the rewards come in several areas.  It gives you a fascinating view into the broad range of writing in the entries, both in terms of content and level of expertise.  You see everything from new writers to seasoned pros, from people  in desperate need of feedback and advice to writers so talented and polished you can’t believe they don’t already have fourteen books on the shelf.

You learn to recognize problems that are much easier to see in other people’s writing, and hopefully to apply the knowledge to your own work.  You learn to offer constructive, helpful advice rather than snarky, destructive criticism, and now and then you get a note back from an entrant thanking you for an idea that turned her manuscript around.

Most of us judge contests because we have gotten so much out of entering them over the years.  No one else in my small critique group writes romance or enters writing contests, so I have to remind them now and then that I don’t just send my manuscripts off for the adrenalin jolt that accompanies a placement among the finalists, a certificate, or the occasional small check or piece of jewelry.  The real prize is always the chance to land your entry on the desk of a final judge who is an acquiring editor or agent.

But there are other rewards as well.  A bit of validation is always nice.  A bit of name recognition is welcome.  And, most important, I’ve found new friends through contests, most of them long distance, women I may never meet in person unless we manage to attend the same conference.  I’ve gotten to know contest coordinators, and I’ve made friends with writers after finding my name next to theirs on lists of finalists.  Being a Golden Heart finalist this year brought me  a flood of new friends through the Starcatchers (this year’s “class” of GH finalists) and the Golden Network (the online RWA chapter for Golden Heart finalists).

This year I’ve been helping to recruit judges for the West Houston RWA Emily contest.  Pointing out how easy the process is these days, all done by email, makes me think back to the time, not many years ago, when we spent hours printing out multiple copies of contest entries, toting them to the post office, and trying to figure out how much postage to put on our return envelopes in case the rates changed before the finalists were announced.

Now I won’t even consider a contest that requires hard copy and snail mail, not that there are many of them left.  But I have to wonder how much we’ve contributed to the financial woes of the post office by moving our contests into cyberspace.

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