Thanksgiving 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

There’s nothing like a day of thanks to make a girl reflect on the things she’s grateful for…

And it got me thinking about all of you. I’m so very happy you stumbled upon my blog. At this time last year, I had very little traffic. It was targeted mostly at kid writers back then. But I branched out to writers of all ages, and I’m so glad I did! This site has grown quite a lot and I’ve “met” so many amazing people! It’s nice to know there are others out there who share in my passion for writing. 🙂 So, thank you for being here and for being so amazing!

Since so many of you are new to my blog, I thought you might like to read my Thanksgiving post from last year. In it, I talk about my writing journey. If you’re interested to know my story—how I began writing, go here.

In the year since I’ve posted that, a lot has happened in my efforts to become a writer. As you all know by now, I’m still working on getting my fictional work published. But as far as my day job goes, I am so grateful that this year I began to write professionally! As in, I get paid to write for companies. Seriously. How cool is that? For me, it’s the coolest! I get to create content, edit, proofread, and other fun stuff like that. I write training manuals, company documents, blog posts, and I’m even ghostwriting a non-fiction manuscript now too. So even though my dream is to write for children full time, this isn’t a bad job to have. In fact it’s pretty great!

Ever since I became a writer seven years ago, I thought the only way I’d be happy, would be to become a published author. But this year I realized that even though that will make me immensely happy, I am happy as I am. Small successes have taught me that. The relationships I’ve made with other writers have taught me that. And the family that means more than any of it has taught me that too.

And so on this week of Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll reflect on all that you’re grateful for too. We all have so many things. There’s always someone out there who has it harder than we do, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. So whether you’re spending a quiet day at home tomorrow, celebrating with your large extended family, or live in a place where tomorrow is not Thanksgiving Day, I wish for you a peaceful moment or two and plenty of time to realize how much you really have. I’ll be doing the same at my house too!

And no I didn’t forget…

The winners of the ARC of Beth Hautala’s MG debut, WAITING FOR UNICORNS are:

myinnermg and Nancy McConnell

Congratulations to you both!

Please email me at swirlandspark@gmail.com with your address to receive your copy. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! Have a safe and wonderful weekend!!

 

 

Manuscript Monday #13

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 13 week- old manuscript:

Hey everyone! Hope your weekend was full of fun—or at least full of some fun. 🙂

I have some business items to take care of before we get to the manuscript stuff…

Tomorrow is the last day to comment on last Wednesday’s post for a chance to win an ARC of Beth Hautala’s middle grade debut, WAITING FOR UNICORNS. Be sure to click on the post for details and a bit about her amazing book due to be released in January! I’m giving away two advanced copies, so if you’d like a shot, be sure to comment! I’ll announce the winners on Wednesday. 🙂

I’m thinking of ideas for our next Critique Corner round. I have a few ideas but I’m open to suggestions. We’re all at different stages with our work and it’s hard to please everyone, but I’d love to provide something that will benefit my loyal readers. If you have an idea, please feel free to comment.

Here are some of my ideas:

A critique of an entire chapter. I will put the limit at 5 entries (10 pages on each one), that way each person participating will need to critique only four others. Participants and readers would have a full week to make comments and give feedback. (This is a large commitment on the entrant’s part so if we do this, I would ask anyone entering to agree to critique the other four.)

A critique of 500 words from any place in the story. We all have problem areas that we need help on. If we choose this option, I will accept 10 entries and each participant would have to agree to critique 5 others. I will also ask that participants include a brief two sentence summary of what has happened before the scene so that readers will be able to follow the action.

A critique of the first 250 words. This is a common word count used when submitting to many on-line contests. If there are writers out there still struggling with how to make their opening page stronger, please let me know. This might be a good option. If we choose this option, I will accept 10 entries and participants would be asked to critique five others.

Any thoughts? Please comment your choice or another idea if you have one. I’m thinking of holding the round near the end of January. It should give you plenty of time to get your entries ready, and give all of us something to look forward to after the holidays!

So, as for me…

You may be wondering whether or not I made it into the Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction happening later this week on Miss Snarks First Victim’s Blog. Well, I’m sad to say that I did not get in. 😦 😦 😦

But, I’m okay. I spent the morning that I heard, pouting. I kind of walked around my house in a daze, wondering why my entry didn’t get picked. Truth be told, I really thought I had a good chance this year. What was it that made Authoress and Jodi say no? Why didn’t they see the potential in my story? Why didn’t they see what I did? I had no answer.

But my husband (aka Prince Charming) did. He whisked me away to our bagel shop (the one we always go to) and reminded me just how subjective this business is. He reminded me that there are so many reasons why my little story wasn’t chosen for the auction. And I already knew them all. Authoress was sweet enough to post about her reasons for passing. But which reason did she have for passing on mine? I could only guess…

But then instead of dwelling on the pass, Prince Charming reminded me of all the reasons my little story will be accepted one day. I sat in the bagel shop (kind of slumped in my chair, I imagine) while he rattled on about my characters, their adventures, and the obstacles they over come. He spoke about the possibilities of my story and how someone out there, when the time is right, will grab onto it and help bring it into the world for children to read.

And that’s all I really needed. Someone to remind me to believe in my story. And so then I sat up straight in my chair and ate my bagel. Cinnamon- raisin toasted with strawberry cream cheese. 🙂

Not long after our chat, I received a message from one of my amazing critique partners. Her message was the same and she urged me not to give up. And so I won’t. Ever. And that’s a for sure promise.

Later that week, I received a message from my other amazing critique partner, with similar encouragement for my little story. I was overwhelmed.

And so yeah, I’m okay. And more determined than ever to polish this story until it sparkles, and then send it out to 500 literary agents if I have to—until I find one that loves it as much as I do. And in the meantime, I’ll keep working on my new manuscript, because even though I love Spinning the Golden Light Bulb, I have room in my brain and in my heart for another story too. My MG about Atria Plum grew by 3000 words this week! Not bad for week 13 considering I spent a lot of time revising STGLB too.

So this week, I’ll keep writing… and I will definitely be stopping by the Bakers Dozen Agent Auction to check out the entries that were chosen. And even though mine wasn’t one of them, I can’t wait to critique and be a part of it all. It’s an amazing opportunity for writers and so much can be learned from seeing what stories the agents bid on. So if you have a chance, check it out!

I hope you’ve made some strides with your work too this week. If you have, I’d love to hear about it. And remember, if you’d like a chance to win WAITING FOR UNICORNS, comment on last Wednesday’s post. And if you have an idea for our next Critique Corner, comment about that too. Or just say, “Hey.” That works too!

ARC Giveaway: WAITING FOR UNICORNS!

Some fun on the blog this week!

In honor of the approaching thankful season, I thought it would be all kinds of awesome to do a giveaway here at swirl and spark. And since one of the things I am so very thankful for is all of you, I want to give you an opportunity to share something you’re thankful for and… a chance to win an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of the new middle grade novel by debut author, Beth Hautala—WAITING FOR UNICORNS!

Here’s a peak at Beth with her soon to be released treasure…

BethandBook

How seriously great is this picture??

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

WAITING FOR UNICORNS

Coming to a bookshelf near you January 22, 2015 Middle Grade Fiction (ages 10 and up) Philomel/Penguin (US) 

Talia McQuinn is much too old to believe in magic, yet she keeps a jar of wishes under her bed. When her whale-researcher father drags Tal to the arctic for the summer following her mother’s death, she brings the jar along. During her stay, Tal learns the ancient Inuit legend of the narwhal whale—the unicorn of the sea—and she forms a plan to make the biggest wish of her life. When the entire population of whales in the Hudson Bay mysteriously disappears, and an accident endangers the life of her new friend, Tal must confront the truth: no wish on earth can grant escape from her heartache, or bring her mother back. But sometimes, the release of one wish makes way for the granting of another.

Sounds amazing, right?? (Well, it is!!)

Here’s the scoop on how to win a copy:

All you have to do is comment on this post. Share with us one (or more) things you’re thankful for. It can be writing related, book related, or something completely different like congratulations to Beth or something!! Then next week I’ll draw two names from the comment box. Each person will receive a free advanced copy of Beth’s book which will be released in January 22, 2015!

Beth was sweet enough to send a copy to me and two extra copies to give away on my blog. For those of you who don’t know, an Advanced Reader Copy is the copy from the publisher in the very last stage before it’s about to published for its release date. It looks exactly like the real book will look except for any last minute typos the editor will catch right before final printing.

The day I received the package in the mail, I ripped it open like a little kid on Christmas. And oh my, was it a gift. I held the book in my hand, like it was fragile, like it was priceless—and in a way it was (and is) to me. It’s the very first ARC I’ve received from a soon to be published author. That in itself is special. But knowing the person who wrote the story that has now been turned into an actual real life book makes it even more amazing! So thank you, Beth. It has been a privilege to read your story, and see the gorgeous cover in person, with your name on it! Wow. 🙂

Here’s my review of WAITING FOR UNICORNS by the talented debut author, Beth Hautala:

I came across the first 250 words of WAITING FOR UNICORNS in 2010 as an entry in the Bakers Dozen Agent Auction on Miss Snark’s First Victim’s blog. Beth’s lyrical writing pulled at me immediately, lulling me into a world she created so beautifully. I knew with certainty that I would see this book in print someday. I didn’t know Beth at the time, but I knew that her book was special. Now that I’ve read the entire story, I can tell you with even more certainty this is a book I will never forget.

Talia is a character readers will be drawn to from the start, maybe because of her circumstances—she has experienced a loss no child should ever have to, but more likely because she is full of hope even when she feels there is no more to be had. She is full of wonder, even though her new world feels unfamiliar and strange.

And she isn’t afraid to wish. And wish she does, with the help of her wish jar, a few new friends, and some very difficult to find unicorns.

WAITING FOR UNICORNS is an uplifting adventure that takes readers on a sweet journey to the arctic where the descriptions are so vivid, they may just need to wear their own wool hat and mittens. The characters are refreshing and real. Readers will root for Talia on each page as she searches for her unicorn and tries to piece together her broken heart.

Several things stood out to me as I read this book. Beth Hautala writes with such amazing beauty and grace, it’s as if she spent a lifetime choosing each and every word, precisely for this story. She has developed a world so splendid and different from what most of us know. I felt grateful to have experienced all that she exposed me to. And she created characters so real and a story so relatable that I just may feel a long lasting connection to both.  

For more information on Beth and her book go to www.bethhautalabooks.com

To enter for a chance to win one of the two ARCs, please leave your comment below. I’ll take comments until Tuesday at midnight EST and post the winners next Wednesday. In one of my future posts, I’ll have an interview with Beth to share with all of you too, so yes… more great WAITING FOR UNICORNS fun to come!!

Manuscript Monday #12

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 12 week- old manuscript:

I could call today Miserable Monday. I mean, I did wake up to see a wet, sloppy snow mess outside. I’m guessing some of you did too. My kids were in less than pip-pip cheerio friendly moods this morning. (That’s always fun.) I did crack an egg over the toast I had just buttered for my daughter. Yeah, the egg white slipped out of my frazzled fingers and instead of landing nicely in the bowl, dripped onto the toast. Uggh.

But…my kids made it to school on time. Okay, okay, maybe they were four minutes late. Do you think the attendance secretary let it slide due to the fact that everyone knows uncooked eggs are bad for you? Especially over toast.

But I’m not going to call today miserable Monday. I have too many reasons to be happy. My Wednesday post last week made me realize that. As I read through the comments, (and also some private messages I received on Twitter) I was overwhelmed by the kind words so many of you threw my way. Good luck wishes, encouraging messages…and not just to me, but to my son! How amazing are all of you?? This writing community has a collective heart of gold. Thank you from the bottom of mine. Your words lifted me for days…and still do as I continue to wait.

On Wednesday night my son learned he did not make the high school hockey team. And yes it was as tough of a night as you can imagine. But he is a determined kid. I have a feeling he’ll pick himself up and keep working to improve his skills—and tryout again next year when he’s older and stronger. I shared some of your comments with him this past weekend. I am serious when I tell you, your words brought a grin to his face and he so badly needed it. So thank you for making him smile. 🙂 It’s incredible the power that words can have—even from someone you’ve never met before!

As I mentioned in last Monday’s post, I revised my manuscript down to 1500 words already. So basically I started week 12 with a wide open notebook and a mere seven pages of story. Sometimes it takes a clean slate to get you rolling again. Over the course of the week, a scene has formed in my head. It’s a particularly vivid scene filled with raw emotion. It has been a hard scene to write but it will resonate with middle graders and older readers alike, if I can pull it off.

I’ve noticed something with this manuscript at the three month mark. No, not just that I only have 2500 words in at this point. This story is forming in scenes and images, not in chronological events. That’s has never happened to me before. And I’m okay with that. I already scrapped a sorta-outline that wasn’t working. Now I’m just letting the scenes take shape and then when it feels like I have enough, I will see how I can turn it all into a story.

It’s a different way for me to work. I’m hoping it will allow me to be more creative with this draft. I’m also hoping I will have a better handle on the emotional parts of the story. We all know that the stories that really stick with us over time, are the ones whose characters we connect with on an emotional level of some sort. We need our readers to care about the characters we write. That’s our job. It may be a tough one, but so worth it in the end.

We all know characters like that. For me, the first middle grade character that really tugged at my heartstrings was Aubrey in Love, Aubrey, by Suzanne LeFluer. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. From the very first page, Aubrey had me in her corner. I still think about that book when writing emotional scenes.

What about you? Has a character stuck with you over time? What was it that got to you? And…how is your project coming along? Remember, leaps and bounds are great but sometimes baby steps work too! As you can see at week 12 of my newborn manuscript, it’s definitely growing. The growth may be slow but it is happening. And that’s definitely something to be happy about, even on a Monday!

Playing The Waiting Game

I had a hard time writing today’s post, but it’s not because I didn’t have anything to say! In fact, I had a great topic to share with all of you—my loyal readers and also my new virtual friends just stopping by. But, I just couldn’t turn my idea into more than a thought today. And I realized why.

I’m playing the waiting game.

And I hate the waiting game! I imagine most of you feel the same way. It’s weird, I’m a pretty patient person in normal situations, but not today. Not at all.

So here’s the thing. I submitted my entry to the Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction contest a few weeks ago on the Miss Snark’s First Victim Blog. I had to. I love this contest so much! I’ve followed it since its first year. Go to http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-2014-bakers-dozen-agent-auction.html to get details!

Go now. It’s that cool!

For those stubborn few of you who won’t click right now, basically writers submit their loglines and first 250 words in hopes of being chosen for the agent auction. Competition is fierce. Only 150 MG/ YA and 150 adult entries are considered. This was a first come first chosen process. I made it to that point. Phew! But now Authoress and YA author Jodi Meadows will read the entries and choose 35 MG/ YA and 25 adult entries from the slush. Those 60 entries will be put up on the blog for public critique and then a panel of agents will have a chance to bid on the entries they like. Bidding is fast and ferocious on the day of the auction—quite exciting actually! It’s fun to see how many entries get bids (not all do) and for how many pages (from 5 to a full manuscript request).

I have no illusions of being chosen. I’ve traditionally had trouble putting forth a sparkling first 250 words. (That’s hard to do, right??) Don’t get me wrong. I’ve revised them, I’ve polished them, I’ve had them critiqued (many times!), but still, it’s so tough to show a strong sampling of your MC, their world and the conflict on the first page. Still, I do love my opening, but who knows if Authoress and Jodi will too! And they may not. But still, I had to try. That’s how much I love this contest.

And so I wait. Along with 299 others who also submitted. Hmm, sounds a lot like the querying process, don’t you think? We wait for others to judge our words. We wait for the answer we want to hear. We try to stay busy in the meantime. We try to distract ourselves. We convince ourselves we don’t care if we succeed or not. We eat cookies. (Snickerdoodle, of course.) We take on another project. We might even write. But still the wait is hard whatever we do to pass the time.

But as much as I hate waiting for this news, there’s other news I’m waiting to hear today too. And it has nothing to do with writing. My son will hear today if he made the High School Varsity hockey team. Okay, before you say it, I know. This is not life changing. There are children out there waiting for miracles. My little friend, Avrie is one. There are parents waiting for their missing children to return. My friend, LuAnn is one. So believe me, I do have perspective on this.

But, making this team means THE WORLD to my son. He has played hockey since he was six. It’s a game he lives day in and day out and ever since he realized that his dad played on that very same high school team, his dream has been to make it too. As a freshman. Yikes. That’s a lofty goal around here. His school does not have a JV team let alone a freshman or modified team. So Varsity is the team to try out for.

It has been agony watching him stew over this for the last few weeks. The two week tryout has been tough. Not just physically, but also mentally. One day he is convinced he has a legitimate shot. The next day he says he has no chance. Just yesterday, he told me he doesn’t deserve to make it anyway because he hasn’t worked out in the off season enough and maybe he needs to learn a lesson from this. What?? This is my 14 year old!

Today, the last day of tryouts, his spirits were much better. My go-get-em kid left for school with fire in his eyes, bouncing on his toes, ready to convince the coaches that he would make a difference if given the chance to be a member of the team. Now that’s more like it!

Sound familiar?

I think many of us have our doubts as we await big news. We cut ourselves sometimes before the coach has a chance to do it. We think maybe bad news may be easier to hear if we decide ahead of time that we don’t care anyway. But really, who are we kidding? I really do want to make it into the auction. I want to get my work out there. And even though I know there will be other opportunities for me to do that, I would be thrilled to get this one. And so I wait. 🙂

And so will my son, in those agonizingly long moments in the locker room later today, for the news he wants to hear. And I would trade my good news today in a second, if only he could hear his. It’s a parent thing, I guess.

And so to all of you out there waiting—whether it be for an agent request, a book deal, a place on a sports team, a college acceptance letter, your child to come running home unharmed, or the successful completion of a bone marrow transplant, I wish you the news you are waiting to hear. 🙂

 

Manuscript Monday #11

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 11 week- old manuscript:

I think I’ve officially lost my mind when it comes to this story.

You’ve all heard it said that if you want to make your story stronger when revising, you must kill your darlings. You must cut out the parts that don’t serve the story, no matter how precious they are. That can include whole scenes or even a whole character. So if a paragraph is the most beautiful piece of writing you’ve ever created, but it doesn’t move the story along or assist in world building or character development, then you must cut it out.

Well, I may have gone overboard this week. I cut out almost seven thousand words.

*Gulp*

And now, at week 11 of this manuscript, I’m left with a mere 1500 words.

I know. I know what you’re going to say. WHY?? Why would you cut so much out when you’re just trying to get the story down on paper? It’s only the first draft!!

But here’s the thing. I wasn’t feeling it. Those 7,000 words were okay, but they weren’t serving my story anymore. Not since I came up with my electric idea. I tried to work in my new idea. I really did. But I couldn’t make it mesh. I felt excited about the new parts and just so-so about the rest. So even in the first draft stage, I had to do it. I had to kill my darlings. FYI I did save them to another document just in case I change my mind. I don’t think I’ll change my mind though. This story is better without them—even if I’m only left with my original three pages and now four new ones. Yikes. I kinda feel like I’m starting over.

And this is exactly why I’m documenting the life of my manuscript with these Monday posts. I want to show you that writing a novel is not easy. It’s not simple. It’s not clean. In fact, most of the time, it’s pretty messy. But it can be done. And for me, for this manuscript, messy is how it is right now. It takes me a really long time to solidify and idea in my head. But when I finally do, I can write with the wind at my back and wheels on my feet. But until then, I push against a brick wall sometimes… until I find my sledgehammer—or at least a really sharp chisel.

Some people write their first draft with a bit of word vomit. (The brave writers doing NaNowWriMo come to mind!). They write and write and write until they have a completed first draft. They don’t revise at all as they go. They save that for draft two and usually three, four and five too!

Other writers write, but then revise those same words the next day before they can add to their word count. That’s me. If I write 1,000 words on Monday, I have a really hard time writing anything more on Tuesday until I’ve re-read what I wrote on Monday first. I need to see where I’ve been before I can go anywhere else with the story and in the process, I usually edit as I go. But as you can imagine, that makes for much slower writing. The first draft can take twice as long that way, probably because at the end it’s actually the second draft instead of the first.

I guess that’s why I changed so much of my MS so early into the draft. I wasn’t happy with where the story was headed. I needed to make a clean break, before I could move forward. That’s the way I write all my first drafts. Do you think that’s crazy?! Do any of you write like I do? Do any of you write a first draft without revising as you go? I guess there’s no right or wrong way. I think that whatever way feels comfortable for you is the way to go. As long as you’re getting the draft completed, it’s all good!

So on that note, I am thrilled with my story right now, however short it may be. I have a lot of words to write this week, but that’s okay. The clean break has given me a fresh perspective on the tone of this story and on my new characters. That’s success in my book, and more importantly, I’m excited to keep writing! So maybe I haven’t lost my mind after all. 🙂

How about you? What works for you when you draft? Whatever way it is, I hope you’ll get lots of words on the page this week…whether they concern dragons or misfit toys; a boy wonder elected leader of the universe; or a college girl hell –bent on saving her relationship and her school! Whatever they are, I hope they make the page sparkle!

Rut or Routine?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my writing routine. More specifically, I’ve been wondering if I actually have a routine at all.

Like most aspiring authors, I spend some of my free time, searching the internet for author websites. I like reading bits and pieces of information about them, like how long they’ve been writing, what they do in their spare time—anything that makes them unique. For me it’s puts a picture (actual or imagined) in my mind of the person they are. I’m always curious to see how these real life people align with the words and characters they put on the pages of books!

Many authors talk about their writing routines. They describe in detail the times, the objects, and the places that best help them write their books. Some, I’ve found are downright superstitious. They can only write at one particular time of day, in one particular chair, with one particular cat resting on their lap, with coffee in one particular mug, etc, etc.

Some are less rigid. They talk about writing all day long in their pajamas. Others mention coffee shops, or music playlists, or writing 888 words per day no matter what. No more. No less.

With all of these descriptions, I conjure in my head images of real writers—real authors. They all have some sort of routine. They have a system. It helps them to be productive. It helps them churn out amazing work…and then I think, if so and so real life published author has a system like that, maybe I need one too!

It comes as no surprise to me that the idea of a writing routine intrigues me. I was a psychology major after all. Moreover, I live in a fairy tale world most of the time, thinking about the way I’d like things to be in my own perfect little world.

Let me give you some examples…

I wanted my high school prom to be magical because Seventeen magazine told me it would be. I wanted to have a trunk to bring my belongings to college because again, Seventeen magazine told me I needed one. I wanted to ride in a carriage on my wedding day because that’s what all princesses do. (Okay maybe only Cinderella, Diana, and Kate but still). I wanted my daughter and son dressed in matching holiday clothes when they were little because well, I don’t know why. I guess I thought all perfect moms paid attention to details like that!

So yeah, I admit, I’ve lived in a fairy tale world most of my life. Real life has softened my views and definition of the whole fairy tale thing a bit over time, but the way my mind works hasn’t changed much at all. I am still fascinated by why other people do what they do, and I have very definite ideas of the way I’d like things to be—in my own personal world.

So what does that have to do with writing routines?

Well, as any writer will agree, getting published is tough. And while we all may know in our realistic minds that the most important requirement in getting that elusive agent or book deal is to write a phenomenal story, we may also think that some of these other things may help us get there faster.

Like writing in one particular reclining chair, with one particular mug of flavored coffee, from 10am-2pm.

But I don’t have a routine like that. My life (probably like many of yours) is way too chaotic. On the other hand, I do know what doesn’t work for me.

I can’t write with music playing. It’s way too distracting. I start singing and remembering where I was the last time I heard the song and I lose my train of thought. It also gives me a headache.

I can’t write in a desk chair. I can read emails or research that way, but I can’t draft or revise in a chair like that. I need to write in a recliner, on my laptop. Or I can write in a recliner type chair with a notebook and pencil. Apparently my mind can’t create unless my body is in a reclined position. Strange. That’s why I was able to write Monday’s blog post on the train. The seats reclined!

I can’t write late at night. It’s like the daytime sucks out all my creative juices. Early morning is best for me, but unless I start at 5am, I have to wait until the kids are off to school and I’ve organized my morning. Usually around 8:30am. If I have a work project, (like most days) then I can’t write until later in the afternoon or after dinner. Not ideal for me, but I make it work.

I can’t write so well in a coffee shop. I’ve tried. I do sit there at a table with my laptop or tablet–but I’m so preoccupied with the idea that I must look like a real writer sitting there writing in a cute coffee shop with my yummy flavored coffee drink that I don’t actually write much. After an hour or so, I end up packing up and writing at home!

In all of this obsessing about my routine, I have determined something. There will always be people who do things differently than I do. And with all the information out there on social media and on the internet, it’s hard not to measure yourself against them. Maybe reading that kind of information may not be the best way to keep yourself focused on the important stuff.

I may not have a writing routine like some other writers (published or not). I may have to write in between car pooling, working, cooking dinner, watching my family’s sporting events, helping with homework, walking or running, and most of all sleeping…but I do have a system.

And here it is: I make writing a priority. I write just about every day. Just like taking care of my family is a priority, so is writing. I feel empty and frustrated if I can’t do it. I feel happy and energized when I do. So whether it’s a 5am spurt for and hour and a half, an after lunch two-hour session, or a before bedtime race to get my words in, I do in fact make writing part of my overall daily routine.

And I do always write in a recliner of some sort. So I guess there’s that! Maybe when Starbucks puts some new chairs in, I may give the old coffee shop another try. Or maybe I’ll get so sick of writing in my own recliner that I’ll try something else. I don’t want to be stuck in a rut after all. I read something somewhere by someone that being stuck in a rut is not good for being creative! But that’s another story… 🙂

Manuscript Monday #10

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 10 week- old manuscript:

There’s nothing like a break from everyday life to rejuvenate your writing.

As I write this post, I’m riding the train from NYC back to my home in Upstate, NY. It was a crazy fun, action packed weekend… We started in the wee morning hours each day and didn’t stop until late at night. It’s amazing just how much there is to do in the City!

We shopped on Fifth Avenue. We ate mouth- watering meals at both restaurants and corner delis. We caught Aladdin on Broadway, (the boys caught a Rangers game). We checked out the Wax Museum and the MET, the Empire State Building and the Reflecting Pools at Ground Zero. We found a hidden French dessert café overlooking the city. We cheered for the NYC Marathon runners (including my husband)! And we took pictures. Lots of pictures!

I loved spending the whole weekend like this with my family. NYC is amazing, but I realized I am so not a city girl. My daughter actually navigated most everyplace her and I went alone. I am directionally challenged to say the least. But I do love to visit from time to time. For me it’s such an adventure. I have to say though, that after non-stop walking, subway riding, and racing from place to place, I am exhausted and thrilled to be headed home. Thrilled to get back to writing…

Because Week 10 of my baby manuscript went so well! Before we left for the weekend. I made a lot of progress on my draft. I told you about the electric idea I had. Well this week I was able to turn the ideas I had drafted and expand on them. I’m thinking the stuff I wrote last week was pretty solid because I was able to continue with what I started. I kept writing and writing and it felt great.

I’m falling in love with this story. Yay! How great is that? I know you know the feeling. It happens to all of us from time to time. And the best part is that I can’t wait to draft again tomorrow. Being away from this story for even the weekend has made me miss it all the more. It helps too that a change of scenery has given me a brain-full of story ideas. People watching and listening in a new place will do that for you. And let me tell you, if you’ve never been to NYC, you should! The people are friendly, but incredibly varied. People watching at it’s very best!

So at week 10, I guess this story is moving forward. Like I said, my goal is to write 500 words a day. I stuck to that this week. I did not stick to that this weekend, but I’m okay with that. The break has made me anxious to get back to it and who knows…maybe I’ll write double that tomorrow. 🙂

For those of you wondering how my Marathon Man did at the race…He did well! Marathon #11 is in the books. 🙂 But the run was not without struggles. He ran with a relentless cough and head cold. The day was 40 degrees with wind gusts of 40 miles per hour. (Yikes!) There were 51,000 finishers so it was tough for anyone running to navigate the crowds and keep their pace. So he did not get a PR (personal record) but he was very pleased anyway. He ran with amazing people through 26.2 miles of an amazing city. The experience of that alone made it special for him—and for us too!

So like I said last week, I’ll keep striving to reach my writing goal as he has strived to reach his running ones. It’s always fun to cheer each other on! I hope all of you will do the same. I hope this week will be a good one for you. And remember, if you think you can’t write one more word, I’m here to tell you that you can. You’re the only one who can write your story. So go on. Write it! Your characters are waiting for you to give them something great to do. 🙂