Mentors

So today is kind of an exciting day. Not too long ago I got the news that I was selected to receive a mentor in my romance writing career through Los Angeles Romance Authors or LARA, the LA chapter of RWA. This is super exciting because, well, not everyone finds a mentor their first time applying to the mentorship program. You have to be far enough along in your career that you have some work to show your mentor, but not so far along as to not merit a mentor.  This bodes very well for me.

As you can probably tell if you have been reading this blog or if you know me well, I am a great student. If I have the motivation of a teacher, group, or grade, you can always count on me to do my best work. As an individual though, the story is never as good on the page as it is in my head. Since no one knows I thought of it anyway, who will care if I do not write it? Having a mentor will help me get out of this mindset because no matter what, I do not want the relationship to be a waste of time. Translation: even if the work is crap, work shall be turned in; and no work turned in can be crap. Get it? I think this is going to be fun.

Though I am thrilled to be working with a mentor, I will not be sharing the nitty gritty details of that relationship as it should be kept confidential. I will share the broad strokes whenever I learn something that could be helpful to all authors and I am quite sure with my mentor that will be often.

Who are the other writing mentors in your life? I have an official one, but I have many others that are cheering me on from the sidelines. When thinking of writing in terms of a career, it is important to not only have someone to guide you through the submission process, but also to guide you through business decisions, and what I like to call “sparkle” decisions. More on that later but in short, we need to sparkle on the page and whenever we go in the room and that has everything to do with what we are wearing as well as how we are feeling on the inside, and of course what ends up on the page.

Think about who your mentors are in your writing life. If you do not have any, get some! They are imperative to the process. Maybe you will not find someone to specifically guide your career to publication but you can learn and garner inspiration from everyone around you if you simply look for it.

 

Until Next Time,

 

~V


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Get It In

Gentle readers, are you “getting IT in?” Apparently this is fitness lingo that those of us who are absorbed into that world use on a regular basis. Trainers and gym rats alike toss this phrase back and forth to encourage each other over Facebook posts, text messages and in every day conversation. The first time that my fitness coach said this to me the other day via text message, I screwed up my face in question and replied, “Getting what in?”  Of course she was asking whether or not I had done my daily workout. I had not, and somewhere in the depths of her all-knowing “trainer-ness,” she knew it. I mentally prepared myself to work out that evening because I did not want the day to go by without getting in that time to work on my body.

The same can be said of writing. Showing up to the page is a big part of this “getting published” thing. Funny how if you do not write there are no words to edit, submit, or publish? I have written more than one post on showing up to the page. That is because essentially it is more important than anything—including the quality of your words. That may be a radical statement, and some writers might disagree with me vehemently, but we only need read certain series by certain authors about certain supernatural beings to know that quality is not often the deciding factor in whether or not something gets published. You have to write something for it to even stand a chance.

This month I am trying to not only get in the work out, but also get in the writing. Last time I wrote about making the hard decisions to do what it takes to carve out the time for writing. Showing up to the page exhausted is just as ineffective as showing up to exercise for an hour and a half when you are already falling asleep. All things work together, friends. At the end of this month I have a goal to complete my first submission packet and get the first chapter of my manuscript pristinely edited so I can begin to enter some contests.

I will be sharing the process with you so you can start judging whether or not the contest arena is for you. Advice I have received from other writers is that if you do not win it is no different than not entering in the first place. But if you DO win, then HEY! In the mean time, let us all “GET IT IN!”

 

Until Next Time,
~V


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It’s All Up to You

So I love romantic comedies. One of my favorites is Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces. It was on this morning as I was stumbling out of bed and making myself presentable while guzzling a giant energy drink before driving an hour to work. Of course I thought I was just enjoying a lovely story of two people falling in love, but I was struck by Streisand’s character Rose. As the ultimate anti-heroine, Rose was everything Jeff Bridges’ Gregory did not want in a woman. After realizing their relationship would be sexless because Gregory simply was not attracted to her, Rose set about totally revamping her life. She got a makeover, changed her diet, and began to eat healthy foods.

What struck me most about this sequence in the film was not that Rose was trying to get Gregory back, but rather, she had recognized all the ways in her life in which she was not doing her best. Where had she let herself go and stopped trying because she decided she was not worth the effort? Immediately, this made me think of my writing career.  Like Rose, had I just accepted certain things about my life and writing schedule? I used to say to myself, “I only have time to write on the weekends,” or “I only have time to write when my bosses are out of town,” or “I only have time to write when I am on vacation.” I already know that is not true because I successfully completed NaNo WriMo this past November, and years ago I wrote consistently, almost five pages every day. Life has changed a lot since those days. So what is the lesson in this when it comes to writing? Like Rose, I have to take a long hard look at my schedule. Am I really doing everything I can to put my writing first in my life? I decided before writing this post to make a list of the things I can definitely do to make my writing a priority.

1.)    Go to bed earlier. This one is especially hard because I love staying up late to watch things like Revenge and Project Runway. I mean, don’t we all? But see there’s this thing they invented called DVR and the internet.

2.)    Wake up earlier. I am always tired in the morning and that is probably because I watched three back to back episodes of Top Chef and capped it off with an episode or two of Hoarders and Intervention. But you see I do not have time for all the things….

3.)    Exercise. I feel better when I do, let’s just face it. I might not feel better DURING the exercise but I feel accomplished rather than sluggish at my desk. My work performance is better and I leave work feeling better about myself and don’t need as much time to decompress from the stress of work and commuting. Funny how that works.

4.)    Write. That is probably the most important thing, eh? If I wait for the muse or only write the exciting scenes and avoid editing (ahem, NaNo who?), then I will only pick up that manuscript once a month.

We need to take a page out of Rose’s book. After all, not only does she transform herself, but she does not compromise or play small when Gregory does not react positively to our changes. Our bosses, partners and children may not like our lifestyle changes but if we want to write—we have to, you know, DO IT.

Until Next Time,

~V


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Words Get in the Way

Write ALL the words? That is the kind of mood I have been in lately. The amount of editing and rewriting and chopping and deleting that is necessary to make my manuscript ready for the national conference in Anaheim (RWA) is making me seriously depressed. I am not depressed because I do not have a good story. On the contrary, everyone I have let get near the thing seems to think that the story is worthy and with some work is publishable. So that is a step in the right direction. Still, the level of work brings about sudden urges to finish knitting that baby blanket for my friend or clearing off the DVR by watching those saved up episodes of Hoarders.

What do you do when you hit a writing block? Ideas for new stories are coming fresh and furious. I need only look out the window for my mind to conjure up ideas about new romances. Yet the road from great idea to fully finished novel is a long and winding one. Sometimes the answer is to keep plugging away at it (actually that is ALWAYS the answer) but beyond that you also have to recharge the batteries. Step away from the screen for a moment and do something that restores you and reinvigorates you. Just stop thinking about it for a while and let it come back to you.

How long should you go on hiatus? I would love to give myself (and therefore all of you) permission to run away from your manuscripts for the next week and go an adventure to Disneyland or something. I cannot do that but I can give us all permission to do something else for ten minutes. I am going to put on some Fleetwood Mac and dance around my room and pretend that I can sing like Stevie and play guitar like Lindsey. Then I will be back and I promise to let my hero and heroine get out of that room that is quickly filling with water.

Until next time,

~V


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Finding Your Vision

How do you see yourself? Do you have an image of who you are as a parent, spouse or employee? Today I want to talk to you about creating that vision for your writing career. Before this year it was not something I had ever thoughtfully considered. I was just someone with an admin career that was interested in writing romantic stories and reading them in my imaginary spare time.

But this year I decided to get serious. Not only was it important to have a vision for the stories I wrote, to know where the characters were going, but also I needed to have a vision for my career and how I would achieve those goals. What do writers look like? Is there a uniform? We have the unique circumstance as writers to devote ourselves to the practice Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 but that is not often when the muse strikes. We can be disciplined enough to write regularly, but we are not confined to certain hours or locations or clothing. But plotting this course is as important as plotting a novel.

My friend and future guest blogger for this site is Christine Rose Elle, who you can learn more about at her website of the same name. Meeting her last year helped me to realize that not only do I need to come up with a regimen for writing but a regimen for me. Christine asked me to come up with my Author Image Vision. The Author’s Image Vision considers all factors of the writer’s life. What will my fully realized author persona dress like? I used Pinterest to search for some cool expensive outfits that I will wear when I am published and making a living with my work. What time of day will I rise and when will I write?  I love to sleep in and when I do not have an alarm to answer to, I will sleep two hours later than I currently do. I cannot wait.

What other parts of my life will I develop in order to advance and enrich the writer’s life? Diet, exercise, and relationships are also important. If we do not feel well how can we create? Have you ever tried to write the next great romance while you are breaking up with someone? Or on a diet and starving? Or simply sleep deprived and over worked?

Sleep is important to me. Yoga and meditation are important to me. Chocolate and cupcakes are extremely important to me. I write better when all these things are in my life. When I pick up my clothes and hang them up, or de-clutter my writing space and throw away the piles of mail, I am actually manifesting that which I want in my future writing life. I achieve it in the future by doing it now—today, and every day.

Share in the comments anything you would like about your Author Vision. Be specific. Do you do book signings? Do you lecture on romance at RWA conferences? Do you write from a cozy brownstone in New York? Visualization is so important. Perhaps you have already achieved some of your author visions.  If you have, share that with us too!

Until next time,

 

~V


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Creating Your Space

I’m going to tell you a secret. I have a really messy closet. That mess extends to the floor outside my closet and on Thursdays, it extends past my writing desk and all the way into the hamper in the bathroom. This messy living sometimes seeps over into very messy writing. I am an instant gratification kind of girl and this inevitably leads to rushed writing that requires a lot of editing.  Why am I baring my soul and admitting such a thing to you? Well for one, I believe when we admit to having crazy writing habits and writing environments it frees up the newbies among us to realize there is no magic secret to getting that manuscript finished and you can do it in almost ANY environment with any kind of schedule. But I digress.

Earlier this month I was in a rut. Bored with my manuscript and overwhelmed with the changes I knew it needed to be submission ready, I needed something new and creative to stimulate me. I decided to take on the challenge of de-cluttering my closet. I needed to get that pair of baggy jeans off my key board in order to meet the daily word count challenge I set; needed that pile of fresh but wrinkled towels to move their way off of my monitor so I could see those notes from my editor. What was different about this challenge was that I did it with my Career Success Group (more on them in the future).  We challenged ourselves to do a cleaning sprint, much like the writing sprints we have all heard about in NaNo WriMo. For two uninterrupted hours, at the exact same time on the same date, the four of us took to our closets and made a pile of clothing to donate and a pile of clothing to throw away. If it has a hole, tear, or stain, it is time to say goodbye.

In two short hours my closet went from being so stuffed I could not close the door, to having absolutely NOTHING on the floor except a set of hand weights. I breathed deeply. I threw away four bags and donated one. I had no idea how much was clogging up my environment. So how does this relate to writing?

When we are editing a manuscript it can be hard to rid ourselves of favorite passages or scenes. No matter how much we love them we cannot make them fit into the story. So we linger in the stage of trying to figure out how to make them work instead of just hitting that delete button and moving on. I am a great offender of this. My words are like gems—precious, rare and expensive! My time is precious so when I finish a page it is difficult to find any reason to delete that hour of work—even if it does not benefit the story.

Also, consider this—after I donated that pile of clothes and removed them from my environment, I had more room in my closet to go shopping.  Once that page of word-clutter (so I made up a word) is gone, it opens up the creative juices to let new scenes and ideas come shining through.  You may even be motivated to put a toe into new waters and write for another organization—like the LARA newsletter!

So here is my challenge to you! Take a moment to throw away that six month old pile of mail on your writing desk. Toss out the old pens that you love but have long since run out of ink and are chewed to the point of pain. Most importantly, if a passage is not working DELETE IT and move on. Trust that new and better words, the right words for your manuscript, will come.

 

Until next time,

 

~V


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Dreams

Gentle Readers,

I was having a hard time coming up with something to write about today and then I got an email from a new friend and my whole day changed. She asked me if I was nervous about joining a new group of people and becoming a genuine author—as though writing romance and admitting it to your friends was something that some people are embarrassed about.

If you know me, you know I’ve never been ashamed to say I love everything about soap operas, cupcakes and Josh Holloway and not necessarily in that order on any given day. I’ve never been embarrassed to say that I write about romance and that I love to read romance. I think the world would be a whole lot better if everyone grabbed a paperback and sat down to read some Diana Gabaldon or Loretta Chase every once in a while. But her question got me thinking.

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And Now For Something Completely Different

Gentle Readers,

Happy Friday!!

Occasionally I like to tear myself away from the mindless task of editing (what, you’re one of those people that love it?) and talk with all of you about some things I love that have absolutely nothing to do with craft/writing. There are so many fun things going on in my world that I’m excited about that I want to share with you, frivolous though they may be.

One of the things I am most excited about is my varied, hilarious and supportive friends (and that includes you if you’re reading this)! So now that I have this new platform, I’ve invited some of my favorite people to join me here. They have some pretty fantastic things to say. We’ll be talking about any and everything from establishing a Mutual Admiration Society for Alexander Skarsgard (because it’s just NECESSARY) and finding the perfect cupcake in LA (Hello Yummy!) and most importantly, creating that perfect writer’s space (show up to the page)! I don’t let just anyone come and share guest blogs on my website. But if you’re interested, send me a message why don’tcha?

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It’s a Real Day

Gentle Readers,

Today is a real day. Real days are very different from ideal days. You know the ones, where you get up and you’re actually happy to get out of bed, you feel rested, and even the drive to work is surprisingly smooth. You get there, the boss is out of town and it’s the beginning of a three day weekend. You get everything done you planned for, meet the girls for lunch and then you get to leave work early. Don’t you just love those days?

This is not an ideal day. This is a real day where I left late for work, the drive was slow, there was extra construction and the bosses’ car was here when I pulled up. But it’s okay, because I still showed up to the page to write. Of course, this not being an ideal day, I began with checking my email instead of opening up this word processing program and began weeding through the messages. I always check the “Free on Kindle Today” email because I’ve been able to find some gems. What struck me today though is how many self published authors there are out there who have their books up on Amazon. Then suddenly, I knew what I would write about today.

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RWA Conference Registration Open for Anaheim 2012!

Who’s coming to this year’s RWA?? Remember it won’t be in southern California again for another four years so take advantage of that opportunity now! The early bird deadline is from now until April 9th and the registration is $495!

I’m registered and hope to see you all there!

 

go to www.rwa.org to register!

 

~V


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