goals

Goals for 2017 – Writing, Reading, Relationships, Peace of Mind

goals-for-2017

Hello, fellow book junkies! Happy New Year! ‘Tis the season, so I’ll get this out there. In putting together my goals for 2017, I’ve kept things simple and focused on what will give me joy and peace of mind. Here are my:

Goals for 2017.

  • Finish writing & polishing YA dark modern fantasy manuscript by May 1, 2017.
  • Read more YA books featuring bi females and write a blog post about them.
  • Spend time with people. Nurture relationships.
  • Walk every day.
  • Keep going on Saturday morning hikes.
  • Read 96 books.
  • Devote more time to keeping the house looking nice.
  • Never, never, never, never give up.

–Eve Messenger

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Library-Hopping Adventure #amwriting #amreading

Huntington Beach library.jpg

Huntington Beach Public Library – As an elementary school student, I used to ride my bike here and spend the afternoon reading books and magazines.

For a huge book nerd like me, libraries are a retreat, a sanctuary even. Sometimes, like today, a library can even be an adventure. Some libraries are tiny, old, and in need of fresh paint. Others are vast, with elevators, conference rooms, fancy patrons’ plaques on the wall, row after row of study carrels, sometimes with gardens and statuary on the grounds outside. As long as friendly books line the walls, I’m happy; I feel safe.

When I have time, I like to leave the house to write. With fewer distractions and a deliberate plan that includes getting dressed up and packing supplies (laptop, bottled water, sometimes notes), I usually accomplish a lot more. In the evenings and early mornings, I’ll write at Starbucks, but libraries are my preferred destination. Usually I write in our awesome, recently remodeled local library or sometimes at the university library a 15-minute walk from home. On the weekends, I might visit the regional library in the next city where a friend works as a children’s librarian.

I live 15 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, but today I happened to be in a coastal town called Corona del Mar. I had my laptop with me, so after completing my errand I decided to go on a little writing adventure to a library I’d never visited before. Thanks to Siri, it was easy to find the nearest library just a couple of miles away. I took the elevator up to the second floor and set up my laptop in a cozy alcove near a window overlooking a perfect Southern California day. A short while later a woman joined me in the alcove. She tapped away at her laptop, too, and it was nice to have writerly company.

I had so much fun today on my mini-adventure to a new library that now I want to library-hop every week. Maybe, with each new library I write in, I’ll take a picture and post it on my blog.

–Eve Messenger

What I Learned as a Writer in 2015 #writerslife #amwriting

In pursuing my ambition to publish great YA novels, here are some things I learned over the past year:

  1. Beyond the thrill of being able to express my passion for writing and books, there are great benefits to blogging, the best of which is getting to know creative, supportive fellow writers and book lovers, many of whom I now consider friends. I see you, Tracy L. Jackson, Beth @ betwixt-these-pages, Kelly Deeny, Elena Johansen, FamilyRules, Wallace CassAnnika Perry,  Pat Sherard, The Glitter Afficianado, Stephanie @ Eclectic ScribblingsMelanie Noell Bernard, Nate Philbrick,  Sabrina Marsi BooksJennifer F. Santucci, Mackenzie BatesStephanie @ yourdaughtersbookshelf Karen @ MyTrain of Thoughts,  Amanda d Bat,  Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand StoriesErica @ Books the Thing,   the bookwormgirls123.
  2. I am better at editing a first draft on the computer than on a hard copy, even though a lot of advice-givers recommend against it.
  3. A style sheet is helpful, especially for tracking important plot dates.
  4. Literary agents are regular folks and book lovers just like us.
  5. To write first drafts without censoring myself.
  6. To create headers for each scene in Word so I can easily find them later using the navigation screen.
  7. To  keep a “book blurb” Word file for when I feel especially excited about my novel and get ideas on how to pitch it in future query letters.
  8. Short stories are not my preferred medium; what I truly love is writing novels (and I’m sort of learning it’s okay to be better at some things than others.)
  9. Flash fiction is fun…and challenging.
  10. Collecting images for novel inspiration boards on Pinterest is a blast and really does stimulate ideas.
  11. It’s still great to be able to hold a book in my hands, but reading novels on electronic devices won’t kill me.
  12. I want to get more into #bookstagram and #booklr.
  13. Saving the previous draft of a story before making editing changes avoids a lot of lost good writing.
  14. All writers, even the most successful ones, find writing novels to be really hard work.
  15. When I stay away from my novel for too long, I forget I’m actually good at writing it.
  16. Even when I’m afraid to work on my novel, I do have the discipline and faith to always return to it.
  17. Daily writing goals and rewards make me a much more productive writer.
  18. My writing really does improve with practice.
  19. Beta critiquing other people’s novels makes me a better writer.
  20. Google Docs is a really handy tool that allows me to work on manuscripts on my phone, home computer, out-of-town relatives’ computers, and hotel lobby computers. . . but I still always keep multiple back-up copies of my work.
  21. A change purse is a great place to keep a flash drive.
  22. I really am dedicated to publishing YA novels and maybe, just maybe, I am worthy of success.

How to Motivate Yourself to Finish Your Novel #amwriting #writerslife

As my adored and esteemed writing friend Tracy L. Jackson once wisely said, “Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint.” Good advice! Completing a marathon–just like completing a novel–takes endurance. And, despite our hard work and passion for writing, sometimes we lose our motivation. Why? What are the internal hurdles that get in our way?

The main hurdle is fear. I’ve never finished a book before–I mean, really finished, as in multiple drafts rewritten and polished to completion (notice I didn’t say “perfection.”). Over the past couple of years I’ve knocked out first, second, and thirdish drafts of three novels, and the process has taught me a lot, but now I’m working on a novel that I really want to take all the way to publication, and I want to do the story and characters justice.

That’s scary. Maybe there are some writers out there who write and write and rewrite and let nothing stand in their way until their novels are finished. Maybe I’m not that ballsy, but I am no less committed. For me, the process of writing (and finishing) novels includes figuring out how to get past the hurdles.

For example, I recently stood at the glorious precipice of two blissful weeks of winter break: no work to report to every day, pretty much all the free time I wanted, and yet I found myself stalling, stalling, stalling and finding a million reasons not to work on my novel. To get past this hurdle, here’s what I told myself:

Close Your Eyes
Breathe
Shift Perspective

Then. . .

Visualize Your Success

For me, visualizing success means seeing a row of my published novels sitting on a shelf. That simple, but it still wasn’t getting me working on my novel. There were FAR too many other, fun, easy ways to occupy my  vacation time: playing with the dogs, checking out my husband’s woodworking projects, blogging, finding out why the neighbors are moving, playing online word games. Everything except writing. So I asked myself:

Do You Want to Publish Novels?

Of course, my answer was a resounding yes. So . . .

Find a Way to Get Excited about the Novel

I reached into my bag of tricks and found something to get me excited about working on my novel–the kind of excitement and enthusiasm that supersedes fear.

In this case, I recalled how one of my dream agents told me that, even though she’s currently closed to queries, she will accept my mine. . . as long as I send it before the end of January 2016. (Yikes, that’s coming up soon). Remembering this got  me excited and served as a powerful motivator to work hard at finishing my novel.

Set Goals and Track Progress

Setting writing goals has helped me enormously over the past few years, so when I hit that “stall wall” at the beginning of winter break, I sat down and decided on a reasonable writing/editing goal of two hours day (including weekends). Then I did something I’ve never done before: I created an Excel spreadsheet to track the time I put in each day. “Clocking in” on that spreadsheet and seeing my writing time add up has been indispensable for keeping on track with my writing goals. Here’s a copy of my Writing Time spreadsheet in case you’d like to give it a try.

Reward Yourself

Most of us probably can’t afford to reward ourselves with new cars or spa days for achieving our writing goals, so what I did was pay a visit to OrientalTradingCompany.com and buy myself a set of stickers. Yep, that works for me because, in my world, no one is too old for stickers! And I’m not too proud to admit that I gleefully pore over that sheet of stickers and choose exactly the one I want to reward myself with when I complete my writing goal for the day.

Stickers - 50 United States rotated.jpg

Doing all of this helped me climbed the “stall wall” and, as always, the more I work on the novel, the more I fall in love with it, which makes me WANT to return to it each day.

–Eve Messenger

Writer, How Do You Reward Yourself?

Closeup image of notepad with pen.

In the amorphous, potentially unstructured existence of a writer, it can be easy to fetter away precious writing time with distractions around the house, catching up on our favorite literary agents’ tweets, researching story tidbits, getting our slippers on just right, you name it. Before you know it, writing time vanishes and it’s time to interact with humanity, do chores, earn a paycheck, whatever.

Enter: goal-setting.  Setting goals, and rewarding myself when I achieve them, has made me a much more productive writer. Goal-setting certainly isn’t a new idea — tons of prolific authors do it. Crime thriller novelist Elmore Leonard wouldn’t allow himself a cup of morning coffee until he’d put in an hour of writing. That’s dedication. ::sip::

GOALS

Having a prioritized list of writing goals on hand really helps keep you focused. Some examples from my writing to-do list include:

[ ] write next two chapters of WIP

[ ] spend 30 minutes outlining next book

[ ] edit new draft of short story

REWARDS

Along the way, as you accomplish your writing goals, it’s important to reward yourself. This, I think, is the part a lot of people overlook. Here are some examples of rewards I give myself.  I’m always on the lookout for new ones, so if you’ve got good suggestions for rewards that cost little to no money, please post in the comments.

  • green pens – I don’t really have writing superstitions or inclinations other than this:  I love editing in green ink.
  • small notebooks for jotting down story ideas where cell phones aren’t convenient or allowed.
  • online subscriptions to sites like Duotrope and QueryTracker
  • allowing myself to spend time on social media, blogs, author sites, etc.

I hope this helps you in some way. Happy writing!

When a Writing Dream Becomes a Mission #amwriting

Dance leap on the beach

Two years ago, my lovely, well-read, Russian friend Irina and I were chatting over coffee, reflecting on how some people seem to soar toward their dreams while others — like us — do not. “Break through the wall,” Irina said. Somehow, those words resonated. Each night after my family settled into their beds, I held her words close as I stole upstairs and Just Wrote.

I finally started working on a novel idea that had been kicking around in my head for years– through countless short stories, writer’s workshops (in one of which I met my future husband), a writing conference or two, a local writers’ network I founded that lived on long after I left it. After that one conversation with Irina, I started my novel, one character, one plot idea at a time.

And then abandoned it.

A few months later, I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month, jumped in with both feet, attended write-ins, checked off goals. And I completed the novel. Or a semblance of one. A rambling, complicated mess, actually. But alone in a Starbucks just before closing time I typed these words: “The End.” And I cried. I collected myself, went to the counter to buy a green tea, and when the Starbucks employee gave it to me for free he was joining my celebration and didn’t even know it.

I printed out the manuscript of my first novel, wrote out the scenes on flash cards, tried reordering them all into a semblance of a logical narrative. Then gave up.  I put the manuscript in a drawer, tossed the pile of scene cards on top, and left it.

But I kept writing.

Short stories, more novel ideas, observations on my fresh return to writing, my fear and excitement over witnessing what had always been a DREAM turning into a GOAL.  About the possibility that maybe it really is Never Too Late.

Then one day a character stepped out onto my page in all her feisty, loyal, kick-ass glory. Her magical world, her concept, all right there. And now I’m completing the third, much improved, 80,000-word draft of her YA fantasy story.

I wish I could explain how I finally broke through the wall. I think part of it is that, for so many years, I limited myself to only writing short stories because that seemed more attainable. But now I was finally allowing myself to write novels. As daunting as that had always seemed, I realized for the first time in my life that writing a novel was possible. And I loved it. Novels made sense to me because they are what I have always read. To be sure, writing a novel is as bloody difficult as everyone says, but I haven’t given up (well, not for more than a couple of days), and ideas for new novels are springing up all over the place.

As a writer, I still battle deep insecurities, but I breathe deep and jump back in to tackle those weak plot points, underdeveloped characters, and bad prose. The answers come. And I feel the shift.

My DREAM has become a MISSION.

–Eve Messenger