Saturday, March 27, 2010

9,000 Words (more or less) Left and Counting . . .

It's hard to believe, but the first draft of my first novel is almost complete. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't starting to get a little tired. I love my characters and everything, but we all need some time away from each other.
Who am I kidding? I'm leaving for Texas next Saturday to visit family for spring break and what do you want to bet I'll be holding my completed manuscript in one hand and editing with a red pen in the other while we're up in the air?
I can't help it. I can hardly believe I've made it this far and will soon hold a semi-completed piece of work in my hands. And I even managed to do it without pulling any all-nighters. For me, that is a miracle.
But this final leg of the journey is a little bittersweet. I know that once I return from my trip I'll have to go back to pounding the pavement for freelance work and crafting article queries for magazine editors, which will be hard because writing fiction has been so fulfilling. I can't believe how much it has renewed my spirit and energized me. I am hopeful for the future, and anxious to work on an outline for a new story in the next few months. I highly recommend the Book in a Month program to any writer who wants to take their writing to the next level. It's worked wonders for me!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Home Stretch

Twenty-three days ago, I finally started work on my first novel. I received Book in a Month as a prize in a recent writing contest and used it to give me the final boost I needed to get started. I turned in a few paid assignments at the beginning of March and one yesterday, but other than that, I have been diligently cranking out 2,000-3,000 words a day to get me to my final goal of a 70,000-75,000 manuscript at the end of this month. This is a rough draft at best -- I'm envisioning weeks (maybe months) of revising and hair-pulling beginning April 1, but at least the hard part will be done.
I've had the idea for this book for a few years, but it's amazing how much the plot, tone and characters have changed since I wrote my first outline. It still surprises me how easily the words and dialogue flow once I make the commitment to sit down at my computer each day.
This has not been an easy process. Every now and then, I'll sit down to write and have a panic attack. What if the completed product is no good? Will I ever be able to actually show this to anyone? What scene am I supposed to come up with next? Is this too personal?
I'm feeling a little cranky as I enter the home stretch. The house is a wreck. The inside of my car looks like clowns have been living inside it. Dinner tonight is eggs. Lady Gaga is getting me through with a few dance breaks here and there and my heroine is getting ready to do something really stupid. I'm planning to finally read the Twilight series as my reward after I finish the rough draft. My family has been wonderfully supportive. This morning my 6-year-old daughter asked me how much I was going to get paid for my book. I wish! And I already have an idea for my next book, if you can believe it. Thanks to all my friends who have been cheering me on! And now, back to throwing together dinner for my hungry children.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Healthy Writer

In this week's issue of "The Prosperous Writer," Christina Katz addresses the issue of writers maintaining good health to achieve the ultimate success both professionally and personally. This is a topic I think about often, as my job often calls for me to sit at my desk drinking nothing but coffee for hours on end.
About two years ago I woke up one morning and took a good, hard look at myself in the mirror. While I had reached a point in my career where I had a steady flow of work and a job as a stringer for the local newspaper, my health was suffering. I was at my heaviest and my mood was all over the place. I wanted to be a better role model for my two small children.
Like many writers, I am a person of extremes. In college, I put in long hours working on the campus newspaper sitting in front of a computer, chain-smoking and often eating only one meal a day. Needless to say, I was the skinniest I had ever been in my life, but I was far from healthy, and it took a toll on my mental state as well. Two years ago, the opposite was true. I craved comfort foods, sugary, frozen coffee drinks, and I wasn't getting enough sleep or fresh air. Again, I was not as happy with my life as I should have been.
I made the decision to be a healthier person. I began working with a personal trainer who taught me a great deal about the proper nutrition. Within three months, I had dropped 15 pounds and was running road races and lifting weights regularly. I looked and felt great.
I've now incorporated what I learned then into my daily writing life. I have slip-ups, as do most people, but I try to make it to the gym 3-4 times a week. My mind is so much clearer after I've worked up a good sweat. I also keep cut-up vegetables and hummus and fresh fruit in my refrigerator for morning and afternoon snacks and plenty of water in the bottle on my desk. I still have a love/hate relationship with coffee, particularly around deadlines. I was even able to write and sell a few articles about my lifestyle changes, so my career benefitted from the changes along with my health. What good is a successful career if you don't live long enough to enjoy it?
We all need to be mindful of taking care of ourselves while we're nurturing our inner artist. It's all too easy to let yourself go in the name of a deadline or rough draft that needs revising. Take a look around you and see if there are any health changes you could stand to make. I'm sure we could all find a few.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who Really Gets These Jobs?

At different points in my freelance career, I've focused on scrolling potential job leads each day and applying for a multitude of jobs. These jobs range from article writing, blog posts, editing, public relations, copywriting, etc. I always hear that branching out and diversifying your client base is the surefire way to increase your income.
The problem is, I don't think I've ever gotten one solid job from any of these leads. Right now, the majority of my work comes from editors I've already worked with in the past. I've grown tired of tailoring my resume and writing the perfect cover letter to apply to all these telecommuting jobs I never get.
Are there too many of us out there? Do my cover letters suck that badly? Are the employers who advertise the jobs even serious?
I did recently get a bite from a local posting I found on Craig's List. The potential client e-mailed a group of writers (names were masked) who had obviously responded to the ad, described the project he needed completed and asked us all to give him quotes. I didn't think that was a very professional way to handle the situation, and I don't like quoting on a per project basis with someone I've never worked with before. I e-mailed him my hourly rate instead, and shocker, never heard from him again.
Who really gets all these jobs I like to apply for? I've decided to refocus my efforts on pitching magazines and working on fiction. Maybe I'll actually see results there.
Have you ever found a great gig in the online job boards?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Need More Hours, Please!

There's just aren't enough hours in the day, of that I am convinced. I think that even if I had eight full hours a day to work I still wouldn't get everything done. Who really does right? My husband, a notorious "list guy" always tells me to prioritize the top five things on my list every day and check them off accordingly. Then, carry over what you didn't finish the day before onto your next day's list.
If only I wouldn't keep misplacing my notepad. And post-it notes.
I am working on a big project right now (I'll spill more details later) and once again the house has fallen into a disarray. But having a big extra-curricular (READ: NONPAYING) project to work on in my spare time has helped me prioritize how quickly I get my paying work done, just so I can get back to the aforementioned fun project. It's funny how things sometimes work out that way, isn't it?
Read here for more tips on how to add more hours to your work day. I can only dream of being able to hire a virtual assistant soon to help me with administrative tasks!