Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

New Wallpaper? January 25, 2011

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 9:26 pm
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You know that old story about the big name writer who got so many rejections before they got accepted they wallpapered a room with them?

I think I will be able to do the same soon! Just got the rejection for my So You Think You Can Write Entry.

I kinda knew it was coming, so I’m not surprised. I subbed to the wrong line, and my synopsis was all wrong, especially for the line I decided to sub to. The story is meant for SuperRomance, but seemed a bit too sexually driven, more Blazeish, so that’s where I subbed. Only problem was, I wrote a SuperRomance synopsis. So I expected the rejection.

Also, the story has changed a lot as I’ve continued writing it. I’m almost relieved to get the R. It would have been messy to get a request for more.

Truly, I am relieved! And I know my story is all wrong for Blaze. Yet there’s still that kicked in the guts feeling. My writing wasn’t good enough, once again.

I’ll keep writing, finish the story. It could well work as a Super. Once I have a little cry.


Multitasking madness! January 18, 2011

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 2:52 am

I’m blogging today over at the group blog Seven Sassy Sisters , on making time to write in a busy, busy life.

Hope everyone is powering on into January!


More on goal setting January 11, 2011

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:21 pm
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Okay, since the last post I’ve read some better bloggers on goal setting in writing.

The Happy Writer is a blog I want to spend a lot more time exploring. She has an excellent post on Happy Goal Setting. Love this idea-

If you make only one resolution this year, looking at the first definition of resolution listed above, make it this one:  I resolve to find ways to be happy in my writing life, to free my creativity by letting go of the tension I feel about my yet-to-be-accomplished goals and the things I have no control over.

It does seem to me that by setting far less ambitious writing goals than I normally do, I have more chance of actually achieving them.

Also, a nice post here by SuperRomance author Holly Jacobs about the difference between dreams and goals.


Setting goals I can keep January 9, 2011

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:51 pm
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How are you doing so far with your New Year’s Resolutions and writing goals for 2011?

Hopefully you did the goalsetting bit right and are powering on with them!

Or have you already broken them?  Or did you not bother making any at all, ‘cos you know from bitter experience all they do is make you feel like a failure?

That’s been me most years, one or the other. I really hope I can do it differently this year. I’m old enough to know better than to keep on doing what doesn’t work. If you are feeling like a failure because you haven’t met your writing goals, that’s not really true. You haven’t failed as a writer. Maybe you simply set the wrong goals. I know I often have.

The New Year starts off all clean and fresh and hopeful and positive, and by around now I am usually sitting in a corner crying and feeling like crap (well, that was yesterday, and it wasn’t over writing, it was over other goals that are less under my control than my writing is).

I have a history of setting crazy high goals I could never manage to keep going longer than three days. Impossible daily word counts, or finishing the story by a date that’s insanely too soon are my favourites. Problem is, every time I crashed and burned and couldn’t do it, I felt like an even worse failure as a writer than I did when I started.

So the easy answer was to give up on goalsetting. I’d write when I wrote, and that was okay.

Only problem with that was, it got me nowhere. Sure, I’d write. Lots of ideas and first chapters that never went any further, because without the discipline of a goal to keep me focused, I’d follow whatever bright shiny idea came along, and never stuck at anything long enough to get results.

Good goals are goals you can keep. Good goals deal with things you can control. Good goals are goals that get you where you want to go.

I’ve had loads of practice setting bad goals. To write 3000 words a day when I have a busy full-time job. To get published by Mills and Boon by the time I was fifty. To enter writing contests that were for lines I really didn’t want to write for. Baaaaad goalsetting!

Good goals start with thinking about what it is you really want, then working out the steps to get there. It’s not usually going to be easy, or doable in one step, or we’d already be there. A bit like that old joke where a lost tourist stops his car to ask a local how to get to the place he wants to be, and the local replies, “Well, if you want to get there, you really don’t want to be starting from here.”

My big dream come true goal is to take early retirement, move back to Australia, and make my living from writing romance. That’s a massive goal. I’m not going to get there from here. But if I can get myself a few steps closer, I might just get to where I can reach “there” from.

Steps to get there- Improve my writing. Learn how to present it better. Submit it to the right places. If I get rejected, learn from that. Either revise the story to submit somewhere else, or start a new story. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and repeat some more.

But those steps aren’t what I really need, either. I need specifics. I need to know what I have to do today and every day to get me there.

I like this blog post where writer Hart Johnson applies science to goal setting. She differentiates between goals and strategies. Goals are the results we want, big aims that break down into smaller stages. Strategies are the things we need to do to achieve those stages, real, concrete, measurable things. 

So, the things that will get me published are to write better, write finished stories, and submit them.  

The practical task that will show I am doing that is to finish my work in progress, edit it up, and submit it.

The strategies to get there are to stick with writing at least 500 words a day on work days, 1000 words a day on non-work days until I finish first drafting the work in progress, my SYTYCW story.  I know this is a realistic, do-able target. 5000 words a week and 55,000 more words to write, so I aim to have that done by the end of March. I need to edit up the first three chapters and update the synopsis, so a realistic subbing target is the end of April. There’s a bit of leeway in there, so if real life gets in the way, it won’t derail me.

Then on to the next step- starting rewrites on my rejected SuperRomance, to sub elsewhere.

So far, 9 days into the New Year, it’s working! Though there’s a lot of year still to go.

It should keep working, because what I have set myself to do is realistic and practical. I’m determined. I’m ready to change the way I do things and make the changes last.  I want 2011 to be the year it happens for me. Maybe not publication with Mills and Boon, but by this time next year I will be published or at least had a story accepted for publication. I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep editing. I’ll keep subbing. I’ll keep learning. I’ll keep growing as a writer. In the end, that’s all it will take- keeping on and not giving up.

Chelsea over at Sassy Sisters  wrote a wonderful post on goal setting that reminded  me of the most important piece of all- celebrating the little successes along the way to the big goal.  

The big goal is so huge- to make my living from writing full-time, that measuring myself against that goal, I feel a constant failure. But there are so many smaller goals along the way I can feel good about, from sending in a sub, to sticking to writing 500 words a day minimum, to finally getting a handle on story structure, to understanding character arc and why proactive characters are so important.

So, wherever you are, if you are powering into the New Year or looking at the flaming wreck of good intentions and wondering why you bothered, remember to celebrate what you have achieved and what you’ve learned. If what you’ve tried isn’t working, it’s never too late to start again. That’s what I keep telling myself.

And it’s true.

If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes. – Andrew Carnegie


SuperRomance blog launch party January 3, 2011

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:29 am

There’s a fab new SuperRomance author’s blog, and the launch party starts today!

Here’s the schedule-

  • Monday, Jan 3rd ~ Tara Taylor Quinn, Author
  • Tuesday, Jan 4th ~ Wanda Ottewell, Senior Editor
  • Wednesday, Jan 5th ~ Karina Bliss, Author
  • Thursday, Jan 6th ~ Victoria Curran, Editor

Looks like fun, and I never say no to a party!


Last chance at free Harlequin ebooks! January 2, 2011

Filed under: What I'm reading — Autumn Macarthur @ 11:35 am
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If you didn’t visit the Try Harlequin site yet to download the sixteen free ebooks they have available- do it now! Then do it again next week.

The current books will be changing to a new selection very soon, and last year’s books won’t be available free anymore.

It’s a fab way to try books from a line you wouldn’t normally buy, and also to get the taste of the different lines if you are writing and aren’t sure which line your story fits. The other thing that’s super useful- it’s possible to gte the books as pdfs so they can be read on anything that reads pdfs. I hate this formatting and drm stuff, especially as Harlequin have stopped supporting mobipocket, the format I used to buy all my ebooks in ‘cos at the time it was the only ebook reader that worked on my pda. I’m now going to have to have three different sets of e-book software on my computer to be able to read books I bought and paid for, which kinda sucks.

But that’s an aside, the real thing I like about having some Harlequins in pdf is it makes it possible to do that thing so many writing workshops suggest- to take a book from the series you are aiming for, get out the coloured highlighters, and mark up different colours for dialogue, physical action, description, introspection, whatever; do the same with one’s own story; compare. I wouldn’t do that with a physical copy of a book, I’m too indocrinated into treating books with respect. But cutting and pasting a big chunk of a pdf into a Word doc, and using the Word highlight works great.

Thanks to Donna Alward for the message in her newsletter that the books will be changing-  Donna’s wonderful Hired by the Cowboy will be the free sweet Romance read. And thanks to Harlequin for making the books available- and for the bonus of new free books yearly- it’s a darned good idea and I hope it results in lots more readers taking a chance on something they wouldn’t normally read- and loving it!


Shiny New 2011! December 31, 2010

It’s that time of year again!

Time to look back and see what I achieved and what I learned in 2010, and set some goals for 2011.

I do feel like I achieved a lot with my writing in 2010. Not The Call, sure, but other valid achievements. I subbed three first chapters, one each to Harlequin Medical Fast Track, Mills and Boon New Voices, and Harlequin So You Think You Can Write. I did the Write-a-Thon I set for myself over Easter, managing over 5,000 words a day to complete a first draft aimed at Superromance, then edited up and subbed the partial. I learned a lot from the rejections, even the form one! So fours subs in a year, considering the most I managed before was one chapter for contests in each of the preceding years, is pretty good going! I have a bulging ideas file, a story in progress, and plans to edit up the rejected Superromance. Daily word counts may not be awesome, but there’s been steady progress. I’ve certainly written on more days than I didn’t!

I’ve done some excellent online workshops this past year – the Margie Lawson and Shirley Jump ones are the stand-outs, and I’m hopin.g to take more workshops with both of them again in 2011. Margie’s insights into how people express emotion through body language and using a character’s body language (she has a broad definition, including everything except the character’s actual spoken words and internalisations) to show not tell, are something I need to revisit (must reread those super-comprehensive lecture notes!.)   Shirley Jump is just plain fun to work with, a fab teacher, and a brilliant writer. I did two online workshops with her, and will be signing up for the next one in February!

I’ve learned plenty through personal reading and workshopping too. Donald Maas’s Writing the Breakout Novel and the Workbook that goes with it helped make some shifts in my writing – not enough to breakout, obviously, but enough for me to see a difference. Do get both if you’re going to do it – yes, there’s some repetition, but the workbook is where things really shifted. I’m glad I broke my bad habit of reading books but not doing the exercises this year!  Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and Save the Cat Strikes Back are fab – I love his style and the Beat Sheet is a brilliant way of looking at story structure. Robert McKee’s Story, which I’m reading now, is a thoughtful and deeper exploration of what it takes to make a well-written story – definitely one to read with either a notebook or a Word file open for all the insights into your current story you’ll get! I bought a few other writing books this year, but haven’t done much with them yet so can’t comment.

So, onto to 2011 and my goals!

I already wrote down some writing goals a couple of days ago over at the Sub Care forum on eHarl. Then, within 24 hours, my goals changed! So I seems to me important to bear in mind when writing goals to  keep them flexible. Some people say very specific, concrete goals work best, measurable goals where it’s easy to say “Yes, I did that”, or “No, I didn’t.” That’s great if you have a totally clear focus. What I found happened was I made the goals, then something changed, became much bigger than I expected if would be, so what I originally planned is going to be impossible to achieve if I do it properly. Maybe one of my goals should be to have  a clearer focus!

What I need is to set small, flexible goals, goals I can actually achieve that don’t pre-set me to fail. I already think I suck enough as a writer, without adding failing to achieve unrealistic goals into the mix too! I liked this post from Kitty Bucholtz. It seems wise to me to set goals that are written on water rather than carved in stone.

Sticking with my goal to write story words every day is totally needed, insisting on trying to stick with my goal to complete and sub two new  full stories in 2011 is not. That could be counter-productive, given that my WIP (currently two chapters and a plan) just morphed from a 55,000 word category romance to a 90,000 word single title romance – and another sub-plot that’s so perfect I have to include it jumped into my mind literally as I am writing this post. It’s as if having given my story permission to be bigger, it’s doing just that.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I have the skills needed to write something of the complexity I’m envisioning. That’s okay. I’m not entirely sure I have the skills to write it as a short category either. What I am going to do is write free of what I think is needed for the Harlequin series I was targeting, and see what I end up with. Trying to write to meet what I perceived to be category requirements just tied me in knots and what I wrote was cliche ridden crap, with cardboard characters just going through the motions in a same old-same old style plot that everyone has seen a million times. I brought nothing new to the table.

It could be that by writing free, I’ll end up with something that actually has some life and originality in it, that could even work for Superromance, the longer (and getting longer again in 2011 – yippee!) category line I love. If not, it will find its home somewhere.

My writing goal for 2011 is to write every day, write without worrying about publishability, and to see what I end up with before I make any decisions what it is or what to do with it. To keep learning and growing as a writer. Oh, and to finish 2011 with a clearer focus.

May we all have a joyous, productive and Call-filled 2011! And may none of us make ourselves miserable by setting unachievable goals. Let’s set goals that stretch us just enough, so we can look back this time next year and celebrate!

Edited to add- I just found this post with some thoughtful and challenging questions about where we are with our writing- may take the time to answer these properly.