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Writing goals: Did you meet 2011’s? Set 2012’s?

Success and failure sign

©cobrasoft/sxc.hu

I can hardly believe another year has gone by. I don’t know about you, but I love looking back to the goals I set myself on January 1 and remembering what I’ve accomplished this year.

I had set myself some day-job goals (not to be a jerk-wad manager, since I was about to hire my first managee), personal goals (to roll with the punches, since Smarty Pants was set to finish his PhD and would be looking for jobs around the world), and writing goals.

I’m happy to say I met most of my goals.

  1. I wrote and revised my contemporary romance All Things Easy, which I pitched to agents at my first RWA National Conference in July.
  2. I wrote the first draft of another contemporary romance, No Fragile Heart.
  3. I got half-way through revising my first manuscript, First Aid for a Broken Heart.
  4. I made more friends than I could’ve imagined on this blog and on Twitter (thank you, everyone, for the many hours of chatting and thoughtful comments and conversation!).

Goals for 2012

Day job

Since Smarty Pants got a job in the Netherlands, we moved in October and I now have a new day job. I’m so excited about it because it’s full of challenges and opportunities. My main goal is to tackle all of those without sacrificing my sanity, since I usually let myself be consumed by work.

I will probably get to go to Bangladesh and India for work this year, so my other goal is to make the most of those opportunities.

Personal life

I want to start learning Dutch. In the Netherlands, people speak such amazing English that I haven’t had to so far, but I feel awful asking people to speak to me in English. Smarty Pants and I may hire a tutor or take a class so we can at least learn the basics of the language.

Writing goals

This year I will:

  1. Finish revising First Aid for a Broken Heart.
  2. Revise No Fragile Heart.
  3. Write and revise the book that comes after All Things Easy.
  4. Judge three contests and enter three contests.
  5. Go to RWA Nationals and pitch to agents and editors.
  6. Build myself a website.
  7. Continue growing my blog and social media conversations.
  8. Keep track of the books I read on Goodreads.

How about you? How did you do with last year’s goals? What are this year’s goals?

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Greatest hits of 2011 – thank you, readers!

I wanted to say a big, huge thank-you to everyone who subscribed to, commented on and read my blog last year. You guys rock, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you all!

WordPress.com created a 2011 annual report for this blog, and since you’ve all been part of it, I wanted to share it with you.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Since I’m completely un-musical, it’s the only time in my life I’ll ever get to picture the Syndey Opera House packed for my performance.

In case you missed ’em, these were the five most popular posts this year:

  1. The worst thing I’ve ever written didn’t kill me
  2. Why my romance novel hero is the ugliest man in the world (not popular because of the points I made but because I used two phrases that’re Google gold dust: “ugliest man in the world” and “massive penis”)
  3. Guest post by Sara Megibow: being a feminist romance reader
  4. Five things romance novelists should know about vaginas
  5. Describing how a man smells

Click here to see the complete report, including who commented the most.

I can’t wait to connect with you even more in 2012!

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Romance Writers of New Zealand magazine

The Romance Writers of New Zealand very kindly printed one of my blog posts in the June issue of their members’ magazine Heart to Heart!

Even more kindly, they’ve said I could make the pdf available here so people can read it.

My entry is on what novelists should do when writing for the web, but having read through the magazine I’m incredibly flattered to be included alongside some of my favorite writers. Seriously, check out these amazingly helpful articles:

  • How Do You Mend a Broken Scene? by Roxanne St. Claire
  • Five Tips for Getting to Know Your Characters by Tawne Fenske
  • Writing the Best Body Language And Dialogue Cues by Margie Lawson

Here’s the Heart to Heart pdf. Hope you enjoy reading it this weekend, and many thanks to RWNZ!

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Does it matter what an author looks like?

Have you ever scheduled a professional photography session, then woken up five minutes beforehand, not taking time to wash, brush your hair or gather enough energy to smile?

Neither have I—at least, not since a hot guy I liked looked at my college ID photo and said, “Ugh! Looks like you just woke up from a crack sleep.”

Authors take a lot of care over the photo that will be printed in the back of their books and all around the internet as they promote their work. Debut authors today even get their blog, Facebook and Twitter followers involved in selecting the best photo.

Why? Because, to a certain extent, it matters what we look like. We all want to present ourselves in a way that makes readers feel connected with us, and humans connect when they can read signals in each other’s faces—like a friendly smile. And thank God we do that, because looking around the animal kingdom, it seems that the alternative is sniffing each other’s rear-bits, and I dread to think how publishers would replicate that in the back of a book.

The problem is that we’ve all got insecurities, right? Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Several weeks ago I asked a professional photographer friend at work if he’d take some pictures of me for my blog. Most of the photos I have of myself are taken on holiday, where I look happy but sweaty or tired. Ever since Mat agreed to take my picture, I’ve been putting off the date. My hair’s too shaggy. My brows are too bushy. My chin’s too…well, let’s be kind and say “undefined”.

Those are mostly things I can control. But what about characteristics that we can’t control—like our age—which can lead to others judging us?

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A love letter to libraries

This is cross-posted at The Season.

Kids at library

©Loretta Humble/sxc.hu

My father was laid off when I was 11. My mom had recently quit her job to train as a teacher.

Being a worrisome child, my first fear was that we’d lose our home. Mom reassured me that wouldn’t happen. My second fear was that I wouldn’t be able to buy books anymore. Mom said, “Honey, I’ll always buy you whatever books you want.”

I’m not sure whether she underestimated my voracious appetite for stories, or how long Dad would be unemployed, but we soon started frequenting the library instead of the bookstore.

The library in our town was tiny. It didn’t have much of a young adult section, and I was always worried I’d get yelled at if I spoke out loud. It wasn’t my favorite place to be, but it was my main connection to stories that helped me escape the toughest years of my life for a few hours at a time.

Over the last year, there’s been a lot of talk in the UK—as I know there has been in the U.S. and other countries—about saving public money by closing libraries. The arguments in favor of this seem beyond daft to me. How can you quantify all that we’d lose if we lost libraries?
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Embracing inconsistency as a writer

I’d love to be one of those writers who can write a thousand words a day, every day.

Scratch that. I’d love to be a writer who can write FIVE thousand words a day, especially if they were all brilliant words.

But I’m not.

There are some days I can write three thousand words. Others I can write two. Not two thousand. Two words.

I used to beat myself up over this, but self-flagellation never helped improve my consistency.

Then, last week at my day job, I had a revelation that helped me see my inconsistency as something to be embraced instead of flogged.

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The camaraderie of novel writing

One of my favorite things about working in an office is the friendship and support of my colleagues. The people I work with are intelligent, funny and compassionate, and having them around helps me be better at my job. Not only do they keep me sharp and help me out when I need it, but I work harder because I know that my success or failure affects them as well as me.

It’s hard to believe that novel-writing has been a mostly solitary profession since it was invented. Novelists would have talked to each other about form and function and frustration when they met in Parisian cafés and New York bars. But they wouldn’t have had writer-friends available to chat with and spur them on 24/7.

The internet and social media have changed that significantly.

As someone who only started writing novels a couple of years ago, I find the same camaraderie and support that I get in my office in the writing community. And just like in my day job, I find myself working harder and refusing to give up because I know other people care about my success.

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Agents who go tweet tweet tweet

Twitter IconOn Nathan Bransford’s blog the other day, there was an interesting discussion about whether agents should blog and tweet. Apparently some writers think spending time on social networks means agents aren’t doing their real work.

It made me wonder whether these writers were complaining about agents on their own blogs and Twitter accounts. If so, why weren’t they doing their real work: writing?

I live in a virtual world. My work is all online, I communicate with most people I know using some sort of virtual connection, and even the books I write are currently only available if you have access to my laptop.

Connecting with people online is vital, and here’s my defense for why agents should be great at social networking.

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Greatest hits of 2010

1930s calculator

Credit: Oliver Gruener, sxc.hu

When I was in high school, I didn’t play sports. Instead, I met athletes by taking stats for our football team (and our basketball and softball teams, but they were girls so my heart wasn’t really in it).

That’s not to say I’m good at figuring out statistics, and since I rarely use math in my day job I’ve  mostly forgotten how to calculate anything.

I love reading statistics, though, so I was thrilled that WordPress emailed me an overview of this blog’s stats for 2010. I won’t share them all with you, but I wanted to let you know my top posts from last year, in case you missed any of them.

Thanks to everyone who read and commented on them the first time around!

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

What hits your hot button? September 2010

2

Describing how a man smells August 2010

3

Adopting a pseudonym after developing a social media presence October 2010

4

When did category romance get this good? June 2010

5

Writing in an accent that’s not yours September 2010

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Oh, the things you’ll do!

When I graduated from high school, one of my relatives gave me the Dr Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go! The title became my mantra in the seven years or so afterward, as I grasped every exciting opportunity that came my way. I moved from San Diego to Chicago to L.A. to Prague to London by the time I was 26. I took interesting jobs, got two degrees and a teaching certificate, and made a fantastically diverse group of friends.

This year feels like I’m on the cusp of huge changes in my personal life, my writing career life, and my day-job life. I wanted to share with you some of the things I’m most excited about, and the goals I’ve set for 2011.

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