New Year, Same Goals!

I am a goal person. A list person. A write it on the list just so I can check it off person. It keeps me focused and motivated. Without them I ride high on ambition and bottom out on follow-through.

Since I last posted I’ve been busy writing children’s nonfiction. It has been so much fun! I really love the middle grade age group, and it is super handy to have a few kids in that range to give my manuscripts a test run.

My goal from last year was to write and submit, and it’s still the same. That doesn’t dishearten me in the least. The more I write, the better I get. I know it’s a process. In fact, I enjoy the process. I’m like a kid digging in the dirt just for the fun of it. In the end, if I end up with a few mud pies to my name, all the better.

SCBWI Mentorship Winner

I mentioned in a previous post how I attended my first SCBWI conference right before COVID-19 shut everything down. It happened to be a Nonfiction Children’s Book conference. I’d just joined SCBWI, I didn’t know anyone going, and I knew next to nothing about the nonfiction children’s market, but I came home from that one-day conference on fire with ideas.

As the people who know me know, there’s really no stopping me once I get an idea. I dove in and drafted 2 nonfiction children’s manuscripts during the next two months. I love research and writing and kids, so it’s really a perfect match for me!

Last month I submitted a book proposal for one of my manuscripts to the SCBWI Michigan Nonfiction Mentorship Contest. It’s called Becoming an Inventor: Train Your Brain to Invent & Explore Your Creativity.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am to announce that I was just announced as the Winner for the Middle Grade (ages 8-12) Mentorship! Suzanne Lipshaw, who I happened to have lunch with at that conference, won the Nonfiction Picture Book Mentorship. I am so thrilled for her as well!

For the next year I will be under the mentorship of Stephanie Bearce, whose awesome children’s books are right up my alley with her Twisted True Tales from Science series, and her Top Secret Files series about real spies, secrets, and covert missions. If your kids haven’t read any of her books, give them a try!

I would like to extend a huge thank you to the contest coordinator, Ann Finkelstein, all the judges, and to Stephanie for choosing to work with me!

A Vote of Confidence

Interruptions are everywhere this week with doctor appointments and half-days at school, but I am getting words in every chance I get. It is so easy to let a lack of progress raise doubts as to my ability to finish this book.

As luck would have it, my award certificates and prize money from a writing conference I attended last fall finally came in the mail. My kiddos were very impressed, and it has helped me push away the doubts.

It was just the vote of confidence I needed!

I actually attended two writing conferences last fall, before NaNoWriMo. Both of the conferences were extremely helpful. The Rochester Writers Conference was local, but its writing contests are open to all. The other one, SMIAH–Storymakers Midwest Indie Author Hub, was in Kansas City.

SMIAH has a number of mini-writing contests, open only to conference attendees. The prizes were small, but I challenged myself to enter as many as possible. You can’t win if you don’t enter, right? As you can see below, I did very well. The best part was that I learned a ton pushing myself to meet the demands of the contests, and as an added bonus, it gave me a lot of visibility as an author at the conference, which led to invitations to join much-needed critique groups.

SMIAH 2019 prizes & certificates

Another result of my contest winnings was that I have been asked to serve on the SMIAH 2020 Committee, and oversee the contests. I won’t be able to enter their contests this time, but I am excited to be able to help other writers get that same vote of confidence in their writing!

*One fun side note: This was my second time going to SMIAH. I won a number of their contests in 2018, as well. One of which was to help name the keynote speaker, Heather B. Moore’s, next book. I won, and the prize was that she would use my name for one of her characters. At this last conference, I just happened to win that very book, pictured above. So, if you read All for You, look for Sarah Lynne. 🙂

Out of Hibernation

After the intense focus on writing for November, it was a beautiful thing to switch it up for December and focus only on family, Christmas, and lots of good food. But, now it’s January, the decorations have been put away, my guests have gone home, and this week the kids are back to school. Time to come out of writing hibernation!

I have to admit, my first steps out of my bear cave have been filled with trepidation. I knew I was at a tricky part in the story. What if I couldn’t figure out what to write? How was I going to tie up all the loose ends? I have found that I can be an excellent procrastinator.

Monday I intentionally took it easy and let some antibiotics battle a sinus infection. Tuesday I finally got around to reading the last few chapters of my story, and then instead of continuing on, I made writing goals for the year. The good thing was that in them, I decided to re-invoke NaNo with a 2,000 word daily goal until I finish my first draft. Starting, tomorrow, of course. 🙂

Yesterday was the day, and it took me half the day to get around to sitting down and writing, but I did it! I got my words in, and now I’m rolling.

This morning I was dead asleep when something in my dream was so humorous that I laughed out loud and woke myself up! Have you ever done that? I’m not sure I have. The bonus was that I could remember it all, and it gave me a great idea for some character development in my story.

I guess even my subconscious is back in the game! 2020 is going to be the best year yet. Happy New Year!

First Time NaNoWriMo Winner!

I just won NaNo! What’s that you say? Why yes, it is the very last day of the month, but that’s not what counts. What matters is that I set this goal to write 50,000 words in one month, and I did it!

My local writing group knows I love to start new stories. I’m really good at first chapters, and even seconds and thirds. Short stories, poems, essays? Totally! But I’ve never attempted a whole novel. I’m easily distracted with shiny new story ideas.

The more I learned about fiction writing and novel structure, the more I wanted to give it a try. Then the doubts set in. Could I write an entire novel? Did I have the stamina? The perseverance?

I owe my success today in large part to a local writing conference I attended where a presenter taught how to set goals and make them happen. Namely it came down to making an actual contract with yourself, setting up rewards and consequences, and recruiting people to check on you throughout the process. The stick, and the carrot, for all us little bunnies.

This worked beautifully for me, and since I won, I don’t have to go scrub out my husband’s work car. Yes, the stakes were high! 🙂

My husband and my kiddos were also a huge part of making this happen. If I succeeded, there was a reward for the kids too–a fun night out, so that helped, but I think they would have done it anyway. Carving so much time for writing out of my days wasn’t easy, and they really picked up the slack.

The best part is that this last week my kids, ages 6-15, have literally begged me to read them a chapter or two from my manuscript each night before bed. It is an upper Middle Grade book, designed for ages 10-14, so it has been perfect to share with them. Their enthusiasm reminds me why I’m doing this.

My word count goal for this novel is more like 60,000 words, as it is science fiction, so I still have about 10,000 to go. And lots of editing! But, I never would have been motivated to push myself this far without the NaNo challenge.

Now that I’ve established a daily writing habit, I plan to keep it up. Perhaps not for as much time, but every little bit gets you one step closer, right? December is going to be a recovery month, filled with family, white sparkly Christmas lights and hot cocoa!

A War of Words

Two weeks in to this challenge, and I just hit 25,000 words. The first week was exhilarating, the second week was grueling, but I am right on schedule. On Saturday my region had a large “Midway Write-In” event. It was fun to write alongside others on the same journey.

I experienced my first “Word Wars” at the event. Basically they last anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes, and you write as fast and furious as you can. It’s all stream of consciousness writing. It’s messy and creative and ensures that your inner editor can’t come out to play.

Since you can’t stop to think or consider how you want a scene to play out, you just jump in. Sometimes I would change my mind part way in, and instead of going back I would just start again, right where I was. The whole focus is on your total number of words written.

It did help me get words down, but honestly, I wasn’t sure how helpful it was for me overall. I don’t want to just write 50,000 words, I want a coherent first draft at the end of this. To do this, I need to strategize and weigh options as I write.

I realized today, though, that it had been a helpful exercise. While I still prefer to take things a bit slower and imagine each scene before writing it, the after effects of the weekend’s Word Wars helped me shove many of my editing urges aside and embrace a more creative approach. Today I am grateful that the words flowed freely. Now I just need to get my snacking under control!