Friday, September 20, 2013

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

My apologies for the missed blog last week and this week's being late.  My daughter's bridal shower was held last Saturday, and the days prior to it were filled with chaos.  Such is life. :)

Yes, it's goal-setting time again!

Fall is quickly sneaking up on us, although a high of 92 yesterday made that hard to believe.  But we're cooler today, and fall is in the air.  Fall is my favorite season for just about anything. :)

I've never been a "scheduled" person.  Most schedules have been given to me.  With four daughters, there were schedules set by others (school, Girl Scouts, sports, drama, etc.) that I had to follow to keep life within the bounds of sanity.  Add in the fact that we were a farm family, and nature dictated our schedules.  I am, by nature, a fairly laid back person.  There are those who might say I tend toward laziness, but I chalk that up to my being a more cerebral personality.  (Hey!  It sounds good, right?)  But over the years, I realized that, although I could get things done without a schedule and long-term goals, life often became chaotic.  And sometimes those goals were pushed aside.

I've had to re-evaluate, over the years.  I've learned to do things in different ways.  I've learned that setting goals, especially with writing, keeps me going.  I really like proving to my inner critic that I can do what I set out to do.

That re-evaluation took time.  My current manuscript will be my fifteenth published book.  While that isn't a large number for some, when I look back, I see how much I've grown, not only as a writer, but as a person.  And I expect to continue growing.  I continue to learn.  School is always in session!

One of the keys to setting goals is making adjustments.  This particular book has been filled with those.  But this time I didn't sit on my hands, waiting for news of a contract or rejection.  I put my butt in my chair and my hands on the keyboard (aka BIC-HOC) and worked on other manuscripts.  In just over two months, I wrote two books.  Luckily, the first three chapters of both books had been written and only needed some small changes.  No deadlines, no parameters with the plots or stories, I wrote for myself.  This did two things for me.

  1. For the first time in several years, I wrote with the freedom to tell stories that didn't fit the parameters of what's currently selling.  My only goal was to finish them and discover how long it might take me.
  2. When I finally received the contract for the current book, I was able to jump right into writing it, without the usual warm-up time. (HINT:  If you don't keep the writing muscles toned, getting back into writing after a long spell of non-writing, it takes a while get "in the writing groove.")

You don't have to be published to set goals!

I learned to set goals early on when I decided (actually was coerced by my writing friend) to enter writing contests.  The deadline was then set for me, and I had to set smaller goals to reach that big one.  I entered many.  Results varied.  And knowing in advance that if, by some crazy chance, my entry might lead to a request for a partial or full, I made sure the entire manuscript was finished.  You know, just in case. ;)  That paid off for me.  I'd been making the final rounds in some contests, earning second and third, but had never won a contest.  For the first time, I entered a contest without having finished the manuscript.  While it was being sent out to judges, I finished it.  That entry one first place in the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Contest and the full manuscript was requested by the senior editor of the publishing line I'd targeted.  All I had to do was a quick polish, and off it went.  Eventually, it became my first Silhouette Romance, Rachel's Rescuer.  The door had opened.

With that open door came deadlines...and revisions and edits, oh my!  I felt like Dorothy in the Land of Oz.  Fitting, considering I'm a Kansas girl.  I learned to write on a fairly daily basis.  Those revisions had to be made and had to be done by deadline.

The road to publication has twists and turns.  Sometimes, along the way to that first contract offer, I wanted to give up the fight, become a "normal" person and stop writing.  But determination and some pushy friends kept me going.  So did one thought.
If I quit now, I'll never know if I might have made it.
 I landed on the Yellow Brick Road.  That road contains twists and turns.  Silhouette Romance closed, and I had to find a different line where my writing fit.  It took a while.

Sometimes the Wicked Witch of the West came along to try to stop me. That Wicked Witch being the Demon of Self-Doubt.  I still haven't found the bucket of water to throw on her and probably never will, but there will always be times when I laugh in her face and tell her that she won't get the Ruby Slippers.  I will write.  I will set goals.  I will reach those goals.

Now is the time for all good writers to set goals.  If you're not a goal-setter, start small.  Start slow.  Use your brain, as the Tin Man did.  Keep writing--on a fairly regular schedule--so you don't have time to rust, as the Tin Man did.  Be courageous, as the Cowardly Lion did, and submit your work, whether to a critique group, contests, or editors.  You'll find many Wizards to help you along the way!

It really was no miracle. What happened was just this... ~ Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz

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