header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); Motivation Archives – Kristen Koster
Jan 182013

Staying Positive Despite Rejection: Wildflowers blooming in the scrub by Kristen KosterThis week in my accountability group’s How I Write series we were asked, “Every writer goes through ups and downs. What do you do to keep positive about what you’re working on?” I chose to interpret this as “How do you focus on staying positive despite rejection?” Because, we writer’s know, there are different forms of rejection that must be faced and overcome on a regular basis.

Staying Positive Despite Rejection from Our Selves

This is the hardest one for me. I am definitely my own worst critic. So, how do I deal with this?

Work with a timer.
This gives me something to beat. It’s that competitive streak. Also, I know I have to write until the timer goes off, but then I get a quick break.
Stuff the internal editor in a box.
Ok, so some days the visualization is more like stuffing her into an iron-bound chest and shipping her off to Timbuktu, but I’m sure you get the idea. She’s NOT welcome for first drafts.
Reread Old Stuff
Yup, pull out that ms that’s been hidden with the dust bunnies under the bed and see just how far my writing’s come. Who would ever start with a daydream where the heroine’s looking in a mirror. Cringe and be glad you’re not that writer any more.
Revisit the Praise
Reread some of the good comments from feedback from crit partners, beta readers and contest judges.

Staying Positive Despite Rejection from Our Peers

Writing is often a solitary pursuit, but many don’t think you should remain completely in a vacuum for the entire process. It took me a long time to build the confidence to show my work to others. When I did, I told myself that I wanted the feedback and that it wasn’t personal and that the people giving the advice wanted the same thing I did, to improve the story.

Take what you can use, and ignore what doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work. It’s your book/story/etc, don’t write by committee. But do remind yourself that people have the story’s best interests in mind. Sometimes, when you come back to it later, you may see the comments from a different perspective.
Again, you’re not going to please everyone, but save off the stuff you do well and sift through for the useful stuff. Remind yourself that people have the story’s best interests in mind.
I’m not lucky enough to be in this boat yet, but I’d like to think I could handle truthful ones.
This is a more general space. This could be in email, on your blog, or even facebook or twitter.

Let It Sit
This is good for all of the above: read it, let it sting, bask in the praise, whatever. Then, put it away! Come back to it at least a day or two later and look at it with a fresh perspective.

Staying Positive Despite Rejection from the Industry

I don’t have a lot of experience with the publishing industry beyond querying some agents and editors, but here’s what I’ve learned so far and from watching others go through similar situations.

Hit Send & Move On
After hitting send, I try to jump into the next project and ignore the fact that it’s out there.
What’s the worst they can say?
No, right? Ok, there are probably worse ways they could phrase that “no thanks”, but really, it’s not personal. Move on to the next person on your list. Besides, you’re liable to get pleasantly surprised with a “yes!” at some point.
It’s all Subjective!
Look at how many books/movies/tv shows/paintings/photographs/dances/sculptures that you’ve either loved or hated. Or even just been “meh” over. Everyone has their own tastes and no two people will ever read the same book.
Keep Going/Keep Learning
This may sound similar to the first one, but it’s more specific. Keep practicing, don’t stop if it’s something you love. I don’t know who originally said it, but I love the quote, “Failure leads to success (unless you quit trying.)”. So true.

Your Turn: What do you do to keep positive about what you’re working on?

And if you’d like to read what the rest of my accountability group is expanding out their comfort zones, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx

May 252012

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group asked, “How do you develop your characters? Do you have a favourite kind/archetype?”

We covered part of the idea of character development before and my general method is in the post, Building Characters where I likened it to my daughter’s cosplay outfits. I skimmed the highlights, but that post has more info.

Michael Hauge‘s Establishing Connections – likeability, skill.expertise, sympathetic, funny, jeopardy
Strengths/Weaknesses —
At Least 5 Whys —
Biggest Fear & how you will make them face it
Jodi Henley‘s idea of a Core Event

Tics, expressions, rituals, habits
Friends, possessions & pets

That all still holds true. Now, moving on to the section where I listed What I didn’t use.

Character Sheets — You’ve seen the ones: star sign, height, weight, occupation, model of car driven, all full of useless trivia that probably won’t make a difference in how your character will react to the things you need them to. Oh, and I always read them with much amusement considering I write historical fiction. I don’t think I’d find them very useful even if I wrote contemporaries.

Stereotypes/Archetypes — Ok, I TRY not to use stereotypes and I was re-introduced to the notion of using archetypes again this summer, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever dig too deeply in that direction as something to build a foundation on. Some people may find them useful, but I also think the temptation to slide back into stereotype is too strong for me.

Character sheets filled with useless trivia are still a no go for me. Most of it just isn’t relevant for the historical setting and I don’t feel like making one. I have been using Scrivener, which has character templates that are more flexible and include general information.

Role in Story: Hero
Occupation: Card Sharp
Physical Description:
Personality: Jack is a bad boy, appearing unreliable and capricious at first impression.
Background: Jack is a card sharp with the longest running winning streak at the game of Whist at the Stratford Club in London. He wants to make a name for himself.
Internal Conflicts: Jack is motivated by resentment and rebellion which keeps him from finding love and keeping it. He’s a bachelor who refuses to marry and keeps being left by his mistresses.
External Conflicts: Jack is driven by the thrill of winning and beating the odds. He wants to win back his brother’s losing for the week and keep his reputation because Amanda’s protector has accused him of cheating and offers a stacked deck.
Notes: Jack is used to playing Whist with his brother as his partner. He’s also distracted by the heroine’s beauty. He may lose his reputation and the girl. Jack realizes he’s always help part of himself back. He puts that on the table with Amanda as well, hoping to win her love.

Photo of a kid catching a frisbee. He's putting everything he's got into it.And in looking back at my stories after taking Tami Cowden’s workshop on archetypes for writers, I realized I do use them as a very rough base for personality and building conflicts, but it hadn’t been a conscious part of my character development process.

I think if I had to name a favorite hero archetype, it’d be the bad boy — or maybe the nice guy who’s been pushed to live up to his bad boy reputation. My heroine’s have also been stronger than they appear or are assumed to be by others, but other than that, they seem to be all over the map in terms of which archetype you’d label them as.

Another thing I’ve realized through photography and pushing my comfort zone there, is character matters so much when photographing people. Capturing it and using it to tell a story was a big part of what I was missing when I took pictures of people. For some reason, this seems easier with people I don’t know. Maybe because I’m freer to make things up? Anyway… this kid with the frisbee has a ton of character, doesn’t he?

YOUR TURN:How do you go about building the foundation of your creative projects?

And if you’d like to read about how the rest of my accountability group answered, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

May 012012

Please welcome author Dara Young to the blog today. We’re celebrating her debut of THE CANCAN DANCER AND THE DUKE from The Wild Rose Press. I hope you all enjoy this story as much as I did!

Since I’m often talking about inspiration and motivation, Dara thought she’d share with us where she gets her inspiration from in general and what inspired her to write about a Cancan dancer and a Duke. Without further ado, here’s Dara!

Where do ideas come from? Well I get mine from all kinds of places. Work, people I know, movies, songs… there’s no one place I get inspiration from. I once sat in a meeting and out of nowhere a mental picture of a woman standing on a terrace of a ballroom under the stars came to me. I instantly wanted to know who she was, why she was there, and what was happening to her. That image turned into a scene that I wrote up and might eventually turn into a story.

Painting of Jane Avril, Dancing by Toulouse Lautrec

Jane Avril, Dancing by Toulouse Lautrec

THE CANCAN DANCER AND THE DUKE (Cancan) was inspired by real life. See, I was a dancer in high school. One of my teachers choreographed a ballet based on the life of Toulouse Lautrec. He is famous for his posters of the French dance hall girls, in particular the ladies of the Moulin Rouge. His posters, and those of other artists like him, were used originally as advertisements for the dance halls. They were posted around Paris to entice spectators to the establishments. In the ballet, I got to dance a very tame version of the cancan… OMG! I had no idea how cardio deficient I was until I started rehearsing that piece. LOL!

I fell in love with Lautrec’s art and of course the idea of the cancan dancers. Later after I started dabbling in writing I was struck by the idea behind Cancan. I love the idea of the headstrong lady trying to carve her own path despite society’s rules. Of course, there are always consequences. 😀

Cover art for The Cancan Dancer and the Duke by Dara Young

The Cancan Dancer and The Duke
by Dara Young

The Wild Rose Press

Can a lady on the lam and a duke on the make find love at the Moulin Rouge?

Cathedrals and museums are not Lady Charise Colton’s idea of European adventure. Turn-of-the-century Paris beckons, and she wants to grab it while she can…or rather, cancan. Flirting with fate and half of Paris, Charise eludes her chaperones and joins the cancan revue at the Moulin Rouge.

Ethan Greer, Duke of Lofton, is in Paris to settle some estate business. Chafing under his responsibilities, he discovers an enchanting distraction at the Moulin Rouge, a flirtatious dancer who stirs his lust and something more. He must have her—even if it means offering carte blanche.

Terrified of discovery, Charise tries to hold her persistent suitor at bay, though her heart has already surrendered. Will she lose him if he learns the truth, or is love enough to bind the cancan dancer and the duke?


The singular sound was a soft whisper at first. The audience strained forward to catch even a note of the eerie melody carried on the fetid air of the cafe. As the song picked up, her voice grew stronger, the words more clear. Ethan relaxed into his seat and let the warm rich alto caress him. His body grew warm with the promises carried by the witch’s husky tones.

He remained unaware of anything in the room except the siren walking toward him. Each steady, unhurried step she took further drew him in. His gaze feasted on the curve of her hip, the swell of her breast. Ethan rode the knife’s edge between lust and propriety.

The song described, in lurid detail, two lovers in the throes of passion. Upon reaching him, the dancer propped the toe of her boot onto the edge of his seat—square between his thighs. The luscious creature presented impossibly sheer bloomers which hid everything and yet nothing, causing him to let out the breath he, until now, unknowingly held. His cock grew rigid, the uncomfortable throbbing causing him to shift. The desire to haul her into his arms and demonstrate every action she described with the most sensuous mouth he’d ever seen rode him hard. Her full lower lip begged for his kiss. Ethan wanted to see it slick and glowing pink from his attentions.

The wanton dancer continued to taunt him, but his good breeding won out. Forcing himself to stay seated, his fists balled and his jaw grew rigid with frustration, but his raging lusts remained leashed. The song ended, sending her into the nether regions of the cafe in a swirl of skirts.

Your Turn: We’re curious about what inspires you, be it books, people, music, whatever. What inspires you to be creative or just to get out of bed in the morning?

Thanks for stopping by to celebrate with Dara and remember to comment on each post during her blog tour for more chances to win! (Not sure what I’m talking about? Click here for more details.)

Be sure to add When In Paris to your shelf at GoodReads.

Where to find Dara Young around the web:
WebsiteFacebookGoodReadsKloutLady Jane’s Salon San Diego • LinkedIn • PintrestTwitlossTwitter

Spring It Forward

 Writing Life  Comments Off on Spring It Forward
Mar 232012

photo of spring flowersSpring forward. Spring Cleaning. Renewal. Rebirth. Awakening.

These are all clichés associated with spring. Now, we all know that clichés become trite and commonplace for good reason. There’s a universally acknowledge grain of truth in them or tradition builds up and it’s just the done thing.

So… What have I done to spring myself forward this year?

2012 Seems to be the year of challenging myself. This is the first spring in about three years that I’ve felt able to do this. I’m not swamped with my son’s health issues. My focus isn’t bent to making sure he’s finishing every piece of assigned work so it counts toward his attendance or even being split by calls from the health office to come pick him up from school, because his head hurts so bad he can’t make it any longer.

First there was my RWASD chapter’s PALS Challenge where the published authors challenge the PROs to finish a book between February and September. Yup. Jumped on that bandwagon. Signed up to finish a 75k word story, I need to put about 500 words a day toward it. This used to mean about 20 minutes of writing on a good day. Completely doable though.

Next came the chapter’s Spring Into Romance contest (Deadline was extended to March 31, 2012! The contest has a positive reputation for constructive and valuable feedback and is only about $1 per page before postage.) I only judged last year and I’m judging again this year. But, I decided I needed to enter as well this year. It was on my goals list to enter an RWA Chapter contest, and what better place to start than my home chapter. I pushed this one further. I submitted two entries to see the difference between the feedback on the older piece and the newer piece to objectively see how my writing has changed.

Never one to shy away from encouraging others to join her in mad deadline dashes, Bria Quinlan decided to host a #wordfool challenge this year (yup, that’s lots of words by April Fool’s Day). I thought it would be cheating to use the same words I was already doing for the PALS challenge, so I signed up to add an additional 250 words a day to one of my older manuscripts that could use some fleshing out. Again, not a lot, but manageable right now. So far, so good! Even after coming down with a horrible sinus infection this week. I slacked off on the PALs challenge, but even with a 102˚F fever, I managed to find those 250 words. Hopefully, they won’t be too obvious. =)

Use that renewed energy and challenge yourself to take new steps, up your game, reach new heights. Pick a goal, and spring it forward!

YOUR TURN: So… What are you doing to spring yourself forward this year? (This can be in your career, your life, or any creative endeavor!)

And if you’d like to read about what the rest of my accountability group is up to this spring, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Mar 022012
A view of the elevator shaft at The Top of the Rock in NYC.

How Far Down Can You Go?

My accountability group talked a bit before in our How I Write series in the posts on Building Character, but I wanted to take a closer look at some ways to create character depth, to make them unique, not just in your book, but in the market place.

WHY do we want to read about these characters, spend time with them and even revisit some of them? And WHY will we identify with them and CARE about their successes and failures? And, what can writers do when building characters so that they come alive on the page for readers?

1. Not just Faults, but Contradictions

Perfect characters are BORING! But in addition to giving them some quirks and character flaws, go farther. Give them contradictory details. Make the bad guy have a soft spot for small helpless fuzzy things. Too easy? Make your main character hold a strong opinion about something and then act in a hypocritical fashion.

2. Go Beyond Stereotypes & Archetypes

Yes, they exist because they’re familiar and recognizable. Are they interesting? Where’s the surprise? Where’s the mystery? Most people don’t like cardboard pizza. They don’t like cardboard characters either.

3. Go Beyond GMC

Deb Dixon‘s idea of Goal, Motivation and Conflict works well at the larger scale. But how many authors drill down with it to the smaller scale? How do those three elements color even their smallest actions and decisions? Weave it in, so it’s an integral part of the story fabric.

4. Vocations & Avocations

So your character has a job or a hobby. That’s nice. Go deeper. How does that influence their vocabulary, their insights, their relationship with others, their smaller actions and decisions? Do they live and breathe it? Or is it just another gloss coat? How does this profession or passion affect the plot? WHY did they/you make this choice? If you can swap it out easily, consequently you haven’t gone deep enough.

5. Use Varying Degrees of Focus and Distance

You know how some photographs are more interesting because not EVERYTHING is sharp and competing for your attention? Think of the difference between your mental definitions of “snap shot” and “photograph”. Good photos tell stories too. They also leave a bit of mystery and interpretation to the viewer. Writers can do similar things. By focusing on different aspects of your character at different times in the book, you can draw the reader in and let them explore what makes your characters tick. Then, only when you absolutely need to, reveal what you’ve hinted at in the shadows and the murky background to bring the whole picture into sharp focus when it will mean the most to the reader.

6. Go Big or Go Home

Don’t settle for making average characters do ordinary things. What can you do to pump them up and make it so the reader believes they may not overcome the high stakes they’re up against? What about your characters keeps the reader’s hope burning that they WILL succeed? This is where many characters who are deemed Too Stupid To Live (TSTL) fail the reader. The reader therefore has lost all hope for this character and may actually be rooting against them.

7. Dig Deep, Put Yourself In There

This is probably the hardest one for me to do personally. It doesn’t have to be the biggest, most traumatic event in your life, but we all share common experiences: happiness, sorrow, regret, hope, frustration, anger. Find ways to channel situations you know into your writing. The story details don’t have to be autobiographical, but use the feelings, both emotional and physical to connect your characters to your reader. For me, this is “write what you know” writ large!

Have I missed anything? What are some of the things that make you fall in love with a character or wish you could know them in real life? What makes YOU care about a fictional person’s success or failure?

And if you’d like to read about what the rest of my group suggests for ways to deepen characters, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Feb 172012

Last week in my accountability group’s HOW I WRITE series, I talked about why I love historical romance. This week we’re talking about our mentors, whether they realize they influence us or not.

Mentors Who Are Aware They’re Mentoring

Photo of interconnected hands.My local San Diego RWA chapter has a great image it shares with its members. The image is a powerful one of one hand reaching forward and another reaching back. No matter your progress along your writer’s journey, there’s someone ahead of you who can lend a helping hand and someone else who may be just starting out that you could help in return. As a PRO member, I fall squarely in the middle of the pack. I may not always feel like I have a lot to offer in terms of writing, but I’m always willing to help where I can.

I first met Jodi Henley at Romance Divas. She very helpfully absolutely shredded my newbie offering in the critique forum. Since then, I’ve had many aha moments while chatting with her, reading her critiques for other people, and reading her blog. This quote from Galileo Galilei sums up my best experiences with reading Jodi’s pearls of wisdom:

“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”

You’re still here? I’m surprised you’re not off reading everything on her blog. I’ll be here when you get back.

So many things we hear, read, even experience, don’t sink in and click until we’re ready to hear them or are ready to recognize how it fits in with our own world views. One of the things I love about Jodi is how she makes me think.

I also consider my accountability group as mentors as well. There’s always something to be learned with this group, whether it’s about writing, balancing life, setting goals, or something completely random, the ladies listed at the bottom of this post are truly inspirational and supportive. I also still mentally include Bria Quinlan in this group she started. Thank you all. Again, there’s this wonderful feeling of being able to reach out and find helping hands.

Certainly not least of all is my husband. What can I say, I’ll follow him anywhere. He’s a super creative guy: MFA in poetry, and competent in art, fiction, music, game design and I can’t think of anyone who’d be as patient as he has been to put up with reading some of my horrendous first drafts without falling down laughing. It was his books on writing that caught my interest and introduced me to the person who actually set me off on this writer’s journey.

Mentors Who May Not Be Aware They’re Mentoring

I credit Dorothea Brande as setting me on this journey because after reading her book, On Becoming A Writer, I was bitten by the bug. Her voice cut across the decades and spoke directly to me. She believes in me all over again each time I re-read those pages. She’s my go to confidence booster and somehow, she also manages to say something new each time (sound like something Galileo said?) despite having written the book in the 1930s.

I also regularly read the blogs of the following people:
Kristen Lamb
Anna DeStefano
Joanna Bourne (especially her Technical Topics posts!)
James Scott Bell (his craft of writing books are wonderful and very straightforward!)
Scott Myers (Go Into The Story)

Each of them have provided a different lens to look through and discover new facets about writing or myself. I may never be able to thank them in person, but their insights and assistance are appreciated all the same.

Then there are the authors of everything I read. It’s hard to read for pure pleasure any more. I’m always thinking about story structure or character arcs and trying to figure out just how the author managed to wring such emotion out of a particular scene.

Everyone I interact with on social media has also had a hand in shaping who I am as a person, as a writer, as an artist. It doesn’t take a lot — pointing out a cool site, showing off an interesting photgraph, relating a personal experience, offering an opinion in the comments section, an offhand tip to others with similar interests — those all count!

I guess I’ve just been thinking a lot about who I can/should be reaching forward to and how I can be reaching back to lend a hand. So, c’mon… take my hand. It’s gonna be an interesting trip!

If you’d like to read more about who the rest of the group considers their mentors, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris*
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney *

Your Turn: Who do you consider your biggest influencers? Do you consider yourself influential to others?

Feb 102012

Photo of luxurious fabric to be made into a cape.Last week in my accountability group’s HOW I WRITE series, we talked about 3 Things I Love About My WIP. This week we’re talking about why we write in a particular genre and what attracted us to it. Also, we were asked if we like to read any genres we don’t or can’t write? Why? And would we like to try a different genre? I’ve already answered the “Why Romance” question, but I’m not sure I’ve ever covered Why Write Historical Romance, and Regency Romance in specific.

What attracted me to Historical Romance?

I grew up reading a variety of historical romances pilfered from my mom’s stash: Kathleen Woodiwiss, Kat Martin, Rosemary Rogers, Shirlee Busbee, Virgina Henley, Johanna Lindsey, and many, many, more. I’ll freely admit I was looking for escapism and a bit of the bodice ripping excitement promised by the covers. It was a slightly different kind from what I was finding in Science Fiction and Fantasy in that this was real world stuff, not wholly made up! Westerns/Colonial American, Medievals, Regencies… all were fair game. I never read the contemporary romances then. Probably because they all had boring object covers instead of those wildly passionate clinches.

So why settle into the Regency Era?

The romantic notions like titles and balls, the escapist fantasy, the slower/different pace of life, the layers and intrigue in the rules of society. The descriptions of men’s fashions, especially the mysteries revealed when a man removes his cravat. While I love me some eye-candy, there’s something to be said for leaving things to your imagination too.

They’d also just done away with the powdered wigs, patches, and panniers of the Georgian Era. Nasty stuff. Not practical and not attractive. Medievals were too much fantasy compared to the historical reality of fleas, sandy grit in the bread, women being literal property. In the Regency that last hadn’t changed legally, but the authors were showing their heroines more as partners than dependents. Victorian Era was too hypocritical for me in many of its attitudes around sex. I never really got into Edwardian Era books because anytime they drive up in a car or the phone rings, my immersion is shattered. Yes, I love Downton Abbey, but yup, the phone and the cars were jarring at first there too. I suspect my problem is more with books where the setting isn’t firmly established in the beginning and those things sneak up on me.

What else do I read besides Historical Romance?

What don’t I? The most represented genres on our shelves (well, the ones *I* read anyway) include Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, some Contemporary Romance, some Romantic suspense, historical time travel, a handful of chick lit mysteries, and a selection of urban fantasy. Again, it’s usually the escapist aspect that draws me to these genres, something removed from my ordinary world.

If not Historical Romance, what else would I try to write?

Maybe contemporary romance, Urban Fantasy or some fantasy, but it’d probably be flavored in some way by the historical aspect and it’d likely still have lots of romantic elements. But for now, I’m focused on finishing the current crop of characters in my head who all reside firmly in Regency London.

And if you’d like to read more about what’s got the rest of the group excited about their genres, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris*
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney *

Your Turn: What’s YOUR favorite genre of book to read and why?

Feb 032012

Last week in my accountability group’s HOW I WRITE series, we talked about 5 Steps from Dreams to Completed Goals. This week’s topic is “Share at least 3 things you like, love, enjoy, make you excited to work on your current project.” So for anyone out there who doesn’t know what a WIP is, it’s a “Work In Progress”.

I’ve got two projects I’ve been ping-ponging back and forth on. Both are Regency-set Historical Romances and include some of the same characters (the heroes are best friends). I just love the feeling of immersion you get when an author builds a universe for you and you get to bump into old friends or enemies every so often. Anyway, I’m thinking mostly about BENEATH HIS TOUCH (BHT) more than REVEALED this days, but I suspect that’s about to switch as I have a lot more word count going on BHT and the story feels more complete. It needs polish and some slight remodeling, whereas Revealed needs some serious foundation work in order to stand on its own at this point.

A photo of a model, who is filling the role of The Duke of Wyndham.

BHT's hero: James Wyndham,
the Duke of Bolster

A photo of Narayan Fergal O'Connor, who is standing in for the role of Viscount Barrington.

REVEALED's hero: Hugh Leighton,
the Viscount Barrington

1. The Heroes

Who wouldn’t be excited about these guys? Getting them to do whatever I want? Dressing them up in cravats? Bonus! Seriously though, it’s a lot of fun to work with the starchy Duke and the puckish Viscount. They’re an interesting pair to play off each other. Similar in certain aspects, but different as night and day in others. How’s a girl to choose between them?

2. The Escapism

Just getting out of my own head and into someone else’s can be a good thing. Yes, all things with moderation and all that. But being able to let go of the here and now and slip back 200 years to an era of elegance and romance, it’s relaxing and fun. Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Besides, I get to do research on men in cravats so rewatching James Purefoy dressing as Beau Brummel totally counts.

3. The Romance

Ah, the romance! Looking at all the ways people can overcome the odds and find happiness with another person. Someone who is their best friend, someone who completes them. The HEA (Happily Ever After) is as predictable as the cops arresting the killer in a mystery, but exploring HOW that’s accomplished with their unique obstacles is the best part of each couple’s journey.

YOUR TURN: What are some things that have you excited about your current project? (Any type project is fine, it doesn’t have to be writing related at all!)

And if you’d like to read more about what’s got the rest of the group excited about their projects, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris*
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney *

Jan 272012

Photograph of Iceplant with fuschia flowers.Last week in my accountability group’s HOW I WRITE series, we posted 5 Things That Made Us Smile that week. This week’s topic is “Share tips on how you successfully set and completed goals.”

I had a very specific set of writing goals in mind for last year and this year, with the RWA National convention in Anaheim for 2012. I’ve felt like I wasn’t getting any farther on my own and I needed some extra guidance and cheerleaders along the way. So that’s what 2011 was all about. Moving forward with taking baby steps so I didn’t freak myself out.

A few of my 2011 goals were intended to up my writing game (not in terms of craft, but in networking and path to publication):

1. Complete my manuscript (BHT for those following along).
2. Join Romance Writers of America (nat’l, RWASD, & Beau Monde chapter)
3. Submit my manuscript to at least ONE agent.
4. Apply for RWA PRO status.

1. Separate Dreams From Goals.

Dreams are good. They’re the moon and the stars. The most important thing to remember is that they have to be YOUR dreams and goals. If you’re doing them for someone else or they don’t exactly line up with your values, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Take the time to think about who you are, what you want, and why you want it. Don’t rush figuring those things out.

Dream: I want to be published author and see my book on the shelf.
This year, I want to complete the first draft of a 90k Regency Set Historical Romance novel that’s suitable for Avon Books.

Dream: I want to take amazing photographs on purpose.
Goal: This year, I will publicly do a 366 (It’s leap year!) Photo Challenge with a couple of friends to improve composition and learn to use my camera without relying on the AUTO setting.

Dream: We want a comfortable retirement.
Goal: We need to accumulate X amount of money by a certain date in order to get a return on the principle that’s equal to our current income.

With the dreams, there are many paths I could take to get there, most of them involving a whole lotta luck.  The goasl, if they’re good ones, are going to be much more precise and can be broken down into tasks. A dream is what you want, but a goal is what you need to do to move toward your dreams.

2. WRITE S.M.A.R.T. Goals.

Have someone who knows you and what you’re trying to accomplish go over them and sanity check them. Skimping on this step just sets you up for failure. You can rationalize anything if you aren’t crystal clear about what you want to accomplish and you’ll find all sorts of loopholes, especially if you don’t write them down. Another thing that writing them down and putting them through this checklist can do is find and resolve conflicting goals. I don’t have exact dates for these goals above, but on my master copy, they had precise dates of which they were to be accomplished. I don’t think I went over by more than a week on any of them.

Are the goals [S]pecific? How are you going to accomplish it, if you don’t know exactly what you want to do?
Are they [M]easurable?
How are you going to know if you’ve done enough to complete it?
Are they [A]ttainable?
How are you going to achieve this goal? What steps do you need to take?
Are they [R]ealistic?
This is where having a partner in crime or accountability helps most. We often bite off more than we can chew and they’ll call us on it.
Are they [T]imely and/or time limited?
Do you need to do it now? How long do you have to do it for? Do you have a deadline? Even a self-imposed one is better than leaving it open ended. Make sure you know of any other steps that must be completed first.

3. Group Similar Goals.

Make sure you have all the steps necessary and the order in which they need to be done to achieve what you want.

I knew I wanted to be in the PRO groups for RWA in 2012. This means on the PRO mailing loops, attending the PRO breakfasts for my local chapter before meetings, and going to the PRO Retreat in Anaheim. I couldn’t just do those goals in any old order. Ok, the first two I could, but 1 definitely had to come before 3 and 2 before 4. A nice neat little stack of dominoes, if you will. They just tend to fall in slow motion.

You should also be thinking in terms of SHORT TERM GOALS and LONG TERM GOALS. You may also have some medium range goals in there as well. It’s often helpful to pick a date 5 or 10 years in the future and dream big, but true. Then, start dividing that time frame up… What do you have to accomplish to reach the that big goal in half that time? In a quarter of that time? In the next two years? In the next year? In six months from now?

4. Keep Moving Forward.

Keep your goals list handy. Check it frequently. When you’ve completed one task/goal on your list, move on to the next one. Celebrate your victory, but don’t lose your forward momentum. Love that motto from Meet the Robinsons.

One thing with keeping tasks/goals in a logical order for completion is that you don’t have to backtrack. Even if you aren’t planning to accomplish the next step in the current month, quarter, year, 5 years or decade, you should still know what you’re going to need to do to get where you want to be. You need to be prepare if your world suddenly shifts beneath you and you’re left without a plan? Or worse, you have a plan, but it’s irrelevant. By having a forward-looking plan that stretches out farther than you think is necessary, you give yourself something to work towards and you just might find you have to readjust. Likewise, the ground can shift and suddenly you’re back to square one with certain goals. Pick yourself up, dust off the plan and get moving. You’ve already decided you want to be somewhere better. Every journey begins with that first step. Take it.

5. But, Don’t Look Down!

Why do we set goals for ourselves anyway? We want to grow, to improve, to enjoy life more. If you shoot for the moon and miss, you’ll still be among the stars. Trite, but usually true. One way to set your goals up for positive change and increase your chances of success is to frame them in positive terms. “Losing weight” always seems to fail… why? It’s not will power, genetics or even that extra slice of cake. Ok, it probably IS the cake, but that’s a different argument. The problem is that it’s a NEGATIVE goal. Look at the wording… LOSE that’s not a positive word. If you want to lose weight you need to think of it terms of what you’ll be gaining and then find the steps to accomplish that.

If you are trying to set goals that push beyond your comfort zone, you need to sneak up on them. Make progress at a rate you’re comfortable with. If I can push myself to do something once, the next time is easier because it lacks the apprehension and built up fear the next time. This is why I made a goals of submitting to at least ONE agent. I gave myself permission to set the bar VERY low and not build expectations into the goal.

One of the PRO Liasons in my local chapter said to me today: “Just like, when you’re climbing up high, don’t look down. Keep looking forward so you don’t get overwhelmed by how far up you are.” I’m really trying not to think how fast things are moving, so I can keep up. Lots of metaphors would fit here — gotta keep those plates spinning!

YOUR TURN: What tried ‘n true tips would you recommend for setting and achieving goals?

And if you’d like to read more about goal setting tips from the rest of my group this week, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris*
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney *

Dec 092011

Last week, our How I Write series delved into our planning process, and since we’re all writers, we focused on plotting. Which inevitably led to my post on Plotting via Spreadsheets – Don’t Be Trapped in the Box.

This week we were asked, “What’s on your writer’s wish list for Santa?”

A children's form letter that has been filled out reads "Dear Santa, This year I have been ( ) Very Good (X) Not So Good At Times and would really like to find a time clock, an industrial-sized tube of super glue to insure some quality BICHOK time, and a large dose of confidence so I can finish this novel! under my Christmas tree please. Here's a picture to show you what I mean: Than you so much, Kristen."

Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season!

YOUR TURN: What’s on your wish list for self-improvement and career-building for this coming year?

And if you’d like to see what’s on my friend’s writer’s wish list, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Angeleque Ford *