Inspiration in a difficult week

Sorry that I’ve been absent from this blog for most of this week. I’ve been absent from most things.

My husband and I had a loss Wednesday morning when our dog passed away. It was quick, which was a good thing, but it was a terrible shock for us.

My husband and I don’t have children yet, but Newton was our child, our boy. He acted like a very hairy five-year-old with a limited vocabulary. He even loved opening presents at Christmas. He went just about everywhere with us that dogs could go, and his absence has been very difficult to deal with.

SirNewton8x10Newtie is also the inspiration behind my Sir Newton books (the picture is the promotional photo we gave to kids at book signings), and when he died, I couldn’t imagine working on another book. I had a lot of plans for these books. During the last year, I’ve focused on my novels in an effort to get those moving along with an agent and publishers, so the next book in the series, Sir Newton’s Color Me Florida, has been sitting in my computer mostly done. I planned to finish it when I had more time, and I planned to expand the series to every state in the U.S. as well as every Caribbean island and then the world, each one following the same pattern as the first two and providing funds to local children’s charities in each area the books describe. With my real Sir Newton gone, I couldn’t imagine doing another book. But my husband said, “You have to keep doing them for him.”

You see, one of the amazing things about Newtie was how happy he was. He was always wagging his tail, even the day before he died, he was wagging his tail, bright eyed, tongue hanging out. The amazing thing about this is that Newtie had a lot of health problems throughout his life, but, to quote his vet, “to look at him, you’d never know he had been sick.”

Newton was born with a herniated diaphragm; part of his intenstines rested in his chest cavity, keeping his right lung partly closed. When we adopted him, Newtie had been on the streets of South Central, Los Angeles, for a few months, we estimate. He had horrible mange and a rotting ear (we have pictures and they’re not pretty). He was three days away from being euthanized at the pound, because no one would adopt a dog in this state, when a rescue worker with the Much Love organization picked him up. The group paid for all his vet bills to get him fixed up then found him a foster home, which happened to be some friends of ours. I went with our friend to pick him up, a hairless dog except for a little white mohawk with the best and most friendly personality of any dog I had ever met in a situation like that. I was immediately smitten.

Newton quickly became a part of our family, and was with us for around five years. He enlived our lives more than I can describe, and everyone who met him called him “the happy dog.”

Last year, he was diagnosed with cancer. I prayed and prayed for him, for my boy, and God answered my prayers. After his first round of chemo, Newt was in remission the following morning. He had had tumors the size of golf balls under his mouth, but when we woke up the next morning, they were competely gone. Our vet had told us it would take a couple weeks to see a difference, best case scenario a few days. But he was in full remission the morning after.

We continued his full treatment and, as happens with chemo, Newtie lost a lot of hair again. But he started growing his hair back two months before he was done with his chemo treatment, which the vet kept saying was “amazing.”

His vet continued to be impressed with Newt’s recovery, and his follow up tests since he finished chemo were clean. Then a couple weeks ago, Newtie started to show signs of something being off. He was still wagging his tail and squeeking his toys and running up and down the stairs like a puppy, though. On Tuesday, I took him to the vet for some tests. They thought maybe his cancer had returned, and the next day, I had planned to get the results and see where we went from there. That night, I prayed again. I prayed and prayed that God would take care of him, to take care of my boy. After Newton passed away around 6:30 the next morning, my husband said God did answer my prayers; He did take care of Newton. He made it quick and relatively painless. That is a comfort. Newton was a very special dog — and I’m quoting my vet, so you know I’m not being biased (although I don’t mind if you think I am biased, because I am) — and he had had enough problems in his life. He didn’t deserve any more pain.

Comfort as it was, however, it’s still very hard to so suddenly have him not in our lives.

So, I’ve been pretty much feeling in a coma for the last few days. I had emails sitting in my inbox waiting to be answered. I haven’t done anything on my books. I haven’t even looked at my blog. Then, yesterday, my husband and I were talking about Newt — again — and remembering how happy he was all the time despite all the hardships he had to deal with during his life. And it was then that I realized that Newton was much better than me. I have none of the health problems he had, and although I’m generally very happy, I have my worries, concerns, over really small things. When Newton died, I didn’t feel like doing anything, not even one of my favorite things: writing. I want to be a novelist full time, to tell stories all the time, but when he died, I didn’t care about it. It just seemed like it didn’t matter.

But remembering Newt’s tail swinging back and forth, and his shining eyes as his pink tongue hung out of his mouth, his running around and squeeking his toy even though he only had one and a half good lungs, I realized that remembering is much better than mourning. Remembering all the wonderful things he did is the best way to honor him. And to aim to be as happy as him no matter what is the best way to be.

My husband encouraged me to return the emails I needed to return today, some from prospective agents, so I did, with images of Newtie wagging his tail at my feet.

Things will never be the same without our Newtie, our Sir Newton (who often lived up to his pen name), but I’m getting back on my horse, so to speak, and trying to remember that he wouldn’t worry or be sad; he’d smile and wag his tail.

This blog post is for him.

Write On

Goals keep you motivated

  • Current word count: 35,826
  • New words written: 539
  • Words til goal: 4,174 / 188 words a day til the end of September

I’m almost at the end of this novel, and it’s exciting. In the chapter I just started, a bunch of questions from earlier will be answered; it’s an ah ha moment. Then I have the climactic battle chapter and the wrap-up chapter and it’s done.

I’m a list person. When I have a lot of things to do, I like to write lists and get the satisfaction of crossing items off when they’re done. So, for me, one of the things that I think has really motivated me the most during the writing of this novel is the word counts I’ve been putting at the top of each blog post. After each writing session, I’m itching to be able to cross off what I did that morning, so to speak.

And lately, one of the biggest motivations for me has been seeing  the “words a day til the end of September” number going down. This is how many words I have to write each day to make my goal of finishing the novel by the end of September. It’s the “words til goal” number (my goal being 40K) divided by the number of days left until the end of September (a date I aimed for after being imspired by other bloggers aiming for the same date). Today is the first day that number is less than 200.

Each day that I write more than my necessary goal, the lower that “words a day til the end of September” number gets and the more of a reality it becomes that I will make — or even exceed — my goal. I’m now hoping I’ll be finished the book by the end of this week, but this week could be busy, so I’m not sure I’ll achieve that. We’ll see. I’m still way ahead for my end of September goal, and that keeps me motivated.

I think making goals like this is a great way to keep yourself accountable with your writing, but make sure the goals are doable, and keep long-term goals and short-term, even every day goals like this. Each day that you achieve your daily goal will make you feel good and hungry to achieve another one. Before you know it, you’ll have finished another novel.

What are your short- and long-term goals?

Write On!

Never feel alone as a writer

Current word count: 22,588

New words written: 729

Words til goal: 17,412 / 415 words a day til the end of September

Another good writing day. I’m waiting the well to dry up! hahaha Hopefully, not til I’m done.

Writing is very solitary work. It’s just you, a computer or notebook and your story in your head. It’s great to have others that you can bounce ideas off of, but, sometimes that can be difficult as everybody has their own lives and no one else is as obsessed about our book as we are. 🙂

But as much as we’re the only one who can actually write our story, we are not alone as writers, and that has never been more clear to me than yesterday when I was catching up on some blog reading. We have friends on the blogosphere who are going through the exact things we are going through.

In blogs online, writers are talking about their experiences from all different levels, like Will (21st Century Paperback Writer blog), who posted a comment on my blog post yesterday and is a long-time reader who’s currently outlining his first novel; Brit (Dream the Dream blog), who’s currently working on her first novel; Katie Anderson (Plot This blog with Sarah Francis Hardy), who like me has written and revised her novel and is seeking an agent; Beverly (Prana Island of Witches blog), who has just signed with an agent; and Shelli (Market My Words blog), who has a number of books already in the market.

In the blogosphere, we’re not alone, no matter where we are on the writing road. And no matter what, we can always find help, comfort and encouragment in the experiences of others.

So, build up a set of go-to blogs, keep adding to the list whenever you find new ones, and anytime you feel alone, start browsing and reading. We’re all going through the same things in front of our computers.

And if you ever feel like you need help with anything, I think I speak for all bloggers by saying, just reach out. Post a comment saying what you’re feeling. You won’t be alone.

If you want help in setting up a go-to set of blogs, check out the ones listed on the right. And if you’ve got favorites you think I should add, post them in the comments.

Write On!

Why I need to write every day

Current word count: 9,744

Words written today: 504

Words to goal: 30,246/ 348 per day til end of September

Congrats to all those who have been posting their progress in the comments of this blog. It’s great to see, and is encouraging me to strive forward. I hope my word counts are doing the same for you.

I set my alarm and got up early again this morning so I could get in an hour of writing before church. It’s Sunday, and I would love to have slept in and fitted in my writing later in the day, especially after staying up late last night watching a movie. But I learned something on Friday, something I already knew but needed a good reminder: I really need to make sure I write every day, AND, unless I get up early and do it in the morning, I most likely won’t fit it in at all.

Like many people, I had Friday off from work. I had one main plan for that day: Write. I did want to get to the gym, as my husband and I go every weekday, and I had to go grocery shopping, do some laundry and make a desert to take to a friend’s house for her Fourth celebration, but other than that, I planned to write.

As I had the day off, I figured I’d let myself sleep in instead of setting my alarm early and writing like I usually do. That was my big mistake. By the time I had gotten up, eaten breakfast, and gone to the gym, it was 11. The rest of the day went just as fast, and needless to say, I didn’t get any writing done. I was thinking about my writing all the time, though, and I did manage to do some research about point of view, which I wrote about that evening.

But I didn’t get any time to actually sit at my computer and create. And, here’s the funny thing, I felt annoyed all day.

Come Saturday, I set my alarm and got a good two or three hours in. Then this morning, I set my alarm and did an hour. And, here’s the other funny thing, I felt happy both days. Tired, but happy.

A friend of mine and I have had many conversations about this, and I think it’s common among writers. For those of us who have that itch that keeps us coming back to our stories no matter what’s going on in our lives, we’re better off when we’re writing — despite whether we’re published or not.

Anyone else feel their day isn’t the same unless they do at least something on their manuscript?

 Write On!

Tracking word counts

Current word count: 7,743

Words written today: 949

Words to goal: 42,257 / 340 per day til end of September

They say great minds think alike. Not to say I’m necessarily a great mind (hey, the phrase is more fitting to the subject matter), but yesterday morning I posted on this blog that I was going to start tracking my word count progress in the new book I’m writing and invited readers (you guys) to do the same in the comments.

Looks like author Holly Lisle had the same idea. Yesterday, on her Pocket Full of Words blog, Lisle invited readers to write a book alongside her as a beginner (250 words a day), intermediate (match Lisle’s word count, which she’ll post on her blog every day) or advanced (do your own word count and report it). Later that day, Lisle set up a special section on her website for the word count challenge.

As Casey of Literary Rambles and Karen of Musings of a Novelista affirmed in my comments yesterday, having a word count goal is a great way to keep you going in your writing. Reporting it somewhere helps to further keep you motivated. You become accountable.

So whether you post your word counts on my blog, on Holly Lisle’s or just record them on your calendar, set a goal and stick with it. Even give yourself little rewards for every goal reached, and share them here with us.

Write On!


I was feeling very unmotivated recently (as you can probably see by the lack of posts on this blog — I apologize), perhaps because of the darker mornings, perhaps because of the ever-coming work in my day job. I don’t know that it was any one thing. I don’t think it’s ever any one thing. But whatever the reason(s), I needed a good kick in my butt.

Not to say that I haven’t been writing. I managed a good couple weeks of getting up early and sitting in front of the computer every morning, and some mornings, I actually got some good stuff done. But it always felt tough, like I was dragging myself.

Then one morning, I was stuck on a particular section and I allowed a distraction to get to me, I started reading the writing blogs I subscribe to on my iGoogle page, and, after following a few interesting links, I got to author Holly Lisle’s website. While browsing her nav bar, I found gold: How To Quit Your Day Job. Eureka! I keep thinking that if I could just quit my day job, I’d have so much more time to write.

I devoured the six-part article looking for some part that would say, “Quit now! Just do it! You’ll be all right. And if you need money, just wish for it and the out-of-work-author’s money tree will come to your rescue.”

Ok, maybe I wasn’t that niave. But I did hope that she would offer some secret way to start working as a full-time novelist before you’re a full-time novelist. But, she didn’t. She pretty much said what I already knew: work on your novel while you’re doing something else, save your money and don’t quit your day job until you have enough savings to support you for six months to a year AND you have the strong prospect of money coming in either through signed contracts or a book sale.

Even though the information was all stuff I had already figured out, it felt really good reading her article, because she talked about when she did it — and she had to do it twice, the first time to much warning from her family and friends and the second time permanently. It felt good to know that someone else was in the same boat as me at one time, working hard to balance family, a day job and writing, and she stuck with it, busted her butt and became a full-time novelist. If she can do it, I can do it.

And you can do it too. November is National Novel Writing Month, where you sign up and join thousands of other participants in writing a 50,000-word novel in one month. It’s doable; lots of people have done it for the last few years. It’s not important that you write a masterpiece in that time. It’s just important that you write. It’s a way of encouraging people to do what we’re always talking about on this blog: sitting down — or standing if you’re so inclined — and writing, no matter what you’re writing, whether it’s brilliant or dreary (that’s what editing is for), just so long as you’re writing.

I didn’t sign up to participate because I’m in revising mode, and I couldn’t figure out a good way to enter word counts when I’m not writing something fresh. But, with Holly Lisle’s inspiration pushing me along, I’m going to unofficially participate in National Novel Writing Month by making sure that I write every day.

Want to join me? Let me know if you’re writing with NANOWRIMO, or, if not, be an every-dayer like me. I tell you what, I’ll check in with a blog post every day to let you know I wrote, and you can do the same. I set a goal that I would be finished with my novel edit by the end of November. I’m behind on that and don’t know if I’ll make it, but working every day, maybe I will.

Good luck and Write On!


In today’s Writer’s Market enewsletter, readers talked about how well — or not — they are keeping up with their 2008 goals, and one reader offered up what I think is a pretty good idea. (Click here to see the web version of the enewsletter.)

Thank you Dawn Herring for her idea of setting up a goals calendar. In her monthly calendar, Dawn records her progress each day so she can see how well she is doing toward her full 2008 year. That way, she won’t have that “Holy crap! It’s June and I’m no where near where I want to be” feeling.

Dawn says the calendar also keeps her motivated on the target. Sounds like a winner to me.

A couple months ago, I set a goal that by the end of June I will be finished with the first draft of my middle-grade novel and done with all the drawings for the Sir Newton’s Color Me Florida book. I think both of those are still doable, as long as I keep moving.

The reason behind Dawn’s calendar is part of the reason I started this blog: to keep me on track, accountable. And it does, somewhat, provide me with a record of how I’m doing. So far, this blog has helped me to keep writing, knowing I have to post messages on how well I’m doing.

You can use this blog for the same reason too. As I post how I’m doing with my goals, you can post how you’re doing and we’ll keep each other on track.

If you’d prefer something more visual, try Dawn’s calendar idea. Thanks, Dawn.

Write On!