June Rodriguez
JUNE: I have written my list and I am checking it twice. This time of the year most of us are busy with all the holiday preparations and celebrations. With less then two weeks before Christmas my living room floor is dotted with packing boxes waiting to be filled with all the gifts I still haven’t finished up. So it is no surprise that my writing has taken a back seat to these frenzied activities. With a tighter budget this year I have resorted to making most of my gifts and even though this feeds my creative side it is not the creative side I really want to work on. Throw in a dash of family guilt for not fulfilling some time honored function and the holidays can turn into more of a bummer than a happy holiday.

If I can’t actually work on my writing I can still think about it. I will make my own list for after the holidays.

1. Do not start on chapter one again. When you lose count of how many times you have done chapter one you should not look at it again until you have finished the whole book.

2. Do you really know who your characters are? If you haven’t communicated with them in a while maybe this would be a good time to write them a letter or interview them for your local paper. The least you could do is friend them on Facebook.

3. Do you know how your story ends? No! Yes. Maybe. Well, how about writing backwards. Start at the end and work your way forward. Then you will have a goal to work for when you go back to the beginning (not chapter one).

4. Write one hundred words a day! How hard can that be? I can talk to a friend or lecture my children about something and have no problem exceeding that one hundred word mark, over and over again. So why can’t I do it on paper?

5. Seriously put my butt in my chair. Putting my butt in a chair has never been a problem. I do it all the time when I eat or when I am at work. I even put my butt in my writing chair all the time. But, very little of that time leads to actual writing time. I can call it research or networking or any other name (spider solitaire) but it still isn’t writing.

This may seem like a short list but it is a start. You could call it my New Years list but I would like to put it into effect as soon as possible.
DORI: Ah, if only we could put "write a New York Times bestseller" on our Christmas list and have our dreams come true. Sadly, even if Santa did exist this would be a feat beyond his abilities, unless we would be content with a lot of dialogue consisting of "Ho, ho, ho, merry Christmas."

The holidays are a hectic time of year, as June has noted, which has also made it difficult for our Friday critique sessions. Christmas choir concerts, out-of-town visits with family and other holiday activities have made it difficult for us to meet. Not meeting makes it easier to avoid writing. Good news is that the New Year is right around the corner ready with plenty of time, free of holiday distractions, to write. In the meantime, finding some time to write just a few hundred words here and there will not only keep our novels moving forward, but can be used as a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the season.

SARAH: HA!! If asking Santa for an NYT Best Seller title were a sure-thing, I'd give that man a WHOLE LOT MORE than mere cookies for Christmas!! *wink wink*

I've come up with my own slogan to help keep me driven next year! "Writing 'THE END' in 2010!"

I've been getting organized and have carved out a list of goals I want to attain for the coming year. I've posted said list on the wall above my desk to jog my memory when I'm tempted to sneak in a game of Bejeweled! Staying positive and focused are going to be key. We have the "tools" to accomplish our goals, now we just have to roll up our sleeves and get dirty! My rookie year was full of highs and lows. I think a lot of my struggle stemmed from not having a game plan ironed out from the beginning. This next year, I'm locked and loaded for bear! So, rack 'em if you got 'em, ladies, we're going hunting!!
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June Rodriguez
JUNE: I noticed this week that I need to flesh out my characters a little more. When I work on other aspects of my writing such as the action or the dialogue my characters don’t receive as much attention. I recently bought a book from a workshop at my RWA group. The author was our presenter. I hope to gain new insights to the complicated process of building my characters by reading “Growing Great Characters from the Ground Up” by Martha Engber.

SARAH: I enjoyed listening to Martha's talk as well. She presented tons of insight on "Show vs. Tell", too. I wished she would have spent some time telling us about her views on building characters. I hope you'll share the juicy tidbits with us, June. There is another book I'd liked to get called, THE WIP NOTEBOOK by Jeannie Ruesch. It looks fantastic and I've heard nothing but great reviews from peers. Ms. Ruesch's WIP Notebook provides worksheets and tables for diving into your characters and plotlines. Sounds like a great Wish List item for the ole Hubby Man!

DORI: There are two different types of books, plot driven and character driven. In the suspense/thriller books are more frequently plot driven. Think Da Vinci Code and other similar books. When the book is plot driven you don't have to delve too deep into character, but when you have a character driven book it is imperative that you know your character inside and out, and that your readers learn to know your character from an intimate perspective. I think that most women readers enjoy a character driven book, which can go hand in hand with a plot driven book. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.

JUNE: To become better writers it has been suggested to read, read, read lots of books in the genre you wish to write in. I have also heard that a good way to dissect a story is to watch movies. With the holiday season upon us a lot of us will be watching movies during our free time. This year I will take that advice when I find myself sitting in a movie theater or watching that Christmas gift.

SARAH: I've become addicted to books on CD. I've been borrowing them from the lending library. I don't think I would have picked these books up at a store, simply because they aren't my preferred genre. Yet, I've been enjoying reading the different styles and voices. Most have been mystery novels with heavy crime and suspense. My only complaint is that the authors use the "F" word a lot and they haven't been all male authors either!! Sheesh! Talk about eye-opening.

I've also been doing a lot of reading in the YA and Romantic Suspense genres. It's been fun seeing how the authors create their worlds and characters. Plus, I'm seeing a pattern in how they format their paragraphs. Who knew research could be this fun!

DORI: Wish there were more time in the day to read. I definitely learn a lot by reading as many different types of books in my genre as possible. Interesting how now I can read both for pleasure and learning. I pay attention to how a writer writes, what works, what doesn't work. Invaluable research.

JUNE: Do you read your writing out loud? I don’t do it very often myself but I do like to listen to your writing out loud. I can sometimes hear when there is a problem with flow or word usage that way.

SARAH: I try to read my stuff out loud, but still find I miss things. I think my mind adds the words in. I know we've talked about this before, but it's one the many reasons why critique groups such as ours are essential! Nobody wants to present a less than polished MS to an agent or an editor. Worse yet would be having a reader spot the mistake within your novel. YIKES! Sure that's what an editor and copy-editor are for, but we're all human after all. Any precaution taken toward finding the rough spots, missing words or slip-ups in context is definitely worth the effort.

DORI: I don't read my stuff aloud, but need to try to do that. Know it would help, but my writing space is in the middle of the open space in the house and not conducive to reading aloud. Excuses, excuses, I know.
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