June Rodriguez

We have taken off Spring Break to be with our kids and Easter with our families.

Join us again next Monday as we work our way to writing The End in our novels.
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June Rodriguez
JUNE: Last week at the meeting of my local RWA chapter our guest speaker spoke about using emotion in your writing. The need to show your characters’ emotional state and their emotional conflict. The information wasn't a new concept but it resounded with me in a new way. I have a hard time writing emotionally. Why? I looked at what I am currently writing and there is no emotion that stands out. No anger, sadness, or even unease. There should be something. I think it might be because I personally have repressed my emotional extremes for many years. Working to let go in my writing means letting go for me as well. So this week I will work on adding deeper emotional conflicts in my writing.

DORI: I think to write emotion we have to tap into our own feelings and experiences, which makes us feel vulnerable. Like peeling back our outer skin and letting the world see how we tick, see our innermost fears, and desires. What we, as writers, have to remember is that those emotions are human. We have all experienced fear, sadness, lust, joy, etc. Showing those emotions are what helps the reader empathize with our characters--puts them in their shoes. Without emotion, the reader remains unattached, distant from our characters, and therefore less interested in what happens to them. When we write we want our readers to care deeply about what happens to our characters, not be ambivalent.

Some emotions are harder to express in writing than others. For instance, fear is probably an easy emotion to acknowledge, whereas lust may be more personal, more embarrassing to acknowledge. Unfortunately, as writers we have to let go of our repressed feelings if we want writing that resonates with readers.

SARAH: In romance, emotion is everything! Like a principal in a ballet, a character's feelings must take center-stage. Readers want to live vicariously through the characters they read. Not only must a writer ensure a character solves the mystery, gets the girl/guy, or beats all odds, she owes it to the reader to emotionally experience every facet of the journey.

JACKIE: That is well put Sarah, it's a good thing to think about emotion like that. Emotion is the "beat" of the story. Like a heart, it pumps blood into the story, keeps it alive, otherwise it is just words.

I also relate to June's comments. Often, we fear ourselves being seen as related to our characters. We don't want readers to make the mistake that WE are like THAT. What does it mean if we can imagine such things? This is something I have faced myself.

But I think that is what makes writers so important. We CAN imagine that. So we are able to connect our readers to aspects of themselves and the world around them to what they feel; what they fear and desire.


DORI: On a similar note as June's concern with emotion, what I fail to do with my writing is show sufficient interior thought. Interior thought is another way of understanding characters at a deeper, personal level. Part of interior thought conveys emotions, but it goes further than that. Interior thought helps the reader understand what makes a character tick, what motivates them, what they want, what they fear. So, on top of adding emotion, we need to make sure we add the character's voice to our writing, to draw the reader in and bring the story alive in a way that setting, plot, and dialog cannot do on their own.

SARAH: Interior thought is very much like the window into a character's soul. I know we all have the chops to write a smokin' hot scene full of action and suspense and even love, it's just a matter of remembering to layer in the little things that make a character stand out. Yep, this is just another example of the ole learning curve kicking us in the caboose! lol

DORI: I agree, all part of the learning process. June though doesn't give herself enough credit. It's just that she has to let go a bit and infuse more emotion. As the rest of her crit partners know she's got it in her.

JACKIE: You are absolutely right Dori. June, you are an amazing writer. I have watched June let "the horse gallop" a bit more with her current novel and it really makes it sizzle.

I think interior thought is the thread that sews the emotion and the actions together. If all you have is a thinking head, nothing seems real. If all you have is action, no matter how exciting or relevant, then you have a picture without a story. Emotions have to have a source and so do actions, and that is interior thought.

When a story is working well, all three are working in tandem. The trick is to keep the writer the boss and not let any one of these aspects take over, because at any given time in a story's telling, they will want to ham it up.

JUNE: That is a great way to think about the connection between the three Jackie. You guys have given me a lot to think about this week. Thanks for the great feedback.
SARAH: During that same speaker's introduction, she asked us what sort of books made our "keeper shelf" and why. This got my hamsters to spinning. Obviously, I read romance because I enjoy the love story, but "love", if given a role, would be the meat in the lasagna. What makes up the rest?

I flipped through a couple of shelves and realized I have a fondness for spies, mysterious killers or stalkers, and definitely heroes and heroines who defy convention. Well, go figure! Ain't that a short blurb for my WIP?!

What about you gals? Do the plot/characters of your WIP reflect your tastes?

DORI: Absolutely! I caught the reading bug when I discovered my mother's old Nancy Drew books. Enter the mystery genre in my life. Next, I discovered Robert Ludlum in college, the master of spy/suspense novels. Loved them. Most of the other books that now line my bookshelves are in the suspense/thriller category from spies to legal thrillers. Because it is easier for me to write legal thrillers than spy thrillers (no covert ops in my background) that's what I gravitated towards in my writing life. I definitely want to write what I enjoy reading.

JUNE: My favorites list is a bit more varied. When I was younger I read science fiction, mysteries, and Shakespeare. I spent years reading plays and poetry. My current shelf runs to romance with a tug at your heart flavor. If it makes me want to cry I can’t wait to finish reading it. I am a little surprised to figure this out.

June Rodriguez
DORI: I missed being with everyone last week, but I’m so glad I went to Left Coast Crime. It was a great four days. I learned a lot and met a lot of other writers in my genre. Walked about feeling both inspired and unworthy. I realized that all of those writers I was listening to all had to start somewhere. They too had to write between jobs, family, and other life demands. That meant there is no excuse for me. On the other hand, listening to established writers reading from some of their work, I questioned my ability to write as well.

JUNE: Glad to have you back Dori. I’m not sure why genre writers seem to be so much nicer and more helpful to each other. All my experiences at conferences and workshops have been like yours. Someone is always willing to share what they have learned and eager to learn from others as well. I think that is why I am looking forward to signing up for more opportunities as soon as the funds will allow. You just have to remember that now that you are back to only remember the useful stuff and forget the downer stuff.

SARAH: I'm glad you had fun, Dori! You deserve the break. I can only imagine what a conference is like. I'm very excited at the prospect of attending the RWA Nationals when it arrives in Anaheim summer 2012. Long time away from now, but hopefully, I'll be going as an author! lol

If you let yourself get bogged down with the reality of writing, you're gonna be a candidate for the coo-house! Your voice is YOUR voice, just like those Big Dog writers. It's hard not to compare your writing to the glitzy work of the revered, believe me, I'm right there with ya! But they had to put their undies on one foot at a time, too. As a person who has read your writing, Dori, I don't think you have anything to worry about!

JUNE: We had more problems with computers again this week. I’m not sure where I got my original manuscript formatting information but I have followed the same guideline for years. Sarah’s computer keeps changing her spacing between paragraphs. After several attempts at correcting the situation the problem still persists. Working with more than one operating system and switching work back and forth has also caused problems. Widows and orphans is a strange little formatting elf that helps to allow the full use of your page but can be difficult to find.

SARAH: A good web site for formatting of manuscripts is http://www.passionatepen.com/formatarticle.htm It was one of the first sites I found when I started googling "writing". Lol Jenna Petersen has a mega-load of information for writers of all walks. It's worth the click over.

My problem was completely operator error. LOL For years, I stuck with Windows 98 and now that I've upgraded to Vista and more recently, Windows 7-- I'm stuck within the trenches of the learning curve. Thanks go to Dori and June for showing me where the prompts were within my software. Whew! You gals made it look easy!

JUNE: This week I took another small step forward. I am still doing some research but reading more in the format I have chosen is on my list of things to do.

DORI: I came back from LCC with stacks of books, to add to my already huge stack of books. I wish I had time to read them all. Every book I read certainly helps me as a writer. Guess I'm going to have to carve out time to read in addition to writing. Can someone create a 48 hour day?

SARAH: I don't know if this is a brag worthy tidbit or a confession of sorts! Since December, I have read and listened to close to 25 books. Yeah, my writing suffered, BUT I was able to pick up a feel for my genre's flow. I know the books I read were technically written the year or two before, but there was still a wealth of information to be had.

I know for my genre of Regency Romance there is a very distinct flavor to the stories and that was what I was "researching". LoL My writing is better for the exercise. I decided to redo the beginning of my MS and the extra work paid off. The first five lines of my MS were selected as one of 12 finalists in the New Beginnings Contest sponsored by author Jennifer Haymore. My first chapter and synopsis will compete for the grand prize of having an agent read the material for possible consideration!

JUNE: What I’m working on has its own set of perimeters. I plan on doing something along the same lines as you Sarah. I need a better feel for the rhythm of the movement of the story.

Big congrats on the contest finial and we are cheering you on.
June Rodriguez
JUNE: A couple of week’s ago I started a new novel. A new idea and new content. As an unpublished author the novel I was working on began to feel out of my reach. The complicated plot became more and more unbelievable. My frustration with the project increased until I was unable to write any further. I made the decision to write a contemporary with a smaller word count and a more straight forward plot. The past two weeks I have worked on research and the story setting.

The setting is a very important part of any story. There are many facets to any setting. Being able to search high-speed internet has opened so many doors to finding the information you need. Not only does the web cut down on the time it takes to find the information but it also broadens the type of info you can use. And as they say “one thing leads to another.” Deciding on the location (New Jersey), the big city (Trenton), the type of house (real estate), and the time of year (spring) can be googled, binged or yahooed. I have found excellent sites on names for both Italian and Irish. I tracked down country clubs in northern New Jersey and the perfect BMW car for the hero to drive. His and her occupation and the current housing market in the area. With all this information all I need to do is add the words.

SARAH: Ha! You missed your calling, June! You should have been a P.I.!!! Having authenticating details to back up a MS is always a good idea. Kind of like using a little pepper to season up a story.

JACKIE: Good one Sarah! But what June has learned are the tools to build a story. You're right, just add the creative "stuff" and you have a story built with a firm foundation. I am learning the same writing my novel. And you know what, it is a lot of fun. The IDEAS you come up with when doing "P.I." work is just amazing.

DORI: If anyone wants to volunteer to do my research, I'll gladly take the help. I find it a necessary evil. Know I'm odd, but I have so little time to write that any time spent doing research seems like a waste of precious time. That's one of the reasons I switched gears, like June, and now I'm writing a novel where there is less research needed as it's something I have more real world experience with.

JUNE: With the new story I am writing I brought a copy of the first chapter of a book for you guys to use as an example of the genre I am working on. I have read a lot of this type of book and selected several to learn from.

SARAH: I enjoyed the read and thought it was an wonderful example. Next week, I'm hoping to flavor you ladies with some Regency reads.

JACKIE: Same here. Thanks, June. Sarah, is it chocolate flavoring? I too, need to do the same. I keep trying to think of the perfect book that incorporates all the ingredients I am using in my novel, but I think what I will begin with is simply the book I am reading now. It is not exactly a representation of my story type, but it is of the basic writing style, strong description, poetic narrative. With me, of course, a big splash of fantasy and adventure.

DORI: Can't wait to read it. Sorry I had to miss Friday night, but my writing conference (Left Coast Crime) was well worth the time and money. Can't wait to tell you all about it.

Think it is great that we're getting to be more familiar with our various writing styles. Can only make us better critique partners.

JUNE: Looking forward to hearing all about your conference Dori. And to have you back at the table.

SARAH: I recently found an internet translator. It's a very handy tool to have in a writer's arsenal. Now, should I feel the need to add in a foreign accent, I'll have the answer in seconds. As long you double check what you've written to what's come out, you're in like flint! Here is the link: http://www.microsofttranslator.com/

JUNE: That sounds like a great link to have for working on my current book. I could use a few Italian and Irish words for what I am working on.

JACKIE: Definitely sounds like fun. I wish I needed it right now, but you never know...

DORI: How fun. I need Spanish phrases, foods, mannerisms, etc. for my protagonist's sidekick.

SARAH: I entered a contest on a historical author's blog this last week. The 'what-to-do' was entering the first 5 lines of your MS. The prize, should your entry make it to the final round, was the opportunity to have an agent read your first chapter for possible consideration. With 5 finalists being picked each week for three weeks, if selected, there would only be competition between 15 other entries for the grand prize. Kind of worth it, huh? Excellent way for an author to bring activity to their site AND most importantly, pay it forward!

Those first lines of a book are quite hefty. Whether it's a snazzy zinger of a first sentence or an intriguing lead-in paragraph, an author has to deliver the punch that pulls the reader into the story. Kind of like speed dating in a way. First impressions are either do or die!!

DORI: Good luck!

JACKIE: I am fascinated by that. The very idea that someone is utilizing so much creativity and effort in a rather complex contest set up, lets me know that they are truly interested in what is "out there" in terms of talent and potential sales worthiness. Very cool.

JUNE: Count me in. I have at least one first five that I could enter. It's free and a great opportunity to boot. Up for a little competition Sarah?

P.S. Good luck Sarah on your selection as a finalist for the first five contest!
June Rodriguez

JUNE: This week all of us brought our two pages. Tonight the critique process moved along really well for each of us. What I noticed was a problem with our computer. As a writer our most important tool is our computer. We rely on it heavily for correcting our spelling and grammar with an effortless ease. But as we noticed tonight we still benefit from the practiced eye of our other partners. So far the computer can only do what it is programmed to do. It can not learn from its mistakes. Our bugaboo tonight was words that are spelled incorrectly for the usage that we intended. The word was not spelled wrong so it was not picked up by our microchip friend. I know in my case I did read over that section several times and still did not catch the incorrect spelling. Thank you ladies for being my extended family of eyes and ears.

DORI: Then there are the dreaded backwards quotation marks where the computer thinks it knows best. Wrong! They're hard to catch, unless you're looking for them. How very frustrating.

SARAH: I really dislike when the auto format flips on and a simple double-drop moves the whole MS to centered justification. ARGH! I'm also not a big fan of the gremlins that add in hieroglyphics to the body of a doc when copying/pasting into the HTML box of a blog post! Now, that is frustration squared!


JUNE: Bringing more authenticating details into my pages without doing an info dump was one of my goals tonight and I seem to have succeeded with that. The other was to work on my hyphen usage. I did better at knowing where to put them in but then I also put them in where they were not needed. So it looks like I need to work on this writing hitch just a little more.

We succeeded in tightening up our work from last week as well.

DORI: Your added authenticating details were spot on. Kudos to you for that. Really paints a better picture than before. Doesn't take a lot of them, just a sprinkling will do.

JUNE: Overall our work brought more believability to our characters.

DORI: Our work will be more believable after we make the changes needed based on June's input. She is good about catching things like how did my protag get her wet sticky running clothes off without taking off her shoes first. She'll question whether actions are true to our character, the setting, etc. Thanks June for your watchful and questioning eye.

SARAH: Yes, June does have a knack for spotting such details. It's just another reason why every writer needs a strong critique group. Another set of eyes to help polish BOTH craft and an MS. A real win, win situation.

JUNE: I rely on Dori to challenge me on my horrible punctuation and grammar usage. Sarah always sees the details in a more vibrant way and Jackie teases my imagination to go a step further. I see real progress in our writing since our start and I know we will continue to step up to the challenges.

DORI: Best part is that we're moving forward and our work has fewer editing required.

SARAH: Practice makes progress. It's trite, but very true. I've heard it said time and again by the NYT's- the more you write, the better your writing will get. Here's to keeping our digits glued to the keyboard!

June Rodriguez
JUNE: Our goal this week was to send out two pages to be critiqued by the group. I managed to meet the goal with a very rough draft.

JACKIE: I was a little short of my goal of 2000 words but I still benefited from the goal with 2 1/2 pages. I wrote and I was focused.

DORI: Technically, I didn't meet the goal as we were supposed to e-mail our pages out by Thursday, so everyone would have a chance to review before Friday night. All week long I meant to get my pages done, but just couldn't seem to get it done. Work was demanding this week, and will be for a number of weeks to come. Handling someone else's full-time criminal defense docket along with my own clients, teaching, grantwriting, and kids I was overwhelmed. So, I excused myself for not meeting the goal.

But then I received June's and Jackie's pages. I reviewed their pages Friday afternoon, all the while lamenting my failure to meet our goal. Worse part was it was the very first week of my commitment to write at least two pages every day. What's two pages after all? I looked at the clock and realized I had about two hours before I had to be at June's for our Friday night critique session. Enough excuses. Bound and determined not to break my commitment I banged out two pages to bring with me. I didn't get them to everyone in time to be reviewed beforehand, I didn't have a chance to edit them, but by golly I wrote them. I realized that life, no matter how chaotic it may be, will always hold obstacles that will make finding time to write difficult, but I can't use that as an excuse or I'll never finish a book. So, no more excuses, only pages to write and deliver. Forge on!

JACKIE: What is amazing is how, just slamming the keyboard at the last minute, you were able to produce such good work. You are a natural storyteller.

SARAH: I've been playing around with a chapter and wanted to get a better feel for the scene, so I recorded the words into a voice recorder. When I listen to books on CD, I see and hear the words. So, listening to the playback helped me find the rougher spots and showed me I had found a flow I liked.

Since I was able to gain so much from listening to my chapter, I decided to voice record the pages you gals sent me! I thought it would be fun to have a group listen. Kind of cool to hear your stuff read out loud, huh?!

JUNE: Thanks ladies. So the consensus is I need to brush up on correct hyphen usage, work on tightening and setting the time frame in my beginning, and use a few more authenticating details. Sarah thanks for recording my pages. Listening to your reading gave me even more insight to the flow. That was a great idea. Maybe I should do that with my own writing. I do read my work out loud but I don’t really connect to my own voice. Listening to Jackie’s pages was helpful as well. I wish we could do this when we critique other work as well.

DORI: June, your first draft showed a strong start to your new novel. I'm looking forward to seeing the story progress.

Most published authors say that they never let anyone read their first draft and only bring polished work to their critique groups. While that is probably the ideal situation, our focus is on getting the first draft done. No matter what. If we don't have time during the week to get the writing done and polish it, I think we should be brave enough to bring it forward anyway. Yes, it's great to bring something fully edited and it gets rave reviews, but if we don't bring anything forward we'll never meet our goals. I trust each of you and know that any feedback I get is coming from the heart and intended to help me improve my writing. I recognize that when I bring a first draft it will have a lot of room for improvement and therefore a more critical evaluation, but that's okay. We're not looking for perfection in our fellow critique partners.

Besides, if we were perfect writers we wouldn't need critique partners, as there would be nothing to critique.

SARAH: Yes, it was me that slacked off and didn't bring my pages because I didn't think they were quite ready to be digested. I guess I was stuck in the old mind set that if it wasn't my best, why bring it. You're right, Dori. I should have bit the bullet and brought my pages. I'll have them ready come hell or awful writing by next week. *sigh* Sometimes being a perfectionist isn't always a good thing, you know?


DORI: For me, the best opportunity to carve out time to write is over the weekend. I still have other work commitments that have to be addressed, but I have the ability to find an hour or two to write. I sat down at my computer intent on banging out the first draft of Chapter 5. I knew the purpose of the chapter, but couldn't put a word down on paper. My problem was that I didn't know where to start. Without a start how do you get to the end? Kind of like being in the starter's block, but the starter never fires the gun. There I sat, and sat. Worse part was I knew that I could only free up a few precious hours and the more I sat the more I fretted that I was wasting the only opportunity to get my writing in for the week. The more I fretted, the harder it was to conjure up the right words to begin. So, I never did. The weekend came and went and I didn't write a word. Literally, not one word. Sigh.

Then Friday rolled around. As I pointed out earlier, I got my critique partners' required pages and the guilt that had been nagging me all week long set in with a vengeance. If I broke my commitment in week one, then I was setting up a pattern for every week thereafter. When I finally realized that I couldn't let that happen I banged out those pages lickety split.

Let me tell you what I learned from that experience. You can't linger over finding the perfect place to start a chapter. Not the first draft anyway. The important thing is to write. Write anything. Once I wrote those first few lines the story carried them away. If I'd had the time I have no doubt that I could've banged out the entire chapter that night. I will never waste the few hours I can allocate again. Lesson learned.

SARAH: Well, I thought you nailed it! I loved the beginning. I think it showed a great deal of your MC's control issues.

JUNE: I agree with Sarah. Even if we had taken more time to scrutinize your pages I would have come up with same results. You are on the right track with the flow and the craft. Keep on rocking Dori.

JUNE: I wanted to do a little more research on the series line I plan to submit to. So I went to the Harlequin web site to check out the Silhouette Desire line. They have their writing guidelines for each book line posted there. I also found an interview podcast with the editors. There are also podcast recordings with several of the authors. There was a lot of insider information in those interviews that I will be able to use as I get closer to submitting my work.

DORI: Thanks for sharing the guidelines with us. Listen to the podcasts and savor. I really envy your set of rules to follow. Not every market has that benefit. I think you've chosen the right place to target your first novel and I look forward to helping you work your way there.

SARAH: Congrats on your new inspiration, June! I love that you're fired up and ready to go. It's a very good energy to catch! Here's to 'Writing "The End" in 2010!'
June Rodriguez
JUNE: I want to finish my first book before the end of this year. I have been working for too long on one story or another without ever finishing one. We started this group with the goal of becoming better writers and critiquing each other's work. Lately I have become very frustrated with what I am working on and have not brought anything to share in quite awhile. Can we all set a specific date to finish our work in progress? Maybe this will help me.

DORI: I'm right there with you June. 2010 should be the year for all four of us to finish a novel. I would like to have my done by October or November this year (before Bouchercon and the mystery conference cruise), but definitely before the year is out. Sooner would be great, but the point is to get it done; setting a goal and sticking with it at a minimum. I'm excited. I think if we all four set out to accomplish finishing a manuscript this year it will motivate all of us to do so. Let's hold each other accountable!

SARAH: My main goal is to enter the RWA Golden Heart contest. It was a goal last year so I'm determined to "tote the note" this year, blast it all!! I'd like to have my MS completed/polished and ready for the mid-September 2010 entry date. It's totally within my grasp; I just need to step up to the plate and start swinging. There is a blog I like to haunt that is very similar to ours in that the writers are all CP's. Together, they have encouraged each to "The End", been there for the agent/publisher coups, and will all have debuts this year. How exciting! I think it's awesome we're doing this together. I hope that we'll be celebrating together, as well!

JACKIE: Count me in ladies. This year belongs to us! I am committed to having my manuscript in a box, wrapped with a bow for my husband's birthday, September 18th. It is a gift to myself, and a gift to him because he has believed in me for the years I have struggled. We owe it to ourselves because we are that good. I sit at our table and I hear us all, and our writing voices are strong and clear and ready. June I am so proud of you. Your writer's "Towanda" is out! So, to us ladies, because this year the world will meet our creations.

JUNE: A few weeks ago I finally entered the world of Facebook as part of my list of things to do to build a writing platform. So far I have just the bare bones set up. I do have a growing list of friends and I have more to learn but I am not happy about all the game windows that are being sent my way. I expected more actual social interaction going on.

DORI: Facebook can be used as you want to use it. It has the capacity for social interaction, but it can be just something to entertain others. I don't get involved with the building gardens, fish tanks, games, etc. I don't have the time or the inclination. However, it is a great vehicle for keeping folks up to date on things, such as a contest win. Hey, that reminds me that I don't think I let everyone know about my recently published short story. Think I'll jump onto Facebook today. We should also encourage our blog followers to come introduce themselves and friend us all. It's great to meet other writers out there. Keeps us from feeling isolated.

SARAH: FB is what YOU make of it. Dori, pegged it right. FB is a multi-faceted social site. Whether you're looking to connect with old high school buddies, meet authors and fellow writers, or marketing your blog or book, there is something for everyone. I stay away from games just because I know I'd get addicted and get NOTHING accomplished! So, I'll live vicariously through my mom's successes at BeJeweled. Now, there is the perfect example of a FB junkie! (Sorry, mom, you know I love ya, but you know it's true! lol)

JACKIE: I agree with Dori and Sarah, Facebook is a great tool, but you have to use it as one. The temptation is always there to skip about the playground area, but just remember who you are signing in as: working, networking writer, or everyday, I just want to have fun self. Both are valid, but remember to be "on the clock". Personally, I am more like Sarah, I look at the fun stuff, but I am leery about "farming" or "fishing" or the other myriad things my relatives and friends do, because YES I would be playing in the "park" all day, lol.

DORI: Facebook is one way of getting your name out there. Having a website is probably more important. I don't use my website the way I should, but it's a great tool. I don't have the capabilities to do things myself, so I use a webmistress to help keep it up for me. I had the original site set up by one individual who did a good job, but now I work with friend and fellow writer Brenda Pandos. You can check out her work website out at http://www.brendapandos.com/. However, given June's gift for putting up our blog here, when June's ready to jump into having a website she could probably put one together without help. I'm not that technologically gifted.

JUNE: That’s the other goal on my list this year. I want to get a web site set up. Dori, your site looks great. I may give setting the site up on my own a try.

SARAH: Getting a website is my second goal for this year. I'd love to combine a website with my blog. I spend a lot of time promoting other authors on my blog. It would be nice to have a place where my work is front and center in the display case, so to speak. I'd love to learn how to design my own website, blog backgrounds, and banners, too. Maybe one day I'll take a design class. I think it would be fun class to take and a great way to help me understand 'techie talk'. LOL

JACKIE: Well, right now, I am working on my blog site. My goal is to having it at least presentable by the end of next weekend. It is doable. After spending time "working" my blog, I will move up the ladder to a website, but right now I just want to get into the water and learn to "swim". In a few months I will be free for experimentation. SUMMER yeah:)

DORI: In order to complete our novels by the end of this year we need to commit to bringing a minimum number of pages to group EVERY week. Seems like we can all handle at least two pages. They don't have to be perfectly polished, just something that moves the work forward. We can help each other turn those pages into strong writing.

JUNE: I think I can do that. That's only about 600 works.

SARAH: I'm going to commit to writing at least 3-4 days a week. I think a set goal of 600 words at each session is totally realistic. Once I get back into the habit of parking my rear in the chair on a consistent basis, I can always increase the goal. The object here isn't so much word count as staying PRODUCTIVE- aka forward motion! Writing "The End" in 2010, baby!

JACKIE: My commitment is 2000 words a week. If I hold that pace, I will be finished by September 2010.

ALL: Okay, we've sealed the deal with a four handed high five, now let's get to work writing. This week the journey begins.

P.S. To all our followers and friends. This week we marked our first six months working together to post this Blog. Thank you for hanging in there and following our journey. As Dori said we would love to hear from you. Post a comment or send us an email. I check in everyday.
June Rodriguez

JACKIE: I have decided to set a new writing goal for myself. I am writing a minimum of 2,000 words a week. With job and school, I think that this is still a realistic number. Most importantly, I need this to keep my book a real thing in my mind. It means I take my dream seriously. With this number, I can complete my novel by the end of fall.

JUNE: I’m really glad you are going for a new writing goal. We have talked about goals before but changing or upping a goal makes it a new challenge. Any opportunity we take to increase our writing time or work on new goals for building our platform can only help us with the goal of eventual publication.

DORI: How right you are, June. The key is to have a goal; otherwise we flounder, as I know all too well. Problem is finding one that works for us, but at the same time moves us forward with enough momentum to eventually be successful. I'm still struggling to get there. Just when I think I've got the one chapter a week mode working for me, my real life demands make that difficult. When I spend 12+ hours a day writing grants (as I've done a lot lately) my mind simply can't make the switch to fiction and I'm simply too tired to think. My goal is to find a way to balance the demands in my life so that I can set a writing goal I can stick with.

SARAH: Real life isn't picky about when it attacks, that is for sure! My health issues and that of my son have left me somewhat stymied with my progress. I've been getting words in every other day or so, the count may not be stellar, but I stick to my guns and try to stay on task. Stubbornness is what keeps me going. Lol, I've got that in spades, ask my mom and my hubby.

I admire your determination, Dori. You're one of the busiest people I know and also the most determined. It's inspiring!

DORI: How heck, see now I can't complain I have too many things in the way of writing. Sarah, if you can find time in your life to still write I have no excuse.

JACKIE: I admire you both so much! The two of you inspire me, and June as well, she keeps me from putting my dream on a shelf. That is why we are so wonderful together.

JUNE: With the month of February half way over I am still disheartened with the extra pounds still hanging on from the holidays. With the job I do and the time I spend in a chair I move even less than I did a few months ago. This past week I decided I needed to add more exercise to my day. I dug through the old VHS tapes gathering dust under my TV and found quite a few exercise tapes from as far back as the 70’s. Thankfully the VCR/DVD duo machine I own still works. I managed to make it through two sessions of an easy tape this week without too many aches and pains. This gives me hope that I can continue. These days there are many ways to work in a little exercise. I am hoping that working out will help me be a little more focused on my writing as well.

DORI: As you know I have made the commitment to an aerobic workout several days a week. It has certainly made me feel better about my physical well being and hopefully will help me lose the extra weight that stress has added. However, now I find that my writing time now competes with one more time commitment. Sigh. Again, looking to find a way to balance everything.

SARAH: Bravo, ladies!! I think it's awesome you've put your health first. Staying fit and sticking to an exercise plan will help boost energy and discipline. I began the year with high hopes of getting back into shape. Well, I guess I can thank my rebelling gallbladder for jump-starting that goal. In three weeks, I've dropped 20 pounds. Of course, the people on Survivor are probably eating more than me at this point! LOL. This week I should find out the results of my "scan" and get the 411 on a possible date with Dr. McDreamy. I've got Hawaii to lose weight for and can't even work out! So, once things get ironed out, I'll be back in the gym! *heehee* I've promised myself a professional head shot if I get to my goal weight. It will be the perfect topping for my website! Oh-la-la!!

DORI: Leave it up to Sarah to find a way to link losing weight with promoting her writing.

JACKIE: Yeah baby! Well, I am friends with my Wii again. That and a commitment to Kaiser's 10,000 steps program will bring about a healthier me too. Hey, we'll have to take a sexy shot together for the blog!

JUNE: I think that is a great idea Jackie. But we should take a before picture to help motivate us in our healthy endeavors.

JACKIE: Last weekend, my husband and I took a drive toward Sequoia and there is this great (albeit shrinking) lake on the way. You can rent houseboats there. I thought what a pretty inexpensive way for us all to take a day (or two) and have a "mini" writing retreat. It's only an hour away.

JUNE: I like your idea about the house boat. Someone else will have to drive it though. I am not a boater. Never driven one. But I could come up with an idea for a story about a heroine who doesn’t know how either and is rescued by a knowledgeable hero type.

DORI: I'm game for anything, but like June, I couldn't help drive the boat either.

SARAH: Um, I've been on few boats, but my job was never driving. *wink wink* I'm sure it would be easy enough. If I can drive a tractor, I can figure out how to drive a boat. Might be an adventure!! Let's hope the lake patrol unit is hot and has a good sense of humor. LOL

JACKIE: There the girl goes again...LOL. I will look up the name of the place and get a price sheet. I am sure we can figure it out, or, sadly, we may be forced to take some hunk along for help, lol.
June Rodriguez
DORI: This week was memorable. Thursday I had a BIG birthday. Won’t mention what age, but my daughter gave me permission to be perpetually 49. I saw my birthday as affirmation that my life was on the downhill side making achievement of my long laundry list of goals unlikely. Near the top of that list was being published. My focus has been to finish and publish a novel, but in the meantime I finally decided to try writing a short story. I was thrilled when it won accolades in a couple of contests, but was elated today when I received copies of that story published in the Connecticut Lawyer. Hard to describe how it felt to see my story laid out across the pages of the magazine. Made me realize that I may be getting older, but it’s never too late to pursue a writing career—if you want it enough.

SARAH: Wah-Hoo and congrats, Dori!! How amazing! Friday Night Write has a published author in the house! Hope you celebrated big time, lady! Ha! Just don’t eat the chocolate in front of me. J I’m feeling you on the desire to see goals realized. Writing is hard work. It takes the Double D’s!! (No, not those kind of D’s lol) I’m talking Dedication and Discipline. You’ve got both, Dori. I know you’ll succeed. One thing is for certain, you sure set the “bar”!!

JUNE: Wonderful! Wonderful! Such great news Dori. I’m so glad you are in print!! The photo layout is great. All your hard work is now visual proof of your talent. You worked long and hard on your story, through many revisions and slicing down your word count when you just knew you couldn’t take out another word. Winning or placing in past contests was just as wonderful but now you have attained the next level of wonderful. Like I said, as for your birthday, don’t sweat the small stuff.

DORI: June’s birthday is a week after mine so we thought we would celebrate by going to see the movie Sherlock Holmes then analyze it afterwards. The casting was excellent, and the relationship between Holmes and Watson was both humorous and touching. A reminder that when we tell our stories, through our writing, we have a chance to “cast” the perfect characters. We have the opportunity to bring to life our own Holmes and Watson.

SARAH: One element I liked about the movie was the characterization of Sherlock and Holmes. We weren’t spoon-fed the tidbits, the character affectations brought the sleuths to life. Gestures, mannerisms, and expressions made the characters. It was a classic example of “show don’t tell.”

JUNE: The first fact I liked about the movie was the use of humor to lighten the serious subject plotline of the film. Taking over the world is always a tough theme. This movie stepped up the relationship between the two main characters to the point where they resembled and old married couple as the cliché goes. The banter or dialogue was crisp and bounced back and forth like a ping-pong match. Throw in a good dose of action while thwarting the evil bad guys and I liked the pacing of the story. So all this tells me the same basic writing goals. You need good characters, sharp dialogue, and lots of conflict. Now all I have to do is write the next blockbuster novel that will be made into a movie.

JUNE: I finially got a chance to try setting the mood for my writing with music. We have talked about this before but I never tried listening to something outside my usual box. My novel is a historical romance set in Texas in the late 1800’s. I don’t normally listen to country music but decided to give it a go. I picked out a few artists whose music was a little closer to my usual rock & roll taste and used an internet radio station to pick a list of other artists with similar styles. I have listened to this music all week and have been pleasantly surprised by how mush I have gotten into the feel of the rhythms and the stories. I think this experiment has worked out and will try this again with future writing projects.

DORI: I’ve heard the advice before to listen to music that sets the mood for your genre. Question is what king of music goes with writing thrillers? I inherited my daughters old IPod and want to figure out how to use it while I write. My desk, unfortunately, is in the thick of things in the house. I can’t close the door and have piece and quiet, so having music to drown out the noise would be helpful. Now if I can find someway of blocking out my view of all the housework that screams out to be addressed.

SARAH: For writing thrillers, what about watching some of your favorite movies and pick the songs you like. With the internet, you can google the titles. Easy-peasy!!
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June Rodriguez
DORI: Two weeks ago I suggested that we each familiarize ourselves with the type of writing that each of the Friday Night Write partners aspire to emulate. So, I finally copied a chapter from James Grippando’s Born to Run, as an example of the type of writing that is appropriate for my genre, but at the same time has a similarity to my own writer’s voice. Tonight all of my writing partners read the chapter and now have a copy of that chapter to keep as a reference in reviewing my work. I now keep a copy on my desk as a reference to check my own work against. I think it is a valuable tool for me, and hopefully will help my partners to better critique my work. I look forward to seeing similar examples from each of my partners. Will be interesting to see the impact on our value to each other as critique partners.

JUNE: I continued to rifle through my meager stash of books looking for an example of my writing type. I needed to go to the library and the local book store before I settled on an author whose style is similar to my own. Two books later I have my future example to provide to the group next week. And in the process I have a new author I will be following.

JACKIE: I am right behind you June. There are several authors that have parts of me in them. Maybe I will create an “anthology” of work that represents my style. I say this mostly because my book contains elements of a few genres.

One thing I look forward to, is visiting stories l have left on the shelf for awhile. It will be interesting to see, while backtracking, a time track of influences that have helped create the writer I have become.

SARAH: It was very interesting to see your example, Dori. Not only was the excerpt enjoyable to read, but I gained a fresh perspective on what sort of flow you’re looking for. One thing for sure, I was definitely intrigued with the way the author set up his characterization. Seems like an awesome book and learning tool. Good choice!


JUNE: So I have put it off long enough and this weekend my goal is to sign up for Facebook. We have established that starting a Facebook page is one of the things each of us needs to do to build up our platform. I’m not one to toot my horn so I have been reluctant to follow through on this. But lately I have found myself out of the loop of what information is being passed out through Facebook. I am the last one still standing outside the circle.

DORI: I have a Facebook page, but I’m not addicted to it as some are. However, I could certainly be using it more to my advantage than I have. In order to get value out of it, you have to use it. The trick is to have at least one day a week that you update the page and link with others. Definitely a great way to stay connected to people and let them know what’s going on in your life. So, when you have a book to promote you can let everyone know with a few key strokes and a click of the button. Gotta love being a writer during the technology age.

JACKIE: It will be nice to see your smiling face. Facebook is a great place to encourage each other as well, and to share a laughing moment. (Sarah does this so well.) Opportunities are endless, but most important I think, is that our faces will be out there. Even when time goes by before you check in, you are still connected to other writers who continue as part of your loop and vice versa.

SARAH: By taking this step, June, you’re not just getting linked in− you’re making an investment in your future. There are many facets to a FB page. For one, it’s the perfect media for growing a following. You should make it a goal to keep meeting other writers and readers. “Friend” your favorite writers and you’ll be “in the know” on their next release AND getting an awesome tutorial in Authorhood 101!! Just remember to give yourself time to play and work. It’s your platform, make the most of it!

Ha! Next up, is Twitter, right?!

DORI: Still haven't gotten into Twittering yet, so I'm in the same boat as June there. Taking baby steps.

JACKIE: We have to keep writing--over, under, and across the inputs and opinions of others, even contest judges. When you consider the evaluation of ten judges and find at least eight diametrically opposed opinions that is a clue to listen to your own voice. Trust it.

As long as your craft is evolving you should have confidence that your story will reach the right readers. Guess who they will be? They will be the thousands (or millions) that enjoy what the judges who gave you high marks enjoyed.

A good writer has only one challenge--find the audience to love you.

SARAH: The one thing entering contests has shown me is the value of moving forward. While I appreciate the time and effort the judges put into my entry, I’m the one who has the final say.

For instance, I got my results back from the Gotcha Contest and was completely stumped with the comments. Two of my judges had contradictory advice. What the heck does one do with that? The old Sarah would have agonized over what was said, maybe changing and rewriting--but that’s so 2009! The new Sarah is focused on moving forward!!

DORI: Good for you, Sarah. We would all love every word to be perfect, but in striving to reach that goal you may never finish writing your book. That is particularly true of a first book. Writing is a life-long learning process. Each book will be better than the last. The key is to finish. Don’t spend forever trying to get everything just right. Instead, just write!

JUNE: Just writing sounds wonderful. With everything else in our lives that demand our time, finding that elusive writer heaven is so difficult. Dori and Sarah have been my inspiration the last couple of weeks. If you guys can carve out time to move forward I will strive to follow suit. We may not be able to follow our dream of a writing retreat right now but when we do I want to be able to have that first manuscript to edit with the rest of you. You go girls.

DORI: I'm certainly one to rely on the excuse that I don't have time. You know how crazy and demanding my life is, but trying to carve out time for something every week is keeping me moving forward. One nice thing about thrillers is that they generally have short chapters, generally less than ten pages. I have just been focusing on having at least one new chapter a week for all of you to review. I would love to see you follow suit, June. Just jump in and don't be afraid to bring something forward that is less than perfectly polished. Just write!

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June Rodriguez
JUNE: I made an attempt to decide on a writer that I could use as a contemporary example of my writing genre and /or style. It was more difficult than I expected. After going through about a dozen of my favorite authors I found that most of them were printed 10-15 years ago. Not quite the up to date examples I needed. How can I give my fellow critique partners an idea of what I write when I can’t even find one myself? It looks like my search for a contemporary needs a little more research on my part and a closer look into my own writing.

DORI: June, I understand your reluctance to read too many authors writing similar books but I think it is important to have a general idea of the market. I know you want to tell your story, untainted by what others are writing. That makes sense to me. However writing today is very different than 10-15 years ago. It’s different because readers today have different expectations. What worked for Shakespeare wouldn’t work for us. Understanding reader expectations is important. It won't change the story you want to tell, but certainly can affect how you decide to tell it. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with as an example.

SARAH: Writing evolves. The romances of the 80’s and 90’s are not the styles of today. Readers want more heroic heroes and heroines with smarts and independence. I know where you’re coming from in not wanting to venture out, but there is nothing wrong with getting a taste of what has changed. Have fun-you may just find an author to begin following.

JACKIE: Who's to say we won't actually find a greater range to our "voice" by reading other authors. I know I am certainly still growing up as a writer and there are aspects of what I want to reach for that have not reached my imagination. I think reading the work of others in our genres (and beyond) allows us the opportunity to glimpse a piece of our writer selves expressed in phrases and style we may not have thought of but are in our repertoire waiting to be discovered and used. So--I will gather my favorite stuff and take a serious look at what influences me and opens me up.

SARAH: Write your character NOT you. We all have inhibitions. That one little thing we wouldn’t normally do, but that may not be so for our characters. While I might draw the line at chasing down a killer, my heroine, Melanie is hell-bent to attract one! As writers, we have to remember to get the heck out of our character’s way and let their voice shine through.

DORI: Characters in books are larger than life, that’s what makes them entertaining. If they mirrored my reality they would be REALLY boring. What’s hard is to allow ourselves to explore personalities, lifestyles, and situations that are outside our normal humdrum lives. Those lifestyles may be more vulgar, more risqué, more polished than ours. In other words, more interesting that ours. Getting into writing about from different perspectives doesn’t reflect badly on who I am as a person. I am not my characters.

JACKIE: There is a wonderful freedom that comes from writing stories. We can create characters and give them words and experiences that we would never seek to say or do (and may not want to). Remember that what your character says and the actions he/she takes are telling a story. It's the story that comes from you, that you want to place out there.

JUNE: When writing my characters I have to remember they are not me. I find I have a tendency to want to control them using my own standards. I will hold back on the urges to let my characters do and say things I personally have a hard time doing or saying. I have an inner me that is evidently a little repressed. I would never have believed that was true with the early life I led. My mother definitely would never believe it. I need to let loose my character's own head of steam and send them on their merry way and I might learn something from them.

DORI: Life has a way of always interfering with our writing lives. Kids, jobs, bills, you name it they demand our undivided attention while our writing is relegated to the wee hours of the night or early dawn. What we need to assuage our writer’s cravings is to carve out some time, away from our crazy lives, to dedicate to writing. I’m excited that we're going to try to plan a retreat (hopefully on an annual basis) where our Friday Night Write group can meet for a long weekend of nothing but helping each other on our novels. I think June’s suggestion of a cabin at Yosemite is ideal. Now let’s make it happen!

SARAH: Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, one of the things I miss is the ability to grab “me time.” My writing is being pushed to the wee hours of the night the older my kids get. Therefore, I’m in full support of a Writer’s Weekend. How fun!!! No distractions, no chores, and certainly no diapers! Sounds like heaven to me.
A few days of concentrated writing could open the door for a lot of possibilities…like finishing our darn books!! Count me in and I’ll bring the chocolate. Bears don’t like that stuff right? No scenes from The Great Outdoors, please!

JUNE: Oh, what a great idea. We just flew with this one. Can we all say, we all need a stress break to write? I have visions of beautiful vistas outside a large patio door, a kitchenette stocked with good and bad writing fuel and plenty of writing space with no distractions (no internet). I will start researching info right away. We can start the next meeting with an update.

JACKIE: I am really excited about this. It feels like taking the bull by the horns. This is an important step we are taking together. To BEND our worlds to fit our need to write and finish our books. And that we are pursuing this together only strengthens it more. Yosemite here we come!
I too can envision it June. The filtered light coming into the windows through the tall trees. The scent of the mountains-especially in the evening. Ahhh, there is a place to write a story.

DORI: All right, now we definitely have to do it. I'm salivating already!
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