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!'
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