Checking in with 2011 goals

We’re now officially half-way through 2011, which hardly seems possible. Wasn’t it Christmas a few weeks ago? Didn’t I just sit down to write my goals for the year?

Back in January, I told you all about my goals for this year in the belief that making them public would make me more accountable.

I haven’t hit all of the ones I meant to by this time. It’s taken me a little longer than I expected to write and revise the two manuscripts I’m working on, but that’s okay with me because I’d rather take that time to improve them than to pointlessly send out work I’ve rushed through.

Things I have managed to do:

– go on my first research trip (to Bosnia)

– book my tickets for RWA Nationals (my very first writing conference!) and line up pitch appointments

– enter a couple of contests

– judge the Golden Heart, beta read for a couple of people, and continue weekly critiques with my partners

– connect with more people on Twitter and this blog

– blog at least once a week through WordPress’ PostAWeek challenge, and grow the number of blog subscribers and daily hits this blog gets.

The year may be half over, but that’s still a lot of time to achieve my other goals:

– completing the two manuscripts I’m working on

– writing the first draft of another story

– querying agents and keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll find the right agent for me.

Did you make goals for 2011? How are you doing with accomplishing them?

How do you know if you’re a good writer?

I remember very clearly the first time someone told me I was a good writer. I was nine or ten and had to write a biography about a person I admired. I chose my grandpa, a remarkable man in so many ways that would never earn him recognition outside his family. Loyal, kind, hard-working – he’s turning 90 this June and still spends hours doing yard work and fixing things for the widows on his street.

I wrote his biography, and my mom helped me type it up and print it out on her cutting-edge dot matrix printer. I stapled my booklet together, decorated it with my markers, and gave it to Grandpa the next time he and Gramma came over.

The only other time I’ve seen my grandpa’s eyes well up was on my wedding day.

Grandpa checks out the Union Jack boxers my British husband and I gave him for Christmas
Grandpa checks out the Union Jack boxers my British husband and I gave him for Christmas

He read through my story, shaking his head, grinning and murmuring, “My my.” He never once called me out on all the things I’d made up or guessed at – like what the weather was like on the night he was born (my opening scene).

Poor research skills aside, for the first time I felt like I could do something special. I could touch someone’s heart in a way no one else in my family could. They’re not writers, my family, so they made a very big deal of my creation.

For years afterward, “good writer” attached itself to my identity.

I’m guessing most writers have a similar story. You probably didn’t know you had a talent for story-telling until someone pointed it out. Let’s face it, not many six year olds sit back from their first crayon-scrawled story and think, “That’s some damn good stuff. I totally nailed what it was like to be a T-Rex in the Cretaceous period.”

The problem is that we quickly learn the equation “praise + recognition = good writer”, which means we convince ourselves the opposite is true: “no praise + lack of recognition = bad writer”.

Continue reading “How do you know if you’re a good writer?”

The worst thing I’ve ever written didn’t kill me

© Brian Lary/

In the months leading up to my college graduation, I panicked. What the hell could you do with an English degree except teach or go to law school – neither of which I was very excited about?

I took the LSAT, but only because I watched a lot of Law & Order and wanted to work with a hot detective like Benjamin Bratt. Fortunately, I got lost on the way to the exam and didn’t have enough time to eat lunch, ensuring I got a mediocre score and gave up the thought of going to law school.

I’d make a terrible lawyer.

My best friend was panicking, too. She majored in world arts and cultures, an even less practical degree (though she does know how to do a traditional Indonesian dance). So she proposed we apply to teach English in Japan through the JET program.

The application required me to write an essay, which I did quickly and without much care. After all, I was an English major so I could write, right?

By the time I had my interview, I’d forgotten what I’d written. I walked into the room where three people sat behind a table. One of them was glaring at me already.

Not a great sign.

Continue reading “The worst thing I’ve ever written didn’t kill me”

Little man’s complex: short stories that pack a powerful punch

This is cross-posted at The Season.

Taming of Mei LinI love short stories. I studied them in college and some of my all-time favorite authors (like Flannery O’Connor and Angela Carter) wrote brilliant short stories.

I’ve never been a big fan of romance short stories, though—until recently.

Last year I won a copy of Jeannie Lin’s The Taming of Mei Lin. It sucked me right in, and, best of all, I didn’t have to stay up late and go to work bleary-eyed just so I could finish reading it.

Then, recently, the amazing Suzanne Johnson posted a short story on her site. Now, Suzanne’s one of my critique partners and I Chenoire coverget to read her stuff regularly, but her first novel isn’t being published until next year, so her short story Chenoire is a (free!) taster for the rest of you. Let me tell you, the world Suzanne has created is amazing. Think about all the strange things you hear about from the Deep South. Now add fantasy and paranormal characters, and a wicked funny voice. That is the recipe for a Suzanne Johnson story.

After reading the wonderful Chenoire, I discovered Kelly Fitzpatrick was giving away her short story Holiday Hostage.  Kelly is one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter. Every conversation I have with her leaves me clutching my sides. So an opportunity to check out what her writing style’s like? I’m all over that. Holiday Hostage is funny and full of attitude—like Kelly’s tweets, but longer. Even though I never ever ever buy e-books (no e-reader, and I hate reading on my laptop), I bought Kelly’s debut novel Lily in Wonderland. Yep, couldn’t help it. The short story gave me a taste of Kelly’s voice, and I had to have more.

Holiday Hostage coverThree authors. Three vastly different voices and types of story. All awesome. And two of them—Jeannie Lin and Kelly Fitzpatrick—made me fans of their work by tempting me with a well-written short story first. (I confess, I was already a huge fan of Suzanne Johnson’s writing.)

Aside from being short and easy to consume when you don’t have much time, one great benefit of these stories is that they’re cheap (or free) ways of trying out a new author. You don’t need to invest much time or money and end up disappointed and broke.

Do you like reading short romance stories? Have you ever bought an author’s novel after loving their short story writing style?

Finished the draft! Need a beta!

Silhouette of a jumping man
Credit: Asif Akbar/

After one year and two weeks, I’ve FINALLY finished the first draft of my novel.

*insert appropriate noises connoting excitement and nervousness here*

I’ve been editing and polishing as I go – which is one reason I’ve only written the last scene this weekend. It’s 343 pages (96,500 glorious words) but there are around 250 pages that only God and I have seen. They need work. Probably a lot of work. But I’ve stuck with this story when I was tired, stressed, and frustrated, so I’m not giving up now.

So here’s the deal. I’m looking for people who’d love to read it and give me feedback. Ideally, I’m looking for people who like somewhat dark, emotional contemporary single title romance. I’d love it if you could give me your feedback by mid-to-late February so I can digest it and rework anything I need to.

I’d like pretty high-level feedback (what works, what’s confusing, what’s unrealistic and makes me sound like I’m pulling things out of my butt, etc), though, if you’re inclined to point out awkward sentences then by all means please do so.

If you’re a writer, I’m happy to do an exchange with you (because of this, I will probably only take a few beta readers, as I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep).

Feel free to leave a comment below (even if you don’t want to beta read for me) or email me at romancingkatrina [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks for celebrating with me!