Posts Tagged ‘crista mchugh


Writing Environments

I envy authors who can write anywhere. I truly do.  Me? I’m kind of picky about where I write, and when I’m in the perfect environment, the words flow. When I’m not, we’re talking about serious writer’s block.

My perfect environment is free of distractions so I can focus on my character’s voices. That means no TV, no dog, no crying baby, etc. Ironically enough, I do ok with “white noise” and music at a low volume. I didn’t realize how much environment impacted my writing until I moved last year. My old house had a downstairs bedroom that I used as my office, and I loved it. It was the perfect place to retreat, plug in my Zune, and type away. Now, I’m crammed into small two bedroom apartment with my husband, my dog, and my baby, so writing at home has become near impossible. Thank goodness for a local cafe. On my days off from work, you can usually find me there with my netbook, trying to reach my word count goal for the day.

What is your ideal writing environment? What do you absolutely need in order to write?


Confessions of a Contest Whore

Last night, I came home to a nice little surprise in my inbox. My Fantasy Romance, A Soul For Trouble, was named a finalist in the OVRWA Enchanted Words Contest. I did a little happy dance and updated my webpage, adding to the accolades this unpublished, unagented manuscript has received.

Yes, I’m a contest whore. I freely admit it now. But I wasn’t always that way. About this time last year, I had just about written off writing contests, stating they only worked if you followed the “formula” and things like that. There’s still some truth to that. The only reason I finalled in the Enchanted Words Contest was because they got a 4th judge to settle the discrepancy in the scores. One judge marked me very low for not adhering to the “rules” of romance and queries. Apparently, not mentioning that this was a “complete manuscript” in my query and not having a HEA with one person (instead of a HFN with 2 men) were grave sins in her eyes. At least she liked my writing. 😀

But that’s why I bring this up. You’re not going to please everyone in a contest. You may get the judge who’s SO just left her because she was PMSing too much. You may get the NYT bestseller who offers some great advice. It’s all luck of the draw. But the key here is that YOU GET FEEDBACK. And you’ll get it from more than one person. The good, the bad, and the ugly — your opening pages will be finely dissected, and your story will be weighed and measured.

I’d sworn off contests in the past because I don’t write to formula all the time and have gotten some rather harsh feedback from judges because of it. But I took their advice, applied to my WIP at the time, and started entering A Soul For Trouble. At first I was a bit gun-shy, so I just entered my local RWA contest. I won frist place. Then I entered my specialty genre chapter’s contest with ASFT and another manuscript that had been ripped to shreds in the past and recently revised. They both finalled, and the revised manuscript won it’s category. I was on a roll. I started scouring the RWR (Romance Writer’s Report) for any contest I could enter. I became an addict, wanting to reap more rewards for my writing. I even started a spreadsheet for all the contests I could enter, listing the deadlines, the fees, and the final judges.

Then I had to take a step back. Contests cost money, so I needed to look at my list ask what I could potentially gain from entering it. If the final judge was an editor whose line I was targeting or an agent who is normally closed to queries, I seriously considered entering that contest. Why? Because in addition to the great feedback, you could also get your work in the hands of a publishing professional who may request a full… which could turn into a contract.  Or, as I recently discovered, winning an RWA contest could lead to an unsolicited request for  a full from an agent who wasn’t a final judge. 😉

What are you thoughts on writing contests? Are you a contest whore, too? Do you avoid them like the plague?


Shiny New Year!

With 2010 barely in the door, many writers are setting goals for the year.

“Sell a book.”

“Finish a manuscript.”

“Find my dream agent.”

I can write a nice long blog post about setting reasonable, achievable goals, but I’m not. Maybe I’ll save that for later. Today, I’m going to talk about one of the major problems with forming goals that’s plaguing me: The “OOH, look! Shiny!!”

I know of plenty of writers who are often tempted to stray from a WIP and play with the new plot bunny that’s hopping through his or her mind. This seems to be especially tempting when I’m stuck at a difficult part of a WIP. It’s so easy to abandon it and explore a new possibility. The problem? About 8 half-finished manuscripts.

One of the biggest tests of a writer is finishing what you start. You can’t sell that book or find a dream agent if you don’t have a complete, revised manuscript to show. And in order to land that contract with an agent or a publisher, you need to show that you have the discipline to finish what you start in a reasonable amount of time. Many contracts these days are for multiple books. When you sell a book based on the proposal, you’re obligated to finish it, no matter how much you hate trudging through the difficult parts, and your editor won’t wait three of more years for your next book.

For this reason, I’m trying to be very careful about what I set as my goals in 2010. Usually, I try to keep it vague. EX: “One novel and two novellas.” I try not to commit to a title (one of the joys of being unagented and not under contract). But now that I have a series in progress with Samhain, I’m unofficially committed to continuing it, so I know the 2 novellas I plan on writing will be for that series. As for the novel, that’s where the “Ooh, shiny!” comes into play. I have about 5 different ideas for novels, and I’m having a hard time choosing where I’ll concentrate my efforts this year. Do I go with what I think is the “breakout idea”, even though I’m very enthusiastic about it? Do write the next book in the series that I’m shopping around with agents? Do I go with the one with the strongest “voice” (which would be the easiest to write), even if the idea may border on cliché?

How do you choose your goals for 2010? What are some things you’ve learned to keep you focused on the task at hand and not be distracted by the “shinies!”?


April 2020

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