Never give up

I don't typically post on Saturday, but watching Michael Phelps barely win his 7th gold medal last night made me think about what it means to have drive. Clearly, he has it. He does not give up.

Was he hurting after all these races? Was his body marginally slowing down because the muscle tissue has been stretched and torn and worked to the max of endurance?


But clearly it didn't stop him. As the other swimmer glided in for his gold medal, Phelps (at the top of picture) took that extra stroke and touched the wall 1/100th of a second faster than the man who looked certain to win the race at that point. Do you think that guy will be watching videos over and over and kicking himself for not pushing that extra 1/100th out?

Friends, as writers, we must push for that extra 1/100th. Even when we feel beat up and bruised and so tired we think it'd be nice to curl up in a ball for a while. Push it out and write your pants off; because so much hangs on that extra effort, doesn't it?

I'm inspired. Phelps may have the perfect swimmer's body, may have the conditioning and genetics to be a champion, may have the best coach and the best of everything — but I'm not sure any of that would carry him to 7, possibly 8, gold medals if he didn't have the one thing that nobody can give him: drive. He refuses to lose. He simply refuses to accept anything less than the best from himself.

It's something to remember as I sit in front of my computer and contemplate today's goals.

*(Photo from the BBC)

Multi-tasking for Blondes*

Wow, has it really been a week since I posted? The days flew by. I had several things going on in Chez Harris, plus I have to write about that sexy Spanish magnate. Which I have been doing!

The story is coming along quite nicely thus far. It's fun to write about a strong emotional conflict without a gun or dead body in sight. πŸ™‚ But I still need to finish the revisions on HOT PURSUIT. *sigh* There aren't enough hours in the day sometimes!

Is it really only 3 months until National? My SF diet is not going so well. Must get busy on that. I've been using my treadmill, but it'd help if I could cut out the Chinese takeout. And the pizza and wings. I blame the hubby for those. πŸ™‚

But I have no choice. The dress is bought, the matching purse is found, and I MUST appear with them on RITA/GH night. So, in between writing about sexy Spaniards and sizzling Spec Ops guys, I need to lose fifteen pounds. Piece of cake, right?

How's your week going? Accomplishing any of the goals you set for yourself? Lost any pounds? Done any conference clothes shopping yet? Wrote anything new?

*Not really, but I'm blonde and I'm multi-tasking this week.

A quote

I saw a quote recently that really made me stop and think. It was in a magazine, but I can't remember who said it.

Perfectionists always lose.

Yikes! But so true, because a perfectionist is never satisfied. And if you're never satisfied, you never let go of the work. I know this from experience. I am cursed with the perfectionist gene, though it's selective (for instance, I'm not obsessive about having a perfect house — well, I kind of am, but I know I have to give up and invite people over or I never will because things aren't perfect — hence my party this Friday that I'm trying not to obsess over).

And I've also had to learn to stop trying to perfect the writing, to send the darn thing out and see what happens. I do this remarkably well when deadlines are attached. πŸ™‚ But let me have all the time in the world to “fix” my work, and I'll keep fiddling with it. There's always a better way to say something, always a better idea.

But you have to learn to let go.

Are you a perfectionist? Do you have trouble letting the work out of your sight? What tricks do you use to stop yourself from fiddling? If you aren't a perfectionist, how do you know when the work is ready? What is your benchmark for determining it?

Working girl

Okay, so I worked today. Wrote about 1500 words. I had a panicky moment where I thought I'd never get into the groove, but then it came. Sometimes, it's like pulling teeth. Other times, you're rolling along so good you don't even want to stop and eat. I had both sensations today. πŸ™‚

Some of it, I'm sure, was performance anxiety. I've never had to actually sit down and produce pages for anyone but me (if you don't count college work, lol). This is a new feeling. One I can totally get used to. πŸ™‚ I told the hubby that it felt like the first day at a new job (in a strange kind of way). It's exciting and thrilling and odd all at once.

Tuesday's goal: 1500 words.

Thanks again to everyone who came to congratulate me. πŸ™‚ I appreciate it so much. You kept me smiling and feeling great for days. πŸ™‚

Are you willing to bet on it?

This morning, I was driving hubby to an appointment when something on NPR caught my attention. The report was called “Put Your Money Where Your Girth Is.” The gist of it is that people who put money on the line to lose weight tend to do better than people who simply decide to reward themselves when they reach their goal.

“There are a significant portion of people who have an explicit preference for commitment,” says Karlan. The commitment, or the stakes, help people act in their own self-interest. The contract helps them stay the course.

Karlan describes a recent effort in the Philippines to help smokers quit. Through a local bank, the smokers signed agreements to put their cigarette money into savings accounts and agreed to urine tests. At the end of six months, if the tests showed they had nicotine in their system, their savings were lost β€” given to charity.

Basically, people respond more to the idea of losing money than of making money. You know this got me thinking, right? πŸ˜‰

The holy grail for most fiction writers is to sell their novels, whether it's the first novel or the next series of novels on a new contract. We do all kinds of things to keep ourselves writing. We promise ourselves rewards in addition to the reward of selling. New clothes, a trip, a spa day — whatever it takes, right?

But what about losing something instead of winning? What if instead of promising myself an evening of watching television if I write 5 pages, I pay myself a salary. A salary I will lose if I don't meet the goal I've set for myself.

I'm not talking about 5-page-a-day goals, or novel-in-a-month goals, but realistic goals like those I will face when I get the contract. If my hypothetical contract specifies I will turn in a novel two months from now, then I will pay myself for two months while I work on that novel. And if I miss the deadline, the money either goes to charity or it goes to my hubby to buy whatever he wants for himself. I don't have to pay myself a lot (obviously there's a budget), but enough that it will add up in the end to a sum I really don't want to give up.

I'm still working on this thought, turning it over in my head, but I kind of like the concept. I was the girl who never failed to turn in a paper for college because I had two things in mind: loss of an A grade and loss of the money the class cost if I were to withdraw or fail in any way. The first thing was personal, but the second was, surprise, about money. Money is a good motivator for me.

“What we know about incentives is that people work a lot harder to avoid losing $10 than they will work to gain $10,” explains Ayres. “So something that's framed as a loss is really effective at changing behavior.”

So what do you think? Is it effective to think in terms of loss rather than gain when trying to write a novel? A statement like if I finish this novel, I can sell it (I hope) and make X dollars (I hope) becomes if I don't finish this novel on time, I will lose X dollars for sure. I think it could work, but maybe that's because I know I'm already oriented toward preventing real $$ loss. Hypothetical bucks won't do it for me. It has to be real. Think hubby will notice if I pay myself $50 a week?

When you get published…..

Hubby asked me the other night if, once I sold a book, I could write two or three a year like Other Writers. Not sure which Other Writers he meant, but I was kind of surprised at the question. I don't think he was trying to insult me, but he knows how long I've been working on this particular book. And yeah, it's ridiculous how much time I've spent rewriting the d*mn thing. So I understand his concern.

The answer, I told him, is yes. And I said it without hesitation because I know it's true. Yes, I am capable of writing fast. And writing well, I believe, while doing it. So why the wheel spinning this time? Because for the longest time it was just me and WIP. No critique partner, no beta reader, no editor or agent to tell me the idea wasn't viable the way I'd written it. Me, writing like a maniac, then stepping back and saying, “Uhhhhhh, hmm….”

It's taken me time to figure out what works and what doesn't. There's a lot that goes into a manuscript, much more than pretty sentences that read perfectly. I've read a lot of beautiful contest entries that go nowhere. Going nowhere is the greatest sin committed by the unpublished writer, I think. Because the published writer has an editor saying, “Hey, that lovely scene where your heroine drives to work thinking about how she got to this place in her life and how she'll never find love and how her last boyfriend was a jerk? It's got to go because it's not the real beginning of the story. The story starts on page 15 when the secret agent bursts into her office.”

My process has improved with the right critique partner. Tanya keeps me on track. She's the one who told me my heroine was doing a lot of reacting and not a lot of acting. And then, when I asked, she told me how to fix it. She gave me suggestions that made sense. I didn't use any of them, because I rewrote everything, but I used the gist, the core, of what she told me. My heroine doesn't react anymore. She's not passive, and she doesn't let the hero take control. I think Tanya will be proud when I send her those pages again. πŸ™‚

Yes, I've rewritten this same book 3 times now. I mean throwing out hundreds of pages and rewriting. I have a discarded scenes file that's longer than the book is. Scary, huh? But I believe this is right. I believe I'm making the right choices this time. I believe the final product will be good. This time is the last time. This version goes out the door. I'll take editorial suggestions gratefully, in full knowledge that I CAN fix what needs to be fixed. But this is the final rewrite on my own. The next time is for an editor.

And I haven't completely been spinning my wheels. I've written and submitted two entries to the Harlequin contest, and I'm working on a Red Sage novella. I also have the second book in my special ops series planned and the first pages written. With every word, I get better. Every word, whether discarded or polished to a shine, propels me forward and makes me a better writer.

Yeah, honey, I can write more than one book a year. I'm getting faster and better all the time. My choices are better. My instincts sharpen with usage. My wheels have found purchase in the muck. I'm moving forward.

Any lessons you've learned lately? Can you write more than one book a year? How many rewrites are enough for you?