Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Get Inspired By 2011 Golden Heart Winner Anne Barton!!

Wowza!! Opening day is finally here . . . and I ain't talking about deer or doves!

It's the first day for 2012 Golden Heart contest enteries!! Are you ready?

Whether the answer is a resounding "YES! Oh, YES!", "Hell no!", or "Eh. . . maybe", you've come to the 'write' place! Here to help shed some light and possibly answer many a novice writers' quandry is none other than ANNE BARTON!!

Ring a bell? Well, it should!! Not only was Anne highlighted as one of TLN's 'Novice To Watch' segments, but she WON the Golden Heart for the 2011 Regency Category with one of her TWO finaling enteries!!

Anne is definitely a rising star destined for a long and fabulous career. I've followed her for the last two years and have enjoyed watching her rake in the contest wins and GH finals. She's the kind of driven writer I look up to. I'd totally rock a "What Would Anne Do" bracelet everyday and twice on Sunday!

If you've been searching for inspiration, well, be prepared to be dazzled! Anne is one awesome lady!!

Seven Steps to Finishing Your Golden Heart Manuscript
by Anne Barton

RWA’s Golden Heart Contest for unpublished romance writers opens to entries today, and right now, hundreds of writers who want to enter are sitting at their computers, asking themselves, “Can I finish this story in time?”

The answer is . . . maybe.

At this same time last year, I had written 130 pages of my 330 page manuscript. (I know this because I keep a weekly record of my progress—more on that later.) Between the GH entry date and Thanksgiving I wrote 200 pages and a synopsis. I entered the story in the GH.

It won.

I should mention that it wasn’t my first manuscript. (It was my fifth.) It wasn’t my first GH final. (It was my third or fourth, depending on how you count.) But if I hadn’t pushed to finish that story, not only would I have missed out on winning a Golden Heart—I might still be writing that manuscript, stuck somewhere around Chapter 14.

So I’m going to share some of the tips that help me increase my word count without neglecting my family or my day job. (I often neglect other things, like laundry and houseplants. Please. Something’s got to give.)

First things first though. Go to the RWA website and carefully read the rules and deadlines. Seriously. Entering the GH is a big investment of time and money. You wouldn’t want to be disqualified because your partial was one too many pages or your FedEx package arrived at RWA headquarters the day after the deadline.

If you’ve read the rules and you’re up for the challenge, here are seven tips to help you finish that manuscript.

1.Assess where you are with your story. To enter the GH, you’ll need:
• A polished partial and synopsis (55 pages combined); and
• A completed manuscript.

How solid are the opening chapters? How far into the story are you? What’s the word count you’re shooting for, and (most importantly) how many words do you still need to write? Write down that number.

2.Make a plan. Get out your calendar and circle the date when you want to be done. This year, manuscripts are due at the RWA office on December 2, but you need to set aside time for polishing, copying, and mailing. (My tradition was to mail my GH entries on the day before Thanksgiving. It gave me peace of mind that they’d make it to Texas on time and let me enjoy my turkey.)

Let’s say that the number you wrote down (i.e, the words you need to write in the nine weeks between now and Thanksgiving) is 50,000. We’ll divide the total number of words (50,000) by the number of weeks (9) to give us a weekly goal.

50,000 ÷ 9 = 5,555 Let’s round up and give ourselves a goal of 6,000 words a week.

There. 6,000 words week may sound like a lot, but it’s very doable—if you treat the job like a marathon, not a sprint. That means writing every day, or close to it. I recommend writing 1,000 words each day and giving yourself a day off each week.

3.Track your progress. This is important. Update your word or page count, daily if possible. You can use a primitive paper calendar (like I do) or a progress bar on your blog. You can give yourself little gold stars every day. Choose something that motivates you and shows how far you’ve come. A friend in my goals group shared Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret, and it resonated with me. The trick, according to Seinfeld, is don’t break the chain. When you see your word count steadily rising, you’ll start to think, holy cow, I might really be able to do this, and guess what. You’ll be right

4.Write your little heart out. Stephen King calls it writing with the door shut. Lots of us call it giving yourself permission to write crap. Whatever you call it, write for the sheer joy of it, without holding anything back. At first, it’ll seem like you’re writing drivel, and then you’ll realize, hey, some of these scenes are actually pretty good, and before you know it you’ll be in love. With your characters and your story.

5.Don’t try to go it alone. (Unless that works for you.) Most of us, though, benefit from having a support system. It could be NaNoWriMo, a goals group, a few Twitter friends doing #1k1hr. Working with other writers makes you more accountable. It’s also a great way to connect with new people and have fun. I really like #1k1hr because you can almost always find someone who’s game. Just don’t be discouraged if it seems like everyone writes faster than you do. Even on my best days, I’ve never succeeded in writing 1,000 words in an hour. Fortunately, there are no losers in #1k1hr.

6.Fiercely guard your writing time. Guard it like a mama bear protecting her cubs. The problem is, you know things are going to come up. You won’t be able to say no to all the demands on your time, but do say no to the things that you can. Let your friends and family know that you’ve got a deadline, and try to schedule events after it, if possible. Don’t let the new fall season of TV shows tempt you unless you’ve met your daily word count goal—then, by all means, treat yourself.

7.Keep your eyes on the prize. Of course, the dream is to final in the Golden Heart and maybe even win. Dreaming is good, so let yourself picture your shimmery gown; write an acceptance speech if it motivates you. What you’ll start to realize is that the real prize isn’t the heart-shaped necklace. It’s a finished manuscript and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with it. No matter what happens in the contest, the time you spend writing won’t be wasted. With each sentence you write, you’re honing your craft, finding your voice, and discovering things about yourself.

About ten months from now, in a fancy ballroom in Anaheim, ten romance writers will walk up to the podium in front of 2,000 people and accept their Golden Heart awards. They’ll be from different parts of the country and possibly the world. They’ll be different ages, have a variety of jobs, and come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some of them will be fledgling writers and some of them will have been at it for decades. But they’ll all have one thing in common. They’ll be writers who found a way, in spite of life’s curve balls, to write their way to The End.

And one of them might be you.

Anne Barton is a historical romance writer with a weakness for reality TV, cute shoes, and caffeinated beverages of all kinds. Her Golden Heart-winning story, The Proper Miss’s Guide to Bad Behavior, sold to Grand Central Publishing and releases in early 2013.

Visit her at http://www.annebarton.com/ .

I'd like to thank Anne for being here today! I know I'm not alone in wishing her tons of success as she enters the next phase of her writer's journey. If you'd like to know more about Anne Barton, please click on over to her website. Congrats again, Anne!! ((hugs!))

THANK YOU, TLN'ers!! Hope your week has been treating you well! Anyone planning on entering the Golden Heart this fall?? I'm doing my best to join the ranks of enterants. All I can say is: Thank goodness for caffeine! ;)


Anne Barton said...

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for the nice intro (you crack me up!) and for having me here today.

Even though I'm not entering the GH this year, I got a little jolt of adrenaline from seeing today's date on the calendar. It's time... :)

I hope that anybody's who's thinking about entering will go for it. It's great motivation to finish a story.

If anyone has other tips for finishing that ms, please share!

Sarah Simas said...

Thanks for being here, Anne! Your advice was exactly what I sure needed to read. I can't wait to put your debut release on my keeper shelf! ((hugs!))

Celia Yeary said...

ANNE--congratulations on your success! I'll never get there, but that's okay...I never worked for it, but I so appreciate a person's hard work and perseverance to accomplish and achieve a worthy goal--especially one that is close to your heart. I think it's absolutely wonderful, and wish you well in your career. It looks as though you're well on your way.

AnneBarton said...

Celia, thanks for the kind words & good wishes! Writing is hard work, but on the other hand, it's so much fun that sometimes I forget. In writing, as in life, it's important to enjoy the journey. Just go for it--and don't ever count yourself out. :)

Christine A. Collier said...

What a wonderful post!!! It was such a pick me up! Thanks to Anne for sharing and to Sarah for hosting the sharing... lol. I stumbled upon it when I googled "I'm entering Golden Heart 2012." I was looking for someone who might understand the plight of trying to finish your MS just weeks before the GH deadline.

Sarah, I hope you don't mind, but I belong to the Los Angeles RWA chapter and I forwarded the link to this post to everyone on our chapter's loop.

Anne, I totally get what you are saying! I was a little past the half-way mark and thanks to the impending GH contest I've written 30K words in the last two months. I've got another 10K to go before the deadline. I'm keeping my fingers crossed I'll be done in time but even if I'm not, I'll be finished!!! Woo hoo! Well, sort of. I could easily do 6 months worth of editing. haha