Monday, September 19, 2011

End of Summer Milestone Monday Check In

One of my favorite commercials of all time was that Staples commercial that had the father dancing around the Staples store, loading up his back to school cart and singing, “It’s the most won-der-ful time of the year…”?


Honestly, September has always felt much more like the start of a new year for me rather than January. I am a big fan of those academic calendars that let me buy new versions in July or August, because for more of my life than not, my calendar has been ruled by school calendars. First as a student myself, then as a parent.

I suspect this may be true of the internet as well, because I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how they had cut back on their blog reading and interacting online over the summer. We’ll see if that changes now that September has rolled around.

Of course, that means that I will need to be online more as well.

But first things first! Because it has been MONTHS, let’s do a violet check in! I would love to hear what you all have been up to, what you worked on during the summer, what you didn’t work on, any milestones you achieved, epiphanies you had, or break throughs reached. All that good stuff. Also, if you are a regular reader and have a book coming out, please send me a jpeg and release information. I am WAY past due for updating the sidebar there at the side. [Note, if you sent it to me earlier, and it hasn’t appeared, PLEASE send it again as it is buried somewhere deep in my computer folders.]

And, to entice you, if you leave an update in the comments, you will be entered to win a copy of Donald Maass's The Breakout Novelist:  Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers.  

As for me, I have had a very emotionally intense summer. I have been writing the second teen medieval assassin book, which is dark! Darker even than the first book. Plus, I’ve got an actual deadline now so I’ve been trying to trick the muse into thinking she’s had the same stewing, fermenting, and playing time she got with the first book. This was also the last summer before the last child leaves for college, so I’ve been doing lots of living in the moment, enjoying the last few weeks and soaking them up.

I have also been redesigning my website and creating a new one for the medieval teen assassin books. Neither are live yet, but it has certainly made me think a lot about internet presences and connecting to our readers and what they are looking for from us. Lots more on that in the weeks to come. Also in the weeks to come, some way cool interviews and guest posts.

Looking forward to hearing what all you've been up to!


Sarah said...

This summer I decided to try a new approach- outlining. My last novel meandered right out of my sight, which was very discouraging. With my current WIP, I'm finding that planning, rather than killing the creative impulse, is helping me feel more confident instead. I like having a scaffolding on which to create.

dirtycarrie said...

This summer, I quit my job to start freelance writing.

The grounds coming up quick, and my hands shake when I try to glue on the feathers, but the wind feels nice as it rushes by nonetheless.

R.L. LaFevers said...

Sarah--I love experimenting with different processes and approaches! Usually I find some little trick to go into my permanent box of tools. I also find a rough outline to be freeing. I think scaffolding is the perfect word for it, too!

Caroline! ::gasps:: That is HUGE! Wow. Go you! May your landing be quick and painless! :-)

dirtycarrie said...


tanita✿davis said...

I got to be a part of the creative process in coming up with the cover of my new book - (for which I have a final, but have to receive permission to share). Though I'm nervous about the topic of the book, I'm proud to have realized my cover concept, which is not something many new authors get to do (but I guess they figure that since this is my third book, the shine of "new" is wearing off?).

I launched myself into writing two new genres this summer; middle grade fiction and YA mystery. Though my MG has made the rounds and been rejected, I received glowing positives from previously unknown editors about the writing, and have been repeatedly told it just needs "one thing more." So, I will gird up my loins and find that one thing. Eventually.

Good to hear from you again, Robin, and CANNOT WAIT to read your new stuff. You continue to be my inspiration. I love how you reinvent your style and what you do - yay, you. ♥

Kim Baker said...

I'm the same way! Fall seems like a great time for a fresh start. My kids are still little, so I tried to take the pressure off and enjoy most of the summer with them. Maybe I can write somewhat on a teacher's schedule.

I revised right at the beginning summer (big edits), and now here at the very end (line edits). I keep getting distracted thinking about promoting and marketing this time next year (Eep!).

Over the summer I hung out with my little guys and worked on some new stories in a really loose, no pressure way. Now, I'm ready to get the revision in the can and get back to drafting!

Beth C. said...

The fall is a wonderful time to get things done around here. My son is back in school! Wheee!

I spent the summer working on short stories and editing a novel as it goes through a critique group. In the past week, I started a brand new steampunk novel. I'm having a lot of fun with this one.

jen said...

I'm fairly new to reading this blog but enjoy it! I have a couple of stories in submissions right now so while I'm waiting and collection the odd rejection, I'm whittling away on a YA novel that's been stewing....Fabulous summer! The weather couldn't have been better!

Becky Levine said...

Are we REALLY at the end of summer? I made some progress on my YA--not as much as I would have liked, but that's also because I was actively choosing to relax this summer. And it was a good choice! :) I also made big progress on my picture book--I saw it finally come together into coherency this last month and am hoping to start submitting it around by the end of the year.

And I started regular yoga classes. Which I truly believe are going to help my writing, even if it's in some undefined, nebulous way.

You don't need to enter me in the contest, since I already have Maass' book! But fun to join in the comments.

Adele said...

I'm with Sarah - my previous ms meandered so I've been scaffolding these last couple of months.

My friend gave me a Life Coach session and the conclusion was that I need more structure in my approach (dedicated time each week when I don't do anything but write - and drink tea obviously) and external deadlines. Now I'm accountable to a small group of people to get this MG planned by Christmas and written by end of June next year.

Feels great and the plot and characters are shaping up nicely. Hurrah for other people forcing me to do what I want to do anyway! :-)

ikmar said...

I'd read all the articles about really defining your character (e.g. decorating their fictional house, making lists of fears and habits), but I always thought it was a waste of time. I KNEW my characters. I thought all that work was arbitrary. Well, I found out I was wrong. They didn't react the way they needed to because they lacked dimension. That's what I've been doing this summer.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I finished a writing project, and now I'm taking a short breather from writing. I also looked at my promo activities in terms of what I enjoy and what I don't, what seems to bring response and what doesn't. My second book comes out in 4 months, and I'm trying to "work smarter, not harder" with that promo.

Also started tackling my TBR pile, and made a wee dent in it!

Unknown said...

I'm feeling newly inspired after attending the Central Coast Writers' Conference in SLO -- authors Jonathan Maberry (YA horror), Mary Ann and Ian Fraser, Penny Warner and literary agent Laurie McClean were just a few of the standout presenters.

Mary L said...

Ah yes, the back-to-school ritual. For me, picking out supplies was the only fun thing about it. I still crave fresh notebooks in the fall.

I'm coming up on the home stretch of my first full genre manuscript since I was about 14, a dark fairy tale. From high school up through a year or so ago, all I wrote was literary fiction, and I never finished a novel. Now that I'm back to my original writing love, I think I'm actually going to make it.

I've been wondering lately how many writers think they just aren't cut out for finishing projects, when really they're struggling with a limiting idea of what they "should" be writing.

Lisa Yee said...

Oh! I've always LOVED that Staples commercial!!!

R.L. LaFevers said...

Wow, Tanita! How cool to be so involved in designing a new cover! And GO YOU for writing in TWO new genres this summer! Talk about reinventing yourself…☺

Hi Kim! With little kids, summer just has to be a wash. And I think you absolutely can have a writing career on a teacher’s schedule. Donna Jo Napoli talked about doing exactly that, so there is a most excellent precedent set.

Beth, Wheee indeed! And hurray for new projects that are loads of fun!

Jen, so glad to ‘see’ you hear and glad you are participating! Good luck on that YA novel. Stewing time can be SO productive!

Hey Miss Becky! Relaxing, yoga, new picture book. I think I might envy your summer!

Adele, how awesome to get some Coaching; some scaffolding for your Real Life as well as your fiction. ☺

ikmar, what a wonderful way to spend your summer. That is a lot of what I have been doing—getting to know these people intimately.

Hi Jen! That evaluating one’s promo activities with an eye for what is working and what doesn’t is pure gold. I’ve been doing that as well. And congratulations on both finishing a new project this summer and your second book in four months! (Be sure to send me a jpeg of the cover.)

Hi Cathe, good to hear the Central Coast Writer’s Conference was so inspiring. I keep meaning to get up there for it, but so far I haven’t made it.

Mary L, what a most excellent point you make about writers languishing their energies on projects that aren’t really what feeds them! So glad you reconnected with your original writing love.

Lisa, I think that commercial belongs in the Commercial Hall of Fame. ☺

liz michalski said...

Am I too late to chime in? This summer, I tried to soak up as much kid time as possible. My youngest went off to full day first grade -- not as big a milestone as college, but still pretty huge for me. When I wasn't swimming in the ocean with them, I squeezed in some extra reading, but almost no writing. Getting back into the swing is tough but exhilarating!

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I'm late too, I guess :) The post just showed up in my inbox... This summer I did not get much writing accomplished at all, and I'm looking forward to hopefully having more time with the kids back in school. But for us it was the last summer before our first child went to college - a big deal - so we spent a lot of family time, which I wouldn't trade!

R.L. LaFevers said...

No, no! It's not too late, Liz and Susanna! The contests always run from Monday to Monday, although I guess I should have stated that in the post.

I highly applaud both of you taking the time off to be with your kids! Got to soak them up while you can.

Big Milestone, Susanna, that first one off to college!

Wild About Words said...


Good to be hanging out in cyberspace again.

Summer was all about family.

It feels amazing to be back to writing on a daily basis again.

No need to enter me in contest, as I own the book.

Just wanted to pop in and say, "HI!"

Ernessa T. Carter said...

I spent the summer doing a pretty extensive character rewrite of my second novel and touring for the paperback release of the first. I also got to do the big sophomore novel fear tango -- no fun, but I feel I'm a stronger writer for having muscled through it.

Jessica Snell said...

I've only been a regular reader for a few months now, but as a fellow introvert I reply appreciate this blog.

I finished the first draft of my new novel a month ago, and in between then and now I speed-wrote a birthday gift novella for my husband. (And the lovely man had the perfect reaction: he smiled in absolute delight then started straightaway to reading it, laughing at all the right parts.)

Now I'm starting the next novel, and also starting to edit/rewrite the recent one, which is the first thing I've written that is good enough to query. I'm excited!

Yat-Yee said...

This Fall I've really felt a desire to have a new beginning. I'm clearing stuff from the house, giving away books, trying to pare down and stay focused. So far, my resolutions are working, slowly, but working.

Over the summer, I haven't checked in with my regular sites and have just been hanging out with the kids. The most exciting thing for me this summer was finding out that my not yet published middle grade novel was shortlisted for the inaugural Scholastic Book Award. And wonders of wonders, I happened to have planned a trip to Malaysia (right next to Singapore where the award was to be given) during the right time! So I went to the ceremony and even though I didn't win--Uma Krishnaswami did--I felt thrilled to be in the company of the other finalists and made some new writer friends. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't have liked the prize money, but the experience was way cool.

Unknown said...

My youngest is starting Kindergarten & I am starting grad school this fall so it truly is the most wonderful time of the year!
Library life is busy and busier!
I can't wait to read what you've got up for us next Robin!

Elizabeth Loupas said...

It's so interesting to see what everyone has been doing over the summer!

Ernessa, I was right there with you struggling through the second-book terrors, but finally got the final revised version of the manuscript sent in and actually feel pretty happy about it. Started right in on book #3.

Robin, I also had my website redone. It's still very strange to look at it, because it doesn't look like "me." Is not liking change something that's associated with introversion? Because sometimes I really wish things would stay the same for just a LITTLE while. (This said while trying to fight my way through the "new" Facebook.)

Kris Bock said...

The last month has been so crazy that I can hardly remember what I did earlier in the summer...but I know I sent my second adult romantic suspense novel to my agent at the end of July, so that must have been what I was working on in June and July.

I released my book Advanced Plotting in July as well, just in time for the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, and I've been promoting that with a series of guest blogs and by posting excerpts on my blog (Write Like a Pro!:

I came back from the conference with a cold that wiped me out for two weeks, and then had minor surgery, so now I'm mostly trying to catch up on critique jobs and get ready for a few speaking engagements. But I'm anxious to get back into a new big writing project! I'm happier when I'm writing a book.

Gail Shepherd said...

I just discovered this blog thanks to an article in the SCBWI bulletin, and I love it! I've just finished book number one and plunged into number two (both middle grade), and spent last weekend at a plotting workshop (hello up there, Chris Eboch: I'll look for your book, too). Thanks so much for your blog--who knew there was somebody blogging about shy writers?

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

My kids are still young enough that I really can't do any writing when they're around. That means their vacations are my time on the [non-writing] job. So all summer my WIP (read-aloud chapter book/lower grade fantasy adventure) has been lying fallow. I was really hoping that some sort of magic would be occurring there in the dark while I was busy with kids (and I'm also an artist, so at least I can work on that all summer.) But alas, I'm still really struggling with this one. I feel like I'm having to wrench things around to make the pieces of the grand finale come together... and if you have to wrench you know it's just not right. But I've been back to work in the past couple weeks since school started, and I think I've got some ideas that may make it come together... I hope!
Thanks for all the encouragement, tips, and inspiration!

Anonymous said...

I tried a different approach this summer - instead of getting super frustrated with summer activities encroaching on my writing time, I adopted a flexible write-when-I-can attitude. I ended up happy with what I accomplished and relaxed and refreshed to start the new year (starting in September, same as you.)

Shari Green said...

At the beginning of the summer, I sent out my wip to beta-readers then headed into the forest for family camping time. When I got back, I settled in for another round of revisions based on my readers' excellent feedback. I made sure to take regular breaks to go to the beach, though (balance, right? lol). Now, I'm almost done, then it'll be time to start sending it out into the world. :)

Miriam Forster said...

I sold a book! *does happy dance*

And then I started editing it! *head explodes*

Don't have a cover yet, but when I do, I'll send it to you. :)

Karen L. Simpson said...

It's been a great summer for me. After a bummpy start with marketing with my publisher. I swallowed my fears and started the process myself and my novel is starting to sell really well. I'm better at the marketing and publicity part than I ever thought I would be.

The next novel is slowly working itself out on the page.


Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Had a *head-exploding* summer with more family emergencies than I ever care to repeat in my life. Some very serious life-threatening stuff with my brother and a brother-in-law so crazy making for my whole family. (And which continues because my baby brother with little kids at home was diagnosed with 5 brain tumors and we don't know what is going to happen.)

On the writing front, I got to attend ALA for the first time and sign books at the Scholastic booth! Was invited to be on a panel and sign books at SIBA in Charleston last weekend, sold a 4th MG to Scholastic which I'm frantically writing and am knee-deep (make that neck-deep because I'm drowning!) in book launch prep for CIRCLE OF SECRETS coming out on October 1!

I'd love to read a post from you, Robin, about how you manage to write a book - or more - a year, research, launch a new book, take care of family/home, and do publicity and travel without checking into a loony bin. I'm just about to lose it!


Sarah Stevenson said...

I'm a little late to the party! Oops. Well...I started drafting a brand new novel that had been rattling around in my brain for several months, a sort-of steampunk thingy...and last weekend I went to Kidlitcon, where I was on a panel with a few other writers, and got to meet keynote speaker Scott Westerfeld--all of which was nervewracking but fun, too.

And what I hope will be my next book is under scrutiny by my publisher, while I wait on the edge of my seat, of course!!

I hope your summer was a lovely one. Mine was unusually busy, but I don't have too much cause for complaint other than that. :)

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