Random Thoughts

It’s been an interesting month and will soon get “interestinger” next month. Gorgeous Wife and I took a trip to Arizona to visit the Sedona area and then drive down to Green Valley to visit my Dad, his wife, and Dad’s brother and wife and son and daughter-in-law. Sedona was beautiful, not as big or crowded as I had thought it might be (probably due to the early March time frame—too early for spring break). If you love to hike, I can’t imagine a better place for hiking than Sedona. There must be hundreds of trails within 20 miles of town, ranging from easy to challenging, all with a great view of one rock formation or another.

While visiting family in Green Valley, I got up to the Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB) for the second straight year. After last year, TFOB had become the 4th largest book festival in the nation. After this year’s event, I think they will move up in the rankings, maybe to number 1. Crowds probably approached 100,000 for the two days, up from about 80,000 last year. It’s almost getting too big, even though the University of Arizona campus is a great place to hold an event like this. I missed a couple of authors I wanted to hear speak due to the crowds, but felt I learned one concrete piece of advice, website to check out, book to read, or resource to utilize, from each workshop or presentation I attended. To top that off, I had one of the best dinners I’ve had in ages at a place called the Downtown Kitchen in Tucson. Check it out if you’re a native. The pot roast made with beef cheeks is to die for!

To get the trip off to a good start, I managed to finish draft number four (?) of my novel. I hesitate on the “four” because I’ve reworked it so many times it’s hard to keep track. I will say I’ve written three first chapters and two endings, but also revised the original draft a huge chunk before changing first or last chapters. Any way I count, it’s been almost 3 years since I started this story.

I allowed myself a Champagne celebration, because I finally have the plot the way I want it to be. It’s a coherent beginning, middle, and end, and all the plot twists seem feasible now. They didn’t before. My goal now is to trim down the word count to an acceptable number for a suspense novel—no more than 100,000 words and hopefully several thousand less than that. I want to do this by April 12, when I attend for the second year the Writers’ Institute at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. I was too chicken to pitch to an agent last year, so this year I’m taking the plunge with my improved manuscript and going in with much more confidence that I have at minimum a story that someone might find worthy of publishing. I don’t expect to get anything more out of the experience than the benefit of talking to agents one-on-one and learning from this first attempt how to conduct myself in a pitch session.

In 2011 I did send queries to about 30 agents, received several requests for partials, and even had one request for a full mss. but nothing came of those. Needless to say, I’ll be working extra hard to polish the story as well as work on my log line, query letter, short synopsis and perhaps even the long synopsis (if I have any time left after editing). I’ve set the goal, which is a good thing when writing. Often it becomes easy when one works independently to not put pressure on oneself to achieve any concrete objectives. The Writers’ Institute is happening at the perfect time for this story and I’m ready to see if my baby is ready to stand on her/his own two “footnotes” this year.

I’m publicly putting this out to the world for myself. Once I’ve pitched at Madison, my goal is to query at least 50 agents, and if I get no positive response from any of them in 2012, I’ll start going full speed ahead on my next project (although I don’t know which of about 6 ideas I’ve come up with will be the “next one”). That’s one thing I’ve learned about writing is that a good writer, one who is productive and makes money writing, always has 3 or 4 or more projects in the works, all at various stages of completion.

Do you have a goal for your writing career or any other work-related goal? How did you do? Attain it or not? Be surprised by something you hadn’t expected? Get good results or not so good?

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