Category Archives: Goal-Setting

Performance Pressure and the Diamond in the Manuscript

20130125-172029.jpgHave you ever finished writing a manuscript, and after months of blood, sweat, and tears, you realize that even after all that work, your story doesn’t look at all like you imagined it in your head? In fact, after a second glance, you’re sure a toddler temporarily overtook your brain and scribbled 400 pages of crayon doodles? Of course you have…you’re a writer. You’ve probably felt that way about everything you’ve ever written…like I have.

Up until this point in my writing “career,” that hasn’t mattered much. Mostly my readers have been friends and writing groups. I post fiction online too but even in that venue, readers are generally pretty forgiving. Not so with publishing industry professionals. There is very little room for mistakes and if you make them, they better be small. Tiny. Miniscule. Talk about pressure.

Getting in the (Publishing) Game

Over the next couple of weeks I’m preparing for my first writing contest ever. I’m talking the big deal with two rounds, multiple judges, announcement of the finalists at the next conference, and the final round judged by editors of major publishing houses. Yeah…that kind of scary.

It’s an exciting adventure to be sure, a thrill to imagine where it could lead. The final judge for my category is an editor at Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Never before has every word, every period, and every character of my manuscript been under such scrutiny. Sometimes the anxiety to get it all right leaves me panic stricken. I only get one chance to put my best work in front of this woman who could potentially be my gateway into the holy land.

Previously, I’ve never had a reason to get this far into the process of editing. I guess I always imagined entering the chaos of the publishing world as something that would happen way down the road. Like, way down. I’ve taken my time, learning more about this, fiddling with that, but after five years of writing, getting critiqued, editing, and dreaming, it’s time to dive in, sink or swim. So despite my fear, I’m going through the first 20 pages of my manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. I’ve re-understood my characters, re-worked motivations, re-invented the details, and rewritten this novel so many times that I have more loose ends than the hem of grandma’s skirt.

Upping the Ante

Before I started this final-for-now edit, I had a long brainstorming session with my writing partners and nailed down what was working and what wasn’t, for better or worse. The time for flip-flopping has come and gone. And now, with that focus in mind, I’m sifting out the dirt and looking for the gems. And you know what? They are there. Actually, never before have they shined brighter. And I don’t think anything less than the pressure to perform at my best would have gotten me here.

I’m the ultimate perfectionist at heart, especially when it comes to my writing. I think every artist is that way. But putting myself in this position has taught me that I know more than I ever realized about who I am as a writer, what I want to bring to this ever expanding sea of literature, what my writing voice sounds like, what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it, and what process works best for me. The deadline and the stakes have forced me to stopped questioning myself and realize the truths that were already there, clouded by the uncertainty an unlimited time frame allows.

Get Out There

Do it. I know you’re scared. I know you don’t think you’re ready. Guess what–just like getting married and having kids–you’re never going to be ready. You learn as you go. Underneath all those scribbles is your story, and as soon as you trust yourself enough to find it, you will. Make the decision. Raise the stakes. And watch yourself rise to the occasion.

What’s holding you back from taking the next step? Or, what deadlines are you working toward? What steps have you taken that have forced you to grow as a writer?

Photo by Steve Jurvetson


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Wishes and Resolutions For 2013

image via sunit kumar bajgal.png

image via sunit kumar bajgal.png

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

~ Neil Gaiman

Hugs and Chocolate celebrates not only the New Year, but our one-year anniversary as well. Thank you for being part of our tribe. This year, we’re offering more guest spots, workshops, and opportunities for our readers to receive feedback on queries, synopsis, and the first page of your work-in-progress. We’ve shared our personal “wishes” for the New Year and hope that you will join us in the comment section. And, please, let us know what we can do to help you reach your goals.

Happy New Year, H&C family.


1. Comment on more blog posts. There are so many wonderful blogs out there, and I want to read more and have a more active discussion on more posts.

2. Support and encourage other writers in any way I can.

3. Finish writing, rewriting, and editing my YA thriller.

4. Focus on getting healthier.

5. Travel to a foreign country.

6. Go home to visit my family at least three times. (I’m in Denver, they’re in Alabama.)

7. Continue improving my writing and editing craft.

8. Read more.

9. Be more confident in everything.

10. Help my husband finish his book.

11. I’m sure there are a million more, and I’m sure you all will hear about them throughout the year.


1. For at least one reader to truly connect with Pretty Dark Nothing. For them to walk away from the book and still think about it hours, days later. All it takes is one.

2.  Make more time to mentor other writers and give back more to the writing community

3.  Enjoying this new journey as a published author and wherever that takes me.

4. Meet all the H&C ladies in person.

5. To see Pretty Dark Nothing sell to a foreign market. I would love to see the cover in a different language.

6. Sign copies of Pretty Dark Nothing at Mysterious Galaxies in San Diego. I LOVE this book store!!

7. Attend BEA, Bologna Book Festival, UtopYA Con, SCBWI Summer Conference, RT Book Lovers convention, WorldCon 2013 and make new friends along the way.

8. Start creative writing classes for children and young adults.

9.  For Pretty Dark Nothing and the sequel to do well enough that a third book is optioned by my publisher.


1. Get myself an agent. I’m not going to rush it. It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen. 2013 would be nice though.

2. Read more. I managed about 40 books this year(beta reads included), and I’m not completely happy with the amount. Yes, I’m a slow reader, but this year’s slow as unnecessary.

3. Comment more on blog posts. I’ve been slacking, but I have this thing. I comment, and what I write sounds stupid, so most of the time I keep my thoughts to myself.

4. Write, rewrite, revise, and edit a novel tentatively titled My Bones. I want it done by the end of the year.

5. Polish my YA Steampunk

6. Finish up my YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale from NaNo 2010.

7. Be more structured in my writing time. The last four years it’s been all over the place. Yeah, it worked for me, but I like trying new things to see if it might work even better.

8. Beta read more.

9. Be open to new things. Now matter what.


1. Finish edits on Follow You Down and send to critique partners by end of January

2. Put final polish on Follow You Down and submit to agents and/or select small publishing houses

3. Finish 1st draft of my first YA dark fantasy, The Winter Tree

4. Read 52 books in 52 weeks, including craft books on writing.

5. Learn to love the revision and editing process

6. Quit smoking.

7. Establish a schedule that will allow me to write more and stress less.

8. Meditate daily- this can include running, yoga, or Pilates.

9. Be more of a pay-it-forward writer by encouraging others, beta reading, and sharing my list of YA agents and small publishing houses.

10. Set goals monthly, weekly, and daily.

11. Dedicate more time to my personal blog and establish a schedule I’ll carry through with.


1. Pursue more interviews for the Rue Morgue Blog interviewing YA horror authors, gaining a greater presence there until I can work my way into the magazine. In other words, get more published works under my belt.
2. Will have my book finished by the end of the year (2012)
3. Have my book revised and edited by mid-February
4. Start querying agents
5. Get an agent
6. Sell my book via my brilliant agent
7. Sign a contract for book
8. Outline and start two new stories
9. Go to FanExpo in Toronto in August
10. Have a (real) vacation
11. Write better content for the Hugs and Chocolate blog and create more opportunities for interaction
1. Enter The Sandy Contest

2. Edit my Current Novel to Completion

3. Query Agents

4. Write 1st Draft of a New Novel (During National Novel Writing Month)

5. Continue Regular Blog Posts on Hugs & Chocolate and on my Personal Blog (

6. Post Regular Web Fiction on my Personal Blog and

Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Goal-Setting


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The One Question You Should Ask Yourself(And A Personal Writing Challenge)

Corinth in Romeimage via Urban at fr.wikipedia

Corinth in Rome
image via Urban at fr.wikipedia

““If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
―    Henry David Thoreau,    Walden

My daughter made the point that my husband and I still have a honeymoon to plan. My husband and I talked about what our dream honeymoon would consist of and where it would take place. We daydreamed about Mediterranean- touring ancient architecture, chasing mythology, and tasting the warm sea air…

In doing so, we discovered some mutual interests and passions. Did we call our local travel agent? No, but we made it clear what we want, and though our aim is high, it’s something we can strive for together. We created a goal- a dream.

Which, in my usual round-a-bout way, leads me to the one question I believe everyone should ask themselves:

What is your Perfect Day?

Most of us are planning our resolutions for 2013. Some people build strategies, others, like myself, tend to write them down on scrap paper, lose them, and hope for the best. I believe goal-setting has its value. But I also believe that for those goals and dreams to become a living, breathing reality, we need to visualize those goals and what the rewards mean to each aspect of our life- including our day-to-day writing lives.

When we invest the time in visualizing our Perfect Day, we access our desires, what we expect from ourselves, and the emotions that drive us. We realize what we want, almost to the letter, and then we can recognize what kind of commitment it’s going to require. Commitment is the key word. Read Steven Pressfield’s posts on commitment, How Pro Are You and Depth of Commitment, Part Two.

Personal Writing Challenge

I challenge you to write down your Perfect Day. Go into detail and description. Think about the first thing you’ll do in the morning, what you’ll eat, wear, where you’ll go. When is your ideal time and place to write? What will the conditions be? Who are the players in your Perfect Day- family, friends, other writers? Use your imagination and don’t hold back due to any current budget or other restrictions.

Take the time for yourself to journal or log the details. Use your ideal to find the things that are within your grasp- maybe you can start your morning with that run or yoga, or writing before anyone else wakes up. Use that ideal for motivation to break the bad habits that get in the way- social networks, smoking, procrastination, Doctor Who memes…

Next week, we plan to share our goals and predictions for 2013, and we want to hear from you. Ask yourself, before then, what is your Perfect Day and meditate on the minutiae. Or use it as a prompt to spur your ingenuity.

Let us know if you decide to participate in the writing challenge.

What are your thoughts on today’s challenge? Do you think taking the time to write down your Perfect Day will inspire you to finesse your goals and find out what drives you? Or do you have a few details you would like to share?

Happy Holidays!


Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Goal-Setting, Inspiration, Just For Fun


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