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It’s Worth It

January 9, 2009 by in category Blogs tagged as with 1 and 0
Home > Writing > Blogs > It’s Worth It

SAYING “NO” TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS

by Kitty Bucholtz

January is an excellent time to look back and take stock. Over the last year, I have been an active volunteer at OCC RWA and made a LOT of new friends. I’ve taken more than my share of writing classes online, and I attended my first RWA National Conference. I’ve said to “yes” to the majority of opportunities that came my way, opportunities that made me a better writer and a better person.

But looking forward to the year ahead, I see that I’ll need to be incredibly focused to achieve my goals for the year. I want to finish and submit a single title book that’s been wrapped around my heart. I want to write a category romance for Harlequin American Romance and one for Steeple Hill Love Inspired and see if I like writing them. (I think I will!) I’ll be running in a half marathon for the first time – and in fact, I’m running in three half marathons in 2009. I’m also moving to Australia, and may be enrolling in a master degree program. That’s a lot to do in one year!

In Sociology class in college, I learned that we experience “distress” and “eustress” in our lives. One is negative and one is positive. But if you don’t give thought to why you’re stressed, you may not recognize the difference. That’s why saying no can be a healthy way to avoid distress and enjoy the things that add eustress to your life.

I’ve already begun practicing saying no. I don’t necessarily feel “good” about it, but I can feel the negative stress fading. And that feels good! I’m even going to the library today to borrow an audio version of the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

So among other things, I am going to say “no” to being a monthly columnist here on the Slice of Orange. This is my last blog, at least for a while. But I wanted to leave you with this thought: where can you say no to something in your life this year that will ultimately lead to you being a better person, a better family member, a better friend, a better writer?

It will probably be difficult to do, but trust me, it’s worth it.

Kitty Bucholtz is a co-founder of Routines For Writers, a new web site to help writers write more. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS

by Kitty Bucholtz

I was talking to a writing friend yesterday who said she is tired of trying to write around what she hears the market wants, the agents want, the editors want. In these economic times, everyone would have us believe our efforts will be even harder to sell than ever before. But she’s done with worrying about it.

Why? Because she believes God’s plan for her life can’t be circumvented by an economic shift, or a change in publishing house staff, or a tightening of an agent’s client list. So what does she believe in? Following her heart, and pouring all her joy and honesty and passion into whatever story most grips her imagination, and believing that God’s power to work his plan in her life – whatever that is, publishing or not – is stronger than any other power on earth.

This conversation stayed with me because I’d been thinking along the same lines. This morning I was talking to God about the fact that I’m 40, for goodness’ sake, and how long was this going to take anyway? Then I remembered that the Israelites wandered around in the desert for 40 years asking the same question – how long? – until a young man named Joshua went scouting in the Promised Land. He and his co-spy came back to tell Moses and the rest of the millions of Israelites that even with all the enemies they’d have to defeat, it would be worth the trip.

Eventually Joshua did lead them over the river (even though people taunted him and accused him of leading them all to their deaths!) and it was worth the trip. But it wasn’t easy. I re-read some of the story of Joshua this morning and realized that nowhere in the Bible that I can remember did God say, “Be strong and courageous” and “do not be terrified” as much as he did when he sent his children into the Promised Land. The Promised Land, for goodness’ sake. And all those people were so afraid.

Just like us.

If there is a God who can miraculously place himself into a little baby human being, then allow himself to die with all the punishment of all the people who ever will live on his back, then raise himself from the dead and defeat death for all people for all time… Well, if there is a God who has that kind of power, then it’s irrational for me to believe that he can’t use my life for good in this world. He must have the power to make whatever good plans he has for my life to come to fruition. Regardless of whether the circumstances seem to suggest otherwise.

I’m doing my best to write stories for the sake of bringing more goodness into the world. I believe that is God’s plan for my work life, and I believe he will make that plan work out perfectly by the time I die, regardless of how much gets published. It’s hard because I see the battles ahead and I don’t know how to fight them, let alone how to be victorious. But if God really does have a plan for me, then…

it’s worth it.


Kitty Bucholtz is a co-founder of Routines For Writers, a new web site to help writers write more. She writes light urban fantasy novels with a romantic comedy spin – and loves every minute of it! Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

GRATEFUL TO GOD FOR MY FAMILY

by Kitty Bucholtz

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. – Alfred Lord Tennyson

There will always be disagreement about the truth of that statement. The same person might even change their mind about whether they hold that belief depending on where they are in their lives. It’s much harder to believe when you’re in the midst of loss.

When I went to Australia three years ago, I knew I’d be gone at least three months because of my husband’s job. Three months turned into thirteen, and we definitely felt the loss of our friends, our church, and for me, my OCC family.

I just returned from the chapter meeting and I’m feeling euphoric and nostalgic and full of gratitude even though I know I’ll be feeling a deep sense of loss this time next year when I’m back in Australia. Shannon Donnelly’s presentation on writing a synopsis was exceptional – the most pages of notes I’ve taken since Michael Hauge was here. Sue Grimshaw gave an excellent presentation about the Borders book buying process and what authors can do to promote themselves. Not sure if it was because she’s from Michigan (Go Wolverines!) or because she’s such a nice person with a great presentation, but I felt really inspired to keep going afterward even though I’m still unpublished.

But it’s not the professional information that makes OCC my family. I spent the day teasing friends and getting teased back. Several friends encouraged me to not give up on the kind of writing I want to do regardless of whether I’ve seen anything like it in the bookstore. A lot of people shared my excitement in moving back to Australia and listened with saint-like patience as I extolled the virtues of life there. One friend told me I would be missed and filled my heart when she said she would start missing me now. Aw! (Guys, it’s a girl thing. 😉 )

So what do I think? Is it better to have made friends and poured time and energy into them and found they became another family? Networked and shook hands and passed out business cards to strangers for years? And then up and leave for who knows how many years?

Yup. No question.

It’s worth it.


Kitty Bucholtz is a co-founder of Routines For Writers, a new web site to help writers write more. She writes light urban fantasy novels with a romantic comedy spin – and loves every minute of it! Read her article ORANGE YOU GLAD YOU THOUGHT OF THAT? in September’s RWR magazine. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

READER COMMENTS – OR THE LACK THEREOF

by Kitty Bucholtz

When my Internet browser opens, I have it set so that several web pages come up at once. Several – like the Slice of Orange here – are industry blogs that I’m keeping up with. I often find myself nodding and agreeing with the writer, or I’ll think of something about the topic I want to share. But I usually don’t have time to read and comment.

That made me think about my own blogs and how few comments there often are. I realized that a lot of times people are probably thinking what I’m thinking – I either don’t have time, or I don’t want to write “I liked that” or “I agree” because the comment seems so inane.

Keep that in mind when you’re writing. I’ve had dozens of magazine articles and devotionals published and – with the exception of my recent RWR article – I’ve only received one note from a reader. (Thank you, friends, for your outpouring of electronic high-fives on that RWR article!) People will like what we write and be nodding their heads, or shaking their heads, or thinking about it for a while, and we’ll never know. While sometimes my words may not affect a single person, a lot of times they will, if only one. We need to keep writing. Don’t stop. It’s worth it.


Kitty Bucholtz writes light urban fantasy novels with a romantic comedy spin. She is a co-founder of Routines For Writers, a new web site to help writers write more. Read her article ORANGE YOU GLAD YOU THOUGHT OF THAT? in September’s RWR magazine. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

ROUTINES FOR WRITERS

by Kitty Bucholtz

Write every day. Make each book better than your last. Write what you love so that your passion fills every page. Oh, and by the way, make time for blogs, web sites, social sites, teaching classes, and writing articles to get your name out there as much as possible.

Not to be a naysayer, but wow! That sounds like so much work! I’d rather do the first three things than spend so much time on marketing myself that I have less time for writing. But once a business school graduate, always a business mindset. How could I do both?

One day, it occurred to my two critique partners and me that our weekly conference calls were such a huge part of all three of us getting more done – why didn’t we find a way to share our conference call with more writers – and promote ourselves? Thus the idea for Routines For Writers was born.

Launched on September 1, 2008, the web site is meant to be a discussion-starter for brainstorming ways to get more and better writing done. The three of us only blog once a week, but that gives readers new material each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. (It also gives us real and attainable deadlines.) We’re writing “pillar articles” – longer articles that go into more detail on a particular topic. We’ll post helpful spreadsheets and documents for tracking progress, making goals, and other helpful items. And we’ll have guest bloggers from all areas of the publishing scene.

Instead of stressing about whether we three unpublished-in-novel-length-fiction writers should have three web sites already, we moved the synergy we’d already developed into a joint web site. And the web site is on a topic we’re (gasp!) passionate about! All three of us love teaching, love sharing what we’ve learned with others. (I helped a new writer while eating lunch at the Costco food court last month. It was great!)

What can you do to harness synergy that’s already begun in your writing world? How can you get more done with less work? How can you get your name out more without cutting into your writing time? (And without, say, forgetting to go to the bank and the grocery store as I did this week. Scene 1: Enter husband looking through bare cupboards…)

If you have some ideas, share them here. And come on by our web site and see what we’re talking about each week. We’d love to have you join in the discussion!


Kitty Bucholtz is a co-founder of Routines For Writers, a new web site to help writers write more. She writes light urban fantasy novels with a romantic comedy spin – and loves every minute of it! Read her article Orange You Glad You Thought of That? in this month’s RWR magazine. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

By Kitty Bucholtz

I finally recovered from the RWA National Conference that I attended in San Francisco last week. Whew! What a week! I drove up with my friend Lori and her husband and son (both of whom are sweet and cute and fun!). Then I stayed with my friend Marcy for a few days while we brainstormed all kinds of writing-related ideas including weighing the pros and cons of me getting a Master’s in Creative Writing degree. (I think I’m going to do it!) Remember in last month’s column I was stressing because I needed to see my friends’ little baby Grace? Saw her! Spent the whole day with them and I wasn’t even asked to change her diaper – excellent!

After such a great start to the week, I was eager for the conference to begin. It was a wonderful combination of fun and work. I had “not dinner” with some OCC friends (the restaurant was so backed up, we had to leave before we got our food, so we only had bread and wine and water – which Lori termed our Biblical dinner), went to a couple of parties (remembered the next morning why I don’t generally drink champagne), and went to every single workshop session but one. And at the last workshop session, two agents gave us the secret password before the recording began. Those who query them with the secret password get bonus points for having shown up in person when everyone was so tired. LOL!

One of the best parts for me was hearing someone say, “Send it to me.” I tracked down an agent and an editor who I’d researched a few days before the conference, and both want a proposal from me. (Yea!) We heard some great keynote speakers (Victoria Alexander was a hoot!), learned from some great teachers (Eric Maisel’s “Creativity for Life” might have been my favorite class), and met a lot of people! Lori and Lynn and Kimberly and I made a challenge the last two days to give out at least 15 business cards each – and we did it! (Networking made easy!) We also made a point of spending two of our meals together brainstorming, and it looks like we’ll be getting together to do it again now that we’re home. (Plot problem solving made easy!)

The trip was expensive in terms of money and time, and it took me a few days to get my energy back and my life back in order once I returned. But as Lori mused on the long drive home, we received an embarrassment of riches. This wealth is pushing me to work harder and faster than ever before (remember those two proposals I need to get out?), but it feels great, and I totally believe it’s worth it!


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

GETTING READY FOR CONFERENCE

by Kitty Bucholtz

Can you believe how time flies? The RWA National Conference is only three weeks away! I’m not ready! I haven’t booked a flight – oh wait, I’m driving up with my friend Lori. I haven’t booked a hotel room – oh wait, Lori already did that. Can you tell I’m used to doing everything myself? So if everything is in place, why do I feel a little stressed about it?

Thinking about it for five seconds, I realize it’s not the conference so much as the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the last several weeks and I’m tired. And more than anyone at the conference, the one person I really want to see lives in a suburb outside San Francisco – and is only a couple months old! Once I iron out a time to see little Grace, I’ll probably be much more relaxed about the whole trip. ☺

Taking that bit of stress out of the picture, my mind suddenly goes into tentative “play” mode. The last few conferences I’ve attended I’ve been one of the presenters. I love teaching, but it does make for an exhausting weekend. This time I’ll be able to go to any class I want, spend as much time as I like talking to anyone I run across, free of the ticking clock telling me where I have to be and when, free of anyone approaching me in the bathroom with something they want me to read. When I think of it that way – WOO-HOOOOO!!! Now I’m really beginning to look forward to it!

If you haven’t been to a writers conference yet, I highly recommend doing a bit of research and picking one. As writers, we need to continue to be both teachable and willing to teach others, and writers conferences are often a wonderful way to do both. There is always something you can learn, even if it is only to be reminded of something you once knew, and there is always someone who can use your advice about something.

If you don’t know how to pick a writers conference, or how to prepare, or what to expect, check out my class, “Getting Ready for Conference.” It’s an online class with lectures and interactive discussions on everything relating to conferences. Only $15 for two weeks, the class starts this Monday, July 14. See you there – or see you at a writers conference! They’re worth it!


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

TRAINING FOR DISTANCE

By Kitty Bucholtz

I told you that John and I started training to run a marathon. After ten weeks, on Memorial Day weekend, we ran our first 5K race (3.1 miles)! John started out too fast and had to walk for a couple minutes in the middle to catch his breath, but he still finished in less than 29 minutes. I started out slow to make sure I could make it the whole way, then I sprinted at the end, finishing in just under 45 minutes. But our training had paid off and we finished our race.

Only two weeks later, I ran five miles in 70 minutes, a longer distance and shorter time per mile. I could hardly believe my progress. However, less than a week after that, we tried another five-mile run and couldn’t even make it three miles. It seemed to us that the wisest course of action at that point was to stretch well, make sure we got hydrated and ate well, and give it a rest till after the weekend. We fully expect the next run to go well. But if it doesn’t, we’ll just run a little slower or a little shorter distance and work our way back up again.

There are a lot of similarities between the marathon training and writing for publication. I can’t compare my progress to other people’s progress. (John is nearly 8 inches taller than me – one of many reasons he’ll always run faster than me.) Trying something new is often more difficult than you expect, but not giving up has its rewards. (I often think of how I would’ve missed out on the exhilaration of learning and accomplishing something new if I had given in and quit after that first 60-second run.) Achieving smaller goals, like our 5K and soon our 10K, help motivate you to keep trying for the bigger goals, like running a full marathon. (It’s hard to imagine running 13 or 26 miles straight, but not that long ago I didn’t think I could run 3 or 5 miles either.)

If you have a minute, read this again and compare what I’m saying about running to what you’re thinking and feeling about writing. Where do you see parallels? Training for distance, for the long haul, is hard work, but I say it’s worth it.


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

TRAINING FOR LIFE

by Kitty Bucholtz

My husband John and I are training to run a half marathon in the fall, 13 miles over hill and dale in Pasadena, California. Never done anything like it in my life. But we figured it would be a good way to lose weight and get in shape, and one of our friends suggested we do it together. A winning situation all the way around.

But on Day One of our “Couch to 5K” training in March of this year when we were to cycle running for 60 seconds, then walking for 90 seconds, I wanted to quit about 45 seconds into the 20-minute workout! I would have except John was there and I didn’t want him to see me quit. By the end of week two, I was huffing and puffing but it felt good.

Last weekend I flew to Austin, Texas, to attend the High Tension Workshop taught by Donald Maass. Barely an hour into the four-day workshop I had that beautiful ah-ha moment. Ah-ha, this is what I’ve been trying to do by instinct but without getting it right. By the end of the weekend, the lights were on, my toolbox was reorganized – some new tools, and some tools that I understood how to use better – and I was already chipping away at bits and chunks of my manuscript.

I cut out a murder because I realized I had actions in turmoil not actions in tension. I cut out the first scene of chapter one because I saw I was trying to introduce the heroine’s emotional state by showing her in turmoil not showing her emotions in conflict. Today I’m sitting here highlighting all the backstory in the first 30 pages so I can cut it from the story, move it to another document (you know we can’t just hit delete), and try to figure out what the reader needs to know and how I can provide that information in a better way. Already, the story is gaining strength. And it feels good.

John and I are on Week Seven of our marathon training with 27 weeks to go. We run for 25 minutes three times a week, then run for as long as we can on Saturday or Sunday morning. My body is getting stronger more quickly than I’d thought possible and twice this week I beat my best running times! But I haven’t lost a single pound. I’m trying to keep in mind that there is plenty of time to find success in all of my running goals; I can’t meet them all at once. Just think, I can run for 25 minutes without stopping now, but less than two months ago I could barely run for 60 seconds!

There are moments when I feel the writing process is taking too long and I’m not learning enough and I’m not applying enough of what I’ve learned. But Donald Maass gave me a much-needed shot in the arm last weekend. He assured us that we can do this, but it’s going to take a lot of work. Just like the marathon training. Sometimes you just have to look back and see how far you’ve come. Then remind yourself that it’s worth it.


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

WRITING VIRUS

by Kitty Bucholtz

I hit a wall last month. Not a writer’s block wall, a running-ahead-at-full-steam and hit-a-wall and crashed-and-burned kind of wall. It was totally unexpected and I’m still dazed, trying to figure out how it happened, how I didn’t see it coming so I could’ve prepared for it. But it was like one of those colds where you wake up healthy and well in the morning, have a sore throat at lunch, and are down for the count by dinner. Wham!

Some things in life are just unexpected and can’t be planned for. How many times have you heard that how your character responds to adversity shows who they really are? Well, character-named-Kitty-who-is-living-my-life, how are you going to respond? Who are you really?

I gave some thought to just quitting and getting a “real” job. (There is a voice in my head that is always delighted when I consider that, obviously a voice who doesn’t much like me, doesn’t believe I can make a living writing, and doesn’t give a hoot whether I know it.) But instead of making any decisions at all, I chose to give myself a week to do something else. Anything else. So I cleaned my kitchen top to bottom, took care of some errands, spent time with my husband, went shopping (something I don’t often have time to do – it was fun!), and then the week was up… and I still didn’t know what to do.

Monday my writing partners called me and literally got me out of bed. By the end of the phone call I realized I was going to survive; the worst of the virus was over. My husband and writing partners all supported me taking a couple weeks to work on a new idea I’ve been excited about. They all agreed my current book could use the perspective distance and time would bring. Everyone thinks I’ll be back in the excitement of this story by the end of the month, due in no small part to partaking in a little brainstorming in this other story I’m excited about.

Even God seemed to be encouraging me Monday. (I shouldn’t be surprised since he loves me so much, but I still usually am!) I flipped open my Bible after that phone call and almost immediately came to the verse that reminds us that God prepared in advance good works for us to do. Reading between the lines, I saw, “Don’t quit now, Kitty!”

I feel caught up in the rising tide of optimism – a strange feeling for me because I’m usually the one doing the encouraging. But already I feel better. Just writing about feeling better is making me feel better! I never did get out my resume, and I think it will still be in the drawer long after you read this. The writing life may be easy for some people, but it can be difficult for me. Still, through all the ups and downs, writing viruses and all, I can’t help but believe it’s worth it.


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

MANNA TIME

By Kitty Bucholtz

Whenever I hear or see the same thing three or more times in a short period of time, I have a tendency to stop and say, “God, are you talking to me?” I always joke with him that I can be stubborn and hard of hearing but if I see something repeated, I promise to stop and at least ask if he’s trying to get my attention. I had this experience last month.

I’d been reading about the Israelites and how God provided manna for them to eat in the desert. The same topic came up in a sermon and in bible study within two weeks. I started thinking about it, wondering if there was a reason I was hearing about it so many times in a short period. I’d been praying for help in keeping my writing schedule as my first priority without losing control of everything else. What did the Israelites have to do with that?

Writing in my journal, I figured out the answer. The Israelites had to get up early every morning before the dew dried up and gather the manna from the ground. No sleeping in or being lazy. If you didn’t feel like getting it on Tuesday, you didn’t eat on Tuesday. The manna was going to be provided every day, but it wasn’t going to just show up on their plates. The Israelites knew in a general sense that God had promised to take care of them, but now they had to form that into a daily, practical trust and obedience.

My general goal of putting my writing first so that I can create a writing career is a good and noble one. But the fact is I wasn’t making it happen. The day I figured that out in my journal was the beginning of a change in my writing. I began starting each day writing “morning pages” (from The Artist’s Way) and pushing myself to “verbalize” all my hopes and fears about life in general and that day in particular.

I wrote about the guilt I felt putting my writing in front of getting my taxes done, and in front of other commitments. I wrote down the hundred things I thought I had to do, and realized that many of them could be put off one more day, reminding myself that I only needed to get that day’s writing done. I found that – just like Julia Cameron promises – getting everything else out of my head, recognizing it and moving on, opened up my writing!

Not only was I suddenly writing for four and five hour stretches, but the writing was far more productive, efficient, fun, and just good! I am amazed at how quickly the writing improved and the joy returned. And strangely, the other items on my to do list were surviving the wait. Some got done in the nooks and crannies of time my writing used to occupy. Some got picked up by friends and family. Some are still waiting.

I’m always amazed and sometimes embarrassed when God shows me he cares about the things that are important to me. But I’m extremely grateful! Now I start each day with the morning pages, and move right into the novel writing. My head is fresh and clear of “trash” and it shows in the writing. I laughingly tell God I’m now living in “Manna Time” – every day focusing just on what needs to be done that day, or if I’m particularly stressed, what needs to be done in that hour. Sometimes I hear MC Hammer’s theme song “Hammer Time” in my head. That’s when I know I got my quirky sense of humor from my Maker. In any case, I’ve found a successful new way to write – and it’s worth it!


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

MAKING LISTS

by Kitty Bucholtz

When I was thinking about my column this month, I couldn’t think of one single thing to write about. Some days I’m so happy with life, that niggling guilt that’s always in the back of my mind when I’m not working – well, it just goes away! And today, I couldn’t help but list all the things I’ve spent time on this week – even when I thought I should’ve been writing – that added some unexpected happiness.

Choir practice, even though I thought I was too busy to go
Talking to strangers, even when I was busy
Calling my mom, even though I was busy
Enjoying a few chapters of reading, even when I should’ve been writing
Cuddling and watching TV with my honey, even if I should’ve been working
Thanking God for future blessings, even though I can’t see them yet
Supporting a friend by walking the picket line with her, even when I’m busy
Taking a moment to enjoy the stars, even when I’m tired
The joy of telling a story, even if only to myself today

I’m sure this list isn’t complete, but you get the picture. And the thing I noticed was that my writing energy improved after each of these things! But you know, even if it hadn’t helped my writing, some things in life are just worth it.


Kitty Bucholtz
writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

ROUND TWO

by Kitty Bucholtz

Okay, this has never happened before – three months in a row of writing on the same topic! Shows you how passionate I am, I guess!

So here’s the thing. People are talking about resolutions every January, and that’s fine, but I don’t need any new ones. I just want to keep up with the great writing habits I’ve been forming over 2007. Christmas vacation hampered my efforts, so I was quite willing when a friend said, “Why don’t we do that NaNo thing again in January?”

Within days, fourteen of our friends showed interest in creating a “challenge” group that posted goals and daily accomplishments. I created a new Yahoo Group and an Excel spreadsheet with a graph, and we were off and running.

The main hurdle was that while many were at a place where they were ready to start a new book January 1, many others were brainstorming or editing. So we came up with a point system. For instance, for every scene fully edited, you get 1000 points. For each blog posted on your neglected author web site, you get 200 points. For brainstorming out an entire novel’s premise, you get 1500 points. And of course, you get 1 point for every “new” word written as well.

It’s subjective, and each author gets to decide their goals and the points they believe they should earn. That’s fine because we aren’t competing against each other, but against our January 2007 selves. The goal is to do more than you did last month or last year. And boy, is it working!

One friend whose first book will be published soon, and is contracted for five more, made his goal to be 15,000 new words for the month. In the first three days, he wrote 4267 words! He said he’d never written so many words in three days before!

Many have posted to the group things like, “I only wrote 343 words today. I didn’t ‘have time’ to write at all, but knowing you all were writing spurred me on to do at least something.”

I personally replied to one of those emails saying, “Thank goodness someone wrote only a few words! It’s 5:15pm and I haven’t written anything today, but I know I can write 344 words! Thanks for ‘challenging’ me!”

Today is January 9th, and we should be 29% of the way to our goal. I’m less than 10% of the way there, but call me Seabiscuit. Apparently, I have to see that people are “beating” me in order to come up from behind! I’ve spent many hours creating and managing the group, hours that I could’ve spent writing. But I’m still getting more writing done than I otherwise would have. And I’m encouraging – and being encouraged by – my writing friends to kick off our new year of writing with a big bang. I say, it’s worth it!


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

By Kitty Bucholtz

Oh Joy! Oh Rapture! I won!

Remember I told you last month that I would participate in NaNoWriMo? The goal was 50,000 words in 30 days. At the beginning of the month, I felt it was a doable goal – 1667 words per day. By Thanksgiving, I wasn’t so sure. I was barely over the 17,000 mark and thousands of words behind.

But I had two things going for me. One, I desperately needed to create some new and improved writing habits, so I had it in my heart and mind to do whatever it would take to “win” this competition. (Everyone who hits the mark, wins. Essentially, you’re competing against yourself.)

Second, my two critique partners also participated and were equally motivated. We had a conference call twice a week for encouragement, accountability, and brainstorming. We sent emails saying we hit 10,000 words, 20,000 words, or had a breakthrough idea.

In the last five days I wrote 30,711 words. That’s about 123 pages. In my wildest dreams I never would have believed I could do that! I simply decided not to stop typing. I woke up in the morning, kissed my husband goodbye, asked God to help me focus, and started typing. I would look at my word count and think – another thousand words and I’ll be at the next 10,000 word mark. Or – another hundred words and I’ll beat Stephanie for the day. (grin) I heard the voice of Dorie, the blue fish in Finding Nemo, singing, “Just keep typing, just keep typing.”

I won a lot more than a competition. (I stopped at about 6pm on the last day with 52,415 words.) I developed some key new habits. I found better ways to get work done, things I never would’ve tried if I hadn’t been willing to try anything to win the competition. And perhaps most importantly, I learned what I can do.

That first weekend after NaNo ended, my brain was a jumble. I tried to remember whether I had paid the rent. My friends at church asked why I wasn’t my usual talkative self. I told them, “I used up all my words in my book!” They laughed and congratulated me.

By the next Tuesday, I was eagerly working on my book again, making notes, moving scenes around. By Thursday, I could see that if I deliberately chose to not let my new habits slip, I could keep up a far higher degree of productivity. On Friday, during our conference call, my critique partners and I started brainstorming a new idea for our budding web site. We decided that we needed to encourage other writers with ideas on how to keep writing. We are beyond excited about our plans!

Participating in NaNo was hard work. Friends and family were kindly told to wait until December. I snuck into another room on Thanksgiving Day to write for a while. Chores and errands were put off. My to do list on December 1 was terrifyingly long. But I have new habits that are pushing me to the next level in my writing. So I say – it’s worth it!


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

SOMETHING EXTRA

By Kitty Bucholtz

Some days I can hardly wait to start writing. Last night I was writing right up until my husband turned out the lights. Other days I really need…something. So this month I decided to try participating in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org). With close to 100,000 people around the world writing their little hearts out to get 50,000 words down in 30 days, I figured that kind of motivation could be just the kick I need right now.

I’ve been writing for about a week and wow, what a week it’s been. Two full days were devoted to out of town guests. Nearly two more days had to be spent doing some “life stuff” that couldn’t be rescheduled. Yet I’ve still gotten nearly 7,000 words down, most of which would not have been written this week if it weren’t for my competitive streak and NaNoWriMo’s artificial daily goals.

Even though I’m behind schedule, I’m still excited! My November calendar is crowded with visits from family, an online class, and a usually-coveted four-day holiday weekend. Writing is work that constantly makes you choose between your writing goal and one of the numerous other things you’d love (or need!) to do. But I’ve found a joyful place inside where I can live and work, a place with magic and monsters and heroes and romance. I can’t live there without effort, but I say, it’s worth it!


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

FINDING THE JOY AGAIN

By Kitty Bucholtz

Like you, I have a laundry list of things that keep me from writing, and another list of really good reasons why I should and shouldn’t feel guilty. But lately, I’ve been finding that writing isn’t what it used to be for me. I’ve lost the joy.

For the last two years, my husband John and I have been living a bit topsy-turvy. He took a 3-month job in Australia that got extended a month at a time for a year. Because we thought we’d be there for only a few months, we rented a studio apartment. Then we moved back to the States where a new job had us living in a hotel for two weeks while I found an apartment in yet another town. Thinking that job would only last a few months, we again rented a studio apartment. That job is over and now we’re packing up again – but don’t exactly know where we’re going yet. (I’ll tell you one thing, it won’t be to another single-room apartment!)

It’s been fun and exciting…and not a little stressful. Add to that the fact that I have an agent patiently waiting for me to deliver the goods, and I’ve worked myself into a frenzy of high expectations never met.

So I took a moment last week and perused the 808 section of the library. (If you’re not familiar, the 808 section is where all the writing books are!) When I spied Take Joy by Jane Yolen, a flicker of hope sprang to life in my chest. I sat down with that and Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks and began to laugh out loud at their anecdotes. These writers reminded me again of the joy in creating something silly or scary or adorably romantic.

I’ve made a couple of changes in my writing life already, even though I’m still reading both books. One is really helping my creativity and joy, but is so ridiculous and embarrassing I’m not going to tell! 🙂 The other is to take a deep breath and relax and start writing for the joy of it – not for my agent or for a check or for the sense of accomplishment. Just for the joy.

So…last week I chose to enjoy the process of putting on a huge bash for John’s 40th birthday party without feeling guilty or resentful for the loss of writing time. Today, I choose to spend the day enjoying John’s birthday gift from me – one day on a huge rented Harley Davidson motorcycle (woo-hoo!). And I choose to spend tomorrow wrapped in the soft, ticklish joy of writing. Maybe I’ll even find the unexpected treat of a new story twist…but I’m not going to force it. I’m just going to enjoy it. It’ll be worth it.


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

STARTING OVER

By Kitty Bucholtz

Last month, my agent gave me notes on my latest novel. I’d turned in what I thought was “the” book – it was funny, in a subgenre that was selling well, and most importantly, it was a story I loved with a passion. This was the book I thought would be my breakout work.

Instead, I’m going to have to do a page-one rewrite.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but the quick-to-be-emotional nature that helps me write romances brought a quick rush of tears at the news. I took a few deep breaths, washed my face and waited until the next day to think about it. I saw where my agent was coming from and agreed with her. But still, I was going to have to start over.

From the beginning.

My first thought was that I’d completely wasted a year of my life. My second was that if I’d known I would suck as a writer, I wouldn’t have spent last year in another country stuck in my tiny cockroach-infested apartment. I would’ve been out seeing the country!

My third thought went somewhere along the lines of “Get over it!” (I might not have been that nice though.)

My head agreed that the book would benefit from the changes. My heart wasn’t there yet.

It’s been a few weeks now and I’ve done a lot of brainstorming, taken pages and pages of new notes, and created a brand new (empty) file for the new version. A few days ago, I finally “got it.” The story is coming fast and furious now – and it’s so much better than the initial version that I don’t even know how to compare the two. And THAT is exciting!

Starting over is rarely easy – new book, new job, new home. But if you look for it, you’ll always be able to find something that makes you say, “It’s worth it.”

Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

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A Fork in the Road

By Kitty Bucholtz

I turned 39 last month. For the first time. If all goes well, it’ll be for the last time. I heard your 40s are when you finally have the experience and guts to stand up and say, “This is who I am. Like it or leave it.”

I’m not sure if I’m going to do that before I turn 40 though.

I got some notes back from my agent last week and I realized that while I’ve been writing professionally for ten years this year, there are still some words that I misunderstand. Like hot. When she told me the new genre I’m writing in is hot, I was all excited because it just happened that what I want to write is popular right now.

Oh, it is. But that’s not what she meant. She meant that genre has more detailed, uh, love scenes. And from what I’ve skimmed in other books in the genre, love isn’t always a prerequisite for the action.

Oh dear. So now I have to decide how far I’m willing to go. Suddenly I feel 16 again and I’m looking at my cute boyfriend. Will mom find out? What will God think? Just how far is too far? Will I have to wait until everyone whose opinion is important to me dies? (In which case, there’s still God.) And by then, will I even remember how to do it?!

But that’s not really what I’m asking myself. I’m asking myself how far I’m willing to go to be one of the popular girls. One of the thin, blonde, pretty ones with strawberry lip gloss and a bit of mascara that they put on in the girls’ restroom so their mother wouldn’t know. Do I want to do what it takes to have lots of friends (readers)? Or will I prefer to stand off to the side, a wallflower among wallflowers, holding my values to my chest like a badge of honor, secretly wishing I could do what needs to be done to publish my stories?

I’ll tell you the truth, I’m thinking about “doing it” once to see what it’s like, to see what all the hype is about. Maybe I won’t feel I’ve crossed a line. Maybe the money will be worth it. Maybe none of my more conservative friends will think any less of me. Maybe I’ll think I’m cool. But if I decide later it wasn’t worth it, it’ll be too late.

I remember what it was like to want to be more popular, to give away my virginity and later wish I had it back. I’m older and wiser now…and I still don’t know what advice to give myself. Except that there’s nothing better than being able to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I respect myself and what I do,” and “I’m doing all I can to be a successful businesswoman and I’m proud of myself.”

A few days ago, I said to my husband, “You know, now’s the time for me to quit and become a stay-at-home mom if that’s what we want.” It was both a “last chance” moment for us to decide for sure if we wanted to be parents, and – more so – an opportunity for me to quit without answering the question – how far am I willing to go to get published?

It’s a hell of a moment…this moment. It’s “a fork stuck in the road” as the Green Day song goes. Robert Frost said the road less traveled made all the difference. Does that mean he had to have a day job?

I don’t know what I’m going to say to my agent. I don’t want to be pious or popular. I want to be me. And I know that I was created with a unique ability to create. I can’t help but think therein lies the answer. Can I be creative enough to write what the market requires in a way that doesn’t compromise my integrity?

Ask me my age next spring. If I say I’m 39 (again), it means I haven’t quite found the guts yet to stand up and be myself regardless of the cost. But I promise you this: I’ll try with all my heart to work to be that person this year. A person who counts the cost and makes a decision and doesn’t wallow in excuses. A person like that could be a good friend in life, regardless of the level of their financial success.

There will be a price to be paid to become that kind of person, that kind of writer, but I say – it’s worth it.

Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

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Constructive Criticism Builds Bridges

By Kitty Bucholtz

At our last RWA meeting, some friends and I were discussing manuscript critiques. A good critique can help your manuscript become all you hoped for, while a bad critique can keep you cowering for months or years, afraid to let anyone see your work again.

When I was a member of the Tempe Christian Writer’s Club in Tempe, Arizona, we had two hard and fast rules for all critiquing. One, you must begin with something you genuinely like or appreciate about the work. Compliment a bit of dialogue, the originality of the setting, an interesting character. Try not to use banalities such as “I didn’t see a single spelling mistake.” The idea is to build up the writer and give him feedback on his strengths.

Two, when pointing out an area that needs work, you must give at least one or two ideas on how it could be improved. For instance, if the character feels flat and uninteresting, suggest ideas for rounding out the character – a nervous tic, a paradoxical personality trait, a stronger motivation. If you disagree with a “fact” – be it historical or otherwise – that you believe the writer got wrong, suggest that she double check it and let it go. This is not the time or place for you to “win” an argument.

Which leads to another great critique group idea. My screenwriting group has a rule that the author must not speak during the critique. Everyone talks as if he/she isn’t even there. The author makes notes on what everyone said, then at the end asks questions for verification purposes only. This is to prevent the age-old “defensiveness” problem. When you, the writer, listen to everyone discuss your work, you are taking an active role in figuring out what the readers “got” and what they didn’t. If they didn’t “get it” from reading your work, your explanations are meaningless – so keep them to yourself. Use your energy to figure out how to rewrite your piece so that the reader “gets it” in the next draft.

Consider using some or all of these rules in your critique group. And if you’ve found other critique group ideas that work, post them in the comments section to share with everyone. If you haven’t found a critique group yet, ask around. Perhaps you know someone who has room for one more, or you could start a new group.

It can be scary, no matter who you are or what stage in your career, to share your work with others and invite feedback. These rules can help keep a positive tone in the group, but remember you are responsible for both how you speak to others and how you choose to hear what others say to you. Choose to be the critique partner known for her encouraging words!

Putting yourself out there – as a writer and as a human being – can be tough. Sometimes it seems like a much better idea to stay home, alone but safe from the stone throwing. But when I think back on the friendships I’ve made and the amazing progress I’ve seen in my work, I say – it’s worth it!

NOTE: For OCC RWA members, please post a note on The Morning Juice if your critique group is open to new members, or if you’re looking for a critique partner or group. Be sure to note your location, proposed meeting times/days/frequency, whether it’s in person or online, and any other important information such as genre or if your group is for plotting only, etc. Remember – your group can arrive early at our monthly meeting and meet in the back! Take advantage!

Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

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It’s Worth It

By Kitty Bucholtz

Last month, my credit card bills were higher than I expected them to be. I didn’t buy a slinky new dress or a couple of pounds of Godiva truffles. (And if I had bought the one, I probably couldn’t have bought the other!) No, I had to pay over $100 in late fees and finance charges. I was so caught up in working on my book that I totally forgot to pay the credit cards until the day after they were due.

I’m a full-time writer, and as such, I have a tendency to forget a lot of things. If I’m writing, I forget to stop for a bathroom break until it’s nearly too late. If I’m walking down the beach, I forget to turn onto my street because I’m thinking about how that tattooed guy doing the one-handed pushups could fit into my book. If I didn’t set an alarm, I’d forget to pick up my husband from work – if I’m off in Book Land.

But I say it’s worth it. Writers get to spend their time thinking about solutions to impossible situations. They get to wonder “how” and “why” and “why not” – and if they wonder aloud, people forgive them because “you know how writers are.”

I downloaded a lecture I found on the Internet by Dr. Valerio Massimo Manfredi called “Storytelling and History Writing” given at The Australian National University on September 4, 2006. He tells the audience that early storytellers had a function, “to diffuse and transmit models of behavior that were essential for the survival of those communities.” I believe this is true today.

As often as you hear the sad and tragic tale of what is going wrong in the world today, you hear someone bemoaning the fact that something must be done. Writers can be part of the solution! We can give people hope. We can remind them that anyone can be a hero. We can urge them to act, to push themselves, to work together to make the world a better place. Perhaps a teenager will befriend “the new kid” because she’s emulating the cool teenager in a book she just read. Maybe a woman will find love where she wasn’t looking because she stepped out of her comfort zone – just like the heroine in a favorite book. Maybe a writer will help combat illiteracy with an idea that just may increase their book sales as well.

I no longer feel embarrassed that I write novels. As a storyteller, I have an essential function in the community. I may spend a lot of time alone. I may forget to pay a bill or two. But I might be able to make the world a better place.

And I say that’s worth it!


Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

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