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Do You Have What It Takes to Make the Long Haul?

**Due to Memorial Day I won't be posting on Monday. Have a great holiday weekend! See you Wednesday!

This week I finished writing my second contracted novel. I don’t have a firm title for it, so most of the time I call it Book #2. It’s the second book in my three book contract, but in the long line of books I’ve written it’s more like the eighth. It’s a whopping total of 95,000 words, 26 chapters plus an afterward.

Those who follow me on Twitter know I’ve pushed myself this past month to write 1000 words a day (with the exclusion of Sundays). And I’m happy to report I made that goal. For the month of May, I wrote 1000 or more words every day, except one day when I squeaked by with 400.

When I started writing Book #2 January 1, I originally gave myself the goal of 800 words a day. There were days I did more and many I did less. The important thing is that I made myself sit down every day and at least try—through sicknesses, busy kid activities, and countless distractions.

I logged a running total of my daily word count in the back of my plot notebook and that helped keep me on track. But what motivated me even more this past month was having accountability. A few writing friends—Natalie Bahm, Paul Greci, and Heather Sunseri—checked in with me on Twitter and spurred me to finish strong. Thanks, guys!

Knowing we have to report our progress to someone else can be a huge motivator in the daily struggle to meet our writing goals. Most of us are solitary workers, so it’s easy to slip into the habit of being sloppy. But when we have someone (or all of Twitterverse) watching what we’re doing, we’re more apt to discipline ourselves. No one likes to confess to failure.

I have to admit, now that I’m done with Book #2, I’ve had a case of jitters. I can’t help thinking, “Did I tell the story the best I could?” or “Will my editors like what I’ve come up with?” Of course they already gave their approval to my synopsis for Book # 2 before I started writing it. And in the meantime I’ve had the opportunity to talk through plot issues with them. I’m not stabbing in the dark, hoping I got the right story idea. But, even so, I’m plagued with self-doubt.

I just spent every spare minute over the past months writing Book #2. Now I’m facing attacks of insecurity, weeks of self-editing, then the pins-and-needle wait for my in-house editors to read it and give me their thoughts. After that they’ll compile mountainous rewrites, probably around the time I’ll need to vamp up marketing efforts on The Preacher’s Bride and start research on Book #3.

Some days when I think about the weight of all the responsibility and pressure, I wonder, “Am I nuts? What am I doing this for?” What’s the real reason any of us write—especially considering all the obstacles and headaches before AND after publication?

It’s certainly not for the glamour. Or the money. Or the fame. Because we all know how little of each there is.

There are a lot of people who write books and pursue publication. But what I’m discovering is that those who stick with it through the ups and downs usually have two qualities:

1. Passion: An inner burning need to tell a story. They delight in bringing stories to life and would love doing it even if publication ceased to exist.

2. Drive: The discipline to keep writing day after day, the determination to learn and grow, and the stamina to stand up against the hardships.

Passion and Drive. Maybe these aren’t the top qualities for every writer who sticks with writing for the long haul, but they’re certainly two that help define me.

What about you? Are you writing and pursuing publication for the long haul? What do you think are the top qualities of those who stick it out?

59 comments:

  1. I think you're right about passion and drive. I want to do this for the long haul, but yeah, sometimes it feels really overwhelming. And I'm not even experiencing the pressure you are!
    Hope you take a small break to breathe, eat chocolate and read a good book. :-)

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  2. You are right on with passion and drive. I want to do this for the long haul but I wonder what am I thinking? I'm trying not to get discouraged. My passion seems to burn pretty hot and my drive --let's just say I'm not running out of gas soon.
    I have a lot to learn but I'm willing to put in the time.
    Take a little breather, you have been working hard.
    I also left you an award on my blog yesterday. :)
    Have a great weekend and good luck!

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  3. I completely agree with those two. I know they are probably the two that really define me as a writer.

    I'd love some accountability. What a great idea about writing your daily word count in your notebook. I'm hoping to start writing my rough draft sometime next week and once I start, I don't want to stop. I want to kick out a nice amount of wordage each day. I can't decide if 2000 is too ambitious or not. I might test the waters and see how it goes.

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  4. I completely agree with you that a writers need passion in order to survive. We have to keep on writing because we can't not write. The compulsive need to sprout words always has to be present.

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  5. I'm nervous for me..... do I have enough passion and drive to be in it for the long haul?????

    Have a great, restful weekend! :O)

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  6. I think your jitters are normal. I always feel that way after finishing a novel and waiting for feedback. I'm especially feeling it about my vietnam novel, because I did so much research and really poured my heart and soul into it, but I'm terrified someone is going to come back to me and say, that's not how it was at all!! But hopefully I'll find some readers who'll be able to do that if it's necessary, before it gets picked up! I also think if we don't make time to write, then we probably won't write as much. I am guilty of that. So good for you for finishing book #2! Enjoy your weekend off!

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  7. Yay on completion. Writing for me is a part of me that I have to fulfill every day or I am not satisfied- kind of like eating. :)

    Have a great holiday weekend.

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  8. I can't not write. Like what Darlyn said. I just can't not do it. Can't. Passion really isn't a strong enough word. love this post.

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  9. Congratulations, friend, on finishing your next first draft! I'm so excited for you. After a disappointing writing week, my drive and passion are kicking back in to high gear. As I think about a slump I slid into, I realize that it's actually the passion that makes the bad times BAD and the good times WONDERFUL! The bad days wouldn't be so bad if we weren't so passionate about our work. That's a good thing, I think, because when we push through the slump, we come out so much stronger. And if we push through the passionate BAD times, we demonstrate our drive to stick it out for the long haul.

    Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

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  10. I'm definitely in it for the long haul. I agree about accountability. I get more done when I have someone waiting to read the next chapter in my WIP rather than just fiddle fart around to my own schedule.

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  11. SO SO excited for your "early finish"! And congrats on making your goal!

    I totally agree, passion and drive are huge! I guess I'd add (if this is different) determination too.

    I do think I have what it takes to stick it out over the long haul, although sometimes life (aka babies) does get in the way so I have to postpone it just a wee bit. At the moment, I'm more determined just to not "quit" during this time, although allowing myself the freedom of not having daily goals, just working on it little bits. Once baby is born and is past the worst of it, I'll start giving myself daily goals again.

    I am SO SO SO excited to read Preacher's Bride! Can't wait for October!!!

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  12. Passion and drive are 2 of the highest things we need, that's for sure. congrats on finishing! I think it's pretty normal to doubt. Just bask in finishing! For now.

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  13. I agree. Passion. Drive. Willingness to get back on the horse after being flung to the ground. A rich desire to learn helps too because then you're not content with what you know and apt to become bored. So thirst is good, which could be passion written another way.

    I'm a long haul writer.
    ~ Wendy

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  14. Yes, this is a life time committment for me, Jody. The few times I've been ready to walk, the Lord has shown me this is where I belong.

    Nothing worthwhile is easy. So, I think stubbornness is the #1 quality of those who stay with it to the finish line.

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  15. Jody, I've begun to question whether I have the drive for the long haul. I know I have the passion. But if I dwell there, all the what-ifs like, why bother finishing because then I'll have to face querying and all that crap, er, stuff..then it stops me cold and the writing dries up. So I take a deep breath, and keep on writing from my heart. I'll face that other music when I get there.
    karen

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  16. Congrats on finishing your second book! Way to go!

    As always, your blog is a blessing of encouragement, support and valuable info on writing and publishing. Thanks!

    Passion is the number one reason I write. I can't stop! At times there may be obstacles and "time outs" but the passion always brings me back.

    Blessings on this holiday weekend to you and family.

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  17. I had to start working from home again recently to help pull in a little extra income. I was very bitter about it at first, especially because the time I spent on writing and revising was drastically reduced. However, I came up with a schedule that allows me to complete my work and still work on my novels. Granted, I wake up between 4 and 4:30, Monday thru Friday, but I don't feel as though I'm giving up my dream of publication. If that isn't drive, I don't know what is. LOL!

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  18. I agree with the two traits you've defined...and would like to offer a third. STUBBORNESS. In the face of so much rejection and uncertainty, a person who refuses to accept NO stands a better chance of reaching their goal. :)

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  19. Hooray for finishing the manuscript!!!! Congratulations. (I'm trying to contain my envy. I still have about 15,000 words to go on mine.)

    It feels so good to stick to those goals, doesn't it? I'm proud of you Jody. Keep up the good work!

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  20. I think trust is a key element to those who can stick it out. Trust in your God given abilities, trust in those who can effectively critique and advise, trust in your editor, and most of all trust in God's plan for your writing.
    So happy for you and impressed that you stuck to your goal!

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  21. Congrats on the completed Book 2 and your amazing word goal accomplishment!!

    I long for the long haul. I want to put in the hours, the time ,the research, the grueling long hours and late nights and early mornings. I've been battling a lot of things lately that have pushed writing to the curb, but it's still a passion I hold deep, deep down. I know I'll get there. I know it won't be easy. But it will be far more worth it then what's eating my time now!

    Happy weekend! Get some rest! You deserve it!
    Jen

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  22. Congratulations on finishing Book #2, Jody! You've demonstrated that you have the passion and the drive.

    I'm sorry you're facing doubts, but I understand from reading other authors' blogs, and from interviewing authors on mine, that they don't subside just because one has a contract. In fact, some say the pressure to produce is even more intense. We can take as long as we like to write our first book(s) in our pre-published days, but that luxury is gone once we're under contract and facing publisher deadlines.

    Now that you've completed your first draft, how do you feel about your story? I'm asking you to put aside the expectations of publishers and readers and look into your own heart. Do you love your characters? Are you happy with the story? Does reading it evoke tears, smiles, contended sighs? I'm guessing the answer is yes, which is a strong indication that others will like it too.

    You've already completed one soon-to-be published novel, have lived through many revisions and edits, so you know what your editors expect. Armed with that knowledge, when you step back and take an objective look at your story, can you say that you've done your best to incorporate all the aspects you now know are essential in a marketable story? I'm thinking you'll give a resounding yes.

    One final question set, and I'll stop. Was writing Book #2 as much fun as writing The Preacher's Bride? More fun? Or less? Any why?

    I'm eager to read both of your books. I'm sure they're both wonderful.

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  23. Congratulations on finishing book two.

    I now spend (at least) eight hours a day writing and/or pursuing writing-related tasks, but I didn't come to this point of discipline instantly. For me, the turning point came when a homeschool group asked me to write an article for their newsletter about teaching our children how to have the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Researching that subject changed my life. I'd never fully realized that self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. I also learned through my study of Scripture that we best teach our children by example.

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  24. Keli asked: Was writing Book #2 as much fun as writing The Preacher's Bride? More fun? Or less? Any why?

    My Answer: Keli! Thank you for such an encouraging comment! I feel really good about Book 2. It came from my heart but also my head. I planned it well but also let the emotion of the story carry me.

    I really did try to keep in mind what I learned from doing my rewrites on The Preacher's Bride. But I also tried not to let the idea of "getting it right" obstruct the flow of my writing.

    And, I actually had more fun writing this book than The Preacher's Bride. I've written one other book between The Preacher's Bride and this one (was the book that Bethany House didn't want right now). So in the time since I've written The Preacher's Bride, I've grown a lot, learned how to do research better, and have so many more writing friends. All that made for a richer writing experience. And I hope it just gets better with each book! :-)

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  25. Funny you write about logging in your word count. I started doing that and it helped spur me along. I didn't have daily goals, just recorded what I wrote, and thrilled myself by getting 6K written this week. So far to go...but not as far as before. Best to you Jody!

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  26. I'm a few steps behind you in this journey (waiting on my first set of edits), and I can absolutely relate. It's easy to feel insecure about the whole process. I'm trying to take it one step at a time and not get overwhelmed.

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  27. Congratulations on finishing Book #2! This post comes at an interesting time for me. While I've thought I was pursuing my writing diligently, I really haven't given it the proper "drive" that I need to. Lately, I've been spurring myself on by the thought that as long as I work for someone else, I am living in their dream for life, not mine. That is what has been getting me out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to write.

    I hope to get there some day.
    Great post!

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  28. You go, Jody! 1000 words a day, six days a week is FANTASTIC.

    You're inspiring me to be more disciplined. But I'm sure my editorial letter--whenever it arrives--will put the fear of deadlines into me! Ha!

    I know exactly what you mean about the nerves involved in producing one's second novel for a publishing contract. Rachelle's recent post on that was great. I also have to put aside those worrisome thoughts as I work on my second. I think *everyone* feels that way, unless they already have all the books under contract completely finished when they sign. And even then, they would just worry in the same way about the next series. But that can be a good motivator, as you've demonstrated.

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  29. I like you writing the WC in the back of your notebook. I'm more obsessive. I do mine in a spreadsheet. That way I just keep track of the total WC and the spreadsheet calculates how much I've done daily. Then I based on if I've hit both my daily AND overall (in case I've gotten behind) word counts it'll tell me something like "Good job" or "keep writing."

    Haha, yeah, I'm a dork. :-) But I seriously love spreadsheets for writing purposes.

    Great encouragement, Jody!

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  30. Congratulations!! You did it! Doesn't it feel great?

    I have a spreadsheet where I log my daily words (during the first draft) and it totals the words for me. It's nice to see the weeks I've surpassed my goals.

    You're right, there are plenty of reasons NOT to continue writing, but passion and discipline will ensure we do.

    Have a blessed weekend!

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  31. I'm with you - passion and drive are the key. I'm in it for the long haul, even during the times when I wonder why I'm in it at all. Congratulations on being able to say I just finished my second contracted book. That's something to celebrate. I hope you take some time to do just that. Have a wonderful weekend.

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  32. Passion and drive are great qualities to possess. Congratulations on making your goal and finishing the book. That's terrific. It's inspiring to me.

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  33. Congratulations on completing the draft of Book #2, Jody! With a contract schedule in mind I'm sure you finished with a fair bit of relief. You're proving you can handle the responsibility and meet deadlines. I think the insecurity is a natural thing. It goes hand in hand with the uncertainty about everyone's expectations. This is all new for you right now but I'm sure confidence will come as you move through the experience.

    Endings for me are always bittersweet because I get so engrossed in the story that I don't want to say goodbye to the characters (which may be why I always seem to pull one minor character with me to appear in the next book). I can't imagine not having a "next" waiting for my attention. The long haul is like a promise... I can stay engrossed in all the aspects of what I love doing until the end of my days. That brings me joy, and I believe, in addition to the other traits that have been mentioned here, we have to find joy in what we're doing or the writing spirit will eventually die.

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  34. I really love this post! I just finished editing my umpteeth novel and I keep having the same insecurities. I do learn something new from each novel I write and I'm SO thankful for that. Having friends like you who intimately share this crazy journey is a blessing for sure! Have a great weekend!

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  35. Congrats on finishing Book 2! That is exciting:) Yes, I am in it for the long haul. Some days I am not sure exactly where I'm headed, but I intend to keep moving forward. Have a great weekend!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  36. This was such a great post Jody. I'm having a lot of doubts about the manuscript I just finished too. I love the characters and I love a lot of things about the story but I'm really worried it's not the sort of thing that will sell. Oh well. I learned a lot from writing it.

    I agree that a writer needs passion and drive to stick with it. When I run short on one of those qualities I don't get much done. I think a certain amount of ambition is important too. It takes a lot to write a book and then pursue publication and I think the people who make it have to have that will to succeed (but I guess drive could cover this one too).

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  38. After the first book, do you always give synopses for the following books to the publisher before they're written? I would hate to have to do that, being of the type who says 'mum's the word' when people ask me what my WIP is about. Until I've written a complete rough draft, a book is like a secret of my soul that can't be let out except on paper.

    Do I have drive and passion, though? Absolutely! Or, ugh, I hope so!

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  39. Yes, Yes, Yes! I am in this thing for the long haul! :D

    I know w/o a doubt that w/o publication looming ahead, I'd still be writing, because publication has just become part of the writing bug that's been deep seeded in me all my life.

    I think it's awesome that you wrote this today, becuase just yesterday, I wondered how futile this whole thing could be...but then, I closed my eyes, and imagined myself in front of the scariest agent I could conjure up. I also know without a doubt, the next day, I'd still get up and do what I've loved all along.
    Snuggled into the recliner, just me, my computer, and my blanket, creating magic.
    ;)

    Thanks, Jody.

    Have a good weekend, hon.

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  40. Hi Jodi, "95,000 words,26 chapters" - I am in awe. That is amazing. Top qualities, I agree passion and drive. Also I would say the ability to persevere and hold self belief. ;)
    Ps: I have a special award for you at my blog ;)

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  41. Congrats on the completion of book #2 It's always a great feeling.

    How long does it take for you to write those 1000 a day (on average)?

    And yes, I'm writing for the long haul and that does require dedication, passion, and an ability to kill those selfdoubts..or at least ignore them.

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  42. Jody, a friend said to me just today, about parenting actually: if it were easy, it wouldn't be rewarding. Such a simple statement but very profound, I think. I was focused on the word "rewarding" and realized, indeed, if it were easy, parenting or writing or (fill in the blank), the reward would not be nearly as deep. With that single thought, everything changes and I appreciate anew the things I've worked hard for and attained, or where progress has been made and a light at the end of the tunnel seen. I guess in the end, what I seek is a rewarding journey in life in general, and writing definitely is one important component to my particular journey and its beautiful rewards. :) Have a wonderful weekend!

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  43. Hi Jody -

    No matter what goal we're pushing toward, passion and drive are necessary. When faced with term papers, final exams, work, and classes, it took both those elements.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  44. Great post, Jody! And congrats on finishing your draft. The informal Twitter writing group has really helped me to jumpstart my new novel. Thanks!

    I think passion and drive cover a lot of what it takes to be in the writing world if you are going to pursue publication. When I think of Drive I think not only of sitting down to write on a consistent basis but also continuing to learn about the craft of writing.

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  45. You are absolutely right, passion and drive are necessary for the long haul. I can't think of anything else that makes us pursue writing other than an urge to tell a story that is consuming us.
    Congratulations Jody, on finishing your second contracted novel.

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  46. Arabella asked: After the first book, do you always give synopses for the following books to the publisher before they're written?

    My Answer: Hi Arabella! I was offered a three book contract. My first book was already completed and they wanted me to write 2 more. Part of the contract states that I need to turn in a synopsis for each of the other two books and I've had deadlines for each synopsis. In other words, I had to get approval for the story ideas ahead. And there are actually a lot of benefits to this--the main one is that I don't have to write a book wondering if they'll reject it because they already have another book going to print that is already very similar.

    For those contracted for one book, the publisher may ask for ideas for the next book which only increases the chance of them publishing future works. I'd rather find myself in the situation where I've written a story they're interested in versus writing it and then turning it in only to find out they don't want it.

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  47. Lynda Young asked: How long does it take for you to write those 1000 a day (on average)?

    My Answer: I'm a slow writer compared with some other writers! But on an average day, I can write about 400 words an hour. There are times when I have to stop to research or plan my next scene (which I outline in my plot notebook before writing it). But I've tried 500 an hour and I just can't seem to make it consistently. So I try to challenge myself to 400 for now.

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  48. Jody, thanks so much for the post. When I finally drove myself to complete my horror/Christian crossover novel, I did so because it had been twenty years since I had begun the novel and I did not want to live with those later regrets at having never finished it. Then, while attempting to find representation, I completed the sequel in eight months just because I wanted to see whether I had it in me after so long. the first novel was published as an e-book with paperback coming later this year. My publisher has already planned for the second one as well.
    I thank you for the post because it reminds me to keep telling the stories, regardless of how many people may be reading them yesterday or today. It's about the need to be telling my stories, and the hope that many will be enjoying them tomorrow.
    Continued success to you.
    --James
    http://jamesgarciajr.blogspot.com/

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  49. Kudos to one who exhibits both the passion and the drive to make this work for the long haul! Way to go, Jody!

    In addition to the qualities already mentioned, I'd have to add honesty.

    Not just being vulnerable and exposing true emotions through the story - the kind of emotions that connect with readers. But honesty about what we can handle in light of jobs, family, life stages, health, etc.

    Could I write 1000 words a day? Short term, yes. Long haul? Not right now. Can I write one new book a year? Yes. Could I write two (and have them meet the standard)? Probably not.

    Being honest allows me to set reasonable word count goals. And won't let me sign a book contract (someday) with deadlines I can't reach. Not to mention it lets me pursue my dream while still investing in my family, keeping my health intact, and working to pay the bills.

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  50. Congrats on finishing book 2!
    Thanks for your amazing, inspiring posts!
    And I agree, passion and drive are what makes writing work . . .

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  51. I have lacked a word count goal since the end of 2009. I've been tweaking and rewriting and hacking to pieces, but the new words just haven't been done with any goal in mind. Thank you for this much needed nudge in the right direction.

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  52. I like to think I have both qualities, especially since I got 317 rejections for one novel. Most people say I should start on something else (which I already did), but I can't seem to leave this one book alone--as if it's my ticket into the business.

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  53. Hi Jody. This was a very interesting and timely post. I'm an aspiring author and I attended a writer's conference over the past 3 days where I received very positive feedback. This past week, two agents expressed interest in seeing more of my work.

    I know it sounds crazy but I actual felt anxious thinking about the possibility of getting more than a one book deal. Isn't that what everyone is dreaming of? It's all I can do to finish my first novel, more less figure out and write a synopsis for another one...or two!

    This is all really silly on my part because I don't have a deal for the first book, but hearing about people with two or three book deals doesn't excite me; it feels me with a bit of fear. *Gulp* *shaking head*

    I don't use an outline though I've tried. I'm a total pantser and it's worked well for me, but that won't work if I have to plan for books I have no clue about. Sorry for the long post, but your topic gave me the perfect venue to vent. Thanks :-)

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  54. Great post, Jody. I hope I have enough passion and drive to keep on writing. I already know that I love to do it, but to keep on going in spite of hardship and failure will be the real test. Congrats on meeting your word count goals!

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  55. I was committed to write 500 words a day...and then...wham. I just gave up. Shame on me! I mean, I still write. Some days, I may write 5000 words or more. You post convicted me.

    God bless your 2nd book.

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  56. I want to kick out a nice amount of wordage each day. I can't decide if 2000 is too ambitious or not. I might test the waters and see how it goes.
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    ReplyDelete

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