Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Promise of Back to School

I’ve never been this excited for school to start.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been and always will be an unrepentant geek, but eight years of teaching high school will temper even the most avid scholar’s enthusiasm. No, I want my writing schedule back, and I’ll have it just as soon as my youngest starts preschool next week.

With all of the necessary preparations for school and all of the schedule juggling currently happening in the Kilpatrick house, I realized now is the perfect time to reassess my writing goals and habits. Sure, most people wait until January 1st, but at that point we’ve all been on vacation and it’s difficult to envision a new routine when you’re still trying to convince yourself to do whatever insane diet and exercise regimen you’ve concocted. School gives you structure. You might not always like that structure, but it’s there and it’s relatively unchanging.

Here are my helpful hints for getting it all together now:

1. Reevaluate your schedule. Are you writing at your most creative time? Can you juggle some of your activities to squeeze more time for writing? Now that the kiddies are wrapped up for a while maybe you can take advantage of the time they’re away. If you’re going to class, now’s the time to find time for writing and, oh yeah, homework.
2. Is your DVR clear and ready to go? I know, I know there’s a new season of television on the way, not to mention college football and the NFL. DVR is your friend. With DVR you can watch Castle or Leverage anytime you want. With DVR you can record the game and finish your writing then fast-forward through commercials as you watch to see who won. If you can’t tell, DVR has changed my life. (Imagine a slight catch in my voice here.)
3. Look at your goals. How are you doing for 2009? There’s no need to give up because you have almost five months to go. Reassess and get that nose back to the grindstone. Don’t forget the Golden Heart--it’s coming up fast! And you entered the Finish the Book Competition, right? Figure out how many pages are going to make that dream a reality.
4. Celebrate your successes. What have you accomplished that you set out to do for this year? Give yourself a well-earned pat on the back for achieving your goals. If you haven’t achieved any of your goals yet, find something to compliment yourself on. You’ve certainly done something this year.

Oh, and let’s not forget Moonlight and Magnolias! This is crunch time for the conference. Have you. . .

1. Registered? If not, go now. Don’t pass go and find a way to pay your $200 because it‘s worth every penny. There’s an article in the September issue of Writer’s Digest where at least one agent recommends getting face time with editors and agents as the most effective way to get your work seen. Which brings us to. . .
2. Signed up for your editor/agent appointment? Let’s go people. Priorities are based on when you registered until September 15th. Sign up for your favorites now so you can get your pick.
3. Made your business cards? You’ll need those to network, so go get them made.
4. Picked out your outfits? Remember professional attire, maybe business casual--last year Nicki picked out her outfits at least two months in advance. And don’t forget the Maggie Ceremonies--it’s dark, bad, or fun. Or it could be all of the above.
5. Finished your manuscript? Remember it’s bad form to pitch something that isn’t finished. I’ve done it, but I’m not proud. Even if you still have 200 pages to go that’s only 5 pages a day. Divide what you need by 40 and you’ll get an approximate estimate of how many pages per day you need.

Now, waltz into the school supply section of your favorite store and inhale deeply. Smell the paper, crayons and glue. Feel the prickles of anticipation of new classes and reuniting with old friends. Pick out some new pens and a spiffy new planner. Absorb the possibilities through your skin and remember that August, too, is a time of rebirth, a second chance to get serious about the promises you made in January. Let your inner bell ring and get to work!

It’s your turn. What have you accomplished this year? What do you still have to do? Don’t forget to add any other suggestions you have or any other feelings you have about the beginning of the school year.


Sandy Elzie said...


Great job. My kids have kids, so I'm waaaaayyyy out of the school days loop. However, I did pick up some less expensive school supplies.

Let's see: I finished my it signed off at this month's meeting and I'm signed up for M&M.

I've met some goals...the above as well as selling a second book..but I'm still working at some others. Yes, I'm on to another book...actually I'm writing two at the moment (a single title and one to send to Avalon for their option book), I'm sending out an average of 3 queries or partials per week for the past four weeks and I've contacted a total of 5 agents...including the Knight Agency, (but I'm still waiting to hear back from them).

In other words, my goals for 2008 rolled over to 2009 and will roll over to 2010 because as writers, our goals will stay relatively the same...write, submit, rewrite, write some more, submit, etc. Never give up, never slow down and you will reach your goal...and the one after that and the one after that and.....


Marilyn Baron said...

Great motivational post. I've written a new book with my sister and now need to write the synopsis and start sending our query letters. I'm looking forward to M&M.

Marilyn Baron

Anna Steffl said...

Boy, just before I opened the browser this morning I was thinking that I need to be more professional about writing. I've been plodding along, but I need to up my goals and writing time each day. Today is a good day to start.I want to have my manuscript fixed by M&M. There, I said it.

It was so much easier just churning out the pages before I learned something about craft. Now, I want things to be half-way decent right off -- so I plod. Has anyone used one of those Neo things? Do they help that? Or am I looking for a device to solve a mental issue?

Great post, Sally. Thanks for the good karma coming my way this morning.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Sandy--I think we can see why you've sold! I really need to work on my goals so I can come halfway up to what you've accomplished. Way to go! And congrats on receiving your author copy of The Diplomatic Tutor--I can't wait to see it.

Marilyn--you've been busy, too. Good luck with synopsis and queries.

Anna--I'm going to join you in the fixed manuscript by M&M. Well, for me a finished manuscript while I'm working on the Masters Thesis novel also. Glad to have been an inspiration.

Tammy Schubert said...

Motivation is exactly what I needed today. Thanks for posting.

My evaluation time is the day the M&M conference ends. I spend that Sunday afternoon/evening looking at the plan for the current year.

This is when the truth about what I have been doing with my time all comes out. Did I accomplish anything or not? If not, why not? If yes, what made that possible? How can I improve? Which behaviors do I want to keep and which ones need to be phased out?

After all this is done, I put together the new plan that carries me through the next M&M conference.

It's just about that time of year again, and I hope to see you all at M&M.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Fellow aqurian, that is an awesome strategy. I would almost like to see that incorporated into the conference for all of us.

I think I need you to question me, too. Despite my big talk today I don't think I'm hard enough on myself.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Okay, okay. I needed the reminder to rethink stuff too. We are in the 3rd week of school, my PDA died, my to-do list is too long, and I am a little adrift. The only thing I've done well with my writing lately is to keep my weekly appointment with Sandy for writing day.

Off to rethink and reorganize.

Sally Kilpatrick said...


Just by keeping your weekly appointment with Sandy, you're ahead of the curve. Hang in there and take a deep breath. Check some easy things off that list, and you'll be back on track in no time.

Cyrano said...

Excellent motivational post Sally!
I'm the worst organizer on the planet.
I'm lucky, I've got bookoos(is that how you spell that non-word? Reminds me of yesterday's post)
Anyhoo buckaroo, I have lots of free time, I just don't use it wisely. What makes me sad and really says alot about me is the fact that two things jumped out at me in your post.
1. The DVR - one of the worlds greatest inventions.(I'm serious. I'd rather have a DVR in the house than a 24hr maid) It does everything for me, picks shows I might like, tapes them (by itself mind you) at all hours of the day and night and keeps them for me, saved like sweet little presents waiting to be opened at a moments notice. The dern thing keeps me entranced.
2. Picking out clothes. I love conferences, learn loads, network loads, eat loads, but I'll be brutally honest, when a conference comes around my most pressing desire is to buy loads...of clothes and shoes for the event. I get giddy just thinking about accesorizing!
My priorites are all mucked the hell up.
So, regardless of these flaws, I'm happy about one thing. Your post made me see them for what they are. Inhibitors. The DVR, the shopping, they inhibit my muse, keeping her bound and gagged so I am less prolific.
It's time to set the muse free and get my priorities straight!
You, dear Sally, have gifted me with the ax necessary to cut the chains that bind me. Thank you, thank you!
Only slightly dramatic (but I had fun writing it)
Have a lovely, productive and DVR-less morning,

Susan May said...

School starting is a good time to look at where you are going in your writing. It helps me make that final push to the end of the year to accomplish what I had planned to do this year. Thanks for the gentle push forward.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Cyrano--and here I thought DVR and picking out clothes in advance would help. I'm not sure, but the beauty of DVR is that watching TV is no longer an excuse. It's a reward for when you finish what you need to do. As for accesorizing, it's not my forte. And I'm happy if I helped you out in any way.

Susan--we're on the same page! (ha, that was bad) Thanks for dropping by and may you be farther along in your goals than I am. : )

Maxine Davis said...


I really enjoyed your post! Boy, did it ever get me to thinking and so much so that I'm even going to act on it!

You have reminded me of so much and pushed it to the top of my list. Thank you for that!!

J Perry Stone said...

First of all, I can't tell you how much I love "back to school"! I am a hermit by nature (with islands of social butterfly) and did not think I could take one more week of 24/7 company. My tolerance for sibling rivalry ran out the week before school started.

That said, I agree with everything you have suggested, Sally. I love DVR, I've just registered for some dark, bad fun, I have a pretty clear picture of my writing goals but I have not EVER been able to figure out what time during the day is my most creative. My creativity is not a daily occurrence; more like a random event.

What do I do with that???

Linsey Lanier said...

Nice motivational post, Sally. Thanks for letting us know about the deadlines for M&M. It will be here sooner than we think.

I've finished my 380-page wip this year and am now on page 180 in revisions. I hope to pitch it at M&M. I also entered several contests. This year has been a good one for productivity.

Oh, and let's not forget we've got another Expose book in the works.


Carol Burnside said...

Great motivation here. It never hurts for us to reevaluate the what we've been doing and readjust our goals. Back to school is the perfect time for that, too.

Happy writing!

Tami Brothers said...

Definitely, great motivation, Sally!!!

I love the info about M&M. I'm already registered but have NOT put in for my editor/agent appointment...

Better do that!!!!


Nicki Salcedo said...

I need to request my editor/agent appointment, too. I'm the conference co-chair.

I got oldest one off to kindergarten. I'm writing a short story for the October scavenger hunt. Maggie finalist. Lost 10 lbs. Now on to saving the world. Keep pushing us, Sally!

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Maxine--always happy to help. Now if someone could only help me. . .

J--funny you should mention creativity as a random event. I've felt like that most of my career, and I finally set aside a time to write based on the advice of several different authors. The idea is that if you train yourself to write at a certain time, your muse will come. The last person I heard it from was none other than Nancy Knight. Ask her about her candles some time.

Thanks guys

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Linsey--380 pages?! And you're on page 180 of revisions? I'm such a slacker. I have to write another 60 pages just to finish. Of course, finishing would be a first.

Carol--thanks for stopping by. Glad you agree with me about reevaluation.

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Tami--I think we can find a way to squeeze you in. : )

Nicki--Save the world? I forgot to do that one today!

Thanks, ladies.