1000 is the Magic Number

For me it is, anyway. As in 1000 words per day. Ever since I started the draft of my newest work in progress, I have committed to writing 1000 words per day as a manageable amount, and this morning I hit 18,000 words after two weeks. This is lightning fast, for me. It’s a new era for this tortoise.

Years ago, when I first started writing, I couldn’t give myself word count goals – too frightening, too much pressure. So I set time limits for myself. I had to work for an hour at a time. I made myself a CD that was exactly an hour long and I had to keep at it, even if I was just staring at the screen, until the last song was over. The first 30 to 45 minutes were usually agony, but by the time that hour was up, I was hitting “repeat” on the CD player. That tactic got me through several manuscripts.

So when one of my critique partners, L.V. Pires, tried to get me to participate in National Novel Writing Month, I practically threw out my neck shaking my head. “No word count goals,” I said. “I can’t deal with that kind of pressure.”

And then I found myself struggling, while managing my day job, to get words on the page. I found myself waiting for the perfect time to write. And wow, did this recent post by Susan Mannix on As the Eraser Burns hit a nerve for me. She quotes E.B. White: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

Yup. So I decided to start my 1000-words-per-day goal. Why 1000? Because it’s enough to make me feel accomplished, and not so much that it makes me feel hopelessly overwhelmed. And here’s the biggest thing: my day job schedule is such that I have lots of pockets of time, pockets that were easy to convince myself were too short to make into writing time. But now, knowing that I need to knock out 1000 words each day, I can do 200 here or 500 there, and they add up!

Did I mention that I hit 18,000 words this morning? Really, I cannot overstate the awesomeness of this.

I have always been a person who expects myself to do more than I have time for. But I have found that when I get that 1000 words done, I feel like a rock star. And when I don’t, I feel like a slacker, no matter how many other to-dos get checked off.

So what about NaNoWriMo? Well, I signed up for the forum, but I don’t expect to get 50,000 words written in the month of November. 30,000 sounds just right to me.

What's that?  1000 "words", of course.

What’s that? 1000 “words”, of course.

Another Sneak Peek

So remember a few weeks ago, when I posted 7 lines from a recent work-in-progress because the current one was too formless for such things?  Well, maybe the 777 Meme has burned itself out by now, but I am bringing it back because I am so excited that the as-yet-untitled sequel to my as-yet-untitled debut now has words on pages (over 6000, even!).

Set-up: this story is from the point of view of a different main character than the first book, but I am not going to tell you who because it would spoil the end of the first book.  :) So I will give a very broad description of the plot: this story is about a character from a privileged background struggling to find her place in a new world where the things that made her special no longer matter.

I am supposed to post the first full 7 lines on the 7th page, starting 7 lines down.  Here you go:


 “Then one hundred saltbricks.  That’s all we can afford,” I said.

Mati turned the page around and frowned over it, absently stroking Raisa’s hand on the table beside him.  “Couldn’t we reallocate – ”

I crossed my arms.  “We’ve already laid out money for the repair of the pass and the main road and the port, relocated all the people in The Reach, and bought up all the food between here and Pira.  We’ve had to put off repairing the fountains and the bath houses.  What else do you propose we delay?”


Okay, so again, page 7 is clearly not the most exciting part of any of my stories.  But just the fact that there IS a page 7 has me ecstatic!

In my original post, I tagged 7 fellow authors to share too, and some of them heeded the call!  Read their (much cooler) sneak peeks at the links below:

Megan Morrison shares a preview of DISENCHANTED, the second book in the Tyme series

Brooks Benjamin shares a preview of TALES OF A TEENAGE SCREAM QUEEN

Victoria J. Coe shares a preview of the sequel to her debut FENWAY & HATTIE






A Sneak Peek from Victoria J. Coe

Kathy says: In my last post, I shared a preview of a current work in progress as part of the 777 Meme, and tagged seven other authors, including my fellow Sweet Sixteen, Middle Grade author Victoria J. Coe, to do the same.  Victoria took this summons seriously, but with no blog of her own, what was she to do?  I wasn’t about to let her off the hook so easily, so I invited her to guest post here! 

Thank you to the brilliant and fabulous Kathy MacMillan for tagging (and hosting) me for the 777 meme!

The rules:

  1. Go to the 7th line of the 7th page of your work in progress.
  2. Post the first full 7 lines.
  3. Tag 7 friends.

It’s fun. It’s scary. What writer could resist?

Not me!

My current work in progress is a potential sequel to my middle grade debut, FENWAY & HATTIE. Like F&H, the new story (title withheld) is written entirely from the point of view of Fenway, a Jack Russell Terrier. He lives with his human family – Fetch Man, Food Lady, and Hattie.

Fenway and Hattie are inseparable. That is, until a new character (identity withheld) comes between them.

In this sneak peek, Fenway is running through Food Lady’s new garden, on the trail of a mysterious creature.

I scoot through the mulch. It’s obvious she wants to help. But this job is way too dangerous for a short human. Especially one as totally freaked out as Hattie right now.

I must concentrate! I’m pawing around a toppled plant where the rodenty stench is unmistakable, when I see Food Lady’s reaching fingers. Is she trying to sabotage my work?

Wow-ee! How fun/scary was that?

Now I get to tag 7 friends! So if you’re a writer, and you haven’t been tagged yet, guess what? You’re it!


Victoria J Coe HEADSHOTVictoria J. Coe is the author of FENWAY & HATTIE (Penguin/Putnam, Winter 2016). Told from the point of view of Fenway, Hattie’s dog, the novel focuses on the pair’s adjustments to their move from the city to the suburbs.







Sneak Peek: COLD IRON

My fellow Sweet Sixteen, Kim Savage, has tagged me for the 777 Meme, whereby you post the first full 7 lines on the 7th page of your work in progress, starting 7 lines down.  As my current work in progress is a mess of notes and outlines with no actual words on any page yet, let alone page 7, I decided to share some lines from my most recently completed draft of another work in progress, tentatively titled Cold Iron.

Description: When Sara Gardner gets redistricted to a new high school in her senior year, she finally gets the chance to emerge from the shadow of her popular best friend and make her own fairy tale.

And here are your 7 lines:

“Hey!  Bethany’s friend!  Sit here!” 

I turned to see Chad beckoning me over.  Annoyance and relief mingled in my chest as I took the seat beside him.  He introduced me to his friends: three boys whose names all seemed to start with J – John and Jared and something else – and a pinched-faced girl with meticulously straight brown hair named Jenna.  She hovered on the other side of Chad and eyed me warily.

“Is Bethany coming here too?”  said one of the J-boys keenly.

I shook my head.  “No, she’s still at Cunningham Falls.”


How’s that for a spellbinder?  Apparently 7 pages in, 7 lines down is not where you find my best work.  But hey, it’s a draft.


So now it’s time for me to tag 7 other people:

  1. Megan Morrison
  2. Lynne Kelly
  3. Victoria J. Coe
  4. Laura Shovan
  5. Erin L. Schneider
  6. Brooks Benjamin
  7. Jeff Garvin


Additional Presentation Added @ the Baltimore Book Festival

Update: I will now be presenting TWO free programs at the Baltimore Book Festival at the Inner Harbor on Friday, September 26!

11 AM: Sign language storytime for children ages birth-6 and their grownups on the Enoch Pratt Free Library Children’s Stage (near the MD Science Center).  ASL Interpretation will be provided.

4:30 PM: Presentation for grownups at the Bicentennial Plaza Author’s Stage about the myths and realities about signing with children.  ASL Interpretation will be provided.

You can also visit me in the  Bicentennial Plaza Authors’ Tent between noon and 8 PM that day to purchase a signed copy of LITTLE HANDS AND BIG HANDS: CHILDREN AND ADULTS SIGNING TOGETHER and enjoy some hands-on sign language crafts!  Hope to see you there!



Coming Soon to the Baltimore Book Festival…


That’s right, yours truly will be presenting a FREE sign language storytime program for children ages birth-6 and their grownups on the Enoch Pratt Free Library Children’s Stage at the Baltimore Book Festival on Friday, September 26 at 11 AM!

You can also visit me in the  Bicentennial Plaza Authors’ Tent between noon and 8 PM that day to purchase a signed copy of LITTLE HANDS AND BIG HANDS: CHILDREN AND ADULTS SIGNING TOGETHER and enjoy some hands-on sign language crafts!  Hope to see you there!



Scary Starts and Fictional Census Results

It’s been a weird couple of weeks, writing-wise.  I submitted my latest revision of the novel-that-has-no-name-yet to my editor, and now I have turned to something scarier: writing Book 2.  The thought of doing in less than a year what took me almost ten years to do the first time is, well, terrifying, but we’ll see what happens.  There is a character who just demands to have her story told, so I guess I am going to have to give in to her.

As well as I knew my world the first go-round, I found that it was not nearly enough for this one.  This point-of-view character has a much broader education and experience of the world than the main character of my first book, and so I am learning things I never knew before.  I’ve spent the last few weeks doing things that don’t feel like writing but are a necessary prerequisite – lots of brainstorming and making charts and maps and background materials.  I’ve even pulled out a couple of books I bought about ten years ago, thinking that they might help with world-building someday, and it turns out that Past Me was correct.

Here they are:

culture      city


These are lesson-planning books for middle school teachers to guide students in a project researching various cultures and cities and then inventing their own.  These books have turned out to be great writer’s guides.  They help you think of all the angles on a culture, from the religious beliefs to the role of women to currency and games and sports.  I’ve ended up making a giant chart with all the major cultures represented in my story, and filling in these areas has led to some fascinating realizations, connections, and relevant story ideas.

And now, when someone asks what I did at work today, I can answer, “I wrote up census results for a fictional culture.” How many people get to say that?