Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Weight Game

I joined Weight Watchers online at the beginning of February. I'm not one of those people who needs to lose just a couple of pounds, either. I've never had a lot of luck on diets because mentally, I just can't stand feeling deprived. It's a major mental block for me.

The sad thing is, I actually love the foods that are supposed to be good for you, like vegetables and lean meats. I don't care for pork or beef, and I love fruit. It's just that dropping by Taco Bell on the way home was so much easier for my crazy busy lifestyle, and that adds up.

Anyway, I joined WW online and as of this past Saturday, I'd lost 16 pounds. And it's not been at all difficult. I haven't felt deprived or hungry, and many days I haven't been able to finish up all the points allotted to me (although I know I should). Usually by this point in a new diet, I'm starting to struggle. But that's just not happening this time.

I've been trying to figure out why, and I think this article sums it up about as well as any.

Weight Watchers Online fixed two problems I had with the old version of the program, which I tried about 20 years ago. First, I'm not a social person, so not having to go to the stupid meetings, for me, is a blessing. I don't need the peer support, and I don't need the kumbaya aspect of weight loss. It works wonderfully for a lot of people, but it was a negative for me. Second, being able to track my points online, and play around with my daily menu to add and subtract points as my daily diet plan changes, gives me the flexibility I need for my hectic lifestyle. I had planned for eggs and grits this morning but changed it to an egg salad sandwich. All I had to do was go to my online tracker, make the changes, and voila. I was done.

The program also allows you to have fast food, as long as you account for the points. What this does for me is make me think hard before I spend those points on something at Wendy's or Burger King. Wouldn't I rather save the points and have a really great salad at home? Or maybe I'd rather have that seven point Subway sandwich instead of the eleven point Milo's hamburger, and then I can also have a piece of fruit and a couple of graham crackers. *I* make the choice, not the diet. It's retraining me to search for nutrient rich, low calorie, high fiber choices. And I'm mentally and emotionally satisfied, because I know I could have the hamburger if I wanted it; I just chose something else instead.

So, I'm not going to turn this into a diet blog or anything. I just came across that article comparing Weight Watchers to an RPG and thought I'd share.

Friday, February 13, 2009

How Fast is Your First Draft?

Okay, that blog entry title stank. I'm not good at titles, as my editor would happily tell you. But my topic today is first drafts, a subject much on my mind at the moment, since I finished my first draft of the book currently known as COWBOY JUSTICE.

First, I guess I need to address the fact that, yes, I did write a second cowboy book. Kinda. Riley Patterson isn't a rancher or anything, although his father was. He's another cowboy cop like Joe Garrison in my book COWBOY ALIBI. In fact, Riley is Joe's right hand man at the Canyon Creek, Wyoming, Police Department. And if you read Cowboy Alibi, you should know that Riley has a tragic past to overcome—his beloved wife Emily was murdered three years earlier.

Riley definitely wanted his own story, but I had already started thinking about a series revolving around a family of six brothers and one sister named the Coopers. So I sort of put Riley on the back burner while I developed the ideas for the Cooper brothers. But when I got to the Cooper sister, Hannah, it occurred to me that she just might like herself a cowboy. So COWBOY JUSTICE was born.

The idea came to me back in the late fall. I turned in the proposal to my editor well after the first two Cooper book ideas I proposed, but it turned out to be one of the two she chose for my upcoming contract. It was also a really fast write for me—44 days of total writing, although there was a fairly large break between the first 11 days and the other 33 while I waited to hear from my editor on the proposal.

It was a pretty brutal writing schedule, especially since for most of that time, I was working a pretty brutal schedule in my day job as well. I made time to write in the mornings, during my lunch breaks, in the evenings, and on weekends. I made myself write when I was fighting off colds and when my arthritic knees were flaring up. I wanted to get the book done so I could get it in for 2009. While that didn't happen, I did finish the book well before my editor expected I would. I met my own deadline and I have until March 1st to turn it in.

So now we're down to the nuts and bolts of writing—the first draft revisions. This is where I re-read the book, pen in hand, and edit out the junk, retool the sentence structure to make things flow more easily, ruthlessly replace cliched turns of phrase with wording that's more imaginative, descriptive and true to the characters and situation. Some of this stuff I could have done in the writing phase, had I been writing more slowly. But I find it easier to finish at a dead run and then go back to edit, rather than linger and risk missing my deadlines.

Also, by writing at a clip this way, it makes the revisions easier for me, because as I'm re-reading the manuscript, I find that there's a lot in it that I don't consciously remember writing. That comes from being "in the zone," as I call it, while writing the first draft. When I'm in the zone. the words just flow right from my brain to my fingers, and they seem to bypass parts of my memory. So sometimes I'll read a scene in the edit stage and I don't really remember writing it. It's a weird sensation, but I find that my best writing happens in the zone, so I don't complain much.

So, that's probably more than you ever wanted to know about my writing process. But I just thought I'd share.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Writing While Working Full Time

This is what's known as a "bleg"--begging on a blog. I'm playing around with an article for my local chapter newsletter (an article which will probably be made available to other chapters) examining the work habits of published writers who don't quit their day jobs. It's a subject close to my heart, since I work full time at a demanding day job while still trying to write two to three books a year.

So here's what I'm looking for. If you're a published author (sorry to limit it to published authors but I'm trying to focus it specifically on people who have to meet deadlines or they don't get paid), and you also work full time or worked full time during a period of time when you were also published, I'd like you to email me the answer to the following questions:

When do you find time to write?
Do you have any tricks or techniques for making the most of your limited writing time?
How do you balance your job, your family obligations and your writing time?
Have you ever thought of giving up writing because it's too much to handle?
Do you have plans to eventually write full time?
Has your day job ever suffered because of your writing?
Has your writing ever suffered because of your day job?

If you do email me, please include your latest (or upcoming) book so I can plug it in the article.

My email address is listed in my blog profile.