Monthly Archives: April 2012

Setting self deadlines

When I first started starlighting, I set a deadline.  “I’ll finish my first draft of this novel by May 17.”  That self-imposed deadline did two things: it gave me a goal and made the starlighting seem manageable.  I wouldn’t have … Continue reading

Posted in Starlighting Tips | 8 Comments

8 Responses to Setting self deadlines

  1. Heather – I resonate with “Tie a writing deadline to a trip or other treat.” I’m all about rewards!

  2. Heather,

    I set an April 12, 2012 goal of having my revised mss finished and ready to pitch to agents. I made it just in time. I found it extremely useful in forcing me to get done what needed doing, even if that meant spending twice as much time writing as I normally do.

    But deadlines needn’t be “do or die”, either. Set them as a goal to shoot for, but don’t despair if the deadline needs to be revised. S**t happens sometimes, and all sorts of things can cause a deadline to be missed. It was good that you set a new one rather than give up after not making your original deadline.

    I like the reward idea, too. And one goal I’m working on is to have a new story plotted and planned for NaNoWriMo this year.

    Good luck writing,

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Chris, Well done meeting your immediate goal. Work does expand into the time allowed…You’re absolutely right: self-deadlines give us something to shoot for. Even if we miss, we’re closer to our real goal. Sounds like a lot of people are aiming for NaNoWriMo this year. Meanwhile, fingers crossed for your manuscript!

  3. Kristin says:


    I enjoyed meeting you at the Writer’s Institute in Madison and hearing your success story. Congratulations on a wonderful start to your blog!

    I love the idea of starlighting. When I was writing my first novel, I would get up at 6:00 a.m. and write until 7:30 a.m. I wouldn’t allow myself to check my email which kept me focused. Writing first thing in the morning was like a cup of coffee for me–I felt invigorated and would find myself writing in my head throughout the day. And I met my deadline of finishing my first draft before I turned fifty! Book two has been on the back burner while I try to find an agent for book one, but I attended the In Print Writers’ Retreat yesterday and feel inspired again. I was back to starlighting today and plan on starlighting every morning until book two is done. My deadline is October 31st so that I can work on book three during NaNoWriMo.

    All the best, Kristin

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Wonderful, Kristin! You’ve got the true focus of a starlighter! Congrats on meeting your “finish before 50” goal, and best of luck with Book II by Halloween. Let us know how it goes. I know what you mean about feeling invigorated by early morning writing. For all those reluctant to set the early morning alarm, it really does set the whole mood for the day with a fresh, creative start. Thanks for sharing, Kristin.

  4. Angie Lathrop says:

    I’m always setting (often arbitrary) mini-deadlines for myself, especially for things I don’t actually want to do. If I tell myself “you MUST have all these bills paid by 2 pm”, I’ll work like a maniac to get them done and off my to-do list. (When I do things like that with my employees, sometimes they’ll look nervous and ask “Why? What horrible thing will happen if we don’t get it done by 2 pm?” and all I can say is “let’s not find out, okay?” )
    And as far as writing deadlines, I very nearly killed myself writing and re-writing my entry for the First Page Contest at the Writer’s Institute this spring. To the point where I was so disgusted at the awfulness of my prose that I had to force myself to mail it in (literally just before the post office closed on the deadline date.) And then it won second place in the YA category…go figure.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Congrats on your YA award! Now you’ll forever be an “award-winning author.”

Starlighting on the Farm

From time to time, I’m going to profile other Starlighting writers as an inspiration to us all.  I’m pleased to announce our first one – Angie Lathrop Treinen. Angie is a YA fantasy novelist who juggles writing with 2 kids, … Continue reading

Posted in Starlighting Honor Roll | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Starlighting on the Farm

  1. Valerie Johnson says:

    I love the Treinen corn maze. We try to go every year and compete to see which family teams can get through the fastest.
    As more of a moonlighter or at least a night owl, I surely admire anyone who can get up early and be creative.
    – Valerie

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Lucky you! Wish we lived closer during pumpkin season. As for being a night owl, take advantage of that gift. The stars are out late at night, too.

  2. Definitely the coolest corn maze I’ve ever seen. Love the draft horses. I have three, all anglo-arabs we’ve watched being born. My family. Angie, you sure have a lot to juggle–kids, animals, being a vet, pumpkin patch, and writing. I’m impressed. You go girl!

  3. Angie, My youngest kid loves mazes! Hope to get to see you soon, maybe next year on class reunion!, and… Keep writing! Shirley

Criteria for seeking an agent

I just returned from the UW-Madison’s Writer’s Institute conference.  What a wonderful venue to meet agents and fellow writers and seek inspiration together. Many folks asked to see the criteria I used to find my agent.  So here it is! … Continue reading

Posted in Agents and publishing | 2 Comments

2 Responses to Criteria for seeking an agent

  1. Heather – The literary agent any writer works with must have the ability to sell their work at the best publishing house for the project. As Brendan Sullivan said yesterday, “There’s more than one right answer, but there’s only one best answer. To find it you have to look at them all.” That was in a different context, but it still holds true for literary agents and publishing houses.

    I invite you to stop by Speaking from the Heart tomorrow as I post “Write to the Top!” a look back at the 2012 Writers’ Institute

    • Heather says:

      Hi Laurie! Thanks for visiting the brand-new “Starlighting” blog! And thanks for spreading the word about the wisdom from the Writers’ Institute in Madison – good nuggets. I agree an author should look for a dream agent who’s the right match, but finding people who meet the right criteria can do that. The process of finding an agent can be overwhelming as it is, without chasing an elusive “best.” Great to hear from you, and stop by again.

Starting Out

I always knew I would write novels, but for years time didn’t seem pressing.  I don’t have time now; I’ll wait until the kids are older.  I don’t have enough life wisdom yet; I’ll wait until I gain some more. … Continue reading

Posted in Starlighting Tips | 6 Comments

6 Responses to Starting Out

  1. Ternot says:

    Wonderful advice I will read it often until it sinks in. As Cesar Chavez used to say, “Si se puede.”

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Yes, sometimes we all need a good quote to get us going. Thanks for adding your quote, Ternot.

  2. Ternot says:

    I am having a hard time getting started I am excited about two great projects, a memoir and a history book. I have already started them but I don’t seem to be able to continue writing. Am I cursed? I’m so frustrated!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      When your great ideas are stuck, it can help to have a deadline. If you sign up for a writing class or critique you get the gift of an outside person expecting you to write and giving you a deadline. Or start a writing group – those deadlines work well, too. Best of luck!

  3. Heather, I love your Emerson quote, “Every artist was first an amateur.” A friend, who also attended the conference, and I were just talking about that subject. In any creative endeavor, periods of verbal self-flagellation are inevitable. When I was painting, we called it “the Uglies.” That term still works in my writing. I force myself to work through it. Writing everyday (with occasional exceptions) is a rule. I put pen to paper, or fingertips to keys for at least an hour. That usually turns into two or four. My mantra is “Just do it.” (By the way, I used that term before Niki!)

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks, Deborah. I found the quote on my Good Earth tea bag. Made it an excellent cup of tea. Really helps to remember that even the greats started out as beginners wondering if they could do this. Keep banishing the “Uglies!”