Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Unfulfilled Plot and the King of Pop

Hey, guys! I hope you had a fabulous holiday weekend! (And for those of you not in the states, I hope you had a fabulous weekend + Monday. ;))

I'm at my agent's blog today, talking about that thing that makes you want to huck a book across the room. (...or at least one of the things.) Come hang out with me!
I don't want to be lonely.

Crowe's Nest:
Of Plot Promises and Michael Jackson

Friday, May 25, 2012

Quotes and Cookies: Everyone's a Genius

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”

~Albert Einstein

I love Albert Einstein. I think I love him a little more because of this quote. We are all geniuses! Just at completely different things. And I think it is SO important to figure out what those things are that we're geniuses at. Those are our talents, and we're supposed to develop them! Make them shine. Sometimes it's hard to figure out what our writing strengths are. If we rock at writing life-like characters, or an engaging plot, or an enticing setting, or a sweeping epic or the intricacies of a political structure, or the dynamics of a family, or writing with lyrical language-- we need to figure that out.

No one wants to feel stupid trying to climb a tree with fins. So once you realize you're a fish, swim! Then work to be the best darn swimmer in the sea. (And if you figure out that you're actually a spider monkey, then by all means, get climbing that tree!)

Photo Credit and link for Whipped Bakeshop

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Way We Are: The Day Job

After some of the comments a couple of posts ago, it got me wondering what we all do for our "day job" (whether it's the kind you get paid for or not), and how much that affects our writing.

Does your other job inspire you? Teach you some aspect that's helpful for the whole writing gig? Is it conducive to reading blogs/books? Does it give your brain down-time to plot out your next scene? Did what it took to get that job help prepare you for what it takes to get a book deal? And, okay, I'll admit. Besides being curious about how much your day influences/helps/hurts your writing job, I just love to hear what people's chosen profession is. I find it fascinating!

I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours. :)

For the past whole lot of years, my main job has been that of a mom. Since I write for kids, HUGE plus there. But since kids take a lot of time... writing takes a lot of time... Let's just go ahead and acknowledge that the most awesome job in the world (IMHO) comes with time challenges, and leave it at that.

Until recently, I also worked part time with 4th graders who were struggling with language arts and math. Again, hanging out with kids: huge plus. I miss them.

But my most extensive background comes in computer software--- technical support, testing, and technical writing. Did that help? Hm..... It made me better at problem solving, and writing involves a lot of problem solving, so I guess yes. And although I did write an entire 85,000 word manual on how to use a software program for home builders associations, I can't say it helped. You might think that it would... except for the fact that a manual kind of requires you to have a complete and total absence of voice. And even POV! No using the word I, you, he/she. Sort of a different beast altogether from novel writing.

So there's mine! What's yours? Feel free to tell us your current job, or any in your past. Or, you know. Spell out your resume. That's cool, too. ;o)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I think the A-Z blogging burned me out.

I was already used to blogging 5 days a week before that, so it was really only one more day a week.... But it came at a time when I would've cut down to 3 days a week. Then May came, and I hit a slump. Did this happen for anyone else?

When I finally(!) got time to write a couple of posts yesterday (it's been a really busy couple of weeks), I could think of nothing to blog about! I almost never have that problem. I mean I had some ideas, but nothing that jumped out at me. And when I picked the most promising one and tried to write it, it's like I FORGOT HOW.

And it made me laugh, because it's JUST LIKE WRITING. If you write every day, it comes easily, and the ideas are always there. If you blog every day, it comes easily and the ideas are always there.

If you DON'T write for a while, when you try to start writing again, it feels like you forgot how. You can't figure things out. The ideas of where to take your story don't come easily. If you don't blog for a while, it feels like you forgot how. Ideas of what to blog about seem non-existent.

Have you ever been blog-slumped before? How did you get out of it? Or are you there with me right now, just hoping that you'll remember how? ;o)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I've Got a Theory: The Freak Out

I have a theory I've been thinking about a lot the last couple of days, and it goes a little like this:

You decide you want to be published. You set your sites on whatever that means to you.
Yeah.... You THINK you're looking straight at it, but you're really not. You're looking up and over all of the things that come along with it. I'm not talking about all the obstacles along the way. I'm talking about the things that come along with that goal that you don't really think about when you make the goal.

Things like:
  • Sitting at a book signing that no one comes to.
  • Having to write on a deadline.
  • Speaking at conferences.
  • If you write YA or MG or PB, doing school visits.
  • Blogging/facebook/twitter/other social media that makes you step out of your comfort zone.
  • Having your life be not as personal.
  • Dealing with a lot of rejection-- from agents, from publishers, from readers.
  • Having someone take a picture of you at a signing, and having no control over the picture. (So if you had your eyes half-closed, you're in the middle of saying "Right now?" and have your left eyebrow raised, you can't just delete the picture. Chances are good it'll be floating around the Internet somewhere.)
  • That you will have times when you get critiques that your manuscript will be shredded.
  • Finding out that your boss, your mom, your neighbor, that one girl from high school, your spouse/significant other, your kid's school teacher read your book.
  • Getting bad reviews / people being vocal about everything in your book that they hated.
Some affect you more intensely than others, of course, but you were probably thinking of NONE of those things when you first had that spark to be a writer. Then, as you got further into it, you kept coming across these things that are all part and parcel to the whole writing gig! And then it goes a little like this:

A) You freak out.  
Seriously? I have to do that
I don't know if I can do that!

B) Denial.
Other people might have to deal with that, but not me. 
After a while, you realize if you really want that goal you've been staring at, this comes hand-in-hand with it.

C) Change or Accept
You either decide to give up on that goal (and change to a goal that won't require you to do the thing you're freaking out about)
OR you choose to accept it. Heck, maybe even EMBRACE it.

For me, my big freak out was school visits. On some of those things, I went through steps A, B, and C in a matter of a minutes. For the school visits, it took a couple of weeks. Panic churned in the pit of my stomach every time I thought about it. I've spent the past three days doing school visits, and I've gotta say, I freaked out way more than I needed to. It has actually been FUN! (Now mind you, I was going classroom to classroom-- not speaking to a full auditorium at a time. I'm sure there'll be more freaking out before I do my first auditorium presentation.)

I thought I had gone through steps A, B, and C on EVERYTHING. Turns out I didn't go there on the whole You-might-be-filmed-doing-a-presentation-and-then-that-presentation-might-find-its-way-online thing. (So make sure that one's not absent on your list of things you need to accept!) It's not that I didn't think it would happen..... it's that I didn't think about it at all. So step A-- the big freak out-- hit pretty hard the last couple of days. I can, with confidence, say that I've made it to step C-- I accept it.

....But that doesn't mean that step A is over. I'll admit-- I'm still freaking out a little bit. But just like everything else, I know eventually that will go away, too.

Which one has been the worst for you so far? Are there some on that list that you intentionally glazed over, because you're not ready to deal with the freak out on them yet?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ!

They say writing is a solitary thing. And I guess in a lot of ways, that's true. But it's also one of those things where the help of everyone makes such an incredible difference. None of us would be at the point we are at if it weren't for other people, helping us and supporting us along the way.

To commemorate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus, Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse are hosting a TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ. I am so excited to be able to participate!

As I was thinking who I wanted to acknowledge, I thought of all the people who have helped me over the years with writing craft. Most of those people I have tracked down and thanked as profusely as possible without crossing into crazy stalker territory. (At least I think I was successful at not crossing that line...)

But do you know who I haven't thanked enough? YOU GUYS! I've read blogs of writers and authors for years. But it was less than a year ago when I first started mine. And boy did I not understand what I was missing out on! I had plunged myself into writing 3 1/2 years before, but starting my blog was like taking the plunge into the writing community. I never fully understood how awesome this community is-- how awesome all of you are-- until I started blogging. I love you guys. You have made this past year incredible. The second that blogging crossed my mind, I knew I wanted my ROAKBlitz to be someone I knew only through blogging.

And then the person specifically I wanted to ROAKBlitz came to mind about half a second later.

Carrie Butler at So You're a Writer

Carrie started following my blog a mere six weeks after I started blogging. She's sweet and loyal and fascinating and downright HILARIOUS! Her posts rock as much as her graphics manipulation skills do. Her blog is a blast to read. If you don't already read/follow her blog, I highly recommend it. The link's right here -- So You're a Writer. If you're lucky, she'll give you a nickname. If you're extra lucky, you might one day win in a giveaway on her blog something as awesome as the button she made for my sidebar. (See what I mean? Serious graphics skillz.)

So as my ROAKBlitz acknowledgee, what does she win? I'm glad you asked! She wins this fabulous notebook and pens (which I had a really hard time not just keeping for myself!), along with a $25 gift certificate to The Book Depository. (I'll get in touch with you, Carrie, to find out where to send it.)

Becca and Angela have a special RAOK gift waiting for you as well, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

Do you know someone special that you'd like to randomly acknowledge? Don't be shy--come join us and celebrate! Send them an email, give them a shout out, or show your appreciation in another way.

And seriously, everyone. Thank you. I appreciate you all more than you'll ever know. (Mostly because if I really told you how much, I'd be crossing that line into crazy stalker, and almost nobody likes that.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Quotes and Cookies: Guts

"Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential." 

~Jessamyn West

I'd like to clarify. You can write a story and not have guts. But those really great stories? Those take a huge amount of guts to write! It takes guts to put yourself out there in the way needed to tell the story you're trying to tell, or to get inside a character's head you don't love being in. Sometimes it takes guts to put a character you love into an awful situation. Heck, it takes guts to write a lot of things when you step back and think about all the people that could potentially read it.

And sometimes, you get an idea for a story that is huge. Way bigger than you feel you can tackle. One that will stretch you further than you think you can go. It takes a huge amount of guts to attempt those kinds of stories.

Whew! It's a good thing that guts grow on trees!

Oh, wait. They don't. Unless you count this:

Florida, USA - Image Credit: taurusami
But I'm kind of betting that you don't....

Were you born with the kind of guts it takes to write, or have you had to develop them along the way?

Oh, and speaking of guts, have a cookie with some mighty tasty guts. ;)

Photo credit and recipe link

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Avengers and human vulnerabilities

This is probably going to come as a surprise, out of nowhere kind of thing, but I'm going to let the cat out of the bag anyway. I think Joss Whedon is a genius. And I don't know... I think it might just be possible that I'm not the only one who thinks that... When people ask who my Author Crush is, I've always been wishy-washy. Apparently I just needed to think beyond books. It's been Joss since before I started writing.

Anyway, to get to the point, I read an article on Huffington Post by Maureen Ryan called 'Avengers' Fans: Thank TV For That Awesome Movie. If you're a fan of Joss, click on that link and read the whole article. It'll make you feel good all over. (I have no idea who Maureen Ryan is, but anyone who starts out an article with "There's a cloud to the silver lining of "The Avengers'" record-smashing success: We've probably lost its screenwriter and director Joss Whedon to the movies forever" is pretty worth reading in my book.)

And wow. I still haven't gotten to the point. (I just saw Avengers last night, so I'm kind of on an Avengers high. I swear I'll make my brain stay focused.) There are several ways to make your character sympathetic, likeable and relateable to your readers. If you make a character that is perfect in every way, how is anyone going to be able to relate to that? No one is perfect! It's kind of hard to see yourself in the shoes of someone who is. We don't find ourselves rooting for the perfect characters. Yet one of the ways we can make a character likeable is to make them REALLY GOOD at something. We like characters who are just downright awesome at things. So how do we make them still likeable and relateable while keeping their awesomeness intact? In her article about the The Avengers' opening night success, Maureen Ryan gave a few incredible writing tips. So I'm going to let her take it away.

[Whedon] makes us relate to the specially chosen and the super-powered because he shows them experiencing self-doubt, self-loathing and fear. 

Yes, these men and women are exalted and special, but they're vulnerable too. That's what makes us love them, and Whedon has always understood that. 

It's their reluctance -- the kind of reluctance exhibited by every major Whedon character -- that makes their sacrifices all the more meaningful. It's easy to be on a character's side when we know what their choices have cost them, and what flaws they had to overcome to make a meaningful contribution to the Big Plan for Battling Evil. We can't relate to being indestructible or unspeakably powerful (though of course, these movies tap into those aspirations), but we all know what it's like to have doubts about our own abilities, to fear letting people down and to wonder whether we can trust other people (especially others who appear to be every bit as flawed as ourselves).

Well said, isn't it? So those characters that are hugely good at something become relateable to the reader when they also have very human vulnerabilities.

By raise of hands, who has seen The Avengers?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Beat it out!! Because it will change your life. Seriously.

I recently got back from an amazing conference where sickness made me a total social recluse, I had to leave early the first day because my son turned thirteen (happy birthday!!), and I had to leave early the second day because I got deathly ill. But amidst all that, I learned something life changing. Now in case you don't know this already, and because I love you guys, I'm going to share it, too. Honestly, I wish I had known this years ago.

Okay. Let's start with the three-word version: READ THIS BOOK.

Now I can't say I've read this book. But I can say that I've ordered it and it's on its way to my house. I went to a class taught by the incredible Elana Johnson (who is as amazing a teacher as she is a person) on how to "Beat out your novel," and it was based on Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT. I'm not kidding when I say it was life-changing.

The slightly-longer-than-three-words-to-better-convince-you version: This a book on screenwriting, but it's really all storytelling. He says that every great story hits fifteen "beats." Different moments that need to happen for the story to have a satisfying, complete feel. Those movies that you want to go back and watch over and over? They hit all fifteen every time. Those ones that were good, but after watching once, you're done? They didn't hit all fifteen.

So, basically, your book can be really good even if you don't hit all of them. But if you want it to be GREAT--- if you want it to be a book people feel like they have to tell other people about--- you have to have all fifteen.

The book tells about what each of the fifteen are (or if you were lucky enough to get into Elana's class, she taught about each of the fifteen). Then you can go to Blake Snyder's site (www.blakesnyder.com), print out his Beat Sheet, and fill it out for your novel, to see if you are missing any of the fifteen. Or, when you're plotting a new book (if you're the plotting type), you can use this to help direct you. And, and, AND! If you write a sentence in each of the fifteen about what how your book hits that beat, you can string them all together and voila! You have your synopsis!

Oh, my gosh, guys. I can't even tell you how PERFECT and exactly RIGHT it felt to hear about this. Like it's what I had been searching for all along, but didn't know it existed. Like everything suddenly makes perfect sense. I cannot wait to "beat out" my book 1 before it goes into final revisions to make sure I didn't miss a beat, and to "beat out" book 2.

I kid you not. Yes, it stunk to have to miss so much of the conference, and I didn't get to see half the people I wanted to, but if I had only gone to this one class, it was entirely worth it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Quotes and Cookies: Writer's Block

On writer's block: "I don't believe in it. Plumbers don't get plumbers block and doctors don't get doctor's block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expect sympathy for it?"

~ Philip Pullman

I totally, completely agree. Does that mean it's never hard to write? That you never stare at the blank screen, and can't seem to figure out what the heck to write? Pfft. Of course not. But to me, not knowing what to write doesn't mean you have some kind of magical block. It means that you need to spend some more time thinking about your story. Thinking about your characters and their motivations. What is going to get in the way of what they want. Where the plot is going. What, exactly, is going to happen in that next scene.

So to me, it's not so much a block, as it is a sign that I'm prepared to write.

Agree? Disagree?

If you disagree, have a cookie! If you agree, have two. ;)

Photo Credit Link: Star Wars Blog

Hahaha! Just kidding. Disagree with me all you want, and you can still have two. :)

Have a fabulous weekend! And May the 4th be with you! [snicker, snicker]