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1. Ch-ch-ch-changes



So. Hello there! It's been a while, hasn't it? Possibly the longest hiatus known to man. Or blogging. Or at least, Shrinking Violets.

I never intended to be gone quite that long, and I missed talking with you all terribly! However, with my current work load, being the sole shrinking violet and producing a weekly blog post all by my lonesome was just too much. And so I've been thinking and thinking what to do about the blog, because I do love it--far too much to let it go.

And then I did a guest post over on Writer Unboxed. It was great fun and they were very kind and invited me to come back and blog with them again. And as we were talking about that, one thing led to another and before you know it an idea was hatched. A great big perfect solution kind of idea.

I will be honoring my introverted, conflicting needs for down time and connecting with people by moving the weekly Shrinking Violet posts to a monthly column for Writer Unboxed. (See? I practice what I preach...) That way I still get to talk about something I am as wildly passionate about as ever, but without the crushing weight of producing a weekly blog.


So, I hope all of you will follow me over there! Writer Unboxed is one of the blogs I read without fail and I am thrilled to be a part of that community. 

If you missed my guest post over there, you can find it here: The Writer's Life if full of Second Chances, or, Abandon Despair, All Ye Who Enter Here.

My first official Shrinking Violets post will be on May 11, then I'll be posting regularly on the second Friday of every month. I hope to see some of you there. 

And I hope each of you are finding a way to balance your need for recharging time with you equally important need for connection.

12 Comments on Ch-ch-ch-changes, last added: 5/1/2012
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2. The Curious Lifecycle of a Blog

There have been a lot of articles lately on whether or not blogs are dead or have been replaced by Twitter/Google Plus/Facebook etc. (There is a particularly brilliant post over on Roni Loren's blog about the ten stages of blogging, which is a must read. What stage are you?)


A lot of bloggers, some quite high profile, have expressed increasing blog fatigue. (Although for the record, I would like it noted that here at Shrinking Violet we copped to blog fatigue YEARS ago, and consequently instituted a rather robust hiatus policy. ☺ )


When Mary and I started this blog nearly five years ago, there simply weren’t many blogs on promotion or marketing for writers, and even fewer for introverted writers. In 2007 there were about 50 million blogs total, an intimidating enough figure. But in 2010 the number of blogs rose to152 million!


In addition to this blog, we both had personal blogs, my own going back to 2006. That’s a lot of blogging and it makes sense that at some point one would run out of things to say.


I haven’t hit that point yet. But. I do find I have less and less to say about marketing and promotion. There are now millions of blogs and sites out there that all talk about this, some ad nauseaum. And frankly, there’s not much I can say about the subject that I haven’t said before somewhere on this blog.


That doesn't mean I'm done blogging. What that does mean is that I won't be blogging as often. Especially with a couple of gnarly deadlines breathing down my neck and a whole calendar full of travel in the coming months. I simply need to give myself permission to take some of the pressure off.


I figured fellow introverts would be the most understanding.


I DO plan to be back, but it most likely won't be until after the holidays. At that point, I'm sure I will be starved for talking about all sorts of things.



I hope you all have a wonderful couple of months and use the time you aren't reading Shrinking Violets for recharging your batteries!

12 Comments on The Curious Lifecycle of a Blog, last added: 12/1/2011
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3. A Social Media Survival Guide by Jenn Reese

We've all seen them. They're as numerous and frequent as deer flies in high summer (and just as annoying): the constant stream of articles telling us how best to use social media, or  worse, how to become a social media MAVEN. Well dear Violets, into that cacophony comes the voice of reason. Jenn Reese's voice, to be exact. When I read this over on her blog, I just had to beg her to let me share it here, and she graciously agreed. It is truly the sanest, smartest  social media advice I've read yet.

What this post is: my guidelines for navigating the social media waters.

What this post isn’t: a set of instructions or guidelines for anyone beside me. We all use social media differently, use it for different reasons, and expect different results. I would never presume to tell anyone else how to achieve their specific goals.

Social media I use: Blog, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest

Social media goals: Enjoy myself. Connect with existing friends. Make new friends. Laugh. Learn. Share opinions and links to things that inspire, tickle, intrigue, or outrage me. Goof off.

MY SOCIAL MEDIA SURVIVAL GUIDE

1. Respect that everyone’s Social Media Survival Guide is different.
We’re all different, want different things, have different lives and different tolerances for technology and being social. Don’t expect other people to share your goals and priorities. (This should be the Golden Rule of social media, in my opinion. Maybe this plus the next one…)

2. Be yourself.
Life’s in the details, and that’s what you get. Quirky passions, interests, foibles, and bad jokes. What I ate for breakfast, what I should have had for lunch, what my cats are doing RIGHT AT THIS MINUTE. These are the things that make us unique, even in the vast ocean of people who, on paper, look exactly like us.

3. Never track friends/followers/subscribers.
This isn’t a videogame or a race and I’m not judging success by numbers. Friends and acquaintances aren’t commodities and the only metric for success is if I’m having fun (see goals, above). Some corollaries:
  • Never use any service that tells you when someone stops following/subscribing/friending you. That way lies madness, heartache, and unnecessary hurt. Don’t do it to yourself.
  • Never get upset if someone stops following you. They’ve got their own Social Media Survival Guide and you should let them do what they need to do, guilt-free.
  • Never beg for followers. This makes the people who follow you already feel like livestock.
  • Don’t expect people you follow to follow you back. If you’re following them because they’re interesting, then it shouldn’t matter if they don’t follow you back. Again, they’ve got their own Guide.
  • You don’t need to follow everyone who follows you. Do whatever works for your life and lifestyle.
4. Don’t create social guilt or impose on others.
This goes back to respecting other people’s Survival Guides. People who care about you will try to please you even if it causes them stress. Just don’t put them in that position in the first place.
  • Don’t ask people to retweet, blog,

    13 Comments on A Social Media Survival Guide by Jenn Reese, last added: 11/24/2011
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4. Writing as Therapy?


Over the years, I have heard people talk about writing being excellent therapy. Not writing in personal journals mind you, but writing fiction.
I laughed. Long and resoundingly. How self indulgent, I thought, to presume one’s inner struggles would be remotely interesting to anyone else. How narcissistic, to have yourself in the starring role of every piece of your fiction.
But dear reader, after fifteen books and over 17,000 logged hours of writing time, I am no longer laughing. Turn’s out, the joke’s on me.
For me, writing has been incredible therapy, albeit not in the way people told me it would.
It has not provided me an avenue to work out my past and my own emotional baggage on the page. Instead, the hard work I do to make my writing better has spilled out into my non-writing life. How could it not? One of the first lessons we learn about characters is that whatever conflict they are going through affects all aspects of their lives. So when we as writers push ourselves to strive and grow, of course that is going to spill out into other aspects of our lives as well.
One of the things that became clear to me over the years was that writers must not only be keen observers of human nature, but must also understand what they see. They must be able to put it in a larger context, not just record the details. In order to create satisfying, transformative character arcs and journeys, we must become intimately acquainted with the human psyche.
I have spent years pouring over books discussing archetype and theme, character traits, and the psychology of story. In the process, I have learned much about myself—what motivates me, what role story has played in my life, what makes passions are, and what my hot buttons are.
As I struggle to drill down to my most important core themes, to find my most unique voice and worldview, I have no choice but to discard all the masks I wear for the world, to set aside all the roles I play and pare down to the essence of my Self. Not to be self indulgent, but to create work as uniquely my own as I can. To serve the Story rather than the teller. To get the hell out of the way so that the characters can come to life on the page.
For someone who has worn masks all her life, who has been only too eager to be whoever you want or need me to be, this has been the riskiest thing I have ever done. And I would never have done that if not in pursuit of perfecting my craft, of trying take my stories and my characters farther and deeper.
When I put pieces of mys

6 Comments on Writing as Therapy?, last added: 11/15/2011
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5. Grave Mercy Cover Art

I find myself in the position of having something exciting to share, but no real blog home from which to share it. My R.L. LaFevers author blog has now become a part of my new middle grade website, and my new YA website is not finished yet.

BUT.

I have a brand new cover to share, so I'm hoping you will not mind if I take a moment to unveil it here. (Plus? I am sick with a horrid chest cold and have absolutely ZERO ability to write a decent post for today. /whine)

Ta da! This is the cover for my upcoming YA:



As you can see, it is quite a bit different in tone and feel from Theodosia or Nathaniel Fludd...that and the older target audience has necessitated a slightly different author name as well as a new (still-under-construction) website.

 Once again, I am in awe of Houghton Mifflin's art department. ::pinches self::

24 Comments on Grave Mercy Cover Art, last added: 11/2/2011
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6. Lia Keyes: Making Full Use of Goodreads

With more than 3 million members, Goodreads is the largest social network for readers. If you’re an author, and you’re not controlling the content on your automatically generated Goodreads profile, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to reach readers who haven’t yet heard of you, and connect more deeply with those who have.

You may already have a website with a blog. You may be on Facebook and Twitter. You may be thinking you can’t possible deal with another social network/time-suck, but Goodreads should be a vital part of any truly efficient author marketing plan. Why? Because you want to reach as many readers as possible, right? Not all of them are on Twitter. Facebook is fabulous, but it’s not JUST about reading. Goodreads is where you’ll find the deepest concentration of confirmed book addicts looking for the next great read. They go there to catch the gossip, join groups focused on their favorite genres, vote for the best book covers, book titles and myriad other topics. You can get involved in the discussions there, find new friends and fans, and present your best front to readers who don’t visit your website or blog or Twitter or Facebook accounts because they don’t know you exist. Yet.

There are lots of social networks for readers (LibraryThing is another) but GoodReads is far and away the most versatile and interactive place to promote your book. Even before you’ve published you can make friends and build a following by being an active member of the community.

To build an online presence and wait for visitors is naive. Go where the readers are, create a GoodReads profile that drives traffic to your blog. Once they arrive at  your blog you’ll be able to lead them through a customized exploration of your online world, but you’ve got to get them there, first.

Setting up a GoodReads Profile is easy:

 

Register as an author (if you’re published):

To do this, search for one of your books. Then click on your name. This will take you to an author profile page. At the bottom of that page you’ll find a link that says “Is this you?” Click on that to request admission to the author program. After you’ve been approved you can upload an image of yourself, enter a short biography (make sure you get your website url in the first two sentences, as the rest gets cut off with a “read more” link once you’ve saved it).

Update your Goodreads blog section

From your current blog via RSS so you don’t have to manually add posts. This will save you a lot of time!

Add your book trailer

There’s a section on your newly created profile that says “Videos about Your Name.” Click the link that says “add new”, fill in the form, and upload the video.  It’s important to tag the video appropriately, as Goodreads automatically adds your video to various video lists according to the tags you choose. If in doubt, check the profile of an author working in your genre to see what tags they’ve used. Or browse the video lists to see which ones you’d like to appear on and use the tag that will take readers there. (Click “explore/videos” to see the lists).

17 Comments on Lia Keyes: Making Full Use of Goodreads, last added: 10/27/2011
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7. The Long, Slow Slog Toward Mastery




I started reading Malcom Gladwell’s OUTLIERS this week, and I thought it would be interesting to look at the number of hours we've spent writing. Gladwell talks about how it takes around 10,000 for a person to achieve mastery, in any field. It made me curious to see where I fell on that spectrum.

One of the things that Gladwell also talks about is that any person’s success isn’t only about passion or talent or hard work. More nebulous things like opportunity and access also come into play. Looking over my numbers I see a couple of glaring advantages I’ve had. One, the luxury of having a supportive spouse with excellent health care benefits which allowed me the time to accumulate some of those hours. Also, a job that allowed me to write on the job, and thus practice my craft AND get paid for it as well.

Hours Spent Writing

1994      500 
1995      500 
1996      200 (went back to school for a year)
1997      750 (got a PT job, but one for which writing was a part of what I did)
1998      750
1999      750
2000      600
2001      600
2002      700
2003      1500 (quit to write full time)
2004      1500
2005
13 Comments on The Long, Slow Slog Toward Mastery, last added: 10/20/2011
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8. What Sells Middle Grade Books?


A long time ago in a blogosphere far away, I promised I’d talk about what sells middle grade books.

Then promptly got swept up in writing and revising my YA trilogy. Oh the irony! But today I am finally pulling this topic out of my hat. Since so many of the components of MG sales are teachers, librarians, and school visits, it seems an especially appropriate time to discuss this, now that school is back in session and fall is in the air.

One of the kind of funny things about MG is that when you talk to publishing houses and editors, they all bemoan the lack of MG and talk about how they are on the hunt for great MG books.

But.

It is YA that gets all the sparkly attention—higher advances, bigger publicity push, and often higher sales numbers. In fact, it is rare for a publisher to put a big publicity push behind an MG title unless it is part of a series and already a proven big seller. With YA there is a better chance of hitting the publicity lottery because there are simply more opportunities. If you look at PW’s list of Bestsellers for 2010 which lists 546 titles, only 108 of those were middle grade books. 2009 was had similar numbers, with only 96 middle grade bestsellers out of a list of 500 titles.

Part of that is because YA has a huge crossover potential to adult readers. There are huge numbers of adults who very happily read YA, but not MG. Also, marketing to YA readers is more of a cause and an effect. It’s easier to reach them because they’re older, online, and the role of the gatekeeper is not as much of a driving force in getting the word out about the book.

Also, in general, there are generally lower sales expectations for MG titles and (slightly) more willingness to wait for the slow build that happens as MG filters through the system. Many of the things listed below don’t even happen until a year or so after a book has been out. That means having enough publisher support to keep it in print long enough to find its audience, as well as accruing small sales milestones and accomplishments along the way. It means keeping the book out there long enough for the right people to stumble upon it and begin taking notice. It often means smaller advances, so the publisher has less capital invested upfront and can allow for that slower build.

Tools In The Middle Grade Sales Arsenal:

Write an amazing book. No, seriously. This cannot be said enough. Write a book impossible to ignore, or one that people cannot wait to press into eager readers’ hands.

Good Industry Reviews. Once upon a time, they only had to be good reviews, but a star or two never hurts. Especially with more and more library budgets being cut, they must radically prioritize their purchases and often will rely on starred reviews to do that. (However, do not panic if your book does not garner a star—many don’t and as long as the reviews are good, some sales will follow.) And how does one get starred reviews, boys and girls? That’s right—by writing an amazing book.

Attention from Book Bloggers. More and more, these book loving bloggers are having an impact on spreading the word about great books. There are fewer opportunities for MG out there than there are for YA, but there ARE opportunities.

Gatekeepers. Adults falling in love with your book and hand selling it to young readers. These gatekeepers can be indie booksellers, teache

14 Comments on What Sells Middle Grade Books?, last added: 10/12/2011
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9. Guest Blogger Audrey Vernick: The Rodent Brain Approach

I’ve been known to say I’m figuring all this book-publicity stuff out as I go, but I think that might a little optimistic. I have no idea if I’m figuring it out. But I am definitely going.

In the beginning, I mostly had a stomach ache about all the things I knew I should be doing but wasn’t. Then I started to do some things—mailings, building an online presence, commissioning a book trailer, planning big events—and the source of my stomach ache shifted a bit. I was still worried about all I wasn’t doing, but now I was able to spread the worry out, as I had no idea if there was any worth to what I was doing. My picture books were all over the map—two nonfiction and two about a buffalo—heading to kindergarten and learning to play drums.

And now I’m in the funny position of trying to take the things that may or may not be working to help promote my picture books and applying them to my brand-spanking-new-to-the-world novel.

Oh! The Stomach Aches You’ll Suffer!

I know that for picture books, I need to appeal to the parents, teachers, librarians and booksellers who help match books with children. The same is still largely true with middle grade, but in a different way that I haven’t been able to wholly figure out yet. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about this.

Allow me, if I may, to draw your attention for just one moment to the psychological theorist Jean Piaget, who studied his own children as the basis for his child-development theories.

I have a twelve-year-old girl, a reader, right here in my house!

What attracts the twelve-year-old Vernick to a particular book?

The cover. Definitely. And the recommendation of a trusted friend. (Two factors that have strong effects on adult-reader-me, too.) And two factors that writer-me has no control over.
This is why I try not to think too much. But I have the kind of brain that gnaws at things: a rodent brain.

All this is a dizzying roundabout way of saying that though my path here has been heavily weighted and full of rodent-think, I ultimately arrived at a philosophy akin to the Shrinking Violets message: for now, until I figure out more, I’m doing the things that come naturally.
For a long time, blogging was not on that list. I was repeatedly told I had to start a blog. I started one in conjunction with my nonfiction baseball picture book and quickly learned that the world really doesn’t care how much I hate Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett. Also: I am passionate about baseball, but I didn’t really enjoy blogging about it.

I was disheartened.

I was encouraged to try again. It’s possible I was a little bullied, too—pushed to try again even though I didn’t want to.

Still, I jumped in, reluctantly. I started a blog about literary friendships—real-life writer-friends and the friends people find in children’s books. I figured until I found my footing, I’d interview other writer and illustrator friends and shine a light on them.

I discovered some things that delighted me: a shocking number of children’s writers wanted to be young Laura Ingalls; Roald Dahl, a writer whose books were not on my childhood radar, had a profound impact on many of the writers and

3 Comments on Guest Blogger Audrey Vernick: The Rodent Brain Approach, last added: 10/4/2011
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10. Guest Blogger Jennifer Nielsen: The Rules of Readings


When my kids were little, long before I was published,  I used to volunteer in their classrooms and read out loud. More than once, other adults stopped, thinking they were listening to an audiobook or tape recording. However now that I have books of my own?  My reading-out-loud skills seemed to have gone the way of the dodo.

Truly, I suck at reading my own stuff out loud. Which is why I was so thrilled when Jen Nielsen offered to share some tips for this most critical author skill!

# # #

Last spring, I was invited to do a reading from my forthcoming novel, The False Prince, to the sales and marketing team members from Scholastic. I was nervous, but reminded myself that I’d done plenty of readings before, and that after all, I was a theater major. And yet as I practiced in my hotel room, I stumbled over words, gave pauses where it made absolutely no sense to hesitate, and convinced myself that babbling incoherence was an inevitable part of my future.


Remember the rules, I told myself. You know what to do.

And thanks to those rules, the reading went well.

Doing a public reading can be challenging to every author – not just shrinking violets. Some people are naturally better at oral reading, some have stronger voices, and some are more comfortable in front of an audience. But regardless of where your talents are, everyone can give a good public reading. Here are some tips that can help.


1.  Choose the right passage.  For any audience, it’s best to choose an excerpt that’s heavy on action and dialogue, or emotional weight, and light on description and backstory. Be careful not to choose something that gives away spoilers.
You’re also looking for something that will run a total of two to four minutes. That may not sound like a lot of time, but you’re going to put a lot of energy into it, so that’s plenty.

Finally, from beginning to end, it should be a complete scene, including conflict, rising action, and a great climax (Hint: Some authors end the reading right at the climax and tell people to read the book to find out what happens).

2.  Treat the manuscript like a monologue. For your audience, listening to you is much like listening to a movie that’s on in the other room. They can hear the dialogue and the action. But they can’t see the scenery or follow the movement of the characters. All of that is meaningless to them.


So prepare for some surgery on the excerpt. Eliminate anything that doesn’t add to your reading, even if it’s an important thread to the overall plot. This includes long descriptions (of anything), and backstory references irrelevant to this excerpt. They’d feel like moving through mud while you’re reading. It also will inc

8 Comments on Guest Blogger Jennifer Nielsen: The Rules of Readings, last added: 9/28/2011
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11. End of Summer Milestone Monday Check In

One of my favorite commercials of all time was that Staples commercial that had the father dancing around the Staples store, loading up his back to school cart and singing, “It’s the most won-der-ful time of the year…”?

 

Honestly, September has always felt much more like the start of a new year for me rather than January. I am a big fan of those academic calendars that let me buy new versions in July or August, because for more of my life than not, my calendar has been ruled by school calendars. First as a student myself, then as a parent.

I suspect this may be true of the internet as well, because I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how they had cut back on their blog reading and interacting online over the summer. We’ll see if that changes now that September has rolled around.

Of course, that means that I will need to be online more as well.

But first things first! Because it has been MONTHS, let’s do a violet check in! I would love to hear what you all have been up to, what you worked on during the summer, what you didn’t work on, any milestones you achieved, epiphanies you had, or break throughs reached. All that good stuff. Also, if you are a regular reader and have a book coming out, please send me a jpeg and release information. I am WAY past due for updating the sidebar there at the side. [Note, if you sent it to me earlier, and it hasn’t appeared, PLEASE send it again as it is buried somewhere deep in my computer folders.]

And, to entice you, if you leave an update in the comments, you will be entered to win a copy of Donald Maass's The Breakout Novelist:  Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers.  

As for me, I have had a very emotionally intense summer. I have been writing the second teen medieval assassin book, which is dark! Darker even than the first book. Plus, I’ve got an actual deadline now so I’ve been trying to trick the muse into thinking she’s had the same stewing, fermenting, and playing time she got with the first book. This was also the last summer before the last child leaves for college, so I’ve been doing lots of living in the moment, enjoying the last few weeks and soaking them up.

I have also been redesigning my website and creating a new one for the medieval teen assassin books. Neither are live yet, but it has certainly made me think a lot about internet presences and connecting to our readers and what they are looking for from us. Lots more on that in the weeks to come. Also in the weeks to come, some way cool interviews and guest posts.

Looking forward to hearing what all you've been up to!

31 Comments on End of Summer Milestone Monday Check In, last added: 9/22/2011
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12. An Autumn Muse

 


In honor of the changing seasons. And because I have muses on the mind, and Aunt Leaf seems like a most excellent muse... 
Aunt Leaf by Mary Oliver
Needing one, I invented her -
the great-great-aunt dark as hickory
called Shining-Leaf, or Drifting-Cloud
or The-Beauty-of-the-Night.

Dear aunt, I'd call into the leaves,
and she'd rise up, like an old log in a pool,
and whisper in a language only the two of us knew
the word that meant follow,

and we'd travel
cheerful as birds
out of the dusty town and into the trees
where she would change us both into something quicker -
two foxes with black feet,
two snakes green as ribbons,
two shimmering fish - and all day we'd travel.

At day's end she'd leave me back at my own door
with the rest of my family,
who were kind, but solid as wood
and rarely wandered. While she,
old twist of feathers and birch bark,
would walk in circles wide as rain and then
float back

scattering the rags of twilight
on fluttering moth wings;

or she'd slouch from the barn like a gray opossum;

or she'd hang in the milky moonlight
burning like a medallion,

this bone dream, this friend I had to have,
this old woman made out of leaves.

6 Comments on An Autumn Muse, last added: 9/15/2011
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13. Tranformative Change




One of my very favorite writing books, which isn't really a writing book at all, is The Hero Within written by Carol Pearson. In it, the author talks about transformative change as we move through the different stages of our journey.

Transformative change. 

For some reason that phrase has really resonated with me, always in the back of my mind as I write. Probably in no small part because I've reached the point in the manuscript when everything is building to that big moment when my character sheds her old skin and steps into her new self. When she is truly and completely transformed by the events of the novel.


Then on twitter a while ago, I came across this quote by @Quotebelly:  

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails." - William Arthur Ward

And it hit me; the act of adjusting the sails is not just about being realistic; it is also about being open to transformative change. A mere realist would batten down the hatches and hold on. But the act of adjusting the sails, of preparing yourself to accommodate what life is about to send your way, is a much more profound act of acceptance.

For some people, those bumps on life's road completely derail them or make them bitter or cause them to feel victimized. And while I hate tragedy and mishap as much as the next person, one of the only ways I can put my head down and get through it, is to try and see the situation as an opportunity for that sort of deep rooted change. To extract the life lesson that the universe is sending me. In doing that, in finding some nugget of wisdom to take from the incident, I feel that no matter what I have lost, I have also won.

The thing is, no one taught me that; not my parents or a church or a therapist. I have managed to learn that concept though stories.

Which is why in fiction, as writers, it is so vital that things in our story make sense, that the events in our stories are pushing our characters toward this transformative change. That is one of Story's most important roles in our lives, showing us what that sort of deep change looks like, feels like, how to recognize and respond to the opportunities when they arise.

8 Comments on Tranformative Change, last added: 9/6/2011
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14. Getting Naked with the Muse



I suspect that many writers come to writing because they cannot find their voice in real life. They have trouble speaking their truths, whatever they may be, and writing is a place where they can do just that. (Although I am also willing to admit I might be projecting wildly here.) They don’t even have to risk anyone hearing it if they don’t want to, at least not until the writing kind of takes over and they find themselves pursuing publication.

Most everyone will agree that a great voice is what separates good writing from amazing writing. Not by itself, but it’s hard to achieve great writing without it.

After a certain point, when one has reached a certain mastery of craft, craft is no longer the issue; the uniqueness of the voice is. Not just in the words you use, but the things you have to say. They have to matter. And matter a lot. But in order to do that, you have to be willing to declare to the world what matters to you; what you think about, obsess over, are fascinated by. Even if they aren’t pretty or normal or even very common.

I have been a tiptoer. All my life I’ve tiptoed around my family and friends, not wanting to offend or, God forbid, upset or anger them. It’s hard to describe just how much I’ve censored myself in this quest to be a good friend, mother, daughter, or wife. And in a roundabout way, it served me well because I think it was part of the impetus to turn to writing—to have some place where I could say all the things I could never say in real life. That is why the Theodosia character was such a break through for me. And the only way I could write that first book was by telling myself it was just for me, no one else was ever going to read it. No one else was ever going to see that lens through which I sometimes viewed the world. 

And one of the things I adore about the Universe is that it is very willing to send you feedback when you are on the right track. That book has been my most popular one so far, no doubt due to my willingness to untangle myself from my own fears in the writing of it.

Which brings me to the project I've just finished, GRAVE MERCY.  Boys and girls, it terrifies me. Anyone who reads it will know that I am fascinated by sex and religion, death and love, duty and honor. I’m not sure I’m ready to confess to the world that my mind spends a lot of time mucking around in those places.

And yet…it does.

There is a scene in the third Narnia book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Eustace Scrubb has been enchanted and turned into a dragon. In order to remove the enchantment, he has to bathe in a magical pool, but before he can get in it, he has to strip out of his dragon skin. Not just the outer dragonish layer, but down past the scales and skin to the raw, tender Eustace part beneath.

That’s where I feel like I am in my journey; I am in the process of stripping off that old protective skin and finding the courage to step into that pool. Not just in writing, but in life. In striving to become a better writer, I find I have forced myself to become a stronger person. Once I have allowed myself to walk about with sure and certain feet, it is hard to get back up on my tiptoes and resume that cautious, tentative journey.

Stripping off those old protections stings, no question. Maybe even burns a little. I feel raw and tender and unbelievably vulnerable and exposed.

And yet, I am convinced that incredible freedom and beauty that exists on the other side of that pool

11 Comments on Getting Naked with the Muse, last added: 8/30/2011
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15. Where Stories Come From


A while ago on another blog (in a galaxy far, far away) someone wanted to know why people who weren’t young adults would be interested in writing YA. It struck me as an odd question, because I’ve never had the sense that writers were only propelled by their own demographic for their stories. But it is also a legitimate question in a broader sense, and it got me to thinking about why we write and where our stories come from.

My own theory is that our richest, most authentic stories come out of our own traumas and heartbreaks. Not necessarily in a direct correlation—I was beaten as a child therefore I will write about child abuse. But rather the core emotional issues, the wounds and scars that have shaped us will also shape our stories. And the nature of those will, in turn, help determine what age group we write for.

Stories are the psychological equivalent of pearls, if you think about it. At some point in our lives, we receive this grain of sand—some horror or trauma or huge obstacle that becomes a permanent part of who we are. And then the magic begins to happen. Time passes, we move on, we begin to heal, scar tissue forms, we begin to grow again, only this time our growth encompasses those painful experiences. And if you are lucky enough to have a creative outlet, those painful experiences cannot help but shape what you create, much in the same way the shape of your hand determines the way you play the piano or the choice of medium affects what your artwork looks like.

My childhood and teen years were my most emotionally tumultuous, one great big stewing pot of dysfunctionality. It tapered off toward the ends of high school, but it was too late. The scars and wounds I’d received in childhood were so much a part of me that they radically affected every aspect of how I viewed the world and how I interacted with people, thus ensuring high school was hard and not the glowing ‘best time of your life’ that so many adults think of it.

So it is no surprise that when I write, that is where my stories come from. That place, even though I am well, (WELL!) past being a young adult, Not only was that the most fertile for me story-wise, but the thematic issues I am drawn to explore lend themselves best to that age.

Once I hit adulthood, I got lucky, found unconditional love, got married, and had kids. My life has been pretty great so far. Not exactly smooth sailing, raising kids is never smooth sailing, but there have been far fewer traumas and upheavals, and very little scar tissue and lots of lessons learned.

Which is why I write for kids and young adults. How about you? Why do you think you are drawn to the genre you work in? Which of your core emotional themes and issues make it a perfect fit?

9 Comments on Where Stories Come From, last added: 8/24/2011
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16. Quirks and Foibles


It seems to me that the best writers, the ones whose books really stay with me, are connoisseurs of human nature. Being proficient at craft, or excelling at it, is good, but not enough, nor is a crackerjack plot. I relish learning things about the human condition and people.

I also think this is part and parcel of what propels some people to become writers—this desire to wrestle with and better understand the human condition. Do writers become observers of people so they have material? Or, do acute observers of people become writers so they have something to do with all that knowledge they’ve accumulated? Chicken? Egg? For most writers I know, this people watching begins at the earliest of ages.

I’ve also decided that people fall into two groups; those who like and are attracted to perfection, and those who are charmed by and attracted to quirks and foibles. I am willing to bet that a majority of writers fall into that latter category.

The thing about perfection is that it is often boring in its beauty, there is nothing innately interesting or human about it, no place for me in its vista. And I say this as a rank perfectionist—if I am not perfect, I have failed, so as a goal, perfection holds huge appeal for me. And yet, what I love most about people is their quirks and foibles. Their personal behavioral tics and oddities.

~The thirty five year old muscle bound guy who still has a baby animal calendar.
~The precision machinist who can’t get the sugar in the sugar bowl or the coffee grounds in the filter, but can execute the most precise of measurements on a metal lathe.
~The sleek, sexy brand spanking new black dodge charger being driven by an eighty year old lady.
~The woman who feels called to the priesthood, but also has an unholy obsession with Jimmy Choos.
~The guy who drives a gorgeous Porsche, but can’t stand driving in traffic so he rarely gets it out.
~The laid back surfer girl who cannot be in the same room with a change jar without sorting the coins into neat little stacks.

Quirks can also be physical—the kid whose ears turn bright red when he gets embarrassed, the stunning woman who bites her lip or nails, the kid whose twirled his hair so often he has a bald spot…

Quirks and foibles are often a chink in our armor, an indicator at how hard won our mastery of some skill or behavior really is. They are a physical manifestation of our deepest level conflicts.

Take a look at the people around you. What is it that most endears them to you? I’m betting it’s not their straight A report card or excellent punctuality record. No, I’m betting it’s that little something that only they do, it might even be a tad odd or strange…The thing is, a lot of this behavior can cross over into the highly annoying, it’s a matter of degree really.

But I wonder if we use that enough in our writing?

What quirks and foibles do your characters have? Not just pasted on to simply be funny or clever, but one’s you can trace back to their development as a person?

5 Comments on Quirks and Foibles, last added: 8/16/2011
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17. The Art of Revising: Micro Revision

Micro revision is all about the scene. Is the scene—the building block of my novel—working? Is it carrying its weight? Has it earned its place in the story? This is also where I check for dropped plot threads or un-fleshed out characters.

However, you only do this once you've hammered out the story, otherwise the focus of the scene might shift.

The first thing to check is that you have indeed written in scenes and not in one long, every minute accounted for stretch from beginning to end. You only need to show the parts that impact the story. It is okay to have some stuff (the boring stuff) happen off the page and either recap it or relay it in a quick transition or conversation.


MICRO REVISION CHECKLIST

Plot

Every scene should move the plot forward in some way. However, moving the plot forward can be subtle. But there needs to be some reason for the scene to be there. Note: The reason it’s there can often be very, very hidden.

Ideally, each scene should perform a variety of functions. Shoot for three:
Move plot forward
develop characters
reveal backstory (in tiny bits and pieces)
foreshadow upcoming events,
raise dramatic questions the reader wants answer to

Does the scene have some source of conflict or dramatic tension? This doesn’t have to be head to head conflict. It can be in the form of a dramatic question that is raised. Or a ticking clock. Or things left unsaid, swirling about the room. Foreshadowing can also work.

Look for a way to add tension on every single page.

If you can’t heighten the tension, ask yourself if the character is fully reacting to the events around him. Is he fully engaged by the events of the story?

Do I start the scene as late as possible and still make sense? In first books especially there can be a lot of deadwood. Writers feel they must account for every minute of their hero’s time, not realizing they get to pick and choose the dramatic moments they show, and simply account for the rest in transitions.

Consider eliminating the character getting from one place to another unless it has a dramatic rather than logistical reason for being there. For example, in Beastologist, I had to find ways to imbue some of the travel with tension, because it was Nate’s first trip—an exciting milestone in his life and something he should experience “on screen,” yet not necessarily a huge thing in and of itself.

For weak scenes, try listing all the reasons the scene is there. If the list is mostly because the character needs to know something, can you find a way to incorporate that same information in another scene?

Are there any places you start to skim as you’re re-reading the mss? Better look at those closely.

Have you dropped any subplots or plot threads along the way? This is where my handy-dandy spreadsheets come in. (Which I will be talking about next week, as per Laurel’s request.) Sometimes when I juggle as many plot threads as I do it is easy to lose someone.

Check for smooth transitions. If you start a scene with a chunk of action that isn’t dramatic action, or a few days have gone by, you can easily fill that part in with an effective transition.


Characters:

Does the scene address the internal character arc as well as the external action of the story?

Have you gone deep enough into the 5 Comments on The Art of Revising: Micro Revision, last added: 8/11/2011
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18. The Art of Revising: Macro Revision

Ah, revision. Some writers hate it, others love it. Personally? I come down on the side of loving it. Revision is a chance to take a raw idea and make it really sing. It's one of the few chances we get in life at a do-over. First draft turned out $hi!!y? No problem. Because you can revise as much as you want to get it right.

Probably one of the most important revision tools is distance. Give yourself the gift of a little time between finishing one draft and starting on the next. You will be astonished at how much is revealed by that bit of distance.

A secondly, nearly as important tool is to recognize that revising is not the same thing as polishing. Polishing is about smoothing and shaping what you've got on the page. Revising is about really looking at the story and seeing if it's working. Revising is when it's time to look at what you actually managed to get out of your head onto the paper and see if the idea holds up under daylight. Or if there’s really as much there there as you’d hoped.  This is your chance to re-envision the story--to roll up your sleeves and see if the first attempt you made at telling it really utilized the best tools available for the job.

Revision, or Macro Revision, as I think of it, is all about the story. Does the manuscript contain all the vital elements needed to create a gripping story. Does it realize its potential? News flash: Most people’s don’t at the first draft stage. Seriously. Or if they revise as they go, you can bet their first pass at a scene isn’t perfect.

So here then, are the things to look at when sitting down to revise a story.

MACRO REVISION CHECKLIST QUESTIONS
(I changed my mind. This isn't really a checklist, it's more of a list of questions to ask yourself as you try to analyze your manuscript. If you use it as a checklist of things you must have, you will go mad. So don't.)

VOICE
Have you chosen the right person to tell this story?
90% of the time you will have, but sometimes there are times when the story is better told through someone else, less removed from the action. Think Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes.

Have your selected the right POV?
Is your first person narrative flat? If you can easily substitute third person pronouns and have the whole thing make sense and flow, chances are you haven’t taken full advantage of the first person form. Conversely, have you at least tried first person? What happens when you get totally inside your character's head? Does he come even more alive?

If you are working with a familiar scenario (dreaded move, new school, losing a best friend) what fresh, new, unique twist do you bring to it?


SETTING
Have you selected the best setting for this story? Is there a different setting that would add more inherent conflict? Create more tension? Echo your thematic elements?

PROTAGONIST/PLOT

Does your character want something? Or not want something? Is that desire driving the story or at least some of his actions?

Is your character an active participant in the story? If not, is he taking baby steps toward becoming one?

Is there something that keeps getting between the main character and his goal? Would the story be stronger if there was?

Is there a source of tension?

Is your story building tow

6 Comments on The Art of Revising: Macro Revision, last added: 8/3/2011
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19. Fortune's Wheel



I can’t help but wonder if whoever designed the Ferris wheel (that would be Ferris, I’m assuming) was after a cheap, momentary thrill or if he was inspired by Fortune’s Wheel of the tarot, intentionally trying to create a carnival ride that would encapsulate life’s ups and downs.
For the truth is, we all have them—or will have them if you’re one of the fortunate few who have yet to experience any downward travels. And Fortune’s Wheel is starkly evident in the publishing world. No one is exempt. And truthfully, a person should consider themselves lucky if they don’t get Towered a time or two along the way.
We are all of us on this hairy, exhilarating ride, but, we are all on different points on the wheel. Some are going up, others coming down, and still others hanging in the air for that long, glorious moment when they are on top of the world.
Of course, people are more likely to talk about their ride UP, that thrilling ascent as they are on the rise, cresting when they reach the top and hover—sometimes for minutes, sometimes for seemingly ever.
But eventually the wheel turns. The problem is, most people keep that particular part of their ride private, not wanting to share that long hard descent with anyone. We don’t like to talk about that fall, whether it is a gentle, controlled descent or a rapid, breath-taking plummet.
The important thing to remember is that the wheel may not turn where we can see it. The descent will not necessarily be in a person’s public professional life, or perhaps they spent their early years in one big downward slide, and we will only get to see their upward trajectory. But just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. In fact, sometimes we won’t see the downward direction because they adjust course before it becomes apparent to others.
Part of that is the nature of the business. Our success is heavily seeded in the smoke and mirror nature of publishing; the desire to create the illusion that everyone wants/loves your book so that in turn, others will love/want it, too.
But another factor is simply human nature. We don’t like to talk about our failures or mistakes. We are a society that places a huge premi

15 Comments on Fortune's Wheel, last added: 6/23/2011
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20. Summer Solstice 2010

Summer Solstice 2010 by kermit1000
Summer Solstice 2010, a photo by kermit1000 on Flickr.

Ahhh! My favorite season of the year has arrived-- the sun gods be praised! I will be celebrating this all day long from a perfect vantage point. I'm teaching at the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference which sits right across the street from the Pacific.

I vow to drink deeply from the cup of Summer this year and not let it slip away as it has done in years past.

More later-- off to class!
Namaste,
Mary

1 Comments on Summer Solstice 2010, last added: 6/21/2011
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21. Save the Cat: A Bridge To Story

So here is something I am learning about myself--it is very hard for me to blog about externally focused marketing type stuff when I am deep into my discovery draft mode. Therefore, today you are getting a post that I originally wrote when I was invited to guest blog over at Blake Snyder's blog (author of SAVE THE CAT).  Also? Since I am hip deep in the discovery draft, I am feeling especially indebted to this wonderful plotting tool!

Save the Cat: A Bridge To Story

Much like the budding individualists I write about, I have a love/hate relationship with structure. A closet rebel, I get twitchy whenever told I must follow rules or take a particular action. And what is structure, other than a cohesive, integrated set of rules?

When I am writing, I want to create and play and not be encumbered by this banal concept of rules and structure. I want to be freeeeeeee. Or at least until my Work In Progress becomes a sprawling formless mass that threatens to envelop the entire west coast. Right about then is when I acknowledge that a little structure, judiciously applied, can actually be MORE freeing than an absolute absence of structure.

It’s kind of like a baby who is at the crawling stage. You can let him have free reign of the house, but you will have to intervene every 30 seconds and wear yourself out and crush his soul in the process. But! If you were to put up baby gates, well then, you are free to step back and let the little fellow roam freeeeeee, just as he was born to do—knowing that the gates will keep him in place.

Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT plotting template, referred to by those in the know as the Beat Sheet or the “BS2,” is my writerly version of baby gates.

As consumers of story, we all have a very strong, intuitive sense of the elements that need to be in place to make a book or film satisfying. But as writers, sometimes intuitive knowledge isn’t enough to create a gripping, compelling narrative drive. For that we need help.

One of the things that I especially love about the beat sheet is that it takes narrative structure out of the lofty realms of literary criticism or writer’s workshops and puts the structure in terms that any reader would understand. Which is exactly as it should be, for that is who we are ultimately writing for—the reader—and Blake’s terminology and definitions help remind us of how the reader will experience the various stages of our story.

There is a question that many writers like to ponder: Which is more important, plot or character? Of course, the correct answer is that they’re both equally important; in fact, plot = character, for if you change one, you change the other.

I have come to believe that there is a similar correlation between narrative and structure. Story = structure. If you change one, you change the other. Without structure, there is no plot and without plot, there is no story, only a character study or an existential experiment. Without plot, characterization fizzles, since characters are best defined through their actions.

A story is an ephemeral thing—ideas, make-believe characters, things that never happened. It is all illusion and lies. What makes it all hang together in a believable, cohesive unit is st

8 Comments on Save the Cat: A Bridge To Story, last added: 6/29/2011
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22. Finding Your Wild and Precious Voice

Right about now is normally the time we here at SVP take a summer hiatus. I have a big fat book due in a few months and am determined to have a complete first draft by the end of the summer, and thinking about marketing and promotion is SO antithetical to getting a first draft down. Plus, the kids are home from school, vacations are taken, and publishing practically shuts down for July and August.* Clearly life moves at a slower pace in summer. 
However this year, instead of going all radio silent on you, I thought I'd share some posts on craft. I can talk about writing craft and processes without yanking myself out of the first draft mindset. Plus, not only is writing craft directly tied into our Favorite Piece of Marketing Advice, quite a number of you expressed interest in talking about craft, so we're going to give it a try. 
(For those of you who aren't excited about that prospect, I DO have a couple of guest posts coming up, an interview with an industry insider about marketing and promotion and an interview with a very cool author. Coming soon!)
###

The truth is, I am a sucker for voice. That is the one thing that can pull me into a book faster than anything. It’s nice to have character development and narrative drive show up at some point, but honestly? If the voice is strong enough, I’ll read just about anything. If a book has all of those? I’m in love.

And I’m not the only one. At conferences and in interviews, time and again I’ve heard editors say they are looking for a great voice. The thing is, everything else—plotting and characterization tools—can be taught. Voice must ooze up from the very core of the author herself and because of that, takes time to develop.

The problem is, voice is difficult to define. It’s one of those I-know-it-when-I-see-it kinds of things. It can also, like a favorite fragrance we’ve worn for years, be impossible for us to detect in ourselves. How then do we recognize it? Work on it? Strengthen it?

Some people claim you don’t have to find your voice because it hasn't gone anywhere; since it's part of you, it’s always there. That may well be true for some people. However, I also think we can lose our voice or become disconnected from it, either through misuse or because we’ve had it workshopped right out of us, or the (false!) belief that our true voice isn’t valid or unique enough. Also, I think a number of writer's are drawn to writing precisely because they haven't been able to find a voice in real life, so they turn to writing to say what needs to be said and learning to do that can take time. So some writers do need to go in search of their true voice; others may only need to excavate or re-discover theirs. I suspect this may be especially true when writing stories for kids—we have to be able to reconnect with our child’s voice.

Of course, that brings us to the question of what exactly is voice?

For me, voice encompasses not only the words a writer chooses and how they string their

13 Comments on Finding Your Wild and Precious Voice, last added: 7/5/2011
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23. You Say Potato, Your Character Says Potahto...


Last week we talked about your core voice—that part of your voice that is uniquely you and flavors everything you do. Whether you are a Red Rose potato, a Russet, a Yukon Gold, or a yam.

Today I want to talk about the more conscious aspects of voice: story voice and how one's voice can shift from book to book, and then creating characters’ voices, which you can have many of in any given story. Essentially, what you're going to make out of that potato.

Some authors' voices remain fairly constant throughout everything they write. Often that consistent voice is a large part of their appeal. Alice Hoffman, Jenny Crusie, and Meg Cabot are some that immediately come to mind.

Then other authors create unique, individual voices for each of their stories so that you might not realize they’d been written by the same person. Jane Yolen, Tamora Pierce, Suzanne Collins, K. A. Applegate, Garth Nix.

If you're the former, then the story voice and author voice remain fairly constant and you don't have to wrestle with the idea of different voices for different stories. However, as I mentioned last week, voice confounded me for a long time because of this need to tell wildly different stories. Until I stumbled upon the idea that story voice is which aspect of your author voice you’re focusing on.


The thing is, we all have many aspects to our personality: funny sides, serious sides, dark sides, places where our deepest fears lay. To me, it makes perfect sense that our body of work will cover more than one side of ourselves, thus different flavors of stories.

However, while we might vary in whether we want to focus on humor or seriousness or hope or despair, WHAT makes us laugh or cry or hope or despair is part of the essence of who we are and that will very likely remain constant throughout the body of our work.

Whether it is center stage or backdrop is the variable.

If you are writing a scary story, you will be drawing on what frightens you, the terrifying moments you’ve experienced, your nightmares.

If you are writing a humorous or light-hearted story, you will probably draw on what parts of life you find absurd or ironic. A romance would focus on how you define love.

My teen assassins in medieval France book that comes out next spring uses a wildly different voice than either the Theodosia books or the Beastologist books. Not just older, but a wildly, completely different voice. And yet I still feel that it is very much my voice. But it is my seventeen-year-old voice versus my eleven-year-old voice. My coming-of-age voice rather than my still-firmly-rooted-in-childhood voice.

Another other big component of the story voice is the set of emotional truths and thematic issues you are exploring. They will greatly dictate the tone and feel of your book.

It is also my voice as seen through a medieval lens and worldview rather than an Edwardian one—two time periods with distinctly different flavors and sensibilities. The medieval world was obsessed with finding a path to grace and assuring a place in heaven, while Edwardians were just stepping out of a dark, somber, restrictive Victorian society and embracing a lighter side. Not to mention the beginning advent of modern technologies. If I’m doing my job in developing my characters, the flavor of those different times comes through.

Which segues rather nicely into finding your character’s voice

This is probably the most conscious aspect of voice, adjusting your voice to convey a specific, fictional character. It

11 Comments on You Say Potato, Your Character Says Potahto..., last added: 7/12/2011
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24. Flipping the Switch from “Introvert” to “Extrovert”

I am hugely excited to share today's wonderful post by editor Deborah Halverson. Not only is she founder of the popular Dear Editor site as well as a former editor with Harcourt, but she has written Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies.

What could be even cooler than that? We will be giving away a copy of Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies! (See give away details at the end of the post.*)



Flipping the Switch from “Introvert” to “Extrovert”
by Deborah Halverson


I am an introvert.

Over the years I’ve surprised quite a few people by saying that. I don’t act like an introvert, they say—and they’re right. I readily step up to open microphones, I eagerly shake new hands when they’re offered, I easily sit down next to random strangers at publishing functions and make new friends. I’m certainly not shy. I’m just most comfortable doing my own little thing in my own little corner with my own little family. A wedding DJ once told my now-husband and I, “If you want your guests to dance, you have to dance. They’ll do whatever you do—you’re the life of the party!” We nearly canceled the wedding and bolted for the Little White Wedding Chapel in Vegas. When the option is there, I’ll choose Fly on the Wall over Belle of the Ball every time.

But the option isn’t always there, at least not career-wise. As an in-house editor and then a freelance editor, author, and writing instructor, my career has always required me to reach out to others and get them excited about the topic at hand. I must talk to kids in schools, to other writers, to bookbuyers and booksellers and librarians and publishers. I can only do my job if I put myself out there. So I do—with one quick flip of an internal switch. Bam! Extrovert Mode.

I make it sound instantaneous, but developing that switch has been a life-long process. That’s no exaggeration. I realized my preference for the quiet side of life in late grade school. Figuring that anything I did in a future career would require me to step out of those shadows I so enjoyed, I very consciously set about making myself comfortable with activities that extroverts take for granted. For me, the secret to flipping the switch to Extrovert Mode is being comfortable with extrovert behavior. Here are six things I’ve learned to do to cultivate that comfort:

1. Be prepared. If you’re well prepared when you step out, you’re confident and thus more comfortable putting yourself out there. Preparation may mean writing your presentation well in advance, it may mean researching the people who will be present at a gathering, it may mean, on a grander scale, joining Toastmasters or volunteering for small speaking gigs in order to get used to having a roomful of eyes on you. Preparation equals comfort, and comfort helps introverts step into the spotlight and enjoy themselves while they’re there.

2. Make it personal. Engage with a specific person during every outreach. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re socially repressed; I love making new friends and chat

21 Comments on Flipping the Switch from “Introvert” to “Extrovert”, last added: 7/20/2011
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25. Food For Thought


I am supposed to be on hiatus still, but I was struck by a number of posts I read this week and wanted to share them with you guys.

The first was by blogger Jonathan Fields and talked about hyperconnectivity being creative kryptonite. For me, the two most important takeaways that have been reverberating for a week now were these:

But when we fill in all the organic in-betweens with texting, e-mailing, DMing and updating, we unintentionally kill the a critical step in the ideation process—percolation and contemplation—and along with it go creativity, innovation and despite your opposite intention, productivity.

And:

Hyperconnectivity gives us the perception of getting more done, it makes us feel like we’re doing more, because we’re using every free moment of every waking hour.

But the entire article is hugely worth reading. Check it out and see how it resonates with you.

This was followed by a fascinating experiment I read about conducted by author Monica Valentinelli, who signed off Twitter, FB, and IM, for a full 100 days. What made this experiment even so compelling was that she had a new book coming out during that time.

The results were fascinating. Again, you should really go read about the entire experiment, but here's a snippet:

The new release that I had hit a sales milestone on the retailer’s website, I continued to sell copies of my e-book, and I sold new stories. In terms of “success,” I encountered zero difference between being online-or-off.  
And:

MY CONCLUSION: Good content is more valuable to a writer’s career than social interaction.

And then you know how it is, when something really sticks in your mind, you start seeing reinforcement everywhere. Late in the week I came across this most excellent blog post by Allison Brennan on the unrealistic pressures associated with social media.

One of the things I thought she said, but I can't find it now so maybe it was someone in the comment section, was that at RWA National, a panel of editors was asked if they would rather have an author who was able to write three books a year, but not have time for social media, or an author who wrote fewer books a year but was highly active on social media. Three out of four preferred the former.

(Also, it’s not just writers who get sucked into this vortex, singer songwriter John Mayer had some eye-opening things to say about his own experiences with social media, and what it cost him creatively.)

So what about you? If you use social media to unwind after a productive day, much like a glass of wine after work, that’s different and probably nothing in this post applies to you.

But if you’re chasing the social media/blogging brass ring with a sense of panic of nipping at your heels, then maybe you need to reassess. What could you accomplish creatively if you weren’t chasing the soc

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