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1. What’s Your Process?

Listen to a group of 6th graders discuss their writing process.

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2. Blog Tour: My Writing Process

I’ve been invited to participate in the fabulous #MyWriting Process blog tour! Today is going to be all about process, process, process.

I was tagged to be a part of this tour by the awesome Ellar Cooper, who shared her writing process last week. Ellar is a heart-stopping writing talent. Seriously, I can’t wait for her books to be on the market! She writes young adult fiction and fantasy, and is a Dystropian from Vermont College. Be sure to read her post and peek into her brilliant mind.

And onto the tour…

MY WRITING PROCESSPeter Pan Book

What are you working on?

I’m working on a YA steampunk re-imagining of Peter Pan. There’s no magic and Peter and Hook are the heads of rival gangs that sell a hallucinogenic drug known as Fairy Dust. Wini Darling, the daughter of a bank mogul, is lured into the whimsical and artistic world of the Nevers, a secret underground artist community, in order to help her drug-addicted brother who’s been captured by Pirates. Only it’s not so easy to find her brother and leave the Nevers as she thinks.

Wini finds herself intoxicated by the no-rules artist culture of the Nevers and simultaneously mixed up in a street war between the Pirates and the Lost Boys. Then there’s that thrill-seeking, drunk-on-life Peter fellow who’s got one hell of a sweet spot for Wini Darling. Sometimes, not growing up can be a dangerous adventure.

How is your work different than others in your genre?

The tricky part about this question is I’m not sure how you might classify this book’s “genre.” It happens to be its own crazy cocktail made up of:

  • 1 part bastardization of Victorian steampunk
  • 2 parts fantasy world building
  • A ton of multi-cultural characters to keep track of (Game of Thrones style)
  • A pinch of Doctor Who influence
  • A smidgen of Robin Hood
  • A timeless gargantuan dose of never-gonna-grow-up Peter Pan
  • Two cups of hot-pink graffitti
  • A dash of Ingrid’s deliciously sensual writing
  • And some esoteric psychobabble on the importance of art…
  • Sprinkle in a little fairy dust, grab the spoon second to your left and stir straight on till morning.

So… yeah, please tell me what genre that is.

Why do you write what you do?

I only write stories that have been simmering in the back of my mind for a long time.  This one’s been cooking for at least 5 years (maybe longer if I’m honest). I write the stories that I can’t seem to forget. I write the ones that have some emotional nugget in them that keeps twirling itself over and over in my brain and whispering: explore me, write me, there’s a truth in here and it’s waiting for you to find it.

I suppose those are the stories worth telling: the ones that haunt you, the ones that demand your heart.

68701d459c1e0ce432536991c6835b8eHow does your writing process work?

My writing process is a daily, hourly, weekly, yearly exploration of the demands and needs of each individual project. And the needs of each novel (like all the relationships in one’s life) are different.

This book demands immersion. She demands focus for hours at a time. And I’m not talking half-assed freewriting or NaNoWriMo first draft word-puke. This novel wants my blood (kind of like Captain Hook). This novel is a jealous and fickle girl too. She hates it when I look at other projects or I divide my attention with puny necessities like food or sleep. This book wants all of me.

I do the best I can to keep myself immersed in this novel as much as I can (because she likes to hole up and shut me out for weeks if I’m not diligent). I keep an extensive Pinterest page for this novel to make sure my imagination is constantly exploring this world visually. I steal words from other books that sound like they might fit the voice of my novel. I try morning writing where I focus on a detail: the view outside Peter’s window, the color of a mermaid’s hair. Sometimes that detail grows into a scene. Sometimes it’s just drivel. The goal is to keep my mind exploring the story every day.

I do the hefty writing on the weekends. I set aside large chunks of hours and get lost. Immersion. I go to Neverland in my mind and I’m there all day. This book is not a vomit-first draft. It can’t be. I have to spend too much time figuring out who these characters are and their motivations. I can’t skim the surface with them. Instead I dig in and write a scene, then re-write the scene, re-position the scene, re-word the scene, re-everything until I find an emotional heartbeat in it. This isn’t a fast process. But it’s a heartfelt one.

The process for writing every novel is different. For this one … slow and steady wins the race.

May the Tour Continue!

If you enjoyed this little glimpse into the writer’s life, please follow the tour as I pass the torch to Amy Sundberg (my sister in last name, but not by blood) who will share her dazzling process next week!

Amy Sundberg is a SF/F and YA writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Magazine, among others. She lives in California, and when not writing, she’s either buried in a good book, singing musical theater songs, or trying to add more pins to locations visited on her world map. She is an avid blogger at practicalfreespirit.com and can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg

Please also check out the process of my fellow Dystropians who are also posting today as part of this blog tour!

Happy writing everyone!


4 Comments on Blog Tour: My Writing Process, last added: 4/22/2014
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3. Blog Tour: My Writing Process

I’ve been invited to participate in the fabulous #MyWriting Process blog tour! Today is going to be all about process, process, process.

I was tagged to be a part of this tour by the awesome Ellar Cooper, who shared her writing process last week. Ellar is a heart-stopping writing talent. Seriously, I can’t wait for her books to be on the market! She writes young adult fiction and fantasy, and is a Dystropian from Vermont College. Be sure to read her post and peek into her brilliant mind.

And onto the tour…

MY WRITING PROCESSPeter Pan Book

What are you working on?

I’m working on a YA steampunk re-imagining of Peter Pan. There’s no magic and Peter and Hook are the heads of rival gangs that sell a hallucinogenic drug known as Fairy Dust. Wini Darling, the daughter of a bank mogul, is lured into the whimsical and artistic world of the Nevers, a secret underground artist community, in order to help her drug-addicted brother who’s been captured by Pirates. Only it’s not so easy to find her brother and leave the Nevers as she thinks.

Wini finds herself intoxicated by the no-rules artist culture of the Nevers and simultaneously mixed up in a street war between the Pirates and the Lost Boys. Then there’s that thrill-seeking, drunk-on-life Peter fellow who’s got one hell of a sweet spot for Wini Darling. Sometimes, not growing up can be a dangerous adventure.

How is your work different than others in your genre?

The tricky part about this question is I’m not sure how you might classify this book’s “genre.” It happens to be its own crazy cocktail made up of:

  • 1 part bastardization of Victorian steampunk
  • 2 parts fantasy world building
  • A ton of multi-cultural characters to keep track of (Game of Thrones style)
  • A pinch of Doctor Who influence
  • A smidgen of Robin Hood
  • A timeless gargantuan dose of never-gonna-grow-up Peter Pan
  • Two cups of hot-pink graffitti
  • A dash of Ingrid’s deliciously sensual writing
  • And some esoteric psychobabble on the importance of art…
  • Sprinkle in a little fairy dust, grab the spoon second to your left and stir straight on till morning.

So… yeah, please tell me what genre that is.

Why do you write what you do?

I only write stories that have been simmering in the back of my mind for a long time.  This one’s been cooking for at least 5 years (maybe longer if I’m honest). I write the stories that I can’t seem to forget. I write the ones that have some emotional nugget in them that keeps twirling itself over and over in my brain and whispering: explore me, write me, there’s a truth in here and it’s waiting for you to find it.

I suppose those are the stories worth telling: the ones that haunt you, the ones that demand your heart.

68701d459c1e0ce432536991c6835b8eHow does your writing process work?

My writing process is a daily, hourly, weekly, yearly exploration of the demands and needs of each individual project. And the needs of each novel (like all the relationships in one’s life) are different.

This book demands immersion. She demands focus for hours at a time. And I’m not talking half-assed freewriting or NaNoWriMo first draft word-puke. This novel wants my blood (kind of like Captain Hook). This novel is a jealous and fickle girl too. She hates it when I look at other projects or I divide my attention with puny necessities like food or sleep. This book wants all of me.

I do the best I can to keep myself immersed in this novel as much as I can (because she likes to hole up and shut me out for weeks if I’m not diligent). I keep an extensive Pinterest page for this novel to make sure my imagination is constantly exploring this world visually. I steal words from other books that sound like they might fit the voice of my novel. I try morning writing where I focus on a detail: the view outside Peter’s window, the color of a mermaid’s hair. Sometimes that detail grows into a scene. Sometimes it’s just drivel. The goal is to keep my mind exploring the story every day.

I do the hefty writing on the weekends. I set aside large chunks of hours and get lost. Immersion. I go to Neverland in my mind and I’m there all day. This book is not a vomit-first draft. It can’t be. I have to spend too much time figuring out who these characters are and their motivations. I can’t skim the surface with them. Instead I dig in and write a scene, then re-write the scene, re-position the scene, re-word the scene, re-everything until I find an emotional heartbeat in it. This isn’t a fast process. But it’s a heartfelt one.

The process for writing every novel is different. For this one … slow and steady wins the race.

May the Tour Continue!

If you enjoyed this little glimpse into the writer’s life, please follow the tour as I pass the torch to Amy Sundberg (my sister in last name, but not by blood) who will share her dazzling process next week!

Amy Sundberg is a SF/F and YA writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Magazine, among others. She lives in California, and when not writing, she’s either buried in a good book, singing musical theater songs, or trying to add more pins to locations visited on her world map. She is an avid blogger at practicalfreespirit.com and can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg

Please also check out the process of my fellow Dystropians who are also posting today as part of this blog tour!

Happy writing everyone!


0 Comments on Blog Tour: My Writing Process as of 4/22/2014 5:31:00 PM
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4. The WRITING PROCESS Blog Tour

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Welcome to my contribution to
The WRITING PROCESS Blog Tour.

The talented Clara Bowman-Jahn tagged me to join this intriguing Blog Tour on WRITING PROCESSES. Each week, authors post answers to four Writing Process Questions on their blogs. Then they tag friends to play along the following week. You can read Clara’s terrific post, and learn what she's working on, right here. You can also see what’s going on with Clara and her books on Facebook - right here.

Bellow, find my answers (after much head scratching) to the four set questions. At the bottom of the page you'll find the names of  talented writers who’ll carry the “Writing Answers Torch”for next week - Monday the 21st of April.

What am I working on?
Aha, I am getting ready to self publish a picture book that is near and dear to my heart. “Dreamtime Man” was first written many years ago – just scribbled down, and then put aside when more pressing works grabbed my attention.  I would bring it out every so often and rework the rhyme, tweak the meter, and reinvent a verse or two – a rhyming story.  I never forgot it - but life got in the way. This is a tale of bad deeds and tribal suffering:  of how the aboriginal people of Australia were treated when the white man arrived– and after! For this story, near enough was not good enough. I wanted it perfect . . . and perfect takes longer than I imagined. Finally, I was ready  for an illustrator.   
 
I found
Ioana Zdraleaon Linkedin.  After reading Dreamtime Man, and a few words from me, she GOT it – the outback colors, the “feel,” and a wonderful sense of what my verses needed to tell about.  I am eager to see her sketches for verse #2.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
.

I grew up Down Under, in the state of Queensland.  They used to grow a lot of bananas there when I was young, so I was called a Banana-lander.  Aussies have a barefaced independence, a way of thumbing their noses at anything that smells of “set in stone”rules. I think my writing voice shows this.  I also like to mix humor and dire trouble in my young teen books.  Life is full of awful situations that are made bearable by the ability to laugh at yourself.  If kids learn this early, it will make life for them easier to handle.  And even though I now live in the US with my family, my Aussie upbringing still holds sway.  You know the old saying, “You can take the sheila outa OZ, but you can’t take the Aussie outa the Sheila!”


Why do I write what I do?
 

 I write what comes to me in the middle of the night, when my head hits the pillow and I should be snoring.  I guess if erotic ideas chased me into the bathroom at night, begging to be jotted down, I would write best selling erotica and make a bundle!!  BUMMER!  Unfortunately, my brain seems to generate pictures of Aussie adventures, and assorted animals that beg to be written about .  And I can’t imagine Thelma Hill (from The Revenge of Thelma Hill ) doing anything even faintly “naughty.”  She is modeled after my mother for goodness sake!  She does sport the see through filmy gowns, but rattling bones and a musty basement are not conducive to anything vaguely erotic – unless you are REALLY kinky! 

So, I’m stuck writing about ghosts, families separated by an ocean,
Aussie adventures, and picture books with assorted critters, dyslexic boys, rattlesnakes, and grizzly bears.  And as always, the big bucks will pour down onto those who dream up exotic doings.  Sigh. . .



 How does my writing process work?


 Next morning I bring all those nighttime notes to my writing den and see what has real possibilities.  Or, if there’s an idea that beefs up a plot or character I am working on, I slip it into place with a sigh of relief.  Some books almost write themselves.  Others have characters it is hard to pin down, or plots that are always wandering away on their own.  Guess they caught the Aussie independence virus from me.  I have to admit that Down Under Calling was a book that wrote itself.  It poured from me like a river in flood.  The characters are all fictional, but the tales and remembrances that Grandma Rose wrote about to her grandson, Andy, all came from my childhood or my dear mother. It was as if Mom were looking over my shoulder.  A joy to write - and I do hope readers love it as much as I loved writing it.
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Website  -   Books on Amazon   -   Hook Kids on Reading    -    Facebook  (like)   -   Twitter
 SKYPE Makes it Happen (FREE Author Visits)

 
**********************

WHO'S UP NEXT MONDAY! – April 21st 2014.
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AGY WILSON - writer/Illustrator
NOTE:  Agy did the cover art on two of my young teen books.  I named her "Awesome Agy" for a good reason!
Agy loves her family, art, environment, history, calligraphy and all things language. It's only natural for her to throw it into a huge pot and cook up her books. When she is not playing with kids or pets, Agy is usually immersing myself in her work. She is currently working on a coloring book suitable for all ages, and a few more projects - picture books, and beginning readers/chapter books, are included.

*Duke Day for Annie:  available on Amazon, Kindle and hardcopy. 2014
*Nana's Gift: available on Amazon, Kindle and hardcopy. 2012.
*Room Wars: available on Amazon Kindle.  Short story. 2011 
Facebook Fanpage:  https://www.facebook.com/agywilsonwork?ref=hl
Duke Day forAnnie: https://www.facebook.com/dukedayforannie?ref=hl
Website and blog : www.agywilson.com

**********************
 

DONNA SHEPHERD:Donna Shepherd's children's books, Topsy Turvy Land, No More Gunk! & OUCH! Sunburn!, Chizzy's Topsy Tale, Dotty's Topsy Tale, Poodle and Doodle, Sully's Topsy Tale, Bradybug, and Where is Salami? feature short, playful rhymes and humorous illustrations. Be sure to look for the items hidden in each picture by the imaginative artists.

Her newest book for children, Ava's Secret Tea Party, is her first 'girly' book with an old-fashioned fairy tale, hidden teacups and cookies, and recipes and crafts. Available in both paperback and hardcover. Donna is founder of Greater Harvest Workshops and Middletown Area Christian Writers, and in demand as a Bible teacher, conference speaker, and singer with over thirty years of experience.  For writing tips, useful links, and updates about Donna's books, visit her Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/donnajshepherd





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Books for Kids  - Manuscript Critiques
FREE Skype Author Visits to Schools



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0 Comments on The WRITING PROCESS Blog Tour as of 4/14/2014 6:29:00 PM
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5. The True Source of Dreams

Lately, I’ve noticed how some writers are getting more and more discouraged because they aren’t able to place their manuscripts with their long-time publishers or agents. After many years of writing and publishing, they are becoming pessimistic about the future of their work. Editors don’t respond to their submissions, agents no longer call or else tell them that their work isn't current,

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6. In which I speak of Razorhurst in front of a Camera

As I may have mentioned once or twice I have a new book, Razorhurst, set on the seedy streets of Sydney in 1932 and packed with deliciously dangerous dames and brutal, bloodthirsty blokes. It’ll be published in Australia and New Zealand by Allen and Unwin in July and in the USA by Soho Teen in March 2015.1

The good people at Allen and Unwin made this vid in which I answer some questions about the book:

Very happy to answer any other questions you might have about it. Yes, it will be available as an ebook. No, I don’t use product to get my hair to do that.

  1. Which may I point out is less than a year away!

0 Comments on In which I speak of Razorhurst in front of a Camera as of 4/2/2014 7:33:00 PM
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7. Call for Presenters: 2014 Indiana Writers' Consortium

Indiana Writers’ Consortium (IWC) is pleased to announce the extension of its annual networking dinner to include an intimate, high quality, and affordable half-day writers’ conference on October 11, 2014. The conference, which will take place at the Hilton Garden Inn, in Merrillville, Indiana, will include multiple afternoon breakout sessions and be followed by a dinner and keynote address by Barbara Shoup, author of seven novels, executive director of Indiana Writers Center, associate editor of OV Books, and an associate faculty member at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

IWC seeks proposals from individuals and groups who are at different stages in their writing careers that will represent a broad range of perspectives and experiences. Presentations may include topics such as:

· Writing and craft
· Business of publishing
· Creative writing pedagogy
· Academic and community program development
· Genre trends

Interactive individual presentation, four-to-five person panels, creative writing workshops, and round table discussions are welcome.

Submission Instructions:

Deadline: May 1, 2014

Submit: A 250-word abstract that includes the session title, description, format, and presenter names. Each presenter should include a 50-word bio and .jpg photo.

Submit to:

indianawritersconsortiumATgmail.com (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

Please indicate “IWC Half-day Conference Proposal” in the subject line.

Questions may be directed to: Janine Harrison at:

indianawritersconsortiumATgmailDOTcom  (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

Indiana Writers' Consortium inspires and builds a community of creative writers. We are dedicated to educating writers through speakers, seminars, and children's programs. IWC provides educational and networking opportunities for writers in all stages of their careers. We are a nonprofit organization incorporated in Indiana in 2008 and a public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code.

The Indiana Writers' Consortium inspires and builds a community of creative writers. Like us on Facebook.

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8. Choosing Your Own Adventures

Writing Life Banner

by

E.C. Myers

EC MyersOne of my favorite parts of writing happens when I’m not writing. You know, those moments during the day when you’re thinking about, maybe even dreaming about, the story or the characters in your work in progress. I love brainstorming, whether it’s my own book or someone else’s work, because there’s a sense of play to it; you aren’t committing anything to paper yet, so it doesn’t take much work. (It also may not feel like work, so you might worry you’re just procrastinating, but trust me, it’s useful.) You can feel free to be as goofy or wild as you want–you’re just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. And it’s cool because you’re working on your book anywhere and everywhere: in the shower, walking your dog, on line at the bank, riding the train, reading other books, watching TV, in meetings at work. A little part of my brain never stops thinking about my novel.

20140324_224646

I can’t speak to every writer’s experience, but this is how my imagination works. The more I think about the story, the more ideas I have. Often, my subconscious mind makes connections that needed days, weeks, or months to develop. Initially, I avoided outlining because I wanted to give myself as much of that flexibility as possible to discover the story and let it develop organically, but I’ve since realized that outlining can also get you thinking about the whole thing much earlier, and there’s nothing limiting about it–it’s just one path, and you can take the story in different directions any time a better idea presents itself. I like research for the same reason; all that reading feeds me more ideas and opens up new possibilities.

So this book I’m working on… It started with a lot of brainstorming and outlining, then I started drafting it and inevitably veered off from the outline a bit. I got some great notes from my editors, and I just completed the first major revision—a few hours ago. As I tried to re-imagine the plot and characters and come up with a better ending, the whole process reminded me of something very old, something from my childhood: Choose Your Own Adventure.

20140324_221124You’ve probably seen a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) book at some point, or one of the many similar series borrowing the concept. They’re basically stories that present many decisions for the reader, allowing you to have some control over the story. “If you decide to start back home, turn to page 4. If you decide to wait, turn to page 5.” There are usually only a few “good” endings and many bad, boring, or mediocre ones. When I read them as a kid, I always wanted to make sure I had taken every choice, explored every path, seen every ending. And I realized recently that all those CYOA books had been training me from early on to be a creative writer.

The way I plot out a book is really similar to how these books are set up. At each major plot point, I have to decide what the characters are going to do next, and what impact that will have on the story farther down the line. I’m constantly coming up with various scenarios and playing them out, discarding them, picking up another thread, trying something else. Working with Scrivener makes it even easier, and more fluid, because I can rewrite a scene several different ways, then revert to a previous version if none of them fit. I can move the scene or cut it entirely. I’m trying to see every path, and test every ending—all in search of the one “good” ending for the book. Of course, it’s preferable if I don’t have to actually write every alternative first.

20140324_224453It’s probably no wonder that I like stories about parallel universes so much. In some ways, each draft of my book is an alternate version of itself. (Sometimes I can’t even keep them straight anymore. Was that in the final draft, or did I cut it?) Fun fact: In the original ending of Fair Coin, Ephraim stops Nate from using the coin to facilitate a shooting spree at their high school. What?! Yeah. It was super dark, and very wrong for the book, and I knew it while I was writing it. (On the other hand, it was also my first novel, so.) But I often have to take some of those wrong turns and try out the “bad” endings — sometimes just to get to the end — before I can figure out what the real ending is supposed to be. Making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad writer, it just means you have to turn to a new page and try again. Revision is like getting to erase those unsuccessful outcomes and make a better decision.

Did you read Choose Your Own Adventure? Which was your favorite? And how do you plot out your endings?

The End

E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. He is the author of the Andre Norton Award–winning young adult novel FAIR COIN and its sequel, QUANTUM COIN, as well as numerous short stories in anthologies and magazines. You can find traces of him all over the internet, but especially at his blogTwitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

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9. What Authors can learn from the Great Law…

RF Stock Photo 19797845
In a nutshell, here’s the rule to the Great Law: If you do what other successful authors do, over and over again, nothing can stop you from eventually enjoying the same rewards that they do. But if you don’t do what successful authors do, nothing can help you.

So, success is not an accident. Sadly, failure is not an accident either. You succeed, over and over, until these behaviors become a habit. Likewise, you fail if you don’t do what successful authors do. In either case, nature is neutral. Nature does not take sides. Nature doesn’t care. What happens to you is simply a matter of law—the law of cause and effect.

In Buddhism it is simply stated: Good deeds bring good results. Bad deeds bring bad results. Your own deeds bring your own results. Easy-peasy, right? Well, not so easy for many of us wanna-be bestsellers. But, if you want to be the kind of writer you desire to be, then start by following what your ‘role model’ author does, and over time and effort, you’ll reach the same heights as he or she or they have. It’s not a quick rich scheme. It’s not even a plan for being an overnight success. It’s a hard and messy and nerve wracking journey. And it’s WORTH it, if that’s where you’re heading. I hope to see you on the road less traveled in the near future!

Who are some of your ‘role model’ authors? What are you doing that they’re doing? Cheers! 

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10. Getting Away

One of the things I need most as a writer is a routine. For me that’s not as much about what time of day I write, that varies, but about where I write. When I sit at my ergonomically gorgeous desk and writing set up I write because it is the place of writing.

Unlike many other writers I don’t have a specific moment that signals writing will commence. I don’t drink coffee so that’s not how I start my day. Some days I write for a bit before breakfast. Some days not till after brekkie, going to the gym, and doing various chores. I do have a broad time for writing: daylight. I almost never write at night. When the sun is down I take a break from writing. That’s when I get to socialise and to absorb other people’s narratives via conversation, TV, books etc.

I have found, however, that I can’t write every single day. I need at least one day off a week. And I can’t go months and months and months without a holiday from writing.

Getting away from my ergonomic set up and the various novels I’m writing turns out to be as important to me as my writing routine. Time off helps my brain. Who’d have thunk it? Um, other than pretty much everyone ever.

I spent the last few days in the Blue Mountains. Me and Scott finally managed to walk all the way to the Ruined Castle. We saw loads of gorgeous wildlife, especially lyrebirds. There was no one on the path but us. Oh and this freaking HUGE goanna (lace monitor). I swear it was getting on for 2 metres from end of tail to tongue:

Photo taken by me from the rock I leapt on to get out of its way.

Photo taken by me from the rock I jumped on to get out of its way.

This particular lace monitor was in quite a hurry. Given that they have mouths full of bacteria (they eat carrion) and they’re possibly venomous getting out of its way is imperative. It seemed completely oblivious of me and Scott. Which, was a very good thing.

Watching it motor past us was amazing. All the while the bellbirds sang. Right then I wasn’t thinking about anything but that goanna.

Which is why getting away is so important. Clears your mind. Helps your muscles unknot.1 Lets you realise that finishing your novel is not, in fact, a matter of life and death.

At the same time two days into the little mini-holiday I realised what the novel I’m writing is missing. The answer popped into my brain as I tromped along the forest floor past tree ferns and gum trees breathing in the clean, clean air, listening to those unmistakeable Blue Mountain sounds2:

megalongvalley

And it was good. Really good.

TL:DR: Writing routine good; getting away from writing routine also good.

  1. After their relieved that the goanna has gone away.
  2. Did I mention the bellbirds? I love them

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11. Gazing Inward

“In the depths of winter I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.”   -Albert Camus  “To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy.” – Orhan Pamuk  So often if we want to write stories, we are told to look and listen for them as if they are “

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12. Welcome to the #WritingProcess Blog Tour!

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The #WritingProcess Blog Tour connects authors all over the world with the intent to share blogs and the writing life. I was tapped to contribute to the blog tour by Natalia Sarkassian, who writes fiction and nonfiction. Her short fiction has received several awards, and her nonfiction depicts an up-close and deeply personal understanding of foreign and exotic cultures. I've had the pleasure of reading portions of Natalia's novel-in-progress, Mrs. May in Egypt, a book that captures the current troubled climate in that country. Do check out Natalia's blog, Post Cards from Italy, where you'll find her photographs to be as enchanting as her writing.

I must confess that I feel a bit uncomfortable talking about myself on this blog, but since I have no other blog available, I decided to use this resource as an opportunity to introduce you to me and to some of my fellow authors. As you explore the #TheWritingProcess Blog Tour, be sure to click on the links from previous contributors. I can assure you that you are in for a real treat. All of these authors are immensely talented folks, and I'm delighted to be included in their midst.

The #WritingProcess Blog Tour asks the participants to answer four questions, so let us begin:

1) What are you working on?

For the past few months, I've been working almost exclusively on the revisions of my novel, Blood of a Stone, forthcoming from Tuscany Press in June 2014. This is a historical literary novel set in first century Palestine. The story follows the adventures of a slave who murders his master, sets out to silence those who could reveal the truth about his past, and eventually finds redemption for his crimes.

Prior to beginning the revisions of Blood of a Stone, I was finishing a draft of my second novel, The Double Sun. Set in the mid-20th century, the story is narrated from four distinct points of view and spans thirty years. The Double Sun is about a family of downwinders, people who have suffered the adverse affects of radioactive fallout from the atomic bomb tests in Nevada during the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these downwinders have been afflicted with cancer and other serious illnesses.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

This is a tough question to answer because I'm not sure how it does differ. However, I can tell you what my readers and critiquers say: My writing tends toward the dark side in that I often write about unlikeable or troubled characters, people who may have good intentions but who make terrible choices. I have also been told that I have a sparse, direct voice--nothing too flowery. Much of my fiction is historical in nature or requires a fair amount of research to add verisimilitude. My first novel, for example, takes place 2000 years ago. My second novel begins in the mid-1950s and ends in the 1990s. Many of my short stories also have a historical setting. Perhaps that speaks to my passion for history and my love of research.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I've always been fascinated by difficult, unstable, or unhappy people. What makes them do the things they do? Why do we love them even when they hurt us? And there is that ever important question: What if? What if Character A does X to Character B, what will happen? Delving deep into my characters, exploring their flaws, foibles, actions, and desires, helps me better understand the human condition.

4) What is your writing process?

Diane Lefer, also a participant in the #WritingProcess Blog Tour (visit her blog, Nobody Wakes Up Pretty), once told me: "You are a careful writer." At the time, I wondered if being a careful writer was a good thing or a bad thing, but Diane, who was also my advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts, explained to me that she wanted me to take more risks, throw away my cautious nature and see what happens. She sent me off to read Kate Braverman's Squandering the Blue, and I've never been the same since. Risk is now my middle name.

That said, I tend to be an organized writer when it comes to managing my time and my projects. I work on a regular schedule--usually in the morning--and set deadlines for myself. I begin every day filling out a planner, and the highest priority item is the writing. A few years ago, I began thinking of myself as a working writer. In other words, writing is my job. It may be a job that I love, but it's still a job that requires commitment, meeting deadlines, planning, and punctuality. I know that sounds rigid to some people, but when I used to rely on inspiration, I spent a lot of time rolling out unfinished drafts, submitting little, and publishing almost nothing. The change in my mindset has resulted in a higher level of productivity and what I believe to be higher quality writing.

My short stories are often formed around a single image or snippet of dialogue that sends me off on a quest to know more. My novels begin with the ending. I imagine a character at his final destination and begin to sort out the journey that brought him or her there. Years ago, an early mentor taught me the technique of story-boarding a novel. I still use this method for drafting a book and for the revisions because it allows me to see the big picture. In both instances, I block out the novel on a giant bulletin board where I write a one-sentence description of each major scene on an index card. Those cards are then arranged under the appropriate chapter headings on the bulletin board. This makes it easy for me to see where I need more scenes, where I have repetition, where the pace lags, etc. I've shared pictures of my story board for The Double Sun and my revision board for Blood of a Stonebelow.

My story/inspiration board for The Double Sun:





You'll notice that I have headings for years as well as chapters because the story spans three decades. The chapters all have titles, and the scene cards are arranged below the chapters they appear in. On the right side of the board, I've posted my inspirations for the book, including photographs of various settings in the novel.


My revision board for Blood of a Stone:



Colored index cards! Since the story is essentially mapped out and is in the process of being revamped or remapped, I've used color-coded index cards to indicate what revision stage the scene is in. Green cards are still waiting my final revisions. Yellow cards are "good to go." The chapters for this book are numbered with no titles. Earlier versions of this book had different colored cards. It may be all an illusion, but the changes in color give me a sense of progress.

Be sure to tune in next week to read the words of Jennifer (Jenna) McGuiggan. Jenna and I first met in a writing workshop at Vermont College of Fine Arts where I earned my MFA in Writing. I remember that particular workshop as one infused with enthusiasm and excitement. My fellow workshop participants, including Jenna, were incredibly supportive, and we spent a lot of time engaged in stimulating discussions about craft. Jenna is also involved in roller derby, something that scares  the stuffing out of me. Her bio and a link to her blog:

Jennifer (Jenna) McGuiggan is a  writer, editor, and teacher based in  southwestern Pennsylvania. Her articles and essays have appeared in a variety of publications, including Numéro Cinq Magazine, Connotation Press, Extract(s), and Mingle. She previously served as an assistant editor for the journal Hunger Mountain. In 2009, she curated and published Lanterns: A Gathering of Stories,  a collection of prose, poetry, and photography by seven women writers and artists. Jenna received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2011 and is currently working on several prose manuscripts. Visit Jenna online in The Word Cellar, where she writes about everything from navigating the writing life to venturing into the world of roller derby.



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13. Time Management Tuesday: Using Word Count To Help Manage Time

I was wandering around last week's IndieReCon (I still haven't finished browsing the offerings there), when I came upon what was called on the schedule How to Write Fast: 2k to 10k, 2 Years Later by Rachel Aaron. (It's called something different when you follow the link.) Write fast! I thought. If I could do that, wouldn't it have a big, big impact on how I spend my time?

I also recalled hearing about other writers who do use word count to help them manage time. They set themselves a word limit that they must do each day and don't stop working until they've met it. Word count for time management isn't something we've discussed here, so I checked out this IndieReCon offering.

I am not going to address quality and the issue of whether more is less or less is more. Is it better to write a few brilliant passages or crank out some serious volume of whatever quality that you can at least edit in the future? I'm going to try to stick to word count with no value judgement.

Author Rachel Aaron got started writing about word count back in 2011 with a post at her blog called How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day. In it she says there are three elements to increasing word count. The first two I found particularly interesting.

  • Know what you're going to write before you get started. This means doing some planning at the beginning of each writing session. Serious plotters/outliners may say they've already done this. Organic writers, such as myself, might want to create a daily pre-writing planning routine. I'm still revising right now, so it will be a while before I can try it.
  • Analyze how you're using your writing time. Over a period of a couple of months, keep track of your word count and determine what time of the day it is highest. Then try to make sure that you're able to work then.
  • Try to find something to excite you about every scene you have to write. Word count goes up when you're writing the fun scenes. (Sometimes known as candy bar scenes.)
Aaron says in her IndieReCon piece that after two years she isn't writing at the 10,000 word rate she'd first hit when she came up with her system. That would produce 5 to 6 books a year. She's writing at a rate that produces 3 to 4. That's still fast writing.

I don't know how well relying heavily on word count for managing time will work, given the situational problems writers often find themselves dealing with. Word count for a WIP goes out the window if you have to plan a presentation or revise for an editor. Plus Aaron is a self-published writer. Being able to write multiple books a year is important to many self-pubs, particularly the more entrepreneurial ones who are truly trying to make a living with just writing. Other types of writers who have income sources through teaching and making appearances or just a regular day job won't  feel a need to produce as much that quickly. But given all the demands on writers' time, doesn't being able to write more quickly sound very attractive?

Aaron has written a book about writing faster, which I just bought. I'll check it out and be posting on anything new I find there.


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14. Hard Thinking

It’s one of those days when I spend more time thinking about what I’m writing than actually writing. I think about how I want to proceed, and where I think the story is going, and where the story is actually going. These days devoted to thinking are becoming almost as important as the days that I spend writing. One of my teachers, Norma Fox Mazer, once told me that the hardest part

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15. Inside These Walls by Rebecca Coleman (Review, Interview and Giveaway)

From the moment you open Inside These Walls by Rebecca Coleman, you're transported to the world of a women’s prison and introduced to Clara Mattingly who is serving a life sentence for murder. Rebecca’s writing is superb, and Clara is instantly a likeable and sympathetic character, whom you will cheer for, even though she’s also a cold-blooded killer.

Rebecca isn’t tricking the reader into liking Clara. It’s obvious that there’s more to the story than just murder—that Clara has the proverbial skeletons in her closet. After twenty-five years behind bars, she’s choosing to forget the past and stay focused on her present, which in prison means keeping her head down and staying out of trouble.

The problem is Clara’s famous, and so other inmates love to pick on her, which often results in serious injuries. Her crime, along with her boyfriend Ricky, was made into a movie. Hollywood turned their story into an almost Charles Manson type of drama, where Ricky led Clara and his other friends into a 24-hour crime spree that resulted in several murders.

Clara lives her prison life helping her blind cellmate and working on Braille textbooks, while remembering her life as an artist and her love for ballet before the night that changed her life forever. You'll keep turning pages because of the author’s set-up, trying to discover how did this bright, young, talented girl follow her boyfriend and murder people?

Rebecca reveals the true story once an unexpected visitor appears to see Clara in prison, and her heart immediately yearns for love and freedom. At the same time, a reporter writing a book about Ricky asks Clara for information, even though she has never before granted an interview. Because of the visitor, Clara decides it’s time to reveal the truth; and as the book progresses to the end, you discover the circumstances leading up to the crime.

Themes in this book include religion—Clara is Catholic and does follow her faith in prison, including going to confession and taking communion; forgiveness; self-preservation; abuse; independence and freedom; friendship; loyalty; love; truth and more.This is the perfect book club choice, as readers will debate Clara’s crimes, her confessions, her circumstances and even the ending. On Rebecca’s website (http://www.rebeccacoleman.net), book clubs can sign up for a possible Skype or phone visit from the author.

Inside These Walls is one of those novels that will keep you up past your bedtime because you want to discover the secrets Clara has kept and what landed her in one of the worst places imaginable—prison. Here are a few words straight from Rebecca about her novel and writing career: 

WOW: What made you want to write about a woman in prison--and then in a high-profile case?

Rebecca: Once the story started taking shape, it became more interesting to make it a high-profile case because it would make sense why someone would want to interview Clara for a book. But as to why I wrote it in the first place--the only truthful answer is. . .because it's the story that showed up in my head! I never start out with a specific topic in mind--I want to write about an emotion, and then I find a story that gives a structure and a progressive arc to that emotion. With Inside These Walls, it was about the feeling of being given a second chance at something very, very important and how far a person would go not to squander that chance. And what could challenge that more than being in prison?

WOW: Thanks for explaining how the story took shape. It's always interesting to hear from successful authors how their brain works. How did you get your agent, Stephany Evans (in other words--meet at conference, slush pile, etc)?

Rebecca: I sent her a query letter by e-mail, but it was an unusually nervy move for me. Normally I'd go to an agency's website, look to see who the newest agents were, and query them, thinking they were still building their lists and would be more open to a new, untested writer. I'd gotten stacks and stacks of rejections. Then my first book, The Kingdom of Childhood, became a semifinalist in Amazon's ABNA contest, and that gave me the courage to query higher up the food chain. I have to say, Stephany is the perfect agent for me. She is conscientious and tenacious and attentive. I ended up feeling glad for all the rejection because in the end it gave me the opportunity to work with Stephany.

WOW: The advice we all hear is that finding the perfect agent should fit like finding the perfect spouse or mate. We're so happy that has happened for you. What's up next?

Rebecca: Thanks for asking! I'm working on a new story that features a character my readers have seen before--that's all I can say.

WOW: Now, that's a teaser. I can't wait to find out about that! How do you balance writing and marketing?

Rebecca: It's a serious challenge! You have to schedule the business part, so the creative aspect doesn't eat all your time. It's easiest for me to spend the first hour of a work day dealing with Twitter and e-mail, then set myself free to write for the rest of the day. It's tough because writing asks you to lock yourself in a room with your imaginary friends, and marketing requires you to go out there and take risks with real people. A lot of writers write specifically because they don't want to do that.

WOW: Very true! What's one piece of advice you would give to new writers?

Rebecca: Don't be a diva. To succeed in this business, you need to be able to take criticism, be enjoyable to work with, be flexible, and make many more friends than enemies. If you can do all that and be true to yourself as a writer, then nothing can hold you back.

WOW: Thank you for that wonderful advice. Please keep WOW! readers informed on your next book. We'd love to hear about it. 

Readers, don't forget, you can enter to win a copy of this wonderful book, Inside These Walls, by entering the Rafflecopter form below! Good luck!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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16. Keeping a writing blog: taking our writing workshop online

With the  Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge  just around the corner, perhaps some of you are thinking more than ever about starting a class blog just for writing.    Over the past few… Read More

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17. The Weekend Writer: Revision Means Getting Rid Of What You Don't Need

I'm in the midst of a big revision right now, and I'm doing things a little differently. I had two influences.

The Plot Whisperer


In The Plot Whisperer Martha Alderson writes about making sure that scenes include dramatic action, character development, and thematic significance. I'm working with a chart to keep track of those three elements in each chapter. What about material that doesn't relate to any of those things?

Some Disappointing Reading


For several years, one of my sons and I have been slowly making our way through a beloved fantasy series. I gave him the next volume last year for Christmas. He passed it on to me earlier this year with the comment, "It's not very good."

I finally started reading it a few weeks ago, and I have to agree with my offspring's assessment. Right away I could tell what was bothering me about the book. There was lots of clever, even amusing, material that didn't relate to any story. It didn't deal with the dramatic action and character development Alderson wrote about, and that early into the story I had no way of knowing if it had anything to do with thematic significance. This somewhat random wordiness made the book  slow reading. It was difficult to tell just what the narrative line was, so I had little desire to follow it. In fact, I've put the book aside.

What Does This Mean For My Project?


Taking the two influences together--Alderson's contention that dramatic action, character development, and thematic significance be included in every scene and my reading of a book with scenes that included a lot of material that didn't relate to any of those things--led me to become hyperaware of material in my manuscript that had nothing to do with action, character, or theme. What I'm finding is that a lot of that material no longer seems necessary. It drags down my reading. So it's being cut.

Right now I'm not missing it.



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18. The Cupcake Project: The Value Of Writing Every Day

My long-suffering Facebook Friends heard me go on at length yesterday about the 120 plus or minus cupcakes I had to ice and box up. During a roughly 6-hour period I also made an additional two-dozen cupcakes that didn't need icing as well as some mini-meatloaves and asparagus for dinner.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Gail. But did you do any writing?

I did some yesterday morning. And that led to something happening yesterday during my cupcake binge.

While I was revising a chapter yesterday morning, I realized that a lot of what I was reading was similar to what I'd read in the chapter before. I felt that the new chapter was necessary because it dealt with the protagonist's parents' response to what he was doing. But this is a mystery, and the details being discussed had all appeared in the chapter before. If I couldn't come up with a new significant step in the story, I might need to eliminate a section. If I eliminated a section, I might be left with a hole in the plot that would need to be filled.

While I was working on cupcakes, the significant step I needed came to me. I had a breakout experience. With breakout experiences it's easy to focus on the breakout, because that idea/thought is so important. But the breakout can't come without some input first. You take in information, work to a point at which nothing more is happening for you, then let your brain relax with a totally different activity. Like icing and fancying up cupcakes.

So the work/input is important, maybe the most important part of the process.The more you work, the more opportunities you have for breakout experiences. Conversely, the less you work, the fewer opportunities you'll have for those breakouts. Writing every day won't insure a daily breakout experience, but it increases your opportunities for having them at some point.

In fact, writing every day helps make it possible for you to keep working when you're not, technically, working because you're relaxed brain is doing something with the material you provided it with earlier in the day.


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19. The Weekend Writer: Organic Writers And Plotters

I am an organic writer, as I said earlier this month, which makes it difficult for me to talk about plotting. What is an organic writer, you ask? I've seen references to us for a long time, but usually the references aren't very involved, as if many people aren't clear on what we are. ("I may not know organic writers, but I recognize one when I see one!") We are said to write by the seat of our pants. Thus you sometimes hear us referred to by the mildly vulgar term "pantsers." We are said not to plot. I once saw a blogger describe us as using our first drafts to find our stories, meaning we sit down to write before we know what our story will be.

Plotters, on the other hand, presumably plot out their stories before they start to write. My understanding is that they know what they're going to write, they just have to sit down and do it. I once read a plotter describe spending three months working out his plot before he started actually writing. I don't know if most plotting writers do that, or if plots spring from their heads fully formed, or how they work at all. I can only guess what they do.

My last Weekend Writer post dealt with The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson. Alderson provides some of the best writing on organic writers that I've ever seen.

Organic writers, she says, tend to think in pictures, as in "the big picture,"  rather than language, while plotters go the other way. They are more analytical and detail oriented. Organic writers tend to prefer writing about characters while plotters prefer dramatic action. Organic writers tend to see a story as a whole and are short on details. Plotters tend to see the story in its parts. Organic writers may concentrate on character and end up being weak on the action that drives readers to stick with a story. Plotters may concentrate on action scenes and lose readers who need human interest.

I agree with a lot of what Alderson has to say about organic writers. Our interest in the big picture tends to leave us going, Okay, how do I get to that big picture? This is why formulaic plotting plans often aren't very useful for us. They involve coming up with details. A problem to solve and roadblocks to solving said problem or, heaven help me, metaphorical doors to go through or not are more mystifying than not for us. If I have problems coming up with details, telling me to come up with details isn't going to provide me with a lot of help.

Plotters are like engineers who design every element of a project so that it can be built into a completed whole. Plotters supposedly know what's going to happen in their story after they have their plot worked out, just as engineers know how their project will turn out once they've finished their, though both may have to make some changes before the job is done. Organic writers are also like engineers, engineers who have to "fast track" a project, meaning construction begins before they've finished the design. Organic writers frequently begin writing before they even are clear on what the basic story is going to be. Their process is all about design changes.

In future posts, I'll have more to say about writing process for organic writers.

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20. That Was A Bit Of An Ordeal

I have a book-length work-in-progress that is actually in progress. This is the first time since the eBook publication effort for Saving the Planet & Stuff. Huzzah.

I got started on this in April, prepping for May Days, a unit of time I used to plan scenes for this project. Planning scenes is like plotting but different. Perhaps it could replace plotting for those who struggle with that.

I actually got started writing sometime this summer (maybe August?), working from that scene list. I was two and a half chapters and thirty-nine pages in, when I realized I still had a ways to go to get to the big disturbance to my protagonist's world. If you've been following my plotting posts for The Weekend Writer, you know that I'm very interested in the initial disturbance that starts a story. I had a secondary disturbance in the very first sentence, but the big one was taking a while to get to.

So for a little more than two weeks, I've been revising those two and a half chapters, changing the structure of the first chapter dramatically so that readers move back and forth between the day of the big reveal and how the protagonist got there. Instead of two and a half chapters and thirty-nine pages without reaching what I wanted to reach, I now have one twenty-eight page chapter, and I'm where I want to be to get the story going. In fact, the story is going.


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21. Time Management Tuesday: Another Month-long Unit

My May Days buddies like to make another month-long group binge-writing effort in the fall. This year I'm working with them during the month of October. The plan, once again, is to write two pages a day, and report how we're doing each Monday.

I have probably discussed the issue of whether or not two pages is all that difficult a daily task. It's not. The issue is that writing has become something writers do less of than in days of old. That bugaboo marketing, in all its many, many manifestations, takes up a lot of time, but so does teaching for many writers, workshop planning, public appearances, and submissions. Finding time for the real creative work involved with writing can be an effort, even if you don't have problems with staying on task. It's particularly difficult if you're trying to get started on a new, book-length project.

My plan for my own personal Octoberfest, as I'm calling this month's unit of time, is to:

  • Sprint at least five days a week
  • Generate two pages of material as many days of the week as possible
  • Allow the two pages of new material to include new scene planning, if need be
  • Learn to do what I'm going to call skim writing, meaning I'm going to try not to stop to get obsessive about perfecting factual bits, names, etc. I want to leave ______ or bold placeholders, which I hope will help me move ahead generating material that will provide the solutions for those blank spaces and placeholders that I can then go back and correct. I get bogged down much, much too often with those types of things for my taste.
And, of course, I hope to be able to wring another blog post or two from this experience.

I have already done today's two pages. Now I need to go off to do some marketing/networking types of things.

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22. Writing with Fans in Mind: What Will I Put on the Website?


Now available! Prewriting for the Common Core

Last week, I wrote a post about author websites and decided this week that I and better take my own advice! First, I updated the theme of this blog and added a homepage and a homepage for the blog. There are other behind-the-scenes improvements, mostly improving the way the site displays on mobile devices. (If you notice any problems with the website update, I’d appreciate an email!)

Second, last week, I quoted a study that said fans come looking for certain things on an author’s website. I am working on a draft of my new story this week and that study keeps haunting me. Am I providing any of these things on a regular basis? Is there any reason for a fan of my writing to keep coming back to my website?

These thoughts are starting to change how I write. Now, I also have open a second file that is a list of things to put on the website to go with this book.

Specifically, let’s go through the list of what fans want on an author website and see how you might plan for this as you write.

  • Exclusive, unpublished writing. 43% of book fans surveyed said they return regularly for exclusive content. While I am writing, I am keep a radar out for writing ideas that take off on a tangent. It may be a topic that doesn’t belong in the book because it would destroy the pacing. But it might work perfectly on the website as Exclusive Content. Maybe a short vignette, a short story, an episode. Maybe it’s a letter that the character might write to another character. For my current WIP, it’s recipes. One character refuses to eat eggs of any kind, so we have eggless cakes and such.
  • Author Schedules. 36% of book fans surveyed want to know the author’s schedule of tours, book signings, and area appearances. I couldn’t figure out how to plan for this one while I wrote. I did, however, add a News page to my blog, where I plan to regularly post the small successes that come my way.
  • Author’s Literary Tastes. Readers want lists of the author’s favorite writers and recommended books. Younger fans are also more interested in knowing about their favorite authors’ book, music, and movie recommendations. This one is a bit harder, too, because it doesn’t relate directly to the current WIP. For me, it will probably take the form of a focus on Pinterest. I need to spend an evening creating a couple boards of Recommended Books, Favorite Music, Movie Recommendations. And to complement my current WIP, I need to do something related to it. Maybe eggless recipes again. Or the story has aliens, so maybe a board of Alien Pics, UFOs, etc. I’ve always liked it when authors post a playlist of music for a book. I shouldn’t be surprised when kids like this, too.
  • Insider Information. 36% of readers (especially men) want “insider” tidbits. This is one of the main changes I am trying to make as I write. I am trying to notice where I do research and capture the URLs of interesting websites. Later, I’ll write about the inspiration I found from these sites. For example, one setting in the current WIP is a City Hall and I needed something interesting to happen there. What could be weirder than the truth?
  • Freebies. 33% want downloadable extras like icons and sample chapters. I am sorta lumping this in with the exclusive, umpublished writing above. I hope to have a couple side stories and/or recipes as freebies. But I am also paying attention to ideas for free wallpapers and such. I’ll look for easy ways to add things like that. Any suggestions?
  • Regular contact. 33% of readers want weekly e-mail news bulletins with updates on tours, reviews, and books in progress. I already have this covered. See the signup in the sidebar to get on my mailing list.
  • Fans under the age of 35: these fans like contests, puzzles, and games, with prizes like autographed copies of books. Well, this is hard, too, to plan for as I write. I am keeping a radar out, though, for contest, puzzle and game ideas. And I’ll certainly offer book giveaways when it’s appropriate. But overall, I’m not sure this one really affects my writing process much.

Overall, then, it is the extra writing and the insider information that needs to run parallel to my writing process. By the time this next book is written, I’ll have plenty of material for the website. Only time will tell if the fans come.
Author Website Affects Writing Process by Darcy Pattison


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23. The Weekend Writer: Picture Book Edition

I have made two attempts at writing a picture book. The first time, the editor I submitted it to said the humor was more appropriate for middle grade students, suggested I rewrite and resubmit it. That became my first book, My Life Among the Aliens. When I tried again, a writing group partner suggested that effort would work better as a chapter book. My editor agreed with her. That evolved into A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat.

My take away from these two experiences is that not every idea is appropriate for a picture book. Unfortunately, I've got nothing on what exactly is a workable picture book idea.

I have another take away on picture books from a teacher's conference I attended in 1999. Cecilia Yung explained that the pictures in picture books don't just illustrate text. They actually carry part of the story themselves. Things like setting, characters' emotions, some action don't appear in the text. They appear in the illustration. A reader takes in the whole story at once through text and image. The illustrations in a picture book can even have their own storyline.

This was kind of mind boggling to me. It's one thing for author/illustrators to create a picture because they can work both aspects of the story at the same time. But how do writers working on their own create a story that doesn't include large amounts of the information that goes into the illustrations but isn't so bare bones that agents and editors don't find it uninteresting?

Clearly, I've never been able to work that out.

3 Comments on The Weekend Writer: Picture Book Edition, last added: 11/25/2013
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24. Does “Published” Need to be “Perfect?”

There's a reason for second and third editions of really great books--a writer's work is never done, and is certainly never, ever perfect.

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25. Time Management Tuesday: Will Sprinting--And A New Laptop--Get Me Through The Holidays?

Last year on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I asked the question Will The Unit System Get Me Through The Holidays? The answer, at least for Thanksgiving, was, "No." Four days later, all the only work-related activity I'd done was an e-mail. The next day I was still writing about oozing back into a writing practice.

Things went a lot better this past Thanksgiving weekend. This year I used a smaller unit of time to keep me at work--a twenty minute sprint. With that I was able to squeeze in a little writing every day except Thanksgiving, itself.

Why Was I Able To Work More On Thanksgiving Weekend This Year?


I think sprinting worked for a number of reasons:

  • Yes, twenty minutes is less time than the forty-five minute blocks I usually work in, so it's easier to find that short a chunk of time and stick with it.
  • I'd been sprinting once a day on workdays for a month or two in addition to my other work, so I had some practice with it.
  • I'd been trying to sprint on weekends for a month or two, so I had some practice with it.
  • I use a laptop now, which means I'm not tied to one spot in the house for work. My laptop is often wandering around the house with me, so grabbing it for a twenty-minute sprint on the couch or at the dining room table or even the kitchen counter is incredibly easy. There is no thinking about when I can force myself to the office.

What A Twenty-Minute Sprint Does For An Organic Writer


I am not wracking up a big word count with sprints, especially since I'm revising right now. But what sprinting during periods when you wouldn't normally work at all does is keep writers in their projects. For organic writers, that's a huge benefit. We can't plan out an entire book or even portions of it. Instead, writing generates more writing for us. Working on an idea generates the next idea. We depend on continuing to "work" with break-out experiences when we're not actually hammering out words to a greater extent than plotting writers probably do. Working for twenty minutes early Friday evening could mean that an hour or so later some ideas will suddenly spring into mind, ideas that will become part of our writing at some point, if not the very next day.

But without working on an idea, we're unlikely to generate the next one. The longer we go without working on the work in progress, the less likely it is new material will just break out of our minds relating to it. The longer we go without working on a project, the more difficult it is to get started on working again when we finally can.

Yesterday was the Monday after a holiday weekend. Getting back into work was incredibly easy. I suspect I can thank the sprinting I did on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for that.


2 Comments on Time Management Tuesday: Will Sprinting--And A New Laptop--Get Me Through The Holidays?, last added: 12/3/2013
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