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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: writing process, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. The Habit of Getting Ideas and Turning Them into Story

I no longer dread the question “Where do you get your ideas?” That’s because I finally figured out the answer.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve answered it a million times over my more than ten year career as a writer. I’ve nattered on about brain monkeys, ends of rainbows, stealing ideas from Maureen Johnson, ideas not being that important, blah blah blah.

The actual answer does not involve light bulbs or muses or brain monkeys or Maureen Johnson. Well, not directly. My true answer involves lots of work. I apologise for the lack of glamour.

Here’s what I realised: I’ve been practising getting ideas and turning them into stories for most of my life. Just as an athlete develops the muscles and reflexes necessary to be able to play their sport by training and playing for many, many years, so do writers develop their story-creating muscles.

I started when I was little. As I suspect many novelists do. I was one of those kids who was forever coming up with whatif scenarios.

My Parents: “Don’t answer the door if we’re not home.”

Me: “What if it it’s someone saying the house is on fire?”

MP: “They’d shout through the door.”

Me: “What if they’re mute?”

MP: “Aaaaaarrrggghhh!”

As you can see I’m already building a story. There’s a child at home alone, there’s a fire, and the only one who can warn the child cannot speak. What happens next? Will the parents get home in time? Will the child survive?

MP: “Don’t hit your sister!”1

Me: “But what if hitting her is the only way to kill the tiny alien that’s attempting to crawl in through her pores?”

MP: “There is no excuse for violence under any circumstances.”

Me: “But what if . . . ”

MP: “What if we say no more books for you until you turn 30?”

Me: *side eyes parents*

Here we have a world in which there are nano-aliens who can get inside us through our pores but who can also be destroyed by squashing them. What happens if they get inside us? Do they eat us? Turn us into pod people? How did they get here? Have they been here all along? Are they only after little sisters?

I played at what ifs almost every day of my childhood. When I wasn’t tormenting my parents and teachers I was making up stories for my sister and then for my friends.

If I lost a book before I’d finished it I’d make up the ending. Ditto for movies and tv shows I didn’t get to watch all of.2

It becomes a habit to start extrapolating possible stories out of, well, pretty much anything. Why is that banana peel on the ground directly outside a jewellery store? Genetically enhanced monkey jewel thief. Obviously.

When I overhear odds snatches of conversation I extrapolate the rest of the conversation and the story it’s part of. It’s fun to imagine whole lives and adventures for the people I overhear on the tram.

Having done this every day for decades now it’s no surprise I get ideas for novels many times a day. I see a fantastic tweet like this one:

BwK_T5jCEAAo08X

And I start thinking about writing a novel where a kid does that on their first day of school: walks in dressed very fine, holding a big sign that says FEMINIST. The rest of the novel would be them slaying the evil trolls, defeating the misogynist school board and principal, and saving the world.

When you get a bunch of writers together they often do this, bounce ideas off each other, extend them into a story. Whatif-ing each other for hours. It’s how collaborations often begin. That’s how Sarah Rees Brennan and I wound up writing Team Human together.

Of course, I pretty much never write the novel if I’ve already figured out how it ends. When ideas really spark for me I have to start typing. But even then I have oodles of half sketched out beginnings of novels, sometimes several chapters, sometimes just a paragraph or two, sometimes no more than a few lines. A very small percentage of these ever become novels. All that practise turning ideas into story pays off every time I finish another novel.

There is, alas, a huge distance between coming up with ideas, extrapolating a story, and turning them into a fully fledged novel. The first two are a matter of moments; the latter a matter of months, if not years. But without the ideas the novels never happen.

Finally, to tie this into Scott Westerfeld’s marvellous series on how to write YA, extrapolating about other people’s lives is a great way to build empathy, which Scott argues is one of the most important functions of a novel.

  1. I was a truly awful older sister. I’m not kidding. It speaks volumes as to what a fabulous sister I have that she forgives me.
  2. Punishment meted out by parents. Possibly for asking a few too many what ifs.

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2. Sometimes we don’t write in writing workshop

On our first full day of sixth grade, I hand each of my students a reading and writing survey and ask them to tell me a little bit about themselves as readers and… Continue reading

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3. Coming to Terms With Yourself

When Harper Lee was asked what advice she’d give a young writer, she wrote: “Well, the first advice I would give is this: hope for the best and expect nothing. Then you won’t be disappointed.” And she went on to say: “You must come to terms with yourself about writing. You must not write “for” something, you must not write with definite hopes of reward. People who write for reward by way of

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4. Books That Changed Me

Today the Sydney Morning Herald is running my entry in their long-running Books That Changed Me series. I struggled mightily to get it down to four. Especially as they initially told me I could name five. There are too many books that have changed me! Too many books that I love with every fibre of my being!

The four that made the cut:

Kylie Tennant’s Foveaux (1939) is a novel that reads like history. Like geography. Almost geology. It’s slow, there’s no plot to speak of, it’s everything I don’t like about literary novels. I love it. Tennant lays bare Surry Hills from before the first world war up to the first hints of the next war. She swims in her joy at the Aussie vernacular. It’s bloody bosker.

Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber & Other Stories (1979) because, well, fairy tales. When I was little I made up my own, and the ghostly echo of “Once upon a time” shapes all the fiction I’ve ever written. But it wasn’t until I read this explosion of a collection that I realised how much could be done to fairy fales, and how much they could do to me. Carter taught me the anatomy of the fairy tale and how to make use of the viscera.

I give people Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly (1998) when they demand proof that novels for teens (YA) can be as good as the best novels for adults. In a scant 200 pages Woodson delves deep into New York City’s geographical, class, and racial fissures, and then she breaks your heart.

About Writing (2006) by Samuel R. Delany is the smartest book about writing I’ve ever read. In a series of letters and lectures Delany leaps from the intricacies of punctuating dialogue, to those of creating character, to existential questions about what it is that a writer can make a reader know. Delany with both his fiction and his non-fiction changed the way I write and how I think about writing.

These are the ones I couldn’t include:

I don’t know how old I was when I first read Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice (1813). Very young. I’ve read it so many times that I could probably read it from memory. Yet every time I read it I find something new. On the last reread I focussed on the world of the servants. The time before that on her extraordinary world building with her razor focus on economics. It’s true that Persuasion (1818) is now my favourite of her novels but it was not the one that changed me when I first read it as a pre-teen.

I’ve always read True Crime as well as fictional crime. Always veering towards the dark: Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson, Walter Mosley, Denise Mina. At their core are these questions: What is evil? Why do people do evil things? Why are we fascinated? I picked up Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter (1974) when I was very young and didn’t know who Charles Manson was and hadn’t thought much about the question of evil. This book meant I never forgot.1

I didn’t know which Octavia Butler book to pick. They’re all amazing. Even Survivor (1978), an early novel that she never wanted to see in print again. I read it in the bowels of the Rare Books section of the University of Sydney. It’s not her best but it’s still better than most every other novel by anyone else. Her stories in Bloodchild & Other Stories are a revelation. Each one perfect in a different way from the last. Read everything she wrote!

Courtney Milan is my favourite writer of historical romances. She’s brilliant at torpedoing the constraints of the genre while working within it. Take Unclaimed (2011) in which a courtesan has to seduce a Victorian rockstar professional virgin who’s written the book on how to be celibate. She neatly upends the heroine as virgin; hero as rake paradigm of most historical romances and she does it with wit. Her latest, The Suffragette Scandal (2014) is her best book yet.

Each of these fiction writers showed me what was can be achieved with writing. They taught me to push past the constraints of genre and to think about the impact of every single word. They changed me as a writer and as a person. I recommend them all. In fact, I kind of feel like rereading them all right now. For the millionth time.

  1. This is the one book on the list that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend. But I think it’s important to note that some books that change you aren’t particularly good.

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5. Scenes May Make Everything Different

I'm working on the eleventh draft of a middle grade mystery because you just can't write something over too many times.

I'm paying attention to scenes this time around, inspired by Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. I never gave any thought to scenes in the past. I just wrote. Was writing like that a good thing? A bad thing? Something you can only do for a while?

Let's put that aside for a few minutes, or months, or years.

Anyway, what I've been seeing is that in some chapters I have material that doesn't appear to be part of a scene at all. It's what I'm thinking of as narrative connector. And I'm finding that I'm not that crazy about a lot of it. Look at this stuff, I keep thinking. It's just hanging here.

I'm cutting some of it down and moving some into existing scenes. It's kind of fascinating.

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6. I'm Teaching My Dream YA Class--And You Can Sign Up For It NOW!

I had the most amazing summer (see my Tumblr for proof, it is filled with whale-watching and hiking adventures), but I’ve always loved fall and its back-to-school vibes. I’m ready to get down to business on my own writing so that I can get my new memoir out to you all as soon as possible. (I’ll be looking for early morning and Saturday writing buds on Twitter!) But I’m particularly excited about this fall  because in addition to getting back to writing, I’m getting back to teaching!

I love teaching Young Adult Fiction as much I love reading and writing it. Being in a room with other writers who are just as passionate about YA as I am and working with them on their ideas.. it doesn’t even feel like a job! It’s an incredible privilege that keeps me inspired to work on my own manuscripts.

I got my start teaching YA at Columbia College Chicago where I taught semester-long courses to undergraduates and graduate students. I got to help them start their novels. At least 40 pages were due to me at the end of the course and most students went well beyond that. Of course, I really missed those writers and their characters and often found myself wishing that I could have seen the story through a full draft. The same thing happened to me when I taught online for Media Bistro. Those classes  lasted twelve weeks and the students—most of them working professionals who were out of college, but driven to carve out time to finish a novel—produced ten pages a week. Still, not quite a full draft. 

When I moved to Seattle last year, I started teaching at Hugo House, an incredible organization for writers in one of the most literary cities. Like with Media Bistro, my students were mostly working professionals (and one very committed high school student who will probably be published before she graduates college!) who were very serious about completing a YA novel. They came to me in various phases—some with a fresh idea, others with a NaNo book that was SO close to be ready to go on submission—and again, I fell in love with their stories and characters and was awed by their writing ability and commitment. But alas, our classes were only 6 weeks! This was a real stab to the heart!


Then Hugo House offered me the DREAM teaching opportunity… a YEARLONG YA MANUSCRIPT CLASS!!!! I said yes in an instant because finally, FINALLY, I’ll get the chance to work with my students through a WHOLE manuscript. It might be something they’ve already started, maybe even wrote an entire draft of, or it might be a fresh new idea, but I’ll get to the be there, through the plotting, the discovering, the messy middle, all the way to THE END!

This fabulous, wonderful, total-dream-come-true class will start two weeks from today on Wednesday, September 17th. It runs from 7:10 to 9:10 pm at the Hugo House in Seattle. It will go until the end of May (with breaks for the holidays of course!) for 32 total sessions. Two of those sessions are weekend publishing intensives—one with general (and very valuable) information about the publishing biz and one specific to YA with a kid-lit agent coming to visit us.

The first third of this class—fall quarter—will focus on generative and craft activities to help build your story world, useful whether you are starting from scratch with a brand-spanking new idea or getting back into ongoing material. We’ll be working to  will develop and polish the teen voice, pace your storylines, and write the engaging characters that readers of young adult fiction have come to expect. Since every writer is different, we’ll also work to set personal goals and establish a writing schedule to help you meet them. The last two-thirds of the course—winter and spring quarters—will be more of a workshop. Every student will get a chance to receive feedback from the entire class (and me, of course!) and we’ll be working in small critique groups, so you’ll have a space to receive regular feedback, encouragement, and support as you work your way through toward “The End” and beyond into revisions and line edits.

So, if you live in the Seattle area and have a YA novel in your head or on your laptop that you want to see all the way through, please register! I’d love to have you! If you don’t live in the Seattle area, but have friends who do please, please, please spread the word! I want to fill this class with awesome writers! If it takes off, hopefully I’ll be able to do more classes like this (and yes, maybe online!).

BONUS: For those of you in the Seattle area, the fabulous Karen Finneyfrock is also teaching a great YA Craft Class called Doorways to the Young Adult Novel in October also at the Hugo House. It's a six-week class, so if you can't commit to a full 32-week class, TAKE IT. Or if you are just really committed to pounding out that novel, take BOTH of our classes! They don't conflict time-wise and will only compliment each other. And for those of you ANYWHERE, read Karen's new YA, Starbird Murphy and the World Outside! It was my absolute favorite read of the summer! I seriously can't recommend it enough! If you love books with unique, fully drawn characters on a real journey to figure themselves out, you'll love this. Also Karen is a poet. The language in this book... I have a serious writer crush. She has a way with words like no one else in YA!

Happy Fall, Happy Writing, and Happy Back To School! What are your writing or school-related plans?

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7. Things I Don't Do (But Sometimes Wish I Did)

I've been reading this awesome book called Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo.

It's a compilation of LOTS of interviews with amazing songwriters, such as Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Carole King, Randy Newman, Frank Zappa, Carlos Santana, Dave Brubeck, Brian Wilson and on and on and on.

One thing I love about it is reading how different their writing processes are.

Some write every day.

Some don't.

Some write only when inspiration strikes.

Some force the writing.

Some write the whole song at once.

Some write part of it and let it stew for a while.

Some need total quiet.

Some write on tour buses or in hotel rooms.

So, that got me to thinking about writing PROCESS.

And I've come to the conclusion that.....different strokes for different folks.

There should be no RULES, because everybody is different.

So....here are the things I DON'T do, even though I've heard that I should:

1. I don't write every day. Some days I'm not inspired. Some days I'm in a school. Some days I'm watching Judge Judy reruns. But I've written 10 books, so I do, eventually, get the job done.

2. I don't outline. I would LOVE to outline. I'm a super organized person whose favorite possession is a label maker. But they just don't work for me. I develop the story as I'm writing.

3. I don't keep a writer's journal. I want to. So. Bad. I want to write really cool stuff like Linda Urban does. OMG. I LOVE her journals! I love reading how her thoughts and ideas turn into novels.

When I'm in schools, I want to tell students that I keep a writing journal. I want to tell them I carry a little notebook wherever I go. I've considered lying, but I'm a terrible liar. 

And I love journals. I buy lovely leather ones with handmade paper. And then I write stuff like, "Ate too many chips today. Dang it!" or "Got the cutest sweater on sale at Nordstrom! Yay me!" Maybe I'm just shallow like that. *shrugs* But journals just don't WORK for me. I journal in my head. Seriously.

4. I don't use color-coded Post-It Notes on the wall, rearranging them for plot and scenes and characters and all that stuff. I WANT to! Really bad. But that just doesn't work for me.



5. I don't create character sketches. I HATE them. You know the ones: What's your character's favorite vegetable? What does your character's bedroom look like? *Shudders* Before I put pen to paper, I know my characters really, really well. My characters tell my story for me (after a lot of prodding).  

But I know them in the context of the story. I don't give a rip what she has in her backpack or what her favorite ice cream flavor is - unless it has something to do with the story. I know my characters in the context of the story. That's all I need to know.

6. I don't write in airports or cafes or hotel rooms. Trust me. I've tried. I need a quiet, still, private space. Just because. (Although I did write a great deal of Moonpie and Ivy on a train. It's never happened since.)

So what's my point?

My point is that you should do what works for you. 

Try some of the techniques other writers use. They might work for you. They might not.

Write on a train.

Write in a car.

Write in a bed.

Write in a bar.

Outline, journal, post-it, too.

Just do whatever works for you.

[My poem for the day.] 

BUT - there are some things that I do do that help me - coming in a later post.




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8. Sherlock’s Approach to Research

EC MyersEarly this year, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts launched its interview series, In Conversation, with Benedict Cumberbatch. (Good choice!) Something he said about how he researches a new role struck a chord with me:

“[Research is] a security blanket. Not all of it — very little of it ends up on screen, often. And it’s just to take a little bit more possession of the extraordinariness of what I’m being asked to do. Because it’s so far removed from my experience. It just gets me a little bit more… It just gives me a little bit more courage to pretend to be something I’m so far from.”

cumberbatch[Watch the quoted clip, or the whole interview, here. Video will play automatically in a new window.]

I literally couldn’t have said it better, because I’m not Benedict Cumberbatch! But I feel the same way about novel research. Obviously, before you start writing about something you don’t know much about, like say computer hacking — the topic of my next book, The Silence of Six — you have to find out more about it. But the tricky thing about research is you don’t necessarily know what information you will need before you start outlining or writing the book. The natural solution is to learn everything you can, just like Sherlock, but as Cumberbatch said so sexily: most of that isn’t going to end up on the page, and it shouldn’t.

A “security blanket” is a perfect metaphor for the way I research, because I don’t feel comfortable enough to start a new project until I’ve read a bit about it — even if I’m just going to be making things up. Research also gives me a better idea of the kinds of things I’ll need to learn in more detail to make the book as authentic as possible, and the more I learn, the more ideas I have that will make the book even better.

My research usually starts off on the internet (where else?). I’ll probably start by visiting Wikipedia and various websites to get a basic introduction to a particular topic. This usually leads me to books and movies and documentaries that they’ve referenced, which soon become my primary sources, and I’ll start looking up fiction books on the same topic.

Some of my research books for The Silence of Six.

Some of my research books for The Silence of Six.

I know a lot of writers don’t or can’t read books similar to what they’re writing, because they’re worried about being influenced by them too much, but I find it helpful to see what’s out there. They help me discover the right tone for my book. It’s good to know how other writers have approached the same ideas, so I can avoid duplicating them and, maybe so I can try to do better. For instance, many technothrillers in film and print treat hacking like magic; a few minutes in front of a keyboard, and a hacker is deep in the Pentagon’s most top secret files, when in reality, a hack of that magnitude would take months, or much longer. In fact, before many hackers try to break into a facility or system, they do research too!

Research is one of my favorite parts of writing. I love to learn new things, and since my school days are long behind
me, researching new stories introduces me to all sorts of topics I wouldn’t have found out about otherwise. Research can also be fun — it gives you “permission” to read a bunch of books and watch TV shows and movies, while still considering it a productive part of writing. I finally started watching the show Leverage as inspiration for some of the infiltration scenes in The Silence of Six. I got to read Michelle Gagnon’s PERSEF0NE series and Robin Benway’s Also Known As books for great examples of how to write computer scenes and tense, action-filled chases. I watched The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange (but sadly I can’t recommend it, for reasons that have nothing to do with his performance). I also probably ended up on some NSA and FBI watchlists for Googling things like “How to hack into a Macbook,” “How to hack a car,” and how to do Google searches like that anonymously.

Meet_linus_bigThe danger of research is you can get a little too attached to that security blanket. There’s so much to read and watch, you can feel like maybe you’ll never be ready to start writing that book. You cram too much of your research into the book, so your editor starts giving you notes like, “It feels like there’s a subplot about Wi-Fi.” (All I can say about that is Wi-Fi is fascinating! And there are lots of ways to exploit it.) When research turns into procrastination, it’s time to put those books aside and start writing, confident that you know enough to get through a first draft, and you can always do more focused research later when you need it. Just highlight the sections that need to be filled in on your manuscript (I like to mark them “TK”), and keep going. And try to avoid falling into another Wikipedia spiral as you look up those missing details!

I’m in this exciting research phase with my next project. All I’ll tell you about it is that Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry, and The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst are on my reading list. I actually think these books aren’t at all similar to what I want to write, and this project shouldn’t need much research, but they’re going to get my subconscious thinking about the story so when I do start writing, I’ll feel ready.

Do you like researching your stories? How do you go about it? Do you like Benedict Cumberbatch?

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9. Diving into each moment

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10. How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 2)

Keep calm and write onGuest Post by Sheryl Scarborough

We shouldn’t be surprised or amazed when our writing suddenly starts to click. After all, this is what we’ve been practicing, perfecting, mastering and perhaps even MFA’ing, right? So it makes sense that as we grow as writers we will become more proficient. We will find our centers and words will flow.

But as all writers also know, the magic word faucet can suddenly and inexplicably develop a clog. So for those times – and regular times, too – I asked some of my successful writer friends to share their methods.

My friends publish a LOT of books and I’m predicting this blog will be relevant for some years to come, so I’m not listing their recent sales next to their names. Instead, I’m including a link to their websites where you will find the most up-to-date info on their publishing successes. Please do yourself a favor and check them out.

Kelly Barson, and Melanie Fishbane, don’t worry about word count per se but both of them try to get through a complete scene in one sitting. Then if they feel like they can go further, they do. I call this PACING YOURSELF.

The prolific Kekla Magoon, admits to not being very scheduled or orderly, but she writes up against DEADLINES so she sets daily goals for herself depending on chapters, pages and scenes. She also swears by Scrivener, saying it has enhanced her productivity. Kekla’s method seems to be GUN-TO-THE-HEAD + PROPER TOOLS = WORDS ON THE PAGE.

Carrie Jones, sets ridiculously low word count goals for drafting, then celebrates when she goes beyond that goal. She also points out that failure to meet her goals would result in starvation, so there is that. I’m calling Carrie’s method SURVIVAL as MOTIVATION.

Kristen Kittscher is another author/friend who advocates SCRIVENER. “Scrivener helped me speed up immensely because I feel freer to jump around and write where the energy is,” she says. I call this creativity freed through proper tools.  FORGET WILLIE… FREE YOUR CREATIVITY!

nanowrimo_logov101Heather Demetriios-Fehst just offered up two words – “Use SCRIVENER.”  I’ll forgive her the brevity since she has already released TWO books this year. This is the third vote for Scrivener… It’s starting to have an impact on me.

Tammy Subia did something she never thought she would do. She wrote a complete first draft of a novel in four months and she was anxious to share her secrets.

Tammy has identified three things that really worked for her and they might work for you, too.

  • One: she set weekly word goals instead of daily ones, but she kept a daily chart of what she accomplished. She said just seeing the progress each day spurred her on the next day.
  • Two: She read her first chapter to a non-writer friend who really loved it and kept asking to hear more. Consequently, she wrote more to satisfy her friend.
  • Three: this might be her most important technique of all. Tammy described feeling like this book needed to be written. She wanted the story to be told so badly she couldn’t stop writing it! I’m going to call this DRIVE (and for the record I’m picturing Nick Cage behind the wheel of a muscle car when I say this.)

PICK YOUR TECHNIQUE:

Everyone seems to employ a different technique. Below is the full list. Feel free to be creative. Try on different ones. Pick and choose. Combine two or three. Experiment and see if you can’t UP your output. And if you do… write to us and let us know.

GET A RUNNING START Hold something back for the next day
DEVELOP A ROUTINE Write everyday.
KNOWLEDGE + TIME + ENTHUSIASM Know what you’re going to write, put in the time and be excited about your story.
PACE YOURSELF One word after the other until you get to the end.
RESPECT DEADLINES You can’t blow ‘em, so you get it done.
WRITE FOR FOOD You can’t eat promises and I should’ves.
DRIVE Find a story that demands to be written.
KEEP A WORD COUNT Set word count goals, daily or weekly. It piles up.
USE SCRIVENER Yay for sophisticated writer tools.

As for Scrivener – I’m going to buy it and use Scrivener for my revision process. I will report back in my next blog.

Here are some Scrivener tutorials that came up in a search on Youtube.com. I haven’t looked at any of them yet… but I plan to.

Sheryl_Quote

Be sure to read the first half of this amazing two-part series: How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1)

More guest posts by Sheryl:

Sheryl Scarborough - Photo by Russell Gearhart PhotographyOver the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.

Follow Sheryl on Twitter: @scarbo_author

Read more by Sheryl on her blog: Sheryl Scarborough Blog

 


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11. How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 2)

Keep calm and write onGuest Post by Sheryl Scarborough

We shouldn’t be surprised or amazed when our writing suddenly starts to click. After all, this is what we’ve been practicing, perfecting, mastering and perhaps even MFA’ing, right? So it makes sense that as we grow as writers we will become more proficient. We will find our centers and words will flow.

But as all writers also know, the magic word faucet can suddenly and inexplicably develop a clog. So for those times – and regular times, too – I asked some of my successful writer friends to share their methods.

My friends publish a LOT of books and I’m predicting this blog will be relevant for some years to come, so I’m not listing their recent sales next to their names. Instead, I’m including a link to their websites where you will find the most up-to-date info on their publishing successes. Please do yourself a favor and check them out.

Kelly Barson, and Melanie Fishbane, don’t worry about word count per se but both of them try to get through a complete scene in one sitting. Then if they feel like they can go further, they do. I call this PACING YOURSELF.

The prolific Kekla Magoon, admits to not being very scheduled or orderly, but she writes up against DEADLINES so she sets daily goals for herself depending on chapters, pages and scenes. She also swears by Scrivener, saying it has enhanced her productivity. Kekla’s method seems to be GUN-TO-THE-HEAD + PROPER TOOLS = WORDS ON THE PAGE.

Carrie Jones, sets ridiculously low word count goals for drafting, then celebrates when she goes beyond that goal. She also points out that failure to meet her goals would result in starvation, so there is that. I’m calling Carrie’s method SURVIVAL as MOTIVATION.

Kristen Kittscher is another author/friend who advocates SCRIVENER. “Scrivener helped me speed up immensely because I feel freer to jump around and write where the energy is,” she says. I call this creativity freed through proper tools.  FORGET WILLIE… FREE YOUR CREATIVITY!

nanowrimo_logov101Heather Demetriios-Fehst just offered up two words – “Use SCRIVENER.”  I’ll forgive her the brevity since she has already released TWO books this year. This is the third vote for Scrivener… It’s starting to have an impact on me.

Tammy Subia did something she never thought she would do. She wrote a complete first draft of a novel in four months and she was anxious to share her secrets.

Tammy has identified three things that really worked for her and they might work for you, too.

  • One: she set weekly word goals instead of daily ones, but she kept a daily chart of what she accomplished. She said just seeing the progress each day spurred her on the next day.
  • Two: She read her first chapter to a non-writer friend who really loved it and kept asking to hear more. Consequently, she wrote more to satisfy her friend.
  • Three: this might be her most important technique of all. Tammy described feeling like this book needed to be written. She wanted the story to be told so badly she couldn’t stop writing it! I’m going to call this DRIVE (and for the record I’m picturing Nick Cage behind the wheel of a muscle car when I say this.)

PICK YOUR TECHNIQUE:

Everyone seems to employ a different technique. Below is the full list. Feel free to be creative. Try on different ones. Pick and choose. Combine two or three. Experiment and see if you can’t UP your output. And if you do… write to us and let us know.

GET A RUNNING START Hold something back for the next day
DEVELOP A ROUTINE Write everyday.
KNOWLEDGE + TIME + ENTHUSIASM Know what you’re going to write, put in the time and be excited about your story.
PACE YOURSELF One word after the other until you get to the end.
RESPECT DEADLINES You can’t blow ‘em, so you get it done.
WRITE FOR FOOD You can’t eat promises and I should’ves.
DRIVE Find a story that demands to be written.
KEEP A WORD COUNT Set word count goals, daily or weekly. It piles up.
USE SCRIVENER Yay for sophisticated writer tools.

As for Scrivener – I’m going to buy it and use Scrivener for my revision process. I will report back in my next blog.

Here are some Scrivener tutorials that came up in a search on Youtube.com. I haven’t looked at any of them yet… but I plan to.

Sheryl_Quote

Be sure to read the first half of this amazing two-part series: How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1)

More guest posts by Sheryl:

Sheryl Scarborough - Photo by Russell Gearhart PhotographyOver the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.

Follow Sheryl on Twitter: @scarbo_author

Read more by Sheryl on her blog: Sheryl Scarborough Blog

 


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12. Tools of the Trade


Fortunately, when it comes to the act of physically writing, I have MANY tools at my disposal.

For example, and gratefully, my iPhone.

Should my laptop refuse to reboot due to a software problem and require a 4-day repair visit to my local Best Buy's Geek Squad the Sunday before my Monday TeachingAuthors post is due, no problemo!

I simply create an email addressing the topic, request my TA administrator Carmela post it for me, along with an evidentiary photo, and remain grateful for the many and varied Tools of my Trade...as well as for Carmela. ☺️

Esther's laptop on Geek Squad counter
So, here are a few of the salient points I fully intended to post in the traditional manner via my laptop had it successfully rebooted this morning:

(1) To date my writing tools have included #2 pencils, pens of all sorts, manual and electric typewriters, a word processor, stack and laptop computers and one trusty iPhone.

(2) Thinking on this topic, examining my modus operandi when writing creatively, I surprisingly realized my multi-sensory learning style that enables me to READ must also be executed when I WRITE!

Note: Picture here the Five Senses Chart I'd planned to share.

Using my penmanship that combines both printing and cursive, because my 6th grade teacher Miss Peterson allowed us to choose and I couldn't decide, I write by hand in notebooks, on legal pads, on sticky notes, on napkins, on match books and menus and torn newspaper items when I am rolling out and exploring a story idea.

When I'm ready to roll everything up, though, and begin an actual story draft?
I'm seated at my laptop, ready to keyboard.

(3) In my Google search to learn more about multi-sensory learners, one link led to another and there I was learning all about BIC Fight for Your Write -www.bicfightforyourwrite.com.
BIC is on a mission to save handwriting.
Clicking on the Facts page at this website, I read that handwriting engages 14 different abilities, one if which is Inner Expressive Language.
No surprise there, at least for me.
Long live the Writer's Notebook!
Visit the website to learn more and maybe even sign the petition.

Hopefully my laptop and I will be back in business by Friday.
(Siddharta  promised.)
Meanwhile, I have my iPhone ....and should that require service, my Seven-year Pen.



Happy Writing, no matter your chosen tool!

Esther Hershenhorn
P.S.
Don't forget to enter our Book Giveaway!

P.S.S. from Carmela: I couldn't resist leaving in Esther's signature line from her email, just as she sent it:

iPhone compozed - sry 4 eny typoze=

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13. How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1)

Guest post by Sheryl Scarborough

Sheryl_KingandRice

I just finished the first draft of a new novel… my third.

I wrote it fast, with a vengeance.

280 pages, 63k words, 10 weeks. BAM!

That’s Wham, bam, thank you ma’am speed. Finishing this novel so quickly has restored my writer power. I’m excited and enthused, ready to roll up my sleeves and settle in for the revision stage. But looking back I’m a little amazed at my accomplishment. So, before my process becomes a hazy memory I want to document it and understand it, so I can do again. (And again… and… well, you get the idea.)

But before I get into my process, let’s take a look at how the Big Dog (and even some little dog) authors muscle through their drafts. You’ll find this interesting.

Sheryl_HemingwayErnest Hemingway… averaged 500 words per day.

… would begin his writing day in the early morning and stop around noon. But here was his trick: he would be sure to stop at a place where he knew what would happen next. He did this so he would have a place to start writing the next morning. I call this a RUNNING START.

Jennifer Weiner…

Sheryl_Jennifer W“When you have an editor with deadlines if you wait for a muse to get you there, you’re going to be out of a job.”

Jennifer Weiner starts her day with breakfast, getting kids off to school and hot yoga. She strives for 3,000 words per day.  She has a ROUTINE.

Jodi Pincolt…

Doesn’t believe in writer’s block. “Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. You might not write well every day but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”  JUST WRITE… edit later.  

So, the research started sounding like same thing, different day or, what we’ve always heard about writing. Butt in chair… just write… nothing really new and different. And then I discovered…

Rachel Aron…

Sheryl_Rachel Aron bookAron, a sci fi author, figured out how to go from 2,000 words per day to 10,000. That’s right. I said it. 10,000 words per day.

Aron had a new baby and a book on deadline. She arranged for childcare four days per week. And during those four days she needed to produce 4,000 words per day to meet her deadline. When it turned out she was only putting out 2,000 words per day, she got busy and figured out how to pump it up.

The minute I read Aron’s explanation I realized two things: 1.) she really has something here. And 2.) I had stumbled onto the very same method.

Read the basics of Aron’s method here. Or, an expanded e-book version. Aron’s thinking is amazingly smart and sound – and it’s a definite improvement from the evergreen butt in chair, blah blah blah. She gives some real, solid advice.

Even if you’re not a really fast writer, I believe you could use Aron’s method to increase your output. Here is the nutshell version:

TIME + KNOWLEDGE + ENTHUSIASM =

BOSS LEVEL WORD COUNT

Time – There’s no substitute for that, you still have to put it in.

Knowledge – Knowing what you’re going to write each day before you sit down to write is essential. Otherwise, you’re wasting valuable writing time figuring things out. When you come prepared to your writing time the words fly.

Enthusiasm – LOVE what you’re working on and the words will flow faster. Then when you get to what Aron calls “a candy bar” scene your word count for that day will go through the roof.

This is exactly how I wrote a 280 page first draft in 10 weeks.

My story is told in alternating chapters between a boy and a girl. Each morning when I woke up I would contemplate the scenes I would write next. I would figure out which character should instigate a scene and which should react to it… which might start something… which might finish it off. By the time I figured it out I couldn’t wait to get to the computer and get started.

So, for me it was exactly as Aron predicted. Knowing what I was going to write and being excited about it, plus putting in the time resulted in a very quick and energetic first draft.

As Jodi Pincolt says, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

Check in later this week for part two of my theory on How to Up Your Word Count, where I query my successful author friends to see what tricks they employ to get their fabulous words onto the page. I’ll be sharing what they have to say.

In the meantime here are a few links and tips to maybe inspire and power your word count progress:

ONLINE RESOURCES TO BOOST DAILY WORD COUNT:

  • A variety of word count meters can be found here.
  • The Secret to Writing 4000 Words Per day (A variation on Aron’s process, but he calls it daydreaming instead of knowledge. And I like that.)
  • The Pomodoro Technique, an interesting focus booster, read about it here.
  • The Daily Routines of Successful Writers – my source for the facts in the above post. Reading about the authors I didn’t include in my blog is interesting, too, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your daily word count. Read it here.
  • Inky Girl has a word count challenge complete with stickers and banners here.
  • And finally, Chuck Wendig weighs in on Word Count Uppage. He’s foul and funny. Don’t miss him.

Stay tuned for more great tips from Sheryl on how to up your word count. The second half of this article comes out later this week!

In the meantime, read another post by Sheryl:

Sheryl Scarborough - Photo by Russell Gearhart PhotographyOver the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.

Follow Sheryl on Twitter: @scarbo_author

Read more by Sheryl on her blog: Sheryl Scarborough Blog

 


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14. How to UP Your Word Count and Write Like a Boss! (Part 1)

Guest post by Sheryl Scarborough

Sheryl_KingandRice

I just finished the first draft of a new novel… my third.

I wrote it fast, with a vengeance.

280 pages, 63k words, 10 weeks. BAM!

That’s Wham, bam, thank you ma’am speed. Finishing this novel so quickly has restored my writer power. I’m excited and enthused, ready to roll up my sleeves and settle in for the revision stage. But looking back I’m a little amazed at my accomplishment. So, before my process becomes a hazy memory I want to document it and understand it, so I can do again. (And again… and… well, you get the idea.)

But before I get into my process, let’s take a look at how the Big Dog (and even some little dog) authors muscle through their drafts. You’ll find this interesting.

Sheryl_HemingwayErnest Hemingway… averaged 500 words per day.

… would begin his writing day in the early morning and stop around noon. But here was his trick: he would be sure to stop at a place where he knew what would happen next. He did this so he would have a place to start writing the next morning. I call this a RUNNING START.

Jennifer Weiner…

Sheryl_Jennifer W“When you have an editor with deadlines if you wait for a muse to get you there, you’re going to be out of a job.”

Jennifer Weiner starts her day with breakfast, getting kids off to school and hot yoga. She strives for 3,000 words per day.  She has a ROUTINE.

Jodi Pincolt…

Doesn’t believe in writer’s block. “Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. You might not write well every day but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”  JUST WRITE… edit later.  

So, the research started sounding like same thing, different day or, what we’ve always heard about writing. Butt in chair… just write… nothing really new and different. And then I discovered…

Rachel Aron…

Sheryl_Rachel Aron bookAron, a sci fi author, figured out how to go from 2,000 words per day to 10,000. That’s right. I said it. 10,000 words per day.

Aron had a new baby and a book on deadline. She arranged for childcare four days per week. And during those four days she needed to produce 4,000 words per day to meet her deadline. When it turned out she was only putting out 2,000 words per day, she got busy and figured out how to pump it up.

The minute I read Aron’s explanation I realized two things: 1.) she really has something here. And 2.) I had stumbled onto the very same method.

Read the basics of Aron’s method here. Or, an expanded e-book version. Aron’s thinking is amazingly smart and sound – and it’s a definite improvement from the evergreen butt in chair, blah blah blah. She gives some real, solid advice.

Even if you’re not a really fast writer, I believe you could use Aron’s method to increase your output. Here is the nutshell version:

TIME + KNOWLEDGE + ENTHUSIASM =

BOSS LEVEL WORD COUNT

Time – There’s no substitute for that, you still have to put it in.

Knowledge – Knowing what you’re going to write each day before you sit down to write is essential. Otherwise, you’re wasting valuable writing time figuring things out. When you come prepared to your writing time the words fly.

Enthusiasm – LOVE what you’re working on and the words will flow faster. Then when you get to what Aron calls “a candy bar” scene your word count for that day will go through the roof.

This is exactly how I wrote a 280 page first draft in 10 weeks.

My story is told in alternating chapters between a boy and a girl. Each morning when I woke up I would contemplate the scenes I would write next. I would figure out which character should instigate a scene and which should react to it… which might start something… which might finish it off. By the time I figured it out I couldn’t wait to get to the computer and get started.

So, for me it was exactly as Aron predicted. Knowing what I was going to write and being excited about it, plus putting in the time resulted in a very quick and energetic first draft.

As Jodi Pincolt says, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

Check in later this week for part two of my theory on How to Up Your Word Count, where I query my successful author friends to see what tricks they employ to get their fabulous words onto the page. I’ll be sharing what they have to say.

In the meantime here are a few links and tips to maybe inspire and power your word count progress:

ONLINE RESOURCES TO BOOST DAILY WORD COUNT:

  • A variety of word count meters can be found here.
  • The Secret to Writing 4000 Words Per day (A variation on Aron’s process, but he calls it daydreaming instead of knowledge. And I like that.)
  • The Pomodoro Technique, an interesting focus booster, read about it here.
  • The Daily Routines of Successful Writers – my source for the facts in the above post. Reading about the authors I didn’t include in my blog is interesting, too, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your daily word count. Read it here.
  • Inky Girl has a word count challenge complete with stickers and banners here.
  • And finally, Chuck Wendig weighs in on Word Count Uppage. He’s foul and funny. Don’t miss him.

Stay tuned for more great tips from Sheryl on how to up your word count. The second half of this article comes out later this week!

In the meantime, read another post by Sheryl:

Sheryl Scarborough - Photo by Russell Gearhart PhotographyOver the years, Sheryl Scarborough has written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters and Restaurant and Theater Reviews (for free food and great seats!) Now she writes what she really loves which are YA mysteries and thrillers.

Follow Sheryl on Twitter: @scarabs

Read more by Sheryl on her blog: Sheryl Scarborough Blog

 


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15. Poetry Friday and Writing Longhand Vs Keyboarding

http://images.indiebound.com/400/462/9781568462400.jpg

Happy Poetry Friday! Y'all are going to start to think that I only read poetry by J. Patrick Lewis. That is not true, though he is so versatile and prolific that I could share new poems here every time I post, and you would still enjoy a terrific variety, a great education in the art of poetry. I recently received a review copy of his forthcoming Everything Is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick Lewis (Creative Editions, 2014). That's right. Pat is a rock star, and he has a greatest hits album!

I devoured this book start to finish, and I adore it. It collects some of his poems from the 1980s up to 2010. The topic categories include Animals, People, Reading (yes!), Sports (eh--only because I'm not a sports fan), Riddles and Epitaphs, Mother Nature(always my favorite), Places, and A Mix. The forms cover a huge range, from free verse to rhyming to specific poetic forms. If you're a fan of Lewis' work (and if not, why not?), do not miss this collection.

It was tough choosing just one to share, as there are around 60 poems here. But this is one of my very favorites:

What a Day

Out of dark's rougher neighborhoods,
Morning stumbles,
none too
bright,
recalling now
the thief,
Night,
who stole her work
of art--
Light.


--J. Patrick Lewis, all rights reserved

Here I am reading this poem:




Now, on to the question of longhand vs. keyboarding, the conversation Carmela started earlier this week. I come down firmly on the side of keyboarding. I do my morning pages that way (sorry, Julia Cameron), I do my nonfiction this way, and I do my poetry this way. At least, I prefer to. I do sometimes write longhand, usually when I'm on the road and don't have a keyboard handy. (Even then, I often carry a portable keyboard that works with my iPhone and is amazing!)

I feel stilted and uncomfortable writing in longhand. My hand can't keep up with my brain, and I can feel the ideas and phrases slipping away faster than I can record them. It's like being trapped in a cave where all this treasure is quickly draining down a hole in the floor, and I only have a tiny spoon to try to grab diamonds before they disappear. So, give me a keyboard any day!

One thing I don't mind doing at all in longhand is brainstorming. If I'm coming up with ideas or just playing around with thoughts on an existing piece, I'll happily make lists and charts and such. For example, when I was first working on poems for a night collection that will come out from Wordsong, I filled a little notebook with thoughts and possibilities.

 
 
And, recently, while doing revisions, I had a typed version with me that I made notes on while riding in a car or when I only had five minutes to work. That's when longhand works best for me, when I'm sporadically jotting notes. Write a few words. Put down the paper and go back to what I was actually supposed to be doing. Oops--new thought--grab that paper.



I will say that when I did Riddle-Ku on my blog for National Poetry Month, I wrote 95% of those while riding in a car along Lake Superior in February. I had a little mini-notebook just for that project, and every time I sat down in that seat and picked up my notebook, the poems started pouring out. For very short poems, I don't mind writing longhand. But...if I'd had my keyboard in the car with me and if my phone's battery lasted longer, I'd probably have been typing:>)

You don't have to write longhand OR by keyboard to go enjoy some more poetry! Poet and teacher Heidi Mordhorst at Juicy Little Universe has today's Poetry Friday Roundup--so don't miss it!

And if you haven't already done so, don't forget to enter our current giveaway for a chance to win the historical middle-grade novel Odin's Promise (Crispin Press) by Sandy Brehl. See JoAnn's post for all the details.

--Laura

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16. Time Management Tuesday: How Much Time Do We Commit To A Project Before Accepting It's Not Working?

You may recall that I blew the better part of a month on a piece of flash fiction I still haven't finished. I have written flash fiction before, and I know it took me a while to write it. But my recollection is that I worked on it now and then over a long period of time while working on other things. It didn't keep me from other projects the way last month's short story did.

Several years ago I heard a couple of writers leading a workshop on nonfiction say that they determine how much time they'll commit to getting a new project started before they get going. I e-mailed them to ask if they'd like to elaborate on that. They didn't. This past week, I threw a question out on this subject at Facebook. Again, no one wanted to discuss how they decide to let a new project go or at least put it aside on simmer.

I would like a formula, an equation that I can plug numbers into. Something very linear. (I did a little research on linear and nonlinear systems for that 1,000 word project.) 

The amount of time I put into this story, which I can't even name because it doesn't have one yet, made me feel I needed to put more time in so I wouldn't have wasted all the time I'd already used up. Just a little bit more, then I'll get my payoff. Hmm. Does that sound like gambling? In the meantime, I was loosing a big chunk of the time I'd wanted to use on the project I'd made progress on during May. I'll be on vacation a large part of September, so that stinks. I also was drifting away from the new writing process I was working on in May. This was all for a 1,000 word story that I had no market lined up for. If I had been able to publish it, it might have ended up being with a publication that doesn't pay.

Now my work provides a very small portion of our family's support. But there are writers out there who have to generate income. They can't use their time like I used mine last month.

I had a flashfic obsession, and others could tell. My husband used the word in relation to my writing behavior and constant discussion of the story. Now that it's over, I feel confident that in some point in the future, I'll finish that piece and be able to submit it. But I also feel I should have been able to get to that point with a normal work method.

Knowing when to lay off may be a matter of knowing. Without the knowing, I'd like something else to push the Put It Away Button.


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17. Writing Longhand vs Typing: Does it Make a Difference?


Which do you prefer: writing longhand with a pen (or pencil) on paper or typing on a keyboard/electronic device? This is the question I posed to our TeachingAuthors for the series of posts I'm kicking off today. As I considered my own answer, I found some interesting information on how our writing tools may affect our creativity.

I was about twelve or thirteen when I first started writing for myself (as opposed to for school assignments). Back then, the only alternative I had to writing longhand was a manual typewriter on which I could eek out maybe 10-15 words per minute. So longhand it was. I wrote poetry, journaled, and did all my school assignments in longhand. When necessary, I then transcribed my written words to the printed page via my beautiful blue Smith Corona.

cropped version of photo by mpclemens, per CC rights 
By the time I started working as a freelance writer (MANY years later), personal computers had arrived on the scene. And I'd learned to type MUCH faster. So, for the sake of efficiency, I adapted my writing process to compose directly at the keyboard (as I'm doing with this blog post), but only for the nonfiction pieces I wrote for newspapers and magazines. For my "creative" writing--journals, poetry, short stories and my first novel--I stuck with longhand.

Then came graduate school, with its requirement of forty typed pages of writing per month. Once again, I adapted. I sat pounding out fiction--first short stories, then novel chapters--directly at the keyboard. For the most part, that worked fine. But every so often, I'd get stuck. I couldn't find the right words, or the words didn't have the right rhythm, or I couldn't get the feelings to come across on the page. I'd sit staring at the blinking cursor, my fingers frozen on the keys.

That's when I'd go make another cup of tea. Or stretch. Or take a walk. Sometimes that helped. But not always.

One day, while working on Rosa, Sola, I got the idea to take up a pen and write out a question for Rosa, my main character. I asked her what she was feeling in the particular scene I was working on. Then I closed my eyes and tried to imagine I was in Rosa's shoes at that moment. I opened my eyes and wrote the answer to the question, longhand, from Rosa's point of view. I was amazed at the words that flowed from my pen. They not only gave me insight into Rosa and her feelings, but also ideas for what would happen next in the story.


From then on, whenever I got stuck, no matter what I was writing, I turned to paper and pen. And almost every time, the writing was better than what I'd struggled to generate via the keyboard.

I decided to research why for this blog post. Chris Gayomali's Mentalfloss article "4 Benefits of Writing by Hand," like most of the other articles I found, says writing longhand makes you a better writer mainly because it slows you down. I think there's more to it than that. Otherwise, I could get the same benefits if I just typed slowly. But that doesn't help me at all.

I suspected that the difference really has something to do with how the physical act of putting pen to paper affects the creative side of our brain, our "right brain." Typing, on the other hand, seems to involve more of our logical left-brain.

Researching further, I found a Paris Review interview with poet and author Ted Hughes in which he said:
In handwriting the brain is mediated by the drawing hand, in typewriting by the fingers hitting the keyboard, in dictation by the idea of a vocal style, in word processing by touching the keyboard and by the screen’s feedback. The fact seems to be that each of these methods produces a different syntactic result from the same brain. Maybe the crucial element in handwriting is that the hand is simultaneously drawing. I know I’m very conscious of hidden imagery in handwriting—a subtext of a rudimentary picture language. Perhaps that tends to enforce more cooperation from the other side of the brain. And perhaps that extra load of right brain suggestions prompts a different succession of words and ideas.
This explanation rings truer for me than the "slower is better" theory. What do you think? I'd love if you'd let us know in the comments.

But first, you may want to also read Kelly Barson's fascinating article "Writing from Both Sides of the Brain" in the Hunger Mountain journal. Just make sure to come back here when you're done!

Okay, so if you read Barson's article, you know it includes several references to Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way (Tarcher). Cameron also recommends writing longhand, at least for "Morning Pages." As it happens, I'm currently preparing to teach a new 12-week workshop on The Artist's Way at the College of DuPage that will begin at the end of the month. This Wednesday, August 13, I'll be presenting a free Lunch Break Lecture giving potential students a "taste of" the workshop. If you're in the area, I hope you'll join us. Check my website for details.

And if you haven't already done so, don't forget to enter our current giveaway for a chance to win the historical middle-grade novel Odin's Promise (Crispin Press) by Sandy Brehl. See JoAnn's post for all the details.

Happy writing!
Carmela

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18. Stuck in the Muck

It happens when you least expect it. You take a turn down a road that looks promising and before you realize what’s happening the tires sink into the muck and you can’t back out. Or you are swimming in clear water and the next thing you know there are weeds tangled around your arms and legs and you are sinking into the mud. Your brain is stuck, your pen is frozen. Words have vanished;

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19. Like Pinterest On My Refrigerator

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook Friend Jeannine Atkins posted that she was getting ready to tack items on a character's refrigerator in a work-in-progress. I thought, Wow! Why don't I post items from one of my works-in-progress on my refrigerator? It would help keep me in the WIP's world

I suggested in Jeannine's comments that we do that. Someone pointed out that first we'd have to clean off our refrigerators, which is definitely the case.

As you can see in the above picture, I've overdone it a bit with the art magnets. They're now crammed onto the side of the fridge.

Look to the left, and you'll see what I replaced those magnets with--material related to my mummyish book.  I have a timeline for my somewhat real historical figure, Nebetah, daughter of Amenhotep III, leading to my made up nineteenth century Egyptologist family leading to the museum they funded in the 1920s leading to my present day story. I have family trees for the pharaoh's family and for the Egyptologist's. I have a picture of the statue of Amenhotep, Queen Tiye, and their daughters, the only one in which Nebetah appears. I have pictures of the university museum that I'm using as a model for the Elliot Randall Gardner museum.

You might recognize a picture of Nefrititi. She appears to have been Amenhotep's daughter-in-law, which would have made her the sister-in-law of my sort-of mummy, Nebetah.

I haven't worked on this project in weeks while I've been taking care of smaller works. We'll see if having these details in my face every day helps me get back to it faster.

I suggested to a family member that my fridge story panel was similar to a Pinterest board, except that being on my fridge, I would actually look at it. He thought it was more like one of those Major Crimes case boards.

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20. Confessions of a Serial Novelist (Part 2) by Clara Kensie

Hey gang! Welcome back to the Adventures in YA Publishing series on... serials! Last week, I told you about the surprising pleasures of reading serialized novels. I hope I convinced at least some of you to give serials a try! This week, we’re continuing our discussion by talking about how to write a serialized novel.

Source: Adam Franco https://flic.kr/p/7BKqTL

How, exactly, does one go about writing a serial? While revising my RUN TO YOU manuscripts after my publisher's decision to release them as serials, I learned that it takes more than simply chopping a full-length novel into equal parts. Whether you’re an indie author who decides to serialize your books, or you’re a traditionally-pubbed author whose publisher wants to try it, there are certain things you must keep in mind when writing a serial:

PACING: You must have a strong sense of pacing as you develop the highs and lows that bring the characters and plot to a new level with each installment, but still leave them more to do and learn, giving the reader a breathing point, yet leaving them wanting to know what happens next.

INSTALLMENT BREAKS: One piece of advice writers always hear is, “Never give your readers a reason to put your book down.” But a serial forces your readers to put your book down after every installment! Therefore, it is imperative to end each episode in such a way that your readers must read the next one to find out what happens next. End your installment in the middle of the action. RUN TO YOU is a thriller with lots of plot twists and life-or-death situations. Many chapters end on a cliffhanger. But a serial’s episodes don’t have to end on a life-or-death cliffhanger, leaving the reader wondering if a character is going to live or die. Emotional cliffhangers can be equally as compelling. You want to end each episode in a way that your readers must know the secret the hero is about to reveal, or which suitor the heroine will choose to bring to the ball, or if the hero and heroine’s relationship will survive the latest turn of events. In fact, though many RUN TO YOU chapters end on a life-or-death cliffhanger, all of its installments end on an emotional cliffhanger.

BEGINNING THE NEXT INSTALLMENT: To begin episodes two, three, four, etc, you will want to remind your readers what happened at the end of the previous installment. I recommend keeping this very brief; just a few phrases in the opening paragraphs to help them recall what happened last time and to re-establish the mood and tone. But don’t simply give them a bunch of flashbacks. You want to weave in what happened last time in a natural way. The shorter your release schedule—weekly, bi-weekly, monthly—the less reminders you’ll have to give them. (We’ll talk more about release schedules next week, when we discuss marketing your serial.)

STRUCTURE: Each episode of your serial does not have to be self-contained, but there should be an over-arching plot for the book as a whole: each installment must build toward a satisfying conclusion at the end of the book. While your complete serial should be structured as a typical book, with setup, turning points, climax, and conclusion, you may have to add extra turning points within your overall plot to allow for cliffhanger endings of each episode, or you may have to arrange your chapters so the cliffhangers fall at the installment breaks. I found this to be the most challenging aspect of writing my serials: following the standard structure of a whole novel while putting major turning points or cliffhangers at the installment breaks.

NUMBER AND LENGTH OF INSTALLMENTS: This point is both a writing issue and a marketing issue. It’s important to understand your market before you determine the number and length of your installments. There is no industry standard: the number of installments varies per serial. In my case, Harlequin Teen determined RUN TO YOU would have three parts per book. Each part has between 99 and 120 pages. Other serials have six, eight, or ten installments per book. There may be serials with even more installments, especially on Wattpad or in fanfic. Generally, the more installments in a book, the less pages per installment. You should keep your audience and your price point in mind as you decide the number and length of your episodes. You want to give your readers an installment that’s short enough to consume in a single sitting, but long enough that leaves them feeling satisfied with both the story and the price they paid.

DISCUSSION

So, my friends, now that you are armed with this information, would you ever try to write a serial? If your publisher decided to serialize your manuscript, how would you react: would you run away in tears, or would you be up to the challenge?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clara Kensie grew up near Chicago, reading every book she could find and using her diary to write stories about a girl with psychic powers who solved mysteries. She purposely did not hide her diary, hoping someone would read it and assume she was writing about herself. Since then, she’s swapped her diary for a computer and admits her characters are fictional, but otherwise she hasn’t changed one bit.

Today Clara is the author of dark fiction young adults. Her debut series, the romantic thriller RUN TO YOU, is Harlequin TEEN’s first serial. Book One is First Sight, Second Glance, and Third Charm. Book Two is Fourth Shadow, Fifth Touch, and Sixth Sense.

Her favorite foods are guacamole and cookie dough. But not together. That would be gross.

Find Clara online: Website   Twitter   Facebook   Tumblr   Instagram   Goodreads  Newsletter

About the books

Good news! The first installment of my serial, RUN TO YOU Part I: FIRST SIGHT, is still free across all e-tailers! 
In Part One of this romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past, and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Sarah Spencer has a secret: her real name is Tessa Carson, and to stay alive, she can tell no one the truth about her psychically gifted family and the danger they are running from. As the new girl in the latest of countless schools, she also runs from her attraction to Tristan Walker—after all, she can't even tell him her real name. But Tristan won't be put off by a few secrets. Not even dangerous ones that might rip Tessa from his arms before they even kiss…

RUN TO YOU is Tessa and Tristan's saga—two books about psychic gifts, secret lives and dangerous loves. Each book is told in three parts: a total of six shattering reads that will stay with you long after the last page.

Grab FIRST SIGHT now for free, then join Harlequin Teen and a whole bunch of book bloggers and fans at the RUN TO YOU read-along. We're discussing FIRST SIGHT this week, SECOND GLANCE next week, and THIRD CHARM the week after that. We’re having a great time, and we have some fun prizes to give away. Get more details on my blog: http://bit.ly/readR2Y. I’d love to see the Adventures in YA Publishing gang at the read-along!


For more about each installment of the RUN TO YOU series, click here

Find RUN TO YOU at your favorite e-tailers, including:

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21. The Path to the Sea

Here is the path that we’ll take to the sea. It’s the beginning of our journey. We don’t know where the path will lead us. (We have no maps, no clues.) All we can do is walk toward the clouds ahead and hope we’ll find the sea. The clouds offer a glimmer of hope, a way to go. And we head toward them  It’s a hunch, an intuitive feeling. And we follow that feeling

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22. BIG NEWS from a singing gorilla

Last month, I tweeted this seemingly mundane thing about gorgeous weather, tattoos and farmer's markets putting me into good mood:


But in reality there was more to the story. Way more. I was bursting with a huge secret. "I literally cannot tell you how this day could get better" was my little nod toward that. I mean, don't get me wrong, the farmer's market, the perfect Seattle summer day, and my impending tattoo plans were wonderful, but literally I could not say how or why my day was so freakin' above-and-beyond-my-wildest-dreams amazing. Now I finally can because this announcement ran in today's print edition of Publishers Weekly:


Yeah. My next book is going to be a zine-style memoir (think a bunch of my personal essays from Rookie illustrated and woven together to create a cohesive story of my life from ages um 8 to 25) and it is going to be published by Dutton and edited by the one and only JULIE STRAUSS-GABEL, who I have been DREAMING of working with for YEARS.

Here is a summary of how I've been feeling since I've received this news:





I always thought that that last image of Sally Draper is how I would actually react when I got the call, but here is the actual (albeit slightly blurry) reaction shot taken by my husband:


Yes. That is a gorilla in a tuxedo. A singing, dancing gorilla in a tuxedo. Amazing Agent Adrienne decided that this news was something that a simple phone call COULD NOT cover, especially since we've worked so long and so hard for it. Those of you who have been following this blog or Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere know that for me getting published AGAIN has been an even harder experience than getting published the first time. My last book, Ballads of Suburbia, came out almost five years. It sold six years ago. In that intervening period (i.e since January of 2009 when I finished revisions on Ballads) I've written a couple of YA partials, a full YA novel and an adult novel that haven't found homes yet. I've also been writing for Rookie since it launched in September of 2011.

I signed with Adrienne in October of 2011. She's been the one shopping all of those projects I mentioned above. She's seen me through many moments of writer's block, self-doubt, and full-on crises of faith. She once sent me a copy of The Little Engine That Could to remind me that she believed that I would get through my WIP and I would find my way back to the bookshelves. It was her unceasing faith that kept me writing and pushing through rejection, hard times, and heart break. I'm still working on the words and some sort of grand gesture to thank her. A grand gesture like the one she made on Tuesday, June 17th at 8 pm when she sent a gorilla to my door. I'd told her that I didn't have a proper "The Call" story because I'd received emails not phone calls about my previous two sales. This is definitely "The Call" story to end all "Call" stories and here it is as I told it to my critique partners (who fortunately I was allowed to tell early on because otherwise I would have died). 

A couple important items of note to the story: Scott is my husband and apparently he and Adrienne had been colluding over Facebook messages for a week once Adrienne was aware that Things Were Very Likely Going To Happen (she never told him I had an offer, she said she wanted to send a surprise to "encourage me") and I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago and was icing it because I'd gone running when I got home from work (I showered before this all went down thankfully, but I am sans makeup, hair drying weirdly, and in a random t-shirt--I mean, really, Charlie Brown Halloween shirt, I have to remember you forever?)

But without further adieu, THE CALL as told in some version or other to Tara Kelly, Jeri Smith-Ready, and Alexa Young (ie. the women who along with Adrienne who have continually kept me going for the past 6 years):

So at 8 pm our door buzzer goes off, and I am mystified because you know, packages don’t get delivered that late. I’m in the process of icing my ankle so I tell Scott to answer the buzzer. He says there’s something at the door for me. I’m like, "I didn’t order anything, am I fucking getting served or something?" (Because of course my mind goes to the worst possible thing...) Scott was like, "Well, you better go down and sign for it." At that point, I was almost kind of pissed, like why is he making me limp downstairs instead of signing for me and who is this interrupting Orange is the New Black? 

Then I open the door and there is a gorilla in a tuxedo with an iPod dock boombox asking if I’m Stephanie. 
I was so beyond confused that at first it didn’t even compute when he said, "This is from Adrienne," because I was thinking it was some sort of joke maybe from my friend Eryn or Beth Ellen, who have that sort of sense of humor and knew I’ve been dealing with some shit lately. Also, not gonna lie, there was still a small part of me wondering if this was some elaborate way to mug me (you can take the girl out of Chicago, but…). The gorilla had to ask if he could come in, so I ushered him into the lobby of my building and I guess at that point Scott had arrived and took this picture: 


The gorilla started playing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang (which was my first cassette tape because when the Cardinals won the World Series when I was a kid it was their theme and I was obsessed. I cannot recall if this is in the memoir or was just a lucky bit of fate) and at that point my brain finally put two and two together. Adrienne. Your agent. Celebration. Dancing gorilla. But at first I still couldn’t even let myself believe it. At one point some of the people in the apartment nearest the front door came out and were like, “What is going on? Why are we celebrating?” And I was like, "I have no idea!!!"


I think they somehow comprehended before I did because they said congrats and went inside as the song was ending. Then the gorilla was like, "Congratulations!" and I think he maybe said we had an offer, but I’m actually not sure, he told me that I had to call Adrienne RIGHT NOW. And I said, "I don’t have my phone!" Scott tried to give me his and I’m like, "Dude, I don’t know her number." So then the gorilla gives me his phone which is already cued up and dialing Adrienne and he instructs Scott to video tape it. Good thing, too because the conversation is kind of a blur. Basically, all I remember is saying, “Hi, Adrienne, this is Steph, I’m, uh, calling from the gorilla’s phone?” And I think she said something like “I promised you a good 'The Call' story.” And I said, “So this is it? This is The Call?” And then she told me, “Well, worst case scenario, we're selling your memoir to Julie Strauss-Gabel at Dutton.” And I practically passed the fuck out while Adrienne laughed. Of course she was totally kidding about the whole "worst case scenario" thing--it was actually the "dream come true scenario." 

After more giggling on both ends and me stammering, "Oh my god," we said goodbye to the gorilla. (I did not tip the gorilla! I feel bad about this! I had no wallet though. Maybe Scott tipped him? Maybe that isn’t necessary???) Then I went upstairs, called Adrienne back on my own phone and got all of the details. I also asked, "Is this actually real?" several times. As I mentioned earlier I’ve wanted to work with Julie for years (and for you writers out there, she has passed on more than one of my manuscripts—it really is about right book, right time). She’s edited some of my favorite books including both of Nova Ren Suma’s masterpieces, Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone; Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door (as well as the forthcoming Isla and the Happily Ever After, which I’m currently devouring) by Stephanie Perkins A.K.A. my fellow YA writer named Stephanie with brightly colored hair; If I Stay by Gayle Foreman, and of course, Looking for Alaska by John Green, A.K.A., the book my first agent told me to read when I expressed some shock about her idea to shop my first novel as a YA.

Adrienne also thought Julie would be perfect for this project, so by the next day (right before I posted my “I cannot tell you…” tweet), even though we had interest from other publishers, we were only negotiating with Julie and Dutton and by Thursday, June 19th at noon, we’d officially accepted their offer. The book hadn’t even been on submission for two weeks (it was barely a week when we got the offer). Since it took over a year to sell my first book and I’ve had other things out for even longer than that, I was floored.

I’m still floored.

And I’m beyond grateful.

And now I’ve got about half a book to write, so…. I’ll conclude the same way I did in my recent YA Outside the Lines blog post about the best advice I could give aspiring writer me or any aspiring writer is that nothing will go as expected: “The things you didn’t or couldn’t plan often turn out better than you possibly could have imagined.”

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and to everyone who is as excited about this book as I am!

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23. Who is My Audience?

On Twitter ages ago N. K. Jemisin asked “*do* white writers want only white readers?”

The immediate, obvious answer for me is: No, I don’t want only white readers. And I’m really glad I don’t have only white readers.

But I’ve not been able to stop thinking about that question. And the shadow question which is “do white writers only write for white readers” regardless of what kind of audience they might want?

In order to respond I need to break it down:

Whiteness

I’m white. That fact has shaped everything about me. I know the moment when I first realised I was white. I was three or four and had just returned from living on an Aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory. My parents were anthropologists. I was on a bus with my mum in inner-city Sydney when I pointed to a man of possibly Indian heritage and said loudly, “Mummy, look it’s a black man.” My mother was embarrassed, apologised to the man, who was very gracious, and later tried to talk to me about race and racism in terms a littlie could understand.

What happened in that moment was me realising that some people were black and some people were white and that it made a difference to the lives they lived. I’d just spent many months living in the Northern Territory as the only white kid. The fact that I wasn’t black had not been made an issue.1 We played and fought and did all the things that kids do despite my difference. So much so that tiny me had not noticed there was a difference. Despite seeing many instances of that difference being a great deal I wasn’t able to make sense of it till I was living somewhere that was majority white, majority people with my skin colour, and then the penny dropped.

Many white Australians never have a moment of realising that they’re white. That makes sense. Whiteness is everywhere. White Australians see themselves everywhere. Our media is overwhelmingly white, our books are overwhelmingly white. In Australia whiteness is not other; it just is. Whiteness doesn’t have to be explained because it is assumed.

Because whiteness just is, like many other white people, I don’t identify as white. For me whiteness is the box I have to tick off when I fill out certain forms. While it shapes every single day of my life it doesn’t feel like it does. Because what whiteness gives me is largely positive, not negative. My whiteness is not borne home on me every single day. I don’t need to identify as white because, yes, whiteness is a privilege.

When I see a white person talking about “their people” and they mean “white people” I assume they are white supremacists. Anyone talking about saving the white race from extinction is not my people.

For many different reasons I do not think of white people as my people. As a white writer I do not write for white people.

I admit that I have used the phrase “my people.” I’ve used it jokingly to refer to other Australians. Particularly when homesick. Or when someone Australian has done something awesome like Jessica Mauboy singing at Eurovision at which point I will yell: “I love my people!” Or an Australian has done something embarrassing on the world stage: “Oh, my people, why do you fill me with such shame?”

I’ve used “my people” to refer to other passionate readers, to YA writers, to fans of women’s basketball, to Australian cricket fans who like to mock the Australian men’s cricket team and care about women’s cricket, to people who hate chocolate and coffee as much as I do etc.

All of that comes from a place of privilege. I can’t think of a single time in my life when I have been referred to as “you people.” I’ve gotten “you women” or “you feminists” or “you commies”2 or “you wankers” but never “you people.”

White people are rarely asked to speak for their entire race. N. K. Jemisin’s question about white writers writing for white readers is not something that gets asked very often. Meanwhile writers of colour are asked questions like that all the time. They are always assumed to have a people that they’re writing for.

Audience

When I sold my first novel3 I was not thinking about who would read those books. I wasn’t thinking about it when I wrote those books either.4 Frankly I was still over-the-moon ecstatic that they’d sold, that there were going to be novels out there that I wrote! I didn’t get as far as imagining who would read them.

I’ve written stories ever since I was able to write and before then I would tell them to whoever would listen. My first audience was my sister. And, yes, I tailored some of those stories to suit her tastes, adding lots of poo jokes. But, come on, I like(d) poo jokes too. It’s more that I got lucky that my sister liked what I liked.

All my novels are books that, if I hadn’t written them, I would want to read them. I write for myself. I am my main audience.

However.

That all changed when I was published, when my stories found distribution beyond my sister, my parents, friends, teachers.

When I, at last, had an audience and that audience was responding to my novels is when I started thinking about that audience.

When members of my audience started writing to me and I met members of my audience is when I really started thinking about who my audience was and how they would respond to what I had written.

That’s how I know my audience isn’t all white. It’s how I know my audience isn’t all teens. How I know they’re not all women. Not all straight. Not all middle class.

As my books started to be translated I found myself with an audience that isn’t all English speaking.

Discovering how diverse my audience was changed the way I wrote which I have discussed here.

Addressing a White Audience

There is one place where I am addressing a mostly white audience. And that’s on this blog and on Twitter when I’m trying to explain these kinds of complex issues of race to people who haven’t thought much about them before. White people tend to be the people who think the least about race because it affects them the least. So sometimes that’s who I’m consciously addressing.

Writing to an Audience

But white people who are ignorant about racism is never whom I’m consciously addressing when I write my novels.

Even now when I have a better idea of who my audience is I don’t consciously write for them. When I’m writing the first draft of a novel all I’m thinking about is the characters and the story and getting it to work. If I start thinking about what other people will think of it I come to a grinding halt. So I have learned not to do that.

It is only in rewriting that I start thinking about how other people will respond to my words. That’s because when I rewrite I’m literally responding to other people’s thoughts on what I’ve written: comments from my first readers, from my agent, and editors.

My first readers are not always the same people. If I’m writing a book that touches on people/places/genres I have not written before I’ll send the novel to some folks who are knowledgeable about those in the hope that they will call me on my missteps.

Any remaining missteps are entirely my lookout. There are always remaining missteps. I then do what I can to avoid making the same mistakes in the next books I write. And so it goes.

I hope this goes a little of the way towards answering N. K. Jemisin’s question. At least from this one white writer. Thank you for asking it, Nora.

  1. When we returned when I was 8-9 my whiteness made a huge difference.
  2. Many USians think anyone to the left of Genghis Khan is a communist.
  3. First three, actually. The Magic or Madness trilogy was sold on proposal as a three-book deal way back in 2003.
  4. Well not the first two, which were written before the first one was published.

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24. Sharpen Your Workshop Routines: The Importance of Talk Within the Workshop Process

Writing is hard. Letting our ideas float in the space around us makes the words come to the page more easily.

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25. On Ideas and Plots and Their Mutability

Sometimes I get asked questions on twitter that cannot be answered in 140 characters. Candanosa asked one such yesterday:

Do you ever get amazing ideas for your books and then realize it was just something you read in someone else’s?

I couldn’t answer this in a tweet because being inspired by other books is at the heart of most writers’ work. It’s a feature, not a bug.

My book Razorhurst wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Larry Writer’s non-fiction account of the same period, Razor. Now most people see no problem with that: a novel being inspired by a non-fiction book. It happens all the time.

However, Razorhurst also wouldn’t be what it is without Ruth Park’s Harp in the South and Kylie Tennant’s Foveaux. Those books, Razor included, inspired and in some ways, shaped every sentence I wrote.

I couldn’t answer Candanosa’s question in a tweet because it expresses as a problem what I see to be a feature of being a writer. Every one of my novels has to some extent been inspired by, influenced by, made possible by, other novels.

My first three books, the Magic or Madness trilogy, was inspired by a popular series in which magic solved all the problems and had no negative consequences. I was annoyed me. Greatly. So much that I wrote three novels in which magic was more a curse than a gift and had grave consequences.

If I get an amazing idea and then realise that it’s similar to a book by someone else I start to think about how I would do it differently. For instance Hunger Games is not an original idea. You can trace its origins all the way back to the gladiators. The idea of people fighting to the death as entertainment for the masses has been used in The Running Man as well as Battle Royale to name two of the more famous examples. Hunger Games is not a rip off of either of these.

These three books are not identical. That central plot is mutable. Read them side by side, look at how differently they treat the similar set up. They’re in conversation with each other and their differences are far more telling than their superficial similarities.

I know many writers who when talking about the novel they’re currently writing say things like: “It’s Jane Eyre as if it were a thriller, and Rochester a psychopath,1 set on an isolated satellite.” Or “It’s a YA version of Gone Girl but set in a fantasy kingdom ruled by pterodactyls.” You get the idea. Pretty much every writer I know does some version of this.

It’s not plagiarism, it’s not cheating, it’s not lazy. It’s how creativity works in every field. We are inspired by what went before us.

Most people reading those Jane Eyre or Gone Girl reworkings would be unlikely to spot that that’s how they began life. Two writer with the same starting idea, or even with the same plot, will write different books. That’s how fiction works. Hell, that’s how non-fiction works. I’ve read several biographies of Virginia Woolf and they’re all different.

Getting an idea, coming up with a plot, are not the key to novel writing. I come up with millions every day. I do not write millions of novels every day. The heart of novel writing is actually writing the novel; it’s breathing life into characters and settings and situations. Plots are easy. Someone goes on a journey, a stranger comes to town, blah blah blah. All writers steal plots even when they don’t think they that’s what they’re doing. Just look at Shakespeare!

What makes a novel work is so complicated, there are so many moving parts, that declaring a book is merely its central idea, merely its plot, is ludicrous.2 If that were true why would we bother reading the novel? We might as well read the Cliff Notes version. Same thing, right? WRONG!

Next time you have an amazing idea and realise you read it in someone else’s novel. Relax. That’s a good thing. Your brain is in story-making mode. Treasure it, think about how you would do that particular idea differently, tell that story differently. Who knows? Maybe it will lead to something awesome.

  1. Not a big stretch given that Rochester is TOTALLY a pyschopath.
  2. For starters most novels are inspired by more than one idea.

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