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This illustration was sent in by Patricia Pinsk. She works primarily with water colour, ink, digital photography, coloured pencil and collage. Patricia holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (now called Emily Carr University of Art and Design), as well as a Certificate in New Media from Vancouver Film School. Web:www.patriciapinsk.com/Facebook: www.facebook.com/patriciapinskillustration?ref=hlTwitter: @patriciapinsk
Here are the first page critiques brought to you this month by Liza Fleissig from the Liza Royce Agency.
The Tattletail’s Claw: A CreatureNet Chronicle by Jody Staton – Middle Grade Novel
“Be Careful What You Wish For”
“. . .and that, Clawdia,” says Hershey’s voice in my head, “is why you must never let two-leggers know what we are.”
I lick a paw, and swipe it across my whiskers. Curled up on his wide brown rump, warmed by his body heat, I’m lulled half to sleep.
Zzzzt! A huge horsefly dive-bombs us. Wide awake now, I swat with a paw, and miss. Hershey flicks his long black tail. Whipping horsehairs send the fly tumbling. It buzzes around his legs, he stomps a hoof. His rump becomes an earthquake. I leap to my feet, teetering because I dare not dig into his hide the few claws I have left. We are next to a water trough, and I jump over it to a split-rail fence.
“Sorry about that,” he says. He ducks his head—in apology, I think. No, he’s just rubbing his head against the edge of the trough, scratching the lump that mars his forehead. Then, stern, like the police horse he used to be, Hershey demands that I repeat what he just told me.
I blink. “About the interstellar ark?”
“Wrong. About how two-leggers wouldn’t understand. How can you teach these stories to other Listeners if you don’t know them well yourself?”
I twitch my question-mark tail. “Why? Yesterday you said how few of us—”
“Lunchtime, Clawdia.” A human voice cuts me off. From the back porch of the Schwartz Veterinary Clinic, across a gravel drive from Hershey’s farm, it’s a young voice. And familiar!
“Dookie! I knew she’d come again this summer.” Forget Hershey’s lectures—my favorite person is here! I leap from the fence, streak across the drive. Dookie jumps from the porch, falls over a small bush, picks herself up, and races toward me. We meet in a mess of legs and arms, fur and tight curls, purrings and kisses.
Here is what Liza had to say:
Staton, The Tattletail’s Claw
The writing itself is nice, with many nice details (like “I lick a paw and swipe it over my whiskers” and “his rump becomes an earthquake”). But my first impression is one of confusion—there are a lot of elements that are unexplained, and it’s rather difficult to paint a picture or figure out what’s going on.
The very first sentence is a difficult and awkward way to begin a story—with dialogue in the midst of being spoken. Perhaps the writer is trying to created intrigue, but younger readers will be confused. For one, we do not yet know they are animals and two, “two-leggers” will be an unfamiliar term.
It takes quite a while to figure out what kind of animals these are, which also causes confusion—you don’t want readers to be wondering about this so much that it detracts from what’s happening in the story.
Other questions: The cat says, “I dare not dig into his hide the few claws I have left”—why is this? Is this a detail we need to know right now, on the first page? Then, the horse says, “How can you teach these stories to other Listeners if you don’t know them well yourself?” First of all, what stories? Secondly, who are the Listeners? Third, why does the cat not seem to care about the stories (and why does the horse)? Again, you want to create intrigue, but you don’t want to leave the reader with so little to work with, and here there are just too many unanswered questions.
If this is a story about talking animals, then it’s a story for young readers. The sentence structure is a bit too complex, and combined with the above questions, I think younger readers are going to feel lost (what is an “interstellar” ark, for example?) We need to have a simpler, cleaner and more appealing introduction to the story. The set-up needs to be such that young readers want to keep on reading. The detail with Dookie is very sweet—perhaps concentrate on this as an introduction—and maybe the fact that these animals can talk is enough of a mystery that the reader will be excited to find out more.
Daddy, What’s a Redneck? by Erika Wassall Picture Book
Little Lainey squatted, tugged on the pant legs sticking out between the two tires and asked, “Daddy, what’s a Redneck?” (illus: Daddy is underneath a vehicle working on it.)
Daddy laughed. He opened his mouth to answer, but stopped short.
“Hand me that yellow screwdriver and I’ll tell you,” he said. “Your great-granddaddy was a Redneck. He worked out in the cotton fields all day, with the sun beating on the back of his NECK.” Daddy slid out from underneath the engine and smiled. “What happens to your nose and shoulders when you’re out in the sun all day?”
Little Lainey’s eyes lit up, “They get all RED!” she cried.
Daddy nodded. “Exactly! Back then, working in the fields meant you couldn’t go to school. Calling someone a Redneck could have been hurtful, meaning they weren’t very smart. People started to think that folks who worked with their hands all day were fools.”
Little Lainey stared at Daddy’s grease covered hands and sternly shook her head. “But Daddy! Your hands can fix everything! They’re the smartest hands I know.”
“Darn right!” said Daddy. “Folks often try to find ways to put others down. That doesn’t make them right. People all across the country are proud to be Rednecks.” (illus: Daddy’s leaning over so we can see his red neck)
“Why?” asked Little Lainey, as she watched the rainbows dance on the top of the oil pan.
Here is what Liza had to say:
Wassall, Daddy, What’s a Redneck?
Opening paragraph is sweet. I just don’t know how much this topic is going to interest readers. Does this make a story? What is the story here? Dad is answering a question, but what is the story? Why does the little girl ask this question in the first place?
My concern is that the title feels like a joke and it’s hard to take the story seriously upon first hearing what the title is. In fact, there may be a lot of people who take offense before they even have a chance to read the story.
Dad’s answers to the little girl’s question are nice, but there’s a lot that feels a bit too adult here and which young readers might have a hard time understanding: “Folks often try to find ways to put others down” etc.
General kid appeal: a little low. It’s hard to imagine a kid wanting to read this based on the first page (and keep going back to it). Feels a bit too earnest and “issue” driven. Combined with the title, I don’t think this would be something an editor would request over other things currently being shopped.
Jeremy pulled his new sled out of the car. He squeaked his boots on the fresh snow. “Sugarhouse Hill, here I come!”
“We still need noisemakers for our New Year’s party,” said Dad. “Stick to the small hill until I get back from the store.”
“Okay,” said Jeremy. He waved to Dad and then plodded up the hard-packed path. But instead of stopping where he should have, his feet took him up, up, up to the top of the highest hill in the whole park.
“Just one run,” Jeremy whispered. He climbed into his sled. It teetered, it tottered, it wibbled and wobbled, then –
WHOOSH! Off he flew down, down, down to the line of straw bales that stopped runaway sleds. Jeremy slipped through a gap…
…. and tangled the leash between a woman and her dog.
“Sorry!” Jeremy yelled as the dog flew into the air and landed in the sled. The sled sped across the slick road, down a slope and onto the pond.
“Sliding through!” Jeremy shouted. The sled knocked a puck into the net and flipped a hockey player into the sled.
“Hang on!” The sled slid through a flock of ducks, hit a bump and flew
through the air…
… scared a squirrel out of a tree, knocked a hat off a snowman,
and barely cleared the back fence of the zoo.
Here is what Liza had to say:
Heavenrich, Jeremy’s Sled
I like the fun of the sled ride gone out of control—readers will think this is super fun and entertaining. The beginning is slow, though. Why do we need the earnest, adult details of dad telling Jeremy that he’s going to the store and stick to the small hill? Why not just have Jeremy at the big hill pondering it “mom and dad always tell me to stick to the small hills, but just once I’d like to try the big one” or something like this.
The wild sled ride itself seems to need to be slowed down a bit, too much happens too quickly. The writer could have a lot of fun here by making each thing that winds up in the sled a more fun acquisition.
The title needs to be more interesting and compelling, something that reflects the fun that both Jeremy and the reader are in for. The language as well, while nice, is not really reflective in rhythm and language of a wild sled ride. Writer should look at some comparable picture books for examples.
Detective Derk’s Spy Manual for the Disgruntled made surveillance sound a lot easier than it was. Knelling on a bent knee, peering around a corner with a mirror, Aaron Adams switched the mirror from one hand to the other. This was just long enough for him to shake out his arm, which had started to go numb. He resumed his position, but his back and knee still ached. For the whole lunch period he’d been looking down the long hall that leads to the school’s cafeteria. He’d been on surveillance since Monday and now that it was Friday, he was losing hope that this would work. An internal debate started to brew in his mind, was it worth skipping lunch again, after the lack of success all week. Then, his target, his jerk older brother Roger Adams, turned the corner.
Roger strolled down the hall in his ‘I’m too important to walk any faster’ mode and pulled what appeared to be a coin from his pocket. Roger never has change, this doesn’t make sense, thought Aaron. Roger walked toward a row of old-fashioned vending machines. These ancient relics had been in the school forever, since a time when their Principle attended here as a kid. They were always full of candy bars, but no one carries change anymore except old people, like Aaron’s rusty teachers.
Aaron’s arm was starting to shake by the time Roger stopped in front of the vending machines. He took slow steady breaths; this was described in Detective Derk’s manual as something you should do if you ever need to steady yourself. He kept the mirror focused on his target.
Roger slid a quarter into a slot, pressed a button and the sound of the candy hitting the tray echoed down the hall. I KNOW he doesn’t carry money.
Aaron leaned so far forward the mirror started to fog from his breath. Before the image…
Here is what Liza had to say:
Larson & Mowat, Rule Breaker
Writing is a bit awkward and clunky—the very first paragraph is actually quite a mouthful to read aloud, and I worry that readers’ introduction to this story will not be as compelling as it needs to be in order to hook readers and get them interesting in reading further. Words like “disgruntled” and “knelling” (is this an error?? didn’t make sense) further confusing the narration.
Kids will find spying fun, but why is one brother spying on another? I think we need a better sense of this. And why is one brother spying on another brother at school (when he can spy on him at home)? In other words, I worry that this may come across as a plot that’s not so exciting (as opposed to having Aaron spy on someone more interesting, like a school enemy, for example).
Words are misspelled throughout (knelling rather than kneeling, Principle rather than Principal) and grammar is shaky. As an agent, this isn’t something I request to see further.
As a writer you spend months writing the first draft of your manuscript.You type the last word and part one of the process has been completed. That is a huge accomplishment in itself, but it’s not over yet.
Now you have something to work with: something to edit and polish. Will it change? Will the story hold up to scrutiny and to the feedback of editors, readers and critiques? Time will tell.
This is the best part of writing. The polishing and detailing of the work. The excitement grows. The anticipation of an agent. The rejections of some agents who like to live in their own comfort zone and play the odds to put money in their pockets OR the acceptance of your manuscript by an agent who sees a new writer emerging from the throngs of formatted prose and safe subject matter.
Writing is not for the faint-hearted. It is all about persistence. It is all about great characters and a fast-moving story. But primarily it is all about the prose.
We as writers need feedback. We hunger for it. We need it to grow. If we didn’t write anything then there would be nothing for the critics to extol their criticisms as non-writers. They are the ones who buy books. Let’s not forget that.
I am participating in a themed blog hop with my publisher Helping Hands Press (myhelpinghandspress.com). The theme this month is, as the title suggests, my writing process. That is a very open-ended topic on which I probably have too much to say.
I am thinking where to start, doing the usual – stare out the window until the right word pops into my scattered brain. That’s it. That’s my writing process. I randomly wait until some thought stumbles through the blank slate of my mind and I hurriedly write it before it escapes.
Oh wait. That’s only a fraction of how I write. Sometimes, I actually have solid ideas, well-plotted with themes and even a little style. Maybe that’s my writing process? I compose a sturdy outline. There are plot points along the way, like the map of a family road trip with all the tourist traps circled in red. I know where the story starts and know where it ends. Along the journey, I make sure to visit the World’s Largest Ball of Twine or the live mermaids of Weeki Wachee. I do, of course, allow extra drive time for any serendipitous side trips.
The thing that occurs to me is that we writers all have our own process. We each have things that work best, our own traditions and superstitions even. We all have our own style. That is a good thing because every reader has their own style too. We will never run out of stories as long as we never run out of readers.
Now, if I can only add something of substance to this post. Some of the best advice I ever received on writing was to develop my Point of View. That doesn’t mean readers want to know my opinion on anything (probably more the opposite). What it means is that I had to decide who is telling the story and make that connection with the reader. It does not mean to write in the first person tense. Even in third person, you have to have POV. You have to choose one character to tell the story. Show the world through that character’s eyes and reveal that character’s inner thoughts and desires. Then the reader only knows what the character knows, which can help build tension or create surprises. The reader can rise and fall with a character that way.
I could go on for a while about this, list countless examples of good and bad. I could cite specifics in my own books. I don’t want to bore anybody, so I’ll bring it to a close.
In summary, writing, for me, is a passion. We each live out that passion in our own way. I happen to love every minute of it.
Mark currently resides in Florida with his wife and four children. He has achieved some success as a Kindle Best Seller and having one of his short stories selected as a winner in the Florida Writer’s Association Short Story Collection.
Growing up in Kansas, Mark graduated from Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences and received his Bachelor’s in Film from the University of Kansas.
Mark has written numerous novels, screenplays, short stories and digital series. He has geared his young adult fantasy series, The Empyrical Tales, for the classroom and explored his spirituality, writing both with his father and daughter. Inspirational stories with positive messages are his goal with everything he writes.
We've all heard that half the battle—or maybe more—in selling books is finding your audience. But how do you do that? It's something that I've struggled with, so I thought I'd share my story with you.
When Touch of Death was originally submitted to editors, it was pitched as The Walking Dead meets Shatter Me. Now, I should have immediately realized my audience off of that pitch, but I was new to the industry and I admit it went right over my head. Now, nearly two years later, I realized that I have a huge audience I never reached out to. Fans of The Walking Dead!
So this Sunday, I'm hosting a Twitter Viewing Party during this week's episode of The Walking Dead.
In addition to the viewing party, my P.A. made this for me, and I love it because it's Daryl and my book! ;)
I've also been on a book tour for The Monster Within and I've been bringing my bookmarks for the Touch of Death series. After I talk to people about The Monster Within, I mention Touch of Death. But my first question is always "Are you a fan of The Walking Dead?" All but one person I asked answered yes to that question, and the one person who didn't said she wasn't but the woman with her was. It's the perfect way for me to introduce my series and hand out bookmarks. So that's the pitch I'm sticking with for this series.
Will this connection to The Walking Dead help sales? I guess I'll find out, but I certainly can't see how it could hurt.
So it may have taken me a while to stumble on this idea, but I found my audience. How have you found your audience?
I’ve come to the conclusion that most writers don’t read as well as they write.
Every time I send an email, I get back several responses asking questions that were answered in the message. For example, I’ll say, “The call is at 5 pm Eastern time,” and a few people will respond, “What time zone is the call in?” Or I’ll invite readers to join a waitlist to receive an announcement when a class registration is open, and that the class will cost $X, and inevitably some people will write back with, “I signed up for your class using that link you sent and didn’t get the materials.”
I feel okay saying this because it’s something I struggle with myself. I’m impatient and tend to skim emails, instructions, and so on — and wind up asking “duh” questions that later make me want to kick myself.
Just today, I received a long email about my son’s soccer team and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out when his practices are. Only after I sent a desperate email to the coach did I reread the message and realize they had attached a schedule.
We writers tend to be scattered and easily overwhelmed. I’m not sure if these characteristics are typical of creative people (probably), or if there’s something about the writing life that makes us this way.
But knowing this, lately I’ve been making an intensive effort to thoroughly study and understand everything I read.
This is especially, super, vitally important because most of our communication with clients, editors, and sources is via email. And too often, I get frantic messages from writers saying things like, “I just read my assignment letter and realized I was supposed to write a sidebar — and the article is due today!”
Here’s how to bump up your reading comprehension: (And yes, I’m working on doing these things, too!)
When an editor sends you instructions or a request, read them carefully — then read them again. If, after careful reading, there’s something you don’t understand — ask.
When you’re scheduling an interview or anything else, double-check to make sure you know what time zone it’s in, and whether it’s AM or PM. It’s amazing how many people automatically assume everything happens in their own time zone!
If you received an email from an editor that seems to be missing a vital piece of information, like the word count of an assignment, go back through your communications by reading through all the emails in the thread. Chances are, he mentioned it in a previous email.
Re-read your assignment specs right before you begin writing. Chances are, you’ve forgotten some details from when you first read them.
Writers, let’s get reading — and we’ll cut out a lot of angst, do better work — and get more assignments!
How about you: Have you ever misread a piece of information from a client or colleague — and if so, what happened? Bonus points if your story is funny!
Today, three stories, followed by a few thoughts...
Story 1. The hole.
In my parents’ building in Paris, where I spent most of my childhood, there’s a hole in the wall near the ground - a hole big enough for a child to crawl through, and as a child I would always do so instead of using the door. Most of the time I’d already wriggled through the hole before my parents had found their keys - and I’d open the glass door from the inside, extremely dusty but very conscious of my power.
As time went by, I somehow stopped crawling through the hole.
One day, when I got home from school, I realised I’d forgotten my keys. No problem, I thought, I can just go through the hole. But of course when I tried I couldn’t - it was too narrow for my shoulders.
It didn’t make me sad. But for some time afterwards, when I thought about it, I confusedly wondered - was it really because I’d grown too big for it that I couldn’t go through the hole anymore, or was it because I’d stopped going through the hole that I’d grown too big for it?
Story 2. The spatula.
As a child I was constantly, voraciously hungry. I would actually dream that I was eating roast chicken with cream, or Nutella crêpes or cheese. Only pride would prevent me from crying if I had any reason to believe that another child, or indeed adult, had been given more food than me. I couldn’t focus on anything if there was a vending machine in sight, especially if it sold Kinder Bueno, my favourite chocolate bar and an absolute torture, as I was always divided between the desire to eat each chunk in one go and the temptation to open them up like little boxes and lick the cream inside.
I had a friend whose mum made excellent cakes every day. I often stayed with them on holiday, and my friend and I would prowl like vulture around the kitchen table as her mum finished scraping the dough out of the mixing bowl and into the cake dish with a spoon. Then we’d fight furiously over the remnants of dough in the bowl, with fingers, tongues and chins.
One day, her mum bought a silicon spatula. I’d never seen a silicon spatula before.
We watched in horror as the ruthlessly efficient implement left barely a trail of cake dough in the mixing bowl. Every day after that, we swallowed back tears, and I clearly remember my head spinning with frustrated desire, as increasingly spotless mixing bowls ended up in the sink to be washed. We prayed and implored my friend’s mum to leave us at least a tiny bit, but she was under the impression that it was less useful to us raw than baked.
We devised the perfect crime: we pushed the spatula all the way to the bottom of the cutlery drawer and it fell behind it, and behind the freezer beneath the drawer, with a satisfying CLACK, joining dozens of lost spoons, scissors and other expatriates from the overfilled drawer.
For the next few days the wooden spoon returned and with it the minutes of bowl-licking. Then they bought another spatula.
Story 3. The castle.
My mother was pregnant with my sister; I was five and a half years old. We had an absolutely tiny flat in Paris and my parents were looking for a less absolutely tiny flat. I knew how much they wanted to spend on it, and I ‘helped’ by looking at ads in the windows of estate agencies.
Suddenly I spotted an ad for a castle, a castle, for sale at a much lower price than the one my parents were ready to put into the new flat. It had turrets, an immense garden, a forest.
I listened, without understanding, as my mother explained that they didn’t want a castle, because they wanted to live in Paris. I pointed out that the ad said that it was only half and hour from Paris. My mother laughed and said no, Clementine, listen, we’re not buying a castle. We’re buying a flat in Paris.
I remember thinking, distinctly and with real alarm, feeling that this realisation would have an enormous impact on my future life: my parents are mad. I live with people who are mad.
I have three silicon spatulas now, and when I finally get a permanent job I will likely buy a small house or a flat. Not a castle.
It was ‘us’ children versus ‘them’ adults once upon a time, and now it’s the opposite. They’re really not like us, are they? I’m just not that hungry anymore. Sure, the memory of that hunger prevents me from getting too annoyed at them when they steal bits of mozzarella from the salads before they get to the table (arrghh!!!), or when they fly into a tantrum for an ice cream.
And I think it’s amazing that I once wanted a castle. Amazingly mad.
Don't you think?
It would be possible to write children's stories from all those intense memories, and to write them as if we truly believed that castles should indeed be bought and that cakes should preferably be eaten raw. But would it be true? Would it be honest? We don't... do that anymore.
Would they be our stories now, these nostalgic recollections?
How do we write for children, having changed so much?
Do we want to sound, when we write, like we're imagining that we can still go through the hole? That would leave our whole bodies behind, and what made them grow...
Clémentine Beauvais writes books in both French and English. The former are of all kinds and shapes for all ages, and the latter humour and adventure stories with Hodder and Bloomsbury. She blogs here about children's literature and academia and is on Twitter @blueclementine.
Book-jacket designer Raquel Jaramillo never intended her first book to take a stand against school-yard bullying.
Wonder is the fictional story of August Pullman, a fifth grader born with a chromosomal abnormality that disfigures his face.
From Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the tiniest corners of rural United States, Jaramillo, writing under the pen name R.J. Palacio, has received thousands of letters and emails from children saying Wonder has made them want to be better people.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Photo: Supplied
“That’s amazing to hear from 10-year-olds,” says the New York-based writer, whose book has been revised to include the bully’s perspective.
There is now an entire shelf of children’s and young adults’ fiction that model difference and tolerance. It’s not just bullying. Cancer, depression, autism, gender confusion and learning difficulties are making their way into children’s books.
Teachers, parents and librarians have picked up these books-with-a-cause as a reading resource to help children and teens rehearse ways they can confront taunts, social exclusion and violence. And they have turned them into unexpected best sellers.
Wonder has sold more than a million copies worldwide, 33,000 copies in Australia. John Green’s The Fault in our Stars, a romance about teens with cancer, has notched up 10 million sales worldwide.
Anti-bullying campaigner Susanne Gervay is certain a literature-based approach can break down stereotypes and save lives.
Gervay is the creator of the I am Jack series. She describes her books as part survival manual, part fiction, which distil issues of difference, tolerance and anxiety into digestible bits by which young readers can reach some understanding of their problems.
Too often children are given too much credit for being able tocommunicate their feelings, says Gervay.
“I go into schools and children tell me their stories,” she says. “When I hear a 12-year-old ask, ‘what is the point of life?’, I want to hug them and tell them it’s going to be alright. I had one girl who muttered under her breath, ‘I want to die’, and, you know, I took her by her hand and brought her friends around her and made them vow that they would be there for this girl whenever she felt lonely or upset.”
The value of literature as a therapy tool has long been recognised by the Australian Association of Family Therapy which this time every year honours books that help children deal with divorce, disability and other difficulties.
This year’s winner in the young adult category is Aimee Said’s Freia Lockhart’s Summer of Awful, about a girl who must cope with her mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer. It was selected for its realistic setting, strong role models and positive outcomes.
One of last year’s winners, I’ll Tell You Mine by Pip Harry, shows how parents deal with their teenage daughter’s difficult behaviour while the other, Violet Mackerel’s Personal Space by Anna Branford, was praised for its positive depictions of step-parenting.
Linda Stock, amember of the book awards’ panel for nine years, has studied the benefits of reading for children who have spent long periodsin hospital and usesGoing Homeby Margaret Wild and Wayne Harris as her text.
While she was reading to young patients in Royal North Shore Hospital, one boy told her books helped him “get out of his hospital bed and into his imagination”.
Stock says she avoids books that are glib or contain glaring stereotypes and likes Pip’s Magic by Ellen Stoll Walsh, which is about dealing with fear but is code for the message “we have the skills we need, and are already brave”.
The spoken-word artist Shane Koyczan is the latest writer to put his own pain into print. His anti-bullying poem To This Day describes the life-long repercussions of school-yard bullying. Koyczan was the fat kid at school and has been haunted by taunts of pork chop. His message is: names do hurt but, if you can’t find beauty in yourself, “find a better mirror”.
Books that use humour, provide hope and offer a positive outcome are most helpful as a teaching tool. But the story must have integrity, says Jaramillo.
“Kids eyes’ glaze over a bit nowadays when they’re told in any kind of didactic manner, don’t be a bully. Very few kids see themselves as bullies. They don’t identify what they’re doing with bullying if it doesn’t fit into the cliches of bullying.
“They don’t see how socially isolating someone is a form of bullying. They don’t recognise themselves in that label. And neither do their parents.”
Books that make a difference
As recommended by Susanne Gervay
Two weeks with The Queen - Morris Gleitzman The Fault in Our Stars - John Green Zac & Mia - A.J. Betts
Depression and mental illness
Lockie Leonard, Legend – Tim Winton His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman The Illustrated Mum – Jacqueline Wilson
Autism and aspergers
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon Dolphins Dance – Jutta Goetze
I Own The Racehorse – Patricia Wrightson Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever – Henry Winkler and lin Olivers Hill’s End – Ian Southwell
I’ve been busy making revisions to my works in progress (nonfiction middle grade and YA novel). There are lots of ways to use spreadsheets to “see the forest for the trees” when you’re writing, and good thing, because I’m often getting lost in the trees. Or the weeds, maybe.
I used the chart above to help me look at the timeline as it relates to theme in my nonfiction manuscript. (Yes, the picture is blurry on purpose. Call me crazy, but I’m not comfortable sharing THAT much info on a work-in-progress)
Related: a couple of weeks ago I went to a fantastic plotting workshop by Rebecca Petruck. She shared another charting method that I found very helpful. If you ever have the chance to take a workshop from Rebecca, jump at it. More info here about Rebecca and her approach.
Darcy Pattison also has some great ideas on how to use spreadsheets to chart your fiction.
What about you, writers? Do you use spreadsheets to analyze your work, and if so, how?
Currently reading: Michelle Icard‘s Middle School Makeover. No, I don’t have a middle-schooler yet, but I will soon. I am loving Icard’s sensible, practical approach and especially all the science about the adolescent brain.
As you know if you’ve read the blog for a little while, my favorite musician is Ben Folds. His band’s most recent album was called The Sound of the Life of the Mind. Not only is the title track my cell phone ringtone, but the idea of “the life of the mind” comes into play today.
In a lot of manuscripts, I’ve seen descriptions like, “My mind exploded with questions” or “He interrupted my train of thought with his voice.” There’s nothing technically wrong with these bits of narrative, but they fall onto the chopping block because of my aversion to filler. If the mind is exploding with questions, you don’t need to narrate that. Cut right to the interiority (thoughts, feelings, reactions) and the specific questions.
If someone is brought out of a meditative moment or otherwise interrupted, let’s get that in interiority instead of the simple description. For example:
Should I get the light-up pumpkins, or the little spiders? Gosh, Target is tough. Too much good stuff, but I can’t get it all. I wish I had more of a decorator’s eye. Maybe these sconces shaped like witch hats will redeem me. I’ve never done anything Pinterest-worthy in my life. How about this cauldron bowl for all the–
My husband looks at me like it’s not his first time trying to get my attention. “I think we have enough Halloween stuff.”
I can’t possibly figure out what inspired this excerpt. Certainly not a trip to Target over the weekend. But here we can see the train of thought interrupted in action, rather than narration. It would be superfluous to also include description of how I’m brought out of my thoughts, for example:
I’ve never done anything Pinterest-worthy in my life. How about this cauldron bowl for all the–
My husband interrupts my thoughts. “Sweetie?”
I’m still thinking about candy bowls when the fantasy comes to a grinding halt. “Huh?”
Here, the idea of being interrupted is pasted on so thick that it slows down the narration. As a bonus side note, let me remind you that you can also exterminate filler on the topic of interruptions in dialogue. There’s formatting to do that work for you. Use an em-dash to denote interruption. I’ve seen a lot of writers using an ellipse and narration, but there’s a much easier and cleaner way.
Before (less correct):
“I think we need more candy. What if a lot of kids…”
Todd interrupts me. “We don’t need more candy. We have ten bags already.”
“And what about pumpkins? Let’s line the driveway, and get one for each step, and–”
“You’re giving me a migraine.”
The em-dash successfully communicates the interruption. There’s absolutely no need to narrate it (“Todd interrupts”) because your formatting is doing all the work on your behalf. An ellipse, on the other hand, indicates a speaker who has drifted off instead of one who is abruptly cut short. For example:
“But I don’t want any of that…”
“Any of what?”
“The stuff, the spider…”
“Yes! No spider webs. We’ll be picking them out of the bushes until Thanksgiving!”
There you have it, some thoughts on filler, interiority, and interruptions! Happy (early) Halloween!
When 81-year-old Pablo Casals, who was the world’s foremost cellist, was asked whey he continued to practice several hours a day, he answered: “Because I think I am making progress.”
Between the ages of eight and twenty-two, ee cummings wrote a poem a day.
In September, my kung fu school began offering Brazilian jiujitsu classes four times a week. You'll find me in nearly every one of them. Before that, grappling was only offered on Sundays, or for parts of kung fu classes.
I used to be creeped out by the idea of grappling. It seemed to rape-y, or ob-gyn-y. I mean, do you really expect me to believe that one of the better positions I can be in is on my back with my legs wrapped around someone? No thanks.
But then I started doing it more, and realized I actually liked it. It is the most intense exercise I have ever done ever. In the last month, I've seen two guys who were way younger than me and who wrestled in high school try out the class, and both ended up half way through class lying flat on their backs on the mat, spent.
And even though you make a lot of physical contact, jiujitsu is impersonal. The person's other body is just an obstacle that you have to deal with. It's only personal in that you like and respect your partner and would not deliberately injure them.
Getting better every day Today several of my grappling partners made a point of telling me how much better I had gotten at jujitsu.
How did I get better? Practice. Making a lot of mistakes. Trying new things, only some of which worked. But mostly just by showing up.
If you do something a lot, even if only a small percentage of it is excellent, a small percentage of a lot is more than a small percentage of not very much.
Malcolm Gladwell famously said that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to make someone an expert.
Then a study said no, deliberate practice doesn't account for all of it. They said practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games and 21% for music. I think writing would be in there. Still one-fifth to one-fourth is a big chunk.
And I am a lot better writer working on my 27th book than I was on my first. I know what I'm doing. I feel it in my bones.
Just like I am beginning to with grappling.
I'm also learning to try new things. Can I get a joint lock in this position? I don't know, but it's worth a try. Instead of thinking about it, I try to just do it.
I'm trying to be more like that with my writing too. To turn off my internal editor and let the words flow. I really like Writeordie.com for making it impossible to be critical and forcing me to write (I'll often set it for 500 words in 15 minutes).
Just do it So if there's something you want to do and be good at, I think the old Nike slogan says it best:
I have carried this keychain or its brother since Nike introduced the slogan (and have backups bought off ebay stashed for when this one breaks).
I would modify it to: JUST DO IT A LOT
So if you want to be a better poet, write four poems a week. Or a poem a day. Lots of photographers do 365 projects, ie, they take a photo every day. Are all those photos great? I'm sure not, but I'm also sure they end up with way more great photos than they would have otherwise.
Woodson, Jacqueline. 2014. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Penguin.
Despite the title, Brown Girl Dreaming is most certainly not just a book for brown girls or girls. Jacqueline Woodson's memoir-in-verse relates her journey to discover her passion for writing. Her story is framed by her large, loving family within the confines of the turbulent Civil Rights Era.
Sometimes a book is so well-received, so popular, that it seems that enough has been said (and said well); anything else would just be noise. Rather than add another Brown Girl Dreaming review to the hundreds of glowing ones already in print and cyberspace, I offer you links to other sites, interviews and reviews related to Brown Girl Dreaming. And, I'll pose a question on memoirs in children's literature.
As a librarian who often helps students in choosing books for school assignments, I have written many times about the dreaded biography assignment - excessive page requirements, narrow specifications, etc.
Obviously, a best choice for a children's book is one written by a noted children's author. Sadly, many (by no means all!) biographies are formula-driven, series-type books that are not nearly as engaging as ones written by the best authors. Rare is the author of young people's literature who writes an autobiographyfor children as Ms. Woodson has done. When such books exist, they are usually memoirs focusing only on the author's childhood years. This is perfectly appropriate because the reader can relate to that specified period of a person's lifetime. Jon Sciezska wrote one of my favorite memoirs for children, Knucklehead, and Gary Paulsen's, How Angel Peterson Got his Namealso comes to mind as a stellar example. These books, however, don't often fit the formula required to answer common student assignment questions, i.e., birth, schooling, employment, marriages, accomplishments, children, death. Students are reluctant to choose a book that will leave them with a blank space(s) on an assignment.
I wonder what teachers, other librarians and parents think about this. Must the biography assignment be a traditional biography, or can a memoir (be it in verse, prose, or graphic format) be just as acceptable? I hate to see students turn away from a great book because it doesn't fit the mold. If we want students to be critical thinkers, it's time to think outside the box and make room for a more varied, more diverse selection of books.
I began writing my master business plan for publishing my novel series on March 9th, 2011. This was about 1½ years before I had a signed publishing contract under my belt. Since then, there have been many revisions to this plan. I decided to write down a business plan when I took the plunge to learn all I could about starting a blog to help me develop an author platform. After a few months of intense research, my blog launched May 4th, 2011. Publishing my first post was the beginning of putting my plan into action, and it was truly a lift off for me and my writing career.
My business plan and strategy spans five pages. I’ve broken down the plan into headings, and what I’d like to see happen. I’ve set short term goals (next 1-5 years) and long term goals (10 plus years). I also have an objective, which helps me keep my feet on the ground and fingers on the keyboard. I review my plan quarterly, and revise it once a year. This helps me keep on track and weed out the things I’m doing that aren’t working for me.
So how do you even go about preparing a business plan for your writing career? Every writer is different of course, and I can only give you the benefit of my experience writing MG/YA novel series. But we all have to start somewhere.
First:Begin with your objective. Why are you writing in the first place, and what do you hope to accomplish. I want to give readers an experience they’ll never forget, and organize my life around what makes me happy. Figure out your objective, and get it down!
Second:List your short term goals. What do you hope to accomplish in 1, 3, 5 years? Don’t go overboard you can only handle so much. Once you figure out what these goals are break them down into headings like ‘Online Presence’, ‘Website’, ‘Novels’, ‘Work in Progress’, ‘Time Management and Commitments’, ‘Sales Plan’, ‘Promotion and Marketing Strategy’, and ‘Financial Goals’.
Third: Now for the fun part! Under your headings list the steps you need to take to accomplish your goals. For example, under my ‘Online Presence’ heading I’ve listed in point form all the tasks I need to do to keep my author name out there in cyberspace. Here are some examples:
I’ve joined HootSuite to help schedule my shares and tweets.
Guest Blog on other author blogs within the same genre, and make sure to share this info on my social media groups.
Continue to do interviews with other authors, especially when there’s a new release.
Approach book blog reviewers, especially a month before a new release. Offer a free copy for honest review.
Offer my blog as a platform for other YA authors—either interviews or guest posts.
Fourth:Depending on the amount of headings and steps you have, make sure you don’t pile on too much as to make this plan unmanageable. Get real with what you can handle, delegate what you can’t. I had to hire a web designer. No shame in that.
Fifth: Now onto the long term goals. Remember to dream big too! Would you like your books translated into movies? How many books do you plan on writing? What about a book series? Or graphic novels? How many books are you planning on writing in your series? Create a master plan for each series too. It will be easier on you in the long run. Intellectual property like video games or apps is also important to think about and write down. After all, you never know what the future holds if you don’t help it along.
Sixth:Finally, SIGN the bottom of your master business plan. This makes it real. Commit to it. Revise it when things aren’t working out, or your situation has changed. Be flexible, and ask for help if necessary. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your writing career.
Here’s a formula that will keep things in perspective and keep you on track of your writing goals: TIME + BACKLIST (4 or more books) = SUSTAINABLE AUTHOR CAREER.
Thank you for reading my blog. Have you created a master business plan for your writing or anything else you’d love to pursue? If so, please comment and share your experiences. Love to hear from you! Cheers!
Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Monster Madness Blog Hop Join Vicki Leigh and I on Halloween for the Monster Madness Blog Hop. We'll be talking about what monsters scare us and you can join in. There's a giveaway too. Sign up here.
The Monster Within Book Tour My book tour for The Monster Within is in full swing. I've had book signings the past two weekends and have two more this Saturday and another planned for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I'm having a blast! I'll be at the Family Reading Festival in Pottsville, PA from 10am-1pm and then I'm heading to Moravian Book Shop from 5pm-7pm. If you are in either area, stop by and see me!
Drafting Again I have a rare moment between editing jobs, so I'm fast drafting again! This is the fourth book I'm drafting this year, and since three books was my goal, I'm happy.
The Walking Dead Twitter Party I'm hosting a Twitter Viewing Party during this weekends episode of The Walking Dead. Why? I love the show and my Touch of Death series was pitched as The Walking Dead meets Shatter Me, so yeah, I kind of love zombies. And maybe Daryl, too. ;) Join me! I'm giving away lots of prizes, including signed books and SWAG!
The Darkness Within Cover Reveal So there was a glitch with my cover reveal for The Darkness Within and the bloggers never got the info. But I'm so in love with this cover. Check it out.
After dying of cancer at seventeen and being brought back to life by an evil witch who turned her into a monster, Samantha Thompson thinks she's finally gotten past all the tragedy in her life. Now she's part of a coven of good witches who are helping her and her boyfriend, Ethan Anderson, learn to use the powers they received from other witches. Aside from the fact that Sam and Ethan are still in hiding from their old lives--the ones they had before Sam was brought back to life--things couldn't be better. Sam and Ethan are inseparable. What could go wrong?
Ethan's magic came from a witch who'd turned as evil as possible, and though his coven thought he'd be fine, the more he uses his magic, the stranger he starts acting. The magic inside him is changing who he is. One minute he's Sam's sweet, perfect Ethan and the next, he's a complete stranger. Even with all her witchy power, Sam is helpless against the magic corrupting Ethan. Can Sam find out what's wrong with him before she loses him to dark magic forever?
With Halloween just one week away, we’re getting into the spirit of the season with these 13 quotes on the writing life from famous authors of horror, thriller and suspense:
1. “So where do the ideas—the salable ideas—come from? They come from my nightmares. Not the night-time variety, as a rule, but the ones that hide just beyond the doorway that separates the conscious from the unconscious.” —Stephen King, “The Horror Writer Market and the Ten Bears,” November 1973, WD
2. “The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do everyday. There are two reasons for this rule: Getting the work done and connecting with your unconscious mind.” —Walter Mosley
3. “I hope people are reading my work in the future. I hope I have done more than frightened a couple of generations. I hope I’ve inspired a few people one way or another.” —Richard Matheson
4. “When one is writing a novel in the first person, one must be that person.” —Daphne du Maurier
5. “When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me, and try to put those feelings into books.” —R.L. Stine
6. “[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.” —Clive Barker
7. “Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem.” —Edgar Allan Poe
8. “I have always loved to use fear, to take it and comprehend it and make it work and consolidate a situation where I was afraid and take it whole and work from there.” —Shirley Jackson
9. “Writing is writing, and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and nonfiction. And even there, who can be sure?” —Tanith Lee
10. “I always wanted to be in the world of entertainment. I just love the idea of an audience being happy with what I am doing. Writing is showbusiness for shy people. That’s how I see it.” —Lee Child
11. “I don’t think there is enough respect in general for the time it takes to write consistently good fiction. Too many people think they will master writing overnight, or that they are as good as they will ever be.” —Tananarive Due
12. “What I love about the thriller form is that it makes you write a story. You can’t get lost in your own genius, which is a dangerous place for writers. You don’t want to ever get complacent. If a book starts going too well, I usually know there’s a problem. I need to struggle. I need that self-doubt. I need to think it’s not the best thing ever.” —Harlan Coben, WD Interview, January 2011
13. “My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature.” —H.P. Lovecraft
(This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on my personal blog in October, 2010. I revisited it recently and decided to share it here.)
Wouldn’t it be great if, when you went to your mailbox today, you found a letter inside from the main character of your work-in-progress, telling you just how she feels about the central conflict of your story? Or maybe she wrote a love letter to another one of your characters, and somehow it was misdirected to you? Imagine what a resource a letter like that would be…
When I do my outlining for a new WIP, I write up a lot of backstory. I also do character sketches, to help me form a clear idea of each of my characters – not just hair color, eye color, and favorite movie, but what they would do on a perfect spring day, where they would go on vacation if money were no object, even how they feel about money, in general. I try to think of the most revealing questions possible. These sketches help me with the essentials of my characters, but they only get me so far.
That’s why I’ve taken to writing first-person narratives – letters to me, if you will – in the voice of each character. These narratives generally address the main conflict faced by that character in the story, and how she or he feels about it. Does she believe that the problem is insurmountable? Does she still have hope? Who is she counting on most to help her? Who does she expect to cause her the most trouble?
I also write first-person narratives by all the individuals involved in romantic relationships in my story. For each one, I ask the character to tell me:
What do you love most about this other person?
What would you miss the most if he or she were taken away?
When did you first feel an attraction and what triggered it?
And, well, I’m sure you can come up with a lot more questions along this line.
These letters are great tools to return to while drafting. They help me to maintain consistency within a character, but they also helped me see that, despite consistency, all well-rounded characters have internal conflicts they are dealing with. People are filled with contradictions. Your characters need to be, too, if they’re going to leap off the page as real people with real complexity.
When you ask your character to tell you how he feels about the central conflict, chances are his answer will be complicated. It won’t just be as simple as, “I hate my father and wish he were dead,” because where’s the true conflict in that? Nothing is ever that straightforward. If it were, in chapter one your character could pull out a shotgun and shoot his father and the story would be done. Instead, your character’s answer to how he feels about the central conflict will be layered, complex, and in some ways, contradictory.
For you, as the writer, the secret to your character’s arc lies hidden in these contradictions. Early in the story your character may respond most to the tug of one attitude toward the central conflict. But as the story moves along, he may feel the influence of another attitude toward that conflict, and he will begin to change. By the time he’s completed his character arc, he may find himself in a place of compromise between these two contradictory attitudes.
Do you think this method might work for you? Do you have any of your own unique methods of learning about your characters? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults. She is the author of the upcoming Ivory & Bone (HarperCollins, 2016.) You can add Julie on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.
Title: Ten Thankful Turkeys | Author: Angela Muse | Illustrator: Ewa Podleś | Publication Date: October 4, 2014 | Publisher: 4EYESBOOKS | Pages: 32 | Recommended Ages: 2 to 8 Summary: This colorful autumn tale follows ten turkeys as they get ready for an important celebration. This story teaches about gratitude. There are also fun turkey facts in the back of the book.
Kindle version available for only 99 cents from Amazon on October 24 & 25, 2014. Grab your copy now!!
Angela Muse was born in California to a military family. This meant that she got used to being the “new kid” in school every couple of years. It was hard trying to make new friends, but Angela discovered she had a knack for writing. In high school Angela began writing poetry and song lyrics. Expressing herself through writing seemed very natural. After becoming a Mom in 2003, Angela continued her storytelling to her own children. In 2009 she wrote and published her first rhyming children’s book aimed at toddlers. Since then she has released several more children’s picture books and released books in her first young adult romance series, The Alpha Girls, in 2013/2014. Her husband, Ben Muse writes suspense/thriller books that can also be found on Amazon.
Prize: One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest closes: November 23, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the Angela Muse and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Interjections are exclamations or parenthetical words that add color to your dialogue or internal dialogue. They are set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma or set of commas. They can be followed by an exclamation point. However, if the sentence is doing its job, you shouldn't need it.
Interjections express a gamut of emotions: surprise, doubt, fear, anger, hate, happiness, joy, glee, disgust, or sarcasm. They insult, incite, and ignite.
Here are a few examples (minus profanity, which is another topic).
Lord have mercy
My YA series Mythikas Island was set in pre-written-history Greece. Not being able to reach for any of the usual curse words, insults, etc. felt like wearing a straight jacket. I ended up typing *insert insult/curse here* and developing a list of options later. Here are a few tips when revising:
1. As you go through your rough draft, it is okay to insert placeholders and fill them in later. You may want to put some thought into the types of insults and interjections you characters will use.
2. It is important that the interjections fit the time and place in a historical novel. Look up the first time your word or phrase was used. Nitpickers love to point out errors.
3. When you write fantasy or science fiction, developing unique interjections helps your story world come alive.
4. Avoid overuse. Strings of expletives or exclamation points are annoying. As you read through your rough draft, highlight the interjections. If you have too many packed together, space them out.
5. You can make them character specific. People living in the same place and time with little exposure to the outside world tend to use the same vocabulary. However, each character can have their favorites or quirks.
6. If you have a diverse cast, each can have their own set of interjections, perhaps in different langauges. Avoid stereotypes.
7. Avoid clichés. You can twist existing interjections in new ways. 8. Interjections change as time passes. There is no way to avoid dating your book with them. 9. You can't cut them all. Your story would be lackluster without a few strategically placed verbal punches. 10. They can be used for comic relief. Sometimes after a tense moment, you need a little levity.
If you invent unique injterjections, they may become part of our language or at least the language of your fans. They may even be added to the dictionary. You could be the author of a new catchphrase.
For more information on revision, pick up a copy of:
Remember how I said cleaning leads to writing? Yep, I’ve been busy. And I’m still busy, because I’m not exactly done. But I thought you’d be interested in an update and some recent releases, along with the coming attractions …
First, you can get these now:
LOVE PROOF is now out in audio! I love the narration Maria Hunter Welles did for it. And I didn’t announce it at the time (see above, been busy), but there are also audio editions of THE GOOD LIE, DOGGIRL, and REPLAY. I know. It’s a lot. Take your pick and listen away!
Also, I have a new short story collection out. It’s called A FEW STRANGE MATTERS, and it is. A little odd. But sometimes my mind needs a break from longer works like novels, and when I let my mind wander, it wanders. The collection has some contemporary, some science fiction, a little fantasy, some paranormal, and a couple of strange stories from the teen world. You might have read a few of them here and there, but I guarantee there are some you’ve never seen. Possibly because I wrote them under a pen name that none of you knew about. So take a look–I’ll be interested in hearing what you all think!
Now, for the coming attractions:
YES, PARALLELOGRAM 4 WILL BE OUT THIS FALL. That’s all I can say, because I have made the mistake before of giving you a pub date which turns out not to be true. But I promise you will feel satisfied and fulfilled when you read this final book in the series. I’m still working very hard to pull all the pieces together. Thank you for your questions (“When? WHEN??”) and your patience. I hate waiting, too. I get it. It’ll be along very soon.
And to make you even happier about all the time I’ve been hiding out, I’ll also have ANOTHER NEW BOOK for you by December, I believe. It’s fantasy, it’s epic, and it involves a girl warrior. Yessssss …
That’s my report for now. I have to go back to writing. I owe you all some books.
But what about those times when it’s just plain ol’ laziness that’s keeping you from the productivity you want? What about those days where you spend four hours at the computer and write all of 4 words because OMG! Look at all the pretties and shinies on the internet? And ungh, I’m hungry…and hey, when did that squirrel move into the tree outside my window?
Yeah, it’s kinda like that.
On those distraction-heavy days, my friend, it’s time to seek help elsewhere. It’s time to find SOMEONE ELSE to hold you accountable.
I mean, think about it: when you were in high school, you got your work done (or I hope you did…). Maybe it was at the last minute or maybe it wasn’t always your best work, but you finished. Why? Because someone else expected you to.
I’ve talked at great length about this with my author and solo-entrepreneur friends. We have no bosses! We have NO ONE to look over our shoulders and make sure we’re getting the work done.
Another thing we don’t have are people to validate us when we do make progress. So what if you had a great day writing–there’s no one there to be impressed or to pat you on the back or to say, “Great job! You deserve a raise.” We simply slog on, all alone.
But what if we put a dose of SOMEONE ELSE in our writing lives? What if we find (or start) a Twitter hashtag so we can make accountability partners? Or cheerleader/validation partners? Or what if we interact in forums or via email chains or Facebook groups? Writing is solitary, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.
I think camaraderie is one of the reasons that NaNoWriMo is SO successful for people! They’re all writing together, interacting, sharing, and keeping each other motivated.
So if you’re finding you need a bit more motivation in your life, I challenge you to find another writer who’ll hold you accountable and send you lots of smiley faces when you need ‘em. Heck, come join me in my forums–I’m definitely in need of some writing buddies!! Or add me as a friend for NaNoWriMo!
You tell me: Is this something you would ever do? Or do you already have someone like this in your writing life?
Before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor, Susan Dennard traveled the world as marine biologist. She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the forthcoming Witchlands series (Tor, 2015), and when not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or practicing her tap dance shuffles. You can learn more about Susan on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.
By the time I arrived at Cornelius Minor’s TCRWP workshop, State-of-the-Art Workshop Teaching of Writing in Middle School, harnessing Methods Specifically Described in the New Units of Study, I had been up since… Continue reading →
A community school – a selective school – a school that embraces reading – LOVE IT and LOVE the kids.
Kids from everywhere – they understand ‘Elephants Have Wings’ – where we’re all different but part of the same humanity.
Thankyou for the beautiful email I received from a student after my talks at Sefton:-
It’s amazing to have a compassionate author coming into Sefton, and talking about the hard journey of a writer, making us understand what it is to be a writer, that being a writer doesn’t mean being famous, being rich, e.t.c.
I also would like to say, even though you probably have heard this a million times, your books, especially Butterflies (my favourite) and That’s Why I Wrote this Song (2nd favourite), have touched my heart, and inspired me.
It taught me to be empathetic, looking at different sides of a challenge, and also to trust and give second chances.
It was beautifully written, and I admire the way you plunge into you writing with commitment and passion, and being the character, making the story authentic. I understand it is hard to being a published author, which is why I love and admire you so much, and you are quite easy to talk to, like a friend.
Here’s a question from me: If you are friends with an author’s book, are you friends with the author?
I'm so excited to share my new book cover with you. It's for Blood Will Tell, the second in my Point Last Seen series. When a woman’s body is found in a Portland park, suspicion falls on an awkward kid who lives only a few blocks feet away, a teen who collects knives, loves first-person shooter video games, and obsessively doodles violent scenes in his school notebooks. Nick Walker goes from being a member of Portland’s Search and Rescue team to the prime suspect in a murder, his very interest in SAR seen as proof of his fascination with violence. Then Nick's DNA turns up on the victim. How is this even possible? And can his SAR friends Alexis Frost and Ruby McClure find a way to help clear his name before its too late?
The series was inspired by the the real-life Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue, which is a teen-led group that not only rescues people lost in the wilderness, but also does crime scene evidence recovery for local law enforcement. This particular book was inspired by two real life cases where innocent people ended up in jail after coincidences were seen as clear-cut evidence. One involved a person's behavior, the other DNA.