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Today we're welcoming Shaun David Hutchinson, author of the newly released WE ARE THE ANTS, to talk about ideas of failure, success, and what it all really means.
Fail Big by Shaun David Hutchinson
I'm probably not qualified to give you advice. My first book, The Deathday Letter
, was, by pretty much every account, a failure. My second book, fml
, though it sold better, took three years to make it to shelves, and there's still a lot about it I wish I could change. My third, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley
, almost ended up in a trunk. I can't take credit for my fourth book, the anthology Violent Ends
, because everything that's great about it is due to the amazing work of the authors who agreed to write stories for me. And my fifth book, We Are the Ants
, isn't out yet, and though it's getting some of buzz, I worry it's a fluke.
I'm probably not qualified to give you advice. I'm just making it up as I go along. Hell, I'm not even making it up as
I go, I'm just going and making it up after the fact so that hopefully no one realizes I have no freaking clue what I'm doing.
It's true. I don't know what I'm doing. Every time I sit down in front of my computer to start a new book, I feel like my fingers are made of sausages and that every word I write is scraped from the underside of a sewer grate. I don't have a plan, I don't have a clue. I can't even buy a vowel. For me, writing each book is like paddling against the current in a leaky canoe on the edge of Niagara Falls. Paddle, paddle, paddle. Bail some water. Paddle some more. Pray I finish the draft before my canoe sinks or I go tumbling over the edge of the waterfall.
not qualified to give you advice. No one should listen to anything I have to say about writing. Because I'm making it all up
I spend countless hours between the time I sign a book contract and the time it finally hits shelves wondering when my publisher is going to phone me and tell me they've made a horrible mistake and they hadn't actually intended to publish my book. Each book release for me is filled with relief. Whew! I've snuck another one past my publisher
. But I figure they'll probably realize their error with the next one, and the countdown of terror begins anew.
But being a hack, being a fraud...it's kind of freeing. Sounds counterintuitive, but it's true. For me, anyway. See, the thing about making it all up and about being a fraud is that I assume every book I write is going to be my last. When I start a new manuscript, I say to myself, Okay, kid...
(and, yes, I still oddly see myself as a kid...like I never grew up but only got strangely older and rounder and achier)...this is probably going to be the last book you write before they figure out you have no idea what you're doing. Fail big.
If my publishers and readers are going to figure out I'm a fraud and if I'm never going to sell another book, then there's no point holding back. There's no point trying to write what I think people want to read. There's no point trying to gauge the market or chase the trends or even to try to please the people—and by "people," I mean my mom—who've read my previous books. If this book is going to be my last, then I'm going to write the weirdest, most honest book I can write. I'm going to fail big.
When people read the last thing I write, I don't want them to say "Not bad" or "Meh" or "I've read worse." I want them to shake their heads and say, "What in the name of all that is holy was he thinking?" I want people to hold rallies in town squares and build bonfires from the unsold copies of my books. I want to fail so hard puppies cry.
I don't want to go out with a whimper. I want to go out with a bang that kickstarts a universe.
I'm not sure there's a point to writing otherwise.
I don't really like reality television, but I do watch Top Chef and Project Runway. I can't cook or sew, and watching the contestants do things in an hour that I couldn't do in a lifetime seems like magic to me. But the one thing that bothers me about both of those shows is that often when a contestant is eliminated they'll say something in their exit interview along the lines of, "I'm just sad I never got to show the judges who I really am as a designer (or chef)." No. "Bother" isn't the right word. It doesn't bother me; it pisses me off. I inevitably yell at the television (because, yes, I frequently yell at my TV), "Then what the heck have you been doing for the last six weeks? Why have you wasted my time and yours?"
Don't settle for the middle of the pack. Don't try for "good enough." Show people who you really are. Write every book like you could be eliminated. That way, if it does turn out to be your last, during your exit interview you can say, "Well, at least I went out on a book I believe in."
Fail big. Write like it's the last book you'll ever write. When you sit down in front of your computer or notepad, don't write the story that makes you think, "This is nice. I bet my grandma would like it." Write the story that you know will make your tenth-grade English teacher weep into his bourbon-laced coffee. Write the story that will make the Pope excommunicate you and book reviewers everywhere throw up their hands and say, "I could've been eating waffles instead of reading whatever mind-boggling mess this is." Write the story that makes you want to throw up from fear to tell. Crack open your chest, scrape out your insides, and smear them on the pages.
Fail big. Fail huge. Because, you never know...you might just actually succeed. And if you don't, at least you won't go out on a book reviewers might call, "tenaciously mediocre."
But you probably shouldn't listen to me. I'm a failure, a fraud. I have no idea what I'm doing. My next book is probably going to be my last before my publisher realizes they've made a horrible mistake. And I'm absolutely, positively not
qualified to give you advice.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Henry Denton doesn’t know why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.
But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.
Since the suicide of his boyfriend, Jesse, Henry has been adrift. He’s become estranged from his best friend, started hooking up with his sworn enemy, and his family is oblivious to everything that’s going on around them. As far as Henry is concerned, a world without Jesse is a world he isn’t sure is worth saving. Until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of The Deathday Letter, fml, and the forthcoming The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. He can be reached at email@example.com. He currently lives in South Florida with his partner and dog and watches way too much Doctor Who.
Recently I read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She’s also the author of the mega-bestseller Eat, Pray, Love and the novel The Signature of All Things.
Big Magic is kind of like a manifesto for living and cultivating a creative life. Although it can apply to all sort of creative work, the author talks a lot about the writing life.
So I thought I would share some my favorite quotes/passages that you might also enjoy:
“Never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work.”
“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.”
“How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living.”
“There’s no dishonor in having a job. What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.”
“Do what you love to do, and do it with both seriousness and lightness. At least then you will know that you have tried and that—whatever the outcome—you have traveled a noble path.”
“During my own periods of misery and instability, I’ve noticed that my creative spirit becomes cramped and suffocated. I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible for me to write when I am unhappy, and it is definitely impossible for me to write fiction when I am unhappy.”
“So how do you shake off failure and shame in order to keep living a creative life? First of all, forgive yourself. If you made something and it didn’t work out, let it go.”
“Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.”
“Love over suffering, always.”
By: Robin Brande
Blog: Robin Brande
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November is novel writing month! I’ve decided to expand the secret gift I was going to send a writer friend of mine, and send out daily writing inspiration and tips to anyone else who would like them! Here are the details. Sign up and let’s write!
My second book is now out!!! SOUL CORRUPTED,
the second book in the Of Demons and Angels Series has hit the Internet and to celebrate I'm doing another HUGE giveaway for you!!! TEN SIGNED BOOKS from authors like Ransom Riggs, Scott Westerfeld, and Kiera Cass.
Why do I do it? Because I like to share the happiness! The single most surprising and wonderful part of being a young adult author is the company I keep. This community overwhelmingly supported me as I struggled my way (and continue to struggle my way) through and I am ecstatic that I can help support others on their way as well.
Yes it's a nice thing to do, but it's also a bit selfish.
Wait. What? Let me explain why it's a good idea to give back.
- Being a Part of Something Bigger Than You. You might argue that writing is a classically lonely profession, but I disagree. Even before the Internet! To be a writer means you are a reader. We love books. We love the smell, the sight, the feel, the experience of a good book. And each of those books was written by a writer like you. I dare say each book is a tiny piece of my soul (no not a horcrux), and by reading it, I've shared part of myself with you. therefore in a room full of books, electronic or paper, you can never truly be alone. And now that the Internet DOES exist, we can take it one step further and actually interact with each other. What a wonderful experience! To take part in and get to know the people behind your favorite pastime!
- When You Do Well, I Do Well. That's right. We all win. This isn't a giant competition. As far as I'm concerned there can and should be a thousand runaway bestsellers at any given time! Books should take over the world! Or at least movies and TV. The more good books there are out there, the more people read, the better we all do. It's a win-win. Not an I win - you lose.
- When You Teach, You Learn. It's a proven fact. If you take the time to talk through something or help teach someone else, you are actually learning. When I offer critiques, I not only get to read some cool pages, I also get to practice my skills. Hone my eye. When I do a craft post, I refresh and consolidate the information I'm sharing with you in my own head. This is a big deal, folks.
- It Feels Good. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it's actually very important. You know those huge ups and downs we feel as writers? The elation of finishing the first draft? The low of the form rejection? Well, this is one way to give yourself a "high" when you need it. Feel better by helping someone else. Then you both win.
- Karma. Yes I believe in it. Even if you don't, you have to admit that doing the opposite -- leaving negative feelings and sentiments on the Internet -- is the fastest way to ruin your reputation and career. So it stands to reason that doing nice things can only be good for your reputation, right?
So now that you know WHY, I'd love for you to tell me HOW you spread the love! Encouragement? Critiques? Giveaways? Smiles?
If that's not enough incentive I'll give you one MORE reason to do something nice for someone else:
YOU GET EXTRA ENTRIES IN MY CONTEST!!
You know. The one where you can win 10 signed books + swag. Enter below! United States Only Please (sorry, guys but I'm a poor author).a Rafflecopter giveaway
I love it when I open a book and I fall in love with the words and the character.
I’m currently working on the opening of my current Work-In-Progress (WIP). After this revision, it will probably change. But that’s okay. For inspiration, I tend to go back to some of my favorite books and relish over the opening.
Here’s just a few of my favorites:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
One summer night I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke. In the morning, when I opened my eyes, the world was the same. I threw off the sheets and lay there as the heat poured in through my open window.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
The pastor is saying something about how Charlie was a free spirit. He was and he wasn’t. He was free because on the inside he was tied up in knots. He lived hard because inside he was dying. Charlie made inner conflict look delicious.
Cress by Marissa Meyer
Her satellite made one full orbit around planet Earth every sixteen hours. It was a prison that came with an endlessly breathtaking view — vast oceans and swirling clouds that set half the world on fire.
The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
The city used to be something once. I’ve seen pictures of the way it gleamed – sun so bright off the windows it could burn your eyes. At night, lights shouted from steel like catcalls, loud and lewd, while all day long white-gloved men rushed to open doors for women who tottered about on skyscraper heels.
What are some of your favorite novel openings? I would love to hear about them.
What a terrific way to kick off the week with a guest author post from M.J. Austin, "Four Tips to Get Inspired to Write."
Applause, applause to M.J. for taking the time out to drop in for a visit! I'm pleased to also share with you details about her book, Bright Fire
Take it away M.J.
Writing a book is no easy task and then there is that pesky little bug called “Writer’s Block”. The key to writing is to find what inspires you and keep going. Of course this is easier said than done. Here are a few tips to help keep you inspired to write everyday.
I find that if I have writer’s block and I start journaling, my thoughts start to flow again. The reason this works is, because sometimes you have so much on your mind, such as bills, kids, etc., that your brain focuses on that and limits creative thinking.
I read like there is no tomorrow. I have a overly ambitious challenge set for myself on Goodreads this year. Reading is what inspired me to write in the first place. So if I run out of stuff to write, I read a similar book and try to think of what I think I can do differently that would make my book stand out
Talk to Your Fans
I was having trouble getting started on book2 for my Bright Fire series and I was talking to my sister-in-law about what she wanted to see happen in the next book. She gave me her opinions and all of a sudden my fingers flew across the keyboard at warped speed.
Open a Dictionary
I know it sounds basic, but if I am really desperate I open the dictionary to a random page and read the first word my mind stops at. I usually have to do this like three or four times until a word sparks something in my brain.
Writing is a rewarding experience that can become a successful career. All you have to do is keep writing and put yourself out there. These are just a few tips to get inspired. There are endless resources on the internet to help spark the creative juices.
What inspires you to write? Comment below on what inspires you to write.
Absolutely beautiful book cover!
Delfia thought she was a normal girl about to turn sixteen until her adoptive parents are murdered by creatures from the underworld. Her life gets thrown into chaos as she teams up with her best friend, a strange guy, and a prophetess. She soon discovers her biological father, Hades, ordered the attack on her and her family because a prophecy names her as the one to take him down. She must first complete a set of tasks to free Persephone, her mother, from the underworld and defeat Hades. Will she be reunited with her mother or will she get sucked into the underworld? *Book is geared towards readers that liked Percy Jackson Series, Need Series, etc.* Mondays are the epitome of all evil. It's just a fact. Do you ever get those feelings deep in the pit of your stomach? The ones that make you feel all queasy and anxious? Well, that’s how I feel right now. I am standing at my locker at a way too early hour, and I am in Dragon Bitch mode; which is surprising because today is my birthday. Normally, I love my birthday. I officially turn 16 at 11:59 tonight, and instead of reveling in the excitement, am I staring at my locker without really seeing it. I just keep trying to figure out what’s causing this annoying pinch in my stomach. I jump when I hear the locker next to mine slam shut. "Jeez, Lyla,” I huff. “How many times do I have to tell you not to do that? Now excuse me while I find a doctor to remove my heart from my nasal passage." I’m not in the mood for the early morning antics of Lyla Browning, even if she is my best friend. "Soooorrry, but it seems to be the only way to get your attention. I say 'Happy birthday, Dell' and what do you do? You ignore me and stare at your locker. What is up with you?" "Nothing, just a funny feeling." She eyes me for a minute, then shrugs her shoulders and in a matter-of-fact tone tells me, "It's probably PMS." “Yeah, maybe I dunno...” I trail off, the feeling still bugging me. I understand that she is trying to snap me out of it so I muster up some enthusiasm and sing, “Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me.” She perks up instantly, and before I can clamp my hand over her mouth she starts bellowing out “Happy Birthday” in the middle of the hall that is seriously starting to fill up. By the time she finishes, everyone is staring at us, and my face is burning red. “Aww come on, you love me and you know it,” she beams. I smile because I do love her. Lyla and I have been best friends since forever. We first met in kindergarten when this little twerp, Zach Moreno, decided to pull my hair, and she punched him square in the nose. We’ve been joined at the hip ever since then. “But hey, you should be thrilled you’re turning 16.” she nudges me in the ribs a little. “Yeah, I know, but my parents still won't let me get my permit till I’m 18.” “No offense, but your parents are a little...intense.” She says. “What do you mean by that?” I ask getting a bit defensive. “Well, it’s just that lately they seem to be taking your safety to the extreme. You can't have sleepovers anymore, a car or a life. I mean it’s sweet that they care, but I thought parents got more lenient the older you get.” She fidgets with her wavy blond hair, afraid that she has gone too far. The truth is she’s not wrong. My parents are great people, and I love them, but lately they have been too over-protective. When I ask them about it they just tell me, “the real world is full of dangers, kiddo.” and that’s the end of that conversation. “Yeah, I know, I’m sure that is just their way of showing me that they care.” “By the way, are we still on for binge night Friday?” She sees right through my attempts to change the subject. Binge night has been happening every Friday since the 6th grade. We start off at the roller rink and end up at my place with a large bag of cheddar popcorn, candy, and cokes. “Uh, duh.” She says rolling her eyes. She grabs her stuff out of her locker. “Come on, we have homeroom.” I turn to grab my bag out of my locker when the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Everybody gets those feelings now and then, but it was so intense I had to shiver to shake it off. “Dude, what is your problem? Take a picture it lasts longer.” Lyla clicks her tongue, her usual reaction when something annoys her.
I whirl around to see who she is talking to and meet the gray eyes of Alec Hales, who is staring at me intensely like he’s waiting for something to happen. He would be the hottest guy in school if he weren't so weird. He continues to stare at me unabashed. I can’t
“Come on,” she grabs my arm. “This guy is freaking me out” She throws him the stink eye, and we head to class. I spend the rest of the morning stumbling through class in a daze worried about that creepy stare. I’ve never seen anything like it.
What’s worse is that I’m pretty sure he’s the reason I had a chill that ranked 100 on the creep factor. OK, Dell get a grip, I tell myself as I walk into the cafeteria.
I do my normal scan and Lyla’s waiting for me at our usual table in the corner of the room, trays in tow. We are not the least popular students, but we are definitely not a part of the in-crowd. Lyla could be, but she sticks with me. Aside from her slightly crooked nose, she is the picture perfect replica of a Barbie doll, with her blond hair, green eyes, and mile-long legs. You get the picture. Me, on the other hand, my height is OK, not too short or too tall, but my drab brown hair and beanpole body are nothing special. The only thing I have going for me is my clear blue eyes. Lyla always calls them hypnotic.
“Ugggghhh,” she whines as she rolls her shoulders back and forth.
“I think the teachers are secretly evil demons sent to torture teens with tests on Mondays. Seriously, who wants to take tests on Mondays?” “Who wants to take tests at all?” She throws a piece of lettuce at me. With a mouth full of food she asks, “What are your birthday plans?” “Dinner with the family.” “Same old, same old,” she laughs “maybe we can do something special for binge night like go shopping before the roller rink.”
“Yeah, that would be...” I trail off instantly when I feel the same eerie feeling I had by my locker. I lean into Lyla and whisper, “Is Alec staring at me?” She lifts her head up, and I pull her down.
“Can’t you be discreet?” I hiss. She subtly does a sweep of the cafeteria and relaxes, “Nope; nowhere in sight. Why do you ask?” “I just got this creepy feeling earlier and again just now. I thought maybe it was his intense stare earlier.” “Wow, I hope your weird doesn't rub off on me. Do you think it happens to everyone when they turn 16?” she jokes. I laugh half-heartedly unable to shake the strange feeling. M.J. Austin is the author of the Bright Fire series and NaNoWriMo 2014 winner. She has always found the world of fantasy preferable to the real world. She channels this love of mystical worlds and creatures into her writing. She is an avid reader and proud bookworm. She has a Master's Degree in Project Management, but her true passion is writing. When she isn't working or writing she is diving into random projects as often as possible. She lives in Tennessee with three children, husband, and three dogs.
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Best wishes,Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's AuthorIgnite curiosity in your child through reading!
Connect with Donna McDine on Google+A Sandy Grave
~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star ReviewPowder Monkey
~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star ReviewHockey Agony
~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star ReviewThe Golden Pathway
~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist
Still in the revision cave. The middle is a rough place to be but there is light at the end of the tunnel of this current novel project. Still on track to be finished with this particular novel this summer.
Currently I’m reading The Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld. She’s also the author of one of my favorite craft books Make A Scene , which I also highly recommend.
This book is for writers who want to start and preserve a writing practice. Persistence is the key along with finding ways to balance writing with the rest of your life.
I’m really loving the book so far. When I’m finished, I’ll be sure to share any gems that may also be helpful to you in your writing practice in another post.
For those of you on Twitter, you can follow the author @Jordanrosenfeld. She has a great hashtag #WritersGuide2Persistence where she gives great motivation and advice for keeping your writer’s practice on track.
Hope everyone is writing and that life is treating you well.
One of my favorite books on creativity is the book Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
It’s a book I always go back to when I’m struggling with revisions or staying consistent with my writing.
Here are a few of the gems that I wanted to share with you from this invaluable book:
In large measure becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive.
Art is a high calling — fears are coincidental. Coincidental, sneaky and disruptive, we might add, distinguishing themselves variously as laziness, resistance to deadlines, irritation with materials or surroundings, distraction over the achievements of others — indeed as anything that keeps you from giving your work your best show. What separates artists from ex-artists is that who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit.
Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping. The latter of happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again – and art is all about starting again.
Talent may get someone off the starting blocks faster, but without a sense of direction or a goal to strive for, it won’t count for much. The world is filled with people who were given great natural gifts, sometimes conspicuously flashy gifts, yet never product anything.
In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice…between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot — and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy.
If you’re on Twitter, you can also finds lots of inspiration and other quotes at #ArtandFear.
One of my favorite books last year was Imagine This: Creating the Work You Love by Maxine Clair. I recently revisited this book again to relish some of the gems of wisdom that it gave me.
The author goes through her journey from a scientist to artist. It is a book about how to find and develop our inner and creative outlets. Here are just a few of my favorite passages:
“Perceptions about who should be doing what at what age are unproductive. It is never the wrong ime to express yourself.”
“When something chooses you, choose back. Commit and follow through. When you choose back, you give your word to yourself and to the universe.”
“In order to commit, you have to be clear about your intention, and mentally evaporate the fog that stymies your imagination.”
“The choices you make about the work you would love to be doing are always tied to your life purpose, and will bring fulfillment.”
“There is no such thing as too late, or already done. You are always coming into your next best-yet-to-be, waking up again and again to your newest expression.”
I don’t know if it’s the longer days, or the fact that I’m forever on a school schedule, but I definitely have more energy in the summer. And for me, more energy means more writing, more cooking and baking and more exercise. I’ve never been a fan of the gym, but point me in the […]
By: Sherrie Petersen
Blog: Write About Now
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Several years ago I attended the SCBWI summer conference and one of the wonderful people I met was Rachel Marks. Super talented as both a writer and an artist, she had an incredible joy for life, due in part to being a cancer survivor. Rachel was rooming with Paige Britt and both of them had […]
As ya’ll already know, I love collecting quotes — from books, movies, people — I also love when I find inspirational quotes related to specifically to writing.
I’ve already collected some of my favorite inspirational writing quotes that I posted on the blog previously but now I want to share some of my Twitter favorites.
|Cupid's Arrow in South Beach by Nan Palmero|
Cupid is a symbol of Valentine's Day that we all recognize. According to Roman mythology (and the version you happen to read), Cupid, the Roman god of Love, can shoot his arrow through your heart and cause you to fall hopelessly in love with another person. Sometimes, this can work out great--if the other person loves and adores you in return. If not, you're basically cursed and walking through your life like a zombie, looking for some relief from your broken heart.And then there's this LOVE we all say we have for writing. . .
When you're with a group of writers or on a writing blog, you will often see statements such as, "I fell in love with writing at a young age and haven't been able to stop." or "Writing is my greatest passion." or "If I can't write, I don't want to live." or simply, "I love to write." But is this relationship that we have with writing love? Is it good--this overwhelming desire that we have to put words on a page? This desire that causes us to feed our children lunchmeat for dinner or tell our husbands to get the cereal box out of the pantry if he's hungry? How about our house--super dust bunnies, anyone? How long has it been since you took a shower? Come on, you can be honest with us. We understand.
I'm not sure if you can call this relationship that we have with writing LOVE. My theory is that each one of us was once an unsuspecting, innocent, normal, clean person with regular hobbies and passions; and then all of a sudden, this little winged creature, Cupid, shot us with his arrow. And the scholars have gotten it totally wrong all these years--Cupid's arrows do not make you fall hopelessly in love with another person. No, they make you fall desperately "in love" with writing.
And it doesn't even seem to matter if writing has loved us back or not--as a matter of fact when we have some success: a contest win, a published book, a contract for a newspaper column--we become more and more obsessed with our computers, journals, and notebooks. My husband actually calls my computer my fourth child--there's my stepson, my daughter, my dog, and my computer.
So on this day when we celebrate LOVE, try to find some time away from the keyboard and pen and hug a human (or animal!) you love today. Maybe even bake him or her a cookie or remember to call the Chinese place to order some dinner. Then tomorrow, go back to writing--our passion, our obsession. After all, it's not our fault--it's Cupid's. That's what I plan to tell my family the next time I throw a loaf of bread on the table and a package of deli ham.Margo L. Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg and teaches classes on children's writing in the WOW! classroom.
Many writers fantasize the day they accept the Pulitzer Prize or Newberry Award for their novel they slaved over for years. Few authors daydream about receiving two contributor copies after having a short story published. Yet, writing short stories can improve your writing skills and increase your marketability.
SENSE OF COMPLETIONWriting short stories gives you a sense of completion. Writers often complain, “It took me years and years to get my novel just right.” Novels are like spaghetti sauce, simmering for days; whereas short stories are like the noodles—boiling and ready in twenty minutes.
Completing a manuscript gives a feeling of accomplishment. Just like an artist enjoys displaying a finished painting, most writers love to share their work. How wonderful it feels when a complete piece can be revealed for enjoyment or critique. In any profession, it is important to experience accomplishments, such as an architect who views her new building or an author seeing her work in print from beginning to end.
Getting anything published is hard work. You must be dedicated to rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting. You have to research the market, learn proper manuscript format, and write a brilliant cover letter. Getting a short story published is like playing a good game of miniature golf—it’s not as easy as it looks, but with knowledge, skill, and practice, you can do it.
Many markets exist for your short stories from magazines with a circulation of 200,000 to hard-back anthologies to your writer’s group newsletter. Contests for shorter works fill writing websites and magazines, and many of these are paying markets or have a modest monetary award accompanying first through third place. A lot of magazines do pay in copies, but some give you a check.
EXPAND YOUR RANGE
Short stories present an opportunity to work on different genres. For example, a writer’s group sponsors a Halloween short story contest. Most of the members work on other genres throughout the year, such as westerns, romance, or mysteries. For this contest, each person creates a spooky story. The writer’s group does not publish the winning entries, and members are free to submit their ghostly tales to other contests and magazines.
Many writers start out in one particular genre. They begin writing what they love to read. Because people have read romance or science fiction all their life, they decide to try these genres with their novels. But what if there’s a mystery inside these authors, ready to spill out if it is just allowed? A short story is the perfect place to expand into the mystery genre.WORK ON THE CRAFT
You can use short stories to strengthen your writing skills. Maybe you need to work on writing realistic dialogue or fitting all five senses into your description. Perhaps you want to use flashbacks, but can’t seem to make smooth transitions. Or a friend, who critiqued your opening chapters, said your main character was typical and boring.
Try working out these problems in a short story, focusing on improving those particular weaknesses. A CURE FOR WRITER’S BLOCK
Writing a short story may help you overcome writer’s block. When writing a long piece, sometimes you find yourself in a rut and become frustrated. You avoid working on your manuscript and may waste time cleaning out your files or e-mailing your long, lost cousin. Why not do something more productive and write a short tale?
Writing something different can give you the oomph you need to continue with your novel. Your subconscious has a chance to take over and solve your plot problems. Just make sure to keep paper handy to jot down ideas for your novel.
The next time you ponder, “Why should I waste time writing a short story?” Remember what they can do for you. Short stories can improve your writing skills, enhance your marketability, and bring you a step closer to publishing that great American novel. Margo is teaching a short fiction class for children's and YA writers, starting on April 11. It's a NEW class! For more information, please see this link: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html#MargoDill_WritingChildrenTeensShortFiction
Guest Post by Mary Jo Guglielmo
Are you ready to start a new writing project but are struggling with finding that new story? I have known a number of writers who can't seem to find a new direction after finishing a big project. If you're need of some inspiration try one of the following techniques to jumpstart your next writing project.
Dream Your Manuscript into Being: If you having
Hey everyone! Clara Kensie here. Pretty much the only thing writers love as much as books and writing is talking about books and writing. So each week at Adventures in YA Publishing, we’ll post a question for you to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers: craft, career, writers’ life, reading and books. Together we’ll become better writers by sharing tips and discussing our habits and practices.
Question of the Week
April 20, 2014
Have you ever given up writing? Why? What brought you back?
Yes! I gave up on writing when I was pregnant with my youngest. Between the exhaustion and the morning sickness that lasted the entire pregnancy, I just didn't have the energy for it. And of course while I wasn't writing, the doubts crept in. "Am I really a writer if I haven't written for a year? Maybe I don't have what it takes." What brought me back? Martina did.Martina Boone:
This is one of the biggest regrets of my life. I am horrible about trusting myself. I started writing seriously when my son was a baby, and I wrote a few picture books that came close to publication. I snagged a wonderful agent, a superstar agent, who intimidated the crap out of me. And then I decided to write an adult novel. My first adult novel. Without a clue what the heck I was doing. Seat of the pants stuff.
Needless to say, my superstar agent dropped me after reading it, without saying why or providing any feedback. I was devastated and figured I wasn’t meant to be a writer. We were short on money then too, so I started a business and worked about 18 hours a day for a while on top of having two little kids. I told myself that I was too busy to write. I made all kinds of excuses. Then my daughter started reading young adult books, and I fell in love with the genre and started to dip a toe back in. I started Adventures in YA Publishing to learn how to write an actual novel, and I’m still learning from our wonderful guest authors and from Clara, Lisa, and Jan. Not to mention all the wonderful bloggers and authors online. If you want to be a writer, if you want to write a book, if you want to reach people because you have something to say, then here’s my advice. DON’T give up. Don’t diminish your dreams. Write and you’re a writer, even if you’re only managing to write 50 words a day.Lisa Gail Green:
We've all had those feelings that surface when we reach the bottom of the roller coaster where we feel like throwing in the towel. But if you do that then you can NEVER achieve your dreams, so why not try? I am, have always been, and will always be a proponent of encouraging others to work hard and keep trying. I've had points in my life where I put writing on hold, but I hadn't truly committed yet. Since I started doing it seriously? No. I have come close as anyone, but have not quit. I've kept moving forward, sometimes at a slower pace than others, like when I had my third child, but I've never given up and I have no plans to! Clara Kensie:
I met with some author friends recently, and we discussed this topic. The takeaway from that discussion was a quote from author R.A. Salvatore
: “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, then you are a writer.”
That quote really resonated with me. Yes, there have been times I’ve wanted to quit. Times when I wonder why I got myself into this. Times when I wonder if the struggle is worth it. Last February, my agent (the amazing Laura Bradford
) was the unfortunate recipient of an email in which I poured my heart out after a particularly discouraging month. Her frank response got me back on track, and it still keeps me afloat: “Would you stop writing (because of this)? Of course not. You are going to keep writing no matter what.
” Yes, I am going to keep writing. No matter what. I can’t quit, even if I tried.YOUR TURN:
Have you ever quit writing? Why? What brought you back?
Since my beloved Google Reader died and went to tech heaven, I’ve been using Feedly, which keeps me sane by helping me organize all of the various articles, blogs, and Tumblrs that I want to read.
This week I’ve found some inspirational posts that I thought I would share with you.
Stacia Brown, Levels to This: One Week at WaPo:
“There is nothing wrong with the slow rise, the circuitous, meandering exploration of many paths. We are not all meant to be meteors. Some of us are satellites: we hover, capture, study. We wait. There is no shame in it.”
Joshunda Saunders, Poem: For Writers
“No one is coming to proclaim your talent rough or refined.
You are your only true nemesis,
a house divided against its productivity.”
Have you read anything recently that has been inspiring to you? I would love to hear about it.
Hope everyone’s writing is going well.
For me, I’m struggling with the logic of the ending and some other plot points of my current novel project. I’m happy with some results and not so happy with some other things.
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I’m struggling with Chapter 12. That stupid, stupid chapter. No, it doesn’t seem I’m bitter at all, does it? Ha.
Looking at my list of “Doing Less in 2014” one item was trying to be perfect at everything. At the end of the day, this book won’t be perfect and it’s a stress maker trying to make it so. I’m learning that sometimes you just have to do your best and move on.
Also looking at my list of “Doing More in 2014” one item is writing from the heart. Yesterday on my commute, I listened to the latest podcast of This Creative Life featuring Stephanie Kuehn. This podcast is hosted by Sara Zarr, who is the author of one of my favorite YA novels, Story of a Girl.
Stephanie talked about her road to publication and how she wrote previous novels, worked with a previous agent, and basically got a little disheartened about the whole process. She also kept hearing at writing conferences about what sold well when it came to male protagonists.
It wasn’t until she cancelled out everything she heard and began to write for herself. Not only the result was the award winning Charm & Strange, but for also a lesson of just writing from your heart and not so much writing for publication.
Another item of my “Doing Less in 2014” – thinking publication is the answer. Publication is a goal to strive for but not a desperation that overwhelms you and makes you write for an audience that others tell you will make your novel a bestseller. You must write the story you want to write. The story of your heart. The story you are meant to tell.
It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.
During my July hiatus, several things have started to click together for the benefit of my writing.
I finished the 18-month stint of a major software project, which frees up more time for me to work on the novel and I’ve decided to put the house up for sale! I have about a 2-3 hour daily commute and it’s been a drain to say the least. So now that the real estate market is in my favor, I will have an opportunity to move closer to the city. So excited!
One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the writer journey. How as writers we go through the valleys and peaks and then maybe stumble and have to work hard to find our way again. This summer I’ve had several conversations with writer friends about envy, disappointment, and disillusionment.
I always try to steer myself back to one of the things I want to do LESS of in 2014: Compare myself to other people.
I’ve been on my writing journey for a while but started seriously 5 years ago when I started this blog. Within this timeframe, this has been the journey of some other writers:
- Has published several books and just signed another multi-book deal.
- Has struggled with getting better at writing but lacks time and money.
- Has become a mainstay on the New York Bestsellers list.
- Has made the painful decision to stop writing.
- Has worked hard and now on the verge of a major breakthrough.
I’m sure if you were to create a list, you would have the same varied experiences of writers that started within the same time frame of your journey as well. You could compare yourself to the list and be left feeling smug, indifferent, jealous or depressed.
The thing is all of those writers had different paths. Paths based on different wants, needs, priorities, opportunities, privileges, and luck.
Those paths are not your path. It’s not your writer journey.
Never forget: You are the only one in the Universe that can write the words for the story that needs to be told.
No one else.
No matter how long it’s been or how long it takes.
Never give up on your journey to be the best writer you can be.
By: Sherrie Petersen
Blog: Write About Now
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Many years ago I attended a writing conference and one of the authors recommended writing your entire story, then throwing it away and writing it again. The rationale was that writing the first time was to help you get to know the characters. Writing the second time was to finesse it and tease out your […]
Do you edit
censor yourself as you write? Before you even start to write?
We all second guess ourselves, at least to some extent. I do. Something happens, someone says something negative, or I read something brilliant by someone else, and the doubt demons start nibbling away at my self-confidence, whispering that what I'm doing isn't good enough.
There is so much noise in this business, so much whispering, so much doubt.
We can't let it take hold or we'll paralyze ourselves. Deadlines don't give into paralysis or doubt. : )
When I'm feeling like writing has become a chore and I need to regain the joy of writing, I find that there are a number of things I can do that practically guarantee to get me back on track.
If you're doing NaNoWriMo and feeling like you're overwhelmed, don't give up. Here are a few tricks I use to convince myself that I can keep going.
- Connect to what you love. If you're anything like me, the characters are what you love most about your manuscript, but if you're more invested in the plot or the concept, that's okay. Make a list of what you love and why you love it. Concentrate on rekindling that initial enthusiasm. Got it? Good. Now look at the scene or chapter you're currently writing and find a way to incorporate what you love into that chapter. Make your character do something that shows who she is, or demonstrate the "cool" aspects of your plot or concept.
- Write a letter. Get in the head of your character more deeply by writing a letter from her to someone else in her life. What is bugging her most? What does she need someone to know? What would she tell someone who wronged her if she had the chance? What would she say to her best-friend, right here, right now.
- Write a paragraph. Focusing on writing a thousand words or two thousand or more can be debilitating. The task can feel too huge when you're not feeling inspired. Instead of telling yourself you have to write ALL THE WORDS, tell yourself to write the first sentence in a paragraph, and then another sentence. All you have to write is one paragraph. Then another. You can quit any time, but once you've met your goal for the day, the words may come more easily.
Remember one more thing: your words may not be perfect, but they don't have to be when you first put them on the page. Focusing on word count can be debilitating, but words don't matter.
Hear me? Words don't matter.
Words change. Sentences change. Paragraphs and scenes and chapters may be deleted.
Focus on what the characters want and why your main character isn't getting what she wants, why it's almost impossible for her to get what she wants, and your story will write itself. Once it's down on the page and you are happy with the story, THEN you can focus on the words. In the meantime, focus on the joy of story! : )
Giveaway This WeekThe Young Elitesby Marie LuHardcoverPutnam JuvenileReleased 10/7/2014I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever.
A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto
, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.Teren Santoro works for the king.
As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society.
This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.Purchase The Young Elites at AmazonPurchase The Young Elites at IndieBoundView The Young Elites on Goodreadsa Rafflecopter giveaway
I've heard other authors talk about it, but I never thought about it seriously as something that would happen to me. PPD. Post Partum Depression. I didn't have it with either of my kids, although I've seen how debilitating it can be. Why would I get it after my debut novel?
COMPULSION is my baby. I've spent years focused on its conception, inception, growth, and welfare. And now it's out in the world.
There's very little more I can do for it. I've given it over to the readers, and my publisher has moved on to other books, including my next book, and there's a very real sense of exhaustion and anticlimax. All of that is exacerbated by environmental factors--what seems like a never-ending stream of bad news. The "news" news is bad enough. Ferguson. ISIS. Syria. The constant and seemingly escalating attacks on women around the world. And then there's news on the personal front too with more bad news for my sister, and I feel helpless because there's nothing that I can do to help her.
My poor pup, Auggie the Wonder Dog, is having surgery this morning, too, for a torn ligament in his knee. I hate--HATE--that he is going through pain. Again, I feel helpless.
Helplessness. That's the common denominator. I don't DO helpless. I like control.
We writers are masters of our universes. We create whole worlds, surely we should be able to do something to improve what goes on around real world, no?
Emphatically, in this instance, NO.
But since I like to write my way out of things, I've researched some ways to help myself feel better. Maybe they can help you, too, if you've got the holiday or writing blahs.
1. Eating My Way Out of It. I'm eating Nutella and virtually everything chocolate, because 'tis the season. That produces dopamine, which can improve my mood, help my concentration, increase productivity, and make me feel generally less UGH. (Yes, that's a technical term.) But chocolate isn't necessarily the best source of dopamine. If you're feeling blue or scattered and you want to survive the holiday season in the same size pants you started in, try apples, almonds, bananas, eggs, strawberries, and pumpkin seeds. They all offer dopamine boosts as well.
2. Walking It Off. There's something to be said for this--exercise also produces dopamine, and helps to alleviate the guilt of all that chocolate. But it also gives me the time to think and focus on creating a new project.
3. Starting That New Project. There's joy and hope in creation. Putting myself back into the illusion of control by becoming the master of my fictional universe again is definitely part of my prescription.
4. Resetting Muscle Memory. Healthy eating, exercise, and immersing myself into a new project all require time, and time is at an increasing premium right now. The launch disrupted my "normal" routine, so it's time to redefine what's normal. I'm putting myself on a stricter schedule. Social media and marketing first thing. Writing in the morning/editing in the afternoon and evening. I'm also forcing myself to leave time to read for pleasure, because that keeps me sane and keeps me growing as a writer.
5. Focusing on the Stars. My son has ADHD, but medication didn't work for him. To help him overcome his disruptive behavior at school, we kept a sticker journal. I made a list of everything that needed to be done that day, from brushing his teeth, to doing his homework, to remembering to say please and thank you. By including some easy goals every day, I built in a little bit of success, and I'm doing the same thing for myself by making my goals manageable. Instead of saying that I'm going to write 2000 words or review copyedits for ten chapters every day, I'm focusing on writing a paragraph, and editing a manageable amount of pages. Starting small. : )
6. Keeping a Gratitude Jar. I started putting good news and kind things people said into a jar last year so that I could pull them out when I was focusing on the not so good news. But I'm starting a new tradition now and focusing on kindness and gratitude. Not what has someone said, but what has someone done--not necessarily for me, for others, for the world in general. What *can* I be grateful for? Science suggests that focusing on that literally retrains the brain to see the positive.
What about YOU? What techniques do you use to cope?
Please leave a comment below and share!
Some Good Things to Start Us Off
Know What Else is Fun? LAILAH by Nikki Kelly!
Who knew there was an original take on vampires left anywhere? Or angels! I loved this book.
Are you team Jonah? Or team Gabriel?
Don't know yet? Okay. How about a giveaway? : )
WIN LAILAH, PLUS LAILAH SWAG, and a COMPULSION SWAG PACK
Lailahby Nikki KellyHardcoverFeiwel & FriendsReleased 10/7/2014
Over one million Wattpad readers have made Lailah
The girl knows she’s different. She doesn’t age. She has no family. She has visions of a past life, but no clear clues as to what she is, or where she comes from. But there is a face in her dreams – a light that breaks through the darkness. She knows his name is Gabriel.
On her way home from work, the girl encounters an injured stranger whose name is Jonah. Soon, she will understand that Jonah belongs to a generation of Vampires that serve even darker forces. Jonah and the few like him, are fighting with help from an unlikely Allie – a rogue Angel, named Gabriel.
In the crossfire between good and evil, love and hate, and life and death, the girl learns her name: Lailah. But when the lines between black and white begin to blur, where in the spectrum will she find her place? And with whom?
Gabriel and Jonah both want to protect her. But Lailah will have to fight her own battle to find out who she truly is.Purchase Lailah at AmazonPurchase Lailah at IndieBoundView Lailah on Goodreads
And here's some additional great LAILAH swag!
Plus some COMPULSION swag!
Enter below. : )a Rafflecopter giveaway
NaNoWriMo is finished. I didn’t win but I did get more words down than I had in a long time. Winning was not my ultimate goal but to get back in the habit of facing the blank page and to start writing again.
Another thing that I’ve learned is that writing in the morning is where I got the best results. In the past, I wrote at night but my day job responsibilities have changed dramatically and my brain cells are low by evening.
It’s wasn’t very appealing at first but once it became a habit again, I loved the boost it gave me because it meant I was putting writing as a priority — the first thing I do in the day and word by word I found myself getting my confidence back.
It’s very hard to get back into your story after distractions or any kind of emotional trauma. And if you have a perfectionist bent like me, it can be even more discouraging because you know there is still work to do as well.
The point is, you must keep going. You can’t give up. You are not in competition with anyone else. You are unique and you also have a story to tell. You can only do this one word at a time.
With my morning sessions, I have a few things I do and I thought I would share them with you:
- Coffee Meditation: The fact for me is that I need coffee to become conscious. After I make my coffee, I sit and sip and think about what I want to write or revise or on most days I sit in silence and wait for my mind to wake up. After the caffeine has kicked in and I can go face the page.
- Reading Selection: I read a chapter from my always huge TBR leaning tower of books. It gives me the inspiration I need or if I’m reading fiction, it can give me an example of how a particular scene can be done. This week, I’m reading Imagine This by Maxine Clair.
- Writer Journal: I’ve had a writer journal for years. This is the place where I write about my progress or story ideas. It’s a hodgepodge of things related to the writing process only. This is the first writing I do. It’s almost like a warm-up in a way.
- Word quota or Revision Goal: If I’m writing draft, I usually set a 250 or a 500 word quota if I’m a drafting a scene. No editing, no correcting. Just getting words down on the page. If I’m revising, I set a goal to revise a specific chapter or a specific scene.
- Next Day Prep: I think about what I want to work on the next day. It gives me something to look forward to and gets my subconscious percolating about ideas.
My writing session usually is around 2 hours (5:30 am to 7:30 am). Usually the sun is just starting to rise when I’m done. The city starts to wake up and then I go about my day feeling like a bad ass who has worked on her novel.
Morning sessions are what work for me. Do you have a structure or specific time that you work on your writing?
Hope that everyone is doing well. Winter is still with us and I hope you are nice and warm wherever are.
Things are getting back to “normal” — although it will never be like what my life was before — but the good news is that I’m reading a lot — I read 6 lovely books last month, which may be a record for me. A benefit of moving into the city and drastically cutting my commute time. The even better news is that I’m also back on my revisions.
For those of you who have known me and this blog for awhile, you know I love to connect with my “Inner Zen” — one of my favorite online places is Zen Habits. Here’s a recent post that I loved because it spoke to me about life and also can be translated to writing as well. So I wanted to share it with you:
So that day, she stopped trying to protect an imaginary gem. She stopped trying to be right, to be seen as good and competent and smart and perfect, to see herself as a good person at all times. She stopped thinking that other people’s words and actions had anything to do with what she imagined herself to be. She stopped trying to protect her position and self-image.
Enjoy the rest of your week. Get some writing done!
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One of my favorite writing books is Writing is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor. I found it last summer during a bookstore browse — and I’ve been raving about it ever since. It’s hard to define this book. It’s basically a memoir but based on the writer’s journey. I think it will speak to writers who are trying to find their way and their voice.
Let’s face it, writing can be hard. I’m working on revisions and I want to be done in the Spring so that I can move on to my next project. But I want to finish the book I’m writing now. This book has put on the back burner so many times because of obligations and life events so I want to finish it. I also feel that I must make it worthy and then I start to freak out because what if I can’t make that happen?
When I was reading Writing is My Drink, this passage made me realize that I have to just let go and trust myself. Here’s what the author had to say on this:
Writing requires trust: trust that words will find you, that the unknown will become known, that the mystery will be solved, that the story will find its arc, that you will find your story and your voice, that your voice will be heard, that you will be understood. But most of all, writing requires you to trust yourself, the source of the voice inside you that supplies the next word, the next line, the next idea. And until you can access some of this trust, you won’t be able to write the stories you want to write the way you want to write them.
So whether you’re revising or starting new draft — don’t be so hard on yourself. Trust yourself. Know that you will find the structure of your story and find the best way to write it.