Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Early Hours, 750 Words, and Writer's Butt

Happy holiday week! I don't know about your house, but around here, this week is a tough one to get anything done. The older kids are home from college, the younger kids are on winter break, my DH is off from work until the first of the year. In short, it's a week of hanging out, seeing movies, lunching with friends, and generally doing nothing productive. Which is great... except for those of us who have edits to tackle, new projects vying for attention, and about a million emails to answer so we can start 2012 with a clear inbox.

It's times like these that I rediscover the joy of early-morning hours. When the kids were younger and less self-sufficient, I had to get up early to find time to write before they awoke or it wouldn't happen. As they grew and I had the school hours free to write, I got out of the habit. But I'm actually glad to have been "forced" into the wee hours again. It's tranquil and quiet at four in the morning. And since everyone else is sleeping, I don't suddenly feel the pressing need to clean out the fridge or run a load of laundry. The dog doesn't need to be walked. There are no phone calls to distract. It's practically perfect. (It would be completely perfect if I didn't also enjoy sleep at that hour...)

Another fun discovery this month came from my writing groupmate, Jenny Patton, who shared a link to a fun website for writers who enjoy a little incentive to reach their writing goals. You can find it here: 750words.com .The idea behind it is to challenge writers to write 750 words per day. That works out to be about three pages, which is doable... even with kids home from school, right? (Another member of our group, Margaret Peterson Haddix, says she writes 5 pages per day, which is roughly equivalent to 1250 words (unless some of those pages are a lot of dialog!) so if you want to be more prolific like Margaret, set your goal higher.) In fact, there will likely be a lot of days you're on a roll and turn out much more than 750 words, but the idea is to get in the habit of writing every day, and this seems to be like an attainable number to help you do so. And! a fun bonus on this site is that you can get rewarded for reaching your daily goal with encouragement and little stickers and all sorts of fun, motivating stuff. It's fun. Many thanks to Jenny for the website info!

Finally, one more discovery I have to tell you about. Many of you know I had a bit of a health scare earlier this year. I'm fine now, but the experience shook me up a bit, and opened my eyes to a lot of things - a couple of them writing related. One of those things was to value the time I am given to write. Another huge thing was to understand the relationship between body and mind. Being unwell took its toll on my creativity and my ability to think clearly. And it got me thinking - once I was 'out of the woods', so to speak, I had to keep my body healthy to allow my mind to do its thing. Enter Ginger Calem, my dear friend and critique partner, who also happens to be a personal trainer and owner of a CrossFit franchise. With Ginger, I discussed health, diet and exercise in relation to my writing. She is so full of great information - and as a writer she understands the impact a sense of well-being can have on one's writing - that we decided this journey was worth sharing. We'll start discussing the mind/body connection and talking strategies for eating well, sneaking in exercise, and generally staying healthy despite the hours spent with butt in chair, caffeinated beverage in hand. Starting January 1, watch twitter for the hashtag #writersbutt, and join the conversation. Better yet, join the commitment to be a healthy writer in 2012!

This week's links:

Real rejection letters. Why you should never give up. (Hillary Wagner) Perfect.

PR, Cross Promotion, and Knowing Your Audience (Magical Words) Good stuff.

Don't Get Burned by Branding (Terrible Minds) Own your voice. Live up to your name.

28 Superhero Cliches (Superhero Nation) Ha.

13 Picture Book Tips (Artzicarol Ramblings) Good overview

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Dialog (Write to Done)

5 Top Posts of 2011 (Anna Staniszewski) Great links.

4 Ways Not to Bore Your Readers (Paranormal POV)

The Only Way to Become a Real Writer (Goins Writer) Own it.

"Pathetic E-mail" (Sean Ferrell) <<Moody Writer) Liven up your scenes.

Advice from an Agent (William Dietrich)

Beyond the Basics - Push the Story, Push Yourself (Editor's Blog)

The Secret to Finding Time to Write, Market, Promote, and Still Have a Life (Writer Unboxed)

What Slate Doesn't get About Bookstores (Salon)

Slipping Sideways Into Your World (YA Muses) World building. Excellent.

Private Letter From Genre to Mainstream (SF Signal)

Does Your Denouement Murder Your Characters? (Plot to Punctuation)

How Do You Decide Which Story You Should Write? (Word Play)

Dialog - my characters talk to much (Editors Blog) Find the balance.

Undercover Soundtrack (Memories of a Future Life) Find the rhythm in your story

Now go. Write!

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Oh, nooos! This was set to automatically post yesterday while I was holiday festifying, and it didn't! Sorry to anyone who came looking! But here it is...

Melissa Walker's latest, UNBREAK MY HEART, which is set to release May 22, 2012. Enjoy!

Told in alternating chapters, UNBREAK MY HEART chronicles the year that broke Clem’s heart... and the summer that healed it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

For Writers - Beating Writers' Block with Laurie Stolarz

Much to celebrate this week. My kids are home from college (hugs to Clark and Jenna!) It's my sister's birthday. (Happy birthday, Donna!) My daughter's best friend got married (joy and happiness, Rylee and Daniel!), my dear friend JA McAndrews's new book was born (congratulations, Jen!), I get to be part of a cover reveal tomorrow (not mine... see deets at the end of this post), and my GCC sistah Laurie Stolarz's book DEADLY LITTLE VOICES has hit the shelves! (Hooray, Laurie!)

Laurie was kind enough to stop by in the midst of launch madness to give us this week's writing tip. But first, a little about her and her newest TOUCH series title:

Laurie is the author of Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices, Project 17, and Bleed, as well as the bestselling Blue is for Nightmares series. Born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts, Laurie attended Merrimack College and received an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College in Boston.

Deadly Little Voices:

Camelia Hammond thought her powers of psychometry gave her only the ability to sense the future through touch. But now she’s started to hear voices. Cruel voices. Berating her, telling her how ugly she is, that she has no talent, and that she'd be better off dead. Camelia is terrified for her mental stability, especially since her deranged aunt with a suicidal history, has just moved into the house. As if all of that weren't torturing enough, Camelia's ex-boyfriend, Ben, for whom she still harbors feelings and who has similar psychometric abilities, has started seeing someone else. Even her closest friends, Kimmie and Wes, are unsure how to handle her erratic behavior.

With the line between reality and dream consistently blurred, Camelia turns to pottery to get a grip on her emotions. She begins sculpting a figure skater, only to receive frightening premonitions that someone's in danger. But who is the intended victim? And how can Camelia help that person when she’s on the brink of losing her own sanity?

Praise for Laurie's DEADLY series:

"...lively first-person narrative.... CW-worthy dialogue, quirky secondary characters, romance and suspense: a winning combination" - Kirkus Reviews

"An engaging, eerie tale about the darker side of relationships - when it becomes a matter of life and death to know who your friends are." - KLIATT

“The book was full of shocking surprises and revelations, earning the book five stars. This is a must-read for fans of romance, suspense, and mystery because it won't disappoint.” – Teens Read Too (DLL)

"Laurie Faria Stolarz is a master creator of suspense and romance. Her words cause the heart to pound, the palms to sweat, the spine to shiver, and the stomach to flutter. The trepidation born from the anonymous threats will make the pages fly, and the palpable tension between Camelia and Ben as they attempt to ignore their hearts causes the fire to burn hotter." - TeenReads.com

You can Laurie online on her website, on facebook, and by following her on twitter.

Laurie says:

"I like to get away from the computer, grab a notebook and pen, and start taking notes on my book. I’ll jot down what I know about the story, where I want things to go, what my character wants, what my character needs to learn to get what he wants, and what the obstacles are. I also find it really helpful to talk through my block. I’ll grab a friend and tell them about my story and where I’m stuck. I don’t even necessarily need them to say anything, but I find that just talking through the glitch usually helps me figure out what needs to happen."

This week's links:

YA and MG are hot! (LA Times) Yay!

Why Teens Love Reading Fantasy (WOW)

Interview with Agent Ginger Knowlton (Cuppa Jolie) SCBWI Pre-conference bonus

Interview with publisher Nancy Paulson (Lee Wind) SCBWI Pre-conference bonus

Interview with publishing director Jean Feiwel (Cuppa Jolie) SCBWI Pre-conference bonus

Feeding Your Reading Life (The Book Whisperer) Writers read. Feed your reading self.

Stop. Writing. Now. (Beyond the Margins) How to know when.

How do Writers Know When They Are Done? (Time to Write) More on knowing when

World building Checklist (YA Muses) Excellent

On Writing Sequels (The Sharp Angle) Good stuff

Tell Me About It (The Other Side of the Story) When telling is better than showing

Ignoring Everything but the Writing (Magical Words) Wise words.

25 Truths About Rejection (Janet Reid) More wise words.

How to Survive Waiting (Adventures in Agentland) What to do while you wait

Write Tight - 3 Things I wish I knew earlier (Jody Hedlund)

Laying Clues and Adding Twists (Paranormal POV) Sneaky ways to slip them in

How Does a Writer Plot Successfully? (Chatterbox Chitchat) ... by using checklists...

Things I Want Authors to Know (Publisher's Weekly) Perspective from a bookseller

Screenwriting Elements (The Script Lab) Helpful for novelists.

The Creative Process as a Board Game (Writing at High Altitude) LOL

Keeping Despair at Bay (The Other Side of the Story) Keep the dream alive.

12 Most Dangerous Words for Writers (Writer Unboxed) Choose the ones to make you succeed

**POV Cheat Sheet (DIYMFA) Love this. I will use it.

Getting the Characters "In" (YA Highway) How to set characters in your readers' minds

How to Show Feelings (Bloodred Pencil) Worthy repeat

Enthusiasm - bring it! (Julie Musil) 9 tips to keep you writing

On Reading One Another (Beyond the Margins) How to do it right

Best Gifts Ever for Writers (Beyond the Margins) #Gift Ideas

Top Ten Holiday Gifts for Writers (Roots in Myth) #Gift Ideas

Evolution of resolutions by J.A. Konrath(newbie guide to publishing) #NewYearResolutions

12 Must-Read Articles from 2011 (Jane Friedman) #year-end wrapup

My Best Advice from 2011 (Jane Friedman) #year-end wrapup

***BONUS: Be sure to check back tomorrow for a peek at the cover for Melissa Walker's upcoming book, UNBREAK MY HEART.

Now go. Write!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

For Writers - Distractions

Today's tip is mainly for myself, but you are all welcome to listen in if it applies to you as well.

It's about distraction. Not just any distraction - I do like me a little Nathan Fillion or Robert Downey Junior from time to time - but those distractions that keep me from putting words on the page. They are distractions of choice. I choose to let them take over my writing time and then wonder how it could be that I have only a page or two to show for several hours at the computer.

For instance, I love to research. I can spend an entire day researching... which is great for getting the facts straight in a WIP, but not so great when it's used as an excuse to not write. Social media is another chosen distraction. I need to stay connected, right? Not if it keeps me from completing a scene. This is a reminder for myself to stop letting myself get distracted, and to use whatever strategy necessary to keep moving forward, no matter how scary that can be.

Right now, that means using an egg timer app on my computer to designate online time and writing time. Even if a question comes up during writing time, I am not allowed to peek online to find the answer until the writing time is up. And even if my phone chimes, alerting me to a reply or mention tweet, I am not allowed to check the messages until my timer dings.

How about you? What are some of your chosen distractions? What strategies do you use to overcome them?

And speaking of distractions...

This Week's Link Roundup:

Outlining Lessons via Ghostbusters (genreality) Excellent.

How Not to Use Beta Readers (SarahEnni) Always trust your instincts.

20 Ways NOT to Write Your First Book (Shannon Whitney Messenger)

12 Most Dangerous Words for Writers (Writer Unboxed) Give or take a word...

12 Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking (Creativity Post)

10 Things Authors Should Know About Twitter (Angela James) Right on.

5 Step Approach to Revision (Writers' Digest) Geyser metaphors

5 Biggest Mistakes in Writing Scenes (Fresh News Daily) Don't be Hollywood Backlot...

3 Things Writers Can Learn from Liar's Moon (Cheryl Klein) Pt 2. (Pt 1 in last week's roundup)

3 Things Writers Can Learn from Liar's Moon (Cheryl Klein) Pt. 3

3 Ways to Incorporate NaNoWriMo Into Your Everyday Writing (duolit)

Interview With Children's Book Seller (Kathryn Lay) Excellent info for writers.

Just You and I: Subject and Object Pronouns (Grammar Monkeys)

Writing Like a Reader (Adventures in Children's and YA Publishing) Tina Moss

Lessons Learned While Writing (Writing w/ a Broken Tusk) Good stuff and interesting read.

Never Give Up! (Market my Words) Inspiring success story.

Is Your Novel a Spineless Weakling? (Kristin Lamb) Antagonist vs. Villain. Read this one.

Top Tips for Young Writers (Spilling Ink) Aimed at kids, but good info to remember.

Decisions, Decisions (Patricia Wrede) On getting stuck and figuring out how to move forward.

Travel Writing: Shaping Experience into Stories (Beyond the Margins)

Write What You Don't Know (Erika Liodice) "Magnificant stories await you"

To Delve or Not to Delve (Gail Carson Levine) How deep to get into our characters.

A Sense of Self (Writer Unboxed) Characterization advice from super agent Donald Maass

How to Bring Characters into Focus (Write it Sideways) Do your homework = clear picture

Naming Characters (TN Tobias) An exhaustive list of references

Emo MCs (Paranormal POV) Leave room for developing the angst

Unlikable Characters (Paranormal POV) Excellent, with links.

Are Your Flashbacks Flashy or Flabby? (Wordplay) Most Common Mistakes series.

Q&A From YA Authors (Huffington Post)

On Being the Writer You Are (The Halls of Dreaming) Nice piece about author's voice.

Dream Box (Face the Page) Don't hide your box away.

Big Revision (Kidlit) "Unless you make big changes, a revision isn't worth doing."

Weekend Links (Nephele Tempest) Enjoy.

Now go. Get un-distracted. Write.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

For Writers - Conflict!

The tip this week is an answer to a workshop attendee's question:

Q - My critique group said I don't have enough conflict in my story. How do you know when your story has "enough conflict"?

A - Conflict is what drives your plot. "Enough conflict" is whatever's needed to move your story along (and to keep your readers engaged.)

Here are some things to consider:

What does your hero need to achieve/obtain?
What's keeping her from getting/doing it?
What is at stake?

If you like a clear visual of how this plays out, Jenny Crusie uses a 'conflict box' (with thanks to Michael Hauge) to craft scenes. The box looks like this: Notice how the protagonist's goal is the thing that stands in the way of the antagonist achieving what he needs, and the antagonist's goal stands in the way of the protagonist getting what she needs. Their goals/actions are in direct conflict with the other. In each scene, one or the other may prevail, or both of them could fail. The result is what propels us to the next step of the story.

Note that the antagonist's goal could directly oppose the protagonist's goal (The warden wants to keep Andy Dufresne in prison, and Andy Dufresne wants to get out of prison), hence causing the conflict, or the conflict could arise from each of them fighting for the same goal (The Nazis want the Ark, and so does Indiana Jones).

Also note that the antagonist in your conflict box doesn't necessarily have to be a bad guy. It could be the hero's own shortfalls or doubts. Or it could be a friend/ally whose actions stand in the way of the hero reaching her goal. The point is that there should be something the characters have to overcome/learn/achieve in each scene. It should matter to the outcome of the story. Otherwise, so what? Who cares? "Enough conflict" answers those questions and keeps your readers engaged in the story.

This week's links:

Rhetorical Devices (Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing) Fun.

Overlooked Author Skill: Copywriting (Writer Unboxed) And how it can help you.

How to Get Published (Rachelle Gardner) The definitive post with lots of links.

Curing the Someday Syndrome (Julie Musil) Excellent for procrastinators like me.

90 Top Secrets of Best-Selling Writers (Writers' Digest)

41 Ways to Keep Readers Turning the Page (Ripping Ozzie Reads)

12 Step Cure for Writer's Block (Creative Penn)

10 Writing Mistakes (Broca)

5 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Writing Right Now (Writing Tips)

4 Steps for Organizing Plot Ideas into a Novel (Writers in the Storm)

3 Ways to Work Through a Difficult First Draft (Write it Sideways) Switch it up.

Embracing the Scary Project (Mary Cole Moore) "Bravery on Demand"

Why Writers Must Read (Writability)

Dreamers vs. Goalers - Writers Need to be Both (Write it Sideways)

Tension (Magical Words) Pumping it up

One Good Reason to Let Go of That Manuscript (PubRants) Awww. Congrats, Mary.

Writing Better Descriptions (Time to Write)

The Important All-is-Lost Moment (Fiction Groupie)

Fresh Ways to Look at Your Crappy Writing (Writer Unboxed) LOL

Believability or Bust (Query Tracker)

Do You Work Better on a Deadline? (Nathan Bransford)

Show me the Butterflies (Face the Page) Showing vs telling. Nice.

No Guilt, No Excuses (Nephele Tempest) Make the time. Write.

Things Writers Can Learn from LIAR'S MOON (Cheryl Klein) Plus a giveaway

Making Time to Write (Nephele Tempest) Not too late to make the commitment!

Now go. Write!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For Writers - Sense of Place with Tricia Springstub

Happy Tuesday! Hope you had a fabulous holiday, those of you who are in the US. And for those of you racing through NaNoWriMo, only two days left to go! *whip! crack!* Get a move on! Meanwhile, we have two weeks' worth of links to catch up on, so let's get with it.

This week's tip comes to you courtesy of children's author, Tricia Springstubb. Tricia's books, MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND and IT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET have garnered starred reviews from The Horn Book and Kirkus and have been Best Books of the Year selections. IOW, she really knows her stuff. On her website, Tricia says something about writing I really love: "For me, writing is like a window–every day I look out and discover something new." Which in my mind makes her the perfect person to give us this week's Writing Tip of the day.

Tricia's tip:

One of the things I tried hard to do in both WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET and MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND was create settings so vivid they became characters in themselves. How to evoke a sense of place is as difficult to pin down as creating a true voice, yet once you’ve got it, shazam.

Writing is all about the details you choose and those you leave out. If you’ve ever peeked over the shoulders of students in a painting class, you know that every artist comes up with his own take on the model or still life. It’s in the colors, the brushstrokes, the shadow and line he chooses. In the same way, a story’s setting can become one with its themes and emotional truths. Readers can tell that Fox Street is a down-on-its-heels place, but Mo only chooses to report on its many delights, and her love of home infuses the novel. Once she moves away, her new neighborhood’s confusing maze of streets reflects her own feelings of being lost.

I’m not talking about long descriptive passages, the kind kids always skip. Instead, place should infuse the whole work, becoming what Eudora Welty called “the light that glows inside the story.” Welty, by the way, is a sublime writer, worthy of study, as is Dan Chaon, whose Midwest will haunt you long after you finish one of his novels. Other wonderful writers who are masters of setting include National Book Award nominee Kathi Appelt and Newbery winning Susan Petrone. For a searing and unforgettable novel where theme and setting seamlessly blend, try A SWIFT PURE CRY by Siobhan Dowd.

Right now I’m working on a novel set on a Lake Erie island. On my desk is a chunk of limestone I brought back from a visit there. Stone and water—those are the elements of my story. Whenever I get stuck, I pick up that rock and feel its rough weight in my hand. It helps me figure out just what comes next.

This week's links:

Writing for Younger Readers (The Other Side of the Story) Examples/real life diagnostics

Gratitude for Writers (Spilling Ink) Very Nice. What are you grateful for?

When does a writer become a writer? (The Atlantic) You are a writer if you write...

Zen and the art of withholding information (Beyond the Margins) Strategies for showing it all.

15 Tips for writing Murder Mysteries (Writers in the storm)

13 Ways of Beginning a Novel (Beyond the Margins) Stuck? Excellent ideas to start the story.

11 FAQ about Book Royalties, Advances & Money (Writer Unboxed) Good info, but write first!

11 Ways to Improve your Writing (Soul of a Word)

10 Tips for Better Dialog (Bryan Thomas Schmidt)

7 Things to Remember when Writing for YA (Fresh News Daily)

6 Common Backstory Pitfalls (Chatterbox Chitchat)

5 Ways to Stay Motivated while writing your novel (Nathan Bransford)

5 D's of the Dark Moment (Left and Write Brained)

5 Writing Tips the Grinch Stole (Fiction Notes) Love.

5 Online Distraction-busters for Writers (Write it Sideways)

4 Ways to Save a Stalled Story (The Other Side of the Story)

Query Notes (jereidliterary) Good writing trumps form almost every time.

Why Moving on is a Good Tactic (Mystery Writing is Murder)

Book Beginnings and Other Lessons (Life, Words, and Rock & Roll) Stephanie Kuehnert

Stimulus and Response - the Writer's Path through Story (Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing)

Writing Advice (The Katacomb) Why she tried it all.

Disney Parents (Dead and Absent) (Fantasy Fiction) How to use them to further your story

Life Cycle of a Book (SCBWI Blog) Begins and ends with the author.

Checklist for Deep POV (1st or 3rd person) (TalkToYoUniverse) Excellent!

The Kernel Idea (Write if Forward) Getting the core of your idea down.

How to keep a literary novel afloat in the middle (Laura Pauling)

Story Climax - the whole point (Jami Gold) Excellent.

Inspiration vs Perspiration (Writers in the Storm)

Writing Happiness (Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing) How to love where you are on the journey

Character Beauty in Imperfection (Writability) Excellent.

No Perfect Characters Wanted (Editor's Blog) Good characters have flaws.

Do readers see your characters the way you want them to? (WordPlay) Common mistakes

Your Inner Bad Guy (Beyond the Margins) Going there may be uncomfortable, but fruitful.

Chekhov's Gag (TV Tropes) Tropes for writing humor.

What you have to unlearn to be a writer (James Killick) So good.

Facing the Blinking Cursor (Magical Words) What to do.

And finally, an excellent one to end this long link list with:
Drop Everything and Write! (Between the Margins) Starting... Now!

Now go. Drop everything! WRITE!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For Writers - It's Hump Day. Be Happy!

My critique partners will attest that I hit the mid-month slump a few days early this month. For those of you doing NaNoWriMo, you know what I mean. It's akin to a literary mid-life crisis. Mine went something like this - How will I ever make it by the end of the month? My word count is so far behind! Is this idea even viable? Am I wasting my time? Should I be writing something else? Where is the chocolate???

Thankfully, my fabulous crit partners had all the necessary words of wisdom and encouragement. Buoyed by their faith and rah rah-ing, I was able to push through it and catch my second wind. The best advice? Relax! Enjoy the ride!

So that's today's tip. I know we're all busy. Life intrudes on our writing time. Doubts intrude on our writing. We want it perfect. We want it now. But I am here to tell you from experience, that everything will flow much better if we let ourselves have a little fun along the way.

Speaking of... The HUNGER GAMES trailer is out!!! Can. Not. Wait. For. March. 23!!!!

And check this out. How perfect is this? I adore Jimmy Fallon.

The Doors Sing "Reading Rainbow" Theme - Show Clips - Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

And now, this week's links:

Short Cuts (Face the Page) Excellent (and important to remember).

On Failing to be Perfect (Adventures in Children's Publishing) Wise advice.

The Stages of an Edit (BookEnds) From an agent

I Thought I was Wrong, But I was Mistaken (From the Mixed-up Files) More on letting it be.

Finding the Time to Write (Spilling Ink) from two perspectives.

A Rose by Any Other Name (Between the Margins) Nailing the Right Word

Who am I Writing For? (Kidlit) Excellent post by Mary Kole

The Odd Influences that Converge to Make a Book (Making Magic) Interesting

The Basics of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (Underdown) Not a new post, but an excellent overview for anyone just getting started, and those further along, with links.

Writing on a Theme (Kidlit) "Dig deep and tell the truth."

Plot Vehicles (Oasis for YA) Interesting list

Bringing Tension and Conflict to your Novels (The Other Side of the Story) by Cheryl Rainfield

More on Adding Conflict to Your Story (Blood Red Pencil) Worth the extra planning.

6 Things NOT to Put in your YA Novel (The Writer Coaster) Made me smile... and cringe.

5 Novel Ending Mistakes to Avoid (Beyond the Margins) How not to end things.

3 Ways to Develop Your Unique Writing Voice (Kristen Lamb) Great for NaNoers.

Check Your Facts (Editor's Blog) Get it right.

Storyboarding for Revisions (Plot Monkeys) Another way to use a great tool.

What Makes a Story Feel Unrealistic? (Jamie Gold) "Keep the Reader in the Story."

Deepening Characters with Setting (Cynsations) Excellent - with examples

The Art of Rewriting (Let the Words Flow) With a little elbow grease, you can make it amazing.

How Many Drafts to Get to the Query Stage? (Paranormal POV)

Examples of Bad Dialog (Editor's Blog) What not to do.

One last Just-For-Smiles:

How to Name your First Novel (NPR)

Now go. Write!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

For Writers - Beating the Block with Lauren Baratz-Logstead

Where did October go? My apologies for another prolonged absence - it was a crazy month. I taught a month-long online workshop with my friend Jen, McAndrews, presented the same with her at the Emerald City Writers' Conference, and also presented a workshop for Thurber House. (Shout out to workshop attendees!) Oh, and I also visited my kids at college, hung out with my friends at a writers' retreat, and finished one project, while starting another. My head is still spinning! BUT...

Today's a celebration, so I'm happy to come out of hibernation to bring you Lauren Baratz-Logsted, whose brand shiny new book
LITTLE WOMEN AND ME hits the shelves today!

Happy release day, Lauren!!!

For anyone who doesn't know Lauren, she is one of the most prolific writers I know. Lauren is the author of books for adults, teens, and kids, including THE THIN PINK LINE, THE TWIN'S DAUGHTER, and the super fun SISTERS EIGHT series.

Here's the official blurb for LITTLE WOMEN AND ME:

Emily is sick and tired of being a middle sister. So when she gets an assignment to describe what she'd change about a classic novel, Emily pounces on Little Women. After all, if she can't change things in her own family, maybe she can bring a little justice to the March sisters. (Kill off Beth? Have cute Laurie wind up with Amy instead of Jo? What was Louisa May Alcott thinking?!) But when Emily gets mysteriously transported into the world of the book, she discovers that righting fictional wrongs won't be easy. And after being immersed in a time and place so different from her own, it may be Emily-not the four March sisters-who undergoes the most surprising change of all. Lauren Baratz-Logsted's winning confection will appeal to fans of Little Women as well as anyone who enjoys a modern twist on an old favorite.

You can find out more about this book and about Lauren by checking out her website, and by following her on twitter.

Lauren's tip:

Please don't hate me but I've never suffered from "writer's block." I'm sure it's a painful condition for those who do suffer from it, but for me as a writer to say "I can't write" makes as much sense to me as a window washer saying "I can't do windows."

All of that said, there are times in even a never-been-blocked writer's life that production on a novel slows down. When this happens, I deal with it in one of two ways:
1) work on an entirely different kind of writing for one day, an essay, a short story, a blog post, it really doesn't matter what it is - the idea is to keep yourself writing something so you don't lose confidence in your competence as a writer, even if you've temporarily gone stale or sluggish on a particular project;
2) jump ahead to a scene in the novel that you've been dying to write - there's nothing like working on a scene that you're truly excited to write to re-energize you so you can get back to the butt-in-chair work that is most of a writer's life.
Hope these tips help!

This week's links:

Food for Thought on Pen Names (Readers Rule) Are they pointless?

Shake it up (Beyond the Margins) Excellent tips with examples

12 Writing Fiction Checklists (Fiction Notes) Links to other posts.

10 Benefits of Rising Early (Zen Habits) And how to do it.

10 Hard Truths About Writing (Grub Street Daily) From Lauren Davis

7 More Truths About Writing (Writers' Digest) from Diana Jenkins

6 Things to do Before Submission Day (Beyond the Margins) Good reminders

5 Choices That May Not Be Helpful (Writer Unboxed) On becoming a more confident writer

5 Elements of a Resonant Closing Line (Wordplay) Last line as important as first.

Inspiration (Distraction No. 99) What inspires Sarah Zarr

Notes on Craft (Beyond the Margins) Great post.

Characters in the Round (Gail Carson Levine) Love her.

Act Naturally (YA Highway) Why writers should experiment with theater.

Building Suspense (YA Cafe) "Suspense isn't what, but how."

Writing Scenes (Buffy's Writing Zone) With Tom Huang

How to Start Writing a Novel (Nathan Bransford) Excellent post.

Writing a Novel Synopsis (Jane Friedman) Excellent tips.

Lessons from Madeline L'Engle (Lena's Lit Life) Writing as wish fulfillment

My Secret Source for Ideas for Stories and Characters (Time to Write)

Different Ways to Hook Your Reader (The Other Side of the Story) with examples

Criminal Plotting (Beyond the Margins) Crime writing

Candid Writing (Beyond the Margins) Break your own heart

Creating Fear in the Hearts of Readers (Paranormal Point of View) Do's and Don'ts

The End (Fantasy Fiction) Wrapping up your stories

Macro Revision (Writer Unboxed) Take it one piece at a time.

Are Successful Writers Just Lucky? (Kristen Lamb) Answer: it's not just luck.

How to Write Your Bio for a Byline or Query (Writing Sideways)

The Submission Process (Writer Musings) Links to other posts

How to Get an Agent (Jill Corcoran) From an agent.

What Three Agents Want to See (Falling Leaflets) Interesting.

What Editors Want (The Greenhouse Lit Agency) "What I heard in New York"

Special - NaNoWriMo Help Links:

NaNoWriMo tip #1 - read the 30 tips from last year (Galley Cat)

NanoPrep - Planning your novel's beginning (Janice Hardy)

NaNoWriMo: The elements of Act 1 (Alexandra Sokoloff)

NaNoWriMo: The elements of Act 2, Part 1 (Alexandra Sokoloff)

How to write and SELL your NaNo book (Jill Corcoran)

NaNoWriMo #25 Strategy for introducing your Hero (Story Fix)

NaNoWriMo #27: How to optimize your scenes (Story Fix)

Break the rules and be a NaNoWriMo rebel (Keystrokes and Wordcounts)

How to plot your NaNo writing time (using story structure) (Lia Keyes)

Backwards NaNo - the reward system (It's All About Writing)

Best tips for writing quickly and well (Time to Write) Great for NaNoers

Now go. Write!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

For Writers - Queries with Dee Garretson

Getting ready to send out that query? This tip is for you. It comes to us from Dee Garretson, author of MG adventures, including her latest, WOLF STORM.

Dee grew up playing in Iowa, playing in the woods, helping her dad with his inventions, and writing stories. She earned a degree in international relations, then realized sitting at a desk was not her thing. She went back to school to get a degree in landscape horticulture and taught that for a few years. Finally, she decided writing was where it's at... and here she is!

Here's the official blurb on WOLF STORM:

The movie is Stefan’s big break. He’s on location in the mountains far from home, acting in a blockbuster sci fi adventure. The props, the spaceships, and the trained wolves on set should add up to a dream job, but acting turns out to be much tougher than he ever imagined, and he feels like his inner loser is all that’s showing through.

From the way his famously stuck-up co-star, Raine, treats him, he’s pretty sure she thinks so too. And worst of all, no one will believe his claim there are wild wolves haunting the forest around the set.

When a blizzard strikes, isolating the young co-stars and bringing hungry feral wolves into the open, Stefan must take on his biggest role yet-working together with his costars to survive. With no second takes, they only have one chance to get it right.

Lights. Camera. Action!

You can find Dee online on her website, on twitter, and on vodpod.

Dee says:

Most writers loathe writing query letters, and I did too, until I learned how to concentrate on distilling the important parts of the story I was describing. It’s hard to judge your own story with all the secondary characters and subplots clamoring for attention, so I’ve found it helpful to practicing by writing queries based on classic books or movies. In honor of October and Halloween, I decided to do a sample query based on Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN. Before I write any query, I answer some questions:

1. Who is the main character and what about him/her is interesting?
2. What does the main character want at the beginning of the story, and if it changes, what does he/she want later on?
3. Who is the antagonist, or what is preventing the main character from obtaining his/her wants?
4. What are the stakes if the main character fails at obtaining the goal?

Based on how I answered those questions for FRANKENSTEIN, here’s the main part of the query:
Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant young scientist, is obsessed with discovering the secret of life. He prowls the cemeteries and charnel houses of 18th century Bavaria, determined to unlock the mysteries of life and death. After years of work, he succeeds beyond all his expectations, managing to bring life to a creature made from body parts of the dead. The scientist’s elation at his success is brief. It disappears the moment the creature opens its eyes and Victor realizes he has created a monster. Distraught at the horror of his creation, he unwittingly lets it escape into the night.
Tormented by the knowledge of the creature’s existence, Victor dreads the reappearance of it in his life. He never imagines how terrible the return will be, until the monster murders Victor’s brother. When Victor confronts the creature, it vows to kill all of the rest of the scientist’s family and friends unless Victor creates another monstrosity, one that could be a companion to the monster in all its loneliness and misery.
Victor is faced with a choice-appease the monster by doing as it wishes, or follow his conscience and face the consequences of a creature set on revenge. When Victor chooses, the monster kills Victor’s dearest companions, driving Victor on a hunt that takes him to the icy regions of the Arctic to find his creation so he can destroy it. The chase will end in the death of one or both.

Actually, both Victor and the monster die in the end in non-glorious ways. I suspect if this story were written today, Victor and the monster would engage in a hand-to-hand battle, the monster would fall into an ice crevasse, leaving Victor to believe the monster is dead. Since the ending should be open enough for a sequel, the monster wouldn’t actually die. He’d merely be injured, so that in book two he could come back to take over the world with his army of polar bears angered by global warming.

Notice I didn’t mention Victor’s fiancée, Elizabeth, who is killed by the monster right after the wedding. Introducing her and the circumstances of her death would show there was a bit of romance in the book, but the added length would far outweigh the benefit of describing this subplot. This query is already longer than some. You will often run across advice to keep the description under 200 words, but if the story demands a lengthier description, so be it.

I also didn’t mention how this story is told by Victor as he is on his deathbed on a ship trapped in the ice of the North Pole. Again, that would add way too many details. It’s not the real setting of the story and it’s not important for the purpose of a query letter. It would be tempting to go into detail about the monster, but trying to explain an eloquent eight-foot tall creature with black lips overwhelmed me, so I didn’t attempt it, and I don’t think the query needed it.

Sometimes, a query-writing attempt may tell you your story needs more-higher stakes, a more defined antagonist, or a more unique main character. That’s why it can be a good idea to write a query even before you start a story. It can make the whole long process much easier. I have another example on my blog where I wrote a query based on The Wizard of Oz. Here’s the link:

Wizard of Oz queries

This Week's Links:

Reading Out Loud - Not Just For Kids (Writer Unboxed) Casting a spell.

How Do You Know When You Have a Great Idea? (Writing Bar) Video

Outline Schmoutline (Jaye Wells) Another look at storyboarding.

Where Elephants Are Waiting to Fly (Karen Rivers) "I've always wanted to write a book..."

Is There an App for That? (Novel Matters) Index Cards

What is a Story? (Jane Friedman)

25 Things Authors Should Know About Theme (Publetariat)

15 Point Checklist to Make Your Writing Come Alive (Write to Done)

8 Writing Tricks You Won't Read Anywhere Else (Gatekeepers Post)

7 Character Types that Build Your Story (Adventures in Children's Publishing)

7 Tips to Improve Your Novel's Pacing (The Other Side of the Story)

6 Keys to Opening Up New Possibilities in Your Story (Words and Such)

5 Ways to Keep Your Writing Engine Running (Write it Sideways)

5 Essential Tips for Creating a Children's Book (The Creative Penn)

Writing High Concept (Harry Potter for Writers)

Writing From the Teen Perspective (YA Confidential)

Teendom (Word for Teens) Excellent.

Ready, Set... Where's the Action? (The Other Side of the Story) Maintaining tension in scenes.

Gettin' Physical: Character Description (Beyond the Margins) A few good rules to remember.

Now go. Write.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

For Writers - Banned Books Week and Judy Blume

In honor of Banned Books Week, I'm digging back into my SCBWI Conference notes with some nuggets of wisdom from Judy Blume - one of the most challenged authors, and a gamechanger in the children's book world. She was a surprise guest at the conference and a delightful one at that.
There were plenty of takeaways from her visit, but something that resounded with me was the message for writers to stick with it and never give up.

Judy Blume said:

We all started writing not knowing what we were doing, and I am no exception. It may not get easier (there is always the anxiety about writing well), but eventually we can say “I know how to do this!”

Let yourself go when you write! The inspiration will be inside you. When it hits you inside and it's right, then you have to write it. Don't worry who your audience will be, just write.

(Note: None of the above is a direct quote since I don't have a transcript of the interview, but I was taking notes as fast as I could!)

October workshops:

October 3-31 From Homeroom to First Bell - The Hero's Journey in YA - Online
Author Jen McAndrews and Moi explore the Hero's Journey in YA fiction, including
breakdown analysis of popular teen books and movies. Registration here - deadline Oct. 3.

October 17 Writing a Young Adult Series - The Thurber House, Columbus OH
How to develop series fiction for teens and tweens, from the first idea to the last climax.

October 28-30 From Homeroom to First Bell - The Hero's Journey in YA, ECWC, Seattle, WA
Jen and I, same class description as above. We'll talk really fast!

This week's links:

10 Tips Writers Can Learn from Bad Movies (W.I.P. It) Love it.

10 Ways to Increase Story Tension (Cheryl's Musings) Yes.

9 Things That Happen When You Read (Psychology Today) How 'bout when we write? : )

5 Elements of a Riveting First Line (Wordplay) Excellent!

The Psychology of Attraction: Fear (Livia Blackburn) Cool!

Storytelling is Healing (Face The Page) Nice.

Writers Are Like Onions (Victoria Schwab) Re: want & fear & books & bravery & madness

What Elements Make a Good Book? (Wordplay) Excellent quotes.

Finding the Heart of Your Story (Adventures in Children's Publishing) Tip from Donald Maass

Why Writers Write and Readers Read (Writer Unboxed) Common Cause

What Makes Novels Page Turners? (Kill Zone) Keep readers wondering.

Introducing... Backstory (Beyond the Margins) Make your readers crave it.

Thinking about KidLitCon? (Jen Robinson) <<Adventures in Children's Publishing) Love it.

Character Development (Pubrants) Get to know your MC before writing the opening scene.

Does your MC Get the Best Lines? (Character Therapist) If not, think again...

Is your YA Setting Hitting the Wrong Nerve? (YA Confidential) Good

Avoiding Stop-the-Action Description (Artzicarol Ramblings) Keep readers from skimming.

Write. Revise. Rest. Repeat (Bluestocking Blog) With bonus links on each step.

Emotions: Show, Don't Tell (Chatterbox Chitchat) Readers want to FEEL something...

Tragic Monsters (Paranormal Point of View) Write villains who stay in your heart

Now go. Write!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

For Writers - Follow Your Passion... and the Market

Happy Tuesday!

Given the turn of events since I returned from the Most Excellent SCBWI Conference in LA last month, I'm behind in sharing some of the nuggets of wisdom I picked up from the indescribable line-up of children's book industry luminaries who were there. Here's a wise bit of counsel from Jon Sceiszka:

Combine your passion with the market.

As writers, we are told time and time again not to chase the market, but this was a good reminder that we should at least be aware of it. For example, Jon loves history, but he found it was difficult to get boys to read chapter books. They tend to gravitate toward thinner books with fun covers. So, he wrote THE TIME WARP TRIO to appeal to boy readers while giving him the avenue to write what he wanted to write.

So, follow your passion. Write what moves you. But also have an idea how your work will fit into the marketplace.


This Weekend I'll be at the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference in Cleveland. Ohio SCBWI friends, I hope to see you there!

Next month I'll be presenting at the Emerald City Writers' Conference with Jen McAndrews. RWA followers, I'll look for you there!

We'll also be offering a month-long online class, digging into the mythic structure in YA fiction. You can register through Carolina Romance Writers.

Finally, check out the cover reveal for my next series, LIGHTS, CAMERA, CASSIDY (in post below). I'm lucky to have had all my book covers so far designed by the lovely and talented Theresa Evangelista, who has done it again with this new MG series (coming in March 2012.)


"There are no new ideas" Ha. (Face the Page)

Children's Authors Who Broke the Rules (New York Times)

Simple Habits for Writers that Make a big difference (Change The World With Words)

Universal Story - Test Your Story (Plot Whisper for Writers and Readers)

Playing to Win (Kristine Rusch)

Best Advice I Ever Got (Anna Staniszewski)

When the Going Gets Tough (Writer Unboxed)

What Writers Can Learn From the Bestseller Lists (Alan Rinzler)

Up The Stakes (Genreality)

How I Learned To Read My Work Out Loud (Beyond the Margins)

Reading Fiction Improves Empathy (The Guardian)

A Writer's Main Objective (KidLit.Com)

The Deadly Sin of Writing #7 - Treating the reader like a Moron (Kristin Lamb)

14 Do's and Dont's for Introducing Characters (Anne R. Allen)

9 Essentials for Writing Your Climactic Scene (Publetariat)

7 Ways to Develop Dazzling Dialog (Jody Hedlund)

5 Writing Secrets from William Shakespeare (Tips and Tricks)

5 W's of Writing (Genreality)

5 Writing Tips Learned From a 2-Year-Old (Buried in the Slush Pile)

To Plot or Not to Plot #2 (Ingrid's Notes) (Part #1 from last week here)

Headhopping Gives Readers Whiplash (The Editor's Blog)

Why Writers Write and Readers Read (Writer Unboxed) Looking for a hero

How Do You Know When To Stop Tweaking Your MS? (Deadline Dames)

Sidekicks: Who is the Robin to Your Batman? (Plot to Punctuation)

First Novels - When to Hold and When to Fold (Project Mayhem)

Why I Pushed My Heroine off a Cliff (Almost) (Writer Unboxed)

Making Your Hero Sympathetic (Word Play) Why he absolutely must pet a dog

Curiosity Killed the Cat... (Harry Potter for Writers) ...But Captured the Reader

How to Avoid Dated Writing (The Literary Lab)

Voice Matters - Does Yours Fit Your Genre? (Fiction Groupie)

Word Choices Affect Voice (Writers' Notes)

Voice is Not Everything, (but it is vitally important) (The Sharp Angle)

Monologue on Dialogue (Fiction Muses)

Backstory - How Much and When (Paranormal Point of View)

I Said, He Said, She Said POV (The Other Side of the Story)

If You Can't Describe Your Story, There Probably Isn't a Story (Scott Egan)

Misconceptions About Outlining (Wordplay)

Now go. Write!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

For Writers - Lynn Sears Williams

Aaand we're back. Thanks for your patience, everyone. This has been a tough couple of months, but I'm on doing better every day... and now I have a whole new realm of experiences to draw from for future stories. It's all fodder, right?

A few items of business before we get started:

First... the winner of DEAR BULLY is: *drumroll*


Please send your mailing instructions to gerb (@) lindagerber (.) com and I'll get it out to you.

Also, for my Ohio area friends, I hope to see you next weekend at the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference in Cleveland! I'll be presenting one workshop on the art of suspense, and one on visual storyboarding with the four-act structure. Come say hello!

I'll also be presenting on the Hero(ine)'s Journey in YA fiction with Jen McAndrews at the Emerald City Writers' Conference in October... which I've just been informed is sold out, so...

If you're interested in the workshop, but won't be at the conference in Seattle next month, you can join us for a month-long online class wherein we will dig into the mythic structure in YA, including breakdowns of recent YA fiction and film. Register through Carolina Romance Writers.

Now, with the business out of the way, I am pleased to welcome Lynne Sears Williams to the blog for this week's Tip Tuesday (or Wednesday, as the case may be...) Lynne's new book, THE COMRADES, made its debut last month. Here's the official blurb:

9th century Wales...

Evan, king of Powys, returns from a wedding to find a village ransacked, with women and children dead. Neighboring Gwynedd has broken the peace, crossing the mountain to pillage and murder. The dead babes tear his heart, and Evan vows to break the heart of Gwynedd.

Gwynedd's most guarded treasure is a pampered princess. In a bloody raid, Evan's comrades return to Powys with Gwynedd's heart.

Evan knows holding the princess will be dangerous and her safe-keeping may mean the difference between the lasting peace he desires and a bloody war. He's prepared for her to be kept safe but unprepared for the girl's intelligence, compassion and damnably kissable mouth.

Morleyna's secret gift of Sight reveals a cruel betrayal that sends Evan on a mystical journey where he discovers his only chance for redemption rests in the hands of his captive.

Her brothers will arrive to claim their sapphire-eyed sister. Will her kinsmen, bent on revenge, destroy Evan and his comrades? Or will destruction come from Morleyna who may be the reincarnation of someone whose beauty captivated a nation?

You all know how much I adore Diana Gabaldon, right? Here's what she had to say about The Comrades: "Three more engaging Welshmen have never been written! By turns hilarious, poignant, bloody--and bloody accurate--historical fiction seldom gets as good as this."

You can find out more about Lynne, and about The Comrades on her website, facebook, and on her blog.

Lynne's tip:

"Diana Gabaldon's advice holds true for all authors: read, read, then read some more.

I would add to not block where your characters are going or decide how they should act; you may be sad or delightfully surprised as events play out. Let *them* speak and do. Since I do not have a plan -- I write in chunks -- I'm amazed how the characters solve their issues. At the end of the day, it's *their* story."

And now, lots of links:

Books for Boys webinar FREE with John Scieszka! (Event Register) <<< TOMORROW!
Boys don't read??? (The Other Side of the Story) Ha. Just ask my son. : )
Boy and Fiction: Is There Any Hope? (New York Times)
1 Reason To Know Your Characters Well (Mystery Writing is Murder) "To stress them out!"
3 Ways to Determine if Your Writing is Crap (Jodi Hedlund) Help is helpful.
5 Ways to Improve Your Fiction (Huffington Post)
5 Things Writing Experts Won't Tell You (James Killick's Blog)
6 Dialog Traps to Avoid (Indie Author)
10 Tips for Becoming a Top-Notch Proof Reader (Procrastinating Writers)
10 Stages of Story Development (W.I.P It)
10 Things NOT to do When Building Characters (Julie Musil)
101 Best Fiction Writing Tips (Write it Sideways pt.1, pt. 2, pt. 3, pt. 4)
Gaining Perspective (Cathering Knutson) Art takes time.
Ooo... Spooky Story Starters (Spilling Ink) Fun. : )
How to Find Cliches in Your Writing (Beyond the Margins) "Take your time. Write what you mean."
Anxious Writer 200 Questions Before Lunch (Beyond the Margins) Very funny.
Details and Generalities (Adventures in Children's Publishing) Excellent post.
Internal and External Inspirations (Writer Unboxed) What inspires you as a writer?
One Teen's Thoughts About YA (Julie Musil) Worth reading.
YA Writers: Read it or Don't Bother Writing it (Fiction Groupie) AMEN.
To Plot or Not to Plot (Ingrid's Notes) The difference between narrative and story.
Frustration: Your Novel's Best Friend (The Bookshelf Muse) "Frustration is awesome."
How to Start a Story (Beyond the Margins) great beginnings.
What to Expect - Writing Workshops for Kids (Imagination Soup)
Mad Libs or Method? On Doing Research While Writing (Grub Street Writer)
So What if Your Book Doesn't Sell? (Jennifer Represents)
There is No Such Thing as an Overnight Success Story (Nathan Bransford)
Nefarious Narrative Distance (The Bluestocking Blog)
Who's Your Audience? (Beyond the Margins)
How to Plot Your Novel (Jill Corcoran Books)
In Fiction, Opposites Attract (Wall Street Journal)
Breaking the Rules Can Lead to Failure... or Possibly Magic (Adventures in Children's Publishing)
Finding Your Writing Process (The Other Side of the Story)
The Difficulty of Finding Ideas that Publishers Like (Jody Hedlund)
Perfection and Productivity (Mystery Writing is Murder)
Dialog - It's Not Just Talking (Scott Egan)
Cramped Middles (Fantasy Faction)
Make Your Ending As Big as Possible (The Sharp Angle)
Should You Outline (The Sharp Angle)
The Power of Deadlines (Cheryl's Musings)

Now go. Write!