Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tip Tuesday Returns with Tera Lynn Childs

Hi, all! I'm baaack. Some pictures of my trip are posted over at Teen Fiction Cafe, if you're interested. Meanwhile, I'm honored to welcome this week's tipper, Tera Lynn Childs.

Tera is the author of unbelievably fun mythology-based YA fiction, including OH. MY. GODS., GODDESS BOOTCAMP, and FORGIVE MY FINS. You can check out her CITY CHICKS e-books, and be sure to watch for FINS ARE FOREVER in June, and SWEET VENOM, coming your way in October.

Tera had a nomadic childhood, moving around more than my poor kids (don't ask), and has kept up her nomadic ways, jumping from Columbia to University of Colorado and back to Columbia to earn her bachelors in Theater and masters in Historic Preservation. (Hey, I think if you tried really hard, you could come up with some way those majors are related.) She settled in Houston for a while, but has taken up the nomad's life again. Who knows where she'll land next? You can follow Tera's writing and wandering on her website, on facebook, by following her on twitter, and by checking out her youtube channel.

Tera says:

When you get stuck and can't move forward, trying stepping away from the words for a bit and attempt something visual. Draw a moment from your story. Paint the view from your protagonist's bedroom. Or, my favorite, create a collage of magazine pictures that represent your characters. They don't have to be brilliant works of art, but the act of making your brain think about story in a different way might be just the thing your need to get back on track.

(Tera was kind enough to provide an example - this is the collage she made for SWEET VENOM.)

This week's link roundup:

Never too late to learn to read (Scholastic) Inspirational.

The Value of Saying Yes (AdventuresinChildren'sPublishing) Writers' best affirmative response

Finishing the Unfinished Novel (figment) Bonus - tips within the article.

The cure for Melodrama (Seeking the Write Life) Use the Mundane to your advantage.

Outlining: Strategize (Janie Bill) What are the core elements of your plot?

Inspiration: Maureen McGowan (Cynsations) On resources, hanging in there and writing

What are your Words Worth? (Rhiannon Paille) Don't sell yourself short.

EPIC: Trends in PB, MG and (mostly) YA (Mandy Hubbard) This wisdom of 37 meetings.

Cheryl Klein's Plot Checklists (Ingrid's Notes) Links within the link

Hiding the Football (Genreality) When revealing info to readers is better than not.

Do Stories need a Theme? (Jamie Gold) Helps stories resonate with meaning.

Reversals (Nathan Bransford) One of the most important writing concepts to master

12 Ways to learn to Write (Rants and Ramblings)

8 Ways to keep tension in those sagging middles (Laura Pauling)

8 Kinds of Tension (and why you should mix them up) (Chatterbox Chitchat)

7 Essentials for the 1st Page (W.I.P. It)

5 Ways to Avoid Infodump in your Beginnings (Magical Words) c/o Lucienne Diver

4 Ways to Create Endings that Resonate (Julie Musil)

3 Ways to Avoid Creating Unlikable Characters (Jody Hedlund)

3 Ways to keep your dialog Natural

3 Reasons Action is important (& 3 Reasons why it's not) (Victoria Mixon)

Now go. Write!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

For Writers - Reading Aloud with Micol Ostow

This week's tip comes to us from Micol Ostow, author of 12 YA books, including POPULAR VOTE, EMILY GOLDBERG LEARNS TO SALSA, twin Simon Pulse comedies, a couple of SASS titles, and her newest release, family.

Told in episodic verse, family is the story of seventeen-year-old Melinda Jensen, who hits the road for San Francisco, leaving behind her fractured home life and a constant assault on her self-esteem. There, she meets Henry, the handsome, charismatic man who comes upon her, collapsed on a park bench, and offers love, a bright new consciousness, and—best of all—a family. One that will embrace her and give her love. Because family is what Mel has never really had. And this new family, Henry’s family, shares everything. They share the chores, their bodies, and their beliefs. And if Mel truly wants to belong, she will share in everything they do. No matter what the family does, or how far they go.

family is a fictionalized exploration of cult dynamics, loosely based on the Manson Family murders of 1969. It is an unflinching look at people who are born broken, and the lengths they’ll go to to make themselves “whole” again.

Here's the chilling trailer:

Micol is half Puerto Rican, half Jewish, half editor, half writer, half chocolate, half peanut butter. When she's under deadline, she's often half asleep. She believes that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts except in the case of Chubby Hubby ice cream. She lives in New York City, where she practices liberal consumption of coffee, cheese, and chocolate.

You can find her online on her blog, blogging with The Contemps and Readergirlz, and by following her on facebook and twitter.

Micol says:

Writing family was such a vastly different experience than writing any of my earlier novels – in terms of content, style, structure, and process – that it’s hard for me to narrow it down to just one tip for any of you out there trying your hand at something completely new.

I could tell you not to be intimidated by subject matter that seems overwhelming, and to just take your story scene by scene. That seemed to work for me. I could tell you to read – a lot, and write – a lot. I could tell you to physically force yourself out of your comfort zone – write early in the morning if you’re used to working at night, or vice versa. Find a new corner of the house, or corner cafe, to work from. Oh! And don’t be afraid to write stinky first draft pages, and then toss those pages out. Don’t look back!

But one thing I haven’t talked much about is a technique that I’d truly never tried before this project: reading my work aloud to myself as I went along.
It can feel pretty silly, sitting at your desk, essentially talking to yourself. And I know the dog definitely thought I was nuts, based on some of the looks she gave me. But family is written in a very lush, lyrical style, and writing poetry was very new to me. Hearing my words out loud helped me to capture hiccups in the cadence and rhythm, or to locate repetitions that weren’t working. It also served almost as a character-building exercise, in that reading my work out loud often got me “in the zone” to write more, and helped me to channel my character’s voice. It was vital to the verse-writing process, for me, but I’m certain I’ll be using it for many of my books to come.

If you haven’t tried reading your work out loud, give it a try! Let me know how it goes. And if you’ve been doing that all along – well, why didn’t you tell me about this fabulous technique?!

This week's link roundup:

20 Minute Workout for your MS (Seeing Creative) I love this. Bonus: links within the link.

7 Ways to Up your Story Game (Cheryl's Musings) How games in MG can connect with readers.

5 Tips for a More Balanced Writer's Life (Publetariat) Bonus: excellent links within the link.

5 Tips for Becoming a More Disciplined Writer (Jody Hedlund) Advice I need to heed. : )

5 Tips for Writing Picture Books (A Way With Words)

5 Tips on Writing Backstory (Cheryl Renee Herbsman) The answer to "why bother?"

4 Tips for Finding Authentic Voice (Rants and Ramblings) The effort is worth it.

3 Characteristics Great Characters have in Common (Buried in the Slushpile)

3 Edgy Little Tips to Make your Plot More Compelling (Story Fix) It's all about the little things.

POV and Opening (The Other Side of the Story) Real life diagnostics.

"Characteristic Moment" (Wordplay) Why opening with one is so important.

Character Intros (The Kill Zone) Setting the scene for first impressions.

Planting Clues (Writer Musings) Know your story.

MG or YA (WOW) How to tell which one are you writing.

Motivational Reaction Units (The Character Therapist) Excellent post.

Plot Development and Navigating Mazes (Cheryl's Musings) Insight to tackling plot problems.

Key Story Elements: Inner and Outer Desire (The Dark Salon) Have I told you before what a treasure Alexandra Sokoloff's blog is? Seriously. It's gold.

Symbolism (Writer Unboxed) 4 ways to pack your manuscript with more meaning.

The Problem of the Eureka Moment (Beyond the Margins) Are epiphanies true to life?

Perseverance - the Hardest P (Adventures in Agentland) The author's job is to believe in herself.

What is your book about? (She Writes) "Your own sincerity is your best marketing."

Successful Queries (Guide to Literary Agents) Example: Sara Megibow's query for SCORE.

The Acquisition Process (underdown.org) Why it takes so long.

Signing with an Agent (Ryan Writes) Perseverance pays off!

The Dirty Business of Writing (Seeking the Write Life) "Suck it up and act professional."

The Flip Side of Self-Promotion (Writer Unboxed) Cautionary advice.

Note: I will be away without consistent Internet for the next two weeks, hence taking a break from the Tip Tuesday posts. They will resume when I get back. (I'm taking my daughter to Italy and Greece - and especially excited since Greece has been a dream destination forever... and it's where PAPARAZZI - the second Cassidy on Camera* book - is set.) Since I won't be able to keep up with great writing posts in the next couple of weeks, if you come across a good one, please email the link to me at gerb (@) lindagerber (.) com and I'll include it in a special roundup when I get back. I'll also try to update the blog with trip photos whenever I can, so stay tuned.

*(my MG series that launches next spring)

Now go. Write!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

For Writers - Vacuums Suck

Before we begin, I want to give a shout out and special congratulations to Marsha Skrypuch for her Crystal Kite win. Her book STOLEN CHILD is the selection for The Americas. (Crystal Kite winner list here.)

As one of Marsha's crit partners, I had the privilege of reading much of the book in early stages as well as the completed book, and I highly recommend STOLEN CHILD (and her entire list.). Marsha's research and detail in writing are excellent. But it's how she brings the characters to life that really makes her books special.

For those who haven't heard my Marsha story, she is the one who passed along an opportunity to submit to my current publisher, and set me on the path I'm walking (and writing) now.

I met her online through the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, where she serves as the most excellent sysop of the kidlit group. She is a multi-award-winning author from Canada and I'm a fangirl. Being involved on the list gave the opportunity to get to know her. We've been friends now for nearly a decade. This August we'll get to meet up again in person for only the second time at the SCBWI conference this August in LA (where I'll get to cheer her on as she will be announced and presented with the award!) I have a great deal of admiration and respect for Marsha, and I can't thank her enough for her friendship, mentoring, encouragement and support. Her Crystal Kite win is much deserved!

And this leads me to this week's writer tip:

Don't write in a vacuum.

No matter where you are - geographically or in your writing journey - you don't have to walk the path alone. Seek out other writers. Join a writing group or organization. Attend writers' conferences. Sign up for workshops. Volunteer. Get involved. Get to know, encourage, and support other writers locally and online. Reach out. Connect. Network.

Speaking for myself, networking has made all the difference in my writing experience. Believe me, I understand busy. I totally get crazy. In just the time I've known Marsha, I've bounced from Ohio to Arizona to Michigan to Japan and back to Ohio, battled health problems, raised four kids, and juggled everything else that comes with being a wife and mom... and a writer. But I've also served as the SCBWI Tokyo Regional Advisor, started blogging with Teen Fiction Cafe and the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, joined Young Adult Authors Against Bullying, and made numerous author and writer friends locally and online. Since moving back to the States, I've found fantastic chapters of the SCBWI, RWA, and Sisters in Crime in my area. I've joined a fabulous local crit group. With the strength of all these writer friends behind me, I've written ten books (six published, four on the way next year) and contributed to four anthologies (including DEAR BULLY, which will be released in August.)

Also, as well as Marsha being my connection to the first book, Wendy Toliver, who I met in an online group, introduced me to Marley Gibson, who gave me a referral to my current agent. Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones are in the GCC group, and made it possible for me to get involved with YAAAB and the DEAR BULLY project. On my own, I would have missed out on all of these opportunities.

The moral: Reach out to other writers. You never know when you could be on the receiving - or more importantly, giving - end of an opportunity, break, tip, connection, voice of reason, whatever, that could make the all the difference for someone... maybe you.

This week's link roundup:

What's your book about? (Jamie Gold) Bonus: excellent links within an interesting post.

Title bling (Adventures in Children's Publishing) Remember PRISM

Rock the Opening (Seeing Creative) Make those first paragraphs really count!

Rock the 1st Chapter (Wordplay) What's the unanswered question in your opening page?

Astrological Signs as Character Building Tools (Guardian Cats) Fun

More Character Building - Right or Left Brained? (The Character Therapist) Quiz

Characters and Archetypes (Daily Writing Tips) Archetypes & personality traits. Excellent.

10 Tips to Improve Your Writing (Publetariat) Excellent general purpose tips.

8 Things to Consider When Naming Characters (Jody Hedlund) General principles...

8 Tips for Fantasy Writers (Ingrid's Notes) c/o Bruce Coville

5 Ways to Gauge Your Story's Potential (Write it Sideways) Using the senses.

4 Visual Tools to Help Writers (The Kill Zone) Bonus: Read comments for even more tool ideas.

4 Tips to Help Strengthen Dialog (QueryTracker)

3 Aspects of Showing, Not Telling (Victoria Mixon) Let your readers experience the story.

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid (Blood-red Pencil) Don't pull your reader out of the story.

Separating Confidence From Self Doubt (Nathan Bransford) Have the strength to doubt.

Vary Sentence Structure (Adventures in Writing) Short and sweet and oh, so true.

More on Sentences (Blood-Red Pencil) Tricks to give them punch.

Inspiration to stick with it. (Teaching Authors) A writer is stronger for the journey.

Inspiration from Libba Bray (Libba Bray) "Leave yourself open to unguarded truths." Beautiful.

More on inspiration (Gail Carson Levine) Where do you find yours?

Matching your ms to the right publisher/editor (John Briggs Books) Do your homework.

Query letters (Kidlit) There is not one true and only way to write a query.

More on queries (Kidlit) Avoid the obvious.

For Picture Book Writers (Darcy Pattison) 99 Picture Books to Study.

Disconnect (Beyond the Margins) Reclaiming our time. Um, sounds like a good place to end this link list, huh?

Now go. Write!