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!