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!