Monday, February 27, 2012

Writing Time Pie

As I submit one manuscript and contemplate drafting another, I'm thinking about the way I spend my writing time. For this past year I've been entirely focused on revising a single project. That's good, in a way, but during that time I've let other aspects of writing fade. I want to be more balanced.

What I wish most is that I'd been drafting something new every day. I have a pile of ideas for novels, more than a dozen, all clamoring for attention in my brain. Even after I finish drafting the book I know I want to write next, I could continue to draft a scene or two of some other project each day, then still have time for revising. That way my drafting muscles will always stay well toned, and I think I'll be more productive. I'm going to give it a try.

I do my wool-gathering by keeping a notebook at hand while I do my housework and jotting down random ideas as they come. Outlining for me is like pulling teeth, but I want to learn to like it. I should be doing a little writing exercise ever day, but when I'm on fire to write a new scene or fix an old one I tend to forget. I am getting better at reading a little something every day.  But as for marketing and submitting? Sad to say, I do that as little as possible. Maybe that's why I haven't sold any books yet. Sigh.

In an ideal world I'd have eight hours a day for writing. Then I could make sure I get around to all the aspects of writing on a daily basis. But as it is, I'm going to have to juggle. Or prioritize. 

How do you divide up your writing time pie?

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Murky Middle

The story begins with excitement and promise. We stand on a high mountain peak, about to embark on a grand adventure. It will be a long journey, but there is the goal, shining straight ahead on the far side of the valley. All we have to do is get through that forest and we'll be there!

And then come the delays. The disappointments. The dangers. The devastation. The whole world changes overnight. That goal, so clear from the ridge behind us, can't be seen from here in the trees. We are lost in the woods and we know we may never escape.

Yeah, I do this to my characters every time I write a story. That doesn't mean I like it when it happens to me.

My writing career began with a lot of excitement. I sold a short story, I had a great time at my first writer's workshop, I met lots of wonderful aspiring authors and watched as a few of them broke into publishing. Surely soon it would happen to me too.

I'm still out here in the woods.

The message of every story I write, of almost every story I read, is that around some bend in the path, or through some swamp, or maybe on the other side of some trackless thicket, lies the road to where you want to be. But you'll never find it if you give up. And sometimes when you burst out of the woods, there in front of you isn't what you thought you wanted, but something even better.

My own life has told me that story over and over.

I want to hear it one more time.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

#FREE #Darkspell all weekend. How? Read on!

 Growing up in an abusive home wasn't easy for me--I hated myself and wished for darker things. I found hope and became strong when I realized how loved I really am.

Please Share the Aware with Mybeauty-intensified for suicide prevention! All "likers" will get a FREE e-copy of Darkspell ALL weekend long, including President's Day!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Registration for WIFYR now open!

Registration for WIFYR now be open!

Get yer mangy selves over there and enroll! It's goin' 't be awesome!


For more information on the great conference, go here:


Sunday, February 12, 2012

WIFYR site now live!

I'll keep this brief so I don't totally move Rebecca's great post about writing and the internet off the radar (just scroll down!).

So I've gotten the privilege of becoming the webmaster for Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. And boy, have I had fun! The WIFYR website is now up and running, though registration is still waiting for some back-end payment stuff to be processed. (That back-end stuff can stink sometimes, know what I mean?)


Anyway, check it out here:

I'll do a follow up post when registration becomes active!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Writing and the Internet

When I first decided to become a writer, back in the olden days before the turn of the millennium, I had no internet to help me.

To find an agent or editor, I went to the library and checked out the previous year's copy of the "Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market." Submitting a manuscript involved a lot of paper, envelopes, and postage. And waiting. Lots and lots of waiting.

If I wanted  friendly feedback on my work, I was limited to the people who lived near me. In those days, I was lucky enough to meet a newspaper writer who read my work and recommended that I read a book on writing style. A neighbor who was a former editing intern taught me how to punctuate dialog. Another writer I met encouraged me and gave me some suggestions. But progress was very, very slow.

I compare that to now, where if I want the latest news on agents, editors, and market trends, all I have to do is explore the children's lit blogs. Finding a place to submit a manuscript is done by checking one of the many reliable online lists. Agents have blogs, websites, and do interviews on other blogs and websites, so when I submit to them I no longer feel like I'm tossing my words out into the dark. And when I submit an electronic query letter, I can start getting responses in less than an hour.

And that's just the publishing end. What about the writing? There's a plethora of information on the internet on how to craft a novel. I can look up punctuation rules. I can download free worksheets to help me with my plot structure. And many of my favorite critique partners are people I only know through the internet, while others I met at conferences or workshops and now keep in touch with across the country via e-mail. That's not to mention all the random research I've done on the internet. Do I need to know how telephones looked in 1958? Do I need to know how to make home-made gunpowder? It's only a few clicks away.

So what will come of all this collective information about writing and publishing? Is it going to produce better books than we've ever seen in the past? Will we now be able to reach higher than those classics that were scratched out alone and in the dark, scrawled longhand on paper or typed in dusty library basements on rented typewriters? Or will we find ourselves boggled by all of these voices telling us how to do it right, telling us what they want to see? Will books become one monotonous shout, purged of all adverbs, passive voice, and extraneous passages, formulated on a three-act plot structure and bristling with hooks to keep the reader turning empty pages? Or do we all now have access to the tools that will empower us to light the world with the fire of our minds?

Only you can decide.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Secrets of the Art

Here's some inspiration for you today:
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
-Ludwig Van Beethoven

All art strives for the same end. To cross the void between solitary minds. To reach out and touch another human soul. Day after day, I find myself staring at the page, asking, how does it feel deep inside? And how do I invoke that feeling with nothing but words? How do I make what is in me echo in another heart?

For that is the secret of the art.

What secrets are you searching for?

Monday, February 6, 2012


An aspiring writer asked a publisher “What’s the secret to getting published?”
The publisher said, “You won’t believe this, but you just need to show up.”


Show Up – as in:

• Write consistently.
• Show up to writing classes, conventions and seminars, etc.
• Improve your writing to a professional level, and then keep improving.
• Query and submit until you get picked up - even if it’s years.
• Keep your deadlines.
• Be reliable.

Also, Be a Finisher.

• Finish that scene you’re avoiding.
• Finish the manuscript.
• Go back and revise. Take the steps necessary - which requires time and a lot of effort - to make your book shine.
• Send it out.

Now a few words on The ‘Why’ of Writing:

Recently I listened to Christopher Loke, editor of Jollyfish Press, speak. The first question he asked was, “Why do you write?” Everyone in the room grew quiet, and you could hear their mental wheels spinning. Before anyone answered, he said, “Please don’t say you write because you love it.”

I’m glad I wasn’t the only one there who looked shocked. Seriously? Don’t we spend the countless hours scribbling on any writeable surface, pounding our keyboards, and thinking through plotlines, because we love it?

I can’t quote his words exactly, but this is the gist of what he said next:

“I hope you write because you’re envisioning your story on a shelf in a bookstore one day. I hope you write because you want lots of people to read your stories. I’m a business man. I don’t want a writer who is just happy writing. I want and need someone who’ll bring me business, keep bringing me business, and keep my company healthy and successful. I really hope you see it as a job.”

Okay. That makes sense. They don't want someone who 'plays' at being a writer. They want people who show up and finish their stories.

I don't know about you, but I'd definitely love to see my book in print in a real bookstore. Sure, seeing writing as a job may take the glamour out of it, but who doesn't envision that glorious finish line: their own sweat-and-blood book in a Barnes and Noble?

I guess if we truly love writing, we’ll be willing to take the steps necessary to get our stories there.

So to close, I’ll be brief.

• Show up.
• Be a finisher.
• Aim high.

And then not only you, but your publisher and all your readers will love it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Finding Your Writer Vision

Sometimes a theme beats on my head. 

It pounds its way in slowly - a blog post here or a tweet there. It shows up in the scribbled notations in my journal, tapping its way into my conscious thoughts. Then I get an email from a friend and I'm compelled to write a blog post about it.

Rebecca's post about Writer Anorexia - the need to have the perfect manuscript - kicked loose my need to write about how important it is to find your writer vision.

We are each unique, so we tell our stories in our own way. This is almost cliche, except that it is true. The deep truth in this statement is that our vision of the world can easily be squandered, wasted, thrown on rocky soil, if we do not nurture it.

By all means, study bestselling authors and practice, practice, practice your craft. But I promise you that the way those authors became bestsellers was by staying true to their vision of their work. Long before you become a bestseller, you - the aspiring author - need to respect and nurture your own uniqueness and vision of the world. It is your most treasured talent. It is the thing that makes you special, and in this business of creative work, uniqueness is the most valuable thing you possess. Trying to be J.K. Rowling will rob you of the very thing that made J.K. who she is - a visionary.

Discovering your own vision is not easy. It's hard work, in fact, buried in the word mines where you will break apart unwieldy paragraphs to find the shining nuggets within. It's years of writing and crafting of words that helps you hone your ability to let your uniqueness be revealed.

This sounds very grandiose, full of hot air and nonsense, but let me assure that understanding your story-vision is one of the most important things you can do.

When an agent says to you, I love your story, but could you just change these three characters and add a donkey? you need to have the strength of vision to say no. When an editor says to you, We love your writing style, but those (insert here) types of characters don't market well. Can you change it to (insert here)? you have to have the confidence in your story to say sorry, that doesn't work for me.

(Not to say that editors and agents won't offer brilliant suggestions. They will. But if you won't fight to keep the integrity of your story, then no one will. Only you can make sure that the heart of your story is not destroyed in the editing process.)

So, when I tell you to discover your vision, when I say your uniqueness is your treasured talent, I don't mean this is some fluffy thing you can afford not to do. I mean finding your writer vision is a vitally important part of your happiness as a writer, as well as your future success in the marketplace.

And this is what I want for all my writer friends.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Recovering from Anorexia Writosa

Last night I read something that said, "When an anorexic teenage girl looks in the mirror, she thinks she sees someone who is fat, ugly, and worthless."

I thought, OH MY HECK! That's what I think about my writing!

How did this happen? Somewhere along the line I became obsessed with creating the perfect manuscript. I thought I wasn't worth anything unless I could be J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordian, R.L. Stein, and Beverly Cleary all rolled into one.

It just ain't gonna be. And I have to stop comparing myself.

I'm not a writing supermodel. I don't want to be. I'm me. I like what I write. This morning I feel happier about being an aspiring author than I have in a long, long time. I'm working on a positive manuscript image. My manuscript isn't perfect, but it's a good, solid piece of work. I did my best. I'll give it just a little more love and feeding, then send it out on its way.

What do you do to keep your writing happy and well fed?