It’s Media Monday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and we are returning from our summer vacation. I’m discussing what those that are new to our blog can expect to find each day, along with a little motivational surprise at the end.
Here’s a preview:
Welcome back, everyone!
I hope you’re ready for a new season of great writing adventures. We at TGNA are ready, and we hope you’ll join us every week day for a different themed post as we travel along together.
For those who are new to the blog, here’s what to expect:
Media Mondays: These posts will share media gifts with a literary theme for our readers – downloads, printables, playlists, and more.
Travel Tuesdays: These posts will focus on guest posts, interviews, informative link roundups, and sometimes even posts that are actually about travel.
Writing Wednesdays: Excellent craft posts about writing, from beginnings to revisions, and for all levels of ability. You won’t want to miss them.
Things I’ve Read Thursdays: Book reviews! Posts where we get to talk about the thing we love most – books!
List of Five Fridays: Our most intriguing and surprising posts come from our favorite things. A list of five favorites can be anything that inspire us.
With the return of TGNA blog posts, comes the return of weekday morning wordsprints on Twitter.
If you’d like some company as you write, please join us! I host AM #wordsprints over on the TGNA group Twitter handle @Novel_Adventure weekdays from 6-8am CST. We sprint in 20 minute blocks with ten minute breaks in between each session. This season, I’m throwing in some fun challenges each day to keep things interesting.
For this Travel Tuesday over at The Great Noveling Adventure, I’m sending everyone to a few fantastic sites that will help ignite their imaginations and get those idea engines cranking.
Looking for some new story generating sites? I’ve got some great suggestions for you. Stop waiting for that next big idea to hit you upside the head. Find it yourself, today.
Have some fun and play with your imagination. After all, that’s what it’s for.
Stop on over and join in the conversation!
Remember, when you start working on that next big idea, I host AM #sprints every weekday morning on Twitter over at @Novel_Adventure. Join me if you need some motivation to get started or if you just need some companionship as you work on your own great novel.
This is a delightful blog hop that’s making the rounds right now, and I was tagged a few times by some lovely people.
Jenny Perinovic, part of my TGNA family, first tagged me in this blog hop and I accepted her challenge,
then my fellow SCBWI Oklahoma friend, Sonia Gensler tagged me and finally,
Jadyn Knight one of my #writemotivation peeps added me to her chosen few.
Thank you all for including me in this fun challenge.
So here we go:
1. What am I working on? I am revising two completed manuscripts at the moment. One is INSTITUTIONALIZED, a YA contemporary novel about a teen who gets admitted to Whispering Sands under false pretenses and must navigate the unfamiliar world of deviants and sociopaths by pretending to be crazy so she can get out in time to save her sister from the real psycho in the family. The other is NIGHT OF THE MUSEUM CRASHERS, a Middle Grade Mystery about a boy who stumbles upon a crime in process – thieves swapping out paintings with fakes. But when the police arrive, there’s no trace of foul play; no one believes him. He decides to solve the crime himself and prove he was right.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? With the contemporary YA story, the twist is that the main character isn’t mentally ill, or at least she doesn’t think she has any reason to be locked up. In my Middle Grade story, my character is afraid of everything in the beginning – not exactly the dashing adventurous type that relishes the idea of solving mysteries. He’s thought of as mentally unbalanced – fragile, even, by the adults. That’s kind of an anti-hero for mystery stories. I do seem to be fascinated with the inner workings of my characters’ lives and I do like them damaged; they all seem to need therapy. Read into that what you will.
3. Why do I write what I do? Books meant everything to me as a kid. While some let my imagination soar, some helped me navigate the awkward world of puberty without always having to ask my single dad embarrassing questions. (I know I’m not the only one who owes a heap of gratitude to the amazing Judy Blume.) Writing stories that shed light on difficult issues and let someone else not feel so weird about themselves, like they could be the hero of their own story or even help someone else understand what a different way of life may be like – I don’t know, I just like exploring ideas that spark conversation.
4. How does my writing process work? I’ve discovered this fabulous new word recently – “planster”. I’m not quite and pantser or a planner, but a planster. And a binge planster at that. I don’t write every day, but even on the days I’m not writing, I do spend a good chunk of time mulling over my stories or thinking about my characters. I spend a lot of time in my own head. Once I do sit down to write, everything else falls away. Distractions like food, people, time all get filtered out. Before I know it, I’ve been writing for hours on end, the sun has disappeared, and my family has written me off as lost for the day. I find myself surrounded by discarded drinks and food items scattered about as offerings to the enthralled author-who-could-not-be-disturbed. This is one of the many ways they love me and my crazy writerly self.
As far as the actual writing of the story process, for me, the situation and the character always come first. An idea pops into my head while having a discussion with a friend or while reading an article or listening to an interview on the radio. I may jot it down so I don’t forget it, or I may just mull it over in my head for a few days. If it sticks in my brain and I can’t stop thinking about it, I begin to play around with it, with the character, and see if this could be something worth pursuing. I start writing some pages. And more pages. Once I get into the story and realize it has teeth, I may sketch out a bell curve outline of major plot points or scenes I want to include. That’s probably as much outlining as I’ll do, with the exception of the mystery story. I did have to outline more to keep track of clues and red herrings, there. For that story, I did a chapter by chapter outline after I knew the story would work and where the story was going.
I try not to revise while writing the first draft, but I do start a page or two back from where I started the day before and I may tinker a bit with things before moving forward. I’m trying to allow myself to write those messy first drafts and wait for revising until I get to the end of the first draft. I do love revising. I know my work only gets better the more I do it. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop revising. Probably when the next exciting idea calls to me.
I haven’t tagged anybody for this blog hop as most of the people I would tag have already been tagged, so if you’d like to share your writing process feel free to join in the fun. I have enjoyed reading about everyone’s process. One thing I have gleaned from all of the different stories is that there is no right or wrong way to write, only that you do it.
So here’s to all of you, trudging through your revisions and first drafts, battling your demons of self-doubt. Remember that perseverance is key.
I’ve sprained my wrist from too much writing and I have this really awkward splint on that’s making it difficult to type, today. Please forgive any wonky formatting or glaring typos. Yes, I should give it a rest, but it doesn’t hurt in the splint. Why not carry on? Besides, my nurse husband isn’t here right now to make me stop working, so I’ve got some time to squeeze in a bit of writing before he gets back. I’m such a naughty patient.
I will keep today’s post short as a compromise. Let’s get right to the #writemotivation goals:
1. Participate, post, push, and praise much better this month, especially where #writemotivation is concerned. I have been more virtually visual this week and have been cheering on my fellow #writemotivation friends on Twitter and in post comments, so yes! one goal is being actively achieved.
2. Revise, revise, revise! I am making actual progress here as well. Worked on revision of my middle grade as well as two query letters. I had to submit those for our Agent Day event that’s coming up next month, which is now completely sold out! It should be a great time. Who knows? I may even find the strength of will to submit another round of queries with one of those query letters later this month. It could happen.
Getting some nightly prodding from my local SCBWI chap on the listserv, which has kept me honest with my revision progress. It’s also cool to check in every evening to see what others have been working on all day.
3. Read, read, read. Doing a bang up job on this one. I’m only 3 books (or 5%) behind my Goodreads goal of 75 books for the year. That’s the closest to caught up I’ve been almost since I made the damn goal. My TBR pile isn’t shrinking, though. My daughter just added I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak and said I had to read it immediately so we could discuss the ending. When the youngling commands, I must obey.
4. Keep on freaking exercising. Hit and miss this week – still more hit than miss, though. We did take a really long, scenic walk with the boy this week and when we told him we could go home when we were done, he took off running. I did NOT have that kind of drive, but I did cheer him on.
Here’s a pic from our walk for your moment of zen before we all head back to our perspective goals.
And not just because he is ruggedly handsome. Or because he took the time to notice where I was from when I was in line to get my book signed and then asked me where exactly Broken Arrow was. He even talked to me about an upcoming author event he had scheduled in my area. Very nice.
And it wasn’t because he said it was great to meet me. See?
Or because he took the time to stand up to take a picture with me. Not many authors do that. So thoughtful.
Or because he gave me a copy of his short story, Passing Each Other in Halls, por nada. So awesome of him, wasn’t it?
Okay, okay. Ma-ybe he did that for all of his quasi-mental, yet adoring fans. Still, not all authors take this kind of time with their readers/stalkers/fans, believe me. Better than any fabulous swag I may have gained from the conference was the knowledge he imparted during his keynote speech and break out sessions. For that, I will be eternally grateful and a forever devoted stalker reader.
During his break out session on exercising patience, one of the first things he said was:
The first page is important but don’t mistake this for EVERYTHING has to happen on the first page.
You don’t have to cram all the major drama – the break up, the car crash, the gun shot – in that first page to make your story great and to keep readers interested. Allow your characters to tell the story; let it unfold naturally. Sometimes you have to get out of your own way and let your readers come to their own conclusions.
Which brings me to de la Peña’s next nugget of wisdom:
Not every reader has to get every thing.
He shared the opening pages from Denis Johnson‘s Tree of Smoke with us as an example of writing that allows the story to unfold without prejudice or narrator comment. The opening line is “Last night at 3:00am President Kennedy had been killed.” Within this passage, as the young soldier stalks through the jungle, there isa 2nd assassination with the death of a monkey, but the narrator doesn’t draw attention to it. If the reader gets the parallel, great. It adds another layer, a deeper connection to the story, but the reader doesn’t need to understand this connection to follow the plot.
De la Peña does the same with his own writing as well. In Ball Don’t Lie, a story about a foster kid who’s only constant in life is basketball, you don’t have to understand the game of basketball to appreciate it. In Mexican WhiteBoy, there are tons of Spanish passages that he doesn’t translate. You don’t have to know what’s being said to appreciate the story, but it enhances the experience. De la Peña says that when a kid who isn’t a big reader can translate a passage for a teacher who’s reading aloud to the class, he takes ownership of the story, which is what you want.
When reading a book, you are doing half the work; you take ownership of it. You picture the action in your mind.
I love that.
When de la Peña returned to the discussion of how we as writers can show patience in our work, he talked about his experience in his MFA program. At one point, he was trying to show off, be a real stylist by throwing everything he’d learned into his current writing project. His advisor told him the story was suffering because of it. She told him to slow the f*ck down.
Just slow down.
She was so right.
This advice has followed him throughout his career.
Sometimes the slow build is the best build.
When something big is about to happen in your story, slow that moment down. Car crashes, gun shots, even break ups can take seconds. You can slow it down in a book with many different strategies. Do you go with hypersensitivity? Backstory? Try different ways and see what works.
Sit there with the audience in the palm of your hand and make them suffer.
Ooh hoo hoo! Gives you chills doesn’t it? I’ve heard of hurting your characters, of torturing them until it hurts, but your reader? I’d never thought of their suffering while I write, have you?
But he does make an excellent point. Some of my favorite books have those delicious scenes that have kept me on that edge, prolonging the moment. It’s almost an agony, suffering the pain of the moment along with the character, but I find myself rereading these passages again and again, soaking up every bit, until I’m satisfied enough to move on.
If you are lucky enough to live in the Tulsa area, come see this dynamic author for yourself. Matt will be speaking on September 24th at the Martin Regional Library.
And not just because I get to run away every summer and play with my fellow writers in a celebration of children’s books. I don’t think I could make it through this grueling struggle towards publication without such a crazy-supportive community.
As Lin Oliver stated in her opening address of the SCBWI Summer conference, “Let’s admit that we’re all kind of weirdos”. That’s probably why I feel so at home when I’m there; the place is chock full of kindred spirits.
I always enjoy the parade of the faculty that follows her opening speech. This is when each speaker marches across the stage, introduces themselves and sums up life, the universe, and everything in one word. (Strangely, I have never heard someone use the word forty-two.) As usual, not all writers follow the rules.
Here are some of my favorites from this year:
David Weisner “Plastics”
Richard Peck “Surveillance”
Jay Asher “Subtlety”
Then Jay spoke for his writing partner who couldn’t attend the faculty parade: (in high-pitched voice)”Hi, I’m Carolyn Mackler and my word is Asparagus”.
Matt de la Peña “Honesty” and “Tequila” (I think the tequila helps with the honesty.)
Kristin Clark Venuti “Brain fart”
Ari Lewin “Bacon”
Laurie Halse Anderson made up a word, “Frenergy” which she described as frenzy and energy.
After wracking her brain all night trying to think of a word, Alyn Johnston was inspired by the talking elevator in the hotel : “L-lobby!” (Did I mention that the elevator has a very laid back Californian accent?)
After several other inspiring words, the conference got rolling with a great keynote from Laurie Halse Anderson that just made me love her forever. (Okay, I was already a fan of her work, but now it’s permanently carved into my heart: me + LHA = reader love forever and ever.)
I’ve felt an emotional disconnect with my writing lately. It’s all tied up in agent-submission fatigue and self-doubt. Anderson shot straight to the heart of that when she discussed her early writing struggles. At one point she said:
“Your fear is that you are a fraud with no talent.”
I wondered how she could see into my soul from eight rows back. I almost cried. She told us that there was a reason that we could hear dialogue and see in pictures. We have the gift of magic, of ‘Once upon a Time’.
“Books are proof humans can do magic.”
Amen! and Hell, yeah! I almost screamed out. She said that we are NOT like the other grownups; that we defend, protect, and celebrate childhood. We write books with integrity and honesty. In short, she said all of the things that recharged my writer’s heart and reminded me why I loved writing. She reminded me to forget about trends and to write what I love. It was the best way for me to start the conference – letting go of the negative crap and embracing the creative. Throughout the conference, this was the focus for me. I didn’t care this time about how to best market myself or which agents to pursue or what editors were wanting; I looked for things that inspired me.
I spent some quality time with my writing friends and sampled the local cuisine.
I checked out the art of a billion illustrators – not an original idea.
I may have even donned a costume and danced a bit.
I met some authors and took some awkward photos – they were all so generous with their time and kind words.
I may have gone overboard with the books.
(My bag weighed in at 49.5 lbs at the airport – score!)
I’ll be sharing posts in the weeks ahead about some great talks that helped me find the inspiration that made me excited about writing again. I hope you enjoy them.
As for my writing goals this month, I’ve toned them down a bit. Last month was a little crazy (which may have contributed to my negative state of mind).
1. Enjoy the SCBWI Summer Conference. DONE!!!
2. Revise, revise, revise. I have tons of critique notes from crit camp to review – not to mention my critique from the conference. I will be very busy with this.
3. Write, write, write. DITTO.
4. Read, read, read. I’ve indulged in this goal for the past few weeks and have read over six books already. More on that to come!
5. Keep that exercise routine going. Blech. Yes, I’m working on it. Stop nagging me.I’m just back from vacation, er, a business trip, whatever.
I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable summer and are rejuvenated from your various adventures. I know I am. Here’s to a productive and inspired fall!
I had so much fun mentoring my fellow writers and seeing the immediate progress my little group made after just one day of revisions. I also thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with my writers friends and staying up way too late to get to know some of them better.
I ended the weekend by attending a party for my lovely writing friend, Gwendolyn Hooks who just received a fantastic book deal on a much-anticipated project. We’re all so excited about this book that we felt like it was our success as well as Gwen’s. I couldn’t be happier for her. I didn’t even mind being “volunteered to participate in an original skit written and narrated by Anna Myers (who somehow got out of wearing any kind of ridiculous and embarrassing costume – the rest of us weren’t so lucky!)
The not-so-lucky ones – some of my fellow cast members
I felt so inspired after such a beautiful weekend that I’ve worked my ass off this week. I’m so excited about the trajectory I’m on right now. Friends and unconditional support can sometimes make all the difference. Thank you to everyone who has inspired me this month! You all rock.
I also returned home to find this lovely literary pile of gifts waiting for me, including two books signed by Maureen McGowan. I’m looking forward to reading the first two books of her Dust Chronicles series. All of this swag, including the Dan Krall book I received earlier in the month, was the result of entering contests on fellow writer blogs. It does pay to engage! This collection is an awesome way to add to my TBR pile! I don’t know which one I want to read first…decisions, decisions, decisions!
1. Submit Museum Crashers (MG mystery) to editor who requested the full. Tons of progress made. Should be sending out by the end of the month. Tentatively marking as DONEbecause of all the progress made.
2. Submit Institutionalized (YA contemporary) to five more literary agents. DONE! I actually submitted to six agents. Two were rejected. Four are still out. (Five counting the full requested and submitted to an agent four months ago.) Waiting, waiting, waiting. Blech! Not my favorite.
3. Work on first draft of Pretty Vacant (YA contemporary). No progress on this one. I’m going to use this as my Camp Nano project for July. I will get a rough draft of this completed by the end of the summer! I will. I WILL!!!
4. Read at least five books – review one on the blog. I will finish Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk before the end of the month and I discussed Tara Hudson’s Hereafter in my last blog post, so I’m marking this one as DONE!
5. Work on outlining new blog project idea. DONE! More exciting ideas are coming next month.
6. Exercise 3 times each week. DONE! I’ll be increasing this for next month.
7. Finish critique of friend’s manuscript. Finally started this! Will have to move over to July’s goals to complete – hopefully by my friend’s birthday.
I hope you all took a velociraptor-sized bite out of your writing projects this month. Don’t forget to sign up for next month! Visit KT Hanna’s site here to join us for #writemotivation in July.