Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"We're not worthy!"

Are you part of a critique group? I am, and sometimes I feel I need to pull a Wayne and Garth - you know, bow down and exclaim, "I'm not worthy!"

My group is loaded with talented writers, including Lisa Green. They're so great that I read their pages and think, no way is this their first draft (between you and me, I think Lisa submits her 10th draft...just sayin'). Meanwhile, I'm submitting my clunky first draft (shudder) and gobbling up their feedback.

I love learning from other writers. If part of my job includes dissecting the words of Suzanne Collins or Jodi Picoult, then I'm a lucky girl. If you missed it, there was a great post on Query Tracker about learning from the masters.

I'm thankful I'm surrounded by amazing critique partners, and that they're willing to improve my work. We each bring something unique to the table, and are worthy of some writerly give and take.

How about you? When you read someone else's awesome words, do you feel like jumping off a bridge, or are you inspired to sharpen your skills? And in your opinion, who is a master storyteller?

Just for smiles, check out this video by author Jen Hayley. It'll make your day!

photo credit: cinegeek.com

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Inner Editor...QUIET PLEASE!

Is your inner editor anything like mine?

Right now, she's peering over my shoulder and staring at my wip on the screen. She's poking at me, trying to convince me to hit delete over and over again. She's such a nag, and I really must get rid of her.

I have plans for my inner editor: they involve duct tape, a shovel, and the national forest. Here are some other ideas for how to handle our inner editors.

I've plotted, I've planned, and I'm working hard to get the first draft of my story down. I know the clunky bits can be fixed in revision, so why am I trying to make things perfect? According to this, my inner editor is trying to protect me. She's only allowed to protect me after I've finished my first draft!

Does your inner editor pester you while you're writing? If so, how do you kick it to the curb until you're ready for it?

photo credit: flickr

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Secret Weapons

I have a secret weapon when it comes to writing: my boys.

Since I write for children, my kids are deep wells of quirks and inspiration. When they ask questions such as "How did a butterfly get its name?" I write it down. When my son told me he wanted to be an astronaut and a singer when he grows up, I wrote it down. After a long day at Disneyland, my sister asked my son, "What was your favorite part?" His answer? "The fun inside my head."

Before I took writing seriously, these moments were lodged in my memory, but that's it. Now they're fodder for stories or nonfiction manuscripts. If nothing else, my notes are a sort of journal, recording this stage in their lives -- what my sons are curious about, what worries them, and what makes them laugh. No matter what, that's priceless.

Do you have a secret weapon for your writing? Sweet or quirky children? A funny grandparent? A creepy uncle? Wacky students? Do tell!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Spicing Up The Middle

My main character and I are holding hands as we leap into the middle of my work in progress. After a brief panic attack, I opened up my trusty book, Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (I heart you Mr. Bell...seriously).

Bell offers these suggestions to spice up our middles:
  1. Analyze the stakes. What will our main character lose if she doesn't achieve her objective? Unless it's major, our readers won't care.
  2. Strengthen the adhesive. What ties the protagonist and the antagonist together? Keep it strong.
  3. Add another level of complication. Our poor little protagonists must be tortured by us heartless writers. We should think what's the worst that can happen? Then do it.
  4. Add another character. Someone from the past who makes things miserable for Ms. Protag? Hmmm.
  5. Add another subplot. Bell suggests we use this one sparingly, as the subplots must be organic.
  6. Push on through the wall. At this point, our confidence level may drop. We might feel as if our book is headed straight for the bottom of the bird cage. This is the wall, and Bell reminds us that most novelists hit it at some point in their first drafts.
By the time I'm done, my main character might want to slap me in the face instead of holding my hand. I can live with that. My job is to make my book as strong as possible.

How do you tackle your middles? Please share your secrets!

photo credit: Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Passion vs. Obsession

Passion is universal humanity. Without it religion, history, romance and art would be useless. ~Honoré de Balzac

'Mad' is a term we use to describe a man who is obsessed with one idea and nothing else. ~Ugo Betti

When I think of obsession, I imagine Glenn Close boiling a bunny on the stove. She thinks of Michael Douglas every waking moment, and her life has lost all joy.

It's safe to say that most of us don't write for the money. We write because we love it and we're passionate about it. Sometimes I feel myself slipping from passionate to obsessive.

For me, it's important to remember why I write. When slipping from passion to obsession, it's important to hang on to the joy.

What's your opinion on passion vs. obsession?

Follow your passion, and success will follow you. ~Terri Guillemets

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Roller Coaster Ride of Writing

I don't know about you, but the writing profession is the wildest roller coaster I've ever been on. I live near Six Flags in southern California, so I've ridden some doozies (do people still say doozies?)

Thanks to the generous founders and participants at writeoncon, we soaked up a lot of greatness this past week. The awesome information blew me away. I was up.

Once it was over, I had the strangest reaction: I got the blues. Not the "I'm so sad it's over" blues. They were the "Who am I kidding? There's so much talent out there, how can I compete?" kind of blues. I was down. (I'm already over that, btw. Of course I can compete!)

Then I learned that my article was published in Scholastic Math Magazine's September issue--page 8. I was up.

Whew! Yes, it's a wild ride, but one worth taking. If I have to, I'll even wait in the long line in order to ride in the front seat. I'm strapped in and ready to go.

How about you? How's it going on your roller coaster?

photo credit: flickr

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Author Interview

Writer and blogger Lindsey Sablowski interviewed me on her blog. You can check out the interview and follow Lindsey here.

Thanks, Lindsey!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Let Write On Con Begin!

It's official! Write On Con begins tomorrow. If you haven't already heard about this free conference, check out the details here. If you're on Twitter, you can find their tweets at #writeoncon.

The schedule of events can be viewed here. Many generous writers, editors and agents are donating their time, and I am truly grateful.

If you haven't already registered, quick, do it now. Will I see you there?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

13 Reasons Why

I recently read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Barnes and Noble summarizes the book this way:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker-his classmate and crush-who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Thirteen Reasons Why was a great reminder of the strong impact books can have on readers. It was touching, heartbreaking, and dramatic.

To watch an interview with the author, click here. Later in the video, teens said the book reminded them that our comments and actions have an impact on others, even if we don't realize it. Asher didn't pound this message home. Instead, he sprinkled it lightly, allowing the reader to connect with these characters. We join Clay in his wish that he could turn back time.

I thought Thirteen Reasons Why was a powerful story. Have your read this book? If so, what was your impression?

photo credit: Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

YOU are courageous!

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.~Mary Anne Radmacher

I've learned that writers are courageous people.
  • If you've taken an idea, fleshed it out, then put it on paper, you're courageous
  • If you've poured your heart and soul into a story, you're courageous
  • If you've finished a manuscript, you're courageous
  • If you've offered up your work for review and critique, you're courageous
  • If you've typed a query letter and clicked send, you're courageous
  • If you've dropped a manuscript in the mail, you're courageous
  • If you've received rejections, yet continued to have faith in and submit your work, you're courageous
Is there anything you'd like to add to the list?

In the words of John Wayne, "Courage is being scared to death...and saddling up anyway."

You, my writer friends, are very brave indeed!

photo credit: photobucket.com