Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Week 7 - Burst Writing

This is my Week 7 check-in of my ROW80 challenge to finish the rough draft of Sekrit Middle Grade Fantasy project by June 14th!

Eek! That's two week away!

After being stuck in the Middle Muddles, a tremendous burst of writing occurred last week. Do you see the leap in the Word-o-Meter from before (about 23k words)?

{For those of you whose browsers dislike my Word-o-Meter, I've logged 34,483 words toward my 50-60k goal.}

Yeah, kinda proud of that. Good thing, too, because the rest of the novel needs to be written.


Usually my tangles, the ones that hold up forward movement on a story, involve not really knowing how to get from Point A to Point B. Now that I've reached the Act II Climax, I can't seem to write fast enough. It's like the forward momentum of the story has built an enormous pressure, just behind my fingertips, and it needs to go, go, go!

Do you write in bursts? Or is it steady, steady, steady?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Sale of Romance Books!

AllRomance.com is having a site-wide sale of all their books, 50% off today and tomorrow (sale ends 5/30 11:59 pm). All of Omnific Publishing's books (my publisher!) are carried by AllRomance, including my book Life, Liberty, and Pursuit:

Life, Liberty, and Pursuit (a teen love story)

E-book: SALE price $3.50 (regularly $6.99)

Life, Liberty, and Pursuit is a story about a college-bound girl who falls in love with a Navy recruit and has to choose between keeping true to her dreams and having the courage to love.

My novel is young adult (one flame on heat level), and there are many low flame young adult novels on AllRomance, but be warned: AllRomance is definitely an adult site.

Cuddling up with a new book over the long weekend sounds just right to me. I hope my book finds its way into the hands of a few more military personnel and warms some hearts on this chilly Memorial Day weekend (at least in Chicago).

THANK YOU to all the veterans who have given so much to serve our country!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Treasure Hunt

The summer spree of book giveaways is starting! I like this treasure hunt, not only because I am participating (June 6th is my giveaway day! see below), but because you don't have to wait till the day to enter - YOU CAN ENTER AT ANY TIME for the prizes that you want. Given how crazy life can get, I like that kind of flexibility (although I'm not allowed to enter, I figured you would like it too).


p.s. My giveaway day is on June 6th, but you can start entering now! Check Joyce's blog each day to see the winners!

From Joyce, the host for the June Summer Treasure Hunt Giveaway:

3rd Annual Summer Treasure Hunt: Dig for Clues and Win! Contest

Welcome to our 3rd Annual Summer Treasure Hunt: Dig for Clues and Win Contest! This is becoming an exciting tradition, both for our sponsors and hopefully for all of you! 29 writer friends have banded together to present a month-long contest where we will give away a prize a day for the entire month of June.
Thats right! 30 awesome prizes, running the gamut from books books books! (romances, fantasies, mystery/thrillers, inspirationals, childrens books, and various non-fiction), as well as Amazon gift cards, a Mary Kay gift set, a vinyl lettering gift certificate, a hand-sewn weekly planner with ribbon bookmark, a crocheted book tote with matching cell phone case, and again for you aspiring authors, TWO free edit/critiques of a partial manuscript.
Many of the giveaways are open to International entries, though always check to be sure before you enter for a particular prize. And how exactly do you enter for these amazing prizes?
You can send in one entry for each days prize, or only for those prizes that strike your fancy. The rules are simple:
(1) Go to the website or blog indicated for each day, find the answer to the question for that day, then email the answer with your name and AND MAILING ADDRESS to jdipastena@yahoo.com. I promise you will not wind up on any mailing lists. This is only to facilitate the receipt of your prize. All entries will be deleted at the end of the contest.
(2) Please send a separate entry for each day and type the day you are entering in the subject line. (Such as: Summer Treasure Hunt, June 1; Summer Treasure Hunt, June 2, etc).
 (3) Deadline for each day: Midnight PST
 (4) The winner will be contacted and announced on the day following the deadline.
 All winners will be drawn by www.random.org.
 You do not have to wait until the designated day to enter. You can start sending in your entries right now, or begin entering at any point along the way. And check Joyce's blog each day between June 2nd July 1st to read the names of the winners.
 If you have any questions, please email Joyce DiPastena at jdipastena@yahoo.com.
 And now let the treasure hunt begin!

June 1
SPONSOR: Canda Mortensen

PRIZE: A $25 Amazon gift certificate

QUESTION: What is the title and artist of the Princess song on Newbie's playlist? (HINT: Scroll to the bottom of the blog and read Newbie Teaser. Match the number of Princess with the same number on the Playlist box (you may have to scroll down the playlist to find this, too). It will give you the title and artist.)

June 2
SPONSOR: Jennifer Griffith

PRIZE: Delicious Conversation (LDS romance, an adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion, set in a chocolate shop in Salt Lake City), by Jennifer Griffith
QUESTION: Name at least 5 kinds of candy I ate at the last writers' conference I attended AND share YOUR favorite candy. (HINT: Read the April 20, 2011 post. Click on April under the Blog Archive in the right hand sidebar.)

June 3
SPONSOR: Peggy Urry

PRIZE: Choice of book: Villette by Charlotte Bronte (romance, paperback); Airframe by Michael Crichton (thriller, paperback); The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell (contemporary crime, paperback); OR The Mist of Quarry Harbor by Liz Adair (LDS romantic fiction, paperback); AND choice of Jelly Belly Gel Case for iPhone 3G/3GS or Jelly Belly Strawberry Cheesecake Gel Case for iPod Touch.
QUESTION: What is the name of my Work In Progress (WIP)? (Hint: It's the title of my March 12, 2011 post. Click on March under Blog Archive in the right hand sidebar.)

June 4
SPONSOR: Danielle Thorne

PRIZE: Josette (sweet Regency romance, E-book) AND Southern Girl, Yankee Roots (poetry), both by Danielle Thorne
QUESTION: Danielle supports what wildlife conservancy organization? (HINT: See right hand column of website)


June 5
SPONSOR: Bonnie Harris
PRIZE: Mary Kay Microdermabrasion Set
QUESTION: What are the names of my two WIPs? (HINT: Scroll to the bottom of the blog and click on Work in Progress under Labels)
WEBSITE/BLOG: http:// www.bonnieharris.blogspot.com

June 6

SPONSOR: Susan Kaye Quinn

PRIZE: Autographed copy of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit (YA love story), by Susan Kaye Quinn
QUESTION: How many days do David and Eliza have on the cruise together, before they're forced to go their separate ways? (HINT: Click on the About Me and My Books tab and read the blurb for Life, Liberty, and Pursuit)


June 7:
SPONSOR: Anne Bradshaw
PRIZE: True Miracles with Genealogy: Help from Beyond the Veil (non-fiction), by Anne Bradshaw 1 print and 1 eBook Print copy can be autographed. (Yes, there will be TWO winners drawn for this prize)
QUESTION: Which TV station interviewed Anne? (HINT: Answer is a short way down the middle column.)

June 8
SPONSOR: Cheri Schmidit
PRIZE: Autographed copy of Fateful (YA paranormal romance), by Cheri Schmidt
QUESTION: Who is the prince of darkness? (HINT: Click on April under Blog Archive in the left hand sidebar and read the April 12, 2011 post)

June 9
SPONSOR: Mary Fremont Schoenecker

PRIZE: Moonglade (a sweet cozy mystery, Book Two in the Maine Shore Chronicles series), by Mary Fremont Schoenecker The prize is an autographed First Edition hard cover print book.
QUESTION: What special skill does character Tante Margaret use that puts her in danger during Remi's murder investigation? (HINT: Click on the About Her Books tab and read the Publishers Weekly Review.
WEBSITE/BLOG: http://www.maryschoenecker.com


June 10
SPONSOR: Shaunna Gonzales

PRIZE: FREE edit and/or critique of first 50 pages
QUESTION: What do his lips taste like? (Hint: click on Sizzling Kiss under Post Subjects in the left hand sidebar)

June 11
SPONSOR: Donna Hatch

PRIZE: The Stranger She Married (Regency romance), by Donna Hatch
QUESTION: What poses the greatest danger to Alicias heart? (HINT: Scroll down underneath the book cover of The Stranger She Married, and read the paragraph directly below.
WEBSITE/BLOG: http://www.donnahatch.net/bookshelf.htm

June 12
SPONSOR: Cindy R. Williams & Planet Play Productions, LLC.
PRIZE: Award winning glossy cover childrens snuggle, giggle picture book, Chase McKay Didnt Get Up Today, signed by the author and the real Chase McKay.
QUESTION: What is the name of the dragon in the upcoming fantasy, Thundertails Tale: The Legend? (HINT: click on the Blog tab)

June 13
SPONSOR: Larry Hammersley

PRIZE: Motorcycle Woman (sweet contemporary romance, E-book), by Larry Hammersley
QUESTION: What kind of motorcycle does Tess, the motorcycle woman, ride? (HINT: Read the blog post Motorcycle Woman from Red Rose Publishing, May 5, 2011)


June 14
SPONSOR: Cheryl Cory

PRIZE: Autographed copy of Must've Done Something Good (romantic comedy), by Cheryl Cory

QUESTION: What is Sylvie's all-time favorite movie? (HINT: Click on the "Info" link in the left-hand column)

June 15
SPONSOR: Valerie Ipson

PRIZE: $15 Gift Certificate for Vinyl Lettering  (http://vinylsignsanddesigns.blogspot.com)

QUESTION: What is Valerie's writing goal for 2011?  (HINT: Look in the right hand sidebar)
WEBSITE/BLOG: http:// valerieipson.blogspot.com 

June 16
SPONSOR: Rachel Rager

PRIZE: Wednesday Romances - romance (obviously), ebook, by Rachel Rager. This is a compaliation of three different love stories, A Season for Love, The Tiger Unleashed, and The Feather Kiss. (All sweet romances)
QUESTION: Every week I have post a new chapter of a book on my blog. What are these posts called? (Hint: These posts are featured every Wednesday.)

June 17
SPONSOR: Danyelle Ferguson
PRIZE: Autograhed copy of (dis)Abilities and the Gospel: How to Bring People with Special Needs Closer to Christ (non-fiction/self-help) by Danyelle Ferguson & Lynn Parsons, M.S.)
non-fiction/self-help, autographed book
QUESTION: What is the name of the non-profit Danyelle co-founded? (HINT: Check out Danyelle's author bio)


June 18
SPONSOR: Teresa Thomas Bohannon

PRIZE: A Very Merry Chase (Regency Romance novel), by Teresa Thomas Bohannon. AND a $5 Amazon gift certificate. Winner's Choice: PDF with personalized dedication, or Ebook format for Kindle or Epub format for Nook. (HINT: Read A Very Merry Chase Excerpt under A Very Merry Chase in the right hand sidebar)
QUESTION: What did Lady Bethany do and why?

June 19
SPONSOR: Diane Daniels

PRIZE: Autographed copy of Over the Moon (YA fantasy romance, print copy), by Diane Daniels
QUESTION: Who is Andrew's evil x-girlfriend, Sonya, named after? (HINT: Read the May 14, 2011 blog entry)


June 20
SPONSOR: Margaret Larsen Turley

PRIZE: critique for up to 5000 words

QUESTION: Margaret Larsen Turley is administrator for ______________________________ group. They hold fund-raising events for Cancer Research. (HINT: Youll find the answer in one of her website tabs)


June 21
SPONSOR: Anna Arnett

PRIZE: Autographed copy of Lolly's Yarn: a memoir (older YA to adult), by Anna Arnett, with a hand-crocheted bookmark
QUESTION: What was the verdict regarding Anna's radar photo speeding ticket? (HINT: Click on the Blogs tab and read I Fought the Law and Guess Who Won?
WEBSITE/BLOG: htt:www.annaarnett.com

June 22
SPONSOR: Joyce DiPastena

PRIZE: Autographed copy of Loyaltys Web (sweet medieval romance), by Joyce DiPastena

QUESTION: How do people win Joyces Light Bulb Award? (HINT: Answer is found in the right hand column of the blog)


June 23
SPONSOR: C. Michelle Jefferies

PRIZE: 52 page hand-sewn weekly planner, with ribbon bookmark.

QUESTION: What rank is Michelle in martial arts? (HINT: Look in right hand sidebar under MY TANG SOO DO PROGRESS)


June 24
SPONSOR: Valerie J. Steimle
PRIZE: Choice of two books:  Home Is Where The Learning Is (homeschool how-to book, non-fiction; autographed print copy) OR Dogs, Blogs and Hobbits: Writings from a Widows Perspective ---(non-fiction articles about everything from being single and single moms to inspirational stories; autographed print copy), both by Valerie J. Steimle
QUESTION: How many children does Valerie have? (HINT: Look in the right hand column in "About Me")

June 25
SPONSOR: Karen Adair

PRIZE: Crocheted Book Tote with matching cell phone case.

QUESTION: What commenter recently called me (Karen) "The Queen of Sugar Land?" (HINT: Select January 2011 under Archives and read the COMMENTS on Karens January 6, 2011 post on The 20 Minute Sprint)

WEBSITE/BLOG: http://www.kbadair.com


June 26
SPONSOR: Jaimey Grant (www.jaimeygrant.com) and/or TreasureLine Books & Publishing (www.treasurelinebooks.com)
PRIZE: Winner's choice of 1 of 5 Regency romance eBooks by Jaimey Grant (Honor, Betrayal, Deception, Spellbound, or Redemption. Please note: Honor contains some marital "heat".)
QUESTION: Which of Jaimey's previously self-published titles has recently been picked up by a publisher? (HINT: Click the "Purchasing Options" tab)
WEBSITE/BLOG: http:// www.jaimeygrant.com

June 27
SPONSOR: Heidi Murphy

PRIZE: Autographed copy of Small Deceptions (sweet Regency/Georgian romance), by H. Linn Murphy

QUESTION: In what country is the bridge found over which 'we' were fighting? (HINT: Find Blog Archive in the right hand sidebar, click on April and read the post titled: The Far Bridge)


June 28
SPONSOR: Kenneth Rosenberg

PRIZE: One e-book copy of my new romantic comedy, Sweet Ophelia and the Tinseltown Blues, any format
QUESTION: What instrument does the character Warren August play? (HINT: Click on the cover image for Sweet Ophelia and the Tinseltown Blues.  Read the first few paragraphs of the excerpt.)
WEBSITE/BLOG: http:// www.kennethrosenberg.com

June 29
SPONSOR: Michael Young 

PRIZE: Autographed copy of The Last Archangel (YA Urban Fantasy, print copy - Release date July 14th)
QUESTION: What is the name of the fallen angel who is the main character in "The Last Archangel"? (HINT: Click on the Reviews tab. Frank Cole thinks this character rocks!

June 30
SPONSOR: Joan Sowards

PRIZE: The Star Prophecy: a Book of Mormon Adventure (LDS novel), by Joan Sowards
QUESTION: Why do Enoch and his friends sail to Jerusalem? (HINT: Read the blurb under The Star Prophecy book cover in the right hand column of the blog)


Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Validation through Friendship
I'm attracted to people who are honest (with kindness), who are open (with humility), and who find ways to teach others around them (in small and large ways).

I think they validate me - a term my mom, the psychologist, uses to describe something that affirms the positive values you hold dear.

(Did I mention it's handy to have a mom that's a psychologist, when you're a writer? Cuts down on therapy bills.)

I tend to seek out people that demonstrate the traits I want to have (my mom would say we all do this). I'm lucky to have a world of blogger friends to choose from. I get a lot of validation and insight from these blogger friends, and I try to pay it forward when I can.

Validation through Critiques
I try not to seek validation through critiques, but it is really hard to avoid.

A long time crit partner was seeking validation yesterday - she had recieved four critiques, three that were positive/constructive and one where the critiquer clearly did not understand what she had written. Really, really confused. I tried to point out that there will always be people that don't get your work - sometimes they're critiquers, sometimes reviewers, sometimes readers. Agents and editors are (in my experience) the most likely to get it, just because they see so much variety, but even then, your work is only going to resonate with those that "get it" in a major way.

Critiques should be used to improve your work, not so much validate it; but again, it is human nature to want that validation.

Validation through Milestones
The BIG validation that writers seek is publication, or milestones along that path (like getting an agent). Michelle's insightful post and comments remind me once again how varied people are in what they need to validate them in their writer's journey. It makes no sense for me to tell you what should validate you - only you can know what affirms the positive values that you hold dear. This is related to The Equation for Writing Success, but different: validation can happen in small and big ways along the way.

Here's what validates me:

  • A blogger friend who says that publishing is not the end-all-be-all; writing is.
  • A critique partner who says that my manuscript is the best unpublished work she's read all year*
  • A blogger friend who swoons (publicly!) over my published work.
  • A writer/artist friend who wants to draw the characters in my WiP
  • A reader who tweets a demand for a sequel
  • A book contract
Certainly, the book contract is in there, but Michelle is right when she says that milestone is only one of many; if you hang all your validation on that one post, you will have a hard time in between book contracts. And writing is a long, hard road. For me at least, I need validation along the way to sustain me.

So, thank you to all my blogger friends and CPs who have made the road less rocky!

What validates you?

*so, my CP reads this and want to make a correction. She says it's the best unpublished work she's read EVER. Can you see why I love her? :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Week 6 - The Middle Muddles

This is my Week 6 check-in of my ROW80 challenge to finish the rough draft of Sekrit Middle Grade Fantasy project by June 14th!

The Middle Muddles - they have grabbed hold of me and dragged me into the muck!

I thought with all my plotting and planning, I would avoid them. But no! There is no escaping the middle doldrums of the manuscript where you have to slog through the beats to get to the end of the second Act, where things get hectic and hairy and the pace is hot again.

Of course, in the final draft, the pace has to be awesome throughout the MS. But in the first draft, sometimes getting those words on the page can feel like running through molasses. It amazes me how I can write something that seems like it drags painfully, and yet when I read it back over, the pace is fast and light. #writingmagic

It doesn't help that I haven't had much time for working on Sekrit Project this last week.

Slow but steady wins the race. Right? *dives back in*

Here's the weekly Word-o-Meter for Sekrit Project (increments are 5k):

p.s. For those of you whose browsers dislike my Word-o-Meter, I've logged 23,064 words toward my 50-60k goal.

p.p.s. How do you pronounce Sekrit? See the debate.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Taking the Road Less Traveled*

*Apologies to Robert Frost
Sometimes I wonder what compels me to take that weedy path, the one that's overgrown because few people go there. Sometimes I tromp across a meadow that doesn't have so much as a deer trail, just because I think there should be a path there, and darn it, someone's got to be the first.

What is my problem? And more importantly, is this behaviour I would encourage in my kids?

I realize that I don't take chances in everything I do.

Wonderful, stable marriage? Well-worn path.
Running for public office? Road less traveled.
Owning a minivan, carting kids around? Paved road with lots of traffic.
Trying to write novels for a living? Weedy path.

So what makes me decide it's worth risking time/money/effort to pursue a goal (writing) that may end up snarled somewhere in a ditch?

The truth is that I agonized over that decision and still revisit it on occasion, as if I'm not finished with the agony just yet, needing to vex my conscience a little more. I'm relieved that Dark Omen wants to be a physicist first and a novelist on the side, even as I abet his dream by planning to upload his novel to smashwords so he can share it with his friends. I worry that Mighty Mite loves Hip Hop dancing more than math, even as I can't resist putting up mirrors in the basement, turning it into his own private dance studio.

Do I really want to encourage them to be risk-takers, like Mom?

Never mind that it's worked out well for me, most of my life. My mom says I lead a charmed life, that things seem to go my way. Maybe she's right. Or maybe I make my own luck, by working hard to be ready when Opportunity comes knocking on my door. Either way, what seems like a calculated risk when I'm taking it, seems like crazy foolhardiness when it's my children's futures at stake.

So, I take a deep breath and whack down the tall grass in my way with a machete I won online (being at the right place at the right time) - and take the biggest risk of all: daring to be myself, even when the kids are watching.

Do you hope your kids will take the safe path or the road less traveled?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Is This Idea Any Good? Choosing a Story...

First, regular commenter Victoria Caswell (aka aspiring_x), who won my book Life, Liberty, and Pursuit in the newsletter contest, posted a tremendously sweet review over at her blog Hairnet and Hopes. Thanks, Vic!!

Some of the best ideas for posts come from commenters and followers. Yesterday, a Facebook friend asked if I thought her MG story idea was overdone or fresh for the market.

How I wish I knew the answer to that question!

Seriously, I think we all want to know (or at least should be asking) is my story marketable?*

*Unless you're writing just for your own pleasure, which is infinitely cool, and in which case the market is YOU and you have no one to please but yourself.

Lacking an answer, I told her how I "research the market." Basically I read, see what's on the shelves, and mine TV Tropes for all it's worth.

There's no substitute for reading in your genre. But it's also impossible to read every faery book (if you're thinking of writing one) or robot book (if you want to write one of those) or every realistic MG fiction book. Or even the most popular ones. There just isn't time.

This is where TV Tropes is your friend. In spite of the name, TV Tropes isn't all about television. It gives hilarious and insightful and incredibly thorough reviews of all kinds of story tropes across media (movies, books, games, TV). My friend Adam Heine has the definitive post on TV Tropes, so I won't try to duplicate.

Before you wade into the depths of TV Tropes, it's important to know the difference between tropes and cliches, which TV Tropes helpfully points out on the front page:
Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means "stereotyped and trite." In other words, dull and uninteresting. We are not looking for dull and uninteresting entries. We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them.
I use TV Tropes to explore the basic story idea of my novel, but also the underlying themes. Sometimes  I know the theme vaguely, around the edges, and then I stumble across Romanticism vs. Enlightenment and viola! The theme becomes more clear in my mind. Or perhaps I need a quick refresher on the difference between androids and cyborgs (or some other ridiculously human robot). Yanno, just cuz.

As long as you don't get lost in the TV Tropes wilderness, you will emerge with a better understanding of what fiction went before you and which giant's shoulders you are standing on - which almost guarantees you'll write something more fresh and marketable.

Or you could just get lost in the Periodic Table of Storytelling:

How much do you research before you pull the trigger and say "Yes!" to a storyline?

p.s. UPDATE: This post from Mandy Hubbard on trends in YA/MG may be helpful as well!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Star Trek and Buttercream Frosting
I love writing.

The passion I used to reserve for Star Trek and buttercream frosting (combined??) I now lavish upon this obsession I have for the craft of writing.

It takes over my movie watching (five minutes into The Matrix last night, someone tells Neo, You're one of those people who thinks you're special, aren't you? I turned to my mom and said, "See that? That's Stating the Theme! It's part of the setup!" She looks at me like I've lost my mind.)

It takes over the dinner conversation (my boys are now experts on POV and genre rules and the evils of info dumps).

It invades my dreams (whenever I'm drafting, the creative engine in my brain won't turn off at night, which makes for some terrifyingly bizarre night drama).

This sometimes makes me take on too much - I love reading, writing, critiquing, blogging. I want to do it all RIGHT NOW, RIGHT NOW!

I'm also a little impatient.

I have to force myself to slow down and not do a zillion things, even if they are fun. Even if they taste better than a Star Trek chocolate cake. Because life needs to happen, and I don't want to miss out on this:

Clockwise from above: WormBurner, Dark Omen, and Mighty Mite

How do you manage the obsession?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Week 5 - The Itch to Revise

This is my Week 5 check-in of my ROW80 challenge to finish the rough draft of Sekrit Middle Grade Fantasy project by June 14th!

This is the point in a draft where I get itchy. 

I did a lot of drafting this week, fingers flying over the keyboard. But now I'm far enough into the story (Hello, Act II!) that I understand the characters at a deeper level, and the temptation is great to go back and revise Act I. Or go back over the scene I just dashed out to tweak the voice or fill in the setting (I'm a serious underwriter on the first draft, sketching only the barest details of the scene, concentrating on plot movement and dialogue and emotional turning points).

Must. Resist. Revising.

I know I need to push through - keep that forward momentum in the first draft that's so important to getting to the end. Even in the second draft, I resist the line-by-line revising that my internal editor craves, focusing instead on the overall plot and character arcs. So I know that it will be some time before I can go back and pretty up the words I just splashed on the page.

That sound you hear is the screams of my internal editor, writhing in pain on the basement floor where I've locked her.

That's what my drafting process requires - and it works for me.

What works for you?

Here's the weekly Word-o-Meter for Sekrit Project (increments are 5k):

p.s. For those of you whose browsers dislike my Word-o-Meter, I've logged 21,821 words toward my 50-60k goal. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Blogger Friends: Please Be Sharers!

I FINALLY figured out how to get the cool Social Media buttons on my posts!

*balloons* *streamers*

See that bar at the bottom with facebook and twitter and other buttons? Click on those to share this post to your respective social media favorites.

I had two share buttons before, but only after seriously hacking the HTML and fighting with Blogger all the way. When blogger friend Shannon asked how, I couldn't even remember what I did. Fortunately, I found a post that explains it all very well, even better than my original kluge (yes, that's a word, thank you very much).

It's easy if you have a standard blogger template. But if you have an "designer" template like me, you have to do a little HTML programming. A very little. Believe me, it is much, much easier than what I did before. And it's all shiny when you're done.

I'm sharing the wealth on this for selfish reasons: please, please, please add these buttons to your blog! There are so many cool posts that I read that I want to share, and having the buttons makes it SO easy, that even when I don't have much time, I'll click away.

It just takes a few minutes to do, even if you have to do the extra steps.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Importance of Backing Up

I interrupt my normally scheduled Friday post to bring you this Public Service Announcement.

The Blogger Meltdown has reminded me of the importance of backing up. Last year, I discovered the back-up function on Blogger, and now seems a good time to remind everyone to EXPORT YOUR BLOG!

Here's how (from my prior post):

Fortunately, Blogger has a back-up function. Go to your Blogger Dashboard > Settings > Basic > Export blog. Blogger creates an XML file you can save to your computer, and then later use to import, should Blogger hiccup all over your blog, or decide that you're a SPAM blog and delete you outright.

I now have a tidy XML file with all my blog postings, an impressive 5 megs containing nearly a quarter million words. So that's what I've been spending all my time on! Since I have a regular backup system on my computer, my blog now has a triple redundant backup system (assuming I remember to back up the blog on a regular basis).

p.s. My blog is now up to 10 megs of data!

My Friday post will come on Monday, mostly because I'm too afraid to post anything today.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Blog for the Long Haul

Lisa Gail Green did a great post on Blogging Etiquette, which should be standard reading for everyone starting out a new blog. Lisa's post, and a plea for help from new blogger Lynn Kelley got me thinking. After blogging for about 18 months, what tips did I have to share with someone just starting out?

Lisa's Etiquette covers the Do's and Dont's extremely well (seriously, go read it!).

If you do all those things you will have a professional blog that will attract followers, which is very fine. But that's also a lot of work, and many people look at all the blogs around them and think, How the heck can I do that?

So, here's a few things I've learned along the way that keep me going.

Blog What You're Passionate About
Like an internally conflicted character, whose contradictions are an endless source of fascination for readers, a blogger who talks about their passions will attract readers. Many of us are writers, so that is certainly a passion that we share, but carving your niche within that passion will keep people coming back. I love kids, books, and the tech stuff, so that's my niche. I can (and have) talked endlessly about all the ways those topics intersect! The magic of the blogosphere means that people who share your passions will stick around, while others will move on. It's a wonderful thing, because you end up with a group of people with shared interests ... otherwise known as friends.

Blog Deeper
Some of my most popular posts were ones I concocted when I had no idea what to post. I stared at that blank Blogger "New Post" screen and thought, That's It. I'm done. I don't have one single idea left in my head. And then I dug deeper into what was going on in my life, in my head, at that moment. And that's where the best stuff came from - a deeper sharing that I had to work for. I'm not talking about sharing the intimate details that are no one's business. I'm talking about finding the deeper human struggles that we all have. That's when I came up with On Being Present and Creativity and Failing the Right Way. (And also today's post.) Those posts resonated with readers, but they also helped me become a better writer.

Blog As Much As You Enjoy, and No More
Don't feel guilty about not blogging or not commenting. Don't feel bad that people comment and you can't respond. Don't feel negligent if you don't follow everyone who follows you. Is it nice to do these things? Yes. Should we try to do them? Absolutely. But the only way to stay in this game for the long term is to avoid burnout - and for that, the guilt has to be thrown out the window with no looking back. I'll repeat it, because it's important: Only do as much as you enjoy, and no more. When the fun gets sucked out of it, that's when you need a break. Taking a blogging vacation is totally acceptable - a week or two vacation is far better than a 3 or 4 month hiatus while you recover from your burnout.

These are the things I've learned along the way. I hope they help you stay in the game.

Because I've met some of my best friends here! And I want you to stick around. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Week 4 - Doing Everything But Writing

This is my Week 4 check-in of my ROW80 challenge to finish the rough draft of Sekrit Middle Grade Fantasy project by June 14th!

I have to say, these weekly check-ins are very motivating!

The friends are rockin' their progress:

This week was the Week-of-Doing-Other-Things.

I love Sekrit Project - it seriously is on my mind all the time. But once you've got more than one story in the works, especially if one of them is already published, that slice of time devoted to writing gets more complicated. There's promotions to be done for the novel-that's-published. There's querying to be done for the novel-that's-ready-but-not-published. There's side projects, and shiny new ideas that crowd in and want their own bit of that time slice.

And that doesn't include the regular stuff: reading and writing blogs, critiquing for writer friends, and maybe even reading a novel or two (*gasp*).

I did finally make it to the end of Act I of Sekrit Project, so I'm happy about that. And the rest of this week has been allotted to Sekrit Project, so much writing will occur soon. Which is a good thing, since I've used half my time and only written 1/3 of the words!

Here's the weekly Word-o-Meter for Sekrit Project (increments are 5k):

Check back next Tuesday for our progress updates!

p.s. For those of you whose browsers dislike my Word-o-Meter, I've logged 15,869 words toward my 50-60k goal. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Newness Addict

There's a classic Twilight Zone episode called Little Girl Lost, where a girl crawls through a trans-dimensional doorway that appears in her room and her parents spend the entire episode trying to get her back before it closes again.

If you haven't watched the original Twilight Zone TV episodes, please fix that.*

Now, if you were a little girl and a trans-dimensional doorway suddenly appeared in your room, would you go through it?

I so totally would.

It's not that I'm tremendously brave (really, I'm a chicken about many things), but the new-ness addict in me could literally not resist such a temptation. I mean, how often do you have a chance to change dimensions??

The lure of shiny new objects is especially dangerous when I have a bit of time open up in my schedule. Time to get all those photo albums finally organized, you say? Or possibly get caught up on my mile-long to-do list? Wait! There's a trans-dimensional window!

Are you a new-ness addict too? How do you fight the compulsion to follow the cool, new things that pop up in life?

*Studying the variety of brain sparks that were generated for the Twilight Zone series is a master's course in speculative fiction. We could do worse than re-imagine a few TZ episodes for YA fiction today.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Encouraging Young Writers...and a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who subscribed to my newsletter and entered the giveaway!

And the winner is ... Victoria Caswell (aka aspiring_x)!

On to our show...

Writing is a frustrating business. Everyone who has ever gotten a negative critique or a rejection on a query or simply contemplated that the odds of being traditional published are worse than being struck by lightning, already knows this.

So how, in good conscience, could you encourage anyone to take up writing, much less wide-eyed young people (like I will be teaching this summer in a workshop)?

Here's how:

Writing well is a tremendous skill to have in life. With it, you will be more successful in almost any endeavor. Creative writing helps hone the skill of story telling, as well as working those creativity muscles, which will also make you more successful in whatever paying pursuit you choose. More and more, story telling is a skill that crosses disciplines. Newspapers and non-fiction are becoming more narrative. My fourth grader made a commercial about grammar in class (because his teacher is awesome, and because telling a "story" about it beat the rule into their young brains). All the social media ways that we have to connect are miniature story bits told to tie our lives together.

Being a story teller will take you places.

I believe in being (gently) honest with everyone, including kids and teens. Publishing is a brutal business. Becoming a novelist is a hard, hard road to travel. But the skills you gain along the way are well worth the effort and will be used your entire life.

So I'll gladly encourage the teens in my workshop to write and write well.

Publishing...well, that's a different matter.

How do you encourage the young writers in your life?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Something for Everyone

Picture Credit

Mighty Mite (age 7) has been complaining lately about watching "sad" movies.

He doesn't like them.

He's fine with action-packed films and comedy and even the occasional love scene ("as long as there's not too many of them" says Mighty Mite), but he wants nothing to do with the sad parts. He tears up, just like his mom, and complains.

His older brothers, Dark Omen (12) and Worm Burner (10), probably couldn't find the sad parts, even if I explained them. In fact, Mighty Mite was schooling them in the movie subtext as we went through our movie-fest this last weekend.

This drove home for me, once again, how audiences vary and how a wonderful film/book/story can resonate with one person and completely drive another one crazy. And that's independent of the filmmaker/author/storyteller's mastery of the craft.

Each of the stories I write will appeal to someone: either a small devoted group of science fiction fans, or a broader sweep of adults and children alike. My published novel, Life, Liberty, and Pursuit resonates with love story aficiandos from ages 13 to 70+ (those are actual ages of actual readers), but has very few male readers. That's okay - I have other stories for the men, large and small, in my life.

A writer I highly respect (I'm looking at you Bryan Russell) once said that voice was a reflection of the confidence that a writer had in their craft. I think confidence also comes through in the story telling - that faith you have that this story is important and this story is worth telling.

I hope you all can hold onto the faith in your stories and help them to find their audiences.

Mighty Mite already knows what he likes. "I want one where everyone ends up happy."

p.s. Make sure you subscribe to my newsletter Pursuits and leave a comment to enter to win a copy of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit! Giveaway ends Thursday 5/4.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Week 3 - Plotting vs. Pantsing

FIRST: Make sure you subscribe to my newsletter Pursuits and leave a comment to enter to win a copy of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit!

SECOND: Week 3 check-in of my ROW80 challenge to finish the rough draft of Sekrit Middle Grade Fantasy project by June 14th

The friends are rockin' their progress:

This week settled the Plotting vs. Pantsing debate for me, personally.

Sekrit Project is my most highly plotted novel to date. I used McKee's ideas about the three act structure and character development, beat out the notes on Snyder's beat sheet, and crafted the emotional structure of my characters (via Dunne). But once I had the basic structure down, the characters fleshed out and much of the world-building done, I couldn't plot every scene, or even every chapter. My creative process required that I take the players, set them in motion, and see what happened (i.e. pants my way through Act I).

So far (I'm just shy of the Act I climax), I haven't had to revise my plotting in any substantial way. Most of the things I discovered as I pantsed my way through the first Act, were world-building and character-deepening items that added richness to the story, rather than changing the arcs (character or plot).

And it was tremendous fun to do.

For me a heavy dose of plotting - with the freedom to pants when I need to - simply works.

Here's the weekly Word-o-Meter for Sekrit Project (increments are 5k):

Check back next Tuesday for our progress updates!

p.s. For those of you whose browsers dislike my Word-o-Meter, I've logged 13,364 words toward my 50-60k goal.