Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ender's Game and Science Fiction

I enjoy science fiction and yet somehow had never read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I know! I know! It's embarrassing, really. It was never a purposeful omission. I enjoyed the Foundation series by Asimov as much as anyone. I adore Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. While I don't read tons of SF, I do enjoy the genre and I'm so glad I read Ender's Game!

I read it in a day. I noticed the way he opened chapters with a short little clip from the point of view of the adults in the story, often without using their names in the short transaction. I paid attention to how he kept the storytelling within the chapters themselves actually from Ender's POV, third person limited. Well, mostly, because then at times, he headhops into Ender's sister's mind while she tells part of the story, and yet it all flows seamlessly. His vision for what computers might be like in his future astounds me the same way that the author of Feed did when he essentially describes Amazon's helpful suggestions upon checkout or Pandora sending me links to music "it" thinks I might like. Just amazing.

I have a copy of Orson Scott Card's book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. I was familiar with his name when I was given the book. Now that I've read Ender's Game, I am ready to read this instructive book again. I learned so much the first time through. I can't wait to see what I learn this time. Since I'm planning out an idea for a science fiction YA (possibly upper MG,) I want to learn from one of the best there is in the field.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why Reviews Matter

I had heard of Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi. I had sort of thought I'd wait to get it at the library, though. I have so many books already. But then I read Nathan Bransford's post about it. Then I read this part of his post.

But what really sets 'Shatter Me' apart is the writing. True to form, Tahereh didn't just go and write a novel, there's an incredibly clever use of strikethrough and some of the most unique turns of phrase and descriptions you'll ever see in a YA novel. 'Shatter Me' is proof that you can have innovative language in a commercial YA novel.

I immediately turned on my Kindle, saw that it was available on Kindle and I bought it. Just like that. Because when someone like Nathan Bransford (former agent, now published MG author)is this impressed with someone's writing, it means I need to check it out.

And I'm glad I did. Her writing lived up to the hype. I'm very impressed and I enjoyed the book immensely.

Thanks, Nathan, for the great review! It's a win-win: a win for the author and a win for the readers.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ira Glass on Storytelling

A wise statement on storytelling by Ira Glass that never gets old for me. Thanks to Rachelle Gardner for posting this to her blog. I believe I've linked to this interview with Ira Glass before, but I really can't hear this advice enough.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Southwest Texas SCBWI Fall Conference: Early Bird Rate until tomorrow!

If you are a local San Antonio or surrounding area person who writes for children or teens, don't miss out on the Southwest Texas SCBWI fall conference. The early bird registeration price lasts until tomorrow, August 5th.

Follow the link for more information. Hopefully I'll see you there!

Friday, July 8, 2011

YA Dystopian: Feed, by M.T. Anderson

A while back, I reviewed the book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I loved the story! The protagonist in that book gives a list of his top ten favorite books. The books are listed without the authors. One of the books listed was Feed and I determined at that time to read Feed. However, I also discovered there is more than one book with that title in the YA section and the first one I checked out was about zombies and didn't really resonate with me.

Then, I found M.T. Anderson's book listed in Book Crush by Nancy Pearl and thought, "Ah-hah! Maybe this is the one he meant!" And I bet it was.

Feed by M.T. Anderson is an excellent read. The most impressive aspect of it to me was the world-building. Having written a draft of a fantasy dystopian, I know how hard it is to give enough information to allow readers to understand your world without dumping a lot of data on them in the first pages. I have recently read a number of blogs about the importance of letting the reader do her/his share of the work and not giving everything on a silver platter. Anderson excels at that. My brain had to keep making additions and adjustments to my mental picture of the world clear to the end of the story, but never in a way that made me misunderstand what was happening. Anderson also uses lingo and dialect brilliantly to create a futuristic society, including teens with their own slang that somehow is perfectly understandable through context without ever being explained in an obvious way. Most impressive.

I did not enjoy the protagonist as much I often do in books I like. I found him to be irritating at times, but quite realistic. There are a few uses of the f-word tossed in and out throughout, so it's not a book I'd use in a traditional classroom, per se, but it IS a book that would provoke excellent discussion regarding social media's encroachment on our time, lives, and expectations. Very interesting and thought-provoking read! Published in 2002-- Anderson's vision for what the future could bring is eerie to me, given people's constant checking of Twitter and Facebook and texting...thumbs up.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

When It's Time to Begin a New Story

Everything I've read says that once you start querying, the best thing to do is to start writing the next thing. I believe them. Keep querying, mind you, but also move on. I am finding this very hard to do. I feel like i'm giving up on my middle grade manuscript if I stop thinking about it, worrying about it, hoping for it...but really, as many writer and agent blogs point out, querying is hardly a full-time job. I have a full-time job as a mother, and a part-time job writing passages and items for assessments, so really, the remaining time I spend working on my own stuff needs to be very focused.

I am almost ready to move on, I think. I've got a couple of different premises I'm playing with in my head. They are marinating. Percolating, if you will. And soon, I think, I'll be able to start a fresh new draft, set in a different world, with different characters. But there is still a sense of sadness, like I'm saying goodbye to someone I love. This is the first manuscript that I felt really WORKED. It's scary to start all over again! But starting a new work after finishing the last one is part of being a writer, at least the kind of writer I want to be.

So I'll begin. Soon.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Excellent Editorial and Critique Services

For those of you trying to polish a manuscript who might want advice from a professional, I've got some names I happily recommend. I always pay for a critique when I go to a conference, but I couldn't attend the spring SCBWI conference this year. It finally occurred to me that I could just pay for a critique myself! Cynthia Leitich Smith has a great list of good editorial and critique services listed on her awesome website. That's where I found two of the three below. Here are people I have used to critique my work and definitely recommend.

Misa Ramirez, a published author of a number of books, offers critique services of varying levels. Her responses have been thorough and constructive. She did a development critique of a YA's synpopsis and first ten pages and then a full critique for my entire MG manuscript, with line-editing. She goes above and beyond.

Amy Lin, at Editomato, who is an editor who formerly worked in the children's publishing market. I chose her because of this fact, specifically. I wanted someone's feedback who was very familiar with children's market. She gave a very detailed developmental critique that provided detailed information that really strengthened my manuscript. She helped me understand certain facts about book series versus stand-alone novels for young readers that I have never learned anywhere else-- and I read a lot and follow a lot of blogs about children's publishing. So I'm very thankful for my experience with Amy. She has a wealth of knowledge especially relevent to others writing for children.

Texas Sweethearts: A group of Texas writers who work together in a number of ways. They are writers for children and teens who offer a variety of critique services as well. P.J. Hoover critiqued my query letter and she doubled or tripled its impact with her suggestions. She was so kind and very easy to work with.

All of these people were fabulous to work with. It can be terrifying to offer up your work to possibly be sliced and diced, but they earned my trust. That's not always the case. I did once talk with one editor (who seemed quite legit) about a YA novel of mine in which he wrote back a fairly crushing statement about my story and my writing ability and told me for a mere $2000 for a one-time phone conversation, he'd give me better ideas about my plot, characters and writing style. Uh-huh.

So working with constructive, kind people is not something to take for granted. These wonderful folks didn't just cheerlead, either-- you can be kind and helpful at the same time, and all three of these lovely people know how. Writing partners are awesome and I love, love, love mine (shout-out to you, Awesome Writing Partner!), but sometimes you need another objective opinion from someone who has special insight into your genre or market. Thumbs up for these people, fellow writers!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Edits Regarding the Last Post: I got 10.

I'm posting this in a separate posting to not spoil anyone's guesses who might still be trying to find all the errors in the nice dentist's flyer.

To review:

Name of dentist, deleted to keep me from being too catty

Our office performs general and pediatric dentistry and orthodontic
Our office also offers sealants, night guard, flouride and many more services

We offer Fast Braces (Patients only wear the braces for 12 to 15 months it correct teeth faster than traditional brace. Our office can also offer you care credit if needed.

We accept Medicaid, Tx chip and most insurance. Our office can also offer you care credit if needed.

Specials: Whitening $100($350 value)

I'd edit the following things.

Name of dentist, etc

Our office performs general and pediatric dentistry and orthodontic 1. Orthodonic what? Care? It is an adjective and needs a noun or should be changed into a noun form (orthodontia? I'm not sure-- I'm not a dentist.) 2. Needs a period at the sentence.

Our office also offers sealants, night guard, flouride and many more services 3. Since "sealants" is plural, I think "night guards" should be as well. 4. This sentence also needs a period.

We offer Fast Braces 5. Period here, because the parenthesis is missing the other half and I'm going to remove it altogether. ( 6. Remove parenthesis, as the other half is missing. Patients only wear the braces for 12 to 15 months it correct teeth faster than traditional brace. 7. This is a run-on sentence, so it needs either a period and capital after "months" or at least a semi-colon. Of course, a single comma isn't strong enough for that location, either. 8. "Correct" should be "corrects" because the word "it" is singular. If they changed "it" to "they" for "braces" that would also work, but not "it" with "correct." That's subject-verb agreement. Finally, 9, the word "brace" should be "braces." Our office can also offer you care credit if needed.

We accept Medicaid, Tx chip and most insurance 10. TX Chip and I think you could argue it should be "most insurances" or "most insurance plans" but I won't count that one. Our office can also offer you care credit if needed. I won't count this one, either, but it's a completely repeated sentence, so I feel something needs to be done about that, plus I don't know what "care credit" is or if it differs from regular credit somehow.
Specials: Whitening $100($350 value) Needs a space between the two dollar amounts...but I don't have the heart to make that #11.

How did you do? Did I miss anything? It's entirely possible. I may have been a middle school English and Reading teacher, but I really didn't hyper-focus on the finer points of grammar. I'm really not that picky, I don't think. If you want to see posts by someone who REALLY knows the English language, then I direct you to Edittorrent...quite amazing. She knows grammar and punctuation inside out.

On the Importance of Grammar and Punctuation

With email and twitter, I see a lot of people not using capitals, periods, commas, etc. For email, this bothers me. Okay, for anything, this bothers me. Too much of a former English teacher, I guess. But I understand the reasoning behind it. However...when you are sending home a flyer about your business, you really do want to use proper English.

My first grade daughter attended Career Day at her school on Friday. The first grade class got to hear from three speakers. One was from Bush's Chicken, which is sort of like Kentucky Fried Chicken, but not as tasty. The Bush's Chicken mascot was even there. I find this to be suspiciously like advertising, but okay. Then came a representative from our local big grocery store chain. Again, this seemed suspiciously like free advertising for them, but I hadn't signed up to present, so I couldn't really gripe. Then came the dentist. The dentist sent home a free toothpaste/toothbrush kit, a flyer about eating fruits and veggies (cool) and a half-page flyer advertising their business. It is mostly an ad for "Fast Braces." Here's the problem. I found at least 8 different errors in this thing that was given away at a SCHOOL function by a professional person. It seriously disturbed me. Here's what it said, without any changes to it, other than the original came home on pretty pink paper:

Name of dentist, deleted to keep me from being too catty

Our office performs general and pediatric dentistry and orthodontic
Our office also offers sealants, night guard, flouride and many more services

We offer Fast Braces (Patients only wear the braces for 12 to 15 months it correct teeth faster than traditional brace. Our office can also offer you care credit if needed.

We accept Medicaid, Tx chip and most insurance. Our office can also offer you care credit if needed.

Specials: Whitening $100($350 value)

Can you find all the errors? It's like one of those Daily Oral Language exercises from English class, only a REAL person sent this home to over 100 parents. It makes me cringe.

Kids, this is why you need to pay attention in English class. I would never take my kids to a dentist who didn't bother to spellcheck an advertisement. So much for "Career Day"-- it's more like "Free Advertising Day." But it only works if your advertisement doesn't make you look ignorant.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Word counts

Here is an excellent post about word counts, by agent Jenn Laughran. I'm posting it here so I'll always know where to find it when I'm pondering word counts. For example, my middle grade chapter book was right about the length I thought it should be, but then everyone who read it wanted me to develop it more. Now, I realize it's not a chapter book anymore, the way that term is used. It's just solid middle grade. Good to know!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson

I didn't want to read this book. It sounded too depressing, honestly. However, I am signed up for a writing workshop conference in a few weeks and one of the books they will be discussing is Chains, for the YA portion of the discussion.

I like to escape when I read, but this book is set during the American Revolution and told from the POV of a young female slave. I was unhappy from the start because when her master dies, she knows she is supposed to be freed according to her owner's will, but the paperwork is missing and so she and her little sister end up being given to the next of kin, who are loyalists to Britain.

But I found myself drawn in against my will, almost, and the story really is quite brilliant. The historical facts are woven throughout and reveal both sides of the war from a new perspective to many people. I don't think my history class ever addressed how slaves were treated in the north during the American Revolution, or what rights they had or didn't have. It made me want to read up on that period of history, which is really quite an accomplishment. I cried a lot throughout the book (is it me, or do I seem to say that a lot?)but was happy with the ending.

This would be a fabulous book to use as a way to teach American History in a classroom or for a homeschooling family. Thumbs up.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beautiful, Precious Middle Grade Books

I have two books for you today. Since the last book was a silly, fun mockery of Sci-Fi and horror, I figured I ought to offer a variety of choices for those who might not find the other books to their taste. You'll love these, even if you loved Attack of the Killer Bunnies. I did.

1. The Penderwicks: The Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall
2. Heart of a Shepherd, by Rosanne Parry

Both of these have a sweet innocence that at first made me think the setting was in the 1950's or earlier, but then in the Penderwicks, when one of the sisters says, "Cool!" I thought, "Wait a minute!" And Heart of the Shephard also seemed like historical fiction-- until I realized the father had been sent to Iraq as an officer in the Reserve.

Both are sweet, precious novels. Heart of a Shepherd deals with spirituality with grace (so to speak) and respect for its readers. Nothing is shoved down anyone's throats. The POV is just perfect and the writing is lovely. The protagonist is also an eleven year old boy who lives on a cattle ranch, so it's a nice choice for upper elementary boys who might be ready to wrestle with the Big Questions in life.

The Penderwicks took me back to reading Little Women or The Bobsey Twins. The ending is just awesome.

I cried at the end of both books, so be warned. Of course, I cry easily (Mr. Holland's Opus made me BAWL at the end), so it doesn't mean that YOU will cry. Just sayin' prepared.

And most of all? Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cool Microsoft Word Tricks link

I don't want to forget these cool Microsoft Word Tricks by the Intern. One of them was alluded to in a previous post, but The Intern's post includes screen shots! Awesome!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Marketing for Introverts

I have recently been pondering what life would be like if indeed I sold my MG novel and needed to promote it. When my child's teacher asked people to come in and speak for career day, I signed myself up as a writer (which I am) and was honest about the "for the assessment world" part. But I really signed up so I could practice talking about writing in front of kids. I think it will be quite different than doing it as their actual writing teacher, which is how I've experienced it before.

But I'm super excited because I just found (thanks to the awesome Nathan Bransford) this great site on marketing for introverts, called Shrinking Violets Promotions. I can't wait to dive into their site and see what they have to say. A quote posted on this site that I found very encouraging (and hilarious):
Just write your heart out. I promise you that's what matters. I would much, much rather find a great, unusual, distinctive book by a phobic writer covered in oozing sores who lives in a closet than a decent but not amazingly original book by the world’s best promoter. I could sell the former a lot better, too." Elizabeth Law, Publisher, Egmont USA

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Fun MG read: Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies

I have been reading more MG lately, since I recently drafted a MG manuscript and wanted to see where it might fit in the different levels of MG available. I noticed the title of this one, Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies, by Andrea Beaty, and had to see what it was about. It's super cute! The humor is quirky and clever.

Fore example, the first chapter begins, "Chapter 1. MEANWHILE, in space.... The flaming meteor hurtled through the endless black void. Remember this. It's important later." The writing style made me smile nearly the whole way through. The book also has some comics included here and there, as well as funny illustrations.

The story pokes fun at horror movies the way The Hitchhiker's Guide does to science fiction. In fact, admirers of Fluffy Bunnies will most likley one day graduate to Douglas Adams and be right at home. Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies is shelved in the juvenile section of the library and Amazon lists it for grades 3-5. If you are looking for a fast, fun read and especially if you love or appreciate the history of terrible, cheesy horror and science fiction movies like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, you'll really enjoy this, whether you are a kid or not!

Also, I found a line that I think is priceless. When describing a terrible stench, Ms. Beaty writes, "It was the kind of smell that had the power to make unicorns weep." Awesome!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I heard Kristi Holl speak today at a SCBWI meeting on Publishing 101. She covered a lot of great points inside that giant behemoth of a topic. One that really stuck with me was the reality of rejection in your writing. If you are publishing, you are also getting rejected. Somehow, in my head, I was imagining that once you sold your first book, things got easier and you had fewer rejections after that. Maybe you do get fewer. But you still get rejected.

In some ways, I guess hearing that could be depressing, but in others, it's pretty freeing. I can stop worrying about IF I'll get rejected and just prepare for different ways of dealing with it and not take it all so hard when I do. I've gotten rejections now and then with assessment work, but really, percentage-wise, it's a lot less than I might have thought. But writing for magazines and writing books is an entirely different world.

Several months ago, I made a 100's chart sort of like the one in the link, the kind kids use to learn math. I decided my goal would be to fill up that chart with rejections and I'd mark off one number for each rejection. I'm in the teens now, I think, and that includes magazine submissions and queries on books. Somehow, having a system in place in which I get to treat myself after I fill in a new row of rejections makes it less…abhorrent. I still am sad and hurt with each one-- and I'm beginning to accept that it's not because I'm a super sensitive person, but because I'm HUMAN. But…it also takes a bit of the sting off to know I'm working towards another goal. Because secretly, of course, my hope is that if I submit enough and KEEP AT IT, then maybe one day, my work will reach the right person! It surely won't be published if it's stays on my desk.

Kristi pointed out that everyone gets rejected, but not many people talk about it. At least not at the time. Stephen King tells about the giant stack of rejections he had staked to his wall, but given that he's, well, Stephen King, that's only moderately helpful for me to read. It helped a lot to hear that Kristi had something like 30 rejections before she sold her first article to a magazine. She's since published 39 books for children and makes her living as a writer, teacher and speaker. That's tough to do -- and she swears that persistence will trump talent every time when it comes to who gets published.

So…I'm going to be persistent. Even when I get rejected. I'll keep on writing. I encourage you to do the same!

PS-- Good timing on hearing this talk today: guess what I got in the mail? Yep, a rejection. Off to go mark off another X on my chart.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

An encouraging post and link on storytelling

Many thanks to Jane Friedman for her post "You Hate Your Writing? That's a Good Sign!" In her blog, she links to a four-part interview with Ira Glass (it's quite short) that is just excellent. Parts II and III were particularly awesome. I highly recommend it! Especially if you, like me, struggle with knowing what you want your writing to be compared to what it is now.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My new favorite book on writing

My new favorite book on writing is Thanks, but This Isn't for Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your WRiting is Being Rejected, by Jessica Page Morrell. She's witty, yet brutally clear. Fun, yet helpful. I haven't read a ton of truly brand new information, but I did see some of my own mistakes described in there, already inspiriing some revisions to my work-in-progress.

I also feel very affirmed as a writer. You might remember how in my last post, I confessed to feeling a bit like a faker because I can't seem to write organically very well like my writing idols? And how Anne Lamott (who is quoting E.L.Doctorow) describes writing a story like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. Actually, I remembered it as driving through fog, so it's entirely possible someone else in the writing world compared writing to driving through fog, seeing a tiny bit of the story at a time. And now I'm trying to use a story board, plotting all my plot points in advance. It's FUN and I like it, but I also feel a bit like a heretic for doing it, even though I think it's working well for me.

ANYWAY! There is a point to this!

In Thanks, but This Isn't for Us, Ms. Morrell says, and I'm going to quote her here,
One bit of accepted wisdom that drives me crazy is when famous writers claim that writing is like driving in the fog without the headlights on and that you can make the whole trip that way. Who are they kidding? Driving without headlights in the fog is maddening and a hazard to other drivers. And what's the point of stumbling along clueless and blind as your shoulders tense at each approaching curve? I'm all for the writing process being fun and a way to express our deepest passions. But I believe in headlights and want to suggest you need a more working-class version of the writing life. You need to see yourself as a skilled laborer, not an artiste who awakes each morning wondering how best to flirt with your muse.

OH MY GOODNESS. I LOVED this. I loved it because it spoke to my deepest fear that I'm not really a writer because I don't hear from my muse and have my characters do all kinds of unexpected things while I watch, amused and amazed, from afar.

I still LOVE my idol-writers. Obviously, the organic method works for many, many people, so I'm not bashing it at all. But I'm a follow-the-rules kind of girl and I always thought writing this way was THE way to write, if you were a "real writer." Plenty of writers trash "plotting" as something that real writers don't do. That's all I had read about from the books on writing that really stuck with me.

Now I have a new book on writing to stick with me. :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My new story plan...

My new idea is coming together and I'm about to start writing...soon. I'm not quite ready. In the past, I always had a general idea, a main character, and then I'd set off writing. Some people call these type of people organic writer or pantsters, as in fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants. Many writers I admire tremendously write/wrote this way. Madeleine L'Engle, Stephen King, Anne Lamott. I wanted to be like them. I read Bird by Bird and On Writing to learn from them. And I tried to write like them. Only I'm NOT them and my stories never quite worked. Anne Lamott once described writing a story like driving a car through fog. You can only see as far as your headlights go, but you can travel across a long distance that way if you just keep driving. (Edited to add: Turns out she is quoting E. L. Doctrow, and then expounds on that idea-- it's on page 18 of Bird by Bird.) And Stephen King pointed out that since he never knows how his stories will end, it ensure his readers will be surprised, as well. He begins with a question, much of the time. What if... What if vampires take over a tiny town? And when you chase that interesting idea, you get Salem's Lot. I liked this. It works for some great writers. I did some What If questions and got a great question that I wrote a manuscript around but I never really got a good answer to my what-if question and the middle was lacking, too. It just didn't work for me.

Then I read several authors who swore that you couldn't write a good beginning until you knew where your story would end. Obviously some can and DO (so forget the blanket statements), but...hmmmm. Well, that made sense. When I write my passages for assessment companies, which, granted, are far shorter, I have to pitch the idea first and that includes what will happen. I go in knowing what will probably happen. Do my characters "come alive" and do unexpected things? Sometimes, but not like Madeleine L'Engle desribes. She and Stephen King both describe their characters like you and I would describe their friends, as people with a mind of their own. I still thought this sounded so great. So I was still internally resisting this idea of planning my novels. I wanted so much to be like my idols.

Then I stumbled on a blog about plotting a storyboard and from there found Alexandra Sokoloff's amazing site all about the three act structure of a good novel or movie. I've been reading a ton from this site and it's all been so fun. I literally don't watch movies the same anymore! My girls had Cinderella on in the living room while I was making dinner and I was thinking, "Hmmm...well, I think when the Fairy Godmother appears, that's the transition into Act II, because we are now in a magical world..."

And so....drum roll...I made a plot board! Yes! Because I'm a good little student who always does what the teacher says! But it's been really fun and I'm slowly realizing how much more likely it is that I will end up with a novel that actually WORKS as a complete unit, not a bunch of good scenes I like that are disjointed and simply don't add up to a solid novel.

I'm hopeful. And did I mention I'm having fun? Surely that's a good sign.

Here's after my first run of putting up my post-its.

Then, after talking about the world I'm creating with my husband and reading through more of Alexandra Sokoloff's site, I've added more thoughts:

Finding the time to sit down and begin writing feels more scary this way, though. Because I believe this COULD work...if I just don't mess it all up!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New wine, old wineskins...time to start a new story

I have been working on revising an upper MG manuscript that actually began from something I wrote a long, long time ago. I liked the characters and theme and built around what I had. I felt pleased with the result. That was nearly a year ago. Then I read more and learned more and realized, oh! My main character isn't active enough. He needs to make more decisions and push the action more. So I made more changes. Then I read about strong beginnings and made changes based on that. I've worked and worked on this story...but in the end, I think I've decided that it's time to set it aside and begin a fresh work. I think I need to take all the things I've learned and start fresh with a brand new story.

My husband and I both came up with the same analogy independently of each other, which is both eerie and neat, and it's something Jesus talked about in the New Testament-- the folly of putting new wine in old wineskins. The idea is that the new wine will be ruined this way and instead, you need fresh containers for the new stuff. He wasn't talking about writing skills when he was talking (or actually about wine, either), but I think it works for this analogy, too.

I think everything I've learned this year is the new stuff. It needs a new place to go, a clean slate. So. Time to start fresh!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

When Work is Busy

January through March is one of the busier seasons for me as a writer for assessments. This is normal. During this season, I usually do not even attempt to keep up with my "own" writing. What's interesting to me is that this year, I still can't get my own stories out of my mind. I think this is a good sign. Before, they just got shoved to the backburner and forgotten about in the frenzy of work. But's like spending time on my own work is a reward I offer myself after spending several hours writing test passages or items. I enjoy writing those, too, (sometimes) but it is a different kind of thinking process and I know that in the end, I'll sell all my rights and never see them again.

I have purchased three posterboards and a bunch of sticky notes in honor of the "index card plotting" method described by several bloggers, but in particular, the post on Adventures' in Children's Publishing on A Writer's Plot Board. I did this right before the big influx of work, planning on plotting out my completed first draft of my current WIP and maybe using it as I think through what might happen in my next story, especially now that I've figured out my original high stakes problem just isn't going to work. Very exciting. I love little post it notes, so I figured this would be great fun as well as very helpul.

It hasn't happened yet. I did attend a great Webinar through Writer's Digest on Strong Beginnings and learned that the beginning to my current WIP still needs further crafting. So I keep pondering it and that whole story...but can't work on it quite yet. It feels really good, though, that I want to.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why It Sometimes Helps to Get Feedback Early

I wrote the first scene for my new MG sci fi story-- one I have been thinking about, very excitedly. I've been reading the book Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go, and the whole time I was imagining this story. You know, comparing my plans with what the author Les Edgeron says is important in a great beginning...

Then my husband reads the first page and points out a major, fatal flaw in the story premise. There's really no getting around it-- the central problem I had envisioned just isn't a big deal in a sci fi universe. I've read enough science fiction that I should have seen that, but it took an outside person to say, "Uh, hey, if they can do things like terraform a planet, is this main problem of yours really that big of a problem? I'm really sorry to have to point that out." He was very sweet about it.

Well, better now than 100 pages later, right? So...back to the drawing board. Maybe there's a way to save it yet. I'll keep thinking. Dang it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Found a blog to add to my list of favorites

I came across Alexandra's Sokoloff's blog. I'm not entirely sure how I found it, but I know it was linked in a post about plotting a storyboard. It's a treasure trove of ideas! As I'm thinking through my new story, I'm trying to keep everything in mind that she talks about. If you are stuck in the revision process and are a more organic kind of writer, I wonder if trying out the sticky note/index notecard storyboard idea might not help. I am definitely going to try it!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Writing Resolution

My goal for this year is to write another MG or YA manuscript. I actually have the idea and it's probably a MG novel, actually. This will be in addition to my regular writing for work, and keeping up with my Institute of Children's Literature course. I also plan on revising and doing a full second draft of my last upper MG/lower YA manuscript. I always like having my goals in writing-- makes it more official. So, now I'm off to write!