Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

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Patience, perseverance and a whole lotta reading

January 17, 2011

Pile of booksSaturday was the monthly meeting of the great Austin chapter of the SCBWI at the awesome independent bookstore BookPeople, and all who attended got a healthy dose of inspiration.

The speaker was author Jessica Lee Anderson, who taught about dealing with the ups and downs of publishing through songs — and yep, she even sang.

Jessica reinforced the idea I wrote about in my last post, that the writing is the best part of the journey, so stop worrying about publication. But how to do that? Well, with a little Patience (from Guns ‘n Roses), R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (from Aretha Franklin) for ourselves as writers and people, and the knowledge that I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor). (Jessica’s talk had a wonderful soundtrack!)

Jessica also reminded us that reading is one of the best ways to become a better writer, and she said she had set a goal for 2011 to read a book a week. A book a week! And she’s running ahead of that goal right now!

I was amazed. I can’t read that fast. (She did admit to me later that she listens to a lot of audio books in her car and has to drive a lot, so that’s one way you can fit them in.)

Although I won’t be matching Jessica’s pace any time soon, she did inspire me to push harder to get more books read. Spurred on, this weekend I picked up my book whenever I had a few spare minutes, instead of browsing the Web. I was determined to finish the novel I was reading and start another. I finished on Sunday afternoon and immediately went to my unread pile and picked up a new book. I’m already racing through that one — as often as I can at least. We’ll see if I can finish it in a week.

So, stop worrying, be patient, keep writing and make reading a priority.

Do you have a reading goal?

Write On!

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The writer’s journey is the best part

January 14, 2011

Peaceful Warrior movie posterMy husband and I watched the movie Peaceful Warrior last night — based on the book by Dan Millman, whose life is supposedly the basis for the book and movie — and I found myself nodding and smiling a lot. Not that I’m half as wise as the movie’s Nick Nolte character, but I understand the film’s main message, which is, the journey is the best part.

In the film, a college gymnast (Millman) is on track to get it all; he already gets the girls, but he’s aiming for Olympic gold too. A chance encounter with an odd older man (Nolte) makes Millman think he’s missing something and that he could be even greater. Along the way, he discovers that gold medals are not the most important things in life and that being the best you can be is really about letting go of your worries for the future and concentrating on the present.

It made me think of writing. I’m halfway through my third novel and, like many writers, I think ahead to the time that it will — hopefully — be published. The story is a bit experimental, a 10-year-old protagonist with some pretty heavy — adult — issues, and often my thoughts question whether a publisher will take on the book because of it. But it’s a story that I like, that I feel and want to write, and ultimately that’s what counts.

The journey we take when we’re writing our books is the best part. Although I’m not yet published as a novelist, I have been a journalist/editor for 19 years and have seen my name in print over and over again. It was thrilling the first few times, but then it’s over. What stays with me most from my career is the moments when I’ve written a particularly poignant lead and learned something really amazing during research for a story, like when I wrote about an art exhibit by Croatian children who used their painting as therapy. I wrote that story some, hmm, 13 years ago? And yet it’s one of the closest to my heart. And it’s not because of when I saw my name on top of it in the newspaper. It’s because of the journey I took for the article.

I imagine it’ll be the same when one of my novels is finally published. Sure, it’ll be thrilling for a while — a long while — but that will fade, as writer Anne Lamott describes in her great book Bird By Bird. The best part of my novel will be the time I spent writing it.

So, if you’re worrying about publication and looking ahead to seeing your words in print, stop. Don’t dwell on that, because if you do, you’ll miss the best part of your work — right now, when you’re writing.

Write On!

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Going digital

January 5, 2011

KindleHappy New Year!

It’s a new year, and, now that I’m finally starting to settle down after my monster move, I’m back on Day By Day Writer. I’m excited and pledge that I’ll be with you at least three times a week.

So, with the new year comes good news and bad in the publishing industry: Borders is still in financial trouble and delaying payments to vendors in a short-term effort to fix things. But on the upside, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble reported strong sales of their ebook readers, the Kindle and Nook, respectively. Amazon says 2010 Kindle sales were at more than 8 million units, with B&N claiming “millions” of Nooks were sold.

I can attest to this, as I had a hard time finding one this Christmas.

Although a paper-book lover, I definitely see the benefits of going digital. Aside from the obvious benefit to trees, e-readers are great for avid readers who travel a lot. My father is one of those. He makes long trips a few times a year, and on those trips, he carries a good four or five, maybe more books. And I’m not talking about little thin books. When he left my house a couple days ago after the Christmas and New Year holidays, he left with me the James Bond Union Trilogy — a three-book pack — because it couldn’t fit in his suitcase. He had another three books already in there!

For people like my dad, an e-reader, at a little more than 8 pounds for the Kindle, is a great idea. And although we had had conversations about how we both preferred the feel of paper, I took a leap and bought an e-reader for my dad for Christmas. After much research, I chose the Kindle, but both Best Buy and Target — all my local stores — were completely sold out of the devices when I was shopping, proving their popularity. Amazon happily sent one my way, however, and my dad was surprised and pleased. A gadget lover, he quickly loaded it up with his favorite books, and I caught him reading his Kindle on the couch a few times before he left. Next time he flies across the world, his suitcase will be a lot lighter, but he’ll be able to carry with him many, many more books to enjoy.

The popularity of e-readers is great news for publishers and us writers. Book sales have been waning the last few years. But, if people like their e-readers, they’ll want books to read on them.

And good books are good stories no matter whether they’re printed on paper or e-ink.

So, this year, keep up the writing. E-reader lovers need more stories.

Write On!

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Contest links

September 18, 2010

Got some links to share today to great contests:

The Bookmuse is celebrating 1,000 followers by offering five five-page critiques, two first-chapter critiques and a three-month mentorship with author Angela Ackerman.

Freelance editor Cassandra Marshall is offering a whopping contest for a free substantial edit of an entire manuscript of up to 100,000 words! One word: WOW!

Authors at The Longstockings blog are offering feedback for 25 pages of a teen, tween or middle-grade novel. Yay!

And children’s book app maker MeeGenius is running a contest to celebrate the launch of its new app platform. MeeGenius is looking for books for children ages 3 to 8 that include illustrations. One winner will get an Apple iPad and four runners-up will get an Apple iPod Touch, and all will get their manuscript published as an ebook and receive 30% of the sales.

Some great oppoortunities, so get entering!

Write On!

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Some great inspirational links

September 7, 2010

Between my DVD and Blu-ray website, DiscDish.com; my books; and moving, I feel like I’m just trying to keep my head above water. So, a couple articles I read today as I was doing research really caught my eye. They’re geared toward bloggers and those trying to make money online, but their message works equally well for writers trying to get their work published and pushing through the self-doubts.

The first is How To Remain Productive When You Feel Like Giving Up. Self-doubt is a normal thing that every writer has to battle, even if they’re published but especially when they’re just starting out. It’s hard to sit at that computer and type and type without knowing if your work will have any success at all. The majority of people who start writing a book never finish it, and those who do often don’t do the work necessary to get it in a good enough shape for publication. And then there’s the querying agents process… Rejection is part of a writer’s life, and it can be hard to keep going, but this article has some great tips.

The second article, from the same site, is titled: If You Want Success Today, Let Yesterday Go and Stop Seeking Tomorrow. The article is long — and I must admit, I skimmed it — but the title itself is what I thought was great advice. I tend to look back and look forward way too much for my own good, but it does nothing except build my anxiety. And the truth is, I can’t do anything about yesterday or tomorrow. All I can work on is right now. And in this moment, I can work on one thing. So I need to choose that thing, then work on it to the best of my ability, not worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow or what I missed yesterday. If I do my best right now, if I succeed today, then tomorrow will be sorted out by itself.

The third inspirational blog post I found today is for writers. Author Bobbi Miller has a great interview with fellow author Kathi Appelt. Kathi offers up a bunch of good stuff (her answer about the “American fantasy” genre is very interesting), but the most inspirational part is at the bottom when she talks about advice she received from M.T. Anderson, who told her “write what you think you can’t.” To Kathi, that meant she had permission to fail, and that opened her up to try new things. Good advice for all of us.

Write On!

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Kurt Vonnegut’s rejections

August 23, 2010

The New York Times reported on a new Kurt Vonnegut library that’s going to open in Indianapolis in the fall, and my favorite part of the article is a quote from his oldest daughter, Edie Vonnegut, who said, “We have boxes of rejection letters, letters saying, ‘You have no talent and we suggest you give up writing.'”

Now, don’t get me wrong — I don’t revel in the rejections great writers have suffered through. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But, knowing that if a writer as a great as Vonnegut can get rejections like that, rise above them and continue to pursue writing — and be successful at it — that’s inspirational.

Rejections are difficult to deal with, but it’s part of the business, and not personal — even though it feels personal, it’s not.

Rejections are also nothing that should stop us from writing and pursuing publication. A rejection is simply one person saying no; there will be others, but there also will be plenty of people who will say yes.

Like Edie says in the article: “He did not have an easy time of it, and I think anyone who wants to be a writer, it will be important for them to see how tough it was for him.”

It Vonnegut could do it, we can do it. Thank you, Kurt.

Write On!

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The power of a fart

July 21, 2010

No writing update because … I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t been writing. My move has been taking it out of me. But my need to write has been tugging at me in the last week more than any other time this past month or so, and my novel’s character keeps knocking on my brain, so starting … tomorrow? … I’m going to start writing again.

But this post isn’t about my lack of keyboard time. And, it’s not actually about farting, either; well, not really.

The power of a fart is how it can, apparently, help middle-grade-age boys get interested in reading.

A story in yesterday’s Washington Post talks about how Ray Sabini, a fourth-grade teacher, wrote a book about farts to try to get boys to read. The Washington Post article says that boys are still trailing girls in reading and that the gap is widening. Sabini went the fart route to get boys into reading, and his book Sweet Farts tells the story of a 9-year-old boy whose science fair invention turns fart smells into whatever you’d like them to be, including summer rose, cotton candy, etc. Sabini self-published the novel under the name Raymond Bean, and it was at No. 3 on Amazon’s children’s humor book list in October thanks to mostly word of mouth. Sabini is publishing a sequel, Sweet Farts: Rippin’ It Old School, next month.

I haven’t read Sabini’s book, but it sounds like a great, fun idea. And that’s what I think books should be — fun.

Books tell stories, and we stories to be entertained. Sure, for some of us, that entertainment might be scary, or sad, or thought-provoking, but for middle-grade-age boys, it’s farts … or whatever else will keep their attention away from videogames for a few minutes.

So, whatever you’re writing…

1. know your audience – know what they’re interested in and write about that, even if it is bodily functions.

2. make it fun – funny, deliciously devilish, nice and spooky, tear-jerking sad, whatever emotion the story stirs, make it stir it well.

What are you writing?

Write On!

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Reasons and excuses

June 27, 2010

First a bit apology for not writing for so long, but I hope you enjoyed the interview with author Valerie Hobbs.

So, you might be wondering, why has Day By Day Writer not been writing? Good question, and I have reasons and excuses.

My reasons are:

  • At the beginning of June, my dad had surgery (he’s doing great, thanks for asking) and I went to be with him for the week.
  • The week after I got back, my husband and I visited Austin (three hours drive away) for a couple days as he had a job interview. The day after the interview, he was offered the job and our life got a bit turned over.
  • Cut a long story short, the job is a great opportunity, and within a week after arriving home from my dad’s surgery, I was trying to sort out us moving to Austin.

So, those are my reasons, and as the fellow writers in my writing group told me when I said last week Saturday would be my last meeting, they’re pretty good ones. Sometimes, the rest of our lives do get so busy that it’s tough to make time to write.

But I’ll be honest here, these are also excuses. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t make the time to write — I could have dragged myself out of bed at 4am every morning and still got an hour or so in — but with everything else in my head, I felt too distracted. My story has been on my mind, my characters have been playing around in there, but every time I thought about facing the page, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt that I’d let down those characters, because my mind was more on the packing I had to do, and finding a place to live in Austin. I just didn’t feel creative at all.

The thing is, though, that writers need to write, and now that I’ve been away from my novel for a month, I’m really looking forward to getting back to it. I miss it. I miss my characters and the world they live in.

Sometimes it’s ok to take a break when everything around us gets crazy, but sometimes, when everything else is crazy, that’s when our writing can help us the most.

How do you deal with writing when your life gets a bit too overwhelming?

Write On!

P.S. I’ll write again much sooner this time.

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Finding inspiration in writing groups

May 19, 2010

Manuscript update: Current word count is 13,842. It’s coming along.

A new young adult/middle grade writers group has started up in my area, and I went to my first meeting last Saturday and will definitely be going back.

The second meeting of the new group, Saturday’s was focused on prioritizing techniques so we can all make sure we can get our writing time in with everything else — something true to my heart with this blog. But, I’ll be honest, I almost skipped the meeting because I thought, I’m good with organizing. I’ve carved out my writing time each day. I made the change to stop finding time to write and start making time to write a few years ago. I’m on top of it! (Even if I have been missing a lot of writing lately because of www.discdish.com.)

I went anyway, and I’m so  glad I did.

During the meeting, I learned lots of new ways of keeping my writing on track, one of which I’ve already incorporated: Set an event in your calendar/phone, whatever with an alarm, for the time you need to start writing with a reminder 15 minutes before. (Many thanks to my friend Chantee for this one.) If you want to read more of the techniques we learned, fellow YA/MG meeter Vonna Carter wrote about them.

But the most important thing for me that I took away from that group meeting is a feeling of support. I left feeling energized, and that I’m not alone in my writing. I’ve got all the people in that group in my corner, just like I’m in theirs. I get support from my critique group too, but it’s different. In critique group, we just work on our five pages. In this new group, we work on everything, and doing it with all these wonderful writers, feels great.

And in between the monthly meetings, we can keep in touch for mini inspiration with our Yahoo group.

One of the best parts is that at the end of the meeting, we all set goals to get done before the next meeting. They’ve been recorded so we can’t forget, and we’ll all support each other to get those done throughout the month. How great is that?

If there’s a group like this in your area, I recommend joining. If not, start up one yourself. Ask your local bookstore if you can put up a poster and/or set something up through your local SCBWI group.

Or keep an eye on this blog, and I’ll give you a jolt of inspiration after every one of my meetings.

Got any other writing support tips?

Write On!

P.S. If you’re a fan of HBO’s True Blood, check out the cool Disc Dish contest to win a copy of the True Blood: The Complete Second Season DVD or Blu-ray.

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Great writers auction

May 6, 2010

One of the things I love best about this industry is how people come together to help others.

Earlier today, I posted about some writerly auctions going on to raise money for diabetes research.

Now I’ve got another for you. A bunch of writers have organized an auction to raise funds for flood relief in Nashville. Some great items are up for bidding, including a query critique, 30-minute phone conversation with literary agent Chris Richman and masses of autographed books.

So, get bidding.

Write On!