Monday, April 14, 2014

Camp NaNo Week #2: My Camp Counselors Are Worried About Me

Ack! I still don't have an actual word count. The dialogue scribbled in my notebook hasn't been translated into a story document yet, so I've ignored the official NaNoWriMo folks. They sent me this  note:

Dear Writer,
We're sending this email to check in on you. (Our budget doesn't allow for home visits. Yet.)
We want to be sure that you do a couple of things this Camp session:
Update your word count. You created your project and you may already be writing. If so, up those digits to share your progress!
If you haven't gotten around to starting yet, that's totally okay. There's still a lot of month left: adjust your word-count goal or bravely promise to catch up. As long as you write something (even if it's only on the last day), you're making it happen.
Say hello in your cabin. Your fellow Campers are looking for you. Seriously.
From many years of doing this kind of thing, we know that creative quests work best when you have a support group. Your cabin crew is a built-in accountability system, and they're friendly to boot.
If your current group isn't working, you can always opt out and handpick some folks via theFinding Cabin Mates forum.
Okay, check-in over. We'll let you get back to that wonderful project of yours.
Thanks for writing it during Camp NaNoWriMo, and here's to a great rest of the month.
Chris Angotti
Director of Programs



 
I've never been so NaNo negligent before! I feel terrible about ignoring my cabin-mates! I really thought I'd be productive during my daughter's college visit last weekend, but writing squished into the middle seat on the plane wasn't going to happen. And I didn't write in cute cafes, I only ate too many delicious doughnuts (oh, Frosty's!) and muffins… And my evening alone turned into me lounging in an exhausted stupor eating gelato in my hotel room watching a Chrisley Knows Best marathon on TV.

Week #3 is looking good, though. I even have a writing date planned! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo: Week #1

I don't have any words recorded yet. I haven't even opened a new document for my story. And I'd probably be freaking out about this lack of words on the page, if I hadn't picked up a copy of Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist at a museum gift shop over spring break. So nice to read little nuggets of wisdom after long days of sightseeing. 

I loved seeing a photo of his workspace:


What Kleon says about separating digital and analog work made so much sense to me--and explained why all of my work starts with a spiral notebook, scissors, colored pens, and glue. I used to think that I was procrastinating the actual writing, but now I know that I need to use my hands first to get into the story. So that's what I've been doing this week, playing around, figuring things out, taking messy notes, drawing stuff, making plans. The word count will come next! 

If you're looking for a bit of inspiration, I highly recommend Steal Like An Artist

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I'm Going To Camp!

Next week I'm going to camp--Camp NaNoWriMo!



April would be a terrible month for me to fast-draft a 50,000-word novel. Mostly because I'm distracted by my daughter's big looming college decision. So I'm excited that Camp NaNoWriMo is letting us set our own word-count goals, as well as projects.

I'm going to write a 10,000-word short story! YAY!!! I'll certainly need something to distract me from that big looming college decision.

Delving into a big fat novel will be the perfect distraction when my daughter heads off to college in a few months--in one direction (hundreds of miles away) or another (thousands of miles away).

?????

Friday, March 21, 2014

Newbie Mistake #1.79

Often when I finish a long work of fiction, I'll spend some time working on short stuff, sort of like a brain cleanser while I research or cogitate on the details of the next big project. Early in my career, writing magazine stories also helped me obtain publishing credits for that I'm-the-real-deal paragraph in my query letter.

Contests are another great way to pump up that last query letter paragraph. I've tried many times to win the Highlights For Children contest. I'd brainstorm a list of ten ideas and write ten magazine stories, quickly. I'd work on the best ones and submit them to the contest. While I never won, I did end up with pieces I could submit to other children's magazines. Some of those have been published.

So far, so good. But here's where the mistake occurs:

In 2003, once again, I failed to win the Highlights contest. No biggie. I popped the piece into the mail again.

Magazine #1 said, no.
Magazine #2 said, no.
Magazine #3 said, maybe this should be a picture book?
Me: YAY!!!! I've written a picture book!!!! (I immediately popped it back into the mail.)
Book Editors #1-#6 said, NO!!!!

So I filed the manuscript and moved on to other things. No lesson learned. Yet.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a book publisher looking for just the kind of story that's been sitting in my file cabinet for the last decade. YAY!!! I rushed to the file, ready to submit my picture book.

But I hadn't written a picture book, I'd written a magazine story. No wonder all those publishers said, no. Magazine stories have a few spot illustrations, but the description in the text provides most of the details. Picture book text leaves much more to the illustrator--and it needs a dose of magic to inspire reading over and over again. That kind magazine editor wasn't telling me that I had a picture book manuscript, only that I had an idea that could be developed into a picture book.

The thing about me in 2003? I wasn't fond of revision. I wanted to be published NOW, NOW, NOW!

Thus, Newbie Mistake #1.79: Not taking time to revise (always mistake #1, combined with not knowing the difference between two writing genres .7, plus rushing the process and sending stuff out too soon, .09).

I have now scrapped everything but the idea, and, wow, writing picture books is hard. Maybe that's why I write short stuff--it makes me really excited to delve into something long again!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Blogging Elsewhere

I'm over at YA Outside The Lines today, blogging about how my books are used in the classroom. Except, my books aren't used in the classroom--I am! You can read the post here: http://yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/2014/03/my-name-isnt-nathaniel-hawthorne-its.html


Friday, March 7, 2014

A Post In Which I Incidentally Reveal That I Watch Bad TV

So a strange thing happened while I was doodling and making notes about my favorite American Idol performances--I found myself writing down one of judge Harry Connick Jr's comments, "Work on the things that are hard. Work on the things that make you uncomfortable and you will improve."

I love that advice.

What is hard for me? What makes me uncomfortable? Poetry.

No form of writing makes me feel more stupid than poetry. I still vividly remember one of my high school teachers quoting a poem in which the narrator feels "big as a house."
My teacher: "Of course that means she's pregnant."
Me: What the huh? I thought she was fat. Man, am I stupid.

Poetry plagued me in college, too. Those fat Norton anthologies contained stumps of partial stories (who wants to read part of a story?!?!?) packed between poems, poems, poems, and more poems.

I would never want to be married to a guy who wrote poems for me. Just watching contestants on the Bachelor read poems makes me squeamish.

About a year ago, I decided to tackle my poetry problem. Poetry might make me feel stupid, but fearing an entire literary genre is stupid. I bought Sage Cohen's Writing The Life Poetic: An Invitation To Read & Write Poetry.



Slowly I've read through each chapter and worked through most of the writing exercises. I've written a lot of bad poetry in my writing practice notebook. But I'm determined to shape a few of those messes into something worth reading. Although I did scrawl a note next to one verse-y passage, "maybe a better short story?" No. I will make it a poem first.

I can't say that I'm comfortable with poetry yet, but I have been reading poetry before bed. I started with the accessible Billy Collins and now I can say that I'm actually enjoying Polish poet, Wislawa Szymborska's collected work. I vow to continue reading poetry--just a few poems a day. I can't say that I understand all that I'm reading, but every now and then I feel a spark of joy when a poem speaks to me. I get it! I get it! Yes!


I'm going to continue to write poetry, even though I really do suck at it. Even though it scares me more than spiders and snakes. I do think that my study of poetry has helped me think about word choice, description, and unique phrasing in my fiction writing. Harry Connick Jr. is right: work on what's hard, work on what's uncomfortable and you will improve.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Guest Blogger: Denise Jaden

Rather than doing a traditional interview-filled blog tour, Denise Jaden is celebrating the release of her new nonfiction writing book, FAST FICTION, by dropping tips about writing quickly at every stop of her blog tour, and offering some awesome prizes for commenting on any of these posts (including this one!)

The more you drop by and comment, the more chances you have to win these great prizes:

Denise's Fast Fiction Tip: Write because you love it!
If I had to pick one tip above all others, I’d say do this because you love it. Sometimes we need reminders of that. I have a few writer-friends who remind me often. I also keep a folder of favorite writing bits that I’ve composed over the years to look back at when I need to be rejuvenated. The thing is, not only will your passion for what you’re doing translate to readers when your book eventually has readers, love and passion will also make the writing process much easier. When I talk about fast-drafting in my book Fast Fiction, I highly encourage writers to write about something they care about. Caring about your story and loving the process will make your writing zoom by faster than anything else. 
The Prizes:

  • Compliments of New World Library: They will be giving away A BOX of copies of FAST FICTION by Denise Jaden and GET IT DONE by Sam Bennett (US and Canada only):
  • Compliments of Denise Jaden, TWO BOXES of great fiction (US Only). Details on Denise's blog.
  • Audiobook copies of NEVER ENOUGH by Denise Jaden!
  • A critique of your first five pages, compliments of Denise's agent, Michelle Humphrey from The Martha Kaplan Agency!

All you have to do is enter the rafflecopter for a chance to win (at the bottom of this post, I've included links to all of the other blogs where you can comment for more chances to win).

About Fast Fiction:

Writers flock to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November because it provides a procrastination-busting deadline. But only a fraction of the participants meet their goal. Denise Jaden was part of that fraction, writing first drafts of her two published young adult novels during NaNoWriMo. In Fast Fiction, she shows other writers how to do what she did, step-by-step, writer to writer. Her process starts with a prep period for thinking through plot, theme, characters, and setting. Then Jaden provides day-by-day coaching for the thirty-day drafting period. Finally, her revision tips help writers turn merely workable drafts into compelling and publishable novels.

A portion of publisher proceeds will be donated to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)



Praise for Fast Fiction:

“Fast Fiction is filled with stellar advice, solid-gold tips, and doable, practical exercises for all writers who want to draft a complete novel.”
— Melissa Walker, author of Violet on the Runway

“Being a ‘pantser’ I have always resisted outlining, but I have to say that Fast Fiction changed my mind! Denise Jaden takes what I find to be a scary process (outlining) and makes it into an easy and, dare I say, enjoyable one. Fast Fiction is a hands-on book that asks the right questions to get your mind and your story flowing. I know I’ll be using Fast Fiction over and over again. Highly recommended for fiction writers!
— Janet Gurtler, author of RITA Award finalist I’m Not Her

“Fast Fiction is full of strategies and insights that will inspire and motivate writers of every experience level — and best of all, it provides them with a solid plan to quickly complete the first draft of their next novel.”
— Mindi Scott, author of Freefall

“Fast Fiction provides writers with the perfect mix of practical guidance and the kick in the pants they need to finish that draft. This book is a must-have for writers of all levels.”
— Eileen Cook, author of The Almost Truth

Practical and down-to-earth, Denise Jaden’s Fast Fiction makes a one-month draft seem doable, even for beginners, any month of the year.”
— Jennifer Echols, author of Endless Summer and Playing Dirty

“One of the greatest challenges any writer faces is getting a great idea out of one’s brain and onto the page. Fast Fiction breaks that process down into concrete, manageable steps, each accompanied by Denise Jaden’s sage advice and enthusiastic encouragement. And anything that helps streamline the drafting process is a-okay by me! Fast Fiction is a great addition to any writer’s toolbox — I’ve got it in mine!”
— Catherine Knutsson, author of Shadows Cast by Stars

“Forget the fact that this resource is directed at those wanting to complete a fast draft — if you’re out to get your novel done, period, Jaden’s Fast Fiction will be the kick in the butt that gets you there, from story plan to ‘The End’. . . and beyond.”
— Judith Graves, author of the Skinned series for young adults

Where you can find Fast Fiction:

Help an author out:
Can't get a copy of FAST FICTION right now? I wonder if you'd consider helping out in other ways. I'd really appreciate any way that you can help!

  • Ask your library or bookstore to bring in FAST FICTION
  • Leave a review on Amazon (the more books are reviewed on Amazon, the more they will show up as suggestions for readers).
  • Mention FAST FICTION on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or pin a link to Amazon on Pinterest
Blog Tour Stops:
Comment on any of the following blog posts celebrating Fast Fiction's release to be entered to win prizes galore! 
(All Fast Fiction blog posts should be live by March 9th, or sooner. Contest will be open until March 15th. If any links don't work, stop by http://denisejaden.blogspot.com for updated links.)

GCC Blogs:

Additional Participating Blogs:

Remember, all you have to do is leave comments to get lots of extra entries to win some great prizes. 
Don't know what to comment about? Tell us the name of your favorite writing book!

Share this widget here:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/Y2QyYmEwOTMzNTUyNGRiYWY0NWE1YWE4YjBjN2I2OjQ=/ a Rafflecopter giveaway

Or, if the Rafflecopter Giveaway doesn't seem to be coming up on this blog, access it here: http://www.denisejaden.com/FastFictionContest.html
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