Feeling Overwhelmed by Life?

2 10 2014

Sometimes when problems pile up, it’s easy to get discouraged. Here’s one family’s refreshing way of teaching their daughter to never quit, never say can’t. It’s amazing what someone with a “can-do” attitude is able to accomplish. After watching this, you’ll never look at your problems in the same way again. And often, life has even greater surprises in store.





Too Much to Do?

5 09 2014

Here’s some great advice to fit the most important things into your days,

 

Some of the best advice ever for becoming successful.





Courting the Muse

20 06 2014

girl in chiffonMany people long to be writers; few follow through. In every writers’ group, you’ll find that often it’s not the most talented writers who get published, but the most persistent. This persistence doesn’t only apply to submitting work, it also applies to showing up at the page. Recently I was pondering this as I signed books at BEA and met CPs and fellow SCBWI members who were also signing. How did we, out of the many writers we know, end up with published books while other more talented friends have yet to achieve publication? It obviously had little to do with talent. The writers I have in mind have plenty of talent. The only secret ingredients I could find were persistence, dedication, and determination.

The published authors I know have one thing in common — they show up at the page. They don’t wait for the muse to strike, they go to her (or him). They write often, usually daily. They’re disciplined. That “D” words sounds so anti-creative, so structured, so boxed in. It seems antithetical to the word all writers dream of: FLOW. heart

Then I ran across this quote by Mary Oliver in A Poetry Handbook and realized she’d put that truth into words. She compared writing to a love affair between the heart and the practical, learned skills of the conscious mind. So many writers wait for the heart, the creativity, the muse to direct their pens, but in truth, the conscious mind must initiate the courtship. As Oliver says:

[The muse] learns quickly what sort of courtship it is going to be, Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself–soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.

She values this act of being present at the page more highly than technique. And I agree. Only those who prove they are dependable lovers will find their shy, reluctant muse waiting to greet them. How do you court your muse?





What comes first: Happiness or Success?

18 04 2014

Forget me notIn one of my Facebook groups, we were asked what one thing  — if it happened — would make this a GOOD year for us. That was an interesting question, and it really made me think. What I realized, though, was that my year was already better than good. In fact, it was pretty awesome. And I have so many things I’m looking forward to this year.

I’ve also had some fantastic things happen over the past year, things I’ve always wanted have become reality. But the truth is: Every year I’ve lived has been good — awesome, in fact. And each one has been better than the one before it. And I expect they’ll get even better in the future.

Then I saw this TED talk, and I discovered why. Most people think success will make them happy, but according to Shawn Achor, the exact opposite is true. Happiness brings success.

He lists five things that will lead to both happiness and success. Four of them I’m doing regularly, and the fifth one sporadically. Who knew these simple practices could make that much difference in life? But I do agree that they are key to a positive mindset. I have a few more suggestions I could add to his list, but for now, if you aren’t doing these, why not give it a try?

 





Are Your Goals a Piece of Cake?

12 04 2014

As a former cake decorator, I love Dana Carey’s comparison of goals to CAKE! Who wouldn’t want to eat this delicious cake layer by layer?

The Monthly Goalpost for April.





Writing Process Blog Tour

7 04 2014

Module One cover

Texas writer and illustrator Mark Mitchell, known for his wonderful watercolors and many picture books, invited me to join this writing process blog tour. I’ve been lucky to be part of his online class Make your Splashes – Make your Marks. Mark wrote about his own process on his blog.

I’m also fascinated by the history of this blog tour, which spans continents, so I traced my invitation back a few links. Akiko White, the winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola award for her illustrations made out of cake (yes, they’re awesome and delicious), tagged Mark. And she had been tagged by Australian award-winning author Christopher Cheng, who put together the wonderful PAL slide show for SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and I appreciated the opportunity to participate in that.

Now after that lengthy introduction, I’m ready to answer the questions they posed:

1.) What are you working on?

WANTED: Book 4

WANTED: Book 4

At the moment, I’m finishing two books to turn in to editors this week. I’m working on the final chapters of Grace Avenged, Book 4 in the WANTED series, which will be coming out in December 2014 in the UK. Book 1, Grace and the Guiltless, released in February in the UK. (Books 3 and 4 will be coming out there in May and August.) The series will also release in the US with different covers beginning in August under Capstone’s new Switch Press imprint.

Final edits are also due this week on Cyber Self-Defense, a book I’m cowriting with international cybercrime expert Alexis Moore. That will be coming out in October 2014 from Lyon’s Press.

Cyber Self Defense book cover

October 2014

I’m also editing a picture book to turn in to my agent as well as developing a chapter book series while taking a class with Hillary Homzie and Mira Reisberg. And Alexis Moore and I are working on two more nonfiction books together along with a picture books series.

Of course, all these projects are only the tip of the iceberg. I also have a quite a few other projects in various stages of completion and many more submerged underwater in my subconscious. And that doesn’t count all the books I’m editing for others.

2.) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write in so many different genres that it’s hard to compare my work to others’. I have picture books (fiction and nonfiction), chapter books, middle grade novels, YA novels and nonfiction, NA nonfiction, adult nonfiction and fiction, along with short stories and articles for both children and adults. I’ve also had a few illustration projects and hope to do more of those. I’m in my 3rd year in Hollins University’s Picture Book Writing & Illustrating MFA.

Book 1 ~ US edition

Book 1 ~ US edition

3.) Why do I write what I do?

The main reason I write is because I love to learn and explore new things. I get excited about sharing my knowledge with others, and writing is a wonderful way to do that. When I come across a new idea, I ask: Who would be interested in this? The answer is almost always a different age group, which is why I’ve written for so many age levels.

I also believe that writing is a form of self-discovery; it helps us understand not only ourselves, but also others. It keeps us from taking things for granted, teaches us to look beneath the surface, and reveals the beauty in everything.

Writing also keeps alive the wonder and awe of childhood. To me, there’s something magical about creating new worlds and peopling them with characters I’ve imagined. Children still believe in that magic, so I’m most drawn to writing for them.

4.) How does my writing (or writing with pictures/illustrating) process work?

I used to wait for the muse to strike, but now I’ve learned that if you sit down expecting to write, the words will come. With all my deadlines (5 books in the past 7 months), I don’t have the luxury of waiting for words to come, so right before I go to bed, I read over the notes of what I plan to write the next day or I pose a problem if I’m not sure what should come next. Then I go to sleep and let my mind arrange the words or solve the problem. When I wake up, I write. My best writing is usually done right after waking or late at night (from 1-3 a.m. is my sweet spot).

I’ve trained myself that the minute I sit down to write, my mind is ready. I don’t need rituals or to spend time agonizing over what I should write, I just do it. Not everything that goes down on the page is good writing, but you can’t revise what isn’t there.

I’m halfway between a pantser and a plotter. I need more of an outline for nonfiction, but when I write fiction, my process almost always begins with a vision of a story opening and a dramatic ending. I usually also see key scenes in my head. I jot them down or just remember them. I use those as mile markers along the way. Then when I write, I record whatever scene is most vivid in my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever written a book linearly. I write bits and pieces here and there.

Once I have all the key scenes down, I work on tying them together. I usually dread this part of the process because I always go in thinking I’ll have to put in boring transitions, but almost always my characters surprise me by doing something unexpected, so it ends up being more fun than I anticipated.

Another important piece of my process is running my work by my critique groups. I find letting others read my work and offer their opinions and suggestions greatly improves anything I write.

I’ve tagged three awesome writers who will share their processes on their blogs next Monday:

Joan Holub‘s new trucky, constructiony picture book is Mighty Dads (illustrated by James Dean, creator of Pete the Cat). Her picture book Little Red Writing (illustrated by Melissa Sweet) garnered 3 starred reviews and spots on many Best Of lists. She co-authors 3 series with Suzanne Williams: Goddess Girls, Grimmtastic Girls, and Heroes In Training. Find out more about Joan and all her other fantastic books at her website and on Facebook and Twitter.

Mighty Dads book trailer

 

Judith Tewes resides in small town Alberta and is a commercial writer writing under several pen names. MY SOON-TO-BE SEX LIFE launches with Bloomsbury Spark in June. As Judith Graves she has a recent release cowritten with Dawn Dalton, KILLER’S INSTINCT, a monster-hunter tale with loads of action.

 
 

 

Army wife, author, and new mom Tracy E. Banghart has an MA in Publishing and an obsession with cupcakes. She has written and published three novels for young adults; her latest, SHATTERED VEIL, a sci-fi adventure, just received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and 4.5 stars from IndieReader.

 

shattered veil front





Author Success—The Laws of Sowing & Reaping

10 11 2013

 

 

Writing can be a long, hard process. Kristen Lamb explains this well.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Life has many irrefutable truths. One? We get out of life what we put into it. We will get out of our writing what we invest. We cannot expect large returns from a social media platform if we rely on robots (automation) and connect randomly and half-heartedly. Social media is about relationships and being fair-weather friends has limited effectiveness.

Sure, there are flukes, people who run face-first into blind luck. But, one thing I’ve learned is the harder (and smarter) I work, the “luckier” I get ;).

When we take hold of a dream, we are assigned a sort of spiritual plot of land. Depending on the dream will depend on the plot. If we want to grow fresh peaches for our family, we don’t need a thousand acres. But, if we wish to make a living as a peach grower? We’ll have much more land and work ahead.

Same…

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Believe in Yourself

3 11 2013

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. ~ Henry Ford





Confidence, Love, and Dreams

3 10 2013

Be the person you were meant to be. Succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Walk into your future with confidence. Follow your heart. Believe you can do it, and you can.

 

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” ~Van Gogh





Writing Fast Drafts

12 09 2013

adult hand helping child writeRecently, I was asked by Jacqueline Houtman to contribute tips on speed writing for her blog, Secrets of Super-Productive Writers. If you’re looking to speed up your production, several wonderful writers, including Shawn McGuire, Shannon Delany, Janet Fox, and Sarah Prineas, suggested ways to boost your productivity.

For years I meandered through my novels. I never kept track of word count, but if asked, I’d consider it a good day when I wrote 200-300 words in an hour. As I got more proficient, I sometimes managed 400-500. I spent 3-4 hours reaching my daily NaNo goal of 1667 words.

But when I started writing for book packagers and educational publishers, I discovered they had impossible deadlines. Six weeks to research, write, and edit 80,000 words. Three weeks to churn out 45,000 polished words of a novel. I had to write faster. Much faster.

I started with Candace Haven’s Fast Draft class online. I laughed when she said we could write 4,000-5,000 in two or three hours. She encouraged us to turn off our internal editors and write without judgment. I managed to bump my productivity to 1000 words an hour—double what I had been doing—but I needed more time after I finished my draft to develop characters, plug plot holes, and smooth out prose. Before I’d edited as I worked, so my final product was much cleaner. But I had improved my writing speed.

As I mentioned in Jacqueline’s blog, I found Write or Die to be a great motivator. I began with the free download, but it’s inexpensive and well worth the $9.99 price tag. You set the amount of time and word count. Whenever you stop typing, you face consequences that range from a fading screen or loud noises to the loss of all your work. I started with the gentle consequences, where the screen fades out to a color, but returns to normal once you start typing again. I was surprised at how often I drifted off into daydreams or got sidetracked. Bumping the consequences up to normal kept me writing 1500-2000 words an hour.

When I have a deadline, like I do now for the series I’m writing, I do writing sprints with Write or Die.  I set a word goal and a time limit. And I discovered Candace was right. I can manage between 4000-5000 words in about 3 hours. Write or Die is also great for writing during tlunch hour or in other small blocks of time.

If you need more motivation to write faster, check out Rachel Aaron’s blog. She went from writing 2000 words a day to 10,000.

However you do it, it’s important to get words down on paper. As they say, it’s impossible to edit until you have something on the page.

What have you found that keeps you motivated and writing?