Saturday, October 29, 2011


Sometimes the only cure for stress is to escape it. And I do that by writing fiction. In fact, I am looking forward to NANOWRIMO - the frenzied month of November where participants eat, sleep and breathe 50,000 words in 30 days and live in a world of their own creation. In pleasant anticipation, I have created my book cover, which I present here (ta da!).

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's time for PiBoIdMo in November

As if there wasn't enough going on in November, I just wanted to remind you that it's also PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). That means that you come up with a picture book idea every single day of the month of November. It's a lot easier than Nanowrimo, and it's absolutely FUN! Stop by Tara Lazar's blog to get the lowdown and sign up. (Here's extra incentive: there will be prizes!)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Everyone likes a good mystery

Most authors, at least the ones on the wrong end of the slushpile, often feel like the publishing industry is a vast mystery. They stand at one end, clutching their manuscripts and hoping against hope that an editor will fish them out of the slushpile only to declare, "Eureka! I love this book!"

On the other end are the editors, agents, and publishing professionals who stand at the door of the publishing arena. Except for the self-published writers, they act as gatekeepers, and they're a tough bunch to get past. They have to be. Their own livings ride on their abilities to choose literary winners. For them it's about the bottom line, the connection of art to money. Not an easy spot to be in.

If you are one of the few who has made it for the first time into the hallowed halls of publication (meaning that an editor has verified your existence by making you an offer), you may have responded with all the confidence of a deer in the headlights of a Mack truck intent on making venison sausage. What on earth do you do now?

Aaron Shepard's invaluable pink book The Business of Writing for Children brings the formerly unpublished writer up to speed in less than 100 pages. It covers everything from how to submit to what you should look for in your contract to what you can expect in the publishing process. After taking a zip through it, I highly recommend it. Why?

Because although everyone likes a good mystery, your path to publication shouldn't be one.

Source of review copy: Gail Borden Public Library

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Poetry Contest

Everyone loves a little contest (or at least the prizes that go with it) so click on the link to find out more about the Children's Writer Poetry or Verse Story Writing Contest. Entries are due by October 31st, so you're not too late to enter if you get to it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dealing with the inner editor

As usual, the inner editor barged into my office without bothering to knock. Her heals clicked a demanading staccato across the floor. Stopping in front of my desk, she crossed her arms, staring down her nose at me, out of her oppressive black-rimmed reading glasses. "I heard all about it, you know."

I sighed and pushed back the stack of scene cards I was working on. "Heard what?"

"It's all over the office." She put both hands on my desk, fire-engine red nail polish glinting in the light from the window, and looked me right in the eyes. "Let's just get this straight. If you think you can lure me away this year to Acapulco for the thirty days of Nanowrimo, guess again. I'm going to be in your head every step of the way."

"I have no intention of luring you to Acapulco or anywhere else."

Her eyes narrowed. "Oh?"

"I might lock you in a closet, though."

She stood up and folded her arms over her chest again. "Ha! I knew it."

I laughed. "I'm just kidding. I'm not going to lock you in a closet. Actually, I have a very important assignment for you during Nanowrimo."

"Like what?" The freshly sharpened number two pencils crammed in her bun quivered like literary antennae.

"I'm officially putting you in charge of my word quota. It will be your job to crack the whip and make sure I'm keeping up during Nano. Also, I've got some posts that I'd like you to work on so I can keep blog followers updated on what I'm doing."

"It doesn't sound very challenging. It's not like real editing."

"Perhaps not, but you'll get your chance to do the real thing in December. I want you rested for what I'm sure will be a tremendous amount of revision."

The inner editor hesitated. "I get to crack the whip?"


"Well, okay. Just as long as you understand that I'm really the one in charge."

"You're the one in charge."

She turned and strode to the door, but paused before she went out. "Do I get a real whip?"

"It's more of a figurative whip, but just as effective in a literary sense."

Her brow furrowed. "I'll give it some thought." She pulled the door shut behind her.

I picked up the receiver on my phone. "United? How much is a one-way ticket to Tahiti at the beginning of November? Yeah, just one...Is it for the inner editor? No way. She's got too much work to do to travel in November." I grinned. "This one's for me."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Remember the Inner Editor?

For those of you who missed this post last year, I don't want to unearth any unpleasant memories of dealings with your own inner editor, but it might help you understand the upcoming posts about this sometimes unpleasant character and how you can handle her during Nanowrimo.

Framed by the inner editor

I don't entirely believe in writer's block. I know you hear about it all the time, and to be honest, I've been stuck on chapter seven for a couple of weeks now, but I still don't believe in writer's block.

What I do believe in is inner editor block. Perhaps a better term for it would be creative constipation. I figured it out late last night as I finally got past the problem I was having with chapter seven.

The writer in me was knocking out the story in a pages document. She was excited because she had finally gotten past awful chapter seven and was in the zone, happy and oblivious. Then she heard a knock at the door. Not knowing better—the writer never seems to learn—she innocently opened the door with a smile on her face.

Standing before her was the inner editor in disguise, wearing one of those fake Groucho Marx glasses-nose-and-mustache numbers to hide her true identity. The writer recognized her anyway. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun like it always is, and she had twelve yellow number two pencils sticking out of it like an academic porcupine. She peered over the reading glasses sitting on the tip of her nose and tapped a carefully manicured fire-engine red finger nail on her cold curving smile.

"I can't believe you wrote this," she said with an unpleasant snicker.

The writer looked confused. She had had to pull herself out of the story-world she had been in and back to reality to open the door, and she wasn't quite up to the reality of the inner editor just yet. "What do you mean?"

The inner editor sashayed over to the computer and pointed a long accusing finger. "This! I mean, apart from the obvious grammatical mistakes, it just doesn't flow. What were you thinking?"

The writer shrank under the inner editor's hard gaze. The inner editor pressed her advantage.

"There's no way you can go any further until you get this thing fixed. Furthermore, as penance, you're going to have to go back and rewrite every chapter you've completed so far at least ten times until I'm satisfied." She leaned against the desk, shaking her head sorrowfully. "Don't think you can get any substandard writing past me. I saw the notes you made about chapters eight and nine, too. The plot is implausible, the characters shallow, and the dialogue ridiculous. I doubt it's worth putting it down on paper. I'm thinking we need to junk this whole project and start from scratch."

The writer's eyes glazed over. She was almost completely paralyzed, caught in the evil clutches of the inner editor.

"And don't think you can blame me for any of this drivel. It's all your fault. You're the writer, after all." The inner editor smirked.

The writer shook herself, a spark appearing in her eyes. "Hey," she said, "that's right. I am the writer."

The inner editor flinched. Maybe she had gone a tad too far. "Now, now. I didn't mean you were in charge, or anything crazy like that. You need me, or you wouldn't ever produce a polished manuscript." She edged toward the door, but she wasn't quick enough. The writer grabbed her by the collar and gave her a quick shove into the hallway. The editor stumbled away, trying to regain her footing. "Hey! That is no way to treat your inner editor!"

"Too late." The writer was back in control. "When human resources sends you to Acapulco because you're a pest, you need to stay there until I ask for your help during rewrites." The writer began to shut the door, but paused for a moment. "Oh, and by the way. No one is going to pin writer's block on me when you're really the culprit. Scram!"

The inner editor scurried down the hallway, picking up the number two pencils that had worked loose from her bun. The writer shut the door and dusted her hands, taking a deep breath. It felt good to be free of the inner editor. She sat down at the keyboard, fingers poised for only a moment before they began to tap the keys.

As I shook water droplets off my arms, I ran into Jan, who had stopped abruptly in front of me. She gave a strangled cry...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

No one plans to fail

It is October, and Nanowrimo is more than a shadow on the horizon by this time. The clock is tangibly counting down for the final days before we throw ourselves into the creative maelstrom of writing an entire 50,000 word book in a month.

There's nothing quite like it, and I have no regrets for the past two years that I have done it. Nanowrimo forces me to do what I otherwise find so difficult to do alone: write an entire novel quickly.

Still, even after two completions well before their due dates, I still feel a tremor as adrenaline shoots through my veins when November draws near. Will I make it this year? Will I give it up during the hard second week (usually when I and many other writers feel most like quitting). As a mom with so much going on, I can't depend on life cooperating with me to make it easy. Then I take a deep breath and remind myself: since when has writing ever been easy?

As the saying goes, no one plans to fail, but many fail to plan. Not wanting to fail, I'm putting together my Nano game plan now that it's October.

1. Get everything that can be completed in advance finished

This means keeping up with grading for our home school, preparing materials my kids will need for classes in November, and making sure our home is in as much order as I can make it. At church, it means getting my department's assignments out well in advance so we're ready to roll and I don't have to do a lot of paperwork that month. So far so good. I think I can commit to that.

2. Making scene cards for my book

Up to the point where I read James Scott Bell's books, I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer. I didn't outline. I just sat down and let 'er rip. Bell's books helped me a lot because he suggested a compromise with scene cards. Although I found outlines incredibly restrictive, I found scene cards very helpful. I could easily move them around, throw them out, or insert more.

So I've been working on scene cards, and I probably have more than half of them ready for Nanowrimo. It should make a difference, since I do not intend to waste a moment getting stuck in a dead end that I could not have foreseen.

3. Recruiting a support team

Writing is an isolating activity. The whole fun of Nanowrimo is that you write with other writers. Sure, you're all writing during the rest of the year, too, but it's not the same as a formal event with a common deadline and planned events where you get together to knock out your first draft. The more friends I can recruit to participate, the better I will do, because it's more fun writing with other people than writing alone. Perhaps it comes from being in the same boat.

4. Making sure my family is ready

The first year I did Nano, our entire family wrote for it too. I was proud of them. They aren't all writers, but they did it for me. We had fun, and every one of us finished. This year I might be the only one, but they understand what I'll be going through, and I'm hoping they will help me by taking care of extra tasks that I normally would do myself.

5. Setting my face like flint and keeping it in perspective

Commitment is not a popular thing nowadays, but I know that once I commit to this, I am going to do it. No matter what. No looking back. Even so, I would let it go if a family emergency meant there was no way I could finish. I am the only mom my kids have, after all. I'll do my best, but I'm going to keep it in perspective.

Have you ever participated in Nanowrimo? If so, what was your experience? Are you going to do it this year, too? What's your plan to get through?

See you at the finish line. : )