Doing the Write Thing

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I've been struggling lately with sticking to a schedule. I know all dreams are achieved by setting specific goals and deadlines and by creating an intentional plan to conquer tasks. Though I know this and it sounds simple enough, I cannot seem to make a schedule work.

I read a great article on Huffington Post yesterday about how women writers face a significant number of challenges in finding writing time each day. We have to fit our creativity in between house work and familial responsibilities. We are the wearer of many hats, and this often keeps us from devoting time to our dreams.

January and February of this year was going well. I was writing every day and even finished a MS in record time (six weeks!), but when March came around, my mind desperately needed a break. And boy did I take one! I didn't do anything but journal work and blog posts. I had good intentions for April, though. I joined CampNaNoWriMo and have written a grand total of thirty pages thus far. I will say that I have done quite a bit of research for the WIP, so I'm not completely slacking.

I'm just frustrated! I love my WIP, but the creative juices are not being cooperative. I feel the urge to write when I'm in the middle of making dinner, folding laundry, or mowing the lawn. Sometimes when I finally do make myself sit down and write, I end up staring at the screen for minutes at a time. There are one thousand and one things I need to be doing at any given moment, and it's hard to block everything else out and concentrate. Distraction is the root of all evil!

When I don't write, I feel guilty. And when I don't get the house clean, lawn mowed, or spend time with my husband, I feel guilty too. So what's the answer? I've got to relinquish some of the pressure and try a different approach.
  • From now on, I'm going to write whenever I can. I'm usually not happy unless I've written 2,000 words per sitting. That's simply unrealistic for me, at this point. I've got to learn to be happy with however many words I write per day, even if it's only 50. That's better than none, right?
  • I'm going to set a timer on my writing. I've found I work better under restraints, so I think this may help.
  • I'm going to schedule time to let my mind decompress. Maybe I'll watch some television or do some pleasure reading.
  • I will limit my time on social media and reading articles. If I'm not careful, I know I can spend an obscene amount of time on the computer without getting anything done.
  • I will not feel guilty. Okay, I know I probably still will, but I'm going to try not to. I really am doing all I can do.
Hopefully, trying this new approach will help me get back into some type of routine. Have you found any tricks that help you stay on schedule?

 
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Querying: A Form of Speed Dating?

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So you're in the query trenches too, huh? You've tweaked, chopped, revived, and polished your query and manuscript to the best of your ability. You enlisted the help of betas, spouses, and anyone else in the world who owed you a favor or would willingly offer themselves as sacrifices to your cause. Now you're left with hard part.

There is nothing more difficult than being on the journey of acceptance when the odds are not in your favor. There are thousands of wanna-be authors in the world, and you (and I) are just one in the millions. And when the rejections start piling in, we begin to question everything. We wonder what we could have done differently, and if it's ever going to happen for us. Then those questions begin to grow more grim. We being to think that the problem is really us and that we're not good enough. Or maybe our dream is no longer worth fighting for if no one sees our talent.

Have you experienced these thoughts? I have and am constantly trying to fight them off, but let's explore the reality for a moment. Imagine this query process as a form of speed dating. Your manuscript is going from table to table asking for agents to love it. The two minute conversation goes something like this:

MS: Hi, my name is TITLE. I'm into books like COMPARISON TITLE. I'm about QUERY.

Agent: I'm not a fan of COMP TITLE. I'm not into LIST OF THINGS IN QUERY. Next.


If you're lucky, you hook the agent for a bit longer.


Agent: I'm semi-interested. What else?

MS: In the beginning... 250 WORDS.

Agent: I like the premise, but the writing isn't grabbing me. I don't like alliteration. I'm not digging the dialogue, and get rid of the prologue. Next.


These are just a few the reasons why agents pass on a project. There are an infinite amount more, but your MS knows there's someone else down the line. She's not really invested in this relationship because she's only spent two to five minutes with the agent/editor.

But we don't take it like this, do we? This is what we hear:


Agent: I don't think I'm the right fit for you.

Us: I'm talentless, aren't I? I'll never go anywhere. I might as well quit right now!


When we break it down to reality, it seems ridiculous to take their rejection personally, doesn't it? It truly isn't you they're turning down. It's just this one work. If you query the same batch of agents with a different MS, the results may be different. Agents and editors have thousands of choices to make a month, so it's no surprise if our MSs aren't picked.

In actual speed dating, we make choices based off appeal, chemistry, and gut feelings. Choosing a MS is no different. And the process doesn't end there; readers do the same thing. They have a criteria they're looking for too - good cover, killer pitch, and a knock-their-socks off blurb. This is an insanely subjective business, much like life. Success is a little bit of talent and a whole lot of fate.

Every time we get a rejection in our inbox, we need to remember this chat we're having now. The MS is the one being rejected, not us. Our books are our children, so it still stings a little. After all, we've cultivated and spent many hours pouring blood, sweat, and tears into them. But in the end, just like with our real children, we must have faith that they're strong enough to face the world and all it's negativity.

Don't lose hope. There's only room for one soulmate, and he/she is out there looking for your MS. Here's to finding THE ONE!






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How to Write a Novel: WRITE

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So you're ready to write. How exciting! This is where the fun begins, but beware. Life has a way of trying to stop you from completing your goals.

What to do:
  1. Write daily. Set a realistic goal and fight for it every day. Stephen King, for example, won't get up from his desk until 2,000 words have been written. I, personally, set different goals for each project, depending on what's going on in my life. All that really matters is that you set aside time five days a week to write your WIP. Do it.
  2. Get involved in some type of writing community - Twitter, Facebook, and/or NaNoWriMo. It really helps to have accountability partners with writing. It's a lonesome venture for the most part, but having others to vent with helps in keeping on track and not getting bogged down.
  3. Don't talk too much to other people about your work. I've learned this the hard way. Most likely, your friends and family won't understand all the heartache and difficulty in writing a novel. They'll think it's easy, or they'll set unrealistic goals for you. They'll ask to read it when you're done, and they will probably feel like sharing all they know (or don't know) about writing. Especially with your first novel, it's best to just keep it to yourself and maybe your immediate family (spouse, mom, dad, etc.) until you've edited. Then you may want to pick a handful of trustful people to serve as betas. (More on this next post.)

What you should expect:
  • Writing is hard. There's nothing glamorous about staring at a computer screen for hours. Writers aren't sophisticated beings sipping coffee and typing to their hearts content like they make them out in the movies. They are gulping coffee in their pjs bleeding words onto a page.
  • You will fight the urge to procrastinate. Everything will happen during your writing time to keep you from writing. Your husband will want to watch your favorite show, a kid will suddenly throw up on the rug, the dog will need a walk... or your mind will just want to rest. Don't. Give. In.
  • You'll want to give up. Just before you meet the half way point in your novel, you'll probably struggle with throwing it out. Push through. This too shall pass.
  • You'll feel inadequate- not good enough. Nothing you write will be as good as your favorite novelist. Ignore this. Take captive these deceptive thoughts and visualize flushing them down the toilet. No one will ever write like you. You're the best at what you do.
Whatever happens, don't give up. This is your dream, and you owe it to yourself to see it through. You got this.

Go forth and write on, my friend!

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Cover Reveal: FIRE OF THE SEA by Lyndsay Johnson

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FIRE OF THE SEA
by Lyndsay Johnson

Wordcount: 121,000
Release date: Mid-March, available in print and e-book
Social Media:



Publisher:

www.48fourteen.com


Tagline:

Where legends and lies cast an intricate net, a daughter of the sea will challenge fate to protect her own sacred relic and the man she loves from the enemy that binds them.

Synopsis:

Sharp, sleek, and golden. Like the dagger she has worn since childhood, eighteen-year-old Aeva is all three of these things. But there is something else that this mermaid and her prized weapon share. They are both hunted.

Hidden within the caves off Iceland’s jagged coast, Aeva waits to take her place as the next ruler of the Meriads. But new rumors of an old enemy begin to taint the merfolk’s guarded waters. Delphine, the covetous shapeshifter from Aeva’s past, has emerged from hiding. She comes for the blade said to grant immortality, and is drawing Aeva closer to a forbidden shore.

When Aeva uses her potent and alluring song to save a drowning human, the balance begins to shift dangerously. Realizing she has unexpectedly bound herself to Gunnar—the raven-haired stranger with eyes to match an arctic sky—Aeva is torn between a promise to protect the Meriads, and leaving the sea for love on land. Surrendering to fate, she painfully severs one life to begin another.

On the unfamiliar banks of Iceland, Aeva soon finds herself not only rejected by the sea, but also stalked by dark forces. As the worlds of myth and man intertwine, Aeva looks to Gunnar’s family to help protect both her sacred relic, and the man she loves. But legends and lies cast an intricate net. With time and safety quickly unraveling for Aeva and Gunnar, there is only one clear course: Find and defeat Delphine before she can shift again.


Excerpt:

In the deepening blue, what appeared to be an enormous jellyfish was descending slowly and steadily. A white plume the size of a ship’s sail, with long trailing tentacles, hung in the agitated water. Part of it still clung to the surface.
I moved closer. Reaching out, my fingers felt the edges of the ghostly form. Fabric. I’d read of its tight weave used in human clothing. I’d never seen so much of it, much less touched it.
White strings were attached to the fabric, tangling down into the depths. My gold hair whirled in front of my face as I paused to make sense of what hovered before me. As I whipped my head around for clarity, I saw him.
Snared at the center of the mass was a young man. A human. What I had first thought to be a jellyfish was something else entirely. The human was attached to the now collapsing net of fabric and rope by a bundle strapped to his back and shoulders. He sank deeper and deeper in a slow-motion descent, as the last of the fabric slipped below the surface. His head was bowed, but his body wasn’t completely limp. He struggled sluggishly. Was he giving up? Why didn’t he remove the pack?
It took me a moment to tear myself away from my fascination. I managed to remember that humans couldn’t hold air in their lungs underwater for very long. They would lose strength in the sea, not gain it. He was drowning.

About the Author:

Lyndsay lives in the Rocky Mountains of Utah with her husband and three spirited children. She enjoys sitting in dark theaters, trying new gluten-free recipes, watching breaking storms over the peaks out her window, and secret naps. Fire of the Sea is her first novel.


 
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Blog Tour: ROAD TO SOMEWHERE by Kelley Lynn and Jenny S. Morris

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Release date: March 11th 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark

BOOK DESCRIPTION:
 
New! From Bloomsbury Spark, a sunny heartwarming story of discovery and sisterhood. 
 
A road trip. A singing competition. And super-hot cowboys. 
 
What could be better? 
 
For Charlie, a post-high school road trip isn't just a vacation, it's life changing. While her parents think she's helping a friend move, a chance at fame is the real reason to grab her best friends and drive to L.A. But when her super annoying, uber-responsible, younger sister, Lucy, has to tag along, it isn't quite the summer of fun she imagined. 
 
Add in a detour to her grandparents' ranch in Texas, and between mucking the stalls, down-home cookin’, and drool worthy ranch hands, this could just turn into the best, and most complicated, summer of their lives.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
 
Kelley Lynn was born and raised a Midwestern girl. She’s not afraid to sweat and fills her free time with softball, soccer and volleyball. (Though you probably don’t want her on your volleyball team.) She occasionally makes guest appearances as a female vocalist for area bands. Music plays a large role in her writing process as well as the characters and plot lines within her stories.

 


 

Jenny S. Morris is a YA author who loves all things geek, may have a Kdrama addiction, and prefers the rainy NW to any place she's ever lived. Road to Somewhere is her debut novel.

 
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Blog Tour: THE TAKE BACK OF LINCOLN JUNIOR HIGH by Roseanne Cheng

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I'm excited to share Roseanne Cheng's new book THE TAKE BACK OF LINCOLN JUNIOR HIGH. When we discussed the possibility of sharing the book with all of you at The Writer's Block, Roseanne told me her feelings about clean reads for YA audiences. I love people with passion, and I love that Roseanne is strong enough to stand up for what she believes. Below is what she had to say.

Writing Clean when Dirty Sells

I read Fifty Shades of Grey just as it was beginning its worldwide whirlwind.  I knew the premise and wasn’t all that excited about it, but just as a foodie wants to eat all the food everyone is talking about, a book nerd like me needs to be in the “know” about the books making headlines.  

I got through it, and let’s just say it was not my cup of English Breakfast Tea (ah, Anastasia…)  Sure, I had my opinions about sexism and feminism and all the other “isms” associated with a story like that, but what it boiled down to was this: I found it totally boring.  I had no desire to read the next book when I finally got to the end.  

Despite not liking the story, I had no problem with it.  That is, until I started seeing it everywhere.  All over the morning news, which I watch with my kids.  On proud display at Target, just one aisle over from the coloring books.  On the beach.  Everywhere.

This was while I was in the final editing stages of my YA novel, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High, when I was deciding whether traditionally or independently publishing the book would make the most sense.  I started seeing my rejections from the traditional world from the “Fifty Shades” perspective.  “We love the story, we love the characters, but we’re not sure we can sell it,” I heard in various iterations, and it finally dawned on me why.

My book is “clean”.  No vampires, no violence, no sex.  As a parent and teacher, I think this is one of its strongest selling points.  As an agent, or as a traditional publisher, it is its weakest.

In light of this reality of selling books (go ahead and take a look at just how much erotica dominates your “bestselling” list at Barnes and Noble), I didn’t change the story. In fact, this newfound understanding helped me add to the book. Where does a book like mine belong? Possibly in a classroom, possibly in a book club.  Possibly with a group of parents who really want to read with their kids, and don’t want to have to worry about the story being “appropriate”.  I added a study guide to the back and realized that I could sell my book better than anyone in New York could.

The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High will be released March 23, 2014, along with almost 300,000 more titles this same year.  Do I have any expectations for EL James’s fortune and fame?  No. 

But as writers, we are more than the number of copies we sell.  We write what is true for us, what we feel can resonate with others.  I’m proud of the story I wrote, and will be proud to show it to my kids someday.  That is fortune enough for me.

   
 
Roseanne Cheng is a high school English teacher and author of The Take-Back of Lincoln Junior High (Wise Ink, March 2014).  Visit her website at www.teachablelit.com.



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Cover Reveal: OVER THE OCEAN by Georgia St. Mane

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Blurb:
When Bree meets Logan, and hears his oh-so-sexy British accent, it's lust at first sight.

Bree thinks Logan feels the same way, especially when they're snuggled up on her couch with his tongue down her throat. But when Logan decides that getting into a relationship when he only has a few months left in the States is a bad idea, Bree agrees to be "just friends."

But every time he flashes his swoon-worthy smile, complete with dimples, Bree has a hard time keeping her thoughts in the "friend zone."
 
 
 
 
 
 
About the author: Georgia St. Mane is married with four kids. She's passionate about writing, reading, and theater. She thinks everyone deserves their own love story. Georgia also writes YA as Rachel Schieffelbein.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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How to Write a Novel: Organizing

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So you've got your story idea, now what? Organizing a book can seem like a daunting task, but really it's organizing your thoughts that's difficult. There are three ways to approach writing:

  1. By the seat of your pants. Pantsers approach writing with a free spirit. They do little to no planning. They sit and write. Simple as that. Most new writers take this approach because they don't know how else to do it. My early novels were written in this method, and they turned out well. But it's harder. More on that in a minute.
    • If you have a general plot idea in mind, you're ready to begin.
      • Tip: In order to gain some perspective, you may want to write a short synopsis and/or query letter to refer back to while writing. These will help you stay on track.
  1. Plot. Let's be honest, no one likes this part. No one wants to spend hours filling out worksheets and writing down scenes, but this extra prep work can save you hours of staring at a blank screen, not to mention the editing.
    • Download some plotting worksheets. A quick google search will lend you several blogs/websites that offer them for free. This is what I did when I began to plot. Also, you can look back at my posts on Plot, Theme, and Summary and Character Development for some additional help.
    • The best way I've found to build chapters is by writing down scenes as they come to mind on index cards. I can then play with their sequence and see what works best before writing. These cards become the chapters in the book. When I did this, I found that I didn't spend a lot of time staring blankly at the screen. I knew what was coming next because I had a card for it.
      • Tip: Another great resource I found when learning how to plot is Writers' Digest WRITE YOUR NOVEL IN 30 DAYS. It comes with several worksheets, not to mention loads of great advice for getting started.
  1. Somewhere in-between. This is probably where most of us fit.
    • Like to plot, but also want to allow yourself enough room for the creative process? Then this is probably for you. I write general ideas of chapters, but I don't detail them. I want the characters and story to fill in the details.
    • Also, people who fall in the category aren't married to their plotting worksheets. If the story takes a new direction, so be it. Rework the sheets and continue on.
      • Tip: Experiment and find what works for you. No one's watching over you. Art is the freedom of expression, so feel free to find your own way. I'm just presenting a few possibilities to you.
Homework: Figure out which way you think will work best for you. Don't limit yourself to one way. Try them all.

Come back next week to read what to do next.

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