There are few books that make me take pause and re-evaluate my career choice.  It happened only once before, in fact.  When I read the Harry Potter books, it delayed my pursuit of writing for at least six months.  I thought, 'I will never be able to do THAT.'  But still, I forged ahead.  I've learned A LOT since then.  Grown in ways I never would have dreamed possible.  

I read MOCKINGJAY yesterday.  Again those feelings of inadequacy surfaced.  But this time I have a different attitude.  I promise myself here and now that I will spend the rest of my career working to produce something I feel is worthy to share shelf-space with The Hunger Games Trilogy.

I didn't set out looking for this.  I merely picked up the book I was excited to read.  I guess you never know when and where inspiration will hit.  

Check it out!

 Curious about what kind of supernatural creatures the rich and famous really are? Then check out my Monday post on my fictional blog and let me know what you think!

How Do You Know You're a Writer?

How do you know you are meant to write?

1.  You can't not write.
If you stop, for even a day, your antsy.  You feel like the walls are closing in.  Like everyone around you is extra annoying for no particular reason.  You can't concentrate and you keep fantasizing and day-dreaming about stories you want to share.

2.  You aren't looking for the fast-track to easy money.
You might have been deluded enough at the outset to think you would end up free and easy, living the good life like Stephenie Meyer.  But, now that you know better, now that you understand you probably will never be able to "quit your day job," you STILL want to do it.

3.  You think of your characters like they're you own personal friends.
You're out shopping and you find a dress that would never fit you, but you think to yourself, 'you know, my MC would look great in that.  It's exactly the kind of thing she would wear to attract attention.'  Or you laugh when your husband suggests sushi, because you know your MC would never touch the stuff.

4.  Your idea of a great vacation is a writer's retreat.
You're going to Hawaii and instead of being excited about the para-sailing or snorkeling, you're psyched because you might finally get some undisturbed time to sit on the beach and get some writing done.

5.  You love Twitter Chats
It's Wednesday evening and you've got your laptop all set up near a glass of merlot, ready to go for YAlitchat.  The rest of the family knows better than to disturb such an important, standing appointment.  Of course, yesterday was Kidlitchat and tomorrow is Scribechat, but still!

Write What You Love

So I hear discussions all the time about knowing the market.  Following trends.  All that sort of rubbish.  Well, here are my answers to the usual questions:

1.  What if I write a book and I can't sell it because it isn't what editors are looking for?

A:  WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE.  If it is done well, it will grab the attention it deserves.

2.  I love Vampires and Dystopian stuff, but the market is so saturated so I'm writing a book about winged goblins instead.

A:  WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE.  There's no way to predict the market by the time you are through with the process.  So instead focus on giving a new slant to the old and - dare I say it - writing it well!

3.  I hear teens want sex in their books these days, so I'm throwing some in.

A:  WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE.  If the story calls for it, fine.  If you're throwing it in to be gratuitous, chances are you aren't writing it because you are passionate about it.

4.  I really want to work with editor X at Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins, Penguin, etc...  So I'm copying the style of her last book.

A:  WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE.  Otherwise you'll come off as a copycat and unoriginal.  That editor already worked on that book.  

5.  I have the best gimmick for my book!  You need 3D glasses to read it...

A:  WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE.  In this case it sounds like you'd be better suited to inventing.  

Do you all see a pattern here??  I do.  So the best words of wisdom I have to offer you are these:


Blogs I follow

So I follow quite a few blogs.  Again mostly on Blogger which is why I barely promote this little blog.  BUT, I thought today I would list the few blogs that I try to check out almost every day.  

Adventures in Children's Publishing by Martina and Marissa - so nice and so chock full of unbelievably useful info!

Stir Your Tea by Tahereh (T.H. Mafi)  - She is bubbly enough to cheer just about anyone up and make you smile!

Heather McCorkle - She's got a great combo of useful info, personality and you can't help but keep your fingers crossed for her on her own journey. 

Lisa and Laura Write - No not just because of one of the sister's names.  They have some seriously magnetic personalities!

So go check them out!  I bet you'll love 'em as much as I do.

Short Stories and Poems - To Write or Not To Write

I've seen it debated whether or not it is worth it for writers to publish for smaller markets like magazines.  Personally, I don't understand what the down side is.  Writing short stories and or poems does the following:

1.  Allows you to practice with plot, character and dialogue without having to put as much investment in.

2.  It gives you the opportunity to build publishing credits.  This is huge.  When you are facing that dreaded bio paragraph in your query, you will have something to put down that directly relates and shows that you might know what you're doing.  It could be enough to put you over the edge when weeding through the slushpile.

3.  You might make a little moola.  Not a ton.  But, enough that you can feel more "legitimate."  I know many writers who worry about this before they have an agent or publication.  

4.  It can boost your self-confidence.  Knowing that editors like your work.  That you are published.  It could just give you that extra boost you need to make the next move.  The one you've been avoiding, like querying for example.

5.  It is a nice feeling to see your name in print.  Even if it's online.  I'm not embarrassed to say I printed out the pdf of my first publication (a poem for Stories for Children Magazine) and framed it.  I'll get a smile on my face whenever I look at it - whether I end up on the best seller list, the unemployment office (what's the writer's equivalent?) or somewhere in between.

So - now that I've done my lecture for the day.  Here are a couple of resources you might be interested in if you are interested in pursuing this type of publication:

Duotrope - you enter the info about the piece you've written and it helps point you to the right market. 

Kid Magazine Writers - a resource that lists almost all magazine markets w/links and info for children's writers

Rebel Books - they are doing a Faerie Anthology for Young Adults and the submission deadline is August so get crackin!

What Not to Do

So often we hear all the ways to make our story better.  Characterization.  Plot.  Motivation.  World building.  Dialogue.  Pacing.  You get the idea.  But, what I find interesting is the amount of "rules" on what not to do.  I guess the idea is that newbies (and even some not so newbies) tend to make the same mistakes.  The thing is, for every rule there is an exception.  So, you as a writer, have to decide what to take and what to leave behind.  The trick, I think, is to find where it is ABSOLUTELY necessary.  I mean if you cut this thing out will the manuscript still be strong?  If yes, then cut it.  Period.  No "but I like it" nonsense.  On the other hand, if you can't live without this one thing and would stay up crying because you had to leave it out, well, then, keep it!

Here are some of those no-nos as I see them.  Go ahead and prove me wrong.  I'm good with that.  :)

1.  Adverbial dialogue tags:  I am guilty here.  It's a hard habit to break and every once in a while, well...  It all goes to the show don't tell adage.  

2.  Don't follow the trends:  I mean it.  But, wait!  You say.  You write about vampires, Lisa!  So true.  I do.  But, I don't write to trends.  There is a big difference between writing what you love and writing what you think will impress someone.  Write what you love.  You won't see me doing a dystopian anytime soon.  At least not until I find the kind that excites me to the point I can't hold it in.  That's what I'm talking about.

3.  Don't use stereotypes:  Fine.  You want a blonde cheerleader who is extremely perky.  But what if she also happens to be valedictorian?  Or maybe <gasp> she's really not a blonde!  Maybe she's Indian.  

4.  To Be or Not To Be:  Get rid of those boring verbs.  Take a look.  How many do you have?  Was.  Was.  Was.  Is. Is. Is.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Use action verbs.  To be is fine also, but only in moderation and where it will have an impact.  Where can it have an impact?  if you don't know, then you should use it sparingly.

5.  Don't send out anything less than perfect:  I know it seems obvious.  But, really?  You've been over it so many times your eyes hurt.  You don't want to read anymore.  Your critique group has only gotten as far as chapter 12, but you get what they're saying.  You just can't wait anymore...  YES.  You can.  You'll regret it later when the agent says "It started out great, but the ending fizzled out."  What if you sent it and then you realize there's a typo on page 212?  OMG!!  It's okay.  I doubt that will make or break you.

Well, these are just a few, but if you avoid them overall, you'll find your writing has automatically improved.  Then you can go on to work out the other issues, making sure the final work of art is in harmonious balance with the universe.

I just can't stop myself

I tried.  I really did.  I tried to give up this blog and let my fictional blog suffice.  But every once in a while I just get the muse, you know?  

So here it is.  I started reading this book for my book club the other day and you know what?  I couldn't read it.  I knew going in that it wasn't my usual genre.  Beyond that - gasp - it was for grown ups.  But everyone says read outside your genre, so I figured here's a good opportunity.  

Well, it wasn't that the plot was no good or that the writing itself wasn't engaging.  It was that from page one I wanted so bad to pick up the red pen and start marking it up like a critique!  At first, I thought I was being harsh.  But by chapter five, I was pretty sure what I was dealing with.  So I checked.  Yep.  I was right.  It was self-published.

Now, I'm not knocking self-publishing as a whole so don't get your panties in a bunch.  But I think this illustrates one of the major drawbacks.  No editor!  The guy was clearly a good writer.  But he kept making mistakes like repeating the same thing three ways in the same paragraph, saying "the irony did not escape her" to which I thought 'yeah it didn't escape me either, so stop pointing it out,' and I was drowning in adverbial dialogue tags.  I mean like every sentence.  

I'm going to say something now that should be obvious, but is something we can tend to forget or not even pay attention to as writers:


There.  I said it.  When you put a great writer with a great editor, magic can happen.  That's why it's so hard to get published in the traditional sense.  Editors are important.  Not just because they can help get your book published either.  It's because they provide a necessary service.