Writers – Trust Your Gut

Revise, Survive, Write

I wrote a chapter book. It was fun, and silly, and my gut told me I needed to make the main character a couple years older. What did I do? I told my gut to be quiet and sent the manuscript off to an agent. She loved the first three chapters and requested the full manuscript – then she passed. She loved the story, but the main character seemed… too young. ARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

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Why in the WORLD do we writers not trust our gut? It is always (and I mean, ALWAYS) right. So why do we ignore and then kick ourselves later for not listening? THEN do it all over again?

I could go down a long wordy path about why we ignore our gut, but what we all really need to know is… STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW!

thought-2123970_960_720If your gut keeps whispering an idea, listen.

If it tells you your manuscript still isn’t ready – don’t submit.

If it tells you your favorite scene is dragging your story down – cut it.

I really hate my gut sometimes. Sometimes I don’t want to hear what it has to say, but that doesn’t change that in the long run, my gut has my back and is nudging me towards a better manuscript. Yours is too – so lets give it a break, listen up and get ourselves published again.

TrustYourGut

 

 

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Twitter Game – Name that picture book: #namethatPB

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01Twitter

You’ll quickly learn that I like games. I also love those picture games where they zoom in super close and you have to guess what it is. This game mixes that idea with picture books.

Here’s how to play:

Go to the twitter hashtag #namethatPB to see how well you know your picture book illustrations! Look at the zoomed in illustrations and see if you can identify them. Reply to the tweet with your guesses and I’ll let you know if you’re right.

Ready to play?

Here’s a classic PB illustration to wet your pallet with. Comment below if you know what it is or tweet it here!

NamethatPB1

GOOD LUCK!

Stop procrastinating and start writing with one simple rule.

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typeAny other writers struggle to start writing? Once I get going, I’m good, but what I struggle with is sitting down and putting my fingers to the keyboard! How about you?

This little exercise has saved me more than once when the writing had to get done. It’s the 5-minute rule. And it’s about as simple as it comes.

Here’s how it works:

1.) Sit down to write,

2.) Set a timer for five minutes

3.) Write for at least five minutes.

That’s it!

If five minutes rolls around and you’re still not feeling it, you can quit for the day (yes… really… but that rarely happens). Most often, when the timer goes off I’m lost in a new idea, or wrapped up in a plot twist and don’t want to come out any time soon. So, I keep writing, for a lot longer than five minutes.

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Don’t believe me? Try it yourself!

The five minute rule is a great one for anything you procrastinate at. I use it with my son who hates to practice his trumpet. Works like a charm!

stopwatch-1749080_960_720If you’re struggling to actually start your writing, give this rule a try. A little investment in time almost always reaps a much more valuable chunk of writing time, because once you get going, it’s hard to stop. And honestly, what have you got to lose? Just five minutes.

Writer’s Burn Out: How to reboot and learn to love writing again.

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Being a writer can be exhausting. First, you put your heart and soul into a piece that you aren’t even sure anyone will “get.” Then you spend months, often years, trying to convince editors and publishers that they should love your characters as much as you do. And after you finally get that contract, what’s the reward for all that hard work? You get to start again. Ugh.

Most of the time, I relish in the “starting again” part; it’s new characters, a new story, a new voice to be heard, but sometimes… I’m just tired. Sometimes there’s so much else going on in my life that one more ‘NO’ makes it hard to remember why I started writing in the first place. If you can relate to that, you need this article. I’ll show you how to keep going. How to keep doing the thing that you love called writing, and how to actually start loving it again.

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Back to Basics

When your computer is dragging, pages aren’t loading right or freeze altogether, what do you do? You reboot it.

restartAbanti Sen,  from Techyuga said:

“When the computer has too many tasks to run – or a set of physical events occur in a sequence that the software writers weren’t expecting – then tasks can get “stuck” in memory. Computer scientists talk about a “deadly embrace” that occurs when task A is waiting for task B to do something, and task B is waiting for task A to do something, causing them both to get stuck.”

Writers run in to this same issue and need to reboot too to wipe away these “stuck” moments. Moments like these.

  • You sent off manuscript A and are waiting for editors A, B & C to reply. You get stuck.
  • You wrote draft A of your novel, but can’t seem to get through edit B. You’re stuck.
  • Agent A requested a copy of your manuscript, but then rejected it. You’re not confident what changes to make before sending it out to Agent B. You get stuck.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of situations that writers run in to that get us stuck. Once you know you’re stuck, you have to know how to reboot too.

How to Reboot

Find what’s making you stuck and turn it off… for awhile.

Is the submission process causing you stress and keeping you from writing consistently? Maybe it’s time to reboot by not submitting for a time. Just write.

If that’s not your stress, take some time to figure out what is causing you to get stuck and find a way to take a break from it.  Maybe it’s editing? Marketing your book? Building your platform? Or doing school visits? Keep looking ’til you find the root of your rut. The break from it doesn’t have to be long, some parts of the writing process are essential, but all of them can be sacrificed, even if can only be for a short time.

REBOOT EXERCISE

Not sure what’s making you stuck? Try this exercise. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write non-stop. Don’t worry about it being coherent. It doesn’t need to make sense. No one but you will see it. Write every thought, every word that comes in your head, answering this question: What’s hard about being a writer? When the timer goes off, read through your thoughts and you’ll find your answer in there. 

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Starting Fresh

Some times things are so out of whack that you need to start fresh. For myself, I found myself focusing all my energy in to writing picture books and text for younger children, when my heart was really in writing middle grade. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t loving writing anymore and it’s because I was forcing myself to write in a genre that wasn’t where I felt most complete.

For my reboot I gave up writing picture books all together and only wrote middle grade until I felt balanced and happy writing again.  Now I can occasionally write a short story or picture book text when it comes to me, but I always go back to my middle grade roots for the bulk of my writing time.

“If he could still sense that spark of excitement and love in their voice then he knew they’d make it.”

Remember why your started

love-771009_960_720A therapist once said they could tell if a marriage was going to survive by asking his clients to talk about how they met their spouse. If he could still sense that spark of excitement and love in their voice then he knew they’d make it. Do you still feel that about writing? If you do, don’t give up on it. Find what’s making you stuck, take a break, reboot and fall in love with writing all over again.

 

CLICK HERE: Watch Famous Authors Words of Wisdoms

 

 

Three steps to becoming a published writer

Submit, Survive, Write

Kim B. Clark, a University president, taught a principle for learning that applies perfectly for writing as well. He says, “In every major there is a Know-Do-Become pattern that applies to that field. Deep learning of this kind only comes with diligence on the part of the learner.” * He teaches, to reach the next level of learning you must conquer the one before it first.

TO KNOW

Before you can become a writer you have to know you want to become a writer. Simple? For some. But there are some people who teeter on the edge saying they’d like to write a book one day or “wouldn’t it be fun to be a writer” but haven’t made up their minds whether it’s for them or not yet.

“Do you like writing enough to write almost every day?”

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img cred: pixabay.com

If you haven’t decided yet, here are three things you need to ask yourself:

  1. Am I willing to read… a lot?
  2. Do I like writing enough to do it almost every day?
  3. Do I want to be a writer bad enough that I’m willing to make myself write, even when I’m not in the mood?

If you didn’t answer yes to all three of those questions, you need to rethink becoming a writer. The reading and writing can’t be escaped, and what’s the fun doing it if you don’t want it…bad.

TO DO

Goals are achieved in the doing. If we only spend time thinking about being a writer, or wishing we were a writer, it’s never going to happen. We have to actually do what it takes to be a writer. So what does it take?

360px-Tobey_Maguire_2014What it takes to become a writer is simple, but not easy. Let me explain. Toby Macquire sat on Oprah Winfrey’s couch for an interview. She asked what his weight loss secret was when becoming Spiderman. He leaned forward, crooking his finger ’til she leaned in too, then whispered, “I exercised and ate right.” She sat back and laughed. He assured her that really was all he did. Writing is no different. All you have to do is read a lot and write a lot. That’s it! But like weight loss, sticking with the routine, until you get the results you want, is the hardest part.

“What it takes to become a writer is simple, but not easy.”

For me, having a community of other writers keeps me doing my writing. What motivates you to keep writing? Maybe it’s watching videos on writing or reading blogs and articles online, like this one? What about reading books that inspire you? Whatever it is, find what works for you and keep doing your writing and submitting your writing until you become a published writer.

TO BECOME

Every writer’s goal is to one day become a published writer. But you can’t become a published writer writer until you first know you want to be a writer and then do the work that gets you there.

Stephen King put it simply:

“If you want to be a writer you have to do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Stephen_King_Signature

Like any farmer will tell you, you can’t reap the harvest unless you know what you’re planting, and then do the work to help your crop grow. If you want to become a writer and harvest the fruits of your labors, you have to work.

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On the bright side, when you know you want to be a writer, you’ll also want to do the “doing” part. There’s a reason we want to be writers, writing is magical. Sure, there’ll be days you don’t want to. If you can push through the days you’re not in the mood and do it anyway you’ll reach the next level of becoming a published writer eventually. And is there really any better job in the whole wide world? I don’t think so.

Learn to speak like a writer. Click here for our writing lingo guide.

Need a laugh? Watch this day in the life of author, Rachel Hollis.

WRITING TIP: Eat your veggies and your criticism too.

Revise, Survive, Write

When I bring dinner to the table, it’s not the chicken nuggets my eight year gets old excited about, it’s the veggies. Peas? She squeals. Carrots? She sighs. Mix those two together and I’m afraid she might faint from all the excitement. No, she’s not normal, and I love her for it. We, as writers, could learn a thing or two from her too.

Criticism of our writing is like eating veggies. It’d be great if all anyone ever gave us was the sweet stuff, but the fluffy compliments don’t help us grow. It’s the straightforward criticism that helps us change and improve. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow. Sometimes it makes us cry (that’s what my other kids do when the veggies come to the table), but we need it.

So, the next time someone dishes you up a big plate of criticism, plug your nose and take a big bite. You might learn to appreciate it – maybe even look forward to it, like my daughter does with her veggies. Then again, maybe not. But you won’t know ’til you try.

 

 

Famous Author’s Words of Wisdom

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While I’m glued to my computer for my day job, I enjoy listening to author interviews. Their thoughts are inspiring and motivating – especially if you’re a writer too.

I was captivated by J.K. Rowling’s interview with Oprah (see below). If you have 45 minutes it’s worth the watch (or listen, like I did). If not, I’ve included links to some shorter videos with other famous children’s authors.

Be warned, you’re gonna want to write after listening to a few.


J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series)
 (41:58)

She is the ultimate rags to riches story. One of my favorite things about her is her ability to remember what life was like before fame and to not lose sight of that. So refreshing!

Jon Scieszka (True Story of the Three Little Pigs) (13:42)

What a funny guy. I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts on reading and boys – how they struggle to read more than girls. I just enjoyed this interview in general, his happiness is contagious.

Jerry Spinelli (Maniac Magee, Stargirl) (14:45)

I enjoy Spinelli’s writing style – so I was eager to hear his interview. I loved that hated reading the required reading in school because I always struggled with that as well.

Beverly Cleary (Ramona and Beezus) (14:38)

Beverly was a children’s librarian before becoming an author. She got in to writing because the children weren’t satisfied with the books that were available. She never received a rejection letter – ever!

 Lois Lowry (The Giver) (16:09)

Lois Lowry dropped out of college and finished after he children were all in school. She never submitted a story formally. She was approached by an editor and asked to try writing a story for children – which turned in to her first novel.

Mo Willems (Elelphant and Piggie, Pigeon) (4:40)

Mo fell into writing almost by accident, but man am I glad he did. I LOVE the Elephant Piggie series.

Katherine Paterson (Author of Bridge to Terabithia) (11:18)

She stresses the importance of reading as an author. She also talks about the real life death that inspired the book The Bridge to Terabithia.

Kate DiCamillo (Author of Because of Winn-Dixie, Mercy Watson) (4:37)

Kate says she loves to finish stories but doesn’t actually love to write them. Each morning she has to convince herself to get the writing done. Man, I can relate to that some days.

What motivates you to write? Comment below.

Surviving Rejection

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Rejection is an ugly beast that you have to confront many, many times in your writing career. How you defeat it and hush its monstrous roar is up to you. I calm mine with loud music I can’t help but sing too, like Adele.

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Maybe yours is a walk, or a gallon of cookies and cream ice cream. Whatever it takes to put your beast to bed, do it, then wipe the ice cream dribble off your chin and get back to writing.

Rejection’s only rejection if you quit.

And we don’t quit.

Writing Terms – what’s it all mean?

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When I started writing, one of those most confusing things was figuring out the lingo. I read articles about getting published and had to research more just to understand what “query” meant and to see if my manuscript was “unsolicited” or not. So, for you other confused souls I’m here to help.

Here’s some terms writers should know.

Agent: Your new best friend. These are bookworms turned contract signing ninjas! (Okay, so really, they help you polish and submit your work to publishers for a small cut of your earnings). If you’re serious about writing you’ll need one, eventually. Avoid agents who charge reading fees. That’s a no-no. Agents should never charge to read your stuff.

Author: You. Yes, you can call yourself that.

Contract: THE JACKPOT! This is a magical sheet of paper that says the publisher liked your book enough to make millions of copies! Maybe not millions but that’s what it feels like when you sign your first one. In reality it’s a legal contract you have to sign before a publisher can print your book. It outlines pay and copyright terms. Most exciting kind of boring paperwork you’ll ever sign!

Cover Letter: Short, simple, but catchy intro to your story and yourself that attaches to your manuscript when submitting. 

Editor: The big-wig, head honcho at the publishing company (or magazine, or website). You should know their name when you submit your stuff to them. People like it when you know their names, and editors… they’re people too.

Literary Agent: I once thought an agent and literary agent were two different things. They’re not. Don’t be an idiot like me. (see “Agent”)

Manuscript: The printed, or digital final draft of your story. Ya, that one – that took you 7 years to finish. It is glorious.

Publishing House: The big (sometimes little) company that prints your book. Here’s a nice list of some.

Query or Query Letter: Let’s call it a sample idea. Like those Costco taste testers that tempt you with little bites, a query letter is an idea you think might interest an editor. You give them a quick summary of the idea, and they let you know whether they’d be interested in seeing your writing about that. No guarantee they’ll publish your work, just a good way to get a feel for what editors wants. Mostly used for magazine and online content.

Self-Published: Traditionally, this is when you cut out the middle guy, skip the publisher all together and create and print copies of your book at your own expense. This side of the writing industry used to have a bad rep but is constantly evolving. This form of publishing is far more accepted now. Google it to see what’s new.

Slush Pile: That big, ugly inbox that holds all the manuscripts that editors have to work through and accept or reject.

Submission / Submit:  The scary act of mailing or emailing your manuscript to an editor (then restraining yourself from obsessively checking for a reply – they take forever to reply).

Unsolicited: You’ll sometimes see this as “unsolicited manuscripts” or “unsolicited work” it all means the same thing, it’s writing you submit all by your lonesome, without an agent. Most writers get their start here.

Writing Contract: Like with literary agent, I thought writing contract was different than contract. They’re not. Apparently I struggle when you add a second word to one I already know. Don’t judge me. (see “Contract”)

Hopefully this little guide will help you have more confidence in the writing world. It’s not as scary as it sounds, and writers, editors and illustrators are some of the nicest people you’ll ever work with.

Keep plugging away at those writing goals! And follow me for more tips and motivation!