Just wanted to remind you, yes again (because I really really REALLY don't want you guys missing out on any of the Monday awesomeness!) - there are two places you DEFINITELY want to head to on Monday.
1. Steena Holmes's blog for an awesome logline/hook line blogfest - with prizes! She has been posting some really helpful posts all week long about how to write these little babies - so you might want to head over now and get some polishing tips because....
2. The Operation Awesome blog has something epically fun and potentially career changing that you MUST checkout...and you might just need a shiny, polished one-line pitch for a certain Mystery Agent who just might be stopping by to collect them *whistles innocently* Okay, so that wasn't exactly subtle :D MYSTERY AGENT CONTEST COMING YOUR WAY! :D Don't miss it!
Have a good weekend everyone! I'll be posting over on the OA blog tomorrow, so stop by and see me :)
SO MARK MONDAY ON YOUR CALENDARS!!!!!! It's going to be a blast! :D
Last night's chat with Elana was a complete BLAST!!! Loads of good info and lots of laughs too :) If you missed it, you can view the transcripts over at the Operation Awesome Blog. Thank you so much to all who participated, and a HUGE thanks to Elana! She not only came and spread her awesomeness, she even stayed for an extra half hour. You are sheer AWESOME Elana, no doubt about it :)
Today on the Operation Awesome Blog we have an interview with the fabulous Janice Hardy! Janice is stopping by as part of her blog tour for the second book in her Healing Wars trilogy, BLUE FIRE. She is dishing about fantasy and what makes it so awesome. Be sure to stop by and say hi!!
Also today, Theresa Milstein is hosting a fun Halloween Haunting on her blog Substitute Teacher's Saga - stop by for a chance to win some awesome signed books and haunt a few blogs :D
COMING UP! Monday - don't forget to head to Steena Holmes's blog for a Logline/Hook line Blogfest!! Get those loglines/hook lines polished up!!!
And for a little funny, as it is Friday - check out Operation Awesome's Kristal Shaff in her How to (not) Write a Query video :D Hilarious! CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO
In honor of our query talk tonight, I thought I'd repost an article I did last year on How to Write a Non-Fiction Query. Elana will be addressing fiction (which I know most people who read this blog write) but in case there are a few of my non-fiction peeps hanging in the wings, here's a little something for you :)
And for everyone, no matter what genre you write, DO NOT MISS this awesome opportunity to get all your query questions answered by the woman who literally wrote the book on the subject. (Seriously, she did, and it is AWESOME...you can buy it HERE) :D
Now, for non-fiction queries, even though the elements are similar to a fiction query, it's just a whole different angle of pitching your book. So, here goes.
What to include in your non-fiction query:
1. Your lead/hook
Just like in a fiction query, your opening paragraph should hook the editor or agent into wanting to find out more. But you also need to clearly state what the book is about. With fiction, sometimes you might leave out some details in order to entice your audience into wanting to read more. But with non-fiction, publishers generally buy the book before it's even written based on your proposal. They need to know specifically what is in your book in order for them to want more, so get right to the point. Don't save the best for last. Start with your strongest material. You could start off saying something like, "In a recent NYT article, it was reported that over 60% of Americans are dying to buy my book." :D You could also use a strong anecdote or comparison.
2. Supporting Material
This is where you back up your thesis (the idea for the book). You could add some preliminary details that you've researched. This is also where you would state why your book should exist. What is the need for it? Maybe mention the strong market for it. Will your book help millions of students pass their math classes? Say so. Will it teach all those frustrated mothers how to deal with fussy children? Point that out. Are the skateboarding teenagers of the world crying out for a book on cool stickers to decorate their boards with? Well this is the book they've been waiting for!!
Sell your idea and back up your claims. Just make sure you do it in a page or less :D
3. Author Bio
As in fiction, this is where you toot your own horn as loud as you can. But make sure the material is relevant. The editors and agents don't need to know how many kids you have or what kind of dog you have, unless your book is about training kids or dogs :D Do you have any publishing credits? Put them in! Degrees, special training courses relevant to your book, any other experiences that prove why you are the best person to be writing this book? Put it in! You want to show them why you are qualified to write the book you are proposing, why you are the best one for the job. So any relevant credentials you have, be they educational, professional, or real world experiences, should be included.
Use strong closing statements to finish off your query. Don't be shy about stating clearly what you are looking for. "I am seeking representation for this book. I look forward to your response." Don't use phrases like "I hope you like this," "I hope I'll hear from you soon." Keep it strong and confident. And be sure to thank them for their time. Being polite never hurts :)
And it is always a good idea to have a writer friend or three look over your query before you send it to help catch those embarrassing typos we all make. :)
When you are writing your query keep in mind these two things: what is the need and how does your book address that need?
This is your selling point - this is what will make a publisher buy your book. With my book, I pointed out how many students were in this country (with actual statistics), pointed out that every single one of them had to take Language Arts classes where they would be expected to write essays, and then I pointed out how much trouble the vast majority of these students have with this task.
I mentioned how other guidebooks out there tend to be too technical, hard to understand, and just plain boring and how this does nothing but further confuse and frustrate students. And then I zinged in with how my book was going to change all this. I pointed out the ways in which my book was different, mentioned specifically everything my book would contain (step-by-step instructions on how to write over a dozen different types of essays, including the SAT essay; rough draft, edited, and final copy examples of each type of essay; tips on researching, citing sources, and proofreading).
I followed it up with my bio - and since this was a weak section for me, I made sure to list EVERYTHING that could help show why I was the best person to write this book....my degrees, my personal experience with helping people with writing, my experience with my blogs, and the publications in the Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
And it worked :)
Please join us at over at Operation Awesome tonight! Bring your query questions and take notes! See you there :)
REMINDERS: Tomorrow's the day!!! Join us tomorrow night at 9 pm EST on the Operation Awesome Blog for a live chat on queries with the fabulous Elana Johnson!
And next week, Monday November 1st, join in a Logline Blogfest hosted by Steena Holmes - check out her post HERE for details :) See my post from yesterday HERE for help with writing loglines/hook lines.
All right, NaNoWriMo is literally just around the corner. Who's playing this year? *raises hand*
Once again, I'm going to attempt it. Now the last two years I ended up moving in November (yes, both years...I move a lot) :D In 2008, I was just moving into a new house (literally, we moved in Nov 1), and in 2009, I was packing because we were moving out of our house in Dec.
And guess what, there is a very small, slight possibility we might just be moving again....in November....AGAIN. Argh. We haven't decided if we want to keep renting the lovely house we are in now, or buy a place near by. If we do buy, we'll be moving next month. Oy.
However, I do have a laptop this year, so there is really no excuse for not being able to participate, moving or not. Right? Riiiiiight ;-)
I haven't been able to use my little potato man word counter much since I've been editing instead of writing new material, but I think I'll break him out for NaNo :D Here he is in case you haven't seen him before:
I have him sleeping right now, as we haven't started yet, but you can make him do different things :D Very fun widget. Head to Writertopia if you want to snag him :)
And here's a link to some gorgeous NaNo wallpaper calendars. I've used the big manor house one the last two years. I think I might go Old World this year...though there is just something about that manor house pic that I LOVE. Plus it fits my story...I might need to print some of these out and just have a bunch of calendars all over the walls :D
Ooo and here's the link to the thread on the NaNo site where everyone posts calendars. I've just spent 30 minutes there, downloaded 6 of them, and still don't know which one I want to use :D *sigh*
Does anyone else have any links to fun NaNo stuff? Calendars, wallpapers, word count widgets, etc? Does anyone have a calendar that has the funny sayings on every day? :D
Come friend me if you are playing along this year! I'm michellemclean over there :D
So, since we've got a fun logling blogfest coming up, I thought I'd repost a post I did last year on How to Write a Logline/Hookline.
It is important to remember that every story is different. Some will need a little more information, and others can get the point across in three words or less. Well…maybe a few more than three words, but you get my drift.
First of all, what is a hook line/logline?
A hook line is exactly what it sounds like – a line that will hook someone into wanting to read your book. It is basically the same thing as a logline, which is a one line summary of a screenplay or script (I'll use the terms interchangeably so just go with it) :) They can run two or three lines, but no more than that.
Why do you need one?
Your hook line, like a logline, takes a story full of complex plotlines and high-concept ideas and breaks it down into a simple sentence that can be quickly and easily conveyed to a wide range of people. Your hook line is your first pitch in getting someone interested in your book. It can be used as the first line in your query letter, to help hook the agent into reading the rest of the letter and requesting information. And it is especially useful for those pitch sessions at conferences or lunches. When a prospective agent or editor asks you what your book is about, your hook line is your answer. Because it is a simple line or two, it is also handy for those family dinner parties when Grandma asks what your book is about.
How do you create a hook line/logline?
This is actually easier than it sounds. You do not need to condense your entire book into one sentence. But you do need to give enough information that the agent/editor/curious acquaintance you are addressing gets the gist of your book and is interested enough to want more.
Elements of a Hook Line
• Characters – Who is the main character? What does that main character want? What is his/her main goal?
• Conflict – Who is the villain of the story? Or what is the main obstacle to the main character obtaining their goal?
• Distinction – What makes your book different then all the rest? What is the unique element of your story that makes it stand out? Is your book a romance between a young man and woman? What makes them different?
• Setting – for a novel, adding a little about the setting, time period, and possibly genre (if it’s not obvious) is a good idea. For example, the hook line for my book, which is an historical romantic suspense, could begin “A young woman in Victorian England…”.
• Action – Your hook line needs to have action, excitement. For example, which hook line catches your interest more?
1. A woman has an affair and runs off with her new beau.
2. A neglected wife and mother has a torrid affair with an ex-con and kidnaps her children as she flees across the country with her lover.
The difference is the inclusion in the second example of action and description words. The woman becomes a “neglected wife and mother.” She has a “torrid” affair. The beau is an “ex-con,” implying a world of danger and crime. She doesn’t just run off, she “flees,” kidnapping her children in the process.
Here are a few examples of loglines from well known movies. (Yes, I know we are creating hook lines for a book, but the concept is the same, and examples of loglines are easier to find). :D
• When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an insane and corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. (Gladiator)
• In a future where criminals are arrested before the crime occurs, a cop struggles on the lam to prove his innocence for a murder he has not yet committed. (Minority Report)
• A 17th Century tale of adventure on the Caribbean Sea where the roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow joins forces with a young blacksmith in a gallant attempt to rescue the Governor of England's daughter and reclaim his ship. (Pirates of the Caribbean)
• A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love, must outwit her abusive fiancé, and find a way to survive aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea. (Titanic)
• A comedic portrayal of a young and broke Shakespeare who falls in love with a woman, inspiring him to write "Romeo and Juliet. (Shakespeare in Love)
• An archeologist is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
For your own hook line, you need to decide which elements best convey what your story is about. It is interesting to see how adding different elements affects a hook line. For example, take a look at these two movie loglines.
1. After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home. (logline by Brian A. Klems, found at http://blog.writersdigest.com/qq/What+Is+A+Logline.aspx)
2. Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again. (Log Line attributed to Richard Polito of the Marin Independent Journal, who writes humorously sarcastic briefs for the paper's daily TV listings)
Both of these loglines are for the film Wizard of Oz, but they each give the film a distinctly different tone. Personally I like the second one best :D but the first probably gives a better idea of what the film is about.
It might take a little while to get your hook line perfected, but if you stick to the main elements of your story (the main character, the villain or conflict, what is unique about your story, and spice it up with a little action), your hook line should almost write itself. Just to show you that ANYONE can do this, (because if I can do it, anyone can), the hook line for one of my books is below.
A young woman in Victorian England is swept into an illicit affair with a semi-reformed thief and must find a legendary necklace to ransom their lives from a corrupt lord.
Can you spot the elements?
• Characters – a young woman and her love interest who is a semi-reformed thief.
• Conflict – a corrupt lord (the villain) is threatening her life and the life of her love interest unless she can find a legendary necklace.
• Distinction – my story is not just a romance, but has a big dose of suspense and mystery thrown in. The love interest is not a typical man but a thief, and while the romance comes in with the affair, it is an “illicit” affair (implying something out of the ordinary, something forbidden).
• Setting – Victorian England. And the description of the story gives obvious clues to the genre – young woman = YA; Victorian England = historical; illicit affair = romance; a treasure hunt/mystery and lives threatened = suspense….Genre = YA historical romantic suspense (though that is really long LOL In queries, I would either say YA historical or YA romantic suspense and let the blurb get the other elements across).
• Action – instead of saying my story is about a girl and guy who fall in love and search for a necklace, I describe the love story as an “illicit affair;” the necklace is “legendary,” the lord is “corrupt,” the love interest is “a semi-reformed thief.”
All these little elements help make the hook line more exciting, more interesting. And that is what will help hook the interest of potential agents, publishers, and readers.
Now you try :D And be sure to head to Steena's blog for details on the blogfest! :)
UPCOMING EVENTS: Thursday at 9 pm EST - Live Chat About Queries With Elana Johnson on the OA Blog!!
Monday Nov 1st - Logline Blogfest judged by me :D Head to Steena Holmes's Chocolate Reality for details!!
Time for the old blog and chain ;-) This round's topic was chosen by the marvelous Michelle Hickman, who wants to know:
If you could dine with any author, and I do mean any whether alive or dead (yes, we're going into the realms of time travel - but hey, we have science fiction writers on this chain so we can always ask for them to write up the time machine specs), who would you want to dine with? And if you can ask them for advice on one writing element you feel you might be struggling at, what would it be?
Good question :D
While there are quite a few authors I would LOVE to sit and chat with, I think I'd really have to pick Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain). Holy cow, just going by his quotes, he'd be an absolute riot to hang out with. To be honest, I don't think I'd ask him anything specific (he's already shared a ton of sweet writerly tidbits -see below). I'd just sit back and soak up his awesomeness.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from him:
Only presidents, editors and people with tapeworm have the right to use the editorial "we."
When you catch an adjective, kill it.
Don't say the old lady screamed - bring her on and let her scream.
All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.
I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.
Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
See why I love the man :D
Be sure to go back to Laura's blog and see who she wants to hang with and catch Shaun's tomorrow to see whose brain he'd like to pick :)
Today's Oh So True And Totally Funny Video brought to you by the ever Awesome Jackson Pearce - if you don't already follow her blog or subscribe to her youtube videos, you sooooo should! Oh, and buy her books too :D
And Reminder!!!! Entries for the Operation Awesome Blog contest close tomorrow! If you haven't posted a comment on my Sunday post from here or at OA, do it today! Or...tomorrow :D
UPDATE! We are up to 31 new followers on the OA blog which means I'm up to giving away 6.2 books! I'm not sure how to deal with the .2 part yet...lol and here's how much I over think and over complicate things...I'm thinking anything between .1 and .4 will get 6 (for example) books and an interesting pamphlet of some sort, .5 to .7 will get 6 books and a novella or collection of short stories, and .8 or .9 will get rounded up to a 7th book :D
It is worth mentioning…that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time…Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned.Determination not to give in…keep one at it more than anything.
— Virginia Woolf
Reminder! Two more days to enter the Operation Awesome celebration contest. Enter by following OA and leaving a comment on THIS POST or THIS ONE. Winner will be announced on Sunday on both blogs.
(REMINDER: Stop by the Operation Awesome Blog and become a follower for a chance to win a ton of books and a possible gift certificate! We are up to 4.6 books that I'm giving away already! (I will of course round up to the nearest book since I wouldn't want to send someone just part of a book) ;-) To enter, be or become a follower on the OA Blog and leave a comment on THIS POST or THIS ONE on my blog. Contest ends Saturday!)
One of my favorite quotes on writing is from Steve Martin, who said:
I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.
I think we, as writers, can get so caught up in the revising and querying and never-ending quest for perfection in our work, that we don't give ourselves the credit we deserve for accomplishing the huge task of actually WRITING.
Before I actually sat down and tried to write a novel, I had no idea the amount of work that went into it. I had this idea in my head that I'd sit at my computer for a month or two, crank out the novel, go through it a couple times to check for typos, and that would be it. I'd have an incredible book ready for publication. So when I finished my first book, it was a huge celebration. I was so excited. I felt so PROUD.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd spend weeks, months, and even YEARS agonizing over the exact right word. I had no clue that there were all these little "rules" I should follow, like trying not to use adverbs, finding ways around using the passive "was", cutting unnecessary dialogue tags, swearing off info dumps, building story and character arcs, and on and on and on.
I knew how to write. I've always been good at writing. But I had no real idea how to CRAFT my stories.
The problem was, now that I knew that writing a story involves so much more than just WRITING a story, I began to focus on everything I still needed to do instead of giving my self credit for what I had already done. Sure, I still got an excited thrill writing THE END on a first draft. But part of me was heaving a big sigh as well, because I knew it was just the beginning.
Yes, my first drafts are generally nothing more than guidelines for the "real" book that will be revealed after I cut or rewrite nearly everything. But I need to remember how AWESOME it is that I can get a first draft out at all. There are so many people out there who sit down to write a novel who quit four chapters in. Or who finish the book but never look at it again, never revise it, never edit, never rewrite over and over again.
And most of the writers I meet do this. They focus on everything they still need to do, which is good and necessary, but we need to remember to give ourselves a little pat on the back for accomplishing the massive task of taking a huge stack of blank paper and turning it into an amazing possibility.
Do you do this? Do you forget to give yourself credit for your accomplishments?
Your task today - give yourself a pat on the back...'cause you know you deserve one :)
(REMINDER: Stop by the Operation Awesome Blog and become a follower for a chance to win a ton of books and a possible gift certificate! We are up to almost 4 books that I'm giving away already! To enter, be or become a follower on the OA Blog and leave a comment on THIS POST or THIS ONE. Contest ends Saturday!)
One thing that is just as important in non-fiction as in fiction is a beginning. No matter what you are writing, whether it be a paper on the history of plumbing or a fast-paced thriller novel, you've got to get your beginning right.
Beginnings should introduce the topic at hand, let the reader know what they are about to read. Are you writing an essay on the history of donuts? You better have a thesis sentence in your opening paragraphs that lets the reader know that right up front. Or maybe you're writing a romantic suspense novel. Somewhere in that first chapter, the reader should what type of book they are reading. Meaning, that beginning needs to introduce both the romance and the suspense.
This doesn't mean you need to lay all your cards out on the table. For non-fiction, you usually are more open about what you are discussing, but even here you can hold back a little, give the reader a hint of what your arguments are, but save your big slamdunk winning evidence for the body of the essay or paper. (Though for non-fiction, you'll generally want to list your arguments from strongest to weakest instead of saving the best for last).
And for fiction, you can definitely keep a few surprises in store. But by the end of the first chapter, the reader should know what the main problem is, the issue the MC will be struggling with throughout the book, and by extension, they should know what type of book they are reading. For example, if by the end of the first chapter, the MC, who is a titled young lady who lives in Victorian England, has met a cute boy and seen a ghost, I have a pretty good idea it's going to be a paranormal historical with at least a hint of romance.
Beginnings can be difficult to nail and are something I always struggle with, especially in fiction. My first chapter NEVER ends up being my "real" first chapter. For non-fiction this isn't as much of an issue because you can, and should, come right out and say "this is what I'm discussing and here are my main arguments."
But it can still be difficult to get that opening exactly right. In fact, while in line edits with my soon-to-be-published book on writing essays and term papers, my editor and I ended up adding a whole new first chapter...because there was important information my readers need that I had buried in the middle of the book instead of showcasing right from the start.
So take your time on your beginnings. The beginning is what hooks your reader, no matter what genre you may be writing. It's worth it to get it right.
How do you do with beginnings? Are they easy for you, or do you, (like me), spend more time on them than the rest of the book put together? :)
Well, it's Monday morning and I'm fighting off a cold...and have every intention of going back to bed as soon as I hit Publish on this post :D So, since my brain is a haze of nothingness at the moment, I thought I'd do a rundown of some important things coming up.
1. Don't forget to head to the Operation Awesome Blog and become a follower for a chance to win 10 of my gently loved books and possibly a $20 gift certificate! Be sure to leave a comment on the post from yesterday either here or at OA. We are already up to 11 new followers which means I'm giving away at least 2 books so far.
2. Since my book release date is creeping ever closer (eep!) annnnd since it comes right after the holidays, I decided I should probably start getting my epic celebrations organized. If you'd be interested in hosting me on my blog tour, please email me at authormichellemclean(at)yahoo(dot)com. I will have swag items and signed copies of books to giveaway along with the interview, guest post, review, or whatever you'd like to do with me :)
3. Vote on the poll listed on the sidebar ---> I want to get an idea of what kinds of prize swag everyone would like to win. We are going to have some fun people, F.U.N.! :D
4. Has anybody read any good books lately? I am actually going to make my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge this year (woohooo!) I read more than 52 books last year, but since I reread four or five very long series, I couldn't count those. I'm reading Rick Riordan's The Lost Hero right now and then I'm heading to the bookstore, so I need some suggestions! :D
And now, I must crash :) Have a happy Monday everyone!
Today is my very first day posting over at the Operation Awesome blog. Come over and say hi!!! :) I can't tell you how excited I am to join this awesome bunch of ladies. So to celebrate, I thought I'd do a little giveaway :)
I'd love for all my wonderful readers here to get to know my new crit and blogging buddies, and according to my husband my bookshelves are in serious danger of collapsing, and we have no room for another one, sooooo, here's what I've come up with:
For every 5 new followers we get at the Operation Awesome Blog, I will give away 1 book. Starting right now (at 153 followers), 7am PST going till 11:59pm on Sat the 24th. If we get more than 50 new followers, (because I don't know if I can bear to give away more than 10 books LOL), I'll throw in a $20 gift certificate to the online book retailer of your choice (B&N/Borders/Amazon).
1. Be or become a follower at Operation Awesome .
2. Give me a shout out in the comments on this post or my post at Operation Awesome.
That's it! :)
Be sure to hang out and take a look around! This is a very talented bunch of writers with a lot of good advice to share - including a live chat on queries coming up on October 28th with the fabulous Elana Johnson :) So head on over and check us out! :)
*The contest is open to international entries but if an international contestant is chosen as the winner, I will add $10 to the gift certificate instead of sending the books.
Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students is a wonderful tool for anyone trying to understand these incredible kids. Christine debunks a lot of the myths associated with gifted children, including assumptions that children with disabilities can’t be gifted, that gifted kids never fail, and most importantly in my opinion, the belief that gifted kids don’t need help to get through school.
Christine's book goes through what it means to be gifted and why that goes hand in hand with being emotionally intense. In addition to tackling assumptions about giftedness, she talks about mislabeling, incorrect diagnosis and shares wonderful information on how to cope with the special needs of gifted children.
She shares strategies and illustrates situations and techniques with hypothetical case studies and includes an entire section on how parents and educators can coach these amazing children. The book is full of easy-to-understand tip sheets and includes additional resource suggestions.
The best thing about this book – you don’t have to have a PhD in psychology to understand it. It’s straight forward and uncomplicated, giving the reader all the tools they need in a way anyone can understand. I would whole heartedly recommend this book for any parent or teacher of a gifted child.
And now for the really fun stuff - Christine is giving away an EPIC prize. One lucky winner will receive all this:
An awesome t-shirt, sticky notes, bookmarks, magazines, notepads, and a SIGNED copy of her book!
To enter, all you have to do is comment on this post or on one of the other incredible reviews being posted around the blogosphere today (check out Christine's blog for links).
Christine will draw a random winner from all commenters throughout the blog tour AND the reviews. Contest ends Sunday at midnight, and she will announce the winner on Monday, 10/18.
Good luck to everyone!
To purchase this book, visit Prufrock Press. Amazon, B&N, and Borders are all back-ordered at the moment, but you can check out my Must Read Books tab at the top of the page for links to those retailers.
This round's topic was chosen by the lovely Laura who wanted to know:
Regarding your writing career, what’s the best mistake you’ve ever made and why?
Well, as most of the other awesome people in our chain have mentioned, I've made them all, some of them repeatedly. However, despite the sometimes spectacular mistakes I make, I think the worst one (which turned into the best) was when I quit. Now, in my defense, life had thrown me a huge curve ball. My daughter was born two months early and spent the first seven weeks of her life in the hospital - which was 45 minutes away from where we lived (if there was no traffic). My husband was working 90 + hours a week at the time and we also had a two year old that needed my attention.
So, I definitely had cause to take a nice long break. But I let that break drag on for two years. I had a novel that I was a few chapters from finishing. It was my first book, and when I started it, I was totally in love with it. I couldn't wait for my son's nap time every day so I could dive back in.
Over those two years, I thought about it often, wanted to get back to it, and then found an excuse not to. Eventually, I sat down and finished it...in just a few weeks. And I was hooked again. Have been ever since. And I'll never make that mistake again. Writing gives me something I just can't get from any other aspect of my life. It lets me escape into another world. I can exercise my brain, challenge my abilities, indulge in my love of learning and creating and reading and so many other things.
I've met incredible people, some of whom are now my closest friends. And I've become ME. Before, I was my husband's wife, my children's mother, my parents' daughter. I had degrees, I had jobs, and hobbies and friends. But I didn't know who I was yet. I was still searching for what I wanted to be when I grew up :)
When I started that first book, I got a taste of it. I got a glimpse of the person I could be, of the life I could have. And then I let other things get in the way. Important things, yes. Unavoidable things, of course. But I let it go on too long. I talked myself into believing that everything and everyone else was more important. And you know, sometimes they are. And that's okay.
But I will never make the mistake of letting YEARS go by without writing again. It's too much a part of me now. I am glad I made the mistake of giving up - because now I know what's at stake and I'll never do it again :)
What about you? What is your best mistake?
Be sure to check out the awesome Eric's answer before mine and stop by the always fabulous Kat's blog tomorrow to find out what his best mistake is.
I mentioned on Monday that I'd revisit the whole "I like Bella" can of worms I cracked open. So, here we go.
*ahem* My name is Michelle McLean and I like the character of Bella from the Twilight series.
Now, let me clarify - I didn't like everything she did. Yes, I frequently wanted to slap her, and yes sometimes I rolled my eyes so hard I went crossed eyed. Do I think she was a compelling character who changed and learned and grew and developed throughout the series? Not necessarily. Do I realize that writers as a community tend to despise her? Yeah, I do.
So why do I like her?
Because I WAS her. I was the sorta klutzy girl that fell over walking out her own door. I was the girl that fell so head over heels in love that my world literally STOPPED every time my heart was broken. I lived and breathed for the love of my life (cause every single one of them was my soul mate, naturally). I always fell fast and hard and nose dived when things ended.
As I grew up, I learned to handle things differently. I didn't really figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life until I was near 30, and I continue to learn and grow, as one does as one gets older.
But Bella was only 17 turning 18....and she became a vampire at 18. At 18, I experienced EVERYTHING in extremes. The way Bella acted around Edward, the way she behaved when he left, the whole triangle drama with Jacob and Edward...I could soooo see myself reacting EXACTLY as she did.
I grew out of it....but at 18...yeah, I was Bella.
So, do any of you like, love, or at least relate to a character that the writing world at large hates? Do you force a laugh and mutter an "oh yeah, yeah, I feel the same way" when that character is reamed and secretly think "oh I so DON'T!"?
Come on, you can tell me...I won't laugh, I promise ;-)
Okay, three day weekends just really throw me off schedule LOL We'll return to our regularly scheduled posts starting tomorrow. For today, I'd like to do a few quick shout outs.
1. Happy Birthday to my awesome stepson, Matt! He is the big 2-0, officially no longer a teenager :D
2. Christine Fonseca's blog tour is still going strong. If you are looking for more opportunities to win a copy of her book, head to her blog for a list of ongoing contests. And stay tuned for Friday - it is going to be a day of epic reviews with even more awesome prizes!!!
3. I am very pleased to announce that I have joined the fabulous ladies over at Operation Awesome! I will be blogging there on Sundays, so be sure to head over and check us out :)
I know this has been discussed around the Webs before, but an incident with my son this weekend brought it to mind again. I was making lunch (grilled cheese sandwiches..can you guess where this is going?)
Me: "Would you like a grilled cheese sandwich?"
Me: "Well, your sister and I are having one. What do you want then?"
Son: "A boy cheese sandwich."
Nothing I did, no explanation I gave, not even a cooking demonstration while making them would convince my son that there were no boy or girl cheese sandwiches, just GRILLED.
Finally, I said, "here's your boy cheese sandwich" and he promptly scarfed it down. The content of the sandwich didn't matter to him at all - it's what I called it that made it edible.
So it got me wondering....
How important is a name to you? Does the title of a book or the name of a character, or even the name of a creature or other item in a story make or break it for you?
There have been a few instances where I hated the name of the character (Bella from Twilight is a prime example - though I did like her as a character...more on that later this week (I realize I'm in a huge minority on this one)) :D
But it didn't put me off the story. There have been instances where the name of a character or the title of a book have bugged me to the point where it pulled me out of the story or made me not pick the book up until peer pressure forced me to cave.
Has this ever happened to you? Does a name really matter that much?
First of all, I know many of you have had a hard time finding Christine's book for purchase. That's because it SOLD OUT it's first printing :D However, the publisher now has it available again, so if you are looking for it, go to Prufrock Press. Amazon is reporting a delay of 3-5 weeks as are most of the other online retailers.
Now, on to our winners!!!!
The winner of the signed copy of Christine Fonseca'sEmotional Intensity in Gifted Students goes to......
Annnd SURPRISE! Since I was lucky enough to receive an ARC and since I have my own shiny new copy of this book....I'm going to give the ARC to a second winner who is.........
The winner of K.M. Weiland's CD Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration is.......
L. Diane Wolfe!
If the three of you will please email your addresses at authormichellemclean(at)yahoo(dot)com, I'll get your prizes sent out.
For more chances to win, visit the authors' blogs and websites - their blog tours are still in process and there are more contests to be found! (For Christine click HERE, for Katie click HERE)
Thanks for participating everyone, and a huge thanks and congratulations to Christine and Katie!!!
The first thing I do when I hit a speed bump in a story is to start asking questions. The reporter’s old standby “5 W’s” (Who, What, Where, Why, When) come in plenty handy for novelists too, particularly “Why?” and “What if?” Keep asking long enough, and, eventually, you’ll find the answers.
For a chance to win this CD, comment on any post this week. 1 point for each comment (one point per day). Entries taken through Friday and winner announced on Saturday!
As writers, we do everything possible to encourage inspiration in our lives. Sometimes that means creating generally good writing habits, and sometimes it means routines that border on the superstitious (gotta have our lucky pens, right?). In my recently released CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration, I discuss all kinds of ways we can lure inspiration into our lives and give it a comfy place to live so that it’s sure to stick around. However, it’s important that we don’t overlook the vital connection between inspiration and determination.
Inspiration is bit of an airy-fairy kind of beast—not too far removed from J.M. Barrie’s preoccupied, self-absorbed Tinker Bell. It flutters in and out of our lives without too much concern for our needs and wants. Even when we do our best to foster its existence, it can be frustratingly uncooperative. For a writer—someone who pretty much lives on inspiration—this is not a very cheerful state of affairs. But can we can do about it?
Right on top of the list is the necessity of accepting this as a fact of the writing life. Number two on that list is realizing that we all have access to a much more dependable workaround:
Inspiration may sometimes fail to show up for work in the morning, but determination never does. Instead of waiting around on the unpredictable whims of our ethereal friend, who may or may not flit in on gossamer wings and zap us with that potent mixture of brilliance and adrenaline, we can always harness her hardworking older sibling. When we put determination to work and write even when we don’t feel like it, even when inspiration has decided to pull a no-show, we discover a couple of very important truths.
Truth #1: We don’t always need inspiration to write. Particularly if we’ve put in our time studying the craft, our fingers will move on the keyboard from sheer muscle memory, the words will appear on the page in surprisingly coherent lines, and what we have at the end of the day might be rough, but, not only will it probably be better than we think, it will also be words on paper—and that’s always an accomplishment for a writer.
Truth #2: Determination creates a healthy atmosphere for inspiration. The single most important thing we can do to foster inspiration is to be ready for it. Being ready doesn’t mean keeping an ear to the sky, waiting for random epiphanies. What it does mean is that we schedule an appointment with inspiration every single day. She may not always show up, but how will we know if she’s there or not, if we aren’t sitting at our computers ready and listening?
We’d all like to think that inspiration is freebie given to whoever is wanting and waiting. But the truth is that inspiration needs the extra incentive given by someone who is also willing. Inspiration doesn’t come gratis. She requires the hefty price of endless determination. But in return she promises that where determination leads, inspiration will follow. Always.
For a chance to win this awesome CD, comment on any of the posts for this week. 1 entry for every post you comment on (one point per day). Entries accepted through Friday, winner announced Saturday!
Allowing our impatience, frustration, and artistic insecurities to convince us we’re wasting our time is far too tempting an escape. But don’t give in. Don’t abandon a story just because it isn’t working. Stories never work in the first draft.
I am very happy to welcome author KM Weiland this week! She is releasing a CD for writers all about how to deal with writer's block and gain inspiration called Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration. Please help me give her a very warm welcome!
Today, Ms. Weiland will be joining us for an interview -
1. What inspired you to create a CD about inspiration?
Over the last several years, I’ve been sharing writing tips and essays about the writing life on my blog Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors. Posts on inspiration and fighting writer’s block have always been some of my most popular posts. It’s ironic, really: Here we are, a bunch of people who discovered this whole writing business because one day we woke up inspired with an idea for a story—and yet consistent inspiration is something most of us struggle with on almost a daily basis. I wanted to put together a presentation that shared some of my own tricks for encouraging inspiration. Thanks to the Wordplay podcast, I already had some experience with audio productions and thought it would be an interesting adventure to create a CD that would be accessible and helpful to others.
2. Can you share one of the important tips from the CD?
It’s hard to pick just one! But perhaps one of the most crucial is doing away with the fallacy that inspiration is something that just happens. Too often, we sit around, waiting for inspiration to hit us like a lightning bolt. What we fail to realize, though, is that inspiration is much more likely to zap us in the head with its lightning bolt if we’re already doing our part: sitting at our desks every day of the week, typing away, diligently putting to work what we know about the craft. Readers of my blog are probably already familiar with my favorite Peter de Vries quote: “I write every day when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”
3. What has been your personal experience with writer’s block?
The trite and easy answer would be: I don’t believe in writer’s block. But, of course, that isn’t entirely true, or I wouldn’t have recorded an entire CD on the subject! What I mean by that, though, is that writers tend to empower writer’s block by making it out to be some horrible, foul-breathed, unconquerable boogeyman. Most of the time, writer’s block is just us psyching ourselves out. That’s been my experience. I get blocked just like anyone else. I bang my head on the keyboard. I wander around the house, pulling my hair out (and generally looking scarier than even the unconquerable word-sucking boogeyman himself). But I’ve learned that patience and persistence are an almost infallible cure. And prevention is even better!
4. What’s your #1 trick for living an inspired life as a writer?
Passion. If you love this writing life, it’s difficult not to be inspired. Of course, there are mornings when I wake up after a horrendous writing session and vow I’m going to become a plumber or something. But those moments never last. In the CD, I talk about how inspiration is act of will more than a state of mind. If we approach our writing with a passionate, positive, and persistent attitude, we can hardly fail to be inspired 90% of the time.
Please join us tomorrow and Thursday for a few bits of awesome wisdom and on Wednesday for a guest post. And go get that CD!!!!! CLICK HERE TO BUY
CONTEST!! For a chance to win a free copy of this CD, simply comment on any of the posts this week. 1 point for each comment per day (one point per post). Entries taken until 11:59 EST Friday the 8th and the winner will be announced on Saturday!
I am honored and very proud to be launching the blog tour of my very sweet friend and awesome crit partner Christine Fonseca. Her book, Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students releases today! If you or anyone you know is a gifted student or knows one, you NEED this book. This is the book I wish my parents had had when I was a kid. I spent more time writing "Oh my goodness, this is so ME!" in the margins of the pages than I did marking anything that needed editing LOL
This book is quite simply phenomenal and you should run, not walk, to get your own copy. There has already been major buzz about this book in the gifted community and I have no doubt this book will soon be a staple for educator training and parental help.
Christine has stopped by to tell us a bit more about her book.
Welcome Christine, and huge congratulations on the release of your book!
MM: So, what exactly is emotional intensity?
CF: You know that crazy feeling that everything is either too loud, too beautiful, too hard, too easy, too…everything??? That is emotional intensity. Creative types often approach the world with this point of view, often feeling like they are one step shy of bi-polar. Gifted types are this way by definition. It’s an aspect of what it means to be gifted.
MM: Why did you write this book? Why is it necessary?
CF: I love this question! I wrote this book after counseling gifted children and parents and discovering something they all had in common – this bizarrely intense way of approaching the world. It didn’t matter what they were doing – they did it with a level of intensity and passion I only consistently saw in this group.
So, I did some research and discovered that while the “experts” certainly saw emotional intensity as a feature of giftedness, most teachers and professionals working with this population not only DID NOT see this, but they doubted the authenticity of it. Kids were getting diagnosed with pretty significant mental health issues when, at times, it was actually an issue of intensity – with how this population views and interacts with the world.
Thus this book was born. It was my attempt to educate parents and teachers on what emotional intensity really is and how to help teach children the strategies they need to better cope. I have designed it to be easy-to-read and full of worksheets, checklists and tips to help parents navigate through the often turbulent world of parenting gifted kids.
MM: People often view gifted students as being very independent, self-sufficient – in other words, being smart enough that they are more than capable of taking care of themselves, that they don’t need the same kind of support that “regular” kids need. Anyone who knows a gifted student, or who was once a gifted student themselves knows this is very untrue. What other myths do you debunk in your book?
CF: Ah, the mythology of giftedness! Truthfully, myths are very prevalent with regards to the gifted. So much so that the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has pages and pages dedicated to the topic!
For my book, EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS, I tackled several myths related to learning and emotional development, including the following incorrect assumptions:
• All children are gifted in some way
• Children who fail can not be gifted
• Gifted children are happy and well adjusted in school
• Children with disabilities can not be gifted
• Gifted children don’t require additional supports in order to be successful
By presenting the actual characteristics of giftedness, as well as utilizing case studies and role play scenarios, I hope that I’ve dispelled each and every one of the above myths.
MM: What is the one thing you’d really like people to understand about gifted students/emotional intensity?
CF: Great question! I think I want to tell people that being gifted MEANS being intense – and that this intensity is typically NOT a mental health issue. It’s just the way we look at the world. I want people to stop seeing the behavior – the bossiness, the outbursts, the mood swings – as a problem, and see it for the passion it represents. Then, and only then, are we free to teach kids how to cope with this aspect of their personality, instead of trying to hide it or pretend it isn’t there at all – often with disastrous results!
MM: What can you tell us about your future projects?
CF: Ahhh, future projects. I’ve been think about this a lot of late. In the world of non-fiction, I have been exploring the need for a book related to giftedness and bullying, as well as something on teaching/coaching creativity or the Imposter Syndrome in kids. All good topics, I think. Who knows what will actually make its way into a book!
As many of you know, I also write fiction – YA fiction to be exact. I have recently finished up a paranormal romance that highlights forbidden love. My current fiction WiP is a contemporary piece – an issue book. Interestingly enough, the MC is gifted.
Christine, thank you so much for stopping by. And congrats again on such a wonderful book! Christine's second book, 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids will be coming out next Spring. Keep an eye out for it!
Fun stuff!!! If you'd like to win a SIGNED copy of Christine's fabulous book, Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students, all you need to do is comment on this post. Simple! (International entries welcome) :)
Extra entry opps:
1. Be a follower of this blog = 1 extra entry
2. Follow Christine's blog, Facebook, or Twitter = 3 extra entries possible
3. Blog, tweet, Facebook about Christine's book and/or tour = 1 extra entry for each that you do (total 3)
Leave your total in the comments. Entries will be accepted until 11:59pm EST on next Friday the 8th. Winner will be announced on Saturday the 9th. Good luck!