Monday, February 22, 2010

I love this, by Benjamin Franklin: "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. "

I tell my students in my personal experience writing class to keep a PE journal of things they do, that happens to them, their emotions at that time, the setting, the people involved. That way they can go back later when they are ready to write about it and the details will be there.

It's easy as writers to spend much of our lives sitting and creating with words. But we still have to live life if we want to write about life. I guess that's why so many of my sales have come from my personal experiences. They are rarely huge experiences, but events and situations involving myself and other people where I've learned or grown or been challenged.

What have you done recently that you can write about? Can it be used in fiction and nonfiction both? All our experiences are ideas waiting to be used.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Read and then read some more

Today I'm working on reading the 27 entries to a writer's contest I am judging. It is a children's category, short for short stories and picture book manuscripts.

I don't have a problem helping beginning writer's, I enjoy it. But I've noticed many times when I'm judging a children's writers category, especially for the younger ages or short pieces, it seems as if the writers haven't read a children's story in decades or even at all. Times change, kids change, editor's needs and wants change.

When I'm reading, it's almost always kid's stuff. I do it for research and such, but also because I just plain enjoy a great kid's story or book.

My big advice for anyone wanting to get into writing for children, or they have been writing with no success, if you don't read a lot of kid's stuff, it's going to be difficult to know what a kid and editor is looking for these days. Especially reading in the area and age you are writing for. When I sold my 6 book chapter book series last year, I'd read lots of chapter books, but more novels than anything. I spent weeks reading stacks and stacks of chapter books to get the feel and see how series began and kept going.

By the time I sat down to write, the feel of a chapter book was in my head and it felt comfortable to write these stories. I already had planned my character's personalities and wants and my storylines for each book, so with my head full of the rhythm of a chapter book, I went to work and made my deadlines and had a great time doing it.

So, if you want to write fantasy. Read it. If you want to write picture books for the very young age, read them out the wazoo. And then read other things as well.

End of sermon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A good rejection?

As writers we talk about rejections being either good or bad (good being personal and complimentary/bad being form and/or less than complimentary about the work).

But it's hard dealing with all rejections. I just opened my email to find a much waiting for response on a followup to a book I'd submitted months and months ago. The praise about the story, the characters, the writing was glowing. And yet, there was no place for this piece--this picture book written specifically for this market. A second rejection in a year from this same publisher, each time full of praise for my work and the story, yet each time 'no place for it here'. And each time a 'please send us more of your work, we're anxious to see it.'

So, though the rejection was a nice one, a personal one, even a hopeful one as they do like my ideas and style and want to see still hurts like heck. Sometimes I find it's harder to get past these 'close calls' more than the no chance/no way rejections. It's the 4th one in a year that came very close.

I'm stubborn and I move on and forward, but I still can't say that a close-call rejection is truly good. It's just not horrible.

Writer's rule # one million and two. Go ahead and have that pity party, then get over it and move on.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Remembering Old Projects

My brain wasn't in a complete 'new' mode this morning so I decided to pull out an old chapter book manuscript that I wrote a couple of years ago. Past agent only sent it out once and I thought I'd see what I could do with it. How fun to get into this old character and story again, I'm so glad I did.

I could see things to work on, but I was pleased with it overall and am going to put some extra time on the first part of it this week and submit a partial and see what happens.

Last year I took out an old short story that I had written about twelve years ago. I had submitted it 5 times. I tweaked it a bit and resent it to the first place I had gotten a rejection, the magazine I felt it belonged. Amazingly, two weeks later got an acceptance and then a very nice check.

Sometimes it pays to go back to our past writings with a fresh mind on it and see what can be done.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I'm beginning to realize that I have ADD in my writing. I love working on several projects at one time. But, I'd really like to focus my attention lately on one specific project, the middle-grade science fiction/fantasy novel I began when i first started writing, sent out with very nice responses, then put away for many years. After pulling it out again a year ago, I fell in love with the project all over again. Agent at the time was very interested in the project and gave me a wonderful suggestion for changing my main character, which turned into a long road of changing the whole book naturally, since the viewpoint and needs of the character are different.

The book has sit quietly the last 3 months while I've sent out a few feelers on it, still waiting on those and while I worked on 2 work-for-hire novels. But I'm ready to go through it again and seen who to make it better.

It's a scary thing to tackle a project you love, once again, knowing the flaws will leap out at you. But, I hope those flaws do leap out so I can tackle them.

I already had a writing schedule for the week; small projects to start or finish, bigger ones to add to or edit, but this one is calling to me and that excites me again.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I've done an in-person talk to a writer's group this week and been a guest author for an ICL workshop this week online, both times talking about being an organized writer and I've tried to figure out why I like this organization thing (it's definitely not about having a clean desk or perfectly organizing everything on my computer with lots of charts and forms and grafts).

I realized that after all these 20 years of writing and marketing now, I really love it...even the paperwork and submitting part (for the most part). Still hate the rejections, but who doesn't? Writer's are masochists to some extent, but that would be ridiculous.

So, here's my little Organization Tip for the day.

Create yourself an Expert File. Make a list of everyone you know; family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and their areas of expertise. Maybe it's a hobby, a job, a career, or something they've done in their past. I put these on index cards and into a card box. Ask your friends and family and co-workers who they know that might be helpful someday as an expert you can interview for a nonfiction piece or for information to help in fiction writing.

I haven't figured an easy way to organize them yet, such as by type of expert, but for now I just do it by last name and thumb through them.

Today I take a writing/marketing break with the snow, but tomorrow it's back to work on current middle-grade novel in progress and on marketing short stuff and books.

I'm ready to begin a new agent search as well.

In the Beginning

I've been meaning to start a blog for awhile, but feared taking time away from my other writing and using up my creative mojo on this sort of thing, but since I'm told this is what authors should be doing, here I am.

Today my goal is to figure out how to get this link to my website as I sit here and watch the nearly foot of snow outside my window, first time EVER in this area of Texas since recorded weather stuff.

Next, figure out what I'm going to say. First, I need readers.