Friday, December 23, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
|Leda, hiding behind Pogo and snuggling with Pippa|
Likewise. Almost. Sigh.
Congrats to Kelly and THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by. Happy Holidays and keep watching because I will do more drawings in the future. Plus cover reveals, teasers, and excerpts from works in the works.
Hugs! - Janet
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
In the old days (at least this is how I imagine things) an author working in a solitary aerie would pound the keys until completing a masterful tome, and three days after mailing a box of loose pages to Major New York Publisher, the MNYP editor would call with great news: "This is a best seller! It'll be out for the holidays!"
Recently Steve Mooser of SCBWI crafted an excellent editorial in the Newsletter asking editors to be mindful that the new policy of "if you don't hear from us in 3 months, we aren't interested" is, well, cruel. That policy is hard on authors who sit on pins and needles, waiting, hoping. What happens after 3 months? How should an author feel? It's disheartening and enervating. I agree with Steve, though I don't know that this policy will go away any time soon.
So I've learned to think of this in a new way. Personally, I don't wait well (part of my anal control-freak nature). So I don't wait. I work.
The minute a manuscript goes out the door, in whatever direction, I begin or dive back into a new project. My own MO is to work on a very different type of project - say, moving from YA to MG or from historical to fantasy. I have to put the other work out of my mind, and in fact I look upon the waiting as a gift. A gift of time to start something new, to be creative, to read things I wouldn't read otherwise, to go back to my pile of craft books for new inspiration, to meet with colleagues, to catch up on publishing trends, to improve my craft.
I propose a new author game. Let's call it Extreme Waiting. Extreme Waiting is energetic and thrilling, rather than tedious. Extreme Waiting is a time of growth, development, renewal.
What do you say? I'll meet you on the keystroke. Let's go for the gold!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
When, years ago, I discovered Martha Alderson, aka "The Plot Whisperer," I found answers. This is especially true since I am what she calls a "seat of the pants" writer. I've purchased her books and DVDs and used them over and over. And check out her blog - she has fantastic tips there, and you can sign up for her newsletter.
I was truly delighted when Martha contacted me to host her on the eve of the launch of her latest book on this confounding subject: THE PLOT WHISPERER: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (Adams Media, a division of F+W Media; October 18, 2011). Martha agreed to write a guest post on the revision process (another constant struggle, and trust me, I'm going to take the advice she gives below), and I'm thrilled to bring it to you.
Congratulations. You have written the first draft of your story. Before you embark on your first major rewrite, first take time to re-“vision” the overall project.
The first draft of a writing project is the generative phase. Rather than become dismayed when you are faced with a manuscript full of holes and missteps, even confusion and chaos, accept that this is part of the process.
Your first draft is a fragile thread of a dream. You know what you want to convey—well, maybe. Few writers adequately communicate a complete vision in the first draft of a story, especially when writing by the seat of your pants.
Without reading your story from beginning to end, for now simply create a list of scenes or chapters. Then, make a new plot planner by locating and filling in the four energetic markers—the end of the beginning, the halfway point, the crisis, and the climax. This allows you to analyze your story from a plot and structural level without becoming seduced by the actual words themselves.
1. Assign different colored sticky notes for the protagonist and one or two major characters. Give all the other characters the same color. Link the protagonist’s emotional chronology from scene to scene.
2. Sticky notes of one color follow the energetic intensity in the dramatic action in every scene, above or below the line. Place scenes that hold tension above the line. Put scenes with no conflict below the line.
3. Now, stand back from the plot planner and evaluate how many scenes fall above and below the line, and where. Consider how the rising and falling energy influences the pace of the story.
4. Next, compare the beginning and the end of your story. How do they tie together? Do both the dramatic action plot and character emotional development plot coalesce at the end for more punch and impact? Does the beginning foreshadow this clash?
5. Draw a line connecting the scenes that are linked by cause and effect. To determine the coherence of the overall story and the linkage between scenes, use your plot planners as a cause-and effect vision board.
Once you have let your story rest for at least a few days, read your manuscript all the way through one time as a reader. Keep the next draft in the back of your mind. You may find you have completely zoned out about the character’s emotions in your zeal to create lots of zip and zing in the dramatic action, or in your passion to create a binding historical and/or political timeline. Notice when the dramatic action plot is physical and concrete.
Feel when the character emotional plot is emotional, sensuous, and human. Read for the sequence of the dramatic action and where, in the next draft, you’ll want to explore and discover the character’s emotional development in greater depth.
If, when you reread your manuscript, you find that you have neglected the dramatic action plot, create concrete goals in the next draft that incite the protagonist to action.
Investigate how the loss, betrayal, hurt, or abandonment in the protagonist’s backstory affects her as she moves from and reacts to one action scene after another. Watch for references and hints of themes, and when and how thematic elements of the plot are most accessible.
In the next read-through, make notes on the rough draft hard copy of scenes that need to be cleaned up, expanded, and deepened in their treatment of the characters, action, and theme.
You may find the first draft is wobbly and scenes ramble. The complete vision of your story was a bit hazy the first time through. The action was tangled. The protagonist comes off as bewildering. You have glossed over an energetic marker or two. Don’t panic—this is good. As a matter of fact, the worse the first draft, the better. Trying for perfection before you know what you are trying to convey commonly leads to procrastination.
As you did with the first draft, write this new draft as quickly as possible all the way to the end. Work out the really big issues first and forget about the details for now.
When you finish the next draft(s) and you are certain that the core dramatic action plot and character emotional development plot work and the “vision” of your story is clear, use the next rewrite to begin grafting on details.
Martha Alderson has worked with hundreds of writers in sold-out plot workshops, retreats, and plot consultations for more than fifteen years. Her clients include bestselling authors, New York editors, and Hollywood movie directors. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA. Follow her blog, workshops, vlog, or follow her on twitter and facebook.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Please go to the link - writerswhocare - and check out the authors. For a flat $50 donation you can help the destitute and starving of Somalia and come away with a terrific critique as well.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Kirkus gave the novel a *starred review* (congrats, Tess!): "A story about the meaning of home, justice and love, beautifully told."
A summary: "When Ollie’s daddy, the Reverend Everlasting Love, pulls their travel trailer into Binder to lead a three-day revival, Ollie knows that this town will be like all the others they visit— it is exactly the kind of nothing Ollie has come to expect. But on their first day in town, Ollie meets Jimmy Koppel, whose mother is in jail for murdering his father. Jimmy insists that his mother is innocent, and Ollie believes him. Still, even if Ollie convinces her daddy to stay in town, how can two kids free a grown woman who has signed a confession? Ollie’s longing for a friend and her daddy’s penchant for searching out lost souls prove to be a formidable force in this tiny town where everyone seems bent on judging and jailing without a trial."
Tess graciously agreed to write a guest post for me, and it's my pleasure to bring it to you.
When I was little, I remember one of my grade school teachers telling our class about how the old Negro Spirituals are all written in a five key scale called pentatonic scale. Five humble keys that, when arranged, can give us feelings of loss, heartache, redemption and hope. They have the ability to connect us and make us believe we can do great things. Think about songs like Amazing Grace and the emotion it stirs. Or the power within Swing Low Sweet Chariot.
I wondered if it could be the same with a novel. If including basic elements of hope, heartache, redemption and love could bring us all together under the umbrella of story. That was and continues to be my goal with this book. It is a Southern murder mystery that highlights the triumph of the human spirit over difficult and, at times, dark events.
Music and stories bring us together and remind us that we are all connected.
What are your favorite songs and what emotions do they evoke in you?
You can find out more about Tess on her blog http://tesshilmo.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
His hypothesis is that it takes 10,000 hours of intense practice in whatever craft you work in - whether computers, music, or in our case, writing - to achieve the kind of mastery that can make you an outlier. There are other factors that weigh in, of course: native talent is nice, as well as a certain intellectual ability. But by and large, it is practice, and lots of it, that make someone more successful than those around him or her.
If you look carefully at the resumes of our most talented and renowned authors you'll notice that by and large they spent a long time getting to the top of the field; there are very few overnight successes.
Do I write every day? I try to, but there are days... The way I look at it, however long I spend at my desk I'm adding to the 10,000 hours I'll need to achieve anything even approaching mastery of the craft of writing for children.
With a rough calculation, 10,000 hours is the equivalent of a year and a quarter of 24/7/365 days. Which means if you work on writing like most normal people, at say, 5 hours per day (and take weekends off but no vacations) it will take you closer to 8 years of steady practice to achieve this kind of mastery.
Eight years of intense practice - constant, daily, rigorous practice with no vacations, sick days, family reunions, kid crises - to achieve anything approaching mastery. I'm sure that even with my steady effort over the course of ten years of writing for children I haven't even approached 10,000 hours.
I think it's time for me to get back to practicing...
Monday, September 12, 2011
I was very excited to learn from my friend and Vermont College of Fine Arts classmate Lindsey Lane that she had acquired the rights to her first picture book, Snuggle Mountain, and then created a smartphone app for the book. Finally, someone who could explain this mysterious process! I've interviewed Lindsey, and am delighted to have her here this week.