Archive for the ‘Revision’ Category

Apr

19

2016

Mind and Matter

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Revision, Running, Writing

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I can’t run right now. *growls* I mind and it matters.

The weather is perfect.

And up until last week, I was kicking milage butt. I was on track for one of my best months of running to date.

And now–not so much.

It started with some mild leg pain. But it wasn’t too bad, more like a sore muscle, so I was running through it. And it always felt better after the run. But even so, I started to notice my runs were getting slower. And instead of the leg warming up over the course of the run and feeling better, it began to hurt throughout the whole run. Clearly I was compensating for something wrong by changing my gait and now more of my leg was beginning to hurt. At this point I realized “running it out” wasn’t going to be the answer.

Boo!

I was going to have to stop running and rest the leg, which means I need to find other ways to keep up with staying in shape and eating right. Exercise is essential, because I may be willing to count those calories and hold myself accountable, but I’m not capable of doing it without some extra calories providing me with real food in moderation.

But here’s the problem…running is the quickest, most efficient way I know of, to stay in shape. I’m not saying there aren’t others, but this is the one that works for me. So, this means I’m now stuck finding other ways–more time consuming ways–to get a somewhat comparable burn. And I also have to go to a podiatrist and get my inserts checked. *sigh* And all of this takes time. Time I need for my writing.

You see where this is going, right?

WRONG!

And while all the changes have been inconvenient, the truth is that I’ve committed to writing at least a little bit every day this month with #WriteDaily30 a challenge run by Linda Urban. And because I’ve eliminated my excuses and decided that a little is better than nothing at all–I’m making daily progress on my writing. Really good progress that makes me happy.

So, what I’m trying to tell you is that I’m really grumpy because I can’t run and my leg is being a pain in the leg. But I’m also really excited because I got retrained on the nautilus machines at the gym and some day I’m going to be kinda buff. And then the pup is  dog-wagging excited that I’m taking him for longer walks. And despite it all, the writing is getting done because as I was recently reminded that it’s all about mind over matter…if you don’t mind being flexible, it won’t matter.

When has mind over matter worked for you? Have you had to cope with a running or sports injury? Were you climbing the walls?

 

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Feb

25

2016

Know Your Process

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Revision, Running, Writing, Writing Style

Yesterday I headed to the gym to run on the treadmill. While I was there, I learned it was an advantage to know your process. I went to the gym, not because I hate running in the rain, I kind of like it actually. But I didn’t think I’d want to run in the rain AND THEN go back out and play ball IN THE RAIN with the dog. Plus, I may have wanted a strawberry smoothie with flax afterwards.

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But, I digress.

As you may have heard me mention in the past, running on the treadmill is not ideal for me. Why?

  1. I get bored.
  2. I spend a large amount of my run trying to convince myself not to get off earlier than I should.
  3. I get a strawberry smoothie with flax afterwards. Yum! But let’s be honest, it’s not a lunch replacement.

Know your process. Running outside combats these three treadmill challenges rather nicely.

  1. Lots to see–nature and wildlife–never bored.
  2. If I run out as far as I can, I still have to come back. No one is going to give me a lift back home. I’ll get there quicker if I just run it out.
  3. After running, I’m way too lazy to make a smoothie. And the dog isn’t going to wait for more than a shower and pouring a cup of coffee to go out and play ball.

So, in general I’m aware of what works for me–I know my process. But sometimes, even when I know what’s good for me, I end up on the treadmill, despite my best intentions. As I listened to music I could barely hear in my broken headphones (asking for new ones for my birthday) while watching the really bizarre closed captioning that used to be so much better when humans did things, I realized that it helped to know my  process in a different way. Or maybe the best way to phrase it is I needed to create a process for the situation I couldn’t avoid.

As I pushed myself through my treadmill run, I pictured my favorite outdoor run route–the one that I do so often I no longer need to hear a voice in my ears telling what mile I’m at. Envisioning this was helpful to me. Instead of selling myself on the benefits of getting off the treadmill, I over layed my outdoor run process, on top of the treadmill run I was struggling with. I knew When I hit the one mile mark I knew I’d only gotten to the top of the very first hill and quite honestly, I’ve never in my life run that route and turned around at that point. Or the two mile mark for that matter. Why would I do it now? There was no reason to stop running.

I made it to 6.3 miles by knowing my successful outdoor process and using it to inform my treadmill process. Hey–whatever gets it done, right?

Additionally, part of my process when I’m running outside is to think. I realized I could still do that if I stopped some of the noise pollution around me, like the Live with Kelly and Michael Show subtitles which looked something like this…

Kelly: That tat two back is Adam Levine.

Michael: 6 mthdsa….hurt…xdhxdnl

Kelly: Never had–

Michael: Pain…

Kelly: Yeah, Buddy–childbirth! yahdl.,,sxsss

You get the picture. Or maybe you don’t. Instead of trying to follow the Adam Levine, tattoo, childbirth indecipherable subtitled conversation, I started planning this blog post. And the more I thought about my running process, the more I also thought about my writing process. How could I carry over the idea of…know your process…from one activity to another.

Here’s the facts. I’ve heard hundreds of authors, more experienced than me, talk about how every book is hard in it’s own way. I believe that.

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We all struggle at some point–or at many points in the journey.

But I also think that if you know your process–your writing process–you have a template you can use to help get you through any manuscript. It’s all about being aware of your mile markers. Do you struggle with getting started? Do middles make you mad? Is the wrap-up your biggest hurdle? Is character development killing you? Or maybe the plot fairy never shows up to your house. Knowing what obstacles make you want to get off the writing treadmill isn’t a quick fix for your speed bumps, you’ll have to put in the work in the area that challenges you, but it is still helpful. The more you know about where you get stuck, why you get stuck and how you got unstuck in the past–the more likely you are to keep pushing through the miles of drafting and revision you have ahead of you–no matter how much they make you feel like a turkey on a treadmill…

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Do you know your process? How does it help you through the tough spots? Is your process always evolving? How does it change with each manuscript you write? Any runners in the house? Treadmill or open road? And by the way, who likes strawberry smoothies????

 

 

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Jan

26

2016

Draftvision

Filed under: #lifeofriley, Chasing Adaptation, Check-it-out, Critique, Drafting, Family, In the Wild, Pondering, Revision, Writing, Writing Style

On mornings when I’m not running or running errands, after I get the boys all off to school, I look forward to plowing through my emails and knocking out a blog post so I can spend the lion’s share of the day working on my WIP. Doesn’t that sound delightful? Yeah, yeah–I know it’s not that easy. After all it is Monday (I wrote this yesterday) and every person in the house managed to drag a laundry basket upstairs in retaliation for my subversive parenting techniques…no one eats chips or watches football until their clothes are put away, their rooms are clean and their bathroom isn’t gross. So, now I have chores to do in-between my projects. But that’s not my only problem, there is also this guy…

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By rights, he should be in a snow coma at the moment. He’s been outside non-stop for two days playing in the snow with the kids or by himself if every other human was exhausted. I figured by today, his get-up-and-go would most likely be his got-up-and-went and he’d pass out quietly in the corner, providing me with a quiet writing day.

No such luck.

Why doesn’t the dog understand that I NEED this writing day!!!!  I’ve been a bad, bad writer and I’m in the middle of DRAFTVISION????

Wait, you don’t know what draftvision is? You do–your just blocking it out. It’s when you’ve drafted 75% of a manuscript and because you’ve struggled with some aspect of plowing forward to the end of the draft, you’ve started to revise the front end while still drafting the back end. Draftvision. It can be a cold mess. Ugly on the scale of the 2016 Blizzard Jonas.

I do have good news. Besides the fact that Jonas only dumped a mild 10 inches in my yard. (Thank you mother nature for the pass) I’m very pleased to announce that I’m no longer stuck on my work in progress, spinning my wheels on the big expanse of white page. I know what to write to get out of draftvision. But here’s the thing, even when you’ve finally been able to plot your escape–you’ve still got to shovel yourself out of that shit. There ain’t nobody coming along with a word plow who’s going to do it for you. Which ultimately leaves you with lots of work to do on your WIP, plus a blog post and mountains of laundry to climb and whether you want to be or not, you ARE outside with the frisky snow pup who just wants to play ball.

My compromise is to brainstorm my blog post while running the dog silly. Sometimes this means “mind-writing” a topic I’ve already been thinking about. And other times, like today, it means I’m hoping to be struck by inspiration while I’m hanging out in the good old outdoors.

Today my connections started firing when I tossed that first neon orange tennis ball across the field and into ten inches of snow. I hadn’t really thought it through. White snow. Orange ball. This was going to be easy. That’s what I thought until this happened…

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Gone. I hadn’t expected snowball hide and seek. And it quickly became apparent (to me at least) that playing ball in the deep snow was a lot like struggling through draftvision. One minute your tossing your best stuff into the air and the next minute–BOOM! Ball is gone and you can’t find it anywhere. But you don’t panic because the snow is pretty pristine and there is a ball shaped space letting you know where to start digging to fix the problem.

But the dog isn’t close to being done yet and you realize you are still playing ball in the snow and the more you play, the more foot prints, dog paws and old ball holes there are lying around. Take your eye off that ball for a minute and you suddenly have to change your strategy for finding what you need. Now you have to begin looking for new clues to solve your problems. But eureka!  You realize that as the snow packs down, initially it’s harder to see where the ball went, but now it’s easier to search by color. You wander around until you spot what you need to throw the next ball.

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But now your sweating. Deep snow is tiring to trod through and the whole yard is starting to look a bit off. It’s just when you’re on the edge of leaving that ball out there until the spring thaw that you have to dig deep. You must get in there and start poking around until you find what you need. You do not have time to let that manuscript sit for a few months and lose momentum. Start moving stuff around until you make some progress. If you stumble around long enough (trust me–i know) you’ll eventually find something you can toss around, under all that mess.

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And incidentally, as if finding these disappearing balls isn’t hard enough, you should also know that the balls you’re throwing  aren’t traveling as far as they usually do. I’ve never been a major league pitcher, but momentum has always been my friend. I’ve relied on a little bounce, bump and roll to get some distance. But in draftvision, that ball stops where it lands, without getting a lot of milage or tiring out the dog and now you still have to go find it. Grrrr. After awhile, you may realize that even though you’re trying very hard, nothing seems to be working. In this case, you just might want a little help.

You NEED a critique or two to help you sort out what you’ve got going on. Sometimes that critiquer will tell you things you didn’t know, which is pretty freaking fabulous. Yay for new insights that solve old problems. But usually, the critiquer will do the same thing you are doing and tell you what you already know. Yup–it works like that sometimes. Believe it or not, you’re smarter than you know. But even though you’re a bright light, the black hole of draftvision has sucked the illumination out of your life. There’s no shame in it, some times it helps to have someone else flip your switch. It can help to see your process laid out from a different perspective…

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Oh, that’s how you do it????

See–it isn’t magic. Do the work and you end up with a cold, orange ball at the end or a finished manuscript–whatever you prefer. Either way, you too, can get everything you’ve ever wanted. Be persistent. Believe in your story. Be willing to try different approaches as the rules for what your throwing on the page keep changing.

And so you’re aware (because tough things exist even if we don’t acknowledge them) none of this process guarantees you anything, other than the completion of your art to your satisfaction. No matter how hard you work at writing or how diligently you learn your craft–publishing is a wild card. No one can predict it. You can work hard to stack the odds in your favor like an arsenal of snow encrusted tennis balls and that’s a great thing to have in the fight to get published. But it’s important that your goal is always to write the best book you can write, regardless of where that takes you.

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And there’s  another important reason to have your own measuring stick for your work. Sometimes we do not know when draftvision turns to revision, which then turns into TOO MUCH revision. It can be a slippery, ice encrusted, slope and once we are on it, we start moving ass-fast downhill and don’t know how to stop sliding and get off.

At the end of my blog post plotting, I pocketed both bright orange balls for another day, trading them for a large stick that I tossed up into the woods. Somewhere between the toss and the run to find said stick, the pup forgot what he was looking for and spent the next umpteen minutes looking for his ball in every conceivable place. He was completely unaware that the orange ball part of his story was already over.

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It’s important to know that all good games of fetch and stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Looking back I’ve realized that sometimes draftvision is completely unavoidable–like snow. It’s one of mother natures challenges. But when we find ourselves walloped by the blizzard of draftvision, it’s great to have some tactics to help you shovel out of there as quickly as possible…

  1. Look carefully at what you already have for the clues you need to move forward.
  2. Be tolerant of where you are in your writing and forgiving of how you got there.
  3. Then be positive about where you are going.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go digging, no matter how big of a mess it makes–journeys are important.
  5. Keep your eye on the ball. But if you lose track of it, don’t be afraid to ask someone else to help you. Perspective is key.
  6. Know the real reason you are playing ball in the first place. Understand what is in your control and what is out of your control.
  7. Don’t keep playing when the game is clearly over. There is a time to stop or you end up chasing the wrong things. Send that work out when it feels done, not when you think it’s perfect. There is no such dog.
  8. Drink hot chocolate–it makes everything better.

Have you spent time in DRAFTVISION before? What are your tips for getting out? Do you have a dog that makes you throw balls in the snow? What other pets mess with your writing time? Aren’t you glad dogs don’t wear clothes and don’t add to the laundry pile?

Hang in there and keep tossing balls in the snow and words on the page.

 

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Sep

24

2015

Unhappy Camper Kills Darlings

Filed under: Blogging, Drafting, Pondering, Revision, Technology, Writing

Tuesday I wrote a blog post called Working Like a Dog. Actually, I wrote TWO.

Just as I finished…the entire post (except for one dog picture) disappeared. I sucked in a huge breath, but quickly calmed myself, figuring I could < back-up a couple pages to the original post. Or at the very least, I’d get a little computer announcement exclaiming that an earlier version of my writing had been happily saved in cyber space.

Nope.

Nada.

Nothin’.

I wasn’t a happy camper.

A cartoon illustration of a hiker looking sad.

At this point (I’ve got other stuff to do, people) so I thought about posting the dog picture with a very long and throaty growl underneath it and letting it be an interpretive piece.

But I’d liked the concept, so I decided to suck it up and plow forward, rewriting as best as a could from memory.

And then something weird happened. I wrote a BETTER post.

The topic was the same. It still had almost all the same points, but it was clearly better.

As I scratched the dog’s ears, I couldn’t help but ponder the situation and what I came up with was…

WE HATE TO KILL OUR DARLINGS!!!!

In the small expanse of time that it took to craft a relatively short blog post, I’d gotten attached and invested in how I’d already started to write my piece. (Even if it wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted it to do.) But, the minute I no longer had that original structure of words, it freed me up to take the more fleshed out concept and roll it out like like a hiker’s sleeping bag at the end of a long day.

I don’t recommend losing blog posts. It’s aids in the loss of tooth enamel as you grind in frustration. But maybe–just maybe–sometimes it isn’t such a bad thing to start at the top.

Lesson accepted.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever lost on the computer and had to start over?

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Aug

13

2015

LA SCBWI 2015 Part 3

Filed under: Book Signings, Check-it-out, Community, Conferences, Publishing, Reading, Revision, SCBWI, Stuff I Love, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing for Children

In case you’re wondering, by Day 3 of #LA15SCBWI I’m a little tired. But I’m not alone. You should have seen what happened when we had a coffee break and there was no coffee left! Kinda funny actually–is it still called a keg stand when you’re twisted upside down to get your mouth around the dregs of a coffee urn?

Anyway–now that I’ve fried your brain, it’s time to hear the Sunday morning special. Deborah Halverson and the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT. 

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I never miss this keynote–Deborah goes to great lengths to keep us up-to-date on publishing and trends. My fingers were flying as I took notes. Here’s a bit of what I captured…

*Last year’s children’s book sales were highly impacted by movies. Think The Fault in Our Stars, Insurgent etc… But even so, sales are not flat in the children’s market.

How to understand how what you’re already writing (no following trends please) fits in…

Picture Book

-short and bold

-character driven

-illustrations tell 1/2 the story. Ex-Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

-Non-fiction still of interest-particularly narrative non-fiction

-Common core related books seem to be settling down. There’s still room for growth, but not explosive growth.

-PB’s that have layers

-re-readable

-funny character driven that has series potential

-emotional depth/connection

-diversity

-authentic experiences

Chapter Books

-there is room for new series

Early MG

-Diary of a Wimpy Kid has become a very popular format

MG

-MG has perked up

-Everything goes in MG

-Slow and steady can sometimes break out as a hit. Ex–Wonder

-Editors are seeing a wide selection in their inboxes but still not enough diverse submissions.

-WANT: Books with a literary soul and commercial legs

YA

-Editors are intensely selective

-Seeing a lot of contemporary in their inboxes. People are often too quick to writ to the “middle” and hit genre expectations.

-WANT:

-beyond a black and white view of the world

-deep personal experiences

-scifi/horror

-looking to diversify their lists so it’s not all contemporary when the pendulum swings

And in the internal world of publishing…

-our past sense of unbalance is stabilizing.

-eBook subscription packages are a thing.

-Indie sales are up due to the Buy Local movement, slower eBook growth and publishers rethinking their practice.

 

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Next up was our second morning keynote by Stephen FraserMIDDLE GRADE PERFECTION: WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM CLASSIC AND BEST SELLING BOOKS

Poor Stephen, he ended up in the seat next to mine at breakfast one morning and we chatted. FYI he’s a tremendously pleasant guy to talk to as you’re shoving muffins in your mouth. But as the conference went on, Jodi and I (my breakfast buddy and roomie) kept bumping into him. Our fear was that he might think we were stalking him. But really, we just kept turning up in his path like pennies. Hopefully he feels richer for having met us. LOL!

But on to the fabulous keynote…

*MG readers are some of the most loyal readers in the book world. They are strong, willing attentive readers but they are also strong critics.

If we examine the classics and best sellers, what do we learn from them?

1. Charlotte’s Web–Carefully crafted writing

2. Stone Fox–Drama

3. The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles–Imagination

4. The Clockwork Three–Mix genres, don’t be afraid

5. Heart of a Samurai–Bring history to life

6. Holes–Use humor

7. James and the Giant Peach–Be unapologetic and have fun

8.  Junonia–Write to the emotional age of the child

9. Missing May–Place is character

10. Sarah Plain and Tall–Bring a visual quality to your work, make each word resonate

11. The Secret Garden–Let joy spill out

12. Harry Potter–Don’t worry about length

And that is your MG reading list for the fall. <3

 

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The third keynote for the morning was Shannon Hale–Opening up the Clubhouse: Boys, Girls and Genderless

Shannon was INCREDIBLE. There has been so much on the internet lately that has made me sad and discouraged about all things boy, girl, man, woman, feminine, masculine etc… Truth be told, I found myself shutting down because the heart of most of the rhetoric was about raising people up–even if we have to do it by knocking other people down so we can get a leg up. I found it spiritually discouraging. Shannon was different. She was honest. She was thoughtful. She was hopeful. She was generous. She was above all on Team Human. Here’s some of what moved me…

*You are not NO thing. You are something–with YOUR thing. (On writing in your own voice and style.)

*Shakespeare wasn’t afraid of writing interesting women. I don’t know what happened?

*Boys–why are you so afraid of Princesses???? I’m so sorry you have to live in such fear. ROTFL!

*Boys, who told you you can only do half the stuff? (On girls being told they can do or be anything.)

*It’s NOT an equal playing field for women authors or boy readers.

*Boys are taught to be ashamed if they want to read a book about a girl or a “girly book.” We have a lot of work to do.

*Quoting editor Jordan Brown when asked where the Judy Blume for boys is? “Judy Blume is the JUDY BLUME for boys!”

*It wasn’t until people read novels about people in other circumstances that they were able to empathize. Reading novels creates empathy.

*Can you dig it? I CAN DIG IT!

 

At this point in the conference I came up with not one conference word, but two. Here’s what came together for me as the conference was winding down…

tell them your story

MINE–I picked this word because one of the messages thumping me over the head over the weekend was that it will be my unique voice, heart and soul that will sell my books. Chasing trends and the success of others will only leave me in the shadow of others. I don’t want to be standing beneath or behind anyone else. I intend to shine my own light.

TOGETHER–This made me laugh because my words are so oppositional, but while my writing is mine and mine alone–publishing is so much harder to navigate if you are alone. My tribe is instrumental in me reaching to be a better writer. They help me keep my inner compass pointed in the right/write direction. They inspire me and remind me that this isn’t easy for anyone. They mean the world to me.

 

My first Workshop of the day was with Allyn Johnston and Mem Fox–LET’S TALK PICTURE BOOKS…Q&A AND SOME READ ALOUD FUN

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Let’s just start off by saying I could listen to Mem read picture books for days. That voice! But in addition to captivating the audience with her fabulous PB’s. Here is what Allyn and Mem had to share…

*I’m inspired by emotional experiences.

*I don’t want 5 of your 20 manuscripts–I want the one you care about–the one that’s going to change the emotional temperament of the reader.

*You should have only enough words that you’re ready to turn the page when the child is done reading the pictures.

*Adults are so much more inept at reading and understanding the illustrations than children.

*Worry more about the soul of the story than the word count. <3

*Beautiful language doesn’t undercut illustration.

*Illustrator notes are outrageous.

 

And it’s time for the Golden Kite Luncheon & Awards presentation with a keynote by Dan Yaccarino

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SCBWI Member of the Year–Lee Wind!!!!!

“My tribe–my family.”

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For Picture Book Illustration–Melissa Sweet and THE RIGHT WORD

“I hope we all find the right word whenever we need it.”

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For Picture Book Text–Kristy Dempsey and A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT: ONE BALLERINA’S DREAM

“By writers and illustrators, I mean friends and fellow dreamers.”

“Deep joy is only found in fulfilling our purpose.”

“I write to discover my own empathy–or to be honest–to work towards it.”

Kristy has been someone I’ve followed and admired on social media since I first started my journey as an author–it was amazing to see someone who has inspired me–have an impact on more of her peers. Her speech was incredible. <3

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For Non-fiction–Candace Fleming for THE FAMILY ROMANOV

When the universe kept raising the question…who is interested in that?

“You are.” <3

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For fiction–Deborah Wiles for REVOLUTION

“I am a product of my professional organizations. SCBWI.”

“Giving my heart away has been the secret to finding it.”

And the Sid Fleishman Award was given his son Paul Fleishman to…

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Michelle Knudsen for EVIL LIBRARIAN

And from Dan Yaccarino‘s Keynote…

*Good work is never perfect.

*Don’t forget the power of visualization. Take time to picture your dreams happening every day.

*Get addicted to the divine spark of inspiration–try to bring the divinity of that spirit into your stories.

My afternoon Workshop was with Jordan Brown–FIVE PRINCIPLES OF REVISION

Just and FYI I will go to hear Jordan Brown talk about anything publishing related and quite a few things outside that topic too. He’s fabulous. I was taking notes like a boss because he had at least 45 principles I needed to remember. Here’s some of his best and most useful bits…

*Revision is hands down the most important part of the writing process.

*Your book should be about the most important story of your main character’s life.

*It’s hard to get perspective on your own work.

*You shouldn’t think of revision as an extension of the first draft.

*Revision is the opposite of drafting.

          -DRAFTING is peeling back layers.

          -REVISION is putting back layers that are more refined.

When revising…

           -Nothing is sacred.

           -Character drives plot.

           -Revision more often than not starts with cutting.

           -Surprise yourself–if it feels familiar to you, it’s probably familiar to the reader too.

           -Don’t be afraid to smart small–revision can be overwhelming.

*There are always things that are clearly important at the end of a book that weren’t at the beginning–go back and plant clues.

*READ, READ, READ!!!!!

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The final keynote of the conference was by Kwame Alexander: #BasketballRules Kwame’s NEW #LA15SCBWI Keynote (Because Varian Johnson stole his other one Hahahaha!)

Rule #1–It might look like a long shot but you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Rule #2–Put in the work.

Rule #3–There’s no single formula for success, but you have to have a game plan.

Rule #4–A loss is inevitable.

Rule #5–When the game is on the line, don’t be afraid, grab the ball and take it to the hoop.

Rule #6–You’ve got to have teammates. It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Look around…we are going to do great things.

And while that ends the formal part of the conference, you know I was in line half the afternoon to get my books signed and talk to all of these amazing authors and illustrators.

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Candace Fleming–yup–we both joined the SCBWI when we were 12 LOL!

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I loved talking about writing with Anna Shinoda and Debra Wiles also, but we chatted so long I got hustled on my way and never got a picture with her LOL!

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Meg Wolitzer!!!!!

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I was so stoked to finally get this book in my hands and to see Martha Brockenbrough have such an amazing moment. She has been a friend and an inspiration for such a long time. I consider myself so lucky to have her in my life.

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And I finally met my online buddy, Varian Johnson.

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Yup, I may have cried a little with Shannon Hale, but you can’t blame me–she moved me to tears. <3

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I’ve been getting books signed by Dan Santat for years. It put a smile on my face to see all his hard work come to his greatest success to date. I KNOW there will be so much more in store for him.

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And then before I knew it, it was Monday and I was on my way to the airport, full of ideas, inspiration and determination…and too many books in my suitcase.

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I had to pull out 13lbs of Baby Dragons and Beekles out of my suitcase to avoid a $50 luggage charge. But that’s okay–I always feel better when my signed treasures are close at hand.

If you missed the first two installments for the #LA15SCBWI Conference Recap, you can find them here…

LA SCBWI 2015 Part 1

LA SCBWI 2015 Part 2

I would love to see you there next year and if you have any questions about the conference, I’d be happy to answer them for you. It’s really a fabulous event, worth planning for if you’re able.

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Sep

2

2014

Write Sticky: Being in Charge of Your Own Behavior Modification

Filed under: Check-it-out, Community, Drafting, Pondering, Revision, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style, Young Adult (YA)

Normally Tuesday blogs are a problem when I’m coming off of a three day weekend. But this isn’t just any big weekend, it’s back-to-school week in the Sabatini house. And that mean’s yesterday, September 1st, was the official kick off to Kim’s New Year. January 1st might be for resolutions, but September 1st is always about fresh starts, organization and motivation. At least for me. So, because I’ve had this date on my mind, there was no way I was going to be late or miss this blog post.

Maybe you’re wondering why am I so super focused on my own private and personal back to school reset button? It’s simple–UNINTERRUPTED WRITING TIME!!!! Something I haven’t seen since last November when I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time. *fist pump* It was right after NaNo that we dropped into hard-core, preparing to move mode. There were also holidays, the actual move, an epic ton of snow to shovel thanks to the polar vortex and then my kids switched schools. Before you know it they were all home for the summer. Writing still happened in the middle of all the chaos, but it became this thing I did while unpacking boxes or in the middle of a noisy pile of boys. And it made me appreciate the days when I was allowed to have stretches of time to day dream in silence. At least between the loads of laundry.

Pulling on a few of the many writing lessons I learned from last year, I formulated my plan for this year.

*During NaNoWriMo I learned that showing up to my writing almost daily is very important to staying firmly entrenched in the world I’m creating.

*I learned that I’m competitive with myself and more likely to keep myself honest when I declare my intentions.

*Starting small usually results in larger than anticipated output for me.

*Supportive groups are my thing.

*I love calendars, charts, stickers, markers and spending time in Staples or the craft stores.

Sooooooo here’s my plan. photo 11

 

Right in front of my favorite writing spot, I’m posting a monthly calendar with my daily goal. If I reach my goal for the day–I get a sticker!!! I found some of the cutest stickers ever so this is highly motivational. What’s my daily goal? I have two works in progress that I’m having a blast writing. My daily goal is to write at least 200 new words on each project. Or if I’m in a place where I’m revising, I need to revise at least two pages of either project a day. This is not an unmanageable goal on most days. But the upside is tremendous.

In September, if I write just 200 new words for each project, I can accumulate 6,000 words on each manuscript. BUT…when I sit down to start writing, I almost never write just 200 words. Yesterday I exceeded my goal on a day I might have normally considered a non-writing day because I had company coming over for a picnic. Yeah–I wanted that cute little dog sticker. LOL!

Another part of making this method work for me is the power of accountability. I don’t just have people (aka my kids) walking through my kitchen, looking at my stickers and cheering or *gasp* shaming me because I have too many blank spaces. As if that isn’t enough LOL! But now I’ve also blogged about it. And at the end of each month I’m going to post my sticker chart. Let’s make this clear–I DO NOT WANT ANYONE SEEING ME NOT WRITING!!!!! Especially with my kids back in school. NO EXCUSES!!!! This will be a HUGE motivator for me to be productive. Maybe I’ll even have some banner days where I can draw in stars or hearts for uber excellence. BTW I can do that since I’m in charge of my own behavior modification.

But even public shame and humiliation has it’s limits. I mentioned I do better when I’m involved with supportive groups. Time to step up writer buds. Get your own calendar printed out ASAP! Go buy some stickers. Set a daily goal that is easily reachable. You are free to use or work off of mine– 200/2r x2. It stands for 200 words or 2 pages of revision for the two manuscripts that I currently an working on. Feel free to use the twitter hashtag #writesticky You can tweet to show me your calendars, shout out your successes or feel free to beg for motivation–I’ll be doing that too. Just remember, this is a no-brainer, with a whole lot of upside. So come be brainless with me and let’s get some writing done!

 

PS–If you’re not a writer, but have a goal and you’d like to participate–you know you can #writesticky too

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Aug

19

2014

THE LINE

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Revision, Writing, Writing Style

The last couple of days I’ve been knee deep in a revision. You’ve probably heard me blabber on about this before, but revision is my favorite part of the writing process–until it’s not. Hey! Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m serious. What I love about the revision process is that I’ve arrived at a place where I’ve created the template for my work. The bones are on the page.  And then I have the ability to be a tinker and play around with all the pieces until they fit perfectly. But there always comes a point when I hit THE LINE.

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THE LINE is the Bermuda triangle of the writing process. You can get lost there and disappear forever if you’re not careful. In my humble opinion, it is a fine margin between making something better and overworking it. Kinda of reminds me of pie crust. If you manipulate that pile of dough too much, it all starts to fall apart. Or it gets too tough. When you are tweaking your manuscript, there is usually the chance of trying to make everything so “perfect” you lose your voice. And as I heard in LA from EVERYONE–your voice IS who you are in this business. It is the only real currency you have.

But, I call it a THE LINE because Linda Sue Park is right also–the tools of our trade are our words and you had better send out your best ones. They must be worthy. You do have to walk right up to the very edge to present your best self to the world.

Now you want to know how to tell when you’ve crossed the line. In fact, I can see you pulling out your hair and running around a round room looking for a corner to sit it. I feel the same way in this business–often. And the hard truth is that you don’t know. I’ve never met a writer who does. If you watch yourself closely enough, you might begin to see the patterns in your own process, but truthfully, there are always exceptions. *sigh* We all have blind spots when it comes to our craft.

You’re never going to know for sure. Come here–let me hold you. (((((hugs))))

But there are things that are guaranteed…

*Always do your best. Not your “that was easy” best, but your blood, sweat and tears best. Then no matter what the outcome, you can hold your head up high.

*Never give up. And I don’t mean never give up on your manuscript. Sometimes, you have to know when to walk away–heck–after you’ve grown by writing a few more manuscripts, you can always come back with a new perspective. Most people don’t–they might harvest something from the fallen pages, but they realize that there was a reason they had to put the piece to the side. And you can only see that with distance and more practice. Just don’t let immediate failure take you to the point of ultimate failure. Stepping stones.

*Trust your voice. The things that make you different from everyone else that will capture the attention of others. But it’s rarely a lightening strike. Being different almost always makes it harder to be heard. When you’re different, your success depends on other people having a vision for your voice. Hold the course. Walk the line.

What’s “line” challenges you in your writing? How do you handle it?

 

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May

15

2014

We Need Diverse Critiques On Our Manscripts

Filed under: Critique, Drafting, Revision, Writing, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

Recently the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks has been all over twitter and the blogoshere. I’ve loved hearing and seeing the amazing requests for books and covers to reflect all the lives and faces of readers. I’ve also found the surrounding blog posts extremely interesting. They have often insightfully commented on the speed bumps we put in our own path to making change. But today I’m talking about something a little bit different. #WeNeedDiverseCritsOnOurManscripts

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Not exactly the same thing, but as a writer, also pretty important.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an unpublished newbie or the author of multiple successful books. At some point, you need to have eyes other than your own on your manuscript. Of course, if you’re John Green or Veronica Roth, you’ve probably got some very eager and talented higher-ups in publishing who are willing to give feedback. But I would also imagine they have a secret stash of trusted people who will give them honest feedback on their work. And I would hazard a guess, that while those special people may not all be in publishing, they are intelligent readers who bring special insight to the table. This diversity is really important.

I very recently finished up a draft of a project to send to my agent. Because this project is a little different than what I’ve previously worked on, I really needed to have a wide swath of readers to give me feedback before I sent it for it’s first date with my agent. I don’t want to give away too much about my shiny new project. *hugs project protectively* But I have to tell you, despite having close to a dozen pairs of diverse eyes looking it over, I received very little overlapping advice on how to tighten the story. And even better, most of the suggestions were excellent and incorporated. The readers who gave me critiques saw my work with unique filters and now my writing is richer because of their vision.

Here are some general suggestions for finding diverse critiques for your writing. Since I write for kids, I’m gearing my advice to similar writers, but I think you can effectively extrapolate on the idea if you write outside of kid lit. Also keep in mind that too much advice can make you crazy. Pick your readers wisely. You should also be aware of your inner compass–be prepared to pass over advice that does’t resonate with you. Know your own voice and stick with it. But just as important,  be open to trying something that doesn’t initially feel comfortable. You can always return to the original. Here are some of my suggestions for getting diversity into your critiques…

*Find someone who represents your target audience. They don’t have to be a writer–just a reader. How do they organically respond to your writing. Do they emote in the correct places? Do they get confused? Do they dislike a character they are supposed to be rooting for?

*Find someone who teaches your target audience. They know your target audience intimately, but they bring a unique perspective. Is the reading level too high? Is the topic one that kids are looking for more information on? Is your dialogue completely outdated?

*Find a children’s librarian. They know what is being checked out and read over and over again. They may also be able to help you find readers in your target audience if you are having trouble with that.

*Find a parent of a child in your target audience that takes an avid interest in their children’s reading. (This is less important with teens, but can be an interesting perspective) For younger kids, it is often the parent who is doing the reading. Will a parent want to read this book over and over again with their child? And not that you always care whether they do or not (sorry parents–ultimately we write for kids) but do the parents want to ban your book? It’s never bad to know what you’re up against.

*Find an expert that compliments your subject matter. Writing historical fiction? Writing about a medical issue? Writing about a unique location? Have someone look your manuscript over who is knowledgable in the area you are writing about.

*Find someone who has great editorial skills. It’s fabulous if you can find a crit partner that knows spelling, grammar and the proper way to set up a manuscript for submission. Especially if this is an area you are weak in. *coughs*

*Find a friend who understands your emotional personality. We write with our hearts and that’s a good thing. It is a bonus to have a reader that is keyed into the deeper threads of your story. You need someone who can  point out the places where those threads are seamlessly woven and on the other hand, where you’ve gotten yourself into a knot.

*Find fresh eyes. Sometimes, no matter how lovely and talented the above critique partners are, you need fresh eyes. When someone has gone over multiple drafts of your project, they can  provide a lot of amazing feedback, BUT they can also get too close to the work. They may forget that they know something only because it was in a previous draft of your writing. They are familiar–too familiar with the story. Sometimes their knowledge of your manuscript can taint their response to it. At this point, it’s always nice to get a fresh pair of well rounded eyes to look over your writing with no preconceived notions.

 

Did I miss any? Do you have any other recommendations for utilizing diverse crit partners for your manuscript? Please share. Or if you have any questions, fire away!

And remember–it takes time to go through all those notes you get back from a critique. But it also takes time for someone to read your work and write you those notes. Not every person can drop everything to attack your MS in a pinch. Know your timeline and never forget  to return the favor. Thoughtful critiquing makes you a better writer and a much more awesome human being. :o)

 

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Mar

20

2013

Just So You Know–Writing is Special

Filed under: Check-it-out, Revision, Writing

Yesterday was my birthday and coincidentally the first day in March that all of my boys were in school at the same time. We have the pleasure of spring breaks that NEVER fall at the same time in our house. *head thunk* Yup–I’ll have a grand total of FOUR days in March that are kid free. And while I love my kids and really enjoy all the fun things we do while their home. And while I enjoy NOT getting up at the crack of dawn for the 12yo–me and 5:30 am have a hate/hate relationship.  And even though I have managed to find ways to get a decent amount of writing work done around them–the truth is I also love my alone time.

So, back to the birthday. I had a zillion good wishes yesterday. Thank you everyone. And one of the things that many people said to me was…Do something special on your birthday! And because I was revising (I AM ALMOST DONE!!!!) Other people suggested…Don’t forget to take a break from revisions and do something special! Now I’ll be the first one to tell you, there are points in the writing process where I’ve seen way too much of whatever it is I am working on and a break from it would be a little slice of heaven. But yesterday, after nineteen days of having other people in my writing space, spending the day with just my manuscript was the special thing I got to do. And realizing it made me smile because I was reminded of what a gift I’ve been given–the knowledge to do what I love and to love what I do.

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When do you love writing the most? What makes writing special for you?

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Mar

15

2013

Back in the Revision Fort

Filed under: Contests, Revision, The Opposite of Gravity, Touching the Surface, Writing, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

Back in the revision fort!

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Yesterday I spent most of my time working on my newly returned notes on THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY from my critique partners. Woo hoo!  And here are some random thoughts that have popped into my head now that I’m delving back into the story…

* I love critique partners who not only tell me that I spelled something wrong or that I abused a semi-colon, but also give me a running commentary of what they’re thinking. It is so much fun and so helpful to see how their thought process unfolds as they interact with my words. This is true when you hear an OMG! I didn’t see that coming but it was awesome!  It’s also just as valuable when I get an Ummmm I have no idea what’s going on here???? Both of these are helpful and needed.

*After a couple weeks with my MS on the back burner, I love it again. Phew! Honestly, by the time I’d passed it off to my friends, I was pretty sick of it and convinced, that while it was vastly better than it was before, it was still poo.

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No, I don’t mean that kind of Pooh.

Writers, when you look at something for too long–it begins to look like poo. And then you have to learn to walk away from the poo, because when you’re knee deep in the poo, you can not get perspective. Don’t be afraid to pass the poo to a friend. That’s what friends are for (In the writing world or if you’re a mom with a new infant) And usually, what you get back (book or baby) is never quite as bad as what you thought you gave away. Your brain needed a break and now it’s working again.

*Speaking of the brain, it’s incredible how it will not see your mistakes no matter how many times you look at your own words. Your brain can do weird and wonderful things. To prove my point…

Acocdrnig to an elgnsih unviesitry sutdy the oredr of letetrs in a wrod dosen’t mttaer, the olny thnig thta’s iopmrantt is that the frsit and lsat ltteer of eevry word is in the crcreot ptoision. The rset can be jmbueld and one is stlil able to raed the txet wiohtut dclftfuiiy.

It blows me away and sort of scares me how easy it was for me to read that.

*I still growl or moan when I’m made aware of a plot hole or an inconstancy, even if I know it’s absolutely true. I tackle it, but it comes with sound effects. *head thunk*

*I really dig writing metaphors. I need to make this a component in the conference proposal I’m working on. One of my favorite parts of the writing process.

*I can get so engrossed in the revisions that I forget to write my blog post until almost midnight. *yawn* But because I want to get back to working on it (with a fresh mind) I’d better stop having random thoughts and get my butt to bed.

Any words or wisdom or bits of insight from your revision fort?

And don’t forget, there is still a chance to win a signed copy of TOUCHING THE SURFACE for your local or school library. Enter HERE!

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