Posts Tagged ‘writing process’




The Boys in the Basement Found Their Groove

Filed under: Chasing Adaptation, Drafting, Pondering, Stuff I Love, Touching the Surface, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

When I wrote my first book, TOUCHING THE SURFACE, I was obsessed with my musical playlist. I hardly ever wrote without it playing in the background. When I was brainstorming parts of the novel, I listened to certain songs over and over again. To this day, any of the songs on that list evoke very strong writing/book memories for me.

And then I stopped. Cold turkey.

I haven’t listened to a thing while writing since. And I’ve tried. I’ve made playlists for books I’ve worked on, but they never took on the life of that TTS playlist.

But… There’s always a BUT, isn’t there? Recently I found myself turning off my audiobooks while I’ve been running and listening to my workout music while giving the boys in the basement (my inner creative genius workhorses) time to day dream.


It’s been very helpful. I’ve had things I’ve been stuck on (for a thousand years) come bubbling to the surface. In excitement, I’ve done silly little dances of gratitude mid-run. Luckily I run on back mountain roads where there’s a limited amount of people witnessing my foolishness. Eek!

I’m not sure if these music fueled runs, or something else entirely, piqued my curiosity, but recently something possessed me to pull out the old, hardly been listened to playlist for my work in progress, CHASING ADAPTATION. Part of me wonders if it may have been morbid curiosity that caused me to dust it off. This novel has been written and rewritten so many times and with so many changes, I couldn’t even imagine the playlist being connected to my current scribbles.

But, as I listened, I found myself more than a little surprised at how perfect the songs were for the book I’m writing NOW. It seems a part of me has always known what I’ve been trying to say. The emotions, the questions, the feels and the wonder haven’t changed at all. Perhaps, the truly hard part is finding the RIGHT words to connect the dots between what’s always inside me and what gets printed on the page.

In honor of the boys in the basement, finally finding their groove, I thought I’d share one of the songs from the CHASING ADAPTATION playlist…


FIX YOU by Coldplay

When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above or down below
When you’re too in love to let it go
But if you never try you’ll never know
Just what you’re worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face
And I

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Do you have a playlist for your writing or any of your creative ventures. How does it work for you? What ignites your bones?

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Tipping Points

Filed under: Community, Pondering, Writing

As I’ve been following the good, bad and ugly at my children’s former school district (lots of families feeling ambushed with an unwelcome and unorganized redistricting) I recently came across a few conversations where one group of people were having a violently strong reaction to ANOTHER negative thing happening in the district. But within these conversations there was debate, a bit of a clash on how this new problem should be emotionally and physically handled.

As someone who is no longer ankle deep in the WCSD do-do, I can absolutely understand the calmer heads who are trying to stay logical and grounded. But as someone who’s had this same school district pile negative things on top of me faster than I could push them off, I also feel a huge amount of sympathy for those who are hurt, frustrated and angry. *A Person’s a Person No Matter How Small In fact, I feel a little bit nuts in my ability to relate to the wide range of emotions people are feeling.

But to step outside of THIS particular situation, the whole thing has gotten me thinking about why some people are filled with an inferno of need to right wrongs. And why some people have the ability to roll over any ups and downs with little to no resistance. I think there are a zillion factors that play into this–especially individual personalities. But one thing that resonates with me is that each person has a TIPPING POINT. I think of this as the spot when everything changes. A tipping point might happen when someone has been asked to carry too much and the weight of a dust bunny might be enough to push them to fight.

But a tipping point can also be something that flips a person into a state of understanding, acceptance or perhaps defeat and exhaustion.  As I said, I’m a bit familiar with both kinds of tips *Entangled Roots

Ultimately, it’s complicated. And while tipping points in real life are so stressful, we don’t want to be caught up in the middle of them on a regular basis, as a writer, we want LOTS of tipping points. It’s important for us to digest what we’ve experienced, so we can call upon it later to write relatable words that make people feels real emotions. We want to study other people’s tipping points and add what we’ve learned from them to our writing.

True story–no one wants to see a character that doesn’t struggle and grow. No one falls in love with a book where nothing ever happens.

As you observe yourself growing and changing and you see the people tipping around you, remember it’s more important to call on the universal feelings than the particular details. For me, surviving the WCSD has been a study in tipping points. What tipping points have informed your writing?

PS–sending all my love to my WCSD peeps. I’ve always got you on my mind. <3


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Writing Isn’t ALWAYS Like Pushing a Cow Through a Colander

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Writing, Writing for Children, Writing Style

It’s April Fools Day, but my blog today in no joke. Ha ha! I had to do it–so sorry.

Moving on…

What I was trying to tell you was that I’d like to hug the universe right now. Why? Because, even though writing brings me great joy–producing good stuff is HARD! Really hard. I always laugh at the analogy of a friend of mine.  She likened writing to pushing a cow through a colander in order to make hamburger meat. *snort* Yeah–that sounds about right. Although, not the least bit appetizing. Or fun for the cow



But there are some days–some projects that just feel organic and easy.  The ideas and the words seem to fall from the sky. Nothing about the process is forced.

I’m working on just that sort of project right now. Ironically it started as a kind of a lark. I was sitting at my desk feeling the emotional heaviness of the YA project I was working on and I had the urge to write something humorous and light. Something that would crack my kids up. And then this character got up in my face, kind of like that cow in the picture above. And I couldn’t help it, I stared right back at him and laughed.  And it felt mighty good, so I put down what I was working on and wrote down whatever this new voice was whispering in my ear.

What a character.

Unfortunately, then I moved and I was inundated with all the time sucking drama that comes with the process. But a cool thing happened while RHF (my MC’s initials) was on hiatus–my kids kept asking me to write more of his story. And I knew I wanted to. So last week I dusted off RHF and now I’ve fallen even more in love with this quirky MC. And it’s so cool, because it’s so not the cow through the colander. With my current YA–I’m working really hard to pull back the layers and discover the voices of the characters. Not with RHF–this kid came fully formed and he talks my ear off all the time. It’s such a blast writing down his story and I kinda love the hell out of him for being easy. It’s a rare gift to be cherished.

Off to write some more.

Have you ever had a super smooth and easy writing project? What about one that required a cow and a colander? Has your easy project resulted in publication? Did you learn anything from the writing that came easy? Tell me about those projects.


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Writers Are Never As Good As They Think They Are

Filed under: Critique, Revision, Writing, Writing Style

Recently I’ve been knee deep in revision, doing some critiques for friends, and answering some writerly questions at a bookstore event. The collision of these processes has gotten me thinking and I’ve come to the conclusion that we writers are never as good as we think we are. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s hard to see the forrest through the trees. We get so immersed in the manuscript we’re working on that we lose all sense of perspective. We forget that just because we are turning around our best work, doesn’t mean it’s THE BEST WORK. And sometimes it also means that our best isn’t yet good enough in the publication competition. This is a very hard lesson to digest.

As I look back through all the phases of my writing journey, focusing on the times when I was ready, I realize that these moments were often more about me feeling ready than the work being ready. Sometimes I’d exhausted my capabilities, other times I was so freaking sick of the story I couldn’t look at it another minute. Sometimes there were deadlines. Other times I thought it was perfect. Silly me–perfect does not exist. I lacked objectivity. Often I still do. But that is not always a bad thing. Publishing is a tough business. It pays to have a little hubris mixed in with our neuroticism. It gives us the courage to keep going in the face of great odds.But that only works if we also have the ability to take criticism and use it constructively. I’m aware that everyone is wired a little differently, and what works for one, doesn’t always work for another, but here’s my takeaway…

I need criticism–it’s the platform that I use to plant my feet and push off of. Now, no–I’m not talking about the critique your crazy Aunt Myrtle gives you, that comes with her suggestions acted our in front of the family at the holiday get together when she hasn’t even read your book. I’m also not talking about the vicious review that says your kids are doomed to a life of hell because you, dear sucky author, are unfortunately their mother. That kind of feed back doesn’t count. I’m talking about the level headed stuff. Writer friends, agents, authors, editors, teachers, passionate readers. I’m talking about thoughtful advice. I repeat. I am never as good of a writer as I think I am and that feedback helps me. I know this is true because I look at what my book and manuscripts were like before I used the feedback and I look at what my writing was like after the feedback. Big surprise (NOT!) 99% of the time the work is ALWAYS better after the feedback.

So, on your quest for writing perfection, I urge you to be a sponge. Absorb all the universe has to offer you, then take the best and forget the rest. And here’s the thing about writers never being as good as they think they are. It works the other way too–sometimes, the writers who are ready, are also never as good as they think they are–they’re better. My guess is it’s because they learned today’s lesson too well–you can always get better with hard work and effort.


How do you deal with feedback on your writing? Do you cry and then wrap your mind around it later? Does it not even ruffle your feathers? Does it sting quick like a Band-Aid, but you get over it super quick? Do you avoid it at all costs? Yell and tantrum at the person foolish enough to try to help you? Does it depend on the day?


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BOOM! The Puppy is not Peeing in the Corner–He’s Farting Rainbows and Unicorns

Filed under: Revision, The Opposite of Gravity, Writing, Writing Style, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

And that folks is how it happens. BOOM! One day I’m trucking along and–well–that’s a lie I wasn’t really trucking along–it was more like trudging. So–day after day I’m trudging along–really slogging through my revisions. Of course I do this with a little happy smile on my face. I distinctly remember making a broad statement about loving revision so much more than drafting. *head thunk*  Yup I love it, yet I keep finding myself trudging and slogging and wondering why it feels like I’m trying to push a square peg through a round hole. Yeah. Just. Like. That. And I get about 200 pages into the revision (that is full of trudging and slogging) and I get really tired. Not from the writing. Mostly because I stayed up too late watching The Biggest Loser. Don’t judge me–it’s motivating. Now it’s trudging, slogging, tipping. Yawn. (And just so you know–my brain never fully shuts off during a mid-day tip, so it doesn’t really count as a nap. I call it a brain storming session, okay?) But I digress. I’m at  the point where the fixes to the MS aren’t as easy as the earlier ones and I dump 3 chapters. Just like that. And in honor of all that trudging and slogging or maybe because of it–I seriously just highlight that sucker and hit cut. I know I have another copy somewhere–dear god I hope I do. I mean in an emergency my agent has it, right? Anyway, back on task. I cut those chapters because I know I need new material. And that’s a good thing, but gosh darn it, since I’m a slow reviser with a crappy memory for detail, I don’t even remember all the changes I’ve made up until this point. How do I know if I’m making this puppy behave or if he’s just going to a different corner to pee on the floor and make another mess when I’m not looking?

Pet's toilet training

Are you following me? Probably not–but just pretend because that’s what I was doing while I was revising–just going through the motions. Fake it till you make it. BIC or BOC (Butt on couch. It’s softer.) I need to get my bearing so I can move forward. I need to find my puppy! So, I back it up just a chapter or two and start reading. Then suddenly…


I repeat. BOOM! I don’t know how else to explain it. The world shifts from black and white to color. The puzzle pieces fall into place. The baby starts sleeping through the night. I don’t know why it happens, but suddenly there’s no longer trudging or slogging. My brain is firing on all cylinders. All the lights are shining on my Christmas tree. I’m tapping into something. And I want to weep for the sheer joy of knowing that I hadn’t imagined that a place like this really does exist. I HAVE been here before! I do know how to write a damn book and make it progressively better.

That’s the only way I can describe it. It feels insane, but maybe that’s because it IS insane. The act of writing is a product of dedication, hard work, persistence and a whole bunch of other SAT words. It’s showing up when you’re trudging and slogging and not sure you’re really an author. But the magic of writing–the BOOM–that’s a very different thing. That’s something bizzare, like observing a puppy in the corner, ready to pee and then he doesn’t–instead, he farts rainbows and unicorns.


Seriously, it’s just like that.

And I’ll be honest, I don’t know how long the magic puppy farts will stay. They seem to have their own agenda, but that’s the beauty of intermittent reinforcement. Once you know the unicorns and rainbows are out there–you can’t stop sniffing puppy butts. You just trudge and slog and tip while breathing in deeply and hoping.

I could wax poetic about this for hours, but I need to wrap this up–wouldn’t if be awful if I blew all my magic on the sheer awesomeness of this post. (Come on–you know you loved it.) Okay, you loved the puppy pics–same difference. LOL! Off to revise!

PS–I only have one question. Have YOU smelled the puppy farts?

PPS–When I tip later today it was totally because I stayed up late to write this post. It has nothing to do with The Biggest Looser. Besides–I’m a winner. Just go ask the unicorns.

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