28 June 2011

Paper is Underrated

I'm printing out my manuscript today! For the past three weeks I've stared at my computer screen for at least eight hours a day. I've been pushing myself to "Get it done!" My goal to finish has taken its toll; my brain is mush and I'm becoming cross-eyed. My inactive hiney is starting to jiggle, and not in a sexy backup dancer kinda way.

I am grateful for the many conveniences of the modern world. Refrigerators, toilets, Netflix. I'm grateful for my computer. But right now, I wish I lived in 1822 and all I had to write with was a quill pen and some good ol' fashioned paper.

Paper is more portable than my computer (I don't have a smartphone or a laptop). Paper feels smooth and dry in my hands. Paper feels good, especially when my writing is printed upon it. Doesn't it feel awesome to have your hard work in your hands, proof that it exists beyond a desktop or a word document? Doesn't it feel incredible to see that every word came from your imagination? Isn't it inspiring to know that the characters wouldn't exist without you? Oh yes, it feels gooood.

It's true that too much of a good thing can be bad. I realize printing out my WIP every time I have a new draft is expensive and wasteful, so I like to treat myself after I've made it to my next-to-last draft.

How often do you print out your book? What do you do to celebrate your next-to-last draft?

27 June 2011

Blogging Mentor Mondays: Theresa Milstein Is Here!

It's Monday! That means it's time to freshen up our blogs. This week's mentor, Theresa Milstein, has TWO blogs Substitute Teacher's Saga and Earnest Writer's Excerpts.
Theresa has great ideas on how to keep your blog current and offers suggestions on how to increase your following.
Read on to find out what Theresa has to say!

Tell us a bit about yourself/writing:
I started off writing middle grade, but have switched to YA along the way. All my manuscripts have a fantasy element. My short story “Daisy” appeared in the100 Stories for Queensland anthology to raise money for Australian flood victims. My YA vampire short story “Allured” will appear in the Fangtales Anthology, coming soon from Wyvern Publications. 
What inspired you to start your blog(s)?
My blog inspiration was actually frustration. The previous spring I began subbing. When I had to face it again that fall, I thought I’d get through it by chronicling each horrid job.
What is the theme of your blog? Who is your audience?
The theme of my blog is writing, teaching, and life. I started off looking for other teacher blogs. But I found it easier to find other writer blogs, and they were more likely to follow back and comment (we’re a blabby bunch). And since I love writing, that’s really what most of my posts are about anyway. I’m thrilled when I find another teacher-writer.
Do you have any tips for designing a successful blog?
I only know about Blogger. At some point they made it very easy to create a unique blog. I suggest playing around with color and font to make sure that your blog isn’t hard to look at. When the font is too small or there’s not enough of a color contrast, my eyes tire. I also suggest posts under 1k words, spaces in between paragraphs, and varying fonts.  Play with SiZe, color, italics, bold, and capitalize certain words for EMPHASIS.
How do you build your blog following and increase readership?
When I started, I had no clue. My blogger file didn’t have my e-mail on it. So I’d follow people and wonder why they didn’t follow me back. DUH! Elana Johnson had the best advice: follow twice as many people as follow you. When I find a writer’s blog, especially if the blog seems good and/or the person writes in my genre I follow it. If I read a blog, I comment. If someone comments on my blog, I comment back.   
I know some people comment back to commenters on their own posts. Others send an e-mail (to those who provide their e-mails addresses). I do both. It takes more time, but I realized very few people return to my blog to view my reply. But I like to reply on my blog because it sometimes creates a dialogue. And I like to e-mail because it builds relationships. Crazy, right?
How much time do you spend blogging and viewing and commenting on other blogs? Do you think it’s important for writers (at all stages of their careers) to have a blogging community? Why or why not?
The time I spend varies. When I’m busy at work, I comment less. When I don’t have time to comment, then I don’t post as often. In the beginning, I posted almost daily. Months in, I realized I’d stopped writing any new fiction. When I have a day to write, I put in 3 hours before I’ll even consider blogging. If it’s a busy day, and I know I won’t be in the right frame of mind to write, I’ll just blog. To me, blogging is part of my writing life.   
If you can’t commit to the blog consistently, don’t do it. It’s not for everyone. If you’re just doing it for a platform, you probably not going to get much out of it.
Do you have any advice for writing good posts or comments?
Don’t skim other blogs. Take the time to read people’s posts. If you do that, you’ll care about the content and you’ll leave a more thoughtful comment.   
I don’t force my posts. If an idea comes to me, I’ll write it. I know some people write certain kinds of posts on certain days. That’s not for me. I’ll wait until I have something special to say. So I’m posting about twice a week because that’s how often a decent post pops into my brain.
How do you keep your blog current?
I pay attention to what other people are talking about, and that often sparks a current post. In early June, The Wall Street Journal accused YA of being too dark. Facebook was filled with links to bloggers who had weighed in on the issue. I didn’t think I had anything unique to add until I discussed YA and the article with a class of 7th-graders. So on June 13th, I wrote a post about it.
What other invaluable advice can you share with fellow bloggers?
If you want to build your relationships and readers, don’t expect them to flock to you. You need to find, comment on, and follow other blogs. Very few blogs become popular with little work on the part of the host. I can only think of one. Truth is, there are many excellent blogs out there, so good content isn’t going to automatically make you an overnight blogging success.
How do you think blogging has helped your writing?  
While blogging takes time, the benefits have been enormous. I’ve found blogs that have educated me on the craft of writing and I’ve found wonderful critique partners.   
My writing has also improved just from writing posts. I’ve learned to be brutal, deleting whole paragraphs. The words may have been nice, but if they detracted from the heart of the story, GONE. I credit my blog with the success with my short stories. I learned to delete the unnecessary parts to find the heart of the story.

Thank you for your advice, Theresa! I'm going to work on following other blogs, just as you suggested. I've learned so much from you, and I'm sure others will, too. Thanks again!

20 June 2011

Blogging Mentor Mondays: Deana Barnhart Is Here!

Deana Barnhart of her self entitled blog has generously volunteered to be my guinea pig for Blogging Mentor Mondays. Whether you're a new blogging or if you've been around the "blog" before, there's something in this interview for you! 

Tell us a bit about yourself/writing:
I’m a teenager stuck in a 31-year-old's body. I don’t know how I got here with two pretty cool kids and a husband who acts just as much the goofball as me, but I’m thankful for it. As far as my writing, it is all about the YA for me. I suppose it is another way for me to hold on to my youth. It can’t be any YA though; it has to have some unnatural element before I can write it. Right now I am working on a time travel dystopian and I have recently shelved a book about guardian angels and the girl who could give them a choice at a human life.
What inspired you to start your blog(s)?
I have had a writing blog for quite awhile but didn’t do much with it because I didn’t know how to gain an audience. Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz. This book really got my mind churning and then I happened upon Elana Johnson’s blog. She finalized the pumping me up and the rest is history.
What is the theme of your blog? Who is your audience?
My blog is for any writer or person in the writing biz, but I try to keep my focus on writers looking for easy answers to the tough writing questions. This is most often new writers. So far my audience consists new writers to published authors.
Do you have any tips for designing a successful blog? 
Yes! Things that I personally look for in a blog are simplicity. If it is too crammed I get confused (I know I can be sorry at times) and just leave. I love it when you can subscribe by email because if I love your blog I want to be notified when you post so I can visit often and we can build a friendship. The follow button is best when it is at the top in my opinion. People don’t like to search. Short posts are good, and maybe not every one of them being all about you and what you are working on. I think people shy away from that. It’s almost like a sales pitch. Does that make sense? Ooo and this is personal, but I love a quirky blog, full of personality.
How do you build your blog following and increase readership?
I visit other blogs and take the time to read a post and comment on it in a way that shows I’m not there just to up my numbers. Every blog I visit isn’t my favorite but some are right down my alley and I have met some terrific people this way. I can honestly say I love visiting other blogs. Also, when someone comments on my blog, I reply to them, sometimes as personally as replying through email. Not everyone comes back to check and see if you’ve commented. Plus, when they visit I try my darndest to visit them back. Last thing: I FOLLOW FOLLOW FOLLOW other blogs.
How much time do you spend blogging and viewing and commenting on other blogs? Do you think it’s important for writers (at all stages of their careers) to have a blogging community? If so, why?
I probably spend way too much time. I try to visit 10 blogs a day. This doesn’t always happen but I’ve found the more my numbers grow and people stop by, the more blogs I visit without having to go out searching for new blogs to visit. 
I don’t know that it is important for writers to have a blogging community, but I do think it helps for them to have some kind of connection to other writers if for nothing else than the support only writers can give each other. If you are talking about building your platform through blogging, I think there are so many ways to do so it doesn’t have to be a blog. There is Twitter, Facebook, Linked, Goodreads, Oh so many! I don’t see how some can do all of it and do it all well. I do think it is important to pick something though.
 Do you have any advice for writing good posts or comments?
Keep them as short as possible. Ask questions so the readers can engage with you and want to comment. You don’t have to be a know-it-all in every post. Sometimes asking for guidance through posts can help the reader feel useful and good about posting…because we all want to help if we can, right? If you are talking about someone or something give links. Make things bright and bullets work too. If it doesn’t look like an essay I think people will want to read more.
How do you keep your blog current?
I post Mon, Wed, Fri. I also have things in my sidebar I try to keep updated. 
What invaluable advice can you share with other bloggers?
Ugh, I am looking for that myself.  Maybe just to be genuine. People can spot a fake from a mile away.
How do you think blogging has helped your writing? 
It gives good practice. Even if you aren’t writing a WIP, you are still writing. It has also connected me with some invaluable information and people.

I appreciate your words of wisdom, Deana! I'll start improving my blog by following in your footsteps. Thanks again!

17 June 2011

Blogging Mentor Mondays

Drum roll please...Starting next Monday I will begin spotlighting an experienced blogger on Blogging Mentor Mondays!

Different writers will offer their tips on how to build a following, how to write a successful post, and talk about their own blogs. It's a great chance to get to know another writer/blogger.

If you're interested, or if you have a blog that you'd like to see spotlighted, please contact me!

15 June 2011

Moody Writer...Who? ME?!

I'm a homemaker and mom with three wonderful young children who are with me constantly (at least it feels that way). On days when my hours are filled with baking cookies, changing diapers, and pulling weeds—and I have no time to write—I can feel the pressure building inside of me, mounting with each passing hour until I'm so irrationally desperate for a sheet of paper, a pen, and some gosh darn quiet that I become cranky.

Or on days when I do have time for my writing, but it's wedged between the many other things on my to-do list, I can still become cranky. The story goes like this: I'm really on a roll with my writing and I do everything quickly so I can get back to it. Make breakfast. Write. Shower. Write. Play blocks with the kiddos. Write. Put the children down for naps. Write. Clean the bathroom. Write. You get the picture. It sounds like a healthy balance, but it's exhausting hopping back and forth between my family and my writing. And the first thing to crumble under the stress is my good attitude.

Lastly, on the rare occasion (yeah right!) when I'm in the middle of sketching out a scene and I have to stop to answer my husband's phone call or pause to help one of my children find a toy, I sometimes begrudge my wifely or motherly duties. There, I said it. Bring on the guilt!

On the flip side, on days when I have limitless patience, laser beam focus, and I achieve my writing goals, I am so freaking cheerful it's annoying. I smile. I sing. I dance a little jig. I'm jump-on-Oprah's-couch exuberant. I'm so optimistic I make Pollyanna look like she needs Prozac.

So there it is—I've confessed that I'm a moody writer. I've pouted, stomped my feet, and gnashed my teeth, and I've beamed brighter than a ray of sunshine. I am happy to say that when the temperamental writer rears her ugly head, she's not around long; soon, my brain unfogs from my writing and I switch my focus to my family. Then, when I get the chance to write, my head is in the game...at least until my middle child screams bloody murder and I have to leave the climax of my book to find out why.

Are you a mom trying to squeeze every last second out of your day to write? Tell me about it.

10 June 2011

The NeverEnding Story

You've been writing your book for so many months you're embarrassed to say. From beginning to end it's been years in the making, years in the planning, years in the dreaming, years in the writing, years in the editing. So when do you know when you're finished? When, after you've edited your little heart out, are you done?

I am a firm believer that writing changes with the writer. Each day that you write you're bettering your craft, so it makes sense that you can nit-pick a manuscript you've read a thousand times and know by heart because your learning continues to increase. But at what point are you picking at an open wound? Can you take editing so far as to scar your writing? YES! I've done it, you've done it, we've all done it. It's hard not to get carried away with forming that perfectly concise sentence or whittling down your word count to fit within a publisher's limits. But writer beware! If editing reaches the point of damaging your writing, you've undermined yourself.

Seems simple enough, right? No, it isn't. How many writers do you know who would sell their first born, cut off their left hand, or bargain with their very soul in order to be published? Every writer, that's who. We'll do almost anything to cross over from writer to author, even over-edit. Because of this dedication there is a fine line between preparing my manuscript for a publisher and writing to please a publisher. In my experience, the best barometer is me.

Writing is subjective. Allowing outside influences to shape your writing can cause you to lose your voice, which is the very essence of your writing style. So go ahead! Throw away that delete key and let your voice be heard loud and clear! Grammatical errors aside, editing is as subjective as writing—and even some grammar is debatable.

How do you decide when your NeverEnding Story is complete?