Jumping Through Time

A story can include one of two things: flashbacks or skipping to the future. We don’t think recommending the two is a great idea but if executed cohesively…sure! Why not! Let’s discuss.

Sometimes, writing flashbacks can help a story flesh itself out. Readers understand the plot better, the character better, ANYTHING! But what happens when a flashback becomes more than a flash back? Meaning, what happens when a brief moment takes up a whole chapter? Is that acceptable? There isn’t any reason why it shouldn’t be acceptable – other than not being written properly. Make sure flashbacks are quick and easy. They’re meant to be memories triggered by people or items or occurrences surrounding the character or plot. Here’s an idea: it doesn’t necessarily have to be written in the perspective where the character is brought back to a moment in time…but rather, induces a feeling, an image flashed in the character’s thoughts. Something like that.

Skipping ahead in time is also a way to get the story moving along. Readers don’t need all filler details and a story doesn’t deserve that either! A few months can pass in the story in a matter of words, as long as the reader is caught up with the characters and ongoings in their world, what else is needed? Questions should never be left unanswered, too. If they are, there better be good reason for it. Did something happen prior to the time hop that wasn’t resolved during the time not mentioned? Well, it better come full circle because then the reader will not be happy (they’ll scream, “PLOT HOLE, PLOT HOLE!” and write a whole review about how the plot hole ruined the story for them.)

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So, now that we’ve lectured about time and the relationship it has with your story – let’s build a time machine and have some fun!

Meanings Here and There

A lot of prominent writers (the ones who land traditional pub deals, go on talk shows, get to see their books become films…) tend to write with deep meaning between the lines. A writer can use ways to create meaning behind the face value of the story using symbolism, their protagonist, and general commentary on society outside of the fictional tale.

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Research becomes a writer’s best friend in this scenario. When research is applied to the writing, particularly in the setting, creates meaning for the story as a whole. Knowing where your story will take place will help narrow down symbolism as well. Check out folklore, mythology, any literary history of the country you choose. Even names contain meanings sometimes.

You also have to keep in mind that your subconscious will become more apparent in your writing and the only person who will notice is you.

Re-read your draft and see if you’ve executed the story and given the deeper meanings justice. And if you haven’t, well…what are you waiting for? Get back to it!

The Path to Children’s Publishing

Children and Young Adult literature is one of the toughest genres to write, and most importantly, succeed in. The interests quickly change, the audience is smaller and more direct, and the ideas/concepts addressed really need to be engaging (I’m talking out-of-the-box extraordinary here) for it to catch the eye of a young reader. With the technology available to children today, a book really needs to scream “PICK ME UP!” for children to put all other things aside and choose to read on their own free time.

Children publishers certainly know this too. Selling a manuscript to them is only welcomed with more challenges these days. Editors aren’t looking for ‘good’ content anymore, they are looking for the next ‘big thing’and won’t settle for anything less.

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Scholastic is the King of children’s publishing. Every children/young adult author dreams of seeing their name listed on their website. That’s why I was pretty thrilled to see an article this morning about their predictions for 2017:

Hot titles will focus on kindness. It seems like everywhere we turn in 2016 the media is filled with bad news- stories of bullying, hatred, and lack of acceptance. Scholastic editors hope that through literature, maybe we can show our youth that the world isn’t really all bad and that just maybe literature can be that one thing that bring us all together under one common roof.

-The year of big book anniversaries. 2017 will host a handful of really exciting book anniversaries that will bring these modern classic to the forefront once again- good content never gets old. These anniversaries to watch out for are the 30th anniversary of The Magic School Bus, the 25th anniversary of Goosebumps, the 20th anniversary of Captain Underpants, and the 10th anniversary of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. 

-Children still want to laugh. Children seek out literature to laugh and escape reality for a bit, one of the may lessons us adults can learn from our children.

-Research is more important than ever. With more and more ludicrous information becoming available on the internet, editors are interested in teaching children to discern fact from fiction. Non-fiction titles will have a crucial role in this in 2017.

-Classics will be reimagined. Old tales will be retold in ways we have never seen them before. Keeping up with children’s imaginations is easier said than done.

Keep on writing, so our children can keep on reading.

A Bright Future for 2017

I cannot believe how quickly 2017 is approaching! I feel like I was just basking in the summer sun, toes buried in the sand, watching the ocean waves roll in. Or maybe that was just last nights dream? Either way, 2017 will be here before we know it- literally. This morning, I was browsing through some recent publishing deals and let me tell you, 2017 is going to be an awesome year. We are leaving behind one successful publishing year and rolling seamlessly into another one. Below are a few of my favorite books to look out for in the new year by major publishers:

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THE BAD MOOD AND THE STICK by Lemony Snicket, with art by Matthew Forsythe (Little, Brown Children’s) to be published in Fall 2017.

THANK YOU FOR COMING TO HATTIESBURG by comedian/actor Todd Barry- a memoir/travelogue (Gallery) to be published in March 2017.

SWEET  BABY JAMES: A POP-UP LULLABY by singer/songwriter James Taylor- a three dimensional picture book with scenes that bring the lyrics to this popular song to life (Blue Rider Press) to be published Fall 2017.

TEAMMATE by  David Ross, former Chicago cubs catcher (Hachette Books) to be published May 2017.

NO MIDDLE NAME: THE COMPLETE JACK REACHER SHORT STORIES by Lee Child- which will include all Jack Reacher short stories and a new novella (Ballantine Bantam Dell) to be published in May 2017.

WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA: AND OTHER QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD HAVE ANSWERS TO WHEN YOU WORK IN THE WHITE HOUSE by Alyssa Mastromonaco, former Obama White House deputy chief of staff for operations (Twelve) to be published in March 2017.

In order to keep on writing, we need to keep on reading.

 

We’re All A Little Crazy

Writing is one of the craziest things. Yes, I said it. It’s crazy! On the surface it seems like such a relaxing and simple task, but really it’s so much more than that. I think there’s a small part in all of us who wants to be a “writer.” We all have thousands of thoughts that run through out minds on a daily basis, we all have that one awesome book idea, and we all think that what we have to say is way more important than the person sitting next to us. The truth is, writing isn’t for everyone. Not everyone is meant to be a writer. To be a true writer you have to be a special kind of person. A writer needs to be patient, but driven. Self-disciplined, but connected to the outer world. A multi-tasker, but focused. Flexible, but determined. Creative, but conformed. Writing pulls you in so many different directions in the course of just one page, one paragraph, one sentence which makes it one of the most unpredictable careers or hobbies out there.

I started to think about just how crazy writing is this morning when I came across an article in The Huffington Post titled ‘5 Things You Need To Know About Writing Before Becoming A Writer.’ It really put the whole process in a clear perspective that made me stop to think about the mental stability of us all. Why do we do it? Writing seems harmless and fun but when you start to peel back the layers, it’s way more than you can ever imagine.

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My brain is whizzing at about 1,000 miles per hour about these ‘5 Things To Know,’ so here we go:

Writing is difficult. To do it effectively, it’s probably one of the most difficult things you will ever do. And guess what? It never gets easier. Every time you sit down to write even just a few simple words, you may feel like you have been hit in the face with 1,000 bricks. I know this because today is one of those days. And last week was too. And the month before that. Every time I sit down to write a quick blog post, nothing profound, nothing revolutionary, it’s like pulling teeth. Yes, some days the words come out easier than others, but I would never say the process in general was ‘easy.’ You always second guess your opening sentence or your last word. You always struggle to find that one word that truly describes how you feel or want your readers to feel. You always wonder if you could say more or if you should of said less. I also know writing is difficult because I can think of hundreds of others things I rather be doing right now- like laundry, mopping the floors, or washing dishes. And I never want to do those things.

  1. Throw Out All The Rules. In school we were all taught the basics of grammar and the ‘right’ way to construct a sentence, essay, or research paper. As we grew into our own writing and found our ‘spot’, our genre, we were introduced to a whole new set of rules. What you can and can’t write about. How the story is supposed to end. What types of characters you should create. Which surprises you are allowed to throw into your writing, and which ones you should leave out. What a writer really needs to do is ignore everything they have ever learned, which is much easier said than done. To set your writing a part, it needs to dabble outside the mainstream. It needs to say, ‘HEY, LOOK AT ME!’ But every time you misplace a word, use informal language, adopt a risky tone, or create a controversial character your heart will skip a beat. You will have every urge to erase the whole damn thing because you just read an article about how a romance isn’t supposed to end that way. And it will take every ounce of courage to carry on.
  2. Writer’s Block Will Happen. And when it does it will be one of the scariest and most frustrating moments of your life. You will start to second guess everything you have ever written. You will start to wonder if you are even cut out for the job. You will have an urge to keep writing and the words that are coming out will be complete garbage. And you will know it too. This is when there is literally only one thing you can do- stop. You need to stop. You need to throw that self-discipline into high gear and force yourself to walk away. You might just need a few minutes, you might need a few hours, or you might need to come back to it tomorrow.  But don’t fall victim to losing some of your best work because of ‘the block.’
  3. Writing Doesn’t Work Around Your Schedule. You might plan out the most perfect day. A quick morning run, a nice hot shower, followed by a few productive hours of writing with a few delicious cups of coffee by your side, then a healthy lunch at the cafe down the street and quite stroll through the park, with a few more productive hours of writing under a beautiful willow tree. I hope you get those days, I really do. But it won’t always work out the way you want it to- I can promise you that. The words might be get stuck in some far away galaxy that morning and finally make it down to Earth half way through that veggie wrap. You might need to push all those healthy habits aside right then and there. When creativity strikes you need to pull out that laptop or notepad and let the words dictate when you will write them. Flexibility is key.
  4. It’s Extremely Satisfying. Through all the craziness you need to keep your eye on the prize- the finished product. To form the perfect sentence, to create a realistic world out of white paper, or to finally choose that last word is a feeling that cannot be described, only experienced. Everything you said you ever hated about your writing and every time you said you were going to quit will simply disappear as if it never existed. You may even feel like a completely different person, completely misled or fooled… until the next time you sit in front of  a blank page.
  5. It’s A Window To Connecting With People. Although the process of writing is personal and intimate, once finished your writing reaches complete strangers. There are going to many people who could care less about what you wrote, but there will be others who stopped in their tracks all because of the words that you strung together. You might inspire them, you might change their perspective, or you just might simply entertain them for a few hours. Talk about pressure, huh? The beautiful thing about this connection is that you can’t force it. It’s either going to be there or it won’t. So don’t overthink it. Your natural words will connect you to someone, somewhere better than anything else.

Yes, writing is crazy. Write on.

Things We Wish We Knew When We Were ‘Writing Virgins’

With each word, sentence, and paragraph we write we often learn something new- whether we are writing a book, article, essay, or blog post. We learn something new about ourselves, our writing style, the world around us, and the best part- how to write better. But what if we could go back in time and keep all our current knowledge? If we would write our first words knowing everything we know right now? Although impossible, it sounds enticing, right? Maybe we would all be best selling authors and award winning journalists by now. As it turns out, we shouldn’t relish on things we can’t change. Instead we should be thankful for those lessons we have learned along the way that helped us grow into the writer we are today. Hey, at least we aren’t that clueless ‘writing virgin’ anymore.

We don’t only have our own lessons to learn from, but we also have our fellow writers experiences to lean on as well. Recently, Marie Claire sat with author Kate Mosse and talked with her about things she wish she knew before writing her first book. She really seemed to nail down some crucial points and if we can’t take writing advice from a successful author herself, then who can we really trust? Whether you are a veteran writer or a ‘writing virgin’ (go ahead thank me now before you become famous… well, maybe you should really thank Kate), everyone will find something they can relate to or learn from on her list:

  1. You must tackle the blank screen.

As Kate puts it, the blank screen is your enemy. You can’t say you are writing anything until you actually have words on the page. Research, outlines, doodles, and excuses are all part of the writing process but don’t let them keep you from doing the one thing you really need to do- write.

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2. Editing is where success happens. 

Sometimes we get so caught up in the actual writing process because we think that if we have a crappy first draft that we are doomed from ever succeeding. But, editing is really where all the magic happens so let yourself get to that point as quickly as possible. We need time to digest our own stories and often our best ideas come when aren’t really looking for them.

3. Everyone has bad days. 

Every writer has a day (or maybe countless days) when they feel like everything they are doing is wrong and that maybe they never should of started this project in the first place. These feelings aren’t just for you ‘virgins’ out there, everyone has them. Some days you feel awesome and others you may feel completely discouraged. Just know that this is completely normal.

4. Make a plan and stick to it.

You know that feeling when you think you have the best story idea ever and then you get half way through and start to question everything about it? Yes, I know you do. Well, guess what? Don’t do that. Stick it through and keep writing. This is where the editing magic really takes place.

5. Write every day. 

Make sure you are writing something every day. Even if you only have 5 spare minutes one day, write a few sentences. You need to stay in the writing groove to make sure you stay on track.

6. No writer is the same. 

In order to be successful you need to find out what works for you. Every writer has a different time of day in which they write their best or a different writing spot that really gets their creative juices flowing. Just because it worked for one writer, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Stay true to yourself and give yourself what you need.

7. Write on inspiration, not sequence.  

You  don’t need to write your story in order- that’s the beauty of ‘copy and paste.’ If you are itching to write a particular scene, go for it. Writing is supposed to be enjoyable and the more fun you have with it, the happier you will be with the end result. Don’t force yourself into writing something you aren’t into at the moment. There’s always tomorrow for that.

8. Don’t be afraid to fail. 

Every failure leads to another success, so don’t let that get in your way of trying. If your first, sixth, or tenth story completely fails- brush it off (after you treat yourself to a nice big pity ice cream sundae). Something you learned from that experience will help you succeed in the future, I promise (and Kate does too).

Write on.

Why We Should Always Be Writing

I guess it’s easy enough for anyone to tell that I have been having a hard time keeping up with regular blog posts this summer. My last post was about two months ago- yikes! Life can easily get in the way of some of our simplest and most mundane tasks. Getting back to blogging has been on the back of mind since well… my last blog post. I just never had the right inspiration to lure me away from the pile of work on my desk and into blog writing abyss. There was always tomorrow, or next week, or next month (haven’t I talked about NOT doing this at some point on this blog? Thought so). It didn’t hit me until today that I am missing something vital in my daily/weekly life- writing.

My job is full of reading, but rarely do I get the chance to write. Writing is a beneficial exercise for everyone, whether you are actually a writer or not. It’s one of the only outlets of expression that is truly our own. It’s easier to express your true feelings and track our personal experiences or thoughts on paper, whether or not we ever intend to share it with others. An article published this morning on LifeHacker really helped to drive this point home for me and there was no way I was going to be able to get away without another day of blogging (I know exactly what you are thinking- yes, it does appear to your lucky day). The article talks about the psychological benefits to writing and let’s just say we should all be writing as much as we can.

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-The first thing the article talks about is that regular writing often leads to an improved mood/well-being and reduced stress levels. I know for myself that I feel a whole lot better after each post I write because of that satisfactory feeling that I have created something that wasn’t there before. Writing helps us to express things that we might find a hard time communicating verbally. It gives us a moment to stop and think about how we feel and what we have to say before committing to it, which leads us to their next point.

-Writing helps get us through pain. Many people have a hard time verbally sharing how they feel or talking about tough times they are currently going through. It’s very easy to pretend that everything’s alright, even when it’s not. With writing, it’s very hard to escape our true feelings. No matter how hard we try to hide them, they will eventually come pouring out. Writing is truly a safe haven.

-Writing also makes us feel more positive and gracious when about good things going on in our lives. Just as hard as it is to face the bad things in our lives, we often feel embarrassed to share the good news too for fear of ‘bragging’ or being ‘self-centered.’ But, recognizing our achievements and the positive events taking place in our lives will make us happier people for it. Especially in today’s world, we should never be ashamed to spread some good news.

-Writing clears your mind. We all have a ton of ideas floating around in our heads on a daily basis. Some days it feels as if not a single tiny bit of information more can fit in there. If we continually write about what’s on our mind it relieves our brains from thinking about it any longer, giving our brains/minds more time to think about other things. We are constantly surrounded by sensory overload and we shouldn’t torture ourselves with it any more than we need to.

-When we write, we learn. Not only do we learn many new things about ourselves every time we write, but we also learn new things about the outside world. Every new piece of research you find teaches us something that we didn’t know before and you are most likely teaching someone else something new too, which might just be the best part.

-Writing forms the leader inside of you. There’s no better feeling than knowing that something you wrote about has positively affected someone else. We all have at least a few writers we look up to dearly and can really relate to. Believe it or not, you are likely that writer for someone else too- leading them into a better life one word at a time.

After reading this article it’s safe to say, “I’M BACK!”

Or at least I hope so.

Write on.