Children's book author funny

Some quick fun laughs today for children’s book authors. Jerry Seltzer offers an inspired comic strip just for us: Tori Stellar: Children’s Book Author. I love the fourth one down with the children’s fan letter. Hilarious.

Also, on cute and funny things, I posted a picture of my Newtie into yesterday’s post. I miss him terribly, but he’s inspiring me.

National Novel Writing Month is coming up next month. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an opportunity to participate in a race to write 50K words in a month. Last year, I was revising my first novel during November, so I used NaNoWriMo to keep me on track with revising every day.

This year, I had been toying with the idea of doing full participation and trying to write a new 50K novel in the month, but I just finished my second novel and need to start revising it. Besides, to be honest, I’m so impressed with people who can write 50K in a month along with everything else they’re doing. It took me three months to write my second novel, and I thought that was good. 50K in one month! I’m officially intimidated.

But I will be revising through November. In fact, I’m going to start tomorrow, mainly because I need something to focus on with Newtie gone. So, there will be a new goal countdown starting tomorrow. Goal: Revision complete by the end of November.

What are you working on?

Write On!

Setting goals

With a full-time job and family, it can be hard to make sure writing is given its time, especially if you’re not a “working” writer, i.e. getting paid, with deadlines. So, for me, setting goals can help keep you going and see your progress.

Yesterday, I decided I wanted to finish my new novel by the end of October. No particular reason why. The date just stuck out in my head, maybe because I’d love to try National Novel Writing Month in November and see if I can write 50,000 words in one month — which I think is going to be an impossibility for someone like me with a day-job and family, but who knows.

Anyway, to get to 50,000 words by the end of October, I have to write … 354 words a day. Ok, for some reason, I did a rough calculation of this yesterday and came up with about 1,600 words, starting with 45,000 words still needed (I already had 5,000) divided by four month of four weeks each. Just now I did the calculation properly with the exact number of days (127, including yesterday, as I started yesterday) and came up with 354. My in-my-head math must have been way off yesterday. Ah! The 1,600 was probably the number needed for a week! This is why I’m a writer and not a mathematician.

Anyhoo, so I need to write 354 words a day. That’s way more doable than 1,600. 🙂 Yesterday I wrote about 1,500 in about three hours and I was thinking there’s no way I was going to be able to do 1,600 on work days. But 354 is much more doable.

So, I’m going to write a blog post every day, and at the beginning, I’ll keep a running tally of where I am in the word count.

If you’d like to tally yours too, join me in the comments. It’ll help us all keep going and inspiring each other.

Today’s start: 6,191

End: 6,794

Total for the day: 603

Still needed: 43,206/345 a day

Write On!

Day 25 and 26 and Authors Read

Forgot to check in for my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month yesterday, so this is a double post.

I wrote both days, but yesterday, after still going back and forth about the plot line of my novel, I decided to try a new tack. I needed something that could better help me see the whole story in one go, so I could better see the ebb and flow of the events and thus how the story played out without all the detail. So, I tried something I read about a while ago in an author’s interview. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the author (thank you, whoever you were), but this is something I know many authors do and I would now recommend — and something I think I will always do.

The author had said she (I do remember it was a she, but again, I’m sure plenty of other authors do this in one form or another) took out a calendar and wrote down which days events in her story happened so she could see the timeline and make sure the days all made sense. Good reason. But for me, I suspected doing a timeline — the really brief kind you see in National Geographic about global warming or something — would help me see the whole story better. So, I opened a new Word document, split the page into two columns and on one side I wrote Day 1, Day 2, etc., and on the other side I wrote the corresponding events. I also drew a seven-day grid on a piece of paper and noted the days that activity happened so I could see at a glace if it made sense that such and such an event happened three days before another related event.

This has been the most useful exercise I have done in a while on this novel. I’ve already come up with fixes to smooth out the story, and the best part is, I can easy move around events to see what works best before I edit the chapters. I haven’t completely finished the exercise yet and plan to tomorrow, then it’s back to revising the plot — but this time, I’ll have a plan.

Got any other plot revision tips?

Write On!

P.S. I heard about a very interesting site the other day and wanted to pass it on: Authors Read, on Blog Talk Radio. It’s basically what the name says, a series of audio files of authors reading their own works. I haven’t had a chance to look around it much, but it seems like a great place to try out new books as a reader and, as an author, to promote your work to the public. Check out the site, and if you like it, support the authors on there by getting the word out.

Day 24

Quick check in for day 24 of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month to say that I wrote for a bit this morning, but I’m already behind on my new goal of two sections revised each week. Everytime I get to a new section, I second guess myself based on what I had originally plotted in my outline. Lesson: Write closer to the outline in the first draft; trust your first instincts. Or maybe it’s ok the way it is. Here I go second-guessing myself again.

How do you stop yourself from second guessing?

Write On!

Day 23 – belated

First let me say, belatedly, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope it was wonderful.

Second, in the check-in for my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month, this post is actually checking in for yesterday. I got up early and got a good hour in yesterday before Mass and then cooking, but I didn’t have a chance to write my post. Unfortunately, today I was still in too much of a turkey coma to work on my novel. The little time I have spent on the computer, I been gawking at news and reading blogs. But, I did go back and work more Wednesday night, so maybe that makes up for it? Nah. But I’ll get back on track tomorrow.

I did do something good for publishing today, however, something I’d again encourage everyone to do: I went out and bought some books. A few weeks ago, I talked about buying books, and that was reiterated in a link I was sent. It’s important to support the industry, especially as we’re in it. But even more important, I think, is buying books for kids, because teaching them to love books now will make them readers for life. I have a cousin who’s 4, and he loves dinosaurs. Every year, we’ve bought him some sort of dinosaur game or puzzle, etc. This year, I decided to make him a lover of dinosaur books, so I got him a really cool dino encyclopedia with pop-ups. The words will be a little old for him, but it’ll be a great book his parents can help him with and he can grow into. Fingers crossed.

I also managed to get another gift squared away in the bookstore — although I won’t say anything more on that one because the recipient reads this blog. My point is, books are great gifts, and much less expensive than the latest electronic gadget. (Plus, there’s usually no trampling at bookstores. Did you hear about the death at Wal-Mart on Black Friday because of shoppers rushing to get bargains? Do we really need a $798 plasma HDTV that much? Or The Incredible Hulk on DVD for $9? Is it worth it?)

Sadly, I picked up a flyer at my church recently for a gift giving day (you take in appropriate gifts and the church provides them to families in need) and books were not on the list, which had suggestions for different children age groups as well as “family” gifts. Maybe I’ll get them some books anyway. Make readers for life.

What books have you bought lately?

Write On!

Day 22

I overslept and got a late start this morning, but I managed to do some revisions this afternoon for day 22 in my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month. I actually wouldn’t mind continuing, but I have a dog to walk and a grocery store to visit. We all know how that is.

In between work this morning, I found some words from Ellen Booraem, the author of The Unnameables, which I’ve mentioned a few times., on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations blog. Ellen says that often, inspiration hits her most when her fingers are on the keys, and I couldn’t agree more.

As a journalist myself, I’ve also asked sources if I can call them again with more questions as other ideas might pop up after I’ve started to write. And working on this novel, I feel the same thing. When I’m stuck, I can get ideas while driving, in the shower, walking my dog (when I’m not reading a book) or wherever. But once I get going, it’s amazing to see character and action just flow through my fingers on the keyboard, seemingly without me even thinking about them.

I know all writers experience this, times when the story is writing itself and you feel more of a conduit than the author, just the storyteller speaking for the characters floating around in your head. Enjoy it. Use it.

All right, gotta go. My dog is pawing my leg.

Until tomorrow, Happy Thanksgiving and write on!

P.S. Ellen Booraem graciously agreed to do an interview for Day By Day Writer the other day, so look for it in the coming weeks. She’s a great writer, and her success story as a first-time author is inspiration to us all.

Day 20 and new goals

Another quick post today to just check in for my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month.

The rewrite is coming along, but as it’s coming along so slowly, I’ve decided to set myself a new short-term goal: A must revise at least two sections each week. It should be doable if I stick to it. It’s not a difficult goal, but it’s enough to keep me inspired to get moving, because I’m moving too slowly.

Have you set any new goals for your writing lately?

Write On!

Day 18 and it's all in the details

Today, for day 18 of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month, I went back and started revising one of the middle chapters I just wrote. I had planned to do this later, but after looking at my original chapter plan, I found some fun ideas that I had forgotten and decided to put them in now.

It reminded me of one of the most important things when telling a story: Details.

I had forgotten this when I wrote these missing middle chapters. I was so focused on figuring out the structure, of how to join my already written beginning and end, that I forgot the details. No wonder I thought the chapters were bland.

When I started to put the details in, it started out slow, because I couldn’t see the scene properly in my head. I was missing the details. But once I got into my character’s head and started looking around the room, started thinking about all the cool things that could be going on during their conversation — inspired by what I had originally written in my chapter plans — the ideas came quickly and the story wrote itself.

Sometimes it’s not easy to remember details when we’re writing something for the first time because we’re so focused on just getting the story down. But without details, we can’t fully flesh out our story. And if we think about the details early on, it’s much easier to let the story flow.

What kind of problems do you have with your writing? Hopefully none!

Write On!

Day 17 and research to write

Didn’t get too much actual writing done today, in day 17 of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month. Instead I researched and thought, still trying to figure out the middle that I thought was behind me. Sigh. It’s frustrating, but worth it to do this work and get it right.

Coincidentally, today my husband sent me a link to an article about writing consultant Robert McKee saying Hollywood is “dying.” That was a quote, but if you read on, I don’t think it’s actually what he meant. He meant it more as a warning, that Hollywood is losing good stories.

McKee is a screenwriter’s guru, but what he teaches applies to writers of all fiction, be they screenwriters or novelists. McKee’s book Story, which Janet Fox quoted at the Brazos Valley SCBWI conference, is a very interesting and useful book to writers of all kinds. I’ve read it and recommend it for any writer’s shelf.

Anyway, at a recent seminar McKee was giving, he talked about the state of today’s movies (screenwriters are his primary audience) — of course, there’s a reason why most good movies nowadays are based on a novel. But McKee explained that to write good stories, writers should research. The more research they do, the story will write itself, he said.

Doing a lot of research follows what Cynthia Leitich Smith said about setting and Janet Fox said about character at the Brazos Valley SCBWI conference. Research is key to truly knowing your world and your characters, and from them the story will come.

Cynthia Leitich Smith suggested visited the settings you’re writing about, while Janet Fox suggested making scrapbooks for characters (click for more).

What do you do to research your work?

Write On!