Saturday, June 30, 2012

The End of JumpStartWriMo--Come Win a Prize!

Well, I think I've had the worst day in the history of the universe and it kept me away from the computer so I didn't make my goal.  But I got very very close and I'm thrilled with that.  It definitely was the jump start I needed.  My next book is outlined and my current book is *thisclose* to being edited and done.  Whew!  I worked hard and was so motivated by knowing I was accountable to you all.

Thank you SO much to everyone who participated all month long.  You guys are amazing and I'm so lucky to have bloggy friends like you.

Now for the prizes.  Tell me in the comments how you did on the goals you set for June and your name will be entered in the prize giveaway of a first chapter critique by Jordan McCollum and a copy of either Twitterpated by Melanie Jacobson or Murder by the Way by Betsy Brannon Green.

I think my favorite part of the whole month was the sprinting.  We definitely need to keep doing that.  So, how did you do?  What part of the month was your favorite?  Tell me everything . . .

Friday, June 29, 2012

First Page Friday

Can you believe it's the last Friday in June already?  This year is flying by.  Tomorrow is the last day of JumpStartWriMo and remember, if you come and post on the wrap-up post how you did on your goals, you'll be entered in the drawing for a first chapter critique from Jordan McCollom and a new release from either Melanie Jacobson or Betsy Brannon Green.

Here is this week's First Page Friday submission.

The Entry
by Sonia Crawford

Teresa gasped as she fell.  This is going to hurt, she thought as she tumbled to the ground, the castle walls a blur beside her.  She wished, not for the first time, she had paid more attention to her self-defense teacher.  Instead, she had been too eager for the offensive moves and less concerned about protection.  Thud!  Teresa landed on her back and felt the air explode from her lungs.  Stars whirled on the edge of the darkness closing in on her sight.  ‘So this is what it feels like to pass out’ was her last thought.
            Teresa groaned as her body and mind got reacquainted.  “Welcome back,” Elaina said.  “How do you feel?” 
            “Like I’ve been run over by a stampede of horses,” Teresa responded. She groaned again as she tried to sit up.  Elaina came to assist her. 
           “You were lucky,” Elaina said.  “I can’t believe you fell on the only place that could have prevented your death.  That gorse bush wasn’t even that big.  How you managed to plant yourself right in the middle of it...Well, let’s just stick with – you were lucky.”
           Teresa thought back to how she had gotten here, where she was now.  It had been a long, hard process, but it had been worth it.  “When can I leave,” she asked. 
           “Tomorrow, if you don’t have any other symptoms.”
           “What do you mean other symptoms?” 
           “You mean besides being unconscious and barely breathing?  Let’s see - your eyes were rolled back up in your head, your face was white as a bleached sheet, and your lips were purple.  Head and back injuries are not something to take lightly, Teresa.  You should be dead.  That fall should have killed you.  I don’t know why you were up there, but I know Deke will want to have a full report when you are back up on your feet.  In fact, you might want to fake feeling ill a couple more days, just to let his anger have more time to dissipate, before you go talking to him.”

Angela's Critique (with special thanks to editing assistant Heidi Brockbank)

What Works

            This starts off with immediate action. We meet the heroine in mid-fall. She has a wry sense of humor – of course it’s going hurt, falling off a castle. It could even kill you, depending on the situation. You’ve got a lot of questions buzzing in the reader’s mind by now. Is Teresa a spy? Was she on a secret mission? Why was she taking self-defense? Now that you’ve kindled the reader’s curiosity, let’s look at some ways to fan the flames.

Curiosity Kills More than Just Cats

            Curiosity is great, but it’s easy to cross the line into vagueness, something you definitely want to avoid. Here are some places where an ounce of clarification will prevent readers from losing interest in the story:

·      Teresa wishing she had paid more attention to self-defense teacher—this line creates potential confusion. An initial impression may be that she was undergoing self-defense training in the castle. We don’t get another clue until the end of the page, where we hear about Deke. Now more confusion sets in. Since Elaina doesn’t know what Teresa was doing “up there”, we think it must not be something simple and obvious, like training. And why Deke would be mad that she fell is another mystery. This could be the start of a good hook, but we need a little clarity so we’re not floundering around, trying to get a foothold on the scene. Adding a line, or even a few words, could help the readers understand what is happening before they jump to wrong conclusions.
·      Also, who is Elaina? Just a line subtly describing her at some point—“My sparring partner turned me over” or “My roommate smiled and…”—would give us a better handle on her relationship with Teresa. Readers want to know where they are and who they’re with. Creating intrigue with those details is great, but usually that means you need to give us something solid with a twist, not something overly vague.
·      What is the time frame for Teresa regaining consciousness? Was she out for only a few minutes or much longer? Another question related to the time is if the location of the scene has shifted. It seems probable that it has, but there are no details for the reader to draw a definite conclusion. Teresa could still be at the foot of the castle, being helped by Elaine. Or she may have been transported to a hospital or someplace else, and hours or days may have passed. I’ve never been knocked out, but I would think the first things I would want to know upon waking was how long I’d been out, where I was, and how I’d gotten there.
·      Don’t be afraid to spell a few things right out. It won’t hurt the suspense, but it will help ground the reader securely in the story.  At the same time, give a little detail on the physical things – Elaina’s looks or Teresa’s, for instance. Not something that interrupts the scene, but complements it, giving us insight into the psychology/history of the girls as reflected in their visages/apparel, etc.
·      Elaina sends mixed messages in her reaction to Teresa’s fall. Initially, she seems nonchalant about her friend’s brush with death, like it’s an everyday occurrence. A few minutes later, she seems more concerned. Their relationship is unclear. Does she care about Teresa like a good friend? A colleague? Also, Teresa seems to be asking Elaina permission to leave. Does Elaina have authority over her? Perhaps she’s a doctor? Since almost dying would be a bigger deal to most people, perhaps you can show a compelling reason why it isn’t to these unique people? Remember, you want solid with a twist to create the intrigue, instead of being too vague.
·      I don’t know why you were up there, but I know Deke will want to have a full report when you are back up on your feet. Wouldn’t she be asking why Teresa was up there? Their relationship—and her level of concern—is ambiguous, and thus less interesting. Elaina doesn’t seem overly interested, so we don’t feel it either. If there’s a reason—because Teresa is a super ninja tough girl or whatever—then explain it so we understand.

A Word about Words

Thud!  Teresa landed on her back and felt the air explode from her lungs.
So the prose here could be a bit more interesting. For instance, this sentence is sort of redundant. The sound can serve as the act of landing—and we learn a few lines down she landed on her back, so keeping it visceral is more interesting: Thud! Air exploded from her lungs.

Another thing to watch out for is redundancy in the dialogue tags. There are only two people talking, so we don’t need lots of tags.  You can increase the “voice” by cutting out redundancy and choosing some interesting details to focus on in the descriptions.

‘So this is what it feels like to pass out’ was her last thought. Get rid of the quotes. Either use italics or nothing. If you go with italics, you can trim the sentence even more: So this is what it feels like to pass out. Teresa seems to be more of a conservative voice, so using italics on the thoughts is fine. The thought in the first paragraph doesn’t use quotations or italic, so you’ll want to adjust it so the style you pick for internal dialogue is consistent throughout the story.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the setup is interesting. I do want to know what Teresa was doing up in the castle, why and how she fell, who she is and what she is going to do next. This seems like it could be the beginning of a cool Covert Affairs type story, with a smart, savvy heroine that’s ready for any adversary. But I think I’d be a lot more excited and intrigued about it all if I had more solid details in which to lose myself in this interesting new world. You don’t need to tell all in the first few pages, but you want to give enough information that we can accurately picture what is happening and what the basic setting and character relations are—and what’s at stake (not knowing enough details makes it hard for there to be something at stake—something for the reader to worry about). Be on the watch for extraneous words, and keep your sentences lean and energetic, which will help keep the pace of the story moving forward with intensity, guaranteeing your readers’ attention.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Do You Use a Writer's Notebook?

"Victory is won not in miles, but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more." - Louis L’Amour

That quote is exactly how I've felt about JumpStartWriMo.  I knew my spirits were flagging and I needed something to get me going.  I was holding my ground, but needed a little more.  Finding other people in the same predicament and going through this JumpStartWriMo with them has been such a rejuvenating experience.  I appreciate everyone who has made goals with me, sprinted with me, commented on my blog, and in general just been such a great writing support and community.  Don't forget on Saturday we're going to post how we did with our goals!

I was looking at my writer's notebook today because I've been carrying it around with me for the last three weeks and it's looking fairly beat up.  I have my idea pages, dialogue pages, chapter pages, research pages, and character pages.  The longer this month has gone on, the more paper I've filled up with my ramblings.  But guess what?   This manuscript is in the final stages and the next book is outlined.  I feel so great being able to say that.

And then I wondered how you guys did your writer's notebook.  

For me, I have snatches of dialogue come to me in the oddest places and so I can write it down on my dialogue page.  I have reader feedback coming in where a character needs more description and I can jot that down in my character pages.  I also loosely organize my chapter pages where I can give a summary of what's happening in that chapter and what needs to happen.  It's a nice guide when I'm drafting and revising.

It's also a nice reminder for me that I have done the work.  When I look at that fat beat-up book I know that  I've come a long way from the first draft of the book and that I'm putting forth my best work.  It gives me a sense of satisfaction to look at it because it's an accomplishment.  It might sound silly to some, but my writing notebooks mean a lot to me.

Do you have a writer's notebook?  How do you organize yours?  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We're Sprinting in Five Minutes---Come Join the Fun!

Okay, it's the last sprint of June and I'm going to make it count!  I hope you will, too.

So, here's the deal.  We check in every fifteen minutes and report our progress.  Doesn't have to be a long drawn out report, just a check-in.

I'm also over on Twitter @juliebellon

This is going to be fun!

Word Count Wednesday & My New Back Copy

I am going gangbusters on my goal of finishing the revision by Saturday.  My word count has been just over 5000 with the sprint I did last Wednesday.  I am SO happy with that.  I'm going to do another sprint tonight from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. MST.  Would love to have you join us.  I do a special sprint blog post so we can check in with each other every fifteen minutes and we're also over on twitter.  How did you do on your word count this week?

Okay, so yesterday I mentioned I was looking at the back copy for my new novel that's coming out this fall.  I decided to show it to you and see what you think.  *bites nails*  

Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes we all fall down . . .

When Navy SEAL Rafe Kelly is taken hostage by a man with a bomb strapped to his chest and reciting that nursery rhyme, memories of his last covert mission in Afghanistan hit him hard.  Realizing the war he left behind has followed him home, Rafe must use all of his skills to stay alive long enough to figure out who wants him dead¾terrorists or a secret faction of his own government that thinks he knows too much. 

As a hostage negotiator, Claire Michaels is known for being cool under pressure.  But everything heats up when a hostage is threatened by a prototype of a military precision weapon and Claire is caught in the line of fire.  When bad goes to worse, she must turn to the one man who can help her, someone who holds the key to national secrets, someone she's always wanted to believe in¾her father.  Can she trust a man she barely knows and unravel the web of deceit before anyone has to die?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: Caribbean Crossroads

Sorry this post is late today.  I've been staring at the back copy for my new book and I don't know if I like it yet.  And I don't know if I can share it because I don't know if I like it.  But I sort of do.  So I'm in a quandary.  To share or not to share---that is the question.

Anyway, when I'm in a quandary I always read (or watch Scarecrow and Mrs. King) and since I watched four episodes of Scarecrow, I settled down to read Caribbean Crossroads by Connie Sokol.  (Why do I always want to spell Caribbean with two "r"s?  Weird.)  The cover reminded me a lot of the Newport Ladies Book Club covers, which I liked.  It looks summery and fun and romantic and it pretty much announces that this book is a fun afternoon beach read.  So, hey, head to the beach or backyard and get reading!

We meet Megan who has been hurt by love.  She thinks she's found The One but he's just been playing her which makes her feel like she can't trust her own judgment.  Her roommate gets her to go on a cruise where she's a dancer and she meets Bryant.  She's pulled toward him and they have some fun experiences together, but they've both been burned and the relationship has a lot of starts and pauses.

I liked the writer's flow, she has an easy style, and the setting was done really well.  I could totally envision all the areas of the ship and felt like I was really there.  I had a bit of a hard time with Megan because she talked older than she was (I'm assuming she's in her 20s but some of the phrases and words she used weren't something 20 year olds would say) and then acted younger than she was with the way she handled her relationship issues.  It made it hard for me to really identify with her and the choices she made at times.  Megan does have a big heart, though, and that was endearing, and I thought there was definitely character growth throughout the book.  The character I really liked (besides the hero) was her roommate Jillian.  I wouldn't mind a story about her.  She was fun and had such a great voice!  I also liked that overall even the "villains" in this story had a lot of gray areas to them, so that made it more realistic.  And I just liked Bryant (the hero).  He was a really great hero.  I could totally imagine him and thought he had so many wonderful qualities as well as flaws that made him three-dimensional.  The author gets a 'Well Done' on that count.  :)

So, if you are looking for a fun romantic beach read, this is the book for you.

Here is the back copy:

New college grad Megan McCormick just got dumped. Hard.

Swearing off men and relationships, Megan is coaxed into performing on a cruise ship where she meets the star performer, Bryant Johnson. Handsome and charismatic, he looks like trouble, but she can't deny the intense attraction between them.

Urged to find a wife and run the family lumber business, Bryant is torn between his family's expectations for his life and his own. However, when he meets spunky, but love-skittish Megan McCormick, settling down doesn't look so bad.

Just when Megan begins to trust again, and Bryant makes some big decisions regarding his future, her former fiance returns with a malicious surprise, taking Megan and Bryant to their own CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Are You Living Your Fears?

I saw this quote over the weekend and thought it was so apropos for writers.

"Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears." - Les Brown

My dream from a very young age was to be a published writer.  And I did that.  But making my dream to make writing my career was scary.  It's scary for me because writing is like giving something of myself for the public to scrutinize and criticize.  And deep down I feel insecure about a lot of things, like whether my skin is thick enough to take whatever comes.

After having seven books published, I've realized a lot of things about myself.  I know I love writing and that it fulfills me.  I know I'm a better person to be around when I have a little writing time to myself every day.  I know that I work best when I have deadlines and a critique group, and I've learned my skin is a little thicker than I thought.  (Still, though, my heart always drops a bit when I see two star reviews.  But I'm learning to suck it up as part of the business.)

This month, for JumpStartWriMo, I dreamed big.  I made a goal to finish my deep revision and start my new book.  I'm not going to reach that goal by July 1st, (unless I lock my family and all my other responsibilities in the basement or something. Yeah, probably not gonna happen) but I'm so happy with the progress I've made so far and I can't wait to get to the weekend so I can look back and see my accomplishment.  (And I'm going to do another sprint this Wednesday, so I hope you all come.)

But, as I said above, I know I work best with a deadline, so I am giving myself until midnight on June 30 to finish my deep revision of this book.  I'm going to at least finish one of my goals for the month.  And I'm going to reward myself by buying Betsy Brannon Green's new book, Murder by the Way, or Melanie Jacobson's new book, Twitterpated (depending on my mood) if I reach my goal.    

And I'm going to offer a prize to you, my JumpStartWriMo friends as well.  Go back and look at what your goal was on June 1st.  Make a goal to finish it or a major part of it by midnight June 30th.  If you put in the comments what you accomplished, I will send you whatever book I don't reward myself with, (either Murder by the Way or Twitterpated) and reward you with it instead!  And in addition, I think we should have some sort of online party to celebrate how we did, don't you think?

So let's get going this week.  Don't live your fears.  We can do this!  We are awesome!  We are WRITERS!

Friday, June 22, 2012

First Page Friday

I hope all of you feel like JumpStartWriMo has helped you.  We've got one more week this month and I am so excited at my own progress.  I don't know that I'll reach all of my goals, but I have done so much more writing in June than I thought I would.  I've got some fun stuff coming up next week for our last hurrah!

Here is this week's installment of First Page Friday.

The Entry
by Jenny Proctor

Henry Jacobson watched his seven year old son throw rocks into the still water of the Little Tennessee River. He was only a few yards away, close enough for Henry to hear his voice, or reach him in a mere moment should he step any closer to the water. Still, Henry couldn’t shake the feeling that his son was somehow far away, slowly, quietly slipping beyond his reach.

Henry turned and looked down the asphalt path that wound through the densely green foliage next to the river. It was a beautiful summer day, warm, but with enough of a breeze to keep the heat at bay. For a Sunday afternoon, Rose Creek’s Greenway Park was relatively quiet. Henry saw an older couple walking a small, yappy dog that hopped energetically between them, and a family riding their bikes further down the path. Otherwise, he and his son were alone.

“AJ,” Henry called. “Do you want to go back over to the playground? I could push you on the swing.”

AJ scrunched his face in consideration. “Naw, I don’t really feel like swinging.”

“What about your bike?” Henry asked. “I could walk beside you while you ride, catch you if you come close to falling.”

AJ turned and looked at him, a look of disbelief on his face. “Dad, it’s been ages since I fell off my bike. I’ve been practicing with Mom. I can go really fast by myself.”

Henry winced, ashamed to have missed such a milestone in his son’s life. “That’s great, AJ,” he said. “Can I see you ride since you’ve gotten so good?”

 “I don’t really feel like riding my bike either,” AJ kicked at a clump of grass at his feet. “Can we just go home? I’m hungry and I think Grandma has pie.”

 Henry glanced at his watch. It was just after 4—a full two hours earlier than AJ’s mom expected him home. He sighed and watched as AJ tossed one final rock into the river. Close to the size of the boy’s fist, the rock made a noisy splash when it hit the water.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

I’ve often taken samples to task for not getting under way fast enough, for ruminating on the wrong details at the wrong time. This sample is a bit different. It doesn’t sucker-punch you with a cheap dramatic thrill to get your attention (not that there’s anything wrong with that tactic, which can be effective). It takes a quiet approach. It draws the reader in slowly. The hook isn’t in a meaty piece of dialogue or dramatic event; it’s in the emotional distance between Henry and his son.

What’s most poignant about this piece isn’t what happens, but what doesn’t happen. AJ refuses Henry’s offer to push him on the swing and guide him on his bicycle. He makes it clear that he’s more interested in being with his mother and grandmother. These cues and others alert us to Henry’s limited role in his son’s life, and the fact that AJ’s mom expects him home at a certain time signals a possible divorce/joint custody situation. There’s a real sense of estrangement here.

There’s not much to pick apart in terms of grammar and syntax here. This excerpt is exceptionally clean. I’d replace “densely” green foliage with “dense.” I would also mention AJ’s name sooner (perhaps after “seven-year-old son” in the first sentence); it’s a bit confusing when Henry calls out a name we haven’t yet heard.

I’m not sure what else to say, because this piece is in good shape. Of course, we don’t yet know where the story is headed, but we do wonder. How has Henry ended up here, on the outskirts of his own son’s life? Will the central storyline be an attempt to spend more time with AJ? To reconcile with his wife? To work through past events that led him to this point? We have no choice but to read on if we want to find out, and that’s what a first page should do: propel the reader forward. 

Thank you to everyone for participating.  See you next week!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Being a Happy Motivated Writer---Just For Today

So, I drafted ten new pages during the sprint last night and can I just say, I am really proud of myself?  I was totally on a roll, and have been editing that chapter all morning.  It feels good and I am surprised at how much sprints have helped me.  I never imagined I was the sort of writer who would get a lot done during a sprint.  But I am!

I also had something wonderful happen to me this morning.  I took my children to swimming lessons and there was a lady there with one of my books.  I casually asked her if the book was any good and she said that she was only two chapters in, but so far it was good.  I think that made my whole day!  I told her I was the author and she was so excited to meet me and said she would finish it ASAP and tell me what she thought of it.  A little author payday for me.  Definitely made the sun shine a little brighter in my world today. Just for today I am a happy motivated writer.  Tomorrow, I'll hope for the best.  :)

Today's top ten motivational tips come from bestselling author Rachelle Christensen.  She writes romantic suspense that keeps you in your chair past dinner and past bedtime because you have to know what happens!  You can click here to read more about Rachelle and her books.

Rachelle’s Top Ten Motivational Tools to Keep Writing (Even When You Don't Feel Like It)

Think about what needs to happen before the ending of the story, then find my favorite part—the one that excites me the most at the moment and write it. In my new novel, I actually wrote the very end of the book first and for some reason that was highly motivating, seeing the pieces falling into place toward that finish.

Eat Dove Dark Chocolate

Read a book on writing. I’m working on Save the Cat by Blake Snyder now and I also picked up a used copy of Stephen King’s On Writing.

Practice yoga. This is one of my personal favorites because it clears my mind and allows me to find that focus that I need to hone in on a complex bit of writing or anything in life.

Close my internet browser.

Write first thing in the morning. The best feeling in the world is getting 2,000 words written by 9am—now if only I could do that every day. If I do manage to get started in the morning then my mind continues to work through scenes all day and often I’ll have little “lightbulb moments” when I’m changing a diaper or doing dishes so that when I next get a chance to sit down it’s like downloading the words onto the page.

Change things up. Try writing in a notebook—yes, as in hand-writing. It’s surprising how that has helped me look at a scene differently.

Read a book for fun. I’ve been trying to guard my reading time more and it’s hard to carve out those minutes, but I love reading and I know it makes me a better writer so I make it a priority.

Study my scriptures and work on my lesson for Sunday and take a break to just play with the kids. Back to that centering thing—everything falls into place when I remember what is most important.

Use a word count spreadsheet. Mine is simple, but I love seeing those words pile up and keeping track of my daily word/page count. It helps me when I know that I only need to write 300 more words to hit my goal of 2,000 for the day and I keep pushing to hit the mark.

Thanks so much Rachelle.  There's some great ideas in there that I'm going to try!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We're Sprinting in Five Minutes! Come Join the Fun!

Okay, I've got my playlist ready and I'm all pumped up to get this done!  I hope you are, too.  I will check back here every fifteen minutes with a little update on my progress.  I hope someone is able to sprint with me tonight.  (I'm also over on Twitter if you want to check in there, too.  @juliebellon)

See you in fifteen!  Ready, set, go!

Word Count Wednesday & Motivational Messages from Jeff Savage and Stephanie Black

Well, I made it home last night at 1:00 a.m. after critique group (we even started half an hour earlier!) but I was so motivated to really polish my story.  I took my notebook to my kids' swimming lesson this morning and jotted down all my ideas for my revision.  I have to say, I am excited for tonight's sprint because I feel like I'm on the brink of some amazing progress!  I hope you all can join me from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m MST tonight for the sprint.  I had so much fun last week!  I'll do a blog post so we can check in every fifteen minutes and I'll be over on Twitter as well.  @juliebellon  And I logged just over 2000 words on my revision this week so double woot for me!  How did you do?

As most of you know, I was part of the Six LDS Writers and a Frog Blog for five years and I completely enjoyed my time blogging with some of the most amazing authors you'll ever have the pleasure to read.  Stephanie Black was one of them and you will not find a better mystery writer anywhere, in my opinion.  I love mysteries that keep you guessing until the very last page and that give you just enough chills and thrills to make you bite your nails as you read.  That's what Stephanie Black's books are in spades.

Jeff Savage was also a Frog Blogger and he has gone on to amazing heights with his Harper Collins deal for his MG books Case File 13 Zombie Kid (you can see the cover here It's awesome!) while still doing his Farworld series with Shadow Mountain and a horror book with Covenant.  He is the renaissance man of the writing world hands down.  And we have them BOTH on the blog to motivate us today!  Viva la Frog Bloggers!

Stephanie Black Gets Motivated

It's ironic that Julie would ask for my thoughts on motivating ourselves to write, since lately I have been unproductive with a capital un. I'm in the brainstorming stage on one project and in the got-partway-into-the-book-and-realized-I-needed-to-do-more-brainstorming stage on another. I have difficulty sticking with brainstorming for too long--I'd rather write the story than figure out what the story is, if that makes sense. So it's a good thing that I'm here talking about motivation because maybe I can give myself a pep talk! Woot! 

One thing that's worked for me in the past was bribing myself with See's Chocolates, an idea I got from author Melanie Jacobson. I would tell myself that after I wrote 1000 words (about four pages) I could have a chocolate. Since I'm highly motivated by chocolate, it worked well. 

You could adapt the small goals/small rewards idea according to what works for you at that time. Make the goal small enough that it's reachable, but keeps you moving forward. In fact, I ought to come up with some mini-goals for the next few months. With my daughters home from college, Girls Camp coming up (I'm stake camp director), and vacations, summer isn't going to be a very productive writing time (except for crunch weeks when I'm reviewing edits and proofing my book that will be released this fall). But I can still set tiny goals (and reward myself with tiny chocolates? Write twenty-five words and get one M&M . . . ). Even if I only work on my projects for fifteen minutes a day, that's fifteen more minutes than I would have logged if I did nothing. It's forward momentum. And if I keep moving forward, eventually, I'll finish!

(I can't wait for Stephanie to finish so I can be first in line to buy her new book!  Now I just need to think of something to bribe myself with . . .)

Jeff Savage's Top Ten List of Motivational Strategies

10: Read something I really love. It could be an old favorite or something new, but reading good writing often inspires me to write something myself.

9: Move to a part of the story I am excited about. If I am stuck on a chapter, I just stick in a note that says “Something amazing happens here” and come back to it.

8: Look at the sign on the wall above my desk that says, “How bad do you want it?” This reminds me that if I want to be a writer I have to write.

7: Skip writing that day and do something fun. If you don’t give yourself permission to take  a day off now and then, writing turns into work.

6: Write for five minutes. I tell myself that all I have to do is write for five minutes. If I still don’t feel like writing after that I can stop. It’s less intimidating.

5: Write (or brainstorm) something else. It’s a way to get back into the creative mood when I am stuck.

4: Nap. It doesn’t always get me writing, by really can you can wrong with a nap?

3: Caffeinate. (Enough said.)

2: Hit myself in the head a couple of times, splash cold water in my face, and look at my deadline.

1:  Put my rear in the chair and put words on the page. It works 100% of the time!

(I am definitely going to have to try #9.  I'm usually so linear, that would be something that could jolt me out of a slump.)

Thanks so much Jeff and Stephanie!  I'm totally ready to write right now.  How about you?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Josi Kilpack Top Ten List and a Review: Daisy

I just finished Josi Kilpack's new book, Daisy, the second installment in the Newport Ladies' Book Club.  I'll be honest, I was a little worried because I didn't know how the authors would handle essentially the same situations, except from a different woman's perspective.  I worried for nothing.

Josi's writing voice is loud and clear in Daisy and so different from Julie Wright's Olivia.  I think that's what I liked most about it, is that I enjoyed both books, but for very different reasons.  Olivia's story was gut-wrenching, and Josi's s main character Daisy has just as many complicated decisions that she's facing in her life, but she deals with them in a way that makes her story compelling and compassionate.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I liked looking at the women from the perspective of knowing what was going on, but seeing it through someone else's eyes.  I often think if we could really see a situation from someone else's view, through their eyes so to speak, perhaps we wouldn't be so quick to judge because we would see why they reacted the way they did because of their background and experiences.  Does that make any sense?

The other thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the character growth in Daisy.  It was so subtle and well-crafted and really makes you take a look at your own inner child and what it means to grow up.  The characters are so real and flawed, it added that sense of realism to the story in that it felt like we were peeking into these people's lives.  Really well done.

My point is, I really enjoyed the story, even though I didn't know if I would.  Josi has such a smooth writing style it was easy to get lost in the story and Daisy is a character that I could see wanting to be friends with.  She's dealing with a blended family and yet feeling lonely, with daughters who are making adult decisions that they may or may not be ready for, and when life-changing events come along, she finds support in friends from a book club she didn't know she needed.  This book will make you laugh and make you cry, and make you wonder why you waited so long to read it.  It is a wonderful second installment to the series and I'm anxiously waiting for the next one.

Here is the back copy:

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. And no one knows that better than Daisy. Raising two kids as a divorced, single mom, Daisy has faced each and every one of the obstacles in her life with courage and determination.

Now with her oldest daughter ready to have a baby of her own, her youngest daughter ready to graduate from high school, and her new husband, Paul, ready to embrace the life of an empty-nester, Daisy feels like she might finally be able to check "motherhood" off her list of things to do.

Except life often has a mind of its own. When, at age of forty-six, Daisy suddenly finds herself facing a very different future than the one she had planned--and an uncomfortable evaluation of the past she thought she understood--she realizes that there is still some growing up she needs to do.

Looking for a distraction to escape the growing tension at home, Daisy joins the Newport Ladies Book Club, where she meets Paige, Athena, and Olivia--unlikely friends who offer encouragement and support when Daisy's perfectly crafted life is turned upside-down

And to continue our Top Ten List for Writing Motivation When You Don't Feel Like Writing from best-selling authors, here is Josi Kilpack's.

Ten things that keep me motivated:

1--Deadlines from publishers

2--Deadlines from friends (I'll make bets or have to report to them)

3--Venting to people who care enough to listen to me vent (and realize I'll be venting again in the future)

4--Rereading fan mail and remembering why I do this in the first place.

5--Taking a break to write something else (short story, different book, article, journal entry, blog, etc.)

6--Doing some research.

7--Taking a break to read a book written by authors I love.

8--Cleaning out a closet and thinking about my story while I do it.

9--Going back to my character sketches to make sure I know them well enough to write 
about them.


Thanks, Josi!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Top Ten List and a Winner!

I thought it would be fun to have some of my favorite best-selling author friends tell us their top ten lists for staying motivated even when they don't want to write. 

Today's author is Tristi Pinkston.  She is a prolific writer who has written historical fiction and the popular Secret Sisters mystery series.  You can read more about her here.

Top Ten Ways to Motivate Myself to Write
by Tristi Pinkston

10. Watch really stupid movies, make fun of the campy dialogue, tell myself I can do better than that, and then go write.

9.  Tell myself it's either time to exercise or time to write - that's hugely motivating.

8.  Assign a child to stand next to me, and every time I stop typing, that child gets to squirt me in the face with water.

7.  Pretend that the computer is hooked up to a bomb and that if I stop typing, it will explode - very Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves.

6. Tell my family I need quiet time to write. The more I work, the longer they have to be quiet. Presto! They have to do their fighting in whispers, and I get more work done. It's a win-win.

5. Put a favorite snack next to me on my desk and reward myself with some per page. Of course, one has to be careful in dosing this out ... an entire bag of potato chips as a reward for one page is probably not the best choice.

4. Rent a favorite movie (which isn't dumb and should not be confused with the idea found in #10) and use it as a reward.

3. Hit spouse up for a massage when each writing goal is accomplished. It keeps the writer happy, and it keeps the spouse happy ... they don't have to listen to the writer whine about how unproductive they feel.

2.  Enter into a deep meditative trance and envision what it will be like to have that book finished at long last. Of course, this works best if there are maids and jewels and fancy cars involved - got to imagine all those finite details to create the best motivation.

1.  Walk about the house and look at all the messes that need to be cleaned up, and tell yourself you either have to clean or write. You'd be amazed at how quickly that will send you running for the computer.

If you don't have a smile on your face after reading that and are totally motivated to write today, well, check your pulse!  Thanks, Tristi for a smile on Monday morning.

Last week we had a contest for weekly goals and I decided to enter everyone in the drawing, because, hey, we all tried!

Here is our winner:

C. Michelle Jeffries!

I hope you all found some incentives with your writing.  I think we should definitely do another writing sprint this Wednesday evening.  That really motivated me!  What do you think?

Friday, June 15, 2012

First Page Friday and Winning the Prize!

It is Friday!  The day we check in to see who made their goal and who gets their name in the drawing for Jordan's Incredible Writing Guides.  So, if you met the goal you wrote on Monday, just let me know in the comments, and I'll announce the winner on Monday.  You can check in any time today before 9 p.m. MST

I read this amazing book last night that I'm so excited to tell you about on Monday.  I know you are ALL going to want this one.  Well, if you love humorous, romantic books that make you stay up until all hours of the night and then wake up and read all your favorite parts again because it was so good and you want to relive it all.  *le sigh*

All right, on to First Page Friday.  I am so grateful for the time and effort our editors put in and for all of you for submitting.  If you would like your first page critiqued by a national editor, the instructions are in the sidebar.

The Entry
No Title
by C. Michelle Jeffries

Elias Porter didn’t like being covered in demon blood. It had a particularly nasty stench that stuck around for days, even after you scrubbed it from your skin. And, seeing that he dealt with demon gore for a living—he pretty much stunk like that all the time.

At least the humans can’t smell it.

His eyes scanned the people walking down the sidewalk. Most of them seemed to not even notice he was there. A few saw him, giving him a wide berth, as if they could almost sense what he’d been messing with all night. Still fewer covered their noses scrunching their faces like they’d encountered something putrid. Thank the Guardian Angles they were few and far between.

He could make himself invisible, but that used a lot of energy especially after tonight’s experience. It was easier to pull his hood over his face, shove his hands in his shredded sweatshirt, and walk the tension of the evening off, as he headed home. Just the thought of a hot shower and leftovers quickened his step.

 “Quiet night?” he asked as the slightest sound of feet hit the sidewalk behind him. Katia had been trying to sneak up on him the entire time they’d worked together. Her black tactical clothing hardly had a splotch of demon or other “things” on it.

“No, I am just better at killing them than you are.” She shrugged off her disappointment with a cat like roll of her shoulders and fell into step with him. “Looks like all my usual business decided to have a party in your sector.”

“Yeah it was a lot of fun. Especially the Celestine demon in the subway.”

She sucked in her breath. “You messed with a Celestine and you didn’t call me?”

“She was just a baby, didn’t see any trace of her parents tho’ which means we need to be on guard.”  Elias looked at the sky. The moon was almost full, the weekend would be busy.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

This has been a difficult critique to write because, honestly, I can’t find much to pick apart here. The first sentence ropes the reader right in, and the story gains momentum from there. Aside from some syntax-level issues and mechanical errors, I can’t find fault with much.

I enjoy the element of insinuation on this first page. The second paragraph, “At least the humans can’t smell it,” hints that perhaps Elias himself isn’t human. This is a skillful method of introducing important character details. I also love Katia’s entrance into the story—the sound of her feet on the sidewalk, the way she falls into step with him. These subtle details establish immediate intimacy between the two characters. They tell us how close the two are without resorting to something rote like, “They were very close.”

My one criticism is that there are some punctuation and spelling errors (e.g., Guardian “Angles”) in this piece. I would recommend having someone proof it before submitting. I would also change “tho’” to “though” in the last paragraph, as I don’t see any real need to shorten a one-syllable word in a way that doesn’t change the pronunciation.

The most important elements, however, are in place here. As I’ve said in the past, I can’t control what happens to a book baby once the author sends it out into the world. As I’m sure many of you know, if you send a manuscript to three different beta readers, you’ll get three very different critiques. The same is true of acquiring editors and agents; you never know what is going to pique their interest. But this first page feels “ready” to me.

Thank you again to everyone.  We'll see you next week!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Know How You Work-- A Guest Post by Jordan McCollum

Since Jordan is offering our amazing prize this week, I thought I'd have her guest post so you can see for yourself why I admire her.  To see more of how she works, along with her great writing and marketing tips, you can visit her blog here.

Once upon a time (in March), I made a goal to revise--and by revise, I mean totally overhaul--a 320-page novel in nine days. Looking back, that's more stupid than crazy. Even when I broke it down into "bites" to make it on schedule, I was usually trying to hit 40 pages a day.

On a book that needed substantial rewrites, that was a lot to handle on a single day (especially as a mom with little kids at home). I kept up the good slog, staying up late and getting up early, working through dinner, etc. It was a lot of work! In my first week of work, I cut 76 pages of material--and my manuscript was only 17 pages shorter. That's almost 60 pages of new material in a week. No wonder it was so hard!

But after those first seven days, I had a break through--or maybe a break down. I was adding a lot of new material on one particular storyline, and that took research and thought and planning in addition to the actual writing. Finally, I realized I needed to sit down and write out the scenes from that storyline all together to make sure all the steps came in the right order.

So on day eight, I focused on just the scenes that were already in the book--i.e. scenes that were not in the new storyline--and decided to write the other storyline and insert it later. And instead of staying up until the wee hours to eke out my 40 pages, I hit 50 pages by 8 PM! I planned, researched and wrote out the new scenes and slipped them into the story over the next day or two. (Great, fail me now, progress spreadsheet. Sigh.) It was a rough rewrite--but it was done!

The moral of the story: know how you work, know your strengths and limitations--and group tasks for efficiency!

Now go jump start the day!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sprinting in Five Minutes! Come Join the Fun!

Okay, peeps, (do I sound cool when I say that? LOL)  we're going to write/edit for fifteen minutes, then check in, and quickly jot down our progress, then go for the next fifteen minutes, until the hour's up. 

I'll see you back here!  At least I hope I will.  I hope I won't be all alone.  I'll also be over on Twitter @juliebellon

Four minutes!  Ready, set, go!

Word Count Wednesday and JumpStart Check-In

Well, now I'm cranky.  I've been fighting with Blogger all morning because for some unknown reason it won't let me log in and I've gone the rounds to even make it this far. 

And to top it off, I've only revised/edited a chapter a day this week, instead of the two chapters a day that I wanted. 

That makes for a cranky Julie.  :(

In order to offset my crankiness, I thought it might be fun to have a writing sprint tonight for all my writing friends.  If you're interested, then I will be writing/revising/editing from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. MST tonight. (If you don't know what sprinting is, it's just working on your writing whether it's getting down words or editing or whatever as fast as you can in a specified time period.  And it's fun to have friends doing it with you!)

I'm going to be here on the blog, talking in the comments, but I'll also be over on Twitter if you want to come chat while we sprint, or shake pompoms, cheer, whatever.  My twitter handle is @juliebellon

I think this will be fun!  I hope you'll all come if you can.

How are you doing on your JumpStart monthly and weekly goal?  Are you making progress?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How Do You Deal With the Whiny Writer's Voice?

Now that it's summer and all my kids are home (except my college age) I hear a lot of, "I don't want to do chores."  "That will take me allllll daaaaaay."  "Why do we have to work on summer vacation? Vacation means no work."

And I think to myself I am just that way when it comes to my writing sometimes.  "I don't want to revise that."  "Fixing that plot hole will take me alllll daaaaay."  "Why do I have to work so hard at researching?  Fiction writing means I can just make it all up." 

Of course, as a mother I watch as my children start their chores and realize it only takes about half an hour or so to finish a chore once they dig in.  And then they realize once the work is done they can take the rest of the day for their vacation and doing the things they want to do.

As a writer, I realize that once I get into it, the revising seems to go smoothly and the plot hole I thought was so big was only just a crack and I can fix it without a lot of trouble.  And once my research is done, I can do the fun stuff.

It all comes down to the just get started rule.  Just get started and before you know it, it's fun and done.

How do you deal with the writer's whiny voice when it starts to echo in your head? 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pushing Yourself a Little Harder (And A Prize!)

When I started writing I fell in love with the feeling of freedom that I had in creating that first story.  I loved forming people and stories and knew that I'd found my lifelong passion.

I wish I could hold onto that feeling forever, but as I've grown in my writing I've learned and now the process isn't quite as full of freedom.  Creation takes hard work and while most people I know say they want to write a story, it's a precious few who actually sit down and do it. 

Writing is something beautiful and creative for me.  It is a place I can go to feel good about developing my talents and have a place to share my thoughts and views on the world.

So, every day when I sit in front of the computer and I tell my kids they can watch a little TV or offer incentives to my older children to take care of the little ones so I can have computer time, I know I am investing in something that betters me as a person.  I want writing to be a priority in my life so my children can see it's important for parents to have dreams and that something can come of those dreams if you work hard enough.

That said, I haven't been pushing myself very hard this past little while.  I hit the ground running and then sort of petered out.  But today, TODAY is when I'm going to get back in the game and make some small weekly goals that will lead me to my big monthly goal.  (Everyone remembers the monthly goal, right?)  My goal for this week is to finish editing ten chapters.  I know it will stretch me, but in the long run, I've got to eat this elephant in small pieces!

In honor of setting a smaller, bite-size goal, I thought it would be fun for everyone to set a goal for this week. Just this week.  Monday through Friday.  Post it in the comments, and if you meet your stated goal by Friday, your name will be included in a drawing for a bundle of ALL of Jordan McCollum's writing guides, including her SECRET never-before-released writing guides.  They are an amazing resource that every aspiring writer should have for sure.

Let's do this!  What's your smaller bite-size goal?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ms. Shreditor Goes to BEA

BookExpo America 2012

Last week, I promised to post about what I learned at BookExpo America. Full disclosure: This was my first year attending, so I had no concept of how quickly the day gets away from you when you’re navigating the immense Javits Center in Manhattan—charging from booth to booth in the morning and limping through them by the afternoon. If you ever go to BEA, be smarter about your shoe choice than I was.

A feeling hits you when you first open the front doors (all of which were plastered with Dean Koontz posters this year) and step into the convention center. There you stand in the entryway, with its registration tables that resemble airport ticket counters. Everywhere around you are people whose life’s work is your life’s work: books.

But it isn’t until you go upstairs that you realize just how expansive the book industry really is. As far as the eye can see are publisher booths, autographing tables, workshops, and tech demonstrations—675,000 square feet of them, to be exact. Yes, you read that right—over half a million square feet of literary mayhem. It’s more ground than anyone can cover in a day. And there’s more than just display copies and advance galleys—even C-SPAN 2 and its Campaign 2012 tour bus were in the building. Most encouraging was the vast number of new exhibitors.

A whole world of schmoozing unfolds on the exhibition floor. Editors sit down with agents, publicists sit down with authors, etc. Business cards fly from hand to hand, and they sometimes function as currency if you want certain publishers’ catalogs. But nothing, and I mean nothing, beats the author presence. There were all kinds of celebrities on deck Wednesday, and that’s saying nothing of the celebrities in attendance on Tuesday and Thursday. On the day I attended, there were author signings for Joyce Carol Oates, Jane Seymour, Ian McEwan, Ina Garten, Rachael Ray, a host of popular YA authors, and many others.

I had grandiose plans for the day and accomplished precious few of them. There simply wasn’t time. I had hoped to go to the Lois Lowry breakfast and the Neil Young/Patti Smith lunch event, but scheduling was not on my side. I did, however, walk the floor with several of my colleagues and collect catalogs from the competition. I dodged thousands of publishing executives, fellow editors, librarians, booksellers, packagers, designers, layout artists, publicists, agents, authors, book bloggers, and fans as I traveled from booth to booth. As I went, I amassed a modest stack of advance review copies from various publishers. (A word to the wise: Be selective when picking up freebies at an event like this. If your timing is good, you’ll find that they flow pretty freely, but remember that you have to lug them around all day.)

My most important lesson from BEA, however, came today when I was back in the office. One of our executives told me that it was a good year to go to the expo for the first time, as last year’s vibe was pretty subdued. After all, Border’s was on the brink of closure back then, and e-book publishing was still somewhat nebulous territory. That energy that hit me when I opened the doors to the Javits Center was the current of an industry renewed.

So there are still homes for good manuscripts in the traditional publishing sphere. I’ll keep doing what I can here on Julie’s blog to help polish your prospective pieces. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be at BEA doing a signing of your own.

—Ms. Shreditor

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Jump is Slumping. I Need Some Music!

I was doing so well.  I really was.  But then yesterday ended up being extremely busy and I didn't get the writing done that I wanted to.  So I distracted myself with a book.  And then I did some editing. Anything but edit my own manuscript.

And now I feel discouraged.

Usually I can jumpstart myself with some music.  Upbeat music with drums and bass.  I thought I'd share some of my more motivating songs that get my muse jumping.  No judging, please!  :)

Back in Black by AC/DC
Photograph by Def Leppard
How We Operate by Gomez
Let My Love Open the Door by Pete Townshend
She's Got Me Dancing by Tommy Sparks
On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons

Tokyo by Imagine Dragons
Every Teardrop is a Waterfall by Coldplay
God Put a Smile Upon Your Face by Coldplay
I Wanna Be a Cowboy by Boys Don't Cry
Good Life by One Republic (Edited Version)  :)
Drop it Low by Will.I.Am from the Rio Soundtrack

What music motivates you?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Word Count Wednesday and Sharing Your Favorite Page

I've noticed something since I've made an extra effort in my writing this past week.  When I'm excited about a scene, the words just seem to flow onto the page.  Also, when I'm writing late at night, my words seem really silly when I read them the next morning.  (note to self:  do not write description scenes after midnight).

So, today, since I'm so excited about my writing and the progress I've made, I thought it would be fun if we all posted our favorite page that we've written (double-spaced 12 point font) for everyone to read and comment on if they feel like giving feedback.  I'll post mine here, and you can post yours in the comments because if you do a double-spaced page it fits quite nicely.  I know it will take some courage to put yourself out there, but if I can do it, you can, too!  Believe in yourself and in your writing friends who want to help you.  Including me!

This is my current favorite page (it will change tomorrow, I know, but for right now, this is it.)

All of Rafe’s military training kicked in and he got down, looking for cover, reaching toward Claire as he did so.  He tried to make himself as small of a target as possible, but it felt like the bullets raining down on them were getting closer and closer.  He wanted to run, but his knee gave out.  Pulling himself toward the exit, he looked up just as Gary moved in front of him, his throat caving in right before his eyes with a small rush of air sailing by.  Gary staggered toward Rafe, the front of his blue shirt starting to stain dark as he fell to the ground.  “Too late,” he gasped.
His eyes stared at Rafe as he hit the concrete and it was easy to see he was dead.  Rafe stared in horror.  It was déjà vu all over again.  Time seemed to stand still, Rafe’s heartbeat the only signal that seconds were still passing.  Blood was everywhere and his friend was dead. 
“Stay down,” Claire shouted to Rafe, grabbing his arm with one hand as she grasped her neck with the other before a bullet hit her square in the chest.  She fell to the ground and Rafe reached for her, curling his arm around her shoulders and pulling her into his arms as he pushed through the pain in his leg.  Picking her up, he started to run for the door.  Not again, he said, as he ran.  Please, God, don’t let this happen to me again.
“The bomb,” he gasped, as he staggered a bit toward the stairs. 
His words were lost in the explosion behind them and Rafe did his best to cover Claire’s body with his own.  He tried to shield her as a steel ball ricocheted off the concrete and hit him in the back, the trajectory making him stumble and fall flat on top of her.  The pain knocked the breath out of him, but he knew he had to get them both out of there before the gunman finished his job. 

What do you think?  *bites nails*

As for word count this week, since I'm revising it wasn't great, but I've gotten six chapters revised so far, so I'm feeling good  How did you do this week?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Confession for JumpStartWriMo

I have something to confess to you.  When I started JumpStartWriMo on June 1st, I also started walked 1 1/2 miles every day.  As you know from previous posts, I have found that my creative juices really flow whenever I'm near water, or when I'm walking, and I knew that I would need some creative juices if I were going to reach my goals for JumpStartWriMo.

So far it has worked like magic.

The knot in my manuscript that was preventing me from finishing it was unraveled.  Last night I stayed up late jotting down everything that came to me and it smoothed over all the issues I'd had with the thing.  I edited three chapters yesterday and I am so ready to keep going today.  My kids are even cooperating and giving me time on the computer.  It's like everything is in place for me to finally sit down and knock this out of the park.  And the added benefit is that I've lost two pounds.  Who knows where I'll be by the end of the month, but today, I am feeling optimistic and positive about where my direction is.

How did you do yesterday?  What gets your creative juices flowing and are you using it?

Monday, June 4, 2012

JumpStartWriMo Motivating Monday

Quote for the day:
 "The reason people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go instead of how far they have gotten.” - Unknown

I am so excited to see your goals.  Thank you to everyone for participating and for helping your fellow writers achieve their goals.

My weekend was jam-packed with family activities, including fishing, but I am making progress.  I outlined my plot with more details, and I edited sixteen pages on top of that, so I got a good start.  So far, I'm a tiny bit behind on my goal, (still within reaching distance), but not meeting my goal for the first few days got me down a bit.  

This final version of my manuscript has been weighing on me because I've had so much trouble with it.  (Hence, the reason why I am doing JumpStartWriMo. I need a kick in the pants to get it done!)  But when I opened up my email, feeling a little discouraged, I had this amazing email from one of my critique partners and when you read what she had to say, you'll see why I value her so much.  It was exactly what I needed!  (She's also offering some prizes for those of us who meet our goals, which I'll soon be giving more details about, so stay tuned.)

Motivating Monday--a pep talk by the amazing Jordan McCollum  (If you haven't downloaded her free writing guides, you seriously have to go and do it right now.  Your writing will love you for it.  Just click here)

"I'm probably pretty strange (probably?), but there's something I love about new starts. And that includes (crazily enough) Mondays. Okay, I don't love Mondays, but every time a new week rolls around, I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. No matter how far behind I fell on laundry last week, no matter how many pages I'm off in my revision goal, no matter what I'm slacking on, Monday is my chance to start over.

Forget last week or even yesterday. Whether you fell down on the job or blew through all your goals, that doesn't change the fact that we're starting a new week. We get a brand new start today

With a fresh start, it's our opportunity to move forward. Okay, so technically "March fo(u)rth" was a couple months ago--but it's something we can do every day ;) .

Let's get a jump start on this week! How are you going to take advantage of this week's fresh start today?"

And how did you do with your goal over the weekend?

Friday, June 1, 2012

JumpStartWriMo and First Page Friday

Are you ready for JumpstartWriMo in June? I am so stoked!

I wanted to do this because I need a jumpstart on my manuscript. I want to set goals for the month of June that will stretch me but still be realistic (I know I can't do an entire manuscript with my situation, but I want to get going!) and I want to have accountability with you guys.

So here's what we're going to do first. Tell me what your goals are for the month of June in the comments. Think of a writing goal that will stretch you a bit and make you reach, but is still reasonable.

When you put it in the comments, we're going to hold you to it for the whole month of June. We're going to cheer you to it, motivate you with it, and be there with you every step of the way.

I will be providing motivational guests, writing guides, sprints, and incentives as well as writing tips all the way through and I think it would be fun to have everyone check in at the end of the day and tell everyone how they did.

Here are my goals. I want to finish revising/editing my book Hostage and I want to get 48,000 words done on my new manuscript, Ribbon of Light. That's going to stretch me, (2000 words a day, six days a week give or take) but it will be so worth it in the end.  Jumpstart in June, right?

I hope you'll grab my cool badge below (thank you Jordan McCollum!) and join the fun as well as invite your friends. The more the merrier!

JumpStartWriMo, June 2012, photo by arbyreed from Flickr

First Page Friday

What would Friday be without a First Page Friday? (For any new people, we have a national editor that critiques first pages for us every Friday. If you would like to submit, directions are in the sidebar.)  

The Entry  
By Debbie Vilardi

I dropped my plate in the sink and started toward the door. " Steven," Mom called, "don' t go upstairs yet. We have something to discuss with you."

My stomach pressed into my dinner. They're finally going to tell me what's going on. Could we need money? Could something be wrong with Grandma? Could we be moving? No way! I wouldn't allow that, but the other possibilities- I crossed my fingers against them.

My parents cleared the table while I headed for the living room. A cabinet closed. I heard Dad say, "Did you just put the juice in there? "

 "What?" Mom answered. She must have looked, because she said, " I don't know where my brain is." Then I heard the refrigerator door.  

What could mess her up that much? I 'd been waiting two weeks for them to clue me in. The wait was almost over. What's coming? There wasn't any point to thinking about it. I'd know soon. I collapsed into the most comfortable living room chair, Dad's chair, and pulled down the movie screen in my mind. My imaginary self was always ready for a challenge.

 Bright Star rushed to answer King Olaf' s summons.

King Olaf stood in the palace courtyard with a scroll in his hand. "Sir Bright Star, I have a quest for you."

The door creaked shut behind Bight Star as he bowed his head. " Yes, King Olaf."

 "Take this parchment through the Darklands to King Isaac at the desert 's edge. Don't open it, and don' t let anyone lay hold of it. Do not fail, or darkness may well befall us all. Ride swiftly."  

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

 I fear that this first page may have taken on too much. There’s the tease of a juicy parent-child discussion and then a sudden jump to the “movie screen in [Steven’s] mind.” It’s jarring. Before we’ve gotten our bearings our understood anything vital about Steven as a character, we’re thrown from a realistic scene into a fantastical one. To further complicate matters, it’s hard to determine whether or not King Olaf and Bright Star exist anywhere other than Steven’s imagination. If these characters are mere figments, then the suspense of a nonexistent quest may not be enough to power the first page. I would consider differentiating between these real and imagined scenes with breaks and/or font changes for clarity’s sake.

The writing has a fun, childlike quality that would appeal to kids ages 9 to 12. Steven makes for an inquisitive narrator and pauses often to question the world around him. I questioned a few of his reactions as I read. When his mother accidentally puts juice in a cabinet instead of the refrigerator, Steven worries, “What could mess her up that much?” The reaction seems excessive; while putting a perishable item in the wrong place is certainly a scatterbrained thing to do, it doesn’t strike me as cause for grave concern. Perhaps rework this section so that his mom does something more in keeping with Steven’s reaction—or simply tone down the reaction itself. I also stumbled over Steven’s chain of questions in the second paragraph. He seems more alarmed at the thought of moving than the thought of something being wrong with his grandmother, and thus relegates Grandma to the same back burner as potential money woes.

The text could benefit from a thorough proofread to resolve miscellaneous spelling, grammatical, and punctuation issues. There are a lot of short sentences that make for a choppy rhythm, so you’ll want to work on varying sentence length.

Watch also for tense inconsistency. For the most part, the story unfolds in the past tense; however, at a few introspective junctures, it flips suddenly to the present (examples: “They’re finally going to tell me what’s going on” and “What’s coming?”). These sentences might work in the present tense if they appeared as italicized thoughts, but I’d advise just switching them to the past to keep things consistent.

Be careful with imagery, too. It needs to be concise, and it needs to be clear. I tried to envision someone’s stomach pressing into his dinner and had a difficult time with it. You never want to kill the momentum in your story, but you definitely don’t want to kill it in your second paragraph. Can you simplify this by saying something like “My stomach lurched”?

The most important consideration for the revision phase is pacing. There need to be smoother segues between Steven’s and Bright Star’s worlds. Work on fine-tuning syntax and resolving mechanical issues to create a more polished product.

And now a note about my next column: Next week, I will be attending Book Expo America (BEA) with several colleagues. For those of you unfamiliar with BEA, it is like the Oscars of book industry events. Think top publishing houses, famous authors, celebrities, and all the advance review copies you can cram into a tote bag. I'll take thorough notes and share some of what I learn with you all next week. Stay tuned!