Going Batty at Onandaga

How do you cope with the heat?  We’ve been at the pool for most of the summer. We’ve been there so much my son’s hair is bleaching in the chlorine and the sun. Guess what?  Not all blondes go chlorine green.  Some of them go coppery.

Another great way to deal with the heat is to visit a cave.  Here’s a video from one of my favorites – Onandaga, one of Missouri’s state parks and our destination this weekend.  Take time to have some fun and recharge your creative batteries.


WestSide Books

News came down from Publisher’s Weekly that two-year-old WestSide Books has been put on the market.  They publish realistic teen fiction.  Although their  site hasn’t been updated, the PW story states that acquisitions have been suspended and both the publisher and assistant editor will be leaving the company.  Read more about this story here.


How to Use a Critique

In my last post on critique groups, I mentioned that not all critiques are created equal.  For example, I have a tough time critique preschool picture books and rhyme.  I pity anyone who is writing something in one of these two categories, heaven forbid both, and has to rely on my critique.

The problem is that when you get a critique, you have to learn to tell what advice is valid and what is not.

If multiple people tell you that something doesn’t work, then listen because it obviously does not work.  It may have seemed like a great idea when you roughed out your story, but your readers aren’t following you.

Don’t automatically make the recommended fix.  For example, you may get comments about readers not “getting” your character’s motivation for an action.  “Just add a line of dialogue,” recommends one reader.  But don’t.  Instead, take a look at the situation.  Does the emotional investment your character has in the situation come through?  Your reader needs to feel what the character feels to be emotionally invested in the story.

Some time ago, a critique pal read my nonfiction picture book.  “This just doesn’t sound like you,” you said.  Not a problem, I thought.  Its just very different from what I normally right.  My editor will get it.

Do you see this one coming like a freight train?

I got a note back from my editor.  “The fun in this topic just isn’t coming through.  Rediscover it!”

Normally, I make sure my writing is fun.  Not this time.  I was writing for an educational publisher and wanted my work to seem credible.  The new draft is now called “The Fun Version.”  And I would have written it much sooner, if only I had listened.


Goals for the Last Week of July

I warned you.  I didn’t plan to do it, but I took some serious down time last week.  As a result, I only wrote 3636 words vs my 6000 word goal.

What was I doing instead of writing?  I taught the adult section of our Bible school.  Whew!   I enjoyed it and learned a lot but talk about putting me through the wringer.

We also had semi-finals for the swim team last week.  Think seven hour long swim meet.  High in the triple digits.  The good news is that Jared placed as an alternate for backstroke — a fair accomplishment for a first year competitor.

And I read and played games and worked on a puzzle.  This week will probably be more of the same but I do need to get a bit more work done, so my goals include:

  1. 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey.  Done!
  2. Post a review on the Bookshelf.  Done.  
  3. 1 post for PrayPower.  Done.
  4. Write my post for the Church blog.  Done.
  5. Brainstorm some new writing ideas.
  6. Work on my middle grade rewrite.
  7. Work on a new pitch for Writer’s Digest.  In progress.
  8. Work on the second piece for Mo Scribbles.  I roughed the first one last week.  In progress.
  9. Rewrite nonfiction picture book and submit to editor.  In progress.
Good luck on your goals!

A Day of Rest

Give yourself the gift of downtime. Disconnect.

You may have noticed that if you e-mail me on Saturday or Sunday, you might not hear back from me for several days.  That’s because I try very hard not to even boot my computer on Sunday.


Because if you work from home, you quickly find that it is hard to be “off the clock.”  The things that you really need to finish, or just want to finish, but didn’t finish, aren’t at the office.  They’re in the other room.  Pop into the home office just to check for an e-mail from your editor and you may be embarrassed to find that you’ve been typing away, getting caught up, for close to an hour.  I-phones and more make it easier to be connected all the time.  Just one more minute to check on something or finish something.

Or not.

I choose that second option.  Sunday, we had lunch with friends and then went to the new Harry Potter movie.  I read most of a novel.  I prepped my lesson plan for Tuesday night.  Sure, I also did a load of laundry and we cleaned house but I worked in some serious relaxation.

In fact, I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard lately.  When I post my word count for the week this Monday, you’ll note that it isn’t very impressive.  In fact, I’m not going to come close to making my weekly goal.  But I’m okay with that.  I haven’t had a week more or less off in quite a while.

Please, take the time to kick back.  The energy you regain will be visible in your work.


Are You a Real Writer?

Are you?  Real?   My litmus test is pretty simple.

Do you write on a regular basis?

So many writers that I know feel the need to apologize for what they do.  “I write but I haven’t published.”  Honey, if you are putting words on paper, then you are a writer.  Period.

Sales?  They are nice, and, when you get them, you’ll be a published writer.  Until then, you’re still a writer as long as you actually write.

If you don’t put yourself forward as a writer, don’t be upset when people don’t take your writing seriously.  If someone else takes their writing more seriously than you do, do not complain about their success.  I really mean this one.

If, on the other hand, you take your writing seriously, you can turn down various opportunities with a straightforward, “I’m sorry.  I’m working that day.”  After all, writers need time to write.

Without apology.


5 Things You Need to Know about Critique Groups

Lately I’ve had several people contact me hoping to find a critique group.  Here are 5 things you need to know when entering the world of critique groups:

  1. Critique groups are not one-size fits all.  Look for a group that writes what you are interested in.  Adult short stories are very different from picture books.  Also pay attention to the goals of the group:  people who write to publish will look at things differently than those who write just for fun.
  2. Learn the ropes.  Every group works a little differently.  Some read their work aloud.  Others pass it out ahead of time and return with comments.  Learn how this group works.
  3. Be ready to give.  A critique group is not a critique service.  If you only want feedback on your work but don’t want to critique the work of others, seek out a freelance editor or a critique service.  This attitude isn’t fair to the other writers.  If all you want is feedback on your own work, pay someone.
  4. Be ready to take.  When you join a critique group, expect feedback and it won’t all be positive.  Sometimes it may even be VERY negative.  Be ready to hear what other people say.  I do know of one group that insists you say nothing at all.  “No talking back.” But if you need clarification, ask.  If you need to say, “this is what I was trying to do,” in the hope that someone can help you figure out what you did wrong, then say it.
  5. Not all critiques are created equal.  Every once in a while, a member of the group will give you something that you simply do not connect with.  This happens most often to me with preschool picture books, a fact that I usually reveal when I prove to be 90% useless.  I know people who cannot critique fantasy.  Or picture books.  It happens.
Critique groups are essential to improving your writing.  Take the time to find one that works for you and don’t be surprised if you have to try on several groups.  Finding the right group is definitely worth your while.


3 D Printer

Am I the only person who had never heard of a 3-D printer before?  It “prints” things in actual 3-D, laying down layer after layer of binder within a tray of composite material to form the item.

I catch myself wondering about the applications in science, outer-space, manufacturing or repairs.  What if, instead of stocking parts, a company pulled up a file of the replacement part for your car and printed it out?

Noodling . . . noodling . . . noodling . . .


Goals Deep Into July

Last week I met my last deadline for the summer and came in at 6848 words — just over my 6000 word goal.  Hurray!

My son has just under one month of summer vacation left so I’ll probably be getting a bit less done over the next few weeks.  We have conference preliminaries for swim team this coming weekend and conference finals the week after that.  And we are planning a trip to a cavern and have family hitting town.  Still, I do hope to get some writing done, including:

  1. 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey.  Done!
  2. Post a review on the Bookshelf.
  3. 1 post for PrayPower.
  4. Write my post for the Church blog.  Done!
  5. Brainstorm some new writing ideas.
  6. Work on my middle grade rewrite.
  7. Brainstorm ideas for my new web site.
  8. Work on a new pitch for Writer’s Digest.  I still don’t like any of the ideas I’ve come up with!
  9. Work on the two pieces that I am doing for Mo Scribbles.

I hope you are all meeting your goals!