One Writer’s Journey

December 11, 2019

Author Love: Tomi Adeyemi

It is an amazing thing for me, as an author, to read another writer’s book and think, “Wow!  This is just so good.”

Am I jealous?  Maybe a little.  But the books I love most are so different from what I write. I simply could not write them.

One of these authors is Tomi Adeyemi, the author of the Legacy of Orïsha Series.  Book 1: Children of Blood and Bone came out in 2018.  Book 2: Children of Virtue and Vengeance just came out and I’m waiting, waiting, waiting one too patiently to have it in my hands.

Sigh.

An interview with Adeyemi has been posted here on Goodreads.  There are some really interesting insights into how she approaches her writing.

What I found the most interesting is that in many ways the second book was easier for her to write.  Why? Because in the first book she had to create the world of Orïsha.  The world and culture may have been inspired by West Africa but it is a unique place that Adeyemi had to build from the ground up.  This meant creating the physical world as well as the culture.  Part of the physical world in this case is the world of magic.

Whenever you write fantasy, magic plays a tricky part.  You can’t create a world where just anything goes.  You have to know the nature and limits of the magic.  You have to know the rules under which it operates.  You have to decide what the costs are for using this magic.  Adeyeymi did all of this in Children of Blood and Bone.

By the time she wrote Children of Virtue and Vengeance, she had spun the world.  The rules were established.  This eased some of the stress and allowed her to play.

For more on Adeyemi and her books, check out the interview.  In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here waiting.

–SueBE

December 10, 2019

What Is Your Brand?

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What is your brand as a writer?

When we say “brand,” often people think about a commercial brand like Coca Cola or a service like Google.  But writers also have brands.  It is what people think of when they hear a certain writer’s name.

What do you think of when someone says “Stephen King” or “Neil Gaiman”?  Each of them has a distinct identity or brand.

I am completing the Canva class on branding.  One of the things that they tell you to do is answer two questions.

  1. Why does your brand exist?
  2. What principals will guide you there?

Clearly, a writer will answer this somewhat differently than would the founder of a tech company.  My answers came together into this statement: I write to encourage my readers to explore the world, broaden their minds, and look beyond the accepted norm.

Hmm. Not inaccurate but I’m not 100% certain what I would do with this in terms of branding myself.

Another video discussed brand personality.  As explained by Canva, Jungian archetypes can be applied to branding.  So I Googled Jungian Brand Personality.  One of the first links I followed led me to a GoDaddy quiz.  Your responses reveal your brand personality.  Rather fittingly, my brand personality is TEACHER.  According to GoDaddy, this means that I “place a high value on facts and education, and . . . seek to inform others with a brand message that is knowledgeable and objective.”  Because I make use of facts, my best social media tool is blogging according to Go Daddy.  Examples of this personality are Google, The New York Times, and Lynda.com.

Curious about the Jungian types, I found this list on Brands by Ovo.  Sage looks like a good match but so does Creator.  A Creator is inventive and driven to create or build.  Sample brands include Lego and Crayola.  A Sage wants to help the world find insight and wisdom, think PBS.

I suspect my brand encompasses both.  I am visual but also very fact driven so that makes sense.  The next step is to figure out how to use some of this in my social media, to create a more consistent brand across platforms.  The next step?  Designing a logo.

–SueBE

December 9, 2019

Picture Books: Cumulative Tales

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Have you ever tried to write a cumulative tale?  In a cumulative picture book, a piece of action and/or dialogue repeats and builds.  Not sure what I mean?  Think of The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.  She swallows a fly so, as they rhyme goes, perhaps she’ll die. Then she swallows a spider to deal with the fly (she swallowed the spider to capture the fly, perhaps she’ll die), and then a bird to deal with the spider and on and on.

Kids love these stories because they are predictable.  You may not know what animal is going to come next but you know what line will come at the end of the string of animals – perhaps she’ll die.

Kids also love the stories because they are silly – the stories, not nec. the children.  You swallow a fly on accident but then intentionally swallow first a spider (gag!) and then a bird?   Ridiculous but oh so funny!

In most of the cumulative tales I’ve seen, things accumulate and it all gets bigger.  More and bigger animals crawl into the mitten in Jan Brett’s The Mitten.   In One Dog Canoe, a canoe fills with more and larger animals.

But I just read a cumulative tale that in some ways is the reverse.  In Elise Broach’s My Pet Wants a Petillustrated by Eric Barclay, a boy wants a puppy to have something of his own to care for.  The puppy wants a kitten to have something to care for.  The kitten wants a bird and on and on it goes with each animal smaller than the one before .  The problem gets bigger but the animals get smaller.

The trick in writing a cumulative tale is to keep it from getting monotonous.  At some point you have to break the pattern and these tales often do it in a humorous way.  The canoe capsizes, a tiny little mouse tries to squeeze into the mitten or . . . what else could you do?

The answer for my story will come only when I’ve decided which story idea to develop.

–SueBE

 

 

 

 

December 6, 2019

Tormenting Your Character

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Earlier in the week, I saw a creative writing prompt from Writer’s Digest.  The suggestion was to create a story based on putting your character in the most embarrassing situation imaginable.

Obviously, what this would be would vary from character to character.  Someone who is painfully neat might make a horrible mess.  A quiet person could knock over a folding chair or break a glass.  My character who recently seperated from her husband prides herself on holding it together and not being emotional in front of others.  I created a situation where she has a complete meltdown.  She wasn’t embarrassed at the time, she was after all busy having a meltdown, but later on it is going to really upset her.

Story tension is essential in compelling fiction and one way to create this tension is by tormenting our characters.  Yes, even in a picture book.  There are several ways to do this.

  1.  Embarrassing moments.  Embarrassing situations, flaws and failures make for entertaining reading especially when these situations are also funny.   Think of the humor of a cumulative tale like Jan Brett’s The Mitten where a wide variety of animals crawl into a mitten to get warm.
  2.  Victory Denied.  Another way to do it is to put victory just within reach and then snatch it away.  Another runner takes first place.  The boy of his dreams is already dating someone.  The scholarship goes to someone else – his archrival or his ex-girlfriend.  Which would be worse?
  3. Dreadful decisions.  This is what I think of as the Sophie’s choice moment.  Torment your character by putting her in the position of having to make a horrible choice.  A character who has been betrayed must choose who to betray. A To make someone else happy, your snobby character has to choose between Waffle House or Taco Bell.

Moments like these can keep your reader reading until they reach the end of your story.  Do a good enough job and they’ll actually click on the links to more, eager to continue experience more of your work.

–SueBE

December 5, 2019

RIP Andrew Clements

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Sadness.  Tuesday I learned that children’s author Andrew Clements died on November 28.  The author of more than 80 books for young readers, he is probably best known for Frindle.  

Please tell me you know this book.  Frindle is the story of Nick Allen whose teacher is wild for the dictionary.  Nick decides to invent a new word and starts calling his ink pen a frindle.  Soon his friends are using the word and the phenomenon spreads.

It is easy to see how this book would appeal to middle graders.  They aren’t little kids but they don’t have a lot of power.  To think that they could invent a new word and change a book that a teacher relies on to put student’s in their place?  Wow.  Just wow.

It really is a funny story. It wasn’t hard to see why my son loved it.

Why not join mean in celebrating the legacy of Andew Clements by visiting your library?  There are picture books, series titles and stand alone titles.  Me?  I’m starting with We the Children, book 1 in the Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series.  Spy books written for grade school kids.  Yeah, I get the appeal of this too.

Check out one.  Check out ten.  My library has 91 listings for Clements.  Thats print books, MP3 files, book club kits and more.

So many fantastic titles.  He will definitely be missed.

–SueBE

December 4, 2019

Research: Prepping to Write

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If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I like to stretch my wings.  Sometimes this means writing something new or taking a class.  This time around it is all about teaching a new class.

Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults is being offered through WOW! Women on Writing.  It is a four week course that focuses on what you need to know to conduct the research needed to write an article, a book or even a pod cast.  No, none of my students have ever done a pod cast, but they could.

Students will learn about how to pick a topic and slant it to fit the market, how to research possible markets, how to do the actual research, and how to find primary sources.

The course is only four weeks long and students will have an opportunity to get feedback from me on their idea and the slant they have chosen.  We will discuss markets as well as how to do primary research.  Primary research intimidates a lot of people but it shouldn’t.  Now that so much information has been digitized, it is easier than ever before.

I love doing primary research.  Let me into a photo archive and I can be happily lost for hours.  I’m just as enthusiastic with maps.  And don’t forget that you can also do interviews to collect first hand information.  Learn to do a solid interview and you can research for all kinds of markets.

The class will be offered starting on January 6, March 2, and May 4.

You can find out more about it here.  Let me know if you have any questions and I would appreciate it if you would share this information with your writing friends.  The cyberworld is a big place and I’d like to get the word out to as many writers as possible.

–SueBE

December 3, 2019

Character Archetypes

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Last week, I wrote a post on character archetypes.  You can view it here. Gabriela Pereira added another post summarizing two more archetypes – the Survivor and the Protector.

Unlike other archetypes that Pereira discusses, these two character types are not looking to change themselves or the world around them. They are instead in a life-and-death struggle.

The Survivor is looking to survive. This can be very literal as in the character who is trying to survive a natural disaster or some other calamity.  It can also be metaphorical, the character who is struggling to maintain their status quo, who is fighting against change.  Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves  is a story of survival but then so is the original Boxcar Children book, although it is a much more innocent story.

The Protector is out to ensure that someone else survives.  This person might be a literal cape wearing super hero.  Or they might be a teacher who reports a case of child abuse.  Or a friend who helps another child deal with a bully.

Some writers plan their story with archetypes in mind.  Me? I tend to plan the story with the main character and the plot in mind.  It is only when I have a problem that I look at the archetypes I am using.

Sometimes it is because my character feels ho hum or flat.  By figuring out what archetype I am using, I can study other characters of this kind and figure out how to do it right.  Or, if a character is boring because they are just too perfect, I can look at possible flaws for that archetype.

Archetypes are also useful in that you can study how different character types interact. What happens when a Protector is betrayed by their Mentor?  Or a Survivor finds that their preservation endangers a loved one?

There is no one way to create your story.  But it can be helpful to know about archetypes and other writing tools are available for you to use when troubleshooting or working to achieve balance.

–SueBE

December 2, 2019

Reading Challenges

Today I signed up for the Winter Reading Challenge at the St. Louis Country Library.  Generally in a reading challenge you have to read X number of pages, X number of books, or for X minutes.  This one is a little different.

For an opportunity to win a prize, at least as an adult, I have to earn 5 badges.  Badges can be earned for attending library events including a library program or an author event.  Another way to earn badges is through checking various items out including a book from a display, a book based on the cover, or an e-book. Last but not least, you can earn badges by reading books including best sellers, something by a favorite author, by a new-to-me author, or a book set in winter.

Looking at the variety of ways to earn badges has made me think about how to promote my books and the books of other authors.  A group of authors working together could easily offer bundles of books as prizes.  To win, participants would have to complete a number of challenges.  Reading challenges would be obvious but what about art-based challenges such as designing a book mark?  Or collecting images from author web sites as part of a visual bingo-style game.  Or reading a book set in an author’s home state.

I’m the kind of person who would have a lot of fun coming up with challenges for something like this.

So what do I plan to read?

Sitting on the desk beside me is Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein.

I’ve check out the audiobook Burned by Ellen Hopkins.

Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk is set in winter.

Call Down the Hawk is by one of my favorite authors, Maggie Stiefvater.

If Books Could Kill by Kate Carlisle is a mystery.

That said, I have about five more books checked out from the library that would meet one requirement or another so we will have to see how this plays out.  No matter what I read, something is sure to inspire and feed by own writing.

–SueBE

November 28, 2019

Thankful Thanksgiving

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For those of you who celebrate, I’d like to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Take this time to recharge your creative battery.

I have a lot to be thankful for in my writing life.  I just finished a rewrite on book #27.  And about two weeks ago a publisher contacted me about writing for them.  I sent in my sample yesterday.  We’ll see if I have some news to report next week!

I’m also thankful that my writing accountability group talked me into doing NaNoWriMo as a rebel.  My goal was for an outline of my mystery and then working on my draft, updating to fit the new outline and adding new scenes.  I’ve got about 21,000 words at this point.  Fingers crossed that I can get 4000 more words in the next three days.

What about recharging? I don’t really have a choice — and that’s a good thing!  I don’t know if this is just a MidWest thing but our Thanksgiving celebration stretches across Thanksgiving Weekend.

Thursday, we have dessert with my Dad and dinner with my sister and her family.

Friday we’re doing dinner with my turkey hating in-laws.  Think appetizers, soup buffet and dessert.

Saturday is just a regular day – thankfully.  Because I will be baking for Sunday.

Sunday is Thankful dinner with a friend who has no family in town.  Turkey, cranberries, home baked bread, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.

So I’m going to be stepping away from my computer, except for NaNo writing, and spending some time with my family, knitting, walking on the treadmill and knitting.

I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday.  See you on Monday.

–SueBE

 

November 27, 2019

Imposter Syndrome

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:57 am
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Thanksgiving is tomorrow which means that you may very well find yourself sitting across the table from someone who questions your writing credentials.  “So how is that little story that your working on?” Never mind that you are in the midst of NaNoWriMo and have written thousands of words this month alone.  You are still only dabbling.

How do you respond?

For a lot of us it is really difficult because we truly feel like imposters.  Who am I to call myself a writer?  I’ve only sold one article/poem/book.  No one I know has even read it.  What if I can’t do it again?

I just watched a TedTalk Sydney with entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes on imposter syndrome.  Specifically, he talks about using it to your advantage. That’s the video above.

He talks about winning an Australian award for young entrepreneurs and feeling like a complete fraud when he won. How could he deserve it more than anyone else in the room?  At the international dinner in Monte Carlo he learned that other people there felt the same way, even people who had way more experience and success and thousands of employees.

His advice?  Just keep on going.  No one with a suit is going to come up to you and say “hey, you gotta stop what you’re doing.”  So just do it.

It isn’t just our characters who have dark moments.  Each and every writer I know, including those who are also editors, sometimes feels like just giving up.  Who are they to call themselves writers when someone else writes more, gets nominated for awards or already has sales?

Here me say it.  We all feel that way.

So how does this help you at the big family event?  Just because you some times feel like an imposter doesn’t mean that you are an imposter. When someone asks you a cheeky question about how your little efforts are going, just smile.  “Quite, well thank you.”  Of course, if you are feeling especially cheeky yourself, you can tag a bit more on.  “Quite, well thank you. And, by the way, what’s your biggest fear?  I’d hate to get it wrong.”

–SueBE

 

 

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