One Writer’s Journey

January 26, 2018

5 Minutes a Day: First You Have to Believe

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 7:38 am
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5 Minutes a DayIn September 2017, one of my fellow Muffin bloggers challenged everyone who reads the blog to state a big, hairy, audacious goal.  I decided that I wanted to finish a draft of my new chapter book.  If I could just squeeze in 5 Minutes a Day.

The problem was that shortly after decided this I landed a contract for two more teen nonfiction books.  Writing one of these books in just under two months is tough. Writing two in just over three was going to be brutal.  But I didn’t want to give up on finishing my chapter book.

When I set the 5 Minutes a Day goal, I had two chapters or 1000 words.   I hadn’t made noteworthy progress in 2 weeks.  But even working on the other two books, I managed 5 Minutes a Day.  Doing this for one month resulted in a finished draft. At 6,400 words, I knew it was short but it was a draft.  I blogged about this on the Muffin.

Reader response to this blog post surprised me.  People were absolutely floored that i had managed to do so much in five minutes a day.  I must have had an extensive outline.  I must have known exactly what to write. I must have some special trick because this just wouldn’t work for them.

Sure, I had a sketchy outline.  Ten chapters.  Two or three sentences per chapter.

The most important thing that I had?  Belief.  I believed that I could accomplish something worthwhile in 5 Minutes a Day. Without that belief, I wouldn’t have tried.  Without actually trying, I would not have finished my draft.

I hope you are ready to join me in making strides in your writing career throughout 2018.  But the first thing you must have is the Belief that it is possible.  You must believe that 5 Minutes a Day can help you achieve something worthwhile.  Why?

Because without that belief you won’t even try.

Click here to read another 5 Minutes a Day post.




August 17, 2017

Tension: Make It Count

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:39 am
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mixed-climbing-1204218_1920When we start a new piece of fiction, one of the things that we need to figure out is how to add tension.  One of the best ways to do this is to give your character a goal but have something stand in her way.

This something can be external. Perhaps two young characters want to win the grand prize but only one can be the big winner.  Not only will the two characters be in competition, they might also throw extra road blocks in each others way.

But the roadblock can also be internal.  The competition involves a spelling be.  Your character spells like a champ but has horrible stage fright. How will she ever compete in front of the entire school?

Tension is a tricky thing.  Give your reader a little tension and they turn to the next page.  Good, you’ve got them hooked.  But to keep the pages turning, you need to increase the tension.  One of the best ways to do this is to have some decision made by your character make things worse.

In the first example, your POV character might attempt to sabotage her competitor only to have it earn her a detention or time out.  Unfortunately, the rules say that only good student citizens will be allowed to compete.  The POV character has put her own eligibility in jeopardy.

In the second example, the character is given advice on how to control stage fright.  Unfortunately, in round 1 when she speaks to the back wall vs making eye contact, she stumbles and nearly falls of the stage.  Now she’s really scared to be up there.  Will she be able to keep going?

These are the steps that I’m working through in my current WIP.  I know more or less what will launch the adventure.  I know how it will end.  Right now I’m working out how to keep the tension up and within acceptable limits given that my characters are eight years-old.  It isn’t like I can leave them hanging from a cliff – or can I?




June 6, 2017

Writing Plans

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:31 am
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I had a plan for the week.  In fact, I posted about it yesterday.  I even updated my to-do list and printed it out.

Then I checked my e-mail.  From: My publisher.  Topic:  DAPL, at last.

One month after she told me she would send me the rewrite request, one week before I have another book due, it arrives in my in-box.  Sigh.  No, I’m not complaining about her.  She and I have been chatting back and forth.  This wasn’t her delay.  She was also waiting . . . and waiting . . . I’m just fussy because a perfectly good to-do list was just blown out of the water.

That said, it is important to have a writing plan.  I have a tendency to work with both monthly goals and weekly goals.  The monthly goals cover big picture things like “submit to X agents/month” and also contracted projects.  The weekly goals help me meet the monthly goals. The weekly goals also remind me to do things that have to be done on a weekly rotation (what goes up when, when I have to have X done for my students,  etc.)

Without goals I tend to drift about aimlessly.  I know people who are okay with this but I’m a goal oriented person.  I find it unsettling in the extreme and I don’t mean unsettling in a freeing, creativity inducing kind of way.  It just feels off.

With goals, I get things done.  That said, I clearly need to be flexible.  And with that in mind, I had better get to work.  I have two books due next week!


December 28, 2016

Goals for 2017 and What the Bent Agents Want

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:56 am
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Agent HuntOne of my goals for 2016 was the earn 50 rejections.  I failed miserably.  There are three reasons for this.

  1.  Many people simply do not respond NO.  If submission guidelines say something like “if you don’t hear from us in 10 weeks consider that NO,” I considered no response a NO.
  2. Others are just S-L-O-W and I am still waiting.
  3. Because many of my submissions are to publishers with whom I have a relationship, I got acceptances.  That really messed with my number of rejections.

To make my goal this year (100 rejections since I am starting this in January vs July), I am going to pitch to several agents a month so I was especially happy to see this post from the Bent Agency, telling what each agent wants right now.  Not surprisingly, some things really caught my attention including:

Gemma Cooper asked for “a MG or YA set during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair? Ideally a mystery.”  I love World’s Fair history.  Love it.  I don’t have anything along these lines but this sure would be a great book.  And it looks like she and I may have similar taste.

Molly Ker Hawn is looking for “Fast-paced, highly imaginative YA fantasy like REBEL OF THE SANDS” which I happen to be reading and loving.  So I think I have something that would appeal to her but it is largely still in my head.  Yep, that stinks.

Not quite but close.  What I need to find is an agent who wants sarcastic irreverent looks at reality as told through both fiction and nonfiction.  Where oh where are you my agent?  Of course, I’m not going to hook up with this person until I get serious about by search and submissions.  So with that in mind, I better get back to work…


December 19, 2016

Goals for 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:47 am
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happy-new-years-985741_1920Recently one of my WOW friends wrote a post about resolutions.  One of the things that Jodi wrote about what the reality that the holidays often derail even the best writing intentions.  She thinks that that is the reality behind come up with resolutions or goals for New Years.  It isn’t so much that it starts a new year but the fact that December has been so splendidly unproductive.

That’s definitely something to think about.  But I’m also finding myself thinking about how well my goals for last year went.  I don’t want to set new goals until I judge how this year’s goals worked out.

As I recall, I set three goals.

  1.  Read 100 or more books in 2016.  The GoodReads reading challenge let’s you set a goal of reading X books/year.  I suspected that I could read about 150 but said 100 because that seemed less “braggy.”  Really, I just wanted to find out how many books I read in a year. I quit keeping track in September at 112 books.  I accidentally marked an analysis of the book vs the book itself and couldn’t deselect it.  This took reading from fun to aggravating so it had to go.
  2. Start reading my way around the world.  Reading a book from every country in the world in one year seemed overly ambitious so I was going to try to do it in 5 or so years.  Was.  That should give you a clue.  I didn’t want to do all of the easy countries this first year — US, Canada, Great Britain, etc.  But I was shocked to discover that anything in the middle east is more than a bit tricky.  Part of the issue is that with political turmoil (the polite term for war), people move around.  So does X author count as Iranian, Afghani or French?  Again, things quickly became un-fun.  I love to read books from and about other countries so I know I’ll keep doing it.  I’m just not going to be systematic about it.
  3. Earn 50 rejections.  I read a blog post about an author whose goal was to receive 100 rejections in a single year.  I saw this about half way through the year so set my goal at 50.  Looking at my tally, I have 2.  Yup.  Two.  Annoyingly enough, several people I have yet to hear back from and things are still marked (Submittable) as “under consideration.”  And I’ve gotten several rewrite requests.  And then there are two or three things that I won’t hear about until January.  That said, I think this one is a solid goal.

My way of thinking right now is to focus on 100 rejections.  I’m going to do this by working much harder to find an agent.  I think an agent will help me get better paying gigs and I have a kid starting college next fall.  I have been remarkably ho-hum about doing the work needed to submit to an agent.  I need to start pulling out the print outs of the ones that intrigue me and sending a manuscript out to four or five at a time. I have two pieces ready to go.  Even if I do all of the leg work necessary to submit wisely, this is a pretty solid way to tally some rejections.  Almost no one gets accepted by agent #3 or 4.

And submitting to 100+ agents and publishers will definitely help my bottom line.

So what are your goals for 2017?


February 5, 2015

Try Try Something New

pathWhat goals are you consistently failing to meet?

For some writers it is the amount of writing they want to do.  They can’t seem to reach that word goal or the number of pages.

Other writers want to break into a specific market.  It could be picture books or children’s fantasy.  Yet, they are earning nothing but rejections.

Or it could be an earning goal.  Maybe you want to earn enough to pay your son’s tuition but you aren’t anywhere close.

Whatever it is, I’m asking you to take a look at your approach.  Consider the first time you tried to meet this goal.  What steps did you take?

Now think about the second attempt.  What steps did you take that time?

And the third attempt or the fourth attempt or the eighth.  What steps did you take?  Were they the exact same steps or very similar steps each time?  If so, shake things up.

For many of us, try, try again means try the same way time and time again.  We don’t change our approach in any meaningful way because we’re sure that we just didn’t try hard enough, weren’t lucky enough or somehow missed the big break, the secret handshake or the golden ticket.

I’d like to challenge you.  If you’ve been trying to meet a certain goal and failing, shake up your approach.  Can’t reach your word count goals?  Quit putting off your writing until you get home from work.  Maybe you’re a morning writer.  Try writing before work or during lunch. Can’t break into your chosen market?  Don’t just set word count goals or a goal to send out a certain number of queries.  Take a class.  Go to a conference and network.

Come up with a new approach.  It just might take you someplace new.



February 4, 2014

Goals: How are you doing with your 2014 goals?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:52 am
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Goals 2014Just popping in to ask you how you are doing with your 2014 writing goals.

I set three different monthly goals and one year long goal for myself —

  1. Submit a target dollar amount each month (monthy);
  2. Send out an old manuscript (monthly);
  3. Send out a new manuscript (monthly).
  4. Work on a manuscript I am passionate about.

Goal #1 was a success but just barely.  I may have to alter this goal for the summer months.  Or, by then, I might be better at targeting markets that pay well.  We will have to see how this one pans out.

For goal #2, I sent out one of the picture books that I rewrote on Picture Book Idea month.  The changes I made weren’t huge in that I replaced two spreads.  That’s it.  But my husband noticed the changes immediately.

Goal #3 was met when I submitted a batch of Valentine’s Day activities to

Goal #4 was not my greatest success.  I requested and picked up two library books.  That was it.  Blah.  I need to sit down and read them next week and reread the comments from my critique group.  Then I’ll be ready to get back to work.

I try to review my yearly goals about once a month.  If I wait much longer than that, it can be difficult to get back on track.

How are you coming with your goals for 2014?


January 23, 2014

Writing time

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:38 am
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My dry erase to-do list from heck.

My dry erase to-do list from heck.

Something hit me last week when I was participating in ReviMo (a picture book revision challenge).  When I signed up, I hoped to have a week free to devote to my rewrites. After all, when I committed to this, I didn’t have any deadlines.

Then my nonfiction writing class was scheduled.  Yep.  It started during the same week as ReviMo.  I couldn’t very well play hooky when I’m the teacher, but it was only one more thing.

Certainly, I could do ReviMo and launch my class.  No problem!

Then I landed an activity writing job. No way was I going to turn this down but that meant that ReviMo was now 1 of 3 things I had to get done in a single week.

One of three.  How was that going to work out?  Actually, pretty well.

  • On the first day, I revised Prey vs Predator, pulling out two spreads I had added to please an editor.  When she didn’t buy the ms., I left them in place in spite of the fact I didn’t like them.  Now they’re gone and I replaced them with two new spreads.
  • On day two, I edited the main body of Prey vs Predator.  I found some repetitive language and weeded that out and I also cut.  That may not sound like much but I cut 140 words from a 910 word main manuscript.
  • On day three, I cut my 300 word back matter by 60 words.  As a whole, the manuscript is now much strong.
  • Day four brought out an astronomy manuscript, Sunrise to Sunset.  I want to rewrite it as a cumulative text but kept getting lost in the details. I spent the day working them into a spreadsheet.  I doing this, I saw that I had a gap and gather what I needed to fill it in.
  • Day five, brought another day with Sunrise to Sunset, creating a whole new draft on index cards.  This saw the creation of a chorus as well as the beginning of the cumulative effect.

Not bad for a week that was chock full of other work.  

The lesson?  I really don’t need a week with no other commitments to make worthwhile progress on a manuscript.  Yes, sometimes a large span of time is necessary, but, more than anything, I just need to do it.  Small time, long time, neither one will make a difference if I don’t sit down and write.



December 30, 2013

New Year’s Resolutions: Writing Goals

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:26 am
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GoalsDid you attain the writing goals that you set for 2013?  I did and, because of it, I’ve got some good things coming along in 2014.  I’ll report on those as soon as I can.

Over the years, my goals have changed.  At one point, my goal was to submit a query, proposal or manuscript/month.  Then that increased to two/month.   Unfortunately, queries are easier to send out than completed manuscripts (especially if you don’t need to have the manuscript done).  That means that when I was feeling lazy, I learned to send out queries vs. completing manuscripts.  Bad writer!

You can’t finish manuscripts without writing so then I set word count goals.  I’m really good at first drafts — I can pound out text without stopping to edit or tinker with things until they’re perfect.  Write, write, write.  But than doesn’t mean that things are going out the door.

This lead to me to my goals for 2013.  I had to submit a specific dollar amount/month.  Yes, it sounds mercenary.  But is also makes sense if you are trying to make a living with your writing.  If you set a goal of two manuscripts out/month, they can just as easily go to markets that pay only in copies vs those that pay a really good rate.  You may get credits and build a resume but you aren’t going to earn a living.

Since this type of goal worked for me in 2013, I am going to more-or-less repeat it with a few modifications.  I am going to increase my dollar amount by 50%.  I’m also going to set a goal of getting one old manuscript back out each month as well as one new manuscript.  Obviously, these won’t all be book manuscripts but they also won’t all be short materials.

To read more about resolutions in your writing life, check out my post today on the Muffin.


December 21, 2012

Do You Have the Guts to Try Something New in 2013?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:17 am
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We’re about to head into a new writing year.  How you play it is your choice.  Are you going to do things the same way that you did in 2012 and, most likely, 2011?  Or are you going to shake up your writing life and try something new?

I’m not going to lie to you.  Convincing yourself to strike out in a new direction probably won’t be easy.  After all, writing is pretty darn challenging as it is.  As writers we face constantly changing markets, editors moving from one house to another and new technologies.   With so much change you can’t control, forcing yourself to seek out even more change probably doesn’t sound like the best possible idea.

But think about it.  At one time, Simone Elkeles was a writer of adult romances.  She had never, ever penned a word for teens.   Now, she has 8 novels for teens.  What if she had never tried writing for young adults?

Last year I set a new kind of goal for myself.  I usually avoid monetary goals since you can’t guarantee that you will earn a certain amount of money in a set time.  This year I set a monetary goal that I could achieve.  In addition to writing 6000 words a week, I was going to submit $1000 worth of material each month.

I’m on track to hit $11,379 for the year.  If I manage one more submission, I’ll be up to $11,879.  No, that isn’t how much I’ve earned this year but I have earned more than in the last five years, recession or no.

I also wanted to teach again and I found a new host for my nonfiction for children class.  I will be teaching Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults  starting in February of 2013.

If I hadn’t set new goals for myself, I wouldn’t have achieved these things.

So, what can you do in 2013?  I’m going to be working on some book manuscripts but I’m also going to seriously start looking at agents.  Not that that search is proving easy.  There are simply too many variables.  Alas, this will probably mean a spread sheet (insert heart-felt shudder).    But if I set a goal for myself, I know I’ll make progress that otherwise would never happen.

So, what about you?  Take  a deep breath and consider the possibilities.  And remember — at one time books were the new scary thing on the block (see the video below).


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