pitch wars: pimp my bio

I’m doing something a little different today, y’all. My writing path has taken a lot of twists and turns as of late, but all for the best! Today I’m taking part in a little blog hop for Pitch Wars. Don’t know anything about Pitch Wars? Check out Brenda Drake’s blog for the details!

Who am I?

imageHeyyyyy. My name is Emily. I write Picture Books and Young Adults. I love Contemporaries and Historical Fictions Young Adults, so that’s where I sway with writing them! Picture Books are usually inspired by my three boys (5, 2, newborn!).

I am an extroverted introvert. I love people and going out and doing magnificent things– until I don’t, and then I’m very much over it. I am a homebody and not just because of my three kids, but because I love my comforts (if I’m being honest).

Living in Arizona means that we are pretty much hermits from May – October, which is a big change from where I come from (Western North Carolina, Asheville area). We’ve been in the desert for almost four years and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

So, a few fun things:

  • I grew up as one of three girls and now I’m a mother of three boys. Talk about a change!
  • I’ve known since the age of six I wanted to be a writer, even though I took some detours along the way (theater, music… other artsy-fartsy things).
  • I am a very passionate person (think Anne Shirley) and tend to put my whole being into everything I do. If I’m not feeling it, it doesn’t happen. My passion has to be in it– this can be wonderful and terrible at the same time.
  • My heart is in North Carolina, which is hard to admit since when I moved there at the wonderful age of 13 I swore I would hate it forever. Now it’s home- where I went to school, met my husband, married my husband, and had my oldest boy. I think it will always be home in many, many ways.
  • When I’m consumed by a writing project I tend to dream about it. A lot. It’s actually how I get a lot of my ideas. It’s definitely part of my process, in a weird sort of way.
  • I loooove being outside (another hard part about summer in the desert). Hiking, walking, beaching, laking… whatever and however you want to put it. Give me a body of water and some mountains- I’m one happy gal.

For more fun facts you can check out this post annnnnd this post, too. (Every birthday I like to share a few things about myself.)

MISSING

MISSING is a YA Contemporary loosely based on my personal experience when my high school best friend went missing and her remains were discovered when I was in college.

Sixteen-year-old Annie’s best friend is missing, and fingers may be pointing at her. Somehow classic good-girl Michelle disappeared without warning, launching Annie into a world of interrogations and secrets where everyone thinks she holds the key as Michelle’s number one confidante. As Annie tries to connect the dots of the case, Michelle’s sketchy dad makes it difficult as he paints a different picture of who his daughter was compared to the friend Annie thought she knew. Determined to uncover the murky truth surrounding Michelle’s missing person’s case, Annie starts to lose herself in an overflow of guilt, fear, and the desire for revenge.

When Michelle’s remains are found three years later in a location skeptically close to Annie’s childhood home, everyone starts finding closure, everyone except a 19-year-old Annie who is interrogated as a suspect in the new homicide case. Just when Annie is losing hope of ever discovering the truth, she’s approached by Michelle’s younger sister, Sam, who is now at the age when Michelle started having trouble with dear old dad. She has her own suspicions as to what happened to her half sister— and wants Annie’s help to prove it.

MISSING is a contemporary young adult with a PRETTY LITTLE LIARS meets THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON feel, complete at 87,000 words.

Writing Process

big-changesMy writing process usually means sitting down with caffeine and freshly baked goods and spitting out some words/ revisions. I’m someone who goes for a vigorous walk (sorry, not a runner), whips something up in the kitchen, and then feels the words flowing.

I truthfully don’t write every day. At all. I know people swear writers should, but I see that everyone woks differently. When I’m on a roll, or deadline, I’ll definitely devote myself to writing as much as possible days in succession. But if I’m a little dry or have other pressing priorities- I give myself grace. I wouldn’t be a writer without my friends and family, so I can’t ignore them for the sake of my art (all the time, anyway).

A Perfect Mentor…

I would love someone who is in love with my novel as is, but sees even more potential with suggestions and edits. I love working with people to perfect the story and add more where it’s needed and take away what’s not.

This book has been through soooo many revisions over the last decade, I don’t want a mentor to be afraid to work on it with me because of the event that inspired it,

I would love a mentor that can guide me and eventually become an amazing connection/friend/…well…mentor. The writing world is a scary, beautiful, intimidating place and the more writing friends/mentors one has, the better it is and the more possible dreams seem.

 

Good luck to everyone! Please feel free to connect/reach out. Other places to find me:

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook

bad habits as a writer

IMG_0133Happy Independence Day, fellow Americans!

As writers, we often see advice circling the inter webs. Whether you’ve joined writing groups/pages on Facebook, or you’re plugged in on Twitter, or you follow tons of writing blogs (ahem)- you’ve probably seen it all.

What NOT to do as a writer.

What to do to be a successful writer.

The best habits of successful writers.

Advice from [insert known author here].

All of these things are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. And I’ll be honest and say this piece probably isn’t 100% different from something else you’ve read. But if I’ve learned anything as a writer, it’s that every writer’s process is different. So it doesn’t hurt to read as much advice as possible, and read it all with a grain of salt.

My bad habits are a writer are as follows:

procrastination

self-doubt

chasing new book ideas before finishing another one

At least two of these aren’t always bad things for others, but for me they can be crippling. Here’s what I’ve learned to do with each of them– or what I’m still learning to do.

Practice makes progress, right? Something like that.

Procrastination

It’s no surprise that this is one of my downfalls. I am a procrastibaker. When I can’t think of what to write next, I turn to baking (and eating) a lot. It’s easy to procrastinate with social media and, well, life getting in the way of writing.

But I’ve learned that if I truly set aside a time– even if that time is just once a week, or preferably once a day– and make it my own, I do much better.

It doesn’t keep me from getting on Twitter and complaining about writer’s block or posting a picture on Instagram about my writing layout, but it does at least make me commit that time to things that revolve around writing.

Usually, when that happens- I can hash out a few words and count it as a success.

Self-Doubt

This one is killer, guys. Doubting yourself, your dreams, your goals, your abilities– this is a big NO-NO.

The problem with that, though, is it means it’s even easier to give into.

If you’re sitting down to write and have no words, or you suddenly think your book isn’t good enough, or a writer friend is having more success than you, or you had to part ways with your agent and you doubt if you’ll score another one, or you got rejected from a publishing deal, or you got a bad review– all these things can make that DOUBT seep in big time.

I’m not telling you to not acknowledge the doubt. I’m not telling you to NOT talk to someone and ignore it, or to not cope because you shouldn’t have this “bad habit.” I’m telling you it’s NORMAL to feel self-doubt.

Just don’t let that doubt make you give up. Don’t let that doubt keep you from seeing your amazing potential. Because if you’ve come this far, you HAVE potential. Cope how you need (I suggest baking/ice cream/wine/coffee dates), and then get back to writing / trying!

 

Chasing New Book Ideas… before finishing another one

I’ve written on this before. Chasing new book ideas is not a bad thing at all. Having ideas is what helps you as a / makes you a writer.

But time and time again I’ll find myself starting and stopping, starting and stopping, starting and stopping.

Sometimes this is for the best– especially if an idea cannot pan out (whether it’s because you don’t have enough to fill it in, or the story just isn’t good, or whatever the case).

If this is the only writing that one is doing, though… it might be time to reevaluate.

When I get into this cycle, I know it’s time to sit down and plot. Look at a new idea and see if it’s a FULL idea, or if it’s just a scene that I really want to write. If that’s the case, it’s better as a short story or something saved for a project it will fit into some day. Write that bit, get it out of your system- give it life- and then continue on with something else that has more grit.

 

As I’ve said, every author is different. Some have designated writing time daily, some only need it once a week. Other writers are in a different season of life and may only get a weekend a month to truly WRITE. And that’s OK. Every writer is different.

In the end, the best you can do is to admit your bad habits as a writer- or what you see as bad habits- and find a way to process them. Acknowledging them is the first step, and then you can move forward in defeating them. They won’t disappear by any means, but they will become more manageable.

Who knows. Maybe they will disappear. But I haven’t gotten that far just yet.

 

 

finding the time to be a writer

I’ve been the worst at making time to write lately. (My life is a constant state of chaos.) So at the end of the day I try to justify it by reminding myself of everything I got done… and then promise I will write at least 500 words the next day.

finding time to be a writerBut the next day turns into the next day, and then the next day, and then the day after that, and so on and so forth until I can’t remember the last time I really sat down and WROTE.

The thing is, I have to stop telling myself I don’t have time today, and instead ask myself, “Is it a priority?”

The answer there should always be the same: YES.

If you’re a writer, writing is always a priority.

Yes, we usually have other lives. A daytime job, school, family, a social life to keep up with– but writing is still at the top of the list. If we keep putting off the words in our heads, soon enough we may find ourselves forgetting them.

And we don’t want that.

But how do we find the time we say we don’t have? How do we sacrifice something that sounds fun in the moment, for sitting down and very possibly having writers block? It’s not easy, but I have a few suggestions.

  1. Make the time.

This sounds silly, but it’s not. Pick a time of day where you know you’ll have an opening. Whether it means waking up a half hour early or cutting your Netflix time short, do it. Don’t just find the time—reserve it. Reserve that time to let the voices inside your head come alive and speak on those pages. You owe it to yourself, and to your future readers.

  1. Carry it with you.

Whether you have Google Docs on your phone, an ongoing note, an easily accessible laptop, or a good ‘ole pen and paper—have something with you to write on, always. There is a time in everyone’s day, or even in the middle of the night, where an idea strikes, and you don’t want to be panicking to find something to write it on. This helps enable your ability to write, always.

  1. Don’t feel guilty.

That one friend that you haven’t hung out with in forever is begging you to go out, but the wheels are turning and you haven’t had this much inspiration in, well, forever. Tell your friend you’re sorry and keep those keys clicking. If she’s not a writer, she may not understand—but she’ll get over it. Never feel guilty telling someone “no” because you’re writing. It is a part of who you are, and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice that.

All in all, everything is easier said than done—but if you want to get that book finished, you have to make the time to do it. You can’t blame lack of time for not doing what you love, because really that only leaves one person you can blame.

Don’t be that person.

Be a writer.

 

 

Make sure to follow my Instagram for more writerly & bookish things. Giveaways are in the future, to include keeping the 500 followers mark!

This post was originally written and published on Stark Contrast Editing and has been posted previously on this site as well. Check out the amazing services Katelyn and staff have to offer (and for more pieces by yours truly).

 

depression, boredom, and the creative mind – a guest post from JD Buffington

Today I am happy to share a guest post from a fellow author, JD Buffington is a writer of horror and science fiction. He enjoys turning nightmares into stories and wants nothing more than to entertain readers with thoughts that keep him up at night. For more from JD, find his links below!

image1depression, boredom, and the creative mind

by JD Buffington

I’m reading THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB by Will Schwalbe and much like the book is about discussing books with Will’s mother, who has pancreatic cancer and this is how they’re bonding, I’ve been discussing themes and ideas presented in the book with my wife, who already read it. The book is full of tidbits here and there that make you go, “huh.” Whether it be an interesting take on an age-old insight or putting into better perspective things we might take for granted.

Case in point, Will learns how his mother is able to remain positive and focused on humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan while he struggles with the very concept of mindfulness. It’s in having that focus. Remaining vigilant in the present, and in your presence, also requires having something to work toward, a goal, a touchpoint in the here and now that keeps you constant. If you have something that keeps you focused, then it’s obvious that you can remain focused, even if not working on whatever project or goal your focus is on. You can apply the same skillset to other parts of your life.

In the chapter I was discussing with my wife, Will’s mother has a friend who is kidnapped in Afghanistan, and despite the worry that obviously brings about, Will’s mother is all the more determined to see a project completed that will work toward the betterment and enrichment of the Afghani people, a library. Will see’s that this determination is what has kept his mother going through cancer and “not so good days” and the pain and exhaustion those can bring. She’s not focused on her own pain, even when she’s having a bad time of it, she’s more concerned with other things, and that keeps her going.

I brought up the idea that this plays into the concept of retirement being the number one killer of old people. Not having something to do, being bored, is exhausting itself, and life-draining. I said, “…that’s why I’m glad I’m an artist, I’m always thinking, I’ll never be bored.”

Here my wife gave me the “really?” look.

Of course I can be bored. I’ve been bored! But my boredom is more born out of depression than not having anything to do. Even in my deepest pits of despair, I’m still thinking about creative projects…mostly beating myself up about not working on them, but I cannot recall a time that I didn’t have something on my mind.

Which, that raises a concerning point: when is focus worry? When is boredom depression? And how do you separate these bedfellows when they become entangled? Well, if you know, please reach out to me, because it’s something I and about half the world’s population would like to have the answer to.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes they’re intrinsically linked. Boredom can be the result of depression. Or, worry and anxiety can bear out of focus and determination. That’s not always the case, but turning your, well, focus onto what it is, right now, that is causing boredom or worry, is an exercise in mindfulness. For me, my anxiety and depression feed my creativity, albeit sometimes in unhealthy, obsessive meandering through the corridors of my own brain, but as sick as I can make myself, it’s fuel for a fire that is always burning.

I can’t imagine a quiet mind. I want one, to be able to just shut up for a minute and just enjoy some silence would be a miracle for me. Even as I write these words, I’m thinking about this short story, that novel, the laundry, are my new pets going to get along, am I gonna make ends meet this month. It’s constant. Now, I’m sure that’s true for everyone, there are all these racing thoughts and concerns that literally keep us motivated throughout the day. What I’m seeking, what I think Will is surprised by in his mother, is the ability to pick one. No matter the situation, a project or goal or task. I’m writing this out in hopes of making sense of it, and if I don’t make sense, maybe I’m giving voice to someone else’s concern. And that’s what I really want to do when I write these blog posts: conceptualize that stream of consciousness.

Yes, I get bored, but mostly, if I look bored, it’s more than likely I’m actually feeling depressed. This is just me, mind you, I’m not saying everybody who is bored is depressed, God knows there’s a bajillion kids who are so bored right now, but they’re not depressed. I, however, am always thinking, and sometimes the thoughts are quite heavy, either in content or sheer volume, amount and loudness. It’s because I have ideas. I’m not saying not everyone has ideas, I realize I’m treading potentially offensive waters here, but despite I’m worried about being worried, bored with being bored, I, personally, am never without something to think about. That’s the curse of the creative mind.

The blessing of the creative mind comes in spurts; when you can actually produce a product for others to enjoy, or that you enjoy yourself, or you’re able to take that constantly running, revving engine of a brain and apply it to daily tasks and come up with solutions to problems. Again, this is coming back to having a focus, being able to fine tune the barrage of ideas into a steady stream or controlled trickle of intention.

So, the point of this diatribe is to try and focus.

Pick one thing, once a day, and pay attention to it, see it through, put it on paper or into words or actions.

Is it mowing the lawn? Is it writing a novel? Is it making a dress? Is it just calling your mum? Be present, make whatever concerns you relate to what it is you want to focus on, that way, it’s not so much anxiety and worry, but constructive determination.

Now, if only I could take my own advice…

For more from JD you can visit his blog, CIRCUSsized, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, or find his material on Amazon. JD often writes about depression and anxiety, trying to make sense of, and normalize, these traits that threaten and feed his creativity.

month of me- in review (nonfiction)

IMG_7876I’m so sorry it’s been two Tuesdays without a blog post, y’all. I’m in the final countdown of baby #3 showing up, plus we just had family visiting for my husband’s graduation, and there was soooo much going on! I thought I planned ahead, but goodness I guess not.

How have y’all been? I’m backtracking a little bit today.

For the month of April I decided to take a leap and break from my norm.  Before last month, I couldn’t tell you when the last time was that I truly read a nonfiction book. Maybe around two years ago? I really couldn’t be sure.

I don’t always adore nonfiction. I really appreciate encouraging books that help relate to you when you’re in a tough spot, or books that are refreshing to read to remind you of what’s important or… you know what I mean? But beyond that, I’m not a nonfiction guru. I’ve read a biography or two, but nothing too serious. I tend to stick to fiction.

April was going to be different. I realized that my list of nonfiction reads (mostly relating to motherhood) had  become exceptionally long, but they always seemed to get pushed to the bottom of my list. Instead of continuing to put them off, I knew it was time that I read at least one– two max– that gave me some of the vibes and spiritual guidance I needed in that part of my life.

(I understand that this might not relate to many of you, so if you’re still reading– thanks for sticking with me!)

The two books I chose were: Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist and Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough by Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly.

While these two were pretty similar, they were wildly different. I loved them both so very much, but the one I related to the most right now was Present Over Perfect. I don’t get super personal on this space all the time; it’s mostly for writing and reading adventures. However, this book was pretty personal, so hang on if you wish to keep reading!

In this day and age it’s really hard to be a professional of any kind that requires marketing. (See previous posts on marketing as an author.) You need a platform, social media skills, and so much more. And the thing is, lots of that work needs to be put in before you even have a book (business, blog, site, etc.) out there. So, a lot of the time, you’re putting in A LOT of work that you’re not really being paid for. Sometimes it might not seem like work to others, and sometimes it might feel more like a burden than blessing to you.

This book really brought that to the forefront. While there’s so much more to it, it was about being present. I tend to look at my to-do list of a clean house, blog post, IG post, a few tweets, lessons, and activities– and forget to just enjoy the moments that are presented to me.

I hate to admit it, but this book made me realize just how addicted I am to social media… and a lot of time, that social media isn’t worth the moments I’m missing.

Sure, social media is a great way to connect, learn, and grow in many ways. I love connecting with other authors and book-lovers and so forth– but I don’t have to be doing it all the time, to the point that I miss other important things.

“Loving one’s work is a gift. And loving one’s work makes it really easy to neglect other parts of life.”

The other thing it can do is give us all a complex. If you don’t have as many followers or likes or consistency, you start to wonder what’s wrong with you. Is it a waste of time? Do you need to invest more time so you have an account equivalent to that other writer? Does this mean you’re not meant to be doing what you’re doing?

“In a thousand ways, you live by the sword and you die by the sword. When you allow other people to determine your best choices; when you allow yourself to be carried along by what other people think your life should be, could be, must be; when you hand them the pen and tell them to write your story, you don’t get the pen back. Not easily, anyway.”

When it comes down to it, we all have to prioritize and really take the time to slow down and enjoy the world that is closest to us. Maybe this isn’t a popular opinion, but it really is what radiated from the pages of this book to me.

This is why I might have missed the last two blog posts, and why my trackback thursdays haven’t been present as of late–because in the end it came more important to sit with family I hadn’t seen in almost two years than to worry about making a self-made deadline.

But don’t take that the wrong way. I love you guys. I’m getting back on track with it all. Thanks for your patience.

I highly recommend this book. Take some time for you and sloooooow down!

 

when to set a project aside

Writing is an amazing thing.

It allows you to get into character’s heads, creating them from nothing but your imagination. It allows you to bring new worlds or old times alive. It allows you to get all those pent up feelings out of your system. It allows you to really do something and feel accomplished.

Sometimes, though, a project isn’t cutting it. Many of these times you can push through and find a solution to the problem. You consult with your CP and brainstorm until your brain hurts and you finally get around that “block” you’ve been struggling with.

Those are the amazing times.

There are the exceptions, though, when you can’t find your way around the writer’s block. You’ve been stuck… and stuck… and stuck on this project for what may seem (or actually has been) ages and you feel like you are getting nowhere.

But you’re afraid.

You’re afraid to put the project on the shelf, because you don’t want to quit/give up. You’re afraid of stepping away and starting something new, thinking maybe the same thing will happen with the new project: you’ll start it, and then you’ll get stuck. You don’t want to create a pattern.

So you keep trying. And writing. And pushing, And prodding.

Still, you get nowhere.

This was me, my friends. I had been working on a project for about two years.

Yes. Let me say that again.

Two YEARS.

And I was so sure it was still going somewhere. I wanted it to go somewhere because it was such a good idea. It still is. But I couldn’t get it. I couldn’t get the layout how I wanted, and my characters weren’t progressing how I thought they would. Something just wasn’t right. It was lacking.

Finally, a good friend told me there was nothing wrong with shelving the idea. After a Skype session about how I had a new idea for a book, and how I wanted to write it but was afraid to step away from this other project, she said something:

“Write your new idea. Go back to your current project when you’re ready. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

After taking her advice, I have to say I feel such a relief. So, to follow up after all that, here’s some advice from me!

Write what’s calling to you.

Writing is hard work. It’s always going to be hard work, no matter what. Anyone who says anything differently is, well, dead wrong. In order to make it slightly less painful and a little easier on you, write what’s calling you. If you had an idea and started and you’ve been trucking away but you just can’t do it (I mean literally) then give yourself a break. Whether that break is for a short story, a blog post, or shelving it to work on a new novel– know that you didn’t fail. You can always go back to it.

Don’t be afraid of a new idea.

Let me first say that there is, of course, a healthy balance. If you are a chapter or few away from finishing your novel and you decide to put it aside to start a new idea because you’re afraid to finish your novel– that’s a whole different ballgame. But if you’re writing a book and you suddenly feel more pulled to write something else, you don’t need to be afraid of that. Write your idea down. Heck, write your new idea– you don’t want to lose it! Know that you are a writer no matter how many projects you have going.

Recognize a pattern.

The only word of caution I would put in here, is be aware. If you have written half of five novels and somehow can’t find the motivation to finish any of them, it might be time to reevaluate. Consider brainstorming with a CP, or finding a writing group that will keep you accountable, or make yourself write a synopsis or outline or something that’s going to get you to the end of a project. You don’t want to have all these unfinished books and wonder where you went wrong.

 

I can’t really say when YOU should set a project aside. Every writer is different. All I can tell you is that you should trust your instincts and gut when it comes to YOUR writing. Weigh advice, suggestions, new ideas, old ideas, and so forth with a grain of salt.

Above all, write for yourself. If you’re writing for everyone else, you’ll never get anywhere.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”Cyril Connolly

own the word: you are an author

imageI used to say I was “just a writer.” That I “just write.”

Whenever someone would call me an author, I would humbly respond, “I’m just a writer. I haven’t been published.”

Somewhere in my mind was this idea that I wasn’t a true author until my book was published. Not until I could see it on Amazon or a shelf at Barnes and Noble. Only then would I be a real author.

Not before. Not now.

Right now, I just write and dream of being an author. I’m an aspiring author.

But what does aspiring mean?

aspire

to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value.

Do I long, aim or seek to be an author?

author

person who writes a novel, poem, or essay; the composer of a literary work….

Well, according to those definitions–no. I don’t aspire to be an author.

I AM an author.

If you ask if I’m a person who longs, aims, and seeks to write a novel, poem, or essay, that’s wrong.

I’ve already done that.

I’ve already written a novel. I’ve written two, actually, and I’m working on a third. I’ve already developed the words and sentences and chapters and characters and everything that goes into the literary work.

So, I am not “just a writer.”

(In fact, according to the dictionary, there isn’t a difference. A writer is an author. They can be simultaneous. If someone is in the business of writing books, he or she is an author.)

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been published. It doesn’t matter if you’re only halfway, or a third, or a fourth of the way through a piece of work.

YOU are an author.
You have come up with a beautiful, new idea. You are writing that idea. You are slaving away over every word choice, every twist and turn. You are getting to know your characters and bringing them to life. You are breathing the story in and out so others can one day do the same.

You ARE an author.
If you have queried a book that has been rejected countless times or you got an agent on your first try, you are an author. If you have gone on rounds and rounds of submissions, only to have to turn to another project, you are an author. If you have self-published and gone through the hard work of promoting your own story, you are an author.

You are an AUTHOR.
You have created a story, a life, a world out of nothing but words and your imagination. You have stayed up countless nights, lived off of coffee alone, and missed opportunities to make a deadline. You have sacrificed favorite characters or storylines for the sake of your art and stuck to your guns when you weren’t willing to sacrifice your hard work.

When you say you’re an aspiring author or you’re just a writer, you are saying that you are TRYING to be something, or you are MERELY something.

Don’t belittle yourself. Enough people are going to try to do that for you as time progresses.

YOU ARE AN AUTHOR.
Own it. Be it. Write it.

e209aa766f38b16

Get your “own the word” tee in pink, blue, yellow, or purple ombre. Available in various styles and colors!

This post was originally posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog and has also been featured on Golden Wheat Literary‘s blog.

 

Originally posted May 2016. 

writing for quality over quantity: beware of the dreaded word count

IMG_4939These days, every genre has its requirements/preferences.

Adult Novels can be up around 80k, sometimes higher.

YA it’s good to be between 55k-80k.

PB you shoot for 28-32 pages, keeping it below 1,000 words so it doesn’t seem too long.

MG is safe between 20k-55k, depending on subject matter.

(Thanks for the info, Writer’s Digest!)

But the truth of the matter is, focusing on word count while you’re writing can throw off your groove. You’re afraid to add that subplot that the book needs because it will push you over that high number of word count. Or, you’re book is a little shorter and you’re worried that will scare away agents/editors/publishers. Whatever it is- it’s hard not to think about the word count.

So how do you do it? How do you write, submit, edit (and so forth) without worrying about the end number of words that will be sitting at the bottom of your word document?

Remember it will CHANGE

Word counts change with every draft, every edit, every time you sit down to look at your masterpiece. This is why it’s so important to have writing counterparts- your critical readers and writing buddies and critique partners and editors and fellow writers. If you do it all on your own, then your work is more than likely never going to be as good as it can be.

Keep exceptions in mind 

Books push boundaries. As readers and writers this is good to keep in mind. I’m not saying that you should be like Ulysses and have your opening sentence being pages and pages long, but it’s good to keep in mind that there are always authors who can push those boundaries/limits/suggestions and do it well. Maybe your MG is a little long, and it worries you– but it is all together and beautifully rafted. Don’t worry. Either someone will love it, or someone will help you tender it to the right word-length.

Just keep WRITING

Goodness knows that if you focused on everything that could go wrong, or everything that is wrong, or everything that you NEED to do to get your novel there– it would never be written. My first book I was so concerned with the chapters being the same amount of pages that it almost kept me from writing certain scenes, and almost made me write in things that weren’t needed. In fact, if you ask my editor, she’ll tell you these things were there in the first draft. Because I was SO worried about hitting a certain amount of words, that I lost track of what I was really writing.

As always, my final suggestion is to just keep going. Write what you have in mind, and then whether you need to add or cut- it’s going to be alllllll right.

guest post from author K. Bird Lincoln (author of “Tiger Lily” and “Dream Eater”) + giveaway

For those of you who don’t know, the cover reveal for K. Bird Lincoln’s Dream Eater happened just a month ago. This book is the first in a new series, and is released April 4th. I would highly suggest looking into it and preordering if you can! It was addicting, and I can’t wait for the next book. I will offer a review of Dream Eater come release day- April 4th!

While reading Dream Eater I was able to be put in touch with her and she kindly agreed to write a guest post for y’all! After all, you can read my advice all day long– but Ms. Lincoln is someone who has made it to that “final step” of releasing her words upon the world.

I won’t keep babbling. But don’t skip reading this– the giveaway details are at the end!

Find your own tricks to keep writing: how small children taught me I didn’t need three hours of uninterrupted quiet to write

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Author K. Bird Lincoln

By K. Bird Lincoln

Before I had my first daughter at age 30 I was a writer. A Writer. I had a desk in a quiet room, where I could look out the window at the San Francisco Bay. There was a ritual—stovetop latte from my Bialetti Mooka Express, soothing music, a quick check of email that often turned into an hour long session, and then several uninterrupted hours of writing.

Of course, I usually only managed like 800 words, but I was Writing. I was a Special Snowflake with delicate writer sensibilities and this was my artistic process.

Cue snort.

Then I had girl1 and for two, sleep-deprived years I pretty much lost all ability to write. My creative batteries were drained by the end of the day by tending to my daughter.

Somewhere in the tangled mess of diapers, wet bras, playdates, spilled sippy cups, and applesauce packs, I discovered I was Still. A Writer.

I just wasn’t writing. The stories were there, but nothing was getting on paper because people in real life don’t have two to three uninterrupted hours in which to light candles and listen to soothing music before they get down to work.

It was time to get brutally honest with myself. If I was going to be a Writer, I had to Write, no matter what. But first I had to figure out what my own, personal writing avoidance excuses were.

“No time”

“I can’t possibly meet word count goals every day because I don’t have time”

“There’s laundry to be done”

“It’s too hard to get my head in the right place for writing”

And then I began to trick and bribe myself.

I started to carry a small notebook around. I found there were 10 or 15 minutes I could wring out of the day. Times when girl1 was eating. Or playing with something safe. And as she got older, those 10 or 15 minutes were the times I was waiting to pick her up from preschool, or watching her at swim class in a steamy room, or right before she came home from school and I’d already done the laundry and had a snack out on the counter. Of course, things had to adjust when girl2 was born. The creative battery ran down for a few months. But I recovered my Writer identity more quickly after girl2 because I had experienced the tricks and the bribes. I was a Writer and that might go on hold, but it would never go completely away.

Girl1 is now 15 and girl2 is 12, and I could have two hours back in front of a computer in a quiet room with coffee and music. But you know what, oddly enough, it’s getting to Ballet early and sitting in the car for 15 minutes that I do most of my hardcore writing. If I have too much time, I tend to get ensnared by Facebook or updating my Amazon sales page or other writer-related stuff.

Being honest with myself about my writing avoidance behavior helped me to find ways to trick myself into writing.

No time” turned into “just write for 10 minutes.”

I can’t meet writing goals of 2000 a day” turned into “so reward yourself with the easy writing goal of 1000 a week, and anything over that is icing on the writing cake.”

There’s laundry to be done” turned into “okay, you have two minutes to put laundry in the machine, and then you have to sit down at the computer until you have written.”

It’s too hard to get my head in the right place for writing” turned into “stop whining.” And then I started making playlists of songs on Youtube that made me think of a character or an emotion I wanted to convey. Now when I sit down to write a particular novel I turn on the Youtube playlist and like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I start literally salivating…er…my brain is conditioned to jump right into that feeling or character. A few years ago I read an interview with YA fantasy/science fiction author Scott Westerfeld who said he prints out the last two pages of whatever he’s written and starts each writing session by editing/reading those last two pages.

Voila! No more need for candles or music or anything. Reading the last two pages somehow not only kicks my story juices into full gear, but also has the added benefit of being an initial editing, without the danger of getting sucked into the endless black hole of editing. There’s only two pages to edit, and then I have to create content

There’s also the fact that I don’t allow myself to buy lattes at Dunn Bros or Starbucks or Caribou Coffee unless I’m writing there or I walked there. Pure bribery, I know. But at the end of the day, I have several pieces of paper with scribbled dialogue on it that I didn’t have at the start.

But you have to be honest with yourself. What are your writing avoidance excuses? What kinds of bribes will get you to write?  Meanwhile, here are some tricks I’ve heard from other writers. Maybe one will work for you.

  • Daily word count instead of weekly—with strict no internet policy until its met
  • Writing with a timer on instead of word counts
  • Change your writing place. Go somewhere physically different to write.
  • Write the scenes you really want to write first to get yourself going, or alternatively, save the juicy scenes as a reward for after a certain word count
  • Use the voice recorder on your phone or ipad if carrying around a notebook doesn’t work for you in order to jot down ideas as they come.
  • Make yourself accountable to a writer (or non-writer) friend for word counts. Set up a mutual pledge to text or post about word counts with someone else so you’ll be shamed into doing it.

Sign up for K. Bird’s Sporadic Newsletter and get a free digital story or book!

Read K. Bird’s tasty fiction reviews on Goodreads

Check out random thoughts and Japanese recipes on her blog or writing news and book deals on Facebook

Listen to K. Bird sing Japanese lullabies or read free short stories on her webpage

Read “A beautifully-written genderbending tale of rebellious girls, shifting disguises, and forbidden magic, set against the vivid backdrop of ancient Japan.”—Tiger Lily, a historical fantasy novel set in an alternate medieval Japan available on Amazon.com.

Great advice from someone who has succeeded in reaching her dreams! Did you see that last little bit about reading her book Tiger Lily?

5162dw5dklLucky for you, she’s agreed to give one lucky reader a copy FOR FREE.

Enter HERE:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway starts today and ends Monday, March 6, 2017 at midnight EST. Good luck!

bouncing genres as a writer

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As a writer, you hear a lot of things in the rumor mill/professional tips/ writing tips, that often you want to question. For example, one of the first things someone told me was I needed to settle on a genre in order to make it as a writer.

At the time, I was dipping my toes into the publishing world by querying my first project (which eventually got shelved and is now under revision with my agent). I told someone that my Young Adult Contemporary was going out into the world, but I had this Young Adult Historical Fiction I just had to start getting down or I was going to go crazy. I might have mentioned some Picture Book ideas I had as well, and that I always wanted to do a cookbook.

This is what you get when someone asks you what you are writing/ want to write/ etc.

After a nice pause, this person said, “I think, as an author, you should probably stick one thing you’re good with and keep writing that. Like, Contemporary, right? That’s what John Green does?”

I bit my lip, nodded my head, and responded: “Well, they’re just ideas right now, after all. I guess we’ll see.”

I was nervous.

I started second-guessing my writing goals, and stayed away from the computer for a little bit– worried I was doing myself an injustice by writing a Historical Fiction rather than trying my hand at another Contemporary.

Thankfully, I have an amazing bestie/CP/beta reader who told me something very important:

Write what you feel called to write. Write what you want. Write. If you’re writing, you’re doing it right.

Or, it was something like that.

So, here are a couple things to think about if you can’t shake that Middle Grade idea when you typically write Romance, or however the skipping around goes for you.

Write it. Get it out of your system.

Get that MG down on paper. You might find that MG is more of your calling than Romance! Or, you know what I mean. OR you might find out that it isn’t. Or you might find out you love both! Whatever the case, you’ll never know unless you try. And that’s one of the biggest things about writing, isn’t it?

Do some research.

There are plenty of published authors who have written in more than one genre (like, I don’t know- J.K. Rowling?). Don’t just google authors and what they write, talk to some fellow writers who are writing in the genre you want to try. Or who write more than one type of book. This is going to help you grow! You can never get too much help. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, but you definitely can never ask too many questions!

Never listen to naysayers.

People are going to put you down all the time in life. This, I find, especially happens when you are in the creative sphere trying to spread your wings. Don’t listen to people- particularly people who have NO IDEA what they’re talking about. Talk to more than one person about your idea, and always make sure you include a fellow writer or two.

 

By the way, if I had never written that YA Historical Fiction- I never would have snagged my agent. Letting fear and doubt dictate what you do is never good.

Remember:

Write what you feel called to write. Write what you want. Write. If you’re writing, you’re doing it right.

 

 

Also, Congratulations to @darkchiibsb for winning the Amazon $10 gift card! Please contact me @ emily.herring.dunn@gmail.com to connect and receive your prize! Thanks so much for following, everyone!