Don’t Forget to Write the “Happy” too

Last Call~ Critique Corner! I’ll be accepting MG submissions until 7/31/15. For details  go here.

Hey all,

Happy Wednesday! Hope you’re having a fantastic week full of sunshine.

Because…this.

On that happy note… I’ve been thinking about other things that make me happy—things that really make my day besides sunshine. Like,

Books

Iced coffee

Disney World

The Young and the Restless

Smoothies

Yoga

Purses

Boots

Toffee

Kayacking

Puppies

Notebooks

Decorating

Morning walks

Lunch dates

Spa days

I can think of many more, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

But one thing made me especially happy yesterday.

We got a new car. But this isn’t just any old car. It’s the car that my daughter will drive for a year. And then it will be the car my son drives after that…

See, I’m not a big fan of handing over a car to teenagers just because they ask for it. (1) because it’s a big expense. (2) it’s a big responsibility, and (3) I don’t want my kids to feel entitled. However…

It has been imcreasingly difficult to shuttle around my daughter, my son, and myself when my husband is away traveling for work. More times than not all three of us need to be somewhere at the same time. I’ve known a third car would be helpful, but still. I’m not going to hand a car over to my teenage daughter. Much to her dismay.

But then we found out that with my husband’s new job, a paid company car comes with the deal. Say what??!!

*happy dance, happy dance!*

So now, it makes no sense to keep my husbands truck , the huge one meant for carrying golf clubs. I don’t drive it, my daughter doesn’t drive it, and the payment is sky high. So we decided to do what any sensible family would do… we traded it in for a small car. A car for my daughter to use until she leaves for college next year, and for my son to use when he gets his license around the same time.

And even though I don’t like the thought of handing over a car to a teenager, I have to admit, it made me crazy happy to see the smile on my daughter’s face when she saw the car for the first time. My husband insisted to her that this is a family car. But I couldn’t help but pass her a knowing look that told her yes, this is a family car… but for the next year, you will be the only one driving it. So yes, this is your car!

I guess I am a little soft when it comes to my kids. But hey, I still decide when and where she drives it, and she will have to fill it with gas. But still, she has a car to drive, and for that she is supremely gratefully and happy!

This event treminded me of just how good it feels to make someone happy. The feeling that bubbles up from the tips of your toes to the tip of your nose. The feeling that makes you unable to contain your own joy. Especially when it concerns the people you care about the most. So even though the things on my list do make my day, making someone else’s day feels even better.

And that’s somehting to remember when writing.

We all have a character who wants something. Thata’s the very thing that’s evident throughout your whole story. But what about when they finally get what they’ve been wanting for so long—the very thing that matters most to them? Are you writing a scene that conveys the joy they feel? Are you writing them their proper payoff? Can the reader feel their happiness? Their joy? I hope so. Your character deserves it!

So on that happy note, do me a favor today. Think of all YOUR happy things—the things that make you smile and especially the things that make you bubble over with joy. 🙂

Happy Happy Wednesday!!

May this week be filled with all kinds of happy! 🙂

Write Through the Crap

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”   – Octavia Butler

I love this quote!

Because here’s the thing. We do start out writing crap. And in the beginning (as new writers) we DO think it’s really good. It takes years of writing, revising, and reading to realize that our drafts and early pieces of writing actually aren’t good at all.

But the longer we keep at it, we see that our latests drafts actually aren’t bad (compared to the ones we wrote in our early years). Maybe we just get better at the mechanics of writing. But that’s not to say that revision isn’t so important. It totally is. A manuscript may go through dozens of revisions, or years of tinkering to make it shine.

So that brings me to where I’m at in my own “turning crap into something special” journey.

I’ve written 4 novels, three picture book texts, and countless short stories. Of the four novels, one is a non- fiction business novel and three are middle grade fiction. Here’s my brief assessment of them all…

My first middle grade story: My first venture into real writing. It took only 6 months to write and revise, and I was convinced it was the most brilliant book ever written. When I read through it now, I cringe. Yikes!

My second middle grade story: This one took me two years to write and revise. It’s the one where I first found critique partners. Better than the first. Better writing mechanics, better plot, better character development, better world building, but MAJOR plot holes. Worth going back to someday.

My non-fiction business novel: Good story, interesting plot. Overall, I’m proud of this project and even more so considering I had about 6 months to write it. I include this one because the act of writing a complete novel, even if not in your normal genre or age category helps you learn to tell a complete story, with a strong plot, and fleshed out characters.

My picture books: I actually LOVE these. However, picture books are a hard sell and being GREAT at writing them requires a lot of research and reading (just like writing middle grade, YA, or adult), and I’ve chosen to focus on middle grade instead. Some day I may go back to these to really elevate them to the next level.

My short stories: I think of these as my writing practice projects. Enough said.

And that brings me to…

My third and current middle grade story: This project took me two years to write and revise. Then, another year to put it through a complete revision- again. Critique partners and beta readers have been invaluable. I believe in this manuscript—with everything I have. And that’s probably why I spend so much time polishing it up.

But it just goes to show that our writing may start out as crap, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. If we are persistent and patient, and keep working, and reading and revising, we can turn our stories into something special.

And that’s why I keep writing!

How about you? Are you doing everything you can to make your story something special?  One thing that might help is participating in our August Critique Corner Round. This one is only for middle grade writers, so if that’s what you write, give it a try!  The submission window is open until July 31st, so read yours through again and send it in. I can’t wait to read it.

Happy Wednesday, Everyone! See you next week. 🙂

Summer Writing Struggles

If you’re anything like me, you have high hopes for writing over the summer. You dream of the stories you’ll scribble on napkins while sipping lemonade on a street corner café. Or maybe you imagine paddling a kayak down current as the villain in your next MG adventure takes shape. Our high hopes for these carefree summer days march before us like a parade…shady trees, outdoor decks, notebooks, pencils, and fabulous story ideas…

But why do we have these high hopes exactly? Do we suddenly have nothing to do in the summer? Does work end? Do kids no longer need us? Does a fairy housekeeper magically appear along with her friends, Gaylord, the live-in chef and Matilda, the grocery shopper/ laundry folder?

I don’t think so. In fact, in my world, the summer is just as busy as the rest of the seasons—just a different kind of busy. Sure our daily schedule is not as full—no school for the kids, no lunches to make, no demanding sports schedules, etc. But instead of the usual school related responsibilities, I have visits from out of town relatives, day trips, graduation parties, and two teenagers at home.

My daughter has a summer job as a camp counselor, which is totally awesome by the way. But still, after 5pm she is all go, go , go—“what can we do tonight?”. Sometimes her adventures include me and sometimes they don’t, but It gets kind of exhausting after a while trying to keep up with her! I have to wonder, did I ever have that much energy? And then I remember being 17. Yup, I definitely did.

My son has yet to hit the 16 year mark so his social life is still limited to summer sports, hanging out with friends all day, and eating every two hours like a newborn. I’m not complaining. I like when kids hang out at our house. But why exactly did I think I would have all this time to write this summer?

I guess the colder months erased my memory of how summer really is around here!

For one thing, I’m working on my second freelance business novel. I love the flexibility of this project (part-time, work-at-home) but I’ve realized that I can’t treat it like I treat my other writing projects. Even though I’d love to work on those in my free moments, they have to take a back seat. I mean a PAID projects for a client has to take the top spot on my to-do list, even if I have to work on it in between college visits, runs to the store for replacement wiffle balls, or those random days at the pool.

So where does that leave my writing projects—my middle grade manuscript, my query letter, this website, and my critique partner’s chapters?

Well, I have to schedule them in–early in the morning, late at night, or someplace in between. I guess my carefree summer days of writing aren’t all that different from my less-than carefree autumn, winter, or spring days of writing!

It’s just so strange. The summer stretches before us with so much extra time. More daylight= more time to do whatever it is we love to do. But somehow it races by and before we blink, it’s the middle of July!

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that writing over the summer may work for some writers. But for me, not so much. After so many months of the worst winter in recent history, I’m okay with letting it take a mini- back seat to everything else, especially if they include the outdoors. I’m okay setting time in the mornings to practice yoga outside on my deck. I’m okay taking long walks with my husband after dinner. I’m okay staying up late with my daughter as she tells me her hopes for her senior year in high school, her dreams for running track in college, and her stories of leading Zumba dance parties for the little girls at camp. Even if the mosquitos are attacking us. I’m okay taking my son on a day trip to an area college even though he’s only fifteen. If he wants to get a head start on the process and spend time with me, how can I refuse?

I wouldn’t trade any of this, even for writing. So even though writing by a lake for a week sounds like heaven, for now I’ll settle for writing my query letter while my house is filled with kids for a sleepover and my husband watches a Red Sox game a few feet away! I may not revise as many chapters this summer as I had hoped, but instead I’ll make memories with my family and friends. Besides, the fresh air and sunshine may just inspire an idea or two along the way. (I’m kind of counting on that!) I do have a fun day planned for my birthday this weekend. Outdoor yoga, a bike ride, dinner at a new restaurant, and a walk along the canal which may or may not (but probably will!) include shopping and ice cream.

So stay tuned…All that may end up in my next story!

And for those of you who missed my post last week…

Take a peak at the Critique Corner, Tools for Tweens, and the Spotlight Tweens tabs on the site. I’ve updated them all with great stuff. As always, if you have questions or comments, please leave them below. I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

Polish up Your #Critique Corner Pages!

Okay, so it’s July already and life is good. It’s warm, the pace is relaxed, and if you’re lucky, your days include moments of sunshine. But with summer being in full swing, that means our August Critique Corner round will soon be a thing. Yay!

So here are the details, in case you haven’t heard…

This round will be for writers of middle grade fiction—any genre. Unlike other blogs and websites where agents are lurking (I love those BTW) and winners may get requests from them, Critique Corner is very different. It’s a virtual critique meeting. Writers submit their 300 words of a completed or in-progress manuscript in order to give and receive feedback from other writers. It’s a chance for writers to connect. It’s a chance for all of us to improve our writing craft.

Do you have a passage that isn’t as sparkly as it could be, but you’re not sure why? Are you trying to whip your opening into shape for an up-coming contest or for querying? It doesn’t matter if you submit your first 300 words or your last… you can choose.

After holding several critique rounds over the last year and half, I’ve realized these rounds work best if we specialize them. That’s why this round is only for middle grade pages, much like an actual critique meeting would be. I mean, who better to critique your middle grade page than another middle grade writer. 🙂

For details on submitting your page go here. For updates on twitter, go to #critcorner. Spread the word to other middle grade writers if you can…I’m accepting pages any time from now until July 31, 2015.

And as for this week, I’ll be following the action over at another great blog for writers, https://writelarawrite.wordpress.com/. A cool contest is happening there involving the 69th or 70th pages of completed manuscripts. (What a great idea! ) The top 7 MG, YA, and adult entries have been chosen and posted, and agents have the chance to request pages. So even if you didn’t participate, it will be great to see what types of entries the agents are going for.

I’ll be working on my business novel draft again this week too. I took a brief hiatus while my family was here visiting from Florida, but now I really have to get back to work. At least it’s July so I can work outside! I’ll also be taking some moments to research middle grade agents for my query list and to review my query letter and synopsis again—and again. This process is never really done, is it? And I also owe some chapters to my patient critique partner. As I’ve said before, Mel is amazing and so is her new story. I’m anxious to see where it’s going!

How about you? I hope your week is full of things you love too. See you all next week!

Keep Your Writing Dreams Alive- Eat that Apple Pie

Hi everyone!

Thanks for stopping by. You may have noticed the blog has been silent for a few weeks. I’m so sorry about that. I’ve been spending time with my sister and brother-in-law and their kids who are visiting from Florida. (I feel like I’m on vacation too.) We’ve been going non- stop for days! I’m having a blast but I’ve had no time to blog. So… as soon as I catch up with my life, definitely by next week, I’ll be posting again.

I hope you’re enjoying the leisurely summer days too. Keep smiling. Keep laughing. Keep your writing dreams alive…even if you’re taking time off from pursuing them. Recharge if you must for a few days. Watch some fireworks. Go to the parade. Eat that apple pie.

*Hugs* to you all…

🙂  Jackie