Posted in Uncategorized

Things You Imagine while out on Sub

So you’ve written a book (hooray!) and even managed to sign with a literary agent (so cool!). You’ve read the revision notes and revised your manuscript to a shine…even made it sparkle. Then suddenly, one day, your fantabulous agent notifies you that the first batch of submissions have been sent out. Your book baby has been released into the world for editors to see—and read! (Gulp).

But what happens after that, when your book proposal and chapters are officially out on submission to publishing houses?

Well, after you begin the process of refreshing your email, google hangout, or any other form of agent communication forty five times per day, here are 8 things that you may imagine:

One: A message from your agent appears like magic saying that an editor from a well-known publishing house has requested to read your full manuscript.

Two: You imagine that another message appears from your agent saying that ALL the editors have requested to read your full manuscript.

Three: You imagine that all of these editors will make an offer to publish your book, and then your agent will hold an auction…and of course it will turn into a bidding war for your book!

Four: You imagine the advance the winning editor will offer as part of the deal that will surely be in the six figure range. At least.

Five: You imagine signing the contract for your first published book, with an amazing editor at the publishing house of your dreams.

Six: You imagine the announcement you’ll make, and the party you’ll have when your book deal is official.

Seven: You imagine the amazing book launch party you’ll have when the book eventually releases with your friends, family, and all the people you’ve ever met who are anxious to read the book you’ve talked about for years.

Eight: You imagine signing your name (on the inside of the gorgeous book cover) with a pretty pink or purple pen, for the boy or girl who clutches the book to their chest, anxious to go right home to read it!

Hmm. Sound familiar?

As writers, we live in a dream world much of the day. And that’s okay. Our dreams are what got us here in the first place, right? But if you’ve ever wondered what really happens after your book goes out on sub to publishing houses, keep reading. I’ll give you the straight scoop.

Being out on submission goes something like this:

You wait.

You read about an author getting a book deal and feel encouraged. If it happened to them it can happen to you.

You wait.

Your agent tells you that you got a full request and practically pass out. You tell your family and friends and imagine all of the above.

You read about another writer getting a book deal during the sleepy holiday season and think, “Oh, I guess some editors do work over the holidays. Maybe I’ll hear something from one of them soon.”

You wait.

You get a rejection from another editor on the list. You think, “Okay that’s fine. There are other editors who will be a good fit for my book.”

You wait.

You keep writing. What if an editor wants my second book? If they do, I better have it ready!

You wait.

You get another rejection and your agent reminds you that the perfect editor is out there somewhere. You smile because she’s always so positive and encouraging, and hope she’s right.

You hear of an another writer getting a book deal—a BIG six figure book deal!

You wonder what their book has that yours doesn’t—even though it’s in a different age category and genre. You’re happy for the author because they deserve this but secretly imagine the above scenario again.

You keep writing and telling yourself that waiting is a good sign. It means there’s still hope—one of the editors that has your manuscript will love it as much as you do.

You wait.

You reach out to other writing friends who are experiencing the same madness that you are and find comfort in their support. You secretly hope that all of you get a book deal at the same time because for real, how great would that be?

You wait some more and take on new projects. The realization hits you that you have zero control over this outcome and you may as well enjoy life while you wait.

You write and keep checking for updates, but not nearly as often as forty-five times per day. I mean, forty-five times a day is a lot. Twice a day- perfectly acceptable.

This process goes on and on. Waiting, writing, waiting, hoping, waiting…for how long I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is this…

Being out on submission (even with all the waiting) is the most exciting time ever.There’s nothing better than knowing that you (and your book) have been given this amazing opportunity to be considered. Yes, to be considered! There’s nothing better than knowing that Rebecca, my amazing agent, has my back, is here to support me in this process every step of the way, and is putting my manuscript out there—in all the right places. I feel so lucky—and so blessed.

Sure, I live in my imaginary world where all of the above happens, but I also live in a world where other writers like me live…the one where we long to see our books in the hands of readers somehow, some way. And even though we imagine the big stuff, we really imagine our books being published whatever way it’s meant to be.

So in the meantime, we wait and keep writing. That’s the real deal…and that’s not a bad deal at all, is it?

Have a great week, guys! I hope you have time to write and write well. I’m pulling for you to make this publishing thing happen too…the more the merrier!

Jackie ❤

Posted in Publishing, Writing Craft

Get to Work! Make me Care about your MC

Hey there!

Sorry for the aggressive title today but I think many of you can use that reminder. I actually need it myself sometimes too! On the blog last week, I said that publishing is just crazy sometimes. It’s slow. It’s fickle. It’s unpredictable. But really, what business isn’t? And we all need to remember that publishing is a business. It’s not a book group or a hobby convention. Publishers are trying to produce the best books for their intended audience. Literary agents are trying to choose books that publishers will buy. As a writer, neither of these things are in your control. Likewise, once you do have a book deal, you have no control over how many people read your book or what they think of it. And all of that can be so frustrating.

Remember that saying, you can’t please everyone? The same is true with books. Not every reader likes the same book. Not every agent will be wowed by the same book. Not every editor or publisher will see the same potential in a book.

So the truth is, the best way to ensure that a literary agent chooses your book, a publisher chooses your book, a parent, teacher, bookseller, librarian, or reader chooses your book is to write a good book.

And even still, there are no for sures in publishing.

I love the Caravel series by Stephanie Garber more than I like the Harry Potter books. Does that mean anything? Not really, just that books are subjective. I’m not telling you anything you haven’t heard before. But what I will say is that if you’re trying to get your manuscript published and eventully into the hands of readers, then get back to work. I know, I know. You’ve been working on it for two years–maybe three. Well, maybe you need to work on it more. Have you been querying it for six months with no interest from agents? Not even one? Then look at it again. Something probably isn’t working and it’s not the agent. It needs more polishing. It needs something.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing tips on revision. We all know we need to revise, but sometimes we forget where to start. Both new and seasoned writers need to look for the same things, and whether you’ve written half a manuscript or twenty, it’s easy to overlook the basics when a newly finished draft is staring back at you. One of the most basic tips I can offer is this:

Make me care about your main character.

What does your MC want the most? What will happen if they don’t succeed? Are the stakes clear? Are they dire enough? Is your MC likeable? Will the reader route for them? A reader will follow a character through almost any journey if they care about them. Is your MC trying to save the world or find a hidden carrot? Who cares as long as we feel for your character and want them to succeed. Bottom line: make the reader care!

There are so many points to look for when revising your manuscript, but creating a MC that your readers will want to read about is one of the most important. So this week, get back to work on your MC. Read your first several chapters with fresh eyes. Would someone else feel for them? Would they turn the page to find out why achieving their goal is important to them? If the answer is no, maybe you need to up the stakes. Maybe you haven’t dug deep enough and shown how it will impact their life. Or maybe your character just isn’t likable. If they come off as brash or unrelatable, your reader won’t cheer for them in their quest. But if they are, their quest will become your reader’s quest. They’ll read on to discover what happens to them.

In Spin the Golden Light Bulb, eleven-year old Kia Krumpet wants to win a Golden Light Bulb. It’s pretty simple. But unless the reader understands why (in her mind) her whole life will fall apart unless she wins one, my readers won’t keep reading. I mean, a Golden Light Bulb is a pretty shiny trophy and all that, but it’s what the trophy represents, what winning represents, that make readers want to (hopefully!) stay up past their bedtime to read Kia’s story.

That manuscript took me four years to write—four years to get right. It may not take you that long, but remember, there are no shortcuts to writing a good book. You have to put the work in. You have to do more than just dream of seeing your book on a bookstore bookshelf. And believe me, I spend quite of bit of time doing that too!

So make your readers care about your main character this week. It will pay off so much down the road, in making your publication dream come true! I did that very thing earlier this week. I received copyedits for Pop the Bronze Balloon from my editor. But as I read through the manuscript, I used the opportunity to look at Kia through fresh eyes. I asked myself, Is her goal clear? Are her stakes clear? My readers have followed her through two books already and now for this final installment, I had to be sure that they still care about her and her quest. Will she finally get what she wants? Hopefully my readers care enough about her to find out!

I should have news on the updated release date for Pop the Bronze Balloon soon, (yay!!!) so check back for that! I’ll be posting it on social media as soon as I know. BTW, if you aren’t following me on Twitter or Instagram, please do! I’d love to connect with you. And if this post was helpful, please leave a comment. Interacting with other writers makes this whole community feel closer so if you’re here, let me know!

Thanks for stopping by the blog. 🙂 Have a fantastic day, everyone. I’ll be back again next week!

Posted in The Crimson Five series

Refocus Your Writing

Hello there! I’ve missed you guys. I mean, I’ve really have! I hope this summer was all you hoped it would be—or at least some of what you hoped it would be. I hope you were able to read a little, write a little, or even travel a little. I hope you were able to enjoy the sunshine and spend time with your favorite people—or revel in some alone time too.

The last time I checked in with you, our family was in the process of moving. My husband and I sold our house of twenty six years (I know, right?!), packed it up, and moved with our two college kids about thirty minutes east to a brand new area—a brand new house. No small task when you’re dealing with so many years of memories and so many years of life. The move was some parts easy, some parts stressful, and a really long process. Some days I was an emotional mess, some days I was physically wrecked, some days I floated on cloud nine, some days I worked on auto pilot. My writing and blogging took a back seat, that’s for sure. But now that we’re in and mostly settled, I’m so glad we made the move. I love our new home and even though a few boxes are still sprinkled throughout every room and we have projects galore to tackle, I feel energized by this new space and refreshed. And definitely ready to get back to writing. How lucky am I that this is my new writing view?

I had a long conversation with my husband and son about goals recently. It was the night before my son moved back to college for his second cross country preseason. He was struggling with his running goals, trying to pin-point what he hoped to accomplish this season. He was worried that after running for so many years, he had lost his love for the sport—not a good feeling the night before his official training was to begin. My husband had some wise words for him…ones that got me thinking about my own goals for writing.

He asked him why he had joined the cross country team way back in seventh grade. Was it because he loved running? Or something else? He responded, “I joined because I wanted to be on a team with nice kids and I had a feeling I could be good at it… I wanted to run in college.”

We proceded to talk about goal setting and my son soon realized he had set a goal for himself way back in seventh grade. His whole high school life revolved around doing what it took to achieve his goal. And he did it! He was recruited to run for his first choice college and he did. He achieved his goal.  

But the funny thing about goals is that once you achieve them, what’s next?

I think sometimes there’s a bit of a letdown. It happened to my son and it happened to me.

I know exactly how it feels to flounder and lose focus after you achieve your goal. It feels awful.

As some of you know, I spent 8 years trying to get an agent. If you don’t know my story, you can read about it here. It was ten years before I got a book deal. You can read about that story here. My dream came true when my middle grade novel Spin the Golden Light Bulb debuted in January, 2018 and because my book deal was for two books, the second, Flip the Silver Switch released later that summer. It was a whirlwind for sure and I’m still trying to believe that I really do have two published books!

But for the last year, I’ve sort of worked on auto pilot when it comes to writing and all that comes along with being published. I signed a contract for a third book in the series, which I know is a very huge deal, and I’m so grateful. But writing that book was so much harder. I wrote it on proposal. I wrote it on a deadline. I wrote it while trying to help promote two books, do Skype classroom visits, in person classroom visits, a bunch of book signings, and mentor a fifth grade class. It may sound like a dream come true for some writers and believe me, in some ways it most definitely was! I still pinch myself that this is actually real!

But at the same time, it’s been a little overwhelming. My writing hobby quickly turned into a job and a crazy juggling act. And I’m a terrible juggler! I found myself saying yes to more than I can handle and no to things I love. I found myself reacting to my own life instead of choosing my own path. That’s why this chat about goals really resonated with me.

Where was my focus now that my publishing dream had finally come true? What was my goal anyway? To sign with a literary agent? Yes. To get my book published? Yes. But what then? Was my goal to do school visits? Book as many book signings as possible? What were the things about being published that I was hoping to achieve that I couldn’t as an unpublished author?

It took some serious thought, but I’ve realized a few things. One is that I just really love to write stories. I also love to blog here and interact with other writers. And I love talking to kids and writers about chasing their dreams—even when those dreams seem so far out of reach. My goal is to write things that resonate with readers and inspire them to chase their dreams—through my middle grade books and through my writing focused blog posts.

The book signings and in-person school visits are a bonus, but they take time to prepare for—time away from my family and from writing. Skype visits are more manageable and they still allow me time to interact with kids. That leaves me more time to blog to my heart’s content which will hopefully inspire more of you! It also leaves me more time to write middle grade books.

So this fall, I’m getting back to the basics. I’m re-focusing my writing. I’ll be writing more and blogging more.  Just saying this makes me feel more energized than I have in a very long time! So stay tuned because the swirl and spark blog  is about to sparkle once again! I’ll also be posting more on Instagram (because I love it!) so follow me there if you aren’t already. I love the positive, creative vibe there—so many great accounts to follow! You can find me by searching Jackie Yeager.

I hope reading this post helps you to realize that if you’re in a writing funk or just feel like you’re floundering a little in your every day life, maybe it means you need to find the joy in what you’re doing again. Or maybe you need to re-focus your goals. Fall is the perfect time to do both. We weren’t put on this earth just to flounder. We were put here to thrive. So use this first week in September to re-write your goals. Make a plan to chase your dreams. They’re yours for the taking!

I know you can do it. If I can write a whole book you can. If I can sign with a literary agent, you can. If I can get a book published by a fantastic publisher, illustated by a spectacular artist, you can. If kids all over the country can read my books, someday they can be reading yours too. I believe that and I hope you do too!

If you’ve been clicking around my website, you may have noticed that the release date for POP THE BRONZE BALLOON has been pushed back to 2020. Publishing is a crazy business sometimes and this is one of those times! But it’s all good. This book will be worth the wait , I promise! I’ll keep you posted on the actual release date when I have it. In the meantime, if you haven’t had a chance to read Spin the Golden Light Bulb or Flip the Silver Switch and you’d like to, they are now both out in paperback! I’m still pinching myself about that one too! Click on the links below for the details.  

Spin the Golden Light Bulb

Flip the Silver Switch

Thanks for stopping by the blog. Now I’m off to work on copy edits for Pop the Bronze Balloon and then my WIP, a new middle grade project that’s un-related to the Crimson Five books. I’m over the top excited for this one! Wish me luck and have a fantastic week, everyone… I’m wishing you luck on your projects today too!

Posted in Uncategorized

Babies, Blogs, Books & Other Things with Wings

Hey Lovelies,

I can hardly believe we’re at the end of July already. But, I’m more than ready to move onto August. So many exciting things are happening that I can hardly contain myself!

August 16th marks 5 years since this website went live and I published my first ever official blog post! That’s a lot of years. And a lot of posts out in the virtual world.

August 17th marks 3 years since I signed with my agent! Hello Rebecca and Golden Wheat Literary! It took me 8 years to reach this milestone. 8 years! So please don’t let anyone tell you it’ll never happen for you. That’s not for anyone else to decide. Keep writing. Keep improving. Keep querying.

August 21st marks the day my second middle grade book publishes! Yay Flip the Silver Switch! I always knew that in order to tell my story, it would probably take two books. From draft to publication of both Spin the Golden Light Bulb and Flip the Silver Switch will be 6 and a half years. That’s a lot of time spent on the Crimson Five kids!

If that’s not reason to celebrate, I’m not sure what is!

So in honor of all that, I’ll be hosting a really awesome Swirl and Spark Giveaway!! Details will be announced on August 14th  but I will say that if you’re a fan of middle grade books, books of any kind, or are a writer, you will definitely want to enter!

Another major event is happening in August too. My youngest is heading off to college! I can hardly believe that fact either. He’s heading off to live on his own without me and if you think I’m a puddle just thinking about it, you are so right. I’m trying to look on the bright side though. His college is only 20 minutes away, so even though I won’t be stopping by unannounced, I will get to watch him run in many of his cross country and track meets, and meet him for a quick lunch to catch up once in awhile. He’s more than ready to test his wings and I couldn’t be happier to watch him chase his dreams in the process.

But… if I seem distracted or scattered or just all out emotional this month, you’ll know why! Not only is my youngest human baby testing out his wings, my youngest book baby, Flip the Silver Switch is too…and my blog is about to celebrate its 5th Birthday!

A lot has happened in the last five years since this blog went live. Back then, my son was entering his freshman year of high school and my daughter was entering her junior year. Now she will be a college junior and he’ll be a college freshman. Yikes, how the calendar days disappear!

Five years ago, I had been seriously writing for six years. I had two middle grade manuscripts under my belt and no writers platform at all. I was barely on Facebook and I think I had a Twitter account with maybe five followers. I started this blog because I knew I needed to create a social media platform (if I was ever lucky enough to become published) and really wanted to connect with kids who hoped to become published authors someday too.

So as a result, swirl and spark, the site for kids who like to write was born. But even blogs have to test their wings in the blog stratosphere and mine is no exception. It’s grown and evolved so much and now doubles as my author website, but at my blog’s core it’s still a site for kids who like to write. The kids I’m referring to may be grown ups who are kids at heart, but what’s the difference really? Writers love to write stories at any age!

I hope that you’ve gained a little something useful by stopping by to read my posts through the years—whether that’s been for advice, tips, or just a reminder that another writer is pulling for you—because I am and will continue to be as long as you need.

So as a reminder…f you’re a writer in a young stage of the publication journey, just know that all the learning and writing and growing you’re doing is necessary. Your story will test its wings one day when it’s ready to, even if some days it doesn’t feel like it now. I promise you it will fly on it’s own. It has to. It’s inevitable. It’s all part of the cycle. Blogs evolve. Babies grow up. And books find their place in the world.

And now I’m crying.

So…on a less melancholy note,  I’ll be posting the details of the giveaway in two weeks! I’m so thankful that you’ve stuck with my blogging, and not blogging, and blogging in spurts through the years. I could not have continued if no one was reading!

Between then and now though, I have more posts ready to go, so definitely stop back. Gearing up for release day is going to be pretty fun this time around and I want to share the happenings with all of you!

You guys know how much I loath self promo, but it’s all part of the deal, so…

Have you preordered Flip the Silver Switch yet or requested it at your library? It releases 3 weeks from today!! Here are the links in case you missed them in the ten other places I’ve posted on the site!

Flip the Silver Switch on Amazon

Flip the Silver Switch at Barnes and Noble

Flip the Silver Switch at Lift Bridge Books

Thanks for reading today, Lovelies. I hope you all have a fantastic day!

Think More. Work Hard. Dream Big.

❤ Jackie

Posted in Uncategorized

Playing Favorites with your Characters

Creating characters can be tricky.

They need to feel real to the reader or the reader will roll their eyes or shake their heads…and stop reading. I always tell writers to make a list of fifty facts about their characters to get started. This way they’ll have a list of facts to work with as they draft. They’ll also see pattern begin to form and their personalities develop—just like a real person. But sometimes instead of hitting the magic number of 50 or whatever number you’re trying to get to, it’s easier to just let your mind wander as you brainstorm character traits.

Not sure what I mean? I’ll begin creating a character profile on myself, starting with my likes and dislikes. Then I’ll let you decide for yourself, how you would turn me into an actual character.

Things I Like:
Smoothies, raviolis, enchiladas, and pizza
Caramel iced coffee, chai tea, flavored coffee with sweet cream creamer, and Diet Coke
Snickerdoodle cookies, cinnamon coffee cake, and vanilla cake with buttercream frosting
Chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip, and black raspberry ice cream
Heath Bars and Werthers
(Notice, I like treats!)
Disney World, Cape Cod, Hilton Head, and Bermuda
Cute coffee shops, wood fired pizza places, and bookstores
Coffee dates, lunch dates, and dinner dates
Castles, motivational anything, and Christmas
Being home, decorating, Marshalls, Home Goods, and Wegmans.
Yoga, hikes, kayaking, and lying out by the pool.
Chatting with my kids and chatting with their friends
Chatting about books
Clothes, shoes, and purses
Shopping
Stranger Things, Friends, This is Us, How to Get Away with Murder, Colony, and The Young and the Restless
Cheering for my husband and kids
Editing College Essays
Imagination and writing about kids with imagination
Little kids, babies, and puppies
Gymnastics, tennis, and cheerleading
The Olympics, the Red Sox, and riding in carriages
Weddings, fancy hotels, and dressing up.
Positive people
Desk accessories
Family time and fairy tales

Thinks I Don’t Like:

Snow
Winter
Driving in snow
Not being organized
A messy house and being late
Running out of creamer
When my kids are sad
Not living in a warm climate, or a castle
Not being a princess
Math
Maps
Snakes, mice, and bugs
Cleaning the house
Speaking in front of large groups
The fact that I haven’t invented anything
Not having enough time
The fact that I haven’t invented a way to stretch time.

So that’s that. There’s probably more—actually there is more, but as least you get the idea. If this was your character’s list of favorite things and not so favorite things, from there you would be able to create a profile.

What makes her tick? What types of things make her happy? What motivates her? What terrifies her? What does she dream of? If these answers are not on the list, you’ll know where you need to fill in the blanks. You’ll know what parts of her personality you need to develop. You’ll also have some fun things to use as filler throughout the story, like her favorite foods, favorites places to visit—or least favorite school subjects.

As you create the profile, you can get even more in depth by asking questions like, what was her most embarrassing moment or what was her most traumatic experience? The deeper you go, the better you’ll know your character—and that’s the goal. If your character feels like a real person to you, she’ll certainly feel like a real person to your reader too!

What about you? What tricks do you use for creating characters? Do you use a list similar to this or just wing it as you write your draft?

Speaking of drafting, it feels like forever since I’ve worked on something new. I think I’m going to have to change that.

Laptop with castle

Castles anyone?

If you read through my list, you may have noticed I have a thing for them! Who knows? Maybe my next book will be a fairy tale:)

Have a great Monday, my lovelies. I hope you enjoyed reading my lists! See you next week!

Jackie ❤

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Books That Make your Mind Wander

Happy Monday!

I have to admit I struggled this week with what to blog about. I’ve spent so much time over the last several months posting about my book that I was really starting to feel like a used car salesman or something. Nothing against car salesmen. We all need a used car at some point in our lives, after all!

My mind started wandering every time I thought about topics. Usually to things like, what should I post next on Instagram? How can I update my living room this winter without spending a fortune? When is the sequel to Caravel coming out?

This site is my happy place—a place where I can let you guys in on my life, the things that make me happy and inspired. And so I stopped trying to figure out what to write about and realized that I should just think about whatever I want…let my mind wander. And so I did. I continued to think about Caravel, the YA novel by Stephanie Garber—the book I’ve been enamored with since I read it late last year.

If there ever was a book I wish I had written, that would be it.

But being able to read it is almost just as good. It’s magical and enchanting and mesmerizing. And yes all of those things mean basically the same thing but I feel like one adjective isn’t enough in this case. The story is so original that I often wonder how Stephanie Garber came up with such a great idea. I love the characters too (so much!) but I realized immediately after I read the last page and closed the book, that it’s the world of Caravel I was going to miss the most. And I was right. In the months since I’ve read it, I have found myself thinking about it and anxiously awaiting the sequel—which is  releasing in May!

The funny thing is, I don’t even own the book. I bought it for my niece, thinking she would love it, and after she read it, I shamelessly begged her to borrow it. But then after I read it, that awful moment came when I had to return it to her. Because it was a gift—to her. Not to myself! And now the sequel, Legendary is coming and I obviously have to buy both books because I want to put them on my shelf to read again and again.

I’m not the type of reader who inhales books. I don’t read a book, finish it in two days, and move on to the next. I don’t take on reading challenges or commit to reading 50 books a year. I’m a pretty slow reader. I tend to lose myself in the story if I love the book, or labor through it if I don’t. Maybe that’s why I think about them long after I read them. I space them apart pretty well because I feel like if I finish one book and move right on to the next, I’ll forget something wonderful about it. Maybe not details or facts about the story, but the way the story made me feel.

Caravel is one of those books for me—a story I was easily lost in, easily transported to. And so this weekend when I should have been thinking about what to blog about, I was clicking around Stephanie Garber’s website and learning that not only is Caravel’s sequel coming soon, the movie rights have been sold too!! So how in the world was I supposed to blog about anything else when my mind kept wandering back to the sights and sounds of one of my favorite books?

But I’m hoping you’re okay with that because now you have a YA book recommendation instead! It’s funny how often our minds wander to scenes from our favorite movies or books, isn’t it?

What about you? What’s that book for you, a book that takes your thoughts away from the present and makes you think about it long after you’ve read the last page? Please let me know in the comments because maybe I’ve never heard of it or maybe I just need a nudge it that direction. With so many incredible books out there, there’s bound to me another that will make my mind wander– and probably someone else’s too!

Speaking of book recs and books that make your mind wander, I have a great list to share with all of you…

The Best STEAM Chapter Books for Kids! The list was complied by imaginationsoup.net which is run by Melissa Taylor, a book blogger, educator, and literacy trainer. I’m so thrilled to say that she included Spin the Golden Light Bulb on that list! I mean there are amazing books on it, many that I’ve read, and to be listed with them is wonderful. Take a look if you’re looking for books related to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. The list is broken down into two groups: beginning chapter books for kids ages 6-8 and middle grade chapter books for kids ages 8-12. Click here to read it and many other great lists of books too!

Oh and before I forget, you may have noticed a new header image on my site. I’m working on a more permanent one but until then, I really wanted an update. There’s no big reason for it, I just liked this one for now!

I hope you have a fantastic week full something that inspires you to be creative—whether it’s a song or a book or a walk in the crunchy snow. Monday is the day of endless possibilities and I plan on making the most of it. I hope you will too!

STGLB Quote 1

Jackie ❤

 

Posted in Creativity, Uncategorized

When You Get on a Writing Roll

I’m taking a quick break from drafting to check in with you today. Yes, you heard me right. I’m drafting… and I’m on a roll!! I’ve written over 3,000 words since yesterday. It may not sound like much, but after having a hard time getting my head into this story, it’s BIG for me! I’ll get to at least 20,000 words by the end of this week—close to the 1/3 way mark. Yay!

Being on a writing roll is crazy. I don’t know about you, but for me I literally live and breathe the story when it happens to me. The characters sort of hover in my head. It’s almost like they’re floating above it. I see them laughing or fighting and can almost hear their banter. Images of the setting flash around in my head too like I’m scrolling through pictures on my phone. But all the while, I’m forcing myself to be cruel to these crazy kids, to come up with obstacles that can trip my them up and trip them up hard. It’s a lot to think about even when I’m not sitting down at the computer.

It’s hard to think about other things while a story is taking shape in your mind. Sure you can go about the mundane daily tasks of your life, but your story is never far away. Cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry are easy because you can think about plot while you’re doing those. The best ideas come while our minds are free to wander. Work isn’t even the biggest challenge for most of us while in draft mode either because then we’re forced to switch gears and focus on something else completely.

The biggest challenge I personally have when drafting is when people want to talk to me. Like in person or on the phone. Sometimes I feel like a character in a Peanuts cartoon. Their voices get all swirly and mushy and I can barely listen to what they have to say. And I can’t believe they don’t understand why I can’t focus on what they’re saying or why I don’t want to continue a long winded conversation. I’m creating a whole story in my head. That takes a lot of creative brainwork. Don’t they get it??

Of course, they don’t. Unless they’ve written a book too, they simply can’t understand what it feels like on a daily basis to be on a writing roll, to be crafting a story from start to finish.

I’ve gotten calls from my mom lately asking if I’m alright. She wonders why I haven’t been chatty lately, because it seems like something’s wrong. And I have to tell her, “Nothing is wrong. I’ve just had a lot on my mind. I’m in the middle of drafting a new story and it’s kind of all consuming right now.”

I cringe as I write that because that makes me sound like a work- a-holic or someone who doesn’t have a good work-life-home balance. But maybe I don’t. At least not when I’m on a writing roll anyway. But being on a roll is amazing. The ideas come quickly and furiously. The characters become human. They make choices. The conflict develops  and the stakes can be felt clearly. But most of all, being on a roll means that words are appearing on the pages that used to be white—so blank.

So I’ll enjoy being on this writing roll while it lasts. With a little luck—and the ability to keep other distractions at bay, the words will keep coming. And I hope they keep coming for you too.

Do you have any thoughts on drafting? I bet your experience is a little like mine, but in some ways very different. Please share! We’d love to know what it’s like for you. They say writing loves company…well actually no one says that but maybe they should because writers do love company!

Have a fantastic week, my friends! I’ll check in with you again soon. 🙂

Jackie

Posted in Creativity, Publishing

4 Signs You May Not Fit the Writer Stereotype

We all have questions and doubts when it comes to our writing life. Am I a good enough writer? Is my story any good at all? How do I know if I’m cut out to be a writer anyway?  The list of doubts goes on.

We all have moments of reflection too… moments when we wonder if we should continue on our quest to become a published writer, ponder if we have what it takes to stay in it for the long hall. And in doing so, we think about the successful writers—authors like JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins who have become household names. But we may also think about our writing friends who’ve gotten published already, the ones who are not quite yet a household name but have made this writing thing a job. Some we may know personally, some we may know merely through Twitter or some other form of social media. The more we engage with these other writers, the ones who have made careers of putting pen to paper and spinning words into gold, we can’t help but hear or read about the ways they do things—the way they work, the way they write, the schedule they keep, etc.

And we are fascinated by it.

Mostly I think because we believe that any time we read something about a real writer, we’ll learn something, anything that will pull back the curtain on all that is the mystery of getting published. If we know their routines, we may be able to imitate them and perhaps that will lead to publication for us too.

But what happens when we learn something about a published writer and realize (without a doubt) that what they do is something we may never do. Not because it’s wrong, but because it’s just not us?

In thinking about this topic for quite sometime now, I’ve come to realize that writers, like those in any other profession, have a certain stereotypical look or some stereotypical behaviors. The problem for me is this.

I don’t fit the writer stereotype.

Like, at all.

First, I don’t wear pajamas (or even sweatpants) all day when I write. My hair is not thrown up in a messy bun. And I don’t wear glasses. I don’t skip showering before writing either. Like ever.

In fact, every day of my life (without fail) I get up and shower before I do anything else. Then I get dressed, put on my contacts, do my hair, and do my make up before I start writing, even if I have no plans to leave the house or see another human being all day. Call me crazy, and maybe it’s because of my background in teaching and in sales, but I feel more productive and ready to take on the world when I look the part.

Second, I don’t drink endless cups of coffee while I write. I drink a cup of tea most every morning and a chai latte in the afternoon. But I do that whether I’m writing or not. Sometimes I’ll sit down with one or the other (or even with a cup of highly sugared iced coffee) as a coincidence, but I don’t drink it for hours to make the time spent with my manuscript more productive.

Third, I’m not a book worm. I don’t love reading above all else. I didn’t grow up with my nose buried in a book. I almost feel ashamed for admitting this. Sure, I like reading. I love reading books in the age group that I write in, I like reading YA books when I find a fabulous one. I like reading motivational books and an occasional grown up book too. But I don’t think about books all day long. (Except the one I’m writing). I enjoy reading and it is part of my daily routine, but it’s not the first thing I would do on a day off. Books are important to me, but being creative is even more important. I’d rather spend an entire day daydreaming about my next project or invention. I think that’s one of the reason’s why I write. Ideas are constantly spinning in my mind (to a point of frustration) and I will never act on most of them. But my characters can! I may not invent the next big thing, but the next big thing may just pop up in one of my books!

Fourth, I’m not an introvert. Well not all the time. I definitely like my alone time. That’s when I’m at my most creative.  And I don’t really love hanging out with giant groups of people. But once I’ve had enough alone time, I do love being with people and interacting with them.  In fact, I’ll probably talk your ear off if we ever meet in person! A night out with friends (old or new) or a lunch date with my college roommate or a dinner with my husband or whole extended family is definitely my thing. Many writers I know would prefer to exist in their own world and don’t love interacting much with people. They let their words do the talking, and that’s okay too.

It used to scare me quite honestly. I used to panic thinking, well obviously I will never become real writer because I hate hanging out all day in my pajamas. But then I snapped out of my making excuses trance and realized it doesn’t matter at all.

Stereotypes in most case are ridiculous anyway, right? So if you’re doubting your abilities to do this writing thing just because you haven’t read all the classic literature ever published, if you only read the Cliff Notes to the Scarlett Letter in high school and really didn’t love Jane Eyre (I know, I’m sorry!!) just don’t. Don’t doubt yourself at all. Writers come in all shapes and sizes—coffee drinker or not. How else would we get all these amazing stories? If we were all the same, our stories would all be the same and how awful would that be? No thanks!

I’ll take my tea with extra sweet cream. I’ll dress up when I write if for only my own benefit. I’ll go running instead of reading if the sun is shining. I’ll spend time I should be writing thinking up inventions that make no sense. I may even re-read Jane Eyre one day to see what all the fuss is about. Because that’s me. But rest assured, on the nights I stay up late to add a new invention to my latest middle grade scene, I may even throw my hair up in a messy bun. Hey, at ten o’clock at night even the most neurotic girl needs to change into comfy clothes and get down to business! How else will those words get spun into gold?

What about you? Do you fit into the writer stereotypes? Do you think they exist at all? Maybe they only exist in my mind. Stranger things have happened there, ya know? What do you think? Throw me a comment. You know how much I love notes!

Have a great week, Guys! Now go get dressed…and brush your hair or something. Maybe you’ll be more productive. 🙂

Jackie

Posted in Uncategorized

Grid Goals to Keep You Writing

Hi everyone,

I’m so sorry for my blog absence last week.  It has been CRAZY around here. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic though. I’m sure you’re all as busy as I am. But during those weeks when things become overwhelming, it’s usually something that I love that doesn’t make the cut.  This time it was my blog post. 😦 😦 😦

However, I’m back now. I have my freelance project under control and my own manuscript polished up shiny and bright. But this period of crazy has gotten me thinking…

How in the world do other writers manage it all?

I’m trying to organize my writing time for the next few months. So what is the best way to do that? I read something on Twitter this week. I really wish I had the energy to search my feed and see if I retweeted it. But the gist of it was to get a calendar.

Hmm. I like calendars. I like checklists. I love being organized. In fact, I thrive on being organized. Maybe that’s why I fall to pieces when I’m not…Sad but true.

The article suggested that writers break their large tasks into small ones. Let’s suppose you are beginning a new manuscript. If you have a chapter outline, you could break the tasks down into chapters. Perhaps write 5 chapters a week. However, it also went so far as to suggest creating your own grid type calendar—especially if you don’t have a chapter outline. In it, you could create boxes. Let’s say you know your target word count is 50,000. If you’d like to complete the draft in 20 weeks, you would shoot for 2500 words a week.

But how do you determine your goal for each day?

Some writers write every day without fail. Some writers (like me) tend to write most days, but not all because some are way too crazy with other obligations. I usually write five days a week though.

So, considering I have a new MG manuscript to start, I think I’ll create a grid…five boxes across and twenty down. Each box represents 500 words. I’ll put a checkmark in each box that I write my 500 words. It won’t matter whether I write Monday through Friday or skip a Monday and add Saturday. I’ll shoot for five sessions a week where I write 500 words. By the end of 20 weeks, I’ll have my completed draft! If I write more than 500 words in a day, I’ll be ahead of schedule. 🙂

Drafting a story is the hardest part of writing for me. I love to revise and so the thought of having my draft completed in 20 weeks sounds awesome. Now of course if I find I have to complete the draft sooner than 20 weeks, I guess I’ll have to adjust my grid goals. Besides, I’m a rule follower, If I have a grid to fill within a certain amount of time, I just may stay on track!

I may try this method for my freelance projects too. For me even though it’s a business project, it’s still drafting a new story. And even though I work most mornings, and I’m pretty disciplined, it is sometimes very hard to keep going. A grid box could help here too.

What do you think? Would this method help you at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have a different method that works for you, let us know. If you have a new manuscript to write, let us know that too. We’d love to cheer you on!

Thanks for checking in, my friends. I hope your week is full of amazing things—both writing and other stuff too!

Posted in Uncategorized

What Your MC Really (Really) Wants

Hey guys,

Sorry I’m a day late posting. Many times I’ve written my posts ahead of time, but this week was not one of those times. And so when I sat down yesterday morning to write, my thoughts were consumed with my query letter. (As they are sometimes.) I had this nagging suspicion that my query wasn’t getting to the heart of my story. And even though I’ve revised it like a million times and had my CPs give me their thoughts on it, somehow it felt flat to me. I just couldn’t figure out why.

I re-read it again, with one question in mind: Would a person read it and say, “Oh My Gosh, I need to read this story!?”

So here’s the thing. I think my story has a cool concept—like really cool. But my query letter was focusing too much on this really cool concept/ situation/ world, and not enough on the emotion behind the characters who will live there. Sure I talk about what my MC wants and what she needs to overcome to get it, but not enough about WHY getting it is so very important to her. Yes, my stakes are clear. Yes, the obstacles are clear. But is that really enough to root for her page after page?

Think about this. How many of you are sports fans? Well, even if you aren’t, I’m sure you’ve still heard about the Super Bowl. When two professional sports teams play in the covented game, both teams want to win. But how do we choose who to cheer for? If you’re a football fan, you may have a favorite team playing or a favorite player playing. That’ll make the choice easy. But for those of us unfamiliar with the teams, just getting into the action on SuperBowl Sunday, we need more information in order to choose. We need to hear some personal stories. We need to connect emotionally on some level to one of the players, the coaches or the teams. So we tune in for the interviews and the stories. Once we do that, we will cheer for them until the last touchtown, even if we don’t care one bit about the game of football.

Fiction is the same way. We don’t need to care all that much about whether your MC wants to win the world knitting championship. But if we know that said MC learned to knit while being teased during recess, and winning will make her finally feel good about herself, then we will cheer for her on her quest. We sympathize with her because maybe we were teased on the playground. Whatever the reason, we want to see the MC succeed.

And that’s what I think has been missing from my query letter. Sure, the reader will know what my MC wants to achieve, the obstacles in her way, and what will happen to her if she doesn’t succeed. But  what’s important to know and to include is WHY this is so important to her.

And so yesterday, (instead of writing my planned blog post) I dug deep to think about what my MC really wants—not the external (physical) goal, but her emotional goal.  And these are two very different things for her. The reason she wants what she wants (physical goal) is emotional in nature. This is basically the heart of my story. My MC really just wants to fit in someplace. She fears that if she doesn’t reach her physical goal, then she will never fit into the actual place where she will end up. And that to her, is a very scary, lonely place.

That’s the part that’s been missing in my query letter and even in my opening pages .

I think it’s important to completely understand what your character wants (really wants) when writing your story—or your query letter. Because what your character thinks she wants may only be a means to getting what she really wants deep down on an emotional level. This is the part that will hook your reader and make them want to read on. A solid emotional connection will make them follow your MC to knitting class or to an underwater fantasy land. It doesn’t matter that much if they don’t care why they’re going there. It helps if it’s a cool place, but it matters more if there’s a solid reason why.

I hope this helps you get to the heart of your story and ultimately to the heart of your opening pages and query letter. This realization today definitly helped me. 🙂

Have a great week, my friends! I hope it’s fantastic and fun… xoxo