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Manuscript Monday #20

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 20 week-old manuscript:

Hey everyone! Happy Monday. I hope your weekend was full of awesome, or at least full of a break from the week day monotony. 🙂

I have to say week #20 was good for my WIP. I managed to add a few thousand words to my draft. Yay! Not bad considering I also did some revisions on my completed manuscript too. It’s tough for me to completely immerse myself in my WIP. This darn “other” manuscript keeps getting in the way! I so wish I was done with it and was querying it to agents. There’s kind of a freeing feeling when that happens. It’s sort of like, “Well, this manuscript is as good as I can make it and now it’s out of my hands until I hear back from enough agents.” Do you know what I mean? At that point I can completely focus on my next story. And as you know, I sort of rushed things a bit this time. That’s why this new manuscript is so hard to draft. But it’s all good. I wanted to document my progress on it, and so there it is. A few thousand more words this week. I’ll take it!

I had some success writing out of my comfort zone this weekend too—as far as location goes. Some of you may remember I mentioned in an earlier post that I don’t do so well writing in cute coffee shops. I want to write in cute coffee shops but I’m so distracted by my surroundings, and thinking about how awesome it is that I have free time to write in a cute coffee shop that I don’t actually get much writing done. Phew. Did you get all that?

But Friday night I had a date with my revisions at Starbucks. Yes, just me, my Caramel Apple Spice, and my manuscript. I figured that if I can’t draft very well out of my own home, maybe I can revise that way. Besides, I had an hour and a half to kill. My daughter’s friends were taking her out to dinner for her birthday. And much to my daughter’s dismay, I would not let her drive—even though she now has her senior license and can legally drive any time with any number of teen passengers. Call me crazy but three girls, in the dark, on snowy roads (even if the roads weren’t that snowy) is more than I am ready to allow just yet. And so I became the driver.

And it was a success! I was focused. Not at all distracted. And I got so much done! It was peaceful, and quiet, and my head was totally into my story for almost exactly 90 minutes–while in a cute coffee shop no less! I feel like that’s an accomplishment right there. I guess maybe a change of scenery is good for our writer brains sometimes!

So in week #20, I managed to draft a few thousand words of my WIP, and revise about 100 pages of my completed manuscript. I feel good about my progress finally!

On another note, Our January Critique Corner is almost here! I hope you’ll submit and tell your friends to submit also. I can’t wait to read all the great submissions. And don’t forget, my amazing critique partner, Melyssa, is going to be offering feedback too. Yay, Mel! It’s a great chance to hear how you can improve your work.

And on another note… The release date of WAITING FOR UNICORNS, by my other critique partner extraordinaire and debut author, Beth Hautala is approaching fast! January 22, 2015 to be exact! I am so excited to see her book in bookstores, and can only image how she must feel. So treat yourself this month. Buy Beth’s book. It’s the perfect story for winter and I promise you will love it so much. Even if you don’t read middle grade. It really has something for everyone. For my original post and review, click here.

I guess that’s it for today, my friends. If I sound a little spazzy, it’s only because so many exciting things are happening right now. Words have a way of energizing me—even in the icy cold of winter!

So have a fabulous week and don’t forget to get your 500 words in. I am so looking forward to reading them!

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Manuscript Monday # 15

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 15 week- old manuscript:

Like most writers, I have several ideas tucked away, waiting for me to turn them into a story. In my case, these ideas are scribbled in a notebook. Every once in awhile, I open it up and skim through the jibberish. This week, while working on my draft, one of these ideas popped into my head. I’m not sure why, because I already have too many stories competing for my attention. I’m certainly not about to begin writing another!

But as the week went on, this idea (that really is nothing more than a situation) kept lurking.

I’ve gotten much better this time around at being patient with my ideas. I realized that if they are worth developing, they will take shape in my mind when they’re ready. And so that’s what I did with this one. Originally this idea/ situation was intended to be a YA book if I ever decided to go in that direction. The mere thought of writing YA makes my hands sweat though. I’m barely mature enough to handle YA situations! How in the world would I write about them? I’m comfortable in my tween/ early teen skin, thank you very much!

But as I let the idea/ situation simmer, I thought of a way I could turn it into the backdrop of my new MG story. As it is, I only really have a bunch of characters doing a bunch of stuff. I don’t have a solid foundation or world in which they live. By incorporating this new thing, I’ve opened up a whole bigger world in which my MC resides, based on an unusual family situation.

So yay!! I drafted paged this week off some notes I found scribbled in my notebook several years ago. It’s amazing how real a few phrases can become when you place them in the right context! So far they’re working. They fit with my main idea and they firmly place my main character in a place where her unusual hobby makes sense. And I’m so surprised! An idea originally thought for a more serious YA book may just be the backdrop that works for my speculative fiction middle grade!

I’m letting this be a lesson to myself. Never scrap any idea, no matter how small or irrelevant it may seem. It’ll wiggle its way into a story eventually if you let it!

Does this happen often to you? Do you keep a file or journal full of your greatest ideas? Do you ever check back on them for inspiration? Ever use any of them? If not, give it a try. It might be the key to a scene that needs that little something extra, or a plot hole that needs fixing.

In the crazy days of this holiday season, I hope you catch some time to work on your own manuscript. Most days I’m finding it almost impossible to fit in even a few minutes to write and I’m betting you’re having the same problem too. But, here’s hoping we all get a few words in this week, and if not, at least a quiet moment to let the ideas swirl until we can get them down on paper. 🙂

Before you head off to work, or shop, or wrap, or bake, take a second to click on Writer’s Showcase. My talented, young writing friend, Mackenzie submitted the beginning of her new short story to the blog! It was so awesome for her to share her work with all of us…and so brave. I know how hard it can be for any of us to let the world read what we’ve written. It’s a great start to a story. Reading it made me remember the earliest adventures I wrote about when I was young, and definitely inspired me to open my manuscript and write something that kids will want to read! Take a look. I bet you’ll agree with me! 🙂

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Manuscript Monday #13

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 13 week- old manuscript:

Hey everyone! Hope your weekend was full of fun—or at least full of some fun. 🙂

I have some business items to take care of before we get to the manuscript stuff…

Tomorrow is the last day to comment on last Wednesday’s post for a chance to win an ARC of Beth Hautala’s middle grade debut, WAITING FOR UNICORNS. Be sure to click on the post for details and a bit about her amazing book due to be released in January! I’m giving away two advanced copies, so if you’d like a shot, be sure to comment! I’ll announce the winners on Wednesday. 🙂

I’m thinking of ideas for our next Critique Corner round. I have a few ideas but I’m open to suggestions. We’re all at different stages with our work and it’s hard to please everyone, but I’d love to provide something that will benefit my loyal readers. If you have an idea, please feel free to comment.

Here are some of my ideas:

A critique of an entire chapter. I will put the limit at 5 entries (10 pages on each one), that way each person participating will need to critique only four others. Participants and readers would have a full week to make comments and give feedback. (This is a large commitment on the entrant’s part so if we do this, I would ask anyone entering to agree to critique the other four.)

A critique of 500 words from any place in the story. We all have problem areas that we need help on. If we choose this option, I will accept 10 entries and each participant would have to agree to critique 5 others. I will also ask that participants include a brief two sentence summary of what has happened before the scene so that readers will be able to follow the action.

A critique of the first 250 words. This is a common word count used when submitting to many on-line contests. If there are writers out there still struggling with how to make their opening page stronger, please let me know. This might be a good option. If we choose this option, I will accept 10 entries and participants would be asked to critique five others.

Any thoughts? Please comment your choice or another idea if you have one. I’m thinking of holding the round near the end of January. It should give you plenty of time to get your entries ready, and give all of us something to look forward to after the holidays!

So, as for me…

You may be wondering whether or not I made it into the Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction happening later this week on Miss Snarks First Victim’s Blog. Well, I’m sad to say that I did not get in. 😦 😦 😦

But, I’m okay. I spent the morning that I heard, pouting. I kind of walked around my house in a daze, wondering why my entry didn’t get picked. Truth be told, I really thought I had a good chance this year. What was it that made Authoress and Jodi say no? Why didn’t they see the potential in my story? Why didn’t they see what I did? I had no answer.

But my husband (aka Prince Charming) did. He whisked me away to our bagel shop (the one we always go to) and reminded me just how subjective this business is. He reminded me that there are so many reasons why my little story wasn’t chosen for the auction. And I already knew them all. Authoress was sweet enough to post about her reasons for passing. But which reason did she have for passing on mine? I could only guess…

But then instead of dwelling on the pass, Prince Charming reminded me of all the reasons my little story will be accepted one day. I sat in the bagel shop (kind of slumped in my chair, I imagine) while he rattled on about my characters, their adventures, and the obstacles they over come. He spoke about the possibilities of my story and how someone out there, when the time is right, will grab onto it and help bring it into the world for children to read.

And that’s all I really needed. Someone to remind me to believe in my story. And so then I sat up straight in my chair and ate my bagel. Cinnamon- raisin toasted with strawberry cream cheese. 🙂

Not long after our chat, I received a message from one of my amazing critique partners. Her message was the same and she urged me not to give up. And so I won’t. Ever. And that’s a for sure promise.

Later that week, I received a message from my other amazing critique partner, with similar encouragement for my little story. I was overwhelmed.

And so yeah, I’m okay. And more determined than ever to polish this story until it sparkles, and then send it out to 500 literary agents if I have to—until I find one that loves it as much as I do. And in the meantime, I’ll keep working on my new manuscript, because even though I love Spinning the Golden Light Bulb, I have room in my brain and in my heart for another story too. My MG about Atria Plum grew by 3000 words this week! Not bad for week 13 considering I spent a lot of time revising STGLB too.

So this week, I’ll keep writing… and I will definitely be stopping by the Bakers Dozen Agent Auction to check out the entries that were chosen. And even though mine wasn’t one of them, I can’t wait to critique and be a part of it all. It’s an amazing opportunity for writers and so much can be learned from seeing what stories the agents bid on. So if you have a chance, check it out!

I hope you’ve made some strides with your work too this week. If you have, I’d love to hear about it. And remember, if you’d like a chance to win WAITING FOR UNICORNS, comment on last Wednesday’s post. And if you have an idea for our next Critique Corner, comment about that too. Or just say, “Hey.” That works too!

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Manuscript Monday #12

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 12 week- old manuscript:

I could call today Miserable Monday. I mean, I did wake up to see a wet, sloppy snow mess outside. I’m guessing some of you did too. My kids were in less than pip-pip cheerio friendly moods this morning. (That’s always fun.) I did crack an egg over the toast I had just buttered for my daughter. Yeah, the egg white slipped out of my frazzled fingers and instead of landing nicely in the bowl, dripped onto the toast. Uggh.

But…my kids made it to school on time. Okay, okay, maybe they were four minutes late. Do you think the attendance secretary let it slide due to the fact that everyone knows uncooked eggs are bad for you? Especially over toast.

But I’m not going to call today miserable Monday. I have too many reasons to be happy. My Wednesday post last week made me realize that. As I read through the comments, (and also some private messages I received on Twitter) I was overwhelmed by the kind words so many of you threw my way. Good luck wishes, encouraging messages…and not just to me, but to my son! How amazing are all of you?? This writing community has a collective heart of gold. Thank you from the bottom of mine. Your words lifted me for days…and still do as I continue to wait.

On Wednesday night my son learned he did not make the high school hockey team. And yes it was as tough of a night as you can imagine. But he is a determined kid. I have a feeling he’ll pick himself up and keep working to improve his skills—and tryout again next year when he’s older and stronger. I shared some of your comments with him this past weekend. I am serious when I tell you, your words brought a grin to his face and he so badly needed it. So thank you for making him smile. 🙂 It’s incredible the power that words can have—even from someone you’ve never met before!

As I mentioned in last Monday’s post, I revised my manuscript down to 1500 words already. So basically I started week 12 with a wide open notebook and a mere seven pages of story. Sometimes it takes a clean slate to get you rolling again. Over the course of the week, a scene has formed in my head. It’s a particularly vivid scene filled with raw emotion. It has been a hard scene to write but it will resonate with middle graders and older readers alike, if I can pull it off.

I’ve noticed something with this manuscript at the three month mark. No, not just that I only have 2500 words in at this point. This story is forming in scenes and images, not in chronological events. That’s has never happened to me before. And I’m okay with that. I already scrapped a sorta-outline that wasn’t working. Now I’m just letting the scenes take shape and then when it feels like I have enough, I will see how I can turn it all into a story.

It’s a different way for me to work. I’m hoping it will allow me to be more creative with this draft. I’m also hoping I will have a better handle on the emotional parts of the story. We all know that the stories that really stick with us over time, are the ones whose characters we connect with on an emotional level of some sort. We need our readers to care about the characters we write. That’s our job. It may be a tough one, but so worth it in the end.

We all know characters like that. For me, the first middle grade character that really tugged at my heartstrings was Aubrey in Love, Aubrey, by Suzanne LeFluer. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. From the very first page, Aubrey had me in her corner. I still think about that book when writing emotional scenes.

What about you? Has a character stuck with you over time? What was it that got to you? And…how is your project coming along? Remember, leaps and bounds are great but sometimes baby steps work too! As you can see at week 12 of my newborn manuscript, it’s definitely growing. The growth may be slow but it is happening. And that’s definitely something to be happy about, even on a Monday!

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Manuscript Monday #11

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 11 week- old manuscript:

I think I’ve officially lost my mind when it comes to this story.

You’ve all heard it said that if you want to make your story stronger when revising, you must kill your darlings. You must cut out the parts that don’t serve the story, no matter how precious they are. That can include whole scenes or even a whole character. So if a paragraph is the most beautiful piece of writing you’ve ever created, but it doesn’t move the story along or assist in world building or character development, then you must cut it out.

Well, I may have gone overboard this week. I cut out almost seven thousand words.

*Gulp*

And now, at week 11 of this manuscript, I’m left with a mere 1500 words.

I know. I know what you’re going to say. WHY?? Why would you cut so much out when you’re just trying to get the story down on paper? It’s only the first draft!!

But here’s the thing. I wasn’t feeling it. Those 7,000 words were okay, but they weren’t serving my story anymore. Not since I came up with my electric idea. I tried to work in my new idea. I really did. But I couldn’t make it mesh. I felt excited about the new parts and just so-so about the rest. So even in the first draft stage, I had to do it. I had to kill my darlings. FYI I did save them to another document just in case I change my mind. I don’t think I’ll change my mind though. This story is better without them—even if I’m only left with my original three pages and now four new ones. Yikes. I kinda feel like I’m starting over.

And this is exactly why I’m documenting the life of my manuscript with these Monday posts. I want to show you that writing a novel is not easy. It’s not simple. It’s not clean. In fact, most of the time, it’s pretty messy. But it can be done. And for me, for this manuscript, messy is how it is right now. It takes me a really long time to solidify and idea in my head. But when I finally do, I can write with the wind at my back and wheels on my feet. But until then, I push against a brick wall sometimes… until I find my sledgehammer—or at least a really sharp chisel.

Some people write their first draft with a bit of word vomit. (The brave writers doing NaNowWriMo come to mind!). They write and write and write until they have a completed first draft. They don’t revise at all as they go. They save that for draft two and usually three, four and five too!

Other writers write, but then revise those same words the next day before they can add to their word count. That’s me. If I write 1,000 words on Monday, I have a really hard time writing anything more on Tuesday until I’ve re-read what I wrote on Monday first. I need to see where I’ve been before I can go anywhere else with the story and in the process, I usually edit as I go. But as you can imagine, that makes for much slower writing. The first draft can take twice as long that way, probably because at the end it’s actually the second draft instead of the first.

I guess that’s why I changed so much of my MS so early into the draft. I wasn’t happy with where the story was headed. I needed to make a clean break, before I could move forward. That’s the way I write all my first drafts. Do you think that’s crazy?! Do any of you write like I do? Do any of you write a first draft without revising as you go? I guess there’s no right or wrong way. I think that whatever way feels comfortable for you is the way to go. As long as you’re getting the draft completed, it’s all good!

So on that note, I am thrilled with my story right now, however short it may be. I have a lot of words to write this week, but that’s okay. The clean break has given me a fresh perspective on the tone of this story and on my new characters. That’s success in my book, and more importantly, I’m excited to keep writing! So maybe I haven’t lost my mind after all. 🙂

How about you? What works for you when you draft? Whatever way it is, I hope you’ll get lots of words on the page this week…whether they concern dragons or misfit toys; a boy wonder elected leader of the universe; or a college girl hell –bent on saving her relationship and her school! Whatever they are, I hope they make the page sparkle!

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Manuscript Monday #10

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 10 week- old manuscript:

There’s nothing like a break from everyday life to rejuvenate your writing.

As I write this post, I’m riding the train from NYC back to my home in Upstate, NY. It was a crazy fun, action packed weekend… We started in the wee morning hours each day and didn’t stop until late at night. It’s amazing just how much there is to do in the City!

We shopped on Fifth Avenue. We ate mouth- watering meals at both restaurants and corner delis. We caught Aladdin on Broadway, (the boys caught a Rangers game). We checked out the Wax Museum and the MET, the Empire State Building and the Reflecting Pools at Ground Zero. We found a hidden French dessert café overlooking the city. We cheered for the NYC Marathon runners (including my husband)! And we took pictures. Lots of pictures!

I loved spending the whole weekend like this with my family. NYC is amazing, but I realized I am so not a city girl. My daughter actually navigated most everyplace her and I went alone. I am directionally challenged to say the least. But I do love to visit from time to time. For me it’s such an adventure. I have to say though, that after non-stop walking, subway riding, and racing from place to place, I am exhausted and thrilled to be headed home. Thrilled to get back to writing…

Because Week 10 of my baby manuscript went so well! Before we left for the weekend. I made a lot of progress on my draft. I told you about the electric idea I had. Well this week I was able to turn the ideas I had drafted and expand on them. I’m thinking the stuff I wrote last week was pretty solid because I was able to continue with what I started. I kept writing and writing and it felt great.

I’m falling in love with this story. Yay! How great is that? I know you know the feeling. It happens to all of us from time to time. And the best part is that I can’t wait to draft again tomorrow. Being away from this story for even the weekend has made me miss it all the more. It helps too that a change of scenery has given me a brain-full of story ideas. People watching and listening in a new place will do that for you. And let me tell you, if you’ve never been to NYC, you should! The people are friendly, but incredibly varied. People watching at it’s very best!

So at week 10, I guess this story is moving forward. Like I said, my goal is to write 500 words a day. I stuck to that this week. I did not stick to that this weekend, but I’m okay with that. The break has made me anxious to get back to it and who knows…maybe I’ll write double that tomorrow. 🙂

For those of you wondering how my Marathon Man did at the race…He did well! Marathon #11 is in the books. 🙂 But the run was not without struggles. He ran with a relentless cough and head cold. The day was 40 degrees with wind gusts of 40 miles per hour. (Yikes!) There were 51,000 finishers so it was tough for anyone running to navigate the crowds and keep their pace. So he did not get a PR (personal record) but he was very pleased anyway. He ran with amazing people through 26.2 miles of an amazing city. The experience of that alone made it special for him—and for us too!

So like I said last week, I’ll keep striving to reach my writing goal as he has strived to reach his running ones. It’s always fun to cheer each other on! I hope all of you will do the same. I hope this week will be a good one for you. And remember, if you think you can’t write one more word, I’m here to tell you that you can. You’re the only one who can write your story. So go on. Write it! Your characters are waiting for you to give them something great to do. 🙂

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Manuscript Monday #9

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 9 week- old manuscript:

Electric ideas. They don’t hit often, but when they do, the feeling practically knocks you off your feet. It doesn’t care whether you’re wearing your favorite platform heels, sensible boots, or slippers. Electric Ideas don’t play favorites. And I’m not talking about the kind of idea that starts out as Hmm… and over time turns into Ah-ha! (Though, those are good too.) I’m talking about the kind that comes to you in a daydream while driving or running or folding the clothes, and within seconds jolts you out of your sub-conscience la-la land with a zing. A force so strong you know in an instant. This idea is really good.

I had an idea this week for my manuscript and I have to say, it was electric. Like nothing I’ve ever felt before about an idea. Most of my ideas take a while to take shape. This one hit me like a jolt from an exposed wire. And because of that moment, I can proudly say, I am back in the business of writing this story!

I had hoped it would be only a matter of time before the ideas began to flow again. My brain had been so overloaded with my work writing project that I was beginning to feel like I’d never have room for something new. But last week, I completed that rough draft (yay!) and it opened up a whole lot of creative space, I guess. (Yippee!)

So as this super-amazing, electric idea came to me (while folding laundry), I raced to my computer. (No time to jot it down on a napkin or old receipt. The details were pouring out too fast!) I opened up my previously neglected WIP and pounded my laptop keys. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I could see the scene play out like a movie. The images were so real, the new characters were so life-like, and the setting was breathtakingly beautiful. I was only sorry I was drafting because I couldn’t waste too much time on word choice for fear of missing an important detail.

I wrote until my ideas ran out. But not in a bad way. It was a huge start. And now the best part is, these two new characters are about to play a starring role in the life of my MC. I can feel an eerie, wonderful connection between them already and I haven’t even written then in a scene together yet. They may not even connect for a while! (It’s going to be that kind of story.) But I’m really looking forward to writing the build-up. It’s going to be epic. Middle Grade epic. 🙂

It feels great to be energized by a new story. I love having a story I just have to tell—one that I think kids will want to read. The worst part is, now it’s going to take forever for me to get it in their hands. I know. Patience. Patience. Write the story first!

So my nine week-old manuscript is taking shape. My word count is still pretty low, but it’s creeping up there. And I’ll keep at it. I proved to myself over the last few weeks that I can write a lot of words in a day if I put my mind to it (and if I have enough hours and snacks). My personal record is now 5500 words! So while that won’t be possible every day, I can at least be consistent. It’s so much easier to keep drafting when your head is firmly planted in the story every day. So, I’m planning to continue to write at least 500 words per day and even more if I’m able. Wish me luck!

How did you do working on your WIP this week? Even small victories are worth celebrating and I’m here to say, “Yay, you!!” So tell us. What was one of yours? Give us a chance to cheer you on!

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Manuscript Monday #8

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 8 week- old manuscript:

Hi there! Happy Monday!!

I’ve decided I feel bad for Mondays. Nobody likes them. Nobody. Including me. How sad is that? But I’ve decided to change my attitude about them. I’ve decided to look at them the same way I look at the month of January and the first day of school…as a new beginning, a chance to start fresh. I’ve decided to approach Mondays as the day I get to determine how the week ahead will play out. Why feel so down on Mondays just because we have to go back to work? Instead, why not feel great because we get to go back to work? We get to do something productive. How amazing is that?

Now before you think I’ve gone all Candy Cheerful on you, I am at heart, a glass half- full type of person anyway. So it just makes me feel better to approach Mondays like this now.

Okay then, so on this Manuscript Monday I’m particularly cheerful, because my self- imposed hiatus from working on my middle grade manuscript is almost over. One more week and I think I’ll be back. Here’s why…

I wrote another 10,000 words this week on my first draft of my professional manuscript. It’s actually less than I had hoped, but as I drafted, I realized this particular first draft doesn’t need to be as long as my middle grade stories are. It doesn’t (and won’t) contain all of the business related content that it will have once I start revising. Yay! So this project is going better than I thought. The story is taking great shape and I’m pleased with the direction it’s going in. And as you all know, that is a great feeling!

The best part is, I’ll be finished drafting soon and as much as I enjoy drafting, I love revising. That’s where I can turn the story that I actually wrote on my paper, into the story that I actually intended to write on my paper. Again—yay!

That doesn’t mean I’ve haven’t been thinking about my new middle grade project. I have. Ideas have been swirling around in my head all week. I’m trying to give them a chance to settle though. Some will make it and some won’t. We all know how that goes. You have a brilliant idea as you fall asleep at night or even in the middle of the night, but by morning your head wakes from its foggy slumber and you think, Um, no!

So I’ll wait for these ideas to take residence in my brain, and in the meantime I’ll work on my work stuff. But it’s only Monday. I have a whole week to see how all of my writing endeavors will play out. And you do too! So why don’t you join me? Show Mondays some love. 🙂 Who knows what amazing words we all can create—starting today!

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Manuscript Monday # 7

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 7 week- old manuscript:

Happy Monday!

Today, as much of our country closes down and takes a breather in honor of Christopher Columbus, I thought it would be fitting to remember just how important the discovery process is to any manuscript we write. (A far- fetched connection there maybe, but I did try.) 🙂

I’ve spent most of my Monday Manuscript posts so far, talking about this very thing. I think it’s safe to say we’ve established that it’s important to discover exactly who your characters are and exactly where in the entire world they will tackle the tough tasks you’ll throw their way.

But that’s not the type of discovery I’m talking about right now. I’m talking about the discoveries we make about ourselves, as we write our manuscripts. I could probably write a whole (boring) short story about the lessons I’ve learned from writing mine over the last several years. Don’t worry though. I won’t do it. That would be the worst short story ever!

I did discover something new this week though that I bet many of you can relate to. Although I have a pretty big imagination and a creative mind (like most writers)…it does have its limitations. I may be able to juggle several characters in there at once and even a few subplots too, but there does come a point when I can’t shove any more story stuff in there. At All.

I discovered this week that as much as I want to be working on my new manuscript, I can’t right now. Yikes. I said it. And here’s why… I work as a writer professionally too. My current assignment is to write a non- fiction book with fiction elements to it. It’s a great assignment and I’m loving working on this project. The trouble is, this story needs to have believable characters, high stakes, real life conflicts, and an interesting setting—all things that any great book has. In order for me to write this story well, I had to take a break from writing my new middle grade manuscript. I was going crazy this week trying to keep both stories straight.

If you’re anything like me, your stories float around in your head and make their presence known at random times throughout the day. These are the times my best ideas take place. I can flesh out my characters this way, or figure out how to best resolve their conflicts. Then when I’m ready to write, I know where to begin. But over the last few days, I’ve discovered why I’m having such a hard time outlining and drafting my new middle grade manuscript. It’s because I’m knee deep in the middle of this business story draft and these characters are taking over all the creative space in my head!

My intention with my Manuscript Monday posts is to show what it’s really like writing a manuscript from start to finish—the good and bad. But earlier this week I was hesitant to put this manuscript on the back burner even for a week or two, especially because I’m supposed to document my progress on this blog. I felt like I was letting anyone reading these posts down. But a good friend of mine reminded me that taking a break is exactly what happens to most writers at some point while they write their story. We all have obligations—kids, jobs, whatever. They all need to be taken into consideration by any writer. And so that’s where I’m at in week seven of my new MG manuscript… I’m taking a short break while I focus on my work project. Hopefully next week, or the week after that I’ll be back at it. 🙂

But… since this is a blog about writing, you might be interested in my progress with my work- related book. This week I made it to the 1/3 way mark of my draft. I reached 15,000 words! I’ve been writing about 2000 words almost every day for weeks. I’m not sure about you but that’s WAY more writing than I usually do. So I am really happy with that. 🙂 I’ll be writing even more (2500 words/ day) for the next few weeks since I need to have a finished draft completed by the end of the month. So even though I haven’t made much progress on my own story, at least there’s that!

How about you? Do you have any writing updates to share that can push the rest of us to keep going forward? It’s been great to connect with so many of you lately. So what do you say? Let us know what you’re working on!

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Manuscript Monday #6

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 6 week- old manuscript:

I’ve been asking myself a question all week? What is the trick to finding your character’s voice?

Writers know how important it is to have great voice in their story. The trick is knowing exactly how to do that. I’m sure many of you have scoured the internet for articles on this very subject, just like I have. And I bet you’ve heard this phrase over and over again: Voice is hard to describe, but if a story has it, you will recognize it.

That’s so true. One of my very favorite books, LOVE AUBREY, by Suzanne LeFleur has amazing voice. Another, a debut middle grade that was just released, AT YOUR SERVICE, by Jen Malone has fantastic voice in my opinion too. Chloe is a 13 year- old girl, but not just any 13 year-old girl. And you’ll feel like you know her, and know how she would react to any situation after just a few pages. The voice in the story leaps right off the page.

But…even if you know how to recognize a story with great voice, it’s still takes a high level of writing skill to write a novel that has it. Of course some writers seem to be born with this skill. Don’t you hate those writers?? The rest of us may have to work at a bit. In my quest to weave voice into my current manuscript, I’ve come up with a trick, or maybe more of an exercise to help you find yours.

A few months ago, when I was working on revisions for my last novel, I tried to focus on where in my manuscript the voice was lacking. I scanned each chapter and highlighted areas where I felt my main character really displayed great voice. Those are the passages I wanted to study. Why does she come to life in those places? I came to two conclusions:

  1. She uses phrases the reader knows she would say, even without knowing that she’s the one that said them.
  2. She has a certain way of saying things, like only she would say them. These small details bring what she says to life.

Once I recognized this, I found paragraphs where she fell flat. There wasn’t much emotion in what she said. It could have been any character speaking the words. In fact, she wasn’t speaking in “her speak” at all. She made statements or asked questions, but not in a way that stayed true to her character. Those are the scenes I rewrote, working to make her feel more alive. The result was a scene that sucked the reader in. Readers follow characters they connect with. They rarely will connect with a character who falls flat.

So the million dollar question for many writers is: How do I find my character’s voice? How do I make her sound like a real person? If a character (honestly) feels real to you, she will feel real to your reader.

This trick may help. Find a paragraph that includes your main character. In a new document, copy this paragraph. Under it, tell what you have learned about your character from reading it. How difficult this task is, will determine how well you’ve written with voice. You should be able to tell a lot about them just by this paragraph!

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t. The reason why, may be that you don’t know what you’re trying to convey in that paragraph to bring the character to life. Try this:

Take that same paragraph and rewrite it several times. Your job, when writing each paragraph, is to convey a different attitude for your character.

I’ll give you an example of how I did that for the opening paragraph of my latest middle grade novel:

In my opening paragraph, eleven year-old Kia is sitting in an outdoor theater with her class for the Opening Ceremony of the Piedmont Challenge on a really hot day.

To find her voice, I rewrote it several times:

(Angry Kia)

My sixth grade class sits in the amphitheater outside Crimson Elementary School. All five hundred of us are squished shoulder to shoulder for the opening ceremony. I mean are you kidding me? The Piedmont people couldn’t spring for a bigger place for us to hold this opening ceremony. Who can I talk to about this? Heads are about to roll.

(Nervous Kia)

My sixth grade class sits in the amphitheater outside Crimson Elementary School. All five hundred of us are squished shoulder to shoulder for the opening ceremony. The sun is scorching the back of my neck. My pony tail even feels hot. I don’t care about the heat. My sweaty palms are the problem. What if I drop my competition tickets? What if I faint before I get to the front of the line? What if I drop the tickets once I get them?

(Confident Kia)

My sixth grade class sits in the amphitheater outside Crimson Elementary School, where all five hundred are squished shoulder to shoulder for the opening ceremony. The sun is scorching the back of my neck. My pony tail feels hot. Good thing this competition is going to be a piece of cake. I’ll solve my tasks in no time and get home to jump in the pool by noon.

(Spoiled Kia)

My sixth grade class sits in the amphitheater outside Crimson Elementary School, where all five hundred are squished shoulder to shoulder. The sun is scorching the back of my neck so bad even my perfect pony tail feels hot. I am so disgusted with this whole situation. How can we be expected to solve not one but seven tasks in these conditions? My lip gloss is dripping now too. Where is my assistant, with my fan?

Now there’s a fair bit of “telling” in these examples, but I want you to notice instead how different each of these characters are. See how voice can bring your character to life in so many different ways? As you read through the examples, did Kia seem like a different person in each one? None of these examples are the actual opening paragraph in my manuscript, but they helped me flesh out who Kia really is- what type of personality I wanted her to have. In this situation, I wondered, How would Kia react to her circumstances? She’s at the opening ceremony for a big competition. The stadium is a million degrees. Hmm…

Here’s my real opening…until I change it again because writing with perfect voice is hard!

My sixth grade class sits in the amphitheater outside Crimson Elementary School. All five hundred of us are squished shoulder to shoulder for the Opening Ceremony. I don’t mind that the sun is scorching the back of my neck or even that my ponytail feels hot. The metal bleachers may be burning my legs too, right through my uniform skirt but it doesn’t matter. None of that can wreck this day. I’ve been waiting five whole years for it to come.  

In this paragraph, I’m trying to show that Kia is excited for the competition while including some sensory details in the process. Does it work? I’m not sure, but I’ll keep working on it!

For my new manuscript, I did this very exercise this week with my opening. Before I get too far along, I want be sure I know who Atria is, what type of person I want her to be. I can’t tell you how much it has helped me to do this! I hope it works for you too. Now I’m off to write more words. Hopefully a lot of them! Good look to you on your writing too. 🙂 See you Wednesday!