Friday, July 29, 2011

Join the movement?

It's been a long, difficult month. So instead of doling out writing advice, I want to invite everyone to join Keep It Positive on Facebook month. Can you go a whole month with nothing but positive comments on Facebook? Like the August 2011: Keep It Positive Month page, spread the word, and let's make it a happy month.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Antagonists and the Source of Conflict

by Deren Hansen

When we talk about the fundamentals of writing, we often juxtapose protagonist and antagonist without any separate consideration of the source of conflict. Because the antagonist is often the source of conflict, particularly in realistic stories, this gloss is fine. But other times, the antagonist is motivated to oppose the protagonist by an external source of conflict.

It helps to be clear on the distinction between the antagonist and the source of conflict, and to understand the structural implications for stories where they are one and the same, and stories where they are distinct.

The antagonist opposes the protagonist by acting against him or her. In order to show and understand the conflict that drives the story, the antagonist must be introduced at about the same time as the protagonist.

The source of conflict is the person or agency that causes the antagonist to act against the protagonist, either directly through some sort of motivation (the bad guy sends his henchmen), or indirectly by creating the conditions that force the protagonist and the antagonist to compete (they must fight to the death in the arena).

Emperor Palpatine (Wikipedia)
For example, in a fairy tale, the minion sent out to slay the child of destiny and who tries but fails during the course of the book is an antagonist, while the evil queen who sent the minion is the source of conflict. Often the climax includes the revelation that the minion, whom we thought was pretty bad, is nothing compared to the queen.

You might argue that the source of conflict is the ultimate antagonist because many stories end only when the protagonist finally manages to destroy the source of conflict. If you want to think in terms of major and minor antagonists, that's fine.

But it's important to be clear on the distinction between the character who actively opposes your protagonists and the reason that character opposes the protagonist. The Emperor Palpatine was the source of conflict and Star Wars didn't end until he was destroyed, but it was Darth Vader who most actively opposed Luke and Han.

Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.

Monday, July 25, 2011

From Idea to Story

By Julie Daines

Scott's great post, "Where Do You Get Your Ideas" has made me want to post another follow-up article: Taking those ideas and converting them into a story that works.

As writers, we are constantly collecting ideas, but rarely do those ideas come complete with a 65,000 word plot. Here are three simple ways to help convert those seeds into a whole story.

1. Take the idea and infuse it with conflict. This is sometimes called the "what if" game. Drawing on Scott's description of the Chinese restaurant where a unique cast of characters are assembled: What if the the TV they are watching suddenly flashes a warning, there's been an attack on the United States? What if there's an earthquake and they're trapped? What if a diner didn't like his Mu Shu Pork and opens fire on the patrons?

Keep the conflicts piling up until you've got a whole story of rising and falling action. This especially works good for plot-driven stories. If you want a more character-driven story, keep your first idea intact, but then carefully explore number 2.

2. Create characters and give them some wants. You can take an idea and turn it into a premise by exploring the main character. Start by giving your main character some basic characteristics. Don't worry if they sound cliche, the deeper character development will come later. Then start brainstorming what that character wants, and then the why they can't have it. Be sure to use action words.

Take the caucasian couple in Scott's restaurant. You can't just say John wants to date Sally. You have to add verbs and be specific: John is desperate to prove to Sally that he is not just another stupid high school jock. Now add to that more action questions: How will he do that? Does he have any skills that might interest Sally? Why does Sally hate Jocks...  And you can turn your premise into a story--especially when the earthquake hits.

3. Adaptation. It's been said that there are no new stories, just different ways of telling them. Different characters, settings, and so on. I believe this is true.

Folk tales, Shakespeare, old classics... many of these can be updated and used for inspiration. The advantage is already having a plot set-up that works. And by the end, your original source will most likely not be recognizable.

In this one scene from the chinese restaurant you've got the makings for a cinderella story--only make cinderella the dishwasher boy in the kitchen. You've got Romeo and Juliet with a chinese girl who wants to marry a caucasian man. And so many more...

Anyway, good luck taking your seeds and growing them into a beautiful, mighty oak.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Where Do You Get Your Ideas?"

by Scott Rhoades

One thing many writers hear often from friends is the question, "Where do you get your ideas?" Often, this question is phrased as a statement like, "I would love to write a book. I just don't have any good ideas for a story."

For many of us, this is not an issue. Rather, we wonder how we'll possibly find the time to write turn all the ideas we get nearly every day into stories. It takes an instant to think of a story, or enough of one to work with, but it takes months or years to actually write it.

The difference between us and them is that, generally speaking, we pay attention. We have to watch people to know how to depict them, and we are aware of things in our environment that are just different enough that they inspire a story.

Some of us have learned to pay attention. Others, like Harriett the Spy, are filled with a natural curiosity that makes us watch what people do and notice the oddness around us.

Many beginning writers learn by playing with writing prompts from books. Many experienced writers still use those prompts for practice and exercise. A lot of us, though, don't need those. We find prompts around us.

Like a situation I found myself in tonight. I was sitting in a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, waiting for my takeout order. A TV was tuned in to one of those weird competitions that are all over the TV these days, where people basically do real-life video game stuff, jumping through impossible obstacles and loudly beating their own brains out--but muted and with captions turned on. The people in this one were dressed oddly, including an older guy in a swirling tie-dyed t-shirt and what looked like the most hideously strange shorts or swim trunks ever produced by a blind clothing designer on acid. The muzak system was playing a very cheesy, arpeggio-laden, piano-only version of "To All The Girls I've Loved Before."

There weren't many people in the restaurant--an older Chinese woman with a younger Chinese man at one table. A youngish caucasian couple at another table. Out of my line of sight was a family (I assume) with a young boy who was constantly exclaiming reactions to what was happening on the TV. Soon after I sat down, a young African-American woman came in, also for take-out, and sat at the table where they had us wait. Add to that the emotional state I was in, about two hours after learning that my grandmother had passed away.

Everything you need to start a story can be found in that description of the scene. Start asking questions about the people, throw in some what-ifs, and put them together with the odd combination of things in the setting, and you have a better prompt than you'll find in any writing book.

I'd love to do something with it, but I have too many writing projects going already and the magic I felt from the situation is fading after a series of phone calls with family.

But if you like to work from prompts, or if you want to write but can't find any ideas, there you go. Play with that one. Better yet, keep your eyes open. I guarantee you that if you pay attention and look at things from a slightly unorthodox angle, you'll find several writing prompts today, while you go about your normal business.

Where do I get my ideas? I'm surrounded by sources, all the time. So are you. You just have to notice.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Trigger" by Susan Vaught

I've been studying lately about brains, brain tumors, and traumatic brain injury. In my searches for appealing books, I came across "Trigger" by Susan Vaught, a fictional account of a teenager with traumatic brain injury after a failed suicide attempt.

The voice Susan created for Jersey, her main brain-damaged character, was completely authentic to me. After reading medical accounts of recovering from brain injury, it was very believable to follow the struggle of Jersey making his way back into life. The book was gripping and I read it all in a few hours. If you want to read a book that will give you insight into the world of brain damage, plus show you an authentic out-of-the-norm voice for a character, I highly recommend it.

Just by way of warning: there is some amount of swearing in the book. Not a lot, but some. Probably a strong PG rating for it.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

(Excerpt from The Literary Ladies)

"I was married when I was twenty-five to a man rich in Greek and Hebrew and Latin and Arabic, and alas, rich in nothing else...But then I was abundantly furnished with wealth of another sort. I had two little curly headed twin daughters to being with and my stock in this line has gradually increased until I have been the mother of seven children, the most beautiful and most loved of whom lies buried near my Cincinnati residence. It was his dying bed and at his grave that I learned what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her...Some of my friends, pitying my trials, copied and sent a number of little sketches from my pen to certain liberally paying "Annuals" with my name. With the first money that I earned in this way I bought a feather-bed!"

Don't you love her story? Through her life, whenever Harriet needed a new carpet or there wasn't enough money in the bank, she asked a friend to babysit her children for the day so she could write. In this way she became an author.
One day the Stowes met escaped slaves and got to hear about their plights. This was the driving force for Harriet to use her talent to give slavery a human face. Because she was still raising a family, Harriett's writing dream was put on hold but soon Uncle Tom's Cabin was published and became the bestselling novel of the nineteenth century and the second bestselling right behind the Bible.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sol Stein on the Job of the Writer

by Deren Hansen

Sol Stein, in his article "Six Points About Character, Plot, and Dialogue You Wish You'd Have Known Yesterday," defined the jobs of the editor and the writer as follows:
"The job of the editor is to help the writer realize the writer's intentions. The problem is that the intentions of many writers are wrong. The job of the writer is not to express himself or get something off his chest; his job is to provide the reader with an experience that is superior to what the reader experiences in everyday life. His job is to give the reader (or viewer) pleasure; only then will his insight mean something. As a writer, you are, in one sense, a troublemaker. A psychotherapist tries to relieve a person's stress, strain and tension. You are not a psychotherapist. Your job is to give readers and viewers stress, strain and tension. They love it because it is not in their life; it is in a book or on screen."
What do you think?

How well does this definition capture the job of a writer?

Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Interview and Guest Post with Clayton Paul Thomas

Today’s post is a bit different from my normal posts. I have been working with a wonderful author who has written a parenting book. So today, you get a mini interview and then a guest post based on the subject matter of his book. I truly hope you enjoy and get some valuable parenting information as well.
Clayton Paul Thomas has worked with kids for about 16 years from three different settings. The first was at St. Joseph Children’s Home. This was a place abused kids went after being permanently separated from their parents. Most of his parenting skills were developed here. The kids Clayton worked with ranged from ages 3 to 15.

Afterwards, Clayton became an elementary public school teacher. He taught for 7 1/2 years from 1st through 4th grade. Finally, Clayton has two boys (Cameron age 7 and Luke age 3). He has been married for 9 years to his beautiful wife Lauren. Though his parenting skills were learned at St. Joseph, his wife’s has been the inspiration to writing the book and sharing insights with all of you. To her, Clayton is eternally thankful.

We want to thank you for being my guest here on the Utah Children’s Writer blog Clayton. Can you share with us a little about your current book?

***Sure! Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures is a book designed to help good parents maximize the potential in their children. This could mean academically, athletically, or emotionally. There are 25 chapters full of hot button topics such as bullying, discipline, modeling, and setting goals.  The goal of the book is to give parents more practical solutions they can use and place in their “parenting tool belt.” My book is also meant for parents to look at themselves and give an honest critique on what they are doing well and what could be improved.  
What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

***Because I am a self-published author, my first few months have been spent learning the ropes myself. I am my own marketing department. In saying that, social media has been the key for me. Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin are three of my favorite forums. I also write a blog twice a week (Tuesday’s and Friday’s) at This really helps to keep my name out there.   
What is the most difficult part of writing?

***The most difficult part of writing for me are the self-corrections. By the time my book was published, I couldn’t tell you how many times I had read it. In the event, a reader finds a writing mistake, my apologies!  

Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other job(s)?

***My first job is as a stay at home father to my sons. If I didn’t have them, I could have finished the book in half the time! Then again, if I didn’t have them, there would be a lot of great stories missing from the book. Yes, it is hard to balance my time. Like many other parents, I do my best in the time I have.    

Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

***I have brainstormed and have a working outline for another parenting book. My main focus though (professionally speaking) is to attend to my blog, market Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures to the best of my abilities, and conduct a speaking tour this fall. 
The world of publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues?

***There are a lot of advantages and tradeoffs to both styles of publishing. I chose self-publishing because I wanted my book on the market as quickly as possible. Also, I get a significantly larger share of the profit per book sold than a typical author at a publishing house. The flip side is I have to write my own press releases, market my book to the masses, and I didn’t get a signing bonus.
How do you see the future of book publishing, both traditional, electronic, and print on demand?

***I think the numbers are bearing out that the traditional means of publishing are slipping. I’d like to make it clear though that I am not an expert on this subject. It seems to me though that a lot of authors are trying their luck with services such as This is where Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures was published.    

There are a lot of talented writers who aren’t being published. Thankfully, though, there is an avenue for everyone and a person always has a right to change their mind if one style of publishing does not work for them.  
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?

*** I enjoy writing so it’s not very hard for me to be disciplined. I am usually writing in the morning and at night after the children are asleep.  

My goal is to get the book in the hands of the people who want to read it. Every time the book is sold, I have accomplished my goal. I am really trying to help parents so whether they are reading my blog or my book- that’s all I need.  

My next goal is to get a small speaking tour lined up. It’s something I am really looking forward to so it’s not difficult.  Working towards this goal isn’t difficult because it is based solely on my passion to help others.
How to Get Kids with Poor Grades to Improve 
by: Clayton Paul Thomas
Being a former teacher, I have been asked this question many times. The truth is most kids could do better in school but here’s something to think about first. Why is the child not doing well in school? This question is of extreme importance. This conversation really can’t go further until the answer is locked down. Is it because the child is lazy? Are the classes asked to be completed too difficult? Are there outside influences, which are taking the time academics should occupy such as a sport, video game, or boy/girlfriends? Has there been the loss of a loved one, which is occupying the child’s mind? Once the problem is focused on, it should be dealt with either by the parents or a counselor? 
The second thing a parent should remember is if a child isn’t doing well in school, the problem won’t always be worked out quickly. Patience is very important. When I was a teacher, I made a conscience effort to identify where children were academically regardless of the grade and build from that point. Over time, I found this to be the most effective strategy. 
Please keep in mind academics should be viewed as a marathon versus a sprint. Once you know what your child can do academically, build from there and set realistic goals. If a child’s grades are extremely poor, take advantage of time other children do not study such as an occasional Saturday or even the summer. 
Finally, utilize your child’s school as a resource if any of the suggestions seem confusing. Teachers, counselors, and tutors can really help with providing a step-by-step game plan. Remember that the squeaky wheel gets the oil so the more questions you ask to competent professionals, the more doors will open. I hope this helps. Best of luck to your child on their academics!
Book Giveaway Rules:
One entry for each comment left per author virtual blog tour stop. (Must leave a real comment about the author, tour or book. Saying “this is cool” or “I love your book” will not count.) 
Make sure to include your safe email so we can contact you if you are the winner. 
Example: vsgrenier AT storiesforchildrenpublishing DOT com.

 Ask a question – get a bonus entry per author virtual blog tour stop.

Book Giveaway ends July 31, 2011

You can find out more about Clayton Paul Thomas’ World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Clayton Paul Thomas and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. Clayton Paul Thomas will be checking in throughout the tour and is offering an additional giveaway for those who leave comments throughout the tour.

In addition, come listen on demand to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at The hosts VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Chirstopherson and Irene Roth chatted with Clayton about his book, parenting tips, writing, the publishing industry and experiences with virtual tours. Clayton will also be sharing writing tips and trials, and tribulations of the writer’s life. 

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit Stories for Children Publishing at:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Excellence vs. Elitism

by Deren Hansen

A hundred or so pages into a recent middle-grade fantasy I ran into a sentence that began, "Suddenly he slowly ..." I stopped short, wondering how the editor let that oxymoron get by. Then I checked myself. Aside from that construct (which was one of no more than five debatable craft points I'd noticed), the book was really quite good. So what had the editor done? Probably caught the dozen, or hundred, or thousand other things that I never saw because the issues were resolved.

In a post about finding the critique partners who could give you meaningful feedback, the author said something to the effect of, "I wouldn't give my manuscript to someone who liked Twilight." My first reaction was, "Of course not. I'd want someone with more refined taste." Then I checked myself. If I want to reach the largest possible audience, I should try to understand how and why something that might have had a few technical flaws managed to strike a popular chord.

There's a fine line between excellence and elitism.

It's awfully easy, when you're trying to understand and follow every rule, to think less of other work that shows evidence of less care. It's particularly tempting to do so when that other work achieves greater success than your own. Indeed, it's hard not to justify your situation by blaming the unwashed masses, who wouldn't know quality work if you hit them upside the head with it.

Excellence means striving to do your very best. Among other things, I am resolved to avoid using the phrase, "suddenly he slowly." But excellence does not mean dismissing everything that has a few flaws. So I am also resolved not to exclude people who have read Twilight from the pool of potential critical readers.

How do you stay on the right side of the line between excellence and elitism?

Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Perfecting the First Chapter

By Julie Daines

I thought I'd add to Scott's excellent post about revising by touching a little on the all-important first chapter.

We all know how important the first chapter is in getting through the slush pile, but some writers can't seem to get past it. They spend months and months revising and editing it trying to get it perfect, but never get around to finishing the book.

That is where Scott's advice is so important. The best way to have a perfect first chapter is to FINISH THE BOOK. 

The first chapter sets up the whole novel. If the ending is unwritten, how can the first chapter set up the story to its full extent?

The first chapter should do several things:

1. Have a hook. Grab the reader’s attention and give them an idea of what to expect. But how can the writer know what the reader should expect until the work is completed as a whole?

2. Create a sense of voice. Voice takes time to develop. If you want a consistent voice, you have to write to the end. By the end of your story, you're voice will be organic and real. Then go back and fix the voice in the first chapter to make it consistent.

3. Use the perfect POV. Meaning that whichever point of view you choose to write from, it should be for a reason. And all the other elements in the story--setting, description, emotion--should be told only as they relate to the MC and the point of view. Sometimes it's hard to know if the point of view we've chosen is the right one for the story until we've gotten to the end of the book.

4. Establish the main problem of the story. According to Martine Leavitt, the best books must have the problem front and center. I've found for me, the problem I start out writing about doesn’t always end up being the most important one in the novel. That’s why it’s so important to know the end before the beginning can be perfected.

So, follow Scott’s advice. Finish your work. Let it sit. Then go back and revise the heck out of your first chapter. Your work will be stronger, more powerful, and more meaningful if you do.

For more advice on the first chapter, see my blog post here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Be Wise. Revise.

by Scott Rhoades

Finally, after months and months of work, you're about to write your book's final chapter. This is an exciting moment. You've always dreamed of writing a novel, and in a few hours you'll be able to say you have. In the rush of much-deserved emotion and pride, it's easy to get ahead of yourself and start querying.

Three words: Don't do it.

Be proud. Be excited. Dream of success. But whatever you do, don't short circuit that success before you've had a chance to plug it in.

Many writers (points at self with both hands) get so excited about completing that first novel that they start querying the book before it's ready. This is a bad idea.

Many more writers know better and spend a couple of weeks intensely rereading and revising, and then they query. Still too early. Still a bad idea.

I've read that you should plan to spend as much time revising as you did writing. I've also read that you should plan to spend at least two or three times as long revising as you did writing. That's difficult advice to take. You love your book, and you don't want to wait to fulfill your dream of seeing it in print. Besides, the writing is the fun part. For many writers, the joy is in the creativity. Revising is drudgery. Writing is play. Revising is work.

But querying too early guarantees rejection. Not only are those too-early rejections discouraging, they also cut off potential markets that might be available to you if you wait until your book is truly ready. Most agents and editors won't look at something for a second time. That means, if you query too early, even an agent who loves that type of book becomes unavailable to you after rejecting you.

It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that your book is so good that you can get away with querying early, and revising once an agent or editor can point out the weak spots. But this industry is full of people who think we are the exception. A little secret: almost nobody is an exception. Even the very few writers who make millions have to revise--or pay somebody to do it for them.

Don't think of revision as work. Revision is where craft comes in. It's where you graduate from writer to Writer. It's where you go from sketch to painting.

Here are a few tips:

1. Put the manuscript away for a while.

If you revise immediately after finishing the last chapter, you're still too close to the work. You're still in the heat of the moment. Revising requires distance. You won't find mistakes when you're excited about what you wrote. You won't spot certain types of flaws while you are still so close to the work that you're actually reading what you think you wrote instead of the actual words on the page. Confusing passages or scenes will be clear because you know what you meant. Time and distance makes it easier to read as an editor instead of as the writer. I've heard people say to stick the manuscript in a drawer for a month, or a year, or whatever works for that writer. I know that stuff I haven't looked at for a long time practically throws its flaws at me when I pick it up again, and the longer it's been, the better I can revise. What do you do during the rest time? Start another book. Learn how to write a query. Research agents. Develop a marketing plan. Pay attention to your family. Read. Take an editing class.

2. Read in reverse.

A key element of revision is strengthening nouns and verbs, eliminating unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and making sure every word is strong. That's hard to do when you get caught up in your own story and get excited by your writing. So start at the end of a scene and go backwards, scanning the words instead of reading the sentences. Don't worry about context. Just mark potentially weak words. You can go back and check them later to decide whether to keep them or change them.

3. Look for one thing at a time.

Look for adverbs. Adjectives. Weak nouns and verbs. Dull, purposeless dialogue. Repeated words. But don't look for all of them all at once. Trying to do a single comprehensive edit, especially in the early stages of revising, guarantees that you'll miss stuff, and that you'll get caught up in the story. Remember, distance is key. Don't read for anything except that one thing you're looking for. Use different colors to mark each type of potential problem.

4. Print it out.

It's so easy to edit your manuscript in your word processor. That's one of the great things about technology. Plus, paper costs money (not to mention printer ink costs--what's up with that?) and creates garbage. But you can thoroughly mark up a printout. More importantly, just the fact that the page looks different will help you find things you don't see in the writing tool you're used to looking at. If you really don't want to print it, at least paste scenes or chapters or troublesome passages into your email or Google Docs or some other thing that makes it look different.

5. Read it aloud.

Nothing helps you find awkward bits like reading aloud. Those of you in writing groups know that, no matter how much you polish your chapter before taking it to group, as soon as you start reading you find junk you thought you'd fixed, or that you would have fixed if you had noticed it. Never send out anything--sample chapters, a query, a synopsis--until you've read it out loud. Another thing that helps is using one of the free software programs that will read it to you. Listening to a dull emotionless computer voice helps you spot problems that are easily covered by a dramatic reading.

Every writer can add to this list (and I hope some of you do). There are also many books that will provide much more detail than I can in a single (albeit over-lengthy) blog post. Here are three books that I find useful:

  • Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
  • The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman
  • Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik
You could also do much worse than to read back through the excellent advice that has been posted on this blog. It's a treasure trove of good editing advice. And it's free.

One last personal note: Happy birthday, Granddad. I miss you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Powder Puff Football Failure

“Success is not just the crowning moment, the spiking of the ball in the end zone or the raising of the flag on the summit. It is the whole process of reaching for a goal and, sometimes, it begins with failure.”
Erik Weihenmayer (born 1968); blind climber, motivational speaker, author

Any of you played football? I did. Once. It's tradition at my high school for the girls play Powder Puff Football during Homecoming week, seniors vs. juniors. I missed a couple of practices and on game day, strutted onto the field. Being my cocky self, I just knew I was awesome. 
And failed. Coach benched me.
I didn't know the plays and I threw the ball like a girl (no offense). Somehow, at that young age, I understood the lack of skills was my fault. If I had shown up at practice, my "coach" (H.S. football player) would know what position to play me and how to help me.
Since that day, I've learned to throw a spiral, tackle and catch passes for a touchdown.  I'm better now than my one time shot at Powder Puff.
My first few attempts at writing were epic failures. But I compare the early stories with what I'm writing now and can see the improvement, the process, the journey.
Sometimes we hike a little higher or work a little harder or shelve the project for a few days/weeks/months, even years. And yet, that very act may be the one to push us off into a new and better direction.
See that picture up there of Erik? He's the first blind person in history to climb Mount Everest! He didn't arrive on the mountain by helicopter. He trained and learned and practiced and climbed. He went through a process to get to the top. He will tell you the journey is totally worth it.
If he can accomplish ALL the adventures he's done while enjoying the journey, I can sit my backside in a comfy chair and write my book. I can find new paths to take. I can hike a little higher.

What about you? How is your journey?
Can you throw a spiral?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Quiet Your Inner Editor

by Deren Hansen

Several years ago I listened to Jeanette Ingold's suggestions for quieting your inner editor. I recently came across my notes and decided to share the highlights.

Jeanette began with the observation that editors are a critical part of the writing process because they "help bring out the power of well chosen details." Indeed, it is in the details where editors shine.

All of us who put pen to paper (if only metaphorically), have an inner editor--the writer's equivalent of a conscience. "Your internal editor is no-nonsense, wants to keep you out of trouble, and doesn't want you to make a fool of yourself."

The problem with the inner editor is that "when you're trying to do something new, you don't need your internal editor looking over your shoulder. You certainly don't need your internal editor when you're working on your first draft. At that point, you're still playing with the basic ideas of your characters, what they want, and who stands in their way."

Inner Editor

So, how do you get rid of your internal editor?

Well, you can't. But you can do the next best thing: put them to work.

Remember, your inner editor is all about details. So send them of to:
  • Make a map of where the story takes place
  • Create calendars and time-lines of events critical to the story
  • Keep notes about character decisions
You can also keep your inner editor busy reading books. [Every writer knows, of course, that when you're not writing you should be reading.] Turn your inner editor loose on current books in your genre to see what works and what doesn't.


Process is also a good way to calm your inner editor. If you work systematically, it's much easier to convince your inner editor that you'll come back and correct the details that may be amiss in the early drafts.

Jeanette offered the following suggestions about process:
  • Don't be a binge writer; make a plan to write every day
  • Take advantage of forward momentum. Just keep going forward even if you realize something needs a major change.
  • Don't worry about getting the writing perfect. Worry about getting your story on paper. There will be plenty of time with subsequent drafts to polish the text.
  • First drafts should be written chronologically
  • Let your first draft season for a month or so after you finish, then read it straight through to the end ("for pleasure") to get a gut feeling for the pacing.
  • After that first read-through, you can unleash your internal editor.
  • Now the editor will cut out everything that doesn't belong in the story.
  • Have some fun and write a jacket blurb before you turn your editor lose: it will give your internal editor an editorial framework.

Finally, when you start editing, remember, "The strength of your antagonist determines the strength of your protagonist." Look for ways to:
  • Make your villains more villainous
  • Pump up the stakes
  • Make sure your hero really is the hero--the one who makes things happen

Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blog Spotlights: Throwing Up Words

Ally Condie + Ann Dee Ellis + Carol Lynch Williams + Kyra Williams = the Throwing Up Words blog. Funny, informative, real, talented. You'll want to be a follower!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Becoming a Children’s Author…What You Learned with Linda Valderrama

One of the fun things about being a writer is meeting others who have the same passion as you. But we all don’t start writing for the same reason and the lessons we learn are all different depending on situations and where we are at in the writing process.

Today, debut author Linda Valderrama shares what she has learned and enjoys about becoming a children’s author.


As an author, I am still in the process of learning. The whole idea of reaching the developing mind of a child and possibly making a difference really excites me.

To publish my book, “Brush Barry Brush” I formed my own publishing company Shirley’s Girl Publications. (My mother’s name is Shirley.)

Right now, our book is unknown to most of the world. I am trying to change that through
1. Word of mouth
2. Book reviews
3. Contests
4. Creating a presence on the internet
5. Visiting bookstores and schools
6. Writing articles relating to children and dentistry
7. Developing an instructional aid to go along with the book and planning to expand and add to my website, to make it more fun and educational for the kids.

I want as many children as possible to have access to my book.

I do know when my children were growing up, their love of reading led them to be the success in school and the successful adults they are today. Reading is so important.  I still have a collection of their early books that they loved. I plan on passing them on to my grandchildren someday!

When I read “Brush Barry Brush” to a group of children, I love the fact they laugh and have their own funny comments about the characters. They are really smart and it gives me great pleasure to answer their questions and see them respond to the colorful paintings of my talented illustrator.  

You begin to realize what an impact books can have on a young mind.


Linda Valderrama R.D.H. has over 25 years experience as a dental hygienist. She has treated patients from ages two to one hundred years old and has successfully developed preventative oral hygiene programs tailored to individual needs. Linda is a strong believer that good oral hygiene leads to overall health and well-being and that good daily habits must be acquired early in life. Her book helps parents to work with their children to achieve this goal. She is working towards developing programs for schools, assisted living facilities and healthcare institutions to enable them to offer more effective oral hygiene programs.

Her book “Brush Barry Brush” is to help parents and young children work together to achieve the simple but very important goal that every time you eat, you should brush your teeth. It is also a 2011 International Award Finalist.

Publisher Website:

Book Giveaway Rules:
One entry for each comment left per author virtual blog tour stop. (Must leave a real comment about the author, tour or book. Saying “this is cool” or “I love your book” will not count.) Make sure to include your safe email so we can contact you if you are the winner. 
Example: vsgrenier AT storiesforchildrenpublishing DOT com.
Ask a question – get a bonus entry per author virtual blog tour stop.

Book Giveaway ends July 31, 2011

Next stops on Linda Valderrama’s World of Ink Virtual Tour
July 4th
The Maggie Project – Guest Post: The Story Behind – Brush Barry Brush
 July 5th
The Writing Mama – Book Spotlight
 July 6th
Writing to the Hearts of Children- Book Review
 July 7th
Families Matter Blog – Interview
July 8th
Stories for Children Magazine FG Interview