Friday, September 1, 2017

August Calendar!

Another month, another calendar! Wow, I can't believe it's September 1st today. It's always bittersweet when September comes. Part of me loves September because this is my birthday month, but it's also the end of summer...which is a bummer.

I'm extremely grateful for the time I had over the summer to write. I hit my summer goals and I'm looking forward to working on revisions for my YA this fall. I'll keep updating on how it goes. :)


Monday, August 21, 2017

Whole Novel Workshop Magic


I just returned from attending the Whole Novel Workshop at Highlights and I can truly say that attending was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my writing. There aren’t enough exclamation points to express how wonderful my trip was…though I’ll probably use a lot trying to describe it!

Cabin 14

Inside: so adorable!!

Of course, this is Highlights and if you’ve been there before (or have heard someone talk about it) then you know that I could easily fill a blog post (or five) with exuberant descriptions of the cabins, forests, and food. (The FOOD!!!) And all of that was just as mind-blowingly fabulous as the last time I was at Highlights in 2013. But what makes this place so magical goes far beyond any of that.

It is the people.

They are the magic.

My mentor, Nancy Werlin, was incredible. She believed in me and in my book, but she also challenged me to make it better. She pushed me to think more deeply about my characters and asked questions that I never would have thought to ask myself. Although revision can be difficult, I knew I was in safe hands. Nancy loves my main character, and hearing her talk so exuberantly about Ellie made me love my character more than I had already. It also encouraged me to keep going!

Nancy and I the last morning (and YES, I am wearing my magical fairy writing crown!)

All of the faculty were out-of-bounds amazing. I loved listening to their lectures and getting inspired to take their suggestions and apply them to my book. Each person gave their time and expertise to help us. It was clear how much they want us all to succeed. 

The other attendees were equally wonderful. People always say that it’s hard to make new friends as an adult, but that does not apply to Highlights! In just a week I made friendships that I know will extend for years to come. Maybe it’s because we’ve all reverted back to our childhood summer camp selves, except we’re surrounding by people with the same passions and interests as us! J

Debbi and I celebrating our 3 year friendship anniversary in person!

Debbi, Carol, and I--one of my favorite photos!

Dale, Christie, John posing with me

Three Ohioans and one (grumpy) Michigan fan! LOL!

Happiness

All of these people gave me one of the most precious gifts a writer can receive: self-confidence. The ups and downs of this journey can take a toll. It’s easy to feel small and trampled. But having others believe in me reminded me to believe in myself.

 And that is the magic of Highlights.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

June and July Wrap-Up

Wow, summer has flown by!! I'll admit that I haven't done a stellar job of updating this blog during the past few months, but I promise that's not because I haven't been busy! After the rush and excitement of finishing a first draft in May, I filled the rest of my summer with lots of other fun events. :)

I started June by attending the fabulous Indiana SCBWI conference. Sometimes great things come in small packages.

Beautiful views from our hotel/conference center at an Indiana State Park



Swan family in the early morning! 

 Everyone there was kind and supportive and the faculty members were spectacular. I particularly loved the picture book session with Tammi Sauer. Hearing her advice really motivated me to keep working on my picture books.

Absolutely gorgeous gardens there as well. I was in heaven!


I spent the rest of June working on my current novel: BRITISH BOYFRIEND COURSE. I’m attending the Whole Novel Workshop at Highlights in August (yesssss!) and I needed to revise that novel before sending it to my mentor. Between that, teaching my summer class, and back-to-back-to-back kid’s birthday parties, June was FULL.

My son and I are shooting webs here, haha!




We had fun with the food.

In July, I had a few more deadlines for upcoming critiques. Our SCBWI group is holding a workshop with agent Danielle Chiotti in September so I needed to get my work ready for that. I also revised a new picture book for a critique at the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference later this year.

Beyond that, I’ve been reading and reading and reading. Middle grade fantasies and YA contemporary. Work from friends and attendees to the Whole Novel Workshop, lots of picture books,  plus a new craft book called STORY GENIUS. It’s been a little strange to take a break from writing this month, but it’s also been freeing.

I can’t wait to go back to Highlights in a few weeks. There will be time for writing lessons and critiques with my fellow attendees, along with lots of hard work revising BBC. And, of course, I’ll be spending time with friends--old and new--and eating lots of seriously scrumptious food there. Whoo-hoo!

And here are my calendars for June and July. June is a little pathetic after such a productive month in May, but there was a lot going on that month.


And July... I was more consistent this month at least. All of the green, yellow, and orange is related to reading! 




Friday, June 2, 2017

MayNoWriMo Update: Week 3

I did it!!

I "won" MayNoWriMo again this year by finishing my first draft. To be fair, I didn't actually hit my word count--I'd been hoping for 40,000 words for this MG--but I'm fine with it. The more important thing is that I wrote an ending and the SFD is DONE.

Yes!

My final word tally for the month


A first draft in 3 weeks--not too shabby! :)

Of course, it needs work. A LOT of work. But it's still a great feeling to know that I have an entire other story waiting for me when I'm ready to start. It used to take me so long to write a first draft, and I think that fast drafting is definitely the way to go for me. I'm a little sad it's over already.

Here's my monthly calendar as well. All that maroon is associated with writing. It's almost hard to believe how much I wrote this month. Practically every single day. The rest of the summer will be more challenging now that I have a class to teach, but I hope to keep up this momentum.



Next, I'm off to the Indiana SCBWI conference this weekend. It should be a great way to cap off a very productive writing month!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

MayNoWriMo Update: Week 2

Okay, week 2 is complete! Honestly, I can't believe I've only been doing this for two weeks. It feels like much longer...and I'm not sure that's a good thing! ;)

This first draft is definitely a new writing experience for me. I've never written a first draft of a novel without having a pretty good idea about the structure of the novel. This time around, all I have is a few plot points, so mostly I've been "pantsing" this. At times that has been challenging, but it's also exciting.

Right now, the most important thing is that I'm making progress! I hit 25k today (YAY!) and have made it to the turning point in the book. Soon I'll be ramping up toward the climax. Eek!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

MayNoWriMo Update: Week 1

I've made it through my first week of MayNoWriMo!

I'm currently trying to write a first draft of a new middle grade fantasy novel and the goal is to hit approximately 40k words this month. I'm hoping to write around 10k words a week for 4 weeks and so far I've stayed on goal!

This first week was hard because 1) Mother's Day, 2) my husband's birthday, 3) writing is hard! Plus, I don't have a clear outline for this book so every time I sit down to write, I have to figure out what's supposed to be happening!

Hopefully I'll be able to keep up this progress next week. This is always a really fun and challenging month!




Thursday, May 4, 2017

April Calendar!

Another month, another calendar post! April is always a bit tricky because the semester is ending and there's never-ending email and meetings.

But, having said that, I think I did pretty well. With only two exceptions, I did something every day in April. I met the reading goal I set for myself and made a lot of progress revising my WIP. Soon that'll be off to beta readers and I can turn my attention to one of my favorite times of the year...

MayNoWriMo!*

More to come on that soon! But for now, here's my April calendar:



*Very similar to NaNoWriMo except it's in May and I'm basically the only one who does it.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Art of a Good Retreat

Although I try to make time every day to read and write, it can be hard to focus. There is always something pulling at the edges of my consciousness (I need to fertilize the lawn! Oh boy, the laundry is getting out of control!)

That’s why I was so excited to get away for a writing retreat a few weeks ago. My dear friend Debbi welcomed me into her house where I had five. whole. days. to write.

Wha? That’s almost blasphemous.

That’s the longest stretch of dedicated time I’ve ever had for writing and I made the most of it. In those five days I finished more on my YA revision than I would have in 3 weeks at home.

Since it worked out so wonderfully, I’ve decided to share my requirements for a successful writing retreat:
  • A quiet space to write (in a beautiful location if at all possible)


  • An accountability buddy! (Nothing motivates me like knowing I have to report my progress to someone else when I come out of my writing hole.)



  • Fun treats to look forward to after writing (including chatting with a friend, eating, sharing work, shopping for books, eating (yes, I know I wrote that twice!), and watching TV)
Sift bakery in Mystic:home to some very yummy cookies!


I was in heaven with this fairy house book!
  • TIME! (Long, beautiful swaths of time with nothing to do but write (bonus points if you get snowed in, haha!))
A picture of me in my magical crown for writing inspiration! ;)


My latest trip had all this and more. If you haven’t had a chance to get away lately, I’d highly recommend it. I can’t wait for my next trip!


And, speaking of all this so-called progress I made, here’s my March calendar. I’m liking all those maroon scribbles.



Thursday, March 2, 2017

February Calendar Update

My monthly accountability update!

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the month. I had a lot of goals and I was surprised how many I accomplished. I revised my WIP, finished reading a few books, blogged, and queried. 

Probably the coolest thing I did in February was give my first talk for SCBWI! It was on social media and counts as my first paid speaking gig. 

Unfortunately, I got sick with strep throat at the end of the month and basically did nothing for the last four days. Eh, what can you do? 

March should be a good month. Spring break is only about a week away and that means I get to fly out East to visit a dear friend and have a dedicated writing retreat with her. Can't wait!! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

An Exercise in Visualization (Note Card Edition)

I’ve been working on a new YA manuscript for the past few months and that's given me the chance to try out some new revision techniques. This draft came together very differently from my previous first draft, which I wrote over the course of a, um, year. 

*wince* 

I wrote this draft in about 30 days during “MayNoWriMo” and I really enjoyed the process. It was so freeing to turn off my inner critic and just get the words down.

But, like everything, fast drafting has its downfalls. And the biggest one for me was trying to remember everything I'd written in that blur of 30 days. It turns out, it's pretty hard to remember every piece of dialogue and description when you're churning out a couple thousand words every day! 

So, before I jumped into revising, I decided to take time to visualize the structure of the novel. With my last novel, I outlined my draft on huge sheets of paper. While that was a fun exercise, and decorated my walls for years, it was pretty unwieldy. Definitely no chance of stashing that in my laptop bag before heading to the library!

This time I decided I’d create a note card for each chapter. On the note card, I wrote 1) a brief description of all the major events in that chapter, 2) location of the scene, and 3) which act it was in. Then I went back through and highlighted different sections depending on the content (for instance, blue highlighter for all scenes between the main character and the love interest).

So many note cards!
Finally, I laid all of the note cards out on the floor and studied whether the various subplots were evenly distributed, if too many scenes were set in the same place, if the plot structure looked funky (that’s a fancy literary term, btw), etc etc.

Organized by act (using a 4 act structure here)
With two inquisitive cats and a VERY inquisitive 4yo, I had to do all my looking in one night and then put the cards away. But I still wanted them available, so I punched a hole in the corner of each card and put them on a ring. That way I could flip through and reread my notes without the fear of 30+ cards getting out of order and/or destroyed.


It was definitely a time-intensive strategy, but I’m glad I did it. If nothing else, just the act of making the cards forced me to think more about the novel. It organized my thoughts and helped my vision before diving back into the novel.

Now I keep the note cards close by while revising and refer back to them whenever I want to check my notes. I might try another technique in the future—possibly Darcy Pattison’s skrunken novel. If I do, I’ll be sure to report back!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

January Calendar!

Like last year, I'm going to try to post my monthly calendar here as a way to keep me accountable. The hope is that I'll be more likely to keep up with my goals if I know my progress is going to be made public at the end of each month!

I'm calling these my rainbow calendars because that's basically the goal. Try to fill each square with at least one color (i.e. task) per day and also try to get a variety of colors, meaning that I'm spreading my time between writing, reading, blogging, and querying. However, more red is always a good thing because that means I'm spending most of my free time revising my WIP. :)

Here's my calendar for this month and I have to say it's quite colorful! Hopefully I can keep it going for the rest of 2017!


Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 Goals!

Every year during January, I create a new set of writing goals for the year and post it on my blog. It’s a little intimidating knowing that theoretically the entire world can see what I hope to accomplish this year…

but it’s also very motivating.

It keeps me honest (unless I come back and edit this post later in the year, but of course I would never do that!) and it keeps me focused. One of my favorite things to do is come back to this post at the end of the year and see how many goals I completed. I’ve done well the past few years and I’m hoping to keep the streak alive again in 2017.

So, here it goes (drum roll please):

1)      Continue querying
2)      Finish the revision on my new YA manuscript by the end of March.
3)      Finish another round of revisions by mid-summer.
4)      Finish further round(s) of revision by the end of 2017.
5)      Attend 1-2 SCBWI conferences
6)      Go back to Highlights for a retreat
7)      Write a new PB

Alright, that seems doable…probably. Challenging by achievable.

The best thing about these goals is that, with few exceptions, they are all within my power to accomplish. I’m not going to set goals about agents or deals or publications because other people make the decisions about that. All I can do is keep working and believing.

I’m also starting a new calendar system to track my daily progress. My sticker calendars worked well for a long time, but then I got a little off track at the end of 2016. (I blame the election, like I do for most things.)

Now, I have a pretty color-coded rainbow system and I’m really liking it. The more colors the better! Plus, my friend Kathryn and I motivate ourselves to work with the promise of Chinese buffets, so I’ve always got that going for me. ;)



2016 was a really productive year and I think 2017 might be even better! Here’s hoping!