Tag Archives: writing resources

WRITING IS A STICKY BUSINESS!

By Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

In the “About” section of this blog, In the Writer’s Web, we end our mission statement with the following statement: “We want to provide insight, information, and inspiration to writers everywhere. Because… writing is a sticky business.” I love that last line. But what exactly does sticky mean? The Merriam-Webster online dictionary provides these synonyms: gluey, gummy, tacky, difficult, problematic, sensitive, tough, tricky, complex, complicated, hard, intricate, involved, serious, demanding, exacting, exhausting, stressful, and problematic. Yikes! On the other hand, here are some antonyms from the same site: easy, effortless, manageable, painless, simple, straightforward. So, if writing is a such a tricky-sticky business, why do we do it? Because we love it!

Most of you will agree that the past fourteen months have been extremely “sticky.” It was the epitome of so many of those adjectives I listed above. But the writer in me actually got a lot done. I became unstuck in many ways. I used my new stay-at-home lifestyle to develop a more serious writing practice. I hunkered down in my studio each morning to write and read. I revised a novel, got feedback from trusted critique partners, and revised again. I also dusted off another novel that had been sitting in a virtual drawer and began making some important changes. I attended online classes, webinars, conferences, and book launches. My critique group, The Story Spinners, began meeting on Zoom, twice a month, rather than once, in-person. And my Tuesday writing group, The Nanos, got together for Zoom writing sessions and lunch every week! I can honestly say that my writing, and my writing community, became my biggest comfort during this time of isolation.

But don’t get me wrong. I had many sticky writer moments during the pandemic. At one point, I had to put my novel aside. The events happening in our world today were very similar to what was going on in my historical MG novel. I was disheartened to see how hatred and bigotry still ragee in our communities. On the flip side, I’m even more motivated to get my book out there, not matter how sticky the process might be.

When YOUR writing life becomes sticky, try some of these strategies:

  1. Write something new. A first draft written with abandon, or an early morning writing prompt might just be what you need to get those juices flowing. Journal, draw, make lists!
  2. Try writing in a different genre. If you’re writing picture books, take a stab at a middle grade or a novel in verse.
  3. Interview your characters, both primary and secondary, at various times. They may have changed during the course of your revision. (http://www.rondibooks.com/getting-to-know-my-characters-again/)
  4. Make a map – seriously – draw out where your story takes place with colored pencils or markers. It will help you navigate the details as your characters move through your setting.
  5. Chart out how many times each character appears in your book. Are they all necessary? If the answer is yes, you may need to have them do more so the reader will remember them.
  6. Color-code dialogue, narrative, and description, and see if you have a balance. You can print the pages out and use markers, or highlight with different colors on your computer.
  7. Take classes! I particularly enjoyed workshops with Emma Dryden, Kate Messner, Linda Sue Park, Julie Berry, and Grace Burrowes. I also worked one-on-one with Sarah Aronson and am looking forward to my next class with Susan Campbell Bartoletti. The pandemic has isolated us, but also brought us together. These classes were all available on Zoom along with handouts and recordings.
  8. Have others read your work and take time to digest the feedback. Emma Dryden says that 80% of the feedback will not resonate, 15% will make you think, and 5% will be so on point, you’ll go running to your computer to put in the changes!
  9. Make a list of strong verbs and inspirational metaphors from mentor texts. Then find ways to strengthen your own writing.
  10. Get rid of unnecessary words. I totally overuse: just, that, I think, begin. Also, trim tag lines.
  11. When you’re in the thick of revision, Sarah Aronson suggests writing down what your main character is like at the beginning and end of your book. Have they changed? How? Julie Berry had us write a love letter to our novel. So great! I go back and read this from time to time. It reminds me why I am working so hard to make this book the best it can be.
  12. Have the computer read your manuscript out loud to you. In Word, go to Review and click on Read Aloud. It’s a computery voice, but it still helps you pick up on repetitive sentences and awkward dialogue.
  13. Read books on craft. Even just a chapter or two. And do the exercises suggested.
  14. Read inspirational books about being a writer/illustrator. Here’s one of my favorites:
  15. Read  a wide variety of books, but be current on what’s being published in your genre. With picture books, you can also find read-alouds on Pinterest.
  16. Subscribe to writing blogs (like this one!), join groups on Facebook (especially SCBWI, Sub It Club, and Kidlit411) and connect with other writers/illustrators on Twitter and Instagram.
  17. Take classes and attend workshops. Places to look online: SCBWI regional and national webinars and conferences, local SCBWI regional Connects, Free Expressions, Highlights, Writers Barn, Lighthouse Writers, Writer’s Digest, StoryStorm, ReFoReMo, NANOWRIMO, etc.
  18. THINK about your book. Go for walks, ride your bike, or hang out in the shower. When an idea occurs to you, send yourself a text (or you may forget this little inspirational nugget) and transfer it to your notebook or actual ms when you get a chance.

No matter what – Stick with it, stick to it, and stick it out, because although writing is a sticky business, it is also very, very sweet!

Note: This was the blog I wrote in January before I left my laptop toooooo close to a humidifier. It got… misplaced for a while.

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Filed under craft advice, critique, Main character, Revision process, RMC-SCBWI, Rondi Frieder, WORD NERD, Writing during the pandemic

FINDING SILVER LININGS AND SHARING TIPS

By Susan Wroble

RMC SCBWI’s PAL (Published and Listed) Liaison Rondi Frieder suggested a theme for the group’s March get-together as “Silver Linings from the Pandemic,” but the unexpected silver lining was all the resources and tips the members had to share.

Join a Debut or Launch Group:

If you have a book coming out, find or create a launch group. “It’s a lifesaver,” said Beth Anderson. “I don’t know how I could have made it through a debut year without that type of support,” Julie Rowan-Zoch said. Being able to collaborate and divide the work has allowed Julie’s group to present to a number of conferences and book festivals. The benefits were echoed by Megan Freeman, whose novel-in-verse Alone came out in January, and Jessica Speer, whose debut MG novel on happy friendships was pushed back from 2020 to this July.

Pursue Poetry:

“Poetry is the language of our heart that can come out in hard times,” Claudia Mills said. She tried a verse novel during the pandemic and learned she could write in a whole new way. Claudia suggests Molly Fisk’s occasional online poetry group, where the only rule is that comments must be positive. “I love being in a judgment-free zone.”

For Denise Vega, poetry was also a gateway to writing inspiration. Denise highly recommends Renée LaTulippe’s offerings, including Peek & Critique, a free service offered to all KidLit writers. Peek&Critique’s teaching videos include an introduction to poetry forms, lessons on meter and rhyme, scansion practice, and language-level analysis and critique of your submissions.

Support the Schools:

Many of the PAL members focused on how they could support teachers through this exceptionally difficult year. In her blog, author Julie Danneberg began to really concentrate on providing teaching resources. A therapist as well as an author, Carolee Dean was excited that her new book Story Frames for Teaching Literacy could be a real help for teachers working with kids struggling to read or in special education. Laura Roettinger provides science links for educators on her blog and features interviews with authors.

Carmela LaVigna Coyle had two recommendations regarding schools and author outreach. Scholars Unlimited looks for authors to read and record one of their books for students and families. Their mission is “to support low-income, academically struggling young learners. Contact twachtler@scholarsunlimited.org Carmela also noted that Nest Tijuana, a school and resource for children and families along the border, is in need of books in Spanish.

Beth Anderson suggests working with an Indie Bookshop to do a launch at a school. “There is a real audience of kids for the author, a valuable visit with an author for the kids, and a group for the store to target with their book sales. It’s a win-win-win.” For Megan Freeman, 70% of her school and library visit requests are coming through bookstores. Colorado is so fortunate to have so many great Indies, including Second Star to the Right, BookBar, Boulder Books, The Bookies, Firehouse Books, and of course, Tattered Cover.

Beth also noted that author Kate Messner puts together a list each year of authors and illustrators who are willing to do free events with schools in conjunction with World Real-Aloud Day (next scheduled for 2/2/22!). Lauren Kirstein also mentioned Kate Messner as a fabulous resource with her videos and information on virtual author visits. You can sign up here to be on Kate’s list of authors who offer free 15-minute virtual chats with classes or book clubs who have read one of their books.

Another resource Beth recommends is TeachingBooks.net. This is a free service with original, curated literary resources. Authors and illustrators can post short video clips introducing their books or telling people how to pronounce their name! As an example, here’s RMC-SCBWI Co-Regional Advisor Dow Phumiruk’s page.

Kimberlee Gard also suggests paying attention to special book-related days, like Read Across America Day (the next is 3/2/22). For Kimberlee and many of the PAL members, the ability to do virtual visits in places where you could not connect in person has been a real boost to creativity.

Beth Anderson had great success with An Open Book, a foundation with the goal of connecting authors and illustrators with Washington, DC-area students to build equitable access and nurture a lifelong love of reading. Beth’s presentation was free—but the foundation purchased a copy of her book for every child in the class. She also recommends signing up to be interviewed on the Reading with Your Kids podcast, with host Jed Doherty.

Learn Craft:

For many of the RMC-SCBWI PAL writers, this was a year to delve into craft. A huge silver lining of the pandemic was that so many opportunities became available because they were virtual—you could take classes from anywhere, often at reduced rates. As Fleur Bradley noted, in-person events can be exhausting, and being able to learn the material at the pace and times you wanted was a real blessing. Writers mentioned taking virtual classes and offerings from a number of places, including:

  • SCBWI (You can search by region or through their global events calendar, as most events this year are virtual).
  • The Writing Barn (classes, intensives, and retreats; located in Austin, Texas)
  • The Highlights Foundation (a range of courses, workshops, and retreats; located in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania)
  • Free Expressions (supporting new and experienced writers with professional literary services and workshops)
  • The Inner Circle (a private Facebook group with nearly 10,000 members for new and established writers interested in the craft and practice of writing, offers coaching and accountability)
  • Udemy (offers online courses on pretty much everything; this link goes to their writing courses)

Make Connections:

Making connections, both real and virtual, was a repeated theme. Rondi Frieder is in a group that meets each week just to write. Those meetings, now virtual, continued throughout the pandemic. Laura Perdew measured six-foot distances and opened up her back yard to writers and gets together with other Boulder authors to talk and walk. And many of the authors supplied books to Laura, who was collecting for communities that had been ravaged by the fires. Kimberlee Gard put up a Little Free Library at her new home that really helped foster a sense of community. And many of the authors supplied books to Laura, who was collecting for communities that had been ravaged by the fires.

Fleur Bradley suggested on focusing subgroups and genres. She was able to do a lot of networking through Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She also noted that Twitter’s ARC sharing groups have been invaluable. Likewise, Megan Freeman was blown away by how generous the MG Twitter community has been in terms of sharing resources.

Fleur and Beth Anderson both mentioned FlipGrid, which is a free video discussion experience. Beth noted that her short author video on FlipGrid led to free conversations with classes—and that those sometimes led to longer, paid presentations.

Stephanie and Jim Kroepfl stayed involved in activities with the Colorado Author’s League, and they discovered the joys of contests when their book Merged was awarded first place in the Science Fiction/Fantasy and Young Adult Fiction category — and then took the grand prize in the 2020 Royal Dragonfly Award by Story Monsters. “Emotionally,” Jim said, “this was a lifesaver!”

Nurture Yourself!

Without a commute, nature writer Susan Quinlan ended up with extra time, which she was happy to spend outdoors. She found that it was a year of experimentation, and she felt especially nurtured by being able to read sites tailored to things that interested her, through sites like Feedly.com.

For Jennifer Mason, the challenge of the year was how to move around a conflict and let yourself stay flexible and live and fresh. When her WFH books were put on hold, she started a mystery podcast for kids, Blister and Muck. She had to keep learning about recording, marketing, and promoting all while writing an unsolvable mystery story.

And if you need some inspiration, Lauren Kerstein had the perfect suggestion—bubble baths! “A bubble bath is like an idea fountain,” Lauren said. “I keep waterproof paper and my phone nearby to jot down ideas. It has solved so many creative problems.”

 

 

Photo by Vika Aleksandrova on Unsplash

 

 

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Filed under craft advice, RMC-SCBWI, Susan Wroble