Critiquing vs. Brainstorming

As soon as I connected to other writers, I started hearing about the importance of having your writing critiqued. Whether it’s critique partners or a critique group or a professional editor, quality feedback can lift your writing to another level. Since authors want their books read by others, we should welcome helpful comments that hone our writing skills and push us to pen better novels.

While I don’t have a specific critique group, I have relied on critique partners. It can take some time to find the right fit, but once you do, the results are wonderful! I can’t speak highly enough about those who have helped me better craft my stories and my words.

But I’ve recently had the pleasure of an activity that has possibly helped me even more: brainstorming.

Three people brainstorming, light bulb overhead
Hey, let’s brainstorm!

First, a multi-published author friend of mine put together a monthly brainstorming group. Rather than reading scenes or chapters aloud and critiquing one another, we each have an opportunity to share a plot or characterization issue, a draft query or synopsis we need help with, or even a passage that’s got us stumped. You can even throw out a novel premise to see if it has legs or wings, and thus counts as worth the trouble to write. Whatever your issue, you present it to the group, and then for maybe 15 minutes the rest of the group brainstorms ideas to deal with the problem.

With several people in the group, and the synergy of the discussion, many suggestions fly around. Even if some of them aren’t usable in the end, I’ve had some incredible gems come from this process. The brainstormers also tend to ask hard questions that lead me to obvious solutions or even the discovery of other problems (which I need to know about now, before I publish). I’ve quickly become very attached to attending this group, because it’s so helpful and, quite honestly, fun. What’s more fun for a bunch of writers than getting around a table and talking about our stories?

Another avenue for brainstorming has been one-on-one chats with friends. I’ve recently had the pleasure of tapping the brilliant minds of fellow authors Melinda VanLone and Diana Beebe when I got stuck on a scene or contemplating a story premise. Their what if… comments have been illuminating. Even if I end up figuring out a solution myself, the conversation gets my mind focused and flowing.

Face-to-face, I’ve also been writing with a couple of groups at cafés and coffee shops. I love pausing in a frustrating place in a scene, looking up at another writer and asking a question, and voilà! problem solved. Even a minute or two of brainstorming has sometimes cracked a puzzle better than me ruminating over the issue for half an hour. That’s time well-spent.

Brainstorming has been a big boon to my writing lately. I highly recommend it.

ROW80

And speaking of time well-spent, A Round of Words in 80 Days begins this week. Very quickly, here are my goals for Round 4:

1. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. I’m planning to release A Little Fairy Dust and Living with Ghosts before the end of the year.

2. Read 12 books. This is a good number for me to aim for, and I enjoy sharing what I’ve read here.

3. Attend Immersion Master Class and follow-up. Starting at the end of this week, I’ll be hanging out for a few days with a few fellow writers and coach extraordinaire, Margie Lawson. I’m taking my Sharing Hunter manuscript to see what more I can do to make it sparkle.

I wonder how many other authors are using brainstorming rather than, or in addition to, critiquing. Do others have formalized brainstorming groups? Do you have brainstorming partners? Does your critique group use brainstorming in some way?

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The Importance of Setting

I’ve been thinking a lot about setting lately — how certain settings in novels come alive . . . and how describing setting has sometimes been a struggle for me.

I tend toward blank room syndrome: placing characters in a seemingly blank room and calling “action.” Instead, I desire the richness of setting attached to many of my favorite novels. Sometimes a setting itself is almost a character, acting and challenging the protagonist and others or mentoring them in some way.

Different settings evoke a different tone, emotions, sensations, thoughts, tension. Consider your own immediate reaction to the following locations, all from well-known stories:

Lucy opening the wardrobe
Lucy discovers Narnia
The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe

Narnia

District 13

Camp Half-Blood

Neverland

Hogwarts

Forks, Washington

Oz

(From The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hunger Games Trilogy, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, Twilight series, and The Wizard of Oz)

Just reading those names and pausing for a moment, we can imagine ourselves there. The worlds are fleshed out, seemingly real, though only imaginary.

But the same world-building occurs even in contemporary fiction. For instance, the world from Dairy Queen*, a novel about a small-town teenage girl growing up on a dairy farm, is quite different from the world of privileged teenage thief Katarina Bishop in Heist Society*. We all live in a distinct world of some sort of other, and authors bring us into a character’s world when they effectively paint that picture through description, dialogue, and a character’s perspective.

If you’ve read the following, you may also have an immediate reaction to these contemporary “worlds”:

Hazel Grace’s support group room (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green)

Paris boarding school (Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins)

The town of Rosewood (Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard)

Camp Green Lake (Holes by Louis Sachar)

So why has this all come to my mind lately? Two reasons. One, because I’ve been reading through The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter, and the girls’ spy school is a rich setting that tells so much about the main character’s life. And two, because I was writing a scene last week in which my own main characters attend the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and I pondered how to describe the building where animals are on display. So I asked myself:

What does it look like? It’s sort of like an indoor barn.

What does it smell like? Like hay and livestock.

What does it sound like? Like a bunch of animals and crowds milling around.

What are people wearing? Everything from all-out cowboy gear to t-shirts and shorts.

Cattle at Texas State Fair
Texas State Fair, but you get the picture, photo by Andreas Praefcke, via Wikimedia Commons

Notice how all of my original answers pretty much assumed my readers had been in a barn or around livestock or seen cowboys. Because that’s a world I’ve lived in! I had to regroup and think about how to explain it all to someone who’s maybe never seen a cow milked or a rodeo event or a parking lot carnival or real (not stereotyped) cowboys. Because I want that scene to come alive, to make them feel what it’s like to attend the world’s largest livestock exhibition.

Such setting attention enhances a story, draws the reader in, and deepens the characterization. And it’s worth my effort as an author.

Now what other efforts have I put in this week regarding writing? Here’s my weekly update for A Round of Words in 80 Days:

ROW80

1. Finish editing Sharing Hunter, young adult contemporary novel. Six chapters done, which I consider good since I didn’t have as much time to work this week with registering kids for school and enjoying some last-hoorah summer activities with the family.

2. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. Still aiming for September releases after #1 is finished.

3. Read 12 books. I read 2k to 10k: How to Write Faster, Better, and More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron and Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover and Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter (a wonderful series, with a unique setting of a girls’ spy school). I started a couple of other books, but sadly abandoned them. All in all, I’ve now read 9 books this round.

4. Attend RWA Conference and Day of YA in San Antonio and follow-up as needed. Waiting on feedback on my query for those who requested a manuscript at agent/editor meetings.

So what stories have impacted you with a rich setting? What locations or cultures can you easily imagine after reading about them? And how was your week?

*Dairy Queen is by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Heist Society is also by Ally Carter

Lucky 7 & An Unlucky Fairy Godmother

One of my very favorite indie authors, Kait Nolan, tagged me for the Lucky 7 challenge. The rules?

Go to page 7 or 77 in your current WIP.

  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 sentence or 7 lines — as they are!
  • Tag 7 people and do the same

A Little Fairy Dust coverSo here’s my entry from page 7 of A Little Fairy Dust, the next short story coming out (hopefully) in August! Faye is a fairy godmother in training, Jet is her ex, and she gets caught working a little magic.

“What is it, Faye?”

“Why should I tell you?” I dropped my caught-off-guard tone and moved to my he’s-still-a-liar tone. He’d hid plenty from me, so whatever I was up to was none of his business.

“Because you might be doing something else to sabotage the team.”

“Something else? What did I do before?”

Jet tilted his head and held up his casted hand, like it was a smoking gun.

“I didn’t do that,” I answered. “You punched the wall.”

[Now imagine a serious, booming voice.] “Why did Jet punch the wall? Why is he blaming Faye? Is Faye sabotaging the football team? Why is this guy named after a plane?

“Find out when you read A Little Fairy Dust — coming soon!” 🙂

ROW80 Goals

It’s time again to announce my goals for the next round of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Last round, I set only five goals and did reasonably well reaching them. I’m going to keep it streamlined once again.

1. Finish editing Sharing Hunter, young adult contemporary novel. I’m already making better progress on this, by the way.

2. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. Release dates will probably be mid-August and late September.

3. Read 12 books. This remains a good number for me, and my reading will include both fiction and nonfiction.

4. Attend RWA Conference and Day of YA in San Antonio and follow-up as needed. The conference is July 23-26.

That’s it! A few specific goals that are do-able, yet stretch me all the same.

I am forgoing sponsor duty this time around, since summers are kind of crazy for me, but I’m glad to stay involved. ROW80 has been a boost to my work productivity and a great chance to support other authors. If you’re a writer looking for some inspiration, motivation, and/or accountability, check it out here.

How’s your writing or your week gone? What goals have you set for yourself? And, just for fun, who’s your favorite fairy in fiction?

Christmas Gifts and #ROW80

After doing a series on gifts for the grammar geek, word lover, book reader, and writer, I was thrilled to get a few writer-themed gifts myself on Christmas Day. Check these out!

My new laptop stand. I’ve talked about how important it is to be nice to your back and shoulders while writing on a computer. However, it’s impossible to get both your keyboard and your screen at the right level while using a laptop. Thanks to my hubby, I can now use this laptop stand at home along with a bluetooth keyboard and keep my muscles happy. I think he was a little motivated by the idea of me not begging for a shoulder massage all the time.

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. I’ve heard this writing craft book mentioned several times, so it’s been on my short list. I happily received a copy from my mother, and I’ll probably read in it round two of ROW80.

Jane Eyre book charmBook charms. These were featured in my Gifts for the Book Reader post and were one of the items I drooled over when I found them online. My husband ordered the Jane Eyre charm for me, and my sons got me Hunger Games. I love both of these books–obviously for different reasons. You’d better believe I’ll be wearing them when I attend my next writers’ conference.

Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez. I took the Scrivener online course with Gwen, and it was excellent. I’m using more features of the Scrivener software now, and it’s helping me to plot, organize, and turn out good writing. However, I wanted the reference book as well, and my family came to the rescue! Scrivener for Dummies now sits on my shelf, ready for me to look up how to do this, that, and whatever.

Karen DeLabar
“Orange Karen”

Orange Karen Anthology. Obviously, this is NOT a gift to me. Rather, it is an anthology being put together to benefit fellow writer Karen DeLabar, who suffered through toxic shock syndrome this past summer. You can read her amazing story HERE. However, I was delighted to receive the news a few days before Christmas that my short story had been chosen for inclusion in the anthology. The proceeds from this project will go toward Karen’s mounting medical bills. It’s a pleasure to be able to support Karen with my words, as well as my thoughts and prayers. The anthology is due for release in April 2013.

And the continuing gift of A Round of Words in 80 Days–the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Here is the crux of the challenge: You have 80 days to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself; you post biweekly (or weekly) updates; and fellow writers keep you accountable and cheer you on. Easy peasy, right?

It’s time to declare my goals for Round 1, which runs from January 7 through March 28. Here are my ROW80 goals for the first round of 2013:

Editing

  • Complete full rewrite of SHARING HUNTER.
  • Work with editors on short story for Orange Karen Anthology.
  • Revisit GRACE & FIRE (1st novel) and run through one more round of edits.

Writing

  • Write one full short story.
  • Write blog posts for Sundays (including ROW80 updates) and Wednesdays.
  • Start plotting sequel to GRACE & FIRE (working title: HOPE & ASHES).

Reading

Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week.
  • Take a true Sabbath–no working and time with God and family one day a week.

So what were some of your favorite Christmas gifts? What are your goals for ROW80? Be sure to check out the challenge HERE, and you can sign up or see who’s participating HERE.

My Secret NaNoWriMo and #ROW80

https://i2.wp.com/files.content.lettersandlight.org/nano-2012-beta/files/2012/09/Participant-180x180-2.jpgI did a crazy thing. On November 12, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Yes, I know that 11 days had already passed, and the likelihood of my actually writing 50,000 words in the remaining 19 days was low. Frankly, knowing that my kids would be out of school for a week and my family would be traveling over the holidays made that notion downright ludicrous.

I had even declared that I would be in the NoNoWriMo camp–those writers who would not participate but would cheer on their fellow writers who had taken the 50k pledge plunge.

But after wrangling with edits on my young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER, I realized that I do better with editing a project when I also get to let out some creative writing juices on another project. And thus, my first book in a young adult mystery series has started to take shape. And while I didn’t announce my participation, nor expect to come anywhere close to being a NaNoWriMo winner, I did log a bunch of words and get a feel for how the website and process works.

So now I’m coming clean: I was a secret NaNoWriMo participant–who missed getting the badge by 34,524 words. But guess what? That means I have 15,476 words on a novel that I started three weeks ago! And I’m better prepared to participate in that challenge next year.

I have thus altered my ROW80 goals a bit. Check out the new weekly word count goal!

ROW80 Update

Editing: SHARING HUNTER, young adult contemporary novel.

  • Complete full rewrite. I’m through the first fourth of the novel. This is going slower than I wanted. However, as I’ve gotten into the revisions, I’ve found ways to make the story stronger that required more work than I expected. Given how long this is taking, I am crossing out the next two goals until the first ROW80 round in 2013. I’d rather take my time on revisions and really turn out a great book.
  • Revise using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS system.
  • Deliver to beta readers.

Blogging

Writing

  • Write two short stories. Changing this to working on the new young adult novel. I will, however, work on the short stories during the holidays.
  • Write 3,000 words per week on young adult novel. Not sure of the working title, but it’s murder mystery with a preacher’s daughter as the protagonist. Wrote 2,592 words.

Reading

Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. I am still struggling with this calf muscle! Ugh. According to a former athletic trainer and current YA author (Tiffany White, Football Sweetheart), it can take 4-6 weeks to fully recover. Thanks for that info, Tiffany! So I guess I’ll just try to start walking for now.
  • Sort through photos and complete at least one album. (I stopped scrapbooking five years ago, and it’s piled up into a big mess. Moving into digital albums.) Uploaded photos from Thanksgiving trip and organized them into an album on Shutterfly.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? If so, how much did you get done? How are your other goals going?

Keep up that momentum, and cheer on fellow ROWers (many of whom were NaNoWriMo finishers!) HERE.

NaNoWriMo is an annual writing challenge for authors to start and complete a novel within the month of November, with 50,000 words counting as achieving that goal. Hosting this event requires funds. NaNoWriMo is still seeking donations to cover their expenses. Check it out HERE.

Lawson Academy Live and #ROW80

So how did I spend my last several days? Well, on Saturday I was privileged to attend a workshop with writing teacher Margie Lawson hosted by the Houston Writers Guild. Margie walked us through how to add power and emotional depth to our manuscripts.

Here’s a sample of a passage in my middle grade contemporary novel before and after. In this scene, 7th grader Beth Whittaker admits that her father is an alcoholic. But Beth doesn’t want to discuss it any further with her mom.

Before (1st Draft): As I spoke, Mom made her way over to me. She shut the refrigerator door and pulled me toward her. I pushed away, as tears gathered in my eyes again. “I’m not hungry anyway,” I said shakily. My mother’s arms enveloped me, as I tried to gently push back.

After (Revised): She wouldn’t leave me alone. She wouldn’t let me shrug off the terrible truth. She wouldn’t give me the yardstick of personal space I clung to like a force field. My mother crossed the floor, pierced my perimeter, and trapped me in her arms.

I had worked my way through some of Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS lessons, but this was a good experience through which we critically analyzed passages by other authors as well as our own work to strengthen our editing skills. If you get a chance to attend an event with her, I’d recommend it.

Plus–what a bonus!–I got to each lunch and dinner with Margie and several writers, including the fabulous Lori Ann Freeland. What a pleasure to meet in person writers you’ve admired online!

Not super-excited about how I look here, but we had a great time!

Now on to my ROW80 goals:

Editing: SHARING HUNTER, young adult contemporary novel.

  • Complete full rewrite. Rewrote four chapters last week, so I’m very happy with how this is going.
  • Revise using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS system. Once I finish the rewrite, I’ll edit through with this approach.
  • Deliver to beta readers. Waiting for the first two.

Blogging

  • Post Sunday ROW80 updates, Amaze-ing Words Wednesdays, and Deep-Fried Fridays. Done, although I flew by the seat of my pants on Friday’s post. Having flooring installed in my house two days of the week interfered a bit with my schedule, but I love the result!
  • Send interview questions to two guests I have lined up for my blog. 

Writing

  • Write two short stories. I aimed for 1k on this goal and only hit 597 words.

Learning

Reading

  • Nothing special here. Just read. A lot. Finishing No Apology by Mitt Romney. (Read Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama in 2008. I like reading the presidential candidates’ books to see where they’re coming from.) Also  started 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.

Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Nope. And in fact, I went to the doctor on Friday and saw a number on the scale I hadn’t seen since my last trimester of pregnancy. My lovely doc’s response was that, hello!, I need to exercise!
  • Sort through photos and complete at least one album. (I stopped scrapbooking five years ago, and it’s piled up into a big mess. Moving into digital albums.) No progress this week. It was really hard to work on it with the floor installers here.

So how are you doing with your goals? Have you attended any conferences or workshops lately you’d recommend?

Be sure to cheer on my fellow ROWers! You can find them HERE.

Letters to My TV Shows and #ROW80

The fall season has premiered on television! I have several shows I watch–mainly when I take a lunch break at my computer and want something to do while shoving food into my mouth, but also because I enjoy them and they teach me about story.

Today, I’d like to write a few brief letters to let the TV shows that I track know what I think of them after the kick-off of the new season.

Dear Bones: Thank you for showing that just because the couple finally gets together, the tension doesn’t have to end. In fact, thank you for not breaking them up, which seems to be the go-to plotline for plenty of other shows that didn’t know what to do once the two main characters finally revealed their feelings for one another. As we know out here in “real life,”  relationships have sufficient tension and conflict as well, and these characters have extra tension given who they are and the way they work together. Keep finding ways to draw our interest in, and remember that, while I enjoy the romantic aspects of the show, I mainly watch to figure out how the case is solved. This is, after all, essentially a mystery show.

Dear Big Bang Theory: I don’t know why I’m still watching. It seems the romantic relationships have overshadowed some of the funnier plotlines that revolved around the scientists’ workplace and friendships. Yes, these characters are interesting and funny, but I want them to actually do something. I’m waiting . . . 

Dear Castle: Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle still gives James Bond a run for his money in the category of Suave. Keep bringing in the ensemble too–as this show has some of the best with detectives Ryan and Esposito, medical examiner Laney, daughter Alexis, and the coolest mother ever with Martha. That is all.

Dear Grimm: I vacillate with your show: Sometimes I’m eager to watch, and then I’ll go for a while without and have to catch up. Why is that? I want more, more, more from Nick. He needs to shift into being proactive with this Grimm thing, instead of just reacting every week to what’s thrown at him. If it wasn’t for Monroe, I’d probably be gone already.

Dear Hart of Dixie: I wouldn’t want to pick between those two men either. Can Zoe Hart have both? That’s kind of the plot of my young adult novel, so I can give you tips if you want. On a completely different note, I’m eager to see another side to Lemon Breeland. I hope you do more than just tease with that possibility.

Dear How I Met Your Mother: You have about 2-3 episodes to resurrect my interest in your show. Glimpses of a yellow umbrella and the yo-yo relationship of Barney and Robin ain’t gonna do it. I am looking for growth in the main characters. Isn’t that the point? To see how the challenges of life push these characters to grow, all the way until Ted finds his one, true love? So far, I have only seen real growth in Marshall and Lily–who moved into a committed marriage, wrestled with career and family choices, dealt with the death and reintroduction of their fathers, and are now entering the new phase of parenthood. Meanwhile, Ted is still groping in the dark for his dream date; Barney’s interactions with stripper Quinn demonstrated how shallow and self-serving he still is; and Robin is ambitious in career and clueless in love. So fix it. This season. Or I’m gone.

Dear Raising Hope: You are the funniest sitcom on TV today. Martha Plimpton should have won the Emmy. And Cloris Leachman should get an Emmy, a raise, and a host spot on SNL. Move over, Betty White; Cloris is a queen of comedy! Thanks for the laughs.

That’s it. I don’t watch all of these shows when they air. I catch up here and there when I can. Because, of course, my priorities are my family and my goals.

Let’s see how I did with my ROW80 goals this week. If my week was a TV show, would anyone watch?

Editing: SHARING HUNTER MILLS, young adult contemporary novel.

  • Complete full rewrite. Rewrote two chapters last week, so I’m progressing here.
  • Revise using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS system.
  • Deliver to beta readers.

Blogging

  • Post Sunday ROW80 updates, Amaze-ing Words Wednesdays, and Deep-Fried Fridays. Done.
  • Send interview questions to two guests I have lined up for my blog. Done.

Writing

  • Write two short stories. I did not work on this one. I’d like to move this goal up in priority, at least getting in 1k a week.

Learning

  • Read one writing craft book. Still deciding which one to read.
  • Attend workshop with Margie Lawson in Houston on October 13Looking forward to this workshop on Saturday!
  • Work through lessons of Scrivener online course a second time. Loved Gwen Hernandez’s course on Scrivener software. Finished it last week, so I’ll start combing back through this week.

Reading

  • Nothing special here. Just read. A lot. Currently reading No Apology by Mitt Romney. I read Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama in 2008. I like reading the presidential candidates’ books to see where they’re coming from.

Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Done! Walked four times this week, including the Race for the Cure on Saturday.
  • Sort through photos and complete at least one album. (I stopped scrapbooking five years ago, and it’s piled up into a big mess. Moving into digital albums.) Organized some photos on my computer, so I’ll give this one a thumbs-up.

Now how was your week? What would you like to say to your TV shows based on the new season’s premieres? Do you have any writing craft book recommendations for me?

Be sure to cheer on my fellow ROWers! You can find them HERE.

#ROW80 Goals and Inspiration

While the official launch of A Round of Words in 80 Days is tomorrow, I am a creature of habit who has gotten used to posting on Sundays. Thus, I am declaring my Round 4 goals today. This time, I am categorizing my goals to make them easier to track.

For each category, I looked for a little inspiration among my resources.

Editing: SHARING HUNTER MILLS, young adult contemporary novel.

“If there’s one thing every successful writer’s process includes, it’s rewriting. Talent aside, in my experience, what separates writers who break through from those who don’t is perseverance mixed with the wholehearted desire of a zealot to zero in on what isn’t working and fix it.” Lisa Cron, Wired for Story

  • Complete full rewrite.
  • Revise using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS system.
  • Deliver to beta readers.

Blogging

“Blog in ways that communicate your distinctive writing voice.” Kristen Lamb, We Are Not Alone

  • Post Sunday ROW80 updates, Amaze-ing Words Wednesdays, and Deep-Fried Fridays.
  • Send interview questions to two guests I have lined up for my blog.

Writing

“Finally, one just has to shut up, sit down, and write. . . Writing is so simple, basic, and austere.” Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

  • Write two short stories.

Learning

“I remember the exact day I decided I was going to be a writer. I jotted this in my journal: ‘Today I resolve to take writing seriously, to keep going and never stop, to learn everything I can and make it as a writer.'” James Scott Bell, Plot & Structure

Reading

“Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” Stephen King, On Writing

  • Nothing special here. Just read. A lot.

Non-writing goals

“Clean up this mess.” Mom (Hey, some things still reverberate in your brain from childhood.)

  • Exercise twice a week. If I don’t take care of myself, my body will become a mess.
  • Sort through photos and complete at least one album. I stopped scrapbooking five years ago, and it’s piled up into a big mess. Moving into digital albums.

So what are you using to inspire yourself with your writing goals? Have you joined the ROW80 Round 4? Do you have any writing craft book recommendations for me?

It’s not too late to join the “writing challenge that knows you have a life”–where you set your own goals and post progress updates accordingly. If you’re interested, check out ROW80 HERE.

Anticipation and #ROW80

Today’s word is anticipation.

It is a word mentioned many times in Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, a writing craft book that I have been reading. I lack one measly chapter to be at the end, and I would definitely recommend this book to other writers. It packs a lot of brain science and perspective on story into its 238 pages.

One of the book’s themes is that readers basically get a high from anticipating what will happen next, attempting to find patterns and solve the puzzle. Thus, everything in the book should be helping the reader to anticipate–to draw conclusions about characters, to imagine possible future choices and consequences, and even to get in on the secret and wonder when the characters will figure out what the writer and reader both know.

There’s a lot more to Wired for Story, but anticipation is the word that’s been sticking in my head as I jumped into rewriting my YA novel last week.

Anticipation is also a great word for today because we are officially between rounds in A Round of Words in 80 Days (aka ROW80). The next round begins October 1. While I will continue to work on my writing goals, I and others are anticipating the start of a new round. Some who have participated throughout the year will keep truckin’ along. Some who took a summer break will jump back in. Some who have never tried this writing challenge will join us. I have benefitted from the goal-setting, progress updates, encouragement, and community of ROW80, so I would recommend giving it a shot if you haven’t already.

While I don’t need to post a progress update, doing so keeps me honest and motivated. So here’s how my Round 3 ended up. My original goals were:

What I actually did:

  • Edited SHARING HUNTER MILLS and then realized I needed to go back to the level of rewriting. However, I have plunged in with both feet and am making real progress now. I do think it’s improving the novel to change the POV and tense, but this is requiring some merging of characters, moving scenes around, and more.
  • I sent six queries, and the specific feedback from two of those agents helped prompt me to reconsider my approach to the novel. And thus, the rewriting. So this goal was put on hold.
  • I finished The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, read Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, and read all but one chapter of Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.
  • I was sporadic, at best, with my exercise routine.
  • I checked in with my ROW80 buddies all but two weeks. However, this last week, I checked in on EVERYONE who posted an update on Sunday. I was pleased to see that some had knocked it out of the park and even those who felt like their round fell short of a home run had at least a double or better to show for their commitment to specific writing goals. Yay, y’all!

And the final nod to today’s word, anticipation, comes from Carly Simon. Because your happy anticipation of “finer days” should never hinder you enjoying the moment you’re in right now. Savor it.

Now if you want to join this next Round of Words in 80 Days, click HERE and State Your Intent. You don’t need specific goals yet; just add your website to the list.

The BIG Epiphany and #ROW80

Last week, I posted about Epiphanies While Editing. Little did I know that the biggest epiphany was yet to come.

First, let me say that I adore the two agents who responded to my query and partial submissions with specific comments. They were right to reject my YA novel and gave helpful feedback. Which I then started mulling over and over and over.

At the same time, I was working through revisions of my novel using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS system and noted some issues as I went along. I started mulling those over and over and over.

All of that mulling led to an AHA! moment worthy of one of these:

I need to rewrite this whole thing in a different POV!

Now this is no small realization because I have more than one POV, and I’m switching viewpoints. As such, I will be deleting some scenes, merging a couple of characters, rewriting scenes to work crucial information into the plot through other characters and means, etc.

I was immediately certain this could solve some problems and make the novel way better, but I confess to feeling less than ecstatic about this particular epiphany. Instead, I jumped on Facebook and whined a little.

In response, I received an outpouring of sympathy, encouragement, and enthusiasm from fellow writers. I encourage every writer to find a group of fellow writers, whether face-to-face or online, who can give perspective and support when you need it. In turn, be that kind of person to others. This is one of the big benefits of ROW80 as well–the community that it builds.

And after the wonderful words and wisdom from others, I began tackling the daunting task of rewriting a story I really like in hopes that readers will someday like it too. What else is going on? Well, here’s my ROW80 update:

  • Cheer on the ROW80 participants. I am so sorry! I did not get to this one, and there is no good reason why.
  • Revise SHARING HUNTER MILLS, my young adult contemporary novel, using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS program. Yeah, well. I did this. Then I stopped. Because hey, I’m rewriting it now!
  • Exercise at least twice each week. I felt under the weather early in the week, then in a funk the last half of the week. But no excuses! I blew it on this one. *kicking self*
  • Submit a query for SHARING HUNTER. As Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella would say, “Never mind.”
  • Read at least 50 pages of current craft book. Nope. Read one more chapter of Wired for Story.

Added last week:

  • I want to keep fresh with writing, so I plan to work on writing a short story. I did work on the story some, but not as much as I had hoped.
  • Write and present interview questions for three guests who will be stopping by my blog this fall. I wrote interview questions for two guests, and I still owe the third her set. I’m excited to have a few friends join me for my High School Halls blog series.

We have only a few days left of this round! How is everyone doing with ROW80, your writing goals, or life in general? If you want to cheer on my fellow ROWers, click HERE.