Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time Management Tips from a Teen Writer

Pema Donyo is the author of The Innocent Assassins and One Last Letter. She is also a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. She currently lives in sunny Southern California, where any temperature less than 70 degrees is freezing and flip-flops never go out of season. As a sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she's still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher deadlines, and... college. Find Pema on TwitterGoodreads, or her website.

I write because, like most writers, I have a consuming and compulsive need to write. That passion pushed me through the writing, editing, and publishing process of my Young Adult romantic thriller The Innocent Assassins (Astraea Press, June 2014) and my historical romance One Last Letter (Crimson Romance, August 2014) this past summer.

But I’m also a college sophomore who feels buried in schoolwork on a daily basis and who wants to go to the Saturday night party as much as the next kid. When my friends find out I spend time writing novels as well, the question that immediately follows is usually: “How do you have the time?”

I don’t. Do any of us? As students, we’re all incredibly busy. It’s not about having enough time; it’s about finding enough time. The following tips are a few that help me maintain my productivity as a writer and keep me producing new work.

1. Set small, daily goals. Whether it’s 100 words edited or 100 words written, make sure your daily goal is manageable. Even if you decide you only have ten minutes to write on a certain day, those ten minutes will add up over time.

2. Write down your writing goals in your planner as if it’s actually homework. Crossing things off a list is always helpful for me, and encourages me further to finish everything that’s on the list. When you treat your writing goals like actual homework assignments, it helps you finish them faster.

3. Form your goals in advance. If you jot down your writing goals like homework on a planner, you put more pressure on yourself to follow through with your intended writing plans. When editing The Innocent Assassins during my freshman year of college, I thought I could decide on a day-by-day basis how much I would edit. Because I never quantified how much I was planning to revise, it was easy to keep putting off the chapters I needed to edit and let them accumulate … until my publisher’s deadline approached! Time is never going to “slow down.” There’s always going to be another homework deadline coming up; there will always be another party you want to go to. Planning your goals in advance makes accomplishing them much easier.

4. Vacations = writing time. Even without those daily writing goals, sometimes there’s still barely enough time to hit up the dining hall for two meals a day or finish all your homework assignments. I’ve been there – especially during finals week. That’s why fall break, winter break, spring break, and summer break are all great opportunities to catch up on writing or increase daily writing goals to finish more of your manuscript.

5. Make time for your friends and family. Time spent with them is just as valuable as time spent with your WIP. They will end up being some of your staunchest supporters once you start sending your work out into the world, not to mention your soundboards when you experience rejections or bad reviews. And sometimes, one of your friends may just be the person to encourage you to continue writing when you feel discouraged. Writers don't have to be solitary figures; it always helps to have a support team behind you.

The most important thing to remember about balancing writing and assignments and a social life is that there is no perfect balance for everyone. Different schedules work for different writers. Just enjoy whatever stage you or your writing process may be at right now, and just keep writing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How to Seamlessly Transport Your Readers to a Historical Setting

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

Last week I talked about gathering the information you need to create the historical world for your story. When researching, not only do you learn an overwhelming amount of dates and information (especially if you're writing a historical that coincides with a war or political situation) but now you have to figure out what belongs in your story.

The mantra to keep in mind as you undergo this task is "Story is king." This is not a historical textbook, is is a story. Your reader wants to be entertained. Yes, historical readers love the genre because they also learn something and catch a glimpse of time long ago but there's a reason they picked up historical fiction and not a biography on George Washington. Right?

Telling a good story is your first priority.

With that in mind, the first thing I did when I started working on my historical book was set aside all my research notes. I had spent time learning the details of prohibition, I had read articles on 1920s fashion, read articles on F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I had read a book called Daily Life In The United States 1920-1940. I had a basic understanding of what my character's world looked like.

The first few chapters were achingly slow. Wait, what kind of hats did men wear? When was the flu epidemic? How did the train system work back then? When did Capone take over Cicero?

The research was strangling my writing process, and if I ever wanted to write "The End" I had to free myself to write the story. I remembered an interview I had read with Phillipa Gregory when she was talking about her process for writing The Other Boleyn Girl. She detailed all the different ways that she does her research and makes timelines. Then she said, "Then I put my notebooks to one side and only consult them for factual detail, and try to write from memory and a sense of time and place. Otherwise, the detail of the research blocks the flow of the story. In the second draft I check everything all over again."

That seemed like it would fit my writing style, so I stopped pausing to figure out train fares or the price of jewelry and instead focused on telling the story.

But some things were worth pausing to figure out, like when I needed to know if it was probable for my family to have a live-in housekeeper. This was a detail that impacted the story and would have been a pain to rewrite.

In the best historicals, the details are woven in so seamlessly, the reader doesn't register that you're spoon feeding them a bite of research. Here are three ways to help immerse your reader in the setting:

Word choice.

Much of what gives a book that great historical feel is the word choice.

Consider this simple sentence from Melanie Dickerson's The Fairest Beauty:

Gabe strode down the corridor to his bedchamber.

Rather than Gabe walking down the hall to his room, Melanie chose period words to describe even his simple actions, making this a sentence that invites us deeper into the medieval setting.

Here's a longer excerpt from Roseanna M. White's Circle of Spies:
She tucked her hand into the crook with an exhalation blustery enough to rival the wind off the Chesapeake. "I am a woman of three and twenty. I am perfectly capable of maintaining my own living, and Mother Hughes needs me."
This combines not just great word choice ("maintaining my own living" versus a more modern "managing my finances") but also a good in-character description of the Chesapeake. It also shows an action common back then, a lady taking the arm of a gentleman when out walking. 

Use comparisons.

There are things about the culture your character lives in that your reader needs to understand. One way that you can do this is by having characters make comparisons. I like how Julie Klassen does that in this excerpt from The Apothecary's Daughter:
"I suppose medicine is rather distasteful," he continued. "Boils and growths. Infections and bodily fluids..." He stopped, turning to her, face stricken. "Forgive me!"
Lilly said mildly, "Do not be uneasy on my account."
"Such talk does not disturb you ... you do not swoon nor faint nor sicken?"
Lilly shook her head. 
In this exchange, Julie Klassen shows us how different Lilly is from other girls of her time. And she does it by comparing the doctor's previous experience with ladies with his current experience with Lilly's mild reactions. She doesn't have to come right out and tell the reader, "Lilly was very unusual for a girl in her time."

When working on my 1920s book, I discovered that being a teenager in the 1920s was very unique in that this generation was being raised with starkly different morals and opportunities than their parents had been. There are a few times where my character might think someone is behaving a bit too Victorian, but I had her quote an expert when she was trying to impress her oldest brother:
“We haven’t spoken much about his family." I raise my glass but don't yet take a drink. "But I suppose our generation is so vastly different than our parents—more so than any generation before—that some clash is inevitable.”
Tim arches his eyebrows.
I laugh and confess, “I read that in an Emily Post column. It was advice on wayward teenagers, or something.”
A little of this goes a long way. We don't need Dr. Graves to constantly be telling Lilly that other women are repulsed by medical issues, nor does my character need to regularly talk about the rise of the modern woman. Just a little will do.

Put it between the quotes.

Sometimes there are outdated notions in a historical premise that need to be outright told to a modern reader in order for the story to make sense. Your reader may not understand the intricacies of land ownership laws in Britain or the stigma of having disabilities during the middle ages or any number of things.

Movies frequently handle this with conversations between characters, and it's fun to study how they do it without it seeming forced. In the 2003 version of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is telling Charlotte that the dreaded cousin is coming, the one who will inherit their house. "But why?" Charlotte says as they rush along the street. "The house can't pass on to us," Elizabeth says (or something close to it, I forget the exact wording) "We're females."

Historically speaking, Charlotte never would have needed to ask this question. This is something so common that it's built into the whole premise of Pride and Prejudice. The Bennetts had five daughters, so good marriages are critical to a decent life. And if they want the house, somebody needs to marry the comedic yet insufferable Mr. Collins. (The conflict in Downton Abbey, particularly the first season, is the same.)

But unless you've read a lot of regency stories or studied British history, this is likely something you don't know and it's information they needed to pass along to a modern audience so the story will make sense.

Do not forget your reader, who can't help their modern mindset.

As awesome has historical accuracy is, your modern reader will bring their sense of right and wrong into the story. It's only natural.

Certain practices that were considered normal, or at least acceptable, in another time and place may not jive with a broad modern audience. For example, words that we now consider racial slurs were once used very casually by many people. And it was very common to not tell a servant or slave "thank you" or to consider their thoughts/feelings/time/effort. But very few modern readers would be able to overlook such thoughtless and egotistical behavior in a character they're supposed to be rooting for.

This carries over to romance too. In Britain, it used to be extremely common for cousins to marry each other. But even if you're writing a regency romance, I don't recommend your hero and heroine be cousins, despite the historical accuracy. For a modern reader, it's a bit creepy.

One last note...

Don't be afraid to get the balance wrong. Because you will. It's the nature of first drafts. You'll explain too much and have to take stuff out, or you'll explain it too little and add stuff in. But that can be fixed and will likely require the help of critique partners who haven't done all the research that you have.

Next Monday, I'll share a tool I've used to help me keep track of historical dates alongside the dates of my story. Any other questions about historicals that you'd like answered next week?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ending Your Story: Shan's thoughts

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Today, my friends, I thought we’d talk about endings. If you’re nowhere close to your ending, that is perfect! Thinking about these things now will help. If you’ve made it, if you’re creeping up on a resolution, also fantastic! The last words you pen are just as important as those first words and I cannot overstate the importance of an author feeling their story has ended just where it should.

First, we need to address a rather sticky matter. To plan or not to plan? I have my own experiences to share with you, sure, but I did a little research as well. And the truth is, like every other bit of advice, the tried and true authors out there are split on the issue. 

Take this piece of advice I found in an article called “Seven Extremely Good Reasons to Write Your Ending First” by Amanda Patterson.

Good advice, yes? Author Rose Tremain would beg to differ. Here’s what she has to say. 

So, what’s an author to do with all that? What are we to do when two very intelligent, very successful authors give us conflicting advice? The truth is we all write differently. And not only that, stories grow uniquely inside us. Some of them come to us with an ending in place, with the inevitable outcome sprawling before us. Others start with just a character or a scene and we build from there.

I do not believe endings can be told what to do. In that way, I agree with Tremain. I believe endings must be the inevitable outworking of your story. But, that doesn’t mean I disagree with Patterson. Because some of us can only reach that inevitable ending with a good dose of planning.

In my own writing life, as I’m sure you can already guess, I’m about half and half. I don’t write my endings first. I’ve tried. I’m not good at it and I end up with a bunch of stuff that has to be cut. I do, sometimes, write my endings before I write my climax though. Can you guess why?

It’s simple really. The final scene of a story leaves the reader with one last image. But until I pen it, it doesn’t exist for me. And while I’m writing that last reversal, that last teetering moment of decision, I, as the author, need to have cemented in my mind what the stakes truly are. Seeing the end makes that possible for me.

You might be different. I have a friend who plots the entire novel before she sits down at the computer. My brain doesn’t work that way. But the reason I know that is because I’ve tried. I’ve tried it her way and I couldn’t make it work.

So, maybe today’s advice is this. Be willing to try different things. Especially if you’re stuck. I wonder, how different would your story be if you wrote that ending first? How different would it be if you plotted the whole shebang? I don’t know. But giving one or both of these strategies a shot will certainly teach you something about who you are as a writer. AND! You may even stumble onto the perfect ending for that story of yours.

So, tell me! Have you tried writing your ending first? Do you plot before you begin? Or do you start with a single moment and build from there? Would you be willing to try something new or does that terrify the creature of habit that lives inside your head?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Brandon Sanderson on Worldbuilding

by Jill Williamson

I'm sure many of you have seen this picture. I promise this is the LAST you will see or hear of it, in 2014, anyway. Mwa ha ha!

Today's quote is for all you spec fiction writers out there. Brandon Sanderson, who is so adept at worldbuilding, says that speculative fiction stories are about characters, yet worldbuilding is what sets them apart. So if you write spec fiction, you must have strong, compelling characters. That is vital to your storytelling. But your worldbuilding is what sets your book apart from all the others. It's what makes your story so very different from all the others.

I think that is awesome. If you're building a world, what kind of world is it? How have you set yourself apart from other books?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ten Tips for How to Behave at a Writers Conference

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

I'm heading off to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference today, so I might not be able to reply to comments for a while since I'm likely in an airplane at the moment. Going to conferences always takes me back to the first conference I ever attended and just how terribly clueless I was. That inspired me to write a blog post to help those who might be thinking of attending a writers conference someday and want to avoid walking around in utter bewilderment and embarrassing themselves.

Not that you can't ever recover from that. I seem to have managed to. But maybe that depends on who you ask!

So here they are. My ten tips for how to behave at a writers conference.

1. Don't put too much pressure on yourself for the event. I've done this, and it can nearly ruin the conference. I know you're excited to pitch, but if your book doesn't sell at this one conference, it's not the end of the world. Trust that you will find your place as a writer in time. Stressing and driving yourself insane with worry will not change that fact. So, do your best, but know that rejection makes you stronger and will bring you one step closer to acceptance.

2. Be friendly. Again, I know the idea of pitching to an editor or agent can be stressful, but they are just people, like you and me. They don't bite (as one agent once told me to try and calm me down). They are there to meet new writers. They want to hear your idea. So smile and do your best. But also look for other writers to be friendly to. They are just as stressed out as you and a friendly face might be exactly what they need to cheer them up.

3. Use common sense. Do not chase an editor or agent into the bathroom. If an agent rejects your book, don't argue with him. I've seen authors do both of these things, and I always cringe. I know. Authors are weird. But fight the urge to take that weirdness too far!

4. Come prepared with a one-sentence logline of your book. When people ask what your book is about, give your logline, then stop talking. Let that logline work for you!

5. Don't print out your book or book proposal and bring it along. You can print one chapter to show editors or agents who might ask to look at your writing, but they likely won't keep it. They don't want to haul all that stuff around the conference any more than you do!

6. If you meet your favorite author, say hello. I know it's scary. And even if you say something dumb (which I've done), know that authors realize how stressful writing conferences can be. Authors attend writing conferences because they want to give back. So they are not going to judge you for being excited. It's all good.

7. Learn all you can. Writer's conferences have staffs filled with experience and talent. Listen to the speakers. Glean wisdom. There is good stuff to be learned.

8. Bring business cards and trade them. Meet people. You never know, you might be meeting a future critique partner.

9. Take a deep breath and have fun. Just, really now... HAVE FUN!

10. Don't go home and change everything about your book. I know it's tempting. But take a few weeks to decompress. Think about the things you've learned. Then go back and carefully look at what changes you want to make.

Have you ever been to a writer's conference? Any advice you'd like to share? And if you've never been, why not? Get thee to a writers conference, posthaste!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Angela Hunt on Remembering Your Reader's Senses

by Stephanie Morrill

As I read Angela Hunt's Writing Historical Fiction, I was struck by her advice: "Don't be so caught up in relating dialogue and action that you forget to make your reader's senses tingle."

Um, guilty. My first drafts are almost all dialogue and action with very little heart and almost no description. I don't know why, but for some reason I have to get the surface stuff downwhat my characters say and dobefore I'm capable of delving deeper into the feel place of a story. That place where my character experiences her surroundings (also known as writing with the five senses) and also where we see more of her heart revealed.

What about you? What part of the storydialogue? action? description?comes easiest to you?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Worldbuilding For a Historical - Gathering What You Need

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

Writing a historical fiction book scared me.

I had tried it before when I had a wisp of an idea. I made it about a page in before giving up. The amount of questions I had overwhelmed me. It's not for me, I decided. I love reading historicals, but I'm not meant to write them.

A few months later, as I was putting away laundry in my daughter's room, I was struck by a story idea that I knew was good. But it was a historical.

Maybe it's not as good of an idea as I think, I told myself. Maybe I won't have to write it. I texted my husband. "Veronica Mars meets Downton Abbey. What do you think?" He replied a minute later: "Write it!"

But how? Hadn't I already proven that I couldn't? I pitched my idea, which had become more fleshed out since my text, to my writing friend, Roseanna White. We decided it was more Veronica Mars meets The Great Gatsby, and she told me it was a good idea. That I should write it.

For a while, I was able to hide behind a deadline. The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet was coming out in a few months and final edits needed to be turned in. Then my life became a revolving door of ER visits as we struggled to get Connor's seizures under control. And all the while, the story churned inside me. I wanted to write it, but for the first time, I was feeling scared.

I say all that so you know that I'm not some expert in writing historicals. I've read quite a few, and I'm on the second draft of edits of my story, but I'm still learning how to do this. I learned because I had to. Because I had an idea that wouldn't let me go.

Jill has written a fabulous book on creating storyworlds for fantasy and sci-fi books. It's a must-read if you write in those genres. But realistic fictioncontemporary and historical alikealso involves worldbuilding. And worldbuilding in a historical translates into research. Lots of research.

Don't panic about that, though. You know what I found? When you love the story idea enough, the research isn't so bad.

Step 1: Figure out where and when this story takes place.

I was wisely advised by Roseanna that this was to be my first priority in figuring out my story. I knew vaguely whereChicago, a nicer neighborhood, sometime in the 1920s. But I needed to get more specific. Not just a decade, but a year. Not just a year, but a season too.

I picked 1924 after some of my fashion research told me that cloche hats didn't really come into popularity until then, and I didn't want to write a 1920s book without cloche hats.  I went with spring because one of my characters is a baseball player, and I wanted him to be coming home from spring training. I leaned on some Chicago friends to help me find the right neighborhood, and then I roamed around on Google street view for a while.

Once I had those things figured out, it was much easier to figure out what else I needed to know.

Step 2: Get your bearings.

Instead of trying to learn everything there was to know about the 1920s, I decided that I would research enough to have a general understanding of what my character's day-to-day life looked like. 

I checked out several books from the library about the 1920s, andonce I knew I was actually going to do this thingI bought myself several. Then I went about answering these questions: 

Where does my character live? 
What was her favorite toy as a child?
What is her favorite thing to wear?
How does she do her hair?
What are women “supposed” to look like in that time?
What does the house look like? How is it unique from other houses?
When she needs something—a brush, a new pair of shoes, etc.—how does she go about getting it?
What does she do for entertainment?
What does she order at a restaurant?
What is her favorite food at home?
What does she commonly eat for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Snack?
How does she get to school? What kind of classes does she take?
What is she expected to do after high school?
Does she go to church and where? What's the spiritual climate of her society?
What do her and her friends do when they’re together?
Who were the celebrities of the time?
What books/music/movies/plays were popular at the time?
Has she traveled much?
If she wants to talk to a friend, how does she get a hold of them?

This list is extremely basic, but it gave me enough to be able to move my character around decently well. At first that was all I needed.

Later, of course, there were very specific things that I needed to research to build my world. Like how the mafia operated. Society's view on flappers. How dead bodies were identified and how long that took. But I think it's easier to do that as you write rather than trying to learn it all up front. At first, you just need to get down the basics.

Next Monday we'll talk about how to work in the historical details without it feeling like an info dump or history lecture!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Next Thing: Shan's thoughts

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

There are nine zillion things on my plate right now. Have you ever felt like that? Like, you can’t possibly get everything done. It’s an overwhelming feeling, being surrounded by a to-do list that just won’t end, all of the tasks shouting at you for attention.

As it relates to writing, I feel the heaviness of my imagination most when an entire story sprawls before me. The manuscript I’m working on now came to me, not as a complete whole (there have certainly been some surprises), but with a vague notion of its end fairly developed.

The end! A glittering star I was desperate to reach. But between that far-off place and where I stood at the outset, sixty or so scenes rose like craggy mountains before me. Each one of them needing every ounce of my energy, every spare moment of my time, and a singular focus. Without these things, I would never finish.

And thus, the question became, “Where do I start?”

 Elisabeth Elliot gave me the answer.

 These four words are the rope that tethers me to sanity. They give me wings. They make the climb possible. Because I cannot do it all. I certainly can’t do it all today. But when I roll out of bed every morning, I remind myself that I can do the NEXT thing. And come hell or high water, I will.

It may take a little organization to figure out what the next thing is. You may even need a few writer pals to point you in the right direction, but freeing yourself from the burden of the next 59 scenes will lighten your load. Write the next scene. That’s it. And then when you’re done, attack the next with abandon. But not until THIS one is done. Don’t carry future work with you. That’s too heavy for anyone.

There’s only one next thing. Do that.

It’s different for all of us. Maybe writing isn’t the next thing at all. Maybe it’s querying or brainstorming or being brave enough to ask for feedback. Maybe the next thing is taking a class or setting your manuscript aside to study the craft. Whatever it is, find a way to make it happen.

So, what’s MY next thing? I am wicked close to being done with this manuscript, you guys. And I’ll be honest, my eyes keep straying to the top of that very last mountain. To THE END, but that’s not my next thing. My next thing is to get my main character good and caught. My next thing is to let the bad guy find her. My next thing is to write those moments and only those moments. And when she’s tangled something fierce, then I will write the thing after that.

Tell me, what’s your next thing? Are you organized enough to know? If not, dedicate some time and effort to figuring it out and then DO IT! I’d love to know where you all are on the journey. If you’re up to sharing, tell us. 

Tell us your next thing!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The First Thirty, a guest post from Marion Jensen

Marion Jensen is a mild-mannered instructional designer at American Express by day, but at night, he puts on a cape and writes superhero books. Books that will make you laugh, cry (but only because you’re laughing so hard), and then hopefully laugh some more. In his spare time he enjoys running, board games, cooking, and reading. He’s also a board-certified, synchronized Pez-dispenser. He is the author of Almost Super, and the soon to be released Searching For Super, both by HarperCollins. He is represented by Sara Crowe.

A few winters ago I went on a hike up a canyon near my house. We’d had a blizzard the night before and I couldn’t resist trekking into fresh snow. You can see a few pictures of my hike that day here.

As soon I as I stepped out of the car, the familiar voices started up in my head. You've probably heard them before. They whisper things like:
It's too cold.
You're not prepared. You don't have the right clothing.
The snow is too deep.
It's too far to the summit.
For me, these voices have the most power in the first thirty minutes of a hike. The voices will tell you it's not really giving up if you've only just started. And since you've only invested a small portion of your time and energy, turning around is easy to do.
Sometimes the voices may speak truth. Perhaps you are not fully prepared. Perhaps the way is too difficult. You should always begin journeys with care and thoughtfulness.
But mostly the voices lie. And in the first thirty minutes, you are the most vulnerable to their deception.
Once I've left my car far behind, and the valley is spread out in my view, I find I can talk back to the voices.
The summit is still too far.
Then I will go as far as I can.
The snow is getting deeper.
I've walked through worse.
You cannot do this.
Yes, I can.
If I make it past the first thirty minutes, I usually make it to my goal. I see through the voices' lies, I've invested significant time and energy, and I plow my way to the top.
I've discovered a similar truth in writing. When you begin a new story, the voices are quick to speak up.
These characters are bland.
The plot is thin.
You'll never get to eighty thousand words.
Again, most of the time the voices lie, but it's easy to stop when you've just begun. It's easy to tell yourself that the story isn't as compelling as you first thought. You haven't invested the time, so it is a simple matter to close the document and move on to something else. Or perhaps give up altogether.
Don't believe the voices.
Lower your shoulders, pick a good pace, and plunge ahead. Write the first thirty pages. Or fifty. Whatever it takes. Ignore the voices and just move forward. Perhaps on page thirty-one, you can start to respond to those nagging doubts.
The characters are weak.
I'm getting to know them.
You'll never reach eighty thousand words.
Maybe not, but tonight I'll reach three thousand.
The plot is thin.
I will do this.
Ignore the voices until you've written thirty pages. Invest the time and effort that your story both deserves and demands. You'll find the next hundred pages will unfold.
One last thing. When hiking, I've found that at the base of the trail there are dozens of footsteps. The farther you go, the thinner the tracks as one by one, those who have gone before turn around and head back. Eventually, there is an exhilarating moment when you see the last set of tracks come to an end. You look to the trail ahead and see nothing but unbroken snow.

In writing, it's not good to compare yourself to others. There are far too many variables. But sometimes I like to compare what I'm doing now with what I've done in the past. Maybe first the goal is to just finish a short story. Then it's to writing something longer. Maybe you want to place in a contest, and then come in first. Then you may tackle a lofty goal such as finishing a novel, submitting it, and getting good feedback. Then that happy day comes when you sign a contract, and see one of your books on the shelf.
If you ignore the voices, sometimes you can go farther than you ever thought possible. All you have to do is tackle the first thirty.
*          *         *         *         *
Jill here. Do you hear voices like this in your head? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Also, we're going to give away a copy of Marion's book Almost Super. Here's a little info about it:
Perfect for fans of Pixar's The IncrediblesAlmost Super is a fresh, funny middle grade adventure about two brothers in a family of superheroes who must find a way to be heroic despite receiving powers that are total duds. Filled with humor, heart, and just the right kind of heroics, Almost Super is a winning story that will satisfy would-be heroes and regular kids alike.
Everyone over the age of twelve in the Bailey family gets a superpower. No one knows why, and no one questions it. All the Baileys know is that it's their duty to protect the world from the evil, supervillainous Johnson family. *shake fists*
But when Rafter Bailey and his brother Benny get their superpowers, they're, well . . . super-lame. Rafter can strike matches on polyester, and Benny can turn his innie belly button into an outie. Along with Rafter's algebra class nemesis, Juanita Johnson, Rafter and Benny realize that what they thought they knew about superheroes and supervillains may be all wrong. And it's up to the three of them to put asides their differences and make things right. They may not have great powers, but together, they're almost super.

If you like to read middle grade books, have a sibling that does, or are writing this genre and want to take a peek at your competition, enter to win a copy of Almost Super on the Rafflecopter widget below.