Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?



Hello, Go Teen Writers! It's Jill, coming at you from the road. I'm on my way to Reno, Nevada to attend the Realm Makers 5th Anniversary Writers' Conference. I'm teaching the teen track there, and I'm so excited.

I hope you're enjoying the summer panels. We've had a great time with this little project so far. In case you're new to us, this summer we're doing Q & A panels. Throughout the months of June, July, and August, we're posting a question each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We answer that question, then pass it on to you. Please share your answer in the comments so we can all learn from each other.

Today is another deep, life-pondering question that I hope will get you thinking about what drives you. This is an important question to ask your characters, too, so you might give some thought to how each of them might answer this one.





What inspires you to get out of bed each day?


Jill Williamson
Sadly, it’s my To Do list. I’m a work-o-holic. I actually like working. I’ll wake up but still lie in bed, thinking about what I need to do that day. And once my brain gets going, it gets excited, and I’ll head out to my desk to get started.
Now, this does not work on weekdays during the school year. My alarm is what gets me out of bed each day, to wake my children so they can get ready to go. On those days, I sit in the living room with some breakfast and a book, and I read. This is actually a much better way to start my day, though it is always WAY too early for a person like me to be awake.



Shannon Dittemore
The sunshine! Literally. I realize you’re probably asking about my life motivation, but lemme tell you about how I deal with mornings. If it’s gloomy outside when I wake up, I convince myself to climb out of bed by making myself all sorts of promises. I’ll say, “It’s okay. You’re a grown up. You can take the kids to school and then climb right back into bed. No one will stop you.” I’m ridiculous, I know, but it’s truly what gets me through that first hour. By the time I’ve had a cup of coffee and dropped the munchkins off, I’m good to go. I’m awake and ready to write and I laugh at my droopy morning self. If it’s sunny outside, my wake-up routine is much more pleasant and it’s easier to remember that I do, in fact, have important life goals.




Stephanie Morrill

Habit? Coffee? A sense of responsibility? There have been seasons of life (like when I’m really pregnant, or when we were in overwhelming seasons with Connor’s epilepsy) where I’m not exactly eager to do the day, but I really love my life. I love my work and my family.


Now it's your turn. What inspires you to get out of bed each day?


Monday, July 24, 2017

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?


Last week was such a fun time of writing and connection on the blog. I really enjoyed interacting with you, learning more about your stories, and seeing you encourage each other. We have one more word war scheduled for the summer. It'll be August 14-18, so mark your calendars!

Here's today's panel question:



What's your greatest challenge as a writer?




Learning to say no. And I’ve learned how recently and still struggle. Several times now I’ve caught myself saying, “Check in with me later” on something my gut told me to say no to. It’s a psychological thing with me, I know. I like to help people. I like to say yes. I like to seize every opportunity that comes my way. But I am only one person with twenty-four hours in the day like everyone else. I can only do so much. And if I continue to say yes to everything, I will continue to struggle to find the time to write and the time to relax.



The greatest challenge I have is transitioning in and out of my writing sessions. I want to be absolutely present when I’m with my family, and I want to be absolutely present when I’m with my story. It’s hardest when I’m nearing a deadline and, out of necessity, every brain cell is committed to storytelling. This has been an evolution for me and I’ve not quite mastered it.



TIME TO WRITE. I have a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old with epilepsy and incredibly specific dietary needs, an almost-two-year-old, and a husband who I really like spending time with. Creating space in my life to actually write continues to be the hardest part of writing.









How about you guys? What's your biggest writing challenge?


Friday, July 21, 2017

July 2017 Word War: Day Five

Shannon here! And I've come to tell you that the end has come!

Day Five of our July 2017 Word War is here and I hope you take full advantage of it, because I'm so failing this time. My 8yo's been sick and today my mother-in-law comes into town and I totally forgot. While you're all writing away, I'll be scrubbing toilets and praying she gets stuck in traffic.

But you? You knew this day was coming and you're ready to take your story by the horns and wrestle it to the ground. Or at least shovel a bunch of words into the sandbox. Have you heard that quote? The one by Shannon Hale. It's one of my absolute favorite quotes about drafting and I think it applies beautifully to all of you word warriors today.


Isn't it just the best quote about drafting? Especially for those days where you feel like you're just dumping all your thoughts on the page. I love it and hope it provides you with a little inspiration as you push to the finish line of this week's Word War.
What's a word war? 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. Sometimes these are also referred to as "word sprints."

How does it work?

Write as much as you're able to today, and when you're done, leave a comment in this post about how the day went. You can share how many words you wrote, stumbling blocks, a favorite line you wrote, whatever you want!

You can also start mini word wars in the comments section of this blog, or on the Go Teen Writers Community Facebook group. (If you apply to join, leave me a comment on the blog so I can get you approved.)

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we write. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the war goes on!

How long does it last?
This word war began on Monday and will end tonight. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's never too late to join, and you don't have to participate every day. 

How is your word war going? Share in the comments.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 2017 Word War: Day Four

It's day FOUR of our word war, and I'm still cutting words. On Wednesday I cut 4216. That was a whole chapter and a half.

Ouch.

I'm currently on chapter 14 of 91 chapters. And I'm now at 181,291. (I started at 194,000.)

Not bad. Shockingly, I'm on track for success. I really didn't think I could cut that many words. But I'm set on proving to myself that I can. And the story will be so much tighter and better from having done so.

But still painful.

So set a goal and work hard toward it. If I can do it, so can you!





What's a word war? 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. Sometimes these are also referred to as "word sprints."

How does it work?

Write as much as you're able to today, and when you're done, leave a comment in this post about how the day went. You can share how many words you wrote, stumbling blocks, a favorite line you wrote, whatever you want!

You can also start mini word wars in the comments section of this blog, or on the Go Teen Writers Community Facebook group. (If you apply to join, leave me a comment on the blog so I can get you approved.)

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we write. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the war goes on!


How long does it last?

This word war began on Monday and will end Friday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's never too late to join, and you don't have to participate every day. 

How is your word war going? Share in the comments.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July 2017 Word War: Day Three

Today is day THREE of our word war, and I'm doing it backwards.

What do you mean, Jill?

I'm glad you asked. I am in the middle of a MAJOR rewrite. My editor would like me to cut at least 50,000 words from my 194,000-word story.

That's a lot, huh?

So instead of telling you how many words I wrote each day, I'm posting how many words I cut.

Because I have to cut a lot of words.

On Monday, I cut 2178 words from four chapters, and ended up with three chapters instead. A pretty good day.

On Tuesday, I cut 1121 from two chapters. So I will keep chip-chip-chipping away.

How are all of you doing? Share your progress in the comments below.




What's a word war? 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. Sometimes these are also referred to as "word sprints."

How does it work?

Write as much as you're able to today, and when you're done, leave a comment in this post about how the day went. You can share how many words you wrote, stumbling blocks, a favorite line you wrote, whatever you want!

You can also start mini word wars in the comments section of this blog, or on the Go Teen Writers Community Facebook group. (If you apply to join, leave me a comment on the blog so I can get you approved.)

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we write. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the war goes on!


How long does it last?

This word war began Monday and will end Friday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's never too late to join, and you don't have to participate every day. 

If you have time to play, this WILL help you. Join in the fun.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 2017 Word War: Day Two

Today is day TWO of our word war! Even though I could only write for an hour yesterday, I had a fun time warring with Ann and Olivia. I'll be around more today, especially this morning, so I hope I get the chance to interact with more of you!



What's a word war? 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. Sometimes these are also referred to as "word sprints."

How does it work?

Write as much as you're able to today, and when you're done, leave a comment in this post about how the day went. You can share how many words you wrote, stumbling blocks, a favorite line you wrote, whatever you want!

You can also start mini word wars in the comments section of this blog, or on the Go Teen Writers Community Facebook group. (If you apply to join, leave me a comment on the blog so I can get you approved.)

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we write. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the war goes on!


How long does it last?

This word war began yesterday and will end Friday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's never too late to join, and you don't have to participate every day. 

Looking forward to a fun—and productive—day!

Monday, July 17, 2017

July 2017 Word War: Day One

The second of our summer word wars starts NOW!



What's a word war? 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. Sometimes these are also referred to as "word sprints."

How does it work?

Write as much as you're able to today, and when you're done, leave a comment in this post about how the day went. You can share how many words you wrote, stumbling blocks, a favorite line you wrote, whatever you want!

You can also start mini word wars in the comments section of this blog, or on the Go Teen Writers Community Facebook group. (If you apply to join, leave me a comment on the blog so I can get you approved.)

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we write. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the war goes on!

How long does it last?

This word war begins today and will end Friday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's never too late to join, and you don't have to participate every day. 

I'll be writing with you today! I'm working on the final chapters of my WWII era novel. What will you be working on?

Friday, July 14, 2017

What skillset is undervalued in the author’s life?

Doughnut day again! Fridays are the best! Shannon here.

Before I forget, NEXT WEEK Go Teen Writers is hosting a Word War. We're hoping it will give a boost to those of you doing Camp NaNo and will encourage all of us to write our way through the summer. I'm excited and I hope you are too. The war begins on Monday!

Now back to our . . . 


Today's question is a good one. Stephanie, Jill and I will give you our answers and I hope you'll chime in with yours in the comments section. Here goes:

What skillset is undervalued in the author's life?


Discipline. There’s this archaic idea that authors are all drunks who stumble around waiting for inspiration. And while that may happen in some circles, that has not been my experience with authors. Every author I know who consistently pumps out stories, is very disciplined about their writing. They work hard at their craft and they want to produce something of great quality. Inspiration is talked about a lot, and it’s so important. But that discipline thing? It’s undervalued.

I would have said “discipline” if Shan hadn’t already. So I’ll say business savviness. All writers (or almost all writers) get into writing because they love it, not because they’re trying to start a small business. Yet that’s what it means to be a published author. You are now a small business with a product that needs to be sold and marketed, taxes that need to be done, and various other businessy tasks. The ability to embrace being a creative and being a business owner is huge in determining a writer’s success.

I want to say “respecting your dream,” but I’m pretty sure that’s another way of saying discipline. Still, I’ll explain what I mean. When I first started writing, I thought I knew everything. I thought my half-written story was going to sell for a million dollars. I had made a lot of assumptions about what it took to write a book, so when I pitched to an agent for the first time and he rejected me, I was flabbergasted. After a good cry and several hours of honest reflection, I came to realize that I had not respected my dream of being a writer. To compare, I had respected my dream of becoming a fashion designer. I had been designing and sewing my own clothes since I was in junior high. I had studied fashion history and the lives of famous designers by reading books on their lives and watching documentaries. I had learned to draw and sew more complex things and create patterns. I went to college for fashion and graduated with a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. I worked in the industry, earning several promotions and raises. I started my own wedding gown business in which I designed and sewed a line of better wedding gowns, took my line to the Chicago Bridal Market, and had pictures of them in Bride’s Magazine. When it came to fashion, I knew my stuff.

Not so with writing. I’d written half a book and daydreamed that I was a natural and would be paid millions of dollars for a few months’ effort. Pretty sad, huh? But this is a common tale. So many people think writing a book is easy. It’s not. If you want to be a writer, respect that. Put in the time to learn about the industry and the craft of writing. Practice by writing a million words. Only then should you start worrying about selling those words.

How about you all? What skillset do you believe is undervalued in the author's (or writer's) life?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Do you consider yourself a confident or anxious writer? What makes you that way? . . . AND A COVER REVEAL!



Jill here. We are smack dab in the middle of summer and the summer writing panels. We hope you are enjoying them. In case you missed it, we're doing Q & A panels each day during the months of June, July, and August. We post one question, each of us will answer it, and then we want you to answer in the comments. This is a great way to get to know each other and learn too.

BUT FIRST!

I have a new book cover to share with you all.

Ta da!

Isn't it beautimus?




I'm so excited about this cover for King's War (book three in The Kinsman Chronicles). The big one is for the paperback version, which will include the three ebook parts: The Reluctant King, A Deliverer Comes, and Warriors of the Veil.

Aren't they beautiful? *sigh* Green is one of my favorite colors. I keep staring at them and imagining I'm being chased through the Nahar Forest by giants . . .

The ebook version of The Reluctant King comes out this September, but the release date on the full paperback is a bit sketchy because I'm still editing.

There is much to edit. :-o

And now, on with the panels!






Do you consider yourself a confident or anxious writer? What makes you that way?


Jill Williamson
I’m anxious. Oh, I start out confident. I get an idea and I run with it. It’s all the big daydream that’s going to be the best book ever. And I start to fall in love with my characters and I think they’re amazing. And I get lost in my storyworld and have a grand time. But slowly, like mold, doubt creeps in. A little worry that I’ve again chosen a book that’s too weird to please my readers. A little fear that I’m ruining my idea. A little doubt that tells me I can't pull this off. 

I have to ignore these things, of course, or I’d never get done. But the closer I get to a finished project, I’m pretty much a basket case. I know that this book is THE book to end my career. It won't sell. No one will publish me after this catastrophe. I tell myself, "You really did it this time, Jill. Gosh." *shakes head* *rolls eyes* 

But then the book comes out. And people read it. And while there are always some who don’t like it, there are always plenty that do. All that to say, it’s my personality quirks and bad habits that suck me into this dark place of doubt and despair. To use a writing tool, it’s the lie I believe about myself that makes me crazy. I’m working on that lie. And one of these days, the lie is going to die, and then I’ll be a confident writer. But I’m not there yet.



Shannon Dittemore
Sure. Yes. Both. I vacillate between being incredibly confident and ready to share all I know, to trembling whenever I send out a work for critical review. This is not an industry that will wrap you in comfort. You will have fantastic moments filled with words and hot cups of tea and readers as far as the eye can see. And then you will have the quiet, dread-filled moments that you’re almost embarrassed to share. If you know that, you’re better prepared than I was.




Stephanie Morrill
I have my moments of confidence, but I’m mostly anxious. During release week, I’m a nervous wreck. Every time I get a text from my agent or editor asking to talk, my thoughts jump to, “What bad thing has happened?” And I’m getting better about it, but I have a hard time talking about my stories or being an author in my everyday life. 


How about you? Do you consider yourself a confident or anxious writer? What makes it so?


Monday, July 10, 2017

What is something you've learned recently about writing?


Happy Monday, writers!

We have more panel questions this week, but starting next Monday (the 17th) we'll be hosting another word war! 

We know a lot of you are participating in Camp NaNo, or want to take advantage of extra free time of summer to get some writing done. I'm excited that this time I'll get to play along too! I'm writing the third act of my WWII era novel, so I'm motivated to get some words on the page.



What is something you've learned recently about writing?




I’ve learned that not every character needs a fully formed character arc in which they change for the better. Some characters don’t change. They might face situations that test them and cause them to question what they believe to be truth, but in the end, by staying true to who they are, they overcome. They realize that they were right all along and need to trust their instincts.  And some characters change for the worse. Like other characters, they will confront the lies, but rather than finding the truth, the lie is either reinforced or misinterpreted. This causes the character to destroy themselves or others. Kind of sad, really, and I wouldn’t want to write too many stories where my main character ended poorly, but in an epic tale with multiple characters, varying my character arcs is important.



That writing makes you better at writing. The more I write, the more this truth is pounded into my heart. There are so many fabulous resources outside ourselves, but it’s the time in the chair that refines what we write and how we do it.



That storytelling and writing are two different things. K.M. Weiland puts it like this, “Storytelling and writing are actually two entirely different skill sets. Too often, when we try to do them both at once in the first draft, they end up getting in each other’s way.” I’ve been mulling over that, along with her article about nearly perfect first drafts. I sense my process is about to shift!






How about you guys? What is something you've learned recently about writing?


Friday, July 7, 2017

Are there moments, experiences, or hobbies, that helped prepare you for the writer’s life?


Friday again, my friends! Shannon here. I'm trusting you all had a fun and safe holiday week. I've been very busy over here, writing and traveling and taking care of sick kids. I thought summer was supposed to be for vacationing!!! 

I finally got my new website up and running. My husband has always been my IT guy, but he's been super busy this summer so I had to figure it all out myself. Take a look and tell me what you think. While you're there, hop over to the NEWS tab and sign up for my newsletter. I'll be sending out my first one in ages next week and there will be a fun, bookish giveaway included.

And now back to our summer panels! I hope you're enjoying them and learning a little something along the way. 



When you look back on your childhood, are there moments, experiences, or hobbies, that helped prepare you for the writer’s life?




Yes, certainly. I was always a creative soul. I performed in theater productions and puppet competitions (don’t knock it, I have gold medals). I’ve always enjoyed adventuring and looking at the world through the lens of a storyteller. All of those things greatly contributed to my writing. There can be a fair amount of public speaking that comes with this gig as well and I think I was well prepared for that because I spent time in both cheer and student government during my high school career. I think if you're a good collector, every experience can be tucked away for later use. Your past adventures are fantastic tools.



You have gold medals from puppet competitions, Shan? You are a constant surprise to me.

What pops to mind for me is actually a negative memory that I’ve shared on the blog before. In high school, a friend of mine told me she didn’t think I was talented enough to be a published writer. We were at an unhealthy place in our friendship, so this statement was intended to inflict pain, and it certainly did. I vowed that I would never show anyone my writing ever again, and that my friend would feel really stupid when I was a huge success. (How I thought I would become a huge success without showing people my writing is a bit of a head scratcher, but I wasn’t thinking my clearest.)

Two great things came out of this. The first is that by shutting out others from seeing my writing, I was free from what they might think. I wrote without fear for several years, and from those fertile years, my author voice bloomed.

The second is that I learned a hard but good lesson on criticism. There’s no escaping it in life-- whether you’re an artist or an accountant--and I feel like going through that pain and the years it took to heal have been good for me as an artist and a person.

I should also mention that after several years of not speaking to each other, my friend reached out and apologized (and I apologized for wrongs I’d committed as well) and we enjoy getting together when she’s in town.


My entire childhood prepared me to be a writer. I grew up in Alaska with no electricity or running water. I read a lot. And I played outdoors a lot. Most of all, I daydreamed all the time. Somewhat similar to Anne of Green Gables, I lived in a fantasy world. This has developed into somewhat of a problem for living in the real world as a grown up. I can’t daydream my way out of problems. But it is a wonderful talent for a novelist to possess.


How about you guys? Are there moments, experiences, or hobbies that you are involved in now that you can see preparing you for the writer's life?


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?



I hope you all had a nice July 4th. I got to hang out with family and friends, eat tons of food, and watch some fireworks, which, let's face it, is what makes a Fourth of July the Fourth of July.

We are still doing panels here on Go Teen Writers. Today we have a thoughtful question that's not so much about writing, but about life. Holidays tend to make me ponder, so this feels appropriate. 





For what in your life do you feel most grateful?


Shannon Dittemore
My relationship with God. It has been my constant. Through childhood and into adulthood, through marriage and starting a family. Through dreams and goals and careers and hobbies that maybe could be all of the above--He has been faithful. And though I’ve chosen a craft that can feel very isolating, I’ve never been alone. Not once.




Stephanie Morrill
My head went to a totally different place when I heard the question, but then I saw Shan’s answer and realized my initial thoughts about how to respond were embarrassingly shallow.

I’ve had the joy of going to two American Library Association conferences this year. Being invited by my publisher to sign books at ALA was a bucket list career item for me, and I felt honored to go.

But events like that can be hard on a creative’s heart. These things are full of literary celebrities, and comparison creeps in easily. Whose signing line is longer? Who got invited to sit on what panel? Who got the most applause during said panel discussion?

Not only that, but you get an upclose look at how many books are on the market competing with yours. You see all the dollars being poured into elevating certain titles. It is easy to find yourself slipping down a yucky spiral of thoughts: I’m not enough. Who do I think I am? Why does my publisher believe in that book more than they believe in mine? Why does he get an audio book, and I don’t?

On and on.

The moment I notice my brain tipping in that direction, I’m grateful for the hard journey God sent me on several years ago. It was a journey that taught me that I am not my books. I am not defined by their success or failure. That I am enough, exactly as I am.



 
Beautiful answers, girls. I'm with you on both of those. Right now, I feel grateful for the journey. I’ve always been a person who relives the past and strives for the future but never learned how to live in the present. I’m learning that now, and it’s really hard! 

I've lived my life so far in a hurry to get to point B. But as a struggling-to-quit ponderer and striver, I’m finally learning that in living like that, I miss out on a lot of good stuff. The journey is where it’s at. This is life! Right now, seconds are ticking by. And we each only get one life here on earth. So even when it’s hard, it’s good, because I have God and my people (family and friends) and I’m not alone. I’m always growing and changing and developing wisdom, and that’s what truly gets me to point B. Not the daydreaming or the striving. It's the living. I’m grateful to finally be learning how to embrace life and enjoy every moment.


What about you? What are you grateful for?


Monday, July 3, 2017

If you could give your new-writer-self one piece of advice, what would you say?


It's JULY. Wow! How many of you are doing Camp NaNo? With my kids home from school, summer is a terrible time for me to get much writing done, but I know it's ideal for those of you who are in school.

Today's panel question is:

If you could give your new-writer-self one piece of advice, what would you say?


Jill Williamson
Give yourself permission to write terrible first drafts and stop trying to be perfect all the time. You waste so much time rewriting those first couple chapters, but until you get to the end of the book, you don’t really know how the book should start. And you’re never going to get to the end if you keep rewriting chapter one! So take off all the pressure, adopt the NaNoWriMo process of writing fast drafts, and have fun.







Shannon Dittemore
There’s never that one final hurdle and then you arrive. For most writers, it’s cyclical. You have a book, you push, you have success (or not), and you start again. This is not an industry for those who cannot handle being uncomfortable. Authors are almost always off-kilter, fighting to keep writing through the ups and downs of life. This is a job for those who simply must tell stories.







Stephanie Morrill
You have to decide what success as a writer looks like to you, because if you let the industry tell you what it is, you’ll never feel content. There’s always another rung you can reach for, another author who is “ahead” of you, or another step you can take to further your career. While your goals will change and evolve over the years, it’s important that you know what kind of writer you want to be (how much you want to work, what you want to write, etc.) because looking to others to set those boundaries for you leads to unhappiness.






What about you, writers? What piece of advice do you wish you could give yourself as a brand new writer?