Monday, June 26, 2017

What's inspiring you?

Stephanie here! I had a great weekend up in Chicago for the American Library Association conference. Traveling alone kinda stresses me out, so I was actually surprised by how relaxed I felt most of the time. I had no stress headaches. No times when I was hungry, but too nervous to eat. Just a lot of fun conversations with friendly librarians, editors, authors, and other lovely industry people.

For me, a lot of the fun was being in CHICAGO. I've been dying to go back ever since I started writing The Lost Girl of Astor Street. My first night in town, I was invited along on a dinner cruise to celebrate the upcoming release of Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess:

Me and fellow Blink author Heather Maclean. I was so relieved to see someone I knew!
On Saturday, I spent some time signing copies of The Lost Girl of Astor Street in the HarperCollins booth. (My line wasn't exactly as long as Veronica Roth's...) I had a meeting with the marketing team, and some great hang out time with other authors.

VERONICA ROTH!! The line was ridiculous, but she was being super nice and taking time with everyone she signed for.

I also got brave, hailed a taxi, and went up to Astor Street! I was a complete dork and took tons of pictures. Some nice ladies who were there for an architectural walking tour helped me out my taking a photo of me so I didn't have to do the selfie thing:

For an introverted homebody, it was a very full weekend. I'm happy to be home!

Today we're continuing our summer panel series where Jill, Shan, and I answer writing-related questions--just as if we're sitting on a panel at a writing conference--and we hope you'll take the time to answer the question as well so we can all learn from each other.

What's something that has inspired you recently?


Jill Williamson
I’ve been intrigued lately by self-publishing. I’d really like to self-publish a whole series as an experiment. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with publishing houses, but I’ve found that after three or four years, when my book falls onto the backlist, publishers no longer focus on trying to sell it. So the book gets stuck without any focused sales and marketing attention. If I owned a series of books, I’d be able to play around with sales and marketing continually. That’s no guarantee that books would sell better. And it’s no secret that marketing and publicity is not my favorite activity. So I might discover that I hate that side of self-publishing. But I’m still enthralled by the possibilities, and I think I will be until I give it a try. 

Shannon Dittemore
Other authors. Reading about the journeys of writers I know and those I simply admire from afar is incredibly inspiring. No one has it easy, friends. This is a rough industry with a lot of negativity, but those who can cut through it and keep writing motivate me to do the same.

Stephanie Morrill
Story Genius by Lisa Cron. This is a craft book I learned about on a podcast about 6 months ago. I checked it out from my library, and about halfway through it--when I was wishing I could underline ALL THE THINGS--I ordered a copy for myself. 

This book broke down the story building process in a different way than I had seen before. It made me think differently about character backstories, and how to build effective story lines, and it gave me a process for doing that. 

I don't use every single tool suggested in the book, but her process really helped me with brainstorming my current novel.

What about you? What's something that has inspired you recently?

Friday, June 23, 2017

How do you transition in and out of your writing cave?

It's Friday again, friends! I'm just so glad we get one of these babies every week.

Today, while you're responding to this panel question, I'll be teaching a teen writing track at a conference in southern California and I can't help but feel like I'm taking you all with me. I learn so much from you guys and I hope you know how grateful I am for that.

We're continuing our summer panel series this morning and if you're just popping in, here's how it works. Jill, Steph and I are answering writing-related questions--just as if we're sitting on a panel at a writing conference--and we hope you'll take the time to answer the question as well.

How do you transition in and out of 

your writing cave?


Shannon Dittemore
Not well. This is a challenge for me. When I’m writing, I want to be writing and doing nothing else (except drinking coffee!). And when I’m with my family, I want to give them my undivided attention. The hardest part is not my physical presence, it’s my mental presence. Sometimes my brain is all story and I’m supposed to be at a football game for my son. Sometimes my brain is all football (a lot of the time, actually) and I’m supposed to be writing a book. Sticking to a schedule and protecting it fiercely is the best way for me to manage daily transitions.

Jill Williamson
It’s not easy for me, either. Though, once upon a time, I did write like Stephanie—when my kids were all napping at once. So, I think you learn to cope with the schedule life hands you. I’ve been working on establishing a writing routine, so that when I do have time to write, going through the motions will help me get into the groove faster. I wrote a Go Teen Writers post on this subject. Click here to read it.

Stephanie Morrill
For me, a lot of it is just habit. For years I’ve been in the habit of having designated writing time. Which means that when Eli goes down for a nap, or when grandparents come over to play with the kids, I automatically head to my office to write. And because I know that writing time is over when Eli wakes up or grandparents needs to leave, I’m able to focus really well. I think that’s a perk of having very limited time in which do your work.

How about you guys? 
How do you transition in and out of YOUR writing cave?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Besides writing, how do you support the publishing industry?

Hi, everyone. Jill here. I hope you're enjoying the summer panels. This week Shannon Dittemore and I are at the SoCal Christian Writers Conference in La Mirada, California watching (and possibly participating in) some live writing panels. I'm teaching spec fiction and Shannon is teaching the teen track. I do love all kinds of writer's conferences. So. Much.

In case you missed it, this summer we're doing Q & A panels. Each day during the months of June, July, and August, we'll post one question. Each of us will answer it, and we want you to answer too!

Besides writing, how do you support the publishing industry?

Jill Williamson
I buy new books. That's one of the best things a person can do to support the publishing industry. I buy used books as well. (I'll buy books anywhere!) But as an author, I know how important it is to buy books new. If I love an author, I make sure to show it by purchasing his or her books.

Once upon a time I reviewed books as well. I reviewed hundreds of books back when I was Novel Teen Book Reviews. Reviews are the third best way you can support your favorite authors next to buying their books new and telling your friends about those books. I don't do as many reviews these days because I haven't been able to read as much and because it can be tricky to review books when you're an author and you start meeting these people at conferences or conventions. (Awkward.) Because of such moments, a few years back I adopted the mantra "If you can't say anything nice in your review, don't write a review." I know how it feels to get negative, hurtful book reviews, and I don't want to do that to another author.

Some other ways I support the industry is to shop for books at places other than I well understand how convenient it is to buy everything from Amazon, but a healthy market is important to this industry. So I have a Barnes and Noble membership, and I buy as many new books from them as I can, online or at a store. I also try to buy books from indie bookstores whenever possible.

Also, checking out books at my local library helps the publishing industry. If the library doesn't have the book, I request an inner-library loan or outright ask the library to order it. Three times now I've requested an inner-library loan and the library responded to say they decided to order a copy of the book. It's so helpful for authors when libraries order their books! And I'm always super excited when my library orders something I requested.

Shannon Dittemore
I make a concerted effort here. One of the things I do is work to be encouraging even when I’m having a hard day. When I’m dealing with rejection or a particularly hard edit, I remind myself that it’s a good day for someone. A day where I get to congratulate them and take part in their joy. This takes practice, you guys. The tendency is to be jealous or bitter that it’s not YOUR DAY. But work to choose joy. It might feel awkward the first time. Might even feel forced, but that just means you’re choosing to act despite discomfort and, honestly, that’s brave. It will change your life. It will change your writing. It will change how you cope with the hard stuff. And everyone deals with hard stuff. Everyone.

Stephanie Morrill
What Shannon said about the feelings when it’s not YOUR DAY rings really true to me. Like when a friend gets a better review in a trade magazine than I do, or is swimming in contract offers when I feel like I’m fighting for each one. Supporting other writers through words of encouragement, even when I’m feeling only 75% happy for them and 25% jealous. Also, publishing is a business, and we vote with our dollars. I use mine to show publishers what books I want there to be more of. And I ask for books for presents for my birthday and Christmas. I’m also raising three little readers!

What about you guys? Tell us how you support the publishing industry.

Monday, June 19, 2017

When you became a published author, what surprised you the most?

I had hoped to join in the fun word warring last week, but I was too busy having fun with the teen writers at the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop. I've taught there for several years, and it's such a fun and loving environment. 

These girls are dressed up for a 1920s party and let me take a picture with them! Aren't they darling? They would have been swell flappers.

Emily, who I've seen at most of the workshops I've been to, brought me a bookmark! And another girl brought a paper lotus to our appointment. So much creativity in that group!

Onto the day's discussion! If you're just joining us, we've decided to do something new for the months of June, July, and August. We're taking turns answering writing questions, just as if we're sitting on a panel at a fancy writing conference. The best part is, we'd love you to answer the questions as well.

Here's today's question:

When you became a published author, what surprised you the most?


Stephanie Morrill
That the insecurity was still there. I thought once I had my contract--or surely when I saw my book on shelves--I would feel validated and confident and all that stuff. Sadly, no.

Jill Williamson
I was most surprised to discover how little time I would have for writing first drafts. Before I was published, I worked and worked to get my manuscripts just right so that they would have the best chance of getting published. Once I had a book out, though, publishers started buying my ideas. (That’s the dream, really.) Yet over and over I underestimated how long it would take me to write those books. I am normally a pretty fast writer, but creating a complex storyworld takes a great deal of effort too. Most often, by the time I had created the world and fell into the swing of my story, I was often behind. I don’t like asking for extensions, so I would work myself frazzled trying to get books in on time. And since I don’t tend to write to any formula, my books are never quite the same in regards to plot, number of characters, or length. This made it very challenging to guestimate how much time I would need when working out the details of a new contract. I think I have finally figured that out, though I’ve also learned that I don’t have to say “yes” to every offer that comes along. I can say “no” or even “not yet,” and I could write the first draft before selling it. Sure, there is always the chance that an offer might disappear and that a finished book won’t sell, but there are times I would feel better knowing I’ve written the book the way I wanted to and didn’t have to rush.

Shannon Dittemore
All the work. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. Outside of the actually writing, there is a ton of marketing work and publicity stuff that authors are expected to do. And depending on your publisher, there’s not always a ton of direction. In all fairness, publishers are often fighting to keep up with current trends and the ever-evolving world of social media. By the time they figure one out, another platform crops up and we’re all expected to be geniuses. It’s a lot to juggle.

We want to hear from you too! If you're published, what surprised you most? If you're not, what's something you learned about writing or being an author that has surprised you?

Friday, June 16, 2017

June 2017 Word War: Day Five

Shannon here!

I hope you're all enjoying your summer break. I mean that. I hope you're enjoying the sunshine and the water. I hope you've got your eyes wide open looking for adventures. I hope you're busting your behind at a summer job or heading off to summer camp. I hope you've found something or someone who could use your strong arms and wily brains. I hope you're squeezing the life out of every sunshine-laden minute.

And, of course, I hope you're making some time to write it all down.

This is it, folks! The last day of the June 2017 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.

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 TONIGHT at midnight Pacific. 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. 

Write on, my friends!