Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Deadlines and My Friend Procrastination

Writing is 90% Procrastination and 30% Panic
As readers may recall from my previous posts, I am in the process of applying to low-residency MFA programs for the summer semester. As part of the application process, I'm required to submit 25 pages of my own creative work. 

I started the process in December and with an application deadline of mid-February, I thought "oh good, plenty of time!". I mean, it's just 25 pages and I've already written a significant amount so how hard could it be?

Apparently very hard. Here's my timeline:

Late December:     10 pages completed 

Early January:        Took a break to work on my critical essay (4 pages) and personal essay       
                               (3 pages)

Mid January:           Reviewed first 10 pages. Something didn't feel right. Mauled over story    
                                for a few more days

Late January:          Finished another 10 pages (pretty much pulling teeth) but couldn't
                                muster energy to complete another 5 pages (still wasn't 100% about the 

Early February:       Ack! Scrapped the first twenty pages. Started from scratch. 
                                Scramble to write 25 pages of something that "feels right"
5 days before          Finish twenty five pages.
deadline:                 Review, Review, Review!

1 day before            Do final edits on both essays and 25 pages

Deadline day:          Final edits UP TO THE LAST MINUTE!

It seemed fitting that this chart popped up the day after I submitted.

How's your writing process? Similar? Totally Different? Tips to prevent procrastination?

The Creative Process Diagram

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Traveling Writer: Best Mobile Apps

I'm going on a cross-country trip next week and will be gone for more than two weeks, which means I'm thinking about the best ways to keep up the momentum on my current draft.
Here are some mobile apps that come highly recommended by other writers. I'm going to check out at least a few of these!

1. Scrivener for iOS
If you've been following this blog for a while, you've probably learned that I puffy-heart love the computer program Scrivener, the best drafting and organization tool around. They recently released a much-anticipated mobile version that syncs seamlessly with the desktop program. It looks like a great way to get a few hundred words in here and there in airports or before bed.

2. Evernote
Because I'm still in the ideas phase of my draft, you can bet I'm going to be using this mobile note-taking application frequently. Evernote saves notes, pictures, sketches, lists, and other items all in one place. It's then easy to access them on your main computer later.

3. Freemind
I haven't tried mind mapping as a way to organize a story, but it sounds really interesting. This app lets you easily create a mind map, or system of points branching out from a central topic. I used to like this method when it was mandatory in my English classes, so I might give it another try!

4. Pomodoro Timer
What writer doesn't have trouble with time management? This app follows a traditional pomodoro method time schedule (25 minutes working with a 3-5 minute break), which seems like an ideal short stretch for writing on the go.

What are your favorite mobile writing apps?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Journaling & Writing

The journal I'm keeping these days.
I love that it's silver, zips up, and has a mark from my hot cocoa mug.
Doesn't loving the journal make it so much more fun to write in it?

"After my husband died, I could not write much - I could not concentrate. I was too exhausted most of the time even to contemplate writing. But I did take notes - not for fiction, but for a journal, or diary, of this terrible time. I did not think that I would ever survive this interlude." --Joyce Carol Oates

Confession: While I'm in a different situation from Joyce Carol Oates, this is the first time in my life I've wrestled with something so hard I've been unable to read or write outside of work (even that has become more challenging). Lately, though, I've been finding that I am able to keep a journal, something I haven't done regularly in many years. I'm really kind of loving it, and I'm not alone. Here are some thoughts from the greats on journaling:

Even when I'm not journaling regularly,
I always love to carry a small Moleskine
notebook to jot down ideas, poems, entries, etc.

“The habit of writing for my eye is good practice. It loosens the ligaments.” 
― Virginia Woolf

“A good journal entry- like a good song, or sketch, or photograph- ought to break up the habitual and life away the film that forms over the eye, the finger, the tongue, the heart. A good journal entry ought to be a love letter to the world.” 
― Anthony Doerr

“My dear madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies' ways as you wish to believe me; it is this delightful habit of journalizing which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are celebrated. Every body allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.” 
― Jane Austen

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." -- Ray Bradbury
The last time I regularly journaled was in this
(only blank page pictured). My best friend took
a classic black Moleskine and glued in pics,
quotations, etc. as a gift when I left to spend a
summer in Israel. Really cool idea if you want
to try it.

"The only thing I have done religiously in my life is keep a journal. I have hundreds of them, filled with feathers, flowers, photographs, and words - without locks, open on my shelves." --Terry Tempest Williams

"When I write notes in my journal, I'm just trying to scribble down as much as possible. Later on, I decide whether to follow some of those first impressions or whether to abandon them." --Natasha Trethewey

"I keep threatening to keep a formal journal, but whenever I start one it instantly becomes an exercise in self-consciousness. Instead of a journal I manage to have dozens of notebooks with bits and pieces of stories, poems, and notes. Almost every thing I do has its beginning in a notebook of some sort, usually written on a bus or train." --Walter Dean Myers

"The first set of lyrics for the first songs I ever wrote, which are the ones on 'Pretty Hate Machine,' came from private journal entries that I realized I was writing in lyric form." --Trent Reznor

"I've always written. There's a journal which I kept from about 9 years old. The man who gave it to me lived across the street from the store and kept it when my grandmother's papers were destroyed. I'd written some essays. I loved poetry, still do. But I really, really loved it then." --Maya Angelou

"I write journals and would recommend journal writing to anyone who wishes to pursue a writing career. You learn a lot. You also remember a lot... and memory is important." --Judy Collins

"For me, writing is a way of thinking. I write in a journal a lot. I'm a very impatient person, so writing and meditation allow me to slow down and watch my mind; they are containers that keep me in place, hold me still." --Ruth Ozeki

What are your thoughts on journaling? Any tips? Favorite styles of journals? Times a journal saved you?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pinterest for Writers

Projects and recipes I find on Pinterest don't always turn out so well - like this pumpkin-duct tape book report project my son brought home.  Even if I've had a few pinterest failures,  that hasn't stop me from trying out new things or from spending hours and hours on searching for ideas.   I love Pinterest, but not just in my personal life, but also in my writing life.

In terms of writing, I like Pinterest for two reasons:

1. Writing advice - need I say more?
The advice is often short, sweet, and to the point.  Everything I want is at my fingertip and can be saved to my board!

2. Pictures!!!!
Lots and lots of pictures that I can use to help bring my setting and characters alive.  Having those visual images in my front of me can really help sharpen the details of my writing.

So, love it or hate it. Pinterest can be another tool for writers.  Happy Writing!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

NYT besting selling author Brenda Drake talks writing advice, GUARDIAN OF SECRETS plus a chance to win an Amazon giftcard & Swag!

I'm SO excited to have New York Times bestselling author Brenda Drake with us today, chatting writing advice and her latest and Greatest, Guardian of Secrets, the second book in The Library Jumper series. And I gotta be honest -I'm totally fan girling over here.

If you don't know Brenda Drake, you need to. First of all, Thief of Lies, the first book in the series, is un-put-downable. If you haven't read it you need to drop everything you are doing and read it now (after you read the interview, of course 😉) Second, Brenda does a tremendous amount for the writing community, including leading Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness. I have Pitch Madness to thank for my agent, and I am one example of about a thousand writers she's helped. *bows down with gratitude*

I'll stop gushing and get to the questions. 😋 Don't forget to scroll to the bottom for a chance to win a $50 Amazon giftcard!

Thanks so much for coming to Thinking to Inking! We're so excited to have you! I've been following your blog for years--I'm kinda fan-girling over here. What you do for writers is tremendous - thank you x 1000!

Aww, that’s so sweet. Thank you for hosting me today!

Thank YOU for bring here. Tell us a little bit about Guardian of Secrets.

Well, it’s the second book in the Library Jumpers series. The Wizard Council sends Gia into hiding with her family, friends, and the Sentinels. Nick struggles to control his growing powers. Jealousies and mistrusts arise within the tight group. As Gia and Nick jump to some of the most stunning libraries in search for the remaining Chiavi, a new threat arises within the libraries. During one of their searches, Gia trips a trap door ends up in a wasteland full of danger and secrets. To return to her family and friends, Gia will have to make a sacrifice, one that will cost her someone she loves.

Who's your favorite character?
This is such a difficult question. All my characters are favorites. When I don’t like them, I cut them out or kill them. Ha! But seriously, I think it has been Gia in the Library Jumpers series. She’s a combination of many girls I love in my life. When I’m in her head, I can relive the joys I’ve had with my girls.

Was your writing process for Guardian of Secrets different for Thief Of Lies, the first book in the The Library Jumpers series, or your other books Touching Fate and Cursing Fate?

My writing process is basically the same for all my books. Before I start a story, I do short character bios and setting research. Next, I do a four-act plot graph. It’s skeletal and I only use it as a road map for the story. Then I write, letting the characters and inspiration lead me on that road, fleshing out the story as I go. Sometimes, I go off-road and take a detour, but the direction I’m going usually stays the same. After I have a first draft, I revise it.

Will there be a third book in the series?

Yes, there will be. I’m currently writing the final book, Assassin of Truths. It’s been a challenge, but I’m really loving the ending.

The covers for both books in the Library Jumpers Series are amazing! How much input did you get in the design of your cover and what was that process like?
My publisher is great at taking my vision of what I wanted my covers to look and making it even better. So I guess, I just had some input at the beginning and they took my ideas and worked with it, coming up with the beautiful covers. I absolutely love them!

What advice would you give writers still working to make their publishing dreams a reality?

Learn your trade. The best way to do that is to read and research how the publishing industry works. Write something every day. It doesn’t have to be much. Something as simple as a page a day would work, and you never know, by the end of the year, you’ll have written a novel. If you’ve finished that novel and are searching for an agent, never give up. Rejections can hurt, but don’t get discourage. Instead, learn from them. Keep writing and querying new stories until the right one clicks with agents. And learn patience—you’ll need it. Publishing is excruciatingly slow at times.

What advice do you have for authors working on writing book two in a series? Any tips or tricks you learned along the way that you can pass along to us?

Keep a series bible. This is where you put descriptions of all the characters in the series and all the settings. I also keep notes on what I need to tie up in the following books. Jot down notes and ideas for the next books as they come to you so you won’t forget them.

Gia from Thief of Lies and Guardian of Secrets can travel to libraries all around the world, which is pretty bad ass. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I would want the power to go back in time and visit my loved ones that have passed away.

Aw, I love that. What are you reading now?

I can’t say what I’m reading right now, because I’m judging for the RWA RITA awards. We’re not allowed to reveal which books we are judging. It’s top secret. I will say, it is something that I would have never have picked up for myself, and I’m loving it!

Favorite Writing Snack?

Coffee and Gold Fish crackers, but not together. Yuck! Or maybe not yuck, because I do eat the smore’s ones with my coffee.

Congrats on the launch of Guardian of Secrets. I can't wait to find out what happens to Gia next! And thanks so much for stopping by Thinking to Inking!

This was fun! Thank you so much for hosting me today.

About Guardian of Secrets:

Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2) by Brenda Drake 
Publication Date: February 7, 2017 

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens. 

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it. 

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia. 

Maybe. If she survives.

Other books in the series: Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1)

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world's most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik's world and her own, before both are destroyed.

About Branda Drake

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1),
Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2), Touching Fate (Fated Series #1), and Cursing Fate (Fated Series #2). She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. She hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hashtag, #PitMad. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Giveaway Information: $50 Amazon Gift Card with Guardian of Secrets swag pack *International winners will only get $50 GC*

Thursday, February 2, 2017

What's In the Room?

Stop whatever you're doing now and look around you. What's the first thing you see? The second? The third? Write them down. 

Look at the list, and think about what it says about you.

This is an exercise I do in my classroom, and inevitably the kids generally write down different items since I have a pretty cluttered classroom. Like those old inkblot (Rorschach) tests, it says a lot about them if they focus on the American flag, or the Chagall painting, the windows, the carpet, the books, the sandwich of the kid next to them, their own socks, etc. etc.

The same holds true with your characters. In a crowded subway station, what three things do they notice? It's an opportunity to condense a lot of insight into the character without overwhelming us with setting. Just remember to report the three things THEY would notice, and not what you would notice.

Here is what I just saw when I looked around: :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

WriteOnCon is Back!

If you've been part of the online kidlit writing community for a while, you may remember WriteOnCon, an amazing, completely online writer's conference that ran from 2010-2013. Putting on the conference was a TON of work, including boatloads of planning, setting up and monitoring forums for sharing work, and hosting live agent chats and keynote presentations. The organizers (understandably) decided to take a break after the 2013 conference, and it wasn't certain whether it would be held again.

I learned so much from the conference back in 2013, and I even got a couple of ninja agent requests after sharing my query and pages in the forums. So I was delighted to see that there's a shiny new WriteOnCon for 2017! It begins tomorrow, February 2, and runs through the end of the day on Saturday, February 4.

One of the big changes this year is that there's a nominal $1 fee to attend the conference. This gets you access to the blogs and vlogs. If you want to attend the live events with industry professionals, the cost is $5. This money helps defray the cost of web hosting and the time of the organizers and industry professionals.

And guys, it is TOTALLY WORTH IT. You'll pay a minimum of several hundred dollars to attend even a very small conference in person—and this one you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home! If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that all of us here at Thinking to Inking are huge fans of writing conferences (in fact, that's how we all met!). WriteOnCon is an awesome way to mingle with like-minded people and benefit from the wisdom and experience of industry professionals, even if you don't have the time and/or money to go to an in-person conference.

Interested in checking it out? The main WriteOnCon page is here. There you'll find links to register, FAQs, schedules, and more.

(Psst: you can post your query and pages in the WOC forums for other writers to read and critique for free, even if you don't want to attend other parts of the conference. I have it on good authority that there will be secretive ninja agents and editors prowling around, so you may even get a request to see more pages if they like what they see!)