Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Summer and Writing

It's happened every year since I went back to work. At the beginning of the summer, I think about how much time I'll have. How much writing I'll get done. How many queries and submissions I'll send out before school starts and I go back to work.

But during the summer, life gets in the way. And that's okay.

Summer is for the kids. It's meant to be filled with days of doing little or nothing, of playing in the sun or relaxing in the shade. Staying up late, going to the movies, taking trips near or far, doing projects we might not have time for during the school year.

So what if I'm having fun with my kids instead of writing as much as I wanted to? Soon enough my kids will be grown up and I'll have more writing time that I'll know what to do with!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Weakness is my weakness

I finally figured it out. That elusive something that was missing from my novel in verse, SHARRA'S WAR:


My main character, Sharra, is too perfect. Too faithful, too determined, too selfless. Sure, she's a little insecure and has no clue how to use her unique ability. But that is SO not enough. And I've finally realized it (or, finally admitted it to myself).

During this realization, I have seen a pattern emerge. Many of my characters don't have big enough flaws. They don't have the room they need to stretch and grow and overcome their weaknesses.

I knew I had hit on something when I discussed this with daughter #2. She once told me that SHARRA'S WAR was perfect and that she would be mad at me if I changed it. But when I told her the other day that I think the problem with SHARRA'S WAR is that Sharra isn't flawed enough, she looked at me with a mildly pained expression and said, "Yeah," with a little nod of her head.

I've always known that characters need to be flawed. And now I am seeing what that really means for my own characters. We all need plenty of growing room, after all.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Ups and ups

Time's up!
Staying up.
Following up...?
Email popping up.
Looking up.
Reading up.
Keeping chin up.
What's UP???

Friday, July 01, 2011

You've gotta be crazy to do this

Writing a picture book can be an agonizing experience. It is nothing less than a form of self-inflicted torture (SIT)!

When writing a picture book, the author must squeeze enormous themes and concepts into a tiny package. She must develop characters, create tension, and build a plot, using vivid language and bold imagery to tell a complete story--all in less than 1000 words. Often in less than 600 words!

On the surface, this process may not seem very daunting. But the emotional trauma caused by SIT can be excruciating. A picture book author is often forced to cut beloved lines from her story, perhaps never to see them again. She is subjected to a storm of harsh criticism from her peers. She will agonize for hours over a single word, stress out over her growing word count, worry that after all her efforts she'll have to scrap the story and start again from scratch. She suffers from discouragement, self-doubt, and, sometimes, an overwhelming feeling of failure.

And then there are the physical effects of SIT. A picture book author spends hours on end "on her end," all too often with little or no tangible progress to show for it. She may be sleep-deprived, malnourished, and appear disheveled. She may also suffer from tension in her neck, shoulders and back, writing cramps and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Occasionally, the picture book author may come to her senses and realize that she is a crazy nut-ball for doing this to herself, but that moment of clarity rarely lasts long. The truly determined picture book author toughs it out, because she knows that telling a great story is worth the struggle it takes to get there.