Worst Case Scenarios are Bad For Your Heart and Good For Your Writing

Shaun used to call me, “WC,” because he is evil.

No. Really. He called me that because I’m always thinking up the worst case scenario for every situation and planning for that, which is not a particularly healthy way to live.

But. . . it’s a pretty good way to write. The ‘what if’ element of any situation in real life can be expanded into a story. Throw a ‘what if’ coupled with a ‘worst case scenario’ into your story idea and you have really high stakes.

For the full podcast episode, check out here. 

In the podcast, we talk about William Shatner in a hot tub, pauses, and all the stuff you’re reading right now – but better.

But let’s talk about inserting WORST CASE SCENARIOS INTO STORY.

Like when Carrie wrote the Need series, she thought, “What is the worst thing that can happen to this girl forced to move to Maine from Charleston? Oh. How about her biological father is a pixie king who is kidnapping people to feed off them because he can’t control his hunger and need. Ah. That’s not bad enough. How about we throw in an impending apocalypse and she has to turn pixie to stop it?”

Story ideas can come from anywhere. Your own life. The news. Random stories of friends. Country music videos. But the story ideas that are heart-stopping are the ones where there’s a worst case scenario involved. Take a situation in your life and think, “Whoah, what if those people were cannibals?” or “Whoah, what if that cat was a secret Russian agent?”

Those ‘what if’ stories are the stories that make high stakes and high action.

Don’t be afraid of the worst case scenarios.

Writing News Carrie's  super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August. This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it's all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town. CARRIE’S BOOKS For a complete round-up of Carrie’s 16-or-so books, check out her website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically. Moe Berg OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. Writing Coach Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she's also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie's individual coaching, click here.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Expecting horrible things to happen isn’t healthy. Enough said. Eat bacon instead.

NO, SERIOUSLY, ASK YOURSELF THIS:

What do I need to change in order to get what I want? What do I have to change to make myself a better person? A more successful person? A person I want to be?

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Making horrible things happen in your story is TOTALLY happy. Enough said. Extra tip: Bacon is not good for you nor is it good for pigs.

The music in this podcast is “Check Them In” by Ema Grace and her site is here. We’re able to use this amazing music, thanks to Ema’s kindness and the Creative Commons.

WRITING NEWS

Carrie’s  super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town.

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CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of Carrie’s 16-or-so books, check out her website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

WRITING COACH

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

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Easy First Steps to Marketing Your Books from Marvel and Me

It’s hard for a lot of traditionally-published writers to think of writing as a business.  Like self-published writers, we think of writing as craft. We’re compelled to create it, to tell stories, and then we’re inspired to share those stories. But the thing is that we sometimes forget that we need to make money to do things like have food, shelter, coffee products, and to pay medical bills.

This can be a problem.

We avoid marketing because marketing seems? Anti-craft somehow? I’m not sure. But it isn’t. Marketing is really just about getting people to read the books we’ve created. We write stories as communication. Marketing is making sure there is just someone out there to communicate with, right?

Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
big mountain!

I tell this story a lot because it really struck me. I was a speaker at a Rotary International training. There were a ton of wealthy, successful men in suits. I started to introduce myself and I cringed when I said, “I’m a NYT and internationally bestselling author. That always feels weird to say like I’m bragging.”

And this older gentlemen said, “There is no money in modesty, Carrie. Be proud of that.”

And I paused.

And my brain hiccuped.

Because that line is sort of antithetical to who I am. I don’t go out into the world trying to horde money like Smaug or raise massive amounts of money like certain politicians, but I am super psyched to sell books and be able to buy dinner and feed the dogs fake bacon.

But what really matters from that guy’s sentence is that I use my modesty and self-deprecation to my own detriment. Instead of allowing my story to be out there, I sort of hide from the moments of my success. Why is that? That’s the real question. Because it doesn’t just hold back me. It holds back my books and my ability to buy ice-cream cones for the dogs.

Here’s the thing: 

It’s okay to be glad to not be sleeping in a car. It’s okay to own your success. It’s even better when you use that success as a tool to help other people get there, too? Right? Modesty is lovely. I have big issues with braggarts. But it’s okay to know that you, yourself, have done some cool things. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do better or more or that other people can’t too.

Marketing is about one thing. It’s about caring.

cutie face Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
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So, Here are the First Three Tips on How to Successfully Market Your Book.

Spoiler alert: They have nothing to do with marketing.

 

Make the Best Product

That’s right. Your book is a product. It’s what you’re selling and/or your publisher is selling so you want to make the best book that you can. This is easier said than done.

You have to be willing to put in the work and not be inpatient to get it out there.

 

Let Trust-Worthy, Skilled People Help You

For some people that means editors at a publishing house, agents, critique groups. For some people that means teachers at MFA programs or places like The Writing Barn. But the key is trust – you have to trust their advice and you have to trust yourself to know when that advice isn’t all that.

 

Know What Has Worked in the Past, but Also Move Forward

There’s this weird trend in publishing called the “Writer, You’ve Done That Before” rejection, that as a business person? I can’t get my head around. If you’ve written a similar book, but your readers want more of that? Why not give it to them?

Marvel has this down, man. They have movie after movie about the same superheroes, expanding their universes, connecting them, but following a really similar pattern. One of the keys to the company’s success is that they know what their audience reacts to in their stories:

  1. Humor – deadpan, often flippant
  2. Big Fight Scenes
  3. Some emotional resonance
  4. High stakes
  5. Relatable protagonists.

So, know what your audience reacts to in your stories. Don’t be a big trope, but know what they like.

Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
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In an interview with Nina Pipkin of Entrepreneur Marvel’s director of content and character development, Sana Amanat says, “When you want to make content that is meaningful, I think you have to try to not look at the big statement, but try to go as small as possible. Try to go down to the nitty gritty of who that singular character is — what they want, what they’re afraid of and what their challenges are. What are the elements that really make them a human being? What are the elements that make them relatable? Or even, what are those elements that make the audience angry with them? You really need to make the audience connect with that character.”

The best marketing comes from writing the best stories and characters that you can.

The next steps for marketing your books?

Have a website. 

Pick a couple social media platforms and post on them.

Don’t just post READ MY BOOK/BUY MY BOOK. Post about whatever interests you other than your book.

  1. Do occasionally post READ MY BOOK/BUY MY BOOK. I totally forget to do this, honestly. I’m too busy posting about other people accidentally spitting into my mouth and my skirt falling down.
  2. Be visual.
  3. Do video if you can.

    Care about the people who communicate with you

    1. People don’t want to be ignored. If someone reaches out to you in an email, on social media, communicate back. Not only is it the nice thing to do, it helps you make friends. Readers are real people. Treat them like it.
    2. Seriously.
    3. Remember you aren’t God. You are a human with emotions and flaws and so are the people taking time out of their day to talk to you. Honor that. Honor them.

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,

I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

Revising a Book Is Sort of Like Hell, Basically, So Take Care of Yourself

Back in 2009, I had just finished the revision of CAPTIVATE (sequel to NEED), and after I happy danced, I pretty much passed out.

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The revision of that book was the hardest revision I ever had to do, basically because during that revision I had to work my brain really hard and I was still pretty new to writing novels.

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DURING THAT REVISION:

1. I cut about 40,000 words in two-revision passes.
2. I added about 20,000 more words.
3. I lost all word retrieval skills.
4. I  called everyone I saw BABY  because that was the only word I could retrieve.

5. I lost one friend who didn’t like that I called him BABY and failed to call him back 8,0000 times.
6. I gained three more friends who were into the whole BABY thing.
7. I wondered why I was a writer 74 times (a day).

My whole life went on hold I made lists like this:

Tomorrow I will have to:

1. Call my father who thinks I don’t love him anymore and doesn’t understand that I can’t talk to him in the middle of work when he always talks for at least an hour and it totally ruins my ability to think.

2. Email my mother who is much more understanding.

3. Do push-ups.

4. Pass out again.

5. Reply to blog comments.

Yes, that’s how bad it was. I put ‘pass out’ on my list of things to do.

Revision can be tough especially when there’s a whole lot of pressure on you. To be the best writer and person you can be, you have to take care of yourself, not just your book.

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So here are some tips on how to stay healthy while revising

Get Some Sleep

I know! I know! Writers are supposed to write until they are slumped over their desk and drooling on their keyboard, but this is not actually healthy!

Your brain becomes less efficient the more it needs sleep. So no all-nighters, writing friends.

Have Healthy Snacks, Not Sugary Ones.

Sugar makes you fluctuate between big highs and lows. Nobody wants that.

Stand Up A Lot

Sitting at the desk forever isn’t good for you. Stand up and work whenever you can or at least take breaks from the sitting.

Get Exercise

This is right there with not sitting at your desk all the time, but I made it two separate points. If you take the time to work out before you do your actual writing work, it helps keep you focused and awake.

Drink Water

Dehydrated writers are writers who faint. Fainting is romantic in books, but in real life it leads to concussions. Concussions lead to missed deadlines. Nobody wants that.

Do Good Wednesday

Be a kindness ambassador. I know! I know! It sounds corny, but I’m so super serious. Leave a note, a present, anonymously somewhere in your town or school for someone specific or anyone at all.

Need a specific idea on how to do this? There used to be a blog called Secret Agent L (I think) where the person in charge of the blog went around their town doing this sort of thing. It was cool.

The link is here.

carriejonesbooks.blog

Random Marketing and Book Things Since I am an Author and Need To Make Money.

I KNOW! I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO ADMIT IT. 

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, has a new podcast that came out Tuesday. All the episodes links are on this page.

This podcast is weird, quirky, and totally authentic. I mean, you can tell we are goofy people just trying to share some writing tips and life tips and we are not sitting in the NPR studio. I mean look at us. We’re total dorks.

And finally, I made a little video for my TIME STOPPERS books.

Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.

Writing Is Sometimes Not So Glam, Even When You Win an Award.

Welcome Back to the Glam World of Children’s Book Writing! Not! 

Many of you have heard about the time my skirt fell down to the ground in New  York City during a major book event.

Many of you have heard about the time a reader bit someone else in line trying to grab After Obsession, my  book I wrote with Steve Wedel.

Many of you have heard about the 5 million times I said the wrong thing.

But that’s not all of it.

My Post-6


So I won a few awards for Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, my debut novel. Sometimes these awards ceremonies were hard to survive.

Yes, I did just write survive.

One of these times was when I won a Maine Literary Award.

The people at the awards ceremony were incredibly nice and kind. Grape-eating abounded. Brie-eating abounded. There was wine. But more importantly there was sparkling cider. The awards were held in a dark room on the seventh floor of a library. Yes, there are buildings with over three floors in Maine, thank you very much.

But I expected to be like this:
(Image from solar navigator)

Instead, I was like this:
(image from the Times)
Why?

Well, a woman who is very nice read pieces of the award winners and then presented them with the award. There were awards for poetry, published fiction, published non-fiction, published children’s book (THIS IS WHAT I WON!) and then there were awards for teen writers, which is super ultra-cool, because let me tell you that winning an award looks SOOOOOOOO good on college applications.
(Dakota Fanning right here knows that she is going to get into every college she wants.)

Anyway, I went up. I received my award. I smiled. I hugged. I went back to my seat while people applauded. I did not fall down. My skirt did not fall down. I did not say any swear words or call anyone by the wrong name.

I thought I had made it through.

I thought I was safe.

I thought wrong.

Then an ultra-cute teen went up and received her award. She went back to her seat, then the host called the teen’s name into the darkness and asked what high school the ultra-cute, ultra-good-writer teen went to.

“Scarborough,” the teen replied. Her voice flitted through the darkness.

Then the host said INTO THE MICROPHONE (!), “Carrie. What high school do you go to?”

Me:

Everyone in the audience turned their heads to stare at me.

Me:

Super cool administrator of the program started saying, “No! Carrie — Carrie — wrote –“

Me (finally capable of speech): No! I’m —  I’m old.

People began laughing.

People began laughing somewhat hysterically, snorting wine out their noses.

People could not stop laughing.

Emily, my super lovable kid, pet my back, and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. They won’t remember.”

Sigh.

I remember.

And this is why I remind myself that I’m not a writer for the potential glory. I’m a writer because I love story, I love writing, and I write for kids because kids and teens are awesome.

Kate DiCamillo said, “Stories are light. And light is precious in a world so dark.”

That light makes the embarrassment worth it.

My Post-5 copy

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, had a new episode Tuesday. It’s about dialogue. It’s pretty funny. Actually, it’s super funny. Check it out.

My Post-2 copy

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image
 

 

Bonus Podcast – Embrace Your Weird

Carrie is sadly solo in this podcast where she discusses how one of the weirdest book ideas ever came from Maine’s Common Ground Fair and a man who had a tail.

He also smelled like dead mice, but who is judging?

The book series made the New York Times bestseller’s list and was a best seller abroad, so weird ideas? Those are good ideas.

Bonus Podcast – Embrace Your Weird

 
 
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Rescuing People and the Writing Barn Scholarship

My dog Scotty had the unique ability called UNLOCKING THE DOOR WITH HIS MOUTH AND THEN TURNING THE KNOB OF THE DOOR AND THEN PUSHING IT OPEN SO HE CAN FROLIC OUTSIDE.

In the dog world this made him a superhero.

But, it could be occasionally unnerving to his human (Hint: His human is me) in that I got all stressed out and frazzled about book edits and would suddenly hear him barking…. FROM OUTSIDE! Which is what happened one December.

Dogs here in Maine aren’t supposed to randomly roam around outside, plus it was hunting season, plus Scotty thought one neighbor of ours was the antichrist and he thought the only way to stop this apocalypse involved him running in front of her Toyota truck and barking at her.

So, I would worry about him.

He thought my worrying about him was silly.  He thought his job was to worry about me. He was wrong.

Anyway, this one December day, a couple of years ago, I heard him do the end-the-apocalypse bark, and I threw on some ballet flats and jumped in the MINI, zipped up my driveway hill and there was Scotty barking and protecting the driveway from a car that was not the Toyota. It was a car that had fallen into a ditch and there was a man trying to shovel the car out.

I jumped out of my MINI, put Scotty in the car and said, “Can I help?”

The man was Joe, an older guy who has some major health issues and lived down the street. He was like, “Oh yeah.”

A white-haired lady inside the car looked at me and said, “Please.”

It was a front-wheel drive car. It had no super cool, studded tires like the MINI. And the driver had tried to get up the snow-covered monster hill that is my road and the car then slid all the way down. Her car was tilted at this funky angle.

It was pretty bad.

Joe and I got behind it and pushed. We pushed some more. My ballet flat went in the snow. I fell down. Joe fell down. The car didn’t move. We tried again. We tried again. And again. I lost feeling in my butt because it was so cold. And yeah,  I didn’t put a jacket on or anything and my hair was wet from  the shower.

This whole time that Joe and I were fighting against the wicked machine that was Mrs. Austen’s unbudging car, I was thinking about helping people and books and writing and even politics because let’s face it… you get bored pushing cars that don’t move. It’s sort of like a story that refuses to be revised well.

What I thought…

So a lot of the time when people start to criticize books they get really… um… agitated… if they think the female character gets rescued too much.  And people are sort of SUPER sensitized to it so much that they flip out if anyone helps out the female character ever.

And I get that.
I get that female readers need to know that they can rescue themselves, that they don’t need a boy to do it, and that if girls think that then it makes them dependent. I mean, I think about that all the time when I wrote the NEED books. And Zara (my main character) thought about that all the time. I thought about it when I wrote FLYING and TIME STOPPERS and pretty much everything.

But it also makes me worried. Because the truth is that we all need rescuing constantly. We all need help. Boys need help. Girls need help. Authors who are neurotic about their next book coming out need help. And I want a balance in books and in movies. I want different genders and ages to help each other, to respect help, to be able to receive help. It’s about balance and intention.

And the thing is that in real life? You just do it. You just help (hopefully, unless you’re in a reality show or something and think it’s all about you). I wasn’t about to ignore that older woman in her car because she was:
1. Older
2. Female

I didn’t think, “Hm…. Perhaps, I shouldn’t help her because she should get that car out of the ditch all by herself even though she does have a cane and a fake hip that hasn’t fully healed yet. If I help her I am actually oppressing her.”

And Joe who almost died last year from a heart issue didn’t think that either, I bet.

So, I guess that’s my point. Go help somebody today! And thank somebody who has helped you.

Here are my thank you’s:

Thank you to everyone who has rescued me from writer insecurity this year, who have saved me from sad when Scotty died, when Emily went away. Thank you to the people who have made me laugh. Thank you to the people who reminded me that there are people of hope, people who dream, people who are good. You have totally been my rescuers in a year that should be struck from the canon of years and I owe you! YAY YOU!!! xoxxo

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Writing Barn Class

There is an awesome scholarship being offered at the Writing Barn for Write! Submit! Support! an awesome online class that I’m teaching in 2018. The class is for novelists of all genres, but the scholarship is for middle grade authors. Also, the deadline to sign up is super soon. SO SIGN UP! Give yourself a present for the new year!

DETAILS ABOUT THE AWESOME SCHOLARSHIP

Katherine Applegate, Newbery winning and NYT bestselling author, and good friend of The Writing Barn has created the Mary Carolyn Davies/Wishtree MG Write. Submit. Support. Scholarship to be awarded to:

 

  • either (1) MG writer for the full amount of a Write. Submit. Support. registration ($1800)

OR

  • to be shared by (2) MG writers for half the amount of a Write. Submit. Support. registration ($900)

 

This scholarship honors poet, novelist and playwright Mary Carolyn Davies.

Why Write?

A few years ago, I was involved in a podcast with Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Melissa Marr, Janni Lee Simner, & Jennifer Barnes.

This is sort of weird, but cool. Anyway, it was really great talking about books and urban fantasy with them.

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This was during the era of NEED.

But the thing is…

I never get to really express what I feel about writing in those kinds of things. Sure, I can talk about hamster (or hampster) erotica, but I never get to say the reason I write. And I think that it’s easy for me to be quippy when I answer or even trite and those responses are still true (I’ve listed them below):

I write because I want my voice heard.

I write because I don’t know how not to.

I write so kids can have stories where they see themselves.

I write because I want to be part of building empathy, of lifting kids up instead of pushing them down.

I write because nobody can interrupt me. People always interrupt me. Even my dogs interrupt me.
But that’s not the whole truth. It’s not the truth beneath the truth. So, bear with me (or ignore this), the reason I write is this:

I started out as a poet (yes, a bad poet) and to me stories are still poems. When you craft stories to express what you see and you experience in the world (be it good, bad, cruddy, sexy) you are taking a massive amount of observation and imagination and  creating something with meaning… it’s a meaning that should resonate not just with you but with the rest of humanity.

I don’t care what genre you do or you don’t fit into. I think this applies throughout.

It’s the emotion, the search for understanding of people’s (characters’) actions and movement, that helps us make our connections to each other and to the rest of humanity.

That’s why I write.

Why do you?