Dogs Are Smarter Than People Podcast – First Drafts Suck, But It’s Okay

Hard writer truth time:

First drafts suck.

Almost everything stinks the first time you do it. That’s because it’s THE FIRST time you do it. But, we tend to expect to have our writing be perfect somehow.

Why?

Guitarists don’t expect to be Mark Knopffler the moment they pick up a guitar. Singers don’t expect to be Norah Jones the first time they sing. Sculptors don’t expect to be Michelangelo.

Here’s the Thing:

Being good takes practice.

And even if you’ve written 100 novels already? There is a high likelihood that your first draft of your next novel? It’s going to suck.

But it’s not the end of the world. The end of the world is when you give up.

So, how do you make your sucky first draft better?

Think about it.

 

How to Get Past Your crappy first draft. Three secret ways to write better
You can do it

WRITER TIP OF THE POD

You want to make that first draft a better second draft? Think of these three things to start off right.

  1. Think about what your character wants more than anything in the world. Make sure you have that in your story.
  2. Think about what your character would never do – not ever. Revise your story so that this becomes a high moment of tension, of possibility.
  3. Add tension to every page. EVERY PAGE!

DOG TIP FOR LIFE!

Sometimes, it’s hard to catch the ball in your mouth, especially the first time. Try again anyways. Once you do it right, you get the ball… in your mouth! Score!

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

 

Dogs Are Smarter Than People Podcast – First Drafts Suck, But It’s Okay

 
 
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Perfectionism – It’s good. It’s bad. It’s a pain for writers.

Perfectionists aren’t perfect people. They are almost always miserable people.

Seriously.

Think about it.

There’s no such thing as perfect and if you are constantly trying to achieve perfection? What happens? Misery happens. This is true for your life and for your writing. The sad news is that a lot of writers are perfectionists, which means they are miserable.

There’s this great article on the Verywell Mind that has the 10 signs that you might be a perfectionist. But here are some of the signs:

Signs of Perfectionism

All-Or-Nothing Thinking – You can only accept perfection, your goal, nothing else will do.

Critical Eye – Tiny mistakes are the kingdom of your land and you fixate on them.

“Push” vs “Pull” – According to the article, perfectionist are “pushed toward their goals by a fear of not reaching them.” But high achieving people? They are happy making steps towards the goals and not constantly worrying/stressing about not getting there yet.

Unrealistic Standards – Your goal to be God is ridiculous. That’s basically all this is. Your goal is to be the ultimate at something, something that is not possible. And you know it, but you still make that your goal.

Focusing on Only Results – You don’t care about the process of getting there.

Depressed by Unmet Goals – What is this thing called happiness? Perfectionists have a hard time knowing this thing.

Fear of Failure – It is overwhelming and it starts to taint everything perfectionists do.

Procrastination – Elizabeth Scott puts this in her article and phrases it so well, “This is because, fearing failure as they do, perfectionists will sometimes worry so much about doing something imperfectly that they become immobilized and fail to do anything at all! This leads to more feelings of failure, and a vicious cycle is thus perpetuated.”

Defensiveness – Constructive criticism is the enemy and not a tool for betterment. Constructive criticism hurts.

Low Self Esteem – Being super critical of yourself? It doesn’t help your self. Your esteem actually lessens.

Three Tips to Fight Perfectionism
So so so sad

Those are so sad, aren’t they? That’s not how you want to feel, is it? So, how do you overcome your own perfectionist mindset?

Three Steps to Overcoming Perfectionism

Recognize that you do it.

Talk realistically to yourself.

Practice looking at things from other’s points of view

Writing Tip of the Podcast
Writing Tip of the Podcast

Writing Tip of the Pod: Recognize your perfectionism and realize that it’s holding you back. Allow yourself to be happy.

Dog Tip for Life: There is no such thing as perfection, there is no one way to be. Some bacon may be crunchy. Some bacon may be soggy. All bacon is perfect. So are you.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

Carrie will 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, she’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council.

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

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.

But here is the link to our podcast today about perfectionism!

Dogs are Smarter Than People, the podcast
Look, Mom! It’s a podcast.

Perfectionism – It’s good. It’s bad. It’s a pain for writers.

 
 
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The Space Where Our Power is At

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Victor Frankl

Heidegger said that “being” is always in relation to something else. Human life is “da sein,” which is often translated into “being in the world.”

That’s a pretty cool phrase – being in the world.

How we experience our nows is part of what is necessary to live fully and presently as possible. Experience is part of being. (Gendlin, 1996).

But the thing is that so many of us forget to experience our existence, our being, our space in this world. Why should we do this?

It helps center us.

Focusing on our experience helps make us remember who we are in the moment and it makes us feel better.

Where is the space that our power is at? It’s in that focus, that attention to experience.

A pretty mellow exercise to do this is as follows:

  1. Pay attention to your body.
  2. How does it feel?
  3. Are your feet on the floor? Does it feel right to be touching the ground?
  4. Move on to your legs. How are you standing, walking, sitting in this world?
  5. You have a back. It’s supporting you. How is it doing that?
  6. Your arms, your hands, your fingers. Your fingers are pretty magical. They are sense magicians, bringing information from the outside into your brain. How cool is that?
  7. How does the light or darkness feel against your skin? Do you smell things? Is there wind?
  8. Now think about you in this space and say, “I am.”
  9. You are.
  10. I am.
  11. Did you see anything? Feel anything? Release anything?
  12. Now say, “I am here.”

You are. You are in this world.

Creating resonance and cohesion in your life and your story. Tips on how to make life better.
Resonate

Dog Tip for Life: Dogs are always in this world, vitally connected to it. They know that their existence is part of everything. I am here pretty much oozes off a dog’s every moment.

Writing Tip of the Pod: Just like we have to fully feel our own existence, we have to feel our characters’ existence, what is like to be them, interacting with the world we’ve created for them. Imagine yourself as your character. Imagine yourself as your character doing that exercise. Now write down a paragraph as them, first person.

Carrie Jones Books NYT bestselling author's writing tips and life tips. Plus, dogs.
This is a happy dog

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.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

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!

The Podcast

Dogs are Smarter Than People, the podcast
Look, Mom! It’s a podcast.

And please subscribe to and like our podcast if you listen and spread the word. It’s kind of you and it makes us feel happy. The RSS feed is here.

The Space Where Our Power is At

 
 
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Finding Success Even After You Make Mistakes

So, Carrie’s been thinking a lot about success lately and if you check out her blog you’ll see she’s had a heck of a last two weeks trying to define success and come to terms with it and all that.

But here’s the thing. Nobody wants to fail. You can talk about loving the process and that’s important, but striving for success is also important. For authors, getting a mindset for success can be… well, almost impossible.

Three hot tips for success when you mess up

Three Hot Tips For Success After Screwing Up

Look for Inspiration – Spend 10 minutes with things that inspire you. For some people that’s music, poetry, dogs, being outside, listening to an awesome podcast.

Don’t be Rigid – Understand that no matter how well you plan, life is chaos. If your plan has a glitch, a swerve? Don’t let that freak you out so much that you stop. Be flexible like you do yoga all the time or something.

When you Mess Up Learn From It – Dwelling in mistakes and failures keeps you in those places mentally. Stepping back and wondering, “What can I learn from this so next time I rock it?” That’s what makes a success mindset.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Dog kissing helps

Dog Tip for Life: When you meet people who suck, thank them in your head for teaching you whatever they taught you. Write down how you are a better dog because you learned something from them. Yes, that ‘something’ might be to stay away from men who smell like asparagus and like to kick, but it’s still a life lesson. You’ve learned it.

Dogs are Smarter Than People, the podcast
Look, Mom! It’s a podcast.

Writing Tip of the Pod: Mistakes happens. That’s okay. It’s how you recover from mistakes, from bad plots, crappy sales, rejections  – that is what makes the difference. Question your story constantly. Ask other people who are honest to check it out.

We all make mistakes, but what makes some people a still a success is that after they realize that they’ve made a mistake that’s hurt other people or themselves or their organization, they acknowledge it, apologize for it, and try to do better.

That’s it. Three steps.

Acknowledge it.

Apologize for it.

Educate yourself and do better.

That’s important in relationships, too. Saying you’re sorry is a promise to try to not repeat the hurt you’ve caused and/or the mistake you made.

 

The link to the podcast episode about this is right here. Be warned, we talk about toilet paper during our random thought time and we’re in a car. So things are a bit . . . punchy.

 

Carrie’s Writing News

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!

To find out more about my books, there are links in the header. And if you buy one? Thank you so much. Let me know if you want me to send you a bookplate.

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

COOKING WITH A WRITER

Carrie has started a tongue-in-spoon subgroup in her blog all about cooking vegetarian recipes as a writer. It is silly. The recipes still work though. Check it out here.

Black Bean Soup Recipe. Cooking with a Writer
There are white beans in this image. Try to pretend they aren’t there, okay?

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome six-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let Carrie be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.

Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.

What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking action School Library Journal

Finding Success Even After You Make Mistakes

 
 
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Boobs, Awards and How to Face Your Fears in front of Katherine Paterson

Sometimes our fear of failure gets so super big that it keeps us from going towards our goals.

Do you know what I mean?

Like sometimes that fear keeps us from going after what it is we really want to do or be or experience? That’s how it is for me sometimes at least.

It almost kept me from getting an award

One time, fear almost held me back from experiencing what was probably one of the biggest moments in my little life. This is because I have social anxiety. It’s almost like stage fright. I’m so good when I’m at someone’s house or an event or a meeting, but before I get there? I spend most of my time thinking, “I do not want to go here. How do I not go here? Agh… Maybe they will cancel.”

But it isn’t because I don’t enjoy myself when I’m at my friend’s house or at an event. I love being at friends’ houses and events. I present as an extrovert and I love people.

Honesty moment: Sometimes I totally don’t enjoy myself at a meeting and my anxiety makes sense because being bored is not fun.

Anyways, my ahead-of-time anxiety comes from this weird fear of failure – that I won’t be good enough, that I will be too awkward, that people will make fun of me.

It’s all pretty second grade.

How To Face Your Fear of Failure
Wednesday Writing Wisdoma

A couple of years ago this fear almost kept me from a really cool life event. I was in D.C. for some American Library Association conference. And there was a  Vermont College of Fine Arts party that I was so stressed about. It was at Tami Lewis Brown’s House.  Katherine Paterson was going to be there.

Yes, that Katherine Paterson. Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson!

I totally didn’t want to go. I was stressed about making a fool of myself in front of Katherine Paterson.

And to make it worse, I was totally freaked out about how I could avoid M. T. Anderson because he’s so tall I found it intimidating. And his book FEED was why I even applied to Vermont College. He taught there then.

And I was worried about what I was wearing because my social anxiety sends me right back into a spiral of awkward worries about superficial things.

To be fair, it was summer. So people wore dresses and sleeveless dresses. I am from Maine. I am used to fleece and flannel.

How To Face Your Fear of Failure - tips from NYT bestselling children's book author Carrie Jones
I am basically this sheep.

And I ended up having to wear my cardigan the whole time because my dress was way too cleavage-y.

How do I know this? I know this because the doorman at the hotel  stared at it and asked if I wanted to “hang out.”

Really.

And I am a children’s book author! I am supposed to be not the type of person people can ask out. Wait. Am I??

Or the type that is supposed to have their boobs hang out?

I mean, either meaning of ‘hang out?’ It wasn’t a good thing.

Anyways, I think part of the problem was I told the doorman that I loved him when he ran after the shuttle bus for me. Bad Carrie! Bad!

So, I sat on the shuttle bus, buttoning my cardigan, almost hyperventilating.

I resisted the urge to scream, “STOP THE SHUTTLE BUS!”

I resisted the urge to slip out of the shuttle when it stopped and call a cab that could take me back to the hotel.

I resisted and resisted.

And I went to the party and my hair was flat and I had a cardigan on (and buttoned) even though it was 98 degrees and then…. and then….Katherine and Tami made speeches about the awesomeness of Vermont College. I think Tobin (M.T. Anderson) may have too. And then… And then… They gave Kekla Magoon of Awesome an award for being a distinguished alumna and she cried and was beautiful and I patted her on the back and tried to tell her how she was great and deserved this so much, all while thinking how awesome she is and then…. and then….

I GOT ONE TOO!

 I look short don’t I? And Tobin looks tall and intimidating. And Katherine, Tammy, and Kekla had enough confidence to be sleeveless. Then there’s me… in a cardigan.

Seriously! I don’t know what they were doing giving me that, but I was awarded a plaque and everything and I almost died because I kept thinking, “People are going to take pictures and I am wearing my dumpy cardigan to hide my cleavage AND my hair is flat. Crud. Crud. Crud. Why did nobody tell me?”

But it was amazing. And the whole time I kept thinking that I wouldn’t even be a writer if not for the people at Vermont College and how there are so many brilliant graduates who deserved that award, and I kept looking out there in the crowd and seeing those freaking phenomenal writers and it was so completely humbling.

But then I also thought about how terrified I was when I first started at Vermont and how that fear of failing and not fitting in almost kept me from being there. Some people were already published. I had barely written one book draft if you don’t count books written in spiral notebooks in grade school.

I felt – no, I knew – that I didn’t belong and I almost quit that first week because I knew there was no way I could possibly belong there with all those people who had been writing for forever and who knew all the terms and all the publishing houses and I knew nothing.

I didn’t believe in myself at all. I was positive I would fail and I was SO AFRAID, bitterly afraid.

Lisa Jahn Clough and Emily Wing Smith and Ed Briant (who said something awesome at a reading to me) and then Tim Wynne Jones were the reasons I toughed it out that first semester. I am so very glad I did because Vermont didn’t just make me into a writer it gave me a community of fellowship, of learning and of people who I adore (even if they are tall).

And I promised myself that I was going to do my best to write books kids deserve and make it so I could deserve that award, which I almost didn’t get because:

  1. I almost missed the shuttle on purpose
  2. I almost went on a date with the hotel doorman – no just kidding!
  3. My fear of failing in front of people was SO overwhelming that it took everything I had to go.

So, how do you fight your fear of failure? Here is how I do it.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones carriejonesbooks.blog
Wednesday Writing Wisdom

Tough Love Yourself

Realize that if you don’t try, you’re not going to have the experience. Imagine how crappy you’re going to feel if you don’t at least try to write a novel when all you want to do is be a novelist. Realize, that you can’t publish a book unless you submit it.

IMAGINE THE WORST POSSIBLE OUTCOMES And Realize that they aren’t that bad, Honestly

When my daughter Em was little and stressed about something and/or failing I’d say, “Buddy. Is anyone going to die if you fail? Will you go to jail if you fail? Will you be forever injured? Then do it. Nothing horrifying will happen.”

I tell this to myself, too.

MAKE SMALL GOALS AND NOTICE WHEN YOU REACH THEM

Thinking about writing an entire series of novels can be overwhelming. For some of my students, thinking about writing 80,000 words (basically one YA novel) is terrifying and they are certain that they will fail when they think of it that way.

This is why I never think of it that way.

You put your big goal into smaller, more attainable bites. Writing 250 words a day for five days a week doesn’t seem as potentially fail-possible as writing 80,0000 words. And when you hit that goal? Allow yourself to notice, to feel your success. Train yourself to be successful so that failure feels like a really far away thing.

Have an Escape Route

Lots of times when we think; I am going to completely fail as a writer and have no job and go bankrupt, it helps to have a cushion, a back-up plan.

When the Emster was applying to colleges, she had a back-up college, but she also had a contingency plan about what to do if she got in nowhere. She’d take a gap year and try again. Maybe get a couple cool life experiences and skills.

In writing, when you fail? You do the same thing. Rethink your story’s structure. Start over again with your writing goal. Find a new way to get what you want, but the most important thing is to actually enjoy doing what you’re doing. Goals are awesome, but most of your life is spent is in process not achievement. Make sure you love the process and/or task so much that it doesn’t matter if you’re what society defines as ‘successful’ or not.

Sidenote: I was having all sorts of issues with wordpress yesterday so Do Good Wednesday is actually being posted on Thursday. It’s probably still Wednesday somewhere in the world, right?

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Do Good Wednesday!

Here is a cool and amazing project that Rotary International is doing. If you can’t help financially? That’s totally okay. Just tell the world about the project and/or Rotary. It’s 1.2 million people all around the world doing good, making change and taking action all while making friends.

And the project?

Here’s what Kate Sieber of Rotary quickly says about it:

“Rotary members from Durango, Colorado, USA, team with the Navajo Nation to bring solar lights to remote, off-the-grid homes on the country’s largest Native American reservation.”

If you follow the link you can find out more.

WRITING NEWS AND STUFF

Book Expo America

I will be signing copies of The Spy Who Played Baseball at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1, from 11:30 to noon at the Lerner Booth.

Moe Berg The Spy Who Played Baseball
Moe Berg

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.

Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.

PRAISE FOR CARRIE JONES AND WRITE. SUBMIT. SUPPORT:

“Carrie has the fantastic gift as a mentor to give you honest feedback on what needs work in your manuscript without making you question your ability as a writer. She goes through the strengths and weaknesses of your submissions with thought, care and encouragement.”

I swear, I did not pay anyone to say that. I didn’t even ask them to say it. The Writing Barn just told me that the feedback had intensely kind things like that and gave me a quote.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.

What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking actionSchool Library Journal

TIME STOPPERS THE MIDDLE GRADE SERIES OF AWESOME

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.

Dogs are Smarter Than People

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
The podcast of awesome

And finally, our podcast had a new episode Tuesday. You can check it out here.  It’s about making your characters and yourself memorable.

If you enjoy podcast, we’d be so super grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or subscribing to it on iTunes or Stitcher or rating it there or somewhere. Thank you! We know it’s a super small thing, but it means so much to us.

How to Be Memorable

Sometimes in life we want to be memorable, right?

And other times? Not so much.

Shaun is so tall and formidable that he doesn’t have much choice in being memorable or not. Carrie? She can fade into walls if she wants to.

In writing, there are some pretty simple things you should do to make sure people remember your character.

How to Be Memorable When Making Your Self or Your Characters. Tips from NYT Bestselling children's book author Carrie Jones and her husband on their podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE
Quirky is key

MENTION THE ACTUAL CHARACTER A LOT

Talk about that character every 30-40 pages. People forget the characters they don’t see. This is true in real life too. Remind people you are out there.

Give them a cool name. Carrie Jones? Not a cool name.

GIVE.

Just give. In real life and in writing, giving matters. People remember kindness.

GIVE THEM SOMETHING THAT MAKES THEM STAND OUTPHYSICALLY AND INTRINSICALLY.

What do I mean by that? Give them something like a tattoo, a way of bending their foot to the side when they talk. Give them a strong personality trait. Do the work to make them memorable.

FOCUS.

In real life, it’s the people who focus on one goal, strategy, process who tend to make a big bang.

EMBRACE YOUR QUIRKINESS.

This is linked to that memorable trait. Being quirky might make you a bullied kid, which is basically hell, but when you’ve embraced that difference, your originality, your authenticity? That’s when people remember you.

If you’re in a room full of a dozen white guys in suits, none of them are going to pop out. It’s the woman in the flowing skirt that you’re going to end up remembering.

dogs-are-smarter-than-people_std.original-1

DOG TIP OF THE POD:

Barking is a good way to remind people that you exist even if you’re stuck in the house during a blizzard. They will still hear you if you bark!

Remind people that you’re out there. Silence isn’t memorable. It’s oppressive. Your voice deserves to be heard.

WRITING TIP OF THE CAST:

What makes your book characters memorable also makes you memorable. Don’t be afraid to be your authentic, original quirky self.

PLEA FOR HELP

Hey, um… if you enjoyed this podcast and post, we’d be so super grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or subscribing to it on iTunes or Stitcher or rating it there or somewhere. Thank you! We know it’s a super small thing, but it means so much to us.

WRITING NEWS AND STUFF

I (Carrie) will be in Ontario Canada presenting this weekend and at Book Expo America, June 1, at 11:30 in the Lerner booth. Come visit!

Bar Harbor Fourth of july lobster parade
In case you’re looking for me. I am the lobster.

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money. There are more details at the link.

AND HERE IS THE LINK TO THE ACTUAL PODCAST.

Make Your Life and Your Writing Resonate

The best kind of work is the kind that makes you messy (even if you’re a Virgo) inside and out.

And for a lot of writers, especially writers for kids, our job isn’t just about making story; it’s about making a difference somehow in at least one kid’s life. That is a messy business because in order to make a difference, you have to dig deep, to go through a lot of dirt and mud and rock to get to what it is that matters to you and to your story and to your reader and/or life partners.

When I go to schools, I always tell the kids that one of the important steps to becoming the best writers you can be is to live the biggest life you can live. To not risk life or jail time, but to have adventures, to do things that you would never expect yourself doing.

YOUR LIFE IS YOUR STORY. MAKE IT A BIG ONE.

Big stories have conflict, and none of us are really into conflict in our lives, but it’s the conflict that allows our stories to have meaning and resonance.

Big stories have awkward moments and worries. Our characters and our selves feel overwhelmed. We feel like we can’t make it sometimes. That’s part of what makes surviving such a sweet triumph.

Being a writer is about more than craft. It’s about the story of how to be a writer, your story. It’s part of the bigger story of your life.

Being a writer is about more than craft. It's about life and resonance and cohesion.
Writing is life.

 

EVERY LESSON ABOUT WRITING CRAFT IS ACTUALLY A LESSON ABOUT LIFE.

Talking about paying attention to detail in your scene? It’s the same as paying attention to the details in your real life.

Talking about traits of your character and how to make them heroes (or not)? It’s the same as talking about the traits that make you the you that you so beautifully are.

Talking about resolution to your story is the same as talking about resolution to your relationships, to your current conflict, to your own life and death.

I know, right? Mind blown.

In every story we write there needs to be some logic and there needs to be some spirit or resonance.

What makes the logic of the story?

That comes from plot, pacing, character, and theme. You start your story with a vision and then the other elements are honed and refined to express that vision.

The logic is the structure of the story, how it all works together. It’s how your plot isn’t just action, but a movement forward towards an end point – and how that movement forward makes sense and works together with the character, the theme, the pacing.

Events that happen must make the character react and act.

Creating resonance and cohesion in your life and your story. Tips on how to make life better.
Resonate

AND RESONANCE?  WHAT’S RESONANCE?

It’s the story’s value. It’s the universal nature of the story. It’s what makes the reader’s heart and mind go, “A-ha!”

It’s what makes you remember the story. We’ve all met people, read books, watched movies or shows or heard songs and forgotten them, but the ones that resonate? Those are the ones we remember.

Think Hamilton.  Hamilton resonates across so many demographics partially because it’s the story about immigration and triumph and death, about idealism and it’s then set to something that feels more new in musical theater – the style of music, which is juxtaposed to the historical setting. It resonates.

Think about the Nas song War (Birth of a Nation). This song connects Nat Turner to the protests of today and about fighting to make a better U.S. It resonates.

It’s about theme and heart. It’s about authenticity and humanity. That’s what resonates.

SO HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR STORY RESONATE?

Think about what your story is really about on the deepest level.

HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR LIFE RESONATE?

Same thing. Think about what your life is really about on the deepest level.

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Dog Tip for Life

Get dirty as much as you can. Dirt means you’re living. Dirt is real. Dirt is life.

Getting Messy makes you a better writer. carriejonesbooks.blog
dog tip for life

Writing Tip of the Pod – When you’re writing, don’t be afraid to have messy, uncomfortable things happen to your characters. A story with no conflict is not a story.

Advice about adding resonance and cohesion to your story
Bob? Yuri? Scary?

Random Bonus Picture from Random Thought Time

This is Bob. Or maybe Yuri? He is in our house. Shaun mentions him in the podcast. Bob/Yuri frightens me even though he has no arms.

Here’s a direct link to the podcast feed.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
The podcast of awesome

Writing News – Carrie’s

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Book Expo America

Carrie will be signing copies of The Spy Who Played Baseball at Book Expo America on June 1 at 11:30 a.m.

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THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support!is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.

PRAISE FOR CARRIE JONES AND WRITE. SUBMIT. SUPPORT:

“Carrie has the fantastic gift as a mentor to give you honest feedback on what needs work in your manuscript without making you question your ability as a writer. She goes through the strengths and weaknesses of your submissions with thought, care and encouragement.”

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

People are saying super nice things about me, which is so kind of them because helping people on their writing journeys and their craft and supporting them? That’s pretty boss, honestly.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

Cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking actionSchool Library Journal

Sparty knows all about that. More info about that series and all of Carrie’s books is here.

 

There are Storms in My Brain

BRAINSTORMING?

Even the word sounds a little creepy. Like there is a storm inside your brain. It sounds… It sounds sort of violent and hazardous and windy. In this podcast, we talk about the storms inside our brain and how those storms can become story ideas.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Five Ways to Brainstorm Story Ideas

Five Ways To Get Story Ideas

Some authors have a really hard time just getting an idea for a new story. They burn out. They can’t find anything that they think is ‘good enough.’ They just don’t know where to start and that lack of a start makes them blocked.

This is so sad! There are ways to fight it.

ONE WAY TO STORM IS BY ADMIRING OTHER’S WORK

Think about ways that other people’s stories influence you. If you’re an Outlander fan, think about why. If you were to write your own kind of time travel story would it be like that? With a lot of spanking and stuff? Or something totally different. How would it be different?

ANOTHER WAY TO INCITE A HAILSTORM OF QUESTIONS

Ask your self questions. It’s all about ‘What if?’ What if Trump wasn’t president in 2018? What if everyone had blue hair? What if the earth had two moons? What if dogs were really space aliens?

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Sparty the Dog: Wait. You mean they aren’t?

Carrie the Human: No, buddy… I mean… I don’t think so?

 

THIRD WAY WHERE THE WIND IS SO STRONG IT PUSHES IMAGES INTO YOU

Some of my best ideas have come on a treadmill watching the country music network or MTV or some random YouTube channel with the sound off and just seeing images. Eventually, an image will hit me so hard that I have to write a story about it. The happened with my story, Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape).

FOURTH WAY OF ICY UNDERSTANDING

Figuring things out. This is sort of like Another Way, but instead of deliberately asking yourself off-the-wall questions, ask questions about things that matter to you. A lot of my stories are because I don’t understand something. Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend was because i couldn’t understand a hate crime that had happened. I mean, you can never understand that kind of hate, but this one incident was so bizarre that they only way I could deal with it was to write my way through it.

FIFTH WAY – AN EMOTIONAL BLIZZARD

Get emotional. What is it that always makes you laugh, cry with joy, weep with anger? What are the situations that pull at your heartstrings. Think about that as story. Write.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Inspiration is just attention. Notice what’s around you. Then ideas will come.

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Once you have your seed of information and your brain has successfully stormed, don’t second guess your idea. Write it down. If you are a plot-first writer, think up the questions to flesh out your idea – who is the protagonist. What is she up against? What’s her goal? How is she going to get it? Write it down. Do it. Don’t block yourself.

Writing Tip of the Podcast
Writing Tip of the Podcast

All the podcasts are linked to this page right here. You can find out more about us and the podcast there.

My Mom is Dead, But It’s Her Birthday

It’s my mom’s birthday today, but she’s dead.

And that’s weird.

It’s been a few years now, and I’ve got to admit. It’s still weird.

A lot of time we talk about the writing life as if it’s this entity that exists out of regular life. So many of my students spend a lot of time apologizing for not writing for a week because they were out living, having a vacation, dealing with a hurt or sick loved one, or just visiting people they care about.

There are some writers who can only write if everything in their life is amazing.

There are some writers who write because everything else in their life is miserable.

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There’s no one way to be a writer just like there is no one way to be a human. We just live. That’s the best we can do.

 

For years and years I’ve wanted to tell the story of my mom’s complicated, passionate, messy life and I’m finally writing a fictionalized version of it. And it’s hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written.

This is my mom surrounded by her brothers. She has another half brother and some half sisters because my family is complicated like that. My mom was 5-1 so we are short people.

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This was my mom’s eulogy that I gave at her funeral. 

Our mom, Betty, was propped up in a hospital bed in Manchester, NH just about a week ago today, and if she saw herself then she would have had a fit. Believe me. She didn’t like to be out of the house if her hair wasn’t combed or her lipstick wasn’t perfectly applied. I can not begin to tell you how many times I sat in her car, waiting to go to the grocery store, the library, a birthday party, or even the dump, and counted the seconds while she reapplied her lipstick in that painstaking way that mothers have.  Let’s just say that she took her time, and I was a very impatient kid. But there was a reason she wanted to put that lipstick on: She wanted to make sure she looked beautiful.

She always did though. She always looked beautiful.

And in the hospital last week, ravaged from illness, with her heart trying so hard to beat, with her lungs trying so hard to breathe, my mother wouldn’t have thought she was beautiful.

But she was.

She sat up in that hospital bed and my brother and sister used a plastic spoon to feed her some chocolate and vanilla ice cream from a tiny Styrofoam cup. The moment that first spoonful of ice cream hit her lips, our mother, with her eyes closed and her heart failing, broke into a smile that lit up her entire face with a joy so sheer and absolute that it brought tears to everyone’s eyes.

She was beautiful.

She was always beautiful, but that beauty didn’t come from her lipstick, or even from her smile. That beauty came from her soul. That beauty came from her love.

Our mother was an expert in love.

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“I love you with every ounce of my being,” she would write on birthday cards, Easter cards, those little tags that go on Christmas presents and emails.

And proud? She was brilliant at proud. Every grandchild was a trophy to her – shiny and gleaming full of light and importance. She polished them with her love and words and pride in their deeds. Keith, her firefighting hero boy, her handy man, the first of her grandbabies. Kevin, the one she thought looked the most like her – so smart and now a hero boy police officer who helped bring her the great grandbabies that she thought were so beautiful. Kayla. She would tell me sooo many soccer stories about Kayla but her favorite story was how when Kayla was in first grade she learned sign language because a little girl in her grade didn’t have anyone to talk to. She was so proud of Kayla’s kindness and intelligence. Brooks, the grandson who made her laugh with his quick wit and indomitable spirit and zest for life that matched her own. She was always hugging on him when he was a baby, and when he was a toddler, and talking about how neat he was. And Emily, the youngest of them, who she saw the moment she was born and declared, “She’s so smart. Look at her eyes. She’s taking everything in. Oh… she’s so beautiful. She looks like a Morse.”  Nana was so proud of you, Em, proud of the love you gave her, your goofiness, and your accomplishments.

My mom’s pride didn’t just extend to her grandchildren. She was so proud of her children and friends as well. I remember one day after one of the 80,000 holiday or birthday parties that my sister Debbie hosted so effortlessly, I got in the car with my mom and she started to tear up. She was always tearing up. Deb and Bruce take after her. We are weepy sort of people given to strong love, strong sorrow, and strong joy.

Anyways, I asked her why she was crying. I was probably impatient about it again, but she said, “I am just so proud of my Debbie. She works so hard. She is so good. She is such a good mother.” It was her highest praise. And then she wiped away her tears and reapplied her lipstick.

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She recognized the beauty in Debbie and rejoiced in it so much it made her cry like she’d just read a Hallmark card with the word love in it.

One time we were at a wedding and my brother Bruce was in the wedding party and these women in the pew behind us were gossiping about the gorgeous usher with the dimples and my mom turned around and proudly announced to those women, “That’s my son! He has my dimples.”

“He’s so handsome,” the girls said.

“He has a kind heart,” my mom said. “He has a beautiful heart. And beautiful dimples.”

My mom loved deeply and without reservation. She loved her friends, so many of them are here today. Thank you for being here Mel and Steve and Marie and Clem. Two of you both claim to be my mom’s first boyfriend. I’ll let you fight that out amongst yourselves.

My mom also loved her husbands. Her first love and her second husband was my stepdad John, and their love was a beautiful forever thing. Her funeral is exactly 29 years after his on the same date. There’s a symmetry in that, and a beauty to their love. But what really shows how remarkable she is was her relationship with my dad, Lew. They chatted and gossiped pretty much daily; even though they were divorced for decades and decades, they were supporting each other constantly even until the very last days of her life. Once, they came to visit me in Maine and people compared them to the Costanzas on Seinfeld. They talked simultaneously, teasing each other constantly, voices getting louder and louder. When I said they were divorced, people wouldn’t believe me because the link between them was so strong. Their friendship was a forever thing.

My mom was born 77 years ago to a brilliant woman and a talented jazz drummer, grew up with two brothers that she loved and was proud to call siblings. She was a wife, a homemaker, an office manager, a Welcome Wagon Lady, a town employee, a real estate broker, and then worked for the Bedford school system. But those are just titles, just occupations. Those aren’t about her soul. She could slam doors with great passion for her small frame. She could laugh hysterically over things as silly as saying ‘in bed’ after you read a fortune cookie. When she got mad she would yell, ‘sugar diabetes,’ the disease that would eventually take her body. She would gossip with her friends about the results on Dancing with the Stars and The Voice and argue her political opinions without reservation. She was a firecracker and a charmer, spunky and sweet, funny and intelligent, and always, always interested in people’s stories.

It is hard to watch someone dying and in the time that Emily and I spent with my mom I noticed something interesting in her murmurings. She called a lot for her brother Richard who she adored. She often said with her eyes closed, “I see you Richard. Richard. Richard, is it okay?”

I imagine he told her that it was okay. I imagine that he took her hand and then gave her a hug, the way she would have hugged anyone at anytime. My mother was the kind of person who hugged her children and grandchildren for ages. We would call it entering the hug-off with Nana and joke that she never let go first.  My mother didn’t let go of people, not of her dear friends, not of her family members. No matter what we did, she held on to us, was proud of us, listened to our stories of joy and pain and goofiness. She hugged you as long as she could physically, and when she couldn’t hug you with her arms any more, she hugged you with her head, loving you no matter how many miles were between you and her.

Her hugs lasted forever. Her love was that way, too.

But one of the other things my mother yelled when she was dying was a little bit different. She yelled for toast. Honestly, she hollered for toast like it was a long lost love. “TOAST! TOAST! TOAST!” And when she got it and took a bite she whispered to me, “So good. Do you want some?”

And it is such a goofy thing, and so sweet, and in a way encapsulates a major aspect of her personality. She liked to feed people toast and roast chicken and chocolate chip cookies and Boston Cream Pie. She liked to give sustenance. She liked to give.  Whether it was food or love or hugs or an ear, my mother was a giver.

We can all learn from a life like that, a life where one woman created a web of love that connects very different people and friends across space and time. It was a life where love trumped all, a life where helping friends and family ruled, where it was important to  listen to the stories of children as they went into a dance studio or teachers calling on the phone asking for subs,  where it was natural for her to smile at nurses and doctors no matter how much pain she was in, a life where she wanted so badly to know everything that went on in the lives of her loved ones because she cared so very much.

And we care about you Mom. And we were proud of you. And you were and are very loved.

So off you go Mom, off you go, holding the hands of the people you have loved you, with those of us who still love you, waving goodbye, singing you songs, telling you stories, making more stories for you to enjoy from your perch in Heaven and eating lots of toast and Boston Cream Pie and chocolate chip cookies in your honor. May the wings of the angels wrap you up as one of their own and may we all live our lives as you did – with love and pride and beauty.

* I totally stole the ‘off you go’ line from Kevin Costner. Hopefully, he doesn’t mind.

Random Life Tip: Hug like my mother, damn it. Also, don’t worry about how many times you’ve been married. Worry about how big you’ve loved.

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.

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.

Tips on Not Going to Jail on a Friday

My Post-2
1. When you say “hi” to a mean lady while perusing the turnips in the produce section and she TOTALLY ignores you, pretend she did not hear you. Do not decide she is rude. Do not throw a turnip at her. This counts as an assault, possibly with a deadly weapon, depending on the hardness of the turnip.
2. When the mean lady cuts in front of you at the fish counter at the grocery store and then asks what the difference between sea scallops and bay scallops are, then follows up that question with the comment on the price ($4.49/lb) and then asks if they’ll be fresh tomorrow, and then asks for a different amount than originally specified, and then once she’s finally done buying a pound of scallops, asks about whether it’s halibut season, not because she’s going to buy any, (“Gosh, aren’t they cheaper in late Spring?”) and then verifies that the price for the damn scallops was $4.49 not $4.41 Do not kill her, no matter how tempted you are. Dunking someone into the lobster tank is not a good idea either. This counts as murder. You go to jail for a long time for murder.3. When the fish man finally gets to you and finishes your order in 20 seconds do not ask him why he skipped you in the first place, or lecture him about it, because he has probaby had a hard day, plus he might give you bad fish in the future. Try to smile. It will be hard.

4. When the nice cashier lady asks you if you found everything okay and how your day is going do NOT get hysterical and tell her about the mean lady saga and then compare it to being invisible and unloved and unworthy and how maybe you should just have an all-dessert lunch to make up for it, so you can be sugar high and guilty feeling as well as depressed over your new invisible status because then the nice cashier lady might call the police who might take you in for disturbing the peace, especially if you stand on the check-out line and try to choreograph a dance in a mad attempt to prove that you are human and you are visible.

5. Just calmly walk out. Smile. Get in car. Do not run red light. Do not bash into mean lady’s car when she decides to stop at a GREEN LIGHT! Yes! Yes! I swear she did.

6. Just go home, crawl into bed. Vow to never go to grocery store again. Feel guilty for being so angry. Wonder if perhaps you need therapy. Wonder if you’ll see mean lady there.

BOOK APPEARANCES

I’ll be hanging out at the launch of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID on March 15th and having  a panel discussion with editor Erin Moulton, Aaluk Edwardson and Ella Andrews at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH. 7pm!

“How to describe the feeling of not being believed? It is the feeling of disappearing.” -Stephanie Oakes

PODCAST AND BOOK NEWS!

Moe Berg

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

Podcast

In my big writing news, the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is live!

My Post

LIVE!

Please go leave a comment, or a review, and pretend to listen, because I’ve been freaking out about this so hard. It’s on iTunes and Stitcher and Castos at the moment and the RSS feed is also here. The feed has bonus material and free things. It’ll be on GooglePlay if I can ever get the screen to validate to not be just a big webpage of blankness.