Writing Tip Wednesday – Every Chapter Needs to Have a Purpose, Darn it.

It’s Writing Tip Wednesday and here is my big advice.

Ready?

Every chapter in your story matters. Write every single chapter like it’s the first chapter.

Wait. What does that even mean?

It means that every chapter needs to be an important part of the story. It needs to be there. If you can take a chapter out of the story and the story still makes sense? That means that you didn’t make that chapter matter.

When you reread your story for the 100th time and you sort of subconsciously skip five paragraphs of backstory or description or even dialogue? There’s a reason you’re doing that. Delete those paragraphs. Just cut and paste them into a new document if you have attachment issues. Then reread things.

Does the chapter still work? Does the rest of the book still work without those paragraphs? That means you have to let them go.

If they are boring you the writer enough that you skim through them? That means that they are going to bore the reader, too.

Writing is about story. Yes, sentences matter because they are how we communicate story. Yes, chapters and structure matters, too, because – again – it’s how we communicate story.

But above all else – we are telling a story and every tool we use is about conveying that story. That’s what matters. And no matter how pretty the sentence or adorable the secondary character, if they don’t help create that story? You have to get rid of them. Especially in a thriller.

Flying

 

ENHANCED PAPERBACK RELEASE!

Carrie Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Flying, presents another science fiction adventure of cheerleader-turned-alien-hunter Mana in Enhanced.

Seventeen-year-old Mana has found and rescued her mother, but her work isn’t done yet. Her mother may be out of alien hands, but she’s in a coma, unable to tell anyone what she knows.

Mana is ready to take action. The only problem? Nobody will let her. Lyle, her best friend and almost-boyfriend (for a minute there, anyway), seems to want nothing to do with hunting aliens, despite his love of Doctor Who. Bestie Seppie is so desperate to stay out of it, she’s actually leaving town. And her mom’s hot but arrogant alien-hunting partner, China, is ignoring Mana’s texts, cutting her out of the mission entirely.

They all know the alien threat won’t stay quiet for long. It’s up to Mana to fight her way back in.

“Witty dialogue and flawless action.”—VOYA

“YA readers, you’re in for a treat this week. Hilarious and action-packed, this novel is sure to be the perfect summer read.”—Bookish 

“Funny and playful, with a diverse cast of characters and a bit of romance and adventure, Flying is the perfect light summer read.”—BookPage

 

Our podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLEis still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

The Final Time Stoppers Book

What is it? It’s the third TIME STOPPERS book!

Time Stopper Annie’s newfound home, the enchanted town Aurora, is in danger. The vicious Raiff will stop at nothing to steal the town’s magic, and Annie is the only one who can defeat him–even though it’s prophesied that she’ll “fall with evil.”

Alongside her loyal band of friends Eva, Bloom, SalGoud, and Jamie, who still isn’t quite sure whether he’s a troll or not, Annie journeys deep into the Raiff’s realm, the Badlands. The group will face everything from ruthless monsters to their own deepest fears. Can Annie find the courage to confront the Raiff and save everyone, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice?

What People are Saying About The Books:

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal

“The characters show welcome kindness and poignant insecurity, and the text sprinkles in humor . . . and an abundance of magical creatures.” – Kirkus Reviews 

“An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” – School Library Journal 

How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

 

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Tips For Making a Thriller

Tips for Making a Thriller

 

It’s writing tip Wednesday and I’m going to have some fast tips this week and next about making thrillers. Yes, you know those stories that make your heart pound with anxiety, where you aren’t sure what will happen next, where you are secretly saying, “Who comes up with this?”

Here are the pointers!

Structure Matters

 

First, structure. Thrillers have pretty dynamic structures that escalate throughout the story. And there have been a million people who have written about this well and even created diagrams.

 

Blake Snyder wrote “Save the Cat” and talks all about beats for a story, breaking the structure down into sweet, tangible bites. You should check it out.  https://timstout.wordpress.com/story-structure/blake-snyders-beat-sheet/

Make it matter for your hero/protagonist person

 

Seriously. The stakes have to be high for the hero to jump through all the hoops she has to jump through to make things right. Her stakes should be personal and high.

Make the clock tick

 

If you only have 23 hours to save your puppy, things are going to be even more charged up.

Do a Raymond Chandler

 

Raymond Chandler said, “When things slow down, bring in a man with a gun.”

 

It doesn’t have to be a gun. It doesn’t have to be a man. Just have something super exciting happen that’s somewhat shocking.

 

A wolf leaps into the room.

A robot hand breaks through the wall.

A woman screams.

Cardi B shows up at your character’s doorstep.

Big Foot serenades your character from outside the window.

Let the Bad Guy Make Sense (to himself)

 

When you are good, evil doesn’t make much sense, but that’s because we are seldom the villains in our own stories, right? The bad guy’s actions need to make sense to him. Plus, it will make your readers think, “Oh… I have a little sympathy going on. What’s that mean?”

 

Just like any major character, it makes sense to really understand who your villain is. It keeps him from being two-dimensional. Nobody wants a flat character.

 

Writing News

 

Appearance

I’m going to be hanging out at the Augusta Civic Center (Maine) on Saturday, Sept. 8 as part of a Maine Literacy event. It’s open to the public and cool. It’s from 10-2.

31702754 copy

ENHANCED PAPERBACK RELEASE!

Carrie Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Flying, presents another science fiction adventure of cheerleader-turned-alien-hunter Mana in Enhanced.

Seventeen-year-old Mana has found and rescued her mother, but her work isn’t done yet. Her mother may be out of alien hands, but she’s in a coma, unable to tell anyone what she knows.

Mana is ready to take action. The only problem? Nobody will let her. Lyle, her best friend and almost-boyfriend (for a minute there, anyway), seems to want nothing to do with hunting aliens, despite his love of Doctor Who. Bestie Seppie is so desperate to stay out of it, she’s actually leaving town. And her mom’s hot but arrogant alien-hunting partner, China, is ignoring Mana’s texts, cutting her out of the mission entirely.

They all know the alien threat won’t stay quiet for long. It’s up to Mana to fight her way back in.

“Witty dialogue and flawless action.”—VOYA

“YA readers, you’re in for a treat this week. Hilarious and action-packed, this novel is sure to be the perfect summer read.”—Bookish 

“Funny and playful, with a diverse cast of characters and a bit of romance and adventure, Flying is the perfect light summer read.”—BookPage

Order Your Copy:

amazon bn booksamillion  indiebound

 

I made a video about copy editing my next book, co-written with Steve Wedel. It’s called IN THE WOODS and its scary self arrives in 2019. BUT HERE IS THE GOOFY VIDEO!

Our podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLEis still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

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

The Final Time Stoppers Book

What is it? It’s the third TIME STOPPERS book!

Time Stopper Annie’s newfound home, the enchanted town Aurora, is in danger. The vicious Raiff will stop at nothing to steal the town’s magic, and Annie is the only one who can defeat him–even though it’s prophesied that she’ll “fall with evil.”

Alongside her loyal band of friends Eva, Bloom, SalGoud, and Jamie, who still isn’t quite sure whether he’s a troll or not, Annie journeys deep into the Raiff’s realm, the Badlands. The group will face everything from ruthless monsters to their own deepest fears. Can Annie find the courage to confront the Raiff and save everyone, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice?

What People are Saying About The Books:

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal

“The characters show welcome kindness and poignant insecurity, and the text sprinkles in humor . . . and an abundance of magical creatures.” Kirkus Reviews 

“An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” – School Library Journal 

How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

Don’t Be the Stereotype. How to Hook Your Readers With Memorable Characters

So, when you read a book, and you remember a book, a lot of the time it isn’t the plot that you’re remembering. It’s the character that has held you enthralled.

Plots are super important, but it’s the character that things are happening to that really hold the plot together.

A lot of stories fail because their main character is… Well, he’s boring. She’s a bit blah. There’s nothing about them that stands out.

We remember the people who are larger the life. I know we’ve talked about it before, but it’s so important. Make your characters outrageous. Make them wild. We all love Captain America, but he’s not quite as memorable as The Hulk or Iron Man.

Dogs are Smarter Than People Podcast
How to hook readers with kick-butt memorable characters

Elements that Can Make a Character Larger than Life

Strength and Inner Struggle –

The Hulk is memorable because he has this intense inner struggle against his own rage and helplessness, but he also morphs into this huge beast with great strength.

Wit –

Funny characters are hard to write, but they are so memorable. Iron Man, Deadpool, whoever it is Chris Pratt plays in Guardian of the Galaxies – those guys are funny. We remember them more than Hawkeye (in the movies) because they are so funny. Plus, they’ve had stand-alone movies. Poor Hawkeye.

Self-Sacrifice –

The savior is memorable. That ultimate self-sacrificing hero like Captain America ends up being memorable even though his inner struggle isn’t all that. Why? Because he’s a higher form of hero. He’s good. He’s so good.

Sigh.

Dog Tip For Life: Don’t be the stereotype. Be authentic.

Writing Tip of the Pod: Don’t be afraid to build the biggest, coolest character you can build.

Shout Out – The music clips in this podcast are available thanks to Podington Bear’s generosity. The track is “Azzmash Reflash.”

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

Please buy it so I can keep buying food for the dogs… and stuff…

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People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy my book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

My Post copy 6

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.

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Appearances

I’ll be at the Maine Literacy Volunteers Festival on September 8. It is in Augusta, Maine.

Don’t Be the Stereotype. How to Hook Your Readers With Memorable Characters

 
 
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How To Make People Keep Reading Part Two

Last week, I talked about how I was going to be diving into revisions and sharing the path I’m taking via hints.

The main element when we write a book is that we want our readers to keep reading. So,  I think I’m going to start what I like to call (Drumroll please) the Wednesday Writing Series About Hooking Your Reader.

I’ll be giving two hints a blog post. Let’s keep going!

TWO QUICK HINTS TO KEEP YOUR READER HOOKED ON YOUR BOOK

Make People Wonder

Not knowing what is going to happen is a big deal when someone is reading the story. Make them wonder what might happen.

One method to do this is to not tell them everything right off. Give some elements of what is happening, but not all.

So, in the NEED series, I have the main character see a man in the woods at the side of the road and also pointing at her plane as it takes off. The reader thinks: Wait. Who the heck is that man?

In Harr Potter, J.K. Rowling, introduces the Bo Who Lived, but what did he live through and how? The reader wonders and reads to find out…

Make them freaking worried

The reader needs to care about the character. We want Mr. Potter and Ron and Hermione to survive because those kids are lovable, but we also are worried that survival might not be an option. The stakes are high and those magical? These babies aren’t superheroes. Death is possible. Near death happens all the time. We obsess that the trio might not survive.

That’s a hook.

That high stakes conflict coupled with imperfect heroes who tr so hard? That’s the ke

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moehat  Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

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.

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

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.

Ebook on Sale for July

And finally, for the month of July, my book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 3.37.18 PM

Appearance

Carrie will be at The Books-A-Million in South Portland, Maine on August 8.

DiLAZJkXkAAHOHC

 

 

 

Is That Even A Joke? It’s All About the Subtext

So, um, a lot of the time during the podcast Shaun will say something that makes Carrie have these huge pauses because she’s reading the subtext underneath what he’s saying.

Honesty moment: Shaun’s subtext is usually naughty, which is totally okay because they are married, but Carrie has these brain hiccups when that happens because:

  1. She is from New England and grew up where people pretended intercourse didn’t happen and people made babies by sitting on unclean toilet seats.
  2. She is a children’s book writer, but not the cool cutting-edge kind that writes about intercourse and she’s worried about her branding. Just kidding! Sort of…

Anyway, Alicia Rasley said that in writing: “Subtext is like a gift to the astute reader—an additional layer of meaning implied by the text but not accessible without a bit of thinking. … Experienced readers aren’t confined to the text—what’s printed on the page—they interact with the text, fully participating with the writer in the making of meaning in the story.”

Sort of how Carrie interacts with Shaun during the podcast.

Writing Tip of the Cast: Not everything has to be super obvious. Trust your readers. Remember your book, like a podcast, is a conversation, not just a monologue.

Dog Tip for Life: Don’t be afraid of the subtext. Notice people’s nuance, the meaning under what they’re saying.

SHOUT-OUT

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

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy.

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun. She’s heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

My Post copy 6

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! (WSS) 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.

WSS-Testimonial-Mountains-1-300x300

And finally, for the month of July, Carrie’s book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 3.37.18 PM

Proof of the sale-nature of July.

 

Thanks so much for reading my blog! Please comment or say ‘hi!’ if you feel like it!

 

xo

Carrie and Shaun

Is That Even A Joke? It’s All About the Subtext

 
 
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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.

Timestoppers3_005

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.

Writing Advice – Down on My Shins, Baby

Writing advice.

Everyone has it even if it’s as simple as, “Don’t listen to advice.”

But there is no one way to write the same way there’s no one way to live.

On my trip to the Indigo/Chapters Teen Choice Awards awhile ago, the first leg of my trip ends in the flight from Bangor to Philadelphia. I’m really psyched because:

1. I like Philadelphia even if it is just the airport.
2. I was in the first row of the plane so I was like the third one off. SCORE! That never happens.
3. I am easily psyched.

 

This t-shirt would be appropriate for me to wear all the time. You know, if I wore this kind of t-shirt.

It turns out that I have to get to another terminal in order to catch my next flight to Toronto. To get there you have to walk through one terminal and go to a place where it says SHUTTLE TO TERMINAL F.  To get to this magical shuttle place you have to go down an escalator. This should be nice and easy, except the space at the bottom of the escalator is not big enough to hold the bajillion people who want to go on the shuttle, so everyone has to turn immediately right and form a line that runs parallel to the escalator. This also should be easy, right? We are smart people who fly on airplanes, forming a line is easy-peasey.

But, apparently not all of us:


1. Like to form lines.
2. Understand how to form lines.
3. Like to follow the directions of the men yelling, “Go to the right! Form a line, people! Go to the right!”

When I come down the escalator there’s a flight attendant behind me and I figure that:


1. She is in a hurry.
2. She is a bit frustrated by people who fail to form lines.
3. She is moving on flight-attendant warp speed.

 

So, when I step off the escalator, she steps off right behind me. I wait for a second to see if the man in front of me understands the whole MOVE TO THE RIGHT AND FORM A LINE THING.

He doesn’t.

Flight attendant lady wants none of this, so she scoots around me, but when she does her luggage (on rollers) hits the back of both my knees — one, two — in this perfect way that makes me fall right down to the floor on my shins, so it looks like I am praying to the shuttle gods or something. Not that there are shuttle gods, obviously.

So you must picture me on the floor surrounded by people who can not form a line to the right.

And you must picture all those people staring at me with their mouths wide open.

And you must picture me laughing hysterically because (seriously) how funny is it that I got taken down by a flight attendant’s luggage.

And you must picture everyone thinking I’m a weirdo.

And then I bounce right back up and got in line, because that’s the way this writer rolls. 😉

Is there a point to this story?

Yes and no.

Every story we create out of our lives (or out of fiction) has underlying truths inside of it. I could have chosen to cry and sue the flight attendant, which would have made me wealthier, probably. I could have chosen not to tell this story about me falling down, which would make me seem cooler, probably.

Writing experts, blog experts, life experts, marketing experts, expert experts would probably have told me that my vulnerable story of darkness isn’t going to sell any books, which is what I’m supposed to do because it’s how I earn my living and buy dog food. They’d tell me to write not quite so conversationally. They’d tell me to make sure my SEO has words like ‘tips and hints’ in it to drive blog traffic.

But here’s the thing? For me, I’m going to form a line when I’m supposed to if it’s helping the greater good. And I’m usually going to laugh if I get knocked down because it’s better than crying – usually.

And I am going to explore the wonderings and the questions that are inside of me about life and writing and people’s love and people’s cruelty, their selfishness and selflessness in every way that I know how. And I am going to find meaning in little things and big things.

 

My only writing advice, my truest writing advice is this:

Expect that you are going to be stupid sometimes.

Expect that you will fall.

Expect that writing a story, just like a life, is a big adventure that you can’t always control.

Our job as humans and as writers isn’t to dictate belief sets to other people, but to give them possibilities, questions to bounce off of and explore, moments of ‘huh’ and ‘what ifs,’ seconds of laughter and failure and poignancy that they can use as a launch pad for their own explorations.

What are your ‘huh’ moments? When do you think, ‘what if?’

Writing News

I’m super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

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

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal 

“A wild and fresh take on fantasy with an intriguing cast of characters. Dangerous and scary and fun all rolled into one. In the words of Eva the dwarf, I freaking loved it!” –  Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds series

“Effervescent, funny, and genuine.” –  Kirkus Reviews

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go buy the first two books now. 🙂

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out my 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.

My Post Copy-2

 

 

Dealing With Failure – Part One

We talk so much about the lack of civility in current culture, but there is also this great thirst to help, to care, to make a difference. And that matters. It matters.

This week I failed at something in a business way and …. Well, it shook me.

To be fair, I am pretty raw and frayed right this second and my resilience isn’t at its peak. But for whatever reason, it shook me a lot.

I cried.

I didn’t wallow, but wow. I really wanted to wallow.

Instead, I posted on Facebook and asked people what they do when they feel like they’ve failed, when they are shook, when they are sad. How do they work their way out of it?

Note: My post wasn’t asking about depression, but a lot of people answered as if it was and those answers? They helped other people reading the post. That’s a big deal. And I am thankful for it.

People are giving. People want to help

I love that people were so incredibly willing to share their strategies for when they feel pointless, when failure seems too large. And I’m going to have a series of posts where I share these strategies because that’s the cool thing.

We talk so much about the lack of civility in current culture, but there is also this great thirst to help, to care, to make a difference. And that matters. It matters.

People want to help other people feel better, get through it. Remembering that matters, especially when you feel like you’re being annoying by not being perfectly happy. Nobody is always perfectly happy.

My friends’ and readers’ advice was beautifully varied, which only made it better because you could see the similarities and trends and differences in people’s coping mechanisms.

Some of those coping mechanisms involved apps.

“I’ve been there too this week if it makes you feel any better. My tips are to be gentle with yourself. Maybe take a long walk. I’ve downloaded a meditation app to my phone called Mind Space, and that helps me. A hot shower, some comfy pajamas and a cozy book. I like Rosemund Pilcher because she’s sort of soothing.” – Shannon Hitchcock, author

And another app was really popular. It’s called Calm.

“I use the app called Calm. It’s amazing and helps me with my insomnia and my anxiety. It’s got music and stories that help me relax and not stress out as much. It’s so awesome.” – Lindsey Schultz, photographer

 

And there with other people who deliberately moved their brains’ focus via distractions that were sound-based (like an app, but not), which was super interesting to me.

“I’m prone to having that feel like a failure reaction you describe. I turn on the tv or something that shuts my brain down for a couple of hours. That helps and It sounds ridiculous but I’ve noticed listening to people laughing on tv helps even if I’m not paying attention.” – Trish Madell, author

This sort of distraction and laughter is actually a thing that is often used to help with anxiety and depression. Yes! Yes! I know the trite saying that “laughter is the medicine” but there is truth behind that.

Laughter releases endorphins. Endorphins battle stress and make our immune systems tougher. Laughter connects us with others and makes us feel less alone. Laughter uses your brain’s whole cortex.

And for us creative people, humor actually makes us more innovative, we’re more apt to improv and make leaps in our thinking. How cool is that?

Do something that makes you laugh. For whatever reason, I always laugh at America’s funniest home videos. This seems stupid, and it’s a little embarrassing to even admit, but no matter how shitty I’m feeling, if I watch enough of them, I’ll laugh and pull myself out of the heaviness of the feeling of failure. On the other hand, I’ve learned to grieve some of my failures. Losing a book contract, for me, felt like such a failure. I tried so hard not to grieve it–to push through–but sometimes we need to grieve the loss and acknowledge the sadness. I’ve even had a friend send me a sympathy card for a book loss because it’s a valid loss, something worth crying about. Not every failure is, but sometimes I think we are too quick to assume we don’t deserve to feel bad.- Jody Sparks, author

So, for my first post in this series, here are the tips that came from my brilliant friends and readers

  1. Find a good app that makes you calm. Use it.
  2. Find the funny. Watch tv. Listen to laugher.

But what both of these things do is that they create a feeling of control.

When you turn on that app and use it to feel better? You are making the choice to feel better.

When you decide to watch something funny to feel better? You are making the choice again. You feel like you are in control, which is so incredibly different than feeling like a failure, isn’t it?

Writing News

I am super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.  And honestly, if you want to help me feel less stressed about failure and the writing world, leaving a review for the books and buying them? That is the best thing you can do for me.

Anyway…

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.

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal

 

“Sticks the landing . . . The world building is engaging . . . between the decidedly wonderful residents and the terrifying monsters who plague them.” –  BCCB

 

“Amid the magic, spells, adventure, and weirdness of this fantasy are embedded not-so-subtle life lessons about kindness, friendship, and cooperation.” –  Booklist

 

“A wild and fresh take on fantasy with an intriguing cast of characters. Dangerous and scary and fun all rolled into one. In the words of Eva the dwarf, I freaking loved it!” –  Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds series

 

“Effervescent, funny, and genuine.” –  Kirkus Reviews

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go by the first two books now. 🙂

 

 

 

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out my 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.

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The Poet Who Saw Me – Wednesday Writing Wisdom

When I was a kid at Bates College, I spent a lot of my time feeling like less. My family had been kind of poor after my step-father died. My nana would stand in line to get us big orange blocks of commodity cheese for the week to supplement our $30 grocery budget Every  week my mom would yell at her that we didn’t need that. She always took it.

My mom didn’t answer the phone because she was so afraid of credit card companies calling.  She’d make me do it and lie that she wasn’t there.

I still hate answering the phone, even the cell phone, even when it has caller ID.

Anyway, when I went to college I wanted to forget all that. I wanted to be an intellectual like everyone else. I wanted to have gone to private school in Manhattan or Conneticut, have a summer home in the Hamptons and clothes that weren’t from K-Mart, which was sort of the WalMart equivalent back then, but worse.

I got over all that because I knew it was pretty shallow. What I had a harder time getting over was class issues that had less to do with materialism and more to do with hatred and intellectual history.

In one of my directing classes, one of the sexier straight guys actually announced about Beckett, “People who are not wealthy don’t care about this. A truck driver doesn’t watch public television or listen to NPR. They don’t care, they’re too busy humping and eating and drinking.”

My dad was a truck driver. He watched public television. He listened to NPR. I didn’t want to think about him humping. He ate food. He didn’t drink. His parents had been prohibitionists.

In one of my playwrighting classes the professor announced, “The working people of this country don’t give a shit about nuclear power. They don’t give a shit about a man of color.”

When I was in elementary school my dad would bring him with him to protest the same nuclear power plant that my step dad was helping to build. He helped me try to get New Hampshire to recognize Martin Luther King Day and do a hundred other civil rights things. He cared.

And one of my college friends would love to say, “Carrie is too poor to be pro intellectual.”

He’s a minister now. That still doesn’t make what he said right.

And one of my female poetry teachers told me over and over again, her voice trilling up with her patrician accent, “Carrie, you have the potential to be a poet, but your voice is too raw, not refined, not artistic enough.”

My voice was poor. My cadence was public school. I was not from rich. Every sentence I spoke showed that.

They still do.

Those are just four of the incidents that made me both angry and intimidated and focused, but in the back of my head it just inflamed my self doubt. I could never be a poet because I wasn’t wealthy, private-school educated, my parents weren’t intellectuals. I could never move people with words because my words were too stark and my sentences too short. I would never fit in because I didn’t have the background that most of the other students had.

And then two things happened. I read Sherman Alexie, a not-wealthy Spokane and Coeur d’Alene who despite his issues with women, impacted me positively. Maybe because I never met him.

And I met Seamus Heaney in real life.

Seamus Heaney came to our college at the invitation of Robert Farnsworth, who was an awesome poet and professor. He met with students, he gave a reading and we all got to hang out with him at a reception.

“I can’t go,” I told my boyfriend at the time.

He bit into his pizza. He was always eating pizza. “Why not?”

“Because it’s Seamus Heaney,” I answered staring at the little bits of sausage on the pizza before I plucked them off.

“So?”

“Seamus Heaney!”

“So?”

I didn’t know how to explain. Seamus Heaney was THE poet, the Nobel Prize winner. He was Irish for God’s sake. Those people were gifted with words. They had so many amazing poets… Heaney, Yeats, Wilde, Clarke, Moore. I was from New Hampshire. We had Robert Frost but pretty much every New England state tried to claim him.

Heaney wrote things like:

“A hunger-striker’s father

stands in the graveyard dumb.

The police widow in veils

faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don’t hope

on this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

the longed for tidal wave

of justice can rise up,

and hope and history rhyme.”

You will regret it if you don’t go,” my boyfriend said. “I’m going to just be playing Leisure Suit Larry anyway.”

So, I went, as anxious as if I was going on stage myself. Heaney transfixed me with his amazing baritone and bear-like presence. And his words… Of course his words… And when I met him afterwards, I was terrified until he grabbed my hand in his and said, “So you are a poet?”

And I said, “No.”

And all he did was nod and say, “Oh, yes you are.”

But in his eyes was this knowing, this connection, and maybe it wasn’t really there. Maybe I just saw it because I wanted him to understand me, because I wanted someone to get who I was and who I wanted to be. Or maybe not?

I don’t know, but one second later my professor said, “Oh, yes she is. I told you about her. She is like you.”

And then one of them said something about growing up not wealthy and I can’t remember the exact words, but what I do remember is that I finally felt understood. Later, I looked up Seamus Heaney’s past, about how his dad was a farmer and neither of his parents were big on words really, not in the intellectual way that everyone in college seemed to be. I found out that he was like me a little bit not because he was a poet and I was trying so desperately hard to write just one decent poem, but because we were both human, that we both came from humble places, that we both looked in people’s eyes when we said hello.

And that was enough for me. That was enough for me to believe in myself.

Seamus Heaney performed a miracle when I met him. He made me believe that I could be whatever the hell I wanted to be and that it didn’t matter how hard I had to fight or work or not fit in. What mattered was that I wanted the miracle of being a writer, of metamorphosis from Carrie the poor neurotic kid from Bedford, New Hampshire into Carrie Jones, the neurotic best-selling author who lives on the coast of Maine.

He gave hope and miracles in his poems and in his person and I am so thankful for his existence and so sorry for the world’s loss.

“The main thing is to write

for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust

that imagines its haven like your hands at night

dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast.

You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous.

Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest.”

 

I wrote this post back in 2013 when Seamus Heaney died, but in one of my student packet’s this week, I referenced Heaney and then yesterday I saw this Liam Neeson video (randomly) where he was talking about Heaney, so… there you go. I’ve reposted it.

Here’s Seamus Heaney reading his own poem, “Blackberry Picking.”

 

Do Good Wednesday

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 8.19.41 AM

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 8.19.48 AM

Scary, right?

People are fixing it.

You can help with poetry and kids. These images are from Get Lit’s website and Get Lit is making a difference.

“Get Lit was founded in 2006 after Diane Luby Lane created a one-woman show about the power of words and toured colleges with iconic Chicano poet Jimmy Santiago Baca. After the show closed, she couldn’t bear the thought of cutting off the work completely. She started teaching classic and spoken word poetry in two high schools, Fairfax and Walt Whitman. When the semester ended… the students wouldn’t leave. They insisted on meeting after school. The rest is history. Today, the curriculum has expanded to almost 100 schools, and the Get Lit Players are the most watched poets on the internet. Curriculum requests flow in from Mexico to New Zealand.”

Get Lit “uses poetry to increase literacy, empower youth, and inspire communities.”

Get Lit works – 98% of Get Lit Players go to college, and 70% get scholarships!

Here are Get Lit’s specific needs and how you can get involved.

 

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.

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal

 

“Sticks the landing . . . The world building is engaging . . . between the decidedly wonderful residents and the terrifying monsters who plague them.” –  BCCB

 

“Amid the magic, spells, adventure, and weirdness of this fantasy are embedded not-so-subtle life lessons about kindness, friendship, and cooperation.” –  Booklist

 

“A wild and fresh take on fantasy with an intriguing cast of characters. Dangerous and scary and fun all rolled into one. In the words of Eva the dwarf, I freaking loved it!” –  Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds series

 

“Effervescent, funny, and genuine.” –  Kirkus Reviews

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go by the first two books now. 🙂

 

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.

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

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First Drafts Suck But So Do A Ton of Other Things

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

First Drafts Suck But So Do A Ton of Other Things

 
 
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