Yo! We’re High Concept.

So there’s a quick and easy way to figure out who you are and who you want to be, but also figure out what your book is and what it wants to be. 

It’s called the high concept. It’s the dramatic question. It’s the way you describe in a quick captivating phrase all the energy inside your novel. 

You can also do this for your life: 

Like mine would be: Latchkey kid overwhelmed by family secrets sets out to find out who she is in a world that really couldn’t give a crap. 

Sorry! Sorry! That’s so negative. 

How about: Stuck in small-town New Hampshire, a weird psychic kid manages to survive thanks to her intellect until a rapist gives her a disease that attacks her brain. She survives anyways. 

There are sort of standard questions for every genre of story and movies. Will they fall in love? Will the killer be caught? Will our hero survive the zombie gerbils? Will the events of our youth make us into fractured adults? 

Don’t be shy about what your story is about. Will ET make it home? Will the Skywalkers go to the dark side – all of them? Will the Avengers defeat Thanos? Will Hugh Grant fall in love with someone in a fulfilling way? Even ghost ‘reality’ shows on tv have a dramatic question – Will they catch evidence – real evidence of the ghosts? Will they get possessed? Will they survive the night in the haunted castle? 

An awesome dramatic question isn’t enough to make something a bestseller, but it’s an important start. Go get one. For your life and your story. 

Next add in the obstacles. What’s making it complicated for ET to get home? For the ghost hunters to find evidence? Add those obstacles up so that we doubt that dramatic question is going to have a good answer. 

Finally, make sure that your hero is someone with some damn strong convictions. ET knows he has to get home, right? Scarlett O’Hara is positive she has to marry that Ashley guy. Harry Potter/Iron Man/Captain America/Black Widow must defeat Voldemort/Thanos/Whatever Big Bad you want to insert. 

That character’s super strong convictions are what makes us root for them. We feel that conviction. The stakes resonate. 

Writing Tip of the Pod:

Make a dramatic question.

Add obstacles.

Make your character have convictions.

Dog Tip For Life

Make a dramatic question.

Realize you have obstacles.

Make yourself have the convictions to bash through those obstacles.

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

LAST WEEK’S PODCAST LINK!

WRITING NEWS

LEARN WITH ME AT THE WRITING BARN!

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here! 

“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.”

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

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PATREON OF AWESOME

Get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

THE WEEK BEFORE LAST WEEK’S PODCAST! 

LASt WEEK’S PODCAST LINK!

Yo! We’re High Concept.

 
 
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I am a distinguished alumna! No… Seriously!

A few years ago (in June) there was a Vermont College of Fine Arts party at American Library Association’s conference that I was completely stressed about? It was at Tami Lewis Brown’s House. Katherine Paterson was there and I had no idea what I was supposed to say if I actually met Katherine Paterson.

I mean, what do you say to someone who wrote THE BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA?

1. You made me cry
2. You made me make my own fantasy world in the woods in my backyard.
3. No, really you made me sob.
4. Can I have 1/100th of your talent?
5. Gasp! Chortle! Squee!

Well, I did NOT make a fool of myself about Katherine Patterson. And I didn’t avoid the author M. T. Anderson even though he’s so tall I find it intimidating.

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 the doorman thinks he can ask out.

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

Side note: Don’t tell random people you love them even when you do love them in that moment.

Anyway, I went to the party and my hair was flat and I had a cardigan on even though it was 98 degree.

And then… and then…

Katherine and Tami made speeches about the awesomeness of Vermont College. I think Tobin 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 pet her on the back and tried to comfort her while thinking how awesome she is and then….

And then…

I GOT ONE TOO!

Seriously! I don’t know what they were thinking, 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.

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 amazing graduates who deserved that award, and I kept looking out there in the crowd and seeing those amazing writers, and it was so completely humbling. 

But then I also thought about how terrified I was when I first started at Vermont. Some people were already published. I had barely written one book. 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 like objective correlative and who all the publishing houses, and I knew nothing.

I didn’t believe in myself at all.

Lisa Jahn Clough and Emily Wing Smith and Ed Briant (who said something awesome at a reading to me) 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). 

I am still trying to make it so I can deserve that award. I really am. 

More than that though, I want to make it so everyone can get that kind of dumpy cardigan moment, to get loved and recognized. It might be for running after a shuttle bus. It might be for making a children’s book, but we get to choose who we are, how we interact with the world, who we can be.

I want so badly for everyone to choose empathy, to choose their own power, to choose to make the right choices. I want everyone to feel that love and recognition that I was lucky enough to feel that June.

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

Carrie Jones Art for Sale

Some Men Aren’t Meant to Wear Scarves, So Be Your Own Style and Don’t Pretend to Be Tom Cruise Or Bieber

How to Survive Stupid Writing Advice

I (Carrie) apologize for sounding so sick in this podcast. It’s because I am super sick.

This week I got an Instagram message from a man selling his copyediting services and there were five incredibly obvious typos in his pitch. I’m talking about two words combined, misspelled words. Double punctuation at the end of a sentence.

It was sad.

So, there’s another guy on the internet who makes a ton of money helping other people be writers and I’m sure he’s lovely, but I find him incredibly frustrating.

Why?

He has a page all about writing advice and in that advice he has bullet points to make things simple because apparently people who want to be writers need things simple? Who knows.

But in those ten bullet points he has contradictory advice. In one bullet point he says,

Don’t be lazy. Don’t sound stupid.

In another he says,

Don’t worry about being good. Just write.

Hm.

In yet another he says,

Don’t be a perfectionist.

Yeah.

Look. I’m sure he’s helped a ton of people and his bullet points must have deeper meaning and insight, but here’s the thing. Writing isn’t about bullet points. Writing is about soul and depth. Writing is about communication and building worlds through words that create image and resonance.

How To Survive Stupid Writing Advice

1. Sort the good from the bad

Remember a lot of people are just trying to make money off you. Sad, but true. And some of these people are amazing and professionals and some aren’t. You have to sort the good from the bad.

2. One Size Does Not Fit All

Does your brain work exactly like your BFF’s? Your mom’s? You’re dog’s? No. It doesn’t. All advice doesn’t work for everyone. It’s okay to be the writer who works in spurts, who doesn’t outline, who writes every day. There’s no one right way to write anymore than there is one right way to human.

3. Believe in Yourself

When you get really crap advice at your writing critique group, or workshop or from your mentor or even your agent? And it just feels wrong?

That probably means it is. Don’t let group think or even an expert sway you from the truth of your story.

4. Try not to compare

Here’s the thing. If one writer publishes 100,00 copies? That doesn’t make them a better writer than the one who publishes 10. There’s a lot of stuff called marketing that goes on behind the scenes that makes one author have high sales. If one author always gets invited to conferences and you don’t? It doesn’t mean you suck. It might be that other author is good at schmoozing. Be proud of who you are and be who you are. Don’t try to emulate the people who you think are successful. Emulate yourself.

5. Blow it off And dig deep

Seriously. Blow off the comparisons, the advice that doesn’t work. Study the craft, the books YOU love, notice sentence structure, discover why you like the stories you like and then think about why YOU want to write your story, dig deep into why it matters to you.

Writing Tip of the Pod

If you’re going to pay people to help you, please do it with someone reputable. Please do it with someone who can spell. And please do it with someone who gives you consistent advice that resonates.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Some people suck and just want to use you for money or cute Instagram pictures. Avoid those people.

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

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WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

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HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast 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. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

ART

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here.