Are You a Lonely Writer? Critique Me, Baby.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Are You a Lonely Writer? Critique Me, Baby.
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In this podcast, Shaun decides he wants to be a guru, or at least create the Church of Sparty the Dog. Also, we are responsible and discuss critique partners, beta readers and how to say “Klimt” and “Chianti.”

So, in the world of writing, everyone talks about needing a beta reader and a critique partner.

Everyone that is, except Carrie, who has trust issues and survives as a lonely, isolated writer in Maine.

What is a beta reader?

It’s that person who reads your story, gives you some mild suggestions that feel like a big hug. This is a person you want to party with, a person you can cry to, a person with no judgement. This person is basically the human equivalent of your dog – loyal, helpful, good.

What is a critique partner?

These awesome people help you feel less alone, they share stories and ideas with you. They see your story piece by piece, usually, and they help you find the flaws in this work-in-process. These people are like your life partner. They see you without make-up. They see you vomiting into the porcelain pig of your creativity and they hold up your hair because nobody wants puke in hair.

carriejonesbooks.blog

Dog Tip For Life – Don’t be afraid of showing us the messy, disgusting, less-than-perfect aspects of your process. We can love you no matter what.

Life Tip Of the Pod – Pick your critique partners carefully, man. Seriously. Pick someone who wants to stay up with you rather than pull you down.

Baked Spaghetti For Real

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Baked Spaghetti For Real
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In episode 7 we learn that not all experiences are the same and Carrie tries baked spaghetti. She tries not to be a pain about it. She fails.

Dog Tip For Life – Live in the moment. Seriously. Eat the baked spaghetti. Don’t worry about if you’ll like it or if others will judge you. Try it.

carriejonesbooks.com

Writing Tip of the Pod – Your experience isn’t universal. It isn’t even universal for your own demographic. Not every poor white person who grew up east of the Mississippi in the 1980s ate baked spaghetti.

To understand other people’s experiences, be open to learning about them. Don’t superimpose your reality onto theirs.

Think beyond yourself and your life. We don’t want all our characters to be the same.

Four Gentle Ways To Raise (Write) A Good Book Like It’s A Dog

My Post-4 copy

Books and dogs have a lot in common. That’s why we have a podcast about dogs, life, and writing, right? Shameless podcast link is right here. Please listen.

Anyways, now that my shameless plug is over I can get to my point, which is that you can apply some of the lessons of training your dog to training your book. Really. Read on.

Find a space to write

Just like training a dog requires some dedicated space if you’re working on agility or sit/stay commands, your book can blossom if you have a dedicated place to write.

This space needs to be what works for you. Kid free? Kid friendly? Music? No music? Cozy? Standing? Surrounded by books? Surrounded by nothing?

Create a space where writing happens. Kindly boot out the old plates, the yelling kids, the  licking dogs if you need to. Or hoard them. There is no one right way to create your writing space.

Here’s the thing: 

Your book and your writing is important. Create a space for it.

More on that: Make the space for the book

I’m not just talking about the mechanics of writing the book. I’m talking about the space for it to breathe. Books can be brats. They need room to grow and breathe. Make sure you take time to step away from the actual physical writing of your book so that inspiration can hit, problem solving can happen.

Sometimes stepping away to give that baby some independence is exactly what it needs to grow.

Even dogs need a little quite time and not constant stimulation. There’s a reason for that. It lets them recharge. You and your book need to recharge, too.

My Post-4 copy 2

Play

When we were kids, writing stories was play. It was fun. Now, a lot of us think of it as work. We think of work and play as two separate things.

They don’t have to be.

Play with your story. Enjoy it.

Dogs learn things and acquire new skills because they feel rewarded or because it’s fun or because bacon is involved. Doing work doesn’t have to be arduous. It’s okay to find joy.   I wouldn’t write novels if I didn’t love writing stories and making up characters. It’s one of my favorite things in the world, which is why I put up with all the horrible parts of it (bad reviews, trolls, stalkers, random pay checks, hoping for publication, the long wait between books).

Every year that goes by where I get to be a writer I think, “Whooo, boy. I am so freaking lucky. This is awesome. I love this.”

I wouldn’t feel that way if I didn’t think of it as fun, as play, and as work.

Be Okay With Your Book Messing Up

A book is like a kid or a dog. It’s not going to always be perfect. You might think it is the most brilliant, amazing, talented child… dog… book in the world, but sometimes it’s going to mess up a bit? That rambling thought? It doesn’t belong there. The subplot? It’s a bit junky.

That doesn’t mean the book is a failure.

That doesn’t mean you are a failure.

It just means that you have a place to tinker with.

Do Good Wednesday!

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Gabby the Dog loves kids. She loves books. And she loves doing good. If you’re like her at all, you’ll love BOOKS BETWEEN KIDS, “a non-profit organization founded in 2012 to serve Houston’s at-risk children by providing them with books to build their own home libraries.”

That’s pretty cool. Check out its website to get involvedBBK-Banner-Book-Counter-2017-1006389-1.

Random Marketing and Book Things

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

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

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

My Post-2 copy

 

 

“I’m Getting a Bag. Right Now!” How we talk matters.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
"I'm Getting a Bag. Right Now!" How we talk matters.
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In Episode Six of our podcast, we get a closer look at the differences in speech patterns and get to hear Shaun impersonate his grandmother and totally not understand the use of adjectives in dialogue tags. This sounds vaguely boring, but I promise. It’s probably our funniest cast yet.

Dog Tip For Life: 

We communicate with our bodies, not just our words. Communicating effectively gets you more treats.

https://carriejonesbooks.blog/dogs-are-smarter-than-people-the-podcast/
Rosie and Goldie are communicating that they want more treats!

Writer Tip of the Cast:

To improve your dialogue try to do the following four things. . .

https://carriejonesbooks.blog/dogs-are-smarter-than-people-the-podcast/

  1. Don’t make all your characters sound the same. Don’t expect all the people in your life to sound the same, either.
  2. Avoid -ly words in your dialogue tags. Let the dialogue be clear. Show how you feel with words and actions.
    1. Don’t say:
      1. “This sucks,” he said, sadly.
      2. “I’m so happy,” she said, gleefully.
  3. Don’t forget body language when writing dialogue or when you’re talking to others. Body language can tell us as much about intent as words and it can change intent like this:
    1. “I love you.” Shaun made an obscene gesture.
    2. “I love you.” Shaun’s fingers formed a giant heart.
    3. “I love you.” Shaun cupped the back of her head and brought her head towards him.
  4. Read your dialogue aloud. It helps to know if it rings true or all sounds the same or sounds stilted.

www.carriejonesbooks.com

Four Simple Ways To Build Charismatic Characters and a More Charismatic You

When I was little I tried to hide.

I was this kid who talked like a Muppet. Everyone made fun of me so I didn’t talk at all in first grade. I was known as THE QUIET KID WHO GIVES HER SNACKS AWAY – SO DO NOT BEAT HER UP. This was an effective strategy against bullying, honestly.

The teachers couldn’t figure me out. I wasn’t intellectually challenged, but I never actually said anything. Teachers tend to like kids who raise their hand and talk.

But talking meant people noticing me. If people noticed me, they might make fun of my voice. It was way better (in my six-year-old wisdom) to be nothing. Quiet. Just there. This is not terribly charismatic.

Then, I wrote a haiku in September of second grade. I had all the syllables right (a big requirement). It was all one sentence (another requirement). It wasn’t about Tonka trucks (against the teacher’s rules). It was about nature. I was the only one who did it right, so the teacher, Mrs. Snierson, posted it in big letters on the wall and decided I was gifted. Whew. Did I fool her.

The poem was:

Spring is fun you see
Because flowers grow with rain
And robins come home.

This is how I learned that teachers are important to writers’ egos.

That one poem got me into gifted programs.
That one poem got me noticed.
That one poem put my life on a trajectory that didn’t have to do with silence.

And I used all that time watching people to learn about the kids who had the ‘it’ factor. Charisma. They were kids like Sarah Silverman and Steven Sills and Julie Zito and Andrea Henrichon. These shiny, golden people. I watched what they did and longed so much to be like them. That poem was my first step.

Let’s face it. Not all of us writers are super charismatic. Some of us prefer hiding in a reading nook to going out and talking to actual living people.

That’s not the rule, obviously. There are some super charismatic authors out there.

So, what does that mean when we’re writing characters who are supposed to be charismatic? What even is charisma any way?

Charisma is when you or your character is so darn compelling or attractive that people become devoted to you.

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This dog is charismatic even when flopped down.

I’ve met and interacted with a lot of authors with a lot of big followings and most of them build those massive followings with a lot of social media confidence, and a lot of that confidence that I’ve seen is false. They create an online presence that is full of flaunting and preening. They call their readers cute fan club names even when they only have two readers. And that way works. Being super confident works to build charisma.

But I can’t do that. Why? Because I prefer to be authentically me. And authentically me is sometimes sort of confident, but most of the time I am self deprecating and I doubt. This is totally evidenced in Dogs Are Smarter Than People’s Tuesday podcast where my husband almost convinces me that I am wrong about the ingredients in a white Russian.

Sidenote: My husband is a super confident man even when he’s wrong and I actually appreciate that about him because it makes me feel safe. When do I not appreciate it? Um.. when he’s confident that I’m wrong when I’m actually right.

There are a lot of blogs out there talking about charisma and almost all of them are talking about being confident. So you automatically think that if you aren’t confident, you aren’t charismatic, right?

Wrong.

Those blogs aren’t talking about personal charisma. They are talking about charismatic leadership. Those are two different things.

According to Ronald Riggio, PHD, “Personal charisma is a constellation of complex and sophisticated social and emotional skills. They allow charismatic individuals to affect and influence others at a deep emotional level, to communicate effectively with them, and to make strong interpersonal connections.”

So what is this special constellation of skills? Can’t you just believe you’re awesome and be charismatic?

Not really.

We all know the blowhard who saunters around thinking how awesome they are. We write them into our stories and movies. They are almost always a big, white dude who ends up getting beaten up by the hero at the end of the movie.

So how do we make a charismatic character without making someone who is annoyingly over confident? We make someone likable.

My Post-3 copy

Charismatic people don’t think the world revolves around them.

We’ve all met the people who only talk about themselves. You can be standing in front of them bleeding profusely and they will look at you and say, “Hey, you know I once got this cut that bled like that for like hours. It was a paper cut. Man, that thing bled. You know my mom says I have always been a big bleeder, blah, blah, blah.”

That person is obviously not charismatic. Being into yourself so much to the exclusion of all others no matter what the situation is sort of an anti-charisma.

This goes for characters, too. The character that only thinks about their self when their friend has just lost a hamster, or their zombie girlfriend, or whatever, is an unlikeable and uncharismatic character.

So, how do you fix this? Two quick things: 

  1. Listen to other people when they talk to you. Have your character listen to other characters.
  2. Don’t make a conversation all about you. Don’t make the internal monologue about your character all about your character all the time.

Own Your Space

When you go somewhere, own that somewhere. When your charismatic character enters the wizarding tournament, don’t have him shirk off to the side. Have her swagger onto the court. Have him stride to the field. You can do this, too. You might be a writer, but own your writing space. This is yours. You deserve it.

My Post-3 copy 2

Be Kind

When I go the grocery store, people wave to me. Why? I think it’s because I try to be kind and open. I like to hear about their days and connect with them because they are cool people. I never realized this was a weird thing until one of my friends went with me.

We walked through those sliding front doors, a whole bunch of awesome cashiers waved, smiling, and my friend grabbed my arm and scurried over to produce whispering madly, “Those people love you.”

I said, “They are nice.”

And she said, “Carrie, they don’t love everyone. They love you. They aren’t waving to everyone. I bet some of them even know your name.”

She was totally flabbergasted and I was flabbergasted by her being flabbergasted, but then I realized that my normal isn’t everyone else’s normal. The awesome people at my grocery store don’t think I’m better than anyone else because I’m not. But they might think that I treat them better than most other people.

That is actually sad.

Everyone should treat each other with a bit more kindness and openness, honestly. A charismatic person and character, is comfortable enough with who they are that they can treat others well and want to know their stories and connect with them.

How do you do that? 

  1. Be enthusiastic if other people take the time to try to connect with you. This goes for characters, too.
  2. Be optimistic when you can be optimistic. Lift up other people and their goals instead of trying to drag them down.
  3. Don’t be afraid to smile or laugh when you feel like smiling or laughing.  the

Be Expressive

My Post-4

A charismatic person (and character) isn’t afraid to express her genuine emotions. A lot of time, I tell my students that something emotionally huge just happened for their character, but they aren’t showing that on the page and so the important scene falls flat.

So, they’ll write something like this:

Ezra leaned forward and kissed me. I kissed him back. After a moment, he broke away. 

There is no emotional investment in those three sentences, right? It’s just actions. You know what happened, but you aren’t invested in that scene. There is no charisma in the character right there, right? Compare that to:

Ezra leaned forward like he was going to kiss me. That couldn’t be right. Ezra Jones would never want to kiss me. Swallowing hard, my lips trembled. I almost looked away, but his lips met mine before I actually could.

Ezra Jones’ lips were touching my lips!

And my lips were touching his lips right back. 

 The cat screeched in the other room and we broke away, laughing. My hand fluttered up to my mouth. Ezra Jones had kissed me. Me. 

So, my point here is not about Ezra Jones’ kiss, but about emotion and expressing that on the page or in your own life. We all walk around broken and pieced back together. People are fragile, inside and out. And it’s natural sometimes to try to hold in our emotions.

Charismatic people are genuine people. They let their emotions be out there for the world to see, but they don’t usually make scenes. They are genuine, but they know the impact that their emotions have on other people and they care about that impact, so they do control their emotions when interacting with others in what could be perceived as a potentially negative way.

That ability to care about others? That expressive empathy? That’s charismatic.

So, to recap. How do you make characters charismatic? 

  1. They don’t think the world revolves around them.
  2. They own their space.
  3. They are kind.
  4. They are expressive. 

Random Marketing and Book Things

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

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

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

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say. Also, I can be concise! Most of my friends don’t believe this.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog.

Yesterday’s podcast was about how I can’t have a donkey farm or be Bono, but it’s also about character and blocking and how dogs are smarter than people.

 

 

How To Stay Motivated About Your Story Even When You Want to Cry

Sometimes, writers crash.

It happens to all of us. To some of us it happens all the time. It’s hard to stay motivated about your story when it gets rejected 8,000 times or you publish it and nobody reads it or you are still writing the draft and it feels more like drudgery than song.

And being a writer is weird. A lot of things mess with your head.

Once, one of my books was up for an award and it totally didn’t win.

One of my friends emailed me and he said, “Grrr…. I hate that your book loses anything.”

Which is SO funny because he’s so protective in a happy-good way and also funny because let’s face it: Books lose things all the time.

Not every book gets on the NYT Bestsellers list
Not every book gets a Printz or a National Book Award or a Cybils or a Caldecott or any of those big fancy prizes where you get to wear ball gowns and look all elegant.

But just getting a book published is really cool. And I am so okay with losing contests because I am really super lucky to get books published at all. There are so many stories that are brilliant and life-changing and funny that don’t get that chance. So I am SAVORING IT!

And it’s kind of like getting a significant other….

If you are like me you pine ALL THROUGH EIGHTH GRADE and hope for a boy to somehow eventually like you, and of course it isn’t just any boy it is… um….

But of course he’s like a British pop star who dates models and doesn’t hang out in New Hampshire and even if he did he’d get arrested for dating you because he is like way old.

And you pine…And you hope… And you send out your query (or yourself) to editors and people who aren’t British pop stars and EVENTUALLY someone who is NOT a BRITISH POP STAR (or Super Editor Celebrity) actually says

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Hey Baby Let’s get together.

(Sorry. Check out the guy in the background! Is he a zombie? I think so!)

And you are all YAY!!!!
And you are published/in love and not eaten by the jealousy/the loneliness zombie. And it doesn’t matter that it’s not Super Celebrity Pop Star. It’s your significant other. It’s your editor. And they love your book. How cool is that?

It is AMAZINGLY COOL and you don’t want to spend all your time thinking, “I could have won a Printz” or “I could be dating a British Pop Star.” Instead you’ve got to savor what you have.
So, yeah. I’m okay with losing things. Because I have won already in SO many ways and I will lose again in SO many more. And I’m cool with that. And that’s what I have to remember when I feel stuck with my story or my career or anything.

Here are some quick tips on how to stay motivated about your story.

Dig Deep

I don’t mean dig deep about your story, but about why you are a writer. Who are you doing this for? You. Good. But add someone else. Are you doing this for your mom so she can be proud of you? Are you doing this for kids like you who have never had a story about them before?

Digging deep and finding your motivation to be a writer and to write this specific story helps. It helps a lot.

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Sparty digs deep a lot. He is the most existential of dogs. And his point in being here? It’s to eat bacon.

Make Daily Story Goals

If you commit daily to making a word count goal or a revision goal for your story it helps. Make a goal every single day. Make those goals your own. Don’t let other people tell you to write 1,000 words a day or whatever. This is your story. You get to make the goals. You’re in charge.

Start Early

If you are a write every day kind of person, try to write earlier on in the day before all your daily chores and stress drain away your motivation. A lot of people won’t put their writing first if there is a house to clean, a kid to get to school, another job to work at. But remember, this is a job, too. You’ve got to work at it to be the best writer you can be. So, if it matters to you, write as early as you can. Being productive and hitting your goals actually helps you stay motivated. Weird, right?

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Gabby and I both have a hard time starting early, but we know our days go so much better when we do.

When Writing, Focus On Your Story Not the Other Stuff

If your goal as a writer is to make money you’re not really going to be constantly motivated about your story. If your goal is to be the best writer you can be? To learn everything you can about craft? Yeah, you will probably be more motivated.

Try Not To Succumb to the Negative

It’s really easy for a lot of us to succumb to our negative thoughts. Don’t limit yourself with negative thoughts about how you suck. You don’t suck. Look at you, you’re so motivated to be a good writer, you’re reading this blog. Think about all the ways you’ve made yourself awesome.

You can do this.

You just have to work, to be persistent, and to believe.

Write down those negative thoughts. Do this a few times – not all in the same day. Sometimes by writing them down, we escape from them and realize that we don’t need them holding us back anymore.

Do Good Wednesday!

Lots of time people want to do good, but they don’t have the money to donate to a cause. The thing is that you don’t have to have money to do good. You just have to want to do good.

Here’s an example of a cool skills-based volunteer matching service. Catchafire lets you “give what you are good at.” How cool is that? You should check them out.

My Post-4 copy 3

MY BOOK COMES OUT TOMORROW! 

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

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

My Post copy 4

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

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say.

My Post copy 6

Dogs Are Smarter Than People

And yesterday, I posted a new podcast about self doubt and how Shaun can make me believe almost anything because he is so confident about even the ingredients of a cocktail he’s never had.

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog. It’s um – cough – different. Sort of like us.

My Post-2 copy
Dogs rule. Or they should. Please subscribe and give us a good review. It’s a great act of kindness.

 

 

 

 

 

Five Things To Do When You Are Stuck As A Writer

 

A long time ago, I had to write the NEED sequel, CAPTIVATE, on deadline and I was pretty terrified the entire time. I knew I had to get it done but I was full of doubts the entire time. So much doubt.

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And when I finally turned it in, I was still terrified and stuck.

Is there a phobia name for FEAR YOUR EDITOR WILL SCREAM THAT YOU STINK AND RETROACTIVELY PULL ALL YOUR BOOKS FROM THE SHELVES BECAUSE YOUR SEQUEL IS REALLY JUST THAT BAD?

There should be.

Maybe we should just make a list of writer phobias. But anyway, that time really made me think a lot about what makes me feel stuck and how I will possibly do anything in the world to avoid that feeling. This is what I’ve learned.

So here is my:

Five Things To Do When You Are Stuck As A Writer

KILL YOUR INTERNAL EDITOR

With my students, I talk a lot about how there are these internal critics or editors inside our heads, and this critic basically tells us everything that we could do wrong, all the ways we can fail, all the ways we might suck.

And it tells it to us with authority. A lot of authority.

Mine basically is John Wayne. He’s always squinting at me and telling me how much I fail. This voice? It’s a strong voice, but it’s full of lies. And when we listen to it too much, we get stuck. We can’t write our story. We can’t live our life, because that voice is so strong in our head telling us how much we fail.

So how do you fight that?

I imagine an internal cheerleader. Mine is – cough – Grover, the Muppet from Sesame Street. Every time my inner critic derides me, Grover counterbalances it.

My Post-4 copy

Like today, inner critic said, “The circulation librarian can never remember your last name even though you live in a tiny town and she hates you because you are stupid.”

And Grover was like, “You aren’t stupid, Carrie! Your IQ is actually high. Remember you got it tested?”

It’s good to fight your inner critic with facts when you have them.

With writing, it’s more like:

Inner Critic John Wayne, “Dear god, little missy. Why would you possibly try to write a time travel story? Stick to your little pixie books.”

Grover the Awesome Inner Cheerleader would say, “Do not listen to him, Cawwie. He thought writing about pixies was a terrible idea, too! He thinks everything is terrible.”

Don’t let your doubt stop you from writing. Just bundle up and do it.

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THINK ABOUT WHY YOU ARE WRITING THE STORY YOU ARE WRITING

If you are writing a nonfiction book about the history of guinea pigs in North America and you don’t actually care about guinea pigs in North America? Well, yeah, you’re going to probably get stuck.

Ask yourself:

What books do you love? 

What stories make you happy?

Write that kind of story. To heck with the guinea pigs. 

My Post-3

DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE

Sometimes, when writers are stuck, it’s because we’ve been sitting too long and focused on our story. Our mind is giving us a hint that we actually are not cats and we need to move.

So, I clean something when I am vaguely stuck. I think of it as a sign that my subconscious is giving me that if I sit at the laptop any longer, I will turn to salt.

When you step away, you give yourself space to grow and move. When you step away, you give yourself some space and your story some space to percolate.

LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE AND TAKE STOCK OF YOUR GOALS

Sometimes (cough – all the time) I feel like I’m not getting anything accomplished or a lot of my students feel like writing an entire novel is too huge a goal.

So, what I do is I set small incremental goals. If a story feels stuck, I tell myself to write 250 words four times a day to make a 1,000 word-count for the day. I also write the starting number of my word count and mark it off in 250-word increments as I go along. This helps make me realize that:

  1. I am writing
  2. I am not really as stuck as I thought.
  3. Makes the writing feel really manageable.
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This is seriously what I do. It helps. 250-word increments on top. Day totals on bottom.

TRY WRITING SOMETHING DIFFERENT

I know! I know! All the writing advice people tell you to stick to your story. Don’t ever give up on your story. They say, “you will never get a book done if you don’t do the following things:”

  1. Write one book at a time.
  2. Write one book until it’s done.

That’s crap, honestly. Sorry for my language, but it’s just not true. Yes, there are people who will hop from project to project and in 20 years never finish a story. But whatever. Those people are rare. They are even more rare when it comes to people who want to be published. Everyone knows that to get a novel published, you have to write an entire story. That ‘write one book until it’s done’ edict irritates me. A lot.

My Post-4 copy 2

Here’s the truth: 

  1. You can work on as many projects as your brain can handle.
  2. You can put down a story that you are working on and finish it years later when you are ready.

But the biggest truth is this: 

There is no one way to be a writer. There is no one process that will always work for you or for everyone. Part of the adventure is finding things that work, triumphing in the moments when you stop being stuck.

Let’s say you’re reading this and you aren’t an author. How does this work for you as a non writing person who feels stuck in their life?

It’s like this: 

  1. There is no one way to succeed, no one path. If you feel stuck, try something else.
  2. If you hate everything in your life, try to remember something you once loved. Do that again.
  3. Be proud of the things you’ve done and make small goals. Reward yourself for forward motion – any forward motion.
  4. Simplify and organize your life. Press pause with intention. If you feel stuck, organize your thoughts, your desk, your kitchen, your closet. Getting rid of the clutter can help you understand what you need to do to move forward.
  5. Don’t fill yourself with negative thoughts if you can help it. Sometimes we can’t, honestly. But every time that inner critic berates you, consciously work to counter it with something positive.

When my dog Scotty couldn’t open the door by hitting the bottom of it over and over again with his paw, he didn’t give up. He came and got me to open the door for him. When that didn’t work because I was kneading dough and didn’t want to stop, you know what he did? He grabbed the doorknob in his mouth and turned. I’ve never seen anything like it. But the thing isn’t how awesome he was. The thing is that he found a way to succeed. He tried a new way.

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When Sparty feels sad because it’s raining too hard to take a walk, he will go cuddle up with a stuffed animal. He finds something else he loves to make him feel less stuck.

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We can learn a lot from dogs.

 

Random Marketing and Book Things

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

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

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

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog. It’s um – cough – different.

 

Top Five Ways To Channel Your Inner Cat and Get What You Want. 

So, a lot of times when I’m talking to other writers, they tell me that they are full of fear.

I’ve been a firefighter and a dispatcher and a gymnastics instructor and I’ve got to tell you that on a really fundamental life level, writing isn’t as scary as those things. You don’t usually die from typing. I mean, someone could put poison on the keyboard, but that’s pretty rare.

But the thing is that writing is scary because it makes you vulnerable. Communicating is an act of openness. Art is an act of sharing. The potential rejection and judgement that comes from that? It can be scary.

But we want it anyways, us writers. We want it so badly. We want to be published. We want to share our stories.

And that takes an act of bravery, of fierceness.

All of life takes that, really.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the world what you want.

So, I’ve solicited Marsie to help us with the Top Five Ways To Channel Your Inner Cat and Get What You Want In Your Writing Career and Regular Life.

Whew. That was long.

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  1. Tell People You Want Something – It feels pretty alpha, but it’s true. If you want people to pick you up and place you near your cat food, you have to meow at them. Marsie is an expert in this. She has me trained. You can do this, too. Ask people to like your blog, to subscribe, to share. Ask people to buy or read or talk about your book. Some people like to help you. Those people are good people.
  2. Don’t Apologize – Cats do not say sorry for their wants. Neither should you. Full disclaimer: I have no idea how to do this. Sorry. SEE! I just did it!
  3. When People Give You Things Be Cool With It – Does the cat turn down the cat nip? No. The cat does not. Why? Because she knows she deserve to get what she wants. You do too. You deserve good things. You deserve blog readers, book readers, gentle pats on the head. You’ve worked for it.
  4. Don’t Give Up – If you don’t give Marsie food when she first meows at you, does she give up? No. No she doesn’t. Cats ask and ask and ask and demand for what they want. So should you. Keep working on your story, your life, your goal. Don’t give up because someone doesn’t hear you meowing. Make yourself heard. Meow loud.
  5. Meow Loud – Really. Writers and a lot of us introverts and those of who have been oppressed or traumatized we aren’t seen. It’s okay to claim your space. Seriously. Meow loud.

For me? The hard asks are these right now: 

  1. Could you please LIKE and SUBSCRIBE to my blog and podcast?
  2. Could you spread the word about them if you get the chance?
  3. Could you leave positive reviews if you’ve liked my books?

That’s about it. It’s easy to make this author happy.

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!

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

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.