Everyone Wants a Piece of You – Including Us Writers

We live, if we ever let ourselves to really live, to hope, to fear, to elegies of beauty and pain, terror and hate.

A woman on the street, a tourist, shepherding her family past the t-shirt shops and towards the ice cream shop said in a loud enough voice for everyone around to hear. “You can’t be too careful in this world. Everyone wants a piece of you.”

Maybe.

Or do we all want a piece of everyone?

I live in farmhouse in the middle of town across the back dirt lot of our local YMCA and in between a house under construction for about ten years and another that seems to be part of a magical landscape, blending in with boulders and spruce and grass. It’s a good place to hermit without seeming like a hermit because this world doesn’t want hermits, does it? It wants people to explode onto scenes, to reach tall and high like seedlings in the summer garden, hoping to capture the sun.

People tend to think of that want—the discovery, the authenticity, the soul-brightness—as something to hermit away from and we tend to shy down our true selves to fit in.

When the woman on the street wrapped an arm around one of her sons, he had the face of adolescent horror, eyes wide and moving back and forth to see if anyone had heard, still hoping that his connection with his mother wasn’t quite so obvious, maybe? He ducked under her arm.

I have no idea if that’s what he was thinking or if that was what his mother was thinking. But he ducked under arm and without a beat, she grabbed the hand of the other child and tugged him forward. His stride quickened, little legs trying to keep up.

The boy’s glance hit mine. I smiled. He didn’t smile back. I wanted to tell him that he was safe from me, that I didn’t want a piece of him, but here I am now, days later, writing about him, which makes me wonder, maybe I do?

Why do we notice the things we notice? Why can I remember the brown, horrified eyes of that boy?

Another kid was sitting on a bench near us with his parents watching it all. His parents were on their phones. He just sat there doing nothing for at least twenty minutes, but when he saw that other kid, he smiled like a tiny bit of encouragement and this time, that original boy smiled back.

Van Gogh allegedly once said, “I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.

Sometimes that love blossoms from a smile, a recognition, a seeing, a noticing.

Artists, writers, lovers want pieces of understanding and from that understanding (or even from the lack of it) love comes.

Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

How beautiful is it that writers and artists and people allow their souls to crawl out from hiding, to sprawl and lift images on canvasses and pages and in offerings of expression and sympathy as they give the world a piece of them freely. That’s a big kind of love and a big kind of trust. And it happens over and over again.

NEW BOOK ALERT!

What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

There Is Nothing Better than a Sexy Setting

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
There Is Nothing Better than a Sexy Setting
/

Lately, Carrie has been talking to a lot of writers that she coaches and edits about settings.

That’s because a lot of writers are blowing them off. So, she’ll read a lot of passages like this:

“Hey,” I sit at my desk, “you coming over later?”

“Yep,” Shaun says.

“Cool.”

“I thought maybe we could have some hanky-panky.”

“Okay?”

So, we know that Shaun wants to have some hanky-panky and the “I” of the story is sitting at their desk. But we don’t know what kind of desk, where that desk is, if there are other people around, or even how she or he or they are reacting to Shaun’s request for hanky-panky, right?

Setting is obviously the place where things happen, but it’s more than that, right?

Setting makes your characters real. It grounds them. It shows the reader what’s going on without saying, “Yo, reader. This is what’s going on.”

What do we mean? Well, here, let’s play with the setting of that excerpt above.

“Hey,” I sit at my desk, flipping through some tentacle porn, “you coming over later?”

The dirt-streaked wall of my cubby gives a bit with the pressure of his hand, holding him up as he leans over my shoulder. “Yep.”

Betty is just on the other side of that cubby wall and beyond her is my boss, the other workers, everyone typing on their computers, pretending to be busy reading emails, analyzing data, reading contract clauses. Liars all. The air smells of old coffee and pot, broken things, broken people.

It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.

“Cool.” That’s all I say.

Shaun clears his throat, moves lower, closer to me, my hard metal desk, standard issue. His giant elbow brushing against the wall again. His voice is a low whisper. “I thought maybe we could have some hanky-panky.”

Someone coughs. That someone is Betty. I flip the page. A tentacle is exploring places on an elf that should probably not be explored. Shaun doesn’t smell like old coffee. He smells of sandalwood and pine, like man.

“Okay,” I whisper. “Okay.”

Totally different, right?

Now we have a lot more context even if we don’t know all the details of her office, the chair, the desk. The characters aren’t floating in a void.

Here, one more example before we move on. Same dialogue again. But different setting and different feelings.

“Hey.” Holding my phone in my hand, I sit at my broad, metal work desk, give up and stand on it, pushing the papers and books about writing and being a freelance human off with my heel. They flutter to the floor. From up here, I can see everyone. Janice with the pink hair. Bob with the coffee stained shirt and no hair. Countless nameless coworkers. I raise my voice into a yell that echoes across the vast space of the office. “You coming over later?”

Bob stares up at me. His mouth gaping open. I can see his fillings. He puts a finger over his lips. I give him a finger of my own. Lights flicker overhead.

“Yep,” Shaun says.

Janice gives me a thumbs up. Beyond her, other coworkers are watching and/or pretending not to watch. The fans above them, hanging from the drop ceiling, spin around and around. My manager opens the door from his office, starts angry striding towards me.

I say, “Cool.”

Across the office, all the way in a prestigious cubby by the dirt-grimed windows, Shaun stands on his own desk and shouts, “I thought maybe we could have some hanky-panky.”

Someone giggles. The world smells of promise, lemon bleach those cleaners use. The manager stops, his bald head turning from Shaun to me to Shaun.

I hang up the phone and yell across everyone. “Okay?”

Setting can reinforce what we’re doing, add context and even tension, right? It can transform an exchange into a story. You don’t want to blow it off. You really want to make it as sexy as possible.

Tips About Setting

Don’t glob it all down in paragraph after paragraph.

Sprinkle it into the dialogue and action like salt.

Let us reiterate: Don’t overdo it.

Seriously. See that first tip up there. It’s like art in your house. You don’t put all the paintings in one room. Spread it out.

Make sure that the details you add are the ones that are important to the reader.

Use setting to add subtext.

You can say “there is a fan in the office” or you can say, “The fans above them, hanging from the drop ceiling, spin around and around.”

Boom! Now you know that they feel trapped and like they are going in circles. Cool, right?

Be weird. Be quirky. Don’t be normal.

Our readers are aware of what a desk is, right? What an office is? But it’s the weird and different things that make a scene and setting matter. Let them see the escaped gerbil running across the floor. Let them hear the sound of a coworker sucking air through their teeth nonstop. Show them the broken blind, twisted and lopsided on the window.

Show the setting as your main character sees it. The readers shouldn’t see the office until the point-of-view character sees the office. Let the setting be discovered by them simultaneously. 

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Settings make a book real. They add dimension and character. Layers. Don’t blow them off.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

A sexy setting is so important in your life. Surround yourself with dog toys and cozy blankets, twirl around around before flopping down so that you feel perfect.

NEW BOOK ALERT!

What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

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 “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about strange things people do for luck.

RESOURCES

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a39179/five-real-life-horror-stories/

https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2021/07/30/canada-loose-llama-Arkell-Puslinch-Ontario/4701627667041/

Cheating On Yourself

I was once on a panel at a writing convention in Oklahoma and made fast enemies with the agent (now an editor) on the panel.

Why?

Because I disagreed.

I’m a pretty mellow human most of the time, but if you say something that I think might not allow people to ascend, to be themselves, or something full of hate? I’m terrible at being silent about that.

I mean, I’m not cable-news tv forceful, but I speak my mind.

What had the agent said?

It wasn’t anything scandalous, honestly.

She just said, “You should only write in your genre. No author is successful if they write in multiple genres. You can’t jump genres.”

And I objected and listed authors who did write successfully in multiple genres. M.T. Anderson. Anne Rice. Elizabeth Gilbert. At that moment, I had just jumped from literary young adult to genre young adult with a book that made me an international bestseller.

She wasn’t cool about me disagreeing.

I disagreed anyway. The reason that I did that is yes, it’s easier to brand and market your art or your writing and generally make more money if you only write one thing. But it’s also limiting.

If you are a person who writes erotic werewolf novels who wants to write a picture book about happy hamsters? You should do it.

Limiting our selves and our art to one specific genre or story or way of being? One specific process? One specific type of heroine or character or fight scene?

We don’t have to do that. We can cheat on our norms and even on our own (and our readers/reviewers) expectations if we want to do that.

Trying new things, cheating on your writing, your art? It can transform you. It can expand you. It can make you bigger and better and stronger and more powerful even if it’s a fail, even if nobody likes it or reads it, but you.

When we push beyond the boxes and labels that surround us (whether we give it to ourselves or others give it to us), we become interesting.

Interesting is so much more fun than dull.

Interesting is being alive, being quirky, being an explorer, being curious, being a doer.

And sometimes being interesting means being on a panel and disagreeing with a hot-shot agent and having her glare at you.

No. I’ll never work with that editor because of that interaction. Do I care? Nope. Because that editor is safe. That editor isn’t interesting. And that editor would hold me back even though people think she’s a genius. She probably is. She’s just not my kind of genius.

We all have people like her in our lives, people who keep us from being brave, trying new things. You don’t have to be a writer to know this.

However, we also do it to ourselves. We hold ourselves back. We are afraid to try. We follow other people’s paths and edicts and hope that we will be successful like them instead of forging our own way.

Here’s the thing: You will fail sometimes.

You will get rejected or hurt and it will suck. But it is worth it. Because failing means that you took a damn chance on something, on yourself, on another person. Failing means that you were brave and that you are growing and that you are exploring and it means that you’re interesting.

The interesting people are the innovators. The interesting people who go after their dreams and desires? They change the world. They move the world. They inspire the world.

So go out there. Cheat on yourself. Move on. Do you art in different ways. Do your work in different ways. Do your life in different ways. Try all the things. Be interesting. You’ve got this.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

New Book Alert – SAINT – A YA paranormal

I have a new book! It’s about to come out!

Big breaths.

If you don’t remember, I’m doing this BIG EXPERIMENT where I’m independently publishing a book every month even though

I’m terrible at pushing my own books and getting people to buy them.

Yeah. That’s basically it. But I coach and edit so many writers who choose independent publishing over traditional publishing and I wanted to do a big year-long experiment and immerse myself in that world so I could learn about it, too.

But the problem is:

I still want people to buy those books because I really really love them.

Which leads me to the problem of:

I hate marketing my own books. It just makes me feel dirty somehow. Yes. I should probably go to therapy for this, but I can’t afford therapy thanks to American healthcare. 🙂

So, here goes:

My book coming out is SAINT. It’s super fun. It’s part of a series of stand-alone paranormals all set in the same world/same town in Maine. And I’m SO in love with the lead character Cole and his bestie, Norah. And also there are Bridge to Terabithia references. It’s such a book of my heart.

Think – Guy who levitates and is followed by birds.

Think – Guy who has a crush on his best friend and a skeleton knocking on his window.

Think -An evil curse on a town and a demon demanding guy’s best friend be sacrificed.

There you go!

Look! That’s me with Tobin and Tammy and Kekla and Katharine Paterson! Cool, right? Yes, I’m in Tobin’s armpit.

Okay. Here’s more about the book!

What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

And please buy it if you’re feeling like helping a writer pay for therapy some day. Or if you just like fun books. I’m a pretty good writer, I promise. 🙂

So many thanks for my awesome patrons who help support me write new books. I wouldn’t be able to do any of it (emotionally especially) without you cheering me on.

Life is About More Than How To and How To Be.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Life is About More Than How To and How To Be.
/

On BE BRAVE FRIDAYS, we share other people’s stories (unedited) to build a community of bravery and inspiration.

Please let us know if you want to share your story with us and we’ll read it here and post it on our social media and website.

We don’t edit these because we want people’s stories to be heard as they tell them.

This life is too short to not be brave. We can do this together.

This week, I’m telling one of my stories.


“How do I become an artist?” I used to ask my mom this all the time when I was little.

“Nobody in our family has an artistic bone in their body,” my mother said every time I asked. She’d light a cigarette. She’d take a drag. She’d offer me a Pepsi, cold from the fridge, always poured over ice and never in a can because we weren’t that kind of people either. “Not one bone.”

“Our family” only meant her family. One of my grandmothers painted all the time, hiding away her canvasses, horrified by how bad they were. None were ever bad, but they were dark, dripping with sadness, a sadness that also came out in her poems. One of my father’s sisters did batik, made jewelry. Another aunt did ceramics.

That wasn’t about me though. My only genes, according to my mom, came from her. And so I was left wondering, “How do I be an artist if there isn’t an artistic bone in my body?”

And I gave up even though I was a kid who didn’t think with words, a kid who was haunted by images and color, the smash-up of form and hope always twirling around in my head.

And then my mother was dead. And my father was dead. And a brother and aunts and uncles were dead and grandparents and two best friends.

The grief grew in my fingers and writing stopped being enough. But I was lost because I still didn’t know how to be an artist.

I googled it. Google did not help.

And then I just started. I’d paint out the images in my head, disappearing women, angel-women (never men) watching landscapes, cruelty hidden as trees, shapes in the water that nobody would ever see but me.

A local artist that I love asked me about my oil technique and I said, “Oh, I’m too cheap for oil. I use acrylics.”

She gasped. I figured I was doing something wrong and didn’t post a photo of my art for a long, long time. I assumed that gasp meant that I was breaking the artist guidelines, the rules somehow.

Where could I find the rules? I wondered.

We all tend to look for the rules, the how-to-do-things when we first start out in our careers, our relationships, our lives.

“How to be a . . . ” is a pretty hot topic, right?

And it makes sense that we do this. We go to school. We learn that there are rules to abide by, ways to think, certain methods we should follow to solve math problems, right essays, grammar rules, behavior rules, etiquette rules.

Do well with the rules and you might get As, high marks, praise from the teacher.

But there is a certain joy that happens when you don’t know the rules, when you aren’t typing away every day on your masterpiece even though you don’t know about three-act structure, painting skies that look like envelopes drawn by three-year-olds, and singing songs that are completely, unintentionally offkey.

Art is like that.

Being brave is like that, too.

Art is when you see/read/hear/feel something and your emotions become bigger or even better? They become something you’ve never felt before. Art is something that pushes you beyond your own self. It can make you remember. It can make you think. It can make you forget to remember all over again. It can make you brave.

Because yes, there is a certain bravery to put yourself out there in your art. But there’s also just a bravery in putting yourself out there and living—living a whole, big, amazing life—a life where you’ll mess up massively and succeed hugely and fail and love and lust and fall down and sometimes not want to get back up again.

Being brave is determining for yourself who you are and not caring if you don’t fit the genes, if there aren’t artistic bones in your body. Being brave is doing things despite the rules. Being brave is being you. The real you. You can do that. I’m positive of it.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


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 and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

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!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Naughty Transitions are A Writer’s Best Friend

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Naughty Transitions are A Writer's Best Friend
/

There are certain traps us writers fall into.

  • We generalize.
  • We are too abstract.
  • We summarize.
  • We fail at transitions.

And a lot of those negative tendencies can quite easily be fixed when you think about them a bit more and learn to recognize them.

Scenes are a bit like connected shots in a movie. I think everyone from Blake Snyder to Robert Olen Butler has said this, but they’re right.

The scene is the basic element of your story. You want to stay in one point of view. Think of it like the camera lens zooming in.

In film, the shot is similar, right? You stay in one uninterrupted image for a shot. Right? Then you hook those shots together. A lot of filmmakers, like novelists, use transitions. They move us from one place to the other.

Butler defines a scene as “unified actions occurring in a single time or place.” Shots becomes scenes become sequences. There is a beginning, middle, and end to all of these. And then you can have long-shots, close-ups, super close-ups, etc.

What we want to do as writers is to use those tools as well (even in first person). We want the extreme close-up of deep POV, but then also to pull back sometimes and see the world and big-picture setting, and then to see that middle distance scene where the character is interacting.

When I write YA and adult genre, my first drafts are almost all deep POV and I have to go back in and add those wider shots, sensory details, setting.

When I write middle grade, my first drafts are almost all middle shots and long shots, and I have to go back and do those extreme close-ups and close ups and that’s okay.

What you want to do as a writer is to know where you tend to lean. Are you a big-picture, abstract, distancer? Are you she-who-is-only-into-close-ups? He who does no transitions and only black-out cuts?

And you want to layer in those elements that you don’t have for effect.

When you don’t do this, you risk one of two things. If you’re a big picture writer with that long-distance point of view, you risk never showing intimacy or immediacy.

If you’re an extreme close-up writer, you risk never showing the reader that bigger world or big picture and sometimes your story can lack setting so it’s all just talking heads and interior monologue.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up.

And don’t be afraid to mix up those transitions, those movements between scenes. Sometimes they can be big cuts and scene breaks and chapter breaks, but sometimes they can be softer and gentler transitional words like –

A week later (or whenever)

At the same time

Afterwards

For two weeks/days/minutes

Meanwhile

At night

The next day

The next night

For a month, I cried into the phone

In the morning

When the sun rose

When the sun set

The following Monday/night/morning

Months passed

Weeks passed

When we got back to the office

When they got back home

As the neared the date site

Then there are the phrases that show us a change in location:

They boarded the train

Down the street

Up on the third floor of the office

Over by the water cooler

Back in my living room

The motorcycle was situated

She ran fast through the dark alley

In the hall of the hospital

Outside on my front lawn

And so on.

Sometimes though, us writers tell our readers TOO much and it ends up sounding like script or stage directions. Those are things that slow the narrative down and just read a bit awkward or stilted.

It would be a sentence like:

When I arrived at the elevator to go up to the office on the fourth floor, I pushed the button to close the door and rode it to the floor.

Or:

            They drove to the restaurant and waited in line for their table and she hummed a little bit.

Instead you just want the transition to get us there into the juicy part of the scene:

Twenty minutes later, they were sitting at their table, playing footsie under the fancy white linen tablecloth when the giant hedgehog with a man bun stormed through the wooden doors.

Places like the bad examples are not really needed because:

  1. It doesn’t really add to the story.
  2. It doesn’t really add to the character.
  3. It’s unnecessary information.

You really only want things in your story that:

  1. Show your character’s inner state/characterization/choices
  2. Move the plot forward.
  3. Set the reader in the moment

The key here is this: Don’t use the same transition every time. Don’t even use the same transition technique every time.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Mix it up. Good story is about variety. Do long shots. Close-ups. Location transitions, big cuts, fade-outs, scene transitions.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t be boring in life either.

Carrie had the epiphany that she’s tried to fit in with other writers for far too long, clinging to the idea that she can’t be as weird and dorky as she is. No more, my friends. Her witch cackle is coming out.

LINKS WE MENTION IN OUR RANDOM THOUGHTS

Angel shots.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/bartender-explains-what-angel-shot-24605557

Nudist cruise.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/couples-anniversary-dinner-interrupted-nudist-24612029

Weird image on the CCTV.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/mum-calls-priest-bless-home-24611677

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 “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about strange things people do for luck.

The Magic of Numbers – How Novelists and Writers Can Use Them For Impact

I know! I know! We’re writers not accountants or mathematicians, but there is a great lovely magic to using numbers in our sentences and paragraphs.

What a lot of people don’t know about my writing life is that I started out intensely focused on newspaper stories and poetry.

What the what?

Yep. It’s true. I was actually a sports reporter and a poet for awhile. And it’s weird, but also lucky, because it allowed me to get some training that not all novelists get. And this post calls back to that training.

Here’s the thing: Numbers, repetition, lack of repetition? They all have their place in our writing arsenal. We can use them to make impact.

Poets repeat elements purposefully and us writers can use that tool in our own writing, too.

What exactly am I talking about?

I’m talking about the elements of a sentence and how we can vary them or not to stress things or to make them lyrical.

A lot of us writers have favorite kinds of sentences. We might be fans of simplicity or of multiple clauses. We might be all about starting every sentence with “he” or be addicted to beginning with a subordinate clause. You’ll write a paragraph like this:

He walked outside. He went up to a tree. He hugged the tree. The tree didn’t hug him back.

Or . . .

As he walked outside, he went up to a tree and hugged it. While he hugged the tree, a bird fluttered by and chirruped.

We get in these ruts of style and structure and we are lulling the reader a bit, right? It gets boring.

No writer wants to be boring!

Now, I want you to imagine that you are a writer supervillain and your job is to manipulate your reader into feeling what you want them to feel. You’ve taken away their agency and through the sheer power of your storytelling tool box, you are making them cry and worry and imagine and feel.

But to manipulate our sweet readers to the best of our abilities, we have to be able to access all our tools and this is one of them.

One – The Simple Sentence.

This is the kind of sentence that tells us one thing. It’s probably an important thing.

Jesus wept.

Hug me.

The boy was dumb.

Trust them.

These are the sentences where we don’t give the reader any room to doubt. They are simple. They are declarations. There is nothing fancy going on.

Two – Things Get Deeper

When we add another element, the reader suddenly has a slightly different feeling about the sentence and the character. Traits are thrown out there. Do those traits make sense together? Are they odd together? There is power in both of those decisions.

Jesus wept and snored.

Hug me and the manatee

The boy was dumb and enthusiastic.

Trust them and the dogs.

Things are different now, aren’t they?

Here’s a great example.

“The past is a life sentence, a blunt instrument aimed at tomorrow.” – Claudia Rankine, Citizen

When we put two things together, life and story aren’t quite so simple anymore. We’re making the reader think.

Three – Making Magic

In the Western writing world, the power of three is a thing in both narrative structure and paragraph/sentence structure. Editors look for it in picture books where the main character has to try three times before succeeding in their goals.

The most common type of book structure thanks to Aristotle? Beginning. Middle. End. Three acts.

Even Christianity gets in on it with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—the holy trinity, right?

Jesus wept and snored and wept.

Jesus wept and snored and washed his feet.

Hug me and the manatees and rejoice.

The boy was dumb and enthusiastic and dead.

Trust them and the dogs and maybe not the gerbils.

With three we have that resonating power, but we also have the chance for humor and a twist. Things aren’t so simple any more, not so declarative. But they feel done—complete—resonating.

It’s also kind of fun to look at it without the AND in there connecting things.

Jesus wept, snored, and wept.

Jesus wept, snored, and washed his feet.

Hug me, the manatees,  rejoice.

The boy was dumb, enthusiastic, and dead.

Trust them, the dogs, and maybe not the gerbils.

It’s interesting how much difference a tiny AND can make, isn’t it?

Here’s an excerpt that shows the power of three followed by the power of two.

“I wonder if I would tell him what I became, what I made of myself, what I made of myself despite him. I wonder if he would care, if it would matter.” – Roxane Gay, Hunger

So good, right?

Four And Up

The simplicity of one? Gone.

The duality and occasional divisiveness of two? Gone.

The magical completeness of three? Gone.

We are into the land of over four. And four and more? That’s a lyrical place.

Jesus wept, snored, and wept, smiling.

Jesus wept, snored, and washed his feet without water.

Hug me, the manatees, and rejoice and sigh.

The boy was dumb, enthusiastic, dead, and full of yearnings. 

Trust them, the dogs, and maybe not the gerbils and maybe not the crickets either since they never stopped running in circles (gerbils) and running their mouths (crickets).

Okay, maybe my super villain writing examples weren’t so lyrical, but here are some better examples. Look at what Jacqueline Woodson does here:

“Our words had become a song we seemed to sing over and over again. When I grow up. When we go home. When we go outside. When we. When we. When we.” – Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn

One of the most famous practitioners of this is Tim O’Brien.

They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.” – Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

Roy Peter Clark talks about this concept a lot, but he also makes a lovely primer that really shows what each element can do.

“Use one for power.

Use two for comparison, contrast.

Use three for completeness, wholeness, roundness.

Use four or more to list, inventory, compile, expand.”

Yes, Carrie, that’s all well and good, you’re probably thinking, but how do I apply this to MY story.

Well, you can apply it to make special moments snazzier or more powerful.

When you go over a scene, look for places where you want to be powerful. Use the one. Look for places where you want a litany, create that O’Brien list. Think about how your dastardly writer supervillain self wants to make the reader feel. Where would it help the reader to add on things/images/examples? Where would it help the reader to subtract those same things?

It really is a skill that I’m positive you can do and use to make your writing even more brilliant than it already is.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


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 and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

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!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Writers are Like Dust Mites Five Important Things Writers Need To Know

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Writers are Like Dust Mites Five Important Things Writers Need To Know
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So, here on the podcast we try to be helpful sometimes.

I know! I know! It’s hard to believe, but we thought this week, we’d give you a little insight about the writing life and writers. And lay down some truths.

WE WRITERS ARE EVERYWHERE LIKE DUST MITES

There are a butt ton of posts on what writers need to know. And you know why that is? Because there are a lot of us.

Chuck Wendig wrote, “The internet is 55 percent porn and 45 percent writers.”

And that means we aren’t alone.

But it also means that we should freaking support each other. Don’t have your whole Twitter feed be “buy my book, buy my book, sweet mother of all things holy buy my book.” Writing is communication that’s actually two-way. We write. Others read. Sometimes they write back.

It’s good to remember that writing isn’t a solo gig.

NO TWO WRITERS MAKE IT THE SAME WAY

Well, they might. But everyone’s journey is different.

I got a publishing contract one year after entering my MFA program at Vermont College and 18 months after quitting my newspaper editor job. I was lucky. But I was also working on my skills.

I have clients and friends who worked for ten years before breaking into traditional publishing. They are great authors. It just took them a bit longer to get there. But they might stay publishing longer than I do. Or not. Who knows?

That’s the thing. We all take different times and routes to get our books out there and get readers.

Similarly, in the world of independent publishing, there are people whose books are absolutely awful making $10,000 a month and some whose amazing and brilliant books are making $5 a month if that.

The takeaway here? The writing world is weird as hell.

PEOPLE CAN BE MEAN TO YOU

Writers (much like superstars like Chris Evans or Beyonce) have lovers and haters. Sadly, we don’t have quite the support team to boost up our egos after someone has trashed us or our book or rejected it before we’re published.

You’ve got to believe in yourself enough to put on your own Band-aids. You don’t want to be a hardened butt face and lose the beautiful empathy that makes you a good writer and person, but you do want to be able to survive.

IT’S A FREE-RANGE LIFE

As a full-time writer, you often don’t get a steady paycheck.

If you self-publish, your earnings depend on finding readers. In a traditionally published world, you get paid an advance on your royalties and then after, you get checks (usually twice a year) if you earn out that advance.

That’s a little harrowing for some of us who grow up thinking that steady paychecks and 401k investment plans are the thing.

YOU HONESTLY SHOULD LOVE WHAT YOU DO

I see so many writers complaining about writing and I want to hug them up and give them some ramen or maybe an ice cream sundae. Look. If you hate writing, don’t write. Your life is too short to shove yourself in front of a computer and pound keys. You want your life to be happy. Do things that make you happy. And it’s okay if writing isn’t one of those things right now, you know? You can find a different way to connect, to tell stories, and influence the world, okay?

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

All combined, what we’re saying is this: Support the other dust mites, don’t be a dust mite unless you love it and be okay with being in charge of your life despite the harrowing finances of being a dust mite and that insecurity. Do what you love.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Your journey is your own. You might be a dog who walks a straight line or you might be a dog who meanders around telephone poles and trees. Don’t worry about how the other dogs live. Just be you.

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 “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about strange things people do for luck.

Resources From This Episode

https://news.sky.com/story/fathers-day-thousands-of-funny-fathers-submitted-their-best-dad-joke-this-was-the-winner-12336765

https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2021/07/08/serval-captured-Atlanta-Georgia-Kristine-Frank/5981625770896/

There’s No Power In Being a Negative Nelly. Rock Your Expectations and Goals

When we want things that we don’t expect to get, it makes us feel pretty bad inside and it also keeps us from having positive progress towards our goals.

What happens when we make our expectations negative? Usually it isn’t good stuff. For me it often starts a big downward spiral. But people (like me) keep doing it all the time.

I’ll never find love.

I’ll never get published.

I’ll never make a difference.

Those expectations and fears can be come prophesy because they take up so much space in your brain that you can’t break free from them to create good outcomes.

So what do you do to break free from negative expectations?

When you find that negative expectation taking hold of you, you can ask yourself, “What would I rather have happen?”

It seems like a simple step. It is. Here, let me repeat it and make it a header just to be cool.

Ask yourself, “What would I rather have happen?”

Got it?

Now you have to do that next step—you have to take the steps to make that positive result happen. You can focus completely on what might go wrong, but all that time you spend thinking about what might go wrong is time where you don’t get to think about where you can make it go right.

Yes. It’s simple.

But it’s true.

“The only place where your dream becomes impossible is in your own thinking.”

Robert Schuller

We waste a lot of time thinking and expecting only about what might go wrong, and that gives up all our manpower and energy and intellect away from dreaming and acting on the good, positive, awesome possibilities of our wants.

This example might help explain it.

I have a client that I worked with. He’s an older gentleman living in another country and getting a bit worries about his wonderful books, which he had previously self-published. He wanted me to read two of them and just tell him if they were any good. Not edit them. Not give an editorial assessment letter. And he wanted me to charge him $35 an hour to read the stories.

“It’s a great deal,” he basically said. “You love reading. You’re being paid to read.”

And I do. I do love reading. And I love stories. But what the problem was here is that he wanted me to take six hours for each book and pay me $35 an hour. There are limited hours in my day (like everyone else’s) and I tend to get paid between $75 and $100 an hour.

So I had to choose between helping this man out and taking a loss of $240 (at least). Or the loss of six hours I could spend writing my own books, painting, cleaning the house, being with my family. Because I’m not monetarily motivated, I did it. But he didn’t understand that choice.

We have to choose what to do with our time.

Do we want to spend it helping people out? Do we want to spend it thinking negative things about ourselves? Do we want to maximize it? Do we want to minimize it?

We only have so many hours in a day. We can spend that time focusing on negative expectations and our fears or we can spend it focusing on our wants and positive expectations. The choice and power is ours.

“All stress begins with a negative thought. One thought that went unchecked, and then more thoughts came and more, until stress manifested. The effect is stress, but the cause was negative thinking, and it all began with one little negative thought.

No matter what you might have manifested, you can change it ….with one small positive thought and then another.”

~ Rhonda Byrne

Changing your expectations makes your life better. There are actually studies about this. Your brain leads your way. Make it lead the way to somewhere good. Those negative expectations limit you and your future. But those positive expectations? That’s where the power is.

Your power.


BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


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 and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

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!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Why You Have To Make Time To Write And How

There’s a lot of writing advice out there and some of it is amazing and some of it is bad, but the one piece that I’d like every single one of my writers to remember is this:

If you want to be a writer, you have to actually write.

You have to put pen to the page.

You have to put fingertips to the keyboard.

You have to put voice to the voicerecorder.

Joe Frassler has a great blog post on lithub that feeds towards his book where he talked to 150 authors about writing. And the very first tip/advice he has is this.

It starts with a simple fact: If you’re not making the time to write, no other advice can help you. Which is probably why so many of the writers I talk to seem preoccupied with time-management. “You probably have time to be a halfway decent parent and one other thing,” David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, told me. That can mean mustering the grit to let other responsibilities languish. As he put it in short: “Neglect everything else.”

Many authors need to put blinders on, finding ways to simplify their experience and reduce the number of potential distractions. That might mean consistently keeping a single two-hour window sacred, as Victor Lavalle does, morning time he safeguards against the demands of parenting and full-time teaching. For others, it means finding ways to ward off digital derailment. Mitchell does this by setting his homepage as the most boring thing he can think of: the Apple website.

Ultimately, the literary exercise is about finding ways to defend something fragile—the quiet mood in which the imagination flourishes. As Jonathan Franzen put it: “I need to make sure I still have a private self. Because the private self is where my writing comes from.”

Frassler “I Talked to 150 Writers and Here’s the Best Advice They Had”

You don’t say you’re a doctor if you don’t practice medicine (or did at one point). The same thing goes for a lawyer or a guitarist.

For most of us, skill takes practice. Practice means that you have to devote a block of your time to doing the thing that you love. That might be writing. It might be art. It might be hiking. It might be baking.

And that means choice.

You have to actively choose to spend time writing or cooking or being a manatee groomer. Whatever it is, you have to choose to spend your time doing that rather than something else.

I often tell people that who they are and who their character is in their story isn’t defined by internal thought really. It’s defined by choices and action.

If you want to be a writer, you have to choose to write.

You have to make that choice over and over again. And you might have to neglect other things like David Mitchell said. That doesn’t mean that by neglecting other things you get to be a butt face, but it does mean that you have to make that choice.

HOW DO YOU MAKE TIME TO WRITE?

  1. Allow yourself to write sucky first drafts. Don’t let your desire to be perfect keep you from writing your story. People ask me all the time how I can write so quickly. It’s because I don’t have writing filters. At all. I know that I’ll have tons of errors in my first draft. I even share first drafts on my Patreon so people can see that.
  2. Look for blocks of time that you can write. You only have ten minutes? That’s okay! You can get a lot done in ten minutes. I used to write in the car when I was waiting to pick my daughter up from school or gymnastics or soccer or rehearsal. I got a lot done that way.
  3. Try not to distract yourself with email, texts, Twitter, TikTok. Set aside time for that too.
  4. Look at the very beginning and very end of your day. Can you get up a half hour earlier or go to sleep a half hour later? Or how about lunch? Can you take 15 minutes then?
  5. Don’t blow it off. When I start running again (every time), I get performance anxiety and try to think of ways to not run. Then I miss a day. When I miss a day, it’s so much harder to run that next day. Writing is like that too. We can get out of the habit so quickly, but if we truly want to be a writer (or a runner), we have to face that page or road and go all Nike ad and “just do it.”
  6. Do other things more quickly. This is honestly my biggest tip. I wrote my first book (thirteenth published) when I was a newspaper editor, coach, shuttling my super overachieving daughter everywhere. It was because I did everything else as quickly as I could. Washing dishes. Making dinner. Cleaning. Writing news stories. Taking photos. Uploading things. It was all about making the time to write that story. It all adds up. You can do this.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


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 and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

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!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.