How to Make People Keep Reading

I’m about to revise a lot of my own stories and in the next couple of months, I’m going to see if I can figure out how to self publish instead of continuing traditional publishing, so I’m trying to pretend that I won’t have a ton of editors helping me, no writing mentors, just me.

And that’s a little scary.

But it’s made me think more fully about my own stories and how I can apply the tools I use when I teach writing to my own darn writing.

I know! I know! That should be easy, right?

It’s not as easy as I thought because it requires stepping away from the book and thinking as a reader, as a writer, and as an editor, but mostly as a reader.

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

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

TWO QUICK HINTS TO KEEP YOUR READER HOOKED ON YOUR BOOK

Hooking Your Readers - Wednesday Writing Series

Begin your story with the moment that will transform the main character or world.

Begin with the girl moving to Maine from Charleston and seeing something strange on the side of the road like I did with the NEED series.

Begin with the male member of the ‘class couple’ telling his girlfriend that he’s gay like I did in the TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (ex) BOYFRIEND books.

Have a really strong voice of the narrator.

The Martian’s first line is, “I’m pretty much f*cked.”

That combines the pivotal moment with a super strong narrative voice.

Or the Color Purple begins with, “You better not tell nobody but God.”

Which has a great voice and a mystery set in, too. What shouldn’t they tell?

Next week, I’ll have two more tips.

Do Good Wednesday

Puerto Rico still needs assistance and so does Guatemala. You can help by spreading the word or donating to the Hispanic Federation, a nonprofit involved with advocacy for Latino communities.

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The Hispanic Federation’s three big campaigns right now are:

Check it out. Think deeply. Care. That’s how you do good.  That’s how you make a difference in the world and your community. You’ve got this. Sparty the Rescued Dog believes in you.

 

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Sparty: I do! I believe in you.

 

Writing News

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

You should totally buy my book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun because it’s about Moe Berg and it’s a picture book. I’m heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

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OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services, but I’m also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! (WSS) six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

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

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Proof of the sale-nature of July.

 

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

 

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Monday Motivation – How I Survived My Bullies and Tips So Maybe You Can, Too

When I was a little kid I talked funny. If you’ve heard me in person or listened to the podcast, you can tell that I still do, but it was way worse then. I slurred my s sounds. It wasn’t a lisp. It was more of a slur – like my tongue was kind of lazy and just didn’t want to do all the work.

How I survived bullying
The tongue – my mortal enemy

 

So, in first grade for the whole first week, Jay Jamison (almost his real name) made fun of me. I’d raise my hand and answer and he’d lean over his desk and repeat whatever I said only super exaggerating the bad ‘s’ sounds.

So, if the answer was Sunday, I’d raise my hand and say, “Sunday.”
And then he’d lean over and go, “Ssssssshunday.”

And something inside me would tighten up. And something inside of me would want to cry, so I’d have to press my lips together really hard. And something inside of me would die a little bit.

Then, things got worse. Jay got his friends to mock me too at recess. They’d stand around me and say ‘s’ words, copying my voice, making their voices really high, laughing. They made fun of my last name, which was Barnard, and call me, “Carrie St. Bernard.”

It was pretty bad. Sometimes they’d pull at my jacket or my hair. Sometimes they’d monster hug me, which meant they’d try to squish me. The entire time they’d make fun of my voice, my s’s, me.

So, I stopped talking. I stopped raising my hand. I stopped answering questions.

I’d talk to my best friend Kathy Albertson and that was pretty much it. They had silenced me.

And I also tried to be invisible because I figured if they didn’t notice me then they couldn’t hurt me. I wanted more than anything to have invisibility be my super power. I would pray for it every night.

How I survived bullying Carrie Jones Books, NYT bestselling kid lit author of children's books
This is what I’d say

Pretty much all of first grade I didn’t talk. It was too scary to talk. I didn’t ever raise my hand even though I always knew the answers. And when I did talk I would try really hard to find words without ‘s’ sounds. (David Sedaris has a great essay about this. He did it, too). And the teacher thought there might be something wrong with me in a developmentally divergent and/or emotionally challenged way. And she told my mom. And I promised my mom I would talk more in second grade.

I spent the whole summer trying to learn how to talk better. I was home alone most of the time so I needed a model. You couldn’t hear people when you read books so I turned to the television.

We were super poor and we only got two channels – sometimes three.

One channel was soap operas and kissing, which was grosser than gross.

The other channel was mostly game shows, which was so tense. I had issues watching people almost win things and then not win things.

I was the least tough kid ever, basically.

This left one channel – PBS.

PBS is full of kids show, and back then it was also full of Muppets.

Yes, like the brilliant kid I was, I watched Sesame Street over and over to learn how to talk, so yes, I modeled my voice after Muppets, which pretty much explains my voice now.

Helpful Hint: It is not the best idea to model your voice after Elmo and Big Bird and Grover if you’re trying to fit in and not be bullied.

 Yes, I taught Carrie how to talk.

Obviously, Sesame Street did not fix my s’s, but it did tweak my accent AND make me sound like a Muppet, which means that in second grade people still made fun of my voice, but my teacher, Mrs. Snierson gave us a haiku assignment that I totally aced and she realized I was smart, and pretty much protected me all that year.

Say what?

Say “writing changed my life” is what.

How I survived bullying Carrie Jones Books, NYT bestselling kid lit author of children's booksHow I survived bullying Carrie Jones Books, NYT bestselling kid lit author of children's booksHow I survived bullying Carrie Jones Books, NYT bestselling kid lit author of children's books

I also learned that if you give your snacks away to the kids who never had enough money for snacks they would protect you, too.

And I also learned that if you asked people what was wrong when they cried, they’d protect you, too, once they were done crying.

And I also learned that Timmy Bourassa also liked smelly stickers, so I gave him some and then he protected me, too.

It was weird, but it was how I dealt. I coped by taking care of other people. I coped by buying protection with food and stickers.

The price of my protection?

  1. Empathy

  2. No lunches for me

  3. Smelly stickers

And things got better for a long time. People stood up for me when Jay was mean. Jay eventually became a kid named Chris. Both of them gave up when other people stepped in for me.

No.

I never stepped in for myself.

I didn’t know how.

Things were better though because my caring about other kids returned as they cared about me. ,

But then in seventh grade after years of speech classes that didn’t help my s sounds at all, one of my teachers made me stay during recess and said, “Carrie. You are never going to succeed because of your s’s. You’re a smart girl, but you’ll always be a loser if your voice sounds like that. “

He told me I had no hope.
He told me that there was no point in me trying or going to college or even finishing high school if I didn’t get those ‘s’ sounds fixed.
He told me I would never succeed.

I cried a lot in the hall and another teacher asked what happened. I still remember how red that other teacher’s face got when I told him.

I remember him hugging me while I sobbed.

I remember him storming into the first teacher’s room and yelling so loudly the whole school heard.

That teacher saved me. My mom saved me too.

She went to the school and complained. Nothing happened to the first teacher, but I knew my mom cared and that was important. But no matter what either my mom or my nice teacher, or any of my friends said, that first teacher’s words echoed in my head and in my soul for a super long time. They still echo there sometimes and I hear those words in that teacher’s voice, and Jay’s voice, and those recess boys’ voices, and sometimes I hear them in my voice and that’s when it hurts the most. It hurts the most when I, myself, am thinking:

I have no hope.
There is no point in me trying.
I will never succeed.
I am a loser. 

My books have made  New York Times bestseller lists and bestseller lists in France and I’m published in a bunch of countries and I get fan mail, but I still can hear those bullying words sometimes – not all the time – but sometimes.

And I realize I cringe every time someone makes fun of speech impediments on tv or movies or books.

And I realize that I still do what I did in second grade – I surround myself with people who protect me by making me feel better. If I’m really hurt, I’ll friends-lock blog about it and people are always so kind. That’s how I cope. But other people? They aren’t so lucky for a bunch of reasons.

Sometimes you are too hurt to help other people.

Sometimes sharing a lunch or a smelly sticker isn’t enough.

Sometimes the pain inside of you becomes so big that there is no way for you to help other people because your own heart has fractured so much.

Life advice, writing advice, dogs. Carrie Jones talks about bullying and how she survived it
Need series

So, thanks to all of you who have ever helped me through a bully experience. I hope you know how awesome you are.

WHAT I’VE TRIED TO DO

So, I can’t save anyone, really. All I can do is listen, give out smelly stickers, and share my own stories. Sometimes those stories are super fun and inspiring, like the NEED series or TIME STOPPERS or THE SPY WHO PLAYED BASEBALL. 

Sometimes those stories? They are full of pain.

I’ve recently contributed to the anthology THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID and Megan Kelley Hall and I co-edited another anthology, DEAR BULLY, which was an effort of writers, readers, bloggers and people to raise awareness about bullying. The money we raise from Dear Bully’s royalties continues each year to support programs meant to raise awareness about bullying and support those who have suffered. I am so grateful for that opportunity.

But it doesn’t feel like enough, you know? Nothing ever feels like enough.

If you’re a survivor of bullying, please know that you aren’t alone. Check out this website for some resources. And if you are a person who bullies? Try to get some help too. Your life can be so much better than it is now.  Let’s change our culture into something better.

 

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

Writing News

The Class at the Writing Barn

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

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Praise for Carrie Jones and Write. Submit. Support:

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

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

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

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

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

The Podcast

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE has a new episode about life tips, dog tips and writing advice tomorrow.

 

 

Book Expo America 

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1. From 11:30 to 12, I’ll be signing copies of The Spy Who Played Baseball. If you’re going to be there, come hang out.

Moe Berg The Spy Who Played Baseball
Moe Berg

Flying and Enhanced – the Young Adult Science Fiction Series

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

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

Sparty knows all about that. More info about FLYING is here and the rest of my books? Right here.

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