Stuff in the ‘Guest Post’ Category

12 August, 2013

Story Telling vs. Story Trapping, by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

JENNIFER ALVAREZ-headshotThe process of writing the first draft of book one of The Guardian Herd Series was magical for me. The story leapt from my head, fully formed, like Venus. There is something sacred about that, right? You don’t mess with a story straight from the muse, do you? I thought you didn’t. I thought a story’s first shape and form must be its best shape and form.

And then I met my editors.

Rosemary Brosnan and Karen Chaplin at HarperCollins Childrens Books know a thing or two about stories (and the muses they ride in on). When I received my first suggested edits for book one, I was perplexed and empowered. They unleashed my plot and revealed my characters without changing them. How could such significant revisions result in the exact same story—only better?

It was my librarian mother who explained it to me. “They are the advocates for the reader,” she said.

Oh yeah, the reader.Author Photo - Jennifer and horse

A first draft for me is not about story telling, it’s about story trapping. I am flying in the clouds with my pegasi, or galloping across the grasslands, or hiding in a tree while they battle with sharpened hooves and flared wings. I record what I see and try to stay out of their way. I am either covered in blood, or dripping cloud sweat, or crying over a fallen hero at the end of each writing session. The one thing I am not doing is thinking about the reader.

Not yet anyway.

Once the story is trapped, I’ve corrected all my misspelled words, and put away my thesaurus (yes I use one and I’m not afraid to admit it), I am at the end of my abilities to improve the story because I was there. I lived it. I know more than what I’ve written on the page. I can’t know what it’s like to view the manuscript without carnal knowledge of it.

This is when my editors come into play according to my wise mother, not to tame the story, but to frame it. Not to create a better draft, but to create a better read. My editors are doing this for The Guardian Herd Series as we continue to work on the first manuscript together.

My relationship with my muse remains intact. I’ve written the second book and a prequel to the series with the same gusto that infused book one. Knowing I have editors to help me wrangle my stories once I trap them has freed me to go hunting for more.

So the answer for me is, no. I don’t mess with the stories I receive straight from the muse, my editors do. And my books are gratefully better for it.


12 November, 2012

I Believe in NaNoWriMo

A Guest Post from Melissa F. Olson, whose debut DEAD SPOTS was just published by 47North

For thirteen years now, a small non-profit organization based out of SanFranscisco has transformed the otherwise boring month of November into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short), which is, as they put it, “thirty days and nights of literary abandon.” The idea is very simple: first, sign up online. Then, over the course of the month, write 50,000 words. If you make it to 50,000, you “win.” If you don’t make it, you’ve likely still managed to jump-start your writing ambitions with the support of the NaNo organization, which has grown from 140 participants the first year, to over a quarter of a million last year.

That’s it. There’s no hidden agenda, no contests or prizes, no fees. This is simply a program for anyone who has wanted to write a novel, but needed a kick in the pants. And that’s what I love about the whole enterprise: it’s for everybody. You might be a professional author, with a long list of bestsellers under your belt, or a lowly office assistant who had this idea a few years back and never got around to making notes. NaNo is all about people from all walks of life saying, “Yes. I’m doing this. I’m writing a novel, and here it goes.” All are welcome.

It’s such a refreshing attitude for the writing profession, which is probably the first or second most intimidating career plan in the world (along with acting). It can be so difficult to get yourself published, especially in these changing times. Professional writing has long had the stink of elitism all around it, an oppressive sense of failure that can push you down before you’ve even begun. NaNoWriMo is all about throwing those anxieties aside and embracing the fun, crazy parts of writing: not just the joy of creating a story, but also the caffeine overdoses, the sore typing fingers, the giddy sense of accomplishment when a scene comes together, the way a certain line of dialogue can seem so hysterically funny at three in the morning.  Not to mention the sense of community: you’re working with a whole online group, of course, but many cities now have NaNoWriMo get-togethers, giving novelists the chance to hang out with maybe the only people in the world who understand their desire to write.

As much as I love NaNoWriMo, however, I myself am not a NaNoWriMo winner. A couple-three years ago, I signed up for my first NaNoWriMo, and ended up a NaNo loser. I think I made it to something like 30,000 words, far short of the 50,000-word goal. I didn’t just walk away from what I’d written, though – I kept going. After all, how could I abandon a project that had occupied my thoughts for a full month? And those 30,000 words grew to eventually become DEAD SPOTS, my first novel, which was just published last week. DEAD SPOTS took a total of eight months to finish, and eventually weighed in right around 90,000 words. Now, math has never been a friend of mine, but I believe that means I wrote about a third of the book in about an eighth of the time, thanks to NaNoWriMo. And if that’s being a loser, well, you can sign me up to lose every year.

Check out Melissa’s website at www.melissafolson.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.


14 September, 2012

When Your Book Hits the Shelves

by Anne Greenwood Brown

The experience of writing a book can be life changing, or at least personality changing. Even if you say, I’m just writing for myself, you’ll never be the same. Writing will allow you to explore fears you would never tell your therapist, say things that would get most people slapped, and do things (through your characters) that would land you in a Columbian prison.

When it’s over, you may feel liberated of those thoughts that plagued you. You may feel embarrassed. Or possibly taller. Or you may feel strangely emboldened to send the most private workings of your mind to a stranger to be critiqued, evaluated, and ultimately rejected. Or–possibly more frightening–that stranger might say, let’s share your 300 pages of catharsis with the world.

Now, jump forward eighteen months. Your book is on shelves. You, who used to sit around the house in coffee-stained jammies with a laptop on your thighs, are standing in  a bookstore in a knock-off designer dress, required to talk to . . .  (gulp) . . . people. Not just the online kind of people, but the “in person” kind of people who show up at speaking engagements and book signings. And these people are allowed to ask you questions, like, “What is it about your childhood that led you to write about mythological creatures who talk to corpses?” And you say the first thing you think of: I was afraid, if I didn’t, the voices in my head would never shut up.

Instantly you realize that it was a mistake to leave your note cards in the car. You wonder if your tongue was always this thick. But you also remember why you’re here. You remember how much you love the art of story, and you realize that (even if these people think you might be a teensy bit crazy) they love stories as much as you do.

Since my debut LIES BENEATH came out in June, I’ve enjoyed signings with 200 attendees, and signings with as few as 10. I’ve visited a book club that meets on a boat in the middle of a Minnesota lake, and a YA book festival in Pennsylvania. No matter where I am, no matter how many people show, I’ve found a wonderful community of book lovers, reviewers, writers, and readers, and a world of which I am so thankful to be a part.

It all makes me want to . . . you know . . . do it again!

— Anne

Please visit Anne Greenwood Brown and her murderous mermaids online at http://annegreenwoodbrown.com/.  You can also follow her on Twitter at @AnneGBrown and Facebook.

DEEP BETRAYAL, the 2nd book in Anne’s trilogy will be published by Delacorte in March 2013.