Friday, October 21, 2011

Ava Jae: Writerly Blogger Extraordinaire! (Friday Follow)

     A few weeks back, I posted about the top five bloggers to influence me. This list is always changing for me, but if you haven't read it, you should, and you should follow ALL OF THEM! Do yourself a favor and follow these fellow writers and their blogs because they are filled with awesome and win.  Today, I'd like to follow up on and highlight one of these special blogger/writers, Avalon Jaedra. If you don't follow her twitter, you should rectify that as well: @Ava_Jae.

     While I have written for years, I didn't seriously pick up the writer pen until about a year ago. I started a twitter account and befriended Ava. We even swapped chapters of our WIP and did our best to help one another improve what we had written.  I also started following Ava's blog. I have not stopped following this information since. I could argue every post is filled with something for every writer to take away with them. That's rare to find. I know I've grown as a writer, and a blogger because of advice and points Ava has posted weekly.

     Another important factor in suggesting Ava to you is how supportive and encouraging she is. Any time I have asked her a question, she has tried her level best to reply to me and offer any support or help she can. Writing can be a lonely profession. It's easy to get isolated in the island of your WIP and lost in the boat of editing, waves chopping hard against you. And, from around the corner, you can trust Ava to fire her *Confetti Cannon* to cheer you on.

     So, RUN, don't walk to WRITABILITY, Ava's awesomesauce blog on writing tips, tricks and thoughts from one writer to cyberspace every M,W&F (another great tip I took/borrowed/okay I totally stole it from Ava Jae!):

     What do you like about Ava's blog? Or about Ava herself? Post your comments below.

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Idea With YA & Classic Literature (Friday Reads)

     When I first read the Young Adult Novel, Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, it literally took my breath away. The writing was fresh, edgy and visceral at times. I found my stomach in knots nearly the entire time I was reading. When I came to my senses again, and after much thought, I began writing lesson plans to teach this novel in my classroom.

     It is my belief that novels like Speak create bridges or windows to classic literature, and should be used as a vehicle to get our students to tackle the more challenging works of literature.

     Having said that, I immediately come to the defense of Young Adult Literature, a genre of writing that has really taken off in recent history, and one, I would argue, attains a level of sophistication that would rival even the pillars of classic literature being taught in today's middle and senior high classrooms.

     One of my goals as I read amazing examples of Young Adult Literature is to pair them with the literature typically taught in American schools. Many of the works of classic literature have become dusty, stale, and dried out. Few students believe they have anything to say to them, and would benefit from finding new inroads, such as found in Young Adult Literature. Therefore, I am taking the challenge upon myself to find great examples of both classic literature and Young Adult Literature and pair them up so that my students can engage in reading again, and love the process along the way.

     What great pairings would you suggest? Speak easily pairs with Saliger's Catcher in the Rye or Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds pairs wonderfully with To Kill A Mockingbird. What pairs spring to mind for you between classic literature and YA novels?

Please post your ideas in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Top 5 Writing Tips This Week (Writerly Wednesday)

     Around the blogosphere, I have gathered the Top 5 Writing Tips for the week.  Check out these great tips below and share your own in the comments section. Share the writerly love and strive to better yourself as a writing professional.

Many great quotes for writers, organized by topics we know all too well.
Essential characters for most stories and how to use them better.
I highly recommend this ENTIRE series of "Most Common Mistakes Writers Make Series."
Great practical advice from NYTimes Bestseller, Susan Mallery.
If your scenes seem forced, your characters come across like cardboard, or it just doesn't feel right, read this blog for great advice.

     And, there you have it. Five great resources of writerly advice to help all of us on our pathway to writing success. I'd love to hear any other suggestions you might have in your travels this week. Please share them here in the comments section for everyone's benefit.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Motivation Monday Breaking Through Writer's Block

     Writer's Block is a common fear for writers. How can you avoid this terrible trap? There are as many treatments as there are for the common cold. But, before you go whipping together a pot of chicken soup for your writer's cramp, check out these tips that might get you back on the path to writing your masterpiece.

     Writing is a skill to be practiced. But sometimes we are at war with ourselves.  The creative side is literally in one side of your brain, while the editing/revising side is in the other hemisphere.  Both are essential to good writing, and both need the other side to shut the heck up while they're working on your masterpiece.  It's a lot like switching hats, gears or whatever writerly voodoo you might practice.

     Sports have similar superstitious practices, like rewearing the winning pair of socks.  What do writers do in such instances? I'll leave that for another blog at another time.

     Writing is such a mental exercise, it's easy to get side-tracked and lost down the hallways and passages of our mind.  Even easier is the trap of getting hung up on something, or simply beating ourselves up over ridiculousness.  In such cases, I think it's a matter of payback from your warring creative self and editing/revising self.  They must have gotten together while you weren't looking and paid someone to trip you up.  Knowing you as well as they do, well, they used the cheap solution: YOU!

     I might be exaggerating a tad.

     When you find yourself staring at the blank page, the blank screen, etc. it's time to step away.  Get out of your own head. Go read a book, or spend time with family, friends, and recharge your creative well and your editor's well with soul-nourishment.  Writing is an art of capturing what is real and true in life. If you hole up and spend too much time writing, and not enough time living, you'll get off balance and shoot yourself in the foot.

     Having a bullet lodged in your foot doesn't make for good writing. FYI.

     Diving back into the stream of life is a good start, but it's often not enough.  When this happens, it might be time to dust off writing prompts, or poetry exercises that can help reawaken your muse.  Brainstorm new project ideas, outline plot points, fill out a character analysis worksheet. K.M. Weiland has a great one on her Wordplay Blog. Sign up for her emails and get a free pdf book download, "Crafting Unforgettable Characters." It's a great way to see how your character's flaw can be used in developing a story that resonates with your reader. And, it comes with a multi-page worksheet to fill out for each character. Don't miss it!

     One of my favorite writing exercises takes me back to my college days, where I wrote poetry with friends in a group called The Wooden Nickel.  We got together in any writer's paradise, the school library (bookstores ranked a close second), and we all got out paper, wrote for a set time (say five minutes), and passed our papers to our peers and continued writing.  You can allow yourself to read all of what was written before, or just the last sentence, or even the last line to get started. Once you've mastered this technique, go full out, and write without knowing what was written before.

     My writing friends and I were often amazed at how the creative energy in the room led us to discover poems and ideas that wouldn't have existed otherwise. And, we wrote some surprisingly good poems.  One of us might write about the beach, another a hike in the woods, another a relationship, etc. When the poem came back around to the writer who started it, they would read the whole thing and add a finishing line.  Then, we'd share what we wrote. Tons of laughter often ensued.

     But, it helped us to avoid that nasty writer's block curse.  If you are going to do it with a story, make a list of words everyone must use in their story, which might be particular objects or vocabulary to incorporate, and pick a genre.  Write a story using a loose structure based on the selected genre and with the mandatory words/objects, and see what happens. Try a fairy tale, a soap opera or even a murder mystery.  Anything goes, just agree and write.

     Finally, when you're back in the writer's saddle again, celebrate the place you're at. Don't let your editor/reviser have access to your writing when the creative muse is at work. Tell your editor/reviser, he'll have his turn, and back off.  Give the creative muse full access to writing down everything he likes, and write as fast as you can so you don't miss anything.  When you're done, and you've let it sit for a few weeks, then your editor/reviser can have at it. They're in separate parts of your brain for a reason. Keep them divided. Enjoy each stage of writing. And, feed your soul the food it needs so you don't wind up with a blank page or screen before you.

     Panic doesn't make for good writing. Refill the well and relax. Happy writing!

     I welcome your thoughts, tips and suggestions on how you overcome writer's block, and what you do to keep your muses amused.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friend Friday: 2 Book Reviews for Upcoming Releases!

     Prepare to be jealous. I have been fortunate to read two upcoming releases by two of my favorite YA authors, Cheryl Rainfield (Hunted, now December 15, 2011) and Jessie Harrell (Destined, November 17, 2011).  Both books were so good, I gave them 5 star reviews on Goodreads. Check out the HUNTED review here, and the DESTINED review here.

     Even though both books are YA, they are as different as dystopian and greek myth retold. HUNTED is a futuristic paranormal dystopian thriller, and the first of a series (YAY! Cheryl is writing book 2 right now!). DESTINED is a retelling (and improvement upon) the Greek tale of Eros and Psyche, with alternating POVs and several exciting twists and turns. I highly recommend adding both books to your ever growing To Be Read pile.

Check back soon, I'm currently reading SUMMER ON FIRE by Kevin Craig. And, for those of you who did notice a little jealousy creeping in, not to worry. These release dates are right around the corner. Oh, and I also did line edits for DESTINED. If you'd like me to read or edit your book, let me know!