Category Archives: thoughts

The Writing Process–Author Blog Tour

Hi everyone!

Let’s let the blog-roll keep on going.  Thanks to my friend Dev (go visit her website when you get a chance…I linked it over there to the right) for asking me to participate on the Author Blog Tour.  It’s a quick few questions for authors to answer.  Short, sweet, and a little chance to get to know what’s happening in the author’s world.

Ready?  Ready!

Question Number ONE

What am I working on?

Oh how the fish have nibbled, but how they haven’t quite taken the big bite.  A while back, I received a kind rejection letter from a gaming company regarding some possible  freelance work for them.  One of my sci-fi pieces made it to the editor’s desk, they asked me for a follow-up piece, and then passed.  Close but no cigar.

This thing is called Eli 1.0.  It’s from Fantasy Flight Games  Android Netrunner.  If you play the game and see Eli, he can cause you problems.

In regards to picture book world, I’ve been working on a few different projects.  One of the editors at Two Lions (who now owns my book Baby Bear Eats the Night) and I have been going over a few manuscripts to see if they are ready to move forward.

Good people work here. 

Finally, I’m working on another School Counseling workbook with Youthlight Inc.   I’ve signed that contract some-time ago and the publisher and I are working through the details of getting it ready.  The turn-around time for workbooks are A LOT faster than picture books, so if all goes well, I’ll have a new school counseling book out in August or September.

Yup–that’s my School Counseling workbook!

As you can see–between Science Fiction Gaming Companies, Picture Book World, and School Counseling World, I like to put a lot of eggs in different baskets.  I think if I sold toasters for a living, I would probably try to write a Toaster Selling Handbook for Beginners.

I mean, I just love writing.

Question Number TWO

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Great question, Author Blog Tour!

I love writing about an Accepted Reality.  Why can’t a bear eat the sky?  If you take a look at my “Writing a Story Series” you’ll see that one of my favorite styles is to take the fantastic and make it an accepted idea.  Of course monsters are real!  Why wouldn’t they be?  The problem isn’t that monsters are real–the problem is that my main character can’t catch one!

To me, it’s fun to flip up the idea of the “profound.”  Rather than be surprised by the unnatural (or supernatural), I love it when characters are more like, “…But of course…”

Perhaps they even say that with some type of smarmy accent.

Question Number THREE

Why do I write what I write?

Shall we get existential?  No?  Oh.  Okay.

I think I write for the same reason that I enjoy a good fantasy fiction story or playing chess with a friend.  It kind of scratches that itch in my brain.  When I write, it’s like I get swallowed up into the screen.  There are times where I stop seeing the words on the page…I just see STORY in my mind.  It’s exciting and makes me feel incredibly happy to see ideas, worlds, and dreams happen.

For what it is worth, I think I would write even if the only people reading my stories were friends (and those in my critique group).  Writing makes my brain feel happy.

[side note--especially if you haven't read my Writing a Story series...FIND A CRITIQUE GROUP!  You will be a better writer for it.  Maybe even a happier human.  End side note]

Question Number FOUR

How does my individual writing process work?

Sorry for bringing this up one more time…but, I kind of touched on this at length with my 6 part series on writing.  But if you don’t want to read six parts of someone’s writing process, I can give you the more fun, slightly exaggerated version:

It starts with a small image or a small event.  And then turns into something I can’t stop thinking about.  Then it becomes something I just knead and knead inside my head.  Images show up.  I hear possible sentences happen.  Sometimes a story arc even appears.

My goodness–it sounds like a hallucinogenic experience.

Thanks for reading…onto the next author!  Who will it be?  Who WILL IT BE?

Writing a Story Part 6-Submitting, my two cents, a few websites to visit, and some final thoughts

Here we are in Part 6 of the writing process.  We’ve had the seedling of an idea.  We’ve conceptualized the story.  We’ve drafted.  We’ve edited.  We’ve rewritten.  We’ve edited some more.  We’ve rewritten some more.  And now it’s time to ship this baby off to the world.

So let’s talk about submitting.

Keep in mind, that as you enter this step of the process, there are “rules” and there are “RULES” but at the same time, the “rules” are not rules, but just “rules.”

Got it? Have no idea what I’m talking about?

One of the recent discussions I’ve had in my writer’s group (hopefully you’ve tried to join one by now–as per my constant nagging bringing it up), is the best way to start off your query letter.

Ultimately, there are some universals (the rules) and ways to make your query letter better (“the rules”), but sometimes I think what gets lost in the shuffle is that the STORY MATTERS THE MOST.

Here is a great link to the ins and outs of it.  You’ll notice that the article is just under 3000 words long.  What that means is there are resources on the internet that can point you in very specific directions that I won’t retread on here.  Heck…if you google, “How to write a query letter” you can get all your advice that you need.

But since I’m doing this series on writing a story, I do want to add my two cents.

Cent 1: Keep it short and sweet

Cent 2: Be professional

If you have a relationship with the individual you are querying, then obviously you can make it more personal.  However, if it is someone you have no knowledge of outside of your research, then keep it professional.

YES, you should try to show your writing style.  YES, you should your best to grab the attention of the agent or editor, YES it is important to know the types of books an agent is interested in representing.

BUT don’t over do it.  Keep it short and sweet.  Be professional.

In my mind, it’s the story that matters the most.  While I do think you should try to win over an agent or publisher with your query letter, the “winning” really occurs when you write a story that they can’t stop thinking about.  It must be a story so strong that they can literally turn the pages in their minds eye and see the illustrations unfold before them.

Hehe, see, Love does trump all other things!

Which leads us to the next question: where do you get your information to submit?  It really depends on whether you are looking for a publisher or an agent.

If you are looking for an agent, one great place to start is Agent Query.

If you are looking for publishers, check out Jacket Flap.

When I first started submitting, Jacket Flap was my go-to sight.  Since I was (and am) unrepresented by an agent, it’s important to know which publishers take Open Submissions and which ones don’t.

Similar to auditions for movies, there are many MANY times where you can’t “audition” your work without an agent.  Just like a movie agent would get you an audition, a book agent will be the one trying to sell your work.

However, there are some publishers who take Open Submissions.  As you bounce around on Jacket Flap (or other useful websites that you can come across), you will learn about whether or not you can submit to them.

For me, my goal is to find a certain number of agents or publishers (I like to create a list of 5 to 10), make sure that my stories fit their guidelines, craft a query letter, put it all together, then submit!

Hmmm…looking back on what I’ve just written, I don’t want it to come across as too cavalier (and if it does, please know that’s not my intention).  My hope is that from my previous entries you see that the thing I am the most passionate about is the story.

I’m not saying that the knowledge of querying is unimportant, because  the best ways to get your stories in people’s hands is by submitting.  And you don’t want to fall totally on y our face during this component.

But as I stated several hundred words ago–I believe if you write a competent letter AND write a wonderful story, you’ll have a significantly better chance with your submission than an AMAZING query letter but a story that doesn’t back it up.

After submitting comes the waiting.

And the waiting.

And waiting.

But what should you be doing while you are waiting?  You should be WRITING!  If I’ve made it to the submission stage of a story, I’ll let that story rest after submitting.  I’ll give those characters a break and I’ll let my mind “unfocus” so I can start the writing process all over again.

And that, dear friends is how I go from taking a story from a little seed of an idea to something I’m submitting out to the world.





Writing a Story-Part 5: Less is more!

Howdy everyone,

Onward!  Upward!  Snip and cut!

So my crit group did a great job once more of stepping up to the plate.  As a matter of fact, I took nearly all of the suggestions that Fanely Gouguet made.  Why?  Because less is more in picture book world.

As I sat there staring at my screen with her suggestions in place, I kept asking myself, “Do I still see in my mind’s eye what I need to see without those words there.”  And nearly every time I asked myself that question the answer was “yes.”

Except, that sounds a lot more specific.  My brain really said this: “Sheesh.  Why didn’t you think of that already?  Make sure to buy Fanely a cupcake if you ever get to meet her.”  [which by the way, if I hadn't mentioned--my crit group is completely online and we're from all over the world.  I think the closest person I am near in my crit group lives in North Carolina.  Or Maine.  Did I already tell you to join a Crit Group?  Do it.  Do it now.]

Ahem.  Where was I?  Oh yeah–keeping the word count down but having the story seem as “big” as possible.  While I don’t want to lean on the pictures, I do have to remember that a MAJOR component of the picture book is, well, the pictures!

There’s no need to over-describe how a room looks or how an action is done when there will (hopefully) be a big beautiful picture doing all the describing.

Please take the time to look at Fanely’s critique.  Not only did it tighten up my story, but it is a great example of how you can take lots of sentences and words out of a story and the story becomes even more clear.

I present you–one fine critique.  Right here.

Next on my Monster Hunter punch list is to start my submission letter.  Believe it or not, it’s almost time to buy some stamps!  Or at least send out some e-mails!  Woot woot!


Writing a Story-Part 4: More Crittin’!

Hi everyone,

Let’s dive in!

So there’s a bunch of different ways to write a critique.  Some do a general synopsis.  Some look through with a fine toothed comb.  Some critters are looking for more grammatical issues while others are focused on NPLQ (which stands for Nit Picky Logic Questions).  Today I’d like to send your attention to my friend Alayne’s critique of Monster Hunter.

If you take the time to look through it, she really hits on tons of ideas, issues with grammar, and NPLQs all over the place.  This, my fellow readers, is a home run of critiques.  If you want to do someone a favor, try to hit a critique from as many different angles as possible.

Of course, there are “rules” that one should consider.  For example, if I see that a story isn’t all that fleshed out, it makes more sense to give some general ideas.  If I have a “brain-pop” when I’m critiquing, I may stop my critique and just offer some thoughts on ways to break the story down and put it back together in a different way.

Also, one should respect what the author is looking for.  For me, I’m happy with my story and the “mechanics” of what I’m trying to tell–what I need to make sure is that the story is as tight and fun as possible.  I want to know where things drag.  I want to know where things don’t make sense.  Other writers might simply say, “Hey gang, this is a pretty first drafty kind of story, let me know if I’m off in the correct direction.”  I’m a bit past that point.

Overall, as the critter, the main focus is to have respect to the author–but not respect like, “I’m not going to hurt your feelings.”  The way I want to offer respect AND the ways that I feel respected is when someone takes there time to point things out that I am clearly missing.  There’s no sense in having someone, in essence, judge your work, if you don’t want to hear the judgement.  That’s no way for a story to get stronger.

Did I agree with all of Alayne’s critique?  No, of course not.  But I sure took TONS of her ideas to heart.  So much so that I had to really sit on my story for a while before starting to make the newest draft changes.

And because of her work (and the work of all of my critique group), my story is that much stronger for it.

Without further ado–Alayne’s Awesome Critique

Read HERE!

Updated story coming very soon.

By the way, if you are serious about writing and aren’t in a critique group yet–please here my plea: For the sake of all the stories and words on your screen…JOIN A CRIT GROUP!

Writing a Story-Part 3: Crittin’

I cannot understate how important it is to have other people look at the story.  There were many times that I used to think that if I read (and re-read) my story enough, I would be able to notice all the adjustments that would need to be made.

This of course in nonsense because after a certain amount of time working on a story, it just starts to appear PERFECT.  I could see everything from my story so clearly I would start to visualize the little award emblems that would be placed on the jacket-cover.  Most often I see Jon J Muth illustrate my stories in my head (because one day if that became a reality, well, I think I might just explode from joy) and everything just comes into place.

That’s why it’s important to have people read your work.  Because what is PERFECT in your head actually needs, how shall I put it, TONS OF WORK.

So let’s talk about Monster Hunter.  More specifically, let’s talk about what Julie Falatko (see the sidebar website list to learn about her) and Sabrina Marshal said.  Both Julie and Sabrina are in my Critique Group and, like all of my group, I greatly respect their opinions.

Check out what they think:

Julie’s Critique

Sabrina’s Critique

You can see that Julie caught some of the inconsistencies with my “parenthetical” comments.  She also caught a few sound effects that I need to think about.  When in my first draft, I was trying to figure out what a repetitive dryer/washing machine sound might be.  Womp Womp Womp was the first to come to mind. Julie questioned whether or not it was the “sad trombone” sound in writing.   I might change it to a more fast paced wompwompwomp.

Sabrina points out the fact that I start the picture book in an almost “prologue” format.  After that, we learn her specific goal: she wants to catch a monster.  While I like how my story starts, she makes  a very good point that many picture books “launch” with the goal of the main character within the first few pages.   I’ll need to consider whether or not Jackie’s action is evident enough of the story’s plot device.  I’ll probably even play around with the opening to see how it reads with Sabrina’s idea in mind.

Of course, what I think is my biggest area that needs fixing is the end.  Both Julie and Sabrina recognized that right away.

Julie pointed out how the ending isn’t consistent with the pattern of events in the rest of the story.  The ladder and chimney scene (total fantasy) don’t fit with the basement or attic scene (uncertain reality).

Sabrina recognized that Jackie’s feelings at the end don’t quite make sense based on her brother’s letter.  Why would Michael’s letter give Jackie a feeling of contentment?  She wasn’t out to prove the existence of monsters–she was out to catch one!

With both Julie and Sabrina really zeroing in on the ending, it make sense for me to start there.  When I’m done with that, I’ll fix the parenthetical sections, play around with some different sound effects, and finally, spend some mental time and energy looking at the introduction.

It’s not a “shred the story to the ground” punch list, but there’s some important things that need to be done to make this story stronger.

And when all that is complete, I’ll send it off to the critique group and we’ll go through this again.  Which leads to the question, “When do you start looking for agents/publishers?”

I’ll answer that question in my next post.

Once I’ve finished rewriting.  :-)


Writer’s Block vs. The Rolling Dice

If you’ve ever had Writer’s Block, you know how frustrating it can be.  I know there are times where I’m sitting in front of the screen, cursor blinking at me, taunting me, just judging me and my stupid brain.  Oh, how I loathe the blinking cursor.

So if that is ever you, might I suggest this fun little game to shake out the cobwebs and even jump start an idea or two.  Rory’s Story Cubes are 9 dice that come in an orange bag.  On each of the die are different images that, when you roll them together, you get a slightly “rorshachian” experience.  Take a look at the picture below…


What would you do with a bumblee bee, a sheep, a key, and a pyramid?  Can you find a story inside those images?

Every time I’ve used the story cubes, I feel like I’m getting a “cheat sheet” inside my brain.  It just gives a little jolt and a few story snippets start to appear.

What’s more is that I’ve used these at my clinical office and the kids like ‘em as much as I do.  Come to think of it, I think these were probably geared toward kids and not writers–but who really cares…when you are hunting for ideas, you’ll take’em where you can find ‘em.

I bought my set at Wal-Mart, but you can get them anywhere.  There’s even a really cheap iPad version of the game.

So there you have it.  An inside tip on coming up with ideas.  Sure you can sit outside and stare at the clouds until something clicks (which I have been known to do) OR you could also have some fun and roll some dice!  Who knows, a pretty good picture book idea might just pop out.

Of course, you could also go in an even more random direction and try this.

(uh…my very first random sentence was “The vessel detects the milky waste.”


Feel free to tell me about your Random Sentences or Story Cube stories below!  I might even have a contest or two where we all use the same cubes to see what kind of crazy stuff pops up.

Have a good one,