9 Winnie-the-Pooh Quotes Every Writer Must Trust

20130910-173747.jpg The problem with dreaming REALLY BIG dreams is being constantly reminded that you and your dreams are, in fact, quite small. Nearly invisible to the average eye. At least, that’s how it feels sometimes. Especially in the world of Twitter, where we have to hunt like dogs to recruit followers. I only have 36. Lame, I know. Meanwhile, the dreams of those whom we follow are currently coming true, or came true a long time ago. Those people are just maintaining their dream, keeping us hooked so that we’ll keep their dream thriving. Which we do (because we’re nice, or because we hope our engaging with them will somehow help our own dream), but we’re constantly wondering, when will it be my turn?

We artists are wired with a grand emotional spectrum; one that occasionally requires a great big hug and some kind words from an old friend. Like Winnie-the-Pooh. Thanks to the Great Golden One, we “creatives” can write through any ugly, frustrating storm (eg. writer’s block, rejection, Twitter), to eventually see our dreams shine like a rainbow once again.

So I share these insightful quotes with you, dear writer friends, in hopes that you too will stay motivated and continue to Write On!

Pooh’s advice for picture books is a no-brainer in the writing community (today’s picture books are expected to be 500 words or less), but he doled them out long ago, and they are still relevant to this day:

1) “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?'”

In the face of Writer’s Block, you must:

2) “Think, think, think.”

Much like Pooh, a writer must strengthen his creative muscle through reading and writing:

3) “A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.”

When Writer’s Block strikes yet again, it helps to:

4) “Think it over, think it under.”

Even Pooh knows the importance of proof-reading and editing:

5) “My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.”

In a world where a million other writers are vying for an audience, you are a single digit. But that is no reason to give up. Even if no one else understands, Pooh does:

6) “It is hard to be brave, when you’re only a Very Small Animal.”

Even Pooh knows better than to dwell on backstory and info-dumps:

7) “So perhaps the best thing to do is to stop writing Introductions and get on with the book.”

When your book is finally published, will people like it? Pooh says maybe, maybe not. But you will never know unless you try:

8) “When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

Pooh’s most important advice is to not lose hope. Simply flow with the course of your life, and at some point, someday, you will reach your dream destination:

9) “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.”

Happy Writing.

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Why Self-Publishing Can Be Crap

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A self-published author said to me, “My writing is crap. But people are willing to pay for my crap, so what do I care?”

EEK!!

You might wonder how the above-mentioned author sells her books if they are indeed, “Crap.” Well, the $2.99 price tag doesn’t hurt and she cranks out about 8 books a year. I know, I did a double-take, too.

But this is the type of mentality that frightens me about self-publishing. Finding a quality e-book is like shopping at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx, sifting through piles of crap to find the one Diane Von Furstenburg gem hiding in the rack. The search is exhausting, and oftentimes, futile. Plus, your money is wasted on the cheap items you dared buy because, hey, the price was great. Unfortunately, though, they sucked.

My rant boils down to this: Please don’t ruin self-publishing for the rest of us. If you are going to venture down this path, please, please, PLEASE, make sure your story is the most polished it can be. Most self-publishing ventures will edit your work, but still. Before you submit, hire your own editor to give your manuscript a once-over, then HIRE ANOTHER!! Join several critique groups, too.

And realize your success is QUALITY over quantity.

Of course, there are also many brilliant authors in the self-publishing world. You’re probably one of them. And if you are, THANK YOU. I appreciate your contribution toward making the self-publishing world a quality place. Someday…

The Red Ink, Blues?

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DO BETTER. Those were the two words scrawled on the very first draft of my young adult novel, many years ago. I was new to the craft and had yet to experience the sometimes brutal, always remarkable insight of the critique world. Let’s just say I learned the hard way, military style, with zillions of Track Change bubbles and plenty of red ink screaming at me from every direction. One particular scribble challenged me to simply DO BETTER. Imagine my horror.

But my beloved editor friend was right, and when I read my manuscript again, I did so with an open mind and an eagerness to learn. Now, I am the one with the red ink writing DO BETTER on my own manuscripts.

In other news, I left the SCBWI-Austin conference feeling more hopeful than ever about my young adult manuscript. The agent who critiqued my first ten pages/synopsis LOVED it, and invited me to send the final draft when done.

My pleasure. 🙂

I credit my friend’s two wonderful words. Now, I am paying the challenge forward to you, my new writing friends. Never fear the red ink. Instead, force yourself to always DO BETTER.

The Write Path

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A tough part about being a writer is knowing if your manuscript is on its right path. In other words, is your work strong enough to outshine the millions of other manuscripts vying to compete in the big publishing arena?

This weekend, I attended a fabulous SCBWI conference in San Antonio and had the pleasure of hearing what Folio Literary Agent, Molly Jaffa, had to say about initially impressing an agent. In a nutshell, it boils down to the first ten pages. Sometimes, even the first sentence.

Later in the afternoon, I was expected to meet with Molly for a 15-minute critique session on–you guessed it–my first ten pages!! As you can imagine, I was a little stoked (and nervous!). So, I did a checklist of the following bits Molly said she enjoys and does not enjoy when reading our first ten pages:

GENERAL:

1. Establish the stakes. What does the protagonist stand to lose or gain?

2. NO PROLOGUES!!!

3. Create narrative tension in the novel’s beginning to where the reader cannot put novel down.

VOICE:

1. Make sure voice is not too generic. Specificity in voice makes reader relate more than a bland voice.

2. Extra level of detail makes a BIG impact!

3. Avoid too much slang, jargon, and throwback and classic voices.

DIALOGUE:

1. Do not have characters constantly address each other by name.

2. Tags should almost always be “said.”

3. Avoid meaningless conversations.

4. Do not recap what another character already knows.

5. Do not info dump.

6. Avoid starting story with a dream sequence. You can do better!

7. Avoid having too many characters, especially in YA.

In the end, the critique session with Molly was better than I could have hoped for. Of course, the rest of the novel must also impress. So perhaps I should stop blogging and start writing? After all, my YA novel is not going to complete itself. 🙂

Happy Writing!

Writer vs. Outline/Synopsis

Every conference, there is always one editor who advocates writing an outline or a synopsis. One editor almost convinced me, too. But my own mind prevailed and I have gotten away with writing manuscripts without such confinement.

Until today.

An upcoming conference deadline put coals under my feet. I am scheduled to meet a pretty awesome agent there, and our first ten pages plus a synopsis is due by THIS THURSDAY! My problem is that I only have twelve chapters written. Even though I know how the story will end, I had no real idea of how it would get there.

Now I do.

Thanks to the required synopsis that must accompany my ten-page submission, I had to make some decisions and make them quick. What emerged was a strong climax and much stronger ending than what I had originally created. A lip quiver and a tear followed my last sentence so it must be good!  😉

Although my manuscript is not yet finished, my hope is to get professional feedback on its beginning and a possible invitation for the full manuscript once it’s done.

My fingers are crossed.

Now, I am a full believer in writing a synopsis even before I start writing a manuscript. Meanwhile, the outline can still suck it. 😉