Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thank you, Linda Joy Singleton!

The power of the internet and, more importantly, the generosity of the writing community never ceases to amaze me.

The following video is full of inappropriate-for-kids words, but here’s the gist: a young man whose friend is dying asked online if there was any way to get ahold of a copy of the final book of his friend’s favorite series so he could see how it ends. An editor heard about the request and sent an ARC. The author himself even offers to call the dying fan.


I’ve experienced this kind of generosity myself.

A couple of years ago, my teenage daughter fell in love with Linda Joy Singleton’s awesome The Seer series. And being the obsessive sort, she wouldn’t let go. She kept reading the books over and over and swore she wouldn’t read any other books until the final book came out - months and months away. It was frustrating (she was supposed to be reading other books for school) but also, I had to admit, kind of amusing. So I contacted Linda Joy and told her about her diehard fan. I've never met Linda Joy and I didn’t expect anything; I just wanted to reach out because, as a writer myself, I know how we often work in a vacuum.

I can’t tell you exactly how Linda Joy responded. But I can tell you she did something amazing that lit up my daughter’s world and moved me. All Linda Joy asked for in return was that we buy a copy of the final book, Magician’s Muse, when it came out. Not a hard thing for us to promise! (For more information on Linda Joy's work check out her website HERE. I loved her Dead Girl series. It's about a girl with a terrible sense of direction who has a near-death experience and gets lost on the way back - and ends up in someone else's body.)

I don’t think I’ve ever thanked Linda Joy properly for what she did. But the video above inspired me to pay it forward, so I’m holding a random drawing. If you comment on this post from now until March 4th, you will entered to win the first three books in The Seer series!! On me.

All I ask is that you pay it forward someday. Reach out to a reader or a fellow writer and offer a kind word or hand up. I truly believe that the energy we put out into the world always comes back to us.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Filling Up the Writing Well

When I was kid, for a while we lived in a house with a well. Water was something I hadn’t thought much about until then, it was just there when I turned on the tap. But in the short time we lived in that house, the well went dry a number of times. I remember going with my Dad to get the water truck, bringing it back to our house and filling up that well.

This week, my writing mind was kind of like that well. Empty. I tried scraping the bottom to squeeze out a little more writing water. I set timers. I doodled. I looked back over my notebook for ideas to inspire me. But free writing about nothing sometimes just gives you nothing. So I gave up. I decided not to waste my time and energy on thinking about it and instead, I spent my time on the other things that fill up my life. My kids. My dog. My work.

Sometimes, the inspiration runs dry, and you need a little time away from it to give the well a chance to fill up again. It’s funny how ideas trickle into that writing well when you’re not even looking.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Comics for writers and thoughts on self-publishing

Over the years, I've created quite a few comics for writers for Inkygirl, Will Write For Chocolate, Writer Unboxed and other venues. After prodding from writer friends (especially Christina Katz), I've decided it's about time to compile the best of them into a print book compilation. If I can't find a traditional publisher, then I've decided I'm going to self-publish.

Why? Because I KNOW there is a market for this book (which I've tentatively titled "Will Write For Chocolate"). I keep getting emails from people I don't know, asking where they can buy my comics in book form as a gift. I have over 16,000 followers on my @inkyelbows Twitter feed for writers, and a growing number of followers on my various blogs. Yes, the book has a niche market and will never hit a New York Times bestseller list. But it does have a market.

I originally had pitched this book as a collection of my writer comics AND tips for writers, but one publisher I approached said they preferred fewer comics and more writer tips. Instead, I've decided I'm going the opposite route: get rid of the writer tips (there are already so many good writing advice books out there) and focus on ONLY my comics.

While I admire those who successfully self-publish, I would still personally opt for a traditional publisher if given a choice for several reasons.

I don't like adminstuff, for example. And frankly, am not good at it. I love coming up with ideas and creating, but would far rather take a smaller cut of the profits and have someone else take care of at least part of the business end.

Yes, yes, I know that freelance writers and illustrators need to also be businesspeople and be on top of payments and invoices and royalties and record-keeping and so on. I do it when necessary and am getting better.

Plus, depending on the publisher, having a book traditionally published can get your book into wider distribution channels. Yes, I can promote the book myself and will promote the book regardless of whether the book ends up traditionally published or self-published. The more promotion I have to do, however, the less time I have left for creative work...and self-published books need more author-powered promotion to succeed.

Traditional publishers also have a lot more resources to help you make the book stronger and more marketable. My experience working with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on I'M BORED has helped me better appreciate the huge value (and joy) in collaborating with a publisher's in-house team.

I've seen so many self-published books whose content may have merit but have turned me off because of the abysmal layout, amateur-looking covers, typos and grammar gaffes. While there are excellent and high-quality self-published books out there, there are also many ugly and unedited self-published books.

Content is king, it's true. But it's also a fact that when it comes to selling books to people who aren't your friends or family or supportive colleagues, then packaging also matters.

Apologies for the rambling nature of this post. I originally was going to just post one comic and a brief paragraph about why I may end up self-publishing Will Write For Chocolate...and look what happened.

Anyway, I'll be gradually posting more comics for writers on Inkygirl and MiGwriters as I continue to compile, tag and catalog my comics in prep for my book. Through my agent, I'm also going to continue to look for a traditional publisher. If I can't find one, then I'm going to self-publish. 

I'll let you all know what happens.  :-)

- Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Power of Words

Words have power. Power to move. Power to hurt. Power to change us. We all believe that. (If we didn’t, then we’re in the wrong business!) Lately, I’ve been working on changing the conversation in my own head. The topic? The difference between Have To and Get To.

When I was a young girl and the teachers gave us a few minutes of free time, I'd open my journal and write poetry. Writing was a Get To. As in, I get to write!

And when I first started writing for publication, I enjoyed the process of creating, the chase and thrill of landing freelancing jobs. Writing was still a Get To activity. As in, I can’t believe I get to do this for money!

But then I began writing full-time. “Author” became my occupation on forms. And while I still mostly liked the process, I found myself saying things like, “I have to finish that chapter!” and “I have to get my pages in for the day.” and “I have to think of a new idea for a book!”

Writing was a Have To for a long time. Then I made a conscience decision to switch from non-fiction to fiction, to shake things up. My first novel was a Get To. Even my second novel was a Get To. But lately, I’ve noticed the Have To voice creeping back in. I have some theories about why that is, but the why isn’t important.

Sitting down at the computer (or with pen and journal in hand) and telling yourself you “have to” write is one powerful way to send your muse running and screaming from the room. Or, at the very least, into a tantrum in the corner. So, instead, I’ve been telling myself, “I GET TO write today!”

It’s been an interesting experiment these last couple of weeks and here’s what I’ve learned: Have To is work. Get To is play. One demands a certain number of pages or a certain kind of product. The other invites adventure and allows for daydreaming. One is a destination. The other is an open door.

Which one do you think is more productive?

You’re right. :-)

Now, let’s get busy. After all, we GET TO write today!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Level Up!

After a year of my Wii Fit telling me I'm a four star, fabulous, yoga expert, yesterday I took my first hour-and-a-half Vinyasa yoga class. Today, every muscle in my body hurts. I lagged so far behind the rest of the class, I was the obvious newbie. It turns out I'm not so fabulous after all. This is the painful process we writers recognize as levelling up.

If you're hearing a lot of praise about your writing, is it time to take it to the next level? Here are some things you can do to level up your writing:

-- Extend 45 minute writing sessions to 90 minutes
-- Take a class
-- Go on a writing retreat with instructors
-- Challenge your critique group to be tougher
-- Get an expert opinion
-- Start a story in a new genre or write in a different point of view, such as multiple points of view if you're used to writing a single point of view

It can be uncomfortable to level up. Just as my yoga workout has me nursing my sore arms, some of the leveling up I've done in my writing this year has had me nursing a sore ego. But it really works. I'll keep going to that yoga class and getting stronger. And I'll keep taking classes, working on extending my writing time, and trying out new ways of writing.

If you have any other ways to level up our writing, please share them with us. Thanks!

-- Kate

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Voice- The Song of the Writer

You hear editors and agents continually asking for stories with VOICE in it. They want to hear a distintive sound, different from what they have already seen. So of course the question writers ask back is what is voice?

Jill Santopolo in her interview here talks about the writer's voice as their 'soul print'. She goes on to share that the best way to find your author's voice is to keep writing and writing.

She says, "The same way I can walk down the street and recognize the work of certain clothing designers or architects, I should be able to read a book and recognize the soul print of the author who wrote it."

I often think of it as the sound the author wants to create with their words. Depending on how you construct your sentence, it will give you a different sound.

Think of it like music. There are different categories such as classical, R&B, pop, soundtracks. The words in a book also could fall into different categories.

Look how different each of these phrases pulled from various books sounds:

"The Mudshark was cool. Not because he said he was cool or knew he was or thought it. Not because he tried or even cared. He just was." From MUDSHARK by Gary Paulsen

"I tread slowly, my bare feet giving me an advantage because on this rich green carpet I'm practically silent. I pass the doors, listening for sound, signs of life. But the only sound comes form the door at the end of the hallway that's slightly ajar. There are moans, gasps." From WITHER by Lauen DeStefano

"Yikes. I slam my hand down on the paper. Sucking in a deep breah, I peek under my palm again. Yikes again. A fat red F shimmers before my eyes, its wide arms swaying, mocking me, calling me lame names." From i so don't do mysteries by Barrie Summy

I love how each of those lines gives me a totally different feel, a different sound. They are music rising up from the pages.

Great links for more on The Writer's Voice:
What are some books with great voice that you recommend?

~ Christina

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Back from the SCBWI Winter Conference. Now what?

(click on image above for bigger version)

I just got back from the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC. Whoa -- what an amazing, inspiring event. Just before the conference, I also visited my publisher at Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers about I'm Bored and other projects. I'll be posting about both events in my Inkygirl blog, with (likely way too many) photos.

But the main message prevalent throughout: no matter what the format, what promoting I do, what process or techniques I use, it's the CONTENT that matters most in the end. In the end, a good story and strong characters trump all.

So while my head feels so full of all the wonderful information and advice I learned during the event, I know that most of all, I need to get my butt in my chair and do more WRITING.