Wednesday, August 3, 2022

#ISWG: For Whom Do You Write?

This month's question: When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

This month’s question got me thinking about how much I think about my audience when I write. I know the cardinal rule is to keep your audience in mind. But for better or worse, it really varies for me…

Middle Grade: I tend to have a specific person in mind when I write, usually a student, one of my sons, or a child of a friend. The common denominator is this child is struggling to find books they want to read. Or sometimes I’m inspired by a gap I see in MG books.

YA: These have generated the most enthusiasm from my adult critique partners. I usually start with an idea from my own life, so I feel like I’m writing more for myself, the book I would like to read. It's rare that I’m thinking of a specific teen…even though I'm pretty much surrounded by teens in real life.

Short stories: These are my experimental works. I try things in short stories I’d never do in a novel. Like writing from the point of view of a book!

Nonfiction Articles: I don’t write these much anymore, but I always wrote specifically for the publication, either off their wish list or theme list. But since I write for kids, I enjoyed the challenge of finding a way to explain an obscure historical tidbit in a kid-friendly way.

PBs: I'm just dipping my toes into this genre. Of course, I do have to please the reader, but I like the shorter form and word play involved.

I don't think it has to be either or. There is originality even when you have a strict form. Think of the sonnet! (Something I have never attempted.) The wonderful thing about writing is that even when I’m writing for other people, my story will be original just because I am the one writing it. It will be colored with how I see the world. I’m always looking to get better at my craft and engage the reader more…but  writing is also fun for me too. It's an adventure, no matter what I write.

My answer: Both!

How about you? Do you write to please the reader or yourself?

*Just a note that I won’t be able to be online for much of Wednesday. I will probably be late in reading other people’s posts and returning blog visits. But know that I do treasure every comment, and reading your posts inspires me to keep going!

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

#IWSG: Escaping to the World of Fiction


Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

When I was a little, I used to ask my mom repeatedly (as young children tend to do!) if we’d ever go back to living like they did in the “Little House” books. I imagined with glee the thought of electricity disappearing, growing all our own food, and cooking over a fire. I even liked to pretend our wood stove was the stove in Laura’s log cabin. Alas it never happened, and now, all grown up, I couldn’t do without electricity, thank you very much.

Me at 8, reading with my Grammie and longing for life in Little House land

But I still long for simpler times. Of course, the world in books is often a glorified rendition of another age, the hard parts smoothed over, but these are the books that I long to live in:

Anne of Green Gables


I can identify with Anne, because I flub big words and idioms just as much--and she's a writer too. My childhood was much like hers: playing pretend in the abandoned lots and creek near our house. I have a childhood friend, like Diana, who is like a sister, even though she lives too far away for me to see her often. Maybe I’m not longing for the world of the book, but to continue that carefree world of my childhood.

Jane Austen


I love this world because of the manners. I like how the characters don’t engage in TMI, and there’s a challenge to figure out about what people are saying behind their words. And people are always spending time together: house parties, balls, and teas. Unlike the Bennetts, we probably dine with less than four-and-twenty families.😀 But I still I long for a time when seeing people in person is more common than social media.


Moosepath League novels

I recently discovered this wonderful series set in Maine in the 1890s. Imagine a cross between P.G.Wodehouse, Garrison Keiller, and Dickens. There is always tons of word play (Sundry Moss and Capital Gaines are names of characters) and high jinx. The Moosepath league members are  kind to a fault, eager for adventure, and willing to help others. In the afterward, the author says he bases his characters on people he knows. It's nice to know that people like the Moosepath League still exist today. Perhaps I just need to look harder to find the good in others or aspire to be more like the Moosepath League myself.

As I look over this list, I am reminded of one of my goals as a writer: to write books that I want to read. 

I want to create a world where readers want to live. 

And as we’ve had more than our fair share of darkness in the last few years, I would like to be more like Van Reid of the Moosepath League and remind readers of what is good and true.

What fictional world would you like to live in? If you're a writer, how does that impact your writing?

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

When Writing Gets Tough, Write Differently

Sometimes it takes a village to get a writer unstuck!

Many years ago I attended an education workshop, Don’t Try Harder, Try Differently. What a great title! Although it may have been intended for teachers, it applies to writers too.  Don’t keep doing the thing that doesn’t work!

It used to be when I got stuck, I would just try harder.

This chapter or scene isn’t working? Just write the next one.

Keep getting rejections? Just send out more queries.

The novel isn’t working. My critique partners hate it, and maybe I hate it too. Just finish it.

But none of these things worked all that well.

What has worked:

1.    Accepting limits. Very few writers have the luxury to just write. Most of us are juggling work and family obligations. Recently, I’ve lowered my expectations for myself to writing one chapter every 1-2 weeks. I may be able to accomplish more in the summer when I’m not teaching. But I’ve also been exploring shorter types of writing: picture books, short stories. There’s something about taking the pressure off that makes me more creative.

2.    Take a break. It used to be when I hit a tough spot in my writing, I’d just press through. But I ended up with a whole mess of a novel. Now I see there’s always a reason for getting stuck. Sometimes it’s a plot hole or character acting out of character. It’s better to stop and regroup before I barrel through the end.

3.    Write outside your normal genre or write something just for fun. If I’m stuck with a novel draft, it helps to focus on shorter works, blogging, or maybe just writing in response to a prompt. (I’ve published two short stories from writing prompts!) It gives me a quick win. Poetry and journal writing are also good outlets.

4.    Read! When none of the above works, I read for fun. Sometimes a story will inspire me to go back to the project I’m struggling with. Sometimes it just reminds me why I write: to create for others the wonderful experiences I’ve had while immersed in a book.

5.    Community! I’m an introvert, and I don’t like group projects! But I have found that I really need other writers to keep me writing. Whether it’s swapping chapters over coffee, attending SCBWI webinars, or connecting with the #ISWG group each month, I need that outside accountability and inspiration to keep me going in the trenches.

How do you deal with the rough patches with your writing?

Photo credit: Aubrey Odom-Mabey, Unsplash

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.




Wednesday, May 4, 2022

#IWSG: Writing Highs and Lows



This month's question this month is a good one.
It's the best of times; it's the worst of times.
What are your writer highs?
And what are your writer lows?


 1.    Seeing my words in print

 2.    Patching a plot hole—those nasty little beasts!

 3.    Finding the “just right” word

 4.    The people I’ve met along the way.  Kindred spirits (a.k.a other writers) are not as scarce as I used to think. (as Anne herself says)

 5.    New ideas, a.k.a. “The Shiny New Manuscript” syndrome

It's sparkly! It's new! Look a shiny new manuscript!


1.    Rejections or harsh critiques

2.    People who look at me like I have three heads when I tell them I’m a writer.

3.    Pounding on the keys even when I don’t feel like it.

4.    Writer’s block/getting stuck--Even though I've overcome several spells of writer's block, it's hard not to get discouraged.

5.    Condescending editors/agents--I understand their job is hard, but making fun of authors, especially in public, is not professional. 

What about you? What are your writing highs and lows?

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.  


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

#ISWG: Losing that Loving Feeling

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Growing up, it was instilled in me very strongly to never quit. And that life skill has stood me in good stead through a lot of things, especially work situations. But it took me well into my adulthood before I realized that sometimes it’s okay to quit. Sometimes a hobby’s not for you or you grow apart from a friend, and it’s okay to let that go. (Like those socks I tried to knit. I should probably accept that I will never finish them!)

It’s still hard for me to decide when to set aside a manuscript.

I have written several complete manuscripts. I have queried four of them to various ranges of success. I have two that I decided to abandon before I even got to the querying stage. And now, I have one I’ve been working on it for a year, but I have lost all my excitement for it.

In last month’s post, I talked about being versatile. But the thing about trying lots of new things is that in the process, sometimes you realize what you don’t like.

And maybe this genre, which tends to be dark, is just not me. I look longingly at old manuscripts and think about how this or that genre made me happier--somehow forgetting that there are no easy books to write.

But if I set it aside, there's that nagging fear that I’m a quitter. I should just push through the boredom. Because I can’t give up. I can’t not finish. Aw! Will the insecurities ever stop?

Reasons why to set this manuscript aside:

1.    It’s dark and depressing, and I don’t need any more of that in my life right now.

2.    It might not be marketable. It’s in an over-saturated genre.

3.    I’ve lost my passion and excitement about working on it.

What to do? Although when I initially wrote this post, I was ready to set it aside for now or perhaps forever, I have decided to continue. It's helped to take baby steps. I don't think about finishing the whole book, just the next scene or chapter.

Have you ever taken a break or set aside a manuscript?

In other news, I found out that my short story for adults, "The Complete Jane Austen on a Desert Island" will be published in a local anthology in May.

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.  


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

ISWG: Trying New Things

Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

My husband and I have a running joke about what he orders when we go out to eat. I always try something new. He always orders the same thing—no matter the restaurant. He says, “At least I won’t be disappointed.”

To tell the truth, I’ve had some ups and downs with my orders—and with my writing. I like to try new things, whether it’s in food or in life.

To date, although I generally write for children and teens, I have tried nearly every genre within that age range (mystery, fantasy, historical, contemporary, etc.). I have written nonfiction and fiction. I have written short stories and novels.

Recently, I tried my hand at something outside my comfort zone.  I wrote a short story for adults with a very unusual POV. It is also a little more humorous than what I normally write.

My critique partner said, “I can’t believe you wrote this.”

Of course, when you’re an insecure writer, you can even obsess about a compliment. So of course, I started wondering, why do I write all over the place? Why can’t I stick with one genre? I see all this marketing advice about building your brand, being known as the writer who writes X, Y, or Z. Well, I’ll never be able to do that.

My husband came to the rescue: “Think about it this way:  you’re versatile.”

Have I been scared to write a scene or a story? Honestly, I’m scared to write just about everything I write. It’s different. People won’t like me if I write this. I don’t know enough about X. And more recently, with the YA project I’m working on, strangely enough, some of what I’ve written has come true. Does that happen to other scifi/futuristic writers? Have to say I’m new to that genre too.

But we have to keep writing. Like trying a different item on the menu at each restaurant, I can’t say that everything I write works out. But I always learn something from every experience.

And that’s what matters, right?

Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not? 

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.  



Wednesday, February 2, 2022

IWSG: Slow Writers Unite!

There's the slow food movement.

And a slow parenting movement, which I've been following without knowing it. 

And although I found some posts about Slow Writing Movements, most seemed to be geared towards literary fiction writers, which I am not.

But what if we started our own movement? A movement where it was okay not to be the fastest writer in the room.

Slow writing would be a place where...

It’s okay not to fast draft or do NaNoWrMo.  

Daily tallies of word counts doesn't make you a better writer.

Some days you might write a lot, others a little. It’s all adds up.

Quality over quantity.

It’s okay to stop mid-draft to look up the right phrase or research your setting—your writing will be richer for it.

This is not a race. If you write faster than others, you will not sell your book faster or gain more readers.

Take time to smell the roses, to live life, because fiction is made of life.

Make sure to take time away from writing—fresh eyes make the best editors.

Or if you want to make your first draft take even longer, just say yes to more backstory, maps, world building, and character charts. 😀

Will you join me?

I didn't do this month's question. I thankfully have not lost any of my writing heroes yet. And I didn't want to do a sad post. If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.