Friday, April 28, 2017

Writing Exercise #9: The Macro Show

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Writers and industry professionals spend a lot of time talking about the differences between SHOWING and TELLING. Knowing when it's appropriate to show (most of the time) and when it's perfectly fine to tell (it is, you know?) is crucial and it can also be subjective.

To bring clarity, we use quotes from fantastic storytellers to make our point and we break down sentences to show you exactly how to do it. But as we drill down to the nitty gritty, we often lose sight of the larger picture. We miss the forest for the trees, if you will.

To make things easy on us, let's break this out into two categories.

There's the Micro Show and the Macro Show.

When we talk about the Micro Show, we're talking about showing at the sentence level. We're asking you to paint a picture for us, instead of simply pass along information. We're talking about choosing strong verbs and not leaning wholly on modifiers or adverbs. We're telling you to let your dialogue do the showing for you and we're reminding you that you must be careful when you use sense words like: heard, saw, felt, tasted, smelled, sensed.

We're using examples like:

Use a strong verb
Mike moved slowly to the bar. (not great)
Mike lumbered to the bar. (better) 

Be specific
The girl's dress was pretty. (not great)
Her blue pinafore was trimmed with lace. (better)

Dialogue and punctuation
"Jason," he yelled loudly. "You broke it." (not great)
"Jason! You broke it." (better)

The five senses
The neighbor's door slammed and then Tim heard the music. (not great)
The thud of the door and, in the space of a heartbeat, his room pulsed to the beat of a stereo two walls away. (better)

These are fantastic tips. More than that, they are simple structural items that will immediately jump your writing to the next level. Simple, simple. And the more you work to write this way, the more natural it becomes.

What is a little less natural is the overall Macro Show. And this takes intention and consistent attention as you write. Let's talk about it for a second.

When we're talking about showing aspects of your story on a macro level, we're talking about big picture items. For example, if I want you, the reader, to know that my main character is loyal, I could handle it one of two ways. I could tell you he's loyal. I could say, "Henry was loyal even to death." It's not a great sentence, not a particularly showing sentence, but it conveys the information I want conveyed.

BUT! If I want to show you that Henry is loyal, I  can't really do that in a single sentence. I must show you Henry's loyalty by placing him in scenes that prove he is, in fact, a loyal soul. I must show you that he could have chosen another path, perhaps an easier path, but that's not our Henry. Henry is loyal. I, the author, must construct a scene or an entire story to paint Henry as he is.

And that's what we're going to do today.

Your goal is to choose a character trait from the list below and then put a character in a scene to show that trait off. The catch? You cannot use the word you choose. For example, if I decide I'm going to show loyalty I cannot use the word loyal (or any of its variations). Make sense?

Give it some thought and then sit down and get to work. Your scene does not have to be crazy long, friends, to get the job done. Leave your response to this exercise in the comments section below and throughout the weekend, come back and read the other responses and see if you can guess just which character traits the writers are showing off. Feel free to reply to their response with your guess. Kindness matters!

And remember! Whenever you participate in a writing exercise here at Go Teen Writers, you can enter a Rafflecopter drawing. The winner will be selected next week and will have the opportunity to ask us a question for an upcoming episode of Go Teen Writers LIVE.

Previous Go Teen Writers LIVE Episodes: Episode One | Episode Two | Episode Three

Angry
Brave
Clever
Clumsy
Cold
Conceited
Cruel
Curious
Daring
Friendly
Frustrated
Grouchy
Happy
Helpful
Hopeless
Hot
Hyper
Jealous
Lazy
Logical
Nervous
Noisy
Rude
Sad
Scared
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Smart
Strong
Stubborn
Uncomfortable


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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Go Teen Writers LIVE: Episode Three


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

We're baaaack!

Today we're bringing you Go Teen Writers LIVE: Episode Three in which we discuss how to hook readers and create a story that stands out from the crowd. Enjoy the video! (And forgive me for being so quiet! I'll have to double check my microphone next time...)





If you'd like to ask us a question that we will answer LIVE in the future, simply participate in the writing exercises as they become available on this blog and be sure to enter on the Rafflecopter entry form below each exercise.

If you missed the other two episodes of Go Teen Writers: LIVE, the links are below. While you're watching, be sure to click "like" and to subscribe to Stephanie's YouTube channel. Also, leave us a comment and/or feel free to ask further questions about the talk. We love talking with you guys!

Go Teen Writers Live: Episode One

Go Teen Writers Live: Episode Two


Monday, April 24, 2017

When to Start Marketing if You’re Unpublished

You guys! NADINE BRANDES IS HERE!!!

I met Nadine almost a year ago at the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop, and she's a lovely person. We didn't have much time to chat then, but I've gotten to know her through social media. I'm in awe of her Instagram account, her blog, and just her as a human being.

When I asked her to post about marketing, I pretended like it was for you guys, but it was selfish. I really wanted to know what Nadine would say! She's a master, and you're going to love it:






Nadine Brandes is an adventurerfusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.

Find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or nadinebrandes.com


Hellooooo teen writers! I’m popping my head in to the cool kid’s club to talk about…marketing. Maybe you haven’t really given much thought to marketing or you’re not sure what it is. Maybe you have given a lot of thought to it and you loathe/love it. No matter where you’re at with marketing, I’m here to tell you that 1) it can be fun (I love it!) and 2) it doesn’t have to eat your soul.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

When approaching marketing, you need to know that…numbers matter.

You also need to know that marketing is not about the numbers.

Confused yet? Sorry ’bout that. Let me explain. When the day comes for you to pitch to a publisher or click that “self-publish” button, you need an audience. (thus…numbers matter.) Otherwise how will anyone find your book?

But when you’re trying to build an audience and grow a following, it’s all about relationship and being totally you and totally real thus…it’s not about the numbers.

*rubs hands together* Now that that’s clear as mud, let’s get into the nitty gritty. Whether you’re published, unpublished, thinking about self-publishing or traditional publishing, you need to start marketing NOW.

I used to be intimidated by the idea of marketing. I’d start imagining me with a billboard or speaking in front of an audience or forking out advertising money. In other words, I pictured a whole bunch of bo-ring. And that made my little world-building brain want to run and hide. I avoided the word “marketing” or any marketing talk or classes like the plague…until I was published and realize, “Oh. Well…I should have tackled this sooner.”

Then when I tackled it, I ended up liking it.

What is marketing?
There are whole blog posts on this, so I’m going to give it to you in a cute little bow-tied nutshell: marketing is finding a “tribe” or following of people who are interested in what you write/do.

AKA: Marketing is finding virtual friends. Hundreds of them. And don’t worry introverts, you can still do this without having to become an extrovert!

What does this look like?
It looks like presence. Online. You need to be online, have a place to connect with others and grow a following. That could mean through having a blog, or through a Twitter, or a Facebook page, Instagram, an email newsletter, Tumblr, or even Snapchat. The fact you’re reading this post means you know how to use technology.

Marketing starts with being accessible. Building relationship with other readers, other writers, etc.

You need a constant place that is constant where people can find you and follow your shenanigans.

Example: Let’s say you hang out here a lot on Go Teen Writers. You connect with other commenters, you guys chat a bit. But if they don’t have your e-mail address or your Twitter handle or your snapchat code…how will they find you if they want to see what you’re up to or how your writing is going?

So pick a social media as your “base camp” of sorts. And then start directing people there.

Be real. Be you.
The #1 rule of marketing is be real. I know it’s tempting to create a fa├žade in social media, but friends and readers like authenticity. As you grow as an author and as your books go out into the world and crawl onto other people’s bookshelves, your readers are going to be watching you. They’ll want to feel like they can connect with you, probably just like how you wish you could connect with your favorite author. You don’t want to meet a cardboard cut-out or a plastic smile. You want to feel like you know them.

And that’s what your readers will want from you. Authenticity.

That doesn’t mean sharing every single little thought or vent. It doesn’t mean exposing your entire private life and letting them read your journal. It just means being real. After all, don’t we all want to be accepted as we are?

When/How do you start?
Start now. Take a look at what social medias you’re on. One? Two? Ten? Try to limit yourself to 1-2 favorites and direct your focus there. Twitter and a blog? Be fully present and invite people in.

Comment on other people’s blogs. Like, retweet, reply to other people’s tweets. ENGAGE. Make friends and let them know what you’re doing. And your numbers will slowly grow. Then, when you tell that agent or that publisher about your book—they’ll see that you have a following and they’ll realize that you take writing seriously enough to interact with your readers.

A few tips
  •           Focus on 1 to 2 marketing platforms. If you try to be active on all of them, you’ll burn out.
  •           If you’re not comfortable with social media, start gathering e-mails for a quarterly newsletter to send writing updates to people. E-mail newsletters are gold! They grow slowly, but they’re worth it!
  •           Try to create social media platforms under your writing name. A Twitter handle like @Iluvbooooks45996 is going to get lost on the internet. And people won’t remember it. Use your writing name and start “making a name” for yourself. J
  •           Do what you enjoy! If you hate blogging, maybe don’t start a blog. If you love photography, jump on Instagram and join the #bookstagram community. If you like doing videos, start a Booktube (Youtube) channel.
  •           Read up on marketing. My favorite book on marketing is The Extroverted Writer by Amanda Leudeke. It’s short and BRILLIANT.
  •           Observe your favorite authors. What are they doing on Twitter or Tumblr or their newsletter that you like? Take notes.


What makes you nervous about marketing? Or, on the flip side, what makes you excited about it? (Pepper me with all your marketing questions!)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Go Teen Writers LIVE: Episode Two

Hey all! Shannon here. Everyone had their doughnuts today? Friday is doughnut day around these parts.

Once you've got your doughnut in hand, settle back and click that PLAY button, because it is my absolute pleasure to bring you the second episode of Go Teen Writers LIVE!

If you were selected to ask a question for one of our episodes and you don't see your question featured this time, rest assured it's coming! We have several episodes going live over the next two weeks.

And remember, if you'd like to ask Stephanie, Jill and me a question, simply participate in the writing exercises as they become available, and use the Rafflecopter below each exercise to enter the drawing. We've been so impressed with your writing, friends. Thank you for choosing to write with us.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Power of Routine


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

You know the drill.

No questions required.

You have done or seen this many times.

You know what comes next.

You know what to do.

That kind of knowledge creates the ease that comes from having a routine. It makes hard things second nature.

The word "routine" is a French derivative of the word route. A routine helps you know the way to get somewhere or achieve something.

From Dictionary.com:

routine [roo-teen]

noun
- a customary or regular course of procedure.
- commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity.
- regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure.
- an unvarying and constantly repeated formula, as of speech or action, repetitious.

adjective
- of the nature of, proceeding by, or adhering to routine: routine duties.



Did you know that your mood, resilience, and performance are greatly determined by your daily actions? How you spend your time can affect your entire day. The choices you make when you sit down to write are a big deal.

If you start by procrastinating, by the time you finally do get to work, you're often working with an underlining tension. You know you're behind, so you feel anxious when you should be in the zone! And this anxiousness often makes it more difficult to get into the zone. So you've not only sabotaged yourself, but now you're struggling to get the job done as well.

It can be really difficult to reach your daily word count goals when you first have to overcome obstacles, distractions, and all kinds of random "surprises" that interrupt you from your work. Wouldn't it be best to at least try to set yourself up to succeed?

I'd like to suggest coming up with a work routine. Once you have a routine, if you repeat these actions each time you sit down to write, they should help you get into the zone and be more productive. The routine will train your brain to focus more quickly. It should keep you from getting sidetracked and help to make your work become second nature. A habit.

You might be thrown off by some of the words in the definition above. Words like: unimaginative, repetitious, or rote procedure. I in no way mean to imply that your writing craft should be these things. Not at all. I am suggesting that you create a routine to set yourself up to do your best work.

Charles Duhigg says in his book The Power of Habit, that once you're in a routine, "the brain can almost completely shut down [and you'll] have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else."

That would be creating a wonderful work of fiction.

The goal is to move on autopilot. Remove all distractions, get to your writing space, sit down, and start creating. This will likely involve some trial and error. Some things will work for you, others won't.

Here is what my current routine looks like. I'm still perfecting it. But I think this will be very helpful.

1. (Ahem.) Visit bathroom so I have no reason to get up from the chair once I sit down.
2. Gather my necessaries. (Full water bottle, map from story, any notes I need for the scene, etc.)
3. Put cell phone of vibrate and leave it in the living room where I cannot hear it. (I will get up to walk the house at least once an hour to stretch my legs and arms, so I can peek at the phone then for emergencies.)
4. Remove all snacks and candy from my desk. (Snacking keeps my fingers busy not writing, so I instead choose to bribe myself with food. When I complete my first writing goal, I may have X. Second writing goal? I may have lunch, etc. I sometimes even set the snack on the other side of the room where I can see it. Ex: A Cadbury Creme Egg, glimmering on the distant dining room table, can be a great motivator.)
5. Close the internet--or at least close out of Facebook and email. Turn off that Facebook notification that pops up on my computer even when I'm not on Facebook to tell me someone did something. (Talk about a distraction . . . )
6. Read through my plan for the scene I'm about to write/edit.
7. Walk laps around the inside of my house until I come up with the first sentence I want to write.
8. Sit down and write that first sentence, then keep on going for a thirty-minute word war with myself. The "time race" will help me keep on task (and hopefully also keep me from biting my fingernails, another thing that keeps my fingers busy not writing.)
9. When I finish the word war, I may get up (if I want to) and walk a lap around the house to stretch. But if I'm into the scene, I can go another thirty minutes.
10. Every hour I must get up and walk a lap around the house (and stretch my arms) to keep me healthy. If I'm in the middle of a scene, I'll work on the next line in my head so that when I sit back down, I'm ready to type.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, share in the comments. If not, do you see how one might be helpful?