Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

Of hoodoos and galoots

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

I just got back from a long-anticipated trip to the national parks of Utah. As we planned the trip, I dreamed of hiking in sun drenched canyons and marveling at exotic rock formations. But my dreams couldn’t match the incredible beauty that we found in Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and Snow Canyon State Park.

Canyon on Fire Zion

In Zion, I felt a sense of peace I’ve seldom experienced, even though the park was crowded with people. Something about staring up and up – and UP – at those impassive stone walls assured me of a presence beyond myself, solid and stable and impervious to time.

Field of HooDoo Bryce

In Bryce Canyon, I encountered an alien world of exquisite rock formations called “hoodoos.” I could have wandered among them for days, drinking in the eerie beauty of the castles and fortresses they seemed to create. And in Snow Canyon State Park, we climbed on galoots, giant mounds of petrified sandstone that glowed pinkish-orange in the Utah sunset.

I knew this would be a fun vacation, but it turned out to be so much more than that. I came home with a new sense of myself and my life, and I realized that for a writer, or any creative person, travel is not a luxury but a necessity. You don’t have to travel far to be transported, but that transportation – that sense of being swept out of your ruts and routines, your assumptions and even your worldview, is essential. I’m well aware that not everyone can afford to travel, and I’m grateful for this opportunity I had to experience myself and my surroundings in a new way.

How will this journey affect my writing? I truly don’t know. Certainly, multitudes of story ideas raced through my head as I hiked among the hoodoos and climbed the galoots. But it’s not so much the thoughts I had during the trip that mattered; it was stepping into a different world that will allow me to come back my work with a fresh perspective.

Have you ever taken a trip that changed you? How did it affect your writing?


Writing Resolutions for 2014

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions. I know from my experience as a Pilates instructor that promises to lose 10 pounds by January 31st or to, more vaguely, “get in shape” are all too easily derailed. This year, though, I came up with these writing resolutions, some specific, some global, that I hope will help make 2014 a productive and creative year.

1. I will stay positive, hopeful, and optimistic about my future work getting published. The fact that my agent, the fabulous Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary, left the business this spring made 2013 a tough year for me. But I’m determined to keep forging ahead and hoping for great things in the future.

2. I will continue to identify myself as an author. Since I haven’t published a book since 2011, I sometimes feel like I no longer belong in the “Published Authors’ Club.” But then I remind myself that I now have 8 published works out there, not including magazine stories and articles and website content. I think that earns me a lifetime membership!

3. l will remain open to alternative ways of bringing my work to readers. There’s no denying it: the publishing world is changing. What does that mean for me? I’m not sure, but I’m going to stay open to the new models that are being created.

4. I will be open to trying different genres of writing. For the past few years I’ve focused exclusively on writing YA novels. I want to continue with that, but I’ve also recently finished the first draft of a romance novella. Who knows what other kinds of works might surface this year?

5. I will be open to trying new writing processes. My modified NaNoWriMo experiment this November opened my eyes to the fact that maybe slow and methodical isn’t the only way to write. I plan to try lots of different writing methods and techniques in the coming year.

6. I will revise Novel #3 and resubmit to at least 12 agents. See Resolution #1 above.

7. I will revise my romance novella with the potential goal of self-publishing it as an e-book. See Resolutions #3 and #4 above.

8. I will read through my first draft of Novel #4 and decide whether it’s worth revising. This is the novel I completed at top speed during November. I think it’s a mess, but now that I’ve put it aside for a month, I’m willing to take a look and see if there are any gems hidden in the swamp.

9. I will be on the lookout for ideas for novel #5. I always like to stay a step ahead of myself. That way, if a prospective agent asks me, “What are you planning to write next?” I’ll have an answer.

10. I will remain joyfully committed to my writing practice. ‘Nuff said.

What are your writing resolutions for 2014?


How to tell if an idea for a novel will fly

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

I’m toying with an idea for a new novel. This is always a sticky part of the writing process for me, because I have a hard time knowing whether my ideas are any good or whether, once I start writing, they’ll go into auto-destruct. That said, I have started to recognize a few indications that an idea might have wings.

1. I haven’t seen many recent books on the same topic. Obviously, I don’t want to waste my time writing something that’s been overdone. So I just say no to another book about vampires or angels, unless I’ve got a completely new spin on it. The idea I’ve been tinkering with lately hasn’t been addressed at all, that I’m aware of, which is a good sign.

2. The idea scares me a little. Every time I write a novel, I go in thinking, “I can’t possibly write about that!” Which means that when I actual do write it, I’m taking a risk – and risky books are usually the books worth reading. The idea I have right now feels really risky to me – another indication that I should probably go ahead and write it.

3. Just thinking about the idea causes explosions of plot and character possibilities in my brain. Some novel premises sound great, but they’re just that: premises. They sit there on the page, looking pretty, but they don’t get my creative juices flowing in terms of what twists and turns a plot might take or what characters might inhabit the story. I don’t yet have a fully-formed plot to go with my idea, but I can definitely see the possibilities.

4. I can state the premise in one sentence. This is a biggie. Sometimes I get ideas so convoluted that they require a paragraph’s worth of explanation. I know an idea is good when it’s simple and clear: My book will be about a _____ (girl/boy/vampire) who wants ________ (to find her father/to win the spelling bee/to suck neck) but can’t because (her mother won’t tell her who he is/he’s dyslexic/he’s allergic to blood.) And no, none of these are my current idea (whew!), but yes, I can describe my potential new novel in one sentence.

I’m still not completely sure that my idea will fly, but so far it’s passing the test. How about you? How do you determine whether a writing idea is worth pursuing?


Where do YA authors get their ideas?

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Today I’m taking you on a field trip. We’re going to visit the Children’s Book Insider Clubhouse website, where you can read my post on where YA authors get their ideas.

Find out what inspired Beth Revis, Kathy McCullough, Angie Smibert, and Sonia Gensler to write their latest books!