Monday, September 28, 2015

MG Minded Talks - WIPs

This month MG Minded is talking about WIPs. Here are the questions:

1.) What's your current WIP about?

2.) How do you decide when an idea has enough legs to turn it into a manuscript?

3.) A relationship with your WIP can be complicated. What kinds of feelings do you have as you work through writing your first draft. Give us the good, the bad, and the ugly.

4.) Anything else you want to share about your current WIP?

And now to the bloggers for answers! Feel free to add your own answers in the comments section.

Tom M.
1) I'm currently revising what I fully expect will be a very intense ghost story.

2) New ideas usually take a good amount of time to develop before I feel ready to take them on. I'll keep track of notes and ideas related to it, and when it gets enough momentum for me to have a solid overview of what the story will be like, I'll start working on it.

3) I love those moments when I reach the flow state, and everything comes so quick and effortless I feel like I can't do anything wrong. I'm not as fond of the times when I'm plodding through a problem and for the life of me can't find a way to make it work.

4) My WIP began as a short story close to twenty years ago and has gradually evolved in on and off spurts ever since. I'd call it a good example of why the ideas a writer feels strongly about should never be completely abandoned.


1) My current WIP is a YA about a guy who catfishes his entire school with a blog he's forced to create for his political sciences class.
2) If I can come up with one line for each plotpoint outline (10%, 25%, 50%, and 75%) then I start writing.

3) I e
xpect my outline to change. A lot. I'm a plantser, so I never get married to an idea while I write. I always have a roller coaster of emotions, from I LOVE THIS to WHY AM I EVEN BOTHERING. By now I'm used to it. :)

1) My current WIP is a MG about a dragon changeling who doesn't want anything to do with her dragon side.

2) Usually when the idea can't leave my head and I have enough of an outline to keep moving forward. I almost never know exactly how a book will e
nd when I start it, but if I know what comes next and after that and even a little beyond, that's usually a sign I have enough to help me write and learn about the characters and this story. As I progress through more of the later parts of the story become more clear until I finally know how things will end.

3) When I first get an idea there's usually a feeling of excitement, especially for those ideas that I'm able to turn into manuscripts. But as I write and get beyond the initial excitement the fear sets in. What if this isn't good enough? Why does this WIP suck so much? But as I plow through and get toward the end, I start to get excited again about finishing another story. And even more excited about getting to rip it apart during edits and make it that much better.

4) Current WIP stage, why does this suck so much. **KEEPS PLOWING THROUGH**

1) my current WIP is a contemporary romance set it Haiti. I am loving getting deep into that setting because it's one that's close to my heart!
2) I always do 3 things before commit to writing the full thing. 1. Plot, even if it's just mentally. I nee
d to have an idea of where I'm going and if it has enough meat to be a full novel (I write short) 2. Write a query for it. Even if I never use the query it's really important for me to have a full grasp of the tone and purpose of the story first 3. Write the first chapter. This helps get an idea of the voice and characters and I always learn something new. Once I do those three things and the idea still excites me I'm ready to go. 

3) I'm always super excited about it at first (otherwise I wouldn't be writing it). Then I start getting into the lag bits. Not always because the story is not exciting but because writing consistently is tedious. I quite often forget my passion for the story and consider giving up. I don't usually get the "omg this sucks" mentality, just a "is this really worth it?" "I want to write that other shiney book idea..." I have to push myself through to finishing a draft and at the end I have a mix of "What the heck is this thing? How in the world will I fix it?" And "YAY I FINISHED."
4) I'm writing a book on contract so my motivation is higher but so is my anxiety. "What if they don't like it?" And worse: "What if I don't end up liking it but have to let them publish it anyway?"

Tom T.
1) Current WIP is about a kid accompanying his father on a hunt for a missing Easter Island tribe, only to become trapped on the island they've vanished to.
2) Only way I'm able to determine if my idea is able to transform into a novel is if I can thin
k of a legitimate, beginning, middle, and ending. Then I'll try to write up a quick synopsis to see if I can add enough filler, development, and plot twists to justify at least 50k words lol.

3) It usually starts off like "HOLY SHNIKEY this is the best thing I've ever written" - it's like what Ian Malcom said in Jurassic Park..Oooh, ahhh, that's how it starts. Then there's the running..and screaming. Yup, that's how it is. By the time I'm finished with my first draft, I love it..then i go back into it..and I hate it...then it's hours upon hours of endless editing that makes my head explode. If I'm lucky, I'll still love it after all that.

4) It'll be on submission in another month, and I'm pooping bricks

Dan G.
1) My current WIP is, terrifyingly, a series. A fantasy series. I've never written a series before, and I've never written a fantasy before, so I'm doing WAY more pre-writing prep than I've ever done (I'm generally a total pantser). It's been kind of scary, but a lot of fun and great brain exercise. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

2) I wish I had an answer to that! Stories usually sit in my head for a LONG first book bumped around up there for a couple of years before I wrote it, and this new series has been on my mind for a couple of years as well. Other times, though, I've started a manuscript a week after the idea occurred to me. I guess when it's ready, it's ready!

3) Like most writers, my reaction to my own writing is fairly schizophrenic. I love it, then I despise it, then I'm totally numb to it...sometimes all within five minutes! Generally, though, during the drafting phase I'm riding a wave of euphoria interrupted by occasional sinkholes of crippling insecurity. During revision that dynamic reverses: I mostly feel like it just might be irredeemable garbage, with scattered moments of thinking I may have gold in my hands if I polish it enough. So, yeah, I'm just generally a wreck.

4) Right now, my predominant feeling toward my WIP is gratitude. I've been feeling a lot of stress in other areas of my life lately, and I've been loving the escape of slipping away and diving into my WIP. It's been a wonderful little refuge, and I'm happy I have it. 

1) I'm at an odd time for me. I have no current WIP (at least, not one in drafting stage). Instead, I'm working on revisions to two separate projects at the moment. One is about a unusual girl solving the mystery of a jewel heist with the help of her best friend, the town Sheriff's son. The other is about <redacted>.

2) I never really know until I finish it and let someone else read it. When they (hopefully) tell me it's not crap, I start to believe.

3) I go through the usual writer phases when drafting: THIS IS AWESOME. THIS IS CRAP. THIS IS AWESOME! Then, after I'm finished with the draft and some revisions, there's also some "Well, I like this...I hope someone else does too".

4) OMGOSH I'm SOOOO excited about it! It's <redacted>!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Managing Your W(s)IPs

The shorthand initials WIP represent one of the most beloved or reviled parts of being a writer. If you don't have a WIP, your writing is dead stagnant. If you do have one, your writing is alive and, hopefully, thriving. Without a WIP, you're free! You can do whatever you want! You can go out with your friends, read, go to movies, play with your dog, travel, and all without any guilt. When you have one, it can take over your life to a point when you frequently spend more time thinking about it than noticing what's happening in the world around you.

If you didn't already know this, WIP = Work in Progress. But what does that really mean? What actually constitutes a work in progress? Is it just drafting, or does it include reaching a certain word count goal in your draft before you can award it that WIP title? Can you still consider something in progress if it's been shelved for a number of months, or years? Is progress being made on something if you haven't written the first word?

I think it all depends on what you consider progress. In the teaching game, progress is everything. Students come at you with so many varying abilities, and what you want most for them is to see that, regardless of what starting point they showed up with on the first day, they're continually improving. This might mean huge leaps for some and gradual steps for others, but as long as they're making progress you know things are going in the right direction.

As for me, I consider a writing project an official Work in Progress as soon as I've decided to commit time to seeing it completed. The problem is, this means I've got several works in progress happening at any given time, and juggling them requires an extra layer of management to keep that progress going with any of them.

Right now I've got five projects I would consider being in the WIP rotation. One of them is in a holding pattern since there really isn't much else I can do with it at the moment, but that's likely to change, eventually. Another one is in the first position for my work time now, since I'm working through what I hope is one of the last revision passes for it. Two others are little more than gestating collections of notes, actively competing against each other to see which one will get to be drafted next when my current revision project is finished. And the fifth is mostly an idea at this point, but every time it crosses my mind it gets to be a little more real and a little more intriguing. These days I'm toying with the idea of making it my NaNoWriMo project for this year, just to see where it goes (provided my current revision work is making enough progress to allow me to pause for a month and take on NaNo again).

So, as you can see, there's quite a bit going on here. To say nothing of my day job.

Some writers struggle with waiting for the next idea to come along, while others can't decide which one is next up in line. If you're one of the people in that second group, this is a lucky problem to have, but it's still a problem nonetheless. Trying to write four or five different things at the same time could easily produce four or five marginal manuscripts instead of the one really good one that might have happened with more focused time management. I don't see anything wrong about working out several ideas at once. If you can make that work inside of your process, it might even prove to be a benefit. But I think it's important to remember not to spread yourself too thin. You can't always chase after the prettiest, newest ideas that come along just because they seem like more fun than the one you've already put so much time and energy into. If you have a project in front of you that you believe in and you want to bring to life, keep at it. Keep making that progress, no matter how gradual it might be. As long as something is happening with it, it's still alive, and it still gets to keep that WIP title.

Because the great thing about a WIP? That 'P' part means you can keep working on it right up until the day it stops being a "Work in Progress" and shifts over to "Writing is Published." Until that happens, you can do whatever you want with it, and work at whatever pace you need.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I Say WIP It…WIP It Good

As a rule, I’m not usually the chattiest guy in the cocktail party.

Wait, no, I take that back. I’ve never been to a cocktail party.

So, well, I’m not the chattiest guy at any party. In fact, at the middle school dance, lo, the many years ago, the odds of finding me with my back super-glued to the wall – or preferably one of those mats hanging on the walls at each end of the gym, because, HELLO, WAAAAY more comfortable to lean on than painted cinder block (especially for two hours) – were a fool’s bet. The room would have had to be on fire before I’d have considered separating myself from my chosen post.

And not just, like, a little on fire, either. It would have had to have been your basic Hellmouth kind of situation where a portal to the Underworld ruptured, spreading demons and launching brimstone among my Airheads-fueled schoolmates. Since I didn’t live in Sunnydale, that didn’t happen.

The point here is that, like many of the writers who’ve I’ve met since starting my word-fueled journey, I’m a deep-rooted introvert. Admittedly, somehow an introvert that’s still sort of attention-seeking, but an introvert nonetheless.

Of course, there are a lot of way to interpret that. For me, though, introversion feels like to not wanting to be on. That is, the spotlight is not for me.

The center of attention might as well be the End of the World.

In other words, I’m not always comfortable talking about myself or my life with people I don’t know like family.

When it comes to writing that goes double, especially when getting into details about my work(s) in progress. I have to follow an idea to completion, dot the I’s, cross the t’s, and weigh it in my mind before I want to talk about the ins and outs of the story or characters.  Afterwards, I send it out with the proverbial shaking hands for beta readers to consume, assess, and comment on. Until then, I won’t even speak a project’s name in public. In fact, every new WIP I start working on gets a code name to keep it soft, cream-filled secrets hidden under a dark, billowy cloak.

Well, okay, so it’s partially the “secrets” and the “dark, billowy cloak” thing. Let’s be honest…my manuscripts aren’t exactly Nazg├╗l that need their identities to remain hidden until the approved time. Fact is, I also use project codenames because I’m a huge nerd and enjoy nerding things up as much as humanly possible. After all, writing is a hard enough business. I say we do what we can to squeeze some fun out of it whenever possible, even if means giving my work a silly code name. I mean, this is middle grade. If you can’t find a way to have some fun with that, you’d maybe be better off assessing tax schedules or insurance riders.

Oh, what’s that you said? You’d love to hear a few secret details about my current WIP? Since we’re super tight buddies, and all? You even swear not to tell?

Well, I suppose I could tell you something. Just one or two little tidbits.

Here it is…

Come closer…

Now, listen carefully…






Have a great weekend and don’t forget to have a little fun with your work in progress while you’re at!


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Book Review: I LOVE HIM, I LOVE HIM NOT by Ella Martin

Title: I Love Him, I Love Him Not (Westgate Prep #2)
Author: Ella Martin
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 237 pages
Publication date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Clean Reads/Astraea Press

My rating: 5 / 5

Talia Nicoletti’s life has been turned upside down–and that’s probably an understatement. Her mother goes off on a business trip… and comes back married! Her estranged father wants to be less estranged. And her best friend Jake DeSantos suddenly has a new confidante who Talia doesn’t want to like but kind of does anyway.

Talia has to unravel her tangled up emotions to figure out what she really wants. Does she want to accept her father back in her life? Can she trust her new-stepfather? There’s too much hitting Talia at once, and she’s not ready to deal with any of it. The one person she can always turn to is Jake, and he’s being secretive and isn’t exactly available. And that hurts her more than she thought possible.
Talia prides herself on keeping her emotions in check and hates that she’s jealous of the new girl in Jake’s life, especially since she can’t decide if she loves him … or if she loves him not.

I'm a sucker for a good team of characters. 

My favorite books and movies have always contained a full house of personalities, each one with different strengths, different problems, different backgrounds. When an author can deliver a book with a diverse cast of friends that are truly authentic, I can't help but fall in love with it. Which is exactly why Ella Martin's I Love Him, I Love Him Not gets a full five-star rating from me. 

A very well-deserved five-star rating.

From the very beginning of the book, we're introduced to Talia and her team of friends, Jake (her bestie), Bianca, and Ally. None of them fit into any particular box because each one of them is so wonderfully chipped and scarred by their own personal struggles. As soon as you think you have one character pegged as the "whatever" type of friend, Martin surprises you by squashing the stereotype in one single line of dialogue or mini plot twist. 

Can we say refreshing? Yes. Yes we can. And we will. 

As far as the story goes, Ella doesn't waste a single page in getting to the crux of it all. Talia's stuck in the middle of her parents' renegotiations over alimony, her father's reappearance into her life, and Jake's new crush, Clover. Because of what happened between her and her dad, Talia's got some serious trust issues, causing her to sometimes dismiss things that she sees or hears. It's frustrating because you want to reach in through the book and grab her by the shoulders, shake her, and say "Just open your eyes, Talia!" But you can't and the fact that other characters do that for you makes reading her story so worthwhile. We've all had a Talia in our lives. And thank goodness this one has some good friends to help her through her journey.

I Love Him, I Love Him Not has something for everyone. Love story? Check. Humor? Check. A ton of drama? Check. But in the end, it's the solid storytelling of a fantastic group of friends that won me over. I really hope Martin continues this series with a book centered around one of the supporting characters. Because they each deserve their own time in the spotlight. Just like this book deserves a home on your e-reader, on your shelf, and in your hands.

The incredible Ella Martin is giving away one signed poster of I Love Him, I Love Him Not to a lucky winner. The contest is open to everyone, so make sure you put in your entries as soon as possible!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 4, 2015

Interview with Gayle Rosengren, Author of Cold War On Maplewood Street

Last year I read and reviewed What The Moon Said, a really cool MG historical set during the depression. Well, Gayle is back with another historical MG novel that I'm super excited about!  Check out this the book and our interview with this up and coming MG author, Gayle Rosengren!

Cold War on Mapplewood Street

It's been a few months since her adored brother Sam joined the navy, but Joanna still misses him desperately.  Sam broke his promise that he wouldn't leave her, like their father did, so she can't help feeling hurt and betrayed and she refuses to answer his letters. But then President Kennedy appears on TV to announce that the Russians are bringing nuclear weapons to Cuba. That's a direct threat to the United States! He insists that the Russians remove the weapons at once, and he sends ships to the area to stop Russian ships from bringing more weapons in.  What if Sam's ship is one of them?
Joanna is frightened, and she's not the only one.  Parents, teachers, newscasters and people in countries around the world are scared, too.   How Joanna learns to live with hope in the face of fear is at the heart of this story about what it means to grow up in a world full of uncertainty, both then and now.

Find it on Amazon and Goodreads

Why did you choose to write historical MG?
It's not so much that I chose to write historical fiction; it just happens that these were the first two stories I felt compelled to write.  What the Moon Said was inspired by some events in my mother's childhood and Cold War on Maplewood Street stemmed from a major event in mine.  The story I'm currently working on is contemporary, and it's likely that will be the case for most of the stories that follow it.  I'm not committed to time periods, only to the stories I feel are important to tell.

What is your favorite thing about writing Middle Grade?

My favorite thing is knowing how much young readers take books to heart-- knowing that if they love my book today, they will probably still remember it fondly many years from now.  Middle grade books can make an impact that is uniquely personal because they're  the first books youngsters read on their own. They are also the books that usually start children down the road to being life-long readers, and that's something very special to be a part of.

What was your inspiration for writing?

When I was a girl, my family had very little money, which meant opportunities for entertainment were severely limited.  But thanks to libraries I always had books. They became an enormous part of my world.  I lost myself in them for hours every day.  Through reading I was whisked away to different places and different times and I made countless book character "friends." I liked some of them so much that it could be difficult to read the last page, knowing my time with them was coming to an end.  (Thank goodness I could flip back to the beginning and start all over again if I wanted to, and I often did!)  It was reading these books that fired my dream of someday writing books that would  mean as much to future young readers.  

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The most challenging scene to write was the dinner scene with the Watermans.  There were a lot of characters interacting around the table, and there were several undercurrents that I wanted to establish. But since everything was being seen through Joanna's eyes I had to be careful not to make her too "knowing."  She had to see things without necessarily understanding all of what she was seeing--like the angry expression on uncle Zack's face, and Mrs. Waterman's tears as she flings her slice of cake into the garbage. 
My favorite scene to write, though, was the one where Joanna turns her closet into a bomb shelter.  It was fun deciding what she'd put in it. It was also a transformative scene  that shows Joanna finally taking action, on her own, to feel safer.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope they will see the importance of speaking up, communicating their feelings, especially when they're afraid or worried--just as Joanna eventually confides in her teacher and her mom and Sam.  Sharing our worries nearly always helps us to feel better..

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I like to write on my laptop at my desk off the kitchen, with the coffee pot just a few steps away, my dog Fiona dozing at my feet, and my husband Don working at his own laptop nearby.  It's the coziest writing situation ever--quiet, and full of love and positive energy.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

If writing is your dream, you must go for it with everything in you and never give up.  It took me a long time to be published.  I joke that I'm the poster child for perseverance. But that's what it takes.  Only a few people find success quickly.  For the rest of us it's a bit of an endurance test.  My best advice is to join a critique group of four or five other writers so you can help support each other and improve each other's writing.  Having a good critique group is probably the single most valuable part of a successful writing journey.  I know I couldn't have hung in there without mine.

What are you working on now?

I recently completed a contemporary novel about loyalty that has elements of mystery and suspense. It's Middle Grade, of course!


I can't wait to get my hands on this book! 

 About the author!

Gayle at age 16

Gayle grew up in Chicago.  Like her main characters, Esther and Joanna, she enjoyed school, was an avid reader, and loved dogs and horses.  She majored in creative writing and philosophy in college and was the editor of the literary magazine

Gayle never outgrew her passion for children's books, though, and she worked in the  children's and young adult departments of a public library in Illinois for several years, enthusiastically sharing her love of books with young people while raising three young readers of her own.

Gayle eventually moved to Wisconsin, where she worked first in the reference library, and later as a copyeditor, at The Pleasant Company, where the American Girl books were published.  During this time she published short stories for children in Cricket, Ladybug, Jack and Jill and Children's Digest magazines.