Friday, December 10, 2010

Moving to a new blog

Hello all - since I'm updating my website, I've decided to move to a new blogger name.
Please visit me there and sign up to follow me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving will be bittersweet this year. It's the first Thanksgiving without my dad. Last year he passed away suddenly the day after Thanksgiving on November 27th. It's also the last holiday that we have to go through as being the "first without Dad". I'm glad for that because those "first" holidays - especially Christmas and his shared birthday with my youngest son- were very difficult.

Even though his death was such a shock, I was grateful to have spent the prior day with him and the rest of my family. It was like Thanksgiving was even more of a gift than usual. We laughed and talked, ate and drank. I sat across from him and worried about the triple by-pass he'd just undergone a week or so prior, and if he really felt as good as he said.

This year as we gather at my sister's house, I'm sure we'll all be thinking of that last Thanksgiving.The food will be similar or the same, the company almost the same. But we'll all miss my dad's snarky remarks, his booming laughter, and his huge bear hugs. I know, though, that he'll be with us in spirit.

Love you, Dad.

Lee Dewstow

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Picture Book to be Released

I've very excited to mention that in just a matter of days, this book will be shipped off to the printer. Chuck Gaidica, a TV and radio personality in metro-Detroit, came to the press I work for interested in several projects. The first that we are publishing is Tommy Starts Something Big: Giving Cuddles with Kindness. Chuck had an idea for the book, but no manuscript. I was able to help him create the text, as well as be his editor and project manager. We found a lovely illustrator, Mary Gregg Byrne, who was able to bring the characters to life in exactly the way Chuck wanted.

Here's the back cover blurb:

Have you ever been hurt or felt lonely and wanted a cuddle? That was Tommy, until he discovered what made him feel better. He also realizes that reaching out to others makes him feel special. Now Tommy wants to share that feeling with everyone. Will his cuddle alerts start something big?

The book will be available in December and can be purchased at, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and of course the press I freelance for,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Awards - shameless SP for the press that employs me...

Today, we found out that ten of the books published in 2009/2010 for the press I work for received awards from USA Book News. I'm especially happy because seven of those books were ones that I had edited. I've put a * by those books.

The books are:

* Read to Me Daddy, My First Football Book 2010 USA Book News Finalist- Children’s Education
* Divorced Together for the Sake of the Children 2010 USA Book News Finalist- Parenting/Family: Divorce
* The One and Only Bernadette P. McMullen 2010 USA Book News Finalist- Children’s Fiction
* Bartholomew’s Gift 2010 USA Book News Finalist Children’s Picture Book-HC with Audio
* Hank the Tank Engine 2010 USA Book News Finalist- Children’s Non-Fiction Picture Book
Engineering the ABCs 2010 USA Book News Finalist- Children’s Non-Fiction Picture Book
* Dadsongs: Remembering a Loved One’s Melody 2010 USA Book News Finalist-Death& Dying
* Opening Doors, Opening Lives 2010 USA Book News Finalist Education PreK-12
Bursting with Joy 2010 USA Book News Finalist: Self Help/Relationship
Poetic Camera 2010 USA Book News Finalist- Photography: Nature

It is great news for the authors, as well as Nelson Publishing and Marketing. If you're interested in finding out more about these great books, please visit

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Should a writer ever be "in-between" projects?

For those of us who have not been published in our genre, like myself, I always wonder as to whether one should keep working on a project that is out on submission (i.e. the next book in the series), or if one should start something new, OR (God forbid) take a break and not write at all.

Part of me wants to keep working on the current project. The characters are fresh in my mind, their problems seemingly to mount with each day that I'm not at the keyboard.

Another part of me would like to revisit a previous project and maybe improve it.

Still, maybe it's time to think of something new to write.

Or maybe it's time for a writing break?

The issue with the last one is that the break can last much longer that I ever intend. Days, weeks accumulate into months, and that becomes a whole new problem in and of itself.

What do you do when you've typed The End and shipped the manuscript off to your agent - do you keep writing the same series, start something new, or take a break?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Editing Projects

I don't often brag about any of the editing projects that I work on for Nelson Publishing & Marketing. I'm not sure why because they really are wonderful titles. I think it's because I don't want to hurt an author's feelings by not blogging about their book. There are several new books, though, that I believe will truly make a difference in the world. 

They are:

The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy

Here's the back cover blurb:
Have you ever seen a bully in action and done nothing about it? The kids at Pete’s new school get involved, instead of being bystanders. When the juice box mess becomes more than just a dirty shirt, Pete’s classmates teach him about “The Promise”. Will Pete decide to shed his bullying habits and make “The Promise”?

Does This Make Me Beautiful? by Harriet Morse

Here's the back cover blurb:
Does a certain pair of jeans or type of shirt make a person beautiful? How about a shiny gold necklace? Harriet thinks that these are the things that can make her beautiful. And she’s sure that her red hair and freckles do not help. But will an old family mirror teach Harriet what true beauty really means?

Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life by Carol McCloud

Here's the back cover blurb:
Do you know you have an invisible bucket which is filled with all of your good thoughts and feelings?  If you're new to the concept of bucket filling and bucket dipping, then this book is for you. With easy to read chapters, colorful illustrations, and daily questions to help readers become better bucketfillers, Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life gives readers the tools to live a life filled with happiness.

All three of these books will help readers in many aspects of their lives, and I'm pretty proud to have been involved. All of these books will be available within the next month, either at,, your local bookstore, or

They are all worth your time.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Synopsis...the dread word....umm.....document.

How many of you write your synopsis before you write your story? How many afterward?

If I had a choice, I would write it afterward.

But the publishing industry often times wants a synopsis along with a partial when agents submit to editors. As a writer, I hate this. It's not because I don't like to write the synopsis--ahem.-- but because I generally do not have a clue as to where the story will take itself once I start writing. I usually know the beginning, part of the middle, and how it ends. But getting from a to b to c, at least for me, is not a straight line.

I did something different with this current manuscript; I created chapter titles and a one-to-two sentence of what happens in that chapter. I'm not sure if my agent submitted this partial synopsis to the editors. I do know that it helped me tremendously when I needed to get back to writing this story. I can see myself doing this for future stories--especially for ones that I write only a partial and then move on to the next story. I've laid the groundwork for what I was originally thinking, and I then only have to fill in the spaces (chapters) that are unfinished.

Now that the manuscript is done, though, I need to write the full synopsis. It's still not my favorite thing to do, but it sure will be a lot easier since the manuscript is finished.

Did I fudge by not having the synopsis done when I submitted the partial? Yeah, probably. But now that my hands are not throbbing, I can work on cranking out those lovely pages and sending those off to my rock star agent. At least this time when I attempt to write it, I know what happens!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Amazing Flying Fingers

There's nothing more motivating to finish a manuscript than to have your agent call you and say, "So and so is interested in reading more. Have you finished?"

That's the gist of the phone call I received a little over a week ago - right before I was packing my family up for a long weekend in Chicago. I've never felt so ashamed--this manuscript should've been finished at least a month ago. Life got in the way - major drama - so it sat, waiting for me to return.

Luckily for me, my agent was understanding. She's one of the last people on this planet that I want to disappoint. I promised her that it would be done by the end of the month, and I am going to make way, way good on that promise --sorry, still channeling my twelve-year-old main character.

I wrote while driving to Chicago, until my neck hurt. I wrote while my family frolicked in the pool. Then I stopped writing. I enjoyed myself and all the sights we took in. I didn't write on the way home, but thought about my characters problems and how they were going to be solved.

After unpacking, I sat my butt in my chair and I let the words flow. And they've been flowing every since. I did have to do some work for the day job, but I've been able to spend a great deal of my time writing. I've written over ten thousand words in the last five days. Not too bad for someone who hadn't written seriously for over six weeks. Man, if I carved out the time each week, I could write 3 or 4 books in this series in a year. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Okay, so it's back to my manuscript now. I hope you all get a similar call or THE CALL soon, if you haven't already. I'm certainly hoping that this manuscript is the one that gets me THE CALL. That would be too cool.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Busy with life

I can't believe that it's been almost TWO months since I've written a blog post. Thank goodness this is not a reflection of my "real" writing - I've been busily working on a manuscript geared to 5th, 6th, and 7th grade boys. I'm having fun with the characters, and I'm hoping that this will turn into a series.

What have you been writing?

Friday, May 21, 2010

How do you stay motivated?

So you've started a new story. It's all fresh and new, and you can't stop thinking about it. Your characters are really coming to life, and you are really beginning to care for them. You're cruising right along and then BAM! You lose interest.

I really don't like it when this happens to me. I'm not exactly sure what sparks this sudden non-desire, but my hard drive is riddled with abandoned stories.

I've found that when it really counts and I have to finish the story, I'll find pictures of what I think the characters look like. I'll either cut them from magazines or find them online. Having a clear idea of who they are, and then having them staring at me is really motivating. Or, if I've based the characters loosely on someone I know, I'll either visit or find out someway (Facebook) how they are doing, thus piquing my interest again. These are odd little quirks - I know - but I'm pretty much a visual person, so having either the storyline, images, or even just the list of characters in my face, helps me focus.

Does this ever happen to you? What makes you move on? What keeps you from abandoning your wip - other than a concrete deadline?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Another new story, but only a partial

I'm off and writing a new partial for my agent. Even though I've written one other middle grade partial, my agent told me to start on a new story while she's shopping the one full MG and the partial MG manuscripts. I guess from now on, since I've written a full in each genre I write, I only need to write partials for her to submit. I'm not sure if all agents work this way, but mine does. And, I have to say that I really like it. I don't have to commit myself (or the time) into completing an entire story. I can write a partial and synopsis and then move on.

The only downside that I see to this arrangement is that perhaps my enthusiasm for the story may wane if I don't keep plugging along. I've got several women's fiction manuscripts that are partially completed because I lost interest. But those cases are different, I think (I hope) because I hadn't written a synopsis and they were written early in my writing career - meaning, I've learned a lot more since then and I'm sure if I went back to those, I'd see the problem I lost interest - no clear story problem.

Either way, I think it's pretty cool that I only have to commit to three-five chapters and write the dreaded synopsis.

How do you write? One full story at a time, or in partials?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Brenda Novak's Annual Online Auction to Benefit Diabetes Research

My agent wanted her clients to get the word out about this wonderful fundraiser -Brenda Novak's Annual Online Auction to Benefit Diabetes Research. Please visit Brenda's website for all the details:

A ton of items are being auctioned - books, art, tickets, gifts, critiques, meetings, meals, conference fees, etc..  In addition, numerous industry pros have donated critiques and manuscript evaluations to help the cause.

My agent donated a critique/evaluation of a partial (synopsis and first three chapters) and a follow up phone call w/in 1 week.

One lucky winner will get a manuscript evaluation (pubbed or unpubbed) from Hollywood actor/writer/
director Doug McKeon with a follow up phone call (or meeting in L.A.).

So head on over to Brenda's site and help raise money for a great cause while earning a chance at a bunch of cool prizes.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Finding Your Inner Voice

As an editor, I am very aware of my authors' voices. When doing a line or content edit, I try very hard not to change their words into my words. When I meet with authors, I tell them up-front, "I won't change your voice." Sometimes they look at me like I'm crazy. I'm used to that. But other times, more often, they thank me and we get on with our meeting.

Recently, I had a conversation with my agent. I was feeling unsure of the genre that I've decided to concentrate my time and effort into now. My instinct, before at least, was to write stories that dealt with adult women and their issues - something I know a lot about! But when she poised the question - or request - of writing in a new genre because the women's fiction market was flat, I decided to try middle grade. I didn't think it would be that hard; I've got two youngish boys in my house and a husband who is a big kid himself (sorry, honey, but you know it's the truth.) I wrote a full manuscript (book one in a series) and then a partial for a completely different series. I felt pretty good about the stories, or the potential for each story.

Since those two manuscripts, along with a women's fiction mss, are floating out in editorville, it's easy to doubt my new found MG voice. Is it authentic? Will readers gravitate toward it? Will they realize that an "old" lady wrote it and not some young, hippy chick?

I certainly believe that my women's fiction voice is not the same as my middle grade voice. In MG, my characters say "crap". In my women's fiction, my characters say "shit" or something much stronger since shit is not my favorite swear word. : )

I'm so much more aware of how my boys talk now. Whether it's talking to each other, to my husband or me, or to their friends, their lingo is becoming my MG voice. It's still my voice, but at a much younger age. And who wouldn't want to be younger these days?

Music also helps me find my voice, especially if it's for someone much younger. I listen to Linkin Park, Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Pink, Train...just to name a few.

When my characters seem like real people, my voice comes so naturally. I've created these "people", so I get to live out their adventures. It's way cool.

In whatever genre, author voice is distinct to each writer. Do not try to write like someone else. When you do that, the writing is not authentic. I learned early on that copying (not plagiarizing), but copying someone else doesn't make me sound real.

Do you notice your voice? How do you feel when others (editors or critique partners) try to change your voice?

Oh, and that conversation with my agent, yeah, she told me I had a younger voice. I tend to agree.

Monday, April 19, 2010

When Characters Pop In My Head

So...I'm supposed to be working on finishing up the partial my agent submitted a few weeks ago. It's a story that I really like, with characters that I can see having fun and growing. It's the first of a series, so I feel like there are a lot of opportunities.

But I've got this nagging character from another story chirping in my ear. I'm pretty sure she's the same one that's hanging around in a women's fiction manuscript I started, but haven't finished. She's been bothering me big time lately. So much so that I sat down and wrote a page for her. She's quieted now for the moment, but I know she'll be back.

They always come back.

I know this sounds like I'm crazy. But if you're a writer, I'm sure this doesn't sound any different than what goes on in your head - at least I hope it doesn't sound any different! If it is, someone call the white-jacketed men so they can take me away!!

What do you do to calm those pesky characters who want to be heard now, who don't want to wait? Do you write a bit? Do you outline their story? Do you take notes and then get back to your current wip? Or do you ignore them all together?

I know this chick is not going to leave. I've been thinking about her story off and on, knowing that I needed to return to it at some point. I've put about 25k down in words for that story, and I don't want the time I spent on it to go to waste.

What do I tell her? I've given her a new beginning, and she's happy for now. But that won't last long. Sooner or later, I know I'll cave and get back to her, even though I've told my agent that I want to write MG now. Guess I can't help my women's fiction roots.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Writing Inspiration

As a creative person, inspiration for me comes in many muses. One day it could be the dark and foreboding clouds, the anticipation of them bursting into rain. Another day it could be the silly ramblings of my boys, as they play or even fight with each other.

There are seasons which are more inspirational for me, like Spring and Fall. I love to sit and write in front of our big picture window while the flowers bloom and the hummingbirds dance on the feeder or at the swaying bee balm. Fall brings the changing of the season in bright, bold colors, usually ending in a shower of leaves which end up in brown piles against the green carpet of grass.

People are sometimes my inspiration. More so than not, only pieces of people I know, and don't know, trigger something which usually becomes a character trait (or flaw) in my work. But sometimes, a person makes such a difference in my life that they truly become my muse.

What inspires you to write? What doesn't?

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Long and Endless Wait

Are you like me, on submission?

I'm past the excitement stage of being on submission. Don't get me wrong; deep down, I'm ecstatic that several editors have three of my manuscripts - well, two fulls and one partial. But it has been so long that they've been out there, that I'm losing steam.

Really, what I'm losing is confidence. Confidence in my writing ability, especially since two of the stories are a new genre for me. I know I shouldn't feel this way; just because I'm on submission does not guarantee a sale. I know this. I'm not stupid. But as my agent has said several times to me, as well as in other areas on the internet, it is hard to wait for "green" authors.

So, what do I do? Start a new story? Finish the partial that's out on submission? Yes to both, I imagine.

But I can't seem to find my writing mojo. Probably not a good thing to put out there in the public since I am on submission. So, if you're an editor who has any one of the three manuscripts, thank you for stopping by, but there's nothing here for you to read. Carry on with your day/night.

For you writers, who like me are in the endless waiting game, can you give me some help?

What do you do when you feel like you're losing your writing confidence? What helps?

I'd love to hear your comments.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I've been so busy with work that I haven't had time to blog (or write, but don't tell my agent, 'kay?) I'm hoping with a less stressful week ahead (both with work and having the kids home), I'll be able to get back into the groove of writing.

I can tell it's been awhile because I'm actually itching to sit down and write. Something is definitely missing in my world, and I know it's writing.

Bad, bad, bad-I know-but I have to do the day job in order to help pay those darn bills.

One place that I have been hanging out a bit is . It's a new site for writers - and not just for MG or YA writers, but Adult as well. Check it out when you get a chance. It's just starting up and there are a lot of great people and resources there.

Happy Holidays All!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Editing and 7th graders

Today I'm speaking to a 7th grade English class about editing. It's going to be more question-answer than a real presentation. One of my authors, Jennifer Charron Ward, is working on her second book. During this second round of editing, she's been talking with her daughter's English class about publication, and Jennifer asked if I'd be interested in speaking to the class.

How could I pass that up?

What are your presentations like? I've only given writing workshops, no "book" presentations.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Keep On Writing

Do you ever get an idea and it won't leave you alone when you're away from your writing implement (be it keyboard or pen/pencil)? That's a writer's joy because the words flow out almost seamlessly.

What about when you love your story idea, but the words won't flow? Does this happen to you? Would you consider it a semi-writer's block?

What if (oh no) you've fallen out of love with your story idea, but people (like your agent or an editor) are expecting you to finish it? Has that ever happened to you?

I've experienced two of the three above, and even sorta the last one - although it was with a manuscript that I'd already finished, but needing tweaking.

I've never thought of myself as fickle; but I guess it does happen. One day I love the idea I'm working on, then the next day, not so much.

My advice to myself is (especially if it's the last situation) - keep on writing. Isn't that what all the "pros" in the writing industry say to do? If we don't sit our tushies down and write, the story will never get finished.

If I find myself in either #2 or #3, I might create a new playlist, devise new characteristics for my characters, or change the setting. I try to let the words flow where ever they may go, and I don't allow my own "ideas" to get in the way.

What are your writing strategies when you're stuck?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Working and Writing from Home

Have I told you how hard it is to work and write from home?

So many of my friends are like, "Awesome! You work from home."

Yeah, not so much.

I'm a typical, Type-A workaholic. I have mellowed over the years, but still my initial inclination is to work, work, and then work some more. My employer loves that about me; my family not really. Working from home does have advantages:
  1. I can set my own hours.
  2. I can take a lunch with a friend at a moment's notice.
  3. I'm available to my son's almost whenever they need me.
  4. I don't have to worry about child-care if my sons are sick or off from school.
  5. I can work as much or as little as I want on any given day.
  6. I can work in my pjs or sweatpants if I want.
But there are also some disadvantages:
  1. My email is always on and I feel compelled to answer work emails even if it's after hours.
  2. There are no "after hours".
  3. My work is constantly on my desk or in view, 24/7.
  4. I can take a lunch with a friend at a moment's notice (sometimes it's hard to say no.)
  5. I can work as much or as little as I want on any given day.
I'm sure there are more for each list, but these are the first and foremost in my mind today.

Don't get me wrong; I love, love, love my job and the flexibility that it brings. I love being my own boss (essentially), but I do have to learn to say no to myself when it comes to work. I do try hard to take Fridays off, but most of the time I do end up working at least a half day.

When I write, I have to have designated "writing" days, and I don't usually write at my desk. I'm easily distracted by email especially, so I write (most of the time) on my netbook sitting in our big window in the living room. I am inspired by nature and by having it a glance above my screen keeps my juices flowing.

Do you work from home and write? What are your strategies for keeping on task and meeting deadlines, either work or writing?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Current Playlist - Updated

I'm the type of writer who needs some sort of sound distraction when I'm in front of the computer. When my kids were younger, just the sound of the TV or them playing was enough. As they've gotten older - and fighting and asking me constant questions - I still needed the sound distraction, but I didn't need the visual. Several years ago I started writing with my iPod earbuds jammed into my ears. The music provided the perfect distraction for writing and from their fighting antics.

My playlists change with each new project, and I usually have a mixture of old and new songs. I especially love this current playlist, but it can become a bit distracting at times; if I'm not totally in the story, I end up getting "involved" with the music (which means I'm up on my feet instead of sitting on my butt.)

Here's what I'm listening to as I write this new manuscript:

"Dirty Little Secret" - All American Rejects
"Hey, Soul Sister" - Train
"Hot N Cold" - Katy Perry
"Groove Is In the Heart" - Deee-Lite
"You and Me" Dave Matthews Band
"Move Along" - All American Rejects
"Fire Burning" - Sean Kingston
"I Kissed a Girl" - Katy Perry
"I Smell Winter" - The Housemartins
"Bad Influence" - Pink
"Use Somebody" - Kings of Leon
"Waking Up in Vegas" - Katy Perry
"Drop Down Dead" - The Housemartins
"One Step Beyond" - Madness
"I Gotta Feeling" - Black Eyed Peas
"Drop Me In the Middle" - Natasha Bedingfield
"The Sweet Escape" - Gwen Stefani
"The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death" - The Housemartins
"Fly" - Sugar Ray
"Wild Wild Life" - Talking Heads
"Boom Boom Pow" - The Black Eyed Peas
"Gonna Make You Sweat" - CC Music Factory
"Certain Things Are Likely" - KTP
"These Words" - Natasha Bedingfield
"Hey Ya!" - Outkast

You may think that there is no rhyme or reason to this list, but trust me - it works for this story. Amazingly so.

Do you write to music? Are the songs intentional picked, or do you use shuffle?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Writers and their Parties

When I think about writing, I do not think about parties. I think about how I sit at my computer/netbook ALONE and write. Maybe my kids are around, or even my husband. But, for the vast majority of my writing time, I'm alone. I belong to a couple online writing communities, but I must confess that I don't spend that much time participating. If I'm not writing my own stories, I'm editing/project managing the authors who publish with the company I work for here in Michigan.

When writers are done writing (or taking a break) and decide to party, look out! I've only attended a few conferences, and they were a blast. When the break-out sessions were done, look-out - those conference attendees were whooping it up at the bar well into the night.

I'm feeling like a need a party, and there's a really big one taking place at the end of July, down in Nashville, TN. It's the RWA 2010 National Conference. I'm not a member of RWA anymore, but that doesn't mean that I can't attend. I'd pay a higher fee; or I'd just join again. Many of the writers in my agency plan to attend, and it would be great to put faces to names.

But I'm still not sure.

Are you going?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Writing Basics #3 - Third Person POV

When writers come to me for edits, most of them are writing in the third person. This is probably the easiest, and most common, point of view used by writers. There are two types of third person pov: limited and omniscient. Most writers use limited, and this discussion will focus mainly on limited.

But for the sake of getting all of our terms defined, take a look at this very simple definition of each:

Omniscient third person pov: sees all and knows all; godlike.

Limited third person pov: is told from ONE character's pov; character perspective can change from scene to scene or chapter to chapter; reader only knows what the pov character sees, hears, and thinks.

Third person pov uses "he, she, it" when referring to the point of view character. Observations only come from the point of view character, including visual, auditory, and mental observations. Like first person, the reader only knows what the third person pov character knows, sees, and hears.

Here's an example of limited third person from my women's fiction manuscript, A Life Unraveled:

"Excuse me? Wha-what did you say? Who died?"

Katie Wilcox wanted to argue with the man. And he wasn't even her husband.

With the phone receiver in one hand and the still processing pregnancy test in the other, Katie thought she would explode with impatience.

"That there's been a death in your family," the unfamiliar voice repeated.

Katie's pacing halted. She'd heard the man correctly.

Above, we know that Katie is our pov character. Everything revolves around what she says, hears, and thinks.We don't know the thoughts or visuals of the caller.

The difference between first and third person pov is that third person point of view can allow several characters to be the point of view character within a chapter as along as the scene changes. You will see highly successful writers use this pov and change mid-paragraph the pov character. Pick up any Nora Roberts book and read the first two chapters. Inevitably the reader will be introduced to the female and male main characters, and the reader will be put into both of their pov's, sometimes within the same paragraph or scene. Newbie writers should not attempt to do this. I truly believe that highly successful writers can get away with writing stunts like that because their publishers/editors know they will sell solely based on their name and not their writing. This is in no way bashing Nora Roberts's writing. I love her, but I know enough that I cannot use the same writing techniques that she uses.

During a writing workshop, the instructor talked about writing in deep pov. That will be the topic of a future post.

Do you write in third person? Do you like to read books written in third person? What's your preference?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'm over here today...

I a guest blogger today at Mysteries and Margaritas. I'm talking about writing in different genres. Please stop by and leave a comment.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Writer as Observer

Most people who know me, know that I'm a writer. I've never come out and said it, but I sometimes use other's quirks as character traits in my writing. The very first manuscript I wrote - and which my agent is shopping around - has a character who calls both the main character's house and cell phone until the m.c. answers. When a friend of mine first read the manuscript, she said, "Hey! That's so-and-so." I was caught!

My point is here that writers sometimes use what they observe in the real world within their writing.

Two nights ago, I lost my voice. It's a common side effect from nasal drainage. It maybe happens 1-2 times a year. My kids sort of think it's funny, but mostly they get concerned, wondering when Mom will feel better. I was feeling better yesterday, so I went to work for a phone meeting with an out-of-country illustrator (she's from Canada). Good thing my boss was in on this phone call because I couldn't speak any louder than a whisper. When I arrived at work, my boss treated me no different than she normally does. I wrote notes to her to convey to the illustrator, and afterwards she and I even spoke about another project. I left promising to drink lots of tea and told her that I'd be attending another meeting the next day.

Driving home, I decided that I wanted to have some chicken noodle soup. I contemplated going to Panera, but that would require talking above an anticipated lunch crowd, since it was now after 12:00pm. I opted instead of going to Busch's and getting my own fixings for soup. I trolled through the store, picking up a few more items than needed, and landed at the check-out lane of a gentleman who I've often checked out with. He was his typical nice self, but when I indicated that I couldn't speak because of laryngitis, he started talking louder and slower.

Huh? I'm not stupid nor deaf (sorry to the hearing impairment community.) But, c'mon. I just couldn't speak louder than a whisper.

The bagger also treated me the same, and I left thinking that was weird.

Fast forward to the evening. My youngest son's Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet. Trust me, if I could've stayed home, I would have. But it meant a lot to my son, and I was clearly not on my death bed, so I went. Being in a room full of people and not being able to talk to them is quite an experience. I handled myself well. I hung at my table, wrote notes to my tablemates, and enjoyed the evening. At one point, my friend wanted to introduce me to another mom. The mom knew who I was, but I had no clue who she was. We both have 5th grade boys, and apparently they boys are friends. Who knew. Anyway, when she realized that I couldn't talk, her whole demeanor changed. She bent down, got closer to me, and had this look on her face that I imagine one would give to an elderly person when that person was having a hard time communicating. Was I seeing my future? Ugh.

Either way, both of these experiences really made me start to think what it would be like to live in a world where the only communication you have is with flapping your hands around, writing notes, and clapping to get someone's attention. Granted, people don't really communicate in this way most of the time - even if they do have a speech problem. But still, it was an interesting day and night.

Today my voice is still not there. I have a hair appointment at noon today and my hairdresser has a slight hearing problem. I'm not sure that I should keep the appointment because if I can't tell her what I want, she's not going to be able to understand me! Perhaps I can find a picture. Wish me luck.

I'd love to know as a writer, do you use your surroundings in your stories? Are your friend's quirky behavior the same as a character's? C'mon, spill it. I promise I won't tell. : )

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writing Challenges

I don't mean "Writing Challenges" as in writing contests, or the 5-minute challenges I used to do with other writers on Romance Divas.

What I'm referring to here are those things in your life that prevent you from writing on a daily basis.

Here's a list of my challenges:

1. Children - not so much them bothering me, but the fact that they are so busy, that when they are home, they need my attention.

2. Work - I'm a contract editor, so 90% of my work is done at home. I always have work to do, and it is usually staring at me on my desk. I bought a netbook so I could "remove" myself from my "work" area. With my netbook, I can write wherever I want.

3. Time - this is a poor excuse, but sometimes that ticking clock makes me feel anxious and then the words do not flow when I do end up sitting down.

4. Feeling like I've lost my juju - does this happen to you? You love a story. You think about it constantly. You start writing it. The words flow. And then it stops. The story doesn't interest you anymore. Maybe the characters are not who you think they are, but for some reason, you just aren't that into the story.

5. Downright procrastination - this is different than time or lost juju. Procrastination is, for me, when I know I gotta do it, I can feel the story, but I just don't feel like sitting down and writing. I find other things to do - like work, or those PTO minutes I forgot to type up, or those websites I thought I should review. Whatever it is, procrastination is a bummer.

What are your writing challenges? How do you help yourself get over the hump and back at the keyboard?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Writer's Life Tip #3


It's so easy these days to get caught up in everything. With the internet at our fingertips, we're either online at home, at the office, in the car (you know who you are! bad, bad, bad!), or in the restaurant/hockey rink/library/grocery story/airport terminal/park/wherever! We spend TOO much time in front of some electronic device, surfing and chatting.

I challenge you to take a vacation.

It can either be a literal vacation where you leave your home and spend a few days someplace else. Or, it can be an internet vacation where you turn off all of your devices and just be, like how you were back in the 80s.

Recently (like two days ago), my family took a quick trip to an indoor waterpark. The boys (read that as my kids and my husband) had a blast whooshing down water slides and pointing water guns at each other. A wave pool attracted the younger ones, while the grotto hot tub attracted us older types. It was bliss. The hotel didn't offer wifi, so my iPod Touch was just an mp3 player and a hand held gamer. My phone does not have a data package, but my husband's does. On the second day, where neither of us adults wanted to get wet, my husband surfed the net while I watched the commotion (uh, fun filled times) around us. Just being in the 95 degree area with 99% humidity made me feel groggy, but it was a pleasant grogginess. I did a lot of people watching, which is great for creating characters!

It was nice to get away from the gray and cold, even if it was for only two days.

If you don't have the cash, then why not stay with a family member or friend over night?

Don't want to hang out with family/friends? Well, turn off your computer. Pick up a great book. Write in journal. Take a walk outside. Walk around a mall. Go window shopping in your downtown or a town that you've always wanted to visit.

Get away and unplug.

You must take time for yourself, or you'll get too overloaded.

Trust me; I know!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Does Twitter Make Me A Better Writer?

I have realized that the time I spend on Twitter actually does make me a better writer. Hear me out, okay?

Those 140 characters, that's what gets me. Watching the number of available spaces diminish as my hands flutter over the keyboard really makes me aware of the words I use.

Lately, I've found myself editing my tweets. Not the usual changing "to" to "2" or "and" to "&" - since those new keystrokes take up less characters, but I've been more in tune with the number of words I've used and how I could say the same thing with less.

This can only mean good things when it comes to my writing, right? I would think so. Since an overabundance of words can slow the pacing.

This isn't the only reason why I'm a better writer - there are so many people who post links to really great articles about writing. These articles talk about craft as well as the publishing industry as a whole. Learning as much as a writer can about the business side is also important. Conversations between people also provide a lot of information. Just recently, I saw a person ask about self-editing books. She was flooded with recommendations. Other writers post tidbits about craft in their 140 characters.

Twitter chats are a plethora of information. I try to attend #kidlitchat and #yalitchat each week. #kidlitchat is on Tuesdays at 9pm, EST. #yalitchat is on Wednesdays at 9pm, EST. Both of these chats are attended by writers, illustrators, agents, and publishers. It's AMAZING the amount of information that flies by in those 140 characters. Never, other than in the internet world, would a wannabe writer have access to these industry professionals. Part of me wonders why more writers aren't participating in these chats. You are missing out, people!

So, does Twitter make me a better writer? Craft-wise, probably not that much. But it does make me feel more connected and informed of more than what I would normally know from here in my living room in Michigan.

Do you tweet? Do you find it something you "have to do" or are you enjoying this new explosion of industry information?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pantser or Plotter?

Recently my younger son lamented about a playdate with his cousins. He planned everything they would do, even the script he would use when the youngest cousin asked to play with his hamster. He was so concerned that everything would go just right.

If my son were a writer, he'd for sure be a plotter.

I do not write this way. Even creating a synopsis before the manuscript is finished is terrifying for me. I don't like to have everything all planned out (which is the exact opposite of how I live the rest of my life.) I like to have a general idea of the beginning, middle, and end -- but I like to let the character's actions push and pull the story along. Having a "plan", in my eyes, does not allow me to write organically.

I am a pantser.

Plotter vs. pantser. I've seen many discussions as to what other writers consider themselves. To each is own, is my motto.

When I come up with a story idea, I let it simmer for a while before I sit down at the computer. I think about it when I'm standing on line at the grocery store, when I'm cleaning the kitchen, or when I'm driving alone. The characters start to take on a life of their own. When I do finally sit down to write, most of the time the story pours out of me. Often times, I don't even remember what I've written when I go back and read what's on the screen. That is a freaky feeling. When that happens, I know that I've got my mojo. The sentences don't come out in chunks; they flow like tap water.

How do you write? Plotter? Pantser? A little of both?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Writing Basics #2 - Point of View, First Person

At my day job, point of view (pov) is the hardest thing for my authors to grasp. Many of them believe that "head-hopping" (going from one pov to another pov) is acceptable. I admit that there are a multitude of published books that do just this. Pick up any Nora Roberts book and you will see this in action for yourself. Her chapters will start out with, for example, the female character's pov, but a few paragraphs later, the male's pov takes over. She may even shift several more times within the same scene or chapter.

I believe that established writers can get away with this, but that new writers can not.

If you're just starting out, a refresher (or even a first time lesson) about point of view is a good thing to help with your craft.

There are several forms of point of view, but today I'll be concentrating on first person.

I love to write in first person point of view. I really feel like I get into my character's head and become them as the story enfolds. But, interestingly enough, writing experts say that newbie writers should not use first person point of view. It is too confusing, and writers are setting themselves up for failure due to the amount of mistakes that they make.

I say, write what you want - both content and point of view. BUT...make sure you understand pov before embarking on your writing journey. Pov slips happen, and a newbie writer can't allow too many slips, or the reader will know you're a newbie.

A Quick Refresher on First Person Point of View

First person point of view is written from the scene character's (usually the main character) point of view. Everything that is written is what the character sees, hears, says, and thinks. "I" is used primarily.


"Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Mom!" I yelled. "Mom! Come here, quick!"
The sky turned almost black, and the clouds swirled like a storm was about to explode. A brisk breeze whipped around, causing my math homework sheet to take off like a bird. I wanted to sit up and catch it, but I was too afraid to move.
"What the heck is happening?" I whispered aloud. "This isn't right."

Okay, so with the above example (the first part of my story, Saving Redwind) you can see that the character's point of view is used. "I" and "my math homework" show that the writer is using first person point of view.

Here's the deal with first person pov that you MUST remember: the author can only write what the scene character sees, hears, says, or thinks. Unless the scene character is in the room with Uncle Willard, the scene character will not see or hear Uncle Willard scratch his head or burp. It just doesn't work. Also, unless the scene character sees themselves in some sort of reflection, truly the character is not going to realize they are smiling. Check yourself throughout the day; do you realize really when you are smiling? Most of the time you don't. Your character isn't going to notice that either unless they are leering at someone.

What about blushing? In first person, many writers describe the feeling of blushing to get around this, because once again, do we see ourselves blushing? No. We feel it, and that's what a writer needs to describe when having their first person pov character blush.

Like I said, I love writing in first person pov. But my first manuscript that I wrote was written in third person, not first person. We'll discuss third person next time I do writing basics.

What about you? Which pov do you write in? Which pov did you like to read?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writer's Life Tip #2


In a world where bad news dominates the airwaves and internet, the one thing a writer needs is belief in themselves. The publishing world is full of rejection. Agents send them out even when a writer just sends a simple one page query, and editors send them out when a chunk of the manuscript is sent. Writers learn early on that they must have thick skin. This is not a business for the squeamish.

If you truly want to be a writer--a published writer--then you need to have a tremendous amount of belief in yourself and in your writing.

Now, this isn't to say that if you query fifty agents and they all tell you that you need to work on your craft, that belief alone will make you a better writer. Now you're just living in fairy world. Once in a while you will actually get a rejection that gives you advice. Take it. If the agent says, "Great concept, but poorly executed." Well, you need to take that as you need to do some work on your craft. Take a college course in Fiction Writing. If that doesn't fit in well with your life, consider taking an online writing course.

When I first started out, I realized that the last "English" course I had taken that had anything to do with writing mechanics had been in high school. AND, that course didn't tell me any of fiction writing mechanics. Realizing this lack, I took a few courses through Writers Online Workshops (WOW). I learned about point of view, scene and sequel, characterization - all the things that I did not learn in high school and college. Invest the time in yourself to work on your writing. If you have grasped all of the technical parts of writing, then join a critique group. Be warned though; people can be cruel, especially if they are jealous. Pick a critique group that gives positive criticism only. Negative criticism will only create self-doubt.

There are many non-fiction books out there about writing. On Writing by Stephen King is wonderful, and I highly recommend it. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg is another great book. If you don't have the time or money to take a class, a good writing book can be a great substitute.

Read, read, read. Reading the genre you write will make you a better writer. BUT, you have to start reading with a different eye. If you pay attention to the mechanics of published works, you will learn a lot. Unfortunately, though, the more you read, the more you critique and sometimes it's hard to get lost in a story. Being an editor by day, it makes it very hard for me to stick with a book. If I'm not captured fully within the first chapter, the book goes back to the library.

What have you done to help hone your craft? Reading books, taking classes, a critique group? I'd love to hear what you've done.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Writing Days

Since I'm not under contract with any house, my writing days are those that I chose. I have no deadlines, other than those that I create myself, or those created by my agent so she can do her magic. I still consider my "writing days" to be those that inspire me to sit down and let the words flow out. Unfortunately for me, at this point in my life, writing days are not every day. Oh how I wish they could be.

During a recent #kidlitchat on Twitter (or maybe it was #yalitchat--I truly don't remember) one published author insisted that she wished that she were unpublished, that sometimes the deadlines seemed like too much, and that dare she say, it pushed on her creativity.

Her comments saddened me. I love my writing days - they are days that I specifically set aside for writing, that I don't look at my email, or answer the phone. It's like I create a little cocoon and let my mind do it's work. I have a constant cup of coffee or tea on my desk and my iPod earbuds are rocking away that project's playlist. I'm usually alone, except for the dog, and I don't even notice time passing.

If you're published (or on contract), how do you feel about your writing days? Are they hectic or do they flow like they used to?

If you're unpublished (and not under contract), what are your writing days like?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Writing Basics Tip #1

Beginning - Middle - End = Hook & Story Problem

Whenever I say this in one of my company's writing workshops, I inevitably get an eye roll or two. Yes, of course, Kris, we know that a story has to have a beginning, middle, and end. It's not just writing that first sentence and then hoping that all the other sentences create the middle and then the end. A writer must have a story problem. Even though many participants nod when I say, "Does your story have a story problem?", most give me blank or expectant stares.

So, since it's my workshop, I make them suffer through a brief discussion on this topic. Because where else does a writer start, but at the beginning?

I have reviewed many manuscripts where there was no beginning, a middle, or even a ending. The "story" just sort of started and then sort of ended. No story problem, no wraparound. No real beginning, no real ending. These were not good manuscripts, and they were not accepted by my company.

Other manuscripts, as well as most published books, have a beginning - a hook - oopss, there's another word writers should know - which draws the reader into the story almost immediately. In a picture book, the first two pages with their text and illustration must explain what the problem is (the hook). In a chapter book, I've heard that the first paragraph must draw the reader in, but I really think it is the first sentence. I think the very first sentence is one of the hardest to write.

Pick up any book and read the first sentence.

Here are a few I have lying around:
"I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves." Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

"It wasn't much, really, the whole Jessica Feeney thing." Firegirl by Tony Abbott

"You have been chosen for your special skills to do something that urgently needs to be done." Swindle by Gordon Korrman

All of these first sentences--or the hook--makes the reader want to read on.All of them are from chapter books.

The beginning needs to present the problem that the main character needs to fix. Throughout the middle, the character must continue to reach the resolution to the problem, and usually finds more problems on the way. The ending needs to tie it all up. The original problem should be solved and no new problems should be introduced, unless the author is writing a series. Ending in a cliff hanger is especially good for a series as it will make the reader want to immediately buy the next book.

Take a look at the first line of your first chapter. Does is pull the reader in? Does is set-up the problem? If you answer no to either question, I suggest that you revisit this first line. It needs to whack the reader in the head and make them say, "Huh?" or "What?" or "Groovy!"

Story problem problems? I tell my workshop writers to come up with a question that has a yes or no answer, and that should be the story problem.

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: I think the story problem/question is, Will Charlie find a golden ticket which will change the lives of him and his family?

From The Lightning Thief: Will Percy finally understand his differences and how they will impact the world around him?

The story problem can be a basic one that is explored through the text, but it must be there. It's like a guide in the beginning to the rest of the story, and it will help the author tie everything up in the end.

What are some of your first lines and/or story problems? Have you ever thought about your story problem specifically?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blog closed for the weekend.

Hey, thanks for stopping by, but ABP (Adventures Beyond the Pond) is closed for the weekend.

Writing and district hockey games will be taking up most of Kris's weekend, so be sure to check back on Monday. She'll be talking about the basics of writing: beginning, middle, and end, story problem, and the wrap around.

Hope to see you on Monday!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Writer Life Tip #1


Here's my tip to you: Invest in a good massage once a month.

As a writer you spend A LOT of time sitting in front of a keyboard. All that tension from the hours at the desk settle in your shoulders and creep down your arms. It's amazing how much the muscles can bear before you actually realize that you're doing damage.

A massage will help cure the muscle fatigue as well as move all of those toxins out of your muscles and into your blood stream- thus being able to be released. If you get a really, really, really good massage, you'll feel so relaxed, it's like you're drunk!

We have to take care of ourselves by eating well, getting exercise, and having a good emotional outlook on life. A massage will help with the last, although my massage guy tells me that after one of his massages, my body thinks I've run about 3 miles!

Have you ever had a massage? Too ticklish? Too shy?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hamster = Research. Really?

Hams the hamster came into our family on January 31. We all oohed and ahhed over him. Jack, our dog, ignored his existence. I know now that was all an act; we found Jack, front paws posed precariously on the dresser in front of Ham's cage. Luckily we stopped Jack before he could lick the cage open, sending Hams to a certain shaking or swallowing demise.

Originally we bought Hams so that our younger son would feel special and have something of his own to care for. Jack is the entire families, and so are the fish. But J (our youngest son) was feeling a bit out of sorts because of all the time we spend at the hockey rink for N (our older son). Hockey is a whole 'nother post. But back to Hams.

I know nothing about hamsters. They sort of creep me out. But Hams is a Chinese Dwarf hamster, so he's really little and somewhat cute. He does look like a mouse, though. I secretly wonder if the PetSmart people chuckled to themselves as we walked out with this fake mouse and $100 worth of stuff to take care of it. But I digress.

I try to view each new experience as an opportunity for research. Not only am I learning what hamsters are all about (yippea for me), but I'm watching first hand how having this new little thing is changing my nine-year-old's life.

He's suddenly concerned if Hams is eating and drinking enough: "Why do we have to refill the huge water bottle each day, Mom? Hams can't drink all of it." "Quick, Mom, it's time to replace those pellet thingys. My calendar says it's been three days." (sidenote: when we brought Hams home, J filled out each day on his calendar that he had to do something for the hamster. I.e. feeding, changing the bedding, cleaning the cage.)

He thinks the hamster is brain damaged when it drags a bunch of his bedding up to the huge wheel that is supposed to be his source of exercise, and proceeds to sleep in the wheel: "This is the dumbest hamster in the world. We should take him back and get a new one."

Everyone he's met since getting the hamster, my nine-year-old-who-rarely-talks-to-members-of-his-own-extended-family was yaking it up with strangers. J didn't have enough time at our dinner out that night to tell the waitress everything she needed to know about his new hamster.

So I'll look past the stinkiness, the poop pellets racing out of the huge wheel when Hams does decide to use it (maybe he'll sleep there forever, and I won't have to worry about flying poop-we did buy him another small wheel to go inside of the cage), as well as the daily "refreshing" of his bed because this is all research. Someday don't be surprised to read about one of my character's taking care of a hamster. AND, I'll be sure to leave in all the gross and messy things I've learned - because my audience will love it! I know my son does.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hello! Hello? Anybody Out There?

Good day, or morning, or night, for that matter. I want to make you feel welcome to my new blog home.

I'm Kris Yankee, and I'll be your guide through this maze I like to call, Adventures Beyond the Pond. (I hear that last part in my head like this, "Addvennturessss Beyooond the Poooond"). I know; I'm crazy. You'll see that the more you visit.

But I'm not always crazy. You see, by day, I'm an editor at a small press in Northville, Michigan. We publish wonderful books with really great messages. I've worked on picture books, middle-grade chapter books, young adult books, adult memoirs, and non-fiction books.I love my job and helping other authors achieve their dreams.

My dream, or should I say "GOAL", is to publish my own writing. My lovely agent, Christine Witthohn, is helping to make that GOAL become a REALITY. I'll give you updates when those things happen. 'Cause they will happen. I just know it.

I'm working on making this blog a bit more personalized, so be sure to stop by and see what I've figured out how to do with Blogger! My website needs a total revamp, but you're welcome to visit that as well at

Occasionally, I'll write about the mechanics of writing. Beginning writers think that a story is just that: a story. There's so much more involved with creating a cohesive and well-plotted story than just putting words together to form sentences which form paragraphs which form chapters which eventually form a "book". I'll have posts about the dreaded POV - point of view, for those of you newbies here. I'll talk about scene and sequel, and my favorite of all time: how your setting is a character.

Don't worry. I'll take it slow and let it all sink in for you before I give out a pop quiz.

Naw, just kidding.

At times, I'm hoping one of my character will pop in and take over the blog for a while. I've got two middle-grade series going on right now, and those characters like to have a lot of my attention. I thought if I let them out into the wide internet world, maybe they'd shut up for awhile. We'll see.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you real soon.