Monday, May 31, 2010


Some fun news for Laura and me this month-- we each have a story on the Smories website, which posts videos of adorable British children reading short stories that writers submitted to the site.

From their submissions, the Smories people take their fifty favorite stories to post on the site for one month, so ours will be up there for the month of June, and fifty new stories will be posted in July.

Starting in August they'll do something different and post a new story each day; see their submission guidelines if you're interested in sending them a short story, and maybe we'll see yours there!

Laura's story is "A Whale of a Rescue," and mine is "The Shell Collector and the Selkie Wife."

Complete coincidence that we each wrote about aquatic creatures.

Do Not Let Your Left Brain Know What Your Right Brain Is Doing

The Rutabaga Festival. How it plagues me. On my work-in-progess, Reasons For Leaving, I got up to chapter 10 without much of a problem. Then somehow, I stalled. I did have to set it aside to do some revisions on Chained, and then I was distracted with the sale and with normal everyday stuff like housecleaning and way too many good books to read. Oh, and a computer virus, daughter's prom, upcoming graduation, etc. That's life, though--everyone's busy, distractions are everywhere, we all get sidetracked and somehow get our work done anyway. But for some reason I keep avoiding writing this next chapter.

When I've had this problem before it's because I wasn't sure what needed to happen next in the story, but in this case, I know what happens. The main character goes to a Rutabaga Festival. That sounds harmless enough, but I literally did not write anything on this book for weeks and weeks. I'm not even sure why I don't want to write this chapter. Is it because I worry it will suck? Likely it will, but it's only the first draft, so that's ok. Maybe I don't want to write the details it will need. Maybe it's a sign that the chapter isn't necessary at all. Still, it's a first draft and I just need to write it. Later I'll take it out or revise it or whatever it needs, but for now I just need to get it onto the page. I keep telling myself that, but it doesn't seem to work.

I imagine my main character knocking on my window and saying, "Helloooooo...remember me? You left me sitting in the car."

To get myself back to the manuscript at least, I decided to skip over that chapter for a while and write the ending. I'd been thinking of the last chapters anyway, so I wanted to get those ideas written down. Also, since there's a mystery in the story, I think it's good to have the ending written so I know where it needs to go. Now the last two chapters are drafted out.

So that's nice. Back to the middle.

If I don't get my left brain out of the way--the part that worries about the chapter organization, that it won't work, that it will be boring--this will never get done. Usually it helps me to set the computer aside and do some freewriting when I'm working on a new chapter or when I feel stuck on a scene. The ideas flow better that way and I'm not tempted to edit so much like I do when I'm on the computer. I've done plenty of freewriting on this chapter now, but when the time comes to write this part of the story, I still end up staring at the blank screen until some other distraction saves me from having to do it.

So I took out my copy of Writing on Both Sides of the Brain by Henriette Anne Klauser, because I remembered it had some great exercises for getting that judgmental left brain out of the way so the right brain can do its work. I turned to the chapter on branching. Unlike linear outlining, branching is a way of organizing ideas from the center of the page outward, and allows for new ideas or details to be added easily. And it uses the whole brain. Klauser explains: "A linear outline is one-sided and left-brained. Branching is multi-faceted and whole-brained. Branching gives a picture an encourages spontaneity (right), at the same time, it provides structure and indicates logic (left)." [pp. 48-49].

I started in the middle of a blank page with the words "Rutabaga Festival," then branched out from there with the different things I might include in the chapter, then branched out further with more details. Now and then I did have to stop my left brain from wanting to take over the whole task. When I drew the branch about food at the festival I thought, "Ooh! I should get online and research rutabaga recipes to get ideas for what they might serve!" Yes, perhaps later, but not right now. Be quiet and keep working. Or on the branch about people: "Careful not to get stereotypical or anything. Just because they're in East Texas doesn't mean they'll see people wearing camouflage or a guy with a belt buckle bigger than his head." Yes, I know you're concerned. We'll take care of that later. "And she probably won't be playing the games or going on the rides when she's there to look for her friend..." Yes, I understand that. Now go away before I start singing Ludacris songs to you again.

So here's what I had after I finished the branching exercise:

I know, it looks like a hot mess, but it's actually really organized, and a lot of ideas are on the paper now. Here's a prettier example I made so it would be easier to share:

Of course, if outlining works for you, keep doing it. But if you're like me and don't like to outline, you may enjoy branching as a way to get ideas on paper and organize your chapter, your to-do list, even your whole book.

After all this, it's possible the chapter won't be in the final manuscript, but now's not the time to decide that; now's the time to write it. But the time spent on it won't have been wasted, because there will be other times I feel stuck and want to avoid writing something, and I'll know that I can work through it. For I have faced the rutabaga.

If it does show up in the final manuscript, and that manuscript is sold and made into a real book, you might read it and think, "That's it? That's what gave her so much trouble? What was so hard about that?!" And that means I will have done a good job, because sometimes it takes a lot of work to make writing look effortless.

So what holds you back from getting your writing done, and what have you done to overcome it?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Aaaaaaannnnnd SOLD!

So if you've been reading our posts, you know by the teasers that the group has been waiting to announce some good news.

For a little over a week I've been bursting with happy news and wasn't sure how much longer I could hold it all in. We even had cupcakes at our WWFC meeting on Tuesday, to celebrate my good news, Chris' birthday, and perhaps some other good news by a Writer To Be Named Later. Still couldn't squee to the world, though, until the deal was official. I was getting worried that I'd find myself unable to take it anymore while in some random place like the grocery store and run up and down the aisles screaming, "Guess what?! Guess what?!" Or that I'd break out in a happy dance with a cubicle chair at work. So thankfully the official announcement is out! Here it is, from today's Publishers Marketplace:

"Lynne Kelly's debut CHAINED, about a boy who works as an elephant keeper in northern India to fulfill a family debt, to Margaret Ferguson at Margaret Ferguson Books, at auction, by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe at Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation."

I actually didn't know the news was public until I was checking Twitter while getting my hair done and saw that a couple of people had congratulated me on the book deal. So it was in the hair salon that I finally said publicly, "Hey, guess what?" I managed to stay in my chair, though.

For those who don't know Margaret Ferguson, she's an editor at Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, and she'll be releasing books under her own imprint there starting next year. And from what I've heard, completely awesome. The release date for Chained should be sometime in the Spring of 2012.

It's been a fun and exciting time, but now that I'm able to share the news with everyone, it's just now starting to feel real. Yay!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Do the Write Thing for Nashville auction!

Hey people! More posts about WWFC news coming soon, but for today I wanted to let everyone now about an auction where you can win some awesome stuff and support a great cause.

In the "Do the Write Thing for Nashville" auction, you can bid on things like signed books donated by authors and manuscript critiques or phone calls with editors and agents who have donated their time and services. Day one of the auction is open now, and new items will be posted each day. Authors/nice people Victoria Schwab, Myra McEntire, and Amanda Morgan have organized the auction to benefit victims of the recent Nashville-area floods.

So stop by the auction site and place your bids to help Tennessee flood relief efforts, and win something amazing at the same time!