Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My first review

I'm so excited to show you my first review for Saving Redwind. If you have a moment, please click over to Amazon. I'm thrilled to know that someone out there really enjoyed my story.

Isn't that we as writers want? It is for me. I'm not doing this for fame or fortune, and if you are, you need to have a serious talk with yourself. Would I take some fame and fortune? You bet; I'm not completely stupid. But what I really want is my books in kids' hands. I want them to love, or at least like, my stories. That's it. Simple.

What was your first review like? How did you feel?

Side note: My blog tour is coming along nicely. I'll be making visits in August and September. Then, right in time for the holiday season, I'll most likely have a two week tour in December. I would love to introduce my characters, talk about writing and/or editing, or just plain hang out at YOUR blog - AND, I'd love it if you hung out at my blog. If this sounds like a great idea to you, then let me know in the comments or send me an email at kris (at) krisyankee (dot) com.  I promise it will be fun!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

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?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Regurgitated Blog Post: 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?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Finding Your Inner Voice

If you've been a blog reader for awhile, you'll notice these next few posts are regurgitated posts from about a year ago. Life is busy, but I still want to give you all something to chew on. Here's a post from August 2010 about 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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blogtour coming in August

Now that Saving Redwind is available in print, I'll be heading through the blogsphere. I'm pretty excited because I'll be making about six stops. I'm still lining them all up (and looking for more). Each stop will have a contest to win your very own autographed copy of my book and hopefully a little treat. No, it won't be chocolate chip cookies, but most likely something to help keep your spot while reading.

For those authors out there, I'd like to ask a question: how have you handled your marketing? What sort of tips can you give a newbie?

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Saving Redwind Now Available in Print

I'm ecstatic to announce that Saving Redwind: A Wallpaper Adventure is now available in print! You can purchase here at Createspace now or wait a few more days and purchase it here at Amazon.

The book looks great and I hope that you'll enjoy it in paperback really soon!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Getting Closer

I've got two books now that have my name on it or in it someplace - Chicken Soup for the Soul of Mother's of Preschoolers and Tommy Starts Something Big. Soon I will have a print copy of Saving Redwind. The difference between the first two books and the last one is that Saving Redwind is all mine. I was very excited to get copies of the first two books, but I think I will be over the moon with the last one.

Now I have to be honest and say that I would be extremely ecstatic if Saving Redwind were being published by a traditional publisher. I guess I can't get over the dream of having a NY editor say, "We love this book! We want it for our list!" I'm still on submission with my agent for another story (and hopefully this new one that I'm working on by the end of summer!), but I'll never stop hoping for that call.

Back to reality - once the print book is here and ready to go, I'll be setting up a blog tour. I've already got two blogs that have asked me to come and visit. I'm working on getting more. I'll post the information here so you can "follow" me around if you have the time.

Thanks for visiting and following. I don't say that enough, and I truly am so appreciative of the time you spend here with me.

What I'd love to know is if any of you have self-pubbed a book. If yes, please leave your info in the comments. I'd like to check them out!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I've got a lot of stuff on my plate right now, so please don't forget about me if I don't blog consistently for the next month or so. I'm in the process of getting Saving Redwind into a real book that you can hold in your hands. All of the files are up at CreateSpace, and I'm just waiting to hear if the cover is all right. We had to upload a new one, because there were issues with the first one. Once that's accepted, I'll be able to order a proof copy. That will be too cool. After the proof is accepted, the book will be ready for sale.

So...if you haven't purchased the ebook of Saving Redwind, please hold off because you'll be able to purchase a physical copy soon. I'll post when it's available, as well as my blog tour information that I'll be doing to promote Saving Redwind.