Browse Category by The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High
Edge the Bare Garden, The Indie Journey, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

Events!

October is going to be crazy. CRAZY! But exciting, too.  Did I mention I’m printing a new book?  As we speak?? AHHHH!!

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Here’s a list of upcoming events.  If you’re around the Twin Cities, come and nerd out with me!

Oct 1:  The Author Next Door, Edina Community Center

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This is going to be a panel discussion hosted by my wonderful publishers at Wise Ink. If you’re a writer, know a writer, or even have a great idea you want to see made into a book, this will be lots of fun.

Oct 2:  Minnesota ITEM Conference, St. Cloud

This is a wonderful event for school media specialists across the state.  Lots of networking, lots of learning, and I will be there along with many other local authors talking about– what else– all things books and education.

Oct 15-16:  Education MN Conference, St. Paul

I can’t believe that I’ve never participated in MEA before as a teacher, and this year I’ll be participating with Wise Ink as an author.  I’m hoping to connect with more teachers and talk about internet responsibility in the classroom.

Oct. 17: Twin Cities Book Festival, St. Paul

It is going to be so exciting to participate in the Twin Cities Book Festival this year!  These events used to intimidate me horribly, but now I’m looking forward to sharing space with my fellow writers and coming home with loads of books to read and review.

Edge the Bare Garden, The Indie Journey, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

Book 2. Gulp.

So I’m publishing another book.  My goal is to have it available for purchase by October 1.  Can you handle that? I cannot.  Here is a super sneak peek at the cover:

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Over the last month or so I’ve been letting people know that this is my plan.  “WHAT?” they invariably answer, particularly those who saw the long, painstaking process I went through to publish The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High.  Everything- EVERYTHING- about this process is different from the first.  Here is a play-by-play of the how and why:

1.  I figured how how I, Roseanne Cheng, sell books best

I’ve talked to a lot of writers in the last few years who have been totally intimidated with the thought of marketing their own work. THEY SHOULD BE. Marketing your own books is about as fun as a series of root canals. But I’ve learned SO much from the process of the first, and the most important for me is that I sell the most books, and most comfortably, when I’m face-to-face with my audience. This is not to say that some authors don’t have major success with a few well-timed Facebook and Twitter posts.  That’s just not what worked for me, or what I’m willing to do.  So I’m focusing (and broadening) what did work the last time, which is getting out into the community and selling directly.

2.  I embraced the direct sale

Before publishing the first book, I saw an Amazon presence as the be-all-end-all of authorship.  For me, this was not the case.  At all.  My Amazon sales have been a fraction of my direct sales.  I’ll still have a presence on Amazon for this book, but for the most part I’m going to be pushing direct sales from my website (link on the top of the page).  That way I can keep contact information for my readers and sign books before shipping them off.

3.  I focused on (and continue to focus on) the bigger picture

I have never had the one-and-done mentality when it comes to books.  I am a writer and want to write.  As in, continuously. To that end, that means I must continue to publish books.  Even when I still have inventory on the first.  Even though I still haven’t gotten the Oprah bump.  Even when it’s really very scary and daunting.  Believe me when I say it is positively terrifying to think that as vulnerable as I made myself with the first book, I’m going to double (maybe triple) that with the second.  But hey– what’s life without risk?  Boring, if you ask me.

4.  I did it my way

The best part about publishing book 2 has been the freedom I’ve had in the creative process.  I had that same freedom with the first I suppose, but I was such a fish out of water when it came to publishing that I allowed other people to control how the publication went down. In some ways this was great, but in others it wasn’t.  So I kept the things that worked last time, and didn’t keep the things that didn’t work.  It simplified the process greatly.

***In an effort to build my email correspondence list, I’m hosting a giveaway of The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High. Please download a free copy, read, review, and enjoy!***

 

 

Commentary, The Indie Journey, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

One Year Out

I can hardly believe it’s almost been an entire year since The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High launched.  I seriously cannot.  What a long road to get there, and what a long, continuous road I’m still on.  Book #2 is back in my hands after receiving some incredible feedback from a group of seventh graders, and I’m looking at the manuscript right now thinking, “Really? Can I actually do this again?”  The answer, of course, is yes.  But I sure will be smarter this time around.  Here are a few things I’ve learned on the one year anniversary of going indie.

1.  Don’t OD on editing

Believe me, I did my research before publishing.  Much of that research stated that editing is the number one thing you can do to ensure success, and the number one thing you should focus your investment in.  I agree wholeheartedly.  However, I was so paranoid about my prose/grammar not being “perfect”, that I spent way too much time and money on the process.  I have a wonderful editor now who knows and trusts my vision and voice, and she will likely be the only person who will content edit my manuscript.  And as far as proofreading goes, once is enough.  Fine, twice.  But that’s IT.

2.  Less online, more community

So many people talk about the importance of an “online” presence in indie publishing.  They are right.  But I think I let that overwhelm me to the point that I didn’t pay enough attention to the resources right in my own zip code.  This second book will be less about getting online reviews, and more about getting into the community to talk about the book.

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3.  Marathons are more rewarding than sprints

My wise publishers at Wise Ink mentioned this several times:  Publishing a book is a marathon, not a sprint.  But what they neglected to say is that the marathon is totally enjoyable.  One year out, and I’ve never had one giant “Amazon Day” when a billion of my books were sold and a check was on its way to me.  What I have had are awesome school visits, interesting conferences, and super fun book clubs.  All of those have added up to sales, of course, but they’ve also been some of the best parts of the publishing process.

4. Believe

I couldn’t talk about the one-year anniversary of the book without getting a little sentimental.  I’m not going to lie– this has been quite a journey.  Mostly ups, but a few downs.  As with anything artistic, I think there needs to be a greater purpose to what you do.  Simply “writing” isn’t enough for me– it’s the idea that what I write could possibly impact someone’s life positively.  You have to believe in that greater purpose, because if you don’t you are missing out on the greater happiness that comes from pursuing your life-long dream.

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My greater purpose.

Common Core, Teaching, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

NaNoWriMo 2014!

Last week I was asked to kick off National Novel Writing Month at Rosemount Middle School.  I had been looking forward to my visit for more than a month, and even though laryngitis was looming, I made it through the whole day!  I have such a soft spot in my heart for this school and the wonderful teachers and students there.

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My focus last Friday was getting these guys pumped up for a month of the ups and downs of writing a finished product.  How to start, how to continue, and how to finish.

I had not had the chance to use Prezi before, and was so excited to use it for my NaNoWriMo presentation.  The link to my prezi is here: https://prezi.com/zslsgt3v-8d5/how-to-write-a-novel/ (Let me know if this link doesn’t work.  If you are a teacher and often present with Powerpoint, you’ll LOVE Prezi!)

As teachers often do, I segmented my presentation with an acronym:  MVP

M:  Map  (It really doesn’t matter how you map your story, it just matters that you do!  These kids loved to hear about all my false starts in writing because I failed to map properly or thoroughly.)

V:  Voice (Get to know your narrator as intimately as you would a friend or family member.  You should know their likes, dislikes, and reactions to the world around them.  This work must be done with EVERY main character!  If not, all your characters will wind up sounding the same.  Snooze.)

P:  Purpose (Create a purpose statement for your work, and let that guide you through the ups and downs.  Each class I visited wanted to know my purpose statement with The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High.  It was, “I want readers to feel empowered to make positive changes in their schools and in their lives.”

I would love to hear your NaNoWriMo stories here or via Twitter!

The Indie Journey, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

Four Tips for Going Indie

In the last few weeks I’ve met with three women who are considering publishing their first books.  I knew one before, but the other two contacted me after reading my book and figuring out I was local.  They each are on their own journeys, but I couldn’t help but realize the connection between all of them.  A lot of the advice I gave was the same across the board.  Here are a few things I shared:

Go Confidently1.  Believe in the work

If you are looking to publish a book and you yourself don’t believe it’s really– REALLY– great, then don’t bother.  A lot of writers (myself included) looked to the publishing industry as “verification” that I was good, and that the work was good.  I got that, actually, and encouraged all of these women to do the same.  But if you’re going indie but don’t really believe in your heart that you have the chops to do it, then you’re in for some major disappointment.

2.  Figure out a marketing plan

Each of these women was pretty intimidated about the idea of marketing their own work.  I get it– I was, too.  I flat-out refused to go on Facebook and beg my friends to buy my book. I was (and still am) super uncomfortable about sitting at a table and trying to direct sell that way.  But those aren’t the only ways to market your book.  My direct contact with schools has been great for book sales, but more importantly has been a joy for me.  Each book and each writer is different, but since you make the most money selling direct, you’re going to have to figure out a way to do just that.

3.  Spend money where it counts

The way I see it, there are two differences between traditional and indie publishing.  First, a big publishing house gives the author a “legitimacy” that an indie might not have (though this is changing daily).  Second, a big publishing house will front the costs.  THAT is a pretty major plus.  However, if you have a budget to work with (and know it will take some time to make that money back and then turn a profit, then spend money your money on the things that matter.  Content editing (I did this three times.)  Proofreading (I did this… more than three times.) A fabulous cover.  A publicist to get the word out.  It seems like a lot, and it is.  But you’re creating a product, and how are you going to sell it if it’s not something you’re immensely proud of?

4.  Define success

Are you looking to become a millionaire?  Chances are, indie publishing isn’t your best bet.  Actually, traditional publishing is ALSO not your best bet.  WRITING is not your best bet, if it’s riches you seek.  Interestingly, each of the women I met with was a mom, like me.  Each of them, like me, talked about wanted to create something their children would be proud of.  Each of them talked about how writing was not only their dream, but their lifelong passion.  When you put it in those terms, the dollar signs become less important.  You should feel successful the moment you hold that finished product in your hands.  Despite all the uncertainty that lay ahead, this was one of my proudest moments as a mother and writer:

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My sweet daughter, signing books with me.  Priceless.

Commentary, Teaching, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

2014 Information Technology Teachers of Minnesota (ITEM) Conference

I am still on a high from attending the ITEM conference yesterday in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Just to be asked to attend with a list of truly outstanding authors was an honor, but the conference itself was absolutely fantastic.

Here I am when I first arrived (pen behind my ear– I went into automatic teacher mode):

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My book was displayed on the same table as some of the best Minnesota YA authors I’ve read and known!  Nancy Carlson!  David LaRochelle!

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True confession:  These types of events are always super intimidating for me.  When I saw all the great writers I was surrounded by, my first thought was, “None of these people are going to know me.  This is going to be a quiet disaster.”

Well, the conference was anything but quiet.  I got to attend a session from the MN Historical Society on incorporating their technology into the classroom, and another session on working with Createspace.  I met TONS of wonderful media specialists, who I would argue are the most under-appreciated resources in any school, as well as teachers and technology administrators.  An absolute joy, and I was honored to be a part of it!

Teachable Books, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High, YA/MG Book Club

Mother-Daughter Book Club

Despite being an avid reader my whole life, I resisted joining a book club until a few years ago.  Now that I am in one (okay, two) I see how wonderful it is.  Ever since becoming a writer, it was a dream of mine to have my book picked as a book club read.  This past month, it was!  Today I got to visit the first Mother-Daughter book club that read The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High.

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It was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon, so we got a chance to read and talk outside (Midwesterners never take this for granted!):

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They even treated us to an impromptu performance, inspired by Shakespeare (the book’s portrayal, that is).

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Even the treats were Take-Back inspired!:

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This particular group has been reading together for coming up on six years.  That is amazing!  And these girls, with their thoughtful questions and comments, have clearly benefitted from having such supportive, involved moms:

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Beyond the questions I’m used to getting (How did you think of the character’s names?  Where did you get the idea for the story?) these girls really stumped me a few times.  The first question I got was, “Why did you call it ‘Junior High’? Shouldn’t it be ‘Middle School’?” This sparked a lesson in semantics for me, and I loved it!

I’m so inspired by these girls (and proud of their moms!) for making reading for fun a priority.

Commentary, Guest Post, Teachable Books, Teaching, The Indie Journey, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

Teachers Make the Best Writers

This post originally appeared at The Novel Novice:

Go to a staff development meeting at your kids’ schools.  Do it.  Watch the room full of teachers, people who tell your kids every single day to pay attention, sit up straight, don’t look at their cell phones, give it their all…. Watch them do exactly the opposite of that.  Side conversations.  Sneaked text messages.  Grading papers while other people are talking.

There is a saying that teachers make the worst students.  It is true.

I taught high school English for seven years before becoming a stay at home mom and author.  Some of my best lesson planning happened during meetings when I was supposed to be paying attention to something else.  In our defense, teachers are so inundated with paperwork, so bound by their school’s bell schedule, that they often don’t have the luxury of giving anything their undivided attention.  Multitasking is just the reality of the job.

As I wrote my first YA novel, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High, I had this reality in mind. The swamped, overworked, and underpaid teacher that I was sat like my own private editor on my shoulder.  How about chapter lengths that could be easily read as a nightly homework assignment? The teacher in me kept asking.  How about organizing the vocabulary words in the back?  How about coming up with some writing prompts to help teachers actually teach this thing?

Writing and publishing is about so much more than just telling a good story.  Don’t get me wrong—that is important. But the idea I had for my book wasn’t just as entertainment for kids.  I wanted it to be used in the classroom to help facilitate discussion.  I wanted teachers to see it as a resource, not just another to-do on their plate.

I knew I could do that, because I was one of them.  Even on the hard days, even on the days when I didn’t have lunch and my front seat was piled high with papers to grade, I loved being one of them.  Being a teacher meant that I knew my direct audience—kids—but also my indirect audience—the exhausted adults who love them.

Knowing both—wanting to positively impact both—gave me a vision and a purpose.  A career that I am proud to watch unfold.

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Teaching, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High, YA/MG Book Club

Three Tips for Classroom Visits

By far, the most fun thing about publishing a YA book is being able to go to schools and talk to kids about creative writing.  Granted, I’m a teacher and miss the classroom terribly, so that is definitely part of the joy for me.  But more than that, I know that my visit is providing a service to the teacher.  A chance for her kids to make connections, ask questions… even a chance for the teacher to just take a seat for a few minutes while someone else does the “teaching”.  What a gift!

If you are a YA writer who has never taught, however, a classroom visit could be pretty daunting.  Here are three tips to make it a successful visit:

1.  Coordinate with the teacher first

The first school I visited had not read my book, so my presentation to them was more around the creative writing and publishing process.  (They had just finished NaNoWriMo.) The second school I visited yesterday had read my book, so my presentation was much more about the plot and the creative decisions I made for the characters.  The school I’m visiting next week will have 80 students in total, none of whom have read my book but just finished a unit on poetry.  So my presentation will change, to suit their curriculum and keep my visit relevant.  (Way more fun for me, too!)

This is a game I call "Creative Writing Taboo". Each student had three minutes to describe their favorite food without using 10 common words associated with food. So fun!
This is a game I call “Creative Writing Taboo”. Each student had three minutes to describe their favorite food without using 10 common words associated with food. So fun!

2.  Keep it simple

If you are a planner like me, you probably want to have every moment of a classroom visit planned out.  What is the best way to do that?  A powerpoint, of course!  THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA.  Powerpoint is a crutch, and unless you have some sort of visual that MUST be presented on an overhead, then nix the technology.  The kids you visit want to hear from YOU, they don’t want to see you read from slides.  I’ve found that simple Q & A is the best part of the presentation, and should be completely organic.

3.  Sell your book

I very stupidly didn’t send a book order form home with the kids when I visited my first school.  Yesterday I did, and I sold nine copies (out of a class of 20!) .  It was so fun to sign the books to the kids– a win/win for ALL of us!

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Common Core, Contest!, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

Hooray! Hooray! Another Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High by Roseanne Cheng

The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

by Roseanne Cheng

Giveaway ends April 16, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Commentary, Teachable Books, The Indie Journey, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

Writing Clean When Dirty Sells

This post originally appeared at The Writer’s Block:

 

I read Fifty Shades of Grey just as it was beginning its worldwide whirlwind.  I knew the premise and wasn’t all that excited about it, but just as a foodie wants to eat all the food everyone is talking about, a book nerd like me needs to be in the “know” about the books making headlines.

 

I got through it, and let’s just say it was not my cup of English Breakfast Tea (ah, Anastasia…)  Sure, I had my opinions about sexism and feminism and all the other “isms” associated with a story like that, but what it boiled down to was this: I found it totally boring.  I had no desire to read the next book when I finally got to the end.

 

Despite not liking the story, I had no problem with it.  That is, until I started seeing it everywhere.  All over the morning news, which I watch with my kids.  On proud display at Target, just one aisle over from the coloring books.  On the beach.  Everywhere.

 

This was while I was in the final editing stages of my YA novel, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High, when I was deciding whether traditionally or independently publishing the book would make the most sense.  I started seeing my rejections from the traditional world from the “Fifty Shades” perspective.  “We love the story, we love the characters, but we’re not sure we can sell it,” I heard in various iterations, and it finally dawned on me why.

 

My book is “clean”.  No vampires, no violence, no sex.  As a parent and teacher, I think this is one of its strongest selling points.  As an agent, or as a traditional publisher, it is its weakest.

 

In light of this reality of selling books (go ahead and take a look at just how much erotica dominates your “bestselling” list at Barnes and Noble), I didn’t change the story. In fact, this newfound understanding helped me add to the book. Where does a book like mine belong? Possibly in a classroom, possibly in a book club.  Possibly with a group of parents who really want to read with their kids, and don’t want to have to worry about the story being “appropriate”.  I added a study guide to the back and realized that I could sell my book better than anyone in New York could.

 

The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High will be released March 23, 2014, along with almost 300,000 more titles this same year.  Do I have any expectations for EL James’s fortune and fame?  No.

 

But as writers, we are more than the number of copies we sell.  We write what is true for us, what we feel can resonate with others.  I’m proud of the story I wrote, and will be proud to show it to my kids someday.  That is fortune enough for me.

Teaching, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High, YA/MG Book Club

Back in the Classroom!

This Tuesday I had the honor of going to a local school to present to a group of creative writers about writing and publishing.  So, so, so, SO fun!

Aside from talking about this:

TakeBack_web_large[3]We talked about NaNoWriMo for Young Writers (the vast majority of these kids had finished writing a whole book!) and what the writing process was like for me.

I’ve been out of the classroom for more than three years now, and my visit on Tuesday made me miss teaching more than I had in a long time.  You know what I miss the most?

HOW TOTALLY SMART YOUNG PEOPLE ARE!

Here’s a sample of some of the questions I was asked:

1.  Who are some of the writers that have influenced you?

2.  How did you choose the perspective from which to write your book?

3.  Do you think it’s better to base characters on people you know or create them out of your imagination?

4.  Is it better to have a main character who is likable or unlikable?  (I was totally stumped– what a FANTASTIC question!)

5.  Have you ever thought about writing about kids with disabilities?

I mean, seriously!  What a joy to be around such thoughtful, insightful young people.  I’m honored to write for them!

Contest!, The Indie Journey, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

New Look, New Contest!

I have a new cover for my book:

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Can you handle it?!  I mean, CAN YOU HANDLE IT?!

 

There’s a lot to say about the cover-choosing process while independently publishing, but let’s put it this way:  it’s not as fun as one might think it would be.  At least for someone like me, who is not-so-visual.  I loved my old cover, designed by Scarlett Rugers.    I love this one, too, designed by Kevin Cannon, but for different reasons.  But at some point you must go with your gut, and my gut says this is the one.

So, in honor of going with my gut and my book going to press TODAY (!!!!!!!) I’m kicking off my first Twitter contest.

What could YOUR school do to become a better place?

The winning response (determined by me) must:

  • Be a practical idea that could be implemented with little or no money
  • Be confined to one tweet (140 characters)
  • Include the hashtag #takebackmyschool

How to up your chances of winning:

The winner will be notified by DM on Twitter, and will receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card!  Contest begins today and ends March 15, 2014.  The winner will be notified by March 16th.

Good luck!!

Commentary, Shakespeare, Teachable Books, Teaching, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

Wordplay Shakespeare

Holy smokes, teachers.  Have you heard of Wordplay Shakespeare?  My mother-in-law brought me this article from the Star Tribune and enlightened me.  Let’s just say that every teacher of Shakespeare’s life just changed:

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Performance and text, side by side.  Modern English translation. Built in dictionary. Pop up translations. A place to take notes.

In case anyone reading The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High thinks I’m biased against technology in the classroom, let me be clear:  THIS IS AWESOME.  

Wordplay’s video is here.  I promise this will be a part of my curriculum when I find myself back teaching the Bard!

 

Book Reviews, Commentary, Common Core, The Indie Journey, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

Books That Do More

One of the many lessons I’ve learned from independently publishing The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High is that technology has changed the game in the book world.  I’m not just talking about e-books– I’m talking about the books themselves.  We live in an age where anyone can publish a book.  Heck, anyone with a blog is technically “self-publishing”. So in order to do have an “edge” (read: sell books), your book must offer “more”.  There must be something extra.

For me, that meant including a study guide built around the Common Core Standards.

And what I’ve noticed is that a lot of authors– traditionally published authors– are doing the same thing.  Here are some of the books that have been on my radar for some time, ones that have upped the ante so to speak when it comes to novels.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

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This is such a beautiful book.  The illustrations are breathtaking and the story is timeless.  This was a favorite in the middle grade book club I hosted a couple years ago.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

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This is hands-down one of the best books I’ve ever read.  The book is just as much a visual experience as it is an emotional one.  Though I loved the movie version, there is just no way of capturing the book’s depth on film.

 S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

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Have you heard of this book?  If not, let me show you what you’ll find on the inside:

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I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my bookshelf waiting now.  The reviews look pretty good, and I can’t wait to see what the reading experience is like.

What other novels have you read that offer “more”?

Commentary, The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High

How to Write a Book When You Don’t Have Time to Write a Book

I had no idea what NaNoWriMo was until a couple weeks ago.  50,000 words in 30 days?  That is not for the faint of heart.  But I love the spirit of the challenge, and I love that it gets unmotivated writers to their keyboards to write.

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I have two small children, so I have a vague idea about just how difficult this challenge is.  Here are some tips, if you’re motivated to participate but short on time:

  1. Outline first.  I did this with The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High, and it saved me many hours of staring blankly at my computer screen.  I don’t care what anyone says about the creative process– a detailed outline really worked to keep me focused.
  2. Share with your family.  Tell the people around you what you’re doing so they understand that, for the next month, you’re going to be prioritizing YOU for a change.  Hopefully they will keep you motived to write!
  3. Don’t re-read.  I got bogged down in the writing process when I took the time mid-book to go back and re-read what I’d already written.  For draft one, get it all down.  Use your outline to stay on topic, THEN go back and re-read.
  4. Have a goal.  My friends at WiseInk are hosting a crowdfunding contest connected to NaNoWriMo. $250 grand prize, plus the ability to connect with the amazing women behind WiseInk!  It doesn’t get better than that!