Julie Glover

When Did You Fall In Love by Julie Glover

Do you remember the first time you fell in love?

I’m not talking about your junior high crush or your first high school date or even your “soul mate.” When did you first fall in love with books?

Sometimes in the rush of meeting our goals and deadlines, we can forget what first drew us to become a writer. We end up focusing so much on story structure or word count or editing or publishing that we don’t stop and consider how amazing it is that we can speak to others so personally through our writing.

I was recently Facebook chatting with an author friend about why I write. I considered my answer cliché, but maybe it’s something to remember:

I think part of what keeps me wanting to write YA and MG is when I ask myself, “If I could write for one and only one niche group, who would it be?” And it’s young girls struggling with who they are in those formative ages. That’s when I fell in love with stories, when books sent me to worlds I didn’t know and got me out of the frustrating one I was in, when fiction sometimes seemed far more real than the stupid drama of junior high and high school. It’s when I realized that books could be friends.

My book friends were such classics as the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene, Little House on the Prairie and sequels by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and other novels by Judy Blume, and The Outsiders and others by S.E. Hinton.

But even earlier as a child, I’d fallen in love with story. I curiously read The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, joyfully read Gerald McBoing McBoing by Dr. Seuss, and nervously read the fairy tale of Bluebeard, among other stories and fables and fairy tales. I made up stories in my head and acted them out in the privacy on my bedroom, slaying pretend dragons and rescuing my own princess self from the villain’s tower (then the prince arrived and kissed me, after I’d already kicked butt, thank you very much.)

I dove into our family set of encyclopedias to open up worlds of information and excitement, learning all kinds of things you now get from cable channels and internet searches. But flipping through those glossy pages showed me what was available through books and fed my sense of wonder.

Have I lost that sense of wonder? Do I get bogged down sometimes in my checklist and forget the reader – that nameless person on the other end opening up the book and expecting to be taken somewhere wonderful? How can I keep that focus in front of me?

Ask yourself from time to time why you write, who you’re writing for, and what you want to accomplish with your stories or publications. Our writing goals need to fit into our ultimate desire to communicate with the reader. It’s an amazing thing that someone can tell me a story and I can become so engrossed in that world that my own seems to dissipate around me.

Of course, such writing doesn’t come with ease. Like a well-executed dance or Olympic sport, the audience may never realize how much work went into producing a short performance. In fact, if you’ve done your job well, your book is seamless – no evidence of your sweat and tears staining the pages. But you can also tell when the dancer, the athlete, and the novelist enjoys what they’re doing. It comes across in their dedication and their excitement.

What excites you about writing? Do you still have your sense of wonder? When did you first fall in love?

~*~

Julie Glover

When the Book Isn’t Working By Julie Glover

 

This past year, I wrestled and wrangled with a manuscript over and over, trying to skillfully execute what I knew was a good story idea with engaging characters.

But it wasn’t coming together.

No matter how many times I pored over the chapters, marked up the drafts, and reconsidered point of view and setting and tense and so on, the book just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t yet the book it could be, the book I would want to pull off a bookstore shelf.

The book wasn’t working.

So I stepped back and took a fresh look at the whole kit-and-caboodle. Where had I gone astray? Why was my wonderful story with characters I loved so difficult to get onto the page?

If you feel your manuscript is going off track, don’t give up. You can turn it around.

Replot the book. If you’re a plotter, you already got down the whole story before you wrote, but maybe once you wrote, it simply didn’t pan out on the page. If you’re a pantser, maybe you may meandered a little and have some parts where the story sags.

If things haven’t turned out like you wanted, perhaps you need a different plot or a major or minor tweak in your current one. Create or revisit your outline. Make sure you can trace the story arc and the character arc. Check for plausible plot points and believable character motivation. If you see something gone awry, be willing to shift your plot to make the story stronger.

Streamline your characters. Do you really need all of those people? Do they all serve a vital purpose in moving the story along? Could you combine characters into a composite that works harder and smarter to engage the reader? Do you need to introduce any characters to fulfill archetype roles your main character needs to support his/her journey?

Check your character list, and be willing to shove out anyone who isn’t pulling their weight. If you absolutely love a character and hate to see them go, pull out the sections on him/her, save them, and later insert that character into a different story that better fits their role.

Check every chapter. Does every chapter matter? Does every chapter move the story along? Is every chapter engaging in its own right? Ask yourself if a reader would be compelled to read the whole book no matter what chapter he/she turned to first.

The difference between a good book and a great book is maintaining intensity throughout. Even in slower sections, confirm there is tension and what happens matters to the main character’s growth. Don’t cheat the reader by brushing over setting, emotion, and conflict. Dig deep and mine each moment for what it adds to the overall story. Make every single chapter strong, and the whole book will be stronger.

Get a second opinion. Sometimes we’ve been over a book so many times, we can’t see it fresh anymore. Find a beta reader and ask them to read chapters or the whole book and provide feedback. Ask specific questions that concern you. For instance: Where did your interest wane, even a bit? Which characters did you relate to? Did any characters feel one-dimensional or unnecessary? Where do you think the story could be strengthened?

A good beta reader is a valuable ally. (I’m blessed to have two fabulous ones.) Find someone who won’t sugarcoat their answers but who is firmly in your corner and wants you to succeed as a writer. Then open yourself up to helpful criticism and use their advice to help you figure out why your book isn’t working.

I’m happy to report that my wrestled-and-wrangled manuscript is now being lassoed into a proper novel. It was a bit heart-rending to kill my previous plot and restart the process, but it beats staying in a chokehold with my writing.

If your book isn’t working, do what you must to fix it. You can do this! You can tell your story and tell it well. You and your readers will be happy you made the extra effort.

~*~

Julie Glover

Changing Horses, Or Goals, Midstream by Julie Glover

You’re not supposed to do that, right? Change horses midstream.

That idiom comes from an 1864 campaign speech in which Abraham Lincoln referred to an old Dutch saying that one shouldn’t change horses right as they are crossing a stream. He was making a case for his reelection in the midst of the Civil War. The saying has caught on to mean that you should stay on track; keep the leader, the mission, the goals you started with.

That’s bunk.

Almost every round of ROW80, I have thrown out or altered one or more of my original goals. I have “changed horses midstream.” When is that a good idea?

Well, I am no horse lady, so you equestrians can flog me later if I write anything ignorant here. But it would seem to me that you should change horses if:

Your horse won’t budge. Week after week, you continue to put one of your goals on the list and not oncehave you reported any progress whatsoever on it. No matter how good your intentions are, that goal isn’t happening—no way, no how. Is your guilt over not completing that task getting in the way of your progress on other goals? Do you report in every week feeling like a half-empty champagne glass instead of a celebratory bottle of bubbly? Maybe this isn’t the round for that goal. It might be a fabulous goal that needs to cross the stream next time around. But right now, it ain’t budging, and it’s okay to set that one aside and get on another horse.

Your horse goes lame. I’ve seen enough westerns in which the tough cowboy held back the tears and shot his trusted horse because it had gone lame. It’s not easy to kill your beloved pal, but sometimes a project you started with has been worked and reworked and overworked until it’s broken and cannot be fixed. This is what happened to me in the last round, when I blogged about My Epic Failure. It was time to put my WIP out of its misery and move on. While my manuscript isn’t actually dead, it was limping, it needed time to heal, and I needed a break. I got on a new horse.

Your dream horse shows up. I’m not in favor of going down rabbit trails and abandoning your current WIP for the shiny new plot bunny that hopped over and demanded attention. Adopting that attitude can result in having a lot of half-finished projects and no completed books. However, during the course of a round, you might have an opportunity that you simply cannot turn down. Maybe it’s a writing competition, an online course, a conference invitation, or an absolutely perfect plot bunny that you can’t imagine putting back inside its cage. Whatever it is, think about whether this is the time and the goal you want; if so, put your old horse back in its stall, mount the new pretty horse, and ride. Seriously, who would turn down a chance to gallop on the back of a Kentucky Derby champion?

What you cannot do is give up on crossing the stream! Changing your goals is fine. Not making progress on your goals is not.

So if you’re not making progress, reevaluate your goals. Don’t feel like you cannot change them midstream. One of the best things about A Round of Words in 80 Days is that it is accountability mixed with flexibility.

You determine which horse will get you across that stream, and we’ll be here to cheer you on and make sure the current doesn’t drag you under. Now get on that horse and ride!

~*~

Julie Glover

Parenting Your Writing by Julie Glover

I am a parent.

Just those four words likely tell you a lot about me—like I do far more laundry than I used to and I could have purchased a small country with what I’ve spent on raising my kids. What it probably also tells you is that there are some children out there that I love more than any other children. They are my babies—no matter how old they get.

Sometimes we writers refer to our works in the same way. Our stories, our poetry, our novels, our memoirs, etc. are our babies. And there is some truth to that because we love our writing in a way that we can’t love other peoples’ writing. Even if you adore books by James Rollins or Jennifer Cruisie or Charles Dickens, their novels don’t belong to you. Your own writing does. Like a parent, at the end of the day, you are responsible for your baby—your book.

Whether or not you are a parent in real life, walk with me here through a comparison of what children and books both need.

Attention. In parenting, sometimes just doing that laundry, getting food on the table, and taxiing children around consumes our time such that it’s hard to get face-to-face or shoulder-to-shoulder interaction with our kids. But relationship is so important in parenting and must be fostered. This is true as well with writing, when the demands of email, blogging, social media, beta reading for others, etc., can cut into the attention you really need to give your own WIP. First things first: Give your writing the attention it needs.

Nurturing. Children need nurturing to grow. They must be cared for, coddled, and cooed at. Your writing needs your good lovin’ too. Just like young parents learn to identify the various cries of their infant (some mean hungry, some mean tired, etc.), you need to figure out what your writing needs and how to deliver it. You may simply need more time to write. You may need to learn more about story structure or character sketching. You may need someone to help with reading and critiquing your work. Whatever your writing needs, it’s up to you to nurture it and help it develop.

Discipline. The flip side of all of that lovey-dovey, coo-at-your-baby stuff is discipline. As soon as children get mobile and learn the word “no,” you realize it’s time to figure out what your behavioral goals for them are and how to set some boundaries. You need discipline in your writing too. Setting goals with ROW80 and being accountable to others is a great step in that direction. Perhaps you also set the boundaries of no phone calls, no social media, no interruptions, for one hour a day. Or you don’t let yourself watch your TV show until you finish editing that scene (which sounds a lot like the rule in my house of no Minecraft until homework is done).

Time to grow. Parenting is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Children need time to grow and mature, both physically and emotionally. I have a teenager, and I swear that some things I started teaching him at age two have just now (finally) become ingrained in him. Your writing ten years ago isn’t your writing now. And you’ll be an even better writer ten years from now, if you nurture it and give it time to grow. It’s okay that you’re not as far along as someone else as long as you are growing.

Praise. This is something about which parenting experts almost uniformly agree: Positive reinforcement works. When your kid does something wonderful, shower a little praise in their direction. When you plot out a whole novel, meet your word count goal, finish a tough scene, or complete the novel, give yourself a big pat on the back. You are awesome! You can do something even more celebratory with the big goals, like treating yourself to dinner or purchasing a new book. But positively reinforce the progress you want to see in your writing.

What your writing, and your kids, don’t need is abuse. So when it’s not going well, take a breather. Don’t rip apart the pages of your novel because it isn’t (yet) all you hoped it would be.

Each child, and each book, has its own trajectory. Don’t give up. Keep at it. This is your baby, for heaven’s sake! Love it like you mean it!

 ~*~

Julie Glover

Writing As A Fairy Tale by Julie Glover

Fairy tales are all the rage now. Perhaps you’ve been tracking the Grimm or Once Upon a Time television series, or maybe you caught Mirror, Mirror or Snow White and Huntsman on the big screen. There are plenty of retellings of fairy tales as well. (In particular, check out the fabulous Red Riding Hood-inspired book by Kait Nolan called RED.)

So what if your writing experience was a fairy tale? Which one might it be?

Snow White: Snow White is a tale of jealousy, pure and simple. The evil queen approaches her looking glass each day and asks how she measures up. But she doesn’t do it based on how looked the day before or how she will look the day after. She compares herself to others. Wrong.

Yet, plenty of us ROWers fall for the same thing. We plug away at our writing and then look over and realize that someone else is ahead of us. Guess what? Someone will always be ahead of you. If you write 5,000 words this week, someone else will write 7,000. If you are on your fourth short story, someone else is publishing their collection of six stories.

So what? What if the queen had just looked in the mirror and concluded, “So I’m not 20 anymore, but I look pretty dang good. In fact, I am one hot mama. I’m going to get on my exercise steed, use a beauty product or two, and look even better tomorrow”? Of course, there would be no conflict, no story, but everyone would have gotten a happy ever after!

Forget how you measure up to others. ROW80 is about knowing what you are capable of completing, setting your own goals, and making progress so that you can look in the mirror and know that you’re better off at the end of the round than you were at the beginning.

Rapunzel: Rapunzel was locked away in a tower at the age of 12 and didn’t cut her hair for years. Of course, it was the enchantress who shut her away in the story, but it is a story of isolation until some guy comes to rescue her.

So here you are as a writer with your list of goals that you MUST get done before your self-imposed deadline arrives, your editor calls and asks where the manuscript is, or your parents throw you out of the basement and tell you to get a real job. But you have no idea where this story is going, and your eyes are bloodshot from watching the blinking cursor on your screen. Surely, you must lock yourself away and ignore personal care (like hair cutting, showering, etc.) while you get it all knocked out.

Um, no. Let down your hair, and someone from the ROW80 will climb up to be your support. Maybe you need to shut out the distractions from time to time, but invite others in to what you’re doing and use the support system that ROW80 provides. Pop onto Twitter or Facebook and ask for a little help or inspiration. Log your progress each week and receive encouragement from others. You might find someone else can say or do just the right thing to free you.

RumpelstiltskinA miller lies to the king and tells Mr. Royal that his daughter can spin straw into gold. She can’t, but Rumpelstiltskin can. The woman promises said awkwardly-named man her first-born child if he’ll work his golden magic and let her pass off the product as her own. The king is so impressed with the gold that he marries the miller’s daughter. When payment is due, old “R” will only relinquish his payment if the (now) queen can guess his name, which she does by eavesdropping.

I have absolutely no idea what lessons to draw from this fairy tale, but it was one of my favorites growing up. Perhaps the lesson here is no plagiarizing other writers’ work and eavesdrop whenever you can (coffee shop and waiting line conversations make good fodder for novel dialogue). And if you can spin your tale into gold, go right ahead.

Hansel and Gretel. Um, never mind. *munch, munch*

Cinderella. Cinderella is a hard-working young woman whose curse is a stepmother who doesn’t care one bit about her dreams. But Cindy knows she’s something special way down deep, so when her fairy godmother (read “muse”) comes along and offers her a pretty dress, slippers, and a carriage to the prince’s ball, Cinderella heads out the door. When she meets the literary agent Prince Charming who can make all of her dreams come true and pitches to dances with him, it’s love at first sight and forevermore. All this guy needs to do is realize that she’s a diamond in the rough, worth hunting down and offering his contract hand to.

Yeah, that’s you. Keep working in the cinders, baby, because your time is coming. Your fairy godmother will be throwing out fairy dust all over your head, and your ROW80 pals are better than those singing mice in the Disney film who know how to make a girl, or manuscript, shine. It’s your time to dance, so put on your slippers.

List your goals: Buy pumpkin, sew ball gown, practice waltz, feed mice.

Celebrate progress: Attended ball, met prince, danced.

Adjust as needed: Find a way to get Mr. Handsome to realize that my teeny feet are the only ones that are going to fit in those glass shoes. (Who makes glass shoes?)

Enjoy the ending: Goals accomplished. Stepsisters rejected. I’m the princess. Go me.

Now get out there and make your own fairy tale dreams come true. You’ll have plenty of entertaining sidekicks and well-wishers rooting for you. Best wishes for happily ever after!

~*~

Julie Glover

Can You Trust Your Fickle Muse? by Julie Glover

Okay, I admit it: The first time I heard anything about muses was not in English class studying Greek mythology. It was from the movie Xanadu in which Olivia Newton-John played the Olympian muse of dancing and chorus (Terpsichore). While I have since learned more about the history of muses and their presumed effects on human creativity, this film has had a lasting impact on my perspective: When I picture my own writing muse, she is blond, sings, and wears roller skates.

 

We writers often speak about our muses – that magical, intangible sense of creativity that feels at times like a tap on the shoulder and at other times like being pushed off a cliff. The concept that someone or something supernatural is guiding or walking alongside us as we create worlds and characters, plot stories, and express ourselves through language on the page is rather appealing. It makes what we do seem even more special and spiritual.

 

But do you actually know anything about the Greek gods? They were a fickle bunch! These characters were selfish, deceptive, and narcissistic on the whole. Yes, they were also strong and heroic at times. However, you couldn’t count on all roses and rainbows from Mount Olympus. Just ask Percy.

 

Keep that in mind when you think about your Muse and treat her accordingly. Of course it’s wonderful to have that surge of inspiration that enlightens your path as you write your manuscript! But don’t count on her to be available whenever you need to work. She may be off tickling her own fancy for a bit while you desperately need to finish this scene or edit that chapter. Face it: Your Muse is a fickle diva.

 

That’s why we need goals, strategy, self-discipline, and accountability. Thankfully, A Round of Words in 80 Days is all about that. Muse or no muse, you put in your time and make tangible progress.

 

Sometimes when you write, you will feel the language flowing easily from your brain and fingertips. You’ll be amazed at how gracefully it’s coming together. And sometimes, it can be as author and journalist Gene Fowler described: “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Either way, you are a writer. You can’t trust your Muse to hover over you ready to spill pixie dust on your page. You must trust yourself.

 

Have a plan. Set goals. Think. Put your derriere in the chair and start typing. Watch as words appear on the screen. Recognize, Hey, this is writing! Check in with your ROW80 writer friends and get their encouragement or their kicks-in-the-pants as needed.

 

In fact, ROW80 friends often function like muses themselves. They spark an idea with something they say; they cheer you on to write or edit; and they give an attagirl or attaboy when you achieve something wonderful. (Plus, they aren’t nearly so self-centered and fickle as a Greek Titan.)

 

Go ahead and believe in that beautiful Muse! She’s good company to have around. But believe in yourself and your writer friends as well. After all, that roller-skating, pop-singing gal won’t have her name on the book cover. It will be yours.

 

 ~*~

Julie Glover

What Will Get in Your Way by Julie Glover

While this is Round 1 of 2012, it’s my fourth ROW80. I could share what I’ve learned about goal-setting, accountability, encouragement, etc.

Instead, I want to tell you what will get in your way. Because you are this writing challenge’s main character, you have a goal, and there will be conflict. Obstacles will interfere with your worthy desires. We all want that Happily Ever After, but you can’t simply wish away the antagonist. You must deal with him or IT.

Whether you solve these issues like a calculating detective or pound them into the ground like a ninja werewolf is up to you. Choose whatever character persona fits. But take note: One or more of the following may come your way this ROW80.

Fatigue. Most people are tired at some point in the day. That’s fine if you get sleepy a half hour before bedtime, but what about those days when you can barely raise your pinkie and it’s only 10:00 a.m.? Yet you must finish this scene in your WIP. If only your computer could dispense espresso into your mouth as you write.

Sometimes, you need a break to recharge; sometimes you need to write for a while and your energy will show up. If fatigue happens often, perhaps you need to adjust your sleeping schedule. But a friend of mine used to say, “I have SO MUCH to do, I want to take a nap.” The very thought of everything on your plate may cause a bit of fatigue; in which case, press on.

Stuff breaks. Your dishwasher spills soap and water all over kitchen, forcing you to stop writing that perfect climax, call a plumber, and mop for an hour. Your car makes a sound resembling a volcano monster, so you spend hours in an auto shop lobby with bad coffee and soap operas trying to figure out what you can hock to pay for repairs. Your internet – God forbid – goes out for half a day, and you end up on the phone all morning clicking through more levels than an Incan pyramid to reach a “customer service representative” to resolve the problem.

Things break. You can curse the universe, technology, and that one operator in the call center who put you on hold long enough to read War and Peace, OR you recognize that stuff happens, tackle the issue, and move on.

Illness. There isn’t much you can do on this front. We get exposed to a virus, and suddenly, we’re down for the count. I have read past ROW80 updates with news like “I have felt like death warmed over for 12 days and can’t write.” Just take care of yourself. Make healthy choices to fortify your immune system, and if you get sick, do what you can to start the healing process. You’ll be back in the saddle soon.

Recreation. Writing is work. It can be very engaging work. But at times, a trip to the mall, a night out, or watching TV present as more exciting activities. You think, I can spare a little time for fun. Next thing you know, your hour break has turned into a Lifetime movie marathon.

You must ask yourself, What is my top priority? I’m not saying don’t have fun. Do! Just make sure you’ve checked off a goal or two before heading out for a night of margaritas and karaoke.

Your family. It’s good that your family wants your attention. I had children with the idea that I would spend actual time with them. However, I’ve noticed that spouses, children, siblings, and even pets can sap your forward momentum. If you’re genuinely needed or you’ve been hiding with your laptop like a schizophrenic hermit, it makes sense for them to interrupt. Yet I warn my family at times: “I am doing a word sprint for the next 30 minutes. Do not come in unless you are (1) profusely bleeding, (2) projectile vomiting, or (3) attacked by aliens. Even then, wait to see if the aliens are friendly first.”

Treat writing like a job. Let those around you know that you are working, and you would like their cooperation in letting you finish your task. You can also state when you plan to emerge from the mystical writing cave, so they can present their list of demands then. (Of course, infants and toddlers often can’t wait; I feel for you young moms and dads.)

Plenty of other obstacles can prevent you from reaching the top of the mountain, planting your flag at the peak, and claiming victory – work obligations that take longer than expected, a traffic accident that clogs up the highway, or ever-growing piles of laundry that demand constant attention. Yet you can overcome.

You’re the main character. You’re not a quitter. You’re not a wimp. You have special characteristics and abilities that allow you to trump that antagonist and achieve your writing goals. You also have fellow ROW80ers rooting for your Happily Ever After.

As for me, I’m donning my Wonder Writer persona and polishing up my superpowers. This round, I am going to kick some butt.

~*~

Julie Glover