Where Do You Get Your Writing Confidence?
annastan

A while back, while a critique partner and I were talking about my upcoming book projects, she asked me, “How do you write so many books without doubting yourself? Where do you get your confidence?”


I laughed in surprise at her question because I don’t consider myself a terribly confident person; in fact, I tend to be very anxious and insecure. But when I thought about it some more, I realized that my “writing confidence” comes from a few different sources.


1. Writing quickly. I tend to draft very quickly not because I particularly enjoy it but because it’s the only way I can stay ahead of the self-doubt that would otherwise paralyze me and make me stop. I have much more confidence in my revising abilities than I do in my drafting abilities, so the sooner I can get to the revision stage, the better.



2. Always improving my craft. I’m always trying to find ways to strengthen my writing, whether that’s through reading craft books, attending conferences, or trying out new techniques. The more tools I have in my writing arsenal, the more I trust that I’ll be able to figure out the trickiest problems.



3. Accepting that failure might be an option. Another friend asked me the other day if I’d ever given up on a project based on someone else’s feedback, and I admitted that I had. Sometimes a story is not your best work, no matter how much you want it to be. And some ideas are not salvageable. That’s okay. This isn’t a personal failing. It’s  the nature of creativity. If I’ve tried everything I can think of and things still aren’t working, I give myself permission to put something away.



Where do you get YOUR writing confidence?




Originally published at www.annastan.com


Vacation Reading Highlights
annastan

If you’re in the Cambridge, Mass. area on Sept 6, stop by Porter Square Books at 3pm for a “Middle Grade Mavens” event with yours truly and fellow children’s book authors Jen Malone, Dana Levy, and Jennifer Mann. It should be a great time!


I’m back from my cruise, and I must say that it was fantastic. We snorkeled and ate (and ate and ate) and managed to survive a whole week without internet access! I also got a bunch of reading done. Here are some highlights:


Loop by Karen Akins



Since I’ve been tinkering with a time travel book of my own, it’s been interesting to check out other titles in the genre. While the time travel details left me a little confused at times, I really enjoyed the voice and the fast-paced nature of the story.


Famous Last Words by Katie Alender



I’m usually not a big fan of murder mysteries, but if you throw in a ghost, I’m sold. This book really sucked me in, to the point where I spent the last day of our cruise in my cabin, frantically reading. I’m very curious to read other books by this author, particularly Marie Antionette, Serial Killer, which has one of the best titles I’ve heard in a long time!


The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North



When I first heard about this grown-up book about time travel, I knew it was a story my husband would enjoy. Sure enough, he devoured it on the cruise and strongly encouraged me to read it. I’m about halfway through and fascinated by the premise and the characters. Honestly, some of the philosophical stuff about the nature of time makes my brain hurt, but I’m still enjoying it!


What have you been reading?


Now that I’m back in town, it’s time to ease into the real world again. I’m working on first pass pages for THE GOSSIP FILE (my absolutely last chance to make changes to the manuscript before it hits stores in January!) and working on prepping for the fall semester. The weather has turned decidedly fall-ish, so I guess I can’t be in denial about the end of summer for much longer. :-)




Originally published at www.annastan.com

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I’m on a Boat! But Here’s Some News
annastan

I’m on cruise this week for a much-needed vacation (after furiously working on I’M WITH CUPID for the past several weeks), but here are a few bits of news I wanted to share.


-If you’re itching to win a signed copy of THE PRANK LIST, check out this giveaway on Goodreads:






Goodreads Book Giveaway


The Prank List by Anna Staniszewski


The Prank List


by Anna Staniszewski



Giveaway ends September 06, 2014.


See the giveaway details

at Goodreads.





Enter to win




-I mentioned last week that I was included in this article in Bay State Parent Magazine along with three other middle grade authors, but I forgot to say that the four of us will be doing an event at Porter Square Books on September 6th. I hope to see you there!


-I’m beyond thrilled to have been asked to be part of NESCBWI Encore in Rhode Island on September 27th during which I’ll do an abbreviated version of my “Common Writing Missteps” presentation from this springs’s regional conference.


-And finally, I discovered you can now add POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT to your Goodreads list. Yay!


What’s new with you this week?





Thinking in Cause and Effect
annastan

I was recently interviewed for Bay State Parent Magazine with 3 other local authors–they had us come in for a photo shoot and everything! Here’s the official article. And my first draft I’M WITH CUPID is off to my editor! Woohoo! That means I can actually take a real vacation for a little bit before it’s time to dive into  revising the novel and teaching my fall class.




I saw a great video from the creators of South Park yesterday that  contained an important reminder: An outline of your story that has an implied “and then” at the start of every sentence isn’t really a story because the events don’t depend on one another. Instead, they suggest starting every sentence of your outline with the words “therefore” or “but.” This ensures that your events are interconnected and dependent on one another.  This approach will help the story feel cohesive and creature forward momentum.


Here’s the video. (Just a warning that, unsurprisingly, it contains a little bit of foul language.)



I love these kinds of simple reminders and techniques that help make sure our stories are on the right track. What simple but effective craft advice have you heard recently?





Making the Stakes Too High in Sequels
annastan

I often get skeptical looks from people when I caution against making the stakes too high in a story. That’s probably because a lot of writing advice tells you to “raise the stakes!” and to “give your character more to lose!” This is generally good advice, but we have to remember that the stakes need to FEEL like the end of the world to the character and not necessarily BE the end of the world.


end of the world eh?


I’ve noticed this trend of making the stakes too high in some book and movie sequels recently. In a YA sci-fi sequel I was reading, for example, the story started with a shoot-out and a chase. While this was exciting stuff, it didn’t match the stakes in the first book. That story had been very internal, full of secrets and mystery. To go from psychological tension in the first book to what felt like an action flick in the second book seemed like a huge jump, one that raised the stakes dramatically and created a different type of story. The series didn’t feel cohesive because of it.


Similarly, I recently rewatched the Anne of Green Gables miniseries. I loved the first two movies when I was young, so I definitely shed a nostalgia tear or two when I was watching them this time around. I didn’t realize that there was a third installment (made in 2000) and I was eager to watch it. I have to admit that I was disappointed precisely because of the stakes issue.



Now, I haven’t read all the Anne books, so I’m not sure how true the miniseries was to them, and thus I’m only going to talk about the movies here. At the start of Anne’s story, the focus is all on everyday, small stakes. Oh no, someone called her Carrots! Oh no, she accidentally got her best friend drunk! Even though the stakes are sometimes life/death in the first movie (a friend’s sister falling ill or Matthew having a heart attack) the focus is still on the home and the daily stakes of Anne adjusting to her surroundings.



In the third movie, though, Anne finds herself in wartime, searching for Gil in the trenches, disguising herself as a nun, and getting shot at by Germans. It all felt a bit silly to me, mostly because it didn’t seem like it could be part of the same story. The stakes were suddenly so high that they felt absurd, and I didn’t believe them anymore.


Now, of course the stakes in a series have to escalate from book to book (or movie to movie) in order to keep audiences interested, but it’s important to make those stakes still feel genuine to the character and his/her world. Maybe you do need a shoot-out in your story, but be very careful of how and when you bring it in. Just because there’s a gun in the scene doesn’t mean the audience is automatically riveted. Often, there are a lot more interesting stakes you can explore for your character that don’t involve whizzing bullets and high-speed chases.





Making the Stakes Too High in Sequels
annastan

I often get skeptical looks from people when I caution against making the stakes too high in a story. That’s probably because a lot of writing advice tells you to “raise the stakes!” and to “give your character more to lose!” This is generally good advice, but we have to remember that the stakes need to FEEL like the end of the world to the character and not necessarily BE the end of the world.


end of the world eh?


I’ve noticed this trend of making the stakes too high in some book and movie sequels recently. In a YA sci-fi sequel I was reading, for example, the story started with a shoot-out and a chase. While this was exciting stuff, it didn’t match the stakes in the first book. That story had been very internal, full of secrets and mystery. To go from psychological tension in the first book to what felt like an action flick in the second book seemed like a huge jump, one that raised the stakes dramatically and created a different type of story. The series didn’t feel cohesive because of it.


Similarly, I recently rewatched the Anne of Green Gables miniseries. I loved the first two movies when I was young, so I definitely shed a nostalgia tear or two when I was watching them this time around. I didn’t realize that there was a third installment (made in 2000) and I was eager to watch it. I have to admit that I was disappointed precisely because of the stakes issue.



Now, I haven’t read all the Anne books, so I’m not sure how true the miniseries was to them, and thus I’m only going to talk about the movies here. At the start of Anne’s story, the focus is all on everyday, small stakes. Oh no, someone called her Carrots! Oh no, she accidentally got her best friend drunk! Even though the stakes are sometimes life/death in the first movie (a friend’s sister falling ill or Matthew having a heart attack) the focus is still on the home and the daily stakes of Anne adjusting to her surroundings.



In the third movie, though, Anne finds herself in wartime, searching for Gil in the trenches, disguising herself as a nun, and getting shot at by Germans. It all felt a bit silly to me, mostly because it didn’t seem like it could be part of the same story. The stakes were suddenly so high that they felt absurd, and I didn’t believe them anymore.


Now, of course the stakes in a series have to escalate from book to book (or movie to movie) in order to keep audiences interested, but it’s important to make those stakes still feel genuine to the character and his/her world. Maybe you do need a shoot-out in your story, but be very careful of how and when you bring it in. Just because there’s a gun in the scene doesn’t mean the audience is automatically riveted. Often, there are a lot more interesting stakes you can explore for your character that don’t involve whizzing bullets and high-speed chases.





How to Write When You Don’t Feel Like It
annastan

This week on the PRANK LIST blog tour: I share my messy bookshelves with the world (including my Star Wars ones) and I talk about using picture book techniques in novels


I’ll be honest. There are days when I should be writing but just don’t feel like it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s experienced this particular phenomenon, right? But the trick is, I’m on deadline for my next book right now which means I HAVE to write, even if it’s the last thing I feel like doing.


I’d like to say there’s an easy solution to this problem. And I suppose there is. Stop whining, sit down, and write.


But sometimes tough love isn’t enough, so here are a few others techniques that have been helping me plug along with my project.


Formulate a plan


I’m not an outliner, but I do write a synopsis of the story that helps me figure out the overall narrative and the character’s emotional arc. Having this synopsis worked out beforehand–even if it’s pretty general–gives me a map to follow as I’m drafting.


Create a spreadsheet


I like to make a spreadsheet of each chapter, including length, POV character, major events, and anything else that seems relevant. This helps me flag chapters that are too long or short, too boring or too cluttered, etc. It also helps me see which chapters I need to write next. (I don’t always make this spreadsheet when I’m drafting, but I always make one before I start revising.)


Make a list


Write down what’s fun about your book, or list the scenes you’re looking forward to writing. This can help make the process of writing the project feel less like a chore and more like the exciting creative endeavor it was when you first started.


Use another book as a guide


When I was having trouble getting into the mood of the second UnFairy Tale book, I went back to one of my favorites, Whales on Stilts, to help get me in the right mindset. Analyzing the book also helped me to figure out why my project felt like it was lagging.


Reward success and forgive failure


Sometimes a reward method is a good motivator–if I finish this chapter, I get to eat a cookie. Sometimes having a daily or weekly word count goal can help keep you accountable, especially if you get others to cheer you on. But if you miss a day or even a week, don’t beat yourself up. Just write out your “what makes this project fun” list and find a way to get back into it.


Do you have a technique that helps you keep going? Share it in the comments. Happy writing!




Originally published at www.annastan.com


The Prank List Is Out Today!
annastan

The Prank List blog tour continues with a post on making multiple protagonists distinct, an interview about the book and my upcoming projects, and a post on the difference between middle grade and young adult books.


Book birthdays are a funny affair. Of course it’s ridiculously exciting to know that my book is officially out in the world, but it’s hard to wrap my brain around that when my day is pretty much business as usual. Luckily, I’ll be at a summer reading carnival at the Shrewsbury Library this afternoon to help make the day feel a little more out of the ordinary. (Maybe I’ll see you there?)


Okay, let’s get this party started! Prank List, welcome to the book family.


prank list cover 2


How about you blow out a candle to make your birthday official?



Darn, if only I’d written in some lungs… :-)





The Prank List Is Out Today!
annastan

The Prank List blog tour continues with a post on making multiple protagonists distinct, an interview about the book and my upcoming projects, and a post on the difference between middle grade and young adult books.


Book birthdays are a funny affair. Of course it’s ridculously exciting to know that my book is officially out in the world, but it’s hard to wrap my brain around that when my day is pretty much business as usual. Luckily, I’ll be at a summer reading carnival at the Shrewsbury Library this afternoon to help make the day feel a little more out of the ordinary. (Maybe I’ll see you there?)


Okay, let’s get this party started! Prank List, welcome to the book family.


prank list cover 2



How about you blow out a candle to make your birthday official?


Darn, if only I’d written in some lungs… :-)





Originally published at www.annastan.com


EMLA Spotlight: Revenge of the Flower Girls
annastan

The blog tour for The Prank List continues! I was interviewed by Vonna Carter about creating the story, I shared the inside scoop on the inspiration behind the book, and I did an interview that includes a giveaway of a signed copy via Elizabeth Dulemba.


Back in May when I was at my agency retreat, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have so many talented agent-mates. After I got home, I vowed to put more of their books on my summer reading list. First up is Jennifer Ziegler‘s hilarious new book, Revenge of the Flower Girls, about triplets who have to stop their sister from marrying the wrong guy.


revengeoftheflowergirls


This was exactly the kind of light, fun read I needed this week. The story is full of funny misadventures and general shenanigans, but what I particularly loved about it was the voice. Plus, the triplets have such a great relationship with each other and with their older sister that you’re rooting for them to break up the wedding, even if that means watching them do some pretty crazy stuff. This is the perfect summer tween read.


What’s on your reading list this summer?





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