Three Questions For Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

Welcome to Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (archive list here) which includes my Creating Picture Books series, Advice For Young Writers and IllustratorsWriter's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, my poetry for young readers, #BookADay, writing/publishing industry surveys, and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives,  and comics for writers (including Keiko and Will Write For Chocolate). Also check out my Print-Ready Archives for Teachers, Librarians, Booksellers and Young Readers.

I tweet about the craft and business of writing and illustrating at @inkyelbows. If you're interested in my art or other projects, please do visit DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Friday
Apr232010

Interview with YA author Deborah Kerbel

I met Deborah Kerbel through the Toronto Area MG/YA Author Group, which was founded by Claudia Osmond via Twitter. Deborah's a cheerful, witty and dedicated YA writer who is the author of several books for young people including Girl on the Other Side, which was nominated for the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award. Her newest book, Lure, is due out from Dundurn Press this September. You can find out more about Deborah Kerbel and her work at http://deborahkerbel.com/. Meanwhile, Deborah was kind enough to answer some questions for me... Q - How long have you been writing? A - Not very long in the grand scheme of things. I really started writing creatively about 10 years ago. But my father is an author as well, so ink has probably been flowing steadily through my blood since birth. Q - How did you make your first sale? A - My first sale was huge! I was just starting out as a writer and my agent sold my (as yet un-written) series of four MG novels to a European book-club publisher with plans to translate the series into three different languages and a first print run of 40,000 copies for each book. Exciting, huh? Well, as it turned out, not so much. By the time I finished writing the final book in the series, the publisher was encountering financial difficulties and was shutting down their book clubs. In the end, only the first book in the series saw publication (in Germany). The other three books never saw the light of day. But still, I think of it was a hugely valuable experience – basically I got paid to write my first 4 practice novels. Q - What is your typical writing day like? A - My typical day is a crazy patchwork of small writing spurts. I'm the mother of two little kids so I really have to write whenever I can grab some quiet time. Half an hour here, an hour there - I take the time wherever I can find it (and there's never enough). Lately, nights have been very productive for me - after my kids are in bed, the house gets quiet and I can hear myself think. Q - How much research did you have to do for Mackenzie, Lost and Found, which is set in the Middle East? A - This book needed a LOT of research since it was completely set in a part of the world I had never seen. Luckily for me, I have a good friend who, like Mackenzie, had moved to Israel as a teenager. She was my main source of information. We went through her photo albums and I grilled her for details - from everything to the feel of the air in Tel Aviv, to sneaking into the hotel pools, to the smell of the markets in the souk. She was a fabulous resource. And then when I was in the editing stage of the manuscript, I was given the opportunity to visit Israel and travel to most of the places that are in my book (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tiberias) which helped me put the final pieces of the research together and allowed me to really personalize the story to my own experience. Q - How much outlining do you do? A - I like to outline - it's my nature to know where I'm headed before I walk out the door. But the amount of outlining I end up doing definitely depends on the book I'm writing. My next YA novel, Lure, was outlined from start to finish - chapter by chapter - before I wrote a word. But I don't always work that way - for Girl on the Other Side, I had no outline, no plot, and not much of a premise - just two strong characters with very distinct voices. I let them loose on the page and they took the lead and surprised me with the story. I love it when that happens - it's truly the magic of writing! Q - How much time do you spend promoting your books? A -Some days, not enough - other days, too much. It all depends on where I am in the writing process and if I have a new book coming out. Last spring, I spent weeks organizing a Canada/U.S. blog tour' to promote Mackenzie, Lost and Found. Although it sucked away lots of valuable writing time, it was fun and it got the word out about me and my book which is the most important thing. As Cory Doctorow has said, the biggest problem for writers is obscurity. Q - How useful have you found online social networks like Twitter? A - Well, let me put it this way - if it weren't for Twitter, I wouldn't be doing this interview. Twitter and Facebook have been incredibly useful for learning about this industry, getting to know other people in the business, and of course, promoting my work. There's a huge community of editors, agents, writers, publishers, and book reviewers who are putting themselves out there on a daily basis and I really believe that it's a mistake not to make use of this kind of accessibility (especially for people who are starting out it this business). Writing is probably the most solitary profession in the world and so the need to stay connected to your colleagues and peers is vital. Q - What are your current/upcoming projects? A - My next YA novel, Lure, is scheduled for release in September, 2010 and it's a giant departure from anything I've written before. Lure is a ghost story set partly in the present day and partly in the late 1800s and it's based on a real haunted house near where I live. I also have another YA manuscript that I've just finished called Bye-Bye, Evil Eye and -- I don't even know the right way to describe it - it's kind of a paranomalish mystery, comedy, romance about the Evil Eye. LOL - did that make any sense? And in between novels, I love to play around with writing picture books. My kids are still at that magical stage, so new book ideas for their age group come to me literally by the hour. Hopefully, I'll get one of them published soon.

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Friday
Apr232010

What e-book seller Kobo learned in 12 months about selling e-books (Video)

This is a video of a presentation given by Michael Tamblyn, the VP Content, Sales and Merchandising at Kobo. The presentation was called "Lessons Learned from Shortcovers and Kobo: A Year in the Life of the What and How of Selling eBooks." I like the fact that Kobo is very interested in what their customers want, and is willing to make adjustments based on their findings. I also admire them for admitting what mistakes they made, and learning from those mistakes.

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Friday
Apr232010

E-Book Readers for the iPad

Dear Author blog has an excellent overview of the e-readers currently available for the iPad. If you have an iPad or are considering buying one for reading e-books, I strongly recommend that you read this post. Clearly, there is room out there for a good e-book reader app for the iPad. Related resources: iPad Experience: Can the iPad replace ebook readers?: includes review of Kobo and Kindle apps eBooks on the iPad: includes review of Wattpad Reading Ebooks on The iPad with iBooks & Amazon Kindle [Mac] by Bakari Chavanu on Apr. 16th, 2010

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Tuesday
Apr202010

My iPad Review, Part 1: writing, reading and drawing on the iPad

ipad-case-type-tea.jpg As some of you already know, I've been excited about the iPad for a long time, even before the hype began. As a birthday gift, my husband pre-ordered the Wifi-only 64 MB iPad, and we picked it up while we were in Columbus earlier this month. For those that missed it, here's my report of the day I got my iPad. (Disclosure: A couple of friends of mine work at Apple, and one did some work on the Apple iPhone and iPad.) WHY I ORIGINALLY WANTED AN IPAD I've been reading e-books regularly on my iPhone, mostly purchased from Fictionwise. I've bought quite a few books from Fictionwise since I got an iPhone. While I don't mind reading them on the iPhone screen, I was excited about the prospect of having a bigger screen on a device as portable as an iPad. ipad-hand.jpg I was also hoping that I might be able to use it to do some short session writing when I wasn't at home, a lighter alternative to carrying my laptop. TYPING ON THE IPAD Learning to type on the iPad was much easier than I expected, at least in landscape mode. I was thrown at first, not having the physical cues of the keys to guide my fingers. ipad-case-sideview.jpg I bought the thin Apple case, whose front cover folds to prop up the iPad at an angle, making it easier to read the screen as well as type. I haven't yet tried typing for a period longer than about an hour on the iPad to see how at feels, but I will report back when I do. I also want to try out a Bluetooth keyboard, but ideally I would love to be able to just take my iPad on its own. I mentioned that I had no trouble typing in landscape mode. It's more awkward typing when the iPad is in portrait mode, because of the smaller keyboard space. I have heard that people with larger hands type on the iPad with their thumbs, iPhone-style. With the weight of the iPad, however, I'd find this difficult. ipad-case-type-tea2.jpg I'm using My Writing Nook for my iPad writing right now. I like it because you can change the font and font size, but I wish it was possible to create hierarchical folders to make it easier to organize different writing projects. Also very much looking forward to getting the iPad version of WriteRoom. I'm sad that there won't be a Scrivener for the iPad but understand the developer's reasons (not enough resources). Editing on the iPad is much more laborious than a regular keyboard because there are no arrow keys or easy way to navigate around the screen with shortcuts for cutting and pasting. I wouldn't use my iPad to do any heavy revisions, but it's fine for first drafts as well as minor edits. However, who knows? Maybe someone will come up with an app that makes this easier, or perhaps using an external keyboard with my iPad will make editing shortcuts possible. I'll investigate this and report back in a follow-up. ipad-reflections.jpg WHAT ABOUT THE GLARE ON THE SCREEN? CAN YOU READ THE IPAD IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT? With the shiny screen, glare from lights behind and above you can potentially be a problem, depending on your environment. I found it a bit distracting at first, but I don't notice it much anymore, at least indoors. Not sure if this is because I've learned to adjust my iPad position to lessen the problem, or if it's because I've gotten used to it enough that I automatically focus on the screen rather than the reflection. I haven't tried to do much reading outside yet because it's still a bit too chilly in Toronto for outdoor reading, but I'll write a follow-up report when I do. The shiny screen also makes finger smudges and dust much more noticeable, and I'm constantly wiping it clean. The Apple case isn't great for this, because dust tends to accumulate under the edges and is impossible to remove without taking the iPad out of the case first. DO I REALLY NEED A CASE FOR MY IPAD? Originally I didn't get a slipcase for my iPad but went back to the Apple store to get one because the iPad felt way too slippery in my hands. I wish Apple had given the back casing some texture to make it easier to grip. WHY I OPTED FOR A WIFI-ONLY IPAD I already pay Rogers a monthly fee for an iPhone plan and wasn't crazy about paying for a second plan. I also figure that if I find that I really can't survive without 3G, then I can sell this iPad and upgrade. So far, though, I'm happy with my choice. Sure, there are moments when I'm away from Wifi and automatically open Google to look something up only to remember that I can't, but I can always use my iPhone if I -really- need to get online. Not being able to access the 3G network has made me more productive in my writing when using the iPad outside of my home. ipad-case-drawing.jpg USING THE IPAD AS A SKETCHBOOK I had never considered being able to draw on the iPad well enough to use it as a sketchpad. Draw with my finger? Too awkward! However, I find that a bit of practice and familiarity with the drawing software makes a huge difference. My favorite drawing app is Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. The interface is easy to use, with three finger shortcuts to bring up the brush and color palettes, layer window, undo and redo. In only a short time, I got used to using the pinch gesture to zoom in and out so that I could work on fine details as well as being able to see the whole drawing. I can export my drawing to the iPad photo album as well as e-mail it or post to various services. You can see more of my iPad drawings at http://ipadgirl.posterous.com. ipad-pogostick.jpg I've also been experimenting with using the Pogo stylus. It's not pressure sensitive like my Intuos Wacom Artpad, but it feels like a regular pen. I'm wondering how long it'll last with regular use, though...the sponge-like material at it's tip doesn't strike me as particularly durable. I hope I'm wrong. With the $14.95 price tag, I'm not crazy about having to replace the pen too often. I've noticed that cheaper alternative solutions are already being posted. USING THE IPAD TO DISPLAY PHOTOS This is one major advantage that the iPad has over the Kindle. It's been years since I've taken any print photos, and eventually I'd like to replace all the boxes of print photo albums with folders of scanned images on my laptop...or iPad. Converting to digital photography has saved me a ton of money in terms of hassle and print processing, but it means that the only way friends and family can view my photos is by going online or looking at them on my laptop. I've set up my iPad syncing to always sync with the last three "events" in my iPhoto library as well as any other albums I specifically select. The other day, my father asked about one of my niece's school productions, for example. Instead of having to e-mail him a URL or drag him to a computer, I just whipped out my iPad and let him flick through the photos himself. I could also have set up a slideshow to display my photos that way. READING ON THE IPAD This is the main reason I wanted to get an iPad. I rarely go anywhere without at least one book or magazine with me, and read e-books regularly on my iPhone. The idea of being able to read books and magazines on a bigger screen of a device so easily carried around hugely appealed to me. Sadly, the iBookstore is not accessible to Canadian customers yet. However, from this Apple job posting, it sounds as if Apple does plan to open its iBookstore to Canadians eventually. I knew this before the iPad launch, but figured that at least one of Stanza or eReader would be launching an iPad-optimized version of their e-book reading software. I was wrong. Amazon-owned Stanza has gone silent on the topic and Fictionwise support responded to my query with "Currently at this time, there are no plans to update the iPhone eReader app for iPad." Fictionwise was acquired by Barnes and Noble. Sigh. I can run the iPhone eReader or Stanza apps on my iPad, but either they look too small: or I blow them up to fill the iPad screen and the text is blurry: So before you decide to buy an iPad, I strongly suggest you go through all the apps you're counting on and make sure there are iPad-optimized versions available in the iTunes store. I find it deceptive that ALL the apps in the iTunes store say "compatible with iPad" --- many people won't realize that this just means that the iPhone apps will run in their smaller format on the iPad screen (as shown above). To find out if a particular app is iPad-optimized, make sure that the app page has screenshots of the iPad version. However, even if I knew this ahead of time, I would still have gone ahead and bought my iPad. UPDATE: Thanks to Christopher Davis for posting:

Apparently Barnes & Noble’s version of eReader will be ported, though, and (with a little work) you can load your old Fictionwise and eReader.com purchases into it. (I’m not surprised, really; they added ePub support to the B&N version but not the Fictionwise/eReader.com version…making me think that the latter is dead-ending.) The trick: put your files on a webserver somewhere (Mac OS X’s Personal Web Sharing will do nicely) and then make a page of links to them, except start the URLs with bnereader:// instead of http://. Then click on them in Mobile Safari; they’ll be loaded into the B&N eReader app.
I'm going to try this! Meanwhile, I'm use the e-reader app from Kobo, which is partnered with Chapters-Indigo. Most books at Kobo are available for Web/Mobile/epub. (Sketching on my iPad. Photo by Walter K.) USING THE IPAD AS AN EXTRA SCREEN I find that I've started using my iPad as an extra screen in my home office. I usually keep my To Do list or Calendar list open as I work, which helps keep me on track for what I want to accomplish and to keep my time priorities straight. HOW IS THE BATTERY LIFE? This is an aspect I haven't fully tested yet. I've noticed that if I'm just writing, the battery power goes down very slowly. Surfing the Web and playing games uses power more quickly. Apparently many writers have found that their iPads gave them more than the promised 10 hours on a single charge. Gizmodo drained the iPad battery in about 6 hours by alternating between streaming video and playing graphic-intensive games, with Wi-Fi on, brightness at its highest, and the speaker at its loudest setting the entire time. It takes about four hours to fully recharge. Some other questions some of you have asked... WHAT IS IT LIKE TYPING ON THE WIRELESS KEYBOARD? I haven't tried this yet, but will post about it when I do. ANY SPECIFIC DRAWBACKS OR NEED-TO-KNOWS FOR CANADIANS BUYING U.S. IPADS BEFORE THEY COME OUT HERE? Rogers has announced that it will offer iPad price plans for all models from the end of May in Canada, but hasn't yet given any numbers. The iBooks store and iPad Apps Store are not yet available to Canadians, and there's not yet any official word about when they will be available. This means that we Canucks aren't able to buy certain apps like Pages, Numbers and Scrabble, and we can't buy apps directly from our iPads. I currently buy iPad apps through my laptop from the iTunes store, then sync to my iPad. Because the iPad isn't available in Canada yet (at least I'm assuming this is the reason), the Apps part of the Canadian iTunes store still doesn't have a separate section for iPad apps, categorized by app type. As more iPad apps are added, this makes it more and more of a chore to browse iPad apps. I currently browse iPad apps by searching for the term "iPad." I also check the iPad section of AppShopper, though some of these are unavailable to Canadians. Some e-books are unavailable to Canadians, even when purchased through the Amazon Kindle shop. OUR DAUGHTER WANTS A KINDLE FOR COLLEGE. SHOULD WE INSIST ON AN IPAD INSTEAD? IT'S THE DATA PACKAGE THAT IS MAKING ME HESITATE. Hm, tough question. It depends entirely on what she wants to use it for, plus you should definitely do some data package comparisons. My experience using the Kindle is also very limited. = (Photo by Walter K.) Wow, this review is way longer than I intended. I'll continue my review after I've had a chance to use my iPad a little while longer. Feel free to post any questions you'd like me to answer next time in the comments section below. I post iPad-related comments, cartoons and info in my ipadgirl Twitter account and iPadGirl blog. Retro typewriter iPad app Above: fun retro typewriter app for the iPad. Realistic old-fashioned typwriter sounds, working carriage return, and you can e-mail the retro look typing or just the text. $1.99 in the Apps store.

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Monday
Apr192010

Better To Outline Or Not To Outline? Some Survey Responses

Outlining Addict A while back I posted a poll about whether you outlined before you started to write. 109 people responded, and 48% of you said you do use an outline. 29% said no, and 32% of you said it's too complicated for just a yes/no answer. Those who outline say it helps keep them on track as well as saving time later -- if they encounter a major plot problem, for example, it better to have to restructure an outline than have to restructure a written novel. Those who shun outlines say it's because they don't want their creativity or interest to be sapped away by writing a detailed outline. Many seem to prefer a very rough outline to give them a vague guideline about where they want their plot and characters to go, but leaving enough leeway to change their minds along the way. Thanks to everyone who responded! Here are some of your responses: Lazette Gifford: "I am a true believer in outlines. For a good many years I didn't work with them and swore I never would, but I found that once I learned the process and level of outline that works for me, I could write far more complex and coherent manuscripts. The trick, I think, is to be willing to experiment with different things. Any writer who decides there is only 'one true way' to write (or to outline) isn't open to experimentation, which I feel is a vital part of growth as a writer. I do sometimes still write 'without a net' for the fun of it, but the books inevitably need far more reworking than those where I have already worked out subplots and have a direction in which to go. Outlines are roadmaps of your story's journey. They point you in the right direction and give you points of interest to cover. They don't tell you exactly what your character is going to say and do and they don't disallow surprises, detours and side trips along the way. But even if you go off the map, so to speak, they're there to help you find your way back to a satisfying end." J.A. Marlow: "Way back when I used to be a pantser. But the stories weren't very good, and the projects wouldn't get finished. In 2007 I tried Nano for the first time, and read Lazette Giffords free Nano book with the Phase Outline. From that moment everything changed. I use different types of outlines depending on what the books need. Sometimes it's a quick phase outline of the important milestones. Sometimes it's by scene. Sometimes I take it by scene and then outline underneath each scene (I've written an article in Vision about using Scrivener to do this). I've had a 100 word outline, and outlines of 20k. The one thing I try to do, is to be flexible on the needs of each particular project. The big plus about finding outlining methods that work is that I've finished every writing project I've started. Talk about exciting!" Claudia Osmond: "I've found that when I outline it bogs me down and I think more about where I'm "supposed" to be going rather than where the story wants to take me. For me, writing is like life: no matter how much I try to plan it out, it always ends up growing legs of its own and rarely does it take the path I'd thought it should. So I've learned to live my life in wide open spaces and that just naturally spills over into my creative life as well. That's how I function best." Tabitha: "I do some freewriting first. It's usually a journal from the perspective of my main character, and she tells me her story. When that's all out (and it's usually a big ol' mess), then I take all that information and put it in order, then turn it into an outline. Then, I will start writing chapter one. :)" Katherine: "I keep wanting to outline, but every time I do, either I'm not pleased with the results, or I deviate from the outline after following it for a few points. I've tried various forms of outlining over the years, but the one I like the best is phase drafting (http://www.fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue%2015/phase.htm for details). It's a great outline style for people who hate outlining and just want to get to the story, but know they need an outline to keep it all straight. It also makes it easy to document your deviations so you can keep your plot in control." Jan Morrison says she doesn't outline because she doesn't want to know what happens next else she'll get bored and not want to write the story. "Plus how do I know what my characters are going to do before I get to know them. If I get heavy-handed with them they'll just go all bland and passive on me. I wish they wouldn't up and move to places I've never been though. That is very aggravating." Olivia: "Actually I only outline when I'm writing a police novel (or crime fiction, as you call it). When I'm writing something else, I just write. They are different processes, both work for me. The crime fiction novel needs the outline because things need to be all wrapped together and the plot must drive the reader forward. In the other stuff I write that's not the case. The reference is the characters, so usually I have a vague notion of what't going to happen with them, but I let them drive me forward as I write. :)" S J Bradley: "I don't minutely outline every single chapter, but I outline the structure of the book and its story, deciding where I will position set-pieces and character's arcs. I find it helps save time later on (in my first novel, I didn't begin by outlining, and it took me years and years of rewriting to try and put everything right. In hindsight I see that no amount of rewriting is going to put right the significant structural problems that were generated by not outlining in the first place!)" Iqra says she has all the concepts of her story in her head. "Not word-wise, but concept-wise. When I finally sit down to write the piece, I already have the main skeleton in my head, but because it's in my head, it gets modified a lot as I write it out. That's fine, because an idea has to go through a lot of edits before it makes the final cut." Rachel Starr Thomson doesn't start outlining until she's about a third of the way into the story. Story Weaver: "Outlining usually hems in my creative process and makes it impossible for me to think outside the box." Eric J. Krause: "I try not to put too much detail into my outline, as I feel that soaks up my creativity. I outline 10 key scenes first, then fill in the gaps with plenty of more scenes. I try to limit each scene so they will fit on 1 3x5 card, trying hard not to write too tiny. This keeps, in my view, the details down and ready to be mined when I actually start writing." Jordi: "I have a basic outline--I usually do some worldbuilding first, and then some basic character profiles and some of the major plot points. That's the extent of my outlining. I keep notes for other things like subplots and details on settings and the like." C.D Reimer: "For short stories that are longer than five pages, I outline the story. If I can't write from beginning to end, I usually jump around in the outline to write out whatever is easier. Revising the story is when I smooth out the bumps from the rough draft. For my first novel, I developed a broad outline to divide into parts. Each part has outlines that covers an individual chapter or an arc of chapters. I usually place fast and loose with the outline." Lisa Dale: "I never worked with an outline before; I've always maintained that I'm an organic writer (which is a nice way of saying, I wing it). But in order to sell my new (third) romance novel, I had to put a proposal together and that meant the publisher needed to know what exactly they were buying. Now, I've seen the light and plan to do more outlining as I go forward. There's a different kind of momentum now that I'm working with an outline, and I'm really digging it! Great poll! Thanks!" Shannon Morgan: "I determine my turning points and act endings for each major character, then use those to fill in the scenes between. Spreadsheets rule my outlining process. :)" Andrew Sheard: "I choose not to outline because I have a firm belief that outlines are pointless for the following reasons : * They change constantly * They rarely work for anything except short stories * They can be confining when writing * They can inhibit a character's choices * They encourage writers to "put off writing this" " They make authors feel like they've got a working novel/piece when in reality they've only got the very mortar the building blocks are made out of." Liz H Allen: "I have to outline for a novel. It allows me to weave different story lines in and out and make sure all of them are resolved. Besides, I have such a lack of concentration, I'd forget half the things I wrote without an outline. I don't outline for short stories though." Benjamin Solah: "I only outline for longer projects. Short stories I usually just spit out and rewrite until they make sense. For longer, projects I use the snowflake technique beginning with a one sentence outline, then a paragraph, then a page and expanding until I have a dot point for each scene/event and then I can begin to write." Reesha: "The initial start is pure writing with no outline where I just write whatever scene is in my head. But after that, I look at the scene, take what I have, and make an outline, deciding where the scene fits in, who's in it and why, how the characters got to that point, etc. Those are the bare bones. From there, I add character, setting, thicken the plot, add subplots, and dialogue. Somewhere along the line, I'll end up creating something that resembles half of a story bible." Susana Mai: "I'm one of those writers who feels as if the characters talk to me, and that I am merely communicating what they need to say. That doesn't mean I only sit at my desk when inspiration strikes--I force myself to write, to parse and comprehend the words, to have that natural melody flow through my fingers. That's ruined by planning. It inhibits my writing, restricts it. And though I usually have an idea of where I'm going to end up, I don't plan plotlines in the same way I don't plan certain themes. They tend to appear by themselves (likely because I have something I particularly want to express) instead of being forced down the character's throat. It makes for a little more editing in the end, but I feel like I've succeeded in obtaining that pure, free, spur-of-the-moment authentic voice." Robert Whitfield: "I use very brief outlines, a lot of my writing is short pieces, but even for longer texts I prefer to let my imagination run on the page (for want of a pretentious phrase). I like my characters to suprise me." Margaret Fisk: "I start with a synopsis of the high points and then outline one summary per scene in Excel. That way it's easy to edit or move things around." Grace: "For novels I create some character worksheets, do a brief outline of about seven points, and then I start writing. If I over-plan it saps the enthusiasm right out of me. I write the scenes in the order they occur to me, and rearrange later, which makes revisions a mess. I'm still refining my process, and I suppose I always will be." Casey Jewels: "I always had a hard time in school doing the outlines, and so I always wrote those up after I started on the essay. This is true for my fiction work as well--I can't outline. I'm a discovery writer and, while I'll have some ideas for scenes in the back of my head, I can't sit there and write down what I'm going to write about. Over the years, I've come to realize that it's because it makes the story feel too predictable. I get ideas as I write for future scenes, but I start writing anything down outline-wise and my entire story comes to a standstill." PiscesMuse: "I haven't gotten heavily into outlining. I kind of brainstorm. I think about the story I want to write. Sometimes it's an idea, sometimes it's a character, sometimes it's a scene. Sometimes I let those percolate for awhile and let them gather more ideas, other times I dive right in. But sometime after writing a bit and wondering where things are going and how things connect I will bust out a little brainstorming to give myself a plan. It's never the same and it depends on the idea I am working with." Cid: "I outline because generally I get struck with a few story elements at once or in quick succession and I need to get down on paper how they build on each other or how the climax is reached. If I don't - I ramble - a lot." Sachula: "If its going to be a big project, yes - usually. Most of my ideas start as images, scenes, or bits of dialog between random characters. I will write a few of these down, and if the ideas continue, I will attempt to piece together an outline from that." Jessica: "I outline a little before I begin writing. The beginning of my outline is a way for me to get my ideas together, where I want the story to start, etc. I'll outline throughout the whole writing process. I'll write the beginning that I've outlined, then outline the next few chapters, write those chapters, outline the next few, and so on. I do this because I never really know exactly where my story is going to end up going. I always know how I want to story to begin, where I want to be around the middle, and how I want it to end. But all the meat in between those is always changing and evolving, so I don't like to do a whole lot of outlining at once and have the story in up in a completely different place and then have to redo my entire outline." Justina Clayburn: "Most of the time I have a story idea in my head for quite a while before I start writing. Also, sometimes in order to get myself to the end I outline so that I can remind myself where I'm going and that it won't take *that* long to get there." Melissa Banigan: "I generally make a rough outline so that I can see if my project is fully-conceived/realistic. Often, I think I have a complete story, but find through the processes of writing an outline that I have somehow tried to get from A to C without including B. Sometimes I can fix the problems, sometimes not, but by writing even a loose outline, I can save myself months of hard work (only to find that the project is ridiculous)." Nancy Kelly Allen: "I do a informal paragraph-style outline for picture and chapter books." 52 Faces: "I'm a pantzer (wth is it spelled like that? It makes me feel like a reindeer.) It might come from my background as an actor and playwright, when I had to come up with character backgrounds very quickly. I have an easier time getting into a character by speaking in their voice (to date I've only written one novel not in first person narrative) for a while and they'll tell me what I need to know. The plot comes from there." Meg: "If I don't outline, the story gets stuck in my head, I blank on where to go next, characters come and die in corners because I forgot to feed them, there is absolutely no sane worldbuilding, rocks fall and everyone dies. If I outline, I get bored with the story and wander off in search of something shiny. Or flail about complaining that the story is too simple, what am I doing with that character, this theme is shallow, should this scene go first or second, oh woe, oh woe. So...I have the most success with smashing out everything in my head onto the paper, every teeny-tiny piece of dialogue or plot point, and going back over the draft 9-10 (or triple that) times adding story and editing. Most of the research gets done as I need to fact check. Would this count as a really thorough outline with many, many gaps? It's horrifically slow, but I've just come to accept that my brain has complicated needs." Ieva: "My main trouble with outlining is that once I "know" what's supposed to be in a scene, it gets boring and I either become blocked, or write something totally different. I've developed several other intuitive methods for supplying creativity for everyday writing. (NaNoWriMo is an exception, I try to outline for those.)" Ceri: "I didn't used to do this at all. I would have a rough idea of either the characters or a piece of plot, and I'd just start writing from there. And I never finished anything. I never knew how the stories were going to end, or even how they were going to begin or progress. I have stories that are around 70 000 words but haven't been finished and storywise are still in midwayish places. I still have no idea how they should end. I've just kept on writing because of that. Now I started my newest project by outlining it. I did specific character sheets, and place sheets as well. I have two notebooks worth of pure planning, and I knew from the beginning how my story was going to end. _Still_, things can always change. The characters changed a little all the time. One of them, who was originally a very confident person, became a person with no self confidence whatsoever. She was down all the time and she ended up in the hospital. None of that was planned. Also, the ending changed radically. The ending I originally planned did happen, but the story went on from there, after I'd carefully planned the latter part of the story. What I'm trying to say is, everything is subject to change. The characters live their own lives, and the story evolves around them. I usually write down the main plotline and then some minor plotlines or twists to keep it interesting. The rest is up to the characters, and I've had a couple of great minor plotlines evolve while writing the story." Grace Bridges: "Snowflake Method - but not all of the steps. I leave out the ones involving character development and focus on plot." Eliza: "I do some general outlining, like major plot points. And if I get stuck, I will outline the next few scenes to get the juices flowing again. I like to have the ending in mind when I start writing the book, but putting every scene down feels tedious and unnecessary." C. Clark: "I've written with and without outlines and I've come to find that having an outline works for me as a writer. I can easily change things in an outline (shuffle scenes and the like) rather then changing thousands (or more) words in a novel." Marta: "Even in high school where teachers made us outline, I couldn't do it. Or at least I couldn't do it well. Outlines make me feel that I'm forcing the story to be something it may not want to be. I want the freedom to discover the story, and, honestly, if I spend a lot of time on the outline, I no longer feel the desire to write the story. I don't start stories with endings in mind. I start with one image and see where is goes." Sandra Gulland: "For my 5th novel, the novel I'm writing now, I made a serious outline — that is, 40 pages — and took it through 3 drafts. It took me 8 years to write my last novel, and over 1/3 of it was scrapped: I didn't want to go up so many dead ends this time. I was inspired by Robert Olen Butler's "From Where You Dream": Chapter 5, "A Writer Prepares." This is scene-outlining, which you've mentioned before on this blog. The outline is not descriptive, but imaginative: I think of the outline as an imaginative first draft. I'm pleased with the method." Marisa: "I outline to death. First the entire book, then each chapter individually. And when I really need to kill time, I outline each scene, too. By then I'm usually too exhausted to actually write..."

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Monday
Apr192010

Weekly Wordcount Check-in: 250, 500, 1000 words/day

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

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Sunday
Apr182010

My Fictionwise e-book woes continue...

Giving up on having an iPad version of eReader, I'm checking out Stanza, but customer support does not seem to be replying to questions on the topic: Meanwhile, I also tried getting versions of the e-books I purchased on Fictionwise onto my iPad to read through the iPhone app versions of eReader or Stanza...but am encountering problems. I'm getting the following error when I try downloading many of the titles in my Fictionwise library: "EBOOK DOWNLOAD: Territory not authorized. You are attempting to download an e-book that has territorial restrictions and it appears that you are in a country that is not authorized. Please contact the website you purchased this e-book from to determine if an error in processing has occurred. We apologize for the inconvenience." Argh. I had already come across this sort of problem when attempting to buy certain e-books that are available in the U.S. but not Canada, but never AFTER I had paid for them. I tried to re-download the e-books from my iPhone and got the same error, so this problem isn't because of my iPad but rather because of something changing with the book permissions. I've written to Fictionwise customer support. Hopefully I'll get a more helpful answer than I did to my last query. Sigh.

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Saturday
Apr172010

Fictionwise eReader Not Supporting iPad

I recently wrote the following to Customer Support at Fictionwise:

I'm a longtime customer of Fictionwise and I recently bought an iPad. All my ebooks from Fictionwise, however, are in the "recommended format" e.g. Secure eReader, but reading these ebooks on my iPad means I either have to read them iPhone size (too small for the iPad screen) OR blurry (increased to fill the size of the iPad screen). Do you plan to develop an iPad version of eReader? If not, I regret that I'm not going to be making any further purchases from Fictionwise. Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Their reply:
Hi, Currently at this time, there are no plans to update the iPhone eReader app for iPad. Thanks! Best Regards, Linda Fictionwise Support Team
Not happy about this, nor with Fictionwise's uninformative form letter response.

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Monday
Apr122010

Weekly Wordcount Check-in: 250, 500, 1000 wds/day

Ok, I had a total #fail when it came to writing during my vacation. I got frustrated at first but then just decided to let it go so I could actually enjoy the vacation. It was hard to explain the frustration to non-writers. It wasn't that I felt OBLIGATED to write...I WANTED to write. Not being able to write some days was like not drinking water. But now I'm super-motivated, and I figure that's only a good thing.

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

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Monday
Apr052010

Weekly Wordcount Check-in: 250, 500, 1000 wds/day

I'm out of town right now with sporadic online access, so won't be posting much in Inkgirl this week. But I'm still going to try to get in my daily wordcount, dangit! I'm also going to experiment with doing some of this writing on my new iPad.

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

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Wednesday
Mar312010

Old typewriters as mechanical art

The Copywriter Underground has a great post about how clunky manual typewriters have undergone a transformation.

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Wednesday
Mar312010

Three more days until I pick up my iPad

My husband was kind enough to give me an iPad for my birthday on Monday, and I'm picking it up on Saturday. Here's what I feel like.

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Tuesday
Mar302010

My Life In A Nutshell updated

For those interested, I've updated My Life Life In A Nutshell with an iPad paranoia comic. :-)

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Monday
Mar292010

100 Pages in 30 Days: Script Frenzy!

Only a couple of days left for you to sign up for Script Frenzy. From the site's About page:

Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants take on the challenge of writing 100 pages of scripted material in the month of April. As part of a donation-funded nonprofit, Script Frenzy charges no fee to participate; there are also no valuable prizes awarded or "best" scripts singled out. Every writer who completes the goal of 100 pages is victorious and awe-inspiring and will receive a handsome Script Frenzy Winner's Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact.
What I hadn't realized until recently: in addition to screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, and short films, Script Frenzy also includes graphic novels. Hm. I'm SO tempted. I've just started work on a cartoon-heavy novel for middle grade readers which is a sort of "Diary Of A Wimpy Kid meets Captain Underpants." Right now I'm focusing on the script, with very rough sketches of the graphics. Unlike NaNoWriMo, Script Frenzy doesn't include a wordcount and also doesn't require you to start from scratch. My novel isn't in comic book format all the way through, which is why I'm still calling it a novel. However, there are going to be a LOT of mini-comic strips and fun graphic elements throughout, which is why I would be relying on scriptwriting format just as much as regular manuscript format. What about the rest of you? Are you planning to do Script Frenzy?

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Monday
Mar292010

Weekly Wordcount Check-in: 250, 500, 1000 wds/day

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

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Saturday
Mar272010

Seven more days

7 more days until I pick up my iPad. Thanks to Susan Pigott for pointing out this gorgeous Vaja cases for the iPad. I especially love the one that looks like a Moleskine. To avoid overloading those of you who aren't iPad fans, I've been pouring most of my iPad obsessings into my @iPadGirl Twitter account and iPad Girl blog, so feel free to follow me there.

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Thursday
Mar252010

Comics for writers: Bo's Cafe Life

For those who enjoy comics focused on the writing life: check out Wayne Pollard's Bo's Cafe Life, which follows the adventures of Bo, an aspiring novelist. Thanks to Wayne for giving me permission to post the comic above!

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Wednesday
Mar242010

YA Author Rock Band: Tiger Beat

The members of Tiger Beat (I remember reading Tiger Beat magazine when I was a teen!) are all YA (Young Adult) authors, and they apparently rocked the house at Books of Wonder during a Sourcebooks launch party. From Mediabistro:

Libba Bray wailed on vocals, Daniel Ehrenhaft played guitar, Natalie Standiford played bass, and Barney Miller handled drums. The band headlined the launch party for Sourcebooks Fire, the publisher's brand new YA imprint. GalleyCat missed the party, but Sourcebooks passed along the excellent video.
Too bad the sound isn't clear enough to hear all the lyrics. I'll have to check to see if any of the band members have posted the lyrics online.

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Monday
Mar222010

Weekly Wordcount Check-in: 250, 500, 1000 wds/day

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

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Friday
Mar192010

"Motion magazine" demo on iPad

VIV Mag Interactive Feature Spread - iPad Demo from Alexx Henry on Vimeo.

14 days until I pick up my iPad. Not that I'm counting or anything, of course. Anyway, thanks to James Huskins (@groovymystery on Twitter) for pointing me to the demo above, which was included in an AppleInsider article. And so now I'm even MORE excited about the iPad's potential, and look forward to seeing how book and magazine publishers take advantage of colour tablet devices like the iPad.

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