Tag Archives: author

A Divergence Test For Writers (Inspired by the book Outliers)

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Happy New Year! I hope each and every one of you see success and productivity in 2013. May you write many words, imagine great stories and read tons of books.

Currently, I am reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a story about success. I’m very interested in the facts Malcolm shares about the world’s most successful people. There are so many things that contribute to a person becoming successful and to be honest it’s simply fascinating. Yes, hard work is at the center (according to his findings it takes about 10,000 hours to achieve success) but so many other things come into play as well, such as birthdays, geographic locations, opportunities and sometimes being in the right place at the right time.

I stumbled upon a chapter in the book that made me think blog post. The section talks about geniuses and the studies done on groups, scholars thought or claimed to be the most intelligent. A test given to them is called the “Divergence test.”  My interest was piqued when Malcolm explained that this type of test requires you to use your imagination. Perfect for writers, right?

So, let’s do it together (the sample he gave) and see what different types of answers we can come up with. Below you will find two words. The book says write as many different uses you can think of for each item, but for this post I will say five. Don’t read my answers until you come up with yours, then let’s compare. Okay, Ready, Set, Go! Be sure to use your imagination, don’t just write the obvious.

1. Brick
2. Blanket

Look over your answers, can you use any of them for a story you are writing? What do you know, this just became a writing exercise.

Here is what I came up with for Brick.

1. Build a House (my obvious answer)
2. Protection (A brick can do some serious damage)
3. Book Ends (Why not?)
4. Use to jump over when running an obstacle course (Be sure to be careful if doing so)
5. If you have a window that won’t stay up on its own, a brick can be used to help prop it up.
6. To stand on if extra height is needed. (I know I said five but I couldn’t help myself)

7. A planter (Yes, I’ve seen it done on Pinterest)

 

Here is what I came up with for Blanket

1. To cover yourself for warmth (my obvious answer)
2. To use as a roof when making a fort (my children do this all of the time)
3. To cushion something if transporting (if you are traveling, you can wrap a blanket around something fragile)
4. To cover a window (think college students)
5. To spread out on the ground while picnicking or a beach while sunbathing
6. To cover a body (Some of us write crime novels right?)

Okay, how did we compare. Now look over my answers and your answers. Can you use them in your story? Perhaps the eccentric neighbor invites you in for a cup of coffee and you notice she uses painted bricks as book ends. You get the idea. I love being inspired, and this book and the test listed in the book did exactly that. I hope I have inspired you today and would love if you list your answers in the comment section. I’m super curious to know what you come up with.

Happy Writing!

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Filed under Inspirational, Uncategorized, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing

Could You, Would You, Be Anonymous?

Back when I was a young girl in elementary school a teacher read a story to our class. I can’t tell you what the name of the story was or the title, but I never forgot the author. “The author of this story is Anonymous,” she said. “Does anyone know what anonymous means?” she asked as she wrote the word in big letters across the chalkboard.

I sat there trying to properly pronounce the word in my mind, curious of whom this Anonymous person was. It was a peculiar name, one I’d never heard, or could barely pronounce. “Anonymous, means unknown,” she explained.

My heart sunk as I tried to process the explanation. How can’t they know who wrote this? I wondered. I had so many questions that I didn’t ask. Like, how was the story found? Did the person regret not letting the world know their name? Why is their identity a secret?

I still find myself asking those same questions every time I see the author listed as Anonymous. This past summer, I read the book Go Ask Alice. I think the fact that the author was Anonymous had a lot to do with the purchase.
I always wanted to come across one of these anonymous authors and pick their brains. In an industry where most of us collect rejections, it seems impossible that a nameless, faceless author would become published, but yet they do. And what is their process? Do they submit just like us? Does someone stumble upon their work, and then take the time to query work that isn’t even theirs? Who gets paid?

I understand someone may choose to be listed as anonymous if a book they are writing may stir up controversy, but what about a poem or a quote? How do these become known and then published. We as writers list quotes everyday on sites such as Twitter or Facebook. Is it possible that one day we will read a quote listed as Anonymous and know it was ours?
Having said all of that, I also want to make it known I always admired Anonymous writers and often asked myself this question, “Could you be Anonymous? Would you be Anonymous?” I never replied with a straight answer. I’d like to think I could but then I say nah probably not. But, I learned a long time ago never say never. Could you be anonymous? Would you be anonymous?

5 Famous Writings by Anonymous Authors
1. Beowulf
2. Arabian Nights: Tales From One Thousand and One Nights
3. (Quote) Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow
4. Go Ask Alice
5. The Book With No Name

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Filed under Fiction, story telling, writer's life, writing, Writing

If My Book Were A Song

You hear a song for the first time and think, I don’t like this song. You hear it a second time and think, I still don’t like it but I don’t hate it as much as I did the first time I heard it. It plays again and you say to yourself, “Hmm, I’m actually starting to like this song.” By the tenth or so time, you are starting to turn it up. Maybe, you’re even singing the catchy verse that repeats throughout, but still you are not listening to it. Then one day, you stop listening to the music and begin listening to the lyrics and realize the story behind this song is awesome.
Songs have an advantage that books do not. Wouldn’t it be nice, if author’s books got played over and over again until people had no choice but to sit up and listen to the story being told? Yeah, that’s not going to happen which is why it is so important authors engage the reader from the get go. I am currently writing a book that I truly am in love with. I really feel like I have thought outside of the box and created a world that is mine alone. But, if I don’t nail the beginning, I may never get anyone to explore the world that lies deep within the pages. There is no tune that will prelude my words, no beat that will beckon someone’s attention and no melody that will drive the emotion. There are only words, words written by an author wanting to tell a story that someone will remember as good as they remember a favorite song.

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Filed under constructing, novel, story writing, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing, Young Adult

From Gold to Junk

 

My father and mother loved garage sales. Each Saturday morning they would wake up very early, outline the sales in the newspaper and drive around looking for treasures. Their idea of treasures differed. My mother loved to find costume jewelry, purses with tags still on them, kitchen supplies and sealed makeup. My father’s idea of a treasure was a first print edition, a series of books or a signed copy. He hunted for books so he could sell them on ebay. Once, he made a four hundred dollar profit and was ecstatic.

Their love of garage sales rubbed off on me. I liked finding high ticket items for pennies. If my father were alive he would be disappointed in me today. He would ask me “Why didn’t you look inside?” The same question I have been asking myself for the last week.

A year ago, I wondered into the giant flea market at our church bazaar. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I, like my mother would go directly to the jewelry, hoping to find a unique piece. I skimmed over the bangles, earrings and plastic necklaces but found nothing. I searched the purses, glanced over home decorations but wasn’t impressed.

I ended my visit to the flea market by rummaging through a mound of books. I wasn’t looking to find a first print or a signed copy. I only wanted something to read. After tucking a few under my arm an author’s name jumped out at me. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Piccoult rested atop the literary mountain. I snatched up the book made my purchase and went on my merry way. When I arrived home, I placed the book on the lower shelf of my bookcase and thought, I will read it soon. I wasn’t expecting to receive the Kindle as a gift which meant for a while the hard covered books nestled on my shelf would take a back seat.

It’s a year later, my Kindle is broke, we got a new puppy (Edgar Allen Pug) and I feel like throwing up.

Edgar has a thing for wood, feet, blankets and books. Last week he pulled The Tenth Circle from the bottom shelf and ripped the cover off. Ugh, I thought looking at the strips of book cover lying on the floor besides my shelf. The next day I found the book lying on the floor again. This time the edges were chewed. Puppies, I thought. I might as well read it, I thought again. I curled up on the couch opened the book and wanted to cry. For a year, I had a mint condition signed book by Jodi Piccoult and I had no idea. What’s worse is I am a writer, I should have thought to look.

Do you think if I wrote to Jodi and said my dog ate your book she’d give me a new one? 🙂

Surely, my father was looking down from somewhere shaking his head saying “Didn’t I teach you anything? The first thing you do when you get a book at a yard sale or flea market is check to see if it is signed.”

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Filed under books, editing, emotions, Giveaway, random, Uncategorized, writer's life, writers, Writing, Young Adult

Querying?

You finished your manuscript, hooray! The hard part is over right? Don’t be so sure. The querying process can be discouraging, but luckily there are a few great sites out there that will help walk you through it. By visiting these sites and learning how to master query writing, I have gained more requests and less denials. Receiving a request for a partial or full manuscript is one of the most exhilarating moments for a writer. I have received requests that were later denied but I know thanks to everything I learned from the sites I am about to list, I got a little closer to my dream becoming a reality.
Good luck querying. You never know when your query will end up at the right place at the right time.

Literary Rambles-Spotlighting Children’s Book Authors, Agents, and Publishing. Casey McCormick does a great job with her blog. I have used her blog most often when querying. I love reading the agent interviews. At the end of each interview she lists what genre the agents are willing to represent, what their yearly sales have been and how other writers feel about them as agents.

Guide to Literary Agents Blog. This writer’s digest blog hosted by Chuck Sambuchino is inspiring and informative. Chuck features new agent alerts, agent interviews and agency news. When I want to be inspired, I read his successful queries posts. The post lists actual queries that earned writers their agents. At the end of the queries, he interviews the agents and asks them what about the particular query grabbed their attention.

Miss Snarks First Victim Another great blog for writers. Miss Snark offers advice to writers, critiques query letters and partial manuscripts. She is visited by anonymous agents who also offer their help. You will also find lots of fun contests on her blog.


Agent Query
– For seven years in a row, this site has been recognized by Writer’s Digest to be one of the best websites for writers. This free site offers a ton of information. You will find informative pieces, searchable databases, agency profiles, publishing news and e-publishing help. If you have not visited this site, race over now.

Query Tracker This fabulous site allows you to organize and track your query submissions. It also offers agent statistics, comments from others who have or are in the process of querying and an online community. They also have a category dedicated to the top ten. You will discover which agents are most likely to request, which ones are known for not responding and who are the hardest ones to land.

Query Shark– A blog offering help for fiction queries. All queries must be submitted to the Query Shark for consideration. If your query is chosen, The Query Shark may offer a critique and instructions on how to make it stronger. Reading the revised queries are great for inspiration. You are also allowed to offer comments.

What sites or materials do you refer to when writing a Query letter?

 

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Filed under character building, query, writer's life, writers, Writing

Perseverance

If you really want your writing to become something then you have no choice but to persevere. When I began writing, I thought, How hard can this be? Write a few stories, submit to some major publishing houses and instantly become discovered. Ten years later, I look back at my younger self and think, Wow are you naïve. Sure, a few things happened early on that made me think no sweat, but the prize I’m searching for has not yet been found.
I am proud of the recognitions I have received along the way but I still have hopes for more. The goal at this point in my life is to land an agent and see my manuscripts in print. Currently, I have possibilities which completely excite me but if for whatever reason they get denied, I plan on persevering.

For today’s a to z challenge I have decided to list a few of my favorite perseverance quotes. Which was one is your favorite? Do you have one you would like to share?

• “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Walter Elliott

• “All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man has taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

• “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful men keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” Conrad Hilton

• “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.” [Proverbs 24:16] Bible

• “In order to get from what was to what will be, you must go through what is.” Anonymous

• “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” General Dwight Eisenhower

• “Don’t let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was.” Richard L. Evans

• “Perseverance is a positive, active characteristic. It is not idly, passively waiting and hoping for some good thing to happen. It gives us hope by helping us realize that the righteous suffer no failure except in giving up and no longer trying. We must never give up, regardless of temptations, frustrations, disappointments, or discouragements.” Joseph P. Wirthlin

• “Defeat is simply a signal to press onward.” Helen Keller

• You may not receive what you hope for today, but tomorrow may bring the reward you weren’t expecting. Keep writing for tomorrow because it will eventually come. Maribeth Graham (aka me)

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Filed under books, Inspirational, life, rejections, story writing, writer's life, writers, Writing

Obstacle Course For Writers

I’m sure you have done an obstacle course at least once in your lifetime. An obstacle course is defined as a series of challenging physical obstacles an individual or team must perform while being timed.
Today, I present to you an obstacle course for writers. It will be more mentally challenging than physical but you might find it effective. Instead of racing to get done within seconds or minutes, you will be allowed hours, let’s say three to be exact.
Each task will be allotted a time slot of one half hour. I’m sure you will find that in some cases a half hour is not enough but that is what a challenge is all about.
This course will involve reading, brainstorming, writing, editing, visiting and platform building.

Ready, Set, Go!

First 30 Minutes- Read– You can choose to read anything, a favorite book, the newspaper, a magazine (save blogs for later when visiting). Reading for thirty minutes will jump start your brain and hopefully inspire you to write something of your own

Second 30 Minutes-Brainstorm- Start jotting down anything that comes to mind. Random thoughts can become great pieces of work. Write down story ideas, blog topics, favorite words, character descriptions or outlines. Write whatever comes to mind.

Third 30 Minutes- Write- Writing will be different from brainstorming. Now you are going to take those ideas and turn them into something. A half hour is plenty enough time to write a rough draft for a blog, start a new paragraph for an existing manuscript or outline an idea that’s been walking around your mind.

Fourth 30 Minutes- Edit- Take this thirty minutes to edit something entirely different from what you just wrote about. Pull up something that has been sitting in a desk. Looking at it with fresh eyes will allow you to discover errors. Are you in a critique group? This would be a great time to edit a fellow writers work.

Fifth 30 Minutes-Visit– Take a break and surf the web. Stop by your favorite blogs to say hello. Visit an author’s page and let them know what a great job they are doing. Pop into a writer’s chat room and join the conversation.

Sixth 30 Minutes- Platform Building -Now it’s time to get your name out there. Head on over to Twitter and tweet some thoughts. Check your facebook page to see if you can add any updates. Join writer groups. Get yourself known.

Three hours might sound like a long time, but I assure you they will fly by. This obstacle course is sure to exercise your mind.
Is there anything else you would include?

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Filed under audience, books, random, story writing, Uncategorized, writer's life, writing, Writing

COMING TOGETHER

There is something that happens when a writer writes that I like to call Coming Together. It’s the moments when our internal light bulbs click on. It’s the point where the unknown becomes the obvious. Have you ever had an idea but couldn’t imagine what it would become or what story it would end up telling?

You develop a plot, create characters and build settings, but the pieces to your writing puzzle are scattered. Eventually, somehow, they will all fit together.
In my middle-grade novel (it’s currently out on submission) I created a character who rode a bike with a horn. The character is not a child but an older man. At the time, I had no idea why he insisted on attaching a childlike horn to his bike and to be honest I didn’t care. I just knew he did. I don’t think I ever intended on exploring the reason behind it until the reason presented itself and suddenly I became giddy. It’s as if someone gave me a pertinent piece, I had no idea was missing. My story was coming together in a way I never imagined it would have.

I have learned to stop worrying about what will be and just let it be. When reading books, I find myself questioning whether I’m at a point in someone else’s book that was one of their aha moments. One that comes to mind is Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (if you have not read it, be advised I’m about to reveal a spoiler). It’s the scene where Katniss and her squad are sharing a laugh at Mitchell’s attempt to show desperation-(they are supposed to be acting, and their lack of acting skills sends them into hysteria). I can still remember the smile on my face contorting into an opened gasp when a few sentences later Boggs steps back so he can find the best light for the Holo and triggers a bomb which ends up killing him). I remember thinking, did she know she was going to do this or is it something that in the midst of a fun scene just showed up? I’d probably have to ask Suzanne directly to find the answer but I imagined her tapping at a keyboard when the realization set in that this scene required tragedy.

Writing is an unraveling of the mind. Sometimes the idea never comes together they way we imagined. But, the times they do, make doing what we do worth every word.

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Filed under character, character building, constructing, story telling, writer's life, writers, Writing

BELIEVE

Often, when I do interviews for my blog I end with asking the author if they have a favorite word. Today’s blogging letter is B which also happens to be the first letter of my favorite word.
I don’t have any tattoos, but if I ever dared to get one it would be the word Believe. In my opinion, it’s one of the most powerful words out there.
As writers we need to cherish this word and hold onto it in order to keep pushing forward. If we didn’t believe that our writing served a purpose, I’m not sure we’d keep doing it.
There are so many things I believe that you may not and that’s okay. I “believe” we are all entitled to our own beliefs.

A few things I believe in today are.

1. I believe with God all things are possible
2. I believe in symbolism. I enjoy incorporating it into my written work. Even if no one recognizes it as symbolism, I know it’s there
3. I believe that I was born to be a writer
4. I believe that my dreams will come true one day
5. I believe that life is a journey and writers help others see the beauty within their own journey
6. I believe that every rejection we receive is a medal of courage and they should be cherished
7. I believe in signs and try to recognize them when they appear

8. I believe that just like others are meant to be in my life, I’m meant to be in others as well

9. I believe dreams can sometimes bring messages

10. I believe that creative minds can create messy people. (I like to say I’m organized in a disorganized way.

I can ramble on and on about what I believe but I think above should suffice. I’d love to hear what you believe. By the way, what is your favorite word?

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Filed under creating, dreaming, story telling, Uncategorized, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing

Coming Soon To My Blog

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I might be biting off more than I can chew but I just committed myself to The A to Z April blog writing challenge for the month of April. When it comes to writing, my blog is always what ends up suffering. I need this discipline. I hope I don’t disappoint anyone. Wish me luck.

See you Monday.

Want to take a stab at it with me? Go to their site and sign up.

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/?spref=tw

(I aplologize, I’m having difficulty with their blog address posting to my site. Instead of clicking on it, you can try the old fashioned way and type it in your search engine.)

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Filed under creating, Inspirational, writer's life, writers, Writing