Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Writers often hear the advice, "Never, ever throw anything away!" I agree, and wanted to share a little bit about how I've reduced, reused, and recycled things from a writing perspective:

-In 2007, a nonfiction article I wrote about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was in Spider magazine. I had plenty of research on the topic, and decided to try my hand at writing an historical fiction picture book about the same subject. I'm proud of the story that resulted and feel like it has a really good chance at someday being in the hands of a reader! My critique group partner, Rae Ann Parker, has recently done this same thing with her research on the Natchez Trace. RRR Lesson: use your research for more than one project.
-Also regarding Spider magazine, they once asked me to take a few characters I'd created and write several additional short stories with thoughts of possibly turning it into a book. While the book didn't pan out, they did end up buying several more of the stories, and Iggy and Sal, Pest Detectives, will appear in three issues in 2010! Yay! RRR Lesson: Good characters = series/serial potential.
-While I was writing SELLING HOPE (due next fall from Feiwel & Friends - yip!), I came up with a character named Glory. I fell in love with her - she's a special needs character who doesn't think twice about telling you The Truth As Glory Sees It. But she wasn't right for SELLING HOPE. So instead, I moved her to a WIP, an early middle grade mystery in which she became the protagonist's next door neighbor. The perfect fit! RRR Lesson: Good characters can find a home in a number of stories.
-I've had this metaphor stuck in my head since I wrote it in a journal in college (!) : two people who, like jigsaw puzzle pieces, seem to fit together perfectly at first, but then when you hold them up to scrutiny, you see that there are gaps where they don't meet and spots where the fit is simply too tight. (Too, pieces forced together like that are difficult to pry apart.) I've never been able to use it in a story, but while researching my latest MG novel set on Route 66, I've discovered that a popular tourist spot is a jigsaw puzzle factory! Maybe this one will finally make the cut! RRR Lesson: There is a time and a place for EVERY chunk of your writing.
-Blog posts seem like they would find a great home again in an SCBWI regional newsletter, or your church bulletin, or your alumni publications. RRR Lesson: Shop your words and see if you can build a larger readership.

So, you tell me: have you ever recycled your writing/research/characters? If so, how?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fifty for Friends of the Smokies!

First, a big THANK YOU to everyone who commented on the post below; there were 39 valid comments (and one not-so-valid comment that has since been deleted!). I've decided to round up the dollar-per-comment total to an even $50 to Friends of the Smokies. Again, thanks for the thoughts/cheers/overall great vibes. I am blessed.

And, a thought for the Mad Men fans out there: as the characters on this amazingly written show demonstrate, everyone is a mixture of good and bad. In order to keep us rooting for these characters, we have to see more good than bad. But in order to keep watchers watching (or, in our case, readers reading), there HAS to be plenty of (believable!) bad. It's hard to get those good characters into tight spots, but we have to do that - get them dirty, have them make horrible, questionable choices, have us wonder how they can get out of these scrapes with dignity, grace, and above all, hope. Your characters have bad traits, just like every other person in the world. So, what are they? Do dish! ;-)