Stick Figures

End of Summer Reflection

imageDid you accomplish everything you wanted to this summer?  We technically have a few weeks until the end of the season, but as August closes, many of us come to the end of a significant chunk of time we spend reading, writing, and relaxing with our families.

This summer was incredible for me for several reasons–the top being that I attended my first RWA Conference!  I finaled in my first writing contest: the Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers with my YA time slip romance, STARCHILD.  I took road trips, caught up with family, and read, read, read.

I also completed another manuscript and began revising it with my critique group.  The new baby’s working title is BENEATH US.  This YA paranormal is as strange as anything else I’ve written (no vampires, werewolves, or “normal” paranormal here), but I’m going to hold off on specific details for now.  I used Scrivener to reverse engineer BENEATH US, strengthen, and rewrite it.  I’m feeling very good about it now. 🙂

During the conference, I connected with new writers, have been communicating with some of them online, and have been checking out their social media.  I learned from YA and adult romance author Marty Mayberry about Pitch Wars which I plan on participating in during their next run.  She’s a Pitch Wars mentor and it seems like an incredible program!  Contemporary romance author Aly Grady clued me in about Pitch Madness which begins on September 10th.  This is a twitter pitch session which lasts the entire day.  I’m getting my 140 character pitches ready for that now.  So excited!

How about you?  How did your summer go?  What are you up to now?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

RWA Conference in NYC Blew My Mind!

imageReally, there is nothing like writing romance.  To be in a hotel full of people who are happiest when writing about love (and whose sense of humor reflects that) was truly something.  During this year’s RWA Nationals, I felt like I had come home. 🙂

Every writer’s experience at Nationals was a little different since we’re all in a difference place on our career track.  My goals for the conference were to meet and socialize with a ton of new writers (check!), take as many workshops as I could on craft and career (check!), and pitch the book of my heart (check!).

I made it a goal that in every workshop I attended, every breakfast I went to, and every granola bar “lunch” I ate while camping on the carpet in the sci fi elevator atrium, I introduced myself to another writer.  It was exciting to hear so many different writers’ stories, what they wrote, why they wrote it, and what they were seeking to achieve by attending the conference.  Allie Burton and Vanessa Barneveld, were YA authors whose books I read right before the conference, and it was a blast to go complete fan girl on them!

Many of the workshops I attended answered burning questions I had about the industry and traditional publication.  A common theme I picked up from several workshops was that series sell.  Readers who trust you as an author are excited to read the next book, and they want that title fast.  Authors who spend a lot of time constructing a story world find it easier to put out several books in that same universe than to start over in their very next piece, constructing a new world.  This got me rethinking how I write.  I prefer writing stand alones, but I can see myself writing a series that takes place in the same universe given each book contains its own hero and heroine and that plot stands strongly on its own.  I’m actually getting really excited about the prospect of writing a series and have begun toying with ideas for sequels to the manuscripts I’m currently working on.

Something that crystallized for me during the conference as a writer of YA is the difference in marketing and audience between YA romance and adult romance.  Many presenters touched on what sells and how to connect with an audience using social media, but what was said was generally understood to apply to adult romance and did, at times, directly conflict with what works for YA.  For this reason, I was very excited to attend the young adult chapter’s Evening of YA event.

During the event, I was very lucky to sit with some new friends I’d met at the conference as well as an agent and an editor.  The night included an agent/editor panel that reflected on changes and trends in the industry–focusing specifically on YA romance.  Next came an author’s panel to discuss their own take on the industry and what made their books successful.  What stuck with me from the author’s panel was how dedicated those authors were to their audience, connecting through social media, speaking with readers at signings and school visits, and–some of them–changing the lives of their readers through the messages contained in their stories.

It’s been a few weeks since I jumped back on the train with an arm load of books and a head full of ideas, but I’m still thinking back to specific workshops or conversations and having hmmmmm moments.  In general, I feel like I’m standing on more solid ground–that the decisions I make from here on out will help me to writer smarter, and I hope to keep up with a lot of the writers I met chillin’ in that arctic AC.  My husband doesn’t know it yet, but I’m totally going to next year’s conference.  Here’s to San Diego 2016!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Woot–I’m a Finalist in the 2015 Orange Rose Contest!

imageI’m taking a break from doing the Charleston to write this.  Just a few minutes ago, I found out I finaled in the 2015 Orange Rose Contest for Unpubilished Writers!  I tied for third in the YA category for my time slip romance, STARCHILD.  This is the first time I’ve ever finaled in a writing contest–so exciting!!

Stick Figures

The Other Voices in the Pages

imageIn the midst of reading a book, have you ever had a sticky question that threatens to open a sizable plot hole, and a sentence later, it’s answered?  Not only that, but it’s answered neatly and maybe even humorously with a self-deprecating quip or ironic jab at the character’s situation?

When I used to read question-squashing sentences like these, I used to think Oh, look how bright the author is–anticipating the reader’s question like that!  More often now I think, Oh, guess somebody caught that hole for the author.  How neatly plugged it is! 

Critiquing text and having it critiqued by others changes the way one experiences text.  I no longer read a book as once voice but detect the underlying voices–the minds of the critique partners, beta readers, editors, and others who contributed to the final piece.

It takes me out of the text a bit at times, but it is also fun to imagine what comments incited these question-squashing sentences.  Perhaps a critique partner’s well-meaning sarcasm was used almost directly in a revision.  At times, I detect the author’s frustration in adding text they’d rather not, sure they’d answered a question somewhere else, but the reader still isn’t getting it–argh!

Shout out if you find these moments in the books you read!  Do you hear the other voices??

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

To Scrivener or Not to Scrivener?

imageWhat are your thoughts on this software?  I’d love to hear them along with any advice you can offer!

I just started using Scrivener because getting organized wasn’t a problem–it was maintaining organization once I started changing things in my manuscript.

I am a plotter who turns into a pantser about half way through my first draft.  This is fine.  In fact, I know a lot of writers who think a mix of plotting and pantsing is the bee’s knees.  What’s not fine is failing to go back and change my supporting documents.  I typically have notes across several notebooks, index cards, Word documents, and on stray bits of paper I reach for blindly in a writing haze.  If I made changes to the plot or characters, there would be no way I could find those original documents.  I was trying to hold it all in my head.

I’m doing my best here not to sound like a commercial for Scrivener, so I’ll keep it brief.  The thing does what it’s meant to do–help me organize and stay that way. I won’t lose characters halfway through the book by confusing their major goal or struggle to invent new reasons for characters to complete actions that don’t make sense after changing X, Y, and Z.  Well…at least I won’t do this while writing the actual scenes.  The idea is to revise plot cards, characters sheets, etc. so that I can get a handle again on the big picture and tighten every screw.

How does that sound?  Any part plotters, part pantsers out there who feel my pain?  What organizational tools do you use to keep on track?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Attack of the Killer Words and Phrases!

imageWhat words and phrases do you seek and destroy in your writing?  Which annoy the heck out of you in books you’ve read?

I’m compiling a list of words and phrases that may be considered weak, fatty, passive, cliché, or redundant.  Of course, writers can’t always eliminate these words.  We use our own discretion, but often when I find these weak words, I find my weakest sentences and will spend quite some time revising and rebuilding that text.  It isn’t just a matter of using the delete key.

Here are my top favorite seek-and-destroy words and phrases:

  • very
  • there was/there were (my biggest offenders when it comes to passive voice)
  • then
  • filter worlds like those related to: hear, see, smell, taste, touch

There are other kinds of words that I try to weed out in general as well.  I love adverbs and will still use them though often I know a sentence is much stronger without the extra descriptor.  Trading “ing” verbs for “ed” verbs makes for yet another long slog through a manuscript with the search box, but the result is worth it.

Help me out my listing some of the words and phrases you love to hate below (with the exception of fowl language please).  I can’t wait to hear your pet peeves!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Shameless Deep Thoughts: Beneath the Words

imageWhen an achingly good song ends, there is the silence in which I consider why this sound had such a powerful effect on me.  Music can be deceptively simple.

I think about the bones of the song–the structure, the melody, and the instruments as well as the passion the musicians put into that music.  All the practice and change that went into it.

And then I imagine every other song that musician ever wrote–every scale and note she played in practice, the encouragement and criticism she’s received over the years, elation, doubt, and how she chose to keep going.

So here I am listening to “Only If For A Night” by Florence and the Machine, knowing every note that crashes into my chest has a thousand notes beneath it.  I’m writing in my notebook aware that what’s coming out needs a lot of work and will probably only be seen by a handful of people.  But I’m loving it because maybe, if I’m lucky, one day I’ll write a sentence like Florence wrote a song, and it will crash into you.

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

May the Muse Be With You: What I Do When She Is

imageYes I do imagine my muse to be a tiny Woodstock-sounding thing, buzzing about my shoulders, and she won’t shut up.  Just before NJRW’s February writing challenge, she ripped me away from a speculative WIP to write my first contemporary YA since high school.  I won’t give specifics now, but I’m feeling very good about this one and thus owe a lot to that buzz in my ear.

Usually, I will take months to plan a book, but with the writing challenge so close and the muse so insistent (swatting the air over my shoulder), I decided to take the plunge and just write.  With only two days of intense planning under my belt, I wrote, mapping out scenes as I came upon them and then drafting in earnest.  This was how this book wanted to be written and written fast.

My last WIP, in contrast, felt like a long push uphill.  For this paranormal romance, I spent a long time mapping out characters, plotting, re-plotting, creating scene cards, etc., so when it came to the actual writing I felt constrained by that structure.  I had to tear everything down more than once and even started the manuscript over, dumping 15,000 words in the process.  Currently, I feel very good about this quirky paranormal, but it was a long haul.

Lesson learned?  Some books will be a push no matter what, but it helps to leave more breathing room than I’ve been as of late.  My characters will always find a way to undermine my best-laid plans because they want to drive the plot, and more power to ’em.

How insistent is your muse?  Is she monotone or melodic–does she push you in the same manner through every book?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Going Contest Crazy


Alright, maybe not “crazy,” but I’m doing the Charleston because I’m really excited about entering these contests.  Until this point, I’ve been focused solely on craft and doing my best to stand out in the slush pile.  Recently, a writer friend of mine pointed out that another great way to set your writing apart is to participate in contests.  She even found her first agent that way.  So here we go. 🙂

This week, I entered three contests advertised in the RWA’s trade publication.  They are:

  • The Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest
  • The Fire & Ice Contest
  • The California Hooker Contest

There’s a contest through the RWA’s young adult chapter that I’ll submit to in March–very excited!

Now, I need your help!  I want to enter more contests, but I’m being picky because I know there are a lot out there–some more reputable than others.  I’m wary of reading the fine print when entering my work in anything like this (are you guys?).  I’d love to find a contest for unpublished writers–particularly those writing YA, romance, or paranormal.  If you know of any good ones, please post below!

Michelle Joyce Bond