Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Knowing When to Quit

I didn't finish the first novel I tried to write. Looking back, I'm confident this was the right decision. The manuscript was a mess, and even if I'd revised it until it was unrecognizable, it still wouldn't have been very good. It was flawed, fundamentally and irreparably.

I don't feel I wasted my time on it, though. By writing half the manuscript, and then by analyzing what had gone wrong, I learned a lot. I finished the next manuscript I started, and it was better for everything I'd been through. (Though it still didn't sell, nor did it deserve to. But that's another issue.)

Since then, I've set aside a few more manuscripts. Some of these unfinished manuscripts may be finished eventually. Others probably won't. I don't think this is a problem. There are plenty of manuscripts I have finished, so I don't mind that there are some I haven't—but this isn't the case for everyone.

Knowing when to give up on a manuscript can be a difficult thing. On the one hand, you don't want to waste more time on something that you know isn't going anywhere. Stubbornly sticking with it just because you've already invested so much work may be a sign that you're falling victim to the sunk cost fallacy.

On the other hand, if you never finish anything, that's a problem, too. I've heard of writers who have dozens of manuscripts they've started but no finished work to show for it.

So how do you decide whether to quit or to push forward? I think it comes down to two questions you need to ask yourself.

Questions One: Why do you want to quit? 

Is it because you've discovered your manuscript is fundamentally, irreparably flawed, have learned from your mistakes, and are ready to apply your new knowledge to a superior project? Or have you realized that writing a complete novel is hard work and you'd rather play with a shiny new idea?

If it's the latter, yeah, writing a complete novel is hard. Suck it up and finish the manuscript!

Question Two: Have you done this before? 

If you've fallen into the bad habit of not finishing any of the manuscripts you start, you need to figure out why. Maybe it's that you have a hard time focusing and need to force yourself to stick with the project. Find a way to motivate yourself to finish: join a critique group, set a deadline, pick a reward for yourself—whatever it takes.

Alternatively, the problem could be that you keep writing yourself into a corner. If so, you might need to scrap this manuscript, or at least a big chunk of it. To make sure this doesn't keep happening, though, seriously consider adjusting your writing process for your next project. Pantsing works for some people, but maybe you need to be more of a plotter.


If you do decide to abandon a work in progress, remember that you can always return to it later, whether it's to finish, revise, or completely rewrite the manuscript. Sometimes, you don't need to give up on a project. You just need a healthy break from it. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Facing our Fears and Scary Children’s Books

Moths. Hippos. Broken glass. Heights. Bleach. The list of things I’m afraid of is a long one. Despite this, I enjoy scary movies and books. And I'm not alone. Many people, both children and adults, enjoy being scared.

Which may make us wonder: Why? Why do we seek out scary experiences in things like roller coasters, haunted houses, and books?

I think there are several possible reasons.

They’re safe frights, first of all. When we go on a roller coaster, our hearts pound and we scream, but (assuming there are no engineering issues) we are in no actual danger.

Books are especially good at letting us experience frightening situations in a completely safe environment. While roller coasters give us an adrenaline rush, books provide entry into an entire world of thrills, full of complexity and consequences.

And while some adults may be tempted to shield kids from all things frightening, this isn't always a good idea. Exploring scary ideas is the first step to conquering them.

With books, we can face a wide range of fears, from everyday issues, like bullying, to extraordinary ones, like shape-changing monsters that curse people. While reading, we can think about what we would do in similar situations, and whether those actions would be good. We can learn from the characters’ mistakes and apply this insight to our own lives. We can see that we’re not alone, that others struggle with the same fears we do.

Books let us be brave. I wouldn’t want to face a dragon (or a moth
) in real life, but I’m always ready for an epic battle on the pages. 

As G.K. Chesterton is often quoted for saying, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

As much as we may want to shelter children from everything bad that could ever happen, they already know that scary things exist in the world. Books help us show them that they can persevere.



Books let us be brave.



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Problem with Setting Goals

Before my second book came out, I decided that I wanted to get 1,000 Twitter followers before the release date. It was an achievable goal, but I didn’t achieve it. The reason is simple. I knew what I needed to do—tweet more, follow more, and interact more—but for a long time, I didn’t actually do it.

That’s the thing about setting goals. It’s not enough. In fact, without a plan, it’s meaningless.

I’m not normally so bad about goals. I wouldn’t call myself ambitious, but I am pretty motivated and determined. I think everyone who's ever finished a book, not to mention published one, has to be.

See, a lot of people talk about writing a novel, but they never actually do it. Or they write a few pages and then give up. They have a goal, but they don’t have a plan. They’re not willing to put in the work day after day after day. 


Without a plan, a goal is just a wish. It's nice, but it's not very practical. 

This is the mistake I made with Twitter. We all make it at some point or another. We want something, so we wish it were real, when what we actually need to do is take daily steps to make it real. 

So how can we achieve our goals? I think these four steps are important.

1. Create a realistic timeline. This should include the ultimate goal as well as key milestones along the way.

2. Focus on things you can control. Many things are out of our control. When we obsess over those things, we aren't accomplishing anything. We need to concentrate on the things we can actually do. 


3. Decide whether or not to share. Personally, sharing goals stresses me out, but for some people, it's a great motivator. Think about whether it will help you.

4. Reward yourself for your achievements, even small ones, but don’t be too hard on yourself for your setbacks. You can always try again.


P.S. I'm up to 1,000 Twitter followers now. Thanks for follows!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Making Time to Write a Novel

I've written about making time to write a novel before. There are a lot of smart things you can do, like getting up early or deleting those time-sucking games from your smartphone. You can try to carve out short writing sessions, during your lunch break or while you're riding the bus, or you can try to dedicate entire days to writing. 

These are all good ideas, but the truth remains: finding time to write a novel is hard. 

If you're struggling to find time to write, you might get a kick out of these more extreme tips.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I Have Another Book!

I’m so excited to talk about my new novel. It’s called Monster, Human, Other. I love the cover.



Here's a bit about it:


Wren is human. Isaac is not. Having switched places at birth, they now live with each other’s families. Growing up among a different species is difficult—for Isaac, who has to keep many secrets, and for Wren, who is teased for her lousy human senses. They’re told it’s necessary, though. The exchange is the first step in an ambassador program meant to ensure peace.

But not everyone wants peace. There are creatures that live deep underground, coming up to the surface to feed. They have a plan to stir up trouble, and so far, it’s working. In the end, it’s up to Wren and Isaac to prevent a looming war and to save both their kinds.



The book is recommended for children ages 8 to 12, but I officially give permission to older people to read it, too. 

You can order it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or your local bookstore.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Make Your Own Voracan: A Fun and Easy Craft for Kids

Want your own voracan from Monster, Human, Other? Making one is easy. 





Supplies:

  • Styrofoam balls, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. These can be found in the floral arrangement section of craft supply stores. The smooth surface type is easier to paint.
  • Toothpicks.
  • Paint. You'll need black paint, as well as any other colors you want for the eyes. 

Instructions:
  1. Stick toothpicks into a Styrofoam ball.
  2. Paint your voracan. 
  3. Wait for the paint to dry.

An adult should provide supervision and select paint that is appropriate for the age of the child. Beware of choking hazards for very young children. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Get a Signed Copy of Monster, Human, Other: Pre-Order Offer

What's better than books? Signed books!

To get your own signed copy of Monster, Human, Other, pre-order the book through Vintage Books by September 18, 2017. Please mention this offer when placing your order. I can personalize my message if you include the name you want me to sign the book to when you place your order. 

If you pre-order the book elsewhere, you can still receive a signed bookplate. (This is simply an adhesive label you can put in the book.) Read the full rules and complete the form here on or before September 18, 2017, midnight Pacific Time.  

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Monster, Human, Other Release Party




When: September 23 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Where: Vintage Books, 6613 E Mill Plain Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98661

Who: Monster, Human, Other is a middle grade novel aimed at children ages 8 to 12, but everyone is welcome at the release party. 



"Sympathetic and winning, Isaac and Wren star in alternating, fast-paced chapters until they come together for the exciting conclusion." — Kirkus

Laurel Gale is the author of Dead Boy and Monster, Human, Other. She lives with her husband and their ferrets in Vancouver, Washington. You can visit Laurel online at laurelgale.com or on Twitter at @Laurel_Gale.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Giving and Receiving Criticism: It's Not Just for Writers

Admit it. You don't like to be criticized. No, this isn't a criticism, so don't get defensive and close the browser. It's just a fact. No one likes to be criticized. 

As a writer, though, constructive criticism is the best way to improve. As a person, it's important, too. Whether we're trying to perfect our cupcake recipe, become a better friend, or write the next masterpiece, we could all benefit from learning how to give and receive criticism. 

Learn to give constructive feedback.

When you’re giving feedback, it’s easy to focus on the problems. After all, you want to help the other person improve. Only saying nice things might stroke someone's ego, but it won't lead to improvement. You're saying all that mean stuff out of the kindness of your heart. 

But while all positive feedback is unhelpful, all negative feedback is just as bad. 

Too much negativity can make people defensive. As writers, we might decide the critiquer is an idiot who doesn’t get our genius, because the alternative—that we’re really that bad—is too hard to accept. Or we will accept that we’re awful, and we’ll want to give up. Either way, we’re not encouraged to improve. 

Outside of writing, people are likely to react in the same basic ways. They'll either get angry or sad, and neither state is very productive.

So how should we give constructive feedback?

I’m a firm believer in the compliment sandwich. Point out something good, then something bad, and then something good again. This way, people will feel that they're doing okay and will be motivated to do even better.

You don’t always have to use this exact order, but you should strive for some balance. You should also make the compliments sincere. 

The compliments serve another purpose beyond the ego boost, too. It actually is helpful to know what we’re doing right. We need to know when something is working so we can keep doing it.

Learn to receive feedback.

If you feel yourself getting defensive when you get negative feedback, don’t worry. A little defensiveness is a natural human reaction.

This is no excuse for rudeness, though, especially when people are trying to help you.

The key is to avoid responding too quickly. Don’t try to defend yourself. Instead, say thanks, and give yourself some time to think about the feedback you’ve received.

This doesn't mean you can never respond. Sometimes it's helpful to discuss the issue in more depthto point out concerns you've had, to look at different solutions, or to request more detailed feedback. 

But even the most thick-skinned of us can get defensive from time to time. If you feel this happening, say thanks, and then be quiet. 

Remember, you’re under no obligation to take anyone's advice. You should still thank the well-meaning person for giving it to you. 


You can’t please everyone.

As any writer knows, if you give your manuscript to ten different people, you’re going to get ten different reactions, and some of the advice you receive is bound to be contradictory. One person might tell you the pacing is perfect but the characters are flat. Another person might tell you the character are great but the story lags.

So how do you know who to believe?

On the rare event that readers actually give you the same feedback, take it to heart. You don’t have to do exactly what they suggest, but you should accept that they've identified a real problem. Likewise, if everyone's telling you that you interrupt too much or you're cookies are too saltyyou probably want to heed this advice, too. 

When people don't agree, it’s your story, your life, so learn to trust your gut. Whose advice resonates with you? That’s probably the person you should listen to the most.

Also keep in mind that not all advice is equal. 

Sometimes I read reviews of books that, while honest, have more to do with the reviewer than the book. Did a reader complain that your horror novel is too scary? Or that you romance focuses too much on the love story? Maybe one guy doesn't like the main character because you named her Erin, and he's never met an Erin he didn't hate. 

No matter how amazing a book is, some people won’t like it. Just look at Goodreads for proof. I adore Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, widely considered a masterpiece, but it currently has 24,965 one-star reviews. That's a lot of people who disagree with me. 

Likewise, you can make the best guacamole in the world, but some people just don't like avocado. (Me, for instance.) And no matter how awesome you are, there will be people who just don't care to be your friend.


You can’t please everyone. Don’t try to. 



Sunday, July 9, 2017

Reviews For MONSTER, HUMAN, OTHER Are Here

As a published author, I obviously have a very thick skin. I don't care about reviews. Even the snarkiest comments wouldn't bother me.

That's what I like to pretend, anyway. The truth is that with the release of my second book approaching, I've been nervously waiting for the reviews to start trickling in. And now they have.

These lines made me smile.

"Sympathetic and winning, Isaac and Wren star in alternating, fast-paced chapters until they come together for the exciting conclusion." — Kirkus

"The author cleverly uses the familiar changeling theme, allowing readers to explore their own feelings of being outsiders in their families and the worlds they inhabit." — School Library Journal


MONSTER, HUMAN, OTHER hits bookstores on September 19, 2017, so you can read it and form your own opinion then. If you're the impatient type (like me) you can
 pre-order it now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookstore. Pre-orders are awesome.

I nervously totally calmly await your review! 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Amazing School Visit

This week, I was thrilled to visit Chief Old Sun Elementary School in Siksika, just southeast of Calgary. It's by far the farthest I've traveled for a school visit! And it was worth it. One of the classes had read Dead Boy, and they selected the book for their big art project of the year. While I was there, I got to see them perform scenes from the book. It was absolutely amazing!

Here's a picture of one of the kids dressed up as Crow, wearing his Halloween costume.



And here's a picture of one of the kids dressed up as the monster from Dead Boy



Isn't the costume fantastic? They let me try it on. 



If you're interested in having me visit your school, email me at bylaurelgale@gmail.com.