All posts by Bonnie Gwyn

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

Assonance & Alliteration: Always Appropriate in Small Doses

Guest Post by K. Scott Forman

Forman

K. Scott Forman is an eclectic writer with dark tastes: suspense, horror, mystery, fear. The classic prose of Poe and Lovecraft, the poetry of Blake and Coleridge, and more recent writers Robert R. McCammon and Sylvia Plath, all find space in his heart. Scott believes in Fear, the strongest emotion: fear feeds suspense, horror, and mystery, and through Fear, writers create the best stories. His most recent work appeared in the anthologies It Came from the Great Salt Lake and Gothic Tales of Terror. Scott is a graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University and teaches English Composition at Weber State University.


With so many stylistic choices, most writers select the easiest forms to use in their writing, including simile, imagery, and the use of sensory words. These choices evoke a feeling or mood in readers’ minds. An example of imagery-rich sensory words appears in Shelley’s pièce de résistance, Frankenstein:

It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.

Shelley delivers on the senses of sight, sound, and touch as if she just joined a writing group that recommended she use some form of sensory stimulation on each page of her novel other than taste or smell. She did swell!

What if there was something that could utilize sensory words, go deeper, be subtler, and deliver the same results as the Pied Piper of Hamelin? A literary Jedi mind trick? You’ve read the title, so you know Assonance and Alliteration are this something: two powerful tools, when used sparingly and correctly, bring a rhythm or cadence to one’s writing, a music that the reader usually does not detect consciously, but can’t forget.

As writers, we hear these two terms and think poetry, but they are not exclusive to the rhyme and meter of the poetic forms. Again, an example from Shelley:

He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance.

Assonance takes place when two or more words in a sentence, usually close to one another, repeat the same vowel sound. These words usually start with different consonant sounds: away and waves. Alliteration is similar to Assonance, but instead of vowel sounds, the same first consonant sound occurs in words close together in a sentence. Shelley does this in the same sentence with darkness and distance.

The goal is to be subtle, but not just tickle the subconscious. The blow must deliver a subdural hematoma that the reader will not soon forget, kind of like a catchy song that sticks in one’s head. The key, again, is not to overdo it. Overdoing is not the same thing as volume: a writer can use this on every page, paragraph, or even sentence of their work, but just not get caught doing it by the unsuspecting reader. Here are a few examples that make it look easy:

The soul selects her own society.
Emily Dickinson

I watched the bare brown back of the prisoner marching in front of me.
George Orwell, A Hanging

The wind had blown off, leaving a loud, bright night, with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life. . . .
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Strips of tinfoil winking like people
Sylvia Plath, “The Bee Meeting

Soft language issued from their spitless lips as they swished in low circles round and round the field, winding hither and thither through the weeds, dragging their long tails amid the rattling canisters.
James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

And here’s an example of what can happen when the writer is paid by the word:

It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude: on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow.
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

A word of warning, if Melville was not enough: do not ruin these stylistic tools by making them the latest and greatest thing since the introduction of articles, or the letter S, or the comma. Learn the music; learn your own song and voice. Here are a couple surefire ways to become proficient at using Assonance and Alliteration.

1. Read! Read a lot! Read across genres, across types, poetry, prose, essay, and everything in between. Find the writers who use these tools well.

2. Jump right in without looking. See how it feels. Try it out on your beta readers, or your writing group, or even your mom, girlfriend, boyfriend, or significant other (although moms are notoriously as reliable as Holden Caulfield).

Your readers may say, “Ooo, aahh, something is wrong here, but I think I like it.” Or “Hey, you’re really trying to be literary here, aren’t you?” Congratulations. You’ve just expanded your repertoire as a writer, probably for the better, and it can be fun, the reason most of us started writing in the first place.

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

On Writing and Vulnerability

Guest Post by Shelly Brown

Shelly


In general people don’t like to be vulnerable.

Why? Because by it’s very definition vulnerable means to be ‘susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.’

Who would want that?

We do.

While we fear vulnerability, we also crave it. Vulnerability is responsible for our closest relationships. Vulnerability drives our pursuit of dreams. Vulnerability allows us the freedom to make mistakes, to be flawed, to be perfectly imperfect and be okay with that.

So what does that have to do with writing? Well, a heck of a lot more than I’m going to be able to go over in this post, but here are a few things to mull over in your mind as you look at your craft, your dreams, and yourself.

THE ROUGH BEGINNINGS

Writing leaves us vulnerable. And not everybody understands that. They ask questions like:

“You’re going to publish a book and get rich, right?”

“Are you still writing that same book?”

“Isn’t it impossible to get published?”

“Isn’t it really easy to get published nowadays?”

“Don’t you feel guilty taking all of that time on just a hobby?”

“I mean you’re not really an author or anything.”

Questions like these and many others leave us feeling raw and foolish. We are unguarded. There are many closet writers out there for this reason. They are afraid of the criticism that comes before selling even a single book.

But for those of you who proudly press on I applaud you. It’s not easy to show up to writing group and be the only person still not published. It’s not easy to put up with your brother’s rude mocking of your dream every Thanksgiving. It’s not easy to sit your butt in the chair and put your hands on the keys on days when you feel like a complete failure (and for a lot of writers this happens at some point.) But you push past those uncomfortable, vulnerable feelings and write anyway.

Impressive.

People will still ask odd questions.

When people ask questions like the ones above I usually try to remember that they don’t understand what it really takes to write and publish stories. Most of them aren’t trying to be insulting or dig at your work. And those who are trying to attack you are just sad. It’s a shame that they don’t use that energy to create art of their own.

FEELING DEEPLY AND MINING FOR EMOTION

Vulnerability does many wonderful things to the human heart and shouldn’t be discounted when writing any genre of fiction.

I mention feeling deeply because it is an important part for me in creating authentic emotion in my writing. I write Middle Grade so it to be fair my stories may not seem to delve as deep into emotions as some other genres, but I don’t care if you’re a picture book writer or a copy writer, you’ll need to understand emotion.

Why? Because emotions greatly affect whether readers prefer one book over another. It’s about connection and resonance.

Emotions sell your book (or product, or service, or even a toothbrush.) Psychologists, marketers, and writing teachers agree on this point.

Frank Kafka said, “A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.”

An ax to crack through those protective walls we build around our hearts or the ice that our readers have built up. To break in and allow us all to explore in the warm depths that lie beneath the frozen surface. In order for your book to do this we must pour salt water emotions upon the page. We must be already swimming in the sea, digging out fears, loves, weaknesses, nightmares, loss, revelations, and the myriad of other things floating in our vulnerable insides.

We must be willing to then put those feelings to paper. We must take emotional risks. We can’t just put the part of us out there that is good, we must know why our our character errs or our villains think they are heros. It leaves us exposed and for some people it is very uncomfortable.

But Brené Brown in her book Daring Greatly said, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

In fact your story will be stronger for it.

VULNERABILITY IN CHARACTERS

Marjorie Pay Hinkley recounts a true story in the book Glimpses into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinkley of a woman in her fifties who decided to take up the piano. After a year of practice she was asked to perform for the ladies in her church. She starts out beautifully but falters after three measures and then gets lost. One woman tells her not to be ruffled but to just start over. So she does and Marjorie goes on to say, “We have never loved Merle like we loved her that morning. Perhaps it was because she faltered a little in the beginning and we were all pulling for her, saying to ourselves, ‘Come on, Merle, you can do it.’ If her performance had been flawless from the start, we might all have been defensive and said, ‘Oh well, Merle can learn to play the piano because her husband is the kind who will get his own breakfast while she practices and her children don’t make demands on her’ and so on and so on and so on. As it was, she faltered a little, and we loved her the more.”

Now this story is about a real person not an imaginary character, but it illustrates what I am trying to say so beautifully I couldn’t help but include it. Merle wasn’t loved because of her perfect performance and flawless skills. No, she was loved because she was trying something hard, she got scared, she struggled, and courageously tried again. It was in the struggle, in the failing, that they learned to love her. The same can be said about our characters.

It’s in the flaws. It’s in the vulnerability.

A lot of writing advice tells you to craft a sympathetic character. A character that readers can identify with. The advice usually looks something like this:

• Give them a goal (but don’t make it too easy. They need to fight for it.)

• Give them some kryptonite (This Superman reference means that they can’t be impenetrable. They must have at least one great weakness.)

• Give them a secret (often times this is something that they’re not proud of.)

Our characters must be vulnerable. It is critical to character likability. Even if a character is practically perfect in every way they must have a love interest that they’d do anything for, a fear of snakes, or a nasty drug habit that brings their infallibility down several notches.

The truth is we tire of perfect people and cheer for underdogs. We can’t help ourselves.

AND BEYOND

It would be nice to say that once you’re published then you no longer have to worry about vulnerability with your work but alas this might be where things become the most vulnerable.

Critics, both professional and Goodreads-style have a lot to say about published books. From insulting the writing style to the character’s decisions to the cover art, they voice their concerns publicly and sometimes quite loudly. I’m not suggesting that in our embracing vulnerability we read all of our Goodreads reviews (though if you feel like you learn a lot from them, then go right ahead), but that you don’t let such things force you to build walls around yourself again.

Don’t be surprised:

If your books don’t sell like your publisher anticipated.

If nobody shows up to your book signing.

If your sequel gets lambasted by Kirkus.

If your royalty check comes back smaller than anticipated.

Embrace it! Roll around in the truth that is what being an author is like. There are up days and there are down days but what you can’t do is let the amazing amounts of vulnerability you have put out there dry up. That’s your well that you must draw from. Keep it primed. Stay humble and open.

In order for your art to flourish you need to be able to access your emotions. You must remain vulnerable.

At least those have been my thoughts as of late.

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

How to Use Music to Enhance Your Writing

Guest Post by Michael D. Young

Michael

Michael is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Western Governor’s University with degrees in German Teaching, Music, and Instructional Design. Though he grew up traveling the world with his military father, he now lives in Utah with his wife, Jen, and his two sons. Michael enjoys acting in community theater, playing and writing music and spending time with his family. He played for several years with the handbell choir Bells on Temple Square and is now a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

He is the author of the novels in The Canticle Kingdom Series, The Last Archangel Series, the Chess Quest Series and the Penultimate Dawn Cycle. He also authors several web serials through BigWorldNetwork.com. He publishes anthologies for charity in his Advent Anthologies series. He has also had work featured in various online and print magazines such as Bards and Sages Quarterly, Mindflights, Meridian, The New Era, Allegory, and Ensign. He has also won honorable mention three times in the Writers of the Future contest.

His latest release “The Hunger” is available on amazon.com.


Hans Christian Andersen once said “Where words fail, music speaks.” As authors, we might not want to admit that words can fail, but it doesn’t take much to test the theory. Simply consider a single emotion such as love. We use the word “love” to apply to everything from your favorite drink at Starbucks to the person you want to spend your life with, and everything in between. The concept of love is a nuanced and multifaceted thing, and that’s only dealing with a single human emotion.

That is why music is such a vital part of describing the human experience and transmitting inexplicable messages to others. For writers, this means that music, when used properly, can be an integral part of enhancing your writing. It can be used both to affect the writer and to affect the reader.

Affecting the Writer

For me, getting into writing involved shifting gears, getting in a new frame of mind. This can be especially difficult when you are dealing with other concerns from everyday life, and your writing time is limited. Using music can be a way to “prime the pump” to get you in a writing frame of mind.

My tool of choice is Spotify, where I can create playlists based on different moods and mindsets. If I’m writing sad, I listen to sad, whatever that may be for me. I have great songs I can listen to for exciting action scenes, tender scenes of sentiment, and even the peaceful resolution near the end of the story.

It might take you a bit to figure out which music affects you, but it is worth the investment. Just stay clear of things that get too easily caught in your head—or you might be thinking about the song the whole time you’re writing.

Affecting the Reader

Music is an integral part of the real world, and it should be part of most fictional ones. Use music to highlight moments of high emotion, to punctuate events of the greatest importance, or even to give world-building flavor or backstory in an organic way. Make sure to steer clear of other people’s copyrights with existing songs, and if you make up your own song lyrics to include as a part of a story, make sure you really know your stuff. Make sure you understand the rules of rhyme and meter that many great songs follow. If you don’t, you risk it becoming a distraction instead of an enhancement.

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

Dig Deep into Everyone’s Head

Guest Post by C.R. Langille

C.R.Langille

C.R. Langille spent many a Saturday afternoon watching monster movies with his mother. It wasn’t long before he started crafting nightmares to share with his readers. An avid hunter and amateur survivalist, he incorporates the Utah outdoors in many of his tales. He is the Organizer for the Utah Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, and received his MFA: Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Follow his exploits at: www.crlangille.com


With the different varieties of point-of-view (POV), it can be a daunting task to choose one. My favorite is Deep Third Person or Third Person Limited depending on your vernacular, regional dialect, or literary upbringing.

Third Person is a great choice if you want to have multiple POV characters in your story. However, if executed improperly, it can lead to the dreaded practice of head-hopping. Head-hopping occurs when the author decides to jump POV throughout the chapter or scene all willy-nilly. Generally, head-hopping can be jarring and confusing to the reader, which is why I suggest staying in one character’s head for the entire chapter, or at the very least, the entire scene. It can be done properly, but the transitions have to make sense and follow a logical progression, I’ll save that technique for another day.

One of the first rules of using Third Person is establishing the POV character early. The reader has to know whose head they are in, or whose eyes they are looking through. Nothing destroys the flow of a story quicker than getting into a rhythm only to find out paragraphs later that you’re in some rando’s head. This can be done by dropping the name of the character early or using certain phrases or terms unique to that character.

The next step is to dig as deep into the character’s head as possible and removing any words, or barriers that would slow that process down. Remove any filter words, such as heard, felt, saw, etc…just explain what’s happening in the scene. The reader will know it’s your character seeing these things, or hearing these things, because the reader is in that character’s head. Next, if you want to go really deep, remove thought tags or italics to indicate a thought. Once again, we’re in the character’s head so we know that it’s the character thinking those things. This is also another reason why it’s important to avoid head-hopping when you’re dealing with Deep Third Person. I’m going to give you two examples to show you what I’m talking about. The first one will break the rules. The second will fix it.

He ran into the office and closed the door behind him as quietly as he could. He heard the hinges squeak and his heart skipped a beat.

I hope they didn’t hear, he thought.

Charlie heard the snarls and the tell-tale clack of claws on tile as the pack of goblins came running up the hallway. He engaged the lock on the door and slipped underneath the far desk in the corner of the small office.

Charlie tried to control his breathing, but to him it sounded like a bellows. The goblins ran by the office door, and he could smell them, a mix of sweat and something else, something earthy.

Thank the stars, they didn’t find me.

He relaxed and almost crawled out from under the desk, but then he heard it, a long scratch of claw against the wall outside the office, followed by a light giggle. Charlie tried to crawl further under the desk, hoping it would make the goblins go away, but it was to no avail.

He heard the knob start to turn, slowly at first, then raising into a frenzy as the goblins tried to force their way in. Charlie held his breath in anticipation. Moments later, the door burst open and he could see their tiny silhouettes outlined by the hallway lights. They gave another laugh, and then ran into the office.

Now here’s the revised version removing the filters and the thought italics:

Charlie ran into the office and closed the door behind him as quietly as he could. The hinges let out a squeak and his heart skipped a beat. Hopefully, they didn’t hear it.

The snarls and the tell-tale clack of claws on tile let him know the goblins were coming up the hallway. He engaged the lock on the door and slipped underneath the far desk in the corner of the small office.

His breath came in heavy pants, like a bellows. The goblins ran by the office door, and even through the door their stink filtered through. It was a mix of sweat and something else, something earthy.

Thank the stars; they had continued to run on. Charlie relaxed and almost crawled out from under the desk, but the long scratch of claws against the wall outside the office stopped him. Was it his ears playing tricks? A light-pitched giggle from the hallway answered that question. Charlie tried to crawl further under the desk, hoping it would make the goblins go away, but it was to no avail.

The door knob started to turn, slowly at first, then raising into a frenzy as the goblins tried to force their way in. Charlie held his breath in anticipation. Moments later, the door burst open their tiny silhouettes were outlined in the hallway lights. They gave another laugh, and then ran into the office.

Hopefully this helps outline some of the concepts of Deep Third Person POV I talked about. Deep Third can drag a reader into a story a lot like First Person can if done properly. Instead of feeling they are part of the story like First Person, it gives the reader a chance to be the fly on the wall and live voyeuristically. As I mentioned before, Third Person is a great choice if you have multiple POV characters, and it’s a great way for you to break away from your protagonist and see what else is going on in the world you created.

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, People

Guest Post by Jessica Lee Parsons

Jess

This is me, Jessica. I have a blog and a website and an agent and two manuscripts, but still no publisher. Someday I’ll have a book in my hands! Until then, I’ll keep writing because writing is cool. As are bowties.


Mo

My kids and I are big Mo Willems fans. He writes simply illustrated picture books that are interactive and hilarious. The first time I picked up Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, the conformist in me thought, “This is weird. This is different. This isn’t like other picture books. Why is he doing this?” Luckily, I’ve learned to tell that voice to shut up. My creative voice shouted joyfully, “This is weird! This is different! This isn’t like other picture books! I have to know how he did this!”

I’ve learned some things as I’ve researched Mo Willems’ brilliance. Wow, that sounds way more intentional than it really was. Actually, I accidentally discovered an interview with Mo on a Pigeon DVD we checked out from the library. But either way, it changed the way I think about writing, inspired me and validated the amount of time I spend being creative. All in less than ten minutes! He’s a rock star, I tell you.

Mr. Willems, Mo, was a television writer and an animator. He went to film school and found out he didn’t have patience for actors, crews and weather. In animation, all those variables went away, so that’s what he did. He was hired by Sesame Street and discovered it was harder for him to write for kids than adults.

Mo Lesson #1: Do hard things. But do hard things that you like.

Mo went to Oxford, England and lived in a cottage for a year in order to write the Great American Children’s Book. In the interview Mo kind of makes fun of himself for this. He says he thought being in Oxford would make him smarter, but it didn’t. While trying to write his very serious and world-changing literature, he would find himself sketching a pigeon. The pigeon would pester him. “Why are you writing about them? They’re boring. Write about me.”

Mo Lesson #2: Listen to the voices in your head. Let the pigeon drive the bus.

To get the pigeon out of his head, Mo made a sketchbook story and gave it to family and friends for Christmas. His wife, a school librarian, sometimes read it to kids. Mo didn’t really see it as a kid’s book right away. But eventually he gave it to an agent and reworked it for his audience.

Mo Lesson #3: Take time to be creative. You never know what little nagging idea might turn into a big idea. Also, are you absolutely sure you’re writing in the right genre, and for the right audience? Maybe you haven’t discovered where you rock hardest. Also again, Mo Willems has written things that won’t ever be published! I’ve done that too!!

Here’s where Mo’s story got especially inspiring to me. Even with an agent to represent his work, 28 editors told him no because it was unusual. Then the 29th decided TO publish it BECAUSE it was unusual.

Mo Lesson #4: Don’t slink into a dark closet and hide after a few rejections. There is no such thing as overnight success.

Okay, before moving on, it’s very important that we define “unusual”. Does Mo’s book have more pages than a typical picture book? No. Does Mo’s book have more words than a typical picture book? No. Does Mo’s book break any of the guidelines publishers like authors to follow? NO. It is unusual within reasonable boundaries. Unusual because it is fresh, not because he didn’t do his research.

Here’s what was fresh about Mo’s book. Originally, there was a boy in the book, and it was his job to keep the pigeon from driving the bus. Mo’s breakthrough moment came when he realized he could take the boy out of the story completely and give the audience his part instead. Entire libraries and bookstores filled with children screaming NO! when the pigeon asks repeatedly to drive the bus. They love every second of it. It was by simplifying his idea that it became better. What was already a great concept suddenly bloomed into a phenomenon because Mr. Willems gave his idea time to develop. Another picture book he wrote took him 15 years from first concept to breakthrough and publication.

Mo Lesson #5: Send fully realized ideas out into the world. You may still be rejected, but your chances and your story will be so much better.

Mo’s only rule for his books (besides the guidelines publishers like authors to follow), is that his main character has to be simple enough that a five year old can reasonably draw it. He wants kids to copy his characters. He says a book shouldn’t just be read, it should be played. Consumed. A gateway to a more creative processes.

How could this translate for those of us who write for adults, teens or middle grade? Maybe our main characters need to be more accessible to our readers. Maybe we need to give them flaws and let them fail, just like real people do every day. Our characters could inspire people to try something new. To learn about new subjects or try out different ways of thinking.

Mo Lesson #6: Make some rules for yourself as a writer. Figure out what it is you want your writing to accomplish and how you and your characters will do it.

I used to think, “This is MY story, and I’ll write it how I want to!” That’s fine, but Mr. Willems makes the very good point that he is careful not to write books for himself because there is only one of him and he would only sell one book.

Mo Lesson #7: What he said right there. Write for other people. Write for your readers.

At the end of the interview, even though Mo already had my full fanhood, he delivered a few lines that have now put him next to Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss on my bookshelf.

These may not be the exact words, but they went something like this. “Everyone should write and draw. To be able to make little stories for Christmas cards or gifts is just good and it’s fun. It’s important that everyone should be doing it, and not because they’re going to be an artist. It creates empathy. It’s just being able to express yourself. I think it’s cool.”

Mo Lesson #8: Who cares whether you’re ever published or super successful. Write it anyway. Because it’s cool.

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

Secret Ingredient for Writers Listed Below

Guest Post by Caroline A. Gill

Caroline 1

Caroline A. Gill went to UCLA and to Northern Illinois University for her MFA, in printmaking and metal-smithing. Trained as an artist, she writes her dreams. Vivid images storm out of her head and onto the keyboard: an orphan who talks to houseflies and learns of hidden magic, a vampire hunter destined to fail and fall, or the last warrior left at the end of the world. The kernel of each story is found there, in her imagination. Living in the Pacific Northwest, Caroline enjoys the Redwood forests, the crashing ocean waves and the cloudy skies. She can be bribed with Thin Mints, chocolate, and soft blankets, all of which are put to good use every winter.

Website: authorcarolineagill.com


Secret ingredient for writers listed below.

You know this already. You do.

You see it every day, maybe even more often: that sense of wonder. We try to capture it over and over. Whether it’s depicted in a film, in commercials, or in a book, that feeling, that moment of discovery: that’s the magic.

In the contemporary fantasy/fiction writing, we are all under the influence of giants, standing on the shoulders of Tolkien, Lewis, Carroll, and Poe. And that sense of wonder they found in a wardrobe, down a rabbit hole, on the other side of a mirror, in a hobbit hole; that is what we all seek. That is modern magic.

The surprise in a child’s eyes at a birthday party that moment charms us, pulling at our own memories. When our main character finds a skill they didn’t know they had, or a marvelous item that unlocks a door to a new world, it’s all the same.

Discovering the new, finding the magic: we all search for that definable moment of wonder. It is the core of every journey we take, that hope that we will discover something new. That feeling becomes amplified if mixed with love. Or if it is blended with righteous defending anger. Over and over, we wait to be surprised. And we love those who manage to do just that.

Think about your favorite books and movies. It’s those scenes that pull you in, the ones that mirror the wonder you once felt. A return to innocence, the feeling of rightness in the world, the hero who rushes in regardless of personal cost these are primal human emotions.

These are how we connect with the reader. And how the reader connects with us.

Not everyone searches for the same emotions either, which is why even well written books do not appeal to every reader. As fallible, broken beings, we seek a glimpse into the Greater Good. Wonder. Magic. Surprise.

These are the things worth dying for. The friendships worth saving. Treasure beyond price.

Caroline 2

In my novel Flying Away, Iolani Bearse encounters loss after loss. First, her father dies in a far away war, then her mother in a car accident. Lani sees death upclose, blood dripping down her mother’s face. And there is a fly there, in the car. Just like there have been flies on the windowsill of her bedroom where she waited for years for her father to return home.

But now, in Lani’s lowest moment, in the chasm of her grief, watching her mother’s eyes glaze over, shattered by her death the houseflies speak to her. Perhaps this is the first time she really listened.

And they show her a magic that the insects have always kept hidden.

You’ve seen flies, zipping in the middle of the air, hovering for no apparent reason? Well, that was just so you wouldn’t see what they can do: flying fast enough they can open a portal to anywhere. If a fly has seen a location, any fly can find it. And Lani needs the houseflies and their magic, far sooner than anyone would have suspected.

Because the memory thieves are coming. The green lanterns shine in dark of night, harvesting amino acids and draining away whole families, suburbs, and towns. Only the flies protect Lani. Only Lani sees the Stealers. With their help, one orphan girl can save our broken nation.

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

Beginning Your Story with Setting

Guest Post by Ronda Hinrichsen

Ronda

Award-winning author, Ronda Hinrichsen, and her family own a small farm located between the beautiful Rocky Mountains and the Great Salt Lake where she regularly sees eagles, hawks, owls, and ducks. Lots of ducks. She is the author of independently and traditionally published romantic suspense and speculative books as well as numerous magazine articles and stories for children and adults. She enjoys teaching about writing in conference and classroom settings, and readers can find more tips about writing on her blog, thewriteblocks.blogspot.com.

Website: rondahinrichsen.com


If an author cares whether or not his manuscript is read and/or bought, he must instantly catch the reader’s attention. For that reason, until the last year or two, I wrote with the belief that all stories must begin with a scene which shows what happens to the main character on the day everything changes, i.e., the inciting incident. By contrast, I also believed beginning a story with long, detailed descriptions of the setting killed the story, for people, especially me, either immediately closed the book or fell asleep reading about sunsets and mountain peaks.

If you’ve had those same beliefs, listen up. Yes, action – as I earlier described – is an important element of a good beginning, but I now realize setting is too. Only, and here’s the critical part, that setting needs to be included within the action.

Why? Because a well-drawn up setting helps transport readers to your character’s world. Don’t believe me? Consider the following first paragraphs from two of my favorite best-selling novels: In each case, the characters are in the middle of a physical action on the day everything changes.

Ronda 2

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Miri woke to the insistent bleat of a goat. She squeaked open one eye. Pale yellow sky slipped through the cracks in the shutters. It was day—the very day trade wagons might come to carry her off. She’d been expecting them all week with both a skipping heart and a falling stomach. Strange, lately, how many things made her feel two opposite ways twisted together.

Ronda 3

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.

In each paragraph, the author slips the setting into the action in such a way that we hardly notice it, and yet we get a clear picture of what is happening in the story at that moment. We are also immediately drawn into the character’s world. The main tool the authors use to accomplish this are specific details. Details, details, details. We hear that phrase all the time, and yet it truly is the key to fleshed-out writing. And those details are not limited to the physical. Both of the above examples also incorporate a detail from at least one other of the five senses. Also, and perhaps most importantly, those details hint at the POV character’s current emotion.

With that understanding, now look at those same two paragraphs. Only this time, I’ve italicized the specific setting details.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Miri woke to the insistent bleat of a goat. She squeaked open one eye. Pale yellow sky slipped through the cracks in the shutters. It was day—the very day trade wagons might come to carry her off. She’d been expecting them all week with both a skipping heart and a falling stomach. Strange, lately, how many things made her feel two opposite ways twisted together.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.

In the example from The Hunger Games, I italicized “our mother” and “day of the reaping” because, to me, they add to the setting; but  you may not agree with me. However, whether you agree with me or not does not matter nearly as much as whether or not you understand that Beginnings do begin with Setting. And character. And action. And emotion. With all of them working together to pull readers into the authors’ worlds.

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

Find the Joy in Writing!

Guest Post by C. Michelle Jefferies

Michelle

C. Michelle Jefferies practically grew up in a library, and she spent her early years reading books with her mother. When Michelle was ten, she realized she wanted to write stories instead of just reading them. In high school, she met another writer, who inspired her to write a full-length book instead of just short stories. Michelle finished that 189-page handwritten novel the summer of her junior year. She married her best friend and put her writing on the back burner while she focused on raising her seven children and volunteering as a breastfeeding counselor in her community.

When her children were old enough for her to spend a few hours on the computer without them burning the house down, Michelle returned to writing and hasn’t stopped since. She can often be found writing or editing with a child in her arms or under her feet. With a passion for secret agents and all things Asian, she writes technical suspense and urban fantasy about bad boys turned good. Lately, she can be found in a yoga studio learning to meditate, and to become more mindful.


2012 seemed to be my benchmark year. I published a book and a story in an anthology, won a handful of contests and did well at my book launch and some signings. I was poised to publish a second book when I made the decision to sever my contract with my publisher. It was an amicable decision and I was happy with it. Then everything came to a screeching halt.

With the exception of three anthology stories in three years, nothing else happened. No new publishing prospects, no winning contests, for every submission I sent in there was a rejection. I pitched, submitted, worked hard, wrote, edited, wrote some more, and waited for the magic of 2012 to happen again. By the end of the next year I was looking at nearly seventy rejections combined on all of my projects, and nothing to show for my time except a stack of ‘no thank-yous’.

The self doubt was crippling. I had almost convinced myself that I really couldn’t write, that I was published by either people too nice to reject me, or by accident. By the end of that year I had stopped writing. It held no joy. It was no longer fun. Writing had become drudgery.

So why am I still here? Why am I writing this today?

I still love to write and while I’d love to be published again I needed to decide what was really important to me. The answer was simple. I love to write. Whether I never publish another word, or become wildly successful, or somewhere in between.

I love to write. I love to weave stories. I love the thrill of a new idea as it slams me like a hit and run. I love how characters interrupt me at inconvenient times to tell me their life story. I love how words look on paper. How putting a pen to a journal opens up a different thought process and how that changes the story.

I had to learn to place value on my work and not depend on the approval of others to satisfy the need for validation. I needed to remember that my stories are amazing, and funny, and all sorts of other things. I needed to remember that on hard days, where no words seem to be coming, that I can write just TEN words. And maybe, hopefully those ten words lead to another ten, and so on.
I am a writer. Not by chance, not a fluke, or luck, or even a hack. I am a writer because I love the art and craft of it. I love words and the emotions it evokes. I am a writer, because I love it.

What about you? Why do you write? How do you get through the bad days when they come?

And remember, just TEN words.

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

Three Keys to Marketing

Guest Post by Rebecca Lamoreaux

Rebecca

Rebecca grew up reading every book she could get her hands on and her love of writing came before she actually knew how to make letters.  She tried her hand at writing for the first time at age 13 and still laughs herself silly every time she reads that first manuscript. Since then she has embarked on the adventure of becoming an author and has found her niche in Regency Romance, though she does dabble in fantasy from time to time. She earned a BA in English – Creative Writing and after graduating she traveled to and lived in several different countries, obtained many ideas for her writing, and studied literature in different cultures.

Rebecca has worked as a book publicist for several years. She loves to throw parties and she loves to read books. Plus, as an author she knew the struggles of getting a book noticed and the difficulty in marketing a new book. So she formed Loving the Book as a way to help other authors get their work seen and their books known. She splits her time between her home life, working at an outside job, running 2 businesses, and writing when she can. She currently lives in Arizona with her wonderful husband, who puts up with her crazy imagination, her super excitable personality, and her 2 pets – a bunny named Thor, and a puppy named Deise.


I don’t pretend to be the ultimate expert on book marketing; however, opening Loving the Book’s promotional business over 2 years ago has given me time to learn a few things both as an author and as a publicist. Every day I come up against challenges as I strive to help authors get their books seen – challenges that authors are unaware of and often affect our ability to market their books.
So today I am going to let you in on 3 tips that I have learned in this endeavor. They may seem obvious to some of you, but you would be surprised how often these become issues in marketing your book.

#1 – Patience is Key.

Writing a book is hard – but it’s only half the battle. Now you need to market and sell that book. Whether you do it by yourself or if you do it through a promotional company, book marketing is not easy. As an author, you have to either put all the time, effort, and money into marketing the book yourself, or you need to find a book promotional company that can do it for you. As a publicist, I love taking on the challenge of marketing a book for an author, but even with all the contact, bloggers, reviewers, and exposure it is still a hard process and each book needs a unique approach.

As an author and/or a publicist, You have to find people who like each different type of book, people who want to read/review each specific genre, know which blogs cater to which type of people/books, and know which groups are most likely to respond to certain marketing techniques. You have to find people who are interested in your book, and then you have to give them a reason to purchase your book. A promotional company usually has a good chance of knowing where to look for those types of people, and how to get your book seen, due to previous experience and trial/error, which can be a great support to new authors. But even so, book promotional companies have to work hard to compete against the many books out there and make your book more appealing than the endless competition.

If you have a decent following already, perhaps you wish to stick with what you have (Note: Be careful if you decide to change genres, this throws a new loop in the game that is not always taken well by current fans.) But it never hurts to find some help to broaden your exposure from time to time through a promotional company. So as an author and a publicist, this is a hard process, and it takes time, energy, and – in my case – a fantastic team to help get a book seen. Be prepared to put in the work, or to put your trust in someone who can do it for you. Then, have patience. Results rarely happen overnight, and never without putting in the effort.

#2 – Editing is vital.

I know we hear this a lot – all the time, in fact. However, it really is a huge issue. As an author I wish to have my book shine. It needs to stand out from the crowd. It is surprisingly easy to get your book out on the market anymore. And sadly this means there is a lot of competition and often ill written books that require us to make more of effort to represent good writing every day. Your book is going to have to really stand out. Find your voice, write well, only break the rules if you know how to do it right, make your book unique, etc, etc, etc. We’ve heard it all, and we try to apply it all.

However, even having great writing can be overlooked when a book does not get good editing. I have been amazed at the responses from some of our reviewers on books that I thought were fantastic. I have a program that reads books to me because I am very strapped for time. However, this doesn’t always let me see, or even catch, the mistakes in a book. But a reader/reviewer who is reading a digital or paperback copy will catch them all. And even with books that I raved about as a reader/publicist, were torn to shreds by reviewers who were turned off because of editing/grammatical errors.

As an author, I see the importance of editing to get my book to stand out, and to not have reviewers shred my work. As a publicist, I have struggled to market books that have grammatical and editing issues from an author not taking the time to get a good editor and to make their book shine. Many promotional companies, including ours, now have a guideline about having your book professionally edited before they are willing to promote your work. This is because it is drastically harder to convince people to purchase a book if they find editing issues right off the bat. It taints readers/reviewers’ views of the book – no matter how amazing the story, or how well written. It is a major turn off for many.

#3 – Attitude matters.

Authors can be divas. This is not necessarily a bad thing, we know what we want and we strive to get it. However, sometimes we forget that in this business there are no guarantees, no matter how much we expect fans to flock to us and how much we expect our publicist to work miracles. As an author, I want to see my book succeed and sell thousands of copies. But as a publicist I can tell you that even doing everything I can to hype up your book, making it appealing, offering giveaways, or other promotional tactics, I cannot force anyone to buy the book.

An author who demands perfection will never get it. However, a positive energy from the author certainly gets you a long way and a surprisingly good response in book marketing. A negative attitude, pessimism, and blame from an author who wants everything done right, and wants it done right now actually effect that marketing, even if the fans cannot see that side of the author personally. So be positive, you would be amazed at how far that gets you to connect with people and getting your book seen. From a publicist standpoint, I can tell you that your negative energy will always show through to the fans, no matter if you are doing your own marketing or a publicist is doing it for you, they seem to sense it and pull away. Therefore, be positive in your effort, and be kind, especially if you have hired a promotional company to do the marketing – we are doing everything we can to market your book, and you probably want us to like you if we are working to get your book seen.

Overall, I get the luxury of seeing book marketing from two different points of view every day. But not everyone has that same privilege. As an author I can see the importance of the marketing side of my book ventures, and as a publicist I can see where I need to step up as an author. Many of you may have experienced some of these same issues I mentioned above. But for those who are just stepping from the author world into the world of marketing, I give you the knowledge and advice I have – use it to make your book a success!

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

Finding Balance between Motherhood and Authorship: AKA Becoming Superwoman

Guest Post by Stacy Lynn Carroll

Stacy

Stacy Lynn Carroll has always loved telling stories. She started out at Utah State University where she pursued a degree in English, learned how to western swing, and watched as many of her fellow students became ‘True Aggies’. She then finished her BA at the University of Utah where she got an emphasis in creative writing. After college she worked as an administrative assistant, where she continued to write stories for the amusement of her co-workers. When her first daughter was born, and with the encouragement of a fortune cookie, she quit her job and became a full-time mommy and writer. Seven books and four small kids later, Stacy has truly learned the necessary skills of balance and time management. Chocolate also helps. Stacy is a two-time Whitney Awards finalist and hosts a weekly (sometimes) installment on her blog called Mommy Mondays where she shares tips on being a Mommy and a writer. She and her husband live in Utah with their four children, two Corgis, and a beta fish who refuses to die.

www.stacylynncarroll.com


Anyone who knows me knows that as much as I love writing, being a Mommy comes first. I have four beautiful, crazy, energetic children who keep me on my toes and give me the biggest reason for getting out of bed each day: “Mom! I want breakfast!”

With my seventh book on the shelf and my fourth child entering the world, I frequently get asked: “How do you do it? How do you find time to write such incredible books and take care of your home and family too?” I can tell you it’s not easy! It takes a lot of self-discipline and time management, but it’s also very doable.

First and foremost, I would start by asking one question: Is writing a career or a hobby? Pause and consider this question very seriously. Hobbies are what we do for fun when we have extra time. Simple. So if writing is a hobby at this point in your life, then stop worrying when you don’t have time for it! Just be happy with the few moments you get to write every couple months and stop stressing.

If writing is a career, however, then you need to start treating it as such. If you have to work from 8:30pm to 12:00am (my typical hours) every night, your boss wouldn’t be too thrilled if you called in every night with excuses like “I had a rough day with the kids, I’m just too tired.” Or “I’m not in the right mood.” Or “I’d rather play around on Facebook for two hours and then watch Dancing with the Stars.” These types of excuses wouldn’t fly. You would be fired before the week’s end. As a writer, you are your own boss. Treat yourself like you actually have a job. Clock your hours and make sure you get your writing time in every single day. It’s amazing how much more work you get done when you start treating your writing like a real career. It’s all about attitude. And trust me, you’ll learn to get over those tired-Mama humps when you exercise your brain muscles every single night.

Equally important: if you start treating your writing like a career, make sure others do too! Make sure your husband understands the importance of your writing. If he’s distracting you every night with “let’s just watch a movie together” or “let’s play this game”, he’s not treating your career with respect. You don’t roll over in the mornings and say, “Don’t go to work today, just stay home and play with me and the kids.” You have respect for his career. So, tempting as it may be, you don’t keep him from it. Make sure that respect goes both ways. (By no means am I encouraging you to abandon your husband. Set a date night and spend quality time with him. Add him in to your priorities and balance your writing with your family time) The same goes for friends, family, and other neighbors. “No, I’m sorry, I can’t go out after the kids are in bed tonight, I have to work.” Just as people who work need to request time off in advance, you need notice to work extra hours on other nights, or squeeze in some time during the day so you can still get your hours in for the week. No need to become a recluse! You just need better planning and a new mindset. You can’t always attend every event or help with every situation that arises. After all, you’re a working woman now!

The next step to finding balance between your writing and parenthood is setting priorities. This may seem like a no-brainer, but far too often we get overwhelmed with everything we have to do, and forget to prioritize. Start by making a list of everything you have to do on a daily basis. Out of those daily items, figure out what you can let go. Let’s face it, if you want to have a writing career and be an amazing mother, you can’t also be the PTA president. You just can’t. So let some things go from your list and don’t look back.

Next, prioritize your daily tasks by putting the most important first. I can tell you my number one priority every day is my kids. They win every time. My number two is my writing. My number three is housework. This does not mean my house is a crazy, rat-infested, disgusting place to be. I actually keep my house quite neat. What it does mean, is I make sure my kids’ needs are met first. If it’s my writing time, and someone had a bad dream and needs snuggles. I snuggle my baby and don’t feel guilty about it because I pre-determined what was most important in my life. This also means if I have a busy day with lots of errands and it comes time to write and my laundry isn’t done…I’m going to choose writing. Again, without guilt. The laundry will get done. But not until I put in my writing time first. Because that was what I determined was most important for me. And you know what? Once I made these priorities, and once I made writing one of my top ones, I found it actually happens. And everything else happens that needs to as well. When you make the time for those things which are most important to you, they actually get accomplished, and everything else you once thought was important but really isn’t, just falls away.

Once you’ve let go of everything unnecessary from your life, and you find yourself in a clean house with happy kids and a new, shiny book in your hands, go ahead and grab that cape. You have just become superwoman!

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.