Saturday, August 04, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: Jo Whittemore on When the Going Gets Tough & What to Do About It

By Jo Whittemore
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

“What do you do when you’re stuck in your writing?”

This is a popular question asked of authors.

In reply, the author will usually stroke his/her beard thoughtfully and say, “I step away from the page for a few days to clear my head.”

But there’s more to it than that.

Before you can clear your head, you have to figure out what’s clogging it, right?

So what is it for you?

Fear? Frustration? Drain hair?

Tell Cousin It that he's banned from our bathroom.
Whenever you’re stuck, ask yourself these five questions:
  1. Is the story going the way I’d hoped? 
  2. Is the story as riveting as I’d hoped? 
  3. Are the characters as awesome as I’d hoped? 
  4. Is the story as awesome as I’d hoped? 
  5. Am I as awesome as I’d hoped?

Well, which one is it?

Chances are one of these five doubts has been filling your mind.

1. If you fear your story isn’t going the way you’d hoped, you’ve got plotting issues. Consider what’ll happen following the logic of what you’ve already written (Elephant falls from tightrope, killing thousands of clowns trapped in car).

Compare that to what you wanted to happen (Elephant becomes famous tightrope walker). Where did the disconnect occur? Did the elephant miss some lessons that need to be written in? Does it never receive the all-important balancing umbrella?

2. If you fear your story isn’t as riveting as you’d hoped, you’ve got action/description issues. The reader won’t be drawn into your world because you haven’t made it interesting or exciting. If a sentence doesn’t move the story forward or paint a picture of your world, cut it.

3. If you fear your characters aren’t as awesome as you’d hoped, you’ve got character development issues. Reveal more of their strengths and weaknesses, their hopes and fears. Add depth. Make them memorable. Make them human (or elephant).

4 & 5. If you fear a lack of awesome in the story or yourself, you’re doing one of the major no-no’s of the writing world...comparing what you’ve got to what someone else has.

The story you’re going to tell is different than the story someone else would tell, because it’s jam-packed with your emotions and experiences. Of course it’s awesome. Because it’s uniquely you!

See my big sister? She’s all, “Whatevs. You can have your bear. I’m awesome.”
Be like that!

And take heart...the fact that you’re stuck is a good thing. It means you’re putting thought into what goes on the page, and you want it to be your best.

If all else fails, come see your old pal Jo and we’ll share some tea and writing time.



Cynsational Notes

Attention Central Texans! Join Jo at 4 p.m. Aug. 12 to celebrate the release of D Is for Drama (Aladdin, 2012) at BookPeople.

Photos courtesy of Jo Whittemore.

Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win a set of signed copies of Jo's books, Front Page Face-Off (Aladdin, 2010), Odd Girl In (Aladdin, 2011) and D Is for Drama (Aladdin, 2012). Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S.

From the promotional copy of D Is for Drama: 

Sunny Kim is done with one-line roles at Carnegie Arts Academy, but even with an acting coach, she doesn't snag the lead in Mary Poppins. 

Desperate for a solution, Sunny convinces the school to let her produce a one-woman show, which other rejected kids soon beg to join. 

Before long, Sunny is knee-deep in curtains and cat fights as her one-woman show turns into the hit musical "Wicked." 

Can the show come together in time for opening night?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

6 comments:

Kellie DuBay Gillis said...

I heart Jo! She really does give the best advice. Thanks for the tips on getting unstuck. Can't wait to read D is for DRAMA!

DeenaML said...

I love Jo's comedies and can't wait to read DRAMA!

Carolee Dean said...

Sometimes I've just got too many darn elepants and if I think they're all awesome, that's a problem.

Nikki said...

This post shows exactly why everyone in the world should read Jo's books - she's so freaking hilarious! I will try not to doubt my or my story's awesomeness. And if all else fails? Tea with Jo! It's a win/win.

Michelle L. Brown said...

If the book is half is funny as this post, I can't wait to read it. I'm planning on getting a couple of copies, one for my own girls and one to give away at play rehearsals to the girls in the children's theater where I direct! It may have more impact than my "no small parts, only small actors" speech!

Heidi Grange said...

These are the kind of books that the girls at my school love to read.

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