National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo)

by Dallas Beams, Electric Moon team member

Hello, again! It’s me, your favorite satirical, sarcastic, and awkward Electric Moon writer! And I have the honor of telling you that the month of November is National Novel Writing Month! For those of you who do not know what that means, National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to all current and aspiring authors. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in the span of a month; begin on November 1st and continue writing as feverishly as you can until midnight on November 30th. PHEW! Sounds impossible, right? Well, while it might be quite the feat, I know that you can do this. I know it might be hard, I know it might be 1,667 words per day. I know that you have a life, a job, a family, bills to pay, checks to write; I know all of this. But, isn’t fulfilling the dream of having your novel finished worth sacrificing for? I’m not saying don’t pay your bills for November, or to quit your job; what I am saying is it’s one month out of your life of full dedication to working with your talent and honing your craft. And that you CAN do.

There is even a website to help you along.

www.nanowrimo.org

This website provides a log for you to track your progress, an author profile, and even published authors to offer friendly advice and encouragement on your journey.

This may all sound like a bad case of ‘easier said than done’ coming from stranger online, who only edits the books of other people, having never written her own novel. On the contrary, my friend, I, like some of you, am also trying to pump out my first novel. I’ve been working on it for about a year, I’ve gone through four drafts, and just started my fifth. And on November 1st I signed up for the website. Let me tell you, it has pushed me to write each day. And you’re right, it is hard, it is a struggle most days. But, the pep talks from the staff are stimulating, and the badges you can earn from your progress are invigorating. Seriously, if you are struggling for inspiration, and trying to fight off writers’ block, I strongly urge you to take the challenge. It is so worth it, and I am saying that only three days into it.

And please document your successes, trials, and efforts with the #nanowrimo on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We hope that this rejuvenates your love of writing and we hope to see your novels coming into the Electric Moon office at the end of the challenge; which conveniently coincides with our Holiday Publishing Package. Yes, I am shamelessly plugging. But in all honesty it is a great deal that authors should take advantage of before the year is up!

So, where are you in your novel? Half way? Three quarters? Just started? Let us know in the comments below!

For the Love of Books: Reading Your Appetite (part 6 of 6)

by Becky Swanberg, writer, teacher and friend of eMoon


One of the tiresome things about having five children is that they eat. A lot. All the time. And it seems that just when a meal has been cleared, dishes loaded, kitchen floor scraped, counters de-crumbed… someone is hungry. So I’ve become someone who spends a lot of time prepping, cooking, and all around dealing with food.

I’ve found, through my attempts at meal-planning, that I’m an emotional eater. As in, “Even though I have everything in the pantry for spaghetti, I still don’t feel like eating spaghetti tonight.” I’ve learned to keep several meals on hand (and to be vague with my kids about what is coming for dinner!) in order to allow plenty of room for spontaneity. Because despite what the meal plan was, some nights feel like pizza nights. Some nights are soup nights. And then there are the nights where you just want to eat popcorn for dinner.

Interestingly enough, this is also how I read.

In fact, my food choices and my reading appetites aren’t so different. Here’s what I mean.

Non-fiction: the vegetables of the book world

I read non-fiction because I should. Because I am a responsible adult. Because I do things out of duty, tradition, and social pressure. These are also the exact same reasons I eat vegetables.

I know that vegetables can taste awesome. I’m a big believer in roasted broccoli with sea salt, potatoes in all forms, corn on the cob, and any veggie off the grill. However, it’s not my go-to. I’m not ever like, “Man, I could really go for some green beans right now.” Who is? (And don’t raise your hand if you eat your green beans covered in butter and bacon. That doesn’t count! And while I’m talking to vegetable people, why are you spreading rumors that mashed cauliflower tastes better than mashed potatoes? That’s like someone saying, “I stayed up all night to finish ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. No! It’s simply not true!)

As in eating vegetables, I read non-fiction for self-improvement. I have several titles on my kindle that hover around 20% read because, let’s face it, I only read them when I’m feeling particularly interested in a topic, curious about a popular book, or just feel like being a Super Adult today. And that only gets me so far, which is rarely half way in my case.

Chick Lit: the milk duds of literature

Some mornings are rough. Some afternoons never end. Some days drag on and on and on and when the kids are finally in bed, you reward yourself with chocolate covered caramel. Enter Chick Lit.

Chick Lit, also known as Women’s fiction, is your typical beach read. It’s a breezy storyline with well-told but uncomplicated plots. There’s usually romance, happy endings, and humor.

To me, these books can’t sustain a reading diet, much like milk duds are not a regular on the menu at my house. But it’s a good treat for the long days, and a nice break when you just want to relax and escape.

One box = perfection.

Too many at once = not loving it anymore.

Seasonal Reads: when the months determine the menu

Our family menu changes a bit with the seasons, partially due to ingredients, the weather outside, and the main cook’s strong sentiments towards what food feels seasonal.

Summer? Let’s grill out and eat ridiculous amounts of watermelon.

Fall? I will survive on pumpkin bread, thank you very much.

Winter? Beef stew and crusty French bread.

Strangely, there is a season to my reading as well.

In the summer, I like to read lighter things, so I tend more toward Chick Lit, shorter fiction, or memoir. And, because I first read Les Miserables in a college summer, I usually crack it open and reread it a bit.

The fall makes me want to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. (All of them, in order, preferably before December. Does anyone else still feel like another movie should be coming? I’m obviously in denial.)

As the days get shorter and the sunset starts during the dinner hour, I want big long books that will travel with me all winter. Winter is the time for classics, for contemporary fiction that rambles, for books that are savored with mugs of hot chocolate or a friendly pot of decaf. It doesn’t have to move fast, wrap up quickly, or have action-packed pages. It’s winter. I’ll be here awhile. Let’s just take our time.

The books you come back to: comfort foods on your shelf

There are some foods that always deliver. Sure, maybe they take a little time as the rich flavors simmer. Maybe they require more prep with all the fresh ingredients. Or maybe you love it because it reminds you of home, of summer, or of someone special. Some comfort foods at our place are pork tacos, beef stroganoff, fresh bread, homemade pizza, and cinnamon rolls (we’re carbavores, can you tell?)  Comfort foods never steer you wrong.  They taste like home, like grace, like rest. I know these foods, I think as I make them.

There’s a short list of authors that I would describe in the same way.  Sometimes it’s nostalgia, sometimes it’s the quality of the writing, and sometimes it speaks to something way down deep. I generally reach for these authors because I’m reaching for something intangible; and I don’t just escape, I come back filled. The authors that can tell a story that makes your heart soar, ache, hope, and yearn- those authors are simply my favorite.

Some of my comfort books are To Kill a Mockingbird, Jacob Have I Loved, any book in the Anne series by L.M. Montgomery, and Willa Cather’s My Antonia.

For my boys, the Percy Jackson adventures are some that they return to over and over. For my daughters, Judy Blume’s Fudge books, the Penderwicks series, and the Enchanted Forest Chronicles are well-loved and worn already. These books are familiar, safe, and comforting, like good books and good food should be.

There’s room for variety of appetites, in books and in food. I’m usually pleasantly surprised when I venture out into new genres, but I’m also at a place where my preferences are fairly predictable. With food, books, and life in general, I have a pretty big appetite. And I think that’s a good place to be.

With that thought, I’ll sign off. And with this post our ‘For the Love of Books’ series is ending as well. Thanks for reading along as we talked all things books. Happy reading, folks!

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!

 

For the Love of Books: What Surprised Me Most about Trying to Write a Book (part 5 of 6)

by Becky Swanberg, writer, teacher and friend of eMoon

In July of 2011, I gave birth to my fourth child. At the time, my other kids were two, four, and six years old. As we hit the newborn rhythm and settled in to life with four, I found myself in a strange state of physical exhaustion and mental restlessness. Somehow, I was tired but bored.

That fall I heard murmurings of National Novel Writing Month, a community of writers that set a goal of writing 50,000 words in the month of November. The point of the writing was not the quality of the work but the quantity. Don’t edit. Don’t overthink it. Just write. I signed up with nothing but a vague novel premise and an excitement to stretch my writing muscles a bit.

November 1 came, and I wrote. Each night I found myself at the keyboard, steadily filling the hours of 9:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. with a slowly lengthening novel. At 11:00 I’d shut the laptop, feed the baby her last feeding of the day, and then we’d all go to bed.

In the end I made it to 47,000 words. I didn’t have a novel; I didn’t even really have a story with a point. All I had was a series of random scenes, one of which contained the longest and most-detailed Trivial Pursuit game ever recorded in a work of fiction. Not much promise in all that writing. But I did have a main character that I was getting to know and completely adored. So I scrapped the current manuscript, started over, and tried to write her story again. November had ended but novel-writing had just started.

The next version was better, with a vague hint of a plot, so I cut half of it and kept going.

Write, edit, salvage, repeat. This became the rhythm of my writing life.

Two years later, I finished that manuscript, a YA novel of 90,000 words.

That first book was an unexpected journey; it asked so much of me and taught me so much in the forming of it. I learned hard lessons in plot, conflict, pacing, and ending a story. I labored over dialogue and descriptions, fighting the details to not sound forced or contrived. I interviewed people with similar experiences, wrestled with language and dialect, ruthlessly cut adjectives and adverbs that clouded the writing. I even came to tears as I realized that my book was not going to have the happy ending I had hoped. The story had gotten away from me, the main character that I loved so much had outgrown my original plan, and in her growth she seemed to need a different end. Something harder. Something hopeful.

All of these lessons were invaluable. I came away with a wealth of knowledge not only about the process of writing a book, but also about my process as a writer. I met my main character, Macy, but I also met myself in many ways. I learned how I process information, how I plan, how I write best when I’m feeling my way through a story. I learned how the atmosphere of silence, darkness and talking aloud made the words increase exponentially. I created Macy and her world, but I met parts of me in the middle of it.

Yes, it was harder and more time consuming and more exhilarating and more draining than I had ever imagined. But of all the things I learned, there’s one lesson that surprised me the most. I thought the completion of the project would leave me feeling triumphant; I didn’t expect it to make me feel so vulnerable.

There’s something about creating art, pouring yourself out, digging deep into yourself and calling something out that truly matters to you- this is a terrifying thing to pass along to someone and casually say, “Tell me what you think.” It was a confusing reality because I was so excited to share my work and yet so reluctant to actually offer it to others. I was unprepared for how much that story would matter to me in the end. It was an achievement, not for the quality but for the act of pushing through, of finding my stride, of a few small moments in the story that resonated so deeply with things that matter to me.

In time I came to realize that the vulnerability was coming from many places; it came from the depth of the words, the unsureness of the outcome, the effort given in the pouring out. I knew it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was a sincere and hard-fought offering.

In the offering of something personal, there is a final stage to letting it go. There’s a moment where you actually have to pry your fingers off the work and set it down, knowing that other people are going to pick it up and treat it how they choose.  It was the moment of setting it down that ripped me raw. I expected to feel more like I was unveiling a painting; instead it felt like abandoning a child. But the setting it down, the walking away, the letting the story tell its own story—each hard part of the process was something I needed to experience.

As I reflect on that first attempt, there’s part of me that wants to “fix” that problem, master my own vulnerability, if you will. Surely I can write in such a way that doesn’t leave me feeling so exposed or produce a story that is so personal. But in the scope of creating and writing and building a story, I think that what we say should matter. It should resonate. It should feel like something significant is being offered in the telling. And all I know to write, all I have to really say, is an outpouring of things that deeply matter and move me.

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!

 

For the Love of Books: Four Words that Book Lovers Have Got to Stop Saying (part 4 of 6)

By Becky Swanberg, writer, teacher and friend of eMoon

Join me in this scenario:

You’re at a social event (insert birthday party, holiday gathering, Bunko night) and somebody brings up the latest movie.  Someone raves, someone criticizes, someone shrugs and says they didn’t see it. But then there’s That Person, the Book Person who has to weigh in on the movie and say, “The book was better.”

            In the end, of course the book was better...

           In the end, of course the book was better...

Major eye rolls all around. 

Look, let me clarify a few things. I’m all about books. I’d rather read than watch a movie. And I almost always think the book was better than the movie. But this phrase has become cliché, and here’s a few reasons we should all stop saying it.

  1. Your fellow readers already know. We know the book was better. We get it. You aren’t bringing anything new to the table. Why not offer a comparison, a quip, a specific thought to feed the conversation instead of slamming the door.
  2.  Non-readers (a demographic I like to optimistically think of as “future book lovers”) get irritated.  In my quest to help all people love books as much as I do, you aren’t helping with your “the book was better” answers. It feels exclusive, smug, and maybe a teeny bit condescending.
  3. “The book was better!” Someone commented, shutting down all other opinions.

“Oh, really? I’m totally going to read that,” replied No One Ever.

So if we do outlaw the Four-Words-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, what can we offer instead? I’m all for an honest critique, and particularly enjoy when someone offers a viewpoint I’d never considered. How about a thoughtful comment, one that will intrigue non-readers or spark the conversation of others who have enjoyed the book? Here’s a few questions to consider that may help spark a conversation…

  • How did the movie differ from the book? Did those differences affect the plot or theme? Did the movie capture the heart of the book despite the differences?
  • What character was the most like you pictured in your head? Any casting WAY OFF from your imagination?
  • If the movie fell short, what was lacking?
  • Was there anything about the movie that enhanced the story for you?

That’s a start. Take those questions and run with them, folks. The next time the topic is books-turned-movies, you can feed the conversation and offer some food for thought.  Don’t be that cliché reader who only has one phrase; branch out! Defy stereotypes! Offer more than the obvious and you may be surprised when people meet that offering with their own observations.

In the end, of course the book was better. It’s a book, for goodness sake. I’ll always take a well-developed page turner over an action-packed screen adaption. But just for the sake of everyone who’s still on the fence, still not sure that all those hours of turning pages are worth it, let’s be good ambassadors. 

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!

For the Love of Books: (Fantasy) Boy meets (Literary Fiction) Girl (part 3 of 6)

By Becky Swanberg, writer, teacher and friend of eMoon


Setting: May of 2000.

Scene: First date. Guy and girl both in late teens. Conversation about movie preferences.

Girl: I like the classics.

Guy: The classics. Like Die Hard?

Girl: (confused) No…like Casa Blanca.

Guy: Oh. You mean old movies. Why would you want to watch a black and white movie when there is color now?

Girl sits in stunned silence. Scene fades to black.

Yep. That was us. Stepping out on the unsure waters of a possible relationship and trying to figure out if this was all going to work. What? Old movies? You think Die Hard is a classic? And this was just the movies discussion; the book discussion was years ahead.

But we pushed through it. Through long distance dating, we figured some things out and eventually found an identity as a couple and at some point decided to make us a permanent thing.

Cue the wedding march.

Books played into things, at different times. We read some books together, me reading aloud on road trips and lazy afternoons and picnics. We read through the Chronicles of Narnia in our first year together. We tackled Til We Have Faces on a road trip one spring. We read a few biographies that interested us.

At some point we decided to read Pride and Prejudice together. I mean, after all, how could my life partner truly get me if he didn’t know Elizabeth and Darcy, couldn’t place Pemberley or Netherfield? By the end of the first chapter, my husband turned to me and said, “I don’t get it. What do they do all day?”

Girl sits in stunned silence. Scene fades to black.

Just kidding. I’m not sure what I said to that. But in the end, we decided to do something else, find something else that we could both enjoy more. And we found it, fell into the deep end, you could say, all by accident.

Our second year of marriage, we were prepping for a road trip to Chicago so I stopped by the library to grab an audio book. I was pregnant, so the extra motion sickness was making it hard for me to read out loud in the car. I was in a hurry and scanned my options quickly, settling on a random fantasy novel that looked kind of Lord-of-the-Rings-ish to me. It looked like something he would like, so I checked it out.

We set out on our trip, popping in disc 1 as we drove out of Omaha. We arrived in Chicago seven hours later. I don’t remember where we were in the story or if we had started discussing it yet, but I do remember that we pulled up to our hotel and neither of us wanted to get out of the car. We were completely hooked. The characters, the setting, the pace of the book- we just didn’t want it to end.

Well, lucky for us, we had stumbled on the prequel to The Wheel of Time. So there were years of books waiting for us in this epic fantasy series. We read on car trips, stretched out on the couch in our living room, by the light of the bedside lamp at night. We read in hospital rooms and hotels and airport terminals. We read and read and read. The characters of these books became part of our shared language, our common friends, as we slowly worked our way through the rest of the fourteen books. 

Then life moved on, babies kept coming, road trips happened regularly. Along the way, we found authors that appealed to both of us. We discovered Stephen Lawhead, a perfect literary union of beautiful language, rich world building, and classic re-tellings of timeless stories. Hood. Scarlet. Tuck. Books we both loved so much, and loved even more that we could love them together.

Sixteen years into marriage, we’ve grown towards each other in so many ways, but we’re still uniquely us. I’m still enamored by old books, still a sucker for clever dialogue and thick prose and characters that I feel like I’ve met. He’s pushing through things like Game of Thrones and still a hardcore fan of the epic fantasy novel (So. Much. World building.)  In books (and in marriage) we have found that we bring our own thing to this game.  But we’ve also learned that there’s overlap, that there are things in life and in books that we honestly enjoy together.

Those things unite us and remind us that we aren’t so crazy to be in this together. That we make sense. That we’re good for each other.

I’ll leave you with this last scene.

Setting: Ten years into marriage. Husband is proudly introducing Star Wars to his young boys. Wife is in and out of the room, folding laundry, kind of watching.

Episode III is playing. Padme is pregnant. Anakin is lured to the dark side. Obi-Wan fights Vader. Padme gives birth. Whole family watching is enthralled.

Wife: (yells in shock) What??? It’s twins???

Husband sits in stunned silence. Scene fades to black.

Yep. That was us. Still surprising each other. Still shaking our heads. Still glad we stepped out on those unsure waters and never looked back. 

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!

For the Love of Books: Why Memoirs Matter (part 2 of 6)

By Becky Swanberg, writer, teacher and friend of eMoon


I’m a fiction girl. When it comes to books, movies, TV shows, or even lectures- all I want is a good story.

Non-fiction reading? If I must.

Documentaries?  I’ll watch out of conscience but not interest. 

TED talks? For fun? Really?

This is just how I’m wired. The list of fiction I’ve stayed up all night to finish is tens times longer than the list of non-fiction I’ve ever cracked open. I want a story not a thesis. I want to be enthralled not informed. I want to meet people, go places, feel things.

Enter memoir.

Yes, personal memoir: the one genre of non-fiction that I can honestly say I enjoy and reread and excitedly pass on to others. These are not the non-fiction books I find lost under my bed, a post-it note marking my place in the early chapters. Oh, no. Memoirs are simply someone’s true story, and I can get into that.

There’s something about the good, the bad, and the ugly of someone else’s life that leaves me wide-eyed. It’s almost as though the stakes in the story are higher because it is real. It happened. All the people on these pages are…well, people. And this narrative that is being woven isn’t just a story; it’s actually someone’s story.

Around ten years ago I read Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. In this true account, Nafisi tells of her time as a professor in Iran and recounts her relationships with her female students, their challenges amidst the political and religious restrictions, and her own personal journey to reconcile her inner and outer world. In the book, Professor Nafisi gathered a group of female students to secretly study the great novels of western literature, working through classics like Gatsby and Lolita. The result is a difficult and courageous story, one that I had no context for but wholly admired in the telling.

I could not relate to the specific experience of life in Iran. I had never taught college, had kids, lived in a culture with extreme restrictions towards women, or dealt with the family and societal expectations that reflected the culture. I had never had a dress code, hurried home by a state-enforced curfew, or seated myself in a “women-only” section of a restaurant. It almost read more like fiction; though I knew it to be true, it didn’t feel true to me.

Then I read this quote, a reflection of the main character as she processes her family’s decision to leave Iran.


“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

Then I set the book down and wept. As a military kid, I knew too well the experience of leaving. And never before had I been able to articulate how you truly say good-bye to part of yourself when you move. But Azir Nafisi had said it for me.

 I could not claim to have experienced her life, but I could relate to the emotions. That is what memoir has to offer us. Memoirs tell us that our experiences are unique but our emotions are universal. It’s those universal emotions that draw us in, but it is someone else’s perspective that can truly call us out.

From reading a memoir, we can push pause on our own life. In the pages of someone else’s childhood, we can begin to stop playing our own story on repeat. We can let walls down, prejudices fade, ignorance wither. With the help of a narrative, we can identify with another’s experience, and often more accurately interpret our own.

This is memoir: stories that inspire reflection, encourage empathy, and offer us another’s shoes to walk in for a bit.

Sometimes the journey wears us out. Sometimes we’re repulsed or heartbroken or simply weighed down by another’s truth. At the end of the day, a well-written memoir can widen our perspective and yet somehow draw us more closely to others. Memoir reminds us of the courage that is shown not only in the honest telling of a hard story, but in the living of a hard story.  

Memoirs offer us the chance to grow up again as someone else, to see the world from other eyes, to celebrate and mourn and carry the weight of an entirely other story. And in the journey, we can become stronger and kinder and more understanding.

Unique experiences. Shared emotions. Better people.

Thank you, memoir. 

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!

 

For the Love of Books: How the Books of Childhood Opened up My World (1 of 6)

by Becky Swanberg - writer, teacher and friend of eMoon 

HardbackBooks-1141910.jpg

I recently started reading Anne of Green Gables to my daughters, ages five and seven. It seemed like a good choice when I stumbled on the old copy, but once I started I thought it would be too much. The sentences were so long and the descriptions rambled for days and the main character herself…well, I didn’t think my girls would buy it.

But they did.

At first, the descriptions of trees and brooks and meadows wore my poor girls out a bit.

“Is the little girl coming soon?” the five year-old asked before we finished the first page. (It should not have surprised me; this daughter is known for starting road trips by asking at the bottom of our alley if we’re getting close yet.)

But we read on, through the first chapter where the nosy neighbor speculates, past the initial conversation where the subtle friendship was lost on young ears, and into the next chapter where poor Anne waits anxiously for Matthew to claim her. My older daughter yawned; the younger began to flip pages of a different book.

And then Anne started talking. I watched my girls’ eyes widen. I watched them cover their tight smiles with little hands as they tried not to laugh out loud. But the fight was over when Anne began to explain to Matthew that she often imagined being so plump that she might have “elbows with dimples.” Roaring laughter followed, the book was closed for the night, and the sever year-old sighed, “Oh, Anne” in a way that only fellow Anne-fans could appreciate.

In that reading I remembered something Anne had taught me so many years ago: she taught me to love words.

I guess it wasn’t Anne as much as it was L.M. Montgomery, but together those two spun prose so thick and rambling that it made me move slow and careful through it. I remember reading parts aloud just because I wanted to hear how it sounded, wanted to feel it move out of my lips.

I still love words, love how they pile together or spread out freely or capture a thought that I could barely reign in. I have the Anne books to thank for that.  Come to think it, I have a lot of childhood books to thank.

I learned so much from the books that found me when I was still a young reader. Not just action and adventure and expanding-my-world kind of stuff, though there was plenty of that in Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, two books I ran into around fourth grade. There were so many books that widened my imagination and exposed me to genres that I hadn’t yet met. But then there were hard things I learned from books.

Katherine Patterson, with her Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved, taught me that life is unfair and that kids- kids like me who run and play and imagine- are mortal. I remember feeling so wronged by the death of one of her main characters, as if some agreement somewhere had been violated—not between her and me, between me and the universe.

Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, a simple story set in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen, spoke of friendship, war, prejudice, and fear. I learned that the world isn’t always safe, that leaders can’t always be trusted, and that true friends always can.

In Dahl’s books I met James with his giant peach and cheered on Matilda, distressed by the idea that adults could be the bad guys in a kid’s life.   

It was through books that I first encountered ideas like colonization, war, oppression, and treachery. I met the bullies in books before I met them in junior high. Books widened my world, but also darkened it a little at times; I think that it’s important to let books do both.

Decades have gone by and I’m passing books along to my own herd of readers. Some books we’re discovering together because I somehow missed them along the way (I’m looking at you, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever) and some books are like introducing my kids to pieces of me that I had almost forgotten.

I’m not sure what we’ll tackle once Green Gables is done, maybe we’ll need to recover a bit with some shorter sentences and fast-paced action. Maybe we’ll follow Anne into her next adventure. Either way, I’m grateful for Anne and all the rest, grateful for the things I learned as a kid and the things I get to watch my own kids learn.

And it’s all because I opened a book. 

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!

5 Ways to Treat Your Writing as a Business

by Lee Warren, freelance writer/editor and eMoon team member

One of the biggest difficulties for new authors is gaining an audience that is big enough to sustain their writing careers. Successful authors have learned that if they are going to build an audience, then they need to treat their writing as a business.

Here are five things they are doing:

1.       They are building an email list, typically by offering a free lead magnet (either an e-book or e-report). The benefits of an email list are multi-faceted. First, unlike your friends or followers on social media platforms, you own your email list and you can contact the people on it any time you choose. Second, you will create relationships with many of your subscribers, some of whom will purchase your books and tell others about them. And third, your list is the best way to keep your name in front of people on a regular basis. Check out MailChimp, AWeber, or Constant Contact.

2.      They have a business model. In her book, “Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur,” Joanna Penn proposes three business models that authors can use. Model #1 includes a mixture of non-fiction books with multimedia products, speaking and consulting. Model #2 includes high volume book releases. Model #3 includes sporadic book releases, mixed with teaching, speaking and freelance writing. Choose the one that best suits you and work the plan.

 3.      They have a production schedule. How many books will you write over the next twelve months? Using a production schedule (with a calendar of some sort) will help you accomplish that goal. It will include, but is not limited to, designated dates for brainstorming/outlining, writing the first draft, working on multiple revisions, proofing, your book launch, and then it repeats with the next title. I also like to include my deadline for submitting to an editor. Here are a couple of good articles with more info.  

4.      They are targeting prospective readers with Facebook ads. If you write young adult dystopian fiction, then you can target the nearly 3,000,000 people who have liked “The Hunger Games” trilogy Facebook page, offering them a lead magnet to join your email list. If you write non-fiction for women who struggle with their self-worth, then you can target Jen Hatmaker’s 500,000 plus Facebook fans. If you write children’s steampunk, then you can target author Philip Pullman’s 36,000+ fans on Facebook. If you aren’t sure who to target, just pull up the top 10 list for your genre and target the fans of those authors.

5.     They have a strong social media presence. They aren’t bombarding followers with pitches to buy their latest books. Instead, they are serving their followers in the niche in which they write. Rhonda Rhea writes funny non-fiction with a spiritual twist, so her social media feeds are full of funny anecdotes from her life. And RJ Thesman has a fictional series in which her primary character has Alzheimer’s, so her social media presence often contains helpful information about the disease.   

Why I Chose the Self-Publishing Route

By Miranda Sherman, speaker and author of The Mighty Fork: Healing Your Mind and Body with Food

 

Writing is not my strong suit.  Ask me to speak in public and I’m pretty great.  I love getting up in front of a group of people and talking about healing, food and God.  But as a writer, I need lots of help. 

I am a Nutrition Educator and I teach in many venues informing audiences about why what we eat matters and how food can heal us.  Class participants are always fascinated and I have been asked many times over the years if I have a book.  I had decided to try to oblige my followers and began to write my book about three years ago.  I had a very rough draft written down, but knew I just didn’t know anything about the publishing world. 

I attended writer’s groups and had even taken some classes at the local community college on how to publish a book.  Let me just say that the entire publishing process seemed daunting.  When I discovered that I had to write a book proposal, research my market, map out a marketing plan, and have a “platform” online and with social media before a big publisher would even talk to me, well that sounded like more work than writing the original book!

That was about the time that I met Laree and Electric Moon Publishing.  We met at a Christian writer’s conference but I still wasn’t sold on the whole idea of self-publishing.  But, Laree met with me after the conference and really captured the vision of what I was trying to write.  For every skill that I knew I didn’t have, EMoon had the expertise that would get me to where I wanted to be.   I, being the stubborn person that I am, continued to try to work on my book on my own but would get stuck on critical elements.  Finally, out of true frustration, I contacted Laree again and said, “This time I’m serious…I need your help to get this book DONE!”  She came to the rescue.

I had a tight deadline that I had given myself and boldly scheduled a book launch with no completed book.  That date on the calendar became the target and I can’t tell you how hard everyone at EMoon worked to get my book finalized by that date.  It was work to be sure and everyone had to do their part (including me) but we did it.  One week before my deadline, I had my book proof in hand.

It is so exciting, humbling, and rewarding to have your book published.  The funny thing about writing—all I can think of is my next book.  I’m thrilled with the final product and I get so many compliments from my readers about how professional the final product looks.  It’s been a God-send and a blessing working with Laree.  There are still a few books left in me and I am positively certain that Laree will be my future publishing partner for book number two.

 

10 Ways Authors Benefit from a Writers’ Conference

by Lee Warren, freelance editor and eMoon team member

 

I attended my first writers’ conference in 1998. Being exposed to people who understood me, as a writer, without needing to explain myself, made me feel like I had found a new home. In a way, I had. 

Since then, I have attended at least one writers’ conference every year in various parts of the country. If you haven’t made the time to attend one, here’s how one can benefit your writing career:

1.      You’ll learn how to improve your craft. Conferences offer classes that are taught by industry experts who teach you how to write compelling copy. Without compelling copy, you’ll find it difficult to find a publisher, or an audience.

2.     You’ll learn what not to write. Poetry is difficult to sell. You probably knew that. But did you know that memoirs are difficult to sell to a traditional Christian publisher unless you have a huge platform? Sports books are also hard to sell. Wondering what else? Attend a conference and find out.

3.     You’ll learn industry terms and concepts. If an editor asked you to write a round-up article on spec, would you know what he or she was talking about? If you plan to go the indie author route, do you understand how sales funnels work, or what it means to “go wide”?

4.     You’ll learn industry expectations. Editors expect you to know how to format a manuscript. They also expect you to know how to access their writers’ guidelines for other pertinent information.

5.     You’ll learn the publishing process. Editors rarely look at manuscripts first. Some want to see a query letter first. Others want to see a book proposal. Others only want to see a synopsis. You’ll learn about all of these at a conference.

6.     You’ll learn industry norms. Do you have any idea how long the lead times are for most book publishers, or why this is important? How about magazines? How long should you wait to check the status of a submission? A conference will help you answer these questions.

7.     You’ll learn how to be published in specific markets. Editors often teach classes at conferences about how to write for their publication. Some even offer insider tips.

8.    You’ll be exposed to new markets. I never even considered becoming a sportswriter until I had a conversation with the editor of a sports magazine at a conference in 2000. I’ve gone on to write hundreds of sports articles for Yahoo! Sports, the U.S. Olympic Committee website, Baptist Press Sports, SB Nation and many other publications.

9.     You’ll be exposed to new ideas. You might be chasing a book deal, but someone with more experience might pull you aside at a conference and advise you to start with articles. Putting yourself around experienced professionals will open doors you never imagined.

10.  You’ll build new relationships. Conferences will not only provide face time with editors, but if things work out, you’ll get their email addresses and an invitation to begin sending your work their way. You’ll also make lasting friendships with other writers while you are there. 

 

Imaginary Friends

By Dallas Beams, Electric Moon team member

 

How would you behave right now if you knew you were going to meet your ideal mentor next week; he or she looking directly at you, talking to you, listening to you? This thought occurred to me when I heard that the fantastical love of my life, Stephen King, was coming to town in a few weeks. I admire him so much, and not in the horror movie King (pun intended) manner, but in the Green Mile Shawshank Redemption style. The Body changed everything I thought I knew about character development and character interaction. The perfection that is the relationship between Teddy, Vern, Chris, and Gordie blew my mind… I digress.

The thought of meeting the mastermind behind three of my favorite novels makes my knees quake. As an author, I’d faint at the chance for him to look over my own writing.

In previous articles, I’ve given the reason I write, tips to help get your writing going, and writing resolutions for the New Year; today let’s talk about audience. In college, my professors pounded, pounded, pounded writing for the correct audience day after day.

Who is your primary audience? What kind of audience: professional, executive, friends? Does your writing require more than one audience? How knowledgeable is your audience about the subject which you’re writing? What concepts and terms do you need to define for your audience? Blah blah blah.

I, contrary to common thought, think they were very inconsistent in their teachings. It felt like every day my instructors were identifying a new audience for us to write to. So, I’d like to propose an alternative stance on the idea of ‘audience’. What if we weren’t necessarily writing to a specific group or person, but just wrote as if a certain theoretical person was to read it. A hypothetical mentor, if you will. Someone who’s writing you admire, someone who’s writing is what you aspire to be similar to.

Even if it isn’t the entirety of their repertoire, and just a few pieces they’ve written. Find that person who inspires you, who you’d want to be a hypothetical accountability partner to your writing--a muse and a mentor.

Who do you admire as a writer; even if it’s just a small characteristic of their writing, like character development or storytelling abilities. Imagine handing them your writing and anticipating their comments and critiques.

Visualize, say, Stephen King, reading each piece of your writing… my, wouldn’t that change a few things? Our words may develop more deliciously, our sentence structure may become more professional and our characters’ relationships may deepen.

With the help of a hypothetical mentor, we may become that much better of a writer.

Resolutions for the Writer

by Dallas Beams, Electric Moon team member

Oye Vey. Resolutions, again. If I see one more inspirational quote entitled “New year, new me” on social media, I may scoop out my eyeballs with a melon baller. And yet, here I am spouting five New Year’s resolutions for the writer. However, mine come with a theme. A mantra, really. A mantra I’ve recently adopted into my own life.

I’ve found myself comparing myself to others more often than I’d like to admit through the years. I see healthy women with healthy bodies, and think negative things about myself.

You are so fat.

I see women who are attentive and patient with their children.

You can never be as good a mother as she.

I see happy couples feeding one another at restaurants.

Your marriage will never be that happy.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I know I’m not the only one who struggles with it; I’ve heard plenty of people complain about these very things. But, instead of hating ourselves for what others do well, why can’t these people be aspirations? Something we try to be, rather than complain about? So my mantra and theme for my New Year is to stop complaining and BE what I want to be. I want to be a better mother, I want to be a better wife, I want to be a better writer. So, I am going to BE those things.

1.       Write every day. Yes, writers hear this all the time, but it really does make all the difference. Stop watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, log off Facebook, ignore that text from the special someone you used to date who really isn’t all that special anyway. Get rid of the distractions and do. Even if you don’t write in that ever procrastinated novel of yours, just write! Keep a journal, write a blog, pen a letter.

2.      Make a writing space for yourself. I’ve just recently made myself a writing area, and it has had such an impact. It’s not an entire room decorated to support my imagination and creativity, just a meek corner in the basement near my kids play area. But, it is my space, nonetheless. Having an area with things that inspire me and seduce me to write is beneficial to more than just my writing. It lifts my spirits and makes me feel like what I am doing is important. And to a work-from-home-mom, that is everything.

3.       Read more. Read well. Study the masters of writing who came before you, and that means branching out to more than just your favorite authors. Pick a new genre, honing your craft is more than just reading your favorites. Expand your repertoire, expand your writing technique.

4.       Listen. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth, so that we may listen twice as much as we speak”. As painful as it is to hear constructive criticism about our own writing, shut up and listen. The criticism you hear is what your readers think of you, and that is important.

5.       Call yourself a writer. This may be the most important resolution for 2016…nay… all of your days. At times, I struggle when people ask me what I do for a living. Replying “writer” seems to not quite cover it, or it seems to say too much. Oh, she’s a writer. She must be struggling because I haven’t heard her name, I wonder what brand of cardboard box she is living in. There is more to life than the amount of money you have in your bank account. Writing is my passion. Think about that word, passion, I didn’t say “writing is my job.” I said passion. I yearn to write. And I get to write every day. I am a writer.

That’s it. It’s not asking too much. Rather than just writing the traditional list of New Year’s resolutions and forgetting it in the back of your sock drawer, tape this to your bathroom mirror. Look at it every day. Inspire yourself. BE who you aspire to be. 

Keep it Moving!: 3 Tips on How to Finish that Novel

By Dallas Beams, Electric Moon Team Member

 

I have written the first three chapters to eleven different books, which, I’d like to think, is quite an accomplishment. With all that hard work and effort, you’d think I could have a whole book and had it published by now, but alas, I tend to fizzle out.

For months, I have the perfect idea for a novel, I map out the characters, the plot, the words, and then I begin to write. It flows through my fingertips like the magic from Harry Potter’s wand. But three chapters in, something happens.

I get distracted.

I flip on some Netflix and grab a bowl of popcorn, forgetting all about my amazing novel idea.

However, I have just started my twelfth novel and I have made it to chapter five! I believe I have finally accumulated some tips and tricks to completing the big book idea.

1.      Write what you know. Until recently, I never understood what my teachers were saying class after class. Write about what I know? My life is boring, I have nothing interesting to write about from my own life. Yet, in the last few months, I’ve found the middle ground.

Write what you know doesn’t necessarily mean “write your life story” (unless that’s what you want, then do that), it could mean take a small part of your life and incorporate it into your story. The setting, the characters, a small plot story all will provide your writing with a little stamp of you. This small detail of your life will keep your interest in the story alive, and simultaneously draw your readers to the passion in your writing.

2.      Shi**y First Drafts (asterisks added). Anne Lammot, author of six novels, coined the term “shi**y first draft” in her 1994 book about writing Bird by Bird. She says that all great writers start with a horrible draft of writer’s creative vomit when writing their first draft. The power this idea can generate in young writers is unlimited. As a writer and editor, I know how hard it can be to get past a sentence that doesn’t sound just perfect. I want to fix every single period and semicolon as I write. Lammot suggests that writers ignore the urge to rein themselves in, and pull that backspace button right off your keyboard. This allows the writer to get out all of their thoughts, without distraction and without fear.

3.      Show, don’t tell. I encourage all writers to visualize their storyline. As taboo as it is for a writer to acknowledge that someday your book may become a film, it might happen.

Gasp! What? Yes. I like to visualize my scenes actually happening on the big screen. Imagine the music you would want playing, the look on your characters face when his girlfriend slaps him across the cheek, the sound of the last balloon being popped at poor Timmy’s failed fifth birthday party that no one showed up to. 

As a reader, I want to see these dramatic moments happening, I don’t want the writer to just tell me “Timmy was sad.” Show me the tears, show me the table with an untouched cake sitting atop it, candle still lit.

 

While these may not be the traditional tips and tricks to write a novel, they are the few phrases that have stuck in my head throughout my school and editing career. Try these tips out and let us know if these helped.

What trick do you use to keep yourself motivated?

What helps you keep your writing moving?

 

Dallas is an eMoon associate who specializes in editing and writing.

Why I Write: Daddy Are You Proud?

by Dallas Beams, Electric moon team member

In elementary school, I realized I wanted to be a writer. I penned little stories about my family and about worlds I made up on my own; I even illustrated them. These stories were written for my family and I had them read every word. But no one’s eyes ever saw them other than my family.

Until high school, in my first creative writing class. It marked the most embarrassing moment of my entire life and yet it affected my writing in a major way. I had written a shallow cliché story about an “emo” kid (my current obsession) who moved to New York City and became a famous writer. In the peer review, my story was torn apart--completely justified--but I was heart-broken. Thank God all of the stories were anonymous; no one knew it was mine. But, that humiliating moment was the turning point in my career as a writer. It pushed me to write better than I ever thought I could.

Creative Nonfiction to me is an expression, an art. Some people paint their feelings, some people stuff their feelings, and some people talk about their feelings.

I write about my feelings.

I write about moments that have affected my life in a major way.

Writing about these moments is a release for me. Instead of shunning them from my memory and stuffing each instance, I am able to release these emotions by tapping on my computer keyboard.

I think another big part of creative nonfiction for me is to make my parents proud. I don’t know what it is about myself, but my main goal (be it conscious or subconscious) in life is to make my mom and dad swell with pride. I know, I know. It sounds cheesy and fake, but the relationship with my parents is very important to me. And the first time they hold one of my published works in their hands, with a big smile their face, and I hear the words I have been desperate to hear since I was twelve, “I am proud of you,”--I will fall over and die of a happy heart.

What About You?

So, why do you write? To earn the praise of someone close to you? Because you feel this yearning to put pen to paper, or words to computer screen? If you haven’t sought out the answer to why you write, you may be missing out on a great muse for your creativity. A transparent writer who “knows thy self” can write from a deeper place and put forth stronger writing with conviction.

Let us know, why you write. Take an adventure into yourself and tell someone about your epiphany of self discovery.

Dallas is an eMoon associate who specializes in editing and writing.

Five Basic Marketing Tips

So let's say you've written a great book, you've gotten it published through Electric Moon, and you're ready to promote your message to the world. What’s next?

While there are myriad ways you can begin to build your platform as an both author and speaker, there are several truly effective ways that we can recommend. 

:: Build a Website :: In the information-driven age that we live in, one of the most effective tools for an author is to build a website. Having your own website gives you the opportunity to present yourself, your writing, and your message to the world in exactly the manner you choose. Having said that, we also encourage you to build a website that is both professional and aesthetically pleasing for your potential readers. An excellent presentation goes a very long way toward respectability.

:: Buy Ad Space :: For little to no money at all, Google, AdWords and Facebook offer fantastic opportunities to market and share your book(s) with family, friends and beyond.

:: Start a Blog :: One of the absolute best ways to build your platform in this day and age is to host your own blog and post to it regularly. Building a following is easier when people can read for themselves how much of an expert you are. Also, while many web-marketing/blogging gurus will tell you that “Content is king,” we’d like to add: “Great content will keep people coming back.” Be sure you update your blog often. You'll be surprised how many people will read what you write if your writing is great! 

:: Use Viral Video Sites :: Viral video sites like YouTube and Vimeo have altered information sharing and web-marketing like no other phenomenon. Having a video book trailer created for your book and offered for viewing on sites like these is a tremendous tool for promoting your message or story. The combined impact of sight and sound can do more than tell people about your book - it can create an emotional response to your book that your potential readers will carry with them long after they've forgotten an article or thrown away a flyer. And with services like Vimeo, you can easily have the video link back to your own website to draw people further in. We realize it isn't to every author's taste to have a video trailer created for their work, it is important to remember that you want to reach as wide an audience as possible, and video is a powerful tool for connecting people to your message emotionally. 

:: Good Old-Fashioned Word of Mouth :: The title pretty much says it all.  Nothing sells your work better than you! You are your best advocate and promoter.  Talk about your book in timely locations and arenas. Carry a few books with you or the coupon code to your eBook online. Encourage your readers to write positive reviews. Share your work through Internet social media and idea exchange sites such as Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest and others. While these are just a few suggestions, we highly recommend that you take advantage of the many tools available to you in promoting your work.

If you have any questions or need direction, don't hesitate to ask an eMoon associate. It is our goal to point you and your writing career in the right direction.