Ten Ways To Screw Up The Book You’re Writing

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons


  1. Wait for the muse. Yup, just sit there and wait. Your muse will show up dressed in pink satin and waving a wand. The muse will tap you on the nose three times then spin in circles spraying glitter everywhere and your novel will come spilling out of your fingers onto your keyboard at a rapid rate. You’ll write the best book ever, sell millions of copies, and be adored by fans world wide. Not.
  2. Do not set a daily writing goal. If you write one word or ten thousand, does it really matter?
  3. Only write a first draft. Your mother loves your writing. Who needs to edit?
  4. Never read a book on the craft, never attend a workshop on the aspects of creative writing. You read a fiction book in the seventh grade about a girl detective. What else do you need to learn to write that book?
  5. Believing all stories are worth telling.
  6. Only give your book to your parent, spouse, best friend for feedback. They know you take anti-depressant medication. They’ll be honest.
  7. Forget everything about grammar and punctuation. That stuff just clutters the page anyway.
  8. Rely on spell check to fix misspelled words. Does anyone really know the difference between there, their, and they’re?
  9. Put your hero in a jam and have a gun magically appear to shoot the bad guys with.
  10. Spend the first fifty pages telling the reader about the hero’s life before the book begins because the reader isn’t smart enough to understand your book without your long winded explanation.

How Do You Handle The Waves?

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com
Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

LIfe is a lot like an ocean’s wave. We wait with anticipation as the wave rises out of the water’s surface hoping the wave will climb and climb. All the while, the white foam curls around the top like a lip. The wave is smiling at us. But the wave is going to crash and you’d better not be standing under it because it will flip you, toss you, and drag you. And if you’re not careful it will drown you.

I grew up at the beach. I learned at an early age how to handle the waves. You can jump them or swim through them. You can even ride them. But it only takes one time for the wave to grab you and turn you upside down; salt-water rushing up your nose. You can’t tell where the sky is and you don’t know how long it’s going to be before the wave slams you on the ground and when it does dump you at the edge you’ll be covered in sand in places you didn’t even know existed.

Life is all about how we handle the waves. Our ocean is a little rough right now. Our puppy had surgery and the surgery caused a complication.It’s going to be weeks before we know if he’s totally healed. Plus we have a few family members who insist on getting caught in the undertow. Some want to be dragged out and one, well, she thinks she’s surfing so I guess it doesn’t matter, in her world she’s having fun.

I want to grab a good book, a beach chair and plop myself down in the sun. I want to listen to the roar of the ocean and smell the salt air. If I’m lucky, I’ll find a few pieces of blue and green sea glass. I have no interest in riding the waves today. I want to spend time with my children before they get to the other end of the beach and I’m nothing more than a glance over their tanned shoulders.

But the ocean is calling and its wrapping its cold hands around my ankles. My toes sink deeply into the pebbled sand. Will I jump or dive? Or will the ocean win this round? Nope, not today.

Feel the Magic. Read a Book.

This view should inspire you to read.
This view should inspire you to read.

I was at a book signing recently, where I had the opportunity to talk with lots of parents. Many were concerned about their child’s lukewarm feelings toward reading. Well, I have a theory on why many kids don’t like to read. They are forced to read books they don’t like and they start thinking, if all books are this boring, stupid, dull, who cares, I’m never reading another thing again. And yes, there is the whole competition with video games, apps, social media, and movies, but believe me when I tell you, find a book a kid likes to read and you’ll make a reader out of them. Because reading is magic.

When the Noodges were in elementary school I watched the school librarian discourage a few kids from reading and that was only the times I saw. How many other times did she do that? She’d say at a book fair, “don’t waste your parents money by purchasing books you can’t read.” Really??? Are you kidding me? If a child has any interest in a book, cultivate that interest. And don’t give me the, “they’ll be frustrated if they can’t read it,” that’s what parents are for. And yes, some kids don’t have parents who care enough to read with them, but that’s a discussion for another post.

Noodge 1 was an early reader and if I can brag for a second, an advanced reader which made finding books that were appropriate for him in elementary school difficult. I didn’t want him to lose his love of reading because he didn’t have choices. That same elementary school librarian apparently didn’t feel the way I did. When he was in the third grade, he had grabbed Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien off the shelf. The librarian said, “You can’t check that out,” and laughed at him. He said, “why is it here if I can’t take it out?” (Yup, that’s the Italian in him.) He put the book back. He came home from school and told me. I’m sure you can guess how this played out. I told her he could take out whatever he wanted from the library and she could keep her mouth shut. I was a little nicer than that. I think.

But then we have teachers who inspire the love of reading in their students and I applaud them. Recently, I was at Anthony Wayne Middle School where I presented a creative writing workshop to eighth graders. Their teacher chose my book and had them read it ahead of my appearance so we could discuss it while I was there. One student told her she thought the book was stupid because of the cover, but Mrs. R. wouldn’t be dismayed . She encouraged the student to keep at it and guess what? She was my biggest fan that day! You know what I’m most grateful for? That young lady learned that amazing stories await inside the covers of books if you just give them a try. She felt the magic of reading for herself. So imagine if she loved the cover, but a teacher said, “You? Read that?” Insert villainous laugh here. 

Applause for Mrs. R.
Applause for Mrs. R.

I assure you, if you find an author or a genre your child likes you’ll make a reader out of them. Encourage them to stretch and try books that might be a little challenging. If they don’t know a word, the can look them up. And they can use an app for that.

Feel the magic. Read a book.


Book Launch – Giving Thanks

I didn't even have to pay her to stand there!
I didn’t even have to pay her to stand there!

Thanksgiving is around the corner, but I have plenty to say thanks for right now. Sunday, I officially launched my new middle grade book Welcome To Kata-Tartaroo. Once again, I have been humbled by the support bestowed upon me like holiday gifts.

Writing a book takes a long time, some sweat equity, and possibly some mental illness because you’d have to be a little out of your mind to undertake writing a book. Many times along the way you think, this will never happen, I’ll never see my name on the cover and then one day after all that time and pain it happens! (Like giving birth, for all you mothers out there.) And you think everything will change, but it doesn’t. You’re still the same person who cleans toilets, food shops, and chauffeurs the kids. You just have a new edition, displayed prominently on your desk.

So, to have many people excited for me is completely unreal, but very cool. I do have to ask, why me? All I did was write a book. If I can do it, they certainly can. You can do anything you put your mind to. (Albeit, a crazy one. No, no, that’s just me. I’m sure everyone else’s mind is fine and perfectly functioning.)

I give thanks to you today, my new reader. I hope you enjoy the adventure.

I'm not writing out the grocery list!
I’m not writing out the grocery list!


Ode to Lisa Scottoline

I’m reading one of Lisa Scottoline‘s books My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space. I love Lisa. I’ve seen her speak several times at workshops and book signings. She’s warm, generous and funny. If you haven’t read any of her books, shame on you. Stop reading this blog right now and go order one. Any one. They are all wonderful. I know I’ve read them.

I’m knee deep in My Nest which is a compilation of her articles she writes for the Philadelphia Enquirer and in one chapter she talks about her book club parties. She holds a contest every year for book clubs who read her books. Everyone who enters the contest gets to come to her house for a party and meet Lisa. It’s cool and crazy at the same time. There’s one book club grand prize winner. That winning book club receives a private dinner with Lisa. In my opinion, everyone who enters is a winner.

Seven hundred women, some men too, were scheduled to come to her house! Can you image having 700 people over for lunch? Not me. I sweat cooking for my family. But like I said, Lisa is generous so it didn’t faze her. Well, maybe a little. She prayed for rain. And got two nor’easters!

I was at that very party and reading about it brought back some great memories. Three of my book group friends and I donned our winter gear (it was October, but freezing), rain boots and hit the road. A little rain wasn’t going to stop us. We’d had this date on the calendar for months and the husbands had the kids. No brainer, really. We drove through the downpour, parked on hay, walked in mud, and wished for hot beverages. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

But Lisa was fantastic. A hug for everyone, a giant smile, and as expected she made us laugh. She taught me something that day. Friendships grow when rained on just like flowers do and I’m tougher than I knew. If a nor’easter doesn’t scare me, nothing should. Right?