Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Need a fun, quick read to get your kids (and you) smiling? Try my favorite monster book:

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Book Info

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (January 1, 1992) Fiction or Non-fiction: Fun, fun, fiction
Ages: 3-6
Theme: Monsters ūüôā Imagination and Conquering Fears

Opening Sentence: “Big, green monster has two, big yellow eyes”BGM2

Synopsis: The book takes you page by page introducing the monster and all his scary features. Then you work in reverse through each feature again, telling the monster, “You don’t scare me! So go away scraggily, purple hair” etc. until you come to the fun ending “And don’t come back… until I say so.”

Why I like it:¬†It’s just plain fun (and very short) ūüėČ I’m also a sucker for books with cut out pages, or moving parts. LOVE THEM. This one is so entertaining with the layering and how it works so perfectly building up the monster, then taking him away again. Simple, but brilliant!

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Activities:

BigGreenMonsterPlaydough
Click Here to see on http://www.makinglearningfun.com

Literacy Activity

Coloring, Lesson and Snack Time Ideas

Face Pieces Coloring Page

Video

Song

 

Buy the book on Amazon.com

See a complete listing of ¬†‘Picture Perfect Books’ here


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When life gives you lemons, better buy some sugar.

Happiness Door

The man looks at me then at my overflowing basket of groceries. He raises his eyebrows and turns,¬†sealing¬†his single apple in the plastic bag with a twisty tie. I know that look. I know what he’s thinking and¬†the answer is yes, it’s 10 pm and yes, those are ALL my groceries.

I used to love¬†grocery shopping. I made elaborate shopping lists and spent hours during the day checking every item off. ¬†I nodded as I passed the other moms with screaming kids – avoided eye contact with the ones that looked really ticked off. Stopped to chat with every old lady that that cornered me to say, “Your daughter has the most beautiful red hair.” And bribed my kids more than once with candy so they’d stay in the cart. Life was good. I was on the stay-at-home¬†mom team and this is how we did grocery shopping.

Then the rest of life happened. My kids got older. My husband’s teaching salary didn’t stretch as far as it used to and I started working. Now with all four kids in school, the carpooling headache that goes with that and a part time job to fill in the dull spaces, I find myself doing the weekly grocery trips¬†late at night.

Shopping_cartI may not be on the stay-at-home mom grocery team anymore, but I ‘m still on a team. Most of it’s made up of businessmen in plaid shirts and flat front khakis. They look like they’re buying just enough food to get through the night. We¬†have gym-goers¬†whose taut glutes make the rest of our team question the choice to put¬†three packs of oreos in our carts. We have¬†a few single parents who I nod at respectively while they attempt to hush their¬†screaming child in pajamas. And me, cart overflowing with goldfish and carrot sticks. Call us the Bad News Bears of the grocery world, if you want.

In reality, my Bad New Bears aren’t my favorite grocery companions (shh.. don’t tell my teammate who just finished lifting). I like the chatty old ladies, and not being the only one in line with a full basket – but this¬†is what life is for me now and that helps me see there’s not a perfect formula for happiness in life (or grocery shopping). Every version of life has bitter moments and sweet ones. Being a stay-at-home¬†mom was wonderful, I loved grocery shopping during the day but tired of being on call for my children every hour of every day. Now, as a working mom, I no longer have to change diapers or wake up with kids at night but do miss the snuggling and random stillness when all the naps magically aligned.

I was happy then, I’m happy now. And hopefully I’ll be happy in every phase to come – even when¬†I’m the old lady cornering a stay-at-home¬†mom in the bread aisle to tell her how beautiful her daughter’s hair is.

Critique Circle

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 CritiqueCircle.com

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 HOW IT WORKS:  

Once you’re willing to let other humans read your works and are sick of pestering your friends to read your stories, it’s time to create a Critique Circle account. Creating a free account is easy, and you can start¬†critiquing others work in the Story Queue right away.¬†You earn credits for the critiques you give (typically around one credit a critique- more if it’s a longer piece). Then you use those credits to¬†get your own stories added to the queue. It takes 3 credits to post your own story. If you want to post more than one story during the same critique period, the subsequent stories will cost more credits.

They have different queues¬†for the many different genres of writing. You are open CC-Queuesto critique from and post your work to any queue you’d like. At first, I preferred to stick to posting my work in the “Newbies” queue which lets others on the site know you’re new to this. There is limited time to post here, but I recommend you use it while you can. ¬†After that, I recommend you find your genre(s) and stick to reading and posting there since¬†you’ll find writers with similar interests who have more experience in your type of writer (makes their critiques much more helpful).

Stories are left up for one week and receive between 2 and 8 critiques each – sometimes more, sometimes less. You can stop accepting critiques at any point. After reading the nice things people say,¬†give them a ‘grade’ for their hard work and start the reading, posting cycle all over again. ¬†Simple!

WHY I  LIKE IT:

My husband has phenomenal editing skills, but I can only ask him to read so many of my manuscripts before it starts to feel abusive. Critique Circle lets me¬†see my manuscript through the eyes of readers who don’t know me, so they’re more honest than husband is (smart man). There is even the option to critique anonymously, if you’d like.

The site encourages critiquers (or “critters”) to be constructive while still being positive. 98% of the users of the site stick to this beautifully. Most critiques left me feeling good and ready to make their suggested changes.

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The other – less tactful – 2% I chalked up to it being “them not me” and would do my darnedest to set their opinion aside. With any critique site you have to go in to it¬†realizing that just like you don’t like everything you read, there will be people who don’t prefer your work. It doesn’t mean it’s not good, or not marketable, it just means it’s not their taste. Those are the critiques you politely thank for their time and then ignore their suggestions. If you remember to stay polite regardless of what’s being thrown your way then¬†you’ll see that kindness reciprocated.

OTHER FEATURES:

While I can’t begin to list them all, there is a lot more than just story queues on their site. ¬†There are forums where you can meet and talk with other writers. Messaging so you can talk back and forth. Tools to track your progress. Writing exercises, games. Resources to answer your publishing/writing questions and blog posts to keep you encouraged. You really have to join to see everything they have to offer. ¬†With Premium memberships your options are even greater for a small monthly fee.

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COST:

Basic Service is FREE. Premium membership for around $3 per month and Gold for about $6.

WHY YOU SHOULD USE IT:

Agents, editors – they all want to know if your work has been reviewed by others and for good reason. Your work is your baby, and like the parent of that¬†awkward looking baby that has NO clue their child isn’t cute – you¬†have to have someone that isn’t in love with your story look at it and honestly tell you if it’s awkward, cute or just a ugly duckling story that hasn’t been revised into a swan yet.¬†Critique Circle is a great place for that. I recommend you give it a try.

CHECK OUT THEIR SITE:

www.critiquecircle.com

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CLICK HERE

Writing Goals: One Bite at a Time

Eating_the_Whole_Elephant

When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.Creighton Abrams


¬†It’s a new year – new goals. We’re excited. We’re pumped.¬†THIS¬†is going to be our year. We feel it in our bones!

Some writer’s have lofty goals:¬†“I’M GONNA WRITE A BEST SELLER! ¬†–¬†30,000 words per day! –¬†Get published in 14 different languages!”

Some goals are a tad simpler:¬†“Finish that darn chapter book! – ¬†Get a manuscript under contract.¬†¬†¬†WRITE EVERY DAY! ¬†Blog once a¬†week!”

Then why,¬†oh why, do even our simplest goals fall by¬†the wayside¬†as the year goes on?¬†They’re not crazy goals – completely doable – so¬†WHY?

—–> We try to eat the elephant whole. <—–

“Eat the Elephant Whole” Example:

THE GOAL:   Finish writing your novel.

THE ATTEMPT:

You start with a clean desk, a nice writing schedule. You’re doing this. You’re amazing. This story is amazing. You’ll have this done in no time! Then a deadline comes at your day job and you miss a few days writing. No prob, you got this. Just a couple days off, you’ll get back to it, you will.

You don’t¬†– not for almost a month. Your first “writing session” back is spent trying to remember where you wanted the story to even go. You stumble through another chapter. It’s crap. You try again. Why isn’t this working? Maybe you just need a little time off?

So you let it sit for a week? Maybe two. Okay, it was really ten – but who‚Äôs counting? You think about going back to it, but then you think about how many chapters you still have to write and it’s scares you. Besides you’ve got this great new idea you’ve started on. You really need to focus all your energy on¬†that one before you get back to this one. ¬†After all, it’s only October. NANOWRIMO’s just around the corner. You’ll finish it then.

 

“One bite at a time” Example:

THE GOAL:   Finish writing your novel.

THE ATTEMPT:

Your first writing session you don’t write a lick. ¬†Instead you break that big goal into little goals for that month.

January Goals:¬†¬†Week one: ¬†outline story. Week two: ¬†list main characters; begin character free writes to learn character’s voice. Week three: ¬†continue character free writes. Week four: try out point of views.

February rolls along. A deadline at the day job put you a week behind in January, so you adjust¬†February’s goals.

February Goals:  Week one:  try out point of views. Week two:  write chapter one. Week three: write chapter two. Week four: write chapter three.

You couldn’t stand chapter two. It took you two weeks to get happy with it so¬†again you adjust when making next month‚Äôs goals.

Month after month you plug away – get distracted –¬†adjust your “bite sized” goals ¬†– take a week off – have a writing binge – until¬†what? You finished this sucker and it’s not even November?

You decide to skip NANOWRIMO this year because you¬†can’t wait to start revising your novel!

Why does the second example work when the first one didn’t?

Little bites, my friends.

Don’t make the mistake of tackling the whole elephant at once. Look at your lofty goals and chop them up in to bite size goals that are easier to swallow (and finish).

This¬†can¬†be your year! It’ll just take LOTS of tiny bites and an¬†exhausting amount of “chewing” – but you can finish that elephant!

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6 reasons to be grateful you’re a writer NOW

With Thanksgiving being less than a day away, it seems only appropriate to list the reasons we should be grateful to be a writer now instead of decades ago.

Drum roll please.

Thanksgiving

 

1. We don’t have to use whiteout.

Typewriters and whiteout are fun to mess around with. ¬†The tick-tick-swuurrr is oddly soothing, but type a whole novel on that antique? NO WAY! I’m grateful for computers and not having to retype my entire manuscript when it’s time to revise.

 2. SO many books.

According to Nick Morgan on Forbes.com, there are 600,000 to 1,000,000 books published in the U.S. per year. And that’s added on top of the millions of books that already exist! The up side to this daunting number is¬†there will always be a plethora of¬†new¬†stories to read. Definitely something to be grateful for.

3.  Choose your own publication.

We should be grateful that today’s publishing market is a choose your own adventure. If you’d like a road full of rejection with the hope of a substantial advance -choose traditional publishing. Want to risk it all? Choose self-publishing. Or, if you want to have a writing assignment nagging at you multiple times a week the road to blogging is right for you.

 4. You can say that!?

I’m conservative. I don’t read books with risque stuff and can’t stomach most of Stephen King (even though I highly respect him as an author). I know that what I like you might hate and vice versa. So¬†thank you to today’s writing world for giving us variety to please every reader’s appetite.

5.  Spell check? Yes, please!

Yes, you too can have a super smart computer point out all your incomplete sentences and less than impressive spelling mistakes (insert sarcastic “Yay!”). Let’s be honest, having your word processor make you look like a grammar idiot¬†has got to be¬†much¬†less embarrassing than the live human being doing the same that writers of yesteryear had to face.

¬†6. ‘Cuz we are liv-ing in a – a digital world (did you hear Madonna too?)

While I swear writers are the only people who use stamps regularly when it’s not Christmas time – I’m very grateful that more and more publications have moved to electronic submissions. Now instead of obsessively checking my mailbox I can obsessively check my inbox too. Isn’t technology grand?

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!

Comment below. Why are you¬†grateful you’re a writer now?

Getting off the Ropes

Last week I failed as a writer.

Last week, half my family was sick. My son had a birthday, there were meetings, hangouts, my job, my husbands jobs, school stuff, church stuff… yada, yada, yada.¬†All wonderful things and all exhausting. To add a little nuts to my life sundae I signed up for NaNoWriMo this month (which I ‘m loving, by the way) but when you have a week like I had there was no way in H-E- double hockey sticks that I was going to make my daily word count. And I didn’t.

Getting off the Ropes

This week I needed a pick me up. I needed a side rink, squirt in the mouth, slap in the face, ‘you can do this’ moment. So, in case you need a pick me up too, here’s some quotes that helped me get off the ropes. And some just made me laugh.

Thank you, Goodreads.


¬†‚ÄúIf you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they‚Äôre happy.‚ÄĚ

‚Äē Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker

‚ÄúNever annoy an inspirational author or you will become the poison in her pen and the villian in every one of her books.‚ÄĚ ‚Äē Shannon L. Alder

 

‚ÄúI have a pesky little critic in the back of my mind. He’s a permanent fixture and passes judgment on everything I write.

In order to placate him, especially when I’m endeavoring to write anything as ambitious as a novel, I have to constantly mutter, ‘I’m not writing a masterpiece, I’m not writing a masterpiece.’

This mantra lulls him into a kind of stupor so that he pays no attention to what I’m doing, because after all, I’m not claiming it’s any good. Slowly, and secretly, one page at a time, I write my story.

I know I’ve succeeded when he grudgingly admits, ‘That’s pretty good.’ And if I’m lucky, every once in a while, I blow him away.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Rukhsana Khan

 

‚Äúi want to never settle for anything less than my soul on paper.‚ÄĚ ‚Äē Jonathan Culver

 

‚ÄúAuthors write books for one, and only one, reason: because we like to torture people.‚Ä̬†‚Äē Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

 

‚Äúthey say that girls are the ones who want fairy tail endings, but then again, who are the authors of fairy tales? mostly men…‚ÄĚ ‚Äē Alina Radoi

 

‚ÄúPublishing a book is like being pregnant. By the end, you’re just ready to get that baby out!‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Carmen DeSousa

 

‚ÄúAuthors: The only people you thank for leaving you emotionally devastated.‚Ä̬†‚Äē Love The Stacks Bookstore

 

‚ÄúIf you have a dream, don‚Äôt just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Roopleen

 


 

What quotes inspire you? Comment Below.

 

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Interview with a… character

Interview with a character

Fictional writers are crazy (someone¬†back me up here).¬†We hear voices in our heads – they tell us their stories and we write those stories down. That’s crazy at its finest, people! So, when my head is occupied by a character that won’t leave me be it seems only right to try and get to know them. I do it by interviewing them. Yup, just me, my laptop and that squatter in my head – having a little chat. Here’s the questions I like to ask.

CHARACTER INTERVIEW QUESTIONS:

1. What’s your name?

2. How old are you?

3. What do you look like?

4. Do you have any friends?

5. What about family? Tell me about them.

6. Do you like to try new things?

7. Are you shy?

8. What scares you?

9. What makes you angry?

10. What do you do when you’re angry?

11. What’s your biggest secret?

12. Any hidden talents?

13. Who do you long for?

14. Have you ever been in love?

15. What are you most proud of?

When I interview my characters I let the voice in my head¬†ramble, writing down every word. Their answers are eye opening! Some of the characters aren’t talkers, so their answers are short. Some ramble on for ever. Some are sarcastic and you can hear that in their replies. Others are serious and straightforward. I even find that as the character unfolds for me through these questions, I add on other questions – like “tell me about where you’re from” (especially for my fantasy characters). Or for my school based characters, I like to ask them about school.

These questions are really just a springboard to get the conversation started. They help me get to know my characters more intricately so I can write them in better detail, making them fuller and richer than they would have been otherwise.

Now it’s time to interview you ¬†-your answers can go in the comments below ūüėČ ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†So… tell me how you get to know the characters living in your head? What’s your method?

Want some other interview ideas? Try these sites:

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Writing what you know… kind of.

Write what you know quote

My husband¬†suggested I write a book about when I was a teenager and had¬†bad skin. I panicked. Every teenager has bad skin, sure, but for me hiding that “imperfection” became an obsession. And not a very healthy one.¬†Our conversation went a little like this.

“You want me to bare my soul so that anyone that reads my book will know every detail of my inner craziness?”

“Yes.”

“No way. That’s too much. That’s putting too much of me out there.”

He paused (it’s always a long pause with him). “You do know you don’t have to write a story about someone¬†exactly¬†like you. Your character doesn’t have to have the¬†exact¬†same insecurity as you did.”

I wanted to say – yea, of course I know that. But in reality,¬†I hadn’t thought of it ’til then.

He continued. “Just write all the emotion you felt connected with your experience but apply it to another insecurity. Make that¬†their story.”

Duh.

How I hadn’t thought of this before then is beyond me, but knowing it has changed my approach on writing what I know. Here’s some of my new found truths.

Writing what you know doesn’t mean your novel is a page from your journal.¬†My husband put it best, take the emotion from your life experiences, take the likeness of people who influenced you, maybe even set your novel in your old neighborhood, but you don’t have to write your story exactly.

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Writing what you know does mean tapping in to your wealth of past emotions.¬†How many of you¬†know heartbreak? Or want? Or embarrassment? What about elation? Or pride for someone you love?¬†¬†You may have experienced these emotions at times in your life that don’t translate in to great story ideas, but the emotion can. Emotion is what makes characters feel human, tangible. Take what you know about those emotions and write that.

Writing what you know doesn’t have to just be from your own personal experiences. I have never known divorce, but I saw my friends live through divorce as a child. As a teenager, I saw friends with divorced parents dreading¬†going to one parents house that weekend. I’ve seen grown friends go through divorce and the heartbreak there. These aren’t my life experiences, but I can still draw from them.¬†With a little bit of puzzle work, I can take those experiences that I’ve¬†seen and apply them just as readily in my writing as I can something that I experienced first hand.

Writing what you know should stretch you. Often the first piece an author gets published is based on a personal experience. It’s true for me. My story,¬†The School Lunch that Almost Killed Me¬†is based on me in third grade – only I loved turkey gravy and rice, not pea soup. While that was not a hard experience to share, there¬†will be some that we hesitate sharing. I recommend we find the courage to share those¬†stories – powerful stuff can come from it.

The main purpose of writing what we know is to make our stories feel alive, human. Nothing can accomplish that better than when we infuse our characters with¬†real¬†experiences, real¬†emotions and the real¬†life as we see it around us everyday. Or as Coca-Cola puts it,¬†“Can’t Beat the Real Thing.”

 

Was the first thing you published based on a personal experience? Tell us more about it below.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: ¬†“Did you say no? I heard yes”¬†–¬†Click Here¬†

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Simple Fix for Reluctant Readers

mary-poppins-spoonful-of-sugarBribery works – almost as magically as Mary Poppins. When my kids dreaded reading I bribed them¬†so they’d read. Not with¬†a spoonful of sugar (or candy, or money) I bribed them with¬†time. Nothing fancy, just plain old time and it worked. Beautifully.

My oldest two are now teenagers who¬†love to read. If you had told me seven years ago they’d be readers I would have laughed -no – I would have thrown my head back and cackled.¬†These two? You kidding?¬†

Both struggled, week after week to get their required reading done. We read together, sure, but they were old enough I felt like they should be reading on their own more but to them (and to me) the number of minutes they had to read each week felt like Mt. Everest.  So, I did what any rational mother would do in a moment of crisis, I turned to google for help. I found a few articles, pieced some ideas together creating this magical idea Рlet them stay up later to read.

I need to interject here. I wasn’t in love with this idea at first. Bedtime is sacred at my house. I¬†need my two hours after my kids go to bed to regain my composure from the frazzle of the day. I sometimes wish I was one of those fun, carefree moms that lets there kids stay up and play ¬†– but nope. I’m not. Bedtime hits and it’s hugs, kisses, and SEE YA! You can understand why I was hesitant to give this a try?

Here’s my twist on the idea: ¬†Let your kids stay up for an extra thirty minutes after their normal bedtime to read in bed.

Brillantly simple, huh?

Too simple, I thought. All I could see was more minutes of “I need a drink” and “I have to go to the bathroom.” I also envisioned my son filling his bed with action figures instead of books. My husband and I were desperate so we tried it anyway.

We just adjusted their bedtime back 30 minutes and then let them read for 30 minutes. SO… they really were going to bed at the exact same time (shhh.. don’t tell). Luckily they¬†were young and naive and never¬†called us out on our trickery. The most beautiful thing was that it worked. They read and liked doing it.

We¬†did have¬†to make it a strict 30 minutes of¬†reading.¬†More than one night their lamps got turned off early when we caught them playing with action figures or ¬†coloring books instead of a reading but they learned the rule quickly and we had few issues after that (except them wanting to finish just one more chapter… please!).

Not only did their reading chart fill to overflowing each week, but their night time reading spilled over in to day time reading. To this day they still do their thirty minutes (or more) of reading each night, without fail. Our younger children have started the tradition too Рa tradition I hope will be passed on and on.

What about you? Any reluctant reader tips or fun reading traditions?

Teachers, in your opinion, can giving dedicated reading time improve a students desire or ability to read?

Please share below!

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Singing in the Rain: Your Mood and Writing.

My current work in progress is a series of humorous early chapter books about ¬†a kindergartner who’s imagination gets him in trouble. Readers will hopefully¬†walk away smiling and laughing. The¬†problem? Sometimes I just don’t want to write humorous stuff. Sometimes I have tired days or grumpy days or “enter at your own risk” days – and I can’t squeeze one bit of funny out of me.¬†I’ll assume I’m not the only one who has these slumps? Right?

(Please say I’m right – or this post is about to get embarrassing!)

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So, here’s the thought: ¬†How do we, as writers, keep on writing when our emotions contradict what our current work needs?

To me, how to approach it depends on the project. If the project has a deadline and has to get done, you’re going to have to approach things differently than if you’re writing free of restraints. Here’s how I approach the two.

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1. IF THE PROJECT HAS A DEADLINE: I find something that helps me shake off the bad mood.

I can’t stay in a bad mood long when I listen to dance music. It’s inconceivable (insert Princess Bride lisp). Some of my peppy song choices drive my husband a little bonkers, but they do the trick and get me smiling again – ready for thinking of witty, six-year old dialogue.

Meditation works great for me too. I’m religious, so scripture study and prayer are usually involved, but if you’re not religious there are many other forms of meditation that work well too for altering moods.

Last of all, I get up and move. Specifically, I get outside. I have a hard time being down when I catch the dusty smell right before a rain. Or see a tree bowing in the wind as I walk past. My favorite is the evening sun blazing through a filter of green oak leaves. Ooh Рwalks are good for the soul and the mood!

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2. IF THE PROJECT IS FREE OF RESTRAINTS: I let it rest and move on for awhile.

I’m an¬†over thinker; which is a wicked curse (unless you’re planning a big family outing on a budget – really handy there). I find when I force myself to work on a piece that I’m not “feeling,” I over work it. I edit where is doesn’t need it. I hyper focus on details or scenes that don’t need that much attention. I’ve found that if I’m not in the mood to work on a specific piece that I … (drum roll, please) … usually need a break from it. And I take it.

I keep writing though! Sometime I write a short story featuring a character is a similar mood as me. Other times, I look for scenes in my back burner projects that could benefit from my mindset. It keeps me writing without tainting my current work (or making lots of unnecessary fixes for myself later).

And, of course, all of the ideas in #1 work great here too.

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I guess I’m hoping you’ll see that off moods don’t have to turn into writers block. There are ways to work around them – ways to keep yourself in motion and your projects moving forward. Then,¬†if all else fails… there’s always dance music.

It’s catchy. I promise.

Discussion Time:

How do you write through your mood changes? What’s that one thing that puts you in the right mood when you have to keep going? Please share your thoughts below!

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