Tag Archives: WISH

Writing Process: WISH book launch countdown

When I tell people I have a book coming out, one of the first questions they ask is, “How long did it take you to write the book?” There’s not a simple way to answer that question because I’m never sure if they mean the first draft, or the whole process from start to finish, which is a lot more complicated, since there were multiple edits involved…and then, do they mean actual total hours logged or the amount of time between the day I first put pen to paper and the day I release the book… The real answer is: it’s a process. My process may be very different from another writer’s; in fact, no two are alike. Here is what mine looked like:

I like to begin my day with exercise; it clears the cobwebs and gets my blood moving. I usually spend the rest of the morning writing. I began writing WISH many years ago, in between working on a bunch of other freelance projects. I’m a very visual person so I always create a vision board. I cut out pictures of characters and settings from magazines and put them together in a giant collage. The vision boards hang right next to my desk so I can refer to them. I also write character sketches for all of my characters. It’s important to understand your characters’ motivations, likes and dislikes before you put them in action.

photo by My Lovely Husband

photo by My Lovely Husband

Through writing WISH I’ve become a big believer in outlines. Creating a good, solid outline before you start writing makes it much easier to look at things from a big picture perspective. For instance, you can tell beforehand if the transition between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next flows well. I think outlines save a lot of time and headache, but they’re not for everyone. Other writers I know prefer to wing it a bit more.

Ballet and other forms of dance have been a huge part of my life since forever so it felt very natural to weave ballet into my story. I knew it was something that would interest readers because almost every little girl (and many adults too!) dreams of becoming a ballerina and for those who never experience it firsthand it’s an absolutely fascinating world.

The first draft took me a little over a year to write because I wrote in very short bursts, about 30 minutes at a time. But first drafts are usually nowhere close to polished (although I’ve heard that John Irving gets pretty close with his first drafts). I spent the next several months editing and patching up holes in the plot. I put it away for awhile after that. When I looked at it again months later It was actually kind of painful to read at that point—all I could think was oh my God! This is terrible! I have to fix it!

I knew I needed other peoples’ input so I found a critique group through SCBWI. It was fun to meet with other writers around a big table, share yummy treats and give and receive feedback about how we could improve our work. My critique partners asked a lot of questions, often about things that I hadn’t thought about.

Eventually my critique group read my whole novel but it still wasn’t finished, even after the work I’d done revising and implementing some of their suggestions. That was a little hard to sit with but I wanted the book to be as good as it could possibly be. I tinkered some more, focusing on the beginning because it still wasn’t quite there. I read a lot online about what makes a good beginning; I found a lot of helpful tips from agents and editors.

I gave the entire book a final pass by reading it out loud, word by word. Errors or clumsy language in your writing are much more obvious when you hear it aloud. This made a huge difference – not only did I trim thousands of words, everything read more smoothly.

Of course, finishing a novel is just the beginning; there’s still a lot of work to do! I’m now busy writing HOPE, the next book in the Indigo Dreams series. You can find me there most days (after I walk the dog).

How to Survive Auditions: The WISH Guide to Surviving Auditions and Other Stressful Event

Auditions are one of the more excruciating examples of moments in life when you have to reach outside of your comfort zone and perform. Not only do they test your ability to keep it together under pressure, they also force you to adapt to a new environment. None of this is easy but you will have a much easier time if you have a system in place. In one scene from WISH, the main character, Indigo, experiences the most important audition of her life. Here are a few of the things that work for her:

AuditionLineDuotone

RULE #1: Be prepared. The night before an audition, Indigo goes over her checklist to make sure she has everything she might need in the case of unexpected complications. It’s a long list! But then, anyone who’s ever carted around a dance bag knows you can’t go anywhere without the essentials: hair spray (or other hair-taming products), brush, bobby pins, hair nets, multiple leotards and tights, warmup clothes, ballet slippers, pointe shoes, snacks, water bottle, sewing kit, first-aid kit, reading material or book (in case you get stuck waiting around), makeup…you get the point. Get organized the night before and be prepared for any and all eventualities.

RULE #2: Act as if. Visualization is one of Indigo’s favorite tools. She uses it anytime she needs to refocus her mind or reinforce an idea into her subconscious to make it stick. Visualization is a way to make things more real – and is the first step to bringing anything to life. Everything that exists began first as an idea. The more you visualize anything, the more likely you are to achieve that result. Use it anytime you feel your confidence slip. Indigo visualizes herself dancing through a part and succeeding on a test. It bcomes real in her mind. Act as if until it happens.

RULE #3: Get support. Although Indigo doesn’t get a lot of support from her parents, she’s lucky to have Miss Roberta in her life because Miss Roberta has gone through many of the same things Indigo is dealing with. In Indigo’s case, Miss Roberta really is the best person to turn to for support because her advice and teaching is backed by real-life experience. Most challenging moments go a lot better when we have guidance or just someone who’s on our side. It always helps to know you’re not alone.

RULE #4: Stay focused. Auditions are nerve-wracking by definition: you walk into a completely unfamiliar environment and see a bunch of other people going after the same thing you want. Talk about uncomfortable. Once Indigo gets over her initial feelings of shock, she gets down to business. She follows her usual routine of getting dressed, checking and perfecting her appearance and warming up. She stays focused on her process instead of getting caught up in what others are doing.

RULE #5: Give 101%. Indigo put a lot of extra time into training and building strength before her audition and it’s put to the test. However, she knows that this audition is a rare opportunity so she must push herself to her limit and give her absolute best. No matter what the outcome, if you’ve given your best then there are no regrets.

MORE READING:

Cultivate confidence

Auditions are are leap faith

Naming Characters

Choosing a name for your characters isn’t always as easy, especially if you have a lot of names to come up with or one of the characters is from a specific place, like Iceland, for instance. At these times you have to dig down a little deeper into the well of creativity to come up with a name that works. In the past I’ve consulted old school directories, combed through my personal memory archives for people I’ve met in the past or (when I needed a Brazilian boy’s name) researched names online.

red name tag

So where did the name Indigo come from, you’re wondering. (Or maybe you aren’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway). It’s an unusual name, I’ll admit, and there’s a story behind it. Before I tell the story, humor me and guess which of the following is true:

a. Indigo’s mom is an interior designer who named her daughter after her favorite wall accent color.
b. The name is a secret identity.
c. It’s a family name.

If you guessed a or c then you failed this pop quiz (kidding). The real answer is b, the name Indigo is a secret identity. Specifically, it is my secret identity, but only for a few weeks each year when I am a summer camp counselor. Don’t ask me why the counselors all have alter egos – this mysterious practice has never been fully explained to me, even though I’ve been working at this camp for five years now. All I know is the first day I showed up for training I was told to pick a name – although there were certain rules: I couldn’t pick a name that was already being used by another counselor and the name had to fit on the special counselor name tag. These counselor name tags were standard-issue (to counselors and counselors only) yet highly coveted because they are leather. (The campers all dream of the day they will have their own fancy leather name tags; my daughter is already thinking she’ll either be “snowflake” or “pegasus”). Once I had chosen a name and been handed a name tag, I was hustled down to the leather craft table, the area of camp that is treated with the utmost reverence because of the extensive array of hand-tooling equipment (not to mention the cost and the coolness factor). Several tables are covered with row upon row of shiny metal embossing tools. I dampened my leather tag with a sponge, grabbed a rubber mallet and pounded each letter I-N-D-I-G-O in the fanciest lettering I could find, then pounded in a few decorative elements and butterflies for good measure.

IndigoTag

The tag turned out pretty well; it’s legible, although the last few letters are a little cramped. It’s gotten more decorative (and heavier!) from the trinkets I’ve collected from campers over the years. I wear it every time I’m at camp and when I’m not at camp it swings from my rearview mirror. I guess you could say the name is very much a part of me even though it’s not my real name.

Mostly this secret identity thing works really well, except for a few random encounters with other counselors outside of camp. At that point I always feel a little awkward because I’ve worked elbow to elbow with these people and I still don’t know their names. It feels a little funny to say, “Hey, Bluebird, how’s it going?” anywhere outside of camp.

But then again, they’re stuck in the same awkward name conundrum that I am, and when they say, “Hey, Indigo, how are you?” I just smile.

The Rules of Ballet

Every dancer knows there are rules in ballet. They aren’t written down anywhere but they absolutely exist – and they are ironclad. Miss Roberta, Indigo’s ballet teacher in WISH, is very outspoken about a lot of things, including personal hygiene and what dancers should and shouldn’t do outside of ballet classes. Ssince she was a professional ballet dancer herself, she knows what it takes to be a ballet dancer and how hard it is to make it. This is the manifesto she shares her manifesto with all of her ballet students to help guide them:

Follow-the-Rules-257x300

Humans are naturally lazy and dancers have to work hard to overcome this tendency.

Take a moment to look at the average person’s posture and you’ll see the truth in this statement. Most of us shuffle through life in the default setting: with our shoulders hunched over and our heads down.

There is always room for improvement. If you think you are a good enough dancer, you’re wrong!

Ballet is all about reaching perfection­–your own version of perfection. There is always something to fine-tune or something new to learn.

There will always be someone who is a better dancer than you.

This is a difficult reality to face but sooner or later this is true for all dancers, whether it’s due to skill or age. My first ballet teacher used to tell us to never get comfortable or cocky because there would always be better dancers out there. You have to stay sharp and constantly push yourself if you want to reach the top. The good news is hard work and persistence pay off. Work to the best of your abilities and you will forge forward.

It takes hard work and discipline to get ahead.

It also takes unrelenting willpower and persistence, indestructible courage and ridiculous levels of confidence. But hey, no one ever said it was going to be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.

If you can’t take constructive criticism, you are in the wrong place.

By the time you reach the professional level of ballet, you are not only able to handle criticism, you live for it. Ballet dancers eat up “corrections” like most kids chow on candy because they know if someone takes time to make a comment, they think you’re worth it.

If you are too tall, too fat or too lazy, pick a different career.

As stated before, this is not a career for anyone not prepared to work their butts off. Although the physical ideal in ballet is slowly changing it’s still a much tougher road if your body type doesn’t match what ballet companies are looking for.

The love of dance brought you here and it will carry you through your career.

Every dancer you see on stage today started with love of ballet in their heart and the dream to become part of the magic onstage. That love is what keeps dancers going day after day, sometimes working through pain in various forms. But ask any dancer if they love what they do and you’ll get the same answer: Yesssssss!

Ballet is equal parts dedication, inspiration, and perspiration.

It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, either… or for anyone who minds getting sweaty.

The human body is a dancer’s most important tool and our biggest challenge (see Rule #1).

As mentioned above, the human body is naturally lazy. Dancers have to fight hard to overcome this tendency. Since top fitness is part of the job description, most ballet dancers spend every waking minute keeping their tools in prime shape, either taking classes, doing supplemental training like Pilates, stretching or going for a massage (although this last activity is far less likely).

Ballet involves sacrifice (of certain dangerous activities…including and most especially boys).

If you do the math you’ll immediately see why this is true. If x, the dancer, spends almost every waking moment in a ballet studio that leaves y hours left to do anything else. In this case y=0. But all kidding aside, there are certain activities most dancers don’t do because of the risk of injury or because they will develop the wrong muscles: skiing, horseback riding, and circus arts, just to name a few.

Whether you are a ballet dancer or not, you probably have your own manifesto for life. May it guide you well. Even if you don’t resonate with Miss Roberta’s manifesto, do take her advice and wear deodorant.

MORE READING:

One habit you can’t live without

Goals and why you need them