Monthly Archives: December 2012


The snow is falling again.  The trees that were almost brown yesterday now huddle under a blanket of white.

Sometimes snow comes down in flakes, sometimes in tiny balls of ice.  At the moment it’s falling one tiny, almost invisible fragment at a time, but tomorrow I might get lost in it just stepping out my front door.

Writing is like that too.  Sometimes I’ll get a single solitary idea that drifts in and might be gone if I wait too long or get distracted.  Sometimes the idea is a chunk of ice that falls and loses itself among all the other chunks of ice.  Sometimes the ideas come in flurries and I can’t decide which to use, and sometimes I could just sit and watch them drift for hours.

Like snowflakes, ideas are fragile and ephemeral, there one moment and lost the next into a sheet of white that smothers the world.

The trick is to hold one of those in your mind long enough to get to the computer (or the paper, if you write that way) and begin.

If you continue watching, enjoying the beauty of drifting white, the ideas will be lost and you’ll never find them again.

At least that’s the way it is for me.  Ideas spring at me in the most unlikely places, sometimes tiny and fragile, sometimes bludgeoning me with the need to write.  Most of them go by unnoticed.  A few catch my attention, but once in a while I’ll actually manage to get to the computer before the idea melts into oblivion.

Although there are some major differences as well–I have never shoveled eighteen inches of story ideas off my front porch.


And the Winner is…

The winner of a signed book by Ginger Churchill is:


Please email us at writingsnippets @ gmail .com, and provide us with a mailing address. We’ll get your book shipped right out.

Plus, we still haven’t heard back from our winner of Heather Ostler’s “The Shapeshifter’s Secret.”

The winner is: Terri Dion

This is your last chance to contact us. If we don’t hear from you in one week, we’ll draw a different winner.

Thanks for following! And happy holidays from everyone at Writing Snippets.

Writing Snippets Classic Podcast: Writer’s Block

Feeling burned out from NaNoWriMo and/or the holidays? Check out this classic podcast (the 4th we ever posted) on writer’s block and how to overcome it.

Happy Holidays from everyone at Writing Snippets!

(Today is the last day to enter the drawing to win a picture book by Ginger Churchill. Go drop a comment under one of her interviews to enter. The winner will be announced on the 26th.)

Download here. (right click and select “save link as” to download)

Podcast: Author Ginger Churchill on self-critiquing

Writingsnippets welcomes Ginger Churchill, picture book author and teacher of an online reading course called Writing in Depth with Caleb Warnock, for her second interview. This time she talks about critiquing yourself — how to see the flaws in your own writing and view your writing with new eyes so you can improve it. Some suggestions she makes include: reading your story out loud, having lots of other people read it, and critiquing other people’s writing. As always, comment on either of our interviews with Ginger for a chance to win a signed copy of one of her books! (Winner will be announced Wednesday after Christmas.)

Download here (right click and select “save link as” to download)

The Butterfly Effect

Last spring I saw a butterfly.  It was tiny, about half the size of my thumb, and I only saw it for a moment, but it flashed its wings at me and disappeared into the flowers.  It’s not even the colors.  I didn’t see the pattern.

Sometimes I’ll read something that makes that kind of impression–a flicker of wings that sticks with me long after I close the book.  I can laugh for days on the sheer inebriation of it.  Inebriation.  I can’t think of another word that fits.  It makes me hyper, excited, laughing, so full of energy that I sometimes have a hard time sleeping.  Once I went through a full day at work without realizing I hadn’t eaten.  I wasn’t even hungry.

Sometimes it’s only the first read that does it, but sometimes it sticks with me.  Never movies, for some reason.  Always books.  A few of the books that have been like that for me are The Thread that Binds the Bones, The Hourglass Door, and Uncertain Voyage.  The interesting thing is that sometimes it changes.  I’ll read something, then come back to it six months or six years later and I don’t find that magic any longer.

I don’t know if I’ve ever written anything that does that for other people, but I’ll get a hint of wings at the edges of my sight that makes me wonder.  I caught a hint of it when I wrote Undersea, a hint in Demontaint.  Maybe I’m just too close to my own stories, I can’t see the inside of my head.  I just hope that someday one of my readers finds that same magic in something I wrote.

Feed Your Writer-Brain

I’m sure most writers have experienced this: You mention to someone that you’re writing a novel. They reply, “Oh, I’ve been thinking about writing a book. I have some really great ideas.”

My most recent experience with this came from a distant relative who wanted to write a non-fiction history book. When I asked if he read much in the genre, he replied, “No.” When I asked if he’d looked at the online platforms of other writers in the genre, I was met with a blank stare.

What it boils down to is he had lots of enthusiasm for his own ideas, but had done nothing to educate himself on current writing trends or the opinions of others. He was writing from a void. That’s no way to succeed in the business of publishing these days.

In order to find success, whether in fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose, screenwriting or short stories, you have to feed your writer-brain.

What exactly does that mean?

Well, first and foremost, it means you need to read. You need read a lot. Fill your spare moments with a good book or a good article. Read a variety of genres, and once you focus in on the genre you want to try writing, narrow your reading, too. Read what’s popular and critically acclaimed in your genre. Read old favorites from the genre, and take a chance on first time authors. If you don’t know the marketplace, you’ll have a hard time finding a place in it for your own work. Whether you follow the traditional agent/editor/publishing house route, or aim for self-publishing, filling your writer-brain with knowledge of the marketplace is going to give you a huge boost.

Additionally, reading will help you internalize good technique. If you get used to reading good dialog, you’ll be more aware of when your own dialog is falling flat. If you find some authors who write amazing sensory description, you can learn from them to improve your own. And don’t give up reading outside your genre – sometimes you can learn tricks of technique from authors outside your genre that will help your writing stand out from the pack when it comes to your own genre. Plus, you never know what might spark a moment of inspiration that leads to a new story, even if it’s just a random article or a non-fiction book you picked up on a lark.

If you like to multitask while doing household work or exercise, like I do, you can feed your writer-brain by listening to audiobooks or watching the types of films and television shows that feature interesting plotting, fascinating characters, or quality writing. Usually stick to scripted works – ones that writers worked hard to bring to life. You can generally learn more from those shows than from “reality” television. Unless “reality” tv or news programs are the ones that spark your creativity.

Ultimately, you need to learn what feeds your writer-brain best. Seek out that brain-food, and consume it as often as possible.

In an era in which information and entertainment is just a few keystrokes away, you can’t expect to write in a void and succeed.

Don’t think of all this reading as time taken away from your writing. That writer-brain needs nourishment and inspiration to do its work properly, and this is how you feed it.

By Jocelyn Nash Carlin

Podcast: Author Ginger Churchill discusses the art of writing picture books

We’re pleased to present our interview with picture book author Ginger Churchill (Carmen’s Sticky Scab and Wild Rose’s Weaving) as she talks about the art of writing picture books and shares her wisdom and experiences with us in a fun and interesting way. She tells us how long it took her to get published, how she did it, and how she got her ideas. She also covers the technical parts of picture books: format, page length, plot, rhythm, etc. As always, comment for a chance to win a signed copy of one of her books! (Winner will be announced one week after we post our second interview with Ginger.)

Download here (right click and select “save link as” to download)