Posts Tagged ‘Jody Hedlund’

girl on tracks

In a recent post my blog buddy Sarah mentioned the different roles that readers take when reading a manuscript. I must admit that I fall into the Dare Devil category. It is often a joke in our critique group that I love peril in a story. Life is too short to read boring books. I want my characters to face adversity and trouble and grow from the experience. I want to see a character tied to the tracks with a train approaching and show me how you get them out of that dilemma. I don’t want the blood. I don’t want gore. I want an honest to goodness problem that seems impossible to solve and a clever solution that makes me say…ahhh.

Pacing is important when creating peril for your character. You want to give your reader the “What happens next” moment that pulls them along in the story. Author Jody Hedlund ‘s post about Practical Ways to Leave Your Readers Hanging From a Cliff, gives some helpful ideas to give your readers that experience.

Here are a few of her suggestions:

• End at a point of physical danger to the main character (or another character)

• End with a crucial decision needing to be made

• End with the hero receiving devastating news 

As you can see, they don’t always have to deal with a life or death situation, but just honest to goodness conflict for your character.

Be sure to check out Jody’s post for other ideas to keep your readers hooked. Writer Caro Clark also has a great post on creating conflict in writing that is well worth a look.

So go put your character up a tree and throw some rocks at them. Remember life is too short to read boring books.

Happy Writing,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk


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Error_Correction_ImageEvery two weeks I meet with my critique group to review my current WIP. It always amazes me that no matter how perfect I try to make my draft, they always seem to find some error I have made in my story. I know in my work as a graphic artist, that it is important to have a second set of eyes double check a project. When you are working too closely on a job it is very easy to over-look sometimes the simplest error.

Author Jody Hedlund recently did a blog post discussing the shame and embarrassment that authors feel when they get feedback on their manuscripts. In her post she reminds us:

Every writer needs outside assistance in making a book worthy for readers. There’s no shame in admitting we make mistakes. It’s natural and normal for our books to have flaws, sometimes many.

Jody lists three truths she has come to accept:

1. No writer can get a story perfect the first time.

2. Writers can’t see their story the way the audience does. 

3. Writers need to love the vision they have for their stories and not the words.

These are wise words and make me feel a little better about those pesky mistakes I always seem to make.

Be sure to check out the rest of Jody’s post, it is filled with great information and insight.

Happy Writing,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk


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One thing I struggle with as an author is the opening. How can I pull my reader into the story and keep them interested. It’s a sad fact that if your opening is not interesting most readers will not continue with the story. So what’s a writer to do?

I found a great post by author Jody Hedlund that discussed this very issue.  Jody offers three things to consider for opening your story:

1. Find a life-changing DISTURBANCE.

Look for an incident that will push your character out of their comfortable life into a new problem or situation that will ultimately change their life.

2. Start with immediate TENSION and CONFLICT. 

Drop our characters onto the page into the middle of immediate conflict and assume the reader will catch on to what’s going on eventually. You can always go back and weave in important story details later if needed.

3. Use a PROLOGUE sparingly. 

Most readers (including agents and editors) don’t want to wade through a prologue (which is often just an excuse to fit in backstory).

If I have a scene that needs to happen before the big disturbance moment, label it as Chapter One and treat it just like a regular chapter, giving it a strong opening hook, immediate conflict, and the same page-turning quality I would with any other chapter.

So I turn this back to my readers. Do you have any great tips for beginning a story? I’d love to hear them.

Happy writing,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk


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I have been working on revising my current WIP and have been focusing on how to write effective dialogue. If you listen to a real-life conversation you will notice that it rarely matches the dialogue written in novels. In a real-life conversation sentences are clipped as we talk across each other and most of the time use non-verbal cues for communication.  Dialogue in a novel is used to fulfill one of two very distinct goals:


  • To provide plot or character information.
  • To develop characterization and build the depth of your characters.
Here are some great tips to write better dialog I found on Word Serve Water Cooler:

Good dialogue develops and establishes characters. Characters need to speak differently from one another. Give your characters a verbal tic—“Ya, know.” Have one character refer to dad as Dad and another call him Pops. Consider that characters may have different vocabularies with different people. A polished lawyer will speak one way in court, but when he goes home to the bayou, he’d speak differently.

Dialogue describes conflict, setting, and characters. Rather than writing, Angela was the kind of woman you couldn’t trust, have one of your characters say, “Look out for Angela. That girl will stab you in the back and then accuse you of carrying a concealed weapon.” Also consider that what is not said in dialogue is just as important as what is said.

Dialogue can control the pace of the story. To speed up the story, use short sentences with few action beats. This will give you a lot of white space on the page and create a feeling of fast motion. To slow down the pace of a story, put action beats, thoughts, or description into the story.

Avoid using dialogue as an information dump“Edward, I know you’re sensitive about people questioning your motives because of that incident that happened to you in high school when the principal misunderstood why you were leaving the campus early.”

Dialogue is more than a way to express your character’s words—it’s a way to express the world you’re inviting your readers to enter.

I also found some great tips about dialogue on Jody Hedlund’s site and some great tips for the mechanics of writing dialogue on Girls With Pens.
If any of our readers know of other dialogue tips or sites please post below. I still have a lot to learn.
Suzanne Santillan
Writing on the Sidewalk




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I ran across the post 10 Ways to Support the Authors You Love on Jody Hedlund’s site and thought it was worth sharing. Jody is the author of The Preacher’s Bride, and  the soon to be published The Doctor’s Lady, she has a great blog filled with helpful writing tips. I thought I would pass on some of Jody’s great ideas.

Jody Hedlunds 10 Ways to Support the Authors You Love*:

  1.  Write a book review and post it on Amazon.
  2. Copy and paste your review onto other online bookstores.
  3. Click the “Like” button on a book’s Amazon page.
  4. Click on the “Tags People Associate With This Product” on Amazon.
  5. Tweet about the book.
  6. Make a short comment of praise about the book on Facebook.
  7. Pass along the book to a friend or to family.
  8. Better yet, BUY the book as a gift for friends and family.
  9. Ask your local library to carry the book.
  10. Make an effort to pass on your love of the book.

As you can see most of these items take only minutes to do, but are a tremendous in helping to your favorite author promote their work. And in the spirit of the post, be sure to check out Jody’s book The Preacher’s Bride.

Or you can check out her new book The Doctors Lady in September.

Happy Reading,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

*This is a brief outline of the information be sure to check out the post for full details.

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There are many facets to an authors life but I think the biggest two are promotion and writing itself. Promotion is essential to get the word out about your work, but if you don’t have any work to promote it’s just an act in futility. Shortly before my book Grandma’s Pear Tree was released I began to earnestly promote the book. I created a website, began a blog with my best friend and jumped on the Merry-go-Round of social media with Facebook and Twitter.

After a little over a year of promotion I found myself spending more time on Twitter and Facebook than I did on writing. This really came to light as I began to do school visits and the one of the most common questions I faced was:

“When is your next book coming out?”

I have some pretty fancy ways to answer that question but the truth is, I don’t know. I remember reading an article about Kirby Larson Author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book Hattie Big Sky. Following her win Ms. Larson was asked about tips for writing and the one that stood out for me was “Keep Writing.” I imagine the pressure to create more work is infinitely greater once you have won a huge award, but I think her tip is truly valuable.

So what is an author to do? We need to write but we also need to spend some time of our day doing promotion as well. Here is how I currently juggle my promotion/writing time:

  • Drop my son off at school
  • Answer any correspondence or emails
  • Facebook and Twitter follow with any responses or messages for the day (I give myself 20-30 mins)
  • Telephone calls for any promotion
  • Write, write, write
  • Pick up son from school
By far the most difficult part of my schedule is the writing part, keeping my butt in the chair. Setting a goal is one suggestion that has worked well for me. I read a recent post by author Jody Hedlund that mentioned that her daily writing goal was 1000 words. That is a truly commendable goal, but since most of my picture books are less than 1000 words I had to modify that. I set my personal writing goal for 1/2  hour if the ideas are flowing I will continue to write but if the ideas are just not flowing I will go do laundry, grocery shopping, clean my house or walk the dog.
So here is my question for our authors out there:
How to you balance your writing/promotion time?
I would love to know.
Suzanne Santillan
Writing on the Sidewalk

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Author Jody Hedlund recently did a post discussing the difference between Influencers and Reviewers and their role in book promotion.

Here is a brief recap from Jody’s post:

An Influencer is someone who wants to help in the promotion of a book. They’re a fan of the author and desire to assist them in getting the word out to others. We all know how powerful word-of-mouth can be in marketing a book. So, Influencers are strategic in getting the “talk” going and can help the beginning marketing efforts.

A reviewer, on the other hand, can also help in the promotion—if they like the book, write a stellar review, and recommend the book to others. But a reviewer also has the option of sharing what they didn’t like. Generally, if an influencer doesn’t like a book after reading it, they should opt not to say anything at all rather than hurt the author’s marketing efforts.

After looking at these definitions I realize that I fall more into the Influencer category than the Reviewer. When I read an story that I do not like, I hear my mother’s voice reminding me:

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

When my Super Blog Buddy Sarah and I started this blog we were both in agreement that we would use this page to talk about things we liked and not to trash someone else’s work. It’s a tough job being a writer and there are many elements involved in getting your work published, we chose (without knowing it) to be Influencers.

I want to clarify that I don’t begrudge those who are Reviewers because we need them in this world. If we didn’t have someone to honestly tell us when our work needs improving we would produce sludgy mediocre work and we would have no incentive make ourselves better, and we would be surrounded by sludgy mediocre work.

So what can an Influencer do to help an author?

Jody Hedlund recommends the following list:

  • Write a review for an online site: a bookstore (like Amazon), a reader hang-out (like Goodreads).
  • Write a review for a print newspaper, magazine, or newsletter.
  • Talk to your local bookstores or public libraries. If they don’t carry the book, give them your copy to review and encourage them to order it.
  • Offer to host an interview or review on your blog; use your influencer copy as a book giveaway.
  • Post tweets or facebook comments about the book.
  • Donate a copy of the book to your church or school library.
  • Offer to distribute bookmarks, postcards, or other promotional items.
  • Start discussions about the book in groups/organizations you’re apart of (either online or in real life).

What do you think? Are you an Influencer or Reviewer? I would love to hear what you think.

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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