Author Archives: mnj23

The Joys of an Unwritten Manuscript

Megan Norris Jones

After finishing a draft of my manuscript during Write By Midnight in February, I decided it was finally time to let the rest of the WriteOwls take a look at it. It’s a little nerve-wracking because I know it’s far from perfect, but I’ve been buried in this one for so long that I’ve lost all perspective. I need my writing friends to help me see both the merits and flaws more clearly before I push on with another draft.

But after having such a productive February with Write By Midnight, I couldn’t stop writing until they finished their critiques. So, I’ve spent March developing an outline for a new manuscript—and having a blast doing it!  Continue reading

A Good Goal Makes Me a Better Writer

Megan Norris Jones

The beauty of Write by Midnight is that it allows each of us to set our own goals for the month of February. The only requirement is to write every day by midnight. Writing every day this month will be a challenge in itself, since I have some traveling to do, but I wanted to set a more specific goal for this month-long focus. I’m currently revising a manuscript that I’ve been working on for longer than I like to think about, but Scrivener politely reminds me every time I open it by popping up a “Document created on” date. I’m not going to tell you when it was. It’s embarrassing. And it’s time I finished this puppy up.

I was three-quarters of the way through this revision at the end of January, but Act III needed a complete rewrite. I already had about 6,000 words in Act III, but I anticipated needing closer to 20,000 to finish it. That meant I needed to write another 14,000 words to complete this draft. February has 28 days, which meant I needed to write about 500 words a day, 3,500 words a week. That’s doable, but a stretch for me. I usually only get in two to three solid writing sessions a week, with other days just fifteen minutes or so between activities to keep my head in the story. Continue reading

Make Your Deadlines

Megan Norris Jones

My writing background is in journalism, and every good journalist learns how to write under deadline. You have a story due. You report it. You write it. You turn it in. You repeat. Because your editor is counting on you. And because it really is going to be published with your name on it, so it had better be good.

But even though I know how to write on deadline, I have difficulty moving my fiction forward at the same efficient pace of my nonfiction because (1) there is no editor waiting on it, and (2) I have no assurance it will ever be published anyway.

So how can I simulate the efficiency-producing deadlines of journalism in my fiction writing? Through a combination of written deadlines and external accountability. Continue reading

Writing Boosters

Megan Norris Jones

Good writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It needs direction and inspiration. Here are a few of the books I have been reading lately that have given my own writing a boost. What books have helped you improve your writing?

The Magic Words by Cheryl Klein
This book on writing has been a real gem. It covers the nuts and bolts of the process but also infuses each page with the inspiration and wonder that made me become a writer in the first place. To make things even better, the entire book is devoted to writing for children, particularly middle grade and young adult. The exercises throughout the book are particularly helpful because they focus on your work in progress instead of assigning unrelated exercises.   Continue reading

Train Your Brain

Megan Norris Jones

I used to be an A+, top-of-the-class, nothing-less-than-perfect-will-do student. I could study like a machine, get it done, and move on to the next thing. But I’ve realized something lately. I don’t study any more. I’ve graduated from school; there are no tests, and if I want to know something, I just look it up. So my razor-sharp concentration skills that I was so proud of? Yeah, they’ve gotten a little fuzzy, and it’s starting to affect my writing.

There are plenty of contributing factors. I have three children who ask me a question or need something from me approximately every ninety seconds. Ninety seconds is not a long time to develop concentration. And if they don’t need me after ninety seconds has passed? I remember something I’ve been meaning to look up on my phone. Or I check email. Or Twitter (follow me @mnj23!). Or I’m already plugged into a podcast. And then a kid asks a question again. I am essentially training my brain to be distracted. And if I’m distracted when I’m trying to write, my productivity plummets. Continue reading