100 episodes

Two writer moms and a book coach meet each week for coffee and chat about writing and parenting. Follow along as veteran book coach Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator helps writer-moms Abby Mathews and Melanie Parish write a book from start to finish, along the way sharing the dirty laundry behind writing with kids.

Mom Writes Abby Mathews

    • Books

Two writer moms and a book coach meet each week for coffee and chat about writing and parenting. Follow along as veteran book coach Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator helps writer-moms Abby Mathews and Melanie Parish write a book from start to finish, along the way sharing the dirty laundry behind writing with kids.

    Season 2, Episode 41: Killing A Darling

    Season 2, Episode 41: Killing A Darling

    Abby agonized over her pages this week - she had to kill a darling! She re-wrote chapters 18 and 19, and originally had brought in the BFG as another book character to incorporate in her story. She put a lot of time and effort into it and was really happy with it. But in the course of re-writing the chapters, the plot changed, and Abby realized she didn't need the BFG anymore. For a while she tried to work him back into the story, but soon realized he didn't really serve a purpose. 

    Ultimately, before making the decision to cut the BFG, Abby asked herself: "Why is this guy there?" She couldn't find an acceptable answer. His presence didn't necessary move the story forward, but she's keeping him in the back of her mind in case he can come back later.

    She replaced the BFG with something that works better - Scooby Doo and Shaggy! She even went to a local comic book store in search of Scooby Doo comics and bought a bunch of Scooby Doo cartoons (research, guys!). She was asking herself the following questions - how do these characters talk, move, react? How do they relate to each other? The point  in Abby's decision to incorporate Shaggy and Scooby is that they're good friends, and it gives Abby's protagonist a visual of what she wants, what she's searching for throughout the story: a good friend. 

    Abby's still working on getting more magic in her story, to building up the book world that her protagonist sort-of lives in. What the characters understand about their world, how they relate to their reality, etc. - this is the kind of second tier world-building that goes beyond the "rules" of the magic and draws the reader further into the work. 

    Kemlo cites something Jennie Nash said a while ago, in that "There's an element to world-building to any work of fiction - whatever it is, you have a lot of the same considerations, especially that struggle in weaving in those features and aspects of the world without it being an infodump." 

    We go into great detail on how Abby's incorporating comic book features into her book - these Scooby Doo characters make noise when they move around, bob their heads, etc. How do you write onomatopoeia consistently? Describe it well, once - you can make your own shorthand to reference it later, as long as it's consistent. 

    Shoutout to listener Umar, who listens to us on one-and-a-half speed! We're impressed that you can handle the sound of our voices at that rate. ;) 

    • 36 min
    Season 2, Episode 40: Read it Out Loud!

    Season 2, Episode 40: Read it Out Loud!

    This week, Mel gets excited because she doesn't have to make another pass on her chapter, but Kemlo calls her out for a lazy/info dump chapter ending. (There's a dramatic reading...don't miss it!)

    "You can't wrap up an exciting an action-packed chapter in...two lines." - Melanie

    Or maybe you can, but not like that! Reading your work out loud, or hearing others read it out loud, is really important in the revision process. Abby heard of a writer that recorded herself reading her story and then listened to it. If you can stand the sound of your own voice, go for it! It can be useful in getting the nuance of knowing that you're getting your point across, highlighting awkward phrasing, etc.

    Mel wants to know what Kemlo thinks about some of the inconsistencies in this chapter - one of her characters is unconscious and needs to wake up. Kemlo believes that it actually doesn't need to be resolved in this chapter, since there's so much on-the-page action, but something that can be addressed in the next chapter. The group does some brainstorming in finding ways to satisfy the question.

    We talk about the little ways this chapter that Mel has worked on drawing two of her characters closer, and the subtleties she's worked into the story - not pages and pages of rumination, but enough to introduce the possibility of attraction as a "thing" to bring back up later.

    Kemlo goes over adverbs and dialogue tags, and why we should be careful. It's easy to get into the habit of adding an adverb post dialogue tag, mix it up! Find other ways to inject emotion into your character's dialogue - either via nonverbal cues or adding other descriptions to the conversation.

    Abby makes reference to Nabakov's Favorite Word is Mauve, by Ben Blatt. This book goes over the habits and tendencies writers get into - whether it's too many adverbs, how men and women write their characters and other fun data points from famous novels. In regards to the current conversation, basically, if you use too many adverbs, you're struggling with being concise. The book has a lot of other interesting techniques and research on the patterns and prose of successful writing.

    Here is the link to the gender guesser website we discuss: http://www.hackerfactor.com/GenderGuesser.php

    Keep writing, moms! And parents! And everyone else, whether you have kids or dogs or cats or a job that takes up too much time - you'll never regret the time you put into bettering yourself as a writer.

    • 35 min
    Season 2, Episode 39: Soldiering On

    Season 2, Episode 39: Soldiering On

    In this episode:

    Abby had some big questions this week, but her draft is ultimately looking good. Last week she'd planned on finishing chapter 4, but ended up writing an entirely new chapter 3 instead.

    She'd seen someone on a message board ask the question, "How do you keep up your routine when you're out of town?" An excellent question, because Abby's been gone for 2/3 of the month of May, and she's still seeking the answer to that question.

    She found that going back and working on edits for things she'd already written was an invaluable way to move forward without having the set routine with a quiet house and regular computer/keyboard. It was more manageable, and she didn't feel like she was moving backward. It helped to have a deadline, even though she didn't feel like meeting it sometimes, because it kept the fire at her feet and didn't let her forget to work.

    "Sometimes we get ourselves really worked up and get stuck in this mindset of 'I can't do it, I can't do it'. I set a really small goal for myself--'I'm going to take three pages of Kemlo's edits, and I'm going to apply it'--and it worked. I felt like I moved forward, and I think that's key." - Abby Mathews

    Kemlo and Abby talked about carving out space for writing during the day--especially important for parents or anyone in a time crunch or who has a lot of responsibilities. Abby's had to tell her kids that she's lucky and happy to be home with them during the summer, but that she needs time every day to write, too. A delineation of work/playtime and boundary setting is necessary sometimes to get things done!

    Abby had some questions surrounding how magic works in her world - two worlds, in fact. She's got her protagonist in the regular world, and then the book world of her protagonist's father, and there's a tricky space of trying to show readers the magic without stopping the story to call attention to it, and not calling attention to it in an awkward way, either. Bernadette's grown up with this magic and doesn't see it as strange, but in the course of the book, she starts to realize it's not "normal". Abby wanted to draw some attention to the magic in a sensory way in this chapter. Still, things are a little shaky on the purpose and necessity of the scene. Is it really adding to the emotional thread?

    "Just because she's experiencing an emotion, doesn't necessarily mean that it's meaningful. But so what? Why do we care that she's angry? What does it have to do with what's at stake in the story?" - Kemlo Aki

    The key thing for a story is that it needs to be particular to show us a unique point of view. What is happening for that character? What's it like to experience what they're going through?

    Considering this, Abby's looking to add some magical oomph to a scene she's already written, and she and Kemlo brainstorm solutions while working consistently within the constraints of the magic. The things she changes here and decisions she makes about her world's "rules" will have an effect on the rest of her scenes, but that's not necessarily a bad thing - it just means more work, adding another layer to those scenes.

    • 42 min
    Season 2, Episode 38: Details Matter

    Season 2, Episode 38: Details Matter

    Abby's had a productive last couple of weeks, but not so much words-on-the-page.

    Abby organized/attended the very first Author Accelerator workshop, and then the Craft and Commerce Conference in Boise, ID - a lot of talk about email lists, cultivating email lists - very entrepreneurial in regards to what a writer would need to do post-publishing..and then she got to hang out with Mel! And Michelle Hazen! (@michellehazen on Twitter) and Monica Gokey! (@mondusko on Instagram).

    So while there weren't a lot of words on the page, she really got inspired to finish her revisions. Since she doesn't write well on planes or airports, and there's way too much in Boise to keep her busy, and away from the computer, Abby's wondering if she should go back to Chapter 4 - this was the chapter where she lost her readers while reading to her daughter's class. When you know you're not going to be in your regular routine, is it a good time to revisit something that's not just a blank page?

    "Don't try to make any big major decisions that will ripple through your book when you're tired or overwhelmed." - Kemlo.

    It's a good time to do so, Kemlo says, as long as you're not changing something that you're going to have to worry about fixing in the rest of your chapters. If you don't have time to think it through, wait!

    Abby's also wondering if layering in some humor with Chapter 4 will give it the oomph it needs. There's also some strategizing involved in what her protagonist knows, and when - these details of your story matter. You want to drop your clues in what may seem to you a fairly obvious way, but you know more about your story than anyone. Your reader isn't in your head! Don't leave too much time between the clue and the reveal, and remember - you've got to be moving your story along, there's got to be a point.

    There's more world-building to be done in this and later chapters, and Kemlo recommends slipping in more world-building for Abby's book world characters. Do they know each other, recognize each other? There are opportunities in this section, and others to make reference, shore up what the reader knows about the book world. Weaving these details in, layer upon later, iteration upon iteration, is what revision is all about.

    You've got the bones of your story, and now it's time to put up the wiring, stuff the walls with insulation, nail on the sheetrock...you get the idea.

    • 28 min
    Season 2, Episode 37: Dig In And Keep Going

    Season 2, Episode 37: Dig In And Keep Going

    "We're at the point where you just have to dig in and keep going." - Mel

    Mel and Abby are at the point in their manuscripts where they're still working on their stories, and nothing significant has come up, no new (big) issues that need dealing with. They are over halfway through - it just takes a loooooong time, and sometimes it's discouraging!

    Kemlo says all this is very normal, and it's what makes writing a book harder than short-form stories. You have to have the tenacity to move through the slog and still see the bigger picture of your story and what you're trying to do and say.

    Mel started her chapter out with the word “No,” and Kemlo warned against this. She suggested more of a subtle recap, a little more information. You want to avoid forcing readers to look back to the last chapter. People put books down between chapters, and you want them to be able to pick up the book and keep reading, and not have to guess who is talking, where they are, etc. Even though you, as a writer, just finished writing chapter 12 and moved right onto chapter 13, you can't assume that the bare minimum of context is enough for your reader. Don't lose the immersive experience - you want to challenge them with the story, not with how the story was put together.


    "You want your reader to be anticipating things - you want them to have to puzzle and try to figure out some things, but not at the sentence level. Not pronouns or where someone is in time and space." - Kemlo Aki

    Speaking of recaps: Mel threw in a recap mid-page in an attempt to remind her readers of certain events, but she's got to throw it out because there's not a reason for it to be there. If her protagonist needs to ruminate on this, that's fine, but it has to make sense in the context of the story. Often we don't give our readers enough credit in remembering what happens chapter-to-chapter.

    In regards to the relationship between Mel's protagonist and the potential love interest, Mel needs to go back to previous chapters and find opportunities to plant little seeds for this - signs that her protagonist's opinion of this guy is changing, and a little more projection of what she's hoping and/or fearing. Get the readers looking for these things - it helps us root for her.

    Kemlo and Mel work through some strategic plotting/character motivation later in the book - what we're looking for is a change in our characters, a completion of our arc. Readers want to see how the events in the story affect the characters. Plot twists are useful in that they need to help the protagonist realize things - ask yourself, is this helping them learn what it is they need to learn to make my point with the story? It needs to a) mean something to your protagonist, and b) move the story forward.

    • 38 min
    Season 2, Episode 36: The Book Fair

    Season 2, Episode 36: The Book Fair

    In this episode:

    Abby visits the school book fair and takes a hard look at what's selling. (Hint, swag and animal books.)

    Kemlo points out that this is smart research for every author to do, take a look at where your book sits on the shelf. What's around it?

    The book fair is an extra-special excellent place to do this research because of the energy. The kids are excited! What are they drawn to, what are they saying about all the books?

    Abby hints at her next series, which luckily for her falls into the animal category-- a perpetual kid-favorite!

    Abby also revisits the idea of romance in her MG novel, and she decides that maybe she should take it out. She feels like it's complicating her story, but not in a good way.

    They also brainstorm ways to bring more magic into the book, which is always fun! (And it highlights how un-cool we are with some popular culture references! Case in point, none of the three hosts know much about X-Men...)

    • 41 min

Top Podcasts In Books

Listeners Also Subscribed To