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Sunday, July 06, 2008


I got a question the other day that needs an answer. I’ve gotten this question in many, many forms from many, many people—so clearly, YOU need to know.

Suvi said . . .
I'd love to write things like stories and novels, but every time I try, some sort of invisible force stops me. I simply can't write. I've tried simply ignoring that force and keep writing, but it never works. No matter how awesome idea I have, no matter how far I've planned the plot, I can't write about it. I've sometimes noticed that after writing fifteen pages to a notebook, still nothing has happened in my story, and that's not good. Do you have any advice for me? How can writing be rehearsed, if the invisible force keeps bullying you?

It’s a very good question, Suvi, and one I have been asking myself as I write the hard bits of Suite Scarlett 2. Don’t get me wrong . . . I love Suite Scarlett 2. I am very happy about writing it. But even the best books like to REPEATEDLY PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE while you are working on them. I believe the technical term for this is “work.”

Writing is fun. I love what I do, and I would do it no matter what, even if I had to scrawl my little stories on tiny slips of paper and leave them under your door at night. (I may do that anyway.) But it is ALSO work. If you are considering writing as a career (and bless you if you are), you should know this. Because I know that sometimes there is this misconception that writers spend most of their time picking olives out of the bottoms of martini glasses and waiting for the muse to strike.

I hate muses . . . I mean, with the obvious exception of Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu. This idea that all you have to do is sit around and a muse lands on your head, dances around your desk, and whispers in your ear and BANG! BOOK!

Forget that. Get yourself a can of anti-muse spray. The things are credit-stealing parasites.

I mean, if you opened your oven and found a loaf of homemade bread, you wouldn’t say, “THE BREAD FAIRY HAS COME!”* Because you would know that you spent the morning buying ingredients, kneading the dough, letting it rise, and baking it properly. You also took the time to learn how to bake, and probably burned a loaf or two in the effort.

When writing goes well, it feels magical . . . but there is no magic to it. Writing goes well because you have done some work. You have spent MANY MANY MANY HOURS sitting at your desk, written pages and pages and pages of useless crap, read piles of books, done a lot more wrong than you have right, questioned your sanity and talent . . . and just kept going. No muse involved.

I am getting to your question, Suvi. This is all relevant. Because I have two answers to your question—but first we have to dismiss the muse idea. The story idea may droppeth like a gentle rain from heaven, but the execution is all about work.

I say this as someone sitting here writing a book that I had ALL PLANNED OUT. All during the writing of Suite Scarlett, I was keeping a running file of book two. I never had so much at the start of writing before! I thought the book would write itself while I sewed sequins on my outfit for the ABBA museum opening. Nope.

Sooner or later, no matter how lucky and talented and wonderful you are (whoever YOU are in this particular case) . . . you are going to hit the Great Wall of Sucktitude. You’re just motoring along with your story, blue skies above you and clear roads ahead, so you step on the gas and . . . . BANG. The invisible force field.

You can’t see it. You don’t know why it’s there. You don’t know what it wants. But there it is . . . the thing that is keeping you from going forward and it’s all “none shall pass” for no particular reason except to GET IN YOUR WAY. The job now is to figure out how to get over/under/through/around/other prepositions this invisible barrier.

So what to do? Well, here are my two answers, finally. Oh wait . . . hold on. I have to finish eating this mango. (I am eating a mango.)

OK . . . here are my two answers.


Okay, the truth is I don’t know what you should do in particular. I can only tell you that you certainly aren’t alone. Sometimes, just knowing that you are not the only person who has had a certain problem, and that other people have gotten through it . . . sometimes that is enough. This is the reason I went on and on about muses, because I think some people may have the idea in their heads that if they can’t immediately finish a book or story the very first time they try they should go and eat worms and die because they don’t have “it.” I just wanted to dispel that notion in a big way.

I have hit the wall more times than I could possibly count, and I am pretty sure it has flattened my face in the process. I have a small arsenal of tactics I employ in this situation, to varying degrees of success. They include:

- Sending long, rambling notes to friends, saying how I have failed completely (again) and am going die of writing mange (again) and how my brain is stalled never to restart (again). This is a pleasant time-waster. Also, my friends LOVE it!

- Going and doing some other, totally unconnected task, something I know I can complete. The book may not get done today—but the DISHES will! Turning off your brain and focusing on a completely automatic task seems to help. I once entirely repainted my apartment in a dizzying array of colors while “writing a book.”

- Physical activity works well too. I tend to find that while I am attempting some position in yoga class that I am certain will snap my spine in two . . . this is when I solve the problem that has been eating my brain for hours or days.

- Reading something in a style or with a tone and pace that I’d really like to emulate, to try to jumpstart the brain and crack the secret.

- Reading books about other writers and finding what they did when their brains died.

But the plainest, most annoying answer is . . . a lot of times you just have to sit there and keep throwing rocks at the problem. If you can master the art of just staying there, planted in front of the screen/notebook . . . then you’re getting somewhere.

You can also talk to your editor. Maybe you will have a conversation like this:


In this particular case, it sounds like you might be lacking an inciting incident. I don’t know this for certain . . . it’s just a possibility as you say you are 15 pages in and nothing has happened.

Under every story, there is some kind of structure to get you from the starting point to the ending point.

Stories generally have a protagonist (main character) who faces a series of challenges in an attempt to achieve some sort of goal. The rising action takes the character to the climax, where he/she/it battles it out somehow and either wins or loses. Not every story has the same exact structure, but you can find many common elements at work. (This is not the same as being “formulaic.” No one would say to an architect, “You’re putting a ROOF on your building? HOW FORMULAIC!”)

The inciting incident is the moment in which the character really gets on the story path. Before the inciting incident, the character is presumably just noodling along, pressing flowers and updating his or her Facebook page, when all of a sudden life zooms in and takes him/her for a spin.

Let’s make up the opening of a story. Let’s say a girl . . . we’ll call her mj just to make things simple . . . is a poor orphan living with her hateful aunt and uncle, who force her to sleep in the space under the stairs. Her life is hopeless. Then one day, a sparkly letter arrives from HSH Princess Anni-Frid Reuss, Countess of Plauen, otherwise known as Anni-Frid, the dark-haired lead singer from ABBA . . . telling her that she has been admitted to Snogwarts, school of disco princessry. And then, in the next moment, Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters comes for her on a big silver Vespa to take her away.

The arrival of the letter marks a change of status for our little mj. She is not the poor orphan she has always thought she was—she is a disco princess. Her life has now changed course, and now she’s on the path.

So, Suvi, you may know where you want the character to end up (at Snogwarts, where she will do battle with P.K. Trowling, who is trying to steal the magic disco ball) but have no idea how to get her there.

Maybe take a moment and look over the openings of some of your favorite books. At what moment do things completely change for the main character? What sets the story in motion? What changes the conditions under which he/she/it is living? There are all kinds of tricks and devices authors use. A letter of invitation, moving to a new town, meeting a new person, a murder, a disappearance . . . something sets things off.

This incident could happen on page 2, or 15, or 20, or 40 (I’ve just noticed that Suite Scarlett’s is on page 40) . . . you may have to look around. It won’t be too far in.

If that fails, listen to “Dancing Queen” fifty times in a row and spin around a lot.


As I missed posting on July 4th, I thought I should make a gesture to show my patriotic spirit. I know that many of you are reading from places OTHER than the United States—but no matter where you are, have a little American History.

Here’s a little something about the 4th of July. It is a bit of a gross and biased oversimplification of an incredibly nuanced political situation, but what exactly do you want from a cartoon with a jaunty song? (And, despite the bias . . . the Continental Congress was full of mad geniuses, and signing the Declaration of Independence was a pretty bold act. We still love the British. Oh, and apparently it wasn't even signed on July 4th . . . but who cares? There is a lot of license taken with holidays anyway.)

And here is something about founding father Alexander Hamilton. (WARNING: there is a little profanity in this. Not a lot. There is also a lot of drunkenness. I wanted you to know. I consider it part of the service around here.)


You may or may not have noticed that I am running a tiny contest on the forum. A prize to anyone who can guess the title of SUITE SCARLETT 2. No one has gotten it yet. I will announce the title in the next post!

In the meantime, today’s book (signed by Spencer Martin) goes to Olivia. And, as ever, another book will go to another random commenter. What do YOU think the title of the next Scarlett is? What do YOU do when you can’t write? Would YOU like a mango?

* Unless you are a character in How To Ditch Your Fairy.

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Blogger betty said...

Your story about little mj becoming a disco queen was great!!

Oh, can we guess more than once at the forum?

1:20 AM  
Blogger appletrain said...

I would love a mango. And a copy of Suite Scarlett, please.
When I can't write, I usually ask my friends for a random word and then I write about that word, getting the juices flowing. It's quite fun.

1:34 AM  
Anonymous VT Girl said...

I want a Suite Scarlett. and a mango! i always try to outline as much as i can if i get stuck writing.

1:52 AM  
Blogger Crypt said...

I would, if I may make so bold, like a mango AND a copy of Suite Scarlett. If you give me both, I will invent a magic trick and NAME IT AFTER YOU.

1:59 AM  
OpenID killersmile said...

I may not like mango, but I love Maureen Johnson and would adore a copy of her book :D

I have no idea what the next title is though . . . Suite Scarlett Takes LA? Oh, wait, that's Shopaholic Takes Manhattan. Getting my reads mixed up :/

I write a lot, and when I get stuck I like to go back to other little things I've read and read them all and remind myself that I CAN DO IT. I also have this handy book called the Writers Block. It's literally a block, with all of these cool little ideas (from single words, to pictures, to story challenges, to examples of actual writers) and it's a lot of fun to look through, and can really help. I love going from random page to random page just reading all of the ideas and being incredibly inspired.

Another one of my favorite things to do is ride the subway and notice people. Look at what they're wearing and what they're doing and how they're holding themselves (normal people call this posture) and try and figure out where they're going, where they're coming from, who they've seen in the last 24 hours, who they will see for the next 24 hours, who the last person is they spoke to, what they last ate, what they will eat/who they will speak to next, etc. Just looking around and noticing things can get your mind running with all sorts of ideas.

Although, if you're stuck just because you think what you're writing isn't original enough (which happens to me ALL THE TIME) don't worry about it. There are pleanty of books out there that are just the same ideas over and over again (don't believe me? Look at some of the worse examples of Young Adult Fiction--none of which would include anything by Maureen Johnson, John Green, Scott Westerfeld, etc.).

Wow that was a long comment. Have a nice day :D

2:06 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

How exactly does one apply to Snogwarts, school of disco princessry? Because I must go there!

2:11 AM  
Blogger Trish Doller said...

Okay, first, I had that exact conversation with my editor. Who then told me to show it to her when I was done. Unfortunately, I hit that invisible wall when the shark fell in love with the pebble.

Also, as the tree in front of Mango Villa (a.k.a. my house) has recently shed approximately forty hundred, I will pass on the offer. But if you have any good mango recipes, let me know.

2:22 AM  
Blogger Gretchen said...

Why yes, I *would* like a mango!
P.S. GREAT advice.

2:27 AM  
OpenID edarra said...

Hmm. I still haven't read Suite Scarlett yet, so I really have no basis for guessing at Suite Scarlett 2. However, I will give it a shot anyway. How about Scarlett's Sequel? Sticks with the alliteration in Suite Scarlett, anyway. Alliteration. For some reason, that word always reminds me of alligators. That was a bit off topic. On to mangos, then. Thanks for asking, mj. However, no, I would not like a mango.

When I can't write, I usually talk to my fellow writer friends and then we bounce stories back and forth about how much our characters hate us and won't stop babbling about absolutely nothing, or won't say anything at all when we need them to. Then we go on facebook and make graffiti wall videos about what would happen if our characters met. By the time that dies down we are usually on better terms with our characters, or else something in all that effort sparks an idea.

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Amani said...

Hmm title for Suite Scarlett 2... all i can think of is:
-Scarlett not so suite
-Scarlett's return
and yes mangos for me :)

2:37 AM  
Blogger courtneylynne said...

I finally read Suite Scarlett yesterday. I've been bugging my librarians forever, and as soon as it came in I got it. It was very very good, possibly my favorite one of your books (though I still love Girl At Sea for being the first one I read). And it smelled like new book, which is always a bonus.

3:00 AM  
OpenID serafina-zane said...

That just may be the most inspirational thing i've ever read. I'm not sure why, or what that says is wrong with my psyche, but it's true.

*stops floundering in twenty-sided writer's block, which cleverly disguises itself as trying to fix my mp3 player*
Maybe i'll attempt that giant fight/climax now.

Also, the title of the second Suite Scarlett book is obviously Sour Scarlett.

3:17 AM  
Anonymous Chelsea said...

I think I've heard MJ's story somewhere before. It sounds really familiar. I can't seem to put my finger on it... I also thought I'd say that Dancing Queen is my 2nd favorite song of all time.

I already guessed at the title of Suite Scarlett 2 on the forum. When I can't write, I wait for it to rain. Rain gets me thinking, and I'm able to come up with a bunch of ideas. I like to read while it's raining, too. And thank you for asking, but I may or may not be deathly allergic to mangoes, so I tend to stay away from them. I'm serious, I'm not sure. The allergy runs in the family.

I am pretty sure that a copy of Suite Scarlett would make me happy enough to do my happy dance to Dancing Queen for days. And I have a pretty awesome happy dance, let me tell you that.

3:22 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

I cannot believe I have not read Suite Scarlett yet. Really. I must go take care of this procrastination problem of mine...is there some sort of 12-step program for that? And now that I think of it, muses have always seemed a bit shady to me. Hope everyone had a nice Independence Day and lots of fireworks that kept them up at night, and tons of mangoes to keep them happy for the long months to come before Suite Scarlett 2 comes out.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Shausto-la said...

What do *I* think the title of the next Scarlett is?
hm, maybe it will be a thrilling mystery novel.

Scarlett Martin and the Case of the Missing Eyes on Cover Models.

In other news, happy July 4th, hope you celebrated well with your, er, mangos..
and for the record, i always find that blasting "Dancing Queen" and spinning around till I puke helps me with my writing or music or whatever i happen to be doing at the time.

4:46 AM  
Anonymous Kiersten said...

I would LOVE a mango! They're my favorite fruit. Your advice helped me a lot. I can think a lot better when I'm about to fall over from spinning and ABBA induced euphoria. I know where one of my character winds up... Dead. Back to rocking out to ABBA and Goldfrapp... I mean writing.

5:53 AM  
OpenID blondnblujeans7 said...

hmm...i wonder if j.k. likes mangos?

5:57 AM  
Anonymous dancyrae said...

Mango? Yes, I would love a mango. There is one eyeing me evilly 20 feet across the room, because I am too lazy to get it. So I would love it if you could send one directly to me, and put the location down as "computer area".
I would also love a copy of Suite Scarlett.

When I can't write, I usually stop for a while, lie down, and daydream. While I am doing this I imagine where I want to go with my story. I also don't always start at the beginning when I write things, because sometimes you think of the perfect ending and you have to write it down.

BTW, do you have to live in the States to get a copy?

6:15 AM  
Blogger Kaitlyn said...

This must come in three parts.

PART ONE. The Title of Suite Scarlett Two is going to be Scarlett Martin and the Half Blooded Actor. =]

PART TWO. when I don't know what to write I go off and have a little chat with Jasper (my free monkey) He gives the best tips on what to write. If he is sleeping (he tends to be lazy) I just put it away for a little bit and start another activity. You never know cleaning your room or standing on your head might bring as the Doctor would say Fantastic ideas.

PART THREE. Mango? I would like a mango.

6:54 AM  
Anonymous nosidam said...

1-I can't think of anything clever and don't have a real guess.

2- Sometimes I pretend to do other things like clean my room and sometimes I watch youtube (well I do that all the time but oh well).

(sorry it makes me excited)

If attacking appliances don't inspire you, then I don't know what will.

3-Do you have any pomegranates?

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Hillary! said...

Actually, I was eating a mango. It quite shocked me when you mentioned that you were eating one too. IT'S FATE!

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Haddy-la said...

mango? no i would not like a mango

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Allie said...

Great Post! i think once your done with Suite Scarlett, you should write you mj story. and i loved all the advice, it was really honest and what really happens. I do basically the same thing, keep trying, deleting, and trying again until i get something right. (i'm a total amateur, just do it for fun, btw) i think the title will be... um... Suite Scarlett, The Rise of Spencer! lol JK, i have no idea!
I would LOVE a mango!I've never had one before

8:17 AM  
OpenID dragonarider said...

I would love a mango, thank you.

When I can't write I normally ignore my word processor and go on the internet or read or something, then at night I normally get back on my word processor and start typing again, or just stare at the screen, trying to get my creative juices flowing.

And my guess for the name of Suite Scarlett 2 is (duh duh duh) Suite Scarlett 2? (I know, I'm unimaginative, sorry but I don't know,, maybe something with Hopewell in it?)

8:29 AM  
Blogger barb said...

I am a Muse - please stop sticking pins in me ...
Dancing Queen as loud as possible before the speakers burst is a good way to fill the gaps where the extraneous thoughts live.

12:48 PM  
Blogger LibraryHermit said...

I often have that writing problem. I end up rambling on about random stuff and choosing the best parts to be included in my story somehow.

7:25 PM  
Blogger *Heather* said...

YES, I would like a mango. Mangoes are quite scrumptious.

Book please!

7:56 PM  
Anonymous dancing queen said...

What great advice. I think you really need to write a book about writing advice. I hit the wall on a project recently and have been scared to tackle something new, but you've helped give me courage to do so. When I face that Wall of Suckitude I will smile in its beady little face (wait? do walls have faces? eh, whatever) and I will continue writing.

I want to read the disco book! Which reminds me: Are you planning to see Mamma Mia? Will you review it on your blog if you do?

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Nuwon Wearspants said...

When I can't write, sometimes I just leave it alone for a couple of days and it's alright. But I don't plan ahead very much. So, I guess it goes both ways. I try to plan a bit more so there's a balance of organic-ness and planning.

And yes, I would like a mango. And a book. I would rather have the book, because I ate a papaya yesterday. But thank you.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Miranda K.. said...

haha! i loved the story about mj! that was great!!!

okay, so i have a question: I can get past the whole writer's block/muse deal, but i can only seem to write short stories! i've tried embellishing, adding extra events, etc, but they still end up being around 4 pages long! How do you write such long books? is it just your "storyboard"?

9:03 PM  
Blogger Hillary said...

I loved the post. And the videos! yay!

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Raelyn said...

o man. me and that guy on the couch are pretty much kindred spirits right now. it basically sucks. but that was a pretty funny video, i gotta say :D

11:12 PM  
Anonymous K. said...

The Book Fairies* have yet to stock Suite Scarlett and I would love one.
Now, this may be greedy, but I have a question to ask of you, MJ. What should a person do to hone their editting skills? My experiences editting peers' short stories sound eerily like the first video.

*AKA: local book-selling stores.

11:55 PM  
Blogger chanel.wa said...

The next Suite Scarlett...hmm...What could the title be? Personally, I think it would be titled something like 'Not-Broadway', but I'm yet to read Suite Scarlett which might have helped a little...
When I can't write, I practice my volleyball-spiking footwork (right, left, right, together, jump!) It's a great way to get rid of frustration. After, I play a game called 'Destruct-o-Match' on neopets.com. Once I've reached my daily limit of games, I spend a ridiculously large amount of money on virtual chocolate neggs.
Would I like a mango? No thank you, but I would adore a mangosteen! =) (Currently, I own a gallon of mangosteen juice, 9 mangosteens, and a small pack of dried mangosteens (Thank you, Justine!)
P.S. A copy of Suite Scarlett is destined to be in my mailbox! Please, please, please!

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Suvi said...

Wow. It's like my world just got bigger. You gave me courage to face the evil force. Thank you for advice! I will definately practice my writing and get better. :)

Would I like a mango? I have to think about this for a while... I don't really know what mangoes are like. Mango-melon ice cream is good. Yes, I think I would like to try one.

I haven't read Suite Scarlett yet, but I will soon, when my book arrives. <3 But it doesn't hurt to guess a name of the Suite Scarlett 2 anyway, doesn't it? I'm sure it will be called Scarlett Dreams. Am I right? :D

Yesterday I was watching Wife Carrying World Championships. It rained, but I had fun. I bought a huge bag of licorice string. They had so many awesome flavors! I've eaten most of them already, which was not a good idea. So much sugar. But I still have plenty of pineapple flavored left. ^^ The best I've ever tasted.

Oh, I've written that much already... Sorry. I'll go back eating licorice string now.

12:49 AM  
Anonymous Meli said...

thankyou for all those amazing videos =P I'm canadian, so we get the British history on all those events, but it made me laugh.
and oh yes! I would LOVE a mango! (so would the pygmy marmosets)
and i have no idea what #2 of Scarlett should or shall be called.although i think that it should be called LOOK! ITS A KIWI! just because nothing else has a name even close to as cool as that.
thanks for the advice on the big invisible wall thing. The only way i can get over that is too put on emo music, eat my younger brothers stash of chocolate chips and watch what not to wear. somehow, sometimes, it seems to work.
otherwise i am stuck surfing youtube and facebook for days on end. =)
or i give up. i am a notorious giver-upper. i have piles and piles of files that are 30 pages long that have been discarded in the dead folder of dead stories.

ps. the editor in that clip sounds exactly like an author i know, except thats how she talks to herself. =D

1:45 AM  
Blogger barbara said...

But there is a Bread Fairy. She magically makes food that I had to take out for her (She is also known as my mother). She is the best fairy, because she also make nummy treats!
Instead of a mango can I have a puppy size elephant (pse)? Do you have any PSE?
Love the history lessons, even if they were kinda inaccurate.

2:30 AM  
Anonymous Kelsey R. H. said...

I think the title for the second Suite Scarlett is..."Suite Scarlett and the Flying Saucers"!

2:40 AM  
Blogger Summer said...

Have you ever heard that album called "free to be, you and me"? Because in it there is a story about a girl who is a tender sweet young thing, and she's such a brat she demands a WHOLE MANGO PLEASE! (and they did!)

So would you hand over a whole mango, please?
(And a copy of Suite Scarlett!)

5:16 AM  
Anonymous Bobina said...

mango? yes please. but could the mango come with a puppy sized elephant. yeah, that would be great.

i would go to snogwarts any day to fight the dark lord moldyshorts :D

Bobina would like a Suite Scarlett because she requested the book weeks ago from the library weeks ago and it STILL hasn't come in (well, that means a lot of people like your book)


5:53 AM  
Anonymous Leahr said...

When I can't write, I make a contest with a friend that I will write a certain number of words and email them to her before she calls me/emails me her own story, depending on the terms we set, or else I will have to do the punishment of her choice. This has worked in the past and I intend to try it again! The uncertainty of the exact deadline makes you keep going, stops procrastination (to some extent.)

yay for Justine! Does she have a bread fairy in her book? Or only parking ones?
And she would probably tell you to get a mangosteen instead of a mango. But I've only ever had mangos. What about you, mj?

The video with the cartoon American independence stuff bothered me. Am I unpatriotic for finding it treacley propaganda? *must go find flag pin before I am taken away by secret government ninjas*
And pursuit of happiness does NOT mean what they seem to be implying. I hope. Or America is about to make me very, very depressed.

So I noticed that a past winner comes from Finland...will it help me win if I type something in Finnish?
mina rakastan suite scarlett, oiken hyvin kirja. (pretend the a in mina has 2 dots on top, i lack a finnish keyboard.) Now do I get one? Thank you!!!

6:11 AM  
Anonymous Elise said...

hmmmmmm I think next Suite Scarlett should be called Suite Spencer!!!! And to make him sweet we should dip him in chocolate!!!!!

7:42 AM  
Anonymous shaylaluna said...


I have a number of somewhat unrelated important questions for you.

1(oh and by the way im really surprised you havent blogged about this) What is your opinion of MAMA MIA the movie? the new one coming out.

2 I have recently been writing a short story that is now turning into something quite long. However, when I went back to read some parts of it I almost deleted it because I hated the way my narration sounded. Do you ever reread something you wrote and think its stupid. What should I do?

3 What books have you read recently that you really enjoyed. Have you heard of or read Percy Jackson and the Olympians or Charlie Bone and the Red King or THe city of ember?

4 Who is or was your altime favorite character to write about in any of your books?

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anne Marie H.A said...

I would like a mango, thank you, but I would like a book even more *sweet convincing smile* And the next time I can't write I'm going to follow your advice

12:35 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

Mango? One would be bliss. And a copy of SS!

I spin. In a chair. It doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. And the ideas... aren't always good.


4:22 PM  
Anonymous JK said...

I don't want Suite Scarlett for myself (since I already have one), but I'd like to enter my friend Ali in fo rthe drawing, because her birthday was last week.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

personally, i would love a mango.

when i can't write i throw my clipboard across the room and go downstairs to watch ps i love you. after which my tear ducts are sufficiently depleted of their resources that i can continue writing without crying tears of horrible anger.

7:47 PM  
Blogger lightforms said...

What do YOU think the title of the next Scarlett is?

Are you trying to get free book title ideas from us? lol

What do YOU do when you can’t write?

Sit and think and sit and think and sit somemore. Some headbanging may be involved.

Would YOU like a mango? Yum!

Suite Mango?

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Julia Rios said...

I apparently read your blog. And Justine Larbalestier's. And um... many others. All while feeling guilty about not writing, of course. And wishing for a letter from Princess Ana-Frida saying I am destined to go to Snogwarts and get a PhD in Sparkle Dancing. And now I also want a mango lassi. Mmm, lassi.

(Eventually I go back to throwing rocks, though.)

11:36 PM  
Blogger Sandy said...

I would love a Mango! :D

What do I do when I can't write? Exactly what I'm doing now as a matter of fact... Troll around the internets looking for distractions. I'm an awesome procrastinator... eventually I convince myself that it's time to get back to work, and that's when the staring at a blank screen begins...

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But, MJ...what about Scruffy?!

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

Thanks for the entry Maureen!
Oh, and Drunk History is hilarious.

4:10 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Ooooh. Perhaps if my U.S. history had been taught using drunk people I would have scored higher on the AP exam....

I agree. Death to muses. That can be the purpose of the YA gang. KILL THEM ALL. DIEDIEDIEDIE. Mwahahahaha. Deranged? Me? What?

HOW WAS THE PRIDE PARADE?!?! Will you tell us, pretty please, with Alan Rickman on top? :D

4:43 AM  
Anonymous brigi said...

The story about little mj had me literally laughing out loud. That was so funny.

I hate the invisible wall. It really is determined to keep me from writing. Pops up in fanfiction writing and original.

Knowing that it's something that published authors deal with, and have most certainly overcome (like yourself) does make it a lot better. I just try to go read, or watch mindless television like America's Next Top Model. :)

I have no idea what the title for Suite Scarlet 2 is.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Kayley said...

Thank you so much for the writing advice! I've been working out the plot for a novel I want to write, but have been too scared to start because I fear the "wall." Now I think I'll be able to overcome it!

My Suite Scarlett 2 title guesses:
* Paint the Town Scarlett
* Scarlett's Letter
* Scarlett in the City
* Scarlett in Paris

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

That was really interesting (in both a haha and hmm way).Also, I always found the "my muse" thing annoying so I'm glad to hear your stance on it.

I would love a copy of Suite Scarlett, please!

9:48 AM  
Anonymous priscilla sena said...

I LOVE mama mia. I saw it on Broadway! Dancing Queen rox, and me and my friends made up a dance to it in the 5th grade... (I am going into 8th now) and I still remember it!

I just finished reading 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES and I really liked it. This is the first time I have been on your blog! I sounds like I need to read Suit Scarlet... And Girl at Sea.... something about new book smell?

Anyways, I am a big fan of Ally Carter, and I was reading her blog when, she referred us to your blog! Good thing she did!

P.S. thanks for the writing tips.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Tiff said...

Maureen, this is such a great post. Diana Peterfreund sent me (back) here, because I've been woefully neglecting your blog while I obsessively post on hers about her new book.

Anyway...this is my problem, too. Just finding/having an inciting incident is a huge problem for me. Moreover, getting from that to the end without tying things up too fast is also a problem for me--I like resolutions, and sometime, I just like them to come up a little too quickly. So instead of an invisible force, it's more like I power through that force and say, "HA! I avoided you, Invisible Force of Jerkiness, by ending the story!"...and then I have a whole slew of problems trying to go back and add stuff, or scrapping the ending altogether. I've noticed that the pacing in your books is tremendous, and if you're still writing about writing, do you have any tips for inching the story along (as opposed to ending it too fast)?

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Maureen,
Got your blog address from J.Larbalestier's blog. Great post! My reply on Muses:http://nitesongofafish.livejournal.com/
PS Will read your books

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Briony said...

I'm actually writing a novel at the moment, but there's a different kind of invisible force blocking my progress. I've spent my entire life as a reader of books, and, while I've written lots of short, inconsequential things, I have never been a writer of books, so I'm not entirely sure if my issue is a common one, but - I feel very disconnected from my story. Like I'm more a tinkerer than a storyteller, and I can't really feel for any of the tiny cogs of plot and character that I'm messing about with. Can you fix this feeling? Has it ever happened to you?

12:46 AM  
Blogger Chanel said...

it's scarlett fever.

3:46 AM  
Blogger Anna Zayovna said...

Here I was just sitting, plodding along the first page of my new story, when I began to think... Crud. This story is beginning to sound like Ratouille with dwarves... When am I going to get to the actual important stuff??? wahhhhhh....

Then I skipped off to the good ol' MJ blog, to see if maybe God and whatever Maureen uses to determine the winning commenter had decided to love me and give me a Suite Scarlett signed by Spencer (they didn't). But Maureen, thanks for the awesome discourse on writing. To hell with muses.

And I would like a mango. And a Suite Scarlett signed by Spencer. And a letter from Snogwarts telling me I'm a real live disco princess.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

Actually, I've always hated mangoes, until the other day when I had a particularly juicy one.

4:56 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Haha. I enjoyed the clip with the writer and his editor, because I've been pretty sure for years that I want to be a book editor.

A copy of Suite Scarlett would be lovely since my local library doesn't have it in stock.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Maggie said...

Hold the phones... there is going to be an ABBA museum?

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

never had a mango before. i could try one, i suppose.

anyway, do you think that you will go see the movie "Mamma Mia!"? yes, the one with the ABBA's songs? what is our take on the movie (even if it isn't out yet?)


8:31 PM  
Anonymous Summer said...

hmm...it seems as though someone else named Summer has commented on your blog.
someone has stolen my identity!!

speaking of which, I once had a dream about a polar bear named Mango.

11:28 PM  
Anonymous blissfullydazed said...

Maureen...bravo. Such excellently awesome advice. It was also awesomely excellent. I will be sure to take it.

Wish I could daintily sprinkle some more words onto this post, but...the invisible, impenetrable JK Rowling refuses to let me. And I have no jam.


5:09 AM  
Blogger A Literate Musician said...

I'm a journalist. When I can't write I do one of two things. (A) I spend hours online reading about others who are suffering writer's block or (B) I write anyway. I mean the worst that can happen is I get fired for writing complete crap and be forced to live a useless existence in my parents' basement...
Pshh. Like they would ever let me.
And, I would like a mango. Thank you for asking.

10:20 PM  
Blogger beth said...

Mangos confuse me. There's so much goodness, but so much nasty peel and pit to get around.

But I agree entirely about muses--they just don't exist. Butt-in-chair is the only way to write a book.

2:06 AM  
Anonymous Anna said...

I have no idea what the title will be. But I just finsihed reading Suite Scarlett and I LOVED it! YA authors are so amazing...well, especially Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld, and Cory Doctorow. This is the first time I've read this blog and it's so funny. I love it!

11:38 PM  
Anonymous Suvi said...

My Suite Scarlett arrived today! She's so beautiful...and signed! I love the red and black cover! I love how it smells inside. I love the fonts used. I love the paper. I even love the envelope. Thank you, Maureen!

The poor book has traveled so much... I'd better let her rest. Then she will be ready for me to read tomorrow morning. ^^

1:20 AM  
Anonymous Jackie said...

Whenever I had to write a paper for college or grad school, I would first distract myself by watching a beloved movie from my childhood. This was often Breakin' 2: Electric Bugaloo. Or in high school, it would have been Teen Witch.

2:40 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

When I can't write, I use the age old cure. Chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

And I love mangos. But not when they've been hanging out in a sneaker...

4:14 AM  
Anonymous allysonw said...

When i can't write?
I definitely get out of the house.
Staying in my house while searching for a creative jolt is like waiting for Alan Rickman to show up at my door with flowers.
And yes, why yes i WOULD like a mango!
Perhaps in the form of a smoothie.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Haley said...

I love mangos! If there was one in the house right now, I would eat it. I also love free copies of books called Suite Scarlett! I hope your Fourth of July was full of fireworks and too many hot dogs. I spent mine watching a couple of cute violinists play in front of the Roman Baths in England, which, let me tell you, is a wonderful way to spend a national holiday when you're no longer in that nation.

4:18 AM  
Anonymous Sarah from Sweden (listening to Abba of course) said...

Hi Maureen.
I would love a signed copy of Suite Scarlett.
And Marlene here would lke to have a Mango.
Please give her a mango, or she will rip my hair out.
I have absolutely no idea what Suite Scarlett 2 might be named, but I'm very confident you have thought of a perfectly awesome name for it.
Now I should probably leave before Marlene find The Penguin hide-out. Tell Spencer he can pick up his sister any time.

Hej då.
(the boring way of saying goodbye in Sweden)

5:35 AM  
Anonymous kelly said...

yes, i would love a mango =D

11:36 PM  
OpenID bookritique said...

A mango? A mango? Excuse me Mj, but did you just say a mango?! hehe. Just kidding. That reminds me an episode of Spongebob, 'Chocolate with Nuts.' LoL. I'm such a nerd. Note to self: Must find some real friends and/or stuff to do on Weeknights. *Sigh.*

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Lolo said...

Wait!! okay, what's the title of suite scarlett 2?? I'm dying to know!!! By the way, loved the story about mj!! I. am. in. LOVE. with. mangoes!!!!! why do they make you do that funky word verification thingie? mine was brglrgk, which reminds me of a regurgitating bird. ew.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Keila said...

Hey Maureen! I have been reading your blogs lately and I think you have a geat since of humor and I have to say you are quite entertaining. I have this problem...I started a blog but I can't come up with anything to write. There are so many things but I just want to pick one that's actually intereting you know. Well let me know if you have any ideas and keep blogging!


2:47 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Thank you for the writing advice! I'm currently struggling with trying to finish my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel. . .not such a feat as you tackling down Suite Scarlett 2, but your advice was great. And funny. I especially enjoyed the part about mj and Snogwarts, the school of disco princessry, as well as the formulaic architect.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

When I was younger, my mother told me that the sock monster ate all of my sock matches. So besides having an irrational fear of socks, I have a question, what happens to the matches to all of my socks? Is there a conspiracy? Is it JK? Did Zac Efron run out of hamsters and decide to move into my laundry room? Or is there simply a secret cabinet in every country's government that goes into your dryer and nabs one sock out of every pair simply to annoy you?

9:03 PM  
Blogger chanel.wa said...

lolo: it's scarlett fever.

1:54 AM  
Anonymous Katrina said...

I have to ask:

are you as excited for mamma mia! as I am?


3:12 AM  
Anonymous Bridget said...

As a feminist, am I the only one troubled by the "pursuit of happiness" being a slightly scary womanizing colonist in the School House Rock video?

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