Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015

Writing Tips: How Daily Practice Builds Your Writing Habit

Daily writing practice
These days, more than a few websites and blogs and social media posts offer you advice on how to finish your novel, easy hacks to getting published, ways to get inspired. And all of that advice can add up to success or to failure depending on how you implement it and what actually works for you.

But if there's one thing I'm certain on, no matter what other advice you receive, know this: Writers Write.

The only way to be a writer is to write. Consistently. Not just that one time, not just someday when you have time. Sit down and write. Fifteen minutes. Right now. Go on. I'll wait.

If you need, you can find a writing prompt somewhere out there on the internet. Or just pick an object on your desk and spend 500 words describing it (ouch... that's such a painful exercise if you've never tried it).

Now, not everyone can write every day consistently, because ... LIFE! But you can surely find two weeks to a month to set yourself a challenge of writing every day and here's why it's a good idea. If you write for fifteen minutes a day for 14-30 days, you will certainly begin building your writing habit. You'll get used to sitting down and cranking out the words for fifteen minutes or whatever your set goal is. You'll begin forming muscle memory and rewiring those synapses from their resistant, at-rest state to a state of readiness and ability.

Writing a little every day will give you the confidence that you CAN sit down and write whenever you want to. And then when your temporary challenge is up you'll be able to set yourself realistic goals. Maybe in real life you only write a few times a week for longer periods. Or maybe five days a week instead of seven. Whatever works for you works for you, as long as you're still writing! As long as you don't let the time slip by you and allow your brain to go back to that state of rest where it's hard to get motivated again.

Writers write. The more you write, the more you will find you are able to write. The more you write, the stronger your ability will become. So sit down and write. Write write write! You'll never be sorry that you tried.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review: This Raging Light

This Raging Light This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucille's mom skipped out on her and her kid sister, and her dad disappeared after a nervous breakdown months earlier, throwing Lucille's normal seventeen-year-old life into chaos.

I feel very privileged to have read an arc of this book before publication. Like I've been let in on some awesome secret. Estelle Laure hit the feels spot pretty early on in this book and I loved her characters the rest of the way through. Fiercely. Like, if things weren't working out I was going to come in there and help make sure they were ok.

My only problem is, I felt like the world was too idealistic. I know horrible things happen, and no seventeen-year-old should be left to be parent to her kid sister, much less have to deal with the financial strain of keeping a roof over their heads. But the kindness of relative strangers makes me skeptical. I would wish for a world in which this kind of generosity exists, but I don't know that I believe in it.

In fiction, in the context of reading the story, we should be willing and able to suspend our disbelief to take in what happens as inevitable. Of course people step in to help. It's the only possible way that this story could turn out without being utterly heart-wrenching. Except that I didn't get there. I still expected the "man" to step in. And when that didn't happen, I thought "well that's a nice story..." It's not that I want characters (or RL people!) to suffer. It's just that suffering is inevitable. And when fiction conveniently sidesteps it, or dials it back from the worst that could happen, I (and lots of other readers) notice.

Laure's style, the voice of Lucille in this book, was raw and consuming. I felt the feels and I thought the thoughts that were in her head, the head of a seventeen-year-old. More than once I wanted to write down passages so I could read them over again, they were so delicious.

In all, This Raging Light is a well-crafted read that I would recommend to others.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Writing Tips: 3 ways to fight writer's block

writer's block; writing; how do you write?
Writer's block. The old foe of creative minds everywhere. Standing in the way of completed manuscripts since... well since people began writing, probably!

If you've ever felt writer's block, you know it's a horrible experience. There you are, chugging along on your manuscript when suddenly you freeze. You can't think of what to write next. Maybe you perceive a problem or plot hole and you can't think of a way around it. Maybe you woke up, sat down to write, and no words came.

I've been there. And I still end up there regularly. Usually it's because I'm afraid of messing up my project, and I want to get it right. Well, newsflash, self. I can't get it right all the time. And first drafts are supposed to be messy.

Still, just telling yourself to buck up doesn't always get the words flowing. So what can you do instead?

Three ways to fight writers block

  1. Write something else for a while
    Walk away from the manuscript for a little while. Write a blog post. Or work on a different project for a few hours/days. Give yourself some time away and then come back and see if you have any new perspective or ideas.
  2. Pick a writing prompt
    The other week I had been dealing with the stress and frustration of writer's block with a current project. So I went to a prompt generator site (two of my favorites are Writer Igniter and Seventh Sanctum) and picked a prompt that would lead me into writing about my characters again. I probably won't use much from that writing session, but the point is to grease the wheels, to get the fingers flying across the keys again, and to get your brain back into that world and thinking about those characters again.
  3. Do something completely different
    Occasionally it makes sense to put down the pen or walk away from the keyboard altogether for a short time. Try painting, or take a long walk. Give your brain time to be creative in a different way so that whatever problem you're working through in the manuscript has time to marinate. You'll come back to the page with a better perspective and more ideas.
No matter what you have to remember to do what works for you. And when it stops working, try something different. Writer's block is not a "forever disease." So give yourself time and space to work out the puzzle that has presented itself. You'll be pleased with the results when you finally get back to it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

7 Reasons You Should Attend a Writing Conference

Utopiacon Writing Conference
My favorite conference to date
I'm gonna start this week with a fun post. Writing conferences may not directly relate to the nuts and bolts of your writing practice, although frankly they should!

If you've been toying with the idea but you've never actually made the leap to attend a writing conference, I want to give you seven reasons why you should seriously stop stalling and attend a writing conference.

Seven reasons you should attend a writing conference

  1. The People
    Seriously. The people are the best thing about a writing conference. We writers can tend to get isolated. Writing is a solitary practice and it can leave you feeling cut off from the rest of the world. A good writing conference will reconnect you with all the other wonderful, weird people like you! Trust me on this.
  2. The Confidence Boost
    Part of connecting with other writers at conferences is that you'll recognize that there are plenty of other people who are struggling with the same problems that you are. Others have actually found a way to beat those problems! And they're there to cheer you on and help you get the most out of your writing. You'll leave feeling much better about yourself.
  3. The Ideas!
    Oh, the ideas! What happens when you put a bunch of creative people in a room together? The creative sparks do fly. Just five minutes brainstorming with other writers and you'll come away with more story or post ideas than you could ever have time to write.
  4. The People
    Did I mention the people? Because... connections! You'll expand your platform and your professional network like crazy if you take the time to talk to people, develop relationships with them, and geek out over the same things. Totally worth it.
  5. The Experience
    Depending on the type of conference you attend, the panels and/or critique sessions will really boost your knowledge and experience in the publishing world. And let's face it, that plus your professional network are the two most important and valuable things you'll get out of attending a writing conference.
  6. The Motivation
    Not to mention the amount of ass kicking you'll get when it comes to completing, submitting, and publishing your writing. If you have confidence issues (no one will like my writing) or procrastination issues (I'll finish that WIP later) you're bound to find a group of writing friends at a conference who are willing to push you to get your writing out into the world.
  7. The People
    Seriously, the people you meet at writing conferences are amazing. If you take the time to research the events and find your perfect conference you will most certainly find your tribe, those particularly weird and unique writers who geek out over the same awesome stuff you love and who will be your cheerleaders for life
All of these reasons add up to why your writing practice can only benefit from attending a writing conference.

We'll talk about the types of writing conferences in another post (Utopia Con is my favorite), but just know that there are plenty of options out there, so you're bound to find one that fits your particular personality, writing needs, and genre preference.

Sign up for my email list to keep up with the conferences I'll be attending next year! Maybe we'll meet face to face at one of them!

Friday, September 11, 2015

In Defense of Prologues

star wars crawl prologue
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away... you know the line. But let's all admit it. We've read our share of bad prologues. Especially in sci-fi and fantasy, prologues get abused -- a lot. Show of hands: How many of you skip prologues without actually reading them? I thought so.

And it seems the publishing industry is over prologues. Most agents and editors nowadays will tell you to cut that prologue right out of your WIP. Or worse, they won't even look at a manuscript if it has a prologue.

Still, just because prologues get abused and overused so much, doesn't mean they're worthless. Before I get to defending them, though, let's go over a couple of things a prologue is NOT.

A prologue is not...

  • a place to store irrelevant back story and force it on your readers.
  • a scene that happens in the same time/place as your story (usually)
  • written from the main POV of your story (also, usually)
In most cases, novels don't need prologues. The information they contain can usually be dispersed throughout the first chapter without breaking the flow of the narrative.

But occasionally prologues are the perfect place to showcase a piece of necessary information, or a voice that would otherwise not be included. The prologue to Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, for example, gives us a wider, more omniscient view of the character Kote. Without spilling all the beans at once Rothfuss sets the tone for the novel and for how we should view his main character, a detail that is very important to the telling of the story. 

Star Wars is the perfect example of a prologue being put to good use. At the time that the movies released, science fiction was a relatively unfamiliar genre for the general public. The prologue, therefore, was crucial in setting the overall tone, outlining the basic rules of the universe, and orienting people with the main conflicts that the characters will face.

When well done, a prologue draws us into the story. It cracks the lid on all the juicy awesomeness that's yet to come, calls to our curiosity, and whets our appetites for adventure.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Writing Tips: 3 Reasons NOT to Begin Your Novel With a Dream or a Flashback

Figuring out where to start your novel can be difficult. Where your readers enter the story, what they see, who they meet, will color the way they view the rest of the novel. The first few pages are where the reader gets their footing and learns just what the story is all about, where it's going to take them, whether or not they should trust the voice that is taking them through this foreign story land.

Sometimes, when you're not sure just how you should start your novel, it can seem like a good idea to start with a dream or a flashback, your character remembering something that happened before the reader came along, or something that never happened at all. There are 3 reasons not to do this.

  1. The Confusion Factor
    In the first five pages of the novel, you should be setting up your reader's expectations of the character and world that they're going to be sharing with you for the next 200 pages. If you then suddenly shout "just kidding!" and change everything that they know or thought the novel was going to be about, you risk at worst losing their interest, and at least confusing them. 
  2. It's been done (and done and done and done)
    You want your story to stand out in your reader's mind. You want to grab people's attention and hold it. If you resort to this trick that everyone else has tried, how well are people going to remember your book in the midst of all the others? Be worth remembering. It may take a little more work, but it's worth it!
  3. If it's a flashback, why didn't you just start there in the first place?
    If you absolutely have to start us in the "past" and then jump forward, ask yourself why? Why didn't you just start us there in the first place? For a flashback to work at the very beginning of a novel, the event you're taking us back to must be pretty earth-shattering for your character, but then not matter at all until the current time. The fall of Voldemort and Harry's arrival at the Dursleys' home were both HUGE to the plot of Harry Potter. So J.K. Rowling, instead of having a character remember those moments later, plunked the reader down right there in the moment. She started with a deeply significant event and showed it to her readers, and by doing so, those events had more impact.
Finally, you can choose to do a flashback or a dream at the beginning. If it's right for your book, it's right for your book. But you've gotta wow us with it. Make it a flashback or dream to remember!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Writing Tips: 4 Questions to Ask When Writing Back Story in Your Novel

If you're reading this blog post, you're probably creative. You're probably a writer with an overactive imagination. That's great! You're my favorite type of person. That deep and beautiful imagination is what drives you to do what you do, to write and create worlds for you and your readers to get lost in.

So what do you do when it comes time to share that world with others, when it's time to tell the tale that's been growing inside your fertile mind? People who have the widest imaginations have the hardest time getting to the heart of their story. What details do you include? How much history to you reveal? After all, you've worked so hard to cultivate your characters, who they are, how they and their world came to be. Surely your readers are interested in the details and the back story as much as you are.

And you're right--up to a point. I love discovering the depth of detail and planning that an author has gone through to create the character that I am following and the world that character lives in. The problem arises when I get socked with that back story before I'm ready to appreciate it, before it matters to the story at hand.

If you throw too much detail at your reader too soon, they're not going to know what to do with it. At the beginning of a story, your reader is busy figuring out how things work, who the characters are, what they want most, and what's standing in the way. They're not gonna want to know WHY things work that way... not yet... or the deep personal histories of the characters yet... they don't know to who they're supposed to care about yet!

You'll have the same problem if you throw in too much detail at the end, too. Your reader will likely skim right over back story revealed too close to the ending, in order to get to the "important part" of the story.

So how do you  know what back story to include and where? Here are four questions you can ask when you feel the urge to type out your character's family tree:

  1. Is this bit of back story relevant to what's going on RIGHT NOW in the story? (follow-up question: Will your reader understand that it is relevant right now?)
  2. Does the back story you're including move the story forward? 
  3. Does it reveal something important about character motivation?
  4. Will your reader be confused about what's going on without this back story?
If the answers all of these questions are yes, include your back story! If any of these answers are no, you might want to reconsider revealing that back story now.

The last thing you want is for your reader to skim over any part of your tale. It's better to reveal back story on a need-to-know basis rather than dumping it all on your reader when they're not ready for it. The right bit of information presented at the right moment will hook your readers and then they won't be able to get enough!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Writing Tips: 3 good reasons to avoid pop-culture references in your novel

There are some places where pop-culture references really rock (take last Friday's blog post, for example). When you're writing a blog post or talking with your friends and looking for a good example to illustrate a point about storytelling, look no further than Hulu or Netflix or (less and less) cable TV. Pop culture references can be relate-able and can relevantly illustrate your point to your target audience.

When it comes to your novel, though, there are three good reasons to avoid pop-culture references.

  1. It dates you--quickly. (Also a problem for people using technology references in novels)
    As you're probably well aware, in this age of the Internet, trends are like meteors flashing brightly on their way through the earth's atmosphere. They last just a moment. If you want your novel to endure, to really feel timeless, don't have your characters sitting down to season four of The Sopranos (or worse, Magnum PI!). Unless your story is clearly supposed to be rooted in that time period, you're limiting yourself.
  2. Not everyone will get it.
    The last thing you want to do is alienate your readers. If you spend time making references (no matter how witty) to a show or meme or trend that your readers haven't seen or heard of (or that they've already forgotten about!), you're going to lose those readers, confuse them, or cause them to come out of the story in order to figure out what you're talking about. That's the last thing you want! Do whatever you can to keep your readers connected to the characters, invested in the story, and turning the pages.
  3. It's unoriginal.
    Seriously. It's your world, even if you've set the story on modern-day Earth. Take a few minutes to imagine your own version of the soda, tennis shoes, or TV show that your characters are referring to! Own your world and show off that brilliant imaginative mind. (Bonus; No one else will have the same reference in their novel, so yours will stand out!)
So next time you're tempted to slip in a witty line about Downton Abbey or New Coke, stop! And use your imagination to create references that are an organic part of your own world, a world your readers will love and won't want to leave.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Writing Tips: Hero vs. Protagonist

When crafting your novel you need three things:
  1. A character
  2. A goal
  3. A problem
Your main character (protagonist) has a goal, something they want more than anything else, but something is standing in their way. In order to get what they want, they have to solve the problem/defeat the monster/overcome the odds. And voila, there's your story.

Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion)
Usually people equate the protagonist with the hero of the story. Even a flawed main character can be the good guy, admired for their bravery, fighting "on the side of the angels." A hero makes sacrifices for others, and often has a sympathetic quality that makes you want them to succeed.

Dr. Horrible* (Neil Patrick Harris)
But what makes a protagonist is not always what makes a hero. Sometimes the most sympathetic character, the one with the most compelling goal, with the most to gain or lose (i.e. the most interesting story) is NOT the hero. It's important to remember that the hero stands in the way of the villain, too, and is ruthless in seeking his destruction. Sometimes, when you put yourself in the shoes of Grendel you find that Beowolf is the true monster.

If your characters have the depth that they deserve, you may find that your villain is just as sympathetic (if not more so) than your hero. Don't be afraid to give him (or her) the lead role for a little while. The results may surprise you.

*Side note: if you have never watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, go do it right now. Seriously, go.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Without Utopia I Never Would Have...

I haven't mentioned it here yet, but UtopiaCon is a most amazing and wonderful conference. They're on their fifth year of hosting the conference. My first year attending was last year. We who have experienced the magic that is Utopia want to give back to the organizers who have given so much inspiration and support to us. A conference of this magnitude--of this level of MAGIC--is not cheap.

In the past, organizers, friends, and even family have come forward and given from their own personal funds in order to help move Utopia forward another year and we want to pay them back. We want to FIGHT FOR OUR WRITE and do our part to help.

This year especially, we'd like to make sure they go into planning sessions with an extra boost to it's bottom line.

So if you've ever been touched by Utopia, or if you love any of the authors, bloggers, or readers who have, please take a moment to give a few dollars. This will insure the inspiration continues.

We hope you'll be led to give from the heart, but to sweeten the deal we have some MAJORLY EPIC incentives! In addition to what you’ll get from the Go Fund Me organizers (see the donation page to read about those), you’ll also get entered to win any one of these amazing raffle prizes listed in the rafflecopter below!

Prizes like this one:

And in order to help convey the magical sense of community Utopia has instilled in its attendees, I want everyone to know that...

There is no purchase or donation necessary to enter to enter the drawing, but we encourage you to give even just $10 in order to help move us toward our big goal. And don’t forget, every donation of at least $10 earns you free books!

How to enter:

  1. Go visit #UtopiaLove’s Go Fund Me page and make a small donation (this isn’t necessary, but we would be so jazzed if you did this first! AND this earns you an automatic prize based on your donation level. Check your email to collect.) 
  2. Click through any one of the rafflecopter entry methods. Complete the necessary item and get entered for all of the raffle prizes listed. 
  3. Click through to the list of other participating authors & bloggers to read how Utopia has changed them! 
That’s it! Thanks!
Participating Blogs:
Karen Hooper http://karenamandahooper.blogspot.com/
Kallie Ross Kallieross.com
Susan Burdorf www.facebook.com/susanburdorfauthor
Jo Michaels http://jomichaels.blogspot.com
Carlyle Labuschagne Www.worldsawaybookblog.blogspot.com
Shantella Benson https://thewordsmithe.wordpress.com/
Shelley Custer www.stalkingshelves.blogspot.com
S.M. Boyce smboyce.com/boyce-blog
Komali da Silva www.komalidasilva.com
PK Hrezo Http://Pk-Hrezo.blogspot.com
Elisabeth Kauffman http://writingrefinery.blogspot.com
Patti Larsen www.pattilarsen.com
Michaela Mills http://www.michaelamillswrites.com/blog
Ginny Gallagher http://ginnygallagher.com/news/
Liz Long http://lizclong.com
Raine Thomas http://rainethomas.com
Stacey Marie Brown http://www.staceymariebrown.com/
Heather Hildenbrand http://www.heatherhildenbrand.com
Amy Evans http://amyevansbooks.com/

Again, you can click this link to enter the raffle! I hope you'll support this awesome group, and consider attending! I promise it'll change your life.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Review: Shadow Scale

I greatly enjoyed Seraphina. Dragons, half-dragons, and an entirely new world to settle into and become familiar with--who could ask for more? So I was thrilled when the sequel came out, so excited to be part of that world again and to see how Seraphina grew and became herself by the end.

Some of the reviews for Shadow Scale indicated that the narrative would be disappointing, and so I was a little nervous going into the reading that I might come out of it feeling that something was missing. What I experienced, though, was exactly the opposite.

I loved this book, the dragon-lore, the scope and breadth of the plot (from gathering the ityasaari to the war between neighboring kingdoms), and most especially the high and low places that Seraphina's character walks through to come into herself fully and freely.

What I wanted, to see Seraphina become strong and independent, worthy of love and of loving, was exactly what Rachel Hartman delivered. Her last line "I walked myself into the world" perfectly encapsulates the journey that Seraphina traveled from those first pages until the end. For me, the story was always about that.

Thank you again, Ms. Hartman, for sharing Seraphina with us.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: Book Architecture

I just finished reading Book Architecture yesterday, and I am excited to incorporate series grids into my personal and professional editing processes. I appreciated the format of the book, how each element was broken down and given a "real life" example. I immediately began noticing series everywhere.

I recommend this book for people who want to break out of the "traditional" plot formula, or who have already and are now wondering how to make sense of their manuscript. Series, and tracking series in a grid, can help you identify the important elements of your narrative, and can help you organize those elements for maximum emotional and/or intellectual impact.

I'll be going back to read Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Free to Fall

Free to FallFree to Fall by Lauren Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved it! Absolutely loved this book. Lauren Miller kept me reading, wondering what was coming next. I figured out a few of the "mysteries" based on clues she'd seeded into the narrative, but that just made it more fun for me to read, honestly. I had a silly fan girl moment at one point, when Miller wove Field of Dreams--my favorite movie--into the story. Seriously squealed with delight.

The inspirational message behind the whole book really speaks to me, an adult who hasn't quite decided to grow up yet... listen to that still small voice--to the Doubt as Miller describes it--the one that everyone tells you not to trust when really the Doubt would never steer you wrong. Ray in Field of Dreams listened and people thought he was crazy, but it was the right thing to do... Rory listens, and it's the hardest thing she's ever done, but again, it was the right thing to do! I need to be reminded of that more, to listen to the voice in my head, to not be afraid to follow my intuition, to chase after my passions.

I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 22, 2015

The last 10 YA books I read

Not counting the various manuscripts that have rolled across my desk in recent weeks, I read as much as I can in the YA category. My favorite genre is fantasy, but I have been known to read contemporary novels as well. I find reading what's somewhat current in the category of YA important to keeping my developmental editing skills sharp.

I recently had to list the last 10 YA novels I read along with a couple of sentences about what I liked or didn't like about those books... and I thought I'd share them with you! Have you read any of these books? Tell me what you thought of them!

The Bitter Kingdom, Rae Carson (third book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy) - This last book of the trilogy was a bit of a letdown for me. Overall I enjoyed the story, but I felt like Elisa's character development took a back seat to the plot and, when THE THING that she thought made her special was taken away from her, instead of breaking down and being reborn, she had a couple of sullen days and then never really considered it again. I had hoped that Elisa would have a more explicit struggle with finding her self-worth separate from her godstone and so, while the plot resolved well, I still felt myself wanting something from the character arc.
The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan (second in the Lady Trent Series)- Marie Brennan's, or more specifically Lady Trent's, narrative voice is what draws me to these books... I mean, aside from the dragons! The world building in this story is fascinating and learning through the eyes of a witty, strong female protagonist makes these books a pleasure.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie - I asked my friends to recommend books that dealt with the current racial climate in the US and someone recommended TATDoaPTI to me. This book was not at all what I expected. The protagonist was painful and broken and motivated and unique and fascinating. I genuinely cared about what would happen to him and enjoyed being able to see through eyes so completely different from my own.
The Iron Knight, Julie Kagawa (fourth book in the Iron Fey Series) - This fourth book in Kagawa's series seemed inevitable. Ash's story needed resolving and had to be resolved without Meghan. And yet... I wanted Meghan... I wanted more romantic tension (similar to the other three books). Ash's voice just didn't do it for me, although the interplay between him and Puck was entertaining.
The Iron Queen, Julie Kagawa (third book in the Iron Fey Series) - I loved watching Meghan grow into her own in this novel. Others complain about her whiny nature throughout the series, but I felt she was extremely relate-able. And I loved the romance! Also, Kagawa's take on the land of Faery and the summer and winter courts was rich and vivid. 
Battle Magic, Tamora Pierce (Circle Reforged #3) - I read Will of the Empress by Pierce and was eager to re-enter the world she had created, so I grabbed this book from the library and devoured it. I love her characters, so full of nuance, and I love the magic systems in this series.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews - This was another recommendation from a friend that I enjoyed, if cringingly... most high school boys are... painfully awkward... and were definitely written that way in this book. After having read TFiOS, the "dying girl" in this story didn't carry the same weight, but I thought that the character development of the protagonist was worth the time I put in to read it.
Crown of Embers, Rae Carson (second book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy) - Carson did a great job of raising the stakes and pushing the romance in this book. I ate it up and was so excited to read the third book and find out how Elisa was going to save her kingdom and her lover.
Ruin and Rising, Leigh Bardugo (third book in the Girsha trilogy) - These books fascinated me from start to finish. The Darkling was the yummiest, most horrifying villain I've read in a while, equal parts seduction and terror... Alina was an interesting and flawed heroine... and the pseudo-Russian landscape was so enthralling and different! I loved it. Great series.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green - I read this because it was such a big deal in the YA scene, not because it's my normal fare. That said, I found Hazel very sympathetic and yes, I cried... more than once... while reading the story. Green wrote a compelling story about sick teenagers who were just trying to live normal lives, without holding back or being afraid to take risks. I can see why it was a hit with the target audience.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Big News for Writing Refinery!

Last week on DIY MFA Radio, my friend Gabriela Pereira and I announced a new joint venture. We're going to put out an anthology! It's called the Writer Igniter Anthology, and it needs YOUR VOICE to make it amazing. You can listen to the podcast episode where we announce it here.

The special thing about this anthology is that each submission has to use a writing prompt generated by the Writer Igniter App. That means you have to stretch that creative muscle extra hard. I can't wait to hear what new stories come out of this project.

So come check it out! Submissions are OPEN. We're looking for new voices and creative ideas. Come! Write! Take a chance with us and get your name in print. We wanna read your best creative stories. So write, write, write! And then submit, submit, submit!

Friday, March 6, 2015

It's Writing Prompt Friday!

I'm starting a new event on the Writing Refinery Facebook Page today: Writing Prompt Friday!

I'll cross-post here, too, so that everyone can participate. The idea is, look at the prompt, and write 1000 words or less, just a short piece, that incorporates the prompt. You can post a link to your piece in the comments and I'll make sure to come give you some encouraging feedback!

Here's today's prompt:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pro tip: Nodding and Shaking Your Head

I've run across the incorrect descriptions of these two actions far too many times for it to be coincidental anymore, so today let's define them.
The action that can be described in the above photo is nodding. Dear 10th Doctor David Tennant is nodding his head in response to something that was said to him. Nodding, the up-and-down motion of the head, is used to indicate affirmation, a positive response, a yes in body language.
In THIS photo, DT is moving his head from side to side, or shaking his head. This motion indicates denial, a negative response, or no in body language.

This is basic body language 101. If you write that your character shakes his head yes to something... that's incorrect. He NODS his head for yes and SHAKES his head for no.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Creation is messy

If there's anything being an artist will teach you, it's that you've got to make a mess in order to create. The same is true with writing your novel. It's no less a piece of art in progress than a painting. Sometimes in order to get to the heart of your story you have to write yourself into a corner you aren't sure you'll be able to get out of... this is the novelist's version of a "mess". Then give yourself and your characters a chance to figure out how to get out of the mess you're in. Some of your most creative work can come out of this mess, out of this not knowing what comes next, out of this paint splatter that you didn't intend.

Let go of your need to control every single moment and see what happens with your writing. You may surprise yourself.

mess of life by jesus miguel rosado perdomo

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Try something new

In the search for inspiration, the best thing you can do is to keep trying new things.

Read something in a different genre than you usually do.

Go to an art museum.

Write in a different place.

Take a modern dance class.

Do something that makes you consider your world, the world, differently than you would normally. Do something that makes you ask questions. Look at art that makes you uncomfortable and then ask yourself why it makes you uncomfortable. Ask yourself why a lot.

Live in a state of constant questioning and keep blurting out answers until you find one that sticks... until you find one you can't get out of your mind, then follow it and see where it leads you.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: What To Do When It's Your Turn

What To Do When It's Your Turn
What To Do When It's Your Turn by Seth Godin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I participated in the Your Turn Challenge, a week-long daily blogging challenge, last week before I read What To Do When It's Your Turn(and it's always your turn). Whether or not Seth intended it, the conclusions I came to in answer to or response to the prompts and questions asked of us during the challenge are straight out of this book.

Mr. Seth Godin, I think you may have written this book for me. Here are a few of the lines that spoke directly to my psyche, my heart, my self:

"Liberate yourself from the need to be right.

Not everything has to be okay.

Change hurts. Do it anyway.

Embrace the fear of freedom, deciding to determine your own path, this is the work of a grownup, of someone who can identify what truly matters.

Do what you should do. Your mood will follow."

It's hard to tell if this is a self-help book, a business development book, or something completely new.

Whatever it is, it spoke to me in ways I needed to hear today. So thank you for that, Mr. Godin.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Your Turn Challenge - Day 7 - What goes with you

Day 7: What are you taking with you from this Challenge?

What I'm taking from the Your Turn Challenge is that ... nothing is ever easy. Even if it's something that you know in your heart of hearts that you want... getting to it will have its challenges. You have to commit to the goal, and make sacrifices. You have to do the hard thing, which means taking time away from all the other distractions that life has to offer, in order to do what needs to be done to reach your goal.

There's no such thing as "if I had time..." because, really, if it's important you will make time. You will prioritize and find the time and space you need to write those words, edit those pages, review the critique you received...

It's not easy, no. But it's worth it. Seeing your dreams fulfilled, honing the muscle, the skill you need to take you to the next level... it's worth the time, worth the pain... it's worth it.

How about you? What are you doing today to reach your noveling goals? Writing prompts? 15 minutes a day? Changing your reading list?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Your Turn Challenge Day 6 - Surprise

Day 6: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself.

Let me tell you a quick story. A year ago I was not a runner. Well, just barely. I had just completed my first ever 5k! And that was a lot of distance for me.

See, I have never been a super active person. I've just relied on a good metabolism to keep me "in shape". Then, one day in 2013 I felt a shift. Suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, I knew that if I didn't get up and do something about it, I was going to die in the zombie apocalypse.

So slowly, in fits and starts, I began to run. At first it was frustrating and hard to do. But I rallied my running buddies around me and with their support I started training for my first 5k. Then for my first 12k, and then for my first half-marathon (running next week!!).

If I had hopped off the couch and tried to run 13 miles, I never would have succeeded. The zombies would have eaten me or I would have died of a heart attack or an aggressive case of the shin splints. But by knowing my overall goal, to get active, and giving myself milestone goals along the way, I'm now able to easily (if slowly) run 12 miles! Who would have thought?

The same thing applies to your writing life. You can't just jump off the couch and write a novel... well, not a good one, anyway. It takes training, commitment, and support. Carve out time, just a little at first, then more and more as you get practiced letting the words flow through your fingers onto the keyboard. Find writing buddies to support you, to cheer you on, to push you from behind when you're exhausted an about to break.

When you look back a year from now, will you be surprised, like I was, at how far you have come?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Your Turn Challenge - Day 5 - Get Unstuck

Day 5: What advice would you give for getting unstuck?

Imagine this: You've had an idea for a great novel forever. It's creative, it's compelling, and when you pitch it to your friends they seem to love the idea. You're no stranger to writing, and nowadays there are so many different support networks out there that can help you get your novel written, so you think "Hey, why not? Let's write this thing!"

So you sit down at your computer and you bang out a first draft, or part of a first draft, or some pages, and then... nothing... Maybe you've written yourself into a plot hole a mile wide... maybe you just can't think of what should come next... maybe you find it's more rewarding to outline and map out your story, but when you go to write it your fingers freeze and you find yourself unable to get the words out in the order you want them in.

Every writer gets stuck once in a while. Whether it's because you're just not sure how to fix a plot problem, or you're too scared that you're going to mess up your brilliant idea... we've all been there. Fixing the problem is easier, and harder, than you might think.

Here are some quick steps to help you get unstuck:

  1. Change focus. If you keep focusing on the problem at hand, you're likely to bind yourself up in it. Stop. Breathe. And look somewhere else first.
  2. Keep writing! Just because you're changing focus doesn't mean you should stop writing. Just pick something else to work on for a little while. A short project, something to break up the block, to give you something else to think about for a little while.
  3. Don't beat yourself up. If the solution isn't coming right away, don't give yourself a hard time. Wait for it. It'll present itself.
  4. Keep writing! I know I know, I already said that, but it's so important. Do daily writing prompts. Post on your blog. Whatever it takes, keep words flowing from your fingers, even if it's only for 15 minutes every day. Working on these smaller, less significant pieces will help oil the machine, and it will free up your mind to focus on your main manuscript without all the added pressure of "OMG I'm writing a novel and it has to be the best thing ever!"
  5. When the solution finally hits you, dive back in with gusto! This goes without saying. But relish the joy that writing brings you. And, if it doesn't bring you joy, maybe consider doing something else!
What do you do when you're stuck?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Your Turn Challenge - What I do well

Day 4: Teach us something that you do well.

Ok ok ok... If I've learned one thing today it's that I procrastinate well. But I don't have to teach you how to do that, do I?

I do NOT enjoy claiming to do things well. I feel like when I do that I open myself up to looking like a royal jackass.

 But... posting for Your Turn Challenge is important to me... and because I recognize that and because I want to honor my truth and my desire, and because I know that Seth is right and if I don't post I've already failed... and because yesterday I told you that failing by NOT taking a risk is worse than taking a risk and failing... I post today.

If there's one thing I do well, it's call myself onto the carpet when it really matters. And this matters. Having a voice, not letting anyone silence us, much less letting the voices in our head have control and tell us we're worthless... it matters.

And so this is what I teach you today, writers. Even when it hurts, write. Especially when it hurts, write. What you get from those sessions, what you give to the world, is a truly great gift.

Now I just hope I can follow my own example.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Day 3 - Your Turn Challenge - The How

Day 3: Tell us about something that you think should be improved.

The first two days of the Your Turn Challenge were simple for me. I was excited and motivated to write, to share my thoughts again, to be part of a conversation.

Day three is somewhat more of a challenge. I think what can be improved ... is my own willingness to take risks, to fail grandly and greatly by doing. And so this post is for me first. If it speaks to you, as well, then I am glad.

In the Your Turn Challenge, you can fail by NOT doing. If you don't post, you fail. But something about that seems so sad and counter-productive. Not posting, not acting, not speaking, these things are easy and safe. But in order to succeed, we must actively fail, we must choose a path and be wrong sometimes.

This is true for any writer who wants to share her thoughts with the world. You fail most when you fail to act. Someone will always be around to tell you that you "did it wrong," or that your idea is flawed, or that you used "your" incorrectly. Even worse, people will outright disagree with you and may even prove you made a mistake.

To be a writer means to take that risk, to put yourself out into the world, to choose to have a voice, even if you may have to admit you're wrong later, or put out a revised version of your manuscript that cleans up spelling errors and takes into account new information you hadn't considered before you published.

Will you fail or will you succeed? You won't know until you try.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Day 2: Your Turn Challenge - The what

Day 2: Tell us about something that’s important to you

For my second entry in the Your Turn Challenge I'd like to talk to you about resistance.

Most of the people I work with, people that are in a creative industry, face resistance every day. Here are some examples: Our ideas are too "out there" for a mainstream audience; they'll never amount to much. (Who will ever even read that novel?) We should just get a real job and stop pretending that what we do is worth someone's hard earned money. (Why would someone pay to read anything that you write?) Someone else does it better, has more experience, does it cheaper, does it quicker, etc. (You're self-published? Oh.)

Add that to the voice in your head telling you that you're an impostor, that it's only a matter of time before people discover the truth and tell everyone else... and that's some pretty strong resistance to the idea that you can achieve your dreams.

But what I'd like to propose is that those frustrating, depressing thoughts that make you want to give up... they're not resisting you, you're resisting them. The pressure you feel as you talk yourself into sitting down to write again today is a direct result of you not taking that bullshit, you refusing to believe the people who want you to quit. By not giving up, YOU are resisting, pushing through, pushing back against all of the naysayers. They're just standing there. You're the one in motion.

Don't listen to the bad talk and the people who tell you you can't do what you have set out to do. If you don't know something that you need to know, learn it. Find someone who does know and who will help you. Surround yourself with cheerleaders and people who will help you solve the practical problems rather than just pointing out that they exist. If you don't know anyone else who will support you, e-mail me! I would love to cheer you on to your dreams.

Be the resistance. Fight back. Make your art. Tell your story. Find your voice.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Your Turn Challenge - The Why

Day 1: Why are you doing the Your Turn Challenge?

I'm participating in the Your Turn Challenge of Seth Godin's because... because for the longest time whenever I blog I feel like all I'm doing is reaching out into the void, that no one is listening. And feeling that way made it harder and harder for me to post, to feel like I have anything to say to anyone... but by silencing myself I was feeding into the insecurity I already had. No one was paying attention because I wasn't doing anything!

I am a freelance editor. I help burgeoning authors find their voice, sculpt their stories to share with others, release their ideas into the universe that is waiting to hear what they have to say. I'm participating in the Your Turn Challenge as a way of doing the same thing for myself. I'll be posting every day for the next week, writing based off of the launch pad questions on the site. I hope to find my voice at the end of it, and remind myself of what I have to offer the world.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers
The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were some really good nuggets in this book, advice for editors and writers alike. I appreciated Lerner's candor and insight overall. I felt like the book sort of imploded at the end, though, and then fizzled out. I'm not sure I feel so doom and gloom about the state of the publishing industry as she does. Yes the old world is dying, fading, reorganizing, but that marks the beginning of something new, exciting, vibrant to come. These are the birthing pains as story-telling and sharing reincarnates again. I'm glad to be part of it.

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