Musings of Destiny Soria

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How to Rescue Your NaNoWriMo Novel:
A Study in the Virtues of Chocolate and Fizzy Drinks
by Destiny Soria

It’s December. You’ve had a whole month’s worth of distance from the 50,000 words that consumed your entire November. You open the document. Depending on whether your proverbial glass is half-full or half-empty, you start reading with either gleeful abandon or miserable trepidation. Regardless, I can promise you that the conclusion you’ll reach by the end (or in the most cases, by the end of the third chapter) is that this is utter and complete garbage, and you’ve wasted thirty days of your life, and oh the horror, etc. etc. ad nauseam. If your conclusion is none of these things, then congratulations you’ve achieved the highest level of ascendency, continue onward to fame and fortune. Or possibly you are sloshing about in a state of egg nog-induced delirium and should maybe take a nap before proceeding.

As for the rest of us, those poor souls leading their lives of quiet desperation at just how terrible we are at writing, we are faced with a choice. Option #1: Bury the “novel” in a folder so deep in the bowels of your computer that it will never again see the light of day. Option #2: Dust off the red pen and get to work.

For those of you who choose Option #1, I commend you for a draft well-finished. Carry on without shame to the “Third” section of this post.

For those of you who choose Option #2, you have a long and lonely road ahead, full of weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Unless you like editing better than drafting, in which case, the hard part is over!)

I’ve won NaNoWriMo five times, so I consider myself fairly seasoned in that regard. But I’ve only revised one of those winners (heavy air quotes) into a real actual novel—my debut Iron Cast. So in the NaNo revision department, I’m in the same boat as most of you, and probably several strokes behind those who are more dedicated than I. All the same, I’ve got a few tips that helped me survive my miserable trepidation (oh yes, my glass is always half-empty) and salvage a novel from the wreckage.

First

Go easy on yourself. You wrote a novel! In thirty days! No matter how terrible it is, that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating. I recommend chocolate and a fizzy drink. And while you’re treating yourself, take a few minutes to write down everything that works in this draft. It can be as broad as a plot twist you’re proud of or as specific as a witty line of dialogue that you love. I promise the manuscript, no matter how disjointed or rambling, is peppered with these gems. Having them written out will not only help you during revisions, but it will also remind you how awesome you are.

Second

Find the revision process that works best for you—not what you think is the “right” or “best” process. I’ve known authors who covered a wall with every beat of the novel on note cards before they even touch the first sentence, and I’ve known authors who start at Page 1 and revise/rewrite everything in order. And if you’ve revised novels before, what worked then might not necessarily work for you this time. Don’t be afraid to branch out if your tried and true methods aren’t quite so true anymore. Here’s my personal process, which might be worth trying if you’re not sure what works for you:

-I set my critique group loose on the draft. Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to keep/change, but mostly I just let them tell me what they think is working or not and what characters/concepts they wanted to see more or less. Nothing’s off limits.

-Keeping my critique group’s comments in mind, I write out a list of all the changes I want to make, big and small. Obviously it’s not an exhaustive list at this point, and for every item I cross off, I usually end up adding two more. But for me lists are much easier to tackle than 50K+ words all at once.

-I make changes chronologically, chapter by chapter. I know a lot of writers who prefer to start with big picture and work their way down to small. There’s any number of ways to do it, but the important thing is that you dive in. The most daunting part of the editing process is actually starting. Once you’ve gotten that over with, the rest is much easier.

-Once all the items on my list are crossed off, I consider my second draft complete. If possible, I take a break for a couple weeks to clear my mind. The third draft involves more hard-hitting edits—usually a lot of cutting and being sad about the things I’m cutting. I might have another critique partner give their thoughts at this stage too, just to make sure everything is cohesive.

Third

Have some more chocolate and fizzy drink. You earned it.

Fourth

Once your draft is fighting fit, you can move on to the next stage of the never-ending publishing process (assuming that’s what you want, of course). If you’re looking for tips on what to do next, Live, Love, Read has got you covered. (Personally, I recommend the posts by Ava Jae, Rebecca Podos, and Elise Kova.) No matter what stage you’re in—querying, submission, crying under the kitchen table—the important thing to remember is that you did the thing! You did the thing that almost everyone you meet in your entire life is going to tell you they wish they could do, and that is finish a novel. I salute you.


Headshot_small.jpgAbout Destiny

Destiny Soria grew up in a tiny town in Alabama that you’ve never heard of, where she spent her summers playing with sticks in the woods and exploring such distinguished careers as Forest Bandit, Wayward Orphan, and Woodland Fairy Princess. After college, she ran away to New Zealand for seven months and only pretended to be a character from Lord of the Rings on special occasions. Nowadays she lives and works in the shadow of the mighty Vulcan in Birmingham, AL.

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Iron Cast

Iron Cast

In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.

When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.

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Thank you so much, Destiny, for this wonderful post! You are just the sweetest for being a reader of Musings, as well! Plus, who doesn’t love chocolate and fizzy drinks?! You’re amazing, just like your book!

Thank you so much to everyone who is a part of Musings. Your words of advice never go unnoticed and unappreciated.

We hope you all have an amazing rest of your week!

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Musings of Audrey Greathouse

eternaldreamers

Pattern Matching: Creating Unity in Stories
by Audrey Greathouse

Intelligence is often portrayed as a logical and analytical skill, but humans are really very emotional creatures whose intelligence has evolved and is exercised through the practice of matching patterns. So much of our knowledge comes from what we recognize, and our ability to detect similarities to previous stimuli when confronted by new stimuli, whether that is physical, social, or intellectual in nature.

But what implication does this have for writing and reading stories?

Because it is so key to our survival, our brains love matching patterns, even in fictive realities. We love a dramatic reveal that brings back a character we had almost forgotten about, multiple storylines slowly woven together, or a mystery that pulls all preceding clues together. Whether the narrative is linear or nonlinear, readers want a sense that every new chapter is inexorably linked to the preceding content.

All of this is encompassed by the literary element of unity, an element which is embedded in every other aspect of your book. Characters must be consistent, plots must be cohesive, and diction must conform to the style you are writing in. One of the best ways to achieve this, however, is by thinking in terms of patterns.

Can you imagine your characters as patterns? Start with their motivation: can you distill their motives down to a simple statement of character that can be applied to all their actions and dialogue? If your character is angry because he is poor, and determined to get rich at any cost, this gives you a basic formula with which you can build his emotional and physical responses to any plot event.

Of course, if we left character development at that, we’d have a very one-dimensional character. We need more motives, more personality… but these should stem from the initial pattern. Perhaps, being drawn to wealth, he falls in love with a rich girl and we see a softer side of this character. Maybe his exasperation with poverty transforms, at times, into a feeling of worthlessness or profound ambition. Envision backstory for your character (even if you only ever hint at it within the story) so you understand where his motivation comes from and so you can create concrete images to demonstrate his character. We can imagine his mother fell sick and passed away because his family could not pay medical bills, or his father gambled their money away, and these details better show (instead of tell) why he is angry.

But let’s dig deeper still. Let’s say he remembers his mother laying in bed in her favorite yellow dress and how her coughing sounded like cats yowling in the night. From that moment on you have arrows of imagery and metaphor in your storytelling quiver. Yellow and cats yowling are both concrete images, and can become patterns if you return to them. If the mother also grew daffodils in her garden, she becomes better associated with yellow, and for the rest of the book the color yellow has an emotional meaning unique to your story. You can manipulate this to remind the reader of the character’s mother, or the root of his motivation. Let your character notice yellow things. Put yellow objects in your story when you want to illustrate something about his emotional state. And, when he is suffering, let him hear cats yowling in the alley.

As soon as you hit writer’s block, the first place you should look for inspiration is earlier in the manuscript. What have you introduced—maybe never intending to use—that you can bring back to forward your plot? What little helpful tools have you already embedded in your character’s world? Never invent a new minor character for something an existing minor character can do. Rather, bring back what you have already established and give your reader the pleasure of recognizing it—the sensation of running into an old friend again unexpectedly.

The result will be a tight story and a sense of unity among your characters that is possible only in the realm of fiction. Real life is never so poetic. Many aspiring writers shy away from repetition, afraid that they will seem redundant or too novelistic. While this is a pitfall to be aware of, many writers go too far in the other direction. Writing is a limitless canvass, the most expansive of all sandbox games. The goal is not to take full advantage of this, but rather to take artful advantage of it.

When designing your story, remember Chekhov’s Gun: “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

The converse is also true. Introduce nothing when you need it, always before. Go back and hang all your guns on the wall before anyone needs to shoot someone. The more you reference or allude to elements that will become important, the more natural it will seem when they come into play. Whatever elements you introduce, whether they are characters, props, or plot points, remember to make patterns out of them. Nothing is single-use in a story. Your language conveys physical actions and images as well as their emotional implications. Don’t forget to capitalize on those emotional implications and bring them back to the forefront of the reader’s attention whenever possible. If the protagonist stumbles onto his estranged father playing poker in a bar, it will only be as powerful as the emotions, as the patterns, you have already established. Give your readers things to pay attention to. Engage their minds the same way life does: by showing them patterns and relying on them to experience the joy of discovery and sense of familiarity as they match them.


PhotoGreathouse.jpgAbout Audrey

Audrey is the author of the bestselling YA fantasy novel The Neverland Wars and it’s sequel, The Piper’s Price, coming 2/21/2017. Native to Seattle, she can usually be found somewhere along the west coast. Her hobbies include writing and wishing she was writing, however, she has also been known to play piano and eat fire when she can’t find a pen.

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The Neverland Wars

Magic can do a lot―give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though―and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.

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The Piper’s Price

Peter is plotting his retaliation against the latest bombing. Neverland needs an army, and Peter Pan is certain children will join him once they know what is at stake. The lost boys and girls are planning an invasion in suburbia to recruit, but in order to deliver their message, they will need the help of an old and dangerous associate—the infamous Pied Piper.

Hunting him down will require a spy in in the real world, and Gwen soon finds herself in charge of locating the Piper and cutting an uncertain deal with him. She isn’t sure if Peter trusts her that much, or if he’s just trying to keep her away from him in Neverland. Are they friends, or just allies? But Peter might not even matter now that she’s nearly home and meeting with Jay again.

The Piper isn’t the only one hiding from the adults’ war on magic though, and when Gwen goes back to reality, she’ll have to confront one of Peter’s oldest friends… and one of his earliest enemies.

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Thank you so much Audrey for such an insightful post! Pattern matching is actually really difficult for most writers, esepcially when you’re trying to figure out sub-plots, point of views, and multiple characters. Sometimes it just doesn’t gel, but it will eventually. =) Thank you for your extremely thoughtful advice on this not so talked about obstacle!

As always, thank you so much to everyone who has been a part of this feature. Your words of advice and support mean so much to those who are struggling through their writing. Thank you!

Have a wonderful rest of your week, and Happy New Year to those who celebrate! =)

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Musings of Erin Summerill

eternaldreamers

8 GREAT WRITING RULES
by Erin Summerill

I recently was asked to speak at a local high school about my debut novel Ever The Hunted. After I shared my publication story, most of the questions that came from the students were about my writing process. Like them, I remembered the years when I was so eager to learn about publishing. Like my goldendoodle salivates for bone, I would sit in the front row at writing conferences, listening to authors speak about their writing process. I eagerly waited for a morsel of knowledge that would help me break into the world of publishing. Or at the very least, help me write something that was publication worthy. So I started collecting tips and pieces of information that helped me get a better handle on my novel writing.

Now that I’m practically sitting on the eve of my debut’s release, I can honestly say that the writing rules I’ve lived by have helped me on my road to publication. If you’re an aspiring author, or a seasoned writer maybe you’ll have a set of your own rules. But maybe, my 8 Great Writing Rules will give you something more to think about.

1. Give your reader a reason to turn the first page…and then the next.

Keep the stakes high in a novel, making each page a page-turner.

2. Trash it.

If the scene isn’t working, throw it out and start again. This can apply to a whole novel. If it’s not working, don’t be afraid to trash it.

3. Make it come to life.

The setting in every scene needs to feel real and lifelike. Make the reader feel like they’re walking through the pages of your book, breathing the air of your world, and feeling the atmosphere you created. Show, show, show. Don’t tell.

4. Know your theme.

Know what the character’s are learning in the book, and weave that lesson into the core of the novel.

5. When you’re done editing, edit some more.

6. Write. Write one sentence a day. Maybe it’ll turn into a paragraph, or a page, or a chapter. But at least write one sentence a day.

7. Accept criticism as the tool used to carve you into the best storyteller you can be.

8. READ.


About Erin

Erin Summerill was born in England. After spending years bouncing between Air Force bases in Hawaii, England, and California, her family settled in Utah, where Erin graduated with a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University. She had aspirations to write the next great American novel, but writing proved tougher than she first thought. So she grabbed a Nikon and became a professional photographer while crafting manuscript after manuscript. The scenic detour of shooting weddings across the United States, as well as internationally, provided world-building inspiration. It gave her the vision to draft her debut YA fantasy, EVER THE HUNTED. Now when she isn’t writing, or shooting a wedding, she’s chasing her four kids, two dogs, one cat, and five chickens. This could be why she downs massive amounts of Coke Zero and Hot tamales.

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Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1)

Ever the Hunted
Releases December 27th!

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

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Thank you so much to Erin for these wonderful writing tips! Sometimes we all just need to hear it straight and find guidelines to go by when we’re stuck or down-hearted. We so appreciate your time and are thankful for your wonderful words of advice!

Thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your amazing advice doesn’t go unheard, and you all are helping more writers than you could ever know!

Have a wonderful rest of your week and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!!!

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Musings of Lee Kelly

eternaldreamers

Making Feedback Work for You
by Lee Kelly

While some people write solely for themselves, I think most of us writers hope to share our stories with others.  And if we want to share our writing with a wide audience, through publication, it naturally makes sense to make the story as polished and as accessible as it can be.  That’s where feedback comes in: trusted critique partners and/or beta readers can be invaluable in gaining further insight into your story, and can give you outside perspective on a manuscript.

But receiving feedback on a project can be really hard!  After all, you could have spend months or even years on this particular manuscript.  The manuscript could be semi-autographical.  Or deal with an issue that’s extremely important to you.  Or could be something that means so much, you’re almost scared to share it.

With that in mind, here are some things I always try to remember when receiving feedback on a manuscript:

  1. Adopting the Right Frame of Mind. If you view feedback as criticism, then of course anything that’s said that isn’t “it’s perfect!” will sting.  After all, criticism is allowing someone to read what you made, just so they can point out all its flaws.

So every time I send out a new project to my beta readers, I try to remember what feedback actually is.  Feedback is something I ASKED for!  The critiquer has been tasked with reading something I wrote, so they can think of all the ways that I might make it BETTER.  There’s a reason they call them critique partners after all: they’re people you trust and invite into your story at the ground floor, so they can offer insight on how you can bring your work to the next level.

  1. Step Away. Sometimes my CPs’ feedback emails can be long, and the list of “issues” or “considerations” can be discouraging.  Someone might think an entire sup-plot isn’t working, or that the romance feels weak, or there’s a lack of a concrete theme.  Sometimes I can read a feedback email and be devastated, because an aspect of my manuscript that a CP has noted is a “stretch” might be my favorite part of the story.  Sometimes I’m even tempted to shoot an email to my CP and explain why they must have read the story wrong.

So I force myself to step away from the computer, and think.  Because something that sounds ludicrous on Monday, after some thought and sleep, might sound like a breakthrough on Tuesday.

Give yourself time to digest, and then get back to the critiquer with the thanks they deserve.  Even if you ultimately disagree with the results of their analysis, the analysis got you thinking.

  1. Consider Big Questions. You’ve spent a ton of time crafting your story, and you’ve gotten comfortable with the format and shape it’s currently in.  So it can be very tempting to just incorporate “easy” feedback that’s offered (the proofreading errors, the line edits), while dismissing the big picture thoughts as out of turn.  But these big picture thoughts might actually be questions that, if you spend a little time thinking about, could prompt an epiphany on your manuscript.

So take time to think about every piece of feedback.  Try to frame some of the notes as questions that you yourself get to answer.

  1. Get a Second Reader. Reading is subjective, and while having a trusted CP is wonderful, having two readers is even better.  It’s like having a second opinion on an important medical decision.  If your beta readers are saying opposite things about a particular aspect of the manuscript, maybe those notes cancel out.  But if both people are confused by a chapter, then that chapter likely needs reworking.

I wouldn’t necessarily send your work to ten people, as eventually you’ll end up watering down your manuscript to suit so many different, personal tastes, but I think two or three readers is key for well-rounded feedback.

  1. Make a Targeted Plan. Once I hear from everyone on a project, I like to take all of that feedback and try to find common notes.  Then I make a calendar, deciding how many days/weeks I’m going to spend on each issue.  (And if you’re particularly interested in this revision calendar idea, I highly recommend Cheryl Klein’s SECOND SIGHT, which I consider a bible on revision).  When you have a plan in hand, addressing feedback and revising is far less scary.

lee-kelly-2

About Lee

Lee Kelly is the author of A Criminal Magic and City of Savages.  She has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper.  An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced in Los Angeles and New York.  She lives with her husband and children in Millburn, New Jersey. Follow her on at @leeykelly and on her website at NewWriteCity.com.

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A Criminal Magic

A Criminal Magic

Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

A Criminal Magic casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.

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City of Savages

City of Savages

It has been nearly two decades since the breakout of the Third World War, and Manhattan is now a prisoner-of-war camp ruled by island native Rolladin, who controls the city’s survivors with an iron fist. For Skyler Miller, Manhattan is a cage that keeps her from the world beyond the city’s borders. But for Sky’s younger sister, Phee, the Central Park POW camp is the only home she’d ever want.

When strangers arrive in the park, carrying a shocking message, Sky and Phee discover there’s more to Manhattan—and their family—than either of them had imagined. As disturbing secrets about the island begin to surface, Sky and Phee have no choice but to break the rules to uncover the full truth of their long-shrouded history. When their search for answers erupts into violence, the girls must flee into Manhattan’s depths, where their quest for a better future will force them to confront the island’s dark and shocking past.

Lee Kelly’s gripping debut novel is a pulse-pounding journey through a city that’s as strange as it is familiar, where nothing is black-and-white and buried secrets can haunt.

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Thank you so much to Lee for all of your helpful advice, and for taking the time to help writers understand the true meaning of feedback. Criticism is a good thing! Remember that it helps all of us on our journey to greatness. =)

A big thank you to all who have participated in this feature. So many writers appreciate your advice every week. We couldn’t do it without you, and your words do not go unappreciated!

We hope you enjoy the rest of your week!

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Musings of Hannah West

eternaldreamers

How Do You Draft Your Novels?
by Hannah West

When the premise for KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS first struck me, I was sitting in an advanced grammar class in France, staring at the Disney princess pencils my parents had sent me in a care package. I’d already written several opening pages about a kidnapped girl getting dragged through the snowy woods toward her probable death, but the distinct moment of inspiration that occurred in Monsieur Brunot’s grammar class allowed me to connect the mysterious kidnapped girl to a sweeping story arc of politics, war, and fairytale princesses.

As soon as I returned from my semester abroad, I jotted down ideas. Not a rigid outline per se, just a list of chronological checkpoints. I steeped myself in fantasy stories, listened to atmospheric music, and jumped ahead to write the scenes I was most excited about because I simply couldn’t wait. My spirit bubbled with enthusiasm. After all these years of writing unfinished stories with magic and romance and danger, I finally had a commercial premise, a plan, and the will to finish a novel.

But two years passed before I typed “the end” on a first draft.

So how does the middle of the story go? What does the actual day-to-day process of drafting look like?

For me, it looks like typing a few paragraphs, then editing and analyzing them until they’re as clean as I can make them. It looks like lying on my bed and staring at the ceiling while I mentally overcome plot snags, not daring to touch my keyboard until I’ve ironed out every wrinkle. It looks like being an obsessive, unapologetic diamond polisher.

Diamond Polishing vs Mud Slinging

Authors tend to fall into two groups when it comes to drafting: mud slingers and diamond polishers. A mud slinger knows the first draft will be a mess, but it doesn’t matter as long as they splat words onto the page and revise later. Diamond polishers draft carefully, editing as they progress. They can’t stand noticeable errors or plot holes while they work, and they tend to draft for a long time. You probably won’t see many diamond polishers signing up for NaNoWriMo.

I’ve noticed subsets of these two types: discipline-based versus inspiration-based. A discipline-based writer may wake up at the same time every day to write for the same number of hours and meet the same word count goal, regardless of whether inspiration strikes. Bullet journals, accountability groups, and rewards systems may be involved. Some people need to be organized to unlock their creativity.

Inspiration-based writers, on the other hand, find it difficult to follow a schedule. They can’t clack away for hours unless they’ve experienced a light bulb moment or worked through a difficult plot snag. For these writers, inspiration is the key to unlocking discipline.

I’m an inspiration-based diamond polisher. I don’t write unless the ideas are brewing and bubbling. Then I may write just a single paragraph and polish that foggy little diamond ‘til the cows come home.

Most new writers are advised to write and write no matter what comes out, to cultivate the discipline to work each day and worry about perfection later. But when I tried to follow this popular advice, it led me to set unrealistic timelines for my drafting process. I would feel disappointed in myself for falling short of lofty word count goals. I would look at the pages I’d slapped down in a hurry and lose faith in the merits of my story.

Thankfully, through trial and error, I’ve learned to tune out advice that doesn’t apply to me. I learned the difference between being receptive to wise counsel and flat out defying your writerly instincts. Throwing caution to the wind isn’t the only “right” way to draft, at least not for everyone. I write thoughtfully and assess and reassess until I believe in every word because that’s the only way I know how to write.

My methods are still flawed. I’m about to be on my first ever official publisher-mandated deadline, so I’ll have ample opportunity to improve my self-discipline. I’ll need to learn a thing or two from authors who organize their time but don’t mind a little messiness on the page – while giving myself grace for being a slow and painstaking drafter.

By way of advice: just write. You don’t have to write and write and write each day. You can write a little and ponder and write a little more. As long as you love what you’re doing, you will reach that final, glorious page sooner or later.


hannah-west

About Hannah

Hannah West has swooned over fantasy and fairy tales since before she wrote her first story about a runaway princess living on top of a flagpole with two loaves of bread. Kingdom of Ash and Briars is her first novel, which she began as a college junior while studying abroad in Orléans, France. She freelance writes for Modernize.com about home renovation and sustainable living. She lives in Rockwall, Texas, with her husband, Vince, and Robb, their rambunctious blue heeler.

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Kingdom of Ash and Briars

Kingdom of Ash and Briars

Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two – now three – after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince’s band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.

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Thank you so much to Hannah for taking the time to write this wonderful piece of advice! Everyone drafts and writes differently, and it’s so important that you find the way that works for you and your book. =)

A huge thank you to all who have participated in this feature. Your words of wisdom are appreciated more than you know!

Have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Musings of Lisa Maxwell

eternaldreamers

Working Under a Deadline and Dealing with Stress

I’m no stranger to working under stress. I am a full-time professor, mom of two, and I have book contracts set from now until 2019. It’s a lot to balance and manage, and if I’m not careful, it can get too overwhelming to be creative. Especially when deadlines hit.

So how do I—how does anyone—work under a deadline and deal with the stress without letting it get in the way of creativity?  After all, how can you get any writing done if you’re all stopped up from stress?

I’ll tell you this: You have to know what kind of stress works for you. Stress can be a great motivator, but not all stress works the same. For instance, having seven things to do at one can be really invigorating for me, but the stress of not having a job (or the financial security that comes with one) a few years back was about enough to stop all of my writing. For me, balancing writing with my other career works better because of the financial security it gives me. I can handle being short on time. Because I know that, it’s easier to deal with it.

The other thing is to decide what’s important and make sure you give yourself time for that. I’m a mom of two boys who don’t seem to want to stop growing, so I’m not willing to give up all of my time with them for either of my other jobs. I make it a point to keep family time as family time, and work time as work time. I have days that I write, and I have days that I teach. I have days that I just spend with my family.

Of course, working under a deadline means that these lines can get blurred. What do you do then? How do you make it through?

The most important thing, for me at least, is to make sure the people in my life understand what’s coming and what I’ll need. There’s no way I could do everything I have to do without a supportive partner, but I know that not everyone has a partner—or a partner who is supportive. So find support where you can. Having that one friend you can text and complain to when things are darkest, or the coworker who’s willing to commiserate and cover for you until things get done, can be your lifeline to sanity when things get tough.

Surround yourself with good people. Guard the time and the things that mean the most to you. Most of all, remember that deadlines are temporary stress. Get through them, and they disappear.  And if all else fails, be sure to have a supply of chocolate.


Lisa   Maxwell

About Lisa

Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest, Gathering Deep, and Unhooked. Her next book, The Last Magician, will be out in July of 2017. She grew up in Akron, Ohio, and has a PhD in English. She’s worked as a teacher, scholar, bookseller, editor, and writer. When she’s not writing books, she’s a professor at a local college. She now lives near Washington, DC, with her husband and two sons.

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The Last Magician

The Last Magician

Stop the Magician.
Steal the book.
Save the future.

In modern day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1901 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

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Unhooked

Unhooked

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.

But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

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Sweet Unrest

Sweet Unrest

Lucy Aimes has always been practical. But try as she might, she can’t come up with a logical explanation for the recurring dreams that have always haunted her. Dark dreams. Dreams of a long-ago place filled with people she shouldn’t know…but does.

When her family moves to a New Orleans plantation, Lucy’s dreams become more intense, and her search for answers draws her reluctantly into the old city’s world of Voodoo and mysticism. There, Lucy finds Alex, a mysterious boy who behaves as if they’ve known each other forever. Lucy knows Alex is hiding something, and her rational side doesn’t want to be drawn to him. But she is.

As she tries to uncover Alex’s secrets, a killer strikes close to home, and Lucy finds herself ensnared in a century-old vendetta. With the lives of everyone she loves in danger, Lucy will have to unravel the mystery of her dreams before it all comes to a deadly finish.

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Thank you so much, Lisa, for all of your hard work and wonderful writing! Dealing with stress and working under deadlines is something that affects so many writers, especially as they start to work with editors and agents. Your insight is so appreciated!

As always, thank you to everyone who participates in this feature. Your words of advice never go unheard. You’re helping more writers than you know!

Have a wonderful weekend, and a great Thanksgiving if you’re in the U.S.! =)

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Musings of Eric Smith

eternaldreamers

Do you have advice for writers who are looking for an agent?
By Eric Smith

Absolutely!

The first bit, and maybe the most important when you’re starting your search, is to do your research. This is assuming your manuscript has been polished to perfection and reviewed by colleagues and friends. If you haven’t done that yet, do that before beginning your search.

Now, there are a lot of amazing websites that make this process infinitely easier. Manuscript Wishlist is one of my favorites. Writer’s Digest is a great resource as well, often showcasing new agents and publishing roundups of agents looking for specific genres.

And of course, Google certainly helps. Every agency has a website, which details agent bios, what they are looking for, and the like.

If you’re feeling a little more analog, you can spend some time in your local bookstore, checking out the books that you feel are solid comparative titles for yours. Are you writing Young Adult contemporary? Look at those reads, flip to the back, and see who agented that particular book. Just like that, you know that agent has an eye for that genre.

What are you looking for though? Well, you want to make sure the agent you are pitching is interested in the sort of books you want to write. Do they even represent books in your genre? Are they open for submissions?

Don’t just go pitching everyone and anyone. Take your time. This is someone you want to have a long, working relationship with. You’ll become friends.

Now, say your research is done. You’ve found a handful of agents you think you’d have a good working relationship with, your manuscript is polished up, and you’re getting ready to pitch.

How do you do that?

At a conference not too long ago, one of my favorite agents (yes, agents can be fans of other agents), Gordon Warnock, mentioned how someone once told him the best query letter is “the hook, the book, the cook.” So, a hook to get the agent interested, a bit about the actual book, and then of course, who YOU are.

Curious about how to write a query letter and make it shine? Here are a few solid posts that might help you out.

And last, one of my favorite ways to tell people to look for agents, is to utilize social media.

There are so many excellent online pitch events for authors to connect with agents and editors, that it feels almost impossible to list them all, but keep an eye out for Pitch Madness, DV Pitch, AD Pitch… all of which encourage authors to tweet out quick details about their books for agents to potentially favorite and pick up.

Me, I found Samira Ahmed via one of those contests. I signed her a few days after requesting her book, and her debut, Swimming Lessons, sold to Soho Teen quickly after.

Spend some time looking into those. Can’t hurt. Though be aware and be careful of who is requesting and checking out your work. Remember the research portion? Make sure the person requesting your book is an actual agent or editor!

Though, I do understand social media isn’t for everyone. Don’t feel like you HAVE to do this. There are scores of agents who don’t even use Twitter. That said, don’t let an agent’s social media presence sway you career wise. Yes, some of us are charming and funny on there… but that doesn’t mean you’ll gel businesswise. Personality is important, sure. But so is having that professional relationship.

Now, good luck out there writers. Remember:

  • Do your research.
  • Master your query letter.
  • Play on social media, if that’s for you.

You got this!


eric-smith

About Eric

Eric Smith is an author, blogger, and literary agent living in Richmond, Virginia. His debut humor book, The Geek’s Guide to Dating, came out with Quirk Books in 2013. His YA series, Inked (2015), is available now with Bloomsbury’s digital imprint, Bloomsbury Spark, with a sequel, Branded (2017), coming soon.

To submit to Eric:
P.S. Literary
| Submission GuidelinesMSWL

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Inked (Inked #1)

Inked

Tattoos once were an act of rebellion.

Now they decide your destiny the moment the magical Ink settles under your skin.

And in a world where Ink controls your fate, Caenum can’t escape soon enough. He is ready to run from his family, and his best friend Dreya, and the home he has known, just to have a chance at a choice.

But when he upsets the very Scribe scheduled to give him his Ink on his eighteenth birthday, he unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that sends the corrupt, magic-fearing government, The Citadel, after him and those he loves.

Now Caenum, Dreya, and their reluctant companion Kenzi must find their way to the Sanctuary, a secret town where those with the gift of magic are safe. Along the way, they learn the truth behind Ink, its dark origins, and why they are the only ones who can stop the Citadel.

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The Geek's Guide to Dating

The Geek’s Guide to Dating

You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your bedsheets are officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl who just moved in down the hall. What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from Eric Smith in The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer leads geeks of all ages through the perils and pitfalls of meeting women, going on dates, getting serious, breaking up, and establishing a successful lifelong relationship (hint: it’s time to invest in new bedsheets). Full of whimsical 8-bit illustrations, The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys everywhere to love long and prosper.

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A huge thanks to Eric for taking the time to write out this awesome guide to landing an agent! I highly recommend all of the above suggestions and resources. Check them out, and if you have any other questions about querying, I’m sure Eric and Kelly are more than happy to answer. Also, keep an eye out for Eric’s new book called Welcome Home, a short story anthology about the “emotional complexities of adoption”, coming out in 2017!

As always, a huge thank you to everyone who participates in this feature. Your words of wisdom and stories never go unappreciated by tomorrow’s writers.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Musings of Charlotte Huang

eternaldreamers

What do you do when you’re under a time constraint and/or deadline?
How do you manage stress?
by Charlotte Huang

For most writers, time constraints, deadlines, and stress are all familiar territory. Probably too familiar. Many of us have to write while juggling a day job (or two), a family, or both. And while these things can feel like insurmountable obstacles, with a little bit of practice we can develop some strategies to help our writing stay on track. Different things work for different people but here are a few of the ways I tackle these writer demons.

Time constraints:

  • Make use of short sprints. If your schedule is jam-packed with things that aren’t writing, short writing sprints can go a long way. Even as little as ten minutes will help you get words on the page and get you closer to the finish line. The key is to use the blocks of time to focus intently. Tune out the distractions (read: get off the internet) and write. Save the editing for when you have longer stretches later.
  • Use time when you can’t physically write to brainstorm. Like many people who live in LA, I spend a lot of time in the car. While it wouldn’t be practical to think about actual sentences (and hopefully remember to write them down later), I find car time to be ideal for brainstorming. I like to think about my characters and imagine them doing things outside the story. It helps me get to know them better and helps me ignore the fact that I’m stuck in traffic.
  • Get creative about where you work. If time constraints mean that you’re forced to be somewhere other than your desk, consider bringing your laptop or some other writing set up with you. I like to make use of as much waiting around time as I can, whether it be in doctors’ offices, during a kid’s practice, or even while getting a pedicure. All those little bits of found time add up!

 

Deadlines:

  • Use daily word count goals. This is the only way I know how to do it. Estimate the number of words you need to complete your project and divide it by the number of days you have left. And if you have a day when you don’t meet the minimum, make it up the next day.
  • Have an accountability partner. My critique partner and I do this for each other. We email in the morning with our goals for that day and check in at night to report our results. And if we’re lagging behind, we gently encourage one another to get on it.
  • Reward yourself when you meet your goal. Pretty self-explanatory but easy to forget. If you’ve been pushing hard to meet a deadline and achieve it, that deserves some recognition! Whether it’s taking yourself to a movie or out to a nice meal, find some way to celebrate.

 

Stress:

  • Work out. This is a must for me. It helps clear the cobwebs and gives me energy for the day.
  • Be social. Only if this happens to be relaxing for you. Sometimes your brain needs a break. If the words aren’t coming, it’s okay to switch gears for a little bit. The change of pace may be just what you need to get your creative juices flowing.
  • Get out in nature. I love going for a hike or a walk along the beach when I’m really and truly, can-barely-function, stressed out. Nature is a wonderful reset button and a great reminder that the world is bigger than this particular problem. You and your writing will get through this and be okay!

Hope you found this useful! Please follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (@charlottexhuang)


charlotte_huang_authorphoto copy.jpgAbout Charlotte

Charlotte Huang is a graduate of Smith College and received an MBA from Columbia Business School, which is clearly something every aspiring writer should do. When not glued to her computer, she cheers her two sons on at sporting events and sometimes manages to stay up late enough to check out bands with her music agent husband. Charlotte lives in Los Angeles and is the author of For the Record  (Delacorte, 2015) and Going Geek (Delacorte, September, 2016).

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Going Geek

Going Geek

A girl forced out of her comfort zone finds that being true to herself is the best way to live her life, in this second novel from the author of For the Record.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Skylar Hoffman’s senior year at her preppy East Coast boarding school should have been perfect:
amazing boyfriend
the coolest friends
the most desirable dorm

But it’s far from it. To her dismay, Skylar’s not going to rule senior year because she’s stuck in Abbot House, a tiny dorm known for, well, nothing. Living with a group of strangers everyone thinks is lame is bad enough. Worse is that Skylar wasn’t exactly truthful about how she spent summer break in Los Angeles—and her little white lie is causing her once rock-solid romance to crumble fast. And when it turns out that Skylar’s best friend is the one responsible for having her booted from Lincoln? It’s an all-out war.

Stepping out of her comfort zone never felt so scary—or necessary. But everything is different now. Including, maybe, Skylar herself . . .

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Thank you so much to Charlotte for being a part of this feature! I know many of us, myself included, struggle with deadlines and keeping to time restraints. It’s not easy, and managing the stress is hard! So thank you for sharing your advice and experiences with these factors. =)

As always, a special thank you to everyone who is a part of this feature! You’re words, advice, and experiences are worth so much more than you know.

We hope everyone has a great rest of your week!

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Musings of Becky Wallace

eternaldreamers

Making Every (Writing) Minute Count
by Becky Wallace

I have four kids. Four little kids. I love them. They are wonderful. I never question why I had them. They do, however, require a LOT of time. There’s a lot of laundry, meal prep, and practices (and cuddling and story time), but that leaves me with very little time to write. I can usually sneak an hour of writing during naps or maybe at bedtime (if I can keep my eyes open).

Up until this summer, I managed about 500 words per day. For me, for all the stories taking up space in my head, that pace gave me a little anxiety and a lot of frustration. So I set out on a mission to become a faster, more effective writer. I read books and talked to authors and studied best practices. And I found a secret for tripling my daily word count. Three secrets, really. Maybe one of them will work for you.

MAP IT

I’m typically a pantser (meaning: I don’t plot out my books in advance). I like my characters to develop as I write them, to discover their ticks and personality quirks as I work through the story. Pantsing means that I may fumble around for a while before I really figure out where my story is going. This method is not usually an effective way to use my writing time, but I do end up with clean-ish first drafts—strong characters, clear setting details, working semi-polished sentences—but I may have plot holes or pacing problems.

I want to keep that sense of character discovery, but move faster. Instead of doing a full in-depth plot, I make an actual map. With one sheet of blank paper, I write my character problem in a box in the top left hand corner and what I think the ending will be in a box in the bottom right hand corner. (For this example, I’m using a story I tell my kids at bedtime. Maybe someday I’ll actually write it. I mean who wouldn’t love a middle grade story about a princess named Ellemenopea and her pet Troll? 😉wallacemap1

Then I connect the dots, or boxes, with more scenes that lead from Point A to Point Whatever. I end up with a very general scene list that still allows me to develop the story elements, while having a clear picture of where the story is going. For my current work-in-progress (a light fantasy that will probably be 90K words), my mind map took a little over an hour to create and has been well worth my effort. Plus, it’s painless to change if you decide the story is going to go in a different direction.

wallacemap2

SKETCH IT

Once I have my map and I’m ready to get to work, I write a one paragraph summary of the chapter I’m going to work on, focusing on the most interesting/most exciting part of that scene.  If I was going to work on Princess Ellemenopea’s story, my chapter sketch would say: Princess Ellemenopea follows her father into the woods, wanting to help rid her country of the viscous, evil trolls. Her father doesn’t want her help, commands her to stay behind. She disobeys, follows the group, but gets lost in the forest. She knows she can follow the river home. Hears a noise in the brush, finds a baby troll hidden in the brush. His skin is soft, his hair is downy, his eyes are enormous. She can’t imagine hurting something that is so harmless. Determines to take it home and see if she can teach it to not be like its vicious, evil family had been.

The foundation of the character arc is there (the princess learns that the trolls were starving, intelligent, generally misunderstood. She decides she will always make her own decisions, searching out the truth on her own) and some of the character quirks, but I don’t get bogged down in the details. It’s quick, easy, and never takes more than five minutes.

TIME IT

Now it’s just a matter of actually writing the words. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Wrong. If I try to write when my kids are awake, I always get interrupted. The stopping and starting totally kills my hourly word totals. That hourly part? That’s the problem. Studies have shown that the human mind is only capable of focusing on one specific task for twenty minutes at a time. Chris Fox, author of 5K WORDS PER HOUR, goes into depth in his book about this subject (which I am not sponsored by, but did find very helpful) and has a great app for tracking work sprints. He also gives a lot of good advice about getting into a distraction free zone, but if you want that information you can read his book. 😉

When I write for twenty minutes, with my scene sketch at my side, I get more done than I usually do in an entire hour of work. Let me repeat that with stats: 20 minutes of focused writing = 600 words > one hour of unfocused writing = 500 words.  In one hour of actual work, with breaks between every twenty minute word sprint (where I change the laundry, make beds or pack lunches), I average 1800 words.

From 500 words per day to 1800 words per hour. Boom.

Even on days when I only get 20 minutes to write (or fifteen if I spend five minutes sketching the scene), I get more than when I had a whole hour to write. One LeapFrog video is 23 minutes long, meaning I can actually sneak writing time when my kids are awake.

Now that I’m getting more words down every day, I find myself less anxious and frustrated in general. I hope some of this will help you too!


About Becky

In second grade, Becky Wallace had to sit in the corner because she refused to write anything except princess stories and fairy tales (and because she talked too much). Her time in isolation gave her plenty of opportunities to dream up the fantasy worlds she’s been dabbling with ever since. She was lucky enough to find her own real-life Prince Charming. They have four munchkins and live in happy little town near Houston, Texas. She is also the award-winning author of two YA fantasy novels, THE STORYSPINNER and THE SKYLIGHTER. You can find out more about her at www.beckywallacebooks.com or on Twitter and Instagram at @beckywallace1.

And you can find out more about her books here.

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The Storyspinner

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

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The Skylighter

Johanna and Rafi are in a race against time to save their country before a power-mad Keeper destroys everything they hold dear in the “enthralling magical world” (Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles) introduced in The Storyspinner.

As the last of the royal line, Johanna is the only person who can heal a magical breach in the wall that separates her kingdom of Santarem from the land of the Keepers, legendary men and women who wield elemental magic. The barrier protects Santarem from those Keepers who might try to take power over mere humans…Keepers who are determined to stop Johanna and seize the wall’s power for themselves.

And they’re not the only ones. As the duchys of Santarem descend into war over the throne, Johanna relies more than ever on the advice of her handsome companion, Lord Rafael DeSilva. But Rafi is a duke too, and his people come first. As their friendship progresses into the beginnings of a tender relationship, Johanna must wonder: is Rafi looking out for her happiness, or does he want the throne for himself?

With war on the horizon, Johanna and Rafi dodge treacherous dukes and Keeper assassins as they race to through the countryside, determined to strengthen the wall before it’s too late…even if it means sacrificing their happiness for the sake of their world.

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Thank you so much Becky for providing us tips on how to improve our daily word count. I know it’s not always easy to make your self plan out things if you’re not usually a plotter.

A huge thank you to all of the authors who have participated in this feature! Your words and kindness don’t go unappreciated. You are inspiring and helping hopeful writers everyday, and they are so much more thankful than you know!

We hope everyone has a wonderful rest of the week!

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Musings of Katrina Leno

eternaldreamers

Have You Always Known How Your Story Would End?
Or Has It Changed Since You First Started The Book?
by Katrina Leno

One of my most favorite things about writing is diving into a blank page with an idea, an image, a sentence, or a word—just something that’s inspired me and gotten me to that place where I have to sit down and put some letters down on paper. I LOVE writing blindly (i.e. with no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing). Writing can calm me down, settle my anxiety, and greet me like an old friend—especially when I don’t think about it too much. So, I rarely know the endings of my books before I’m a good chunk of the way into the writing.

Take my second book, The Lost & Found, for example: I didn’t know until the start of the second chapter that I was going to have duel narrators. Louis came to me totally out of the blue, demanding that I put his story down on paper and give him equal screen time as Frannie. I knew who Frannie’s father was when I started writing this book (no spoilers!) but that was it. And it was SO FUN to discover both Louis and Frannie in this way; I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any differently.

Some writers outline obsessively, and that’s great, too! I’m a big believer that there’s no one right way to write a book. For me, I’m all about surprising myself and giving in to that ultimate joy of discovering as I go. So—if plotting has never really been your thing but you’re still itching to write a novel, might I suggest jumping right in and seeing what happens! (Much like the cover for my third book—Everything All at Once!)


Katrina Leno

About Katrina

Hi! I’m Katrina. I write books for young adults, like THE HALF LIFE OF MOLLY PIERCE (out now!), THE LOST & FOUND (July 5, 2016), EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE (Summer 2017), AND some hopefully cool fourth book I haven’t written yet but (if all goes well!) will come out Summer 2018!

I am represented by Wendy Schmalz.

If you like writing and photography, might I suggest you take a peek at my blog.

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Everything All at Once

Everything All At Once
Coming June 6, 2017!

Lottie Reaves is not a risk-taker.

She plays it safe and avoids all the ways she might get hurt. But when her beloved Aunt Helen dies of cancer, Lottie’s fears about life and death start spiraling out of control.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the bestselling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers. She knew how magical writing could be. And that words have the power to make you see things differently.

In her will, Aunt Helen leaves one writing project just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions that are supposed to get Lottie to take a leap and—for once in her life—really live. But when the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series. Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice—one that will force her to confront her greatest fears once and for all.

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The Lost & Found

The Lost and Found

A charming and imaginative new novel about getting lost before you can be found.

LOST:
Frannie and Louis met in an online support group when they were both younger. They have never met face-to-face. They don’t even know each other’s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. Well, not lose them, exactly. Things just seem to…disappear.

FOUND:
They each receive news in the mail that sets them off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers—and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find, as if by magic, important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.

The Lost & Found is a bighearted novel about connections (missed and found), family (the kind you’re born with and the kind you make for yourself), and unexpected journeys (on the road, and of the heart), from an author who Publishers Weekly called “a fierce new presence.”

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Thank you so much, Katrina! We appreciate your wise words of advice. I know that I personally am definitely a “pantser” and don’t really plot besides what’s in my brain. I know it will all change depending on what the characters tell me to do. =) I’m sure I’m not the only one!

As always, a huge thank you to all who have participated in this feature, and those who continue to do so. Your wise words of wisdom are immeasurable in helping beginning writers get their feet on the ground. You are all appreciated so much more than you know.

We hope you have a wonderful rest of the week!

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