Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Kiss and Tell, Not Show and Tell

It is almost mistletoe season, so pucker up.  Kisses are wonderful, powerful even, and are especially important in YA literature.  But how to write those all important kissing scenes?  Here's a few sites that just might help your characters to lock lips.'s-in-a-kiss.

Warning this last site is a bit steamy!!!

A short summary:

1. Be somewhat descriptive & include the five senses
2. Show not tell (give us the character's POV)
3. Give us the meaning behind the kiss (POV can help with this)
4, Most of all - Have fun!

Happy Writing!!!

Kiss and Tell, not Show and Tell

It is almost mistletoe season, so pucker up.  Kisses are powerful, especially in YA Literature.  Here's a couple of sites to get your characters to lock lips.'s-in-a-kiss

Basically the sum of the three articles is that the initial kiss is so important because this kiss is how couples gather information about one another and that any further kissing is important because that is how the couples bond and build on their relationship.

Even if it is puppy love - kissing is important.

So have your characters slow down, breathe, and enjoy.  Your readers will also enjoy the slowed pace and some of the extra details. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Plotting the Mystery: Helpful Link Roundup

I'm about 10,000 words into my new work-in-progress, a YA mystery. This is a departure from my usual sci-fi/fantasy bent (although it does have a speculative element, because I really can't help myself), so I found myself at something of a loss when it was time to plot the novel.
Where to turn? The internet, of course! Here are some of the most helpful resources I found online for plotting mysteries.

1. Dramatic Structure and Plot, by Hallie Ephron for
This extremely useful overview of mystery writing gives you some of the basics, like giving your sleuth a hard time and how to write a hook-y opening. The list at the end of cliché endings to avoid is especially helpful.

2. 5 Tips for Plotting a Mystery, by Pamela Fagan Hutchins
The first piece of advice here (start with an end and work toward a beginning) gave me my first aha! moment in my novel plotting. I figured out my climactic scene and the big reveal of whodunit, then worked backward. That made it much easier to flesh out the beginning and middle of the story.

3. Understanding the Essentials of Writing a Murder Mystery, by Bronwyn Hemus
Having read quite a few mysteries, I knew a progression of clues was a must, but I was foggy on how that worked, exactly. This article discusses the importance of feeding the reader clues that aren't obvious, but that could be followed to arrive at the solution to the mystery in retrospect (easier said than done, but at least I know that I should be doing it...)

And, just for fun...

4. Mystery Plot Generator
This mad-libs style blurb generator is perfect when you're stuck on some aspect of your plot and need some comic relief. My favorite part is the automatically generated critics' reviews—brilliant! :-)

Happy plotting!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ten Things to Do When You're LOSING YOUR MIND During NanoWriMo

If you are still hanging in there during NaNoWriMo, CONGRATS! (you are seriously amazing. To make it this far is really really hard) This is also often when it gets even more challenging to push through and keep going so here are some ideas to help you refresh and make it to your goal. 

10. Breathe. Seriously. Inhale, count to ten, exhale. Repeat 5-10 times.

Face mask reward= good for sleepless skin

9. Bribe yourself. What will you get when you hit your word count? Bubble bath? McDonalds drive-thru french fries? An episode of The Big Bang Theory? Finally try out that soothing facial mud mask you got in Birchbox last month?

8. Take a ten minute walk around your block, and notice your setting. Dostoevsky took long walks most days when he was writing Crime and Punishment, and it turned out pretty well for him.
Walking at sunset isn't a bad idea

7. Find a picture of your someone who looks like your ideal reader and put it next to your screen so that you can look at him/her and remember why you're writing the book to begin with. What does he/she need to hear? Why does he/she need you to complete this book?

6. Read one paragraph from the writer you most admire. Notice what you love about his/her writing, and get excited about trying to infuse that in your draft.

5. Chocolate. That is all.
Or get a hot chocolate in nature :)

4.Throw something. If you want to be mature, you can play a bit of catch, but when I'm really frustrated, I like to find a blank wall and throw unbreakable objects at it until the frustration turns into comedy.

3. Get in nature. Look at beautiful pictures of nature. Watch a web cam of nature. If the Pandas are sleeping, check out wolves or birds or something else beautiful from one of the cameras on these sites  Maybe consider the ways your characters are animals and the ecosystem in which they operate and riff on that for a bit.

2. Go on Twitter and challenge someone to a one-hour word-count write-off. Use the hashtag #amwriting or #nanowrimo and see if anyone bites.

1. Dance Party!!!!! This is by far my favorite. I throw a record on (yes. I like my T. Swift better on vinyl) and jump around in socks as much as I can for the duration of a single song. It gets my blood flowing, and makes me feel like I can do anything in life if I choose the right song. By the time the song is over I'm ready to dive back in.

Good luck, and remember, YOU CAN DO THIS. For every page you've written so far, I'm proud of you, I believe in you, and I wish you all the best. 



Monday, November 16, 2015

YA Book Pick: Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen

Once a month we choose an outstanding YA book to review.  We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors.

This month's book is Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen.  Maya is a teen author and thus has a refreshing point-of-view.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Stuck near the bottom of the social ladder at "pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren't paid to be here," Maya has never been popular.  But before starting eight grade, she decides to begin a unique social experiment:  spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell.  The real-life results are hilarious, painful, and filled with unexpected surprises - but through it all, Maya's positive approach helps her to reveal a new understanding of self-confidence, kindness, and acceptance.

First line: "School is the armpit of life," my best friend Kenzie once told me.  Amen.

Highlights:  The book is fun, entertaining, and hilarious.  Maya has such a strong voice and really opens up to her readers and pretty much holds nothing back.  In addition, to have such an authentic, raw quality, the book also has an even stronger message on what it means to be "popular."  Some critics doubt that a teenage writer could be this wise and write so well, but then what published book hasn't been reshaped and polished by countless helpful hands?!  Don't most books pass through a series of Beta Readers, agents, and editors?  Whatever the case, this book does shine - its both funny and insightful. 

Notes for Writers:  Voice. Definitely the voice.  Maya also provides a great message along with her story, but this book's strongest attribute is the voice. 

A great read for:  YA and tween girls and their parents.  Boys would learn much from the book as well, but some of the subjects are just too girlie.  I would say this is a good book for girls entering Junior High and even High School.  Wish I could have had a book like this for when my eldest went to school.  At our school, the "popular" girls were asked to buy Michael Kors purses and carry their lunches in brown paper bags.  This book will help to put some of this into perspective. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nano 33.3333, Forward! and Retreats.

Two chairs by the lake with words "Insert Writers Here"
We're about a third of the way into Nanowrimo and wherever you are in the process, give yourself a pat on the back. Whether you're ahead of the curve, racing to catch up or extending your plan into December, the fact that you've put words to page is a great start. 

I've spent a lot of time these past few weeks writing away at my local Starbucks and it's been productive but the start of November also means the start of Christmas season and there's only so much seasonal music I can take. 

As important as it is to find time to write by yourself, sometimes it's great to be with like minds and in a setting totally different from the norm. 

Enter the writing retreat. 

It's a great opportunity not only to write but to meet new people or spend time with old friends. The bonus is breaks usually include scenic tours, great stories and a glass or two of wine. 

Not all of us can afford to take a week off to the mountains of Colorado or the vineyards of Tuscany but have no fear, there are mini-retreats usually right at home. 

Here are a few to give your search a boost. 

Gifts of the Night Writing Retreat - November 15 in San Diego with Judy Reeves

The Art and Craft of Children's Book Writing - July 2016 in Martha's Vineyard with renown editor Emma Dryden

Breakout Novel - April 2016 in Hood River, Oregon with Donald Maass

Looking for something in screenwriting? Try:

Nosara Screenwriting Retreat - May 2016 in Costa Rica with Bill Boyle

Check out your local writing groups for news on what's in your neck of the woods. 

Happy Nano-ing!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Skimm: How to Keep Up With Current Events When in Your Writing Cave

It's November, which means that thousands of writers will disappear into their writing caves for NaNoWriMo, churning out 1,667 words per day until they hit 50,000. When you're cranking on a new project, it can sometimes feel like you've literally fallen into a hole, with barely any time to eat or sleep, let alone keep up with current events.

Allow me to introduce you to The Skimm, a daily email that compiles the previous day's headlines into one quick, easy-to-skim article that arrives in your inbox each morning. The tongue-in-cheek writing makes even the most boring headline enjoyable, and it takes all of about five minutes to finish (for you multitasks out there, you'll be done by the time you finish brushing your teeth.)

Who says you have to lose touch with the world just because you've fallen into a writing cave?

Happy reading Skimming!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Top Ten Wonderful World of Boys

Here's this seasons insight into how to keep those boy characters real.

1. Jumping is a perfectly acceptable mode of transportation. 
They will jump off the roof just as happily as they would jump on your furniture.  They have no problems have jumping off a rope swing into the pool, but don't be surprised if they won't jump rope.

2. Everything is a competition - even fastening seatbelts or using the restroom.

3.  Creative cleaning system.
Half of the spoons have been licked before sticking back in the drawer and the other half are just plain missing.  Time to look under their beds again.

4. Break everything.
This week they left my car door open all night while it rained and then flooded the upstairs bathroom which then flooded the kitchen.  This doesn't include even include the toy truck my son bought and broke within the first five minutes.  Ah,really?  So much for saving up for college. 

5. Miss the toilet seat but are nice enough to clean up using perfume and hand towels.  Gee thanks.

6. Mom's makeup makes for great camo paint and Halloween makeup.  Again thanks guys.

7. Love to do artwork!!!  Why, I have their sticky handprints all over the walls and windows.  I even have a few nose prints too.

8.  Good at redecorating.  I hear furniture being dragged around all the time only to find sheets and bookshelves now make for instant forts.  Socks, shoes, jackets, backpacks, and toys are strewn all over the place the minute they walk through the door, but don't bother to clean up, but they had it there for a reason. 

9.  Silence is golden right?  Um, not so much with boys.  If it is quiet, better investigate.

10.  Good news is that boys give some of the best hugs!!!  It is a competition right?!

Monday, November 2, 2015

How to Do NaNoWriMo Even When You Can't

It's November, and you know what that means. Hundreds of thousands of writers are stealing whatever time they can this month, pounding the keys to get an average of 1,667 words a day. The dedicated will reach 50,000 words by the end of the month and win National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

Participating in NaNo has many benefits. You get motivation to finish (or make good headway) on your novel and the chance to meet like-minded people. If you like writing in a group, there are lots of local meetups in libraries, coffeeshops, and other locations.

Sounds great, right? But what if the idea of committing to write 1,667 words every day for a month makes you want to laugh hysterically? Whether it's because of a slower writing speed, a job that takes up too much time, or family commitments, many people can't figure out how to make it happen.

But that doesn't mean you can't benefit from all that NaNo has to offer. Why not set your own goals? Maybe 1,667 words per day isn't realistic, but what about 800, or 500? You'll still be able to cheer on your fellow writers online and in person. Better yet, you'll still be making writing a daily habit.

I'll be shooting for 500 words per day on my new project throughout the month of November. I'm using the excellent (and free!) project tracker at to make sure I stay on target.

If you want to do a modified NaNo but don't think you can stick to a daily word count, what about putting in a certain amount of time each day? The Pomodoro Technique discussed in this NaNo post on the Project Mayhem blog might work for you, just like the author of the post.

Will you be NaNo-ing this year?