Friday, August 11, 2017

Author Aden Polydoros shares his PROJECT PANDORA writing process + a chance to win an AMZN gift card and prize pack!

Today, author Aden Polydoros joins us to talk about his writing process for Project Pandora and how he went from the seed of an idea to a ready-to-be-published book. 

Please give Aden a warm Thinking to Inking welcome, and make sure to scroll to the bottom of the post for a chance to win a Project Pandora prize pack + an Amazon giftcard!

 When I began working on this novel, I did not know what it would be about. I had a vague idea that it would involve brainwashing. I had an image in my head of a boy waking up in a house that wasn’t his own, with a gun in his hand. That was about it. It wasn’t like this incredible revelation where I knew exactly what I was going to write, how the story was going to end, or even who the main characters were. I was just curious to find out where Tyler would end up, and as soon as I finished his chapter, I began working on one from the POV of another character.

Here’s the thing about my writing process. I don’t make outlines before I begin writing. I’ll outline the setting for a particular scene, but I don’t outline the plot. I’ll write down ideas I have at the top of the manuscript, or maybe jolt down a note about where this story might go, but that’s about it. I’m a total pantser because that’s what works for me. If I have to write off an outline, all of a sudden, the writing process begins feeling restrictive. On the upside, I end up surprising myself halfway through the story when the plot does a complete 180. On the downside, I usually have the delete some of my writing.

I don’t write in chronological order either. I may have a scene in my head that I have to get down, and that’s the one I’ll be working on, even if it’s at the end of the book and I’ve only completed the first five chapters. In the first draft, I’ll have up to seventy scenes anywhere from 100 to 3000 words long, which I’ll eventually rearrange into a cohesive story.

I decided to write 1,000 words a day. I had tried NaNoWriMo before and had failed to fulfill the 1,500 word-a-day goal, so 1,000 words seemed like a nice, doable number. Of course, there were some days when I wrote less. There were days when I wrote nothing at all and felt so frustrated with the book, I wanted to throw my laptop into a dumpster. As appealing as that thought was, I forced myself to keep writing.

After several months, I finished the first draft of my manuscript. It was 60,000 words long, and what I could best describe as a “hot mess.” I allowed it to sit for a couple weeks as I began work on a different story, then began revisions.

Before I even started revising the story, I printed it out and read through it. I made notes of things that needed to be changed, areas where the writing was weak or too telly, and scenes I didn’t like. I cut out 8,000 more words, then added another 13,000, bringing the total word count to 65,000.

That wasn’t the end of it. Once I signed a deal with Entangled Teen and began editor-advised edits, I became immersed in several more rounds of revisions. Having an editing letter makes the revision process easier because I know what I need to work on, but at the same time, it’s also more difficult because I have to make specific changes that I might not agree 100% with. I tend to approach the editing process the same way in either case; I sit down, I read through the manuscript and note places where I can make revisions, and then I work on them. I use the Track Changes and Add Comment features in Word to make notes to myself and compare different versions of the same sentence. I made a goal to revise one chapter a day and write 1,000 words, and over the course of a month, added another 40,000 to the novel’s word count. It’s just as difficult to stay motivated during the revision process as it is during the initial writing process, but what kept me going was imagining the fanart that people might eventually do of my characters. I know that sounds silly, but I love looking at fanart for my favorite shows and books, and the thought that someone might actually want to draw my characters makes me smile.

Thanks so much for joining us Aden!  Can't wait to get my hands on Project Pandora!

About Project Pandora:
Project Pandora (Assassin Fall #1)
by Aden Polydoros
Publication Date:  August 1, 2017
Publisher:  Entangled Teen

Tyler Bennett trusts no one. Just another foster kid bounced from home to home, he’s learned that lesson the hard way. Cue world’s tiniest violin. But when strange things start happening—waking up with bloody knuckles and no memory of the night before or the burner phone he can’t let out of his sight— Tyler starts to wonder if he can even trust himself.

Even stranger, the girl he’s falling for has a burner phone just like his. Finding out what’s really happening only leads to more questions…questions that could get them both killed. It’s not like someone’s kidnapping teens lost in the system and brainwashing them to be assassins or anything, right? And what happens to rogue assets who defy control?

In a race against the clock, they’ll have to uncover the truth behind Project Pandora and take it down—before they’re reactivated. Good thing the program spent millions training them to kick ass...

About Aden Polydoros

Aden Polydoros grew up in Long Grove, Illinois, the youngest of three children. Aden’s family
moved to Arizona when he was in second grade. As a kid, he spent much of his time exploring the desert near his home. When he wasn’t searching for snakes and lizards, he was raiding the bookshelves of the local library. As a teenager, Aden decided that he wanted to be a writer. He spent his free time writing short stories. He was encouraged by his English teacher to try his hand at writing a novel, which inspired him to begin PROJECT PANDORA. The YA thriller is set for publication with Entangled Publishing in Summer of 2017. He is represented by Mallory Brown of Triada US.

 Project Pandora Prize Pack (US) or a $10 Amazon Gift card (INT)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Writer's Resource: Janet Reid's Blog

I may have posted about this before—after posting here for more than five years(!), it's hard to remember everything—but if I have, it's well worth repeating.

Agent Janet Reid's blog is one of top ten favorite writer's resources. She dishes out fabulous and free advice to writers at all stages of the publishing process. Recent topics include everything from general query advice, what to do when your agent quits and the other agents at the agency don't want to represent you, crowdfunding your novel, and ghostwriting. She is opinionated and funny, and her genuine care for writers shows through in every post.

The blog also hosts periodic short writing contests. These are a lot of fun and can be a great way to hone your short-form writing skills or just improve your ability to say a lot without using many words. (There are usually bookish prizes!)

Don't let Ms. Reid's alternate personality as the (also extremely helpful!) Query Shark scare you off. I had the opportunity to meet her in person last year at a writer's conference, and I can tell you that she's just as straightforward and utterly helpful in person as she is on her blog.

Oh, and if you're looking for a writing community, check out the comments on each post. There's a whole group of regulars who follow each others' efforts and add funny and interesting dialogue to the posts. Read along for a while and then jump in if you feel so inclined—they're a super-friendly group of people!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Editing Your Scenes

When it comes time to reviewing your scenes, answer the following questions to help tighten your writing.

1. Did you use your five senses? Or at least some?
2. How much showing and how much telling did you use?
3. What needs to happen in the scene?
4. How's the pacing?  Too fast?  Too slow?  Just right?
5. Is the scene necessary to the story?
6. What's the most surprising thing that could happen in this scene?

Since I am more of a panster writer, these questions keep me in check.  I also find them useful to give Beta Readers.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Writer's Resource: Idea Generators

I'm starting a new manuscript in the near future, which means I'm deep in the idea generation phase. I used to get seduced by a shiny new idea and jump in without thinking about it too much. This time, I'm making myself come up with twenty(!) story ideas before I pick one and dive in. It sounds daunting, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

Although many of my ideas are ones that have been rattling around for a while or are inspired by things in my environment, I'm also utilizing online resources to check a few more off my list. Here are some of the story generators I've found particularly useful.

1. One Stop for Writers Idea Generator (note: you will need to create a free account to view the text on this page)
This is one of my favorite new discoveries. The page is divided into sections, like different character traits, emotional wounds, and plot complications. Each time you click, you'll get a few new choices—not enough to overwhelm you, but sometimes just enough to spark an idea.

2. Random Logline Generator
When you don't want to get too specific, this tool is great. It gives you a quick little logline (for example, the one I just got was "During the 1930s, hitwomen form a cult on the sidewalk"). Some are nonsensical, but it's easy enough to push the button and get another. And hey... 1930s hitwomen sound kind of intriguing, don't they?

3. YA Character Generator
This one is fun—you input a few details like age and gender, and it spits out a randomly generated character.

Do you have a favorite idea generator?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Word Count

I'm still in school so capping writing is important.  I don't usually have a word count, but I usually have a page limit.  This summer as I write scholarship and college essays, I've encountered my worst limit of all - the word count.  Sure, as a writer, I've faced that but before, but some of these essays want no more than 250 words.  Ugh!  Good news it really has made me focus on my word choices.  Thus my tip this month if you tend to be wordy is to write essays with a 250 cap.  Once you get used to the pain, it is kind of fun!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

To Novel or To Short Story?

Typewriter with words "What's Your Story"

As long as I can remember, my focus has been on writing the great novel. It started with young adult stories, then adult contemporary and psychological thrillers. Every time I came up with an idea, I was filled with the excitement of starting something new. The old stories left unfinished.

I've critiqued other writers who've written short stories and appreciated their efforts but never thought that it was something I wanted to pursue... until now. 

If you're like me and haven't considered writing short stories, here are a few reasons why they might be worth diving into:

1) They are much shorter and thus take less time

I know - it's an obvious one.

2) You can experiment with writing craft

Have a style you're interested in or a craft element (i.e. metaphors, magical realism) you want to play with? A short story allows you to develop these skills without major investment.

3) Beginnings, middles and ends 

Short stories allow you to practice completing a story and seeing it through the entire arc.

4) Opportunities to be published

Novels (usually) take a long time to complete and once complete, you must go through a significant length of time for submission. Because short stories take less time, you have greater opportunities to send them out to literary journals and have them potentially published, thus building your street cred as you continue to pursue your great novel.

5) Sometimes you just need a break

Sometimes, you might be too engrossed in that one great novel. Short stories allow you to stretch and exercise your mind. Think of things in different points of view and examine ideas and characters you might not have thought about. 

Happy Writing!

Monday, July 10, 2017

YA Book Pick: WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon

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 pick is When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

First Line: "Dimple couldn't stop smiling." 

This is a good intro to the story, which is, at its core, a romantic comedy. You immediately want to know what's making her smile, right?

Highlights: I'm a rom-com junkie from way back, so I have high expectations for the genre. This book definitely delivered! It managed to be light and funny while tackling some heavier topics (parental expectations vs. following your passion, feminism, first love, etc.). I loved the trope-busting detail that the guy was the one looking for a long-term commitment, not the girl. It's easy to see why this book was a NYT bestseller.

Notes for Writers: This is a great example of a "diverse" book that isn't about diversity—the protagonists happen to be Indian-American, but the themes are universal. One thing I loved, though, was that the author didn't shy away from peppering the story with plenty of interesting details about Indian culture. I was glad I read this book on my Kindle app and could easily click a word or phrase to read more about things that interested me.

A Good Read For: Romantic comedy fans and anyone looking for a light, fun read.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Little Alliteration Please

I grew up reading Dr. Seuss and of course I loved his stories and his style of writing.  In fact, to this day I love alliteration and have used it many, many times over the years. For me, alliteration is fun and makes me smile.  Unfortunately, the writing world today seems to frown upon the technique which makes me ever so slightly sad.  Why just today, I saw an article that included a list of techniques writers should avoid. Alliteration was at the top of the list.

I can't say that I was shocked since I've read other articles suggesting writers avoid alliteration, but I am still surprised.  I can think of several influential writers (Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Homer, John Donne,etc.) that have used alliteration in their writing. Okay, Okay. Those writers were poets, but even in their prose they used alliteration and effectively.  See, alliteration captures the readers' attention and when read aloud has a musical quality thus writers like to use alliteration to reach out to their readers.

So, my take away. Alliteration isn't all that bad. Just use it to attract readers and use it subtly.  Happy crafting!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Author Ingrid Paulson shares writing advice, details on her latest release WHY I LOATHE STERLING LANE + a Giveaway

I'm excited to have Ingrid Paulson with us today to chat her newest release Why I Loathe Sterling Lane and share some writing advice. Make sure to scroll to the bottom of the post for a chance to win a prize pack!

Thanks so much for coming to Thinking to Inking! We're so excited to have you! Tell us a little bit about Why I Loathe Sterling Lane.
WHY I LOATHE STERLING LANE tells the story of a neurotic girl (Harper) whose world is turned upside down when Sterling Lane transfers into her boarding school and befriends her twin brother. Harper and Sterling immediately engage in a battle of wills that evolves into a battle of wits, and finally culminates in a reluctant partnership to rescue Cole from his own mistakes. (ahem, plus lots of kissing).

Which character do you relate most to?

This is a hard question, as I intentionally made these characters a little bit prickly at first. However, I probably relate a little more to Sterling. He says and does a few things that I wish I was brave enough to do or say. In fact, when I’m in a situation that requires me to be more assertive than I’m comfortable being, I think to myself, what would Sterling do? I usually take it down a notch or two, because let’s face it, fully stepping into Sterling’s shoes could land me in jail. But harnessing his character for a moment helps me square my shoulders and press on in difficult moments.

Was your writing process for Why I Loathe Sterling Lane different from Valkyrie Rising? If so how? Anything that surprised you along the way?
In revising Valkyrie Rising, I spent a lot of time focusing on world building and consistency of magical objects. It was much more story and flow oriented, whereas in revising Sterling Lane, I focused more on character development, and tried to find the balance between Harper being prickly and being outright unlikeable. She is still a challenge to get to know, but the point for me was to present a different sort of narrator.

The cover design for Why I Loathe Sterling Lane is really fun! How much input did you get in the design of your cover and what was that process like?

I’m so glad you love the cover too! Entangled does a fabulous job with covers and always manages to find the right tone to match the story. They did ask if I had an idea of what the cover would look like, and for this one, I really didn’t. I thought there should be people on the cover and some way to convey the tension between them, but I wasn’t sure how something like that would be executed. Fortunately, there are professionals who knew exactly how to handle it.

Are you a write-one-thing-at-a-time author, or do you typically juggle multiple projects at once? How do you stay focused?

I’m a write-one-thing-at-a-time author. I tend to really immerse myself in the characters, which makes it hard to switch back and forth. However, I have had to revise one project while writing another, and I seem to be able to do that. But I can’t imagine trying to keep multiple new ideas straight at the same time! I’d feel like I was cheating on my characters!

What advice would you give writers still working to make their publishing dreams a reality?

For me, the biggest struggle was learning to revise and incorporate feedback. After countless hours writing and polishing a novel, it can be hard to hear that something still needs to be changed or isn’t quite working. It’s very easy to get defensive and dismiss the critic because they just don’t get it. Granted, sometimes that will be true, no book is for everyone. However, it’s important to really think feedback through and be unafraid to revise and to step outside of your love for the project and be self-critical. Ultimately that will help your novel be even better!

What are you reading now?

I just finished the latest Sara Maas novel in the Court of Thorns and Roses series. I really enjoyed it!

Congrats on the launch of Why I Loathe Sterling Lane. I can't wait to get my hands on it! And thanks so much for stopping by Thinking to Inking!

About the novel
Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially. But the moment Sterling Lane transfers into her tiny boarding school, her twin brother gets swept up in Sterling’s pranks and schemes and nearly gets expelled. Harper knows it’s Sterling’s fault, and to protect her brother, she vows to take him down. As she exposes his endless school violations, he keeps striking back, framing her for his own infractions. Worst of all, he’s charmed the administration into thinking he’s harmless, and only Harper sees him for the troublemaker he absolutely is.

As she breaks rule after precious rule in her battle of wits against Sterling and tension between them hits a boiling point, she’s horrified to discover that perhaps the two of them aren’t so different. And maybe she doesn't entirely hate him after all. Teaming up with Sterling to save her brother might be the only way to keep from breaking the most important rule—protecting Cole.

Goodreads Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

About the Author
Ingrid Paulson does not, in fact, loathe anyone. Although the snarky sense of humor and verbal barbs
in Why I Loathe Sterling Lane might suggest otherwise (and shock those who think they know her best).

Ingrid lives in San Francisco with her husband and children and enjoys long-distance running, eavesdropping, and watching science documentaries. She has always loved books and writing short stories, but was surprised one day to discover the story she was working on wasn’t so short any more. Valkyrie Rising, a paranormal girl power story was Ingrid’s first novel. Expect another humorous contemporary romance to join the list soon.

Enter for a change to win a Why I Loathe Sterling Lane Prize Pack, including:
* A tote bag
* A mug
* stickers

Monday, June 19, 2017

Writers Block

This is a topic I've run into on my last two WIPs.  In fact, after months of fretting, I finally slapped an ending on one and moved onto the next project.  Yet again I'm faced with how to end the next book.  I've searched and searched for ways of dealing with it and came up with something new I'm going to try.  In, I stumbled upon a really fun suggestion.  When stuck writing, I usually skip to the next part,
but since I'm now at the end, I can't do that, but I can use a random sentence generator to get some ideas flowing again.  So that's my helpful tip for the day.  Try out some of plot and sentence generators to help reboot your writing. You may not use the finish product, but it gets you back on track.

Monday, June 12, 2017


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 Pick is THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
When Olivia's mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia's father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there's a killer still at large. It's up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

First Line: "The only sound I can hear is my own panicked breathing."

From just this line, you know that this is going to be a suspenseful book and the main character is going to find herself in some kind of horrible danger. 

I don't always love the technique of starting off with a scene from later in the book and then flashing back, but it's done really well here, with just enough details to make the reader curious.

Highlights: Ms. Henry is local to me and was a faculty member at an SCBWI workshop I attended last weekend, so I picked up several of her books before the event. She is a master of page-turning suspense and cliffhanger chapter endings. I thought I'd guessed who the murderer was—but I was wrong, which always makes me happier than when I'm right!

I enjoyed the law enforcement details of this book and several others I read, so it made sense when the author talked at the workshop about her meticulous research into these areas. She goes out of her way to speak with experts, try out weapons and methods of escape, and take classes relating to her writing.

A Good Read For: Ms. Henry has written many stand-alone books and several series, but I think this one is an excellent introduction to her work for someone who wants to see how to do life-in-danger suspense and mystery for YA.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Which Country Is the Most Literate?

Most writers love reading. So a statistic like "27% of US adults didn't read a single book in the last 12 months" can be really disheartening. This recent Writer's Digest infographic includes this and many more literacy statistics—including the fact that the US is only the 7th most literate country in the world.

What can authors do to improve literacy? Well, the obvious answer is to write a book that everyone wants to read. How many people have you met who said they didn't read after they were done with school, but then they picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, or Twilight, or The Da Vinci Code, and that got them reading again?

Another answer is to remove any judgement associated with reading "fun books," or "books for kids."   I'll never forget a conversation I had with one of my husband's college friends. He told me he used to love to read, and we bonded over our mutual love of Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Unfortunately, he graduated college with the idea that the only acceptable books were weighty, impressive books of the type he studied in classes. The result was that he'd read only a handful of books in the ten years since.

I find this is incredibly sad. Everyone should be able to read whatever they enjoy, whether that's the Harry Potter series, category romance novels, or the classics (there have to be people out there who actually enjoy the classics, right?). Reading has been proven to improve quality of life. Let's let people read whatever makes them happy.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Character Questionnaire

When writing a story, it is useful to have an outline of your character on paper.  Here's an example of one that I've used before.

Name:                                                                                    Age:                                                                                                        
Height:                                                                                   Weight:

Fitness level:

Eye color:                                                                               Hair color:

Distinguishing Features:

Schooling:                                                                              Background:



Quirks:                                                                                    Bad Habits:

Pet peeves:


Beliefs:                                                                                    Fears:

Things embarrassed by:


Likes:                                                                                      Dislikes:

The list can actually go on and on, but these are the ones I usually answer right away and use to start my writing process.

For a more comprehensive list, pinterest has some good examples or check out books like Marc McCutcheon's Building Believable Characters which includes many useful ways to develop characters.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Author Victoria Scott Shares Her 13 Foolproof Steps to Publication + a Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to welcome Violet Grenade author Victoria Scott to Thinking to Inking. We asked Victoria to share her publishing advice with us and I have to's brilliant.

Make sure you scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more about Violet Grenade and to enter for a chance to win a copy!

Victoria Scott’s 13 Foolproof Steps to Publication

1)   Start writing a book.

2) Firmly believe it’s a future bestseller. Mortgage a place by the sea. No worries. You’ll have the money for it soon.

3) Reach the middle of the book. Start to wonder if it’s quite the bestseller you initially believed.

4) Reach the end. Start to wonder if life is worth living.

5) Show the books to beta readers. Incorporate their “constructive” feedback. Then plot their demise.

6) Show the book to your mom, because at least she recognizes your sheer genius.

7) Query your book to agents.

8) Create a list of reasons why agents suck.

9) Get a call from an agent who likes your book and wants to represent you.

10) Destroy ‘Agents Suck’ list.

11) Wonder if life is worth living while your agent tries to sell your book. Decide it is. Who needs to be published? Published people are stupid. Start another list about this.

12) Get a call saying an editor likes your book. Learn that are being published. Rejoice. Buy champagne. Make lists of all the things you will buy with your royalties.

13) Start writing another book, because shit just got real.

About Violet Grenade
Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott
Publication Date:  May 2, 2017
Publisher:  Entangled Teen

DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.

CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind. Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson

About Victoria Scott

Victoria Scott is the acclaimed author of eight books for young adults. Her novels are sold in fourteen
different countries, and she loves receiving fan mail from across the world. Victoria loves high fashion, big cities, and pink cotton candy. You can find her online at

Giveaway Details:
Signed paperback of The Collector, a signed paperback of Titans, and a signed galley of Hear the Wolves.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Do You Really Need a Short Pitch for a Conference?

This post from the BookEnds Literary Agency blog was shared around last week: Why Authors Need to Dump the Elevator Pitch. The dreaded "elevator pitch" is suggested in most conference preparation materials as essential—what if you happen to be walking down a hotel hallway with an agent, or standing in the buffet line, or in an elevator together? Surely you'd want to have a few sentence pitch for your book so you wouldn't waste the golden opportunity?
Well, I couldn't agree with the post above more. If you're feeling exhausted after a few days of the conference, imagine how it must be for the faculty. You might want a few-sentence pitch for the new friends you're going to meet at the conference, but definitely not for agents. If they want to hear about your book, they'll ask—and if you've gotten to that point, trust me, you'll have more than a few sentences to get their attention.

It basically comes down to the reminder that agents are people too. If you wouldn't like to be accosted by endless streams of people stammering out elevator pitches while you're on the way to the bathroom, or to your hotel room to lie down for ten minutes before the next round of pitches and classes, then why would you do it to someone else?

If you're planning to attend a writer's conference this summer, we have a series of conference survival tips here on the blog that can help you put your best foot forward!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

From Summer to College and Beyond

Summer is fast approaching now.  Vacation time!! Woohoo!
Pools, parties, and popsicles.
Maybe a little light reading and maybe a little writing or at least journaling.

For me, my summer writing will take a different direction this year.  It is time to start thinking Common App or the college essay.  Time for me to get creative about myself - kinda like author bio.  I won't be following same format, but I will be trying to think along those lines.

So what can I take from author bio to apply to my writing?

Voice of course.
Humor  for sure.
Include just the details that apply to the situation.
Word count.
And my own personal motto?  Keep it real.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Signings for Future Readers

I never got into book signings until later in life. As a child, it never occurred to me that this was a thing. Having been in the writing industry for a number of years, I now enjoy a good signing. It's a chance to meet authors face to face (if only briefly). Even in short time periods, you get a sense of an author's sincerity and authenticity. 

Now that I'm a mom with a rambunctious almost-three-year-old, I've asked authors to sign books to the future him. It's been remarkable to see award winning writers write cool notes to the little guy. Hopefully these will inspire him one day. 

Here are a few:

Animals Anonymous, Richard Michelson, award-winning poet

Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Non-Fiction

The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Fiction

A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James, Man Booker Prize Winner, Fiction

Animals Anonymous by Richard Michelson Autograph
Animals Anonymous by Richard Michelson Book Cover

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder Autograph

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James Book CoverA Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James Autograph

Monday, May 1, 2017

How Reading Outside Your Genre Can Help Your Writing

I try to always be reading a middle grade or young adult book (since these are the two age groups for which I write). Reading widely in your chosen age group and genre is essential for anyone who wants to be a published author. This way, you can see how successful (published) writers tackle subjects and get examples of writing that resonates with the target audience.

As I mentioned in my last post, though, my family just completed a cross-country move. During the weeks of disruption, I really needed some comfort reading—something I didn't have to think about or analyze—so I turned to several of my favorite dog-eared women's fiction novels.

It was surprisingly enlightening. Even though these books were obviously written for adults, with plenty of bad language, violence, and even a sex scene or two, they shared many elements with my kidlit favorites. The writing is spare, without any unnecessary words or overly flowery descriptions. Witty asides are just as funny for kids as for adults. And my favorite characters were fully developed, with believable motivations and understandable reactions.

I'm going back to my writing with a renewed sense of what's important. Although I'm going to be switching back to MG/YA for a while, I'll try to read outside my usual age groups more often. Good writing is good writing, no matter where it's shelved in the bookstore.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Author Melinda Friesen shares writing advice + her latest release SUBVERSION + a chance to win a copy!

Today I'm excited to welcome author Melinda Friesen, who's here to chat writing and her latest release SUBVERSION. Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the post for a chance to win your own copy of Subversion, and check out it's predecessor Enslavement if you haven't already!

Thanks so much for coming to Thinking to Inking! We're so excited to have you here! Tell us a little bit about Subversion.

Subversion the sequel to Enslavement and book two in the One Bright Future series picks up a few months after the end of Enslavement when Rielle James, protagonist extraordinaire, is hell bent on rescuing her friends. She refuses to live free while her friends are still enslaved. She devises a plan to save one of them who has been sold to a logging camp in northern Montana where slaves are disappearing without a trace.

Who's your favorite character from Subversion?

I dearly love Rielle and Nathan, my two main characters, but I introduced a new character in Subversion named Dek. Dek is a rugged, crusty, crotchety old man. He’s got a hot temper and smokes a couple packs per day. Despite his tough and cranky exterior, he’s got tons of heart. He sprang to life in my head, fully formed from his nicotine-yellowed fingers to his dirty work pants to the way his truck floor is a dumping ground for jackets and plastic coffee mugs.

How did your writing process for Subversion differ from Enslavement, the first book in the One Bright Future series?

I wrote the entire series in nine months. The writing part wasn’t much different from book to book, however, I revised, edited, and rewrote huge portions of Enslavement, so those changes had to be reflected in Subversion. Bringing Subversion into line with Enslavement was a huge task. A book that had taken me a couple of months to write, took me nearly a year to edit.

The covers for both books in the One Bright Future Series are amazing! How much input did you get in the design of your cover and what was that process like?

I really love my covers too. I did get some input, mainly in the sense of the publisher showing me the cover and me giving it the go ahead. At first, I wasn’t sure about the bar code idea because the book uses microchips, not bar codes, but eventually it grew on me because it symbolized my protagonist as a product. In terms of conveying the subject and tone of the books, the designer nailed both covers.

What advice would you give writers still working to make their publishing dreams a reality?

Work at improving your writing. Never allow yourself to stagnate. Learn everything you can about writing and publishing. Get some writer friends for moral support and good advice. And keep going!

What advice do you have for authors working on writing book two in a series? Any tips or tricks you learned along the way that you can pass along to us?

Write book two, but don’t spend a ton of time revising it. You will make changes to book one in the editing process which will translate into changes to book two. The series may deviate from your original direction as you go, so it’s best to hold subsequent books loosely and be open to going in a different direction.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and Blood of the Dead by A.P. Fuchs.

If you could be one character from any book or movie, who would it be?

I had a hard time of this question, but I finally narrowed it down to Elizabeth Swan from Pirates of the Caribbean. She had an amazing adventure. Or maybe it was the drinking rum with Johnny Depp on a beach in the Caribbean that intrigued me.

Congrats on the launch of the second book in the One Bright Future series, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Thank you so much for having me!

About Subversion (One Bright Future #2) by Melinda Friesen 
Publication Date: August 31, 2016

“I surrender my days, my efforts, myself to the OneEarth Bank . . .”

After fleeing slavery, Rielle James burns with the desire to topple OneEarth Bank and end its enslavement of young people as Contracts. When she learns that her friend Nathan has been sold to a logging company where Contracts die or vanish without a trace, she assumes a false identity and becomes a slave again to help him escape.

Her act of subversion uncovers the horrific truth behind the OneEarth Bank’s role in Contract disappearances and its link to a global pandemic.

Can Rielle and Nathan escape and expose the truth before it’s too late?

About Melina Friesen:

Melinda Friesen writes novels for teens and short stories. Her contest winning short stories have appeared in various periodical and an anthology. Enslavement, book one in the One Bright Future series, is her first novel. 
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

Giveaway Details:
·         Two (2) winners will received a physical copy of Subversion by Melinda Friesen (US/Canada) and  Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Subversion by Melinda Friesen (INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 24, 2017

So years ago, my boys and I were all in the grocery store waiting in the checkout line.  It was nearing Valentine's day and the store was decked out for the holiday.

My middle son (who at the time was probably in second grade) looks at me and says that he must be romantic.  We all looked at him and asked why.  He proclaimed that he was romantic because his favorite color was red and that he liked strawberries and chocolate.

  I told him that wasn't romance, so the boys then asked what romance was.  I'm ashamed that I gave them terrible advice.  I said limos, flowers, all the things a girl my age grew up watching on TV.

 My youngest set me straight right away.  He looked at me and said, "So you have to spend money to be romantic?"

I totally started back pedaling, but still my stale advice hung in the air like a deflated balloon.

The conversation and the idea of romance still haunts me to this day.  Everyone has a different idea of romance and it really doesn't even have anything to do with gender.  Everyone has different ideas.  Some people want small, daily affirmations, others want grand gestures, and then there are those that want both.  Romance is also further ever changing.  Sometimes romance flows naturally other times it must be hunted down.

 So what then is romance and why is it so hard to pin down?  I'm going to have shift my brainwashed ways and go with today's prevailing ideology that romance can be found in small and simple gestures, but the little girl in my who grew up with fairy tales, I'd still like the occasional grand gesture too.  So, I'm guessing today's YA lit.  must follow this pattern too.  And I guess if I had to tell my boys about romance, I'd say it is all about wanting to spend time with other person, share experiences with that special someone, and maybe even surprise that person.  Romance I would say is the moments that take your breath away and the gift of one's time.

So romance and love are not exactly the same thing, but closely entwined.  Romance implies flowers, candles, candy, red, pink, heat, gifts, love, longing, wanting, sharing, surprise, jewelry, and togetherness.  In the end, romance is about love and wanting to do something special and meaningful for the other person.  Romance is knowing the other person so well that you catch the person off guard.  Romance is smart!

So challenge . . . how do you define romance?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Kickstart Your Writing

We've all been there. You're twenty five pages into writing your great novel and find yourself unable to move forward. You want to start a new project, but you've been staring at a blank page for hours, possibly days on end. So how do you get yourself out of a rut? Here are a few ideas to kickstart your writing again.

A table with a typewriter and papers 1) Short Stories

Whether your halfway through your epic novel or at the beginning piecing things together, sometimes you just need to let it go a bit and try your hand at something else. A short story is a great opportunity to stretch your brain and try something new without feeling like you're taking too much time away from your baby. 

2) Time Yourself

If you need added pressure, try entering a short story prompt competition like NYC Midnight. They provide prompts and you must complete the assignment within a specific amount of time to submit. 

3) Analyze A Book You Love

Take out that book you love (a copy you're not afraid to ruin) and a pencil. Now go to town on the book. What had the author done from a craft perspective that you love. What don't you love? How have they structured the story? What techniques do they use? Don't be skimpy with the notes, go to town in the margins!

How do you kickstart your writing?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How to Find Writer Friends

My family is moving across the country in a few weeks, and a few days ago, we got together with most of the writer friends we've made here to say goodbye. While we're planning to keep in touch with everyone online, it's tough that we won't be able to get together in person anymore. There's no substitute for face-to-face time to talk about the writing and publishing journey.

With that in mind, I'm already thinking about ways to connect with writers in my new city. Since everyone can benefit from finding writer friends, not just those who are moving, here are some of the first places I'm going to look:

As a MG/YA writer, I get to take advantage of the great resource that is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Although my current city doesn't have a very active chapter, my new city does—which means I'll definitely be checking out what they have to offer.

2. Conferences
Writing conferences are a fabulous way to connect with like-minded people. In fact, I met most of my local writer friends through a local conference (and if you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that we co-bloggers all met at a conference as well!). There are several large conferences every year in my new city, so I'm going to try to attend one as soon as possible.

3. Twitter/Other Social Media
I follow and am followed by lots of writers on Twitter, and I'm also a member of several writing-focused Facebook groups. I mentioned where I was moving in one of these groups and was thrilled to find that several of the people I'd been talking to for months lived right in my new neck of the woods! You may find that announcing your location on your favorite social media channels brings nearby people out of the woodwork.

4. NaNoWriMo
One of the fun things about signing up to participate officially in National Novel Writing Month each November is local meet ups. I'm nearly always revising in November, rather than drafting, but this year I'm going to try to be ready for a new project. My new locale is famous for its independent coffeeshops, and what better way to try them out than drafting parties?

Would you add anything to this list? How have you made writer friends?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Interview with Don't Kiss the Messenger author Katie Ray + Giveaway!

I'm excited to bring you another successful author chat, this time with Katie Ray who's here to chat writing and her newest release Don't Kiss the Messenger. Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the post for a chance to win a copy!

Thanks so much for coming to Thinking to Inking! We're so excited to have you! Tell us a little bit about Don't Kiss the Messenger.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today! I appreciate you’re hosting me. Don’t Kiss the Messenger is a YA modern day retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. I actually followed the movie version more closely (a 1987 romantic comedy called Roxanne). Except in my case, I made Cyrano’s character a girl. I thought it would be a fun twist.

Ooh I love retellings and I absolutely love the movie Roxanne! Don't Kiss the Messenger just jumped to the top of my to-read pile. :-) Which character do you relate most to?

I was really insecure in high school, and I spent most of my time feeling like an outsider, like I wasn’t “all in.” For that reason, I can relate to CeCe.

Was your writing process for Don't Kiss the Messenger different from your previously released books? If so how? Anything that surprised you along the way?

Yes, this book was a very different approach. Since it’s a retelling, the book was basically already outlined for me. I thought that having a blue print would make the writing process easier, but it was actually more challenging. I felt tied down to the story sometimes, which made it harder for me to sidetrack and go my own way. Eventually, I figured out my own story and pacing.

The cover design for Don't Kiss the Messenger is really fun! How much input did you get in the design of your cover and what was that process like?

I really didn’t give a lot of input. I only told the designers what I DID NOT want (like a glistening abdomen or an ‘almost kiss’ kind of cover). I’m a sucker for hearts on covers (three of my other books have hearts on the cover) so this one fit my style. I really like it.

Are you a write-one-thing-at-a-time author, or do you typically juggle multiple projects at once? How do you stay focused?

I’m a one-book-at-a-time kind of person. I feel like I’m in a relationship with my characters, so when I’m writing a book I’m committed to them 100 percent.

What advice would you give writers still working to make their publishing dreams a reality?

Practice, practice, practice. Write every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes. If you back away from your story for too long, it’s really hard to get back into it.

What are you reading now?

I just read Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson. I LOVED IT. I’m totally author crushing her right now.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?


Congrats on the launch of Don't Kiss the Messenger. I can't wait to get my hands on it! And thanks so much for stopping by Thinking to Inking!

Thanks so much for having me! I hope you enjoy my book. If you like music, and a slow-burn, old school romance, you will love it. :-) 

About Don't Kiss the Messenger (Edge Lake High School, #1)
by Katie Ray
Publication Date: April 10, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen Crush

For most of her teenage life, CeCe Edmonds has been dealing with the stares and the not-so-polite whispers that follow her around Edgelake High. So she has a large scar on her face—Harry Potter had one on his forehead and people still liked him.

CeCe never cared about her looks—until Emmett Brady, transfer student and football darling, becomes her literature critique partner. The only problem? Emmett is blindsided by Bryn DeNeuville, CeCe’s gorgeous and suddenly shy volleyball teammate.

Bryn asks CeCe to help her compose messages that’ll charm Emmett. CeCe isn’t sure there’s anything in his head worth charming but agrees anyway—she’s a sucker for a good romance. Unfortunately, the more messages she sends and the more they run into each other, the more she realizes there’s plenty in his head, from food to literature. Too bad Emmett seems to be falling for the wrong girl…

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book involves one fiercely scarred girl who wants the new guy in town, the new guy who thinks he wants the new girl, and the new girl who really isn’t sure what she wants, and the misunderstanding that brings them all together. You’ll laugh, you’ll swoon, you’ll fall in love. 

About Katie Ray
Katie Ray (also known by her previous author name, Katie Kacvinsky) writes teen and new adult fiction novels. Her books have been nominated for YALSA awards, and First Comes Love was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Her screenplay, A High Note, was a semifinalist in the Austin Screenplay Competition in 2015. She currently lives in Ashland, Wisconsin with her husband, two children, and a slightly insane dog.