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.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Let Your Inner Kid Out

So a couple of weeks ago, my baby brother had to write a persuasive paper and needed help.  My mom with her weird sense of humor assigned me the task.  I took one look at his paper and thought two things.  The first thing I noticed was that he didn't have an audience so after much debate on the subject we settled on President Trump.  The second thing I noticed was that he didn't have a clear thesis.  When I asked him about this, he just gave me a blank stare.  So I tried again and asked him what his point was.  After an even longer discussion, we finally neatened up his topic and knocked the paper out in record time.

This experience got me thinking of just how important it is to have an identified audience and point otherwise readers are like what the heck.

 So what's the point of my article?

Work with younger children on their writing because I kid you not it will help you with yours.

  Happy Writing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

13 Reasons Why and other Books to Screen

NY Times Bestseller Jay Asher has graced our pages several times and his blockbuster 13 Reasons Why is set to launch as a thirteen part series this Friday March 31st on Netflix.

We're thrilled for him and the whole 13 Reasons Why team and can't wait to binge on the series this weekend.

Interested in more page to screen projects? Check out these shows currently on air:


The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
(Currently Available)


American Gods by Neil Gaiman 
(Release Date: April 30, 2017)


A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
(Currently Available)

                                                                  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
                                                                  (Release Date: May 12, 2017)

                                                                 What do you plan to watch this weekend?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Query Strategy: Target or Blast?

There's no one so worried about etiquette and detail as a querying writer. I've talked about the personalization debate here on the blog before, but today's topic is a little different: should you only send queries to agents who say they want the genre, themes, and/or tone of your novel ("dark epic fantasy," for example), or should you cast a wider net—anyone who says they want YA at all?

Searching the internet yields varying responses. Janet Reid, for one, is a big fan of querying widely. Victoria Strauss, on the other hand, suggests targeting your queries as closely as possible, picking only agents whose interests and specialties appear to be a good fit for your manuscript.

The truth is, we're spoiled. There are very few other creative fields where industry professionals publicly state their preferences and wishlists. I've had more than one discussion about this with my husband, who spent years querying managers and agents for screenplays and would have KILLED for the kind of information that's freely available for fiction on agency websites, MSWL, and more.

While it's important to keep this information in mind, one lesson I've learned is that agents often won't know they're interested in something until they see it. I've been around the contest circuit enough to be surprised over and over again at who requests my pitches. It's often someone I would never have thought to query based on their wishlists.

My ultimate take on the target vs. blast question? Query widely. Use agent wishlists and agency guidelines to find people you definitely won't query (if they say, "I don't like sci-fi," or "adult fiction only," stay the heck away from them with your YA space opera), but everyone else is fair game. You never know who might fall in love with your work.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Conference Networking Tips: Social Media Marketing World (in pictures)

When possible, go with a friend. If you're having a great time together, you have a safe base to invite others into the fun. :)
If you're going solo, try to befriend another singleton and from there you can scoop up all the other singletons to form a mob of supportive conference-goers. 

And always have your hand sanitizer at the ready. You don't want to get sick mid-conference!

Wear a statement piece of jewelry, even better if it has a story to share when people ask.
Mine was bought from a Bedouin who gave me a roadside camel ride on the way out of Jerusalem.
He said it was made by one of his wives & the polygamous arts & crafts story usually draws a smile.

Long days. I need chocolate. And sunglasses for when I take a break outside.
Chocolate at conferences is kind of one of my trademark moves as well.
I assume that since I want it others will too & sharing things I love is always a fun way to meet new interesting people.
And of course, you always want to have a business card handy...

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Ending

Writer's block is the worst, but what happens when it comes at the end of your story?  You've just spent countless hours and months slaving over a project and have no idea how to end it.  Frustrating right?!

Here's some ideas that might help.

First of all, if you are a planner, then perhaps write without plans and see where your writing takes you. Now if you are a panster, do the opposite by creating several endings and pick your favorite.

Here's a few ideas on how to end your story:

1. Plot Twist - you know how this works and talk about an exciting ending!  Just make sure to give readers a few hints along the way.

2. Tie the story back to the beginning.  One of my friends wrote a fan fiction piece where she ended the story with a letter that was revealed earlier in the story.  It was a pretty fun and clever ending!

3. The resolved ending where everything comes together neatly.

4. The unresolved ending which is good for those planning to write a series.

5. The what the heck happened ending - you know the kind that lets the readers determine the ending.  Talk about fun for the reader!!!  Only problem is for the writer.  This ending is tricky, especially if you are having writer's block.

And if all else fails, maybe you just need some feedback.  Take your WIP to someone you trust and use them as a sounding board.  That might be all it takes to jump start you back into writing.

Here's a to a happy ending!!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Author Casey Griffin talks SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS, writing advice + a chance to win a signed copy and a tiara!

Today we have another successful author chat, this time with author Casey Griffin. Her latest release, Secrets of a Reluctant Princess, is out now! Please join me in giving her a big Thinking to Inking welcome, and don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the post for a chance to win a copy of Secrets of a Reluctant Princess AND a tiara!

Thanks so much for coming to Thinking to Inking! We're so excited to have you! Tell us a little bit about Secrets of a Reluctant Princess.

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess is about sixteen-year-old Andy Bottom who just wants to make friends and avoid teasing. Now that her family has moved to Hollywood, it’s the perfect opportunity to blend in at a new school. Well, except for her family’s incredibly embarrassing toilet business. Oh, and the fact that they have their own reality TV show so now the whole world can laugh at “Awkward Andy” on primetime television. And that cute guy, Kevin, from the hardware store? He’s totally off limits, unless she wants to be a social pariah. When reality TV finds her a little too interesting, she finds the perfect escape in live action roll playing. There, she can get closer to Kevin and escape reality. But for how long?

Which character do you relate most to?

That’s a tough one. I think a little piece of me goes into every novel I write, and that includes the characters. If I can identify with some part of them, then hopefully so will the readers. However, I definitely try to avoid writing a character totally like myself—or other people in my life, for that matter. The qualities that I think I share with my characters is that I’m totally geeky like Kevin, the love interest. I’m gullible like Lennox. I’m blunt like Keelie. I’ve been teased like the main character, Andy, and I’m cheesy like her dad.

Was your writing process for Secrets of a Reluctant Princess different from your previously released Rescue Dog Romance series? If so how? Anything that surprised you along the way?

While I was working on Secrets of a Reluctant Princess, I definitely felt like I was beginning to find my writing groove, but the process was still a bit rough because I actually wrote it before the Rescue Dog Romance series.

When my agent was first shopping Reluctant Princess around, an editor at St Martin’s Press read it. They were so drawn to the “voice” that they asked me if I’d like to write adult romance for them. I said, very coolly, “YESSSSSS!” Then shortly after, Reluctant Princess was picked up by Entangled, and that’s how I ended up with two contracts at the same time.

I find that with each novel I write, the process becomes smoother, more refined. There might be hiccups, but the more I write, the better I’m able to work through them.

The cover design for Secrets of a Reluctant Princess is fantastic! How much input did you get in the design of your cover and what was that process like?
Entangled gave me a big list of questions about things like scenes in the book that resonate with me, and what color I’d like (yay pink!), but I was honestly open to anything. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s so eye grabbing. I love 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 usually working on two different projects at a time. At one point, my deadlines overlapped between projects, so I was working on three different novels, all at various stages in the writing process. I think that I get bored if I’m not always working on a new novel. It keeps my mind active and in the routine of writing.

To keep all my projects straight and to refocus when hopping from one to the other, it always helps to go over the outline as a refresher. My outlines are usually pretty detailed, so I don’t have any problem figuring out where I want to go next. It gets me pumped about picking up where I left off. If all else fails, I’ll start reading the novel from the start to get back into it.

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

“You never fail until you stop trying.” – Albert Einstein

Don’t feel disheartened if your current book doesn’t sell. Writing is a process. We learn, we grow, we constantly improve our craft. Rejection is just part of the process. It doesn't mean failure.

There is no failure in the path to publication unless you give up trying. No matter how many books it takes, if you truly love writing, you’re still doing something you enjoy, regardless of the outcome. As long as you keep trying and growing as an artist, you’ll get there. You just need to believe in yourself.

What are you reading now?

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and The Diviners by Libba Bray (See? More than one even when reading).

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

I’ve spent many an hour pondering and debating this question. I’ve always said it would be to fly. That would be so amazing. But after the last couple of years, I think I’d want to be like Quicksilver. He moves so fast that it’s almost like he’s walking through a still photo. Just imagine how many books I could complete and still have time to catch up on Game of Thrones (seriously people, no spoilers. I’m way behind).

Congrats on the launch of Secrets of a Reluctant Princess. I can't wait to get my hands on it! And thanks so much for stopping by Thinking to Inking!

Thank you so much! I hope you like it :-)

About Secrets of a Reluctant Princess:
Secrets of a Reluctant Princess by Casey Griffin
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen

At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive…

Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.

Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people.

Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her.

The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.

About Casey Griffin:

Casey Griffin can often be found at comic conventions on her days off from her day job, driving 400 ton dump trucks in Northern Alberta, Canada. As a jack of all trades with a resume boasting registered nurse, English teacher, and photographer, books are her true passion. Casey is a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel finalist, and is currently busy writing every moment she can.

One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of Secrets of a Reluctant Princess + a Tiara!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Should You Hire an Editor?

I generally spend just as long editing as I do drafting, so naturally I've wondered from time to time whether it would be worth it to hire a freelance editor. On my last manuscript, I splurged on a first-chapter edit from a talented editor friend of mine, and it was hugely helpful in identifying the weak points.

Here are some points to consider before you hire an editor for your manuscript.

1. Do your prep work before you take the plunge.
To get the most out of your editing experience, you need to make sure your manuscript is in the absolute best shape you can get it before you send a word of it out to an editor. This means resisting the temptation to send it when you're heartily sick of it and just want to write something else (trust me, we've all been there!).

Books & Such Literary Management has a great blog post that covers some other vital preliminary steps.

2. Check compatibility.
As you probably know if you've worked with critique partners in the past, it's important to make sure you mesh well with someone who's giving you notes on your work. Try to talk to past clients of the editor to make sure they were happy with their experience. In addition, most editors will give you a few pages of edits for free—that way you can make sure their edits will work for you before you commit to anything further.

3. Get the most bang for your buck.
Editors' rates vary, but in general you can expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars (and often a lot more than that) for a full, in-depth manuscript critique. If this is a little rich for your blood, you can choose to focus on key parts of your manuscript. For example, if you're not getting a good response from sending the first few chapters to agents, hire an editor to look at them. They'll be able to tell you any immediate turnoffs that might be causing the problem. Many editors will also work on query letters, synopses, and even contest pitches.

4. Going indie? Don't skimp on the editing.
There are many advantages to self-publishing, like complete creative control and the ability to put books out on whatever schedule works best for you. But it's important to remember that you won't have access to professional editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders like you would if you went the traditional publishing route. This makes hiring a top-notch freelance editor a really, really good idea. I have two friends who have built up a huge following by self-publishing books, and both of them consider extensive work with a freelance editor as an essential part of the process.

Have you worked with a freelance editor before? What was your experience?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

TBT: DFW's Footnote Frenzy

In the 90s, David Foster Wallace burst onto the literary scene in his classic bandana and changed the literary landscape in the way Nirvana shifted the music world. One of DFW's classic techniques was to use in-depth footnotes. Their physical space on the page are distinct and should remind writers that we have more tools at our disposal than we realize. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Deadlines and My Friend Procrastination

Writing is 90% Procrastination and 30% Panic
As readers may recall from my previous posts, I am in the process of applying to low-residency MFA programs for the summer semester. As part of the application process, I'm required to submit 25 pages of my own creative work. 

I started the process in December and with an application deadline of mid-February, I thought "oh good, plenty of time!". I mean, it's just 25 pages and I've already written a significant amount so how hard could it be?

Apparently very hard. Here's my timeline:

Late December:     10 pages completed 

Early January:        Took a break to work on my critical essay (4 pages) and personal essay       
                               (3 pages)

Mid January:           Reviewed first 10 pages. Something didn't feel right. Mauled over story    
                                for a few more days

Late January:          Finished another 10 pages (pretty much pulling teeth) but couldn't
                                muster energy to complete another 5 pages (still wasn't 100% about the 

Early February:       Ack! Scrapped the first twenty pages. Started from scratch. 
                                Scramble to write 25 pages of something that "feels right"
5 days before          Finish twenty five pages.
deadline:                 Review, Review, Review!

1 day before            Do final edits on both essays and 25 pages

Deadline day:          Final edits UP TO THE LAST MINUTE!

It seemed fitting that this chart popped up the day after I submitted.

How's your writing process? Similar? Totally Different? Tips to prevent procrastination?

The Creative Process Diagram

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Traveling Writer: Best Mobile Apps

I'm going on a cross-country trip next week and will be gone for more than two weeks, which means I'm thinking about the best ways to keep up the momentum on my current draft.
Here are some mobile apps that come highly recommended by other writers. I'm going to check out at least a few of these!

1. Scrivener for iOS
If you've been following this blog for a while, you've probably learned that I puffy-heart love the computer program Scrivener, the best drafting and organization tool around. They recently released a much-anticipated mobile version that syncs seamlessly with the desktop program. It looks like a great way to get a few hundred words in here and there in airports or before bed.

2. Evernote
Because I'm still in the ideas phase of my draft, you can bet I'm going to be using this mobile note-taking application frequently. Evernote saves notes, pictures, sketches, lists, and other items all in one place. It's then easy to access them on your main computer later.

3. Freemind
I haven't tried mind mapping as a way to organize a story, but it sounds really interesting. This app lets you easily create a mind map, or system of points branching out from a central topic. I used to like this method when it was mandatory in my English classes, so I might give it another try!

4. Pomodoro Timer
What writer doesn't have trouble with time management? This app follows a traditional pomodoro method time schedule (25 minutes working with a 3-5 minute break), which seems like an ideal short stretch for writing on the go.

What are your favorite mobile writing apps?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Journaling & Writing

The journal I'm keeping these days.
I love that it's silver, zips up, and has a mark from my hot cocoa mug.
Doesn't loving the journal make it so much more fun to write in it?

"After my husband died, I could not write much - I could not concentrate. I was too exhausted most of the time even to contemplate writing. But I did take notes - not for fiction, but for a journal, or diary, of this terrible time. I did not think that I would ever survive this interlude." --Joyce Carol Oates

Confession: While I'm in a different situation from Joyce Carol Oates, this is the first time in my life I've wrestled with something so hard I've been unable to read or write outside of work (even that has become more challenging). Lately, though, I've been finding that I am able to keep a journal, something I haven't done regularly in many years. I'm really kind of loving it, and I'm not alone. Here are some thoughts from the greats on journaling:

Even when I'm not journaling regularly,
I always love to carry a small Moleskine
notebook to jot down ideas, poems, entries, etc.

“The habit of writing for my eye is good practice. It loosens the ligaments.” 
― Virginia Woolf

“A good journal entry- like a good song, or sketch, or photograph- ought to break up the habitual and life away the film that forms over the eye, the finger, the tongue, the heart. A good journal entry ought to be a love letter to the world.” 
― Anthony Doerr

“My dear madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies' ways as you wish to believe me; it is this delightful habit of journalizing which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are celebrated. Every body allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.” 
― Jane Austen

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." -- Ray Bradbury
The last time I regularly journaled was in this
(only blank page pictured). My best friend took
a classic black Moleskine and glued in pics,
quotations, etc. as a gift when I left to spend a
summer in Israel. Really cool idea if you want
to try it.

"The only thing I have done religiously in my life is keep a journal. I have hundreds of them, filled with feathers, flowers, photographs, and words - without locks, open on my shelves." --Terry Tempest Williams

"When I write notes in my journal, I'm just trying to scribble down as much as possible. Later on, I decide whether to follow some of those first impressions or whether to abandon them." --Natasha Trethewey

"I keep threatening to keep a formal journal, but whenever I start one it instantly becomes an exercise in self-consciousness. Instead of a journal I manage to have dozens of notebooks with bits and pieces of stories, poems, and notes. Almost every thing I do has its beginning in a notebook of some sort, usually written on a bus or train." --Walter Dean Myers

"The first set of lyrics for the first songs I ever wrote, which are the ones on 'Pretty Hate Machine,' came from private journal entries that I realized I was writing in lyric form." --Trent Reznor

"I've always written. There's a journal which I kept from about 9 years old. The man who gave it to me lived across the street from the store and kept it when my grandmother's papers were destroyed. I'd written some essays. I loved poetry, still do. But I really, really loved it then." --Maya Angelou

"I write journals and would recommend journal writing to anyone who wishes to pursue a writing career. You learn a lot. You also remember a lot... and memory is important." --Judy Collins

"For me, writing is a way of thinking. I write in a journal a lot. I'm a very impatient person, so writing and meditation allow me to slow down and watch my mind; they are containers that keep me in place, hold me still." --Ruth Ozeki

What are your thoughts on journaling? Any tips? Favorite styles of journals? Times a journal saved you?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pinterest for Writers

Projects and recipes I find on Pinterest don't always turn out so well - like this pumpkin-duct tape book report project my son brought home.  Even if I've had a few pinterest failures,  that hasn't stop me from trying out new things or from spending hours and hours on searching for ideas.   I love Pinterest, but not just in my personal life, but also in my writing life.

In terms of writing, I like Pinterest for two reasons:

1. Writing advice - need I say more?
The advice is often short, sweet, and to the point.  Everything I want is at my fingertip and can be saved to my board!

2. Pictures!!!!
Lots and lots of pictures that I can use to help bring my setting and characters alive.  Having those visual images in my front of me can really help sharpen the details of my writing.

So, love it or hate it. Pinterest can be another tool for writers.  Happy Writing!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

NYT besting selling author Brenda Drake talks writing advice, GUARDIAN OF SECRETS plus a chance to win an Amazon giftcard & Swag!

I'm SO excited to have New York Times bestselling author Brenda Drake with us today, chatting writing advice and her latest and Greatest, Guardian of Secrets, the second book in The Library Jumper series. And I gotta be honest -I'm totally fan girling over here.

If you don't know Brenda Drake, you need to. First of all, Thief of Lies, the first book in the series, is un-put-downable. If you haven't read it you need to drop everything you are doing and read it now (after you read the interview, of course 😉) Second, Brenda does a tremendous amount for the writing community, including leading Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness. I have Pitch Madness to thank for my agent, and I am one example of about a thousand writers she's helped. *bows down with gratitude*

I'll stop gushing and get to the questions. 😋 Don't forget to scroll to the bottom for a chance to win a $50 Amazon giftcard!

Thanks so much for coming to Thinking to Inking! We're so excited to have you! I've been following your blog for years--I'm kinda fan-girling over here. What you do for writers is tremendous - thank you x 1000!

Aww, that’s so sweet. Thank you for hosting me today!

Thank YOU for bring here. Tell us a little bit about Guardian of Secrets.

Well, it’s the second book in the Library Jumpers series. The Wizard Council sends Gia into hiding with her family, friends, and the Sentinels. Nick struggles to control his growing powers. Jealousies and mistrusts arise within the tight group. As Gia and Nick jump to some of the most stunning libraries in search for the remaining Chiavi, a new threat arises within the libraries. During one of their searches, Gia trips a trap door ends up in a wasteland full of danger and secrets. To return to her family and friends, Gia will have to make a sacrifice, one that will cost her someone she loves.

Who's your favorite character?
This is such a difficult question. All my characters are favorites. When I don’t like them, I cut them out or kill them. Ha! But seriously, I think it has been Gia in the Library Jumpers series. She’s a combination of many girls I love in my life. When I’m in her head, I can relive the joys I’ve had with my girls.

Was your writing process for Guardian of Secrets different for Thief Of Lies, the first book in the The Library Jumpers series, or your other books Touching Fate and Cursing Fate?

My writing process is basically the same for all my books. Before I start a story, I do short character bios and setting research. Next, I do a four-act plot graph. It’s skeletal and I only use it as a road map for the story. Then I write, letting the characters and inspiration lead me on that road, fleshing out the story as I go. Sometimes, I go off-road and take a detour, but the direction I’m going usually stays the same. After I have a first draft, I revise it.

Will there be a third book in the series?

Yes, there will be. I’m currently writing the final book, Assassin of Truths. It’s been a challenge, but I’m really loving the ending.

The covers for both books in the Library Jumpers Series are amazing! How much input did you get in the design of your cover and what was that process like?
My publisher is great at taking my vision of what I wanted my covers to look and making it even better. So I guess, I just had some input at the beginning and they took my ideas and worked with it, coming up with the beautiful covers. I absolutely love them!

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

Learn your trade. The best way to do that is to read and research how the publishing industry works. Write something every day. It doesn’t have to be much. Something as simple as a page a day would work, and you never know, by the end of the year, you’ll have written a novel. If you’ve finished that novel and are searching for an agent, never give up. Rejections can hurt, but don’t get discourage. Instead, learn from them. Keep writing and querying new stories until the right one clicks with agents. And learn patience—you’ll need it. Publishing is excruciatingly slow at times.

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?

Keep a series bible. This is where you put descriptions of all the characters in the series and all the settings. I also keep notes on what I need to tie up in the following books. Jot down notes and ideas for the next books as they come to you so you won’t forget them.

Gia from Thief of Lies and Guardian of Secrets can travel to libraries all around the world, which is pretty bad ass. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I would want the power to go back in time and visit my loved ones that have passed away.

Aw, I love that. What are you reading now?

I can’t say what I’m reading right now, because I’m judging for the RWA RITA awards. We’re not allowed to reveal which books we are judging. It’s top secret. I will say, it is something that I would have never have picked up for myself, and I’m loving it!

Favorite Writing Snack?

Coffee and Gold Fish crackers, but not together. Yuck! Or maybe not yuck, because I do eat the smore’s ones with my coffee.

Congrats on the launch of Guardian of Secrets. I can't wait to find out what happens to Gia next! And thanks so much for stopping by Thinking to Inking!

This was fun! Thank you so much for hosting me today.

About Guardian of Secrets:

Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2) by Brenda Drake 
Publication Date: February 7, 2017 

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens. 

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it. 

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia. 

Maybe. If she survives.

Other books in the series: Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1)

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world's most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik's world and her own, before both are destroyed.

About Branda Drake

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1),
Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2), Touching Fate (Fated Series #1), and Cursing Fate (Fated Series #2). She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. She hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hashtag, #PitMad. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Giveaway Information: $50 Amazon Gift Card with Guardian of Secrets swag pack *International winners will only get $50 GC*

Thursday, February 2, 2017

What's In the Room?

Stop whatever you're doing now and look around you. What's the first thing you see? The second? The third? Write them down. 

Look at the list, and think about what it says about you.

This is an exercise I do in my classroom, and inevitably the kids generally write down different items since I have a pretty cluttered classroom. Like those old inkblot (Rorschach) tests, it says a lot about them if they focus on the American flag, or the Chagall painting, the windows, the carpet, the books, the sandwich of the kid next to them, their own socks, etc. etc.

The same holds true with your characters. In a crowded subway station, what three things do they notice? It's an opportunity to condense a lot of insight into the character without overwhelming us with setting. Just remember to report the three things THEY would notice, and not what you would notice.

Here is what I just saw when I looked around: :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

WriteOnCon is Back!

If you've been part of the online kidlit writing community for a while, you may remember WriteOnCon, an amazing, completely online writer's conference that ran from 2010-2013. Putting on the conference was a TON of work, including boatloads of planning, setting up and monitoring forums for sharing work, and hosting live agent chats and keynote presentations. The organizers (understandably) decided to take a break after the 2013 conference, and it wasn't certain whether it would be held again.

I learned so much from the conference back in 2013, and I even got a couple of ninja agent requests after sharing my query and pages in the forums. So I was delighted to see that there's a shiny new WriteOnCon for 2017! It begins tomorrow, February 2, and runs through the end of the day on Saturday, February 4.

One of the big changes this year is that there's a nominal $1 fee to attend the conference. This gets you access to the blogs and vlogs. If you want to attend the live events with industry professionals, the cost is $5. This money helps defray the cost of web hosting and the time of the organizers and industry professionals.

And guys, it is TOTALLY WORTH IT. You'll pay a minimum of several hundred dollars to attend even a very small conference in person—and this one you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home! If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that all of us here at Thinking to Inking are huge fans of writing conferences (in fact, that's how we all met!). WriteOnCon is an awesome way to mingle with like-minded people and benefit from the wisdom and experience of industry professionals, even if you don't have the time and/or money to go to an in-person conference.

Interested in checking it out? The main WriteOnCon page is here. There you'll find links to register, FAQs, schedules, and more.

(Psst: you can post your query and pages in the WOC forums for other writers to read and critique for free, even if you don't want to attend other parts of the conference. I have it on good authority that there will be secretive ninja agents and editors prowling around, so you may even get a request to see more pages if they like what they see!)

Monday, January 30, 2017

5 Easy Ways to Set (And Keep!) Realistic Writing Goals

If there's one thing I've learned when it comes to writing goals, it's that I need to be realistic. I cannot finish a novel in a month (ahem, NaNo.) I know because I've tried. Several times. And can tell you that failing is no fun

Nowadays, I try to be realistic about what I can and can't do, and I set my goals accordingly. In this way I can not only achieve my ultimate objective (writing a fabulous new story) but I can do it in a way that doesn't make me feel like shit. (Did I mention that I've failed NaNo four times?) 

Here are a few tips to help you set (and keep!) realistic writing goals.

1)  Set average word count goals vs. total word count goals.
If your plan is to write every day, that's great. But be honest with yourself - some days are going to be better than others. Instead of forcing yourself to adhere to a strict daily, weekly or monthly total word count , why not set an average? In this way, you can build in some flexibility for the inevitable things that will pull you away from writing. 

Writing 1,000 words a night five nights a week may not be realistic. But writing an average of 5,000 words a week may be. Give yourself some flexibility - it will increase the odds of achieving your goals. 

Think about it this way: if you write a page a day for a year you will have a 365 page book at year's end. The same holds true if you write 7 pages a week--it doesn't matter if you write one page each day or crank out seven in a single night--the end result is the same.

2) Pick a day of the week to dedicate to writing and tell everyone you know. 

This holds both you and them accountable. If your family agrees in advance that Wednesday nights will be your writing nights, then they know that they need to make adjustments to their schedule because you won't be available. And if you know they are making adjustments to better enable you to write, then you will be more likely to make good use of that time for writing. It's win-win.

3) Meet a friend and write with them.

I recently started meeting a group every Thursday night at a cafe near my office. There have been nights when I didn't feel like meeting up, but as soon as I see their texts come through (I'm on my way! See you in 5!) I know that I can't back out.

If you don't know other writers in your area, check out They host a regular series called Shut Up and Write at locations across the country, in which writers sign up to meet at a set time and place to write. Signing up to attend a session may be just the kick in the pants you need.

4) Binge watch shows vs. watching every night.

This can be an enabler to #2 and #3. Thanks to Netflicks and DVR, we can control when we watch TV. If you are someone who watches several hours of shows a day, why not condense your viewing to a few nights a week? This way, you can free up a few hours a week to support your writing goals without falling behind on your fav shows.

The approach can be used for other time sucks like social media. The trick is to identify how you are spending your leisure time, then make some minor shifts that better enable time to write throughout the week without having to abandon the things you love.

5) Reward yourself. Often.

Who said you have to wait until a book is finished to celebrate? Writing a book is hard work, especially when you consider all the other things you have going on in your life. Take the time to reward yourself and recognize the little wins along the way. It will help keep you motivated.

Met your weekly goal of 5,000 words? Tell your husband and open a bottle of wine. Figured out how to fix that now-glaring plot hole? Send a celebratory Tweet out to the writing masses and do something that makes you happy as a reward. There are a million milestones between the moment you start writing a book and the moment you finish it--take the time to stop and smell the flowers along the way.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wonderful World of Boys

Writing a book with little boy characters? Well, here's a few list of words that might come in handy.

VERBS:                                                                       ADJECTIVES:

pinch                                                                             cute
poke                                                                              round
hit                                                                                 hard
slap                                                                               tall
run                                                                                short
jump                                                                             adventurous
burp                                                                              capable
toot                                                                               fun
barf                                                                               silly
shoot                                                                             pokey
hide                                                                               goofy
snicker                                                                          courageous
wrestle                                                                          outdoorsy
scoop                                                                            affectionate
wrangle                                                                        determined
tickle                                                                            encouraging
rub                                                                                loving
sneeze                                                                          sweet

NOUNS:                                                                    ADVERBS:

snake                                                                         swiftly
lizard                                                                         quickly
bird                                                                            roughly
cat                                                                              kindly
dog                                                                            calmly
arm                                                                            carelessly
leg                                                                             aggressively
rear                                                                            eagerly
hand                                                                          bashfully
foot                                                                            loudly
nose                                                                           quietly
ear                                                                               boldly
head                                                                            brightly
hair                                                                             fast
rock                                                                            foolishly
gun                                                                             freely
sling-shot                                                                   sheepishly
stick                                                                           slowly
sword                                                                         repeatedly
ball                                                                             willfully
shoe                                                                            upside-down
truck                                                                           violently
bike                                                                            lovingly

The best word I can think of though is ACTIVE.  So enjoy those boy characters - they are a handful, but lots of fun!!!  Happy Writing!