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!

Monday, January 16, 2017

YA Book Pick: WANDERLOST by Jen Malone

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 WANDERLOST by Jen Malone.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe.

Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.

Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan unravels, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.

But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.

First Line: "I'm wedged into the pantry, between forty-seven rolls of toilet paper and an industrial-sized box of Raisin Bran." 

This line does a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the book—funny and intriguing! Why is the narrator stuck in the pantry? What kind of person buys toilet paper in  >47 roll quantities?

Highlights: There were so many highlights in this book! First of all, the main character is endearing and likable. I winced in sympathy throughout the first few chapters as Aubree's life went horribly wrong. I desperately wanted her to redeem herself—and I cheered when she did.

The romance was great. There was enough character development for the love interest so you understood why she'd fall for him, but it never felt like insta-love. Finally, the book was so funny! The elderly tour guests especially were hilarious.

Notes for Writers: One of the best things about this book is its amazing scene descriptions. You can see Amsterdam, or Salzburg, or Monte Carlo in your mind's eye as the action unfolds. If you want to improve your setting descriptions, this is an excellent book to study.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Beta Readers

Writers need Beta Readers - they need that fresh set of eyes to help improve and possibly shape the manuscript into something even more polished and likable.

But how can writers go about finding such a valuable creature?

K.M. Weiland  at has some good advice on how to find and keep beta readers.  For more information, check out the following articles of hers:

Beta Reader Etiquette
15 Places to Find Your Next Beta Reader

The problem I'm running into is how to find a trustworthy Beta Reader (aside from using friends).  I've had two writer friends recently run into people stealing their ideas - one had trouble with beta readers in a local writers group and the other had trouble with beta readers from an online fan fiction site.

My internet search on the issue came up with very little other than the suggestion of having Beta Readers sign contracts. Thus, I turn this question over to you dear readers.  I know this problem is rare, but it still happens.  So, what suggestions and advice might you offer?  I personally like using friends because not only do I trust them, but I can also get together and discuss the ms with them in person, but not everyone does and friends might not be experts in your genre.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Author Merrie Destefano talks LOST GIRLS, her advice to writers + a giveaway!

I'm excited to have another author stop by to share their thoughts on writing. Please join me in welcoming Merrie Destefano to Thinking to Inking! Her latest release, LOST GIRLS is out today from Entangled Teen. Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the post for a chance to win a Kindle Fire and a copy of Lost Girls!

Welcome Merrie! Congrats on the release of LOST GIRLS. It sounds fantastic and the cover is beautiful! Tell us a little bit about your path to publication. How did LOST GIRLS differ from other books you've released, if at all? What advice do you have for writers still working to make their publishing dreams a reality?
Thank you very much for the kind words about Lost Girls! I love the cover too. (Yay!)

Lost Girls is different from other books that I've already released in a few ways. First, it was written for the young adult market. My two previous, traditionally published books were written for the adult market. That said, my second book, Feast had a teen character in it—Elspeth—and I really enjoyed writing her scenes. In fact, a lot of people told me she was their favorite character in the book. She seemed to come alive on the page better than many of the other characters. So, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when the next book I wrote was a young adult novel, Fathom (self-published). After that, I was hooked. YA books had stolen my heart.

Lost Girls is also different from my other books because it's my first contemporary novel. It didn't start out that way, though. In the first draft, it had many science fiction elements. When those were taken out, the story became much stronger—a result that surprised me. I hadn't realized what a powerful story line I had hidden beneath all the fantastical elements.

If I was going to give advice to other writers who hope to be published one day, I'd say, don't give up. There is a group of writers I've been friends with since I first started writing book-length manuscripts. Guess which ones have published their books? The ones who kept writing. Those that stopped, for whatever reason, are not published yet. The only way to become a better writer is to keep writing. The only way to get published is to keep writing. Of course, you'll need to study the industry, work on your craft, perhaps join a writer's group and go to a few writer's conferences, but ultimately the thing that will make your work stand above the work of everyone else is that you have been serious about your desire to write. And if you are a writer hoping to be published one day, I say, Yay for you! Go for it! I hope I see your book on the shelves one day!

Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Fight Club meets Black Swan—Rachel wakes up in a ditch to find she doesn’t remember the last year of her life, and that everything—including herself—is vastly different than she remembers.

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

About Merrie Destefano 

CURRENTLY A FULL-TIME NOVELIST and magazine editor, Merrie Destefano’s next novel, LOST GIRLS, releases on January 3, 2017. Her other novels include AFTERLIFE and FEAST, both published by HarperCollins, and FATHOM, which was self-published. The editor of Victorian Homes magazine, she has also been the editor of American Farmhouse Style, Vintage Gardens, and Zombies magazine, and was the founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine. 

With 20 years experience in publishing, she worked for a variety of publishing/broadcasting companies that include Focus on the Family, The Word For Today, and PJS Publications (now Primedia). Besides editing and writing, her background includes print buying, writing/producing radio promos, directing photo shoots, developing new products, writing jacket copy for books, creating sales media packets and organizing direct mail campaigns.

Born in the Midwest, she currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.


All prizes listed below will be given to one prize winner. Prizes listed are for a US winner only; if an International winner is chosen, the prize will be a $50 Amazon gift card.