Get It Done!

It’s the last few days of the National Novel Writing Month challenge. Many of you have already gotten to 50,000 words already (or blown right past it). But I haven’t. I’m still chipping away word by word. Yesterday I filled my belly with turkey and in my current state of post-food bliss I’m thinking about throwing in the towel. Who was the crazy person who decided NaNoWriMo should be in November?

But I shouldn’t give up. The fact that Thanksgiving is part of NaNoWriMo month is a lesson. I should write every day, even with a turkey coma, even when it’s a holiday.

I’m almost there. If you’re in the same boat as me and pushing these last few days to get your word count — let’s do it together! Let’s keep writing.

Here are some words of encouragement for you (and me!).

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You’re almost there! Let’s do it together. I’ll see you on the other side of the finish line!

Buy Books for Black Friday

Black Friday is at the end of the week. As writers I highly suggest we forget the newest gadgets and support other writers. Buy books! Give them as gifts. Buy them for yourself.

But BUY BOOKS!

If you need some suggestions, here are some great books that came out this year by my friends:

MIDDLE GRADE (ages 8-12):

Caroline PiratesThe Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2: Terror in the Southlands by Caroline Carlson

More pirates, more magic, and more adventure in the second book of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series! Caroline Carlson brings the unceasing wit, humor, and fun of the first book in the series, Magic Marks the Spot, to this epic sequel. Fans of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society will love this quirky tween series and hope to join the VNHLP just like Hilary!

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Greene heistJackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then  school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count. So Jackson assembles a crack team:  Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.

YOUNG ADULT (ages 12-18):

Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

Don't TouchStep on a crack, break your mother’s back,
Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good . . .

Caddie has a history of magical thinking—of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings—but it’s never been this bad before. When her parents split up, Don’t touch becomes Caddie’s mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn’t make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama’s humidity, she’s covering every inch of her skin and wearing evening gloves to school.

And that’s where things get tricky. Even though Caddie’s the new girl, it’s hard to pass off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who’s auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she’ll have to touch Peter . . . and kiss him. From rising star Rachel M. Wilson comes a powerful, moving debut novel of the friendship and love that are there for us, if only we’ll let them in.

Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Exquisite CaptiveFor fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy comes the first book in the Dark Caravan Cycle, a modern fantasy-adventure trilogy about a gorgeous, fierce eighteen-year-old jinni who is pitted against two magnetic adversaries, both of whom want her—and need her—to make their wishes come true.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Now in hiding on the dark caravan—the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command—she’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle. Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to release Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle . . . and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him.

Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

Don't Call Me BabyPerfect for fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Huntley Fitzpatrick, Don’t Call Me Baby is a sharply observed and charming story about mothers and daughters, best friends and first crushes, and our online selves and the truth you can only see in real life. All her life, Imogene has been known as the girl on that blog.

Imogene’s mother has been writing an incredibly embarrassing, and incredibly popular, blog about her since before she was born. The thing is, Imogene is fifteen now, and her mother is still blogging about her. In gruesome detail. When a mandatory school project compels Imogene to start her own blog, Imogene is reluctant to expose even more of her life online . . . until she realizes that the project is the opportunity she’s been waiting for to define herself for the first time.

Now That You’re Here by Amy K. Nichols

Now THat You're HereIn a parallel universe, the classic bad boy falls for the class science geek. One minute Danny was running from the cops, and the next, he jolted awake in an unfamiliar body–his own, but different. Somehow, he’s crossed into a parallel universe. Now his friends are his enemies, his parents are long dead, and studious Eevee is not the mysterious femme fatale he once kissed back home. Then again, this Eevee–a girl who’d rather land an internship at NASA than a date to the prom–may be his only hope of getting home.

Eevee tells herself she’s only helping him in the name of quantum physics, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about this boy from another dimension . . . a boy who makes her question who she is, and who she might be in another place and time.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

Don't YouStephen King meets Tuck Everlasting in this eerie, compulsively page-turning tale of a girl haunted by the loss of her sister—and trapped by the mysterious power that fuels her small town. Gardnerville seems like a paradise. But every four years, a strange madness compels the town’s teenagers to commit terrible crimes. Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, led her classmates on a midnight death march into a watery grave. Now Piper is gone. And to get her back, Skylar must find a way to end Gardnerville’s murderous cycle. From Kate Karyus Quinn, author of Another Little Piece, comes a mesmerizing and suspenseful novel that will thrill fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys and Brenna Yovanoff’s The Replacement.

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

Strange Sweet SongOutside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right. Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school’s production of her favorite opera, Angelique. Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary? Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.

Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

Divided We FallDanny Wright never thought he’d be the man to bring down the United States of America. In fact, he enlisted in the Idaho National Guard because he wanted to serve his country the way his father did. When the Guard is called up on the governor’s orders to police a protest in Boise, it seems like a routine crowd-control mission … but then Danny’s gun misfires, spooking the other soldiers and the already fractious crowd, and by the time the smoke clears, twelve people are dead.

NEW ADULT (ages 17 – 25):

Black Moon by F. M. Sherrill and Becca Smith

Black MoonShea Harper is forced to stay in boring, hot and dry Phoenix, Arizona for college. But once she meets the enigmatic yet positively egocentric Lucian, Shea’s life changes forever. She finds out that she comes from a long line of descendants called Vessels. In her soul is the key to destroying an ancient prison protecting the world from darkness itself: Lucian’s father.

Up until now, Lucian has captured every descendant except Shea. With her powers awakening, all vampires want to drag her down to the pit. But Lucian is territorial. She’s the first female Vessel… and he’s convinced she belongs to him. Saucy and tauntingly surprising, Black Moon captures the struggle between burning desire or denying the heart. This is a love story that will drain you dry.

All Lined Up by Cora Carmack

All Lined UpNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack follows up her trio of hits—Losing It, Faking It, and Finding It—with this thrilling first novel in an explosive series bursting with the Texas flavor, edge, and steamy romance of Friday Night Lights. In Texas, two things are cherished above all else—football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.

Dallas Cole loathes football. That’s what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past. But life doesn’t always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It’s obliterated. Dallas doesn’t know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn’t know that Dallas is his new coach’s daughter. And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

 Want More Book Suggestions? Check out the list I posted last year:

Keep On Writing

I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this month. It’s a mad-sprint to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month, and we just reached the half-way mark. This means we’re wading through the murky middle of our novels when it feels like nothing is happening and it’s hard to keep our momentum.

If you’re like me and you need a little internet inspiration, I’m happy to provide these pep-talks of writing wisdom:

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Keep calm and write on

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Why are you still here?

I thought all that was pretty clear.

Get to your keyboard, and remember…

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Happy writing everyone.

8 Terrible Titles

Choosing-a-Book-TitleI’ve been tagged by Sweet Sixteen debut writer Shannon M. Parkerauthor of the forthcoming novel CRUSHING, to find 8 Terrible Titles within my manuscripts. The irony is that I have about 300 bad titles that I brainstormed for ALL WE LEFT BEHINDbefore my editor and I came up with one that stuck (and I’ll admit, my editor named my book!). Horrible titles are in my blood. So this challenge is right up my alley!

Challenge rules: Scroll through my manuscript and stop at a random spot. Wherever my cursor lands…That’s my title. There’s no hunting through my pages for the perfect phrases. This challenge is to see how truly awkward my title could be.

Here are my #8TerribleTitles from my YA Contemporary novel ALL WE LEFT BEHIND:

1. This  Should Be Our Best Year

2. She Riles Me Up

3. Dripping Sticky Gold Onto Wax Paper

4. How Blind We Must Be

5. Swinging Against My Elbow

6. Far Less Important Than a Soccer Ball

7. Skin Through Soaked Cotton

8. Blinking From Orange to Ash

There they are, in all their terribleness. Wahooo! I tag Melanie Fishbane and Mackenzi Lee for this challenge. Happy title-creating ladies!

The Case for Morning Writing

morning-windowI know everyone isn’t a morning person. I wasn’t always a morning writer. I used to be a mid-day writer, believing I was like a flower that fully bloomed when the sun was high in the sky. But in the last few years I’ve changed my tune. I’ve started to brave the dark cold morning hours away from my cozy bed. It isn’t easy. Who wants to give up those precious hours and minutes of sleep before the day begins? But I gave it a shot, and I’ve discovered I’m a lot more productive as a result.

I know morning writing won’t work for everyone. But I want to share a few of the ideas that influenced me to give it a try. Finding a process that works for you is essential to being a successful writer. For me, morning writing has become a staple of my process. It affects both my productivity and the quality of my work. Who knows, maybe it will work for you too.

Three reasons to consider writing in the morning:

1) It Helps You Find “The Zone”

One of the most inspirational reasons I started writing in the morning comes from Robert Olen Butler’s craft book From Where You Dream. Butler argues that to write you must enter a dream-space away from your intellectual thinking brain. This dream-space is a “zone” that lets you tap into the unconscious, which is where true creation comes from. Writing from the unconscious allows “a work of art to become an organic thing, where every detail organically resonates with every other detail.”

Realms Of Human MindTapping into this space is not an easy thing to do. Butler suggests writing in the morning because it helps you to find “a way to clear your sensibility of abstract uses of language,” which is important for helping you get into the zone. The problem, according to Butler, “is that we naturally use language in so many non-sensual ways all through the day. It’s helpful, then, to buffer those hours in which you necessarily use language in those analytical ways from the hours in which you dive into your unconscious and seek language in quite another way. One obvious way to do that is to put your night’s sleep in between. You go to your writing space straight from another dream state and go to language before you’ve had a chance for all those other uses of language to intrude on you. So after you wake up, don’t read the newspaper, don’t watch CNN; if you have to pee don’t pick up the back issue of The New Yorker in the basket nearby. You go to your fiction without letting any conceptual language into your head.”

Of course, there are different philosophies on writing. I was pretty skeptical of Butler’s “unconscious dreaming” concept. But I’d never tried it before. I’d intellectually talked myself out of its benefits before giving it a whirl. I’m a convert now. My writing has new depth because I write in the morning and I’m able to tap into that dream-zone.

For more information on this writing process, I highly suggest reading Butler’s craft book From Where You Dream. 

2) It Creates a Sense of Accomplishment

making-bedAdmiral McRaven’s gave a commencement address to the University of Texas earlier this year in which he said, “if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” That may sound odd, but consider his outlook: “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

Morning writing works in the same way as making your bed in the morning. Many of us say writing is a priority in our lives and yet we struggle to find time for it. If you start off your day by writing, then this important priority has been accomplished first. Now you can meet the rest of your day without guilt because you’ve already accomplished your writing goals.

3) Don’t Check Your Email

Email_Bad-resized-600Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week suggests you never check your email before noon. He makes a strong case, pointing out the importance of making room for the tasks you need to get done before you open your email and see what the rest of the world wants from you. Sid Savara adds to the conversation with his 7 reasons you shouldn’t check email in the morning. Both authors point out that checking your email first thing in the morning makes your day about someone else’s to-do list, not yours. Write first! Resist the temptation to check your email and put your priorities first.

Anyone else out there a morning writer like me? Have you found it beneficial? Please share in the comments!

Literary Halloween Costumes

Boo!

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. I love all the creativity that comes out as everyone gets in the spirit and comes up with a fun costume to wear. Are you still looking for a costume this year? Get inspired by these fun writing and book-inspired ideas. They’re word-tastic!

The Book Fairy: Too cute!

Book Fairy

Book Angel: Get crafty with angel wings made out of book pages.

Book Angel Wings

Book Mistress: Create a dashing book dress.

Book Dresses

Death by Book: Zombie librarian!

Librarian Zombie

Be Punctual: Semi colons, question marks, exclamation points, oh my!

Punctuation

Sexy Typewriter: Need I say more.

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Cover It: Be your favorite book.

Booc Cover

Or Go As Yourself: Be an author or a famous novelist.

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Happy haunting everyone!

In the Literary Halloween Spirit? Check out these fun posts from hauntings past:

NaNoWriMo Prep

TypewriterAre you participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year? It starts this Saturday (November 1st) and is a mad dash to write 50,000 words of a novel in one short month! I participated for the first time last year and loved it. It’s true, I was a big snob about NaNoWriMo before I tried it, but now I’m a complete convert.

If you’re taking the plunge and trying NaNoWriMo this year, I have a few quick suggestions that I learned from my experience last year. Hopefully these will help you stay on track and reach your 50,000 word goal.

1) Make an Outline

Make a list of scenes you want to write for your novel. This doesn’t need to be fully formed outline. All you need is a list of events or moments that you think might be a part of the book. The fun thing about NaNoWriMo is that you’re writing so fast that everything you try counts toward your 50,000 word! Even if you cut it later, you can try it now and it’s productive. You can pick a scene to write each day and see where it takes you. If it doesn’t go anywhere, try another scene on your list. You’d be surprised to see how many scenes will snowball into whole sequences, chapters, and eventually full novels! An outline gives you a place to start each day, and a new scene to jump to if the one your working on isn’t going anywhere.

2) Create Scene Cards

After you make your outline, create scene cards for each of your scenes. These cards outline the major action and emotional change of the scene. This will help you to make sure you have a plan and direction when you write. This way you won’t sit down and stare at a blank page. When I re-read my novel after NaNoWriMo, one of the big things I learned was that scenes I had a plan for were worth keeping. Scenes I didn’t use a scene card for often got cut. Read more about scene cards and see examples here: Scene Cards Blog Post.

3) Don’t Edit

I know it seems counter intuitive to not edit. Part of writing is choosing the right phrase and sentence to communicate your ideas. But when the end goal is word count, editing is your worst enemy. NaNoWriMo is about getting your ideas on the page and moving forward. It isn’t about writing a masterpiece in the first pass. That’s what revision is for. Who cares if you’ve added adverbs everywhere. Who cares if you spend half a page describing a character’s hair style. This draft is about creating the raw material that you can shape and mold later. It’s easier to revise a novel once you have that raw material to work with, rather than trying to come up with a brilliant and perfectly crafted page out of nothing. Yes, your NaNoWriMo novel isn’t going to be spun gold. That’s not the point. The point is to get material on the page that you can revise with.

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4) Write the Fun Scenes First

We often think we have to write in linear order. We also think we have to finish scenes. I give you permission leave scenes half-finished and to write out of order! Write the scenes you’re most excited to write first. Those scenes are going to have the most energy and excitement behind them. They’re going to create inertia that gets you excited to get up and write again tomorrow. If a scene isn’t going well, don’t finish it. Leave yourself a big note that says: finish this scene later and move on. Don’t worry about it right now. There are going to big plot holes, sure, but you can fix them in revision. Focus on what is fun and keeps you excited to keep writing this project. That’s the trick to writing faster than you should. Have fun and forget all the rules you’ve made for yourself in the past. Create, enjoy, and fall in love with your story.

5) Write in the Morning

Not everyone is a morning writer. I understand that. But personally, I’ve have found that writing in the morning during NaNoWriMo keeps me motivated. It allows me to get through my 1600 words a day early on. This also means any additional words I write that day are a bonus and help get me closer to 50,000 words faster! If you get behind in NaNoWriMo it can be discouraging. So don’t wait. Write first thing and make it a habit. One of the great side effects of this exercise is the way it motivates you to work on your project every day.

Looking for more tips to help with National Novel Writing Month? Try these: