friday5 for November 11, 2016: 2016 nanowrimo edition

I just realized this is the first Friday5 I've done since the summer. That right there is a real measure of how busy I've been. But despite it being such a long time since I've done one, today's Friday5 is not going to be a return to the usual format because we're in the midst of National Novel Writing Month (when you write a 50k novel during the month of November), one of two reasons (the other being that December is crazypants) there's a good chance I may not do another Friday5 until January. Just kidding. Kind of. But probably not... Anyway, for this month at least, I'm making serious writing progress, and sorry, but that wins out over blog-writing. 

So in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, or NaNo as it's more briefly called, here are five things I've learned as a YA author writing her first adult romance for her NaNo project: 

1. I'm writing without thinking too hard about what I'm writing and it's actually working. 

This has always been my biggest challenge when it comes to NaNo, as I'm sure it is for many people. I tend to edit as I write, which means fussing over dialogue tags, finding just the right word, and worrying over whether there's enough stuff going on beyond the dialogue (setting, mood, tone, etc). It's very hard for me to not ruminate on these things as I write, but the first thing I've done every day that I've sat down to work on my NaNo project is to remind myself that when it comes to NaNo, quantity is more important than quality. And it's actually working. I'm not sure if you can call managing to keep up with the expected word count for NaNoWriMo "crushing it" but if you can, I'm totally crushing it. Which feels kind of amazing cause I haven't done that in a long time. I'm writing without worry because I've kept reminding myself that I can go back and fix things later. That's what editing is for and while I've always found it easier to edit as I go, I don't have to. I can crank out words without them being perfect. Things are rarely perfect in a first draft anyway. 

2. My small town somehow feels ready for the big leagues.  

I've been working in the romance industry for the past eight years. I know romance novels pretty well. But this is the first time I've ever attempted to write one and despite how much exposure I've had to the medium, I'm still learning things through this process. I've always known books that fall into a series, with continuity and connected characters, are very popular within the genre, but I always saw those series as something that were extended because they were popular and because they sold. And while that's definitely part of it, I don't think I ever truly appreciated the author's likely compulsion to tell more stories in the same world until now. I've written first books in a trilogy before. I've written books meant to be the first half of a duology. But this is different somehow. When I set out to write this book, I had an idea for a story set in a small lakeside town here in Ontario. It wasn't until I started writing that I realized there's definitely more than one story here. The secondary characters have taken on lives of their own. I almost feel like it's my duty to tell their stories one day too. And that makes me feel like I now get it in a way that I didn't before. Series romance authors aren't searching for stories to tell--the stories are begging to be told. And there's something kinda wonderful about that. 

3. Tone is so important, especially when your story has potentially dark elements.

Aspects of my plot are a bit dark. There's death. There's infidelity. There's family drama. But most importantly, there's love. A lot of love. I mean, it is a romance, right? And I'm finding a big part of my focus with regards to crafting the story is going toward maintaining that hopeful, romantic tone all good romance novels need. It would be very easy to take the plot I've mapped out and turn it into something darker. The same story could easily be a thriller if I tweaked a few things. But one thing I've learned about romance over the years is how important it is to pin down the tone of the genre. And writing my first adult romance has only reinforced that fact a dozen times over. 

4. My adult characters are adult versions of my teen characters.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about writing adult characters. Until now, all the novels I've written (short stories of the past aside) have been YA, with teen characters and teen issues. The adults in those books were parents, teachers, side characters. They were never the focus. And now I have this heroine who's 28 and at a serious crossroads in her life and I'm realizing, she's actually not that different from some of my YA characters. Sure, a lot of that has to do with my own voice while I'm writing, but I think it also has to do with the fact that both YA and adult romance have elements of self-discovery to them, of "figuring it out". And I love exploring those themes. One of the reasons I love writing YA is that I love the excitement of first loves and first experiences. Adult romance is less likely to dive into "first" territory, but it definitely explores experiencing something very other for the first time.  The first love to come along that changes you, that makes you see the world in a way you didn't before. I'm really enjoying the writing process so far, and while there are times that my adult characters feel like grown-up versions of my YA characters, I know the differences are what will make this book stand apart--the careers, the adult life problems, oh, and the sex. Not that my YA books don't go there, but this is the first time I'm writing a book that's going to go there. Good times :) 

5. I'm really enjoying writing something different.

It's been a rough road. I know I've written about this on the blog before, but publishing is a journey. For some authors, it's shorter than others, but mine, unfortunately, has been something of a long, winding path filled with very talented editors saying "thanks, but no thanks". It's definitely not easy, and as with all long journeys, you get tired after a while, you get discouraged, despite your best efforts not to. Sometimes it's nice to change things up a bit. YA is still my first novel-writing love, and I have a lot of great ideas for YA stories that I can't wait to explore, but for now, I'm really enjoying writing something different. I feel like it's giving me something of a recharge, one that I desperately needed. I still have high hopes that there's an editor out there who will love my YA novels enough to publish them, but now I have something else to focus on, to hope for. I'm doing the work. I'm always doing the work. And you've gotta do the work if you want to succeed. 

Are you working on a NaNo book of your own this month? If so, I've love to hear about it in the comments and/or friend me on the NaNo site! My username on there is earthcrosser. Happy writing and

Happy Weekend!

the writer's arsenal: revision--because seeing it once isn't enough

There are a lot of blogs covering the topic of revisions at the moment. It makes sense given that December is usually when writers who completed a novel in November are either adding on (since 50k is a little shy of a proper novel, MG and some YA aside) or fixing up the ramble-fest theycreated during the feverdream that is NaNoWriMo.

I'm not going to retread too much on what's already been said. In fact, there's an excellent rundown of revision tips over at the YA Highway with advice from several reputable agents. Oh, and they've got another great post here. And here. But I do have a few thoughts on revisions that I'd like to share. These are from personal experience, both revising my own work and going through the editing process on the work of others. Take what you will from them.

It's time to get our revise-on!


The word itself is thrown around easily, like so many other writing terms. PlottingCharacter MotivationConflict. But we rarely think of it in its basic sense. Re-vision. You had a vision (your story idea) and you ran with it. Now you're going to go back and take a second look, with a fresh set of eyes. At some point in your revision process, the fresh set of eyes will be an older and wiser version of yourself. At another point, they should be an actual fresh set of eyes (as in, not you; as in, somebody who can read your work critically and give you valuable feedback, which you'll take to heart---and we'll cover in a future post). Regardless of whose eyes are on the page, the experience needs to be an actual re-vision of your original idea. What's here that shouldn't be? What's missing? Well-crafted stories don't just arrive that way, straight out the gate. They need to be revisited, they need to be rethought. Sometimes you can't see the problems in what you've written until after it's all there, teetering unsteadily on a plot that needs to be tightened. To revise is to take a look at your story as a whole and figure out which parts should look differently than they do.

Never Marry an Idea on the First Date

Stories are living things. At least, stories that are still being written are. They grow, they change, and this is a good thing. Sometimes we become attached to our initial plot developments/characters/scene ideas and we cling to them desperately, even when we realize something's not working. There's a little voice in our head suddenly telling us things would make more sense if we headed in a different direction, one that wasn't part of our initial outline. That little voice is your inner-reader. That little voice shouldn't be ignored. It knows from experience what good stories should be. Sometimes it's heartbreaking to give up on a plot thread you deemed brilliant back when you first thought of it, but if that plot thread no longer fits now that your story has taken shape, it needs to go. You shouldn't hang onto something just because it was part of your initial plan. As people grow, their needs change. This is true of stories too. The first 10k of a story has very different needs than a finished first draft. The finished first draft needs you to let go of those early ideas that no longer have a place. Don't leave them in just because they're familiar. They're novel writing baggage. They need to be dumped.

The Voice, The Habits and The Ugly

I've written before about how characters will take on a voice--a life--of their own if you let them. The more you write, the more fully formed they become. They start telling you how they'd react to a given situation. Their voices become authentic, unique, and their dialogue flows because you know just what they'd say. It's a wonderful thing when this happens, both as a writer and a reader. It makes your characters real. When you're revising, it's important to remember that the character you eventually found a voice for, didn't necessarily have such a strong personality from the start. Think of the beginning of your book like it's the pilot episode of a TV series (you know, that initial episode you go back and re-watch and it feels awkward because none of the characters you've come to know and love are really acting like the characters you've come to know and love). The beginning of a story doesn't know what the end of the story knows. You have to go back and inform it. It's very important to revisit the start and work heavily on those first several chapters. That's where your writing will be its weakest. Back before you hit your stride. Put a lot of focus on them and help the voice to be consistent all the way through. Working extra hard on tightening up the first third of your book is all the practice you'll need to tidy up the rest :)

The downside of honing your voice as you write is that you can also fall into bad habits. This is where you start to see word repetition. All writers have favourite words and expressions that they use a lot. It's part of your voice and your style, but it's also a problem if it gets out of hand. Keep an eye out for frequently repeating words or overused phrases. Change them up, switch them out or just plain cut them. The writing will flow once these stumbling blocks are gone. Voice is good. Style is good. But variety needs to exist within these things.

A Few Good Tips

Every writer's revision habits are different. You need to find what works best for you. But here are a few extra pointers to get you started:

  • Keep an open mind. This is a process. As long as you keep a clear head and have a passion for your story, nothing you do to it will make it worse. Embrace change as you recognize the need for it. It's work, but it's worth it.
  • Computer screens can make you crazy. If you revise on screen, be sure to take plenty of breaks and rest your eyes. And use track changes. The last thing you want to do is delete chunks you later decide you need back. I make an effort to be as environmentally friendly as possible, but a lot of the time, I can't do a proper revision unless I do it on paper. I see things on a page that I don't see on a screen. This seems to work for a lot of writers. If you plan to revise on hard-copy, use recycled paper to print on and recycle it once more when you're finished (front and back).
  • Tackle it in waves. Your first read-through should be for big picture problems--plot holes, pacing issues, inconsistencies. Tidy up the soul of your book, then go for the body, the meat. The second read can be for typos, grammar, spelling and those sentences that suddenly don't sound so good when you read them out loud. Then do a third read to check your changes. At this point, it should seem much improved and it's probably time to have someone else take a look, to see what issues they can catch.
  • Question everything you've written. Are the characters consistent in their behavior? Do their motivations make sense? Does the timeline make sense? Does the plot flow well? Is there too much exposition? Are you telling instead of showing? Are there parts that drag? How soon into the story does the reader care about the protagonist/plot? (Hint: it should be the first page) Is there enough conflict to keep things interesting? If there's world building, have you kept to the specific rules of the world you've created? Are there any side characters who really don't need to be there? Does every scene drive the story forward? Does every side plot serve a purpose?
  • Save your drafts as different files. This will allow you to revisit that previously mentioned novel writing baggage should you miss it and it'll make it easier for you to move on, knowing it's still somewhere (sure, it's not part of the final draft, but who says you can't still keep it around, like that ex-boyfriend shoebox in your closet, full of letters and mementos). It will also save you a huge headache if you need to recall something you removed in a later draft. And hey, should your novel be published, you've potentially got deleted scenes to share!
  • Finally, take your time. This isn't a race. I know I'm always anxious to reach that finish line, but rushing through the revision process will only leave you with a manuscript that's weaker than it could be if you took the time to nail it down. Take some time away from your manuscript. Let it simmer. Let it breathe. Think about what you've written, your characters, and what they might do in situations outside your story (it will help you to get to know them better, and sometimes they might tell you if something is missing from your novel). 

As I've mentioned, I'm still not finished the first draft of my NaNo novel, in fact, I haven't even looked at it since the last week of November. I've had a very busy past week and the one coming up looks even busier. I know I'll get around to it, and I know I'll eventually be working on revisions. For now, it's kind of nice to be thinking about it without actively working on it. I'm letting everything that I wrote in November settle and I know when I return to it in a week or so, I'll be ready to see it in a different light. Hopefully, my vision for it will be stronger and I can take it places I never imagined back when I started.

What does your revision process look like? Do you have any specific revision habits that work for you?

nanowrimo debrief

Since this is a debrief, I'll try to be brief (heh heh heh). NaNoWriMo was a lot of fun, even if I didn't win (and no, in case you've missed my NaNo posts throughout the month, as predicted, I did not hit that 50k mark before the month was through).

Here's what I did manage: 33, 415 words.

My goal was 30-32k, which is half of my ultimate word count goal for Skin Deep, the novel I've been working on. So first off, yay! I made my personal goal!

Here's how my month looks in chart form:

There are definitely some plateaus, especially at the end. I had a very busy November 29th and 30th and managed zero words as the clock counted down. But I'm okay with that. I hit my personal goal earlier in the week and everything I wrote after that was just icing on the word-cake.

I feel very accomplished, even though I didn't "win" NaNo. I know I wasn't giving it my all, so to have written half a book (that I'm thrilled with so far!) in a month, without pushing myself too much, feels pretty damn good. I'm very happy with what I've written and even happier with where it's going.

So then what happens now? While some people will spend December revising, I will spend it continuing to write, though I can tell you right now, I'll be putting even less effort into it. It's not that I'm not excited about the book or don't care to finish it. Quite the opposite is true. The issue is that I'm entering my last month of mat leave, which just happens to also be one of the busiest months of the year anyway. I have a big list of non-writing things I'd like to accomplish this month and those will be stealing the focus away for a while (bathroom reno, anyone??). That said, I will keep writing when I can, when I have those moments when I just have to write. I think I'll manage to carve out another good chunk (maybe even another 25%) of the book before the new year, but I'm not going to let it rule my time at this point. It just doesn't make sense with everything else that's going on. Come January, I'm sure I'll dive right back into those lunch-hour writing sessions I plowed through before I went on mat leave, when I was still working on Unnatural. And hopefully it won't be long before I'm revising. I'm not worried. In fact, NaNo pushed me to get going on a book I'm now rather excited about. Word count aside, I'm feeling pretty victorious :)

How did NaNoWriMo 2012 go for you? Did you make it to 50k? Are you going to keep writing? A post on the revision process is coming your way in the near future so stay tuned!

friday5 for November 30, 2012

1. Lots of Hunger Games-y news this week (which I'm always a fan of), including these incredible pics out of Hawaii where they're currently filming the quarter quell scenes for Catching Fire. The outfits aside (which fans won't recognize from the books as they're quite different, though spiffy nevertheless), things are looking EXACTLY as I'd pictured them when reading. I know that's not hard to do (water water everywhere, let's all have a drink), but I feel like I'm re-reading the book just looking at these pictures. I'm already beyond excited for this film! As an aside, have you checked out any of the promo for Silver Linings Playbook? Could Jennifer Lawrence be any funnier/more down to earth? LOVE that girl.

2. In related (sort of) news, Suzanne Collins' (author of the HG) next book has been announced and it's not likely to feature kids violently killing--unless they're "killing" illiteracy. Year of the Jungle is a picture book, aimed at children 4 years and older. I think HG fans will be a bit disappointed by this news, but hey, if J.K. could follow-up Potter with The Casual Vacancy, then why not a children's book for Collins? It doesn't mean she won't go on to write more awesome YA one day. Maybe her writer brain just needed a break after the heaviness of Mockingjay.

Hmmm...maybe this new protagonist also likes Mockingjay pins? Yes, my Photoshop skills are 2-legit-2-quit.

3. I don't know why exactly, but this totally made my week. The song is great. And no description I can give you would do the video justice. You just have to watch it.

4. You didn't think I'd write a post on the last day of NaNo without a single mention of NaNo, did you? I'll do more of a follow up sometime next week with my final stats, thoughts, etc, but for now, a important tip to reiterate for those of you who have managed to finish a 50k novel during this month we call Novemeber: No matter how happy you are with what you've written, it's not ready to be published (if that's your goal). Take December and revise. Take January and revise (because you know December is going to be waaaay to busy to revise properly) and maybe even take February to make it shiny. Then, and only then, should you consider sending it to an agent or publisher for their consideration. A 50k book (aside from being on the short side) written in a month, no matter how brilliant you are, is not ready to go.

5.  I know I usually reserve #5 for my YA book rec of the week, but this week I want to give a special shout-out to a new site that recently launched called The Secret Life of Writers. It's run by five awesome young authors, who will be posting their own "insider" stories over the next little while and will be hosting fantastic giveaways as well. It's a blog launch party extravaganza! Definitely check it out. It's shaping up to be a great site and should be a good resource for aspiring young writers and book enthusiasts alike!

One final note before I sign off for the weekend--a big Happy Birthday to my friend, Emily! Go find and follow her on twitter @storyphile. Her tweets will make you wiser, I promise :)

in the nano homestretch

Cyber Monday? How am I supposed to get any writing done with all these online deals? This is terrible. Just terrible. Clearly, some sort of reward system is in order. If I write 2k, I can shop online for a bit... something like that :)

So here we are in the homestretch for NaNoWriMo. How did that happen? In a year that has flown by at a shocking rate (I'm told maternity leave will do that to you), this month has disappeared right before my eyes. Weren't we just doing the costumes and candy thing?

I'm definitely not on track to hit 50k. Back on November 1st, I knew there was a 95% chance this would happen. I have a baby to care for after all, plus, I do almost all of the cooking and cleaning (and grocery shopping, etc) at my house. I have a pretty full schedule and it's the kind that you can't just ignore, as much as there are times that I'd like to. I also found myself under the weather this past week, which does not do much for the writerly brain :(

As things stand today, with only five days left, I'm sitting at a mere 27, 079 words--that's just over half of where I "should" be by the end of the week. I know I won't catch up. I'm not going to pretend that I might. If I didn't sleep and ignored a lot of things that I really shouldn't ignore, I probably could, but I know I won't...

Way behind, but my overall slope isn't too bad! I'm staying fairly consistently behind.
All of that said, I'm still quite pleased with what I've done so far this month. I'm not going to "win" NaNo, but I am carving out a good chunk of a book I'm pretty happy with. What matters to me as we wake on day 26, is that by the end of the week, I'll hopefully have managed to write over half (I'm aiming for 60-64k total so my goal is 30-32k) of a book I think has real potential. To me, that's more valuable than 50k words I feel unsure about. And I'll gladly sacrifice "winning"for what I've written already.

I know NaNo is an all or nothing thing in terms of the "official rules", but I'm definitely in the camp who sees NaNo as an opportunity to get a little extra support and feel the encouraging embrace that only comes with an entire community of authors writing at the same time. It's a time to do what you can with the time that you have, and shoot for your own personal goals, regardless of what those are. A time to forge ahead instead of hesitate, to write instead of plan. And I think there's plenty of value in that no matter where you find yourself on November 30th.

How is your NaNo project going as we head into the homestretch? Are you happy with what you've written? Was it harder/easier than you thought it would be?

finding a good home for your creation

I recently received some heartwarmingly positive feedback on a short story I wrote for a contest. As happy as I was with the story I'd written, it hadn't won. So I'd sadly moved on. But after the feedback I unexpectedly received recently, I'm now putting some thought into what else I can do with this story. I know it seems shortsighted, but it hadn't occurred to me to submit it anywhere else. My focus has always been on writing novels. The odd short story I've submitted for a contest here or there was always in a separate space in my mind. But just because a story didn't serve its initial purpose, doesn't mean you can't still find it a good home.

For a lot of people, a book that didn't survive the querying trenches (or ensuing the submission stage) eventually gets shelved. It's viewed as a learning experience, having served its purpose as a book that needed to be written before an author could go on to write the book that gets them where they're going. For others, shelving a book they've slaved over is too heartbreaking, and self-publishing is an option.

Which route is better? Well, that depends. If you're still pursuing a traditional publishing career, self-publishing could potentially hurt you down the road, especially if the book you self-publish is vastly different in style and genre than the book you're eventually signed for. It's hard to develop a strong debut author brand when an old self-published novel is kicking around. The power of your debut is diminished, especially if the self-pubbed book really wasn't up to snuff.

But if you've decided the traditional publishing route isn't for you, isn't self-publishing better than letting your story collect dust in a drawer? Again, that depends. Personally, I'd never recommend that someone invest their savings into self-publishing a book (unless they're an established author who has a strong following and is making the jump from traditional publishing to self-publishing, but that's a whole separate issue). If you have the money to do it (without the spend having adverse effects on your family/life) then I'd say self-publishing is a good option if you'd really like to see your story in book form (or ebook form).

"I'm so glad I decided to self-publish my book about reading with your eyes closed..."
A story is more than just words on a page (yes, even the muddled NaNo story you may or may not be avoiding as you read this). It's something special. Even if you write as a hobby instead of in pursuit of publication, finishing a book is a huge accomplishment and beloved creations deserve good homes, whether that be through self-publishing, submission to contests, submission to magazines, or just a special spot on your bookshelf. If you're proud of something you've created, you should take it as far as you can. And if the route you dream of doesn't work out, find another good home for your creation. It never has to be an all or nothing thing.

Do you have prior works of art that didn't achieve their initial purpose? Did you go on to find them a good home elsewhere?

Anybody have good lead on where I should submit my YA sci-fi short story? :)

friday5 for November 16, 2012

Let's be honest here, I haven't spent a lot of time around the web this week. When I haven't been busy with life things, my attention has been squarely on all things NaNoWriMo.

I'm not "on target" according to the 50k standard, but I am keeping a good pace and more importantly, I'm happy with what I'm writing.  It feels like it's going somewhere (most of the time) and as I knew would happen eventually (even as I navigated those first, scary, very-loosely-outlined chapters), my characters are now telling me what's up. Their voices are distinct, their motivations are clear and I have a very good feeling about where things are headed.

...But I'm not where I "should be" in terms of word count. At first I started to feel stressed about that, but then I re-read some of the NaNo posts I've linked to recently, and I reminded myself that 30-35k of a book I can polish into something publishable is worth far more to me than 50k of a book that goes off in the wrong direction and has no substance. There is absolutely a place for NaNoers (or Wrimos as we're apparently called) who are primarily concerned with quantity over depth, but I'm just not one of them (I say depth rather than quality because sometimes the quality/potential is evident--it's the layers nobody has time for). And maybe that means I'll never be able to "win" NaNo (at least not while I have a baby). I can live with that. I have my own goals for the month--and while one of them is to get a lot of words on the page, a more pressing one is to spend quality time with my daughter as I find my maternity leave disappearing before my eyes.

That's all a long way of saying I don't have my usual variety of links for this week's friday5 so instead, here's a rapid-fire publishing/nano edition of the friday5!

1. It's that time again--best book of the year lists are popping up everywhere. Amazon's Best Teen Books list has pointed out just how little time I've had to read for pleasure this year. I don't know much (anything) about batting averages, but I'm only batting 4 out of 20 (convert that into whatever makes sense, sports fans!). Do I get bonus points for having read the #1 book? No? Because John Green is amazing and how could anyone not read his books? Okay, fine.

2. Another great post by Beth Revis as she live-blogs a day in the glamorous NaNo life. Doesn't it feel good to know you aren't the only one shopping online when you should be writing? Hey, at least I'm chipping away at my holiday gift list...

3. Okay, this is only semi-publishing related, but Deadline is reporting that they're narrowing in on an actor to play Four in the Divergent film franchise. Going purely off looks (because I have no clue who any of these guys are), Jack Reynor is my top pick. Luke Bracey is second. Brenton Thwaites is not how I picture Four at all (that guy looks like he should be on the Disney channel) and Lucas Till is even further from how I picture Four. So Jack Reynor for the win!!! (even though I'm basing this solely on thumbnail pictures of these guys...)

4. Scholastic is being awesome by donating one million books to schools and libraries that were affected by superstorm Sandy. Very cool of them. Yes, moves like this are good PR, but that doesn't mean they aren't also good deeds. This is about getting books to kids. They can have all the good PR they want.

5. Of course I can't leave out my YA book rec of the week! For those who've read the first two books in Allie Condie's dystopian Matched trilogy, book three, Reached, is out (and somehow managed to make it onto that Amazon Best Teen Books list I mentioned above, even though the book had only been out for one day when the list was posted...). I haven't read these books (yet!) so I'm not really in a position to talk about book three excitement (yet!). Instead, let's take a look at Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara. You're probably learning by now that I'm a sucker for a gorgeous cover and oooh! look what we have here:
I'm not ready for real snow, but this I can get behind.
A resonant debut novel about retreating from the world after losing everything—and the connections that force you to rejoin it. Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.
ummary from
Many of the reviews are calling it "lovely, dark and deep" so I guess the title did its job :) But seriously, I always think of myself as primarily a reader of paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian YA, but then I find myself drawn to contemporaries. Especially literary ones like this. The plot doesn't sound revolutionary, but when a story is beautifully told, it's worth hearing again. Plus, it's a debut and debuts are always worth a read--not only are you in a good position to discover a new favourite author, you're giving new authors the much needed support they've worked extremely hard for. Win-win!

Was this post actually shorter than a normal friday5? I'm pretty sure it wasn't... Oh well! Happy weekend!

friday5 for November 9, 2012

I totally should be working on my NaNo book right now, but I'm taking a break to bring you the friday5--this is how dedicated I am to you, faithful blog readers! All ten of you! Okay, there's more than ten of you, but even if there was only one of you, I'd still do the friday5 because let's face it, there's news a brewin':

1. Let's kick things off with another fantastic post about NanoWrimo, this time from the immensely talented Beth Revis (whose Across the Universe series is fantastic in audiobook format! The husband and I listened to books one and two in the car while on long drives and both give it two thumbs up. That's four thumbs, people!). Anyway, Beth points out, much like Carrie Ryan did in her post, which I linked to on Sunday, that it isn't about winning NaNo. It's about enthusiasm, support, and most importantly, writing a book! Check out A Corollary to NaNoWriMo, or, Why I'm Prouder of 600 Words than 10,000.

2. I never got the whole zombie romance craze. I like my zombies all mindless, erratic and murder-y. I'm talking Carrie Ryan (girl's getting lots of play on this blog lately!), Sophie Littlefield (ZOMG soooo good!) and of course, The Walking Dead. When somebody (I won't pretend to know who) decided to make zombies the new vampire by turning them into sentient (?), desirable (??), swoon-inducing objects of teen girl affection (???!), I just couldn't get on board. There's the undead and then there's the undead, you know? But then I saw the trailer for Warm Bodies. And I have to admit, it looks fantastic. I missed out on the book the first time around, but now I'm thinking I might have to check it out. This doesn't change my stance on zombie romance, but I think the story in Warm Bodies might be something I could get behind, especially if it's as funny as it looks. I can't say no to funny. Have any of you read it? Reviews?

3. Let's talk news I'm waaaaay more excited about than I should be. As a card-carrying Veronica Mars fan (yes, I made the card myself, what of it?), I squeeeed at the top of my fangirl lungs when I read that Kristen Bell (who I'm pretty sure I'd love even if she wasn't our dear Veronica), and her fiance Dax Shepard (who I used to refer to as the poor man's Zach Braff until I saw the guy act--now he's just a super cool, funny guy who happens to resemble ZB)...where was I? Oh right--they're having a baby! Ahhhh! A Veronica Mars baby!!!! Is it wrong that I'm already hoping it's a girl and she grows up to star in some sort of awesome reboot of Veronica Mars? No? I didn't think so. But seriously, how cute is that baby going to be? Satyana Denisof may have some competition...

4. I'm not going to try and pass the results of the US Presidential Election off as some news story you may not have been aware of, but aside from Obama's victory, some very big things came about from Tuesday's vote. Those very big things have me feeling rather proud of my neighbours to the south. And I hope they're a sign of more good thing to come. Hope and optimism are alive! I can't help but think it has something to do with the awesomeness of young voters, demonstrating their desire for change. Hooray!

5. YA book rec of the week time! Days of Blood & Starlight by Liani Taylor. It's book two in a series (after 2011's Daughter of Smoke & Bone) and it's looking pretty damn amazing:

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas. (Summary from
Admittedly, the description doesn't say much about the book, but that's kinda how it often goes with sequels. So let me also share the description for book one since that's where you should start before motoring along to book two:
Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
(Summary from
Kick-ass titles, gorgeous covers and brilliant writing. What more do you want?  

Time to get back to the old NaNo WIP... I'm still convinced I won't make it to 50k, but I'm pretty thrilled with the progress I am making and I'm starting to feel really excited about the story itself. As far as I'm concerned, those things are what NaNo is all about! 

no post today (err, other than this one...)

Just a quick post to say there won't be a regular Monday post today. NaNo is forcing me into an out of the ordinary routine, so I'm posting when I can (like yesterday's NaNo focused post with links to some of the best writing advice on the web) and writing when I can. Since yesterday was better for blogging, I did, and since today is better for writing, I'm going to. I hope to be back with a regular post next Monday in which I'll address query letters and the query process as part of the writer's arsenal. After four years of reading query letters, not to mention my own experiences writing them, I have a few tips I want to share :)

In the meantime, my word count is calling...

verbose seductress...

and the only prescription is all the nanowrimo advice you can find

Here we are on day four of NaNo and I'm already falling behind on my word count. But I knew this would happen. I mean, let's face it, 10-month-old babies and long hours of uninterrupted writing time don't exactly go hand in hand. I'm not at a point in my life when I can selfishly shut the door on everything for a month. But I am writing when I can. And I am staying at least close to my goals. The gap will undoubtedly widen as the month goes on, but that's okay too. I'm writing every day. I'm making some sort of progress on a novel. Isn't that what NaNo is all about?

Coffee is involved for a reason.

Also as I knew would happen, I'm struggling to keep my inner-editor at bay. Editing-as-I-go is such an entrenched habit of mine that I can't just turn it off. I have to catch myself doing it and then slap my own hand. I expect that aspect of things will get easier as the month goes on, but it'll take some time.

In addition to writing, I've also been reading, and there are a few links I want to share because they're worth a read whether you're participating in NaNo or not:

The first is a post by the extremely talented Carrie Ryan, whose brilliant and breathtaking The Forest of Hands and Teeth started as her NaNo project back in 2006. And you know what? She didn't write 50k that month. But she did write the beginning of what would turn out to be her big break. Read all about it here.

Former-awesome-lit-agent-turned-awesome-writer Nathan Bransford (whose entire blog is worth a read if you have the time, which, if you're doing NaNo, you clearly don't, but add it to your RSS and thank me later) wrote a post collecting several of his most helpful past writing posts in one place. These are must-read material if you've never written a novel before or if your novels never seem to go anywhere and you can't quite pinpoint why.

Finally, Galleycat's Jason Boog is offering up more advice than you bargained for in his post titled NaNoWriMo Tip #1: Read Two Years' Worth of Advice in a Single Post. It doesn't get much more comprehensive than that. There's a lot of content here so you might want to start by reading the first few tips when you need a writing break and then keep going back a forth. You do want to spend some of your time writing after all :) I find the best time to divert a little attention toward these NaNo tips is when I've hit a mini roadblock in my writing and I need to let the active part of my brain switch to something else for a few minutes while the back of my mind sorts out my next move writing-wise.

Well, I'm going to get back to it. If I can manage to keep the old inner-editor locked up, I might even catch up on my word count, but I'm going to be disappointed if that doesn't happen. This point is, I'm writing a book!

nanowrimo is upon us

Sandy isn't the only thing descending upon us like a wet and windy uninvited guest. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short) kicks off on Thursday (okay, fine, it's not wet or windy or uninvited, but it's coming at us like an unstoppable force of nature so, it kinda works...?).

For writerly types, NaNo is the ultimate writing challenge: write a 50k word "novel" (unless you're writing MG or are on the short end of YA, 50k does not a novel make) without looking back. We're talking a full-on first draft pound-out (that wasn't meant to sound dirty...), completely ignoring your inner editor and just doing what it takes to reach the finish line. Some people use it as motivation to get out the first 50k of a longer novel, while others use it to write a 50k novel that will never see the light of day. Regardless of your purpose, it's good exercise for your writer brain and there's never any harm in at least attempting NaNo. It's one of those nothing to lose and everything to gain kind of things. Okay, full disclosure, you might lose your sanity. And possibly your dignity. But it's not like you can't pull yourself back from the edge if things get dicey.

Unfortunately, no, you can't just write "It was a dark and stormy night" 7142.9 times.

Oh, and NaNo is all about starting a brand new project. This is the tricky part (for me). In the past, I've semi-participated by working on novels I'd played around with before, but this year, I'm starting from scratch on a book I only have a very loose outline for. For me, that's very scary. First of all, my inner editor is like that mosquito buzzing in your ear when you're trying to sleep on a hot summer night at the cottage. You're sweating, uncomfortable, and you think you've finally swatted it away for good, but then there it is, pestering your ear hole like a zombie mosquito that just. won't. die. For me, the biggest challenge of NaNo isn't going to be plot, or pacing, or character development. It's going to writing without re-reading and tinkering with the words I've just laid down. It's going to be waiting until December to revisit what I've written and finally fix the mess I've made. But that's okay. A challenge is a challenge for a reason. And if I can come out the other end of November with 50k words, even if they need to be hacked, switched and polished come December, then at least I'm 50k words further along than I am now. And not only is that quite the accomplishment, it's significant progress on what will likely end up being a 65k word book.

I should add, even though you're supposed to start a brand new project, if NaNo is the motivation you need to pick up something old and run with it, just do it. Rules shmules, right? As I said, I've used NaNo as a time to work on existing projects in the past. The pep talks and motivational emails helped me to get a lot of writing done, even though I wasn't approaching NaNo in the traditional way. At the end of the day, I like to think of NaNo as a celebration of writing the crap out of something. Anything.

If you're interested in participating in this year's NaNo, everything you need to get started can be found at the official website here:

I haven't figured out how to add writing buddies on the site yet, but if you join and are looking for a writing buddy to cheer you along, let me know and we'll figure it out!