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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reading Recap for 2013!

I said I wasn't going to do it, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I set a stupidly lofty goal of reading 100 books this year. Yes, I completed it, (I actually read 103) but only because I rarely leave goals uncompleted. It's in my blood. Also, I should not that about a third of the books were on audio, but they were still full versions.

Last year I said I was going to set a better, more-realistic goal for myself for the year: To find 12 books I really love. Well, I completed that goal too! If you're looking for some fantastic books to read, check my sidebar (13 books actually made it to my 12 awesome books list - I couldn't decide.)

So I won't go over those, but I wanted to add a specialized list here, to give you a few more thoughts into the books I enjoyed and why I enjoyed them this year. Not all of these books were published in 2013, but they are all books I read during the year.

Don't Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I'd Say to My KidsThe book that made me LOL the most: Don't Lick the Minivan by Leanne Shirtliffe
- If you have kids or have ever considered having kids, this is a great book for you. My husband was constantly asking me, "What? What are you laughing at?" followed by, "Oh, you're reading that book again."

The book that inspired me the most: It's Not Just Gymnastics; It's Life by Lance Ringnald
- I started this book feeling old and like I was generally losing interest in uncovering the strong and flexible person I used to be, but since March, since reading this book, I've been excited about working out again, trying new things physically, and even writing my own book concerning some of this stuff (more to come on that!) I love reading biographies of interesting people, and this book was definitely that.

The Book that I was the most conflicted about: Just One Year by Gayle Forman
- It's a little hard to go into why I was so conflicted about this book without giving spoilers. Let me just say that I LOVED the setting (Holland! India! Paris!) of this book, I LOVED the self-discovery, I LOVED the writing... but partway through, I started getting frustrated with the plot. I did something I NEVER do: I skipped ahead to the ending. It helped rid me of my frustration, and I was able to go back and enjoy the rest of the book, but I didn't love the ending, and had I not skipped ahead (which I still feel oddly guilty about) I think I would have found it a very frustrating read.

The most romantic book I read this year: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
- I'm not sure what else to say about this, except I just wanted to hug this book over and over and over again.

The Lucy VariationsThe most artsy book I read this year: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
- (Followed closely by This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales). I love books where the main character is very skilled at an art of some kind, and this was such a book. It reminded me a little of Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez. Both books really inspire me to work harder at being me in my art.

If I had to pick a favorite book this year? I'd have to go with the Summer Trilogy by Jenny Han
The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)- Sorry, there's no way I could pick just one of these books. I loved them all, and I especially loved how they fit together. I listened to this series on audio, and actually listened to the whole series twice in a row, because I just didn't want these characters to stop being in my life.

So those are some of my favorites and whys...Now I'd love to hear yours!

If you want to see the full list of books I read this year, check out my GoodReads page.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy Holidays!

I didn't make it by here to do a Writing Prompt Wednesday or a Fast Fiction Friday this week, but I did want to stop by to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and many warm wishes to all of you!

I've been enjoying time with family and friends, as well as using my spare moments to work hard on finishing up some writing work that I can't tell you about quite yet. But soon!

I hope to be back next week with a recap of what I've read this year, favorite books, most-impacting books, that sort of thing. In the meantime, I'd love to hear some of your favorite books of the year.

I have a lot of hope that 2014 will be an exceptional year. I'll be spending some time thinking of what I want in life and what direction I see myself moving forward, as well as writing some goals for the year.

Wishing you and your families many, many blessings for next week, next year, and for the years to come!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesday: The Smells of the Holidays!

Everywhere I go these days I either smell gingerbread or eggnog. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE these smells, and in fact, these smells are probably part of what makes me love this time of year so much.

With that in mind, think of your characters' favorite smells. What are they? How often do they get a chance to smell these favorite smells? Do these smells stir up any special memories for your characters?

How can you introduce one of these favorite smells for one of your characters today? What is his or her reaction? Can you pull up a memory of either the last time he or she smelled this smell or the first time?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fast Fiction Friday: Respect Your Beta Readers

Good critique partners and beta readers are worth their weight in gold.

My readers are an integral part of my revision process, and when we're talking about getting a book into a polished state in as quick of time as possible, one of the first things to look at is finding the right readers for your books. And then KEEPING those right readers, once you've found them.

Finding appropriate, helpful readers, quite honestly, is a matter of trial and error. Your readers, hopefully, should enjoy the majority of what you write, even if they do see flaws in it. You don't want the process to be like pulling teeth for them, or it will take them six months or more to provide you with feedback.

Part of finding good readers is BEING a good reader. When someone asks you for help with their manuscript, make an effort to clear your schedule and read it in a timely manner. Then, hopefully, they will do the same for you when it comes time for them to read one of your books. Try to provide the most helpful and fully-explained feedback you can. Think of how clearly you would want it worded if you were hearing it about your work.

Then, when it comes time to sending your work out to these helpful, timely readers, don't send them unpolished garbage writing. Make it as good as you can on your own before sending it out. Get yourself a text-to-speech program (I use the one on my Kindle) to play back your story with an ear for typos and clunky sentences. You can hear the difference between "She went to her house" and "She went to her hose" even on the most computerized voice. Honestly, I think it comes across as disrespectful to a reader's time if you haven't taken the time to make your writing as easy as possible for them to read.

When it's as good as you can make it, then send your writing out to one or two people (save some readers for the next revision round - always assume there will be a next round).

 There are some parts of the process that are going to take time, they just are. But the idea here is to make them take the least amount of time possible.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

GCC Presents KICKING IT, Including a Story by Lucienne Diver!

 Another member of our Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit is celebrating the release of an anthology. I'm excited to share with you: KICKING IT...


New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine has modern-day potions witches Holly and Andrew facing off against a firebrand politician who wears literally killer boots in a Texas-sized rodeo of trouble.

Boot-loving Cadogan vampire Lindsey must team up with off-again, on-again vampire partner Luc when a woman from her past is targeted by supernaturals in New York Times bestselling author Chloe Neill’s all-new adventure.

And New York Times bestselling author Rob Thurman features Trixa Iktomi from her Trickster series dealing with magical vengeance and magical footwear.

Taking kick-ass urban fantasy literally, USA Today bestselling authors Kalayna Price and Faith Hunter bring together the best of the genre to once again prove when you’re fighting supernatural forces, it helps to keep your feet on the ground.

Lucienne Diver's story – “The Parlor” (set in the world of the Latter-Day Olympians series)
Tori Karacis, P.I. and part gorgon, goes undercover in a gambling den to get the lowdown on a client’s delinquent husband.  What she finds are disappearances tracing back to The Parlor going back years and a sinister proprietess who makes sure that even when you win, you lose.

Boss lady.  It was what my assistant Jesus (pronounced Hey-Zeus) called me.  Times like these I missed the hell out of him.  I could only imagine his scathing commentary on the place.  "Tinfoil bikinis, really?  It's like The Wizard of Oz meets the deli counter. If I only had a style..." 

Taking kick-ass urban fantasy literally, USA Today bestselling authors Kalayna Price and Faith Hunter bring together the best of the genre to once again prove when you’re fighting supernatural forces, it helps to keep your feet on the ground.” — All Things Urban Fantasy
“The writing in this anthology is excellent and the stories are a mix of fun, edge of your seat kick ass action, and great characters… Kalayna and Faith did a great job of bringing together some of the best writers of urban fantasy!” —Kings River Life
“If you need a break and want to read some short and sweet, yet plenty kick-ass, urban fantasy gems featuring plenty of girl power, you’re in for a treat! There’s something here for just about every UF fan, and I only covered the tip of the spiked heel!” —My Bookish Ways

Author Bio:
Lucienne Diver writes the Latter-Day Olympians urban fantasy series for Samhain, featuring a heroine who can, quite literally, stop men in their tracks.  Long and Short Reviews gave the first in the series her favorite pull-quote of all times, "Bad Blood is a delightful urban fantasy, a clever mix of Janet Evanovich and Rick Riordan.”  Sequels: Crazy in the Blood and Rise of the Blood.  She also writes the popular Vamped young adult series (think Clueless meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Her short stories have been featured in the Strip-Mauled and Fangs for the Mammaries anthologies edited by Esther Friesner and, of course, the Kicking It anthology new from Roc Books.  Her essay on abuse is included in the Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories anthology from HarperTeen. 

Author’s website:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesday: Make Them Wait!

I'm a little late getting this up today. Life has been busy. I started the day hanging out with a fun and lively group of teens at nearby high school, teaching on writing with emotion. Then I had to wait in line to cross the border, only to wait in more lines in the U.S., and then wait in line to get back to Canada.

So, with this in mind, my writing prompt for this week is to make your character wait. What does your character really want that he or she suddenly has to wait for? What is his/her reaction to the waiting? Do they take it in stride, or start throwing objects at the wall?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Full Book Jacket For FAST FICTION!

I am thrilled to finally be able to show the full book jacket for FAST FICTION. It has snippets of blurbs from endorsers on the back (the full endorsements will be on a teaser page in the front of the book).

I couldn't be prouder of how this looks and all the wonderfully kind words included here!

(click to see larger)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Blurbs for FAST FICTION!

I'll have the full book jacket to show you tomorrow, but I have the full list of blurbs. I'm absolutely thrilled (and humbled) by this wonderful list of endorsements!

Praise for Fast Fiction

Fast Fiction is filled with stellar advice, solid-gold tips, and doable, practical exercises for all writers who want to draft a complete novel.”
— Melissa Walker, author of Violet on the Runway

“Being a ‘pantser’ I have always resisted outlining, but I have to say that Fast Fiction changed my mind! Denise Jaden takes what I find to be a scary process (outlining) and makes it into an easy and, dare I say, enjoyable one. Fast Fiction is a hands-on book that asks the right questions to get your mind and your story flowing. I know I’ll be using Fast Fiction over and over again. Highly recommended for fiction writers!
— Janet Gurtler, author of RITA Award finalist I’m Not Her

Fast Fiction is full of strategies and insights that will inspire and motivate writers of every experience level — and best of all, it provides them with a solid plan to quickly complete the first draft of their next novel.”
— Mindi Scott, author of Freefall

Fast Fiction provides writers with the perfect mix of practical guidance and the kick in the pants they need to finish that draft. This book is a must-have for writers of all levels.”
— Eileen Cook, author of The Almost Truth

“Practical and down-to-earth, Denise Jaden’s Fast Fiction makes a one-month draft seem doable, even for beginners, any month of the year.”
— Jennifer Echols, author of Endless Summer and Playing Dirty

“One of the greatest challenges any writer faces is getting a great idea out of one’s brain and onto the page. Fast Fiction breaks that process down into concrete, manageable steps, each accompanied by Denise Jaden’s sage advice and enthusiastic encouragement. And anything that helps streamline the drafting process is a-okay by me! Fast Fiction is a great addition to any writer’s toolbox — I’ve got it in mine!”
— Catherine Knutsson, author of Shadows Cast by Stars

“Forget the fact that this resource is directed at those wanting to complete a fast draft — if you’re out to get your novel done, period, Jaden’s Fast Fiction will be the kick in the butt that gets you there, from story plan to ‘The End’. . . and beyond.”

— Judith Graves, author of the Skinned series for young adults

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fast Fiction Friday: A Time For Fast and A Time For Slow

Even though I'm a big advocate of fast-drafting a first draft, I don't believe in rushing the entire process of writing a novel. Brainstorming my plot and character ideas, for example, will often take months or even years.

Once I finish a fast draft, I'm also not in any hurry to send it off to publishing professionals. Sending out messy, incongruent, unpolished writing will only give you a bad name in the business of publishing, because people in this business are very, very busy.

After a fast draft, I recommend taking some time to clear your head from the project. Generally, my books take over a year from conception to a point where I feel they are ready to sell. Much of that time is due to the process of either head-clearing or waiting for beta readers to get back to me. The best thing you can do for yourself is try to align those two chunks of time.

When you send your book to a beta reader, don't look or even think about it while you're waiting for feedback. And when you receive feedback, unless you're decisively clear about how to take that person's criticism and implement it to make an infinitely-better book, then sit on the suggestions for two weeks and then read them again before making changes. Sometimes our brains need time to rest, and sometimes they need time to digest new directions.

So, yes, there is a time to go fast (I even complete revisions quickly when I'm very clear about what I want to do) but there's also a time to go slow and let your mind have lots of resting space.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesday: Make a List

Are you a list maker? I am. Sometimes I make lists of things I've done or am about to do, just for the pure joy of crossing them off my list. If you're not a list maker, is one of your characters? And if not, could they be, just for today?

Wherever you're at in today's writing and/or revising stop and make a list for your main character. There are lots of things your character could list (in his or her own voice), but here are a few ideas to start you off:

1. List everything that is wrong in his or her life right now.
2. List everything that is GOOD in his or her life right now - a thankful list.
3. List five things that no one else knows about your main character.
4. List five things your main character is proud of.
5. List ten people your main character values most and why he or she values them.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Musings on Writerly Insecurity

Well, it's that time in the publishing process again. Advance copies of my next book, FAST FICTION, have gone out, and I'm panicking because what if it's not actually well-written or insightful or even readable? Despite the fact that I've already received several endorsements from authors I respect, honestly, the thoughts that go through my head daily range from "YAY, a good blurb! Maybe the book is actually good!" to..."This person is probably just being nice." to... "What on earth makes you think you're some kind of writing expert, Denise?"

Nothing. That's the answer. I never said I was a writing expert. The voices in my head just come in and try to trick me into thinking I did! I know I'm not alone. Stephanie Perkins's recent honest post about the voices in her head is great evidence of that. Plus, almost every day I talk to writers who are facing insecurity about their writing for one reason or another.

So what to do about it? That is the question.

In the past, I've done a few things: I've regularly talked to other writers about my insecurity. This is a HUGE help, because right away I'm reminded that I'm really far from alone in this horrible emotional state. Besides that, writers KNOW what to say to other writers.

Another thing I've done in the past is spent some time on GoodReads. I know what you're thinking...isn't that COUNTERPRODUCTIVE to finding any kind of security? But, no, I don't go on there to look up my own books. Instead, I head on over there and look up some of my favorite books. Then I scroll down to find the one-star reviews. Of course I completely disagree with these people who obviously don't know what they're talking about. But seriously, the whole process is a great reminder for me of how subjective the reading process really is. No book pleases everybody.

One other thing I've done for many years now is keep a "Happy Emails" file in my email program. Anything good and positive that makes me smile gets filed away in there. When I need a reminder that my writing has been enjoyed by some people out there, I head over there and re-read a few emails (these are from readers, yes, but also from friends and critique partners, and many of these date back to before any of my books were published).

Besides the above things, here is what else I've been doing lately: I've been reminding myself why I wrote FAST FICTION. With my other non-fiction writing book, WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART, the book grew out of a workshop presentation I had put together, and then got expanded on exponentially when I experienced a great deal of grief in my life. It was a very personal book, and I remember saying after I published it, "No, I'm not really a non-fiction writer. I doubt I'll ever write another non-fiction book. This one just came from a special place in my life and my heart."

But, of course, that wasn't the case. With FAST FICTION, as the title suggests, the idea and structure of the whole book hit me very suddenly. I based the whole thing off of my own experience in fast drafting and what has worked for me, as well as fast-drafting successes and failures that I've discussed with writer friends. From the very beginning, I knew there are many methods to drafting a book, and what I was writing would only be one of them. I hope it will be helpful to a lot of people, but I knew from the onset that it probably won't be for everyone. However, I used the actual laid-out plan of FAST FICTION for my own #NaNoWriMo project this year, and I had hit 50-thousand words by November 16 - my fastest year yet! And I'm happy with the story I just wrote.

So, yes, there are ups and downs. If we are going to put our writing out there for others to read, there will always be ups and downs. There will always be subjectivity. There will always be outside forces that threaten to come in and shake up our view of ourselves, our giftings, and our purposes in the writing world. This is just how I'm dealing with far.

I'd love to hear thoughts from other writers on this, because I know from experience that this is just the beginning of the insecurity I will face with each book..

So how do you deal with writerly insecurity? Please, please, please share all of your tips and tricks!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fast Fiction Friday: Some Perspective on #NaNoWriMo

It's very very close to the end of National Novel-Writing Month, and so I wanted to write a little bit about the whole idea of The Big Challenge. It is big. It can be stressful and even depressing. But it shouldn't be.

Some of you will have met your goal for the month, but some of you--probably most of you--will not have met your goal. First of all, congratulations to everyone in either category! Whether or not you wrote 50,000 words (or met some other goal) this month, if you set a goal and tried to challenge yourself, you are way ahead of most people in this world. There is no reason, no matter how far you are from your goal, to think of this year's NaNo as a personal failure.

The other downfall I've seen with people who complete any amount of their goal during NaNo is that they tend to beat themselves up over the quality of their new manuscript. Don't do it! Instead, take some time away from your new draft. Let your mind relax and change from micro-thinking mode to where you can truly look at the bigger picture of your manuscript and will be able to recognize its great points. This often takes time. If you come out on the other end with anything good, it's probably more than you would have otherwise found in only one month.

We are still over twenty-four hours away from the official NaNoWriMo deadline, so first off, I'd like to say that if you're close, or even near the range where you COULD complete your goal, I encourage you to stop reading this, turn off your phone and Internet, and do everything in your power to make it happen. You see, people who meet goals increase their likelihood of meeting future goals. So this is important, not just for this goal, but for your future. It's only one more day. Why not at least try to give it everything that you have and attempt to sprint to the end?

If you're not near your goal, I have some advice for you too: DON'T GET DEPRESSED. I mean it. You have done something wonderful for yourself by actually setting a goal in the first place and trying. Next time you set a goal, you will be more prepared and will go into it with more realistic parameters. Plus, chances are good that even if you didn't get close to meeting your goal this time, you probably wrote more this month than you would have without a goal. Maybe setting too challenging of a goal actually made some small inner part of you decide to rebel. Maybe your next goal should be to take the project you started and complete it over the next three months. Think of NaNo as a jumping off point and keep moving forward. However you want to approach the future, I encourage you to at least keep your focus there. Don't get stuck thinking about today and yesterday and the goal that didn't quite get completed. You are a person who moves forward in life and improves. Keep doing that today, tomorrow, next week, and next year.

If you did complete your goal, congratulations! Of course you should spend some time basking in your accomplishment and eating lots of chocolate. But besides that, I recommend taking a moment to think about what you learned during this year's NaNoWriMo. I learn something new every year. Because of that, I feel like the process of fast-drafting does get easier and easier for me. I still would NEVER call the process of drafting a book easy! But there are things that can help. Look for the help and take note of it.

No matter where you're at on your project, don't let yourself get discouraged. Know that you have improved your life by setting a goal and making an attempt. Plus, writing is a lonely enough process. Why not join in on these group goal-setting efforts and see it as a chance to have some fun with other writers? If you want a second chance at this, make sure to stop back by here in March for my March Madness Writing Challenge (I'll be looking for blog hosts soon). If you haven't discovered that fast-drafting CAN be fun yet, keep coming back and I'll help you see it. I promise.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesday: Blind Your MC

Today's prompt: Take your protagonist's vision away using some method--maybe the power goes out. Maybe he or she gets something temporarily blinding in his or her eyes.

How does this affect the way he or she perceives the world around them? Are there more sounds to be heard? More intonations in people's voices that they didn't notice before? Does your character suddenly notice new sounds or see the room differently from having to feel his or her way around?

This is a regular prompt of mine, and I used it at least once while I'm writing a manuscript to remind myself to use the five senses. I hope it works for you too!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Musings

1. I guess the big news of the week is that I won NaNoWriMo AND I completed the first draft of my new novel (it came in at around 65,000 words). I planned on giving it a two week break, but I was too excited, so I've been reading it over already. It needs work (obviously) but I see a lot of things I really love too.

2. My son set his NaNoWriMo goal at 10k, and he's almost there! I think he's at around 9,000 words today and last night he kept writing past his bedtime because he was inspired. So proud of him! (Also, so not looking forward to having to type it up for him, but excited to hear his story!)

3. I saw Catching Fire last night. I'll admit, I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games, and I enjoyed the first movie, but I didn't enjoy the second or third books of the trilogy as much. If people hadn't been talking about how great the new movie was, I might have waited until it came out on DVD. I'm so glad I didn't, because this movie was so worth seeing on the big screen. It's the best movie I've seen in a while.

4. I've been writing lots of articles for publications and websites to go with my new book, Fast Fiction. I've been getting some positive feedback, including an acceptance (with payment!) from the SCBWI Bulletin. So I'm really excited to see my work in print there sometime in the next year!

5. My audiobook of Never Enough is available on Audible! I've been so excited for this and so eager to share, and finally I can! Even if you already own a copy, I hope you'll take time and listen to the sample. Bryarly Bishop did such an awesome job of bringing Loann's story to life!

That's all for now! Hope you have a great week, and if you're writing, make sure to stop back for a Writing Prompt on Wednesday, and a Fast-Drafting tip on Friday!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fast Fiction Friday!

Today's thought on Fast-drafting:

Know why you're doing it. Why do you want to write a fast draft? Is it because life gets too busy and if you don't finish your draft this month, you may not finish it at all? Is it because you need a challenging goal to keep you motivated?

Those are a couple of reasons, but, for me, here's the main one: Once I have my whole idea down on paper, I can really see the shape of it. It's much easier to revise the story that is on paper, no matter how bad it is, than to revise a story still stuck in my head. Plus, by writing quickly, I forget plenty of it along the way. I'm always whisking forward through plenty of words and character actions and plot points every single day. There's no way I can remember all or even most of them. So when I go back to read my full draft, it's almost like reading someone else's book--I have that much distance and perspective.

The first draft of my first published novel was written in 21 days. The first draft of my second published novel took years. If you read them both, I think you'll agree that they are similar in quality, but I have to say, the 21-day venture was MUCH less painful on my poor little brain.

So think about why you're doing this. If the goal is really just to get the arc of the story down so you can have some perspective and go in with clarity and excitement to revise, then why are spending so much time worrying about the words you are writing and how wrong or bad they may be? Individual words and sentences and paragraphs and even scenes don't matter at this point. Just work your way through the main arc of the story. Don't worry, just keep moving forward to the end!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesday

I'm back for another installment of Writing Prompt Wednesday! Today, I'm just going to give you a really simple one. This is something I gave to my group of homeschool writing students last week, and they had a lot of fun with it.

Today, use the word "tomato" in your writing. It doesn't have to be the actual fruit (did you know tomatoes are actually fruits and not vegetables?) Something or someone could be the color of a tomato, or have the smell of a rotten tomato. Figure out somewhere to use this word today, and if you feel like sharing, come back and tell me in the comments.

This morning I used it in a rainy scene, where my character's shoes were squishing like she was walking through mushy tomatoes.

Now it's your turn!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shake It All About - A Guest Post by Tanya Lloyd Kyi!

November, in the midst of NaNoWriMo, is the perfect time for some extra ideas about staying motivated and getting un-stuck with your writing. I'm thrilled that Tanya Lloyd Kyi offered to stop by and give her thoughts on the subject--and she has some awesome ideas!

Shake It All About
by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Every November, I read Denise’s NaNoWriMo updates with awe. How can she create so many scenes in so little time? 

As soon as I think too hard about word counts – and that overwhelming number that signifies a finished manuscript – I stop writing altogether. I can’t take the pressure! When that happens, I have to shake things up. Jump around a little, do the hokey pokey, and turn my brain in a new direction. 

So for those who have joined Denise on November’s crazy writing ride, or for those plodding along like I am, here are my five favorite strategies for getting unstuck.

1. Let a secondary character take the spotlight.
When you need a break from the emotional angst of your protagonist, take the opportunity to delve deeper into a minor player. Too often, especially when we’re writing quickly, we treat our secondary characters as props instead of people. But here’s an opportunity for a best friend to spill his heart, a girlfriend to reveal her dreams, or a mom to offer a story from her past and a quiet word of advice. 

2. Write an imagined scene.
What would happen if your main character told her deepest secrets to the panhandler on the corner? What would happen if she stole her dad’s car and drove into the sunset? Or if she chained herself to the school doors and declared a hunger strike? An imagined scene is a great way to reveal interiority without resorting to long emotional descriptions. Plus, you can get a little crazy without being accountable later!

3. Force your character to multi-task.
Don’t give your protagonist too long to ponder his place in the universe. Make him figure it out while his mother’s nagging him about homework and his girlfriend’s sexting him and his dog’s peeing on the shoes in the front hall. If his best friend’s going to dump him, make it happen at work, where he has to deal with customers at the same time. What do you want to happen next in your character’s world? Make it happen at the most inconvenient time, in the most inconvenient place. After all, isn’t that the way real life works?

4.  Set your scene in an emotional place.
Where was your first break-up? Or your first sexual encounter? What’s your most embarrassing moment? Use one of those settings for your next scene. Even if your characters do something completely different than you did in the back of that Ford pick-up, you might find the baggage you associate with the place lends a new emotional power to your writing. 

5. Throw a party.
Too often, we think in baby steps. Character A needs to get information from Character B, then confront Character C before going home with D. Well, speed things up and throw yourself a shindig. Or send everyone to the same restaurant or the same school dance. Give your characters a chance to collide off one another in tight confines and see what melds and what explodes.

Good luck to everyone with today’s writing. And thanks for having me stop by, Denise!

Tanya Lloyd Kyi has written more than a dozen books for middle-grade and young-adult readers. Her most recent novel is Anywhere But Here (Simon & Schuster). She's also the author of the 50 Questions series and Seeing Red (Annick). Tanya lives in Vancouver, BC. 

Cole’s small town is a trap he’s determined to escape in this fresh and moving debut novel that balances loss with humor.

Ever since his mom died, Cole just feels stuck. His dad acts like a stranger, and Lauren, his picture-perfect girlfriend of two years, doesn’t understand him anymore. He can’t ditch his dad, so Cole breaks up with Lauren. She doesn’t take the news very well, and Cole’s best friend won’t get off his case about it.

Now more than ever, Cole wants to graduate and leave his small, suffocating town. And everything is going according to plan—until Cole discovers the one secret that could keep him thereforever.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Musings

1. I am an official winner of NaNoWriMo 2013! I passed the 50,000-word mark on Saturday night--16 days from zero to fifty!

2. I'm not quite at the end of the book, but almost there. I'm now at almost 58k, and I have at least two more big scenes to write. I had an ending in mind when I first created my story plan (loose outline) for this book, but now that ending is not feeling right. So I'd like to keep moving forward until I at least work my way through the climax and hopefully something feels right for an ending. But I may have to use a placeholder ending and wait for a read-through to decide. Overall I've really enjoyed drafting this book and I can't wait to share it.

3. I set a goal for the year of reading a hundred books. I'm not exactly sure why I did this, because my main goal was supposed to be to find 12 books I loved this year. I also accomplished that, but it's really difficult for me to leave a goal undone, and so now I'm 2 books behind on my reading and wondering how I'll possibly get it done (I WILL get it done. I'm fairly sure about that. Just not sure how.)

4. My son competed in a judo tournament on the weekend. It wasn't his best tournament, but he did try hard. There was some disorganization with the judging though, and he ended up getting a medal (which he should not have gotten). I was really proud of my son. He went up and returned his medal so that there would be enough for all the people who did deserve them. A proud mom moment.

5. This week I was able to get two tickets for my son to meet his favorite author, Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid). He is very excited. I am very excited to see him excited over something like this. Another proud mom moment.

Hope you are all having a great week with reading and writing and whatever else you are up to! I'll be back this week with some motivational posts and prompts both from me and from a good author friend of mine. Make sure to stop back in!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fast Fiction Friday!

It's another Friday, and so time for another Fast Fiction tip. Some of these tips come from my forthcoming book, Fast Fiction, some just come from my NaNo-tired brain. But hopefully you will find them helpful.

Today's tip: Find the RIGHT kind of accountability.

You may be a member over at, which is great, but are you plugged in there? Do you have buddies that are keeping up on your progress and messaging you regularly, especially if they notice your word count has dropped for a few days?

We can't do this alone. There may be people who can write a book all on their own, without the help of critique partners and beta readers and accountability partners and cheerleaders (I'm not one of them), but I don't know of any writer that can FAST-DRAFT without some support.

Get plugged in somewhere with one or two or three writers who will hold you accountable to writing every day, whether you feel like it or not. People who will cheer you on to dig deep, even when it seems like your muse has left the building.

This doesn't have to be on the NaNoWriMo website. I have a great group of accountability partners on Twitter under the hashtag #wipmadness. You're welcome to join us, or find your own little group via email or Facebook or Twitter, or even through a daily phone call.

Just don't try to do it alone. It'll work on the days you feel motivated, but it probably won't work through an entire draft.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesday!

I'm back with another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Have you done any writing yet today? If not, why not take just five minutes and free-write from the prompt below. Who knows? Maybe it'll lead to something good!

Today's Prompt:

Who does your main character compare him or herself to? Who does he or she feel better or worse than? Show this character reflect on those comparisons today, and maybe even drop a surprise his or her way regarding these comparisons. What if your main character could figure out something that the "smart" person he looked up to couldn't? Or what if your female character was chosen as a model over her beautiful best friend? Play around with your character's internal comparisons today and see where it takes you!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Musings: Quiz for #NaNoWriMo Writers

Today this has happened to me twice: I sat down to do some writing. It was hard, slogging work, but I pushed myself and eventually I got into my groove. When I was ready to stop, and feeling actually pretty good about the whole thing, I was TWO WORDS away from my next thousand on my word count.

So here's my question for you. I know what I did, because I had two cracks at it this morning, but what would you do if this were you? Would you...

1. Close your manuscript anyway, and tell yourself the word count isn't the main thing and you are still accomplished for your work today?

2. Write two words, even if they're not in context, even if they don't make sense, just to hit that next thousand?

3. Decide to write another paragraph on your story. Which leads to another. Then another. And before you know it, you're TWO WORDS away from the next thousand. Hahahaha.

I know this is a silly question, but I just wonder how many people are held captive to their word counts (like me) and how many can take it or leave it and put it out of their minds. Just curious!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fast Fiction Friday!

As I mentioned, I'm starting a new series on my blog to offer tips to writers on how to make fast-drafting easier, more effective, and more enjoyable. Some of this advice comes from my forthcoming book, Fast Fiction, some are just from my continuing exploration of the subject. If you have your own tips on fast-drafting, or if you try some of my tips, I'd love to hear of your experience in the comments.

Today's Tip:

When you awake each morning, while your brain is still in that fuzzy half-dream state, write for five minutes before you speak to anybody.

This is one of the best times of days to come up with new and creative ideas, before you're bombarded by responsibilities and cares about getting through every day life.

Make this a habit. Do this every day and stockpile your ideas. If you want to write for more than five minutes, go for it! But even if you just do the five, keep a special notebook (or computer file) for this purpose, so you can keep all your new ideas in one place.

You see, the difficulty with fast-drafting is not writing or typing the words out. The difficulty is having the ideas of what to write about. Try this for a week. Stockpile your ideas and see what a difference it makes to your drafting!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

GCC Presents Sara Hantz and IN THE BLOOD!

I'm excited to welcome another Girlfriend from Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit to the blog!

Publisher: Entangled: Teen (November 5, 2013)
For seventeen years, Jed Franklin’s life was normal. Then his father was charged with the abuse and murder of four young boys and normal became a nightmare.
His mom’s practically a walking zombie, he’s lost most of his friends, and the press camps out on his lawn. The only things that keep him sane are his little sis; his best friend and dream girl, Summer; and the alcohol he stashes in his room. But after Jed wakes up from a total blackout to discover a local kid has gone missing—a kid he was last seen talking to—he’s forced to face his greatest fear: that he could somehow be responsible.

In a life that’s spiraled out of control, Jed must decide if he chooses his own destiny with Summer by his side or if the violent urges that plagued his father are truly in the blood…

What they are saying:

“Sara Hantz doesn't pull any punches shaping this story of one of the toughest, most complicated family situations that a teen could face. Jed's emotions are raw and real. I ached and raged with him and frantically turned pages to see where he would end up.”  Stephanie Kuehnert, author of Ballads of Suburbia and I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone

“In The Blood is a gut-wrenching look inside the mind of a young man living with a nightmare. Jared has to learn to face life after his father is accused of an unspeakable crime. A ripped-from-the-headlines story that illustrates the power of unconditional love.”  B. A. Binns author of PULL, and Being God

"A dark and deliciously tense story that will make you wonder how alike our parents we can be."  Kelley York author of Hushed.

Sara stopped by for a short interview:

1. Tell me about your book in seven words or less.
Dark, edgy, contemporary, disturbing, thought-provoking, gut-wrenching.
2. Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your novel and why?
Summer because she’s a perfect foil to Jed’s dark brooding nature.
3. What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?
Learn to be patient because publishing moves at a glacial pace. As an immediate gratification type of person I find this very hard.
4. What did you write when you were a teen? Did you journal? Write poetry? Write overly literary or emotional stories? Or avoid writing altogether?
I didn’t write when I was a teen, not because I was avoiding it, I just didn’t about doing it. I loved reading, but it was like authors were these amazing people and it didn’t enter my head I could be one.
5. What's the last book you read that you really loved?
The Associate by John Grisham



Sara Hantz originally comes from the UK and is one of four children, having three younger brothers. Although she was an avid reader from a very early age, she didn't get the writing bug until much later in life, though English was always one of her stronger subjects. She's an avid sun chaser and now lives on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Australia (via 10 years in New Zealand). Sara lectured for many years before deciding to devote more time to her writing and working in the family hospitality business. She has two grown-up children and when not writing, working, or online with her friends, she spends more time than most people she knows watching TV - in fact if TV watching was an Olympic sport she'd win gold. Sara’s books: In The Blood, The Second Virginity of Suzy Green and Will The Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up (due out May 2014).

Congrats, Sara! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Writing Prompt Wednesday!

I'm just kicking off this new segment, and since I am in the throes of NaNoWriMo, I will keep this short! I will also make this month's writing prompts focused on things you can implement into a current draft.

So here is today's prompt:

Today, have a character find a book that shocks him or her. Where is your character when they find this book? Are they at home and they find something their spouse or child has been concealing? Are they at their job and they find something inappropriate to their place of business?

If you use this prompt, I'd love to hear how it works out! I'm going to try to use it in my story somehow today.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Musings

I'm changing the blog a bit. After attending a book festival on the weekend, I had a few brainstorms about my blog and what I want to do with it. So this is my hope...Monday Musings will now replace my Friday Four, and I'll update it whenever I have a variety of stuff to share. I will continue to highly authors who write for teens (mostly) on Teen Author Tuesday. Wednesdays, I'd like to start offering Writing Prompts for writers who need ideas or a little push to get going, and on Fridays, I want to start offering some tips, ideas, and excerpts from my forthcoming book, Fast Fiction, about how to fast draft. As most of you know, I'm super-busy with NaNoWriMo this month, so I can't promise how much of this will get done right away, and the initial posts may be short, but I'm feeling motivated, so hopefully I will be able to start on this soon! Speaking of NaNo, I've had some great progress so far! Last night I broke the 10k mark, so I'm really excited about that.

And for all of you who think no one could possibly write a decent novel in a month...I agree. But I do believe you can write THE BONES of a decent novel in a month. Tune in Fridays and I'll give you some suggestions of how.

I had a great time at Northwest Bookfest on the weekend, presenting to a group of writers about writing Fast Fiction. This Wednesday, if you're from the area, I'll be doing another little talk and write-in at the Sumas Library in Sumas, WA. 

Also, if you haven't noticed, I've completed my list of 12 awesome books read this year in the sidebar. The latest addition is THE VOW by Jessica Martinez. It has a fresh premise, and such smart smart writing that I didn't want to put it down. 

If you're looking for more tips on writing than what I get to here, don't forget about my new website for writers, I hope you'll check it out!

That's all for now. Must get back to the NaNo project, and, you May the words be with you!