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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!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Four!

1. Don't miss my Halloween giveaway of a creepy anthology! All you have to do to enter is tell me what you or someone you know wore for Halloween.

2. I'm off to present at the Northwest Bookfest in Kirkland, WA this weekend. If you're from the Seattle area and interested in learning how to fast draft fiction, I hope you'll stop by for my workshop.

3. It's November 1st, and I'm sure most of you know what that means...the start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. My plan is to write a 50,000-word novel this month. I never like to talk too much about my first drafts until they're done, but I can tell you that this is another YA contemporary story, but quite different than anything I've written before. Also, at least at this point, it is told from a dual point of view. I've accomplished my word count for today, so I'm feeling pretty good so far.

I can't seem to find the word count widgets on the NaNo website yet, so I'll just tell you...I'm at around 1800 words so far. Not great words, but they're done. And they can only get better. Right?

4. What am I reading? Not much these days. I've been doing a bit of beta reading, but mostly just swamped with NaNo prep and tying up revisions on other books and getting ready to promote Fast Fiction. Speaking of Fast Fiction, I had a marketing and publicity call with New World Library, and was really pleased with the attention they are giving my book. I'm getting excited to see it out in the world!

Hope you all have a great weekend, and hope to see some of you in Kirkland!