My "Meet the Author" post is up at the Sweet Sixteens website.
Check it out here, and learn more about me and my upcoming novel MIDWINTER.
Welcome to the world of Scarlett Kol, writer of YA fantasy fiction. Take a look at my current and completed projects on the Works tab, or follow my news and writing life through my blog posts below. I am also available on twitter at @scarlettkol.
My "Meet the Author" post is up at the Sweet Sixteens website.
Check it out here, and learn more about me and my upcoming novel MIDWINTER.
The lovely YA Reads is hosting a party for the entire month of June exclusively for 2016 debut authors. How nice of them, right?
Anyhow, I was cordially invited to visit today and my interview is now up on the blog. Come check it out and find out more about me and the upcoming MIDWINTER!! It's coming folks, it's coming.
So as if you've seen any of my twitter feed you'll know that I am very shortly heading to the RT Booklover's Convention in sunny Las Vegas!!! The most exciting part is that not only am I going to absorb the infinite wisdom from the author hivemind, I am also going to be hosting at some of the events. Yep, me, in public, talking to actual people. It's intense!
I will be at the Teen Day Party on April 16, 2016 but I will be starting out the week as part of the fabulous list of authors in the YA Spooky Sleepover Event.
I mean look at that line-up!! Epic good times guaranteed. Plus I have donated an aptly name "Take a Gamble on Canadian YA" basket that will feature novels from Canadian authors. 21 books. 1 lucky winner.
Now since this isn't my first rodeo (especially since RT was in Dallas last year), I picked up a few bits of wisdom for convention attendees, so if there are any first timers out there or those who want to make sure they are on their convention going game keep reading.
1. Comfy Shoes - Yes, you hear this everywhere, but remember it's not enough to bring comfy shoes, you need to break those puppies in. I bought new flats last year. Pretty and glittery and ripped my feet to shreds before the end of the first night. I had to rock booties with everything I brought, which although gave me a slightly edgier appearance, they were definitely not part of the plan.
2. Make a Hydration/Caffination Plan - Line ups for coffee and other items (including snacks) will be longer than you think. If you want to make sure that you getting your morning cuppa or anything else you need to keep you from crashing before happy hour you need to make sure you plan enough time between events or bring your own to avoid the lines. It is also super important to make sure you drink enough water. You will be more rundown than you think after a couple of days, especially in airconditioned spaces, so stay hydrated my friends!
3. Make a Schedule (but plan to ignore it) - It's great to get the basics of what you want to see and do, but remember to go with the flow. You might find a new author you love that you want to follow to their next panel. You might go into writing business overload and just want a break after a day or two. Some events you plan might not be great. Some events that didn't sound appealling might turn out to be awesome. Maybe you just want to sit back and chill for an hour. If you want to get the most out of the convention, pick your must-dos then let your gut be your guide.
4. Chat People Up - Some people come to these conferences alone, some bring an entourage. No matter how you travel make sure to talk to people you don't know - in lines, in the elevators, beside you in a panel, whereever. Most authors welcome good conversation and a little (non-crazy) fangirling. You might meet your next year's roommate in the shuttle from the airport if you're willing to talk to them (wait - I totally did that - Shout out to you C). You can get great sketchy stories from the RT veterans, and maybe you might pick up a new fan or blogger connection if you're a writer. Most people are super friendly, but if you get lost look for me, I'll talk to anyone.
5. Use the Swap Room - RT has this great place called the swap room. It's a great way to reduce your luggage weight if you get books that don't pique your interest, but it's an even better place to pick up great finds. I know I found at least four books that I desperately wanted cast aside in there. I do like to stress that it is a SWAP room, so I try to at least give up a title or two if I'm taking, but I recommend checking early and checking often. Best part, anything leftover is donated to local libraries (or at least it was last year).
Hopefully no matter what you do you'll have a great time. Anyone coming to RT this year? Got any additional tips?
A few weeks ago, I tweeted this:
Almost immediately, I received a tweet back from the talented Mia Siegert, author of the upcoming YA novel JERKBAIT, who asked me for some tips. Not one to ever say no to a fellow author, nor keep my mouth shut (ever), I responded with a rapidfire of tweets. Then I decided with Valentine's Day soon approaching that maybe this would make a great blog post, so here goes.
Top Tips for Locking Lips:
1. Overdo it: When I was writing MIDWINTER I was working on a (spoiler alert!) kissing scene and it just wasn't working. Put head here, move mouth there, place hand A onto arm B - BORING!!! So I searched the internet and found some advice (sorrry I can't remember the source) that when writing kisses to go for it. It's always easier to dial down the heat than turn it up. Sounded logical, so I tried again and continued on with the story. Months later, I'm editing in a coffee shop when I come across that scene. Not even half way through and my cheeks were redder than the Starbucks holiday cups and twice as warm. It was over the top and needed to be rewritten, but for the first time the scene had what I was looking for - spark!
2. The Little Things: You've heard One Direction talk about so it must be true, it's the little things that make the biggest impact. Give your kissers quirks to make them memorable.
In highschool I was fortunate enough to have one really epic kiss. One of those kisses you think only exist in great books and Nicholas Sparks movies. But the one thing about that kiss that I remember clearer than anything else is the smell of pink wintergreen mints. The guy had been eating them prior to the big moment and to this day everytime I get a whiff of them, I'm an awkward swooning 17 year old again. Everybody has lips and it's expected that they will be in the kiss somewhere, but what about how a hand brushes someone's chin, or how their left knee shakes, or the cute, contented sound they make deep in their throat? Find the little things that make that kiss unique for that couple or in that moment to make it stick with a reader.
3. Matchy Matchy - Intimate moments can tell a reader a lot about a character, so the way a character kisses needs to match their personality or you need to have a strong reason why it doesn't (ie. macho character is really a teddy bear at heart), or the scene will feel unrealistic. Make it personal (see "The Little Things" above), and the reader is more likely to buy in.
A kiss also needs to match the story. Is it paced properly? You can't have a ten minute romantic make out session while the opposing army is charging. And what are the characters feeling? Is there urgency? Anger? Is one character more into this kiss than the other? The best kiss in the world can kill a scene if it doesn't match the circumstances of the story.
4.Get in the Mood: Just as your characters need to be feeling it, it helps if you are too. Play your favorite love songs, watch some great kisses on Youtube, practice **wink, wink**. Do whatever you need to do to get into that head space.
5. Have Fun: I don't know about everyone, but I love to write kissing scenes because they're fun. You can mess with your characters and tug at your readers and generally whip up a whole pot of drama soup. Kisses can be funny or heartfelt, a slow build or completely spontaneous, clumsy or perfect, but they always change the game. Experiment with different techniques. Write, then rewrite, then change it up again. If you enjoy it, the reader will too.
Anyone else have tips for great kisses? Who's your favorite literary kiss?
It's 2016. I don't know how you feel about it, but I was completely blindsided. Sure, the new year has been looming for months now, but then all of a sudden it just showed up like an uninvited relative hogging your couch and eating out of your refridgerator. It's here and here to stay.
I had been looking forward to 2016, then somewhere around mid-October the clock started turning double time and I found myself far busier than I, or the laws of nature and psychics intended.
Based on the above, you can probably suspect that I'm glad to see 2015 go. Don't get me wrong, it was a great year, but I've been itching to recalibrate and refocus. I've never been one for resolutions, since I already have them broken before I get the chance to get them out of my mouth, but I do set yearly goals, and like most years they include some writerly type things.
Finish my 3 WIPs: Yep, you heard it here first, I have not one, not two, but three WIPs in varying states of completion between the 75-95% marks that desperately need some closure. I love all these stories, but each one is vastly different and I have a bad habit of becoming enamoured with any two of the projects that I am not currently working on. But that's gonna change! I'll have to love the one I'm with if it kills me as I have made a promise to myself (and my writing group - damn accountability!) that I will start no new projects - novel length anyway - until all three projects are at least in the shiny completed first draft stage.
Write Every Day-ish: I've tried. I really have, but I've never seemed to be able to keep up with this one. I always tell myself that I don't have time to do anything substantial so why bother unless I have time to make progress. Then days drift into weeks and I get nothing done, then I binge write and spend so much time trying to figure where I left off that I would have been more productive to have written 5 words a day to this point. So the new goal is 10 minutes a day. I know it's not much but hopefully I will write more than the minimum and at least keep my plot fresh in my mind. I have an app to record this. It's happening. Exception: There is no way I'm writing in Vegas this year or if I visit any places that have a swim up bar, hence the "ish". The relaxation is far more valuable than any words!!
Read More: You can always read more books. It's great for writing research and it's the best thing I can do for my brain apart from locking myself away from the world for five days (who has time for that?). I'm on Goodreads and I'm taking the Goodreads 2016 reading challenge. I'm slated for 30 books, more than two a month. Wish me luck.
Enjoy Ever Second of MIDWINTER's Release: Don't know if you heard, but I have this little thing going on this year called the release of my debut novel! I am so ridiculously excited about this experience, even though I know there is still a lot of hard work ahead of me before I will finally see my baby in pages. One of my biggest goals this year is to enjoy every minute of this release. You can only have a first time once, and for me it was definitely worth the wait!
So there you have the main goals for this year. I have a few others, like stalking Katie McGarry at RT Booklover's Convention (nothing illegal, just a little fangirling, call off the FBI), but here's hoping that 2016 is a writing success.
What are your goals for 2016?
As you may have noticed on my "Works" page that the release date for MIDWINTER has moved from Spring 2016 to Fall 2016.
I'm sure all of you out there are impatiently waiting for this book to come out (or maybe it's just me), but I promise the delay will result in a better read for everyone.
Thanks for your patience!
I did an interview a while back for Bookish Babes. It's a great site with loads of reviews and information, and of course they have fantastic taste in interview subjects :)
See my interview with them at the link below:
Thanks so much to Tanya Contois and everyone at Bookish Babes.
So I've been busy. Like absolutely insane crazy sauce busy!!
Sometimes it's tough keeping everything going when you just have too much to do. My brain has not been my own for the past 4 weeks or so and I am finally getting back to normal, which feels even more amazing than it sounds.
I hope to keep everyone updated on the progress with MIDWINTER and the goings on with my other projects (working on a secret anthology piece - shhhh! Don't tell!!). Thanks for sticking around, if you have, and I'll work on getting more info up on the site.
A couple of weeks ago I was accepted into a group called The Sweet Sixteens. This is a group of MG and YA authors that all have their debut novels coming out in 2016, and let me tell you readers, some of these books are just fabulous. If you need to fill your TBR (to be read) list, head on over to their website and check out the authors page, here:
for a brief taste of some of the amazing coming your way next year.
While you're there, you could also scroll down to "KOL" and see a familiar face looking fantastic among all those smiling author photos.
There will be some great posts and fun things coming out of this group, so I will be sure to share them with you as they happen. For now I'll just try to contain my excitement and not do my happy "I'm an author" dance with the windows open so my neighbors can see.
Question: What book are you most looking forward to in 2016? (Bonus points if you say MIDWINTER)
The distance from the top of my head to the tips of my fingers is 39 inches, or just over 3 feet. Now I'm sure you're wondering why this is important and more so why I have the crazy inclination to measure random distances on my body.
Well, it seems to be that an idea I create in my head can't seem to find it's way the full 4 feet to my fingers to be typed out onto the page. I have these wonderful images, conversations, and ideas swirling around my brain all day but for some reason they never quite translate how I want them.
The dialogue isn't as witty. The imagery is never as colorful. It's like that telephone game you play when you're in kindergarten where the message doesn't end the same way it started. And it's been infuriating.
I've found myself struggling with my current WIP because it's not materializing the way I had envisioned it. I struggle. I get stuck. I plod along at a geriatric snail's pace, all to have pages that I'm not 100% sold on. But it's a first draft I keep reminding myself. First drafts are just that -- the first of many.
Hopefully I will write those two final words soon so I can edit my story into the fantasy I have always dreamed it would be.
How do you move forward when your writing isn't living up to your mind's hype?
On Sunday I got back from Dallas and the RT Booklovers Convention. It was 5 days of workshops, parties, and events that left me excited, inspired, and absolutely exhausted.
For a word nerd like me it was like finding my mother ship. Everyone wanted to talk about books and authors amid the forest of 8 ft high book cover banners and the occasional cover model donning a cowboy hat.
Although I could do a post of just the hilarious things I overheard or my favorite scores in my book haul, conferences are to educate, so here is my top ten list of things I learned at RT2015.
1. “For your book to have weight there needs to be irrevocable things that your characters can’t make right.” – Charlaine Harris
Life happens. Whether you are the shy quiet girl in the back of the classroom in love with the quarterback, or more super than Superman, things happen in our lives that are beyond our control. In fantasy this point can sometimes be overlooked since we can bring our characters back from the dead or travel back in time to change our mistakes. As writers we need to remember that no matter how powerful a character is they are still subject to absolutes that even they can’t fix. (For a great example of this, look at the Buffy episode “The Body”. Epic!)
2. You cannot live on coffee, champagne, and Hershey’s kisses for a week. It just can’t be done. (Note: This is not a challenge. Please don’t try this at home.)
3. “If you stay in this business long enough everything that can happen, good and bad, will happen to you.” – Tessa Gratton
This is actually a quote of a quote that Tessa Gratton was told when she started her writing career that she kindly passed on to a room full of avid writers. A writer can have tremendous success, then suddenly endure huge setbacks, then continue to peak and plummet for years to come. Part of being a writer is accepting that these things can and will happen, even to the greatest of artists, your choice is to pick yourself up and move on or quit.
4. Free books make people crazy.
I mean completely, 10 points on the Richter scale, gorilla wild, absolutely clinically CRAZY!! Any party that handed out free books had lines for days. People with arms full of brightly colored covers paraded through the halls with elated smiles like they’d just robbed the vaults at Gringott’s. The most egregious event was Entangled Publishing’s Candy & Spoons – a battle royale for a tower of books the height of a toddler. I left with fingernail marks in my forearms and I’m pretty sure they weren’t mine. Just sayin’.
5. “The more you write, the more you can write.” – Laura Kaye
Writing is just like exercise. Starting out you might not be able to bend over and touch your knees, but if you work at it you can have your palms flat on the floor in no time. The key things are writing consistently and pushing yourself just that little bit farther. I don’t see myself as the nine books a year type, but you never know.
6. Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter are the most lovely and hilarious people on the planet. Honorable mentions to Brendan Reichs, Cora Carmack, Jay Crownover, Kami Garcia, Mary Lindsey, Meg Cabot, and … pretty much every other author I met over the week.
7. Writers are a special kind of crazy and surrounding yourself with them can have amazing positive effects.
It didn’t matter what panel I went to or how famous/infamous an author was, everyone seemed to have the same type of complaints, insecurities, and goals. I also met a group of people in the same boat as me and it was wonderful to have people to commiserate and dream with. Writers get writers. Having writer friends can inspire you and push you to want to do better. Thanks guys : )
8. No matter how widely read you are, there is always some other fantastic author out there you’ve never heard of (I’m looking at you Jay Crownover).
9. Canada Customs will think you are insane if you tell them you have been out of the country for a week and only brought back hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds!) of dollars worth of books and a Starbucks mug.
10. Top ten lists are a great way to structure a blog post.
Lists are a quick way to organize your ideas and are written in short segments making them easy to read. Plus they’re just fun. Thank you to writer @celiamulder for that tip.
See you all in Vegas next year!!
Attention everyone. I am pleased to announce that I have recently signed with Rebelight Publishing to publish my debut novel MIDWINTER in the spring of 2016.
It's been an exciting process so far and I can't wait to hold my published book in my hands ... and then have someone pry my fingers off it so that I can share it with the rest of the world.
It's been a long road from the spark of an idea on an early morning in December 2009 to this point, and I'm sure the next year will feel like forever until my book finally hits bookshelves, but hopefully you will all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I'm going to be at RT Booklovers Convention in Dallas Texas, May 12-17 2015!
I've known I've been going for quite awhile (November actually), but it's finally starting to feel real as May approaches. This is my first time attending RT, so if there are any veterans out there who want to share some wisdom or other newbies who might want to join forces to conquer this thing leave some comments below and we can meet up.
For those of you who don't know what RT is check out their website at www.rtconvention.com
There will be a load of great classes to learn more about writing and some fantastic events to meet with readers, other authors, and so you can fangirl over your favs. Very excited to meet Kiera Cass, Charlaine Harris, Brighton Walsh, Meg Cabot, Rebecca Yarros, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Richelle Mead, Tessa Gratton, Lindsay Cummings and so many others.
Are you going to RT? Who are you excited to see?
As a writer I sometimes find that I get caught up in a lot of things. I spend a lot of time trying to make sure I’m showing and not telling, that my characters have distinct personalities, and that my scenes have proper motivations and conflicts. While all these things are vitally important to weaving a good tale, I often forget why I do what I do. Why do I write YA? A lot is because I love it, but the part that keeps writers cranking out books comes down to one very important factor – readers.
I entered a chapter of my current WIP, KEEPER OF SHADOWS, in a contest sponsored by Freshly Squeezed Reads. Part of the contest process included a live online critique of your work by actual teenage readers, with strong teenage opinions that weren’t always what an author would want to hear. I was terrified. Like night before the SAT’s and I haven’t studied at all kind of terrified. I was laying a piece of myself on a platter for someone half way across the world to chop into tiny pieces and display on the unforgiving internet. Yup, I was practically shaking.
Now I’ve been critiqued before. Several times. Some critiques go well some not so much, but you learn a few things, pick yourself back up, and keep going. But this felt different. This wasn’t a group of other writers who were in the middle of the same slog as me. These were readers -- a target audience of strangers who didn’t know me enough to care if they broke my heart or katana sliced my dignity and resolve. In the end, this was a group of people that I as a writer rely on to open their minds to my stories and hopefully their wallets to buy my books so I can keep going.
With breath firmly hitched in my throat, I sat in front of my computer as I watched my work get reviewed and you know what – it was okay. Fortunately for me, my piece was well received and I gained some good feedback to help me make the work better. But the thing I didn’t expect was how much watching the critique reminded me of being a teenager. Of being that kid who ate through books then searched for the next one to see what new worlds and characters were out there. It reminded me that as much as I love to write, one of the main reasons I wanted to be a writer was to one day fascinate someone the way my favorite writers fascinated me. And I can tell you, watching a reader quote lines from your work is probably the coolest feeling in the world.
If you are interested in seeing the critique session you can find it at www.freshlysqueezedreads.com . I’ve also included tweets of some comments I received on my work below, in case you’re interested ;)
So what authors inspire you?
Hello all! I hope that everyone has had a great start to 2015. I haven't been blogging much as I have been busy getting words on the page, but today I decided to crawl out from under my rock.
Today I really needed a jolt of something. I've been plodding along on my novel Keeper of Shadows and the honeymoon stage is clearly over. The real hard work has begun and sometimes it's harder to get my brain moving when I'm stuck. Then I came along a blog post called OF WRITING AND A FEAR OF FAILURE at https://livelovereadya.wordpress.com
The post asked it's readers about what inspires them. It really made me think about why I do what I do. Why I push through the doldrums of a novel with no guarantee that it will be readable once I get through to the other side. I thought about it and this is what I said:
I write because I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s like the first time I got a cellphone. At first it was this cool thing I used once in a while, but after about a month I would attack someone with a butter knife on a dime if they even joked about taking it away from me. Writing is the one thing that I do that is just for me. I can take it anywhere. I can write anything. I can hit the delete key and start over and make my historical romance into a sci-fi horror space opera then break it down and build it back up again. I can make the voices in my head (character voices, nothing clinical – I hope) into real people with feelings and wants and needs. I can let them win or make them cry in the fetal position in a distant corner of hell. So … I guess you can say my writing inspiration comes from the thought that anything is possible as long as I’m willing to pick up a pen.
After I clicked publish my comment gave me the push I needed to keep moving. At least for now.
So now I'm asking all of you the same question. What inspires you? Maybe remembering will inspire someone else.
I “won” at Nano again this year. 50,062 glorious and absolutely dreadful words to build on and polish into something worth reading over the next year. Like many others I currently have a love/hate relationship with my manuscript, Keeper of Shadows, but I will keep working at it until there is more love than hate. That’s the plan anyway.
This year things were different. I didn’t waste the full first half of the month and then sprint my way towards the finish like last year. This year I created a plan, stuck to it, and even finished a few days early. So what did I learn during this year’s process?
It’s all in how you say it: Last year I had daily word goals, and considering I wrote most of my novel in the last half of the month these goals were like mini Everests. The other problem was that my weekends were completely unproductive because I was just too busy with things I couldn’t control. Any words I didn’t finish then got added to my weekday goals. Honestly, it hurt and I constantly felt like I was failing.
This year I changed my approach. I set a 2500 word goal for all the weekdays in November, so instead of my pathetic weekend writing increasing my daily word count, it went towards decreasing my word count. In the end it was the same amount of words, but the change in focus from being behind all the time was a lot more encouraging than I thought. Make sure you create goals that work for you and work to motivate, not de-motivate, you. Don’t set yourself up to fail, because you probably will.
All the small things: Like any writer I had some days where creativity was as probable as a litter of purple polka-dotted baby dragons showing up on my doorstep through Fed Ex. On one of these particular days I read one of Chuck Wendig’s writers write manifestos on his blog Terrible Minds (if you don’t mind swearing I highly recommend this site). Grumbling, I opened my laptop and forced myself to write just a little bit – like 150 words. A few hours later, still grumbling, I did the same thing. And again. By the end of the day I had actually surpassed my daily word count. All those little pieces added up and didn’t involve me staring at my screen for an hour and bashing my forehead against the keys trying to unlock some deep subconscious creative wisdom.
A special kind of crazy: This year I was very vocal about my participation in Nanowrimo. Last year I locked this part of my life away in a scary basement where I would visit and feel dirty and sensitive to light when I resurfaced. This year, I didn’t care who knew. I am a writer and that what writers do. Interacting with the “real” world about what I was doing, did make one thing clear. Writers are a special kind of crazy. They don’t just pick up a pen because they’re bored and feel like it’s something to do. It’s something inside that begs to be let out. Writers are storytellers, dreamers, the kids who lied to their parents because they could. Writers are insane to do what we do, but I couldn’t picture my life without it.
For everyone else who passed the 50,000 threshold – congratulations! For those who didn’t, don’t worry about it at least you wrote something, which is more than a lot of other people can say.
Did anyone else learn any valuable Nano lessons this year?
At Nanowrimo time of year I see all sorts of tips on how to increase your word count. Use "all of a sudden" instead of "suddenly". Do not use contractions. Use every adjective you can think of to describe something and then come back and edit down the correct one. These will work, and it would be a bold faced lie if I said I've never let unnecessary words stand in the name of the mighty word count, but I honestly try to avoid them whenever possible. If you plan on doing something with your manuscript that doesn't involve fire or locking it in a drawer and throwing away the key, then you are going to have to edit it at some point. For me, I have to trim enough fat out of my work that I can't afford to just throw in snack sized Kit Kat bars of words for fun, even if it will get me to the 50,000 holy grail faster.
My Word Count Tip: My word count tip is actually very simple. When I finish writing for the day (preferred) or when I start in the morning I take a couple of minutes to make a plan of my scenes. I know all of you pantsers out there are quaking in your writing pants right now, but I'm not talking about outlining here just a to-do list of sorts. For example, if my word count for the day is say 1,667 words, I would jot down a quick list of all the scenes I know I have coming up (in whatever order as I am a non-sequential writer) and an estimate of their word counts. If possible I try to make sure I have at least one scene more than the required word count for the day in case my other scenes fall short or I'm just not feeling something during the scene.
If you were writing a book about wizards and vampires in a dystopian fight to death reality show, your list might look like this:
Wizard Zednor offers self as tribute - 250 words
Zednor says goodbye to best vampire friend Sally - 500 words
Full cast homage to Frozen - 800 words
Zednor tells Sally he loves her - 250 words
Sally tries to bite Zednor - 500 words
As you can see I usually keep a standard (250/short scene, 500/medium scene, 800/long scene). None of this is set in stone and none of it goes into too much detail that it affects my ability to run with the scene wherever it takes me. Most times, I am usually conservative on my word count estimates and end up going way over.
This gets tougher as time goes on because it is always easier to start a new scene than to add words to something you've already been working on. Around the last week of November, my to-do list has a lot of "Finish chapter/scene X - 250 words" on it.
Why It Works: There seems to be two reasons, at least for me anyway.
1.) I'm not staring at a blank screen trying to figure out where to start. I have an idea about the focus of the scene and about how long I think it's going to take. This helps cut out a lot of that wasted time trying to figure out where to go next.
2.) If I have a plan, and even better if I wrote the plan the day before, my subconscious starts doing the heavy lifting for me. If I know that tomorrow I'm writing an epic battle or a first kiss, my brain is already starting to put together the details without my knowledge (or sometimes my consent). By the time I put my fingers to the keys I already have some of the kinks worked out letting me get the ideas out faster.
So that's my tip. If you're a plotter you might already do something like this, but it breaks down your outline to a micro level to get the brain juices pumping. If you're a pantser, you only have to plan one day at a time. Maybe only half a day if that is how you operate, but it will help give you some direction and at least some early morning motivation to get moving.
How do you keep up with your word count goals? Are you?
I’m doing Nanowrimo again this year. Although I “won” last year it wasn’t without difficulty. I admit that I only had 8000 words on the 17th of November and I quit 3 times during the month, twice in one day alone, but at 3pm November 30th I uploaded my 50,117 word manuscript for confirmation. It was tough, but I learned a lot about writing and about myself as a writer.
There is always time to write: During November of last year I was working my full time and then some day job, a part time job that consumed another 20-30 hours per week, had two hockey tournaments and had to devote time to trivial things like eating, sleeping, and showering. I also wrote 50,117 words. I’m not a very fast writer. Sometimes I get on a roll, but I didn’t pound out those word gems over 3 days, it took time. A lot of time. But even though I was extremely busy, I found that time. I got into a routine and I made writing a priority. So in July when I think that I don’t have time to write, I do. No excuses.
When to cut and run: If you have done any studying on writing craft I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to “arrive late and leave early” when writing a scene or to “not write what readers skip”. I’ve tried, I really have, but Nano was the best teacher for this concept. When you have a limited amount of time you write what you feel and what drives you. There is no time to smooth out a nice transition or worse add another Tolkien-esque walking scene. During Nano I wrote pages of dialogue with no action, action with no dialogue, and great snippets of plot treasures that popped into my head. After November I needed to beef up these scenes, but in most cases I didn’t need to add transitions. Had I taken my time to write the first draft I know I would have dragged these scenes out, which was something they didn’t need.
Developing a routine: I write more during the week than on weekends. I write better in mid afternoon than any other time of day. Although I had been writing for years prior to 2013, the short time frame showed me some truths about what kind of writer I am. This year, I have actually created my Nano word count goals based on the weekdays in November instead of the entire month, with weekends being bonus words. Now if I can just get my life to stop at about 2 pm so I can have uninterrupted writing time, things would be perfect.
Fast drafting keeps voice consistent: Any writer can tell you that their characters get in their head. They live and breathe even when you aren’t writing, so when it comes time to put fingers to keyboard your characters can come alive on the page. When you are writing regularly, the voice of your characters stays consistent because you are visiting with them more often. My first novel was written over a long period of time and I found that the voice of my character changed every time I picked up my laptop. When fast drafting for Nano my characters sounded more like themselves from beginning to end.
I know there are mixed opinions on the value of Nanowrimo due to speed of production and focus on word counts instead of quality, but it has been a great experience for me. I might not have an award-winning novel on December 1st, but I will have a less lumpy piece of clay to mold into something beautiful.
For all your Nano’s out there, best of luck. If you are interested, my screen name for Nano is RookiePen. See you all in December!
Last Thursday I caught the premiere of the new Shondaland smash “How to Get Away with Murder.” I had heard of the show but knew zero about the premise before watching it, so I had no expectations whatsoever. Then it blew my mind.
Ignoring the fact that Viola Davis is a goddess sent from awesome actress heaven, this show electro-shocked my writer brain by doing all the things that a good story should do. So if this were a book, what did they do right? (relatively spoiler free)
Title: How fantastic is “How to Get Away with Murder”? Provocative, indicative of the story and a little double entendre. Well played. Although not all book titles scream at the reader, a solid title like this one could at least get people to pick it up.
Open with Your Main Characters: There were many places that this show could have started. It could have followed some of the students around to get to know them. It could have followed the professor. It could have even started with the flash forwards. But did it? Nope. There was no prologue, no slow start, the opening threw all the main characters in a room and tossed conflict at them. Bam!
This type of opening achieves many goals. It introduces our characters and ensures that we want to root for them, plus it tells us the main conflict. On top of that, the dialogue is sharp and the scene is active, engaging the audience to want to know more.
Show Don’t Tell: Further to the introduction of the characters, this show did a great job of showing and not telling us about them. They don’t load the reader down with backstory, nor do they explain who people are, they just let them be and leave the audience to figure it out.
One particular exchange comes to mind in the opening scene. Wes is put on the spot for not having the assignment completed. He notes that he didn’t receive the email because he was waitlisted. Another student, Michaela provides the answer and is met with the professor’s scolding to “never take away a learning opportunity from another student.” Thirty seconds of dialogue, maybe less, and we already know that a.) Wes is likely not the smartest kid in the class and has a lot to prove; b.) Micheala is a know-it-all who is very competitive, and c.) Professor Keating isn’t just a hardnosed attorney, she actually does want to teach people and may not be who we thought she was.
There are other ways we could have got this information, but from this one exchange with characters we haven’t met yet we know what we’ve got. They continue this throughout the entire episode, only giving the audience what they need and in interesting ways. That, my friends, is showing.
Breadcrumbs: Anyone else notice the set up for next week’s episode? Of course, it’s obvious what this Thursday’s case is going to be considering it was spelled out in the last five minutes of the show, but did anyone notice that the characters in that story made cameos all throughout this episode? As a reader, we are already interested in book two before book one even ends. Now that’s a way to sell a series.
I’m excited to see where they take this show, or if the great storytelling of week one fizzles out by Christmas time, but I do know where I’m going to be this Thursday -- on my couch. Are you?
On September 24th I'm going to be included on the website swirlandspark.com as part of their Critique Corner feature. Three hundred of my words will appear on this website and anyone is welcome to leave their opinion. My project is called SLEEPLESS and is a YA horror/fantasy if you are interested in chiming in.