Category Archives: Craft

Author Mentor Match

I’m so excited to share that I’ll be joining the
Author Mentor Match as a Round Two Mentor! 

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What is Author Mentor Match? 

Author Mentor Match pairs unagented, aspiring YA & MG writers with mentors who will help them with their manuscripts and guide them through the publishing process. There’s no contest aspect – AMM focuses on building lasting relationships. Mentors will help writers revise their manuscript before querying, give advice and tips on agents, and offer support through the process. Author Mentor Match was created by Heather Kaczynski and Alexa Donne in Fall 2016, who comprise of 2/3 of the current moderating team. Kat Cho has joined the team for Round 2.

How does Author Mentor Match work?

Mentees can apply to up to four possible mentors, submitting general information about themselves and their book via a submission form, then emailing their query and first ten pages to a specified address. Mentors will consider all mentee submissions carefully, potentially asking for more pages, before selecting someone to work with.

What kinds of stories will YOU be looking for?

Simply, I’m hoping to find a manuscript that moves me. I gravitate toward character driven stories, and I love books with strong voice. If I can get behind the chemistry between characters, I can overlook a multitude of technical flaws. Specifically, I love books that are full of romance, atmospheric, “angsty”, and/or have a chill-inducing twist. For my more detailed wish list, click on the MSWL tab of my mentor profile.

*** The Round Two submissions will be April 13th – April 23rd. ***

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Author Mentor Match Links of Interest

Round Two Mentors

My Mentor Profile

Stats, Trends and Tips from Round One

Submission Guidelines

FAQ

Twitter Hashtags: #AuthorMentorMatch & #AskAMM

Social Share_AskAMM Chat

If you’re interested in learning more,
then I’ll look forward to “seeing” you at Wednesday’s Twitter chat! 

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

My New York & Company 7th Avenue Design Studio Knit Pants, which look like dress slacks and fit like yoga pants, currently buy one, get one free. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, which I bought because my writing descriptions are starting to feel quite stagnant; I’m loving how this craft book gives me fresh perspective. Shenandoah National Park, which we’ve now hiked twice — so beautiful. The YA Buccaneers, who invited me to guest post about my experience submitting to Swoon Reads. And my new Erin Condren notebook, which I’m using to compile family recipes and my go-to Pinterest favorites; it’s mostly filling up with desserts.

Reading

I finally finished Grave Mercy by Robin LeFevers. It took me for-freaking-ever to get through, but that is in no way a reflection of my feelings about the book — I loved it! Ismae is a badass, and her story transported me to 15th century Brittany completely; I was totally caught up in the political intrigue and, of course, the most excellent romance. Now, I’m reading Shattered Blue by Lauren Bird Horowitz, a romance involving a girl and a Fae — not usually my thing. But this recent release is set at a Monterey boarding school, which is so totally my thing. Plus, the writing is gorgeous. I’m really liking it so far!

Watching

My new favorite You-Tuber, Ashley at That is All. I discovered her a few months ago while pouring over planner reviews (her review was a big part of the reason I bought an InkWELL Press planner for 2016), though the main focus of her channel is makeup. She’s delightful and she has cute kitties and I’ve picked up a few excellent skin care products on her recommendation.

Listening To

Am I the only gal who ends up with an anthem for each manuscript she drafts? For my current WiP, I’m listening to Matt Nathanson’s Faster on repeat, all the time. It’s inspiring all the romance. ❤

Thinking About

The tragic terrorist attacks that occurred in France and Beirut last week. My heart is broken for everyone affected.

Anticipating

The holidays. My husband and daughter love the many foods associated with Turkey Day (I love the pie) and my parents are coming for a visit during Christmastime. Looking forward to getting started on my seasonal decorating and shopping. Our Elf on the Shelf will be here before we know it. 🙂

Wishing

That she will always fall asleep with a book in reach.

Making Me Happy

I have a job! Well, sort of. I recently joined the pool of substitutes in Fairfax County, hoping to work two or three days a week at my daughter’s elementary school. But on my first day of eligibility, I was offered a multiple-week position as an instructional assistant in one of the resource rooms. So, I get to visit various classrooms and work with kids on various subjects, including reading and writing, which is awesome. The only downside is that my daily drafting time has all but disappeared. Who wants to do nighttime sprints with me?

What’s currently making YOU happy?

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently” post every other Tuesday, and I think y’all should join me… Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

Starbucks is my least favorite coffee chain, but they have (a version of) coconut milk now, and it is delicious with their chai, iced or hot. Also, Cougar Gold Cheese (one of my husband’s coworkers, a fellow Coug, recently hooked us up with a can — yummy!). And then there’s this “Holy Swoon” t-shirt that I want so bad, but it’s $50 and I’m trying to be reasonable and responsible. It’s really difficult. Oh, and I’m totally in love with my Pilot Frixion Erasable Markers — so cool! And, finally, my Erin Condren Life Planner which, miraculously, is just as fun to use today as it was when I got it back in February.

Reading

Last week I finished Katie Cotugno’s 99 Days, which I absolutely loved — it’s messy and angsty and enlightening. This week I read Kathleen Davitt Bell’s recently released I Remember You, a unique and heart-wrenching YA romance with an MC who I found rather prickly. More on both of these YAs in my upcoming May Reading Wrap-Up post. I also flew through two NAs: Kristen Callihan’s The Friend Zone, and Dahlia Adler’s Last Will and Testament. I definitely wouldn’t put either of these in a young adult’s hands, but they’re both super good!

Watching

On Friday we went to see Pitch Perfect 2, which was a blast. I kept my expectations low (because the original is just so freaking good), and I’m happy to report that said expectations were blown clear out of the water. I mean, there were some ridiculously silly moments, but overall, I thought the sequel was funny and genuine and entertaining. Recommend!

Listening To

I recently discovered a most excellent podcast called The Narrative Breakdown. It’s about writing of all sorts (fiction, screenplays, journals, etc), as well as the many aspects of books and publishing (character, dialogue, literary agents and query letters, etc). I highly recommend it if you’re a podcast person with an interest in growing your craft.

Thinking About

Our move. Ugh. But… we found a house and we’ve got a signed lease, and that’s all a huge, HUGE relief. I really like the house, too, and the neighborhood, and I think (hope!) we’ll be happy there for the next few years.

Anticipating

Ready. Set. WRITE! It’s a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at within our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts will be Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, Elodie Nowodazkij, and myself. Find more info HERE, and look for a post with this year’s details next week. We hope you’ll join us for the fun!

Wishing

On a star (or a dandelion) that my most recently completed WiP will find success, and that my newest project (still in its brainstorming/plotting stages) will quit being such a jerk and just submit already. 😉

Making Me Happy

Date nights with my husband, and a recent visit with my mom.

  

What’s currently making YOU happy?

Writers On Writing

Last week Rebecca Behrens blogged about her writing process and tagged me with a request to post answers to the same questions. I had so much fun reading Rebecca’s answers, and I jumped at the chance to chat about my own writing…

1. What are you currently writing? 

I hesitate to talk too much about what I’m writing until I have a workable draft done (because so much ends up changing between that first paragraph and The End), but I can tell you that I’ve been playing with scenes for a sequel to a ghost story I wrote a few years ago. There’s a chance these little bits of a possible story will never see the light of day, but they’ve been super inspiring and I’ve loved every second of being back in my original story’s world. For now, I’m going with it. I’m also mentally musing something completely new, but I’m still hammering out a lot of the big picture. This one’s going to be set somewhere warm and sunny (I have cemented that detail), and it’s going to have a lot of guys who spend a lot of time in board shorts. So that’s fun.

2. What makes your work different?

My voice. It’s something I’ve never struggled with (plot’s a completely different story!), and voice is one aspect of my writing that readers almost always compliment. Also, I write romances with a lot of kissing, usually from the get-go. A lot of romance writers seem to hold off on that first kiss for as long as possible, but not me. My characters kiss early and often — because why not? 😉

3. Why do you write what you do?

I write stories with similarities to the novels I love to read. My stories always, always, always have strong romantic threads. I like characters that are rendered in shades of gray, so I try to make my fictional people complicated. I’m drawn to stories set in small-ish towns, so my settings are usually quaint. I prefer reading novels that have a more melancholy feeling, and the stories I write do as well. And I read YA almost exclusively (because it’s the best!), so that’s what I write. Teenagers are so complex. I remember that time in my life as being riddled with question marks and insecurities and uncertainties, and, surprisingly enough, I enjoy revisiting it through my writing.

4. What is your writing process?

Ha… I wish you could see the befuddlement on my face. I don’t know if I really have a set process? I can tell you that I spend a long time considering an idea before I sit down to write. I plot using a beat sheet, and then I plot again, scene by scene using Scrivener’s cork board. I use Pinterest to collect visuals and sites helpful for research. I set daily word count goals keep myself accountable. I start a writing sesh by rereading what I wrote the previous day (I read somewhere that Sarah Dessen does the same thing, so…), and I am not against editing as I go. I keep a running list of revision ideas to address when I’m done drafting, and I keep a list of story details — minor characters’ names, birthdays, dates of significant events, etc. When I get stuck, I take breaks. When I get frustrated, I email my CPs. When I get disenchanted, I read something by an author I love, which is always inspiring. I love to revise, so when drafting seems impossible, I think of the many days I’ll eventually get to spend making everything cohesive and pretty. So, I guess that’s sort of a process?

Thank you again for the tag, Rebecca! I’m tagging Tracey Neithercott and Liz Parker. Looking forward to hearing more about your process, girls!

Friday Five

1. Have you seen the If I Stay movie trailer? Oh my gosh… it is so incredibly perfect. Exactly what I was hoping for. Seriously. #AllTheFeels. If I Stay is one of my most beloved books (it’s the novel that made me want to write contemporary young adult) and I have Very Strong Opinions regarding book-to-movie adaptations, especially when it comes to YA, and especially when it comes to books I love. Please, please, please let the movie live up the the trailer’s amazingness.

2. Yesterday I Rocked the Drop, and it was awesome. My girl and I dropped three books (Jellicoe Road, The Sky is Everywhere, and If I Stay — three of my favorite contemporaries) around our town. Here’s hoping three book-loving teens find them and adore the stories as much as I do.

   

   

3. Oh, hey, I wrote some new words. I have an inkling of an idea for a sequel to another of my finished manuscripts, and I started tinkering it with it the other day. I know that sounds ridiculous (why start a sequel to a book that hasn’t sold yet?), but I’ve got these scenes in my head and they’re inspiring me (keeping me up at night, actually) and I figure… Might as well write them and get them out of my system. Problem is, the more I write, the more ideas I have, and the more inspired I feel. A real story’s starting to take shape, which is exciting, but also scary. I can write this story, invest months and months of my life in it, but there’s a chance it’ll never go anywhere; it can’t stand alone without its predecessor. But, words are words and practice is practice, right? I’m pretty sure it’s okay to write what’s inspiring, and to occasionally let go worries of whether or not a story will sell. What do you think? How much time do you spend writing only for the pure joy of it?

4. Along with Open Road Summer (adorable!), I’m reading James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel From the Middle, which is pretty brilliant so far. It’s all about finding your story’s “heart and heat,” which is most often at its middle. James Scott Bell says some smart things about novel structure, but I’m even more taken by his thoughts on voice. He says, When an author is joyous in the telling, it pulses through the words. When you read a Ray Bradbury, for instance, you sense his joy. He was in love with words and his own imagination, and it showed. This, I think, is what’s at the the core of that unteachable thing we call voice. If you’re looking for a fresh take on novel structuring (plotter or a pantser), this is definitely a book worth checking out. 

5. Happy Easter weekend! My girl and I have decided to spend tomorrow at the beach, and Sunday in our jammies watching movies. She told me she hopes the Easter Bunny will bring her an American Girl sports watch, pink Peeps, and a Slinky. Good news… The Easter Bunny Mama has found and purchased all three items. That may seem indulgent (must get the kid exactly what she asks for!), but my daughter is growing up way too fast and if Peeps and a Slinky help keep the magic of childhood alive another day, then I’m happy to provide them. 

Have a wonderful weekend! 

What’s Your Process?

I found an interesting writing process survey on an Absolute Write Water Cooler forum the other day, and I thought it would be fun to post the questions and my answers here, so I can share with you…

DEMOGRAPHICS:

What genre do you write? Contemporary YA. I’ve dabbled in paranormal.

How many books have you written? Four complete manuscripts. One will never see the light of day. One is only just finished and (I think) has lots of potential. Two are in various states of revision/reconsideration.

Are you published? *sigh* It is my dream to be traditionally published.

PLANNING:

How long do you let an idea “simmer” before you start writing? Awhile. Plotting and coming up with “big ideas” is a challenge for me. Characters and setting and mood come easily, but I need at least a month or two to really think about the meat of what’s going to happen in the story.

How much pre-story planning do you do in the form of outlines, character sketches, maps, etc.? Quite a bit. I use Pinterest to keep track of images that inspire me and sites that are helpful for research. I do brief character sketches of my main characters, and I definitely outline.

If you use an outline, what type do you use (snowflake, index card, etc)? I really like Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet (it’s what I used for each of my manuscripts, with the exception of the first), though I’d like to try the Snowflake Method, as well as Nine Steps to Plotting Fiction. Once I have a basic outline of the plot’s highs and lows, I do a more detailed scene outline. Usually there are holes and I almost always end up adjusting and adding new scenes as I go, but for me, starting to actually write is far less intimidating when I have a road map.

REVISING:

How many drafts do you usually go through before you’re “done”? Three-ish before a draft is CP-worthy, then another before it’s ready to send to my agent (or, previously, to begin querying). Then, at least one more revision to incorporate my agent’s notes.

How long does it take you to write a first draft? I’ve written a first draft in a month, and I’ve written a first draft in a year. Depends, I guess.

How long do revisions usually take you? Months. At least.

Are your revised drafts substantially different plot-wise from your first draft? Not substantially different, usually, but they’re always stronger in all areas of story, character, and texturizing after I’ve gotten outside feedback.

If you decide to use this survey to share your writing process, link your post in the comments… I’d love to check it out! 

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to.And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu (out in June) and totally dug it, and I read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson and fell head-over-heels in love. I talked about both books in more detail in my March Reading Wrap-Up. Over the weekend, I read The Infinite Moment of UsSince reading Shine, I’ve become a fan of Lauren Myracle’s style and prose, and Wren and Charlie’s story really impressed me. This is one steamy book, friends, and I kind of loved it. (Though, the ending — I definitely could’ve used one more scene for the sake of closure!) Now, I’m reading The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf and it is aWeSoMe! Seriously funny, and with a voice that’s just fantastically unique. How is this book not getting more hype?

   

What I’m Writing: Nothing, technically. But I am doing a lot of mental brainstorming for my Shiny New Idea, and I’m pinning all kinds of images and research sites to a (currently) secret Pinterest board. I’ve also been doing lots of beta reading, which has been a pleasure. I learn so much from immersing myself in the fantastic work of my talented friends.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I’ve been weirdly sick over the last week. I’ll spare you the details, but it hasn’t been much fun. My girl and I have been laying low, watching a lot of The Voice and reading a lot of books. We did venture out of the house to see Noah, which sucked, frankly. There are fallen angels made of of stone, a creepy warlord who’s a descendant of Cain, plus a totally bizarre storyline involving Emma Watson (the movie’s only bright spot) and neonaticide. It’s not the kid-friendly Bible story I recall, so… Don’t take your six-year-old.

  
My girlie and I have also been doing a lot of doodling. As I mentioned above, I’m musing my next writing project, and drawing has been a sort of palate cleanser. I’m able to let my mind wander without any real commitment. It’s kind of fun!


And then there are my two furry friends. I’ve been spending a lot of time with them, too. Cuteness overload, right?

What’s Inspiring Me Now: The essay Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs by Chuck Palahniuk will be a year old in August, but I only just stumbled across it. I’ve gotta say, it’s one of the best “how to write” articles I’ve ever read, and it totally changed the way I think about point-of-view and showing vs. telling and the work required to truly paint a picture for readers. I think it’s a must-read for writers at any stage of the game. (I’ve already reread it!)

 
And… Shiny New Idea inspiration!

Tell me… What’s up with you today?