Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

Until I’m Old

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My mind is filled with static
No words will come
No thoughts will surface
All I hear is a hum, hum, hum
Inspiration is far away
I beg, I plead, I pray, pray, pray
I’ve got worlds to write,
Characters to create
This empty mind is robbing me
I sit here and wait, wait, wait

For the tumbleweeds to pass
For the fog to lift
For imagination to return
My thoughts continue to drift, drift, drift
I’ve got places to go, if only in my mind
I’ve got scenes to landscape
I’ve got secrets to find, find, find
Some say writers block does not exist
I say, it does
It kidnaps thoughts. It steals ideas. It erases plans
But, I’m a fighter, a believer, a slayer of beasts
My words will resurface, my stories will be told
I will rescue my thoughts, I will continue to write
Until I’m old, old, old

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Happy NanoWrimo

Hello writers, do you know what today is? It’s November first which means, it’s National Novel Writing Month. It’s your chance to write 50,000 words in thirty days. I’m not participating this year but I am currently editing my young adult novel that I began writing two years ago during Nanowrimo. My story goes like this; I was in the midst of writing a middle-grade fantasy novel. I had it completely outlined. The characters were in place, settings were created and ending was known, when I received a challenge from my sister-in-law (who also happens to be my writer bff). She had recently decided that she wanted to get back into writing and thought Nanowrimo was exactly what she needed to get her fingers typing. But, she wanted someone to do it with her.
I kicked the idea around for a few days but knew I wasn’t going to use my wip (The middle-grade fantasy) because that would sort of be cheating. Ironically the night before November first I had a crazy dream. As I was writing the details of the dream into my journal, it hit me. Use this dream to base a new novel on. And so, my young adult novel was born. I don’t think I achieved the fifty thousand by the end of the month but I did finish a novel which I’m super excited about. Yes, it’s two years later and I’m just now getting it ready to query. It was the first novel I wrote organically. I let it evolve naturally and the result was better than I could imagine.
My dream inspired the novel, but I could have never dreamt of what it would become. I just hope that an agent likes it as much as I do, which is why I am taking as long as needed to get it as close to perfect as possible. Without, the challenge from my sister-in-law or Nanowrimo, this novel wouldn’t exist which is why I say, “Go for it!”
Ten tips to help you with Nanowrimo
1. Just start writing. Don’t worry if you think it’s junk. Get the words on the paper (or keyboard)
2. Put a motivating quote in front of you each day.
3. Let everything around you inspire you. Did you notice someone in the grocery store that would be great for a character? (Perhaps the teenager checking you out.)
4. If you aim for seventeen hundred words a day, you will meet your goal.
5. Surf the web for others who are also participating. It’s great to have a cheering section.
6. Read about Nanowrimo success stories. Every time you feel like quitting, remind yourself it worked for someone else.
7. Keep repeating this sentence- By the end of this month I will have written a novel.
8. Crank up the music. Music helps you get into the groove and may spark an idea.
9. Listen to the small voices inside your head; they are your characters dictating the story to you.
10. Search for your congratulatory gift to yourself and when you complete Nanowrimo, go buy it.

Good Luck everyone! Leave me a comment telling us whether or not you’re participating. If you’re this year, have you ever?

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Filed under NaNoWriMo, novel, stories, writer's life, writers, Writing

Getting Rid of My Book’s “Baby Fat”


I’m approaching the end of my YA novel titled The Cult. I have been writing this suspense novel for about two years. The idea came to me in a dream right around the time Nanowrimo was about to start. I was about three chapters into a middle-grade novel (I’m excited to get back to that one) when my sister-in-law presented me with a challenge. “Hey, let’s do Nanowrimo,” she said. She had been contemplating writing a book for some time and Nanowrimo was the push she needed to get started. I accepted her challenge and began writing never realizing at the time it would take me two years to finish the book I never planned on writing. Writing this book was different from the others I have written. It was the first time I chose to just keep writing and not look back. My previous books I would write a chapter, edit a chapter, and then continue. I took more of an organic approach with this one and I’m hopeful it will pay off.

Growing up in an Italian family meant that eating was good. The more you ate the healthier you were. As I got older I realized that what I ate mattered more than how much I ate. It was time to get rid of the “baby fat”. Today I am getting rid of my book’s “baby fat” and replacing it with healthier options. I have to be honest with myself and admit that some of what I wrote was nothing more than junk or fillers. At the time it sounded good but in the end it weighed the book down. The junk made the pace sluggish and hid the story inside.

It’s time to sculpt my book and help it become the best version of itself. I don’t want it to be filled with empty words. I want it to be healthy and full but not stuffed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on editing your book for publication. How do you know when your story is weighed down?

“Do you have a hard time putting your book on a “diet”?

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Critiquing Etiquette


Today’s post will be dedicated to critiquing etiquette. In my previous post, I listed a bunch of blogs that I thought about writing but didn’t and promised to write the one that got the most comments. Jan from Crazy Jane the writing life of Jan Morrison left the first comment advising she’d be interested in reading a blog on proper critique etiquette. Jan, this one is for you. Medeia Sharif commented that she liked “Thinking about Writing is Not Writing”, stay tuned for that blog post.

Early in my writing career I learned that to become a great writer you must trust others to help you see the error of your ways. I was lucky enough to find a great critique group lead by an excellent writer. Throughout the years some of the writers left the group for different reasons but every one of them helped me learn the craft.
I believe the most important thing to remember when critiquing the work of another is to do it with class.
* Don’t be sarcastic
* Don’t critique the person, critique their work
* Don’t compare their writing to yours
* Don’t focus on negative things only
* Don’t tell them that their story will never sell
* Don’t make them hate writing
* Don’t be afraid to be honest
Where you are weak someone else is strong and vice versa. I might be weak in punctuation and grammar but strong in plot structure. I could have a great plot but if my commas are in the wrong places and my sentences are run-ons, an agent or publisher might reject me quicker than a child going down a water slide.

*Do let the writer know any spots that confuse you. Sometimes the writer thinks they are conveying exactly what walks around in their mind when they are not.

* Be honest but tactful. Always add some sugar to your words. Don’t make your fellow writer feel like they have just been punched in the stomach. Do say something like “I like the imagery in this scene but I am not sure it offers any merit to the story.”
Don’t say something like “This scene is completely irrelevant. I think my fifth grader could do better.”

*If you are going to offer a critique, don’t be lazy about it. There is nothing worst than receiving a critique that only has a comment every ten pages. If you think the story and writing is superb and needs no adjustments for several pages list something positive, like “Wow, I just read through two chapters without stopping,” or “I loved this sentence.” The smallest comment can build confidence.

*Critique someone else’s work the way you would like your work critiqued.

*Try and keep your deadlines. I have only participated in online critique groups. I have never attended a face to face critique session. The way our online critique group worked was we had six members, three would submit in the beginning of the month and three at the end. We requested that all critiques be sent in no longer than three weeks. (You can decide your own time frames).

*If you are providing a critique and sending it via e-mail, be sure that your comments are written in a different font color. Imagine how difficult it would be to search for comments if everything was in black.

*If you cannot give a critique for any reason please let the receiver know. It is not nice to make them wait only to tell them later that you didn’t get to it. Sometimes life interferes with commitments. When this happens it is okay to inform your peers that you won’t be able to offer a critique this time around due to whatever circumstance arises.
An instructor once told me to immediately start editing after receiving a critique. She explained it is better because everything will be fresh in your mind. I have found that this cannot always be done. It is okay to skim through a critique and then tuck it away for a week. Many times comments or suggestions that made me want to cry initially became much clearer and made perfect sense a few days later.

What did I forget? Are you in a critique group? What makes a good critique group?

*There are no mistakes in writing only lessons to be learned*

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Interview with Helene Boudreau: Author of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings

Hi Hélène, thank you so much for agreeing to participate in my first ever blog interview. I’d like to start by introducing you to my readers. Hélène Boudreau is the author of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings. She writes fiction and non-fiction for kids and lives in landlocked Ontario, Canada but spends summers at her seaside childhood home on the Atlantic Ocean.

Hélène’s book was just launched on December 1st and is now available everywhere books are sold.

Okay Hélène, let the interview begin.

Can you tell us a little about Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings?

Thanks so much for having me! Here’s the description from the back of the book:
First zit. First crush. First…mermaid’s tail?
If Jade hadn’t been so clueless, she might have seen it coming. But really, who expects to get into a relaxing bathtub after a stressful day of shopping for tankinis and come out with scales and a tail?
Most. Embarassing. Moment. Ever.
Jade soon discovers she inherited her mermaid tendencies from her mom. But this revelation raises a serious question: if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?
Jade is determined to find out. But how does a plus-sized, aqua-phobic, mer-girl go about doing that, exactly? And how will Jade ever be able to explain her secret to her best friend Cori, and her crush, Luke?
This summer is about to get a lot more interesting…

What inspired the idea for the book?

Growing up, my dad used to take us for boat rides from the Atlantic Ocean, through a canal, and into the fresh water lakes of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We had to get through a set of boat locks en route and I often wondered if the purple jellyfish in the ocean knew about the white jellyfish in the lake. It amazed me that two totally different underwater worlds could be separated by just a mile-long canal. That was the inspiration for the mer-world in this book.

The main character, Jade, came from conversations I had with my daughters after reading Mélanie Watt’s picture book ‘Scaredy Squirrel’. The book is about a neurotic squirrel who’s afraid of everything. We were getting a bit silly, talking about birds that were afraid of flying or fish that were afraid of swimming; which led to the idea of an aqua-phobic mer-girl. It just seemed like such a ridiculous idea that I just had to see where it led. Little did I know; it would lead to this book!

How long did it take you to write the book?

I wrote the story over two National Novel Writing Months (NaNoWriMo) as a matter of fact. The first time (in Nov ’07) I wrote about 30, 000 words. The second time (in Nov ’08) I finished it and began revising. I kept on revising until I signed with my agent in June ’09 and until I signed with my publisher in Oct ’09 and then revised some more until it finally went to press in August ’10. So, in total, I think it was close to a three year process.

I’m always curious about other writer’s journeys to publication. Can you tell us how long you spent querying? Did you receive immediate interest or did it take a while for an agent to request your manuscript?

I began querying agents with this project in March of ’09 but that was after spending a full ten months querying another project with no success. By the time I signed with my agent, Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency in June ’09, I had sent out about 113 queries (you can see my query dissected on the Guide to Literary Agents blog)over a twelve month period. Once Lauren started submitting my book to publishers it was surprisingly quick (to me!); it took only about six weeks until we had an offer from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky.

I was so used to waiting that it seemed like a blink of an eye!

What genre is your book?

I’d describe it as a light-hearted contemporary fantasy. With a dash of Epsom salt.

Do you have any other books in the works?

The second volume of my chapter book series Red Dune Adventures / Nimbus Publishing will be published in spring/ 2011. It’s called Water Hazard and it’s an eco-adventure mystery for 6-9 year olds. I also have a picture book coming out with Candlewick in 2013 but that’s still in the early stages.

What is your favorite time to write?

I have two little chicklets, 7 and 9 years-old, and you would think my best writing time would be when they’re at school but it’s actually when we’re all at home or at the library together; usually while they’re doing their homework or reading. It’s so nice to work alongside one another, taking breaks to ask questions or to crack jokes. I get a lot of inspiration for my writing from conversations with my girls.

Do you have a favorite writing space?

I work from a laptop in various places around the house. I work on my treadmill desk for part of the day, the kitchen counter for a little while or parked on the couch if I feel like putting my feet up. I like the flexibility of being able to move around.

If you could offer a fellow writer advice what would it be?

Foremost; read, read, read/ write, write, write/ revise, revise, revise.

Then eat chocolate and repeat/ repeat/ repeat.

It’s really a combination of staying on task, working really hard, not being afraid to write junk during your first draft, revising until the cows come home, asking for help when you need it, and believing in yourself.

I have always loved mermaids. I especially loved the movies Splash and Aquamarine. Do you hope to see your book on the big screen?

I think most writers see their characters in their heads and can fully imagine them on the silver screen. That would be a lovely dream come true! Equally thrilling is to get to ‘hear’ your characters, which I have the pleasure of doing since Dreamscape Media has produced the audiobook of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings. In fact, they’re doing a giveaway of three autographed copies until December 20th if you LIKE their fan page on Facebook. Jen Taylor does an AMAZING job as Jade. See for yourself; you can listen to the first chapter right here!

I love the cover of your book. Were you involved in the selection of the book cover?

Thankfully, no. The fabulously talented design team at Sourcebooks deserves all the credit there. I would have come up with something far dorkier and much less awesome. I love it, too!

I always love to see who authors thank in the acknowledgement section of the book. Is there anyone special that you thanked?

There are so many people who helped me shape this book into its final form so acknowledgements are always so hard for me. It’s impossible to name everyone and I end up having to be vague and utterly uncharming.

I dedicated the book to my agent, though. Because she laughed in all the right places.

Will you be doing any book signings?

Mostly in Canada but I can send signed bookplates to bookstores or book clubs. We have the technology! 

Hélène, thank you so much for stopping by. I’m sure your book will be a huge success. I have already added it to my Christmas wish list. Speaking of wish lists, what books are you looking forward to reading?

Thanks so much for adding Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings to your Christmas list! I’m really looking forward to reading my fellow Sourcebooks author, Kari Townsend’s The Samantha Granger Experiment and my friend Marina Cohen’s Mind Gap, Natalie Hyde’s Saving Armpit and Mahtab Narsimhan’s The Deadly Conch

One more question before you go. I see you are a fellow lover of chocolate. If you can have anything dipped in chocolate what would it be?

Any kind of fruit: strawberries, cherries, pineapple…SO yummy. And it can be any kind of chocolate, too. Toblerone, Cadbury, melted chocolate bunny—I’m not picky.

Okay, I lied, one more. I assume every writer has a favorite word. My favorite word is BELIEVE. What is your favorite word?

Dinglehopper. It can stand in for so many things!

I think my first blog interview was a success. Helene’s answers were AWESOME! Make sure you add her book to your wish list. I can’t wait to read all about Jade. Leave a comment and let me know how you think the interview went.

You can find Hélène on Twitter, Facebook and on her Website.

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Filed under audience, Author Interview, character, character building, constructing, creating, editing, Fiction, Giveaway, Inspirational, life, middle grade fiction, NaNoWriMo, novel, platform building, query, random, rejections, routine, stories, story writing, Style, superstitions, Uncategorized, Voice, WISHES, writer conference, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing, Young Adult

Pass It On: Give a Fellow Author a Shout Out

Today a smile was brought to my face because of a comment from someone I had not met before. Herby, if you are reading my blog consider this a personal shout out and a big “thank you”. Herby stumbled upon my blog and was kind enough to let me know that he liked my material. Herby’s comment not only brought a smile to my face but it got me thinking about something that I have thought about before, but not as in depth as I thought about it today.
If you are a writer then I am almost positive that you have experienced moments of self doubt. Moments where you thought no one was reading what you wrote. Moments when you threw your hands up in the air and said “So be it, I’m writing anyway.” If you write a blog, I’m also pretty sure that you check your traffic on at least a weekly basis. It’s in our nature to be curious to see if whatever it is we have written prompted another to let us know what they thought. If we didn’t hope to connect on some level with others we would have never set up a blog in the first place. (We would just keep our words tucked away in a journal)
I always admire the people’s blogs who get beaucoup comments and wondered if my own would ever receive as many as theirs.
Herby’s comment today made me realize that we all have a way of helping each other become noticed, whether it be by leaving a comment, adding a blog to your blogroll, tweeting on each other’s behalf or simply telling a friend. Someone once told me that 90% of successful advertising comes from word of mouth. I’m not sure if it is quite that much but I am positive that most success stories have something to do with one person telling another then another then another. We as writers have to help each other out and if we happen to stumble upon a blog that catches our attention and then keeps it, it’s the least we can do to let a fellow author know. Why not leave me a comment right now and let me know whose blog you enjoy reading. Together we can increase their traffic.
Today my shout outs go to Elisa over at Where’s My Pencil, she included me as one of her recipients for a Versatile Blogger award (which in return brought traffic to my blog and Herby at Living as Herby for making my day and inspiring this post.

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Who Will You Thank?

I love when I finish a book for many reasons but today I will only discuss one of the reasons. You would think the first thing I would do after finishing a book would be reflect, but I don’t do that until after I have read the acknowledgements. I guess you could say I’m a bit corny. I won’t allow myself to read the acknowledgements until I have finished the book (I’m not somebody that looks ahead to find out what’s happening either. I like waiting).
Once I know I have completed reading I race to that page where the author does some of his or her own reflecting. I love to see who they have thanked and why. I also gain valuable information such as who the author’s agent is. Reading an acknowledgement allows me to daydream of what my own would look like. Who would I thank? What agent’s name will be listed? What interesting facts about myself would I like to share?
I thought about writing a mock acknowledgement on this blog (I was very tempted) but decided not to in fear that doing so would somehow jinx me (yes, I’m a bit superstitious).
I recently was given a Kindle for my birthday and my first thought was… will there still be an acknowledgement section? I still don’t know because I haven’t jumped ahead to see.
Reading that short paragraph at the end assures me that all authors have someone who helped them along the way, someone who encouraged them, someone who believed in them, someone who wasn’t afraid to critique them and finally someone who helped turn their dream into a reality. They were where so many of us still are. Seeing that they made it allows us to hope one day we will too.
Do you read the acknowledgements? What do you like the most about them? Have you ever thought of who you would thank?

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Filed under audience, books, conference, constructing, creating, dreaming, editing, emotions, Fiction, Giveaway, Inspirational, life, meme, middle grade fiction, NaNoWriMo, novel, query, random, rejections, stories, story writing, Style, superstitions, Voice, WISHES, writer conference, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing, Writing Contest, Young Adult