Friday, December 30, 2011

A Write On! teen shares!

Check out this awesome post by one of our very own Write On! teens. She talks about how Write On! was a big part of her year and what it's done for her as a writer.

If YOU have a Write On! story on your blog, email us a link! We'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Critiques, comments, and feedback!

We've had some awesome comments going on around our eleven Are You Hooked? entries. Thank you to everyone who's given honest, helpful feedback to our brave writers!

Just a reminder not to take any of the feedback personally. Critiques are to help us grow as writers, and have nothing to do with us as people. You all know this already, but sometimes it's good to hear it again, since honest critiques can leave you feeling pretty deflated.

Now go take what you've received and fly with it! We believe in you.

Until next time!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Are You Hooked? -- Entry #11

TITLE: Blink
GENRE: YA speculative fiction

Cold potatoes sitting in a pool of butter. Echo pushed her plate away; she never had an appetite when her parents were fighting.

“Fifty dollars!”  That was her father’s voice, coarse and angry. “You didn’t ask.”

Celeste was crying. “Ace, I—”

“FIFTY DOLLARS!” Something shattered in the living room. “You are never to touch my money unless I tell you to buy something.”

“I’m sick of it, Ace!” Celeste’s voice rose shakily. “I can’t even buy a stick of gum without your permission! We are husband and wife—”

“And the money’s mine!” Ace roared.

“So I’m not allowed to buy a dress that I—?” A slap, and Celeste cried out.

“I’m the head of this house.” Something that sounded disturbingly like a body hit the wall. “If you don’t listen to me, I will make you!”

Echo lunged across the table and grabbed little Coraly off the stack of books that served as a high chair.

“Look at me, Coraly,” Echo crooned, aware of the tremble in her voice. “Look at Auntie Echo! That’s my Sweet Pea.”

But Coraly wasn’t listening. Her eyes were large and frightened. “Gamp angry?” she asked, voice soft and tentative.

There was another crash from the living room and Celeste yelled, “Go away! Just get out of here!”

Echo squeezed Coraly tight and whispered, “It’s a game, sweetness. It's only a game.”

Are You Hooked? Entry #10

GENRE: YA Paranormal romance


The rain falls fast, impacting against the metal of the playground with a ricocheting ping. Loud and echoing, it reminds me of bullet casings hitting the ground, like they do in the films my brothers watch. Just as unforgiving; just as final.

There was a time in my life when rain meant nothing much to me. A time where the speed with which it bounced off the ground would not have captured my attention. That was before he came into my life. He took everything I knew, and ripped it up. The way I see the world, my perception of everything, it's all changed. He taught me to see the world through his eyes, and through his eyes, rain fell like bullet casings.

Everything has a violent edge with him. There's always a hint of danger, a gleam of fear. Even the most passionate moments we've shared - our most intense kisses - had an edge of anger to them. Finally, I understand where that comes from. I understand why, in the same moment that he gathers me tenderly in his arms, he’ll be gazing at me with hell in his eyes.

It's all in his mind. It's inside of him. Half of him loves me, completely and utterly. The other half, the side merged with danger and anger, hates me. Despises, loathes and is repulsed by me. By us. By the love we share. The side that torments him.

I stalk him with my eyes, as he does me, from across the empty field.

Are You Hooked? Entry #9

TITLE: Suckered In
GENRE: I'm not quite sure... YA, maybe?

I first met Thomas O’Rourke at the Maidstone Country Club.

I was on the Club’s golf course, about to tee off on the thirteenth hole when he approached by himself, carting around a heavy golf bag. Not being the type of country club to admit any old person off the street, I dismissed him as a simple caddy. I positioned my golf club next to the small white ball, and was about to strike when the caddy spoke.

‘Excuse me, dear sir, you wouldn’t happen to have the time, would you?’ the caddy asked me in a quaint Irish accent.

My own caddy answered for me. ‘Quarter past three,’ he said gruffly. ‘Now move along, go find your golfer.’

‘I am a golfer,’ Thomas O’Rourke replied. ‘I’m here to play golf.’ To me, he asked, ‘do you mind if I play this hole with you?’

My caddy began to tell the man to get lost, Lord Charles Hensley didn’t share the green with a common man, but I interrupted with a raise of my hand. ‘Settle down, Jethro, the man only wants to play golf! Besides, it’s a lovely day! You can’t blame a man for wanting to play golf on such a fine Saturday afternoon, can you?’

Of course, if I had known then who Thomas O’Rourke was, I would have demanded Jethro throttle him right there on the field.

 ‘No, sir,’ Jethro said humbly. He moved aside for the man to join me.

‘I’m Thomas O’Rourke,’ the man said, thrusting out his hand. I took it and he shook energetically.

Are You Hooked? Entry #8

GENRE: YA Futuristic Thriller

The Phoenix is watching.  As the walls of the virtual simulation room flicker around its flames, the legendary bird stares me down with its scarlet, ruthless eyes, as if it knows what I have planned.
Quickly, before its image can fade away, I get out my pistol from my pocket and fire, again and again, taking revenge for all those years I spent alone because of it, for all those people that died in the fire it caused. The beast shrieks and takes flight, but despite this reaction, doesn’t seem at all harmed by my flurry of bullets.
I pause, and then continue to shoot at it, aiming at its head this time. The flames that make up the phoenix’s feathers bristle for a moment, crackling like a hungry forest fire before quieting down like nothing happened. The phoenix’s fire somehow absorbs the bullets, just like it absorbed all the heat and energy from the bomb, the grenade, and the rocket that I’d used against it in previous simulations.
The gun had been my last resort.

There’s got to be a way to kill it.  I try to remember the list of weapons in one of the books about primitive warfare that I’d read before entering this simulation. After mentally going through that list, I decide on one of the weapons.
I then do what my weapons-instructor told me never to do in the midst of combat.
I drop my gun, and wait with my hand outstretched beside me.

Are You Hooked? Entry #7

TITLE: Defiance
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Birds are free. Birds go where they want, when they want. Why can't I?

Lexa wished she could stop, unpack her wings, and fly with the flock cruising above her party. Riding north––on a raining horse, of all things––was a miserable alternative.

"Lexa Warbler, you've been chosen as the honored new bride of the recently widowed Thane Jacom, heir to the Isovian throne."

Honored. The perfect word to keep her from arguing with the flock leader's ultimatum. She wouldn't anyway. The leader's word was more than law. It was the way of life. You don't oppose life.

A stab at her side pulled a yelp from Lexa; she instinctively squeezed her legs, forgetting she sat on a horse. It took a moment before she regained control; she shot Palonsy, her nest mother and only companion from Moa, a look.

Palonsy wielded a small branch like a sword, her black eyes gleaming. "We're almost to the human's capital. Why do you fantasize when you should be straightening yourself up?"

Lexa longed to watch the birds more, but she kept her gaze on Palonsy.

"Should you poke me? I hear humans care for some people more than others. When we arrive, we mayn't be on equal footing, you and I."

"Oh, please. I don't care who you're marrying." Palonsy rolled her eyes and stretched, mussing Lexa's hair. "I will always be your nest mother, chick. Where we are is a technicality."

Are You Hooked? Entry #6

TITLE: Bound In Blood
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy


Across the street, blinking red letters glowed in the fogged up window: Open. From my spot on the steps of a building, I had a clear view inside. The long glossy bar and the empty leather stools positioned in front of it; the bartender standing behind the bar, with thick, tattooed arms folded and the man he was glaring at.

I lit another cigarette and waited. Out of all the late-nighters, the man had been there the longest, sitting at a table in the back. I’d lost count of how many refills he’d ordered, how many hours he sat there, frozen, with a tumbler of amber liquor in front of him. I only knew that it was long enough for my legs to grow stiff, for rain to come and go, and for the evening sun to fall out of the sky.                                                                                                            

Now, the street was dark. The street lamps lining the sidewalks were either broken or flicked at intervals, leaving the sidewalks shadowed except for a circle of golden light that spilled out of the bar window.

“Last one,” the bartender reminded the man, his voice a deep bass that reverberated through the window and into the still night. My hand brushed over the knife sheath strapped to my hip. I wouldn’t kill the bartender, not if I didn’t have to. It was more of an instinct, like my body recognized the warning and tensed for a fight. But at this point, if I had to choose, I’d probably kill the man. He was just in the way.

Are You Hooked? Entry #5

TITLE: A Cursed Performance
GENRE: Horror


Janik walked down the hallway, looking to the left and right anxiously. In her hands was a sword of pure gold. Her footsteps echoed loudly as she tried to creep through the darkened corridor.

Why did this have to happen? She thought. All I tried to do was write a play, better than I have ever written before. And, in addition, I just happened to unleash a demon! I never wanted this to happen!

Her thoughts went back to the happiness that she had felt the night she had finished. She had finally been able to write something she was proud of. She never imagined that the deal she had made in order to do so would unleash a demon. Her guilt grew as she thought about that fateful night, the night before the performance. They had just been finishing up the final dress rehearsal when HE came. SKARTRIST, the Soul Stealer, the demon she had unleashed upon the world. He killed everyone, all of the cast members … All except her.

Her quaking hands tightened their grip on the golden sword. It was the only thing that would kill a demon, if it was weak enough. If they were too powerful, it would only wound them. Janik hoped that SKARTRIST wasn’t too strong. Otherwise, she would have to use her OTHER plan. The one that was risky, but might have to be done.

Suddenly, creaking sounds and footsteps were heard as Janik's breathing became more erratic.

Are You Hooked? Entry #4

TITLE: Spider Silk
GENRE: High Fantasy (mostly; think Narnia -- Earth kid goes to another world)

I slouched in my chair and stared at the puckered white line on the back of my hand. The clock ticked. Rustling pages chased each other across the therapist’s desk. Every so often, a pen squeaked against Dr. Rush’s lined yellow notebook.

We looked up at the same time; the doctor’s glasses reflected my eyes, and his greying eyebrows arched above the frames.

I dropped my gaze to the stack of paper on the desk. A hundred forty-two pages of memories no one believed.

“Well,” Dr. Rush said.

I didn’t say anything, which happened at a lot of my therapy sessions.

“Well.” Dr. Rush leaned his seat back and propped his feet up on the desk. His bony ankles peeked out from his old-man shoes. He pursed his lips. “It’s done then."

I half-shrugged a shoulder. “Five years… Don’t know what more I can do with it.”

“Ah, yes.” The old-man shoes bobbed up and down on the desk, ruffling the top sheets on the pile. “Today is the anniversary. Five years since…”

 “Since that,” I said through gritted teeth, nodding at the stack of paper.

 “Right,” said Dr. Rush. “Not your kidnapping. Your disappearance into another world. The ‘Toppling Kingdom’. And David, I’m not being condescending. If you believe this…” He gestured at the papers. “I’ll believe too. However, this account did leave me with some questions.” He smiled thinly. “Do you mind?”

 “Of course not,” I said under my breath. “You’re a shrink. I expect it by now.”

Are You Hooked? Entry #3

TITLE: The Slavemaster
GENRE: Epic YA Fantasy

Mahran dropped the dagger from the throat of his invisible opponent, hiding it behind his back as the scuff of footsteps entered.

Kessa rolled her eyes.  "You are such a child."

‘You are such a child.’ So what does that make you, little girl?”

She grabbed the sack of clothespins off the wall and left the shed, muttering under her breath.

Mahran returned to his battle—the enemy he’d killed had allies, and they wanted revenge. He slashed through the humid air, dodging their nonexistent attacks, and his short blade connected with the center post, metal biting deep into its wooden victim. Tugging the dagger out, he examined the edge for injury.

“Rajmahran, son of Rajmah, you get here now!” Ma called.

He sighed and sheathed the blade, trudging outside. The sun pounded his head immediately after leaving the shelter of the storeroom, and he squinted to see his ma hanging a pair of trousers on the clothesline.


“You were being—” Kessa began.

“Kessati, quiet. Both of you, be good to each other. What does the Great God want us to be?”

“Good,” Mahran muttered, Kessa echoing him.

“Yes, good. Now go—visit your friend down in the village. I have a box of needles for you to play with if you run out of dangerous things to do.” She paused. “Go on—go.”

Mahran groaned and started walking. “Come on, Kessati. Do you have money?”

“Yes. You could pay for once.”

“Aph is my friend. That would be…weird.”

Kessa said something he didn't hear and followed.

Are You Hooked? - Entry #2

TITLE: Extraction
GENRE: Ya dystopian

When Logan finally arrives, he's holding a flower that could kill me.

I stop tapping my nails on the fence and stare at the green stem, at how the petals glint silver so they almost look like metal.

“What the hell's wrong with you?” I shove his arm away and back up so fast I ram into our shack's windowsill, but the pain doesn't faze me 'cause I've felt worse.

It's been eleven years since I've seen petals like that. Silver aster flowers are genetically manipulated to calm the mind, but I’m severely allergic to their pollen.

Logan chuckles.

Leaning down, I sift my fingers through the dirt, find a rock, and throw it at his shoulder. Hard.

His laughter dies. “Jeez, Clementine.” He lifts a calloused hand and tears off a flower petal. Thin silver wrappings fall away, leaving behind the blackening blue of a common aster. It’s grimy, of course.

Everything’s covered in grime on the Surface.

My cheeks grow hot.

He smiles. “You didn’t seriously think I’d sneak into the Core to find a silver aster for you? God.”

“Oh shut up, Logan. You’re such an idiot.”

He tosses me the perfectly ordinary flower. I scowl, but sniff it. Smells like dust, same as everything.
“You ready to go?” he asks.

I snort and flick a red-orange curl out of my eye. Of course I’m ready. I’m wearing my only dress, light blue with faded pink flowers speckled across its fabric. I’m even wearing shoes.

Are You Hooked? - Entry #1

Title: Sparked
Genre: YA Science Fiction

The only thing that stood between me and absolute, unhindered freedom was one thousand miles of desert and mountain in every direction. Aside from that little geographical obstacle, I was practically home free.

A hand touched my shoulder. I turned and saw Aunt Beverly standing there, wearing a housecoat that might have once been a shade of lavender but was now sunbleached white. “Daydreaming again?” she asked, brushing a wisp of blonde hair back.

I nodded. “As always.”

She sighed. In the distance, I saw huge black masses floating, suspended in thin air--or space--looking curiously flat and obtuse. The planes--giant steel behemoths--often liked to ruin my view. When you live in the realm of space that I do, though, the view is the last thing you worry about.

Aunt Beverly crossed her arms. I glanced over my shoulder to see her, her eyes focused far in the distance and mouth drawn tightly. After a moment, she said, “Your aptitude results arrive tomorrow. Are you nervous?”

I shrugged, “No. They don’t determine anything. They’re a compass, not a predestination.”

She smiled, her eyes sparkling from the setting sun. “True.” she paused. I could sense that she wanted to say more, but didn’t.

We stood and watched the sun slowly slip beyond the boundary of the earth. When it passed, she touched my shoulder again, “I need to deal with some dough. Come in before it gets too dark--there’ve been rumors of Duskers sneaking around lately.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

ARE YOU HOOKED? -- Entry window CLOSED!

The entry window is now CLOSED! Thank you everyone for your submissions! Entries will be posted on the blog tomorrow morning. 

Please remember that we ask all participants to critique a minimum of 3 other entries. 

Have fun!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tiny change

There's been a slight modification to the rules for the ARE YOU HOOKED? crit round. You must now include your AGE beneath your screen name, just so you can verify that you are among our awesome teen group. It won't be posted on the blog.

Happy entering!


Ready to get some feedback/critiques? ARE YOU HOOKED? critique round entries are NOW OPEN! Take a moment to review the rules and then GET SUBMITTING!

  • The submission window is now open! It will close on Friday December 16th at 7:00PM EST or when we have 15 entries--whichever comes first. (We'll be sure to notify you via a blog post.)
  • You may only submit if you're 13-19 years old. Sorry, grownups!
  • You may submit the first 250 words of your novel, whether it is a completed work or a work-in-progress (WIP).
  • You may only submit one entry.  Subsequent entries will be disqualified.
  • All entries will be posted anonymously.  (Your age will not be included, either.)
  • By entering this critique round, you are giving implicit permission to have your work posted and publicly critiqued.
  • By entering this critique round, you agree to critique a minimum of 3 other entries.
  • Send your submission to
  • You will receive a reply email with your post number.  Please be patient; unlike the critiques on Miss Snark's First Victim, this contest is NOTautomated.  Mad will be taking care of submissions by hand.
  • Format your entry EXACTLY AS FOLLOWS:
SCREEN NAME: (type it here)
YOUR AGE: (type it here)
TITLE: (type it here)
GENRE: (type it here)

(type your first 250 words here)

Good luck!

Friday, December 9, 2011


I learned a lesson this week, when my GED results came back, and I think it resonates very well with us as writers.

Here goes…

I’ve been waiting for my GED for months. I took it mid-October, and here it is, early December. Needless to say, I was biting my nails over it all, because even though I had taken my time, and at the time of the test, I’d felt pretty good about how I’d done, during the waiting period, I let that little voice get the best of me.

You know. We all have one. It’s that voice that says we didn’t do well, that we’re not good enough. It’s that voice that tells us that we’re foolish to think we’ll ever make anything of ourselves.

That has been my pitfall since I got my scores back. I walked around thinking I was going to have to retake the tests. I thought I didn’t do very well. I was really depressed about it. I was beginning to doubt my intelligence, and trust me, you don’t want that. (No one is stupid. I don’t care what anybody says.)

Then my scores came, and I realized that my worries were unfounded all this time. I passed everything; I had worried too much, and it was a worry fueled purely by my lack of confidence, and the ever-encroaching doubt I had in myself.

I felt so good about how I did that I stuck a copy on my fridge and I still find myself stopping in front of it many times a day just to look at my scores because I’m proud of how I did. But, I also know it makes me no better than anyone else; test scores aren’t everything. That’s where the keeping-yourself-in-check part comes in.

So I think there’s a real delicate balance that we need to strike between being confident in ourselves, and being proud of our accomplishments, and letting our egos taint that. Everyone should be able to feel good about times when they do well.

The trick is not letting it go to your head, and I think if we, as writers, constantly try to keep our heads on straight, and stay humble throughout the praise we’ll all get eventually if we keep working hard, we’ll have better careers and we’ll be setting better examples for everyone around us.

That’s my two cents. :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Second In-House Critique -- ARE YOU HOOKED?

Are you ready for some honest feedback? Want to know if your opening paragraphs are strong enough to draw in a reader, make them crave more? 

Now's your chance to find out! Get some feedback/critique on the opening page of your novel in our second Write On! ARE YOU HOOKED? critique round!

  • The submission window will open on Monday December 12th at 7:00AM EST, and will close at Friday December 16th at 7:00PM EST or when we have 15 entries--whichever comes first.
  • You must be a teenager! 13-19 years old.
  • You may submit the first 250 words of your novel, whether it is a completed work or a work-in-progress (WIP).
  • You may only submit one entry.  Subsequent entries will be disqualified.
  • All entries will be posted anonymously.  
  • By entering this critique round, you are giving implicit permission to have your work posted and publicly critiqued.
  • By entering this critique round, you agree to critique a minimum of 3 other entries.
  • Send your submission to during the submission window.
  • You will receive a reply email with your post number.  Please be patient; unlike the critiques on Miss Snark's First Victim, this contest is NOT automated.  Mad will be taking care of submissions by hand.
  • Format your entry EXACTLY AS FOLLOWS:
SCREEN NAME: (type it here)
YOUR AGE: (type it here)
TITLE: (type it here)
GENRE: (type it here)

(type your first 250 words here)

There will be another post on December 12th to repeat the rules and announce the start of submissions. Any entries submitted before 7AM on December 12th will be deleted. Please only submit within the timeframe given!

Any questions? Leave 'em in the comment box below.

Happy manuscript-preparing!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

We need your vote!

Take a minute to share! Your feedback is super helpful for planning future Write On! chats.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

From The Trenches: Maggie - Goals and Methods

First off, a quick apology for the lateness of this. No, there isn't an excuse, other than I forgot. Twice. But here it is, better late than never.

Since it's November, and many of us have been consumed by NaNoWriMo (key words: have been -- it's pretty much over!), I thought it was a perfect time to discuss goals and methods. More specifically, writing goals and methods. They go hand in hand.

I think it's really important when you're writing a novel -- particularly when you only have 30 days -- to have a battle plan. I'm not talking about plots or backstory or beat sheets. I'm talking about the end picture and how you're going to get there.

goal (n.) - the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

In the beginning, ask yourself this: What is it you want to accomplish?

For example, when I began NaNo this year, my goal was to write a novel in 30 days, with a minimum word count of 50k. I knew what I was looking toward (shiny winner buttons, bragging rights, a purple word meter) and I knew what I had to do to get there.

I had to write.

While that sounds simple, I don't need to tell you that it isn't. At all. We all know how easy it is to get off track. Life happens. There's homework, jobs, family, relationships, friends, commitments, holidays, trips-- you name it, it's there to stand between you and your goal.

This is where your method comes in.

method (n.) - a procedure, technique, or way of doing something, especially in accordance with a definite plan.

How are you going to tackle this? When will you make time to write? How much are you going to write every day? Where will you write? For how long in a single sitting?

For a lot of people (me included), this is the hard part. Goals are easy. You know before you begin. You can just see it. Giving your great-grandmother a novel dedicated to her. Sending that query on July 14th. Printing that manuscript out, and hugging it while it's still warm. (I may or may not have done that last one.)

So how do you make it happen?

There are many answers to that question. Take baby steps. Don't look at the whole, just look at each day. Tape inspirational quotes on your wall. Print out a schedule. Make a spreadsheet. Hang a daily checklist above your bed.

Too organized? It's okay. Schedules don't work for everyone.

Maybe you need a big graph with boxes to color in? A reward system where you treat yourself to your favorite Starbucks latte every Saturday, provided you've met your goal? Have a friend text you to check up on you. Get involved in a writing group (like Write On!). Have people around you to cheer you on.

But most importantly, you need MOTIVATION. See your goal. Want it. Strive for it. Get determined.

The power of the human spirit is pretty much limitless. When we want something badly enough, we'll do anything to achieve it. Even if that means losing two hours of sleep to meet your goal, or giving up your free time, or missing an episode of your favorite show. (Hey, it'll be on Hulu later.)

So how badly do you want to win NaNoWriMo? How badly do you want to give that to your great-grandmother? Get serious. No more excuses.

Set your goal. Decide a method.

Achieve it.

Happy Writing!

For the comments: How do you meet your goals? What are your tips, tricks and methods? Share your motivational stories and wisdom.

Friday, November 18, 2011

From the Trenches: Names

Lately I've been thinking about ensemble casts and how to keep characters straight. Part of this is because I recently read A VIEW FROM SATURDAY, and there are about 50 characters in there, and each of them has a weird connection to, like, everyone else. But none of them are characterized enough to be easy to remember.

Fast forward to the next week, during which we read Harry Potter. Over the course of that series, we are introduced to hundreds of characters, and we love them all. Games like this illustrate how rabid we are as fans.

But how does Rowling make us care, and distinguish, that many characters? Even though most of us probably can't name the 200 for which they ask, you'll recognize the names when you see them. (I just took it in the middle of class, and I got 80 in 8 minutes before I decided to start paying attention to the earth's crust again.)

It's all about the names. (Well, mostly. Part is the quirks to distinguish, but that's a post for another day.) She uses unusual, but simple, names. I can't stress how important SIMPLE is. We recently read the sequel to A WRINKLE IN TIME in my adolescent lit class, and some of the names in there are ridiculous. I would share them, but I can't remember them. And that is not what you want your reader to say.

What makes names memorable?

-No names too similar. Exceptions: When you're trying to make characters connect in your reader's minds, example: Fred and George Weasley
-Alliteration. Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape, all the founders
-A connotation, such as "Filch" or "Draco." Filch brings to mind someone kind of slimy, someone you don't want to like, and Draco is kind of presumptuous.

But beware of introducing too many names at once. Make sure your characters are introduced with the name you will call them in the narrative, because nothing is more annoying than changing from Jim to James to Mr. Potter all on the same page. (Believe me. I read Russian lit, and Russian authors are notorious for that.)

How do you pick your names? How'd you do on the HP quiz? Do you agree with this?

Friday, November 11, 2011

From the Trenches: Mad

I've been thinking a lot lately about our being under the influence as writers--and no, I don't mean this in the DUI sense!

As writers, we're all influenced by something, whether it be by choice or enviroment. For me, I grew up on a steady diet of cop stories, and watched a ton of CHIPS and COPS. Now, I write solely about cops. I would actually be a little concerned if I wrote anything else. I'm in my element with the thriller and mystery genres.

So you tell me: what has influenced you as a writer?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New pages!

Our navigation bar is sparkling with the addition of some new pages. Check 'em out!
  • The forums page got an update, and so did the About page!
  • The Things To Do page is brand-new, and shows you everything Write On! has to offer.
  • The old "Events" page is now Calendar. (But the inside hasn't changed)
  • All-New Share Write On! page gives you all the tools you need to spread the word.
  • The Chatroom page now has a schedule beneath the room. You'll never miss another chat.
Happy link-clicking!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Registration for 8th Agent Chat is open!

It's that time again! Our 8th Agent Chat is nigh, and this month we'll be joined by Laura Bradford. (Yes, her name is clickable. Isn't that convenient?)

It takes only two minutes. CLICK HERE to register now!

Rules and details:

  • The chat is only open to TEENS ages 13-19. 
  • It happens on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11 starting at 6pm EST. 
  • It will be ONE HOUR long. Get your questions ready!
  • Not sure if you can make it? REGISTER ANYWAY. Better safe than sorry.

Even if you have no questions, it's still a great learning experience to sit back, read along, and maybe even ask questions about her answers to other peoples' questions. (Did you get that?)

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo Support Group!

Today is officially Day 1 of NaNoWriMo 2011! Woohoo!

For those of you Write On! teens who are participating this year, we have a special NaNo support group set up! It's an official thread on the forums that's at your disposal throughout the NaNo experience. Come share your joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats.

Also, in honor of NaNo, the chatroom is going to be open for use all the time (that means you can feel free to use it to chat with your peers as you write together) and during our set "NaNo chat time", which will be every evening in November beginning at 6pm EST.

Good luck to all, and Happy Writing!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Author Interview -- Erin Bow

We have a special treat for you today. An interview with author Erin Bow!

"My name is Erin Bow, and I'm the author of Plain Kate (Scholastic 2010), which just -- HUZZAH! -- won the TD Canadian Children's Literature award, one of the top Canadian awards for kidlit.  I also write poetry, and have two books of poetry published under my maiden name, Erin Noteboom.  They won prizes too.  I'm married to James Bow, also a YA novelist, and we have two small daughters.  We live in Kitchener, Ontario.  I tweet at @erinbowbooks, and have fun website with a blog HERE."


MAGGIE: There's a story behind every book, and you're the (published) author of more than one! Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your books, in particular Plain Kate (which is an absolute must-read!)

ERIN: I think all writers have something that they don't work on, something that's a gift.  For me, it's characters, and some "original equipment" for the story: a bit of premise and set up.   I don't usually know where these things come from, but with Plain Kate, I at least remember when it came.

I was on an airplane.  In fact I was heading home from a trip, and I was very tired.  I'd also just read a big collection of Russian Fairy Tales.  I leaned my head on the window and watched the plane separate from its shadow.  The plane rose and the shadow stayed on the ground, getting thinner and stranger.   I imagined that happening to a human shadow; it struck me as so Russian, so Fairy Tale.   And suddenly, from nowhere, this character waltzed into my head: Katerina Svetlana, called Plain Kate, a wood carver and the daughter of a wood carver (I'd also just been talking to my dad about his woodworking).  A fairy tale girl, by which I mean a strong girl in a tight spot.  I knew she'd be forced to sell her shadow.  And I knew that she'd have a talking cat.

That was all I knew -- the "original equipment" of the story -- and it took some time to find out more.   But the first few pages, that I wrote on the plane that day, remain almost untouched in the final draft.

Erin's Books
MAGGIE: How cool! Characters rock. I really enjoyed your characters --  especially Taggle, who was his own character -- throughout Plain Kate. Do you have any advice on characters? How do you bring them to life?

ERIN: You're going to hate me, but I really don't have advice about characters.  I don't work at them, I don't design them. Now, PLOT I work on, because I'm not very good at it, and so I have a hundred tricks to compensate.  But characters are just given to me. They come real and I have to try to keep true to them.

One general trick I have is to read everything you write out loud.   Read it while you're drafting and read it again when you think it's finished.  It's easier to spot anything that rings false that way -- and particularly easy to spot where a character's voice has drifted a little.  Voice is key.  Dialog is the scene-by-scene heart of getting characters to come to life.

MAGGIE: Well, it's totally working. That brings me to the next question: voice. Voice is so important in a novel, and you've really got yours down. What are a some tips for teen writers on voice?

ERIN: I think having a voice as a writer is mostly about confidence.  It's sort of the same as public speaking: you want to sound like some version of yourself, not nervous or stilted or artificial, as if you were about to faint at any moment.  People will feel bad and awkward and want to leave.  That confidence might come naturally to some people -- I think many writers have never thought about their voice at all -- but for many of us, it has to be earned.

How do you earn it?  Two things, I think: practice and play.  Practice is just writing a lot -- and particularly finishing things.  Most young writers start things and don't finish them.   It's so hard to push those early stories or poems forward.   Ira Glass said something amazing about this -- that writers get into the game because they have taste: they know good writing when they see it.  And then, because they have taste but don't yet have skill, they dislike their own writing.  They can see all its failures.  How do you keep going when you're failing like that?  Well, first know that everyone fails at first.  Ray Bradbury said you have to write a million bad words before you write one good book.  Let's hope he's overestimating that, but still, take it from Ray:  everyone fails.  But it's by making yourself finish, keeping going at things, that you'll fail better.

The second way to earn confidence is to play.  Just lower the stakes for yourself.  It doesn't have to be the next New Yorker short story, it just has to -- and here you should fill in the blank.   Be a fairy tale told from the villain's point of view.  Be a soap opera that's so over the top it will make people laugh.  Use rhymed couplets.   You can't succeed at a whole novel/play/book of poems all at once, but you can probably do this, and it will hone your skills and sharpen your confidence.  Pick new forms, play games with them.  Fan fiction, frankly, is a great set of training wheels.  My husband (he's also a novelist) and I both wrote fanfic, and he wrote A LOT of it.   Probably a million words.

MAGGIE: How did you know (each time) that your novels were DONE? In particular the first time, when you decided to start querying?

ERIN: I committed a terrible terrible querying sin, actually:  I queried on an incomplete manuscript.

In my defense, it's not quite that simple: I queried on picturebooks and mentioned that I also wrote YA, and had two manuscripts in progress.  The agent said:  "The picturebooks, not so much, but could I see the YA?"  I said:  "Well, PART of them."  She read part of them and said:  "Can I see this the second it's done?"  My second book, Sorrow's Knot,  sold as an unspecified "book two" when I sold Plain Kate; I acquired a deadline before I even had a draft.  So, learning when a thing is "done" is not yet a skill I have had to have.

It is, though, one I urgently need to develop.

Just now I am faced with a big revision letter Sorrow's Knot.  Because of my deadline, I sent my editor a draft that, though a long long way from a first draft, was not yet as good as I knew I could make it.  I had ideas for things I wanted to change to make it better, but I felt I didn't have time to pull the manuscript apart and try them.   And now I have those leftover ideas for changes, along with my editor's ideas and concerns, and it's hard to see where and how to pull those two things together.  I have totally lost the steam and the thread, and am in general finding this very hard.

In the future, I'm going to live by this rule:  I will pass on a book when I have made it as good as I can.  Not sentence by sentence good -- one could noodle endlessly.  Maybe not even paragraph my paragraph good.  But when I'm out of big ideas, ideas like "tighten this chapter" "change that character from a friend to a sister" "ditch that subplot altogether" --- when I've sorted through all those ideas, I'll be ready to let the book go.   

(Happy side lesson:  you can commit the cardinal sin of query letters  -- querying on an unfinished manuscript -- and still end up with a hot shot agent and an eventual six figure deal.  Queries are worth stressing over, but the writing itself will out.)

MAGGIE: Do you listen to music while you write?

ERIN: Most of the time.  Each of my books has an iPod playlist, and those 20 or so songs get played to DEATH.  For Plain Kate, I mostly listened to this moody Norwegian fiddle-driven folk group, Bukkene Bruse.  This, for instance, is the Plain Kate theme song. Cheery, huh?  But beautiful, and puts me right into the fog and birch trees and grandness of the story.

My current novel in draft takes place in a future where they've lost the suburbs, the cars, and (apparently) the electric guitar.  There's a lot of bluegrass going on there.  I never did find quite the right music for Sorrow's Knot, which may be part of my problem as I struggle to crack it back open.

MAGGIE: Awesome! Music rocks (I just LOVE the song! It's beautiful!). Most of us here at Write On! aren't agented or published authors yet. Is being a published author as wonderful as it seems?

ERIN: I suppose that depends on how wonderful it seems!

The best part, far and away, is that people are actually reading the book.  I had two big dreams for Plain Kate.  One was that it would be THAT book for someone, the book they fell in love with as a young person and read over and over, a book that really stuck.  It's too early to say if that's true, but the people who love it really seem to love it, so I have hopes.  The second dream was that someone would adopt a pound kitty and name him Taggle -- and I learned recently that someone did.

There are hard parts too.  I've always wanted to make a living writing, and I'm hugely privileged and thrilled to get to do so (more or less: I recently got a part-time job that was too cool to turn down, and stopped taking in freelance stuff).  But it is a bit tricky getting paid once every 18 month or so.  And it is hard not to put your heart on the line, you know?  Hard not to take all the reviews and reactions personally.  Hard not to feel like a failure when you're asked to revise, which of course happens over and over in the course of making a novel.  Hard not to feel like a fraud on the days when writing doesn't go well, which is frankly most days.

But then there are days when you actually create something -- when something actually comes to life.  There's nothing like that.  Few greater joys in the world, and I say that as someone with a lot of joys: a happy love affair turned long marriage, a couple of fabulous kids, the kitchen, the garden ....  Writing is the equal of any of these.

MAGGIE: Favorite books (and authors)? 

ERIN: At this point I'll confine myself to YA and not tell you about my obsession with cookbooks or that I think Mary Oliver is a poetry god.

My THAT books books -- the ones I read young and keep returning to -- include The Lord of the Rings, The Last Unicorn, and The Wizard of Earthsea.  I think if you were to mix those books together you might get something like Plain Kate.

Let's see, though, the best handful of YA books I've read in the last few years might include Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now, Geraldine McCaughrean's The White Darkness, Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon, Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere, Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall ...  I'm sure there are others that just aren't snapping to mind.  

MAGGIE: Three reasons why you love being a writer?


1. Because geekily researching weird stuff like, say, the ethnobotany of the North American prairies makes me happy.
2. Because writing itself, word by word, makes me happy.
3. Because I'm not particularly good at anything else.

MAGGIE: Chocolate or vanilla? 

ERIN: Chocolate!  Dark chocolate with orange and chilli.  Or caramel and fluer de sel.

MAGGIE: Excellent choice! And to wrap things up, what is the best advice you can give to an aspiring teen author?

ERIN: First, God bless you.

Second, listen: Everyone is going to tell you that this is not a good way to make a living, and everyone is right. Be prepared to keep your day job. Be prepared to eat lentils. Be prepared to keep your day job and lentils, because your developing tendency to gaze at the wall and talk to fictional people may make you unemployable anywhere better than Burger King.

But do it anyway. If you really want to, do it anyway.

Start now. Read everything. Fill notebooks with stories or just with compost -- you'll need a lot of compost to grow a few good stories.  Finish at least some of what you start: poems, stories, whatever.  Edit and make them as good as you can make them. Find someone to share them with -- a few someones, maybe other writers, people you can both learn from and teach. People you can lean on and really trust. And then maybe think about publication. But even if you don't publish -- and many don't -- write. Because you want to. Out of love. Write, write, write.

MAGGIE: Thank you so much for doing this! You've been awesome.

And to the rest of you at Write On!, if you haven't already, go grab yourself a copy of Plain Kate! Trust me, it's worth it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

From the Trenches: Living

I posted a while back on my personal blog about how teens who write are awesome, basically because we do it because we love it, without pressure. If we're unagented/unpublished, we aren't worrying about deadlines. We don't have bills to pay. Sure, in the hazy future of "sometime," we want to be supporting ourselves on a writer's salary, but right now? Right now we can float along with what-ifs and dreams.

Here's the second part of why teens who write are awesome: adolescence.

"What?" you're saying. "Adolescence SUCKS! Everyone hates me. I spend all my time wanting to cry in my bedroom. I can't wait until I grow up and people take me seriously!"

Notice the dramatics?

I feel for you, oh outraged writer-friend. I really do. But look at your problems and your drama and your angst through your writing lens, and you'll see something very interesting:





All that lovely stuff that makes a novel. And, if you're writing YA (like most of you), take advantage of the years you are the same as your characters. Of the moments when you, too, are going through the highs and lows that you likely will not have as an adult.

Right now it feels like everything is the end of the world. Channel that. Next time that boyfriend who cheated on you spends an hour talking to you after school, alone, messing with your head, and you see him the next day making out with the girl with whom he cheated on you, take that shot through the heart. Remember how it feels.

Next time your coach tells you that you aren't going hard enough, memorize how frustrated, angry, despressed you are. Think about how much you hate him, yes, but also how much you hate yourself.

We aren't alive because we walk, talk, breathe.

We are alive because we feel.

And as teens, with hormones and firsts of everything, we feel the most.

So go on. Live.

If you spend your life curled in front of your computer, how will you ever write realistically?

Tell me: do you think you spend a balance living and writing? Or are you skewed one way or the other?

Friday, October 14, 2011

From the Trenches: Mad

Guys, you should be very jealous of me this weekend, because I get to take an 11-hour GED test. I'm scared to death. O_O

Ahem. Moving on...
Last week, in some depth or another, I talked about the fact that when you send off queries, the only person you’re really competing with is yourself. Today I’m going to elaborate on that.

When you send out queries, you’re not competing with anyone else. None of the other writers matter, because not all writers are equal, and they’re not just unequal because of talent—it has just as much, if not more, to do with timing, the agent’s personal tastes, and pure luck.

That’s why you shouldn’t worry about the competition, because when you look at it like this, there is no competition. Most things about the publishing business rely solely upon subjectivity anyway, the way I see it.

So, in my eyes, the only thing you should be worried about is yourself and your work. Have you taken the time to polish? Have you researched your agents until you consider yourself a stalker?

That’s really all you can do. Just roll the dice and hope you don’t get snake eyes.

 Question for the comments: what do you guys think of my little theory? Agree or disagree? Talk to me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Basics: Clean Writing

Davinia held the flower in front of her eyes and peered at it closely.  "As I suspected."  Her mouth stretched into a long grin.  "It's been bugged.  Just like every other flower in this place.  They're all bugged!"

Can you tell me what's wrong with the above excerpt?

(Okay, it's not an excerpt.  It's an off-the-cuff example.  But pretend it's an excerpt.)

Basically, the writing isn't tight.  There are too many words, and the result is clunky writing that is in desperate need of pairing down.


Davinia studied the flower.  "As I suspected."  She grinned.  "It's been bugged.  Just like every other flower here."

Sometimes, when we're trying to be creative--to say things in a different way--we get carried away with prose that should've been shot before it drew breath.  After a while, we learn NOT to be in love with our words (easier said than done), and even our first drafts are cleaner than they used to be.  But it's a skill that doesn't happen on its own; we have to be willing to learn how to discern what stays and what goes.

Example of using too many words:

She took several clumsy steps...  (She stumbled...)
His voice erupted with laughter...  (He laughed...)
He sat down on the chair across the table from... (He sat across from...)
She opened her mouth and produced a barely audible melody... (She sang softly...)

Mind you, there are times when a bit of embellishment will make for a more original or more beautiful turn of phrase.  We don't want our writing to be so stark that it lacks imagination.  But BE CAREFUL.  For the most part, the simple equation is the best choice.  Choose your words carefully, and remember that, most of the time, less is more.  Say what you mean to say without running around it in circles.

Prepositional phrases are often the culprit (as you'll notice in most of my examples above).  Remember that you don't have to detail EVERY SINGLE THING when you're trying to place a character or his action.


Byron stood beneath the willow at the entrance to the park on the east side, near the place where Janelle had been murdered.  (too many prepositional phrases!)

Byron stood beneath the willow near the place where Janelle had been murdered.  (better!)

Here's your challenge:  Take a look at the first chapter of your WIP or completed draft.  Cross out anything that could be said IN FEWER WORDS and rewrite.  Cross out any prepositional phrase that is UNNECESSARY.  Cross out EVERYTHING that is remotely redundant.  Then see what's left.

Chances are it's a lot tighter and cleaner than when you started!  Use this approach as you edit, and also as you draft.  The more experienced you become, the better you'll be at writing more cleanly SOONER.

Which means less editing later!

(Note:  I didn't say less REVISING.  I said less EDITING.  So don't get too excited.)

Finish the challenge and report back!

Friday, September 30, 2011

From The Trenches - Maggie: The Classics

The past few weeks (as assigned reading) I've had the irreplaceable joy of reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

Okay, that was totally sarcastic! I have a bit of trouble with Dickens's wordiness and it may just be among the slowest books I've ever read, but I'm still enjoying it to some degree. I like the depth of his characters and his dry humor, and I'm really appreciating the rich language. Hence, this post.

I speak for myself, personally, when I say that it's very easy to fall into a pattern of reading YA and nothing but YA. It's easy to get used to the quick pace, the easy language, and did I mention the quick pace?

It's even easier to overlook the classics, the more difficult reads, etc. For me, this is the first classic I've picked up in months! And I didn't even do it of my own accord.

It got me thinking about classics in general, and the language they use (vs. that you find in YA books) and how it would probably be better for me, just as a writer AND reader, to read a classic now and then. For the sake of my vocabulary, if anything.

So, my questions to you are: What are your favorite classics? How often do you read classics? What's your general opinion (of classics)? Should we read them more or less? Why?

I'd love to know!

And I want to offer a quick apology. I feel like my FTC posts haven't been the most imaginative, and that's mostly because I wait until the first day of the month to scramble and think of something to post. So I have a plan: I'm going to write out several ideas/posts, so I always have one at the ready!

See you next month!

NOTE: Ooops! I had my dates wrong. Today was the 30th of September, NOT the 7th of October! From The Trenches will resume on the 14th. Sorry for the mistake!

Friday, September 16, 2011

From the Trenches: Taryn - Taking Advantage

I've had a lot of people ask me how I've gotten my internship at a literary agency, so I figured I'd answer that here. If you're reading Write On! it's likely that you want to be involved in the publishing world, whether as a writer, or an editor, or a librarian, or something else book-related. You probably know what an agent does (if you don't, an agent acquires authors as clients and shops their novels to editors at publishing houses who are probably otherwise closed to submissions). You probably think it's really cool to get to read books all the time.

(Note: that's totally not all we do. Well, it's all I do, but it's not all Agent Lady does.)

So! My story!

I basically prostituted myself.

Whenever I saw an opportunity to speak with an agent, I jumped on it. I hammered in the point that "I'M A TEEN, if you take me on AS A TEEN, I will be valuable AS A TEEN in the area of TEEN fiction that you work with, and did I mention I'M A TEEN?"

Because, ya know, all teens are really experienced in publishing and editing and critical reading. *rolls eyes*

But my babbling started to pay off this past summer. I learned that a prominent romance agent had kids who swam in the same area as me, and we chatted at a swim meet. He showed me some things about the business, and allowed me to use him as a reference. Then I learned a woman I worked with had a mother who is a non-fiction agent, and again we chatted. She had much the same reaction as the last agent.

Suddenly I had experience and names to drop.

So, when I met Agent Lady at a conference this past summer, I was comfortable with her. And when she called for an intern, I showed interest. Next thing I knew, she was sending me some "test" manuscripts, and I was in heaven.

She liked me. I liked her. And sometimes that's all it takes.

Take-away Tips:
-Put yourself out there.
-Don't be scared to use your advantages (like your age).
-Spend a lot of time reading and figuring out specifically what you did and didn't like about that book.
-Cultivate relationships, even if they aren't exactly what you want to do.
-Stalk people.
-Learn a lot about the agent looking for an intern before you apply, because a lot of it is whether your tastest match to his/her.

You Tell Me:
-Do you want to work in publishing? Why or why not?
-Do you have any questions about agents you want me to answer?
-Have you ever prostituted yourself?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Basics: Authenticity

Recently, I posted about the authenticity of teen sexuality in YA novels on Miss Snark's First Victim.

The idea of authenticity in writing is much broader than that, though, and bears mentioning.  You may have heard the old expression, "Write what you know."  Now, obviously that doesn't apply to things like spaceships and volcanoes erupting and any number of things that you can sit down and research.  But when it comes to CHARACTERS and RELATIONSHIPS, your writing isn't going to be authentic if you can't "get inside" a character's head/motivations because, frankly, you have no way of relating to what you're character is going through or who he is.

Let me explain.

Let's say you have this great idea for a story about an eighteen-year-old girl who just got accepted to the college of her dreams and, at the same time, finds out she is pregnant.  If you are only sixteen, have never applied to a college, and have never even kissed a boy, it's going to be awfully hard for you to create a character who is having experiences beyond your ken.

Yeah, but what if I write about someone getting murdered? I'm not exactly planning on killing someone just to see what it feels like.

Good point!  But that's where you tap into emotions instead of actions.  You may not know what it feels like to kill someone (well, I hope you don't), but you can certainly get in touch with feelings of rage or jealousy or revenge.  And you can research the mechanics of killing someone, to make sure that aspect is believable.

Hence the "write what you know."  If you give legitimate emotion/motives to the words and actions of characters who might actually be experiencing something you have not experienced, it's going to be a lot more believable.  But be careful.  If you're only fifteen and you're writing about someone's wedding day...or if you've never been in an airplane in your life and you're writing a story about someone's first transcontinental flight...or if you're a vegetarian and you're writing a story about someone who specializes in fifty ways to prepare bear meat...well.  You get my point.

Look carefully at your characters in each scene.  Is their EMOTION authentic?  Is their MOTIVATION authentic?  Is their DIALOGUE authentic?  If the answer to all three questions is a resounding YES, then your scene--and your characters--will be believable.  And that's what you want!

Friday, September 9, 2011

From the Trenches - Mad

Hey guys! Sorry this is so late. I haven't been home all day and this is coming from my phone. Plus, I'm getting ready for bed because I have to get up early for aikido.

So here goes...

Writing is tough. There are lots of drafts and edits and betas to go through. It's easy when you don't have an agent to think you'll never get published. The stats are against you, right?


Why, you ask? That comes next week. ;P

Last week, I asked you why you wrote. This time, I want to hear what you write and what, if you remember, got you hooked on that genre.

Yeah, I know my post is lame, but I promise to lurk in the comments tomorrow! :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Basics: Chapter Endings

In all honesty, I'm not sure there's actually a way to TEACH the writing of decent chapter endings.  It's something that the sensitive writer will develop over time, as a result of LOTS of reading and LOTS of writing practice.

The most helpful thing, I think, is to give you a few rules of thumb.

1.  Each chapter ending should propel the reader forward.  That DOES NOT mean that every chapter ending is a cliff-hanger.  If you do that, you'll end up sounding like a Hardy Boys knock-off (have you ever read Hardy Boys books? Ugh!).  The trick to a chapter ending is CONFLICT, the same way CONFLICT plays such a vital role in the OPENING of a novel and THROUGHOUT the novel.  It's CONFLICT that will propel the reader to the next chapter.  And that may or may not be a typical cliff-hanger.

2.  Chapter endings should not all follow the same formula. Of course you're going to want some cliff-hangers thrown in there, but if you do that at the end of every chapter, your readers are going to start to roll their collective eyes.  The key is variety--a careful balance of endings that keeps the story moving forward.

3.  Quiet chapter endings can be as compelling as tense ones.  In fact, sometimes the quiet chapter ending hints at more terrible things to come by presenting a false sense of calm.  So don't shy away from quiet endings just because you think every ending has to have a huge BANG.  It doesn't.

In the end, it's all about balance.  Pay attention to the overall rhythm of your story, and craft your chapter endings accordingly.  And be sure to KEEP READING WELL WRITTEN BOOKS.  I can't stress enough how much we learn simply by reading the work of others.  GOOD work, that is.  Be discerning.

Honestly?  I spend a lot of time on my chapter endings.  A LOT.  I craft them very carefully, whether they're heartstopping or calm.  I won't move on to the next chapter, in fact, until I'm completely satisfied with the ending of the chapter before.

To me, it's just that important.

Now take a look at your chapter endings.  Do they carry CONFLICT toward the next chapter?  Are they well balanced, so that they're not cookie cutters of each other?  Or do they sound more like my all-time Favorite Dorky Schlocky Badly Written Hardy Boys chapter ending of all time:

A blunt object connected with the back of his head.  Joe pitched forward and blacked out.

Oh, yeah.  Good stuff there.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Changes In Write On!

There have been a couple semi-major changes here at Write On!, and we want to make sure everyone is in The Know.

1. Our main Twitter account is now strictly Write On! tweetage, so you will hear no more of Maggie (perviously Lizzy)'s personal thoughts and random statements. You can still get those at Maggie's twitter.

2. We have a brand new Write On! email! Direct all Write-On!-related messages to writeonteens(at)gmail(dot)com. It couldn't be easier to remember. Personal messages for Maggie/Lizzy can still go to lizzy.skye(at)gmail(dot)com.

During this time of transition, it's okay if you still contact lizzy.skye(at)gmail(dot)com or tweet @WriteOnTeens to contact Maggie or Write On! in general.

Happy tweeting! Or emailing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

From The Trenches: Maggie - On Feeding Inspiration

Happy Friday! And Happy September, too.

It took me way long enough to figure out what I wanted to write for my From The Trenches post. I finally decided to talk about something that's been on my mind for a while now.


There's inspiration in every kind of art. Writing is an art, just the same as painting, filming, or dancing. To create, you must first be inspired. But I've noticed inspiration can be hard to come by, when you're looking for it, and it often pops up at the most unlikely times, and in the most unlikely places.

Personally, my inspiration is often affected directly by my life and what I'm doing/feeling. If I'm stressed out or angry or letting life get me down, my inspiration level will be -- you guessed it! -- on the low side. Sometimes even nonexistent. And it pretty much sucks; especially when you're just dying to write!

I think it's important to remember to kick back, relax and try to detangle yourself from the stress of life. Inspiration is fed, so read good books, watch good movies, listen to music, and maybe even go outside and get some exercise. It works for me. Especially movies and music!

Today in the comments: What keeps you inspired? Where do you turn to find fresh inspiration? Has life/circumstances/something else ever been in the way of inspiration before? What did you do to fix it?

Here's to hoping you have LOTS of inspiration soon! That is, if you need it. If you're revising or something, then here is to MOTIVATION TO CONTINUE!

I'll leave you with a quote.

"The power of imagination makes us infinite!" -- John Muir

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Basics: Verb Tense Consistency

I think we should call this one a Very Basic post.  Which doesn't mean it's not important; on the contrary, it's VERY important.  But it's something that's usually evident in the writing of Very New writers.

Notice I didn't say Very Young.  Because this isn't an age thing.  It's an experience thing.

So, a quick lesson on verb tense:

There are three simple tenses:

PRESENT TENSE (action is happening now)
PAST TENSE (action has already happened)
FUTURE TENSE (action has yet to happen)

Most novels are written in PAST TENSE, with an increasing number showing up in PRESENT TENSE.

There are three perfect tenses:


The above tenses are used in the context of the three simple tenses, to clarify when certain actions occurred in relationship to other actions.  I'll save the perfect tenses for a separate post.

As a writer, it's IMPERATIVE that you understand all six tenses.

Here's the basic message:  You've got to nail the tense of your story and STICK WITH IT.  I can't tell you how often I've read the work of "newbies" who seem to have no grasp on basic verb tenses.  Just a few weeks ago, I read the opening of a fantasy novel in which the tense flipped back and forth between past and present tense.  Constantly.

I pointed out to the author (ever so gently) that he had a tendency to switch tenses.  I lightly suggested that his writing needed some "basic training."

His response sounded something like this:  "Yeah, some other people said something about the way I switched between past and present tense."

Um, hello?  TENSE IS IMPORTANT!  You can't ground your readers in a story that doesn't have any sense of time.

Try this:

Melodia sank to her knees and wept.  Her village was gone, her sword was broken, her comrades missing.  She didn't know what to do.

A crash sounds in the distance.  Melodia gasps and spits out her chewing gum.

"Who's there?" she called.

No one answers.

Silently, she creeps to the edge of the forest, where she discovers several naked hippos dancing.  She tiptoes through the trees to get a better look.

The hippos screamed in embarrassment and trampled her to death.

Yes, it's a totally dumb example.  But what makes it hard to follow is the constant tense-switching.

Verb tense is one of those things you simply have to grasp.  And use correctly. ALL THE TIME.

More on verbs another day.  (Don't you just love verbs??)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Basics: The Appositive

Today we're hitting upon one of my biggest-biggest-biggest pet peeves--namely, unnecessary commas around single-word appositives.

But let's start at the beginning.

What's an appositive?

An appositive is a noun or pronoun used with another noun or pronoun to identify or explain it.

Appositives are easy to find because they ALWAYS directly follow the noun or pronoun they're identifying or explaining.  You use them all the time, even if you never knew what they were called.


Mrs. Twitch, the tenth grade science teacher, has a blue wart on her chin.

In the above sentence, the tenth grade science teacher identifies Mrs. Twitch.  It's an appositive.  And because it is made up of more than one word, it needs to be set off by commas.  ALWAYS.

My dog Stinkypaw caught a flying raccoon.

Here comes the pet peeve:  NINETY-NINE PERCENT OF WRITERS WILL UNABASHEDLY PUT COMMAS AROUND "Stinkypaw."  And it's WRONG.  The commas are totally unnecessary and serve nothing more than to clutter the sentence.

Look how crowded this is:

My dog, Stinkypaw, caught a flying raccoon.   <------ AAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

*composes self*

I don't honestly know what the compulsion is among writerkind to put commas around single-word appositives.  And it's everywhere--newspaper articles, blog posts, published novels.

Take note.  After a while, it'll pop out at you.  And, hopefully, annoy you!

More examples:

Ferdinand, my husband, is a bull fighter.  (CORRECT)
My husband, Ferdinand, is a bull fighter.  (INCORRECT! Ferdinand is a single word--no commas needed.)
My husband Ferdinand is a bull fighter.  (CORRECT)

Sheepy, Shiela's pet sheep, is sheepish.  (CORRECT)
Shiela's pet sheep, Sheepy, is sheepish.  (INCORRECT!  Sheepy is a single word--no commas needed.)
Shiela's pet sheep Sheepy is sheepish.  (CORRECT)

Got it? Awesome!

Friday, August 19, 2011

From the Trenches: Mad - Introductory Post

The reason this post is so late is because my poor little dog had teeth pulled today and I've had zilch minutes for myself. I've been too busy watching her stumble around, keeping her from falling down the stairs, and watching her tongue hang out. Also, my laptop's not cooperating, but Lizzy could give you a dissertation about that piece of crap.


This time, I SWEAR, I'm going to introduce myself without sounding like a crazy person, which, obviously, I am.


Certainly you all must have at least HEARD of me by now. My name used to be AWriterGoneMad until the lovely Lizzy started calling me "Mad," which has a dual meaning because it just so happens that I really am mad. I lived in obscurity until the wonderful Authoress asked me to become her assistant and revealed on Twitter that she had been stalking me.

Naturally, I hyperventilated. :)

I love reading and writing and aikido, and those close to me can probably tell you that I stay up way too late way too often to watch Criminal Minds. I have the morbid love of watching surgeries, and I like shooting and rifles and I've been writing for adults since I was fifteen. I turned eighteen in July.

My life basically looks like the following:

 One thing I often talk about when I'm asked to do a post is the importance of always moving forward, no matter how many rejections you get or how many times you feel like you need to revise or polish something.  It might get a little monotonous, hearing it from me all the time, but I really feel like it's just so important. I think it's so easy to get hung up on an aspect of the writing process that we can forget why we really do it. So to end this post that won't format properly, I will ask: why do YOU write?

Friday, August 12, 2011

From the Trenches: Taryn - Introductory Post

Hi, I'm Taryn :)

Authoress is now too lazy to write her own posts and is making teens who don't know any better do it, so


No, I'm really excited that she's allowed us this opportunity, because hey, what's another blog? Ahem, I'll stop rambling now. I'm Taryn; I'm 18. I blog here, founded the collaborative blog Noveltee(n), and tweet here. As you can see in the sidebar, I'm kind of an overachiever.

I think Authoress asked me to do this because of my experience in publishing. Not only have I queried extensively, but I am also a (new) lit agency intern! Yay!

Between reading for pleasure, reading for my critique partners, my new editing service, and my internship, I spend a lot of time reading. My to-be-read pile:

Nah, just kidding.

Lizzy asked you last week what was in your TBR pile, so I'll ask something else. Ummm . . . other than words (reading+writing+blogging+writer friends), what are your hobbies?

I'll go first. Other than words, I swim (collegiately), cycle (collegiately), do Crossfit, have a fulltime job (lifeguarding+swim instructing), and don't have a social life.

How bout you?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Basics: Manuscript Formatting

As requested in last week's comment boxes, we're going to chat about formatting.


The basics are simple:  Double-spaced, 12-point font, normal margins.  I like to start each new chapter 10 lines down, but you'll hear different schools of thought on that.

As for italics:  Use them.  Old school thought says "convert them to underlines."  But in this age of advanced word processing, that's no longer necessary.


There are two things that warrant the start of a new paragraph:




Dialogue tends to trip people up sometimes.  The basic rule is that EVERY TIME somebody new speaks, it's a new paragraph.  Period.

Beats go with the person who is speaking, NOT in the paragraph before or after the dialogue.


"I hate you."

Mary fiddled with her top button.  Wouldn't look at Daryll to save her life.  He sighed.

"At least I know where I stand."  Mary looked up as he turned away.

"And don't come back."

The above example is ALL WRONG.  Mary's beats belong with Mary's dialogue, and Daryll's beats belong with HIS dialogue.


"I hate you."  Mary fiddled with her top button.  Wouldn't look at Daryll to save her life.  

He sighed.  "At least I know where I stand."  

Mary looked up as he turned away.  "And don't come back."

There are also times when, for the sake of cleanliness, it makes sense to start a new paragraph even though the same person is talking.  I'm especially referring to situations where there is a lot of beat action going on after the initial words are spoken.


"My chicken exploded."  Juliet burst into tears, the grisly scene playing itself over and over in her brain.  She felt Greg's pimply arms go round her, tasted the saltiness of her snot as she rubbed trembling palms across her face.  It was hard enough facing life without red beets; the exploding chicken threatened to undo her.  Destroy her.  She buried her face in Greg's AC/DC tee shirt and wished it didn't smell like sauerkraut.  "I'm sorry I wouldn't marry you," she whispered.

In the above example, the final line of dialogue would work just as well in its own paragraph.  It's correct the way it is, but it would be cleaner -- and have more emphasis -- if it were separate.

"My chicken exploded."  Juliet burst into tears, the grisly scene playing itself over and over in her brain.  She felt Greg's pimply arms go round her, tasted the saltiness of her snot as she rubbed trembling palms across her face.  It was hard enough facing life without red beets; the exploding chicken threatened to undo her.  Destroy her.  She buried her face in Greg's AC/DC tee shirt and wished it didn't smell like sauerkraut.  

"I'm sorry I wouldn't marry you," she whispered.


Punctuation goes INSIDE the double quotes of dialogue:

"I love you," Vladimir said.


"I love you", Vladimir said.

Quotes INSIDE quotes should look like this:

"What does 'sort-of girlfriend' mean, exactly?"

If they're at the end of the sentence, they should look like this:

"I'm not in favor of your little 'plan'," Huffy said.

Also? It's okay to have a small desktop reference for this sort of thing, until you don't need it anymore.  I adore Lynn Truss's EATS, SHOOTS, AND LEAVES for basic comma and apostrophe wisdom.  And all writers should own a copy of THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE.

GRAMMAR GIRL is pretty awesome, too.  

And there you have it -- this is as basic as it gets!  Hope it's helpful.