nanowrimo is upon us

Sandy isn't the only thing descending upon us like a wet and windy uninvited guest. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short) kicks off on Thursday (okay, fine, it's not wet or windy or uninvited, but it's coming at us like an unstoppable force of nature so, it kinda works...?).

For writerly types, NaNo is the ultimate writing challenge: write a 50k word "novel" (unless you're writing MG or are on the short end of YA, 50k does not a novel make) without looking back. We're talking a full-on first draft pound-out (that wasn't meant to sound dirty...), completely ignoring your inner editor and just doing what it takes to reach the finish line. Some people use it as motivation to get out the first 50k of a longer novel, while others use it to write a 50k novel that will never see the light of day. Regardless of your purpose, it's good exercise for your writer brain and there's never any harm in at least attempting NaNo. It's one of those nothing to lose and everything to gain kind of things. Okay, full disclosure, you might lose your sanity. And possibly your dignity. But it's not like you can't pull yourself back from the edge if things get dicey.

Unfortunately, no, you can't just write "It was a dark and stormy night" 7142.9 times.

Oh, and NaNo is all about starting a brand new project. This is the tricky part (for me). In the past, I've semi-participated by working on novels I'd played around with before, but this year, I'm starting from scratch on a book I only have a very loose outline for. For me, that's very scary. First of all, my inner editor is like that mosquito buzzing in your ear when you're trying to sleep on a hot summer night at the cottage. You're sweating, uncomfortable, and you think you've finally swatted it away for good, but then there it is, pestering your ear hole like a zombie mosquito that just. won't. die. For me, the biggest challenge of NaNo isn't going to be plot, or pacing, or character development. It's going to writing without re-reading and tinkering with the words I've just laid down. It's going to be waiting until December to revisit what I've written and finally fix the mess I've made. But that's okay. A challenge is a challenge for a reason. And if I can come out the other end of November with 50k words, even if they need to be hacked, switched and polished come December, then at least I'm 50k words further along than I am now. And not only is that quite the accomplishment, it's significant progress on what will likely end up being a 65k word book.

I should add, even though you're supposed to start a brand new project, if NaNo is the motivation you need to pick up something old and run with it, just do it. Rules shmules, right? As I said, I've used NaNo as a time to work on existing projects in the past. The pep talks and motivational emails helped me to get a lot of writing done, even though I wasn't approaching NaNo in the traditional way. At the end of the day, I like to think of NaNo as a celebration of writing the crap out of something. Anything.

If you're interested in participating in this year's NaNo, everything you need to get started can be found at the official website here:

I haven't figured out how to add writing buddies on the site yet, but if you join and are looking for a writing buddy to cheer you along, let me know and we'll figure it out!

post delay

Today's blog post on NaNoWriMo will be a bit delayed as I try and semi-ready my house for the remnants of hurricane sandy. I am so not ready to do a major power-outage with a baby.

Stay safe!

Update: Was hoping to get a post up this afternoon, but that's not gonna happen. Should be tomorrow morning assuming our power doesn't go out!

Kinda looks like a question mark, like, is it coming??????

friday5 for October 26, 2012

1. In the mood for first breakfast? Second breakfast? Elevenses? Afternoon tea? Lunch? Dinner? Supper? Denny's will soon have you covered as they'll be offering a The Hobbit menu. How awesomesauce is that? Okay, yeah, it's Denny's. But who didn't drool as they read about all those delicious Hobbit nibblies? Those guys know their food! I think this is a fantastic marketing match. I just don't know if this will be happening anywhere in Canada... I don't even know where the nearest Denny's is! Maybe that's a good thing...

2. Browncoats assemble! Apparently this was released earlier this month, but I only just found out about it this week. Firefly: A Celebration is being touted as the Browncoat Bible. If you aren't familiar with Firefly or Serenity, seriously, what are you doing on this blog? You should be watching them right now. But maybe don't marathon the entire series and movie in one day. The husband did that when I first introduced him to the world of Whedon (though he'd actually already seen the movie in theatres with me) and I think it was too much at once. His brain short circuited trying to process all the awesome, and when it was over, he fell into a deep depression for a few days. So break it up, and enjoy, and then pick up Firefly: A Celebration because it looks amazing. 

3. ABC has picked up a new Zach Braff project, with ZB set to write, direct and executive produce. No word yet on whether or not he'll appear in front of the camera as well, but as a longtime ZB fan, this is great news. I love Garden State (with Natalie Portman, who btw, is my all-time favourite celebri-lady) and Zach, who appears to be genuinely charming and funny in person. If you don't already, you should follow him on twitter. He does a good job of making with the jokes :)

4. Halloween is upon us! I love Halloween. I love Halloween TV (like this week's PLL!), I love costumes, I love carving pumpkins, I love roasting pumpkin seeds, I LOVE candy, and it's the only time of year that I love a good scare. I'm very averse to gore/horror, but a good spooky ghost story is plenty welcome come Halloween. Ah, I just love it! And since next week's friday5 will technically be post-October-31st, I figure it deserves a mention now.

5. This week's YA book rec is The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa. Okay, yes, I may be a little biased since I work for the publisher, but I remember reading the manuscript for Julie's debut, The Iron King, back before we even acquired it, and Julie's writing blew me away. I've devoured every book in the series since. The Lost Prince is the first in a new series set within the Iron Fey world that follows Ethan Chase, younger brother to Meghan. And he's all grown up:

"My chest is ripped, but artsy. Perfect for ladies with diverse tastes!"
Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.
(Summary from
I already have a copy of this book sitting in my to-be-read pile (which is sadly kinda tall right now) and I put it there without needing to know a single thing about it beyond the fact that it's Julie and she never lets me down :)

6. Bonus Item: No. Just no.

pretty little recap: all aboard the murder train!

3.13 This is a Dark Ride
I didn't realize just how excited I was for PLL to be back until the opening credits started to roll. We already know someone will die before the hour is up (thanks to ABC Family's tease...) so this is going to be a good one! I apologize in advance for typos as I wrote this on my ipad, which seems to hate me sometimes.

Previously on PLL: Things got batshiz crazy when Nate revealed himself to be psycho and Hot Caleb (who reminds me of Taylor Kitsch and therefore immediately became one of my tv boyfriends the moment he first graced the PLL screen) was shot! But I know he'll be okay because hotness defeats bullets (Not always, but come on. This is PLL.) Also, Creeper Toby turns out to be part of the A team. Way to be predictable, Creeper Toby. Yes, there was a time when I fell for the idea that he was just a strange, slight anti-social guy with a crooked nose, but deep down, I always knew he was up to something!

We open to Mona acting creepy with a creepy head. Oh Mona, I know previews for the show's January return have you sprung from Radley, but I don't understand how that's possible. If you want out, you need to stop doing creepy things. Then again, nobody seems to ever be treating her/watching her so whatever. Go bananas, Mona.

What is Hanna wearing? What is going on here? Clearly these are Halloween fashions, but how is it that Aria looks semi-normal? Wait. The hat. The shoes. Nevermind.

How did Garrett get in? For parents rarely being around, the Hastings homestead sure appears to have a revolving door policy. Oh, Creeper Toby. I think you're more menacing now that we know you're a black hoodie enthusiast. I think I'll forever be on edge now, thinking he could stab Spencer at any time, which would be tragedy since she's got the best one-liners. Or maybe it'll be one of those "I was supposed to be bad, but I fell in looooove with you, Spencer!" kind of things.

My PVR is glitchy.

Sigh. Hanna and Hot Caleb. These two could have their own show about making out in the closet and I'd totally watch it.

If I were one of the liars, I'd give the idea of NOT attending any more Rosewood parties some thought. Something bad always happens! Also, are we not dealing with the fallout of Emily killing Nate? No? Okay....

What's up with Ezra acting all weird? And is that..? He's wearing a black hoodie! Oh man... I don't like the direction this is heading. You can have Ezra, A team, but Hot Caleb is off limits!

Jenna. Eyepatch. Heh. Ewww. Noel and Jenna makeouts are awkward for some reason. Maybe because I don't like either of them.

Oh no. The creepy gremlin doll mask guy again! That thing is my nightmares personified.

Noel acts like a jerk then almost chokes on a grape. Clearly a fake out given the promise of a death. Though how hilarious would it be if the person who died in this episode died from choking on a grape instead of whatever mysterious, twisty fashion I expect it'll happen in? Extremely.

Okay, Emily's costume is pretty awesome. Where did she get that on such short notice? Didn't they just decide what they were doing earlier that day?

Adam Lambert? Not a fan. Not an Idol fan either (sorry folks). This scene feels really awkward. The train is so narrow. It seems so uncomfortable to have people filter semi-excitedly into the room like that. I would think they'd either feel shy and strange because they're in a tiny train car or they'd be such huge AL fans that they'd rush the stage, throwing their panties every which way. But the way it plays out is just... weird.

Ha ha. Mona and her crazy escape antics. The security at Radley is babytown frolics.

Aaaand we're back to AL the vampire. This song is weird. Is he signing something about "Cuckoo"? I don't get it.

Creeper Toby covering Jenna's eye. Oh snap. Creeper Toby is creepy, but I far prefer him to Jenna and HER BITCHY LIES. Stupid Jenna.

I'm so over this AL the vampire dance scene. And what's with the audible comments of "Work it Adam"? Is that in case we don't recognize him and have to Google, "Who is this Adam guy on PLL and where can I buy his Cuckoo song?!?!?"?

Obligatory creepy kid. Wearing...a wig? Is that her costume? Or is she supposed to look like she and a raccoon were run over by a truck and the raccoon somehow fused to her head? And why is Trashley dressed like a slutty nurse for the trick or treaters? Oh right, cause she's Trashley.

Hot Caleb and Hanna windy makeouts!! Sigh. Love Hot Caleb. He can haunt my Halloween train any time.

Okay, why is AL the vampire randomly trying to be besties with boring old Aria? Why doesn't she ever do anything interesting?

Are we still pretending Paige and Emily are a good match? We are? Okay... I miss Maya.

Oh noes! Spencer!

Commercial for The Voice. Why couldn't Adam Levine be on PLL instead of AL the vampire?

Oh. It's just Garrett. Trying to gain Spencer's trust by attacking her. Of course! What's with the whole I like you the best business? Ooooh flashback! Ali is such a bitch. Why were they friends with her again? So Garrett and Ali wanted Jenna to think he murdered Ali with a field hockey stick beatdown? How does that make any sense??? If Ali hadn't gone on to be murdered, how would they've later explained her being alive to Jenna? Am I missing something? I definitely feel like I'm missing something. Unless Ali knew somebody (cough*twin theory*cough) was about to die...

Mr. Aria?? What are you going with Ali?? We do know he likes a good affair... This could be interesting. And creepy. I'm suddenly happy Alexis Denisof ended up not playing Aria's dad (remember when that was a possibility??)

Meanwhile, back in the present... finally!!! Getting kidnapped is probably the most interesting thing Aria has done this season. Or ever. But I smell another fake out. No way they kill off any of the liars.

You can get a varsity letter in messing with us. Heh. Love you Hanna. Hanna and Spencer are totally my favourite liars. Emily is often cool too. Aria sucks.

So if Emily checked everywhere for Aria, how did she miss the train car with the shaking, screaming box in it?

Okay. The Hanna double-mask thing was scary. I knew it wasn't Hot Caleb (the masked person wasn't acting nearly hot enough) but I was not expecting there to be another creepy mask underneath.

This little girl story feels very out of place, but I think it's a cough*twin theory*cough thing. It harkens back to last year's Halloween episode. Does anybody else think that little girl is super weird looking? I mean beyond the dead raccoon hair. She almost looks like the little girl version of Creeper Toby.

Spencer! NOT AGAIN! Stay away from Spencer, you weirdos! We need her sarcastic wit! Ugh. All these masks are starting to get to me. There are too many team Aers running around on this train. So hard to keep track. Isn't there a passenger manifesto they can cross-reference?

I guess Spence and Paige are square now.

Garrett? Dead? That makes sense. His storyline was basically over, even moreso after he spilled his guts to Spencer. Being creepy will do wonders, but straightforward confessions don't get you anywhere in Rosewood.

How did he get in that box with Aria? The timing on that seems odd...

Wait, the boys are at the front of train and are going to work their way back? Wouldn't getting to the front already have shown them everything there is to see? This whole train thing doesn't really work. It's claustrophobic, which is good, but it leaves a few gaps in logic.

Paige saying that helping Spencer "was a pleasure" seems weird. It's one thing to say you were "happy to have gotten there in time". Or "don't mention it". Or "you would have done the same", but "it was a pleasure"? You're weird, Paige.

Girl and guy voices pushing Aria. At this point, there are several possibilities... Aria's struggling voice sounds off. Whenever they show her face, I feel like the voice is coming from elsewhere. It's bothering me. Maybe my PVR is acting up again.

Hooray! The liars to the rescue! Though I wouldn't exactly weep if Aria had been tossed... Lucy Hale is cute as a button, but Aria is ZZZzzzzzz

Alright, let's wrap this thing up. Glad to see some real clues and a few juicy reveals. I admire this show for actually moving the story forward.

Oh Ezra. What is going on with you? Don't make me start calling you Creeper Ezra!

Okay Toby is kinda hot when he's standing up for the liars, but he's still not really hot. It's like personality hot, not face hot. Cause he still looks like he got smacked with a frying pan.

Oh. He was probably just shoving Noel to reveal that body bag in ice. That's less hot. Bets on Ali being in the bag? Or an Ali double?

Mona's back in her room with the mask that she accosted Hanna in. Not too shocking that it was her since she and Hanna have a thang. Not a thang thang, but you know. She's most likely to volunteer for Hanna duty whenever they have their A team meetings. I also picture her as the treasurer.

Ummmmmmmmmmm WTF HAND COMING OUT OF THE GROUND???? Oh PLL, you so crazy.

Until January, I suppose!

posts thursday and friday (and I guess wednesday too since this is a post...)

I was hoping to get a post up today, but I'm deep into prepping for NaNo (which we'll discuss on Monday...) so it will have to wait until tomorrow. As I mentioned in last Monday's post, I make a point of keeping in touch with all things YA (or, as many as I can manage) and one of those things is compulsively devouring episodes of Pretty Little Liars. It's one of those teen shows that's a perfect mix of genuinely interesting tv and super guilty pleasure.

Though last night's Halloween episode is the only one we're going to get until January, tomorrow's post is going to be the start of a new segment here on the blog, called Pretty Little Recap, wherein I share my thoughts (most of them entirely unprofessional and silly, despite the fact that I really do adore the show) on our favourite little liars and their ridiculously good-looking boyfriends (or girlfriends in Emily's case). So look for that tomorrow!

friday5 for October 19, 2012

Lots of booky news to discuss this week so let's get to it!

1. In semi-useless since the week is coming to an end news, it's YALSA Teen Read Week! Basically, this week is all about teens reading--reading anything! Because that's what matters. Not the what, but the it. Hmm. Did that make sense? No, but I think you know where I'm going with this. I'm big on recommendations, not restrictions when it comes to teens reading and I'd take a teen reading garbage (literally) over a teen reading nothing. Trust me, as you get older, it's harder to find time to read, so if it's not already a priority in your life, you're less likely to make it one. Get reading at a young age, thank the world later. Trust me. Reading will one day be one of the biggest delights of your week. And you'll actually be okay with that :)

2. In SQUEEEE news, the latest Divergent casting rumor has Shailene Woodley lined up to play Tris. As with all novel-to-film casting rumors, this one appears to be resulting in mixed reactions (as far as I'm concerned, that's a symptom of a devoted fan base, which I'm cool with when it comes to awesome YA reads). Personally, I think she was fantastic in The Descendents and she totally fits the image of Tris that I have in my head (I can't even remember what colour hair Tris is supposed to have, but Shailene is how I've always pictured her). With characters like Tris (or Katniss--not Bella--but Katniss or anyone in the HP universe), it's not about looks, it's about acting ability (with Bella, it was always more about looks, maybe because such a large portion of the story is about her pretty, pretty hair. Kidding.. kinda...). Shailene can definitely pull off the part. I'm officially on Team Woodley.

3. Johnny Depp is set to have his own imprint at Harper Collins. There's not much else to say about this except that Johnny Depp just added about a million more awesome points to his already high awesome point tally. The man is a force of nature. 

4. I suppose I should include a bit of non-book-related news to this week's list so let's talk about Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the 2013 Golden Globes. This has potential to be brilliant or boring. Not because Tina or Amy will screw it up, but because awards shows in general tend to screw it up. The hosts rarely have free reign. And yes, I know there are reasons for that. But it puts a damper on some of the amazing comedic talent we could be enjoying. That said, I think Tina and Amy will be able to put on a good show without that censored feeling we're usually subjected to. Their comedy doesn't come from a place of controversy so it should work out well. Either of them would do a fantastic job, but as a pair, I think they'll rock it.

5. Finally, this week's YA book rec is Beta by Rachel Cohn, the first in a new series. For me, the cover is kinda meh, but the plot sounds fantastic!

Feeling a little indigestion-y?
Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist.

Elysia’s purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island’s workers—soulless clones like Elysia—are immune to.

At first, Elysia’s life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne’s human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island’s flawless exterior, there is an under­current of discontent among Demesne’s worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care—so why are overpowering sensations cloud­ing Elysia’s mind?

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn’t the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happi­ness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she’s always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.

The first in a dazzlingly original science fiction series from best-selling author Rachel Cohn, Beta is a haunting, unforgettable story of courage and love in a cor­rupted world.
(Summary from
Cloning seems to be one of "the next big thing"s in YA and this looks to be an interesting take on it.  Paranormal was reigning for a while there, and let's face it, will always have a home, but I'm happy to see more and more quality sci-fi YA reads making the rounds. It's a thrilling genre and I definitely want more devour-able sci-fi YA!

As a final note, I'm headed on a mini-vacation this weekend so there will be no post on Monday. If I get my act together, I may be able to get something up on Tuesday or Wednesday, but if not, I'll be back on Friday with another friday5! See you then, if not sooner!

staying in touch

To start things off today, a little blog news: I can now be found at That's right! I'm officially a website! Now I just need to remember all the places around the net that need to be updated with the new domain...

Today I want to talk about staying in touch--not the kind of staying in touch that requires you to keep your contact info/blog listing up to date (see what I did there?), but the kind where you are in the loop on what's current.

One of the things I've learned as a new mother is that you're constantly encountering lists of milestones that your baby should be hitting at certain points in their development. I receive these lists through e-newsletters and baby apps on my iphone among other places. Recently, one such milestone that I read about was that the baby should begin to understand that people speak into the mouthpiece of a telephone. This struck me as very odd. Certainly, I've seen babies with toy phones before, adorably mimicking adults and babbling into the phone as they make their imaginary (though often brief) phone calls.

"I think you have the wrong number..." Image by Linh Ngan
But it still struck me as odd. I can't think of a single time my baby has seen me on the phone. I rarely call anyone anymore. I text. I email. But I rarely call. In fact, I make so few phone calls, I usually save them for times when the baby is sleeping (so that I don't have to explain the loud baby screams that often sound like somebody is being murdered in our living room). My baby is more likely to mimic texting on a toy phone than she is to make a call. And as far as milestones go, I suppose I'd consider that equivalent. Should she know to speak into a phone if she's never seen anyone do that? I wouldn't think so, but I would expect her to play with a phone the way I play with mine. And she does. I'm sure future baby milestone lists will have to be modified to reflect this change in the way we communicate.

The reason I bring this up is because things change over time. That's no secret. I can still remember what it was like to be a teenager and that definitely plays a part in my writing, but I also know that the teens of today are experiencing a very different world than the one I lived in over a decade ago, and I need to keep that in mind too. I read and write (and watch) YA not only because I feel a strong connection to that voice (I sometimes need to remind myself that I'm not a sixteen-year-old girl anymore, even though I often feel like one inside), but also because I want to maintain that connection. There's something wonderful and thrilling about the experiences you have at that age and I never want to lose touch with that, even as it changes over time. All writers need to live part of their life in the world they write, both on and off the page. YA is where I feel most at home and I'm lucky that there's such an awesome community of YA authors and readers online to help me stay connected :)

What genres do you feel most at home reading/writing and how do you stay connected?

friday5 for October 12, 2012

1.  Everybody's favourite hilarious girl, Lena Dunham, has signed a book deal. Ridiculous advances celebrities receive to write books aside (it's a platform thing, not an ability to write thing, though clearly Lena can write), I'm ultra-excited about this news. Lena's HBO show, Girls, is fantastic and Lena's a triple-multi-whatever-you-guys-she's-awesome-threat in Hollywood. The girl has serious talent for someone so relatively young. I will definitely be ordering her book when it hits shelves in the not-too-distant future. I hope there's a chapter specifically for the ladies.

2. The new season of Community has been delayed :(  This is sad news for those of us fans who have been waiting for new episodes, even though they bring with them the very real possibility that once this season airs, there will be no more new episodes ever. Which is a tragedy. I've been there before. So many times. Shows that I love have been cancelled despite their brilliance. Thankfully, some of those shows continue on in other forms, or even make their way on to Netflix, but it would be sad to lose Community from network prime time because comedies of that caliber are becoming few and far between. On the other hand, it looks like the delay might be a blessing in disguise if it means a better time slot and more promotion. I guess time will tell. Delays in TV land are rarely a good thing.

3. A Wrinkle in Time has been made into a graphic novel. I tend to only read graphic novels that are original in that format (as in, weren't novels first), but since Madeline L'Engle's classic is an all-time favourite of mine dating back to my read-by-flashlight-under-the-covers days, I might have to pick this one up. The art looks cute and it's been a while since I read this fantastic story.

4. In other blast-from-my-childhood news, it looks like a new line of Jem dolls are being made. This news is truly, truly, truly outrageous. I still have my original Jem dolls packed away in a box somewhere--I even had the Synergy doll, though I have to admit, the new Synergy doll looks a little too diva for my taste. Girl needs to scale back the sass. Rio's style has improved (on the clothes front at least--not really sure what's happening with that hair), but what's with the Jem duffel bag? I know he's her manager, but there's something co-dependent about carrying around a duffel bag with your girlfriend's name on it (plus, what would your other girlfriend think?)

5. Though I said before I wanted to include a recommendation every week (which didn't happen last week), I've decided that moving forward, I want to dedicate the final point in the friday5 specifically to a young adult new release for that week. This week, Mystic City by Theo Lawrence has caught my eye. First off, look at that cover!

I love a good swirly hair cover. There's something so swirly about it. And the plot sounds pretty bad-ass too:
Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.  (Summary from

the writer's arsenal: organized vs. overkill

Every now and then, I plan to do a blog about some aspect of the writing/publishing journey as I assume many of you reading this blog have an interest in those topics. I've learned quite a bit about both sides of the publishing business over the years I've been in it, and what good are tips and advice if you don't pass them on?

I'm calling this series The Writer's Arsenal because publishing can be brutal and every aspiring (and published!) author out there needs the right tools if they want to survive. I'm not just talking about a computer or pen and paper (though those are important too), I'm talking about skills, habits, and mindsets--those things that you can't just stock up on the next time you're at Office Depot. A writer needs a lot of tricks up their sleeve if they want to survive.

To kick things off, I want to talk about getting organized. Whether you're a heavy outliner or not, every writer does something to get organized before delving into a project. Personally, the very first thing I do when an idea hits is try to write the type of short blurb you'd see in a query letter (which we'll discuss in a future post). It's similar to the synopsis on the back cover of a published novel--just a few paragraphs that give you the setup and the hook. If I can nail that, I know I have a decent story on my hands. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it should capture the idea in an exciting way. From there, I'll do a loose chapter-by-chapter outline that is guaranteed to change as I go, but it gives me a basic road map of where I'm starting and where I want to end up, which somewhat helps with writer's block as I go.

Some writers simply write. They think of a great idea and just dive in. I don't think I could ever do that myself, but I see how some people can. On the other side of the spectrum, there are writers who start by taking the time to do heavy outlines, character sketches, maps, etc. If you're writing a novel that requires world building, it's definitely important to keep your facts straight and you should have a story bible where you keep everything handy--continuity is key--but sometimes we get so wrapped up in getting organized for a project that we run out of steam before we even leave the gate.

It's important to never lose sight of what you're trying to accomplish--writing a book. The absolute hardest part of writing a book isn't having a good idea, it's actually finishing the book. I could probably build an empire on the piles of unfinished manuscripts out there.

"I can't start until all of my pencils have been sharpened to a perfect point!"

There is such a thing as being too organized and if you spend more time doodling the exact curvature of your protagonist's wavy auburn hair than you do getting words onto the page, you're spending too much time getting organized. Same goes for writers who need to thoroughly check their email, or their Facebook, or have nine more coffees before they can start. At some point, you need to push past these distractions and start writing. You may be surprised to find that the character you planned out so carefully takes on a completely different personality once you put him into action. Characters can be funny that way. One of the wonderful things about writing is how the story can take on a life of its own and before you know it, you'll just know what needs to happen next, not to mention how every one of your characters will react to it.

But you'll never get to that point if you don't start writing. And keep writing. Another major pitfall is the need to "get organized" before each and every writing session. Unless you're re-plotting or making notes after a major light-bulb moment, don't go back to your outline and revise character sketches or other details. Keep the organization concise. That outline you spent hours perfecting is bound to change as you go so don't let it consume you. It just needs to be enough to get started. Then get to writing. It's the only way to finish your novel.

Have an idea for a writing or publishing related topic you'd like me to cover? Leave it in the comments!

happy thanksgiving


Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!

The usual Monday post will go up tomorrow!

friday5 for October 5, 2012

1. Fandoms collide! Danny Strong of all-things-amazing-ever, has been named as the writer for the two-part Mockingjay film extravaganza. I cannot express how completely fangirl excited I am about this news. Danny is phenomenal both behind and in front of the camera. He is hot off his big Emmy win and though I never would have guessed he'd pen the penultimate and final Hunger Games films, I think he is the perfect choice and will do a brilliant job.

2. Banned Books Week. It's such an important week in the publishing world and every year I find myself surprised to see some amazing work of fiction has been banned. Most of the reasons they give for banning a book leave me more than a little wtf guy? The Huffington Post put out a fun little infographic to highlight a sampling of banned books and educate us on ignorant censorship! Celebrate the freedom to read and enjoy one of these banned books today!

3. This. Just. So excited. And happy. And can't wait. Yeah :)

4. It's not my country, but we still keep a close eye on the US Presidential election. Odds are, the outcome will affect us Canadians down the road. I'm not surprised that one of the highlights of this week's debate was Romney's comment about Big Bird. It turned into quite the internet meme as the week progressed so I think it definitely warrants a mention in this week's friday5. Personally, I wouldn't want to piss Big Bird off. As his name suggests, he's a pretty big guy and it would appear he knows a thing or two about coming out swinging.

5. But back to Canada. This weekend we celebrate Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for this year so I will definitely be thinking about all of those things as I turkey it up over the next few days. Which will be followed by humble pie, and finally, a shame coma. It's an annual tradition! Time to don your finest Thanksgiving pants and celebrate what matters most. Gluttony. Uh, I mean family!

"Well, here's your turkey. Enjoy!"

october sky

 No, not the film starring Jakey Gyllen-hot (though that's nice too).

Since yesterday's post had to be brief, here's another little post to round things out. Now that we're into October, what better time to blog about, well, October!

I love October. It's tied with September for my favourite month (September = birthday month + wedding anniversary month so it gets major points too). Up here in Canada (where we have seasons, not perpetual winter as you've probably been led to believe), we celebrate Thanksgiving in early October. In fact, it's coming up this weekend. Maybe it's because I've lived here my whole life, but I couldn't imagine it any other way. The weather is almost always perfect--sunny, crisp, sweatery. Lovely. Just right for a walk in the leaves and maybe a little pumpkin picking (I also love Halloween, but more on that later in the month). The colours are vibrant and beautiful, and the smell of fallen leaves soaking up the earth is one of the most comforting scents in the world.

Cute sniffy pups are not mine. © Copyright David Crocker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Yesterday, Emmeline and I went for a little stroll to the mailbox at the end of our street (as we do on the increasingly rare occasions that I have actual paper mail to send) and I found myself stopping along the way just to breathe in the air. I want to experience it while I can because I know that when the season changes again, it will be replaced by the telltale smell of snow.

Autumn isn't the only time of year that I do this. In the summer, I also tend to stop and savour the warmth, and the scent of freshly cut summer grass. In the spring, I love that smell of the earth warming up, working to nourish new life after months of being buried. I always hope that if I try to memorize what it smells like, what it feels like, I'll be able to recall it when the worst part of winter hits (the slushy, icky, dirty snow mixed with a side of seriously-spring-any-day-now part). But I know I'm never able to recall it perfectly because when the spring comes, and then the summer, it hits me with a sensation of, "Ah, yes. This. This is what it's really like." It's almost euphoric.

The smell of fall makes me feel cozy and loved. If it could be fall all year long, I'd take it. But I know fall can't exist without the other seasons so I guess I'm okay with them too :)

What do you love most about fall? The clothes? The comfort food? Or do you just want to roll around in dry leaves and take it all in like I do?


Baby E is not cooperating today, but I refuse to not post since it's only week 2 of my new posting schedule! So here is a short, fun, meme post that was going around a while back. I bookmarked it knowing I wanted to post it to the blog one day. (See? Even when I didn't have time to actively blog, I was still thinking about things I'd blog if I was blogging! And now that I am, you get to enjoy this outdated meme! Everybody's a winner...?)

Flickr Mosaic Meme:


1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search (I use the one via Creative Commons)
2. Using only the first page of results, pick one image.
3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into BigHuge Lab’s Mosaic Maker to create a mosaic of the picture answers.

The questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favourite food? right now?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favourite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. What is your favourite drink?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. What is your favourite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. What is one word that describes you?
12. What is your flickr name?