Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy break/holidays/year!

We hope everyone's enjoying winter break! (Or, summer, if you're on the other side of the world.) We'll be kicking off our two new members with the new year and we're looking forward to introducing them to you.

Have a safe and happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hey, that's me!

(Pretend it's Tuesday. Really, pretend it is. Actually, I don't want it to be Tuesday, because the fact that it's Wednesday means school is FINALLY over and I'm FINALLY on break. But for the intents and purposes of my blog post, pretend it's Tuesday.)

This past Thursday I was on TV! Live! Which was, let me say, very exciting. Also, I got Chipotle after I left the studio which was ALSO very exciting. Though for once not as exciting as the event preceding it. Which was my interview. Which^2 I am sharing with you--click here if you want to watch!

It's a writer stereotype that those who use written words must be inept at the spoken word part. Much as I may sometimes mispronounce words (I know how to spell them before I know how to say them) I don't think this is true for me. I like to talk (almost) as much as I like to write. And I think, in most cases, you'll find this is true for a lot of writers. Why? Because words are cool.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

In Which Little Kids Help Plot

For the past few weeks, I've been babysitting from 8 to 5, three days a week. I honestly never thought that watching two kids, both of which are under five, would help me with my writing. I noticed something about children that I had never noticed before. Little kids ask questions. A lot.

These kids in particular love asking 'why?'. They probably ask me why something occurs in response to 75% of the things I say. Them asking tons of questions helps me SO MUCH with my writing, which is good because I haven't been writing recently so I need all the help I can get. Hearing all the questions every day has made it so they're, in a way, ingrained in my brain. During those rare moments that I am writing, asking myself why something happened and what the consequences are, helps me out of my writing slumps. For example (this is totally off the top of my head)-

Plot 'seed'- The chicken crossed the road.
Why- To get to the other side.
Why- Because he had a hot date with a cute chick.
How did that happen- He was arguing with the supermarket clerk about how selling eggs was supporting cannibalism and then the chick joined in and said that she prefers the tofu eggs over the real ones.
Why- Because she agrees with the chicken and doesn't want to participate in cannibalism. She also has fond memories of sitting around her family Hanukkah bush, eating tofu eggs on toast and singing Hanukkah carols.

When I'm writing, I've recently taken to doing stuff like that. I actually started a document where I have conversation-type things with my characters in which I 'ask' them why they make the choices they do. I know that a lot of people ask themselves these questions on instinct, but I never really did- except for when I would do it subconsciously.

So that is something new I've discovered about my writing process recently. When writing/plotting, do you ask yourself questions? Are you more of a go-with-the-flow type of person? Are you caught in the middle between the two? Also, has a little kid ever inspired any part of your writing? Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Here's one (okay, four): mirrors. Or windows. Or dark TV screens. Or shiny jewelry.

What do they have in common? Your character can see through them to an opposite world. A world where if she raises her eyebrow, the person in the mirror/window/screen/bracelet raises her left eyebrow at exactly the same time...or, less dramatically, your character can see reflections.

Reflections are an underused commodity. A hallway mirror can bounce an image from one room to the next, allowing a flash of what's going on inside--theft? murder? That Guy Your Character Secretly Loves hooking up with That Girl Everyone Knows is an Ice Queen?--to pass into the unsuspecting main character's visual cortex. Conversely, your character can channel a reflection in the direction he wants--maybe using the dark screen of a cell phone to watch the suspicious man/woman/baby/goblin behind him on the subway.

The point: mirrors aren't just for a character to peer into and arbitrarily describe every aspect of his/her appearance. They can be used for FUN.

(Another example like this is noises from another room--sound travels, and this can be a great way to introduce information. What was that crash? Or are the walls so thin the argument between Guy Your Character Secretly Loves and Ice Queen is audible two doors down? If so, lucky you--I mean, your character.)

What do you think are some unused plot commodities?


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Sucks At Remembering Dates

Or: Time in books.

As usual, I'm scrambling to type this at the last moment because once again, I forgot it was Saturday. I blame my hours. I was up at 5am the last two days. It messes with your inner clock. Or at least it does mine. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) However, I'm going to take inspiration from this and talk about time in books.

If you follow me on Twitter or read a few of my posts on here, you've probably heard me talk about my book SMN. (I never refer to it by its actual title because it make me giggle, but you could probably find that out if you looked. Or asked certain people who are in the know.) And if you've heard me talking about it, you know that I've called it weird, odd, stupid - this list goes on for a while, but the main one you need to keep in mind is weird.

SMN decided that it wanted to be my little freak. It decided that it not only needed to be plotted (I didn't plot my other books - I'm a total panster) but it needed to have a schedule.

Yeah, you read that right. SCHEDULE.

SMN takes place in October and the entire book leads up to Halloween, so everything else had to fit into the month of October. Because my brain is a little nutty, every time I said it was a Friday or Tuesday or whatever in the book, I needed to know it was actually that day. So I made a calendar of October of the year SMN takes place in (the simplest way to do this is just to make a table in a word processing program) and I have everything that happens in my book in that so that all the days line up like ducks in a row.

This is a little bit extreme for me (or most people, I imagine), but one thing it helps with is that there's never school on Saturday.

Do you keep track of time in your books? If so, how? If not, how do you keep from running into things like 6 day school weeks? ;)

Peace and cookies,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Power of Sharing

Sharing is nice, as kindergarten teachers have been informing the population for years. Also, as parents have been begging siblings to do for even longer.

Well, my sister and I share. Well, we share one thing. Maybe a few, if you count certain pairs of shoes and bathroom-cleaning responsibilities. But mostly we share fictional worlds.

When we were little we played pretend, and our awesome imagined stories (that we kept running for weeks, and sometimes years) are definitely something I attribute my love of writing to. It's my own version of "playing pretend"--because the actual playing is, unfortunately, not on the agenda anymore. We also swap books (of course) and she's my Partner in TV. (A play off of Partner in Crime, in case you didn't pick up on my on-the-fly wordplay.) There have been a few series so far that we've watched every episode of, (somewhat) in order, together: Chuck (NBC), the Nine Lives of Chloe King (ABC, and yes, it was a guilty pleasure show), and most recently Doctor Who (BBC).

Honestly, these shows wouldn't be half as fun without my sister. We're not just watching a random TV show, we're engaged, talking, trying to work out the minute plot points and come up with our own future scenarios. (Okay, this is mostly for Doctor Who and the early seasons of Chuck. Chloe King wasn't that complicated. But at least it was fun.) "Watching"--I use quotation marks because we do so much more than watch--with her makes those worlds more than images on a screen (or, in the book version, words on a page). The other day I dragged my sister on a run with me and we spent the entire time discussing Doctor Who. (Which, incidentally, distracted her from the run enough for her not to hate me for bringing her along in the first place.)

As I've just illustrated, even if we don't play pretend anymore, my sister and I share fiction. She's still the one I turn to if I need to talk out a new story idea--maybe because she's willing to sit and listen as I babble past midnight, or maybe because she actually follows along and throws in suggestions, just like we're planning out another world to play pretend in. Either way, it works, and I suggest everyone find someone to share their fictional worlds with.

What are some of your favorite fictional worlds?


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday is in Denial

Or: Bargaining! (Get it? Like the five stages of grief/dying? Well, I thought it was funny.)

(Also. Sorry this is so late. My town's Christmas festival was yesterday and today and I've been gone most of today and I also forgot it was Saturday. So I'm writing this very quickly and hoping like heck that it'll be done before midnight because then it's still Saturday. Which gives me an hour and twenty minutes. LET'S GO.)

Sometimes the voice of one of my main characters will click and the emotions will be just right and the plot will be something perfect that I'm good at and the words will flow molasses on a hot summer day. (Is that a real expression? Sometimes I make up metaphors and they don't work. You know that book I talk about, Berserk? Book of failed metaphors. Seriously.) And that's lovely and good and all, but sometime they don't. Sometimes the writing is more like picking saffron one back-breaking thread at a time. (More metaphors!)

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, for me, it can mean that I'm not connecting with the MC enough, but sometimes that's just how the book or story or that part or whatever is going to go. But this can be really frustrating. So what do I do?

I bribe myself. Because bribes WORK. (Seriously. I bribe the kids at Storytime to be good listeners with stickers, I bribe the 8-year-old girl I baby-sit with stickers that will add up to earning a prize.) For SMN, I bribed myself with a necklace from Etsy if I finished the book. (Which is currently lost and I am very annoyed about, so let's not focus on that.) I also use smaller bribes than that, like a cookie for every 250 words. When I was working on my synopsis, I had a box of three Lindt Lindors and my reward for finishing the second draft of the synopsis was the last two Lindors - an especially good bribe because I hated writing that thing and I love Lindors. They're my favourite.

A little while ago, I also bribed my biffle/crit partner about finishing a revision of her book. I told her that if she finished it, I'd let her name a character in the book I was writing. (I thought it'd mostly be a shiggles thing, but I think it worked. You'd have to ask her if it helped.)

Okay, so, do you guys give yourselves writing rewards? If so, what?

Peace and cookies,

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday a day later

Today was my Tuesday, because yesterday was my school-Monday (my district gets off for the first day of buck season, wouldn't you know...). But I'm not here to talk about the odd holidays of my region. I'm here to talk about the food of my region. Or, regional food in general (kind of an oxymoron there, huh?).

Setting is, as we all know, quite important to a story. And what's part of setting? Food. Not just what's available/popular in a region, but what it's called. (For example, pop vs. soda and funnel cake vs. fried dough.) Food might stand out if a character finds himself/herself in a new area--for example, when I was in Tennessee this summer there was fried pie at the Fourth of July fair. (Actually, a lot of things were fried.) But fried pie? Totally caused a double-take. Or, if the character is in a usual setting, food can be worked in to enhance the sensory appeals of the story. Let's face it, sight and sound are used to death. How about taste and scent?

I challenge you to look up your state (or area) on Wikipedia and read the food section. Under the Pennsylvania page were foods I didn't know were traditional PA delicacies (pretzels, chips), food I definitely would've guessed (chocolate, go Hershey!), and even some food I've honestly never heard of (what's chow-chow?).

Also, including food gives you an awesome new aspect of your setting to research...preferably hands-on!


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Speaks About Snapshots

Or: Alliteration is STILL fun.

I love pictures. Now, I'm not a great photographer (partly my camera really sucks, but partly I'm just not a very good photographer) but I really do love pictures.

I'm not always a very visual person, so I like having photos that make me think of my WIP, either in atmosphere or subject. To me, it's kind of like how each of my books has its own playlist.



Scream My Name (it's about banshees...):

So what have we learned? That photo posts like this take a long time, I have a TON of We Heart It photos, and I really like Taylor Swift.

Tell me your thoughts now, okay? I'm going to go collapse in an exhausted pile.

Peace and cookies,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Characters Who Do Not Read

Have you noticed this, too?

How, in most YA books, the main character doesn't really...read?

Maybe they read for school, or connect their lives to a famous piece of literature of which the act of reading doesn't need to be described because, duh, everyone knows Romeo and Juliet or gets the gist of Pride and Prejudice. Maybe the main character must read stacks of books on ancient sorcery or computer programming because the skill attained will be essential to the plot. But very few book characters read books like the ones they happen to live in.

I suppose this makes some sense--the act of reading, unless setting up a character's appearance or serving as a cover activity for an espionage mission, isn't very exciting because the real action happens inside the mind. "She turned the page...the ink letters informed her that a friend once thought trustworthy had actually betrayed the central character in the story...images flashed across her mind...the ink letters indicated strong dialogue between the fictional people in the story!..." (By the way, what would fictional characters in a fictional story be? Fictional once removed?)

Also, characters that love, love, love! to read teeter quite close to falling into the character trap of the starry-eyed, fresh-faced Belle clutching an armload of books and hurrying home to tend to dear, eccentric Papa before settling down with a warm cup of tea and her favorite dog-eared paperback. Yeah. Been there, done that. And besides, even Belle dropped the books when she met Beast and some real action began.

The biggest reason, though, characters never seem to read that much is--I believe--that then those characters are in danger of becoming autobiographical. For example, I love to read. If my character also puts "reading" as one of her top Facebook activities, it might lead to listing her favorite stories, which would probably be my favorite stories, and then connecting to her favorite characters, which would be my favorite characters, and not only does this start to resemble a painting within a painting within a painting, it also strays from the plot I want to write. I'm not sitting at my computer for hours typing my life's story--that'd be called a diary (and besides, I'm horrible at diaries). My main characters are not me, and my favorite books are so much a reflection of who I am that devoting precious detail to that part of my character's life better have a higher purpose with drastically different tastes than me to work.

That being said, there are, of course, the literate side characters--the token bookworm characters that have read everything, and these can be used for comedic relief and funny nods of the metaphorical head to those who've dissected Macbeth in tenth grade honors English. These characters are supposed to read. Have at it.

What are your opinions on reading within reading?


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Says Synopsises Suck

Or: Alliteration is fun!

Before I go about writing this post, can I just say how much I HATE writing that word? Seriously, I can never spell it on the first try. Or the second. Or the third. Bah. Hate it.

Now how about some links to people who will say (and spell) this better than me first.

Katherine Ortiz

Pub Rants

Go Teen Writers

Bookends LLC

Confessions of a Wandering Heart

Fiction Groupie

Hannah Moskowitz

Where Ladybugs Roar (This one is less about the synopsis itself, but it’s got some really good points about summarizing and this is my post so I’m linking to it anyways)

I’m not querying yet (January, fingers crossed) but I’m working on getting there and I am very bad at the stuff that comes after the whole writing and revising thing.

(My query letter? I’ve written like twelve different versions of it. And that’s full scrapping-and-restarting versions, not tweaks. And you know what? I hate query letters. Where was I going with this again? Oh, right. This is why I shouldn’t write blog posts running on no sleep and over-caffeinated.)

Anyways, like I said, I’m not good at this part, so I figure better to get it done before I need it to have time to work on it, right?

Right. That’s what I figured too. Except the thing is, I hate summarizing things. With a passion that burns like the fire of a thousand sunburns. This is why I tend to mumble and grumble and complain through the “Plot” section of my reviews. So what I’m trying working on it one chapter at a time, going backwards. Then I’ll – hopefully – be able to mash them together into something that makes sense and edit until it doesn’t sound like a 7th grade book report.

(I’m totally stealing this from Hannah, by the way. She’s seriously awesome, if you haven’t noticed. And also I have signed magnets from her that I use to hold my calendar to my closet door when I plan my clothes for the next 2 weeks.)

Stay tuned for how that works! (Seriously, do you guys want to know how it turns out? Let me know.)

Peace and cookies,

Oh, don't forget that we're looking for new members!

Friday, November 18, 2011


…or as I like to call it, NaNoFailMo. Every year, for some crazy reason, I tell myself that I can participate in NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month). I get myself all geared up for the crazy month ahead and I hit NaNoWriMo full force. I continue at full force for about three days. Then I crash. This is my 4th year participating in NaNo, and it’s my 4th year throwing in the towel. So, even though every November I quit- for those of you who don’t stop believing writing, I congratulate you. For those of you who are like me, I give you a virtual high-five. Though I’m not a NaNo expert, I have come up with some writing tips for NaNoWriMo. They haven’t kept me writing the whole month, but they did help for the time I was writing.

1. Make Your Characters Interesting

Please, do this. Please. I suffer from making my characters boring in every first draft I write. It makes the whole ordeal painful. I don’t even care if the characters quirks don’t make sense. This is NaNoWriMo we’re talking about. Nothing you write during NaNo is going to be perfect.

2. Write as Fast as You Can in the Beginning

Don’t go slow. Write as much as humanly possible during the first few days of NaNo. Write so much that the thought of touching your keyboard gives you a headache. Then write some more. This is what I do, because even if you do throw in the towel, you have like 30k words of a book that you can work on in the future.

3. Have FUN

This kind of ties in with #1. Nothing you write during NaNoWriMo is going to be perfect, so why not have fun? You want a talking walrus in your contemporary romance book? GO FOR IT. Twins with detachable eyes and fingers? Go write those twins! (*cough* This may have been in my NaNo.)

So that’s it. Three of my tips for surviving National Novel Writing Month. Since NaNoWriMo is nearly over, if you’re writing, chances are you’re doing pretty darn good.

Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month? What’s your story about? Were you like me and stopped writing half way through? Tell me in the Comments!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Few More Items

A few days ago I wrote this post about glasses on my blog. Today I think I'll list a few (more obscure, probably) items main characters (or any characters) can have to mix things up.

1) Roller blades. I definitely give credit for this idea to that new HP Printer commercial, you know, this one with the super-cute baby and Melanie song. It's been stuck in my head all day. And it got me thinking, I don't see anyone roller skating anymore. I used to have a pair--the kind with brakes on the front, which, in retrospect, seems less than safe--but how cool would it be to skate around as a method of transportation? Especially fictionally.

2) Quills. Yes, it's very Harry Potter (which makes quills all the cooler), but in a contemporary setting, quills would definitely air on the quirky side. Imagine the issues that could arise from spilled ink or broken feathers...

3) Envelopes. Maybe he/she collects fingerprints or trace evidence to document his/her life. maybe he'she leaves notes sealed in envelopes as a means of communication. Maybe they hold his/her many different flavors of gum.

Any ideas for quirky items/habits?


Saturday, November 12, 2011

We're Back!

Or: Saturday is trying to be professional by not using a funny subtitle.

You may have noticed that the blog has been rather quiet lately. You know, since *cough* August or so. A couple of us had internet issues and we lost a couple members. But we're back and we have NEWS!!

The YA Lit Six is looking for three new bloggers!


-- You must be under 25.
-- You must be a writer. (Well, duh, right?) State of publication does not matter.
-- You must be willing to commit to blogging every week on your day.
-- It would be nice you wouldn't mind tweeting from the @yalitsix account once in a while since I suck at remembering to do that and I would love if someone did that.
-- That's about it!

If you're interested in joining, please send a sample post to yalitsix@gmail.com, pasted into the body of the email. No attachments. Since it's November 12th today, we'll give you until December 13th (because that's my birthday) to send in your posts.

We'd love to know a little bit about you, but no introduction posts, please. We are looking to see how your writing style would fit with ours and get an idea of your blogging ideas. Try to have it be somewhere around 250-350 words, but use your best judgement. Last, please list in order which days you would prefer to have. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday are available.

We look forward to seeing your posts!

Peace and cookies,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Feelings [italicized]

I did something this weekend that I have not done in many, many weeks:

I bought a book.

And read it.

In the same weekend.

Yes! It's true! I got an end-of-the-marking-period present for myself, and had the time to read it, also due to it being the end of the marking period. Really. Marking periods need to end more often.

It gets better: I liked the book. I was engaged in the book. I haven't been able to totally immerse myself in a book since junior year started. (This may not seem like a very long time, but for a girl who, at one point in her life--maybe eighth grade and prior--read about four, five, six books a week, it is a very...long...time.) Thoughts of homework or plans or more homework or the fact that I was trying to squeeze in a read at 11:30 pm and my eyelids suddenly had 5lb dumbbells attached to them...or more homework...have always gotten in the way the past few months. Also, many of the books I tried to sit down and read couldn't capture my attention. Plotlines were thin...main characters were shallow...the disbelief I used to (at that One Point in My Life) be able to suspend just wouldn't suspend.

Anyway. This little rant brings me to this book, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, that I got on an opportune weekend. And that was really good. As good--maybe better--than the sneak peek I got in Barnes&Noble promised. Have you ever picked up a book (maybe after hours of wandering through the store) and had that feeling? By italicized feeling I meant the notion that hey, this looks just about perfect right now. In fact, I kind of can't wait to read it. This feeling, for me, is usually a result of the cover + good jacket flap blurb + intriguing plot snippet at random page + amusing/gripping/flippant/colorful style. If all of those add up, it = feeling.

This weekend I suppose the right feeling for me was something creepy, a bit offbeat, not a totally romance-centered plot, and an easy, believable first-person style. (If you're into that feeling right now, check out this book.)

What sort of qualities create feelings for you when you pick up a book?


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Time Machine

Hey everyone! It's Tuesday, Kieryn (me!) is writing, and The October-y break is over as it is, apparently, November. (Whoa.) YA Lit Six is looking for some new members and we will be announcing more information on that in the near future. So STAY TUNED [<-- read this in a 1950's newscaster voice].

Funny that I mentioned the 1950's there (well, not so funny because I kind of did it intentionally), as the decades are the subject of my post today. And by decades I mean the array of inspiration the last hundred years can provide, plotwise.

I may be thinking of this because my friends and I were the decades for Halloween. (Party, not trick-or-treat...as it was a Monday I had homework to do between 6 and 8 yesterday.) I was the 30's, and I got to shove my hair into a little gray cap and put on red lipstick. I kind of wanted to go for an outfit more representative of the time period--Hooverville-esque, maybe--but, honestly, the liptstick was too much fun.

I digress--kind of. The distinctive styles of the decades is actually a fair bit of inspiration, I think. Rattling off descriptions of modern-day clothing is boring. But slipping a few extra details about cloches or flapper dresses or zoot suits is actually a plus.

Moving past the ink-and-paper wardrobe, I think the social aspect of the different time periods would be (and have been) excellent plot fodder. Did you know that in the early 1900's all of a woman's property was turned over to her husband when she married? Even the rights to her kids? (Yes, we talked about this in history today.) That's a plot already set up and waiting to be explored again. Then there's the Great Depression, both World Wars, rock-n-roll vs. the view of women & family in the 50's, Woodstock, disco...tons of settings and characture vs. society plots made-2-order.

I'm not sure if my next story will be historical fiction or not, but it's definitely worth looking into. What time period would you write about?


Saturday, August 27, 2011


Hey all,

The YA Lit Six team is taking a break as school starts again and some of our members fix their internet. We hope to be back by October! In the meanwhile, check out our own blogs:

When we come back we will be scouting for some new members, so if you're interested in joining the team, stay tuned for more information!

~the team

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Setting. There's a word we've all heard before. If you're me, you've heard it since "writing workshop" in first grade. Every story need s a setting. A setting is where everything happens! A setting can be a city or a park or even Disney World!

Okay, so now that we (hopefully) have the basics of setting down, how do we deal with specifics? Especially if you are creating a new place? My current story takes place in a small, mostly rural town in a real area but with fabricated streets and shops. As I write I've found it's hard to keep names straight--street names, especially. (Also, I tend to keep naming streets after trees, with various versions of "street" -- ave, lane, boulevard -- stuck on the end. What's with that?)

Therefore, I've been considering a map. A visual reference of my tree-streets and houses and school and shops. I'm a visual person, so at first this makes total sense to me. However, the major flaw: I'd get too into it.

After what I'm positive would end up being hours of diagramming and naming, I'd be so excited about my creation I'd feel the need to dedicate paragraphs of my novel to directions and description. Directions and description that would probably be unnecessary to anyone but me, not make it to the final round of revisions, and then be an incredible waste of time.

My question is, is it worth the time wasted to have a clearer view of my setting? Or is a hazy mental image and snappier writing the better option?


Tuesday, August 9, 2011


So one of the biggest problems with eBooks is the fact that, should you read a book and love it and practically inhale the words and know you'll cherish and adore them til the end of time, and then happen to meet the author...the author can't sign your book.

Except it seems like that might be changing as well.

Enter Kindlegraph. Something I discovered, oh, this morning, and I'm already insanely confused and fascinated. With Kindlegraph, you can use your twitter account to request an author's signature for one of their books, and blammo, receive a new document on your Kindle with the author's signature and inscription...

Okay, so I'm giving it a shot. Kindlegraph, that is. I made a page--http://kindlegraph.com/authors/KierynNicolas--where you can request signatures for each of my two novels (and my short story). Give it a try, and let us know what you think!

Thoughts? Are Kindlegraphs an acceptable replacement for ink-and-paper signatures?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Sorry I didn't post yesterday. Summer has me forgetting the days of the week. (Maybe I should've enrolled in AP Calendar Studies?)

Anyway, I wanted to talk about dreams. Fictional dreams, that is. Because, let's face it, most stories have a dream scene somewhere. And, let's face it, they can be pretty great--or pretty not-great.

Let's start with the not-great. The reason I most often hate dream scenes is because that particular dream scene has been done over. And over. And over. For example, school-in-underwear. The scene: A high school girl/guy appears in class, in his/her underwear, in front of--gasp!--his/her crush. ...What's the big realization here? Yeah, that it's embarassing to be at school in one's underwear. Thanks. Got it. Another overdone dream is the let-me-point-out-how-hot-the-love-interest-is dream. Scene: girl (usually a girl) encounters the guy (usually a guy) who she vehemently denies any attraction to during waking hours. Yet,
behold! In the dream she notices his perfectly tousled hair, seductive smile, sexy arms, et cetera, et cetera. The big realization? He's hot. And we've probably already heard that.

What makes a dream scene worthwhile? I'd have to say avoiding the cliche. If the underwear dream is included, having some specific insecurity about underwear (other than the one where, you know, it's underwear) fuel the fear in the dream, or maybe not having clothes is a metaphor for something other than I hate being embarrassed, the dream could be useful. Maybe even funny! Funny is another good thing to include in dreams. Humor almost always makes something unique and worthwhile.

Or, consider making the dream scenes make no sense. At all. Because really, when do dreams in the real world make sense? If they're more than five seconds long, the answer is usually "uh, never."

What are your thoughts? Are dream scenes worthwhile? What makes them great/not-great?


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Name Brands

By a stroke of luck, I've had time to read lately. And one of the things I've been noticing is when authors either use name brands or skillfully dodge using name brands. such as saying soda or cola instead of Pepsi or Dr Pepper.

This is something I've been thinking about for a while. Is it okay to use name brands? Is it good to use name brands? As in, does it help your story, or is it unnecessary?

I did what any rational person would do--I turned to the Google Machine. There I found this nice, wow-it-makes-sense article (a rarity) that I thought I would share with you:

What are your thoughts? Are name brands in fiction a good idea?


Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Cheesecake has to be the best dessert ever. Okay, except for something with a lot of chocolate. But, next to chocolate, cheesecake is the best. Perhaps for the same reason chocolate is so awesome--I'm a texture eater.

By that I mean, I like foods more for their texture than their taste. Not that taste doesn't matter, texture just...matters more. Which has me thinking, we hear a lot about sounds, sights, even smells in writing, but what about texture?

I love when I'm reading something and texture is described. For a moment, I'm even more engrossed in the story, trying to feel the same surface--table, clothing, pathway--as the character. Especially when it's worked in subtly (e.i. without "it felt like" every time).

I gave it a try a few scenes ago in my WIP. So, as something like an example...

I lean forward, resting my knuckles against the edge of the table, the weird texture that always reminds me of hard cottage cheese biting into my skin. Who would make card tables rough, anyway? Don’t people have to write stuff, like scores? Someone should complain.

(Incidentally, does anyone know what kind of table I'm talking about? Yeah, that kind. What are they even good for anyway? My guess is birthday parties. Put the cake on them. That's all I ever see them used for.)

Do you have any good examples of texture in writing? Or maybe another sense you wish writers explored more?


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to use proper writing grammar...or, rather, how to not use it.

Okay, I confess: I use improper grammar. I write run-on sentences and my characters say "I'm good" instead of "I'm well" and are frequent offenders of the "me and ___" phrase.


Because that's how people talk.

Really. Show me a character who speaks entirely in grammatically-correct sentences and I'll show you awkward, unrealistic dialogue (or my cousin Henry). Real humans use local jargon and casual speech--so, of course, if you're going for realistic characters they should too.

For example...
"...some juniors like Julius, some seniors like me and Ariel."
"...some juniors like Julius, some seniors like Ariel and I."
The first one sounds more fluid, more like what I would actually say--and therefore much more natural to me. While the second is "correct," I would choose the first, especially when used in dialogue.

"My ears still ring, either from the file or the ancient copy machine, so I waste no time putting the green car into reverse and stalling (twice) before maneuvering the car onto the main road where my poor driving skills are free to terrorize the not-so-general public, meaning most people are inside, and I encounter few obstacles on the way home."
What's wrong here? It's a run-on. However, in the story, it works, because the main character isn't thinking so clearly and her mind is racing too much for shorter sentences. All of this seems to be happening at once to her, so the run-on works, even though run-ons are a formal no-no.

One trick to see how natural your dialogue is: read it out loud. If you want to test the flow of something, see how it sounds when you read it. Is it something you'd actually say? Try getting someone else to read it too--they don't know how it's supposed to sound, so you can hear how your words sound to someone else.

Any other favorite rules to break?


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday Name-Calls

Or: On naming characters.

So let's start by saying that I'm not the best person to ask about naming characters. It's one step down on my hatred list from titles. (I suck at titles. Seriously. My second novel? The original title was "My Crazy and Insane Relationship With a Berserker" and the only reason it had even a joke title was because I needed a title for NaNoWriMo and my crit partner suggested it. Then because "My Crazy and Insane Relationship With a Berserker" is WAY too long to use as a document name, I nicknamed it Berserk. It stuck. And that's the story of my title.)

Anyways. Names. With me, not every character has to have a name. My main characters have to have first names, but they don't always get last names til the second or third draft. (Seriously. My main character/narrator in Berserk didn't have a last name til the second draft.) In SMN (my newest book), for a good 20 or 30 thousand words, my main character's best friend didn't have a name at all. (It was a bet between me and my other crit partner. I bribed her into hurrying up and finishing her revisions so I could read her book by letting her name a character in my book.) So for a long time, the character was (Biffle) so I could do an easy find and replace when she eventually did get a name.

KT (the one I was just talking about) is awesome when it comes to names. We play the "name game" when I need to change (sister) or (girl) into actual names and she's helped me come up with a lot of names for this book especially. (No, I'm not sharing her ;) ) I used to use Behind the Name's Random Name Generator quite often, but KT's more fun. Though when I used the RNG, it was quite amusing to mock the names that I found funny. I'm nice that way.

One thing to consider when you're naming characters is their family. With SMN, a lot of the characters have Irish parents or grandparents, so I consider some Irish names, but sometimes (a lot of the time) I just use names I like and don't worry about where the name comes from. 'Cause, I don't know about you guys, but my name has a different background than me. ;) And I'm a mutt anyways, so I'd have to have like 10 names to accurately reflect my heritage...

I also like to use 1000 top name lists for the years the characters would have been born, especially for smaller characters. I think it adds a touch of accuracy to things.

How do you guys name your characters? Any favourite websites or tricks?

Peace and cookies,

(PS. Also. This is late because I forgot today was Saturday because yesterday was a holiday. So happy belated Canada Day, everyone!)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Zoe Has Focusing Problems

Right now, I'm not writing my WIP. I should be, but I'm not. Technically, I'm camping without internet, but I'm writing this on Tuesday night. Let me explain why I'm not writing my WIP.

I have problems focusing. You all write, so do any of you have that problem where you are *so close* to finishing a novel and then you stop writing it? That happens to me. For instance, I'm probably 3/4 of the way to finishing my WIP. For some reason about two weeks ago, I lost the writing bug. I haven't worked on that WIP for a good two or more weeks and I don't even feel guilty. This problem probably stems from my lack of confidence or the possible lack of engaging plot in my novel, but I think it is happening for a reason. I think that the reason I haven't written a single word in Lovely Lies is that I am afraid.

I know I talk about fear a lot on here, but oh my gosh writing is such a scary thing. I know a lot of people who aren't even scared a little bit by writing or the business, but I am clearly not one of those people. So once again, lovely people who read YA Lit Six, I am going to talk about fear of writing and the business.

It is completely normal. The publishing business is so full of negativity and failing and bad stuff that it is totally OK to be afraid of it. But don't be like me. Please, for the sake of your writing and yourself, don't let your fear or writing and publishing stop you from writing. It gets me every time and it doesn't do any good.

Everybody has that one part of writing a novel that scares the hell out of them. For some it is beta readers, for some it is editing, for me it is writing first drafts. I have this huge fear that it will be all crap (honestly, it will most likely be all crap) or my characters will hate me or something tragic will happen to my finished WIP.

So that is why I haven't been writing. I've been hiding from my novel because I don't want it to end and because I am afraid. How do you all deal with your writing/publishing related fear?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


In my fiction workshop (I'm at a TN writing program!) we played "two truths and a lie." (If you're not familiar with the game, it involves coming up with--you got it--two truths and a lie, telling all three to someone or someones, and someone(s) try to guess the lie.)

The key was in the details.

As authors, details are important in making something believable. I mean, fiction, could be considered lying, or making-up-stuff. But we do it with detail. For example, Harry Potter? Hogwarts? Platform 9 3/4? All ideas and places we readers totally know like the backs of our hands (Room of Requirement? Moving stairs?). Why? Because of the details. We believe the story.

I don't have much time, but I thought I'd share. Go try two truths and a lie!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Tenses Up

Or: On writing tenses.

So let's start by defining past and present tense before we do anything else, okay? Just so we're all on the same page.

Present - I am writing a blog post. I type this as we speak. My feet are cold. (This is first person present tense, to be exact.) Also - She runs her fingers through her hair. She is sick. (This is third person present tense.)

Past - I rubbed my forehead. My eye twitched. (First person past tense.) Her stomach ached. She walked across the room. (Third person past tense - also, all my examples are kind of depressing, aren't they?)

So most of the time I write in first person past tense. (I'm not good at writing in third person. Really not good.) Both Spyder and Berserk are first person past tense.


You know that new book I'm writing? The one that if you follow me on Twitter, you've seen me call weird, annoying, weird, frustrating, weird, etc? It's in first person present tense. Which is... wait for it... weird. But when I started writing it (in past tense), it didn't feel right. So about four thousand words in, I scrapped the draft and started again - this time in present tense.

Now there are benefits and disadvantages to both.

Advantages to present tense:

- More immediate, more right in the action


- It's harder to do well
- Some people really don't like it.
- If you're me and you start writing in present, when you go to write in past, your tenses will slip.

Advantages to past tense:

- More traditionally accepted
- Somewhat easier


- Some people really don't like it. (And this is why you shouldn't write for other people. Write for yourself.)

So what do you guys write in? What do you like about it? What do you not like about it?

Peace and cookies,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How Do You Edit?

Since my mind is pretty much set on one dial - edit - I'm not capable of posting about anything else. Because it's such a monumental project, so overwhelming. To make it manageable, I go through the manuscript three times. I use three stages.

1. Plot

This is the biggest part, and I'm not one of those people who puts the hard part off. I like it out of the way as soon as possible. So I go through the entire thing, looking for those plot holes that we all have, or things I forgot. For instance, I recently found in one scene that my character was changing out of her clothes. There was a knock at the door when she had no pants on, and for some reason I completely forgot about this and she opened the door. And she had an entire conversation with someone seemingly oblivious or uncaring that she, uh, had no pants on. So the first stage is to look for things like this.

2. Description

In my first drafts I have a tendency to be direct. Someone will state something, and I don't have any tags or facial expressions or voice tones. So the second stage is to change this. Add detail and description to the story. Describe rooms, surroundings, physical characteristics.

3. Technical

This is my favorite part of the whole process because, well, it's the last one! Plus it's the easiest. Just getting rid of those pesky commas that appeared somehow, without our knowing. Working on weird sentence structure, repetition, ridding ourselves of those horrible adjectives. Breaking up or combining paragraphs. The technical stuff.

So those are my three stages. How do you edit?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


It was a big week last week! I had a party to celebrate my new book, Flawless Ruins, and like with last summer's Rain party, we went all-out on the cake. I thought I'd share a picture of both of these (delicious) cakes for comparison... Yes, they really were as good as they looked. Also, cake is a fantastic way to celebrate books. Just saying.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Writing believable characters is important--you want to know them like one of your friends, and you want your readers to know them just as well. Therefore, it's a struggle to not overload on the details. I could go on for about three pages about each of my characters without pausing, but putting that much detail (at least at once) in a story is a bit overwhelming. Well, probably more than a bit. This is leading up to, with so much to describe, how important is clothing?

In Rain I threw in details about Mel's outfits because it was important to her character as a practical, girl-world-challenged spy. In Flawless Ruins I describe a fair number of dresses because it's part of the world Morgan lives in. In my current story, I always note the way one character dresses the same each day, because that will play into the story later. That one character isn't the main character, though. I don't think my main character really has a distinctive style, and noting what she wears the same way I note the other character would seem superfluous.

How much do you describe the outfits/style of your characters? How important do you think it is to the story?


(Personally, I like these spy outfits. Anyone else watch this show when they were little?)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Who Reads Your Books?

Or: Saturday on Beta Readers and Critique Partners

I have the most awesome betas and crit partners. Sometimes people ask me how I found them and I don’t have a good answer like Absolute Write or anything. My answer is just that I whined on Twitter.

No, seriously. I was almost ready to want people to read Spyder and I mentioned it on Twitter. Then I finished the book, did a week or two’s worth of revisions, and then looked at the tweets I’d saved and basically chose randomly. Thankfully, I got really lucky with the beta I chose. She was my second beta ever, but the first on that book, and she was just… awesome. (I hope you know who you are if you’re reading this!!) The rest of my beta/crit partner stories go pretty similarly to that.

Anyways, I didn’t really want to talk about how I found my readers. I was going to talk about when people are allowed to read things and what I’ve learned from people reading my books.


No one is allowed to read a first draft. No one. The people I trust the most might get to read the beginning if I need reassurance that it doesn’t totally suck, or a passage or two, but no one is allowed to read a first draft.

What I’ve learned:

It will always make me nervous.
People won’t always get my slang.
People think I’m funny.
They will always see the typos.
Nobody likes a dryer link analogy.
Sometimes I'm really, really Canadian without meaning to be and it confuses people.
Switching from gooseflesh to goosebumps is apparently a no-no.

Alrighty, it's your turn now. Who reads your writing? When? What have you learned from having people read your writing?

Peace and cookies,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Less is More

So I realize it's been a while since I've done a post here, and I'm sorry for that. I do have a good excuse, though: I've been working really hard on the latest W.I.P. I got the fever. Anyway, there's one thing I've been focusing on in all the writing. And this is, oddly enough, simplicity.

It's recently been brought to my attention that there is such a thing as too much going on in a book. Okay, I can hear you thinking, Well, duh. But really, it didn't occur to me. I have a tendency to weave more than one subplot into a story. But apparently people have trouble following ten plots at once. I know! Shocking, right?

In an effort to keep this current story more simple, I've been worrying. What if this is boring? What if it's so simple it's not unique? Eventually I got over myself enough to keep writing. Because so what? So what if it's boring? So what if it isn't unique? I have to keep writing, and there's this thing called revising.

My lesson from all this worrying and fretting and freaking: less is more. Less is a good thing. And if there's a little too much, it's easy to fix it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Somehow I'll have to go on...

If I didn't love English class so much, I'd probably hate it.

I know, that sounds kind of obvious. But really, it took up so much time this year--reading, essay-ing, analyzing, thinking--and if every minute of it hadn't been full of utter awesomeness, I'd resent it for taking away time from writing my stories.

But I don't resent it, of course. English class this year wasn't just English class, it was Life class. Every day I found something outside of class that applied to the unit we were doing, and vice versa. We didn't just talk about words and books made out of them, we talked about humanity and ideas and morality (on a Kohlberg scale, for example). All of which, needless to say, are ideas I'll use in writing someday. (Also, a reason this class took up so much of my time was because I willingly spent more time on assignments because a) I wanted to do well and b) they were fun.) (Also x 2, I had one of the most awesome teachers ever, so, yeah, envy me.)

I had my English final today. Now I must endure two more days sans my favorite class. Not sure I'll make it. I feel all hollow inside. (Hence the title of this post.)

What do you think? How did/does English class contribute to your writing?


Friday, June 3, 2011

Deadlines and Writing Months.

I don't usually set deadlines. I have absolutely no willpower so even if I do set a deadline, most of the time I end up dismissing it as it passes. I'm talking about deadlines today because I'm on one right now. I'm competing with one of my critique partners to see who can write their book (1) the fastest and (2) by June 17th. Even with this challenge, I am still procrastinating so much with writing. That could be because all I've been doing is schoolwork (school for me was officially over Wednesday, so I'm good to go now) but it is also probably because any time I have something to do, I procrastinate with it.

Despite my unwillingness to succumb to the restrictions of book deadlines (that will be fun if I ever become a published author... *insert sarcasm here*). I do believe in deadlines, I think that they can help you plan out a book really well even if you get behind like I do.

Now on to the second part of the post. Writing Months are like NaNoWriMo, and there is one this summer. The people who run NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month in November) have decided to host a summer NaNo. NaNo is the main reason I want to finish my WIP by June 17th. The problem with starting NaNo writing after finishing a book is that I'm planning one thing while writing another. So now I have two story ideas looming around my brain.

I don't know, I suppose the point of this whole post is to talk about deadlines. Deadlines are good and they help plan out novels so that you can move on fluidly.

*I know this post is totally random, but it is late. *

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blog Tour

Guess what tomorrow is? Right, the first day of June. Guess what tomorrow also is? The first day of my blog tour! Next month (June) I'm doing a blog tour to celebrate the release of Flawless Ruins on the fifteenth. I'll be doing interviews and guest posts, and reviews of FR will be up on some of the blogs!

Here's the schedule:
June 1: Jennifer Wylie http://jlwylie.wordpress.com/
June 6: Just Another Book Addict http://justanotherbookaddict.blogspot.com
June 9: Sean and Conner http://www.seanandconnor.com/
June 13: The Bookish Babes http://thebookishbabes.blogspot.com/
June 14: Coffee and Cliffhangers http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/
June 15: Modern Romance http://robertauld.blogspot.com/
June 20: Harmony Book Reviews http://harmonybookreviews.blogspot.com/
June 24: Carla Veno Jones http://cvj237.wordpress.com/
June 28: Candace's Book Blog http://www.candacesbookblog.com/
June 30: Eating YA Books http://eatingyabooks.blogspot.com/

I'm excited about the tour, mostly because I'm a fan of book blogs, including the ones I'm stopping at. YA Lit Six isn't a book review blog, but some of our contributors are and many of our readers. Anyone have a favorite book blog, or a suggestion of one to visit?

The tour schedule may be updated, so make sure you check out my media page and scroll to Blog Tour - Flawless Ruins.