Filtering by Tag: Writing

Challenge of the Pantser: NaNoWriMo 2014

The weirdest part about participating in NaNoWriMo is that the rest of the world only sees the next 30 days as "November." Non-writers continue to do laundry, eat, scrub the bathtub, party with friends, NOT THINK ABOUT WRITING 24/7. I don't get them. Especially when I reach the halfway point in the month, and everyone around me is too cheerful.

But for us writers, the biggest challenge of the year has arrived. Some of us get scared. Some of us live for the thrill. I'm a mixture of both.

If you didn't catch the news on Swoon Reads, then I'll say it again here. I am totally a:

Me and my fellow Swoon authors are joining together to share our NaNo journeys, tips, woes, and strategies for success!

I even made a new NaNo profile - you can find me there!

The winner's shirt is calling my name this year (I think it's the dragon), but I'm going to do my best and see what happens. After all, I know from experience that November throws a lot of curve balls.

When I taught college classes in grad school, it was the month when all the big papers were due. The papers I had to write for my classes, yes, but also for my students to turn theirs in for me to grade. I'm sure my "real world" job will provide some kind of equivalent.

As part of my strategy, I'm doing two new things this year. The first is writing mainly on my iPad Mini. This is my first year using it, and I'm still getting used to Pages. I'm a Word girl, through and through, but the convenience of opening my manuscript within seconds is too good to pass up. The best part is that speed. I can wake up in the middle of the night and write a paragraph. Or come home from work and write a page. My laptop is just too slow for that - and slowness can be the enemy of motivation, haha.

I've never actually done word sprints either (I just usually look for pockets of time when they come and write then), but I downloaded some apps to try. I'll let you know later in the month how that goes.

I usually participate every November, using the camaraderie and energy of the event to help me make the final push to the last chapter on whatever project I had already been working on. It's been a while since I started writing a new novel on November 1st. I love the feeling of starting a new project, one with new characters, twists and turns that surprise even me as I write them, and finding new worlds to explore. So NaNoWriMo 2014 begins with a brand-new project, unconnected to anything I've written before.

My NaNo novel is tentatively called Brightly Wound. I made one of my famous lists-of-all-the-things-between-the-pages, to give you an idea of what this novel is made of:

a somewhat-villainous boy; a powerful, heartbroken girl; talking animals, rum raisin desserts, zebras, delicious kings, shadow kings, three impossible tasks, the aftermath of a love triangle, favors great and small, family heirlooms, golden hoods, lovable henchmen, hideouts, and exactly one showdown.

This was also the extent of my planning before October came to a close.

The Muppet-ish Halloween pen did not help me find a plot.

While I am usually a panster, this year, obviously, I'm an extreme panster.

Urban Dictionary gives a great definition of what a "pantser" is:

This is the way I like to write. I have to have the freedom to improvise on the page. If I plan everything out, down to the dialogue in every scene, it takes the fun out of creating. I did all the work, but the storytelling isn't there yet, on paper, unfolding like blanket still warm from the dryer. 

But I usually spend a few weeks before toying with the new novel in my head. Sometimes jotting down notes. Starting a Pinterest board. But November took me by surprise this year. It was upon us and I was stepping into uncharted territory. There was some panic, on my part, as I opened my document and wrote the first lines, hoping for the best. 

What I did have, though, was one particular character that demanded to be written. He dogged me for weeks, begging for a world to be planted in, because he came alone. His name is Jasper. He was a bully. Now he's kinda a villain. And as long as I'm concentrating on him, I've discovered that he brings the story to him. I just have to listen. 

For those of you participating this year, how did your pre-planning go? What level or panster or planner are you? 

"My Writing Process" Blog Tour Post

My participation on the My Writing Process Blog Tour is due to John Henry Fleming's persuasive powers. I can't say no to my professor, not matter how long I've been out of school (and it hasn't been that long, come to think of it).

I've written about John on my blog a few times now; his writing is delightfully bizarre, showcased through his newest book, Songs for the Deaf. John's other (but no less impressively bizarre) books include The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, a novel just re-issued in a 20th Anniversary Edition ebook; Fearsome Creatures of Florida, a literary bestiary; and The Book I Will Write, a novel-in-emails originally published serially and now available as an ebook. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of South Florida, and he’s the founder and advisory editor of Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art. His website is

1) What are you working on?

The moon and stars revolve around my debut novel at the moment, LOVE FORTUNES AND OTHER DISASTERS. After juggling multiple projects for so long, it's strange to say that Fallon Dupree and her world of charms and fortunes is what's on my mind. I'm working through my first round of revisions.

Before starting a new project, I'd love to write some more flash fiction and short stories. I feel like it's been a while and I have some new ideas lurking.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

HMM. Not sure how to answer this one. A lot of my writing falls into the vein of magical realism. I think magical realism is still growing in the YA genre, but a lot of those books I’ve read tend to have dark, sometimes very sad tales to tell. I prefer to write stories that are a little brighter–maybe that’s years of Disney’s influence on me, but there you go.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I can’t help it. I grew up exposed to storytelling that embraced the strange, if not for fantasy’s sake, then humor. I’m talking about cartoons, video games, children’s books, fairy tales and mythology. In my own writing, I strive to create stories of oddball characters and circumstances. If I had any writerly motto, it would have to be straight from Edgar Allan Poe: “There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.”

4) How does your writing process work?

In the beginning, I’m a scavenger. I keep my eyes open for ideas and start gathering bits and pieces that shine, so to speak. When they come together, that's when the work begins.

While I use notebooks to write outlines, character bios, and other notes, I do the writing itself on a computer. I’m actually a terrible speller, so seeing the errors while I’m writing is a huge distraction for me–not a problem if I have good old Spell Check on hand. This is probably kinda weird, but when I’m writing on my computer, I love having the Word file zoomed out so that I can see two pages at a time. It’s like I’m hovering over the page in a helicopter, rather than in the trenches. After stealing writing time both in grad school and at my job (yay, lunch breaks!) I’m so used to people walking behind my desk and getting a clear view of my computer screen. So the privacy of writing with such tiny print is an added benefit to that habit!

I usually write my first drafts fairly quickly, but that depends on outside forces, like life (work, laundry, room-cleaning, socializing. What are those things?). The amount of drafts I go through while revising depends upon the project - I've found that each new book demands a different process.

Thank you for inviting me to join the tour, John. This is the part where I'm supposed to introduce you to three awesome writers making their posts next week. 

But I kind of failed at that.

The blame is in my corner. I don't have many authorly friends. YET. I also worked mandatory overtime for the first time this week. My brain has melted into an unidentifiable shape. 

But if you're interested in reading more about the writing process, do check out John and Jim's posts. Startlingly enough, I seem to have beaten Ira. 

Publication News: Cantilevers

For me, April was like trying to stuff sweaters into a dresser drawer. You hope for space, for future sweaters, but the current ones you own won’t have it. Your sweaters expand their chests and stretch out, refusing to let you close the drawer all the way.

I’m typically not a busy person in the sense that I have to get in the car and go do things. Weeknights are for exercising and relaxing. Weekends are for catching up on sleep, plotting stories, and the occasional outing. But not this month.

April grabbed me by the shoulders and sang loudly in my ear, declaring that my life this month would be full of adventure. When my MFA pals read their theses in a small graduation ceremony, I was there, trying not to sniffle with pride in the audience. I got autographs from voice actors and bought way too much Sailor Moon merch at a local anime convention. A new friend from work whisked me away on a Friday afternoon for Hibachi, the both of us ignoring the traffic jams and crazy drivers for the sake of good food and a show.

But probably the most epic event this month had to be going to my alma mater, Florida Southern College, as the Guest Author for their literary journal.

You might remember the post I wrote a while back about what I learned by serving as a fiction editor on two literary journals. In my undergraduate years, I climbed from being a staffer to the literary editor of Cantilevers: Journal of the Arts.

Being invited back years later as Guest Author was surreal. Something like coming full circle. My days of introducing Cantilevers’ Guest Authors and Poets are over. Being on the other side was just… amazing.

The Unveiling Ceremony took place on a Tuesday night. I was in the basement of the new English building, one that I hadn’t had the pleasure of using before graduating (though, as nice as the new building is, I’m glad I took my classes in the old one. It had undeniable character, haha).

Getting to see some of my old professors was amazing. And a little tearful. Going to college was my first time being away from home, and FSC’s English Department was like a second family to me. Even though my old friends and fellow students had long since graduated, the current students were delightful. I loved the energy and excitement at the event. I can’t explain, even now, how immediately comfortable I felt when I walked up to the podium to read my published short story. It was like being at home. I guess this is what school spirit feels like, haha.

Being Guest Author meant that I got to judge best poetry and best prose in this year’s issue. It also meant submitting a story of my own to be published. I had written a new story for Cantilevers called “Elsewhere,” inspired by Victorian post-mortem photography and mermen.

You’re probably not surprised.

I was actually inspired by a particular photo of two sisters. The one standing in the photo is dead. I was curious about the dead sister, of course, but the story only came when I considered the living sister’s feelings. How did it feel to pose next to her dead sister? What did she think of her sister when she was alive? But there always has to be some magic, so you’ll find stolen pearls and a fishy vagrant thrown into the tale.

Cantilevers is only printed and distributed for FSC students at this time, but I’m sure you can see this story again. One day… or else squint really hard at the picture to see the beginning, haha.

The best part of the night was getting to talk with the students. Honestly, hearing that they loved the story, along with sharing some healthy geeking out about magical realism and Eisley, kept a smile on my face for the rest of the week.

Having studied the craft of fiction in grad school, I find myself at war with the lessons I learned in academia and what the “real world” is looking for in good (sellable, perhaps) fiction. Even as I was reading “Elsewhere,” my MFA brain was chattering and poking holes wherever it could. So when I got to talk with the students afterward, I was both in awe and thrilled by their kind words and enthusiasm for my story.

The goal is always to become a stronger writer, to tell my stories better. While my MFA program did wonderful things for me and my growth as a writer, the truth is that lessons come from everywhere.

Some lessons lead you to a better way of writing, while others are here to remind you that, yes, you’re doing it right. Relax. Fall in love again with whatever you’re writing and don’t let your inner editor rob you of that.

In other news, April’s minutes and hours have been sucked up by moving. Every evening, I’d come home from work, pack more stuff from my old room into boxes, and shuttle it over to the new house. Me and ‘rents have chosen to move into a cozier house; it’s much smaller, but has a lot of character and charm – something that the old house lacked, for all its space.

The movers finally came this week, so the past two days have been a whirlwind of shifting furniture around and finding new places for everything. Since I couldn’t rest unless all my books were shelved (or on the floor next to my bed – I’m not that neat), I tore open our boxes and ended up getting all my books shelved during the first night in the new house. And then my mom and I finished reshelving her books in the library the next day. Nothing says “finished” like books all back where they belong. Once that was done, the rest of the house came together.

When I said the house has character, I meant it. My parents are obsessed with non-colors and I had been living in a sea of eggshell-white for far too long. So my new room is my favorite shade of blue: a powdery, hazy lake-like blue. And with my white furniture, the combined effect makes me feel like I’m stepping into some enchanted space. I can’t wait to write stories here.

We Could Fall in Love (Maybe. But I'm Talking About the Manuscript)

I've been very bad. For months now, I've been writing something and kept it a secret from you.

Considering how often I've written serially on Figment, this was EXTREMELY HARD to do. I'm terrible at keeping secrets. That's why my friends know better than to ask me about movies and books. I usually slip up with spoilers, though I try to give fair warning. Sometimes.

But now, the time has come. My newest novel manuscript, We Could Fall in Love, is officially online and ready for reading!

So I've been giving you hints about this novel, but really, what is it about? Well, well. I could give you a list, or I could be reasonable and give you a summary instead:

Fallon attends high school in the town of Grimbaud, where magic takes the form of crafted charms, potions, and fortunes. When she receives this year’s love fortune from Zita’s shop, the mysterious woman whose fortunes are said to come straight from Love itself, Fallon refuses to accept what her new fortune decrees: being eternally unloved–and a guaranteed residency at the Spinster Villas. 
But a rebellion is brewing, and she suddenly finds herself at the center of it, joining fellow ill-fated teenagers determined to end Zita’s reign. There she meets Sebastian, a handsome boy notorious for dating and dumping girls before they can know his heart. 
Her aversion to Sebastian fades as she gets to know him, but love is risky when heartbreak awaits her–unless the rebellion succeeds.

Where Can I Find It?

I'm glad you asked.

You'll find three sample chapters on The full manuscript, however, is exclusively on 

Swoon Reads is a teen romance imprint publishing under Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. The great part about them is that they work the same way Figment does, creating a community where writers can share their manuscripts with readers. Swoon Reads is focused on YA and NA romance novels, spanning many different genres and subgenres. The exciting part is the chance of publication: if readers and the staff love the book, you might get offered a publishing contract with Swoon Reads.

You'll need to make an account on to read my manuscript, and I hope you do!

Voting for this round ends May 31st.

It may mean that you'll need to shift around your endless reading lists to read and comment on We Could Fall in Love in time, and for that, I'm truly appreciative.

Fallon and Sebastian's story is near and dear to my heart. I've been eating way too many sweets over the past few months, seeing hearts on everything, and questioning the fate (or lack of it) that brings some people together and keeps others alone.

Now is the perfect time to break out into an 80s love song, but I'll save you the torture (I can't sing. Really). Instead, I'll just say that I've been waiting a very long time in Kim-years to share this story with you. Please enjoy!

Writer in Search of a Writing Spot

I need a change in scenery. Something to spice up the endless hours of burning my eyes out on the screen. Meeting my 1k word count goals every day at the same computer in the same shifting light is fine... but I'm tired by the weekend. I want to go outside.

Or sit inside, in the AC, but somewhere that's not the office or my own house.

Graduate school gave me the chance to write anywhere I wanted on campus. I had my pick of at least five different buildings, each with their own nooks and outlets to suit my moods.

But now I commute to work, come home, and go to sleep. And at work, the only real place to sit is in my cubicle. I'm really good at sitting there for hours. So my project is to find (a few) public places (besides the library) that I can hunker down at and write on the weekends.

I haven't always had this opinion - another point for the Real World. In fact, writing in public spaces had been kind of fun to joke about among my grad peers, because we all knew the stigma behind it. To quote one of my favorite cheeky writing books, Robert's Rules of Writing, Robert Masello says:

Starbucks is where writers who want to be seen in the act of creation go, who treat writing as if it were some kind of performance art. They want to be admired, they want to be soothed by the ambient noise and the occasional glance from an attractive patron. They want to be asked, "What are you working on?" so they can sit back and talk about it.

I'm not gonna lie. Part of the intrigue is that I have a shot at being a little more social. By simply sitting at a cafe or bookstore, the possibility of making new friends or witnessing something inspiring (or funny) is greatly increased than... if I sat at home.

Besides, aren't hip 20-something's supposed to be out in public, soaking up the universe? I dunno. You tell me.

I've been living in the same place for 10+ years (not including the four years at college), so I know what's around here. Businesses close so fast that my memories of failed gift shops, pet stores, and a parade of restaurants isn't so great. The rent's too high, I guess, for some entrepreneur to open a coffee shop down the street from me.

Like any good sleuth, I searched the internet for coffee shops, bakeries, soup and sandwich shops - anything that might be in reasonable driving distance. The shops I found were a good 45 minutes away (without traffic) and/or in dubious areas of town. So.


So. That leaves only one place: Barnes & Noble. *cue ominous music*

My local B&N (which is not so local, driving-wise) is really the only central book hub left after Borders closed. There are no used bookstores. Only one place to go. Personally, I love wandering the two-story store; as much as I love ordering books online, nothing beats the pleasure of finding books by simply stumbling upon them. There's a coffee shop inside the store, so to speak, so I'm going to start going there to write for an hour or two in the morning.

The hard part is making sure I don't leave with a new book each time!

Do you have a favorite place you like to write/read at besides at home? What's your view about writers writing publicly? 

BTW, make sure you stop by Namie's blog, Good Morning Lovely, because she's just posted her interview with me there. Do poke around her blog; Namie's posts are both uplifting and inspiring - and I have the honor of being her friend (like, in real life. We hang out).