Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Mega HUGE congrats to S.R. Johannes on the release of her super cute middle grade novel, ON THE BRIGHT SIDE! You all know how much I love-loved Johannes' book UNTRACEABLE...well, ON THE BRIGHT SIDE is just as clever, quirky, and hilarious!

You can find out more about it on Goodreads, or you can buy your own copy on Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

YAY, Shelli!!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The No Right Way To Write Writer's Guide (Or: A Few Hints I've Put Together)...

After going through the posts that Maggie Stiefvater linked onMonday, I got a chance to see the (vastly!) different ways that we writers write.  I saw that some of the authors talked about how they write ”skeletal” first drafts (*cough*Brenna*cough), so much so that their final versions hardly look anything like the finished draft.  I know some authors who just plow through their first drafts, never looking back until they cross the finish line and type “THE END”.  (You know you who are, the writers who type “Write a kick-ass fight scene here” and move on to the next chapter, leaving those pesky “details” for later.)  Others makes these insanely thorough outlines that rival full-blown novellas, reaching 30,000 to 40,000 words, before ever starting the actual book.  Umm…wow! 

And then there are those writers who make my head explode, those who write random scenes (a kissing scene that will go at the end today and a fighting scene from the beginning tomorrow), and then somehow they piece them all together into a real live manuscript at the end. Like making a giant patchwork quilt. And yet they do so brilliantly! 

So, in keeping with yesterday’s post, I thought I’d talk about which category I fit into. 

Answer: None of the above.    

Reason: There is no right way to write a book (other than to finish it, of course).

I know I’ve said before that I’m not an outliner, but I’m amending that now (kind of). With series books, you sorta have to outline...at least a little. My “outlines”, however, are just scribbled notes on yellow notepads that look nothing like novellas, but would give Charles Manson a run for his money.  Sometimes my notes are just questions: Will Violet find the killer? Will Violet and Jay break up? (Generally, I don’t even know the answers at this point!)

I also like to stop and tinker along the way.  I process and revise what I’ve already written as I go, making the first half of my book much more polished than, say, the last half.  I will tweak words, amend timelines, alter relationships, insert new scenes...whatever I think needs to be done to make the words I’ve already written better.

And I can’t do that piecing scenes together thing.  I’m definitely an A to Z writer. I start at the beginning and write every scene. In order.  For me, it’s hard to imagine doing it any other way. 

Along the way, however, I have learned some great tips for revising.  For me, these are invaluable.

1. Don’t underestimate the value of changing media.  What does that mean, you ask?  Print your manuscript out. On paper.  (Sorry trees!) (If it makes you feel better, I use recycled paper and use both sides.) 

I know it sounds weird, but there’s something that changes the way you see—and read—your words when they’re in print. (I even go as far as changing the font.)  Take a pen and go through your manuscript, page by page, marking the changes that need to be made.

Personally, I do this twice...because:

2. I HIGHLY recommend reading your manuscript aloud, either to yourself or to a willing victim/friend.

Again, listening to the cadence of the words can change how you want them to end up on paper. If it sounds strange when you say it, it sounds strange when your reader is reading it. 

If nothing else (and I seriously recommend this for the entire manuscript), at least do it for your dialogue. There’s nothing worse than reading stilted dialogue.

Okay, guys, I hope this was semi/quasi/sorta useful. I never know if it’s weird to give writing advice, but here’s the deal: All I’m trying to do is give you a sense of what I’ve learned, through trial and error, works for me.  And hopefully these tips will help you figure out what works best for you.  Happy writing!

Monday, January 23, 2012

In Which I Bare My Soul (Or First vs. Final Draft)...

When Maggie Stiefvater emailed me with a proposition: Either give up my large intestines or participate in a writing blog post where we would dissect a first draft of a scene vs. a finished draft, the choice was...well, not as easy as you’d think it would be.

As much as I like my large intestines (being that they help me digest my food and all), I really don’t like sharing my first drafts. Mostly because they’re messy. I much prefer everyone to believe that all of my drafts are as sparkly and error-free as the final version.

Kidding. (Kind of.)

But what really won me over was Maggie’s original post. How much would I have loved a post like this when I was scouring the interwebz for writing tips? It was like writer porn. And how could I NOT want to contribute a little writer porn of my own???

Not only do you get to see the differences between the first and final draft, but, following Maggie’s lead, I’m also going to explain why I made some of the decisions I made in this scene.

The “first draft” I’m showing you is the draft I sent to my agent before it went out on submission. I don’t have crit-partners who edit my work, only a husband with a red pen who’s willing to point out typos. I’ve chosen a scene from The Pledge that is meant to be spoiler-free, but gives you the gist of the story without ruining anything (in case you haven’t read it yet!).

Also, for those of you scrolling through this in a viewer, I apologize for the length of this post. Yeah, it’s a long one!

THE FIRST DRAFT (click on the pics to enlarge)

1. This is meant to set the scene. It’s important to ground the scene (in this case, a restaurant) so the reader isn’t left hanging. It also establishes what Charlie’s (Charlaina) role in the scene is.

2. Tells you something about people of the Counsel class.

3. Allows some of Charlie’s feelings for the upper class to shine through. Establishes that she has defiant thoughts, even if she keeps them under wraps.

4. Gives some of Brook’s backstory without being a total info dump. You get this background in fragments rather than all at once.

5. This is just a snippet to establish bond between the characters.

6. Setting up the tension and gives the reader a sense that something's about to happen.

7. This shows the reader what Charlie’s daily life is like in contrast to kids of the Counsel class. It also shows the class division in this society in general.

8. More of Charlie’s subversive thoughts...

9. ...countered by the fact that, in the end, she can’t help but be the obedient daughter.

10. A play on the fact that the Counsel woman’s smile (in paragraph 3) did reach her eyes. I like to play on words and phrases I’ve used in earlier passages.

11. Building tension as Charlie grows more uncomfortable with the girl’s presence.

12. I agonized over the swear here, mostly because I couldn’t decide if it fit. Ultimately, you’ll see I scratched it from the final version. I’m not opposed to swearing if it makes sense.

13. Establishes Charlie’s ability to understand the languages of the other classes (something that’s illegal in her world).

14.Again, she’s increasingly irritated, but you can’t just say that. Need to show rather than tell.

15. His occupation also sets his class apart from Charlie’s.

16. I chose italics as a visual cue to establish that another character is speaking in a language that Charlie isn’t “allowed” to understand. Clearly, we realize that she understands them all.

17. I also use a verbal cue so that if the reader misses the italics, they can still tell that another dialect is being spoken.

18. This is the appropriate response, and helps to establish the rules of her world.

19. Non-italicized speech means that she is permitted to comprehend them now, that they are speaking in an acceptable language for her. We also see in this section that the dad’s not a total D-Bag.

20. Charlie may be a tad dramatic, but this is more of her thought process for why she tries so hard to behave. It’s important to show motivations.

21. A good chance to show that Charlie is unique in her ability to understand all languages.

22. Okay, so now we now the girl is a total Be-otch! We should all hate her by now.

23. Charlie makes a fatal error by not looking away when the girl is speaking in italics.

24. Sometimes alliteration can work for descriptions. That said, sometimes it’s just plain cheesy. Be careful with it.

25. Uh-oh! Now Charlie realizes she’s in trouble. She tries to follow the rules...but is it too late?

26. Charlie has caused enough of a scene that her father (who she’s already expressed concern over) has realized what’s happening.

27. Need an emotional closing line to wrap a scene like this. The goal is to keep the reader wanting more.


1. I like the words “tinny” and “clattered”, they are very succinct and hard to misinterpret.

2. I’ve changed the woman at the table to a man (because this is a female-centric society, I’ve opted to make the woman who joins him later the working parent).

3. In the process of editing, there were boys added to this scene. They’re necessary for what unfolds later and this was a good time to introduce them.

4. This also tells us a little something about Brooklynn, who may be a bit of an attention whore. And that boys generally like her. A lot.

5. Here we find out that there’s one boy who doesn’t seem to be interested in Brook.

6. Because I’d given her a name in an earlier scene, she gets a name here as well. Sydney is shaping up to be an actual character in this book ;)

7. Gave a little more info as to what a Counsel family might look like, while also getting a dig in at Sydney’s expense.

8. Changed from “I wasn’t nervous” to “I didn’t want to be nervous” because clearly she was a little nervous. Her actions tell us so.

9. Also, changed “shitty” to “arrogant” as it seemed to suit the feel of the scene better.

10. See how it’s her mother who’s the working woman now? Also added another distinction between classes—clothing color choice.

11. Decided, also, to give another clue that these were not words Charlie was supposed to be privy to.

12. I like shorter, choppier sentences for dramatic effect, but unlike in the first draft, I decided it wasn’t necessary here.

13. I thought “pouring” was a better word choice here, since “filling” could imply faucets and I’m trying to give an old-world feel. It’s not that modern conveniences don’t exist (I mention an electronic scanner, plastic, electricity, etc.), it’s just that I’ve made a decision to discuss them as infrequently as possible.

14. Got rid of the line “And I couldn’t.” because, frankly, the continuity of it didn’t work.

15. Just showing that Sydney’s a drama queen, in case there was any confusion.

16. Gives an explanation of what Charlie did wrong, exactly.

17. Again, role reversal, and now this is her father speaking. Also, in the previous version I simply said: “Her mother tried to calm her down...” This is showing how that played out, rather than leaving it to the reader’s imagination.

18. I love this line and was glad it made the final cut.

19. Now we see what Charlie is going through, and also get a glimpse at what’s going on in the restaurant around her.

20. Wait! Did they just share a mini-moment? I think they might have...

21. Her dad is now rushing out to see what’s happening, rather than just poking his head out the door. Makes more sense if your daughter just broke the law.

22. And this clarifies the consequence for her actions.

For more writer porn (aka. first versus final draft posts) from other authors, check out Maggie's blog...she's gonna put up a little linky action!

Monday, January 16, 2012


If you live in Portland, you may have noticed that it's snowing in the Northwest. And where I live (in the foothills) it's not only snowy, but it's crazy icy too. And yeah, there's that hill. And the drive home at midnight...on the ice...

Trust me, this decision wasn't easy. I've agonized over it. I've watched every weather report out there, so I've seen the cars spinning out on the ice and the trucks stranded in ditches. Ultimately, being the Northwest driver that I am, I've decided I have to cancel my appearance at tonight's event :(

I feel terrible, I really really do. I'm trying to reschedule now, and will let you know as soon as I have a date for you.

Until then, bundle up and drink lots (and lots) of hot cocoa!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Order Signed Copies of THE PLEDGE...

I'll be at Powell's Cedar Hills Crossing Store in Beaverton, Oregon this Monday, the 16th at 7:00PM, and for those of you who can't make it (yeah, I'm talking to you...*gives you the shifty eyes*), they've set up a great way for you to order signed copies online!!! It's fast, it's easy, and it's fun. Okay, maybe not fun, but it's still awesome!

And for those of you in the Portland area, I'll see you there...right???

Friday, January 6, 2012

What's Better Than A Teaser???


That's right, HarperTeen's PitchDark is giving away the first five chapters of The Last Echo (along with some other really cool Harper titles)!

Kindle users, click here!

Nook users, here!

And for other download options, check this link.

Seriously, SO. COOL! I hope you guys like it!!!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The 3rd Annual No-Kiss Blogfest (and a teaser from The Last Echo!)

So in honor of the 3rd Annual No-Kiss Blogfest, I decided to share a little teaser from The Last Echo with y'all. It's spoiler-free, so no worries...just a good old-fashioned, no-kiss, tension-filled moment between Violet and Rafe:

“What took you so long? I’ve been here for half an hour. I’d’ve gone in without you, but I have no idea what I’m looking for.” Rafe scowled as she joined him outside The Mecca, his arms crossed impatiently.

The cloudless sky overhead gave the impression that the day should’ve been brighter, sunnier, but instead it just felt cold and empty. Like a vast gray wasteland.

Violet felt a twinge of satisfaction. She liked that she knew something he didn’t. “Sorry,” she tried, but didn’t sound nearly as repentant as she should have. “I ran into some friends.”

He looked at his watch. “Some of us still value other people’s time.”

She rolled her eyes, suddenly feeling like she had some idea why he wasn’t winning any charm contests. “Whatever. Don’t be such a baby. Besides, it’s not like you had anyplace better to be, or you wouldn’t have jumped at the chance to meet me in the first place.”

“Or,” Rafe said as he reached out to get the door for her, holding it so she could go in ahead of him, “I want to catch this sicko.”

Violet faltered. Of course that was it, she chided herself, embarrassed for thinking otherwise. Why else would he be wasting his Saturday with her?

She felt unsettled as she stepped inside and surveyed the art wall and the congested tables and chalk menu. That artsy appeal Violet had felt just a day earlier was lost on her now, tainted with what she thought she knew, what she hoped to confirm by being here today.

“So? This is it, huh?” Rafe asked, but his eyes were on Violet, not on the café.

“Why?” Violet stepped closer to him. “Do you sense something?”

He shot her an amused look. “Do I sense something? Really, that’s the best you can do? Do you want me to check for evil spirits while I’m at it?” He smirked. “I was only asking because you said this was the place.”

“Whatever. You don’t have to be such an ass,” Violet told him, her cheeks burning. “I was just thinking that maybe . . . you could,” she stammered. “Maybe you might feel something?”

Rafe tipped his head closer, until it was right next to hers, and suddenly she was far too aware of him. Of his lips and the blazing blue of his eyes. He quirked an eyebrow at her, just one. “I have to actually touch something to feel something. Just FYI.”

“Oh?” Violet said, nodding.

“Yeah. That’s pretty much how it works.”

“Do you want to?” she breathed. “I mean touch something?” Her heart was racing, slamming so violently it felt like a sledgehammer, and she worried it might actually crack a rib.

He inched the tiniest bit closer, his breath mingling with hers. “I do,” he said softly, his voice barely a whisper as his daring blue eyes held hers . . . longer than they should have.

I won't tell you what happens next, but I will say poor Violet gets put through the wringer in this book!