You Should Do NaNoWriMo

Oh National Novel Writing Month. What a joy!

I’m not sure at what point it was decided that NaNoWriMo should be in November. That’s like right before finals for me (not like there’s a good time to do it when I’m not busy). Yes, I have failed NaNoWriMo. Like four times.

I also won Camp NaNoWriMo once. But that’s only like a 20% success rate. All the same, I think you should do it.

Create an account on the NaNoWriMo website. It will help keep you motivated. Convince your friends to do it, because that will motivate you too.

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is even if you fail, chances are you’ve gotten words on a page. I’ve never gotten fewer than 10,000 words before giving up. And that’s more than I would have written otherwise. And a lot of those words were crap, but at least they were on paper. And it’s so much easier to revise once you actually have words on the page.

So go ahead and start NaNoWriMo. Because failing is a lot better than not doing it at all.

Query Critique 27

Hi Ms. Nelson,

A message from an ex-classmate leads seventeen-year-old Sam Daley to question what everyone else had taken at face value—that his gifted, easygoing twin had hanged himself in his room one night.  I think I’d like the focus of the hook be more on the note. The note gives more of a mystery vibe, while the focus on the suicide makes it seem more like the story is about coping with his death.

The message was a single line—ask Zack about David’s death. I think I’d try to find a way to work this message into the hook. Before Sam can question the ex-classmate, the guy dies in a hit-and-run. Calling him the ex-classmate is getting a little clunky. It also raises a question as to why he’s not a classmate anymore, but I don’t feel like the answer to that is actually important to the story. Maybe just refer to him her as the guy who gave Sam the note. And Zack, super-rich party boy, insists he had nothing to do with the suicide. Determined to punch the truth out of Zack, Sam collars him in the school parking lot. But Zack’s girlfriend jumps in between, surprising Sam. Not because nerdy, introverted Mira Patel would have the guts to stand up to him, or even that Zack and she would be a couple, but because she was his brother’s best friend and study partner. This sentence is a little on the long side, and gets a bit hard to follow.

Though devastated by her friend’s suicide, I’d go ahead and use David’s name here, since we already know who he is. Mira has her own problems: unrealistic parental expectations and a sister who breaks every rule in their traditional Indian household. On top of that, she finds herself confronting her deceased friend’s twin brother, though he’s always made her nervous. Why does Sam make her nervous? I’d go ahead and use Sam’s name as well. But when her sister dies of a drug overdose, Sam offers her the support and empathy she needs.

As their grief draws them closer together, Mira helps Sam investigate his brother’s death. They discover clues linking the hit-and-run to her sister’s overdose and, ultimately, the suicide. Soon they’re in a race to expose a killer before he finishes them off, too.

My YA contemporary, MIRA, is complete at 56,000 words. I’d almost say this sounds more like mystery or thriller than contemporary. Also, I’m interested in why the title is MIRA, since it seems to be dual perspective.Thank you for your time and considerationI would like to see some comparative titles in this paragraph. “This book will appeal to fans of…”

The Missing Link

My main comment would be that I’d like a little more about the tone of the book. Is it really about finding the killer, or is it about coping with the deaths? Obviously, both are important to the story. But which is it really about?

Writing Process Blog Tour

1. Introduce the author who passed the blog tour to you and link back to their blog.

I was tagged by Diana Pinguicha, an engineering student in Lisbon, Portugal. In her spare time, Diana likes to paint, write and game. Diana is a lover of cats and delicious food. You can find her blog here.

2. What am I working on?

At any given time I’m probably working fifteen different things. As far as writing projects go, I have a manuscript I’m prepping for querying, a manuscript that’s in time out because it was being naughty, a really rough draft from Camp NaNoWriMo that needs to be revised, and a handful of manuscripts in other varying degrees of completion.

3. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well, to start off, most of what I write doesn’t cleanly fall into any genre. My time-out manuscript is sci-fi (unless I change my mind again) but the setting roughly 1940s rather than futuristic. My alternate universe romance novel has so much murder in it that I’m not sure I should even market it as a romance.

4. Why do I write what I write?

I write YA because I’m mentally 17-years-old. Like somebody at an airport asked me how old I was and I accidentally said 17 even though I’m 22 which isn’t even close to 17. I write genre-bending stories because most of my stories start with me saying, “What have I seen a lot in stuff I’ve been reading, and how can I write the complete opposite of that?”

5. How does my writing process work?

The word “process” seems a little generous, because it changes every time I start a new progress. Sometimes I plot (though a chapter outline may consist of nothing more than “Shenanigans ensue” or “They kiss and talk about mushy stuff”). More often than not, I’m a pantser. I like 99% of the time know how the book will end though. I think of endings first, then middles, then beginnings. I’m more motivated to do first drafts than to revise, which is probably why I have a whole slew of manuscripts that are not publication ready.

Some things that are consistent for all manuscripts I write: mid-manuscript breakdowns that include yelling at my characters, being inspired by the lovely ladies in my writing group, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

I’m tagging Keith Willis. Keith’s debut novel TRAITOR KNIGHT will hit shelves summer 2015. Find his blog here.

Boiling it Down

It’s really hard to take your full length novel and boil it down to a sentence or two.

But for some reason, it’s not that hard to do with somebody else’s book.

Jojo Moyes Me Before You is about a girl who takes a job caring for a quadriplegic man.

Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is about a boy with autism trying to find out who killed his neighbor’s dog.

David Levithan’s Every Day is about a person who wakes up in a new body everyday.

You can do it to. Think of the book you’re currently reading and write a one sentence synopsis.

Now these aren’t super fantastic hooks per se, but I could come up with them off the top of my head. Whereas when somebody asks me what my book is about, my brain shorts out and I’m like, “Well there’s this one thing, and this other thing. And they’re actually connected, but then something happens. And probably everyone is going to die.”

It takes a lot of practice to be able to describe your own book in one sentence. While you’re honing the skill, I think it’s helpful to have critique partner’s do it for you. Have them describe your book in one sentence. That will give you an idea of the fundamentals that you can then refine into your own short synopsis.

Query Critique 26

Dear Ms. Nelson,

For seventeen-year-old Cas Leung, bossing around sea monsters five thousand times her size is just the family business. I like this hook. Cuts right to the chase of what’s interesting about her. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission, slaughters her favorite Reckoner, and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water. I’d like a little more explanation of what a Reckoner is. Otherwise, this paragraph seems solid.

There’s no time to mourn it. It being the Reckoner death, right? Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on the ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

Cas has fought pirates her entire life, and she’s not about to stop. But when she starts to fall for one – the captain’s prickly, swaggering apprentice girl – she begins to see the complexities of the NeoPacific in a different light. As she grapples with her old values and her new perspective, Cas must decide whether taking vengeance against her captors is worth becoming even more monstrous than the Reckoner pup she’s raising.

Complete at 63,000 words, THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US is a young adult science fiction novel with LGBT+ romance elements.  It’s the monsters of Pacific Rim and the myth of Persephone Hmm… I’m trying to think where the Persephone myth would fit in based on what I’ve read. on the seas of the future. While the story stands alone, it also has series potential. My short fiction has been published by HarperTeen as part of the online bonus content for the Defy the Dark anthology.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!


Once and the Future Sea Queen

Overall, this one is looking pretty good! The setting, conflict, and stakes have all been really well established.


Examples of Great Hooks

The other day I posted tips for writing great hooks. I got a request for some examples of good hooks, and I am happy to oblige!

Here are the two I’ve been using for my WIPs. (Is it arrogant to use my own hooks as good examples? Eh. Maybe).

“Sixteen-year-old Aurelia’s second language just might get her killed.”

“Seventeen-year-old princess Livia was joking when she said she’d rather die than marry prince Caden, but assassins make take her request seriously.”

Here one from my lovely writing group partner:

“The memory-stealing Aster were banished long before El’s birth, but it’s their fault Mama is dying.”

– Meghan Jashinsky

And here are some links to critiques I’ve done that had hooks I liked.

Query 1 Rewrite: “Seventeen year old Susan Black’s ability to control all forms of earth helps her protect the city of Caperville from dastardly villains and monsters.”

Critique 8: “Two years ago, fifteen-year-old Zoey was abducted and held prisoner for six months.”

Critique 15: “Melissa Stratten puked on a senior basketball player while hooking up, and nobody will stop whispering about it.”

Critique 22: “After arriving on Mars with no memory of her life on Earth, a young girl must uncover the mysteries of her past while attending an institution training the red planet’s next generation of leaders.”

Show, Don’t Tell

Show, don’t tell.

This is probably something you’ve seen me say before if you’ve been reading critiques. It’s probably something you’ve heard other people say before. So if you don’t know what it means, I’ll explain it quickly.

Telling: Captain America is heroic.

Showing: Captain America fought the Red Skull and saved the city of New York.

Both sentences get the idea that Cap is heroic across. But the second one is detailed and more effective.

This is an issue in query letters when somebody says their book is “a heart-warming tale” or a “humorous adventure.” Instead of telling me that it’s heart-warming, write a query letter that gives me warm fuzzies. Instead of telling me that it’s humorous, write a query letter that makes me laugh. A well crafted query letter should match the tone of the book, and will imply a lot about the nature of the book.

This is actually also a very useful skill if you ever have to write a statement of intent or cover letter. Instead of saying you’re a hard work, give an example of a time you worked hard. You’ll stand out from all the other hard workers who applied.