Posts Tagged ‘writing’


Semicolons are connectors; they show relationships.

April 6, 2010

I was tempted to write an entire post with semicolons in each sentence, but after a few tries, the gimmick didn’t work for me; apparently, it’s something I do subconciously. 🙂 

Anyways, semicolons are covered in grammar textbooks and other places, so I’m not going to list the rules; I’m going to mention my favorite use of semicolons.

A semicolon joins related independent clauses; anyone who struggles with short, choppy sentences should consider using one.


“I couldn’t lose my hair at fourteen; baldness belonged around old people.”

“Of course Jason crashed and burned; he’s got no depth perception.”


My trouble with semicolons is that I overuse them; they’re just so fun.

Don’t follow this post’s example; semicolons make the biggest impact when the audience doesn’t even notice that they’re there.

Yes, I did it; I just couldn’t resist.



Shiver Contest Winner!

December 18, 2009

And our $25 gift card and book contest winner is…

Drumroll, please…….

JESSICA YOUNG!  Jessica, you get to choose from either Shiver, Thirteen Reasons Why, or Tricks, AND a $25 gift card to either Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

WOOT!  Thanks to everyone for entering and re-tweeting us!


NaNoWriMo failure

December 1, 2009

It’s December and NaNo is officially over.  For those of you who have read this blog the past month, you’ve seen several posts about NaNo.  Well, I thought I would share my NaNo failure story.  Yep, my first time posting on this blog and I’m going to talk about my failures.

50,000 in one month – doable?  Oh yeah!  For me?  Nope.

I started off great – 10K in one weekend, the most I’ve ever written in such a short span.  I thought, Hey this’ll be a breeze,  I can write Larch this month and finish Judgement next month and be ready to query again by the end of January.

By day seven I was right where I should be.  By day ten I was behind.  That little graph laughed at me every time I clicked on it’s tab.  Seriously, I heard it snickering and taunting.    By day twenty I was up to 20k, still 10k behind and realized there was no way in Hades I would reach 50k by today.  I was going to join the ranks of NaNo failures, plus Larch and Stone wouldn’t shut up in my mind, dreams, shower or car.

Of course I have to be faithful to my characters and finish their story.  I have fallen in love with them and their world and finishing their story is something I look forward to.  Would I have ever tried a dystopian?  A book set in the future?  A borderline sci-fi?  I must give a resounding no but now I have attempted it, have 30K and a fleshed out plot.

So do I consider myself a NaNo failure?  Yes and no.  Yes, I didn’t get out the 50k.  Too much in my life got in the way: family, homeschooling, beta reading and the oh, five or ten novels I read this month.  I guess I could’ve skipped schooling the kids but I do want them to go to college.  And I could’ve not read those other books but I enjoyed them.

So the conclusion I have come to is: if 50k was that important to me then I would’ve prioritized it over the frivolous things I did – and no, schooling is not considered frivolous, don’t even go there ;).

I’m very grateful to NaNoWriMo and will definitely participate again next year, plus I met some great writers in Augusta at our NaNo writing meet-ups.  I encourage all writers to try it next year.  I had a blast!



Stranger Than Fiction?

October 24, 2009

Most writers agree that the basic tenet of fiction writing is simple:  take a lie and make it true for the reader.   Of course, controversy arises shortly afterwards.  The problem?  Not everyone agrees on just how close to fact that fiction must be.  As writers, do we have to follow some of the existing framework of real life in our stories?  Or can we invent everything from scratch?  In essence, I guess I’m talking about creative license, and if there’s such a thing as going “too far.” 

We all know that creative license means the alteration of reality or facts for the sake of a story.  And while it’s easy to see why some writers take issue with changing past events in a historical novel, the lines get blurred when considering the fantasy genre.  Take Stephenie Meyer, for example (yes, I just threw out the SM bomb).  Even though her Twilight series is millions of readers own personal brand of heroine, some writers challenge her tweaking of vampire mythology.  I mean, how dare her vamps not become human torches in the sun?  Nor are they susceptible to garlic or other typical maladies of the dentally-challenged—sacrilege!  But hold up, you say.  Aren’t vampires themselves fictional creatures—well, at least according to those of us who don’t indulge in hallucinogenic drugs?  So why on earth should SM—or any writer—be bound by rules for things that don’t even exist in the first place?

The conundrum of creative license was driven home even more after I read a query letter critique on a writers’ discussion board.  I found myself stunned by one of the crits on a Middle Grade fantasy story.  Why?  Because the critter was questioning if the author accurately portrayed the way curses are transferred.  Silly me.  And here I thought accurately portraying curses was an oxymoron.  Since, you know, curses are imaginary and all.  (And if they aren’t, I beg you—don’t curse me for spouting off, pretty please?)

I guess what it boils down to is this:  creative license means different things to different people.  What conclusions have I personally drawn?  Simple.  For me anyway, it all goes back to the basic tenet of fiction writing—making your lie feel true.  So long as a book sells the fiction as fact, and does it well, then I don’t care what reality or expectations get altered in the process.  I just need to believe.  And yes, for all you Twilight haters—this includes sparkly vamps. 

But enough about me and my unhealthy, albeit drug-free, obsession with all things vampire.  Where do you draw the line in terms of creative license in fiction writing?

Debra Driza


Oh Toto! I don’t think we’re in Sweet Valley anymore!

September 26, 2009

ReaderWhen I was thirteen, I had three options when it came to YA: Sweet Valley High, The Outsiders, and Judy Blume (but not Forever because that was the naughty Blume book you couldn’t find in the school library).

How seventeen years have changed things. Compared to some of the issues faced by protagonists in today’s YA, Forever looks downright quaint. A quick look at my bookcase reveals a book about a boy who wants to break every bone in his body to become stronger, a girl coping with the rape and disappearance of her best friend, a native kid who attempts to leave the reservation before it kills him, and a boy who’s trying to figure out if the girl he loved died in an accident or if she killed herself. (Yes, alright? I admit it. Twilight is on there too.)

One of the challenges for adults over a certain age—adults wishing to write YA—is just how much the market has changed and expanded over the last few years. It’s not all edgy and it’s not all dark, but you do have much more wiggle room than Judy had with Forever in 1975.

Every few months, a new author with an idea centered around a teenage character will stumble onto Absolute Write and ask if swearing or sex or drinking is okay in YA. The answer is on the shelves of your local bookstore. Before (and while) writing, take time to do your homework. Check out Shady Lane’s wonderful post about edgy YA on AW. Visit your local bookstore and library. Ask the bookstore staff what kids are buying. Pick up anything that takes your fancy. Every writer should be a reader. If you haven’t read YA since the days of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, what are you waiting for?

Image courtesy of the National Media Museum.

*Bonus points to those who can guess what four books I refer to in the second paragraph. Bonus points are not redeemable for cash or prizes.

— Kathleen


Media Inspiration–What’s Yours?

August 21, 2009

This post is going to require everyone’s cooperation, so grab your keyboards and get ready!

I want to hear about your muses. You know–when you go to the movie theatre with a big bag of popcorn, and that film on the silver screen gives you a fantastic idea for your WIP in the strangest way. Or maybe the one rock album you’ve studied the lyrics to a million times trying to get every song to fit one of your character’s journeys. You know what I’m talking about. So spill it, and if you can tell us why, the better. I’ll start.


Lord of the Rings– the movies that jumpstarted my high school writing spree. The acting and direction sparked my imagination for the way I imagined dramatic scenes in THE ILLUMINATED.

Transformers– Humor and cinematography opened some doors.

Slumdog Millionare– beauty of using culture as an art form

The Goonies– opened my love for teamwork and bonding, creepy caves, and puzzles

Alice in Wonderland– Inspired my MC Jordan Adeline

I will also leave you with two amazing artists that every time I listen to I can’t help but develop scenes. Check them out:

Secret and Whisper — Great White Whale

Eisley — Room Noises / Combinations

So I must know, what are some of the art forms that have inspired your work, and how? Do you have any recommendations for me?



The Ins and Outs of Beta Readers

August 17, 2009

I had an epiphany the other day. I realized that some of the best YA books I’ve read lately aren’t even published. Yes, that’s right, and I’m not even talking about ARCS here. I’m talking about unpublished, unagented gems of literary genius: the books I’m beta reading.

If you’re part of the writing community, you are acquainted with the term “beta reader”. However, if you’re not, you may be wondering what in the world a “beta reader” is. I’ll be honest when I was first introduced to the term, the first thought that flashed in my mind was the fish.betafish

A Beta reader is someone who reads and critiques your novel. Sure, you might have read it a hundred times with red pen in hand, but a beta reader will read it objectively. They will be subjective where you cannot. After all, our WIPS are like children. We love them, and we don’t want to think badly of them. We may not see how this character isn’t necessary or how this scene drags. So, what do you do? You call in a beta reader…or two…or maybe even ten! They’ll make your wip nice and pretty for perspective agents and editors.


Beta readers are great for fact checking, too. They’re like script supervisors on movies. Maybe you have Character A drinking a coke in a scene and then five paragraphs later they’re hopping in the car. Wait, where did the drink go? Or maybe Character A was talking to Character B, but you call them Character C’s name by accident. Hey, it happens. Ever seen the “goofs” section on the Internet Movie Database? It happens in big budget blockbusters, and it happens to writers too.

I mean what would Harry Potter have been like if someone let this mistake happen in makeup!


There are two types of beta reading. One is just a content read. Maybe you have a pivotal scene that you’re not sure works, or maybe you want to know if a character is believable or not. Beta readers will be able to answer these questions for you. They might also find little things you weren’t even expecting.

Another type is line-by-line edits where you edit not only for content, but for grammar as well. Yep, I used the “g” word—the word that exercises fear in the hearts of many. When you have line-by-line edits, beta readers can correct spelling, punctuation, and proofreading errors, and awkward wording or sentence structure. Even if you’re a “grammar god” with eagle eyes, you’re going to miss things—you’re only human. So, go ahead and bring another set of eyes in to check for mistakes.

Here’s what a couple of our OPWFT writers and OPWFT thread contributors feel about beta readers:

“They are like a lifeline to reality. You’re thinking you’ve got either crap or something totally amazing, but your eyes are the only pair that have seen your WIP. You need more than just your opinion to confirm or deny your own.”

“They also catch a lot that you don’t. In your mind, it’s all clear. You know the relationships and the events that occur b/c they’re all in your head playing like a movie. Others may not get it. You might need to clarify some things that they can identify.”—Jamie

“Having beta readers is like having editors before getting the real thing.”—Becca

“For me, beta reading involves treating the novel I’m reading the same as a book I’ve purchased from Barnes and Noble. Regardless of whether or not the writer is my friend, I’m going to give them an honest critique even if I have to suggest several revisions.”—Stephanie

“Beta reading opens my eyes to all the mistakes I make on my manuscript, and it’s always helpful to have another set of eyes, or twenty, on your work.”—Annie

Me as a Beta Reader:
“Pretty much, I look for things that the writer has asked me to look for. If they just want general comments on flow, characterization, plot, etc., then I only comment unless I find a blaring grammar error. If they ask for me to pay attention to grammar, then I basically copy edit. Usually, it’s a mix of the two, and I find that works well. (I’ve only beta-read parts of two so far, though)”

Me as the Writer:
“I’d probably look for a combo of what I just said above. Basically, I’d want someone to be brutally honest about if it’s any good, where there are slow places, if things are written well, show/tell issues, etc. I don’t have any experience with fiction, so in a beta, I’d be looking for someone who could add kind of an expertise, I guess. PLUS, I’d want to know if it’s relevant to the YA market (if YA, of course).—Laura

So, let the beta reading begin!