Friday, 31 May 2013

Jamie Guerard on Writing and Plotting and other Goodies

We've reached the end of May (cue the panicked screaming because JuNoWriMo starts tomorrow) and because I know some people are stressing out I thought we'd take it easy and let the lovely Jamie Guerard come and talk to us about how she planned and wrote the first book in her series Awaken.
Take it away Jamie!
Three things run through my mind at this very moment…
ONE, my life as I once knew it will never be the same.

TWO, the person I’m in love with might not even exist.

THREE, the deception that has unfolded before me has the power of life and death.

Sixteen year old, Breanna Davis, has heard the saying; life isn’t always what it seems…well, that saying rings true now more than ever. As horrifying visions appear before her, revealing tragedies that will forever change the fate of those she loves, she realizes that she may be the only person who can stop them from becoming reality. 

Amongst the chaos of this new discovery, Bre is faced with a stranger, Eve, who moves in on Bre’s friends and begins to follow her every move. As Eve’s true motives begin to surface, Bre must fight against, not only the visions, but the dangers Eve holds close. 

There is another secret kept- Collin, a boy held captive in Bre’s dreams, the boy she is secretly falling in love with but isn’t sure he even exists. As she tries to make it work with Austin, an old friend who could possibly be more, Bre battles against her feelings for Collin. 

Bre is faced with an almost impossible decision, to choose her life or follow her destiny. If she doesn’t intercede, people will certainly die. If she does, her own life could be at stake. In the end, if she fails, she’ll lose everything.
Purchase: Amazon

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Tech Week for Novels Day Five (JuNoWriMo #14)

See this is what happens when I don't plan things out. I get confused or I get to the end and realize I've made a mistake. For instance: Now.

Remember when I said there were 16 lessons? Well I'm only counting 15 and these last two aren't even lessons.

I have no more to teach you on this matter right now. More will come of course and I'll certainly talk incessantly throughout JuNoWriMo but the month of preplanning is over.

Your Assignment for the next two days is to Outline your novel in the best way you see fit. It could be just bullet points or cue cards or a giant layout that is twice as long as your novel and sits on your desk 24/7. I don't know what method you'll choose but make it one that suits you and no one else. This is your novel. This is the story that you are telling and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. Your story is unique because it has never written by you before and whatever pace you write at, whatever method you use, nothing is wrong in terms of what story you tell. So write, my darlings, and remember. Remember that you are writing and that makes you a writer.

So now that the inspirational speeches are over, I'll leave you off. But first, tell me the synopsis of your novel in the comments below. Then join the forums on JuNoWriMo, and add me as a friend. And let me also know if there are any other lessons you want to learn before or during the writing process.


My synopsis: Jen has been deciding how people die for hundreds of years and Cassandra has been killing them for almost a decade. When their paths cross and their lives are swapped, they gain a new perspective on death and what it is to take a life.

I'm going for really dark humor on this one. Right now it's called "Morbid Curiosity". The planning of this story is not so much done as...barely started but I have the next few days off so we'll see what gets done. Let me know in the comments below what your novel is about.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Tech Week for Novels Day Three and Four (JuNoWriMo #12 and 13)

I'm so sorry guys, I totally forgot to do a lesson yesterday

Okay so I didn't forget but I didn't manage to get it done and I'm very sorry for that. You still got a new chapter of Undercover Lovers so that's...something. As an apology you'll be getting two lessons today. June is four days away, so everyone should be panicking right about now.

Yup. Okay, let's do this.

Lesson 12:

It's very straight forward, we did Act One and Act Two and now we do Act Three. We left off at the climax of your novel, the height of all things emotional, and now we take this act to wrap everything up. Find closure, as it were. They either get what they want, don't get what they want but find something better or get what they want and find it's not important. Of course they could just not get what they want but your characters need to be always growing so no matter what, something must be gained from this journey.

By the end of the novel you should be able to answer:
    1. How has the main character(s) changed from the beginning?
    2. Are all the plot points resolved?
    3. What were the consequences/what has the character learned?
    4. What do they want for the future?
    5. Is the final scene strong enough?
You must leave the reader with a sense of closure but also a scene of engagement. The last and first pages of a novel are perhaps the most important. Your assignment is, of course, to finish plotting those plot points.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Undercover Lovers #19: I Don't Love You

This one is actually the longest Undercover Lover I've written to date so that's definitely something to be proud of. Hairspray closed last night and so I'll be back to my "regular life" within the next few days. I just need a little time to recover. I have lots of responsible adult things to do in the coming months and I'm not looking forward to any of them. Life is just beating me lately. Really hard. Like

So anyways, later this week you'll be getting the next JuNoWriMo lesson but for now...enjoy!


Sunday, 26 May 2013

Tech Week for Novels: Day Two (JuNoWriMo #11)

Okay I'll make this quick so we can all get back to plotting - or my lack of plotting because tonight is closing night and I'm going to be so tired come Monday morning but you'll still have a new chapter of Undercover Lovers AND a new JuNoWriMo lesson so please forgive me.

Following yesterday's talk on Act One, we're following it up with Act Two (shocking). Act Two is where all the action goes down. It's the "meat" of the story as it were. This is were conflict happens; obstacles and drama are at their finest. Leave your reader on the edge of their seat.

Be able to answer the following:
    1. Where have you deepened the drama?
    2. Where have you added complications for your protagonist?
    3. How are your character's motivations, desires, and vales causing him to react to events and situations in a way particular to him?
    4. How is your character changing? How is he affected by the events unfolding before him?
    5. What is the climax of the novel?
Again, Question 5 is oh so important because the climax is the height of your novel. This is where everything, the drama, the tension, the emotion is at it's peak. That peak comes at the end of Act Two.

Assignment Today: keep up with those bullet point scenes and continue into Act Two, conscious of the questions above as well as where you are ending your Act.


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Tech Week for Novels: Day One (JuNoWriMo #10)

So on Thursday I talked briefly about the Three Act Structure of a novel. Today, on this lovely Saturday where I'm mostly panicking about getting this story plotted, we're going to focus on Act One. This is where tech week begins. You've spent all this time learning about your characters and now it's time to start rehearsing on that stage with your lights and your characters and your set pieces and figure out how it's all going to come together.

We're exactly one week away from June 1st. Tech Week - aka Hell Week - starts NOW!

We're going full on theatre metaphor mode here, people, you better buckle up.

Act One: The lights go down the curtain comes up and the audience meets your setting for the very first time. There is a special bond between an audience and a setting because it's going to be there for the entire show; there'll be a familiarity and curiosity to every step the character's make, taking the audience with them as they explore the setting.

Next to be introduced are the main characters, the ones who step on stage and demand attention and have an important story to tell. First impressions are everything so make sure they don't stumble on from backstage at the last minute. This needs to be well rehearsed (if you want some practice: come up with ten opening lines for your novel and write the scene that follows it). And as the story progresses more characters are introduced and all that lovely dialogue is exchanged, establishing voice and purpose and all those good, hearty vegetables.

If this were a musical, Act One would close on a grand energetic number that had your main character front and center nodding their head because they're going to make their dreams come true. Alas your novel is not a musical (yet) but that's the idea. This is the big moment. This is where your audience decides if they want to see the rest of what you have to tell them.

The almighty book says by the end of act one you should be able to answer:
    1. What is the significant event of the novel (what is the insighting incident that initially propels your story?)
    2. What is your character's motivation? What is at stake?
    3. Can your reader get invested in the characters (is there enough background and interaction to make them care)?
    4. Are there scenes that indicate the potential challenges to be faced in Act Two (aka FORESHADOWING)?
    5. Do you find the first section of your novel compelling?
Question five is very important, I think because if you aren't invested in these characters and want to know more, how can you expect your audience to?

Now the assignment for today (and really, what I should have been doing weeks ago) is to take a piece of paper, or word document or napkin etc. and start bullet pointing scenes that you want to happen in Act One. The goal is to create a skeleton for what will later become your full novel outline.

These aren't the scenes that are set in stone but start thinking or a timeline and certain events that need to happen and, most importantly, where Act One ends. Where does the curtain go down?

You got that?

Friday, 24 May 2013

Minor Characters are People Too! (JuNoWriMo #9)

Minor Characters Are Important.

Really that's all that should be said on the matter but we'll keep going. Like everything in your book, Minor characters can serve many purposes in terms of creating mood, establishing setting, introducing main characters and on and on. But the most important thing to remember about main characters is that they have a purpose for being in every scene. Every person who steps foot on your stage has a reason for being there. Whether they are another customer at the restaurant your MC works at or they are a person walking in front of their car because they were so focused on the fight they're having over the phone. Create a backstory and a purpose for every character. Know your players.

So earlier I talked about How To Create Characters Out of Thin Air and now here's a short outline for your minor characters.

Brief Physical Description:
Brief History:
Relationship to Main Character(s):
Purpose in Scene:
What do they reveal about the main character?:

And as a bonus, here are more questions for your main characters provided by Lisa Anderson

1. What Shakespearean character is your protagonist most like?
2. What is your protagonist’s greatest weakness?
a. How might this weakness lead to disaster for your protagonist?
3. What physical attribute is your protagonist most proud of possessing?
4. What one thing about his/her body would your protagonist change if given the opportunity?
a. How can this one thing be changed into an invaluable asset for your protagonist?
5. What is your protagonist obsessed with?
6. What does your protagonist want most?
a. What is your protagonist willing to do to get what he/she wants most?
7. What specific memory haunts your protagonist and is the one memory he/she most wants to forget?
8. What was the last foreign country (or state, or city) your protagonist visited?
a. Why did he/she go to this country?
b. What prized possession did he/she leave behind?
c. Was it left on accident or on purpose?
9. Who was the last person to say “I love you” to your protagonist?
a. How long ago was that?
b. How did it make your protagonist feel?
10. What defines your protagonist?
11. Name one person who has betrayed your protagonist
a. Describe that betrayal.
b. Has your protagonist forgiven this person?
c. Has your protagonist forgotten this betrayal?
12. Describe the space in which your protagonist sleeps each night.
a. What object in this space is most important to your protagonist?
b. What would happen if that object was destroyed?
13. Think of the person that your protagonist loves most.
a. How has your protagonist hurt this person in a way that is unforgivable.
b. Can this person forgive your protagonist?
c. How would being forgiven change everything for your protagonist?
14. What word has the most meaning for your protagonist?
15. What does your protagonist hold onto?
a. What would happen if he/she let go?
16. It’s said everyone has a safe place. Where is your protagonist’s safe place?
a. What would happen if he/she could never go there again?
17. What inner turmoil rages within your character?
a. How has this inner turmoil negatively impacted your protagonist’s life?
18. What one action is your protagonist most ashamed of?
a. What has this one action cost him/her?
19. Where is “home” for your protagonist?
a. When was the last time he/she was there?
20. How do you want to see your character change by the end of your story?

We're in the finale stages of the JuNoWriMo count down. Are you ready? 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

An offer you can't refuse (JuNoWriMo #8)

We are down to 8 days, ladies and gentlemen, how are your plots fairing? By now you should be pretty close with your main characters and at least have part of a plot. There's still technically time for you (and I) to pull it together.

Does your plot have a beginning, middle and end? Do your scenes have the same? Do you have... CONFLICT!

That's right I said it, do you have enough conflict in your story? It's the vegetables that go in your soup (aka very important). Conflict moves the story sideways, longways and upside down and without it your story would be like this:

Once upon a time there was

and that's it. Every choice you make after that should open the door to conflict and struggle and emotion and all those tasty veggies. Every character you choose to create, every character choice they make, every setting you choose, everything should have purpose and that purpose should be to move the story forward. You move forward by creating a reason for the story to move. Without conflict you have no reason to move.

This is explanation is getting a little complicated. Let's make it simple.

Conflict gives your character a reason to grow and move forward, thus progressing your story.

Stories are split up into three "Acts" and the two points between acts should represent your two main points of conflict. The first is known as rising tension and takes place between act one and two. In act one you've introduced your characters, your setting and the basic set up of your story. The height of that should be something that deepens the conflict and drives your character to action. An example would be in The Godfather, the end of act one would be when Vito Corleone gets shot (spoilers?).

Your second point is the climax which takes place between act two and three. This is your point of no return; everything is heightened. The climax in The Godfather would be the shooting at the baptism (again, spoilers?)

Act Three is mainly used for cleaning up the debris left behind by the climax. You come down off that high and create resolution. You don't have to wrap it all up in a neat ball but you do need to close it off a bit.

Stephen J. Cannell lectured on the Three Act Structure here

Now keep in mind this is just one way to structure a story. Granted it's the most common way but maybe you guys could think of some other ways to set up your story? How do you structure your plots? What are some tricks for making sure your conflict is engaging (and realistic; I can't stress realism enough)?

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

On Characterization in Kiya

Still on this writing kick of mine I scooped up the lovely Katie Hamstead to talk about her book "Kiya" and creating characters based on real people.

Take it away Katie....

Oh yes, Kiya. Make him love you, make him hold you in his highest regard....
When Naomi’s sisters are snatched up to be taken to be wives of the erratic Pharaoh, Akhenaten, she knows they won’t survive the palace, so she offers herself in their place. The fearsome Commander Horemheb sees her courage, and knows she is exactly what he is looking for…

The Great Queen Nefertiti despises Naomi instantly, and strips her of her Hebrew lineage, including her name, which is changed to Kiya. Kiya allies herself with Horemheb, who pushes her to greatness and encourages her to make the Pharaoh fall in love with her. When Akhenaten declares Kiya will be the mother of his heir, Nefertiti, furious with jealousy, schemes to destroy Kiya.

 Kiya must play the deadly game carefully. She is in a silent battle of wills, and a struggle for who will one day inherit the crown. If she does bear an heir, she knows she will need to fight to protect him, as well as herself, from Nefertiti who is out for blood.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

It's Time To Pack Up (And other character metaphors) JuNoWriMo #7

I had to start with a cheesy metaphor because you're all going to hate me in a minute. I'm STILL talking about characters. And I will continue to talk about characters until we get into this writing business. And then I'll be writing about characters.

They are just so incredibly important. I can't even express their importance enough. Today is about the backstage stuff. Yes I'm sticking with the performance metaphor.

Right now you guys are in the middle of rehearsing your magnificent play and while the stuff that happens on stage in June is pretty important, the stuff that happens behind the scenes is just as special. This is the stuff your reader may never see completely but it's so good for you to have it all figured out. If you look like you know what you're doing, the audience will forgive you almost anything.

Today, 10 days from the start line, is the day you pack your characters baggage so you can carry it around with you for the next month.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Undercover Lovers #18: House Hunters

This whole functioning in society is just not working for me guys. I'm serious; I'm not doing so well and I feel like you guys are really suffering for it. I feel like it's been so long so we spoke. How are you?
Here's some smut to make up for it.
Okay so it's unedited smut but please me gentle. This week - this month - is insane and all I can ask for is your patience in the coming days. We're almost back to your regularly scheduled programming, I swear.
JuNoWriMo is right around the corner and I'm frantically trying to plot this story that I really want to tell you. It keeps getting darker as I go along but it's still good and I'm still excited to write. I just need to get through this month.
Now without further a do-do let's read some Undercover Lovers.
...I'm so sorry.

Friday, 17 May 2013

He Says, She Says (JuNoWriMo #6)

14 Days until JuNoWriMo starts. Ahhh! That's all I have to say on the matter. I had this moment of clarity this morning. I think I'm going to make it.

Oh don't look at me like that. I'll totally get it together. No matter what you say. I will be ready for JuNoWriMo. YOU HEAR ME?

Okay I'm sorry. Let's get started with today's lesson okay?

Today's lesson is all about DIALOGUE. The interaction between two or more human beings is so essential to any story and yet a lot of writers struggle with it. I'm by no means an expert but my best piece of advice is to be an active drama geek when writing anything. By that I mean be conscious of the words you're putting into people's mouths. Is it in character? Is it period-appropriate? Did it actually need to be said? This comes back to what I talked about earlier about describing your character's emotions without saying them directly. What they say and how they say it is also key to understanding how your characters are feelings.

Dialogue is also a great place to drop backstory and scene direction. Not full paragraphs, just a sentence here and there to create movement. Think of them as stage directions. As I say that I do need to point out this one piece of advice that I received a while ago (that I'm still guilty of): let your words speak for themselves. Dialogue tags are important but keep them only when they're necessary. If your character is shouting "I hate you" we assume that she's angry unless you've indicated otherwise. Only state an emotion if it's not abundantly clear. Watch your adverbs.

I've always found that reading dialogue out loud is the best way to edit. It makes sense; if you can't say it, how do you expect your characters to? This also means you need to be aware of how your character is delivering a line. Do they have an accent or a speech impediment? You then have to make a choice as a writer on how you're going to display that to the audience through spelling and grammar and all the nit picky stuff that I'm really just not that good at.

I have this little trick that I do to help me getting into my character's head. Want to try?

Seriously, this is my favourite thing to do when writing and I really hope you at least try it out.

Okay, close your door or head to a spot where you won't be disturbed.
Get a tape recorder or a piece of paper (you just need something to write notes).
Find a chunk of dialogue in your story OR, alternatively, pick a scene with lots of dialogue that you want to write.
Stand up.

I'm totally serious. Find your characters, find your voice and perform your scene. If you're still developing the dialogue a neat trick is to record it so you can play it back and see what worked and what didn't. It may seem silly but it's super fun and I find it easier to figure out the logistics of scenes. You can't write about life if you've never lived it (yes I'm paraphrasing a famous quote; it's relevant).

If you're ready to take it one step further in your dialogue exploration, here are some activities to get you ready for writing those marathon scenes:
  •  Pick a person that you've come into contact with today (can be a co-worker or a jerk on the road etc.) and pick one of your characters and put them in a setting of your choosing and write a scene about what they would say to each other.
  • Choose two characters least likely to ever interact in your plot as it is now. How would they interact?
  • Write a confrontational scene between two characters who are directly at odds. They don't even have to be main characters. It can be one character confronting the paper boy who keeps throwing the paper into the bush. Anything.
  • Choose two characters with opposing speech patterns (one who talks with an accent or talks "politely" etc.) and write a dialogue for them with no description, just words passed between them.
How's your JuNoWriMo planning coming?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

All of Your Characters Are Emotional Wrecks (JuNoWriMo #5)

It's May 15th which means we are officially in the countdown to JuNoWriMo. 15 days to set, cast and direct a novel before you can start writing. How are you guys doing?

Hopefully you know who your main characters are (if you don't yet, don't panic) and that will make today's assignment a lot easier. Last week I gave you this GIANT worksheet for your main characters. Kudos if you were able to fill it all out but we're going to go back to it in a way.

If you want to look at any of my past JuNoWriMo posts just look here

One of the sections in the worksheet asked how your character reacted to specific emotions. This is important to know because emotions are sort of the bedrock of all decision making that your character is going to make.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

In Which I Talk About My Declining Health

So you may have noticed that I didn't post Undercover Lovers yesterday.

You see, like many adults with ADHD, I took on too many projects. I'm not honest with myself about what I can and cannot handle and what ends up happening is that something gets lost in the shuffle, I stress myself out to the point of a break down or nothing gets done. In this case, it's a bit of all of it.

One of my commitments (Hairspray) takes up my evenings and weekends leaving my mornings free which would be fine, if I were sleeping properly, in good physical health or possessed the ability to properly prioritize. Oh and now I have a cold which is stressing me out on principle.

If you know me at all, you know I love the melodramatic.

So what does this have to do with you?

Well not a lot. All I can ask is some patience in the coming months. I have work and school and musical performances and singing recitals and novels to write and you guys and a self-help book full of emotional/mental problems and somewhere in there I have to figure out how to be a grown up about it all.

All this being said, I think I'm taking this week off to try and get my head on straight. That means Undercover Lovers is getting pushed back a week and hopefully I'll have time to get caught up on my posts and my writing. I haven't had a lot of time to actually plan my JuNoWriMo novel so I would love to sit down and put it all on paper. Please help me by just being your supportive, upbeat selves. That's all I really need.

I am trying you guys and I'm sorry for the basic radio silence this last little while.

Please say you still love me?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Where You're Going and Where You've Been (JuNoWriMo #4)

Besides the obvious Hairspray reference (I've got Hairspray on the brain, sorry guys) I'm slowly going crazy. Lots of late nights and oddly timed mornings and I keep forgetting it's Sunday so forgive me if I ramble.

Right now I'm talking about setting. Setting is so important for a number of reasons.
  • It brings the world to life
  • It describes the character's mood
  • It indicates how a character lives their life
Imagine what would happen if The Hobbit had been set in New York City or if Harry Potter had gone to Hogwarts in outer space. They would be completely different stories.

Setting is a character within itself and it's essential to every single scene. It brings colour to the reader's imagination. It can make the reader feel what your character is feeling without ever having to say a thing. And most importantly (in my opinion), it adds character to your character. Where they live, where they work, how they decorate their bedroom, all go towards enhancing these characters that you've created, given them layers. No setting choice should be made without first considering who is in that setting.

So the task I have for you is to do research. We're almost half way through May so let's decide Where your story is taking place and When. When is a lot more tricky because you definitely need to have your time periods in order; how they dressed, what their income was, what their opinions of society were: they all go towards describing where and when your character lived which, in turn, describes your character. It's all very complicated.

We're going to take it one step further today and start in on the sensory details of your setting.

So, your task...

On a piece of paper or in a Word document or whatever you're doing, write down the very basic where and whens and then pick out two or three characters (one being your main, main character) and describe where they live. This can be their bedroom or their whole house or the woods the camp in - it doesn't matter - just use as many of your senses as possible. What do they see, hear, feel, smell (taste if you're feeling adventurous)? Describe as many details as possible keeping your characters in mind.

Then take those same characters and describe their favourite place in the entire world. It could be a tree, it could be a dragon cave, it could be the bottom of the ocean. Just think about your character and where they would love to be and then bring that place to life.

A great way to do this nowadays if you're more of a visual learner is to create a Pinterest board. Pin inspirational pictures and pictures of your characters and setting and anything that you need to help you out. You can follow my board for JuNoWriMo "Morose" here

You are literally creating worlds for your readers so the best way to achieve that is to create the world for yourself.

My story is set in modern western Canada. The big feature is this giant, Victorian-era mansion that I need more pictures of. I'm definitely a visual learner so Pinterest is going to save my life. What tools do you use to help create setting?

Friday, 10 May 2013

Forensic Fridays Part 3: Blood Spatter

It's Forensic Fridays (yay!). It's also opening night for my show and chaos is about to descend upon the world - wish me luck. So that means that for the next month I'm just going to be busy. Like crazy, stressing myself out busy. So I just ask for your patience in the coming weeks as I attempt to balance life. I really appreciate that.

But on to this month's topic: Blood.

Or more importantly: Blood Spatter. A lot of this is in point for so hopefully you can make sense of all this information. Next month I'm still looking for suggestions. Here are part one and two of the Forensic Friday Series.

What would you like to see in the coming months?

Again, thank you to El, without you nothing would be possible. Now, on with the show. You Comin'?

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Getting back into YA with Singing and Magic

Lucy’s Chantress magic will make her the most powerful — and most hunted — girl in England.

“Sing, and the darkness will find you.” This warning has haunted fifteen-year-old Lucy ever since she was eight and shipwrecked on a lonely island. Lucy’s guardian, Norrie, has lots of rules, but the most important is that Lucy must never sing. Not ever. Now it is 1667, Lucy is fifteen, and on All Hallows’ Eve, Lucy hears a tantalizing melody on the wind. She can’t help but sing — and she is swept into darkness.

When she awakes in England, Lucy hears powerful men discussing Chantresses — women who can sing magic into the world. They are hunting her, but she escapes and finds sanctuary with the Invisible College, an organization plotting to overthrow the nefarious Lord Protector. The only person powerful enough to bring about his downfall is a Chantress. And Lucy is the last one in England.

Lucy struggles to master the song-spells and harness her power, but the Lord Protector is moving quickly. And her feelings for Nat, an Invisible College apprentice and scientist who deeply distrusts her magic, only add to her confusion…

Time is running out, and the fate of England hangs in the balance in this entrancing novel that is atmospheric and lyrical, dangerous and romantic.
Release date: May 7th 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

How to Create Characters from Thin Air (JuNoWriMo #3)

Characters are...well...essential to any story. Without the human factor there is no story so it's important to create unique but believable characters. Even if you don't quite have your plot figured out it's important to know your players.

So, your task for the next few days (the rest of the month really) is figure out who your main characters are going to be. They can change of course but have an outline ready.

Of course I'm not letting you go into this blind, what are you, crazy? I've provided a lot of questions that you should or could be answering about all of your main characters. You don't have to answer them all now (or ever) but the more you can answer the better you'll understand your character and the more you can play with them.


And You Must Love Me

Today I have the multi-talented and fabulous Katja Rusanen, author of You Must Love Me, here to talk about her book as well a little bit about her career as a Spiritual Life Coach.
Katja Rusanen is a Finnish writer who has been living in Barcelona since 2004. 'And You Must Love Me' is her first novel. She also writes short stories, six of which have been published by the Barcelona Connect Magazine over the past few years. She is a Spiritual Life Coach and is involved in charity work. In February 2012 she participated in a Kilimanjaro charity climb for the Amani Children's Home in Tanzania. Find out more on her website: And don't forget to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

When Renate falls for local bad-boy Ronny she has no idea what she's getting herself into. After all, she's only 15. She's never had to deal with someone like his Gypsy girlfriend Sabina, who is ready to go to extremes to keep him. And she certainly wasn't expecting to find herself caught up such a dangerous cat and mouse game which gets even more complicated when Ronny's cousin Emil gets involved in it. The news about the love tragedy that ensues travels fast in the small village of Loddefjord, Norway, and Renate feels invisible fingers pointing at her. She starts to fall apart under the pressure. But was it really Renate's fault? Will she ever find out what really happened? Each malicious whisper at school increases her freefall. Can she stop her own destructive behaviour before it's too late?

1. What sparked your desire to write "And You Must Love Me"?
It was a long journey to write my first novel. The idea sparkled in my head for years until I started writing on Friday 22nd of August 2008. I went to see a palm reader on that day and he inquired me, ‘Why don’t you write?’ I was stunned. How could he know that I had always wanted to write but kept postponing it with various reasons? At that moment I couldn’t come up with good enough excuse, so I agreed to start writing…
Well, they say that all fiction has at its center a kernel of truth. That kernel in this story is the traumatic event that Renate has to face. This actually happened to me and I felt the urge to write about it and break the silence.

2. Why Young Adult fiction?
I didn't sit down and think that now I start out to write a Y.A. novel; I just had a story to tell. Once I had completed my debut novel, my publisher classified it in the young adult genre due the age of the characters. I would also add it under transformational novels.

3. What is Transformational Writing?For me it’s writing books that touch people's hearts and transform lives.
"And You Must Love Me" is the first part of a trilogy. My books cover topics that will touch your soul and give hope even on the darkest day. You will get something to think about, something to talk about and maybe even a push to start your personal transformation.

Don't forget to add And You Must Love Me to Goodreads and get it on Amazon. And please review.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

What Defines New Adult?: A Guest Post

New Adult is on the brain as I drag Laura Howard, author of The Forgotten Ones, kicking and screaming into the Madame's lair and get her to talk about...
3 Things That Make the New Adult Genre Different
About Laura Howard
Laura lives in New Hampshire with her husband and four children. Her obsession with books began at the age of 6 when she got her first library card. Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High and other girly novels were routinely devoured in single sittings. Books took a backseat to diapers when she had her first child. It wasn’t until the release of a little novel called Twilight, 8 years later, that she rediscovered her love of fiction. Soon after, her own characters began to make themselves known. The Forgotten Ones is her first published novel.
About The Forgotten Ones (Now Live on Amazon)
Allison O'Malley just graduated from college. Her life's plan is to get a job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She doesn't have room for friends or even Ethan, who clearly wants more.
When Allison's long-lost father shows up, he claims he can bring her mother back from the dark place her mind has sent her. He reveals legends of a race of people long forgotten, the Tuatha de Danaan, along with the truth about why he abandoned her mother.
 And you can also be entered to win a copy of The Forgotten Ones:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I can’t go an hour without seeing some kind of discussion about the New Adult genre.. This is great for me, because I write in it.
One of the biggest controversies I’ve seen is Why New Adult? Why not just Adult or Young Adult?
Here are my thoughts on this ongoing debate, summed up nice and tidy into a list.
1. The Voice -- All writers have a unique voice, no matter what genre they write in. I also believe this is true in genres. Young Adult literature usually features a simple language that is easy for younger readers to understand. Simple doesn’t mean it is unintelligent. This clear language is carried into the New Adult genre.
2. The Issues -- The issues for teenagers, such as (but not limited to)  first-time crushes and bullying get bigger as they get older. Just like they do in the real world. But for the twenty-something, life is much different than for the thirty+ crowd. Independence, and what to do once you have it are the trademarks of New Adult.
3. The Content -- Authors are able to expand the topics that in Young Adult are forced to “fade to black”. While many industry “experts” claim it’s Smut Fiction, that’s quite false. That’s way too much of a blanket statement. It’s more about the tension that goes along with sexuality than the actual sex. It’s about forging lasting relationships and not just skimming the surface.
New Adult has a lot of book lovers excited about reading again. New mothers who had traded their books for diapers are now finding that nap time is the perfect time to get lost in
a book.
It’s not just for new adults, though. At a book signing  I attended in Boston this month, there were thousands of readers --  ages ranging from 16- 76 waiting in line to meet the authors. Not surprisingly, the longest lines were for the New Adult tables of authors such as Colleen Hoover and S.C. Stephens.
What are your thoughts on the New Adult genre?

Monday, 6 May 2013

Where I Talk About Childhood and Writing

Sunday was the last time I stepped into my great-grandmother’s house. Don’t worry she’s not dead. She’s just moving into town where her family is. But that meant cleaning out more than twenty years and four generations worth of junk.

As I walked through this house that I spent so much time in, I tried to recreate some of the rooms in my head. Everything was so open and empty now; there were no more secrets for a child to discover.

The garden that grew with lush, vibrant colours in the little corner of the backyard was meant to be explored, paths created, flowers trampled. The small garden was where the fairies lived and they loved the sound of children’s laughter after they were scolded for exploring where they oughtn’t. Now it was dug up, left for the weeds to grow through where there was once so much life; mowed over in a rush to please the new comers.

Inside was a treasure trove of unexplored land and imagination. The broken clock in the corner bedroom that only worked once as it struck midnight when I was twelve years old.

The picture hanging on the living room wall was always my favourite because it reminded me of the ‘The Witches” by Raul Dahl. Erika was a young Norwegian girl who went to buy milk except she never came home. Her parents searched and searched but could never find a trace of her until one day while mother was pouring tea, a young girl appeared in the painting that hung in the living room. It was a painting of a farm with a duck pond and a house in the distance. It was always empty until suddenly the little girl appeared who looked exactly like Erika. After that she was always there, but she never stayed still. One day she would be looking out the window longingly, the next she would be out feeding the ducks. As the years went on Erika continued to age normally in the painting until she was an old woman. And then one day she just wasn’t there. It’s an image that always stayed with me and to see that painting in the living room without Erika sitting there always brought chills to my spine. Every day for a month I would wake up and rush out to see if Erika had come back to the painting but she never appeared. And now the painting sits in storage where it’s safe for her to appear because no one will ever know.

And then there was the cupboard under the stairs. It was white and ordinary, covered in dust and blocked off like it was forbidden, smelling of dried onions, laundry detergent and the 1970s. I often had dreams and nightmares of what would be in that cupboard. Would it be a magical realm or a deep dark hole, containing the evils of the world like Pandora’s Jar? It was so much like so many other cupboards that it couldn’t be anything but extraordinary. Of course being a curious child I never opened the door knowing that nothing in there would live up to my imagination until the day we moved out. The door was left open like it was never closed, like it was no big deal that all the secrets a little girl told the walls of this old house were suddenly tossed into the air to be carried away and forgotten. Like all the summers were nothing but time.

See, I told you I would write a childhood memory. Did you?

There was a purpose if you were interested. The idea came again from 90 Days To Your Novel. Lessons One in the entire book is to brainstorm and dictate some fond – or not so fond – childhood memories. It serves a few purposes. One is to learn to use all your sensory details (the one above was crudely written so it’s not as sensory-strong), it’s a lot easier to do that when it’s your own story rather than trying to pull a scene out of thin air like you’re going to be doing in your fictional novel. Another purpose is that it’ll give inspiration to those who are still looking for a plot. Look back at your memories and think of the ones that stuck with you. Why did they stick with you, what was it about them? You’ll often find something in there to build upon.

So have any of you or will any of you try this memory technique to develop your novel?

Undercover Lovers #17: Cheesy Pickups

After last week, I had to do something equally as silly to counteract that negativity in the story. So here you go. It was actually super fun to write so hopefully you enjoy it as well. Later in the day I'll continue with the JuNoWriMo posts later in the day so if you're waiting for those (or if you're annoyed with me and avoiding those which I hope isn't the case) then look for them.

And speaking of JuNoWriMo, I put together a little giveaway through the accommodating admins on the site. If you sign up for JuNoWriMo you can be entered one of two homemade care packages (details found here).

Saturday, 4 May 2013

How to Write Scenes (JuNoWriMo #2)

Okay my darlings, we’re going back to basics on this one. We’re talking about scene structure. There is never any harm in just going back to school and getting a refresher  - or learn something new. This might also help those of you who are still formulating a plot in your head. How many of you have ideas for your novel?

I have a premise and two characters loosely outlined, still have a ways to go. Oh and if anyone’s interested, I’m going with the notecard method for this JuNoWriMo.

Alright, let’s get to it.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Backstory Done Right

This isn't actually part of the JuNoWriMo Prep series but it totally fits. Check it out:

Sara Megibow, an Agent from the Nelson Literary Agency - found on twitter @SaraMegibow - was kind enough to stop by and talk about Backstory. I've mentioned this before but in my opinion, shoving backstory into the opening of a story is one of the fastest ways to lose your readers. So, I decided to get an expert opinion on the subject and naturally I thought of Sara. Way back in December I talked about her old twitter hashtag #10queriesIn10tweet and I am so excited to get her back here. Thank you Sara!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Pantsing versus Plotting?

It’s May 1st which means we are officially one month away from JuNoWriMo! For those of you who don’t know, JuNoWriMo (June Novel Writing Month)… is pretty self-explanatory when you spell it out like that.
A group of people (any group of people) sit down for thirty days from June 1st-30th) and write 50k words of a novel. Any novel will do. There are no rules except write.
As part of the nail biting preparation for us plotters (I don’t pants my stories because of what happens when I let my mind run away. Exhibit A) I’m putting together  a month full of activities to help develop and plot characters, scenes and settings as well as different methods to organizing scenes and plot ideas.
Where did I get all this fantastical knowledge you ask?

Well it all came from this little book.

90 Days to Your Novel by Sara Domet. It’s literally a day to day guide of planning, developing, writing and a little bit of editing your novel in 90 Days. I’ve taken 16 that I’ll be laying out over the course of the month to get you on your way to novel writing stardom.
The idea isn’t to write best-selling breakaway novels ; the idea is to always write no matter what.

Never stop writing.

Today’s lesson is all about different methods of organizing a scene.

Find what works best for you.

1.      The Structure-Plus Outline: This is the very traditional method of taking out a piece of paper and writing down the setting, characters, and purpose of the scene (ever scene has purpose; if you can’t find it, it probably isn’t important). Provide as much detail as possible. This is for the planners (like myself) who don’t like leaving things to chance. When you use this method, the story is clearly laid out from beginning to end. Of course that doesn’t leave a lot of room for change.

2.       The Signpost Outline: This one is a similar to the structure-plus method except it’s a lot less detailed. You take your piece of paper and writer down the type of scene (Action, Dialogue, Internal etc.), the setting, characters and plot but just use the very basics. No need for a lot of detail. Just enough to show you where you’re headed. And the opposite can be said in that, it leaves a lot of room for dead end plots and too much freedom.

3.       The Note-Card Technique: Ditch your piece of paper in favor of some cue cards with the setting, characters, plot and goal of the same (similar to the purpose; what do you hope to accomplish with this scene?). It breaks this giant plot into smaller, more manageable pieces and this is really good for writers who like to write by scene rather than word count. Then again, it can get rather bulky and disorganized so you’d have to be on your toes with this one.

4.       Finally, The Spreadsheet Approach: It’s basically the electronic version of the note-card method except instead of cards you use Excel to create columns and sections for scene number, setting, characters, plot and scene goal. This is only for the electronic dependent, I think. It takes a lot of playing around with this one to find the visually appealing format you like.
These are just four of many different forms of organizing your plot but they cover a lot of the basics. So I’ve got to ask: which method do you use? Or are you a pantser?