NaNoWriMo 2014: My Journey as an Aspiring Novelist!

Before you jump into this blog post, malady I want to warn you that it is VERY, find VERY long. Probably one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. I have a long journey as a writer and its still going! But I had a lot of fun talking about all the different things I wrote in the past, and I share a lot of snippets from some of my earlier novels from high school, so if you’re a fan, sit back, relax and enjoy!

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Hello everyone! We are basically almost to the halfway point of NaNoWriMo 2014! How is everyone doing? I’m doing quite well so far, better than I honestly expected and I can’t wait to keep continuing on with my novel. I feel like I just keep bursting with inspiration. I know that a lot of what I have written so far has been fairly sloppy and that a lot of editing will have to be done in the future, but it feels really good to be getting the words down. As my dear friend, Jessica Brody always says “It’s okay to write crap, because crap makes great fertilizer”. We gotta get that fertilizer down.

Today, I’m talking about writing as a career. Now that might be confusing and the title might be confusing but its mostly…how I can to the decision that writing was going to be my life. This is my goal in life, this is what I work at nearly every single day and this is what I sacrifice a lot for.

I never really thought about writing until I was 9 years old. I learned to read when I was very, very young. My parents taught me pretty early, and I became a serious bookworm right off the bat. Books have always been a constant companion for me, and they will remain so for the rest of my life. But when I was 9, that was the first time I realized that writing was something that I could do, and something that I could do well.

We had this program called “Writer’s Workshop” when I was in elementary school. It was to encourage kids to constantly be writing and to focus on creativity. I really wish they still did it because it was one of my favorite parts about school. We usually had to write a short story once month. You know, a back to school story for September, a Halloween story for October, a Thanksgiving story for November and so on. We had an assignment to write a winter story for December and for some reason, who knows, I didn’t do it. Maybe I was lazy. Maybe I thought listening to my Hanson CD on repeat was a better use of my time. Who knows?

Anyway, because I didn’t do this assignment, I was forced to skip out on the Christmas party that the class was having for the day before the two week holidays started and forced to finish the assignment. I think my teacher expected me to be stuck in my desk, writing all day, because when I produced a story about thirty minutes later, she had this deep look of disbelief on her face. Surely, this was done quickly and, let’s face it, probably terribly, due to the fact that I was itching to join the rest of my classmates in the fun.

Her eyes grew even wider as she read the story, and she asked me if I made the story up on my own. I nodded, feeling confused, not really sure if I was in trouble or not. She read it again, her eyes skimming the page. She told me good job and then let me go to the party. She then proceeded to disappear for awhile, ducking into the classrooms of the other teachers in our block building.

Later, I found out, she had gone around to show other teachers what I had written because it had been impressive, not just because I was only nine years old but also because I’d managed to do so in only thirty minutes. My teacher called my parents and it suddenly became this important thing, this potential that I had. I could write. I had a talent for writing. As someone who loved books as much as I did, this meant a lot to me.

I didn’t really think anything of being an actual writer until much much later. I continued to sort of write things in school. Whenever we had to write a paper from the point of a view of a child during the Boston Tea Party or something like that, I always did a really good job. I had creativity in those sorts of things that always got me attention. So I started writing. I started thinking…maybe this is something I could actually do.

My first stories were terrible. Oh god. I don’t have a lot of them anymore because I backed them up on a floppy disc (!!) and who the hell knows where that disappeared to, and well, who uses floppy discs anymore? But they were just awful. I wrote a lot about a pair of twins named Bianca and Bonnie (oh god those names). I had an unhealthy obsession with twins as a child and I always thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to have a twin. It usually involved blatant ripping off of the Sweet Valley High series and the Baby-Sitters Club series, which were two major staples in my reading history. It mostly involved a shy girl named Bonnie, who had a crush on a boy named Michael who totally loved her back but kept getting distracted by her dashing twin sister, Bianca. Oh and did I mention that Bianca and Bonnie’s mother was getting married to Michael’s dad? Oh yeah, that was totally the greatness that was coming out of my brain back then.

I wrote my first “novel” when I was about 14. It was called “Cast a Spell“, and probably was roughly about 20K words. It was very short, and very, very bad. I was a super cool emo kid at the time and thought I was punk (I so totally was not) and so I made my main character like that. She wore ripped The Cure shirts and had pink hair and was a witch, who was massively in love with her best friend, Jordan, which was also the name of the boy that I had a massive crush later in high school…that’s weird. It was terrible. Just…god, I can’t even think about it without cringing.

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Then I wrote another novel about a girl who played football in high school and was…oh you guessed it…in love with her best friend, who also played football. I had high hopes for that then because it was so unique to me but it was also incredibly incredibly short and just terrible. Its one of those ideas that will always sit in the back of my mind but it was just plain awful. I was maybe about 16 or 17 when I wrote that one. I just found it. It was called “Stuck at the Fifty-Yard Line and Going Nowhere Fast“. Its SO terrible but this is important. I’ve been wanting to write a novel centered around a girl, sports and a boy that she loves. Keep that in mind as you continue in my story…

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The next thing I wrote was a novel called “A Simple Line of Chords“. It was a cheesy romance, that was also written just terribly. It was about a girl named Artemis (because, you know, I was majorly obsessed with Greek gods) who lived with her mother who was not really there. She didn’t trust people, she didn’t love, and she used boys. Until she met Elsren (which is a name I totally stole from Tamora Pierce’s Daughter of the Lioness series), who was a good guy who just couldn’t help but fall in love with the troubled Artemis. He was also in a band that did Something Corporate covers. Its terrible. In fact, I managed to track down my old profile and I found it. Oh god. Here is the opening paragraph to that terrible novel.

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I never stopped writing though. They say you have to get these terrible stories out in order to write really good stories. I gave up on novels for a bit. I started writing short stories. I actually won two first place awards at the Orange County Fair for short story writing, for stories entitled The Petals of a Rose and I honestly can’t remember the other title. I wrote stories called Clearwaters and a few others. As I’m writing this, I’m debating putting the link to my storywrite so you can read this terrible terrible terrible writing that I did when I was about sixteen years old. Rereading this stuff also made me realize how many stories I wrote about Cassie (my alias when I was 16) and various boys that I had crushes on realizing that they were madly in love her. Wow. I was really bad…

I also wrote a series of short stories about fairies, my own sort of happy versions of fairies. Looking back on them, it was my first attempt to write fantasy. I was really getting into fantasy in high school, whereas everything I’d read before (besides Harry Potter, Narnia and Tolkien) was contemporary. I thought fairies were kind of fun, and I didn’t know much about the folklore that said fairies weren’t fun in the slightest. You can read the first of that short series right here. Please be warned…it’s SO bad.

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The first novel I really felt good about though was one when I was about 17 years old called, The Code Name Diaries. It was about a girl who witnessed a crime and had to go into the Witness Protection Program to protect herself from the family that wanted to hunt her down for putting one of their own in jail. It’s also really short and I don’t think its written very well but its one that I’ve always kept in the back of my mind, as something that I could definitely write in the future, now that I write better, know what word count is, etc. But I was fond of this story. It was the first one that I really felt came from my own head. A lot of what I had written before was still copying authors that I admired at the time (and still do) like Meg Cabot, Sarah Dessen, etc. This felt new and unique to myself. Oh and the main character falls in love with the police officer that saved her life. Because, you know, that’s awesome.

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Then I wrote what I think is my first real novel. I still think I’ve written better since then but Another Chance for Summer was my first real novel. I wrote a complete novel, and even self-published it on Amazon (though I’ve since removed it because it needs SERIOUS editing). Its about a girl named Summer who has grown up in the shadows of her two sisters and the fact that she was bullied her entire life for being fat. A new boy moves to town named Charlie and they instantly become friends, Summer’s first real friend. Its a contemporary romance that follows their friendship as it turns into something more and even though I know I’ve gotten better and I know the novel could be better, I’m really proud of it.

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Then I wrote a novel called A Little Less than Famous. This novel followed the story of McKinley, who runs into Hollywood superstar, Jake Kennedy, one day at Disneyland and completely captures his attention. The thing about McKinley is that she has abandonment and trust issues, and she doesn’t fall in love, ever. But there’s something about Jake and this brand new world that comes with dating him that makes her break all her rules. Its sort of new-adult-y and I self-published this one in January of 2013 before removing it about six months ago. Its another one that I’m quite proud of but I really think needs a LOT of editing and revamping.

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But then I wrote the big one. The one that most of you guys know about: The Awakened. The Awakened is my first fledged novel that I feel 100% proud of. This is the first novel that I wrote and thought…this is it. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want nothing more to be a published author and The Awakened is going to do that for me. I started it in October of 2013, and wrote a huge chunk of it for NaNoWriMo 2013. Its about a girl named Zoey who is living in New York City when a deadly virus hits and wipes a third of the country’s population. If that weren’t scary enough, the bodies of the virus victims disappear from morgues and hospitals all over and suddenly reappeared, awakened from their dead state. They’re like zombies but worse: smarter, faster, working together in groups to get the one they crave: human flesh. The government goes for the worst possible response, to bomb every major city in the country in order to eliminate the problem.

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When I finished writing The Awakened, I had already made my decision: this is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to be an author. I want to be traditionally published (though if that doesn’t work out, I’ll explore indie and self publishing). I decided that in order to make this happen, in order to put 100% into this goal, I had to make sacrifices. I quit school, and I work part time jobs, all in order to put all of my effort into writing, promoting, querying. This novel is…my baby, the one that I honestly think will do it for me. I’ve been querying for an agent for The Awakened for about two and a half months now and I’ve been rejected. But this is the novel that brought me to my writing career. This is the novel that basically made me the writer I am right this second.

Now I’m in my second year of NaNoWriMo, working on my untitled novel about Evie and Austin. Evie lives in a baseball obsessed town and has grown up loving the world of baseball and the local college team until something changes mind, three years in the past. Now she does everything she can to avoid baseball (which is hard in her town), but she can’t seem to avoid  Austin, who is the new second basemen on the team. I’ve always wanted to write a novel about a sport and two people falling in love around that, especially baseball. I think its sort of the idea that I had years ago with that football “novel”, but I have a lot of faith that it’ll be MUCH better than that.

And with that, I give you the VERY first sneak peek of my unfinished, completely unedited, totally rough draft number of Untitled:

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So there you have it. My writing journey. From the time I was 9 and wrote a short story for a school assignment to the most recent thing I’m working on. I mean, sure, there are some things in between that I’ve left out and I’m not ready at all to share with you guys the absolutely horrible Draco/Harry fan fiction that I wrote back in high school, but you get the general gist of what my journey as a writer was and still is!

Now I gotta get out of here now because there’s a novel calling out my name and I have to get some word count done!

Happy Writing everyone!

NaNoWriMo 2014: Fancasting for My Novel!

Okay, sale so I was not going to do this post because, well, I didn’t really feel like I needed to and I had other things on my mind.

But I like fan casting. It helps to give me a better background for my characters. When I create my characters, I do have a basis for them in my mind but I do have that sort of blurry image for their face because its hard to create an entirely new face in your head. So I use actors and actresses as basis. Sort of the way I use Santa Cruz, California as a basis for my town, Macon, California.

So I was writing and I was having a little bit of a hard time on something so…I started googling people and fancasting for my five main characters: Evie, Lucy, Austin, Jesse, and Connor. And then because I am so completely perfect at procrastinating in actual writing (damn you, Gilmore Girls!).

So instead of writing 3K words like I planned to do for the day (its 3 pm, I have plenty of time), I’m working on a post about fan casting for my novel.

Let’s jump in!

Elizabeth Olsen as Evie and Lucy Cordova


Evie and Lucy are really difficult because I made them really unique. I actually based them a lot on my sister, Jessica. My siblings and I are mutt children: two races. There are multiracial kids alllll over the place but I think the differences, the uniqueness that comes from multiracial kids can be skipped over sometimes. I’m half Mexican and half white, meaning pretty much every European country out there. I look like a Mexican kid, just a little lighter, I think. You can kind of tell that I’m a biracial kid but for the most part, people assume that I’m hispanic. I swear, this is going somewhere. But my sister, for most of her life, looked biracial. Blonde hair, dark brown eyes, etc. She has a pretty mix of both of her heritages and I think its awesome and I used that for both Evie and Lucy, who are identical twins. They have dark blonde hair, dark brown hairs, tanned skin, a mix from their Spanish father and their Mexican mother.

But because of this, its a little difficult to fan cast them. I found a couple pictures of Elizabeth Olsen, who is just plain gorgeous, and I liked her look a lot. Her skin could be a little darker and obviously she needs brown eyes but I’m seeing her as Evie and Lucy. I really like this particular picture of Elizabeth because she does look a little more like what I picture for Evie. Lucy would have much shorter hair, and be a little heavier, only because Evie dealt with her eating disorder. But I like this look.

Mike Trout as Austin Young 


Okay, yes, I know it. Mike Trout is an actual baseball player. Not an actor. He probably would be really really bad at acting. Let’s be real. But he’d totally rock the baseball part. But the whole idea of the story came from the fact that I do have a crush on Mike Trout (innocent, seriously, I ship him and his girlfriend, they’re too cute together), and I did say that I wanted to marry a baseball player for a huge chunk of my life (hey, that’s still a possibility). Anyway, I think about baseball a lot because baseball is basically second to books in my life. I wanted to write a book about baseball and a sexy baseball player and the first person that comes to MY mind is Mike Trout. I mean, look at that face. SIGH.

But being serious…

Matt Lanter as Austin Young


Hell yeah I picked a picture of Matt Lanter shirtless. Googling people is way too much fun. I like this particular picture but he looks like he could be a little country in this and Austin is a total Southern country boy. Blonde hair, green eyes, tanned from being in the sun all the time, built because he works out so much (he’s determined to make it to the pros), and he’s beautiful. Evie has a firm “no baseball players” rule and Austin’s looks plays a part in her slowly breaking that rule. I first saw Matt Lanter when he went to the Divergent premiere to promote Starcrossed. I thought he was incredibly good looking so I went home and watched the super fun and short lived show, Starcrossed, and was sad when it was canceled. Then I found out that Matt has done a TON of voice work for Star Wars, had Star Wars themes in his wedding and I just think he would work really well as Austin.

Ignacio Serricchio as Jesse Valdez


Technically, at 32 years old, Ignacio is entirely way too old to play Jesse because Jesse is 19 in the past and 23 in the future. So yeah. But he totally has the look. Jesse is full Hispanic so he needed to LOOK Hispanic. He had to be good looking, like he could just charm the pants off of you, which he basically does and I was googling hispanic actors and this picture popped up, caught my eye and I was immediately in love. I don’t know much about Ignacio since he’s on soap operas and I’m not a big soap opera girl but he’s got the look down pat. Plus, he would look good next to Elizabeth Olsen, who would play both Evie and Lucy and both of the girls are obviously in love with him at different parts of the story so that would work so so SO well.

Dylan O’Brien as Connor Humphrey


Besides the whole Mike Trout thing…this was one person I had fancasted from the beginning. Dylan O’Brien IS Connor. The way he looks, the way he acts, sort of a mix of Stiles from Teen Wolf and my own little extra bit and maybe a little bit of Thomas from The Maze Runner. I was so excited when I googled Dylan O’Brien and baseball and got a super hot picture, and it totally works. Connor is Evie’s best friend, but the last thing that I wanted to create with that is a sort of love triangle, friend zone thing. Evie and Connor had their thing in high school, got over it and are just friends. Connor is good looking, funny, ambitious, determined and a baseball player just like everyone else in Macon (haha!)

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Actual Writing Advice from Actual Authors!

Hello everyone!

I am so so so so SO excited to be sharing in this post today.

I talk about writing and writing advice a lot when it comes to the blog and my aspiring career as a writer. I am lucky enough that I get to interact with authors on a daily basis, side effects whether over the internet or in person, buy more about and I’ve met SO many inspiring ones that have given me such amazing advice. The advice and guidance that I’ve received over the past two years as whatanerdgirlsays has been so helpful in my journey to becoming a better writer.

Now, I have a goal of 45K words for NaNoWriMo but my biggest goal is to really nail down my character and her development over the course of the story. Evie is my main character and Untitled (it will have a title one day, I promise…) is her story. Its her story in the past, when she’s 15 years old, and its her story in the present, at 19 years old. Both important, and it takes a lot of development. She’s going to develop in both stories and its a little overwhelming but I believe in her and my story.

So when I started planning my NaNoWriMo schedule on the blog, I knew that I wanted a post about writing and writing advice and I wanted to reach out to the authors that I’ve met over the past two years and ask for their assistance in creating and developing characters.

I hope you enjoy. Every single piece of advice of below is unique to this post. Each author was contacted individually and responded individually. There’s seriously awesome, quality advice down there, and I am so grateful for each and every single one of these authors for participating and helping out!

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Jessica Brody, author of The Unremembered Trilogy


When first fleshing out a new main character, I like to start by asking myself one question: What motivates this person. Is it power? Ambition? Love? Idealism? Reason? This helps me begin to narrow down who this person is and how they think/respond to situations. Someone who is motivated by power is going to react very differently in a crisis than someone who is motivated by feeling loved. The second question I ask myself is “What does this character want?” And I don’t mean after the book has started. What do they want BEFORE the first page even begins. It always needs to be something tangible and concrete. Like to win a sports championship. To make it onto a team. To graduate valedictorian. This immediately focuses the story around a central goal. It gives the story direction and purpose before the plot has even begun. When your character’s goals are clear, the reader is more likely to come along for the ride.

Elana K. Arnold, author of the Sacred duology and Burning


When I was a younger writer, I used to disbelieve it when I’d hear people talk about their characters surprising them, their characters heading off in directions they hadn’t planned. Impossible, I’d think. Your characters ARE YOU. They can’t disobey you… they aren’t REAL. For me, characters were like dolls that I bounced around from situation to situation.

I think that’s why I had a hard time completing a project, or even falling deeply in love with one. There was no RISK if I walked away from a story, no real LOSS. Honestly, I don’t know what changed. I think I got older. (Actually, I know I got older.) But over time, I started to become surprised when a plotted-out scene or chapter took a turn away from my outline. Pleasantly surprised.

With INFANDOUS, which will be published in March 2015, plot took a backseat to following around Sephora Golding, my main character, and seeing what she would do. Try this–give your character a secret, and then see where it takes you.

Livia Blackburne, author of Midnight Thief


I’ve found it useful to have all my characters tell their life story and narrate the events of the novel itself in their own voice, with their own commentary.

Katherine Ewell, author of Dear Killer


My main tip in character development is this: make your main character at least a little bit unlikeable. However, no matter how unlikeable said main character is, your reader has to root for them anyway. The easiest way to make a reader like an unlikeable character is to show said character’s weakness and humanity right off the bat: their fears, their likes, their dislikes, what makes them cry, what comforts them, etc. And you can go pretty far with how unlikeable they are at the surface level, take it from someone who knows! Some of the most vivid, fun characters out there are severely messed up. (Take a look at Game of Thrones for tons of great examples.) I feel as if the worst thing you could do in character creation is make a character that has no flaws, or has too few flaws: it is in their flaws that characters and their stories come alive.

Cora Carmack, author of the Losing It series and Rusk University series 


When it comes to characterization, I rely pretty heavily on the idea that my main character’s desire should shape the plot, instead of the plot shaping my main character. I don’t want my MC to be just a cog in the bigger mechanism of the story. I want them being the one *making* the machine move, rather than just being a component of it. When I was studying theatre in college, we took a lot of time talking about our character’s objectives and motivations – asking “What does this character want? How will they get it?” and things like that – and that has continued to inform the way I shape my characters.

Tonya Kuper, author of Anomaly


Every character, especially the main character, has to have a GMC – Goal, Motivation, & Conflict – in relation to the plot. I usually have a pretty good picture of my characters before I start plotting, but after the GMC is decided, I know what matters to them, which, in my mind, is the most important thing to know about her main character.

Victoria Scott, author of Fire and Flood and The Collector

Fire & Flood - Paperback

I often use friends and family members when creating characters. I note people’s real life quirks and incorporate them into my fictional world. For example, my husband points to what he wants on a menu when ordering. It doesn’t matter if it’s a difficult-to-pronounce dish, or french fires…that man is holding up the menu for the waitress to see, and pointing to his selection. As if she needs to see the item to understand. No matter how many times I call this to his attention, he still does it. That quirk will probably show up in one of my characters to make them more memorable. My advice is to watch the people around you, and keep notes on your phone.

Sara Benincasa, author of Great


You have to love your main character. Even if you hate your main character sometimes, you have to love her. Because if you don’t love her, you won’t want to spend the time it takes to churn out 50,000 or more words centered around her. You don’t need to love her choices. You don’t need to love her attitude. But you do need to love her, somehow, in some corner of your soul

Catherine Linka, author of A Girl Called Fearless


Getting a handle on a character can be pretty haphazard, because we might start out not really knowing them at all. One thing that helps me is finding an object that captures my character. I knew Yates wore tee shirts with quotes, but when I found Thoreau’s quote– “Let your life be the counter friction to stop the machine”–it hit me that was exactly what Yates believed and who he was at heart. In the sequel to A Girl Called Fearless, it was a scary religious tattoo that nailed the character of a new antagonist and suggested his unbalanced righteousness.

CJ Redwine, author of the Defiance trilogy


If YOU aren’t connected to your characters, no one else will be connected either. Characters aren’t scenery to populate your world. This includes secondary characters. Characters aren’t pawns to use in playing out your conflict. Characters CREATE conflict. Connection takes time and effort, just like it does in real life. Take the time to get to know your characters on an intimate level. Find out what their deepest fear is, what they most regret, what they truly want more than anything, and the secret they hope no one discovers.

Lauren Oliver, author of the Delirium Trilogy, Before I Fall and Panic


Do some work to understand what your character wants, and what your character needs, and how these might be different. Think about your character’s formative memories. How does he/she react under pressure? When frightened? What does she like to do for fun? What are her nervous habits? Where does she go to recharge? You have to know your character the way you know your best friend.

Gretchen McNeil, author of Ten, Possess, 3:59 and Get Even


I start with the plot, actually, and the role of my main character in the story. What part does she need to play? What type of person does she need to be so that all of her choices are realistically motivated? Her personality is shaped by the plot, and once I know the core of that, I can begin to layer in the idiosyncracies of character: how she dresses, what she likes to eat, what songs on Pandora make her want to sing along or change the channel, and how she feels about everyone around her. Voila! Character!

Lindsay Cummings, author of The Murder Complex


Characters are my favorite part of a book. Everyone is different…but I always start with a character, and build my world around him/her. For me, the best way to develop my characters and get to know them is to interview them–as if they were real people. I find that, even the silliest questions will give you a glimpse into who each character is, and what motivates them.

Bethany Hagen, author of Landry Park


One of my favorite tricks for developing a character is to make a character sheet before I get started. I use these sheets to help me keep track of a character’s physical attributes (and I might even attach a picture of an actor or model to help me visualize the character.) And I also use these sheets to develop a character’s personality traits: their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, their past mistakes. Not only is it a useful tool for conceiving of a character, but it makes a handy reference to come back to during the drafting process.

Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe trilogy and The Body Electric


When coming up with your main character, don’t be afraid to go into your own personality to find traits. He or she doesn’t need to be an exact replica of you, but if you have a strong emotion—a fear, a desire, a love or hate—build off that emotion to influence your characters. I was never stuck on a space ship alone, but I made Amy of Across the Universe feel alone the same way I felt alone when I had to go to college, 200 miles from home, with no one I knew near me. I never had my memories messed with like Ella in The Body Electric, but I have had relatives who were affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Build on these real feelings you have to create realistic characters.

Mindy McGinnis, author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust


I just let my characters go, be real people within the world that I built and let them react naturally, however they want. To me, this is the most organic way of building a “real” fake person.

Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles


After I’ve determined the basics of who my protagonist is (name, age, gender, job, etc.), I like to ask myself two important questions. 1: What does this character want? Giving them a goal from page one will immediately give your story somewhere to go. (Although it’s normal for that goal or desire to change over the course of the story.) And 2: What is this character afraid of? Whatever they’re most afraid of is something that they should have to face (possibly multiple times), and will therefore give them somewhere to grow.

Tamora Pierce, author of The Song of Lioness, The Immortals, and the Protector of the Small quartets and more


The way I write a character is–usually–to start with a person I know or admire (actor, musician, professional wrestler, the character played by an actor). The look has to grab me for the vague outline of the character I need–teacher/mentor, law enforcement in a very loose era, street kid, Then I go through my baby name books till I find the right name. Once I have the right name and the right look, I generally know the character: intellectual, absent-minded, can be very sexy when he wants to be, but easily distractible, and very dangerous when crossed–that was one. Then I needed the slacker daughter of two famous over-achievers who ended up as a spy in a foreign country. I looked through my files of pictures of girls until I had three or four I thought interesting, then I waited for one to grow on me–the one with her head tipped to the side and the knowing smile. I knew she was a smart-alec, really good at flirting and dancing and being silly while taking in everything around her, a daddy’s girl who lived to make mom nuts, but underneath she needs something to fight for.

Sarah Skilton, author of High and Dry and Bruised


In my latest book High & Dry, a Young Adult novel written in the style of a hardboiled detective mystery, Palm Valley high school students “traffic in labels.” As a result, it’s very difficult for my main character, Charlie, to break free from his perceived identity, that of a varsity soccer star with a reputation for playing rough. The problem is, Charlie’s identity is a front he projects to the world in order to survive. I needed to show both sides of his personality: that of a tough guy jock accepted by his peers, and that of a heart-broken sci-fi nerd–a trait he keeps hidden. For example, Charlie tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, Ellie, by suggesting they both take Ellie’s little brother to a sci-fi movie. In this way, he gets to show Ellie he’s a “nice guy” while also indulging his own secret hope of seeing the movie. When constructing a main character, ask yourself, “Who is this person really, and who does he/she pretend to be?” The answers may surprise you!

Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles and the Seven Realms series


After publishing nine books and writing several more, I still haven’t settled on the best way to develop character. Everything goes much more smoothly if I know the character very well from the beginning. And yet, that process of filling out a character questionnaire or deciding what he has in his pockets or dresser drawer doesn’t really work for me.

With the Seven Realms series, I knew the main characters, Han Alister, Raisa ana’Marrianna, and Micah sul’Bayar very well, because I had already written extensively about them as adults. So all I had to do was think about what they would have been like at sixteen and seventeen. Because I had their characters well in hand, story flowed more or less effortlessly.

But writing three hundred thousand words about a character before you get started on a novel isn’t really efficient, is it? So mostly, I get to know characters in the same way as we get to know people in real life–by spending time with them. In other words, I get to know them while writing my first draft. And once I decide who they are, in revision, I go back and strengthen those elements of character and make them more consistent all the way along.

That’s my process—but it may not be yours. There is more than one way to craft characters and craft story. One of the first jobs a writer must do is find out what works for them.

Crystal Perkins, author of The Griffin Brothers series

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I try to have a cover idea when I start writing. When I look at the girl and guy-I write in dual POV-I think of how they’ll speak and act. It’s nice to have something, even just a picture to look at. Then when I think of them in my head, they already have a distinct personality.

Ann Stampler, author of Where It Began and Afterparty


You know all those cheesy drama-class moments in B movies where the teacher starts panting that the kids need to beeeeee the wind in the trees (or whatever)?  That actually has a lot in common with the way I develop main characters : method writing.  I try to see the story through the eyes of the character in a very literal way.  While I’m writing, I don’t observe the character from the outside, but I try to see what she sees.  I think this helps me to stay with the character’s feelings and emotional reactions, and to remain in her point of view.

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Let’s Talk About…Setting

Hello everyone!

NaNoWriMo is in its first full week! And I think I’m doing quite good. My goal for NaNo this year is 40K but I’m starting to think maybe I’ll reach 50, medical or even beyond, salve if I stay at the rate that I’ve been keeping up. In my first week, price I’ve reached just under 20K and I’m really excited to continue this novel.

And yes, it does still need a title. It has a really crappy edited cover that says “Evie and Austin Story” on the official NaNo website haha but it needs a legit title. If you guys come up with a title, please make sure to share them with me, because you get a prize if you pick THE title.

Let me know how your progress is doing in the comments!

Today we’re talking about setting. 

In all of the novels that I’ve written, I’ve based it on real world places, and done lots of research on those places. Or I’ve straight up used real places like New York City and Mesa Verde in Colorado and Brea, California.

But for this newest novel, I’m writing an entirely new setting: Macon, California. Its a coastal town in Central California that has some real world bases in Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz (especially Santa Cruz) and a little bit of Santa Barbara, but for the most part, its all from my imagination.

Do you know how hard it is to create a new setting! Its crazy. So while I’ve been trying to get my word count up, I’ve also been working hard at making sure that Macon seems like a genuine town. Because if there’s one thing that I’ve learned: setting is a character all in its own. Think of Middle Earth, Hogwarts, Tortall, Idris, Panem, Camp Half Blood. They all have their own personalities. They react to the story, they are effected by the story, they’re just so massively important.

So I scoured the internet to look for tips on creating setting and I gathered a few of them here for you!

1. Base Your Setting on Real World Places

It goes back to what I said about Macon. Macon is a completely fictional town. It’s small town, coastal, with a beach boardwalk, a small town downtown main street with family owned businesses. But I throw things off when I insert a baseball obsessed population. And that population is obsessed with the university that exists in this town. Sounds complicated right? There isn’t an actual place that exists like this. So I’ve used real life references in Santa Barbara, Monterey Bay and mostly, Santa Cruz. These three are all real coastal cities in California. Having these real life bases helps to create a town because you have examples. You know how things can be arranged because you have a real life basis for it. I have no idea how to arrange a fictional city because I’ve never been a city planner. I don’t know how that works. So I kind of mesh these cities together and voila, Macon, California!

2. Base Your Setting on Real Time Periods

Now, this doesn’t totally apply to me and this particular novel. My novel is based in real world time, right now, in the present. So that’s easy enough. I can have iphones and smart cars and macbooks and Netflix and it alllllll makes sense. This could also work for historical novels as well. You have a real world time period to base off of. There’s information out there (yay research!) that will help you to make sure your setting is historically accurate.

But this also works quite well for a fantasy novel, or science fiction, that sort of thing. You can base your fantasy society based on the medieval settings of old Europe. You can base your futuristic society on the Victorian age of the Industrial Revolution. Creating a brand new setting in a brand new world is HARD because you have no real world basis for this society. BUT you can use time periods to help you out. Feudal societies, capitalism, communism, empires, Chinese dynasties, the Crusades, etc. There is SO much history out there that you can rework to base your own setting on.

3. Create Rules

When I say create rules, this could go either way. In a completely fictional world, you need to make sure you create its government, its politics, its social strata, its laws, weather, climate, all that sort of thing. This is incredibly important because this is going to have an effect on the characters and the plot and all of that. Setting places an enormous part on our lives. Where we live, the rules we live under, play a HUGE part in our lives: getting our licenses at a certain age, drinking at a certain age, getting a job, paying bills, all those sorts of things come from the setting: where we live. So this is important when creating an entirely new place. Set the rules because you’ll need to follow those. They have a profound effect on your characters.

Now when you’re creating a fictional place in a real world, like me, a new town in California, the rules are already there, for the most part. California has laws and weather and all of those things already. What’s important is that you remember them. California is a little easier. If I make it a really super hot day in the middle of December…it might be a little confusing to others but to those of us who live in California, we would laugh because this really happens. (Its November, and we’re expecting 80 degree weather all week). But making sure you don’t make it a super hot day when writing your fictional town on the eastern seaboard? That’s important. Making sure your 14 year old character isn’t driving a car when logically that doesn’t make sense, things like that. Follow the rules.

4. React!

Treat your setting like a character. If something is happening in the story, how is your setting reacting to this. For instance, in my novel, my town is baseball obsessed. Say the the team wins a particularly difficult game. The town is going to react to this, obviously. It may not be something obvious that I distinctly point out but my main characters may go to lunch the next day, and the patrons could be wearing more orange and white (the team colors) than usual. There may be more banners in the window, the weather might look that much better, people will be happier. The setting reacts to the story. If the characters get in a fight, or have a bad day, the weather might be crappier or the sunny weather might bother them. React and interact with the characters and the setting. They have an effect on each other.

5. Its All in the Details!

Of course, details are always important. But for setting, I feel like its important because it makes your setting authentic and real. The hardest part of this for me is making them subtle and genuine. I want Macon to seem as real as possible and the details will make it so because it’ll seem like a real place. But every time I try and write a detail, I feel like its obvious that I’m trying to point out things about Macon and its hard. But the details are important. Where things are located, what the weather is like, the plant life, all that sort of subtle detail just makes it more genuine. Is it nearly an ocean? A mountain? This effects the weather, etc. There are stores on the main street but what kind of stores? That sort of thing. This is probably the one I struggle with the most and I’m working on it!

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What are some of YOUR tips on setting? Share the in the comments!

NaNoWriMo 2014 is Here!

Hello everyone!

It is that time again, pilule time for NaNoWriMo!

Now, nurse for those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Its held every November, where a ton of aspiring authors (and published authors too!) challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word novel in just one month.

I discovered this for the first time last year. I know, I’m behind in the times. However…there are things I like about this and things that I don’t. I don’t believe in writing an entire novel in one month…its just not my thing. I also think 50K words for a novel, either YA or adult, is just not enough. But I love that it brings all these writers together, motivating and inspiring each other. I love that everyone holds each other accountable.

So last year, I created my own sort of challenge. I challenged myself to write 45K of a novel that I had already started, The Reawakened. It was already at about 20K when I started NaNo, so I had a solid backing for that. I wanted to focus on writing, yes, but developing the story, the characters, focusing on becoming a better writer that month, not just spitting out all those words. Fast forward a year later and that novel became The Awakened, the first in a duology, the novel that I’ve been editing for about six months and been querying for a couple months as well. You guys may know it well because I talk about it so much.

Now its my sophomore year of NaNoWriMo. I was hesitant to participate because I’ve been slumpy in my reading habits and I’m been unable to write but I’ve been motivated. I need to get over this overemotional, miserableness that has been me the past couple months. So I’m ready for this, and what better to snap me back into the life of writing than NaNoWriMo.

So I invite you guys on my journey!

It is going to be great. There will be a few posts a week and you guys can watch my journey as I tackle my new novel.

Now, my novel for NaNoWriMo is untitled…which will have a fun part in the posts on the blog. I was going to work on the sequel to The Awakened but I decided my focus for that world is editing and querying. Instead I decided to jump into my untitled young adult/new adult contemporary romance baseball novel. Its going to be great, and I’ve only written…500 words for it.

So here are my goals!

1. Write 40K words of this untitled novel. 50 would be great but 40 is my goal :) I will consider myself a winner if I write 40

2. Come up with a title. No, really. And you guys can help ;)

3. Develop, develop, develop. Develop my characters, my story, my fictional setting, etc.

Don’t forget you can join in on the fun, and check out the official website here.

Here is the plan on the blog, where you can follow my NaNoWriMo journey!

November 1st: About My Novel and Where I Write!

November 4th: Meeting the Main Characters of my Novel: Evie, Lucy, Jesse, Alex, and Connor

November 6th: Let’s Talk About Setting: Macon, California

November 8th: Actual Writing Advice from Actual Authors

November 11th: Character Interviews

November 13th: Treating Writing Like a Job

November 15th: Its the Halfway Point! Update, Struggles/Successes!

November 18th: The Inspiration Behind The Untitled Novel

November 20th: Character Playlists

November 22nd: Free Write: Lucy and Evie Celebrate Thanksgiving

November 27th: Meeting my Characters in Artwork

November 29th: My Sophomore Experience with NaNoWriMo

November 30th: Excerpt from my Novel…So Far

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Happy Writing!

NaNoWriMo-Exclusive Excerpt from The Reawakened!

I apologize to those of you who read the incomplete version of this blog post yesterday. My days are all SO mixed up, cost and I’m all over the place. This post was supposed to be posted today, treat December 1st, now that NaNoWriMo has completed.

So how did you guys do? I want to know! Share with me your experiences, your successes and struggles, and show me what you’ve written! Tell me what your book is about. I’m so proud of all of you who took a dive into writing a novel.

I’m also proud of myself. What? I am! I got some MAJOR work done on The Reawakened. It normally takes me SO long to write a novel. Another Chance for Summer took me TWO years, and A Little Less than Famous took a little more than a year. With this novel, I’ve accomplished SO much in this month and I’m proud of myself for it!

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, my word count is officially at: 61,295.

Which makes me a NaNo winner! Yay!

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So exciting! Now, for the most exciting part of this. You get to dive into a little piece of my own novel. Keep in mind that it IS a rough draft, and any or all of the words that you see below may not necessarily make it into the finished novel. But I think they will!

Please note also that this is all copyrighted to me. I will literally hunt you down and sue you a hundred times over if you take this as your own. You have no idea. I will do unspeakable things. I don’t show it often, but I can get pretty angry. I don’t mean to be harsh but this is my baby, and I trust you all in showing you a bit of my novel, and my hard work. Please don’t betray my trust!

As you may recall, this is the synopsis for The Reawakened:

Katy Valentine has a normal life in Brooklyn, NY, going to baseball games with her dad, spending nights dancing at clubs with her best friend, Madison, and trying as best as she can to avoid her next door neighbor and bane of her existence, Ash Matthews. Things are predictable, but normal and Katy is happy. That’s when the Z virus hits. Within a month, a huge chunk of the population has fallen ill, and died due to this mysterious virus. Before anyone can figure out what it is, or where it came from, the bodies of the victims disappear, all over the country. Katy ends up locked inside her own house, scared to go outside, scared to let anyone in, until suddenly the bodies reappear, reawakened and its like every zombie movie come to life. Except this time, they’re faster, they’re smarter, and they work together to get the one thing they want.  And the only thing they crave, the only thing they fight for, is human flesh.

Now, this scene is about…hmm, 1/4 of the way through the novel. Maybe. Maybe less. Its hard to tell when its not finished. Katy and Ash are at her home, barricaded inside to keep themselves safe from the virus when Katy’s best friend, Madison, calls and tells her she’s out at a rock show. Katy and Ash decide to go after her, and bring her home, to keep her safe.


We made it down to the venue in no time at all. Ash paid the cover charge and I handed over my ticket. I passed my coat over to a guy just inside and hoped I’d get it back at the end of the night.

Three-One-Six were already playing when we walked in and I forgot my purpose for a moment. I had been waiting for this show for months, and now that I was here, all I wanted to do was listen to the music and to dance. They were my favorite band and every time I saw them live, they seemed better and better. Plus, over the years, Madison and I had become friends with them and I looked forward to hanging out with them, going to late night diners, after the show. 

“This is your favorite song, isn’t it?” Ash shouted at me. 

I turned to him, surprised. “How did you know that?” 

“I pay attention, Kates.” He shrugged. “Let’s dance.” 

I hesitated. “We came here for Madison.” 

“Come on, its one song,” he said, walking backwards toward the crowd dancing in front of the stage. “Besides, Madison is probably in there somewhere, so dancing would only be helpful to our cause.” 

I felt myself beginning to give in and Ash seized his chance, taking my hand and dragging me into the crowd. I let myself be pulled in, feeling the beat of my favorite song flow through me. I wanted to dance. I wanted to dance so badly, even if it had to be with Ash. 

He stopped when we’d made our way to the stage. He took my shaking arms and wrapped them around his neck. His hands came to rest on my waist and he pulled me closer, right up against him, every part of us touching. 

“We’re too close,” I shouted, swallowing hard. 

Ash leaned down, the cocky grin in place. “Don’t be nervous, Katy,” he whispered in my ear, causing me to shiver a little. He started off slow, his hips moving against mine, picking up speed to match the song. He was an amazing dancer and my hands were too tight around his neck and an overwhelming warmth was spreading through my body. My hands loosened and traveled down his broad shoulders to his arms. I knew I’d come here for a reason but I couldn’t remember why. My mind was cloudy. I couldn’t think of anything except the feel of his body against mine, and the pulse of the music. 

What would your girlfriend think of you dancing with me?” I said. breathless, when the song ended. 

He hadn’t let me go. His arm was wrapped tightly around my waist and his other hand was on my thigh, right below the hemline of my dress, pushing it upwards. “I don’t have a girlfriend.” I gave him an exasperated look, trying to ignore the fact that my hands were still gripping his arms tightly.

“I don’t,” he repeated. “Not anymore.” 

I suddenly felt uncomfortable, uneasy about the little distance between us, and the serious expression on his face. Ash almost never looked like this, and it only made him look that much better. I started to pull away. 

His hand shot up and his fingers wrapped around the back of my neck, holding me in place. “Now, where do you think you’re going, Kates?” he said, a small smile on his face. 

He was leaning down to me, and all I could think was that he was going to kiss me, and that I wanted him to. I didn’t care that he was Ash Matthews or that I hated him or that he made my life miserable. He was inches away from me and he was incredibly sexy and he was a great dancer and it had been too long since a boy had kissed me. My heart was beating wildly in my chest, matching the beat of the song, and he was only a whisper away. 

Then a scream rang out above the music. 

And I knew exactly who it belonged to. 


I pulled away from Ash, my eyes wide. “Madison.” 

The band had stopped playing and everyone was looking around in confusion. I started pushing my way through, shoving people, Ash at my heels. 

I found Madison by the entrance to the restrooms. She was sobbing, her hand pressed across her mouth, lipstick smeared across her lips, and mascara running down her round cheeks. She was wearing a white lace dress, and she almost seemed to glow in the darkness of the club, surrounded by so many people dressed in black. A dark substance was spread across the front of her dress and I realized quickly that it was blood. She looked like an angel, a beautiful tiny avenging angel. I reached out to her at the same moment that she vomited blood all over the floor. 

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I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the world of The Reawakened! I’m going to continue to work VERY hard on it, and hopefully you’ll all be able to read it someday! I definitely hope so!

Happy Writing and Reading everyone!