Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

10 comments:
Jill here.

Go Teen Writers is taking a few days off to celebrate Thanksgiving. My family is driving over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house in Portland. We go there every year. We'll have Thanksgiving dinner with my husband's family, watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, and go Black Friday shopping with old friends. I'll also try to get a little work done but will probably fail.

For fun, here's a picture of my husband and me the first year we were married. We went to the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in Manhattan thinking we'd get to be on TV. We didn't even get close enough to see the parade! But it was still a fun day, though very cold.




All of you 100 for 100 and NaNoWriMo participants, keep at it! You're almost there. Give it your all. Do your best. And enjoy the weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving! We'll see you back here on Monday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Finalists from the Lot of Luck Contest

28 comments:
Congratulations to the finalists from the Go Teen Writers writing prompt contest!

Alexa M.
Ally Randolph
Ashley
Bethany Baldwin
Bethany Canaan
Brooke Bajgrowicz
Carissa Barrows
Catsi Eceer
Elizabeth Ryan
Emily Walker
Erin B.
GGK
Hadley Grace
Hannah C
Iris S.
J. Liessa
Jillian Haggard
Leanne Rachel
Linea Marshall
M. P. Reed
Megan S.
Miranda Kulig
Samantha W
Sarah Rose
Sofia Marie
Wild Horse 
Will Cloud

Your entries have been sent on to Shannon's creative writing class for final judging.

If your name isn't on the above list, I'll be sending you an email with your feedback as soon as I'm able. We've been in the hospital with my 4-year-old son for some testing, and my kids are out of school for Thanksgiving, so this might be a slower process than normal.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cut the Clutter From Your Sentences

22 comments:
by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

Well, that was some amazing word warring over the weekend you guys! I loved seeing all the support and encouragement you gave to each other.

Those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo may want to save this post for after November 30th, because now is certainly not the time to look through your manuscript for words you can cut.

As I read through the entries for last round's contest (the finalists will be announced tomorrow on the blog) I sometimes came across entries that were interesting scenarios with good pacing and smart dialogue, but they seemed a little ... something. After studying the writing for a bit, I realized that the problem was unnecessary words kept the story from shining like it could.



What kinds of words clutter up sentences?

  • Cliches
  • Unnecessary descriptions
  • Vague words
  • Passive words
  • Telling words
  • Quantifying words (little, very)

To help illustrate what I mean, I wrote a few sentences of a story to critique:
John gave the door a quick glance. It was deathly silent in the room, and he almost felt like maybe nothing was really chasing him. Suddenly the door opened, and John started to run for his life. His heart was pounding very fast in his chest as he stumbled clumsily down the yellow hallway.
Let's get out our mental red pens and go sentence by sentence.

John gave the door a quick glance.

I see sentences like this all the time (not just from beginning writers, but in my first drafts too) and it's a needlessly complicated way to say: John glanced at the door.

A glance by definition is quick, so we don't need the extra word to describe it, And he doesn't need to give the door anything, he just needs to do the thing. Same as John doesn't need to give the door a swift kick or a hard punch or a fresh new coat of paint. John can simply kick the door, punch the door, and paint the door.

Editing challenge: Run a search in your manuscript for the word "gave" (or "give" if that fits your book's tense) and see if you've over-complicated any actions.

It was deathly silent in the room,

Starting a sentence with "it" usually isn't the right choice. In my final drafts, I always seek out "it" in sentences and ask if I can replace the word with the intended noun. Doing so doesn't always make sense, but I like to check.

In this case, "it" refers to the room. So it's better to start with "The room was deathly silent"

But I don't like that passive voice, so I would drop our unnecessary adverb and change this to, "Silence filled the room." If you want to describe the silence, I'm sure you can do better than deathly. Maybe unsettling silence? Uncharacteristic silence? Hair-raising silence?

Revised sentence: Silence filled the room.

Editing challenge: Check your manuscript for "it" and "was." Can you replace it with a specific noun? (You can't always, but it's good to check!) Same with was. Unless it's continuous action (i.e. Jane was stirring the soup when I arrived) then you'll want to cut was and just have the character do the action.

and he almost felt like maybe nothing was really chasing him.

I see the phrase "almost felt" a ton. Even in my own drafts. I don't know why I do that. What's this almost business? Does the character feel it or no? But usually the word "felt" is a red flag that I'm telling my story instead of showing it. So I can scrap the phrase altogether and show this instead. 

How could you show this? Sometimes I do it by asking the question: Maybe nothing was really chasing him? Another option is to show what he's listening for: No footsteps echoed behind the door, nor did any chatter.

Let's focus now on that "maybe nothing was really chasing him" part. Do we lose anything if we revise this to, "Maybe nothing was chasing him"? We don't, right? I think we could also make a case for changing this to, "Maybe nothing chased him." It gets rid of the passive structure, which I like. But if you're suggesting continuous action, you could leave it.

Revised sentence: Maybe nothing was chasing him?

Editing challenge: Run a search for "felt" in your story and see if you're using it to tell your story rather than show it. Also run a search for "really" and "actually" which are often needless words.

Suddenly the door opened, and John started to run for his life.

If you see the word "suddenly" in your manuscript, it can almost always be cut. Writers fall back on it when they're trying to convey sudden action, but you usually don't need it. Instead of trying to have "suddenly" do the work of the sentence, I would focus on the word "opened" when trying to communicate the immediacy. The door could spring or fling open.

The phrase "John started to run" implies that John began something he didn't finish. So instead, John can just run.

"Run for his life" is a tired phrase that is being used to show that John is running with immediacy. Instead of pulling out a cliche, I say we pick a more interesting verb. John could dash away from the door, He could also spurt, rush, or dart.

Revised sentence: The door flung open, and John dashed away.

Editing challenge: Search your manuscript for the word suddenly. Is it a word you can cut? Run a search for "started to" or "began to" and see if they can be revised as well.

His heart was pounding very fast in his chest as he stumbled clumsily down the yellow hallway.

His heart was pounding very fast in his chest: The first thing you can do here is cross out "in his chest." By default, that's where hearts pound. And "was pounding very fast" is a complicated way to state that his heart raced. If you think a racing heart sounds a bit tired, his heart could also hammer or thunder or something more creative.

In an action scene, however, you want to be careful about the kind of phrase you pick. If you pick something so fresh that your reader gets distracted and pulled out of the story, that's bad for your pacing.

"Stumbled clumsily" can be simplified to stumbled. I would like to see someone stumble in a way that doesn't appear clumsy. 

Now for the yellow hallway. This isn't outright wrong, but I question that this is the right time to showcase the color of the hallway. Readers certainly like to "see" where action is taking place, but I think it's clunky during a getaway scene to throw in the color of the hall.

Here's our new sentences all together:
John glanced at the door. Silence filled the room. Maybe nothing was chasing him?
The door flung open, and John dashed away. His heart raced as he stumbled down the hallway.
While I think these could be improved upon, they've at least lost the cluttered feeling

If you would like to, pull a cluttered sentence from your manuscript, clean it up, and share it in the comments section!

**Quick note: For those who don't already know, my 4-year-old son, Connor, suffers from epilepsy. We enjoyed 6 months of seizure freedom, but in the last month his seizures have returned. I'll be gone all day and tomorrow for an overnight hospital stay. That means I probably won't be able to respond to as many comments as I normally do. Thank you for understanding!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

November Word War: Day 3

276 comments:
Stephanie here! Today is the last day of the Go Teen Writers word war. It's been so awesome to see everyone's progress!

Sundays are kick-back-and-relax days in the Morrill household, but I'm really looking forward to cheering you on from my cozy place on the couch.




If you're just joining us on the word war (or if today's the first you've heard of it) here's a quick recap: 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. 

This word war began Friday and will end tonight. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's never too late to join!

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we do. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships along the way.

Here's how you can connect with each other:
1. In the comments section of the blog. Something as simple as "Just wrote 1,000 words in the last hour!" is fine. Or you can challenge each other to word wars. There's strength in being able to encourage each other and in knowing that others are hard at work too.

2. On Twitter, using the hashtag #GTWwordwar or on the Go Teen Writers Facebook Group. (This is a closed group, so if you're not a member yet, apply to join and then shoot me an email telling me so that I can approve you pronto.)

Enjoy!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

November Word War: Day 2

393 comments:
Stephanie here! Today is day 2 of our NaNoWriMo inspired word war. You don't have to be doing NaNoWriMo to participate, though! You can join in the fun regardless of what you're writing, how old you are, or where you live. We want this to be a fun day full of community and words!




If you're just joining us on the word war (or if today's the first you've heard of it) here's a quick recap: 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. 

This word war began yesterday and will end Sunday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's never too late to join!

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we do. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the weekend goes on!

Here's how you can connect with each other:
1. In the comments section of the blog. Something as simple as "Just wrote 1,000 words in the last hour!" is fine. Or you can challenge each other to word wars. There's strength in being able to encourage each other and in knowing that others are hard at work too.

2. On Twitter, using the hashtag #GTWwordwar or on the Go Teen Writers Facebook Group. (This is a closed group, so if you're not a member yet, apply to join and then shoot me an email telling me so that I can approve you pronto.)

Can't wait to see your progress!

Friday, November 21, 2014

November Word War: Day 1

314 comments:
Stephanie here! Many of you requested that we host a word war during NaNoWriMo, and here it is! If you're participating in the NaNo craziness, we're hoping this weekend helps catapult you into a strong finish. If you're not participating in NaNo, we hope it's still a fun time for you of community and lots and lots of words!




If you're just joining us on the word war (or if today's the first you've heard of it) here's a quick recap: 

A word war is when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most words in a designated period of time. 

This word war begins today and will end Sunday night. It's a come-and-go, write-when-you-can style of war, so it's never too late to join!

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we do. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the weekend goes on!

Here's how you can connect with each other:
1. In the comments section of the blog. Something as simple as "Just wrote 1,000 words in the last hour!" is fine. Or you can challenge each other to word wars. There's strength in being able to encourage each other and in knowing that others are hard at work too.

2. On Twitter, using the hashtag #GTWwordwar or on the Go Teen Writers Facebook Group. (This is a closed group, so if you're not a member yet, apply to join and then shoot me an email telling me so that I can approve you pronto.)

Looking forward to a fun day!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Share Your Favorite Character Quote

155 comments:
It's getting close to the end of the year, which for published writers, means inventory. At the end of each year I must count the copies of the books in my house to report on my taxes.

Last week, I spent several hours cleaning my book area. I am down to 50 copies of Replication in hardcover! (I once had 500 copies, so this is a big deal for me.) This is the original book that you see pictured below.

I want to get rid of these!!!

Why, you ask?

Because my publisher sent me author copies of the paperback version with the new cover, but I don't want to take them to conferences to sell until all the hardcover books are gone.

So I'm going to give these away to the first 50 people who order them through my Square store. They are free, but it costs me $3 to ship them. So you'll still have to pay $3 to get the book. But $3 is a great price for an autographed (personalized) hardcover (now limited) edition of a book.

Anyone need some Christmas presents?

No more than one copy per order/person/address and I can't mail them internationally for $3 shipping. So if you live internationally and want one, we'll have to figure out what the international shipping cost is. If you're interested, click here to see the free copy of Replication in my bookstore.

Today's quote comes from one of my characters.


I remember writing that line and smiling, fighting back a chuckle at Martyr and how he'd come alive. Today I want to ask you all to share in the comments a quote from your work in progress that you are particularly proud of and/or a favorite quote from a published novel.