Monday, June 18, 2018

What's a pivotal moment in your publication journey? (With Taylor Bennett!)

We are very excited to have teen author Taylor Bennett with us this week! Taylor was the winner of our #WeWriteBooks contest back in 2016 and her debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, has just released! You should definitely hop over to Taylor's website to read her publication story.

The first panel question this week is:

What's a pivotal moment in your publication journey, and how did it come about?

Taylor: I met my publisher, Mountain Brook Ink, at my first-ever writers conference. After being told for years that these mysterious places were where connections could be made and contracts signed, I decided to go and check one out for myself. I ended up at the Oregon Christian Writer's conference (an amazing summer conference! If you're in the area, come drop by and say hi!) and I had the opportunity to make appointments with several agents and editors.

One of those editors was Miralee Ferrell, the owner of Mountain Brook Ink. I pitched my book to her, and she was interested...very interested!! Fast-forward a year, after I had worked hard to polish my first draft of Porch Swing Girl and prepare a series proposal, and she offered me a contract. Yippee!

Shan: So many! Maybe the most actionable is the decision I made to seek out a critique group. Up until that point, I didn’t know anything about the rules of writing for publication and surrounding myself with other authors who could help me was crucial. I’m a big fan of discovering your people and holding onto them. It’s not always easy for introverted writers and it’s rarely straightforward to do that, but having other understanding souls as you journey down this very unique road will pay off in spades.

Jill: Mine was at the same conference as Taylor's! All my pivotal moments happened at the Oregon Christian Writers’ Summer Conference. I pitched what became By Darkness Hid at that conference to Jeff Gerke, who later bought it. I pitched Replication to Zondervan at that conference. And I met my agent there. I highly recommend writing conferences. They are the best place to meet editors and agents face to face.

Stephanie: Choosing to not give up on a manuscript … but also humbling myself to listen to what wasn’t working. This could be said about all my published books, because even after you’re published, each novel requires a blend of persistence and humility. 

This was especially true for the book that became the first in the Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series when I kept hearing that Skylar wasn’t likable. I felt like that was part of her character arc, but eventually realized that this was a common problem, and nobody wants to read a book about someone they don’t like.

Writers, what about you? What's something pivotal that happened in your writing journey?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Pen and Paper, Computer, Or Both? (With Lorie Langdon!)

Today is our last day hosting author Lorie Langdon on the blog, but you can stay in touch with her through her author website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

We have one more question for Lorie before she goes!

When you first sit down with an idea, what do you reach for first: pen and paper or computer? Do you use both? Any idea why you prefer to write the way you do?

Lorie: New story ideas can be all-consuming, so I will make notes in my phone, open a fresh Word doc to create bullet points, and hand-write ideas in a notebook. I can’t say I prefer one or the other, just whatever is handy in that moment!

Jill: I’m a paper girl. I write things out, draw things, print things out, start a binder to keep track of it all. I can’t help it. I like having things I can spread out on the floor and look at. I think it’s because I’m such a visual person.

Stephanie: I’m a pen-and-paper girl when it comes to brainstorming. Sometimes a new idea also has me reaching for my phone and the Google Hangouts app so I can brainstorm with a friend.

Shan: Both. Depends. I prefer the computer in my office to most anything else, but I do carry a notebook and pen with me when I’m brainstorming. I also use the drafts folder in my email inbox to save story ideas while I’m out and about. It’s a fast way to document something without having to scrounge for a pen while I’m at a store, etc. My hands are a bit of a problem for me and pen and paper take more physical effort than typing. I’m much faster and efficient on the keyboard.

What about you, writers? What works best for you?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer? (With Lorie Langdon!)

Author Lorie Langdon is back with us today! If you like historical young adult fiction, I highly recommend her latest release, Olivia Twist. Here's a bit about the book:

Olivia Brownlow is no damsel in distress. Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, she is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from fighting and stealing on the streets to lavish dinners and soirees as a debutante in high society. But she can’t seem to escape her past … or forget the teeming slums where children just like her still scrabble to survive.

Jack MacCarron rose from his place in London’s East End to become the adopted “nephew” of a society matron. Little does society know that MacCarron is a false name for a boy once known among London gangs as the Artful Dodger, and that he and his “aunt” are robbing them blind every chance they get. When Jack encounters Olivia Brownlow in places he least expects, his curiosity is piqued. Why is a society girl helping a bunch of homeless orphan thieves? Even more intriguing, why does she remind him so much of someone he once knew? Jack finds himself wondering if going legit and risking it all might be worth it for love.

It's such an excellent and creative retelling! Today's panel question is:

What is your favorite part of having the job of writing books? And what is your least favorite part of the writing job? 

Lorie: It’s so hard to pick just one favorite thing. This career is my dream job! Telling stories that inspire readers, help them escape the hard parts of life, and bring them hope is what I was created to do. I also love interacting with readers and aspiring authors.

My least favorite part is the uncertainty. The next book deal is never guaranteed…at least I haven’t reached that point in my career yet. So, it can be quite stressful not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from or when.

Stephanie: My favorite part is the actual writing stuff. I love brainstorming, drafting, editing, all of it. I have even learned to enjoy some of the marketing pieces of being an author. 

My least favorite part is making decisions about managing my time. I have a ten-year-old, seven-year-old and two-year old, so it’s very difficult to figure out how to do All The Things.

Shan: My favorite drafting moment happens when the story begins to write itself. The characters and the world and the plot are fleshed out enough that the writing takes on a lighter feel. It’s exciting to come back to the page as opposed to daunting. This usually happens for me toward the end of my first draft. Edits are much more fun for me. Especially if I’m working with insightful feedback. Writing to an edit that inspires me is very satisfying.

My least favorite part is all the waiting. SO MUCH WAITING. We hurry to write, to edit, to develop. And then we wait. It’s a necessary evil, but it is evil.

Jill: My favorite part is coming up with new ideas and brainstorming it all out. I love that creative process so much. (Which is why new ideas are so tempting!)

My least favorite is finishing that first draft, especially of a first book in a new series. I love starting the book, but somewhere in the middle to end, it gets messy and hard and I want to push forward and finish, but I’m often stuck and frustrated that I’m stuck. It’s hard work, and I’m always so excited to be done so I can edit. (Editing is my second favorite part.)

What about you? What's your favorite and least favorite part of writing a book?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Is there a writing technique you've tried that you thought would work for you but didn't? (With Lorie Langdon!)

I'm delighted that this week our guest is another one of my fellow Blink/HarperCollins authors, Lorie Langdon!

Lorie is one half of the author team that writes the best-selling Doon series, a young adult reimagining of the musical Brigadoon. She has been interviewed on Entertainment and several NPR radio programs, including Lisa Loeb’s national Kid Lit show. The Doon series has been featured on such high profile sites as,, and Lorie’s solo books include, Gilt Hollow, a YA romantic thriller, and Olivia Twist, a historical YA romantic suspense.

We're honored to have her! Our first panel question with Lorie is:

Is there a writing technique/tool you've tried (Scrivener, outlining, scene cards, etc.) that you thought was going to work but didn't, or that you didn't think would work but did? 

Lorie: I am a born Pantser (i.e. I would rather write without an outline and discover the story as I go), but I’ve learned the hard way, through multiple rounds of rewrites on my first novel, that some plotting is necessary. When I began writing OLIVIA TWIST, a writer friend suggested that I try the Story Board plotting method. It looks a lot like a calendar, but each square is a chapter where you record the major conflicts and every fifth chapter is a major turning point. The squares are small, so I gave it a try.

I found that I couldn’t fill in the whole thing upfront, but I was able to fill in over half of the squares, including the Black Moment and the Resolution at the end. It gave me something to write towards and kept the pacing tight. I use story boarding for every novel I write now!

Shan:   I’ve tried many things--some worked for a time and then refused to cooperate for the next book and were retired. Anything that requires me to learn how to use it, is usually quickly jettisoned. I do not want to spend my limited writing time learning how to navigate Scrivener, so unless things change, that one’s not for me. Scene cards worked for my Angel Eyes trilogy, but were less helpful my last two go ‘rounds. Each story might require different tools, and I have to acknowledge that I’m still young in this. My process isn’t quite solidified.

Jill: Scrivener never worked for me for outlining or writing my books. It was too different from how I’ve trained myself to use Microsoft Word. I do use Scrivener to create ebooks, though, and I like the program for that purpose. On the other hand, I didn’t storyboard my books when I first started out. The first time I tried storyboarding was with the Safe Lands, and I think that’s because of the multiple points of view. I needed to try something new to keep track of all those parts. Writing the scenes for each character on a different colored index card allowed me not only to see the plan for the entire book at once, it allowed me to identify at a glance where each POV character’s scenes were and if there was a hole. I’m such a visual person, storyboarding has been a great tool for me to write faster with fewer changes.

Stephanie: I’ve tried scene cards a few time, both physical and digital. I love the idea of them, but they just haven’t worked for me.

We love hearing from those in our community of writers! What's a writing technique or tool that you thought would work for you but didn't?

Friday, June 8, 2018

How deliberate are you when it comes to writing for your audience? (With McCall Hoyle!)

Today is our last day with McCall, but if you've enjoyed soaking up her writerly wisdom then you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Also, if you like contemporary YA, you should definitely add Meet The Sky to your to-read list. ​Seventeen-year-old Sophie wants to keep her fractured family together. She's all about sticking to a plan--keeping the family business running, saving money for college, and making sure her mom and sister don't endure another tragedy. Then a hurricane forms off the coast of the Outer Banks, and Sophie realizes nature is the one thing she can't control. To make matters worse, she's stranded in the middle of the storm with Finn, the boy who broke her heart freshman year.

Our last question with McCall is:

How deliberate are you when it comes to writing for your audience? Do you write with a specific audience in mind or do you write the story for yourself and hope it finds an crowd? 

McCall: I read a lot in a wide variety of genres so that I'm familiar with what kind of works and doesn't work in different genres. I don't really write with a specific audience in mind. I write what feels natural to me. Most of the time, what feels natural to me is writing from a teenage girl's point of view.

I'm not sure what that says about me. I'd love to say that it means I'm young at heart, and hip, and cool. I think what it really says is that the hardest part of my life was being a teenage girl, so I have lots and lots of authentic emotions and material to write from that perspective.

Shan:  I am deliberate. It’s something I think about a lot now that I’m not writing solely for myself. Once you decide to write with the goal of publication, I think you have to be more intentional. If not, you’re hoping to luck into something that might fit on a shelf. I think there’s a time and place for that kind of writing, but currently, I’m writing very specifically.

Jill: I also set out writing for teens, though my books have been published for adults and I’ve also written for children. I do usually set out to write a book that’s geared toward a specific audience, but I’ll promote it to all my readers whether it’s a kids book or one for grown ups. That might hurt me, sales wise, but I have to write what interests me, and my ideas refuse to fit the same audience with any regularity!

Stephanie: While I deliberately write my books for teenagers, it has also been very difficult for me to write for any other audience. Even when I have tried to pitch book ideas for adults, they have always come out sounding like a book for a teenager. Writing for teens is apparently my default setting!

What about you, writers? Do you write with a target audience in mind, or no?