Friday, May 31, 2013

"In to" or "Into?" ... "On to" or "Onto?"

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

"Into" and "in to" ... "onto" and "on to." These words are tricky and are often used incorrectly. Firstly, you need to know that “into” and “onto” are prepositions that signal movement from one place to another.

Secondly, you need to know about phrasal verbs, also called two-word verbs. They’re pretty much verbs that are made up of more than one word, sometimes even more than two words. Here are some examples:

To check someone/something out
To break in
To fall apart
To look something over

Phrasal verbs must be kept together. So, with “into” vs. “in to” and “onto” vs. “on to,” which you use comes down to whether or not you’re using a phrasal verb.

Non phrasal verb examples:

The dog jumped onto the bed.
Sam threw his shirt into the hamper.

Also note that in both the above examples, you could simply use “on” or “in” and get the same meaning.

The dog jumped on the bed.
Sam threw his shirt in the hamper.

Phrasal verb examples:

There are lots of phrasal verbs. Click here for a link if you want to check them out. But not all phrasal verbs use "into, "in to," "onto," or "on to." Here are some that do. Take careful notice of which have the word "into" or "in."

“To get back into” means to become interested in something again. Ex: It took me a while to get back into that movie.

“To be into” means to like something. Ex: I’m into watching Doctor Who. Ex: He's into her.

“To break in” means to force your way into something. Ex: I broke in to that bag of chips without asking. Ex: Two masked men broke in to the bank vault.

“To grow into” means to grow enough to fit into something. Ex: It will be a few years before Emily grows into that shirt.

“To look into” means to investigate something. Ex: “I will look into this matter immediately,” Sherlock said.

“To run into” means to meet up unexpectedly with someone or something. Ex: I ran into Michelle at the store. Ex: I ran into the wall.

And here are, perhaps, the trickiest two in the world:

“To turn in” means to turn in an assignment. Ex: Turn your science project in to your professor.

“To turn into” means to transform something into something else. Ex: Turn Malfoy into a ferret.

If you were to use "into/in to" wrong here, you might have: Turn your science project into your professor.

And that would be trouble, indeed.

So oftentimes when writing fiction, it's best to rephrase. Ex: Turn in your science project to your professor.

Any questions? I have a million! When in doubt? Google it.

(I'm speaking at a school today, so I won't be around to answer your questions. But I will answer them as soon as I can.)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Characters Who Are Broken and Beautiful

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Often we talk about how characters shouldn't be perfect, how they should have flaws. While I think this is true, I think it can also be a bit confusing. Because sometimes assigning flaws to a character can create a trait that's too superficial (she doesn't put the cap back on the family tube of toothpaste) and other times the flaws are so abrasive, the character becomes too hard to like.

So instead of talking about flaws, let's try talking about brokenness.

How is your character broken?

All people have brokenness in their lives, and characters should too. 

In The Hunger Games, Katniss is broken in that her father died unexpectedly and she's had to take care of her family ever since. This is something in her life that has broken her, that she's had to rebuild from.

In Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Lena is broken by having a mother who, she believes, chose suicide over her. In Captives, by Jill Williamson, Omar is broken in that his father has never approved of him. In my book, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, Ellie is broken in that she's always been overshadowed by her best friend and older brother.

And these broken places lead the character's to act in ways that might be labelled as flaws - Katniss tends to be callous, Lena conforms to society out of fear of getting "infected" and ending up like her mother, Omar's desire for approval has tragic consequences, and Ellie allows others to walk all over her because she lacks a sense of self-worth.

How is your character beautiful?

While the brokenness of a character is vital to endearing a reader, so is their beauty. Katniss's inner strength is beautiful, as is Lena putting aside fear to embrace love.

Cinderella and Rapunzel are beautiful in how they sing and do good for others, despite living in abusive homes. 

What about your main character? How is he or she broken? Beautiful? And try this exercise on your villain or primary antagonist as well!

Also, yesterday I had the privilege of guest posting on the MacGregor Literary agency site. I talked about how I fell in love with blogging, and why I feel Go Teen Writers has grown the way it has. It was a rather scary post to write, since the MacGregor Literary blog is one of my favorite writing sites ever, so if you want to come say hello to me over there, I would appreciate it!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Should you write multiple stories or just one at a time?

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

I often get asked, "Should I write multiple stories at once, or should I focus on doing one at a time?"

My answer? Both skills are necessary.

Let me explain. Many new writers struggle with having enough discipline to finish a book. And by "finish a book" I mean writing a first draft, doing several rounds of edits, and polishing the book to the luster it requires before an agent or editor will consider spending time with it.

As a new writer, I flitted from idea to idea. I would write half a draft, run out of steam, and switch to the new idea buzzing around my brain that I was super excited about. But I knew I needed to learn how to write an entire book, that I would be expected to do so as a published author.

So I disciplined myself to be able to do this. It became the way I preferred to write, one book at a time. No bunny trails - complete focus.

And then I became a published author, and was shocked by how often I was asked to work on multiple stories at once.

As I was finishing up my first draft of Out with the In Crowd (Skylar Hoyt book number two), my editor sent me my edits for Me, Just Different (Skylar Hoyt book number one) so even thought I was really in the writing groove, I had to pause to do my edits. And when I was working on So Over It (Skylar Hoyt book number three), I had to pause to read through proofs of Me, Just Different, content edits for Out with the In Crowd, plus put together a proposal for a new book that my agent wanted to see before she sent it on to my editor.

After disciplining myself to have such a intense focus when I was working on a story, all the multi-tasking made me cranky. I even caught myself thinking about how much I missed being able to focus on a story, how much I missed the writing time from my pre-published days - something I had sworn I would never, ever think or say!

So is it worth disciplining yourself to work on just one book if you're interested in being published? Yes. Because in my book-flitting days, I wrote based on my whims. Even though I now must work on multiple projects at a time, my whims don't come into play. There was value in learning how to write something other than what I felt like writing.

I think the demand for story multi-tasking is one of the reasons I continue to shift into being a plotter. After an interruption, t's much easier for me to get back in the writing groove when I have the story somewhat figured out.

What about you? Do you work on multiple stories at once or do you focus on one at a time?

And don't forget - the Go Teen Writers store closes on FRIDAY, so get your points earned and turned in! Also, I'm giving away a copy of The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet over on author Trish Perry's blog, so if you're interested in winning a paperback copy, make sure you check that out.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What Are Your Characters Talking About?

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Last week Arlette asked a question about how to keep your characters' dialogue vivid and alive. Steph wrote some posts on dialogue a while back, and I think they're really good. So, you might want to check those out:

Go Teen Writers: How to Write Good Dialogue Part One

Go Teen Writers: How to Write Good Dialogue Part Two

But what if you're staring at your blank Word document, the cursor is blinking at you, and you don't know what your characters are talking about. What do they have to say to each other?

Keep in mind, there shouldn't be any dialogue in your book that's superfluous. Dialogue is part of a scene, and every scene in your book should have a purpose. Every scene should do one or more of the following:

1. Advance the plot
2. Deepen characters
3. Fill in backstory

That said, if your goal is to deepen the characters, and there is no major plot point happening besides them getting to know each other, how do you keep the dialogue interesting? You don't want to write the way people actually talk, because people are boring. The guys in my youth group could talk about a video game for an hour. I don't want to read about that.

But when conversation is exciting, funny, or adversarial, it can keep the reader turning the pages just as quickly as if they're in the midst of an action-packed scene.

“Great, Jill,” you say. “But how do I do it?”

“Dialogue is a war.” So says Randy Ingermanson in his book Writing Fiction for Dummies. And that's a great place for us to start. Dialogue should have tension. And not all tension means a fight. Tension can come from fear, anger, hatred, desire, excitement, sorrow, competition. I could go on an on.

So here is what I suggest. Start by choosing an overall emotion you're hoping to convey during the scene. Also, figure out where your characters are, emotion-wise, before the dialogue starts, and if you're hoping to change that or not. Also, it always helps to know each of their motivations for the scene and for life in general.

I'm going to use an example of dialogue from my book The New Recruit. All I wanted to do here was characterize a few people. The only thing this conversations adds to the overall plot is that both Gabe and Spencer like Isabel.

Here is what I knew in advance:

Overall emotional goal for the scene- humor

Character emotions/goals- 
Spencer- He's feeling awkward because his new church friends invaded the lunch table where he sits with his basketball friends.
Kip- He's annoyed that these “losers” came and sat at the cool people table.
Gabe- He's trying to make friends with Spencer.
Isabel- She's just looking to see where her friends are sitting at lunch.

And here is the scene-

     “Dude, this is nuts. I’m out of here.” Kip stood up. “I’ll be outside.”
     Gabe opened a bag of chips and offered Kip one. “You should probably stay in the building. It’s pretty hot out today.”
     Kip stared at Gabe as if the guy had two heads.
     “Que pasa? Got room for me, Gabriel?” Isabel stood behind me, holding a pink fabric lunch sack. Her thick black lashes seemed to blink in slow motion.
     Gabe pushed his stuff over and squished closer to me, making a spot for Isabel, but she sat on my other side. Ha! Garmond-1. Stopplecamp-0. And I just have to point out: When Isabel said Gabriel’s name, it sounded like Gabrielle, which is a girl’s name. I’m just saying . . .
     “Yeah . . .” Kip said, his eyes roaming over Isabel like a searchlight. “It does look kind of hot outside.” He sat back on the bench. “Kind of hot in here too.”
I snorted a laugh. Kip took great pride in the cheesy pickup lines he dealt to girls. The sad thing was, they worked half the time. I secretly hoped Isabel was smarter than the girls Kip usually hit on.
     “Es-pensor, what church do you go to?” Isabel asked.
     “Calvary Baptist,” I said, thankful for the first time that Grandma made me go so I could provide the goddess with a pleasing answer.
     “Me, Gabe, Arianna, and Neek, we all go to Cornerstone Christian Center. You should come to our youth group sometime. It’s on Wednesday nights.”
     Yeah, right. Like I’d ever set foot in that place again. Nick didn’t like me, and neither did his dad, Pastor Muren. Yet this was Isabel inviting me somewhere.
     “I’m sorry, were you talking to me?” Kip asked Isabel.
     She looked across the table. “Uh, no. I was asking—”
     “Would you like to?” Kip said.
     She frowned. Apparently she wasn’t quick enough to catch his meaning.
     Kip flashed her a cheesy grin. “I’m just asking because my friend Spencer here wants to know if you think I’m cute.”
     I rolled my eyes.
     Isabel pursed her lips and tipped her head to the side. “Well, what is your name, Es-pensor’s friend?”
     “You can call me Kip if I can call you tonight.”
     This time Isabel chuckled. “Oh, you’re a funny one.”
     Kip tapped his fingers on the table in front of my tray.
     “Dude, did the sun come up or did she just smile at me?”
     I laughed too. I couldn’t help it. When Kip got going, only a slap to the face could stop him. And I had to give him credit for using his clean lines on Isabel. I guess he could tell she was too nice to be raunchy around.
     Or maybe he just didn’t want her to slap him.

So what does this show the reader? That Gabe is nice. That Isabel speaks a little bit of Spanglish. That Kip is kind of a jerk and likes to make things all about him. That Spencer thinks Kip is funny. That all three guys like Isabel. That Isabel is polite but isn't showing any interest in Kip. That Spencer is competitive. That Spencer might consider going to church (something he doesn't like) to spend time with Isabel (someone he does like).

Dialogue is a war. They all want to talk about different things. Kip won. He dominated the conversation.

Let's take two characters. We'll call them Eli and Paige. And we want them to have a conversation.

"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"Nothing," Paige said.

Right now, what they're saying is boring. We need to turn this dialogue into a war of some kind.

So here are some tips to help you figure out how to make your dialogue a war:

Make it confrontational. Each character's traits can clash with another. In my example, Kip's traits took over the conversation. The words spoken (or thought internally by your POV character) should be traits that are natural to each speaker. Things like: politeness, sarcasm, humor, etc. (click here to see the character traits list). You can also add character emotions like anger or flirtation. And should those emotions clash, all the more interesting for your reader.

"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"What do you think is up, you jerk?" Paige said.
"What did I do?"
"Are you kidding me? You really don't have a clue?"

Make it suspenseful. Have one of the characters say or do something that piques the reader's interest or curiosity. Maybe their answer is vague or suspicious and makes the POV character think the other character is hiding something or lying for some reason.

"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"You don't want to know," Paige said.

"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"As if you don't know," Paige said.

"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"Mr. Lawler gave a pop quiz that I totally failed," Paige said.
"Wait. You're not in Mr. Lawler's class."

Make it confusing (in a good way). Have one of your characters say something odd in reply. Maybe she's in a goofy mood, maybe she's preoccupied by something, or maybe she wasn't listening to the POV character or misheard him.

"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"Sky. Moon. Stars," Paige said, smiling.

"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"Did you know Mike and Emma are dating?" Paige asked.

"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"Do I want some what?" Paige asked.

Make it make decisions. People often decide things when they talk. What they think about people or what they'd like to do next. Since you should have a goal for the scene, let your dialogue lead your characters to the place you need them to go.

"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"I'm starving," Paige said.
"I've got a Snickers. You want it?"

"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"I'm starving," Paige said.
"I could eat. Let's go to DairyQueen."

Make it describe. Use description tags or action tags to give clues to your POV character. You don't have to use such tags with every bit of dialogue, but practice to find places where it fits and feels natural.

Paige walked into the room and slumped into the seat beside Eli's. Her eyes were red and puffy.
"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
Paige huffed. "As if you don't know."

Paige clomped into the room and slumped into the seat beside Eli's.
"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
Paige stuck out her bottom lip. "I'm starving."

Make it internal. You should already be adding your point of view character's internal narrative here and there. Not with every bit of dialogue, but practice this! This is your character's voice. Learn to perfect it.

Paige walked into the room and slumped into the seat beside Eli's. Her eyes were red and puffy.
Uh oh. "Hey, what's up?" Eli asked, wincing inside.
Paige glared at him. "What do you think is up, you jerk?"
A chill ran up Eli's arms. She'd seen. She knew. Nuts.

Paige clomped into the room and slumped into the seat beside Eli's.
"Hey, what's up?" Eli asked.
"I'm starving," Paige said.
Eli instantly thought of the Snickers in his bag. The Snickers he'd bought for himself. The Snickers he'd been saving for after track practice. "I've got a Snickers. You want it?"

And---of course---don't forget to make use of the FREE Self-Editing Dialogue Checklist from the Go Teen Writers book. It's a great took to help you diagnose problems in your dialogue. Click here to download the checklist.

Can you think of any other ways to make dialogue into war?

Monday, May 27, 2013

What are your writing goals this summer?

Go Teen Writers is officially closed today so we can enjoy Memorial Day with our families.

Today is the last day the Go Teen Writers ebook will be on sale for $2.99. The reason Jill and I decided to run the special this weekend is because Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of summer, and summer is when a lot of you get to focus on your writing the most.

If you have writing goals for this summer, we'd love to hear what they are!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Sale and the Last Week for the Go Teen Writers Points Store

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Stephanie and I put the Go Teen Writers ebook on a $2.99 sale for Memorial Day Weekend. The sale will run from right now until midnight on Monday and should apply in all the international Amazon stores as well.

If you weren't aware, purchase of the Go Teen Writers book earns points for the Go Teen Writers store.

Also, keep in mind that there is only one week left for before the Go Teen Writers store closes until the fall, so do all you can to get your points in by May 31st. Thanks so much to all of you for the things you've done to earn points so far. Stephanie and I are so impressed with your creativity and thankful to know you.

And since I just finished my edits and my hands are cramping up from a week of ten-hour days at the computer, I'm going to leave you all with some of my favorite writing quotes for the weekend.

"It’s a shame publishers send rejection slips. Writers should get something more substantial than a slip that amounts to a pile of confetti. Publishers should send something heavier. Editors should send out rejection bricks, so at the end of a lot of years, you would have something to show besides a wheelbarrow of rejection slips. Instead you could have enough bricks to build a house." –Jerry Spinelli

"Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite." –C. S. Lewis

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." –Douglas Adams

"If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write." –Stephen King, On Writing

"It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish." –J. R. R. Tolkien

And my all-time fave—I know I’ve spouted this one before, but it’s so true and so important.

"Books aren’t written—they’re rewritten. Including your own.  It’s one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it." –Michael Crichton

What is one of your favorite writing quotes?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Grammar Gray Areas

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

I've always thought of grammar as the math of the writing process. I've never liked it, never been great at it, and I'm not sure I could diagram a sentence more complex than "Stephanie wrote."

When working on a recent project, I found myself baffled by ellipses. My first agent had told me to always format my ellipses ... like this. With a space, three periods together, another space, and then a word.

But then I was told that there should always be spaces between the periods . . . like this. And then that there should never be a space, and they should be this.

To make matters even more confusing, someone threw the four-dot method at me, to be used with trailing sentences....

Or, wait. Maybe it should be like this . . . .

Frustrated, I pulled my Chicago Manual of Style from my shelf, and found it to be lacking. Almost all the examples were for using ellipses when abbreviating a quote. But what I did find helpful is this:

"Three methods of using ellipsis points are described here: the three-dot method; the three-or-four-dot method, and a refinement of the latter, here called the rigorous method. The choice between the three is usually made by the author, sometimes by the editor."

Gasp! There isn't one right way?! There are three methods, and I have a choice?!

This is why the ellipses in my Skylar books are formatted . . . this way, and why the ones in Jill's Captives are formatted ... like this. Because our publishers made a choice.

This discovery led me on a Chicago Manual of Style tour, where I was shocked by how often I saw the words "usually," "traditionally," and "often."

Like here:

"Religious events and concepts of major theological importance are often capitalized.
the Creation, the Fall, the Second Coming 
Doctrines are usually lowercased.
atonement, original sin"
I also found answers to questions I didn't even realize I had. Like the proper capitalization for classes, which is rather important as a YA author.

In this sentence, the class should be capitalized: I grab my bag and head toward Ballroom Dance.
In this it should not: Taking ballroom dance classes has not helped my coordination.

And I learned that even though it makes my spell check cranky, the editors of the Chicago manual of style "prefer" that I use lowercase letters for brussels sprouts, french fries, dutch ovens, and other terms that take a proper noun out of its original context.

Spending time with my grammar manuals (I have three, all of which I recommend - The Chicago Manual of Style, Garner's Modern American Usage, and The Elements of Style, which is a hybrid) usually makes me feel dumb. But this time I learned even Chicago and Webster's disagree with each other on occasion, so it's okay if my ellipses don't match everyone else's.

And that I'll probably never again be asked to diagram a sentence, so I can let go of that fear as well.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why You Need To Find Your Character's Tipping Point

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Trying to build contradictions into your characters can feel like an awkward exercise. Especially because we've likely all had the experience of enjoying a story, only to be ripped out of it by a character saying or doing something that seems completely off the wall for them, that seems "out of character."

We experience this in real life too ("Stephanie is just not acting like herself today") but the difference between real life and fiction, as I've heard many say, is that fiction has to make sense. 

So while contradictions breathe life into a character . . . how do you create them in a way that makes sense? You figure out their motivations and their tipping point.

What do I mean by tipping point?

I mean this: I'm a person who runs from conflict, and who feels uncomfortable being anything other than friendly with a store clerk. But when Piercing Pagoda and their careless employee botched my 4-year-olds ear piercing, and then when their customer service refused to deal with the situation, I discovered I can get rather nasty on the phone. When it comes to the defense of my daughter - she is my tipping point.

Even as I type this, the anger bubbles up in my chest. I remember being in the doctor's office holding down my screaming child while they tried to remove the earring. I think of all the times Kathleen in customer service made promises to me that never materialized. And how finally she just stopped answering the phone when I called.

Y'all can't see me in my office right now, but within minutes, I've become more like a vicious, snarling mother bear than my normal let's-all-get-along self.

Do you see what I mean? I'm a nice person. Except when I'm not.

Let's talk about your characters now. What about that warrior in your story? He's always brave in the face of danger. But something could make him tuck tail and run. And it's your job to figure out what and make it happen, to push him into a corner where running seems logical to him.

Or what about the girl in your book who doesn't believe in dating? What would change her mind?

In his book Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, Donald Maass poses the question, "What's something your character would never do?" And after you answer, you're supposed to brainstorm ways to back them into a corner and make them do it.

What's something Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice would never do? Marry beneath his rank.

And then he meets Elizabeth Bennett and everything changes. Right?

What about Tally from The Uglies? She would never turn away the chance to be a Pretty.

Until she does.

And doesn't it make the character's store so much more interesting, so much more real?

So what about your character? What's something they would never do?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jill's ABC Reading Challenge

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

I'm hard at work on my edits for Project Gemini (Mission League, book 2), which is supposed to come out June 1, so I'm having trouble keeping up with life. I had planned to write a blog post about research, but my husband gave me a different idea. An idea that I thought would take less time and thought for my overtired brain.

Wrongo. This post, sadly, took me all night. Still, it was a good idea, and I appreciate my husband's help.

But that's okay. It's really all the letters N, Q, and Us faults, anyway.

But here's what happened. I decided to challenge myself and any who would like to participate, to an ABC Reading Challenge! I have made a reading list for the alphabet, and I'm going to try and read all these books this year. Like I said, I had a lot of trouble with N, Q, and U. If I had a library I could run down to, I'm sure I could have found something. Alas, I had to rely on Google to help me, which is why I ended up with those classics on the list. I also tried not to read more than one book by any author.

So here is my list! I'll check back in with you in a year to let you know if I succeeded in reading all these. Most of them were already in my To Read pile. A few I had in my shopping cart. And then there was N, Q, and U... *sigh*

A- Alanna by Tamora Pierce
I just recently discovered Tamora Pierce, and I've never read any of her books. So I'm excited to dig in. I bought this one to read out loud to my daughter. (Other "A" books I recommend: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.)

B- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I've heard so many people rave about this that I finally bought it. (Other "B" books I recommend: Beauty by Robin McKinley, The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason.)

C- Cinder by Marissa Meyer
I just wanted to read this ever since I saw the cover. I just want to see what it's like. I think the idea was brilliant. (Other "C" books I recommend: City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon---there is some swearing and adult situations in this book, so it's not for everyone. But the story is told through the eyes of an autistic teen boy, and the voice is absolutely incredible. I was spellbound.)

D- Dune by Frank Herbert
I've always wanted to read this. But it's SO THICK! But I found it at a thrift store for .50, so it's in the To Read pile now! (Other "D" books I recommend: The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Delerium by Lauren Oliver.)

E- The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
I had this book in my hand at a thrift store. I swore I bought it, but I can't find it anywhere in my house. So maybe I didn't buy it. Which was dumb. All that to say, I've never read a Robert Jordan book, and I want to start with book one. (Other "E" books I recommend: Emma by Jane Austen, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Eragon by Christopher Paolini.)

F- Feed by M. T. Anderson
Found this one at a thrift store as well. It's been on my shelf almost three years now. I think it's time. (Other "F" books I recommend: Failstate by John Otte, Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull.)

G- The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
I've heard so many good things. I'll have to check it out from the library. (Other "G" books I recommend: The Giver by Lois Lowry, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.)

H- Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
My mom told me to read this. I've been curious ever since. (There are a million amazing books that start with H. In fact, if you don't know what to name your book, maybe something with H? It seems to spark bestsellers. Other "H" books I recommend: Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Holes by Louis Sachar, Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.)

I- Intervention by Terri Blackstock
This has been in my Amazon cart for three-ish years as well. And I really needed a letter I. (Other "I" books I recommend: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder, Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson.)

J- Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen
A few years back, someone told me to read Jonathan Friesen's books. So I bought this one and the sequel. And they've been sitting for years. Waiting for my attention. (Other "J" books I recommend: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.)

K- The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
This is one I've heard a lot about. So, I'm curious. (Other "K" books I recommend: Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen, The King of Attolia (book three) by Megan Whalen Turner. Be sure to read The Thief (book 1) and The Queen of Attolia (book 2) first.)

L- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
I've had this book for ages. It's super thick. I'm a little scared, but I think I need to give it a go. (Other "L" books I recommend: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.)

M- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart and Carson Ellis 
I've heard so many good things. I bought this, and it's been patiently waiting its turn. (Other "M" books I recommend: The Maze Runner by James Dashner, Maximum Ride by James Patterson, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Magyk by Angie Sage.)

N- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I've heard of Neil Gaiman, but haven't read any of his books. But this book starts with an N. So I'm going to give it a go. Plus it's spec fiction, so that can't be all bad, right? (Other "N" books I recommend: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry  )

O- Owlflight by Mercedes Lackey
I've never read Mercedez Lackey, who is a mega-famous fantasy author. I was in desperate need of an O book and I found this one under my bed! I know. It's scary to be a book in my house. (Other "O" books I recommend: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot---which is the book the musical Cats came from.)

P- Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
My husband bought this at the Scholastic book fair four years ago and read it. Then I put it on my shelf and never touched it again. And I've always wanted to read it. (Other "P" books I recommend: The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis.)

Q- Quentin Durward Sir Walter Scott 
I have no desire to read this book, and, frankly, if I'm going to fail this reading challenge, this is likely the place. I was desperate for a Q book. So very desperate. But there were some nice things said online that this might have been one of his best books. So, who knows? I might be pleasantly surprised. (Other "U" books I recommend: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, but read The Thief by her first, as The Queen of Attolia is boo two.)

R- Redwall by Brian Jacques
Yes, it's true. I've never read a Brian Jacques book. I've owned the first two since Luke was two, so that's been nine years. It's long past time, don't you think? (Other "R" books I recommend: The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan.)

S- The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead
This is the third book in the Bright Empires series. I got it from the Amazon Vine program and need to review it. So, yeah... (Other "S" books I recommend: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.)

T- This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
(Other "T" books I recommend: To Kill a Mockingbird by by Harper Lee, The Time Traveler's Wife by by Audrey Niffenegger, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. And in case you didn't notice, I really like The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner and the other books in that series as well. Tuck Everlasting might also be enjoyable, though I've never read it.)

U- Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 
Here was another desperate search for a U book, but I've always wanted to read this one. I never had it assigned to me in school. So I'm assigning it to myself. Plus I was able to get it free on Kindle. Bonus! (Other "U" books I recommend: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld! Too bad I'd already read this...)

V- The Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers
My friend gave me this book for Christmas almost ten years ago. I've tried to start reading it twice, and failed! Yet so many people rave about this series. I will read this book. It will happen. Finally. (Other "V" books I recommend: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis.)

W- White Oleander by Janet Fitch
When I was on my book tour with Bill Myers, he told me to read this book. He "assigned" it to me so that I would notice the authors beautiful way with words. He said that it's not a clean book, and  that it's not a feel good book. So I'm not sure what I've gotten myself into here... (Other "W" books I recommend: A Walk to Remember by Nicolas Sparks, Watership Down by Richard Adams.)

X- Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
This is the third book in the Ender's Game series. But it started with an X, you see? I'm not going to be able to read this one unless I read Speaker for the Dead, book two. So this book might get me in trouble too. (Other "X" books I recommend: I have no idea! LOL An X-men comic, maybe? In fact, I have no recommendations for X, Y, or Z. I was pretty thrilled to come up with the books I came up with!)

Y- Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
I've heard lots about this author and have always been curious about him. This probably isn't his most popular book, but it's a Y and I'm going to read it! Boo-yah!

Z- Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien
I've had this book since my Alaska school visits when a librarian gave it to me when I told her I was thinking of writing a steampunk novel. She also gave me Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, which is a fabulous book. But Z for has been sitting all this time. I was so happy to find it on my shelf because I needed a Z!

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any recommendations? Especially for letters N, Q, U, X, Y, and Z?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Antagonists - A Closer Look At Their Goals

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Stories are strongest when there are multiple characters working against the main character. In the Harry Potter series, Harry isn't just up against Voldemort, but Snape and Draco and others as well. In The Hunger Games, Katniss is pitted against 23 other tributes, but also President Snow.

These antagonists have goals of their own that get in the way of the main character, and their goal tends to boil down to one of two things:

1. The same goal as the main character.

In Pride and Prejudice, Caroline Bingley wants Mr. Darcy for herself and has pitted herself against Elizabeth. They can't both marry him.

In the movie Cars, Lightning McQueen wants to win the Piston Cup. But so does his rival, Chick Hicks. Another antagonist in the story is Doc Hudson, who wants Lightning out of Radiator Springs almost as badly as Lightning does.

2. The opposite goal of the main character.

In Replication by Jill Williamson, Martyr and Abby are against cloning and want to expose the lab. But Dr.  Kane is desperate to continue creating clones and needs to keep his lab a secret.

In Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Claudia is trying to get Finn out of the prison while Queen Sia is trying to keep him in.

Secret option # 3 - A combination of the two

Going back to the Pride and Prejudice example, Caroline also wants something that's the opposite of Elizabeth. Elizabeth wants her sister and Mr. Bingley to be married because she sees they're truly in love with each other. Caroline, however, wants her brother to marry Georgiana Darcy and finds ways to keep Jane and Mr. Bingley apart.

One of my favorite experiences as a reader is when new information about an antagonist is brought forward, and we see that in times when we thought the antagonist was working against the main character, they were actually working for them. J. K. Rowling is masterful at this in the Harry Potter series, and this is also done well in Pride and Prejudice. For the first half of the book, Mr. Darcy plays the role of antagonist and Mr. Wickham the hero. When new information is brought forward, they switch roles.

Pick an antagonist from your story and examine their goals. What does victory look like to them? Is it the same or the opposite as what victory looks like to your main character?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Opportunity for writers 18 and older

Happy Saturday everyone! Stephanie here. I'm jetting off the soccer fields in a bit (I've entered the Soccer Mom phase of life. Very scary.) but wanted to let those of you who are 18 and older know about a writing opportunity.

United Way is looking for some writers who can offer a teen perspective in their articles, and after checking out Go Teen Writers, they thought some of you might be interested. They offer a $10 payment per 300 word article, so this would be a paid gig and something you can add to your writer's bio. Your articles would live at this site.

I asked Juliana, the woman who reached out to me, if she could provide me with a few more details. Here's what she said:
The requirements are very loose -- they can submit as little as one article or as many as they like from a list of assignments that we provide on our site, and can stop contributing at any time. They will be paid every two weeks through PayPal for any published pieces and can track how their articles are doing through their Skyword account.
This is the link where they can find out more information about the United Way program and sign up (Teen writers should check off Kids Corner as the category they'll be covering.)

Once their application is reviewed and accepted, they will be assigned an editor and given instructions about the submission process. We've made it extremely intuitive and they can always ask their program manager or me if they need help.
If you have questions, you can contact Juliana at: JCasale(at), and just tell her you learned about the opportunity on Go Teen Writers.

Again, this is for writers 18 and older.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Describing Through Character's Interests

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

In my last few posts, I talked about different ways to describe. This isn't your typical description, but a way of getting deeper through writing scenes in different ways. I talked about writing scenes with different overall emotions for your main character, and I talked about writing scenes from different points of views. 

Today I want to take the point of view angle a little further. Who your point of view character is will affect how he or she describes things. This is not a new concept. But I think it's one of those concepts that we know, but don't usually find a lot of time to put into practice. So here are some ways to get into your character's head and see what he sees.

What does he own? What's on his desk? Under his bed? In his closet? If he has his own bathroom, what's on the counter? Is he neat or messy?

What thrills him? Hobbies? Interests? Addictions? Favorite foods or movies or video games?

What about his moods? What does he do when he's happy? Sad? Does he eat food when he's sad? Does he dress in certain clothes when he's feeling lazy? Any strange habits?

Now, take all this knowledge and send him to a house he's never been to before. As he looks around the place, what does he notice first? What do his eyes linger on? These things tell the reader a lot about who he is. This is getting deep.

For an example, I'll use two brothers from Captives and how each described the office of the task director general.

Omar: The rectangular room had a shiny wooden floor, sparse chrome and red suede furniture, and floor-to-ceiling windows on three walls. Clean, sharp, simple — minimalist design. This was another reason the Safe Lands intrigued him. So much beauty and architecture. There was none of this in Glenrock. Until Omar had visited the Safe Lands, he’d never seen anything from the Old art books Levi had given him.

Mason: Mason pushed open the door and entered what felt like a modern palace. The room was furnished in black and red, with hardwood floors and windows that wrapped around three walls, exposing a vast view of the valley below. Mason felt like he was walking among the clouds.

Omar, a guy who's obsessed with riches and art, spends more time looking around. He notices color and design. He likes what he sees. Mason is thinking about other things. He notices the room, of course, but ends on how it makes him feel.

And there are more differences about these two brothers. If Omar and Mason walked into my house, Omar would notice the movie shelf right away, and the video games. He'd be looking to entertain himself. Mason would notice the mess. The clutter. He might hope no one in my family had a dust allergy. And he would probably start asking questions about the electric muscle stimulator sitting on out kitchen table. We borrowed it from a friend when my husband pulled a muscle in his back.

So, try this with your characters. What types of things do they notice when they enter a new place or meet a new person (as this works with describing people too). What do their eyes linger on? What intrigues them?

Be sure and hop over to the Playlist blog, where Stephanie is giving away a copy of the Go Teen Writers book at the end of her super cool interview with Rachel, who won the "Respect Your Dream" essay contest, and Rachel's writing partner, Keely.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Winners from the second 100 for 100 challenge

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Beginning February 1st, many of you embraced the 100 for 100 writing challenge, where you agreed to try writing 100 words for 100 days. There were 70 awesome writers who completed the challenge, and many more who tried it but for various reasons had to bow out early. I'm crazy impressed by how well you all did.

Yesterday I spent some quality time with the word tracking spreadsheet and my calculator. Here are a few things I learned:

1. Those involved in the challenge want to talk to each other. Many of you used the spreadsheet to encourage each other, which really warmed my heart. I was very isolated as a teen writer, and I longed for someone to talk about writing with. I adore this community of teen writers, and I love seeing the way you encourage and challenge each other.

Because of this, when we do the next 100 for 100 challenge (still working out the dates) I'm going to figure out a way to better facilitate conversation among the participants.

2. Many who took place in the first 100 for 100 challenge (Fall 2012) found this one more difficult.  I think I'm at least partially to blame for this. With releasing/promoting two titles this spring, I wasn't nearly as diligent about encouraging you guys. My husband pointed out that I hardly ever (maybe never?) mentioned it on the blog and that he forgot it was even going on. So I apologize for my part in the difficulty, and I promise to do better next time.

Here are the 70 writers who worked hard and were faithful to the end of the 100 for 100 challenge:

Aaron W.
Adriana Lister
Aidyl Ewoh 
Alex M.
Ally S
Alyson Schroll
Anna Schaeffer
Arlette G.
Bailey B.
Bethany Baldwin
Bruno Silva
Cait D
Caitlin Hensley
Deborah Rocheleaua
Destany T
Diana Fourall
Ely Gyrate
Emily Dakin
Emma K 
Erin Daly
Hannah C. J.
Hannah Elise
Heather Manning
Heather S.
Imogen Elvis
Jacinta Swindell
Jalyn Ely
Jenna C.
Jessi Roberts 
Jordan Hart
Kara Suderman
Katia Kozachok
Katie Bucklein
Katie Scherzinger
Kendra E. Ardnek
Kristian Beverly
Langston Jenkins
Lauren Welch
Lily Jenness
Lydia H. D.
Mariah DeGisi
Marlene E. Schuler
Matthew Schroll
Meaghan Ward
Megan M.
Meghan Gorecki
Michaela M.
Mime D
Mindy Butler
Rachelle Rea
Rebecca Wall
Robin Rani
Robyn Hoode
Rosie W.
Samuel L
Sara H.
Sarah Sackett
Sarah F.
Sarah Faulkner
Sarah R
Sarah Z.
Sierra Abrams
Sierra Bennett
Tamra C.
Terah Jones
Tonya L 
V. Kathie Ardnek 
Vlada L.
Zara Hoffman

(If you completed the challenge and your name is missing from this list, please let me know so I can add it!)

For fun, I looked up who wrote the most in each of the categories. Virtual high-fives go to:

Age 12 and under: Emily Dakin

Ages 13, 14, and 15: Mime D.

For ages 16, 17, and 18: Heather Manning

For ages 19, 20, and 21: Cait D.

For the Old Fogies (22+): Tonya LaCourse

The age group who had the most members complete the challenge: 16-18 with 27.

The age group who had the most words per person: 19-21 with an average of 47,734 words per writer.

And now for the prizes!

We're giving way 250 Go Teen Writers store points to five random writers who completed the challenge. The winners are:
Lauren Welch
Heather Manning
Sarah F.
V. Kathie Ardnek
Heather S.

The 5,000 word critique (a prize eligible to all writers in the 19-21 category for having the highest average word count among the competitors) goes to: Arlette G.

The 10,000 word critique (a prize eligible to all writers who completed the challenge) goes to: Jacinta Swindell

Congratulations to everyone who respected their dream by participating in the 100 for 100 challenge!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Journey with Gillian: Reading as a Writer

Gillian Adams blogs over at Of Battles, Dragons, and Swords of Adamant where she writes about anything relating to books, fantasy, villains, and costumes. Her book Out of Darkness Rising will be published fall 2013. She loves interacting with other writers and readers on her blog or facebook page.

The number one writing tip most authors will give you is to first, write a lot, and second, read a lot.

It sounds somewhat obvious, but it’s very true. Though I’m afraid I take the second one far too literally.

I go to the library frequently, because—let’s be frank—as much as I try to support authors by buying their books, I have yet to discover a secret pirate treasure buried in my backyard. (Though I have looked!) And my “help a starving bookworm fund” never took off like I anticipated.

So, each time I go to the library, I stagger out with a stack of at least ten books tucked under my chin. And that’s in addition to the books I do buy or get free for reviewing.

Needless to say, I read a lot.

When I started studying the writing craft, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy books anymore. But I found that it’s just the opposite.

Sure I may notice more of the imperfections, and now I can actually pinpoint why I don’t particularly like a certain book, but as a writer, I can appreciate books on a much deeper level than I could before.

I understand the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into crafting a novel. I know what it's like to write a three or four hundred page book. I understand the writing process, so I can be more patient when I have to wait a year for the next book in the series. (Um, so that might be stretching the truth a bit.)

But most of all, I can learn from all the incredible writers who’ve gone before me. And sometimes, even learn from the mistakes they've made as well.

When I read, I try to keep a notebook handy to keep track of the things I love about the story. Whether it is the author’s writing style, character development, voice, or just the way the plot keeps me guessing, I’ll take note of it so I know what I want to emulate in my novels.

Not exactly imitate, since I do want to maintain my own distinct voice and style, of course. But there's nothing wrong with intentionally honing my craft through learning from other authors' strengths and weaknesses. It's the best way to learn.

Here are just a couple of the novels I've taken notes from in the past:

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

I love his humorous, simplistic style. Where else can you read about “the Nameless Evil (named Gnag)” and the “Fangs of Dang.” The themes of his novels aren’t lightweight, though. And his novels aren’t afraid to wander through the darkest caves, yet the light is never absent.

 The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill

I just read this one, so it’s a new favorite! Ellie’s voice is so clear and unique and witty. And somehow Stephanie managed to make me root for both guys at once … which was a first for me. I still don’t know how she did that.

The Mistborn Trilogy and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson is an expert at crafting complex fantasy worlds and plots that are deep and full of surprises. He is also great at keeping you completely in the character’s head so that you’re often just as confused as they are about what’s really going on—it makes the story that much more real and exciting!

Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Beautiful writing—I think that’s the first thing that struck me when I opened Starflower and started reading. Other than that, Anne Elisabeth Stengl is quite adept at penning unique dialogue from the POV of otherworldly creatures and nonhuman narrators.

The New Recruit, by Jill Williamson

If you’ve read this, then you know that Spencer’s voice is awesome. He sounds so real. Like you could just bump into him one day at school. Also, Jill is an expert at crafting novels that keep my attention glued to the page.

With each element that I note, I try to figure out the principle behind it and apply that principle to my writing in a unique way. So, although I enjoyed Spencer's voice in The New Recruit, I'm not going to try and write a Spencer-esque character in my next novel. I may however, experiment with ways to create a character with a voice as clear and realistic as Spencer's.

Likewise, I love the way Brandon Sanderson constructs such elaborate fantasy worlds that the reader becomes wholly immersed in the culture, setting, and mindset of the characters. But rather than trying to create Sanderson-esque (or Tolkien-esque) fantasy worlds, I hope to figure out unique ways to deepen my own fantasy world until it is just as real and believable as Sanderson's.

Of course, you can learn from poorly written books, too. Whenever I have a hard time getting into a novel, or even when I discover a difficult passage in a novel I really like, I try to dissect it and indentify what it was that distracted me from the story and caused my attention to wander.

It’s a great way to learn what not to do. And sometimes learning what not to do is just as helpful as learning what you should do.

What are some books/authors you’ve learned from in the past? (The lovely Gillian Adams is out of town, but Jill and I are excited to chat with you all about great books!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Describing Through Point of View

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

First, this week, my little blogging group, Team Novel Teen, is doing a blog tour for Stephanie's new book The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet. Almost everyone is giving away a copy of the ebook, and I (Jill) am giving away a copy of the paperback, which is coming soon. Here is the link to my blog post for the tour. At the bottom you can find the links to the other bloggers posts if you'f like to go and enter all the contests.

Now, last Friday I talked about how you could rewrite a scene with an overriding character emotion. Today I want to talk about how you can rewrite scenes from different points of view. This allows you to describe things in a different way but also to see a scene through another set of eyes, which might teach you something about your minor characters that you weren’t expecting to learn.

I’m not going to write out Spencer’s point of view again. Click here if you'd like to read his points of view from Friday’s post.


“GO, FIGHT, WIN!” Grace yelled with the rest of the cheer squad, finishing the motions and ending with a toe-touch front hurdler jump. The bruise on her arm was still tight. She locked her fingers and lifted her hands above her head, as if stretching would do any good.
Grace looked across the gym. Jasmine was running toward the door. And, sure enough, there stood Spencer. Right on time.
Grace could not figure out that boy.
She pretended not to see him, moving through the motions of the last cheer again, counting to herself as she did, acting like she was so terribly focused, but all the time she was fully aware that Jasmine had hugged Spencer and was flirting with him. Grace couldn’t hear what they were saying. Those two had gone to homecoming together, but Jasmine had said that Spencer had only asked her as a friend so he could keep an eye on Grace.
So weird.
“Grace, your boyfriend’s here!” Jasmine yelled.
Grace stiffened, feeling the stares of her teammates. The gawking.
She heard Kate whisper, “More like 'stalker’s' here.”
The girls had nicknamed Spencer “stalker” since he followed Grace around so much.
“Gracie Lou Who,” Jaz sang, grinning like she was so very clever, “your boyfriend’s here for you!”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Grace mumbled. Boys were trouble, and while she and Spencer had been friendly ever since coming home from Okinawa, she didn’t trust him.
She didn’t trust any member of the opposite sex.
“Let’s work on jumps,” Coach announced.
Really? Jumps? With Spencer watching?
So embarrassing.
So for the next ten minutes, Grace worked on jump sequences, focusing on landing nice and tight, hoping she didn’t look stupid and trying to ignore her uninvited audience. But he was pacing now. Why was he pacing?
When Coach finally called it quits for the day, Grace figured she’d better go see what her stalker wanted. She crossed the gym, posture straight, trying to look like she really didn’t care that he was here.
But when she reached him, she remembered how cute he was. He had pale skin covered in freckles, orange hair, and bright blue eyes, which he’d fixed on her, frowning like she’d done something wrong. A protective older brother. She just couldn’t stay mad at him no matter how much he annoyed her.
“Hey, stalker,” Grace said.
His eyes flitted over her face and shoulders. He was beyond tall. Six-foot-four, she’d last heard him say. He’d been strong when Grace had met him last spring, but since then, with his hopes of playing NCAA basketball, he must have moved into the weight room because his arms were huge now.
Very intimidating to a ninety-three pound, five-foot-one cheerleader.
“Hey, tumbelina,” he finally said, towering over her. “You missed class this morning.”
She fought a smile at his calling her “tumbelina,” not wanting to encourage him. He had a host of endearing nicknames for her. Tumbelina was her favorite. “Checking up on me again, huh?”
“Naw, I just wanted to say hey.” He shifted, looking behind her.
She turned to see if someone was standing there. Nope. She sighed and spun back to him. “Spencer, look. I like you. But I’m not ready for a boyfriend right now. I’m just … there’s a lot going on …” If he only knew. But there was a thought. Maybe she could tell him. Someone his size could help her put that infuriating man in his place.
No. That wasn’t right. Forgive me, Lord, for thinking such a thing.
“I don’t want to be your boyfriend.” Spencer’s cheeks flushed pink. “Just your friend.”
Oh-kay … “Spencer, even my best friends don’t show up at my cheer practices.”
“Well, you didn't come to class this morning, so I was worried about you.”
She folded her arms. “Why are you always worried about me? I might not be able to bench my own body weight like you, but do I look like an invalid?”
“No.” He looked around them, as if trying to make sure that no one could overhear them. Then he inched closer, leaned down. “Okay, this will probably sound weird. But ...”


Halfway through the cheer, Jasmine saw Spencer enter the gym. His presence sped up her heartbeat and stole her breath. Of course he wasn’t here to see her. He’d be looking for Grace, as usual.
Spencer Garmond, why do you torture me?
“Spencer!” she yelled, wanting his attention if only for a moment. She ran over and slid her arms around his waist, pressing against him in what she hoped was an alluring hug. His muscular torso felt strong, solid.
“Hey, Jaz,” he said, but he wasn’t looking at her. He was looking at Grace.
So Jasmine poked him in the abs, hoping to make those blue eyes focus on her again. “Why haven’t you texted me lately?”
He stepped away from her. “You want me to text you?” he said, not even looking her way.
Ug. Enough of this. “Yee-ah.” She slapped his chest and yelled, “Grace, your boyfriend’s here!” hoping it would at least embarrass him.
He spun around, his forehead wrinkled, his cheeks pink. So cute. “Don’t do that,” he whispered.
Jasmine giggled and sang, “Gracie Lou Who, your boyfriend’s here for you!”
Across the gym Grace mumbled, “He’s not my boyfriend.”
Spencer sighed, stuck his hands in his pockets, and slouched away.
See? Jasmine wanted to say. She doesn’t love you like I do. But he was too far away now, headed to the end of the gym where he could be closer to Grace.
The dumb stalker, anyway. Wish he would stalk me.

Have you ever tried writing in a different point of view? One that you had no intention of actually using in your story? Did you find it helpful? If so, how?

And if you’ve never tried this exercise, I encourage you to give it a go.