Friday, June 29, 2018

What advice would you give yourself the night before your first book hit shelves? (With K. M. Weiland!)

We've had a blast hosting K. M. Weiland on the blog this week! Make sure you follow her on social media, because she really knows her stuff! Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Our last panel question with K. M. is:

 If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice the night before your first book hit shelves, what would you say? 

K. M.: Don’t be afraid.

I look back at my career so far, and I’m very proud of it. I was constantly running, constantly working, constantly thinking. And I did cover a lot of ground. But I can see now that one of the reasons I ran so fast was because there was always something I was afraid of nipping at my heels: fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of not selling enough books or getting enough good reviews.

If I could do it over again, I would like to try to reach for all these positive goals from a more positive place. I would like to slow down and enjoy the journey more rather than focusing so obsessively on the end goals. I think it would have helped me create healthier lifestyle habits along the way.

It’s easy to lose the joy of writing amidst the frantic pursuit of success. I feel like I always did a decent job of protecting my creativity amidst all the challenges of self-employment, but if I had it to over again, I think I could do it better.

Shannon: “Enjoy this. Celebrate it. Don’t talk yourself out of experiencing excitement simply because of all the unknowns that come with bravely putting yourself out there.”

A gazillion people write books hoping they’ll one day end up on the shelf. If your journey leads you to that spot, celebrate. Let yourself enjoy the fruits of your labor. The road will have potholes. It will have mountains to scale. And there will be disappointments, but whenever you’re given opportunities to revel in your job, take advantage. Your time in the writing cave far outweighs your time in celebration. Don’t miss out when moments present themselves.

Stephanie: “It won’t go well. You’re going to be crushed, but it’ll be okay.” My first series, “did not meet sales expectations,” which is a polite way of saying that my sales sucked. This led to sales sucking for books two and three as well, as you might imagine. And that led to several years of drought and self-doubt.

But I also found an inner strength I didn’t know I had. I can be criticized publicly and be okay with it. I can have people tell me to my face that they did not like my book, and I survived. I can fail and get back up again.

Also, if my contemporary YA fiction had been successful, I probably would not have had the opportunity to write historical fiction, which I love and would not have wanted to miss out on.

Jill: Set boundaries for yourself and focus on writing the next book and spending time with your family. Don’t go overboard on marketing. The best thing you can do to market is write more books. I say that because I was out-of-control on fire to do everything right when my first book came out, and I wasted a lot of time, energy, money, and hope on marketing, advertising, and publicity.

That said, no one could have told me otherwise.

I’ve always been the girl who has to do everything the hard way and learn my lessons when I crash and burn. Still, marketing is important. It is. But you have to set a budget, make a plan, stick to it, and know that you did what you could. Then move on to the next project. I spend so much time, mostly, slaving for anyone who would ask. I didn’t know how to say no, and I didn’t know how to measure what would be a valuable investment of my time.

I know better now, and I still struggle with saying no to people. So if I could go back, I’d tell myself to read Essentialism (even though it hadn’t been written yet), and read Boundaries, and apply those principles to my life. All those years would have been far less stressful.

What about you, writers? What would you tell yourself before you wrote your first book?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What's one thing you did early on as a writer that you don't do anymore? (With K. M. Weiland!)

K. M. Weiland is our guest this week (yay!) and we're just thrilled to have her. In addition to having an amazing writing website,, K. M. is also a fabulous novelist. You can get the ebook of Dreamlander for free on all platforms, which is a great way to check out her novels if you haven't yet done so.

Here's a bit about Dreamlander:

What if it were possible to live two very different lives in two separate worlds? What if the dreams we awaken from are the fading memories of that second life? What if one day we woke up in the wrong world?

In this fantasy thriller, a woman on a black warhorse gallops through the mist in Chris Redston's dreams every night. Every night, she begs him not to come to her. Every night,she aims her rifle at his head and fires. The last thing Chris expects--or wants--is for this nightmare to be real. But when he wakes up in the world of his dreams, he has to choose between the likelihood that he's gone spectacularly bonkers or the possibility that he's just been let in on the secret of the ages.

Only one person in a generation may cross the worlds. These chosen few are the Gifted, called from Earth into Lael to shape the epochs of history--and Chris is one of them. But before he figures that out, he accidentally endangers both worlds by resurrecting a vengeful prince intent on claiming the powers of the Gifted for himself. Together with a suspicious princess and a guilt-ridden Cherazii warrior, Chris must hurl himself into an action adventure battle to save a country from war, two worlds from annihilation, and himself from a dream come way too true.

Read K. M.'s thoughts on our panel question for today, and then go get your free copy!:

What is one thing you did or focused on when you were first published that you don’t do anymore? Why did you stop?

K. M.: My process in general has gotten much more streamlined. I’m not as obsessive as I used to be. I’ve learned what marketing is necessary and what isn’t. I spend a lot less time on social media now. I used to check in on Twitter five times a day. Now I only check once four days a week. Thanks to automation, the system runs nicely without my needing to be present constantly. It frees up a lot of my time and attention for focusing on the writing itself. But part of this, too, is having built the foundation of my social sites for so many years previously. I don’t know that this approach would work when just starting out.

Stephanie: Discovery writing my novels.

The reason I started doing this was because I grew tired of spending days plotting out a novel, only to veer off my outline basically as soon as I started writing. This was further validated when I read Stephen King's On Writing and learned he's a discovery writer and is rather disparaging of those who plot out ahead of time.

What I didn't realize is that just as my actual writing skills needed to grow, so did my "planning a story ahead of time" skills. I really just didn't understand what made stories work, so it was hard for me to plan effectively.

I discovery wrote the entire Skylar series, and those second two books were under contract and tight deadlines. (And I had a newborn. I was delightful to live with that year.) I grew so tired of rewrites and thought just a teensy-bit of planning ahead would have probably saved me a lot of headaches. So that sent me on a journey of understanding my personal perfect blend of planning ahead and discovery writing.

Jill: I read my book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s a trap. Don’t do it.

People will say they learn so much from their reviews, and maybe that’s true for them. But I know myself. And reading every review makes me crazy. The good ones make me feel good, but the bad ones read like someone came into my home, trashed my desk, and told me I need to get a job anywhere else. They make me feel worthless as a human being.

Now, in my head, I know that’s just not true, but it feels true. It hurts when people say cruel things in book reviews. A well-written and fair critical review is different. I’m talking about those scathing, cruel reviews that say mean things with absolutely no point.

When By Darkness Hid released, I read them all, and I never forgot the people who said cruel things. To this day when I see them in person or online, I flinch a little. Part of that stems from the lies in my past, and I have to remind myself why these kinds of critical moments are hard for me, but part of it is also me being human. Bullying happens in book reviews. I’m horrified at the hatred some reviewers will spew on their blogs. It’s like they’ve forgotten we’re all human beings with beating hearts and eternal souls. So, yeah. Book reviews are so necessary. Authors need them very badly in order for their books to succeed, but I don’t read them because I have to protect my heart.

Shannon: Reading reviews has already been mentioned, but I definitely don’t do that unless it’s sent to me and I can’t avoid seeing it. Good or bad, reviews just do not help my writing process. I’ve also stopped worrying so much about Facebook. It’s such a time-suck and the algorithms make it very difficult to reach readers. I do use it, but I don’t stress. I try to stick with social media platforms that bring me a measure of joy. I like the pictures on Instagram and I love the #bookstagram community, so of late, most of my energy is spent there.

What about you, writers? What's something you used to do when writing stories that you no longer do?

Monday, June 25, 2018

What's a piece of writing advice that you completely ignore? (With K. M. Weiland!)

You guys. K. M. Weiland is with us this week!!! K. M. is someone who I really admire, as an author and a teacher, so I know it's going to be a fabulous week of learning for all of us.

You probably already know about her fabulous website, Her podcast is great too, and she's kept me company many times while I've ironed or washed dishes. Numerous times I've been listening to her talk about storytelling and realized, "That is what's wrong with my book." She just has such an interesting, intelligent way of thinking about stories, and she's very generous with her knowledge.

I highly recommend Creating Character Arcs and Structuring Your Novel. I could keep fangirling, but I'll save some of it for Wednesday and Friday so we can get on with learning!

Our panel question today is:

What's a piece of writing advice that you completely ignore?

K. M.: What I’ve learned over the years is that the trick to getting the most out of any bit of writing advice is to realize its context and not take it too literally. There are lots of commonly derided bits of advice like “write what you know” that are actually totally pertinent in their place (i.e., “write what you know” doesn’t have to mean writing about your life, but rather making sure you’ve done your research).

Basically, you just have to make the advice work for you. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s either because you don’t yet understand it properly, or because it doesn’t apply to you.

In the latter category, I personally reject the idea that planning a story curbs your creativity. I’ve always been an avid outliner, and when I was first starting out, I kept running into pushback. The idea is that if you outline or structure a story, you lose all natural inspiration and end up with something totally formulaic.

What I felt instinctively then and have since learned to articulate is that there’s actually no such thing as a writer who is either a plotter or a pantser. We all plot; we all pants. It’s just that some of us do our plotting upfront in an outline and others do it afterwards in revisions.

Don’t let well-meaning advice put constraints on your creative process. Learn to harness both your creativity and your logic. You can’t write a book without both. When you learn to consciously harmonize the two, that’s where the magic really starts to happen.

Stephanie: Your response goes in tandem with my thought, which is about how the longer I write and the longer I teach about writing, how much less I use words like "never" and "always." There are really very few times that a writing rule is always true. 

I do think there's a lot of value in knowing all the "rules" and working mostly within them (or at least understanding why they exist) before you try to bust out of them. Same as how when you're learning to cook, it's helpful to understand and use recipes, but the longer you cook, the more you can improvise based on your instincts and still churn out an edible dinner.

One adage that I choose to ignore is, "No tears in the writer means no tears in the reader," or something like that. I never cry when I'm writing my books. I have gotten a bit misty with The Lost Girl of Astor Street and Within These Lines, but neither made me outright cry, even though I know they've caused tears in others.

Shannon: First off, I’m dying at Jill’s answer because ohmygosh! Yes! Some rules are just ridiculous. One of my earliest rejections revolved around the world “was” and I had to ask advice from other writers. Without exception, they all told me the agent was ridiculous. Some rules beg to be broken. For me it’s the whole “You have to write everyday” bit. Now, in all fairness, I’ve been at this awhile and I have a schedule pinned down. But some of us are not destined to be everyday writers in every season of our lives and that is okay. Breaking rules doesn’t disqualify you from publication. 

Jill: Funny, Shan! Because mine is, Never use the word “was.” I once received notes back from a contest I’d entered before I was published in which the judge highlighted every “was” in my manuscript and told me to get rid of all of them. And that’s poor advice, as is. 

Now, to be fair, overusing the word “was” (or its variants based on narrative perspective and tense), can be a sign of passive voice, and I have little doubt that my early writing had some of that. So if you find that you’re using “was” in every sentence, you might want to take a closer look for passive voice and to try and vary your sentence structure. 

But “was” is a legitimate word and sometimes the right one to use. It’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine when I see people using incorrect grammar just to avoid using the word was, like with our example from the Go Teen Writers book. To say “When I entered, Jane stirred the soup” means something different than to say, “When I entered, Jane was stirring the soup.” Neither are wrong in this case. The latter shows the continuing action of Jane stirring while the former means Jane stirred the soup once and stopped. If you mean that Jane is standing at the stove, constantly stirring the soup, then to say, “When I entered, Jane stirred the soup” is incorrect. The word “was” has value when used properly.

Your turn, writers! What's writing advice that just plain doesn't work for you?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Do you set writing goals for yourself? (With Taylor Bennett!)

Today is our last day with Taylor Bennett. If you haven't already, be sure to go find her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Here's our last question with Taylor:

Do you set specific goals for yourself? How have your goal-setting habits been impacted by the publishing process (having deadlines, others involved in the process, etc.)?

Taylor: I've never been much of a specific goal-setter. I used to look at the big picture: I want to write a book.

Now that I have a publisher and deadlines, though, I'm learning that I can't be that vague. Now, I make a to-do list every morning. I know how many words I have to write every day to make my deadline, so that ideally takes precedence. (unless it's the weeks directly before/after a book launch...I learned from my first release that those weeks are pretty much void of any writing, just LOTS of marketing!) Having a to-do list has been surprisingly helpful. Usually, it's not nearly as long as I assume it's going to be, and I can get everything done (plus a little extra) by the end of the day.

Shan: I do but I’m good to myself. Writing is a huge priority for me, but it doesn’t trump family or health obligations. So, when I’m stretched thin and I have to let something go, I do. It takes practice, but now I’m brave enough to let people know what’s going on with me so that they can understand where I’m at and why I’m not being as productive as they might expect.

Jill: Oh, yes. Since I have such an active imagination, I must help myself out by setting goals to remind myself what I’ve committed to. Lists make me happy, especially when I can cross things off them.

When I’m working with a publisher, that makes things harder. Every publisher is different, and some are much better at giving me a head’s up than others. Often I’ll turn in a book and have no idea when I’ll see edits on it. So I’ll start something new and plan a vacation, just go on with life. And then out of the blue, edits show up, and the published wants them in two weeks.

When these things first happened, I freaked out and stressed out and practically killed myself to get them done. As time has gone by, I’ve learned that it’s totally okay to write my editor back and say, “Thanks for the edits. I’m so excited to dive in. Unfortunately, I’ll need an extra week because I’m going to Disneyland with my family for four days and won’t be able to work.” Communication is so important, and if your editor isn’t communicating with you, then you need to communicate with your editor.

I’ll also add that having a publisher goal tends to make me more productive. When outside people are involved, I perform better that if I’ve set a deadline for myself alone. I’m always making excuses for myself. “Oh, I’m tired. I needed the day off. I’ll catch up next week.” But I would never do that for a publisher unless it was a real emergency.

Stephanie:  I’m a huge nerd about goals. I used to have a hang up about goals vs dreams, and felt like it was incorrect to set goals that you couldn’t accomplish on your own. Then last fall I was on a road trip with my husband and he really challenged this idea. it messed with my head so much that I wrote several blog posts about it:

As far as how my goals have been impacted by the publishing process, I would say that it has become more critical than ever for me to identify what success means to me. It is very dangerous in publishing to look to others to tell you that you are successful. For one thing, good luck finding someone who will tell you that. But also, there is always another rung on the ladder, always someone who is doing something better than you. Instagram, library visits, awards, you name it. So for me it became critical to identify, “Here is what success looks like to me, and here is what I am going to do to achieve it.”

Writers, what about you? Do you set writing goals?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How do you decide what story idea to write? (With Taylor Bennett!)

We are very excited to have teen author Taylor Bennett with us this week! If contemporary Christian YA fiction is your jam, be sure to check out Taylor's debut novel, Porch Swing Girl:

What if friendship cost you everything?

Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.

With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.

But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home. And time is running out.

Today's panel question is:

Writers often have lots of ideas. How do you choose which idea to write? And how do you keep other ideas from distracting you from the one you’re supposed to be working on?

Taylor: I have so many ideas crammed in my head, sometimes I'm surprised they don't start spilling out of my ears!! I keep track of my story ideas by (this is a little strange) making a Pinterest aesthetic board for each one. Whenever I get an idea, which I usually fall instantly in love with, I set aside a bit of free time to create a board filled with images that get my creative juices flowing. Usually, this is enough to get me excited about the story, but not so excited that I'm distracted.

If I do end up being so excited that I get distracted, I might give myself a small chunk of "writing time" to write a sloppy synopsis--just enough to get my ideas on the page, but not so much that I take away too much time from whatever I'm working on at that moment. If I'm having a hard time putting the synopsis away, I pray over it. If it's an idea that's meant to be explored, I trust that I'll still be just as excited about it when I actually have time to devote to the idea.

Shan: We’re always learning, yes? I don’t have a bit of magical advice for this topic, though I wish I did. I’m currently moving back and forth between two projects and it’s not ideal for me. At some point you’ll have to commit and once you do, you need to see it through. For me, because I have two books completed and out on sub, I’ve given myself the freedom to move back and forth for a time. But I will need to buckle down soon. Knowing which season you’re in is important and giving yourself the freedom to rebel against your own rules can be healthy for your writing.

Jill: Uhm . . . I’m really bad at this. There is this sort of honeymoon thing that happens when a new story idea grips me. I can’t think of anything but that new idea. And if I’m working on another book, that’s BIG trouble. Because then I don’t want to work on the old book. The old book is boring. It’s hard. And I’d really rather play with that new idea that’s got me all starry-eyed. There’s only one way to survive this. Discipline. If I’ve chosen an idea, and I’ve been writing it and have set a deadline for myself, then I will not allow myself to give up. I might give myself a few days off to play with the new idea, to think it through and write it down. Because if it’s a really good idea, I don’t want to forget any of it. But then I’ll crack my knuckles and get back to work.

Choosing which idea to write is a harder question to answer. I have SO MANY IDEAS AND I LOVE THEM ALL ARGH! I’m constantly making lists of what I’m trying to finish and what I want to write next. At some point, I will choose, or sometimes I’m lucky and and editor will buy something and choose for me. If not, then I have to decide which idea I’m the most excited about. And I also consider which idea will appeal to the widest audience. I’ve written a lot of risky books, and that’s okay some of the time, but for me, that also means that after a risky challenging project, it might be time to write something a little more safe that will appeal to the masses. So I take that into consideration as well.

Stephanie: I've learned that good ideas tend to be "sticky" ideas. Not only is it hard for me to stop thinking about it, but it also attracts lots of other ideas or possibilities. Sometimes they arrive at a very convenient time, but often it's when I need to be focusing on something else.

When that happens, my response is similar to Taylor's. I write a blurb or synopsis about my idea. I usually give myself an allowance of time, and then I make myself go back to what I'm supposed to be working on. This has worked really well for me over the years. 

Writers, what about you? How do you decide what to write, and how do you manage other ideas that come your way?

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?