Saturday, October 21, 2017

Write Well is FREE today!

Hey there, GTWers! Rachelle here. Stephanie graciously invited me on today to talk about my short writing guide, Write Well, because today only Write Well is FREE to download from Amazon.

In Write Well, I outline the tools and techniques you need to truly master grammar–in an un-overwhelming way. That’s right. You won’t be yawning or weeping as you read these writing rules, just learning how to write stronger.
Whether you’re a grammar geek like me or totally intimidated by the thought of explaining a semi-colon, I’ll teach you make your words work for you. And you can download Write Well for free today!
Here’s what Stephanie has to say about Write Well: “This handy book makes the rules of grammar accessible and enjoyable. If you're looking for a guide that can explain grammar to you in a clear, quick way, then Write Well is the one for you.” - Stephanie Morrill
Why I Wrote Write Well
In college, when I was tired of writing papers (and as an English minor, I wrote a lot of papers!), I turned to writing a story. The stories I wrote then later became my first published books.
The Steadfast Love series was borne out of a love of history and a passion for true love. I still love history and true love (especially sharing sappy posts about my man on Instagram!). But I also now work as a freelance editor, coaching other writers like me on the path to publication.
I geek out teaching writers how to structure their writing so that they can make more room for the art and heart of whatever story they're telling. How? Through consultations and manuscript critiques and also...through Write Well, which is free today!
So if you would like to learn to write well, download your copy.

This Book Is For You If…

You dream of the day when you’ll sign your first book contract, get published, hold your book in your hands…and you know all you need to get you there are the tools that will equip you to write better so that you can resonate with your readers.
Or maybe you’re already a published author or a successful blogger, and you feel pretty confident about your writing abilities. Do you know for a fact you can wield a comma confidently every single time? Do you know the one thing an em-dash can do that no other piece of punctuation can? If you want all your deepest, darkest writing questions answered, I’ve got you covered.
In Write Well, you will find advice on how to craft your novel, and even blog posts and emails with precision. Understand the rules of writing so that you can get back to the real work: actual writing.
Thanks for allowing me to chat about a passion of mine (readers!) and my latest release today! Now, let’s write well!

So what camp do you belong to--grammar geek or ...not? Share in a comment below.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Writing Exercise #18: Torturing Hobbits

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes novels. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and an affinity for mentoring teen writers. Since 2013, Shannon has taught mentoring tracks at a local school where she provides junior high and high school students with an introduction to writing and the publishing industry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Hello, friends! I hope this week has treated you kindly. Today, we're going to torture our hobbits a bit more, all right?

Two weeks ago we began with JRR Tolkien's line, "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit."

We spent time creating our own hobbits, careful not to copy Mr. Tolkien's ideas. Once our hobbits were created, we came up with a plausible reason for our hobbit's underground living arrangements.

So many creative ideas, you guys! I was very impressed.

Last week, we took the exercise a step further: we gave our hobbits a problem. So many problems to work with too. You've all outdone yourselves. Good job.

This week, we're going to push things even further. We're going to make things worse for our hobbits. In doing so, we're going to make their situations more important to both them and our readers.



As an illustration, I'm going to steal an example from last week's comments, okay? Olivia gave her hobbit a fantastic problem. She decided that her hobbit's undergound home was filling with water.

NOW! There are several ways we could make this worse for Olivia's hobbit. We could:

1. Explore the avalanche effect: We could allow this one problem to be just the first in a connected series of instances. For example, when the underground hobbit hole begins filling with water, maybe it puts out all the lights, which causes our hobbit to get turned around. Now, instead of making her way out and into the safety of fresh air, she's burrowing further into the quickly filling hole. It's no longer just a matter of our hobbit losing her beloved sleeping place; now, she suffocating. The situation has become deadly.

2. Get personal: Perhaps we need to delve into our hobbit's psyche. Water in a hobbit hole isn't the worst thing that could happen. Unless, of course, our hobbit has a deep fear of water. What if our hobbit nearly drowned as a youngin'? What if our hobbit does everything he can possibly do to avoid water? What would the constant drip, drip, dripping do to his nerves? Suddenly, an easily resolved problem is torturous.

3. Up the stakes: What if Olivia's hobbit has a very important job? What if he is the keeper of all the hobbit selfies? What if every selfie in all of Hobbiton is stored in this one hobbit's underground home? Water would certainly be a problem! He could lose all the hobbit selfies! Silly, yes? But what if it isn't selfies that are stored in this hobbit hole? What if it's something more important? What if every bit of hobbit history is kept in hand-sorted files and stored in this hobbit hole? What if every record ever kept is slowly being eked away by the water leaking into this underground home? The problem is suddenly much more desperate, isn't it?

4. Add an antagonist: Perhaps the water isn't an accidental occurrence. What if our hobbit has an enemy? What if the enemy decides to take advantage of the distracted hobbit by sealing up the entrance to his underground home? However will our hobbit escape?

5. Give him a lie to believe: Let's say our hobbit believes that only the most blessed of hobbits are lucky enough to have water dribbling into their homes. What if he believes that he was gifted with the ability to breathe water? What happens if he gleefully watches the hole fill? Day after day, the depth grows until our hobbit comes face to face with this lie. Can he indeed breathe water? What does the truth do to his belief system?

Now, it's your turn. Take that hobbit you created, and the problem you gave him, and make it worse. Again, I'm going to ask you not to solve the problem. That is not today's goal. Your goal is to torture your hobbit a bit more.

REMEMBER! When you participate in our writing exercises you can enter to win an opportunity to ask Jill, Steph and me a question for one of our upcoming writing panels. Once you leave your response to the writing prompt in the comments section, use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Next week, Rafflecopter will select one winner and we'll contact you for your question via email. Happy writing, friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Jill Williamson's Journey To Publication


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She had a podcast/vlog at www.StoryworldFirst.com. You can also find Jill on InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

When I was starting out, I loved hearing writers tell their journey to publication stories. There was something inspiring about how real most of these stories were. I never heard a "It was my first pitch and I got an agent and I sold a million books and now I have a movie" type of story. Sure, some authors had to wait longer than others to make their first sale, but I loved looking for the common thread in every story: hard work.

It's true, writing is hard work. But it's also fun. If you find yourself working so hard that you're no longer having fun, then I'd tell you to take a break and re-evaluate why you're doing it. It's important to pay attention to your feelings and what they are trying to communicate. "Hey, you. Stop and rest and listen."



So here is my story (as fast as I could tell it). You might have heard parts of this before, but this is the first time I've put it on video. (The second time, actually, because the first try I ended up with a twenty-seven minute video that I knew I'd never edit down to anything I could fairly call "short . . .")

Enjoy!




Do you relate to anything I went through in my story? Either in attitude, excitement, discovery, mistakes, research, or something else? Share in the comments.

I want to know your story too.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mistakes I've Made So You Don't Have To: Believing I Would Find The Perfect Novel Writing System



Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink/HarperCollins). Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, Instagram, and sign up for free books on her author website.


I love organization, tidiness, systems, and color-coding.

For a very long time I looked for the "right way" to write a novel. The perfect way, where I always felt like I had control of the story, and the creative process never felt messy or misguided.

Even recently, I've had times where I've thought, "Ooh, maybe this is it. Maybe I've just found The Technique that will make writing stories easy and efficient!" Only to find that yes, this new fill-in-the-blank technique helps, but it's not a magic bean from which the story sprouts perfectly formed. (Spoiler: There isn't one.)

Many of the questions I receive via email ask a surface question about crafting a story—how do I create a good plot twist? what's the best way to start a book?—but often hint a deeper question: How do I know I'm doing this right?



I used to think that one of these days I would "arrive" as a writer and have my perfect, trusty novel writing system. I have finally (mostly) accepted that writing a book is a messy, doubt-filled process no matter how many times you've done it.

Yes, over the years my system has evolved and improved, but you can't perfect your system the way you can an assembly line. It's important to do what I know works for me, but also to try something new with each book. That's how my system has become more efficient over the years, and it's what's keeps writing fun and adventurous for me.

So here is a list of what works for me, the stuff I do with every book. I've talked about all of these in detail in previous posts, so rather than do that here, I'll include links for each one:

Brainstorming early with a friend. 

This is something I did not do for a very long time due to some pride issues. You really have to have the right person in your life for this. They don't need to be a writer, I don't think, but they also can't be the type of person who wants to turn your horror novel into a sweet romance. They need to "get" you and your writing.

Links: How To Have an Effective Brainstorming Session

Writing a blurb that’s a paragraph or two long and the hook sentence.


This is something I used to put off until I absolutely had to write them for a requested proposal. Now I like to write them early on. Why? Writing a few paragraphs in the style of backcover copy helps me to identify the main focus of the story, something I'm prone to lose sight of as I write the thing.

And my agent used to have to pry hook sentences out of me, but now I really like having them written before I dig into the novel. This is a mental thing for me. If people in my life ask me what I'm writing, and I can't tell them in a very interesting way, I start to lose confidence in my book.

Links: Writing Killer Backcover Copy, What Is a Logline And How Do You Write One?

Identifying key scenes.


I used to be a total pantser with writing (and a pretty snobby pantser who distrusted plotting) but now I identify key scenes before I write the book. This gives me enough structure that I can usually keep my story on track (though not always...) but also gives me creative freedom.

Links: How to Develop Your Story Idea Into A List Of Key Scenes Part One and Part Two

Writing my 2-3 page synopsis before my draft.


You think you hate writing synopses, but you're wrong.

Okay, maybe that's not completely fair, but I do think that synopses are waaaaay more fun to write before you've written your book. Then it just feels like fun brainstorming! If you go off on a crazy tangent and decide it doesn't work, you're just erasing a couple of sentences rather than a couple chapters.

Links: How to Write a Synopsis for your Novel, How to Edit a Synopsis for Your Novel, and Using Your Synopsis as an Outline

Logging my work time/Using the story workbook


In a spreadsheet, I keep track of lots of different details about my story, including all my characters and key info about them, the timeline of the story, and other useful things. The link for getting a tutorial on how to make your own is below.

My favorite page within the spreadsheet is actually my work log. I input what time I start and where my word count is, and then when I'm done, I record my ending time and finished word count. Doing this has helped me stay focused during writing time, and it also gives me the same happy feeling of crossing something off my to-do list.

Links: A Snazzy Timeline Tool and Free Story Workbook Tutorial

Writing a first draft without stopping to edit.


Though sometimes the messiness makes me a bit crazy, I really do believe this is the best way for me. This was also one of the hardest techniques for me to learn how to embrace.

Links: Useful Bad First Drafts and for the counter point of view, How to Edit As You Write Your First Draft

Taking 6 weeks off from my first draft.


Ditto to what I said above.

Links: Six Reasons to Take Six Weeks Off From Your First Draft

Reading my finished manuscript in as few sittings as possible and making notes.


I think this is critical to the editing process.

Links: How to Edit Your Book in Layers

Character journals for troublesome non-POV characters.


I usually have a good handle on my POV characters, but there are always a few major non-POV characters who read completely flat. Character journals, where you free-write from their POV, is the fastest thing to help me clarify motivation, backstory, and personality. And it's way more fun then filling out all those character info sheets.

Links: Character Journals

Editing big changes first regardless of chronological order, and then editing scene by scene.


Jill and I wrote an entire book about this, and it continues to be the way I edit.

Links: Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book

I've tried lots and lots of other techniques. Some helped me to think about story in a different way, even if I didn't totally adopt the methods in the book. (Story Genius by Lisa Cron and 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron) Some, like pantsing my novels, worked for certain seasons but don't work for me now. Others were just NOT my thing. Like the Snowflake method. Or scene cards. Or Scrivener.

Some tools are already on my radar for the next novel I write, like K.M. Weiland's Structuring Your Novel and Creating Character Arcs workbooks for brainstorming more fully before I dive into my first draft.

Is there something you've found that works well for you that you plan to do with each book you write? And/or is there something new you want to try with your next book?


Friday, October 13, 2017

Writing Exercise #17: That's the hobbit's problem

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes novels. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and an affinity for mentoring teen writers. Since 2013, Shannon has taught mentoring tracks at a local school where she provides junior high and high school students with an introduction to writing and the publishing industry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Last week we started where JRR Tolkien started and we created our own hobbits. I was so impressed by your imaginations, you guys. Among other things, I hope the exercise showed you that even when we start with the same sentence, we are incapable of telling precisely the same story as anyone else. Because you are you and I am me and we all have our own worlds brewing inside us.

Today, we're going to take our hobbits and give them a story. More specifically, we're going to give them an obstacle. We're not going to fully develop a story problem today, but what we want to do is give our fictional creature something to overcome.

This can be something simple (like making a cake without a bowl) or something complex (like escaping an assassin). Your hobbit and its obstacle are yours and yours alone, so let your imagination run wild.



A couple tips:

1. If you did the exercise last week, start with the hobbit you created and the details you scratched out about his life underground. You can make changes to that idea, but starting with something is always easier than starting with nothing. Your previous ideas will spark new ones.

2. If you did not do the exercise last week, consider doing that one first. Understanding who your hobbit is and why it lives in a hole in the ground will help you develop the creature's dilemma.

3. Keep the problem very clear and simply written. Don't give your hobbit multiple obstacles to overcome. We're taking our hobbit in a very specific direction and I don't want you to have too much to juggle when we reach next week's exercise.

4. Do not solve your hobbit's problem today! We will work on that, I promise. But that's not today's goal. Just give him a bit of trouble, alright? We'll come to solution seeking soon.

REMEMBER! When you participate in our writing exercises you can enter to win an opportunity to ask Jill, Steph and me a question for one of our upcoming writing panels. Once you leave your response to the writing prompt in the comments section, use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Next week, Rafflecopter will select one winner and we'll contact you for your question via email. Happy writing, friends!


a Rafflecopter giveaway