Good Enough

Sometimes it feels like my creativity is drying up—or that I never had much creativity to begin with. Where do story ideas come from? Why aren’t I brimming with new ideas? These are the questions I’ve recently been asking myself, and I’ve been trying to find ways to feed my creativity. A few years ago, a writer friend of mine who I admire and respect recommended a certain “spiritual path to higher creativity” called the Artist’s Way that basically involves journaling three pages every morning and taking yourself on an “artist’s date” once a week. There was an Artist’s Way...
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Breast Cancer, Vacation, Revision, Oh My!

I recently finished a complete draft of my latest novel, which, for me, is a big deal, especially because I’ve spent the last four years  tangled up in plot revisions, character revisions, setting revisions—you name it. So needless to say, it felt really good to type the words “The End,” even though I planned on editing it a bit before sending it to my agent. It didn’t hurt that I got to type “The End” on the same day that I finished radiation treatments for my recent run-in with breast cancer. (The cancer was caught early, and six months later...
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Putting A Painful Past to Good Use

I write for teens, so it’s important that I stay in touch with my teenage self. Now that my son is a teenager, I catch myself observing him sometimes as though I’m a behavioral scientist. But I also rely on memories of what it was like for me back in the day. I say “back in the day” as though I have fond memories of high school—when actually my teenage years were a series of embarrassing events punctuated by flashes of terror. All those insecurities and fears, all that pressure to fit in and be liked. So why do I...
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Inspiration in Strange Places

My muse likes to hide from me. Sometimes she jumps out and surprises me, but most of the time she makes me chase her.  It’s hard to pin down what inspires me to write—what makes my muse grace me with her presence—but in thinking about it for this blog, I remembered a chance encounter I had when I was eight years old. I was sitting in a laundromat while my mom and I waited for our clothes to wash. I’d brought along my spiral notebook and I was furiously writing the next chapter in my Adventures of Stacy book. There...
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How to Keep Readers Invested in Flawed Characters

Every protagonist in fiction needs a major character flaw. Part of the satisfaction of reading comes from finding out how a character changes for the better. Of course some character flaws are greater than others, and when you make your protagonist seriously flawed (as I like to do), the question becomes: How do I keep the reader invested in the story? How do I keep the reader from wanting to throw the book across the room? In my first novel, A WORK OF ART, my main character, Tera, refuses to believe that her father is guilty of a crime. Her naivety...
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Adding My Voice

As a victim of sexual assault, I should have known this already, but I only recently discovered that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a national campaign that raises public awareness about sexual violence and also educates individuals and communities in how to prevent it. So in honor of SAAM, and to help forward the cause, I’m giving away five copies of my award-winning and critically acclaimed book, A Work of Art. (See below.) I’m also making a nice donation to SAAM and buying this t-shirt via their website. I’ll wear it proudly. Admitting I’m a survivor of sexual...
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Writing For Young Adults: Something I Learned the Hard Way, Part 2

In part 1, I talked about how writing for a young-adult audience can be challenging, especially given that I graduated high school thirty years ago. This week, I continue that advice with part 2.  So without further ado, here’s more of what I learned the hard way when I decided I wanted to write for young adults. Replacing adult phrases with teenage speak (“That’s wonderful!” versus “That’s so freaking cool!”) wasn’t the way to go. Of course, that’s part of it, but swapping out adult phrases for teen phrases is one piece in a much larger pie. I had to...
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Writing for Young Adults: Something I Learned the Hard Way, Part 1

When I began seriously pursuing writing as a career, I didn’t intend to write for young adults. My book, A WORK OF ART, was originally aimed toward an older audience, but my critique group convinced me (and rightly so) that it was suited for young adults. After all, its protagonist was a teenage girl, and many of her problems were teenage problems. But making the transition from an adult audience to a YA audience was tougher than it seemed. My early drafts were written in third person, where everything was seen through the eyes of my protagonist. That’s all well...
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It’s All About the Conflict

Writers spend a lot of time on character and plot, which of course are very important, but remember that your story will be boring without CONFLICT. Conflict doesn’t just bring excitement to the pages. Conflict brings characters to life. Think about this. We all make snap decisions about people based on appearance and background information, but it’s not until we see people in action that we learn who they are. Let’s say you’re in high school, sitting in a classroom, and there’s a new girl in class. She’s beautiful, busty, looks like a model. You have some background on her,...
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Scene Setting and POV: 2 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

As a writer, I loathe setting the scene. I’ve literally spent hours going over the same few paragraphs to make sure I “got it right,” only to delete those same paragraphs on my revision. So much time wasted! But at least all that needless writing taught me a few things. Lesson 1: When setting a scene (at least in first person or close third-person), only mention what’s important to your character at that time. As an example of what I mean, take a look at this passage from an early draft of my work in progress. Fifteen-year-old Layla doesn’t know...
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