Wednesday, August 16, 2017

How Writing Short Stories Can Improve Your Novel


How Writing Short Stories Can Improve Your Novel - Writer's

As writers, we are always looking for ways to improve our craft. There are lots of exercises we can do and methods we can experiment with to try and get better at writing, to find our writing voice and help us to feel more confident and self-assured when it comes to our writing.
Of course, every writer is different and finding methods that work for you is all about trial and error. One of the most popular ways, however, is to practice your writing by trying your hand at short stories. There are many reasons why doing so can be helpful for novel writers. Let’s take a look at some of them.

A tight plot
When it comes to short stories you need to really focus on your plot. Your story, like a novel, must have a beginning, a middle and an end. It must grip the reader, and flow well, hold their excitement and feel like a proper story with a satisfying conclusion. Writing short stories allows you to get very good at understanding what elements are necessary to make a story work.

Character development
Practicing writing interesting and exciting characters, developing them, and making your readers care about them is so important if you want to improve as a writer. Writing short stories is an excellent way of doing so, and you may end being inspired to take a character you’ve written in your short story and using them in your novel.

Making every word count
Short stories are precisely that - short. Because you have fewer words to play with you’ll become a dab hand at making sure that every single word counts and knowing how to cut out anything irrelevant that doesn’t drive your story forwards. This will help you no end when it comes to writing your book.

Editing practice
Of course, short stories need editing just like novels do, and the more you practice editing, the more you’ll become skilled and eagle eyed at spotting mistakes, which will make the mammoth task of editing your novel a whole lot easier.

The more we write the better we are!
Let’s face it, the one main way to get better at writing is to write! Writing short stories builds our confidence and gives us all the practice we need to improve our writing every single day.

Writing is something where there is always room for improvement, and if you spend some time writing short stories you are sure to find that you become a better writer and will find it easier to write your novel too.

Maybe I should be trying this. though I'm not sure how this would work for memoir writing. Though maybe I could write an autobiographical essay. I'd like to travel somewhere, though I can't really afford to travel. If only I could just go somewhere new and inexpensive for a day or two to take in the scenery might make for a great travel writing essay.  

But I have always wanted to write a novel, so maybe I do need to try writing short stories.  But if writing short stories, helps with the editing process, it might not matter if I write a fictional short story or an unto biographical essay.  The instructor for the memoir writing class I took this summer advised writing everyday. I guess this could be one way to do it.  


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Best. Book Tour. Ever.

This week I'm participating in the blog tour for Stephanie Faris's latest book, which she wrote along with several other authors.

Best. Night. Ever

By Rachele Alpine, Ronni Arno, Alison Cherry, Stephanie Faris, Jen Malone, Gail Nall, and Dee Romito
Press Kit


Love Actually meets Adventures in Babysitting in this hilarious novel written by seven authors about seven classmates who are preparing for a crazy night at their middle school dance.

Lynnfield Middle School is prepped and ready for a dance to remember, including an awesome performance from Heart Grenade, the all-girl band who recently won a Battle of the Bands contest. Seven classmates—Carmen, Genevieve, Tess, Ryan, Ellie, Ashlyn, and Jade—intend to make the most of the night…or at least the five of them who are able to attend do. The other two would sacrifice almost anything to be there.

One thing’s for sure—this entire crew is in for one epic night! Gail Nall, Dee Romito, Rachele Alpine, Ronni Arno, Alison Cherry, Stephanie Faris, and Jen Malone have created a charming, hilarious, and relatable novel that’s perfect for anyone who can’t wait to dance the night away.

Buy Links:


One of Rachele Alpine’s first jobs was at a library, but it didn’t last long, because all she did was hide in the third-floor stacks and read. Now she’s a little more careful about when and where she indulges her reading habit. Rachele is a high school English teacher by day, a wife and mother by night, and a writer during any time she can find in between.  She lives in Cleveland, Ohio where she writes middle grade and young adult novels. Visit her at

Ronni Arno Blaisdell is the author of Ruby Reinvented. She has written for several magazines, blogs, and websites. In a previous life she worked as a publicist in Hollywood, and eventually built a home in Maine. She is a keen SCBWI member and contributor to the blog. Visit her online at

Alison Cherry is the author of the YA novels RedFor Real and Look Both Ways, and the middle grade novels Willows vs. Wolverines and The Classy Crooks Club. She is a professional photographer and spent many years working as a lighting designer for theater, dance, and opera productions. This whole “writing books” thing is just a cover for the international crime ring she runs out of her Brooklyn apartment. (Shhh, don’t tell.) Visit her online at

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing. When she isn’t crafting fiction, Stephanie is indulging her gadget geek side by writing for online technology sites. Her work is regularly featured on the small business blogs for Intuit and Go Payment and she is a featured columnist for She lives in Nashville with her husband. Visit her online at

Jen Malone is a former Hollywood publicist who once spent a year traveling the world solo, met her husband on the highway (literally), and went into labor with her identical twins while on a rock star’s tour bus. These days she saves the drama for her books. Jen is also the author of the middle grade novels At Your Service and The Art of the Swap, coauthor of the You’re Invited series, and wrote the YA novels Map to the Stars and Wanderlost. You can visit her online at

Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her family and more cats than necessary. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail is the author of the middle grade novel Breaking the Ice, the coauthor of You’re Invited and You’re Invited Too, and the author of the young adult novel Exit Stage Left. You can find her online at and on Twitter as @GaileCN. Visit her online at

Dee Romito lives in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, where she and her family are steadily checking items off their own bucket list of adventures. You’re likely to find her at the local ice cream shop, writing at a café, or curled up on the couch with her cats. And while she does her best to be a grown-up most of the time, giggling with her BFFs is still one of her all-time favorite things. To join the fun and create your own bucket list, visit

The Rafflecopter giveaway is for a free hardback copy of Best. Night. Ever. (signed by Stephanie Faris). The HTML code below can be entered into the HTML code on your blog. Scroll down if you’d just like to link to it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 14, 2017

Two-Year Anniversary

Today marks two years since I began my treatment on Prozac.  On this day in 2015, I saw my psychiatrist for the first time. He was filling in for another I'd seen a month earlier, and has been back and forth with the department (such a long and complicated story!) and has been back since last year after leaving for about four months. See more here.

In January of 2016 was when I got the idea to tell my story after reading Prozac Nation.  I cannot believe how one book has had such an influence on me.  I guess because the story is similar.  

Prozac Nation

I have this as my Facebook profile picture right now and the above photo as my cover photo.  


Sunday, August 13, 2017

How to Write Great Child Characters

How To Write Great Child Characters - Writer's

All books need to have great characters. It is the life-blood of any story. If your characters fall flat then no matter how good your plot is, readers simply won’t be able to connect wth it. 
If the protagonist in your novel is a child, this task can be even trickier. Indeed, if you have any child characters in your book that play a significant part, getting the balance right between believable and interesting is tough. 
We might think we remember what it’s like to be a child, or we might have children or relatives who are children to help us gain insight into the essence of what makes children so, well, childlike. However, translating this to the page to create characters that are just as exciting and well-rounded as our grown up ones is difficult.
So what are the main things to look out for and consider when writing child characters? Let’s take a look:
Don’t make them too cute
Cutesy child characters will soon grate on your readers. If they are meant to be likeable yet they are sickly sweet all the time they’ll come across is boring, and a little irritating too.
Don’t make them too old
OK so some things that children say can strike a chord that makes them seem wise beyond their years, but if you make your child characters brimming with sage pieces of advice every time they open their mouths, they simply won’t be believable. Children should have an innocence and a playfulness about them that separates them from the grownups in your book.

Don’t make them stupid
Dumbing down children will only make them unlikeable. Of course, there can be a ‘stupid’ child in your book if that’s intentional and they serve a specific purpose. But simply writing your child characters in a way that makes them appear empty headed will again make them dull to your readers and hard to relate to.

Don’t use baby talk
There is nothing more annoying than having to read lines of dialogue in baby speak! Let your child characters talk normally and instead choose the words carefully to reflect their age. 

Make them unique
Child characters should be as unique and interesting as the rest of the characters in your novel. If they all blend into one another they will be bland and easy to ignore - give them quirks, give them eccentricities, give them unusual personalities - bring them alive in your book. 

Let them grow
Children should have goals, go on journeys and grow and develop too. If a child character is one of the main characters in your book then give them something to work towards and show the reader how they have changed and what they have learnt - they shouldn’t be the same by the time your book comes to an end.

Remember - children are children
As you write your child character, always ask yourself ‘would a child do this? would a child say this?’ It’s easy to slip into habits where your child characters are suddenly mature beyond their years, but as long as you keep checking in and asking those questions you can ensure they talk, act and react in an appropriate way. 

Using the above tips you can write child characters who are interesting, original and entertaining too - just as all your characters should be!

Even though I haven't worked on my diary novel lately, I chose to set it in the 1980s, since that is when I grew up. As such, I have many recollections of how kids acted and how we lived before things like the Internet and cell phones. I have found myself less compelled to write something set in today's society with someone texting someone else or checking their Facebook page, even though I do all this. But I'm an adult and don't know how most teens act when doing these things.  

I really want to get working more on this novel, and I want to try something else in general, but I have been too preoccupied with my memoir.  It's been kind of hard to switch gears, as my mind seems set on this one thing. Do any of you writers reading my blog typically feel this way?
Any ideas you can offer for writing for kids?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Anxiety Over the Next Steps in Writing a Book

As I said on Tuesday,  I am still in the process of editing, rewriting or revising my story, and I still can't tell which is which or if they really are the same thing. I'm still finding mistakes and things I want to take out or redo.  This seems like a never-ending process!  And on a side note, I had to get more printer paper yesterday and now my printer ink cartridges are starting to starting to get low. I got new ones not too long ago and now I have to get more soon.  Just another step in the process.

What To Do After You Finish Your Book? - Writer's

And even though I'm not ready for that phase, I'm already feeling anxiety (something I have a great deal of) over what to do next.  What to put on the cover, when to find an editor, whether to self- or traditional-publish, how long it will take until I get published, how to market myself, things mentioned in this article on

Today, Stephanie Faris tells her story of her publishing journey on this blog, by Jessica Therrien

Stephanie Faris
Author of 

I wrote my first book in 1995. It was a young adult novel. My research, however, revealed that there was no real market for young adult novels in the mid-90s, unless you could get a deal with one of the book packagers publishing series like Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew. After auditioning twice to write for Sweet Valley High, I gave up on YA and moved to category romance (the books published by Harlequin). Romantic comedy was huge at the time and I loved writing those books, but publishers weren’t quite as excited about reading them. After a full decade of trying to get published, I took some time off and when I returned, young adult was huge again…only not the same YA I grew up reading. An agent kindly told me my voice was better suited to middle grade and once I learned that, landing an agent was relatively easy. I have a feeling the decades of work I put in before that contributed to landing an agent, though. I chose traditional publishing because it was the only real option at the time. Self-publishing (we called it “e-publishing”) came along soon after I started writing, but it wasn’t respected in its early days. If I were starting over today, I probably still would go for traditional publishing, but there are quite a few small presses that are making a big impact on the market.


Do you have an agent? 

How many queries did you send?
I spent 20 years trying to get a publisher, so I sent at least 50 queries to publishers and/or agents over the course of that.

If represented, how long did it take to get your agent?
Only two years, but prior to that, I spent 10 years unsuccessfully querying Harlequin, Silhouette, and Bantam Books with romance novels. They didn’t require an agent to submit.

If you have an agent, can you copy and paste your successful query letter for others to reference?
I no longer have that email account, but here’s part of the blurb I used.

School Spirits is a 40,000-word novel targeted toward an upper middle grade/tween market. It is the first in an intended series about four pre-teen ghost hunters. Brothers Ethan and Noah are two seasoned investigators, struggling to make that first big “find” that will make everyone take them seriously. Brooklyn, their next-door neighbor, is a novice…and a non-believer. She hooks up with the guys accidentally, and is initially brought along only because her skepticism appeals to the boys on a scientific level. Her skepticism decreases, however, when she has her own ghostly encounter.


How did you (or your agent) find your publisher? 
My agent met the editor, who was discussing the type of book she was looking for. She’d already thought that the Aladdin M!x line would be a good fit for my voice, so she couldn’t pass up the opportunity for me to write and submit something.

How long did it take to find a publisher?
After landing an agent, it took three years. From the time I wrote my first book, it took 17 years.

What do you like about your publisher?
I love my publisher! I love the fact that they publish books geared specifically toward young girls and that the books have such positive messages.

What do you dislike about your publisher?
That they can’t buy more books from me. But I think that would be the same of any publisher. I’m pretty prolific. My dream scenario would be to write ten to twelve books a year. I’m currently writing 2,000 words a day for my freelance clients.

Did you or your agent hit any snags along the way, and if so how did you overcome them? 
The book I won my agent with was never published. It made the rounds and was considered by a major publisher, but because the query process is so slow, my original idea based on a popular trend wasn’t so original two years later.

Did traditional publishing get your book(s) in Barnes & Noble or other bookstores?
Yes, as well as Books-a-Million and independent bookstores.

Did your publisher produce a hardcover of your book or just paperback?
Both. Hardcovers mostly went to libraries, I believe.

Did your publisher create an audiobook for you? 


What marketing tactics worked for you?
Bookfairs, networking through SCBWI, school carnivals and family nights, and library events. School visits worked but only with schools that agreed to book sales at the event, and that seems to be rare.

If you are traditionally published, what did your publisher do to market your book?
Got it in bookstores, put it in catalogs distributed to librarians/schools, presented it to librarians and booksellers, sent it out to major review publications.


Looking back would you do anything differently?
Waste far less time on school visits and find other venues to reach children!

What lessons have you learned? Any advice for those about to go down your path?
Each person has to decide whether self-publishing, small press, or traditional press is the best route. There’s no right answer. While there’s no substitute for the distribution a traditional press can give an author, some small presses are doing well with that, too. Research all the options and decide the best path for you.

Can you provide names and/or contacts for the following?
Agent: Natalie Lakosil, Bradford Literary Agency
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Aladdin
Formatter: Simon & Schuster staff
Cover Designer: Hired by Simon & Schuster

Reading about this has set in my anxiety over what to do next, one I feel I've finished writing. I already know some places in my town where I could promote my book and sign it when it's published. Thinking too far ahead, I know, but the places I have in mind are perfect for such events, if I or anyone else in town ever gets a book to see the light of day.  But upon reading this, I now wonder how long it will be before I get an agent or how long before I get published.  I know things like this don't happen overnight, but I want to be one of those to whom it does happen.  Thus, taking the steps toward working toward this goal has set in a great deal of anxiety. especially, since this would be my first book ever.

BTW, next week several blogs will be hosting Stephanie Faris's new book, and I will be one. My post will be on Tuesday.


Love Actually meets Adventures in Babysitting in this hilarious novel written by seven authors about seven classmates who are preparing for a crazy night at their middle school dance.

Lynnfield Middle School is prepped and ready for a dance to remember, including an awesome performance from Heart Grenade, the all-girl band who recently won a Battle of the Bands contest. Seven classmates—Carmen, Genevieve, Tess, Ryan, Ellie, Ashlyn, and Jade—intend to make the most of the night…or at least the five of them who are able to attend do. The other two would sacrifice almost anything to be there.

One thing’s for sure—this entire crew is in for one epic night! Gail Nall, Dee Romito, Rachele Alpine, Ronni Arno, Alison Cherry, Stephanie Faris, and Jen Malone have created a charming, hilarious, and relatable novel that’s perfect for anyone who can’t wait to dance the night away.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Editing, Revising, or Rewriting?

I'm still finding things I want to add or delete from my story and it seems like I don't know when to stop ☹️

Rewrite vs Revise vs Edit

Here is how one person sees the differences:


Rewriting a story is drastic surgery for extreme cases. . .or for most pantsers. Once you’re through the first draft and have taken a good hard look at it (with or without the help of your critique buddies), you may see a lot of work to do.

You may, like me, find that you’ve somehow mashed several stories into one and need to decide which is the tale you meant to tell. You may need to excise characters, subplots, and entire scenes.

Then you need to rearrange what remains and write a bunch of new scenes to fill in the gaps now that you have a better idea of the shape of the story you want to tell.


You might not have as much of a mess after your first draft. You might have a cleaner story than I do at this stage, and can dispense with a from-the-ground-up rewrite and go straight to revision. So far, I’ve always needed at least one full on rewrite stage before getting to this one.

You may need to shift scenes around for sharper conflict and pacing. You may need to tweak scenes to add more depth, layer in more sensory description, and sharpen the POV.


Editing a story is the final polish. It’s the act of catching typos and clarifying confused sentences and tidying things up. If you’ve done a solid job with earlier rewrites and/or revisions, you can expect to make speedy progress through this phase.

There you have it: a writer’s working definitions for rewrite, revise, and edit. Would you change my definitions?

Now I'm not so sure what I am doing at this point 🙂 Rewriting or just adding all the while catching any errors in spelling, finding necessary words that have been omitted and trying to shorten overly long sentences(I'm always on the lookout for those).  I still have yet to get others to critique what I have written now. When I began more than year ago, I emailed my initial production to several people, mailing a printed copy to someone who had trouble reading attachments to email (and who doesn't have a printer). I got some feedback, but some of the people I sent it to never responded.  And fining a writing group near me has been unsuccessful ☹️

If "writing is rewriting is rewriting is rewriting..." as was printed in the syllabus for the creative writing class I took in college long ago, then I definitely have fulfilled that requirement.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Can You Over Edit Your Story?


Can You Over Edit Your Story? - Writer's

Most authors feel a sense of trepidation when it comes to editing their books. The initial elation of having finally gotten to the end of your story is short lived, and the process of editing and reshaping your book into something actually readable rears it’s ugly head and makes you realise just how much you still have to do.
Yes, editing can be a long and slow process, but ultimately a satisfying one if, after you have finished, you feel proud and confident in your work.
The problem however, is that many authors are rarely satisfied with their stories, even when they have given them their all. We become too invested, and suddenly reluctant to let go. We think we’ll read over it just ‘one more time’ or work on it for ‘just one more week', but when that is over, we still want to do more.
If we get too close to our work we can never get to the stage where we feel it is ready to send off to publishers or to self-publish. We end up sitting on it for years, tinkering with it now and again until we reach the point when we don’t even know if we are making it any better.
So how do you know if you are in danger of over editing your story? Look out for these telltale signs:

Editing the same sentence or paragraph over and over again
If you can’t seem to get a particular sentence or paragraph right either take it out altogether or just leave it. One slightly off sentence isn’t going to make much difference, and you are probably just too close to your work to see it’s actually fine.

Changing fundamental parts of the story which has a knock on effect
Changing huge parts of your story can be necessary, but if you do it over and over again and then have to change all the other parts to make it work you could just be making your book confusing and worse - make sure if you change significant parts of your book, it’s for good reason.

The start is incredible, and then it gets weaker
Are you just editing the first few chapters over and over again? If the start of your book is mind blowing, but the rest still needs work, you need to move on otherwise you’ll never get finished!

You’ve been editing for more than six months
Editing can take a long time, every author knows this. However, it shouldn’t take years. If you are dedicated to finishing your story you should be able to comfortably edit your novel in six months or less.

People stop asking you about it
Have you been editing your book for so long people stop asking you ‘ how’s the novel coming along?’ If you’ve lost the interest of your nearest and dearest, you should take that as a sign you’ve been working on it for too long.

You only change the odd word and phrase each time you reread
If you are only tinkering with the slightest word or phrase but still refusing not to go back and read the whole thing over again it is probably because you are refusing to let go.

You still believe you can get it perfect
No book ends up being completely perfect with every word as graceful and inspiring as the next. All books have flaws or parts which could be improved. Accept yours can’t be perfect and let it go.

You feel afraid to stop
The fear of finishing is common among authors. We put so much work into our stories that the idea of actually putting them out there and letting others judge them is frightening, but if we don’t, what are we doing it for?

If any of the above signs are ringing a bell it might be time to stop editing your novel, accept that it’s as ready as it is ever going to be and actually do something with it. If you don’t bite the bullet now you may end up ruining all your hard work and even making your story worse than before. So just take a deep breath, step away from your computer and rejoice in the fact that you made it to the end.

I must admit first that I have not been looking at my story the last day or two, but the last time I ddi, I saw some spelling errors and some omitted words. These of course need to be fixed, and I haven't even gotten that far. I'm just taking a little of a break from editing/rewriting.  I know 'll try to change a sentence or paragraph if I don't like the way I'd already written it.  I don't expect it to be perfect, I'm just trying to phrase things differently if I feel what I have already written is repetitive, particularly in the same sentence or paragraph.  
Yes, I have felt afraid to stop, notwithstanding the little "break" I have been on for a few days or so. I have been told that some people have taken years to write their first book. This has made me think I haven't spend enough time on mine, but I know everyone goes at their own speed.  The local business owner who wrote a memoir said she rewrote hers about 18 times. She told me this just as I was beginning mine. The thought of this at first sent me into a panic. But now I've reached that stage myself. Though I'm not sure how many times I have rewritten mine.  
Right now I believe I have written and told all I think is necessary for the subject of my memoir.  But now I'm afraid there will be something else I want to fell I need to add as well.  This will take some consideration.