All I Want as a Writer this Christmas is…

Christmas is definitely a season of giving, but it’s a time of wishes too. Our favorite Christmas stories sometimes involve ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, hoping for something amazing to happen. As writers, we may be ordinary people, but we take ownership of our extraordinary imaginations. That means we have no problem talking about Christmas wishes…and making them too. So without further ado, these are the wishes on the WWAT crew’s letters to Santa: John: In the immortal words of Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, I want the gift that keeps on giving. (No, not a jelly-of-the-month-club membership.) I want to get better. I want my writing to shine like a child’s smile on Christmas morning. I know that writing is subjective, though as most writers I have come to loathe that word, but I want my voice to be so powerful that it even if it isn’t your style, the writing sucks you in. I want my storytelling to be so incredible that readers have to turn the page, and when they run out of those, the only disappointment stems from there being no more to turn. I want vortex-like openings; lofty and thrilling middles; and heart-pounding, emotionally draining but satisfying endings. In short, I want to be an incredible writer. Megan: A breakthrough. This Christmas (or, more realistically, New Year), I’d like to connect with an editor the same way I connect with my agent. I would love to have the opportunity to work with someone and have that person challenge me to make my project as great as it can be. I would be happy to work on one book, or a whole series, where I can show my editor that I respect what he or she does as much as that person respects me. I’m hoping 2017 will be that year! Jess:   To hear voices in my head. Yep, that’s correct. I’d like to go batty for Christmas. Over the past month I have been researching and reading, desperately trying to jump start my next story. I have scenes. I have names. I have all sorts of ideas. But no direction. I usually see an ending before I begin. Now, I am not a true outliner/plotter, but usually I have something in place to keep my momentum and confidence. This time…not so much. I miss writing. I desire to write and to do so I’ll need a good wander, a successful pantsing, and the company... read more

What Hooked Me? The Blackthorn Key by Author Kevin Sands

In this month’s blog, the WWAT Crew discuss what it was that hooked us in the middle-grade book, The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands. John: Puzzles, codes, and mysteries Oh My! If you love these things (and who doesn’t), you will love The Blackthorn Key. I knew I wasn’t alone since many of the reviews left at Goodreads and Amazon also mentioned how much readers enjoyed that part of the plot. Not much of a spoiler, but in the story, our young hero, Christopher Rowe, must solve a series of science-related puzzles in order to discover the final secret and defeat the baddies. I was most impressed with how the puzzles were relevant to the history and time period. That sneaky Kevin Sands, not only did he entertain me, but he taught me some things. It was actually the puzzle-loving reviews that drew me to The Blackthorn Key. One of my works-in-progress deals with a puzzle-solving twelve-year old, and I wanted to see how Mr. Sands did it. I wasn’t disappointed. If you love puzzles and specifically, secret codes, you might check out Mysterious Messages: A History of Codes and Ciphers by Gary Blackwood. It’s a fascinating book that discusses how people throughout history have created and solved coded messages for all manner of different reasons. Jess: Science         The Blackthorn Key takes place in an apothecary (historic chemistry) and in the opening scene the main character, Christopher and his best friend Tom make gun powder and a cannon. Why is science such a hook for me? I used to teach high school chemistry and I always believed I was teaching students first, then chemistry. Not everyone was going to grow up and play with fire, solutions, and explosions like me (I will argue chemistry is still a part of everyone’s life). I believed along with the concepts it was my job to inspire curiosity, problem solving, exploration and innovation. I searched for books such as this to recommend to my students and Neil Gaiman sums up why beautifully in his ‘Face facts: we need fiction’ article found in The Guardian (         “I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. SF had been disapproved of for a long time. At one point, I took a top official aside and asked him what had changed? “It’s simple,” he told me. “the Chinese were brilliant at making things if other... read more

What Hooked Me in The Night Gardener…

This week we’re examining What’s Write About The Night Gardener, a middle-grade novel by Jonathan Auxier. Today’s topic examines what kept us reading the book. John: Intrigue– I’m going to save much of what I have to say for next week’s blog, but what reeled me in was the intrigue. So many bread crumbs were left behind that made me want to keep reading, and when one question would be answered, another would be put forth. This served to keep me turning pages as I would imagine it did for everyone. It really was a writing lesson in how to string a series of plot points together to form a wonderful path–all the way to the conclusion. Linda: Spooky– I love all things spooky, and the Night Gardener didn’t let me down. The moment that really caught my attention was when Molly sees the family portrait for the first time. The difference between the gaunt, pale, drab mother and the image of a healthy happy woman in the painting made my mind jump into a million directions. My first thought was that they were all ghosts. I almost begged Molly and Kip to leave. The spooks only grew from there – the tree, the thugs, the night man. Jonathan Auxier never let me down. If you love a good, creepy story with plenty of twists and turns, then the Night Gardener is for you! Jess: Lore– The promise of new lore, hooked me into reading and finishing The Night Gardener. I grew up in CT, not far from New York. As a New Englander, I was of course a huge fan of Edgar Allen Poe and I was just a couple hours ride from the Hudson River Valley. I later lived in Westchester County, NY and became even more familiar with George Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Maybe you remember an earlier post when I visited the author’s house). Both of these authors’s work were considered comparisons or inspirations for Jonathan Auxier’s book. Not only that, but the tone and stage setting is much like the tales of the immigrants, Native Americans, and those created by New Englanders themselves that I grew up listening to. There is the Night Gardener, a legendary character like the headless horsemen. Then there is the storytelling theme throughout.  Plus, there’s that creepy tree that could be in your woods (maybe inspired by Tuck Everlasting springs). This novel does not disappoint. Megan: Historical... read more

NANO Write Month Survival Tips

As we approach the twitter season of hashtag: NaNoWrMo, the WWAT crew wishes our fellow writers success. Not only do we want you to get that crazy hashtag right every time, but also achieve those word counts you strive for each day (totaling 50,000 words in 30 days). The idea of writing a novel in the month of November can be daunting. Not only can doubt set in, but as the holidays approach one can get easily overwhelmed. That’s when writer’s block strikes. That pesky state of mind that gets in the way. Don’t give up. Writer’s block can be defeated by continuing to write through the blankness and utilizing the rules of the craft. Every craftsman has his/her tools that they rely on. We are sharing ours in the hopes that they may help you.   Jess – I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo before and have reached my goals. Granted the 50,000 words at the time didn’t seem achievable. I had other obligations, but wanted to utilize peer pressure to get some writing done. So I set my goal to 30,000 words. I reached it and did better than I thought. It set me up so now whenever I need to write a book I have a game plan and have reached the 50,000 word goal in other months with other stories. The best advice I utilized was to not write until I was out of ideas. To always leave the last thought for the next day. That way everyday I had a starting point and wasn’t staring at a blank screen. I’d just get in the seat when I could and start typing. That momentum kept me going and the ideas flowing so I could reach appropriate word goals daily. John – Welp, this advice will be self-admittedly worthless. Because the advice is…plan ahead! NaNoWriMo is not a month of writing. It’s 31 days of writing. It’s 744 hours of writing. It’s 44,640 minutes of writing. It’s–well, no point in counting the seconds. The point is if your goal is words, which NaNoWriMo is based on, then you need to make a plan for how much time you’re going to allocate to get the words you need. How are you going to get that time in? What events are you going to cancel in order to make sure that you have enough BICFOK (Butt in Chair. Fingers on Keys)? Set a daily goal. Plan to skip Saturdays or Sundays?... read more

Top 5 “Process” Tips

This week, the WWAT Crew tackles the writing process. It can be wildly different for everyone, but if you’re still searching for ways to develop your own, read through some of our tips, and see if any of these might help. Jess –  My process has changed over the years. For a while, with two small children at home, it was multiple notebooks hidden around the house. Whenever I could or had an idea, I’d jot it down quickly so not to forget. Nothing could be left out for little hands to spread food guts on and I couldn’t use the computer without one of them trying to climb up into my arms or delete everything. I never had regular or great nappers :/. So I’d write at appointments in the waiting room. I’d get up early to write while they slept. All the research I had done, notes on craft, everything was shoved into the notebook. When little eyes shut, I opened them, spread out, and got to work. Now, however, I have secured my own space for writing and bought myself a corkboard. I know, it sounds old fashioned. But, I’m very visual. I love to spread my notes and books out in front of me. Now when I get ideas, I write them on note cards and take them to my board. I can easily move them around and get to them when I get to that particular part of the story. I also like that i can visually separate everything into Acts which makes my synopsis and chapter outlining easier. I know there are computer programs in which one can do this very thing, but I enjoy tangible things. John – Like Linda says below, I used to be a pantser, but now I have to outline, BUT one of the most important things I’ve learned to do is write the query first. Even before I outline. What? Why you say? If your goal is publication, and I always assume everyone’s is, then you are eventually going to have to write that query. Furthermore, most of my novels are fantasy, sci-fi, or magical realism–because of that I often struggled with what to put in the query. I found myself saying: Can’t leave that out! That’s too important. OOOO, That too and that and…anyway. Before you know it, I had a bloated query that meandered and ended up being well over 400 words before I even... read more

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