For Writers

    Trouble with Transition Scenes | #Writing Advice


    When you think of your story, you think of the Big Scenes, right? The important plot points, the vital Moments that challenge your characters and move your book along. But what about the transition scenes, connecting all those story events together? Transitional scenes can be incredibly difficult to get right. They’re a spot in your novel that’s rife for info-dumping, and a poorly written transition scene can drag like dead weight. But sometimes cutting it off entirely can mess up your story’s pacing!

    A good transition scene is seamless. You don’t notice it’s a transition, because you’re engaged in what you’re reading and the information you’re being given is naturally setting up for the next Story Event. The transition gives you something — a funny moment, a beautiful description, a thrilling bit of mystery, an enlightening character detail, a hint at the conflict or tension to come — that makes it move along smoothly.

    To start things off, what is a transition scene?

    A transition scene is the thread connecting disparate parts of your novel. Take some of these examples from Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince

    It might be a scene of time passing, such as snow falling over the Hogwarts grounds as the seasons change:

    Snow was swirling against the icy windows once more; Christmas was approaching fast. Hagrid had already single-handedly delivered the usual twelve Christmas trees for the Great Hall; garlands of holly and tinsel had been twisted around the banisters of the stairs; everlasting candles glowed from inside the helmets of suits of armor and great bunches of mistletoe had been hung at intervals along the corridors. Large groups of girls tended to converge underneath the mistletoe bunches every time Harry went past, which caused blockages in the corridors; fortunately, however, Harry’s frequent nighttime wanderings had given him an unusually good knowledge of the castle’s secret passageways, so that he was able, without too much difficulty, to navigate mistletoe-free routes between classes.

    Read more…

    For Writers

    Am I Writing This Right? | A pep talk for writers struggling to be themselves

    Open Book with Text Am I Writing This Right?

    Writing can be a difficult and intimately personal undertaking. We all have different approaches, different voices, and different methods for the way in which we weave words. There are lots of ways to write a book, and a problem I’m seeing a lot in writing classes, blogs, and instructional books is the expectation of imparting the One True Way to write.

    As writers, we all develop our own voices, our own styles, and it can be discouraging — demoralizing, even — to be told that your style is “wrong”. That the only sentences worth writing are ones that Work Like This. (This crops up a lot when your writing class is bent towards literary fiction, but you want to write for speculative fiction, like fantasy or science fiction. Sometimes those books just work differently, don’t they?)

    It’s like being told the only way to walk down a street is by carrying yourself in a very specific posture. Yes, maybe it’s effective to throw your shoulders back and walk an even stride, but what if you want to run? What if your leg hurts, and you have to limp? What if you’re so happy, you want to skip? You still get yourself down that street, don’t you?

    Think of the books you’ve read.

    Some were mostly dialogue, and read like screenplays.

    Some were densely detailed, with evocative, lyrical prose.

    Some focused entirely on the character’s internal journey through an intense emotional change.

    Some were all plot, with twists and turns that blew your mind and characters that were mostly just vehicles for the reader to hop into and enjoy the ride.

    Some writers used clipped, sparse writing. Short sentences with which to convey their worlds.

    Others use sentences that twist and turn in their own right, snaking down the page like a coiling of ribbon.

    Some books are works of art.

    Some books are popcorn.

    Some stories stick with you your whole life.

    Some entertain you for an afternoon.

    No story, no book, and no writer’s style is inherently more valid than another’s.

    So when people heap rules on you, that This is the way your sentences should work, This is the kind of writing that is worthwhile, This is how to tell a story, and This, and This, and This makes you a good writer, while This, and This, and This does not–don’t worry. Don’t panic. And don’t quit.

    Every story is going to tell itself differently.

    No two writers are going to wield their pen in the same way.

    There are lots of ways to write a book.

    And there are lots of books left to write.

    Don’t worry so much about whether you’re doing it correctly. Don’t worry so much if your writing is “right”. Every book is different. Write yours however you want.


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    Reading Nourishes Writing

    January Reading Wrap Up (+ Mini-Reviews!)

    Hello, happy writers! I have to admit, as we crash into a rather dreary and windy February, I’m torn between two states of mind: January lasted literally 800 years and How in the world is January already over???

    January felt like a bit of a dud month to me. I didn’t get nearly the amount of writing and editing accomplished that I wanted to, and I had a hard time concentrate on writing in general. But! I did get a few things done! Sort of!

    One of the achievements I managed in January was to read 8 books! There are a lot of bloggers for which 8 books in a month is standard, if even a low number for them, but for me, it was a pretty big deal! I averaged finishing about two books a week, which made me feel really good. I found that I was generally in a more creative place and attitude the more consistently I read, so I’m hoping to keep up with this pace throughout the year. Fingers crossed!

    Now, onto the reviews!

    Read more…

    For Writers

    There And Back Again (Wait, Where Did We Go???): Juggling Lots of Locations In Your Fantasy Novel

    One of the writing classes I’m taking had a forum discussion where writers posted some of their most prominent worries when it comes to their novels, and one of the questions posted really struck me: the writer felt like their fantasy story was whisking from one location to the next too quickly. The reader, they worried, would get whiplash zooming around their fantasy map, seeing too many locations without any one of them leaving a deep impression.

    Cue me quietly sweating onto my keyboard, because this is the realest concern, for any fantasy writer.

    When you’re writing speculative fiction — or, really, any story that has a big, big world for the character to explore — there’s an instinct to show off that world. To move your character around a lot. Usually, it’s because the story requires it — characters have quests to go on, wars to fight, journeys to undertake, sacred mountains to hike up, haunted forests to fight through, scaly slobbery monsters in vast acid-filled lakes to bring fabled jeweled tea cups to — you get the idea.

    * Is this … not … a normal plot point for any novel?

    But, sometimes, we writers can get carried away. It can be fun, and fruitful for your story, to take your characters on a dizzying roller coaster ride across your fantasy map. But how do you know when you’re taking your readers on too dizzying a ride? How do you keep that fantasy map from becoming one big, confusing, smeary blur in your readers’ heads?

    Keep your fantasy map from dizzying readers by giving each location emotional and story significance for your characters.  

    Your character, especially in a quest or journey-based fantasy novel, shouldn’t just be walking through a sideways scrolling sequence of set dressings. Every location you showcase in your story should be there for a reason

    As far as I can tell (and I am by no means an expert on this), the trick is to make sure the locations have emotional context for the characters, and to root your settings in your story’s plot. Make your locations matter, in other words, to both your characters and to the story at large.

    Let’s get a little deeper into what that means…

    Rooting Your Locations In Your Story’s Plot

    Let’s say your character is going on that epic journey where they hike up that sacred mountain to retrieve the mythical teacup, fight through that haunted forest to reach the acid lake, and then row across the poisonous waters to meet the sea creature whose ire can only be assuaged by the delivery of that bejeweled cup. You might have noticed something about each of those locations I listed…

    They all have a clear purpose related to the story. 

    Read more…

    Reading Nourishes Writing

    Yes, I’ve Read That Book … And, No, I Couldn’t Tell You A Thing About It

    I have a question to pose this week, and it’s kind of a strange one: How important is it for us to remember the books that we read? Or, more specifically, how much of a book is it important for us to remember?

    The main message, surely, is an important nugget to wedge into your gray matter after completing a novel. Once you close the covers of the Harry Potter novels, you should probably remember, if asked, that a main lesson was to defeat evil with love and not the other way around.

    The main characters, too, should probably at least ring a bell. You might not remember their names, but hopefully you can recall something of what they wanted. Maybe you don’t remember that the main character of 1984 was named Winston (who could blame you, really), but you could probably, if pressed, recall that he was trying to rebel against an oppressive government, to escape the watchful eye of Big Brother.

    The general idea of the setting is another aspect of a novel that you probably don’t want to blank on. If someone holds up a copy of Game of Thrones and asks you where it takes place, and you can’t remember if the story happens in an underwater submarine or in the magma-spitting center of a rumbling volcano in dire need of a lozenge*, that’s probably going to be embarrassing.

    * it’s one of those two, right?

    But, is it that big of a deal if you can’t recall the actual events of the book? If a year passes and you can’t really remember much about a book’s plot, does that mean you’ve failed as a reader — or that the book has failed as a written work? How detailed does the footprint have to be to count as an impression left on the reader? Are we talking bruise marks in the exact grooves of the tread, or can it just be a marking vaguely heel-shaped? Can you still count a book as one of your favorites if you can’t actually remember anything that happened in it?

    I think so.

    Read more…


    My 2018 Bookish Goals!

    #BoutofBooks has all wrapped up! I can’t say I did amazingly at reading last week. My ambition to complete three books wasn’t quite fulfilled, though I did finish Wide Sargasso Sea and — er — start Salt to the Sea. That’s pretty good, right?

    *nervous sweat*

    What can I say? My time was monopolized. I got caught up in reading Fire and Fury, and it always takes me a long time to read nonfiction (even gossipy, salacious, less-than-substantive nonfiction) and, in my defense, I also started reading this really amazing fic Dirt, from The Last of Us. If only GoodReads let you count 200,000 word fanfics towards your yearly reading goal, am I right?

    Anyway, January is nearly half over (somehow. has anyone else accomplished exactly nothing so far this month? Just me? Oh, okay, cool. Just checking.) and it’s time to share some of my naively earnest goals for 2018.

    My 5 Bookish Goals for 2018

    Read more…

    Reading Nourishes Writing

    Bout of Books 21 | Announcement

    Hello, Happy Writers! I hope 2018 is treating you well so far. (Or at least not battering-you-about-the-head as much as 2017 did…) I have a boatload of resolutions this year, mostly around productivity and positivity, and one of them is — surprise, surprise — to read more books. That’s why I’m participating in the 21st round of Bout of Books!

    Bout of Books is a low-pressure readathon where you can set whatever goal you’d like, meet other readers and bloggers, and generally spend a week making an effort to read a little more than you might’ve done otherwise. I always have a ball participating in the 24 Hour Readathon, but I’m definitely looking forward to a little more casual affair this time. (Sitting down and reading for 24 hours straight is tough, you guys.)

    Here are some of the books I’m hoping to finish (or at least make a sizable dent in) this week:

    Cover to Wide Sargasso Sea

    Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys

    From the GoodReads description:

    Born into an oppressive, colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. But soon after their marriage, rumors of madness in her family poison his mind against her. He forces Antoinette to conform to his rigid Victorian ideals.

    The Cover to the Library at Mount Char

    The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins

    From the GoodReads description:

    […] Carolyn hasn’t had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient customs. They’ve studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.
    Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation.
    As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own.
    But Carolyn has accounted for this.
    And Carolyn has a plan.
    The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she’s forgotten to protect the things that make her human.

    Salt to the Sea Book Cover

    Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys

    From the GoodReads description:

    Winter 1945. WWII. Four refugees. Four stories.
    Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies, war. As thousands desperately flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. But not all promises can be kept…


    Are you participating in Bout of Books this week? I’d love to know what books you’re planning on devouring! Drop me a comment, let’s chat!

    The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 8th and runs through Sunday, January 14th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 21 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

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