Five Easy Ways to “Write” Without Writing (kinda) with Eliza Noel

Sometimes you have a bit of time and want to work on your book, but you don’t have enough time to pull out your laptop. Or maybe you’ve lost inspiration and don’t know where your current draft is headed. Here are a few ideas for when you don’t have much time, are on the go, or have a case of writer’s block.

  1. Read, read, read.

An easy and fun way to improve your writing is to read! Read books in your genre to get to know what readers like and what’s become cliche. Read books outside of your genre to broaden your horizons. Read books about writing (or blog posts).

  1. Live life.

The more places you go, the more things you do, and the more people you meet the more you’ll be inspired! How can you write a realistic book if you hide in your room all day with just your cup of coffee, and a cat? Socializing counts as ‘book research’. Just don’t tell your non-writer friends because that might creep them out.

  1. Journal.

Keep track of things that happen while living life. You can always look back for inspiration! While writing Dawn Chandler, I read my journal from when I was twelve years old. It helped me remember how twelve year olds think and what’s important to them.

  1. Make a Pinterest Board.

I actually haven’t done a ton of this, but it’s always fun and inspiring to look for pictures that fit my stories. Just make sure you don’t get stuck on Pinterest and only make storyboards haha

  1. Curate a playlist.

It’s always fun to find songs that remind you of your story in some way or another. You just might find inspiration from some new tunes!

I hope these were fun and helpful ideas! I wish you all the best on your writing journey ❤

Eliza Noel is a home school graduate with passion for Jesus, people, and literature. Growing up, her favorite books were always Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, and Pride and Prejudice. Around age twelve she wanted to read something with positive values in a modern setting, but couldn’t find what she was looking for. So she wrote it. The result was a Christian middle grade book called Dawn Chandler. You can find it on Amazon and the sequel will be released in the next few months.

When Eliza’s not doing something book-related (reading, writing, blogging, bookstagramming), she works at her day job, spends time with her many younger siblings, longboards, has coffee with friends, eats chocolate, and listens to music. California is home, but she would like to travel more and feels she could learn to be content anywhere.

Follow @elizanoelauthor on social media or visit elizanoelauthor.blogspot.com for writing updates and more!

Dawn Chandler likes the way her life is— or was. She liked going to the mall with her best friend, excelling at middle school, and attending church with her family. Typical life for a twelve-year-old in the city of Fresno. When Dawn’s parents announced they were going to homeschool her, on her birthday no less, she felt like her world was falling apart. Normal kids are supposed to go to school, not read books at home. To make matters worse, they may be leaving the only home she’s ever known. What are her parents thinking? Before making the final moving decision, the Chandler family visits Lone Pine, a small town between Mt. Whitney and Death Valley. While there, Dawn and her siblings become acquainted with their eccentric great uncle, explore the new area, and meet a large homeschooling family. All of this makes the ‘vacation’ more bearable. Still, Dawn isn’t sure if she can make the move and leave everything she’s familiar with behind. Can Dawn learn the values of faith, family, and contentment?

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Turning Query Trenches into Tree Houses with Tara K. Ross

At long last, you’ve written those two glorious words at the end of your manuscript *cue Glee-inspired jazz hands*. You then went back through your already gorgeous prose and rewrote the majority of it, except for that one heavenly-inspired chapter. No sentence has been left unscathed by your Find and Replace tool and your ellipses are finally under control. Phew! You have read your story aloud, had alpha, beta and momma readers, and crafted the perfect query letter. #MSWL, Query shark, and Twitter have become your new best friends as you subtly cyber-stalked every possible agent and editor within your genre. And now, after years of productive movement forward, you enter into the so-called trenches. To lie stagnant. And wait?

Welcome to what could feel like the longest wait of your life. But not for you my Inkling friends.

Whether this is the first novel you’ve bravely set out to share with the world, or your fourteenth, there is no magical formula that can explain the how’s and why’s of the publishing waiting game. This industry just moves slowly. Like molasses-in-Canada slow. So, rather than falling into a slump (or trench) while you wait, I’ve got some better ways to avoid email-refresh-itis and wallowing over possible form letters of passing (I refuse to use the “R” word).  

Here are five ways you can turn your query trench into a more positively situated query treehouse:

  1. Fill your creative well: This is a great time to read, read and read some more, because the best writers are voracious readers, right? It’s part of your job! So, indulge in stories both from within your genre, particularly for books that may make great comparative titles (those with similar themes written within the last five years) and for books that inspire your own writing craft. I like to also include books that have been best-sellers in the past year, and those that have won literary awards
  2. Look to the future: If your query letter is successful, agents and editors will request, in short order I might add, for a full proposal. What is that you might ask? Think of it as your summary and sales presentation for your book. You will need things like that dreaded synopsis, back cover copy, a marketing plan, comparative titles, and a tag line. Check out Jane Friedman’s (https://www.janefriedman.com/start-here-how-to-write-a-book-proposal/) or Steve Laube Agency’s blog (https://stevelaube.com/guidelines/) (for some excellent advice on how to write a proposal that will win over publication boards.
  3. Find your Tribe:  Scan the other treehouses in your genre for authors and readers who you would love to build relationships with. Writing is not a solitary pursuit, and if you haven’t already realized this, now is the time to open your eyes to the massive community that can’t wait to rally around you! Try looking under hashtags like #writingcommunity #yawriters #mgfantasy #bookstagram. Once you find your new bookish friends, support them with all your heart. Share their posts, participate in their cover reveals and launch parties and read and review their books! It will show that you’re not only interested in your genre, but that you are invested in your little corner of the bibliophile universe.
  4. Climb even higher in that tree: While you’re waiting on this story to find it’s perfect home, practice and improve on your craft by attending writing conferences, picking up a craft book or two, and then yes, writing that next story! If diving right into another novel length project is too daunting, try crafting short stories that could act as a lead magnet on that website you’ll need to create once you get a contract.
  5. Be okay with tumbles: Part of putting yourself out there, is knowing that this brave step will only lead to improvement. Take on a growth mindset. If you receive a no from an agent or publisher, take any feedback they give you and use it to make your query and writing stronger. If the no’s pile up, find other areas in your life that are yes’s. Make a practice of seeing your daily blessings. Get a pretty journal and write down one thing that you are grateful for each and every day.  

Guys, I am currently putting these exact things into practice within my own treehouse. The wait is long and sometimes difficult, but no matter the outcome, I will be ready and revived. I’d love to connect across treehouses through virtual tin-can telephones @tara.k.ross on Instagram and @tara_k_ross on Twitter. I also just started a weekly gratitude challenge on Instagram using writing prompts, and I’d love for you to join me. We can wait with a fabulous view of today, tomorrow and the really not-so-distant future together.

Tara K. Ross lives with her husband, two daughters and rescued fur-baby in a field of cookie-cutter homes near Toronto, Canada. When Tara is not writing or reading all things young adult fiction, you can find her rock climbing the Ontario escarpment, planning her family’s next jungle trek or podcasting and blogging at www.tarakross.com.  FADE TO WHITE is her debut novel.

Thea Fenton’s life looks picture-perfect, but inside, she is falling apart. Wracked by anxiety no one seems to understand or care about, she resorts to self-harm to deflect the pain inside.

​When a local teen commits suicide, Thea’s anxiety skyrockets. Unexplainable things happen, leaving her feeling trapped within her own chaotic mind. The lines between reality and another world start to blur, and her previously mundane issues seem more daunting and insurmountable than ever.

​Then she meets Khi, a mysterious new boy from the coffee shop who seems to know her better than she knows herself—and doesn’t think she’s crazy. His quiet confidence and unfounded familiarity draw her into an unconventional friendship. 

​Khi journeys with her through grief, fear, and confusion to arrive at compassion for the one person Thea never thought she could love. 

​A deeply transformational novel from an authentic new voice in Christian young adult fiction.

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Common Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them with Abigayle Claire

Common Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

As a freelance editor for the past few years, I’ve seen enough manuscripts to identify several key areas where most writers make some mistakes. By making you aware of them, my hope today is to empower you to avoid some of these from now on!

Things You Need to Get Right

These are the true rule-breaker issues that 99% of grammar-savvy people will agree can’t be changed up for personal taste. If these aren’t right in your final draft, chances are they’re wrong.

  • Comma splices – in short, a comma should never join two complete sentences.
  • Dialogue tags – when you insert any action or description into dialogue, watch out for where the periods, commas, quotation marks, and capitalization end up!
  • Plural possessives – this is knowing when to use Chandler’s (one person) vs Chandlers’ (multiple people) and “Abi and Madison’s house” (joint possession) vs “Abi’s and Madison’s houses” (distinct possession).

Things People Fight Over

Then there are the subjective things that people can’t agree on how they should be done. If you’re traditionally publishing, your publisher probably has a preference for you to follow. If you’re self-publishing, the key here is to decide what you prefer and then be consistent.

  • Punctuation spacing – particularly around ellipses (…) and em-dashes (—)
  • Optional spellings – all right vs alright; ’til vs til; book reader vs book-reader
  • British vs American standards – quotation mark punctuation (“”, vs “,”) and spelling of words like grey/gray and theatre/theater
  • Oxford comma – a comma before “and” in a series of items

Things Everyone Misses

There’s nothing more frustrating as a reader and satisfying as an editor than spotting an error in a final version of a traditionally published book. But, hey, errors happen to everyone. Here are a few I’ve spotted in the wild more than once.

  • Double spaces – do a “find and replace” search to replace all double spaces with single spaces and voila.
  • Quotation mark formatting – there’s the softer, curved quotation marks that change from font to font (“”) and the more rigid, straight quotation marks (“”) that are usually a result of no formatting whatsoever. Keep your eye peeled for those harsher, unformatted quotation marks (both single and double) and eliminate them if you can!
  • Separated em-dashes – these (–) should be joined as a single unit (—)
  • Separated ellipses – these (…) should be a single unit so they stay together and not three individual periods. Good luck getting your computer to help you with this!
  • Ending punctuation – watch out for missing punctuation at the end of a sentence as well as combos that shouldn’t exist like a comma and a period.
  • Apostrophe direction – I feel like no one knows this (including computers), but when you’re using a word like ’til or ’cause, the apostrophe should point toward the missing letters just like they do in the word can’t.

Things that Relate to the Craft

There’s comma placement and then there’s storytelling. As Jeff Gerke once said, “The avoidance of error is not the same as the achievement of art.” Do a little research on these topics to make sure you understand them. But because they eventually come down to personal preference, don’t just do them well—do them creatively.

  • Showing vs telling – there’s a time and place for both and you get to find your own balance, but the goal is to make sure the reader feels like they’re being shown things through the storytelling, not told things by the author.
  • Point of view (POV) – if the character doesn’t experience it or have knowledge of it, then neither should the reader. Change scenes before changing which character’s head you’re in.
  • Repetition – do be repetitive—consistent—in your formatting and spelling. Don’t be repetitive in your word choices and sentence length or else things can get disengaging.
  • Active voice vs passive voice – this comes down to your prose being as strong and decisive as possible.
  • Thought-speech – writing out characters’ thoughts is optional, but it adds so much if you find a way that you like to do it.

Things That’ll Help

Some resources I’ve found helpful in these areas (and way, way more) are the books The Elements of Style and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. No matter what weak spots resonate with you, these will fill the gaps! And when you’re trying to better understand the nitty-gritty grammatical conundrums that make up the English language, try https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl for great explanations with examples.

Let me know: what grammatical and/or storytelling resources do you recommend?

Abigayle has been a writer ever since her mother taught her how to hold a pencil. However, she devoted more time to reading words with her green eyes than penning them with her left hand. Inspired by a crazy dream at the age of sixteen, she set off on a journey to self-publish her first novel, Martin Hospitality.

Since then, Abigayle has devoted herself to sharing what she has learned through the mediums of freelance editing and her blog The Left-Handed Typist … when period drama films are not calling more loudly. Now she is committed to providing a community where real-world stories resound and prose has purpose.

None of her successes, including winning a 2017 Readers’ Favorite Award, would be possible without the support of her Savior, large family, and online community.

Gemma Ebworthy is a struggling single mother—but not for much longer. Engaged to a kind-hearted farmer boy, her turbulent life is looking more stable at last, but troubles are still on the horizon. It seems their efforts to build a legacy for their unique family are constantly under siege. Farris cherishes the only life he’s ever known, even though he feels more called to the mission field than his adoptive father’s fields. Growing up among extended family and in the Christian faith, he’s always had a firm foundation. Yet when the past Gemma is so ashamed of—the one Farris can’t even remember—comes calling again, the life they’ve built is put to the test. For it to remain standing, Gemma is going to have to silence her demons once and for all. But this time, she’s not alone.

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My Publishing Process with Allyson Kennedy

When I sat down to write my debut novel, Can’t Beat the Heart of a Carolina Girl, back in 2010, it’s safe to say I had no idea what I was doing. It was my first attempt at a novel, and even though I had dabbled with short stories, song lyrics, and poems before, completing the first draft was daunting. Now ten years later, with four completed manuscripts, soon to be three published novels, and plenty of big dreams for my author career, I’ve developed a better understanding of how to fine-tune my publishing process from first draft to finished novel.

WIPs

When I start a new WIP (work in progress), the very first thing I do is print off a copy of Abbie Emmons’ Turn Your Messy Story Idea Into an Outline plotting worksheet. The worksheet provides prompts to help you discover what your character’s goals, misbeliefs, and desires are while also covering each part of the story’s structure. This worksheet converted me from a former overwhelmed panster into a plotter who can better understand story structure and how to craft a character-driven novel. I highly recommend checking out Abbie’s website to find out how to access your own copy.

Next, I use what I’ve plotted using Abbie’s worksheet and create a more detailed outline for each chapter on notebook paper. Under each chapter’s name, I list out four or five scenes that will need to be included in the chapter as they correspond with the story beats listed in the worksheet. I tend to only plot out around five chapters in advance before writing. As I near writing the fifth chapter, I go back and plot out five more chapters and continue the process until the first draft is complete.

Truth be told, when I was a pantser, it took me anywhere from one to nine years before finishing a manuscript. I am still, to this day, going back and trying to finish some of the drafts I started back then. My next release, The Crush, is no exception… being the nine year old manuscript. Its sequels, however, were brought into existence once I discovered Abbie’s worksheet, so I was able to write them a lot faster. Book 2 of The Ballad of Emery Brooks trilogy, The Fall, only took a little over seven months to complete. Book 3, The Dream, is expected to be finished by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

Editing

Once I finish writing a manuscript, I try to keep in mind a piece of editing advice I once heard: give yourself a couple months away from the manuscript before picking it up for editing. Though I gave in and did the first read-throughs within the first couple months of completing both Speak Your Mind and The Crush, I have been forced to wait over six months to edit The Fall. Hopefully, the editing process will be better for it. 

Before publication, I take time to read through each manuscript around seven times. During the first read-through, I simply get reacquainted with the story, and take notes on any problematic things I find. The remaining read-throughs are for editing. Many authors print proofs of their books for editing, but I prefer to load the draft onto my Kindle as a Mobi file, or have Microsoft Word read it back to me. My Kindle allows me to take notes and highlight areas as I read, which is super helpful. Microsoft Word’s Read Aloud feature is an amazing tool for picking up errors that may not be flagged by the spelling/grammar checker. 

For the second read-through, I usually use my Kindle and make editing notes. For the third, I switch back to Microsoft Word. After that, I try to get a few more read-throughs in on my Kindle before sending the manuscript off to my editor. The manuscript stays with my editor for a month or two before it is returned. My editor uses Google Docs to notate any changes that need to be made, and I make the edits in my book file in Microsoft Word. While editing The Crush, I also had an author friend alpha read the novel, and she offered loads of valuable editing advice as well. 

After making any suggested editing changes, I do yet another read-through using Microsoft Word to see if we’ve caught everything. Most of the time, I will only find a few minute errors at this stage. 

Formatting

And then… *screams in horror* comes the formatting. 

For The Crush, I changed up my usual formatting method and decided to use Draft2Digital’s print book formatting instead. Draft2Digital has many beautiful formatting templates to choose from, and the final product for my paperback file is the most professional interior file I’ve had to date. However, there is one issue with Draft2Digital’s file formatting that many authors, including myself, have to work around: D2D’s software does not recognize blank lines within manuscript files, so authors have to insert special characters such as a period or a dash to break the text apart.

A quick tip I learned during this round of formatting is that if you don’t want the periods or dashes to be extremely visible, you can shrink their text size down to 1 pt. Based on the online proof copies, the dots are no longer distracting and the formatting still looks great.

Publishing

For the first three years of my publishing journey, I solely published with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), a requirement of being enrolled in KDP Select. In February 2020, I decided to “go wide” with my publishing strategy, meaning I now sell to more ebook vendors, such as Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. I am able to distribute to these vendors by using Draft2Digital. So far, I have found that I like having “wide” distribution better, as it doesn’t exclude readers who buy ebooks outside of the Kindle store.

My publishing process isn’t glamorous by any means, but I’ve found it to be the best fit for me while I’m still working a full-time job. I hope this post can help aspiring authors in similar life situations!


-Allyson Kennedy, author of The Crush(The Ballad of Emery Brooks, #1)

Allyson Kennedy is a southern contemporary YA author whose goal is to write realistic, thought-provoking books that honor God while not sugarcoating the realities of the world. When she’s not putting pen to paper, she can often be found with her nose in a book, watching movies for “storytelling research”, or hanging out at bowling alleys across eastern North Carolina. 

Never settle for anything less.

A combination hopeless romantic and old soul trapped in a teenager’s body, closet musician Emery Brooks wonders if she’ll ever find a love as timeless as her grandparents’. Fear of judgment and social alienation due to her older brother’s past mistakes render her incapable of writing a love song. Still, Emery holds fast to the ideals her Grandma Adeline instilled in her from a young age, vowing to allow God to handwrite her love story, to never settle for anything less.

That is, until love cynic Sawyer Alston enters her world. Broken by the wrath of his parents’ failed marriage, Sawyer has been uprooted from everything he’s ever known and now sees love as a void of empty promises. When Emery and Sawyer meet due to their mothers’ rekindled friendship, Emery soon realizes she’s in over her head.

For, despite her resistance, her first crush, her first glimpse at love, involves a boy who doesn’t believe in love at all.  

You can check out Allyson’s website here https://authoringarrowheads.com, you can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads, and you can find her books on Amazon, and BookBub, or here.

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Tips to Help You Want to Write with Naomi Downing

With all these posts with Inkling to Write related to how to help after your book is finished, I thought I would come and share some tips on how to get that first draft finished!

There is a lot of different advice out there, but some of the most common is “just sit down and write even when you don’t feel like it.” And while I’m not going to say that that isn’t good advice, what if there were some ways to help you want to write?

  1. Have a designated writing area.

Some of us don’t have a whole room we can make “our office”- and I don’t even have a desk in my room. (For some reason I just like to sit on the floor) But there may be a spot you can have as your writing spot. It might be your floor, or a certain corner of the living room couch or whatever it might be. Try to be consistent in being there while you work, and it may help you get in the mindset of “oh, this is my work space, so let’s get to work”.

  • Set goals.

Different people write differently. Different speeds, different length stories, etc. with this in mind, I can’t say “Do NaNoWriMo and write 50,000 words in a month.” Maybe that is a ridiculous goal, or maybe you are one of those people that can write that in a weekend. Set a goal that will work for you. Maybe that’s writing every day, or writing a certain amount of words in a week. Personally, I like having a certain amount of time spent on my story be my goal- such as writing for an hour. That way I can switch it to editing or plotting, and I still feel productive.

  •  Talk it over with a friend.

Even if your friend isn’t a writer, ask them if you can talk it out. They may have a really good ideas you haven’t thought of… and sometimes just talking it out can help you solve some problems.

  • Going along with number 3- have a writing community.

There are a lot of different ways to find some writing friends. You can look up writing groups on Facebook, or use hashtags and look them up on Instagram or Twitter. (I hear going to writing conferences is also really good and helpful for meeting people- and you get to meet them in person so that’s fun! But I don’t think any of us are going to be doing that anytime soon.) Writing friends can be so helpful, so I definitely recommend trying to find some. I’m still trying to build my writing friend group so don’t feel too far behind if you don’t have any yet. NaNoWriMo is coming and it might be a good time to try to find writing friends- even if you aren’t doing NaNoWriMo or if you’re just doing a personal challenge next month.

  • Why does this story matter?

I feel like this is typical question writers either get asked or are told to ask themselves… but it is important too. The answer doesn’t have to be super deep and philosophical either. One time my writing had kind of drained me. I had studied so many rules they were taking over my creative process so one day I decided I needed to try my best to shut out all of the rules and write something that I loved because I loved it. Once I was able to ignore those voices telling me I wasn’t doing it right, I had so much fun writing that story. If the reason your story matters is to help you fall back in love with writing- that’s a good enough reason.

  • Come back to it later.

One time I was writing, a story I absolutely loved, but I got to one part and I didn’t know what I wanted to happen in that scene. I knew what I wanted to happen later, but not then… so instead of forcing myself to write something I would struggle with and find boring, I skipped just a little ahead to when I knew what was going to happen. It worked well for me then, and it might work well with you.

  • Take a break.

I like to think I’m not the only writer that doesn’t write every day, that doesn’t love it every day… I know some writers are appalled at the idea of not writing every day, but I am not one of those writers. I take breaks- sometimes for good reasons and, honestly, sometimes not for good reasons. If you have written yourself dry, it’s a good thing to step back and refill. This could be for a day, or a week… I don’t want to tell you how long or short your break should be, but if you need one, you should take it. Reading and experiencing life is an important part of writing (and life) as well.

  • Learn the rules so you can break them.

I’m going to end with one of my favorite pieces of advice I heard on writing. I read that and it was so relieved. I don’t have to make sure I am following every piece of advice every time I try to write! Especially in the first draft, write how it’s easiest and natural for you to write- even if it’s a little different. Let your character’s voice come through whether that’s improper grammar through dialogue or a far too repetitive quirk you’ll have to tone down later. Write your story first so that you will love it.

I would love to hear any of your tips on how to keep going on a project or how you insure you love your story! Also, why does your story matter to you?

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Writing a Sequel with Anna Schaeffer

Several years ago, I stepped into a world I made up in my imagination. Pecan Creek, Georgia, became the fictional backdrop of a story about a girl who ran away from her past and experienced a life-changing summer. All of This was my first published novel, and I didn’t have plans to continue the story.

Two weeks after the book released, I began graduate school. Earning a master’s degree took up a lot of my time, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Sadie’s story wasn’t over. Plus, readers were asking about what happened next. So one day, as I flew 30,000 feet over the eastern United States on a work trip, I finally decided to start listening to the story that was weaving itself together in my heart.

“Okay,” I muttered to myself as I pulled a journal from my backpack. “How in the world do I write a sequel?”

I re-read All of This to search for loose ends in the fabric of the story. Rather than happily-ever-afters, I like to write hopeful endings. Because of that, I had left a couple of unanswered questions in the last chapter. That worked in my favor, because those questions became my starting point.

One of the biggest questions: Does Sadie stay in Georgia at the end of All of This, or return to her home state of Washington?

That was the first question the sequel needed to answer. I asked myself: “What if Sadie goes home? She’s been on a life-changing journey in the first book, so what would happen if she stepped back into her old life as a totally different person? She would be different, but everything she ran from would be the same.”

That’s how Just One Thing began.

But I was afraid. I worried if readers wanted to meet new characters, or if they were returning to my story world because they wanted to hang out with characters they already knew and loved.

I worried how readers would feel about the direction I took the new story.

I worried about myself. Could I write a sequel that was strong enough to stand on its own and didn’t rely too much on the first book?

Basically, I did a good bit of worrying…and drank quite a bit of coffee.

I knew my readers trusted me, and I didn’t want to let them down. But sometimes the best writing happens when you’re a little scared of it. So I took a deep breath and dove in anyway.

I’m not an expert by any means, but here are some things I learned on my sequel-writing journey:

Plot. Storytelling is all about raising the stakes. There’s nothing more disappointing that finally reading a highly-anticipated sequel…and it’s like you’re walking through a bowl of mashed potatoes. Its plot is a little mushy and doesn’t grab your attention, and the characters don’t grow or make you care more about them than you did when you first met them.

I was scared of that happening with Just One Thing…so I surveyed readers and asked: What do you think happens next, after All of This ends? What happens to Sadie? What choices does she make?

These answers did two really cool things for me. First, they showed me what readers were hoping for in a sequel. Now I knew exactly what answers were most important to them. I learned what they thought Sadie would experience if she stayed in Georgia, and I also learned what they believed would happen if she went back to Washington. I found out about what they were wishing for a certain relationship in the book, and what they really wanted to hear more about.

Second, readers’ answers kept me from writing a story that was too predictable. I now knew what readers thought would happen…so I made sure I added some unexpected twists and turns.

I outlined the plot, then spread it out and asked myself how I could strengthen it. I added bigger plot points that affected the whole story, increased the drama a bit (while still keeping it realistic), and worked extra hard on character development and relationships.

Characters. They’ve gotta be consistent. For me, several years had passed between when I wrote the first book and when I wrote the sequel, but only about three weeks had passed in my story world. So while I was a little older and my writing voice had grown, my main character’s voice needed to stay the same.

I started by re-reading my first book and getting back into Sadie’s head. I write in first-person, so that really helped me remember this fictional girl I’d befriended years earlier. I made a character journal for her. I spent time writing in Sadie’s voice about random topics and about her view of the world. I sent a draft of the story to people who knew the first book well and asked: Does this sound like the Sadie you know? Is her voice consistent? Is this a seamless transition between books? I did that for all of the core characters.

One of my main goals was consistency. A lot of times, I ran into things I’d said in the first book that I wished I hadn’t…because now I had to stick with what I’d said and adjust my plans. Most of these were passing thoughts Sadie had or a comment another character randomly tossed out.

Even though making sure the story world stayed consistent, ultimately, the sequel was stronger than it would’ve been if I hadn’t put in that extra work. My loyalty to consistency made me think more deeply and be more imaginative as I searched for solutions to the corners I’d written myself into.

Setting. One way I made sure the book could stand on its own and not use the first book as a crutch was to change the setting. Sadie left Georgia, and I told a story set in Washington. This meant that not only were the climate and culture different, but the cast of characters was new as well.

Of course, you don’t have to change locations when you write a sequel. Some of my favorite sequels take place in the same spot and that contributes to why I love those story so much. But if I wanted my own character—and my writing—to grow, I knew we needed to move. Readers still got to hear what the original characters were up to, but they also got introduced to some pretty endearing new people.

Writing about a new setting was a great exercise for me. I got to imagine the sights and sounds of a new place, and I had more freedom to tell the story without being limited by how I’d set up the setting in the first book. The small town of Pecan Creek was perfect for All of This, but Just One Thing needed a whole city to contain its plot.

Today, I’m writing another book. It isn’t a sequel, but it’s set in the same story world. I’m discovering how to see a setting we already know through a different character’s eyes. It’s almost like writing a sequel, since some familiar faces will be hanging around.

It’s a challenge, but it’s so much fun.

If I had to pick a piece of advice to give someone attempting to write a sequel for the first time, I’d say: Even if you don’t want to swap locations or your core cast of characters, don’t be afraid to change something major. Ask all the “What if?” questions you can think of, and jot down whatever answers come to mind.

Don’t be afraid to write the sequel. Or be a little scared…but tell your story anyway. You just might end up loving the process.

Anna Schaeffer writes about girls navigating their teen years and discovering their purpose along the way. Anna lives in Georgia, where she teaches middle school ELA. When she’s not lost in a book or helping sixth graders discover a love of stories, Anna loves hosting movie nights, making playlists, and taking road trips with her family. Hang out with Anna at annaschaefferwrites.com and on social media @aschaewrites.

All of This

Sadie Franklin is all about independence, but when one of her popular parties gets too crazy, her usually uninvolved dad sends her across the country to spend the summer with relatives.

Living in small-town Pecan Creek, Georgia, is culture shock for a girl from Seattle, and it doesn’t help that Sadie’s aunt and uncle are total church people. Sunday school? No, thanks.

Add a houseful of little cousins, an accidental friendship with the preachers daughter of all people, and the attention of a guy who might actually understand her murky past, and it’s enough to cue an identity crisis.

When life-altering news rocks Sadie’s world and reveals messy family secrets, she’s forced to face the God she’s avoided since her mom’s death eight years ago. Sadie is surrounded by people who say God loves her and has great plans for her life, but if God is really good, why does He let Sadie’s life unravel? Could there really be a purpose in all of this?

Just One Thing

Sadie Franklin wants to move on, but first she must return to everything she wants to forget. 

Senior year in Seattle is the perfect chance for a former party girl to start over, right? All she has to do is build a relationship with her detached father, make decent grades, and avoid her ex-friends. Oh, and convince everyone she really has changed. Easy peasy.

The first chance she gets, she wants to hop on the next flight back to Pecan Creek, Georgia. Although the tea there is sweet enough to give her cavities, at least the people love her and believe she has a purpose bigger than her painful past. Sadie meets a new friend looking for her own fresh start, who shows Sadie the value of true friendship and reminds her there’s always more to a person’s story than what’s on display.

But figuring out the next step is messy, and it’s hard to change a reputation. An after-school job, constant arguments with her dad, and an undefined relationship with the wonderfully annoying Georgia guy who won her heart only add to the crazy.

When tragedy collides with Sadie’s carefully re-built life, she learns that trusting in a God she can’t see is more difficult than she ever imagined.

Is starting over worth the cost?

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How to Balance Your Writing Schedule- By Olivia Smit

If there’s one thing we’re always trying to achieve, both in writing and life, it’s balance. And yet, even amidst the hundreds of Google articles and blog posts and other self-help resources (to which I am simply adding my voice) the advice is conflicting and often unhelpful.

Different writers advocate for different schedules, different priorities, waking up early, staying up late. All or nothing—or both, as if that was even possible! And sometimes, it can feel like a lot of noise, and a lot of pressure. I must be doing it wrong, you might think. If only I could find the one magical schedule or rule or routine—then my writing time could really take off.

But what I’m here to say is that maybe that’s not how it works at all. Maybe there isn’t just one right way to do things—maybe it’s more than being an early bird or a night owl, setting a routine and sticking to it, forming a habit that will maximize everything and catapult you straight for success.

I think balance looks a lot more like a sliding scale than a set of scales weighing your performance against itself. And I’d like to advocate for a new kind of balance: not the kind that demands equality in every section of your life, but the kind that says “maybe today, I won’t write so much. And maybe tomorrow, I’ll write more.” Maybe every single day will look totally different (or maybe they’ll all look exactly the same), and hold your horses—but I think that’s totally okay.

In short, what I’m trying to tell you is that you can take the pressure off. Just like snowflakes, stories (and the people who write them) are all different. They write best under different conditions. And so, no article (not even this one!) will give you one perfect answer for how to balance your life and wring the most out of every second of writing time you have. My best advice is to try a variety of different schedules and routines (and then toss them out the window sometimes, too) until you figure out what works best for you.

With that said, there are a few practical tips I can offer that will help you along the way.

Stop waiting for the “perfect” time to write

I really like writing late at night. When I’m sleepy, ideas seem to slip more easily from my brain to the page, unencumbered by my to-do list or the million and one other things occupying my brain space every day. However, do I only write at night? Do I mostly write at night? Do I even often write at night? The answer to all of those questions is no.

The fact of the matter is, right now my life is a little hectic. And I know that if I bump my writing back and back again, waiting for those late-night hours, there’s a huge chance that by the time I get there, something else will have come up. Maybe my husband wants to hang out with me. Maybe my sister calls. Maybe I want to go to bed early! And suddenly, I haven’t written a thing and my last chance is swiftly ticking away.

Instead, I write as much as I can whenever I can during the day, and if I have time in the evening, I sink gladly into those hours and type furiously away. But if I get there and have no time to spare, it’s okay. I got the words in earlier.

Try writing sprints—sometimes

When I’m exhausted and frazzled and feeling like my to-do list is about to swallow me whole, the last thing I want to do is stare at my computer and write deep, compelling character interactions for an entire hour. If I set a large goal for myself, I usually end up scrolling through Instagram after the first fifteen minutes. It just feels so unattainable!

Setting smaller goals really helps me. Lately, I’ve been setting my phone timer for 10 minutes, writing without even letting my hands pause on the keys for that entire time, and then taking a break. The words pour out, I don’t get distracted, and soon I’m able to move on to other things.

If you’re finding that your current writing sprints are drifting into distraction, try shortening your focus time and then taking a nice, long break!

Let it go

Whatever it is that’s stressing you out—word count, fears about the future, wondering if you’re doing it right—let it go. Take a break. Suck in a deep breath. Recognize that maybe today’s 250 words are as big a victory as yesterday’s 800.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, you may feel yourself hit a wall. And as much as you’re striving for balance, even if you didn’t write anything yesterday and barely scraped a word out the day before, maybe what you really need is a break. Go read a book. Enjoy a walk outdoors. Take yourself away from whatever problem your story is presenting. This, too, is a form of balance—remember the sliding scale. Today you’re at one end, and soon you’ll swing back around again.

Conversely, push through

In absolute contradiction to my previous point (remember, you have to find what works for you) it might be time to sit yourself down at the computer, buckle in, and force out a few of those 10-minute writing sprints. Maybe you feel like it’s all terrible—and maybe that’s totally okay. Believe me, if I immediately stopped writing every time I felt like the words weren’t good enough, I wouldn’t have finished a single book! Just get the words down, no matter how hard and terrible it feels, and trust that by the time you sit down to edit, they will either a) not be so bad after all, or b) still be bad … but totally fixable.

Don’t take any advice too seriously—have fun! Explore!

            Finally, after writing an entire article full of writing advice, I’d like to stop and remind you not to listen to me too much. Feel free to try anything I’ve suggested here, but if it’s not working for you, ditch it—fast. You are probably a very different writer than I am, and everything I’ve compiled here is simply intended to be guidelines that will help you figure out your own unique (and totally great) form of balance in your writing life. In closing, I’ll leave you with this reminder: Relax! Have fun! And remember the sliding scale.

Olivia Smit loves baking, visiting small towns, and writing stories that faces hard truth with hope and encouragement. Olivia has an Honours Specialization in Creative Writing, English Language, and Literature and lives in Canada with her family. Seeing Voices is her first novel. The sequel will release in the spring of 2021. You can also find Olivia on Instagram and Twitter @oliviamsmit

Skylar Brady has a pretty good idea of how her life is going to turn out, and getting in a car accident the summer before twelfth grade isn’t supposed to be part of the plan. Although Skylar escapes mostly unharmed, the accident has stolen more than just her hearing from her: she’s also lost the close bond she used to have with her brother.

When her parents decide to take a house-sitting job halfway across the province, it’s just one more thing that isn’t going according to plan. As the summer progresses, Skylar begins to gain confidence in herself, but as she tries to mend her relationship with her brother, she stumbles upon another hidden trauma. Suddenly, she’s keeping as many secrets as she’s struggling to uncover, and creating more problems than she could ever hope to solve.

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Outlining Tips with Sara Francis

Every year I’m excited for Inkling to Write, and this year is no exception! To kick off Inkling to Write 2020 we have a post from author Sara Francis talking about plotting tips. I hope you enjoy and come back for the rest of the posts. 😀 -Naomi

You have an awesome idea for a book. You’ve opened your laptop, pick up a pen, AND… *crickets*. How do you begin? Where do you go? How do you end? Don’t worry, there is an easy way to figure that out.

You write an outline.

Don’t worry, it’s not the scary outlines you may have to have written in high school or college. In this blog, I’m going to give you an easy template for outlining your novel in as little as 11 sentences. You can visually see where you start, where you’re going, and how you end! (Don’t worry, it’s not set in stone. If your story goes another way, you can change your outline!)

There are 2 parts to outlining: THE PLOT and THE STORY ARC.

PART 1: THE PLOT

There are six questions to answer for the plot part of the outline. Frankly, these are probably the easiest. If you have an idea for a book, you probably already know the answer to these questions! 

  1. Who is the protagonist?
  2. What is the situation? 
  3. What is the protagonist’s objective? 
  4. Who is the opponent? 
  5. What will be the disaster? 
  6. What’s the conflict?

So in short: good guys, bad guys, and the problem. Easy, right?

PART 2: THE STORY ARC 

This section might be a little more complex. You do have to look at your story as a whole. Remember, it’s not set in stone. If you feel like changing the ending later (or don’t know what it is yet) that’s okay! As long as you plan out enough to get you started, then you can go back and fill in the blanks!

  1. Exposition
    1. This is the beginning of the story! In the exposition, you’ll introduce your characters, their situation, start your world-building, and so on! 
  2. Rising action
    1. These are events that create suspense. This is the meat of your story and I would recommend outlining it as much as you can. If you can’t, no worries! Just write a vague idea so you can get started.
  3. Climax
    1. The most intense and exciting part of the story! This is what your rising action has been leading up to. What is revealed, what happens that changes your characters’ lives. This is the moment that should make your readers gasp or cry, gripping the book and not wanting to let go. 
  4. Falling action
    1. This is when everything changes after the climax. The snowball reached the top at the climax, now it is rolling downhill. What happens now? What actions will lead towards the end of the story?
  5. Resolution
    1. You’ve made it! The resolution is when the problem you outlined in the plot is resolved. This is the end! What do you want readers to remember? Are you going to give them a cliffhanger? Are you going to satisfy their needs?

These five points are the norm for every story arc. Sure you may have multiple rising action/climaxes, but that’s up to you to decide. 

And that’s pretty much it! By following these prompts, you can create an effective outline in as little as 11 sentences. I know that some people are pantsers—preferring to think of the story on the fly—and that’s okay! But even pantsers should have some idea of what they’re writing. 

Outlines are the backbones to stories that stay straight. 

I was a pantser starting out. My first book “The Isles” was written without a plan. Frankly, it took much longer to fix the book than to write it. I revised it about 16 times before I filled all the holes. When I wrote my trilogy finale “The Underground”, I used this outline template I created. Man, oh, man, let me tell you. Piece of cake! It made the writing and editing process go much smoother. No major plot holes or inconsistencies! I was able to reference back to the outline if I felt the story was going in circles and was able to fix it for a much easier read. 

I hope this helps you! If you need a reference sheet, I have a downloadable version of this outline: https://bit.ly/SF-DOWNLOAD It’s there for you if you need it. 

If you’re interested in the outcomes of outlining, check out my complete YA SciFi/Dystopian Trilogy “The Terra Testimonies”! https://www.sara-francis.com/the-terra-testimonies

Happy writing! 

Sara Francis

Author | Media Communicator | Speaker

ABOUT: Sara Francis is the author of the YA Sci Fi/Dystopian trilogy “The Terra Testimonies” and the children’s series “Adventures of Wobot”. She is determined to share the love of writing, literature, and the arts with aspiring creatives all over through her books and services. Check out her website for more information! www.sara-francis.com.

The Invaders left the world in ruin. Their first worldwide devastation, named the Accident, was unforeseen by everyone. Well, almost. Seven men knew of the approaching destruction and acted by preparing six islands as a place of refuge. Rescuing thousands of people, these Keepers decided to get the next generation ready for war; in their own way. Through training, experimentation, and study, the men created an army of young Bionics, Mutants, geeks, doctors, farmers, and militia to fight the battle.

However, things do not go as planned.

Alison is a Bionic who still has faint memories of her past life. These memories continue to haunt her and make her doubt the Keepers who saved her from an explosion eight years ago. She knows in her gut that something else is afoot, but cannot find out what. On the other hand, Sami and Aaron, a Mutant and a geek, have absolutely no memory of the world before and continue to do as they are told. Despite their obedience, their suspicions are aroused repeatedly and cannot shake the feeling of uncertainty.

The flame of these teens’ doubts is fanned by one interesting character that subtly creates chaos on the Isles.

Read the record logs of Alison, Sami, and Aaron and join them on their journey to find the truth in their islands of lies. Follow them on their adventure as they put themselves in the lines of danger and learn to use their abilities in combat. The roller coaster of suspicions will have you on the edge of your seat until these teenagers find the answer and do something about it.

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The Crush by Allyson Kennedy ~ Book Review

About the book:

Never settle for anything less.

A combination hopeless romantic and old soul trapped in a teenager’s body, closet musician Emery Brooks wonders if she’ll ever find a love as timeless as her grandparents’. Fear of judgment and social alienation due to her older brother’s past mistakes render her incapable of writing a love song. Still, Emery holds fast to the ideals her Grandma Adeline instilled in her from a young age, vowing to allow God to handwrite her love story, to never settle for anything less.

That is, until love cynic Sawyer Alston enters her world. Broken by the wrath of his parents’ failed marriage, Sawyer has been uprooted from everything he’s ever known and now sees love as a void of empty promises. When Emery and Sawyer meet due to their mothers’ rekindled friendship, Emery soon realizes she’s in over her head.

For, despite her resistance, her first crush, her first glimpse at love, involves a boy who doesn’t believe in love at all.

Releasing October 24, 2020

My Review:

I think this book told a really sweet story, but… not for the right age group. I don’t think it is healthy for someone so young to be so obsessed with finding the person they’re going to spend the rest of their life with… which leads me to the relationship.

When she is fourteen she meets the Sawyer- the guy, the crush- and I don’t want to repeat myself, but like I said she has an unhealthy obsession with finding the one (who she decides is Sawyer).

Sawyer is the love interest, and when the book starts out he is a senior in high school. I don’t think it is too weird for a fourteen year old girl to have a crush on someone a few years older than her, but (spoiler…) he starts to like her it freaked me out a little bit. It did end up they were only 2 and 1/2 years apart or so, but it still seemed really hard to be okay with.

So they start dating. But I really felt like they didn’t have a healthy relationship, Sawyer wasn’t in a good space mentally (which isn’t to say you can’t date someone then, but…. maybe you shouldn’t when you both are so young). I felt like there came a point where Sawyer (didn’t say this but I felt like that’s what their relationship had come too) would have been like, “If you break up with me, I’ll kill myself”. And… that’s intense… in a very negative way.

But I don’t just have negative opinions on this book! I feel like I unloaded a lot of negative stuff, and I don’t think that it was really that I didn’t like this book- I just felt like the main relationship was unhealthy which… affected the whole book.

I did really like that the book was set in 2008- it was kind of different. Most books, unless they were written then, aren’t set then. So it was a nice switch, still contemporary but still not happening right now.

Emery is a song writer, and I loved the songs she wrote! I wish this book had come with a CD so I could listen to all the songs that were written in the book. I think that would have been really cool.

Another thing that I really liked and I feel like you really don’t see a lot in books, is the unhealth church they were a part of. Usually (in my experience) when a church is portrayed in fiction it’s always portrayed positively…. but that isn’t always the case in real life. A church is made up of sinners, so it might be nice to see a church every now and then that isn’t super great. (There was a slight disappointment where Emery just decided to go to a different church and that was the end of that. It might have been nice to see her struggling to fit in, or struggle with that decision, or something. But it was still a positive in my opinion).

Okay, and the last thing: even though I felt like Sawyer and Emery’s relationship was a big “maybe you should NOT” (in my opinion, and this is directed at the characters, I’m not saying that the author is bad!) I still really enjoyed the book. The songs, the 2008-ness, the friendship, and the small town-ness of it. My love of it combined with the things that concerned me made me decide on giving the book 3 out of 5 stars.

I am very interested in seeing what else Allyson has in store for Emery.

(I got a free copy of this book to write a review for. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

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Never Say Goodbye by Sarah Grace Grzy ~ Book Review

About the book:

They say time heals all wounds. But he was finding it a poor painkiller.

Tyler Collens has seen grief and loss in his years of experience as a paramedic–but he never expected it to touch his life in such a personal way. The death of his wife eighteen months ago shook his steady world and changed him in more ways than he can count. Time and routine have steadied his feet, and he looks toward the future as he raises his infant daughter–but the past has a tighter grip on him than he knows.

Alyvia Emmerson has never been certain of who she is or where she belongs. Her dad’s abandonment as a teen broke a fragile piece of her heart, but ten years later, she has moved on. Living on her own, she at last has a project to devote herself to: revitalizing a shabby bookstore. But she didn’t count on her dream job revealing the shattered pieces of herself she thought mended long ago.

In this sophomore novel featuring beloved characters from Live Without You, Sarah Grace Grzy explores themes of grief, hope, and second chances in a story that touches both the heart and spirit.

My Review: I’m not one to usually read romance books, I prefer to have romance as a sublot for other genres (usually). But I read Live Without You which is Sarah Grace’s first book, and I enjoyed it. So when I got the chance to read and review this book too, I took it!

I liked that the people in this book were actually dealing with real issues and problems. One of the things I don’t typical enjoy in romance novels is I feel like the main characters who are falling in love never communicate about how they are thinking and feeling- but I felt like in this book they actually dealt with real issues.

There was one scene that I didn’t like where Alyvia tells Tyler “I know how you feel!” and they get in a big argument… and I can kind of see where Alyvia is coming from- she can’t have known how Tyler felt. She never lost her spouse, and she wasn’t a single parent. I think she was trying to convey that everyone has been hurt and gone through something, but… saying, “I know how you feel” isn’t, in my opinion, how to do that.

Mostly it was a very sweet, predictable read (which isn’t bad. In romance I pretty much always want it to be predictable). It was like a Love Inspired novel, or a Hallmark, very sweet with a happy ending.

The only other thing that really stands out to me, is I felt like the author worked really hard to have unique names… which is fine for one character, but personally, just seemed a little weird to me. One boy they call Topher- which makes me think of Tofu- but apparently it’s a nickname Christopher, and that’s…. just like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. But it’s not that big of a deal, she can name her characters whatever she wants.

I got a copy of this book to review, all thoughts were my own, and I was not forced to give a positive review. I’d give this book 4/5 stars.

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