Puzzle Pieces and NaNoPrep

Writing is like assembling a puzzle.

Sometimes you have an idea of what the finished product is supposed to look like, sometimes you don’t.

But you’ve got all these different pieces whizzing around in your brain.

Plot pieces, characters, snippets of dialogue, setting details…

And often times you’re not sure how they fit together.

Well, this one’s a corner piece, but I’m not sure what that is.

Some people like to prepare before they start putting the puzzle together.  Arguably, the easiest way is to find all the edge pieces and put those together first.

Okay, this analogy is falling apart.

But writing is hard.  There are so many moving parts, so many things to orchestrate.  Sometimes it’s daunting.  Often times there’s a lot of procrastination involved.

Which is why I love NaNoWriMo.  It forces us to just start putting pieces together.

Okay.  Brain tired.  Here’s a video about why NaNoWriMo is brilliant.

And to all of you people out there prepping for NaNo2016, start flipping over the puzzle pieces and sorting them out.  Two weeks until November.


More Poetry and a Bunch of College Feelings

College life is… hard.  Busy.  Fun.  Crazy.  Lots of work.

I thought it was going to be like this:

golden 3 laughing.gif

And it’s more like this:


Okay, it’s actually been a lot of fun.  But mostly I’m just busy all the time.

Anyways, here’s another poem I wrote for my Creative Writing Class.  I hope you enjoy.

The world smells of dead leaves; the air’s ripe for campfires –

It’s a beautiful decay.  So then why are you

wearing shorts when it’s 65 degrees today?

I’d rather stay warm in gray boots, crunching through leaves.

Mornings of pale sun, each breath is a breeze of icy blue wind

Which turns to white fog as I exhale, and then –


the wind misses summer’s heat,

so it steals mine, right from under my jacket.

And steals leaves from high trees; I watch as they float


Towards the


Where they tumble along on the sidewalk

as I walk to class, as if swept along in invisible rivers of glass.

The trees catch flame; they’re never the same two years in a row,

From bright summer green to autumn yellow,

then yellow to scarlet, and red to brown

as they fall to the ground.

And then one morning they’re gone.


under a layer of frosty white winter.


I’m quite proud of it.

Anyways, now my class has shifted from Poetry to Fiction.  Next week I have to turn in a short story, and I’m slightly terrified.

I mean, sure, I can write a novel in a month.  But write a short story in a week?  AHHHH.

*Epicly plugs in coffee pot.*

Anyways, my lovely people, I hope your week is going well, and that you’re having success planning for NaNo if you’re doing it.  See you later!

Something I Wrote for Class

This semester, I’m taking Intro to Creative Writing, and over the course of the semester we will be covering poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

We’re almost finished with our Poetry section.  I’ve loved it so much.  It’s so much fun to create something and get feedback the very next week.  I love getting to discuss our work in class, and seeing reactions and actually hearing the voices of people who have read my work.  At first, it was nerve-wracking; sharing the first poem was like cutting out a piece of my soul and distributing it to the class, saying, “I hope you like it?”

But now these strangers have become a family, and we joke and laugh and help each other grow, and I’ve already seen us mature as writers in the short time we’ve had together.

I’m discovering that I really like poetry, and while I don’t see myself ever becoming a famous poet someday, I think it’s teaching me a lot about writing.

Anyways, without further ado, I’d like to share some of my work with you.  Hope you enjoy it as much I as did writing it.

Ode to Reading


Eyes closed, mind gone.

In a land far away, though not for long.

“One more chapter,” I plead, eyes wide,

“I’ll read more tomorrow night,” Dad replies.


Flip the page, the next chapter starts.

I’m reading on my own, filling my heart.

A Magic Tree House whisks me away,

And I live in a Little House on the Prairie.

Snow days with dragons and mugs of hot cocoa,

Summer nights up late; quiet so parents won’t know.

Fictional friends and fantastic worlds

Never knowing what the sequel will hold.


Now I’ve traded stories for textbooks and cocoa for coffee

But not even college homework can stop me.

My friends will wait while I finish my essays

They’ll lay wait in their pages, waiting for calmer days.

A shelf full of books, whispering quietly

Soon I whisper back, smiling thoughtfully.

Isn’t it crazy how these friends seem real?

I can see what they see, and feel what they feel.


There’s so much more I could say with this poem, but –

I’m reading a book.

My friends court Death.

I’m dying to see if they live.

Perhaps I’ll write more when they’re safe at home.

If you’d like me to share more of my work, let me know and I will!  Hope you all are having an awesome week of writing.

P.S. The “book” mentioned in the last stanza was Empire of Storms by Sarah J Mass.  It’s a phenomenal 5th book of the Throne of Glass series.  So much laughter, and tears, and holding my breath, and screaming, and squealing in delight.  Review coming?  Maybe?  Maybe.

NaNoWriMo Thoughts


20160921_164639_29805381896_oIt’s almost October.  While all normal people are starting to plan their Halloween costumes, we writers are starting to plan our novels for November.

Or, if you’re me, you’ve just jumped into an editing frenzy.

(I seem to remember doing this last year as well.  Good job, Beth.)

With the leaves starting to fall, I think it’s time to have a discussion about NaNoWriMo that’s been a long time coming.

Last November, I won NaNoWriMo.  It was my first time truly participating, and it was 30 days of late nights and strong coffee and writing with strangers who became friends.

It started out with me loving the fact that I was finally getting this new idea out of my head and onto paper.  But then it turned into me abandoning all concept of “plot” in favor of meeting a wordcount goal each day.

The end result was a very quickly-written, but not very cohesive novel.

It took me only 30 days to write 50,000 words.

My previous novel had taken me 2 years to write 100,00 words.  (The novel’s about 80,000 words, but the first quarter had to be re-written mostly from scratch.)

So, NaNo’s great, right?!  You basically speed through the rough-draft process!  Yay!

Well, yes.  And no.

‘And it is also said,’ answered Frodo: ‘Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.’   -JRR Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

NaNo is great because it gets you writing every day.  It connects you with other writers online and in your local area.  It makes writing fun again in a new and exciting way.  And at the end of the month, you will (hopefully) have 50,000 words of a manuscript done.

But here’s where NaNo fell short for me:  At the end of November, I walked away from my NaNo novel.

I was terrified to even touch it because I knew it was an utter train wreck.

I am just now brave enough (or curious enough) to have read through that novel and see if it’s worth salvaging.  I’m happy to report that it is, and that I’ve started the editing process.

But I think that for some of us, NaNoWriMo is too intense.  We burn so bright that we burn ourselves out.  We write something so fast that we lose sight of what we wanted it to be in the first place.

So while I am planning on signing up for NaNo2016, but I’m not going to beat myself up to meet a daily word-count goal.  I’m going to try to follow a plot of some sort while writing.  And I’m not going to sacrifice quality for quantity.  My tentative plan is to do a “half-nano,” where I write 25,000 words in the month.  They’ll be 25,000 words that follow and actual plot and make sense.

imag0539_27457904034_oSo, back to editing.  I’m finally working on last November’s novel.  For me, the first step in editing is reading through my novel and mapping out the plot points on index cards.  This first picture is the plot of The Sound of Color, and it was done on my closet at home.  The second one is for my 2015 NaNo novel, and it’s done on a wall of my dorm.

I love having the visual of what’s happening in the plot, and being able to see how one thing leads to the next.  I can also move the cards around or put up other cards with notes on them like “ADD A SCENE HERE” or “Come back and fix this!”

It allows me to focus on fixing the Big Issues with my plot before touching the Little Issues of chapters and words.





Wherever you are, whatever your feelings are for NaNo, whether you’re editing or writing or working on query letters, or re-writing chapter 1 of your novel for the 18th time, just don’t quit.  You’re an amazing human being and the world needs to hear what you have to say.

And I hope to see you all this November.


Do What I Say…

… and not what I do.

Story time.

Yesterday, I’m working on querying.  I think I’ve sent out a grand total of about 15 query letters so far, and only about 2 with my SHINY NEW QUERY.


Shiny new query.

Me, researching agents.

I’m researching this one agent (‘stalking’ might be more appropriate?) to find out what she likes.  Because if at all possible, it’s good to personalize your query letter a bit.  Show that you’ve done your homework.  And also that you’re not just mass querying.

Anyways, there I am, researching this agent, getting excited.  Because she likes the same things I like.  She says she grew up with brothers (like I did).  She says she’s looking for pretty much exactly what my novel is.  I spend ten minutes reading and re-reading her profile page on Manuscript Wishlist, already envisioning her as my agent, becoming the champion of my novel.

I’m thrilled.  You know, it just feels right.

So I start a new email, and copy in my shiny-new-query that I’m really proud of.  Play around with the wording of my introduction and conclusion, personalizing it and making it sound interesting.  Making myself sound professional and yet relatable.  Perfect it.

Read over it one more time, scanning for typos or errors.  I check and double-check that everything is perfect.  I’m biting my lip with anticipation.

I hit send.

Then switch back to my other browser window, with agent’s information on it.

And my heart stops at what I see.

Please copy the first ten pages of your manuscript into the email.

Guess what I forgot to do?  Copy the first ten pages of my manuscript into the email.


hermionie hits harry.gif

So, let this be a lesson to all of you querying-peons out there:

Don’t forget to double- and triple-check the submission guidelines.  Agencies all ask for different stuff.  Some just want a query, some want a 3-page synopsis, some want the first 3 chapters.  Some want the first 10 pages copied into the email.

There’s about a 100% chance that even if this agent reads and loves my query letter, she will delete my email because I failed to follow her instructions.  As she should.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go bang my head against the wall some more.

(And then get back querying, being extra extra extra careful about the submission guidelines.)


College and Queries

Hello from UNIVERSITY!  I’ve had a week of classes, and I love the college environment.  It’s new and strange and exciting and fun and crazy and I miss home but I’m having a blast.  Also, my college has a spectacular, brand-new library.  So studying and writing and working is really fun there.  Also, there’s a coffee shop IN THE LIBRARY.  Life is amazing.

So what have I been up to?

Writing some.  But mostly, working on my query letter.  I found an amazing website called agentqueryconnect.com where you can get your query letter critiqued, and where you can critique other people’s queries too.  It’s similar to Critique Circle’s forum for Queries and Synopses, but Agent Query Connect is used a lot more.  More people, more critiques, faster turn-around.  You can revise your query letter and get the revision critiqued the same day.  It’s been super helpful.

I have a new-and-improved query letter.  (Yes, I’ve said that about my last 3 versions.)  But this one feels better.  It feels more right.  I started from scratch and built from the ground up.  It’s more streamlined, more efficient.

bb8 thums up.gif

I’m excited to start sending it out to agents again.

But it’s not all chocolate chips and cappuccinos.

Query letters are hard.  There’s a fine line between not-too-many details and not-enough details.  You have to capture your MC, the plot setup, the conflict, the stakes.  You have to try again and again and again, each successive version taking you closer to your goal.

You have to be willing to try and fail magnificently and try again.

Query letters, basically, are the worst thing ever.  Querying stinks.  It’s painful and annoying and it takes forever to get it right, and there’s no way of knowing if you’re on the right track until you find yourself published one day.  The querying process is punctuated with failures and rejection and crazy hope and perseverance and feeling like you want to give up.


No one likes querying.

But I have a friend who texts me encouraging things sometimes.  And last week, I woke up to a text message from her saying this:

The reason people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go instead of how far they have gotten.

And then later she sent me a text saying this:

You didn’t come this far only to come this far.

That made me stop and think.  WOW.  I’ve written a book.  And I’ve EDITED IT!  Like, WOWZER.  That’s freaking amazing.

So my encouragement to you wonderful people of Internet Land:

Don’t give up.  Don’t let the fear of failing stop you.  Don’t stop when you’re behind.  Don’t listen to the voice nagging at you saying, “you’ll never make it.”

I’m chasing my dreams.

Chase yours.

If You’re A Pantser…

pantser badge.png If you – like me – are a certified Pantser, then you have to do something very specific during the rough draft process.

What, exactly, do pantsers have to do during the rough draft process?  Glad you asked.

They have to write.


I’ve been sitting around the past couple weeks, not writing.  Because I didn’t know what to write.  I thought I had to have a plot lined up before I started writing.  Because, you know, reasons.


Aha.  Thank you, voice inside my head.  If you would have told me this a few months ago, that would have been great.

All it took was a day of “playing” inside my head.  My characters met.  They said hello.  They were in a place.  There was conflict and drama.  Now there’s a fragment of a plot happening.  It’s slowly starting to take shape.

So don’t wait around for the perfect plot.  Star writing and it will come.


Beth out.