Tag Archive: April A2Z 2015

Weekend Coffee Share – Back from Outer Space!

LeCoffee-1It’s been soooo long since we had coffee! I’ve missed you! But alas, it is not possible to sit down and drink hot beverages out of pretty mugs in zero gravity. You see, Robin and I were on a space mission for the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Our theme: 3, 2, 1… BLASTOFF to Stellar Writing! Every day except Sundays we wrote and posted writing tips to help your stories lift off and reach new heights. All-in-all, it was a successful month! For the details, check out Robin’s Mission Debriefing and this list of all our A-Z posts.

Now we are back to our regularly scheduled programming, with me posting on Mondays, Robin on Wednesdays, and alternating Weekend Coffee posts between us. We’ve even got a couple guest bloggers lined up this month – Natacha Guyot, who just released the book A GALAXY OF POSSIBILITIES, and Shawn Griffith of the wisdom-laden blog DownHomeThoughts.com.

real-neat-blog-awardSpeaking of Shawn, he has nominated WriteOnSisters for the Real Neat Blog Award. Thanks, Shawn! In this blog hop, the nominator creates original questions for the nominees. As we sip our tea/coffee, Robin and I will mull over our answers to Shawn’s questions…

1. What is your Quest?

H: I have two. The first is to be a best-selling author. Obviously. The second is to be capable of executing a kip, cast-to-handstand and giant on the high bars by the time I’m 40 (just a few years away). It would look like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x89uM45VZ_g. Admittedly, that last part (the giant) might be pushing it (it’s really hard), but dream big, right?!

R: My main quest is to raise some kick-ass kids. I know my boys have a ton going for them already, but I see every day as a challenge to help them grow stronger.

2. What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

H: What??? I feel like I’m back in high school and this is a trick question on a math test, and my answer is sadly blank. Robin, can you answer this?

R: This one stumped me for a few minutes too, but eventually it sunk in. Not much Monty Python and the Holy Grail in my house lately; I’ve moved over to reruns of other British comedy shows like Red Dwarf and Absolutely Fabulous. I’m a total freak for Patsy and Eddy.

3. Why or why not is character important to you?

H: Because I’m a writer, I immediately thought this question referred to fictional character. Then I realized you might be asking about my own character, which I don’t think about very much since I’m too busy developing my novel’s heroine’s character. Both are important to me because I believe growing and changing is an essential part of being human, but clearly I’m neglecting my own character development. Now I feel I need to go rectify that…

R: I took this meant to mean personal character, at least that’s how I’m answering it. I started dating my husband because he was the most decent, loyal and ethical person I have ever met! My choice was not popular at the time; our friends thought we were too different to make it work. Now those same friends are all divorced and working on second marriages, or in some cases second divorces. I’m reminded everyday of the value of character.

4. Is it okay to lie, even a little white lie?

H: I believe it is, though I am really bad at lying and sometimes wish I was capable of delivering a “kindness lie” but I just can’t. PS – Please never ask me if I think your newborn baby is cute.

R: I’m a mom; white lies are in the job description. Who can look down into the tear-stained face of their bloody kid and not tell a lie? When my youngest almost died two years ago, I stood beside his hospital bed reassuring him that everything would be “okay” and smiling down at him so much my face hurt for two days. But I will never lie about writing! If someone asks me what I think, they should expect the unvarnished truth.

5. What is the hardest thing you have ever had to do?

H: When I was 25, I broke up with my boyfriend of six years. According to my small town friends, I had it all – a handsome, smart, considerate man with a good job who loved me, wanted to marry me and was my best friend. But for no reason anyone (including me) could understand, I was unhappy. So I took the leap and broke it off, and discovered the life I wanted to lead – and it was definitely not marriage+kids+suburbia. The lesson: lifestyle is an extremely important factor when deciding who to spend forever with!

R: Can I say these questions? Way to put me through the wringer, Shawn! : ) I’m an absurdly private person. I don’t naturally embrace social media or instantly think of witty things to say the way some people can. Plus my kids have been cyber bullied and that makes me wary. Starting WriteOnSisters was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Running a blog is unnervingly public, and I still fight the impulse to lurk.

Wow, now you know so much more about me and Robin! Without further ado, we nominate Melissa Barker-Simpson, Sue Coletta, Sara Letourneau, and Jann Alexander. Here are your five questions:

  1. What book, show or movie do you wish you’d written?

  2. If you wrote fan fiction, what would you write for and why? If you already write fan fiction just say why.

  3. What famous author (living or dead) would you most want to team up with to write a book?

  4. If you could have one day to use a time machine to go forward or backward in time, where would you go and why?

  5. Have you ever written anything that you wish you hadn’t?

Of course, you don’t need to be a nominee to answer the questions! Drop us a line in the comments. We’d love to get to know you better!

Thanks for stopping by for coffee. It’s been great catching up!

coffee2If We Were Having Coffee is a blog hop inspired and run by the lovely and talented Diana at Part Time Monster. Please drop by her place for coffee. You can also see what other bloggers are up to by checking out her hashtag: #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writers-life/weekendcoffeeshare-back-from-outer-space/

2015 Blogging From A to Z Mission Debriefing

A-to-Z+Reflection+[2015]+-+LgMission Code Name: 3, 2, 1… BLASTOFF to Stellar Writing

Security Clearance: Unclassified

Mission Objectives: To meet new life forms and engage in shared and mutually beneficial discourse on a range of topics.

Mission Status: Success!

BLASTOFF to STELLAR WRITINGCo-Commander Rivera’s reflections report:
While it is never easy to commit a month to a venture of any kind, this team jumped into our second challenge with enthusiasm.

Pre-launch tips that worked: We feel the best thing we did this year was create the 3, 2, 1 theme. Having a predetermined post structure helped create continuity and make them easier to write. Creating a custom graphic also worked in our favor. Big smooch to my hubby who is our go-to guy for graphics. He also did our site favicon, the feather logo and our Weekend Coffee Share cup. Thank you, honey! The logo was amazing once everyone started promoting on social media using the official letter image, and made our posts stand out from the rest. Now that the challenge is over, we’ve had a number of requests from our friends to turn the 26 posts into an Ebook. The fact that we have a solid structure to each post will make that an easy transition, and we are considering the Ebook as a summer project.

Some of our mission highlights were:
Hitting our 400th post. May not sound like that many to some bloggers, but for us it was a huge deal.
K is for Kittens! This was Heather’s favorite post to write, and it inspired me to write the goofy S is for Sins. The two lighthearted posts gave us a much-needed break from being so serious, and we think our readers welcomed a bit of comedy during the mid-month slump as well.
T is for Trello! This one turned out to be our most popular post. Sharing great writer tools are something Heather and I feel passionate about. We know writers don’t have spare time, so when we find something that works we want everyone to know about it.

Comments meant the world to us:
Whenever people said a post was useful and they applied it to their own story, it made us happy. It was inspiring to see non-writers dropping in and talking about how our posts helped them make sense of a book they read. One of our top commentators was Sue Coletta. She was always upbeat and willing to share her own experiences and insights. In breaking news, Sue just extended an invite to us to guest blog on her Murder Blog and I have accepted. Another of our top commentators, Shawn Griffith from Down Home Thoughts, has submitted a pitch to guest blog for us and we have accepted. The benefits of comments can be far-reaching.

What we learned this month from others:
Heather selected my P is for Pinch Points post. She had never heard the term before. And as we learned from the comment section, she wasn’t the only one!

We also selected a wonderful new blog discovery made very late in the challenge, Brittany Constable’s blog. Brittany did a literary analysis of books/films with an eye towards advice for writers. The posts were well done and funny too. So please pay her a visit and spread some blog love.

I also want to give a huge shout out to Hannah Givens for her blog Things Matter and her A to Z posts on LGBT characters in comics. I hear lots of writers paying lip service to the “We Need Diversity” mantra. If you mean it get over to Hannah’s blog. And feel free to make a shopping list and support some fellow writers who are actually writing diversity!

Blogs we enjoyed:
Really there are too many to count. Some of my favorite themes were, the photo on Alex Hurst and Elizabeth Hain‘s blogs. And the monsters who ruled at Part Time Monster and Melissa Barker-Simpson‘s blogs. Way to rock the month ladies. But those are all trusted writers that I knew from outside the challenge! As for new blogs? Well, I subscribed to a few that really bowled me over, but as for the rest … well during the next few weeks I’ll be revisiting these discoveries, and reading what a normal blog post looks like. From there I’ll start to figure out who to follow full-time. I fear it may be a large number since I enjoyed so many blogs this year.

Heather’s favorite find was Pensuasion, a theme that pitted two movies against each other and had the readers vote on the which one was best. She liked it because it inspired so much reader involvement and it was fun to read the comments. The comments really are amazing during A to Z.

What didn’t go too well:
Some of the letters still challenge the crap out of us. Z is my nemesis. I licked it again this year by using a totally unrelated word to writing. Hopefully I made it work with Z is for Zymurgy. Heather struggled with the letter Q, but came up with the post Q is for Questions. Other than those two letters, we really didn’t struggle too much, and only two letters got changed to new topics from the original master plan we created in March.

I started the challenge strong and managed to visit over a hundred new blogs to me in the first half of the month, while also keeping up with my friend’s blogs pretty well. Due to a family crisis, I lost all my steam by the end of the month. I feel like I disappointed myself and my friends by slacking off on my blog visits, but my family needs to come first. I’m hopeful everyone understands.

Plans for next year’s A to Z Challenge:
A bit too soon for us to start planning, but we will both be on the lookout for a cool new theme, that’s for sure. Heather and I like the idea of writing something fiction based next year, but we don’t know how our readers would like that. However, next year is light-years away, we have time to weigh the pros and cons before we make any plans.

Mission collusion:
Wow, what a month. We adding so many new followers, and made some amazing new friends. The outpouring of support for the blog in the last few months has just been phenomenal. Today Heather and I make a very big announcement…
In the last four months we have equaled the blog traffic Write On Sisters did all last year!

We are grateful every day for every visit and for every comment. 2015 was the start of a whole new chapter in the Write On Sisters story, and we are humbled with the response. We couldn’t ask for better readers or blogging friends.

Thank you everyone!

Co-Commanders Jackson and Rivera signing off!

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/general-information/2015-a-to-z-blogging-mission-debriefing/

Z is for Zymurgy

BLAST_ZThis is our last Blogging A from Z post. The mission was a success and soon the space capsule will splash down. Crowds will cheer and confetti will litter the web. But before we blow the bolts on the hatch door and get some much-needed rest, let’s take a moment to reflect on everything we talked about this month. Just let all that new data dart around inside your skulls like a bunch of zero gravity pennies.

Zymurgy is the term used for the fermentation process when making beer or wine. Today we’re using it as a stand-in for those times a writer needs to let a story rest for a while.

There are three critical times when halting writing might actually be a better plan then pounding away at the keys.

3 Tips for using Zymurgy

At the start: According to Stephen King, the projects he can’t forget are the ones he knows are winners. He reportedly let UNDER THE DOME ferment for decades, making not one, but two failed attempts before the time was right for committing it to print. If you’re sitting on a five-year-old story idea you can’t stop thinking about, that is most likely the story you should pick up next. And it’s okay to let that story bubble a little longer while you finish something more time sensitive. Passion for a great book idea builds and gets better over time, while the lesser stories will fade away and be forgotten.

Between revisions: Once a draft is done, walk away for a while. Take some time to read and relax. You might not be able to completely put the story out of your mind, but try to. Work on something different if you must keep writing during the break. Stockpile a few blog posts while you wait! Setting your work on the shelf makes it possible for you to see the words on the page clearly. You will start to spot all the mistakes you would have read over when what you intended to write was still fresh in your mind.

After feedback: Nothing good comes from attacking your work with a hatchet after a bad critique. Stop! Ask for clarification on the feedback. Talk about the critique with another trusted friend writer. I know critique is hard, and when harsh words come from someone you trust, it tempts you to cut to the bone, or to dismiss the criticism. Waiting helps you gain perspective. When you wait, sometimes what first looked like a condemnation of your whole book project turns out to be a few afternoons of editing. Problems look easier when you’re less emotional volatile. All revisions call for some zymurgy. By letting the feedback sink in, you can accept your own mistakes and take responsibly for fixing them.

2 Examples of wise Zymurgy

Zymurgy has many fine uses, for example, when you get a bad review or a few angry commentators invade your blog. Take a deep breath and count from 30 to zero backwards by 3s before you do anything.

Also remember, many wonderful, mind-blowing books were not written overnight. If the time and energy it takes for you to do your best work is slower then your fellow writers, so be it. You might be judged unfavorably in the short term against their speed, but in the long term, quality shines over quantity every time.

1 Link for more help

Since today is also the last day of Camp NaNoWriMo I going to end the Blogging from A to Z Challenge the way we started it, by sending out some love to our writer pals over there. Here is my reminder to everyone that every book is a journey and you need to enjoy the process:  NaNoWriMo Blues

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writers-life/z-is-for-zymurgy/

Y is for Young Adult Fiction

BLAST_YHeather and I both read and write young adult fiction, so we have a solid understanding of this market and what makes it tick. In the last decade, the popularity of YA has hit the stratosphere. Author megastars rise up from nowhere almost overnight. Big movie franchises and huge book deals are becoming normal events. It has encouraged countless writers to consider jumping into YA. Today I’m sharing my three top tips for aspiring YA writers and trust me, I’m pulling no punches.

3 Tips if You’re Considering Writing YA

Read YA and lots of it! Of course you could write YA without being a fan, but why would you? Read the big books, the ones that break all the sales records. Read the books critics rave about, but don’t get as much media attention. Subscribe to some blogs that review YA fiction. Make sure you find the ones that don’t give every single book an automatic glowing or five-star rating. Write your own reviews and compare them to those of other readers. Do you notice the same things? Or did you notice something others missed? It’s okay to read predominately in the genre you plan to write for, but also read across the spectrum so you get a feel for the market. If someone drops the names Rowell, Bardugo and Levithan, and you have no clue who these writers are, your homework phase is far from over. Go back to the book store and try again.

You want to write for kids because you think it’s easier than writing for adults? Here comes the biggest knock of all. No market in the world is more competitive, harder to stand out in, or filled with more high-quality talent than YA. In fact, all kidlit is impacted so you shouldn’t expect the situation to improve even if you want to write picture, chapter or middle grade books.

Perhaps you think you’re magically on target to write the next must-read book. If so, please snap out of it! Teens don’t even know what they want to read next. Luck and timing play a huge part in all writer success stories, but perhaps the tipping point is even greater in YA. Everything about teen life moves at a rocket’s pace. Trends come and go and everyone connected with this reader demographic either tries to grab the comet’s tail as it goes by or they fight the G-forces to get out into deep space and hope the comet comes their way. If YA success is your long-term goal, try to remove your attention from writing for the latest trend and focus on making your story the best. Nothing else will potentially save your book from plummeting into a teeming asteroid belt of forgotten YA titles.

2 Examples of great YA
Heather and I have written extensively about the YA books we like, love, or wish we’d written. You can look back at our reviews, or better yet, read the books we’ve reviewed and form your own opinions.

Nothing will help you understand the YA reader like reading the books they crave. Of course, any potential YA writer who has not been reading the hottest authors around should start there. If you’re over 25, YA is nothing like you remember from your teen days. Or read this post by Heather, 7 YA Books that Inspire me to Write Better, to get some ideas.

1 Link for more help
One of the best sources for high quality information on the YA reader, is the Young Adult Library Services Association. That’s why their site is always conveniently linked on our sidebar where I can get to it in a hurry. They have already collected the top 24 teen-nominated titles published in 2014. How many have you read?


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/y-is-for-ya/

X is for X-Ray

BLAST_XWhat does “x-ray” have to do with writing craft? I didn’t choose it just because I needed an “X” word for the #AtoZChallenge, or because I already used “x-rated” for last year’s post (X-Rated: Should YA Books Have a Rating System?), but because all writers need to be able to check the spine of their story. Hence, we need to x-ray our novels to see the bones.

Stories are about transformation, a journey that changes the hero. In screenwriting, “checking the spine” means making sure every scene in the story informs and affects this change. I do this at the outline stage when I have all my scenes laid out and summarized into paragraphs. If you don’t outline, you can make a scene list based on your draft, writing one line for each scene.

3 Tips for X-Raying Your Story

  • Check for spine scoliosis. Is there a bend in your story’s spine? A place where you went off track and lost sight of the hero’s journey? Straighten it up by making sure every scene contributes to the journey.

  • Look for slipped discs. This is a scene that, though it began as a crucial point in the plot, now (after many revisions) has slipped out of the main plot and is hurting your story. Either bring it back to where it used to be or cut it out.

  • Assess bone density. Is every scene solid and dense and packed with intrigue regarding the hero’s journey? Look for weaknesses, like scenes without active goals or conflict or stakes. If just one of these is missing, it weakens the entire story spine.

2 Examples of Straight Story Spines

These are supposed to be short posts, so I’m not going to break down an entire novel for you and show you how every single scene informs and affects the hero’s journey, but take my word for it that THE HUNGER GAMES and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS both do this extremely well.

1 Link for more help

I talk in more detail about how every scene needs conflict, stakes and change in this post: 3 Things that Keep Your Story on the Road (not the Goat Path).

Well that’s it for me in this Blogging A-Z Challenge! Robin has the last two letters! Coming up:

Y is for Young Adult

Z is for Zymurgy

It’s been a blast! 😉


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/x-is-for-x-ray/

W is for Writer Wellbeing

BLAST_WBeing a writer can take a toll on us, physically, emotionally and mentally. When we get engrossed in writing, it’s easy to forget to look after ourselves. So I’ve come up with three things I am going to try to do every day to take better care of myself…

3 Tips for Writer Wellbeing

Stretch. We all know sitting hunched over a computer is bad for our bodies. So I made a pact with myself – every hour I will stand up and stretch: touch my toes, do side bends, twirl my wrists, etc. Maybe I’ll even throw in a headstand to get the blood flowing back to my brain.

Learn. Our brain is a muscle that needs to be stretched too. Sure, there’s lots to learn about writing craft, but variety helps keep our minds spry. Some ideas: learn a new language, take music lessons, read nonfiction, enrol in a continuing ed course, visit a museum.

Recharge. I feel like I could write 12 hours a day and still never get enough writing done. In fact, as much as it goes against instinct, I often find less time at the computer makes my writing time more productive. That’s probably because doing other things is a way of recharging the creative brain battery. Examples: visit friends, travel, play sports, take a bath, see a movie, nap, whatever makes you feel refreshed.

2 Examples of Writer Wellbeing

Trampoline = My Happy Place. It’s like flying!

Recharging by the Hotel Los Jazmines pool in Vinales, Cuba.

171 Los Jazmines pool

1 Link for more

My favourite way to stretch, learn and recharge at the same time is to travel! Check out this post on Writer Wanderlust for some of the places that have inspired me.


Space travel is life-enhancing, and anything that’s life-enhancing is worth doing. It makes you want to live forever.

— Ray Bradbury, Science Fiction Author

If you’re just joining us, here’s a list of more BLASTOFF to Stellar Writing posts from last week:

R is for Reversals

S is for Writer Sins

T is for Trello

U is for Unreliable Narrators

V is for Vocabulary

Coming Up:

X is for X-Ray

Y is for Young Adult

Z is for Zymurgy

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writers-life/w-is-for-writer-wellbeing/

V is for Vocabulary

BLAST_VFor writers, words make the Earth spin round. We can battle extraterrestrial invaders or colonize a new galaxy all with the power of our language. We use words every day, and yet we still want to blast them with a death ray when they refuse to obey. Today it’s all about the words and the struggle to contain the passive and rejuvenate the boring.

Since I’ve written a number of posts on developing historical fiction vocabularies, this post is more generalized.

3 Tips for Vocabulary

Use vocabulary as character markers and to develop relationships. Language helps create personalities. Everyone has spoken traits or quirks, and as writers we can use a few idiosyncratic words to make each character more memorable. I try to give the key characters a signature word or phrase. This helps keep dialogue clear without excessive tags. Creating a nickname can also make a character more memorable or create tension between characters. It’s not a coincidence that Han Solo always calls Leia princess, highness or your worshipfulness.

Vocabulary choices with or without author intention, will mark a character’s age and social status. If a character uses longer words and a more varied vocabulary, the reader will perceive them as educated and/or older. If a child talks the same way, they might come off as fake (or as a prodigy). Foreign words can also help differentiate characters. Just be very careful about this technique. Recently I read a book where only one character spoke with a peppering of French words. When the same words showed up in the mouth of another character, it pulled me right out of the story and sent me flipping back and forth looking for clarity.

Picking memorable words: a curse or a blessing? When you use a distinctive word, you are rolling the dice. Some readers will appreciate your ingenuity; while others will hate you for making them look up a word. Think about your ideal reader. If you’re writing a smart political thriller, using advance vocabulary gives a feeling of credibility. You can also get away with a distinctive or archaic word if you want to make the character sound strange or dated.

2 Examples for Vocabulary

I know some writers who don’t read the classics, but they are a great place to build your vocabulary. I don’t think you can go wrong with Edith Wharton. Three Pulitzer nominations are hard to beat. If you can’t manage one of her novels, try her short stories.

Short stories in general are a good bet. If you get a collection of them, you can use it to focus on how each writer’s vocabulary selections help shape the tone of the stories. You might like one of these easy to read classics:

Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

1 Link for more help

If you still need more help, try this post on 5 simple ways to improve your vocabulary from Write It Sideways.



Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/v-is-for-vocabulary/

U is for Unreliable Narrators

BLAST_UI love unreliable narrators because they go hand-in-hand with surprise endings. No matter the genre, when a narrator is not telling the truth there is mystery in the story.

3 Tips for Writing Unreliable Narrators

Track the truth. Whether the narrator is lying on purpose or not, you the writer need to keep track of what really happened. Depending on how complicated the plot is, this might require a simple list or a detailed spreadsheet comparing the real truths versus narrator falsehoods. 

Conviction. To make an unreliable narrator believable, everything the narrator relates must be done so with conviction, either because the narrator believes his own lies or convincingly acts like he does. That said, always write like you believe the lies too!

Consistency. Going hand-in-hand with conviction is consistency. The narrator should be unreliable in the same way all the time. This creates a pattern that makes the narrator believable, whether readers know the narrator is unreliable from the beginning or they don’t find out until the end. Yes, believability is important even if the reader is aware the narrator can’t be trusted.

2 Examples of Unreliable Narrators

CODE NAME VERITY. This novel is an excellent example of conviction. The narrator makes not only the reader believe her story, but the other characters involved. After all, her life depends on it!

DANGEROUS GIRLS. This novel is an excellent example of consistency. The narrator never wavers from her story, even when others doubt her, even when the evidence is stacked against her, so much so that the reader can’t help but believe her! So when the truth comes out at the end, even though we suspected it, it’s still a surprise.

1 Link for more help

Here’s a post on the do’s and don’ts of writing unreliable narrators in 1st person POV who are purposefully lying. How can narrators lie if readers are in their heads? Read the post to find out!

If you’re just joining us, here’s a list of more BLASTOFF to Stellar Writing posts from last week:

O is for Outlines

P is for Pinch Point

Q is for Questions

R is for Reversals

S is for Writer Sins

T is for Trello

Coming Up:

V is for Vocabulary

W is for Writer Wellbeing

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/u-is-for-unreliable-narrators/

T is for Trello

BLAST_TWriting a book is not as labor intensive as, say, launching a space mission, but sometimes it feels like it is. I use Trello to keep my sanity in check. It helps me manage all my brainstorming, to do lists, blog posts, home repairs, work deadlines and even my kid’s schedules…all in one place. And best of all, the basic version is free!

3 More Tips for using Trello
I wrote about Trello a few months back in the post 5 Reasons Why Every Writer Needs Trello, but since I’m still learning new ways to use the program, it looks like I have a lot more to say on the subject.

Trello makes outlining easy. Like most writers, I keep a corkboard and it’s covered with plotting index cards, character relationship maps, blueprints of my settings, inspiring photos, etc, but it’s only for my current project. I don’t have the space to keep two or three project boards in my office. But I can keep 100 boards on Trello, one each for the ideas, inspiration, characters or plot notes of every writing project I’ve ever dreamed of. I used the 3 act structure to set up a my boards. First I created a basic template with a card for each of the common story elements. I also threw in an other card at the end of each column to catch any oddball items. I can always adjust the board parameters as my project progresses.

Full 3 Act Board Once I have a template board set up the way I like it, I can quickly create a new board for a second (third, fourth, fifth) writing project. This saves time and makes plotting a simple process. I love watching a plot take shape on Trello and I can’t miss any of the important story milestones (inciting incident, pinch points, or midpoint reversal) because the cards in my template keep me on task.

Trello is perfect for world building. When sci-fi, fantasy or historical fiction writers start to flesh out their worlds, it gets complicated. We need to keep track of all the aspects of the setting: the political system, geography, flora and fauna, social structures… it’s file folders and notebooks full of raw data. Some writers use spreadsheets like Excel to streamline the process, but with Trello I can see the data more clearly. Plus the entries click open for more options. I can add links, make notes, create to do checklists, and upload research notes and add photos for inspirations. It’s like having Pinterest secret boards, but with more options for storing written data. The flexibility makes it extremely helpful for planning a series. I can create one board for each book, or keep track of all the series threads on one board to make sure I’ve created a cohesive series.

World BuildingTrello streamlines the editing process. This is something I’d never thought of doing, but once I saw another writer doing it, I was convinced. Trello boards make an ideal place to keep my self-editing checklists and to track the revisions. As an extra bonus, I can upload chapters and invite other people to read and comment on them. This makes Trello perfect for online critique groups. I can sit back and watch as each beta reader marks the project read and adds their notes. Plus all the readers can have access to the comments leading to group discussions. The system makes it a great way to work closely with a remote editor or to get feedback from a writing partner or an agent. Best of all, I control who sees the boards on a project by project basis. I can set a board to unrestricted public viewing, or invite members into my group.

2 Examples

The Page Turners blog did a great job on showing how to use Trello with a remote editor. If you want to use Trello for an online critique group, I highly recommend this post.

If you want to use Trello for day-to-day management or just want a basic crash course try this How To Post from LifeHacker.

1 Link for more help

This is already a link-heavy post, but the last one you might need is the Trello Blog. This is the best place to find out what other users are doing with their Trello boards. It might surprise you. Everything from designing a book marketing campaign to planning a new author blog is easier with Trello.


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S is for Sins

BLAST_SIn the predawn light we commit them. We are breathless from a looming deadline, or perhaps blinded to our mistakes by pride. We might try to hide them. We dress them in setting and disguise them with witty dialogue. We pray no one will notice our blunder. Yet the error remains, a viper coiled within our pages and ready to strike when we least expect it. They are the deadly writer sins.

1. Syntax: Thou shalt not trust the opinions of sympathetic readers. Find the smartest, strictest, SOB of an editor and listen with your head and not your heart when they say something is wrong.

2. Sequels: Thou shalt give the reader a satisfying ending every time. It need not be a happy ending, but it must offer a conclusion of some sort. Common sense says a cliffhanger has never made anyone buy the next book unless they enjoyed its predecessor.

3. Sex: Thou shalt not surprise, or worse yet, shock, the reader with sex scenes they don’t expect. That means mention the erotica in the flipping blurb, people.

4. Silence: Thou shalt mute thee inner complainer. No one wants to hear about how agents, editors and readers are all wrong and if the publishing industry didn’t suck, show favoritism, etc… you would have a seven-figure deal.

5. Shapeshifters: Thou shalt not try to bend genre to thy will. Mixing story elements is fun, it’s where great books come from, but not when it’s intended to mislead the buyer. If you want to write a thriller, do it with pride. Don’t drop in a pointless love interest and call it a romance.

6. Spam: Thou shalt not take over a hashtag or any other form of social media. Of course you want to sell some books, but when you blast the same message a dozen times in ten minutes, you’re out of control. Don’t look at me like that. It happens. Remember, spam gets you blocked, not bought!

7. Sloth: Thou shalt write. Not talk about writing, not dream about writing, but put pen to paper, fingers to keys, mouth to microphone and just flipping do it.

8. Simulation: Thou shalt not try to write like other writers. Being a fan of a great author is one thing, but making a point-by-point study of their work so you can become a copycat is another.

9. Spoilers: Thou shalt not give away plots, thy own or a fellow writer’s. The midpoint twist should never be in a cover blurb, or in a book review. Respect readers and don’t sabotage your peer’s work. It gets you noticed, but for all the wrong reasons.

10. Scrap the crap: Thou shalt only write books with plots, stakes and characters that change!

Of course no two people have same top ten writer sins, but these are the ones that hit my ignition button. Also, if you pay attention to reader’s reviews, many of these same sins repeatedly crop in bad reviews. The good part about seeing readers vocalize the same complaints, regardless of genre or demographics, is it means the writer sins are preventable.

Go forth and write!

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