Friday, January 31, 2014


So one of the things we as writers can do to make our characters real is to give them quirks, right?

It's also, unfortunately, one of the things we can do to make people throw our books as they run screaming because our hero/heroine drove them so crazy. I don't remember the details anymore, but I know I've read some books where the characters had some irritating quirks.

Here are some of my thoughts on what makes a quirk good versus irritating.

Irritating quirks aren't well thought out. There's no reason for them. We wanted our character to be memorable, so we made her chew on her lip when she was nervous. Or tap his foot when he was waiting for something. These are "easy" quirks. But they don't make the character come alive unless you have a good reason for them.

And sometimes writers do have good reasons for them. In one book I read, I think it was Katie Ganshert's Wishing on Willows, the main character bites her lip, but there's a good reason for it. It tells you a lot about her personality, about her childhood, and about how she sees herself. So it's a good quirk.

In some of the horrific stories I've found buried in my desk drawers, it's not the best quirk. It was just an insert-quirk-here kind of thing. Make sense?

Good quirks are complicated. They're a little more in depth, a little crazier. One of my absolute, all-time favorite quirks is from Tamara Lee's Splitting Harriet. Harriet eats jelly-beans kind of compulsively. Especially when she's anxious about something. And if she's had a hard day or something, she really wants her jellybeans. What an awesome quirk! It tells us something about her personality, but there's a backstory to it, as for why it's jellybeans she craves. It also makes her unique. How many people do you know with this quirk, seriously?

So. Those are the main two examples I can think of tonight. But I'm curious what y'all can come up with. What are some "easy" quirks that are easy to add into our characters without a good reason? (Note: These CAN be useful in our stories! We just have to have a good reason for them, not just make the character do it because it's easy. Right?) What are some complex quirks you've noticed in literary characters or real people? Are some quirks more annoying than others? Curious on your thoughts about quirks in general.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Which Type of Organized Are You?

I decided I'd get the workout endorphins going when I turned around and discovered someone had organized my bedside table.

A two-year-old someone.

{Have no fear. The prescription bottle was empty.}

I have a feeling this little girl is going to organize my life. And it scares the crap out of me.

Here's the thing--I believe there are two types of people: those who function best completely organized, and those who function best partially organized.

(Notice I didn't say you lived in one of those realms all the time. But where do you function best?)

I heard a physician say one time that due to his A.D.D., a completely organized workspace drove him to complete distraction. A partially organized one... perfect.

You may have guessed I fall into the partially organized camp. I have my priorities. I function best in my writing life when I:

  • Cook once a week and freeze it (so I don't have to spend time cleaning pots and pans later)
  • Get rid of clutter constantly (I can't think with tons of stuff around)
  • Keep a calendar (this may sound funny, but I have to remind myself to look at it every day)
  • Don't overcommit 
These are just a few examples of how I've trained my crazy mind to be partially organized. On any given day in my house, however, you will find Mount Laundriest in the hallway, foul smells coming from the dog, and a two-year-old who wants her time with mom more than she wants a completely organized house.

Unless that bedside table was an indication of what she hasn't been telling me...

So I'm interested--which camp are you in? How can you tell?

Monday, January 27, 2014


Well. We have spent the past 48 hours in stomach bug mode. Add that to my not totally functioning end of pregnancy brain and that my son is apparently in a Barney mood today and the writing is likely not going to be happening anytime soon.

So, I have questions for you instead (like how I did that??):

* What is your IDEAL writing day?? Home, coffee shop, park, etc? Do you need silence or background noise? What time of day do you get your best work done? (For example, I prefer to write at home, but there are times when I get way more done at a coffee shop. And after about 4-5pm, I don't get anything productive written. If I do try to write, I end up erasing it all the next day.)

* How do you pick your characters' names?? (No reason for asking this - everyone has such fun ways of doing this that I love hearing about it! Same reason I ask every time I hear a baby's name how they ended up with that name.)

*What inspires your stories? Real life events? Your imagination? Movies?

Hope you guys are all staying well and warm!!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pocket Guide to Writing Friends

Writing can be lonely if you let it. All those hours spent on your computer typing, on your couch with a piece of paper brainstorming, cleaning your entire house top to bottom as you avoid a deadline...Most of it is done alone.

Which is why having writing friends is a great thing! I've found that just about every writer has some kind of writing friend, but we all tend to use them for different things. Here's your handy pocket guide:

1. The Critique Partner. This person operates in a pretty official capacity. They critique for you, and hopefully you critique for them too! This relationship can start by randomly meeting someone, but a lot of times it comes from someone asking for critique partners, getting  a response, and starting that relationship.

2. The Critique Group. This one I'm giving a separate category because this one's like a whole GROUP of friends who critique. Some of them keep this limited to professional writing talk only, and some of them turn into a cool little group of BFFs that you almost feel like a cute movie should be made about.

3. The Brainstormer. This friend discusses writing with you, but for whatever reason you don't critique each other's work. You do love coming up with new story ideas together, though.

4. The Random Writing Discussion Friend. You and this friend hardly ever see each other's work. You don't even brainstorm much. Mostly you just share vague ideas about what you're doing, commiserate about whatever obstacles you're facing while trying to get where you want to in the writing world.

5. The Writing Friend Who Doesn't Talk about Writing. These are SO RANDOM, but they're some of my favorites. =) These are the friends who you know because they're writers and so are you! Yet for some reason you spend way less time talking about writing than you do talking about random things, your kids, and life in general.

Obviously people can fall into more than one of these categories at the same time. Or they can shift from one to the other. I've had all of them at one time or another. Which kind of writing friend do you most enjoy being? Do you have all of these? Some of these?

Looking forward to seeing what y'all's experience has been!

Also, this post may or may not have been inspired because I'm having lunch with a writing friend today. Don't be jealous. =)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Keepin' it real - fo shizzle

Okay I really have no idea what my title of this post actually says. LOL. But today we're going to be talking about keeping it real in our stories - as in, believability vs. rules of genre/publisher.

But probably not in the way you might assume! When you read the above statement, did you think I meant believability as in contrived writing/forced writing/unbelievable solutions to a character's problem, etc. ?

Nope. :)

I mean keeping your characters real - as in, letting you bad guys be bad guys without cussing or doing other graphic things on the page.

That's the key element, really. On the page.

Whether you write suspense or happy ever after romance or young adult or even historical, you will struggle with this, especially in internal dialogue. How can you write believable bad guys when you aren't allowed to use curse words (and for majority of Christian authors, would feel somewhat convicted about including them even if allowed)? It's a tricky balance - you don't want to offend your readers, but you also don't want them rolling your eyes when your mass-murderer-villain says "Fiddlesticks."  ;)

One way around this is very acceptable from both camps - you don't show the language. You imply it. For example:

Red and blue lights flashed in his rearview mirror. Baddy McBadster cursed as he debated his choices. Risk a high speed chase? Or risk the blue-suit discovering what was stashed in the trunk?

See what I mean?

You can say "he cursed" or "let out an expletive" or any variety of expressions that will be true to their character without disappointing your grandma, your editor, or your readers :)

(I'm choosing NOT to get into the debate here on what actually constitutes as a curse word or not. That's for you and God to decide, and you and your editor! lol)

This can be particularly tricky to carry out in YA - when the teens might not necessarily cuss but would definitely use slang or crude language, especially older teens in party crowds when peer pressure is high. Again, I encourage you to use your imagination and get creative with the expression. Remember, in this case, it's okay to TELL and not show! (yay, permission!!)

How else have you found your way around these type roadblocks in writing?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

DON'T write what you know. (That's right. I said it!)

You've probably heard it said before to fiction authors - "Write what you know."

I have heard that. Probably 904389403 times total, in every class, course and conference I ever attended as an aspiring novelist. And to be honest, it was pretty depressing. When I first heard the rule, I thought "Great. Every novel I ever write is going to have to be about an author, a secretary, a wife or a mom." Because that's what I knew! That was my experience, per se, so...I thought that's all I had to work with. And while there's lots of potential in those categories, you can see how they could also dead end pretty quickly! Yikes.

Now, I get the gist behind the rule, but really, it's sort of backward. I think it makes a lot more sense to say instead - "know what you write".

You don't have to be an accountant to write about a character who is. You don't have to move to New York to set a story there. You don't have to become a celebrity yourself to write a novel from the point of view of an actress or famous singer. You don't have to be a fireman to write a story about one, or join the Army, or steal famous art from a museum to write about characters who did. (Please don't. Haha!)

But you DO have to do your research. Know what you're writing. Put effort into it so it is real to the reader. Don't assume you know, double check. Find out. Interview those who are/do what you need to learn about. For one thing, it's super fun, and it gives your story and writing a credibility and extra layer of relatability that otherwise will fall flat.

Totally worth the effort :)

So what are you currently researching for the sake of your story? Art? Music? Math? A certain time period? A particular sport? A day in the life of a famous person? Share in the comments :)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Pictures and Pinterest

This week....*drumroll please* I got the cover picture for my book that release in May!!!! Ahhhhh!!!! Okay, yeah, those of you who have done this a hundred times can all laugh. I'm cool with that. But it was SO FUN to see that, it made it real, and I love the cover they did.

Like, love, love.

But it got me thinking about using pictures to inspire your story. I'm sure some of you already keep track of characters with pictures of people from online or magazines or things like that, and maybe have pictures of settings saved, but I don't know if you realize how handy that will be (those of you who aren't published yet) when you do get that book contract. I'm not 100% sure how all publishers work, but I know Love Inspired requires us to submit what they call an Art Fact Sheet and an Art Reference sheet, and with these you have to include pictures of your characters, pictures of the setting that you could see being on the cover, etc.

For my first book, I had none of this when I wrote it. I have in the past found pictures that inspired me and then written a book, but it didn't happen that way for this story. So when the time came for me to submit that sheet, it was chaos for a few days there. Lots of agonizing over the story and saying "Who does my hero look like? What kind of clothes does he wear? Are his eyes grey-green, moss-green, or hazel-green?

Haha. Okay, the last could be a touch of an exaggeration. But not much. I had tons of fun with those sheets, but it was difficult.

I decided right then and there that I was going to keep files of pictures (of characters and setting) that fit my story from the beginning from now on. Not only it is useful in writing the story (for example, I described some facial details of my heroine, like her delicate nose, that I didn't ever have imagined in my head, but that the actress I decided she looks like happens to have) to add more description, but it's just plain fun!

Which brings me to two questions.

1. Do y'all do this already? Do you think it helps?

2. Does anyone use Pinterest for novel inspiration kind of boards? I've found some authors who do this and I think it's super fun. For the most part, I'm kind of anti-"Pinterest-as-marketing", but I think having personal boards and then boards for your stories is a great way to let people peek into your brain (assuming there are people out there who are that brave). I haven't done this yet, but I might in the future. Anyone have experience here?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Booksignings Tips & Tricks

A super awesome reader asked the other day if any of us Scribble Chicks ever go in costume to our book-signings.

The answer is no, because I write contemporary romance, however - I think it's a great idea, especially for historical authors who can dress in their genre time period.

I see several benefits to the costume idea, actually.

1. It likely will make you braver. Sometimes, putting on a costume or something outside of our character to become another character gives us a little bit of a confidence mask. If book-signings make you nervous, this could really help you get into your groove. Something about putting on a costume boosts courage, even if just in your own head. Hey, whatever works.

2. Great conversation starter! Even someone who doesn't read might still be drawn to the costume itself, maybe someone who sews or enjoys dressing up, etc. and could start a conversation with you that could lead to gaining a new reader, a referral, or at the least, a convo that helps you not feel so alone behind your signing table :)

3. Costumes show your personality. The people in the store will think you're fun and maybe a little quirky and willing to put yourself out there for your fans. It also shows how much you believe in your story by going that extra mile. All win-wins! :)

4. It will draw attention. People will notice you, where by if you're sitting behind a table in jeans and a top, you might get overlooked if the store is really crowded or if someone doesn't happen close by that area.

The only "costume" I ever wore to a book-signing was for my YA release through Barbour books, ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK. My bestie and crit partner had made me a T-shirt that was hot pink and said "TEAM WES" on the front. Wes is the male lead in the story and it was a spoof of Team Jacob/Edward from Twilight that was so popular at the time. Super cute and fun, and it got a lot of comments :)

So if the thought of a full costume is daunting or too expensive or impossible for you, consider a smaller scale like the T-shirt.

In my opinion, there's really no way to overdo making your book-signing unique to you and your story. Get creative, have fun and then post pics on that author FB page Erynn taught you about Monday!!! :)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's a Lonely Job

So many days it feels like you're the only one doing this.

Making time for your dream, nurturing it, or at least... tolerating it by the late-night glow of the laptop.

You might skip a coffee date or stay home with your back to the window so you can focus. Your friends and your family might not understand your need for space... your need to create.

Maybe your hallway has turned into Mount Laundriest and your husband has taken to a great deal of eye rolling and heavy harrrumphs.

Does anyone "get it"?

We do. And it's an honor to be your community, your safe place, your birthing spot for this dream. 

We understand it can be painful. And messy.

But in the end, when you hold your dream in your hands, we'll be humbled to say...

We know her. And we love her. And we knew she could do this...

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ah. Facebook Pages

Happy New Year!!

It's so lovely to be back here on this blog! And I do want to apologize for the ridiculously long blog absence I've taken - I have had the worst case of pregnancy brain this time around. Oy.

So, Alicia asked a few questions about marketing this last week and I figured I'd tackle the Facebook fan page question!

Facebook is actually a fantastic tool for helping people learn about you as an author. It's also SUPER convenient because they've made it way easy to link your Facebook account with any other social media accounts you have - Instagram, Twitter, etc. Which means that with one click, you can post on all of your sites. It's lovely way to cheat and not be spending every waking moment updating all of your sites. ;)

What is the best way to attract fans??

I always get a little cautious when people start asking this question. Mostly because I think we're overlooking why readers are trying to connect with us. I try to make my Facebook page very personal to ME - that means pictures of my son, updates about this new baby, funny stories from my day, things I found on Pinterest or whatever that I think is humorous, something that God has been teaching me lately...whatever would be important to me is what I post.

Which means that I'm not constantly posting about new releases, book quotes, Amazon stats, whatever. Occasionally is fine. But I try to look at the people I love reading updates from and seeing what it is about their statuses that make me smile or look forward to reading it. And it always starts with their personality shining through. Because 90% of the time, I don't follow someone on Facebook because I want updates about what they are selling - I follow people because I like hearing updates about their life.

Now, that being said, there are a few things you can do to up your readership:

1. Boost your posts. If you have a post that you think is particularly engaging or maybe is advertising a new book, you can pay Facebook a set fee and they'll advertise it on either friends of fan's news feed or on the news feeds of a selected range. You can set this range SUPER specific, so I'd suggested playing around with it a little bit!

2. Spread the word. Mention on your real Facebook page that you have an author page and kindly ask for people to "like" you. Direct people who friend you who aren't your friends in real life to your author page instead. Let your family know. Provide a link on the side of your blog. And if you do speaking engagements, publicity, etc, be sure to mention your Facebook page as a way to find out more about you.

3. Don't overdo it. The thing that makes me block people in my news feed faster than almost anything else is people overselling themselves or their products. If you are constantly mentioning your book or posting pictures of the cover or pasting quotes from the book, it starts to be a little redundant. Make your posts diverse. Is there a funny picture you could post? A cute quote by someone? A Bible verse that you're mulling over? A sarcastic one-liner you could add to a photo from your day? Look up celebrities and authors you admire on Facebook and see what their posts consist of and which ones get the most views and the most likes. That's what you want to be emulating there.

I'm still learning the Facebook fan page ropes the same as all of us - anyone else have any tips?? What are some things that you appreciate in the fan pages you follow?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

We'll be back soon with our regular schedule guys - promise!! :)

In the meantime - HAPPY NEW YEAR!! And blessings on your 2014.

We love you here at Scribble Chicks!!