Category Archives: novel planning

A passion project

May 30th 2016

For the past two weeks, I’ve been working on a new YA mystery. A passion project (PP) with the working title of Solitary Boys. It’s about two estranged teen boys who becomes allies in solving the mystery of a girl’s disappearance. I actually stopped working on another book because I was so inspired by this story, I didn’t want to wait to get started. My original plan was to do Solitary Boys just until May 31st and then get back to the other book in June, in time to get it to my editor in July. But that’s been derailed. I’m going to continue working on Solitary Boys because I can’t not work on it. It’s re-energized my writing, given my deflating ego a much needed lift, and it’s so fun to write.

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And get this — I didn’t outline the book. I outline all my projects, otherwise I screw up the story. But, with this, I decided to write scenes as I think of them, out of order. (I know the ending. I always know how my stories end.) I’m consumed by this story now. To the point, my husband is all cranky because I’m writing at night and not hanging out with him. *shrug* I write during the day, but it’s not enough. I’m going to end this post now, so I can get back to my work. It’s 8:32pm. If I hustle, I can get in another thousand words before bed.

And here’s the opening paragraph from the WIP. Enjoy!

Troy Byrne fishtailed the ’92 Acura NSX onto the gravel drive, kicking up gray shale and dust. His stepfather probably would’ve had an aneurysm seeing how Troy handled the sports car if he hadn’t stopped caring about the vehicle a few years ago. The novelty of dropping seventy grand on a car lost its luster quickly for men of Jerry’s tax bracket. “They make them with CD players now,” Jerry had said before handing Troy the registration and insurance card.

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8 Tips for Writing a Tenacious Teen Sleuth

December 9th 2015

Hey guys! I wrote this blog post for Writers Digest in September and I’m republishing it here (with permission). I think it’s one of the most useful posts I’ve ever written and I wanted to share it on my own blog.

Many years ago, I binge-watched Veronica Mars and I’ve been smitten ever since. I mean, who doesn’t love a smart teen sleuth who oozes chutzpah and an unwavering sense of justice? No one. And when I use the term sleuth here, I’m using it as a stand-in for any teen protagonist who finds herself in the midst of a crime. Sometimes, you have a professional sleuth, like Veronica Mars, who gets paid to investigate and other times, you have an accidental sleuth (this is my favorite) who involves herself in the mystery because the crime directly affects her or someone she loves. Either way, if you’re going to write a YA mystery, you’ll need a smart protagonist who can sniff out a killer. Here are my tips for creating a tenacious teen sleuth.

(I use female pronouns for simplicity, but teen sleuths can and do come in all genders.)

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  1. Connect her to the crime

In a good YA mystery, the victim should be someone with a strong connection to your teen sleuth. If the teen sleuth has no vested interest in the crime other than superficial curiosity, then you need to rethink the mystery. The victim has to be important to the teen so that solving the murder provides justice for the victim and the accused, who might be a family member, friend, or romantic interest.

  1. Make her subversive

Unlike adults, your teen sleuth does not come from a position of power and this can work to her advantage. Whereas detectives and private investigators can flash their badge or utilize police databases and expensive surveillance equipment to investigate, your teen sleuth must observe without being seen. Instead, she can access her peers who are more apt to share information with her than they are with the police. Adults might have low expectations of your teen sleuth — they might consider her apathetic or unmotivated – thus allowing her to fly under the radar, collecting clues and information otherwise overlooked.

  1. Paint her as flawed, yet driven

Perfect people are boring, so give your teen sleuth flaws. Maybe she’s too cocky. Maybe she’s insecure. Maybe she has a disability that makes investigating extra difficult. But give her something she needs to overcome and then give her drive and an unflinching sense of justice. Your teen sleuth needs a character arc — and nothing is more compelling than watching a character overcome an inherent flaw.

  1. Burden her with personal conflict

Give your teen sleuth personal conflict in the form of subplots. Perhaps she’s struggling with friendships, academics, romance, or parents. Perhaps it’s all of these. Give her something to take the focus away from the investigation. This will divide her attention, thus allowing her to make mistakes, and will heighten suspense and conflict throughout the main storyline. Also, subplots prevent readers from getting bored of the investigation itself and divert the readers’ attention from solving the mystery too easily.

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  1. Allow her to break the rules

The great thing about being a teenager is the ability to bend or break the rules. If your teen sleuth enters a suspect’s home without a warrant, that transgression can more easily be forgiven than if a police officer does the same thing. Again, because your teen sleuth doesn’t initially have a lot of power, this is one way she can be subversive.

  1. Let her make mistakes

With age comes wisdom, but your teen sleuth has neither – and for story purposes, that’s okay. She’s more likely to misjudge character behavior. She might mistrust the right people and trust the wrong ones. Use this. If your teen sleuth messes up, she’ll have to learn from those mistakes and that will enrich her character arc.

  1. Litter her walkway with stumbling blocks

A good mystery shouldn’t be easy to solve for either the teen sleuth or the reader. Make sure each scene provides a clue to move the mystery forward but set the teen sleuth back. Red herrings, or false clues, are a smart tactic to use here as well. Perhaps your sleuth breaks into a suspect’s room and finds a cryptic letter, but then she gets caught. Or your teen speaks to a witness the police haven’t questioned only to find out that witness is lying, or later ends up dead. By allowing her to stumble, you set the pacing for a page-turner.

  1. Give her allies

Give your teen sleuth friends with connections. Allow her to trust certain people so that she can get help when she needs it. A friend whose parent is a cop will come in handy when your sleuth needs information she can only garner from a police report. Also, by providing your sleuth with allies, you’re not only giving readers a cast of characters to love, you’re making your teen sleuth likeable.

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Do you have any tips for writing a smart teen sleuth? Please share in the comments.

 

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Ready.Set.Write. Week 12

August 24th 2015

[This writing intensive– hosted by Jaime Morrow, Katy Upperman, Erin Funk, and Elodie Nowodazkij is a fun way to give my writing the kick in the ass it needs. RSW gives writers an opportunity to set goals and cheer on other writers.]

I think RSW is such a cool premise, but unfortunately for me, I didn’t utilize it to my advantage. I didn’t stick to my goals and I’ve only barely moved on my manuscript, which was supposed to be done a month ago. I’ve been a total slacker.

How I did on last week’s goals

Meh. However, I’m currently writing a book review for BookPage. I also started a YA Indie Facebook group that is becoming a diverse, lively place of discussion. I’m stoked about that. I commissioned a cover for an adult cozy series I’ve written one scene for. And I’m fussing with my website and learned how to make a drop-down menu. Sweet.

RSW1My goal(s) for this week

The same since I started. Finish!!!! the manuscript. I’m ridiculous. Nothing is motivating me.

A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised

Liam poked his head into the lobby. Mr. Fletcher stood at the reception desk, talking to Autumn, who was pointing at places on a map. Liam presumed it was of Key West.
“Is she gone?” Liam asked, before fulling stepping inside.
Mr. Fletcher raised a brow, and shook his head. “You kids…” he trailed. He folded the map and slipped it into his jacket pocket. He wore a dinner jacket, the kind with suede patches on the elbows. Liam’s father used to have a jacket like that. He wondered for a moment if Mr. Fletcher had kids and then shook the image from his head.
“Enjoy your dinner,” Autumn called to Mr. Fletcher as he left the lobby. The man nodded once before closing the door.
Timothy came around with candles. “Fletcher gone?”
Autumn nodded. “And Mrs. Paulson’s out too.”
“Good,” he said. “We’ll go out by the pool since that seems to be where things, uh….began. Also, it seems to be a place of energy.”
Autumn slid open the patio door that led to the pool area. She ushered the boys outside like a doorman. “Right this way.”
Liam couldn’t get past the fact that they were about to contact a ghost. One who thought he killed her. He prayed a Breyer wasn’t the one who did her harm.

The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write)

I’m having major doubts about whether this book works. I just need to get it to betas and my editor and trust they’ll point out the flaws.

Something I love about my WIP

Wrapping this project up.

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Ready.Set.Write. Week 11

August 17th 2015

[This writing intensive– hosted by Jaime Morrow, Katy Upperman, Erin Funk, and Elodie Nowodazkij is a fun way to give my writing the kick in the ass it needs. RSW gives writers an opportunity to set goals and cheer on other writers.]

RSW1Hi all! It’s Week 11 of RSW, although I skipped Week 10. I went to my parent’s house in Jersey last week.

It’s blazing hot in NEPA and finally feels like summer — two weeks before my kids go back to school. At least, my tomatoes are ripening — a far cry from last summer in which they were 8-foot plants with no red fruit. But, I digress….

How I did on last week’s goals

Well, I didn’t finish Act 2. But I revised a plot point and in doing so, I think I may have made the rest of this project easier to finish. Let’s hope.

My goal(s) for this week

Finish the damn draft. I think I’ve written this as my goal for the entire RSW, but my boys are going camping wit their grandparents, thus leaving me with only 1 child for 4 days. I told my husband I will be ignoring him to write, so let’s get this done!

Also, I’m beta-reading and I’d like to finish Part 1. It’s a great story and I’m anxious to see where it’s headed.

A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised

Autumn spotted Mr. Blazevig standing near the large Banyan tree at the base of the old Porter house on Duval Street. He hunched over a small table that was set up on the sidewalk and fussing with brochures. He smiled as he chatted with tourists. It made him appear slightly younger than the sad man who she often saw in the City Cemetery, the widower tending to the graves of the two people he loved most.
Autumn dodged a couple in white shorts and Panama hats and crossed Duval Street. The street was alive. It reminded Autumn of a carnival. Everyone was happy to be in Key West. Admittedly, even Autumn. Her time with Liam made her longing for New Jersey weaken.
Evelyn, on the other hand, didn’t seem too thrilled with Autumn’s decision to work for Mr. Blazevig. “Midnight tours?” she had said, her brow furrowing.
“Only on the weekends,” Autumn explained.
“Is that safe?”
Autumn shrugged off her mother’s worries. She wanted to say, ‘You should’ve thought of that before you fired me.’ But instead she said, “I’ll be fine.”

The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write)

I feel like a broken record, but for me, it’s always going to be time. It just is. Especially now. Summer is nearly over for us and school starts the last day of August. Next week, we’ll be doing some back-to-school shopping and haircuts and last-minute playdates. And that stuff is more important because it’s so fleeting.

Something I love about my WIP

At this point, I’ll love it when it’s finished.

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Ready.Set.Write. Week 6

July 13th 2015

What up, Week 6! Summer is killing me, in that, it’s summer — I have no work ethic. None.

RSW1How I did on last week’s goals

I did work on my manuscript, just not enough to make a dent. I’m editing the first act, so I’m not adding to my word count, which makes me feel like I’m spinning my wheels. But, I did write an essay and sell it to a paying market. So, there’s that. I actually made some money. Woot!

My goal(s) for this week

I was so hoping to get this book to my beta readers. So, that’s my goal.

A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised

Autumn dangled her legs over the edge of the pier and swung them to and fro like a small child. She squinted into the bright rays of the setting sun. Liam sat beside her, his legs bent and his hands splayed behind him. At first they were both quiet, just watching the fishing boats coming in from the afternoon catch. Liam felt like a young boy when Pops would take him out on the boat. Except instead of being mesmerized by dolphins, he kept staring at Autumn’s legs.

The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write)

My baby girl has been going to bed at 9:30 every night, making it near impossible to write. We have the same bedtime. WTF. Teething.

Something I love about my WIP

I love the character arcs. My characters show real emotional growth. I’m proud of them.

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