Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Thursday, March 6, 2014

New York Newbies…What We Learned

Writing Song of the Day: "School Spirit" by Kanye West

We made it back from New York in one piece. While the weekend started off, how should we put it, ANNOYINGLY, we learned a few things. Like to hear it? Here it goes…

  • Don't travel along the east coast by plane in the winter: This is probably THE most important take away from the entire trip. No. Really. It is. 
  • Ngram Viewer: Author Elizabeth Wein shared this site during her keynote talk. It's used for those of us who write historical fiction--you can check how often historical words and phrases shows up in books during a certain time period using this site. Read more about Elizabeth's keynote here.
  • Make sure your story has an emotional and physical ending: Having TWO endings makes your story that much more complex and allows for a better resolution--from Jack Gantos's keynote.
  • You can become a writer EVEN after being arrested!: Seriously Jack Gantos did it! Read more about his keynote speech on the SCBWI blog here.
  • When writing historical fiction, use objective research: Diaries are an easy go to, but they aren't always accurate--use recipes, logs, obituaries, things that are based in fact. This was said by Kendra Levin of Vikings Children's Books.
  • Don't make writing like a bad first date: Adding too much back story in the beginning? Would you want a second date with that guy? This was said by Anica Rissi, editor at Katherine Tegen Books
  • Find a mentor: Try and find someone a little more successful than you to look up to, someone you aspire to be like--advice from Sara Shandler, Alloy Entertainment. (Is Veronica Roth okay to look up to??? )
That's what we learned. What about you? What are some new writing tips that you've picked up lately?

Monday, February 17, 2014

We're In New Yooork...Well, Almost!

Writing Song of the Day: "Empire State of Mind" Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys

Taken from: SCBWI
Yep, you read that right. We're about to take our SECOND trip to New York. The first didn't really count since it was one of those day trips on a bus. This time, we're gonna spend a WHOLE weekend there. And we're gonna be amongst our brethren, other writers! We are attending our very first, SCBWI New York Conference.

While we've gone to the LA conference four years in a row, we wanted to change things up this year and try out the New York winter conference. We're hoping to take in NY on Friday, experience the whirlwind conference on Saturday, and hop back on the plane Sunday. The goal of attending the conference is to get our mojos going again. With the hectic schedules of our lives, our writing has definitely suffered. We want to get to work on revising our 2013 NaNo novels and hopefully the panels and keynote speakers will inspire us to get our crap together.

Don't worry, we'll tweet and Instagram throughout the weekend and give you a brief wrap up when we get back next week. Yes, we've given you promises before on this blog that we haven't kept...but this one we promise to keep. Promise. We swear on all that is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And you all know how we feel about him!
Taken From: http://fashionvertigo.com/joseph-gordon-levitt-covers-out-october-2013/

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cuz We Write: The Remix

Writing Song of the Day: "The Phoenix" by Fall Out Boy

Taken from Forbes.com
This seems vaguely familiar, huh? Don't adjust your blog roll...wait, is it even still called that?

Anyway, WE'RE BACK! And we're all changed and new and shiny. We're ready to get back into this blogging thing and keep you guys up-to-date on our lives because we know you care.

We're so close to 2014 and with that in mind, we've been remixing our lives since last spring. How so? Well, if you really wanna know...

  • We left our former jobs! That's right, we got out of the classroom and the school building. We're both working on doctoral degrees (Pam full time at The College of William and Mary, Quita part time at Old Dominion University--shifting to The George Washington University) and Quita took a promotion to work in a school system's administrative offices. 
  • We changed our eating habits--once again. All summer, and throughout the fall, we tried eating clean. It worked well at first (we both lost around 7-8 pounds) and then we gained all of that weight back. Something wasn't clicking so we've gone back to a low carb lifestyle. So far, so good.
  • AND, did you see our new banner? Yeah, that was created by our second sistah from another mistah, Natalie Henry (recently featured The Huffington Posted for a Hunger Games themed wedding--ahhh!) and it's perfect for our newly remixed minds.
  • Finally (and this is one we wanted to tell you about a month ago) we rewrote both of our very first novels for NaNoWriMo this year. Pam worked on a new version of WANTS to get to know her characters again and Quita revisited a novel set in the 1960s called CHASING MANSON (a novel adaptation of a screenplay we actually wrote together). 

Whew! That's a lot of changes...Oh! And another big one--we moved for the SECOND time within four months. We just can't stay settled. Who knows, in a few months we may be updating you all on more changes.

So there you have it. All of our changes. What have you remixed in your life lately?

Friday, November 16, 2012

NaNo Update #1

Writing Song of the Day: "Half Alive" by Secondhand Serenade

So, we stole this idea from the awesome Katy Upperman. We had planned to give you all weekly updates on our NaNo novels but...well, we were doing ALL THE THINGS in addition to writing our NaNo novels. Since we both have crossed over the halfway point (woo hoo!), we felt this was a good time to let you all know how we're doing...

Pam's Update:

Progress (word count or a general status update): 26,404

Current Mood: Hungry. A bit overwhelmed. But, surprisingly, I still like my story.

Inspiration: Not a quote from anyone--but this is the first time during NaNo that I've written a story that I ACTUALLY believe that I'll return to and revise. In fact, I can't wait to start revising it!

Goals as of Today: I usually try to reach at least 2000 words, but I'm a little stuck. So tonight, I plot a little more and make up the word count over the weekend.

Recent Favorite NaNo WIP Bit:

“I see you didn’t have to go far for your costume.” I tug at his basketball jersey. I actually tug it. I guess a beer and a half does wonders to my confidence.

Brandon shrugs. “Lots of kids want to be basketball players when they grow up.”

“Lots of kids want to be Brandon Lane when they grow up,” I correct.

Non-NaNo News (because life DOES go on): Well, Quita and I had the AWESOME opportunity of seeing one of our favorite actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in person (more on that next week)! In less exciting news, I injured my foot in an accident last month, and it's still bugging me. Alas, I have to report to the doctor next week to see what's going on. Boo.
In my downtime (ha!) I’m reading: I've been starting and abandoning lots of novels lately--with hopes that I can return to them once I get some extra time (because THAT will happen). I most recently cracked open Ellen Hopkins' adult novel, Triangles. So good so far!!  

Quita's Update:  

Progress (word count or a general status update): Over 26K

Current Mood: Agitated that I can’t just write and instead must be responsible. However, I am also getting excited about where my novel is going.

Inspiration: Two words: Five Guys.

Goals as of Today: I want to try and get at least 4k done by the end of this weekend.

Recent Favorite NaNo-WiP Bit:

“What do you know about voices?”

Walker tapped his chin. “Like cartoon voices? I’m pretty sure I know who talks Bart Simpson.”

Kenzie laughed. “No…like, voices, voices.”

Walker stopped walking and stared at Kenzie. “Like, voices in your head and sh*t? Like schizophrenia?”

Kenzie continued to walk, already regretting that she said anything to Walker.

Non-NaNo News (because life DOES go on): We just saw JGL LIVE last night. Also, I’m working on finding more internship opportunities in the publishing world.

In My Downtime (ha!) I'm Reading: Rage Within (Dark Inside # 2) by Jeyn Roberts. Proving to be just as good as the first book!

Both of Our Updates:

You should read this blog post: Shady Business by the uber smart literary agent, Sarah LaPolla. A very informative look at the legitimacy of newer agents and publishers.

Gratuitous Photograph (because we love ‘em!):

Joseph Gordon-Levitt at The National in Richmond, VA (11/15/12)
The moment where Quita lost it & cried...

For all of our fellow NaNo-ers out there, how are you doing? For the non NaNo-ers, what have you all been up to?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

R.O.A.D.M.A.P. to NaNo Success!

Writing Song of the Day: "Maps" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

It's that time of the year, peeps. No, we're not talking about Halloween. Or the rush of holiday commercials that will soon clog our TVs. We're talking about NaNoWriMo!

Can I get a woo hoo?!


Yes, Quita and I are cray cray enough to give it another go--if only for our beloved reward at the end (more on that later). Earlier this week, we tweeted some tips to be successful for all of you daring NaNo-ers out there--so of course a blog had to follow.

And now we give you our...

Picture Taken From: Hattan Enterprises
ROADMAP to NaNo Success

R = Read. Read everything. Read within your genre. Read outside your genre. Heck, read the back of a cereal box. Ideas can come from ANYWHERE.

O = Outline. After you get your idea, give it some bones. Plot--even if it's just the first few scenes. You have to start somewhere.

A = Add buddies. Hey, you're going to need friends to push you along and keep you on track. Quita and I are great dictators, er, I mean, MOTIVATORS. Our NaNo usernames are pharris81 and mhockaday.

D = Details. Add some meat to your outline. Think more about your characters, and make sure you know your ENDING (believe me, this is key).

M = Make time. Not gonna lie, I pretty much have something to do every minute of the day. But try twenty minutes before work, twenty more at lunch, ten before dinner. Before you know it, those words will pile up.

A = Abstract. Ever had to write a research paper? Well, an abstract is the summary paragraph listed before an article. If you're able to summarize your story, you'll have a better idea of where you're headed.

P = Prize. Just when you feel like giving up, think about that reward you have waiting for you when you reach the finish line. Sure, you'll have the first draft of a novel--but give yourself a little something, something extra. Our yearly tradition is THIS:

Picture Taken From: The News Chronicle

Yum. So what are you waiting for? Get started and good luck!

Monday, October 22, 2012

End of Watch: The Buddy Story

Soundtrack Song of the Day: "You're My Best Friend" by Queen

We love writing and reading YA more than most things in life, but one of the things that comes close to our love for all things YA is watching movies and TV. Sooo, we've decided to combine those loves on this blog. Every Monday we are going to share a recent movie that we've viewed and what we learned about writing from said film.** 

Picture Taken From IMDB

End of Watch

Logistics: Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, and America Ferrera

IMDB Says: Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.

We Say: End of Watch is about two young officers and their friendship. The viewer gets to see their relationship play out as they deal with life, the trials of being a cop, and the joys of having someone you can rely on.

Writing Connection

The Buddy Story = Giving your novel heart. This is especially true for middle grade novels (which we are getting more and more into lately). In MG novels, the buddy connection is like the romance/love connection in a YA novel. Think back to when you were in 6th grade. Friends were EVERYTHING! And as much as we like to think we grow up and stop caring about what others think about us, we all still want to feel that buddy/friendship connection with someone. That's the heart of End of Watch. Yes, there's action, romance, a kickass plot--but underneath it all, it's about the friendship between two guys. Adding this connection in your novel will kick up the emotional factor that much more and keep your readers hooked.


End of Watch- Official Site
End of Watch-IMDB
End of Watch- Facebook

Now Watch This:

Have you seen End of Watch? How often do you place close attention to the friendships and how they grow/falter in your MG or YA novels?

**This blog is not limited to ONLY discussing the relationships of movies and writing, however this will be the weekly feature that you can ALWAYS expect.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Looper and Layering Plots

Soundtrack Song of the Day: "Have Love Will Travel" by the Black Keys

Taken From: Screenrant
We won't pretend that we were not on a looooong hiatus, but we also don't want to bore you with the details of WHY we've been away. We'd much rather discuss the future of this blog--which we hope will interest you much more!

We love writing and reading YA more than most things in life, but one of the things that comes close to our love for all things YA is watching movies and TV. Sooo, we've decided to combine those loves on this blog. Every Monday we are going to share a recent movie that we've viewed and what we learned about writing from said film.**

This week we begin with:



Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels

IMDB Says: In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by transporting back Joe's future self.

We Say: The movie is full of bad-assery. From JGL, to Bruce Willis, even to Emily Blunt. The trailers and the interviews will make you think that you'll get bogged down in the sci-fi-ness of it all, but no--the heart of the story is what gets you in the end.

Writing Connection: 

Layering Plots- A novel will not survive on one plot alone. If that's all you got, you may be better off penning a short story or a novella. More importantly, a YA novel will not survive with one plot. Teens are complicated, puzzling, and always changing--a YA novel should follow suit. Without giving away too many details, the various plot twists and turns that occur in Looper will keep you intrigued, engaged, and in tune with the characters. The movie begins with a possibly unlikable character who has one goal and then progresses to include more characters with even more goals that cause complications and forces the character to change. This  = layering plots!

Okay we don't want to spoil it for everyone, so if you haven't seen it yet, go watch Looper and see how it's done!


Looper- Official Movie Site
Looper- Tumblr
JGL Twitter
Looper Movie Twitter

Now Watch This:

If you have seen Looper did you make any connections with the film and writing? Do your novels usually have several plots?

**This blog is not limited to ONLY discussing the relationships of movies and writing, however this will be the weekly feature that you can ALWAYS expect.