Archive | August, 2010

The Consequences of Not Reading

31 Aug

By Savannah J. Foley


Where writing is concerned, I didn’t make a good transition from teenager to adult. When I was in high school, I read two books a day and spent all evening entertaining myself with writing. After I graduated, the mix of a full-time job and occasional night classes left me with no access to free books, and little budget to purchase them. (True, I could have gotten a library pass, but for some reason public libraries freak me out. I know, it’s totally unbecoming a writer, but I can’t help it.)

As a result, I’ve read very few books over the past three years, but I didn’t understand the consequences of this until recently.

A few months ago, I was gifted with an e-reader (I blogged about it here). E-books are fairly cheap, and I thought that this was my opportunity to get back on the reading bandwagon, but I slacked off. Then, a few weeks ago, I had to fly to New York for a family reunion, and brought my trusty Nook along with me so I could read on the plane. There, with a newly-purchased, digital copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I highly recommend), I came to a horrifying realization: I had forgotten how to teleport.

Words on the virtual page weren’t translating directly into images. I wasn’t immersing in the world, or story. Instead, I was very conscious of how individual words looked, and kept getting distracted by noises around me, or the feel of my seatbelt or armrest. I thought, ‘this must be how people who don’t like to read feel!’ I could never understand before why people in my English classes would complain about hating to read. Not being able to mentally teleport into the book was surprisingly un-fun. I just wasn’t getting into it.

So, I buckled down and made myself keep reading. I was so thankful when my mental teleportation device came back. I resolved that whatever else, I must keep reading.

Since then, I’ve kept my Nook with me everywhere. I read on my lunchbreak, at stoplights, while cooking dinner, etc. I got through the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and read Stephen King’s It, which was a life-long goal of mine.

And I noticed a change in my mental behavior. I found myself daydreaming more, going off in tangents inside my head that had to do with stories. I composed poetry to myself as I was going to sleep. When I sat down to write, I felt like I had ideas in me ready to pluck, instead of being an empty container. In short, my creative juices were flowing again.

This was a hard-learned lesson, but a valuable one: As a writer, you MUST keep reading in order to stay inspired. Your mind is like a lake; you must have inspiration flowing through in order to not go stagnant.

I thought I could survive as a writer without reading, but I was wrong. Don’t make my same mistake.


“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Joseph Addison


Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.


Mockingjay Live Chat

30 Aug

ETA: The chat was awesome, guys. A big thanks to everyone who dropped by. We’re exhausted (hey, we fought an actual Hunger Games during the chat! You’ll have to check out the transcript to see who won), but incredibly happy to have had the opportunity to chat with you guys.

Okay guys, here’s the link to enter the chat tonight. You won’t see much if you click on it now, but you will be given the option to enter your email for a reminder, so that’s pretty cool!

Either way, remember to come back at 9pm EST for the chat! We can’t wait to speak with you all.

Click Here to enter the chat!

LIVE Mockingjay chat on Monday!

29 Aug

This post is spoiler free!

Hey guys! We’re planning something very special for tomorrow, and we really hope you guys will tune in!

Monday, at 9pm EST, you’ll see a new post on the site with a little chat box. If you participated in WriteOnCon, you’ll recognize the set-up. A bunch of us LTWF girls will be here talking about our feelings concerning MOCKINGJAY.

Obviously, the chat is going to be chock full of spoilers, so do NOT participate if you haven’t read the book yet! (don’t worry, in order to see anything, you have to press a “join chat” button, so you’re not going to be accidently spoiled just by visiting the site tomorrow).

We’re going to cover a number of topics, which we’ll put up at the beginning of the chat because they’re rather spoiler-ific to post here. The format is going to go something like this: we’ll announce the topic, chat about it a little among ourselves, and then open up the floor to your comments/questions/etc. Then we’ll move onto the next topic.

You will have the option of signing into the chat under your twitter, myspace, or facebook account. Or you can just type in a name. It’s really simple, I promise.

One thing, though–if you type in a comment, you WILL NOT immediately see it show up in the chat room. One of us has to moderate it through first. If there are not a ton of people talking, we’ll just let everything through. But if there are so many that things are getting overwhelming, we might have to pick and choose a little bit.

If you can’t make it to the live chat or haven’t read the book yet, the chat transcript will remain on the site forever, so you can go back and read it whenever you want. Again, you’ll have to press “replay” to see this transcript, so no accidental spoilerage is going to happen! (we all hate being spoiled, so we’re doing our best to assure others, haha)

Anyway, this post is getting way too long. The main point is, come by tomorrow at 9pm EST!! We’re really excited about this, and we need you guys there to make this the most awesome online MOCKINGJAY discussion ever!

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

Click here to enter the chat on 8/30/2010 at 9 PM EST!!

Book Recommendation: Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper

29 Aug

by Vanessa Di Gregorio

I love graphic novels; I always have. And I’ve been a long-time fan of Kazu Kibuishi (who is married to Amy Kim Ganter, whom I’ve also been a long-time fan of). So it made sense that I would one day pick up his middle grade graphic novel series, Amulet.

To be honest, I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick this up. The first time I saw the cover for Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper, I knew I wanted it . Actually, scratch that; the first time I heard about it, before it was published, I knew I wanted it. The only thing I really regret is waiting so long to pick this graphic novel up. You’ll be hooked after the first few pages, and Kibuishi’s art is absolutely lovely. The colours are vivid, the settings are breathtaking, and the creatures are wonderfully designed.

Though you can tell while reading that this graphic novel series is for children, chances are you’ll probably still enjoy it!

Here’s a description from Goodreads:

After a family tragedy, Emily, Navin, and their mother move to an old ancestral home to start a new life. On the family’s very first night in the mysterious house, a strange noise lures them into the basement, where Em and Navin’s mom is kidnapped by a humongous, tentacled creature and dragged down behind the basement door.

The kids give chase down a twisty spiral stairway and find themselves in a strange and magical world below. Most surprising of all, it seems that their great-grandfather, who was an inventor and puzzle maker, was there before them – and he’s left some unfinished business.

Now it’s up to Em and Navin to figure out how to set things right and save their mother’s life!


If you’ve ever read The Spiderwick series, you might find a few similarities; especially with the kids moving to an old, mysterious house that used to belong to an equally mysterious relative. And if you read a lot of fantasy like I do, then the story for Book 1 will be a bit familiar, playing on a lot of similar ideas and archetypes.  But similarities aside, Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper, is a wonderful read. Though older readers will find the story a bit predictable, I could not put this graphic novel down; and after finishing, immediately picked up Book 2. The plot is fast-paced and builds up steadily, with multiple series of adventures Em and Navin are forced to overcome in order to save their mother. There is tons of action; and Kibuishi is amazing when it comes to action packed scenes.

Like all good fantasies, The Stonekeeper introduces you to a world that has been wonderfully imagined; and gorgeously visualized. I found myself taking in all the wonderful details in Kibuishi’s artwork: the colours set the tone, as do the settings; and not once was I bored of the artwork. And his world is such a wonderful combination: it is fantasy, and steampunk, and sci-fi, all wrapped up into one fantastically realized world. I mean, robots and elves and monsters and giant mechs? How can you go wrong?

Em and Navin are well-written (and well-drawn) characters. They are complex and strong, in their own ways. They aren’t perfect, which makes them wonderfully realistic. Em seems like any other young girl you might meet, albeit a girl who is a natural born leader. She doesn’t want to live in the new house, says things that can be hurtful, and often is a wonderful contradiction (without being all over the place). Though she is brave, she is also at times frightened. Navin, though young, is a quick learner who is immensely curious. He is often much more optimistic than his older sister, but you can see the chips in his armor every now and then. Being the first book in the series, I know that they will only continue to grow into even more complex and enjoyable characters; and I look forward to seeing it.

Kibuishi has also changed the way one thinks of elves. His elves are not your usual elves, who are extremely tall and thin, with long blonde hair and gorgeous features. They do not live in the woods. His elves are ugly, frightening creatures. They are bad tempered, oppressive, and industrial; nature is not their home. In fact, his elves are so wonderfully not what you’d imagine; and are far more complex than just being the “bad” guys. One elf in particular, Trellis, is one of my favourite antagonists; he is a character who grows as the series progresses. And you will find him to be an incredibly complex and haunting character.

If that doesn’t sound exciting enough, note the influences Kazu Kibuishi lists in his interview with The National Post for Amulet:

“One of my biggest goals in life was to create a great fantasy graphic novel series in the vein of Bone by Jeff Smith and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki. It was one of those things I just wanted to do just to do it, like climbing a mountain. As I began writing the book, the focus began to shift more toward talking about family issues, like financial burdens and a person’s ties to their own ancestry. It was a place for me to discuss a lot of the stuff that was happening in my own family, and when I read it now, I can clearly see how close it is to my own life, minus the monsters and robots, of course…I’m influenced by so many films and filmmakers it would be hard to list them all! I can say, however, that Amulet was most inspired by films like E.T. and Star Wars, with dashes of Krystof Kieslowski’s Blue, John Carpenter films, the first two Alien films, and a whole lot of Hayao Miyazaki films.”

Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper is definitely a graphic novel I would recommend to anyone who enjoys reading comics, manga, or graphic novels. If you love MG and YA fiction and fantasy, then you’ll fall in love with the world Kibuishi has created, and the characters inhabiting it. It is a quick, fun, easy read that will leave you wanting more.  And if you’re still not convinced, check out the prologue for Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper here!


Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

Winner of the THE WORST THING SHE EVER DID Giveaway!

29 Aug


Jill Jones!

Jill will receive a copy of Alice Kuiper’s, The Worst Thing She Ever Did!

But first, here’s a description from Goodreads:

“My New Year’s resolution: I’m moving on from everything that’s happened. I’m not going to talk about it, think about it, let the memory pounce upon me like a waiting tiger, nothing.”

All Sophie wants to do is forget. But it’s not easy now that everything’s changed. The house feels too big, school drags on for too long, lights are too bright, the room spins, and her hands get sweaty for no reason. And she can’t remember why she was ever best friends with Abigail, who is obsessed with parties and boys. Only the new girl, Rosa-Leigh, with her prose poems and utter confidence, might understand. But talking to her seems impossible.

Lost in memories of the life she once had, Sophie retreats into herself. But there’s only so long she can keep everything bottled up inside before she explodes. Maybe by confronting the tragedy of her past she’ll figure out how to fix her future.


[Description from Goodreads]

Congrats Jill!

Saturday Grab Bag: Mashup

28 Aug


Here are some great links on writing, the industry, and all things book related. We highly recommend you read them!

  • 5 Questions With Suzanne Collins: Author of The Hunger Games Trilogy
  • – Because here at LTWF we’re absolutely in love with THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy (and since this week was Mockingjay’s release week), we thought we’d share a great video featuring the wonderful Suzanne Collins.

  • New Contest! YA/MG Pitch to Query Letter
  • – This blog is having a pitch contest for (you guessed it!) MG and YA MSS. Submit yours, or take part by leaving comments and feedback! If you check out the blog, you’ll see quite a few already posted.

  • Merit Badger
  • – CA Marshall shows off some awesome merit badges (from a site called Merit Badger), which create fun badges for writers! How awesome is that? Check it out! (And yes, I’m posting a link to a link :p).

  • The Two Story, Climb Inside Bookshelf Tower
  • – Yes, that’s right. Book lovers behold! You can literally climb inside this bookshelf! This is something that I’ve already put on my wishlist.

  • The Fiction Generator
  • – Yes! Now YOU can generate amazing works of fiction with the fantastic Fiction Generator! (Note: This is absolutely hilarious. Definitely check this one out).

  • Telling Tales
  • – Tim O’Brien talks about the unending labor of a fiction writer which is to be creative, and to vividly imagine a story or sequence of events that isn’t boring.

  • New York Times Bestseller Seth Godin to No Longer Publish Books Traditionally
  • – Yup. That’s right. Exactly what the article title says.

  • The Highest-Paid Authors
  • – A list of the highest-paid authors in the industry right now.



Share any cool links you’ve come across in the comments!

And have a great weekend!

QOTW: Killing Characters

27 Aug

This week, the question comes from Christina, who asks:

Do you ever find it insanely sad or difficult to kill off a character? Sometimes I just can’t keep writing for a while because I just hate the idea because I love my characters so much. How do you manage when you know you have to do it?


I never enjoy killing characters–unless they’re really evil or a pain in the ass. I usually cry before, during, and after I kill them. It helps to have a pint of ice cream on standby, too. I’d like to emphasize that you should only kill characters when it’s NECESSARY and fits with the plot of your story–don’t just kill characters for the sake of killing them/upsetting your readers. When authors do that, it just cheapens the story for me.

But anyway, it’s really, really hard to kill a beloved character. It’s like losing a friend. I definitely go through a period of mourning after I work up the courage to kill them.

-The Writer With Her First Book Deal


It’s always sad to kill my characters, but I try to write my secondary characters with the possibility of offing them in mind so that I don’t get too attached (There are a couple that I am too attached to kill, even if it would serve the story). Which sometimes leads to me thinking “aw, this interaction is so cute, too bad you’ll be dead in two weeks.” I think that sadness I feel is a good thing because it means I’m emotionally invested in that character and so are the other characters. If I managed to write well, the reader will be invested too and the death won’t feel empty, it’ll have emotional repercussions in the story and with the reader. I hate pointless deaths so I try to only kill characters when there is a point or it’s important to the plot.

-The Writer Revising Between Queries


I’ve never found it “difficult,” per say, to kill a character. I think it’s because in my mind, the character lives forever. His life might stop in the chronology of the book, but I have him captured at a million little moments in all the years he had before his death. So in a way, he doesn’t “die” for me the same way a character dies for me in a book I’m reading versus writing.

Plus, I only kill off a character when it feels right. I’ve never done it to accomplish a plot point unless it’s an incredibly minor character, in which case, I’m probably not terribly, terribly attached anyhow. If a death doesn’t feel right–doesn’t flow naturally from the actions and the characters and the essence of the story, then I don’t do it. So really, I never have to debate with myself whether or not a character dies. If he will, then it’ll happen, and if anything, it’ll feel weird to keep him alive.

Does that make me heartless? lol.

The Writer Querying


I think what hits me when I kill off a character is the reaction the others have to the death more so than my being sad that I killed them. Like with Kat, the character lives on in my mind. But it doesn’t for the other people in my story. So what makes me most emotionally distraught is the thought of somebody else having to go through the rest of their life without that person, and the scenes of mourning I have to write. It isn’t me that’s mourning, but I guess it might as well be, if I’m writing it.

So while I personally don’t feel sad or defeated, I do empathize with my characters. Maybe because they don’t have the power to bring them back, and I do.

-The Writer Revising Her First Novel


I may be in the minority here, but I actually enjoy killing off my characters! Back in the day, when I’d just started writing, I was terrified to kill off anyone for fear that my readership would revolt. It didn’t matter if death would’ve been more realistic – I just couldn’t do it. In the process, I probably wrote myself into quite a few corners and shoddy endings.

Since then, I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to off someone and accept the fact that you’re making the right decision. Obviously you love your characters, and as Kat said, no matter what you do to them, their memory is going to stay with you. And hopefully your readers love your characters just as much and will carry on their memory, too. I tend to go into a story expecting to kill someone, and I think if you keep that in mind, it won’t bother you quite as much when it comes down to it.


I’m with you, Sammy. I love killing off characters, as long as their death adds something to the story. I used to want to be known for killing a main character with every novel, but now that I’m more mature (mostly), I realize that can’t be my signature mark (I wrote an article about this here). Not only will it not work for every story, that’s not something I really want to be known for after all, lol. But when a character needs to die, I don’t shy away from doing it. Usually I plan it out long in advance, and I have a very clear idea of what their death will look and feel like, in order to give maximum emotional impact.

For me, killing off a character doesn’t affect who they are or their value. It’s not like I can’t ever play with them again, or live with them again through the beginning of the book. Characters are special that way; just cause you kill them doesn’t mean you don’t get to talk to them anymore. Therefore, it’s not sad to me as a writer when a character dies. Is it sad as a reader? Yes. It’s meant to be sad. But I guess writers are lucky in that we don’t have to lose our characters the same way a reader loses them when they die.

-The Writer Currently Performing a Complete Rewrite


I’m really trying to learn to be less protective of my characters! When I come to the end of a first draft, I usually expect that the first revision will be dedicated to adding more pain. With FIREFLY, when I re-read the first draft I realized that the best thing I could do for the manuscript was to go back and kill off a major character. I decided that the character should actually be dead before the story begins, so I had to go through and excise her from every page. As difficult as that was technically, since whole scenes that centered around this now-dead character had to be re-written, when my agent gave me her first notes on the book, she commented that the other characters seemed too accepting of this recent death. Basically, she told me to add more pain! Even though I’d killed off this character, I had over-protected my remaining characters from the pain that the death would have caused. So no, I wouldn’t say I have trouble killing off characters, but I have a definite issue with letting my characters suffer. One of my current goals as a writer is to let my characters feel more sadness and experience more mourning.

-The Other Writer Out on Submissions


Have you ever killed off a character? Was it hard?

The Name Of My Muse Is Mary Sue

26 Aug

by Biljana Likic


Hi! My name is Felicitie Del’Ortollio. I have a great personality, and I’m generous, kind, helpful, and encouraging. I’m a great leader, too. I’m a straight A student, speak 23 languages fluently, and I work out a lot, so I have a great body. I also have very nice hair. It’s brown, which is a plain colour, but on me, it looks totally awesome. Mostly because I have such a gorgeous face. My eyes are blue, but sometimes they’re violet, depending on my mood. I have lots of friends that tell me I’m cool and want to be me, and most of the guys in school are secretly in love with me. But that doesn’t make me arrogant. I’m actually quite sweet.

I also have magical powers that you won’t know about until an impossible situation comes along and my creator has no idea how to fix it. Then, I’ll reveal that I’m the most powerful member of a super secret order of faeries that against all judgment chose me as their leader. Probably because I would never let the power corrupt me.

I’m just an overall amazing person.

I’m also completely unreal.

You knew that?

But how did you guess?!

Is it because my second name is Mary Sue?

Yes. Yes it is.

But the above is an exaggeration. Mary Sues can be a lot subtler than that. What they are in the extreme is the creation of a character that is exactly like the writer, or what the writer wants to be,  with the good traits amped up and bad traits abolished. Certain things like insecurities and confidence issues become non-existent to the character, whose life is pretty much great, and whose problems melt away with really easy solutions.

The reason they exist, I believe, is simple. Once in a while, everybody wants to be perceived as funny and nice, or delightfully quirky, or devilishly sarcastic. Whatever the desire, Mary Sue waits around until you choose it, and she presents you with an irresistible opportunity: rewriting your life to be exactly how you want it to be.

It’s a way of immersing yourself into that universal dream of things going perfectly as planned, with everybody on your side.

Unfortunately, just because it offers you a fantastical escape that seems like sheer brilliance, critics may not agree.

From her humble beginnings in Star Trek fan fiction to her present day appearances in contemporary novels, (read a description of Bella Swan and compare it with a picture of Stephanie Meyer,) Mary Sue has become the whispered-about small-town disgrace that nobody wants to be associated with publicly but everybody wishes they could have. She has earned herself a reputation of being the fictional equivalent of a hooker, who tells you she loves you, tells you you’re beautiful, amazing, absolutely perfect, and who will pet and pamper your ego till your head’s too big to fit through the door.

And then she’ll jump into the proverbial bed of another, leaving you quite metaphorically screwed, and burdened with the heavy price of a whole manuscript of mental indulgence to rework.

But it’s not fair, because nobody really warns you. Nobody tells you when you’re young and writing your first story to be careful not to answer the siren song of a fake confidence boost. Or if they do, they don’t give you real reasons. They just say “It’s frowned upon” and expect you to listen without any facts. And to add to the frustration, they accidentally encourage it. When you’re just starting out as a writer, the common piece of advice that everybody hears is “Write what you know.”

Well of course an obvious answer would be a Mary Sue. What do you know better than yourself?

The problem isn’t having her in your writing. The problem is the small town. Mary Sue has become so shunned and ostracized that the town refuses to believe anything good can come out of her. The moment they see her around they boo and hiss and fail to realize that to get out of the Mary Sue relationship in a healthy way, all you really need to do as a writer is grow up.

Practice, mature into your writing, and slowly ease her away. Turn the torrid, injuring love affair into a comfortable friendship. She can be quite kind when you acknowledge her with respect. By having a friendship, you’ll accept the possibilities she offers without letting yourself fall in too deep.

Most importantly, you’ll lose the town’s mentality of Mary Sue as a destructive, leeching succubus. To cut her off completely would be impossible and stupid. You created her; she’ll be a permanent part of you for the rest of your life. You’ll remember her for all the wonderful ideals she inspired, and all the glorious emotions she made you feel when you wrote about flying to the moon with angel wings. She is the embodiment of all your fears, hopes, insecurities, and dreams of adventure, everything that still exists in your blood, all the stuff you think about daily, and to kill her off would be like killing a piece of your soul.

She’ll stalk the edges of all you future writing endeavours, looking in with clear eyes and grudging respect, no longer a jealous lover, and just for that, she is entitled to a word, a sentence, a mannerism, or personality trait of any character you create in the future, if she so chooses.

She is your muse. Treat her with dignity.


Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She just graduated high school and is on her way to university where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

25 Aug

Today’s Dose Of Reality is Provided By:

Sarah J. Maas


Like most writers out there, when I daydreamed of my first book deal, I dreamed BIG. Ferraris, a mansion in Maui and a villa in Tuscany, a live-in chef to make me gourmet mac and cheese whenever I wanted. No joke. I fantasized about making enough money off my books that I could write full-time and never have to work again.

Well, let me tell you two things:

1. Writing IS work, so even if you’re writing full-time, it’s not like taking a permanent vacation.

2. For most writers (myself included), even if we get a pretty awesome book deal, it’s not enough to permanently quit our day jobs.

Yeah, it sucks. But it’s a reality we have to face. I thought I’d get out of college and never have to work. HA. Funny.

See, unless you get a ginormous deal that will make you financially set for LIFE (which is extremely unlikely, I hate to say), you’ve got to be able to support yourself. While that initial advance might last you for a few years, what if you never sell another book again? Until you can say—without a doubt—that your writing provides enough income for you to live comfortably (no ramen diets, please), don’t quit your day job.

There are other reasons, of course, not to quit your day job. Like…being social. Not just from a writing perspective (because real life experiences translate into real good books), but also from an emotional one. Meeting people and getting out there is healthy. Believe me, I’m a bit of a hermit by nature, and I still have to force myself to go outside—and you know what? It’s good for me.

Also, there’s the emotional strain of not having a steady paycheck. The money you make off your books doesn’t come every two weeks. I got my book deal back in March, and I have yet to see the first installment of my advance. If I didn’t have the income of my day job to fall back on, I’d be freaking out. My husband would be freaking out. My DOG would be freaking out (no more treats and toys for her! Boo.). My house would not be a happy place to live.

But, Sarah—if I have a job, won’t it interfere with my writing?

No. You will be tired, and you will be stretched thin, but you can do it. Don’t whine, and don’t make excuses. If being published is truly your dream, then a 9-5 won’t kill it. Maybe it’ll be a lesson in discipline—which you are going to NEED if you someday want to write-full time (you wouldn’t believe how tempting daytime TV is). And everyone loves a good rags-to-riches story—think of how cool it will sound when you tell Oprah that you slaved in a corporate prison for years before you had your breakout book!

But my writing is really, really good! I’m sure I’ll get an agent/book deal really quickly!

Don’t count on it. No matter how awesome your writing is, you could easily spend months, if not years, querying, and then even longer on submissions. And again, even if you sell your book right away, you might not see any money for months.


No buts. You are not the exception to the rule. Unless you’ve got a fantastically wealthy family or spouse to provide for you (and if they don’t MIND providing for you, which is also key), you need a day job. Not necessarily a career (unless you want one), but a day job. Something to keep the electricity running.

It sounds harsh, I know. Honestly, I was the Queen of Buts (…maybe I should re-title QUEEN OF GLASS…). And in the 18 months after college—during which I was unemployed, but writing full-time—it WAS an emotional burden not to have a job. Even if I wrote….6 books in those 18 months, there was always that pressure. It’s not fun.

So, be patient. Serve your time. You’re in good company. Most of the successful authors you see on shelves had to work multiple jobs before they could write full-time. Finish college, get a job (however miserable), and keep your eyes on the prize. You CAN get there someday—but until then, just don’t quit your day job.


Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.

Line Edits: the Art of Micro-Writing

24 Aug

by Kat Zhang






*dials up LTWF central*

Hello? This is Kat. We have a problem. Seems like all our readers have disap—


…anyone there?

Oh crud.

Well, alright. Here’s the article of the day for all you guys out there who aren’t reading MOCKINGJAY right now! I’ll keep it short, I promise.

In fact, this whole article is about “keeping it short.” I’m talking about your sentences here. Today, we’re delving into the world of micro-writing. Great stories aren’t just made up of great characters and a wonderful plot—they’re composed of well-chosen words and clear, beautiful syntax.

We’ll cover a few basics today, starting with this: Generally, the longer a sentence, the weaker it comes off.

Version A: All speech and all conversation slammed to a halt as a yellow tray soared through the air, smashing into the white walls, sending splotches of food flying in all directions.

Not bad, not bad. But I think this makes it tighter and stronger. And since this is an “action” shot, that’s especially important.

Version B: A tray smashed into the wall, sending splotches of food flying in all directions. Conversation slammed to a halt.

Now, yes, Version A is more descriptive, but in my mind, it has two problems. The first I’ve already mentioned: it weakens the action described in the story by being too long. The important bits of information (tray smashing into wall; conversation slamming to a halt) are buried under all the extraneous words.

Also, Version B changes the order of things. Version A tells you about “conversation slamming to a halt” before telling you about the tray smashing into the wall. Version B inverts things. That way, the last thought/image ringing in the reader’s mind is the deafening silence.

Okay, now on to point number two: present your information as clearly and concisely as possible.

Version A: The doors to the bathrooms were shut, but little panels declared in bright green: “Unoccupied.”

Version B: The bathroom doors were shut, but little panels declared Unoccupied in bright green.

There’s not a huge difference between the two versions, but I do think that B reads more smoothly. It paints a better picture in my mind. “Bathroom doors” and “the doors to the bathroom” mean the same thing, but the former saves you three words!

Which brings me to my third point: if a word can be cut, cut it.

What do I mean by “can be cut”? Well, if the sentence still makes sense without it, and you’re not losing any stylistic form you were going for, then say bye-bye.


Version A: At eight, I jerked while Adie was bringing our dad his morning coffee.

Version B: At eight, I jerked while Adie brought Dad his coffee.

Not only did I change the “was bringing” to “brought,” which cut out the passive voice, but I got rid of “morning,” because it served little to no purpose to the scene. When I say coffee, you’re probably thinking “morning” anyway, and in this case, it didn’t matter whether you were or not. So out the window it went!

Honestly, I love doing line edits. To me, it’s like cleaning up a sketch. You get rid of all the extraneous marks until all you have left is the sleek, silver form.

Of course, we’re only looking at one or two sentences here. In a story, you need to vary your sentence structure, so if you have a paragraph with a bunch of very short, simple sentences, you do need to throw some longer ones in there to balance things out.

I’ll leave you guys with one final note: try reading your work aloud. If you stumble, then you might want to think about rewording things.

Now get back to that MOCKINGJAY reading! 😀


Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She spends most of her free time either querying HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–or pounding out the first draft of her work in progress. Both are YA novels. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.