Series or Standalone: Which Do You Prefer?

Just for fun, I decided to count up the books on my physical shelf (so these figures don’t include my e-book collection) and figure out the percentage of series versus standalone novels. Because that’s what everyone does for fun, right? Right.

Anyway. It was no surprise to me to find that the large majority of the books on my shelf were part of a series, but what I found interesting was the enormous discrepancy between series and standalone books, at least on my shelf.

For context purposes, my shelf is comprised of 37% Adult novels (nearly all from one author, heh heh)  48% Young Adult and 15% Middle Grade.
And for more context, the genre breakdown is as follows: 62% Fantasy (of all types—Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, High, etc.), 17% Thriller, 7% Sci-Fi (Note to self: buy more Sci-Fi), 3% Contemporary, 10% Dystopian and 1% Horror.
Now the series figures. Are you ready?

A whopping 82% of my bookshelf are books that are part of a series (versus 18%, for those who don’t like math).
And out of the series books, 44% are part of a trilogy.
Out of those standalone novels, 73% are Adult.
Out of the trilogies, 77% were Young Adult and 23% were Adult. (The two Middle Grade series I’ve collected on my shelf are part of a longer series).
So this probably says a lot more about my book buying habits than it does about trends and the industry, but I know I’m not the only one whose noticed that as of late at least, series seems to be king. Particularly trilogies. And I’ve noticed that some people seem to be getting tired of it.

I read a post not too long ago that mentioned that years ago, the promise of a trilogy made it easier to sell a book. It makes sense—the promise of more books equates more money in the long run, however, the post also mentioned that nowadays, you’re about equally likely to sell a standalone compared to a trilogy. (I forget what post this was from, but if anyone recognizes it feel free to let me know. I like giving credit where credit is due).

As far as reading goes, I’m not sure that I really have a preference. I love trilogies, series and duologies alike, although the trilogy format always seemed to be a perfect amount to complete a full story arc to me (although I still love longer series just as much, *ehem* Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter, Mortal Instruments and Percy Jackson). A series allows us to extend our time in worlds we love with characters we love, and I think that’s really special.

I’ve also seen a new trend of series comprised of companion novels, like the Graceling series the Losing It series, which I find especially interesting because they allow us to learn more about the story world an see aspects of that world that the original main characters couldn’t show us. And that, to me, is fascinating. As an added bonus—no cliffhangers! Every book has a fully completed arc from start to finish.

All that being said, I enjoy standalone novels just as much. The Fault in Our Stars was perfect on it’s own, as were some of my Adult favorites like Immanuel’s Veins, Thr3e and The Bride Collector.

As for writing, all of the manuscripts I’ve written thus far were written with a series in mind (although I haven’t written any sequels for reasons explained here). But with NaNo coming up and new ideas taking hold, I think I’d like to play with straight-out standalones in the future. With maybe an idea or two for companion books. Who knows?

So those are my thoughts, now I want to hear from you: when reading or writing (or both), do you prefer series or standalone novels? Why? 

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When reading or writing, do you prefer series or standalone novels? Join the discussion at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)  
To series or not to series? Writer @Ava_Jae counts her books, makes pie charts & shares series & standalone stats. (Click to tweet)  

Quotation Marks: Not for Emphasis

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A quick, (hopefully) informative post on today, on the proper use of quotation marks outside of

In this case, I’m not talking about using quotation marks for titles or to directly quote someone or something (which is entirely correct, and I imagine most of you know how to do that). Instead, I’m debunking a quotation mark myth.

There’s a common misconception about quotation marks that they can be used to emphasize something with a sort of air quote usage. I’ve often seen signs for “fresh” food or a “great” service, but you’re actually shooting yourself in the foot when you try to use quotations for emphasis.

Because the truth is, quotation marks outside of dialogue aren’t used for emphasis—they’re used to indicate something isn’t really whatever is within the quotation marks, that is, to denote sarcasm. So for example…

That “fresh” food isn’t actually fresh.

That “great” service is probably pretty terrible.

That “cheese” sandwich might not actually be edible.

Some other examples...

Photo credit: Brett Jordan on Flickr

Photo credit: The Letter E on Flickr
I gotcha. *wink wink*

Photo credit: alexliivet on Flickr
And I am now very "hungry."

Photo credit: hodgers on Flickr
Yeah...I don't even know what to do with that. 

Don’t believe me? Check out this great (and more comprehensive) post from The Write Practice

Repeat after me: quotation marks should not be used for emphasis, unless you want to be the subject of much snark and ire. Unless you’re trying to be snarky, in which case, air quote away.

What grammatical technicalities do you tend to trip up on? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Do you use quotation marks for emphasis? You may be using them incorrectly, and here's why. (Click to tweet
Writer @Ava_Jae debunks a common misconception on quotation marks—with fun pictures. (Click to tweet)

How Important is Word Count?

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In a word? Very.

While I don’t think it’s something you need to stress over while first drafting—you can always refine during your revisions—after the first draft, you may want to take a good, hard look at your word count and make sure it’s within what’s expected for your genre and category. Particularly if you’re pursuing traditional publishing.

The truth is, if you’re way over or under the expected word count for your genre, it’s often a sign of a wide-scale problem in your WIP. That 200k-word YA tells agents that you need some major cutting: maybe your plot is unfocused, or you’ve got too many lengthy descriptions, or your pacing is way off, or the writing itself is rambling and unpolished. By the same token, that 25k YA tells publishing professionals that the story isn’t fleshed out. Maybe it’s true (which is likely), and maybe it’s not, but those are some of the assumptions that you’ll be facing.

If you’re not sure what the right word count is for your genre/category, here’s a great breakdown by agent Jennifer Laughran, which covers just about every fiction category except for New Adult and Adult.

Are there exceptions to the rule? Sure. There are always outliers, both successful and not on both sides of the scale, but the fact of the matter is, if you’re a debut novelist trying to get published, you don’t want to give publishing professionals a reason to automatically reject you. And a word count way over or under what is expected is one of those reasons.

In case you don’t read that fantastic post I linked to above, here’s a short snippet that I think is really important:
“* It is really not advisable to go over 100,000 words as a debut author, unless you already have a following. Consider yourself warned - 100k is often the magic number that makes editors and agents curse, cry, and possibly delete. Not that you CAN'T be published over 100k, it definitely happens for select super-awesome YA fantasy in particular... just that it really will be yet another hurdle for you.” 
(Read the rest of the post here. No really. Go read it). 
Getting published is difficult enough—the last thing you want is to make it more difficult for yourself by trying to be an exception to the rule.

Do you think word count is important? Why or why not?

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My Top Five Favorite Villains

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So it’s October and I haven’t posted a single tidbit about Halloween or creepy things or even fears for crying out loud, so today I’m going to amend that. With villains. Specifically, my favorite ones. 

To quote one of my favorites listed below (bonus points if you know who), every fairy tale needs a good old fashioned villain. Villains make our protagonists fight for their happy ending, and truth be told, without them, there wouldn’t be much of a story. 

So without further ado, here are my top five favorite villains (in no particular order): 

  1. The Darkling. (The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo) So the Darkling wins my favorite antagonist ever award. He’s got that I know I shouldn’t like you and yet I can’t help it type appeal, he’s powerful, intelligent and best of all, he’s sympathetic. You know he’s horrible and probably a little crazy and yet the thought of him dying is not a happy one. At least, not to me. 

  2. Graceling’s antagonist. (The Graceling Realm Trilogy by Kristin Cashore) Seeing how a large portion of Graceling is about figuring out who the antagonist is, I’m not going to spoil it and give this person’s name. But I will say this antagonist is twisted in a way that never stops being intriguing, and the more I got to know him, the more I wanted to know more. 

  3. Warner. (The Shatter Me Trilogy by Tahereh Mafi) Ahhhh, Warner. I have to admit, in Shatter Me, I wasn’t 100% sure why Warner had such an enormous fan base—I mean, yes, he was a great villain, but why all the swooning?

    Then I read Destroy Me. And Unravel Me. And now I am 100% in camp swoon over Warner.

    Again, what really drew me to him was the more I read about him, the more I began to understand him and the more he became a sympathetic antagonist. And I find that the more I understand about an antagonist, the harder it becomes to root for his demise, and to me, that’s a good thing. 

  4. Khan. (Star Trek: Into Darkness variety) I’m not going to pretend to be a Trekkie, because I’m not, but if there’s one thing that I love, it’s smart characters—particularly of the ridiculously smart variety. And this is no different for antagonists. So basically that whole Spock/Khan trying to outwit each other bit was my favorite thing ever. (Plus that scene on Kronos? Awesome).

    Back to smart antagonists: the reason I like them so much is because they’re genuinely difficult to beat. They don’t make stupid self-dooming mistakes, and they certainly don’t make it easy on the protagonist, which makes me that much more nervous for the protagonist and that much more desperate to find out how they finally defeat the antagonist.  

  5. Moriarty. (Sherlock variety) Basically everything I said about Khan applies to Moriarty. Except on top of being a genius, he’s crazy eccentric, definitely a tad bit creepy and is totally unpredictable. I’d probably love him for any one of those traits, but combined altogether? Yes, please. 

Who are your favorite villains from books, TV shows, movies, etc. and why? 

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Encouraging Stats for the Querying Writer

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Fun fact: I love reading How I Got My Agent stories. They’re exciting and often full of smile-worthy GIFs and squeeing and it’s kind of the whole reason I like watching the blind auditions of The Voice; there’s something really special about seeing someone taking a real-life step into their dream.

Oftentimes, at the end of these How I Got My Agent stories, writers will include their query statistics, which include numbers like how many queries they sent out, how many rejections they received vs. how many partial/full requests they received, etc.

What I found really interesting was the sheer number of writers who reported sending well over fifty queries before finding representation. And so out of curiosity I collected data from thirty How I Got My Agent stories scoured across the web.

The results, to me at least, were both surprising and somewhat encouraging.

Out of thirty now-agented writers, the average number of queries sent before finding representation was 59. The most was 154 (although four writers sent over 100 queries), and the least was ten. The majority of those writers only received one offer of representation—and that’s all it takes. You only need one yes.

Think about that: most of these writers, all who now have agents, received a lot of rejections. When we say rejection is just part of the process, that all writers face their fair share and then some, we really mean it.

Everyone gets rejected. Everyone gets disappointed or discouraged, and I’m willing to bet that just about every writer who has entered the query trenches has at one point or another seen a form rejection.

It’s an unavoidable part of the process, and it’s not fun, but it’s ok.

So whether you’re querying now or will be in the future, remember that rejection is expected.

And above all, remember this: in the end, it doesn’t matter how many rejections you get. Because all you need is one yes.

Have you entered the query trenches? 

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Entering the query trenches soon? Here are some encouraging statistics to keep you going. (Click to tweet)  
"In the end, it doesn't matter how many rejections you get. Because all you need is one yes." (Click to tweet

How to Fast Draft

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On average, it takes me about three to six weeks to complete a first draft.

To be fair, with two notable exceptions, most of my first drafts are on the slim side, from about 40 to 65k (though I usually aim for more than that in later drafts). But as far as first drafting goes, I am, what many would consider, a fast drafter.

So why do I tell you this? Because NaNoWriMo is nearly here. And reaching 50k at the end of the month, my friends, requires fast drafting.

So for those of you who are new to the mystical ways of writing faster than the Energizer bunny on speed, here are five quick tips to help you get through your first draft quickly.

  1. Plot first. If you’re a committed pantser, then more power to you. It’s not impossible to fast draft without some sort of outline, but if you’re open to plotting before you begin, I highly recommend it. Why? Because put simply, it’s a hell of a lot easier to write quickly when you know where you’re going. 

  2. Don’t look back. No really. Don’t. The key to fast drafting is to turn off your editing brain and write. If you want to make 50k by the end of the month, you don’t have time to fix that terrible first chapter or rewrite that cringe-worthy scene. Right now, you don’t need to worry about writing well—you just need to write. That’s it.

    It’s ok to write badly. I promise. Worry about making the words pretty while you’re revising. For now, just get the bones down. 

  3. Write or Die. If you’ve read my blog before, you know about my love affair with Write or Die. I won’t rave about it yet again here—all I’ll say is if you’re even the tiniest bit prone to getting distracted and/or staring blankly at the screen, unsure of what to write, then I dare you to try Write or Die just once. 

  4. Word wars. If you’re on Twitter, chances are you’re going to find more than a couple writers who are participating in NaNoWriMo, or are otherwise writing. We writers love to tell Twitter when we’re actually being productive, and I’ve found that a great motivator to write quickly and stay focused is to have word sprints or word wars with other writers. Check out hashtags like #wordmongering, #amwriting and #NaNoWriMo to find other writers who are getting some words down. 

  5. Daily writing goals: stick with them. And this is the holy grail of fast drafting rules: make a daily writing goal and do everything you can to meet it. For NaNoWriMo, your daily writing goal will likely be 1,667 words (assuming you plan to write every day). If you have Scrivener, you can set a goal and time frame and every day it’ll recalculate the words you need to write to complete your goal (which is pretty shnazzy if I do say so myself). If you don’t have Scrivener and you miss a day, don’t fret—just recalculate your daily writing goal and keep writing. 

So those are my fast-drafting tips, now I want to hear from you: what tips do you have for NaNoWriMo (or fast-drafting in general)?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Getting reading for #NaNoWriMo? Here are five quick tips for your future fast-drafting needs. (Click to tweet)  
Gearing up for #NaNoWriMo? Fast-drafter @Ava_Jae shares five tips for reaching the elusive 50k in 30 days. (Click to tweet)

My Favorite List: What Do You Want to Write About?

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When I’m ready to think about starting a new manuscript, the very first thing I do, before I even begin brainstorming, is revisit my favorite list of all time.

This is the list that reminds me why I love to write. It helps me to remember all of the potential for great stories out there, and most of all, it inspires me with all of the things I still want to write about. Because it forces me to ask just that:

What do I want to write about?

This is a list that I add to and rewrite and change all the time. It’s a springboard of ideas, both vague and specific.

I love working on this list, because it makes me excited, both for stories I haven’t written, and for books that I have that cross off items from the list. But most of all, it serves as guaranteed inspiration to launch me into brainstorming.

The list can include anything, from a specific manuscript idea to overcoming a struggle you have with writing. It can be an image, a character name, a trait, an idea, a world, a writing characteristic, or a goal.

I’ve rewritten my list several times (in part because I keep losing the hard copy, but never mind that). To give you an idea, here are a few items on my most recent list:

  • Diverse characters
  • Rich, interesting worlds
  • Combining Sci-Fi & Fantasy
  • Flawed characters 
  • Sympathetic antagonists 
  • Ninjas

I also have some characters names and more plot-specific items, but hopefully you get the idea.

This is the list I go to whenever I’m low on inspiration, or am struggling while trying to brainstorm, or even just want a refresher. It’s my favorite list, and one that I intend to continue to use over the years.

Do you have a what I want to write about list? What are some items that are (or would be) on it? 

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How to Write Emotion Effectively

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I’ve mentioned my editing philosophy when it comes to emotions in the past, namely, if I see a told emotion (i.e.: he looked furious), I mark it with a note along the lines of stop telling and show us.

But showing emotion is sometimes a little easier said than done. Where do you even begin? If you’re having trouble, it may help to use these four steps:

  1. Identify the emotion you’re trying to show. For the purpose of the example, let’s go with fear. But of course this could be anything. 

  2. Write down some associated words/common traits of that emotion. There are two sources you can use to try to figure these out—your experience, and The Emotion Thesaurus (or, ideally, both). The idea is to develop a list of related words or descriptors of an emotion. You'll want to draw on your experience to determine how exactly that emotion will affect your character. For fear, that might mean feeling cold, increased heart rate, clammy palms, prickling, jumpiness, hyperventilating, etc. The nice thing about The Emotion Thesaurus is that the list is developed for you, so you can skip right on over to the next step...

  3. Choose a couple best suited for the situation and your character. Emotions affect everyone differently, and different levels of emotion (nervousness versus outright terror, for example) may affect the same person in different ways. Once you have your list prepared, you want to take a couple traits or reactions that you think best fit the scenario and your character, and use them together. For the sake of the example, I’m going to use feeling cold, an increased heart rate and shaking. 

  4. Rewrite using your new words. Taking the words you've chosen from step three, rewrite the emotion with more impact. 

So, for example, you may have started with…
I was terrified as I grabbed my phone.  
Using the steps above, you could end up with something like...
My heart rammed against my ribcage. Ice breathed down the back of my neck as I snatched my phone. My fingers were shaking so badly that I hit the wrong number and had to start over...
You get the idea. The goal, in the end, is to write emotion without explicitly stating it. With the right combination of characteristics, imagery, thoughts and actions, your readers should be able to infer the emotion through context.

What other tips do you have for showing emotion effectively?

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Pacing Tip: Contrast in Plot

So I’m sure most of you remember middle and high school (or equivalent) English class, where the teacher drew the arc of the average story on the board, which looked something like this:
Oversimplification, but you get the idea.

What your English teacher may or may not have told you is if you were to zoom into any point in that arc, it should look a little something like this:
...Yes. It should look like a porcupine back. Or something.

What your English teacher definitely didn’t tell you is that it should never look like this:
Hope someone has a defibrillator handy.

Like a flatlining heartbeat, a plateauing plot is bad news.

Just like any decent roller coaster, your plot should include highs and lows both emotionally and pace-wise. Victories and setbacks, moments of quiet tenderness and heart-wrenching loss, chapters paced at breakneck speed followed by moments of rest and introspection.

The one constant amongst the highs and lows that you should strive to include is contrast.

The thing to remember about pacing and plot is too many high-action scenes next to each other is just as monotonous as too many consecutive quiet scenes. Think of it like a marathon: if you run at full-speed for too long, you’re going to burn out (or in this case, burn your readers out), whereas a burst of speed in the right places followed by a period of rest (as in slowing down, not stopping altogether) will suit you better. (Disclaimer: I’ve never run a marathon in my life, nor do I intend to. This may be bad marathoning advice, but it works in writing—promise).

Highs and lows keep things interesting—and even better, they make their respective ups and downs that much more powerful. A crushing loss after a euphoric high hurts twice as bad a slight disappointment after a moment of sorta-kinda-hopefulness.

So next time you start to feel your story plateauing, consider throwing in a major high or low to shake things up a bit. Your MS will thank you.

Do you include contrast in your plot? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
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Mini Book Reviews: INK and SIEGE AND STORM

So it’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed (or should I say raved?) about some books I’ve read recently, and so I’d like to share with you two equally fantastic books that have jumped onto my favorites list.

Firstly, a book I just finished a couple days ago: Ink by Amanda Sun

The Goodreads summary:

Photo credit: Goodreads
“On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building. 
Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets. 
Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.”

So I’ve been interested in Japan and Japanese culture for some time, so when I heard about this YA Fantasy set in Shizuoka, I was immediately intrigued. The Japanese backdrop in Ink was so beautifully incorporated that I wanted to hop on a plane and visit immediately after finishing the book. Add in a unique mythology, hot Japanese boys, kendo, a pace that has you flipping pages quickly, and a complicated, realistic romance to boot, and I didn’t hesitate to give it five stars.

As a side note, I actually recommend picking up the print copy of this book. Not only is the cover (and texture of the cover) entirely perfect, but there are sketches throughout the book including little flip-the-page type animations in the corners of the pages that were really nice finishing touches that would not have been the same in an e-copy.

Now the wonderful Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo.

The Goodreads summary:

Photo credit: Goodreads
Darkness never dies. 
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. 
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.”

First and foremost, if you like YA Fantasy and haven’t read Shadow and Boneyou need to go to your nearest bookstore or grab your e-reader and buy it immediately. The Grisha trilogy is one of my favorite YA trilogies of all time. The Russian-based fantasy backdrop combined with steampunk elements, an intensely epic magic system and an antagonist that you’ll love as much as you hate are just some of the reasons that I’ve fallen so deeply in love with this series.

I actually meant to review Siege and Storm ages ago, but at any rate, I loved this book. As you probably guessed from the above, it’s the sequel to Shadow and Bone and it certainly did not disappoint. I loved the new characters, the romance is complicated and sometimes ugly and always wonderful, and to say it’s an exciting read is an understatement.

Both of these books really helped to satisfy my fantasy fix, and I couldn’t recommend them more.

Have you read either of these books? Do you have any recommendations for me? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Twitter-sized bites: 
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How to Use Scrivener's Cork Board

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, chances are likely that you know my love of flashcards. Or rather, my love of plotting with flashcards. For me, flashcards to plotting is the cheese to my macaroni (that is to say, yum). 

So now that I’ve officially written a full manuscript from first plot bullet to final polished word in Scrivener, I’d like to share with you my favorite feature of all time: the cork board.

The cork board is actually the feature that sold me as far as buying Scrivener goes, and what I love about it is that it allows me to combine my plotting with flashcards method that I’ve grown to adore over the years, with the simplicity and beautiful organization of the computer. (Plus the lack of cramping hands is a pretty nice bonus, too).

So when you open up the cork board view in Scrivener, it looks a little like this:

Or rather, it looks like that if you have some plot points and blurry Photoshop magic at your disposal. But you get the idea.

On the left, you have a list of all of the flashcards on the board. Every flashcard can be titled, with a little summary section that you can fill in while plotting. I use this to lay out my initial plot long before I’ve written a single word in the WIP.

As you write up flashcards, you can move them around, re-title them, delete them, or label them. The manuscript in the screenshot above is a dual-POV MS, so I repurposed the labels to mark the POVs of my two POV characters, which allowed me to keep an eye on the distribution of the POV while plotting and changing things around later on.

Once you’ve finished plotting and you’re ready to start writing, you can open up each flashcard to look like this:

The great thing about Scrivener is that it works in scenes, so every flashcard you open up and type in will be saved in that card. If you decide during revisions that you need to move a scene earlier or later, you can easily do so by going back to the cork board (or using the menu on the left) and dragging it to where it’s supposed to be. For anyone who’s had to cut and paste a scene from one section of an MS Word doc to another, I promise you this is a million and two times easier.

So that’s basically it. Scrivener’s cork board is simple, the organization is beautiful, and quite frankly, I hope to never have to plot without it again.

Have you played around with Scrivener’s cork board feature? If so, what did you think? 

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To NaNo or Not to NaNo?

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After many years of sitting on the sidelines, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2012. And despite having experienced a major false start and basically starting over half-way through November, I walked away with 50,000 shiny new words that eventually became a 90,000-some odd word WIP monster.

If you’ve already decided you’re going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, then congratulations (and good luck)! I hope you’ve started preparing, or at least started thinking about preparing, because NaNoWriMo is no small commitment. 

But maybe you haven’t decided whether or not you want to participate, and that’s ok, too. This post is for you. 

Despite knowing about the event, I didn’t participate for years because November was typically a busy time for me. Being the competitive person that I am, I was scared of starting something that would be too stressful to finish. 

But then I participated last year and loved it. 

Here’s what’s great about NaNoWriMo:

  • It forces you to write consistently. As I’m sure you’ve heard if you’ve done any amount of research on NaNoWriMo, in order to meet the 50,000 word goal at the end of the month, you need to write 1,667 words a day. If you don’t write every day, then you’ll need to write a little more on the days that you do. But the point is, you need to write, and write often if you want to declare yourself a NaNoWriMo winner. And that’s not a bad habit to get into. 

  • It reminds you it’s ok to write badly. I happen to believe that 95% of first drafts suck. But the point of a first draft isn’t to write something beautiful, it’s just to get the story down so that you can polish it into something fantastic later.

    When fast-drafting for NaNoWriMo, you don’t usually have the time to edit as you go. You just need to slap those words down at the speed of light and write. 

  • The writing community is awesome. The writing and publishing community is full of some of the nicest, most understanding and encouraging people out there. During NaNoWriMo, all participates are in it together, which can be great for motivation. 

  • Pretty graphs. Call me crazy, but watching that word progress graph grow over time is pretty darn satisfying. 

  • A nice chunk of shiny new words at the end. Regardless of whether or not you reach 50,000 words, you’ll have new pages that didn’t exist at the beginning of the month. And that’s something that should be celebrated. 

NaNoWriMo isn’t easy, and there will be days when you’re exhausted and you’ll wish you didn’t sign up. But at the end of the month, when you have a chunk of a new book sitting on your hard drive, you’ll be glad you gave it your best. 

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Undecided about whether or not to participate in #NaNoWriMo? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some reasons to consider it. (Click to tweet)  
Are you participating in #NaNoWriMo this year? Join the discussion at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet

Writing Discussion: When Do You Research Your Novel?

Photo credit: Nomadic Lass on Flickr
I’ve been thinking about researching, specifically, researching for a WIP. 

Whether you’re writing a fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, romance, thriller or something else entirely, some form of research usually comes into play, whether it’s looking up how long it takes a bone to heal, or what the weather is like in Arkansas. 

For me, my research tends to come in three stages:
  1. Brainstorming. This is the initial research done while developing the book idea. Researching in this stage tends to be more for purposes of inspiration (Pinterest comes in handy), and the amount of research depends pretty heavily on the idea. For me, it varies anywhere from 100% inspiration fun, to more detailed what is this country/time period/culture like?

  2. Quick search. This is the research I’ll do while writing the actual WIP. Usually, as the title indicates, it’s a quick Google search to answer a question or double-check a fact, and it most times it only takes a couple minutes.

  3. Filling in the gaps. This is more intensive research done while revising. In this stage, I’ll really get into fact-checking and I’ll gather as many details as I can to add some verisimilitude to the writing. Whatever question marks, blanks or uncertain elements I incorporated into the first draft will be ironed out in this stage. 
With a few exceptions, I complete most of my research in the revision stages, but it varies from WIP to WIP. However, I’m curious about your process: when do you get the bulk of your novel research done? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
When do you do the bulk of your novel research? Join the discussion at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)  
What is your novel researching process like? Share your experience at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)
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