Wrap-it-up Wednesday

Faran Fagen

There was some sharp writing this Tuesday, especially from Jonathan, but we all came away with ways to improve.
Wait a minute, isn’t that what critique groups are all about?
I batted lead-off with the first 10 pages of my second baseball-themed YA. Even though everyone agreed it was solid writing, each member of the Tuesday’s found ways for me to trim my first pitch. At times I tried to stuff in too much info for the reader, and my critique chums caught it.
I’m even going to throw out a piece of a car scene and use it later to go easy on the reader in the opening.
Joanne batted second and everyone agreed that her pacing and storyline are medically sound. But there were remedies to her character motivation, and she pumped too much blood into some of her descriptions, which included some riveting scenes of a downward spiral nature.
Stacie cast a spell as always with her latest YA. Her MC took the ice with power and life, and her character’s motivation to score the winning goal was authentic. Other than a few tweaks here and there, the only worthy suggestion was to trim a few repetitive internals in the second period.
As far as Jonathan, our clean up hitter, I couldn’t find anything to critique as far as his plotting, character development and funny quips. Nothing to change. He was so good, he blew me out of his house with his best curveball. Actually, I had to leave early, so I never heard his turn. It’s too bad, because normally I laugh my butt off when he reads.

Oh well. I’ll just have to buy his debut book once it’s out.

Happy Wednesday!


Tension on Every Page

I’m in the fourth revision of my current work in progress and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Something that I’m looking for at this point is tension on every page. It’s something we all strive for, so how do you make it happen?


When conflict is high the reader doesn’t want to put a book down. conflict-for-novel-revisionMaking things urgent, unavoidable or immediate not only creates tension, it slows the reader down, making them not want to miss a word. Every scene needs to show conflict. Each scene should have a mini-arc of its own with an inciting incident, a rise in tension, a climax and resolution. Don’t let your character slip into a long period of contemplation, digesting what just happened. Leave things unresolved with lots of mixed feelings to ramp up the tension. Complicate and frustrate the goals of all your characters.


suspense-in-fiction-writingSuspense comes from the knowledge that something bad is going to happen. It’s magnified tension. The reader needs to know that a pit has been dug and covered with fabric and leaves as the little girl is running down the path. For a reader to feel anxious they need to see what’s ahead, anticipate the disaster. Create scenarios where the reader knows what the penalties will be if your hero’s strategy fails, then make him fail.


Stakes increase drama and excitement. Can you pinpoint exactly where the stakes escalate, forcing your character into a particular course of action with a higher propensity to fail than earlier? Stakes fall into two categories, personal and public. Both should be intertwined to create tension.

Personal Stakes                                                                                            raise-the-stakes-in-your-novel

Personal stakes matter only when the reader is sympathetic to them. As yourself why would I care about this character? We cared about Harry Potter because we didn’t want him to have to back to his nasty Aunt and Uncle and live under the stairs. Are the stakes high enough for your character? Joyce Sweeney has a great on-line class on revision in which she talks about Stakes. Joyce says stakes are what pushes your main character to do something different. Stakes make him change. When the stakes are high your main character is propelled and your reader can feel the discomfort in your hero.

Public Stakes

Great thrillers have grand public stakes like the water system being poisoned by a madman in a major city, but that doesn’t usually happen in real life. How do authors make it seem real? They use a grain of truth in the premise and expand from there. Mystery writers do it on a lesser scale bringing a hidden criminal to justice. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald made Jay Gatsby extremely wealthy, transporting us to a place where most will never be, then threatened to take it away. Fitzgerald created high public stakes by getting readers so involved in Gatsby’s personal world we felt like we were living it.

Creating tension on every page is a challenge. Knowing what a character has at stake, putting them in conflict and ramping up the suspense can have people saying “I couldn’t put that book down.”

Media Monday with Cyn Balog, author of Unnatural Deeds

Tuesday readers, I can hardly contain my excitement as I introduce our next guest. Please welcome Cyn Balog. Cyn and I haven’t officially met each other, but we share a publishing house and a love for YA books. I recently read her latest release, Unnatural Deeds, and I loved it! I asked her to speak to us about her writing. Let’s hear what she has to say. First, her bio…

Cyn Balog is a normal, everyday Jersey Girl who always believed magical things can happen to us when we least expect them. She is author of young adult paranormals FAIRY TALE (2009), SLEEPLESS(2010), STARSTRUCK (2011), TOUCHED (2012), and her most recent release: DEAD RIVER (2013).e. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters.

She also writes under the pen name Nichola Reilly. Nichola Reilly is Cyn Balog’s post-apocalyptic fantasy-writing alter-ego. The first book in her series, DROWNED, will be releasing from Harlequin TEEN sometime in 2014, followed by a sequel, BURIED, in 2015.



SR: I am so excited to have you on our blog today. I have to admit I read Unnatural Deeds in two days. I ignored my husband and my kids and even my dogs! Our being Sourcebook siblings and release-day-sisters aside, I loved your book.


Enough of my fan-girling. Onto the questions.

Your book is about obsession. It’s a word we overuse and yet we each have known that feeling at least once in our lives and most times we view obsession as dangerous, but sometimes it can also be a good thing. In your book, does obsession serve the Victoria, the main character in the book, or does it harm her?


CB: Aw, thank you so much!! I loved THE HOMECOMING too! It made me cry, and not many books do that to me!

I think with Victoria, there was a point up to which her relationship with Z. was helpful to her, getting her to break out of her shell and do things out of her comfort zone, like try out for the school play. The only problem with that was that it caused her to rely too much on Z., and to see him as the source of all her happiness. I don’t think it’s a good thing to have one person mean so much to you that they can make or break your entire day, and while it’s happened to all of us, I think it’s a million times worse when that other person doesn’t feel the same way.

SR: I felt that same way, that in many ways he was exactly what she needed until it became too much. Do you feel there are certain people/characters that are more susceptible to falling under someone’s ‘spell’ like Victoria does when she meets Z?

CB: Oh yes, people who have a hard time making connections with others are more susceptible. They realize those connections are not easily made, so when they do make one, they tend to guard it, sometimes so fiercely that they can break it, like Victoria does.  I totally don’t write this from experience or anything (grin).

SR: Know what you mean. But back to the questions. The story, itself, is a letter, written from Victoria to her boyfriend, Andrew. How did that particular structure serve the story?

CB: It wasn’t that way at first, because the particular twist ending wasn’t always the ending. Once my agent suggested the current ending, it made complete sense for her to be confessing to Andrew, since he’s always been her best friend and confidant. Part of her feels guilty for betraying him, but part of her is just happy to recount the story and tell someone what happened.

SR: Throughout the story, you intersperse news articles, and police interviews, and yet, none of these give away the surprising ending. Can you talk about how you managed that?

CB: I have no idea. Ha ha. I had about 10-15 published authors read this book and give me feedback. And then my editor read a few parts of it and suggested some things that were giving away too much or not telling enough. Then the copyeditor, as well. I think that was the most challenging thing—to try to get into the mind of my reader and see what they might be thinking as they’re reading the story, especially considering I’ve read the book 4 billion times and know how it ends. BUT, the good thing about interviews is that they’re each based on just one viewpoint and there will be plenty of conflict, since none of them is entirely reliable, which really helped to keep things in the dark.

SR: Now onto the ending. Wow. When you write a story, do you always have the ending in mind? Does it change as you develop the story?

CB: I DID have an ending in mind for this book, unfortunately, it was not the one I ultimately went with. This book was originally supposed to be a simple contemporary issue book about a girl getting obsessed, it leading to tragedy, and her having to get her life back together again. I thought that would help a lot of teens would connect to that story, especially since first loves have a tendency to sometimes grow obsessive. But it spiraled away from that, and when my agent suggested the new ending, it was almost like my subconcious had been telling me that was how it needed to end, because it required very little doctoring to make that ending work.

SR: I love the ending. It felt really satisfying and also inevitable. Although I’d love to get an idea of the alternate ending now! Now onto writing. As far as your writing routine, do you write every day? Do you have special writing rituals?

CB: Oh, gosh no. I hear that all the time, “In order to be a writer you MUST WRITE RELIGIOUSLY.”  Maybe some people need to. But me? I started writing books when I was 5 year old. It comes more naturally to me because I’ve been doing it so long.  When I meet someone, I am usually thinking of how I would describe him in a novel, or when I’m talking to someone I’m thinking of how I would write that as dialogue. If you get to that point in your life (you’ll likely be insane, but) you won’t have to write every day because writing will kind of be a part of you. Not to say I haven’t written A LOT. To get to that point in life, you have to have put in the time. But now, I have a full-time job and kids and other demands, so I do not actually sit in front of a keyboard every day.


SR: Your control on the page as you navigate very complex situations and relationships is amazing. I read the book once as a reader and am now re-reading it as a writer, as kind of a master class. Do you teach writing workshops? And if so, can you share the whens and hows so we can all sign up?

CB: Thank you! I honestly don’t feel like I am best equipped to teach writing workshops. I did speak at a number of conferences when my first book came out, but the more I did that, the more I realized I still have so much to learn, myself. Even though I started when I was so young, I feel like I will never be done learning. Plus, I’m shy—I’d much rather be in the student end of the classroom, than the teacher!

SR: Do you have any writing advice to people trying to break in?

CB: The only key is persistence. My daughter is 10 and said to me that she wants to be a published author, one day, too. I told her that the great thing about writing novels is no one will ever tell you you’re too young. You just need to put in the time. Yes, there may be people out there who are graced with the talent to compose bestselling novels in their sleep, but I am not one of them, and most people aren’t, either. Learn the mechanics, then read, read, read, write write write, emulate the authors you love, until you can write your own stories. Then send your stuff out. Keep sending it out. Do not quit. As easy advice as it is, the process will be hard. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy (unless you are one of those few who can compose bestselling novels in her sleep!).

SR: What’s your favorite Netflix series or binge? And why?

CB: I don’t watch TV!!  I used to watch The Walking Dead up until last season but they lost me after some pretty gimmicky plot twists. Glenn hid under the dumpster? Come on. I hate plot twists!! Oh, wait…

SR: Yeah, I gave up on The Walking Dead after a couple of seasons because I was like who wants to live in this zombie filled world?

This may be an indelicate question, (but I asked Jeff Strand this so I feel compelled to ask you) can you tell us your numbers? Specifically how many books, stories, and anthologies you’ve written or been part of?

CB: Oh, gosh, hundreds? I have enough trunk manuscripts to fit under a dozen king-size beds. Like I said, I think I’ve put in the time! I can even direct you to the books I wrote as a kid . . . like the one about the cat detective, or the YOUR BUILDING IS ON FIRE Choose Your Own Adventure book. Some of them are truly, truly awful. I don’t consider that to be time wasted, though . . . every book I wrote got me closer to becoming published. Like I said . . . persistence is key!

I 100% agree! Thanks so much for joining us today, Cyn, I think our readers will get a lot out of this interview.

Readers, leave a question in the comments section and we’ll see if we can get it answered.

Thank You: It’s all in the Details

Freestyle Friday By Faran Fagen

I was planning on basing my freestyle Friday on something serious about the first amendment, but after hosting Thanksgiving at our new house, I’m filtering out the dark meat.
Sharing our new home with our family and watching the Redskins defy expectations and nearly upset the Cowboys filled my heart.
So in the spirit of showing, not telling, here are my top 15 details I’m thankful for from one of the best Thanksgivings ever:
1. My 94-year-old grandmother (aka Nanny) playing dolls with my 3-year-old daughter, Blair.
2. Blair running around and giggling with those gag slinky glasses that hang down to her waist.
3. Plenty of ice cubes – not the rapper, but the kind in the Apple cider.
4. My father-in-law cheering with me for the Redskins from his wheelchair.
5. My wife, Kara’s, three brothers arguing over the best way to wheel my father-in-law into the house. As usual, they made the best decision – together.
6. Kara’s homemade apple pie. My mom’s moist pumpkin bread.
7. Our cousins, uncles and aunts from all over showering Blair and my son, Spencer, with gifts.
8. My mom and dad taking the kids out to the park in the afternoon so they’d get some exercise while we put finishing touches on dinner.
9. Spencer counting quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies and then, when he gets the correct total, asking everyone for applause.
10. Face timing with my brother Mike and my two nieces in North Carolina, and jinxing each other with a “Go Skins” just before we hung up.
11. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins heaves the bell 67 yards to a wide open Desean Jackson to put the game in reach. I just picked up Desean off the waiver wire in my fantasy league.
12. Facebook full of fun and goofy pictures of friends eating with family. Very little politics or bad news on my feed.
13. Done cleaning by 10 p.m. thanks to group effort.
14. Trash cans just big enough to hold all the bags.
15. As I’m writing this, I’m in bed with Spencer, hoping he goes to sleep, when my phone beeps. It’s a text from my mother-in-law, thanking me and Kara for being the best hosts. Definitely a highlight. As Ice Cube might say, I gotta say it was a good day. Happy Thankgiving everyone from the Tuesday’s.

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving! Of course we’re all grateful for our loved ones, but since we’re a writing critique group, we thought we’d talk about what we’re most grateful for in our writing world.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: I am thankful for so many people in my writing life. First, of course, is my family who understand when I’m away at writing events or when I’m home but still somewhere else in my mind. I’m thankful for the mentors I’ve been lucky to have: Lorin, Joyce, and Terri. I am thankful for my critique groups, of course, The Tuesdays, in particular. I’m especially thankful for my close writing friends. For my wonderful agent, Nicole Resciniti, and my lovely editor, Annette Pollert-Morgan, and to the entire Sourcebooks team.

jonathan-headshotJonathan: This week we’re supposed to talk about what we are most thankful for in writing. Usually, I have to think about the prompts we get, but this week it was easy. This year, I got a writing contract. After putting in years and years of hard work and dedication, it was beyond gratifying to have it finally pay off. When you see the actual paperwork come in and get to hold it in your hands and see your name and your book’s title on it, it’s beyond thrilling. I’m extremely grateful that it finally happened. Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Tuesdays and especially to all of you who come here to read our posts. Thank you and hope you enjoy the holiday!

Joanne Butcher

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: The Tuesdays are my writing family. tuesdays-published-booksThey are what I am most thankful for with my writing. I even have their books on the same shelf as my most recent family photo. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be in a critique group with people who are open and honest and willing to share their talent in an unbiased manner to raise the bar for all. If you’re not in a critique group, find one. Like a loving family, a good critique group will be your cheering squad when you succeed and help you put the pieces back together when you fail. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Faran Fagen

Faran Fagen

Faran: I’m thankful for so many things in my writing life. I’m thankful for my family, especially my wife Kara, for giving me the support, freedom and time to pursue this amazing craft. I’m thankful for my school, for allowing me to teach subjects which mirror my passion. I’m thankful for SCBWI, for opening so many doors and teachings for me. I’m thankful for my amazing mentors, such as Joyce Sweeney and Marjetta Geerling. I’m thankful for my parents, Sandy and Ken, who sacrificed so much for me to pursue writing, baseball, teaching, and all my passions. I’m thankful to the many YA authors, such as Matt De La Pena, Chris Crutcher and Todd Strasberg, who give me inspiration. And of course, I’m thankful for The Tuesdays. Without our group, my novel would probably consist of a bunch of teenagers playing a really cool baseball game. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Cathy Castelli

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I’m most grateful for where SCBWI has taken me. I didn’t know there was such a thing until I heard Jay Asher speak at a FAME (Florida Association of Media Educators) workshop. SCBWI led me to my first critique group led by Jill Mackenzie, my first writing workshops, my first mentor, Joyce Sweeney, and ultimately got me to the The Tuesdays. Thanks, SCBWI!

Melody Maysonet

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I’m most grateful for my writing community, which includes SCBWI and all its networking and learning opportunities; my critique group (Tuesdays rock!); Jamie Morris, editor extraordinaire; and last but not least, Joyce Sweeney, who has taught me so much over the years.



Wrap it up Wednesday Review

I always write down ALLthanksgiving-owls-who-read-books of the feedback The Tuesdays offer in critique and go over it the next day. Some things are smack myself on the head obvious, others more subtle and sometimes a suggestion doesn’t go along with the premise I want to portray. The Tuesday’s didn’t meet this week due to Thanksgiving constraints. I reviewed my notes from last week to discuss what was said.

It’s funny that we critique in just about the same order we read in. Melody likes to go first and Jonathon wants to go last. The rest of us vary a bit in between, but the order stays fairly consistent.

In the revision of this novel I moved the turning point or big surprise forward to be the low point/realization of the story. Upon reading that chapter, here’s what The Tuesdays said:

Melody Maysonet

Melody pointed out  that I revealed too much all at once. I wanted to get the realization of my hero out there right away. Now I can see that it came out more like an info dump rather than woven in organically over a couple of chapters.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie mentioned that my main character, who has fallen into the throes of addiction, is much to cavalier. I need to make him nastier.I always try to see the good in people, so have a hard time making characters mean. My hero was hospitalized in this chapter. Stacie make him like a caged animal.


Jonathan Rosen

Jonathon suggested I show more fear regarding the confusion and disorientation that my character is experiencing. I should let him slip into a place of terror.

Other small things were pointed out by the group, like the nurse in the room was wearing white. It’s funny how we regress sometimes. When I started working as a nurse, we did have to wear white but no one has done that for many years. When I retired I didn’t even own a white uniform. So to add to my character’s visual fog, his nurse now has a white lab coat on.

Thanksgiving is a time of introspection. Something we can apply to our writing as we review and revise. I wish you all Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday Tips


The road to living this writing life is long and windy. You meet ten thousand people along the way. Some will end up being friends. Some will be good friends. Some will be the greatest people in your life and that’s great. But remember where you come from. Remember who you are. Who you used to be. Remember your backstory.

My husband, JKR, and I visited some of our friends a few weeks ago. We hadn’t seen these friends and others like them as often as we would like. Partly because of my writing obsession. Mostly because of life and the things that get in the way. These are the kind of friends that when you are with them you feel better about yourself. Grounded. And they remind you of who you are at the core.

Who you were before you wrote.

Who you were before you were agented. Un agented. Agented again. And then sold. Who you were before you blogged.

These people are the ones I raised my kids with. Their kids call JKR uncle and call me aunt. My kids call them the same. Our families know their families.

Our last visit, which was a complete surprise, was supposed to last for an hour or two and ended up spilling into a sleep over and a breakfast send off. As I was going to their second fridge in the hallway I read a sign they had posted. I love mantras but I don’t have them posted around my house. Maybe I should.

This one said simply, don’t look back, you’re not going that way.

It’s such an important and simple mantra.

But it also relates to writing. Your characters also have these people in their lives. Their backstory. Who they are before your story starts. Know that about them. Don’t always tell us, the readers, but know so much that when we read your stories we believe in them. When you’re writing those essential first pages, make us feel like those friends that enter your character’s life before this moment and let us pick up right where they left off. Oh and don’t forget the reason we’re here hanging with these guys. The thing that changed, the thing that needs to change, the inciting incident. That’s all kind of important, too, I guess.

Make us feel so at home in our friends’ (aka the characters’) houses that we are just about to drain the rest of the milk from the carton in the fridge and then call out to their parents, “hey you guys need more milk. Your welcome.”


Girls lying on sofa giggling

Then invite us in. Like one big sleepover or peek at their diary/journal/text messages and social media. Make us, the reader, feel like they trust us so much they are willing to share the most difficult challenges and personal issues. Their deepest secrets and most private desires.

Brother and sister reading books together

Most of their journey will be moving forward.


Despite the backstory, it’s the going forward that matters.

Gauges on speeding motorcycle


And if you make us love these guys like no one else, then we will go with them wherever they take us. And we won’t even mind a little of the ‘remember when’ flashbacks because with friends like these, we are interested in their lives and what makes them tick.

When we are finished with your book make us feel like we are better people for having known your characters as well as we know our oldest friends. Make us want to look back, if only to remember the incredible journey you took us on. No pressure.

Media Monday – Salad Pie by Wendy BooydeGraaff


Wendy BooydeGraaff

Welcome to Wendy BooydeGraaff! We met as part of the Nevada mentoring program a couple of years ago. How did that experience shape your work?

Wow, the Nevada SCBWI mentoring program was an amazing opportunity. First of all, the joy of being accepted gave me validation. My mentor, Suzy Morgan Williams, was warm and honest, two traits that serve a mentee well. When the first retreat was cut short due to a mountain snowstorm, she invited me into her home and showed me her works-in-progress and editor notes and an extremely valuable tool for revising that made a whole lot more sense to me when I saw it in conjunction with one of her manuscripts.

Then, there were two amazing retreats in South Lake Tahoe and Virginia City, which had inspiring settings and peers who read, critiqued and encouraged. The other mentors were generous with their time and expertise, so while Suzy was my mentor, I also got input on my work-in-progress from several other authors.

So all of that shaped me as a writer, which in turn has shaped all of my work and revisions since then. I started taking myself more seriously as a writer, too.

What is the single most important piece of writing advice you’ve taken?

Trust yourself. That advice has come in various forms, one of which reminds me in the midst of my revisions to remember what I set out to do at the start. Sometimes going back to an early draft reminds me what I’m doing with a particular story, and it helps me to go forward with the writing.

I’ve got quotes all over my desk and shelves. One that has been there a very long time is from Kurt Vonnegut. “The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow.” I love that; it reminds me to practice my art for no other reason than to grow my soul.

We’re a critique group, so we’d love to know your experience with them. What can you tell us?

I am part of a few critique groups. My local group meets in person once a month (though I’m always pushing for more often) and we’ve also taken home manuscripts to read. We’ve gone on retreats together—just us with our own agenda—but most often we meet, read aloud five pages and listen to feedback. We have five members (Four Ladies And a Gent: FLAG and one of our crafty members has made an actual flag) who write picture books, chapter books, middle grade, non-fiction, young adult, poetry and adult novels. We met through an SCBWI networks day in 2012.

I am also a part of two online picture book critique groups and one YA beta reader group. I see great value in critiquing and being critiqued. I’m very honest, because that is the most helpful and it’s what I want from a critique. Kindness is important, too, because it’s a vulnerable position to put your work out there.

My favourite critiques are those that ask questions and point out parts that don’t work. My least favourite critiques happen when someone rewrites my manuscript with their ideas and word choice rather than asking questions or pointing out awkward spots. I try to remember that they are taking ownership of my piece, and that’s a good thing. That’s exactly what I want a reader to do. Neil Gaiman’s advice works well in those situations: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” The trick is to find out what question the critiquer meant to ask, what problem did they see that caused them to go in and rewrite my work.

www.tuesdaywriters.comSalad Pie, your debut, is a picture book, but you also write MG. How do you make the switch when working on various projects?

With picture books, I work in short spurts. I get down a draft, circle back to it several times, and after many sessions of that, the text is in a place where I’m ready to show it to someone for a first read-through.

With middle grade and YA, I get down that first draft as fast as I can and I work on the same piece every single day until the draft is done. When I’m ready to revise, I work on the same piece every single day because the momentum is important in the longer works. I take breaks between revisions, sometimes a few days, sometimes a few months.

I like to have both going on at the same time—a longer project and a picture book text or two. I’m not sure exactly how I make the switch; the writing is very different. My picture books come from a read-aloud voice whereas my longer work comes from an internal-voice, if that makes any sense.

What has been the most fun part of having a book published?

Hearing about the readers! I have gotten pictures of kids reading Salad Pie, and have been told stories about kids making their own Salad Pie. I’ve had kids sing the Salad Pie song to me, and I’ve heard about kids who ask for “that salad book” at bedtime. There’s a little boy out there who keeps my book in his bed. Knowing that there are kids reading my book is heartwarming.

Cathy, thank you for inviting me to your blog. I’m so happy we met through the Nevada SCBWI mentorship program and I can’t wait to read your work.

Thank you for joining us! Best of luck with Salad Pie and your other projects!

Wendy BooydeGraaff is the author of the picture book SALAD PIE (Ripple Grove Press 2016) that has inspired several children to go outside, pick up shiny gum wrappers at the park and add them to a pretend pie. You can find out more at her website, and you can read about many other picture book authors and illustrators at On the Scene in 2016, a picture book debut blog. Connect with Wendy and share your favourite outdoorsy books @BooyTweets, on Pinterest or Goodreads.


What’s in a Name?

I once met a very hostile woman who was pregnant and planning to name her daughter Molly. I was pregnant also and considering baby names so I went home and looked up the meaning. My baby book told me the name meant ‘bitter’.  How poignant. naming_novel_characters Choosing names for your characters can take a lot of time and effort. You may start with one name and find that after your first draft, the name doesn’t suit the character at all.

Check the Meaning

As we give birth to the characters in our story it’s important to check the meaning of their names. If you want a bitter character, name her Molly. But if she’s sweet, loving and giving, Dorothy might be more appropriate. The Wizard of Oz depicted that good choice of names. Even if someone doesn’t know the meaning, often they have a subconscious awareness of it.

Behind the Name is a site you can use. It gives an indication of origin and meaning. I found it fascinating to discover that Joanne, my name is Shana in Scottish and Asia in Polish. This can be helpful if you want to have a character from a particular culture.

Co-ordinate Name with Theme

After your fist draft, once the theme becomes apparent, you should consider if your character’s names fit your theme. Themed names that make me laugh like Chance or Gage are often used for the hero in tawdry romance novels. If you are writing fantasy or science fiction made up names like Gandalf or Chewbaca can work out great.

Get in the Right Generation

what-to-name-your-novel-characterWhen naming characters you want to make sure the names are appropriate for the era you’re writing in. Male names like Michael or John seem to change less from generation to generation than female names. There is a seventy year gap from 1930 when Mildred was the most popular name to 2000 when Madison was a favorite. Unless she’s a cave woman, make sure you’re heroine’s name isn’t in the ice age.


Use Variation

You want to vary the number of syllables in your characters names.  Don’t have Bob, Bill and Dave as your novel’s crew. Vary the syllables with something like Dave, Robert and William. Never have two characters with the same initials, like Carl Haban and Cathy Hewitt. It gets too confusing for the reader.  But, using alliteration to make a particular character more scarier is very effective with Severus Snape.

Read Out Loud

When The Tuesdays meet to critique we always read our work in progress out loud, without written copies to follow along. It adds a different dimension to the words on paper. Reading out loud makes it easier to distinguish the beats in a sentence or paragraph as well as the sound of a name. You want to make sure you’ve taken this step in case your novel is made into an audio book. Collin Nolan could sound like Column Olan or Coleen Noem  and change the way you intended your character to be seen in the eyes of the reader.


What you name your characters adds another layer of depth to your writing. Take note of interesting titles authors and parents have used and add more dimension to your story.

NaNoWriMo: What the Heck?

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which, according to the NaNoWriMo website, is “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.” Here at the Tuesdays, some of have participated in NaNoWriMo, and others of us… Well, here are our thoughts.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: I did NanoWriMo once as a writer. It was in 2010 and I became so obsessed with it that when people passed me in the hall at work and asked me how I was I blurted out, “35,000 words…” and walked away, leaving mass confusion and concern in my wake. The pep talks were amazing and made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself. They made me feel like I was an actual writer. I never took my NanoWriMo novel out of the drawer, even though I liked it quite a bit. I’m not sure if the mania surrounding its creation made it less appealing or if I just didn’t know what else to do with it, but it felt good at that early part in my writing career to accomplish something so cool. I wrote a novel in one month and I had a ton of company along the way. I now do the Young Writers Program part of NaNoWriMo with the high school autistic students I work with. They love it.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: I understand that the idea of NaNoWriMo is to get your idea on the page and edit later, but to me there would be a lot of anguish in not being able to figure out my concept, plot and characters because of the close deadline. chaos-in-writing-nanowrimoRevision would be daunting with everything so scattered. I once sat beside Stacie at a writing workshop. In between lessons, we had time to write. Near the end, Stacie stood up and said “Got two thousand words, that’s enough for today”.  I was astonished and I must admit quite jealous. I had never written that many words on the best of days. NaNoWriMo could benefit those who think fast and type faster, but it’s not something I will undertake.

Melody Maysonet

Melody Maysonet

Melody: To be honest, NaNoWriMo scares the crap out of me. I am a slow writer—that’s not to say I’m not disciplined (I treat writing like a job)—but trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days? Are you insane? I keep telling myself I’m going to try it (too late for this month), if only to rein in my inner editor. I do envy and admire all those seat-of-the-pants writers. I just don’t think I could ever be one of them.

Faran Fagen

Faran Fagen

Faran: With NanoWriMo, the key for me is motivation. I tend to write in bursts, with a lot coming all at once. In normal months, my goal is to write seven to ten pages (two chapters) per week. Sometimes that breaks down to a page per day, but mostly I tend to churn out five pages in a few hours of one day. For NanoWriMo, you need to write about thirty pages a week. That breaks down to around four pages per day. You really have to stay motivated to stay the course—support from other writers, family, and friends certainly helps. Although it would be nice to spread the writing into a daily regimen, I’d stick to the bursts. When inspiration strikes, it strikes. As do the fingers on the keyboard.

Jonathan: Sorry, Tuesdays, but this is another post where I’m probably going to disappoint. I just have never gotten into NaNoWriMo. I understand why people do it. I get it. And I admire those who can. I just have never had the discipline to go through with it. I nitpick and obsess over and over with each and every chapter, so it would nag at me to just forge ahead at breakneck speed. I think the people who can do it are amazing, but unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: You should try Nano at least once. It’s exhilarating to clue into the collective consciousness of all those people writing. You also get to see how far you can push yourself.