My Writing: The What, How, and Why

I know I’ve already participated in the popular writer’s blog hop going around–twice–but when Amanda from Amanda’s Nose in a Book invited me to join in again, I decided, why not? So here we go!

1) What am I working on? 

As most of you know, I’ve been elbow deep in revisions for my YA manuscript the past three or so months. This is an old project I optioned in 2010 to a production studio on the Paramount Studio lot. It’d been sitting on my shelf for over a year untouched until last fall, during NaNoWriMo, I realized it was time revamp it. COMPLETELY! I kept the basic concept and incinerated the rest.

My original goal was to have a polished manuscript ready to send off to agents this fall. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening. I’ve been working hard, but meticulous, so things are coming together a lot slower than I planned. But, it’s okay. I’d rather take my time and make sure things are solid, than rush  for the sake of finishing. That’s just silly.

At this point, my new goal is to have everything completed by January 1st–query letter, synopses, and all…We’ll see if that pans out.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, that pretty much sums it up!

When I write, I have one main goal: to think way outside the box…which can be tough in the category I like to write for: Young Adult. However, no matter how tempting it might be, I refuse to hop on trends (vampires, dystopia, angels, etc.). When a genre/topic becomes hot, I avoid it like the plague. Why? Because by the time I write a book about it, it’ll be old news. Agents won’t want it, publishers won’t want it, and a lot of readers won’t want it. And that equals wasted time and–basically–a worthless manuscript.

So, if an idea isn’t fresh, different, and “Oooh, that’s cool!”, then I won’t pursue it.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Easy. A story demands me to tell it.

Okay, I’ll explain. My main focus is young adult (suspense, horror, drama). However, I don’t let that focus constrict me. If a story wants me to tell it, I will. In fact, I rarely sit around and brainstorm ideas. They come to me at the most random of times (on a jog, in the shower, at the grocery store, while working on a different project). Some ideas I explore immediately; others I write down for a later time. All of them, however, haunt me. They’re like little whispers begging me to pay attention to them and translate them onto paper. Unfortunately, I’m not a machine, so I’m only able to address one at a time.

So, why do I choose the one I do? Well, let’s just say that story’s “whisper” becomes a “SCREAM!”.

No matter what project I take on, I have to love it. If I don’t have the passion and drive to tell it, then I won’t. I can’t! Books take a ton of time, a ridiculous amount of effort, and a wide range of emotions. If I don’t have the heart for it, then I’ll pass and find one I do.

4) How does my writing process work?

Recently, I’ve figured out an easy way to explain my writing process. In a nutshell, writing a story is like baking a cake:

  • Draft 1: Throwing all the ingredients into a bowl. AKA, just write! There’s no real plotting or outlining or planning. I sit down at my computer, press play on the “movie” inside my head, and write. As I work, I take notes in an “Edit” document. This is where I scribble down plot holes as I discover them, mark down major character flaws, and ask myself “Why is this happening?” types of questions.
  • Draft 2: Bake the cake. AKA, build the story’s foundation. I use all those ingredients from my sloppy first draft and start baking them into a solid story. I analyze the plot, I mold my characters, and I constantly ask, “Why is this happening?” and “What is the purpose of this?” and “Is this important?” If there’s no answer, then I chop it out. Why do I need a line/scene/character if it doesn’t move the story forward?
  • Draft 3 (and so on): Frost the cake: This is when I go back and start making things “pretty”. I juice up my descriptives, deepen my characters, add an extra punch to my action scenes, zero in on repetitive words/phrases, etc. Basically, I search and search for every and any flaw, and then I find ways to add in a bunch of “WTH just happened?” moments for the reader. I like to make them think they’re out of the woods and then–bam! I twist the story one last time to knock them off their feet…Well, I try, lol!

Here are a few other do’s and don’ts about my writing process:

Do’s:

  • Pitch my concept/idea before I begin: Why work on a project if people aren’t fans of the idea from the get-go? So, before I type one sentence, I ask a handful of trusted individuals (writers, family, friends) what they think of it. If too many of them lack an “Oooh!” response, then I’ll toss it out and try another.
  • Listen to music for inspiration: I spend quite a bit of time commuting each day, and almost every minute of that commute is spent listening to music compilations I’ve created for whatever project I’m currently working on. They help me think/rethink scenes, come up with new ideas, or simply add fuel to my writing fire.
  • Find photos of my characters: Similar to music, I thrive off imagery, especially when it comes to my characters. As I write, I always have photos of my main leads nearby (aka, famous actors, models, or just random photos via Pinterest). These visuals help me imagine what my characters’ expressions might look like, or what they might say or do in a certain situation.
  • Use beta readers: Showing off your hard work is both exhilarating and terrifying. However, it’s an absolute necessity if you wish to query or publish it. Just because you think your book is shiny and pretty and perfect, doesn’t mean it is. So, I always send my rough drafts to a few people I know and trust, and who I know will be brutally honest with me. They won’t say, “Oh, it was so good! I loved everything about it!” They’ll say, “I liked these parts, but this scene didn’t make sense, this character was annoying, this relationship was shallow, this chapter was useless…etc.”

Don’ts:

  • Outline/pre-plot: I’ve attempted to sit down and outline a story before I start writing it, but it doesn’t work. When I write, I like to sit down and go! When people ask me how I can do this, I tell them it’s like a movie playing inside my head. I hit the “play button” and “watch” the events unfold. As a story progresses, I may pre-plot the next chapter in my head while listening to music, but, overall, a story evolves as I type it out.
  • Write with music/noise: Turn it off! Turn it off! Silence is golden when I write. I wish I could listen to the music that inspires me while I work, but it’s too distracting. In fact, I’ve been wanting to invest in a pair of noise canceling headphones.
  • Show first drafts: First drafts suck. They do! And mine are horrible because I don’t outline/pre-plot, so they’re crammed with loopholes, discrepancies, 2-D characters, repetitive words, stilted dialogue, needless scenes, lukewarm action, cheesy romance, confusing twists…I’ll just stop there 😉

So there you go! Hope you enjoyed some insight into my writing. If you’re interested in reading any of my work, click on Jen’s Pen up above!

Up next on this round of the writing blog hop are some of my favorite bloggers/writers! Be sure to check them out. 

Paul Draper 

PD Booth

Blog: The Bitumen Carnival

Twitter: @TheBlackGate

Darla G. Denton

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Blog: Darla G. Denton: Musings From a Curvy Romance Writer

Twitter: @DarlaGDenton

Facebook: Darla G. Denton

Jonathan 

Blog: 40 Stories for my 40th Year

Book of the Month – The Maze Runner – James Dashner

Yet again, one of my favorite young adult books is being brought to life on the big screen. This month, it’s The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

6186357Synopsis

“‘If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.’
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.”

Jen’s Review

I read The Maze Runner forever ago, but even now, years later, I still remember how exciting, adventurous, and suspenseful it was. I also remember how I never stopped asking myself, “What the heck is going to happen next?”.

In a way, The Maze Runner reminds me of Lord of the Flies, except it has a maze, a girl, and oozing, creeping creatures that attack in the night! Oh, and there’s a tiny world-wide plague that gives people zombie-like symptoms, which makes things even more tense and crazy.

I will warn you: if you decide to read The Maze Runner, then you should prepare yourself to read its sequels, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. There are way too many unsolved mysteries at the end of book one to feel fully satisfied. But, that’s okay. As a whole (yes, I’ll admit, there are some ups and downs to all three books), this is an entertaining series that’s full of action and intrigue. And, in my opinion, they’re totally worth reading.

Mazerunner_minhoquoteSo what are you waiting for? Run out and read The Maze Runner before the movie hits theaters on September 19th!

Jen’s Rating 

5 Star

And for those of you who’d rather “see” the synopsis, here’s the trailer for The Maze Runner. Prepare to hold your breath for the next two minutes!

…Just remember: Read the book BEFORE you see the movie!

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Photo credits: 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6186357-the-maze-runner?from_search=true

http://www.teen.com/2014/08/07/movies/books-turned-movies-second-half-of-2014/attachment/maze-runner-thomas-running/

http://giphy.com/gifs/ColbXXtLhOz0k

http://mazerunner.wikia.com/wiki/File:Mazerunner_minhoquote.jpg

http://wifflegif.com/tags/202690-read-the-book-gifs

One Year Blogiversary – How My Blog Saved Me

I can’t believe it! Jen’s Pen Den has been up and running for a year!

So, I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you about why I started Jen’s Pen Den. It wasn’t because I was bored, or curious, or eager to the take the next step in building my author platform. It was because I was on the verge of quitting. Of giving up on writing all together.

Last August, I was in a low, low place. The option contract on my YA manuscript had expired months before, and my attempts to find new representation had failed. Everyone who passed on it kept telling me the same thing: “We like it, but we don’t love it.”

In other words, “It’s meh”.

AKA, “You’re a meh writer”.

AKA, “You suck, your writing sucks, and you’ll never be good enough to succeed in this business.”

Suffice it to say, I was devastated. I stopped writing and contemplated what I should do. I didn’t want to give up–that’s not in my nature–but what else could I do? Start a new book? Ha! Why? I was a “meh” writer. Why spend a billion hours on a book that was just going to get the same lukewarm reactions from agents and publishers?

Because you love writing, a stubborn inner voice reminded me.

Oh. That.

Ugh.

I battled myself for months. I didn’t know what to do. Start writing a new book? Or start looking for a new career? Fight for my dreams? Or throw in the towel? Punch and kick and scream? Or crumple up and cry?

Solution: Start a blog.

I had no idea what blogging was or how to run one, and I had no idea if starting one would help me climb out of the black pit I’d fallen into. But I had to try. I had to do something. I wasn’t ready to give up on my dreams yet.

It was one of the best decisions of my life.

In essence, my blog saved me. Within a few weeks of starting Jen’s Pen Den, I climbed out of the black pit I’d tumbled into. Hope returned–slowly but surely–and I gradually rose up and struck back at those vicious doubts inside of me. “Give up, give up, give up!” soon turned into “Fight, fight, fight!” I entered writing contests, started a new book, wrote a short story, and finally had the strength to tear up my old YA manuscript and start over completely.

Now, almost a year later, I’m happier and more passionate than I’ve ever been about writing. I’ve kicked all of those ugly doubts in the butt and knocked them down for good.

One of the main reasons I’ve been able to fight back is because of you guys.  You helped raise me up out of that black pit with your friendships, encouragements, and long distance cheerleading. I can’t thank you enough for your support.

…I’m not crying. I’m not!

Out of curiosity, I went to my stats page and looked up the top ten posts of the year. If you’d like to check them out, here you go!

Top Ten Posts

  1. The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents
  2. How Do You Share Backstory Information
  3. Chasing Monsters – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge Entry
  4. About Jen
  5. Stop the presses. Literacy isn’t important. Technology is
  6. “Muck and Mire” – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction 2013
  7. Into Paradise – Final Round Entry – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge
  8. Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  9. Jen’s Pen
  10. Over The Edge – 2nd Round Entry – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

Thanks again for all of your awesome support. Here’s to another year of blogging and writing!

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Friday Funny and The Suspense is Killing Me

Hey, guess what? It’s Faaaaa-riday! Friday, Friday, Friday…

Hmmm, I’m trying to think of interesting things to tell you about that happened this week, but to be honest, it was rather uneventful. I basically worked, ate, and slept. And wrote a lot…Yeah, riveting, I know.

Probably the most exciting thing that happened this week took place in my make believe world. I’ve officially reached the “bang” chapters in my manuscript. Woo-hoo!

At long last, I’ve pulled the first thread to unravel all the suspense and mystery I’ve been weaving since chapter one. The you-know-what has finally hit the fan. Everything my two main characters thought they knew is on the brink of destruction.

Dun, dun, dunnnnn 😉

I’ve actually been so nervous about writing these chapters, I’ve felt sick to my stomach most of the week. When I begin to work on them, my brain short circuits for a second and my heart starts to dance a crazy jig. I usually have to stop, take a deep breath, and center myself before I dive into the madness.

As overwhelming as it’s been, it’s also been a lot of fun. Like, A LOT of fun. I just love writing suspense and drama and action and…Ahhh!

*deep breath*

Anyway, for today I chose two Friday Funnies. Well, one is funny and one is a great quote that I couldn’t resist sharing with you. This first one is dedicated to my endless daydreaming as I plot out the next few whirlwind chapters.

10552388_10152365573228558_1413146830174124789_nThis second isn’t so much funny as it is great advice about writing suspense. I chose it because it’s exactly what I’ve been attempting to do these past couple of months while working on the first half of my book.

writing-suspense-michael-reginaHow was your week? Hopefully more thrilling than mine. On the bright side, I am going over to a friend’s house tonight to finally watch Divergent…I know, I know. Don’t even ask me how I haven’t seen it yet. It was on my “to-do” list and…yeah. It never got done. Whoops! Please don’t yell at me too much. 😉

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!

Music Monday – Always Starting Over – Idina Menzel

Book of the Month – If I Stay – Gayle Forman

25 Steps To Being A Traditionally Published Author

Photo credits: 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/10/napoleon-dynamite-brother-kip_n_4077817.html

http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/75024763.html

http://www.tinalicious.com/2013/12/10-mostly-realistic-resolutions-for-2014.html

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/596708986

http://theunderfold.com/2014/05/03/art-quotes-twitter/

Book of the Month – If I Stay – Gayle Forman

On August 22nd, one of my favorite books is coming to life on the big screen. To honor that, I’ve chosen If I Stay by Gayle Forman as August’s Book of the Month.

6564365If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Synopsis

“Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.
I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.
Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?
Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.
If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.”

Jen’s Review

I read If I Stay years ago, and it still makes my heart twist and my stomach drop. Just thinking about it makes me search for a tissue while thanking God I haven’t had to experience what Mia did in this book.

tumblr_mp8lqkavxh1sxy5x9o1_500One of the most important things in my life is my family. If anything happened to them…well, I’m not sure what I’d do. It’s one of those fears that haunts me on a daily basis, just as I’m sure it haunts many of you. To think of having everything you cherish taken away in the blink of an eye…

*shudder*

If I Stay addresses this tragic fear. It makes you live it through the eyes of Mia, a girl whose family is killed in a car accident. She herself is on the brink of death and must decide if she has the strength to stay and live with the pain of knowing when she awakes, her family will be gone; or if she can’t bear their loss and will let go to join them in death.
But, don’t worry. This story isn’t only about making you cry and sob and go through an entire box of tissues. It celebrates life and love, and offers hope when there is no hope to be found.

tumblr_mdg8mwFXNk1rj9ghno1_500As hard as this story is to read, it’s worth it. For me, it made me consider what I’d do if this type of tragedy ever struck in my life. Would I give up? Or would I fight for life? To be honest, I’m still not sure. Like Mia, it’s a choice I can’t make until it I had to.

Jen’s Rating

5 Star

To read more about If I Stay, click here!

And for those of you who’d rather “see” the synopsis, here’s the trailer for If I Stay…I suggest you grab a tissue before you view it 😉

…Just remember: Read the book BEFORE you see the movie!

 Related Articles

BOOK REVIEW: IF I STAY BY GAYLE FORMAN

A Blogging Reader’s Review: ‘IF I STAY’ by Gayle Forman

Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Photo credits: 

http://brynnetervention.blogspot.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4374400-if-i-stay

http://gayleforman.tumblr.com/post/54363068897/the-quote-books-if-i-stay-by-gayle-forman

http://handwrittenonpaper.tumblr.com/post/35663785431

Friday Funny with a Bang and a Touch of Madness

Happy Friday, everyone! Well, I don’t say this often, but I’ve been grateful for going to work this week. Despite what some believe, it gets HOT in Colorado, and the thermometer has been hovering around the 100 degrees mark the past few days. Since I don’t have AC at my house, I’ve been more than happy to hop in my car and go to work where it’s like a freezer.

Besides work being a cool environment, it’s also been a calm one. That means I’ve had plenty of time and energy to continue revising my manuscript. This week, I’ve managed to maintain my steady pace and squeak out two and half new chapters. So, that officially puts my second draft at just over 43,000 NEW words. Hopefully that means by next week I’ll hit the halfway mark.
So, one of my favorite quotes is by Alfred Hitchcock: “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” That’s how I like to write my stories. I like to draw the reader in by wrapping them up in a blanket of mysteries, suspense, and Oh God, oh God, oh God dread. Then, I like to pull one of the blanket’s threads and let everything unravel.
The next few chapters of my story will include that “pulling the thread” moment. Or, as Hitchcock puts it, “the bang”. And I’m so excited! In fact, I’ve caught myself staring off into space (er, more than usual) imagining these scenes and planning how they’ll play out…Fingers crossed they actually pour out of me when I finally get to translate them to paper!
Anyways, in honor of my ongoing focus, and my constantly daydreaming mind, here is today’s Friday funny. Enjoy!
10487381_827058133971480_4950458020756859081_n
So, how was your week? For those of you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, how’s it going? Are you going to make your goal by the end of the month? I’d love to hear about it!
Have a great weekend, guys! And don’t melt if you’re also experiencing ridiculous temperatures where you live.
Jen’s Weekly Roundup
Photo credits:

 

Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

18081809Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Synopsis

“Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now. Maybe that was always besides the point. Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts …

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?”

Jen’s Review

Meet Georgie McCool (er, but with blonde hair): 

Meet her husband, Neal: 

Meet their life:

Meet Georgie’s magical phone: 

yellow painted classical phone

Now meet the novel where all of this goodness happens:

18081809

And now meet my Two Thumbs Up for it: 

Okay, seriously, if you haven’t read a book by Rainbow Rowell yet…well. You better get on it! As of this month, she has four–FOUR–awesome books published. And her newest, Landline, is no exception. Just like her other novels, Landline had me hooked from page one. It was thoroughly engaging, filled with vivid, relatable characters, and so addicting, I didn’t want to put it down. I also enjoyed how it wasn’t completely adult fiction. There was plenty of YA moments, which made it all the more special.

So go pick up Landline and get reading. Scootch-scootch!

Jen’s Rating

4 Star

Read more about Landline here!

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Review: Landline

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Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Photo credits:

http://massivnews.com/evenements-du-jour/22-novembre-2012/

The week in GIFs: Mark Ruffalo edition

http://www.pleated-jeans.com/2012/12/31/your-daily-life-in-gifs-12-31-12/

http://rebloggy.com/post/film-jennifer-garner-mark-ruffalo-13-going-on-30-my-dream-otp/66946189691

From Working Girls to Devils in Prada: Top Female Leaders on Film and TV

http://www.wanderlyn.com/category/fun/

http://www.cornerstonefitnesstv.com/contacts/

http://www.eatprayriderun.com/2014_06_01_archive.html

http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/61935334.html

http://www.zap2it.com/blogs/happy_birthday_tina_fey_celebrate_with_her_best_30_rock_moments-2014-05