Write More Now! (How I started writing more in less time)

How to Sweeten (Deal) (2)It’s been an amazing winter break, full of rest and finally finding more time to do things I enjoy (reading! writing! spending way too much time browsing random Mashable articles!). But with my college semester beginning in a week and the threat of a rigid schedule looming ahead of me once more, it’s time to make a game plan for finding more time to accomplish my writing goals with less time on my hands.

Mainly, the realization I’ve come to over the past few weeks is that writing requires serious dedication. Five hundred words may not sound like much, but even that task can seem daunting on some days. Yet when I sit down and make the conscious decision to start writing, it’s amazing how much I’m able to accomplish… within the set time period I’ve allocated for myself, that is.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve finally discovered the awesome power of word sprints (I’m the last to jump on this train, I know). But for those of you who haven’t tried this yet, I can’t recommend it enough. No matter how pressed for time you are, set a timer or tell yourself that you’ll only write for ten minutes. Even if that’s all the time you can spare for the day, at least it’s something.

I have two mantras for this year: “Write at least 500 words every day” and “Write More Now!” The first is a reminder that I need to write at least a little every day this year, and the second is a reminder to write faster.

A year ago, I would’ve never agreed to the latter. I used to think word sprints couldn’t possibly produce the same quality of work as slow, “careful” writing. But once I started setting word sprints for myself, I realized all that “slow, careful writing” I was doing before was actually just me second-guessing myself on every sentence and re-writing entire paragraphs because I didn’t think they were up to par. I was stifling my inspiration instead of letting the words flow.

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Writing Isn’t For You

typography-370More than a year ago, I read Seth Adam Smith’s “Marriage Isn’t For You” article and loved it. (And for those of you who haven’t read it, I recommend clicking the link.) In the article, Seth’s dad tells him, “You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy.” What if the same concept applied to writing? If we played a bit of Mad Libs here with the sentence: “You don’t write to make yourself happy, you write to make someone else happy.”

I’ve often wondered whether writing is supposed to serve the author or the reader. Sure, it’s a pretty extremist view on the subject. But if you had to choose, what would you say? What’s more important – what the reader wants or what the writer wants? Sometimes lightning strikes and the two equal one another. In an ideal world, both interests would always be the same. Everything writers wrote would be loved by everyone and no one would object to anything we typed and sent out to the world and rainbows and magical unicorns and all that.

However, that type of “idealized world” would not be fair to either readers or writers. No writer can predict with complete accuracy whether the writing will resonate with readers, and no reader can guarantee to love (or even like) all writing. There’s this bridge that a lot of writers are always trying to cross. That’s why we read our reviews; that’s why we pay attention to articles about how to improve our writing. There’s a sense of satisfaction knowing we’ve improved our craft, yes, but there’s also the satisfaction of knowing we’re closer to pleasing our readers.

Let me take an honest step back here. I would love to say that my goal is to satisfy my readers 100% of the time. Frankly, I tend to write most of my stories without thinking about a certain target audience or even an audience at all. I’ve read a lot of articles discouraging against this practice, but for me that’s when the words flow easiest and when my voice sounds most authentic. Writing is my favorite form of expression, and sometimes it’s the kind of expression that doesn’t always come with a trendy genre or a target word count.
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My top three editing tips & tricks {Read, Identify, and Question}

typography-751 First of all, happy holidays to everyone! The past month has been crazy busy, with finishing up the semester and taking my finals and juggling on-campus jobs and… Well, the craziness has slowed down for a bit. Thank goodness for Winter Break and (best of all) thank goodness for more writing, reading, and editing time.

Yes, I said editing time. I’ve been working on edits for a historical romance novella, and as soon as that project wraps up I’ll be working on edits for the contemporary New Adult piece I started over the summer. I also wanted to say that I’ve been reading reviews for my last two novels and incorporating all the feedback I’ve received. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed; you’ve helped me identify what I need to work on in the future and what I should continue writing as well.

Anyway, between all that editing and reading reviews, I realized that I edit my manuscripts differently now than I did a few months ago. Since I’m always on the lookout for editing tips from other writers, I thought I’d share some of my updated techniques. I’ve listed a few quick tricks below:

(1) Read your manuscript aloud. I’ve discovered so many typos or logistical errors when reading my work aloud. It’s also another way to make your work unfamiliar to you, which helps while editing. Your brain becomes accustomed to seeing the same screen and Word document over and over, so actually reading aloud your work enables you to see/hear your words in a new medium. Continue reading

Brand names, trademarks, and contemporary conundrums


For realistic fiction writers, brand names tend to slip into our writing. While editing my YA contemporary thriller and currently my NA contemporary romance, I ran into issues with brand names. Was I allowed to use them? Could I really be sued?After research into how to use brand names in fiction, I’ve compiled five general guidelines for using trademarks. Note that the tips below aren’t hard and fast rules, but they should be taken into consideration when writing your next contemporary piece.

(1) Brand names should never be mentioned in a negative light. I’m not even talking about someone buying a hamburger from Burger King and choking on it. Any sort of negative description associated with a trademarked item will not be appreciated by the company. When brand names are mentioned in literature, it should add something to the story. Save your complaints about the item for a well-written letter to the company, not for malicious intent in your story. If you do want to add a dimension of realism and admit a certain chain’s pizza tastes like cardboard, this brings us to tip #2…

(2) Fake brands should be used to represent real ones. It’s easy to replace names. Smoothie Queen and Palace of Pizza are two examples of brand name replacements. These fictional titles come without trademark infringements or worries over being sued. Readers are intelligent. They can figure out what a company resembles even without the official title.

(3) Don’t write falsely about the brand names you do use. If it’s completely unavoidable – you just HAVE to use Glad or Tupperware – make sure you’re using the right brand name for the right product. Don’t write “Domino’s hamburgers” or “Starbucks pizza”. Even if the brand names produce similar products, this could be considered a trademark infringement. Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a name that creates confusion regarding similar products. Keep tabs on whether or not you’re using the brand name correctly.

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On Positivity, Publication, and Pushing Forward


Publication as a teen isn’t impossible, but like any endeavor, it isn’t easy. I want others out there to know that you don’t need to wait to pursue your dreams of publication – but you should also remember the importance of positivity and continuing on even when the road ahead seems bleak.

Growing up, I was always writing. My stories would become longer and longer, until one day they were novel length. And like most writers, I was a voracious reader. While stories of teen authors were far and few between, I’ve always believed age should never be a restriction for following your passions – no matter how old or young you are. So I polished my work and sent it out to the world.

I started submitting my stories to agents and publishers when I was thirteen, and it’s been five long years of rejection letters until this point. I’m incredibly grateful to be standing where I am now, but I also recognize the potential rejection around every corner.

As a writer, it’s important to remember that not everyone is going to like your work. You will run the gamut between five-star reviews and one-star reviews. Criticism is nothing new, but social media and the anonymity of the internet makes reading critique of your work more accessible than ever before.

No matter where you are on your path to publication or wherever your creative aspirations may take you, always remember to stay positive. Be thankful for what you’ve been blessed with, and trust that everything will work out in the end.

OneLastLetterThat’s exactly what I would tell my fifteen-year-old self. At one point that year, I received three rejection letters in the same day. I thought, “I’m never going to be published. No one will like my work. I should give up!” If I could go back now, I would tell the fifteen-year-old me to have faith. When you have a dream in mind, you have to keep pushing forward no matter what obstacles stand in your way.

When I read critique of my work, whether it’s from a reviewer or an editor, it reminds me that I have so much to improve upon and there’s still so much more to accomplish. I think, “Okay, I’ll write a better story next time. I’ll take this critique and make my work stronger than before.”

TheInnocentAssassinsAt the same time, don’t get so caught up in negative critique. Seek out all the inspiring reminders of why you’re pursuing your dreams. I also read positive reviews, e-mails from readers who liked my book, and submission acceptance letters from my publishers. If you’re going after a goal right now, start gathering your positive reminders. They’ll help reinforce your belief in your work when the going gets tough.

There will be days when you feel like losing hope. There will be times when you worry you’re wasting your time, or that the dream you wish to pursue is far too outlandish to ever be reality. Understand the critique and use it to improve. Read the positive reminders and reinforce your sense of purpose.

But don’t ever give up, and don’t ever stop pushing forward.

{Originally published on Relate Mag}

Let’s Talk Time Management

Recently, I’ve been feeling the college assignments struggle. The midterms struggle. The sophomore year struggle. The stay-up-until-who-knows-when struggle. And lots of struggles equal not so much time for writing and editing. I recently published a piece on Go Teen Writers about time management – or as it could definitely also be titled, “how I somehow miraculous find time every now and then.” I hope some of the tips below help you carve out time as well, whether you’re juggling work, school, or both.

I write because, like most writers, I have a consuming and compulsive need to write. That passion pushed me through the writing, editing, and publishing process of my Young Adult romantic thriller The Innocent Assassins (Astraea Press, June 2014) and my historical romance One Last Letter (Crimson Romance, August 2014) this past summer.

But I’m also a college sophomore who feels buried in schoolwork on a daily basis and who wants to go to the Saturday night party as much as the next kid. When my friends find out I spend time writing novels as well, the question that immediately follows is usually: “How do you have the time?”

I don’t. Do any of us? As students, we’re all incredibly busy. It’s not about having enough time; it’s about finding enough time. The following tips are a few that help me maintain my productivity as a writer and keep me producing new work.

1. Set small, daily goals. Whether it’s 100 words edited or 100 words written, make sure your daily goal is manageable. Even if you decide you only have ten minutes to write on a certain day, those ten minutes will add up over time.

2. Write down your writing goals in your planner as if it’s actually homework. Crossing things off a list is always helpful for me, and encourages me further to finish everything that’s on the list. When you treat your writing goals like actual homework assignments, it helps you finish them faster.

3. Form your goals in advance. If you jot down your writing goals like homework on a planner, you put more pressure on yourself to follow through with your intended writing plans. When editing The Innocent Assassins during my freshman year of college, I thought I could decide on a day-by-day basis how much I would edit. Because I never quantified how much I was planning to revise, it was easy to keep putting off the chapters I needed to edit and let them accumulate … until my publisher’s deadline approached! Time is never going to “slow down.” There’s always going to be another homework deadline coming up; there will always be another party you want to go to. Planning your goals in advance makes accomplishing them much easier.

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Author Lily Paradis on writing: “Don’t give up” + IGNITE Book Review

I wanted to preface this post by saying that I don’t usually cover book reviews or author interviews on this blog. I prefer to focus mainly on the writing struggles process, but I love supporting the work of other young authors.

I recently had the fortune of interviewing a fellow young author, Lily Paradis, about her debut work IGNITE, which I was able to read and review this past month. Lily Paradis is only 22, but she’s already working on her next few books. Read on for writing advice from Lily, and find out my thoughts about her novel.

Interview with Lily Paradis

  1. What was the inspiration behind your story?
    I nannied for three kids for a week, and I started to wonder what it would be like if that was my life! Also, the DMV scene came together when I was actually sitting there waiting to renew my license. I typed it on my phone while I was sitting there.
  2. What did you find to be the biggest challenge about publishing the novel?
    Everything. It’s so much harder than you think it’s going to be. I also had a series of unfortunate events happen, my file was corrupted, and then my computer screen shattered four days before it was supposed to release!
  3. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
    Don’t give up, and write what you love. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re writing, no one is going to be passionate about reading it!
  4. One of my favorite quotes is Toni Morrison’s “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I’m always curious to hear about favorites from other authors. What writing quotes do you live by/have adopted?
    I love that one! I have a couple. The first one is what I think of when people want me to change everything about what I’ve written:
    “My will is mine… I shall not make it soft for you.” – Agamemnon, Aeschylus
    The second one is: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” – Victor Hugo
    It’s a little cliche, but I love it. It’s phrased differently than a lot of others of that nature.
  5. New Adult is a relatively new genre. I know I struggled to decide whether or not The Innocent Assassins fell into the New Adult or Young Adult category. What aspects do you think defines stories as New Adult, and why did you choose this genre for your novel? 
    To be honest, I would probably go back and classify it as Upper Young Adult. My characters are New Adult aged, but it doesn’t have the overtly sexual situations that a lot of NA books have. You’re right, it’s hard to classify. Even if you Google the definition of New Adult versus Young Adult, you don’t get too many clear cut answers. It’s very opinion based.

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Promoting strong female heroes in fiction

Female heroes, female heroines – take your pick.

About a year ago, I was watching the movie Jack Reacher, eating some buttered popcorn, admiring Tom Cruise’s fake-fighting skills … and then something clicked – where were the female thriller heroes?

I’d just finished reading The Bourne Identity around the same time. While I love thriller novels, overall the genre has a lack of stories focused on females as the protagonists. When females are mentioned, they’re usually in need of being rescued by the male hero or serving as bait to ensnare the hero into the villain’s trap.

There are some thrillers which feature women as the leads – Salt, Nikita, Alias, to name an awesome few – but the majority of action stories showcase the power of male heroes. I wanted to provide another (always needed) female hero, so I created Jane Lu in my Young Adult thriller, The Innocent Assassins. She’s a seventeen-year-old teen girl/highly trained assassin and undercover spy who beats just as many villains as the boys.

Even from the male-dominated thriller genre, female-dominated genres such as historical romance also tend to have “swooning” heroines and “brooding” heroes. The men are the ones with an exciting career, while women are the ones attending balls and worrying over gowns. While I love historical romance, I longed for more books featuring hard-working heroines who were just as capable as the heroes.

With that, I wrote about Evelyn Lancaster in my western historical romance, One Last Letter. Evelyn’s a tough-as-nails plantation owner who rejects marrying for love in order to do what’s best for her ranch. Her goals are placed firmly in continuing her financial success, not catching the eye of the closest cowboy.

Both Jane and Evelyn are around my age – late teens/early twenties. They’re the kind of heroines everyone needs to read more about, especially young girls.

As a teen author, I know both the weight of written words and the intense scrutiny teens face from peer pressure. With the rapid responses of social media, we’re incredibly influenced by whatever we read and hear and see. That’s why all the characters we’re exposed to influence our lives. Imagine how incredible it would be if every female character was an independent role model rather than a damsel in distress.

Strong heroines – if it’s an archetype, it’s my favorite one. The world can’t have enough tough female characters out there to inspire others. We need powerful female role models in fictional worlds to inspire girls in the real world.

{This article was originally posted on the awesome Girls Can’t WHAT?}

Lessons learned from my first book launch + One Last Letter is going on tour!


Hello, everyone! One Last Letter has officially released today! *throws up all the confetti*  If you want to learn more about my historical romance One Last Letter, the blog tour information is posted below for you to follow along.

In honor of my second book launch, I thought I’d share an article I wrote for Authors + Readers Book Corner about my first book launch and lessons I’ve learned  – “Book Launch Lessons: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!” Stress, mistakes, surprise, and Amazon issues galore abounded that first day. Learn how you can avoid it!


Fic Central: Review of One Last Letter

Happily Ever After Thoughts: Interview

SSLY Blog: Review of One Last Letter
Romance Obsessed Book Blog: Meet the Characters of One Last Letter!
Author Open MIC: Interview
Conversations with Lisa Mondello: Interview

Romance Obsessed Book Blog: Character Interview with Jesse and Evelyn

Shooting Stars Reviews: Excerpt and Playlist

Blurbs in Bloom: Promo

Buried Under Romance: Exclusive Excerpt

Storeybook Reviews: Deleted Prologue and Playlist
Bookkins: Review of One Last Letter

Love Saves the World: Review and Guest Post: “Famous Love Letters”

Sara Walter Ellwood: Guest Post: “The Music Behind the Story”

History From a Woman’s Perspective: Review of One Last Letter



Book Launch Lessons: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Stress, mistakes, surprise, and gratitude? Sounds like the release day for my first novel, The Innocent Assassins.

Unlike other digital-first publishers, Astraea Press doesn’t upload pre-orders for e-books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I didn’t see any of my book’s purchase pages until the day of release. Imagine my surprise (and horror) to discover the summaries on each e-book outlet included the wrong name for the hero!

It wasn’t a complete shock. I changed the hero’s name halfway through the editing process, so the summary I first submitted to Astraea Press used the original name for the hero. It was completely my fault. I was the one who forgot to submit an updated summary for the buyer pages.

I e-mailed the owner of Astraea Press about the summary change. She was quick to reply and said an edited version would be uploaded by the next day; all I had to do was send her the new summary with the name change. I rushed to send her the updated summary. True to her word, the summary with the right name for the hero was added to all major e-book outlets. Crisis averted!

On another note, let that also be a lesson to other authors out there! If you can’t see your Amazon/B&N’s book page before the release, make sure you check with your publisher that the summary/other information is correct. Check to see if all the information you last sent your publisher is still the most recent version.

Additionally, I hadn’t told anyone my book was being published. Since pre-orders weren’t available for my book anyway, I posted news of my release (for the first time) to all my social media profiles on book launch day. Within minutes, I received texts and messages from my friends and family with both words of congratulations and disbelief that I’d kept it a secret for so long!

News of my novel spread through word of mouth and resulted in a healthy spike of sales over the next few days. Pre-orders are a commonly discussed method for book marketing, but surprise can work in your favor as well. Advance orders can work great, but authors shouldn’t worry about losing a pre-order audience either.

The biggest takeaway? Everything will be fine. Put in the hard work and rewards will come your way. Seriously, no matter how bad something may seem at the beginning (it’s not on Amazon?! the title is wrong?! that’s not my name?!?!) – it shall be fixed. Most e-book retailers have a lag time of a day or two before the update is published. That day or two will seem like an eternity, but the page will be fixed before you know it.

I’m definitely keeping this in mind for my book launch day on August 18 for my second novel, a historical Western romance titled One Last Letter. Orders are now available on Amazon USUK, and Canada!

{This article was first posted on Authors & Readers Book Corner}