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Sunday, October 22, 2017

 

Meet Laura Snider, author of Witches' Quarters

Laura Snider is a writer, lawyer, and runner. Even though her career has been in the legal field, her first love is with books. She’s close to her large family and uses them for inspiration in her stories, in particular her upcoming novel Witches’ Quarters.

We chat with Laura about her forthcoming novel, Witches' Quarters, which was recently acquired by Clear Fork Publishing, how her family inspires her writing, balancing life and writing, her reading habits, and how working as a lawyer complements her work as an author.

Find out more about Laura by visiting her website: https://laurasniderstories.com/

Connect with her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/LauraSniderAuthor/

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all congratulations on your forthcoming debut novel, Witches’ Quarters! You mentioned on your website that this book is inspired by your close knit family. How does your family help your writing? Do they provide feedback on drafts?

Laura: Great question! My family is extremely supportive, but that can be a drawback when it comes to feedback because it makes them hesitant to criticize, which is necessary for the wring process.

However, I do draw inspiration from them based on our past experiences. For example, the opening scene of Witches’ Quarters involves four siblings arguing over a bag of quarters. One character (the youngest) removes a quarter from the bag and says she can’t pull out more than one. Disbelieving her, an older sibling snatches the bag and tries herself. When she too cannot extract a quarter, the next sibling tries, followed by the next child, all with the same result.

The situation and banter of the opening scene is based on something that happened with my sisters when I was young. My twin sister and I were the youngest of four, and we used to open pop cans by barely cracking the seal and sucking the pop out (we were strange kids). Well, one year our dad put leftover ice from an ice cream maker into the cooler. Naturally, the pop froze, so when I barely cracked the seal, it started spraying everywhere. My dad, to save his car’s upholstery, told me to throw it back into the cooler – which I did.

The next day, when we left Six Flags, I happened to select that same pop from the same cooler. This time I popped the top a little more and tried drinking. It tasted like salt water, which I promptly announced to the rest of my family. Disbelieving me, my twin sister had to try it too, which she did, with much the same reaction. My older two sisters did the same, as did my dad, who all said it tasted like salt water. Ultimately, my stepmother was the smart one, because she popped the top open and poured it out. It was straight salt water. All the pop had seeped out into the cooler, and the salt water replaced it.

Now that’s a long story to illustrate a small point in the book, but the relationship between the four children is largely based on the relationship I had growing up with three sisters. We fought and argued about almost everything, but when push came to shove we were always on one another’s side.

WOW: I love you used a real moment that happened to start out your book. You mentioned you were reading like an obsessed psycho hermit five or six years ago! Very cool and I can completely relate! What books were you reading about this time? Did any inspire you or help you with your book? 


Laura: I am usually reading three or so books at a time – two audio, and one physical. Right now, I’m reading John Green’s Paper Towns, and I’m listening to Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.

I wouldn’t say these books inspired me in writing Witches’ Quarters because I finished that book far before I even considered reading these three books. That said, I’m sure they have had some form of influence on my later work. Everything I read influences my writing. I learn from each book. I find things I like about certain novels and also some dislikes. I learn that trying new things can be a great thing, and sometimes not so great of a thing. Every day I learn something new, and that’s one of the wonderful things about writing.

WOW: I can relate to how you use the books you are reading to influence your writing. How did you find time to balance your career as a lawyer, writing this book, and juggling your family life?


Laura: I think the answer to this question is like anything else. If you want to do it, you find the time. It also helps that my husband is extremely supportive. Without his everyday encouragement, I’m sure I couldn’t do it all. He is at my side at all times, picking up the slack when I’m too tired, and building me up when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication from me, but I’d never be able to do it without him.

WOW: How wonderful to get that kind of support and encouragement! How does your work as a lawyer impact your writing life? How does it inspire you?

Laura: I primarily practice in the areas of Criminal Defense and Family Law. I see all types of people in all types of situations. I think the most important aspect I draw from these interactions is the understanding that the world isn’t quite as straightforward as many people would like to make it seem.

Almost all criminal defendants are suffering from mental health or substance-related issues. They aren’t bad people. Many of them have made poor choices, but they are choices borne from a set of circumstances out of their control. I try (and I’m not sure if I’m successful) to add an element of this to each of my writing projects. Nobody is all bad or all good. We are all just people, making our way through life the best we can.

WOW: I really like how you are using your career to impact your writing. So, what are you working on next?

Laura: Stephanie Hansen [literary agent and owner of Metamorphosis Literary Agency] and I are currently working on the final edits of a legal thriller, based partially on my prior experience as a Public Defender. It’s quite different from Witches’ Quarters, a YA fantasy, but I enjoyed writing the new novel (which is in name limbo for the moment) for different reasons.

Public Defenders are some of the most hardworking and intelligent lawyers out there. They often get a bad rap from everyone, including their clients, who take them for granted and often call them “Public Pretenders.” I wanted to write something for them. I wanted to write something for those who are strong enough to fight day in and day out, often with little to no sleep and far too much stress. My next novel is my effort to achieve that goal.

WOW: I can’t wait to read this next book of yours! That sounds inspiring and will provide a close look into the lives of people most of us only judge from afar.

Thank you so much for your time today and we can’t wait to hear more from you when Witches’ Quarters is released and hits bookshelves everywhere.


About Witches' Quarters:

Charlotte is a sixteen-year-old girl with more responsibilities than the average teenager. Her parents constantly argue, which leaves Charlotte to care for her three younger siblings. During one of her parents arguments, Charlotte uses a small coin tree and a bag of quarters to distract her youngest sister, June, from the fighting.

To Charlotte’s surprise, the Quarters are bewitched, and she and her siblings are transported to an alternate world called Tonganoxia, and the exact scene on the back of the commemorative quarter that June placed into the coin tree. There the four siblings come in contact with the natives, who are intelligent talking animals, and learn that the natives are at war with a group of Witches, who came from another realm, in much the same way as the children did.

Charlotte and her siblings must make a decision. Whose side are they on? The witches or the animals? That decision will change their lives and their relationships with one another forever.

Find out more about Witches' Quarters at Laura's website: https://laurasniderstories.com/published-work/witches-quarters-2/

***

-- About Nicole Pyles

Nicole is a writer, blogger, and bookworm living in Portland, Oregon. She loves writing stories about people in unusual circumstances and hopes one day WOW! Women on Writing will be interviewing her about a book she wrote.

Visit her blog, World of My Imagination, http://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com, for book reviews, writing prompts, and anything else in between.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

 

Book Review: Bring Your Fiction to Life by Karen S. Wiesner (and Giveaway!)

There is no shortage of “how-to” books for aspiring authors. I should know. I’ve spent hours in Barnes and Noble scouring the shelves, looking for the one book which will not only inspire, but will also unlock the creativity lurking inside me. The one book to which will help me become a successful author. I’ve read my fair share, and while most provided a tidbit or two, none really lit a fire under my . . . derriere.

Therefore, when I picked up Bring Your Fiction to Life by Karen Wiesner, I will admit I was a bit skeptical. After all, I’d been writing several years. I’m an English teacher. Surely she would not have some magic formula to fix my writing problems.

Boy, oh boy, was I wrong.

Let’s start with the basics. Her book focuses on aspects every novel needs: characters, plot, and setting. She breaks her book into chapters accordingly, but takes these three elements one step further. She asks her reader to consider the three-dimensional aspects of each category.

Let’s take characters, for instance. It’s not enough to create their likes and dislikes, their hair and eye color. An author needs to consider the present, past, and future self of their characters. These same elements transfer into the plot and the setting. When you look at your work as a living being – so to speak – you add layers. Just as our lives have a past, a present, and a future, so does the “life” of your book.

The result? With Wiesner’s instruction, you’ll have a multi-dimensional book with three-dimensional characters, a solid narrative structure, and rich settings which keep the reader engaged.

My favorite part of Wiesner’s book – besides the clear explanations and the logic behind using three-dimensionality in writing, are her templates. She models how to use the templates – both with published novels and with her own work – helping her reader understand both their function and the benefits of using them. There are four worksheets in Appendix A (for characters, scenes, back-cover blurbs, and development), along with cohesion checklists, scene-by-scene outlines, and goal worksheets. Later, in Appendix B, she provides exercises, where her readers can breakdown passages for practice. Not only is Wiesner explaining the process, but she offers practice to teach mastery. As a teacher, I appreciate the scaffolding.

She provides sound advice for those in the throes of writing. “Don’t neglect your future dimensions when you sketch physical descriptions,” she writes. She stresses the importance of giving each dimension equal time and attention. Later, she suggests using a publishing service to print a hard copy of your final draft, which serves as the “perfect advanced reading copy” to use as a “final read-through.” Throughout, she suggests distancing oneself from your manuscript at key moments, offering a timeline for those who hope to make writing their career.

Wiesner also offers advice for novice, intermediate, and master writers. One can tell that she understands the basic processes of authorship, and she strives to meet her readers at their level.

In the interest of full disclosure, I started writing a new novel just before I picked up Wiesner’s book. By the time I finished reading Bring Your Fiction to Life, I stopped writing and started planning, using the worksheets and charts I’d acquired from her book. She helped me see the importance – and the positive benefits – of creating three-dimensional writing. So much so, in fact, that I feel I cannot move forward without first creating a quality outline with multi-dimensional characters, plot, and setting.

“Everything that happens at the beginning of the book must be linked to something that happens later on,” she writes, and those words continue to resonate with me, as has much of her book.

This is a must-read for beginning and experienced writers.



Review by Bethany Masone Harar

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.





*****BOOK GIVEAWAY*****

Enter to win an autographed copy of Bring Your Fiction to Life by Karen S. Wiesner! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below by 11:59 PM EST, October 27th. We will choose a winner the next day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Friday, October 20, 2017

 

Friday Speak Out!: Writing and Distractions

by Penny Wilson

I never thought about how many distractions I let get in the way when I am having a “writing day,” until I actually paid attention. This is what my day was like a few weeks ago when I decided I was going to “buckle down and get some writing done.”

I slept until 7am. I'm anxious to get up and start my day. I'm going spend my day at the keyboard and be productive. This is what I've promised myself.

I get up and make a cup of coffee and linger while I watch a bit of the morning news.

I look at my phone and check my emails.

I had better take Rocket for a walk. If I wait much longer, it will be too hot to walk him.

The morning news distracts me and I stand, frozen, staring at the TV. I snap out of it and turn the TV off.

Rocket and I are hot and sweaty by the time we get back to the house. By now it's after 9am. I'm hungry. I haven't eaten yet so I go to the kitchen. I have some toast and finish another cup of coffee.
I need to start a load of laundry. I go to the bedroom to get the laundry basket.

Finally, I sit down at the keyboard. Coffee? No too late and too warm for coffee. I need something cold to drink. I'm back up and head for the kitchen.

Iced tea in hand, I look at the clock above my desk. It's 10:30am! Where has the morning gone?

I sit down at the desk and fire up my laptop.

So for the next, God-knows-how-long, I check my email, look at my Twitter feed, look at WordPress.

"Oops, I need to get that load of laundry into the dryer. Hmmmm, I should probably strip the bed today and change the sheets. ...sigh. Yes, I really should."

I finally open up Scrivener. I look up at the clock and it's 11:30am!

"Maybe I should think about lunch before I really get down to work here."

Where did the morning go?! I haven't typed a word yet and the entire morning is gone!

I sit down at my desk, with a bowl of soup next to me. Finally, I start to pluck away at the keyboard. Its past noon.

After a couple of hours or so of work, I look down at my meager word count and frown.

“I need to fold that load of laundry and I still need to put fresh sheets on the bed. I haven't posted anything in a couple of days; maybe I should work on a post for my blog."

On Monday, my friends will ask what I did over the weekend. "Oh, I spent my weekend at the keyboard."

Maybe I need to rethink the investment of the Time Share on that deserted island. I would have fewer distractions!

* * *
I'm a  freelance writer that writes in several genres. I've had a successful blog with a growing and loyal following for more than 5 years. I've written articles for Counseling Directory .org and Introvert, Dear .com. I'm currently working on my first novel. You can find more of my writings on my blog at: https://pennywilsonwrites.com/ and follow me on Twitter @pennywilson123.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, October 19, 2017

 

The Mundane Doesn't Belong in Your Story

Our lives are filled with wonderful events, lively conversations, and meaningful relationships. But every day, we also encounter the mundane. In real life, there's routine. There's "hello" and there's  "good-bye". There are conversations with strangers that don't mean anything to our lives. Sometimes, these mundane occurrences show up in our manuscripts.

If you're writing a draft (especially a first draft) of a novel, short story, or memoir, you most likely have some mundane-ness in there. But in fiction (or your memoir), there's no room for mundane events, words, or conversations. If you include these, your pacing will be slow, and your reader may put the book down somewhere in the muddy middle.

Think about a well-crafted novel you've read or even a movie or TV show, where you think the writing is fantastic. Everything that happens in that story has a purpose. The main character does not have a random encounter with a man in the grocery store while picking out fresh produce unless something about that scene is important to the character's overall story and growth.

Where to Look for the Mundane in Your Writing:
  • Dialogue: If you're anything like me, your dialogue is full of lines and words that don't move your story forward. Even if you're a natural at writing dialogue, yours might still be full of greetings, everyday questions like: how are you, "inside jokes" between characters that are clever but don't move the story forward, or a conversation your characters have had more than once.
  • Life routine, especially getting ready and going to bed: When writing, we often take a while to get to the story we need to tell, and that's okay. I believe that it's better to delete 25 percent of what you wrote the day before than to have nothing on the page to delete. But we often start stories and chapters in the wrong place, and this is where everyday, boring life can slip in. We don't need to hear about a character's daily routine of waking up and getting ready for work. Readers understand that your character did not go to bed in chapter 2 and show up at the gala at the beginning of chapter 3, without nothing happening to her all day long. We don't need to read about her getting ready unless something happens that is purposeful, that adds to her overall story and character growth. If, for example, she is OCD, and it literally takes her twelve hours to get ready for the gala and readers need to see this to understand the character--then these events would NOT be mundane. 
  • Transitions: Transitions are places where your characters are going somewhere, like a family gathering, or getting ready to do something, like participate in a protest. Usually there's some needed preparation in the novel, but we also include how the character got to his car or the bus, drove to the event and had a conversation with his family or a stranger, and walked up to the event. Look at these sections carefully. Do you need them? Or will your novel work better if you put one transition statement like: After rushing through traffic and jamming out to the Rolling Stones, Freeda finally made it to the protest, now more than ready to stand for what was right. She grabbed her sign...
When revising your draft, look at every scene you wrote carefully. You need details to set the scene. You need dialogue to reveal your characters. But, you also need to look objectively at what details and dialogue you chose and make sure they're not slowing down your novel. Sometimes, this is hard for us to see in our own writing. So, remember, a good critique group or content editor can help you with this task and get rid of the mundane.

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. You can read more about her on her blog at http://www.margoldill.com. Consider taking her next WOW! novel writing course, which begins on November 3. More details here. If you would like to find out about Margo's personal writing coach or editing services, please see http://www.editor-911.com.

Edit photo above on Flickr.com by Matt Hampel. 

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

 

The Stories Behind the Authors

Geeking out over our swag at the John Green book tour in Charlotte, N.C.

This seems like a busy time of year for authors! I follow a lot of them on social media, and have seen more posts about book release tours than usual. Sioux also wrote about one a few days ago. I got to attend a special event with one of my literary heroes, young adult novelist, John Green, last week. Of course, because I have a 14-year-old daughter who also loves to read, I positioned it to my friends that I was taking her to the event, and not vice versa. Pretty sure she’ll keep my little secret. In Sioux’s post discussing Sherman Alexie’s new memoir, she asked the question, “What have you read that resulted in you embracing the author’s vulnerability?”

To be honest, while I’ve enjoyed reading John Green books like The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, I didn’t consider the man behind the pages. I know he has a family he adores, he loves his younger brother, Hank (the two co-host a YouTube series and podcast and are also traveling many of these tour dates together), he’s a self-proclaimed nerd and proud of it, and is passionate about giving back to causes he believes in and fighting against social injustice. But until the release of his latest book, Turtles All the Way Down, I had no idea he has also fought a lifelong battle with obsessive compulsive disorder.

The main character in his latest novel, Asa, has what Green calls “instrusive thoughts.” Thoughts like, “Excessive abdominal noise is an uncommon, but not an unprecedented, presenting symptom of infection with the bacteria Clostridium difficile, which can be fatal. I pulled out my phone and searched “human microbiome” to reread Wikipedia’s introduction to the trillions of microorganisms currently inside me.”

As Green greeted the packed auditorium where we attended the event, he shared with the audience about how he’s had these types of intrusive thoughts from childhood. He also prefaced it by saying that he had a wonderful childhood with a family who was nothing but loving and supportive, but he couldn’t escape those thoughts and the anxiety they caused no matter how hard he tried.

As I listened to him speak, and then read a selection from the book in a shaking voice, I couldn’t help but fight back tears. This was a man, an author, who has loomed so larger than life my mind, who always seems so confident in his videos online, sharing his deepest vulnerability with the audience. I could hear my daughter, who also has been known to have some of these types of thoughts, as well as sensory challenges, sniffle beside me. This is a child who has told me there are times she “just can’t get her brain to turn off” when she’s trying to go to sleep and for a few years became obsessed with researching the differences between poison oak and poison ivy because she was terrified of getting it.

Green also shared his worry that he would never be able to write another book again after the success of The Fault in Our Stars (I believe it has been almost six years since that book was published) so watching him stand in front of such a crowd (a crowd that I could tell made him more anxious than he wanted to admit) helped nudge the voice in my head that tells me I won’t be able to get past my own challenges and produce a great piece of work.

It was a great night with a powerful message. Yes, many creative people are considered “crazy.” No, that’s not really an acceptable stigma. There should be no stigma. We’re all human, and if we need to take medication or go to therapy to keep us on a level playing field, so be it. It’s not something we should have to be ashamed of.

And it will make for some damn good writing when the time comes.

What story do you have that propels you to keep moving forward?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also blogs at www.finishedpages.com.


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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

 

Interview with Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up, Alison Thompson

Alison Thompson lives and writes on the south coast of NSW Australia. She writes poetry and short stories and her work has appeared been published in several Australian literary journals. Alison is a founding member of the Kitchen Table Poets (which you can find on Facebook). Her poetry chapbook, Slow Skipping is published by PressPress (2008).

She won the Verandah Literary Prize in 2010 for her story, “My Baby Moonbird” and was shortlisted for a story in the 2016 Wildcare Tasmania Nature Writing prize. She is currently working on her first full-length story collection and is developing another story into a novella.

Author Website: alisonthompsonpoetry.wordpress.com

PressPress (chapbook publisher): www.presspress.com.au

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Spring Winter 2017 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Alison: I'd seen the competition in the past and read other shortlisted and winning stories and really like the diversity and excellence of the writing.

Also its great how you take the time to showcase the authors - its nice to see and hear a bit about inspiration behind the stories. Plus of course great to see the promotion of stories about women and the female experience.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Her Daughters’ Fire?

Alison: This story is a little unusual for me as its from a perspective and culture very far from my own--and I'm conscious of not wishing to appropriate that. It arose after I saw a news grab many years ago showing a women who had had a similar experience-it was a very brief news piece but something about her distress and the sheer horror of it remained with me--really as something I didn't want to be reminded of as it felt very painful, especially as I was a young mother at the time. I didn't imagine ever writing it as a story but several days into a writing retreat I woke up early with the voice of the mother in my head and wrote the story in one sitting, a process that reduced me to tears. I've revised it of course but it is essentially as I feel it was told to me.

WOW:  It's a powerful story, you did a great job with it. I felt like I was there. What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Alison: I also write poetry and like the paring down process required in poetry and flash fiction--the distillation that occurs. Trying to get to bare essentials. Its especially a challenge in flash fiction to keep the narrative arc satisfying with such brevity.

WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Alison: Well, I drink a lot of tea and coffee! Best time is mornings and if possible, I like the whole house to myself as I prefer to write at the kitchen table. That doesn't always work out of course so I make do. Also I try to get away for occasional writing retreats--I find being out of my usual routines very helpful.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Alison. Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Alison: I think firstly, know who you're sending it to and what kind of writing they like. If it's a contest or magazine see what they've chosen before. And check out the judges as well.

Also, if you're able to its worth getting your work edited or critiqued, or at least looked over by someone whose opinion you trust BEFORE sending it out. And pay attention to formatting requirements of individual competitions and typos!

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WE NOW HAVE TWO CONTESTS!

WOW! Women On Writing now hosts two quarterly contests: one for fiction writers and one for nonfiction writers. We’ve hosted the flash fiction contest since 2006, and over the years, writers have asked us to open up an essay contest. So we are happy to add the essay contest to our offerings. We look forward to reading your work!

Click on the links below to jump to:

Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest

Quarterly Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest


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Monday, October 16, 2017

 

Five Minutes a Day: Roughing Out Your Novel


About a month ago, Sioux challenged us to state a BHAG – a big, hairy, audacious goal. Mine is writing a piece of fiction long enough to require chapters. The problem is that I’m writing two nonfiction books and, thus, the fiction keeps falling by the wayside.


A friend of mine drafted her first novel writing fifteen minutes a day on her lunch break. But that just didn’t feel do-able. To put it simply, I’m a full time writer who doesn’t have a single full time work day. I’m hoping that will change soon, but it is going to require some help from outside. So right now I’m learning to work around it.

Fifteen minutes a day is impossible but five minutes a day is do-able. But is it enough? Can you really rough out a novel in five minutes a day? I wasn’t sure but it wouldn’t hurt to try. For the last month, I’ve written five minutes a day on my novel. Most days I don’t get to it until bed time but I pop in here and do those five minutes.

But is it enough?

A month ago, I had two chapters or 1000 words. Today, having worked five minutes a day for a month, I have 6,400 words.

They won’t all make it into the final draft. One chapter wandered off in an odd-ball direction. You know how it goes. The whole chapter, you’re type-type-typing, but something feels off. I realized I had no clue how to get from the end of this chapter to the end of the book. I’d written myself into a corner.

That’s when I looked at my outline. It’s a lot like looking at the map after you get lost. I had definitely taken a wrong turn. And that’s okay. A rough draft is rough. Brilliant statement, yes?

The point is that I managed to keep writing even during the week that I drafted 12,000 words on one of my nonfiction projects. Fifteen minutes a day? Impossible, but five worked.

Part of what makes it work is acknowledging that this draft is truly rough. I don’t go back. I just keep moving forward. And that’s okay. When I write later today, I’ll just ignore chapter 10a and start at the beginning of chapter 10b. I’m not deleting the messed up chapter because I actually need part of it. I’ll just keeping moving forward and sort things out in the rewrite.

NaNoWriMo is coming up. It’s a great idea if it works for you, but not everyone can draft that many words in a month.

But five minutes a day? You can do that. And in a month you’ll have about 5,000 words. Keep it up and your word count will reach even higher.

5 minutes. You can do it.

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins January 8th, 2017.

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