Manuscript Monday #5

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 5 week- old manuscript:

Happy Monday everyone! What a fun week on the blog. Critique Corner was a huge success! I hope all of you feel the same way. Here are some of my thoughts:

We had a surprise guest visiting the blog this week… and she left her feedback for our writers! It was my friend and long distance critique partner Beth Hautala! You may not know who she is, but I guarantee you will very soon. Her middle grade novel, Waiting for Unicorns (Penguin Books) is making its debut in January! As in… she’s going to be published!! Yayy, Beth! I couldn’t be happier for her and it could not have happened to a sweeter, more talented person. I’ll be showcasing Beth  bethhautalabooks.com  and her book soon on the blog, but until then I want to give her a gigantic thank you!!! She graciously took it upon herself to give feedback to all the entries. I only mentioned to her that I was hosting the round. I am blown away that she would take the time to give her thoughtful comments too. Not only does she know what’s she’s talking about, her writing is possibly the most beautiful I’ve ever read. So, *hugs* Beth. We are ever so grateful!

The participating writers are top notch! Not only are the writing samples quite good and full of potential, but the feedback given by many of them is sooo good. I can see that much thought was put into each and every critique. Your words will help other writers more than you know. I’ve been in contact with a few of the entrants. They’re still working on their feedback, so keep checking back…there’s still more to come! Giving feedback does take time and I can appreciate that all of us are juggling more than just writing. 🙂

Traffic to the blog was off the charts this week. Visitors clicked on your stories from all over the world! That tells me that even though there weren’t a lot of comments on the samples, many, many people clicked on to read your words. How exciting is that?? Maybe as word of Critique Corner spreads, we’ll have even more writers participating and even more readers commenting. You can all help with that. If you think this critiquing each other’s samples is helpful to your writing, then tell your writer friends about it. 🙂

On that note, if you have ideas for Critique Corner, I’d love to hear it. I’m thinking we could do another first 300 word round again, or we could try something else. Like maybe have writers submit their revised first 300 words plus their next 300 words (since we’re already familiar with their opening), or choose a 300-500 word scene from anywhere in their manuscript and we could critique that. Or maybe choose an emotional scene or a fighting scene or something. What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment. I’m up for anything!

I feel okay spending most of my Manuscript Monday post talking about Critique Corner this week because as you have probably guessed, a lot of my writing time was spent critiquing and managing the blog (which was fun BTW). However, on this week five of my new manuscript, I did manage to write another 1500 words of Atria’s story. I’m working hard to iron out her quirks and get a feel for who she is. I’m still not sure what major conflict she’ll face in the story, but I’m trying not to worry about it. As I discover who she is, I’m hopeful that I’ll know what makes her tick and what is most important to her. That’s when I’ll really know how to put roadblocks in her way! In order to do that, I guess I better keep writing. I hope you will too. I hope the feedback you received last week (or read last week) from the blog was helpful. Remember, more comments should be coming so please check back. I hope some of the tips will inspire all of you to keep the words flowing and to bring your stories to life. There are so many of us here pulling for you. You are more talented than you think, and probably closer than you think to making your dreams of publishing your story a reality. So keep at it…and I will too!


Critique Corner is Live!

Welcome to the September round of Critique Corner and thanks for stopping by! In the five posts below, you’ll find the writing samples which have been submitted for public critique. Below each sample, you’ll find a comment box. This is where any feedback should go. I encourage anyone visiting the blog in the next few days to offer their critique. Please be as encouraging as you can but remember, these writers are looking for constructive comments too. So be kind, but offer helpful advice if you can also. And don’t worry if you haven’t critiqued before. If you read books, then you’re qualified to critique. If you’re a writer, that’s even better. If you have a sample posted here, please critique all the other samples too. That way you’ll all be sure to get some feedback.

Thank you to all the writers who’ve put their work out there. That’s not an easy thing to do! I’ll be stopping by later as well to offer my critique on your 300 word openings. Thank you also (in advance) to everyone reading and critiquing. I think you’ll enjoy these first 300 word openings! So… grab a cup of coffee or apple cider, scroll down to find the samples, and critique away! This should be fun. 🙂


Critique Corner: The StoryShadow

Author:          Mac M.

Genre:           Middle Grade Action/ Adventure                                 

Chapter one:

“Is that homework?”

Bren looked up from the math book on his lap and the stack of notes on the bench next to him. A girl wearing a Fiction Island tank top stood in front of him. She was a year or two younger than him, and pretty. The Mardi Gras Party Gras roller coaster behind Bren roared past, with the sounds of both mechanical churnings and riders’ screams.

He shrugged. “I guess.”

“Why are you doing homework here? Aren’t you on vacation?”

“I live here, actually. My dad works here.”


He glared at her. “Of course really. I mean what I say.”

“Okay.” She crossed her arms. “But, homework? Here?”

The next set of roller cars blasted past. She watched them, wide-eyed. He didn’t bother looking, accustomed to the sounds of the ride.

“I like doing math,” Bren said. “It’s relaxing.”

“What is it, algebra?”

“It’s linear partial differential equations.”

“Um, oh.”

“Shaylene,” a voice called. “Get back in line.”

“Have fun.” Bren watched her run off, to join her family in line for the ride.

Bren turned his attention to his homework. He completed three more problems, only once having to stop to keep a breeze from blowing his notes away. He started the fourth problem while simultaneously considering how many mathematicians and numerologists take the number four for granted, when he saw someone of interest walk by.

The man wore a garish Hawaiian shirt, more garish than most tourist shirts. His hair was an unwashed greasy mess. His spindly white legs sprung out of his jean shorts and into a pair of cheap flip-flops.

Bren stuffed his homework into the backpack at his feet. He stood, slung the backpack over his shoulder, and followed the man.




Critique Corner: Sleepless

Author            Scarlett K.     

Genre:            YA Fantasy/ Horror

Urghhhh! I pressed the pillow over my face and muttered more unintelligible sounds. Maybe suffocation would be a way to get some rest.

It was already quarter after one and if I didn’t manage to get some sleep tonight, it would be another zombie day tomorrow. The third one this week. I chucked the pillow to the floor and stared up at the popcorn stucco ceiling. The only thing more frustrating than knowing that I needed to sleep was lying awake worrying about how terrible it was going to be if I didn’t get any.

I closed my eyes, trying to remember those relaxation techniques from that lame yoga class Lane dragged me to. Something about thinking about your breathing. I inhaled deep until my lungs burned and felt like they might burst. It probably wouldn’t work, but I couldn’t come up with any other ideas I hadn’t already tried. Exhale. That wasn’t so bad. The release gave me a tingly feeling through my limbs and my hands stretched out from their balled fists.

Inhale. My covers rose as I breathed in again. Exhale.

Inhale. A little lightheaded this time, but feeling better. Maybe this isn’t so dumb after all. Exhale.

Inhale.  Maybe I could convince Dad to sign up for yoga. Exhale.

Inhale. But that means he would have to stop drinking long enough to leave the house. Exhale.

Inhale. But why is that my responsibility? It’s not like I don’t have my own problems to deal with. Exhale.

Inhale. Not like he’d ever notice anyway. Exhale.

Inhale. The scholarship panel. Exhale. The state finals. Inhale. Stupid Josh and his stupid plans. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Ahhhh!

I threw the covers off me and sat with my feet dangling off the edge of the bed, head in my hands.


Critique Corner: The Innocent Life

Author            Zurrie C.       

Genre:            YA Paranormal

Chapter One: Abbrielle

As the monitor’s last peak fell and the red line plateaued across the screen screaming the last “beep” into the air, drowning all the sounds from the room, I felt the blood rush from my face.  The only image I could see was my father lying gently on the hospital bed in front of me. Though he looked like he was only bones, I still thought he looked angelic. He was now dead, and I still couldn’t bear to leave his side, as if I was anchored to the hospital chair next to him. My only true best friend was now officially gone out of my life and all that was left was his body before me.

“Abby, we need to leave honey. It’s been fifteen minutes and they need to move the body.”

Snapping back into reality, I looked up to see my dad’s best friend Bill. He was such a nice man who was almost always happy, but I could tell from his face that he was completely distraught. When Bill found out that my dad had cancer, he would not leave his side for any circumstance, unless it was to take care of me or make sure I had everything I needed.

“Abby, sweetie we really need to leave. There are necessary things we need to do and get ready for,” Bill said kindly, but I could hear the tears in his voice.

I turned back around and looked at my dad.

“I just need like ten more minutes with him. That’s all. Just ten minutes, please?” I said while trying to swallow down the sadness that swelled in my throat.

“Okay, I’ll go talk to the doctors and give you a little bit more time. I’ll meet you in the lobby in about fifteen. Okay?”

I nodded.


Critique Corner: The Heart Box

Author:          Daniel B.

Genre:           Adult Dramatic Fiction

“That’s bull,” Jonathan Brooks said and stood up from the padded leather chair. He spun around and glared out the massive window in the old mill building—another turn-of-the-century relic remodeled into outrageously expensive offices.

Why does she keep asking me these questions? Damn, she really knows how to get under my skin.

“Jonathan. Jonathan, where did you go?”

He took a deep breath then turned to face her. The doctor, an attractive East Indian woman with jade colored eyes, watched him intently.

Jonathan took a step forward and she smiled. Her black hair set against a light brown complexion gave her an exotic look. She was empathetic, yet feisty which indicated a level of complexity that beguiled him. When he thought she should be listening, she wrote furiously on a yellow legal pad. Other times she looked off towards the window as if waiting for a cue card to appear with her next question. Her last name was equally as complex, with more vowels than he had ever seen before side-by-side. To her clients though, she was simply known as—Dr. Diana.

“I’m here.”

“Are you?”

Calm down, calm down, remember you’re only here as a favor.

“No, I’m really here,” he repeated, sinking back down into the chair.

“Jonathan that’s the second time you’ve gotten upset by one of my questions. Why is that?”

“Because it’s ridiculous!”

“Is it now?” she asked in a softened tone, which clearly revealed her eastern accent.

“Yes. I’m not a commitment-phobe.”

“Then if relationships are as important to you as you indicated in our first meeting, why haven’t you had one in all these years?”

“Because I … I never found anyone I wanted to settle down with, and I couldn’t see the point in spending time with someone just for the sake of having a relationship.” God, why am I defending myself?


Critique Corner: I Want You To Want Me

Author:    Maggie L.

Genre:     Adult- Women’s Fiction

It’s the white police uniform shirt tied like a halter-top that first attracts him to her. With a black lacy bra underneath, skin-tight shorts with the famous Sillitoe Tartan up the side, and the police cap, it’s a rather attention-getting outfit. Add the very loosely knotted black tie, knee-high boots, mirrored sunglasses and high-visibility safety jacket with The Metropolitan Police patch on the back, she’s impossible not to notice. The fact she’s just sauntered onto the pub’s stage to a chorus of whoops, hollers and shrill whistles, makes her positively mesmerizing.

As he watches her, Simon Landry thinks he may have crossed over into some form of law enforcement heaven.

“I told you. I told you,” says the man standing next to him, grabbing him by the shoulders and giving him a vigorous shake.

Yes, Justin has told him all about the “dishy” singer he’s been chatting up. He met her at his favourite local, the Bristol Bobby, the pub where most of the city’s coppers larked about after work. He’s been promising Simon a visit so he can actually see her in the flesh.

Flesh indeed. He watches as a mass of inebriated, off-duty bobbies crowd around the raised stage, mad for her to notice them. The fact she can sing well appears to be lost on them.

She’s currently performing a rocking cover of Cheap Trick’s I Want You to Want Me, which every man in the place seems to be taking to heart. Her back-up band – comprised of a lead guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and drummer – are talented as well, especially at keeping the braver pub patrons off the stage and away from their singer.

Simon watches the bizarre spectacle. You have to be a pretty gifted musician to be able to keep playing while bouncing a drunk constable off the stage. And this is just the first song in the set!


Manuscript Monday #4

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 4 week- old manuscript:

I’m the fourth week in with this manuscript. I think having a four week- old baby is easier than this. Newborn babies are the sweetest things, so tiny and fresh and wonderful. Whether they are sleeping (like most of the time) or awake, they can draw even non baby people to them. The only thing fresh and wonderful about my manuscript right now is well…actually nothing.

And it was going so well. Or at least it was until I started plotting and outlining—trying to make order out of the thoughts swirling in my head. As soon as I began doing the stuff I was supposed to do, my brain shut down.

I’ve written three novels before. I know how much easier drafting is if you have an outline of some sort to follow. Doing so can eliminate problems like writing yourself into a corner, or a creating a subplot that doesn’t serve the story, or characters that don’t stay true to themselves. I know these things can happen to me if I write without a plan. Yet somehow, in attempting to do this, I’ve found myself very stuck.

I’ve attempted four or five times this week to work on this newborn manuscript this way. And now I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps for this one, I need to just write. Yup, just let the words be. Write without a plan. Just write what comes to me at least for a little while. Until I get un-stuck.

Yesterday I sat down at my computer and gave myself permission to just write whatever. I wrote and wrote. I let myself write whatever came to mind. I got myself unstuck. A thousand words later, I’m feeling good about this manuscript again. Phew! I was actually starting to think I couldn’t do this again. And that is not a good feeling.

I’m not planning on writing like this for the entire manuscript. That definitely doesn’t work for me. I will need a plan of some sort at some point. But sometimes, you have to let your creativity take over to get you going. As writers we are creative people, yes? So for now, I’m going to keep writing like this, let my words present themselves in whatever way they like. The feeling of writing like this is freeing and relaxing and fun for me. I love to see where my characters take themselves, what trouble they get themselves into and how they take shape.

So week four of my journey started out as a bumpy one. I even veered off course a bit, but I eventually got back on track. I took a few unchartered paths along the way, but that’s okay. I found some interesting things about my story that I may not have found had I stayed on course in the first place. Who knows what next week will bring, but I’ll be sure to fill you in.:)

Thanks for checking in today. It’s nice to have friends join me on this crazy writing journey! Be sure to stop back on Wednesday too for our September Critique Corner. I’ll be posting the first 300 words written by several writers. They’ve taken the plunge, ready to get feedback from the rest of us. (Yayy!!) I do hope even if you didn’t submit a sample that you’ll comment on the stories. Your words can help these writers (and many others) improve their craft. You don’t have to be a professional critique-er either. Is there even such a thing?? If you read books, then you’re qualified to give your opinion and feedback!

Have a fabulous week, this official first week of autumn. Grab a pumpkin- spice latte or a warm apple cider. Take a walk in the your neighborhood. Count how many houses are decked out with fall decorations already. Let the feelings of fall fill you up inside. They might just inspire your next scene…or maybe even a whole manuscript!


Submit Your 1st 300 Words!

It’s that time already! Critique Corner is accepting writing samples until September 21st for next week’s critique round. Click on Critique Corner for details, but here’s a quick recap:

This round is for adults who write middle grade, young adult, or adult fiction. Any genre will be accepted except erotica of any type. Remember this is a family friendly blog. Kids of all ages stop by often!

Writers may submit the first 300 words of their fiction manuscript. Then on Wednesday, September 24th the samples will be posted on the blog for public critique. It’s a great way for participants to receive feedback from other writers and also a great way for any writers reading the blog to learn more about the craft of writing. We can learn a lot by reading each other’s work and reading the comments given by others.

Samples may be taken from a completed manuscript or a work in progress. We’ve received several samples already (yay!!) but we still have open spots available. If you’re not sure whether you should submit or not, just do it! It’s always good to have another set of eyes on your work. 🙂 I’ve entered my work on several great blogs over the years and my writing is so much better for it.

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section. If not, go on and polish up your words. Make them sparkle and then send them in. Hopefully some of the feedback here will make them sparkle even brighter!


Manuscript Monday #3

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

My 3 week- old manuscript:

World Building is my favorite part of developing a new story. It’s my chance to let my imagination take me wherever it wants to go. It can lead to me to a place I’ve actually been to before, or to a place I’ve pictured in my mind- someplace real I’d actually like to visit. It can also lead me to someplace new though. Real new- as in not a real place. It’s my chance to explore my own mind…just make someplace up!

On week three of my baby manuscript, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been brain storming on my giant poster board some places that I think my MC might live and hang out. My early ideas centered around one specific place, and at first I was really excited about it. But as I’ve tried to add to her world, I’ve been sort of stuck. It didn’t bother me too much. I figured something would come to me when my mind was ready. Besides, I had this out of town family wedding to go to over the weekend and my mind was pretty preoccupied thinking about all I had to do for the trip. It’s funny though how ideas come to you when you’re least expecting them.

My family and I traveled to a rural town in Pennsylvania for the wedding. My cousin grew up on a 200 acre farm. The property is breathtaking complete with 17 buildings including various sized barns. Talk about a location for a country wedding! The couple was so in their element, radiant and happy. Their guests were made to feel right at home. The celebration was intimate and extravagant at the same time somehow. It went on under the stars until late in the night and one I will never forget. My teenaged kids had the time of their lives.

I have to fill you in on one highlight of that day for me though…My daughter grew up a Hannah Montana fan. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve watched The Hannah Montana Movie. If you have children you may know the scene I’m about to describe. In the movie, Miley Cyrus leads a crowd of family and friends in a song/ dance called the Hoe Down, Throw Down. It’s a peppy pop/country song that gets everyone up on their feet dancing- proclaiming “If you’re 5 or 82, this is something you can do!” Well, I just about lost it when my sixteen year-old suburban- bred daughter got up on that barn dance floor at our family wedding and led her 12 cousins and tons of people she didn’t know to that exact same song and dance! If you’re wondering if I joined in, you betcha I did! I’m a twelve year-old tween girl at heart, remember?

The next morning, we returned to my Aunt and Uncle’s home on the farm for coffee, sweet rolls and danish. My kids had not been to their home (built in 1849) since they were in pre-school. My aunt and I gave them a tour of their historical home. Their reaction was unexpected. They devoured the history. They were enthused about the antique collections. In a nut shell, they decided that they’d like to live on a farm just like this! We laughed about all the adventures and parties (aka trouble) they could have at a place with this much space.

Although moving out into a great big farm like that is not in the cards for our family in the immediate future, I had to agree with them. I could imagine all the adventures and parties (aka fun!) that a child could have at a place like this.

The entire ride home, I thought of the farm. The barns. The silo. The historic house. The creek, The brick wall. The cows. The path that led to I’m not even sure where! And then it hit me. I may have to set my new story on a farm.

Wait what? A girl who makes accessories for aliens set on a farm?? Hmm. Yeah.

I’m not sure about that either. So I got home last night and pulled out my poster board. I added some of the coolest spots from my aunt and uncle’s farm to my page. So now I have a board full of spots for my story that may or may not work, together or alone! But that’s okay. I’ll keep adding to my board. Eventually my world will come together and it will be an amazing place for an adventure!

So what other progress did I make this week on my new middle grade manuscript? Atria Plum (my MC) is turning into a real life girl. In fact, spending so much time at the wedding with my young nieces and nephews gave me another idea for her personality. I had brought my index cards with me for the drive home yesterday. Much of that drive was spent jotting down ideas about her. Atria Plum is beginning to feel real to me. Not real enough, but she’s getting close, just like her world.

If there’s one point to this post today, I guess it would be that in developing any story, ideas can come from any place, and they usually do when you least expect it. The more adventures you have, the more opportunities you’ll have to let your imagination swirl. And that’s exactly why world building is one of my favorite things to do when developing a new story. I get to go out and explore the world. That’s the only way I know how to make up a new one for my characters!

So how about you, my friends? Any progress this week on your stories? I’d love to know where you are with your characters and your plot. We’re all in this writing thing together, right?

And that’s reminds me… Our September Critique Corner is coming quick! Several 300 word samples submitted by our blog readers will be featured up on the blog for critique. The date is September 24th. Details can be found on the Critique Corner tab. We still have spots available, so go polish up those openings and send them in. We’d love to give feedback to as many writers as possible. This round is for adults who write either Adult, YA or MG (no exotic or explicit samples, please). Feel free to spread the word on Facebook or Twitter or to your own writing friends too.

Until Wednesday, have fun working on your manuscript. I hope the world you’ve built (or are building) develops into an amazing backdrop for your story too. 🙂