Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

QUITE THE QUERY with A.J. Pine and ONE NIGHT November 20, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 8:21 am
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If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!


Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences, but for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.


With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from A.J. Pine. This great query connected her with her agent, Courtney Miller-Callihan.




Twenty-one-year old Jess used to be that girl. You know, in a sorority with the perfect boyfriend, her future all mapped out, until one night that should have been magical–that was magical–wound up shattering everything.


Now one night is all Jess thinks she’s worth. Her not-so-perfect ex taught her that. Since no guy could want her beyond a night in her bed, that’s how long she gives them. For one night she can have someone’s arms wrapped around her and not wake up alone. For one night she can pretend that she’s still that girl, that the arms around her are still his.


But when Jess’s physical therapy internship introduces her to Adam Carson, star of the university basketball team recovering from knee surgery, he reminds her how much more she has to offer. Maybe she can resist his chocolate brown eyes and witty charm, but his beautiful heart is no contest. He’s not like the other guys. He’ll take her any way he can get her, even if she draws the line at friends. But crossing the line unleashes Jess’s secret of what happened little more than a year ago. Jess cares about him too much to keep up the lie, but the truth breaks her heart wide open again…and Adam’s too. For any chance at happiness, Jess must let go of her past, stop blaming others for what she lost, and believe in a future of more than one-night-stands.


ONE NIGHT is a New Adult contemporary romance, complete at 69,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Cora Carmack’s FAKING IT and Brooklyn Skye’s STRIPPED.





I’m a big fan of Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT techniques. To write this query, I used his log line example that I found on the SAVE THE CAT website and just expanded it to the three paragraph format of the query. I knew that if I included all that was in the log line I’d be hitting the set-up, the conflict, and showing the stakes. I also honed the query online at WriteOnCon, queried my agent after she favorited my #pitmad tweet (Note to writers–you still have to query after a twitter pitch request), and the rest is history!



Just a quick mention that A.J. recently released the third book in her IF ONLY series, titled I DO. Here’s a little blurb…




I do




Sometimes you have to trust your heart to find out what home really means.


Duncan McAllister is marrying Elaina Tripoli tomorrow. Except–he’s missing. Jordan, Noah, Griffin, Maggie, and Miles arrive in Greece for the festivities to find frantic messages from both the bride and groom. Noah and Griffin set off to find Duncan while Jordan, Maggie, and Miles try to salvage what should be a day of celebration before the wedding.


But the Americans have their own baggage. Noah’s got a surprise planned for Jordan that has to go perfectly. Griffin’s keeping life-changing news from Maggie. And Miles–well, he wasn’t looking for love on this trip until a Greek sous chef named Alex rocks his world.


The race is on for Duncan to make it back to Elaina before she decides not to take him back at all. For Noah to make sure his monumental plan goes off without a hitch. For Griffin to tell Maggie the truth without losing her. For Miles to admit that letting himself fall in love is worth the risk.


Happily Ever After waits at the finish line…if the four couples can make it on time.


Now available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.




Amy Pine

A.J. Pine writes stories to break readers’ hearts, but don’t worry—she’ll mend them with a happily ever after. As an English teacher and a librarian, AJ has always surrounded herself with books. All her favorites have one big commonality–romance. Naturally, the books she writes have the same. When she’s not writing, she’s of course reading. Then there’s online shopping (everything from groceries to shoes). And a tiny bit of TV where she nourishes her undying love of vampires and superheroes. You’ll also find her hanging with her family in the Chicago ‘burbs. For more on A.J., check out her website or follow her on Twitter.


Monday Musings: Who Are You Writing For? November 16, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 8:33 am
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After I finished my very first manuscript I thought I was in a solid place as a writer. I’d heard stories about people who had been trying to write a book all their life but never finished. Once I wrote “The End” on that sucker, I felt like I’d accomplished something major. Something life changing. And I had, just not in the way I expected.



After I put the period on the very last sentence of that book, I was sure I was going to get an agent. Then selling that book? It would be done in a snap. Boy, it was sure nice to live in that naïve little bubble for a while, but reality soon popped that dream in the form of dozens of rejections.



I was heartbroken when that book never attracted the attention of an agent. I was sure it was a masterpiece until a critique partner pointed out that it was far from it. After that, I went into a funk. I swore I’d never write again. That trying to structure a story was too hard. Rejection was too painful.



While I was wallowing, I received an email from said critique partner who asked when I was going to send her something new. “NEVER!” was my short reply. She pushed on, sending me more emails, trying to encourage me to open up my laptop and try again. Then one day she sent a short, somewhat terse, message that read, “Who are you writing for anyway?” Incredibly perturbed, I shot back, “Well, readers, of course.” Then it hit me. I wasn’t writing for readers or because I wanted fame or fortune. I was writing for me. I had stories I wanted to put on paper. Characters who pulled at my every thought-demanding that I give them life.



Once I had that epiphany, things changed in my writing. I came back full force, writing a new manuscript, and then another, until I finally connected with an agent. Yes, it took me three tries before lightning struck, but I was bound and determined to make this writing thing work.



It may have taken a while, but that single push from a friend forced me to look at writing in a whole new way. Instead of being bound and determined to be noticed, praised, even read, I decided I needed to write because it was what I was meant to do. Someday I know I’ll sell a book. It may not be tomorrow, next year, or even in five years, but I’ll continue to work because I finally know exactly who I’m writing for-me.


FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch Literary Services November 13, 2015


FFF SideWords



If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight. You examine the next few paragraphs hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. It’s tricky to get just the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today I’m proud to share Literary Agent, Saba Sulaiman’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.




Amy: There is a belief among many writers that having a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?



Saba: It makes a huge difference, but I wouldn’t throw a manuscript away if the opening line wasn’t perfect. What I’m looking for is the potential to craft a stellar first line, or perhaps another line somewhere in the opening pages that would work better as the first line. I think if the writing voice and tone has personality and purpose overall, a less than super opening line can be overlooked. That having been said, there’s nothing like a fantastic first line to get me excited to read a project, often well after I’ve begun to lose interest. So the bottom line is: make each line count, especially your opening line.




Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?



Saba: Other than the ones you’ve already mentioned, I’ll add the following that come to mind:


-Kid finding out the family’s moving.

-Kid starting first day at new school and feeling overwhelmed.

-Monologue about a) wanting to be popular, or b) being too cool to want to be popular.

-Person waking up (even if there’s no dream.)

-The “My name is X, and I am Y” opening. It can work, but I see it a lot

-Couple lying in bed contemplating strained marriage

-Lying in bed and thinking in general.

-Thinking in general (start with action, if possible).

-The weather (just don’t).


Again, I always say: never say never. If an author can find a way to make even the most common opening unique and interesting, I say go for it. My mind’s always open to exceptions to any rule, especially when it comes to writing.




Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?



Saba: It varies. It’s usually some combination of stellar writing + voice + characters + point of view + general concept. It’s never just concept, although it can be just the writing or the voice, if I connect with either of them hard.




Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?




-Too much backstory and exposition

-Poor, unlayered dialogue

-Too much dialogue

-Introducing too many characters

-Overuse of cliched images and phrases

-Not starting at the right place

-Too much telling vs. showing


This may be too early for the first five pages, but it’s something I look for personally, as soon as possible: an emotional anchor to the story. This usually comes in the form of a character who I can connect with immediately, who I care about, and who I find interesting. If that’s missing, I find it very difficult to continue reading on.




Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?



Saba: Definitely the voice. And a complex, interesting, dynamic character, whose story I want to read. Ideally, a layered protagonist with a memorable voice and a unique perspective on the world. My favorite characters are relatable while still being larger than life in some sense. I’m always looking for that balance. Of course, there’s nothing like a seemingly ordinary character with an extraordinary story, and that’s where voice comes in. So, in short, voice and character.



Saba Sulaiman is a literary agent at Talcott Notch Literary Services, a boutique agency located in Milford, CT. She’s looking to build her client list in a variety of genres (because that’s the beauty of agenting – see her website for details.) Captivating storytelling with characters who are smart and weird and wonderful engage in meaningful relationships that evolve over time is what makes her world spin. She’s an unapologetic advocate for all things Bollywood and she really, really just loves soup. For more on Saba, check out her website or follow her on Twitter (@agentsaba)


If you’re interested in submitting to Saba, please check the Talcott Notch website for their guidelines.


QUITE THE QUERY: SARAH’S HEIRLOOM By Meredith Jaeger November 6, 2015





If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!


Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences, but for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.


With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Meredith Jaeger. This great query connected her with her agent, Jenny Bent.





Because you particularly enjoy women’s fiction, I’ve been keeping an eye on your #MSWL tweets! Based on the two below, I think my novel, SARAH’S HEIRLOOM, will be a great fit for you:


#MSWL historical fiction (for adults) with a strong female lead and lots of plot #MSWL high concept women’s fiction, with a strong plot, great pace and lots of emotion. Like THE LIFE LIST by @lnelsonspielman



SARAH’S HEIRLOOM is women’s fiction and complete at 81,000 words, the past and present woven together in a plot-driven dual narrative. San Francisco, 1876. German immigrant Hannelore Schaeffer hugs her best friend Margaret goodbye after a long day mending dresses at the tailor shop. But when Margaret doesn’t show up for work the next morning, Hanna fears the worst. Braving the squalor of the Red Light district and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stops at nothing to find her missing friend.



San Francisco, 2015. Spirit of the City associate editor Sarah Havensworth is hiding a painful secret from her past. Having married into San Francisco’s most prominent family, she plans to keep it hidden forever. When she’s assigned an article on San Francisco’s infamous Barbary Coast, Sarah discovers the disappearance of two seamstresses in 1876. The deeper Sarah digs, the more she suspects the Havensworths have secrets of their own. In the process, she finds that she and Hannelore might be linked in unexpected ways, and that her heirloom emerald engagement ring holds the key to the answers.



This book will appeal to fans of Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio, The House Girl by Tara Conklin, and fans of the BBC show The Paradise.






I sent out about 40 queries. I love the tag #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) on Twitter because it really helped me target agents who were looking for exactly what I had written. Even though Jenny liked my title, Sarah’s Heirloom, we changed it to The Dressmaker’s Dowry when submitting to publishers. Choose a catchy title, but be prepared for it to get changed a few times! :)





MeredithJaegerMeredith is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. She was inspired to write The Dressmaker’s Dowry by her own engagement ring, which is an heirloom from 1903. Like her character Hannelore Schaeffer, Meredith is also the daughter of a European immigrant, who moved to California in search of a better life. The Dressmaker’s Dowry will be published by William Morrow (Harper Collins) in 2017. Meredith lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, their cat, and English bulldog. She is currently at work on her next novel. She is represented by Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency. For more on Meredith, check out her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.



500TH POST!!!! November 2, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 7:16 am
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Confetti500 POSTS!!!





WOW!!! 500 Posts!!! This milestone has me at a total loss for words, which is quite funny for a writer. I’m not big on reminiscing, but I think in this case I must…



When I first started blogging, I never imagined I’d still be committed to it three years later. Sure, I thought I’d add a post here and there. Share something inspirational every once in a while, but then an amazing thing happened-people started reading and commenting. Those first followers meant a lot because it validated what I was trying to share in those posts: my struggles with writing my first book, my fears about it not being good enough, and, of course, the worry that agents would laugh at my work and they probably did (my first query was THE WORST!) But by sharing those ups and downs, I knew I could humanize the process of publishing. Show that you can get knocked down and get back up again-even after endless rejections.



I’ve been through it all, and shared it in my posts, not because I wanted people to feel sorry for me, but because I wanted writers to understand how difficult the process can be. I also wanted to show that with perseverance and hard work you can grab your dream!



Again, I can’t truly express how grateful I am that I can share my thoughts with you several times a week. I promise that as long as you keep reading and commenting, I will continue to post helpful insight and advice from authors and agents, as well as my own personal stories. In many ways I feel like we are all traveling this long road to success together and by sharing our triumphs and pitfalls we all become resilient and much, much stronger.



To say thank you for your years of support, I’ve got an amazing giveaway to celebrate 500 POSTS!



Here are the goodies you have a chance to win…


A critique of your first five pages from one of these amazing literary agents (all featured in my First Five Frenzy series):


Patricia Nelson (Marsal Lyon Literary)

Kirsten Carleton (The Prospect Agency)

Eric Smith (P.S. Literary)

Jessica Watterson (The Dijkstra Agency)

Rebecca Podos (Rees Literary Agency)



A query critique from one of these authors (all featured in my W.O.W. series):




Stephanie Garber (HEARTS MADE OF BLACK)

Ashley Herring Blake (SUFFER LOVE)


Melanie Conklin (COUNTING THYME)



One of these books from an author who has been featured on this blog:



Lia Riley – BEST WORST MISTAKE (e-book copy)

W.O.W. interview – October 8, 2014




Best Worst




Smoke jumper Wilder Kane once reveled in the rush from putting out dangerous wildfires. But after a tragic accident, he’s cut himself off from the world, refusing to leave his isolated cabin. When a headstrong beauty bursts in, Wilder finds himself craving the fire she ignites in him, but letting anyone near his darkness would be a mistake.


After her Hollywood life went up in smoke, Quinn Higsby decided to leave Tinseltown behind and return to Brightwater to care for her ailing father. She spends her days in a small bookstore, until her peaceful existence is up-ended by a fascinating but damaged man. Quinn is determined not to be scared off by Wilder, not once she’s experienced the heat of his passions.


But when an arsonist targets the community and Wilder is accused, he must confront the ghosts of his past. Will his desire for Quinn burn him up or will he be able to tame the wildness inside and rekindle a hope for their future?





A.J. Pine – ONE LIFE (e-book copy)

W.O.W. interview – March 12, 2014







Every time life throws Zoe Adler a curve ball, she changes her appearance. Freshmen year—after almost following in her mother’s alcoholic footsteps—she said good-bye to her blonde, girl-next-door image and opted for jet black hair and piercings galore. After her brother Wyatt’s death, she escapes to the city to teach a summer art program for kids. Her black hair goes blue, and she finds solace in the arms of a longtime friend, in his heart, and in his bed—but her guilt makes her unable to accept the love he wants to give.


Spock might be the guy to save Zoe. But when she learns the truth about his past, the edge she’s teetered on since losing Wyatt drops out from under her. The girl who kept it together for everyone finally falls apart. Now Zoe must choose between drowning in guilt about Wyatt or asking for help. But even if she gets the help she needs, Spock may not be waiting for her when she’s ready to let love in.





Heidi Schulz – (HOOK’S REVENGE – signed paperback copy!)

W.O.W. interview – December 11, 2013








Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn’s hopes of following in her father’s fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.


So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.


The crocodile’s clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz’s debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?




Sara Raasch – ICE LIKE FIRE

W.O.W. interview – May 15, 2013




Ice Like




Meira just wants her people to be safe. When Cordellan debt forces the Winterians to dig their mines for payment, they unearth something powerful and possibly dangerous: Primoria’s lost chasm of magic. Theron sees this find as an opportunity—with this much magic, the world can finally stand against threats like Angra. But Meira fears the danger the chasm poses—the last time the world had access to so much magic, it spawned the Decay. So when the king of Cordell orders the two on a mission across the kingdoms of Primoria to discover the chasm’s secrets, Meira plans to use the trip to garner support to keep the chasm shut and Winter safe—even if it means clashing with Theron. But can she do so without endangering the people she loves?


Mather just wants to be free. The horrors inflicted on the Winterians hang fresh and raw in Januari—leaving Winter vulnerable to Cordell’s growing oppression. When Meira leaves to search for allies, he decides to take Winter’s security into his own hands. Can he rebuild his broken kingdom and protect them from new threats?


As the web of power and deception weaves tighter, Theron fights for magic, Mather fights for freedom—and Meira starts to wonder if she should be fighting not just for Winter, but for the world




Julie Murphy -DUMPLIN’

W.O.W. interview – October 23, 2013








Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.


Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.


With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.




Mary Elizabeth Summer – TRUST ME, I’M TROUBLE

W.O.W. interview – June 5, 2013







Staying out of trouble isn’t possible for Julep Dupree. She has managed not to get kicked out of her private school, even though everyone knows she’s responsible for taking down a human-trafficking mob boss—and getting St. Agatha’s golden-boy Tyler killed in the process. Running cons holds her guilty conscience at bay, but unfortunately, someone wants Julep to pay for her mistakes . . . with her life.


Against her better judgment, Julep takes a shady case that requires her to infiltrate a secretive organization that her long-gone mother and the enigmatic blue fairy may be connected to. Her best friend, Sam, isn’t around to stop her, and Dani, her one true confidante, happens to be a nineteen-year-old mob enforcer whose moral compass is as questionable as Julep’s. But there’s not much time to worry about right and wrong—or to save your falling heart—when there’s a contract on your head.


Murders, heists, secrets and lies, hit men and hidden identities . . . If Julep doesn’t watch her back, it’s her funeral. No lie




And last but not least, two of my favorite books from authors I admire:


The newly illustrated HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE (It is gorgeous!!!)

CARRY ON – The latest from Rainbow Rowell




Here are the giveaway details:


Entry window is open now and will stay open until Wednesday, November 4 at 5 p.m. (EST). To enter, please leave your name in the comments along with either an email or twitter handle. If you are not a writer (thus not interested in the critiques), please note that in your comments. Only one entry per person. Giveaway is for U.S. residents only.


Again, many thanks for your love and support over these last years. It means A LOT to me!


Infinite hugs,






W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Kristy Acevedo October 28, 2015




Each manuscript provides an opportunity to learn and grow. Your first attempt at writing a story may not be easy, but if you work at your craft, and allow yourself to learn, your work gets better. In today’s W.O.W., Kristy Acevedo shares her journey on the path to publication and explains how taking her time, and allowing herself to mature as a writer, led to selling her debut, CONSIDER to Jolly Fish Press.



Many thanks to Kristy for sharing her journey today…




Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?


Kristy: Teens have always been my natural audience, which is why I also decided to teach at the high school level. My teen years were rather tumultuous, so I want to give back to that age group. Teens also respect honesty, and I’m someone who tells it like it is.





Amy: From reading your bio, I know you are a high school English teacher. How much does that affect your writing if it does at all?


Kristy: Tons. I spend the majority of my time surrounded by teenagers, including AP students and more reluctant readers. When I write, I try to engage both types of readers with fast-paced and thought-provoking stories.





Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to CONSIDER?


Kristy: I completed two manuscripts, one that I received great editorial feedback on but haven’t made all the changes yet. My debut idea begged me to write it. Glad I listened. Prior to that, I worked on two manuscripts that are half complete. Writing those stories definitely taught me how to write my debut novel.





Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?


Kristy: No, but I did put it on hold. I had my daughter when I was only 19, and I left college after freshmen year due to her medical needs. I returned to college a year later and finished my English undergrad degree in record time. Then I started teaching, got married, had another daughter, got my master’s. I was writing during all this time but not on a regular basis. I’m actually glad that I didn’t seek publication immediately; it gave me time to experience life and mature as a writer.


Four years ago, I decided it was finally time to focus on me and my writing dream. I joined SCBWI, attended conferences, found a fabulous critique group, and started a Twitter monthly writing challenge group to keep me accountable.




Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?


Kristy: Write in layers. Don’t expect to get everything right in a rough draft. Focus on one aspect and see it through to the end, then go back through and add another layer.


I was also encouraged to join SCBWI and find a local critique group. Both have been crucial to learning about the industry and building my craft.




Amy: If you met a struggling writer at a book signing and they told you they were on the verge of giving up, what would you say to them? 



Kristy: One day at a time. On March 11, 2015 I participated in #PitMad on Twitter. One little favorite by editor TJ da Roza led to my two-book deal with Jolly Fish Press ten days later. You never know what’s right around the corner.






(Available April, 2016)



As if Alexandra Lucas’ anxiety disorder isn’t enough, mysterious holograms suddenly appear from the sky, heralding the end of the world. They bring an ultimatum: heed the warning and step through a portal-like vertex to safety, or stay and be destroyed by a comet they say is on a collision course with earth. How’s that for senior year stress?


The holograms, claiming to be humans from the future, bring the promise of safety. But without the ability to verify their story, Alex is forced to consider what is best for her friends, her family, and herself.


To stay or to go. A decision must be made.


With the deadline of the holograms’ prophecy fast approaching, Alex feels as though she is living on a ticking time bomb, until she discovers it is much, much worse.



Kristy AcevedoKristy Acevedo is a YA author, high school English teacher, and huge Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter fan. When she was a child, her “big sister” from the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program fostered her love of books by bringing her to the public library every Wednesday. A member of SCBWI, her debut YA science fiction novel, CONSIDER (Jolly Fish Press, April 2016), won the 2015 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. In 2014 she founded the Monthly Twitter Writing Challenges (see She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two daughters, and two cats. She believes coffee and dark chocolate were put on this planet for the good of humankind. For more on Kristy, check out her website or follow her on Twitter – @kristyace.



Monday Musings: Building Character October 26, 2015

Filed under: Blog,creative writing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 8:17 am
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With National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) quickly approaching, I started thinking about story beginnings. One of the things I struggle with at the start of a manuscript is building my characters. I know their voice, but usually other things like their hair color, eye color, mannerisms, elude me. When I first started writing this was a huge problem because even though I knew what the character wanted, I had no background as to why they were driven to desire those things.



After struggling, and getting plenty of feedback on my lack of character detail, I started combing writing sites and reading craft books on how to get to the heart of a character. One of the things I found most helpful were character questionnaires.



At first, I started with the typical things like name, hair color, birthdate, etc.  And while an interesting place to start, those details still didn’t help me build the character’s backstory or give me an idea as to why they behaved the way they did.



One particularly frustrating day, I followed a link from social media to the Gotham Writer’s website. There I found a questionnaire that went beyond the common questions and forced me to think about character traits I would have never considered.



Here are a few examples of what pushed me to think beyond the basics for my character:



What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?



Where does your character go when he/she is angry?



What makes your character laugh out loud?



And this one is a little different, but it forced me to think beyond the typical realm…



When your character thinks of their childhood kitchen, what smell does she/he associate with it? Why is the smell so resonant?



Now none of these questions may strike a chord with you, but they forced me to consider all the outside factors that make up a solid character. They’re not, nor can they be, stick figures on the page. In order for the reader to connect to them, they must have both happy and sad memories. People who push their buttons and others who instantly calm them. Reasons for why they hate certain smells and embrace others. Quirky, I know, but if I think back to characters I’ve fallen in love with, I’ve had a connection to some small, odd part of them that has been revealed in the narrative.



What about you writing friends? How do you break down your character? Get to the heart of their stories? Are they already completely shaped in your head, or do you use questionnaires to help build them? Please share your thoughts in the comments and also include links if you have suggestions for sites and/or posts that have helped you create a fully formed character.



Here are some of my go-to sites:



Gotham Writers Character Questionnaire

Character Profile Questionnaire (via Writers Helping Writers)

100+ Questions to Help You Interview Your Character (via Helping Writers Become Authors)









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