It’s Monday, and, even though I am arguably living the dream job, I’m fighting the Monday-back-to-work-blues. The reason being – I’m floating around the dreaded middle and all I can think about is how much I want to pick up one of my older projects so that I can avoid having to face the glaring flaws I’m seeing in my story arc. I know I’m pulling away from what I originally set out to do, in part because some of my original ideas didn’t work. Why I continue to try to keep them in, even after they didn’t work in the first draft, I’m not really sure. But I know with each rewrite, my story is getting strong, so the only thing I can do is visualize the goal of seeing my work published, of truly being a writer, and push through.

I think one of the biggest things I’m struggling with is trying to stay true to the story I want to write. But so often when I read a story that is poorly developed, I think to myself, this person wasn’t willing to sacrifice the story they thought they wanted to tell for the story that they should tell; they ignored the story that worked for a story that is flawed.

When I wrote my Master’s thesis, I discovered 2 weeks before the due date that my hypothesis didn’t work. But instead of trying to submit something that was flawed, I worked my butt off to turn what I had into something that worked, at the sacrifice of a lot of data and many paragraphs and even chapters that I was proud of. While this was a struggle, it was what had to be done. I know I need to apply that same logic, that same part of my brain, to my fictional writing. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. If I want to call myself a writer, I need to not only be able to see when something doesn’t work, but I need to have the bravery to step back and rework scenes until I have something that does work.

What does your Monday have in store for you? Do you struggle with the middle? Or do you find your weakness elsewhere? How do you push through?

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: Samantha Kingston has looks, popularity, and a seemingly perfect boyfriend. She does what she wants to who she wants, with little thought of the consequences. Until the night of February 12, when Samantha finds herself the victim of a car crash. Only, instead of waking up the next day, she finds herself reliving February 12 over and over. As Samantha tries to figure out what happened, she learns a lot about herself and the person she has become. And, she realizes she doesn’t like that person. Will changing who she is change her fate? Or are some things inevitable?

If you are a fan of Delirium, Before I fall, while different, has all of Oliver’s skills as a storyteller. Samantha has her flaws, but she is still lovable. There is a vulnerability about her that draws the reader in. It was very fulfilling watching Samantha make different choices each time she relived the same day and learned more about what was important to her, and how a simple decision can have a huge impact.

This book had a Groundhog Day feel to it, for those of you old enough to remember that movie, but I found the plot and characters to be more captivating than the 1993 movie.

Oliver is a master at creating dynamic characters, and she does not fail to deliver in this book. By adding her own spin on the plot, with the reliving of the same day over and over, a device I have not seen used in any other YA books, Oliver has created a fresh, unique plot certain to appeal to lovers of paranormal and contemporary fiction alike.

I’ve crossed the 3 month point for being a full-time writer. I know in the past month I have not been the best blogger. The reason is, I’ve been focusing so hard on my writing.

My writing class is almost over and I’m happy I took it. Through the critiques, I’ve gained confidence in my ability to write – the feedback on my writing has been very positive. But of course, being able to write and being able to tell a story are two different things. Now that I feel like I can actually write, I need to figure out if I can actually tell a story. I think I can, but that’s where beta readers will come in.

In the past month I’ve made a lot of progress on my novel. I’ve added conflicts and developed characters. I’ve added to the word count. I’ve figured out plot details. But, despite all of my progress, I still have a ways to go.

My goal for the next month is to finish the current draft, which is very nearly complete, and then work my butt off editing. I had hoped to be at the editing stage by June 1. That obviously did not happen. But part of why that didn’t happen is because I’ve been editing as I go along, going back and fixing things I know aren’t working. I still have a major fix that needs to be popped in around chapters 2/3, but I’ve decided to hold off on that and to just keep writing as though I’ve already done it.

My deadline for finishing is my wedding, which is rapidly approaching. I’ve always worked better under pressure, and I can definitely feel the pressure. But I don’t mind. I kind of like it. And knowing me, if I had until infinity to write my book, it would probably never get written. But knowing I have a deadline, well it helps me accept that it will never be perfect. Nothing ever is. Instead I just have to get it perfect enough. I have to treat it like a school paper, like my master’s thesis and accept that I can only get it as perfect as I’m capable of getting it and hopefully, if I’m lucky, that will be perfect enough.

Alright, so I’m ready to share chapter one from my work in progress, The Colony, and I would love to get some feedback.


Anya was a good citizen. She knew the rules of The Colony, and she followed them without question. Until an internship snagged her a spot on the first voyage back to Earth since her people had fled the dying world hundreds of years ago. Now Anya is beginning to question all she has been taught and she is starting to see those close to her, including her father, for who they really are. As war begins brewing between the survivors that were left behind on Earth and the priviledged who had the means to escape, will Anya remember her years of training and remain a good citizen, or will she abandon all she has known for a boy she has only just met?

Chapter 1

Do you like Anya? Do you want to keep reading? Are there things you find confusing? Did the opening grab you? Do you have suggestions for ways I can make it better? You can leave any feedback as a comment or email me at dragonflyword(at)gmail(dot)com.

I made a startling realization today. My main character and I are not interested in the same things. In fact, her favorite subject is the one subject in school that was always beyond me – science. And you know what is even worse? I realized that I’ve written another character in another work-in-progress that has these same interests.

As a writer, it seems like it would be easy to model my characters after me, to give them my hobbies and my interests. But did you ever have to draw a self-portrait in an art class? If so, you probably know how difficult a thing it is to try to recreate yourself. I could draw other people’s’ portraits, showing their flaws and beauties and making the entire thing come together in a wonderful recreation of that person, but when I sat down to do myself, all of my self-perceived flaws flew to the surface and there was nothing I could do to add in the beauty. And even worse, I couldn’t even get the flaws right because I wanted to downplay them. When things get too personal, bias creeps in. And bias rarely allows for a full story to be portrayed, just like it keeps a portrait from being complete.

This is not to say that my characters do not have bits of me inside of them. Often I substitute in a fear or an insecurity or a quirk or a personality trait. I may make my character shy or overly chatty when she is uncomfortable. Or I might go the opposite and, instead of adding in my insecurities, I may make that character confident about the things I lack confidence in. Adding in emotions I know help make the character more real.

I also add bits of other people I know, but I never make a character a spitting image of someone I know. Instead I may take one of my insecurities and mix it with my friends facial features and my brother’s talent and my other friend’s strange quirk. This allows me to create a dynamic, unique character. This is what helps me to make my characters real.

Unfortunately, though, to make a character real, you have to be able to write in real details. Meaning, if you character is interested in science and genetics, I, as the writer, have to research science and genetics so that I can add in little tidbits throughout the narrative, things that will tie back to the main character’s interests and personality and help bring the story alive.

So who knows, maybe by the end of the summer I will have a better grasp on science or at least be able to convince people through my writing that I have a grasp on it.

How do you come up with inspiration for your characters? Do you research their interests or do you try to give them your own interests?

Struck, by Jennifer Bosworth

Rating: 3 out of 5

Summary: Mia Price is a human lightning rod, or so it seems. She cannot go out into a storm without getting struck, yet, somehow, she always manages to survive. Embarrassed by the scars that cover her body and scared that people will get hurt if they stand too close to her, Mia tries to keep to herself. Following an earthquake that devastated Los Angeles, and which some people claim was caused by lightning, Mia is finding it harder to stay in the shadows. Cult members from an evangelical church led by a man name Prophet are hunting Mia along with another group that is fighting against Prophet, known as the Seekers. And both groups keep telling Mia that the world is coming to an end and that its fate rests on her shoulders. To complicate matters, the mysterious, attractive boy Jeremy keeps urging Mia to stay away from both groups. As the End nears, Mia’s must decide – is fate written, or can it be changed.

Disclosure: I received an ARC of Struck from

All in all, this was not a bad book, but I did not think it lived up to its potential. The premise is great – a girl who controls lightning, the end of the world, and secret cults. But once I got past the premise, the book fell short for me.

The biggest problem was that I didn’t really feel invested in the characters. I didn’t care if they lived or died. I didn’t want to see the world end, so I had to side with the people trying to save it, but otherwise, I didn’t have anything to root for.

I also found the plot to be a little overcomplicated. There were a lot of unanswered questions. The logistics of the powers didn’t really make sense to me. In Ashes, some of the characters seem to acquire special powers after an EMP, but the logic behind this is explained and seems plausible enough. I would have liked to have seen some sort of explanation about how the people who got their powers were chosen. Otherwise, it just seems a bit too random.

I thought I was going to have a bigger issue with the religious aspects of the book, but I thought Bosworth handled them nicely. So often in apocalypse books the religious elements become too intense and preachy, but Bosworth did not get preachy. Rather she showed us a cult that played on people’s’ fears. I’ve seen people turn to religion after traumatic events, so this seemed like a relevant addition and I thought Bosworth handled it with grace.

As an easy beach summer read, this book would work, but if you have a stack of things you are dying to read, I would probably recommend reading them first.


One of the biggest problems with being a writer is that you feel like everyone expects everything you write to be brilliant. For the past year I’ve been working towards converting to Judaism. And the big day is finally almost here. But first, I have to write a statement of intent. Only problem is, instead of just worrying that what I write won’t show that I’m committed and serious enough, I’m also worrying that my writing will not seem brilliant enough. I can’t just write my thoughts. I feel the need to stream together amazingly poetic prose.

Do you find that you have this problem? Do you feel that people expect more from you when you are a “writer”? Or have you found a way to turn off the writer brain so that sometimes you can just write for the sake of writing?

Whenever I come up with a story idea that I’m excited about, I share it with the fiance. And, more often than not, he says “oh, that sounds like [insert already published book].” Then I get frustrated and decide my idea is not good enough and move on to something else. But you know what, there are few original core ideas left. It is how you alter the core, the bits you add in, like your characters and your setting, that make it unique.

I read a post over at Writer Unboxed, Write Like a Comparative Mythologist, that summed it up really well:

Even if you are telling ‘essentially the same story’ as someone else, you are not ‘ripping off’—you are adding to the conversation… If you view your story as another answer to the same issue, then you will realize that as long as you are sincerely dealing with the issue, you cannot ‘rip someone off’ just for having a similar premise.

This is good advice to remember when someone tells you “oh, that reminds me of…” or when you read something that has a similar concept to your own WIP. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated, but instead of letting that frustration get you down, use it to work harder to make your work stand out.


I’m currently enrolled in an online writing course – Writing the Young Adult Novel – through Writer’s Digest University and, as is inevitable with any writing course, there are critiques.

Critiques are, unfortunately, part of being a writer. Anytime someone reads what you wrote, they are going to critique it. Sometimes they give you the feedback, sometimes you read it in the form of a review, and sometimes they think it but never give words to their thoughts. Even though I hate waiting for a critique and psych myself out, I would much rather actually receive one, especially if it includes constructive criticism, than to have no idea what people think of my work.

Waiting for my first critique was very stressful. But you know what, the stress was unfounded. In fact, it wasn’t a bad critique. What has turned out to be more difficult is critiquing the work of the other students. I want to provide constructive criticism while also providing encouragement. This is not the easiest thing to do. When I work in publishing, I often had to compile the critiques made by beta readers and then deliver them to authors. I’d like to think this work and reading all of the reviews to compile summaries, has helped me to write better critiques. But I know that’s not true. I know that when it comes to being brutally honest, I would rather sugar coat. Maybe it’s all those years I spent living in the south. Or maybe it’s because I know how devastating a negative critique can be.

When it comes down to it though, if you can’t stomach an honest critique, you won’t go far as a writer. In writing critiques for my classmates, I am appreciating just how difficult it is for editors and agents to respond to queries. I am also improving as a writer by learning to identify what works and what does not work. While the critique process is difficult, both the give and the take, I know it is helping me to become a stronger writer.

How do you feel about critiques? Do you give them? Are you brutally honest or do you try to sugar coat things? How do you find people to critique your own work?

Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick

Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: Alex is dying. She has a brain tumor that can’t be cured and she can tell that she is getting worse. Determined to die in peace, Alex takes a trip out to the woods to scatter her parents ashes and come to terms with her own mortality. And then the unthinkable happens. An EMT goes off, killing all electronics and casting the country, and, possibly, the world, into a state of chaos.

With the help of Tom, a young soldier, and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather and only family member died in the EMT, Alex struggles to survive in this new world, where millions are dead and the survivors are mostly untrustworthy or worse, extremely deadly.

I don’t want to give away too much more about this book. I think what made it so engaging for me were all of the surprises and twists. It has been a long time since I read a book that kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat – this book did that and more. While there were a couple of things I guessed, I did not see the ending coming at all. And I’m dying to read the next book.

Great Characters

For starters, the characters all have depth. Even the minor characters were 3-dimensional. Everyone had something they were fighting for and I believed everyone’s story.

The main character, Alex, was very well done. She had layers and she grew in a very believable way. I could make sense of her decisions and understand her feelings. The same was true for Tom and, while she was a little obnoxious at first, even Ellie.

I did have a slightly harder time with a couple of the characters later in the book, mostly in Part 4, but I don’t want to say anything about them because that would ruin the suspense. I will say, though, that Part 4 got a little weird for me, but it was worth sticking it out to get to Part 5.


I’m glad I went into this book knowing very little about it. I thought it would be your typical apocalypse story, which in some ways it is, but in other ways it is not. Had I known more about it, I may not have read it. But I’m glad I did because this book does not fit neatly into any of the boxes it could be put into, genre-wise. Even if you have heard some things that make you think you don’t want to read it, you really should give it a chance. I promise you will not regret it.