My Writing Process

A couple of weeks ago, Adrianne Russell tagged me in her My Writing Process post (a blog hop that’s been making the rounds), and I’m excited to share mine with you today. Here we go!


What am I working on?

Right now I’m finishing up my second manuscript, a contemporary YA story that doesn’t yet have a title. I’ll share more about this MS after I finish it, but for now I’ll say it involves a girl dealing with the aftermath of an event that broke her close relationship with her mother, and a summer romance she hopes will make things better.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’d say my voice sets my work apart. Also, I strive to write stories about girls like me — black girls with diverse friends, whose race is part of their identity, but at the same time, isn’t a huge part of their day-to-day lives. I have to admit that I’m still grappling with how much to describe my characters in order to make their diversity obvious, but this is something I want to achieve.

Why do I write what I do?

I honestly can’t imagine writing anything other than contemporary YA right now. Maybe I’ll write a contemporary middle grade one day, but my brain just doesn’t think in other genres. Plus, I absolutely love reading contemporary YA. It fills my bookshelves and I get excited when I hear about another contemporary YA story to add to my list. My teenage years are still very fresh in my mind and I write to explore those emotions. I enjoy writing about real-life issues and challenges. I’m also drawn to light, funny stories and want to write more of those in the future. THE RIGHT EXPOSURE fits into that category, while my new WIP is more serious.

How does your writing process work?

I’m still trying to figure out what my process is. The process of writing my first manuscript was very different than that for my current one. With my first, THE RIGHT EXPOSURE, I outlined the whole thing from the start. I started writing it while in my MFA program, so I revised as I wrote, since I had to submit chapters every few weeks. I was getting feedback even before I finished the manuscript, so that influenced what I wrote next. After the program ended, I finished the manuscript using an outline, and then workshopped it with my critique group.

With my new WIP, I didn’t have as detailed an outline before starting — I only knew a few key plot points. I’ve been writing the rest by the seat of my pants, which I didn’t think I was capable of doing, but it turns out I am! I always thought I needed an outline to write, but I’m learning that there are benefits to just writing and seeing with the story takes you. I’m happy with the direction this story has taken, and I’m not sure I would have thought of some of these plot points in an outline ahead of time. I haven’t gotten any feedback on this manuscript yet, and don’t plan to until I finish my first draft and do a round of revisions on my own to clean it up.

I have no idea how I’ll write my next manuscript. Maybe that one will be different, too!

Next, I’m tagging two dear friends of mine. The first is Kathryn Holmes, who I’ve known since my MFA days and whose beautiful story THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND is debuting from Harper Collins next year. I read an early version and trust me, you are going to want a copy of this book. She describes her writing as lyrical, honest, and hopeful.

The second is Ellen Goodlett, who is one of my critique partners. I’ve read a few of her manuscripts and stories, and they are all fantastic. I have high hopes for her manuscript STRAY which made it far in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. She’s represented by Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary and describes her writing as OCD, nerdy and explosive.

Can’t wait to read about your processes next!


And now, a quick Spring Writing Bootcamp update. Last week I wrote 3983 words, and my WIP total is currently 42,171 words. It was a little less than in past weeks because I was busy with other things, but I’m still on track to finish this draft by the end of the month. I have less than 10K to go, which is super exciting. By this time next week, I hope to be very close to done. Go Team Mountaineers!

Happy Writing!

YAB Spring Writing Bootcamp Update #5

YAB-Spring-Writing-Challenge-BadgeIt’s the halfway mark of the YAB Spring Writing Bootcamp! My goal for the remainder of April is to keep up with my daily word count goals and finish my new work-in-progress.

Once again, I had a really productive week. I wrote 6 of the last 7 days and added 5788 new words to my manuscript. Writing parties on Twitter (under #YABbootcamp) as well as Camp NaNoWriMo accountability helped a ton. Since the YAB Bootcamp began, I’ve written almost 16K words! Considering how little writing I did this past winter, I’m really happy about this. I’m finally embracing my word of the year and focusing.

I ended up increasing my final word count goal to 52K (instead of 50K) because I realized that’ll be my word count when I finish writing 25K this month. My last manuscript’s first draft was around the same length. I tend to under-write first drafts and need to flesh everything out during revisions.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 6.47.58 AMMy manuscript progress, via myWriteClub

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My Camp NaNo progress so far (includes words written this month only)

This week I’m looking forward to surpassing 40K!


Go Team Mountaineers!
Check out my teammates’ progress by visiting their blogs and Twitter pages at the links below!

Stephanie Scott | blog
Sarah Chafin | blog
Jennie King | blog
Prerna Pickett | blog
Kari Marie White | blog
Catherine Craglow

Happy Writing!

Cover Reveal + Giveaway: ONE, TWO, THREE by Elodie Nowodazkij

I’m am thrilled to participate in the cover reveal for Elodie Nowodazkij‘s debut YA novel, ONE, TWO, THREE. Elodie and I have been writing buddies for a while now, and I was lucky enough to read an earlier version of ONE, TWO, THREE back when we were teammates in the 2013 Pitch Wars. I fell in love with this story back then, so it’s even more exciting to see Elodie follow her dreams and self-publish it now. Without further ado, here’s her gorgeous cover!


Publication date: June 26th 2014 
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Add to Goodreads!


When seventeen-year-old Natalya’s dreams of being a ballerina are killed in a car accident along with her father, she must choose: shut down—like her mother—or open up to love.

Last year, Natalya was attending the School of Performing Arts in New York City. Last year, she was well on her way to becoming a professional ballerina. Last year, her father was still alive.

But a car crash changed all that—and Natalya can’t stop blaming herself. Now, she goes to a regular high school in New Jersey; lives with her onetime prima ballerina, now alcoholic mother; and has no hope of a dance career.

At her new school, however, sexy soccer player Antonio sees a brighter future for Natalya, or at least a more pleasant present, and his patient charms eventually draw her out of her shell.

But when upsetting secrets come to light and Tonio’s own problems draw her in, Natalya shuts down again, this time turning to alcohol herself.

Can Natalya learn to trust Antonio before she loses him—and destroys herself?

About Elodie

ElodieThe short story: Young adult author, Elodie Nowodazkij writes the stories swirling in her head during her commuting time.

The long story: Elodie Nowodazkij was raised in a tiny village in France, where she could always be found a book in hand. At nineteen, she moved to the US, where she learned she’d never lose her French accent. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Modern Language & Linguistics, and later earned master’s degrees in German Cultural Studies and European Studies. Unbeknownst to her professors, she sometimes drafted stories in class. Now she lives in Germany with her husband and their cat (who doesn’t seem to realize he’s not human), and uses her commuting time to write the stories swirling in her head. She’s also a serial smiley user. ONE, TWO, THREE is her first novel.

Website   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads
*Learn more about her upcoming releases by subscribing to her NEWSLETTER*


Elodie is hosting a giveaway to celebrate her cover reveal! Enter to win advanced review copies of ONE, TWO, THREE, gift cards, and more by clicking HERE! (Giveaway is open internationally.)

Congratulations, Elodie!

ONE, TWO, THREE...banner2

Special thanks to Giselle at Xpresso Book Tours for organizing this tour!

YAB Spring Writing Bootcamp Update #4

YAB-Spring-Writing-Challenge-BadgeIt’s Monday again (how’d that happen?) so time for another YAB Spring Writing Bootcamp update. Here’s how I did with last week’s goals:

  • Write at least 833 words per day for WIP - complete!
  • BONUS goal: finish JUST ONE DAY – nope…

Not only did I make my word count goal, but I exceeded it! I wrote during 5 of the last 7 days, and on each of those days, I wrote at least 1K. I wrote a total of 5,278 words!

I also reached 30K in my WIP, which was exciting. I mentioned last week that I was joining Camp NaNoWriMo in order to complete my WIP and so far it’s been a big motivator. My assigned Camp NaNo “cabin” has been pretty radio-silent, but it’s been great to connect with other participants on Twitter under the #CampNaNo and #CampBeta hashtags. And just the act of entering my word count daily and seeing my bar graph grow makes me want to write more. I’m super excited to finish this manuscript!

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 6.59.26 AMMy manuscript progress, via myWriteClub

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 7.12.19 AMMy Camp NaNo progress so far (includes words written this month only)

As I suspected, I didn’t get a chance to read anything in the past week. I’ve been dedicating my early mornings before work, and the hours right after work to writing. And in the later evenings, my brain starts to shut down so reading rarely happens. But I’m writing a lot, so I’m okay with it.

My goal for the rest of April is simple:

  • Keep up with my daily word count goals and FINISH. THIS. MANUSCRIPT. :)


Go Team Mountaineers!
Check out my teammates’ progress by visiting their blogs and Twitter pages at the links below!

Stephanie Scott | blog
Sarah Chafin | blog
Jennie King | blog
Prerna Pickett | blog
Kari Marie White | blog
Catherine Craglow

Happy Writing!

YAB Spring Writing Bootcamp Update #3

YAB-Spring-Writing-Challenge-BadgeThe first month of YAB Spring Writing Bootcamp is over! Here’s how I did with last week’s goals:

  • Plot next few scenes of new WIP and write 3,000 words – complete!
  • Finish re-reading JUST ONE DAY – I did finish another book, just not this one.
  • Finish reading for CPs – just about complete!
  • Work on plot exercises for TRE - fail…

This past week was my most productive writing week in a long time. I exceeded my 3K word count goal and wrote 4077 words! I’ve finally hit my groove with this manuscript. I’m learning to let my Inner Editor stand to the side while I get words down. I know I’ll have a lot of revising to do later, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying exploring my characters and seeing where they take me. I’m even pantsing quite a bit, which is so unlike me!

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 6.51.08 AMMy progress, via myWriteClub

I’m feeling so good about my progress and this story that I decided to join Camp NaNoWriMo during the month of April so I can finish it! Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while know that my last attempt at the regular NaNoWriMo was a complete fail. This time around, since in Camp NaNo you’re allowed to set your own word count goal (as long as it’s over 10K words), I think I’ll be much more successful. My goal is 25K for the month, which equals 833 words a day. That will put me at over 50K for my WIP, which should be enough for a complete first draft. Last week, I wrote more than 1K several days in a row and feel confident I can keep the momentum going. Wish me luck!


On the reading front, I’m just about done reading for my CPs (I’m going to send my comments over tonight) and I finished another book. I’d planned to finish re-reading JUST ONE DAY but I found it hard to squeeze it in. The only thing I miss about my long train commute is the extra reading time! The book I finished was actually an audio book I’d started listening to a couple of weeks ago: THE HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE by Shawn Achor. My husband loves listening to psychology/sociology audio books and recommended this one. I listened to it during my drive to/from work and really liked it–it’s really inspirational and has concrete tips on how to increase your happiness, which he argues increases productivity. Who doesn’t need to be more productive? If you’re curious about the concept, you can check out his Ted Talk.

As for TRE, I once again didn’t get a chance to look at, so I’m going to put it aside until after I finish this WIP. I’ll make revising it my goal for May.

Here are my goals for this week:

  • Write at least 833 words per day for WIP
  • BONUS goal: finish JUST ONE DAY

I’m keeping it simple and planning only to write, write, write. If I can, I’d love to read another book but if I don’t have time, I won’t worry about it. I’m so happy the YAB Bootcamp is going on for another two months because it’s helped me SO much already.


Check out my teammates’ progress by visiting their blogs and Twitter pages at the links below!

Stephanie Scott | blog
Sarah Chafin | blog
Jennie King | blog
Prerna Pickett | blog
Kari Marie White | blog
Catherine Craglow

Happy Writing!

On YAB: Using a Book Map to Evaluate Your Plot

Remember last week when I told you about the Cheryl Klein plot workshop I attended, and the book map she had us create? Today I’m over at the YA Buccaneers talking all about book maps.

Now, don’t fret if you aren’t the outlining type. It doesn’t matter if you’re a plotter, pantser, or both. This isn’t an outline that you use to write your first draft. You use the map to check the plot you’ve already written. So, you shouldn’t create a book map until after your first draft is complete. 

What’s a book map, exactly? Head over to my YA Buccaneers post to find out!

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Life Lately

Life has been really busy lately, and with my YAB Spring Writing Bootcamp goals taking up so much of my time, I haven’t had the chance to blog more than my weekly updates. But there are a few things I wanted to tell you about. Here’s a recap of what’s been going on lately…

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Anaheim, CA for work and met up with Jessica Love!

I traveled there to attend Expo West, a huge natural products trade show (basically, the BEA of healthy snacks/products). My employer had a booth there. The show itself was tiring, but fun – so many yummy snack samples! And the food trucks serving breakfast and lunch outside the convention center were amazing. I had the best breakfast burrito of my life.


The real CA highlights for me were the warm weather (it was sunny and in the high 70s/low 80s the whole time – a nice change from the winter temps in CT) and meeting up with Jessica! On the night before I returned home, we had drinks and a delicious Mexican dinner with some of the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted. Plus we got the chance to chat about what’s going on with our writing, and Jessica’s good news. Have you heard? Jessica’s second book IN REAL LIFE sold to St. Martin’s! Congrats again, Jessica!!!

Jessica.jpgMe and Jessica, plus our waterfront sunset view.

This past Saturday, I went to the NYC Teen Author Festival.

This is a yearly event that I’ve attended the last few years. They have readings and panels throughout the week at various locations in New York City. This year, since I no longer work in the city, I only attended the Saturday afternoon readings at the main branch of the New York Public Library.


I stayed for the first four readings and they were all great. My favorites (just based on the themes alone) were the “Summer Reading” panel (all about the authors’ summer books) with Jen Calonita, Gae Polisner, Morgan Matson, Jessica Verdi, and Melissa Walker as the moderator…

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 7.10.27 AM

…and the panel called “What We Write About When We Write About Teenagers in Love” which had the most EPIC LINEUP EVER:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 7.10.12 AMStephen ChboskyLauren MyracleGayle FormanRainbow Rowell and David Levithan

!!!!! So many favorites on one panel! It was SUCH an inspiration to hear them speak. Here’s a little recap via tweets I re-tweeted while listening:

That same night, I saw the Divergent movie!

I LOVED it. I thought it was an impressive adaptation and so entertaining. I loved the casting, especially Four (*swoon*). It was also fun seeing author Veronica Roth’s cameo, which I wasn’t expecting. I went with two friends – one who read the entire series, and one who hadn’t yet. Now the one who hadn’t read the books wants to, based on the movie. I say that’s a win!

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I’m running an NYC SCBWI Scrivener workshop!

That’s right – on April 5th I’m running my first ever workshop, all about the writing program Scrivener, for a group of 20 NYC SCBWI members. This all came to be because I’m friends with one of the chapter’s advisers and she asked me to do it. I figured, why not? It’s one of my Thirty Before 30 goals to do something I’ve never done before, and this fits the bill. I’ve been using Scrivener for years now and the workshop will be full of beginners, so I think it’ll be fun. I’m planning to show them the basic features to get them started. Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it goes.

What’s going on with you lately?