Saturday Smash Up

03 Dec

My mind is going in a hundred crazy directions right now, and it has nothing to do with the holidays. It’s just how life goes sometimes. There are so many things I want to write about, so I’m just going to spread the joy and include everything.


One of my writing heroes, Laurie Halse Anderson, received an award this week for speaking out against censorship. Judy Blume, another of my writing heroes presented the award. If you have not read books by these women, you need to. They write with utter honesty and respect for their readers. That is what I aim to do.

Judy Blume and Laurie Halse Anderson


The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) monthly Boise meeting will be Dec. 5 at Rediscovered Books at 6:30. We will be sharing our favorite books of the year, favorite writing advice, and favorite books on writing. Hopefully there will also be cookies and apple cider. AND, if you have not discovered Rediscovered Books, you need to. It is a fantastic indie bookstore in Boise—perfect for holiday shopping! (I do not make a commission on referrals. I just love the place.)


Deadlines. I work best with deadlines. I suspect a lot of us do. How do you create a deadline for yourself when you don’t really have one? None of my young adult books are currently under contract, so I work on them on my “own time.” How can I stay motivated and progressing? A number of ideas have helped me. First, having a critique group provides a kind of deadline. I always want to get the most of out of my participation in a critique group, so I try to make sure I have something ready to submit each time. Entering contests also provides a deadline. Applying for grants. Attending workshops and conferences where your work will be read. Not only do all of these activities improve your skills and hopefully move your career forward, but they also give you a deadline.


Writing dialogue. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Watch your dialogue tags. Use only “said” or “asked” unless you absolutely need to use another word. A character cannot “smile” her statement. Neither can she “laugh” it, “snort” it, or “swallow” it. She can laugh, snort, or swallow before or after, or even in the middle of her words, but do not use strange words in place of said. If you must indicate that she whispered or hollered, you can use those words. Or better yet, let the action and reaction of other characters indicate this.

Fifth, and finally….

Do not allow random body parts of your character to act on their own accord, unless you are writing some zombie or sci fi story and this is how your world is. It makes for hilarious imagery, usually not at a hilarious moment in the scene. Don’t: “Margie’s eyeballs roamed the room, searching for Jack.” This implies that her eyeballs jumped out of their sockets and rolled around the room, leaving Margie, blinded, in the corner. Do: “Margie looked around the room for Jack.” You get the picture.

Happy Writing! And Reading!


Posted by on December 3, 2011 in teen fiction, writing craft


Tags: , ,

5 responses to “Saturday Smash Up

  1. Janis

    December 3, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    Timely tips, however spread out. Thanks, Neysa.

  2. Docena

    December 3, 2011 at 6:12 PM

    All great advice from a great writer!

  3. Lynn Mapp

    December 3, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    Thanks Neysa. The thought of roaming eyeballs is disturbing.

  4. Mary Vine

    December 6, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    I really like your comment about deadlines. Different kinds of deadlines. Great food for thought. Thanks, Neysa!

  5. stephanieberget

    December 20, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    Actually, I liked the mental image of the eyeballs roaming around the room. Call me weird. Great blog and I loved the deadline information.


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