Monday, October 14, 2013

Stuff I've Learned: Writing Log

Continuing on in my "Stuff I've Learned" series...  There's something else important that I've learned about writing that I want to tell you about:

Brains lie.

If writing is going well, my brain thinks that it's always gone well, will always go well, and I'll be done this novel by next Tuesday, even though I started it three hours ago. If writing is going poorly, my brain tells me that I'm doomed forever, I will never be able to form a sentence again, and furthermore I've never actually written a full paragraph and maybe the cat wrote all my prior novels.

To counteract this effect, I keep a daily writing log.

This is just a simple Word doc where I note the date and write down how many pages I worked on. No details. No value judgement. Just:

October 14, 2013, Monday
worked on The Found, pages 122-129
wrote blog entry


Doing this has several benefits:

1. It forces my brain to face reality. (Yes, I wrote yesterday. Yes, I'll write again tomorrow. And it will all be fine.)
2. It makes me accountable. (Here's proof of whether or not I've met my page goals. No fudging in either direction.)
3. It gives me a realistic idea of how long it takes me to write a book. (Very useful when agreeing to / setting deadlines.)

This is definitely one of those your-mileage-may-vary things. But for me, I love having the data. I find it comforting to know precisely where I am in a book and at what speed I'm moving through it. It helps keep my expectations realistic. And it helps me plan for the future. For example, because of this log, I realized that I'd started writing faster -- and that I could increase from one book a year to two books a year.

I know of other writers who keep much more elaborate records -- spreadsheets that include word counts and time-of-day and so forth -- and I know many, many others who don't keep any kind of records at all.  But I've been keeping my writing log since 2002, and it works for me.

Another method that I've heard about recently but never tried is the sticker trick.  You get a calendar, buy some stars or adorable whatever stickers, and put a sticker on the calendar every day that you reach your word count goal.  Author Victoria Schwab explains it in this video.  If I weren't already so attached to my log, I'd do this.  I may still try it someday.  I do like stickers... and I've learned not to trust my brain.

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Monday, October 07, 2013

Thanks for participating in the YASH!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the YA Scavenger Hunt!

(Every time I think "scavenger hunt," I expect to see a slew of people trying to find pine cones.  I don't know why I associate scavenger hunts with pine cones.  Somehow, I just do.....)

Anyhoo, pine cones or not, the YA Scavenger Hunt is now over, and I hope you had fun!  A special thank you to everyone you entered my CONJURED giveaway!

The winner of a signed copy of CONJURED is: Tiffany W.

Congratulations!  (I'll be contacting you directly soon.)

Other YA Scavenger Hunt winners, including the grand prize winners, will be posted by 5pm on Monday on the YASH blog.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Fall 2013 YA Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to the fall 2013 YA Scavenger Hunt!

I'm Sarah Beth Durst, your host for this leg of the hunt.  I'm the author of 7 fantasy novels for teens.  *points to sidebar and to top of blog*  I have ridiculously curly hair and am afraid of skunks.  And my favorite number is the answer to life, the universe, and everything.  I'm thrilled to be participating in the hunt this year!

The YA Scavenger Hunt is a tri-annual event started by author Colleen Houck.  This year, 60 YA authors are participating (including yours truly!).  On this hunt, you will have access to exclusive bonus material from each of the participating authors, plus every author will also include their favorite number.  (If you missed the hint above, then see the bottom of this post for mine.)  Add up all the secret numbers, and you can enter for the grand prize: one signed book from each author in a team!  But play fast: this contest will only be online for 72 hours!

You can start right here, or you can go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt, including links to all the authors participating. This year, there are THREE contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the GOLD TEAM -- but there is also a red team and a blue team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!


Directions: Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the gold team, and then add them up.

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday, Oct 6th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.


Today, I am hosting Melissa West on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!  Welcome, Melissa!  *waves*  So happy to have you here!

Melissa lives in a suburb of Atlanta, GA with her husband and daughters. She pretends to like yoga, actually likes shoes, and could not live without coffee. Her writing heroes include greats like Jane Austen and Madeleine L'Engle.

She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and an M.S. in Graphic Communication, both from Clemson University. Yeah, her blood runs orange.


On Earth, seventeen-year-old Ari Alexander was taught to never peek, but if she hopes to survive life on her new planet, Loge, her eyes must never shut. Because Zeus will do anything to save the Ancients from their dying planet, and he has a plan.

Thousands of humans crossed over to Loge after a poisonous neurotoxin released into Earth’s atmosphere, nearly killing them. They sought refuge in hopes of finding a new life, but what they became were slaves, built to wage war against their home planet. That is, unless Ari and Jackson can stop them. But on Loge, nothing is as it seems…and no one can be trusted.

Find out more information by visiting Melissa's website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads page.  And you can learn more about HOVER here!


And now, for your reading pleasure, a peek at a deleted scene from HOVER:

Jackson removes his jacket and drapes it around his chair, exposing a fitted black T-shirt that shows off the contours of his chest. I have no idea how hard I'm staring until he laughs easily, and my eyes drift up to find him watching me. He reaches for my hand. "Let's dance."

He leads me through the crowd, and I follow without hesitation, which I know must be whatever I just drank. Jackson takes us to the center of the crowd so we’re surrounded on all sides. The song switches and though the music is still upbeat, it’s slower, more intimate. He pulls me to him, so close our bodies connect from chest to thigh, our faces inches apart.

He rests his head next to my ear and holds one of my hands close to his chest. My eyes close as we move, lost to everyone around us, lost to the worry that wrecks my mind. All I feel is Jackson. All I can think about is Jackson…and how he is nowhere near close enough. His warm breath dances down my neck, causing a shudder to move through me, and before I can stop myself I release a small sigh. It feels like forever since I've let myself go around him. I lean further into him, wanting to close any distance between us. He continues to guide our bodies, and I know we're the only ones dancing so slowly.


I shake my head. "Don't. Not now."

He pulls me closer still, his breath warm on my neck, his lips close, and I want more than anything for him to kiss me, to feel his full lips envelop mine. His draws a breath and blows out slowly, sending a cool breeze over my skin. And it’s too much. I tilt my head toward him, knowing I'm pushing this further than I'm ready to go. His lips graze over my neck, as soft as an afterthought, and my chest begins to burn with passion. I grip him tighter, my free hand smoothing over his forearm and up his bicep, before slipping into his hair. He pulls away to look at me, his eyes searching mine for answers, permission, something, but we are way past asking. Without another thought, I rise onto my toes, my mouth crushing into his.


Don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books (including my book Conjured, HOVER by Melissa West, and many more! To enter, you need to know my favorite number*. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the gold team and you'll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

And don't forget to enter the additional giveaway that I'm hosting here.  Enter to win a signed copy of CONJURED below! (US mailing addresses only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, Jessica Brody!

* When I was in fifth grade, a babysitter told me that I wasn't old enough to read and appreciate the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  So of course I read it.  Ever since, my favorite number has been 42.  So that's my secret number for the YA Scavenger Hunt.  Good luck!

** On a related note, that same babysitter also told me I wasn't old enough for Little Women, and she was right.  Hated that book in fifth grade.  Loved it later, but in fifth grade... spoiler alert... I was so so so upset about Beth and that Amy married Laurie.  (Now I think Jo totally dodged a bullet.  Still sad re Beth.)