Feature Friday: Alexa Donne of Author Mentor Match

Pen friends, if you’ve spent much time around here, you know how much we love the writing community! One of our favorite ways of learning and growing within that community is by participating in contests and mentoring opportunities, and today we are thrilled to chat with one of the founders of Author Mentor Match, the lovely YA author Alexa Donne!

*The current round of submissions for AMM is open now through October 24th, so if you’ve been looking for a mentor, now is the perfect chance to apply!

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SP: Welcome, Alexa! We’re so excited to have you join us. Can you please tell us a little about who you are and what you write?

Hi! Thank you so much for having me! I am Alexa Donne, a YA science fiction & fantasy writer whose debut novel, BRIGHTLY BURNING, will be coming out from HMH Teen on May 1, 2018. It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre, set in space.  Continue reading


How to Survive NaNoWriMo


         Before you can continue with this guide, you first have to know WHAT in the world NaNoWriMo is. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. The standard goal is to write 50k words in ONE MONTH. Sounds crazy, right? Well, now you know why you need this guide. (If you want more info on NaNoWriMo, visit https://nanowrimo.org/)

Okay, so last year I completed my goal of 50k words and managed it in just 28 days. How? It was pretty dang hard, to be honest. But that’s the point, right? The whole idea of Nano is to push your abilities, force you to stop procrastinating, and GET CRAP DONE! YEAH!

Let’s jump right in!


1) Find the Motivation

In order to get anything done, you have to have motivation. So that’s where we’ll start. (This is where I get you HYPED!)

A. Break it Down Now, Y’all! So, 50k words seems a little overwhelming, right? Yes, yes it does. But let’s break it down here using some complex Calculus and rocket science.

50k words/30 days in November/16 average hours awake in a day. So, you need to write 105 words per hour. Not horrible, right? Realistically, you won’t have a chance to do it every single hour. A better approach is to do it 1-3 times over the course of the day. Mostly you just need to know what style works best for you. Are you best at cramming it all in at once? Then write 1,667 at once all at once. If you’d rather spread it out, set aside two-three times a day to do it and write 835 or 555 words. Manageable, right?

B. Tired of Procrastinating. Yes. We are all there at some point.  As Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing, I love having written”. NaNoWriMo basically forces you to stop procrastinating and get those fingers flying across the keyboard. Especially if you’re an achievement/goal oriented person like myself.

Seriously, think about it. If you follow through with this, you could end up with 50 FREAKING THOUSAND WORDS WRITTEN IN ONE MONTH!!! If that’s not a good enough reason to be absolutely hyped, I don’t know how you help you.


C. Accountability and Friends. While this goes along with point B), I feel like it is worthy of a separate category. Some of us have writing “accountability partners” to make sure we don’t waste our time getting everything EXCEPT writing done. But not all of us have that privilege. NaNo builds that benefit in. It makes it easy to connect with people online who are also taking place in the “Great Writer’s Race”. Not only that, it makes it easy to talk to people you may know in real life about writing, thus helping you create that accountability that may continue beyond NaNo!

2) Find the Time

So now you’re HYPED! But you’re still thinking, “How in the world will I find time to write 1,667 words a day??” Valid question. Let’s jump into the answer.

A. Schedule It. Yes, you’ve heard it before, and yes, it’s still true. You’re probably going to have to schedule out your writing time. It might not be the same time(s) every day, but that doesn’t matter. Schedule it like a meeting!

Truthfully, I didn’t schedule an exact time, but my strategy was “Get home early every night and write for two hours”. Simple, yet very effective. I purposely left events early, said no to plans, etc. This is going to take sacrifice. But keep the goal in mind! Like these two adorable dogs!


B. No Breaks. At the beginning, you might start really strong and manage 10k in the first 3 days. If this happens, you’ll be tempted to slow down and say, “Yeah, I’ve got this. I’ll take a break.” DO NOT SLOW DOWN. The worst thing you can do is break the habit of writing you have developed throughout the month. Do not stop unless you absolutely have to. You never know what’s going to happen in your life, especially when Thanksgiving rolls around. If you get ahead, stay ahead.

C. Drop the ‘Flix, the ‘Lu, and the ‘Gram. You heard me. This is something I preach on relentlessly in my blogs. Netflix is not necessary. Hulu is especially unnecessary (c’mon, you still have to watch ads even with Hulu+?), and Instagram gives you unlimited garbage to mindlessly sift through. As someone who runs a large writing Instagram account *cough* follow @write_or_left on Instagram*cough*, this advice is BAD for business. So you KNOW I mean it.

Yes, all of them have some benefits, but very few will help you write. If you REALLY want to reach your goal, you’ll find a way to do without for a month. Or at the very least, cut back.

That’s basically all you need at this point. In review:

  • Find the motivation from deep within yourself, like a tribal warrior summoning the spirits of his ancestors.

  • Make time as if J.K. Rowling offered to tutor you for 1-2 hours every day for 30 days straight.




Tell me what you think! Did I miss any vital tips?

Until next time, Caleb Robinson

Author Interview: Tracey Neithercott

Pen Friends ~ We are delighted to have Tracey Neithercott, debut author of Gray Wolf Island and an Author Mentor Match mentor, here with us today!

Tracey Neithercott FullSP: Hi Tracey! Thanks for joining us. First, will you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

Hi! Thank you so much for having me.

I’m a magazine journalist and the author of the YA novel Gray Wolf Island. I’ve always written in some way or another: There was my sixth grade The Princess and the Mean Genie, which really made me aware of my inability to draw but had me feeling pretty proud of my talent for coloring within the lines.

In high school, I started (but never finished) a bunch of books in the voice of whatever I’d last read. I somehow ended up sounding like both Pip from Great Expectations and Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. This was not a good thing.

As I began thinking about college, I shifted my focus. It’s weird looking back at how my brain worked back then, but I was convinced authors were these super-special people who were, I don’t know, given their super-special talents from the heavens or something. I figured journalism was a more realistic career. And in a way, I was right: I did become a journalist.

Only after I began reading YA writer blogs—watching them go from unagented writers to agented writers to published authors—did I start to believe writing a novel was something I could actually do. And in 2010, I finished a novel for the first time. Continue reading

Winning: How to Get the Most from Your Beta Readers


Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

You’ve finished a draft of your manuscript and done all your brain can possibly do alone. You celebrate because it’s readable– one might daresay enjoyable– but you know the time has come to let other’s eyes see your story. It’s time for beta readers.

Use these 5 tips to get the most out of your beta readers and kickstart your next draft.

Continue reading

Author Interview: Laura Frances

Pen Friends ~ A treat and an inspiration for you today, Laura Frances, Indie Author of Slave, is here to share her writing tips and publishing journey with us!

FullSizeRender (2)SP: Hi Laura! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be featured here on The Spinning Pen!

I’m a wife and mom currently living in beautiful Japan. We teach English at a school run by a local church. On the commute from the States to our home here, we hauled over 150 pounds of books. It’s safe to say I have a problem, because yes, I do also own a fully stocked Kindle. Continue reading

Becoming a Better Writer: A Guest Post by Fiona Claire

CloverWhen you’re surrounded by a lush, green landscape, crumbling medieval castles, and ancient stone circles, writer’s block isn’t a thing.

I live in Ireland. And I’m a writer. Those two things seem to go hand-in-hand. It’s no coincidence that some mighty scribes have lived here. William Butler Yeats, Anne Enright, Oscar Wilde, Roddy Doyle, C.S.Lewis and John Banville all called Ireland home at one time or another. I think that’s because the land on this island is fertile, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually too. It feels like stories come up out of the ground, grab me by the ankle, and demand, “Write me!Continue reading

Author Interview: Aimee Salter

Pen Friends ~ Meet Aimee Salter, author of A Dark Touch & Every Ugly Word, and 2017 PitchWars Mentor, who is here to share all kinds of writing gems with us.

Hi Aimee! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

Hi there. Thank you for having me!

I’m Aimee L. Salter. I’m an American who grew up in New Zealand, married a kiwi, have a kiwi son, and am now back in Oregon permanently.

I’ve always dabbled with writing and have loved it since I was in elementary school. I had a couple false starts on books earlier in life, but the first manuscript I ever completed with an eye to publication was in 2009, when I was 33. I got my first publishing contract in 2014 when I was 38. Continue reading

What an English Major Learned at Writer’s Conference: A Guest Post by Hilary Bowen

Recently I attended a writer’s conference in a foreign country. To all of you wondering, foreign in this context means not America.

There were twelve of us there and we were there together for one week. Everyone learned lots of things. Including me. Five years and two English departments at institutions of higher learning and—I still don’t know it all.
So in light of that illuminating statement allow me to share with you three things I learned in my week away.

1. It All Started Because of a Dream:

ross-errillyEvery blog post you’ve read, every lecture you’ve attended, every book you perused, and all of your own experience will tell you that you must buckle down and work. Write that book, edit those sentences, iron out that plot, blah blah blah blah blah. But sometimes you have to cut loose and live a little. The writer’s version of a wild party. Remember why you like to write.

Continue reading

Author Interview: McKelle George

Pen friends! McKelle George, an editor and debut author of Speak Easy, Speak Love –a 1920’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, is here to share her writing life and editing tips with us!


SP: Hi McKelle! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

Hi! I’m a young adult writer and my debut Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out this month. I’ve always done a little writing (mostly fanfic and RP), but I made the decision to seriously write the summer of 2011. (:

SP: So lets talk about your debut, Speak Easy, Speak Love. How did this idea develop? How long did it take for you to write it? Unknown-12 Continue reading