The Creation of Pain: Adding Depth to Your Stories

Back Pain 1

In our relatively sheltered lives, pain is usually a passing phenomenon – injury or accident; sickness or disease. But what about those that live with daily pain? Those stuck in poverty, starvation/malnutrition, warfare or abuse? All of these should be present somewhere in our stories, even if they remain on the outskirts.  Continue reading


Prompt: Winter House

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Pen Friends!!!

Hope you’re having a warm, peaceful time wherever you are!

For us at the SP, it’s time for that Holiday Writing Prompt Challenge. This time, we’d love  some brave, craft-practicing writer-souls to put their prompt in the comments and spread some laughter, warmth, and creativity!

In 200 words of less, write a short story from this picture and prompt!


“I’ll never forget the last time I was in this house…”


Thanks again for the wonderful year of writing and reading together!

~The SP team



How to Have a Fantastically Bookish Holiday

How to Have a Bookish ChristmasPhoto: Joanna Kosinska

It seems like more and more, the holiday season is just jam-packed with wall-to-wall everything, and that can be both exciting and utterly exhausting. It starts in October and doesn’t really let up until the beginning of January.

And with everything that’s going on during the holidays, how on earth are we supposed to tackle our amazing TBR piles of glorious books, much less spend time with those novels we’ve been writing?

I’ll tell you what, Pen Friends, I’m staring at an absolutely insane schedule this week, between the day job, a very tight freelance deadline, rehearsals for a play, and getting ready for Christmas (say what?! Christmas is in less than a week? How did that happen?), and I’m sad to say there will be little to no time for books this week. So many tears.

But fear not!

If any of you are in a similar space with too much to do and not enough time for holiday cheer, I have a suggestion! Make time for it. I know, I know, I’m crying just thinking about how I can cram another thing into my schedule, but hear me out. I’m going to try to listen to myself, as well.

True bookworms find clever ways to do bookish things (and this can apply to anything you care about, even if you’re *gasp!* not much of a reader). Sneak the important stuff into the gaps of your day.

Even if you’re just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of activity swirling around you, you can–and should–take a few minutes to just sit and be quiet. Make a list of the good things that have happened this year while brushing your teeth. Plot out your antagonist’s troubled backstory while cleaning your house for the ugly sweater soirée you’re hosting. Sneak in another chapter during your lunch break.

Want to make a holiday gathering fantastically bookish?

Here’s my idea for making the season bright and nerdy. Let’s take a page out of my favorite Icelandic Christmas tradition: every year, most Icelanders get at least one new book as a Christmas gift. Since they traditionally open gifts on Christmas Eve, once everyone receives said new book, they then all spend time quietly reading together.

How wonderful is that? It might not be the most spirited way to start a holiday party, but it sure sounds like a great way to wrap one up. If you’re having a gathering, invite your friends/family to bring a book they love, wrapped up all pretty. Then, let everyone open one, and voila! New books for all! You can even trade around until everyone has one they’re excited about. Finish the night with some reading time. (Have a bunch of extroverts in your group? Stage dramatic readings of your new books for added excitement!)

Wherever you find yourself this holiday season,

I hope you have a chance to slow down for a bit and experience some of the joy that this season can bring. And of course, may you be filled to the brim with great stories of all kinds.




Dana, signing off to go find some hot cocoa.

YA Author Interview: Caitlin Sangster

Pen Friends~ It’s my honor to welcome YA Author Caitlin Sangster to the Spinning Pen. This amazing lady shares something very special with me– a love for travel and Asia! Which kind of inspired her debut, Last Star Burning– a thrilling dystopian, fantasy, fairytale, blend of awesome. Today she will share all kinds of gems with us: her writing journey, world building tips, and more!


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

CS: Hi! I’m so glad to be here! I’ve been writing on and off since I was a kid, but started seriously writing about five years ago. I’ve lived in California, China, Taiwan, Montana, and, most recently Utah. In college, I did a BA in Asian Studies with an emphasis in China (and am, consequently, a huge Chinese history and politics nerd). I love to run and wish I were a ballroom dancer. Lost but very much not least, I have four delightfully disruptive children ages seven and under. Continue reading

What Comes After the 1st Draft?

Finally, after months- possibly years- of work, you excitedly type the last sentence of your story, marking the culmination of your superb effort. You’re done. You can hardly believe it!


For a moment, you sit there, exhilarated. Then it really hits. You’ve finished. For me, I stood up, clapped as loud as I could for about 30 seconds (in the middle of my dorm room), then sat back down, grinning at the screen.

But after a few minutes or days or weeks, eventually, the magic of finishing that first draft starts to fade, and you have to ask yourself the inevitable, terrifying question:

What’s next?

  1. Take a break- The first step in moving forward is to stay where you are. Counterintuitive, yes, but also no. If you jump right back in a few days, you’ll meet two problems.
    1. First of all, you’ll probably burn out. Editing is never just a quick run through, not a good edit, anyhow. If you want to make it through editing, you need this break. Getting a book published is a double marathon, not a 5k. You’ve already been running for a while now, but you’ve got a long way to go. Get some water, catch your breath, and get ready to go again. For me, this meant focusing on school and work. For you, it might mean simply switching to a different project or focusing on relationships.
    2. Second, your work needs time to sit. If you finish the project and jump back in, you’re not going see it much differently than when you wrote it. The parts that felt weak when you were writing will feel weak as you edit. You’ll miss the same continuity errors you made while writing. However, if you let your work sit, it will feel a LOT fresher second time around. You’ll see different strengths and different weaknesses than before. You’ll get a better feeling of what it’s like to read the book for the first time. Trust me, you need to let it sit.


So how long is a good amount of time to wait? It’s different for everyone. But I would say, let it sit until you can’t avoid it anymore. For me, this was nearly three months. It might be shorter for you, but that’s what took before I came to the point where I needed to start again.

  1. Beta Readers– Beta readers are vital. I would say 70% of the things I edited in my third draft was because of suggestions made by beta readers. Having a handful of fresh eyes will do wonders for your work. They’ll easily spot which characters feel underdeveloped, where the pacing is off, what scenes feel unnatural, what your strengths as a writer are, where the best bits of dialogue are, etc. You need beta readers. A question I get a lot on beta readers is, “Where do I find them?” This really could be a post itself, but here’s a quick list of where you can find people to read your book.
    1. Family– I can always count on my parents to read the book. Usually, I can snag a sibling or two as well. Depending on your family, you might get feedback that’s a little too honest (my dad), or you might get some adoring fans (my mom). Either one is great for your development.
    2. Friends– If you’re a writer, chances are, you have writing friends, friends that like to read, or just friends that care enough about you to read something you’ve created. I have a handful of each. Each one helps me get a new perspective, and I can bug them in person if they don’t read fast enough.
    3. Online Communities– You have to be careful with this one. You don’t want to give your manuscript out to just anyone. But if you’ve built trust with someone and they are willing to maybe do a manuscript swap, that’s your next best bet.


  1. Editing- Oh man. I could talk for hours about editing. I won’t. But I could. Truthfully, editing is so hard for me. I edited my second draft in a few weeks, but it was just a rough run through before I sent it to betas. The real pain came in my third draft. It took a few months, and I rewrote 35% of the book entirely, edited it all vigorously, rewrote every single line of dialogue, and came up with an entirely new ending. It sucked, but the result was sooooo worth it. Here’s what you need to do.
    1. Use the beta feedback– Trust their instincts. Not everything they think needs changed should be edited, but if several of them agree on something, look into it further.
    2. Read every line out loud- This will help you catch the iffy sounding bits. Trust me, this is helpful.
    3. Read the dialogue on its own– Go through and read all your conversations without the, “Daniel said, setting down his coffee mug” or the “Keesha squatted next to him and looked into the distance”. Without this in the way, I promise, you’ll hear parts and be like, “The heck? Why would they say that? Someone else just said it.” It will also help you know if your characters sound distinct or not (mine did not, which is why I rewrote 100% of the dialogue).
    4. Fix the plot– Obvious, but this is the central part of the editing process. Nothing else matters if the story doesn’t make sense. Beta feedback is your main go-to for this.
    5. Don’t give up- Trust me, you’ll be tempted, but don’t do it. The end result is honestly a better feeling than when you finish that first draft. Seeing your polished beauty will make you so proud.


  1. Repeat steps 1-3 as needed– Depending on if you’re a perfectionist, you might need to repeat steps 1-3 a few times until you feel like your book is ready to be published. I just sent mine out to the third set of beta readers. I’m hoping it’s the last.


  1. Query– This is actually ahead of me, so I have no idea how to do it yet. I’ll probably do a post on it once I’ve figure it out. For now, just know this is a long process that involves (surprise surprise) a whole ton of work and perseverance. If you want to know more on specifics, I would use the Googles.


Keep on writing, keep on editing, and keep on staying alive until you get your book published. That is all.




Writing is hard, editing is harder still. But you can do this!


YA Author Interview: Kester ‘Kit’ Grant

Pen Friends ~ If you haven’t heard of International Author, Kester ‘Kit’ Grant, you will soon. Her debut, A Court of Miracles, will come out in 2018 and has already received a lot of praise and anticipation! Kit’s a gem to know (we met after we both won PitchWars 2016) and her words get under your skin within the first page. If you love supporting debut authors, be sure to add her book to your Goodreads!

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

I’m Kester Grant but everyone calls me Kit, I am to quote my bio, a British-Mauritian author and nomad. I started writing seriously a few years ago, then put it on hold, and came back to it in 2016 when I drafted my Les Mis meets Jungle Book fantasy YA mash-up.   Continue reading

Be a Book Hero

Pen Friends ~ We have an amazing guest with us today with an amazing topic to share. Megan LaCroix is a YA author, major book & author advocate, #BookRave creator, #PitchWars Mentee, blogger extraordinaire, and an explosion of inspiration and wisdom!

In her writerly way, Megan La Croix is going to share how to hero your favorite books and support authors you know! (Can all the authors out there say, Amen?)



Be a Book Hero: Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors

If you read a book and you can’t stop thinking about it, consider going the extra mile to spread the word. Authors depend on word of mouth as it creates the best buzz, and this is where you can help. Here are seven ways to support authors—whether that person is a close friend, a CP, or someone you just discovered and fell in love with—so they can keep on publishing those words you crave! Continue reading

YA Author Interview: Aminah Mae Safi

Pen Friends ~ Today’s YA Author, Aminah Mae Safi, has got her hands full with all kinds of writerly projects and great advice across the board! She truly inspires as she talks about not giving up on your craft & dreams and how her first book, Not the Girls You’re Looking For, came to be!
Aminah Mae
SP: Hi Aminah Mae! Thanks for joining us. First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?
Aminah Mae: Forever! But also– seven years. That’s a big difference, no? I grew up writing and I come from a family of storytellers. The kind of people that everyday life becomes a big dinnertime epic. We’re a fairly dramatic lot. I remember the time I read a Camelot comic in some after school program and I noticed that Guinevere didn’t do anything. So I re-wrote it. I must have been about seven or eight. Please note: this involved not only re-writing, but type setting, photocopying, cutting and literally pasting new words over the old comics, then photocopying again to make the final product look legit.

Continue reading

YA Author Interview: Jenny Park

Pen Friends ~ Welcome Jenny Park, YA Author of The Shadows We Know By Heart, to talk about her writing, agent, and publishing journey with us. If you are Tarzan fans, you’ll want to check out her debut, The Shadows We Know By Heart.
SP: Hi Jenny! Thanks for joining us. First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?
Jenny: Thanks so much for having me! I’ve been writing for about six years now, and before that I was an art teacher for middle school students. Growing up, writing was never my thing, although I spent more time reading books than talking to people. It wasn’t until I was getting my master’s degree that I really kind of broke through the mental block/fear I had about writing since it was an online writing intensive program. But it was still years after that before I wrote my first draft.

Continue reading