Friday, February 26, 2010

Questions, Questions - Writing Quiz!

Well, I had a lovely post written on synopses, but I seem to have misplaced the notebook I wrote it in. Ah well. Next week! In the meantime, here's a fun writer's quiz I picked up from Facebook. Take a break, fill it out, and post it on your own blog! Then give me a shout so I can look at your answers. :)


Do you have a pen/pencil collection? How many of those are chewed?

I stash writing utensils in "safe" places and then forget where I stashed them. I don't chew pens—instead I break the clips off of them. ;)

Do you prefer handwriting or typing?

Typing. It's a time thing. Being a full-time writer with an extremely busy life doesn't leave room for slow handwriting.

How often do you get inspiration?

Dozens of times every day. In soapwater, in meaningless conversation, in the way a shadow moves. The problem is that 99% of the time the inspiration is not related to my WIP.

Do you get inspiration more in the early morning or late at night?

Late at night! It's almost impossible for me to write during the day. I come alive at night and my brain goes wild. All 100,000 words of NaNo were written at night.

Do certain movies/books/music inspire you?

Absolutely. I try to read, watch, and listen in all genres, so sometimes I'll get inspiration for my WWII historical drama from a modern comedy, or vice versa. Often I try to read/watch/listen to something very different from my WIP, just to get a new viewpoint.

How do you incorporate God into your stories?

Sometimes a great deal. Sometimes the characters actively search Him out. Other times it's more subtle; it depends on the story. My faith in God is the essential part of who I am so it always comes into my writing. Though often not how you'd expect!

Do you kill off your villains or make them repent?

Repent? Never! :) Seriously - they usually either die or escape to start new trouble next time.

Are the majority of your characters magical beings, humans, halflings, or something else?

Humans. I've done fantasy, but always with a realistic setting.

What genre of writing are you most comfortable in? If you were to step out of your comfort zone, what would you write?

Historical anything is my passion and my home ground. That said - I've now written fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, mystery, and I'm working on my first satire/parody. I've also written for YA and adult. Jack of all genres?

Do you work better alone or with someone else?

Hard question. Each is very different. Writing alone I have the independence to write exactly what I think. I can address issues deep in my soul. Writing together is incredibly fun and I believe the quality achieved is extremely high; also sometimes the novels go much deeper with two people.

Are your characters mostly Renegades, Peacekeepers or a mish-mash?

Renegades! I have written one Peacekeeper, but the majority are rebels. V. stressing sometimes, since they rebel against their author as well!

Are you a sucker for good grammar?

I'm a sucker for good writing. Some great novels break every grammar rule in the book. Write the best novel you can, and grammar will handle itself.

How is your handwriting?

Sharp. Angular. Small and very upright. Getting more messy!

How evil are your villains?

I try to write villains who are attractive in some ways. A mystery writer at heart, I believe the best and most chilling villains are the ones we can identify with in some way. That said - I've a few psychos planned who are thoroughly evil.

Are you long-winded or succinct?

I'd like to say succinct. Final draft definitely has to be succinct.

Do you have typical writer traits such as ink stains on your fingers or a pencil behind your ear?

Do notebooks in every pocket, bags under the eyes, and a glazed expression count?

Would someone walking past you on the street consider you normal?

Depends on whether they catch me gabbling and gesturing to thin air while envisioning the battle of Shiloh. Overall: probably not. Who wants to be?

Do you write mostly poetry, stories, novels or a mixture?

Mostly novels, though I've a fair collection of short stories. Poetry as well, but I write it just for me, not to be published.

Do your characters vary in accents, appearance and attitude or are they mostly the same?

They couldn't be more different. Er - except for the fact that lamentably many of my heroines are redheads. I seem to pick real redheads out of history. But attitude? My biggest challenge with every story is to make the characters completely new, completely different.

Do real people and/or places inspire your writing?

Without exception! Everything I write stems from real life. However - it's usually my wild, quirked interpretation of it. :)

What is your favorite character? Or do you choose to remain unbiased in case of a revolt?

My characters spend their lives revolting. One more wouldn't change much! And - all my characters are so different it's hard to say. Perhaps Jan from SS-5. My new MC in my parody, Leonie, is very fun too—snarky and sarcastic and a murder-mystery writer!

Do you talk to your characters? Do they talk back?

Constantly. Often aloud. All my characters become permanent residents of my head and offer useful (or not-so-useful) advice on everything I do.

Are you more comfortable with female or male main characters?

I'm comfortable with both, though I understand females more (obviously!).

Do you follow basic plot lines with new twists thrown in or do you depart from the norm all the time?

My favorite thing is to take a cliche and twist it so many times it's not recognizable any more!

Do you feel God has called you to be a writer/poet? Will you grasp the power of the pen?

I've grasped it already. It is the one call I hear most clearly, and I've leapt into a writing life with joy and abandon. I know I will always be a writer at heart.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

BattleNotes - Where We're At!

Sometimes when I deal with the publishing angle of writing I feel a bit like a general on the battlefield. Stay up late planning strategy. Study the opponent until you know them down to how they like their verbs. Watch for the agent on the left flank who hates queries beginning with questions!

Ah well. There IS a reason for this blog's name. :) And as all you long-suffering readers know, every so often I leap off topic and tell you about how I'm faring in the fray. Here are 2010's first “notes from the front.”

On the publishing angle: December 2009 saw the completion of the final edit of Through A Rain Of Fire, the first novel in the WWII trilogy I'm writing with Ruth Rockafield. The edit has emerged more or less unscathed through critiques and 3AM perusals, and we're now sending it out. After much nail-chewing and hair-pulling, we've opted to switch from targeting agents to targeting presses. So far, we have four medium-sized presses where we would love to be accepted. We'll see what they think! Replies should start coming in within two weeks—we're nervous, but we're confident that we have a good story and it's on its way to finding a home.

On my own: I've gotten some excellent critiques on my YA historical, SS-5 ( – many thanks to Kelsey, Kayla, Liberty, and all the folks on Storytellers, ChristianWriters, and FairyTaleNovels for their invaluable input. With their help, I've leaned back, gotten a good objective squint at the novel, and will spend the next few weeks on the necessary changes. Then off it goes to agents' desks (I will be targeting agents with this one). The positive feedback on this novel has been incredible – here's hoping the agents are as excited about it!

In writing news: Ruth and I have nearly completed A Fire Is Woken (bk2 in our trilogy)! Our goal is to finish by the twenty-eighth of February. We've a few thousand words to go, but for two NaNo vets, that shouldn't break a sweat. Once it's finished, we'll set it aside for a few weeks pre-edit, while we launch into writing the final novel, A Dwindling Fire. That'll keep us occupied for a few months.

I'm also working on a satirical murder mystery—but that's a subject for a new post. :)


I'd just like to give a shoutout of thanks to all the folks on Storytellers, ChristianWriters, FairyTaleNovels, and my two writers' groups, who consistently support, encourage, and help me in my insane writer's life. You all are amazing. Thanks so much.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Year Of Adventure: Interview on OYAN, part 2

Hello peoples! Here are Kelsey, Ruth, and Kayla back again to complete part 2 of the interview.

Welcome to the blog, ladies!

10. Is OYAN specifically for beginning adventure novelists, or could experienced/published writers also benefit from it?

Kayla: I believe a published author can get just as much from OYAN as beginning novelists. As I said before, this is no ordinary writing course where “the bigger the words, the better the story” technique is used. This goes completely against the writing of today’s fiction.

Kelsey: Judging by some of what gets published nowadays, some published writers could benefit a great deal from it! But most truly good authors will probably already know what OYAN teaches, including when and how to break the rules.

Ruth: I think that everyone could, to a certain degree, benefit from OYAN. It makes you think in terms of what makes a good story, very seriously. He pushes your story to be better than anything you ever dreamed you could write.

11. Is there something unique to OYAN you've not seen in any other writing program?

Ruth: Oh yes. I love Mr. S's approach to writing. He sees it as an adventure, something that has policies and guidelines more than actual rules. Grammar and all that is really emphasized in all the other writing programs I've seen, even the ones that claim to focus on novel writing! But Mr. S teaches you what makes a great story instead of how to make excellent sentences. This is not to say that he won't come down hard on your sentences if you make a poor one and he critiques it during a webinar! But the focus is different!

Kelsey: As far as high school writing programs go, it's the only one I've found that concentrates on story instead of mechanics. I adore tearing apart literature and there's certainly a place for that, but OYAN teaches those same principles by offering practical, creative ways to apply them. (And now I officially sound like an advertisement, and the boring talking-head sort, to boot). Other writing programs have the same content in more complicated language, and emphasise the mechanical details of writing—don't use adverbs and "was", don't overexplain, avoid participle phrases—instead of the story as a whole and the less concrete elements of good fiction. OYAN does both.

Kayla: The main thing is, it’s interesting! How many writing courses out there actually help you, and get you very excited at the same time? Every lesson keeps you on the edge, you can’t wait to go on to the next! Second, Mr. Schwabauer is completely in tune to a beginning writer’s problems. He cares, and he encourages you to keep on going. He emphasizes thinking about your reader, how they will react to your story, and what will make them want to read it over again. He emphasizes meaning, theme, giving your hero something to learn, and he’s a Bible believing Christian.

12. Would OYAN help someone to be published?

Ruth: Hmm. Again I think it has more to do with the person who is writing than the program. But yes, I could see how the program could improve your chance at getting published!

Kelsey: It talks only a little about the publication process, as most students are a long way from being ready for publication. No grand talk of "with our curriculum, you'll write a bestseller!" But it helps in the sense that everything that improves one's writing is "helping them to be published" eventually.

13. How has your writing changed from doing OYAN?

Kelsey: OYAN forced me to plan ahead, and think through things I normally wouldn't. It takes you through a detailed outlining process that covers not only plot but also value changes, conflicting ideals, themes for each chapter, that sort of thing—the subtle ideas that stay under the surface, but make the story richer and deeper.

Ruth: The most drastic thing is probably my attitude more than anything else. It used to be that I'd get to a place and I'd get stuck. Now I get to that place and start to apply the things that I learned in OYAN and in working myself out of my 'stuck' I end up with a great scene that would otherwise never been realized.

Kayla: It has changed drastically. There were so many things I didn’t understand about writing. The main thing were the adverbs. I hadn’t realized it before, but adverbs don’t make your novel impressive, rather they bring it down. Passive voice was also a horrible splotch on my screen. When Mr. Schwabauer gave a list of words you should eliminate from your writing, I just couldn’t believe I could write a story without them. But I can, and I’m very grateful to him!

14. Have your applied OYAN techniques to other novels?

Kayla: Yes! And I plan to use them the rest of my writing career

Kelsey: I use the outlines for all of my stories now, to some extent—my workbook has notes for four or five plots scribbled in its margins, in different colours of ink—and reread relevant snatches of the book every so often. I also see elements of OYAN in every book I read now: symbols of dread, the four defining scenes, reversed and ironic ideals, the three types of stories, the mentor and how often he dies. (Whoever invented this adventure novel formula has it in for Mentors, I tell you.)

Ruth: So far, three. “Strike in the Dark” is a NaNo novel that I worked out through the workbook before November. The plot is great. The plot and the action is not lacking in the least. And it is the first really serious action/thriller I've ever written.

Then I again applied it during “NaNo” while writing a novel completely off the top of my head. “Mirror” takes the form of a treasure hunt, and each step was made up as I came to it. There were parts where I was as surprised as the characters! The OYAN technique was almost subconscious, but when I'd come to a place where I didn't know where to go I'd think about where OYAN would have you go...

And I even used it in my third NaNo novel, which is also a new genre for me—comedy/juvenile/adventure lit. Once again I subconsciously used OYAN. It was amazing.

15. On a score of one to ten, rate the OYAN experience.

Kelsey: 8.7.

Kayla: 10. No doubt about it. It’s hard at first, if you are like me and depend on the lessons to make you a better writer without giving an ounce of help to it yourself. I am very determined to be writer, but you have to do it yourself to become a good one.

Ruth: Ten. Entirely.

16. When you've completed this novel, will you do the program again?

Kelsey: I'm not going to go through and answer every question again, but I will definitely apply what I've learned, and keep the textbook and workbook within grabbing distance.

Ruth: At least once more.

Kayla: Of course! I’m already making plans!

17. Is there anyone you'd not recommend to do the program?

Ruth: No. I mean that. I have brothers that absolutely hate writing and I would say they would benefit more from this program than they would from twelfth grade English! I think that supplementing this curriculum for one year would be one of the greatest things that could be done in our 'school system'.

Kayla: Writers who think a spare dollar is worth more than a well written novel.

18. What is the biggest lesson you've learned from OYAN?

Kelsey: One of my favourite things is Schwabauer's treatment of Christianity and how it relates to story. The chapters about truth in fiction, and how the basic structure of most stories inherently goes against postmodernism, and how even symbols in literature rely to a certain degree on absolutes, are so astute and accurate. I'd never thought about any of it before—but it all makes so much sense.

Kayla: Your reader comes first. Always. But to impact your reader, you must have a good novel to impact him with.

Ruth: I've learned what makes a good story. What is awesome about some books. What makes your hair stand on end. What makes you want to read more. Understanding stories is going to dramatically help me! I think that if I pursue writing as a career OYAN will have affected the outcome of my success more than anything else.

Thanks Mr. S. :)


Ladies--thank you so much for visiting and sharing all this great information. I hope to get you all back someday soon!

For anyone who's further interested in OYAN, go ahead and check out the official website at Also, Ruth runs a whole blog dedicated to her journey through the program. Check it out at

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Year Of Adventure: Interview on OYAN!

Today will be the first part of a 2-pt interview on a unique writing program called One Year Adventure Novel. These three extremely talented writers happen to be doing the program themselves, and took time out to talk about it!

Welcome, Kelsey, Ruth, and Kayla!

1. What exactly is One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN)?

Ruth: OYAN is a high school English course. It was designed and written by Daniel Schwabauer. It includes a workbook, a textbook, DVD teachings for each lesson, a copy of “Prisoner of Zenda” by Anthony Hope, and a teacher's guide. With the curriculum also comes access to the OYAN forums and webinars which are conducted live by the Schwabauers.

Kayla: It is a writing course by Daniel Schwabauer, designed to help teach students how to write the epic adventure of their dreams and FINISH IT, all in one school year! Mr. Schwabauer designed it to help people outline their novel and write it all, beginning to end.

2. How did you find about about OYAN, and what made you decide to do it?

Kelsey: I first heard about it from Kayla. Shortly after that some other friends decided to go through the curriculum for school. We had a sort of writing group going on for a while, but that has since met its demise—it was all very tragic. Anyway, I decided to do it because the hoards of people who sung its praises succeeded in convincing me. Now I have happily joined their number. (What? Adverbs are allowed in blog posts, aren't they?)

Ruth: I first heard about it from two friends who were doing it. Then a sample DVD of the course was being passed around at the Writer's Group that I attend. I borrowed the sample DVD and watched it. That was pretty much it. I was hooked, and I wanted to do it.

Kayla: We learned about it through a homeschool newsletter spring 2008, I believe. I didn’t hesitate. I wanted to do it very much! I wanted anything that would teach me to write, and this seemed liked just what I wanted!

3. Are there any basic skills/knowledge you need to have before beginning the program?

Ruth: No. The course teaches you how to write. Not dry essays, but stories. Novels. Tales. Mr. S has the most amazing understanding of storytelling and I'm always thrilled by the excitement of understanding stories through the light of OYAN. While I've written novels before, I know that other people enjoy it as well. There have been many non-writers who have gotten lots of good out of it.

Kelsey: Reading, writing, the basics. But like any writing program, the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it—the more you've read, the more you know of human nature, the better use you can make of the curriculum.

4. In general, are you glad you're doing/have done OYAN?

Kelsey: Absolutely!

Ruth: Oh, amazingly so. I am nowhere near all the way through the course, but I've already gotten scads of good out of it. The things I'm learning in OYAN saved the novels I wrote for NaNo this year! All of a sudden it's like a light bulb has come on and I understand adventure stories.

Kayla: Yes. This course isn’t cliche, and certainly goes against the grain of modern writing. Be prepared to stand out! That’s what the course is all about.

5. What does a day of OYAN involve?

Ruth: I guess that depends entirely upon how much you want to do in a day! For me, I usually do OYAN every other day; usually watching a lesson on the DVD and then working through the lesson in the workbook.

Kelsey: Supposedly it involves watching the video lesson then filling out the worksheet (if you haven't finished your planning) or writing part of your chapter (if you have), but my method is rather—er—flexible.

Kayla: To begin with, you watch the first lesson on the first DVD, taught by Mr. Schwabauer, then read the same lesson in the text book. Then, work in the workbook. Sometimes Mr. Schwabauer adds an excerpt from a book such as Huckleberry Finn for you to read at the end of a lesson in the textbook, and he assigns you a chapter in Prisoner of Zenda.

6. Tell us about your novel! (Title, synopsis, and anything else you want to share!)

Kelsey: My book is called Day of Ashes, and it's set in London in 1941. Bombs fall, things burn, that sort of thing. It can't make up its mind whether to be mystery/suspense or a character-driven historical fiction pseudo-drama piece, but since it's failing at suspense it probably leans toward the latter.

Ruth: Well, I've never been one for writing fantasy adventure, but both my NaNo novel (“Mirror”) and my OYAN novel (“Courage Enough”) have been of that genre. Goes to show that Mr. S has made a big breakthrough here!

Basically my novel is about a young prince that has been hidden away for years by an evil lord. So long that he does not know his identity, until an twist of fate (and a bit of help from an party that I refuse to name) causes him to remember. The novel then follows the fight to overthrow the evil Lord Drankor and the prince's quest to regain his rightful throne despite his fear.

Kayla: It’s called “My Soldier Boys”. When Germany invades France, in WWII, Marie Dumont helps her father and older brother organize resistance. They are quite successful in wrecking havoc upon the Germans. But in one tragic incident, Marie’s father is killed. She blames herself for her father’s death, and refuses to have anything more to do with resistance. But, in the bitter winter of 1944, Marie must find her brother and escape Hitler’s reign of terror before all is finished. Then she meets American soldiers holding secret documents who also need her help. If she agrees to aid them, what would be her fate then?

7. Have you done anything different with your OYAN novel that you wouldn't otherwise have done?

Kelsey: My stories tend to flounder halfway through because I can't get my characters out of the disasters I create, so both the chapter-by-chapter and book-as-a-whole outlines were most helpful. I think I'm slowly leaving the dark side of seat-of-the-pants writing (a shocking development—what is the world coming to?).

Ruth: Many things. I've had to do my character different. Really think out my plot. Add betrayal. Add danger. Add intrigue. Add a potential bad ending. Make it worse...and worse...and worse. Push it to the very edge.

8. What is the best part about OYAN?

Ruth: The way Mr. S works you through the whole process. He holds you to certain standards and makes you think about what makes a really great story. WHAT keeps you reading. WHAT keeps you turning the pages. WHAT makes you really LOVE the story. And then he turns around and asks you to use it. The result is something that I think few of us could produce on our own.

Kelsey: Nina, you are cruel.

Kayla: The best part is being able to apply the lessons to your writing and actually do it right! I’m just beginning to understand OYAN principles, and its just dawning on me that they aren’t that hard. You see them EVERYWHERE! In the things you read, watch in movies, on television, perhaps even in your own life story! They are what make writing wonderful!

9. What is the worst part about OYAN?
Kelsey: It's not nearly as in-depth as I'd like. That's understandable considering the intended audience, but I'd love to see what Daniel Schwabauer could do with a followup for OYAN, or a curriculum for adults. Also, I'm not a fan of the video lessons. This is partly because I don't learn so well that way, but most of the information the DVDs contain is also in the textbook, and it's much quicker and easier to flip through the book if you have a question. Having only the text would make it a heck of a lot cheaper too!

Ruth: Maybe all the rules. You have to put this in and have to put that in. You have to write it from first person (which my main character does not like at all. He keeps on trying to kick me out of his head). If there was to be one thing that I'm not very fond of, that would be it.

Kayla: Thinking up things to happen in your novel. Oh, it’s easy to think of scenes for the Inciting Incident, Embracing Destiny, and all that. But the in between is the hardest.

Ruth, Kayla, and Kelsey: thanks for coming! I look forward to seeing you all next week with the part 2 of the interview. :)