Friday, January 30, 2015

Tighten Your Writing: Cut Out Weasel Words

Cute Weasel
Photo Credit: Cecil Sanders on Flickr
After looking at the picture for this blog post, I think we can agree that weasels are cute.

Weasel words, on the other hand, aren't that adorable.

When I use the term weasel words, I'm talking about little words that affect the tightness of your writing. Most of the time, they hinder your prose rather than help it. You should learn to cut them out.

The three most common weasel words that pop up in my work and the work of others are so, very, and suddenly. While editing my first and even second drafts, I'll catch myself using these words instead of letting adjectives stand on their own. Let's look at an example using all three of these devious rascals:
Cara was so very tired. She was suddenly bored with the world at large, and no longer wanted Roger to know how very scared she was to be with him. He was perfect for her. They were so very good together. Everything suddenly made sense.
Okay, so most people wouldn't pack all three words into a paragraph like that, but you understand what I mean. In order to tighten this passage, I'll cut out the weasel words so, very, and suddenly. Check out the difference:
Cara was tired. She was bored with the world at large, and no longer wanted Roger to know how scared she was to be with him. He was perfect for her. They were good together. Everything made sense.
Granted, there are still some aspects of that paragraph that could be improved, but the writing is so much tighter after taking out those words. If you're still not convinced, try this exercise with some of your own work. It's a great way to clean up your prose without trying too hard.

What do you think? What other weasel words do you cut from your writing?

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Writer @brianawrites shares three "weasel words" that undermine your writing and why you should cut them. (Click to tweet)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Letter to My Younger Self

Photo Credit: insEyedout on Flickr
When I first started writing, I didn't know which way was up. I loved reading and understood that writing would open up all kinds of new worlds for me to explore, but beyond that, I had no clue what I was doing. Heck, I didn't even know if I was allowed to be a writer. I felt like I needed to ask someone for permission.

I required constant validation for my work and sought it outside myself. This painful endeavor caused my to badger my friends and family to read my half-finished drivel. The feedback I received was less than stellar. The more I read and listened to criticism, the more I felt I wasn't cut out to be a writer. I would never publish anything. No one would want to read my work.

I'm not finished growing, but I've come a long way since that low point in my creative life. If I could write a letter to my younger self, here's what it would sound like:

Dear Briana,

You won't be the next Hemingway or Fitzgerald or Rowling. You probably won't even be that kid who got published when she was twelve. But you know what? That's okay. You're not meant to be any of those people. You're meant to be you.

As a writer, you need to focus on two things: reading and writing a little each day. Nothing else matters. Sure, you can listen to what people say about your work, but you should take their words lightly. They're as terrified as you are, and still figuring out the whole "writing" thing, too. So don't let the critics get you down, my darling. You can do it.

Keep reading and writing even when it feels like the world is falling down around you (because it never truly is). Art is a support system for life. Draw strength from your work.

Above all, keep moving forward. I believe in you.

Love always,
Briana 
xoxo

What do you think? What would you write in a letter to your younger self?

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Vlog: 5 Underrated Books that Shaped Me As a Writer

Whew. Third video already, can you believe it? I'm still terrified of the camera and I don't know why. Maybe I'll get over it someday.

In this video, I'm sharing five underrated books that shaped me as a writer. These books might be some you've heard of, but maybe haven't read. They're important to me for different reasons, and I encourage you to check out all of them.


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Monday, January 26, 2015

Sisterhood of the World Blogging Award

I've never heard of this award, let alone been nominated. I love answering questions, though! Special thanks to the lovely Rae (@Rae_Slater) from What Happened to the Wallflower for nominating me!

Rules for the Tag:
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, and link back to their side.
  • Post the Award Logo on your blog.
  • Answer the ten questions they've sent you.
  • Make up ten questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Nominate ten people (I did eight, deal with it)
Now, let's get down to business (TO DEFEAT THE HUNS!) of answering Rae's questions:

1. Favorite genre to read or write?

YA and NA, mostly dystopia.

2. Favorite genre to watch in a TV show or movie?

Tough call. I like a little supernatural elements mixed in with everyday life, e.g. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural. Honestly, though, I watch a little bit of everything, especially when it comes to movies.

3. Favorite social media platform? Why?

Twitter. I don't know where I'd be without it. If you're reading this, you probably got the link from Twitter. I've become part of such a wonderful writing community there, and everyone is incredible. I can't thank my tweeps enough.

4. Winter, summer, spring, or fall?

Fall.

5. Pancakes or French toast?

French toast. With the egg, I can pretend it's healthy.

6. You can have any job in the world. What is it, and why? And, no, you can't say "writer" or "author" for this one.

DARN YOU, WOMAN. Okay. I'm going to go with forensic psychologist because that's what I wanted to do when I went off to college. Crime fascinates me, and I love figuring out why people behave the way they do. Plus, I don't think anything could be more satisfying than capturing a criminal and putting him or her behind bars.

7. Captain America or Iron Man? Whoever you don't choose becomes your mortal enemy, so choose wisely.

I'm going to go with Captain America, because if I had him against me, I'd feel like a terrible human being. Also, Tony Stark and I run in different social circles, so that's a safer bet.

8. What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten, and who gave it to you? What was the situation?

That's a tough one. I'm going to go with something one of my fiction professors said: "People are interested in characters, not plot." You can craft the most intricate plot, full of twists and turns, but if your characters are flat, no one will care. People want to read about people. I try to focus on that point.

9. What inspires you?

Visual stuff, usually. Art exhibits, stunning films, intense theatrical performances... all of that makes me want to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. When I got back from seeing Interstellar, for instance, I started writing and couldn't stop.

10. It's the apocalypse. Would you rather be stuck fighting zombies for the rest of your life (probably ending by getting eaten or at least bit by said zombie), or be stuck in some kind of environmental disaster (intense heat, water shortage, flooding...)?

Oh, goodness. Well, I'm pretty terrified of zombies, for one thing. Getting eaten or turned by a zombie would be a rough way to die. At least with the environmental stuff, I could die a more natural death. Jeez, what kind of question is that to end on? It's depressing!

*

Wow, wasn't that enlightening? 

Here are my questions:
  1. What's your fondest book-related memory?
  2. First novel you remember reading on your own? How did it make you feel?
  3. What's your favorite time of day?
  4. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?
  5. What's one of your pet peeves when it comes to writing? What errors or quirks make you cringe whenever you come across them?
  6. If you could hang out with any author for a day, living or dead, who would it be? What would you do together?
  7. How do you feel about writing in multiple genres?
  8. What's something you need to do right now that you put off to answer these questions?
  9. What's your favorite quote? Who said it?
  10. What's your favorite Disney movie?
My nominees: Ava Jae @ Writability, Colleen @ Colleen Halverson, Angela @ Angela Caldwell, Erin @ Erin Kelly, Kimberly @ Where the Sidewalk Starts, Isabella @ Isabella Redwood, Shelby @ How Not to Suck, and Madeline @ Write Dream Live.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Why I Won't Stick to Scrivener

Woman Typing on Vintage Typewriter
Photo Credit: LĂ­via Cristina on Flickr
Earlier this week, I was telling my friend Rae that I was trying to get into the hang of using Scrivener when she mentioned that she didn't use it. I feel like every other writer I meet uses Scrivener, so I was taken aback. Put simply, Rae prefers simplicity. She can't resist the shiny lure of Scrivener's buttons and folders, so she doesn't write there. It makes sense.

Of course, the conversation got me thinking: why was I even using Scrivener? I've never had any real issues with Word. Sure, it lags with some of my longer documents, but I can deal with that. Like I said, a lot of writers I know love Scrivener. Maybe their influence led me to purchase the product? I'm not blaming anyone for my decision, but I'm interested in finding out why I thought I had to have it.

I still don't know anything about Scrivener. I've been trying to use it for months, but I haven't been able to make it work for me. Like Rae said, there are too many distractions. I spend more time moving folders around and clicking things than actually writing, which is a problem.

Author Ksenia Anske (she's FANTASTIC) just sticks to plain old Word. She's found what works for her, so why change anything? Sometimes simplest is best.

Writer Stephen Moran expressed a similar sentiment to me the other day when we were talking about computers. I mentioned wanting a Mac so that I could take advantage of iMovie. He told me that he had a Mac for the longest time and loved it, but he seldom used it for writing. Now that he has a basic PC, he gets much more work done (check out my review of his novel ELLA here - it's an excellent book).

I'm not telling you to uninstall Scrivener. If you're using it to write and it works for you, great. I just don't want you to think you have to stick to something because it's what everyone else uses. When it comes to achieving success as a writer, your best bet is to do whatever best suits you. For me, that means writing in Microsoft Word, outlining on index cards, and printing the MS before I read through it. That's what works for me. I hope you find what works for you.

What do you think? How do you feel about writing software? What programs or technologies do you use to write?

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Don't feel guilty for not using Scrivener, says @brianawrites. (Click to tweet)
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to Blog When You're Busy

Busy City Street
Photo Credit: Matthias Rhomberg on Flickr
As someone with a full-time job and a lot of errands to run, I understand how difficult it can be to blog when you're busy.

If blogging is important to you, a loaded schedule can be frustrating. You want to post consistently (the most important part of blogging), but you just don't have the time. "If only there were a few more hours in a day," I can almost hear you say. Well, that's where I might be able to help.

Based on my personal experience, I've compiled a list of tips on how to blog when you're busy.

  • Go for quality over quantity. When you're busy, remind yourself it's okay to keep blog posts short. After all, the average person isn't going to want to invest more than ten minutes reading any given article. People like short and sweet. As long as you're posting regularly, you can get away with writing articles between 250 and 500 words. Save the long posts for weekend writing... which brings me to my next point.
  • Write your posts ahead of time. Regardless of your posting frequency (I do three blog entries per week), the easiest way to update your blog every week is to compose your posts on the weekends and schedule them to go live while you're at school or work. That's what I do with about 80% of my posts. If you want to interact and share your blogs on social media, do that in real time. But schedule the posting. It helps more than you think.
  • Focus on being helpful and informative, not on crafting viral content. If you set out to write the *perfect* blog post, you're going to let yourself down. Instead of getting discouraged, be careful not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. As a blogger, you should strive to educate or help other people in some way, not to create something gimmicky that might just go viral (spoiler: you can't make something go viral; it happens organically). People reading your blog want to gain some kind of insight from it. That's why they're there.

Running a blog when you've already got a full plate may seem daunting, but it can be done. I've managed to keep this blog active through college, retail jobs, and my current full-time work. It hasn't always been easy, but it has been rewarding. Give these tips a try and see what happens.

What tips do you have for blogging on a busy schedule?

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You can still blog on a busy schedule! @brianawrites tells you how. (Click to tweet
Want to blog but don't have time? @brianawrites shares some helpful tips. (Click to tweet)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Vlog: 5 Books that Didn't Live Up to the Hype

ANOTHER VIDEO! WOO! That means you get to see my face again and hear words coming out of it. For some of you, that's exciting. For others... well, it's not for you.

In this vlog, I'm sharing a couple of books that fell short of my expectations. For one reason or another, I couldn't get into them. I'm sure I could come up with a longer list of books that failed to hook me, but this is a great start.


Thanks for watching! Let me know if you have any suggestions for future videos!

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Review: UNWIND by Neal Shusterman

Tray of Surgical Instruments
Photo Credit: phalinn on Flickr
I first heard about UNWIND several years ago. I can’t remember where. All I know for certain is that it intrigued me. So, I had to read it.

“Have you heard of Neal Shusterman’s UNWIND?” someone asked me. “It’s really disturbing.” Right away, I was hooked. “It has to do with abortion. It’s so controversial. You like that stuff, don’t you?” Of course I do. I couldn’t wait to read that book.

I waited anyway. I’m not sure why.

A few days ago, I decided I was tired of waiting. I picked up UNWIND and dove right in. And once I started reading, it was almost impossible for me to stop. This book made me lose sleep. I just couldn't put it down. Keep reading to hear more of my thoughts on this controversial and compelling literary work.

Plot Summary


In the world of UNWIND, all pro-life and pro-choice advocates have reached an uneasy truce: there will be no more abortions, but when a child turns thirteen, the parents can decide whether or not to have them retroactively terminated, or unwound.

Without giving too much away, unwinding is a shocking process that involves redistributing every part of someone’s body without killing them. I told you it was shocking.

UNWIND tells the story of three different teenagers scheduled for unwinding. Connor is a rebel and a natural leader whose reckless behavior has gotten out of hand. Risa is a ward of the state who is too expensive to keep around. And Lev is something called a tithe, destined for unwinding as part of his family’s religious beliefs. When their paths collide, they figure out a way to escape their fates. The question is, though, how long can they keep running?

My Thoughts


The premise of this novel is simultaneously engrossing and revolting. Reading it was like driving by a car accident--I knew I should look away, but I couldn’t help staring. Without spoiling anything, the scene with Roland toward the end of the book is one of the most horrifying passages I’ve ever read. Thanks for that, Neal Shusterman.

In spite of my nightmares, I have to admit that this book is incredible. I didn’t want to put it down. If you have a strong stomach and want to read something that will make your skin crawl, pick up UNWIND by Neal Shusterman.

What do you think of UNWIND? What’s the most disturbing book you’ve ever read?

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Back Up That Novel!

Paper Ball
Photo Credit: fabab on Flickr
Once upon a time, I wrote a high fantasy novel. This was eons ago, in the time of dinosaurs, when I was the only human roaming the earth.

I don't remember much about this novel except that it was long. Also, the plot had something to do with a high school student getting transported to a fantasy world, nearly sacrificed to a dragon, and something about two people falling in love. This piece was my first real manuscript at an impressive 350 pages.

The only problem with this novel was that I never backed it up.

Honestly, I'm not sure why I didn't save it somewhere besides on my computer. I was young and naive, but even then, I knew how important it was to have more than a single copy of something. Still, I banished the thought to the back of my mind. I never saved it anywhere besides my hard drive.

At some point, our house got struck by lightning. The electrical surge blew out most of our appliances, including my computer. The novel was gone. It could not be recovered. There might as well have been a sign that said, ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO FAIL TO BACK UP THEIR WRITING. I learned a terrible lesson that day.

If you don't want to find yourself in the same uncomfortable boat as I did, check out this easy guide to backing up your novel.

  • Get a flash drive. They're fairly cheap and easy to use. Plug it into your computer and save a copy of your novel after every writing session.
  • If you don't want to spend money, email yourself. Here's my favorite way to back up novels: I compose a new email, attach my work, and hit CANCEL. This process saves your novel as a draft for easy access later. You can create a new email and attachment for each session, deleting old drafts and attachments as needed.
  • Go to the cloud. If you want to be able to access your work from anywhere, download Evernote, Dropbox, or Google Drive and save your novel there. Easy peasy.
With such a variety of options, there's no reason not to back up your work on a regular basis. Don't repeat my mistakes. BACK UP YOUR NOVEL!

How often do you back up your work? What method do you use?

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.@brianawrites shares a lesson she learned the hard way: back up your novel! (Click to tweet)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: WHAT ALICE FORGOT By Liane Moriarty

Woman Walking on Beach
Photo Credit: ArTeTerA on Flickr
One of my personal goals for this year is to read more books written by women. Recently, I realized that most of the books I count as favorites were written by men: THE GREAT GATSBY, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, and NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. While there's nothing wrong with reading books written by men, I think female-authored books are too often overlooked.

Last year, I powered through all three of Gillian Flynn's novels: DARK PLACES (my favorite!), SHARP OBJECTS, and the famous GONE GIRL. I love every page of those books. Again, the fact that they're written by a woman has little to do with their literary merit, but it means a lot to me on a personal level. Reading those books made me feel like I had a real shot at being published, woman or not. Also, it doesn't hurt that Gillian Flynn is amazing.

After hearing about BIG LITTLE LIES (which I still need to read), I decided to check out Liane Moriarty. I was looking for something on Audible to occupy my mind while I drove home for Christmas. Somehow, I stumbled upon WHAT ALICE FORGOT.

Plot Overview


In this novel, Alice Love faints during spinning class and hits her head hard enough to rattle her memory. Ten years' worth of thoughts, feelings, and personal growth go out the window with the injury. Alice thinks she's back in 1998, pregnant with her first child and happily married to the love of her life. She must sort through the fragments of her shattered mind while carrying out her "normal" life--one in which she's a Type A, sophisticated and separated mum to three beautiful children. Along the way, she learns how much can change in ten years, and how relationships can wax and wane with the passage of time. Above all, she learns more about herself than she ever imagined.

My Thoughts


I didn't know what to expect from this book going in. It's the first thing I've read of Moriarty's, and I couldn't stop listening (since I got it on Audible). I found that this novel made me look forward to my daily commute, which is no easy task. I'm not sure who to recommend this book to because I think almost everyone would enjoy it. My only complaint is that it felt a little deus ex machina toward the end. Still, the narrative itself more than makes up for that. If you're looking for a gripping,  somewhat suspenseful read, get this book as soon as possible.

What other female authors do you think I should read? How do you feel about WHAT ALICE FORGOT?

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 .@brianawrites calls WHAT ALICE FORGOT "a gripping, somewhat suspenseful read." (Click to tweet)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Vlog: On Dialogue

It's my first vlog! Get excited. (Man, do I feel weird about making videos.)

Anyway, I only filmed a little bit before my camera died. I hope it's cohesive. In this video, I cover dialogue, why it sometimes sucks, and what you can do to make it suck less. I hope to go over this topic a little more in the future, so be on the lookout for another vlog! Also, let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like me to cover.



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TEACHER'S PET Excerpt

Photo Credit: Bunches and Bits {Karina} on Flickr
Steven Dorian considered himself to be the best-looking teacher at Miller High School. In his mind, there was no contest. The youngest hire in Miller history, he had already earned a reputation by the end of his first month. He heard the other teachers whispering in the hallways. The silences when he passed. He recognized the silence from his high school days. Unfriendly.

Steven didn't care. They could talk all they wanted. All the gossip in the world didn't change the fact that he was more qualified than they were. Overqualified, some might say, and they would be right.

He sat behind his desk and thought about his position. He didn't belong there. He deserved to be teaching British literature in one of those ritzy schools uptown--the university, even. He reflected on the concept of paying one's dues with grim determination. He would make it in the world.

It was then that a student slid a note across his desk.

Steven picked up the note. He looked up, saw blonde hair--the girl had disappeared. He hadn't seen her face. Even if he had, he was still learning faces. There was no guarantee he would recognize her.

He opened his hand. The note was warm, though from his touch or from hers, he had no idea. "Mr. Dorian" was scrawled across the front in sloping cursive. She had left her name off. The mystery thrilled him.

He opened the note. The writing inside was sloppier, scribbled in haste and slanting right. The ink was smeared in some places. He laid the paper on the desk and smoothed the creases with his hand. His eyes skimmed the page. As he read, he felt his eyebrows shoot up into his hairline.

All that from a student?

Steven let go of the note. He leaned back in his chair and let his arms fall by his sides.

He was in trouble.

#

The next day while his students were taking a quiz on Christina Rossetti, Steven checked out every blonde girl in the room. Although he hadn't seen the face of the girl who left the note, none of the girls in his class looked right to him. He couldn't say for certain how he'd know which girl was right. He suspected he'd just have some kind of gut feeling.

Steven took out his tattered copy of Misery and leafed through it. Every page had at least one underlined section. The book had been his favorite when he was in college and he hadn't opened it since. Looking through it now, he felt a little guilty. He also felt a strange kinship to Paul Sheldon, the protagonist. Like Paul, he often feared becoming the object of a psychopath's obsession. After all, who could blame him or her for being attracted to someone as remarkable as Steven?

Half an hour passed. Most of his students had finished already. They brought their papers to the front of the room and laid them on his desk before returning to their seats. Once they were back at their desks, Steven set down his book and scanned their handwriting. Nothing matched the note.

Ten minutes before the bell rang, the last student turned her test in. Lola Dolores, blonde-haired and long-legged, sashayed to the front of the room and added her test to the pile. He looked up from his book. Their gazes met.

"Did you get my note?" she asked. Her voice was barely audible. She was leaning over Steven's desk, and he had to make an effort not to look down her blouse.

Steven feigned ignorance. "I'm not sure what you're saying."

"The note I left on your desk yesterday. I was wondering if you read it."

"We'll discuss this after class."

Lola smirked. Steven watched her walk back to her seat. Then, he picked up Misery and went back to reading.

The next ten minutes passed slowly; torturously. The whole time Steven rehearsed what he was going to say. He had never been approached by a student before. He knew he wasn't supposed to engage in any inappropriate behavior, but his class was full of seniors. If Lola was eighteen, then surely it would all work out. Besides, what were the odds of his boss or anyone else finding out? He wouldn't tell if she wouldn't. No, of course not.

Lola Dolores was attractive. There was no doubt about it. Steven had been single for a long time now and he could use the flirtation. It was all fairly harmless. Everything would be fine.

Once the bell rang and students filed out of the classroom, Steven felt his heart punch the inside of his sternum. It was time to speak with Lola. He slipped a bookmark into Misery and slammed it shut. Right on cue, Lola made her way toward his desk. She smelled like strawberries. The scent spoke before she did.

"You wanted to see me?"

No, Steven thought, she wanted to see him. He tapped his fingers on the top of his desk. "I read the note you left for me."

"Yeah?" she asked. "What did you think?"

He studied her face before going any further. She looked much older than her chronological age. She was gorgeous, too. Who could blame him for considering an affair with her? There was something strange behind her eyes, too. It took Steven a moment to identify what it was. Fear.

"You aren't in any trouble, if that's what you're afraid of."

Lola's shoulders relaxed as she exhaled. "That's a good thing."

Steven knew she was waiting for him to continue. He cleared his throat. "Why don't you have a seat? What's your next class? I can write an excuse for you."

"Just lunch," she said. Instead of returning to her desk, Lola sat down on the edge of his, swinging her legs back and forth like a child. He forced the association to the back of his mind. She didn't look like a child. No, not at all.

He got up from behind the desk and walked over to stand in front of her. He was only a little bit taller than she was when she was sitting. For now, he kept a respectful amount of distance between them. "I'm assuming all of this is concerning your grade."

"In part," she said.

"What do you mean?"

Lola smiled. "Mr. Dorian, I'm sure you've heard everyone talking about the fact that you're the hottest teacher in school. If not, well... you should know that it's the truth."

Steven flushed with pride. Of course he'd already known that his reputation preceded him. Still, it was nice to have his suspicions confirmed--from the mouths of babes and all. "I've heard some rumors."

"I plan on majoring in literature when I go to college," she said, "so you can understand how important this class is to me." Lola looked up at him through her eyelashes. They were longer and thicker than he'd noticed before. Then again, he'd never gotten to look at her up close. "I'm tired all the time from cheerleading practice, so I might not give it my best effort sometimes, but that doesn't mean I don't care." She licked her lips. "I need to do well in this class."

"As long as you do the work, you should be just fine." He had an idea what she was getting at, based on the content of the note, but he wanted to hear her say it. It was better if she said it.

"I'd like to arrange some extra credit opportunities with you," she said. "Just in case my academic performance isn't what it should be. Do you still have the note?"

Of course he had the note. It had taken up residence in his front pocket. He'd read it over and over the previous night until his eyelids got too heavy for him to keep open.

A smirk tugged at the corners of his lips again. "How old are you?"

"Just turned eighteen. Why do you ask?" She was toying with him. There was no way a girl like Lola could write the kind of note she'd given him without knowing why he would want to know her age.

"Tell you what," he said, leaning closer to her, "if you'd like some extra tutoring, I could certainly arrange that. I'd like you to stay after school tomorrow and go over the rest of the Victorian poets with me. How does that sound?"

"Perfect," she said.

He couldn't agree more.

To read the rest of the story, please click over to my Wattpad. Thanks!

What do you think of this excerpt? How do you feel about Wattpad?

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"He wouldn't tell if she wouldn't. No, of course not." Teacher Steven Dorian is in trouble in this story by @brianawrites. (Click to tweet)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Top 5 Apps for Readers and Writers

Photo credit: wicker_man on Flickr
I couldn't live without my iPhone.

I feel terrible saying that, but I suspect many of you reading this are in the same boat. I use my phone for almost everything. It wakes me up in the morning, reminds me to take my medicine, and allows me to dictate blog posts while driving to work. Technology is incredible.

My favorite thing about smartphones has to be the apps. There really is an app for whatever you can think of. Even bookworms can benefit from using smartphone apps! Don't believe me? Check out this list of smartphone apps best-suited for readers and writers.
  1. Goodreads. This social network deserves more praise. Once you create an account, you can announce your reading progress, get custom book recommendations, leave reviews, and so much more. If you join, feel free to send me a friend request!
  2. Kindle, Nook, or other ereader app. I have a Kindle Paperwhite, but this app is great when I don't have it with me. You can sync books you've purchased and download them to your device. It's fantastic.
  3. Dragon Dictation. Not too long ago, I wrote a post about how Dragon Dictation can help you write. It's no secret that I love this app. You can write on-the-go, which is great for busy people. Also, it's free! (Then again, so is everything else on this list.)
  4. Evernote. A lot of writers and bloggers swear by Evernote. I don't use it much anymore, but it allows to create and sync notes and lists across different platforms. You can use it to keep track of novel ideas, books you want to read, and recipes you hope to try out someday.
  5. iThesaurus. When I'm editing, I often find the same word used over and over again. That's where this app comes in. All you do is enter a word, and the app gives you several similar words meaning the same thing. How cool is that?
After reading this post, I hope you feel inspired to rush over to the app store. Although this post was written from an iOS standpoint, most of these apps can also be found for Android and Windows phones.

What do you think of these apps? What others would you recommend?

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.@brianawrites shares her app recommendations for readers and writers. (Click to tweet)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Easy Ways to Support Your Favorite Writers

Photo Credit: Christina Alexanderson on Flickr
With the arrival of the new year, one of your resolutions might have something to do with giving back to the community. If you're a writer and you enjoy supporting other writers, this year, you should think about doing more to support them.

Some writers, like J.K. Rowling and Steven King, make more than enough money to support themselves. The vast majority of writers, however, aren't able to quit their day jobs to pursue their craft.
  • Share their blog posts. This is the easiest and most often overlooked way to support your favorite writers. If they've written a post that speaks to you, share it with the world. I love using Buffer to schedule posts by my favorite bloggers. Every morning, I add a few articles to my queue and let Buffer do the rest. There's even a nifty Buffer Chrome extension! Give it a try and spread the love.
  • Promote their work. I have a lot of book reviews on this blog. Do you know why? Part of the reason is that I like to read. Mainly, it's so that other readers can get interested in the authors' work. I want to share their work with as many people as I can and get them more exposure. Whether it's through a book review, a tweet, or verbal praise, if you love a writer's work, you should promote it somehow.
  • Send them a message. Even if you don't have much to say, you never know how much a few kind words might mean to someone. If you don't feel comfortable writing a lengthy email, mention them on Twitter and let them know you love their stuff.
  • Donate, if you can. Many up-and-coming writers have donate links on their websites that allow you to give them money if you want to help them fund their craft ( I even have one!). If you've got a few extra pennies jangling around in your pockets, consider making a contribution. Of course, you can also purchase their books to get the best value for your investment. :)
When it comes to supporting other writers, it's easier than you think to make a difference. If you love someone's work, find a way to let them know. You could make their day.

How do you enjoy supporting other writers?

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Want to support other writers this year? @brianawrites has some practical suggestions. (Click to tweet)

Monday, January 5, 2015

23 Before 23

Happy Birthday Cake with Lit Candles
Photo Credit: Will Clayton on Flickr
This year is going to be a big one for me. I can feel it.

In a few short months, I’ll be 23 years old. It’s hard for me to believe it. While 23 isn’t a milestone birthday, I still think it’s an important one. I want to make it count.

This year, I decided to make a list of 23 things I want to do before turning 23. Some of the items on the list are serious, some are silly, and some won’t make any sense to anyone but me. All that matters is that I’m striving to achieve these goals before June 17, 2015. By posting them online, I trust you all to hold me accountable. I’m also hoping some of you can help me cross a few things off. If you think you can help with any of these, please let me know in the comments section!

Now, without further ado, here’s my list of 23 Before 23:
  1. Stop drinking soda. I know it’s bad for me, and I don’t even want to think about how much extra sugar I’m putting in my body. As much as I love Coca-Cola, I want to go cold turkey.
  2. Read 23 books. I don’t have much free time anymore, but I really want to do this. It’s not far off from my 2014 Reading Challenge Goal, and that took a whole year, but I know I can do it.
  3. Pay off my cat’s veterinary bills. Right after I moved to Florida, my cat had to have part of her tail amputated. That was expensive. Once it started healing, she cut a different part of her tail, and we had to go to the emergency clinic. That wasn’t cheap, either. I want to do everything I can to keep my good credit, so I’d love to pay her bills off sometime before my birthday.
  4. Make a dent in my student loans. At last calculation, it should take me about seven years to pay them off at my current income bracket. Ha. I’d like to shave a little time off that estimate, if possible.
  5. Host a dinner party. Now that I have my own place and can cook a few things, I think it’s time to have people over for a meal. Plus, it sounds like a super grown-up event.
  6. Get published. Whether it’s a short story or a novel, I want to get something else of mine published before turning 23.
  7. Join a club. I’ve lived here for a few months, but I still don’t know many people. I want to look for a book or writing club to join so I can participate in the community… and do things besides watch Netflix when I get home from work.
  8. Comment on at least one blog post per day. In 2014, I realized the importance of engagement in building community. I want to contribute more this year, so I’m going to start leaving my thoughts on posts I enjoy.
  9. Trade guest posts with three bloggers. If you’re reading this post and you think you might be interested, let me know in the comments. I’d love to do a swap!
  10. Mentor someone. I’m not sure in what capacity, but I’d love the opportunity to encourage someone else.
  11. Get a new laptop. Admittedly, this one should come after numbers three and four.
  12. Save $1000 dollars. I know I need to have some money set aside in case of emergency, and I need to get serious about making that happen.
  13. Go ziplining. I’ve been a few times before, and I adore it. Also, there might be a place close to where I live.
  14. Try out for a play. It’s been too long.
  15. Consistently post three times a week. I’ve been sporadic lately, and I want to get back to posting regularly.
  16. Say "yes" to invitations. Like most writers, I can be a hermit sometimes. When I get invited to do things, I'm going to make it a point to say, "yes."
  17. Volunteer. Whether it's at the local retirement home or animal shelter, I want to give back.
  18. Contact one writer, blogger, or person I admire per week. I'm afraid of reaching out to people, and I have no idea why. Some people mean a lot to me. I need to let them know how much their work inspires me. It might make their day.
  19. Compile a blog directory. Ava Jae's blog directory is absolutely gorgeous and an excellent idea.
  20. Support my favorite authors and beloved writing tweeps. Pretty self-explanatory.
  21. Stop biting my nails. It's a terrible habit.
  22. Make my bed every day. I'm not sure why, but I feel better when I look into my room and see that my bed in made. Explain that one, psychology.
  23. Visit New York again. Because that city is totally calling my name.
There they are: my goals and resolutions to accomplish before my 23rd birthday. As of this post going live, I have five months and 12 days to get these things done. Challenge accepted.

What do you think of these 23 goals? What are some things you'd like to accomplish this year?

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Instead of New Year's Resolutions, @brianawrites has a list of 23 things to do before turning 23. (Click to tweet)
Would you ever make a list of birthday resolutions? See @brianawrites' list here. (Click to tweet)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Photo credit: Lauren Reads YA on Tumblr
I waited too long to read this novel. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a life-changing book. I'm not saying that lightly. This book changed my life.

The world needs more books like this one. We need more female characters like Cath. She's a passionate young woman who loves writing fanfiction and doesn't let her anxiety ruin her life.

As someone who suffers from anxiety, I've waited my whole life for a book like this to make me feel normal. Cath's thoughts and behaviors are all too familiar to me. Even though no official diagnosis is given, it's pretty clear that she, too, suffers from anxiety. Throughout the book, however, it's obvious that her fears don't ruin her life. She's able to enjoy her hobbies, make friends, and even fall in love. The anxiety never goes away, but she's able to cope with it all the same.

I can't think of a single aspect of this book that I didn't love. From Cath and Wren's complicated relationship to the magical world of Simon and Baz, I didn't want the story to end. A wild, lovely ride from start to finish, this book will sink its teeth in you and not let go after you've finished reading it.

The next time you're looking for a deep yet entertaining YA read, pick up a copy of Fangirl. You won't be disappointed.

Have you read Fangirl? What do you think of it?

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Have you read Fangirl by@rainbowrowell? Writer @brianawrites shares her thoughts. (Click to tweet)
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