Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Prompt (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Hey friends! Friday is so bright and shiny. Makes me want to hug it all day long.

Today, we're keeping it simple. I've given you a haunting little prompt but there's a twist! For some extra motivation, I'll check the comments section on Monday and randomly select one writer as the winner!

"What does the winner get?" you ask.

How about a book of the winner's choosing from The Book Depository? That's right. Any book (under $15) is all yours if your prompt response is chosen. If you're under 18 years of age, I'll need one of your parents to approve the book choice of course.

Sound fun?! I think it does! Here's how it works. I'll start you off with a sentence or two and YOU give me a paragraph or so to follow it up. Be creative! Have fun! And check back Monday afternoon. I'll update this blog post with the winner's name and details.

Here's that prompt for ya:

Now go, write! And if you're still in the giveaway mood afterward, check out my Instagram. I've got a lovely fall giveaway running and it's easy peasy to enter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What Makes Fantasy Epic?

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

First of all... The contest.

The Go Teen Writers #WeWriteBooks contest is open for submissions between now and Wednesday, September 28th OR until we receive 300 entries.

Click here to read the full rules and find out how to enter.

What Makes Epic Fantasy Epic?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “epic” stems from the Greek “epos,” which meant a “word; a tale, story; promise; prophecy, proverb; poetry in heroic verse.” And from 1706, as a noun it referred to an epic poem or “a long narrative told on a grand scale of time and place, featuring a larger-than-life protagonist and heroic actions.”

Epics were a type of poetry that often dealt with action and grandeur of traditional or historical interest. Most focused on the deeds of a specific hero. Epic poetry was recited aloud, to entertain an audience with the exploits of the hero and the nation that hero represented. It’s not so much about the individual as it was about how the heroic traits of that individual reflected national pride.

Epic fantasy, therefore, is not simply about a hero and his quest. That type of a story often falls under the subgenre of heroic fantasy. Epic fantasy is about more than one person. It’s about a world, the people in it, and a conflict that is rising up to forever change that world.

One of the most famous epic fantasies is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That story is not just about Frodo’s quest. It goes much deeper than that and is quite complex. Here is a list of elements that I believe every epic fantasy should have.

10 Must Haves in Any Epic Fantasy

1. Incredible Worldbuilding
An intriguing world that’s different from our own. Worldbuilding is a huge part of epic fantasy. The world should feel so real that it is like a character. I wanted my Five Realms to be different from anything else I’d written, so I made it a desert land with a high elevation. All freshwater is underground and frequent earthquakes have created dangerous cracks and fissures throughout the land. I also spent a lot of time developing five different nations, a complicated history between them, and a magic that is a major source of strife.

2. A Map
Most epic fantasy stories have an incredible map in the front of the book that readers will continue to flip back to as they read. Here is my map of the Five Realms from The Kinsman Chronicles. I love drawing maps. And with this one, I really worked hard to try and make the map look old school by purposely drawing the proportions off for my cliffs and to include the most interesting elements of my world. I think if you click on it, you can zoom in.

3. Massive Scope
In epic fantasy, the storyworld is big and the story takes place all over that epic map. Take the Lord of the Rings, for example. The story doesn’t take place in Hobbitton alone. The characters move all over Middle Earth. A massive scope also means a lot of pages and/or a lot of books to tell that massive story.

4. Massive Stakes
The story cannot be simple. And while it might involve a quest or revenge or a chase, the stakes have to be bigger than one person’s life. In epic fantasy, the world is at stake. Often this involves a great evil sweeping through the land or an invading kingdom. Epic fantasy usually involves some politics and some ruling characters be they kings, emperors, senators. The point is, the world as the characters know it is at stake. Their way of life is being threatened.

5. A Complex Plot and Subplots
There is a lot going on in an epic fantasy. I’m talking soap opera complexity here. Yes, there should be one major plot that is threatening the world, but that should also involve many characters and their individual storylines.

6. A Large Cast
To go with that complex plot, an epic fantasy needs a large cast of deep characters that the reader can root for. This often means many points of view, but not always. The point is, readers should grow to love many of the characters, as is often the case with the Lord of the Rings.

7. Magic
Oh yes. There should be magic in an epic fantasy novel. And if at all possible it should be intricately woven into the plot somehow. There have been epic fantasy novels without magic, but I can't think of one at the moment. If you can, share in the comments.

8. A Showdown
An epic fantasy usually ends with an epic battle or a major showdown between two or more characters. The entire book often leads to this clash of morals. And oftentimes, the hero doesn’t go it alone. One or more side characters come in to help in the main battle or a side battle.

9. The Feel of History
An epic fantasy should, in the same way epic poetry once did, feel like the telling of a major part of history for that storyworld. This is a story of history. Of when a threat came upon the world and a group of individuals fought back and defeated that threat. Someday a hundred years in the future from the time of the story, kids will be learning about these stories at school and there might even be a museum of sorts where people come to see the weapons of those great heroes who saved the land.

10. Breaks the Mold
Epic fantasy should attempt to break the mold in some way. For years Tolkien was the mold and everyone copied him. People still do. But part of writing epic fantasy is to try and do something different. Something no other author has tried. It’s a chance for an author to take a risk—just like the heroes he or she creates.

I tried to do that with The Kinsman Chronicles. I wanted to write a true epic fantasy in which a world was ending. It was a plot I felt hadn't been done before. A "Battlestar Galactica at Sea," if you will, and how those survivors moved on and eventually began again.

Have you ever read epic fantasy? If so, what are some of your favorites? Share in the comments.

Also, if you're building your own storyworld and need some inspiration, the Kindle version of my book Storyworld First is on a .99 sale until this Sunday night, September 25. If you haven't grabbed your copy yet, now is a great chance to save. Click here to see the book on

Monday, September 19, 2016

How Your Main Character Can Help You Get Unstuck

Stephanie here! I'm jazzed to introduce you guys to young writer, Olivia Smit. Olivia is one of the writers who answered our call for submissions several months back, and she's been hard at work the last few weeks to develop this article for you guys. I think you'll love it!

Stuck? Your Main Character Can Help!
Olivia Smit is a small-town-at-heart Canadian girl who loves big stacks of books, puppies, her youth group, and writing! She started keeping a journal at the age of seven, and quickly began exploring short stories, poetry, and even a few songs (but you don't want to hear those!) Olivia wrote her first novella in eighth grade using the homeschool curriculum One Year Adventure Novel, and then completed NaNoWriMo in 2011. She has recently finished her second full-length novel, currently titled Seeing Voices, and is working through her fourth set of edits (very, very slowly). You can find Olivia at her blog, the cwtch, where she posts lists, life updates, and occasionally a poem or two! 

Picture this: you’ve finally started writing the book of your dreams (go, you!) This is The Book, the one that you’ve been dreaming about for practically your ENTIRE life… maybe The Book that no one else thinks you can write. But you know better.

You write your way through the first eight chapters at top speed, churning out plot twists and character confrontations and mesmerizing dialogue, and then…

You get stuck. Everything comes to a grinding halt, and you’re left watching that taunting little cursor, blinking away on the screen. Your main character is staring at a scratch in her kitchen counter, thinking about spaghetti, and not only do you a) have no idea why she’s in her kitchen alone, but b) you can’t figure out what’s so great about spaghetti, and c) you have NO IDEA how to make her leave the room and get on with her life.

But I can fix this, you think, and dive backwards through your notes, trying to figure out where it all went so terribly wrong. Maybe she should have argued with her mom for half a page more, you muse, or I could have that cute boy show up and knock on the door to end the chapter. I’m sure if I start a new chapter, it will all fall into place again. 

And maybe this is the case. Maybe you just need a little nudge to get going again. Maybe it’s as simple as sticking two loose ends together with a couple of hasty sentences (after all, you can always fix it later).

But maybe this time, none of your old tricks seem to help. You are well and truly stuck, like an old, worn-out zipper, and no amount of tugging backward and forward is going to make any difference at all.

If this happens to be the case for you, I want to encourage you to take a step back from your notes for a moment. (If you have them. If you’re a seat-of-the-pants kind of writer, I want you to stop trying to figure things out in your head and just roll with me for a moment). Sometimes, getting yourself out of a stuck place is really, really hard. And sometimes, it isn’t difficult at all.

Occasionally, all you need to do is take a step back and re-evaluate your scene.

Asking questions is the easiest way to do this… as long as they’re the right kind of questions. Beware of questions that will only lead you back to your notes, and instead try to push yourself outside of your own expectations and plans for your novel. Instead of asking yourself, “What SHOULD happen next?” or “Where does my character NEED to go?” or even, “How can I FIX this to make it less boring?” I challenge you to experiment!

Try asking personal questions about (or even directly to) your characters, like “what does my character WANT?” and “what is getting in her way?” “Why can’t she just HAVE what she wants?” “Who is stopping her from reaching her goal?”

Maybe your character is thinking about spaghetti because the kitchen has always been a place of refuge for her. She and her mom used to cook together all the time, but lately there just doesn’t seem to be time. Suddenly, you’ve opened yourself up to a whole new array of questions! “When did they stop cooking together?” “Why?” “Is her mom sad about it too?” “What are they really fighting about?” “If the cute boy comes to the door, will she start to cry? Will she get mad? Will she invite him in on a whim and make him dinner?” The possibilities are endless!

Questions like these may seem silly, unprofessional, or childish, but sometimes when you ask seemingly pointless or irrelevant questions, your characters will surprise you! Maybe you’ve written a scene that has underlying messages you haven’t even realized yet. Grab hold of those when you find them, and don’t let go! You can run for pages and pages on a surprise idea, and just from asking a few simple questions.

Remember: the readers don’t care about the mechanics of a story, so long as it works. 

We writers are so used to running around with a thousand notes and plot devices swirling inside our brains, and sometimes we get so hung up on the inner workings of our story that we just end up stuck. Our inspiration and creativity has been sucked away by our wholehearted plunge after the behind-the-scenes, and we forget that our audience is sitting out there in the dark waiting for the show to start.

To the reader, sitting down with a book is kind of like owning a car. As long as the car starts when they turn the key, most of them don’t really care to know why or how the engine works. However, if the car breaks down, you better believe they’ll notice! Your audience doesn’t want to know what needs to happen next to advance your novel’s plot, or that the main character’s argument with her mom was two pages instead of two and a half. They want to know how she feels about the fight, and what she’s going to do next, and why spaghetti is so important to her.

Don’t get me wrong – knowing those boring old background details is IMPORTANT. After all, someone needs to know how a car engine works! But sometimes, putting yourself in the reader’s shoes and just hanging out with your characters for a while can get you the answers you need. (and it’s kind of fun, too!)

What kind of questions are you asking right now, wherever you’re at in your book? Do your characters ever surprise you?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Winners of the 100-for-100 writing challenge

We are super proud of these writers for finishing the 100 words for 100 days writing challenge!

Taïsha Chéry
Jessica Johnson
Justine Morris
Melissa Gravitis
Rebekah Gyger
Emily G
Cameron E.
Tracey Dyck
Ash Scott
Kat Stulpin
Taylor Marshall
Faith Potts
Lydia C.
Savannah Perran
Ruth Ellen
Lydia DeGisi
Lydia Harrison
Sarah Taleweaver

These writers wrote at least 100 words a day every day for 100 days, and many of them wrote even more than that!

The writers who wrote the most during the challenge were:

Melissa Gravitas: 92,012 words
Ash Scott: 73,492
Savannah Perran: 70,391

Amazing! For being in our top three, these writers earned their choice of a 1,000 word critique or a 20 minute Google Hangout session to talk over writerly things.

Three other finishers won their choice of several books, and the winners were Lydia Harrison, Kat Stulpin, and Tracey Dyck. Congratulations!

If you're curious about what it's like to do the challenge, Tracey Dyck wrote a summary of her experience, and it's a really interesting read about persevering. Thanks, Tracey!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Go Teen Writers #WeWriteBooks Contest is open for submissions

As announced on September 1, 2016, the Go Teen Writers #WeWriteBooks contest starts today! We're open between now and Wednesday, September 28th OR until we receive 300 entries.

The Rules

1. Who can enter: Those who are 21 and under, un-agented, and not a contracted or traditionally published novelist. One entry per person.

2. Your chapter must be no more than 3,000 words. Do not submit 3001 words and hope to get away with it. You will be disqualified. We highly recommend that you submit the first 3,000 words of your story, but that decision is up to you. If you have a prologue, you are welcome to include it as long as you stay under the 3,000-word limit. We also highly recommend that you don't end your entry in the middle of a sentence because it's jarring to a judge. It's better to submit 2980 words of complete sentences and thoughts than it is to leave us off in the middle of a sentence or explanation but use exactly 3,000 words. (If you're confused about word count, there is an explanation below.) Wherever you decide to stop your entry, keep in mind the post on powerful chapter and scene endings. Hook us with that last line!

2. Your synopsis must be no longer than two pages. You synopsis and your chapter should not be formatted the same. Detailed formatting rules are posted below.

3. You must save both your chapter and your synopsis in one file to submit. That means you should perfect your chapter, triple check that the word count is 3,000 words or under, then add a page break and paste in your synopsis. This is because our entry form can only have one attachment per entry.

4. This contest will have two rounds of judging. Stephanie, Shannon, and I will work together to read every entry and compile a list of three finalists. The finalists will be given two weeks to prepare their first three chapters, which we will send to editor Roseanna White, who will pick the winner.

How To Format Your Entry

Your chapter and your synopsis will not be formatted the same.

Your chapter must be formatted in the following manner:

-It should be double-spaced with no additional spacing before or after each line.

-It should have one-inch margins on all four sides.

-It should use 12-point Times New Roman or Courier font.

-Set your indentations to .05.

-Each chapter should begin on a new page. Don’t hit “Enter, Enter, Enter” to get your cursor to a new page. Instead insert a Page Break at the end of each chapter, then begin typing your new chapter on the next page. Remember, your submission has a word-count limit, not a page-count limit, so if you have more than one chapter, that's okay.

-Start each chapter ¼ to ½ of the way down the page.

-Format all chapter headings the same. It doesn't matter if you write "Chapter One" or "1," as long as you're consistent.

-Use only one space after punctuation, not two.

-Use italics for inner thoughts and to stress a word. Don't go overboard.

-Avoid all fancy formatting, like drop cap letters to the start of each chapter, flowery scene breaks, or any other decorative graphics.

-Scene breaks should be marked with asterisks or a number sign. Again, you could use one asterisk *, five in a row ***** or three with tabs in between *      *      *. It doesn't matter as long as you are consistent throughout the manuscript.

-Save your file as a .doc, docx, or txt file.

-Please save your file with your name and story title. For example: JillWilliamsonThirst or Jill_Williamson_Thirst. (If you already submitted your entry before I added this instruction, no worries. We will figure it out.)

Click here to view my tutorial on proper manuscript format, if you're not sure how to change some of the requirements in the list above.

-You do not need a title page, page numbers, or page headers.

Your synopsis should be formatted in the following manner:

-It should be single spaced with no additional spacing before or after each line.

-It should have one-inch margins on all four sides.

It should use 12-point Times New Roman or Courier font.

-Set your indentations to .05.

-It can be between one and two pages long. One-page synopses are preferred, so if you have both, give us the short one. You will not be marked down for having a two-page synopsis.

-Use only one space after punctuation, not two.

-Your synopsis should give us an overview of the full book and include the ending. Spoilers are part of a synopsis. You're trying to show an editor or agent that you can plot out a book well. If you need help writing your synopsis, please refer to Stephanie's posts on how to write a synopsis and how to edit a synopsis. They are great posts.

Other Questions

What if I don't have Microsoft Word?: You don't have to submit a Word file. If you have a different word-processing program, just be sure to save a copy of your submission as a .doc or .txt file so that we will be able to open it.

When will we find out who the finalists are?: We don't know yet. We'll have a better idea once we see how many entries there are, but we're taking the first two weeks of October off from blogging so that we can dedicate significant time to judging. We hope to be able to announce finalists when we return from that break, but we will just have to see how many submissions come in.

Will I get feedback on my entry?: We will do our best to give each of you something helpful and concrete that you can apply to your writing. But Stephanie, Shannon, and I also have young kids and books of our own to write, so we won't be able to do a line edit or talk over specifics with everybody.

If I win, do you publish my entry on your website?: We would like to highlight each of the three finalists on the Go Teen Writers blog by posting the first page of their chapter. Each finalist will have the choice whether or not they would like us to do that. We will ask permission first and will leave the decision up to each finalist.

How do I find the word count of my entry?: The industry standard for word count is Microsoft Word. In older versions of Word, you had to go to "Tools" and then "Word count." The newer versions keep track of the word count down below. (See the red circle):

See that place circled in red in the bottom left corner? There's your word count.
Or you can also go to the review menu and find it here:

Another option is using a site like

Ready To Enter?

Because of the need to have an attachment, we were unable to use Google Forms for the contest. Instead I was able to set up a form on my author website. You must give us three things on this form:

1. A name (a pen name is fine).
2. A correct email address. (Triple check it, please. If we love your entry but cannot find you because of a typo in your email address, that would be really unfortunate.)
3. Your attached submission---in one file. This is the tricky part. Please bear with us. Because of technology and the way the forms plugin works on my author website, I can only handle one attachment per entry. That means you will have to add a page break at the end of your chapter and paste in your synopsis. Make sure you check the word count of your entry before pasting in your synopsis. And make sure that your entry is 3,000 words or less because we hate having to disqualify people.

To enter, go to this link and follow the instructions. 

One final note

We don't like to limit entries for contests, but there are only three of us, and while the Go Teen Writers blog is very important, it is only a portion of our professional responsibilities. Plus we all have families with children and our own writing schedules to try and maintain. While it pains us that the limitations we've put on the contest (only accepting 300 entries) might inevitably exclude some writers, we hope you can understand why we need a restrictions in place.

As it is, Stephanie, Shannon, and I each have committed to reading and providing feedback for 300,000 words free of charge, and that will take up a lot of time and energy. We're happy to give back in this way to a community that we're blessed to be a part of, but we still have to put boundaries in place to remain healthy.

Good luck, everyone! And please feel free to ask any other questions you have in the comments below.