When crafting your novel you need three things:

  1. A character
  2. A goal
  3. A problem

Your main character (protagonist) has a goal, something they want more than anything else, but something is standing in their way. In order to get what they want, they have to solve the problem/defeat the monster/overcome the odds. And voila, there’s your story.

Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion)

Usually people equate the protagonist with the hero of the story. Even a flawed main character can be the good guy, admired for their bravery, fighting “on the side of the angels.” A hero makes sacrifices for others, and often has a sympathetic quality that makes you want them to succeed.

Dr. Horrible* (Neil Patrick Harris)

But what makes a protagonist is not always what makes a hero. Sometimes the most sympathetic character, the one with the most compelling goal, with the most to gain or lose (i.e. the most interesting story) is NOT the hero. It’s important to remember that the hero stands in the way of the villain, too, and is ruthless in seeking his destruction. Sometimes, when you put yourself in the shoes of Grendel you find that Beowolf is the true monster.

If your characters have the depth that they deserve, you may find that your villain is just as sympathetic (if not more so) than your hero. Don’t be afraid to give him (or her) the lead role for a little while. The results may surprise you.

*Side note: if you have never watched Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, go do it right now. Seriously, go.

I haven’t mentioned it here yet, but UtopiaCon is a most amazing and wonderful conference. They’re on their fifth year of hosting the conference. My first year attending was last year. We who have experienced the magic that is Utopia want to give back to the organizers who have given so much inspiration and support to us. A conference of this magnitude–of this level of MAGIC–is not cheap.

In the past, organizers, friends, and even family have come forward and given from their own personal funds in order to help move Utopia forward another year and we want to pay them back. We want to FIGHT FOR OUR WRITE and do our part to help.

This year especially, we’d like to make sure they go into planning sessions with an extra boost to it’s bottom line.

So if you’ve ever been touched by Utopia, or if you love any of the authors, bloggers, or readers who have, please take a moment to give a few dollars. This will insure the inspiration continues.

We hope you’ll be led to give from the heart, but to sweeten the deal we have some MAJORLY EPIC incentives! In addition to what you’ll get from the Go Fund Me organizers (see the donation page to read about those), you’ll also get entered to win any one of these amazing raffle prizes listed in the rafflecopter below!

Prizes like this one:

And in order to help convey the magical sense of community Utopia has instilled in its attendees, I want everyone to know that…

There is no purchase or donation necessary to enter to enter the drawing, but we encourage you to give even just $10 in order to help move us toward our big goal. And don’t forget, every donation of at least $10 earns you free books!

How to enter:

  1. Go visit #UtopiaLove’s Go Fund Me page and make a small donation (this isn’t necessary, but we would be so jazzed if you did this first! AND this earns you an automatic prize based on your donation level. Check your email to collect.) 
  2. Click through any one of the rafflecopter entry methods. Complete the necessary item and get entered for all of the raffle prizes listed. 
  3. Click through to the list of other participating authors & bloggers to read how Utopia has changed them! 

That’s it! Thanks!
Participating Blogs:
Karen Hooper http://karenamandahooper.blogspot.com/
Kallie Ross Kallieross.com
Susan Burdorf www.facebook.com/susanburdorfauthor
Jo Michaels http://jomichaels.blogspot.com
Carlyle Labuschagne Www.worldsawaybookblog.blogspot.com
Shantella Benson https://thewordsmithe.wordpress.com/
Shelley Custer www.stalkingshelves.blogspot.com
S.M. Boyce smboyce.com/boyce-blog
Komali da Silva www.komalidasilva.com
PK Hrezo Http://Pk-Hrezo.blogspot.com
Elisabeth Kauffman http://writingrefinery.blogspot.com
Patti Larsen www.pattilarsen.com
Michaela Mills http://www.michaelamillswrites.com/blog
Ginny Gallagher http://ginnygallagher.com/news/
Liz Long http://lizclong.com
Raine Thomas http://rainethomas.com
Stacey Marie Brown http://www.staceymariebrown.com/
Heather Hildenbrand http://www.heatherhildenbrand.com
Amy Evans http://amyevansbooks.com/

Again, you can click this link to enter the raffle! I hope you’ll support this awesome group, and consider attending! I promise it’ll change your life.


I greatly enjoyed Seraphina. Dragons, half-dragons, and an entirely new world to settle into and become familiar with–who could ask for more? So I was thrilled when the sequel came out, so excited to be part of that world again and to see how Seraphina grew and became herself by the end.

Some of the reviews for Shadow Scale indicated that the narrative would be disappointing, and so I was a little nervous going into the reading that I might come out of it feeling that something was missing. What I experienced, though, was exactly the opposite.

I loved this book, the dragon-lore, the scope and breadth of the plot (from gathering the ityasaari to the war between neighboring kingdoms), and most especially the high and low places that Seraphina’s character walks through to come into herself fully and freely.

What I wanted, to see Seraphina become strong and independent, worthy of love and of loving, was exactly what Rachel Hartman delivered. Her last line “I walked myself into the world” perfectly encapsulates the journey that Seraphina traveled from those first pages until the end. For me, the story was always about that.

Thank you again, Ms. Hartman, for sharing Seraphina with us.

I just finished reading Book Architecture yesterday, and I am excited to incorporate series grids into my personal and professional editing processes. I appreciated the format of the book, how each element was broken down and given a “real life” example. I immediately began noticing series everywhere.

I recommend this book for people who want to break out of the “traditional” plot formula, or who have already and are now wondering how to make sense of their manuscript. Series, and tracking series in a grid, can help you identify the important elements of your narrative, and can help you organize those elements for maximum emotional and/or intellectual impact.

I’ll be going back to read Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method

Free to FallFree to Fall by Lauren Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved it! Absolutely loved this book. Lauren Miller kept me reading, wondering what was coming next. I figured out a few of the “mysteries” based on clues she’d seeded into the narrative, but that just made it more fun for me to read, honestly. I had a silly fan girl moment at one point, when Miller wove Field of Dreams–my favorite movie–into the story. Seriously squealed with delight.

The inspirational message behind the whole book really speaks to me, an adult who hasn’t quite decided to grow up yet… listen to that still small voice–to the Doubt as Miller describes it–the one that everyone tells you not to trust when really the Doubt would never steer you wrong. Ray in Field of Dreams listened and people thought he was crazy, but it was the right thing to do… Rory listens, and it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done, but again, it was the right thing to do! I need to be reminded of that more, to listen to the voice in my head, to not be afraid to follow my intuition, to chase after my passions.

I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

Not counting the various manuscripts that have rolled across my desk in recent weeks, I read as much as I can in the YA category. My favorite genre is fantasy, but I have been known to read contemporary novels as well. I find reading what’s somewhat current in the category of YA important to keeping my developmental editing skills sharp.

I recently had to list the last 10 YA novels I read along with a couple of sentences about what I liked or didn’t like about those books… and I thought I’d share them with you! Have you read any of these books? Tell me what you thought of them!

The Bitter Kingdom, Rae Carson (third book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy) – This last book of the trilogy was a bit of a letdown for me. Overall I enjoyed the story, but I felt like Elisa’s character development took a back seat to the plot and, when THE THING that she thought made her special was taken away from her, instead of breaking down and being reborn, she had a couple of sullen days and then never really considered it again. I had hoped that Elisa would have a more explicit struggle with finding her self-worth separate from her godstone and so, while the plot resolved well, I still felt myself wanting something from the character arc.
The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan (second in the Lady Trent Series)– Marie Brennan’s, or more specifically Lady Trent’s, narrative voice is what draws me to these books… I mean, aside from the dragons! The world building in this story is fascinating and learning through the eyes of a witty, strong female protagonist makes these books a pleasure.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie – I asked my friends to recommend books that dealt with the current racial climate in the US and someone recommended TATDoaPTI to me. This book was not at all what I expected. The protagonist was painful and broken and motivated and unique and fascinating. I genuinely cared about what would happen to him and enjoyed being able to see through eyes so completely different from my own.
The Iron Knight, Julie Kagawa (fourth book in the Iron Fey Series) – This fourth book in Kagawa’s series seemed inevitable. Ash’s story needed resolving and had to be resolved without Meghan. And yet… I wanted Meghan… I wanted more romantic tension (similar to the other three books). Ash’s voice just didn’t do it for me, although the interplay between him and Puck was entertaining.
The Iron Queen, Julie Kagawa (third book in the Iron Fey Series) – I loved watching Meghan grow into her own in this novel. Others complain about her whiny nature throughout the series, but I felt she was extremely relate-able. And I loved the romance! Also, Kagawa’s take on the land of Faery and the summer and winter courts was rich and vivid. 
Battle Magic, Tamora Pierce (Circle Reforged #3) – I read Will of the Empress by Pierce and was eager to re-enter the world she had created, so I grabbed this book from the library and devoured it. I love her characters, so full of nuance, and I love the magic systems in this series.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews – This was another recommendation from a friend that I enjoyed, if cringingly… most high school boys are… painfully awkward… and were definitely written that way in this book. After having read TFiOS, the “dying girl” in this story didn’t carry the same weight, but I thought that the character development of the protagonist was worth the time I put in to read it.
Crown of Embers, Rae Carson (second book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy) – Carson did a great job of raising the stakes and pushing the romance in this book. I ate it up and was so excited to read the third book and find out how Elisa was going to save her kingdom and her lover.
Ruin and Rising, Leigh Bardugo (third book in the Girsha trilogy) – These books fascinated me from start to finish. The Darkling was the yummiest, most horrifying villain I’ve read in a while, equal parts seduction and terror… Alina was an interesting and flawed heroine… and the pseudo-Russian landscape was so enthralling and different! I loved it. Great series.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green – I read this because it was such a big deal in the YA scene, not because it’s my normal fare. That said, I found Hazel very sympathetic and yes, I cried… more than once… while reading the story. Green wrote a compelling story about sick teenagers who were just trying to live normal lives, without holding back or being afraid to take risks. I can see why it was a hit with the target audience.

Last week on DIY MFA Radio, my friend Gabriela Pereira and I announced a new joint venture. We’re going to put out an anthology! It’s called the Writer Igniter Anthology, and it needs YOUR VOICE to make it amazing. You can listen to the podcast episode where we announce it here.

The special thing about this anthology is that each submission has to use a writing prompt generated by the Writer Igniter App. That means you have to stretch that creative muscle extra hard. I can’t wait to hear what new stories come out of this project.

So come check it out! Submissions are OPEN. We’re looking for new voices and creative ideas. Come! Write! Take a chance with us and get your name in print. We wanna read your best creative stories. So write, write, write! And then submit, submit, submit!

I’m starting a new event on the Writing Refinery Facebook Page today: Writing Prompt Friday!

I’ll cross-post here, too, so that everyone can participate. The idea is, look at the prompt, and write 1000 words or less, just a short piece, that incorporates the prompt. You can post a link to your piece in the comments and I’ll make sure to come give you some encouraging feedback!

Here’s today’s prompt:

I’ve run across the incorrect descriptions of these two actions far too many times for it to be coincidental anymore, so today let’s define them.

The action that can be described in the above photo is nodding. Dear 10th Doctor David Tennant is nodding his head in response to something that was said to him. Nodding, the up-and-down motion of the head, is used to indicate affirmation, a positive response, a yes in body language.

In THIS photo, DT is moving his head from side to side, or shaking his head. This motion indicates denial, a negative response, or no in body language.

This is basic body language 101. If you write that your character shakes his head yes to something… that’s incorrect. He NODS his head for yes and SHAKES his head for no.

If there’s anything being an artist will teach you, it’s that you’ve got to make a mess in order to create. The same is true with writing your novel. It’s no less a piece of art in progress than a painting. Sometimes in order to get to the heart of your story you have to write yourself into a corner you aren’t sure you’ll be able to get out of… this is the novelist’s version of a “mess”. Then give yourself and your characters a chance to figure out how to get out of the mess you’re in. Some of your most creative work can come out of this mess, out of this not knowing what comes next, out of this paint splatter that you didn’t intend.

Let go of your need to control every single moment and see what happens with your writing. You may surprise yourself.

mess of life by jesus miguel rosado perdomo