Jayme Woods

Writer. Geek. Adventurer.


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Eight Terrible Titles (with commentary)

I’ve been away from the blog for WAY too long, but there’s no better way to jump back in than with the #8TerribleTitles blog hop. A great big thanks to the not-at-all-terrible Brooks Benjamin for tagging me to join the ridiculous fun!

For those of you playing along at home, #8TerribleTitles is as easy as 1-2-3:
(1) Open your manuscript and scroll to a random passage
(2) The word or phrase where your cursor lands is your first terrible title
(3) Repeat until you have eight terrible titles

If you’re not ready to share your manuscript, that’s okay! Grab the nearest book and play along. Better yet, grab your friends and see if they can guess the book by its terrible titles. I think I just invented a party game…

But I digress. Here are the #8TerribleTitles for my MG pirate adventure, Double-Crossed, with a bit of commentary. Because what’s the point of terrible titles without terrible blurbs to go along with them? 😉

1. “Diana? Diana?”
One of Faulkner’s lesser known works

2. Wafted Down the Stairs
A scratch ‘n’ sniff book

3. Dressed like a Giant Shrimp
The memoir of a food court mascot

4. Some Rare Disease from the 1800s
Order now and get a free bottle of hand sanitizer!

5. Crossing State Borders
The secret world of truckers – EXPOSED!

6. Giant Bunny Ears
Cyrano de Cottontail attempts to woo the lovely Roxane despite his extraordinarily long ears in this Disney retelling of the classic.

7. The Difference between Ignition and a Deadly Jolt
Gritty YA contemporary banned by schools (becomes a bestseller anyway)

8. A Kaleidoscope of Branches
…and other fun DIYs for summer

Not enough terrible titles for you? Me either! Since this is #8TerribleTitles, I’m tagging 8 writers who are the exact opposite of terrible. You know, to balance things out:

Ann Marjory K

Kat Michels

Patrice Caldwell

S.P. McConnell

C.C. Dowling

Ifeoma Dennis

Jenna Lehne

Donald Capone

I can’t wait to see what they come up with. In the meantime, head over to Twitter and dive into the #8TerribleTitles hashtag for more terrible fun!


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Baby’s First Blog Tour

Morning, all! Last Monday, the awesome-tacular Brooks Benjamin tagged me to participate in my very first blog tour. It’s called #MyWritingProcess and it’s all about… well, my writing process. Before I go on, check out Brooks’s writing process – and congratulate him on his book deal (!!!!) – over at Pour the Coffee and Walk Away.

1) What am I working on?

Right now, I’m mainly focused on a project I’d describe as Buffy the Vampire Slayer for MG… at least, I’d describe it that way if comparing my stuff to BtVS didn’t give me hives. Those are some big (yet stylish) shoes to fill.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It’s been said there are no new stories, but I believe there will always be new characters to filter those stories through. I check between all the literary couch cushions to find characters who’ve slipped through the cracks (or maybe hidden there on purpose). Then I shine the spotlight on them.

3) Why do I write what I do?

There’s a saying I’ve always loved: “Feed your imagination. Otherwise it might learn to hunt.” Personally, I’m not that sneaky or that athletic. My imagination would take me down fast, so instead of fighting it I’ve taken the How to Train Your Dragon route and made friends with it. Now we go on awesome adventures together, and I’d love nothing more than to take readers along for the ride.

4) How does your writing process work?

It’s a lot like The Emperor’s New Groove, actually. Observe:

STEP 1:

It all starts with an idea.

yzma 1

Whether or not it’s actually brilliant is up for debate.

yzma 2

Regardless, I let that idea run wild. I fill notebooks with doodles, character bios, snatches of dialogue, and pretty much anything else that catches my fancy.

STEP 2:

yzma 3

If the idea still refuses to let go, I roll up my sleeves and wrangle it into an outline. I block out conflicts, plot twists, and character arcs. I venture into the dark, tangled unknown and plant guideposts to keep my first draft from getting too far off track.

STEP 3:

yzma 4

Then I take that outline and flesh it out into a first draft. Along the way, there’s always a guidepost that’s disappeared into a bank of plot-hole quicksand.

kronk - by all accounts

I build a way around it only to discover there’s some troublemaker yanking up guideposts and tossing them into the river. Or the bushes. Or a cave full of bears. My neat little outline gets messy – and wonderful. It takes twists and turns I’d never imagined. Somehow, I survive (barely) and type the words The End.

STEP 4:

yzma 5 - Copy

In other words, I let the manuscript rest.

STEP 5:

yzma 6

That’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Once my manuscript is thoroughly destroyed, I put all the pieces back together again. I discard, rearrange, and rewrite until it all comes full circle Lion King style and I once again believe it is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Then I send the shiny new draft to my CPs and realize it’s actually…

kronk - yuck

So I rewrite some more. Send to more CPs. Rinse. Repeat. And finally there comes a day when it’s time to let it go…

tangled - light

Admit it. You were expecting Elsa there. But that’s writing for ya. Full of surprises! 😉

Whew! That’s about all the coherent thought I have left in me, but the blog tour doesn’t end here! If you need to distract yourself because your favorite television couple is currently submerged in a giant metal box sinking toward (un)certain doom…

fitzsimmons

… or, you know, if you just like interesting, useful things, dive into the archives on the #MyWritingProcess hashtag. Then steel yourself for the awesomeness coming your way next Monday (5/19). And because I always had to go last in school, here they are in reverse alphabetical order:

Lee Kelly

Lee Kelly

@leeykelly
Blog

Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and son in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she still can’t help but call herself a New Yorker. City of Savages is her first novel.

Ifeoma Dennis

Ifeoma

@IfeomaDennis
Blog

Ifeoma lives on a somewhat-tedious-to-climb hill in the caribbean island of St. Vincent but it pays off with a good view of the ocean and the boats. She is a medical student by day (and even at night), and a writer at all the odd scraps of time she gets. She loves fantastical worlds of magic and beautiful creatures, so little wonder that’s what she writes!

Patrice Caldwell

patrice

@whimsicallyours
Blog

Patrice Caldwell is a twenty-one-year-old introvert gone wild. Her love for reading has taken her all over the world from the Great Hall at Hogwarts to the depths of Mordor and to the dangerously romantic streets of Anne Rice & Lestat’s New Orleans and many other places she’d never have the time to name. However it was not until the summer after her first year at college that she completed a manuscript and began to call herself a writer of all things but mostly those with a speculative twist.

She currently studies Political Science and English (with a concentration in Creative Writing) at Wellesley College and recently won the SCBWI Student Writer Scholarship for her writing.


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NaNoWriDOH!

November has been a crazy month – and not, as the blog title suggests, because of NaNoWriMo. I’ll get to NaNo in a second, but first some context.

My month kicked off in rather epic fashion. For starters, I visited FOUR castles.

Not pictured: Prince Eric’s castle. Also: yes, Rapunzel’s tower totally counts as a “castle” ;)

Not pictured: Prince Eric’s castle. Also: yes, Rapunzel’s tower totally counts as a “castle” 😉

On top of that, there was the little matter of the best concert ever. All of which was awesome, except very little (read: no) writing got done at the Most Magical Place on Earth. Which would’ve been fine except I also came back from vacation with a tickle in my throat.

Famous last words.

How disgustingly ill was I, you ask? I still haven’t seen Thor: The Dark World. Anyone who knows me knows how sick I’d have to be for that to happen. I blinked and a week of my life vanished – an entire week. Another seven days where writing fell to the wayside while I babysat Flu Jr.

If you’re wondering, I call it Flu Jr. because it wasn’t as bad as the full-blown flu, as evidenced by the fact that I’m typing this. But it still made me feel like this:

GIF credit to the fantabulous Chrissy

GIF credit to the fantabulous Chrissy

Only worse.

So there I was. Two weeks. Limited writing. That may not sound like the end of the world, but I was kind of crushed. Why? Because this year I’d made up my mind to attempt NaNo. I knew my vacation might throw me off a bit, but I’d still decided to write my little guts out in pursuit of that elusive 50k. That goal seemed pretty unlikely when I woke up on November 11 with just 2k fever-induced words. That’s right. 2,000. As in, 4% of 50k. Not gonna lie, I was a little discouraged.

Then I stumbled across this: How I Won NaNoWriMo in 9 Days . That’ right. Ava Jae hit 50k in 9 days – and her friend Taryn hit that mark in just 3 days. Do not adjust your monitor. You read that correctly. 50k in 3 days. My mind was officially blown. I’m still not sure I can churn out 48k in two weeks, but I’m sure as heck going to try.

So here’s my challenge, fellow writers*: forget about the last 15 days. Maybe, like me, your word counts haven’t been what you’d hoped. Maybe you’ve been watching from the sidelines and you’re now ready to join the fray. Either way, the time is NOW!

And remember: you don’t have to “win” NaNo to come out a winner. We’ve got 15 days left, people. 1500 a day will mean 22,500 by the end of the month. Squeeze out an extra 500 words per day and you’re up to 30k. We can do this!

Do you have a NaNo war story? Are you ready to show the second half of November who’s boss? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or over on Twitter. #NaNoWriDOH

Until next time, WRITE ON!

*Unless you’re a fellow writer who’s already won NaNo… in which case, go celebrate. 🙂


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How Hanson Makes Me a Better Writer

I just got back from Orlando, and my ears are still ringing from the best concert EVER. Six concerts, actually. They spanned two nights and featured none other than my favorite band: Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem!

electric mayhem

Kidding. It was Hanson. They dropped into Epcot November 4-5.

Clearly I was too excited to hold the camera steady.

Clearly I was too excited to hold the camera steady.

For those of you who’ve never heard of Hanson (or if you haven’t heard anything since MMMBop), here’s the cameo-studded video for their new single, Get the Girl Back (yes, that’s Kat Dennings and Nikki Reed and Drake Bell and Drew Seeley and… you get the idea). The song starts at about :35. Consider it the soundtrack for this post:

Awesome, right? So now you all understand the depth of my excitement when I found out Hanson was coming HERE. To Florida. To say the wait was long would not do it justice. By 5:29 November 4th I felt like this:

This guy's from the The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney Hollywood Studios, btw.

This guy’s from the The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney Hollywood Studios, btw.

Only better fed because, you know, theme park food:

The soft pretzel loves Hanson... and that random dude in a baseball cap. But mostly Hanson.

The soft pretzel loves Hanson… and that random dude in a baseball cap. But mostly Hanson.

To top it off, my shiny new camera has [in my best Po impersonation] legendary zoom capabilities that are the stuff of legend!

Here’s a shot of all the guys:

group shot

Isaac killing a guitar solo:

isaac

Taylor making everyone jealous of that random person with the blue watch:

taylor

Zac going all Animal on the drums:

zac

Also, here’s one of Zac on piano. Because hair like this needs to be appreciated. Go ahead. Take a moment. I’ll wait.

zac piano

If you’re jealous of my mad photography skills, don’t be. 90% of my pictures came out like this:

blurry isaac

And all 90% of them are still eating up memory on my computer – because those blurs are HANSON BROTHERS! 😉

Which brings me to the “better writer” portion of this blog. Just before the very end of the very last concert – I’m talking end of the whole shebang – the lights went down. For a second, I thought it was over… and they hadn’t played my favorite song. My thought process went something like this:

I am a grown person. I can deal with this. An awesome time has been had. Epic poems shall be written. Or perhaps epic picture books. Because:

issac taylor

What’s one song to all that?

Then the lights came back up, Taylor whipped out a harmonica, and the band started in on – you guessed it – MY SONG!!! And I died a little. Okay, a lot. Just so we’re absolutely clear about the level of awesomeness involved, here are more exclamation points:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!

In that instant, I was twelve again. When I left, I turned to my sisters and the exact words I’d used after our very first Hanson concert *cough, cough* years ago flew out of my mouth: THAT WAS AWESOME!

It’s in all caps because, by then, I was kind of deaf from loud music. It was totally worth it.

As someone who writes MG, experiences like these are golden. It’s easy to forget how powerful firsts are. The first day of a new school year. The first time your best friend betrayed you. Your first crush, first dance, first heartbreak.

And, yes, the first band that totally *got* you.

What about you? What songs/memories instantly take you back to a point in time?

Wishing everyone a Hanson-tacular weekend!


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Greetings from the Revision Cave!

I’m happy to report my first draft revisions are all wrapped up. I actually finished a few days ago *just* in time to meet my self-imposed deadline – the October 8 release of The House of Hades. If you’re wondering, “deadline” means I refused to let myself buy HoH until I finished. Motivation thy name is Percy Jackson.

With the revisions now in the hands of my trusty CPs, I’ve also had a bit of time to catch up on things like scrubbing my bathroom (joy) and throwing a proper viewing party for Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

If that tablecloth looks familiar, it’s because it’s the playing card from my sister's Now You See Me  party butchered into what were supposed to be checker squares. Just go with it.

If that tablecloth looks familiar, it’s because it’s the playing card from my sister’s Now You See Me party butchered into what were supposed to be checker squares. Just go with it.

Unfortunately, my brain’s still in revision mode. While watching Wonderland, all I could think was, “Man, this could’ve used some editing.” I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it. I’m sure as heck not saying I’m not tuning in next week. I think we all know I am.

What I’m getting at is this: the Wonderland pilot gave me clearer perspective on my own revisions. It was hard, painful even, to bring the ax down on some of my “darlings,” but most debut authors don’t have the benefit of an established world like Wonderland (or a franchise like Once Upon a Time). We’re inviting readers in for the first time. If we take a lengthy detour into the Mallow Marsh readers might not wait for us to get unstuck.

mallow marsh 2

Sometimes these little detours, while dear to the author, are more like speed bumps for the reader. They kill the momentum when the audience just wants to know when the heck Jafar’s going to show up.

While we’re on the topic of villains, one of the most common complaints I’ve read online is that the Red Queen on Wonderland was trying too hard to be the Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time. Don’t sell your characters short trying to make them the “next” Hermione Granger, Percy Jackson, or KHAAAAAAAN (sorry, couldn’t resist). Give us someone new to love/hate/ship.

But that’s enough shop talk for me. I’m going to enjoy the rest of these lovely white chocolate coconut bars…

If you're wondering why these aren't on a cute serving tray, it's because it is impossible to pick one up without eating it. Seriously good.

If you’re wondering why these aren’t on a cute serving tray, it’s because it is impossible to pick one up without eating it. Seriously good.

…before I hear back from my CPs and attack the Mallow Marshiest bits of my revisions with the ferocity of a feral Cheshire Cat.

Are you wrestling revisions? Did you enjoy Once Upon a Time in Wonderland? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.


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Monday Motivation

Did you know the Eiffel Tower was only meant to stand for 20 years? Before it was built, some of the most respected French architects and artists fought its construction, calling it useless and monstrous. Today, it is one of the most recognized and visited monuments in the world. Never let other people’s expectations limit the way you see yourself. Even very smart people can be wrong.

With that in mind, I’m going to dive back into my writing. If you’re chasing a dream, today’s a new day. Forget about whatever may’ve held you back in the past and go for it! I believe in you.


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Warm Bodies and Writing: The Importance of Secondary Characters

When I mentioned zombies in my last post, it was just to give my sister a hint about her birthday gift:

kayce's gift 3

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized writers can learn a lot from Warm Bodies. An entire post could be devoted to the differences between the book and movie, but for this post I’m going to focus strictly on the movie. Specifically, I’m going to focus on the importance of its supporting characters: Nora, M, and Perry.

At first blush, it’s easy to think the magic of Warm Bodies is all about R and Julie. They are, after all, the main characters. However, I’d argue it’s the characters around them who really sell the story and, in many ways, endear R and Julie to us.

***WARNING: SPOILERS***

Take Nora. Sure, she fulfills the stock role of sarcastic best friend, complete with zippy one-liners and a makeover scene for poor unsuspecting R.

makeover edited

But Nora’s most important scene, to my mind, is one of her very first, when R and his zombie buddies ambush Julie and company. Why does it matter? Because, later in the movie, when Julie tries to fight her way out of a zombie infested airport with nothing but a weed eater, we might ask ourselves: why now? If she’s such a fighter, why not fight earlier, when she was much less outnumbered? One quick pan to terrified Nora, cowering under a desk, and we understand.

Nora edited

Julie goes with R to save her friend. This sacrifice immediately makes her more sympathetic without compromising the tough-girl side that makes her so awesome throughout the rest of the film.

Much like Nora, R’s best friend, M, instantly ups the humor ante. He also lays the groundwork for the ultimate redemption of the zombies. One scene in particular always kills me. In it, M talks about regaining his memories. His mom. Summertime. Then, like it’s some profound revelation, he adds:

cream... of wheat edited

The first time I saw it, I died laughing. Let’s be real, I still do. But, as trivial as it sounds, this was a profound revelation for M. He’s been so lost for so long that he’s completely forgotten what it is to be human, right down to the tiniest (and most hilarious) details. It’s this reignited glimmer of humanity – something we’ve already seen blossoming in R – that allows us to forgive the zombies for the otherwise unforgivable things they’ve done. Like eating people. Which brings us to…

perry edited 2

I’m probably going to catch some flak for this (yes, I’m talking about you, sis), but in my opinion Perry is the linchpin of Warm Bodies. Our opinions of R, Julie, and their entire romance rest squarely on his shoulders. Why? If he’s too unlikeable, we’d never believe Julie would put up with him. She’s tough. She’s hot. It’s the end of the world. She’s got to be getting other offers. We have to believe she and Perry have something special enough to fight for. Even though Perry is broken and pushing her away, we see him in flashbacks being a boyfriend worth having, possibly the first guy to ever tell Julie he loved her.

BUT – and here’s why I say Perry could’ve ruined the whole movie – he can’t be too likable. As the audience, we have to believe sweeter than pie Perry is gone, replaced by an apocalypse-wearied soldier. We have to be able to forgive R for, well, eating him – and we have to believe Julie would too. Otherwise, the whole movie falls apart. Ten minutes later, when Julie’s falling for R, we wouldn’t feel warm and fuzzy. We wouldn’t want to root for them. We’d be outraged.

retail therapy edited

That, my friends, is the magic of supporting characters. Sometimes they cower under desks or muse about breakfast foods. Sometimes they get eaten. But through it all they hold the story together and, in the case of Warm Bodies, make it an incredibly fun ride.