Vlog: Series? Standalone? Companion Novels?

So you have a story idea you want to turn into a novel—but how far should you go with it? And how do you decide whether to make it one book or series? Today I'm talking about the scope of an idea and your options.


How do you decide whether to make your projects standalones or part of a series?

Twitter-sized bite:
Series? Standalone? Companion novels? How do you decide? @Ava_Jae breaks down your options & what to consider. (Click to tweet)

Gifts for Writers in Your Life

Photo credit: Jess J on Flickr
This is a repost with some minor updates! Because the holidays are upon us, which means the time to buy gifts for your loved ones is here!

So without further ado, here are some gift ideas for the writers in your life. Or, you know, ideas to give your friends and family for you. ;)

Writing craft books

Writing craft books are always a great choice, because there's always more for writers to learn. Some that I've read and loved or are on my list to read include:

Nerdy mugs ($12.00-19.90)

There are lots of places to find nerdy mugs, like Barnes & Noble, Hot Topic, Out of Print and Etsy. Some fun options include B&N's Harry Potter Ceramic Cauldron mug, Hot Topic's Disney Alice in Wonderland Cheshire Cat mug and Harry Potter Hogwarts Red mug, Out of Print's Banned Books Heat Reactive Mug or some of the many cute selections from missbohemia's Etsy store.

Bookish candles ($18.00)

Frostbeard Studio has a really great collection of bookish soy candles. With choices like Book Cellar, Headmaster's Office, New Paperback, Old Books, Oxford Library, Reading at the Cafe, Study Break Chai Latte, Wizardry Buttery Drink and more, there's a scent for every book nerd.

Nerdy shirts, scarves, sweaters ($20.00-$42.00)

There are so many places to get bookish clothes and accessories. TeeFury has a whole book collection including The Little Wizard and Extraordinary Novelists, Litographs has awesome selections like Peter Pan, Scarlet, and The Declaration of Independence, Out of Print has great choices like their When in Doubt (Harry Potter Alliance) Sweatshirt and Fantastic Books & Where to Find Them t-shirt, and Storiarts on Etsy has some gorgeous bookish scarves like Shakespeare's Hamlet Book Scarf, and The Raven by Poe Book Scarf, and also these cool Alice in Wonderland Writing Gloves.

Scrivener ($45.00)

I've written about the wonders of Scrivener many times. While you'll probably want the writer in your life to play around with the free trial first (because it's not for everyone!), I, for one, can say Scrivener has completely changed how I tackle writing books for the better and I will never go back. And to sweeten the deal, Scrivener just recently released Scrivener 3 for Mac (Windows will be out next year) and the new features look amazing—I seriously can't wait to upgrade and dive into my project because holy whoa.

AeonTimeline ($50)

AeonTimeline is a pretty handy—and in-depth—program that could be especially useful to writers who write books with complicated timelines. Some of the features are listed here, but when I tried a free trial last year to help me work out a timeline I found it really visually interesting and useful.


E-readers are a writer's best friend. I swear by my Nook e-ink reader, which I got years ago from someone who upgraded theirs and it still works beautifully. The one I have is discontinued but when the time comes to upgrade I'll be getting the Nook GlowLight 3. If you're looking for an inexpensive tablet e-reader, there's Barnes & Noble's $50 7" Nook tablet, and over on Amazon there are options like the Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, and Fire tablet.

Noise-canceling headphones

This is a good higher-budget option if the writer in your life frequently works in noisy environments, but even if not they can be really great to help hone focus. They are, however, on the way pricier end, so this would be a more luxurious gift the writer in your life would make great use of. I swear by the Bose QuietComfort headphones—I bought mine something like seven years ago and while I suspect they might not too many more years, they've worked beautifully for this long and I still use them regularly.

Cool bookends

BookRiot did a post on fifty awesome bookends last year with some really cool options.

Other random suggestions: nice pens and journals, fancy teas, chocolate, bookshelves, PJ pants, fuzzy blankets, fuzzy socks, whiteboards, cork boards, and, of course, books and gift cards for books.

What writerly gifts are you craving this year?
Not sure what to get the writers in your life for the holidays? @Ava_Jae puts together writerly gifts to consider. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: 4 Common Clichés to Avoid in Your Writing

What clichés should you avoid in your writing? Glad you asked! Here are four very common ones you should consider working around. 


Have you ever used these clichés in your writing or seen them (successful or not) in books, TV, or movies? 

Twitter-sized bite:
What clichés should you avoid in your writing? @Ava_Jae covers 4 common ones in their latest vlog. (Click to tweet)

Guest Post: Chapter One Con Mentorship Interview

NOTE: Hey guise! I've got Chapter One Con, a great conference for young writers, sharing an interview today from the mentors of their annual mentorship program! Hope you enjoy, and make sure you check out Chapter One Con!

Chapter One Conference just wrapped up its annual Mentorship program. At Ch1Con, they believe in helping young writers, and through this program they teach young writers about the publishing process, from start to finish. As the 2017 mentorship program wraps up, they are proud to present THIS IS THE END, an anthology of the short stories that our mentees worked on doing the program! 

From familial trauma to mind games, you never know quite what will lead to the end. During the autumn of 2017, the team behind writerly nonprofit organization Chapter One Events mentored two talented young writers through the publishing process, giving them a head start on becoming the successful authors of tomorrow. Now, read the stories on which these up-and-coming writers worked, along with four by the Chapter One Events mentors themselves. Each of these stories leads to a startling conclusion. Are you ready for the end?
The celebrate the release of the anthology, Brett Jonas asked a few of the team members about their experience as mentors this year. These are their responses.

What was the most interesting part of mentoring a young writer? Had you done something like this before?
Julia: The most interesting part of mentoring a young writer always, for me, is the types of questions they ask. Mentees approach each topic from a different angle based on their personal life experience, which leads to unique and really interesting questions that force me as a mentor to look at what I'm teaching them from a new perspective. I always feel like I have a different, more well-rounded understanding of a subject after teaching it. This was my second year directing the Chapter One Events Mentorship Program and I'm really grateful for the experience.

Ariel: I think the most interesting part was seeing how they responded to my advice. I've done editing work for literary agents before, but in that work, I never got to see how the writers responded to my ideas. With this work, I got to see how another person's story transformed. (I also participated in last year's mentoring program, but I worked on mechanical errors, which are a totally different approach from structural edits). 
Katelyn: I have had the opportunity to mentor a young writer before and I think it's really fun, unique experience. I love being able to help young writers explore their own voice, their characters, and their story overall. I think the most interesting part definitely has to be the chance to see the world through the eyes of a writer who is still finding herself. (Or himself, but I worked with a female author this year.) Technically, we never really know ourselves as people or as writers. We are always growing, changing, and figuring out better ways to tell our stories, but I find it particularly special being able to work with someone who is just starting to find and craft her passion. It's definitely a rewarding experience for me, just like I hope it was for her!

Allison: I mentored in short story submissions last year, too, and it's always fascinating what different areas of writing our participants are familiar with. Short stories or novels, genre fiction or contemporary--we always get a wide range in writing backgrounds, thus, we also get a wide range of questions about how the submission process works. Everyone has different priorities, and different points of confusion, so I enjoy seeing questions it never would have occurred to me to ask.

Did you contribute a story to the anthology, and if so, where did you get the inspiration for it?

Julia: I did contribute a story this year! It's an old one, from way back during the Dark Ages (aka 2012), when I was seventeen. Because it's been so long, I don't entirely remember the thought process that went into writing it, but I believe I wrote it based off a prompt about relationships formed through the internet. (It's much sweeter than most of my writing, but I figured the anthology could use a little boost of levity and it fit really well with Brett's ADORABLE contribution.)

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to submit a story this year. One of the downsides of being a writer as an adult is that you have to start scheduling into your day. Don't get me wrong, this is something you have to do as a young writer too, but when you start mixing in work and all of the responsibilities you now have as an adult, it is easy to look at writing as less of a priority than it should be. And, trust me, I know how much crap kids these days have to go through if they want to simply get by; it's honestly ridiculous. So, if that's you, if your life is busier than you know what to do with but you still want to write, then take it from someone who knows too well: make the time for it. You'll thank yourself later.

Allison: I didn't contribute a story to the anthology this year (didn't have anything short enough that fit the theme), but this feels like a good place to mention that my contribution to last year's anthology has since been sold as a reprint to a YA short fiction podcast, Cast of Wonders. "What You're Missing" will appear in audio there sometime in 2018. I wrote the first draft of this dystopian short in high school and never had much confidence in it, so if it hadn't been for the story's inclusion in a Ch1Con anthology, I might never have dared to buff it up and send it out to the pro-level publication which eventually bought it. I hope all our participants (past, present, and future) will consider submitting their stories to similar markets--thinking of this anthology as not just an "end goal", but the starting point to even greater writing success. Which, really, is what the program is all about!

In your opinion, why is the Ch1Con Mentorship a successful program? Would you have told your past self to sign up for it?
Julia: I'm definitely a little biased here, as the director of the program, but I think what makes the Chapter One Events Mentorship Program so successful is the fact that it truly teaches mentees about each step of the publication process. We cover from query letters to editorial letters (and everything in between), so by the end, mentees really understand what publishing will look like when they're ready to pursue it. I would absolutely tell my past self to sign up for this program. Little Julia would have had a stroke over an opportunity like this. Learning how to read publishing contracts? Getting a behind-the-scenes look at the editorial process? I wish something like this had existed when I was first starting out.

Ariel: I think it's a successful program because a lot of young people, especially high schoolers, don't necessarily have access to serious workshopping for creative writing projects. Their English teachers might have a lower standard for creative work, or might only teach them editing in regards to analytical writing. This is a place where they can work on a story in a serious way, and I think that's great. I would tell my past self to sign up for it, for her own sake, but I'm not sure I would inflict my sensitive high school self on the Ch1Con volunteers. 
Katelyn: Oh my gosh, I love the Chapter One Mentorship program. My past-self would have LOVED this. I will be the first to admit that I was one of those kids with super unrealistic expectations of how the publishing industry works. To me, the idea that I would be a published author by the age of 18 (before I even graduated from high school) was completely realistic. As most people in publishing industry can attest: this is not true. So much work and effort goes into publishing a novel - even shorter works like poems and short stories - that a lot of young writers are completely unaware of. This process is invaluable because it provides young writers a step-by-step introduction to not only the publishing process in general, but also to a lot of the intricate behind the scenes work, like what an editorial letter looks like, how to write a query letter, and what the difference is between copyediting, proofreading, and editorial editing (among a bunch of other things). Instead of having to do a lot of research and crossing your fingers that you are getting the best advice, all of these tips, tricks, and lessons are in one convenient package. I would highly, highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to broaden their understanding of publishing, editing, and/or how to better themselves as a writer in general.

Allison: Speaking mostly about the week I mentor for, my strategy has been to gather up all the information I would've liked to know much earlier. Standard operating procedure, as well as little tips and tricks--learned from my own experience, and from listening to writers further along than I am. When you're a young (and/or new) writer, it's easy to get frustrated by how much you have left to learn, and while this feeling never really goes away (since we will all continue learning until we die) it's nice to get a wealth of information gathered together in one place. To get direct advice from your peers, and ask all your questions somewhere besides a browser search bar. I'd have loved to experience something like this program when I was first learning, as it would have saved me a lot of confusion and anxious Googling.

Vlog: The Best Decision I Ever Made as an Unpublished Writer

I often get asked about writing advice, so today I'm sharing the best bit of writing advice I have. And it's probably not what you think.


Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae shares their best writing advice—and it's probably not what you think. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: What Are Your Goals for the Rest of 2017?

Photo credit: paul bica on Flickr
So! Originally I had a fixing the first page critique scheduled for today, but the winner never sent me their excerpt and I didn't have enough time to draw a new winner, so instead let's discuss! Because discussions are fun.

There are 37 days of 2017 left (I know, right?). And with the new year approaching, I thought it might be fun to talk about what you'd like to accomplish before 2018 dawns. Mine include:

  • I already talked about my book goals so I won't reiterate them, but in short: read a ton of books for fun. 
  • Finish THE RISING GOLD revisions. 
  • Build the end table that's been sitting in my room for too long. 
  • Get at least one bookshelf situated (yay!).
  • Finish playing Final Fantasy XV.
  • R E L A X

It's been a very intense Fall for me, but with things soon winding down, I'm very much looking forward to some much-needed Me time. And with that comes (hopefully) completing some goals that I've been wanting to accomplish for a while. 

What about you? What are your goals for the rest of 2017?

Twitter-sized bite:
What are you goals for the rest of 2017? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Demystifying (Some) Writing Lingo

There are looooots of terms frequently used in the writing world, and they aren't always really explained. So today I'm sharing a quick run-down of some important and often-used terms.


Twitter-sized bite:
Frequently used writing terms can sometimes get confusing, so @Ava_Jae breaks down quite a few in their vlog. (Click to tweet)
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