Author Archives: Coe Booth

About Coe Booth

I write books for teens.

Keeping the Momentum

congratulationsCongratulations to all the NaNoWriMo winners! You all rock!

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is still something I’ve actually never tried; the 50,000 word goal intimidates me too much. I mean, I’ve barely written that many words in a year — definitely not a month. But still, I have huge respect for everyone who participated, even those who fell short of that (quite possibly insane) goal.

There’s something so admirable about dedicating an entire month to one writing project, maintaining your focus day after day, and learning to silence your inner critic long enough to keep pushing ahead, even when your novel seems to have veered off in a rather unfortunate direction.

That’s one of the main benefits of NaNoWriMo — you don’t have time to stop and analyze what you’re writing. You have to keep your head down and get those words on the page… now!

And when you think about it, isn’t that the kind of determination writers should have all the time, every month? We shouldn’t have to wait ’til November rolls around to make our novels-in-progress our priority, right?

Well, guess what?

It’s December 1st — a shiny new month! And if you participated in NaNoWriMo (or not!), you can start this month with a NaNoWriMo-esque kind of energy and dedication. It’s all about momentum, isn’t it? If you didn’t get it last month, maybe you can get it now! And you don’t need to set a 50,000 word goal or anything, but you can write every day. And you can move your project 31 days closer to a complete draft.

Let me put it this way: Every month can be National Novel Writing Month… in our minds.
🙂

Start now!
~Coe~

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In The Cloud

I’m an out and proud fountain-pen-and-notebook-aholic. I might have written about these addictions a few (hundred) times, like here and here. I love inking up my pens, opening a pretty notebook, and journaling for days. In fact, I’ve been keeping handwritten journals forever, well, since I was in middle school anyway.

But recently, I made a big change and, so far, I’m really liking it. I switched from keeping a physical journal to using a digital one. There are many choices out there for digital journaling, something for all kinds of computers, tablets, and phones, but the one I’m using is called Day One. (There’s a version for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, and yes, I have them all!)


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So why switch to a digital journal?

One reason I made the change is, when I kept a handwritten journal, I always felt there was no reason to open the journal unless I had something to write about, something important-ish. And the prettier (and more expensive) the journal, the more pressure I felt to make each entry meaningful. Last year, I bought a journal in Paris that is so adorable, I’ve NEVER written a word in it.


With a digital journal I never feel that way. Hey, it’s just words on a screen; there’s no need to be fancy. And if I ramble on and don’t make any sense, I can just delete the words and rewrite it. No need to worry about marring my beautiful journal!

Another thing I like is that digital journals seem to encourage quick entries. Of course, there’s no limit to what you can write, but with a digital journal it’s nice to just pop open the app on your phone and write a twitter-length entry, just a line or two about what’s on your mind. I also really like how easy it is to attach photos to your post. These make the journal entry beautiful to look at, and I’m sure in a few years, when I look back over this journal, I’ll be glad to see all those pictures, too.


Digital journals also let you tag entries to help you find them later, save your location and weather information, and if you’re the kind of person who likes to share entries with other people (do people really do this?), you can export your journal as a PDF, which looks great, especially with all the pictures.


Does this mean I no longer use my fountain pens and notebooks? You would have to pry them from my cold, dead hands!  I just don’t journal with them anymore. Now, when I want to do my so-called deep, introspective writing (ha ha), I reach for one of my devices instead.
  And I can say without a doubt, I’ve written way more entries now than before. It’s just so easy. And so beautiful.


There are so many people who want to keep a journal but never seem to find the time to get started. If that’s you, try keeping a digital journal instead. They’re fun, as easy as posting something on Instagram or Twitter, and totally private (and password protected.)


Keeping a journal is so important, especially for writers. If you’ve been hesitant about taking the leap into the world of journaling, try one of the digital journals out there. You might find it more fun than you thought it would be.

~Coe~

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It’s That Time of Year

It’s Labor Day here in the U.S., so you know what that means — a day off!!!

Actually, I don’t think writers ever really get a day off. Sure, we can spend the day at the beach or at a picnic, but our writer brains are always at work. We’re always observing people, listening to conversations, reading, experiencing something new, and getting inspiration from the people and things around us.

But Labor Day means something more than just a holiday for me. Labor Day still signals my brain that summer is over and it’s back-to-school time. Here in New York City, school starts next week, so Labor Day is that time of year to stock up on school supplies. (Yes, I miss those days!)

So, just to get myself in the mood, I decided to refresh my supplies by buying (or eyeing) some new things. Here is my Back-to-School list:

1.  Whitelines Notebook

I had just finished my old notebook, a Rhodia Webnotebook, so I picked up this cute A5 black Whitelines notebook. Whitelines is my favorite brand of notebooks; the paper is wonderful, especially for fountain pen users. And these notebooks are oh so purdy!

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2.  TWSBI Diamond 580 Fountain Pen

I haven’t actually bought this yet; I promised it to myself after I finished my current WIP. But since my deadline is in ONE WEEK (gah!), I’ll have my hands on this beautiful fountain pen in no time. Can’t wait!!!

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3.  Laptop Stand

I’ve been having some pain and stiffness in my neck lately, probably from writing hunched over my laptop for hours at a time. So I invested in the Aidata Laptop Stand, which raises the screen up to eye level. This one wasn’t too expensive, and it supports my extremely huge, heavy 15″ MacBookPro with no problem. It’s also collapsible. I highly recommend it if you get pain in your neck or upper back when you write. (You’ll need an external keyboard to use it though.)

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4.  Editorial for iPad

I need a new text editor like, well, like I need another notebook and fountain pen! But since I do more and more writing in coffee shops on my iPad (with an external keyboard), I convinced myself I really needed a new writing app. And this one is fantastic, especially if you’re a fellow geek! Will it help me write better or faster? Absolutely not. But, hey, sometimes you have to treat yourself. I mean, c’mon, it’s a holiday!

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Well, that’s it for me. I can’t break the bank on “school” supplies when I’m not even in school, now can I?

So, tell me, what’s on your Back-to-School shopping list this year?

~Coe

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Read the Memo

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Every now and then, whenever I think the scenes I’m writing are kind of flat, kind of useless, I turn to my personal writing mentor, David Mamet!  Yes, David Mamet, the playwright who won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for Glengarry Glen Ross, as well as a bunch of other awards for his plays and movies!

Well, evidently, he created and was the executive producer of the TV show The Unit, and while he was there he wrote a memo to his writing staff that has become known as a Master Class on Writing.

This memo is great! It’s like a genius playwright’s desperate attempt to remind his staff what writing is all about. In my imagination, Mamet wrote this memo at, like, 3:00 in the morning — angry and frustrated with the scripts his staff was turning in. I mean, this is a long memo, entirely in all-caps, and he didn’t even take the time to correct the spelling and grammar errors.

The man was probably on fire!

And though the memo is about scriptwriting, a lot of what he has to say can be helpful to those of us who write novels and stories for children. It really is the perfect way to remind yourself just what we can accomplish with our scenes when enough attention is paid to each and every one of them.

You can read the whole thing on movieline.com, but here are some excerpts (slightly edited by me to keep this site PG!)

“TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT
GREETINGS.
AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.
THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN DRAMA AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.

QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL.
SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.
1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?
THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.

EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.
THIS NEED IS WHY THEY CAME. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET WILL LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO FAILURE – THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS OVER. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE NEXT SCENE.

ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE PLOT.

ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.
YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT “INFORMATION?”
AND I RESPOND “FIGURE IT OUT”

THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.NOT TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
ANY[ONE] CAN WRITE, “BUT, JIM, IF WE DON’T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME”
WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO REALIZE THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
YES BUT, YES BUT YES BUT YOU REITERATE.
AND I RESPOND FIGURE IT OUT.

START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.

LOOK AT YOUR LOG LINES. ANY LOGLINE READING “BOB AND SUE DISCUSS…” IS NOT DESCRIBING A DRAMATIC SCENE. ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SH*T.

ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SH*T.

DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SH*T.   

Sure, not all of this applies to us. We’re not writing for a visual medium. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something about keeping our writing dramatic — keeping our readers turning pages!

So, when you need a kick in the butt by a man who knows how to turn a scene, trust me, do what I do. Read the memo!

And don’t write a crock of… well, you get it!!!

🙂

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Letting Go

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About a month ago, I did something.

After working on my current WIP for a very long time, I decided to delete the whole thing. I took the entire Scrivener file, threw it in the trash can, and immediately clicked EMPTY TRASH! I wanted it off my computer. Gone.

This was not an easy thing to do, let me tell you!

The WIP wasn’t awful. It wasn’t. I had just gotten off to a not-quite-right start, but it took me a looong time to realize it. So I kept writing and writing, waiting for it all to magically “come together.” It didn’t. I was spinning, adding more and more, not really sure where anything was going or what it was all about anymore.

Sigh.

There’s something about working on a novel for a long time that makes it more difficult to let go. I held on and on, ignoring that inner knowledge that was telling me this wasn’t it. I guess I didn’t want all that time I spent on it to be for nothing.

But sometimes you have to let go.

Deleting that document allowed me to stop, to wipe the slate clean, and then start again. It gave me the chance to remember the original idea, which had gotten lost somewhere along the line. And I can’t tell you how happy I am that I made this decision!

So, if you’re in a similar position, writing something you’re not sure is going anywhere, try deleting the whole thing and starting again. It’s only words, right? Right??? And really, there’s nothing as inspiring as a fresh, clean document with a blinking cursor just waiting for you to start… again.

~Coe~

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by | December 3, 2012 · 8:37 am

Getting Started… Again

Over here at the Write At Your Own Risk blog, we’ve taken a much needed end-of-summer break to recharge our collective battery, change our blogging platform, and refresh our look. Aren’t we purdy now?
🙂

I love new beginnings. There’s nothing better than typing Chapter One on a blank computer screen or breaking in a brand new notebook that’s just been waiting for a new poem or story. It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

If you’re anything like me, however, you have a million ideas for things you’d like to start… one day. Oh boy. I have ton of them — short stories, novels, movie scripts, blogs, TV series, etc. etc. etc. There’s an embarrassing amount of things I’d like to do but have never taken the time to think through or flesh out.

Oh, who am I kidding? Once I write the idea down, most of the time I never even see it again!

“The sure sign of an amateur is somebody who has a million plans that all start tomorrow.”
— Steven Pressfield in Turning Pro

It’s October 1st now. There are three full months left in 2012. Why not take a moment to look through your old notebooks to see if any of those ideas have potential? Perhaps there’s something there you’ve never spent any time actually considering doing. Perhaps you were just waiting for the right time. Perhaps you’ve talked yourself out of something before talking yourself into it.

Maybe, if you spent a little more time seeing if one of those ideas had potential, it might be the next big thing you throw yourself into. By the end of the year, that little idea in the back of a notebook somewhere could be on its way to becoming a finished project!

The Write at Your Own Risk blog has started again. What will you start today?

~Coe

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A Little Nostalgia

Do you ever long for the good old days?  Do you wish you had one of those old-fashioned manual typewriters so you can bang out your novels the way the all-time literary giants used to do?

Well, now you can write with the convenience of your computer (please use Scrivener!) and the noise of an old clackity typewriter.  Check this out:

I’ve been using Noisy Typer all day and it’s so much fun — especially the satisfying little ding.

And it’s free!  🙂

~Coe~

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