End of Year Countdown: 5 Top Fives of 2017

Photo credit: derekskey on Flickr
Somehow, it's time for the last post of 2017! Wow. Strange to think 2018 is basically here—and what a whirlwind of a year it's been.

But of course, last post of 2017 means it's time to continue Writability's annual tradition of sharing my five top fives. So here we go!

Top 5 Most Popular Posts (on Writability) of the Year

Like last year, I used Google Analytics to find the most popular posts of 2017. Interestingly, while some of them overlapped with last year, many of them didn't.

  1. Why Use Past Tense?
  2. Why Use Present Tense?
  3. Young Adult vs. New Adult: What's the Difference?
  4. Writing Tip: Describe with Telling Details—Setting
  5. How to Write a Great Twitter Pitch

Top 5 Favorite (Writerly) Tumblr Blogs of the Year

Tumblr is awesome and there's lots of great bookish stuff there. Here are many of the writerly/readerly blogs I reblog the most from.

Top 5 Favorite Books of the Year

Top 5 Favorite Twitter Accounts

  • @Celeste_pewter for her accurate, patient, and incredibly useful political knowledge and down-to-earth advice. 
  • @Bibliogato for their perfect blend of writerly and political tweets. 
  • @ericsmithrocks for his seriously adorable corgi and baby pictures mixed with hilariously relatable writerly and readerly tweets. 
  • @veschwab for her incredibly open and sobering writerly tweets. 
  • @RileyJayDennis for her consistently great information on trans issues. 

Top 5 Favorite Movies of the Year

What? Top five movies? Yes, this is a new category, but I like movies and this year had some truly great ones. So without further ado, make sure you catch these if you haven't already.

  • Wonder Woman
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
  • Logan

So those are my top fives of 2017—do you have any favorites of the year you'd like to share?

Happy New Year, everyone!

Twitter-sized bites:
Writer @Ava_Jae shares their top fives of 2017—what are some of your favorite writing resources of the year? (Click to tweet)

'Twas the Night Before Christmas (For Writers)

A fun yearly holiday (re-)post tradition, with apologies to Clement C. Moore, written by yours truly.

Photo credit: John-Morgan on Flickr
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the night
Not a writer was writing, not word was in sight.
Blank pages were scattered on desks and on floors,
In hopes that the manuscripts would leap from their drawers.

The radio was humming a song of good cheer,
Yet I, tortured writer, wished a muse would appear.
And I with my coffee and family asleep
Did stare at the page trying hard not to weep.

When out in the snow there came such a noise,
I fell from my chair, disregarding all poise.
I ran to the door, my heart in my throat,
And did throw it open, forgetting my coat.

And Christmas lights glowing on glittering snow
Seemed just for a moment to put on a show.
When to my astonishment—I’ll admit I did shout,
Came a sleigh from the sky led by reindeers on route.

A driver with eyes spilling over with laughter,
His face I did know I’d remember thereafter.
With a beard so white and his cheeks set aglow,
He waved and he smiled, “It’s me, don’t you know!”

I gaped for a moment and stuttered and said,
“This cannot be real—it’s all in my head!”
But Santa, he snickered and said with delight,
“I hear, my dear child, that you love to write.”

“It’s true,” I said, looking down at my feet,
“But a writer I’m not—I’ve admitted defeat.”
And Santa, he frowned—looked me straight in the eye,
And he said, “You’re a writer, don’t let your dream die.”

So I told him my troubles, how the words wouldn’t come,
And he said, “It’s a gift—it won’t always be fun.
It won’t always be easy or simple or kind,
But for writing, my child, is what you were designed.”

And he lifted my chin with his finger and said,
“These troubles you’re having—they’re all in your head!
So go back inside and rest for the night,
But know that tomorrow, you’ll write at first light!”

He climbed back on his sleigh and took off in the air,
The reindeers—they trampled the stars with their flair.
So inside I went and turned off the TV,
And sat by the fire with a hot cup of tea.
Asleep, there I fell, and I dreamt of the page
And when I awoke—my mind a golden age!
I rushed to my computer and typed until dawn,
His words, I soon realized—they were right all along!

In hindsight I suppose, I shouldn’t have been surprised,
For that day it was Christmas, true and undisguised.
And that man that I saw, whether he was Santa or not,
He brought to my mind things that I had forgot.

A writer’s a writer every day of the week,
On good days, on bad days, on nights that seem bleak.
But I do what I can and what I can is to write,
As Santa reminded me to my delight.

So next time your writing refuses to flow,
Remember what Santa said to me and know,
You’re a writer tonight and always will be,
For writing is truly what makes you feel free.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Twitter-sized bites:
Author @Ava_Jae shares a special version of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" for writers. Enjoy! (Click to tweet)

Vlog: My 2018 Resolutions

It's that time of year again! Today I'm talking my 2018 resolutions. What are your resolutions for the new year?


What are your 2018 resolutions?

Twitter-sized bite:
The end of 2017 is here and @Ava_Jae shares their 2018 resolutions. What are you resolving to do next year? (Click to tweet)

2017 Year in Review

Photo credit: Georgie Sharp on Flickr
NOTE: Just want to let you guise know there won't be a fixing the first page critique this month—but it'll start up again in January, don't worry. :) 

So way back in 2014 I began this tradition of writing a year in review post. 2015's is here, and you can check out 2016's as well, if you so desire, but now, of course, is time to wrap up 2017.

And what a year it's been.

January was very much a waiting period for me, but it was also the month I began a new treatment regimen for my chronic illness, which was necessary because I was not doing great, chronic-illness-wise. It was a huge step though, and I was terrified, but I did it anyway (which is kind of a theme for 2017).

February was my birthday, and the universe dropped an awesome birthday present in my lap: I was accepted into the grad school program of my dreams with a great scholarship to boot. I was beyond excited—but also terrified because it required moving 600+ miles on my own. And while emotionally I was very ready to spread my wings and move out, committing was still really scary.

At the end of the month, I also got into my first-ever car accident. I was T-boned at a four-way stop, and consider myself very lucky because while my SUV's driver's side door was trashed, the car that hit me was mercifully a sedan and I was completely unharmed. The accident was also deemed the other guy's fault so while it still ended up being an expensive experience, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

March was a quiet month. I basically spent it debating whether or not I was going to do the grad school/moving out thing. I also wrote up a proposal for a writer-in-residence application in my potentially-new-city and immediately fell in love with the project.

April I got my part-time job back with a promotion. April was also the month I finally committed to grad school, and also booked my flight to visit my new city the next month and, uh, find a place to live. And by April I was starting to finally feel the effects of my new treatment, and much to my relief, it was helping pretty significantly.

May I began plotting The Rising Gold, the last book of my trilogy (!!!). I also flew out to my new city, found a place to live, visited my new school, and did all sorts of tourist-y things as I tried to imagine myself living there. To my relief and delight I really enjoyed my visit, and I left pretty confident I was going to enjoy my new home.

In June I began The Rising Gold's first draft—a draft that kicked my butt in a lot of ways and took way longer than I expected to complete (this too, seems to be a 2017 theme in my writing, at least). I believe June was also the month I booked my one-way ticket to my new city, which was a scary—but exciting—final step.

July I kept working on The Rising Gold while also starting to really prepare for my impending move. It was a bit of an odd summer, because I was stuck in a holding pattern before my life changed drastically.

August was a huge month. I finally finished first drafting The Rising Gold, got my Into the Black ARCs, packed all my things, donated a ton of books, mailed all my things to my new place, and then on the last day of the month, said a (very) tearful goodbye to my dog and my family, got on a plane and flew to my new city.

September was my first month on my own. I successfully had my part-time job transferred (which also equalled a much-needed pay raise because minimum wage laws in my new state are wayyyy better than my old state), got a new rheumatologist, got myself a therapist, began ordering furniture for my new bedroom, and, you know, started grad school—where I began using my pronouns for the first time. I also got to meet a bunch of author friends I'd known on Twitter for years in person for the first time, which was beyond wonderful. It was a month with a lot of changes and meeting new people but overall, I was feeling good.

October was overwhelm month when I realized working a 30-hr part-time job and grad school and freelancing and being an author didn't mix well (surprise!). I was falling behind on writing work and school work, so I put in a request to change my hours at my part-time job, which eventually got approved, but didn't come into effect until mid-November. On the upside, Beyond the Red paperbacks were released and I got my Into the Black author copies. I also finally came out as trans masculine nonbinary and began using my pronouns more widely. Hooray!

November was a huge month. Into the Black hit the shelves and I had my very first launch party (which was awesome!). November was also unfortunately the month I had a rather traumatic experience at work that involved an irate customer screaming homophobic slurs at me at the top of his lungs. That part was terrible, but so many good things happened too: I had my first Thanksgiving with family near my new home, I bought myself some guy clothes that both fit me in style and physically fit me (which feels amazing!), I realized I'd already made some really great new friends, and my first semester at grad school started wrapping up.

Then December! December has been great so far. I finished up my first semester of grad school earlier this week, got myself more guy clothes, saw a psychiatrist for the first time (which went well!) and got my vacation days approved so I can spend my Christmas with family I haven't seen in years, so that'll be really nice. Now I'm desperately trying to catch up on all the things I fell behind on, and am aiming to try to finish The Rising Gold revisions before the year is out, and also read a ton, and also give myself time to breathe and r e l a x because boy do I need it.

But overall? I really, really am happy. This huge life change, though absolutely terrifying, has been everything I was hoping for and more. I'm more confident and overall the happiest I've ever been. And that's beyond worth every stumble and scary step along the way.

How was your 2017?

Twitter-sized bite:

Author @Ava_Jae shares their 2017 year in review. Did you have any big moments this year? (Click to tweet)

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.
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