Vlog: Are Writing Classes Necessary?

Do you need to take writing classes to get published? Are they even helpful? Today I'm sharing my experience with creative writing in academia.


Have you ever taken a writing class? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Do you need to take writing classes to get published? Are they even helpful? @Ava_Jae shares their experience w/ creative writing in academia. (Click to tweet)

On Compartmentalizing

Photo credit: Alex Abian on Flickr
Like many writers, I juggle a lot of things at once.

Right now I have grad school. A part-time job. Freelance editing. And I'm an author with an active social media presence.

This month, alongside my regular responsibilities (the part time job, freelancing, social media things, everyday life stuff, etc.) I also had my third book due to my editor, as well as two essays. I tackled the book three revisions by doing what I know my brain does best: binge editing, in which I literally dedicated an entire day to revisions until it was done. That worked really well and allowed me to get that major responsibility out of the way so I could then focus on...everything else.

I won't pretend it's perfect—the stress has literally made my chronic illness flare up multiple times this month. But as I'm nearing the light at the end of the tunnel I'm feeling as though it might just be possible to do everything I need. Hopefully.

I still have all the other things due. But I've been realizing, as of late, the way I have to handle things is one at a time. I feel a little lighter knowing I got one major deadline down, and now I'm tackling the rest with new energy. And I'm thinking that maybe I should handle the some of my responsibilities the same way.

I compartmentalize a lot, but as I'm often juggling A Lot, I've found that it's really how my brain works best. If I can focus on one aspect at a time, and ignore the others while I'm getting one thing done, then I don't get overwhelmed with the mountain of things I need to tackle. And with each completed compartment, I feel even more prepared to handle the next.

This isn't going to work for everyone, obviously. But it's how I've been handling what is essentially four jobs, this semester, and I think I'm going to implement it even more as I go on. Because figuring out what strategies work best for your brain can go a long way toward not dropping all the balls at once.

Do you compartmentalize?

Twitter-sized bite:
How do you juggle multiple, major responsibilities while still meeting your deadlines? @Ava_Jae shares their experience. (Click to tweet

Vlog: Writing a Synopsis Before First Drafting??

What is a synopsis, why do so many writers hate it, and why in the world would I write one *before* the first draft? Today I'm sharing the plotting tool I never expected to like.


Have you ever tried writing a synopsis before the first draft?

Twitter-sized bite:
Writing a synopsis before the first draft is a thing? @Ava_Jae vlogs about the plotting tool they never expected to like. (Click to tweet)

Resources for Revision

I'm currently in the middle of revisions for both The Rising Gold and my #ownvoices project, so to say I have revision on the brain is an understatement. I use a couple programs to keep me on target and keep track of my progress, including:

  • Scrivener. I do all my first drafting and a big chunk of my revisions—any revisions before I send my project to my agent and/or editor, basically—in Scrivener. I like how I can visually track what I've added with different colors, so I can watch the unfolding development just through the colors in my manuscript. Plus Scrivener makes big picture edits—edits that involve moving scenes around or deleting them entirely—a lot easier because you can edit through the cork board.

  • myWriteClub. I still use myWriteClub to track my revisions! I enjoy having progress bars so I can see how much I've done, and it helps particularly on those days when I feel like I've worked hard but made little (or not enough) progress.

  • Tide. This is a new app I've added to my arsenal thanks to Katie Locke! This app basically has a timer and focus mode, where you work while the timer is going and then take a break when the time is up. If I'm having trouble focusing, it sometimes helps me shut out the distraction of my phone and focus on my work in snippets. Unrelatedly, I've started using the sleep mode too that has calming sounds to lull you to sleep then wakes you up with birds singing, which is kinda nice.

What programs do you use to revise?

Twitter-sized bites:
What programs do you use to revise? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Write Memorable Kiss Scenes

How do you write a YA kiss scene that's memorable for all the right reasons? Today I'm talking about some key things to remember while your characters smoosh their faces together.


What tips do you have for writing kiss scenes?

Twitter-sized bite:
How do you write a YA kiss scene that's memorable for all the right reasons? @Ava_Jae shares their tips. (Click to tweet)

On Grad School and Getting My MFA

Photo credit: permanently scatterbrained on Flickr
I'm now in my second semester of grad school, where I'm getting my MFA in Writing for Children, and life is good. Ridiculously busy—especially when I'm on deadline like right now—but good. To think that this time last year I was agonizing over whether moving 800 miles on my own to get a degree I didn't necessarily need was a good idea—and boy, am I glad I went for it because it's been an excellent idea. The best decision I've ever made, to be honest.

A big part of that is because I'm finally independent and in a place where I can make connections and plant roots—which feels so nice. But the program so far has been really valuable, too.

I'd heard loads of horror stories about MFAs, and how so many of the programs looked down on genre fiction and even those that didn't often looked down on children's literature—so as a YA spec fic author, I was initially hesitant to apply anywhere. Until I did my research and found a handful of programs nationwide that offered a children's lit-specific program in which I could continue honing my skills in the field I actually enjoyed.

Though it's still earlyish in my program, I can say it's definitely done that. But moreso, it's pushed me outside of my comfort zone. In my first semester I dabbled with Middle Grade and Picture Book writing for the first time—and now I have a Middle Grade project I'm excited about and moving forward with. With frequent critiques and need to constantly output work, I've got multiple projects fresh on my mind at all times, which keeps me creatively churning one way or the other.

Starting in the fall I'll begin working with a mentor with a chosen project, which will be a whole 'nother level of critique and creating new words. I'm excited about the future and juggling projects like never before, but at the end of it all I've have even more work I can use in my career. And that's pretty excellent.

While I certainly wouldn't say an MFA is essential to being an author (or a bachelor's degree for that matter, or college education at all), it's a step I'm really glad I took, both as a way to get me to spread my wings, and in terms of my creative output. I've got a ton going on right now, but it's all stuff I love.

Twitter-sized bite:
Curious about what getting a kidlit-focused MFA is like? @Ava_Jae shares their experience so far. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: What's it Like to Go on Submission?

What's it like to go on submission when traditionally publishing? What does going on submission even mean? Today I'm talking about this very important part of the traditional publishing process.


Any questions about the submission process? I'm happy to answer what I can! 

Twitter-sized bite:
What's it like to go on submission? @Ava_Jae talks about the last step before getting a book deal. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Critique Giveaway #42!

Photo credit: Happy Krissy on Flickr
So! Been a while since we've had a Fixing the First Page critique! I've decided I'm moving to an every-other-month schedule, but since we haven't had one since November, I'm kicking off February with a giveaway.

So let's do this, shall we?

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the forty-first public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Thursday, February 8 at 11:59 PM EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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