The Try-Fail Cycle: What makes an ending epic.

One of my favorite podcasts, Writing Excuses, introduced me to the idea of the Try-Fail Cycle a while ago, and as someone whose WIP revolves around someone’s competency, it hit pretty close to home.

Summed up, the Try-Fail Cycle is the progression of attempts a character makes toward their goal before achieving it in the end. It’s those failures that keep us rooting for the character and what makes that final win so epic.

This cycle applies to both character and plot development, and when they intersect, it’s this incredible hodge-podge of feels and goosebumps.

Let’s look at last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy as an example. Each of our heroes fails individually as well as a team prior to them coming together to kick total ass in the end. The way the film is plotted, we see that each character has their own issue to overcome because we see them fail as a result. If it weren’t for those fails, the epic ending would feel more like a plot device (looking at you, 2015’s Fantastic Four reboot).

But beyond how useful this concept is in developing our works in progress, I think it also relates to the writing process in general.

We try to write a book >> That first draft isn’t great.

We revise, send to beta readers >> Need to rework some things.

Have a new version of the MS post-beta >> Still need to flesh out and polish.

The glory of the Try-Fail Cycle is that the protagonist usually finds their win in the end. So don’t let your massive revision to-do list intimidate you. It’s just power for the course.

Happy writing!


For more information on the Try-Fail Cycle, check out Writing Excuses, Season 10, Episode 29: Why Should My Characters Fail Spectacularly?. Available on iTunes or their website, www.writingexcuses.com.

The Best Writing Advice Anyone’s Ever Given Me

So I got this idea from the Confessions Of A Writer Tag I did last week. The tag was created by my dear friend and fellow blogger, Nicolette Elzie, where you answer 20 questions about your writing and reading habits/preferences.

One of the questions was “What was the best writing advice you’ve ever received?”

My answer: Write the story you want to read.

I’ve mentioned this tidbit a few times in previous posts, but I want to expand on it because it affects more than one aspect of the writing game…

Here’s the long and hard truth of it: your novel, the thing you’ve been slaving over, may very well not get traditionally published. It sucks and that’s awful, but if you started writing for the monetary benefit or the “prestige,” this may not be a good venture for you to jump into.

AND even if you do get traditionally published, rest assured you will still spend more time with your manuscript than anyone else on this globe. So you might as well enjoy it.

Reason No. 1 – Fads are fickle beasts
So this first one applies more to YA than most audiences because the age group itself is in a constant state of flux. It’s that brilliant time in one’s life where you get to decide what kind of person you’re going to be, along with finding out what appeals to you on both superficial and deep-rooted levels. Granted, I wasn’t following the industry prior to Twilight (was in high school at the time), but since then, there are clear cut “fads” that have run through the YA SFF genre.

In a nutshell: Vampires >> Angels & Demons >> Dystopian

Of course there were sprinkles of mermaids and zombies in there, but the above ripped through the industry in a way that left some agents and editors “done” with the topic. But the important note here is that it commonly (there are outliers based on cultural prevalence) takes a minimum of two years to get from acquisition to bookshelves in traditional publishing. Basically, the books being acquired now [will be] published late 2017(ish).

So by the time you realize a “Fad” and decide to write to fit what’s “popular,” odds are you’ve already missed the boat.

Reason No. 2 – You’re going to be rereading the MS again and again and again.
I’ve said it before: your first draft is not you final draft. You’ll be rewriting and revising that thing a few times before you’re even ready to query, let alone go on submission, so don’t write a story you hate. Create a story and a world that you want to get lost in for hours. Create characters you want to spend days/weeks/months/years getting to know. That passion will shine through in the work and those who read it will pick up on it. 🙂

Reason No. 3 – You can’t please everyone.
Whether we like it or not, everyone has their biases. Because I write YA F, I’ve dealt with my fair share of up-turned noses by people in and outside the writing community. LitFic people scoff at genre. Adult genre scoff at the audience. Civilians (non-writers in this context) ask “oh, like Harry Potter and Twilight?”

hulk smash

^^How I feel when confronted with these situations…

Point is, prior to submission, the only person you need to worry about pleasing is yourself. Any advice/criticism you receive should be filtered through your wants for the story. No one knows the story better than you. No one knows the world better than you. No one knows the characters better than you.

No one can write your story but YOU.

So write the story you want to read and enjoy the project you’re working on.

Happy Writing!

5 Reasons To Participate in NaNoWriMo

For those of you who don’t know, National Novel Writing Month is this glorious writing challenge during the month of November where millions of writers strive to write 50k words toward their next novel project. It’s exhausting and exhilarating and one of my favorite months of the year… if only because it gives me an excuse to be a crazy, writing Gollum.

Not everyone is suited for NaNoWriMo, and that’s okay. Everyone’s creative process is different. But let me give you my top five reasons for trying the challenge this year…

1. It’s a fantastic starting point.
Here’s the thing, 50k is not a novel, at least not for YA and adult lit (I haven’t done enough research to be able to say what word counts apply to middle grade and chapter books). So even if you complete the challenge, you won’t have a completed manuscript. This challenge is meant to get you writing. Use it as such.

2. It’s an excuse to really, truly vomit out a draft.
Sometimes when I’m writing (and I know this to be true for other writers as well), I get so caught up in the quality of the words that I hardly get down a sentence. Because you’re so focused on meeting a word goal, you focus more on just spewing the plot out onto the page. But don’t forget to revise in the following months. I’d never recommend handing a NaNo draft to anyone for review.

3. The community is fantastic.
Okay, I know I’m a total fangirl for the writing community, but it’s such a wonderful, supportive thing! Whether you’re connecting with write-ins in person or online, there’s something about the NaNo Hive-mind that makes your fingers move twice as fast. Between word sprints, twitter challenges and the forums, you have a built-in support system of writers who commiserate with you on this epic word campaign.

4. Consistent encouragement to keep you motivated throughout the month.
Piggy-backing on No. 3, NaNoWriMo.org provides motivation through smaller word count challenges, medals for meeting different participation goals, AND motivational letters from published authors.

5. ALL THE GOODIES!
Of course there are other reasons to participate in NaNoWriMo more important than the pot of gold at the end of the grueling rainbow, BUT the winner’s circle doesn’t hurt. 😉 They always offer awesome discounts on writerly software, including but not limited to Scrivener (I would be so lost without this program…). I’m excited to see what sponsors they’ve accumulated this year.

Let me know in the comments below if you’re planning to participate this year! I’d love to know what ya’ll are working on. 🙂

Happy Writing!


If you are participating, find me on NaNoWriMo.org and add me as a writing buddy! My username is Juliet.Pierce. My 2014 Novel is titled Guarded. 2015 is Enveloped.

Writer’s Doubt: The Fine Line Between Useful & Awful

So in the past two years, my writing has grown and changed exponentially. I joined critique groups and found critique partners that have helped push me to write better prose. But the more my writing improves, the more pronounced my self-doubt becomes… makes a whole lotta sense, right?

Writer’s doubt isn’t exactly anything new. Everyone experiences it at some point, but what separates writers from people who want to write is how we deal with that doubt.

Writers take that doubt and turn it into fuel to write better stories. People who want to write let that doubt stop them from doing so.

Here’s the thing. A healthy amount of doubt keeps us humble and challenges us to do better. “Is this dialogue really necessary?” “Does this metaphor actually do what it’s suppose to?” “Am I actually portraying the right sentiment here?”

Those are useful questions when editing your manuscript.

“What the F am I doing with my life?” “No one could possibly love my stories.” “Why am I wasting my time with day dreams?”

Those are NOT helpful.

God’s honest truth: I’ve never asked whether I should stop writing. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had super crippling self-doubt. Had a fit of it last night actually. It was to the point where it felt like a vice on my heart. It sucked.

It was also NOT helpful.

I don’t think I could stop writing even if I wanted to. My characters and their stories would somehow separate one of my ribs and use it as a battering ram to get out (gruesome picture, I know). So the unhelpful self-doubt is nothing more than a painful annoyance that likes to make a fuss when it feels forgotten.

But when that happens, you just have to write through it. I know that’s easier said than done. But take that anxiety and turn it into words.

Rocking out to Florence and the Machine and Sia helps… that may just be me…

Happy Writing

Working Mindset & Imposed Deadlines

Writing is work. Plain and simple. In order to have something worth reading, you have to put the time in. There’s no other way. You have to do the work.

I know I’ve spoken many times about how it’s okay for the first draft to be rough. You’re getting a sense of your characters, their motivations, your world and all of its rules. Unfortunately once you finish that first draft, the lengthy revision stage begins to weigh down on you. It’s crushing and intimidating and awful. But it doesn’t have to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of self-deprecating rants about how my writing is god-awful and metaphors are the devil. Seriously, I’ve spent HOURS getting just one metaphor right. All because I desperately want others to love my characters and their stories as much as I do.

But I recently had a revelation about my writing process and what helps me stay productive. I know this won’t work for everyone, but here it is…

1. Take your story one draft at a time.

The hard truth of it is that you’re not going to become John Green overnight. It’s not going to happen. Even John Green didn’t become John Green overnight. It took multiple drafts and revisions to create books like The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns. So while I would love for the next draft of my WIP to be the last, I’m not going to stress myself out about it because in all honesty, I know it won’t be. But I’m also not going to think about how many revisions stand between me and querying because that’s a daunting idea that will only bring on another wave of crippling self-doubt.

2. Admit you are a baby writer. There are things you simply haven’t learned yet.

This isn’t an insult, I promise. Think of it more as your tether to reality. Like I said in No. 1, it takes time to cultivate your skill. So give yourself opportunities to grow and learn. Join a critique group or find critique partners. Go to writing conferences and workshops. Take a class. Your writing will thank you for it.

3. Don’t stop writing.

I know this one is hard, but seriously, your writing won’t improve if you sit back and wait for it to do so. You have to put in the words in order to grasp what it means to create a novel. Sarah J. Maas has said in multiple interviews how her first draft of Throne of Glass was its own learning experience. And if you’ve written more than one MS, you also know this to be true. So keep writing, keep learning.

4. Give yourself a deadline.

I don’t mean, “THIS BOOK SHOULD BE DONE BY NOV 1st!” No, because you’ll drive yourself crazy that way… trust me, I know. Give yourself word count goals or chapter goals. Start each week by saying, “I’m going to accomplish [X] this week.” And do it! Make and keep promises to your work and yourself. Confidence in one’s writing ability is a cumulative thing. Each promise you keep builds on the last until writing/editing is a part of your regular routine.

A really great place to start is with the Twitter Monthly Writing Challenge. It’s a commitment to writing 500 words a day. The community is incredibly supportive and encouraging. You can learn more here.


What about ya’ll? What revelations have you had about your writing that keeps you productive? Share in the comments below.

Happy Writing!