Friday, October 31, 2014

NaNo and Beyond: Creating Word Count Goals

It's almost November! Sure, the holidays are coming, but ask a writer why November is exciting and you'll probably hear, "NaNoWriMo," which stands for National Novel Writing Month. Most of us call it NaNo.

I'm not participating this year, but I apply some useful NaNo tips every time I write a first draft. My favorite tip is to pre-plan how long it will take me to write my book. It's pretty simple. I take out an index card and my calendar, and I assign a word count goal for each day and a target word count for each week until the book will be done.

When I'm actually writing, I highlight each day in either pink or yellow. Pink is for the days I meet or exceed my goal, and yellow is for the days I don't meet my goal.

This method keeps me on track. I write my books in a much shorter span of time when I map out the goals. Try it!

For my writer friends, are you doing NaNo? For everyone else, are you excited November is almost here? I am!!

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Excites This Busy Woman

The calendar has been winking at me for over a month. One day stands out with its arms open wide.

Yes, I am over-the-top excited for this Saturday!!

You might be wondering what event could possibly be this momentous for me to anticipate it for so long.

It's a FREE day!!

Yes, that's right. I have NOTHING scheduled for Saturday. No cross country meets, no traveling, no visits, no meetings--nothing but 24 hours of unscheduled bliss.

I have big plans for it, too. I'm listing them in no particular order:

1. Yoga pants. All day.
2. ESPN's College Gameday. Hours of commentary while I sip coffee and smile.
3. Dips, dips, and more dips to snack on while watching college football games. (I'm thinking hot black bean dip, buffalo chicken dip, and maybe some guacamole. All to be eaten while I'm in my yoga pants.)
4. A random nap. Maybe two.
5. No chores. Repeat that. NO CHORES.
6. Snacking on Halloween candy.

I might catch up on my reading. I might not. All I know is I haven't had a day off in months, and I'm super excited to make the most of this one.

Do you have big plans this weekend? Share!!

Have a terrific day!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

20 Random Things About Me

The lovely and hilarious, Jessica R. Patch, tagged me last week to share 20 random things about myself. Her list made me laugh and smile, so I'm linking it here, "Jessica Patch: 20 Random Things."

1. How tall are you?

I'm 5'4" but I'm pretty sure I'm shrinking.

2. Do you have a hidden talent? What is it?

Hidden? Not really, but I tend to act out conversations when telling a story. It's more of a quirk!

3. What is your biggest blog-related pet-peeve?

Oh, this is easy. When comments with spam links slip through. Ugh!! We don't want your itch cream or whatever you're selling!

4. What is your biggest non-blog-related pet peeve?

When people chew their gum loudly, snapping it, popping it, making the firecracker noises with it. Gum drives me nuts! I probably need therapy.

5. What's your favorite song?

"Dear John" by Ryan Adams featuring Norah Jones (the version below is Norah Jones featuring Ryan Adams--two different albums, one great song) gets me every time!

6. What's your favorite Etsy shop that isn't yours?

I like photography shops. Ana Pontes has some gorgeous pictures. (

7. What's your favorite way to spend free time when you're alone?

Give me a stack of magazines, a comfy blanket, a full pot of coffee, and some HGTV. I'm happy!

8. What's your favorite junk food?


9. Do you have a pet or pet(s)? If so, what kind and what are their names?

Yes, I have a mini-dachshund, Sophie. She's my writing buddy and lap warmer.

10. What is your #1 favorite fiction and non-fiction books?

I can't pick just one fiction. It's impossible! For fiction, I love The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, the Cynster series by Stephanie Laurens, Demon by Tosca Lee and Man of Power by Mary Wibberley. For non-fiction, it's hand's down The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. I've read it three times, and I'm currently re-reading a section each day.

11. What is your favorite beauty product?

I slather Queen Helene's Cocoa Butter Creme on my face and neck every night.

12. When were you last embarrassed?

Um, yesterday and the day before and the day... I embarrass myself often. Writers groups, in particular, bring out the loonbag in me. I've walked into men's rooms on more than one occasion. I get excited and nervous and don't pay attention!

13. If you could drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Coke. And coffee. And hot black tea. :)

14. What's your favorite movie?

I love The Cutting Edge! And I also love The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Oh, and Christmas movies!

15. What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?

Hmm...I definitely wasn't the prom queen or the valedictorian. Can't play an instrument to save my life. Was the last to be chosen many days in gym class. I love hanging with my friends, so loner is out. I wasn't a cheerleader, but I was a pom pom girl. I'll just say I made it through high school and leave it at that!

16. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

In a pretty cabin on Lake Michigan, preferably in the southern part of Michigan because it's warmer!

17. PC or Mac?


18. Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?

I love when my husband writes me anything, and the birthday card he gave me this year really touched me.

19. Favorite celebrity?

Probably Reese Witherspoon. I think she's adorable and always dresses cute!

20. What blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with?

I'm really blessed--I'm good friends with many bloggers. The online community can be so welcoming!!

Your turn! Tell me one random thing about yourself! 

Have a terrific weekend!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Strengthening Weak Areas in Your Writing

I'm writing a first draft. I'm not a fast drafter, and I'm not a revise-as-you-go writer either. I'm somewhere in between.

There are days when I have to glue myself to the chair in order to achieve my word count goal. I should have invested in superglue this week. Yikes. The first fifty pages are slow and torturous for me.

Each writing session starts with a review of the previous scene. Weaknesses glare at me. I tidy up the details before writing a new scene.

Here are the weaknesses I'm fighting in this book:

1. Boring, useless, overdone gestures/action beats (I fight this weakness in EVERY book!)

2. Piles of backstory

3. Not enough motion to ground the reader physically in the scene

Here's how I'm strengthening these weaknesses:

1. I keep The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale next to me so I can use better descriptors. Some of the action beats I just delete.

2. The backstory? I highlight any obvious sections and move them when I've written a scene they'd fit into.

3. I add movements within the scene so the reader has a better mental picture of what's happening.

Each book brings a new challenge. I'm constantly on the lookout for lazy writing. I've successfully strengthened my writing by actively trying harder.

The weaknesses I've made progress with over the years:

1. Setting the scene

2. Giving each scene weight with either a story goal/conflict/failure or an action/reaction/decision

3. Weaving the spiritual thread throughout the story

4. Balancing dialogue and introspection (my earlier manuscripts had tons of dialogue and not enough introspection for what the romance market requires)

I still have plenty of weak areas that will scream at me when I finish the draft and start revising, but it's good for my soul to fix what I can in the first draft.

By the way, many experts recommend you turn off your internal editor and just write the draft. I think that's really good advice for anyone who struggles to make progress on a manuscript. It just doesn't work for me.

When I've turned off my internal editor in the past, it created so much extra work because the story veered off and my word choices were lazy. I'd rather keep my internal editor on and write slower in the first draft. It saves me tons of work in the revising stage.

Works for me, but you have to find what works best for you. :)

If you're a writer, how do you fight your weaknesses? I'd love to hear your tips!

Have a terrific day!

Friday, October 17, 2014

3 Fun Websites for Fiction Writers

Fiction writers and the Internet--terrific combination! I Google things often when I'm writing a first draft. The spelling of a word, a grammar question, pictures of my characters, job details, you name it--I'm checking it!

I bookmark the sites I like and organize them in folders in my bookmarks toolbar. Here are three fun websites that fiction writers will find helpful.

1. Behind the Name: Random Name Generator 

This site is awesome! If you're stuck on choosing a name for your character or want a name specific to a culture or country, start here. Simply select if you want the first name and middle name or only the first name, the gender, and any filters that apply to your character. The generator will spit out a name for you.

a. I chose first name only, female, Russian and got Rufina.
b. I chose first and middle name, male, Hillbilly and got Joey Ray Hoghauler.
c. I chose first and middle name, female, French and got Ariane Rosette.

This site also allows you to browse names and their meanings and check the etymology.

2. 100 People Doing Extraordinary Things

When I'm in a plotting rut, the characters I'm brainstorming tend to act similarly to characters I've written in the past. Instead of moaning and searching my brain for fresh ideas, I read lists like this. Seeing the unique things real people have done in their lives always sparks a way to make my characters fresh.

Warning, offensive language blasts you in the first sentence; however, the list itself inspires me when I'm plotting. 

3. Writers Helping Writers

This site was formerly The Bookshelf Muse. I own The Emotion Thesaurus, and I've used many tools on the site itself. There are articles and charts and tips for just about everything a fiction writer deals with. Scroll down the site, look to the right sidebar, and find Categories. Have fun! You could read through the articles for hours.

What fun websites have you found lately? 

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Now Offer Paid Critiques

Two weeks before getting "the call" (you can read about it in "Celebration Time, I Sold!"), I decided to offer a paid critique service. I'm happy to announce The Critique Boutique is now open!

I've belonged to several critique groups over the years, and I currently have two excellent cp's who have become two of my best friends. (Thank you, Wendy Paine Miller and Jessica R. Patch!) I'm blessed that way! But I didn't always have reliable critique partners. In fact, I had long periods with no extra insight on my manuscripts. During those times I had to rely on contest feedback and my own revising skills.

Guess what? Contest feedback and my revising skills weren't enough, and I knew it. But I wasn't comfortable asking just anyone to read my work, and I couldn't afford an expensive freelance editor. So I made an effort with other bloggers, reached out to those I thought would be a good fit and slowly forged the relationships needed to have strong, long-lasting partnerships.

Along the way, I learned a lot. I've critiqued books in a wide array of romance genres: paranormal, historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, inspirational, and women's fiction with romantic elements. Additionally, I joined RWA and took advantage of everything it had to offer, including joining a local chapter (I served on the board of MVRWA for four years), studying the monthly magazine (RWR), and attending their annual conference to pitch, take classes, and network with other romance writers.

About five years ago, I joined ACFW and got serious about learning how to write Christian romance. I finaled in the Frasier contest (2012) and the Genesis contest (2013). Over the last seven years, I've studied more than thirty books on the writing craft. Additionally, I've worked hard at building my author platform. I can spot weaknesses and strengths in a writer's web-presence because I constantly analyze my own.

In April 2015, my debut novel, Small-Town Bachelor, releases through Harlequin Love Inspired. All that work paid off, and my writing wouldn't be where it is today without valuable feedback.

While I'm able to spot strengths and weaknesses in all fiction, I only critique sweet or inspirational romance novels. Why? I'm the most qualified to give advice for sweet or inspirational romance whether it's historical, romantic suspense, or contemporary. I read many books in these genres and understand the markets for them.

What Services are Offered in the Critique Boutique?

1. First Chapter Critique
2. First 50 Pages Critique
3. Synopsis Critique
4. Social Media Evaluation

In addition to a quick turnaround and affordable rates, you can expect an honest, thorough critique. I consider it a privilege to read your work. 

*Due to time constraints, I do not offer full manuscript critiques.

For a full breakdown of services, prices, my qualifications, testimonials, and terms, go to Critique Boutique. It's also a permanent tab on my navigation bar. If you have any questions, please e-mail me at critique(at)jillkemerer(dot)com. Just type "Critique question" in the subject line.

Would you help me spread the word about the Critique Boutique? You can share this post on Facebook or Tweet about it by clicking on the buttons below. 

Thank you!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fridays with Jill: New Vlog!

I'm super excited because I bought a new webcam! My old one was acting really funny, and I sure missed vlogging.

This means you have to put up with me and my webcam again. Sounds like a Mercer Mayer book, right? Me and My Webcam. Ha! I'm thinking of sharing a new webisode of "Fridays with Jill" on a regular basis, maybe weekly, maybe monthly. We'll see! :)

Fridays with Jill: October 10, 2014 Video

So what's new with you right now? 

Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A New Time Waster for Me!

I have an honorary black-belt in wasting time on Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media sites, but yesterday I found a new time waster. Like I need another one, right? Yes, I spent thirty minutes uploading pictures to Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo by Jill Kemerer

I love Flickr Creative Commons because it allows people to use photos as long as they follow the licensing rules. No matter what picture you use, you need to include attribution and a link back. (Attribution usually looks like this: Photo by XYZ. A link back is the URL linking the picture back to the original Flickr page.)

I used to post photos from the Creative Commons on this blog--with attribution and a link back, of course!--but after I added my "Pin It" button, I no longer use photos I have to attribute and link back. Why? Because when someone "pins" a photo from my blog, it shows up on their Pinterest board. If anyone clicks through the pin, they wind up here, at my blog. Yes, the attribution and link back are still here, but neither shows up on Pinterest.

Anyway, I'm still a big fan of Flickr Creative Commons, and since I take a lot of random pictures, I decided to share my photos too. I had fifteen good ones from a recent zoo visit, and I figured someone might want to use a great picture of a lion or a penguin. So I uploaded the batch. And tagged them. And made sure the Creative Commons attribution license was checked. Fun!

Here is my Flickr Creative Commons Stream! And, yes, they can be used by anyone as long as the licensing rules are followed.

On a side note, the fabulous Heidi McCahan interviewed me on her blog as part of the 31 Days blog carnival put on by The Nester! Please stop over (link is HERE) and say "hi"!

Do you take pictures of nature or other things people might enjoy? Have you ever considered letting other people use them for free on a site such as Flickr Creative Commons?

Have a terrific day!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Need a Little Fall Color in Your Life?

Yesterday I headed to one of my favorite parks to take pictures. The colors are coming out on the trees, and I wanted to catch them before they go full blown yellow and orange.

The weather was muggy and warm, which meant mosquitoes roamed. I'm not a mosquito lover. This actually worked out for my benefit, though, because I walked at a faster pace to avoid them. Exercise is a good thing!

People walked their adorable dogs, moms pushed strollers, and quite a few people rode bikes. I love the sounds of the woods. The leaves swishing and birds chirping are front and center, but if you listen closely, you hear the trickle of a stream and the buzz of little bugs.

This time of year brings different smells too. The fragrance is hard to define. It's a mixture of pollen, decay, and wetness. It's cedar and boxwood and mustard weed. It's heavy. It's fall.

The bathrooms at this park are super cute! They're remodeled to look like stalls in a barn. See?

Here's what you see inside the stall!

Believe it or not, there were still a ton of flowers blossoming. This one has a grasshopper on it, which I find amusing.

My favorite part of the walk? Seeing seven--SEVEN!!--cardinals in one small area! I stood there for ten minutes just watching them. What fun!

Here's one more picture of the beautiful colors. Enjoy!

What does your neighborhood look like in October? I'd love to hear about it!

Have a fantastic weekend!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to Get a Lot Done This October

I love the first day of October! I really don't know why. It just makes me happy. :)

I have big plans for October. One thing I've learned over the years? I have to be deliberate with my time. It's way too easy to slip into bad habits. My days get away from me, and at the end of the month I'm scratching my head and wondering why I didn't get anything done. Not this month!

Here's how I'm making the most of October:

1. Write down my business commitments.

Several things are already on my calendar. One of my critique partners sent her novel (yay!) and my other partner will be sending a novella (yay!) mid-month. I also have a guest blog post to put together, and I need to finish and submit a contracted short story. Additionally, the first of the month is when I update my website, so I'll be tackling that today.

2. Identify my main goal--the project that's most important for me to work on.

My main goal isn't listed on the business commitments above. I plotted a new novel this summer, and I want to write a large chunk of the rough draft. I add this to the list.

3. Review the family calendar. 

I'm blessed to be able to work from home, but most days I feel as if I have a second job on the night shift due to my children's activities. Weeknights mean cross country and football practice, cooking dinner and homework assistance. On weekends, my daughter has cross country meets, my son has baseball scrimmages and he's taking catechism classes.

Why is it important to keep these activities in mind? It's very, very hard for me to squeeze writing or other business tasks in at night or on weekends. If I don't work on them during the day, they don't get done.

4. Create a plan based on the above.

Critiquing will be a nice change of pace for me, so I'm heading into critique partner #1's work first. I'll also set a few hours aside to finish writing the short story, and I'll put the guest post together. Sometime next week, I'm starting my new novel. I'll also schedule time to revise the short story. When critique partner #2's novella arrives in my in-box, I'll probably start critiquing it and lower my word count for that week. Then, it's writing, writing, writing until the end of the month.

5. Set personal goals.

My personal goals this month are to continue my exercise routine and eat at least one serving of raw vegetables a day.


Organizing my month this way allows me to be flexible and gives more weight to my motivation.

You might want to add extra goals such as heading to the pumpkin patch, decorating the house for fall, or trying that new recipe. I hung a fall wreath on the door, so I'm good on decorating, and I'll be purchasing pumpkins from the ginormous cardboard box at Kroger. In the past, we've had lazy Octobers where I can make homemade cinnamon buns and spend a day at an apple orchard, but this is not that October!

I don't mind. I've accepted that each year brings its own challenges. If I can squeeze in an afternoon at a local park to take pictures of the fall colors, I'll be happy!

What do you want to accomplish this month?

Have a fabulous day!!