Brandi M Ziegler

Walking the path to publication one step at a time.

Category: Writing

Confessions of a Writer: Word Goals Give Me Hives

“When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘One word at a time’.”

~ Stephen King

I don’t know the word count of my WIP until the first draft is completed.

There. I said it.

I am so impressed by writers who set daily word count goals.

That shiz would drive me crazy. Too much pressure. Too much disappointment/self-loathing if I don’t reach it. Too much expectation for next time if I overachieve.

So what do I do then? I have daily scene goals.

I know how long my MS should end up to be an acceptable YA length (around 300 pages). I turn my word counter off and just write. My goal is a scene a day. Lately, I’ve been outlining my WIPs chapter by chapter, scene by scene. My last two MSS were about sixty scenes each. My scenes average five to ten pages.

I peruse my outline and pick a scene (Bam! Forget word counts or writing in order). I do this the night before after completing a previous scene. That way I daydream about it all day the next day and have an idea of what I want to write that night. Then I sit down and write. One scene at a time. Sometimes my scenes are four pages. Sometimes they’re eleven. Some days I write two or three because they flow into each other. As long as I write one a day, my draft is complete in about two months. Usually November is my jam and I write like mad, vibing off the NaNoWriMo folks, but I had a newborn in November.

February is my new November this time around. I’m eager to see where I’m at in April.

I know this might not work when I have deadlines and editors and all that amazingness, but it works for now and I can create in peace without any word count pressure. Not that I’m always at peace with my work, but that’s another Confession post.

How about you? Are you a word goal oriented writer? What keeps you motivated?

Happy writing!


November Feels

The scariest moment is always just before you start.

~ Stephen King

Hello, all!

Hope your summers were well and you remembered to set your clocks backwards on Sunday.

The leaves are turning and I can finally wear socks and scarves. My favorite time of the year!

I love November! It’s such a creative month for me. I’ve tried NaNoWriMo for years. Never won. But my yearly attempts have made this time of year my plotting/new story drafting season. So although I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo (good luck and happy/timely writing to all who do!), I’m plotting and drafting scenes for my newest WIP. It’s been glorious.

I haven’t posted in a while. A few updates:

  1. I am officially a mother of two: a boy and a girl! A toddler and a newborn. Yes, I’m crazy.
  2. I’ve been reading up a storm! Apologies for lack of rec posts. A quick list of recent reads:

Currently reading Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy because I don’t have enough YA contemporary in my life.

  1. I’m featured over on today! Thanks to my amazing 2014 #PitchWars mentor, Marieke Nijkamp, whose fantastic debut THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS is out in January 2016. I’m absolutely thrilled for her!

I forgot how nice it is to type. I’ve been brainstorming longhand whenever I have a free moment. As I draft this blog, I’m balancing my cooing newborn on my lap. Do whatcha gotta do, man.

May the rest of the year be months of many words, new and polished. Via writing and all the books.

Happy writing!

Confessions of a Writer: I Hate Starting from the Beginning, Vizzini

Vizzini: He didn’t fall?! Inconceivable!

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

~ The Princess Bride

When you get your book to that point where it’s ready for submission, whether to CP’s, agents, editors, whatever, your MS is spotless to you, right? The dialogue, the world-building, the character idiosyncrasies. Everything.

Polished. No highlights or underlines or comments saying, What is this? Fix this mess.

I think this is part of the reason why it’s so hard for me to start over. Everything is hideous. The voice isn’t quite there. The world I’ve created is still a little blurry around the edges. And I’m highlighting every other word cause the one I used is not even close to what I’m trying to say.

My familiarity with “polished work” is ruining the gooey, young love I’m experiencing with my WIP. I’m so in love with this shiny idea that I ignore all the flaws and its superficial exterior. Then the typing ebbs and I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.

At times I have to bribe myself just to get the words down. With things such as:

  • A chapter of the book I’m reading for every page I write. That sounds a little indulgent, but it’s motivating and it gets me on a roll. I end up writing two or three plus pages before I realize I can have a chapter break. I’m still only allowed one chapter per break regardless of how many pages I write. See? I’m disciplined sometimes. This is what I do for myself during the day when I don’t have hours to write.
  • After two hours of writing (this much free time only happens at night after the Toddler’s asleep), I get a half hour of zoning out. Twitter, Netflix, or more reading. Then right back to writing.

Loud music works when I’m absolutely stuck. I turn up the music I had on low (not a must, but a comfort when I’m writing) until it’s consuming, and I think scenes though. Things I don’t think about: how far away I am from my word count, am I the only one who’ll ever love this book, am I going to get reported for my recent search engine activity?

I know none of this is new. I also know with book contracts and deadlines that no amount of whining/procrastinating/indulging is going to get the writing done. So I’ll pout while I can.

Please let me know what you do to get through the beginning of a WIP. I’m nowhere near the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s hard. If I hadn’t already written four books, I’d think it was impossible.

Do the impossible with me. Happy writing!

#PitchWars Hangover

Anyone who says writing is easy isn’t doing it right.

~ Amy Joy

The last two months have been leading (agonizingly slow) up to #PitchWars, but then the two-day agent round seemed to fly by! My entry received a few requests. Plus my mentor received an email directly from an agent asking for a full. So, exciting times!

It was such a wonderful experience. My mentor, Marieke Nijkamp, has done so much for me and my manuscript. Just believing in me and picking me to represent her has been an honor. My alternate, Evie Bromiley, also received multiple requests! It was a good competition for all of us. And Brenda Drake, the lovely hostess of #PitchWars, worked tirelessly to provide this opportunity for us aspiring writers. I am forever grateful!

I must say, I’ve been a wreck off and on for the last two months because of this competition. Lots of nail-biting and waiting! I suppose it’s just prepping me for all the patience I’ll need as I continue down the path of publication. The publishing industry is all about waiting.

If any writer out there is hesitant about entering writing competitions or thinking about entering one – do it! This was my second year entering #PitchWars and it’s been an absolute blast! Brenda is hosting a few more events this year, and there’s always next year. Never give up, believe in yourself, in your writing, and you’ll go far.

Also, never stop writing. NaNoWriMo is in full swing. I’ve never won, but the energy and camaraderie from participants is contagious, and I can’t help but write like crazy.

I’m super excited to see what the future holds for me. While I wait (ugh) I’ll just keep writing, just keep writing. And of course READING. My TBR pile is climbable.

Happy writing!

#PitchWars Feels

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

~ Maya Angelou


If you don’t know anything about #PitchWars, the most important part of this amazing online competition happens tomorrow.


These lovely agents will peruse the works of 75 hopefuls. If they like something, they’ll request pages.

The last two months have been leading up to this moment for me.

In September, I decided to try #PitchWars again. Yep. This is my second year entering (never give up!). I studied the list of mentors who pick the lucky mentees. I got my wanted list down to ten. But you can only choose four. So I did some thorough research and picked the four whose manuscript tastes fit what I had to offer.

I got a full request the same day I submitted my entry.

I was ecstatic, to say the least. A professional in the publishing industry wanted to read my book and possibly mentor me. This left me giddy for days.

And then my mentor, Marieke Nijkamp, requested a partial a few days later. Mind = blown. I had been daydreaming about my potential mentor experience with the other mentor who had my full, but as I went back through my research and realized how flippling awesome Marieke is, I was desperate to have her mentor me. That following week she started asking me questions like, How serious are you about revisions? Are you currently querying?

Then she said something along the lines of, Weeell, perhaps you should hold off querying for the moment 😉

I had to read this simple sentence over and over. What did this mean?! The mentor picks weren’t going to be announced for another four days! My poor husband. I was a wreck the rest of that week.

The night the mentees were posted, I was putting my toddler to sleep. And of course, he would Not. Go. The. F. To. Sleep. So I sat in the dark with him refreshing the page on my phone. Thousands of people were refreshing Brenda’s blog. I think we broke it. But a half hour after the posting, I was finally able to get through, and I scrolled down, down…

OMG my name is next to Marieke Nijkamp’s – this isn’t real! My book title is next to my name. I’m under the title “mentee”. I did a happy dance with the toddler and he conked right out afterwards.

Since mid-September I’ve been revising like a mad woman with Marieke and my tremendously talented alternate, Evie Bromiley*. I’m so pleased with the results. And beyond grateful for Marieke. For her decision to pick me and challenge me to do more with my work. THE SILENT SALT SHAKER is super shiny and ready for the agent round tomorrow.

I, on the other hand, am freaking out. I must keep myself busy, otherwise I’ll be glued to my phone. Thank goodness for busy, busy toddlers.

I cannot wait, ya’ll!

*Remember that name – Evie Bromiley – she’s going to be a #PitchWars alternate champ!

Out From Under My Rock I Come

I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.

~ Walt Disney

Heeey. How’s it going? Long time no talk. What’s going on with me, you ask?


So my fourth manuscript – what? Oh, yeah. I wrote a fourth manuscript. It has kings and heists and acrobats. I think it’s really good. Though I’m a wee bit biased. I entered it into this year’s #PitchWars contest hosted by the amazing Brenda Drake. Over 1500 aspiring writers applied, and only 75 got in.

I got in! Cue happy dance.

I’ve been working with my lovely mentor, Marieke Nijkamp, since mid-September and my MS is even better. Revisions have always been my favorite part of the writing process, and these last few weeks have been amazing. The agent round is next week (eep!), so I’m keeping myself busy working on my shiny new WIP (with hunters and jungles and prophecies) to keep myself from freaking out. It’s kinda working. Okay, not really.

I’ll post in more detail about my #PitchWars experience thus far. Also, I’ve been reading like crazy. I have so many book recs!

Obviously, consistency is not my middle name. Can’t you tell by how often I post? And er, by my blog name. But! I’m making a real effort here. And I’ve been pretty active over on Twitter. Come say hello!

Happy writing!

Confessions of a Writer: I Trunked My MS

Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure.

~ Oliver Herford

As I mentioned before, I trunked ELEMENTAL SACRIFICES: THE GATHERING. I didn’t expect that at all. But after the query letter count got over 100, and I only garnished two manuscript requests (that led nowhere) after multiple query letter and MS rewrites, I knew it was time.

So I wallowed for a while. I was pregnant and felt fat and ugly to begin with but now I also felt like a failed writer. I mean, I know plenty of amazing authors with trunked manuscripts, but I didn’t think that would happen to me. Poor, naïve me.

A new story idea had been brewing for months. Instead of writing it while I queried, I let it soak, jotting down a loose plotline and character profiles, but no chapters, no words. Last fall after my son was born, I finally started writing. It was tough going at first. Nothing was ever going to be as good as ESTG. But as I got to know my new characters, I looked forward to my coveted writing time after the baby went to sleep. I stayed up way past the time a new mama should and the words flowed effortlessly.

After a few months I had a ragged rough draft, but even at that stage I knew it was better than ESTG. Many writers have said your writing gets better the more books you produce. I didn’t want to believe I could do better because I wasn’t ready to move on from ESTG. After weeks of polishing my rough draft of THE DEAD ASSASSIN, I sent it to my CPs. And I got amazing feedback that made my story even better. Even better. I was in love. ESTG who?

This last year has taught me a thing or two:

  1. Not everything you write is sellable. It could be the market, agency/publisher tastes, or because it’s something you only wrote for you and you never planned to publish it in the first place.
  2. Keep writing. I should have been writing TDA long before I started. Always work on that next project. Get better at your craft.
  3. You can’t do it alone. The writing community will embrace you. There’s no need to avoid Twitter or Facebook, forums like AbsoluteWrite or AgentQuery, or the many blogs I can’t even begin to list created by writers for writers. I couldn’t have gotten through this last year, this last book, without my fellow writers.


Anywho, that’s my trunking confession. Do you have a trunking experience?

What the what…

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

~ Confucius

Nope, I didn’t die. But my blog kinda did for a while. Allow me to explain.

This little guy showed up last July. My son has been rocking my world ever since.

I trunked ESTG, the YA fantasy I was querying. And then I wrote a new YA fantasy called THE DEAD ASSASSIN. Read about it here. So not only did I make a person but I made a book too. So proud of my babies.

Trunking ESTG was SO HARD. I really thought that was going to be my debut novel. I’ll write a little more about that soon.

Speaking of July babies. Today’s my birthday. Yet another year without an agent but I’m super optimistic about the months ahead!

And the books. I’ve read so many books lately. Can’t wait to post my recommendations.

What have I missed? Thank God for twitter or this rock I’ve been living under would have surely kept out all the things.



YA Chatting

One has to live a life that creates a writer.

~ Erno Paasilinna

There was a YAHighway prompt earlier this month that I didn’t get a chance to participate in, but it’s stuck with me all this time: who IRL can you talk to about YA? I haven’t really had an IRL YA friend until recently. Her name is Naomi and she’s a fellow YA writer, fellow mom, and all around awesome!

Naomi convinced me to finally join Twitter. I cannot believe it’s taken me this long. I feel so much more connected to the writing community. Naomi also got me involved in a local critique group. Right here in town! We meet bi-monthly at a bagel shop and spend a few hours dishing constructive criticism over coffee.

It’s been a pleasure to watch Naomi get an agent (like recently, guys), and I cannot wait to hold her book in my hands. She has been such a giving, supportive friend. I feel so blessed!

All right, enough gushing. Maybe I’ll go see what Twitter’s up to…

Happy writing!

Love Letter

I write for the exact reason that I breathe… because if I didn’t, I would die.

~ Isaac Asimov


YAHighway came up with a great idea for V-day. Today they’re giving all their readers the chance to make the day one about love by hosting a blog circus (with the same format as their Road Trip Wednesdays) encouraging everyone to write a Valentine blog post! Bonus: if you link to a Valentine’s blog post, you’re automatically entered to win one of two prize packs of books and bookmarks!

It took me a while to think of who to send some love to, but then I decided on the most informative, frequently visited (for me) blog.


Dear Publishing Crawl,

I’d be lost without you. You motivate me to keep strong and write on. Your new name is just as awesome as your former title, Let The Words Flow. You never disappoint. Every week I can come to you for encouragement, book recommendations, and epic interviews with the most amazing authors. Plus tons and tons of goodie giveaways! You know the in’s and out’s of a world I struggle to enter, and you share all your knowledge with enthusiasm and genuine care.

I have to share some personal love for SJ Maas. Without her, I wouldn’t have gotten the courage to write ESTG in its own original world. And Susan Dennard – the only agented, book-dealed author to go out of her way to spend weeks with me on my query letter (I cannot wait to tell you when I sign with an agent!). And Kat Zhang… you’re just… awesome.

Please continue to make me swoon.

Forever yours,

Brandi Ziegler


Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope everyone received a little love.