William Ritter Teen Read Week Writers Workshop

William Ritter has personally requested that I put his info in here so…

Twitter – @willothewords


Website – willritter.wordpress.com

I was really excited to be able to go to the Teen Read Week William Ritter Author Talk. I had never been to a book signing or author talk before, and it was really fun to have this experience.

In my opinion, Will ritter is an amazing author! His Jackaby series is one of my favorite books in the world! It was exciting to hear more about my favorite series from the author.

Hopefully you have read my previous post about The Teen Read Week author talk. The author talk was really fun so it was super exciting to be able to see William Ritter the next day!

At this workshop, William Ritter gave some great writing advice. For example, he talked about how when writing a chapter, instead of the whole book applying to a story map, (you know, Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, that sort of thing.) You have every chapter apply to a story map. You also need to “end with one foot over into the next threshold.” This means that you pretty much start the next chapter in the past chapter. Basically, you have to never satisfy your readers, and let them hunger for the next chapter by leaving a cliffhanger.

His first point was to “Write Like a magician. Leave a trick up your sleeve.”

The first thing magicians do when setting up a trick is patter, or set up. Next is the trick, where you do something impressive. (satisfying. but remember: never leave your readers satisfied.) Next is the prestige, where you do something even MORE impressive!

Pacing Exercise

His next point was that your sentence structure affects pacing. Run-on sentences can make the reader feel out of breath, while short sentences are quick and to-the-point. good writers use this to their advantage, making the mood however they want. He then had us exemplify this technique ourselves by first writing a paragraph of sentences that all have about the same amount of words. then you write the same paragraph, except there are varying amounts o words in each sentence! you can try this at home too!

Next he talked about character creations. Mr. Ritter says that your characters, even just the side characters need to have internal and external motivations. They need to be real, 3D characters who think and feel. An exercise for this is to make a list of three or more internal motivations first. Here is an example:


  • Hates when someone tells him he is wrong
  • Loves telling people they are wrong
  • Has anger issues
  • Hates boss
  • Loves to work
  • About to lose apartment

Next you make a list of external conflicts. I’ll do another example with our friend Bob:

  • Needs money
  • Boss always telling him he is wrong
  • If he blows up at work again he’ll get fired.

You can use this at home too!

With character creation, you have to find your character’s motivations and emotions. Characters with only one emotion feel static, but if you give your characters multiple and conflicting traits and conflicts they become more dynamic.

Another helpful hint that Will Ritter mentioned:

Actions speak louder than words. Try indirect characterization and Show, Don’t Tell.

William Ritter

His next point was about how “Diversity Exists.” There is not a country in the world that you cannot find at least one person of a different religion, race, or body type. Make sure to incorporate those ideas into your stories, even if it is hard. If you are a girl writing in the point of view of a boy, it might be harder to write, but it will still be worth it. For example, William Ritter’s Jackaby series was written in the point of view of a girl, even though Mr. Ritter is a guy!

Next he talked about World Building. If you are writing a story based in a place, time, or completely different world than you are used to, it is better to do as much research, (if it is a real place) or imagining as possible. You will not regret it! William gave an example of how there is a character in one of his books who speaks a different language. His friend who spoke the same language usually helped him with the foreign words, but the one time he ended up using google translate, his friend told him it was wrong! By then it was too late, the book was already printed. That is a perfect example of having to make sure your sources are reliable!

Another part of world building is to establish social norms and then break them. It adds a bit of reality if people do not always conform to society. “Not every member of a group adheres to a uniform stereotype. If they did it would be creepy.” Says William Ritter.

You should also know more than you tell in world building. Make maps, chart histories, create restaurant menus. Even if they are never released into the world, it will be worth it, and your creation will seem so much more realistic because you know exactly how this place behaves.

Another piece that kind of contradicted the idea above was that every detail you add should add to the emotional impact. In other words, don’t add any unnecessary details unless it adds to the stories. Anton Chekhov, a playwright, put this thought into an example perfectly:

If there’s a gun on the wall in act one, scene one, you must fire the gun by act three, scene two.

Anton Chekhov

A worldbuilding exercise by William could be to think of something that could drastically change the world. My example is that maybe animals evolved to be the dominant species instead of humans. The next step is to write a paragraph or even a long story about how that change has changed and altered the world. You might even come up with a whole new story idea! (I sure did. check out the example ahead.)

Next he talked about a huge part of all stories: Descriptors and figurative language. His first point was about Synesthesia: a technique that is used for presenting ideas that appeal to more then one sense. Basically, you should use more than one sense to describe something, which will pull the reader in.

He also talked about how figurative language can help set the mood and explain things better. Plus, you can add a bit of comedy with a well-placed simile:

“He moved slowly and carefully, like a turtle on an escalator going the wrong way,” sure sounds better than, “He moved slowly,” doesn’t it?

Sometimes you can say more by saying less though. Simplicity can sometimes be the key, especially if your story is complex.

William Ritter explained that there are two different kinds of descriptive writing: concrete and abstract. What do you want your reader to imagine? I can explain better with one of his examples.

Let’s say you are describing someone’s prison cell. If you were to describe it in a concrete way, you might say, “his cell was only 6×8 and reeked of citrus cleaner,” but if you wanted to describe it in an abstract way you might also say, “His shoebox of a prison was haunted by sordid, lemon-fresh ghosts.”

As you can see, concrete means that your description is more physical, where abstract is more of an imagination involved way to describe something. You have to choose exactly how you want people to think of whatever you are describing.

An activity for this could be to write a scene with as many concrete details as possible. Then go back and rewrite the paragraph, this time with as much figurative language as possible, and try to see how different they are.

Next he talked about a huge part of writing: The Process. “Nothing bad can happen in writing. Write whatever you want. ” He says. You need to “write the vomit draft.” Even if it is ugly in the beginning, when you revise it it becomes beautiful.

The first draft is where you bring clay to the table. Revision is where you sculpt it into something beautiful.

William Ritter

The other part of the process is letting your story go where it needs to. Plans are important, but you don’t have to follow them . the best stories have often ended up going off track from where the author’s intended, but almost always it turned out to be good.

That was the end of the Teen Read Week William Ritter Author Talk+Writing Workshop! I really loved all of these events and encourage you to go to one of these yourself!

For those of you writers out there, feel free to use all of William Ritter’s advice to create your own stories. Let your imagination run wild!

Keeper of The Lost Cities Flashback Tour! Shannon Messenger Author Talk


I finished the KOTLC series around March, and it was agony having to wait until November to get Flashback, the seventh book in the series. But when November 11th rolled around, I was even more excited for the Flashback tour! KOTLC is one of my favorite books ever, and I was really excited to see Shannon Messenger in person.

When I arrived at the place, I got to pick up the free signed book, (not personalized, it came with the purchase of a ticket) Then we got some swag and a raffle ticket.

The signature of S.M!

We got front row seats because we were so early, which was very exciting! I actually read the first 100 pages of Flashback before it started because I was so excited!

When she finally arrived, it was so cool getting to see her in person. The administrator of the event was Laini Taylor, a really good author. They opened with Shannon saying that her favorite color is teal, which everyone had guessed because Sophie’s favorite color was teal.

Laini Taylor

She told us that she had just signed 520 copies of Flashback in 45 minutes, which is amazingly fast, because her signature was intricate and fancy. She also said that the KOTLC series in its entirety is 4000 pages long!

She started by saying that as a child, she would go to the library and check out a book multiple times because she loved it so much. As an adult, she doesn’t have time for that and just reads a book once. She wanted her books to be one of those books that gets checked out multiple times by a kid, and even adults!

Shannon Messenger

Laini Taylor asked how she came up with the idea for KOTLC. Shannon responded by saying that she had been juggling the idea of elves and Lost Cities for a couple months, but was stalling, and was still in the world building process. Shannon says that she is a planner, and likes to have specific outlines for what she wants to happen in the story, and she was delaying writing the story so that she could have perfect outlines. She says that when she was studying making movies and scripts, she had been taught to write EVERYTHING, and then worst case scenario, things get cut, which is really good advice. That way, you won’t forget anything about how you want your story to be like. She started applying this philosophy to her own books, which he felt made her story less stiff, and more flowing.

In fact, the very existence of the beloved character from the book series, Keefe, was because she had stopped outlining and planning.

The existence of Keefe is because I stopped outlining.

Shannon messenger
Keefe Sencen

Here’s the story: She was writing the book, and she needed someone to help Sophie get to the hospital wing after she had gotten lost. She didn’t know his name, so she made up a character named Him. She originally thought that Him could be a hall monitor, but then she realized that he needed to be someone who would skip class and meet Sophie in that hallway where they first met. Boom! Keefe was invented. Keefe’s name actually means, “good looking one” according to Shannon Messenger. He was originally going to just be a minor character, but he ended up having a pretty big role in the series.

Keefe was the gift the story gave me!

Shannon Messenger

She started talking about how Shannon went through the editing process. Shannon admitted that the published version of the first book in the series is actually draft #20! She had to do a ton of editing before publishing. In fact, Sophie Foster’s original name was, get this: Agnes McWeeney. One of the first ideas she rejected in the editing process was that elves didn’t originally have emotions or dreams!

Shannon also talked about thinking to the future. She new that her books were going to be a long series, but she didn’t know how long! She was lucky that her editor committed to multiple books, but the deal was only about three books, depending on the demand. She had to decide if she wanted to shrink the series into about three books, or is she wanted to leave noticeable breadcrumbs, so that if she did end up extending the series she would have ways to branch off from the books. Luckily for us, the publishers gave her more room and now there are seven books out!

She told us that she was really glad she was done writing Flashback, not only because it is a huge accomplishment to write an 800 page book, but also because she would get to sleep again! She noted that the closer it got to the deadline, the less she got to sleep, until she was only sleeping 2 hours a day! She also admitted that she didn’t leave her house the entire month of August!

She told us about how she finished the final draft the day it needed to go to the printer, but there were typos after the fact because of the rush!

The Let the Sky Fall series

Laini asked about writers block and how she pushes through it. Shannon said that she tries to get a word count in every day, and tells herself not to stop writing until she has met her daily goal. She forces herself on. She used to be able to write 2 books a year, KOTLC and the Let the Sky Fall Series, but now she has to rush to even get one book done per year! She thought it would get easier to write her books as the years went on, but it actually got harder, because she kept setting the bar for her writing higher and higher and has to work harder and harder to make her books better than her last ones, which I totally agreed with!

It’s a good job. [Writing] It gets intense, but it’s a good job.

Shannon Messenger

Shannon says that publishing is actually less fun than writing.

Publishing and writing are two different things… Enjoy the writing, the fun part. Make it a goal to finish a book before you think about publishing.

Shannon Messenger

She recommends to finish writing the book before you worry about getting a publisher. You cannot just publish a book without a book to publish! The problem is, it is actually hard to finish a book. You will often get what Shannon likes to call “Shiny New Idea Syndrome” where you come up with an idea for a new book that you want to write, but you have to finish writing your book first.


Laini asked what Shannon’s favorite character was. Shannon said surprisingly that her favorite character is actually Silveny the Alicorn! Shannon says that writing Silveny’s scenes reminded Shannon of being twelve years old. She commented that she gets paid to write about what a sparkly fancy Alicorn thinks all day! (You will know what she means if you have read the series)

The next topic was about the character that was the hardest for Shannon to write about. She says that Keefe and Fitz were both very hard characters to write. Keefe is a scene stater. Everything is about him and the scenes revolve upon his pleas for attention. For him, everything is a joke. Fitz, on the other hand, is more reserved at first, difficult with what he is willing to share. Shannon says she had to rewrite Fitz’ scenes the most. It was really hard to write both of them.

Another favorite character of Shannon’s is Ro, the ogre princess. Ro is funny, and has a huge personality. Shannon knew that Keefe couldn’t have a normal body guard like everyone else, Keefe is an attention seeker and needed a new bodyguard that no one had seen yet. Keefe needed someone to keep him in check, and Ro does exactly that.

Fun Fact: Shannon Messenger actually hates love triangles.

Iggy Survey

In every book, Iggy, Sophie’s pet imp, has been a different color. Shannon decided to let the readers choose Iggy’s colors , because a little girl told her once which color Iggy should be, and ever since, Shannon has been putting polls, one per book, on her social media so that readers could decide.

And that was when Shannon’s microphone died.

(After someone brought her a new one…)

Next Shannon gave us some cool facts about the making of KOTLC.

Fun Fact: Fitz was originally going to be 97, but look like he was 16, but Shannon changed her mind because she didn’t think a 97 year old would hang around with a bunch of 12 year olds!

Shannon also does not know who Sophie is going to choose, even after everything that happened in Flashback!!! Shannon says that her characters surprise her, and she is never sure which direction they will go.

She told us the Story of how Stina Heks actually has two last names! Stina was originally was Stina Weathers, but it sounded too human so she changed it to Heks. But later, just as the first book was about to print, Shannon thought that she had forgotten to give Stina a last name, so she accidentally called Stina “Logner” instead of “Heks!”

The mistakes are proof that the author is human.

Shannon Messenger

Fun Fact: Dex was originally blonde, but Shannon had to change it to strawberry blonde because on the cover, Dex looked to much like Sophie’s sibling.!

The End

Next I got my book personalized with my name, and I got Nightfall, Neverseen, and Lodestar signed! It was super fun, and I highly recommend finding an author talk or something of the sort near you!

The Teen Read Week William Ritter Author Talk

William Ritter has personally requested that I put his info in here so…

Twitter – @willothewords


Website – willritter.wordpress.com

I was really excited to be able to go to the Teen Read Week William Ritter Author Talk. I had never been to a book signing or author talk before, and it was really fun to have this experience.

In my opinion, Will ritter is an amazing author! His Jackaby series is one of my favorite books in the world! It was exciting to hear more about my favorite series from the author.

When I got there there were only around 10 people. I expected a bigger turnout, but I liked it being less crowded because it was more intimate. (and it took less time to get my book signed 😉 When he started talking he talked about his new book, The Oddmire, coming out in Summer, 2019. This book does not include Jackaby, but it has some of the same elements from the series. It takes place in 1892, about the time Jackaby took place.

He started by talking about his childhood history of reading and the what the most important book is. Mr. Ritter said that he was at a book convention thingy and someone asked him, “If you could be any character from a book, who would you be?”

He wanted to sound smart, he was a new author and wanted to prove he could write a classic. So he tried to think of an important book, a book that everyone has read or heard, of, something that isn’t childish or silly. His answer? The girl from the Book theif. If you have not read the boo Theif, it is defi nitly not a good, or nice, or fun, or silly or uplifting book. It is a good book writing-wise, but it is very sad. Most of the Book theif takes place between 1939-1949, close to Munich Germany, and the dachau concentration camp. It takes plaxce in nazi germany, and as you can tell, most people do not want to live during Nazi Germany.

After the interview, William Ritter realized that he should have said something that he actually wanted to be, like from his FAVORITE book, Thud, by Terry Pratchett. William realized that “The most important book is the one that makes you want to read another one.” This led him to believe that the most important book in ALL the world is…

Where’s Goldie? By Laurence Di Fiori.

No, this is not a joke. William told us the story of where his mother taught him to read. she would give him the option of doing his chores…OR… she would have him read out loud to her. The first book he ever read was Where’s Goldie, and naturally, “Goldie” made him want to read another one!

“The most important book in the world is the one that makes you want to read another one.”

William Ritter

Then he started talking about his own writing. He gave us a sound bit of advice, “You are the author that your story needs.” You are the one person who knows exactly what your story needs. That is why you should write your story and write it the way you think is the best, not the way you think other people would like it.

“You are the author your story needs.”

William Ritter

Next he read us some excerpts from his books. The first one he read to us was a deleted scene from The Dire King. I wont give any spoilers, but they were in the Dangerous Documents section of jackaby’s library, and the scene is labeled, “Anachromicon.” I will not put it in here, because of copyright issues and stuff, but I will say that it was really funny and I am sad that his editor cut it out.

The next excerpt he read us was from his new book, the Oddmire. Again, I will not put it in here, but all i will say is that it made me really excited for the Oddmire to come out!

Fun Fact: The same Mint Blue color has been consistent across all of his book covers!

Then he gave some more advice for writers. He talked about how even when he didn’t want to write, he had to remind himself that writing to him isn’t just a fun hobby. Writing is his job. He has to remember to write every day as if he is getting payed every day. But writers should also remember that they can always go back and fix something. You can push through by writing a quick scene and then during the editing process you can just go back and fix it. Garbage cans are called garbage cans for a reason. You CAN write GARBAGE. They aren’t called Garbage Can’t.

Write garbage, edit gold.

William Ritter

He also talked a little bit about character development, and how there has to be more than one thing driving them. They have to be more than just extra, 2-Dimensional characters. They are real human beings, it is smart to add inner conflicts and then external conflicts.

Mr. Ritter talked more about writing his own books. Sometimes he would cut out a great chapter, because it didn’t really fit in. He says that you have to be ready to take out parts that you think are the best, because mabye after editing you discover that you had made another great chapter.

He also told us a little bit about himself, like the fact that his favorite animal is a lemur. Interesting enough, his Patronus is also a lemur.

Then I got my book signed!!! It was really exciting and cool to meet one of my favorite authors, and I highly recommend trying to find a book talk or book signing near you!

Make sure to pick up William Ritter’s books and read them as fast as you can!

Fun Fact: None of the Jackaby books have ever had a chapter thirteen because of Jackaby’ superstitions. The Oddmire is the first of William’s books that has a chapter thirteen.

The End

You can also check out The Teen Read Week William Ritter Writer’s Workshop here.