Friday Funny with Lots and Lots of Stories

Look at that! We made it to Friday.

So, I don’t know about you, but this week flew past.

Er, actually, I’m suddenly questioning whether it is, indeed, Friday. Hold on…Okay, double checked. It is. Phew!

Overall, my week mostly revolved around the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. I know, I know. Bad Jenna! I’m supposed to be working on my manuscript, not reading my competitor’s stories and critiquing them. But…ugh.

Okay, this is what happened.

On Wednesday, I received the green light from NYC Midnight to post my story publicly and on their private forum. The forum is where all of the competitors get to connect and read/evaluate each other’s work. Really, it’s one of the main reasons I even participate. Not only have I learned so much about my writing from the valuable feedback I’ve received there, but I’ve also made some great friends.

On the forum, there’s an unspoken rule: If someone reads/critiques your story, you should read/critique theirs in return. No, not everyone does this, but most of us consider it a basic courtesy.

So, usually, after I get the go ahead from the competition to post my story on the forum, I like to block out a few days to hunker down and read/critique as many stories as my eyeballs and brain can handle. I do this because 1) I enjoy it, and 2) I hope to drive people to my story to receive feedback. Give and take, right? I read yours, you read mine. Win-win.

Well, this round I decided to approach things differently.

With my manuscript “yelling” at me to finish it, I decided I couldn’t be proactive on the forum and read people’s stories unless they read mine first. So, when I posted my story, I wrote a disclaimer that basically said, “If you read my story, I’ll read yours.”


By Wednesday night, I had over 20 stories to read and critique. By yesterday, near 35.

It’s like people freaked out I wasn’t going to be seeking out stories like I normally do, so they made sure to read and comment on mine so I’d read and comment on theirs.


I decided to the best way to deal with the overwhelming situation was to barrel my way through the towering stack of work yesterday and today–you know, the whole pulling off the band-aid strategy. That way I can go into the weekend focused completely on my manuscript.

I made it over halfway through the stack yesterday, so hopefully I’m able to finish things up today!

As for my entry for the Flash Fiction Challenge, the feedback has been surprisingly positive so far. Although most people don’t seem to know exactly what qualifies as political satire, they think Operation Disney is funny.

Now, to be honest, I think most people are probably being nicer with their reviews than usual. Most everyone knows by now how much I dreaded writing a political satire and how little faith I had–have–in my story.

Yes, yes. Despite the nice words I’ve received about Operation Disney, I’m still not sold on it. I’ve read it a couple of times this week and every time I’m more and more bothered by it. Ugh…I know I’m being hard on myself, and I know I did an okay job considering I was way out of my element, but I just can’t bring myself to love it like I’ve loved my other stories.

Oh well, oh well. I’m going to let it go and move on.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 😉

 Anyway, in honor of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge, and the political satire I had to write, here is today’s Friday Funny. I’m sure I’ve posted this one before, but I had to use it again since it’s exactly how I felt while penning Operation Disney. Enjoy!

1013603_290902797768942_2264126418497184260_nHow was your week? Anyone else finding themselves buried in piles of work?

P.S. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on Operation Disney. I know I might sound like I’m complaining above, but I value each and every piece of feedback I’ve received. Thank you, thank you!

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!

Disaster Strikes – Round 2 – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

You Know You’re A Writer When…Frustration

Operation Disney – 2nd Round Entry – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Entry

Photo credits:

Friday Funny and a Return to the Daily Grind

Well, as you’ve likely noticed by now, I’m back. Yayyyy!!!

…No, that wasn’t sarcasm at all! 😉 But, come on! Who loves returning to reality after a week off in la-la land? And that’s what my “staycation” basically was. For six blissful days, I lived the life I wish I could live if I didn’t have a full-time job. I woke up when I wanted to, got my workout out of the way, ate a hearty breakfast, and then wrote ALL DAY LONG! Then I had time to actually do stuff in the evenings (hang out with family and friends, read, watch TV, etc.). Better yet, I could stay up as late as I wanted. There was no clock glaring at me like, “Dude, you know you need to be up at 5 a.m., right?”

It was a perfect week. And I did NOT want to return to my unglamorous go-go-go, sleep-work-write daily grind. But alas, I had to.

Thankfully, my transition back to reality hasn’t been too horrible. My job has resumed its nice, slow pace, and life in general has been calm. So my return has felt more like jumping into a lukewarm bathtub, not an icy pool–or a really deep puddle.

As for my progress with my manuscript, lets see…I wrote three and half chapters last week during my time off, and I’ve almost completed another two this week. So things are moving along much faster and smoother than before my staycation. Woo-hoo! And if I maintain my steady pace, I should hit the halfway point by the end of July. Woo-hoo x 2!

So, in honor of my return to reality and my not so glamorous daily grind, here is today’s Friday Funny. Enjoy!

22d5c5842666cdfe0aa2055ecc0deef5P.S. I’d like to wish my brother a very happy birthday today. He is one of my best friends and has always–ALWAYS–supported my dream of being a writer. So, happy birthday, Max! Hope you have a fantastical, most wonderful, best ever kind of day!

261409_10100111344481753_8147938_nJen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here go:

My First Draft of My First Story Ever

My Writing: The What, How, and Why

The Flash Fiction Challenge 2014 Early Entry Deadline is Tomorrow!

He Said, She Said: Dialogue Tags and Saidisms

Photo credits:

Coffee – To Drink or Not to Drink?

The Flash Fiction Challenge 2014 Early Entry Deadline is Tomorrow!

reminder4Don’t forget! The early entry deadline for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge is tomorrow.  If you’re still debating whether or not you should enter this fun, challenging, and whirlwind of a writing contest, here’s why I think you should:

Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

Hope to see you all there!


Friday Funny with a Reminder: Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do

Ahhh, it’s Friday. Friday, Friday, Friday!

In a nutshell, my week was similar to the last few: calm and productive. I’ve continued traipsing through the revisions for my YA manuscript, and despite my ongoing sluggish pace, I feel good about them. As planned, I sent my beta reader the first five chapters of my story, and she gave them the thumbs up.


When I received her positive feedback, I did a little happy dance. I was so delighted! And astonished. And relieved. She isn’t an easy critic to please (hence the reason she’s my beta reader). But she genuinely enjoyed my first five chapters. Here were a few of her comments:

I read the chapters and all I can say is other than some typos and descriptions–like you said just read for the content–well I could not stop reading it. I mean really. I never wanted to stop and you kept me guessing

I chuckled off and on throughout and felt the story’s lightness–not too deep and dark–yet. Your character development was perfect

I am anxiously awaiting the next set.

I will be sending the next two chapters to her tomorrow. I’m not as happy with them–something just feels off…Hopefully my beta reader will be able pinpoint what the problem is. Or maybe I’m just over thinking things and need to carry on. Which I will, as always. 🙂

Unfortunately, my 9-5 job has picked up its pace and workload, so I won’t have as much free time to devote to my manuscript. Blerg! Fingers crossed I’m able to deal with it and just keep writing, especially since I’ve made it an official goal to have a solid draft completed by August 15th. That’s when the first round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014 kicks off.

So, basically, I won’t have a life the rest of summer. Adios world. See ya later.

Oh well. As the saying goes, “Dreams don’t work unless you do”, right?

*big breath*

In honor of the slightly overwhelming amount of work I have ahead of me, here is today’s Friday Funny:

a-ha-ha-wr-be-a-writer-funny1How was your week? Are you feeling stressed? Or you are kicking back and enjoying some fun in the sun? I won’t resent you if you are…Okay, okay. I might resent you a little 😉

Jen’s Weekly Roundup
In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here go:

Music Monday – Good Girl – Carrie Underwood

Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

The First 250 Words of Your Manuscript

Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

I know many people don’t want to take the time or spend the money on entering writing contests. I was in the same boat up until a year ago. Then I took the plunge and entered the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2013 last fall, and then the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2014 this past spring. And whoa! My entire attitude changed.

Before I entered these contests, I assumed my writing skills were at their best…WRONG! In just two measly challenges, my abilities have grown exponentially. I’m actually kind of embarrassed by what I considered my “best”. I won’t even let my friends or colleagues look at my old work.

So, what has writing flash fiction/short stories taught me, exactly? Well, I’ll tell you:

  • Write a complete story. To make a story truly shine, all facets of it must be developed and balanced equally. Plot, characters, scenery, etc. If you miss or lax on one, it stands out to readers.
  • Characters count. Characters carry a large portion of a story’s weight. Making them as 3D and likable as possible is a must. Also, too many of them tend to be confusing/burdensome for a reader. So, make each one count, and make each one memorable.
  • Keep it simple! Chop, chop, chop. Do you really need that character? Do you really need to talk about that fact?  Short stories force you to take a step back and consider what’s vital to a plot. If it’s not pushing it forward or making it deeper, get rid of it.
  • Take the road less traveled. Go outside the box. Be creative! Ask yourself, “Is this different? Will it make me stand out?” Example: In round one of the Short Story Challenge 2014, I received these prompts: Suspense, wedding, chef. My first impulse? Write a story about a bride and groom who are trying to off each other, and in the end the bride poisons the groom with the help of the chef. I immediately tossed it out and forced myself to dig deeper and think beyond the obvious. And I’m glad I did. Most of my competitors wrote stories about poisoned food and vindictive brides and grooms. Mine, “Chasing Monsters,” as nothing of the sort. And–mostly–because of that, I landed myself a 2nd place finish.

Those are just a few things I’ve learned while participating in these challenges. To list all of them would take a decade. I will, however, point out some specific benefits of participating in an NYC Midnight Challenge.

The main one is their forum. NYC Midnight offers competitors a location to interact and share their stories with each other. And I love it! The forum helps you:

  • Overcome your fear of sharing your work with others.
  • Discover what you do well. Positive feedback is always nice to hear, right?
  • Learn to open yourself up to constructive criticism. If you’re planning to enter the Harsh Land of Publishing, you will need to know how to do this. Trust me.
  • Meet other writers! While doing these challenges, I have gained a lot of friends and colleagues. I’ve also found a few trustworthy beta readers to help me with my future work.

So, with all of that said, registration has officially opened for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014. I strongly–strongly–encourage you to consider entering it. Yes, it costs some money, and yes, the actual challenge is, well, a challenge. But I promise, if you go into it with the right attitude and participate on the forum, every penny and every stressful second will be worth it. Plus, the manuscript you’re working on now, or will be in the future, will thank you for doing this. I know the one I’m working on is thanking me (as are my beta readers–ha!).

20140618-CaptureIt-PictureOf course, the NYC Midnight writing challenges aren’t the only ones out there. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge, or aren’t in a position to spend the moola, then I still encourage you to look into a blog or website that hosts free weekly challenges. My favorite is Chuck Wendig’s, terribleminds.

 You have until July 17th to take advantage of the early entry fee. There’s also a Twitter discount, so be sure to use that to lower the cost even more.

Hope to see you all on the forum!

To learn more about the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014, click here!


Friday Funny with a pinch of crazy

It’s Friday! Yippy!

As you can see, I’m very happy it’s Friday, mostly because that means tomorrow is Saturday and I’ll be able to write all day long without interruption. Well, hopefully. Interruption seems to be the theme of my life lately, and it’s really bogging down my progress with my manuscript. Between work, family obligations, life chores, blogging, writing contests, reading/reviews, I just never seem to have time to sit down and write (*cue long, frustrated sigh*). I even took Wednesday off work to try and catch up on it (and some much needed sleep), but I still didn’t make as much progress as I’d hoped. I need to take a leaf out of my own book and use a variety of tips/strategies for finishing a manuscript in a timely fashion (NaNoWriMo tips – dealing with deadlines).

On the bright side, my short story, Chasing Monsters, has continued to receive (overall) positive reviews on the NYC Midnight forum. A couple of people have even suggested I submit it for publication. I think, however, I want to do something bigger with it. I have a new idea to combine Chasing Monsters with the flash fiction piece I did in the fall (Why?) for a full-length novel. It would definitely be a tough manuscript to produce (emotionally), but I think there’s potential for something really good.

Of course I also want to work on a ghost story I have in mind, as well as about three other ideas. AHHH! Too many stories to write, and not enough time! I might go crazy, guys. Seriously. I just need to win the lottery so I can stay home and write all day. Having a full-time job really slows things down, you know? Stupid bills. Stupid food and shelter and whatnot, haha.

Anyways, in honor of my overwhelmed self and the too many ideas/projects crowding my mind, here is today’s Friday Funny. Enjoy!

7f37ec33bcc88ec3b81b1fcf35ebd60aSo, how was your week? Are you making better progress with your manuscript than me? Read any good books I should know about?

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

A proud sister today – Colorado Marketing Education Teacher of the Year

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

How to choose a point of view for your novel

Friday Funny with a touch of frustration

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you set out with the best intentions to get a lot of stuff done (exercise, write, clean the house, write, blog, write, read a book (or two), blog some more, write some more, clean some more, write some more. Write, write, write…sensing a pattern yet?). But then life gets in the way and, before you know it, it’s Friday and you’ve hardly made a dent in your to-do list? Yeah, that was my week. I just couldn’t catch my breath and do what I needed/wanted to do (work on my manuscript). As an added stressful bonus, Denver is FREEZING. Like, dangerously freezing. We’re talking negative temperatures. On Wednesday night, I hopped in my car, and in a matter of two minutes, the temp on my dashboard plummeted from 15 degrees to this:

unnamedI’m telling you, it hurts to even walk outside right now. And everyone is dealing with frozen/breaking pipes, icy commutes, and drained car batteries (yesterday morning, I was 45 minutes late to work because a neighbor asked me to help her jump-start her car).

Normally I’m comforted by the fact that I can play catch up over the weekend, but the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge starts tonight and runs through the 15th. So now my manuscript will likely go untouched for at least the next two or three days (maybe more if I can’t get a solid draft for the contest knocked out tomorrow/Sunday). *frustrated sigh*…Now, don’t get me wrong, I am excited about this short story contest. I’ve been waiting months for it. I just wish I was in a better place with my manuscript. Oh well, oh well. (By the way, I’d appreciate your prayers, positive vibes and crossed fingers for this contest. I really, really, really don’t want to get assigned romantic comedy as my genre. I had to deal with that in the first round of the Flash Fiction Challenge last fall, and ick!).

Anyways, in honor of this week’s frustrations, and my inability to get my story out of my head and onto paper, here is today’s funny:

80647d0c17d4534f1a2a636459a1621cHow was your week? I hope it was less frustrating (and a lot warmer) than mine.

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my other posts this week, here they are!

Book of the Month – February

Happy Book Release Day – Cress by Marissa Meyer

The Devil’s in the Details–taking your fiction to the next level

Jen’s Pen Den Is on Facebook

Jen’s Pen Den is on Facebook! So take a moment to stop by and hit “Like”, and then invite your reading and writing friends to join too. On this page, I’ll be posting even more information about books, storytelling, publishing and the rest of the land of make believe.

Check it out here!


2014 – The Year of Writing

Well, we’re officially into the new year! After a rocky 2013, I have high hopes for 2014…although it hasn’t started out great. I’m currently dealing with remnants of an intense cold I had during the holidays, as well as frigid temperatures that have drained the battery of my car. But, I’m going to stay positive! I am!

Positive-friendsAnd, to be fair, positive things have happened. Although it’s only January 7th, I’ve already read two books (Fractured by Teri Terry and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell), and I’ve submitted a short ghost story for publication. I’m really excited about this story. It took me forever to think up a concept for it, and even longer to write it…Seriously, guys. Forever! I knew about this open call submission back in early November, but I didn’t actually get around to writing it until mid-December. And then I got sick and put it down until the last days of the year. I ended up writing and revising the whole thing in three days. However, the final product turned out much better than I’d hoped for. In fact, I’ve already decided regardless of what happens with my submission (accepted or rejected), I’m going to use this story as a jumping board into a much bigger story.

This inspiration has urged me to sit back and think about what I want to accomplish in 2014. So, I’ve made a few writing goals. I’m not going to lie, I’m being ambitious here. But I’m determined to be productive this year. I’m not going to drag my feet like I have in the past. This is going to be The Year of Writing for me!

writer1) Write 2 full manuscripts. This will begin with finishing, editing and querying my NaNoWriMo project, Fallers. After that, I plan to explore three other concepts I’ve come up with and then run with whichever one speaks to me most!

2) Enter at least 2 short story/flash fiction contests. Last fall, I decided to enter NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge. I was terrified about this at the time (I’d never written a short story before, let alone a flash fiction), but I was more determined to expand my horizons and improve my writing skills. And I did! So, I’ve already entered NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge in February, and plan to enter their Flash Fiction Challenge in the fall again. If I have the energy, time and inspiration, I’ll also enter smaller contests throughout the year. I’m always a sucker for Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenges.

3) Keep blogging! I never thought I’d be a blogger. I didn’t even know what blogging really was until I decided to start my own last summer. Now, I can’t imagine not blogging. Not only have I been able to share my love of reading and writing with others, but I’ve discovered an amazing community. So many of you have helped me learn more about myself, introduced me to new worlds and characters, and encouraged me to keep going when I’m ready to give up. You’re amazing! And being a part of this blogging community is amazing. I don’t know how I’ve managed to go this long without it. So, even though I might be slowing down to keep up with my other writing goals, I’m not quitting. My blog has become just as valuable to me as the books I read and the books I write! 

Well, that’s all for now. I’m afraid if I keep adding to the list, I won’t get any of it done! I plan to kick things off with returning to my NaNo projectFallers. I haven’t touched it since the end of November, after I hit the 50,000 word goal (my short ghost story was starting to scream for my attention by then, haha). Unfortunately, I have no choice but to start over with Fallers. It’s been too long not to. I’ve lost the flow of the plot and characters. Plus, I’ve thought of a few things I already want to change in the first 50,000 words I wrote.

So, fresh year, fresh start! Okay, let’s do this!

How about you? Do you have any writing goals for 2014? If so, what are they?

NaNo Update…And Stuff

As you may have noticed this week, my blog posts have slowed way down. Why, you ask? Because I have so much to do, and so little time! Honestly, November’s going to be a month where I just can’t find a moment to catch my breath. But, oh well. At least the things consuming my time and energy are the things I love to do most (reading/writing).

First: Flash Fiction Challenge 2013. I posted my horror story, “Why?” here, as well as on the NYC Midnight forum to receive feedback from the other competitors. To me, this is the best part of the competition (well, second best to actually writing the story). This is when I get vital feedback about my storytelling and writing skills. So far, the feedback for “Why?” has been positive. Yay! People seem to agree that I’m much better at writing horror than rom-com. Fine by me! Horror isn’t my normal genre, but it’s definitely closer than romantic comedy. Blerg!

In addition to all the positive feedback, there has also been constructive criticisms–AKA, golden nuggets. Like in Round 1 of this contest, I’ve learned so much about my bad writing habits, and the specific things I could improve upon. It’s so awesome. Stings for second, obviously, but then resonates and blooms into something useful and amazing.

As I’ve said time and again, I highly encourage other writers to enter these contests. They may not be the big, shiny manuscript you want published someday, but they’ll make that manuscript shine even brighter in the end.

Second: NaNoWriMo. Well, with the Flash Fiction Challenge swirling around me, things have gotten off to a slower start than I had planned with Fallers. I’ve been getting up every morning this week at 4 a.m. to squeeze in a couple of hours of writing before heading off to work. Unfortunately, it still hasn’t been enough. I’m currently behind by about 2,500 words. I’m not panicking…yet. For me, 2,5000 words isn’t that bad. I can knock that out in a couple of hours–usually. I plan on writing all weekend to catch up and then get ahead with Fallers. Then I won’t have to be waking up at such a godawful hour (yes, I’m yawning as I type this).

How about you? Doing okay this week? How’s NaNo? Don’t give up on it! This is when you really need to start digging deep and pushing through the pain. I’m sure most of your initial exhilaration and determination is wearing off, but don’t stop. Remember, keep swimming! You can do it!

…If there are typos in this post, forgive me. I don’t have time to proof it a hundred times like I usually do, lol!