Tag Archives: Writing

Right on Target

Archery ButA few months ago, I did a blog post about my son’s archery team. He’s part of a middle-school team that competes at a pretty elite level. His 6th grade team won the Texas state tourney and placed 14th at Nationals.  The 7th/8th grade team won Texas and Nationals.  This weekend, my family is driving to St. Louis to watch them compete in the World tournament. It’s pretty exciting stuff to see them excel at their sport. Even more so when you come to understand the commitment and discipline it takes to learn how to shoot. Even the smallest thing can throw off your aim. My son told me once, “After I figured out I needed to take in a little breath and hold it before lining up and loosing an arrow, I got better.”   Breathing literally could be the difference between a 7 and a 10 for that arrow. Crazy, right?

Writing can be like that, too. One of my favorite comments to use when beta reading is “small moves.”  What I mean by that is keep the scene focused down on what the character is feeling. Don’t let your character go off on a tangent. Don’t pull away from what is most important right that moment. Keeping more intense scenes under closer focus brings out the intimacy between the reader and the character. Sure, there are scenes that need to be Epic Epicness and that’s perfectly okay, but sometimes even the biggest, most important scenes need some small.  For a critical scene in Sidelined — a basketball game — I kept the focus tight on my main character and what she was feeling right that second: the sounds, the tactical, the sensory. By staying more primal and visceral, it felt, at least to me, that I was right there with her, my heart pounding, the screams of the crowd echoing in my ears.  One of my favorite books, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, manages to convey that feeling all the way through. The writing is evocative and lush and even though it’s in third person, the reader is deep, deep in the moment with Karou pretty much all the time.

I’m sure there are a lot of other examples out there. What’s your favorite? What scene has captured you not because it was big and grand, but because it was small and engrossing?

Editing and Keeping Character


It’s been a busy few weeks, but I want to thank everyone who supported the Matt Archer: Legend launch last weekend. This has been the best launch yet, and I really appreciate your kind words, retweets and reviews.

Over the past week, I’ve been doing some beta reads and editing SIDELINED for its final pass. I’ve learned so much by working with the editors at Entangled — each pass has taught me something new about my writing, and how to make things tighter and more focused. I can’t wait for this book to come out. It’s truly a book of my heart.

Old Books

One thing I’ve learned is to be certain that your character’s rationale, no matter how faulty, is always natural to their stage of life. I knew that to some extent–if you want to write YA, your characters will not think or act like adults. Still, over the course of an entire manuscript it’s easy to let your guard down. My takeaway is that I have to maintain constant vigilance to keep my characters in character.

Now I’m moving on to new work, and I’m really excited. I left Matt on a cliffhanger, so I need to fix things up for him in MA4, and I have two new ideas for contemporary YA stories. Should be a fun summer! But I’m looking forward to a vacation, too! : )

What plans do you have this summer?

I’m Entangled

The past eight months have been an amazing learning experience, bringing Matt Archer to market. I’ve been ecstatic with the reception Matt’s gotten and look forward to finishing out the series.

But, I’ve had another dream: seeing some of my books traditionally published. Pursuit of this dream began in 2008 and there have been a ton of highs and lows associated with the process. But I had hope that one day, the dream would come true.

Which is why I’m absolutely thrilled to share that my contemporary YA, SIDELINED, is going to be published by Entangled Publishing later in 2013!!! You can find out more about the story here.

UPDATE: Here’s the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement!

Digital: Young Adult
Kendra Highley’s contemporary YA debut SIDELINED, in which an eighteen-year-old high school basketball sensation’s dream of playing at the collegiate level is shattered when she breaks her leg at the state tournament, spiraling her into a world of prescription drug addiction that jeopardizes her new relationship with her longtime crush, her crumbling family, and her life, to Heather Howland at Entangled digiTeen, in a nice deal, for publication Summer 2013 (World).

SIDELINED is truly the book of my heart. Every author has one: the book that kept you up at night, that raked your soul and held on to you even after you wrote “the end.” I loved every moment I spent with this manuscript. So, I’m humbled that this is the novel Entangled has agreed to publish. I’m eager to work with Heather Howland and the rest of the amazing staff at Entangled as we bring Genna’s story into the world.


Snoopy Happy Dancer


Can you tell I’m totally gobsmacked right now? Wow. There are a ton of people to thank, so please bear with me a minute:

The editorial staff at Entangled, especially Heather and Sue, for taking a chance on Genna and me.

My cousin, Kary Rader, for all her support as a fellow writer, for her prayers, and for asking haveyousubmittedSIDELINEDalreadyorwhat?!!!

My amazing critique partners/beta readers: J.R. Hochman, Lindsay Buroker, Jeanne Haskin, Jenny Martin, Teresa Frohock and Ladonna Watkins. A special thank you goes to Ladonna for validating the emotional journey of an athlete.

Two of my oldest friends from middle/high school, both of whom gave me invaluable help and inside information about the sport of women’s basketball, the types of injuries you can sustain from such a high-impact activity and how you might rehab one of those injuries: Andrea Guizec and Robin Ellis Wright.

My family, especially my husband Ryan, who gave me the gift of time and encouragement which enabled me to write.

And finally, one of my writing idols, Laurie Halse Anderson, who I met in the summer of 2011 right about the time I started writing this manuscript. She gave me a piece of advice I held onto while writing SIDELINED:



I can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like, and to hear what y’all think of the story. It’s going to be a busy eighteen months, finishing off the Matt Archer series, debuting SIDELINED and starting a few other new projects. I get a little dizzy thinking about it, but what a rush!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go breathe into a paper bag for a while.

Ready for a Close-Up?


I was watching this pretty cool show with my husband last night called What Is That? on the Science Discovery Channel. Basically, it’s a show full of what I call “visual riddles” in which they display objects in extreme close-up and you have to guess what the object is. They ranged from cool (a football) to disgusting (the digestive tract O.O). It’s funny how little context you have for an object, though, when you are stuck in an extreme close-up. The football was exceptionally hard — the divots in the leather, the edge of the lace, the points at the end. I’ve thrown many a football, and love watching the sport, but I just could not figure out what it was until the very end when the camera zoomed out.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that writing a novel can be like that. You are so immersed in the extreme close-up with your characters, in the moment with them, that sometimes you miss the macro story for the small moves. The devil is in the details, or so the saying goes, and the sign of exceptional writing is in the details. But there’s a danger, too. I’ve gotten lost in there, and I’ve beta-read novels by fellow writers who did as well. Every so often, you have to pull yourself out of the scene, the moment, and take a hard look at how the story is moving as a whole. I wrote about my plotting issues last week: a classic case of getting lost in the details. To fix it, I had to crack the plot open like an egg, delete some darlings and move certain scenes to the next book. Then I had to add new scenes that pushed the story in the right direction.

This “extreme close-up” issue can impact more than writing though. You see it in movies sometimes, or long-running, intricate TV shows caught in their own mythology.

You see it in life, too. Even been so caught up in a moment that you failed to see the impending train derailment? Yeah, me too.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s healthy to take a step back every so often and assess the big picture, whether that’s your life or your manuscript — or both! Close-ups are very helpful and meaningful, but not at the expense of the larger story.

How about you? Ever get caught in an “extreme close-up” moment?