WIP Update

Today marks three months and one week since I started drafting my current WIP, LILY AND LION. And as of yesterday, I have a second draft with my CPs.

Guys, this is unheard of for me. Even pre-baby, even when my husband was in Afghanistan and I had nothing better to do, I never wrote that fast. My first book took me three years to write and revise. My second, still a solid year. This is only my third finished and revised novel, and the whole experience has been an utter whirlwind.

It certainly helps that this is not the first book I’ve written about these characters. As I mentioned in my last post, this book was a new story set in the same world as my second completed, revised, and queried novel, with the same cast of characters. But what’s more is that I really let go of my process with this book. I wrote the scenes out of order. I changed character motivations and backstory halfway through the book. I left huge passages to myself of [INSERT SOMETHING HERE]. And as a result, I had a first draft in two and a half months – while working full time, and taking care of my daughter in the evenings (I’m not saying this to brag, I just can’t’ believe it myself. I’m pretty sure I blew off a lot of important responsibilities and didn’t spend enough time with my husband. It’s something I have to make up for now.)

Since this has been such an all-consuming process, it feels a little strange to not be working on it. Luckily for me, I’ve got some research to do before I start draft three – namely on voice. Because this book also happens to be my first ever first-person manuscript, and not only that, but it’s also dual POV. So I’ll be focusing a little more on how to distinguish between my two characters in my next draft. And, of course, there are agents to research and a Synopsis to write and CP books to read in preparation for sequels/revisions. But I just have to say that right now I feel really good about this book, and I can’t wait until the day when I can share more of it with all of you.

New WIP

Dear readers. Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I wrote a novel. I queried that novel and got…nothing. Ah well, so it goes. The novel was good, but it wasn’t great. It was kind of trope-city, and it certainly didn’t stand out in a crowded genre. I wasn’t heartbroken that the book didn’t get any bites. After all, I’ve only got a zillion other projects to work on, right?

But the thing I couldn’t let go of was these characters. Theses characters were, if I do say so myself, amazing. I was utterly in love with them, and in particular, their relationship with one another. So I started thinking…if I knew the issue was the story, and the trope-y-ness, why not write them a new story?

And then, on January 8, while listening to Lights “Muscle Memory” on repeat (yes, I’m obsessed with this song. Go listen to it now) I found that new story idea.

And now, dear readers. Now I’m almost 30K into this new book.

I can’t even tell you how excited I am about it. Does it still have tropes? Of course, they’re difficult to get away from, and some of them I just plain like. It still has princesses in ballgowns, and swordfighting, and typical High Fantasy creatures (unicorns instead of dragons, this time). But this story passes the Bechdel test. It has gender equality and diversity, things I didn’t realize I wasn’t writing until I got on Twitter. And it has an awful lot more standing in the way of our heroine and hero finding their HEA, making it a more exciting story.

Will this be the book that lands me an agent? Who knows. But at 30K, I know that I love, love, love this story and whether or not it ever gets published, I know that writing it is the right choice for me.

So what are you all working on that you’re excited about?

Oh Hi 2015 + Six Things I Did/Learned in 2014

On my last blog post, I apologized for not posting in a month. That was in December of 2013. It’s been more than a year since then, so I think it’s officially safe to say that I’m the worst blogger ever. I will say that this whole blogging thing does not come naturally to me. Like most authors, I’m a bit of an introvert, and struggle with the balance between sharing too much and not enough information. But that’s no excuse! And so, dear readers, I promise to try (try!) to be a better blogger from now on.

So, to kick off my return to blogging, I want to share with you six things I did and/or learned in 2014! And oh boy, some of them are BIG.

1. I learned the importance of Twitter. The fact that so many people in the publishing industry, from writers to agents to editors, all congregate on one form of social media, and talk about issues relevant to the industry, still blows my mind. The wealth of information, people, and resources is magnificent. There are authors on Twitter who regularly schedule events, called “Pitch Events/Parties” that help us un-agented, un-published writers, to connect with agents and editors. Agents and editors use the hashtag #MSWL to post exactly what they’re looking for. And the supportive community among all authors, agented or not, is incredible.

Of course it has its downside as well. Twitter is on the internet (I know, shocking!), which means it’s open to everyone. Which means it’s permanent. If you publicly step out of line, or make a fool of yourself, people are going to notice – and remember. Luckily my personal experience has been nothing but positive, but I’ve seen others crash and burn, and it’s difficult to watch.

2. I got a new Critique Partner. I’m still working with my amazing CP, Daniel Wheatley, who recently secured representation for his fantastic, diverse, YA fantasy THE ZANNA FUNCTION, but I also started working with the lovely Joanna Meyer, who writes stunning YA literary fantasy. We met on Twitter about a year ago (happy anniversary dear!!) and quickly became fast friends. Now I don’t know what I would do without her (forgive me, I’m still in the honeymoon phase even a year later).

3. I revised and started querying the MS I was finishing up last December. I’m not going to talk about how it’s going, because part 3b is that I learned it isn’t polite to discuss the querying process. But I will say that I adore this manuscript and I’m very hopeful that it will find a nice home.

4. I did NaNoWriMo for the first time, and won! The MS I wrote was a YA High Fantasy retelling of Swan Lake. Right now I’m polishing, before I send it off to my CPs for the start of revisions!

5. My husband and I bought a house. This was a big one, as you can imagine. We moved out of the tiny little house we were renting in Baltimore, and moved to a bigger house in a tiny little town outside of York, PA. We did this because….

6. I discovered I was expecting and subsequently gave birth to my first child! So obviously that was a big deal. My daughter Lyra was born at 8:40 AM on September 4th. She’s now four months old, and the light of my life. As you might imagine, crossfit kind of went out the window, and while I miss my flat stomach and superior strength, I wouldn’t trade my little girl for anything!

So clearly I had a busy 2014! And I’m looking forward to an even more busy 2015! What about you guys?

Hello there, shiny new MS!

Well, I’m officially a terrible person and haven’t updated this blog in over a month. I know everyone has those periods where they just don’t have much to write about (and, come on, holidays), but the situation with me is actually the fact that I have been writing SO MUCH.

Because in the last four weeks, I finished my half-completed manuscript!

That’s right, I wrote half a book in a month. I have to admit that was awesome for me, considering that I also work a full-time job. It meant slacking off on crossfit, but. I finished my manuscript. You really can’t compete with that.

So I finished my manuscript. Now what?

Well, everyone does this part differently. But right now my rough draft is with my primary critique partner, and my husband is also giving it a read through. When they’re done, I’ll get notes from each of them, and the three of us will sit down and discuss the manuscript over drinks. Because that’s how we roll. And then the fun part starts – revising.

I love revising. As much as I like writing, I like revising even better. Someone once described theses two stages of writing as follows: Writing is like putting all the sand into your sandbox. Revising is when you actually build your sandcastle. And I think that’s absolutely true. When I’m revising is when I really see my characters develop, my plot lines connect, and the story flesh-out. It’s when everything finally comes together and my manuscript goes from being a rough draft, to starting to actually feel like a novel.

And I love it.

Right now, waiting for that first bit of feedback, is the hardest part for me. So I’m trying to distract myself by starting another book. Because evidently I’m insatiable.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a lovely holiday, and is looking forward to the rapidly approaching new year!

10 Things I Learned at the Baltimore Writers Conference 2013

This weekend I had the very great fortune to attend the Baltimore Writer’s Conference. It was my first time attending such an event and let me just say, I am incredibly thankful that I did. For anyone who has never considered getting involved in the conference circuit, I strongly suggest you reconsider. Not necessarily because you’re going to learn any incredible tips or tricks which are magically going to get you published (you won’t), but if for no other reason than to meet other people in the same situation as yourself. It came up several times during the conference that we, as writers, tend to exist in a vacuum. The nature of writing is that you do it by yourself. So it is a good thing when we are given the opportunity to interact with others who understand, and to learn about their triumphs and their failures.

Now I could write out a blow-by-blow of everything I did and heard at the Baltimore Writers Conference, but that would be boring. So instead, here is a list of the top ten things I took away from the event. If anyone has any questions or wants to hear more – please let me know!

In no particular order:

1. Every story has a backstory – try to find it. This will give you a deeper understanding of your characters, your world, and your overall story, even if the backstory is never put on the page.

2. Memorable stories on timeless themes will always attract readers – whether or not it fits into a trend.

3. Marketing is not a dirty word.

4. When writing YA, you must keep your audience in mind because your readers are at a formative stage in their life. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address difficult subjects, only that you need to be aware of the difference between how young readers will receive the subject as opposed to how an adult would.

5.  Authors get virtually no say in what their cover looks like.

6. Kids like to read up – so if your target audience is twelve to fourteen, your protagonist should be fifteen or sixteen, etc.

7. The most important thing in writing is to find the voice of your character.

8. As a new, young writer you need to finish your first book, and then move on. A lot of people spend far too many years on their first book, and never get past it.

9. Sometimes you need to switch genres in order to get published.

10. There are three things you should consider when writing a new scene: First, what does each character want. Second, what will happen if they don’t do it. And finally, why now?

All in all, it was a very successful conference for myself. I met some wonderful people, had some great conversations, and found myself feeling a renewal of my enthusiasm for the entire querying/publication process.

Losing Heart

The past week was not a great one for me, as far as my writing is concerned. The issue with having to rewrite a chapter plus too many other things going on (work and personal) meant that I have fallen off my schedule for my rough-draft completion date. No, it’s not going to kill me if I’m a month late, it’s just not what I had hoped for. Still, I’m in control and I will work everything out in the best manner that I am able.

But on top of loosing two weeks of time, I also received my forth form rejection for the manuscript I’m currently circulating. While this isn’t a huge deal, because I’ve now only sent out fifteen queries and have only heard back from four, this one was disappointing because it was someone I thought would be a good fit.

Still, my goal is always to handle these things with grace, so I took a deep breath and closed the email. But then I started thinking. If someone I thought would be such a good fit for me didn’t like the story, then what am I doing wrong?

Unfortunately I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that there were some serious issues with the manuscript ever since I started sending it out. And the biggest of these is that I’m trying to sell this as YA, but the reality is that the story may just be too detached. The protagonist may be too reserved and calculating for a YA audience to relate to. And while that’s certainly a part of her persona, what I really think is that the story was worked on for so long, was worked over so many times, that maybe somewhere between drafts it lost its heart.

How difficult a balance it is to strike, between keeping the writing clean and polished, but also providing enough color for the audience to grasp. I think I probably was so focused on polishing, plus so embedded in the world, that I lost track of which details needed to stay, that I over-edited, and the resulting manuscript may seem a bit too cold.

I’m not sure if these are the reasons I’m being rejected. Maybe it is the fact that, though a steampunk work, it has too many dystopian elements. Maybe my writing just sucks. But I think that, since it has now been almost six months since I said “Done” that it might be the right time to go back and reevaluate what I’m sending out, since what I’ve been doing so far obviously hasn’t been working. But either way, I’m not losing heart, I’m not giving up. I will write until the day I die, and if I never get picked up by an agent, then so be it.

After all, there’s always self-publishing.

Restarting Before The Finish

First of all, happy Halloween guys! Second, I would just like to say that I feel surprisingly excellent today considering that I deadlifted more than my body weight for the first time last night. Perhaps being so exhausted led to excellent sleep, and that’s why I feel so chipper this morning. Whatever the reason, I’m not complaining!

This week I’m working on Chapter Ten of Don’t Leave and it has been a dramatic departure from the last four chapters which flowed from my fingertips to the computer screen as fast as I could type them. For a variety of reasons, this one has been just a little bit harder. I know what I want to do, and at this point I know how I want to do it, which usually results in speed-writing from me. But what I’m facing is a delicate balance of taking two previously antagonistic characters and forcing them to start warming up to one another, which is always tricky.

And then there’s the fact that I’m halfway through the chapter, and I already know that I’ve put the events in the wrong time and place.

When I write a rough draft, I tend to put down whatever comes into my head and push through as far as I can. Or at least that’s what I used to do. But now as I’m sitting and typing out the words, I can tell how forced and unnatural it feels. I know that this scene is not right.  And for approximately two thousand words, I ignored that feeling. Just get it out, I told myself. You can fix it later.

But what purpose does that really serve? While the events in the scenes aren’t going to change, I know they need to happen somewhere other than where the characters are currently located, and moreover that they need to happen a little bit later in the game.

So you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to stop and start over. Yes, maybe that means I won’t finish a chapter this week. But in the long run, I’m doing myself a favor. Because I know that it’s going to need to be fixed, I know that this will result in better progression of the storyline, and I know, in the end, that I am actually saving myself time and effort.

But I have to say, sometimes it doesn’t feel awesome to stop what you’re doing and restart from scratch, even when it’s the right choice.