Nearing the Finish Line

If any of y’all have been keeping an eye on the word counter in the sidebar, you’ve noticed it creeping ever closer to full. Now, the space is hardly noticeable at all. And it’s true. I’m only 1k away from my original goal of 60,000 words.

Am I almost done? Yes, but I still have more to go. That original goal is probably around 10k short, and that’s okay. But nearing my goal feels beyond amazing.

I’ve struggled a lot with this WIP. Between CampNaNo, burnout, and an overloaded semester, the words have been difficult at times. But somehow, at some point, I got out of the slog of the middle and into smoother waters. I’ve been churning out words, new characters, and plot points, and love where the story is going. I get excited every time I sit down to write, and when I start I don’t ever want to stop.

I love this feeling. It certainly hasn’t been an easy road, but writing a book never is. And as this WIP gets closer and closer to becoming a full, complete manuscript–my second publishable one ever–my smile gets bigger and bigger.

What started out as a snippet of an idea, one I pursued only as a break from my original manuscript, turned out to a story and world of its own. Now, it is about to be a book, and then a series. I feel a little bit like a proud mom, about to have her second baby. My CP and I call them brain babies, and this really is. And I think for a while I’m going to keep this one to myself, and enjoy it while it’s fresh and exciting and new, before I send it out into the world to be beaten and taken apart and reformed.

I’m actually looking forward to edits. I’m looking forward to going through it, and exploring this world deeper, and these new voices I’ve just discovered. I can’t wait for it to be polished and shiny and ready for the world–and to share it all with you.

This has been a marathon. I am so glad I’ve had y’all along with me on this journey, on the sidelines of the marathon, cheering me on. Though there were definitely times I wanted to give up, I am jogging towards the end–my lungs burning, muscles aching, and heart soaring. I just need a few more cheerleaders, to make it through this home stretch, and break through that ribbon.

I can’t wait.

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The Q Word

If you’re a writer, and have ever planned or even thought about publishing, you’ve likely heard the infamous Q word.

Query.

Now, deep breaths and swallow that tang of panic and dread in the back of your throat and stay with me.

When I first started, querying was terrifying. Then I did some research, practiced, and with the help and encouragement of an author friend, I sent out my first wave of queries. After writing my whole life, and two years working on Ember, I was finally doing something! I was finally pursuing my dream.

Now that I look back, I wish I hadn’t sent those queries.

Wait, what?

I’m glad I took action and started the publishing process myself, but I wish I had waited a while longer, and really practiced before I sent those first queries. Honestly, they’re embarrassing. Even though I did my research and had some help, I can clearly see why they were passed over. Not to mention, my story wasn’t nearly at the place it needed to be, which I kind of knew at the time, but was overeager that my author friend believed in me, and here was my chance!

I regret sending them without more time, practice, and revision, because now those are opportunities I’ve wasted. I didn’t understand at the time that once an agent has passed, you can’t query them with that manuscript again, no matter how drastic the changes. And most agencies, you can’t query more than one agent within that agency.

I learned quickly that there aren’t infinite agents out there, just waiting to fight over my book.

Now most of you writers are familiar with the roller-coaster ride of querying. Sometimes it feels less like a roller coaster, and more like an endless, rotating paper shredder (ouch).

This week has been one of those. I had been corresponding with an agent for two months, and was very hopeful that things would work out, but unfortunately, they didn’t. After going through that, facing the query process all over again feels a little like standing at the bottom of Mt. Everest. Naked. With no climbing gear.

Not to mention I’m still not great at queries, and hate the thought of my not-so-great query being written off before agents can ever get to read my writing. That aspect of queries has taken a lot of getting used to–how much sheer chance and luck it requires, and how very subjective it is.

I think that is also the most frustrating part of the process–how little I can control, and how little of it actually has to do with my writing. Maybe the agent doesn’t like how the query reads, or they just signed a YA fantasy the day before. Maybe they woke up and their car wouldn’t start, and they were late, and spilled coffee on their favorite shirt. Maybe your writing is really good, but dystopian/science fiction/vampire slayer memoir just isn’t selling right now.

Sometimes, it feels a little like carrying my heart around, asking someone, anyone, to love it like I do. But I have to remember, that this isn’t personal. For me, my book is my heart. For them, it’s business.

This is the hardest part about being in any creative industry–not letting the industry affect you. It’s okay for rejections to hurt, but remember that everything is subjective, and there are a dozen other factors that go into that rejection, some of which have nothing to do with your writing at all. Someone said that they love rejections, because each one is like a big sign, saying “Not here. Maybe over there,” pointing you that much closer.

It’s hard not to let it affect me, because I want it so bad. This is my life, my dream, and the possibility that this might not ever happen terrifies me sometimes.

But then, little things like a comment on my post saying, “I totally need to read this book” or my author friend telling me that there are big things ahead for me, or a fellow writer my age who is just as new to this as I am, getting signed by an agent.

It does happen–it will happen.

In the mean time, I’ll keep writing these stories for me, because I love them–and hope that one day, I’ll get to share them, and you can love them as much as I do.

 

 

Pushing the Boundaries

As writers, we constantly ride that line between being creative and just plain crazy. We want to be fresh enough that we stand out on the shelves, but not alienate readers – we want them to think WOW, not WTF. And the gatekeepers say on one hand they’re looking for something different, but then some things are so different they don’t have a market.

It’s easy to get sucked into this. I know, I’m always over-analyzing my writing now that I’m looking at it from an industry/publishing perspective. At first, I only wrote for myself. I wasn’t scared of what people would think, because I was the only one who would read it. Now I find myself constantly second guessing, and cutting lines or scenes that might turn people away. I’m embarrassed before anyone even reads it.

And then I think,  what am I doing?

It is our job to be crazy. It is our job to push the boundaries and try new things and turn the world inside out just to see what shape it will take. I love that about writing. Sometimes I worry so much about stepping too far outside the lines into crazy-land, that I forget. Writing doesn’t have boundaries. With only 26 letters, somehow the possibilities are limitless.

Exhibit A: from DFWCON. In the query gong show (which is basically a roast of people’s queries) there was a query so outlandish that everyone, including the agents, laughed through the whole thing. Like 80-year-old grandma and aliens in her backyard crazy. But guess what? It was one of only two queries that made it, and got requests. The crazy characters are the ones we remember. Donald Maas said in his character workshop, “Don’t be afraid to push your protagonist over the edge.” I love that.

And that’s something I’d really struggled with. I’d tried to reign in the really dark and twisted bits of my story to keep it marketable to a wide audience. But that’s the problem: it is dark and twisted. One of my main characters, Crow, is really dark and twisted. But he’s an assassin for the most ruthless drug lord in the city, with a background of torture and abuse. In other words, he has some serious issues. Watering his character and his scenes down to make it a pill easier to swallow just didn’t work. He ended up feeling flat.

Now, I’ve opened the cage door, taken the chains off, and explored where he can go. It’s taken me by surprise how much he’s come to life. It’s messed up, it’s dark, it’s disturbed, but it’s raw and emotional and powerful. I got chills while writing some parts, and cried while writing others. It’s real, and it’s him. He’s become my most vivid and dynamic character. It wasn’t fair to him, or my readers, to lock him away just because he might be a little too much crazy for some people. You know what? Those people are just dumb and boring. 😉

We’re self-conscious creatures, writers. Especially when we open up our writing to the world, with the possibility of it being picked apart. But don’t be scared of that, don’t even think about it. Write what is genuine. Write for yourself, and for your story, and for your characters.

It is ten thousand times better to be too much, than not enough. Don’t tiptoe up to the edge of crazy, dive off of it. Even if you don’t keep the crazy, you’ll find a whole new world of depth to your story in the process. Your characters and your readers will thank you.

 

 

What Am I Getting Myself Into?

I don’t consider myself a typical writer, though I suppose there isn’t a such thing as a “typical writer.”

I have been writing stories since before I knew how to spell, and the love of writing has been with me my whole life, as much a part of me as my arms or my heart. I wrote when I was inspired, when I was discouraged, when I needed an escape from reality. I wrote through break ups, through family drama, and through my ongoing illness. I am 19 years old now (this month) and have completed three manuscripts (that should never see the light of day) and one that was worth possibly sharing. I finally had characters, and a story, that were so real and so strong they practically wrote themselves, and then they jumped off the page and took up permanent residence in my head (whether I liked it or not). I’d been writing all my life, but I finally had a story worth telling.

It’s a terrifying thing, to take something that is more or less a piece of yourself, and expose it to the world and the possibility of rejection and hurt that comes with it. But finally, I did–slowly, at first. My notoriously optimistic and cheery cousin, who gushed about it and couldn’t wait for more. My best friend. Snippets here and there, not enough to be harmful. It was enough positive feedback to boost my spirits, but not enough for me to truly put myself out there. The publishing process seemed like Mount Doom on the horizon, and I didn’t have enough courage or lembas bread to get there.

Then I met my friend Lindsay Cummings (author of the upcoming book The Murder Complex as well as the Balance Keepers series) and when she asked to read my book, I was terrified. Here was someone with experience, someone who knew what she was doing and was in no way obligated to tell me nice things about it to make me feel better. But, with sweaty palms, I sent her the first chapter. I think my heart stopped for the whole hour it took her to read it. Then I read her response, and my heart stopped again. She liked it? Like, a lot? It seemed too good to be true. I’d never given much serious consideration to having anything published. It seemed an unrealistic and unattainable dream, so I crushed it before it could take root. But here she was, telling me I was too talented not to publish. Surely this was a dream! But after rereading several more times,  I finally convinced myself it was true.

Maybe I did have a chance at climbing Mount Doom, after all.

It’s been a roller coaster for me, and a huge learning curve, to educate myself in the publishing process, and to tackle the transition from passion to profession. I have finally allowed myself to dream of actually becoming an author, and now it’s a need so embedded in me it is as much a part of me as writing or my arms or my heart. Not because it seems like a cool job or at least way better than a 9-5, but because I have a story that I have to share–whether it is with 50 people, or 50,000.

So far, I have sent out 7 queries, and will be attending my first writer’s conference in May. I am still overwhelmingly inexperienced in this field–and perhaps, have no qualifications to be writing this blog–but I hope that there are others out there at the start of this daunting journey that are as overwhelmed as I am. When I first sent Lindsay my manuscript, I thought–What the hell am I doing?

What am I getting myself into?

If it had been up to me, I would never have shared my manuscript with anyone. I would never have been anxious, or rejected, or discouraged. I would have curled up with my coffee and my dog and my books, and been perfectly content. But my characters and my story, with all their vibrance and life, would have been stuck forever on the pages of my computer screen. And that’s not fair.

I hope you can share in my experiences, my mistakes, and my triumphs. I hope that I can inspire, encourage, or at the very least entertain you so that we can climb our Mount Doom together. So I invite you on this messy, overwhelming, terrifying, exhilarating roller coaster ride, and leave you with this:

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Now let’s kick Mount Doom’s ass.