On First Pages

I love this. So perfectly captures where I’m at right now. But I am learning to conquer the fear, fall in love with this new story, and enjoy this crazy ride all over again.

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To Build A Story

Some of y’all know I’ve been working on a brand new, untitled WIP. Obviously, it is in the very early stages still, but I am loving how it coming along so far. Though I started this blog to share the highs and lows of my journey towards publishing, I thought it would also be nice to share this latest journey, writing a brand new manuscript, from step one. All posts will be under To Build A Story, and I will try to keep consistent updates of where I’m at in the process, what my struggles are, and what I’ve accomplished (You’ll also notice a word count meter tracking my progress in the sidebar).

I hope to be able to share this with those of you embarking on this crazy ride with me 🙂

To start, let me introduce the WIP (though, it will probably be rewritten a dozen times before I’m finished, ha) As of now, it is a YA fantasy set in a somewhat post-apocalyptic world ravaged by shapeshifting monsters called Shadows. Kera is a 16 year old who survives (with her mom and 10 year old sister, Hana) in the harsh northern forests of the wilds. She has lived her whole life believing humans (who live in the distant safehouses) are more dangerous than the Shadows. While scouting for a new den, Kera and her mother encounter human hunters, and are attacked by Shadows. When her mother is ripped, leaving her a mindless shell, and Kera is touched by the Shadow–leaving her with fragmented visions–she must choose whether to face winter alone in the wilds, or turn to the human hunters for help. It is a raw world of survival, mystery, and magic.

So far, I’m really loving the world and the voices in this. It’s very moody and haunting, but also stark and raw. For a long time, I had a lot of scattered ideas about this project, but no clear connection. After a long session with my CP Stephanie, I’ve managed to get the puzzle pieces together, and have finished a bare bones outline. I am 11,500 words in, and so far they’ve been coming easily, though I don’t want to jinx it 🙂

My next big issue to tackle: the title.

I am open to any suggestions. I have considered some things, but nothing has really stuck. Some words I am playing around with include: shadow, bone, ashes, ice, static, mark, chosen.

Look forward to hearing some brilliant ideas! (seriously, I need it)

Brutally Honest

I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times. Join a writing group, have critique partners. Well I’m here to tell you again. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have good critique partners, who are brutally honest (when they need to be).

While praise is (of course) good and appreciated, sometimes it’s not always for the best. For instance, when my friend Lindsay Cummings first read my book, she gushed. It was high praise from a published author, and I couldn’t have been more ecstatic.

But the problem is, when you think you’re good enough, you stop trying. You stop working for it, learning, trying to get better. And honestly, that’s what I did. I was lulled into a sense of security in my own awesomeness. Not to say I’m not awesome, but I was okay with good. I didn’t challenge myself. I didn’t say, okay, this is good, but what can make it better? I ignored the blatant flaws in my manuscript that I knew were there. Because if she thought it was agent-ready, those didn’t matter, right?

Now I love her to death and I’m not trying to give her a hard time (I’ll take all the compliments and praise I can get, haha) it did have an effect on me. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have good CPs. And by “good” I don’t mean people you enjoy talking to and who read your story and tell you nice things about it (though those are a plus).

Exhibit A: Stephanie (All my CP’s are fabulous, she’s just a good example 😉 ) She does tell me nice things about my story. We do enjoy spending time together (and she has amazing taste in music). But she’s also honest. She reads it objectively, and critiques everything from broad concepts to sentence structure and grammar.

Yes this is good, but how can we make it great? She is constantly challenging me and inspiring me to do better, to be better. Some of the things we come up with together are 10x better than anything I came up with on my own. Sometimes the gem is waiting there, just beneath the surface, but I’m so coddled in my security that I can’t see it. So she helps to chip away, and help me find those gems, and throw away the rest. (Go show her some love here)

All my life, I’ve been “a good writer”. It was as part of my identity as my age, school, or gender. This is Victoria, she’s a good writer. People read my stories, and loved them. They told me nice things about them. And I’ve learned and grown and developed on my own as a writer, of course, but now I can’t help but think how much more exponentially I would have grown if I’d had the resources then I have now.

I am so glad I have finally connected with the writing community. It’s a crazy great bunch of people. I have learned so much in these past couple months, more than an entire year of figuring things out on my own. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already involved with the writing community in some way, but I challenge you to surround yourself with people and writers who not only support you, but challenge you.

The results will be exponential.

What’s Up Wednesday

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrowand Erin Funk, to help connect writers on this writing journey. If you’d like to join us, check out the blogs each week, get to know some of the other writers taking part, and spread some writerly love! 

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What I’m Reading

I’m still reading The Park Service by Ryan Winfield. As much as I’m still loving it, I just haven’t had much time to read lately. But if you haven’t yet, it really is worth buying (I mean, 3 bucks on Kindle? It doesn’t get better than that) He’s a great storyteller and world builder, and I’m taking notes as I go along 🙂

What I’m Writing

Well, I finally broke 80,000 on my manuscript! It sort of felt like there should have been fireworks and cupcakes, but sadly there were neither. When I started writing this book, 50,000 seemed massive and impossible, and I was struggling for word count. But now I’ve done over 80,000 and it feels pretty great 🙂 I finished this round of revisions, and printed the first 100 out for a read-through.

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Isn’t she beautiful?? So far, I’ve tackled the first 25, and I have notes for every single page. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes reading through it printed. I mean, I’m noticing typos and missing words, even though I’ve read through it 500 times. And reading it like this makes it feel fresh, so I’ve noticed some questions readers might have or things I never saw before.

What Inspires Me

Right now, I’m really inspired by others. Like I said, Ryan Winfield is a great storyteller, and reading his book has given me a lot of ideas and notes. I also love meeting with my writing group and bouncing ideas off each other, even if it’s not for my own manuscript. I love seeing the process, and that moment when the lightbulb goes off and everything comes together. 🙂

What Else I’m Up To

The Bucket List is still going strong, and has made for some great laughs and memories 🙂 Boyfriend and I are starting to seriously look into some mission trips for either later this year during winter break, or next summer. We’ve more or less narrowed it down to two trips, India and Nepal–though the Nepal trip is physically demanding, and I would have to consult my doctors and create a conditioning plan in order to go. But I’ve been taking it into my own hands and exercising (little bits at a time) and hopefully that will make a difference.

I have been lucky enough to be in good health lately, but I can’t take anything for granted. But we just found out that there is a new prescription for POTS, just approved by the FDA. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but the idea that there might actually be a treatment that works would be a dream come true! In the mean time though, I’m just trying to stay healthy and enjoying it while I can 🙂

Happy Wednesday!

What’s Up Wednesday

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What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, to help connect writers on this writing journey. If you’d like to join us, check out the blogs each week, get to know some of the other writers taking part, and spread some writerly love! 

What I’m Reading

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The Park Service by Ryan Winfield (Park Service Trilogy #1). I totally happened on this book by accident, I was actually reading another book when I found it and downloaded a sample on my kindle. This book is a perfect example of two things you’re normally not supposed to do (prologue, and opening with MC waking up) and doing them so well it blew my mind (a further blog post to follow regarding rules and how to break them). I was so hooked by the end of the prologue, I put away the other book and haven’t been able to put down this one since. Winfield has created such a vivid, resonating, creative, and yet realistic world. He has done post-apocalyptic society in a unique way that is also entirely believable. I can’t wait to see what’s next 🙂

What I’m Writing

Well, I thought I was done with my MS. Seriously, I had started printing it out for a read-through. But of course my characters wouldn’t let me get off that easily. I already knew I had to change my climax and pacing, but wanted to find that out in the read-through. As part of the pacing, I counted how many scenes each POV had, and found an overwhelming gap. So I went to even that gap, and Crow (one POV) yanked the pen out of my hands and started writing his own story. I’m serious. I’ve added over 6k of purely his POV so far, with more scenes planned. He is even fighting to become the ultimate love interest, instead of the guy I’ve had planned all along. It’s kind of frustrating but amazing all at the same time. As I also talked about in this post, I’ve unbound his restraints, and he’s shown me all new depths of darkness and depravity, but it’s kind of brilliant and exciting 🙂

What Inspires Me

This week I’ve been kind of overwhelmed by support from the writing community. I’ve been a little out of touch with my online presence lately, with so much else going on, that it seemed a lot like a chore. Then I came back, and I remembered why writers and book people are the best people in the world 🙂 It is amazing to me that I can connect to people I’ve never met before, some who are across oceans and continents from me. And I love when I see bookish things trending on twitter, hashtags we created, because it reminds me of the impact and influence we can have when we put our minds to it. I kind of picture us like a little nerd army, wielding books and laptops as weapons 😉

What Else I’m Up To

SUMMER! Sorry, this has been a crazy semester and I am so glad to be done with it. I’ve been enjoying the time off with much needed naps, binge-watching Netflix, and pool time. This summer, boyfriend and I decided to try something different, since we’ve kind of gotten into the lull of just spending time at each others houses, watching Netflix or movies, usually in our PJs. Boyfriend actually came up with the idea, and I was inspired by many similar lists we found on Pinterest.

So, we made our very own Summer Bucket List! The idea is to (at least) once a week do something new or different than our usual. It includes everything from roadtrips to frisby golf to reading a book together, and we have 75 on the list so far. Boyfriend even had the added idea of writing them down, sorting into categories, and drawing randomly (ie places to go, museums, free, restaurants, and whichever we pick, we have to do). What do you think? Do you have any awesome summer ideas for us?

Happy Wednesday! 🙂

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’s Up Wednesday

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What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

I am still reading Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce. I am about halfway through, and still loving it. I would have finished it by now (probably even in one sitting), but everything else has been so crazy lately I haven’t had much time for reading.

What I’m Writing

The past couple of weeks I’ve been getting ready for DFWCON, which is this weekend (eek!). I’ve rewritten my pitch and query about 10,000 times and been frustrated with my MS. Then, I had some deep talks with one of my CPs, and she said that I was trying to put it in the wrong genre, that it felt much more like a fantasy. I realized I had been trying to force it into sci-fi, when it really wasn’t, but when I made it into a science fantasy (it’s a thing) suddenly everything fit! So first I went back and rewrote my query/pitch (again) so those would be ready for DFWCON. Now that I’ve got those done, I’m in the process of making revisions on my MS to change the sci-fi and add fantasy elements. And so far, I’m loving it 🙂 I got to keep the integrity of the story, and it turned out 10x cooler, more interesting, and unique! Bye, bye dystopian, and yay genius CPs!

What Inspires Me

My fabulous CP Stephanie (she’s amazing, check out her blog here) has been unbelievable as far as brainstorming. She is also 100% honest and challenges me to be better, which I love. We have come up with some genius ideas together! I have been inspired and productive in art, I did a couple pieces this week (watercolor) and even some poetry. I went through a bunch of my old writing journals–three years worth–and dug through for the parts worth keeping. I was pleasantly surprised (especially since I wrote it when I was 13-15 years old) and reinspired by some gems I found in there. Little me was very melodramatic, but I had my occasional moments of greatness 😉 Some even have book potential, so I typed them into my laptop to save for later!

What Else I’m Up To

End of the semester, Pitch Slam, and DFWCON. Finals are in two weeks, and I’m scrambling to finish all the projects and papers that come before. I just finished the Pitch Slam pitch contest, which I will write a detailed post about after DFWCON this weekend. And DFWCON–I’ve reached panic mode! Two days left. I feel horribly unprepared, but I’ve done all the research and preparations I can. I am somewhat of a control freak, and definitely a huge planner, so I hate not really knowing what to expect since it is my first conference ever. Thankfully I’ll have the majority of my amazing writing group there for support and networking. That’s a huge part of my nerves, I think. I have social anxiety already, but especially in big groups or crowds. Plus this will be the first time I have to really “network”. I’m not the person who can just go up and strike a conversation. I tend to get nervous and blurt out nonsensical things/overshare about my life in order to fill up the awkward silence. But, it is my first conference and will be a great opportunity to learn and grow and get connected in the writing community. I’m just going to keep telling myself that, so I don’t panic 🙂

Happy Wednesday!