Category Archives: My Thoughts on Writing

Let’s Talk About “New Adult” Novels

 

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Okay, so we all know what Young Adult (or YA) is. Novels written for a teenage audience. And we know what “Adult” books are. Books written for an adult audience.

If you don’t know what “New Adult” is, that’s okay, because it’s kind of a new phenomenon and doesn’t have an aisle at the library yet. Simply put, New Adult, or NA, are novels geared towards that aggravating in between stage in life, where you’re technically an adult but are lost in the big, wide world and are pretty sure you’re still a kid somehow.

Those can be pretty broad terms. An age-group can encompass a vast variety of experiences and lessons — and each of these can be different depending on the person. We all learn and grow at different rates, and everybody probably has different ideas of what should happen (or what’s appropriate) for a particular age group anyway.

For simplicities sake, we’ll go with this explanation I’ve heard and appeals to me: YA is about finding yourself, NA is about finding how you fit into the world.

Now, obviously, that’s simplistic. There are adult books that are stories about finding yourself or finding your place in the world. Honestly, I think “finding yourself” happens at any age and all throughout your life, but there does seem to be a particular foundational self-finding as a teen. Or self-solidifying. Or something. But anyway, NA is college-aged focused, tends to be more mature and have darker content.

Because certain things are more acceptable in NA… and the fact that not a lot of people know about NA, so those who do tend to dominate simply by design… and if we’re looking at numbers a lot of writers tend to write some element of romance… a lot of the writers spearheading the NA as an age-group write romance.

NA is able to delve into the area of sex and sexuality that is frowned upon in YA, which means that what people love about YA gets to be mixed with another very popular element: sex. Descriptions and “exploration” of sex is allowed in NA where it’s not in YA. A win-win for a lot of people.

However, this is also leading to a source of frustration.

Please note: THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ROMANCE. I love romance. I read quite a bit of romance. I’m a romantic person, I eat it up, especially when I want a happily ever after where everyone is okay in the end and the idea of reading anything about reality makes me want to goat-bolt into the nearest bed.

(I’m going to make goat-bolting a thing. It’s really fast. Trust me.)

Buuuuuuut. The frustration stems from the overwhelmed amount of romance that is dominating New Adult. NA seems to be, practically, just “YA with sex” instead of “college-aged life struggles of finding where you fit in with life.” (Which includes sex of course but you get what I’m saying.) NA has a huge capacity to explore A LOT, but many people of the NA age group or who enjoy the NA age group get frustrated by the seemingly never ending stories about sexual awakening.

Sometimes you want something non-romance. Not only because of the lovely asexual folks out there, who don’t want every book they read in their age group to be smut, but because diversity is a wonderful thing that leads to greatness. Also, choices, because that’s a thing, asexual or otherwise. Romance is great, but when you’re inundated with it you can become sick of it.

The truth is, I get really excited about New Adult stories. I’m a new adult. I feel like I’m in this adult world helplessly swimming in tar looking at everything like WTF AM I DOING. (Current world affairs don’t help.) Finding oneself is amazing and wonderful, but putting those pieces of yourself out in the world and finding how where best they fit keeps me up late wondering. This is where magic happens. This is where “oneself” starts changing the world. This is where “oneself” goes from meaning something just to you to finding the you that means something to other people. It’s terrifying, exhilarating, incredible. Sometimes it’s heartbreak and destruction. Sometimes it’s belonging and joy.

Anyway, the point is: NA is an age-group, not a genre, which means it’s capacity for story is GIGANTIC. I sometimes forget in my own little world where I write what I want, that reality doesn’t always reflect what I think it is or what I think it should be. So, it was really only recently that I realized, yeah, NA is pretty romance-heavy.

But I think there’s an evolution.Since it’s a new age-group, it takes a little bit before it’s fully fleshed out. Romance brought attention to NA: it’s becoming popular and noticed. Agents and publishers acknowledge it, the indie-publishing scene is all over it. Which means that now, as people realize it’s a thing, there will be people writing into it that have other stories to tell.

It’s funny, I wrote NA stories before it was even an age-group. I just wrote what I wanted to see in the world, I wasn’t really worried about it fitting in a bracket. Maybe that’s why I have confidence that NA will move on from “YA with sex” — because if I’m writing it, someone else had to be too. If readers and writers are frustrated about NA seeming limited to one genre, they’ll start writing something different.

NA will evolve. It will become more diverse. Many of us are working on making it so. And hey, if you’re one of those, I’d love to hear from you! Let’s be writing buddies.

 

Comments? Questions? What’s your experience with New Adult — are you writing it?

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Behind the Scenes In Being Published: Contract Writing vs. “Free” Writing (June 2017)

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If you’re not caught up on my writing journey so far, I signed a contract selling my INITIUM series late last year. A month or two later, my editor said I needed to write a prequel because my world is very complex, and she was worried I started to far into my character arc.

You may have noticed I didn’t write a blog post for May (or June or July, for that matter, but that was mostly procrastination). I was still writing the prequel in June (as discussed in the previous post) and mostly digesting my edit letter and writing through July, and I felt it was better to write a post encompassing more of the process to get a better picture. Mostly because I’ve never done much writing that’s arrived out of another’s suggestion, so that was kinda a weird ride for me. I’ve never even really used writing prompts to start a story. Somewhere between always having massive novel projects and lack of interest, I just never did it.

And then my publisher requested that I write something. Something that didn’t arise from genuine interest and creative spark.

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I knew what this prequel entailed, plot wise, as it’s my main character’s backstory, but hadn’t ever considered it interesting enough to actually write a whole book about. And it definitely became a whole book (I really cannot apparently write anything short — this is the shortest I’ve written at 52k. And I’ve added almost 10k now).

To start, the prequel is 5 years before the original first book. My character is shaped and grows from a lot of things that happen in the prequel, so she’s almost a different character in this prequel book. These characters are in such different places in their life. This is before everything that makes Fairian who she is.

She’s also 14, compared to the 19 year old Fairian in book one. There’s something to be said for the age difference. Which, for the first time, actually became a little problematic for me. I’ve always written teenage main characters, so it shouldn’t have really been an issue, but I’m in an odd place where I’m not a teenager *myself* anymore. Which, has been a weird thing for me personally, because I don’t really feel like an adult, either.

I think the reality is I’m psyching myself out too much about it. I know how to write a teenage — I just can also relatably write a 20-something.

But anyway. This was the first time I wrote something that’s original inspiration to write it did not come directly from me. It was also a little weird because in all the books I’ve finished before, it’s gone through a lot of inward processing before it comes out on the page. The prequel? Quite of bit of it was just throwing sand into the sandbox as it came.

I wasn’t all that excited about writing it, which made it difficult to actually get the words on the page. So what should have taken a month or so took over three months.

I think this took a toll on the richness and vividness of my world and characters, too. As I mention below, quite a bit of the first edit letter was “write this out MORE.” I wasn’t as into the characters and plot, and I think that becomes obvious.

(Honestly this isn’t all a bad thing, because this will be a great project to learn how to actually write revisions… but still, it was annoying how flat the end result felt)

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I think it’s a typical dilemma (or at least one that I’ve seen writers lament about before) to be torn between making something you’re supposed to do and making something that seems to be coming out of your very soul. I feel like I constantly waffle between liking the project and ambivalence. I find a part I like and feel invested, but then I step back too far and I lose track of what I like about this project.

There’s a balance there, I think; you’ve got to make a living somehow, but if you don’t care about what you’re writing, I don’t think readers will either. You know what I mean? I’m sure you’ve read a book where it seemed like the author just stop caring, or wrapped things up too quickly, or whatever. Not wanting to do that.

Now, I got the first edit letter for the thing a few weeks ago now. Shockingly, the main consensus for the first round of edits was that I didn’t write enough. It seems bizarre to me that not writing enough is my problem, at 100k-130k length finished novels. But this isn’t the first time she’s said something like this soooooo…

To be honest, re-reading the manuscript weeks later, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. There were some parts in there that, in rereading, I felt pretty damn good about. I mean, we’ll see what my editor thinks when we actually get there — but it was relief to find things about it I liked.

We could all probably say that about our first drafts though. Writers tend not to like drafts very much when we first complete them.

This is the strongest character arc I’ve ever written, to start with. In the beginning, she’s insecure, kinda shy, a little lost, and a little needy. By the end, she’s paranoid, angry, depressed, and driven as hell. That part was fun. The difference between the beginning and the end. (This is also relates to something I learned at the Willamette Writers Conference which I will be writing in another blog post!)

Anyway, based on the comments from my editor, the main issue was that I didn’t immerse my reader into Fairian’s head and the world fast enough (as mentioned above). I’m really great at the slow burn — in plots, in romance, in characters. Probably TOO good at the slow burn. And this book really came into existence because I needed to introduce the world and character more fully, more quickly.

So. I’m currently revising the first few chapters with A LOT more world details and thoughts in Fairian’s head. Turns out, adding words later really is more difficult than subtracting. I’ve spent my whole author life trying to reign in my excessive wordiness and now I’m supposed to do the opposite! Oh boy.

Since I originally had a different book exploring a lot of these introduction world elements, there are a lot of the same things that I need to be expressing in this book (as it’s now technically going to be the first one out) only somehow different. So that’s interesting. I feel like I’ve actually been delving deeper into the mechanics of my world because of this book… and building further details. Interesting and unique details.

I don’t know if I would have done this much exploring of the world if I hadn’t wrote this prequel. Partially because by the time the original first book starts, Fairian doesn’t care about a lot of the society norms and structures (as her rebellious self has set in), so she doesn’t think about or explore them much. In the prequel, she’s more concerned with trying to fit in and being a part of society, which lends itself to talking about said norms in society.

(At the Willamette Writers Conference a few weeks ago I mentioned above, I took an Urban Fantasy workshop that heavily emphasized establishing the ‘norm’ before exploring the magical — and this seems to be fitting into that right now…)

Anyway, the other big thing that was mention in the edit letter was that my ending was way too fast. It felt like I jumped to the end too quickly or got bored, she said.

Funny story: I was trying to keep the ending short and snappy to keep up suspense (which I was told was important) and went too far with THAT one too. So I’ve added a chapter and a few big scenes to bridge and extrapolate a few points.

 

All right, all of that gives you an overview of what’s been happening in my writing world the past couple months. I’ll be returning to my editing now — the Willamette Writers Conference (that I keep mentioning) was really helpful for so much of what I’m learning right now. I picked up some great tips about world building and character development that I will be immediately implementing thank you very much…

Just in the past few days I’ve had a few things click. I have a whole segment that is going to do amazing things in establishing the alternative-history timeline which I am DROOLING to go write into the first pages (adulting = getting in the way of everything).

 

Questions? Comments? Concerns? I’ll try to not to have such a gap between these posts next time around! 


Branding Myself Journey (er, the Incomplete Journey)

Like any author in this day and age, “marketing” is a huge part of our job, traditionally published and indie alike. Marketing is this huge vast subject that scares the crap out of most authors, but includes things like: interaction on social media (with fans and other writers — and keeping consistent with whatever platforms you choose), ads on different sites, getting your book into the hands of reviewers, etc, and… branding.

I want to talk about what I’ve learned about branding. I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ve read a lot and am starting to feel like I’ve got my head halfway wrapped around the concept. Mostly, I wanted to share what I know while processing what I know.

Branding, simply, is what face you show to your audience. It’s what they associate with you when they think of you. In marketing in general, you want to cultivate a certain image of yourself and what you write so that you can more easily attract people that are going to align with what you have to offer (and hopefully want to buy your book!).

If you can attract people who are interested in the same thing as you, who have similar passions or motivations, they’re more likely to become loyal fans. This is opposed to, say, tweeting annoying ‘buy my books!’ links, or just talking into the void. That is vastly less successful, and honestly, will probably turn people off. Thought, technically, I suppose it is ‘marketing’ in the broadest sense of the word.

You can read a lot of advice about marketing in general, not book related, which can be pretty helpful. But for specific book-related marketing advice, I take a lot of it from BadRedHeadMedia. Her slogan is “Helping you help your damn self since 2011”, which I can’t help but like. She’s funny, concise, and her stuff really makes sense to me. A big shout-out to her.

(If you need somewhere to start with her, since we’re talking about branding, her Branding 101 article is really great, as is her The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now.)

I’m going to snag another one of her phrases right here, too —

“You brand the author. Not the book.”

The point is, with branding, is that you’re developing attracting readers for YOU, THE AUTHOR, not a one-time book sale. Yes, books bring readers, obviously. But they’ll connect even more if they feel a connect to you, the author.

Sometimes I wince at that, because I wonder about the risks. Readers loving one book and not liking the next, or being put off accidentally by something I say, or, or, or. Most advice I read says being genuine and authentic is key to people connecting and liking you as an author, but there’s a lot of vulnerability in that too. Which is scary.

But I digress. I want to talk about what branding actually LOOKS like, which is what I struggled with when I first started consuming vast amounts of marketing advice.

So branding is what people think of when they think of you.

For me, I separate branding out into three parts into my head which helps me wrap my mind around it.

There are the esthetics

  • Colors
  • Symbols

There is your personality (sarcastic? funny? sweet? tough?)

  • Being authentic
  • Being genuine

There are the issues

  • What are you passionate about? The environment? Dogs? Happy endings?
  • These issues should be important to you, which could possibly connect you to a reader who also shares that interest and will then want to read your book.

Now, that’s just what helps me. I’m not a professional marketer, and those categories are far from clear cut from one another. They blend a lot. But it helps my head to see it that way.

As for my esthetics, I’m all about dark colors. I love blues and greens and purples. I generally have some sort of plant-related or dragon-related thing somewhere. I like sprawling landscapes and epic scenes. I also like grittiness, though — a hint of darkness and danger. I want to do an overhaul on all my sites to really portray this better. I also want to create a symbol that really encompasses me — to put in all sorts of places, including business cards and the like. I’m getting there.

My personality, well. I love sarcasm. But, I’m pretty much a bleeding-heart sap to my core, so there’s that. I’m more timid than I like, and it comes through when I make stances on issues, because I tend to over-think and just make myself go in circles. I like adding aspects of thought to conversation rather than arguing. I know, devil’s advocate personalities are the worst. I try to restrain myself.

Furthermore, I want to be intelligent but accessible. I want to teach, not preach. I want to break boxes and step out into new ways of thinking and perceiving the world… and bring everything else along with the ride. (Succeeding at this is a whole new story.)

As for issues… well, let’s get a little more in-depth with that.

Advice I’ve read from professional marketers state that you should choose 5-6 major issues to include in your branding, and 4-5 minor subjects.

Major subjects are more directly related to what your books are about, the image you really want people to identify with you. These are things that are most important to you that show up in your books.

For example.

Environmental issues have been a big part of my life forever, and when looking at my writing, it shows up. A lot. Whether it’s actual solarpunk I’m writing, or there’s historical significance for the world, or the main character is worried about an environmental issue.

I’m also a huge fan writing alternate history. I like messing with time and events and making something new. My INITIUM series, my first series being published, is alternate history. And historical truth in real life (winners writing the historical narrative) has also been an issue near and dear to my heart since… forever.

Then, there’s the fact that I write fantasy. I love fantasy and magic and tend to be daydreaming wherever I’m at. So, another theme that I like to fit into my branding is pointing out the moments of magic in real life. I’d love to be known for seeing magic in the drudgery. (This theme doesn’t come up as often as it should — I need to work on it.)

Right off the bat, those are three issues that I can post about that reveal who I am as a person and what I write about as an author.

Also, my editor suggested a while ago that my heroine, Fairian, is quite the strong female figure. She’s kind of a reluctant hero, not really wanting to change the world around her, but doing so for various reasons. So: women power. That’s another issue that can fit into my branding narrative, as my characters are generally pretty strong and feisty. It’s also a pretty popular one, which helps. I’m working on really making this more of a part of my branding, since it’s a pretty complicated subject and I’m not sure exactly what this looks like, to post about.

Another issue that’s been slowly showing up in my branding is mental health. I suffer from depression, so it’s natural to me, but I’ve never really been one to share it or talk about it. But, I’m realizing more and more, that a lot of people struggle with this issue, especially writers. My characters also tend to struggle with some sort of mental/existential issue in their paths, so it fits there, too.

Then, probably the most obvious theme that fits into branding me-as-a-writer, is #writinglife itself. That one doesn’t need much explanation: whether it’s ironic jokes or complaining about word counts or posting snippets or joining Twitter chats, that one fits in pretty naturally.

Do you see where I’m going with this? I’ve got 6 major themes to use for branding, right there.

  • Environmental issues
  • Real History, #OnThisDay History, etc
  • Magic in real life
  • Strong women
  • Mental Health
  • Writer’s Life

All of these themes fit into what’s in my books, in one way or another. But they’re also related to me, and give an idea of who I am.

(This also works into the esthetics and personality stuff I was talking about before. Esthetics: there’s a lot of plant and dragon related stuff. Personality: bleeding heart save the environment, sarcastic to the core because I fight depression and that means I can fight you. But it also means I’m almost always in existential crisis and people suck.)

Then there are the minor subjects. These are, from what I understand, things you post about less often but are more about rounding out who you are as a person. They don’t necessarily show up in your writing.

For me, these include:

  • Goats — I have 13 of them, and who doesn’t want to see baby goats?
  • Funny plants/animals — I always find the strangest creatures, and this fits into the environmental theme.
  • Working in retail/odd fruit and things — I work retail at a produce market and have some pretty funny stories, and the fruit and vegetables thing also works into the environmental theme.
  • Geeky/nerdy things — I play Dungeons and Dragons quite a bit, among other things.

*deep breath*

That was a lot of information. But is it starting to make sense?

In the reality of my own branding, I want a stronger presence of magic-in-reality and strong women, and I’ve been wondering how to take all of them to the next level. Because while I post things in these themes, I’m not sure they engage or inspire the way I want them to.

The last piece of important information I want to convey here (at least for this post) is about engagement. Posts with high engagement contain one of these elements:

  • Challenge — does it challenge the person reading it?
  • Curiosity — does it satisfy or inflame a curiosity?
  • Fantasy — does it lead the person on a journey, a fantasy, a place they want to go?

In other words, when you’re posting this or that having to do with one of your themes, you tailor it with one of the three ideas above so that it really hits home for whoever is reading it. You want to inspire someone, somehow — and if you can do that, your post is going to get more engagement, but more importantly, people are going to remember you.

I haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet. I’m going to write another post at some point that goes more in depth on how I take my themes and turn them into actual content… but to be honest I don’t think I’ve figured out the reality of what all of this looks like.

I post a lot of environmental news on FaceBook and generally do a few #OnThisDay posts a few times a week, and my Instagram is full of amazing fantasy artists (and goats), and Twitter is all sorts of tweets about writing life and retail nonsense and different chats. But I want to inspire more, engage people more. I want more of my personality to bleed through, while at the same time, my introvert-self is like Oh HELL no.

But I think if I can find my groove, my way of being awesome and vulnerable to the world, I’ll really like it. I love Instagram for this reason — I love showing off art from amazing artists, and being inspired about writing something in turn. Branding should be fun, and while work, you shouldn’t hate it.

At least, that’s what I think.

 

Alrighty, I think this post has gone on long enough! Kudos for reading this whole thing — and I hope it was helpful. Like I said, I’ll be writing another post that goes more in depth on how I’m turning this information into content. Mostly because I like writing all of this out… and I hope you get some inspiration from it too.

 

Thanks for sticking through with me through my two month absence. ❤ I’ll be writing another Behind the Scenes in Publishing post here soon! I’m going to talk about contract writing versus writing from the heart…

Questions? Comments? Additions? Concerns? What did you think? What works for you in branding yourself?


Prequel Problems: Likable Characters

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So I’m writing a prequel to my INITIUM series, the first book tentatively due out in Fall of next year. I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a prequel, as the events in it are fun mystery details throughout the first book, and you learn about them and why my main character is the way she is as the novel progresses.

But, it’s a lot of information, and my editor thinks I need a prequel so readers aren’t lost and/or inundated with too much information right off the bat. So I’m writing a prequel. The first draft is almost done — I wrote the final chapter, but I also left a bunch of ‘holes’ in the manuscript, scenes I felt I was forcing too much at the time, to come back and complete later. I’m writing those scenes now.

My biggest frustration so far is that a lot of the events in the prequel are what make my main character interesting in the first place, so before the events happens, my characters are…

Not that likeable. Actually, they’re coming across like spoiled little brats. Which goes with the territory, are they’re the daughters of a rich upperclass businessman — but I’m really worried it makes for some difficult reading. Or apathy about reading them, anyway.

And if people don’t want to read the book for your characters, they’re not going to read the book.

Fortunately, characters being likeable isn’t so important as characters being interesting.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my main character is either at the beginning. Perhaps I’m being too critical, because I’m so used to her, 5 years later, being a snarky badass. Or maybe I just haven’t written from an insecure 14 year old’s perspective for so long it’s hard to believe that readers will really connect with her voice and struggles…

I believe my main character is interesting (and even likable) by the end, but if the beginning doesn’t hook someone, then it’s kind of a moot point.

I’ve also never really written ‘on contract,’ or written a character arc from the very beginning like this, so I might just be out of my depth and scaring myself (I’ll be writing about this whole process here soon).

I’ve also never really written a prequel (at least something this big), which I’m beginning to understand has it’s own difficulties. Not the least of which is writing a character that you know… but isn’t the fully formed character of the later book who is probably more interesting in first place.

Either way, I’m becoming more thankful that I have an amazing editor who’s excellent at developmental editing, because I’m going to need some perspective on making this work. I think I’m too close to this character, or the character arc in general, or too concerned about the ‘writing of a relatable 14 year old’ to just write the 14 year old. I was a 14 year old. I remember. Why I be making this so hard.

Anyway, it will be educational to see what my editor suggests going forward. And I feel a little lazy, looking to my editor for direction instead of figuring it out myself. But the truth is, I’m still pretty shaky on what revisions really need to look like, which is my real fear. I don’t know if I’ve fully ever revised a manuscript in it’s truest meaning, so my skill level there is… dismal.

So there’s some anxiety about my meh-characters not becoming interesting enough with this lack of skill.

Anyway, this is all a moot point if I don’t have the draft done in the first place! I’m off to finish those few more thousand words. I want this draft done by the end of this month (which gives me like two days). It’s going to be far from perfect — but all that’s left are a few holes to make this thing complete.

 

Stay tuned for the regurgitation of my thoughts about writing my first ‘on contract’ piece… in a week or two.

 

Questions? Comments? Similar anxiety-rants?


My Path to Publication

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I was recently told that I’ve never actually shared a lot of my history as a writer. Which is funny and now seems obvious. With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to share my path to publication.

The INITIUM series, the series getting published, is actually the second series I’ve written (well, third, if you count daily micro-stories following the same character for a year and a half I stared when I was 12). I finished the first book in this first series, a story about an orphan dragon, the summer I was 14. I ripped apart and put back together that manuscript so many times… and talk about using every bad-writing trope in existence. Black and white villains, endless passages explaining everything, narrative that went on forever, preaching about this issue or that issue.

Anyway. The INITIUM series started as a concept in my head a little after I finished that first book in the dragon series.

It took me until I was 19 to actually get that first book in the INITIUM series down, and it was so much better because of it. This is mostly because I was in college and had no time, but it allowed me to really process the lessons I learned from writing the dragon story and try out what I’d learned. For example, the explaining everything overmuch problem I had with the dragon story? Yeah, no. I drag out questions for DAYS in the INITIUM series. I thought about and re-wrote the beginning of Fairian’s first story so many times, the original concepts are the same only in name and vague direction.

I started querying for agents with my dragon series around 18. I really only got form rejections or silence as a response, a frustration I’m sure you’ve all experienced. As I was finishing up INITIUM, and learning a lot more about what was marketable, I realized that it was probably a fruitless adventure to try to launch my author career with my dragon story. It had too many common tropes and similarities. While it may be publishable eventually, it wasn’t something I could start with.

Again, though, I learned a lot from starting querying with my dragon story, from how to write a query letter to researching agents. It set me up in a much better place to start querying for Fairian’s story.

The queries began. The form rejections and silences followed. A few agents did answer, rejecting it based off of those personal things you can’t predict — not connecting with the world, not sure the plot fit into the other authors she represented, etc. Disheartening for sure, but all the comments I did receive complimented me on my voice, my style, and my characters. That helped a lot.

I went to the Willamette Writer’s Conference in 2015, where I learned a TON, and got to pitch my story directly to agents and editors. With help, I managed to hone my pitch into something reasonably good. I also switched my pitch last minute to a woman who seemed to be looking for something a lot closer to what I was writing — though, it turned out she was an editor to a small publisher based in Portland, not an agent.

Despite being nervous as hell, my pitch went well. Way better than I expected. I could tell she was tired listening to all the authors pelting her with information all day (I was in the afternoon, and with 15 minutes a pitch, switched out like clockwork, for 8 hours — you do the math), but I was respectful and she seemed to perk up at the story. She said my novel sounded interesting, and like it would fit into their repertoire. Excited, I sent off three chapters the following week (after getting it reviewed a few more times by the friends I’d just met at the conference).

Commence… waiting. Meanwhile, I make my eyes bleed doing research on the publisher, small publishers in general, the dangers to look out for, how an author becomes successful with small publishing, etc. There were a few things that bugged me — this particular publisher’s website was non-professional, and held a few of the ‘warning’ signs that articles like this talk about (fantastic article, you should read it).

Three months later with no word, I gently nudged and asked about my submission. She profusely apologized and said they’d been having a few technical issues, that she didn’t think she got my email, and to submit through their new submitting service. Starting a feel a little weird about it, I did it anyway.

Meanwhile, I started entering Twitter contests, like #PitMad and #P2P. Similar response as querying before. Mostly form rejections, a few compliments here and there. I opened my horizons to small publishers, since I was getting more comfortable with the idea. Got a few strange rejections from that process.

In one of these contests, another editor at the same publishing house as before asked for a submission. I mentioned it was already in their queue, and gave the title and details when she asked.

Then, via another Twitter contest, I heard from Carrie from Glass House Press. She was really interested in my pitch, and wanted pages. Within 24 hours, she wanted the whole manuscript, along with all my social media information, and my plans for marketing.

This publisher checked out a lot better than the other one. Much more professional website and online presence, no big problems in Writers Beware, and I got a good feeling from the emails with the editor.

Commence… more waiting.

I’m pretty sure I started the third INITIUM book during this time, entered more contests, met awesome writer friends all striving for the same goal. I wrote blog posts, tried to ignore the excitement/dread feeling in my gut, stared at my manuscript and agonized over it’s faults.

I kind of forgot I’d submitted to that first publisher — it had been around 6 months at that point, and I was pretty sure I was going to reject an offer if they gave it anyway. I received a note through their submission website to go ahead and submit the full manuscript. They mentioned in the notes that it would take at least a year to get back to me. I didn’t go forward with that — between my funny feelings and the YEAR response for a small publisher, it just didn’t sound like a good fit for me.

It was shortly after that I entered a mentoring contest, where I met a ton of really neat people. I had a ton of fun interacting, guessing which tweets were about my own, finding a new friends. Then, shockingly — I was chosen as one of the mentees.

An hour later, Glass House Press sent an email saying they’d like to offer me a contract.

Nothing, for years, and then two great surprises at once. I talked it over with the editor, explaining that I’d been selected for the mentorship and I’d hate to miss out (not just because of the agents at the end, but because of the networking, lessons, general fun) and she said she had no problem with waiting for me. So, I accepted the mentorship, had a blast, didn’t get really any bites from the agents who signed on to look at the finished project of the contests, and then contacted the publisher back.

She reviewed the manuscript again in it’s changed form — taking a few months — and then offered me a contract.

I was very nervous about this part. I didn’t have an agent to back me up, there are many horror stories on the internet about the whole thing, etc. I reviewed it carefully — reading up on every publishing clause in existence, religiously reading any articles from experts in the field — read it over with my father who works with contracts (of another kind) all the time, with one of his business friends who works with sports-publishing contracts. Not the same, obviously, but I had a few intelligent minds look it over who weren’t in omg-a-publisher-wants-me euphoria. I requested a few clarification sentences, changed a few words, and…

Violà. I signed a contract with Glass House Press.

You’d expect what followed would be furious conversation, edits, and a game plan moving forward. It was a bit anti-climatic, to be honest. With developmental edits, she wanted to start working with a thorough outline. So after I sent that to her, while she worked through it, I collaborated with the social media manager, building a game plan, focusing certain aspects (my Instagram is not longer just about goats!), and building a few up from scratch (actually starting a FaceBook author page…).

After a while, developmental edits began… which is a whole new subject. I’ve started chronicling the whole behind-the-scenes-in-being-published thing, which starts with this blog post here. (Feel free to check it out if you’re interested!)

And that, writer-friends, is the first leg in my publishing journey.

I’m pretty excited about the next steps. I really feel like I can move forward now as an author, carving out a path for myself with books and everything else. Despite being noticed, being published traditioning, the hungry, notice-me feeling isn’t gone. Neither is the fear of failure or not being good or not knowing enough. There are so many other steps going forward, so many other mileposts. But I like that there’s always the next goal post. I like that ‘getting published’ isn’t the end, or some gate that once you walk through it’s all smooth going. It’s a challenge, an on-going opportunity.

It’s all an adventure, and I’m exhilarated to make it happen.

 

P.S. Oh yeah, that first small publisher that was interested in my manuscript? I’ve since learned they’re legit, and not trying to scam anyone. But I still don’t think it’d be a good fit for me. The benefit of a small publisher is that you get more attention and more say on your book, at the cost of the power and prestige of a big publisher. For me personally I didn’t like how they treated authors, their public image, and I got the feeling I wouldn’t get the attention that’s kinda the point of a small publisher.


What Does YOUR story mean?

 

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I’ve always struggled — in most of my professional writing career, after the blissful stage where I only wrote for myself — with making my writing and stories mean something. Maybe it was the crap influences in my childhood who told me that ‘just writing fantasy’ was fine and all that, but eventually I needed to write things that actually meant something. It can’t just be that though, because I’ve always felt a drive to write more than just a story.

Maybe all of this is just all my insecurity and doubt coming home to roost.

It’s the plight of most writers to feel this way. I read somewhere that, at the very least, writer’s write to entertain. But most of us write to try to inform, educate, inspire, engage. So I’m hope to God pretty sure that I’m really not alone in all of my what-do-I-mean angst.

I can’t help but think of this in the light of current world events. Well, USA events, but it’s affecting the whole world, so yeah.

Meaning: I want my books to make people think when they’re out there. I want to inspire and engage and teach. Yes, I’ll always write stories, because I’m one of those ‘if I don’t write it out it just plagues me forever’ writers. But I want to go above and beyond that. I want it all to mean something.

I get a little hung up on how exactly to go about doing that. The first example that jumps to mind is the Orson Scott Card route, of exploring deeply philosophical questions about humanity and morality through science fiction. He does a lot of telling-not-showing, and it seems like he had these deeply moral issues in the back of his head as he wrote the story. Whereas I get characters yelling at me and write them so they’ll be quiet.

So I guess what I’m really struggling with is a way to take my innate character-yelling and transform it. The story comes out, sure, but it’s still just a story. What is the step between characters and plot coming together and then… making it more?

It’s probably the opposite of that. That the meaning to be explored should be taken first — and then add the characters and plot. But how do I do that? Seriously – I want someone to give me a flow chart on how to do this, because I feel like I missed something along the way.

I want to write about environmental issues and the reality of how this relates to economics — so I’ve built solarpunk into my world. But is it really teaching someone anything, or exploring how a world like this works? … I’m afraid it’s not enough.

I have strong belonging, friendship, and what it means to be human themes especially in my current series, but I’m not sure it’s so obvious. I get lost in the plot and the interactions of the characters, and sometimes I think that takes away from the fact that I wrote these two people with the idea that they’re lonely and different… and in each other they find not only a place to belong, but start affecting the world around them for the better.

I don’t feel that it’s enough.

(Maybe I’m just not smart enough — or smart in ‘that’ way? I want to interview Card and figure out his method… and when he feels like he’s really got it.)

I think all of this can be put in the category of learning to take a first draft and make it a second draft — something that, with growing horror, I’m realizing that maybe I haven’t ever done before. I’m going through developmental edits with a professional editor for the first time and getting a crash course in things I didn’t even know were a thing (upcoming blog post on that later! It’s a little nerve-wracking and kinda feels like the floor has been taken out from under my feet).

Of course, who really knows — because an artist’s plight is never feeling like something is ever ‘done.’ It can always be better. There can always be more. Despite knowing this, I still feel that I’m missing some sort of intrinsic lesson on how to get from my A to my B. For all I know I’ll get an epiphany tomorrow and suddenly realize how it works, or I’ll read an article that connects it all — or the most likely outcome, my editor will prod me into understanding what to do.

But for now, I’m definitely feeling a little worthless and like I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’d love to move this discussion out to you, dear readers.

Do you worry that your story doesn’t ‘mean’ enough, especially in light of current events? How do you give meaning to your story? Do you start with the world, the characters, the lesson you’re imparting? If you’re a character writer like me, how do you keep yourself from getting carried away in their interactions? How to you keep yourself from being off subject/too preachy?

 


Organizing Documents as a Writer

 

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My wonderful partner got me a new computer as a birthday/Christmas present. With my old computer giving me spouts of paranoia that I’d lose all my work (never mind I have three backups for all my writing), alongside moments of freezing, and the ten minutes it takes to start up — it’s a relief to write on something that works as fast as my brain does in the heat of a writing moment.

Yet being the insane sentimental person that I am, it’s been sad to move from writing on my old computer to the new one. My older laptop has been with me since 2011; it’s been my steady companion through college, after-college job hunting and internships, and hundreds of hours of writing. I haven’t moved all of my writing yet (though most of my pictures and programs were moved over immediately to give my old computer a break!), instead easing into my fancy new one.

The writing I have moved are my current projects: my NaNoWriMo project from 2016 and my current WIP, the third in my INITIUM series. And as I moved them over, I grew kind of excited, because it became an opportunity to completely rework the way I organize my files.

My old computer was organized by type of writing (novel, short story, essay, etc), and then series or theme, and then individual documents. I’ve got the terrible habit of creating a new document for every scene, thought, or spark of inspiration that hits me — which means that one book is actually dozens of documents, one series working out to be a hundred files. Most everything I write down is digital, anything not attached to a working series thrown into random documents that are then thrown into the ever-growing ‘Writing Ideas’ folder, which I proceed to forget about for the next year.

All of this, of course, is buried in the recesses of the ‘My Writing’ folder, which houses everything in tarnation.

With my new computer providing a fresh start, I reworked all of this, for ease and clarity. My new organization style is by current or back-burner projects, and then type, and then individual series or documents. This is working a hell of a lot better for my brain — I’m not clicking through dozens (okay, hundreds) of folders and documents to get to the project I’m actually working on.

I’m sure it’ll get messy as I move the rest of my writing over — but right now I’m basking in how pretty and organized everything is right now.

But it made me curious about you, my fellow writing friends.

How do you organize your files? Are you a digital or paper writer? Is everything in one folder, or do you attempt to create some organization out of the mess?

 

And for all of you waiting for the Published: Behind the Scenes blog series to begin, never fear! I’m writing the first one even as you read, and it will be up in a week or two.