Tag Archive: drafting

November, briefly

Being a writing buddy is exhausting!

Usually, November ushers in snow and cold weather and I start to get a case of the winter blahs. We have been especially lucky this month to have mild temperatures (for the most part), and I’m in much better spirits than I normally am at this time of the year. This November has been very productive and fun, and I owe a lot of that to the fact that I’m back in a solid writing groove.

This month, I have been…

Working on: Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I finished a (very sloppy) first draft of a YA contemporary thriller I have been conjuring up in my head for several months. I used this first draft to get to the heart of the story and show myself what it’s really about. As usual, my characters had different plans than I did, but for me as an author, those revelations are half the fun. Now that I have words on pages and know my characters better, I can work at refining the mess and getting the story to look on paper how it does in my head. Which is always the hardest part…

Reading: I finished two excellent Sweet Sixteen debuts: Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson, and The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander. The former is told entirely in texts, chats, and blog posts, and I loved its creativity and how totally real the characters felt. The latter, about a girl haunted by the drowning death of her twin brother who begins to challenge her fears through freediving, is beautiful and haunting and evocative. I also read Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou, whose writing is in a league of its own. Her autobiographies are many things, but inspiring tops the list. I ended the month with Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, a book I had been eager to read, and it didn’t disappoint. I loved the humor and heart, and how relationships were portrayed– family bonds, friendship, and romantic love.

Watching: After hearing so many great things about Westworld, I knew I had to start the season and give it a try. (My husband was surprised I suggested it since I’m not usually a huge fan of sci-fi.) We were both sucked in right away by the totally imaginative concept, plot twists galore, and fascinating, multi-dimensional characters. I’m glad I ventured outside of my TV comfort zone!

I love Christmas, so I’m looking forward to all that December brings… picking out a tree and decorating it, wrapping gifts, spending time with friends and family, and eating all the holiday food! Wishing you all the best in the last month of 2016!

October, briefly

It’s hard to believe that the end of October is here! Fall has definitely come to Ontario, and the warm days have been replaced by cool weather and plenty of beautiful changing leaves. I have officially swapped my shorts for jeans and my flip flops for boots, candy has been consumed, and my dog may have tried on a few different Halloween costumes. As much as I tend to despise what’s coming (ahem… winter), I’m trying to focus on all the things I have to look forward to in hopes that the cold weather will be more bearable!

Perfect October viewing!

Perfect October viewing!

This month, I have been…

Working on: It’s almost Halloween, so what better project to undertake than a thriller? I have apparently had darkness on the brain lately. I’m currently playing around with a couple different ideas, so we’ll see which one sticks! I’m planning to fully commit to something in November, but I have a feeling some outlining will be required, because the twisty nature of thrillers doesn’t always mesh so well with my pantsing style.

Reading: I was lucky enough to start the month with Fear the Drowning Deep by fellow Sweet Sixteener Sarah Glenn Marsh. I have known Sarah since our days in the query trenches, so getting to read her gorgeous debut was a really amazing feeling! Sarah’s writing is absolutely luminous, and this story– about monsters lurking in the deep off the Isle of Man and the girl determined to stop them from harming her village– is unique and unforgettable.

I’m currently reading City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, which is incredibly captivating– it’s told from multiple perspectives and culminates around a blackout that happens in New York City in the summer of 1977. The writing is masterful and the characters feel so realistic. It’s the kind of book I want to take my time with, and it has been the perfect companion for chilly fall evenings.

Watching: My sister and I have an annual tradition of watching all of the Halloween episodes of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (we watched the show religiously when it was on TV), along with the classics– Hocus Pocus and Teen Wolf. It’s not Halloween otherwise!

I have some exciting plans coming up for November, so I have a feeling it will be a great month– and if the snow can hold off, that would be even better. (I’m of the mindset that the only good kind of snow is Jon Snow…)

August, briefly

August has been a ridiculously busy but fun month. Basically, my attention has been focused on three things: revision, Rio, and Pitch Wars! I watched as much of the Olympics as possible and was so inspired by the amazing performances by our Canadian athletes. And speaking of inspiration, the talent in Pitch Wars has totally blown me away. I remember how nerve-wracking it was being a mentee the year I entered Firsts (back then, it was called Fast Girl), and now I can confirm with certainty that being a mentor involves just as much anxiety. Choosing a mentee was not an easy task, and I’m honored that so many talented authors submitted their work to me. I wish I could have chosen several mentees! But there could only be one, and the story that captured my heart was Still Breathing by Mary Dunbar. I’m so excited to work with her… you’ll be hearing lots more about Mary and her beautiful manuscript later!

#TripleTriple success!

#TripleTriple success!

This month, I have been:

Working on: August has been a full-on revision month! I finished revisions on two different projects, and now they’re out of my hands. (Although, for a writer, nothing is ever truly finished until you hold that first copy of your book!) I feel very positive about both projects and am proud of what I accomplished. Going into the fall, I’m looking forward to changing gears and drafting again… there is nothing as freeing and rewarding as fast-drafting a project and seeing where it goes, learning about the characters and their motivations as I write. There are two projects I’ve made some initial progress on, so the next step is figuring out which one to focus on first.

Reading: ALL things Pitch Wars! I requested material from several of the authors who submitted to me, and was so impressed by what I read. These books made me laugh, made me tear up, got me angry, made me think, grabbed my attention, and kept me up way past my bedtime. I can’t even begin to describe the extent to which these stories impressed me. I look forward to seeing all of them on bookshelves someday, because I have faith that will happen!

Watching: To say I have been obsessed with the Rio Olympics is a bit of an understatement. If it would have been possible for me to sit on my couch for two straight weeks and do nothing but watch the Olympics, I would have festered there in my pajamas and made a pillow fort. I was jumping up and down when Usain Bolt completed his astonishing triple triple, and seeing Canada’s talent– including Andre De Grasse, Damian Warner, Lanni Marchant, and Penny Oleksiak, among so many others– made me incredibly proud. The Olympics are all about following dreams and pushing limits, and I think it’s impossible to not feel moved by the dedication and passion these athletes demonstrate to their sports. To be honest, now that Rio is over, I don’t know what will fill the void for the next four years! (PS you heard it here… De Grasse for gold in 2020!)

As much as I love summer, I’m looking forward to all things fall… the changing leaves, jeans and ankle boots, crispness in the air, and pumpkin spice everything. There’s an electricity in fall that always energizes me, so I’m excited for whatever September brings!

On those drawer darlings

While looking through the various folders on my computer recently, I realized that I’ve completed eight books.

And started about twice that many.

In an effort to stay organized, I give each book a folder. But some of these “books” don’t quite materialize, and the folders don’t have much to show. Some are partway toward being a completed novel– one has over 30,000 words, while another is encroaching on the 50,000 mark. Some are a lot less far along– a few chapters in, or even just a few pages. As I clicked through the neglected documents, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I had abandoned them. I never gave them a chance.

Or did I?

A drawer darling that just may be resurrected.

A drawer darling that just may be resurrected.

More than once, I’ve wondered—am I commitment-phobic? Am I just in it for the glorious honeymoon period, when everything feels shiny and effortless, before it becomes a big confusing mess? Do I take a hike when the words dry up and sentences feel like a massive undertaking and that paralyzing feeling of “what’s next” takes over?

I honestly don’t think so. I’m pretty sure my prognosis is that I’m just a regular writer.One thing my journey to publication has taught me is that most of us have lots of those half-started, half-finished, halfway-maybe-something projects in our proverbial drawers. Some of them are terrible and we’d never show them to a single soul. Some of them might become something, someday. So why do I still feel guilty that my drawer darlings exist?

I think it’s because such a huge part of success in writing is persevering through the hard times and never giving up. You’ll hear a lot of writers (myself included) say that habit is the key to success. You have to put in the work and commit in order to finish something. A first draft only has to exist, not be anywhere close to perfect. But not everything makes it even to first draft status. Those not-finished somethings don’t mean you didn’t commit or that you didn’t care. Making the choice to abandon a project isn’t the same as giving up. Maybe you’ll go back to it in a week, month, or even two years. Sometimes, distance is the best solution. And sometimes, the book just isn’t working, and you have to accept that. Accepting that it didn’t work isn’t a failure– it’s growth as an artist.

I can’t even fathom how many thousands of words of mine will never see the light of day, how many hours of work I put into projects that nobody will ever see. Maybe some people would deem that a waste of time, but I’m okay with it. None of the time and effort was a waste, because I was writing and learning and honing my skills, even if I didn’t see it at the time. I can go back to one of those abandoned folders and see why a project wasn’t working, why an idea fell flat. I can resurrect it. Or I can leave it, because the passion isn’t there anymore.

A writer’s imagination is a crazy-awesome place. There’s so much going on in there– your imagination lets you build worlds and characters out of nothing. That’s kind of like magic. Don’t cover all that with the heavy blanket of guilt. Let those words be wasted, if that’s the best thing for you. Let those drawer darlings gather dust. They’ll still be there, if– and when– you ever go back to them.

May, briefly

Some months, I start out strong and lose energy as the days get longer and my motivation wanes. May was the opposite. While I struggled at the beginning of the month, I soon hit my stride and was able to make some great progress. I feel like I have struck a good balance with writing, revising, reading, and just enjoying life– especially now that the weather has warmed up enough for me to ditch pants and boots in favor of shorts and flip-flops.

This month, I have been…

My book baby hanging out at Chapters Indigo in London!

My book baby hanging out at Chapters Indigo in London!

Working on: Thanks to some brilliant notes from my amazing CP, I was energized to finish revising one of the YA contemporary projects I completed this year. It’s from a boy’s perspective and I had such a blast writing it, and while revising can sometimes be the painful, sobering aftermath to fast drafting, this time I was able to go in and fix what needed to be fixed to make the book stronger. In the meantime, I’m also drafting something new– it’s dark and moody and messy and I’m not quite sure where it’s going, but that’s part of what makes me love it so much.

This month also meant the end of my Boys Tell All series. I’m thrilled that so many people followed the stories– we’re up to nearly 150K views on Wattpad! If you missed the series, you can read all the stories on Wattpad or Tumblr.

Reading: Sadly, I didn’t do nearly as much reading this month as I normally do. I finished Everybody Rise, which my lovely editor was kind enough to send me. It was a really fun read about climbing the social ladder in 2006 Manhattan, and the lies and scheming that go into fitting in with the elite crowd. I also read How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, which comes out in July. I loved this one– the main character, Sam, has such a snarky, smart voice, which I adore in a narrator, and the plot kept me guessing with unique twists and turns.

Watching: I’m full-on obsessed with Girls, a show I have been wanting to watch for awhile now. I’m a huge Sex and the City fangirl, so Girls feels like a younger, messier version, and perfectly encapsulates the uncertainty of being in your early twenties and the doubt, passion, and urgency that dictate life. Plus, I love the humor– I definitely laughed out loud more than once. Lena Dunham is brilliant and basically my new life idol… I can’t believe she created this show at such a young age. (Next up, I want to read her book!)

June will be a busy month– my sister is getting married (I’m her matron of honor!), and I’ll be heading to Toronto to participate in a bookstore event and the CCWWP conference as a panelist with some amazing debut authors. More updates soon!

April, briefly

April was definitely a whirlwind of a month, and my routine got derailed by a lot of fun non-writing stuff! My sister’s bridal shower happened halfway into the month (I’m her matron of honor), followed by a trip to Las Vegas for her bachelorette party. The mini-vacation was a blast– full of great weather, delicious food and drinks, and good friends– and proved to be just the getaway I needed to feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle anything.

This month, I have been…

Working on: I finished a second draft of the YA contemporary project that has been consuming most of my time (I wrote about it earlier this month here). Since it’s about sisters, it was quite serendipitous to finish on National Siblings Day. I wasn’t sure what to work on when I was done… I have a first draft of another project that I’m itching to start revising, plus another couple brand new ideas kicking around in my brain. Then all of a sudden, a different idea appeared out of nowhere and it’s all I could think about. (The last time that kind of urgency happened, Firsts happened). Sometimes that’s what being an author is all about– not just following but trusting your instincts.

Reading: I started the month with In The Shadow of the Dragon King by my Sixteen to Read sister J. Keller Ford. It’s a really awesome fantasy featuring dragons and time travel. Next, I read Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke, which was twisty and magnetic and lush and everything I love in a book. While in Vegas, I finished Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler (I heart everything Dahlia writes), and 99 Days by Katie Cotugno, which dealt with slut-shaming and guilt and really resonated with me. I ended the month with Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow, which was one of my most anticipated 2016 reads. I can say beyond a doubt that it’s one of the most beautifully written, moving, meaningful books I’ve ever read.

Watching: I was finally able to watch The Revenant, which I’ve been excited about for a long time. (Although, to be honest, I’m excited about anything Leonardo DiCaprio does!) I can definitely see why he won an Oscar for this one. It’s a raw, powerful performance in a brutal but beautiful movie.

Now that the warmer weather seems poised to stay (touch wood, because in Canada, you never know), I’m looking forward to a relaxing but productive May that hopefully involves some deck writing!

On (not) giving up, or why writing won’t quit you

I’ve done lots of interviews over the past several months surrounding the release of Firsts. It has been such an honor to answer so many thoughtful, amazing questions from readers and bloggers and book lovers everywhere. I have been asked how I got the idea for Firsts (I still wish I had a better answer for that!), about my writing process, best parts of debuting, and lessons learned along the way.

There’s one question I have been asked several times, and it’s a great one.

Did you ever think about giving up?

To which I answered yes. There have been several times along the path to publication where I considered giving up on my dream of seeing a book of mine in print. I was querying, but getting more rejections than requests. I was learning, but not fast enough. I felt like there was an excellent chance I would never sell a book and nobody would ever read my work.

But ever since giving those interviews, I’ve thought a lot about that question. Generally, people think it only pertains to the trying times along that elusive path to publication. Once you reach that goal and see your book in print, there’s the expectation that you are confident and calm and the words flow every time you sit down at your computer. You have things figured out.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I don’t have less doubts than I do before. I just have different doubts. The brain is a scary place, especially when you’re in a creative field. The same brain that houses your dreams also takes your happy thoughts and puts shackles on them and turns good things inside out, analyzing them for flaws. The same mind that conjures up ideas can just as easily crush them.

I don’t think about giving up on writing these days, but I do have days where I think writing has given up on me. That my words are on strike, my characters holding up little signs that say “WE WANT A BETTER AUTHOR!” and chanting for me to get my act together. I have days where I have no clue how to write a chapter and moments when I read what I’ve just written and shake my head because it’s such steaming crap. Each book after Firsts has been a struggle for me. I’ve said in interviews that at times while writing Firsts, the book practically wrote itself. Well, that hasn’t happened since. Not a single word wrote itself.

But does that mean I forgot how to write?

I’ve realized that the answer is no. Because it’s impossible to forget how to care fiercely about something you love. Some days, you read over the words you put down and realize they aren’t as bad as you thought. Some days, they’re worse. But always, they are there, on the page, no matter how hard it was for them to arrive.

Fellow authors, no matter what stage of the process you’re at– don’t quit. Because I promise, writing won’t quit you.

January, briefly

It’s hard to sum up January as “briefly” when in reality, it was anything but. As far as months go, it was larger than life, and one of the most fun and exciting times of my life. (Please note, “fun and exciting” are not words I ever thought I’d use to describe a January in Canada.) I’m still getting back in a groove after Firsts had a spectacular book birthday and I had truly wonderful trips to Boston for ALA and Toronto for the OLA Super-Conference. For all of you who have read Firsts, or shared some love, or reached out in any way—thank you, from the bottom of my heart! I am truly overwhelmed by your kindness and so proud to be part of the kidlit community.

This month, I have been…

Working on: Two different YA contemporary projects. Both messy. Both complicated. Both of which totally have my heart. One is a completed first draft, and the other is almost there. Next up, revision-land!

Reading: I have read some seriously amazing books already this year—talk about starting 2016 on a high note! First up was Natalie Blitt’s The Distance From A to Z, which came out on January 12. You can read my rave review here! Then I finished my amazing editor-sister Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers (which was nominated for a Morris Award)! I was able to meet Anna-Marie in person at ALA and can now vouch for the fact that she’s not only freakishly talented, but also incredibly sweet.

I was able to take plenty of ARCs from ALA, which left my suitcase heavy but my heart happy. On the plane ride home, I started Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King, a book that had been on my radar for what felt like forever. I’ll post more about this one later, but quite simply, it’s a masterpiece.

Next, I finished The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos, which is twisty, beautifully written, and entirely unpredictable. This one came out on January 26, and you can read my review here!

To end the month, I read Summer of Sloane by Erin Schneider in one sitting. (Well, I was laying in bed… does that still count as a sitting?) It was the perfect read to transport me from freezing cold Canada to the beaches of Hawaii and I love how funny, heartfelt, and real the story is.

Watching: My husband and I have been mainlining Weeds on Netflix, and I think the series is compulsively watchable. I love how non-traditional the heroine (anti-heroine?), Nancy Botwin, is. She’s often selfish and cruel, but also smart and resourceful. I’m also a huge fan of the dark humor.

Well, that’s January in a nutshell. I’m looking forward to sharing some exciting content related to Firsts in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

November, briefly

I’ll be honest: November has been a bit of a roller-coaster month, with pretty sharp ups and downs. I started the month feeling super-positive, but when a lot of things on my to-do list piled up, I started getting anxious and stressed. A particularly frantic moment inspired me to write this post and led to a mini-break from writing to focus on things not on my to-do list… Namely, shopping, wine, and long walks. I came out of my writing break feeling refreshed and eager to write new words. If you’re a writer struggling with burnout, my advice is to not feel guilty about taking some time away. I’m not going to lie, I struggled with guilt at first, but now I can see that it was the absolute best thing for my mental state. And November turned into a pretty awesome month.

This month, I have been…

One of the highlights of my November– a hike at Fanshawe Conservation Area.

Working on: I’m a huge fan of NaNoWriMo. I love fast-drafting and the excitement radiating off the whole writing community, and there was a new idea percolating in my head, so I went for it. I didn’t tell many people I was NaNo-ing. I didn’t do word sprints on Twitter and I wasn’t public about it like I normally am. I guess you could say I was a ninja NaNo-er? Either way, after my writing break, I was way behind on my word count, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to “win.” But I love nothing more than a challenge, and I’m proud to say I passed the 50K mark and have a shiny first draft of a book I’ve been describing in my head as “trouble.” Well, it’s not all that shiny. It’s kind of tarnished and rough around the edges, but it’s words on pages and those words make up a book-shaped thing that I’m excited to start revising.

Reading: November has been another stellar reading month. I started out by reading my Sixteen to Read sister Shannon Parker’s THE GIRL WHO FELL, a book I had been deliriously craving since what felt like forever. And… wow. Shannon’s writing is electric, her characters vividly real. THE GIRL WHO FELL is the story of Zephyr Doyle, a senior who has life mapped out– until cute new boy Alec shows up at school and turns her world upside down. She thinks she’s in love– but love isn’t supposed to make her feel bad, and it’s not supposed to hurt. Zephyr’s story is both heartbreaking and hopeful and I know this book will leave a huge indent in the YA world.

Next, I read Kerry Kletter’s THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED, another debut I had been (very impatiently) waiting for. I went in with high expectations, all of which were shattered to pieces. This story is about a lot of things– losing yourself, finding yourself, first love, second chances– but centers around a very tenuous and toxic mother-daughter relationship wherein secrets are buried so deep they can’t be seen from the surface– so deep that the main character, Cassie, can’t bring herself to remember them. Kerry’s writing is lyrical, poetic, and strikingly original. This is a book I’ll read more than once and pick out new details every time.

I finished the month with Kathryn Purdie’s BURNING GLASS. I tend to read less fantasy than contemporary, but the premise for this book hooked me right away. (Plus, the cover is so stunning!) The main character, Sonya, is an Auraseer– she is gifted with being able to feel the emotions of those around her. But when she’s tasked with serving the emperor and sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is thrown into a world where she has to figure out who she can trust and how to harness her powers. I was immediately swept up in the magic, the lush setting, and the romance of this gorgeous book.

Watching: My husband and I finished Scandal and were in a bit of a Netflix funk until we started Wentworth, an Australian drama set in a women’s prison. I started out comparing it to Orange is the New Black (and missing my favorite character, Crazy Eyes), but after a couple episodes, I definitely like it as much, if not more. There are obvious similarities– including glimpses into the lives of the women prior to prison– but lots of differences too. Wentworth feels grittier and darker to me, which I love. I’m looking forward to watching more (aka binge-watching the rest of the episodes, since I have no self-control when it comes to Netflix).

Well, that’s my November in a nutshell. Now that the colder weather and snow have arrived (sob), I’m getting excited for the upcoming Christmas rituals– decorating our tree, watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Scrooged, baking this delicious and addictive treat, and scrambling to get my shopping done. It’s really hard to believe that FIRSTS comes out in just over a month (!!!), and that 2016 is almost here. But in the meantime, I’m going to squeeze all the fun I can out of what’s left of 2015!

Oh, and stay tuned… there’s some really fun stuff related to FIRSTS that I’ll be sharing very soon!

#SixteensBlogAbout: Gratitude

This month, the Sweet Sixteens are blogging about gratitude. Any time is a great time to think of all the things you appreciate, but for me, no time is better than right now. With FIRSTS coming out in less than two months, gratitude is something that has taken on a greater meaning than ever to me. The truth is, it can be hard to get off the roller coaster, to stop and put things in perspective. But it’s also extremely important.

I’m not grateful that winter is coming, but I do love mornings like this.

I’m grateful for so much this year. I’m grateful to be in this position, one I dreamed about for years. I’m about to be a published author. My book will be on actual bookshelves in actual stores and actual people will read it who aren’t just my mom (love you, Mom)! I’m grateful to be working with such a dedicated team of rock-star people who believe in me and this book.

I’m grateful for my fellow debut authors, with whom I’ve grown close. They’re confidantes and friends and some of the most wonderful people I know. I’m grateful for their brilliant minds and generous spirits and listening ears and creative brains and most of all, their huge hearts.

I’m grateful for the whole kidlit community. The authors I admire who have said such wonderful things about FIRSTS. The bloggers who have shown so much love for FIRSTS, who have shared their support with insurmountable enthusiasm and kindness. I’m beyond grateful for this letter, which moved me to tears. (Thank you, Jamie Victoria!)

I’m grateful to my friends and family for putting up with me. For my parents, for always being proud of me and doing so much to make my life easier (thank you for all the leftovers… I swear, I’ll learn to cook one of these years). I’m grateful to have a sister who’s also my best friend and loves wine as much as I do, and a soon-to-be brother-in-law whose positive attitude is infectious. I’m grateful for a certain sister-in-law who may be more excited for FIRSTS to be out than I am (hi, Suzanne!) I’m eternally grateful for my husband, who gives me the space I need to create and loves me no matter how grumpy I am before my morning coffee. (And that’s a high level of grump, folks.) I’m grateful to my dog for sharing her lap space with my computer and making me laugh with her crazy antics.

Yes, I have a lot for which to be grateful. I’m grateful for creating new words and revising old ones. Most of all, I’m grateful for this journey—what has already happened and what’s to come. Because I honestly wouldn’t trade a single misstep, a single bump in the road, for anything.

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