Tag Archive: revising

January, briefly

Fur baby, book baby, and human baby!

The year has started off on a good note! Aside from gray skies for most of the month, things have been decidedly cheerful. I’m back into a routine with writing and revising (I had been admittedly derailed by December festivities), and recently shared some amazing news… my husband and I are expecting our first child at the end of May! We’re very excited about the new addition to our family (and my beloved dog, Abby, is hopefully just as excited to be a big sister)! Aside from needing a bit more sleep than usual, I have felt fantastic through my whole pregnancy. Hopefully that continues!

This month, I have been…

Working on: I’m revising a YA thriller (my most recent NaNo project) and have used a couple new strategies to maximize revision efficiency. As a pantser, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed at the thought of tackling my messy first draft and trying to fix what isn’t working. This time, I read the entire manuscript before making any changes, which made a huge difference. I was able to pick out inconsistencies, plot potholes and craters, and threads that are mysteriously dropped or picked up. I also printed the manuscript off so that I have something physical to review and mark up, instead of trying to scroll back and forth on my tablet screen. These changes have gone a long way toward making me a more efficient reviser, so now maybe the urge to draft won’t be so tempting all the time!

Reading: The first book I finished in 2017 was Room by Emma Donoghue, a renowned author from the same city as me. Told from the perspective of five-year-old Jack, who has spent his entire life in captivity with his mother, it’s a harrowing, heartbreaking, and brilliant perspective into what happens when living in one room turns into living in the world overnight. After reading it, I watched the movie, which was so well-acted!

I was lucky enough to read a copy of A.V. Geiger’s debut novel, Follow Me Back, ahead of its May release date. It’s a YA thriller and it’s so twisty and suspenseful! I’m pretty open about my love of a plot that will keep me guessing, and this one was not just surprising, but completely shocking. (That ending!)

Next was Flower by Shea Olsen and Elizabeth Craft. I got to know Shea last year, and had been anticipating her debut YA contemporary romance novel for so long. It definitely didn’t disappoint! I finished it in one weekend and stayed up past my bedtime, and for a sleepy pregnant lady, that’s saying a lot.

I finished off the month with a book that left me completely floored- Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. This one had so many twists and turns I did not see coming. It’s dark, sharp, and haunting and at times hard to read, but it left me thinking for a long time afterward, which is a sure sign of a very compelling read.

Watching: I used to be in denial about it, but I can now say without shame that I’m totally hooked on cheesy reality shows, especially The Bachelor. They’re my guilty pleasure when I just need to turn my brain off and not think. I was excited to tune into this season, and it already looks like it’s full of drama, so I’m sure I won’t miss an episode!

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!

July, briefly

It was pretty cool seeing our books in the window at Brilliant Books!

It feels like just a second ago I was changing my calendar to July and looking at the start of a fresh new month. Is it just me, or was this the fastest July in history? I guess it’s true that time flies when you’re having fun, and July was a whole lot of good times. The highlight of my month was definitely a trip to Traverse City, Michigan, to see my wonderful CP Emily Martin and do some book events. Thanks to many great conversations with Emily, I came home motivated to tackle revisions on one of my YA contemporary projects that has been giving me serious grief. Sometimes all you need as a writer is to talk things out with another writer who understands you and your work. (And when that other writer just so happens to be a great friend who makes killer cocktails… well, even better!)

This month, I have been…

Working on: The revision mentioned above, which has been consuming all of my time. While I intended to fast-draft a different project consecutively, I just couldn’t manage to multitask this month. I tend to be extremely hard on myself when I don’t meet my goals, but I have come to realize that I’m never going to accomplish everything I want and I’m always going to feel like I could have done more. That attitude is something I’ve had my whole life and I’m trying to be kinder to myself, but it’s a constant struggle. I think revision is especially hard for me since it’s difficult to measure progress in tangible ways– sometimes it’s counter-intuitive in that progress can be getting rid of unnecessary words instead of adding new ones. (Let’s just say there has been basically a whole book’s worth of murdered darlings as a casualty of this revision!)

Reading: It has been a slow reading month, but I finished two books I really enjoyed. The first was Signs of You by one of my fellow Sweet Sixteen sisters, Emily France. It has been pitched as a YA Da Vinci Code, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the layers of mystery and intrigue. I definitely ripped through the pages because I needed to know what happened next. I also finished The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle, which has one of the most authentic and fresh voices I’ve read in a long time. I bought the highly anticipated The Girls by Emma Cline at Brilliant Books (seriously amazing bookstore, by the way!) when I was in Traverse City, so I’m looking forward to diving in next month.

Watching: I love anything involving travel, so when my husband suggested a travel documentary show called Departures, I got on board. (See what I did there?) It chronicles the adventures of Canadian travelers Scott and Justin, who take a year off their lives to travel the world. I’m always fascinated by stories of people who can leave things behind to venture into the unknown, and seeing the different destinations they visited definitely ignited some wanderlust within me.

I’m very much looking forward to August… I think it’s going to be another whirlwind month filled with not only my own writing projects, but Pitch Wars fun! I posted my wish list and have been enjoying all the engagement on Twitter with potential mentees. The submission window opens August 3rd, and I cannot wait to see the entries that come in and choose a mentee… although, I have a feeling that will be difficult with all the amazing manuscripts out there.

Wishing everyone a happy and sun-soaked August!

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 falling short

We can probably all agree that meeting a goal is one of the most satisfying feelings imaginable. There’s a huge sense of inner pride, accompanied by the belief that you really can do anything you set your mind to. Rarely do I feel as invincible as I do after meeting a goal I set for myself. I’m Wonder Woman! Super Girl! I can take on the world!

Last month, I had a very specific and doable goal. I wanted to finish revising one of the YA contemporary drafts I had completed. I made an outline and broke it down by day, and I marked the big day on my calendar for March 31. FINISH REVISING. I imagined myself buoyed by that reminder, working away to achieve my goal, the same way I always do.

But then life got in the way. I got sick and when I’m sick, all I want to do is sleep or vegetate on the couch in front of a Sons of Anarchy marathon. Normally, I would push myself to write anyway, because I had a goal and hated the idea of letting myself down. But this time, I didn’t push myself. I let my brain be foggy, knowing any writing I attempted would feel forced and uninspired. I let myself rest. I let the calendar days pass unadorned and eyed the milestone that was March 31, knowing I had lost too much time to achieve it.

And I decided I was okay with that.

This is a new attitude for me. I’m usually incredibly hard on myself when it comes to goals and self-imposed deadlines. But I realized there was no point in punishing myself for being sick or chastising myself for losing progress. I knew I could come back stronger than ever if I gave myself time to rest.

I set a new goal for finishing those revisions, for a few days later. When I achieved it, I was proud of myself.

There will be other goals in the future, both big and small. But if I don’t reach them, the world isn’t going to end. Every day is a new opportunity for words, and a new chance to be kinder to ourselves. This year, I’m trying to measure progress less by numbers and days and more by how I feel mentally, creatively, artistically. And that’s the real goal to strive for.

March, briefly

March went by so fast that I almost forgot it was time to write this post! Besides the fact that I was derailed by a bad cold for part of the month, it was great to see the snow melt (hopefully it stays gone) and some flowers (or maybe they’re weeds… but they’re pretty!) start to shoot up from the ground in our backyard. There’s something so energizing about the first signs of spring, and as soon as the temperature rises, I’m ready to ditch my winter coat and boots for my shorts and flip-flops.

This month, I have been…

Working on: Revising, revising, revising! I’m almost done a revision of a YA contemporary project that can pretty much be summed up in three words: Girls behaving badly. This book has challenged me and made me dig deep as a writer, and seeing the story come to life has been especially rewarding. Looking forward to working more on this one, because there’s nothing I love writing more than complicated girls and their stories.

I’ve also been posting the Boys Tell All stories, which are told from the perspectives of the virgin guys Mercedes hooks up with in Firsts. I’m sharing a new story every Tuesday on Wattpad and Tumblr, and there are 10 in total. If you’re a Wattpad user, you can check out the series here, or else you can catch up here!

Reading: I’ve read a few great books by the Sweet Sixteens this month. First, Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia, which is fresh, smart, and wickedly funny– plus, the main character is arguably an unlikeable female protagonist, so obviously I was destined to love her. Next, I read My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul, which is my kind of book– full of humor, heart, and quirks. To finish up the month, I read The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by fellow St. Martin’s Press author Lily Anderson. It’s a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and I was immediately sucked in by the witty voice and whip-sharp banter.

Watching: Since I’m now the proud owner of an Android box, I have a scarily vast wealth of movies and TV shows at my fingertips. The hardest part is deciding what to watch next (and not getting sucked into hours of viewing instead of writing, because I’m sadly not one of those people who can work effectively while a show plays in the background). The only good thing that came out of being sick this month was finishing the seasons of Sons of Anarchy I hadn’t yet seen. It’s such a compelling, gritty, well-acted show (and the eye candy that is Jax Teller doesn’t hurt, either).

That pretty much sums up March in my world! Looking forward to more mild weather, long walks, great reads, and writing progress in April!

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.

February, briefly

Well, it’s safe to say February was a whirlwind month. Between my launch party, my first official book signing, and lots of reading and writing, I didn’t have much free time for anything else. But I feel as though I have finally achieved that elusive work-life balance that was missing since Firsts came out, and I’m in a good mental place coming into March. Plus, I finally get to reveal something I’ve been bursting to share with all of you: A series of ten short stories from the perspectives of the first ten virgins Mercedes hooks up with in Firsts. These have been in the works for awhile, and I really hope fans of Firsts love getting into the guys’ brains! I’ll be sharing one story per week starting March 1st on my Tumblr and Wattpad accounts, so I hope you’ll tune in!

At my first book signing at the Chapters Indigo in Erin Mills. What a fun day!

At my first book signing at the Chapters Indigo in Erin Mills. What a fun day!

This month, I have been…

Working on: Two different YA contemporaries have been preoccupying my head. One, I’ve been able to write quickly ,but the other has put up some resistance. I’m a firm believer that working on more than one project at a time can help you get unstuck if you’re not sure where one of the projects is going. Next up for both projects is revision-land, and I’m confident I know the changes that need to be made.

There’s also an extremely shiny idea percolating in my head, but I’m not letting myself touch it until I revise both of the aforementioned projects! It’ll be the ultimate reward for surviving the revision trenches. (That, and champagne, of course.)

Reading: February has been a seriously stellar reading month. I read eight books, all of which I absolutely adored! I started the month with Unscripted Joss Byrd by Lygia Day Peñaflor. It’s an amazing story about a child actress struggling to find her place in Hollywood, and both the internal and external obstacles she faces. Next, I read Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley– it’s a fast-paced, action-packed look at a future where the lack of an Internet footprint is the most valuable form of currency. Then I read Flirting with Fame by my agent-sister Samantha Joyce (which just so happens to be out TODAY!). It’s a gorgeous New Adult book about nineteen-year-old Elise, who has written a successful book series… but because she’s so self-conscious about her appearance, she put another girl’s photo on her book jacket, and nobody knows about her secret career.

Next up was Gemini by Sonya Mukherjee, a debut with one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen (and the words inside are even more beautiful). It’s the story of conjoined twins Clara and Hailey and how they learn to live and dream both together and apart. Then I read Jerkbait by Mia Siegert, wherein twins Robbie and Tristan are skilled high school hockey players– but it’s Robbie, who everyone thinks is destined for hockey stardom, who is hiding a huge secret.

I’d heard so many amazing things about Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Well, this book more than exceeded them. It’s a brilliant story about friendship, sexuality, secrets, and, well, plenty of Oreos.

Another debut novel that seriously impressed me was Please Don’t Tell by Laura Tims. It’s dark and twisty and complicated and the language is so gorgeous and original. This is the kind of book where you dog-ear every second page because you want to revisit the words later. Similarly powerful was Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate, Told from seven different perspectives, each embodying one of the deadly sins, this story was ambitious and bold and I loved every page of it.

Watching: My husband and I discovered the new show Love on Netflix. I promptly fell in, well, love with it. It’s hilarious and actually made me laugh out loud, which is rare when I’m watching TV. I only wish there were more episodes!

I’m looking forward to what March has in store… hopefully some warmer weather and more great reads!

Don’t miss the first short story, which will be live on Tumblr and Wattpad at 10am tomorrow!

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!

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