Tag Archive: writing process

Some big news…

I’m so excited to announce the bookish news I have been dying to share with everyone! My next two YA books (both contemporary psychological thrillers) have sold to Erin Stein at Imprint (Macmillan), with a tentative release date of winter 2019 for the first book, which is called Last Girl Lied To. I’m really looking forward to working with Erin, who has brilliant ideas and such great insight, and I’m honored to join the Imprint family!

That’s the short version. The long version? Well, we’d have to go back to February 2014, just after Pitch Wars wrapped (I was a mentee for Firsts). An idea for a creepy YA thriller was taking shape in my head, and I wrote a first draft in just under a month, giving it the working title Heavy. But… it just wasn’t the story I envisioned in my head. I planned to revise it right away, but a lot of stuff happened at once. My husband and I bought our first house and moved in, and I received offers of representation for Firsts, ultimately signing with agent extraordinaire Kathleen Rushall. So my little draft was shoved to the side of my desk… or more like, buried among other Word documents. But out of sight was not out of mind, because it was still on my mind.

When I came back to revise the draft, I got frustrated. It wasn’t going to be easy, like how it felt with Firsts, where I intuitively knew what needed to be changed and could make a plan to address each issue. Each time I opened that Word document, I felt like I was in way over my head. Instead of just tackling it in pieces like I should have, I ignored it and cheated on it with other WIPs. But I always had this nagging sensation in my head that the thriller was the book I should be focusing on.

So finally, I did. And I didn’t just revise– I rewrote the whole book. Twice. Then I revised some more.

Portrait of an author being driven crazy.

The toughest part for me was actually plotting the book, not just flying by the seat of my pants like I usually do. Last Girl Lied To taught me a lesson: that every book follows a different process, and what worked with writing one book might not work at all with the next one. And there’s nothing wrong with that. At one point, I remember sitting on the floor of my office with different colored Post-Its stuck to my closet door and walls in an attempt to place scenes where they were supposed to go. I might have even told myself that I’d never write such a twisty book ever again. (Alas, that was a big fat lie!)

But then, after all the hand-wringing frustration that revision brought, something wonderful happened. I had… a book. A book I believed in, that I had poured my heart and soul into. I sent it off to my brilliant critique partner, Emily Martin, hoping she would like it. And she did. Then I sent it to Kathleen, and was a big ball of stress waiting for her response. I wanted so badly for her to love it. And she did. A happy dance ensued.

More revision happened with Kathleen, but I moved through that quickly and with a purpose. Knowing she stood behind the book really fueled me. Then, we went on submission. And waited. (If you’re a writer who has ever known the particular hell of being on sub, you know exactly what I’m talking about!) We waited some more. We received some great feedback and very kind passes, but hadn’t yet found the editor who would champion the book. In that time, Kathleen’s faith in the book (and in me) never wavered, and her support was constant. It’s my wish that every writer has an agent like that in their corner. Then, the book went to acquisitions at Imprint, and I got the call from Kathleen– we had an offer from Erin for a two-book deal!

In total, the book was on submission for over six months. (Don’t even ask me how often I checked my email during that time, because it’s a disturbingly high statistic per day. Oh, who am I kidding– per minute.) It took longer to sell than Firsts. At times, my writer insecurities got the best of me, and I was convinced it wouldn’t sell. Writers, if you’re in the same boat, do not give up hope on your work. It WILL find the right home, even if it doesn’t happen overnight.

Maybe the biggest lesson I learned from the process was not shying away from the writing when it got hard. Once in awhile, we’re lucky, and have books that write themselves. I got lucky like that with Firsts. But Last Girl Lied To was a different story, and has ultimately been the most rewarding writing experience of my life. The book is so important to me, and the fact that it took a lot of my blood, sweat, and tears (okay, maybe not any blood, but lots of frustrated tears), makes me that much more excited to know that it will soon be a book-shaped thing, on a shelf in bookstores. I wrote what scared me, what didn’t come easy. I forced myself to plow onwards, even when it would have been easier to give up and write something that didn’t give me so much grief. But I did not give myself permission to quit. And as a result, this book means more to me than anything else I’ve ever written. Writers often talk about the book of their heart. Well, so far, this one is mine.

Now, I am looking forward to the next steps. Edits and line edits and copyedits and cover reveals and ARCs (!!!). I truly cannot wait for this book to find its readers. If you like your YA twisty and dark, I hope you’ll enjoy Last Girl Lied To! A little bit about it? It’s about seventeen-year-old Fiona, whose best friend goes missing, after which Fiona is faced with the reality that the girl she knew better than anyone might have been a carefully constructed lie– and her disappearance might not be an accident at all. It’s set in a coastal town in California and is full of secrets and betrayal and regret and friendship and first love and damaged boys and broken hearts.

Thank you so much for all of your ongoing support. My readers mean the world to me, and I am so fortunate to share this journey with you all. It’s official: my second and third book babies are on the way! This is the part where I would normally crack open a bottle of champagne, but… sparkling juice it is, for now!

Birthdays, milestones, and love

Today, my husband Steve is celebrating a milestone birthday. Firsts is dedicated to him—there was no question in my mind, from the moment I got my book deal, that it would be. To be honest, I had that dedication written in my head before I even had a book deal. I knew exactly what I wanted it to say.

His birthday got me thinking about love, and time, and how lost we writers would be if we weren’t moored by the support of people who adore us despite (or maybe because of) our strange rituals and weird routines and the click-click-click noise our keyboards are constantly making.

My husband and I have been a couple for just over five years. Shortly after we got together, I made the decision to seriously pursue writing. It was a big deal for me, saying that out loud to him. It made the dream more real somehow, gave it weight, instead of the fizzy quality of a dream. Before then, barely anyone besides my parents and sister even knew I was a writer.

I knew getting published was a long shot, but I decided to go for that long shot, and if I ended up falling short, I’d at least know I tried. So I wrote, and researched, and got ready to query. Steve and I had moved in together by the time I sent my first query letter. I was in our first apartment, sitting on the couch with a glass of wine, my heart hammering furiously as I hit “send.”

When I got my first full request, I was home by myself (I might have jumped on said couch, Tom Cruise-style, and squealed). Steve was the first person I called to share the good news with. When the request turned into a rejection, he was the first person I told, and the first person to tell me it was one opinion, that I was talented and capable and just had to persevere. He learned all sorts of terminology that was new to both of us, but becoming more familiar. Query and R&R and Pitch Wars and critique partner and NA and YA and out on sub. He learned them not because he had to, but because he loves me.

More rejections and requests trickled in over the next several months. In the meantime, Steve and I had many more firsts in our relationship. Our first Christmas together. Our first vacation together—Africa, a place we both felt drawn to. We got engaged and married and bought a house.

After a year and a half of querying, I got my first offer of representation. I called Steve from work, overjoyed when a fabulous agent wanted to set up a call with me. He made sure I was home from work in time to take the call and when I came out of my room bouncing up and down like a crazy person, he was ready with a bottle of wine. Later, he left me alone during revisions and dealt with my obsessive email-checking while I was on submission. He is the reason this website exists (I’m honestly the least tech-savvy person ever). When I got the call from my agent letting me know we had an offer from an editor I was incredibly excited to work with, Steve was the first person I told. (And yes, it’s possible to flail with someone through the phone.)

Steve has been with me through so many firsts. This past year was a blur of Firsts, quite literally. He hugged me when I was stressed out or frustrated and celebrated my victories with champagne and pizza. He made me feel like I could do anything. Three months after publication, he still does. And he always will.

So, today I’m celebrating Steve, the love of my life, the person who has stood by me through so many firsts. The person who is my last, my only, my everything. Writers, hug the non-writer people in your life who love you. They’re endlessly amazing. And if you have someone like Steve in your life– well, you’re very lucky indeed.

 

#SixteensBlogAbout: Writing Spaces

This month, the Sweet Sixteens are blogging about writing spaces. This topic is near and dear to me, since my concept of what makes a writing space has changed a lot over the last couple of years.

I wrote FIRSTS on my trusty Windows Surface tablet, which was perched on a lap desk while I reclined on the couch. (I feel like this is one of the many reasons why I have terrible posture.) Before my husband and I moved into our house, I didn’t have an official “writing space” in our apartment, so I wrote wherever I could. Sometimes in front of Breaking Bad marathons, sometimes at the kitchen table, sometimes on my bed, always with my furry little BFF on my lap. I fantasized about having an office of my own.

One of my many writing spaces.

One of my many writing spaces.

The week I got an offer of representation from my amazing agent was the same week we moved into our first house. My office was the first thing I unpacked, and I couldn’t wait to start writing there. The timing was perfect. I felt so official! So grown up! So much like an author! Over the year, my office evolved a lot. My husband got me a super-comfortable desk chair and I put up photos and started a bookshelf entirely dedicated to books by my awesome author friends. My office is where I would be spending hours and hours of my time, so it had to have the right vibe. And I love it there, especially when it’s warm enough to open the windows and let fresh air in.

But… I still write while sitting on the couch sometimes. Because as much as I adore my office, I need a change of scenery every so often. (Plus, my dog prefers when I’m on the couch, because that means she gets to stretch out on my legs.) And this summer, my “office” has more often than not been my backyard deck in the evening, with a glass of wine and a view of our garden.

The truth is, I don’t think of a writing space in static terms anymore. A writing space is anywhere, and mine changes all the time. A writing space happens in the cafeteria on my lunch break at work. A writing space happens in the Notes app on my phone while I’m walking. A writing space happens when I scribble in a notebook (and hope I can decipher my writing later). Sometimes a writing space even happens solely in my head, when I don’t have anything to write with but get struck by a thought I want to remember later.

The main thing I want to feel as a writer is that I can write anywhere. The circumstances don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be in my super-comfortable desk chair with the American Beauty soundtrack playing and a full mug of coffee beside me (although I certainly won’t complain if that happens!). I don’t need to be “inspired” by my surroundings to get words on the page. I can be anywhere, doing anything. Because I’m a writer, and my ultimate writing space is my imagination.

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