Edit Letters and Revision Caves

After months of waiting, I received my edit letter for FLASHFALL. Since then, I’ve been fully immersed in the Revision Cave. And since my book is about caving, this is more than a metaphor for me—I have literally been down some freakish caverns for the past few weeks!

 

My FLASHFALL manuscript in the midst of structural revisions. Sticky-note pile are completed edits!

My FLASHFALL manuscript in the midst of structural revisions. Sticky-notes in the pile are completed edits!

 

I’m currently a week from deadline, (and ironically I’m in my pajamas, messy hair in a bun, sitting beside a bag of chocolate—the author deadline cliché) but thought I’d post a glimpse of what this stage of the revision process looks like. (Ignore the piles of laundry and the fast food bags littering the cave–no judgment during deadline week.)

 

Every writer has a different process, and mine looks different depending on what stage of revisions I’m in. Since these are first round edits, they are more big idea, structural revisions. Some deal with plot points, shaping and pacing suggestions, and character and world-building development. My edit letter was seven pages long, and I took each one of Kate’s questions/thoughts and printed it on a card that then went on the Revision Board. This helps me keep my revision goals clear as I work through the manuscript and make sure to address each one.

 

My edit letter broken down and organized according to things I need to cut, add, develop, or change

My edit letter broken down and organized according to things I need to cut, add, develop, or change

 

At this stage, there is a lot of what my agent calls ‘the thinking part of writing.’ When you remove a character or scenes, you have to work through how you’re going to ‘re-connect the dots’ plot-wise and in terms of a character’s arc. I like to explore a lot of this on paper (on a printed manuscript and with tons of sticky-notes) before I alter the actual manuscript on my laptop. Some writers are already working in Track Changes (Microsoft Word) with their editors at this point. I have only experienced that with line edits, and this process works well for me.

 

After this, I’ll have a second round of revisions to make, followed by line edits, then eventually copyedits. During that time, I’ll probably start seeing some cover designs (EEEE!!) and I’ll continue to work steadily on BOOK TWO. More about all that as the process unfolds . . .

 

If any of you are in Revision Caves of your own, hang in there! It’s daunting at times, but I’ve found that if you take it note by note, it feels less overwhelming. When I started a few weeks ago, I had over 200 post-it notes stuck to my manuscript and Revision Board. I pulled the last one off yesterday. It was an incredible feeling. But honestly, the best feeling is reading over a new scene that wasn’t there before and feeling the magic in the words, and knowing you were pushed to write something better, with more depth than you had originally.

 

It’s all worth it. That’s my mantra during revisions. That, and–if you just finish one more you can have a piece of chocolate.

 

If you need some encouragement, come say ‘hi’ on Twitter. You don’t have to be alone in the Cave. I have lots of chocolate in my little corner over here, and I totally share.

 

Happy writing!

To see a video of me in this process, click here.

In which I went to NYC, met my editor, and EEEEEEE!!!

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Just after visiting Macmillan Publishing, Flatiron Building, NYC

 

Click here to watch the video

As I write this post, I’m in a boutique New York City hotel near 5th Avenue, perched on the twenty-first floor. Literally, I’m perched, like a heavily-layered pigeon at the edge of this historic building. It’s freezing out, but I have an adorable balcony with an (almost) view of Rockefeller Plaza, so I’m letting my toes go numb while I soak up this surreal moment.

 

There is something about a dream materializing that makes you feel anything’s possible, like there’s a sun glowing inside your body, and that a unicorn could prance down 57th street at any moment. None did, but I kept an eye out for them, just in case. I also kept an eye out for all French bakeries, but that’s another story. One that will probably evolve into mild regret, sweat pants, and extra gym hours.

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It was my birthday, so I may have eaten both cupcakes. And see, there’s that balcony I mentioned…

If you like pictures, come say ‘hi’ on Instagram. I promise, not everything is food. There’s also my dog.

 

Anyway . . . publishing. The dreams-come-true and unicorn possibilities and now-the-hard-work-really-begins part.

 

My first night in NYC, I met my editor, Kate Farrell, (the senior editor at Henry Holt). She’s a lot of fun, and it was so cool connecting with the person who feels so deeply connected to my book. And also there was a photo booth. With a really bright flash.

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Hanging out with my editor, Kate Farrell

Kate’s said that some BIG edits are coming my way. (That’s the hard-work-really-begins part I mentioned.) But it will only make FLASHFALL better, and more exciting, and memorable and sparkly. If you’re going to put in the blood, sweat, and tears writing, you might as well make it awesome, right? (Remind me of this later.)

 

No really, remind me—please.

 

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This is from my shirt that I got just before my trip. Whatever is in your heart to do . . . go after it, work hard, believe it’s possible.

 

I dreamed about meeting my editor in New York long, looong, before it seemed possible. For more about my journey to get an agent here, and getting a book deal here. I hope my publishing story inspires you–especially if you’re in that place where the voice of doubt is telling you to quit. I felt that way so many times. More about that here.

 

Maybe your dream isn’t meeting your publisher in New York City. Maybe it is. Either way, I hope there are unicorns in your future. Or at least the feeling that they are possible.

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Vlog Post from NYC

In which a debut author visits her publisher in NYC, turns into a popsicle outside the Flatiron Building, but remains hysterically excited

Thanks for checking out my first Vlog post! I’d love to know what you think. I’ll be posting ‘authorish insights’ and ‘behind the scenes publishing’ stuff, along with tips for writers going after their own publishing dreams over on my new YouTube channel. If you like that sort of thing, I invite you to check it out.

I plan to keep most videos over on YouTube, and keep this blog separate, but just thought I’d share the first one. : )

Happy Writing!

By the way, if you watched the video you heard me mention the NEW TITLE for my book. It’s official! ASHES FOR STARS is now called FLASHFALL I think it works well for a sci-fi/fantasy, action-adventure, high-stakes, fast-paced kind of book. What do you think?

Reaching Past Rejection: How Dreaming Big Led to a Book Deal

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I wrote this in the sand the day before I met my agent in person, at this past summer’s SCBWI LA conference. I was in a bit of a creative/emotional funk, wrapping up months of revisions and getting ready to send my manuscript out into the great big world of publishing. I had one of the best agents in the business, (and her amazing editorial skills), but I had no guarantee that the doors I hoped would open, wouldn’t in fact—close.

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I stood barefoot in the surf and stared toward the horizon, making wishes on the waves. I picked up two sea stones, held them tight and thought of every dream I had for myself as a writer, and threw one of those rocks back to sea. I let the waves carry away the hopes and dreams I’d made, and kept the other stone, as a reminder to myself that those dreams were still out there—waiting for the right time and place to land.

As my feet sank into the sand, I gave myself a pep talk: if things didn’t go as I hoped, I’d allow myself a good cry, then get right back on that metaphorical horse. This wasn’t my first Rejection Rodeo. I had persevered through years of rejected queries and manuscripts to get to this point. The fact that I hadn’t given up was something to celebrate.

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One of the promises I made myself as I watched the August sun sink into the ocean, was that—whether I landed a book deal or not—I’d keep writing.

What I couldn’t know then, was that I’d make it through the ups and downs of the submission process with more than one editor who wanted the stories I had to tell. I couldn’t know then, as I drew those letters in the sand, what Sarah’s voice would sound like when she called and said, “how does it feel to know you’re going to be a published author?” Or how I would cry happy tears when she told me they wanted not just one, but two books.

As I threw my rock out to sea, I didn’t know that some of my dreams would find their landing just eight weeks from that day.

That sea-tossed stone now sits on my desk, a reminder of when I let go of what I couldn’t control, and celebrated what I had accomplished so far.

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If you are holding your own sort of sea stone, remember the dreams you painted inside your heart. Keep pushing. Keep running. Keep learning and growing and doing everything else but give up. And if you’ve been too afraid to go after what you love—maybe this is your moment. Whisper your dreams to the waves and be true to the courageous voice inside you that says “reach.”

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#8TerribleTitles

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My fellow Sweet Sixteeners Janet Taylor, author of THE DIM, and Jessica Cluess, author of A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING, tagged me on Twitter to participate in this blog hop! The rules are simple: Scroll through your manuscript and stop in random places. Whatever you land on becomes one of eight terrible titles. So, here are my beauties taken randomly from my YA debut (spring, 2016), ASHES FOR STARS:

  1. The water is hungry
  2. I am so, so close
  3. I still want my banana
  4. A sort of vibration
  5. My hands these days
  6. Five minutes to curfew
  7. Like it might bite
  8. “Huh-uh.”

Haha! #3 is my favorite. This is actually a timely post because my editor has suggested a title change for my book. Hmm, perhaps I should send her this list . . .? Who wouldn’t want to read a book called “Huh-uh”?

*pets tiny dog and muses about titles*

This isn’t my first title change. Every agent who offered me rep was like, “So . . . how attached to the title are you?” (Originally called SUBPARS) And my wonderful, amazingly-British super-agent Sarah was all, “I hope you’re not married to the title, attol.” *hear that in the queen’s English*

Fast-forward to much earnest re-titling and the editors I spoke to were all

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So, good times over here in Title-land . . .

I now tag fellow Sixteeners Jeff Garvin, author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN and Erin Schneider, author of WHERE THE WATER FALLS, as well as my amazeballs CP and author of TRUST ME I”M LYING, Mary Elizabeth Summer, my agency sister, Dawn Kurtagich, author of THE DEAD HOUSE, and hilarious writing friend Rena, who is currently outpacing me in NanoWriMo by like,15,000 words. *cues up blog distraction*

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Happy terrible titles day, everyone! (And wish me luck finding just the right one to (possibly) replace ASHES FOR STARS . . .