Stepping Into My Debut Year

2016

                                                January 1st | Aliso Beach, CA

In the past year of publishing “rookie-dom,” I’ve grown accustomed to walking blindly into new situations. And last year, from my first edit letter, to my last round of revisions—there were a lot of them.

Now my debut year is finally here, and once again, I’ll be stepping into moments that take me several strides from my comfort zone. But that’s usually where the good stuff happens–when we reach past our usual, everyday boundaries, and stretch toward something new. Something different. Maybe even something we can’t see clearly.

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I believe strongly in painting a clear picture of my dreams and aspirations. I’ve filled cork boards with pictures and words torn from magazines, and have lists of goals etched in journals. They’ve served as touchstones over the years, keeping me on course, driving me past weariness and discouragement.

Reminding me to reach.

I’m currently at work on Book Two in the FLASHFALL series. It’s daunting at times. Writing a second book comes with all kinds of challenges, new sets of concerns and doubts. Expanding worlds, giving fresh arcs to old characters. I’m not even sure how to end it because a third book is just a glimmer of possibility.

But more than that, there’s the fear of simply writing. I wrote FLASHFALL differently. It was more than two years ago—I was a different writer, a different person in many ways. What if I don’t have “it” in me in the same way?

I will have to reach for something new.

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                            A gift from my editor. Fortunately, she gave me options.

In the publishing world, there’s much rejection, disappointment, and disillusionment. I’ve felt them ALL, many times. But there’s also so much possibility if you don’t allow those things to have the final say.

I thought carefully about a word I’d choose as sort of a theme for 2016, one that captured my goals for this next season, these steps into debut territory. I stood on the beach on New Year’s Day, still not certain, not even when I picked up a bit of sea stone and bent toward the sand.

I suppose I shouldn’t  surprised. This one’s been calling to me for a long time.

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Reach . . . past failure. Learn from it. Use it to move forward.

Reach . . . for the absolute stars. How else will you get there?

Reach . . . despite other people’s doubts. Despite your own doubts.

Reach . . . inside yourself. Find the depths you didn’t know you had.

Reach . . . past fear, or you’ll never grab hold of your dreams.

As I stand on the cusp of this brand new year, I’m filled with gratitude. There’s uncertainty mixed in, but I remind myself there is freedom in embracing the unknown. Every page of this next book is a challenge, a charge into new territory, but I’m going to dive in. There will be crap writing days–times when I reach for words that won’t come, or plot lines that allude my grasp. On those days I’ll look at my little beach stone on my desk. It will remind me of what I wrote in the sand during a time when all I saw was possibility.

Maybe this will inspire your own journey. Maybe you need this word, this reminder, as much as I do. Or maybe you have your own.

Whatever you do this new year, I hope you find the courage to do it bravely.

Revision Fatigue and Battling the Doubt Monster

I’m going to be honest. I’m sick of reading my book.

That probably doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for FLASHFALL, but that’s just where I’m at this stage of the editing process, now that I’ve read it eighteen million-billion times.

People suggest taking a break, and coming back to your manuscript with ‘fresh eyes.’ I had a four-month break while waiting for my second round revision notes. Two weeks into editing, and my brain’s pretty much ‘what even are these words?’

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Revision Fatigue has set in. So I break the edits down onto sticky notes, put them on my board beside my laptop, and tackle them a scene at a time. Between that, I take Emmy for walks and drink copious amounts of coffee. I wear my Gryffindor socks (because magic) and my t-shirt that says, I Can and I Will (because cozy encouragement t-shirts help, too.)

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Still. As much as I whittle away my edits into a mountain of sticky-notes, another voice rises up, louder than my writer’s voice.

This is crap. This plot has too many holes. That doesn’t make sense. That’s cliché.

The voice of the Doubt Monster.

If you’ve ever written a book, or undertaken a creative endeavor, you’ve probably encountered your own.

So what can we do to battle the doubt? Here are a few things that help me:

  1. Get outside your own head. Sometimes, we are too close to the story to see when a character’s motivations are unclear or a plot development doesn’t make sense. Beta readers and critique partners are essential. Open yourself up to other people’s feedback. If you’re re-working a scene, and feel like it’s not working—run it by a couple (trusted) people. They can help re-assure you or re-direct you. By the time you’ve revised your manuscript that many times, it can be hard to see it objectively.
  2. Trust the process. It’s normal to weary of reading your book. That doesn’t mean it’s bad—it just means you’ve grown numb to all the discoveries that make books interesting. Also, by the time we get to multiple rounds of edits, we’re viewing our writing through hyper-critical lenses, focusing on the ‘problems’. Reading from that place is never fun.
  3. Commiserate with other writers. The authors in my debut group (The Sweet Sixteens) have gone through similar feelings, and just reading about their experiences makes me feel better. I love connecting with other writers on Twitter, too, and being able to share the challenges of writing and editing. So many times, they have great insights and perspectives to share. It’s reassuring, therapeutic, and usually enough to squash the doubt monster.
  4. Trick your brain. There have been studies that show how our brains ‘see’ printed and computer text differently. If your words are starting to blur together, print out your manuscript and work from the hard copy for bit. This helps me enormously—especially when I’m working through any big revisions. The other thing that helps me is a change of scenery. Try writing outside, or go to a coffee shop. Sometimes we just need to shake up our routine to get our focus back.
  5. Trust yourself. This is vital, because the best writing happens when we write from a place of confidence. Something inspired you to begin this journey—and the heart of that story is still there. Don’t get so caught up in the ‘problems’ you are fixing, that you lose sight of what the story’s about.
  6. Take a moment. Take a day. On a fresh page, write something entirely new. Or, approach a scene you’re revising from a new angle. Throw off all constraints and allow yourself to exercise and re-charge the artist part of your writer self. This is what I do when I stall out in my writing, (staring at blank walls, anyone?) or if my writing becomes stale and the characters or dialogue flat. It seems counter-productive to ‘getting the revisions done’—especially when you’re on deadline, but these moments have actually led to some of my strongest scenes in FLASHFALL.
  7. Don’t be afraid to break it. Embrace the act of revision as an opportunity to re-envision a scene, character, or plot point. Sometimes we hold on so tightly to what we’ve written, that we don’t allow for the possibility of what something can be. For more about this, check out my post on Publishing Hub.

Believe that you are capable of writing and re-writing your book to its fullest potential. It’s normal for the Doubt Monster to visit from time to time. Just don’t let it stay.

Keep writing. Keep revising. You’ve got this!

If you have any suggestions of your own, please post them in the comments! (Or tweet them at me: ) How do you overcome doubt? What helps you avoid ‘zombie brain’ when you’re revising? Please share!

For more, here’s a peek at my revision process:

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?

I Got a Book Deal! (The GIF version)

Things have happened in this writer’s world recently. Big things. Exciting, bookish, THINGS.

I went on submission. Within days, my agent sent me emails telling me about the editor interest we were getting. And I was pretty much . . .

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It was a whirlwind two weeks filled with highs and lows and so much

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Then Sarah called with the news and said . . . how does it feel to know you’re going to be a published author? And I was all

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And then she said the first book would be out spring of 2016 and I just . . .

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I was going to be a Sweet Sixteen!

Then she told me the publisher’s plans for Book Two and I

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I am beyond excited to announce that ASHES FOR STARS will be published by Henry Holt, spring 2016. I am honored to be part of the Macmillan family and MacKids Books.

Don’t give up on your dreams. I nearly did, so many times. It took me numerous books, countless rejections, and years to get to this point. But I love writing, so I was willing to learn and grow and keep reaching, keep putting myself out there. If you love what you do, it’s all worth it.

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I wish you all the twirly moments. Be brave, Reach for the stars.