Aug20, 2019 |
Now that I’m established in my career as an author, I’m more frequently asked what my advice is for aspiring writers. After putting together a response for one lovely reader, I thought it might be helpful to share these notes more broadly. Without further ado, here are a few broad pieces of advice that have helped me along my writing journey.
1) Write a terrible first draft. Even your most favorite published writers write horrible (or at least imperfect) first drafts, and if they claim otherwise, they’re probably lying. Anne Lamott’s book Bird By Bird sums this up well. Here’s the relevant excerpt in case you don’t have the book on hand. Give yourself permission to write a bad first draft, knowing that when you revise it you can make it shine and do justice to your great ideas.
Caveat: some people do better writing fast/sloppy first drafts, and others find more success writing slowly and polishing as they go. Use the method that works best for you; the takeaway is that it is okay to write bad first drafts because words on the page you can edit and polish (either at the end or as you go) are always better than a blank page.
2) Stop writing for the day in the middle of an interesting or exciting scene. If I end a writing session without completing a scene I find compelling and exciting, it will help me dive back into the writing the next day with lots of momentum. If I stop at the conclusion of a scene I had fun with, I often struggle to dive back in the next day and end up procrastibaking five dozen cookies and scrubbing the bathroom tile and ultimately failing to get anything done on my novel.
3) Lean on your friends. People like to romanticize writing as a solitary art–the creative genius sitting alone in his/her/zir/their room churning out material that is publishable without a single minute of revision (lies!). Some writers work well in isolation. Many do not at all. I like to feel like I can do anything by myself, so it took me a long time to accept that I need help from my friends to write books. But the truth is that I write much better when I look to my friends for inspiration and support. Lean on them and let their faith in you carry you through. They can help you talk through plot problems or alpha read and give positive feedback. (Yes, it is totally okay to have alpha readers who read for the sole purpose of positive reinforcement. Fanfiction is also great for this.)
4) Self accept; don’t self-reject. It is so, so easy to tell yourself you are not good enough or can’t execute an idea you know is great. However, that will get you nowhere. Write that terrible first draft anyway! Every book you write will make you a better writer. You will learn more by actually writing than from reading any book about craft or from anyone’s advice (including mine). You don’t have to be perfect at the outset. Just remember that YOU are the only one who can write your particular book in your particular voice and help bring to life the ideas you have. The only way you fail is by telling yourself you can’t do it. I spent a lot of time in high school telling myself I wasn’t good enough and therefore not trying, and I regret all that wasted time.
Good luck, and I wish you all the best with your writing!
PS: The sequel to Of Fire and Stars is finally out! Here are some places you can buy it if you’re so inclined.
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| TAGS:writing, writing advice
Last week the cover for INKMISTRESS was revealed over at Young Adult Books Central. INKMISTRESS takes place in the same world as OF FIRE AND STARS, 200 years earlier. The real name of the book should probably be OF BISEXUALITY AND BLOODSHED. It’s the story of Asra, a demigod with the ability to change the past or the future by writing in her blood, but only at the cost of her youth. To learn more about the book and to enter the giveaway (international), go check out the post at YABC!
You can also add the book to your Goodreads here:
INKMISTRESS on Goodreads
| TAGS:books, cover reveal, giveaway, inkmistress
Of Fire and Stars will finally be out tomorrow. Eep! People often ask, “what can I do to help you as an author?” Here are a few ways to help, many of which won’t even cost you anything.
• Buy the book! You can even go one step further and purchase it from your local independent bookstore. Here are some retailers where you can purchase Of Fire and Stars:
- BookPeople (order signed copies here through 12/3)
- Barnes & Noble
- Book Depository (free international shipping!)
• Purchase copies of the book to give as gifts (or to donate to your local library).
• Request the book from your local library & talk to your librarian about it.
• Leave a nice review on a retail site like Amazon. It can even just be one sentence. Quantity matters when it comes to reviews!
• Recommend the book to your friends or book club. Word of mouth is everything.
• Read your friend’s book in a public place.
• Discourage people from pirating books (and please don’t do it yourself). Request the book at your library instead. Pirating books means that authors don’t get paid. Every sale really does matter.
• Please be kind and resist the urge to rearrange shelves at bookstores. Booksellers work hard to keep everything organized. Instead, strike up a conversation with a bookseller and tell them about your friend’s book!
Friends, family, and readers have made my journey to publication possible. Thank you all so much for your support. I couldn’t have done any of this without you.
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Aug25, 2016 |
I’m delighted to announce that Kaylan Adair at Candlewick Press has acquired STARWORLD, a YA contemporary I co-authored with Paula Garner (Phantom Limbs, Candlewick 2016). Here is the deal announcement from Publisher’s Weekly:
This book contains an imaginary hot-sauce-fueled dragon, many bizarre curse words, and a huge piece of my heart. STARWORLD is about the power of friendship, the way a fantastical private universe can grow between two people, and how sometimes those who see us clearly and teach us the most about ourselves are the people we least expect. Writing it required me to let go of some negative perceptions of my teen self that I held onto and believed were true well into adulthood—and I never could have done that without Paula.
Like Zoe and Sam, the main characters in STARWORLD, Paula and I are seemingly very different on paper, but at the heart of our friendship is an understanding upon which everything else is built. Both the writing of this book and my friendship with Paula have changed me for the better, and I’m so grateful for and humbled by that. No other manuscript has ever been so much fun to work on, or cut so close to the bone. I hope readers will feel that, too.
Thank you so much Kaylan and Candlewick for giving our book such a good home! I can’t wait to share it with the world in 2018.
If you’d like to add STARWORLD to your to-be-read list, you can do so on Goodreads!
| TAGS:book deal, Starworld
Yesterday it was announced in Publisher’s Marketplace that my debut young adult fantasy novel, OF FIRE AND STARS, sold to Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a two-book deal. Not even horse gifs can communicate my excitement about this, nor can they express enough gratitude to those who helped me along the way. My amazing agent, my devoted and ruthless critique partners, my incredible friends, and the teachers and mentors I had over the years are truly the ones who made this possible.
In OF FIRE AND STARS, a princess with a forbidden magical gift falls in love with the rogueish, horse-training sister of the prince she’s supposed to marry.
It is a challenging world for those of us who write books with LGBTQ protagonists, but not an impossible one. My first hope is that this deal means my book will fall into the hands of the teenagers who need it most. My second and equal hope is that it will encourage anyone whose voice gets pushed to the edges, marginalized, and routinely stomped on to keep writing. Sometimes it’s hard to believe in ourselves and our stories, but they matter—maybe to someone we haven’t even met who will read them one day.
In the next week or so I’ll be doing a fun giveaway of several books to celebrate the deal, so come on in and make yourselves comfortable!
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| TAGS:agent, books, critique partners, LGBTQ
Everyone has to start their journey from writing to publication somewhere.
I wrote a book. Then I wrote four more. Yet still I didn’t consider myself a real writer, and the manuscripts got dumped in a drawer. But for some reason, the third of the five manuscripts wouldn’t let me go. The story needed to be told.
So I revised like a person possessed. I found critique partners and beta readers. I attended the Lambda Literary Retreat for Emerging Writers and had the privilege of studying with Malinda Lo. I entered Pitch Wars and ended up with amazing mentor Elizabeth Briggs. And as a result of the feedback, support, and constructive criticism I received, my book evolved and changed into something better and stronger.
Finally, when I felt I could do no more to improve the manuscript, I sent out some queries, attempting to follow the conventional wisdom and guidelines.
I got rejected.
And then one day, just as I was thinking about trunking the manuscript and moving on to the next book, a different kind of email hit my inbox.
An agent said she loved the manuscript and wanted to talk to me.
We scheduled the call for the next day.
We talked about the manuscript and my writing career and got a feel for one another’s style.
And came to this conclusion.
But then there was another offer!
So I had to think things through. After some panic, due diligence, and deliberation, I realized that while both agents were great choices, there was only one I couldn’t live without. She’s brilliant, passionate, and most importantly, understands the very heart of my book.
To all you other writers writing, dreaming, querying, and feeling uncertain that things will ever pan out for you–don’t ever give up. Keep working to be the best writer you can be.
One day you’ll get there.
Disclaimer: none of these gifs are owned/were made by me. Thanks to the talented people of Tumblr!
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| TAGS:agent, publishing, querying, writing
The lovely writers behind DiversifYA interviewed me this week! I talked about my manuscript, my first kiss, and what it was like to grow up liking girls. Check out my interview and enter below to win a free AUTOGRAPHED paperback of one of the following books (your choice):
Enter to win here:
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I am not fearless.
Even after training two horses from the ground up, some dark fantasy strikes me every time I swing into the saddle. I picture myself tangled in barbed wire, impaled on a jump standard, or lying in the sand with a broken neck. My memory is happy to call up the times I’ve been stepped on, thrown into jumps, smashed into walls, and bucked off onto cement. And my body reminds me of all those incidents with a collection of aches that only worsen with time.
Even as a kid I was risk-averse. I was the one afraid to canter, terrified to trail ride, too fearful to take the big jump, and would collapse in on myself when an instructor pushed too hard. But the drive for perfection kept me going, and I continued to learn, read, and ride, even with fear digging its claws into my back.
Suddenly it’s been twenty years.
Now for every one of those moments where fear ruled me exist a hundred that were the opposite: keeping my seat through a spook and realizing it was no big deal, being the first on the back of a horse I trained myself, swimming beside my horse at the lake, or galloping through an open field with my arms spread like wings.
But even now—I am afraid.
I eventually grew restless after the sale of my mare last fall and started taking jumping lessons. Halfway through my first lesson as the instructor put up the jumps, it was time to come clean.
“I’m nervous,” I said. It was my first jumping lesson in more than fifteen years. Every time I approached a fence the lizard part of my brain wanted to grab mane, shut my eyes, and cross myself until it was over—because that’s the only kind of courage I know. Hang on, get through it, and eventually the fear will retreat.
But the instructor didn’t respond the way I expected.
“You aren’t riding like you’re nervous,” she said.
Either my riding was better than I thought, or I’d become a master of lies told with my body.
By my third lesson, just last week, I found myself on a big, scopey Thoroughbred borrowed from the barn owner for the second time, trying not to piss myself every time I pointed him at a jump. He was forward and game, but soft in my hands and seat even when he rushed or got a little goofy with his head. Still, every tiny crossrail felt like a mess. My release wasn’t in a consistent place, and my nervousness and anticipation often drove me ahead of the motion. Even as I grew more confident my equitation still seemed sloppy. The voices in my head asked why I bothered to try.
I’ve done this with my writing too. Crippling self-doubt makes me work to be better, but it also once caused me to quit for years. And at the root of it is always fear—the fear of not being good enough, particularly when I’ve done my best. It’s disguised in a certain level of pragmatism. There will always be someone better than me, and less fearful than me, because that’s how the world works.
One of our last times over the tiny crossrail, one of the other riding students snapped a photo. She caught us right at the peak of the jump, in the moment where nervous anticipation had ended and my vicious cycle of self-criticism had yet to begin.
When I saw that photo, everything changed.
My head is up, my heels are down, and the horse has a proper release. We’re flying and it’s beautiful, even if it wasn’t perfect, even if I was scared. And because I was so afraid of making mistakes, of not doing everything right, I missed the magic of those few airborne seconds even though it’s right there in the picture.
Being brave isn’t closing my eyes, tossing away the reins, and hanging on for dear life and praying I make it. It’s certainly not quitting before I can fail or succeed. It’s trotting to the jump with my head up. Breathing. Finding stillness. Keeping my eyes open. Seeking improvement, not perfection. Knowing that the next jump will be better.
From now on I will be brave—and imperfect.
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| TAGS:bravery, courage, fear, horses, jumping, life, writing
Guess what’s happening this week? The Romantic Times (RT) Booklovers Convention!
I’ll be in New Orleans this week checking out the convention, meeting some amazing writers, and expanding my knowledge about writing and publishing, all while attempting to resist the lure of beignets.
I will be paying particular attention to anything and everything LGBTQ-related, and tweeting about it under the hashtag #QueerRT14. I’m hoping to get a few more readers and writers involved, so if you’re a reader or writer with an interest in any color of the QUILTBAG rainbow, please jump into the conversation. See you in the Big Easy!
There were two reasons for my lack of posts in December.
- Wonderful things happened.
- Horrible things happened.
In late November I submitted to the Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction through the MSFV blog and was selected as a winner, which put me among sixty authors whose loglines and first pages were put up for bidding by agents in early December. Through that contest I received some great feedback and also a couple of agent bids. Shortly after that, I also won my way into Pitch Wars, which is a contest hosted by the fabulous Brenda Drake. For more details on what the contest is, check out the Pitch Wars page on her blog.
The Pitch Wars mentor who selected me is Elizabeth Briggs. Her comments on my manuscript are insightful and detailed, and I couldn’t be more delighted to be working with her. The agent round for Pitch Wars happens at the end of January, so by then I should have an even more polished manuscript ready to go. Through Pitch Wars I’ve met many new writing friends, and have enjoyed giving and receiving feedback and watching as other writers hone their work. The online writing community is filled with lovely, supportive people.
While 2013 was good to me as a writer, it was a year of great loss for my friends and family. A lot of people died, many of them young. December wrapped up with three deaths in the space of a week. A heaviness rests in my bones that I’m not sure when I will be able to shake. There is no upside to the tragic loss of people you love, or of recognizing how little you can do in the face of someone else’s grief. It is humbling. May 2014 be kind to us all.