Back Again

NaNoWriMo 2018, Day 5, Elayna’s Log

Current Word Count: 12,065 words

Current GIF Mood

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It’s that magical time of year again friends, and even though I’m terrified of the election tomorrow and it often feels like the world has gone beyond dumpster fire into full on eldritch dystopian hellscape, I’m trying to find a tiny piece of hope to hold onto, and right now, that hope is NaNoWriMo. That hope is, as it always seems to be for me, Alteria.

You may recall a few months back when I made the whacky decision to try and write a third draft of book one at the same time as a first draft of book three. In retrospect…

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Not the best idea.

It was a great idea in theory, but I burned out on that faster than a cheap t-light candle, and fell into a bit of a hole as I went through some stuff in my personal life. I wasn’t working on the story, book one OR three, and I was to be honest, feeling a bit trapped.

But then I applied for Pitch Wars 2018. I was more hopeful than I’ve been in a long, long time, thinking THIS IS IT. THE THING. IT IS HAPPENING. And then when I got a full manuscript request from one of the writers I was most stoked about pitching, I was bursting. Everything I’ve ever hoped and dreamed was so close I could taste it and friends it tasted like your favorite ice cream mixed with homemade cookies and goddamn rainbows.

When I got another email from that same writer, asking me specifics about the history of the manuscript and other questions of import, it felt like it was just a matter of time. I was drunk on hope, anxious with nerves, and really, really thought that my name was gonna be on that list on October 12th.

And then it wasn’t.

And then I broke a little.

Added to the six rejections I’ve gotten from agents in the last calendar year, that brings me to seven. When I got rejected from ANOTHER mentorship last week, that brought me to eight. I was feeling so kicked down, and scared that maybe I should quit. This manuscript will never be ready. The book will never be finished. I tried staying positive, but internally, the breakdown was more like an implosion.

Leave it to National Novel Writing Month to save the damn day and remind me to have hope in humans, existence, and my story.

The last five days working on this new draft (after an astronomical overhaul of the outline, plot, and even chopping some characters) I feel fan-bloody-tastic. Is this the honeymoon week of NaNo talking? Maybe. But who the hell cares if it means I feel rejuvenated in my writing?

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This draft, while in some ways very scary and new, is honestly one of the best decisions I’ve made creatively in a long time. Its outline came after talks with some closest friends about why I was getting stuck, and looking over rejection feedback, and a lot of it came down to this… there was something about my book that wasn’t personal enough.

If y’all have read my poetry, you know I go in. I lay myself out and say, this is what my soul looks like. But it turns out my fiction writing was full of just a little too much fiction, and not enough of my own voice. I was trying so hard to tell the plot of a sweeping epic trilogy, without telling the story of a girl who learns she’s got light inside of her. And so writing this so far has felt more authentic and honest than any drafts prior.

I’ve included places from my hometown. Woven in my own memories to Piper’s narrative. And if you can believe, I found a way to include poetry into my YA fantasy novel. I described the writing of this version as feeling like, “adding new plot elements, but talking to an old friend”, and so far, its been a magical decision.

I’ve got zero way of knowing right now if this is gonna be the one. I could still be in for a draft four, five, six, and twentyteen. Maybe this one will end up being too personal and I’ll have to go back and do this all over again. God only knows. But right now, I’m letting the delightful fire of a new draft fill me up and keep me warm. I’m enjoying the bejesus out of writing fiction, which I haven’t felt in some time. It’s a nice feeling. Just so nice.

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Though now it’s time to get back to it. I’d love to try and stay as ahead as I can on this word count, so I can make the most of the end of month when I have some vacation days tucked away just for writing.

If you’re participating in NaNo as well, sound off in the comments so we can encourage each other! And as ever, thanks for listening to my ramble about this thing I love doing so dang much.

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Return of Camp NaNo

Three summers ago I participated in my first ever July Camp NaNoWriMo, where I began writing what would go on to become my first fully completed draft of the first book in my Alteria Trilogy. This July, I come full circle.

This summer I am writing the first draft of the third book.

And the third draft of the first book.

Three summers later, and the Inception meme is still applicable.

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BWAM BWWAAAM BWWWWWAAAAAAAMMMMM

I realize that writing two books at once (while also wrapping up production on Unraveling Light, which will be dropping VERY SOON!) is madness, but I’ve always been one for crazy endeavors, so why stop now.

The decision to work on Book 3 though this summer wasn’t an easy one to come to. I found myself so torn about whether or not it was the right call. I always told myself that Book 3 was a far off thing that I’d do well after the first and second books were done and out there. But I realized that 1) I have nothing to lose by writing a first draft of it early and 2) In fact, it will make the revision process for Book 1 go much smoother, because as I am writing the newest draft of it, I’ll know where the story ends, and thus, will be able to breadcrumb all the right things in there for readers.

The idea of really fine tuning They Are the Last before I begin a second round of querying feels right, but so does wrapping up the series by getting the first draft of Book 3 to paper. It’s going to be a writing adventure unlike anything I’ve done before, which fills me all kinds of up with the excitement and dread and wonderment that makes me love writing so. damn. much.

I will do my best to blog along in the process as I go this month, but I make no promises of writing every day, since every time I say I’m gonna do that, the pressure makes me never actually do it. Hopefully this bizarro journey will teach me some new things, and if I find any of that worth sharing, I’ll be sure to put that together into something for y’all.

I’m already three chapters into the third book, and already there’s been some majorly gut wrenching to write scenes. This is where everything comes together, friends. I cannot believe I have come to it, and that I will at last be finding out how Piper’s story ends. Many more drafts will surely come over the years of all 3 books, but to know generally speaking where my babies end their journeys makes me feel nine kinds of everything all at once.

Hoping to cross the 5K mark on the third book tonight, so it’s about time I get back to it. But to those of you who’ve been around since the beginning, thanks for sticking with me through this. For those of you just joining the journey, I’m glad you’re here. Off to Alteria we go…

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(Photo I took of the bridge that plays a huge part in the story, and Alteria shining in the distance.) ((Ok its the moon but LET ME DREAM OK))

 

Fresh Start

It’s days like today where the subtitle for my blog (Capturing Life’s Chapters) feels particularly fitting. After writing yesterday about my end of an era with working for MuggleNet, today feels like a bright new beginning, with lots of exciting things ahead.

Now that I will have more time, I have big plans to make Elayna Musings my main focus. What with Unraveling Light on the way, pending queries out there for They Are the Last, and a bunch of bubbling new ideas, the next few months look to be unreal levels of exciting. So I thought to kick things off, I’d share an update, detailing all the awesomesauce things y’all have to look forward to in the next few months. Let’s get to it.

They Are the Last

As I’ve been working on the poetry, and also waiting to hear back on my first major round of query letters, this project has been on a bit of a hiatus. I’ve got big plans for working on what will be the third draft this summer, before sending out more queries this fall. Just know that even though I haven’t been talking about it as much online, does NOT mean it has gone anywhere. Trust friends, I’m doing my best to get Piper’s adventures into your hands ASAP.

Unraveling Light

As of this writing, the manuscript is in the hands of my editor. (GOSH DOES IT FEEL COOL TO TYPE THAT PHRASE) She is hard at work doing final edits, as I’m over here finalizing the art work and making perks. Currently, we’re still on schedule to release it June 26th, 2018, but keep your eyes on this space for any updates should that need to change! And while you’re waiting, feel free to add the book to your shelves on Goodreads! *faints in disbelief over having a book on Goodreads*

Patreon

This is something I have always regretted not having more time for, because so many of the volunteer things I was doing on the side took up my every extra hour. But now that I’m re-centering on my own creative works, I’m psyched to announce I have done a 100% overhaul of my Patreon page, including a new about section, rewards, and goals. Y’all know well enough by now that being a full time writer and making you more stuff is the dream, so if you have $1 a month to spare and want to help make that happen, head on over. It is in conjunction with Patreon that I am absolutely bursting to tell you about another new project I am launching as of today.

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Bringing Unraveling Light to life with you all has been one long, magical dream, and it has made me realize how much I desperately love writing poetry. Having to keep that book down to just poems that suited the themes became harder and harder as new poems and ideas poured out of me. But to publish full collections of them with art included on a frequent basis would be something that would burn me out faster than you could blink. However, Patreon’s monthly subscription model has birthed an idea for how I can share my poems with you all on a more regular basis, without fizzling out.

Introducing elluminations

elluminations is going to be a quarterly chapbook that I plan to put together for you all so that when I don’t have a major release coming out, you still can have new, original content from me. In keeping with the theme of Unraveling Light, I felt elluminations was the perfect name, because not only is it a nod to my first published collection AND my own name, but it also hearkens back to illuminated manuscripts of medieval texts, in which monks painted elaborate designs around their letters and pages.

A chapbook, for the uninitiated, is just a shorter collection of poems by a single author, so you can expect that each one will contain anywhere between 10 and 30 new poems for you. Since monthly would be too hectic of a turnaround, but one a year would be too few, I’ve decided I will release a new volume each season. (So for the rest of this year that means you can expect one in June, September, and December!) Each volume will be named by a unifying theme to tie these little collections together. I already have some ideas brewing about the first one, which I’m hoping to release right around the same time as Unraveling Light this June.

But HERE’S THE REAL EXCITING PART! These past few weeks, as things with Unraveling Light have been flourishing, I’ve managed to put together a Volume 0 which will be free and available to the public, both here on my blog and on Medium, so that you can get a taste of what to expect from future editions!

Volume 0 is titled Independent, and the theme deals with the journey I found myself on as I struggled through the loss of my parents. A rough topic to start on I know, but this mini collection (which features 17 poems in all) is very close to my heart. And if you end up enjoying what you read, you can hit up Patreon to become a supporter, so that you’ll get all the future volumes delivered to you once they’re done! (So for $5 a month, you get a subscription to elluminations plus a bunch of other cool stuff!) I am so, so excited to get this project started.

So that about wraps things up for now! As I said a dozen times in this post, I am THRILLED to finally be dedicating my time to writing and creating original things for you. 2018 really is shaping up to be one helluva creative year, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. ^_^

 


 

Cover photo by unsplash-logoDebby Hudson

 

The Adventure Continues…

So the last two years in a row, I’ve written blog posts to commemorate the anniversary of when I started writing the first book in my Alteria trilogy, They Are the Last. Seems only fitting that I should continue the tradition, giving that this year, I’m working on book two’s first draft, and even better, I’m almost done.

What a journey this story and I have been on in the last twelve months.

In that time, I managed to AT LAST finish the second full draft of the first book, which I wrapped up with insane amounts of joy on the night of July 31st/the early AM hours of August 1st. The story became more concise, despite the addition of some new chapters and characters. I grew so much as a writer in that time period and felt so accomplished that this was the first time I’d ever completed a second draft of something. It was a draft nineteen months in the making, and while it still needs another round (or several) of revisions, it is in the best shape it has ever been.

It was the completion of that story that finally led me to begin to plan Book 2, which is currently titled You Are the Dawn. This book got considerably darker, and also split into a few different perspectives. (More so than the first book anyway.) This book includes a deepening of Alteria, with the introduction of new characters, new world elements, and even new dimensions. I planned the heck out of it from August to October, and then rolled ’round another season of NaNoWriMo, which I was happier than words can say to have finished in the final hour.

Since finishing that first 50,000 words of the books, I’ve been slow-walking the completion of the book, since there’s been a bunch of other creative endeavors, and also some intense personal life events, that kept me from finishing. But recently, I’ve felt incredibly inspired by a number of authors I’ve been following on twitter (looking mostly at you Tomi Adeyemi and Julie C. Dao) and it has me on a path to complete the draft. One step better, I will hopefully be finishing it this weekend.

As of this writing, I’ve got three and a half chapters to go, a whole battle sequence to write, and a cliffhanger ending to pen, which hopefully will leave any future readers both very excited and angry with me. *author side eye smirk*

Looking ahead to what comes next—as I try to grapple with the fact that this story’s now older than I was when I came up with it—once draft one of book two is finished, it’ll be back to working on the third round of edits for book one. Then comes the brave new world that is querying to get the book picked up by an agent. I am both horrified for days and excited to infinity for this process to begin.

I sent out a few queries in the fall, not long after I’d finished TAtL, but was met with my first three rejections. One of them was from one of my top dream agents, so that was a sad pill to swallow. But I’m glad for it, because it made me realize the draft still needs work, and that is not a bad thing. I want my book to be the very, very best it can be before an agent decides to take it on. And even though that means taking longer than I’d like, I’m willing to take that time and care if it means a better outcome awaits.

With the completion of They Are the Last draft three, and You Are the Dawn draft one, a completely new and uncharted part of this journey will begin. I’ve no idea if this will be the year I finally get an agent or not, but I’m praying hard that this is the one.

Till then, however, I am just so, so happy that after all these years, I’m still trying to tell this story. I feel so blessed to get to explore Alteria and its universe in my imagination, and every moment spent writing about Piper and her companions is something that fills my soul with hope. Even on the hard days, when the words don’t come easy, or when life comes at me hard, I’ve still got this story inside of me. And until the golden day when I get to share it with the world, having it in my heart is more than enough.

 

What I’m Going To Do

Current NaNoWriMo Word Count: 12,522 words

Current NaNoWriMo Mood (via a GIF):

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Kind of kicking myself for waiting till the 12th day of the month to update y’all on my NaNoWriMo progress, but the timing works I suppose since yesterday was the best writing day I’ve had in a long time, for a lot of different reasons.

For one, it was 11/11, which is my favorite day because my favorite number is 11. Good mojo from the jump on that front. Add that to the fact that we had an extended Write In with some of my friends from the PhillyWrimos group, and you have the recipie for a very good writing day.

And boy howdy was it.

Wrote just over 5,300 words yesterday, definitely my best writing day since the summer, and by a long shot my best one of the month so far. Not only was the quantity of words exciting to reach, but the content of those words was so wonderfully unexpected and important to the core of the story I’m trying to tell. Obviously the writing of it itself is probably swiftly written garbage that will need lots of revising, but the ideas are there. The framework has been laid down, and I feel as if yesterday’s writing is something truly thrilling that I will get to build upon later.

The month as a whole has gone pretty well, even though I did have a several day dry spell where I couldn’t get anything down. (Though to be fair, that was less about not being inspired to write and more about being too busy/tired to actually sit down and try any writing.) The month goes on though, and to be honest, it goes a little too quickly for my liking. I can’t believe we’re almost half way through it.

But even as time flies by, I have to say this experience so far this November has been like 90% blessed and 10% stressed, because there is a indescribable thrill that comes with first drafting for me. Its like the one Terry Pratchett quote, “The first draft is you telling yourself the story.” That has largely been how I’ve felt. Its like I’m an archaeologist of my own subconscious, digging around in there and uncovering characters and plot points and moments of meaning. My love for the exploratory nature of first drafts knows no bounds in this or any universe.

I know that the writing process is made of many hills and valleys, and so I don’t expect things with this draft to stay lovely forever. I know I’m going to go through times of writers block, plenty of low points, and if I haven’t tried to defenestrate the manuscript at least a half dozen times before its done, I’m doing something wrong. But every part of the process, both the good and the bad, is what makes me love it. For every murky moment of self doubt, there’s a time for clarity and confidence. When I one day hold the finished thing in my hands, it’ll be worth every second of it, because I didn’t give up on it, and I made a thing that didn’t exist in the universe before. Even in the darkest of times, the little spark of hope inside me holds onto that thought, and it is what keeps me writing. No matter how many times I think I’m going to quit, I just ask myself the one question that’s been my guiding light this year… WWWWD? (What Would Wonder Woman Do?)

Not give up, that’s for damn sure.

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Back to the words. I’ll check in again soon.

 

Moving On

In the course of a single week, I’ve finished the second draft of my novel, and moved into a new apartment.

To say its been a bit of a week would be an understatement.

First, the book.

Finishing this draft was a very different feeling than the first. When I finished the first on New Year’s Eve 2015, it was like ending with a bang. I’d written 11,900 words in a single day, and as I finished, I immediately left my house to go to a friends New Year’s party. I rang in 2016 standing on the corner of 11th and Chestnut, watching fireworks in the distance, the joy and adrenaline of finishing coursing through me as the song ‘My Shot’ from Hamilton played in my headphones. I was as high on life as is possible to be without any substances. I had done what I thought was impossible, and it the words of my buddy Mal Reynolds, I felt mighty.

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But draft two? It was the lamb to draft one’s lion. I finished at just around 3:45am on August 1st, having written about almost 8,000 words in the course of a day. Because it was so very late at night (or early in the morning depending on how you spin it) there was no one to celebrate with, and so I found myself typing the last phrase, to be continued, and then sitting back in my chair with a heavy, happy sigh. I looked at my computer screen for a good couple minutes, just in disbelief that I’d done it. Start to finish, draft one took six months, but draft two? Start to finish took nineteen months. In that time, I started and failed a campaign to publish it. I moved apartments and changed jobs. I went through every phase of imposter’s syndrome, self-doubt, and disappointment, some days thinking the first draft had been it—I’d never be able to get it right and actually get this book done. But that moment alone in my apartment, starting at the finished count and the words to be continued, I felt something I hadn’t the first time—this time, the story was whole.

The first draft had been entirely without a second act, and was RIDDLED with some of the worst plot holes and gaps in character development, mostly because at the time, there was still so much I’d yet to learn about writing. And while I am by no means an expert at it now, I’m certainly better off than I was then. Finding the close knit group of writing friends I’ve always longed to was game changing. Spending months and months reworking things and scrapping drafts and making detailed outlines and developing richer backstories informed the work in immeasurable ways. Every minute I spent in that year and a half was necessary to get me to that moment in the early morning hours of August 1st. And somehow, sitting there with the draft finished, I managed to have all of this hit me at once, but in a way that felt like a calming wave of emotion.

Finishing this draft wasn’t fireworks, it was stargazing—still beautiful, powerful, and inspiring, but peaceful.

The months ahead will now be focused on edits. Some of the chapters towards the end may need a bit of rewriting, and other chapters towards the middle will certainly need some tweaks and touch ups, but I don’t know that I’ll need another rewrite like this one. As I said, the story felt more whole this time. I feel like I’ve largely got to paper the story I’m trying to tell, and now its a matter of fine tuning it so it comes across the way its meant to. I’m incredibly excited for this process, because once I’ve finished the polishing, I begin a whole new phase—finding an agent.

2016 was the year where I tried something different. I thought non-traditional publishing was an exciting and perfect way to go about getting my book out there. My experiences since then have showed me that may not be all it is cracked up to be, and while self-publishing is still always an option on the table, I think I owe it to myself and to my book to try the traditional way. Who knows if that will pan out? Maybe I’ll get dozens of rejections like my girl Madeline L’Engle and when I’m about to give up, find the right person. Or maybe rejection after rejection will lead me to putting the story out there on my own terms. I’m not sure what will happen, but after all I’ve been through on the journey to tell this story, I’m certain that things will pan out exactly as their meant to. My faith in that fact is stronger than ever.

And so to my move…

It is perfectly fitting that I should move apartments after finishing the second draft, because now in every possible way, I enter a brand new phase of my life and this book’s production. It was living at my old apartment building that I came to the conclusion to go back to working on Alteria, and so as I close that chapter and move on to somewhere new, so too does my story move on.

I can’t wait to see what comes next, but until then, there’s work to do.

Lots of Magical

The last two months have gone by in a big, messy, life-altering blur, and I feel remiss to have not written in so long. But had to get in at least one post before the month is out, and with everything that’s been going on, I think it was high time for an update on my life and my book.

Let’s start with life.

For those who don’t know, I’ve spent three long years working a job that, well, to be candid but also respectful, was not very great. Lots of management changes and stressful days doing something that wasn’t very creative or along the lines of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Some days, it made my depression and anxiety unmanageable, and I spent much of that time so monetarily broke and feeling emotionally broken that I honestly don’t know how I made it. But if my heroes who came before me taught me anything, its that strength comes from struggle, and I can say with conviction, while I might not be unbreakable, I am certainly a much stronger human than I was back then for having gone through it all.

But in good news, playing the long game paid off, because as of May, I finally started the job I’d been wanting and pitching during that whole time I was here. Its been a lot to take on, with its own new challenges and responsibilities, but I can honestly say that it has been a very long time since I worked a job I enjoyed doing this much. 90% of my job relates to social media, which I love contributing to. And to make things even better, I’ll be moving soon, into a new place with one of my best friends, which will start a whole new chapter for me. It’s terrifying, but also pretty damn exciting.

Then there’s been IndiePen Ink.

I haven’t had much chance here yet to talk about the website for writers that my dear friends and I launched back in February, but after a few months of getting our feet wet, we’re soon rolling out some really big and exciting things that has me more jazzed than I can describe. It feels like we’re at the beginning of something really beautiful, and after spending the most wonderful week in recent memory with the two ladies I co-founded this site with, I can genuinely say that I believe we have something really special we’re creating here, and that’s just magical.

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The savvy, snarky, sassy founders of IndiePen Ink. (Aka, mah girls.)

Speaking of magical things, SpeakBeasty just turned 40! Well, sorta…

We just recorded our 40th episode… fortieth. When I think about where we are and where we started, goodness, it gives me so many emotions. Our show certainly hasn’t been without its bumps in the road, but we’re getting to make something that’s just so much fun to create, and the more comments we get like “thanks for helping me power through this week“, the more full my heart is. It’s living out a childhood dream for me to get to contribute to this show. Being a professional fangirl is, and always shall be, #goals.

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Recording the 40th. Can’t believe it.

And for one more magical thing, how about an update on my book?

As you might know if you’ve been following along on this journey, I spent pretty much all of 2016 reworking and reworking the first parts of the book, all while trying to run that campaign on Inkshares. After that crashed and burned, I took it hard. I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo, a bigoted orange got elected president, and I ended last year/started this year with next to no positive creative energy. March 1st of this year though, I finally decided to take all those reworkings and incomplete chapters and set them on a shelf to start a fresh new draft, which came with a shiny 22 chapter outline, which built on the Frankenstein version from last year.

Since then, I’ve been trying to get through this second full draft, and making what has felt like slow, but is actually pretty steady, progress. As of this writing, I’m through 13 chapters, and have 9 left to go. And with it officially being Camp NaNoWriMo again, I’m reeeally looking to finally get this draft finished.

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Me at the cafe earlier today, revising that Ch 7 bit & intermittently working on Ch 14.

This will be my third July Camp in a row in which I’ll be working on this book, which feels very strange. The version I did in 2015 got scrapped. The version for 2016 was more me beating the same chapter to death without making much progress. But this year, I go into July with 13 (sorta?) solid chapters, and have a strict trajectory of what needs to happen form now through to the end of the book. I’m more prepared than either of my previous July Camp attempts, so really what I need this coming month is just going to be lots and lots of focus. If my estimates are correct, there’s about 30,000 words to go before I get to finish the last chapter and slap that exciting ‘To Be Continuued…’ on the end of this book. (I’d especially like this to happen so that this November, I can take a wild, crazy, pantser-style stab at the first draft of Book 2 in The Alterian Trilogy, but let me not get ahead of myself…)

This road has been long and weird and winding, but even on its worst days, I’m still so happy to be doing it. I spent today having several writing friends look over some pages I’m using for a writing residency I’m applying to, and I was mortified to share it with them, because the scene I had them looking over was one of *the most* important scenes in the book. (Your only hint is that its in Chapter 7.) And while the mark-ups and edits were many, the consensus among them was pretty similar: still needs work, but you’ve got something here. Can a writer really ask for more?

So to bed I go. Want to be up early so I can get in some words before work. Because I’m resolved friends: this draft is getting done this month. No matter what, I’m making it happen. I think it is finally time.

See you on the other side of Camp!

 

Half My Life

Half my life ago, I started writing a story.

I won’t go into the details of that particular 2004 morning in which Piper and her story arrived in my head, since you can read all about that here. The short version is that it was just a regular day, but one which in retrospect turned out to be one of the most important ones in my life. In a way, when Piper’s story began, so too began my life’s quest to become what I really believe I’m supposed to be—a writer.

When I wrote last February 9th, I was filled with such a profound hope because I had just that week launched a campaign to publish the book through Inkshares. (Which in case you missed it, didn’t end so well…) As sad as I felt though when I had to close that chapter on Alteria’s story, the experiences had while trying to get the story out there shaped my year, and helped me grow tremendously as both an author and a person.

This anniversary comes on the heels of a tumultuous week, as sadly last Friday, one of my Uncles passed away. While we hadn’t been close in a number of years, it still shook me. It reminded me of something Lin Manuel Miranda said during his speech at the Tonys…

“Not one moment here is promised, not one day.”

It was a wake up call that life is precious, important, and very, very fleeting. It forced me to pay mind to my own mortality, and whether it was that, or just the sheer amount of sadness and emotion all hitting me at once, I started writing again. Writing like I haven’t been able to in months. 1000 words Monday. 1750 words Tuesday. 600 words yesterday. Words to come tonight. I’m unloading the pain in my heart like rounds of artillery, and emotion is pouring out from my heart like a river overrun from a storm. It reminds me of another quote I heard recently, this time by Carrie Fisher via Meryl Streep…

Take your broken heart and turn it into art.

Those words embody what this story has always been for me. Writing is the therapy I can afford. It is how I react to and reason with the world. When I was 13, I was bullied enough that I hated myself. Whether it was the thickness of my body or of the books I carried with me, they always had something to make fun of me for. Discovering Piper, creating a fictional world for her to save—it was the only way my imagination could figure out how to deal with it. If I could tell a story even a tenth as good as the ones I read and loved, then perhaps someone else might be emboldened. Someone else might be reminded not to give up, just like Harry Potter or Pendragon reminded me. All I can hope for is that Piper can be a light for others one day, like she has always been for me.

As I sit here, with the knowledge that more than half of my life has been spent on this story, my heart feels full. More wordless days of doubt and frustration are sure to come down the road. There will be hardships that will cripple my creativity, and there will be hardships that will remind me to keep fighting. I look forward to them both as much as I look forward to the joyful days that nourish my soul and give me hope. I look forward to all of it, because all of it is part of my story, and thus Piper’s story too.

So whether it takes just a few more months or a few more years, whether it is via a traditional publisher or I decide to publish it myself, this story will be shared with the world one day. Even as life remains full of uncertainties, in this the one notion upon which I stand sure.

SUPER SECRET SURPRISE!

Over the last few months, I’ve been working on a new full draft of They Are the Last, and as a surprise to celebrate 13 years since the story’s beginning, I’ve decided to do something special! You can now read the latest draft of the first chapter of They Are the Last! Simply visit theyarethelast.com/read & enter the secret code below to read it!

SECRET CODE
(Highlight between the arrows to view, then copy & paste)
–> PipersStory <–

This isn’t a final draft, but its as close as I’ve been able to get to one yet, so I hope you enjoy it. Share this blog post with your friends so they too can use the secret code to read Chapter One! Thanks as ever for supporting this story.

Failures & Dreams

This morning, I’m waking up at the crack of dawn for a moment I’ve waited almost a year for. As the sun rises, and the crisp November air bites with both a chill and a promise, I’ll be off to see Hamilton in New York City.

Today also begins another NaNoWriMo adventure; my twelfth attempt in thirteen years. I’ll be taking the month to punch my rewriting efforts to warp speed, with the intention of completing the new draft of They Are the Last before the month is out. I’ve spent months chipping and hacking away at bits and bobs of a second draft, but now’s crunch time. Do or die. Write or—well, there really is no other option. There is no try, there’s only the words.

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And lastly, today is the day my Inkshares campaign should have ended, had I not cancelled in back in September. On the verge of such excitement and success and fulfilling of dreams, there is also a small sense of sadness that I didn’t accomplish what I’d set out to back in February with my campaign.

So many people, my hero J.K. Rowling included, have spoken on what it means to fail, and how it builds you as a person. Hank Green recently did a video about his own experiences “failing” at a convention that’s adored by hundreds. I “failed” at a campaign to fund a book, but made friends and connections and gained experiences that already have, and will continue to shape me. Some of the things I learned haven’t even fully hit me yet, and won’t until the moment is right. But here’s what I do know.

This year has been immeasurably incredible. I’ve fallen hard—my campaign, my financial instability as I search for a job that’s right for me, my depression and anxiety flaring up and making some days feel impossible to function through. But I’ve also seen and done things this year that I could NEVER have fathomed possible, with two whole months more of that to come with who knows what sort of magic.

I’ve dreamed of things, sometimes things bigger than the world has told me I should dare to. Last year, I said I wanted to see Hamilton. “IMPOSSIBLE,” cried everyone. Yet here I sit here with my ticket on my desk. I wanted to get my book published, but instead managed to be part of an anthology to be published by Nerdist Industries. I dreamed for so, so many things, because in my heart, a dreamer is what I always have been and always shall be. But in the process of bringing these dreams to life, there have been, and will inevitably be, more moments of failure.

I will fail, so I can savor the dreams. I will dream harder, so I know that when I fail, there’s still something to fight for.

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.” —J.K. Rowling

Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone. Here’s to the failures sure to come, and to the courage to strive for our dreams in the face of them. After all, there’s a million things we haven’t done, but just you wait…

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Editing So Far

A little over four months ago, in my post So It Begins, I wrote about launching into the brave new world that would be editing the first draft of They Are the LastI can say now with much certainty from the experiences thus far: editing is weird.

I thought then it would largely consist of combing through what I’d already done and just tweaking things and chopping bits out. What I’ve actually found is that I’ve had to rip the poor thing to shreds, tossing the bulk of it to the wind only to salvage the few gems that lay hidden in a good line of dialogue or a piece of important structure. At that time, I also had no idea I’d be discovering Inkshares. While I’ll admit that at times that has diverted my attention from the draft so I can focus on campaigning, Inkshares has also been a great service to the draft by way of providing me with the support of other writers who’ve given me some of the most insightful and helpful feedback I’ve thus far received.

Really, there’s been less editing than I expected and more just all out rewriting. Some days I get little glimpses of that special NaNo creativity where I just type like a maniac until the story’s been freed from me, but much of the process now is careful writing. It’s taking the ideas I’ve spewed out before and making them more coherent and beautiful. It really is like the refining of a diamond. I know that the story I’m trying to tell is this lovely thing buried somewhere in there, but I’ve got to cut and polish and cut and polish all of the roughness away to get there. It’s not anywhere near as easy or freeing as the initial draft, but I’ll tell you what, it’s making me a much stronger writer, and for that I’m grateful.

All of this is really coming out right now I guess because just this week, I made a pretty big decision regarding my editing process. The second draft I’d been working on since January 3rd? Baby is getting put in the corner and I’m starting it over.

During April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I managed to make it to 35,000 words on that draft, but much of it didn’t get to incorporate the many aspects of feedback I’ve been receiving as of late. I’ve also in an exciting turn of events, begun reading again. I finished the AMAZING novel Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, and am about half way through reading Gary Whitta’s book Abomination (an Inkshares book itself!) and just seeing other people’s finished novels has me realizing that my story has a long way to go, but it needs a new start.

So I’m scrapping what I’ve done and starting anew. This will be the second time in the last year that I’ve done that, but if we’re looking at my track record, this bodes well. I spent July to October of last year getting done a 44,000 word draft of They Are the Last which on October 31st, I decided to scrap in favor of starting the first draft over for NaNoWriMo proper. The draft I started the next day went on to be the first completed draft of the book. I’m taking this new beginning as a good sign for this rewrite draft that I’m about to hurl myself into.

There’s no possible way I could have known when I started revisions on January 3rd that before the year was half way through, I’d be in the throes of trying to get the book published. I mean seriously: the book currently has 133 pre-orders. Remarkable. Given that, God only knows where I’ll be come five months from now when the campaign for the book concludes. While I dream that by that day, I’ll have reached the pre-order goal to be published, I’ve no way of knowing which way the wind will blow. One can only hope that if nothing else, my draft will be further along and I’ll be ever the little bit wiser for it.


PS,

Speaking of the book, if you happen to see this post prior to the evening of Monday May 23rd, I’m running my first promotional contest! You can visit the official They Are the Last website for more details, but the prize is NAMING A CHARACTER IN THE BOOK! Plus every person who enters will receive a handmade bookmark. Click the image below to visit the official website, or click here to directly visit the CONTEST page!

contest promo