ROW80 Check-In 1- Writing a first novel by Marie Lu

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Hello gentle reader,

It is time for my first ROW80 check-in of this round. As a reminder, my goal for this round is simply to Write or edit every day.

I don’t know about you, but this week went by really quickly to me. I started my new position at my day job and it was quite time-consuming. In my spare time I wrote a couple of blog posts, went to see Les Miserables at the theatre and rewrote my query letter. But I didn’t find the time to work on my novels, which I intend to do this week. Finally my blog received the Lovely Blog Award and you can read all about it here.

Now if you’re new to this blog, know that each Sunday, I share an inspiring story with you to keep us motivated for the week to come. This week I’m sharing YA author Marie Lu‘s tale of her Very First Novel. She published this post on Publishing Crawl in November 2012 and I thought you might find it interesting… Enjoy!

Marie Lu-Legend

“I’m talking about my very, very, very first novel. You only have one first novel–not your first published novel, but the first one that you are able to write “The End” on. I know that for the most part (unless you are Stephenie Meyer!), first novels don’t end up going anywhere except for the back of your closet or the Archives folder on some old hard drive. And for the most part, this is a good thing. But I’ve always felt a certain rosy fondness for first novels–not just for my own, but for others’. It’s usually that first novel, however bad (or good), that teaches us that we want to become writers. It’s the one that makes us realize that we can do it. The dream is possible, at least according to our word count.

 Here’s the story behind my first. […]

That first novel was a high fantasy titled The Wings of Heaven. I’m still not sure why I called it that, since it had nothing to do with the story. It was about a young, orphaned (of course) knight’s apprentice named Pher (pronounced “Fair”) Artemsrough who aspired to become a knight and who loved the kingdom’s red-haired princess. One day, a beautiful woman came to the kingdom and told him that he was the Chosen One, and that she was on a quest to bring him to the far reaches of the world so that they could find a shiny ancient object that would tell her what his role in a prophecy was. I can’t even remember who the bad guys were in this story, but there were definitely some bad guys. I think. Along the way, the beautiful woman and Pher picked up a ragtag team of elves, thieves, and assassins that all happily joined them on this quest. There were also some children that could breathe fire, some powerful sorceresses, and a snowy cave called The Dark of Night.

It was 160,000 words. Yeah, I know.

Of course, fifteen year old Marie was completely oblivious to all of this thing’s flaws. I worked on it obsessively. Every night, I’d set my alarm clock for 2 AM, wake up, stuff a bathrobe under my door so that my parents wouldn’t see lamplight leaking from the bottom of the door, and then write quietly until the hour right before dawn. I wrote notes in my schoolwork and drew pictures of my characters on the margins of my homework. I posted chapters of it onto a personal site that I shared with my closest childhood friend. I spent a great deal of time lost in the whimsical haze of First Book Euphoria. I promised myself that I would finish it. I will never forget typing “The End” on that manuscript–I leaned back in my bedroom chair at 3:30 AM, stretched my arms up high, and smiled so hard that I thought I might break.

It was a terribly written story. I loved it with all my heart. I learned from The Wings of Heaven that I could finish a novel-length book, that I could carry characters from point A to point B (however badly), and that I could keep a promise to myself. I learned that if I wanted something badly enough, I would find the time to work on it–even if it was in the middle of the night.

Of course I went on to submit it to over a hundred literary agents, and of course they all soundly rejected it. I don’t think I even had a single request for sample chapters–that should tell you something about my query-writing skills. I remember crying over some of those rejections, laughing over others, stuffing them all in a big manila envelope (which I still have), and then pushing stubbornly onward. The thing is, looking back, my naivety was probably my greatest advantage. Had I actually known how difficult it would be to get published, I might never have finished that manuscript. I never might have been able to face getting rejected. And writing another manuscript. And getting rejected. And writing another. And getting rejected. And another. And another. If I hadn’t been so naive, I might have stopped right there. But I was so young, arrogant, optimistic, ignorant, and hopeful, and because of that, I was able to convince myself to write “just one more.” Most importantly, I was able to figure out over time that I wanted to write stories regardless of publication, that I loved it and that it was a permanent part of me.

This is why I love first novels, in all their imperfection and wonder.”

What was your very first novel like? Did you try and get it published? And how are you other ROWers doing after this first week? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

Here is the Linky to cheer the other ROWers on if you wish to do so.

ROW80 Check-In 9: Marie Lu on dealing with Writer’s Insecurities

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Hello gentle reader,

I can’t believe it’s already time for another ROW80 check-in! My goals for this fourth round are as follows: Write or edit every day.

So this week was crazy. I think I wrote every day but I have been doing so many different things I can’t be sure. What I did do was launch a blog alongside some lovely ladies (Raewyn Hewitt, Jessica Montgomery, Mara Valderran, K.L. Schwengel and Rachel Horwitz). Our blog is called There And Draft Again: A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers and I hope you’ll be willing to hop over there and support us. There’s a giveaway for our first blog followers. Alternatively, you can follow us on Twitter.

Now, on to an inspiring story to keep us going this coming week. Today I’m sharing Marie Lu’s take on Insecurities. She published the following post on her blog in February 2011, back when her best-selling dystopian novel Legend was still unpublished. I found this post especially fitting this week because I’m querying The Last Queen and I’m not feeling very confident about my writing at this time…

 Marie Lu-Legend

“Artists and writers tend to be fragile creatures by nature. Our work is a piece of our passion cut out and put on public display for the world to see, and we wait with our hearts in our throats as others analyze that work. Sometimes we achieve the ultimate goal: entertaining our public by making them react in an emotional way (joy, sadness, anger, enlightenment, even disgust–depending on what we’re aiming for). More times than not, we’re greeted with our greatest fear: the public’s disappointment, the public’s accusations that our work is a ripoff of something else, or the worst of them all…..the public’s silence.

I have to admit: I’ve never been a very secure person. I wish I could say that I’m confident in the quality of what I do, that I don’t care what others think as long as I’m happy with what I’ve created. But I can’t. I care very much what others think of both my artwork and my writing, and when I’ve disappointed viewers and/or readers, I feel ashamed that I let them down. And as the clock ticks gradually down to Legend’s November launch, I’ve learned something else: a book deal does not cure insecurity. In some ways, it makes it worse. Am I capable of pulling off three consecutive books all featuring the same characters and the same world? Am I smart enough to create prodigiously intelligent characters? Will I be able to make my readers fall in love with my hero and heroine? Some days I can answer these questions with an upbeat “yes, like Obama, I can!”. Other days, I will re-read my words-in-progress and think, “This is trash. This is drivel. Reviewers are going to eat me alive when this comes out.”

In the end, all I can do is put everything into my writing/art and hope that what comes out is something that the public will like. I do know one thing: Legend is the best story I’ve ever written. Which is nerve-wracking. I remember telling myself as it first went out on submission that if Legend couldn’t make it, then there was a good chance that nothing I write would ever make it. It’s my best effort (up until this point, at least). Whether or not that effort is good enough will remain to be seen.”

How are other ROWers doing? Here is the Linky to support each other!