2012 : My Writing Year In Retrospect

Hello gentle reader,

I have been writing for 15 years but to me 2012 was the year I became a writer. Here is how it happened…

January: I am sitting on top of a pile of unpublished manuscripts in a castle in England, when my friends and family unwittingly suggest “Why don’t you try and get one of those published?” and I say, well, why not?

Downton Abbey - Dowager Countess

February: I read several books about getting published. I have a hunch this won’t be easy. I decide on focusing on my YA High Fantasy THE LAST QUEEN.

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March: I start my blog. To my surprise, people other than my father follow it.

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April: I attend the London Book Fair. I realise there are many would-be-published writers out there and this “get a book published” endeavour might not be as easy as I thought. I decide nothing can stop me now. I start the “A Round of Words in 80 Days” writing challenge.

Merlin-Morgana

May: I send a query to 3 agents, get 1 request, then a final rejection. I decide it’s time I take this vampire writing thing seriously.

jessica-true-blood

June: I join in JuNoWriMo (June Novel Writing Month) and find out writing a book in a month is not for me. I decide this sort of challenge can’t be for everyone.

Angel-Ozon-Garai

July: I take part in the Hookers and Hangers Blogfest (hosted by Falling For Fiction) and I post the first and last lines of THE LAST QUEEN on my blog. I get good feedback as well as a record number of comments, and I connect with many awesome people.

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August: 3 words: Write On Con. More critiques, more awesome people, more connections, more motivation.

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September: my blog is 6 months old and for some reason it is taking off.

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October: with the help of some wonderful CPs and beta readers (especially Aimee L. Salter and Jessica Montgomery) I revise THE LAST QUEEN in depth. I have conversations with people about my MC Elian as if he were a real person. He thinks it’s odd too.

Pillars of the Earth - Eddie Redmayne

November: I start querying THE LAST QUEEN, for good this time. I send out ten queries and get a full request within one week.

Enchanted

December: everyone is on holidays, including the agents I queried. I am sitting in a castle in England and working on a new manuscript. I have writerly friends on Twitter, Facebook, There And Draft Again, and my blog. Life is good.

Gosford Park Elsie

That’s it for me in 2012! How was your year? Leave me a comment below and have a fun New Year’s Eve tonight!

See you next year…

ROW80: Final Check-In

ROW80 Logo

Hello gentle reader,

And we’ve come to the end of this 4th round of A Round Of Words in 80 Days (aka ROW80). My goal for this round was to write or edit every day and I’m pleased to say this has been my most productive round so far (this was my third participation). For at least 6 weeks I had a 100% sucess rate and even in the last few weeks, when work really got crazy and I couldn’t find the time to write every day, I did get a lot done.

So this round, I have:

– edited my WIP The Last Queen (thanks to a few awesome CPs and beta readers) and started querying it.

– added a few chapters to my two other WIPs.

– took part in the launch of a new blog along some writerly friends. The blog is called There And Draft Again and you can check it out here.

Here I’d like to thank Juliana Haygert and Lauren Garafalo for cheering me along during the Twitter sprints. You ladies are awesome!

See you all next round!

In the meantime, keep writing…

ROW80 Check-In 10: Garth Nix on Parting Company with Your Book

ROW80 Logo

Hello gentle reader,

And… it’s time for another ROW80 check-in! My goals for this fourth round are as follows: Write or edit every day.

So this week was again quite stressful at work and I didn’t manage to write every day. However, I did write. I wrote 5115 words in 3 days! Yes, that’s a big number for me. *Cue happy dance* I also added a post on my blog about Originality and Writing a book that doesn’t already exist. Feel free to join the conversation here.

Now, here is an inspiring story to keep us going this coming week. Today I’m sharing Garth Nix’s Nine Stages of a Novel. In this post published on his website, the Australian author explains the creative lifecycle of his books. For those of you who don’t know him, Garth Nix is a Young Adult Fantasy writer, author of the Old Kingdom series, The Seventh Tower series, and The Keys to the Kingdom series.

Nix--Garth

Here I’m only sharing Stage Nine: Parting Company with Your Book, because this is where I am now with my novel The Last Queen, which I am currently querying.

“Stage Nine: Parting Company

Responding to the structural edit and then later checking the copy-edit (which is where the prose is smoothed and minor inconsistencies are corrected) always feels like a strange afterthought to me. Emotionally I have already moved on to the next book, and the editing is purely a craft process, done with the head not the heart.

I think you need to let a book go when all the work is done, and it’s important to move on. In my years in publishing I often met authors whose whole self was entirely bound up in a single book, usually their first. Their lives would rise or fall depending solely on that book’s fate, and in this business, that’s an incredibly foolhardy and dangerous gamble to make.

I’m all for investing all your passion and self into the writing of a book, indeed, you need to put a lot of your soul into the story. But when the writing and editing is all done, I think you need to withdraw somewhat. It’s likely there will be many months before the book hits the shelves. It may even be a year away, and thinking about it and wondering how it will do and obsessing over it for that entire time is not healthy.

You need to say ‘goodbye and good luck, my friend’ and start on the next book. (…)

I’m always really pleased to see one of my finished books. I get a great feeling of accomplishment when I hold that first copy in my hand, a feeling that is undiminished from the very first time, way back in 1990.

But I also feel detached, and I think that is a good thing. I probably already have a new book partly written, or at least the outline is there and the prologue. I look at this finished book and I flick through the pages, and even though I can remember every part of writing it, sometimes I read a bit and I feel like I’m reading someone else’s story. A real book, not one of my own. I like that feeling, because it means I’ve succeeded in my ultimate ambition: writing the sort of book that I like to read.”

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

Garth Nix

On originality and writing a book that doesn’t already exist

shakespeare-in-love

Hello gentle reader,

Today is Thursday and I thought a post about the writing process was in order.

 I was actually inspired by this post written by YA author Aimee L. Salter on 19th November 2012. In her post, Aimee made a list of all the good reasons we writers have to read other people’s books. Among other things, she mentioned the importance of knowing the competition and of understanding what works (or doesn’t work) in other books.

On that same day, Epic Fantasy writer Jeff Hargett published a blog post in which he admitted to having just realised his book (which he has been working on for ten years) was very similar to the TV show/movie Airbender and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time book series.

It reminded me of another blog post I read in February 2012. Back then, YA author Elizabeth May published a great post entitled The Unfortunate Case of the Book that Looked Just Like Someone Else’s, in which she confessed having written, edited and queried a manuscript that was extremely similar to a published book that she bought later on Amazon. When she found out about it, she felt embarrassed and she shelved her manuscript, feeling that she had somewhat wasted her time and the agents’ time.

So what’s the moral of these stories? Listen to Aimee’s advice and READ. If your story is derivative of other works, you need to be aware of it and it needs to be intentional. Being derivative by accident is the worst thing that could happen to you as a writer.

Secret Window

Let’s face it. If you live in the US, Europe or Down Under, chances are you are influenced by the same things that other writers are. We all watch the same movies and TV shows, we all hear about the news from around the world and we have all read the same books as children. This means that it is likely we will write stories that remind us of other stories.

And it’s fine, AS LONG AS YOU ARE AWARE OF IT.

Discovering that the book you’ve worked so hard on already exists is crushing. To avoid it, read the books that are already out there. Read books in your genre and category. Read publishing news and newly published books. Agents do. Publishers do. You won’t have the excuse of not knowing once you try to get your own story published.

I’ll finish this post with my own little experience in the matter: I finished writing the first draft of THE LAST QUEEN in the summer of 2011. Then I heard about a series of books entitled THE SEVEN REALMS (by Cinda Williams Chima). The blurb goes like this: “Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for for his family. Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. Her mother’s plans for her include marriage to a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.” My heart dropped. This sounded A LOT like THE LAST QUEEN. Especially the Princess Heir part. So I bought the book, read it (loved it) and realised that this book had nothing in common with mine. Cue sigh of relief.

But I keep reading YA High Fantasy books. For my pleasure, to know the competition, and to make sure no one has already written and published a book similar to mine.

What about you? Have you had that kind of experience? Have you written a book then found out it was similar to another book? What did you do? I’d love to read your comments!

The Next Big Thing – Week 27 (#2)

Forest-EMCastellan

Hello gentle reader,

So if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve already read what follows. Back in early October, I was tagged for The Next Big Thing blog hop and I answered questions about my Work In Progress. But since then, this blog has gained new followers and I keep getting tagged for this blog hop. I have actually lost track of who tagged me and when, but last week I was tagged again by Craig Schmidt and I decided it was time to repost my answers to the Next Big Thing questions…

What is the working title of your book?

THE LAST QUEEN (Book I in THE DARKLANDS trilogy)

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I started thinking about this story ten years ago. I wanted to write a story where the main character would be a teenage girl (like I was at the time). I also liked the idea of a fantasy land where humans were the lesser people. Finally I wanted to write a love story that would be as realistic as possible, although set in an imaginary land.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA high fantasy.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In the dangerous Darklands, a power struggle between Elves, Wolfmen and Humans is igniting, shattering the lives of a young princess, a warrior and a slave boy whose destinies seem meant to intertwine.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m going to cheat for that one 😉 I have no idea who would play my characters on screen, but I can tell you who inspired me while I was writing The Last Queen. I need to have a clear picture of my characters in my head in order to bring them to life, and I’m usually inspired by actors. With that in mind, here goes:

Elian is my main character. He is a 16-year-old slave whose life has been quite traumatic until he meets Araminta. He was directly based on English actor Eddie Redmayne, who was in countless historical movies between 2007 and 2010. Every time I saw him on screen I thought “This is Elian!” So here it is: Elian.

Araminta is 14 years old. She is an Elf, and a Queen. She is strong-willed, smart and quiet. When I described her in my WIP, I thought of English actress Lucy Griffiths.

Theron is 19 years old and he is Araminta’s husband. He is a Wolfman and the son of a lord, who loses all at the beginning of my WIP. He is a short-tempered warrior who happens to be very good-looking. Since I have had a crush on British actor Henry Cavill since, well, forever, I pictured Theron looking like him.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Call me crazy, but I’m going for the traditional route.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Seven months for the first draft. Then six months for the first round of revision. I have battled with a high word count, instances of telling instead of showing, repetitions, adverbs, passive form and everything you shouldn’t do when you write. I’m still working on this manuscript, hoping one day I will get it in shape for the query process.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s a tough one. If you don’t know what High or Epic Fantasy is, think Game of Thrones and The Lord Of The Rings. But I can’t compare my WIP to those masterpieces. Since it’s YA, I guess it could be compared to The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My favourite character in the book (beside Elian) is Araminta’s bodyguard/slave/assassin Jerod. I actually wrote a short story about him entitled The First Guardian, because I felt he deserved his own story since he is, you know, awesome.

Thanks to all who nominated me!

The Very Inspiring Blog Award

Hello gentle reader,

my blog was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blog Award by the lovely Ayesha Schroeder ! Thank you Ayesha for thinking of me, I really appreciate it.

Accepting this award means I have to share with you 7 things about myself. So here goes:

1 – I started this blog back in March 2012 because I had read that a would-be-published writer like me should have a presence online. Then I discovered that I love blogging! 9 months later, this little blog has more than 250 followers and it has had more than 12,000 page views. Thank YOU for that.

2 – Fantasy is my favourite genre as a reader and a writer. I love a book that makes me forget where and who I am, and takes me to imaginary lands.

3 – I live in England, in the countryside south of London. I have a day job that keeps me very busy, but it won’t keep me from writing. Ever.

4 – After talking about it for months, I have finally started querying my YA High Fantasy novel The Last Queen at the beginning of November. The process is a bit scary, but I do want to try and see if I can get published the traditional way…

5 – I have met a few authors during the last couple of years, and all of them gave me incredible insight into the writing and publishing process. Among them were Philip Pullman, Rachel Caine, and Celia Rees.

6 – I’m in love with Jared Leto. There, I’ve bared my soul to you.

7 – This Saturday, be ready for the official launch of a new blog called There And Draft Again. Alongside 5 writerly friends, I will blog about Fantasy and giving away Fantasy books. If you want, you can already follow the blog here.

Now I have to nominate the blogs who deserve this award:

Raewyn Hewitt writes about fantasy and lives in New Zealand. She is AWESOME and you should all be following her.

Jessica Montgomery and Aimee L. Salter have helped me SO MUCH with The Last Queen, I will owe them for life if this novel ever gets published. You should check out their blogs full of advice for writers.

Yesenia Vargas, Juliana Haygert, Sydney Aaliyah, Amanda Fanger, Rachel Horwitz, KL Schwengel, Mara Valderran, Craig Schmidt, Karen Rought all have great writerly blogs and they have been incredibly supportive of my writing endeavours these past few months. Pay them a visit!

Finally Summer Heacock has a writerly blog that is highly inspiring and hilarious, so I needed to mention her here as well.

That’s it for my Very Inspiring Blog Award, thanks for reading and see you this weekend!

ROW80 Check-In 8: 5 Writing Tips from Laini Taylor

Hello gentle reader,

It is already time for another ROW80 check-in! My goals for this fourth round are as follows: Write or edit every day

This week I was waiting to hear from my beta readers on The Last Queen after my latest round of edits, so in the meantime I did something which has nothing to do with my Darklands trilogy. I dug up an unfinished first draft and added some 5000 words to it, and it was a lot of fun. I also worked on my query and researched agents. Finally I worked on a Super Secret and Super Exciting Project (code name TADA): you’ll find out all about it on 1st December!

Now, on to an inspiring story to keep us going this coming week. Today I’m sharing Laini Taylor’s writing tips. The following article was published on the Publishers Weekly website on 16 November 2012. In case you’ve missed it, here it is:

Laini Taylor‘s Days of Blood & Starlight (the follow-up to Daughter of Smoke & Bone) is filled with dazzling writing, not to mention fantasy, suspense, and a page-turning story. Take notes, because Taylor’s sharing her 5 writing tips.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a small child, but I was thirty-five before I finished my first novel, because I have issues with perfectionism. It took me a long time to learn to finish what I start, and I’ve developed a lot of tools and tricks for keeping myself moving forward through a story when a big slice of my brain wants nothing so much as to stop and rewrite everything I’ve already written. It can be exhausting, but the upside is that I love to revise. The main thing I’ve learned is that we all have to learn to work with—and appreciate—the brain we’ve been given, and not waste time wishing things were easier.

1. Know what you love. Try imagining the book that would light your heart and mind on fire if you came across it in a bookstore—the one that would quicken your pulse and keep you up all night reading. What would it be? Details, details: when, where, what, who? Think it up, imagine it fully, then bring it forth. That’s the book you should be writing.

2. Never sit staring at a blank page or screen. If you find yourself stuck, write. Write about the scene you’re trying to write. Writing about is easier than writing, and chances are, it will give you your way in. You could try listing ten things that might happen next, or do a timed freewrite—fast, non-precious forward momentum; you don’t even have to read it afterward, but it might give you ideas. Try anything and everything. Never fall still, and don’t be lazy.

3. Eliminate distractions. Eliminate Internet access. Find/create a place and time where you won’t be bothered. Noise-canceling headphones are great. Hotel-writing-sprees are even better if you can make that happen every once and a while: total dedicated writing time. During my second draft pass on my last book I made 20,000 words happen in a week, which is practically supernatural for me, and it would never have been possible without three nights in a hotel in my own city. It’s an incredible splurge, and a huge liberation, and you might just deserve it!

4. Get your characters talking. Dialogue is the place that books are most alive and forge the most direct connection with readers. It is also where we as writers discover our characters and allow them to become real. Get them talking. Don’t be precious. Write dialogues. Cultivate the attitude that every word you write need not end up in the book. Some things are just exercises, part of the process of discovery. Be willing to do more work than will show. The end result is all that matters. Be huge and generous and fearless.

5. Be an unstoppable force. Write with an imaginary machete strapped to your thigh. This is not wishy-washy, polite, drinking-tea-with-your-pinkie-sticking-out stuff. It’s who you want to be, your most powerful self. Write your books. Finish them, then make them better. Find the way. No one will make this dream come true for you but you.”

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