Yes, that's a weird way to describe where babies come from. Moving on.Read More
It's time. After years of writing and months of querying and re-editing, I've made the hard decision to put Catherine, Tara and the red rain boots behind me for a period. I'm going to set my first novel aside and focus on other projects.
When I first started sending my query letter to agents, I heard the same thing over and over again: it's really hard to get your first books published. But I was confident and kept trying. And I kept getting the same message from agents:
Or something similar. They weren't liking it. They weren't falling in love. They weren't being entranced by my darlings, by sweet, innocent Catherine, who maintains a smile no matter what, or by fiery Tara who doesn't know what she wants. They weren't invested in the complicated familial relationships that propel the book. They didn't love the lines I had penned, lines like:
The swing set that slouched in the corner of the yard, one swing sagging into the dirt beneath it while the other was hiked up around the structure like a dress around a bored flower girl.
So I tried editing it again. But all I kept coming across were more and more questions. Did Tara's emotional swings make sense? Should I keep the red rain boots at all? Was Jason too perfect, and was he even necessary?
I couldn't answer those questions. I still can't. I'm too close to it.
People in the publishing world like to throw around the phrase, "kill your darlings." It means you have to be willing to let go of anything that doesn't make your book shine, even if it's a scene, character or turn of language that you love. I'm not there with Red Rain Boots, not even close. I've spent so much time on this book that the thought of massively revamping it kills me (no pun intended 😜).
But in the meantime I've written the first draft of a different novel. A stronger novel. A funnier novel. One with a more distinct voice: My Mom's a Killer.
It's been several months since I finished writing MMaK, so I think it's time to start editing. And letting other people take a look (and by "letting," I mean forcing, obviously). And querying. And trying, once more, to get published.
I'm keeping my hopes high that I'll still publish Red Rain Boots one day. I want everyone to fall for Catherine the way I have. I'm still proud of that book. But I'm starting to realize that maybe this isn't the time for RRB.
It's the time for Keira, Jo and Derek to storm off of the pages and into the literary world, for people to laugh at Keira's dark humor and Jo's sass, for me to make my debut into the contemporary YA circuit.
It's time for me to say goodbye to some of my darlings and get back to work.
So I mentioned in a recent post how I'm trying out this new thing where I get up early in the morning to write 1,500 words before I go to work. And it had been going great. I was writing pages and pages every morning, the story was flying out of my fingertips at great speed, I was starting to feel good about this. My Mom's a Killer was coming along nicely. I was confident. It was going to be an instant bestseller, I just knew it. How could people not love it? I mean, sarcastic, funny Keira; feisty, sassy Jo; hot hot hot Derek; an attempted murder, a cover-up and an early release from prison. It was great.
Until it wasn't.
This week has been a little rough. It's been hard to wake up, hard to consume my daily dose of the front page of The New York Times and most importantly, hard to write. And the longer I spent away from my precious novel, the harder it got.
Last night I finally forced myself to sit down and start writing again. It was like dream-running: impossible. (Side note: does anyone else have that problem? I cannot get my legs to move quick in a dream. It makes running from the bad guys a real issue). Anyway. To use a cadre of cliches, it was like pulling teeth, like slogging through mud, like running uphill. I couldn't do it.
I mean, I did. I forced out 1,800 words, but the whole time I was telling myself, This sucks, this sucks, this whole book sucks. This is not a good book. 180 pages, 52,000 words, and you've got nothing. A waste of time. They say we're our own worst critics, and it's so true. I can tear myself down in one second when it took 100 compliments to get me moderately pleased with my work.
But I pushed through. I kept writing. I forced the words out, because I've learned at least one thing after more than 15 years of being a writer (yes, I started around the time I was seven. I might have been terrible, but I was still a writer. I'll claim that): I've learned that writer's block is just that — a block.
It's a temporary obstacle on the path to literary greatness. It's a large boulder, a towering gate, a fallen tree. It is possible to get through it. Sometimes, the only way to do that is to just — keep — hitting — it.
You've gotta bust that obstacle down. You have to write your way through that. The beauty of writing can be contained in one word: drafts. Heck yeah, revisions and multiple drafts are the only thing that keeps me going sometime.
When I'm struggling through a tough scene or wondering how on earth I'm going to save my book, I tell myself one thing: push through it. Write through it. Get to the other end of the scene, where the road is clear, and forge ahead. When it comes time to review, to reevaluate your work, you can decide whether or not to keep the troublesome scene.
Perhaps you'll end up scrapping it. Some scenes exist for the sole purpose of helping us get from one point to another. That's totally okay. Everybody, literally everybody has some of those scenes.
Perhaps you'll majorly revise it and keep it. That's great! In your darkest, weakest moment of writing, you still created something salvageable. You rock, dude.
Perhaps you'll keep it was is. That's even better than the above! It means you're a freaking superstar of the writing world. If this is what you create in the darkest moments, what must you have done when you were feeling good? You can do anything.
And there is is, in 700 words or less: the cure for writer's block is to write more. I mean, think about it. It's the best revenge! Here's this monster trying to keep you from writing, and you defeat it by doing just that. Writer's block ain't got nothing on you. You, my friend, are a writing superhero. All hail the next bestselling author, [insert your name here]!
My actual mother is not a killer. She has never killed anyone, and in fact, I'm certain even if she ever tried it wouldn't work: she has back problems, you see. Keira Mendez's mom, on the other hand, is a totally different story. And what happens when she gets let out of jail and moves back home with her daughter, well...that's a whole book. And you'll have to read it if you want to know what happens ;)
The inspiration came from this article that I read, compounded with the fact I took a Creative Writing for Young Readers class this semester and needed material for a workshop. It begins,
"My mom tried to kill me when I was a baby."
We talked about great openings, and while you'll never catch me saying that something I've done is "great," at the very least it's arresting and will, hopefully, get people to read even further to see where the story is going to go.
Frankly, I'm excited to see how the story ends. I've worked on several different outcomes, and as much as I've plotted, I've reached the conclusion that I'm just going to have to write until the story unfolds itself. There are two potential endings and one of them is very me and the other is very...Carrie...
Creepy, I know.
So I'm still trying to decide whether I'm going to dip my toes into the lake of crazy or stay in my own, safe, happy little world :P (If you've never read a book I've written, which of course all except for like three of you haven't, that's a joke. For...reasons).
Whichever way it goes, though, I'm sure the writing will be a blast and I can't wait to keep going on it. The plan is to finish writing it over the summer (when I'm not writing articles and doing other things for the paper) and then for the fun part: revise!
In the meantime, I'm still trying to get an agent for "Red Rain Boots," the first novel I completed. It hasn't been going too successfully, but you know what? I'm just gonna keep trying. Because someday I want you to read my books. It'll be fun, you know? Like seeing a glimpse into my soul. So exciting ;)
In other random news, I graduate one week from today. It's time to put the books and the blog aside and buckle down for three days of finals. Hurrah!