On Writing Despair (The Dancing Writer Edition)

On Writing Despair (The Dancing Writer Edition)

I know I said I’d blog every other day, but since tomorrow’s post is planned and this one was too good to pass up, I just have to do it today. I already finished revising chapter thirteen of Stolentime during the time I’m usually doing my blogging, so it doesn’t hurt for me to blog today. I suppose I should revise another chapter, but I’m a one a day girl. My brain has to be fresh and ripe for the plucking to do any type of revising. Once it starts to slow down, those revisions are not going to be as superb as they would be with a fresh brain. I should also probably be editing for my client, but I’ll get to it after this.

Libba Bray, my favorite author of all time, wrote an intense blog post. Currently she is struggling with book #2 in her Diviners series–struggling really bad, like so bad it would make a newbie writer wonder why they’re not struggling as bad. But here’s her post: On Writing Despair (Juicebox Mix). At least skim her post. It’s a delicious little thing.

The gist of her post is that she writes by the seat of her pants, and because she does, it makes revising more difficult for her. But she also can’t outline, so she feels like she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. She has tried outlining. She mentions she has ten different outlines for book #2, but she can’t complete any of them.

I think all of us can relate to Bray. All of us. Each and every one of us who has ever sat down and began writing some form of a story. When Stars Rise, without an outline, was a terror to write. Georgia McBride edited each chapter as I wrote, and I ran into a roadblock with chapter three. I had to re-write it FIVE times to eventually find the heart of it. But even then, things grew more difficult. I finished half the book, sent it off to McBride, and it came back with hardly any editing. You would think this would be a good thing, but the less ink, the more work. My story had completely de-railed, so there was nothing she could say about it because a de-railed story is a de-railed story. It lost its heart. It veered away, and I was left doubting myself and wondering if McBride was suddenly doubting me because she loved my project so much in the beginning. But I had a conversation with her, and she mentioned that I needed to outline.

So I did.

I had Megan Curd edit the half that I changed, and she had no content comments–just line edits.

But, unfortunately, my gut was still going all over the place. There was too much information packed into the first half of the book. While Curd may have been able to keep track of all that, that didn’t mean other readers could, so I knew I had to shelve When Stars Rise. I had to bring out When Stars Die to make all the information in the first half work.

I took McBride’s edits from the sequel and applied them to the first book. I outlined. I wrote. I didn’t struggle. I re-wrote. I outlined against. I re-did scenes. I added scenes. And thus was born When Stars Die.

But I have to outline. My mind can’t be cluttered. While my surroundings can be a cluttered mess with shoes nailed to the wall, I cannot have shoes nailed to the wall of my mind or else I’ll flip.

Currently the revisions for Stolentime are going smoothly. I’m having no problem deleting scenes or adding scenes or getting rid of characters or better developing them. In fact, while I have a revision outline, I’m still making changes to the outline. I’m combining some chapters, getting rid of others, adding things to scenes, deleting scenes, and coming up with more things as I progress. I love the story, but I don’t fall into that romantic trap of being IN LOVE with the story.

But everything could change by the time I get to line edits. I plan to spend a week away from Stolentime to let it bake before going back to it. Then I’ll do line edits, then I’ll have somebody read it purely for content before I tackle more line edits or proofreading. During the week I’m going to spend away from Stolentime, I am going to do revision outlines for When Stars Rise because the way it’s currently written doesn’t match up well with When Stars Die, so things are going to need to be changed yet again. The sequel may still bring me grief because sequels aren’t easy. They have to be better than the first, and that can be extremely hard to do.

Heck, right now, I’m struggling with trying to come up with new book ideas, because what am I going to do after the third book in the Stars trilogy? I don’t know, but I know in order to maintain a solid career, I’m going to have to come up with something, right?

My Writing Sin: Parents

My Writing Sin: Parents

A thread on AbsoluteWrite’s Young Adult forum actually inspired me to write this topic.

We’ve all got writing sins, something we either do a lot because we don’t like it or don’t know how to write around it–or it just might be a common trope. In the case for me,  I just don’t like writing parents, and I realize absent parents are a trope. At the same time, my characters aren’t without adult figures, but these adults figures also don’t try to act as replacement parents.

In fantasy and paranormal books, parents can do a lot to slow down the protagonist, especially if said protagonist has powers the parents don’t have, or the protagonist is required to go on some dangerous journey the parents won’t approve of. So I try to axe the parent element altogether, mostly tumblr_moqg8rkRn41r348tgo1_400because I don’t want to write about them. I can read them in other books just fine, but having to write them myself–no. But I don’t fall into the trap of making my protagonist an orphan either, because that really is a tired and cheap way of getting rid of parents.

  • When Stars Die (AEC Stellar Publishing): In this novel, I have Amelia and her brother run away from home because her little brother is a witch and Amelia is terrified that the sins her parents committed to birth a witch are going to eventually unearth themselves and destroy their family. So Amelia takes her brother to a place she has learned and read about (Cathedral Reims), and hopes that by becoming a nun, she can cleanse her familial blood of this taint. So her parents are very much alive; they just have no idea where their children are at.

But Amelia does have parental figures–mostly the nuns at the cathedral, especially Mother Aurelia. At the same time, these nuns are also authority figures and teachers, and they are just plain busy, so they don’t hover around the girls like parents often would, and they don’t demand conversation or constant insight into the thoughts of their pupils. They are there when they can be, but they don’t force themselves into the individual lives of the girls. This allows these girls room to strengthen their friendships with one another so that they learn how to help and get long with one another, as they do spend enough time around each other.

Amelia probably wouldn’t be the independent person she is with her parents around–and her brother would remain naïve of the world instead of learning at an early age that the world isn’t always a kind place.

  • When Stars Rise (WIP): Alice Sheraton is the new protagonist of this book, and while her parents are present in the beginning, I quickly axe them by sending Alice off to a safe house for witches where parents obviously cannot be present (since her parents aren’t witches anyway). By now Alice’s world has a system in place for dealing with witches–often through executions–but her parents love her enough to want to prevent that, so they did whatever they could to protect Alice and found her a safe house hidden in a forest several miles from Malva, where Cathedral Reims is.

Of course, she, too, isn’t without adult figures. Pastor Brandon is the constant adult figure in her life at the safe house, but he is more of an ally than a parent, offering advice without the expectation that Alice will follow any of it.

  • Stolentime (WIP): Gene’s mom is in the first chapter, but his parents are quickly gone after that when I shove him through a bought of psychosis that causes him to run away from home into unfamiliar territory his parents likely won’t find him. Claude, a puppeteer, saves Gene from himself and acts very much like a parent, but he doesn’t demand constant insight into the goings on of Gene’s mind. He only interferes if he feels like Gene is harming himself or is about to be harmed. Otherwise, Gene is a free agent, able to develop as a character on his own terms.

So, if you’re a writer, what are your writing sins? As a reader, what writing sins have you noticed in other books?


Stay tuned for Sunday’s post, where I do a cover reveal of an awesome book from an even more awesome author.

Updates and Teaser

Updates and Teaser

Blogging everyday has been smooth sailing for me, but now it’s time for me to start evolving this blog so that every post I do is geared toward you guys as readers. This means that instead of blogging several times a day or even once everyday, I’m going to start blogging every other day in order to concentrate my efforts elsewhere–which I’m sure you guys obviously understand. I’m going to keep you updated too on what my posts are going to be about. For example, Friday’s post, which will be released in the afternoon, is going to be about My Writing Sin: Parents. While I love my own parents, I’m not wild about writing parents in general, so I usually find clever ways to ax parents from the picture.

When Stars Die is still in the works, so there isn’t a whole lot to update on this. But I will say with much excitement that it is getting a new cover makeover from the lovely Sarah at Sprinkles On Top Studios. I desperately wish I could give you guys even a smidgen of the design of this new cover, but I can say it will feature Amelia on the front. So that is in the works, and it will be wonderful and awesome and I am super, super excited for the finished product.

Also, I am working on something super cool that I will be giving away during a cover release party I plan to have whenever I get the okay from the publisher to release the cover of the book. It will actually be a mix between Stolentime and When Stars Die, but it’ll make perfect sense once you see what I’m giving away.

Last, here is a teaser from Stolentime. A little bit of background: This is from chapter one and Gene is undergoing some pretty severe psychosis, as well as struggling with suicidal ideation. shadow13

“Are you going to kill me? You should. I can’t hold on anymore.” I grab the deadbolt, trying to turn it with shaking hands while keeping my other hand against the door to muffle the sound. “I don’t know if I should be let out of here, you know? There’s no telling what I’ll do.” The deadbolt comes free. “But I don’t really care.”

The shadow doesn’t waver, and I laugh on the inside. “Of course you have nothing to say to this. You’re not real anyway.”

I undo the chain. My hands won’t stop shaking, even as one grips the knob, ready to turn. I look at the shadow one last time. His dagger is still by his side. He doesn’t intend to use it. He never intends to use it. No matter how much I wish he would, I can never wish hard enough for him to become so real that he can take me from my own mind.

No one can save me from this rotting brain.

As I open the door, the shadow vanishes into the darkness of the living room. The street stands wide and open for me, the summer night coaxing me outside. I put one foot outside and realize that I don’t have to turn back. I take another step. Both feet are outside.

I look behind me, into the house. Mom and Dad will miss me, I know. They’ll miss me a lot, but this isn’t about them. This is about me coming undone and knowing I can’t be fixed and tired of knowing I can’t be fixed but still being forced to get fixed anyway. You can’t glue a knickknack back together and expect it to be whole again when pieces are still missing.

I turn back to the street, and I see something, a tiny golden light that floats in the air at the end of the block. I’ll follow that, and wherever it takes me, I don’t care. I only care about getting out of my own mind.



Psychotic Depression

Psychotic Depression

For those of you who don’t know about my latest project Stolentime, I’m going to give you a gist of what this thing is about.

Gene White is a suicidal teen rescued by an eccentric puppeteer who takes Gene to a world far removed from his own. Fairytales are no longer in one’s imagination in this place, but for Gene, this means being stalked by the demons in his head, mainly a man in a gold suit who threatens to destroy Gene’s already imbalanced mind.

There are young adult books out there that deal with mental illness, but it is either an undiagnosed mental illness or if it is diagnosed, it’s oftentimes depression. There are very few books where the teen knows the diagnosis and fully understands what having this diagnosis means. What’s more is that there are very few young adult MAINSTREAM novels on other severe mental illnesses: schizophrenia, panic disorder, shizo affective disorder, bipolar disorder, ect…

Usually these illnesses only exist in other characters who are not the protagonist. What’s more is that these illnesses are often stigmatized in the protagonist’s mind because depression is arguably an uninteresting illness and makes the person seem sane compared to the person experiencing hallucinations or a bipolar depressive episode with psychotic features. So while I have made Gene depressed, I decided to take it a step further and diagnose him with psychotic depression not just for the added darkness, but because Gene is taken to a world where he must suspend his disbelief but is having a hard time doing so because he regularly hears and sees things.

We take it for granted that characters are just going to accept these fantastical things they are presented with, especially if they live in a world where that’s not common at all, but I wanted to ask the question, “Well, what if they don’t?”


So if you hallucinate in psychotic depression, how does this differ from schizophrenia? Well, with schizophrenia, you’re often not depressed, and if you are, the depression is a symptom, not the actual syndrome. So Gene has suffered for a while hearing and seeing things. In fact, they can become so real for Gene that he gets lost in the hallucination and can’t even remind himself that it’s not real since his senses are so overloaded with wrong brain signals. If Gene weren’t depressed, he wouldn’t be experiencing hallucinations. This is not so in someone with schizophrenia.

I’ve had mild psychosis when I was depressed and in a mixed episode–mostly delusions and paranoia–but it’s common in bipolar depression and mixed episodes and doesn’t warrant another diagnosis. But what Gene goes through is flat out dangerous.

In the first chapter, Gene is hallucinating a shadow with a dagger. He begs this shadow to kill him because none of his methods have worked, but the shadow goes away. His mom comes in for a little bit to comfort him, but Gene is still undergoing some serious psychosis, which eventually prompts him to run away from home. Before he even leaves the house, he sees the shadow with the dagger again, so readers at this point know just how dangerous it is for Gene to be leaving his own house.

Now I don’t just touch upon the aspects of psychosis, which Gene is very aware of when it at first begins, but I do touch upon the aspects of depression, which he is also very aware of for someone his age. But he doesn’t know why he’s depressed. But he does mention he’s heard voices since he was a child but was eventually able to drown them out with thoughts of his own. That isn’t so anymore, and he doesn’t understand why.

So I ultimately chose psychotic depression because I really wanted to write a self-aware teen who understands all aspects of depression, while demolishing the trope that the main character knows what he/she heard/saw. These characters never stop to question if they’ve just been hallucinating, especially because they’ve never seen these fantastical things before in their lives. They just accept them, but not Gene.


The Madness of Character Voice

The Madness of Character Voice

The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars (Photo credit: TheNerdDilettante)

I am about 16,000 words into the revisions of Stolentime. I’ve got self-doubts plaguing my brain, but I know that’s a normal part of revisions because in spite of knowing what needs to be changed, you still wonder if those changes are good enough, or could they be made better. But I’m not going to panic because the next step after this revision will be line edits, then proofreading on a hard copy, then making the changes on this Surface. Novels are malleable, critique is mandatory, so Stolentime has a chance. It will not die. I had these doubts with When Stars Rise, the sequel to When Stars Die, but the freelance editor loved parts of it, regardless. It just de-railed in the middle, but I’m more experienced and outlining can prevent that de-railing.

In any case, one interesting thing I’m noting throughout these revisions is how I keep slipping out of Gene’s voice. I am so used to writing stories that take place in the 19th century, so both narrative and speech are very formal, even for teenagers. Gene is a 21st century boy, self-aware and intelligent, so he doesn’t really slip into slang or does he speak like someone in Pride and Prejudice. For example, from the rough draft of Stolentime:

I was too busy picking at my nails as a tight feeling began blooming in my chest, realizing I hadn’t been out in a while due to my social anxiety.

One thing I realized as I was reading this sentence was that I slip away from Gene’s voice just by using the word ‘blooming.’ I’m not saying boys can’t use the word ‘blooming,’ but it’s not likely. So I had to chop this sentence up with an axe to come up with this:

I’m too busy picking at my nails as a tight feeling begins to expand in my chest over the realization that I haven’t been out in a while due to social anxiety.

Notice the tense shift too because I decided to bring Gene’s anxiety to the present instead of leaving it in the past to bring a more immediate feeling. But Gene is more likely to use expand than bloom. Since I am very much about the art of writing itself too, the sentence is still slightly formal because, well, Gene is intelligent. He’s a freaking smart kid who knows his literature, and so his thoughts and speech are going to be influenced by what he reads in literature. He’s definitely not Hazel from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (which, in my opinion as I’m currently reading it, is trying too hard to be philosophical), but he’s still a bright kid.

So I have to be constantly aware of Gene’s voice since I am so used to writing 19th century voices. It’s a bit difficult too, because there are times when I catch myself being formal, and then other times, when I re-read, I find sentences that are too formal and use words that are perhaps a bit too colorful for a 21st century kid.

Do you guys have any trouble with the voices of your characters?

Stolentime, a Dark Fantasy Young Adult Novel

Stolentime, a Dark Fantasy Young Adult Novel

This is the title of the novel I will be getting back to next week. I’ve finally started revisions for Stolentime and have chapter one done! I’m hoping to get to chapter two today and the plan is to revise a chapter a day, possibly two, if I can manage. But I’m excited because, as I’ve said thousands of times before, I strongly prefer revisions over drafting any day. So here is a tiny snippet from the beginning of chapter one just to give you guys a taste of the atmosphere for this book:

Some nights I imagine a shadowy man standing by my bed with a knife drawn. This man, a faceless thing, will creep around me as I stare at him. In my mind, I tell him to kill me. Do it. Tear me apart. But he never does. He slips away into the shadows and disappears.

But tonight, my fractured mind makes him real.


There you go, just a little bit of what I’m working on!

So do you guys prefer drafting or revising? And why?


Finding a Book Title

Finding a Book Title

I'm actually thinking this could be a good cover for the sequel.
I’m actually thinking this could be a good cover for the sequel.

 Since my brain is fizzled this morning, I decided to do one of the topics I proposed in my last blog post because it would be interesting to read how I choose my titles versus how someone else does.

When Stars Die actually went through four title changes. The first time it was Croix Infernal because I had an evil cross in the book and my characters were French, but neither of those things exists anymore, so the title had to be scrapped. The second title was Lady Tourniquet because the sequel was Witch Tourniquet. Lady Tourniquet could still make sense, but the theme in When Stars Die isn’t about suffering or bleeding for anyone or being a sacrifice like it is in the sequel. So while the title was nice it, too, had to be axed. Then I came up with When Silence Screams because MC Amelia feels trapped in her mind most of the time since she has to bear a burdensome secret no one else can know, but that didn’t fit the main theme of the book well, so I knew I wanted to change the title.

I just couldn’t think of what to change it to.

So I just flipped through my book and stumbled across the most meaningful passage that neatly wrapped up the entire theme of the book. Amelia is talking about stars and how when they die they leave a lasting impact. The stars we see today might not even exist today or only appear as they were centuries ago. So Amelia contemplates this, wondering if witches will leave behind such an impact, or if they wither away, leaving nothing behind.

This made me realize the main theme of my book involved what one leaves behind after one dies because Amelia tries so hard to find some meaningful way to live her life while also appealing to her god Deus. She wants to leave something behind
but is terrified that she can’t. However, she is determined. Thus, I came up with the title When Stars Die.

So when I choose my book titles, I choose them based off the main theme, which can be difficult to find in the first draft. However, Stolentime, my newest book, will likely stay because the little town called Stolentime is where everything happens for Gene, where he changes and grows. Stolentime is separate from his world, so it allows Gene to develop a new perspective on life, a perspective he can’t receive being at home since he is coddled due to his illness.

A Weird Writing Quirk That Strangely Works

A Weird Writing Quirk That Strangely Works

I have a vanity charm necklace that I will be using on the cover. Not this one though.
I have a vanity charm necklace that I will be using on the cover. Not this one though.
So I got to chapter twenty-nine out of thirty-five in Stolentime and decided to quit the draft. Just like that. Not quit, as in I’m through with the story forever. But quit, as in I’m ready to start doing some revision outlines.

I did this with When Stars Die. I had about seven chapters left to write in the draft and just decided to stop to get revising. But it worked. I got to revisions and was able to complete the entire thing. I had to concentrate more on the last chapters during a third read through, but, nonetheless, I got the book complete.

I can’t tell you why I do this. I can only guess. I assume I do this because I hate drafting. I get to a certain point where I’m tired of drafting and decide it’s time to get to the revisions, even though I have those final chapters roughly outlined. This seems counterproductive because how am I supposed to work on the ending if I don’t have it? Well, I do a detailed outline of it, and it does take me longer to write, but I’m more fired up about it because I have my mind trained to realize what I’m doing is revising since I love revising–even if it’s technically not.

I want to be fired up when I write, not disengaged and apathetic. So I do whatever I can to fire me up. If I have to quit a draft 7/10ths of the way through to do it, so be it.

But it works for me. I get it done.

Do you have any strange writing quirks, like writing out of order, starting a later scene first, things of that nature?