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.
In the vein of Advice to Young Writers, this is advice for everyone, for anyone, really, who has a goal set high and is being told by others that the goal is too high, that success, especially writing success, is impossible.
I met someone at the mall training to be a motivational speaker, and he has become a pretty good friend of mine. He pumps me up just talking to him, but he’s about making the impossible possible. Just talking to this kid puts life into a withering dream because then you start spouting off what you’re going to do to make your dream come true.
Of course, good motivational speakers will do that. Self-motivating is hard. It’s hard for me to keep myself motivated at work when traffic is dead and I can’t get even a trickle of people to sign up for the Fiat. But I still do it. I still work toward the goal of making killer sales. I haven’t given up because I know it’s possible.
Writing is freaking hard. You hear that all the time. Even worse, you hear from people that you need to manage your expectations, that you shouldn’t expect much out of your writing career. To dream big is to dream yourself into failure, they say.
But we are only told this because the tendency is to become bitter when our expectations aren’t being met. We become those very people who talk down to writers and tell them to stop dreaming big, and so we’ve talked ourselves into believing that the only people who have achieved success are those who are lucky.
So why do we let ourselves fall into bitterness? Because nobody ever motivated us to believe otherwise. We all could use our own motivational speakers, mainly creating ones that always exist in our minds. It’s easy to become jaded when you’re working your butt off, but nothing is as it should be.
Let yourself dream big. You should. You’ll only work that much harder toward achieving it, and there will always be some kind of rewarding payoff for hard work. Success is different for everyone anyway.
I don’t think anyone needs to be telling anyone else to manage expectations because it’s clipping your wings. We’re told the arts is a fickle business, so people tend to try to throw their passions elsewhere while barely developing the passion they already have. Yes, you have to make money so you can eat and survive and all that, but keep pressing forth toward that ultimate dream of becoming a full-time writer or creating a painting that sells for thousands, or that album, or that whatever artful endeavor.
The key to all of this, really, is managing adversity. You naturally want to become bitter when things are taking too long. But anything worthwhile isn’t going to be easy. You also shouldn’t compare your successes to other successes. So what if Amanda Hopkins had publishing stardom fairly fast? Things are tougher now than when Amanda first wrote. You used to be able to buy an ad on Kindle Nation and get noticed pretty fast, but now Kindle Nation is flooded, thus ads aren’t as effective as they once were. You just now have to find your own way to get noticed.
Don’t ever loosen the hold on your dream because then you’ll start working less to make that dream come true. Instead let adversity strengthen you and adjust your dream as needed, but never let adversity overwhelm you. Control your response to adversity, and you won’t feel like you’ve failed, even if you think you have.
So what are your dreams? How will you go about achieving them in the face of adversity?
Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent, has an interesting post about blurb etiquette here written by a guest blogger.
I just recently did a blurb for a novel called COUNTRYSIDE by Jess Cope that will be released by Village Green Press LLC, a partnership publisher. The editor put out a call for blurbs on Facebook, and I decided to do it not only because the blurb of the book sounded interesting, but just because I thought it’d be cool to see my name either on or in the book. Her book reminded me of Dianna Wynne Jones’s books, so I compared the author to her.
When I received the author package from my contract manager for the first time and discovered one part wanted reviewers, I was completely dumbfounded on how to do that. Not only that, but I felt shy about doing it, even though it was just over the internet. How was I supposed to approach people about reading my book and doing a review and/or quote? I wasn’t sure if I should put out a call publicly because I had no idea if that would look bad or what, so I ended up approaching people personally, gathering about 10 interested people.
Of course, that wasn’t enough, and I was slightly deterred because one reviewer was nervous about giving her e-mail, and someone on Tumblr told me it raised red flags because of the potential for spam. As I searched around the internet, I realized it was common of people to send out calls asking for reviewers in exchange for free ARCs. I then realized there was nothing red flaggy about it, and you have to get the word out somehow. So I swallowed my shyness and put out a call on here, Tumblr, Goodreads, Twitter, and my Facebook page. I received most of my reviewers from Goodreads and here, a few on Twitter and Tumblr, and I think none on my Facebook page.
I wasn’t searching for big names like the author in Gardner’s link because, well, I’m an unknown. But I did get a few known names around the young adult community, one being a literary agent who helps out with YALITCHAT, and a writer who also helps out with YALITCHAT. But I knew these people and had worked with them at one point for YALITCHAT. So I wasn’t fighting for anything. They were eager. And of course Shannon Thompson, but she’s a given.
But I asked your everyday reader, so I didn’t have any difficulties collecting reviewers, and I’m also not too concerned about getting quotes because how many non-writers who read actually care about the quotes? I don’t read them when deciding whether or not to get a book. I find them at the last minute and think they’re cool, but they don’t influence me too much. It’s the cover, the blurb, and the first page that draw me into a book–but mostly the cover and the blurb. So when I put out a call, I was seeking reviewers, potential word-of-mouth people. However, I sought these people out very early. Just because I have 50+ right now doesn’t mean that all are still going to be able to do it. Ideally I hope they are just as eager as they are now, but that’s why I sought out 50+. I thanked every single person who was eager to help and even thanked the ones who weren’t certain they would like the book but offered to help anyway.
For some reason the process was very easy for me. I have seen writers put out calls for reviewers, even put Free ARCs in the topic line, and just couldn’t get any bites, not on Goodreads or anywhere else. But I suppose it’s because not only did I have an interesting summary but I am very personable and don’t shy away from interacting with any of my fan base. So I suppose if you want the process to be easy, make sure you’re personable as well, have a strong summary, are grateful for each and every person who gives you even a modicum of attention, and ask in the right places. AND DO IT BEFORE THE RELEASE OF YOUR BOOK, ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE SELF-PUBLISHING! That is ridiculously important.
Sister Evelyn is now out. You can either go to the Sister Evelyn tab or download the .pdf here. Sister Evelyn’s story will introduce you to the world of When Stars Die, but keep in mind this is not necessarily canon to When Stars Die because there is no evidence of Sister Evelyn in WSD. Her story simply exists as a way of giving you a taste of what you’ll be reading in WSD. Part two will be released next week!
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?
I am not here to deliver any harsh reality advice about being a writer because there is enough of that nonsensical advice floating around. I want to put a stop to that because I see a lot of young writers divvying out this advice, and I’m not sure where they’re getting it from. Jaded writers who had to *gasp* work really hard to get published? Jaded writers who had to *gasp* put up with rejection? Just stop giving out advice that basically tells writers why they don’t want to be writers. Yeah, writing is hard and time consuming and maybe soul sucking from time to time, but it is not for other writers to decide who should stick with writing and who shouldn’t. That is up for the individual writer alone to decide, not you. Never you. All you need to be doing is writing.
So here’s some positive advice to encourage you, rather than deter you.
Writing is freaking hard but so is anything worthwhile. You’re young. Most likely your writing won’t be publishable until you’re older–and I’m talking about publishable for the big leagues, not your school newspaper or anthology, though that is still pretty cool. And even if you do get published, that won’t be your best starting out. I don’t think When Stars Die will be my best starting out. I’d like for it to be, but I’m 22 going on 23. I still have so many years left in my life to improve my craft.
Don’t be in a hurry to publish. Have you ever noticed that when teen writers make mistakes, reviewers excuse them on the basis that they’re teens? But when adult writers make mistakes, they’re chastised as bad writers? You want to make the best darn first book you can, so don’t be in a hurry to find an agent who will launch you to publishing stardom. Take your time. I’m so glad I took my time.
Don’t write to become rich, but it doesn’t mean you can’t dream about it. I always say set your goals high so you work that much harder. My dream is to be a full-time writer, and I am going to work super hard to make that a reality. I’m going to keep writing and doing the best that I can to make certain I am noticed.
Don’t let anyone tell you you’re a crap writer. “The expert in anything was once a beginner.” It’s going to be rough starting out, but you’re going to get better. You know why? Because you have to. Because you have options now. You can self-publish, and while it’s not easy, it means you can get your work read by others and earn money. That option didn’t exist when I was thirteen or fourteen or even eighteen. Self-publishing has always been around, but it was never accessible without thousands of dollars. And you’re young! The writing will always be there, and there are so many resources out there that can help you better your writing. Have fun with it. Remember why you started writing and stick with it.
And last, don’t act like you’re an expert, because you’re probably not–hence why I seethe when I read such negative advice from such young writers. You may have had an essay published or even a short story, but you know as much about the business as someone unpublished. The business is fickle, ever changing, so don’t profess to know it. I don’t profess to know it at all.
This is the longest post I will probably ever write, but bare with me.
I think a lot of people can understand that mental illness is real, but I think the misunderstanding of mental illness begins when we start searching for reasons why so-and-so is depressed or why so-and-so struggles with anxiety. We naturally want to seek out reasons for why people feel the way they do. We think that all mental illness has to be completely situational and that at its heart, mental illness must stem from some sort of trauma that would have anybody understanding why so-and-so is so ill.
I’ve just rid myself of that curiosity. Yes, I think it is important to find the root cause of mental illness so the healing can begin, but now I’ve shifted my mindset so that instead of asking mentally ill people why they feel the way they do, I now realize it is more important how they feel and not why they feel that way. It’s traumatizing in itself to feel so depressed you can’t get out of bed, or so suicidal you want to tear yourself apart so you don’t have to deal with yourself.
Yet, some people are not going to share this mindset. Some people are going to fish for reasons and compare one reason to another.
I bring this topic up because now that I am doing a book giveaway of 13 Reasons Why, I want to discuss mental illness in young adult novels and why it’s such a difficult topic to tackle. A lot of reviewers for Jay Asher’s book pointed out that Hannah was being a bit pathetic for committing suicide over the reasons that she did. They lament there are people so much worse off than Hannah and claimed her reasons for wanting to die were stupid. Even MC Clay wants to place the blame on Hannah, which is a natural thing to do. However, Jay Asher does his best to explain the snowball effect, whereby so much stuff just builds up, eventually snowballing and crushing the person under the weight of that snowball. If stress is not reconciled, it’s going to build up and break you. I thought Jay Asher did a marvelous job at explaining this, and when I read it in high school, I understood it. I don’t think there are any good reasons to commit suicide, but I understand why Hannah broke. And Hannah was probably depressed from all the stress, something Jay Asher did not explicitly state but rather implied. What is more tragic than Hannah’s death is that no one saw Hannah coming apart.
But the problem with 13 Reasons Why is that not every teen who reads it is going to understand that–and I am excluding adults from this equation because the book isn’t meant for them. No matter how much Jay Asher stresses the snowball effect, our society wants us to believe that tragic individuals are tragic because of severe trauma.
Mental illness has a root cause, but everyone’s breaking point is different. My breaking point occurred due to a bad time with my fibromyalgia. It is much better now, but it seems to freak out around the fall. I was working, doing ballet, and taking classes, and eventually all the stress piled up to the point where I found myself having to drop ballet in favor of naps because I would be so fatigued from fibro flares, and work wore on me because I’d get flares during work, and eventually I started feeling pathetic because all I did was sleep, sleep, sleep, and I couldn’t bring myself to do anything I loved. So it was work, work, work, and sleep, sleep, sleep, and ouch, ouch, ouch. That snowballed me to the point where I became depressed and suicidal because it didn’t feel like there was going to be an end to the pain. So there wasn’t just one cause, and it never is for mental illness.
Hannah’s breaking point occurred because it’s obvious she was a lonely girl in the first place who struggled with poor self-esteem. So all this stuff happened to her that never got reconciled, built up, and broke her. She likely became depressed and dwelled heavily on these things and blamed herself for everything that happened. Since she is a teenager, she has no wider perspective to realize that high school is not all there is to the world, and so she saw no way out. She never reached out to anyone, and so she felt trapped.
It is not the fault of 13 Reasons Why but the fault of a society that believes tragic individuals are tragic because of severe trauma, not because of vulnerable personalities shaped by a society that believes hardening individuals to the “cruelties” of life is the best way for them to survive, rather than creating compassionate individuals who help one another out of love and not some desire for something in return. So a lot of criticism in young adult books is aimed at the mental illnesses themselves because people want a reason for why a character is depressed. Frankly, by the time one has reached the stage of depression the syndrome, it no longer matters why that person is depressed. It is the fact that that person is depressed in the first place that matters more than the reasons.
I am worried about how my WIP Stolentime will one day be received. It deals heavily with depression and suicidal ideation. Gene dwells on suicide a lot. It is my hope that my book will help people better understand these dark feelings, but I realize a lot of people won’t. They might perceive him as whiny, that he needs to get over it, but I am going to do my best not to convey him that way and just convey him the way people suffering from suicidal ideation actually are. Most are not whiny. I certainly wasn’t. I was quiet and withdrawn, left to my own thoughts. I want my book to reach out to the ones who are quiet and withdrawn, and I want my book to reach out to those who judge mental illness and help them better understand it. My book isn’t just about a depressed teen, but a depressed teen who understands depression all too well and even mentions that depression is a trauma unto itself, that the reasons for depression don’t matter as much as the illness itself.
Congratulatoins to lindalitebeing for winning The Looking Glass Wars giveaway! Now this week I will be giving away 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Here is a little blurb on the wonders of this book:
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush – who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and learns the truth about himself-a truth he never wanted to face.
The rules are the same with this book. You must be following me and you must comment to be entered. This drawing will occur on Saturday at 9 PM. Enjoy!
I am also going to have a book giveaway going on over at my Facebook page. Like my page to the right for your chance to participate in it!
I have fallen in love with the PS3 game Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. The story is very reminiscent of the stories the dearly-departed Dianna Wynne Jones would write, and that is what is so wonderful about this game. I have only just begun playing it, but Oliver’s character has already captured my heart, and the entire world of Ni No Kuni is so whimsical it’s hard to resist such a fantasy.
Of course, the story does play upon a few arguable clichés. Oliver is the Pure-Hearted One meant to save the world from the forces of evil. It’s been done a lot of times before, but there is just something so charming about this trope, something that makes it so popular amongst our world of grays. Oliver is by no means a perfect character. He’s a heartbroken boy, only in this adventure in the hopes of resurrecting his mother, who died of a weak heart. But I see so much of myself in him because he is willing to help out those that he is able to aide. I think we get so bogged down in the grays of our world that we forget blacks and whites do exist. Nobody is perfect, but there are people who exist who would give a limb to help out another human being, even a stranger. And then there are people who are just plain evil, people the media loves to humanize–but, really, some people do not deserve humanizing at all. There are no justifications for harming innocent human beings, no matter what your religion or cult or whatever tells you. You have a complex brain for a reason. Use it.
Of course, life is not so simple as that. If there were a train about to hit a track full of kids and you could throw one person in front of the train to save them, would you do it? I think I’d throw myself in front of that train so I wouldn’t have to sacrifice anyone.
My book When Stars Die is a book full of grays. Arguably there is no true villain. I wrote this book in a time when the young adult section was filled with blacks and whites. I wanted to throw a bit of gray in there. Now the YA section is chock-full of grays, but the one thing I love about my current WIP Stolentime is that I bring back the black and white. Gene is good, the villain is evil. The villain only needs a little bit of background information, but the villain’s existence is just pure evil. Gene is not perfect. He struggles with treatment-resistant depression and so his thinking can become dangerous, but his heart is filled with good intentions when it comes to other people. It’s very fairytale-like, much like Ni No Kuni. Stolentime is a basic reflection of depression. Depression can infuse black and white thinking in you, and so I want this WIP to be black and white. And I find absolutely nothing wrong with this. There might be a few grays, but in the book, it’s clear who is in the wrong and who is it in the right.
I think the good vs. evil trope is so popular still because we sometimes get tired of humanizing people who don’t deserve to be humanized. We want to believe they are just plain evil because that is the simplest explanation for their actions. I think we also get tired of good people being torn down because of one mistake. They’re human, but they are still good-hearted people. I like to believe I’m a good-hearted person that exists in the white spectrum of the good vs. evil trope. I don’t like imagining myself in the gray spectrum because to do that suggests that if I do do something to harm another person, I do so with a reason, and I am not about harming another person at all. I believe there is no reason to harm another person, even for some petty vengeance or to get what you want. I can’t imagine tearing down another person so I can better my own life.
What’s your preference? Good vs. evil, or the gray in between?