Friday, September 20, 2013

Standing still.

I haven’t blogged in a long time, but even before that, my posts were dropping off at an alarming rate. I claimed lack of time and that I prefered to hang out on Twitter and Tumblr, which is true, but not the whole truth.

I was sad. I am sad. I didn’t have anything new to write about. Sure, I could do a post about drafting. Again. I could write about revising hell. Again. I could laugh about how crazy this writing thing is or cry about how unbelievably painful the whole is experience is.


I could have written those posts. And I did, multiple times, but I always deleted them. I couldn’t ignore that other people—people who started blogging about the same time as me—were writing about new things. Agents. Editors. Deadlines.

Book releases.

I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was standing still.

The number of times I’ve wanted to write this post in the last few years must be getting close to triple digits. I kept telling myself that no one really cares. It will come off as bitter. People will think you’re pathetic. And yet, every time I’d read a similiar post, I’d be filled with such gratitude. The weight would lift a little, and I’d know I wasn’t alone. I am not the only person struggling.
I am not the one person wanting something and watching other people succeed where I haven’t.

So this post is for anyone who feels like I do.

It’s hard, for me, anyway. Every time someone else succeeds, I feel like I’ve failed. Every time someone else signs with an agent or seals a book deal, every time someone else takes that next step, I can’t ignore the fact that I am standing still. I am standing still and everyone else is surging forward.

Or that’s how it feels, anyway.

But it’s not the truth. I am not standing still. Every day I’m reading books and noticing what the good ones do well and what the bad ones don’t do at all. I am sitting down every time my child is asleep and writing new words or revising old ones. I am critiquing manuscripts of my very talented friends and asking them to do the same with mine.
I am learning every day and getting better.

But still, it’s hard.

As I’ve worked through the agony of the last few years, the thing I've come to realise is this: all you can do is try. That’s the only part you control. I’m not ever going to get published if I don’t try, if don’t put in the effort, if I don’t show up and give it every I’ve got. 

I’m not going to get published if I let my wanting paralyse me.

I wish I could say that you’ll get there in the end, that we all will. The truth is, we might not. I might not. And that’s a hard thing to own, but if it’s worth the effort then it’s worth the effort.

So good luck to you all, and I hope you get there in the end. If I can offer you any advice, it would be this: Believe in yourself because if you can’t, no one else will. It’s a daily struggle for me, but I’ll keep working on it. 

And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll have something new to blog about.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop!

The lovely Sarah Wylie tagged me in the Next Big Thing* Blog Hop, which is a good a reason as any to update the blog. 

What is the working title of your next book?

The Opposite of Dead.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I have no idea. I was trying to rekindle my love of writing at the time, which was stagnating after some disappointing projects. I remember wanting to write a story about grief and loneliness and love.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA contemporary.

What actors would you chose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I hate to be totally lame, but I seriously have no idea. That said, if you crossed Milo Ventimiglia in Fergie's Big Girls Don't Cry and the guy in Taylor Swift's Trouble, you'd have a pretty good idea what The Boy looks like.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

April Westingham has 355 days left to live.

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

It's not quite ready, but I'm planning on querying it later this year.

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

What I like to think of as The Opposite of Dead 1.0 was written (on and off) over a couple of months in  the middle of 2010. The first draft of The Opposite of Dead 2.0 (it was totally rewritten) took about 6 weeks in the second half of 2011.

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

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and Hold Still by Nina LaCour.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Before writing it, I spent a lot of time thinking about the question, What would you do if you were told you only had x number of days left to live?

What else about this book might pique the reader's interest?

The poem The Old Astromer to His Pupil by Sarah Williams plays an integral role. In particular, the well-known lines: Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

I'm meant to tag five people, but rules were meant to be broken, so I'm only tagging 2: Kat and Corey, who just happen to be two of my favourite people.

What has everyone else been working on?

* I prefer the term "Unsigned Hype." Just like 50 Cent in his day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hit me baby one more time.

"Let us ponder the mysteries of the universe."

(I realise the title makes so sense, but I have a six-week-old baby. Cut a girl some slack.)

If you follow me on Twitter you'll already know that I finally had my baby back in October and have been coming to grips with my new life as a mum. And sleep deprivation. Oh my god, the sleep deprivation!

Obviously my priorities have changed. These days any free time I have goes towards working on revisions/drafting (and procrastinating on Twitter) so things like blogging/reading blogs have slid right down to the bottom of things to do.

(Seriously. I've been meaning to write this post for six-weeks!)

Now most of you are probably looking at the total number of posts I've done for 2012 and rolling your eyes. Yes, posting on this blog has slowly decreased over the last 2 years, but I've always tried to keep up with my friend's/favourite blogs. But now? I just don't have the time.

And it's got me thinking: when I first found the blogging world back in 2008, I was obsessed. It was my favourite form of procrastination. I posted regularly. I was reading dozens of blogs. So what happened? For me, the answer is Twitter. I know it's not for everyone, but I love how everything is much more immediate, how you can have conversations with your friends/authors/agents/random crazy people. Twitter has well and truly replaced the blogging world for me.

So why keep the blog going? Well, I hope that I'll eventually have more time to return to it at some point in the future (in about 18 years) and I think blogging still has advantages, it's just that I don't have time to be as involved as I once was.

Basically what my sleep-addled brain is trying to say is, I'll still be here, but not as much. And I hope to come back. One day. Oh, and join Twitter. All the kids are doing it.

P.S. How cute is my baby? Seriously? Cutest baby ever or what?

P. P. S. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Make sure you eat and drink and be merry!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Five things.

1. Spring has finally hit my cold corner of the world, as shown by these photos taken in my garden. I have no words for my excitement. This has been the longest, coldest winter I've ever experienced. Bring on spring!

2. I only have about a month left on my pregnancy! I still haven't quite gotten my head around the fact that I'm going to have a baby that I'm supposed to care for and stuff.

3. Revisions on The Opposite of Dead are going well. After two years of working on it (on and off), I finally gave it to my first reader. And she loved it! Her feedback was so excellent and all the things she said made me cry! I'm hoping some more people might get to read it one day.

4. I appear to have finally broken out of my first draft slump, which is relief because I've been stuck there for about a year. I recently gave myself the goal of writing 1000 words a day until the baby is born, and not only have I been reaching that goal, but I've also been going over. I broke the 15k mark on my WiP yesterday! It goes to show: all you need are small, achievable goals.

5. I've also been in a reading slump for most of this year (I might blame that on the pregnancy) but I've finally broken out of that too! And it was a couple of Aussie authors that did it for me. I've read the first two books in Jaclyn Moriarty's Asbury/Brookfield series (although, they're not technically a series, more a series of companion novels) as well as A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper. It feels good to be reading books I cannot put down again. It's been too long.

What are five things going on with you guys?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Guest post: The Secret Underground

Today I have a special guest post from the lovely Natalie Bahm, here to tell you about the exciting release of her book The Secret Underground, but also to fill you in on the amazing cause she's raising money for.

Take it away Natalie.

Jayden’s Story

My first book, The Secret Underground, will come out September 28th. 

Twelve-year-old Ally is the only witness to a bank robbery in her small town. Unable to block out the memory of the robbers, a notorious gang known as the Gauze Men, Ally joins her little brother and a bunch of neighborhood boys digging a hole in her backyard.

Only the hole isn't just a hole - it's a massive set of tunnels snaking beneath the neighborhood and heading for an abandoned steel mill. Ally is old enough to know the danger, but she reasons spending time with sixth-grade heartthrob Paul is more fun than sitting at home with her worries. And dangerous it is - none of the kids' parents realize the tunnels exist, but the Gauze Men might.

The book is being published as a fundraiser to help the family of a sick baby boy.

Jayden Huynh was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, just before the devastating earthquake in February 2011 that killed 182 people. He suffers from a combination of serious health problems and because of this he's been through multiple surgeries during his short life.  He's almost died many times, but whenever things look bleakest he’s rallied and shown his doctors and family that he will fight to hang on.

His family recently moved to Australia in order to be closer to a hospital that could handle his care.  They've been through so much.  Along with the stress and anxiety of dealing with Jayden's condition, they're also struggling financially, due to the massive burden of caring for a chronically ill child.

I’ve never met Jayden.  I live on the other side of the world from him and his family. I learned about his struggles from his wonderful grandmother, my critique partner, Wen and I knew I needed to do something to help.

I called up agent, Sara Megibow, and asked if we could do a book for Jayden.  She thought it was wonderful idea, so with the support of Nelson Literary Agency, I created a book for Jayden.  All of the profits will be donated to his family to help cover expenses and hopefully give Jayden’s parents one less thing to worry about.

There you go guys. A chance to help out on a worthwhile cause through buying a book. It doesn't get better than that! You can pre-order copies through links on Natalie's website, and if you're interested in finding out more about Jayden, check on his blog.

Happy reading!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Challenge thee.

Among the general awesomeness of WriteOnCon, this particular post from Molly O'Neill really resonated with me. You should definitely read the whole thing if you haven't already, but this paragraph really stood out:

Focusing on craft makes you ask and answer the hard questions of yourself: Are you growing as a writer? Is each character or plot or setting that you write more masterful, on some level, than those that came before it? Are you setting yourself new challenges (and meeting them?) with every book you write? Are you learning from your failures, instead of letting them limit or define you?

This is something I've been doing without realising that it was something I should be doing. As dumb as that sounds.

Let me explain.

When first started to take my writing seriously, I wrote a lot of ms in quick succession, and all of them sucked. I never felt the urge to revise or improve these stories. I was never strongly attached to them. I felt like I was writing the same-but-different story over and over again.

Turns out, I was.

It sucked.

I felt, for a long time, that I wasn't improving as a writer. I wasn't moving forward. I was stuck in this okay-but-not-amazing land of writing. I wanted to move on, to get better. I wanted to be proud of what I was writing.

So I decided to push myself. I put away the first person, past tense paranormal stories--of which there were many--and wrote a contemporary first person, present tense story. It was hard writing in present tense. It was hard writing a character driven story. But when I finished it, I had the first ms that I truly cared about. The first ms I really loved.

The first ms I was proud of.

And I have continued to write stories that challenged me as a writer. Now, when I'm thinking about new projects and ideas, I always ask myself: How can I push myself? Challenge my ability as a writer?
I may not have an agent, a publishing contract, hordes of screaming fans, but I do have the ability to improve my craft, and to grow as a writer.

At present, the two WiPs I'm playing around with are challenging me. Daily. One is a non-linear story with an unreliable narrator who I suspect is a borderline psychopath. The second one follows two separate stories, which I hope will come together at the end. (Fingers crossed!)
They're both hard, challenging, and frustrating, but if it was easy, I wouldn't be improving as a writer.

I'll leave you with this parting quote, also from Molly O'Neill's WriteOnCon article:

"…only YOU can make yourself a stronger writer, a better writer, a writer whose craft demands the attention of everyone who comes to the work after you complete it."

Happy writing!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

On the suck and the getting stuck.

It's been awhile since I blogged, but with good reason: I've been working hard. Seriously. It's like I have this crazy deadline fast approaching and I have to get as much work done as I can before it hits. (By the way, I'm having a boy!)

Not that things have been easy. I'm getting work done, but it's hard. SO HARD. But then, when is it not? (That's a rhetorical question. If you answer it with, "Meh, I don't think it's hard," I will punch you in the face and you won't be able to punch me back because I am pregnant therefore protected by the Pregnant Ladies Can Do What They Want clause.)

Um. Where was I? Right. The hard work. I've actually been working on two separate projects. I've been revising the wahzoo out of The Opposite of the Dead as well as slogging away on the first draft of The Children Most Foul. Basically, I've been alternating, so when I need a break from one, I just switch it up. It's possibly a strange system, but then, I'm a strange lady.

But it's the drafting of The Children Most Foul that I want to talk about today because I recently had an epiphany:

I hate writing first drafts.

Now before you roll your eyes and say, "Well, DUH, Jade," let me explain. See, for a long time I believed that I preferred writing a first draft to revising. There was a time in my life where I could breeze through a first draft in a month or two, barely breaking a sweat. I though getting the words down was the easy bit, the hard part was the editing.

But this was back when I didn't know what I was doing. When I was writing books that I didn't like or care about. This was back when I wrote a 175k word fantasy and a dystopian called The Freaks.*
Now that I have a tiny idea of what I'm doing, now that I care about the books I'm writing, that first draft is so bloody hard.

(To give you some idea, I started Children about this time last year, and I've had to put it away several times and then come back to it later. I'm still in the dreaded middle. *sobs*)

But I am determined to finish this book, even if Shiny New Idea is trying to seduce me. I made a commitment and I'll be damned if I'm going to let some little hussy lead me astray. So I went searching for some help, which I will now share with you guys because you are super pretty.

Many of you will know Laini Taylor as a mad talented YA author, but did you also know that she has a really cool blog called Not For Robots,** which is filled with helpful writing advice? I love it so much that a quote from one of her posts is stuck directly above my computer:

I happen to think that work is as important as talent. We need to work hard. We need to build our lives and our dreams like we're building houses or bridges or something, and not to expect it to be easy and idyllic.


Now I've been stuck at certain point in Children for MONTHS, and desperate to make progress, I scoured all my favourite writing sites for help. I ended up on this post on Laini's old blog, which I found so amazingly helpful.
One of her suggestions for getting unstuck, is to brainstorm a dozen possible scenes that could happen next. I did this, writing down all my ideas, even if they were crazy. A lot of them involved my MC burning things. Three scenes had her making out with three different people. Some of my ideas were ridiculous, but a couple of them were usuable. So I brainstormed a bit more and then BAM, I had written the next two chapters.

TWO CHAPTERS! (Did I mention I'd been stuck for months?)

Before I sign off (because, let's face it, this is a long, rambling post) I want to link to another of Laini's posts. This one, which deals with the suckage of first drafts. This is the other thing I've been struggling with--I can't shake the notion that this story sucks, that I suck, that my face sucks. It's so tempting to give up and start something new because new ideas NEVER SUCK, but this is a lie.

You must fight through the suck. You must find a way to unstick yourself. You have to keep pushing yourself until you reach the magical moment where you type THE END.

And everything is easy from that point on.***

Is anyone else stuck or full of the suck?

*Really. That's what it was called. Feel free to laugh.
**Seriously. It's not for robots.