Finishing My First Draft

Hi Readers & Writers,

As of three weeks ago, I completed the first draft of my YA dystopian novel or rather, a first draft that has been edited and changed as I searched through it for every error possible. Of course, this is an impossible task to accomplish alone.

It’s a surreal feeling now that it’s done and is slowly being handed off to my readers–whilst I try not to throw up every meal I’ve eaten. I didn’t expect to finish it or rather, there were days where finishing it seemed unlikely. I went through a three month period of not writing anything due to being stuck on a plot. This was extremely disappointing after writing two or three chapters a week for months straight.

Stepping away helped as well as discussing the entire plot with those I could trust. It took some wiggling, but eventually I unlocked the plot and was able to progress. I got stuck around the last three chapters which once again warranted a talk. Before I knew it, I was writing the final sentence. I stared at it for a good ten minutes, in shock, in awe, in question of what I was going to do after. P.S. It involves creating a new story.  

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Writing a book is no easy task, despite what some people will say. It requires plotting, putting your emotions out there, killing your darlings, and pushing past what may seem like an insurmountable amount of doubt. But what I’ve forced myself to think about, and what many others have told me, is I’ve completed something huge. I focused over a year of my time onto this story, allowing it to grow from its bare bones into a completed piece. I will still need to edit it and change parts, but the fact is I already showed I would put in the work. It’s a pretty awesome thing to see your work in progress become a tangible whole.

Since I finished my first draft, I figured I would offer tips to anyone who may be struggling or anyone who needs a boost of confidence.

  1. Every writer writes at a different pace. If you have friends who are managing to finish books in a few months, while you’re taking a year or longer, don’t panic. Books are a big deal and not everyone will work at the same speed or the same way. The bottom line is you have to be happy with your progress.
  2. Your first draft will be edited. You do not have to catch all the missing pieces of the puzzle in the first, second, or even third go. That’s what other sets of eyes are for.
  3. Find a group of people you can trust to read or discuss your work. Do not let this group grow too large. You want opinions, but opinions you can rely on by people who are not trying to harm you or your project. Also, make sure these people encourage you and are equally as excited about your story as you are. Enthusiasm can motivate.
  4. Plot if you need to. There are pantsers and plotters and people who fall in between these categories. Do what you need to do in order to get your story complete. If writing without a plan feels more natural to you, do it. If you need a thirty page outline to get your ideas down, then make it.
  5. Sometimes, you’ll need a break. Whether you’ve written a really gut-wrenching scene or your mind and body are creatively spent, taking a few hours or days away from your story will not hurt. You need to recharge and feel good again.
  6. You will second guess yourself and everything you write. Writers, unfortunately, are equipped with an endless amount of self-doubt, questioning, and skepticism. Read one of your favorite scenes. Step away for a while. Remind yourself why you started writing to begin with. Watch your favorite movie or television show. Read your favorite book. Find ways to remind yourself that your story matters.
  7. Be open to critique. Every book requires help to get to a final draft and one that is not only plot hole free, character strong and grammatically correct, but one that is mindful of the issues it tackles.

The bottom line is to keep writing. You’ll be surprised how quickly your words add up over time.

If you would like to know more about my WIP, you follow this thread I made about it on twitter.

Xx

Megan

Publishing 101 for Teens

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Publishing is a complicated business that takes time and experience to fully grasp. However, even with these tools, one has to be able to adapt. The market changes often as do the writers and literature that emerge.

Because of this, and the recent discussions on twitter about the lack of listening to teen voices, I decided to open up the door to teens to freely ask any questions they have about publishing. The response has been fantastic and thus I have my first blog post on the issue.

Q1: What should you major/study in college if you want to have a career in publishing?

A: For publishing, I would highly advise a B.A. in English or Creative Writing. When you apply for jobs, these degrees are often the baseline education requirement alongside experience (internships, summer programs you may have taken, previous jobs etc). There is some leeway here. You can major in other arts/humanities courses, but what publishers look for in a potential employee is the ability to write well, analyze and critique a piece of writing, pay attention to detail, and know your way around a computer. What is greatly important, and if anything the number one thing to bring to a job interview, is your passion for the industry. Do you like to read a lot? Have you taken interest in books and research in school? Have you kept up with the market? Even the blog you run can make you stand out. Competition is high for publishing jobs and unfortunately, they’re often centered in major cities. Freelance and remote opportunities do pop up, but the same rules as above apply.

I advise to keep in mind that this answer does not stay the same for what major do you need if you want to be a writer. That question is a little trickier for the answer is anything you want. What you need to be a writer is passion, patience, the desire to work hard, understanding rejection and critique, as well as wanting to learn. These skills do not link up side by side with any major. They are about you and what you want out of your writing. If you want to be published, great! If you don’t, that’s fine too. Success is not merely measured in publication.

Q2: How do you break through and be successful in such a competitive industry like publishing?

A: Following from my answer above, it comes down to what makes you stand out. With the growth of social media, I strongly recommend getting an account on Twitter. This is the number one marketing site for writers. It’s quick, fairly easy to learn, and the writing community is only growing larger. Make connections with others. Hear about their journeys and what they have done. Share what you’re working on. Everyone’s publishing road will be different, but it is important to stay connected and have a presence. You never know what will happen from there.

Q3: How do you find a critique partner around your age and a mentor?

A: I would definitely utilize the twitter community here. There are lots of wonderful people offering to be critique partners or mentors.

For teens, I recommend the following hashtags to find critique partners:

#YATeenSpace
#Teenpit *This happens certain times out of the year, but it is definitely a good way to connect and find other writers, agents, and editors who are willing to help teens.*
#Ontheporch

Note: For the latter, it is not catered for teens, but it is a spot where people post about their WIPs and connect in all things writing related. If I find others, I will definitely add them here!

Another way is to simply post if anyone wants to exchange stories. Most of these posts get a handful of responses as everyone is looking/needs another pair of eyes on their story.

As with any exchange, especially writing, make sure you check out the person beforehand and make sure you’re comfortable with sharing your work. If anything seems off or questionable, don’t follow through or check in with trusted friends/peers.

Q4: Do you know about getting published as a teenager – if it dramatically lowers your chances of getting an agent, if you should disclose that you’re underage in your query? Also, what are the legal requirements for getting published underage?

A: I haven’t had too much experience with agents, but I did do some research on the matter. Putting your age in your query is up to your discretion. If you do get a publishing contract, I would prepare yourself for the work it brings and the steps you’ll need in order to get from your draft to a completed book. I would also research one’s background before you sign with an agent. Unfortunately, there are some who are inexperienced or looking to take advantage of those who are not familiar with the industry.

I can’t entirely say if placing your age into a query will lower your chances. I feel like that would vary by agent and publisher – some not minding/encouraging a younger author while others would shy away from it.

You will have to disclose your age if an agent expresses interest and ultimately decides to represent you. This is important because if you’re under 18, you will likely need a parent or guardian to cosign a contract.

If I find out any more information, I will definitely update this!

Q5: How long does each phase of writing and publishing take? 

A: Writing will always vary based on the individual. Some are able to writer faster than others. Some may need to rethink their plot. Some may have to rework their entire story. There will never be a specific amount of time for any of these stages.

In terms of when you’re signed, you will likely be given a due date for your edits and your final manuscript. Your editor will read them over, give their comments, and you will once again be given edits to complete until the final draft. These will likely take a few weeks to a few months.

I can’t give a specific date for how long the whole process takes, but writing a book is very much a long term gratification experience. You won’t see your book by the end of the week after you submit your manuscript, but in a year, maybe even two, it will be there. If you’re willing to wait and put in the work, it will be worth it.

Q6: What if your manuscript is always rejected?

A: Rejections are probably the hardest part of the writing process, especially when you put so much work into your story only to see the same email over and over again. There are several things that can be done in this situation.

  1. Keep trying. Sometimes, you need to find the right agent or the right publisher to represent you. Even famous authors received hundreds of rejections before success found them. I know that sounds daunting, but trust me, keep trying.
  2. Find beta readers and critique partners. Maybe something in your story isn’t working. Have another set or sets of eyes read over your manuscript. Do the same for your query letter and synopsis. A simple rewording could make all the difference.
  3. Make sure you’re following guidelines when submitting. A handful of publishers and agents will not read your work if it is not properly formatted nor fits the mold of what books they’re searching for.
  4. Step away from the story. If you constantly work on the same piece, you may be overthinking it and have to take a breather. Come back to the story in a while with a clearer head. You may notice something you hadn’t before and be able to strengthen your story.
  5.  Your story may be rejected by publishers and agents due to their schedule or inability to give your story the attention and detail it needs. Don’t take it personally. Not all rejections are about your writing or about you. I can’t stress this enough. Sometimes, it just can’t work out.
  6. Don’t stop writing. This story may not be the one picked up by publishers, but it doesn’t mean your next one will follow the same direction. Write the story you need. Write what feels right. Just keep doing it.

Q6: How much should we write each day?

A: There is no correct amount of words to write per day nor is there a correct way to write. Me personally, I don’t write everyday. I used to as a teen, but life and stubborn muse got in the way so now I write when I can and often in large chunks. This is my method, but you most certainly have to find your own as a writer.

I definitely enforce getting into the habit of writing often, even if it’s not everyday. It’ll keep your thoughts and motivation fresh, but I also understand why this can’t always happen. As long as you’re moving towards your goal, I think that is important.

I would also mention taking into account achievements that may not be writing. For example, reading a good book or watching a movie that inspired you. Taking a long walk through a park or simply having a passionate conversation with a friend or family member. Each of these things can build up to writing and push it forward. Take rewards in both the big and small and finish whatever story you have in your head.

This is the first in what I hope to be more blog posts on this issue. If this has helped you, or you think it would be beneficial to someone else, please share this. It is greatly appreciated. If you’re a teen and have questions, feel free to message or tweet me and I’ll get to your questions in the next post!

Xx

Megan

Writing The Hard Stories

In order for characters to grow, they have to face hardships, have things taken from them, lose their initial opinions. As writers, we plan how this happens and are tasked with the most difficult thing: capturing this development on paper.

Writing a story isn’t easy. It takes a lot of will power, imagination, and convincing yourself that your writing doesn’t suck. Once you’ve managed to move past these qualms, you may come up against another challenge. How do I handle writing a scene that is either extremely personal or possibly triggering?

I’m a firm believer in using writing as a way of dealing with life or even escaping it. For a long time, writing was the only comfort I had. I threw my emotions onto the page no matter how much it hurt or even if the words I was putting down made no sense.  Some of the short stories that came from these moods were emotionally charged and on the dark side.

To this day, I still like to write the heavier stories, ones that are both a challenge and a release. Sometimes, I need to step away from my WIP. Other times I get lost in the mindset of my characters or the events playing out before me until hours fly by and I have to snap myself out of it. This happened a few months ago when my MC sought revenge on a group of people who kidnapped his best friend. To put it lightly, the end result wasn’t pretty nor was the mentality of the character going into the ordeal. I remember saying to myself: “These thoughts are psychopathic.” However, I finished the chapter and emerged with new questions about my MC and my capabilities as a writer.

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There’s another scene in my story about death, which I took details from a personal event that happened in my life. The chapter was depressing to say the least and I found my mood descending with every word I wrote. The good news: it’s one of my favorite chapters. The bad news: I felt every ounce of my character’s pain.

It’s a double edged sword being a writer when our characters become like people we know and grew up with. Their suffering isn’t always something we can separate from our own. I choose to dive into these emotions, using it as a current of inspiration. How I come out of the experience once I’m done writing, I figure I’ll handle later.

This method does not work for everyone. Stories can get overwhelming, personal; hit a bit too close to home. But these are also the parts of the story that connect with our readers, that make us clutch books to our chests and weep at an ungodly hour of the night. Whenever you write scenes like these, here are some tips to remember:

  1. Do your research. You don’t want to offend anyone with what you’re writing, let alone come across as ignorant. There is no such thing as too much research.
  2. Take a break. There is no reason to harm yourself while writing. If it gets too much, you can save it for another day, take a breather, listen to music, or watch your favorite show or movie. You always come first.
  3. Make sure these scenes are not included for dramatic effect, but actually advance the story and the growth of your main character. Shock value is not the best reason for including a dark scene.
  4. Understand it’s okay if it is not right the first time. That’s what editing is for. Those scenes that don’t feel right will either be polished or cut.If you’re still having trouble, Beta Readers are a great resource to see if you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.
  5. Don’t let anyone tell you not to write something. If it’s for the better of your story or even a way of dealing with what’s going on in your life, do it.
  6. Remember your readers. Writing a scene correctly and appropriately will connect you to your audience.

These scenes will always be part of our jobs as writers, but it’s how you go about them and handle yourself in the process that really matters.

Xx

Megan

Writing Stereotypes

Hello Everyone,

How the heck are we halfway into November? I am asking myself that as I write this post – something that should have been done a while ago. But it has been a hectic few weeks, and I am now settled enough to write without my brain dissolving into a pile of mush.

The topic I thought I would tackle today is writing stereotypes, which any writer probably
knows about and has faced at some point in their lives. If you haven’t, you are lucky and this post can act as a warning for what may come in the future.

#1 – Make It Rain

I am titling this stereotype as such because it is the first thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds when you say you are writing a book. It is quite a grueling process to write, to make sure your plot aligns, your characters are well rounded, your grammar is polished. It is also a task to get through publication: between finding an agent, signing with a publishing house, edits, production, and press. As nice as it would be to write a book, immediately get it published, and have money rolling in shortly thereafter, it often doesn’t work that way.

How can that be, Megan? What about J.K. Rowling, John Green, James Dashner and so on and so forth.

My answer is they were lucky. Someone recognized their talent, signed them on, and their books were a hit with millions of people. They have earned their success and each of them are on my list of favorite authors. I would love to join them in the future, as I’m sure many other writers would too.

#2 – Writing Can’t Be Hard

Wrong. So wrong. Wrong to the power of infinity and beyond.

There is so much going on within a writer’s brain, so many things that need to happen writing-1317009in order to create a coherent story that makes writing difficult. Combine that with muse and real life and a book is barely a walk in the park. I started writing my novel earlier this year, around April, and am still making progress with it till this day. Other authors I know have been working on their books for years, scrapping it, redoing it, leaving it for months and then coming back to it.

Don’t think that I don’t love writing. It is tied into my soul. It is one of the reasons I exist. It has saved me from many dark times. What I have learned from finally writing a book past childhood is that it requires patience and perseverance. Can’t fix a plot hole? Take a break. Think on it. Have a long shower. Your character isn’t working? Take on a new point of view. Cut them from the story entirely if you need to.

Writing is a series of difficult decisions, testing not only the characters in the story, but you as a person and you as someone developing a craft.

#3 – What’s Your Dayjob?

Opposite to stereotype number one is the disapproving glance of onlookers who believe writing is a pipe dream. I’ve had to deal with this one several times, the questions lingering in someone’s eyes as I tell them I want to write a book someday.

What do you really want to do with your life?

You couldn’t have chosen something else?

That’s not how you make money.

Oh. Okay. -moves onto next person-

When I first began writing, I found this discouraging. I battled within myself if this was really what I wanted to do. I could suck it up and go into graphic design or computer science, other fields I considered, but I ruled them out because I didn’t see them in my future. I didn’t turn to them as a comfort. Turns out, they turned into hobbies that died out as I grew older. Writing was still my passion and until success comes, if at all, I am happy with getting into the publishing industry as an editor.

My advice to anyone who has this negativity thrown their way, do not let it hurt you. Stories exists for several reasons: to entertain, inform, inspire. If there is a story within you, tell it because you never know who you are helping by doing so.

#4 – Mental Illness and Creativity

There are studies that say depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and so forth affect the creativity process, often in a positive way. I know writers who have some of these issues and I also know writers who are mentally healthy.

For someone who has dealt with mental illness, writing can alleviate the suffering.  However, mental illness is not a qualifying component necessary to write. If you write because it helps problems in your life or with your health, that is great. I’m glad you found a coping mechanism. If you write just because you love it, then I am equally as happy for you.

Writers come from all situations and backgrounds. To say that only the best craft comes from the dark side of the mind is an exaggeration. The inspiration to write can come from a variety of places and each should be recognized especially if they create a beautiful story in the end.

#5 Writers Are Internet Loving, Animal Hoarding, Caffeine Addicts 

Well…

Erm…

This one is kind of true.

Keep those laptops and puppies and kittens close my writer friends! Oh, don’t forget the coffee or tea too. Who knows where all the good books would go without any of those things.

Xx

Megan

Blast to the Past

 

Hello Fellow Readers,

The three circles are drawn in tears for my character who is crying.

For this post I’ve decided to keep it light and funny. While talking to one of my main writing peeps, we discussed how horrible our old stories were. For me, it was the stories I wrote ages seven through ten. Mostly for memories and the thought I’d rewrite some of these later, I kept my childhood notebooks. It was then that an idea struck: what if I shared some lines from my childhood stories and let hilarity ensue?

Going through them took a few hours, but I pulled out some gems which I decided to post here. I totally encourage other writers to do this because not only will you get a good laugh, but you can see how far you’ve come as a writer.

These three quotes come from a story I wrote about Titanic and a character who was on the ship. I was about seven at the time and really fascinated by the tale. For a while, I didn’t believe it was real until my mother told me otherwise. I then proceeded to read every book about Titanic, fiction and nonfiction, until I decided I will write the greatest Titanic story of all time. Yeah…that didn’t work out so well.

Story: I keep shouting how many days are left.
Me in the Present: Why on Earth would you do this? Why are you shouting? How many days until what?

Story: I must be boring myself IF I want to stop writing so, bye. I’ll write later.
Me in the Present: The attitude is real. How do you end a diary entry like that? Are you boring yourself?

Story: The night was peaceful until a big shake shook the ship.
Me in the Present: A big shake? That is the best you got? The only pro is I nailed alliteration at age seven.

The next set of lines comes from an extremely short book about these people who get trapped on an island after a plane crash and have to survive. I was really into these shows as a kid and once again I thought I would write the greatest survival story ever. Well, I think you know where this is going.

Story:

“Wow, that’s great.”
“What’s great?”
“Hello, kissing me is the best one I got.”
“So Let’s do it again.”
They did it again and again.

Me in the Present: Look at you, little Megan. You wrote your first kissing scene. My only question is how does kissing yourself work? Is this kissing scene between two people or between someone and their arm?

Story:

“Are you alright?”
“Yeah.”
But he wasn’t because he threw up blood.

Me in the Present: The best part about this quote in my opinion is the fact that I added a sudden ominous narration to show that this guy was not alright.

This next line comes from a story about magic and evil overlords and kids who try to stop the evil overlords from starting a war. It was never finished and there are only thirteen chapters in the notebook, but that didn’t stop my hunt. Though the story is slightly better than the others, little Megan didn’t have the writing thing down pat just yet.

Story: Eyes are a really good way of seeing people.
Me in the Present: A+ observation, Megan. They definitely help.

Lastly, I bring to you my favorite lines. These come from a series of stories that I wrote about three children who are clever and solve mysteries. My younger self was really into them given all sequels I found, but what I lacked was how babies act and function and just babies in general.

Story: As the children worked, Rosey guarded the door. That is a very big job for a baby. Usually a baby is home being sung a lullaby as it goes to sleep, but not Rosey. She was an on the move baby.
Me in the Present: An on the move baby????? A baby guarding the door????? Was Rosey a ninja too? Forget this, I’m going to hide my face in shame.

Story: Clark grabbed his sister’s arm and pulled her behind the door. “Gabataba,” said Rosey.
Me in the Present: Gabataba. Gaba-freakin-taba?! -Proceeds to shout Gabataba at random to those in my life-

Anyways, as I try to recover from my humiliation as a writer, I hope you enjoyed this. Feel free to comment or make a post of your own horrible lines from the past.

Xx

Megan

 

 

Tug of War

I am going to start this post with a confession. I do not write everyday.

*Cue the dropped jaws now*

My mind works in a certain way. It is the most stubborn entity I possess. There are days where I have an endless amount of muse and writing comes easily. There are days where a song, television show, or line in a book triggers a story. Then there are the wasteland days. These are the worst. My muse is dried up, my pen is parched, and I am left pulling my hair out as I wait for something to unlock inside of my head. This lack of muse wouldn’t be terrible if it lasted a few hours or a few days. This can last for weeks, even months.

Under this condition, I hate everything I try to write or everything I write leads nowhere. I’ve heard a lot of opinions on this. There seems to be a line between writers who advocate for writing everyday no matter if the story is falling apart, getting run over by a truck, and then mashed in a garbage truck. There are others who advocate for the space in between writing, to let the thoughts flow when they are most wanted. There are pros of each side. The former allows for consistent progress and the development of a habit. The latter gives the muse and writer time to recover. There are also cons: trying to fight through a muse-less session versus not being able to maintain muse if there is too much time in between writing sessions.

Every writer has a method to reach their goals. I’m a night time writer. There is something about the silent darkness that can set the mood for a chapter or story to be completed. I am also a phone writer. I’ve written entire chapters during my commute. Sometimes I have more muse doing this than sitting before my computer.

My habits weren’t always like this. As a teenager, I wrote every second I got. My parents never understood why I was on the computer for an obscene amount of hours per day. They didn’t always believe me when I told them I was writing despite having a myriad of documents to prove it. With age, it has gotten harder to keep up the intensity I had when I was younger. I still love to write. There is a fervor that burns within me, that flows through my veins. I think my battle with muse comes from finding a life-write balance.

“Just write” as I’ve been told is easier said than done. For non-writers, it is even harder for them to understand the complexity of words and the frustration of getting a scene exactly as it is mentally pictured. If it were as simple and writing, completing a book would be a one shot deal. We wouldn’t have industries, publicists, and editors who dedicate their lives to making a book as polished as it can be.

If I find a cure to my ‘wasteland syndrome’ I will be sure to post it on the blog in bold letters, maybe throw in a cheer or two. If any of you fellow bloggers/writers/readers have found a cure, please let me know so I can be done with this horrible condition. Also, be sure to tell me what your writing habits are.

Xx

Megan

Camp NaNoWriMo

Hello fellow writers,

It’s been a while since I’ve last updated, but I have the pleasure of saying I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this year. For those who don’t know what this is, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, from the beginning of the month to the end, a challenge is set for authors to write a full length novel (50,000 words +). Due to school and other life related events, I’ve never participated. However, I have partaken in Camp NaNoWriMo which allows the writer to set a word count for themselves. I didn’t succeed last year, but I feel more confident this year with having a set plan of where I want my story to go. The goal I’ve set for myself is 25,000 words.

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I’ve been writing almost daily, on bus rides to school, late at night. The words have been adding up without warning which I’m happy about when it comes to reaching my goal. As opposed to roaming around for where I want to lead the story, it has been guiding me. It’s taken me through dual perspectives, flashbacks, and throwing my characters into the middle of conflict.

What I am curious about writers participating, or even writers who can’t participate but want to – how are you reaching for your goal? For me, I have been trying to write each and everyday. I haven’t tried to force my muse. I’ve allowed the words to flow on the page as they are, minus editing here and there. My chapters aren’t very long, but I feel as if chapters aren’t about length, rather the content and what it does in relation to the overall plot. I’ve left my book open to create itself and I feel like the freedom is really helping me write it.

I am determined to keep to a schedule and get to my 25,000 words, despite school, work and other engagements of mine. I feel as if committing to NaNoWriMo is partly mindset, sticking to what is set by you as a writer. For those who are participating, I wish you loads of luck. Let your imagination run wild and create the story stuck in your mind.

Leave your thoughts/tips/goals below!

Xx Megan