Fixing the First Page Winner #26!

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Yet another quick Thursday post to announce the winner of the twenty-sixth fixing the first page feature giveaway!


And the twenty-sixth winner is…


Yay! Congratulations, Emily!

Thank you again to all you fabulous entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in September (September!!), so keep an eye out! :)

What I've Been Reading

So somewhat unsurprisingly, this month I've fallen behind on my yearly reading goal. I say somewhat unsurprisingly because I'm revising on deadline, and also have been sick more than usual, and also it was the Olympics (which ate up a bunch of my reading time) so I was kind of expecting it. But that said, I have still been reading and while I haven't had the chance to write up any formal reviews, I figured it'd be fun to talk about some of the books I've read recently a little about why I liked them.

So here we go!

Photo credit: Goodreads

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

I've been wanting to read this one since I first heard about it, and it was beautiful. The writing, the incredibly unique fantasy incorporating Indian mythology—gah there was so much about this book that I was just heart eyes over. I've heard some people say they found it a little hard to get into at first, and all I've got to say is keep reading if you can because I really loved this beautifully complicated world and the truly gorgeous imagery and writing that went along with it, even as I was initially incredibly frustrated with the protagonist. ;)

Photo credit: Goodreads

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys edited by April Geneviece Tucholke, with Stefan Bachmann, Leigh Bardugo, Kendare Blake, A.G. Howard, Jay Kristoff, Marie Lu, Jonathan Maberry, Danielle Page, Carrie Ryan, Megan Shepherd, Nova Ren Suma, McCormick Templeman and Cat Winters

I mentioned reading this anthology before, but I hadn't finished it last time I talked about it and now I have! I really enjoyed this anthology—and I can say a story scared me for the first time ever because while I was fine while reading it, as soon as I turned off the lights and glanced at my open closet...I had to get up and close the doors for reasons. I have maybe been closing those doors more than ever since I read a particular story in there. >.<

Anyway, these stories were disturbing, and unsettling, and creepy, and I definitely give it a thumbs up if you like scary stories.

Sekret and Skandal by Lindsay Smith

I just recently finished Sekret and I've just started Skandal and they've been a fun read! I don't often read historical stuff, but this is historical fantasy, and this blend of fantasy—psychic spies—was just too awesome to pass up. I've never read about telepathic teens quite like this before and seeing Smith's unique blend of psychic writing plus the Cold War era has definitely been entertaining thus far. I'm curious to see how the duology ends!

So those are my most recent four books that I've read/been reading—what have you been reading over the last couple months?

Twitter-sized bite: 
What are the last couple books you've read? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet

Vlog: 4 Non-Writing Writing Tips

On things you can do to improve your writing that don't involve writing.


What non-writing writing tips would you add to the list? 

Twitter-sized bite:
How can you improve your writing without actually writing? @Ava_Jae vlogs 4 non-writing writing tips. (Click to tweet)

Keeping Track of the Details

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Consistency errors are nefarious little demons. From randomly changing eye colors, to ages skipping around, to remembering this made up word over that one and whether or not you capitalized your novel-specific term, as they say, the devil is in the details.

This has become especially relevant as of late, as I've revised a sequel for the first time ever, and I have to say I'm glad I took careful notes the first time around because they will definitely be saving my hide in the months to come.

For Beyond the Red I primarily used two programs to keep track of the details, though I'll probably migrate to just one in the future. The programs I use are pretty different, though—WorkFlowy is a bulleted list type program that I wrote a post about ages ago, and Excel is, of course, the spreadsheet program Excel.

Initially, I used WorkFlowy more for brainstorming, but it became a place where I stored details mainly because I came up with a lot of details while brainstorming in the program. I like to keep it there, though, because the collapsable bulleted list layout that makes up WorkFlowy keeps things neat and easily accessible. That's where I keep track of world and culture details, everything from how long a day is on Safara to which monarchs are ruling where.

Meanwhile, I use Excel for the more nitty gritty details—all of my language notes are in there, as well as a record of what everyone looks like, how old they are, so on and so forth. Both lists have proved completely invaluable especially as I've been working to keep things consistent, and I can't imagine trying to tackle a series—or even a single complicated book—without them. It's far too easy to forget little details, and having to go through a manuscript to try to find the answer is way more time consuming if you don't have a list set aside with your answers already.

How do you keep track of details in your manuscript?

Twitter-sized bite: 
How do you keep track of details in your manuscripts? @Ava_Jae shares her method. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: Favorite Writer Story

Photo credit: Dave Morrison Photography on Flickr
Fun post today!

So once upon a time, not too long ago, I had to get a bunch of x-rays. Not because I was injured or anything, but part of having a disease where your body pretty literally eats its own joints is getting imaging done to track erosions of said joints from time to time. (This doesn't sound fun yet, but the story gets more fun, I promise.)

Anyway, so I was getting x-rays done on my hips, hands, and neck, which meant I had to wear one of those glorious hospital gowns. After I change, the imaging technician comes to get me and bring me to the x-ray room.

She's very chatty and peppy, and if you have ever met me in person, you will know I am not. I was feeling pretty awkward, both because of the gown and because I'm just naturally awkward in social settings, but I smiled and tried to answer her questions as she moved me around the room to take different x-rays.

After the technician asked me what grade I was in and I smiled and told her I'd graduated college months ago, and she apologized profusely while I turned red and laughed and said it was fine, she smartly changed the subject to something else. This something else was my employment.

"I'm an author and freelance editor," I said, and she immediately perked up.
"Oh! Cool, so what do you write?"
"Young Adult science fiction and fantasy—that kind of thing," I answered.

Usually, at this point in the conversation, people will nod and say, "cool" or something of the like and we'll talk about something else. That's not what happened this time, because this time it turned out the technician was a huge Young Adult and Science Fiction fan, so she basically had an excited freak out.

A really, really, really excited freak out.

What followed was her asking if I had my business cards on me (at which point I pointed to my hospital gown) and she was super excited and I pitched my book and she declared me her coolest patient and had me write down my author name so she could look me up and find my book. It was easily the most enthusiastic reception I'd ever had to revealing my author self, and remains my favorite writer story ever.

So now I want to hear from you: what's your favorite writer story?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Have a fun writer story you'd like to share? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Looking Back at First Drafts

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So I've talked many many times about how first drafts tend to be terrible. I've mentioned the importance of getting the words down even when they're not great, and how you just need to get the story written and you can fix everything later, and, yes, it's okay if your first draft is awful because most first drafts are.

Last month I finished first drafting Into the Black, which was a really encouraging and exciting experience. First drafting that book was odd, because it was the first manuscript I'd ever written knowing with absolute certainty that it would be published. There wasn't any question about getting through submission, or writing it and revising it and possibly putting it away forever, because my publisher had already looked at the proposal and said, yes, we want to publish this.

It was really cool, and a little scary, but also super exciting. And by and large I felt good while first drafting—I mean, it was a first draft, sure, and I knew it'd be nowhere near perfect and was already anticipating revisions when I finished, but I felt decently good about it while writing.

All of that said, however, writing it also felt, in many ways, like any other first draft. I threw down words that, even as I was writing, made me think eh, this could be better. I mentally catalogued things I'd have to change as I layered words on top of words—removing filter phrases, describing a lot more, expanding the world building, etc. I knew there were gaps I had to fill, and even as I wrote "The End" I'd already started mentally cataloging things I'd need to add or fix later.

So before I started my first read through on the draft last week, I braced myself. I knew after those initial chapters that were revised already for the proposal, the quality of the writing would drop. I knew it wasn't going to be as clean and polished as the manuscripts I'd been revising the year before. I reminded myself this is just the first draft; now I need to take note of what to fix.

And I started reading. And the more I read, the more I felt a sense of relief—and wonder. Because that terrible first draft I was expecting? Wasn't so terrible after all.

I'm not saying it's a perfect first draft because it's absolutely not (I don't believe perfect first drafts even exist, to be honest). But as I read, I couldn't deny that this first draft—my fifteenth—was undeniably better than my first drafts from a couple years ago. Which in retrospect makes sense—I've certainly learned a ton between now and 2014 or so—but seeing such a marked improvement from older first drafts to this new first draft was really encouraging.

Naturally I still have a lot of work to do. But this first draft may be my best one yet. :)

Have you had a similar experience from draft to draft? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae talks seeing improvements from first draft to first draft. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: 4 Fast Drafting Tips

Want to try fast drafting but not sure where to start? Today I'm sharing my top four fast-drafting tips.


Have you ever tried fast-drafting? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Want to try fast drafting but not sure where to start? @Ava_Jae vlogs about her top 4 fast drafting tips. (Click to tweet)
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