2017 Year in Review

Photo credit: Georgie Sharp on Flickr
NOTE: Just want to let you guise know there won't be a fixing the first page critique this month—but it'll start up again in January, don't worry. :) 

So way back in 2014 I began this tradition of writing a year in review post. 2015's is here, and you can check out 2016's as well, if you so desire, but now, of course, is time to wrap up 2017.

And what a year it's been.

January was very much a waiting period for me, but it was also the month I began a new treatment regimen for my chronic illness, which was necessary because I was not doing great, chronic-illness-wise. It was a huge step though, and I was terrified, but I did it anyway (which is kind of a theme for 2017).

February was my birthday, and the universe dropped an awesome birthday present in my lap: I was accepted into the grad school program of my dreams with a great scholarship to boot. I was beyond excited—but also terrified because it required moving 600+ miles on my own. And while emotionally I was very ready to spread my wings and move out, committing was still really scary.

At the end of the month, I also got into my first-ever car accident. I was T-boned at a four-way stop, and consider myself very lucky because while my SUV's driver's side door was trashed, the car that hit me was mercifully a sedan and I was completely unharmed. The accident was also deemed the other guy's fault so while it still ended up being an expensive experience, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

March was a quiet month. I basically spent it debating whether or not I was going to do the grad school/moving out thing. I also wrote up a proposal for a writer-in-residence application in my potentially-new-city and immediately fell in love with the project.

April I got my part-time job back with a promotion. April was also the month I finally committed to grad school, and also booked my flight to visit my new city the next month and, uh, find a place to live. And by April I was starting to finally feel the effects of my new treatment, and much to my relief, it was helping pretty significantly.

May I began plotting The Rising Gold, the last book of my trilogy (!!!). I also flew out to my new city, found a place to live, visited my new school, and did all sorts of tourist-y things as I tried to imagine myself living there. To my relief and delight I really enjoyed my visit, and I left pretty confident I was going to enjoy my new home.

In June I began The Rising Gold's first draft—a draft that kicked my butt in a lot of ways and took way longer than I expected to complete (this too, seems to be a 2017 theme in my writing, at least). I believe June was also the month I booked my one-way ticket to my new city, which was a scary—but exciting—final step.

July I kept working on The Rising Gold while also starting to really prepare for my impending move. It was a bit of an odd summer, because I was stuck in a holding pattern before my life changed drastically.

August was a huge month. I finally finished first drafting The Rising Gold, got my Into the Black ARCs, packed all my things, donated a ton of books, mailed all my things to my new place, and then on the last day of the month, said a (very) tearful goodbye to my dog and my family, got on a plane and flew to my new city.

September was my first month on my own. I successfully had my part-time job transferred (which also equalled a much-needed pay raise because minimum wage laws in my new state are wayyyy better than my old state), got a new rheumatologist, got myself a therapist, began ordering furniture for my new bedroom, and, you know, started grad school—where I began using my pronouns for the first time. I also got to meet a bunch of author friends I'd known on Twitter for years in person for the first time, which was beyond wonderful. It was a month with a lot of changes and meeting new people but overall, I was feeling good.

October was overwhelm month when I realized working a 30-hr part-time job and grad school and freelancing and being an author didn't mix well (surprise!). I was falling behind on writing work and school work, so I put in a request to change my hours at my part-time job, which eventually got approved, but didn't come into effect until mid-November. On the upside, Beyond the Red paperbacks were released and I got my Into the Black author copies. I also finally came out as trans masculine nonbinary and began using my pronouns more widely. Hooray!

November was a huge month. Into the Black hit the shelves and I had my very first launch party (which was awesome!). November was also unfortunately the month I had a rather traumatic experience at work that involved an irate customer screaming homophobic slurs at me at the top of his lungs. That part was terrible, but so many good things happened too: I had my first Thanksgiving with family near my new home, I bought myself some guy clothes that both fit me in style and physically fit me (which feels amazing!), I realized I'd already made some really great new friends, and my first semester at grad school started wrapping up.

Then December! December has been great so far. I finished up my first semester of grad school earlier this week, got myself more guy clothes, saw a psychiatrist for the first time (which went well!) and got my vacation days approved so I can spend my Christmas with family I haven't seen in years, so that'll be really nice. Now I'm desperately trying to catch up on all the things I fell behind on, and am aiming to try to finish The Rising Gold revisions before the year is out, and also read a ton, and also give myself time to breathe and r e l a x because boy do I need it.

But overall? I really, really am happy. This huge life change, though absolutely terrifying, has been everything I was hoping for and more. I'm more confident and overall the happiest I've ever been. And that's beyond worth every stumble and scary step along the way.

How was your 2017?

Twitter-sized bite:

Author @Ava_Jae shares their 2017 year in review. Did you have any big moments this year? (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Series? Standalone? Companion Novels?

So you have a story idea you want to turn into a novel—but how far should you go with it? And how do you decide whether to make it one book or series? Today I'm talking about the scope of an idea and your options.


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How do you decide whether to make your projects standalones or part of a series?

Twitter-sized bite:
Series? Standalone? Companion novels? How do you decide? @Ava_Jae breaks down your options & what to consider. (Click to tweet)

Gifts for Writers in Your Life

Photo credit: Jess J on Flickr
This is a repost with some minor updates! Because the holidays are upon us, which means the time to buy gifts for your loved ones is here!

So without further ado, here are some gift ideas for the writers in your life. Or, you know, ideas to give your friends and family for you. ;)


Writing craft books

Writing craft books are always a great choice, because there's always more for writers to learn. Some that I've read and loved or are on my list to read include:










Nerdy mugs ($12.00-19.90)

There are lots of places to find nerdy mugs, like Barnes & Noble, Hot Topic, Out of Print and Etsy. Some fun options include B&N's Harry Potter Ceramic Cauldron mug, Hot Topic's Disney Alice in Wonderland Cheshire Cat mug and Harry Potter Hogwarts Red mug, Out of Print's Banned Books Heat Reactive Mug or some of the many cute selections from missbohemia's Etsy store.








Bookish candles ($18.00)

Frostbeard Studio has a really great collection of bookish soy candles. With choices like Book Cellar, Headmaster's Office, New Paperback, Old Books, Oxford Library, Reading at the Cafe, Study Break Chai Latte, Wizardry Buttery Drink and more, there's a scent for every book nerd.







Nerdy shirts, scarves, sweaters ($20.00-$42.00)

There are so many places to get bookish clothes and accessories. TeeFury has a whole book collection including The Little Wizard and Extraordinary Novelists, Litographs has awesome selections like Peter Pan, Scarlet, and The Declaration of Independence, Out of Print has great choices like their When in Doubt (Harry Potter Alliance) Sweatshirt and Fantastic Books & Where to Find Them t-shirt, and Storiarts on Etsy has some gorgeous bookish scarves like Shakespeare's Hamlet Book Scarf, and The Raven by Poe Book Scarf, and also these cool Alice in Wonderland Writing Gloves.





Scrivener ($45.00)

I've written about the wonders of Scrivener many times. While you'll probably want the writer in your life to play around with the free trial first (because it's not for everyone!), I, for one, can say Scrivener has completely changed how I tackle writing books for the better and I will never go back. And to sweeten the deal, Scrivener just recently released Scrivener 3 for Mac (Windows will be out next year) and the new features look amazing—I seriously can't wait to upgrade and dive into my project because holy whoa.







AeonTimeline ($50)

AeonTimeline is a pretty handy—and in-depth—program that could be especially useful to writers who write books with complicated timelines. Some of the features are listed here, but when I tried a free trial last year to help me work out a timeline I found it really visually interesting and useful.


E-readers

E-readers are a writer's best friend. I swear by my Nook e-ink reader, which I got years ago from someone who upgraded theirs and it still works beautifully. The one I have is discontinued but when the time comes to upgrade I'll be getting the Nook GlowLight 3. If you're looking for an inexpensive tablet e-reader, there's Barnes & Noble's $50 7" Nook tablet, and over on Amazon there are options like the Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, and Fire tablet.

Noise-canceling headphones

This is a good higher-budget option if the writer in your life frequently works in noisy environments, but even if not they can be really great to help hone focus. They are, however, on the way pricier end, so this would be a more luxurious gift the writer in your life would make great use of. I swear by the Bose QuietComfort headphones—I bought mine something like seven years ago and while I suspect they might not too many more years, they've worked beautifully for this long and I still use them regularly.

Cool bookends

BookRiot did a post on fifty awesome bookends last year with some really cool options.

Other random suggestions: nice pens and journals, fancy teas, chocolate, bookshelves, PJ pants, fuzzy blankets, fuzzy socks, whiteboards, cork boards, and, of course, books and gift cards for books.


What writerly gifts are you craving this year?
Not sure what to get the writers in your life for the holidays? @Ava_Jae puts together writerly gifts to consider. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: 4 Common Clichés to Avoid in Your Writing

What clichés should you avoid in your writing? Glad you asked! Here are four very common ones you should consider working around. 



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Have you ever used these clichés in your writing or seen them (successful or not) in books, TV, or movies? 

Twitter-sized bite:
What clichés should you avoid in your writing? @Ava_Jae covers 4 common ones in their latest vlog. (Click to tweet)

Guest Post: Chapter One Con Mentorship Interview

NOTE: Hey guise! I've got Chapter One Con, a great conference for young writers, sharing an interview today from the mentors of their annual mentorship program! Hope you enjoy, and make sure you check out Chapter One Con!

Chapter One Conference just wrapped up its annual Mentorship program. At Ch1Con, they believe in helping young writers, and through this program they teach young writers about the publishing process, from start to finish. As the 2017 mentorship program wraps up, they are proud to present THIS IS THE END, an anthology of the short stories that our mentees worked on doing the program! 

From familial trauma to mind games, you never know quite what will lead to the end. During the autumn of 2017, the team behind writerly nonprofit organization Chapter One Events mentored two talented young writers through the publishing process, giving them a head start on becoming the successful authors of tomorrow. Now, read the stories on which these up-and-coming writers worked, along with four by the Chapter One Events mentors themselves. Each of these stories leads to a startling conclusion. Are you ready for the end?
The celebrate the release of the anthology, Brett Jonas asked a few of the team members about their experience as mentors this year. These are their responses.

What was the most interesting part of mentoring a young writer? Had you done something like this before?
Julia: The most interesting part of mentoring a young writer always, for me, is the types of questions they ask. Mentees approach each topic from a different angle based on their personal life experience, which leads to unique and really interesting questions that force me as a mentor to look at what I'm teaching them from a new perspective. I always feel like I have a different, more well-rounded understanding of a subject after teaching it. This was my second year directing the Chapter One Events Mentorship Program and I'm really grateful for the experience.

Ariel: I think the most interesting part was seeing how they responded to my advice. I've done editing work for literary agents before, but in that work, I never got to see how the writers responded to my ideas. With this work, I got to see how another person's story transformed. (I also participated in last year's mentoring program, but I worked on mechanical errors, which are a totally different approach from structural edits). 
Katelyn: I have had the opportunity to mentor a young writer before and I think it's really fun, unique experience. I love being able to help young writers explore their own voice, their characters, and their story overall. I think the most interesting part definitely has to be the chance to see the world through the eyes of a writer who is still finding herself. (Or himself, but I worked with a female author this year.) Technically, we never really know ourselves as people or as writers. We are always growing, changing, and figuring out better ways to tell our stories, but I find it particularly special being able to work with someone who is just starting to find and craft her passion. It's definitely a rewarding experience for me, just like I hope it was for her!

Allison: I mentored in short story submissions last year, too, and it's always fascinating what different areas of writing our participants are familiar with. Short stories or novels, genre fiction or contemporary--we always get a wide range in writing backgrounds, thus, we also get a wide range of questions about how the submission process works. Everyone has different priorities, and different points of confusion, so I enjoy seeing questions it never would have occurred to me to ask.

Did you contribute a story to the anthology, and if so, where did you get the inspiration for it?

Julia: I did contribute a story this year! It's an old one, from way back during the Dark Ages (aka 2012), when I was seventeen. Because it's been so long, I don't entirely remember the thought process that went into writing it, but I believe I wrote it based off a prompt about relationships formed through the internet. (It's much sweeter than most of my writing, but I figured the anthology could use a little boost of levity and it fit really well with Brett's ADORABLE contribution.)

Katelyn:
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to submit a story this year. One of the downsides of being a writer as an adult is that you have to start scheduling into your day. Don't get me wrong, this is something you have to do as a young writer too, but when you start mixing in work and all of the responsibilities you now have as an adult, it is easy to look at writing as less of a priority than it should be. And, trust me, I know how much crap kids these days have to go through if they want to simply get by; it's honestly ridiculous. So, if that's you, if your life is busier than you know what to do with but you still want to write, then take it from someone who knows too well: make the time for it. You'll thank yourself later.

Allison: I didn't contribute a story to the anthology this year (didn't have anything short enough that fit the theme), but this feels like a good place to mention that my contribution to last year's anthology has since been sold as a reprint to a YA short fiction podcast, Cast of Wonders. "What You're Missing" will appear in audio there sometime in 2018. I wrote the first draft of this dystopian short in high school and never had much confidence in it, so if it hadn't been for the story's inclusion in a Ch1Con anthology, I might never have dared to buff it up and send it out to the pro-level publication which eventually bought it. I hope all our participants (past, present, and future) will consider submitting their stories to similar markets--thinking of this anthology as not just an "end goal", but the starting point to even greater writing success. Which, really, is what the program is all about!


In your opinion, why is the Ch1Con Mentorship a successful program? Would you have told your past self to sign up for it?
Julia: I'm definitely a little biased here, as the director of the program, but I think what makes the Chapter One Events Mentorship Program so successful is the fact that it truly teaches mentees about each step of the publication process. We cover from query letters to editorial letters (and everything in between), so by the end, mentees really understand what publishing will look like when they're ready to pursue it. I would absolutely tell my past self to sign up for this program. Little Julia would have had a stroke over an opportunity like this. Learning how to read publishing contracts? Getting a behind-the-scenes look at the editorial process? I wish something like this had existed when I was first starting out.

Ariel: I think it's a successful program because a lot of young people, especially high schoolers, don't necessarily have access to serious workshopping for creative writing projects. Their English teachers might have a lower standard for creative work, or might only teach them editing in regards to analytical writing. This is a place where they can work on a story in a serious way, and I think that's great. I would tell my past self to sign up for it, for her own sake, but I'm not sure I would inflict my sensitive high school self on the Ch1Con volunteers. 
Katelyn: Oh my gosh, I love the Chapter One Mentorship program. My past-self would have LOVED this. I will be the first to admit that I was one of those kids with super unrealistic expectations of how the publishing industry works. To me, the idea that I would be a published author by the age of 18 (before I even graduated from high school) was completely realistic. As most people in publishing industry can attest: this is not true. So much work and effort goes into publishing a novel - even shorter works like poems and short stories - that a lot of young writers are completely unaware of. This process is invaluable because it provides young writers a step-by-step introduction to not only the publishing process in general, but also to a lot of the intricate behind the scenes work, like what an editorial letter looks like, how to write a query letter, and what the difference is between copyediting, proofreading, and editorial editing (among a bunch of other things). Instead of having to do a lot of research and crossing your fingers that you are getting the best advice, all of these tips, tricks, and lessons are in one convenient package. I would highly, highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to broaden their understanding of publishing, editing, and/or how to better themselves as a writer in general.

Allison: Speaking mostly about the week I mentor for, my strategy has been to gather up all the information I would've liked to know much earlier. Standard operating procedure, as well as little tips and tricks--learned from my own experience, and from listening to writers further along than I am. When you're a young (and/or new) writer, it's easy to get frustrated by how much you have left to learn, and while this feeling never really goes away (since we will all continue learning until we die) it's nice to get a wealth of information gathered together in one place. To get direct advice from your peers, and ask all your questions somewhere besides a browser search bar. I'd have loved to experience something like this program when I was first learning, as it would have saved me a lot of confusion and anxious Googling.

Vlog: The Best Decision I Ever Made as an Unpublished Writer

I often get asked about writing advice, so today I'm sharing the best bit of writing advice I have. And it's probably not what you think.


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Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae shares their best writing advice—and it's probably not what you think. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: What Are Your Goals for the Rest of 2017?

Photo credit: paul bica on Flickr
So! Originally I had a fixing the first page critique scheduled for today, but the winner never sent me their excerpt and I didn't have enough time to draw a new winner, so instead let's discuss! Because discussions are fun.

There are 37 days of 2017 left (I know, right?). And with the new year approaching, I thought it might be fun to talk about what you'd like to accomplish before 2018 dawns. Mine include:

  • I already talked about my book goals so I won't reiterate them, but in short: read a ton of books for fun. 
  • Finish THE RISING GOLD revisions. 
  • Build the end table that's been sitting in my room for too long. 
  • Get at least one bookshelf situated (yay!).
  • Finish playing Final Fantasy XV.
  • R E L A X

It's been a very intense Fall for me, but with things soon winding down, I'm very much looking forward to some much-needed Me time. And with that comes (hopefully) completing some goals that I've been wanting to accomplish for a while. 

What about you? What are your goals for the rest of 2017?

Twitter-sized bite:
What are you goals for the rest of 2017? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Demystifying (Some) Writing Lingo

There are looooots of terms frequently used in the writing world, and they aren't always really explained. So today I'm sharing a quick run-down of some important and often-used terms.


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Twitter-sized bite:
Frequently used writing terms can sometimes get confusing, so @Ava_Jae breaks down quite a few in their vlog. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #41!

Photo credit: 1 Fine Cookie on Flickr
Quick, pre-vlog post to announce the winner of the forty-first fixing the first page feature giveaway!

*drumroll*

And the forty-first winner is…


BILLANO KAWAII!


Yay! Congratulations, Billano!

Thanks again to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there'll be one more fixing the first page giveaway this year (woot!), so as always, keep an eye out!

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #41!

Photo credit: kgroovy on Flickr
Off-schedule post because the end of November is rapidly approaching! Which means Thanksgiving is like less than a week away in the US and even better *clears throat* the next Fixing the First Page critique giveaway is upon us!

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.

Rules!

  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the forty-first public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Monday, November 20 at 11:59 PM EST to enter!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

On Writing Nuanced Relationships

Photo credit: alhussainy on Flickr
I've been thinking a lot lately about how people are complicated. How we can still love people who have hurt us—even repeatedly, even without apology. How one person can do wonderful and terrible things, how they can hurt someone without intending to and intentions don't matter when they do; how apologies don't have to be accepted and even when they are it doesn't always mean things will go on as they were.

I've been thinking about all of that and how that affects relationships, particularly when those relationships are between family members.

While I'd never claim complicated family relationships don't exist in kidlit (YA included), I do think depictions tend to happen along a good/bad binary. Either families are lovely and wholesome (the Weasleys) or they're downright awful and abusive (the Dursleys). But when writing about families, I've increasingly wanted to depict something more complicated, more nuanced. Families who love each other, but also sometimes lash out, or make damaging mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes can't be undone with an apology.

It's a hard thing to write. Hitting the balance between bad and good in a way where the bad doesn't outweigh the good (at least, unintentionally) can be a challenge—and like most things in writing, it takes a lot of feedback to figure out if you've hit the mark. But it's a challenge I'll continue to tackle with different characters in different ways.

Have you written complicated character relationships? What was it like? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae blogs about the challenge of writing complicated character relationships. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: About Your Rights When You Traditionally Publish

In which I respond to the many writers I've had tell me they're afraid of traditional publishers changing their book to something they don't want.




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Do you lose creative control when you traditionally publish? @Ava_Jae breaks down this myth & talks your rights. (Click to tweet)

End of Year TBR List

We have less than ten weeks of 2017 left! I know, I could hardly believe it either when I counted—twice—to make sure I hadn't missed, like, two or three weeks in there somewhere. But somehow, the end of the year is rapidly approaching.

100% thanks to grad school (and picture books) I've already met my 2017 Goodreads reading challenge. But I'm nowhere near done reading what I want to read before 2018, so I decided I would make a list of books I want to prioritize reading before the New Year.

If I'm being realistic, I will probably not actually be able to really start on this in earnest until the semester is over (in early/mid December) but, you know. Helpful to do this now anyway.

So in no particular order! Here are the books I'd like to read before 2018.

Adult:


YA:



MG:


If you're looking at that list and going fifteen books is a lot to read in, like, three weeks, Ava! you're right! I will probably not actually read all of these before the end of 2018, but I like having a long list of options. Winter break, I think, will be full of books and visits to the library. :) 

What books do you want to read before 2018?

Twitter-sized bites:
What books do you want to read before 2018? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Writing Doesn't Get Easier

In which I talk about revising my 17th manuscript and how some things in writing never really change.


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What do you think?

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae vlogs about revising their 17th WIP & how writing doesn't really get easier. (Click to tweet)

On Over-Ambition and Rebalancing

Photo credit: Mike Gabelmann
I'm an ambitious person. Always have been, for as long as I can remember.

I was the kid in class who always had to get As. Who wrote novels in math class (and still aced math tests), who took AP classes and was only satisfied with a 4 or 5 score on the test at the end of the year, who wanted, more than anything, to get published again, and again, and again.

So I guess it's not surprising I'm also the person who, in August, thought, yeah, I can do grad school, launch a book, and do thirty hours of part time work at the same time. It'll be fine.

Spoiler: it has not been fine.

As of this blog post, I'm nearly a month behind on Book 3 revisions. I've had to, on multiple occasions, not finish my readings for class. For the first time ever I had to e-mail a professor and ask for an extension on a paper. I have publishing deadlines this week I'll be diving into as soon as I finish this post. In short: October has been a tough month.

October was also the month I realized what I was doing wasn't sustainable and took action to lighten the load for me this month by cutting back on my part time hours. And though it was touch and go for a while, it does look like things will be fine after I get through another weekend plus week of overwork. All because I got a little (well, a lot) overly ambitious.

Ambition is great—it encourages you to dream big and push yourself to get there—but it can be a flaw if you're also a workaholic, like me. I learned that the hard way over the last two months, and it's a lesson I'm pretty sure I'll never forget. And while I'm feeling a little better knowing the light is at the end of the tunnel and soon I'll be able to breathe, I will fully admit it's been A Lot.

But I like to be honest about that, because sometimes you can give the impression online that you're a superhuman doing All The Things and everything is fine, fine, fine, and I don't want to give that impression because I've always found it comforting when authors I follow online say, "Yeah, this is hard."

So yeah, this is hard. But it's good, too. Though I've been overwhelmed, I've been overwhelmed with things I enjoy. And once I get a little better balanced, everything really will be fine.

Just got to push through until then.

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae gets real about being overambitious and rebalancing. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: INTO THE BLACK Unboxing!

I was going to do a Halloween vlog but then I got a package in the mail... :)


RELATED LINKS: 


Twitter-sized bite:
Watch @Ava_Jae see the finished copy of their 2nd book for the 1st time + a sneak peek inside INTO THE BLACK! (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #40

Photo credit: vpickering on Flickr
November is nearly here! Which means the holiday season is so close you can already hear the music, the cooler weather is on it's way in the northern hemisphere (in theory) and, of course, it's time for the next fixing the first page feature!

As usual, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I'm one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.

Let's do this.

Title: ONE MORE SAD SONG

Genre/Category: YA Contemporary

First 250: 

"Zeke Williams had had his first wet dream about his best friend when he was thirteen years old. It had been one of his first wet dreams,period, definitely the first one that he remembered, not one where he just woke up sticky and feeling a little bit grossed out, a little bit satisfied, a lot bit totally unaware what had just happened. In this one he’d been with Kevin and they’d been skating, going up and down the cul-de-sac Kevin lived in, doing rudimentary tricks on the makeshift ramps Kevin had managed to cobble together, and then Zeke had taken a pretty bad spill and then while Kevin was patching him up… 
He’d never forgotten about it, and now, four years later when they were going into their junior year of high school, still trying to do stupid tricks off of a cobbled together ramp, as he fucked up his balance and ended up skidding pretty far on the rough asphalt, tearing the hell out of his forearms, he had a brief flashback to the dream. Kevin kicked up his board and came for him. 'I’m good,' he said. He pushed himself up to sit and poked at his arm. Some good-looking roadburn, but nothing broken, and it was just his arm. He didn’t skateboard with his arm. 
'I’ll go get some gauze,' Kevin said. 'Gotta wrap that shit up, son.'"

Hmmm okay. So, I definitely feel like you could show Zeke has a crush on his best friend without immediately diving into, like...wet dreams. Not that there's anything wrong with wet dreams, but it's very personal information for a character we are meeting right this second. It also kind of treads a little into fetishizing territory, which I know was not the intention, but yeah, that's a thing.

I think, instead, it'd be more effective (and less likely to immediately turn readers off) if you showed Zeke's crush through his interactions with Kevin in the moment, through his thoughts and internal reactions. Maybe he briefly considers how embarrassed (or whatever) he is that he's had those kind of dreams about his best friend, which is fine, but I wouldn't recommend starting with that.

So that's what I'm thinking overall right now. Let's dive into the line edits.

"Zeke Williams had had his first wet dream about his best friend when he was thirteen years old. It' had been one of his first wet dreams,[space]period, definitely the first one that he remembered, not one where he just woke up sticky and feeling a little bit grossed out, a little bit satisfied, a lot bit totally unaware what had just happened I find this bit hard to believe. Even at thirteen, he'd know what happened. Even if his school didn't do sex ed, he would've heard from his peers, or the media, etc. In this one he’d been with Kevin and they’d been skating, going up and down the Kevin's cul-de-sac Kevin lived in, doing rudimentary easy tricks on the makeshift ramps Kevin had managed to cobbled together, and then Zeke had taken a pretty bad spill and then while Kevin was patching him up… 
He’d never forgotten about it, and now, four years later when they were going into their junior year of high school, still trying to do stupid tricks off of a cobbled together ramp, as he fucked up his balance and ended up skiddeding pretty far on the rough asphalt, tearing the hell out of his forearms, he had a brief flashback to the dream. 
[new paragraph]Kevin kicked up his board and came for him. 
[new paragraph]'I’m good,.' he said. He pushed himself up to siat up and poked at his arm. Some good-looking road[space]burn, but nothing broken, and it was just his arm. He didn’t skateboard with his arm. 
'I’ll go get some gauze,' Kevin said. 'Gotta wrap that shit up, son.'"

So most of the changes I'm suggesting here are just to condense wordiness, which is a super common critique and something I think we all need to weed out of our work at some point. Overall I think the most important thing is to just reconsider how you open this project. As is, if I saw this in the slush, I would pass.

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, Aurora!

Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae talks reworking openings, wordiness and more in the 40th Fixing the First Page Feature. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Is NaNoWriMo Worth It?

We all know it: NaNoWriMo is not an easy challenge. But is it worth it to participate?


RELATED VLOGS:


Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? Will you this year?

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Fixing the First Page Winner #40!

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Another month, another off-schedule post to announce the winner of the fortieth (!!!) fixing the first page feature giveaway!

*drumroll*

And the fortieth winner is…


AURORA DIMITRE!


Yay! Congratulations, Aurora!

Thanks again to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there'll be another fixing the first page giveaway in November (how are we already talking about November?), so as always, keep an eye out!

Your Yearly NaNoWriMo Round-Up

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It's that time of year again! NaNoWriMo is less than two weeks away, so if you think you might want to participate but haven't yet made plans, there's no time like the present. So today I'm sharing my tweaked yearly re-post of NaNoWriMo goodies that you might find helpful. 

For those who haven’t decided on whether or not they want to NaNo, I have a post for you. And if you don’t click, but you’re on the fence, I’ll say that I’ve participated three times and totally loved it. Granted, I'm a fast-drafter, and NaNoWriMo really works best for those open to fast-drafting (which is not everyone, and that's okay!), but it’s been super super effective for me in the past.

As I said last year, I’ve written four manuscripts (or a good chunk of it at least) in NaNo-like settings (three November NaNoWriMos and one Camp NaNo). While the community, and excitement, and pretty graphs all are always very tempting me to join, I'll be sitting this one out as I am really behind on writer and author stuff right now and will need all of November to catch up. So fingers crossed that happens.

Because it’s October and NaNoPrepMo, you will very possibly find this post on Pre-NaNoWriMo Tips helpful! Because prepping for NaNo, I’ve found, makes the NaNoing experience much easier. And less stressful. To a point.

To contrast two very different NaNo experiences, the first time I NaNoed, I made NaNoWriMo super difficult for myself by abandoning my first NaNo project on day fourteen and scrapping 24,000 words to start something new. (Yes, really.) Then two years ago I went a little type-crazy and finished in nine days. Still not totally sure how that happened, and I haven't repeated that level of productivity since, but it was definitely an experience.

I’ve also shared ten foolproof secrets to winning NaNoWriMo (which are actually not the least bit foolproof and please don’t do those things, thanks).

Two years ago I didn’t NaNo, but I did record a six-vlog, week-by-week vlog series (including before and after) specifically for surviving NaNoWriMo. You might find it helpful to watch them ahead of time.

And finally, here's a compilation of helpful NaNoWriMo links that I shared on the first day of NaNoWriMo three years ago but I’ll give to you early, for funsies, and also because hopefully you'll find them helpful.

If you have any helpful links for future NaNo-ers, share them below! And also, will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

Twitter-sized bite:
Thinking about participating in #NaNoWriMo this year? @Ava_Jae rounded up helpful tip posts. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Juggling Multiple WIPs at Once

You asked, so today I'm sharing my thoughts on working on multiple manuscripts at once—and whether I think it's a good idea.


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Do you work on multiple WIPs at once?

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Fixing the First Page Giveaway #40!

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What the hell, guise, how are we halfway through October? I swear I blinked and now Halloween is nearly here and November is around the corner. Which is bizarre. But also means it's time for the next Fixing the First Page giveaway!

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.

Rules!


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the thirty-seventh public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Friday, October 20 at 11:59 PM EST to enter!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Discussion: Do You Read Books Similar to Your WIPs?

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As I revise the last book of the Beyond the Red trilogy (which is surreal, and weird, but also, in a way, feels right), I've been thinking about all the YA Sci-Fi books I'm going to catch up on. Because since 2013, when I first started writing Beyond the Red, I've let my YA Sci-Fi reading—especially Sci-Fi that involves other planets, or aliens, or space—fall to the wayside with only a couple exceptions.

It wasn't an accident, either.

I think it's really important to know your genre and category really well—and I do feel that I do know YA Sci-Fi relatively well. But as a person with a lot of anxiety, I've also experienced more than my fair share of anxiety attacks over my brain convincing me my book(s) are too similar to books that are already out there. And not in a Red Queen is similar to Hunger Games and both are successful kind of way, but in a THE AUTHOR WILL SUE YOU FOR PLAGIARISM kind of way, which is an irrational fear because no, I've never plagiarized nor will I ever, but anxiety disorders aren't rational with their brain spirals.

So, as a way of coping with that, and also as a way of avoiding the worry as I write that I'm being too influenced by what I've recently read (which, as you can imagine, is a paralyzing thing to worry about), I've avoided books even remotely similar to what I'm working on.

And you know? Anxiety-wise, it's worked: I haven't had an anxiety attack over too similar!! in over a year now. And as a nice bonus, I now have a pretty decent idea of all of the YA Sci-Fi alien/space books I'd like to catch up on.

As I start thinking about projects I'm going to work on after I'm done with The Rising Gold, I've acknowledged I'll want to do research before I start writing—research involving other books in the genre and category that aren't too similar to my premise, but will still help me get to know the genre and category before I dive in. Once I start writing, though, I imagine I'll cut myself off a little more strictly.

I'm curious, though—do you read books similar to your WIPs while you're drafting? What are your thoughts? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Do you read books similar to your WIPs while drafting? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Handle Foreshadowing

What is foreshadowing and how do you include it in your manuscript? Today I talk about how I handle it in my own work.




RELATED LINKS: 


How do you handle foreshadowing in your WIPs?

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INTO THE BLACK Pre-Order Campaign!

So my second novel, Into the Black, will be out in just over month! Which is...really weird to think about, but also really exciting because I love this book to bits. And I have some exciting news about Into the Black, namely—there are goodies for pre-orders!

If you pre-order Into the Black from any store in any format before 11/14/17 and have a US mailing address (I'm sorry international friends, truly I wish shipping weren't so expensive), you will get:

  • Signed, very pretty bookplates for both Into the Black and Beyond the Red (unless you only want one, which is fine). The bookplates are different for each book and I'd show you a picture except I don't have them yet so you will have to just trust that they are pretty because they are.

  • Into the Black and Beyond the Red bookmarks (again, unless you only want the one, which is fine!). These are also very pretty if I do say so myself. 

  • A personalized post card with a note from me to you. 

So many things! I'm super psyched to get these goodies out to everyone and also share this book. It's near and dear to my heart and I hope you guise love it as much as I do. 

To make things easy for you, here is a sample of links you can pre-order Into the Black from: 


Also! If you haven't read Beyond the Red yet, but are curious about Into the Black, that's cool! Beyond the Red's paperback releases on Halloween (which is a pretty cool release date, not gonna lie) and there will be a sneak peek at Into the Black at the end of the paperback. You can get that in many places as well, such as:


So that about covers it! I hope you guise are as excited as I am, and I look forward to putting together pre-order goodies for everyone! 

So I've pre-ordered, how do I get the goodies?

Glad you asked! Just e-mail your receipt and mailing address to avalonjaedra @ gmail on or before 11/13/17 at midnight EST. That's it! 

Hooray!

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INTO THE BLACK is almost here & you can get signed bookplates, bookmarks & more for pre-ordering! (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Shiny New Idea Syndrome

So you're in the middle of a first draft, struggling to get words down, when suddenly you get this AWESOME idea for another book. Today I'm talking about Shiny New Idea Syndrome and how I generally handle it.




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How do you handle Shiny New Idea Syndrome? 

Twitter-sized bites:
What do you do w/ a new MS idea while drafting another WIP? @Ava_Jae talks Shiny New Idea Syndrome in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #39

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October is just days away! Which means all things Fall are upon us, the leaves are changing colors, the weather is cooling in the Northern hemisphere (hopefully), and, of course, it's time for the next Fixing the First Page feature.

As usual, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I'm one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.

Let's do this. 

Title: SONG OF BLOOD

Genre/Category: Fantasy
"The tavern was filled with pirates of various fashion senses. A gaggle of them roared for refills, sporting offensively garish breeches and egos to match. The older ones slouched in corners, black trench coats pulled up around their grizzled faces, rapiers hanging like dead men from their belts. With her outlandishly feathered hat and high collared coat, Captain Scarlet Rogue was right at home. 
She sat in the corner, hands clasped around a mug of ale that, by the look of the tavern, was most certainly watered down. The amber liquid sloshed in her glass as she tipped it back and forth, listening to pirates shout for drinks and pretty barmaids. 
One such barmaid had approached her, asking in a reedy voice if that was all she’d be having. Scarlet ignored her until she flounced off to go sit on some drunkard’s lap. She’d been sitting in the same tavern all day, and her hands were clenched around the mug so tightly she didn’t think she could let go if she tried. 
Her crimson hair was tied up and shoved under her hat, her revolvers tucked away into her coat. She was no longer the feared Scarlet Rogue, captain of the Vespers, a name that had once struck terror into the hearts of every good-hearted merchant and dirty-mouthed sailor. She was just Scarlet, captain of a ship that hadn’t left port in months."

This is so interesting! I love the characterization of Scarlett and definitely have lots of questions, as a reader. There are also some really nice moments of imagery I enjoyed.

I do think it'd be helpful to condense a bit to get to the part about how her ship hasn't left port in months a little faster, though, because I felt like it went on just a tad too much in places where it'd be more effective to get to the point.But overall this was an enjoyable start.

Now for the line edits!
"The tavern was filled with pirates and Captain Scarlet Rouge was right at home of various fashion senses. I'm suggesting you move (part of) the last line to the start, for a few reasons. First, starting with the protagonist right away helps better ground readers, who in your original version are left to kind of float around aimlessly until you mention Scarlet. And secondly, the "various fashions senses" bit wasn't really carrying its own weight, meaning that it was vague and didn't really add enough to the sentence that I felt it was worth keeping. A gaggle of them privateers (or another word for pirates) roared for refills, sporting offensively garish breeches and egos to match. The older ones slouched in corners, black trench coats pulled up around their grizzled faces, rapiers hanging like dead men from their belts. I love this image so much! "rapiers hanging like dead men from their belts" like, what powerful imagery! Really, really nicely done. With her outlandishly feathered hat and high collared coat, Captain Scarlet Rogue was right at home. 
She Scarlet sat in the corner, hands clasped around a mug of ale that, by the look of the tavern, was most certainly watered down. Nice voice. The amber liquid sloshed in her glass as she tipped it back and forth, listening to pirates shout for drinks and pretty barmaids. 
One such barmaid had approached her, asking in a reedy voice if that was all she’d be having. Scarlet ignored her until she flounced off to go sit on some drunkard’s lap. I want to encourage you to be careful with the word choice here, because Scarlett is starting to come off as arrogant, like she thinks the barmaid is beneath her. It's not endearing. She’d been sitting in the same tavern all day, and her hands were clenched around the mug so tightly she didn’t think she could let go if she tried. 
Her crimson hair was tied up and shoved under her outlandishly feathered hat, her revolvers tucked away into her high-collared coat. Bringing back some of that description I cut earlier. She was no longer the feared Scarlet Rogue, captain of the Vespers, a name that'd had once struck terror into the hearts of every good-hearted merchant and dirty-mouthed sailor. She was just Scarlet, captain of a ship that hadn’t left port in months."
So there are my suggestions! Overall, they're mostly just tightening notes, to help move things a little more quickly and ground the reader right away. I think this was a really strong start to begin with and I'm totally interested—if I saw this in the slush I'd definitely keep reading. 

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, Arden!

Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae talks grounding the reader, imagery and more in the 39th Fixing the First Page Feature. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Keep Track of WIP Timelines

Keeping track of timelines in a project as big as a novel can be confusing, harrowing—and sometimes painful. Today I talk about the lessons I've learned the hard way and how I avoid major timeline mess ups while first drafting.


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Do you keep track of your timeline while first drafting?

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Fixing the First Page Winner #39!

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Another month, another off-schedule post to announce the winner of the thirty-ninth fixing the first page feature giveaway!

*drumroll*

And the thirty-ninth winner is…


ARDEN KING!


Yay! Congratulations, Arden!

Thanks again to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there'll be another fixing the first page giveaway in October, so as always, keep an eye out!
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