that time I was bold

My good friend Nikki wrote a post on BEING BOLD in your writing today over at The Writer Diaries.  This post correlates with Veronica Roth's most recent published book, ALLEGIANT. Just FYI, if you read the post, THERE ARE spoilers, but I won't spoil anything over here. But I WILL say, Veronica Roth was VERY BOLD in how she ended the series. And there have been a lot of people giving her crap about it all over the internet. But SHE'S THE WRITER. Therefore, she gets to do whatever she wants with HER story.

Nikki and I have been gushing about Allegiant since we finished reading it. And when Nikki told me she was going to write a post on being bold, it made me think. Am I bold in MY WRITING? A year ago, the answer to that question would have been a NO written in the sky by an airplane. I didn't take chances or risks. I stuck to the rules.

Almost a year ago, I finished writing my first YA fantasy novel, something I thought was groundbreaking and just all around AMAZING. And while I loved the book, agents didn't. And it puzzled me. But a couple months after I got a handful of rejections on the full manuscript (see the query made it sound MUCH better than it actually was), I decided to reread it and see what was missing. And I realized EVERYTHING was missing. It had an interesting story. It wasn't about a "chosen one" or the farm boy who realizes he's really the king's long lost son and the one meant to save the world. But it lacked conflict and the stakes weren't high enough. And it ended on a pretty big cliff hanger.

About three months ago I decided to revise it. I changed SO MUCH about the plot, and I felt good about it, but every time I sat down to write, the words just wouldn't come. Yes, in my head it was a totally different story. But in the Scrivener file, nothing had changed. And I found myself avoiding my computer because I didn't know what to write.

So fast forward to about three weeks ago. I watched the premiere of CW's new show, REIGN. I don't expect much from the CW, but I enjoy a few of their shows. And let me just tell you, I was blown away by the REIGN premiere. Nothing about the acting or the story was particularly fabulous, but it seemed to light a fire under my butt in my own writing.

So I came up with this incredibly GRANDIOSE idea. I'm talking, GAME CHANGING idea on how to make my fantasy better. Not just better, amazing. No, BOLD.  I'm not ready to share it just yet. I'm still feeling a bit protective over it, because I've never been struck by SUCH GENIUS in m life. But this idea has absolutely changed my writing life. I've written four books in the last year and a half, all of them I pantsed my way through.

I DON'T PLOT. And by that, I mean I don't plot. Like maybe a sentence summary here or there, but I mostly soar by the seat of my pants and rely mostly on my memory. But I've spent 22 days plotting this book. I've written on over 500 post-its (which are now covering my walls). I have a character web on one wall (I've never done of those before). And I have a 69-chapter timeline on one wall and it LITERALLY took me nearly eight straight hours to do that. I was fairly certain my brain might explode. And last night, I scaled a map for over four hours, figuring out how long it might take my characters to get from one city to another in my made up world.

I could have spent those 22 days writing. I mean, I've written 10k, so it's not been a total waste, but I just don't spend time plotting. But it's changing EVERYTHING about my story. AND I LOVE IT. This is SO different from anything I've ever written. It's so different from anything I've read. And I'm basically in a state of euphoria over this, even though it is stretching my brain TO THE MAX.

But, here's the thing, I'M BEING BOLD, and I really think it's going to pay off. I mean, I can't say that for sure, but I *do* know that when I put my confidence one hundred percent into a BOLD writing piece, I just know it won't fail.

that time I decided to chase my dreams

I am the poster child for Type-A personality. I am organized to a tee. I need to be the leader, because, by default, I'm the only person who can do things the best way. (I'm sure you can do EVERYTHING better than me, but my brain has tricked me into thinking that). I am always looking for ways to plan my life. And while it hasn't exactly gone according to plan, I always have a general idea of how things will work out.

Go to college. Get a job. Get married. Have some kids. Die. Or something like that. I'm sure at some point in there I might have turned into an adult, but I still feel 19. So I DID go to college. I DID get a job. But no husband. And definitely no kids, and now I'm not sure I even want any of those.

I'll be 29 next month. And while that's cause for crisis all on its own, this year HAS NOT gone according to plan. I quit my full-time job in March. One that provided security, a good salary that gave me lots of extra money. But I was unhappy. VERY unhappy. And no amount of good job or lots of money could change that. I was unhappy, you see, because ALL I WANT TO DO IS WRITE.

The first plan was to move to New York City. I visited in March and though I was already in love with the city, I fell even more in love. Alas, that whole quitting job things left me with, like, no money, and as I'm sure you're all aware, New York City is très expensive. And not like, LIFE expensive, like GRANDIOSE expensive.

So I went to my parents' house for a couple months to try and formulate a plan. But I got there and instead of really making a plan, I wrote another book. It's called Say Anything. And while, at the time, it was first book out of four that I'd written that I had no confidence in, I've had the most positive feedback on it.

And after a couple months, I moved down to my sister's house in Charlotte. And for three months, I tried to make more life plans. I found a part time job that I liked well enough. It gave me time to write. A LOT of time to write. But I was living WITH MY SISTER. And her husband. And their two small kids. Who were noisy and didn't like to leave me alone.

But about three weeks ago I peeked into my bank account and I had one of those cartoon moments of eyes popping out of my head, jaw dropping to the floor. Here's the realization I came to: I HAD NO MONEY. And I needed to move out of my sister's house. But that requires rent money. AND I HAD NONE OF THAT.

So, after I spent a night drinking my sorrows away, I tucked my tail between my legs and called my parents, and very meekly asked if I could move into their basement. And like all good parents, they said "of course." My dad flew down to Charlotte, helped me pack my stuff in a truck, and moved me to Michigan.

So moving back in with my parents has LITERALLY been the hardest thing I've EVER done. I'm incredibly independent. My freshman year of college I left and waved goodbye, knowing I'd never return to my parents' house for more than school breaks. But ten years after leaving, I'm back. And I'm really not happy about it. Because I WANT to be living on my own. I WANT to be able to afford working part time and writing in all my spare time. But here's the truth: I CAN'T DO THAT.

But it's not so bad. Two years ago, probably even one year ago, I would NEVER have been able to do this. Never quit my job to move back with my parents. BUT I'm following a dream. And I've had more people tell me this year how much they admire me for taking the most giant leap of faith to follow my dreams.

The thing about chasing dreams is, IT'S REALLY HARD. But earlier this year, I came to the realization that if I don't do this now, I WILL regret it the REST of my life.

So I get to spend a lot of my time writing, while trying to find a job to pay at least my bills (if nothing else). I rely on Twitter for nearly ALL my social interactions right now, as I have basically NO friends in Michigan. And I live in my parents' basement.

I'm still querying. Still hoping one of those queries pans out. Because I put a lot of faith in the biggest change of my life. But despite how hard this has all been on me emotionally, I'm in a good place. I'm chasing my dreams.

I just hope I catch one soon.

that time I participated in WipMarathon final check-in

So, if you any of have been following my progress on WipMarathon, you know I haven't stuck to my original goal, and I've worked on something different every single week. Last week I asked you guys to help me figure out what to work on this week. And the votes were for me to draft my newest contemporary, an OC-themed wip.

So I did. And I'm happy to announce that I've written 17,000 this week on this wip, and I LOVE IT. And that about sums up this week.

Though I didn't stick to my original goal, I'm glad for having participated in WipMarathon. If nothing else, but for the nightly sprints that kept me writing/editing/revising, even if my projects changed on a weekly basis.

Can't wait for the next one!

that time I participated in WipMarathon check-in #3

My fellow WipMarathon-ers, if WipMarathon has taught you NOTHING else about me, it should be this: I set MANY goals in my writing and something ALWAYS distracts me from them. I was determined to finish my YA contemporary LOST AND FOUND, but basically any time I *say* I'm going to write something, one of my other projects becomes increasingly more enticing.

So the first week when I supposed to be working on LOST AND FOUND, instead I found myself knee deep in revisions for my YA fantasy SONG OF THE PHOENIX.

Then the second week I finished edits on my YA urban fantasy, BEAUTIFUL RUIN. I can happily say, that is done! So I met an accomplishments of sorts.

So on my third check-in, I would love to report that I've worked on my contemporary or fantasy. Alas, I have not. Instead I have shiny new ideas all over the place and my writer's brain is experiencing some major ADD.

So, in lieu of my inability to stick to a goal, I'm going to task all of your WipMarathon-ers to make me stick to something this week!!!!! I'm either going to revise my fantasy, start drafting my shiny new fantasy, or start drafting my shiny new contemporary. SO TELL ME WHAT TO DO. AND THEN MAKE ME DO IT.

that time I participated in WipMarathon check-in #2

This should surprise NO ONE - I have once again deviated from my original goal AND the goal I made last week. If you guys could just spend ten minutes in my brain, you'd be running so far in the opposite direction. I promise.

Original goal was to write 40k in my newest YA contemporary. And when my brain decided to go another direction, I decided to revise my YA fantasy. And since then, I've been editing my YA urban fantasy, but I will totally blame this on my CPs who have been asking me when it's gonna be done. Okay, I get it. I need to finish already. And I should be done today (or tomorrow) depending on any curveballs life might decide to throw in the next 12 hours.

So I'm not going to even include my word count and chapter count, because it will be totally different from the last check-in post. Next week, though, I will be back on my fantasy, so hopefully I will make lots of progress on that this week.

What I learned this week in writing: So, I'm one of the contributors over at The Writer Diaries. And this week I wrote a shamefully honest post about how much being in the query trenches suck and about being heard as a writer. If you haven't read it, I would really love for you to! Check it out here.

What distracted me this week while writing: One thing: WriteOnCon. SO DISTRACTING.

that time I participated in WipMarathon check-in #1

First off, I have to confess that I've deviated from my original WipMarathon goal. Originally it was to finish drafting my newest YA contemporary, but my brain doesn't always work the way I want it to, and I've been sucked into revising my YA fantasy. But I'll probably be going back and forth because I have a hard time focusing on one thing when ten more wait in the wings.

Last Check-in Wordcount + ChapterCount: 
Total word count for ms was: 78,000
Total chapters: 23

Current WC + CC:
Current word count: 76,795 (cut some, but always adding more!)
Chapter count: I revised 2 chapters!

WIP Issues this week: I wouldn't call them "issues" but just replotting this WIP. When I say "REVISING" it's really more like "REWRITING"

What I learned this week in writing: I posted (pretty honestly) yesterday about my frustrations with being a writer and reading books that don't seem on par with what agents are looking for, though they seemed to get published anyways. You can read the post here if you so choose :)

What distracted me this week while writing: I'm in the middle of trying to find a job, deciding what school to do my masters online, and living at my sister's house with her hubby and two little guys. So, needless to say, there are tons of distractions in my life right now.

that time I read a book as a writer (and why it's usually a problem)

So, I'm one of those people that is highly anticipative of things - movies, books, new tv shows. In fact, insider information here - I make a list every fall of my tv schedule based on all the new shows, so I won't miss one. Caution, nerd alert.

Books are some of my most highly anticipated things I look forward to. I own WAY more books than I could ever hope to read. Even when I read ten from my to-read pile, I've bought fifteen more during that time. So even when it feels like my pile decreases, it only ever seems to grow. Back in March I found this book that I COULD NOT wait to read. I'm still debating sharing the title, because I really hate being a book basher.

But here are some important, yet-not-spoilerish, details about the book: It's a YA dystopian set in a metropolis city where people are divided by their wealth. The book is told from the POV of a young girl who's had her memory erased. She keeps having flashes of someone she loved but everyone in her life insists she loves someone else.

I must confess, I am only a little more than halfway done, but HOLY MOTHER I am having the hardest time finishing this book. Let me first say, the jacket cover description and the beautiful cover design alone sold me on this book. I COULD NOT wait to start this book. And then I started it, and it was all crickets.

This is my problem with reading as a writer, and I'm being completely and brutally honest about myself here: I often think How did this book get published? I know my writing is ten times better than this. And then I hate myself for thinking that. I've caught a couple grammatical errors. But I'm telling you guys, the dialogue is KILLING ME. The girls in this book DO NOT talk like normal teenagers. The dialogue is SO off, I sometimes skip entire conversations while reading.

And what started off as a dystopian novel is somehow morphing into an urban fantasy/science fiction/paranormal, and I'm not even sure what it is anymore. It seems like the author tried to hit every YA subtype & genre in this book. So I'm stuck in this place of: I really want to finish, but it's so amazingly painful to even pick up the book.

See the thing is, it's sometimes really hard for me to separate the reader and writer in me. Any time I read a book, I'm probably overly critical because I think like a writer, and I wonder: What did an agent see in this? What did a publisher see in this? How did this person get plucked out a slush pile I seem forever sentenced to? 

I've been stuck in query-trench hell for a year now, with a few months of breaks, but mostly I've been querying for almost a solid year (a total of four different books) and it is the MOST FRUSTRATING thing I HAVE EVER done in my entire life. When people unfamiliar with the writing business ask me what querying is, I say: It's like trying out for the olympics without any training, except in the form of writing.

When I read books that completely disappoint, I wonder what in the world I'm doing wrong? I'm a good writer. I've had more than a few agents tell me this. Oh and I've had them tell me that though they didn't love a project I queried them with, they'd love to see something else. And while that's flattering, it's not an offer. And sometimes, I just want to email them back and say, Exactly what are you looking for? I'll write it. Just tell me what you want.

But it doesn't work that way. I'm stuck in this query hell until that one agent picks me out of the slush, seeing something special in my manuscript. I've learned to be patient throughout the year, but when I read books like this, it gets increasingly difficult for me to want to keep up the writing. Because this book makes me think that anyone can write, and while I'm sure anyone can write, not everyone is great at it, just like any other skill. Like music for instance, I quite suck at playing any musical instrument.

So writing this post has been sort of terrifying, but not half as terrifying as it will be to hit publish. I always hesitate to be completely honest because I hate looking selfish and jealous (when sometimes I am). I know there's room for us all in the writing-books industry, but it doesn't make the journey there any less frustrating or exhausting.

that time I participated in wipmarathon


Marathon Goal: I just started working on my newest YA contemporary, currently untitled. I'm about 13k in and I would love to finish the first draft by the end of August. I'm shooting for somewhere between 65k-75k (I don't know, possibly longer??)

Stage of writing: Writing my first draft!

What inspired my current project: This is a YA Contemporary. I came up with the idea over a year ago and about a week ago it flooded my mind and I started working on it again. The inspiration comes somewhere from "Gilmore Girls" but a much darker version.

What might slow down my marathon goal:  My time management. Sometimes I can pump out 10k a day, others I'm lucky if I get a sentence.

that time revising really worked

So I've been working on my revisions for a while now. When I sat down to make the initial revisions, I was like "Oh, this won't take me long at all. I know exactly what needs to change." And the laugh that echoed 'round the world chuckled with great ferocity. Because I got about halfway through my super quick and easy revisions when I read an agency blog saying they were really sick of seeing exactly what I was writing. EPIC FAIL.

So I started looking at things through a crystal colored glass. I had an agent ask me for an R&R. She loved the main concept of my book and I thought "how in the world can I cut out the immortal creatures in my book to make the story work?" Long story short, I didn't have to cut them at all. All they needed was a makeover. Like a major, you were once a vampire, now you're a werewolf sort of makeover. DISCLAIMER: This book contains no vampires OR werewolves, but since I created my own immortal creatures, I'm being a super-secretive pain in the butt about revealing what they actually are.

So (and I realize that I literally start every paragraph with that, so just bear with me) I gave my immortal creatures a makeover. And I was terrified at first, because I was making my own mythology and brand of immortals. And I wasn't sure it was going to work. And I spent hours drawing how everything connects in my writing notebooks. And I MEAN HOURS. Like, lots of them. But last night, when I was in the shower (because I do my best thinking there - or in bed), the puzzle I had drawn myself started to fit together. A few misshapen pieces started molding to exactly what I needed them to be.

The circle of life that I created can finally close because there are no more loose ends or plot holes (at least I hope. My CPs will be the judge of that next week).

There was a time when I LITERALLY could not make a single change to my MS. In all honesty, I thought it was completely perfect, that not a single word needed to be deleted, not a scene taken away or added. But man, what a difference a little time makes. I've already cut over 20,000 words and IT FEELS SO FREAKING GOOD. I've actually cut more but since I've added some as well, 20k was my closest guess.

And everything about the revisions on this book make it a million times more unique than it ever was in the first place. And believe me, I thought it was SUPER unique to begin with. But now, it's evolved from an egg to a dragon that breathes blue fire (yes blue, because it's way cooler than red). BLUE FIRE. My MS breathes fire, because it's THAT much better that it was a year ago when I finished it.

So now, as I'm closing in on the last few chapters (and it's surreal getting this close), I feel such comfort and relief knowing all the pieces fit. All those hours I spent plotting out a rewrite of a book I'd already written will (hopefully) pay off. I've felt pretty confident about every book I've written, but my confidence in this book far outweighs any confidence I felt for previous MSs. And while I hope and pray that the agent that asked for an R&R and other agents will love it, my belief in this book is really the most important thing.

that time I waited 6 months to revise

Fourteen months ago, I finished my first YA book, an urban fantasy about fallen angels. I worked on it for almost a year, knowing this was the book that would put me on the map. And when I finished it, and went through a billion rounds of edits, I started querying. I queried for 3 months, got all rejections. Then in September of last year, I got two partial requests (happy dance), but they both rejected. I decided it was about time to stop querying. I was getting frustrated and wanted to work on something else, so I queried one more handful of agents and put my book about angels to rest.

In December, when I was knee deep in finishing my YA fantasy, I got a rejection letter from an agent (who I seriously adore) that said all these wonderful things about how unique my concept was, how good of a writer I was, but that there were just some things that needed to be changed. I didn't think much about it. Truth be told, I didn't even read the whole email, because all I saw was NO. And my only thought was, "there is nothing about that book that I'm willing to change right now."

So I finished my YA fantasy, queried, got 2 full requests which were rejected. I wrote two YA contemporaries, one of which I was absolutely positive would get me an agent. I won a total of five different contests with said MS but in the end, it was all rejections. So after I finished my second YA contemporary, I decided to revisit my angel book.

I rifled through my emails, trying to find that one email from that one agent in December. I remembered she'd suggested a few changes, and I wanted to see what they were. So I reread the email, and at the bottom of the email, the very last line said: "Please consider making these changes, and revise and resubmit."

So I remember feeling like the world's biggest idiot a month ago when I read that email. It felt like I was slapped across the face by Rapunzel's frying pan. After spending nearly a week thinking about the changes that needed to be made, I started working on revisions. I got through 20 of 27 chapters and was feeling really good about the changes.

BUT THEN, OH BUT THEN, I was on Tumblr, reading a blog of a literary agency I follow, one who does Q & A. And one of the questions they got was : What are you tired of seeing in YA? And the answer was something along the lines of: vampires, werewolves, and angels, where a girl falls in love with a mysterious guy.


So I panicked, freaked out. Pretty sure I went into cardiac arrest. One the one hand, I have this agent who asked for an R&R, but here's this agency saying, STAY AWAY ANGELS. So I called my trusted CP and friend, Brianna, because she ALWAYS talks me off a cliff when I'm just about to jump.  And I ran some ideas by her, and I just got this one idea that literally just started soaring. A great way to take out the angels, replace them with something else, and keep the unique concept of my book.

So, here's the thing, I'm so angry with myself for not reading through that email entirely in December. But ALSO, in December, I would not have been able to make the changes I'm making now, and this book would not be half as half as half as good as it's becoming with all the changes I'm making. So while it's been a while, and I hope this agent hasn't forgotten how much she loved my concept, I'm revising like a madwoman, back to my thought that this WILL be the book that gets me an agent. I REALLY believe that.

Waiting six months to revise a book that got you an R&R is really hard! But when you need to make significant changes, I think one of the best things you can do for yourself and your book is just walk away for a bit. When you work on something else, you improve your writing craft and you see what your first idea was missing, and it makes your revisions a million times better.

For all those of you in the revising boat with me, we won't let this ship sink. Godspeed to you all!

Writer's Voice Entry: SWEET LITTLE LIES

This is the Writer's Voice! Here is my query and first 250 words!

Dear Amazing Coaches,

Fifteen-year-old Adelaide Dorsten is an expert liar. But when her lies no longer seem believable and her friends begin to question her tales, she confesses her biggest secret to her best friend. The bruises she’s always tried to hide don’t come from falling down stairs or running in to doorknobs, they come from her brother.

Harper Maddock is a new student at Adelaide’s posh private school, desperate to keep the secret of her rape and attempted suicide from her new classmates. But when she falls in with a couple of popular girls, she finds herself in a spotlight she never desired. As Harper tries to keep up with her growing list of lies, she catches the attention of a popular boy – Adelaide’s older brother.

Gemma Drayton is Adelaide’s best friend, and she doesn’t want to know anyone’s secrets. In fact, she’s quite content believing what she knows are outright lies – even if that means covering up what she suspects about Adelaide’s family. But when the abuse takes a deadly turn before her eyes, her suspicions are confirmed.

With one confession, each girl’s web of lies will unravel, risking the people they love, their friendships, and even their lives.

Told from Adelaide, Harper, and Gemma’s points of view, SWEET LITTLE LIES is a YA dark contemporary novel, complete at 64,000 words. It will appeal to fans of 13 Reasons Why and Speak. I am an active and founding member of the Writer Diaries. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Tabitha Martin

First 250

The bruises fade long enough for a new crop to pop up, raising more eyebrows and even more questions. I run my fingers along the cheek bone under my right eye, wincing as I graze the three knuckle-sized bruises. I fall back, leaning against the glass door of my shower, glaring at myself through the mirror. How in the world will I cover these up?

My excuses get weaker and weaker, to the point that I'm not sure anyone believes me. I'm not even sure I believe me. Stuttering halfway through sentences only makes the story even less believable than it might have been in the first place.

I fling open the top drawer of my bathroom cabinet and pull out a bottle of foundation. I'll cake it on until you can't see a single bruise, despite the fact my skin will look eight shades darker when I'm done.
"Let's go loser," my brother shouts from outside my room.
I throw the foundation on the counter, silently cursing as the glass bottle chips the edge of my sink, a small porcelain triangle falling down the drain.
Glancing back in the mirror, I try carefully not to let my eyes fall to my ribs, to the pancake-sized bruises right underneath my fading violet bra. It's a relief clothes are a school requirement. No one would believe I got these bruises from a not-so-graceful fall to the ground. They're clearly in the shape of a fist.

"Adelaide, let's go!" he shouts and hits my door hard.

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