And the Year Ends and I’m Still Writing

The year is ending on a good note. Not that there’s any great news to report—I have no news, actually, I am utterly and entirely between bouts of news, since this is a quiet period of simply working hard and writing—but I’m ending the year with the knowledge that I’ve found it again. It­-it. My love of writing.

After a tough grumble of a year, most of which occurred behind the curtain, a year that included a faceoff with writer’s block the likes of which I’ve never had before (and, honestly, I never before truly believed “writer’s block” existed) and such a furnace of doubt raging inside me I’m surprised my hair didn’t catch fire, I have it back. The pleasure in writing again. That’s why I’m here in the first place. It’s all because writing—the act itself—brought me such great pleasure all those years ago before publication was even a possibility and I wanted to find a way to continue to do it for the rest of my life. With 2011’s writing struggles and hiccupping sense of inspiration, I found myself holding this small, urgent question inside me for a long time: Do I really want to be an author, now that I know what it’s like? Which led to another more urgent question: What am I if I don’t write? Which led to an answer: I can’t not write. Which circled back to tell me: I have to write because I love it, and I’ll always write books, no matter what.

It seems so obvious now.

So the end of the year is here, and I pulled through, and I’m in a wonderful place, revising 17 & Gone thanks to my editor, and tweaking my new book proposal for what could be my next YA novel thanks to my agent, and simply feeling better in general thanks to the generous people in my life (hi, Mom! hi, E!). All is well. My writing is going well, and I love that feeling.

If you’ve been struggling, I hope it passes. I hope you look back in your rearview once we speed ahead into this new year and see your struggles are long gone.

Happy New Year, writers and creative people! May we make good things in 2012.

2012 Writing Resolutions Photographed

I’ve made my writing resolutions for 2012. I wanted them to be attainable goals, and by that I mean goals I could actually meet—without needing to rely on (or wait on, or hope on, or plead with) any other person outside myself. I do have dream-worthy things I wish would happen to my writing career next year, but they are just that: dreams. I have no control over if they’ll come true or not. Instead, I want to walk into this new year with actual things I can make an effort to accomplish, change, and pursue. I want to look back and see I moved forward on my own two feet.

So.

Some of my resolutions are very realistic goals.

Some will be very difficult.

One scares me.

Another is going to be really fun.

But here they are anyway—the seven writing resolutions I have for 2012, photographed as evidence!

What? Did you think I’d actually show you the resolutions before they’ve had a chance at coming true? There’s a little magic in keeping things close and giving them a chance to happen. So I’m doing just that.

I have seven unpublished photographs of the resolutions opened up so you can read them. I’ll show you each one and reveal what my resolutions were at the end of 2012. And by then I can tell you if I kept my word to myself…

…I don’t know if I can, but I’ll try!

Will you share your writing resolutions with me, even if I haven’t shared mine (yet) with you? I’ll wait a year if I have to!

Winner of the Winter/Spring 2012 Debut Giveaway!

I’ve selected a winner of the pre-order of one of the Winter/Spring 2012 YA debuts featured on my blog!

There were 201 entries, and here is my scientific method for selecting a winner…

I decided to let Twitter pick. So I asked for a number between 2 and 202 (because in the chart, line 1 wasn’t used).

http://twitter.com/#!/novaren/status/152182368269111297

There were 22 kind people on Twitter who gave me a number. I went to random.org and asked for a number between 1 and 22:

So I looked at what number the 13th commenter chose. It was:

So then I looked on the chart to see who winner #22 was!

There you have it, the confusingly randomly scientific way I chose a winner!

Congrats, Susan Adrian! You won a pre-order of The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg, from one of my favorite indie bookstores here in New York: the awesome McNally Jackson!

I will email you separately for your mailing address.

Thank you to everyone who entered—and thank you especially to the wonderful debut authors who took part in this series. I can’t wait to read every single one of your books, and I hope everyone will go grab them and devour them when they come out next year.

Happy almost New Year, everyone!

If you enjoyed this interview series and want more, I’ll be featuring 10 Summer 2012 YA debuts in April! Come back then to see which debuts I’m excited to read…

All the Surprising Things That Happened in 2011

At the end of every year I look back at this blog to see what happened to me—what I made happen, and what I had no idea was even coming. I tend to forget things, and confuse time and reorder events in my memory, and often the novels I’m writing seem more real than the life I’m existing in, so having a blog helps to remind me that I did do things. Things did happen. There were twelve months that just went by and, after this year especially, I’ve been changed as a person.

I ended 2010 having worked very hard to complete the very last of my revisions for my debut YA novel Imaginary Girls.

Here’s what happens next in 2011…

January:

I vanish into the woods… literally.

February:

I faint from blurbs.

March:

I recall my turning point as a writer—and why I began writing YA fiction.

April:

I feel exposed.

May:

I let go of old books.

June:

My book comes out and I interview a real girl behind Imaginary Girls.

July:

I admit how close I am to my book.

August:

I crawl out of my cave into the sun for the big SCBWI summer conference.

September:

I (finally) finish my first draft.

October:

I tell you what scares me. (And ask others to tell you, too.)

November:

I tell you what inspires me. (And ask others to tell you, too.)

December:

I revise, and I revise, and I revise 17 & Gone. (And I get the above fortune at a fancy dinner.)

There’s so much more that happened beyond the public sphere of this blog—and that’s one important lesson I learned in 2011: I can’t share everything with the world anymore, now that I’m living this parallel life as an author. I’ve had to start keeping a private journal again. And I need to thank a few of my writer friends for listening during some of the more dramatic moments. Thank you, CS, CZ, LB, MO.

I know a little about what will be coming in 2012. I’ll be finishing my revision of 17 & Gone, and revising some more after that. I’ll be asking other authors to write about their own turning points—come back for those guest blogs in a new series starting this January. I know I’ll also be vanishing for a little while. I’ll be writing on a mountain in California for a whole month this spring. By summer I’ll be celebrating the paperback release of two books with new faces: Imaginary Girls in paperback and Fade Out, aka Dani Noir. I’ll be seeing what happens with this new novel proposal I’m working on, fingers crossed. And maybe in 2012 I’ll hear some yeses, maybe I’ll hear some nos, but I’ll be hoping for the yeses—for me, and for you.

So how was your 2011? What happened to YOU?

Three More Winners! (+ Still One Last Giveaway to Enter)

I’m in the middle of revising, as you can see from this blog, but I’m popping in to announce three more winners of signed ARCs from the 2012 Debut Interview Series! Thank you to everyone who entered and to the authors for providing the prizes. Here are the three new winners, selected thanks to random.org:

Winner of a signed ARC and poster of
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg:

reutreads

Winner of a signed ARC of
Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne:

Linda: Book Ninja

Winner of a signed ARC and stickers of
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
by Emily M. Danforth:

Laurisa White Reyes

I will email the winners to ask for their mailing addresses soon!

And guess what? You have one last chance to win one of the 2012 YA debut novels featured on my blog…

This giveaway for a preorder of the debut of your choice is STILL OPEN until Wednesday, December 28. Easy to enter—just fill out this quick form

The Revision Chronicles

1. The Great Distance from Head to Page 

I’m revising my new novel. I’m in that amorphous state between drafts, when all of what I know the book could be resides in my mind and only in my mind. I can barely look at it, it’s so bright. But it’s there. It’s in there and it wants out. In my head are the shifting shapes and the changing faces, the whirl of what’s possible and the pieces that will reveal themselves to be impossible, and I can’t tell them apart just yet. If only my vision of this revision could make it to the flawed page of Times New Roman 12 pt. text before me, I’d be done by now. I’d be kicking up my feet and going to the movies. But the words still need to get out. The right words this time, the right ideas. A solid, outlined revision plan can give the right words a shorter distance to travel, but there’s no way to get them to the page in an instant. They still need to take the subway to the commuter rail to the bus. Somebody still needs to pick them up at the bus station. And even when they reach the house, they still have to climb the stairs. 

 

2. Alligator Wrestling

Revising is a physical activity involving great feats of strength. The revision itself writhes and snaps. It wriggles and it bites. If you can hold it still and throw your weight on it at just the right moment and in just the right place, you might get a picture of clarity that could get you through to the end of this chapter. But the revision weighs more than you, and leverage isn’t enough sometimes. Some days you find yourself deep in mud, suffocated by its bloated, soggy body, staring straight into its cold, reptilian eye.

3. The Book That Doesn’t Exist Yet

Go on, tell yourself you’re writing a book. I tell myself I’m writing a book every day. But right now I should call it a “book.” What I’m really writing is this “book” that doesn’t exist yet. I’m writing toward its existence, but I’m far from bringing it to life and being able to sit with it in the sunshine and comb its hair. I have this deep sense of what the “book” will be. I planned it out and I know what must change to get it there, but the book it will be one day isn’t the book it is now. It’s dangerous to fall in love with a book that doesn’t exist yet. You could spend all your time gazing off into the distance, admiring how it shimmers there at the horizon, caught in the romantic glow of what it will be when your editor says, “Congratulations! Go take a nap. You’re done.” The revision needs this vision of its future self to know what to strive for, but you shouldn’t let yourself look toward the horizon too often. I’ve put my head down, and all I see now are the flawed words on the page.

4. Revising Alone

You can revise in a dark corner. I’ll revise with a scarf over my head. I’ll make a wall with a basket and a coat at the side of my desk so no one can see in, and I’ll hold myself very still, waiting for the new words to come. I’ve made it perfect in here! I’ll think. Why won’t the words just come already? Still, being all alone with the hours ahead of you isn’t enough. Wearing your favorite writing hoodie isn’t enough (even if yours, like mine, has stripes). Providing yourself with the perfect writing snacks—the dark chocolate or the chewie candies or the petits fours—and the carefully cultivated music playlist is not enough. It is a shock, sometimes, that staring at a page under these optimal conditions doesn’t magically do the work for you, rearranging sentences into what should be, as you conduct from your chair. The hours of digging and tearing down and building back up still have to be put in. I still have to force myself to pick up the shovel.

5. Revising with Friends

But sometimes you can fake it, and pretend you’re less alone, when you revise with other writers. These other writers don’t need to see your pages. They must only be physically in the room with you. Perhaps on the couch across the way, or perhaps sharing your café table. It’s an intimate thing, tearing open your book and piecing it back together using spit and glue and gum and invisible double-sided tape, but you needn’t be embarrassed to do the shredding, ripping, gorging, and re-imagining in front of another writer. She will understand because she knows your pain. The best writers to revise with are the ones who also have deadlines, who also hold that hollow hope of ever finishing in their eyes. But really all you need is another writer who won’t bug you when you’re mid-idea and who lets you work to the tap-tap-tapping of his keys.

6. Something SPECTACULAR Could Go Here

It is with great pain, and a sense of deepest failure, that I leave this page for the day and tell myself to go back to it later so I can skip ahead to something else. But I must do it. No one has nailed my shoes to the floor. I can leave a placeholder such as YOU SUCK YOU IDIOT WHY CAN’T YOU WRITE THIS PARAGRAPH? or ONE DAY SOMETHING SPECTACTULAR WILL GO HERE and move on. We may revise out of order, we may revise in circles or on roller coasters. We may revise upside down or while doing downward dog. It doesn’t matter, so long as we’re revising.

7. And a Little Bit of Blind Faith

Even if the revision looks like a visit to the town dump, or like a mangled tire on the side of the highway. Or like a dropped box of crayons, or a sink full of dishes, or a desert wasteland, vast and endless, or like the darkest of all the dark rooms and you can’t find the door… No matter what your revision looks like, believe you can make it better. If I stop believing, I know I won’t have a book at the end of this. I’ll have a new stack of pages to rubber-band together and stow in the dusty manuscript graveyard beneath my bed. I have to believe in myself, and in this book. I have to look to the horizon—to the glittering words that say THE END—and will myself to make it to them. Because if I do get there, I will have created something from nothing. I will have animated an idea into a physical object you can pick up in your hands. (Or download to your ereader, but that’s far less romantic.)

It’s the revising that’s the real writing, and without it there’s no book at all.

2012 Winter/Spring YA Debut GIVEAWAY

Thanks for reading the YA debut interview series this month! Now, to end the series, I want to support these wonderful authors and give one of you one last chance to win a pre-order of one of their books.

The giveaway is open internationally—however, you must live in one of the countries where the Book Depository will deliver (check this list to find out). Winners in the US will have their pre-orders shipped from one of my favorite local indie stores, McNally Jackson, which you *must* visit if you’re ever in New York City.

(This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for entering!)