Originality

I struggle with this concept so much, but never more than when I’m prepping to query. Whether I’m stalking agents on Twitter, perusing agency websites, utilizing the fantastic and wonderful Manuscript Wish List or just trying to craft my query in general, it never fails that this topic is brought up and I’m stuck with these hidden emotions that I wish I could describe, but I’ve always been so scared to say, because I don’t want to be disrespectful or appear ignorant. I am genuinely curious. My question regarding originality keeps nagging at me and the itch to talk about this is still here, so the secrets out, friends:

It irks me a little bit when someone asks for something “new” or “original,” not because I think we shouldn’t want these things, but because I don’t have any idea how the hell to achieve said things.

Because what is more original than sending out something I’ve written; a person you’ve never read before, with characters you don’t know, even if aspects of the plot or tropes are familiar?

Granted, I’m sure if some professionals in the publishing business read this, they’d be rolling their eyes at me. I don’t mean to sound inconsiderate or disrespectful or rude or anything aside from actual curiosity. I totally understand why agents have to be picky (while starting off securing an agent may be a dream come true for writers, it is a job for agents and they obviously have to be cognizant of that when choosing authors to represent, amongst a variety of other factors) and that they each have their own personal tastes. One agent is completely tired of vampires while another isn’t interested in angels. Another wants both.

I totally understand that and respect it 110%. So please don’t get the wrong idea. I just don’t understand what they are asking for when they ask for something original. Because what it is original? Is that even possible?

I know my stories aren’t breaking any new ground. I do things that have been done before. I also am fond of twisting a lot of traditional tropes, building up expectations only to disappoint and surprise my readers later on when the story takes a different turn. And as I grow as a writer, my stories have also grown in complexity and in creativity. My first trilogy is so filled with tropes (though that did inspire my latest project, which I’m arguably most excited about) and is the only one that I’ve queried so far, so I totally understand why it has only been rejected (especially when you factor in that I queried it before it was truly ready and my query could have been improved tenfold). And though I have moved on and written other works, some which still have tropes, some that don’t, I still work on this story and I still hope it can get published one day and be enjoyed by readers, even if it isn’t original.

Yet isn’t it?

I guess it’s not agents requesting that they want to see something original that irks me slightly, it’s that my work, because it’s been “done before,” it isn’t considered original. Yet how original can you be? Can you do anything completely and totally new? There are always going to be elements that you draw from, inspiration, works that mirror yours, tropes that you incorporate and twist.

And I guess, writing this, I realize that my goal for my books isn’t for them to be the most original books you’ve ever read. If that ends up being a side-effect, fantastic! I just want to write the most enjoyable and fascinating stories that I love, in hopes that others might love them, too. If they are never labeled as original or unique, but you enjoyed them nonetheless, then I think I could be okay with that.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear other opinions about this, especially from any agents who impossibly stumble upon this post: what is your definition of originality? Can it still be achieved in writing? Has everything been done before? Does writing your own work hold any originality organically simply because you wrote it?

Cheers.

 


Liebster Award!

Y’all know R.K. Brainerd, right? The amazing writer and fantastic human being over at Awake Dragon? I’ve bragged about her before and will prolly brag about her numerous times as our careers explode in the best way possible and we take over the world using puppies, goats and straw houses  we work our asses off and get published.

Anyway, recently she got nominated for something called a Liebster Award. Her responses were glorious, hilarious and down right awesome. Naturally, as with any of her posts, I read through it with an unhealthy fervor, excited to learn so many new and interesting things about someone I look up to and a good friend who I’ve actually never met, but that doesn’t matter, because I love her anyway. Then, I was pleasantly surprised when she nominated me for the same award, which basically means you get a free pass to write about yourself and tell other people to write about themselves and so-on and so-forth.

Image result for you just gestured to all of me gif

*cracks knuckles*

Here are the rules:

  1. Share 11 facts about yourself.
  2. Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  3. Nominate up to 11 bloggers and write 11 questions for them to answer.
  4. Bonus Rule, added by yours truly: wonder about the significance surrounding the number 11.

Facts: 

  1. I’ve had surgery three times. Once when I was two and they removed some weird people skin from my face (still dunno what that was), leaving a scar on my cheek. Second was when I was seven and broke my elbow in half, leaving a scar on my joint where the screw holds it in place and causing my body to adjust and now both elbows are double-jointed. And last on my tongue when they had to shorten the part that connects your tongue to the lower part of your mouth, leaving four X-shaped scars from the stitches that dissolved.
  2. My undergraduate thesis was a page-turner (*snorts*) about how you could read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as an environmental warning for what is to come, comparing New Zealand to the Shire, England to Isengard and industrialization to Mordor. It was 47 pages long and spoiler alert: we’re not listening and it’s a war we’re losing.
  3. Brevity is not my strong suit.
  4. I have veins on my right leg that form the number 12.
  5. I struggle with depression and anxiety, the former which is directly tied and associated with my weight or body size.
  6. The current series I’m working on, The Adventures of Artemis Smith, was directly inspired by my frustration at not getting published, so I wrote a character who couldn’t get published (yet has kept writing and persevered into almost his seventies) and was forced to live through troped stories as an actual character, only able to escape and move on to the next story if he was able to figure out a way to break, twist or revert the trope he was currently stuck in to make the story unique and publishable. Only one book down out of nine, but I’ve learned so much more than I ever imagined possible and I am so grateful to him, and can only pray I am just as positive and stubborn with my writing.
  7. I read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy for a project in high school history because our teacher said no one else had ever read it for that project, always scared by the length. I read it in three days and wrote the paper the night before, receiving a 97% (I’m ridiculously proud of this, for some reason).
  8. In films, books, TV, whathaveyou, you could kill every character I have ever loved and I still won’t cry as much as if you kill or harm an animal (especially a dog).
  9. Though I claim that my biggest dream is to be published, I think my “real” dream (as if you can’t have multiple) is to find a man to love me unconditionally, without me needing to lose 40 pounds or becoming “cool” to do so. Yeah, I really, really want that.
  10. I’m really excited to get a home with a yard so I can get dogs. Yes, plural. I plan to name them after my favorite dragons.
  11. I have four tattoos and plan to get a sleeve on my left arm, comprised of three “sections,” if you will: Lord of the Rings, writing and my favorite video games. If anyone wants to fund this, I’m always taking donations.😛

Questions for Me: 

  1. What’s your biggest regret? (We’re starting off deep here, apparently)
    1. Hating myself for so long, particularly physically (we’re going real deep here too, apparently). Especially considering I judged my worth as a human being based on the opinions of others or what size jeans I wore. Worse, I’m still working on switching this mindset. But my regret is taking so long to realize and admit that I was wrong.
  2. If you could be any animal, what would you be?
    1. Dragon. No pausing or consideration about it.
  3. What’s your dream writing space?
    1. I’ve always wanted to live in a small house with a turret that held my spiral library with a secret door into my writing space. Within the writing space would be my Tolkien collection. This place would be in the woods, far enough away that I can’t hear the cars but close enough that I can run and get ice cream when I need it (especially after I kill my darlings). Also, if we’re talking dreams, I’d be able to visit the ocean whenever I wished, because I also lived close enough to that. This location, if possible or real, is probably in New Zealand.

      So, really, my dream writing space requires me to become a Hobbit. I am totally okay with that.

  4. What author are you currently learning from/being inspired by?
    1. Christopher Husberg, author of Duskfall. On his blog, he catalogs his writing journey, amongst other events going on in his life. Not only was Duskfall the best new book I read this year, but reading Chris’s advice, his publishing journey and his musings about writing has resonated with me.
  5. What’s your biggest writer goal you’re working on right now?
    1. Editing is the hurdle I am battling. I have quite a few books under my belt, but none of them are ready to query just yet. I’m itching to query. So I’m trying to be patient and give my work the attention it deserves, while also trying to balance writing new material and ignoring the plagues of self-doubt that constantly berate and belittle me.

      So, just trying to be your average writer, at the moment.😛

  6. What’s your biggest life goal you’re working on right now?
    1. Definitely loving myself wholly and fully. And figuring out how to pay freakin’ bills.
  7. If you could change your eye color, what would you want it to be? Strange colors totally allowed.
    1. Actually, I think I’d want it to change based on my mood (I know, that’s cheating). I love my blue-green eyes, but how cool would it be for them to turn pitch black when you piss me off or a crystal blue when you’ve wooed me or yellow when I feel threatened?
  8. Who’s your current/favorite book boyfriend/girlfriend?
    1. I love this question. But how does one choose?

      We got Mr. Darcy.

      Image result for Mr. Darcy

      Oh my Lord.

      Image result for mr. darcy pride and prejudice and zombies

      Definitely swooning.

      We got Murtagh.

      Image result for murtagh

      I don’t care that the film was shite. This man.

      We have Jon Snow.

      Image result for jon snow

      No caption necessary.

      We have Aragorn.

      Image result for aragorn

      I would follow you, my Captain.

      We…have a type, apparently.

  9. If you could get one material item right now without having to pay for it, what would it be?
    1. Do airplane tickets count?
  10. Outside of writing, what’s your dream job?
    1. My dream job isn’t actually possible within the realm of reality, so we’re going to roll with that, because I’d basically wanna be a rip-off of Tarzan. I’m a sucker for animals, particularly exotic ones. I’m the moron that recognizes that a tiger wants to eat me but still want to pet it because look at those paws. So my dream job would be opening up a wildlife sanctuary, like a zoo, but nothing is enclosed (so, basically, owning my own island specifically for all animals) and none of the animals want to eat me, so I can love on them all the time.

      Image result for baby tiger gif

  11. Finally, any exciting book release/promotion stuff going on? And if you’re still wandering in unpublished land like me: what’s a recent writing/life epiphany you’ve had?
    1. The biggest epiphany I’ve had in the past year is that I can actually put writing first in my life and life will still move on. I can write every day and make time for it. I can give it importance, because it’s real and it matters. There are prices to pay for that, of course, but with the output and the growth that I’ve had, it is totally, completely and utterly worth it.

Questions for Victims: 

  1. If you could choose one author to be your best friend (we’re talking giggling at sleepovers and having brunch on Sundays to talk about the latest tabloids kind of best friend), who would you choose and why?
  2. Favorite kind of cheese?
  3. This is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of question. Path A: What book series should be adapted into a video game and why (I’m thinking a la Witcher here)? Path B: If you don’t play video games and thus can’t travel down Path A, please tell me how you function without such soul-sucking enjoyment in your life?
  4. If it were my birthday and you were buying me a puppy, what kind of puppy would you get me (pictures preferred)?
  5. What are you most excited about writing wise right now?
  6. What is the plot of the ultimate dream story you want to write (or have written or are too afraid to write)?
  7. How do you plan to better the world?
  8. What “rule” do you break in writing (purposefully or otherwise)?
  9. Which fictional characters make you question whether you’re actually fictosexual, i.e., who can I swoon over? (Also, adapted this one from R.K. and I don’t apologize for it).
  10. What fictional language do you wish was actually commonplace?
  11. Lurtz (see below if you’re not on a first name basis) is about to kill you. What do you do?

    Image result for uruk hai lord of the rings

    ^^ Lurtz

Victims:

  • Marie over at Light A Fire Instead: A great friend in real life who recently brought back her blog and got into writing again, despite real life trying to get in the way. You’ll want to support her and know her before the rest of the world (inevitably) will.
  • Rob over at Robert F Nugent: Discovered this gent through his blog and then started creeping on him on Twitter. Makes awesome armor, writes really amazing medieval stories I can’t wait to get my hands on and an all around person-you-should-already-be-social-media-stalking.
  • Philip over at Phil Charles R: A gem amongst stones, this man is. Loved his first book and can’t wait to see how he raises the stakes. Also, great guy and so encouraging. So happy that we’re friends and going to take over the world writing books (if you’re jealous, go say hi).
  • Ana over at AZ Pascoe: There aren’t enough words to explain how fantastic of a person Ana is, how lovely her blog is and how awesome her writing is. The only question is: why aren’t you friends yet?
  • Drew over at The Tattooed Book Geek: The Book Review King, in my opinion. I absolutely love reading his reviews and he is so sweet to take the time to read mine, even though my site is still young. Go find your next favorite book (and reviewer) over on his site.
  • Joyce over at The Writes of Passage: One of the most encouraging souls I’ve ever met on the interwebs. This woman is going places, but she’s making sure none of us are left behind in the process, either. I adore her.
  • Tanna over at TeaPunk Noveling: My kindred spirit. My dragon-soul-sister. My INFJ twin. A fantastic writer, human and friend. You need her in your life. (Also, advertising now: our book series, both featuring dragons, will have a dragon tour across the world, taking place in a cave near you, years from now.)
  • Jessica over at Elldimensional: I have never had such thoughtful, well-spoken and kind thoughts commented on my blog than the ones written by Jessica. Consistently. Honestly. I support her indefinitely and I hope you do, too!
  • A.Z. over at AZ Anthony: Just stumbled upon this blog and human during #WIPJoy. I love making new connections and this one is pretty rad. Stoked to see where his writing takes him.
  • M.A. over at M.A. Crosbie: Though we’ve never met in person, I advocate for this human so much. So caring, so sweet, so genuine, so driven. I cannot wait to see where life takes her and what she does.
  • Sione over at Sione Aeschliman: An inspiration if I’ve ever known one. A mentor who I’m not sure wants to be labeled a mentor. A knowledge mine that explodes every time I ask a question that leaves me scrambling to absorb all of the information and less of the debris from the ground (I’ve read that analogy three times and I’m still not sure if it works. I’m sticking with it). If you ever dream of succeeding as an author, this is a soul that you need in your life. I promise.

Thanks for the nominated, R.K., and thank you for reading way too much info about this stubborn artist. Stoked to read your responses (if I didn’t tag you and you still want to answer my questions, GO FOR IT).

Cheers.


Mass Effect

WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND (for entire trilogy, just not first game) AFTER THIS SENTENCE. READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL.

I spent this afternoon frantically killing Saren/Sovereign before I had to go to work tonight. Last night, I stayed up until four in the morning, hyped up on adrenaline, as I fought in Virmire (dammit, Virmire). Even though I knew what was coming as it happened, after beating the game, I sat still, listening to the end credits song, wiping the remnants of threatening tears from my eyes.

Image result for virmire

Virmire looks like paradise, but don’t let it fool you. It sucks.

BioWare is by far my favorite gaming studio. Mass Effect is one of my favorite gaming series of all time (right up there with Dragon Age ((also BioWare)), Skyrim, Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, etc. etc.). Yet until this play through, I didn’t even realize what I had been missing!

Hint: a helluva lot.

You see, the first time I played Mass Effect, it was the first game I had ever played where a gun of some sort was your primary weapon. I had absolutely no idea how to aim a gun in a video game, let alone do it with accuracy and kill people. The amount of times I was taken to that red spinning screen with that damn music after I’ve been killed (you know what I’m talking about gamers) drove me nuts; almost to rage quit levels.

And this level of inaccuracy lasted throughout the entire trilogy.

Image result for mass effect

Yeah, try fighting that ^^, a freaking Reaper, when you suck at fighting. It sucks.

Obviously, I got better, as I beat all the games. But I knew, especially in regards to the first one, that I wasn’t playing them to their full potential. I rushed through them, falling so desperately addicted to that story and those characters that I just wanted to find out what happened next. After I beat them all (and went through all the Kleenex in my house), I knew I’d have to go back and replay them, so I could truly appreciate what I missed due to my own ineptitude and impatience.

Here the highlights of Round Two:

Vanguard Versus Soldier:
I played as a Vanguard this time instead of a soldier, giving me some biotic abilities like Warping, Throwing and Lifting my enemies. I’m so glad I tried this out (I absolutely love the Lift ability), instead of sticking to what was familiar, like I usually do in repeat playthroughs. I also actually learned to do more with my weapons and abilities, trying things out, instead of frantically shooting everywhere and hoping I managed to nick a geth in the process before getting one-shot-murdered by a rocket launcher; or charged by a Krogan Warlord unexpectedly, screaming in surprise and dropping my controller; or panicking whenever those f-ing husks showed up and also dropping my controller, thus resulting in death.

(Thank goodness I got better.)

Paragon Versus Renegade:
I have this annoying habits in video games where I try to align my character’s moral compass as close to my actual moral compass as I can. So I was a full-fledged Paragon my first playthrough, flinching any time I stumbled upon a Renegade action. This time around, I wasn’t fooling. While I still maxed out as a Paragon, I wasn’t afraid to call people out on their shit. Take that, Udina! Piss off, deaf Council! (<– I was so tempted to not rescue them with the Alliance; damn Paragon mentality.) It was kinda fun, not going to lie. And I am stoked to rip Cerberus a new one in Mass Effect 2.

Hidden Gems:
I’m really bummed I can’t remember more of these as I was playing, because I know there were multiple times when I was like, “Dude, how did I miss that the first time!?” The best example was definitely during one of the infamous elevator rides before I had unlocked everything for Rapid Transit, and the Announcer-Dude over the intercom made a mention of a production of Hamlet to be done by the Elcor.

Image result for elcor hamlet

There’s even a FREAKING FAN MADE POSTER.

Genuine excitement, I laughed so hard after hearing that. Honest confession, I would pay so much money to actually see that happen. Like, holy shit.

Also, in one of the numerous quests that I didn’t realize existed (see below), I discovered an asteroid where I had a view that actually took my breath away. Lit-er-al-ly.

I was so floored, I took a picture and posted it.

All the Quests!
So, based on all the quests that I completed this time around (hint: all of them) and how many I couldn’t remember or had no recollection of whatsoever, obviously I just flew through the main quest without realizing there were side quests to be had. That also explains why I sucked so much the first time at killing things–I didn’t have any practice! And also explained why I absolutely sucked at driving the Mako (I impressed myself by actually decently steering it throughout this playthrough).

Plus, my frantic rushing set me up poorly for the next game. My hatred for and familiarity with Cerberus hadn’t been properly set up, given I hadn’t realized they existed (don’t worry, I hate them with all my core, now). I didn’t talk with my companions enough, so a lot of backstory (like the genophage, for example) was lost on me. I genuinely missed out on so much, simply because of my own mistakes! I’m really glad I went back and played it, as it was totally worth it (and I finally found all the damn Keepers).

All the Feels:
What I love most about BioWare and their games is the way they make me feel. Like, down to my core, feel. I’m so emotionally attached to these characters, this world, my choices, the outcomes; it is probably unhealthy. The first time I played, when it came to the choice at Virmire, I froze. Literally, clutching my controller and staring at the screen like, “Why the HELL would you be asking me to do that?” The first time, I killed Ashley. I was in love with Kaidan (so much for that, the asshole, refusing to barely even talk to me the entire time during ME2 and almost all of ME3! <– I’m still utterly bitter about this). This time, I had to switch it up, even though I was so bummed about it (but I’m going after Garrus romantically and I know if Kaidan was alive, I’d fall right in love with him again, being a creature of habit as far as video game playthroughs go). When Anderson punched Udina, I was elated and fist pumping all over again. When Shepard climbed out of Sovereign’s wreckage, I teared up a little.

Image result for garrus vakarian

^^ BAMF. ^^

I just absolutely love this game.

The Score:
I knew the score was awesome the first time around. It’s still fantastic. It just deserves its own section to make that point obviously known.

Basically, I loved replaying this game (would have loved it even more on a PS4, too *nudges BioWare*). I am ashamed at how much I missed the first time around, but stoked that it provided a playthrough that was both familiar and new. Only a few more hours until I get off work, slip into my PJs, grab my ice cream and my weekend starts. And I’m sure you know what’s going down.

I’m coming for you, Cerberus.

Cheers.


Querying Versus Job Hunting

You know, these things are actually quite similar. I’d never realized it until after talking with one of my coworkers, but the similarities are pretty obvious.

He’s a college student preparing for a career fair next week. Of course, that means amping up a resume and preparing his pitch. I was a liberal arts major and didn’t really plan for the future after college aside from living in a mansion purchased from the tears of my readers (yeah, that hasn’t happened yet), so I never went to a career fair. I didn’t realize how intense they were. He was describing everything he needed to perfect and convey, aside from his resume. He had to know which companies he walked to talk to beforehand. He needed to be aware of their mission and interests and be able to convey how they aligned with his own. He needed to be aware of their projects and how those projects would benefit from him working on them.

He also had to convey all of this–and more that I can’t remember, just being overwhelmed listening to him–in a 30 second pitch.

Naturally, I felt for him and do not envy being in his shoes.

Instantly, it made me think of the querying process and reflect back on the single time that I pitched in person to an agent (and completely botched it). I explained to him how I’d suddenly made the connection. When you’re pitching your book, you need to get to the heart of the matter quickly and succinctly: who are the main players, what are the stakes, who is the audience, what is the age range, what is the genre, how long is it, what makes it unique? In a live pitch, do this in under a minute and as few sentences as possible. In a emailed query, a few paragraphs, tops–and don’t forget a hook to make the agent keep reading in the first place.

Naturally, he felt for me and does not envy being in my shoes.

I was never very good at cover letters or resumes. It’s not surprising that my track record with query letters isn’t exactly fantastic, either. Or that my fluttering nerves and innate awkwardness makes pitching in person a nightmare for all involved. Yet as we compared the seemingly impossible tasks that we both were faced with, both of us not at all jealous of what the other was trying to accomplish, deeming their plight the harder of the two, I have to admit that I’m grateful to be querying again hopefully later this fall. Despite how difficult it is. Despite sucking at it. Despite it feeling impossible sometimes.

Because one day, that work is going to pay off. One day, I’m going to connect with that agent and they are going to understand exactly what I am doing with my book and they aren’t going to reject it. They are going to love it, sign for it and help me make it the best version it could be. And all of those blotched pitches, all of those less-than-fantastic query letters? They got me there, to that moment, when I write a bomb-ass query letter. I had immediate faith that my coworker is going to kill it on Wednesday and land some interviews and hopefully, a job that will jump start his career post college. I need to work on having a little bit more faith in myself to do the same.

And in the meantime, waiting for that faith to set in? You guessed it: back to query writing.

Cheers.

 


The Itch

I’ve been going a little stir-crazy the past few days, ever since this happened. I’ve learned that it’s important to let your work breathe, after completing a draft. Jumping right back in, regardless of how desperately you need to or how much you really want to fix that one scene that’s been nagging at you since chapter three. By letting your work breathe, you’re able to return later with a more critical eye, refreshed, and your work will only improve because of it.

I know this and I’ve managed to stay away from Artemis’s story, even though I really want to keep the ball rolling, editing through another draft before I send out the call for beta readers and critique partners. But coming off of the most impressive writing output I have ever managed to writing absolutely nothing is driving me a little bonkers.

It’s only been four days, people.

The itch to write and create that has been driving me insane–even with the distractions of family and friends this weekend–is something I wouldn’t trade for anything, however. It’s a sign of how much I’ve grown as a writer, proof of how important these stories are for me and my emotional well-being. It shows the weight I have placed on them and the adjustment I’ve made in my life in order to give writing the utmost importance, starting last year during NaNoWriMo. (Speaking of NaNoWriMo, have you seen their new T-shirts for this year? Holy shit, I’m totally going to splurge and buy one. I love them!)

I’m super proud to have grown so much, to the point where not writing for multiple days in a row causes me to feel a sort of emptiness and incompleteness that was otherwise being filled (yet, at the same time, I no longer feel guilt when life gets in the way or I choose to take a break). And while I don’t think I’m going to start writing another project until this November, working on a manuscript tentatively titled BLOOD’S PRICE, I do have another way to scratch this itch.

Editing.

And, Lord help me, I’m actually ridiculously excited to edit (if that doesn’t prove my insanity, then I can’t help you).

In the Spring, I wrote a novel–light on the science fiction, heavy on the need for gravestones–titled THE RESISTANCE, which focuses on one of the survivors of a war that no one realized was being waged until it was already over and 95% of the human population had been killed. The remaining 5%? Yeah, they are being harvested to power the droids, who are the special project of the singular man that wiped out the rest of humanity. Grayson Price wakes up to this world of extinction and has one purpose (aside from figuring out what the F is going on): reuniting with his soulmate, Rowan. As he learns about the new horrors of the world–which include total colorblindness amongst the survivors, droids, alien technology and a cracked Futurist who believes by exterminating the human race, he’s actually saving them–he knows he cannot survive it. So might as well put his efforts into something more productive.

Like not dying alone.

This story is so different from my usual niche of writing multi-POV fantasy. It was a lot of fun to write, though it had its difficult moments where my fingers dragged across the keyboard. When I finally finished it, I felt two things: stoked for how the ending turned out and the immediate desire to turn around and start editing it, as I already knew how I wanted to heighten the beginning. But I ignored that desire, knowing that this story would be better off if I let it alone for a while. Instead, I took a few weeks off, made an outline and started working on Artemis’s story.

I think it is only proper–and comes full circle–if I stave off my desire to immediately edit Artemis’s story by returning to the destitute and dark reality that Grayson is suffering through.

*pulls out red pen*

Cheers.


Weighing Importance

I’ve been doing a lot of adulting lately. Which, strangely enough, actually looks very similar to panicking: the increased heartbeat, the sweaty palms, the tears threatening to fall past your eyelids.

The shrinking bank account.

disney scared aladdin nervous worried

Moving out and living on my own in a kickass apartment is fantastic, but the bills that have followed are not so much. Pair that with working a three-quarters time job that doesn’t allow for a minute of overtime. Add in the fact that the bills I have acquired are barely covered by what I make in a month. All this results in a stressed out pseudo-adult who struggles constantly with the reality of my situation and the choices that result from that.

The reality is that my bank account is pretty much stagnant, as all my income directly vanishes to pay bills. So the money that I had left over from the move and saved up during my time living with the ‘rents sits in my bank account without the possibility to increase. In fact, with bills such as utilities and groceries varying month to month, the chances are that my very small nest egg is going to decrease over time. It definitely isn’t going to increase.

This reality leaves me with two main choices that I switch between on a daily basis.

Option A: Getting a Second Job
The obvious remedy to my financial stagnation is to get a second job. That second job could help increase the nest egg that I currently have and also help take the pressure off to not spend any extra money, if possible. I still have plenty of things that I would like to get for my apartment. I really want to save up my vacation time to travel abroad once each year–can’t really do that when you aren’t able to save up money to fund said travels. I’d like to be able to go out to eat or catch a film in the theatres every once in a while without feeling guilt and freaking out about how much I spent. I want to start working on my sleeve that I have planned out in my head but never felt comfortable spending the funds on (plus, finding a good tattoo artist is hard). I have yearly doctors’ appointments that still need scheduling, an oil change that is looming and who knows what other one-time expenses that are going to pile up, thus depleting said nest egg. Getting a second job makes the most sense.

Yet at what cost?

The biggest one is time. Mainly, writing time. Since I moved out onto my own, I’ve been averaging roughly 5,000 words a day, writing roughly four hours a day. I have read four books. I’ve caught up on my editorial work. I’ve been writing more blog posts and book reviews. That output in extraordinary for me and something I am totally not used to. And it is something that I cherish highly, already, even though I’ve only done it for two weeks. I don’t want to give up that time for a second job.

But what does that cost?

Option B: Living off a Tight Budget
The cost of not getting a second job is obviously very literal. I’ll be living on a much tighter budget. I’ll have to really limit what I buy and when I buy it. I’ll have to minimize my utilities expenses any chance that I get. I’ll have to be more aware of where my money is going and be more on top of balancing my checkbook. Some of the things I’d like to have in my apartment might not get purchased. And unless my bills somehow lessen so I can make more than I owe, eventually, the money is going to run out and I’m going to be forced to resort to Option A. It’s inevitable.

But if I choose Option B, I can give my writing the attention it deserves. I can take it seriously and truly treat it like a second job (as I should). Though I’ll always be hyper aware of my financial situation and stressed out, I’ll escape from it all within the worlds I’m currently writing about or revising, at least for a little while. I can work towards my ultimate career goal of publishing books and making a living as an author. Even if choosing Option B is just for a few months, before I’m forced to get that second job (unless a miracle happens and my current job promotes me to full time. *snorts*)

Of course, I could try a hybrid of the two. Get a second job that I only work a few days in the mornings or work Fridays and Saturdays, so I don’t have a day off. Not write every day but still write a few days out of the week. Sleep a little less, be forced to prioritize my hobbies a little bit more. Yet I hesitate. I selfishly want a weekend. I enjoy the Friday Girls’ Nights that have happened the past two weekends. I’m able to go to my friend’s wedding this weekend without taking off of work. I can go home and see my family without trying to balance multiple jobs. And sometimes, I just want to be a bum on a Friday and play videogames all day, never changing out of my PJs and eating leftover mac and cheese.

*lesigh*

At the moment, I’m not actively searching for a second job. I’m going to begin the first round of edits on my fourth novel this week to prep for the #P2P16 contest happening in October. Yet I’m aware that while I really enjoy my schedule (working evenings and having the mornings and afternoons free to dedicate to my creativity), that schedule isn’t enough to live a life absent of financial stress. And I’m really tired of bawling my eyes out trying to balance my checkbook or watch as my bank account shrinks ever slowly. Yet is financial stability and comfort worth the price of creative output? Is creative output worth the stress of living paycheck-to-paycheck?

I don’t bloody know.

Cheers.


My Awe of Literary Agents

I’m 95% convinced that literary agents aren’t human. They are some sort of genetic hybrid combining the telepathic abilities of mind readers and the inhuman strength and perseverance of superheroes. What makes me draw such fantastic conclusions, you may ask?

I’m glad you did, because I have answers.*

In case you’re unfamiliar, a literary agent is basically a member of society that holds the key to the gateway that is traditional publishing. They guide the complicated path of book deals, keep writers (both debut and experienced) from drowning amidst the dangerous waters of publishing houses, contracts and foreign rights, and make it possible to start the quest that results in finding the Holy Grail (that Holy Grail being your published novel in your hand).

By this description, I’d actually argue that they are more like wizards.

You can get by without a literary agent, through routes like self-publishing, but I think the benefits of acquiring one outweigh the work–and inevitable rejection–that is required before you connect with one. Personally, I am absolutely stoked for the day that I get to announce, through a lengthy and probably incoherent (due to excitement), GIF-filled blog post, that I’ve found representation. That’s almost the bigger dream than getting published, at this stage, because I know if I can find that agent, then my dream of being read will follow, in time.

You see, a literary agent is so much more than a knowledgeable resource of the publishing world (as if you need more than that; that’s worth it in itself). They are the people who go to bat for your work. They are the ones who always stand in your corner. They are the ones who see your potential, even when your draft isn’t 100% there yet. They are the ones that help your draft get to that 100% (or even surpassing your expectations of where you thought you could go), putting in hours of work, pointing you to numerous resources and constantly being your rock throughout the entire writing process. An agent is a stable foundation where you can build your entire career.

Obviously, I think you can see why I cannot wait to sign with one.

Less obviously, you might still be unsure on how these people aren’t actually human, but are instead alien-inspired super robots.

They obviously are superheroes. Everything I mentioned that they are able to do (and that’s just what I’ve seen or heard talk about doing; I don’t even fully realize the full potential of their power), they do for every one of their clients. Every author they represent, they represent 110% of the way, with 110% dedication. They must somehow have the ability to warp time or have inherited Herminoe’s time turner.

They are obviously telepathic mind-geniuses because they have to be able to predict what the market is going to enjoy years before the books that are going to be in said market are published. If I signed with an agent tomorrow and somehow my book got picked up by a publisher in a warped-speed-like process, my book still wouldn’t be getting published until 2018-2019, maybe even 2020. Yet the agent is the one be taking a risk by believing that readers are going to enjoy my work, even if it is years from now. And they are going to put all that work into my story, despite that risk.

So I think I case rest my case. Literary agents are superhuman.

But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether literary agents are simply extraordinary people with amazing talents or super biotic organisms that blend in with the human species. Regardless of either reality (I’m rooting for option B, personally, but I’m just weird that way), one truth remains:

They deserve better.

I follow a lot of agents on Twitter, which is the closest thing I have to interacting with them. Most of whom I follow represent the genres I write (SF/F), but I also follow some that I know I’ll never query, but love to learn from, regardless. And I’ve discovered, especially recently, that despite all the amazing things literary agents do for us writers and authors, that we always don’t show the gratitude and appreciation that we should.

Usually, it’s when unagented writers get rejected.

I won’t sugercoat it. The query process is difficult. Battling in the query trenches is grueling. I’m made my fair share of mistakes and am still learning how to navigate those waters. And yes, it sucks to get rejected. It sucks to be told your story isn’t ready yet, it won’t sell, it’s overdone, it isn’t right for the market, they’ve already received nine queries about a Shakespearean-retelling featuring puppies, so yours just isn’t going to cut it. Yeah, that’s a bummer. But that’s reality, also.

And it’s no excuse to be an ass in return and publicly humiliate or shame an agent. Or respond to their email with complaints and name calling. Or personally attacking their person, personality or appearance, i.e., things that have nothing to do with the quality of your novel. Or bitching to all of  your followers about how horrible these agents are and why you’re going to go self-publish.

Recently, I’ve stumbled upon a handful of writers who have done just that: called out the agents who they queried or pitched to at conferences and personally attack them. I won’t link any examples. They don’t deserve the attention.

Because that type of response and treatment is ridiculous.

Aside from the fact that it’s a shitty thing to do to anyone and reflects poorly on you as a person, to respond so immaturely, it blows my mind that anyone could feel anything but gratitude and awe toward a literary agent and what they do. Their career, the sole purpose of their work, is to find writers and stories they connect with and help get those stories told. They take a risk with every author they sign. And it is a job. It is a business and literary agents are people, too (despite probably enhanced with extra awesomeness). They need to get paid so they can live, just like anyone else.

They have a right to be picky. They have a right to turn down stories that don’t make them jump up and down with excitement, because they are going to spend a lot of time working on that story. Not only that, but do you realize how knowledgeable these professionals are? Sure, I may love my trilogy that hits every fantasy trope in the book, with one cruel twist, but I’m not following the trends in the market (even though I should). I have no idea how I would figure out whether my book would be successful or not. Agents do. That’s their job.

You’re willing to trust the agents you query to represent your work. Why can’t you trust them to know when your work isn’t ready?

Though I crave to find my partner in crime, I am so thankful I have been rejected the past two querying rounds I’ve done, because that book wasn’t ready. And even though I wished I could understand specifically why, so I could improve–as most rejections were form letters or silent rejections–I understood why the rejections came in those forms. Because on top of everything agents do for their existing clients, they also have to make time to find new ones. That means reading queries and pitches and synopsis’ and pages; attending conferences and pitch slams; requesting partials and fulls. And, of course, all of this is on top of actually, you know, having lives.

So an agent wants to reject my work through a form email because they don’t have time to personally respond to every one? Yeah, that bloody makes sense, because their lives are busy and I should respect that. Not respond by mocking them or calling them out or writing passive aggressive (or downright aggressive and vindictive) blog posts talking about those rejections.

Who am I to talk about this subject? I’m a passionate and stubborn writer, unpublished but working to change that. Yeah, I don’t have an agent myself and a lot of what I’m responding to is based on what I’ve observed and witnessed, mostly through social media. I may be a nobody, in some regards, but I realize this: the job of a literary agent isn’t easy, it isn’t for the weak and it isn’t without risks. A lot of risks. And while I know there are so many of us writers out there who appreciate and are grateful to these agents for doing what they do and being the person that make our dreams come true, there are plenty more who hide behind keyboards and treat such an amazing and talented profession with petty disrespect and harsh reflections. And I just think there should be a bit more positivity surrounding these agents, instead of this whirlpool of negative thoughts and personal attacks. That’s all this post was meant to do: shed a bit of positivity and gratitude back to the professionals who help the writers that I love, the writers I haven’t yet discovered, the writers still dreaming and one day, hopefully myself, tell the stories we were born to tell.

Thank you.

Cheers.

* And by answers I meant observations, because all of my information is based off of creepy stalking harmless observation, as I’m not lucky enough to be signed to an agent. Yet.