I just realized I didn't do a Q&A in February! Bad, Natalie. In recompense, I will also be taking questions on Twitter today. But if you want a longer answer, please comment on this post so I don't have to send a million tweets to you.
I take any question on any topic.
You may ask multiple questions.
All questions will be answered in some form TODAY as soon as I can.
What are you working on right now?ReplyDelete
Alas, what I'm really working on this very moment is a big huge sekrit that I wish I could tell everyone about because I'm SO EXCITED. It's something I didn't think I'd get to do, so I'm just really grateful for the opportunity.Delete
As for things I CAN talk about, I am also working on preparing a contemporary YA for submission as well as planning out another book in that vein. I love writing contemporary, and I'm really hoping this book sells! We'll see. Selling seems to be just as difficult post 1st-deal as before, heh.
I'll be excited to see what happens with your contemporary YA!Delete
Why do you think that is, that the second book sell is just as tough? Are you writing a different type of book (different subgenre?), or is it just tough to sell stand-alones one by one?Delete
I think every book is an unpredictable experience. The market is constantly changing—and sometimes it doesn't like what you're writing and that's just how it is. That, sadly, doesn't change even after you sell. I've had a novel turned down and shelved already.Delete
What is the best way to use and promote my writing blog before that first completed novel? I'm editing slowly and want to get my blog off the ground. Any advice?ReplyDelete
Hmm, Tracy, this is a question I never feel I have a great answer for. I started my blog about 6.5 years ago now, just after having finished my very first novel. I had no intention of doing any "promotion" or getting "my name out there" when I started—I just wanted a place to talk more specifically about my writing because it was taking over my family blog. There was no way for me to foresee that I would have any "success" in blogging down the road.Delete
At first I mostly wrote about what I was writing. Research topics I found interesting. Stuff I was enjoying. Or stuff I was struggling with. I started to talk about the stuff I was learning because I had A LOT to learn and made a lot of mistakes. It was all very organic and personal.
I started to get comments and regular followers only when I became a commenter and regular follower on other blogs. I started to connect to people over time, and thus found crit partners and even my first agent.
Things snowballed, I suppose. I won a contest there, wrote a post people resonated with there, found little bits of publishing success on the way that built my audience. But I didn't do any of it intentionally. I just wrote about things that mattered to me, and eventually the people who connected to that found me.
In the long run, I would say a blog can be fun, but it's your writing that really matters. Yeah, I had a good following long before I sold, but I often wonder if I would have sold sooner if I'd put more into novel writing instead of blog writing. Ultimately, TRANSPARENT was my 10th written novel. Would I have sold my third or fourth if I hadn't split my efforts so much? I don't know, but I often feel I should have been more focused on my writing the past 7 years and not so much the promotion. Good writing promotes itself, you know?
Thank you. That does make a lot of sense. My blog was started so that I would have somewhere to write when the fiction wasn't keeping me going.Delete
I will keep posting and follow more blogs.
I am looking forward to reading transparent as soon as I can. Congratulations on "Making it"!
That's really interesting. I feel like we hear so much these days on social media and blogging as tools for promotion but I wonder if that isn't putting the cart first. Good topic!Delete
My question: What do you do when you're feeling low on creative energy? Push through? Take a break? Start cooking? Other? :)ReplyDelete
Sara, it really depends. If I'm on deadline, sometimes it just not possible to take a break. So instead I need to push through. I don't prefer this method, but it can work if you just keep going and thinking and writing.Delete
If I am not on deadline, I like to step back and recharge. I used to be the person who believed in writing everyday, but now I like to take a week or more off if I can. Just to do other things and fill my head with other people's stories and give my brain time to work out new material.
It's good to have other hobbies and interests to keep those inspirational tanks full. I exercise and cook and watch Kdrama/anime and draw and garden and play video games. After burning myself out majorly in 2010, I learned it's really important for writing to have its proper place, for it not to be everything in my life.
Because so much of publishing is completely out of your control—it's nice to have things you CAN control and see results from. Like with running. I know that if I run consistently I will improve and get stronger and more fit. You don't get a guarantee like that in writing. You can work your butt off writing and you won't get "results" equal to what you put in, you know? Seven years in doesn't give you a 7 fig deal or even a deal at all. That can be maddening.
This has gone into a major tangent, hasn't it?
Low on creative energy—yes, I try to step back when I can. I try to remember what I love about writing in the first place. I try to live a life that will give me experiences to write about.
I like the tangent! Thanks, Natalie! Sometimes I push through too...and then I feel like it's even more draining, but sometimes taking time off makes it even harder to go back (the dread factor kicks up). LOL. ;)Delete
I know you've blogged before about your struggles with anxiety, but how did you know you had something that needed to be treated and not just normal writer jitters? I've dealt with depression in the past, so I know that puts me at risk for other mental illnesses, and I'm starting to think I need to pay more attention to the signals my body's sending me...ReplyDelete
(And thank you for responding to the comment I posted a few weeks ago about feeling beaten down by submission. You can probably guess where today's question is coming from.)
Krista, it took me a very long time to admit that I was to a point where I needed real help. My whole family struggles with varying intensities of anxiety, and so it's always been something I was aware of but never thought mine was bad enough to seek medication and all that.Delete
And it wasn't. My anxiety was manageable without help for a long time, but anxiety tends to intensify as a person gets older. I think this is partly what happened to me. Also, publishing. Yes, I can't deny that the stress of this job did aggravate my already-vulnerable tendencies towards anxiety.
I can say this now, but at the time I didn't *know* this was what was going on with me. It was such a gradual process. First it was just added stress, then lots more crying episodes or anger episodes over rejections, then just a general lack of desire to do anything normal in my life because I'd become obsessive about getting published (and I had compulsions like checking my email and writing more books and being online at the expense of everything else in my life).
Then came the physical manifestations. I started losing weight. And my hair. I couldn't sleep at night and I was almost always on edge. And if you don't think it could get worse, I started having daily panic attacks wherein I couldn't function at all. Heart racing, crying, incoherent, hide-in-my-room-until-it-was-over awful.
Every day panic attacks are NOT normal.
And yet still I thought I was fine! Seriously. I couldn't see myself clearly, but I knew other people around me were worried. I kept telling myself I wasn't that bad.
It wasn't until I went to my Obgyn, of all people, that it all came out. Because I just happened to be trying to get pregnant at the time, and it wasn't happening (obviously due to my extreme state of anxiety). My first two were very easy to conceive, so I went in concerned about that. My doctor asked me about anxiety, and I was like, "Um, I don't think so?"
But then she started listing symptoms: Lack of desire to do things you once loved, sudden bursts of anger, feeling of panic, etc. And in my head I realized I was saying YES to every. single. symptom. I began to cry and admitted that those were all things I was going through, and she recommended I go on medication—especially because of my daily panic attacks.
I relented, though I still felt like a failure for "not being able to control myself." As the medication began to take effect, I started to see just how bad it had gotten. I mean, I was fantasizing about leaving my family and taking all the money and starting over somewhere else alone, just so I didn't have to deal with my life—I would think about that *constantly.* I also had many thoughts about leaving my faith and doubting the things I believed so strongly in my entire life.
I had honestly become a thing I didn't recognize anymore, with thoughts that scared me when I looked at them in a healthier state of mind. I that just that close to ruining myself, and I feel very lucky for an observant doctor and very patient husband.
This is getting VERY long and VERY personal, but it is important to me to be open about this, especially because it's so taboo to be so. I hope you haven't gotten to the point that I did at my lowest, because it's so very hard to dig your way out of that. Now that I am on meds and can SEE what I was doing to myself, it's easier to recognize when I'm going back down that bad road. I can pull myself out much better now.
And if you do feel the need to seek help, please do. There is no shame in it. Mental illness is a real thing, and sometimes it gets bad enough that medication is necessary. Just like you need penicillin for strep throat. Or an antidote for a snake bite. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had sought help much sooner than I did.
that replay was…was…great. Especially the symptoms listing thing, it made me cry, after I succeeded AMAZINGLY in every Anxiety test I took I was devastated. And by the way, it was your post on the subject that made me -for the first time in my entire life -realize I got a problem,Delete
Thank you & God bless you :’)
Like Haneen, I just wanted to say thank you for such a thorough, thoughtful response. Thankfully, I don't think I've hit rock bottom--I'm just starting to notice physical symptoms, though I totally see myself in that paragraph about increasingly obsessive Internet behaviors (I used to limit myself to "only" checking my e-mail and Twitter three or four times a day; now I'm lucky if I turn it off for that many minutes)--so I hope I can move onward and upward from here.Delete
I read a review for Transparent and it made me so excited! It looks so, so awesome.ReplyDelete
I noticed on Amazon that it said Transparent was coming out in paperback--is that right?
And would you/are you writing more bio-punk/superpower sort-of novels?
Heather, I'm glad you're excited! And yes, TRANSPARENT is a paperback debut. This is somewhat "uncommon" in the US YA market, but is the standard for the rest of genre fiction and also pretty much all worldwide fiction. Being more affordable as a new author makes a lot more people willing to try a book. At least that is the hope:)Delete
And as for more bio-punk, I'm not sure! I do have an idea that would fit under that mold, but I'm still only flirting with it because I'm a bit afraid people would label it "dystopian" or that it would miss the whole "sci-fi" boat currently in the water. We'll see. But as a teaser, I call it Gattaca Meets Minority Report:)
As a major otaku, I've got to ask this one: What are your favorite anime shows? (I'm quite fond of Fullmetal Alchemist, Sgt. Frog, Naruto, D-Gray Man, Dragon Drive, Ghost in the Shell, Bodacious Space Pirates, Sailor Moon, classic Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Beyblades! :))ReplyDelete
What's your favorite genre to write? Transparent is evidently bio-punk, and ninjas are pretty hard to stick a label on.
Do you have any advice for getting crit partners?
Wee! Anime question! You listed some of my faves: FMA, Sgt. Frog, Sailor Moon. I'm also in love with Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club, Hikaru No Go, Escaflowne, Moribito: Guardian Of The Spirit, Inuyasha, Fushigi Yuugi, Vampire Knight, and many many more.Delete
As far as writing genre, I don't really know. YA in general? I write all over the board, but always seem to stick with YA. I may love writing contemporary the most. Maybe. I feel like even my more fantastical stories are still rooted in very contemporary themes and characters.
Crit partners? I would say just get to know people, find other writers who are at the same place in the journey as you and see if you connect with them. It takes time to find the right ones, just like any long lasting relationship. Eventually it'll work out. I came into all of mine in completely fluke ways.
How did I forget Hikaru No Go? That show is fantastic. :)Delete
Thanks for the crit partner advice!
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
When you start working on a new story, do you know the "heart" or the central idea of the story already? If not, at what part of the process do you discover it?ReplyDelete
Or maybe I should be asking, is there such a thing as a story's heart? :)
Toni, I tend to get beginnings or premises, so I often don't know where a story is headed until I write it. This can be both exciting and terrifying, since I often don't know the "heart" of my book until very near the end or even after the first draft is finished. Then I end up editing based on what I've learned from the story.Delete
As for if there's a heart or not—I believe every story has a heart. But I also believe that heart is slightly different for every person who reads the story. That's the beauty of reading. People get different things out of the same story, because they bring their own pieces to it.
What was the best book you read in the last year or so, not written by anyone you know? And why?ReplyDelete
Hmm, Maya, I guess I'll have to go with the first one that came to mind: SHADOW & BONE by Leigh Bardugo. It was the first book I'd read in a very long time that completely sucked me in and I couldn't stop and I just loved every second. It also reignited my love of fantasy, which had gone a little cold over the years. Really excited for SEIGE & STORM!ReplyDelete
Cool, I'll have to check that one out! Thanks!Delete
You've had a number of different agents over the years. What were your relationships like with each of them? How often did you call on the phone, email, meet IRL etc. What is considered "the norm" and what do you prefer personally?ReplyDelete
Christine, this is an interesting question! I can't go into many specifics because it's kind of personal, but yes, I've had a total of three agents. And my first novel isn't even out yet!Delete
This was not something I expected to face in my career. I figured I would stick with my first agent forever. Turns out it is pretty common to have more than one agent over your career.
Each of my agents were very different from each other, both in personality and the way they worked. And yet I found myself able to adapt to all their styles, which taught me that the whole idea of "the one true and perfect agent for you" isn't real. There are a lot of great ones out there, and if you are open and flexible and communicate your needs things work out.
I won't be saying which of my agents was a certain way, but I can say there are some agents who are very aggressive and some who take a softer approach. Some don't "hold your hand" and some are very attentive and build a friendship on top of the working relationship. Some prefer email and some like to talk on the phone. Some send you every bit of news, while others only send the good stuff.
But what I've found is true for every good agent is that if you TELL THEM what you need, they will do their best to provide it. Many times writers are afraid to assert themselves or to be a bother to their agent, and that makes me sad. You should be able to feel like you can discuss anything about your career or the process with your agent—that's what they are there for!
As far as what is the "norm," I'm not sure there is one. Between the agents I've had and hearing of my friends' agents, they all operate differently.
They all operate differently? Like real human beings? Haha, I think sometimes I forget. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response! I'm so excited for you and your entire writing career. Thank you for sharing so much of it with us.Delete
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete