Re-read The Girl In Between Chapters 16-20

Writing Process

RereadInitial Feelings: Cold. Impatient. Craving dessert nachos. And regular nachos.

Initial Thoughts: I hope no one finds out this post is late because I was binge-watching Jane the Virgin. I can’t believe I’m out of episode and there’s…like 7 MORE HOURS until the new one airs. I wish I had written Jane the Virgin.

16-20

*Chapter 16 was such a beast in the beginning. Bryn’s research into Roman’s possible identity was more like a 20-page spy novella randomly crammed between her drug trial and senior bonfire. My beta readers really set me straight and got me to cut it down to just a few paragraphs. I learned a valuable lesson about what readers actually need to see *in-scene* versus what the characters can just fill them in on in order to keep the plot moving.

*I’m really happy with the way Dani and Bryn’s sort of sessions of self-reflection have turned out. I didn’t actually have a lot of open conversations like that with friends when I was growing up. A lot of us were in horrible “relationships” (if you want to call them that at 15 & 16) but I feel like there was also a lot of shame involved in what was happening and no one ever wanted to admit that their boyfriend was actually a jerk or that they were being pressured into doing things that made them uncomfortable. I didn’t actually tell one of my best childhood friends until just recently that I was in an abusive situation back when we were in high school and she was sort of shocked that I’d never said anything when we were younger. I don’t know what it is about being that age and believing that having a boyfriend is such a great accomplishment, even if that boyfriend is actually a horrible person. Why do girls have this fear of being alone? Why does the word alone have such a negative connotation in the first place? All I know is that the vow of solitude I took in my sophomore and junior years was the best decision I ever made and I learned more about myself and gained more confidence than I ever had before. Even though Bryn goes on to be in a relationship with Roman, I want readers to realize that their relationship is a result of her making a conscious choice. Because even though there are paranormal aspects to their bond that make it seems inevitable, the truth is that love isn’t actually this overpowering force that controls every move we make. Love is a choice. Everything is a choice.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 11.53.49 AM*Bryn’s fear of change is one hundred percent me. I don’t consider myself a very emotional person but any and all sadness I’ve ever felt has been more about my fear of change than anything else. My family is so much like Bryn’s and growing up in an environment where people cling to their secrets is like growing up in a mine field. You never know when you’re going to accidentally expose something awful or learn the truth about something everyone would have preferred to leave buried. Because of the way I grew up, I value the truth to an extreme, but I’ve also never been hurt more by anything.

RT

*Maybe I’m immune at this point, but there seems to be a lot less curse words than has been otherwise raged about…? Oh wait…there they are.
*I also read a review recently that described Bryn’s mother as whiny and annoying. Isn’t that so sad?
*Felix role-playing Bryn’s mother and uncle’s kiss scene with a so-not-interested-in-participating Dani is pretty hilarious
*So is Dani and Felix fighting over the benefits of reading romance novels vs watching porn. Because, you know, they’re both so realistic…
*Or them arguing about the difference between robots and cyborgs…
*Basically, any time Felix and Dani argue is amazing

16201*Aren’t you guys so glad that the bread crumb that was Roman’s t-shirt didn’t lead to him being the frontman of some huge rock band? Re-reading Bryn’s discovery in Nacho’s Tacos just made me realize that this whole story could have taken a very different and rather cliche turn.
*Out of all of the characters, I think Roman engages in some of the best self-reflection. There’s so many lines I could pull that are just so heartbreakingly true about people and love and fear and the world.

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September Totals

Self Publishing

SEPT15

SEPT15TOTALS

September started to show the dramatic downward shift I’d been anticipating, which was not entirely devastating since it was expected. But, it does prove that all success is finite and that if I want to continue making money as an author than I’m going to have to do the most obvious thing, which is keep writing. Which…I’m struggling to do right now while I’m in school. The good news is that I’m getting caught up on homework and will soon have lots of time–more time than I originally anticipated (due to quitting my full-time job and whatnot)–to finish TGIB series and move on to NEW projects!! But those things are still a long ways off (I’m shooting for a March 2016 release for TGIB book 4) and there’s still a TON of work to do in the meantime. Since it’s likely that I won’t have a new book for sale for another 5ish months I’m trying to research ways to break into more international markets. My success in the UK sort of just happened, which means that I’m not exactly sure how to replicate it. But my sales in territories like Canada, Australia, and India have slowly been on the rise and even though they’re somewhat minuscule at present I know that if they pick up I’ll have a stronger financial foundation to support future projects. I just have to figure out how to make that happen. So, if anyone has any resources–blog posts, promo sites, etc.–that talk about breaking into international markets, please share them and I’ll be sure to do the same!

Re-read The Girl In Between Chapters 11-15

Writing Process

RereadInitial Feelings: Not panicked. Craving oatmeal.

Initial Thoughts: I’m almost halfway through this re-read and it’s time for some revelations. I need to get the wheels spinning. I need an ending to this series! But first, Roman and Bryn must fall in love. I love when they do that…

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*Bryn’s relationship with her uncle mirrors my own relationship with my adoptive father. I spent a lot of time trying to pay homage to all of those non traditional families out there who prove that unconditional love can exist outside the bounds of biology. Bryn’s family–her mother, uncle, grandmother, cousin, and aunt–play a huge role in her development as a character and I really tried to make those bonds strong, especially since, at the time, my own family was struggling to stick together. After my father passed away when I was eighteen my mother and I were isolated from everyone and family members who I’d been so close to growing up, just stopped coming around. It was a very strange time in my life and my lack of a family unit really influenced my portrayal of Bryn’s family. They’re definitely not perfect. They argue and unintentionally damage each other emotionally but they love each other and are there for each other no matter what.

*When I first decided on the dynamics of Bryn and her father’s relationship I had no intention of incorporating him into the paranormal aspects of the plot. It was another attempt at grounding her in the real world and building a genuine backstory to support certain aspects of her character. In book 2 I got the idea of having him know something about Bryn’s abilities and/or the danger she’s in but I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to redeem him that way. Sometimes as a writer you make choices based on what you think is best for the character or what you think is best for the story. And sometimes you write what you need to read.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 12.47.37 PM*Writing to inspire fear is one of the most difficult things to do. I feel pretty confident in my ability to make the reader sad or even angry but I can’t tell you how many times I re-wrote those scenes where Bryn or Roman face the shadows. In earlier drafts  I spent 2-3 pages just fleshing out the mood and building up the creep-factor before finally diving into the action. Now, I understand that rhythm is everything when writing horror and that creating fear in the reader is all about what information you leave out as opposed to what you put in. It’s especially difficult when you have to transcribe a feeling or experience that is only (or seems to be) happening in the MC’s head. Roman’s solo explorations in Bryn’s dream-state allowed for some seriously creepy scenes and after cutting certain encounters from 3 pages to just a few paragraphs, creating a rhythm with his internal thoughts, and altering the pacing I think I definitely achieved something scary.

*One of my main goals for re-reading the TGIB series is to guide me as I tie up loose ends in the big finale. I know a lot of people have struggled with the open-endings of the past three novels and are eagerly awaiting some definitive answers and just a sense of closure to the whole story. Believe it or not but creating cliffhanger endings was never calculated. I always just tried to end things with a sense of momentum to carry people onto the next books. Plus, my brain tends to think in a very episodic way, meaning that I saw Bryn’s story as this massive tale to be broken up into smaller parts, not necessarily that each book was its own individual story. As I’m reading TGIB I’m pulling out all of these great lines and scenes that I want to mirror in the final book, like this one from the scene when Roman is reading Bryn’s diary:

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I’ve been daydreaming about the end of this story for more than a year now and I’ve yet to decide on anything. As of now I don’t know what’s going to happen to Bryn or Roman. I don’t know if the story will have a happy ending. But I trust that I will find the answers to all of our questions in the pages I’ve already written. I trust that I’ve left plenty of clues for myself and now all I have to do is find them.

RT

*I’m surprised that none of the negative reviews for TGIB have even mentioned Bryn’s dislike of Bob Dylan
*I can’t be the only writer who’s been through that phase where you think romance can only happen under a night sky full of stars. I’ll be honest, I definitely have an obsession with all things astronomy. But how can you not when “we’re all made of star stuff.”
*Chapter 14 is also one of my favorites. I knew going into this story that light vs. dark is basically the premise of every novel that ever was but there’s a reason for that–because it’s real and because it works. It took two books for me to finalize Roman’s super powers but in the end it was very simple. The shadows are every tortuous, soul-sucking, self-loathing belief Roman has ever held about himself and the light Bryn ignites in him is love–not just for her but for himself.
*Now that it’s been almost a decade since I was in a “relationship” similar to Bryn and Drew’s it’s definitely difficult for me to read her internal dialogue. I just want to shake her because some of her thoughts and actions totally contradict her character. But then again, that is exactly what toxic relationships do to people. They turn you into someone you’re not and force you to compromise on and contradict everything you think you believe is right.
*To all my future students, yes, you can expect Bryn and Dani’s kite project to be on the syllabus.
*And, no, you will not be able to sneak out of class to discuss premarital sex in the girl’s bathroom.
*I’m glad that there are so many romantic relationships depicted in the series. There’s Bryn’s toxic relationship with Drew, her soul mate relationship with Roman, Dani’s various relationships with guys not worth her time, and her strong connection to Felix, which is based on so much trust and respect (on his part). I also love Felix’s platonic friendship with Bryn, which isn’t depicted enough in YA.
*I feel like some novels make out the male lead to be some kind of lone hero who is the only symbol of good among a sea of negatively depicted male characters. Not only does this perpetuate an unattainable standard for all men but it insinuates that the good ones are few and far between. There can be more than one hero in a story, and in fact, there should be more attention paid to the courageous humans, like Felix, who are fighting their own battle between good and evil every day. And who are good boyfriends. And good friends. And just good people in general, despite not having super powers or being as ridiculously good-looking as their paranormal counterparts.

Re-read The Girl In Between Chapters 6-10

Writing Process

RereadBeing that my re-read of chapters 1-5 went much better than expected (meaning I’m still in one psychological piece) you’d think that I would have been ready to jump into the rest of the story immediately. Unfortunately, in the last seven days I’ve left my full-time job and spent the past week making a list a million miles long of all the things I need to accomplish in the next six months in order to capitalize on my current momentum to the point that I’m not sleeping or all that interested in eating (I never lose my appetite, not even when I have the flu!) and at this point I’m just a ball of nerves trying not to self-implode. Which has given this re-read an entirely new context. Because, you see, once I’ve finished re-reading the first three books in the TGIB series I’ll actually have to sit down and finish the final book. And what if it’s terrible and everyone hates it? Hence my putting off reading chapters 6-10…

Initial Feelings: The opposite of hunger. Anxious. Sleepy.

Initial Thoughts: If Stephanie Meyer can suffer through a re-read of Twilight for the purpose of gender bending the two–according to early reviews–most un-gender-bendable characters of all time then I can certainly re-read TGIB without having a full-blown panic attack. Oh my gosh. Am I about to have a panic attack? But I’m out of on demand episodes of The Real Housewives. And ice cream. Where has all the ice cream gone??? That’s it. Emergency trip to the grocery store. I can read this shit later…And I just remembered my boyfriend took my car to work.

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Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 6.23.59 PM*Chapter 7 is one of my favorites. Getting it right was absolutely punishing but Roman’s descent into the ocean as he searches for some piece of himself is such an important moment for his character. On every page of every book it’s like he’s constantly fighting between being the hero and giving up. That fight starts here in this moment and it’s also the first time we see the dynamic between him and Bryn. Roman finds so much strength in her and she really is the one who, time after time, continues to come to his rescue. Creating that nontraditional dynamic where the girl is the hero wasn’t really my intention. As I was writing and fleshing out their characters, it was more like, Bryn just came to me and said “so, I’m the hero of this story,” and Roman was like “and I’m the one she saves.” The strength and support they give to one another gradually becomes more mutual as the series progresses but Bryn’s character is much more consistent and even as Roman becomes more and more powerful she still represents everything he wants to be.

*A lot of Bryn’s grandmother’s most memorable lines were actually added in later drafts of the story. Again, I was really trying to pump up the dialogue and add some more humor to break up the emotional intensity in certain places. When Bryn’s in the dream state it’s like one emotionally intense scene between her and Roman after the other. When she goes back to the real world I wanted it to feel lighter, even if it’s just briefly. I love in chapter 8 when Bryn and her mother are eye-rolling over her grandmother’s superstitious impulse to tie rosemary around her wrist and then she suddenly appears and is all like…”I do not sneak.” I can just picture her wearing a long gypsy-like robe with bangles and gold chains that are eerily silent as she manifests in the doorway.

*I would now like to take this moment to address the very polarizing decision (at least for my books it has been) of my inclusion of authentic “teen speak” in my novels (this definitely picks up steam at around chapter 8). I know a lot of people don’t like cursing, especially in books for young adults. However, some teens curse. This is a fact. And some of those teens happen to be represented in my books. If you don’t like to read/hear/speak curse words then save yourself the agony and don’t read books with curse words in them. I am an artist and it is not my job to police what your child may or may not be reading. I am not thinking about the possible negative implications of my artistic choices on the youth of the world. I’m telling a story. Just a story. *Drops mic*

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 6.25.35 PM*Adding to what I wrote about in last week’s re-read post about Bryn’s real-world problems adding depth to the story…I’ve also noticed that a lot of paranormal stories follow the format of: girl grows up in boring town surrounded by boring people where nothing ever happens–she meets a mysterious stranger–finds out she has super powers and is supposed to save the world. Now…this plot might sound slightly familiar, even in TGIB (Hey, it was my first paranormal romance!) BUT even though Bryn does believe she has a somewhat dull and unproductive life due to her disease, I really tried to make it a point to give her a past. Past, as in, Drew, issues with her father, her grandfather’s passing, her mother’s borderline romantic relationship with her uncle, her friendships with Dani and Felix, etc. In these first ten chapters we’re not just introduced to Bryn’s disease and all of the “paranormal” symptoms that come with it but we’re also introduced to her. The girl. The normal human being who has been living a life before Roman showed up. He is not the impetus of her existence or even of her story. Why? Because REAL HEALTHY relationships don’t work that way and they shouldn’t be portrayed that way in fiction either.

RT

*This was my first novel written in past tense and it shows. But that’s okay, I’ll just tweak this, and change that, and…STOP! NO EDITING ALLOWED!
*When I first wrote this novel and all of the accompanying “high school-esque” scenes it had only been about two years since my own high school graduation. Now, it’s been about six…and can you believe I’m actually volunteering to go back there and be a teacher? I pray every night that I won’t have students like Jessie Fowler or Candace Johnson or, God forbid, Drew… But I probably will and then I’ll just have to write books about them where they get exactly what they deserve
*Sidenote-my high school stats teacher was also named Mrs. Wheeler. She was a very nice lady who surely passed me out of pity.
*I like that Bryn’s dreams of going away to college in no way cause her to be overly preachy when it comes to Dani and Felix’s alternative plans (or lack thereof). I know we like to drill it into kids’ heads that they should all go to college someday but the truth is that college is NOT for everyone.
*I also love how Bryn’s main concern as Michael Erickson is being carried into the back of an ambulance is “what about the cake?”

Re-read The Girl In Between Chapters 1-5

Writing Process

RereadIt’s the first official re-read of The Girl In Between and in this post I’ll be covering chapters 1-5. For anyone who hasn’t read the book yet please be aware of possible spoilers. I’m not exactly following a format here and will mostly just be rambling on about whatever comes to mind…Please leave any questions in the comments section or via Twitter and I’ll do my best to reply to them ASAP!

Initial Feelings: Terror. Nausea. Terror. Slight Hunger.

Initial Thoughts: This is going to be terrible. I’m going to hate every word. I can’t believe four years have gone by. I’m so old. And getting older every second. A quarter of my life is almost over. OHMYGOD! Maybe I should eat a snack first…

C1-5

*It feels like it was just yesterday that I was living in Florida while my boyfriend went to school, working at a data analysis firm, and writing every second of every day because I knew no one and had no friends (FYI, I’ve found that having no friends is the key to being productive). I wrote the entire first draft of this novel in emails when my boss wasn’t looking (FYI, the second key to productivity is finding a job where you can secretly write all day).

*When I first started sending this ms out for critique I can’t tell you how many people told me that it was some kind of unwritten writing rule that you should never start a novel off with a dream sequence. That’s probably good advice, but when it comes to writing, how many of those “rules” are created by writers and how many are actually enforced by readers? After an initial moment of panic I realized that most readers probably wouldn’t pass over my book just because it began with a dream sequence, whether they were aware of the “rule” or not. Besides, I hate rules. So there.

*I forgot how much I used Bryn’s story to help me remember my own. I have a terrible memory, and in my desperation to hold onto the tiny details that mean the most, I’ve tucked them into Bryn’s thoughts and home and family.

*Plot-wise as I was planning this story, Dani and Felix’s roles were secondary but they are absolutely my favorite part!

c1-5-quote*Craft-wise one of my main goals throughout the revision process for this ms was to work on including more engaging and dynamic dialogue. Feedback on my earlier novels cited them being a little description heavy (blame it on a classical education) and since this project was my foray into genre fiction I really wanted to work on creating dialogue that not only moved the plot but was also entertaining. Thanks to Felix, I think I got some real gems!!

*Way back in 2011 this ms started out as a contemporary novel with hints of magical realism. As it evolved into a paranormal romance I thought about cutting some of the more “normal” aspects of the story like Bryn’s relationship with Drew and the role that her extended family members play. But I’d read paranormal romances before that had a lot of action but no depth, mainly because those real-world aspects, such as the MC’s family and friends played a minimal role, especially in regard to the emotional development of the character. For Bryn’s story, I think leaving in those relationships and normal teenage issues really grounds the narrative and makes the paranormal aspects feel even more real. I’m proud of my choices to use genre as a guiding force rather than a strict set of rules to follow. Because as previously mentioned, I hate rules.

*It took months to get the first part of this novel working. I combined and reordered the first 10 chapters so many times! Rereading the first 5 reminds me of all of the stuff I cut that I was so in love with at the time but that really was dragging everything to a snail’s pace. In hindsight, I feel like I made the right choices (so far…we’ve still got 30 chapters to go) so that’s a relief!

RT

*I love how Felix has more sass than Dani and Bryn combined
*I wish the story had room for a deep exploration into the trauma behind Bryn’s grandmother’s obsession with leftovers. And putting people down on the sly. And being so wise, except in regard to her self-perception.
*I like how my attempt at making Roman’s initial chapters disjointed and jarring resulted in some of the writing actually being disjointed and jarring. From this point on, if anyone asks, I totally meant to do that.
*I can’t believe I wrote this entire novel when I was just twenty years old. Wait, a hundred instances of anaphora?–yes…yes, I can. Just kidding, I still love anaphoras.
*This was actually a very enjoyable experience. However, the lead-up to the actual re-read was quite stressful, so I must go now and decompress with some nachos.