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Amy Zhang

revising and rewriting

Post-Deadline Thoughts

As of 1:14 A.M. October 21st, I have finished my first round of revisions. I have met my first deadline, and it feels unbelievable.

Revising this book was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Drafting it had been so simple–the story told itself, poured through my fingertips as if I were only a vessel for it. It is, as my publisher says, a “jigsaw puzzle,” and while drafting, the pieces had fallen into place all by themselves, and I had expected revising it to be just as easily.

It didn’t, of course. Because the book is told in a non-linear fashion, I couldn’t move a scene without changing two scenes before it and three scenes that followed. I would try to make subtle revisions, a nudge here, a shift there, and everything would fall apart, and I would sit curled on my floor with my laptop cast among the circle of charts and revision plans and the pages of my edit letter, thinking about all that could go wrong, all that was going wrong. I thought about all that homework piling up and all of that college stuff I hadn’t touched yet. I thought about the thirty, forty, fifty chapters of my book I had yet to edit. I thought about all of the chapters from contests that I had yet to critique and all those manuscripts from my internship that I had yet to read.

Basically, I sat there and whimpered. Cried. Sent panicky, all-caps emails to just about everyone–critique partners, non-writer friends, teachers, my agent. Cried some more, thinking about marketing and publicity and how I didn’t know how to do any of it. A bit more, imagining all of the bad reviews I was sure to get. And then some more, because there was so much to do, and I would have more time to do if I would stop bawling.

Today, of all days, I should have had a breakdown. I had noticed a pattern–they usually came during the ungodly hours of Monday morning, surprise, start off the week strong! Today (well, yesterday, really) was the last day before my deadline, and I wasn’t finished with my final read-through. It was a perfect opportunity to eat chocolate and cry, and I was ready to, when I was suddenly struck by what an incredible thing it was for me to be stressed at all.

I was stressing over turning in my manuscript on time to my dream publisher. My editor brought some of my favorite books, books that I’ve grown up with, into the world–she had made it possible for me to fall in love with these characters and peek into their distant lands and take them with me, between covers designed by people who were now working on my cover, copyedited by people who were combing my manuscript for mistakes, loved by a team that was now taking an enormous risk by loving my book as well.

It’s two in the morning. I am exhausted, sleep-deprived, barely aware of what I’m typing, and I am the happiest person in the world.

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2012 Recap

Here’s a secret: I hate New Year’s Eve, for three reasons: 1) For the first six months, my dates are always wrong, 2) January always feels like an enormously long Monday, and 3) I always look back and feel all down because I hadn’t accomplished all of the things I’d wanted to accomplish that year. So…I wrote this to prove to myself that I didn’t spend the entire year lying on the couch watching Big Bang Theory.
January: Made a New Year’s resolution to sign with an agent this year. Began re-querying my YA fantasy, WILDFLOWER. Sent nine queries, received four full requests. Fell out of my chair during Global Studies upon receiving a request from an awesome agent just ten days later.
February: Officially signed with the wonderful Emily Keyes of the L. Perkins Agency on the 23rd. Started revising WILDFLOWER for subs.
March: Made a twitter and this blog. Tried to balance revising, school, and extracurriculars with arguable success.
April: Finished revising WILDFLOWER…but it came in at almost 125K. Started working on another round of revisions with the sole purpose of cutting words.
May: Struck up a conversation regarding BEA, fake boobs, and man purses on Twitter, and irrevocably became writing friends with John, Ari, Olivia, and Mark. Started the For Love of YA blog with my wonderful critique partner/soulmate/brother-from-another-mother, Mark.
June: Took exams, finished up sophomore year, went to a few graduation parties, did some other generally stupid things to celebrate the start of summer vacation, like getting kicked out of Walmart for pushing my friend Noah down the isles at four in the morning, which, apparently, is frowned upon. Finished another round of revisions for WILDFLOWER and managed to cut 20,000 words. Started discussing subs, which was super exciting. Turned sixteen. Realized that I really, really needed to find the time to take Driver’s Ed, because all evidence suggested that I would be the last person in my grade to get my license. Ended up become very apathetic towards the subject as the month went on. Continued mooching rides off friends.
July: Got a marketing internship with Entangled Publishing, which I was truly terrible at. Wrote a novel about wolves and stars and hot chocolate. Officially sent WILDFLOWER out on subs. A few houses requested the manuscript. Then, on the 25th, I got an email while wandering through Walmart titled “Don’t Freak Out,” saying that a senior editor at Harlequin wanted to take it to acquisitions. Naturally, I freaked out. Actually, I almost fell over. A Walmart employee caught me and asked me if I was okay in a very Oh-crap-this-child-is-insane kind of way. I hugged her. And then ran away.
August: Became an intern for Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Larsen Pomada. Read some full requests, loved being on the other side of the querying process. Waited for the acquisitions meeting. Made the varsity team for tennis. Realized that real-life-summer-vacation wasn’t nearly as long as Phineas and Ferb’s summer vacation, frantically tried to finish AP homework.
September: Got kicked off the varsity team for tennis, which was…sad (meh. I still lettered, so I’m still putting it on college applications). Started junior year with a totally screwed up schedule, tried taking Pre-Calc as an independent study (which was a total fail), ended up having to take it as an online course. Assumed the editor-in-chief position for our school newspaper, published our first issue (which was so awfully awful it was just awful…but we figured out what to do by the second issue). Realized that taking AP Chemistry was probably one of the worst decisions that I had ever made. WILDFLOWER received its first rejection. I moped. Found out that the editor at Harlequin got called to jury duty, so the acquisitions meeting had been moved back yet again.
October: Found out that another senior editor at Harlequin had expressed interest in WILDFLOWER, and that both would take it to the board. Got an official date for the acquisitions meeting, which was later cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy. Signed up and outlined for NaNo. Got a phone call at six in the morning saying that a boy in my grade had died in a car accident, almost quit NaNo because the novel I’d planned to write was about a car crash, and I didn’t think I could handle it emotionally.
November: Received the news that the board at Harlequin ultimately decided to pass on WILDFLOWER. Could not find enough chocolate to smother the sobby feels. Decided to participate in NaNoWriMo because I was tired of moping. Didn’t sleep very much. Was bribed into going Black Friday shopping, which was…terrifying. Finished my YA contemp, FOR EVERY LIFE, on November 30th.
December: Sent FOR EVERY LIFE off to my agent and critique partners, who all seemed to really like it. Started talking about subbing it. Had a mild life crisis regarding what to do with my life. Spent winter break studying for the SATs, revising FOR EVERY LIFE, and trying to watch all ten seasons of Friends. Wrote this blog post. Am currently realizing that I have not, in fact, wasted an entire year of my life doing nothing of importance.
In all seriousness, this was a great year. I wrote, I read, I made friends, and honestly, I’m so, so thankful for all of you. So…happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!

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The First Look Challenge

OH HAI PEOPLE!!!

I know. I haven’t posted anything in forever. THINGS HAVE BEEN HAPPENING. Not good, writing-related-on-sub things. More like teachers-don’t-understand-that-they-can’t-expect-us-to-do-five-hours-of-homework-a-night things. So.

This week, I was tagged by the lovely Patrice Cadwell for the First Look Challenge. Basically, you have to find the word look in your manuscript and share the surrounding scene. The one below is from the manuscript I’m currently revising, tentatively titled BENEATH THE DISQUIET STAR. Y’know, the hot chocolate one?

This is a scene from the beginning-ish, from the POV of the male MC, who disappeared seven years ago and has just returned to the town of his childhood. He’s watching an execution in a place that was meant for sacrifice, and is about to fall in love. And as I mentioned, it’s being revised. So I apologize in advance for general suckiness.

***

The sun rains dusty light over us, and the haze bends time until I am seated between Million and Holloway again, younger and afraid of smaller things. Before my eyes, only my eyes, it is the Day of Disquiet, and the stadium is only noise and fire. I remember a burning star, a blue-gray fenrisulfr, a terrified dead man, an entire town watching. Million is on his feet with the rest of the crowd, but I have stayed seated, and Holloway’s hand is on my shoulder.

I ask him, why?

And he says that when the star fell and the monster wolf was born, someone had to fight it. Or the wolf would turn on the town and eat everyone. This is the only way.

I ask, but why do they cheer?

Then his face is grim, and he answers, “Because they want to live, lad. They are cheering for mortality, because it means they will not die this year.”

The stadium was built to be a place of sacrifice, but it contains more than the fire of the Disquiet Star now. It’s become a place of blood, because this town takes Finigal and makes it ugly. Men were meant to die here. But not like this.

I look around at the blur of faces, a sea of open mouths and words. I wonder what they cheer for now, when no one has to die.

Million has waited for this event for months and I had no wish to stay in Holloway’s store alone. But here I can feel a thousand pairs of eyes on me, and it makes my heart quiet and uneven. There are so many sounds echoing within this circle of stone, breaths and coughs, whispered words and shouted ones, and I am unused it. I left Finigal’s monsters for Finigal’s men by returning, but in this stadium of sacrifice, my eyes have yet to adjust to the difference between them.

***

Oh, and:

Mark O’Brien Writes

Olivia’s Opinions

The Incessant Droning of A Bored Author

A Fuzzy Mango With Wings

Crazy Red Pen

Y’all have been tagged!

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Be Inspired Blogshop Meme!

Hiya, everyone! This week, the lovely Silent Pages at Pro(B)logue tagged me for the Be Inspired Blogshop Meme! *cue confetti* Yay! So, I was trying to figure out which project to do this about, but then school started and I got distracted by the fact that 5 x 5 = 30 in Chemistry and my schedule was screwed up and I didn’t have pre-calc first semester, and I totally forgot about this until last night. So. I think I’m going to do this one about the MS on subs right now. Because. I can’t stop thinking about subs. So.



1. What is the name of your book?

WILDFLOWER

2. Where did the idea for your book come from?

Hmm. Let’s see. I was on a mission trip when I first got the idea for WILDFLOWER. It was in the mountains of Arizona, and it was dry and hot and my nose was constantly bleeding and I was dehydrated and there was only one toilet between twenty-five girls and it’s highly possible that I was hallucinating slightly. I was lying awake in the middle of the night and someone was snoring across the room, and I was trying really, really hard to fall asleep because we had to wake up at four. See, when I need to fall asleep, I do this thing were I imagine things. By then, I’d already written one (very terrible) manuscript, and I think I’d been considering a revision when suddenly, this boy with a scar appeared in my head and told me that he had a story.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night.

3. In what genre would you classify your book?


Definitely YA Fantasy.

4. If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition, who would you choose?

Erm…I…dunno…I think maybe Ian Somerhalder for my MMC, Aro, because he has that arrogant, secretive look. Only, his jaw is too extreme. As for my FMC, Faye, I really don’t know. Hmm. I’ll have to think about that one.

5. Give us a one-sentence synopsis of your book.

In a world where everyone carries knives, Faye knows she should never be surprised to be stabbed in the back–until she’s captured by Aro, a quiet, enigmatic soldier from the enemy kingdom who makes her realize that keeping her heart locked away won’t be enough to save her life.
6. Is your book already published?

Sigh. It’s still on subs. You guys will know if anything happens. I promise.

7. How long did it take you to write your book?

Well, it took me just about three months to write the first draft. I rewrote and revised thirteen times, though. So, all in all, about a year and a half.
8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to? Or, readers of which books would enjoy yours?
Well…hrmmm…I think it could be compared to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, because it’s set in a similar world. Like, epic-ish fantasy without the dragons and elves, y’know? Make sense? No?
9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?
E.B. White, who wrote the first book that ever made me cry. J.K. Rowling, who made me fall in love with words. Lemony Snicket, who taught me that letters, when they are arranged correctly, have the power to break your heart. Frances Hodges Burnett, who taught me to see the beauty between the lines. L. M. Montgomery, who made me laugh when I was alone. And then there are the authors who made me want to keep writing…I could go on forever.

10. Tell us anything that might pique our interest in your book.
I drew a map for it once! Wanna see? I posted it once a long time ago, but I’ll paste it again. It’s not the most recent version, but…hey, this is the land where the story takes place. 🙂



11. Tag five people!

Mark O’Brien, my fantabulous critique partner, who’s writing this new story that is so beautiful and emotional and GAHHHH-inducing I just. Can’t. Even.
John Hansen, who’s writing a new sci-fi that sounds absolutely wonderful.
Ari Susu-Mago, because she rocks AWL TEH SOCKS OFF.

And…I don’t know who else to tag. Everyone I was going to tag was already tagged earlier this week : So…have some cumin. Love y’all!


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Writing is writing is writing is writing….

I’ve just finished my revisions for my agent! And I’m exhausted. Of course, I still have do some surface revising, to make sure everything makes sense and take care of any logistical errors (and there’s always a few), read every one of those 130,000 words out loud to find spelling/grammatical errors, send it to my beta readers, take care of their critiques…

Sigh. Even more exhausted now. I really need to train myself to like coffee.

Quite honestly, though, I don’t mind doing revisions. It’s amazing how much things can change between one revision and the next. There are at least three characters who played large roles in my first draft who don’t even appear in this last revision, and conversely, at least three characters who play large roles in this draft who didn’t appear at all during that first draft.

This was my eleventh rewrite. Yes, rewrite, not revision. Usually, I don’t create a new document labeled “Revision X” unless there is a change I want to make to my manuscript that’s radical enough to require me to start over from a blank screen. Which isn’t to say that I don’t reference it to past revisions, or copy and paste parts that still work. For whatever reason, I’ve always thought that it’s less work to start with a clean slate than to try to comb through an old revision.

Revising takes guts. That was something I struggled with tremendously at first (and still do), because I would grow so attached to certain scenes that I would force them into the new version, even though they didn’t flow well with the rest of the novel. As a writer, I think one of the most difficult and necessary skills to have is trusting yourself to write things that are even better than the things you cut. Why? Because that speck or ocean of pride exists in all of us, and it’s human nature to want other people to see the beautiful things we’ve written. As Ray Bradbury once said, “You have to trust in [that] secret self as a writer, or you shouldn’t be doing it.”

So if you’re wavering over a line, or a scene, or the entire second half of your manuscript, don’t be afraid to put it aside and open a fresh document. You will write something just as wonderful, or even better. And besides, you’ll have no choice but to do it anyway, seeing as most agents and editors require it nowadays.

Now. I think I’m going to make someone drive me out to Dairy Queen and get me a Blizzard. I feel like I’ve deserved one 🙂

And then I’m going to go sit back down at my desk, do any other necessary revisions and read throughs, and hopefully send it to my agent by the end of next week. And then I will cross every appendage I have as she…(cue dramatic music)…starts shopping my project to publishers!

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