Having entered the Like a Virgin 2013 contest, I am consumed with a fretful anxiety that sets me to pacing in circles and refreshing Twitter, where I am commiserating with the like-minded, over and over again. The blog hop, though helpful, has not been enough to occupy my tormented mind, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. With this in mind, I took the liberty of posing seven MORE questions for you, my peers and competitors, to answer…
1: Who was the first character you came up with?
2: Who was the first person to read your book?
3: How long did your first draft take?
4: What was the first thing you changed when you started revisions?
5: Who was your first celebrity crush?
6: What are the first TWO WORDS of your book?
7: What was the first book that made you cry?
1: Ericka, which probably explains why she transitioned from being “one of the three main characters” to “THE main character.”
2: My husband read the first draft as I went till about halfway through, at which point I realized it was terrible and locked him out of the Google document. The first person to read it all the way through was my friend Sarah, who was an absolute delight because she’d supply me with near-constant commentary as she read. She would make these wonderful comments about the characters and make outlandish predictions about side characters (I.e “I think Alex’s mom is a prostitute.” Spoiler alert: She isn’t.)
3: 17 days.
4: Tons of little things, but what stands out is the fact that in the first draft, I had misspelled “windshield” every single time it appeared.
5: I kind of regret posing this question, because now I have to answer it too! Does anyone remember the season of American Idol from years back, the one where Sanjaya Malakar held on for weeks and weeks despite not being very good? I thought he was all kinds of fine. When he sang “Besame Mucho”? GUSH.
6: “The shattered.”
7: I read a lot of the California Diaries books when I was about twelve. (I had no idea they had anything to do with The Baby-sitters Club until I looked it up just now. Those were before my time.) One of Sunny’s books really got to me because it hit too close to home.
Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…
I woke up at 5:55 AM this morning just to ensure my eligibility in the Like a Virgin contest for unpublished YA/NA novels. The organizers of this lovely event have started a blog hop and asked participants to answer the following questions…
1: How do you remember your first kiss?
I didn’t much care for it! I was sitting on the couch in my father’s living room, and I just remember staring at this houseplant across the room wishing it wouldn’t happen. Oh dear.
2: What was your first favorite love song?
Hmm, probably something really embarrassing! I would guess “Forever and Always” by Shania Twain. I went through a country phase around ages 10-13.
3: What’s the first thing you do when you begin writing for the day?
I don’t have a set schedule for writing, so I really couldn’t tell you. When I was working on the first draft of Thursday’s Children, I was in the habit of drinking Arizona lemon tea and using this hemp oil hand lotion that smelled like chocolate and cherries, though.
4: Who’s the first writer who truly inspired you to become a writer?
Probably Margaret Peterson Haddix. I was obsessed with her books when I was little, and I think there’s definitely a bit of that “old school” YA flavor in my writing. Honestly, though, my memories of trying to write stories all but pre-date my memories of reading.
5: Did the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with?
Despite a fair bit of worrying over that, yes.
6: For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot or setting?
Characters, absolutely. To varying degrees, they were living in my head for years before I ever started writing their story, or even knew all of what their story was. Figuring out the plot and the characters was a very synergistic sort of thing, though, because they wouldn’t be who they are at all without the plot. As for the setting, I was really lazy and used my hometown – I really enjoy reading books where I recognize real places, so I thought it would be nice, if I ever get published, to give people from little old Westerville, Ohio that experience.
7: What’s the first word you want to roll off the tip of someone’s tongue when they think of your writing?
Honestly, I have no idea. It’s not that I’m saying voice or technical skill aren’t important, but I really don’t care if people think of my writing as “lyrical” or “bold” or any of those book-reviewer type adjectives. I don’t really care if they think about how I write at all, as long as it doesn’t impede the story. I’d rather they think about the story than how exactly it’s written.
I’m not sure any of my WordPress followers know who I am, so I thought I should take a minute to introduce myself.
I’m Caron. I live in Ohio and work a horribly unremarkable job. I never went to college. I’ve never published a thing (unless you count an article for a church newspaper when I was sixteen). I am, to put it simply, nobody – but I’m trying very hard to be somebody.
Between November of last year and May of this year, I wrote my first book. It’s a contemporary young adult novel about three sisters who have reacted to their mother’s death, and the unseemly circumstances surrounding it, in very different ways – ways that leave them at odds with each other. It’s called Thursday’s Children and I would gladly talk anyone’s ear off about it. So, a lot of what you’ll see on here pertains to the struggle of trying to get that story out into the world.
While I am very obsessive about writing and everything related to it (I’m trying to take on as many beta reading projects as possible), there is, of course, more to me than that. I am obsessed with The Fault in Our Stars, the British TV series My Mad Fat Diary, and everything pertaining to MIKA. I used to consume entirely too much anime and manga, and am still fiercely loyal to several series (Ouran High School Host Club, FLCL, Kare Kano, Fruits Basket, etc). I collect thimbles and drink a lot of Mountain Dew.
So, if anyone wants to chat about anything like that… Here I am.
This image has been spreading like wildfire through the online writing and publishing community. Agents and editors post it with sage nods. Writers post it as a warning to others.
However, the graphic only applies to the reasons books are abandoned once someone has actually started reading them. Many books aren’t lucky enough to get past an initial screening process – usually, reading in the description on the back cover or the inner flap of the book jacket and a cursory look at the first page or two. Here’s what usually makes me pick up a book only to promptly return it to the shelf:
1: Any book jacket synopsis that says anything remotely like “So-and-so has it all.” The only thing that could possibly redeem this is a list of unique accomplishments, but what follows is usually a description of terribly bland Middle Aged White Chick achievements. (Husband, kids, flashy job, blah blah blah.) And it’s fine if your character does “have it all” at the beginning of the book, I suppose (though it doesn’t seem like a very good way to start – what happened to in media res?), but for the love of all that’s good, find a better way to describe it.
2: A description involving the main character returning to their hometown for any reason – high school reunion, wedding, funeral, ailing parent, etc. It’s such an artless, obvious way to make a character literally confront their past. Where’s the creativity?
3: The flip side of #1 – a synopsis that begins by stating that “So-and-so has hit rock bottom,” or any variation thereof. If your character is literally at rock bottom, there are no stakes. You have already told the reader that circumstances will invariably get better, which is boring.
4: A first page that begins with a character’s name. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about things like “Abigail wished she had stayed at home” or “Clark was tired of being here.” Those are fine. What I’m referring to are sentences that cram a character’s full name in, right off the bat, for no good reason; for example, “Isabelle Lenore Givings shuddered as the floorboards creaked beneath her feet.” I’m not sure that there’s ever a reason that a reader needs to know a character’s full name immediately, and if there is, it can surely be done much more artfully than this. This method of opening a book only tells me that the author is way too proud of their character’s (usually ridiculous) name, and it has been included due to self-indulgence. I’m not fond of overtly self-indulgent books.
All of these leave me dropping a book like it’s a hot potato.
Does anyone have anything to add?
In my dream, I’m in my grandparents’ driveway, checking my e-mail on my phone. A literary agent, one who has already rejected me in real life, is being incredibly confusing about what she wants from me. I go to format my manuscript properly, and find all kinds of nonsensical spelling errors.
I wake up and check my phone with the same motivations I had in the dream. As if reminding me that I’m really, truly awake, a rejection letter sits at the top of my inbox. The roach letter informs me that this particular agent “just wasn’t hooked enough,” but “wouldn’t be at all surprised if another agent feels differently.” She wishes me luck.
These letters always make me think of the suicide prevention signs they post on the Golden Gate bridge, or other such locations throughout the world. I’ve seen ones from Japan that say “Please reconsider!” Whatever else you can say about literary agents, they know that anyone’s first reaction upon opening these letters is “Goddamnit,” followed by whining.
I also think of the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech, brought to fame partially by real life and partially by Seinfeld. I think every single rejection I’ve gotten has reminded me that this is a “subjective” business and told me to keep trying. I’m not sure to what extent I should believe them. There is no way of discerning, from a roach letter, whether your work, through no fault of its own, just isn’t of interest to that particular agent, or if there is some crippling flaw to it that will make all agents run and hide.
“Think of Colonel Sanders,” my husband tells me. “He tried and tried to get investors into his business, but no one was interested in fried chicken. He was turned down, like… I don’t know, hundreds of times.”
Privately, I suspect he’s been taken in by an urban legend, but the moral of the story still stands. It doesn’t matter how many “No”s you get in these situations. You only need one “Yes” to get somewhere. If the Colonel Sanders story is fabricated, there are plenty of true examples to use instead – Life of Pi was rejected a number of times, and then it went on to be a bestseller and a movie. What if Yann Martel had given up? “Grace Kelly,” one of the first big hits by my beloved favorite singer MIKA, was written as a “f*ck you” to record labels that rejected him – “You only want what everybody else says you should want.” What if MIKA had given up? (I, for one, would be much less happy.)
But it’s hard to continue on, as if success will come as a result of sheer force of will, when your inbox is peppered with little “it’s not you, it’s me” speeches, because there’s a decent chance that it really is me. No one will tell me what’s wrong with my work, though, and I’ll get nowhere by second-guessing everything I do. Until some blessed soul says “Hey, this aspect of your book totally blows, you should fix that,” I have little choice but to stay the course, hoping to be the next Colonel Sanders.
Once upon a time, I went to cosmetology school. The sooner everyone forgets that little eleven month misadventure, the happier I will be, but the evidence of the experience will always remain. For example, I know a thing or two about nail polish.
At my school, we sold O.P.I nail lacquer, the same kind offered at the salon my mother went to when I was little. At the time, I couldn’t conceive of spending $8 on a bottle of nail polish – fortunately, as a student, I didn’t have to. I made use of my 50% off discount frequently and enthusiastically.
The first O.P.I shade I ever bought was “Chick Flick Cherry,” a deep, almost gothic red. I have never especially liked red polish – it strikes me as a bit cliche – but I was required to use a plain red to practice manicures, and I was told I would need it when taking my state board exam. I then wore it to my mother’s funeral, for no other reason than red being her favorite color, and I don’t believe I have touched it since.
Since graduating cosmetology school and moving on to a life of dismal food service slavery, I don’t paint my nails much anymore. Manicures don’t hold up well in the cruel environment of a restaurant. The daily onslaught of harsh chemicals, hand washing, and general abuse leave the edges chipped and flaking within hours, but beyond that, the job has compromised my spirit to the point that I can’t bring myself to spend my free time on vain frivolities like nail painting. In this sense, my job has fundamentally changed who I am. It takes far too close to everything I have.
For months, now, I was a food service slave by day and a novelist by night. The wonder of shaping an alternate reality in the hours before I went to bed sustained me through the hours of assisting rude or downright dumb customers. Every day contained the promise of something better; I could go home and write.
Now, the book is done (more or less). The promise is gone – and as such, work seems more torturous than ever, even though I’m better at it all the time and a promotion looms in the near future. Being good at something is little solace if you don’t want to be doing it in the first place.
So, I’ve decided I should start painting my nails again, at least my toes – one particular shade, one of O.P.I’s most famous – a perfectly generic and otherwise unremarkable red by the name of I’m Not Really A Waitress.
I will wear it not for aesthetics, but as a reminder. My job doesn’t define me. It pays the bills, for now, and, God willing, something better will come along and do the same someday. The color itself is a prayer, written across my nails: I’m not really a waitress. I’m a writer.