NaNoWriMo 2017: The Now What? Months

From emojipedia. I do not claim any rights.

I wasn’t sure whether to tack on 2017 or 2018 after NaNo in the title of this post, since I thought I might confuse people (or myself, reading this later on :P). Technically I won back in November, but my novel process has continued until now. The NaNoWriMo organization formally calls January and February after NaNo the “Now What?” months and encourages people to pull out their first drafts and revise them. Therefore, 2017 won out, and also I realized, duh, NaNo 2018 would mean this November. Silly me.

After a long January, I ended up with just shy of 81k for my manuscript! I wish I could say writing the last word came with an elated sigh, fist-pumping, and other celebratory gestures, but really, I kind of just sat there thinking to myself, “I’m done?” While my story ended where I plotted it to, I felt unsatisfied somehow. My friends tell me it’s me being a perfectionist, and they’re right. Because now what? Well, once I’d done what I could for my manuscript, it was finally time to find an editor!

Finding an Editor

I’ve learned so much through this novel writing and creation process, and one of those things has been just how many types of editors are involved with a book. Again, I’m self-publishing, so I don’t have the support of a publishing house and editors on their payroll. Before I waded into Google search results, I figured out what types of editing I needed at this stage. Below is a quick-quick summary; italic text represents the kind of work I just contracted an editor for (!):

  • Developmental/content editing: Called by differing names, this stage deals with “big picture” items like plot, characterization, style, structure, and other aspects of storytelling. It goes without saying that this stage of editing is incredibly important, and while I’ve pored over my plot outline, character bios, and even visual mood-board thousands of times, I (and any other human writer) need a second pair of eyes. I found a lovely editor who specializes in YA fiction, and I am so anxious to see what she has to say. Frankly I’m also bracing myself for the worst, but I need the detailed notes, not any ego-stroking!
  • Copy-editing: Here the editor is looking for any overly repetitive sentence structures, appropriateness of word choice, and clarity of meaning. (Yes, that last bucket was a bit of a cop-out on my part.) While we say that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, said covers are well-made to get a potential reader to pick up the book and peruse its pages. The copy editor’s goal is to help make the words on those pages shine and serve the story.
  • Proofreading: This work is done on the manuscript just before sending it off to be published. Here the proofreader is making sure all the i’s are dotted, t’s are crossed, and–you get the idea–no other grammar and spelling errors remain. (I’m definitely not ready for this yet!)

Now, how did I find my editor? To be honest, I was firstly constrained by the spring/summer publication date I’m aiming for, so immediate availability to start on my manuscript was my first filter. Then, or maybe ranking equally as important, was expertise and experience in my genre of YA contemporary. Beyond that, I evaluated based on email exchanges, information available on the editor’s website (prior books they’ve worked on), and also price. Good editing is invaluable, but girl is definitely on a budget. Instead of going on freelancer aggregation sites, I searched in Google via keywords: YA, contemporary, romance, editor, content, developmental, etc. I was able to find an editor who could do passes for both content and copy editing at the same time; I can’t tell you how thrilled I was by that!

Now What?

After I get comments and notes back from my editor, so begins the trials of squaring my impressions after reading my manuscript with her suggestions, then of course, revising (cue tears).

This may seem bold, but I’ve also learned (from many helpful “author-tube” YouTube channels) that you do not in fact have to agree with everything someone giving you feedback says! Of course, I hope you, like me, show your work to people who are invested in its success, your happiness, etc. However, at the end of the day, I know it is my story that I want to tell. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post soon about how to balance the protective author brain with outside feedback! Stay tuned…

“MFA Fiction” Book Review: What We Lose

Besides YA literature, which is the target genre for my WIP manuscript, I read from others as well. I’ve read a few other books by MFA degree holders, aiming to absorb elements of their writing styles, which I expect to be more artistic and land with a sort of “oomph.” What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons was a challenging read because of the untraditional narrative structure, as you’ll see in my review, but I learned about a race different from my own, as well as experienced an emotional impact. That is extremely valuable.


whatwelosecover
Image from Amazon. I do not claim any rights.

I’m not going to lie, I was definitely intrigued by the beautiful cover of this book (as well as its title). The premise then reeled in the rest of me. As someone who’s also lost a parent, I wanted to see how Clemmons describes and weaves a story tinged with grief. The elements in the narrative itself, about how the semi-autobiographical protagonist observes her mother dying and then spirals after her death, aren’t entirely outlandish, but the style this book was written in has off-put some readers. It’s split into three parts, interspersed with long quotes, single-sentence pages, and even graphs (nothing too crazy, don’t worry). At times it does feel disjointed, so that I had to ask myself, “where is this taking me?” Altogether though, it makes this book a truly artistic work, a statement. I can’t say I’ll want to read too many books in this style, but it worked for me here. Besides grief, this book delves into topics of race (very piercing observations), relationships, and sexuality, just at a breakneck pace sometimes.

However, as Clemmons is an MFA grad, you can expect top-notch, piercing writing throughout. I’ll end my review with a non-spoiler-y quote from near the end of the story that hit me in the gut: “Some things have to go away, I tell myself. That is just the way it is.”

YA Book Review: The Truth About Forever

Hey y’all, this short review attempts to crystallize the major things I loved about Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever. For those not as into YA lit, she is better known as Queen Dessen for the breadth of her work (at least 20 books) over her career. And of course, each one sells like hotcakes! See below for why this should be your first Dessen book if you haven’t read her before. As before, this review can also be found on my Goodreads page.


ttaf cover
Cover image from Goodreads. I do not claim any rights.

*No spoilers here!*

This was not my first Sarah Dessen book, but it’s probably my favorite. I’ll be honest. I tend to view long books, especially in YA, with apprehension because I’m afraid there will be too much filler. Some other reviewers did feel this way with TTAF, but I’m of the opposite camp. What attracts me to Dessen’s writing is her ability to weave a vibrant, realistic story with characters that could’ve been pulled from your life, though of course maybe dramatized in some way. That’s what she’s done here (again) with Macy, her mom, sister Caroline, love interest Wes, new friends from her summer Kristy, Monica, and Burt. You get the picture. I felt the length here was justified to give enough color to Macy’s backstory (recounting when her father was alive, the recurring “gifts” that keep showing up on her doorstep) and set her up for her character’s growth throughout the book. Most of the detail is necessary for understand her or other major figures in her life, like her mom, so please bear with it if it feels like it’s dragging.

As for the ending? Wow, so much emotional payoff! While there are lots of readers who wanted to see more of Macy’s now-happier life, I appreciate how the ending just leaves us with her turning a corner. Personally, it’s more satisfying for me to imagine what’ll happen than to have all the resolution of angst explained to me. Hope that makes sense!

YA Book Review: Words in Deep Blue

Hi all, as you know by now, I’m writing a YA contemporary novel, and part of the process (or procrastinating) includes reading other books for reference points! I picked up Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley after much browsing late last year, and here are my quick thoughts on it. Verdict? Give this a read for sure! You’ll also find this review on my Goodreads profile. 🙂


widb cover
Book cover image from Amazon. I do not claim any rights.

*No spoilers here!*

I’ve been reading a lot of YA contemporary titles to get inspired for working on my own. I don’t know how many others do this, but I browsed for a long time on Amazon (I’m talking almost twenty tabs open, people) before coming across WiDB, my next read. I was immediately drawn to the bookshop setting and the romance, especially since I loved both of these elements in Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (beautiful tearjerker by the way!).

Overall I’m so very glad I took a chance on WiDB. The voices are very clear in the switching POVs between Rachel and Henry. The narrative and plot points themselves are very believable, but without being too predictable. I especially praise how Crowley wrote the interactions within Rachel and Henry’s families; multiple character scenes are so challenging to write, as I’ve learned! Finally, the ending is satisfying in the right ways, not just for the main characters but the well-developed side characters. Again, another feat!

I do have some of the same issues as other reviewers, most notably with the Amy character. I can understand that Crowley didn’t make her out to be appealing, but at some points I got so incredibly frustrated with Henry for continuing to be so infatuated with her! So much that I almost stopped rooting for him and Rachel to make up. Then I reminded myself that he’s a teenage boy, and I’ve also been susceptible to the same weaknesses before. Second, I also found it a little bit of a stretch for Rachel to hold her brother’s death the way she did in the book. I won’t spoil this but has been discussed in other reviews. It’s not a huge, huge issue, just required me to suspend disbelief for something besides a fantasy.

Give this a read if you love bookshops, a romance to root for, and a story on the quiet side but without any less emotional impact!