Yay for the mentee blog hop! This contest is amazing, and what with last year’s being so awesome (you can read my old post over here) I couldn’t resist joining in this one. Same topic as last year, too: the inspiration behind the novel that got me in. Though there’s a little problem — I don’t remember what inspired the story.
Seriously, no idea where the plot bunny came from. I remember that I came up with the concept early on in my writing exploits, but thankfully didn’t write it then.
The only inkling of an idea I have of where it came from is one my all-time favorite authors: Diana Wynne Jones. Not only is one of the character’s named after a secondary character in the second Howl’s Moving Castle book (shhh), I’ve always adored Jones’s plot and world building. Her worlds are so vast and complex and deep that I can only aspire to be like her one day. Every time I re-read any of her books, I notice new things, I laugh at loud at the jokes, I believe every word she writes, I’m transported to a world that isn’t my own.
So, I don’t have a particularly amazing story behind my novel. It’s just my little love letter to an amazing author that managed to bring a little real magic into this world, and my promise to try and do the same.
Okay, done gushing. If you’d like to hear more stories of inspiration, check out the other Pitch Wars novel origin stories:
For a long time, I wasn’t a big fan of horror. I had a little phase as a young teen of watching horror movies, but they all felt the same after awhile.
Until I discovered Amnesia: The Dark Descent. (Warning, very old video for this one.)
I don’t know why I fell in love, but I did. I watched about five people play through the game, and as they all uncovered and theorized different things, each experience was unique. It was fun, too, because some of my favorite Let’s Players (people who record themselves playing games with commentary) started off with Amnesia as the first game they posted.
It taught me a lot about storytelling in ways I would have never thought, being a fantasy author. Amnesia, for example, taught me how suspense could make you squirm for hours.
And how about taking your expectations and twisting them against you in unexpected ways? Five Nights at Freddy’s is renowned for creating it’s own new niche in the horror genre, taking elements found in different game genres and applying them in a terrifying new format:
And the Deep Sleep series. It’s a point and click game, the most inconspicuous genre in existence. And they will knock the pants right off you:
How about killing it on jump scaring? A jump scare is something popping out of nowhere just to scare you – often seen as a cheap trick. But The Witch’s House jumpscares make sense. These scares get into your bones because, what’s going to come next? It’s a great lesson in surprising, yet inevitable:
Last, but the opposite of least: The Last of Us. Hands-down the most thematically strong story I have experienced. Not so strong on the horror side, but it will bring your mind to dark places, make you wonder what it’s like to be truly human. It does take a little while in to pick up, but if you only experience one of these games, make it this one:
And that’s all Tumblr will let me show in one blog post!
So study outside your genre. Study outside your medium. Don’t just think outside of the box, jump into all the boxes, examine what’s inside, and steal all its secrets.
Whoops, almost forgot to post this on the group blog. Look, its a thing!
Congrats on getting further into the insanity! Pitch Wars was amazing and crazy stressful and so worth it. I learned so much from everyone, and made so many connections. And that’s what matters most: the community.
I was an alternate last year. My mentor was awesome and was able to give me some notes on my full MS, so I hunkered down and got working on some pretty big edits. A bunch of the mentees and alts formed a group, and were there for each other every step of the way. They encouraged me and pushed me when I needed it. But that’s not when community mattered most.
Then came the agent round! I tried to expect nothing since I was only an alt, but I got a few requests. And I sent out a batch of queries too, to test the waters. Within a month I had an offer from one of the agents who requested. And the group cheered me on and kept me going ‘cause some not-so-great things happened around the same time as that offer. And then there were the edits after that, and me questioning my every move — having an agent is a ton of pressure on you and your writing, let me tell you. The group was there for me through all of it, making it so I finally could write, so I got past my edits. but that still wasn’t when community mattered most.
Long story short, I obviously don’t have an agent anymore. I’m not going to go into details, it wouldn’t be right. But it was devastating. I blamed myself and my writing and there have been many points within the past few months where I thought it wasn’t worth it anymore. When you get to that place where you can finally call yourself successful and lose all of it in the span of one e-mail, how can you not question it? It still sticks with me, whispering in my ear with every rejection I get, every mistake I make, every word I write, “Do you really think you’re good enough?”
But the group of people I met through Pitch Wars keeps me going. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I would not be writing now without that group. The pulled me out again and again, they encouraged me, and were there to help whenever I asked for it. You grow a bond with people when you slave so hard over your work together. And, sure, I could go and blame all of this all on the fact that I was in Pitch Wars in the first place. That request did come from the contest. But I would go through it again to get the community I’m so honored to be a part of.
Writing itself is a solitary act, but it takes a village to raise a novel.
So, good luck mentees! And if you didn’t get in, it’s not the end of the world. If you’ve been stalking and participating the hashtag, you’ve already started building your community.
Alright, this is Kazul swapping spots with Casey! Prepare for me dorking out about my two careers:
for five years I was a professional chef. Like, legit fancy restaurant
chef. And a bunch of that time I spent getting up at absurd hours as a
pastry chef, while also spending crazy hours writing. There’s a weird
amount a parallels between the two, but for this post I’ll ramble about
the most comparable (to me):
Writing a novel is a lot like making bread.
matter the fancy equipment you have, the sort of workspace you have,
your previous success and failures, making bread takes a long butt time.
And you know what really sucks is I can’t even count on one hand how
many times I’ve made a GIANT, 30+ pound batch of dough, and realized
hours later that I’d forgotten the sugar or the salt or – the most
embarrassing – the yeast.
And you know what? Everyone did it.
Everyone had to trash things sometimes, everyone had to learn to master
types of dough. Things like pretzel and brioche dough take time, yeah,
but even basic straight doughs need to be learned!. Having come from
working as a chef and not a baker ever, at all, taking the time and
delicate processes into account was hard. Carefully measuring every
ingredient on the scale, mixing for the right amount of time or until
the right consistency, letting it rest for at least a half-hour,
pressing it down, letting it rest again, portioning it up to exact
weights, letting it rest again, shaping it, baking it, letting it cool,
then wrapping it up to sell, or freeze for later (which would have more
steps to thaw).
Sounds exhausting and frustrating, right?
Especially when you’ve gotten to the point of baking it, then realizing
you messed up and tossing it, or going back to an earlier step, or
coming up less-than.
And it taught me an awful lot of patience for
novel-writing, let me tell you. Because as tedious as bread making was,
I loved it, and it’s nothing compared to the time that goes into
writing – which I love more. That first awful draft, editing, revising,
rewriting, getting critiqued, revising and rewriting again and again,
writing a query, writing a synopsis, sending to agents or editors,
getting rejected over and over and over again.
The process is
exhausting for both. And sometimes it’s totally fruitless. Sometimes
your book never goes anywhere, sometimes you don’t get a bite of that
bread and the loaves never sell. The joy is in the process; in the
feeling the raw dough coming to the perfect consistency in your hands,
and perfecting the recipe; knowing this last draft of your novel is the
best yet, and watching your critique partners lose it over the new
So enjoy where you are, and what you do. Life’s too short not to enjoy a good loaf of sourdough.
My KBKL post of the month! Enjoy a lame bread comparison.
Just in time for my summer reading post, I was tagged in a challenge by hnstoneauthor and eachstaraworld to list my top ten favorite characters from 10 different fandoms/series, so why not do a book edition, (no matter how painful to overlook video games and anime)?
In no order whatsoever:
Sophie Hatter, from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Karou, from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Kazul, from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
Richard Campbell Gansey III, from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Nikolai Karimov, from upcoming The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye
Elizabeth Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
Kelsior, from Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Silas, from The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Pi Patel, from The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The unicorn (Lady Amalthea), from The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
And I tag… all of you! Every single person who reads it. Feel free to blame me ( kkazulwolf or kazul9) or the KBKL blog for the challenge. ;) And be sure to check out everyone’s summer reading-themed posts, including Kendra’s coming on the 28th!
Forgot to reblog this one to my main blog! So, two posts, one day. :)
All right folks, don’t get me wrong. Building connections with other writers is extremely important (check out everyone else’s posts this month for more on that/how to do that), but sometimes your best support comes from non-writers.
If you have a good relationship with your parents, or an aunt, or a distant cousin or a non-writer friend they exist I swear, and they ask to see it, let them! Maybe they won’t give your spot-on critiques like your CPs, or even have much feedback at all, but they will be your best cheerleader. And, believe me, in the query and submission trenches, having a cheerleader can make all the difference.
And sometimes having the opinion of someone outside of your writing circle can shed light on things you would have never thought of. I never send out a query or a synopsis my sister hasn’t seen. My sister who doesn’t read anything like what I write, and is in college for addiction counseling. I might not have gotten an agent with my last query letter, but I’m still super proud of that bugger she helped me bang out. Without her pointing out the direct things that confused her and others couldn’t quite put a finger on, it wouldn’t be nearly as shiny as it is.
So, don’t put it in your bio that your mom loves your writing, but maybe don’t shut out your natural supports entirely. They may be more valuable than you know.
What are your guys’ takes on this? Beg to differ? Have a story to tell?
Critique Partners are a complicated business. When I first started writing I was very lucky to have had awesome friends who gave amazing feedback. But after a couple years, most moved on from writing, or got too distracted by college, family, and/or jobs. Which was fine — I’m still friends with most today.
Except it left me without anyone to go to for writing help.
Some people say that you don’t need CPs to write a novel — namely, Stephen King. But I work best when I have someone to talk things out with, who can point out the flaws I’m too close to the story to see.
I looked everywhere I could for new CPs. I went on Twitter, Tumblr blogs dedicated to CPs, forums, into critique partner match-ups. We exchanged pages and chapters and full manuscripts, and boy was it interesting. On the reading side, I had a steep learning curve. I had to learn to work with a huge range of personalities, how to overcome the fear it’s all just my taste. And there were some… less than perfect manuscripts I read where people unwilling to listen to constructive criticism. And on the receiving end, whew! So many different opinions, and a lot contradicting feedback. I wasn’t sure what I should take, what I might have been getting defensive about, so I incorporated nearly everything.
Doing that ruined my manuscript. I roped one friend into reading it, who’d read everything I’ve written up to that point, and she said it was so awful she couldn’t make it past the first ten pages.
Most CPs ended up fading away, not dedicated to writing or not really looking for a partner. Whenever I saw someone looking for a CP, and their book concept sounded interesting, and they sounded passionate about a writing relationship, I couldn’t write them. I was so burned out.
It sucked. There was a contest coming up I really wanted to enter with a new manuscript, but I was only able to rope one friend into reading. I sent it off… And somehow got in! But it still needed a lot of work from there, and I spent two months heavily revising and polishing. Connecting with the other entrants gave me a chance to read their stuff, and them mine. They didn’t start off as a critique partners, but they grew from there. Now I may not have many CPs, but they’re all wonderful and write the most beautiful words.
So, finding CPs can be hard and tedious and have some rough spots. I’ve met a lot of people who develop their best connections organically, like me. There are others who love the people they’ve sought out. But even though it’s still hard for me to reach out for help after being burned like that, I’ll still vouch for CPs being one of the best things that a writer can go out there and connect with. Check out the other KBKL author posts for more perspectives and tips on connecting to others!
This is actually a super-relevant topic since I finished a draft of a novel a few days ago. So, since I seem to know enough to finish one of these buggers, here’s a few pointers:
Set a daily word count and stick to it religiously. Unless you have the
sort of life where you don’t know if/when you’ll have time to write.
Don’t ever edit while drafting. Unless that keeps you motivated, or you get into writing by going through the chapter you just wrote.
Only let betas/critique partners read your manuscript after it’s as perfect as you can make it. Unless having someone read as you go is what pushes you to keep writing.
Never touch your manuscript for exactly two months after finishing it, or you might be too close to edit. Unless that closeness is something you find useful in editing.
Exclusively write what you know, and things that are similar to what you’ve done before. Unless learning about new topics, or genres, ore anything, and stretching yourself is what makes writing exiting for you.
Have set rewards. Unless you’re like me and always eat the chocolate at the beginning of the day.
Sacrifice everything for your writing. Unless you happen to have things in your life that matter more to you.
Listen to every single piece of writing advice you hear, and become an enigma.
Okay, in all seriousness, writing a novel is simple. One word after another until you’ve reached the end. Advice is great when it helps you — I’ve loved hearing all the tricks and tips and methods the other KBKL authors have posted this month — but it’s equally important to know when it’s something that doesn’t suit you. This is your journey, your art, so remember that no one else can know the inside of your head quite like you do. Relax. You’ve got this.
This month Kick-Butt Kid Lit is introducing its contributors. Here is a Q&A with author K. Kazul Wolf.
I adore fantasy most of all the genres. And any age category, though I lean towards kidlit, naturally. I love Diana Wynne Jones because you’ll never find an author with more insane, complicated and brilliant plots, and Laini Taylor because dat prose! My favorite sort of characters are the kind with huge arcs, the ones that end up flipped on their head and totally different than they were in the beginning. Someday I’ll manage to write one, someday…
Which book world would you like to live in?
Oooh, man. I think early Narnia. Imagine watching a world grow, and being a part of shaping it.
What’s in your writing cave?
That’s hard to say, since I weirdly like to move around when I write — my bedroom, to the family room, to the kitchen, to lounged on the floor. My most productive place to write is out in public, at a cafe or a library or the like. Always food, though. My stomach is a black hole.
If you could magic wand a character into real life, who would you choose?
Can I bring my namesake, Kazul the king of dragons? Because she’s awesomely sassy and hilarious, and who couldn’t use a dragon in their life?
What’s your secret identity (day job)?
I’m a chef! Well, currently a chef, who works as a baker, who’s disguised as a barista. Fine dining is my specialty — I’ve studied at the CIA (not THAT CIA, The Culinary Institute of America) and the restaurant I current work at is a four-diamond establishment. Though if I actually go out to eat, I’m totally the sort to go for a juicy burger and fries.
What resource did you wish you’d known about when you first started out writing/querying?
I wish I knew how amazing the writing community across the internet was. I thought I had to go it alone, I had to perfect it on my own, and I had to survive it all without a hand to hold. No, a book is about community.
Pen and paper or keyboard?
Both! I write and edit by keyboard, and “outline” during the day at work in a notebook. For some reason, that’s the only way I can get away with outlining — only plan a chapter or two ahead with pen and paper. I actually got so bored playing barista in the past week I ended up accidentally plotting a whole novel. We’ll see how that goes after I’m done with my current WIP!
Three books you love?
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
I am the biggest freaking anime dork. I’m so psyched about the new Digimon series this coming April. There’s no saving me.
What is your current work in progress about?
Luckily I spent time procrastinating trying to write up a rough query of my current novel, ESSENCE:
Emma wakes up to a man with black eyes and razor-pointed teeth hovering over her, in a strange house, an even stranger land. She can’t even try to run; the town she’s in is surrounded by a ward that keeps out a seething darkness of eaters — formless remains of people who have lost their souls, and will do anything to get another. But even that doesn’t compare to the fact that she can’t even remember who she was before she woke up.
The monster-man, Bob, and the owner of the house, a Magician named Morgan, seem nice enough, though the sink like a bottomless pit, an oven that likes to shoot its racks at unsuspecting victims are a little hard to swallow. There’s no solace outside — the townsfolk blame her for the infestation of monsters, and it’s only Morgan and Bob keeping her safe. Emma can’t understand what motivates them to help her, what’s in it for them and what they want from her. The truth is a tricky thing when you can barely remember your own name.
Hey guys! :D I’m a contributor over at this new, awesome blog where we’ll choose one topic every month for us to explore, so you can see it from the perspective of nine different authors. It’s new, so there’s only our interviews there now, BUT IT’S GOING TO BE AMAZING.
But that doesn’t always help. Sometimes I’ll open up a manuscript and feel physically ill. No matter what anyone says, no matter the encouragement I get, it’s like I’m just vomiting words onto a page of sewage, and then slogging through it so it gets caked and dry on my skin, and I feel like the crap that I see my writing as.
There was one time that my own pressure and my perception and my goals were strangling the words that were coming out, and I had to stop. It wasn’t healthy or productive, and I had to take a whole freaking month to find the courage to even try to write again, spending that time with my family and reading a ton and generally refilling the creative well.
It was the right choice.
Another time, I had some crazy-difficult-but-needed revisions to apply to a manuscript I was totally exhausted of working on. And I slogged through that feeling of inadequacy, because I had goals to meet, and I may not have succeeded in the end, but they were more important to me than anything.
It was the right choice.
I wish I could give you magical words to tell you what the right choice for you is, right now or sometime in the future — because you will feel this. I have never met a writer who hasn’t hit this point. Last year I spent months stewing in self-pity because life honestly was that rough, and my brain couldn’t take it anymore. But let me give you a few facts that will hopefully help:
You’re here, you’re reading this silly blog post, you’re trying. That’s amazing.
You’ve written words. Not a lot? Too many? Does it matter? You’ve written more than the people sitting down and only thinking of writing a novel or a short story.
Maybe your words do suck. You can make them better.
No one who gives you positive feedback is lying to you. They have no reason to. Unless you paid them to, which is kinda weird.
Even one word is progress. Reading one sentence in revision is progress. Not every writer has to write every day — I don’t.
Success is what you define it as. Nobody can tell you how to be successful or creative.
Sometimes writing for a friend, or for yourself, is the best way to get it out. What you do with it afterwards is your choice.
Once in awhile, you need a break. Go out for a day. Take a walk, see a movie, get some weird food you’ve never tried before, hang out with friends or family. It’s okay. This is me giving you permission to get off the computer and live a little.
If you quit, that’s okay. If you decide to never create professionally, that’s okay. If you want to come back, that’s okay.
It’s okay. Whatever you’re feeling right now is okay. It makes you cry, and eat lots of deliciously horrible food, and probably some crappy TV, too, but it’s your feeling, and you have every right to feel it. If anyone tells you otherwise, send them to me.
Okay, I’m done rambling. I hope this helps, even if all it does is make you feel less alone in the isolation that creativity always seems to bring. If you need to talk about it, the comments are all yours.