I’m enamored with writers’ spaces, and I love to see the different things other writers surround themselves with to be productive and inspired. So today I thought I would give a little tour around my writing desk (where I sometimes actually write!).
10 things that live on my desk…
1. My laptop! (Obviously…) And, lately, the little stand to keep it more at eye level, even though I think it puts a greater strain on my wrists. But hey, ergonomics is a tricky thing.
2. Pens and highlighters. I’m forever refilling this little cup—I don’t know what it is about pens that makes them disappear all the time!
3. My writing calendar (that’s the three-ring binder on the bottom of the stack). I’m frequently scheduling events or Skype visits or checking deadlines, so this binder is never far from reach.
4. A spiral notebook. I jot notes to myself all the time—things to remember for the next book, or a line to add in a previous chapter, or don’t forget to do a search and replace for “shoulders” because holy cow my characters shrug a lot. I find it easier to switch to paper for these little notes than to switch between computer files.
5. A thesaurus. Stephen King once said that any word you need to look up in a thesaurus is the wrong word. Ignore him. I use mine all the time.
6. Cinder and Scarlet. I’m constantly checking things that happened in the previous books to make sure the series stays consistent.
7. A beverage. Usually water, but sometimes coffee or wine.
8. Fanart! Fanart from recent events usually ends up on this stand. Someday I want to have a whole wall of fanart! I adore this drawing that has all the main characters through Scarlet and little symbols for each one (a crown for Kai, tomatoes for Scarlet, and the Rampion for Iko… OHMYGOD so cute.)
9. A scented candle. I don’t burn it all the time, but sometimes you just need a little extra something to get in the writing mood.
10. My wand from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’d like to say that looking at it fills me with inspiration and dedication to my craft because J.K. Rowling is such a friggin’ genius, but mostly I just like to twirl it around when I’m stuck, or attempt to cast “do something interesting” spells on my characters.
And that’s a peek into my little writing world. What do you keep in your space?
Cress is currently scheduled to be released on February 4, 2014. As of today, that means we have 263 still to go, and as frightening as that number seems, just think—that’s 101 days LESS than we had to get through on the day Scarlet came out! And the days are going by fast.
In the interest of keeping of making your wait as enjoyable and painless as possible, and at the prompting of @modScheherazade on Twitter who suggested making a Twelve-Step Program for Lunar Chronicles addicts, I’ve made a list of some coping strategies to help you survive the long wait.
1. Join the fandom. You’re not alone! Check out deviantART, fanfiction.net, or Tumblr for Lunar Chronicles-inspired art as created by some seriously talented individuals, and be sure to leave some encouraging comments for all those aspiring artists. Or post on your blog or Facebook page about which couple you’re shipping most and see what other fans have to say. After all, this is why we have the internet, isn’t it?
2. Create your own fanworks. Most of you probably know by now that I’m a big advocate for fan-created works, from fanfic to fanart to cosplay. If you simply can’t get Cinder, Kai, Wolf, and Scarlet out of your head, why not put that energy to work by writing your own stories or drawing some pictures of them? (Then share them on fanfiction.net or deviantART to help other Lunartics cope as well!)
3. Be in the know. As for “official” Lunar Chronicles updates go, you’re in the right place! Keep watch on this blog, subscribe to my newsletter, or Like the Lunar Chronicles Facebook page – because we have lots of goodies planned for the upcoming months. Including:
- Cover reveal
- Chapter teasers and sneak peeks
- Book trailer
- A prequel short story
- A possible second bonus short story
- ARC giveaways
- And more!
4. Re-read Cinder and Scarlet. Keep the characters front-and-center by revisiting the first two books in the series, so you’ll be ready to dive into Cress as soon as it’s out. Maybe suggest it to a book club or encourage some friends to check it out too and host a discussion about the series, and what you’re hoping to see in Books 3 and 4. And don’t forget to check out the two prequel stories too: “Glitches” and “The Queen’s Army.”
5. Fall in love with something else. There’s nothing like a good distraction to keep your mind off a slowly ticking clock, right? Lucky for us, the YA genre is filled with amazing books to keep you occupied. Looking for a recommendation? I have some right here.
6. Make a plan for release day. You know how when you’re looking forward to a vacation, the planning of it is almost as fun as the actual vacation? That can apply to anticipating just about anything, including the release of a new book! So how will you celebrate? Pull an all-nighter so you can download the e-book at midnight and have it read by the time the rest of the world is waking up? Host a Lunar Chronicles party with your book club? Wear your red shoes to the bookstore to get your copy? After all, if you’re going to wait a whole year for something, you might as well have fun with it, right?
7. Have a Rapunzel marathon. Cress is my Rapunzel-retelling. To get yourself in the mood, start exploring what other creators’ have done with this tale. Read the old versions from Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, watch Tangled, read Zel by Donna Jo Napoli or Towering by Alex Flinn (which just came out!), explore the Rapunzel page at SurLaLune. Become a Rapunzel expert… then start making Cress predictions and see which ones come true.
I’m expecting to receive copyedits on CRESS tomorrow morning, which means that after this week, my work on Book 3 of The Lunar Chronicles will be done!
(Well… except the page proofs. And writing the acknowledgments page. And all the promotion stuff. And planning a launch party. And going on tour. And… ahem.)
But writing-wise, it’ll be done, which means my brain is moving full-speed ahead into Book 4: WINTER.
I wrote the first draft of Winter in 2011, right after Cinder sold, because I was worried that if I waited I would want to go back and change things in the first book. I spent this last January reading through that draft and making notes on things that no longer fit the series or that still need a lot of work. Now the time has come to start implementing those changes.
I am both excited and terrified. What if the climax isn’t as epic as I hoped it would be? What if readers aren’t satisfied with the way their favorite subplots get resolved? I’ve always felt, from the moment I first conceived of The Lunar Chronicles, that Book 4 would be the best of the series, but what if I’m wrong and it just leaves everybody disappointed?
It’s a scary feeling, to be entering into the last stage of a project you’ve been madly in love with for almost five years.
But I’m trying not to think about that. Instead, I’m trying to focus on the characters that I adore and all those scenes that I’ve been aching to write down for ages. I’ll focus on bringing my ultimate vision to life and hope that readers will love it. That’s all we writers can do, right?
In order to do the books justice and (hopefully) save some revision time in the long-run, I’ll be starting out the revision process by trying to get a handle on the big picture, and making a plan for how to revise with that picture in mind. Over the next couple weeks, before I even open that Scrivener document, I’ll be making lists.
Major characters and their arcs. Who are the protagonists at the end of Book 3 and who do they need to become by the end of Book 4? What needs to happen to them, what types of decisions do they need to make, what life-changing situations do they need to face in order to grow?
Main plotlines. The war, the plague, Cinder vs. Levana, all those romances… how are they going to be resolved? Will they all be resolved in a tidy bow, or do I leave a few loose threads?
Minor subplots and closure. Cyborg rights, Chang Sunto’s recovery, Linh Garan’s inventions—smallish things that have been important to the plot but sometimes only briefly touched on. Which need to be brought back to readers’ memories and how should they be resolved, if at all?
I’m not one of those authors who feel that every single question needs to be answered for readers, but I also don’t want readers to come away feeling unsatisfied, or like the series didn’t provide enough closure. So I’ll be working hard to avoid that.
And when I feel like I have solid direction for where the story is heading and what I’m working toward, then I’ll get started.
Nervousness aside, I’m really, really looking forward to it!
As can be said of most writers, I grew up with a crazy overactive imagination. One of my favorite fantasies was always the “Mysterious Clue Found in an Awesome Crumbling Old Mansion that Ultimately Leads to Buried Treasure / A Magical Wardrobe / An Ancient Artifact that Was Most Likely Cursed by Some Witch After She was Wronged by Her False Love or Whatever.”
We all wanted to find something cool like that, right?
Well, unfortunately for me, I did not live in an awesome, crumbling old mansion, complete with secret tunnels and bookshelves that opened into secret rooms. (Though I maintain the dream that if I ever became crazy rich, I will be building a house that has these things. Because what else would you do with all that money, anyway?) Alas, I grew up in a brand new house. As in, no previous owners. As in, no chance of there being any forgotten, mysterious clues or letters loitering around.
So naturally, I felt it was my duty to start leaving some mysteries behind for whoever might own the house after us.
Fast forward about 15 years, and this last week my brother was… er, I actually don’t know what he was doing. Fixing some bedroom molding? Unsticking a stuck drawer in the bathroom? But whatever he was doing—he found…
Dun dun dun.
Sunshine in the morning,
Sunset never seen.
Below the shield
Of squared off glass
From the wood I peek.
1, 2, 3
How’s that for some awesome treasure-hunting poetry skills, yo?
While the clue obviously leads to the three east-facing living room windows, I’m afraid whatever clues that followed have long since become victim to my mother’s mad cleaning skills. Sad, too, because I do remember burying a “treasure” in the woods across from our house, and I’m going to guess that’s where this clue would eventually have led to.
But I guess we’ll never know…
Go forth and daydream, fellow treasure hunters!
Here’s where I’ll be in the coming months!
Thursday, May 9
University Place, WA
University Place Library, 7:00 p.m.
Icons Tour with Margaret Stohl, Leigh Bardugo, and Kim Derting.
More info is available from the Pierce County Library System. Also read more about Margaret Stohl’s Icons Tour here.
Friday, May 10
Costco, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 18
Nazareth College, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
2013 Rochester Teen Book Festival.
See http://tbflive.blogspot.com/ for schedule of events.
Monday, June 3
Fairy Tale Twitter Chat with Christopher Healy
9:00 p.m. EST / 6:00 p.m. PST
Friday, June 7
Copperfield’s Books, 7:00 p.m.
Presenting with Susanne Winnacker, Debra Driza, SJ Kincaid, Shannon Messenger, Daisy Whitney, and Melissa Buell.
San Diego, CA
San Diego Comic-Con
Details and signing times TBD.
Western Washington, Timberland Library Tour
Times and event details subject to change.
July 25, 12:00 p.m.: Ocean Park Timberland Library
July 25, 6:00 p.m.: Aberdeen Timberland Library
July 26, 2:00 p.m.: Winlock Timberland Library
July 26, 7:00 p.m.: Olympia Timberland Library
July 27, 11:00 a.m.: Centralia Timberland Library
July 27, 3:00 p.m.: Shelton Timberland Library
Oh, hey there, Internet! I am VERY happy to report that Cress. Is. Finished! I sent the final manuscript off to my editor on Wednesday. Celebration!!
Here are some book statistics:
Title: Cress (Book Three of the Lunar Chronicles)
Fairy tale it’s based on: Rapunzel
Expected US release date: February 4, 2014
End word count: 139,076 (up almost 25K from the last draft! *dies*)
Number of chapters: 61
How I celebrated: Almond-infused champagne and 3 episodes of Firefly. I also cleaned my house, which doesn’t seem like it should be celebrating, but it totally is.
What happens next: Copyedits!
ARCs?: ARCs should be printed in June. My publisher is being stingy with them this year, but if you’re a reviewer, feel free to place a request via firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’ll definitely be hosting some giveaways in the coming months, so watch this space!
Cover Art?: Is in progress! I haven’t seen anything yet myself, but I think they’re looking to reveal it in… June? Maybe? *fingers crossed*
Her satellite made one full orbit around planet Earth every sixteen hours. It was a prison that came with an endlessly breathtaking view—vast blue oceans and swirling clouds and sunrises that set half the world on fire.
Teaser Sentence as Randomly Selected by Twitter. From page 28:
“I don’t mind the scars.” He shrugged, his eyes taking on a mischievous spark. “They hold better memories now than they used to.”
(NYAW, who could that possibly be?! ^_^)
Have a good weekend, folks!
There was a time when I posted everything on this blog. Every piece of fanart, every new foreign cover, every bit of book news. But lately there’s become so much stuff happening all the time that I’ve had to pick and choose what to include here so this blog doesn’t get bogged down in a bunch of two-sentence news clips.
My intention is to keep this blog more specific to Big News, Giveaways, Writing Advice, and other stuff to do with the life of writing.
Which means that if you’re a fan who wants to know all about the Lunar Chronicles all the time! but you only follow this blog, you might be missing out on some really cool stuff!
Never fear. Here is my handy list of everywhere you can find out about me and my books—depending on what, exactly, you’re looking for.
For giveaways, general news round-ups, and me gushing over books and authors: My Quarterly Newsletter
For foreign edition covers, inspiration photos, guest blog posts, and general geeking out: Pinterest
For random news and event pictures: My Facebook Page
For important news from my publisher and general Lunar Chronicles love: The Lunar Chronicles Facebook Page
For author randomness and the occasional progress report: Twitter
For fanart: DeviantART Lunar Chronicles Group
For other fandomness: F-Yeah The Lunar Chronicles on Tumblr (Note: I’m not affiliated with this page, I just think it’s cool that it exists.)
That’s all I can think of. Now go forth with your fannish selves!
Confession: I enjoy writing query letters. I know that most writers loathe them, but I always thought the query letter was kind of a fun challenge. The challenge of trying to distill your novel down to its essence, giving just enough information to draw the agent or editor in to the story, but without giving away so much that the manuscript loses all sense of mystery.
However, I feel quite differently about the second-most dreaded item of many submission packages: the Synopsis.
The book synopsis is that three- or four-page snapshot of the book, that essentially tells your story from beginning to end, while seemingly stripping it of any intrigue, humor, or emotional resonance. To me, writing a synopsis that could leave a reader still wanting to read the actual manuscript always seemed like a much bigger challenge than the query letter.
Unfortunately, it turns out that getting published does not necessarily mean we don’t ever have to write a synopsis again.
Last January, when it came time for my agent and I to start talking with my publisher about My Next Book (which was the Super Secret Project I wrote during NaNoWriMo last November), the submission package we pulled together was remarkably similar to the package we’d used to sell the Lunar Chronicles:
- A pitch letter (similar to a query), illustrating the concept and major conflict of the book.
- The first 50 pages, edited and polished to a glowy sheen.
- The synopsis of the book (although some plot points are subject to change).
So rather than whine and complain about how much I hate writing synopses, I decided to take the opportunity to embrace the synopsis writing challenge, and figure out a process for writing the synopsis that didn’t seem quite so painful and intimidating and, in the end, left me with something I was pleased to show my editor.
I’m not allowed to really talk about my new project,* so I’m going to use examples from the synopsis I wrote for CINDER way back when.
Step 0: Write the book!
If the book isn’t written yet, I feel like you’re writing an outline, not a synopsis, and I’ve talked about outline writing at length in previous blog posts. For the purpose of this synopsis-specific guide, let’s assume you have the book drafted out, or even completed.
Step 1: Skim through the manuscript, noting the important events of each chapter.
Try to boil every chapter down to just one or two sentences. What is the point of this chapter? What is the most important thing that happens?
Some chapters will be significantly longer than a sentence or two, particularly the opening chapters (as they tend to introduce a lot of information about the world and the main characters) and the climax (which could revolve around lots of complicated reveals and twists).
And yes, include the ending! From who wins the final battle to whether or not the protagonist hooks up with the love interest in the end. One of the main purposes of a synopsis is to show the full arcs of your plot and subplots, so don’t leave out those all-important resolutions.
Step 2. Embellish the beginning.
Just because you can’t use pages and pages to set up the world and protagonist’s character in the synopsis doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the reader a little bit of foundation to stand on. The first paragraph of the synopsis should give the same basic information you convey through the book’s first chapter: where and when does this story take place, who is the protagonist, and what problem are they facing right off the bat?
Example: LINH CINDER is a cyborg, considered little more than a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother, ADRI. But her brain-machine interface has given her a unique skill with mechanics, making her, at sixteen, the best mechanic in New Beijing.
Step 3: String your short chapter summaries together, using standard synopsis formatting.
Here, it will begin to look like a story, but an incredibly sparse and drab one. Don’t worry about that. Just focus on getting all the technical formatting stuff figured out so you don’t have to re-write it all at the end.
Standard Synopsis Formatting
- Written in third person, present tense, regardless of what POV or tense the book is written in.
- The first mention of each character’s name is put in all-caps (so that they can be easily spotted).
Example: When she arrives home, she discovers her two stepsisters—arrogant PEARL and vivacious PEONY—being fitted in ball gowns.
Step 4: Read through, with a focus on plot.
Distilling each chapter down into just a sentence or two can lead to lots of apparent plot holes and lost information. Read through what you’ve written and check that every event in the story naturally leads into the next. Imagine beginning each sentence with a Because / Then structure, and insert further explanation or character motivations as necessary.
Example: Cinder is worried that if she doesn’t fix the hover, Adri will sell off IKO in order to pay for the repairs herself. That night, Cinder goes to the junkyard to find replacement parts…
(Could be read as: Because Cinder is worried . . . then she goes to the junkyard…)
Step 5. Read through, with a focus on character arc.
Now that the plot makes sense from beginning to end, check that you’re adequately showing how your protagonist evolves as a result of the events in the story. Do readers get a sense of who they are at the beginning and how they’ve changed by the end? Look for those Big Moments in the story that change your protagonist’s attitudes and goals. Indicate how those moments effect the protagonist emotionally, and show how their goals and motivations change as a result.
Example: Without Iko and Peony keeping her tied to Adri, Cinder vows to fix up the abandoned car she saw in the junkyard and run away.
Step 6. Trim and edit.
Now that you have all the necessary information, read through a few more times and trim it up as much as you can. Be ruthless when it comes to removing excess words and phrases that don’t help you tell the story. Choose your descriptive words carefully, ensuring that you’re using words that carry a lot of weight. My book synopses for CINDER and New Secret Project both came in around the 1,500-2,000 word range, and that’s not a lot of room to work with! So edit, edit, edit.
Happy synopsisizing, everyone!
* Okay, what I CAN tell you about my Super Secret NaNo 2012 Project is that YES, Macmillan did buy it, woot! That must have been one heck of a synopsis, right? More information to come… someday.