Friday, December 28, 2012

The Dangers Of Needing Everyone To Like You

Time to talk about something that might make people a little uncomfortable! My favorite thing to do, right?

Everyone wants to be liked. I think especially women feel this need to not ruffle anyone's feathers and to make everyone happy and to be as likable as humanly possible. In general, this is a GOOD desire, but it's also one that can quickly derail into the realm of unhealthy worries and behaviors. At least it has for me at times, and I've had to make a concerted effort to pull myself out of the death spiral of trying to get everyone in the whole entire world to like me.

So today I wanted to talk about some of the red flags—the signs that you might be taking the good desire to be likable to an extreme that becomes detrimental to you and those around you. (And of course I'll be talking about this in terms of writing, though I believe it's applicable in all aspects of life.)

1. Letting other people's opinions determine how much you value yourself and your work.
We all want validation for who we are and what we do. I certainly do, and I'm not above admitting that I feel really good when people say they like me or my writing. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, knowing someone connected with me and my work the way I hoped someone would.

And, yes, it stings—and even so much as hurts—when I hear that someone doesn't like me or my work. I think this is a fair and natural reaction for anyone who creates things. We create something because we LIKE it, and when someone else doesn't get it or even goes as far to say that it was stupid or cliche or just plain's really hard not to feel that to some measure.

The issue arises when we allow validation—and as a result the criticism—to determine what we think of our own work. I often think of my young daughter when I ponder this topic. She is so confident and proud of the person she is. But she is not yet in school, not yet around media and other things that will tell her she's not good enough. I'm so afraid someday she'll go to those sources to determine her worth instead of holding on to her own belief that she is awesome.

It's hard for a writer to be confident. And at times it even seems that those who do act self-assured will be disliked and criticized that much more. But the truth of the matter is this: True validation only comes from within.

If you allow yourself to LIKE who you are regardless of what others think, happiness follows. As does freedom to do and create what you want to, what makes your heart sing. And that is far more important than anyone's approval.

2. Thinking in black and white. As in, "If this person doesn't 100% love me or my work, then they must HATE me or my work."
The biggest life lesson I've learned from writing is that people are not one-dimensional creatures. Everyone is flawed. When we focus on someone's flaws, we tend to dislike them. When we focus on their merits, we tend to like them. When we look at them as a whole—we tend to understand them.

When I get consumed by the need to be liked, one of the biggest problems I have is seeing people in black and white instead of the true grayscale they are. It becomes easier to think that if someone isn't my bestest friend in the whole wide world, then they MUST hate me. With no middle ground. No allowance for indifference or general good will or a variance in opinion.

And that's not fair—to me or them. Just because someone doesn't like an aspect of me doesn't make them a horrible person. And just because someone loves everything about me or my work doesn't make them a perfect person, either.

This can be especially important to remember when interacting with other writers/agents/editors in the "workplace." For example, do you decide another writer hates your book because you never got a reply for that blurb request? Do you assume an agent hates you because they rejected your query/partial/full? Do you figure an editor will never like any of your books because they passed on one of them?

These negative thoughts can be a slippery slope leading to my next red flag:

3. Beginning to vilify people you don't know based on little information.
When you start to draw arbitrary and harsh lines based on who likes you and who you think hates you, it gets easier to take the next step—making people into either allies or villains in your life. And if that happens, you will constantly be on the look out for things that support your idea of the roles these people play in your life.

So if you view someone as your ally, you might start seeing only their positive attributes while turning a blind eye to the things they may do wrong. And if you see a person as your enemy, you will hunt down all proof that they are, indeed, out to get you.

This can cause a ridiculous amount of stress and paranoia, which I'm ashamed to admit I've experienced. You start to feel uncomfortable everywhere—online, at signings, at conferences—because surely your enemies are judging you and you must stick with your allies so that you can protect yourself.

Stress. Fear. Anger. When you assume people are out to get you, you create unnecessary conflict in your life. I think this is especially easy to do as writers, because we are constantly hunting for stories and sometimes our imaginations bleed into reality. But the more I work to restrain myself from the tendency to vilify those I don't know well or who may have poor opinions of me, the more at peace I am with myself and them.

4. Disruption of your creative work process.
Putting your confidence in other people's hands and the resulting stress can really jack up your creative process. Because when you write for validation—or in attempts to avoid criticism—you stop writing what you love. You try to write what you think other people will love.

This has a few results. One, you freak out and freeze up because how can you possibly please everyone? So you just can't write anything. Two, you end up writing something you think other people will like, but you don't really love it. And it shows, thereby people aren't happy anyway. Three, you get so angry and overwhelmed by expectations that you go all JD Salinger and screw everyone.

I've done one and two. I've dreamed about doing three but it hasn't happened yet. Thank goodness.

I'm sure you've all heard the expression: Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen. When it comes to creating, this is so applicable it's not even funny. Art, in whatever medium, becomes diluted when too many people put their opinion into its creation. The beauty of art is that it's a window into the creator—a way to see how another person sees the world. When you try to make something that everyone understands or likes, it becomes a window to nowhere. It becomes boring.

It takes courage to keep creating what you see in your mind, to block out the other voices and stand tall and say, "This is MY work. I LIKE it. You can think whatever you want."

But I promise it's worth it.

5. Coming to situations with criticism and skepticism, instead of understanding and trust. 
Oddly enough, the need to be liked can lead to the exact opposite feeling. By trying too hard to be likable to for too long, you can come out the other end completely jaded. Because, let's face it, it's impossible to get everyone in the world to like you. Not even the most giving, saintly religious leaders have managed to win over the entire world.

And being jaded is an ugly thing. Instead of going into situations with positivity, you start to look for the bad. You become skeptical of any good feedback or compliment because surely that person is just saying that to your face, but behind your back they are telling their friends how dumb you are. You start to view everything with the taint of negativity.

That is not a fun place to be. And not only is it a disservice to you, but you are in effect accusing everyone you know of being two-faced liars. You start to say everything is disappointing or lame or not what you wanted it to be. And then you become the very critic that so scared you in the beginning. A critic of yourself. Of your work. And everyone around you.

Ah, irony.


The line between wanting to be liked and needing to be liked is a thin one. Wanting to be liked leads to kindness and the desire to understand and love people—all their facets included. Needing to be liked leads to a desperation and dependence on validation that can turn ugly fast.

I'll be the first one to admit it's hard to stay on the good side of trying to be likable, but I don't think it's impossible. And I know for a fact that the time I spend on that side is MUCH happier than the times spent greedily hunting down approval from every soul I know. And happiness is such a valuable commodity these days.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

All Day Q&A!

Tis the season for answering questions! Last Q&A of 2012. Maybe even the last one EVER, if those Mayans were right. So leave any question you want in comments, and I will answer asap.

• Yes, you may ask multiple questions.

• No, they don't have to be about writing.

• Yes, I will feel bad if no one asks me anything.

Off to the gym with my brood! But I swear I'll be back soon.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wise Words From A Wise Man

"Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably." —Jiro Ono, sushi master

If you know me, you know I'm a bit of a foodie. Not super hard core, but I love food and cooking and trying new things. So naturally, a documentary called Jiro Dreams Of Sushi would pique my interest. It's about an 85-year-old sushi master and his 3-Michelin-star restaurant, and I can't stop thinking about it. Such an interesting film.

The quote above really struck me, especially the "never complain" part. Because writing is hard, and it's easy to complain about all the work and often little reward. But the idea of coming to the page with love—with excitement for my work—is just the reminder I need right now.

I love my job. And I love the pursuit of improving at it. The next time I feel the urge to complain about it, I'm going to remember the words of this wise man.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Be Talented At Working

Yesterday at Sunday dinner, my mom mentioned that she took my ARC to church to teach the young women about developing talents. Apparently I am a good example of this, which feels weird (especially since some may not think my novel is church appropriate, but that's a story for another time).

My reply to this news was something along the lines of, "Well, I don't know how good I am at writing, but I'm sure good at working my butt off."

And this is largely true. When I put my mind to something, my boar-like stubbornness tends to take over and I just keep going even when all logic says to stop.

I've never really seen myself as exceptionally talented in anything. As a child I was fairly good at a bunch of stuff. If I put my mind to something else, I imagine I could be a swimmer or animator or flautist instead of a soon-to-be-author.

Because what I've really become good at through all these years is working. And my advice to anyone in any pursuit would be just that—get really, really good at working.

What makes a good worker? Two things:

1. Work Hard.

2. Work Smart.

You may have heard the phrase "Don't work hard, work smart." No. If you really want to get good at something, you need both.

Working hard is usually associated with grunt work that gets you nowhere, but this is not true. Sure, it is foolish to work hard at something while also refusing to improve at it. That would be like writing novel after novel without editing a single word, without trying to learn more about the craft. But no matter what you know about writing, putting in the hours of hard work to make your story into a novel are necessary. Just because you improve doesn't mean you should stop working hard.

Working smart gives off the impression that you can work less if you learn how to do things more efficiently. This might be true, but it also smells like laziness in sheep's clothing. Yes, your writing becomes cleaner when you study grammar, but that doesn't give you a pass on edits. Yes, taking classes or going to conferences could help you learn how to plot better, but if you never practice it will do nothing for you. You can't cut corners because you've grown smarter.

The true worker knows that working hard and smart propels you forward faster than doing just one. There is never shame in busting your butt for something you want. And it is certainly okay to really suck at something but have the desire to improve. It took me ten novels to figure out this writing thing. A lot more than many published writers. But I did it through a lot of hard and smart work.

If you really want something, the first thing you need to do is get good at working for it. Very few things fall into people's laps while they're sitting doing nothing, but you'd be surprised what opportunities you run into when you get up and get to work.

Friday, December 7, 2012

1st Transparent ARC Winner!

In hindsight, this contest was kind of a bad idea because so many wonderful people commented, and I wanted to give EVERYONE an ARC. But then again, reading your words has given me a huge amount a perspective this week. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all of you, for how you've stuck around through the years. It's so hard to put into words what that means to me. You've melted my jaded author heart, guys.

But I have to pick a winner. Because that's what I promised I'd do. And as I said, this contest isn't really fair. I won't lie—I'm kind of playing favorites. But there will be more ARCs to come, and fairer chances to get them.

Okay, I'll get to it now:

This ARC goes to Kristan Hoffman!

Kristan, thank you for always making me smile with your comments, and for making me feel way smarter than I actually am. I need that sometimes, I'll admit it. If I have to give away one of my precious, pretty ARCs, I know you'll give it a good home:) E-mail me at natalie (at) nataliewhipple (dot) com so we can work out logistics.

Monday, December 3, 2012


It's December! We're less than six months away from TRANSPARENT's release now! Finally, man. If waiting was a sport, I'd totally be at marathon level now.

Anyway, I mentioned last week on Twitter and FB that I'd be giving away about 5-6 ARCs between now and release—and the time has come to give away the first one! Ack. Gotta admit it's a little scary, sending my book out into the world. But it's time. We're both ready.

So how do you enter to possible get this ARC? Simple: Tell me how long you've been reading my blog. If you want to also tell me how you found it and why you stayed, go ahead. The winner will be someone of my choosing, but I'm not going to tell you how I'm choosing. (Please be honest—there will be lots more chances to get an ARC and I will know because I do keep track of who comments often on my blog, etc.)

I know this might not sound very fair, but this giveaway is for those crazy folks who've stuck around with me through all the rough patches, who've cheered me on through years of rejections. If I want anyone to get such an early ARC—it's one of those wonderful people.

Prize: Signed ARC of TRANSPARENT, plus any other goodies I can round up. (Still working on bookmarks, etc.)

Deadline to Enter: Thursday, December 6th. Winner announced Friday, December 7th.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Deja Vu

As I'm finishing up a heavy line edit on HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW for my editor, I'm starting to realize that very soon my book contract will be over and done with. Completed. The end. I have maybe three more edits of Jo's story, and then I'll kind of be back to where I was two years ago when I was preparing for submission for TRANSPARENT.


When you want to sell a book and haven't, I know it's hard to picture the "other side" as anything but awesome and way better than where you are. But I'm starting to learn that it's really not so different at all. Yes, I sold two books. I feel super lucky. I AM lucky and happy and excited for my debut.

But who's to say it'll happen again?

I sure hope it will, and at the same time I'm very aware that I'm right back to where all novels begin: working on a manuscript, loving it, wondering if anyone else will, hoping it will sell if I can manage to finish the darn thing. Lots of stuff has changed since I sold, and yet I've found the work of writing and trying to publish remains the same no matter what phase you're in.

Truth is, being published once doesn't guarantee anything. It's always about the story you're working on and if it's one an editor wants to buy. Or not buy. For example, I wrote something this summer that my editor passed on. And with good reason. I certainly don't blame her, because looking at it now I don't think it's something I put my all into. I don't have the proper passion for it, which means I'll probably have to set it aside out of necessity. Because this business is too hard to waste effort on something you don't 150% love.

So yeah, you can still strike out, even after you've sold a book. You can still write a story that isn't quite good enough. You can still feel like you have no clue what's going to happen with your writing, or that you may never sell again, or that you aren't sure what the next best move is.

At least I hope so, because I've been feeling that way a lot lately. And I think it's okay. In a lot of ways it's nice to have that freedom back—to write what I want to write without anyone telling me what I should be doing. It's also scary, standing at yet another precipice, unsure of what lies ahead or if I'm ready to take that jump.

Potential. It's everywhere. Exciting, scary, bright, unpredictable potential. I just have to wait and see if any of it comes to fruition.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Let's Make Bio Punk A Thing

TRANSPARENT has been put in almost every genre it could possibly slip into, and I find this rather entertaining. It's been called paranormal, dystopian, sci-fi, etc. I've even heard alternate history. But if I were to categorize my own book, I'd call it Bio Punk. Why?

1. Mostly because it sounds cool. 

2. It makes the most sense. 

What is Bio Punk? It's a genre that relies on biotechnology for world building (I'm taking that term looser than some). AKA: Superhero-esque stuff, dealing with genetic alterations, mutations, evolution, DNA hacking, and whatnot. 

Problem is, you don't hear Bio Punk often. There's Cyber Punk (fiction based on computer tech world) and there's the currently very popular Steam Punk (fiction based on steam tech), but rarely any mention of Bio Punk though it is an actual term. I can think of a lot of YA books that are basically Bio Punk, not just mine. So I'm thinking we should just start making it an actual thing. Especially since 2013 is like the year of YA Bio Punk. 

So next time anyone asks me what genre TRANSPARENT is, I'm gonna say Bio Punk, no matter how many weird looks I get.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Things I'm Reminding Myself Of Lately

I wish I could say I was the kind of person who learned a lesson once and then never made the same mistake again. But well, I'm not. I'm constantly learning and relearning things along this whole writing path. Thought I'd share a few of my current ones:

• Write what you are absolutely 100% in love with. It's the only way your writing will have that spark, and the only way you'll have enough passion to see the project through.

• My characters are not me, and thus they often do things I don't want them to and certainly wouldn't do myself. This is okay.

• Have the courage to tell the story the right way. If that means going places that scare you, do it. If that means major revisions that scare you, do them. If that means writing a genre that scares you, do it.

• A messy first draft doesn't make you a bad writer—it just makes you normal. Don't compare your raw writing to another author's finished novel. It's like comparing a 4-year-old gymnast to an Olympian. AKA: Totally unfair.

Feel free to comment about what you've been reminding yourself of lately. I am always in need of reminders.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


They're here! And they are so pretty and this is so weird but also cool and there's nothing that can really describe what this feels like except for run on sentences.

This is my view as I'm writing this, a stack of my own books. A stack of this story that took two years to write and rewrite and 18 months post-sale to land in my hands. By the time TRANSPARENT debuts, it will be four years in the making—half the time I've been married.

Okay, I hadn't cried yet, but that just made me tear up a little.

This story—and trying to get published in general—has been so much of my life. When it debuts, it will have been a total of seven years since I sent my first query, eight years since I started writing seriously and not just as a hobby. So essentially, this book is the summation of just shy of a decade of my life.

It is the beginning of something new. I'm turning 30 next year. I'll be an officially published author. And I will have new, uncertain waters to tread and many, many more things to learn.

I feel so lucky right now and so grateful. And to all of you who have stuck with me through all of this, thank you. You all deserve medals.

P.S. I'm gathering a list of people interested in receiving an ARC for my publisher to review. So if you'd like to be considered, please fill out this simple form.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What The Rest Of The World Doesn't Get About YA

For as long as I've been writing YA, there have been articles in various publications in which the journalist scratches their head and asks, "Why is YA so popular?" There have also been those articles decrying the "darkness" of YA or the "stupidity" of YA or whatever is the flavor of criticism for the week.

Truth is? These articles never really bother me. Because I know they're missing the point. I know they don't quite see the big "secret" standing right in front of them. But I get why YA has exploded, why it's important, and today I want to talk about that and how being a YA author has personally affected my life and the lives of those around me.

We're a little mangy here, but this is a picture of my little sister and me at a writer's retreat last year. Yes, I have a 13-year-old sister. She was born when I was a teen myself, at the end of my freshman year in high school. But despite the age difference, Pika (I nicknamed her Pikachu as a baby and still tend to call her that) has always had a very special place in my heart. She is such an amazing, strong, vibrant girl—I am the proudest big sister ever (of all my siblings, really, but this one is about Pika).

And this is the story: My sister did not like reading in elementary school. It was a chore, not a pleasure. My mom would make her do her required minutes each day, but my sister had never fallen for a book. Middle Grade just didn't strike her fancy for whatever reason (I was the same way at her age, actually.).

When she was 11, my dear friend Kiersten White debuted with her first novel, PARANORMALCY. The fact that my sister knew she was my friend piqued her interest, and she decided to try and read about Evie and her crazy world at IPCA.

And guess what? That was the first time my sister ever finished an entire book of her own free will. She LOVED it. She couldn't stop thinking about it. She asked me for more—she wanted more, more, more. (And I gave her HEX HALL because Evie and Sophie are BFFs in my head. She LOVED that, too.)

I had never seen her so excited about a book in my entire life, and in that moment I realized a reader had been born. A girl who couldn't have cared less about books, who was a "slow reader," who didn't think there were novels out there for her—this girl now consistently reads books in a day or two. She always has a novel with her, and she loves reading. I'm pretty sure she reads more books than I do!

This story still makes me cry every time I think about it.

Because it is not stretching to say that PARANORMALCY changed my sister's life in a very real way. YA has changed her life. It has given her novels that mean the world to her, with heroines she can identify with, who face problems she does but also ones I hope she never runs into. It has given her worlds to explore, and something to share with me and her friends and my mother (also a huge reader).

This is why I'm proud to write YA. This is why those articles don't get to me, because they just don't get it. YA is popular because it fills a need—it speaks to girls like my sister (yes, the genre is female dominant, please no arguments about whether or not that is a good thing), and not just girls but a slew of women who craved this kind of book but didn't have it in such plenty growing up. And not only that, but it's something girls want to share. My sister has all her friends reading, and they have something to talk about that isn't gossip or reality TV. YA has created community; it has created a new generation of readers that will someday grow into adult readers. We should all be ecstatic about that.

Many writers dream about hitting lists or winning awards. But when I look at my sweet, littlest sister, I know that her story is the one that matters most. If my books could do for one teen what PARANORMALCY did for her, then I will consider myself a success. There is nothing more important to me than helping someone fall in love with reading.

Friday, November 9, 2012


I have just realized that it have been a few months since I did my ONE regular feature—the all day Q&A. In penance, I shall now be doing an all WEEKEND Q&A to make up for it. Yup.

So ask me whatever question you want! It doesn't have to be about writing, but of course it can be, too. You can also ask as many as you want (in the past people seem to think they've been limited to one). I promise an answer as soon as I can type it up, and ALL questions will be answered in comments.

*sits and waits*

*twirls pencil*

Bring it on, people.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hey! Another Blurb!

Way at least three years ago, I read a book called Hex Hall. I loved this book so very much—burned through it in like a day (which for a slow reader like me is a Big Deal)—and then I went on Twitter and said something like, "If Kiersten White's Paranormalcy and Ally Carter's Gallagher Girl series had a baby, it'd be Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins."

Well, Rachel replied, and she was as funny and wonderful as her character Sophie. She has since been one of my favorite authors, so when she decided to blurb Transparent you can understand that my jaw pretty much dropped that she would say such nice things about my book! I feel equal parts humbled and ecstatic. And now I get to share!

"Fast-paced, fun, and so original I was downright giddy, TRANSPARENT is a truly awesome debut from an author destined to be on my auto-buy list." —Rachel Hawkins, owner of best awkward foreign cover EVER. 

I'm pretty sure I can die happy now.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Treat. Or Trick. Whatevs.

Last year I posted a small snippet of a WIP I didn't think would go anywhere—well, that little blip of an idea turned into SOULTHIEF, the novel I ended up writing this year. So I thought I'd make it a tradition on Halloween to post something super rough of mine just for kicks. As a treat or tick, depending on if you like or hate it. Ha. (Don't tell me if you hate it:P)

So, without further ado, I wrote this up maybe a week or two ago to get the voice out of my head. I do have another book I'm in the middle of, after all. But here it is: Unnamed Sci-fi Piece.

I can never escape Mom’s morning inspection. She stands in front of me, her muddy eyes checking every piece of exposed skin. I hate it, but it didn’t take me long to learn it’s better than what happens if people see the bruises. 
 “Do you have any under your clothes?” she asks. 
 I sigh. “Mom.” 
 “Jet.” She puts her hands on her hips. The show of authority only comes out after he’s left for the day. “You have physical assessment today, don’t you? What if a boy sees one while you’re changing?” 
 “Nobody looks. It’s a guy rule.” 
 She tries not to laugh, but a little one escapes. “Still. Anything?” 
I lift up my shirt, revealing the greenish bruise just under my ribs. It was a small error in timing—should have never gone into the living room on game night. Dad’s favorite team was already losing. “It’s almost gone. No one will notice.” 
She frowns at it. “Maybe we should cover it, just in case.” 
“I’m gonna be late. I have a way bigger chance getting in trouble for that.” I grab my shoulder bag, slip my shoes on. “It’ll be fine.” 
“Okay, okay.” She lets out a long sigh, and I can feel her fears. She’s always afraid. Of Dad. Of losing me to Reform again. Of being alone with nowhere to go. We’ve lived on fear, breathed it in for so many years I’m tired of feeling it. Just one more year of school, and I can escape. If I can leave Mom here to face him without me, that is.

Monday, October 22, 2012


That's all you really want to see, right? No scrolling here—I give you what you want when you want it! It's pretty cool, no? I gotta admit I was afraid of what my cover would look like for a long time. I mean, when your MC is invisible...let's just say there are a lot more ways to make that cheesy rather than cool.

I love the direction HarperTeen took with TRANSPARENT. It has a "girly Jason Bourne" vibe to me. The cover somehow manages to be kind of dark while also being blindingly neon. How, I don't know. They are geniuses. And orange! How did they know I LOVE orange? Also, the tagline is awesome. Don't even get me started on the title font, because I'm pretty much obsessed with it (And it's the font used for the chapter heads, too! Wee.).

So I'm happy. I hope you guys are happy, too. Shall I give you some back cover copy and a blurb? I figure I may as well get all the stuff out in one post. The copy:

Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona's own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona's had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona's father isn't giving up that easily. 

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

And the blurb:
“Debut author Natalie Whipple deftly explores painfully real teen experience through delightfully unreal stories. Transparent is a smart, funny, tense gem of a book, and Fiona claims a spot as one of my favorite heroines.” Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of the Paranormalcy trilogy

This concludes my All The Good News In October posts. I think. We'll be back to regular, non-exciting blogging next month:)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Be The Person That Heals The Hurt

When I was in 2nd grade, I had two best friends. I trusted them completely when they said they liked me—I had no reason not to. Then one day, walking to school, I looked down to the sidewalk and found three horrible words written in chalk: I hate Natalie.

In the next square of sidewalk, it was written again. This time with my name spelled wrong: I hate Natilie. Over and over this was written down my entire path to school. Other kids walking stared at me as I tried not cry, and by the time I got to school all I wanted to do was crawl back home and hide forever. But worst of all? When I found my friends on the playground, they were with another girl. They were whispering and laughing as they looked at me.

That's when I knew it was them. That's when I learned that people can lie about liking you, and that is when I decided that lie was more painful than being alone.

After that, I stopped letting people in. What's strange is that the event was so traumatizing that I forgot it for many years—when I was about 16 or 17 I had to ask my mom if it really happened, because it suddenly came back to me all that time later. She told me it really did happen, and it hurt all over again.

But even though I forgot, the impact was still very clear. I had very few friends after that, and those that I did let in had to work for it. I didn't have a boyfriend until well after high school. I didn't trust any compliment or over-friendly person. In the back of my head, I took almost all kindness as a potential lie. Even from my family. Everyone must be lying—everyone must really hate me and they are just pretending.

Sadly, my friends today can tell you I still struggle with this. There are times when I honestly doubt they like me, when I have fits of paranoia that make me wonder if they are secretly plotting to cut me out. I hate this about myself, that I can pin all this worry on a single event of bullying. But this is the truth behind all the "Bullying is bad" rhetoric. It does hurt people, and the effects can be long lasting. They can stay with a person for their whole life, haunting them in the dark corners or late at night when doubt creeps in.

I try not to let these feelings rule my life. I fight back. But the hurt I've experienced as a child has shaped who I am. I am 28, but I still remember people asking where my horns were because I'm Mormon. I still remember boys snapping my bra straps. I especially can't forget people laughing in my face when I told them I was part Polynesian (Maori, grandma was from New Zealand I got all the recessive genes, okay?). And once even, I asked one of my bullies why he didn't like me. You know what he said?

"I hate you because you were born."

How that still cuts when I think too hard about it. There's nothing you can fix when someone hates you for existing. That is such a helpless feeling. It's a feeling no one should feel.

Kindness can heal. Standing up for someone means more than you can ever know. Bullies have shaped my life, but so have the few friends I let into my life. School was brutal for me much of the time, but I would come home and go straight to the Phan's house. Lam and Phung—they were a few years older than me but took me in like older sisters. I practically lived at their house, where I felt safe and happy. Their mother was from Vietnam and didn't speak any English, and yet she was so kind to me and always happy to see me. She taught me how to weave nets and crush spices in a mortar. Lam and Phung taught me that shriracha made all instant noodles taste better. I would sleep over there sometimes,  crammed between them in one little room as their parakeets squawked all night. I loved it all.

Lam and Phung shaped my life, too. They made everything bad at school go away with relentless kindness. They gave me faith that not everyone in the world would hurt me. When we moved, I hated to leave them (this was long before email and Facebook). I still miss them, and I have no idea where they are now. But I still think of them often, about summer days spent in handmade hammocks, eating cold cucumbers with a spicy powder I still crave and can't make to save my life, and playing Mario Kart until my thumbs hurt.

Be kind. Be the person that heals the hurt. That's a much better way to be remembered by someone. Because people don't forget cruelty, but they also don't forget kindness. Especially when they need it most.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

England! You Get TRANSPARENT!

Remember when I said October would be a month filled with quite a bit a book news for me? Well, today is another one of those newsy days! From Publisher's Marketplace:

Natalie Whipple's TRANSPARENT, to Sara O'Connor at Hot Key Books, at auction, by Ginger Clark, originally on behalf of Anna Webman, at Curtis Brown.

Wee! I've been sitting on this news since, like, March, so I'm very excited to finally tell you! Hot Key has been wonderful to work with thus far, and they seem so enthusiastic about TRANSPARENT. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty exciting to go through an auction situation. I only had one offer in the US—which was also awesome!—but to have several UK publishers interested in my writing was crazy and humbling and cool.

And the best part? TRANSPARENT will be out in the UK at the same time as my US debut! So all my dear English readers—you'll be seeing my book on May 21st, too. How cool is that? I think it's really cool.

Monday, October 15, 2012

6-Word Pitch Contest Winners!

I have to brave the grocery store with my three punks this morning, so let's get down to business. Winners! Please note, I chose these completely based on my own reading preferences and am in no way implying that, by not choosing you, that your pitch wasn't good. I really enjoyed all of them! Pitching in 6 words is no easy task and I loved seeing the variety of things you all were working on.

If you see you name and pitch below, please email me at natalie (at) nataliewhipple (dot) com. We will get things worked out from there:)

• Kathryn Rose: Merlin's steampunk apprentice must save Camelot. (This sounds like a mash-up I would love.)

• .jessica: Girl-assassins. Victorian carnival. Kill/be killed. (You had me at Victorian carnival.)

• Corey Wright: Teen couple attempts friendship after breakup. (I'm actually a huge contemporary fan, and this sounded like a wonderful recipe for drama, disaster, and romantic tension.)

• Maya Prasad: Futuristic India. Girl hacks own mind. (Dude. There is just so much intrigue here, and I love novels that go outside the European/American world-building mold.)

• Jeigh: Synesthetic girl tastes Phoenix music. Dangerous. (I wrote a paper on Synesthesia a long time ago, so the word automatically gets me interested. I also want to know what Phoenix music is.)

• owlandsparrow: Boy's greatest wishes come true—unfortunately. (I love the contradiction here—the idea that whoever this boy is, he's in for disappointment and possible disaster.)

Thanks again to all who entered! Such fun seeing what you came up with.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Release Date, Pre-Order, & More To Come!

So you're warned, October is, like, the month of announcements for me. Prepare for a deluge of newsy posts. I've been sitting on a bunch of information for forever, which means of course I'd get the clearance to tell you lovely people all at the same time, right? It might look like I'm getting a bunch of cool stuff in a short period of time, but some of this information is from like February.

On to the current cool things:

1. TRANSPARENT has a release date! May 21st, 2013! It can probably still change, but that's what it says on Amazon (and that's what HarperTeen has told me) so I'm sticking with it for now.

2. Speaking of Amazon, TRANSPARENT is now available for pre-order! Which is kind of freaky and kind of cool—I've found this is pretty much the overall feeling of debuting. Excited terror. Feel free to pre-order, but no pressure here. I'm just telling you that you CAN, not that you have to.

3. The cover reveal for TRANSPARENT is on the horizon! People keep asking me when (which thank you so much for being excited about it), and I can tell you it'll happen the week of October 22nd! That's like TEN DAYS AWAY. Dude.

And those are the things I can tell you for now. But there's more, and that more might be revealed this month or next. Wee.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Six Years. Time For A Contest!

Six years is a long time to blog, guys. I'm pretty sure I ran out of decent content about 2 years ago. Well, at least consistently good content. I still have moments. But I keep the blog around because it has a special place in my writing journey—it's how I met my crit partners, met my first agent, and essentially learned the business of writing and publishing. That, and I'm too lazy and cheap to pay for an expensive web site design. Heh. 'Tis true.

I owe a lot to the online writing community, so as I've been pondering what to do with my blog anniversary I ultimately landed on taking an opportunity to give back. Helping other writers is something I've always believed in, even if I have a lot less time to do so lately. It's been a long while since I held a contest for a critique—but today is the day!

So. Here are the details.

How To Enter: In comments, pitch your book in six words. Yup, six. It'll be like extreme Twitter.

Prize: Each winner will receive a query and 10-page manuscript critique.

How You Win: I will choose SIX favorite pitches—those will be my winners.

Deadline: Midnight (Mountain Time), October 14th, 2012 (Winners will be announced Monday, October 15th)

So get entering! I'm very excited to see what you guys come up with.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I Write Standalones

At least I'm pretty sure I write standalones. I don't know why this makes me feel a wee bit insecure, but I suppose it has something to do with MG and YA being fairly series-heavy. Kids like series—I've seen it time and time again with my younger siblings and the kids I teach in church. Once they find something they love, they want more more more of that one thing until they can't possibly get anymore. And even then they still want more.

So yeah, I get a little freaked out sometimes that I am debuting with a standalone novel. And guess what? My second novel is also a standalone. And if I sell another...yup, it'll most likely be a single contained story.

Not many people have read my work, but still the most frequent question I hear is: "Is there going to be more?" When I say no people are sad...and, to be totally honest, I am oddly pleased at that sadness. I'm HAPPY that people want more of my characters, but I'm of the opinion that I'd rather leave you wanting more than write a sequel you'd be disappointed in.

I'm not all the way there, but I'm starting to embrace the fact that this is how I write. When I set out to tell a story, my goal is for the reader to close the book, smile, and do that happy sigh thing. I don't like leaving a ton of loose ends. I certainly don't like cliffhangers—okay I despise them. Of course there is always more story to tell, but I like to leave that in the hands of readers. You can decide how it continues.

In my heart, I love writing standalones, but the pressure to write series sometimes makes me wonder if that's the right thing to do. Ultimately, I think it is for me. At least for now. It's easy to get caught up in "what would be best for my career," but in reality being happy is the best thing you can do for yourself as a writer and for your readers. Embracing your style is all you can really do, because when you try to be someone else it shows...and not in a good way. Writing is a lot of work, and I've finally gotten to the point where the most important thing for me is loving the story. If I don't love it, investing all that time to make it a book won't be worth it, no matter how commercial or successful it might be.

So yeah. I write standalones. I'm cool with that, and I hope you will be, too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Other People Will Have Your Ideas—That Is Okay

Today I've decided to write about something I know I'll get asked later on. That way I have a handy link so I don't have to repeat myself over and over. I should probably write one about standalones, too. Pretty sure I'm gonna get asked where my sequels are a lot as well.

But today is for ideas. We writers can be really weird about our ideas. Sometimes we love them like people. Sometimes we doubt them or feel as if they betrayed us...or we betrayed them. We can be wildly possessive over them, and we really want to think that we're the only person EVER to have a certain idea for a story.

The truth is—other people are going to have your ideas.

Also, that is OKAY.

It's a funny thing, how there almost seems to be a collective mind when it comes to writing. Like, there will be characters with similar appearances all coming out around the same time, or similar names, or similar topics. This is how trends are built, by the way. It's an almost inexplicable phenomena, how writers who don't even know each other can miraculously write things in such similar veins. But being similar to other books isn't a bad thing in the end—it can be extremely helpful.

I've been to a lot of James Dashner events (we're both in Utah, it happens), and what always strikes me is how open he is about what he owes to The Hunger Games. He says The Maze Runner would not be as successful without it—they both came out roughly the same time, and he got the whole "if you like this, then read this" thing. It worked out amazingly. And it just goes to show that the success of one novel has a trickling effect. All publishing success actually helps us as authors because it gets more people interested in reading in general.

I love James' attitude about this, because I happen to think it's the right attitude to have. Also, it's really easy to go the other direction—to be upset that someone else is having "more success" in the same genre or with the same concept as your novel. Which brings me to how this has anything to do with me, because I happen to have personal experience coming to terms with this concept.

After my first novel failed to sell, I put everything into rewriting TRANSPARENT. It was the hardest thing, to this date, that I've ever had to do as a writer. I was so miserable I'd even decided that if it didn't sell, I would be done trying. I couldn't do the roller coaster anymore. So you can imagine that as the time approached for TRANSPARENT to go on sub to editors, I was, to put it nicely, a hot mess.

So naturally—because publishing has a strange sense of humor—a week before I went on sub Andrea Cremer and David Levithan announced the sale of INVISIBILITY, about a boy who is invisible and the girl who can see him.

Honesty moment: I totally freaked out. Like, ugly crying, panic attack, I am doomed for all eternity to never sell a book. I'm not proud of this, but there it is. I sent a panicked email to my agent asking if we should even bother going on sub, because who would want my book when two best-sellers wrote something probably way better than my story?

My agent at the time, bless her wonderful heart, kindly told me I was acting like a crazy person. She said this happened all the time, and it's not a big deal. I didn't entirely believe her, but six weeks later TRANSPARENT sold and I got to eat crow. I eat a lot of crow, guys. Apparently it's my favorite food.

Sometimes it's still scary. TRANSPARENT comes out around the same time as INVISIBILITY. I'll admit I worry about being compared (even when the stories sound completely different). I worry about being accused of copying (even when there's no way, unless I'm somehow a mind reader and don't know it).

But ultimately this whole experience has taught me that publishing isn't really a competition. It's a big web of connected creativity that all of us can benefit from. Like James Dashner, I could likely benefit from the success of Andrea and David. Just like I'll benefit from all the other 2013 books that feature superhuman abilities (and there are a lot of those, let me tell you).

So if you're afraid your idea is similar to someone else's, just stop now. It's okay, and sometimes more than okay. My first book failed on sub mostly because it was nothing like other books, and editors weren't sure where it belonged on the shelf. That sucks way more than being similar to people, because then you don't get to sell at all. Never underestimate the power of "If you liked _______, then maybe you'll like ______, too."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Renee, RELIC, Ridiculously Happy Over Here

This is a picture of the very first internet-friends-turned-real friends I ever made (Note to self: NEVER cut your hair that short again, Natalie. Ever.). The tall one in the middle? That's Renee, and I'm SO EXCITED to finally be able to tell you that she sold her awesome magic western, RELIC! The book is crazy awesome, guys. Picture True Grit with magical elements. YES. I know. You should be drooling.

Renee is not only a great writer, but she has been one of my closest friends since we met over four years ago now. We were all bright-eyed and naive back then, and after several Philosophical Journeys we may be a touch jaded but still as close as ever. I'm not sure how I got so lucky in the friend department, but it's pretty much the only thing I have incredible luck in.

I feel so blessed to have had Renee cheering me on all this time, and now it's my turn to do the happy dances and shouting from the rooftops and all that good stuff. YAY RENEE! YAY RELIC! Bragging for your friends is WAY better than talking about yourself.

So please go over and congratulate Renee! She deserves lots of comments for having to put up with me all these years.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

5 Easy Things You Can Do To Support Debut Authors

So TRANSPARENT is roughly 8 months away from debuting, which is actually starting to sound close seeing as I had a total of 25 months to wait when I sold. Suffice it to say, debuting has weighed heavily on my mind recently. Even crushingly at times.

I've always loved supporting debut authors—it might not seem like it, but your support is HUGE for authors just starting out. Especially for a mid-list title like mine and many, many others, every sale, every mention, every shelf matters.

Today I want to share 5 simple things you can do if you want to support a debut author you particularly love, in order of cheapest/easiest to most expensive/hardest (not that hard though).

1. Tell Your Friends
Yes, it's that simple. If you have been following a debut, or just read a debut author's book and loved it—tell people! One of the hardest things for debut authors is that they don't have an automatic audience. They can't rely on repeat fans or really anyone taking a chance on them (It's slightly easier for well-placed lead title debuts, but still not easy). They have to hope that someone will pick up their book, love it, and then start talking about it.

2. Request At Your Local Library
Librarians are hugely influential within the reading community, but there are lots of books to buy and a limited budget. The more a librarian hears requests for a book, the more they'll consider getting it on their shelves. For a debut, every shelf means a lot. Visibility is the biggest obstacle. Librarians are a huge help in getting new books to the people who might love them.

3. Request At Your Local Bookstore
It's the same principle as the library—visibility is a debut's best friend. If people are asking for a book, stores are happy to provide. And if a few people start asking for a title, they might even start stocking it more consistently. Shelf space at a bookstore is not a given for every author, and it's becoming more and more common for mid-list authors—even ones published with the big publishers—to be overlooked by brick and mortar stores.

4. Pre-Order
Publishers look at pre-order sales. If they are good, on track, or behind expectations. It impacts their view of the book and their likelihood to push the title. Having good pre-orders could help your favorite debut continue their career. Besides, pre-ordering often costs less than buying at a store or after debut.

5. Buy Debut Novels Within The First Three Months
Did you know that most novels only get about a quarter of a year to sell in a bookstore? If a store doesn't sell a novel like it expects to, they won't re-order. That book may not be on the shelf ever again. And even more difficult for a debut author—that first book not selling fast enough could mean that their future books will not make it to the store at all. It sounds sad, but that is a reality a lot of writers face everyday.

And those are my five easy things that can really help a debut author out! Of course, these things also help all authors, and most of them don't cost you anything. If you have other suggestions, please leave them in comments:)

Monday, September 17, 2012

On Privacy, The Internet, & Being Safe

I used to think that putting some personal stuff online wasn't a big deal. It's not like I was important enough for people to stalk or anything. And I'm not saying I am now, but things have been slowly changing over the six years since I started this blog.

Truth is, I recently found some things online about me that were, let's say, vaguely stalkerish. Not to the point where I was totally freaked out, but it put me on high alert. Like, "Oh, so there are people in the world who actually have the time to read my entire blog archive. I had no idea. Interesting."

I've recently had to ask myself a new question: Do I want people to be able to have that window into my life, into who I used to be and how I got where I'm at now?

When I first started this blog, I used to post a lot of silly things, or personal things. I talked a lot about my books and research, about my family and friends. Back then, I think it was okay. I had very few readers and nothing really to worry about. Things have changed lately. And please, don't take this as me saying I'm SUPER famous or anything like that, because I'm so not. But selling a book has garnered a certain amount a visibility, and I imagine that'll increase a little once the book is actually out. What used to be okay for me to talk about is shifting, whether I want it to or not.

When I was querying and on sub, I used to think a lot of writers got "too good for us little people" when they sold their books, because they started to close off online and were just too busy to interact like they used to. But as I've been going through the debut thing myself, I've discovered that "closing off" is for very different reasons than I imagined. Mainly, for safety purposes.

I'm sure a lot of you have heard about the agent who was attacked by someone she rejected last week (via Nathan Bransford). That is an extreme but sobering reality. I truly believe that the majority of writers are very nice people, but it's a case of a few troubling sorts ruining it for the rest.

The truth is, I've had a few unsettling, this-person-is-kind-of-invading-my-privacy moments already. I've had people approach my husband asking him to read their novels and recommend them to me, for example. I've had uncomfortable comments on my blog along the lines of "Why am I not your husband?"

What I experience on a smaller scale must be really difficult for writers who are even more visible. I have heard some stories that make me pretty scared to be doing this whole author gig.

So with all that in mind, I would just encourage everyone to be safe. Here are some ways you can do that if you feel the need:

• If you have Blogger, it's really easy to revert your older posts to drafts, if you now deem them maybe too exposing (something I've been doing a lot of lately). No deletion necessary, so you can keep them for yourself if you want.

• Never talk about where you are going—talk about where you've been.

• Don't use the location pins. (I seriously don't get the location pins.)

• If you want to advertise an event, advertise it. There's no reason to say that you will be there even if you are going.

• Consider the personal pictures you post online, and if there is any way for people to locate or contact you based on them.

Be safe out there, guys. I wish we didn't have to think about this stuff, but we do.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Sketch

It's been a long while since I posted a sketch, mostly because my scanner is dead and now Photoshop Elements is not working on my new-to-me MacBook Air. I can't find the disk to reinstall. Wah. So I took a picture of this sketch, which means the quality is rotten, but oh well.

I've recently been doubting my writing and, well, everything pretty much, but it was nice to pull out the sketchpad today and do something other than editing. Sonnie is a character from one of my WIPs, and I think drawing her today has made me a little more excited about her story.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Yay Lynne!

I really have to give a huge shout out to my friend Lynne Matson, who sold her debut novel NIL! I have been dying to have that public, because I'm so very excited for her. Lynne and I met through the All 4 Alabama auction—she forked out a lot of money to have me crit her novel, and it was such a great pleasure to work with her. And the book is awesome! Lynne is just a top notch person in general, and I'm so glad a publisher saw in NIL what I did.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Anxiety: Yes, I am a "crazy" person.

I can't remember if it was my fourth or fifth birthday, but I vividly recall everyone at my party circling around our kitchen table to sing happy birthday to me. This distinct sense of terror came over me as all eyes locked on me. My face started to heat up. My heart began to pound. As everyone started to sing, I began to cry.

I didn't know why, but all that attention was scary and I didn't want it and I began to scream, "Stop singing to me! Stop singing to me!" Well, I was a little kid, so everyone just laughed at how silly I was being. Inside, those laughs made it all worse. I was so, so embarrassed and upset. I wanted to run away from all those eyes, all that attention.

Looking back, I know that was anxiety.

For a long time I didn't have the right words for what I've experienced my whole life. Or maybe I just didn't want to admit that I had a problem because that would have made me a "crazy" person. There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness, that people who seek treatment often feel guilty or ashamed or both. I know I did for a very long time.

So instead of treating my anxiety, I let it rule my life. I just didn't do things that triggered my anxiety. As a teenager and college student, that meant I didn't date much because I was afraid to touch people or afraid that they would touch me. I didn't go to dances, because the thought of moving my body in public and people seeing that? Yeah, I'm getting anxious just thinking about it, even now. When people invited me to go skiing or boating or something as simple as going to a foreign house, I would find excuses to stay home so I wouldn't have to get nervous about doing something new. And anything that even resembled a competition? No way. Losing, failing, coming in second...the anxiety of competition, of losing, was way too much to handle. I'm still a really sore loser.

Basically, I didn't really live my life how I wished to live it. I lived it avoiding all the things that scared me. And I had a nice quiet life, dreaming instead of doing.

Then I saw this quote by Henry David Thoreau while, curiously enough, buying books at Barnes & Noble. It simply said: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Yes, exclamation mark. And those words struck me to the core—I had so very many dreams, and I'd never really chased any of them. Oh, I wanted to, but I was always too scared to.

That's when I decided to change things.

The anxiety never went away, but I started doing things anyway. I did start dating (and got married). I did start writing. I did start exercising and moving in public. I fought to do things I wanted, and you know what? The anxiety got worse.

Maybe you thought this would be a happy story. It is and it isn't. The truth is, the more I have gone for my dreams, the more anxious I've become. I've had to get out there in ways that leave me panicked and crying and gasping for breath—it all came to a head in 2010, when I was having panic attacks every day for months just for trying to live my life and DO things "normal" people find simple.

I went on anxiety medication for the first time in my life. And it felt like giving up, admitting I was weak and lesser and incapable. At least until the medication began to work, and I saw for the first time how it must be to be "normal." I realized just how anxious I'd become, just how dysfunctional. And I also realized that people who think I'm weak are the crazy ones, because I had to fight three times as hard just to live my life without totally losing it. I learned that my brain really was sick, and I didn't have to keep it that way.

I mean, do people look down on diabetics for taking insulin? Do they say, "Suck it up, you don't need meds—just deal."? No, because a diabetic can't function without insulin. Sure there are types of sugar issues that can be dealt with sans insulin. I'm hypoglycemic, for example. I control my sugar through diet. Right now, I'm lucky I can still do this. I've had diabetes while pregnant, and in all likelihood I will at some point develop Type 2 diabetes when I get older. If I eventually have to take insulin, I really hope people out there won't shake their heads and think, "She copped out. Sad."

Well, anxiety is much the same. There is a level of anxiety that can be controlled without medication. But there is also a line where medication does become necessary, where your brain is just not working right and you can't fix it no matter how hard you try.

This is where I am again, after having had my baby. I have a good life. I am generally happy and things are going well for me in general. So why do I wake up in the middle of the night, my heart racing with panic so crushing I can't breathe and sleep becomes totally impossible? Why do I go through my day on the verge of crying because everything seems so hard and overwhelming? Well, it's because my brain is letting off the panic signal when it shouldn't, and for no reason that I can tell. It's incredibly frustrating to feel this, to tell yourself you have absolutely nothing to be afraid about, and not be able to turn off that panic signal. I know I'm be irrational, and I try to stop and can't. It's a helpless feeling.

So yeah, I just jumped back on medication. And I'm talking about this because I'm not ashamed anymore and I don't want others who struggle with mental stuff to feel like they have to hide or "tough it out." You have every right to get help, to live your life like "normal" people do. Every day doesn't have to be a battle—it can be a joy. Don't let "shame" or "guilt" take that away from you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

All Day Q&A!

It's time once again for my one regular feature! Today I answer your questions! I will answer them as soon as I can after you post them, and all questions asked before midnight Mountain Time will be answered. You may ask anything you'd like—I will give you my best possible answer in comments. ALSO, you may ask as many questions as you want. Some people in the past have felt bad for asking more than one. Don't! Today is YOUR day.

Monday, August 20, 2012


So it turns out this is the point where it starts to feel kind of real for me. There's something about that little HarperTeen graphic at the bottom of the page that makes me go, "Oh for SERIOUS? This is like actually happening and not just being imagined in my brain?"

For those of you who may not know, first pass pages are actually like the LAST time you have a chance to make changes to your book. I know, confusing name, but this is IT, guys. I am one read away from my book being done.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Post-Draft Summary: Soulthief

I just showered for the first time since...Monday. Yup, this is what happens when you decide to finish a draft in a week. People always ask how I write with kids, and that is my answer: live in squalor. My house is post-apocalyptal, I'm disgusting, my kids have been living on Pop Tarts and Netflix. Mom of the year right here!

But I finished writing a book! It's been like 15 months since I last did that—far too long. I am smiling like a fool, even if the book is a wild mess of a draft. It's written, which means it can only get better from this point on.

So, as is kind of my tradition, I present you with post-draft stats!

Working Title: Soulthief

Horrible Summary: After being murdered at sixteen, Sonnie Martinez reaps souls for Death, which is a dangerous job when Paladins lead a crusade to "purify" any spirit they find. But dangerous becomes downright deadly when a mysterious new threat descends upon the living realm. Sonnie must use her budding powers to form a shaky alliance between the Reapers and Paladins, but even that might not save her from a destiny Fate himself can't change. Or something.

# of Chapters: 37

# of Pages: 238

# of Words: 62, 805 (Yay short! Room to grow!)

Started: October 2011

Finished: August 2012 (About 4-5 months of work, several other months of being afraid of it)

Most prominent food item: Pizza

Favorite Character: Cedric, mmm, Cedric

Favorite Scene: Like I'd ruin it for you, but it's TWISTY.

And that's about it! On to the next project in my 6-week work marathon! Once it shows up in the mail, at least.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Excuse Me While I Go Fall Off The Face Of The Earth

I'm gonna keep this short because I really don't have time to blather on. Time? Precious commodity up in here. Because I have six weeks—SIX WEEKS—to do the following things:

• Finish my WIP
• Write TRANSPARENT dedication and acknowledgments
• Edit first pass pages (layout pages) of TRANSPARENT
• Edit HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW based on Editor Erica's lovely letter

Imagine me laugh-crying, because that's what I'm doing this Monday morning.

BUT, before I go, I have a little bit of Super Awesome News I am able to share! It's kind of random and also bittersweet, but I'm so excited to finally be able to say that Ginger Clark is now my agent! Anna, because of really good things happening in her life, has had to leave Curtis Brown. I am so thankful to her and will miss her, being the agent who sold my first novel, but I'm also freaking lucky to be in Ginger's very capable hands. She is awesome and I'm still a little star struck and super grateful she's taken me on. Curtis Brown has taken such good care of me!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have A LOT of work to get done. The blogging will be sparse. Unless, of course, I'm looking for ways to procrastinate.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"Are You Tired Of Me Yet?"

Back when my husband and I started dating, I was rather surprised about how well it went. I was seriously bad at dating—awkward, shy, average-looking, and, honestly, a little scared of the whole going-out-with-a-boy thing. It was difficult for me to believe anyone would want to spend time with me of their own free will.

This sounds rather sad, I know. But then I met Nick, and everything was easy and wonderful and as the months passed I just couldn't believe he still wanted to be with me.

I would constantly ask him, "Aren't you tired of me?" Or "You're not tired of me yet?" And even "I just cannot believe you're not sick of me yet."

One night, we took a walk around the local park. It was still warm from the hot summer day, and gnats swarmed us every time we walked under a lamp post. But this didn't seem to deter us, since giving into the bugs meant going home and going home meant not being together until the next day. Ah, love.

I don't remember what we were talking about, but, as had become my habit, I ended up asking some version of "Are you tired of me yet?"

My husband isn't easily ruffled. He's probably one of the calmest people I know and rarely ever gets upset with me. This was the first time in our relationship that I actually saw a little bit of frustration in him, and he said, "Will you quit asking me that? I'm not, and I don't plan on being tired of you anytime soon."

*pauses to swoon*

Isn't he the best?

Well, I stopped asking. But eight years later, sometimes I still can't believe he's not tired of me yet! My husband taught me a really important lesson that night: I was letting my insecurity get in the way of something wonderful. And I hate to admit that I still do that sometimes, especially in my writing.

Sometimes I still have that urge to ask my crit partners, my agent, my editor, "Are you tired of me yet?" I still have this fear that my book deal was some kind of fluke, that I've not lived up to expectation, and that, worst of all, people just don't like me but won't own up to it. How sad is that? And rude, too, since if I really believe that I'm essentially accusing all the people I know of being big fat liars. Which they aren't. And I shouldn't project my issues on them.

I've learned not to believe these lies my brain tells me, but at times this insecurity still impacts the way I act and work. It makes me reluctant to write. It makes me question the merit of my work. And it stops me from having fun, which is probably the worst tragedy. Writing can be so fun—I hate when I make it an ordeal.

I guess I'm mostly writing this post for myself, as a reminder to stop with the "Are you tired of me yet?" and to just enjoy my work. Doubt can be so crippling in a creative profession, and I really don't have time to cripple myself and angst. I have a book to finish. And edits to do. I'm determined to approach both with confidence.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Impending Edits Checklist

I cannot believe it's already time for the HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW editorial letter! Seriously, where has the time gone? (Oh yeah, Dread Pirate Baby ate it all. And he's still hungry.) No matter how many editorial letters I get—whether from crit partners, agent, or editor—I still have the same reaction. It goes a little bit like this:

1. Complete and utter panic.
2. Crying. (YES. I cry. Every time. Even when it's not that bad.)
3. Frantic planning.
4. Frantic emails to editor for clarification and approval of plans.
5. More panic over starting.
6. Eventual acceptance that it's not so bad.
7. Much enjoyment of smiley faces throughout MS.

Since I know that I can't seem to change my reaction to edits, this time I've decided just to prepare for what I know I'll do. This is the list I created for your entertainment:

❑ Get dark chocolate. Lots of it.

❑ Warn husband that I will be a weepy mess for at least two days, poor guy.

❑ Buy new iPod game for Dino Boy and Ninja Girl, so they can be distracted while I obsess.

❑ Finish TAKEN by Erin Bowman because it's awesome and I can't read while I edit because I compare too much.

❑ Acquire Diet Mt. Dew Code Red for impending long nights with MS.

❑ Notify everyone in my life that I will be a cranky sleep-deprived hermit for a month and it's not their fault. I still love them.

❑ Beg family and friends for extra babysitting time.

❑ Swear off watching Korean Dramas in obsessive, week-long marathons (Oh man, that's gonna be really hard.)

❑ Stock kitchen with easy-to-make food so I don't have to waste time cooking. Also, make a giant pot of curry to feed husband for at least a week.

❑ Stake out my favorite desk at the library, why yes, it's the secluded one in the corner of the YA section DO NOT TOUCH IT OR YOU DIE.

❑ Say goodbye to the WIP. (Sniff, I'll miss you, ugly little first draft.)

❑ Find awesome scented highlighters Mom bought me in New Zealand (She totally knows how to pick good gifts, guys.).

❑ Clean whole house so it won't be so bad after I'm done (Oh, who am I kidding? So not happening.).

Well, guys, I better get to work prepping.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Publishing Pipeline

One thing I didn't really know much about before I sold my book was the actual timeline TRANSPARENT would follow post-book deal. And I think not understanding that process can make it way more stressful than it needs to be, so today I wanted to share a little bit about what it's like to go through the Publishing Pipeline, as I now affectionately call it.

(Extra disclaimer: Every publishing house is different. Like, for reals. I give some information here that may not be the same for every author—they are examples from my own experience at HarperTeen.)

1. Get In Line
When you first sell, there's usually a big GAP of time wherein you're just...waiting. Yup, the waiting never goes away. This isn't because your publisher/editor doesn't care about your book—they just have a queue, essentially. That queue is based on the season in which a book comes out, so the new sales get put in line.

For example, TRANSPARENT was slotted as a Summer 2013 novel, but it sold in May of 2011. That means there were like five seasons of books before mine debuted (now we're down to two, ack), and all those other books have to come before mine.

I say this because it's easy, while in the process, to feel like you are being neglected or that maybe you aren't important when that is absolutely not true. If you are on a regular publishing schedule (18 months to 2 years out from sale), there is just a little bit of lag time is all. It's completely normal. It gives you and your editor plenty of time to edit and prepare for debut.

2. Understanding The Order Of Work
Publishers don't just start designing your cover the second you sell. There is an order to things. And guess what it starts with? Yup, edits. Depending on your debut season, your edits could come within a few weeks or a few months (mine was about 3 months from sale). The first Editorial Letter will likely be a lot of substantial changes. You might be rewriting scenes, cutting, adding new stuff, changing characters/plots, etc. The next edit is what they call a Line Edit, which is more on a sentence level, making sure the prose is tight and everything makes sense. Then there is Copy Edit, which is focused on grammar and punctuation. It's also your last real chance to make bigger changes.

Once you finish Copy Edits, the book is "approved" for layout. This is when it usually goes to design as well (sometimes sooner depending on how you're meeting your deadlines). Only after all that editing do you start to see the exciting stuff like cover comps (early mockups).

3. Knowing Your Seasons
Every publisher has their own seasons. For HarperCollins, they work in three seasons: Winter (mid-December to mid-April), Summer (mid-April to mid-August), and Fall (mid-August to mid-December). Pretty much everything revolves around this schedule—when you get edits, when you see a cover comp, when you ask for blurbs, when you can reveal your cover, when you get galleys, etc.

So if you're a Summer 2013 like me, it's really silly to get jealous over Fall 2012 cover reveals, for example. They all go in cycles, and if you pay attention, you'll notice that a large group of authors always reveal stuff at the same time because they are all in the same season. (This is good to know if you are sensitive to news online, because certain things always happen around the same time of year.)

4. The Catalogue
Much revolves around The Catalogue. I don't know a ton about The Catalogue yet, except that is where a publisher showcases all their novels for a season. I believe it goes out to book buyers and is majorly important because of that. The Catalogue comes out in, you guessed it, seasons! One catalogue for each. The Catalogue also goes out about two seasons in advance—so the Summer 2013 catalogue will be out this Fall 2012. The Winter 2013 catalogue just came out this Summer 2012.

The Catalogue marks all the fun, shiny marketing type things in a book's life. Just before The Catalogue comes out is usually when authors are allowed to reveal covers (usually a week before), for example. It's also when ARCs start being sent out (just after The Catalogue goes out). It's often when blurbs are acquired. This is also when reviews start coming in, and authors might get nervous and panicky and hide in holes from the online world. Also, contests start, and bigger promotion pushes begin in general.

5. Other Random, Useful Info
• Authors get ARCs first. People tend to think when authors get their ARCs that the publisher is sending ARCs everywhere, but that isn't the case. There is some lag time usually, an order that they send them out (which likely differs a little for each publisher).

• Blurbing attempts happen at two separate times—pre-ARC in attempts to get blurbs for the ARC, and also post-ARC in hopes to get more for the novel. So if you don't get any pre-ARC isn't not over.

• Publishers often release more ARCs closer to a novel's release date because if reviews and buzz are too far out, people often forget about the book by release date. So if you see early ARCs they usually come from trade shows or a very small, early mailing.

• Release dates are tentative for a long time. Authors aren't trying to be cryptic—they just really don't have official information for a long time. Usually not until The Catalogue and sometimes after that.

• Authors only get a set amount of ARCs or published copies of their novel. They cannot request as many as they want, and the amount varies based on publisher. I've seen anywhere from one copy to fifteen.

That's about all I can think of now, but if any other published authors want to offer up extra info in comments, feel free! Now that I'm more comfortable with the Publishing Pipeline, it's taken a lot of the stress out of the process. And it's helped me stay calmer online when the deluge of announcements happens each season. It's easier to keep myself from comparing when I remember that every author has to wait for their season, and it's not everyone else "beating me to it."