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Friday, March 3, 2017

The Four Horsemen of Dominating My Life

I know I haven’t exactly done the post thing in about a week and a half, but I have REASONABLE excuses. Yes, I know there is no such thing, but we get the gist here. Anyhow, I will detail said excuses below:

1. UIL Writing Extravaganza!

Last week -- and this week -- I’ve prepped for these super great, totally not weird and nerdy writing competitions. Pretty much, this is what the debate and science kids go to for their big competition stuffs, but as it turns out, there’s writing fun as well. I went for the sake of competing in Ready Writing, an event in which students are given two hours to compile an expository essay based on a strange prompt. However, as I lingered in the waiting room scheming for #2 on this list, I ended up jumping in on some journalism events -- News Writing, Feature Writing, and Editorial. I’m going to hope those are pretty self explanatory. Here’s how that went:

First in Editorial:

Fun medal time!

Forth in Feature *Insert an Image of the forth place ribbon my teacher has but has yet to give me*

There were approximately thirty to forty kids in each event I sat through. In the end, I was this close from placing in the weird expository thing; what killed me was actually my strength. I included a CRAP TON of personal narrative A) because, as demonstrated here, it’s easy to talk about myself, and B) it’s much like telling a story, which wins my heart every time.

I don’t have an excuse for news writing other than that I’m just not a natural at it. Seeing this, I've decided to enter copy editing this next weekend instead. I'll see the world at 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning!


This is the map which has been dominating my free time; I (Britain) am the blue pieces, Germany is Black, Austria Hungary is red, and Turkey is yellow. It's about to go DOWN.

Essentially, it’s like a much more complex, much better version of Risk. In my AP European history class, we are taking three weeks with which to play this game, claiming that it simulates Europe pre-WWI. The class is divided into teams, and each team is assigned one of seven countries -- Austria Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, or Turkey. My assigned teammate and I are Great Britain. God bless the queen.

Through an alliance with Germany, we wiped France off the map. Further, Austria Hungary, Germany, Turkey, and I have cornered Russia’s last army in St. Petersburg. Austria Hungary beat Italy out, the Anti-Russian Coalition (ARC) will soon implode upon itself. Time to watch us burn as we compete for our grades.

It may not sound like much, but when the bottom two teams fail, and second place is only an 85, things heat up. So far, people have accidentally helped the wrong team, brought baguettes to class upon the death of France, placed bounties on other countries, and the ARC met last Saturday at a Chick-Fil-A in order to scheme. Absolutely Brilliant. Our last day to make moves is Monday, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

3. Mid-Life Crisis at Age 17

I've been waiting for an excuse to use this image, and this is the perfect opportunity.

About a week and a half ago, I didn’t get into my top college (Texas Christian University) with enough scholarship to be able to attend; it’s a private school, so my hopes weren’t too high to begin with, but I’m still stuck floating through Lake Lack of Direction. I’ve applied to other schools, some which I despise and some towards which I remain fairly indifferent. My panic lasted a good week before I concluded that I don’t need to decide until the last possible second; after all writers work best under pressure *cough-procrastination-cough*. Now, I’ve elected to move on with the rest of my life until I’m drowning in deadlines. It will surely be glorious.

4. Rewriting my query AGAIN after Son of a Pitch

It's a pun, see?

For those of you who haven’t heard, Son of a Pitch is a query contest in which writers submit their query letter and the first 250 words of their novel. Authors/bloggers critique these entries, and after a week of revisions, entries have the opportunity to present their work to a collection of editors, publishers, and even a few literary agents. I shoved Renegade in at the last second, and although I didn’t enter the editor round, I gained some valuable feedback.

Thus, I rewrote my query. Now, it focuses more so on my characters (Nathan) and their direct actions/motives rather than excessive world building randomly shoved halfway through the letter. I’ve yet to submit this draft to anyone, but I’m planning to do so soon; another recent mission involves compiling a solid list of my “top” agents in order to feel like I have a better comparison with the ones I query. Honestly, I have no idea how I didn’t do this before now.

I've decided that every post in which I can't find use for a Pinterest Character Board image will be graced with one of my beautiful prince, the light of my life, the ruler of my household -- my cat, Leo. You can thank him at the end of this post.

I recognize that this isn’t exactly a “writing” post, but it touches a couple marks, and therefore I am counting it. Really, I'm here today to reestablish my presence in this world. I plan on soon posting some update-y things on the Renegade series for the month of February, and hopefully that'll keep me on track. In addition, I'll soon be working on the TCHS ART AND LIT MAG soon, which will prop me up on my feet, even if it'll also keep me busy. However, I'm going to NYC for the first time in a week, so believe me, I'll be dead after that, but in a good way. And yes, there will most definitely be a post on my adventures.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

YAK Book Signing Extravaganza

Time for math! Stop grumbling, math is very important note the sarcasm. Here we go: All kinds of book people + zero responsibility + extreme nerding out = BOOK FEST!! See, math is good for something. That said, I just went to one of these thingys, and it was an absolute BANGER. Therefore, enjoy my ramblings accompanied by the bazillion selfies I got that day.

My school district, Keller ISD, holds this annual Young Adult Keller Book Fest (or YAK). It’s awesome because there are a whole bunch of authors, from old timers on their twenty-sixth project to newcomers on their debut novel, all come together and interact with our community, engaging specifically with students (which, until this May, includes yours truly.) They include a whole bunch of panels, writing workshops, food, and signing sessions. It's the

I found some of my Frens while struggling with my massive pile of books.

Because I'm insane, I began planning this event about two weeks ahead. Between consulting both my TBR list and the schedule of authors, I blew any Barnes and Noble gift cards I got on four shiny new books: Jackaby by Will Ritter, And I Darken by Kiersten White, The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, and The Serpent King by keynote speaker Jeff Zentner. While managing to consume the first two titles on that list, I planned out my eight hours at the event in full; my poor friends were left to either trail along on my mission or be lost in the dust.

So, naturally, being the ambitious person I am, I made a point to find each author in which I took interest. Consider the fact that I also tugged along the first two novels in Emmy Laybourn’s Monument 14 series and, at the festival, bought How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle. So that totals me up to seven authors. Absolutely positively going to happen.

Here's the man whose brilliant storytelling swindled me out of my money (it was totally worth it.)

I got lost on the way there, but I made it, and after the little “we’re happy book nerds” ceremony, time started ticking. I hit a panel entitled "Shredder's Revenge" with both Ritter and White, and I managed to ask a question thanks to the fact that my English teacher was the moderator (bless you, Mrs. Hopson.) A big insecurity of mine is the fact that I'm so young; some people I ask say it's an advantage in publishing, and others say to keep quiet until I've hooked somebody. It's a mess. So I asked the panel, and got a collective “keep quiet and wait.” I trust these people, they're professionals. All the same, that settled that for about two hours. I'll come back to it.

Me and Real Life Jackaby.

They gave everybody a long lunch break, and afterwards bought us all back together for the keynote. Now, I bought The Serpent King pretty much solely based on the fact that if this guy Zentner was important enough to be they keynote at this whole shebang, he had to have a stellar book to back it up. Oh man, was I right. But I'll wrap back around and conclude on this note at the end, so hang with me.

The AMAZING author of the TERRIFYING Lada and my Cinnamon Bun, Radu.

I got my chance, afterward, to get Jackaby, And I Darken, and The Star Touched Queen signed by their respective authors. Ritter gave the best smile, and something in his rapid speech and the way he held himself spoke of the character Jackaby himself. White, with her stunning rainbow hair, was AWESOME, and she offered some kind advice. Chokshi showed up like a literal ball of fire eager and ready to go. All were some of the friendliest people in existence.


My friends and I headed next to another panel called "A Whole New World," this one including Chokshi, along with some other authors who are most definitely now on my TBR -- Lori Goldstein (Becoming Jinn), Traci Chee (The Reader), Katherine Catmull (The Radiant Road), and Lisa Maxwell (Unhooked). All five of them were all over world building. I, of course, sat in the front row in utter awe.

Again, I asked a question because I'm obnoxious like that. I explained how I'd like to write my YA fantasy to include cultures outside my own, but that I feared unintentionally harming someone through an inaccuracy or stereotypical portrayal. They all agreed that research is key in addition to connecting with people of those cultures and possibly asking them to read my writing. Those are all pieces of great advice, but Chee provided one more truth: Sometimes, stories of other cultures just aren't your story to tell. While I can do my best, I won't always be able to achieve what needs to be achieved. It can be a bit tough to realize that I can't do everything, but it's a fact I'm coming to accept; it's not my place to do otherwise.

Emmy Laybourne is seriously as fun as her writing is HEART-WRENCHING.

I went then to one last panel ("To Infiniy and Beyond"), this one including Laybourn. I loved hearing from all of the authors at the table, but I kept narrowing in on two in particular -- Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg, co-authors of Zenith, which comes out this August. Now, I had no idea who they were, but they both struck me as so incredibly young, and they had an energy that reeled in the audience. That proved me with a spark of interest, so naturally, I headed up to their signing table at the end of the day.

And with that said, back to signings. I found Zentner and thanked him for his keynote, took goofy pictures with Laybourn, and listened in as Tingle read the introduction to his book to a small group. When I rounded back to Cummings and Alsberg, I did so with the intent of asking how they managed to publish at ages not that far from mine.

Look at these talented beauties, everyone.

Here, I got some answers. Cummings recommended writing conferences, like the DFW Writer’s Workshop Convention in May. Alsberg cited traditional querying to her success. Both said they divulged their ages (both 19 at the time of their first publications) in the query. Ultimately, that settled it for me. Knowing that somebody else succeeded by following the same principles my gut told me to allows me to sleep soundly at night. I won’t expand on my age, but I’ll cite my school paper and magazines as publications.

The whole thing was a beautiful explosion of books and sharpies, and I couldn't have expected anything better. But back to the keynote. Zentner’s speech to an auditorium mainly of students and educators honed in not on the importance of reading to read or writing to write, but the importance of doing those things for the sake of empathy. He acknowledged the reality faced by the generations of kids in front of him, and rather than shy away from it, he called them to action. Here's an excerpt from the translation he posted online a couple days later:

“Nothing forces people to confront the humanity of others like engaging with their stories. Art softens hearts and teaches. It raises us up. Even those in the highest seats of power can be wounded and chastened by falling on the wrong side of art. So I hope you’ll let the stories you love take root in you and grow and blossom and bear the fruit of other art. I hope you’ll tell your story so powerfully that no one can deny your humanity or anyone else’s. I hope you’ll tell stories so prescient and wise that no one can deny their lessons. I hope you’ll tell stories so filled with hope that they set a fire in everyone who reads them. I hope you’ll tell stories so filled with goodness that evil withers and turns to ash before them.”
How did I speak to this man in real English after that speech? I do not know.

Wide eyes, sore throats, edge of your seat kind of rhetoric. There was not one person in the room who could've walked out uncharged with inspiration and a sense of power. And that's ultimately what I loved about that entire day -- the feeling of significance and determination that swells in your chest when you see people like you who have achieved what you're trying to achieve for similar reasons you're trying to achieve them. Sometimes, I wondered if I could be alone in the desire to change the world with my words, but now I'm sure I'm in warm and welcoming company.

Although I've been to YAK twice before, this was my best year. That says a lot, considering that when I was a baby freshman, I met Neal Shusterman, my favorite author, before I even knew who he was. But I digress. Book festivals are an amazing way to expand writer's knowledge on the craft, as well as meet tons of inspiring people who aren't much different than yourself.

If anybody else went, I'd love to hear what you have to say! Even if you went to a DIFFERENT book fest, let me know; it would provide more places in which to nerd out. Thanks for reading!!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Why Querying Is THE Absolute Best (Note: Sarcasm)

I spent the past week rewriting my entire freaking query. It took me countless hours and countless outside opinions, but I emerged on the other side with something new. Something which, I hope, is better.

Jeffrey and Victoria; I'm putting characters in here along the way so I'll feel better.

But it's Sunday. Anyone who's a die-hard Twenty One Pilots fan knows that Sundays are, to say the least, undesirable. I've had tons of stellar #amwriting!!!! days, but sometimes, that doesn't pull through. And I wake up in a fuzzy mood, and everything feels blind and dreadful, like when your windshield wipers can't swipe raindrops away fast enough for you to feel confident in your direction. To say the least, today was one of those days.

“But I sent four new queries!” my logical side protests. “And pulled a 2k one-day in an AWESOME scene in Host!”

In emotion, even those reminders make my stomach clench in that weird way it does when you feel like you're about to cry. My throat isn't closing up, but I can't shake the dread. 

Quinn and Katrina

It all comes back to the queries. I go back and forth between two settings in this query letter adventure. Allow me to grace you with my swinging mindsets:

In the first mode, I'm invincible. Something tells me that this is it, that I'm almost to the end of the battle. It's like the night before the last day of school, or music blasting through headphones as your car speeds along the coast. It’s the build up in the bridge of a song, racing to the crest of the harmonies until the wave breaks and the passion of the chorus hits as if the heart hadn't been there before. In the end, it's one whisper: soon.

And the second setting is the silent anxiety. Being on edge without danger in sight. I doubt the assurance of friends, I doubt the positivity of family, and I doubt the potential in myself. 

The first one is great. Stellar. Beautiful. The second, not so much.

So, in short, I'm doubting my chances at publishing Renegade. I have been all day. Before, I never really questioned my writing abilities; when I sought to compare myself, I only had my peers. Now, I'm branching out into the Real World, where finishing the book is just half the battle. But in those moments, I made myself send those queries. I made myself write, which sent my mood shooting skyward.

Nathan and baby Catticus.

I know in my heart that I have to try. I owe it to my friends and family, who have remained incredibly patient with me when I spent hours rambling about plots. I owe it to these characters, who I've known longer than some of my closest companions, and who have become my deepest confidants and guarded my darkest secrets. I owe it to anyone who could grow and learn from my writing. I owe it to who I am now, and I owe it to who I was when I started the very first draft of this novel.

Anyone questioning their path -- anyone reading this: “Don't let them see you break.”

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Random Writing Extravaganza Week 1: Duct Tape

Here we have a thing called a Poem. I hate to admit that 99.99% of the time, I loathe writing poetry. I don't get it. Why do things have to be on different lines? Why not make them grammatical sentences? Sure, Shakespeare, and Dickens, and Poe, and all those other dead people got uber mega famous off of it, but it's just not up my alley -- except for when it's a mandatory warm up in my creative writing class. Somehow, this came out of it, and I actually enjoyed the fifteen minutes it took to bang this thing out.

The prompt required us to choose ten things we encountered in the last twenty-four hours of our life. My list was: text messages between my sister and step brother when my step brother's school went on lock down for a bomb threat, my mom, protest signs, chocolate, my best friend, Mackenzie, duct tape, fire, pages upon pages of agents on QueryTracker, Sturm und Drang (a German phrase from the Romantic era which translates to "Storm and Stress"), and paintings of San Francisco my grandpa gave me from when he visited the city a long time ago.

My title here roughly came down to "Duct Tape."

These boys remind me of some of my Renegade boys.

It’s no coincidence.

Exhaustion rallies on my eyelids
Though not nearly as hungry as the boys prowling the hallways
Hands shaking, clutching the bombs that pirouette,
And pose threat to my step brother’s school.

Mothers and students become a single monster in the Black Sea
More of a curve than Lombard street
Yet they melt like chocolate and caramel in their Sturm und Drang

As drug stores sell out of poster board,
The world sells out of duct tape.
But never will I sell out of anthems,
For being fired only tosses pine branches onto our pyre.

We are no coincidence.


Okay, for real though. One of the things I wanted to do with a blog was share my work and maybe, maybe, hear back from some people, which would fulfill another goal of this blog: writer-ly interaction. That said, I'd love to hear from you in the lovely comments below!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The RENEGADE Series and Why I Blog in Verdana

Feel like you haven't already seen enough vague ramblings about my novel, RENEGADE, on Twitter? You've come to the right place! This here post is where I've opted to spill my entire writing journey, not at all briefly, but a bit less vaguely. Fasten your seatbelts for my life story, as well as some lovely images I've claimed from Pinterest.

When I was in elementary school, I'd write little stories on construction paper and staple them together as if that bound them as a real book. I'd detail adventures I went on with my family, illustrate pictures in crayon and colored pencil. But my real love of literature started with the Harry Potter books, the first YA fantasy series I ever read. Somewhere between my first and seventh reads of the series, I knew I wanted to write something in that genre.

Although I buried myself in books, especially the Percy Jackson series in middle school, I lost touch with writing for a while. But in eighth grade, I signed up for a semester-long creative writing class. The funny thing there is that right before the semester started, I tried -- and failed -- to get out of the class. It's a blessing that it didn't work; from the first day, I wrote like crazy. Our teacher kept giving us prompts throughout the class, and I wrote much, much more than anyone else. Just about a month ago, I found those papers, and believe me, they weren't pretty. But they were my start. Our first real assignment for that class was to write a short memoir, just two pages long; mine was ten.

I don't talk about this much, but early in that semester, I found fanfiction for some of my favorite books. I read a bit, then I just kind of thought to myself, "I can do this." So I did. I got some positive responses, and I only held onto a couple stories for a couple chapters before I started questioning why I was using other writers characters and universes when I could just as easily create my own.

In April 2013, just before my fourteenth birthday, I started planning characters. I had six, I remember, and they were in groups of three, a point of view in each, as they were split into different worlds which I planned to cross over.

This place, the Fortis Compound, is one of the few things that have remained relatively similar since the beginning of my writing journey. Here, my powers people can work on their fun powers without normal people being scary and murdering them. Overseen by two Officers, the Fortis exist both nowhere and everywhere; there are ten entrances throughout North America, in cities including New York, San Francisco, and Columbus. Imagine the building in this picture five stories high with more trees on the grounds.

Around May, when I started writing, I didn't have a plot. I totally and completely made that stuff up. I had this kid, Jeremiah, as my narrator, and his friend, Quinn, along the way as they met this girl, Aurora, at some mall. About a chapter in, I went back and decided that my characters were wrong. Quinn became my narrator, Jeremiah's name became Mason, and Aurora became Katrina. I found this kid, Jeffrey, in there, too, and when I wiggled out his backstory with this other girl, Victoria, I fell in love just like Jeffrey and Victoria. I gave Jeffrey a prequel...except prequels aren't the first five chapters and thirteen thousand words of a book. So Jeffrey butted in, and he and Quinn shared the point of view of the novel as Jeffrey became the central focus of the story.

Say hello to my Cream Puffs, Jeff and Tori! They're hiding from me in that tree.

My main regret comes here. It's not that I didn't plan, no, because I still don't practice complete outlines of my stories. But over that summer, I’d go a couple thousand words into my novel, and then I’d reread it. And I'd change things. And I wouldn't save the draft before it. Now, I'm sure none of it would've been useful -- at that point, I was still struggling to keep my writing in the same tense. But I'm nostalgic, and for the sake of that, I wish I could compare my first chapters now with my first chapters then. Lesson learned.

Once I saw The Way Way Back, my all time favorite movie, Liam James became my Jeffret (yes, it's an affectionate misspelling) dream actor. .Jeff is my son, except I make him sad a lot. But I blame that on his big brother, Nathan. Jeffrey sometimes has moods in which he feels like it's "me against the world," and granted, sometimes it is. However, he usually just wants Nathan and Victoria to love him -- in different ways, of course.

I finally learned to keep pushing through a draft until it's over, and by October (2013) of my freshman year in high school, I had a rough draft. It was then that I looked back and discovered more holes than you'd ever think imaginable. The largest one regarded Nathan, Jeffrey’s older brother, who at that point served the role of the big bad guy who came and swung random punches whenever need be. As I investigated his motivations, he became more and more palpable, and soon, the story shifted. Nathan took center stage, while all other plots and characters wound around one another and back to him.

Nathan is adorable, but Nathan also needs some capital "H" Help. He tries his best to save people, but most everyone hates him, including those for whom he's trying his best.

After a couple drafts, I had a friend begging to read my first novel. She, too, wrote, and she shared with me relentlessly, so in February (2014), I began feeding her my novel chapters at a time. She devoured it, and surprisingly, she lauded each and every character despite some glaringly obvious flaws. It wasn't a genuine beta read, but it may have been one I needed to keep me going. Unfortunately, she moved at the end of that school year, and no one has been able to contact her since.

Although this one's ambiguous, I think of it as another Nath Cole (Nathan Coleman) due to the fact that the weird glow-y light resembles the affects of the thing that makes people hate him.

In spring of my freshman year (2014), I participated in and completed my first Camp NaNoWriMo. Thinking my first novel was set and ready to go, I sped through a rough draft of the sequel. It expanded my world to include something called the Renegade -- get it? -- to foil the Fortis.

While the Fortis is orderly, the Renegade believes in honing powers through "matches," or play fights, without any official location or stable leadership. This can cause anything from raves to friendly hangouts. The Renegade has major issues with the Fortis because of a sketchy past.

In that July (2014), I tried for a second Camp NaNoWriMo. Because of Nathan’s developments, I sought to write a prequel surrounding his story prior to the first novel. However, as I delved deeper into the world and began adding more and more characters, it became a complete wreck. Thirty thousand words in, I scratched it, deciding to salvage what I could in the future.

Also, here's Victoria! She got a l o t cooler once I wrote the sequel. Although she doesn't really want power, she'll take it to keep it out of worse hands. Major self-sacrifice, if you ask me. Expect great things from this girl.

From there, over the rest of the summer, I began developing deeper plots and fuller characters with the help of a different friend, Mackenzie Tomlinson, who still remains my closest friend. Eventually, after many incidents in which I nearly cut Quinn from the story entirely, he proved his worth and found a voice; because of this, I decided to go back to my first novel at the start of my sophomore year (2014).

Quinn! Poor Quinn. He's a victim of Nathan's project and ultimately not always himself. I feel the need to again say: Poor Quinn. He's a nice young man, for the most part. Bring him home to Mom and Dad for A+ approval, which Katrina does.

By December, Quinn’s plot line had changed so dramatically that I ended up practically rewriting the majority of the novel. By March, I had a solid story with proper characters, plots, and world building. At that time, I went back to my sequel novel -- the one I wrote in my first Camp NaNoWriMo. During Camp NaNoWriMo of April in my sophomore year (2015), I worked on heavy rewrites of this novel until, maybe twenty thousand words in, I determined that the entire novel was unimportant to the plot of the series as a whole. I scratched it, and in the middle of the chaos that is NaNoWriMo, I jumped into the first draft of the third novel in my series which therefore became the second.

And here's Katrina! She's 25% the reason I say, "Poor Quinn," and 60% why Quinn wouldn't agree with me on that statement. With blind ambition and an extremely logical mindset, I would be terrified if I suddenly had something she wanted. She may not slaughter me, but she'd make me wish she had.

Again, with my lack of planning came unexpected actions. Katrina, who honestly had previously been fairly bland, took on a life that had impressed me nearly as much as Nathan’s. As the story’s universe expanded, new characters emerged, demanding a true prequel set thirty years before the first novel. I wrote through the months to complete that draft, then, that summer (2015) came back to my very first novel in order to tweak Katrina’s character and perform line edits. By that December (2015) in my junior year, I had completed my first novel for what felt like the hundredth time.

But life happens, as it does, and the rest of that school year slowed me down. I muddled through two more drafts of the second novel in my series, but I skipped out on NaNoWriMo. As one of two presidents of the newly founded TCHS Creative Writing Club, I personally didn't feel as if I was living up to the bar. I expanded a bit more into shorter writings, even the occasional poem. I submitted to the revived TCHS Art and Literature Magazine. In the end, I did what I could at the time.

But with my senior year (2016), I made a resolution. With fuel provided by the first Advanced Creative Writing class, I did some planning and jumped back to start a draft of the third novel in my series in October (2016). I got it in my head that this was it. I had to toss out as much of the story as I could before graduation -- before the end. I had over a hundred thousand words into the third novel in my series, HOST, by the end of my first legitimate NaNoWriMo in November (2016). I'd had this one in my head for a while, so there was less to change, but I jumped into some more world building and research for some approaching plot points I'd had boiling under the surface.

This is Mount Diablo in California, about an hour from where Nathan and his girly-friend live in San Francisco. Here, my characters oftentimes do ridiculous things and usually feel the repercussions.

But when NaNoWriMo wrapped up, and December came around, I realized another goal: my first novel. I couldn't abandon it like I had each time I chased another plot bunny down another path in my own universe. I had to do something with it, to move it, and I had to fulfill my ultimate goal. I had to try to publish it.

Deciding that was the easy part because I, like many aspiring authors, wanted to traditionally publish. I wanted one of the big publishers, like Harpercollins and Simon and Schuster, and I wanted to be on the New York Times Bestseller list. I wanted to be able to stroll into Barns and Noble's, casually point to the poster on the window, and say, “Yeah, that's my book up there.” I still want those things, and I'm still working for them. In my heart, I feel that I owe it to my middle school self and my characters to try.

My babies: Katrina, Quinn, Nathan, Jeffrey, Victoria, Trent.

But more importantly, I want to reach people. It's like I was shy and quiet for so much of my childhood, and now, I have too much to say, and the best way for me to convey my voice is through writing. I don't need the movie deals, and I don't need New York Times, and I don't need a six figure deal. I want those things, sure, but what I need is to know that anyone who might be better from hearing what I have to say can find it; the best way to achieve that, ultimately, is through publishing with a huge platform. I don't need to be a household name, not in this lifetime, and not ever. But if there's anybody out there who could be to me as I am to somebody like J.K. Rowling, or my favorite author, Neal Shusterman, then I need to try.

So in December 2016, I fleshed out a query letter -- the one page you send to literary agents, who, provided they sign you as one of their clients, pitch your novel to an editor at a publishing company. I worked heavily with my creative writing teacher, Nona Kummell, who has given me amazing input and support. Before Christmas break, I sent out my first round of queries. Around mid January, I sent out another batch. Yesterday, the beginning of February, I dared to send a few more. The thing with the industry is that it’s slow, and it's subjective; I've yet to have a hit, but I've only heard back from four of my fourteen submissions. It's agonizing even though I know it's not at all unusual. I'll keep tweaking things, and I'll keep researching.

So I've been waiting. I finished up the second edition of the TCHS Art and Literature Magazine. I’ve continued the third novel in my series, which, as it gets dangerously longer, absolutely has to be split up in order to elongate the second as if it needs to be any longer. I plan on soon finishing edits and revisions on the second novel and possibly starting the prequel this April during Camp NaNoWriMo. And I've checked my emails like crazy, waiting for these stupid responses and wondering if I'll ever get one at all.

Greetings from Bethany, narrator of my prequel, CRUSADER. I'm working on her at the moment, but I know she's got a kick-ass motorcycle.

So, this has been Sarah's Novel Writing Extravaganza. As for why I'm writing this in Verdana -- check the default font on fanfiction documents. Don't judge me, it's a comfort thing. Anyhow, here are my novel statistics:

RENEGADE (Book One): 110k words, complete December 2015; early drafts peaked at 150k.
Untitled Book Two (CUT): 125k words, the only draft complete June 2014.
Prequel (SCRAPPED): 30k words before it was cut in July 2014.
CRUSADER (Current Prequel, can also stand alone): 6k words of a fling in a week in July 2015. I'm not sure if I'll start over in April 2017 or try to salvage it, but you'll find out.
ARBITER (Book Two): 163k words (oh no), the latest of three drafts completed around August 2016. Should be drafted again in March 2017.
HOST (Book Three): 125k words and incomplete (Oh No) as of February 2017. I estimate about 20k remaining, which should by complete by the end of this month.
Untitled Book Four: 12 million tears, but zero words. Start date is unknown an therefore TBA.