Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Letter to Nic

An author I follow here suggested writing a letter to your main character as a way of helping you move forward with your story, and although I don't need help in that area, I thought I'd try my hand at it because it sounded like fun. (Here's the writing tip, if you're interested: . All of her tips are fantastic. Look through them.) I thought I'd share my letter to Nic for those of you reading REFUGE, and even if you're not. If this piques your curiosity, you're welcome to read the novel as well, no strings attached except that you have to keep it to yourself. Okay, here it is. Oh, and Nic wrote back, so his is included as well. Enjoy.

Dear Nic,

I love you, kid. You kind of had me at hello. Not sure if you know this or not, but I had plans before I met you. I had this big series going, a fantasy series, and I had two of the three books done and I was ready to start the third. Then you waltzed into my head and started talking about your life and how you fell in love for the first time and I realized my series could wait. Not sure if my other characters have quite forgiven me for that; they’ve been hanging out in limbo for a long time now. But what can I say? You, with your pretty gray eyes and your sincerity…I’m a little weak for you, let’s be honest. You gave me no other choice but to write down your story, and I could tell from your eagerness and your insistence that this was really important. Not to just you and me, but for others as well.

It’s going to be really important for other teens like you, Nic, and thanks for sharing it. I’m honored that you told me first (even before Brad, ha!), and that you trust me with getting it right.

So I’m nearly done with Refuge and there are just a few things I’d like to know more about before I wrap this up. What do you want to do about McKinley? How are we going to deal with your father? Am I getting you right? And what about Brad, am I getting him across right? And Lark? Dear God, what about Lark?

I want to know everything. What you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, what makes you want to vomit with nervousness, what’s bugging you… and for pity’s sake, if I’m screwing something up, let me know.

Love you, baby boy, and I’m so proud of you. And I’m with your mother, by the way. I want life to be easy for you. I’m so sorry I can’t make it all sunshine and rainbows.



Rainbows? Really? You had to go there, didn’t you? And why are you writing to me? This is ridiculous. You know all you have to do is be quiet and I’ll start talking. Never could keep my mouth shut around you. I just knew you’d understand me somehow. Then after I told you I thought I was gay, it just kind of all came out, didn’t it? Word vomit. Now I bet you wish I would shut up sometimes. Like when you’re trying to sleep or teach. I’d say I’m sorry about that but…you know how I feel about honesty.

First of all, calm down. You’re doing fine. Almost as good as what’s in our heads. So let me get to your questions.

You’re getting Brad exactly right. (Thanks for him, by the way. I know it’s sort of cheating since he was made for me but he’s perfect. Smart and funny and sexy as hell and all mine. God, and the way he kisses. He makes me lose my mind. His lips are so… Sorry…what was I saying? Oh yeah, Brad.) The only thing with Brad is that he’s too patient with me. I sort of need my ass kicked, and I think he should kick it soon. Just promise you’ll give us a chance to make up after I admit that I’m a selfish bastard, okay? And while I’m talking about being a selfish bastard, let’s get to Lark…

Laura, you and I both know I’m just going to have to hurt her. It’s really going to suck and I’m not entirely sure she’ll be able to heal from this. Actually, I’m really worried about that. I love her, but I’m not sure she’s stable. I mean, she thinks I’m her whole life. She’s planned everything around me. I’ll be honest – I’m scared for her.

I wish I could help McKinley, you know? I wish he could see what Brad and I have and learn from it, and I wish he could see how happy he is with Matthew and just let himself love him. I realized how liberating it was to tell someone when I told Brad, and when it all came out with my mom it was such a relief. I hope he knows that feeling some day.

About my dad…I’m terrified to tell him, but you knew that. I mean, it’s bad enough I don’t want to go to medical school. He won’t tolerate this. I’m going to be really honest, if I tell him at all, it’s not going to be until I’m done with college. In a year or so, I’ll hopefully be in Cincinnati and it won’t even really be an issue. Maybe by then, Mom and I will have some kind of plan. Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it, okay?

And now for brutal honesty: I meant it when I said you’re doing a good job but…please remember that YOU’RE the girl and I’M the boy, okay? I know you’d like it if I were a little more emotional or a little more romantic or whatever but, seriously, I’m a seventeen year old male. Yeah, I’m hardcore Catholic and I feel guilty about it, but that doesn’t meant I DON’T think about sex just about every second of the day. And knock off the crying, please. It’s okay for me to cry when I tell my mom I’m gay but… when Brad hurts me, I’m just going to get kind of pissed. That’s how my heartbreak is going to manifest itself. Be careful with my other reactions too, even the way I move. I’m pretty and small but I don’t freakin’ float. Go a little lighter on the ‘wilting flower’ act, okay? Okay.

Love you too and…thanks. Gotta jet. Brad’s waiting for me.


Nic Amati

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fly By Update

I have been away far too long.

This is a good thing. Trust me. It is.

School started for me, which means far less free time, but that's not really my excuse for why I haven't been posting. Here's the real reason:

I have been absolutely consumed by the book I'm writing. The past month is just a blur to me. I've been buried deep in a fictional world, in some sort of writing coma, with only a few hours of irritating real life sprinkled in here and there.

Here's the long and short of it: I am not working on the third novel in my Compass Rose series. Even though I know how the series is going to end, I'm not in a good place to write it yet. There's a lot of factors involved in that, but suffice it to say that the subject matter of the Compass Rose series is heavy (hello there, understatement) and with the books connecting to my spirituality so deeply, it's very taxing emotionally. That, combined with the anxiety of hearing back from agents about my manuscript...not conducive to writing the third in the series.

But that's not the whole story. There was a character who had sort of knocked on the door of my imagination, walked right in and made himself at home on the couch, and waited patiently for me to get my act together. He was only a pretty face and a writing prompt for the longest time, but somewhere along the way, I realized he had a very important story to tell. And when he started talking, he didn't stop. He told me everything. He told me the whole story like it was a secret weighing so heavily on him that he couldn't stand it anymore, and he needed to unload it and have someone help him carry it.

Once I had Nic's story, the other characters fell into place. I've written thousands of pages of fiction and I've never had a character and plot come to me so completely before.

It's a young adult novel, which makes me sort of feel like this is a first novel all over again. I'm used to a completely different audience. But the writing is absolutely flowing, fast and smooth.

And you know what? I feel completely at home in this genre. I may have found my purpose as a writer. Lofty, yes, I know. And I certainly am not saying that that my heart wasn't in TRUE NORTH and FROM EAST TO WEST. Anyone who knows me knows that those books are my philosophies in fictional form. But this is where I need to be right now. It's what I need to do before I finish the Compass Rose series, it's the characters I'm in love with, it's the story I've been longing to tell all along.

REFUGE is the story of how Nic fell in love for the first time, and how he learned that fear is the biggest enemy of love. And I truly think everyone can learn something from his tale.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Nic's insisting I get on with copying down his story. Writing coma, here I come.

Friday, August 14, 2009

See the Signs on the Road to Nowhere

John Green, one of my favorite YA authors, tweeted the following today:

"I should really decide which book I'm going to write next."


"I've been screwing around with two stories for a year now. I gotta focus on one or I won't get anything out in '11. But how do I know which?"

If it wouldn't freak him out too much, I'd kiss him for this. Writing has the odd, sadistic way of making you feel like you're alone in the world. So when an incredible writer admits to not knowing which book to write, which is my problem exactly, I feel like it's the Universe's way of saying, "Chill, Liz. You're not the only one."

So...sorry to hear about your troubles, John, but thanks for making me feel GREAT!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Take It From Your Heart, Put It In Your Hand

My fellow writers: HELP.

I feel like my brain is overloaded. ("It doesn't take much," you joke. Hardy har har.) In all seriousness, I feel very, very creative at the moment. I have tons of ideas and characters and inspirations to draw from. The problem is that they're like little kids pushing out the doors on the last day of school. They're crowding each other and shouting over each other and I'm finding it hard to let any particular idea out onto the page because they all seem equally intriguing and exciting.

There is, of course, the third installment in my Compass Rose Trilogy, Due South, (more on that later) and the YA novel I've literally been dreaming about for at least a year now. Both plots are outlined, characters solid, and everything's ready to roll. But then there are the new kids - a story loosely based on devil mythology, and one about a priest, both of which would not take place in the Magi's world but would be good brothers to it.

My ideas are neither here nor there, however. My problem is choosing between them.

...or do I have to?

I will admit, when I write, I write the book from start to finish and don't skip around. I've also never worked on more than one important work at once. I can write short stories or fanfiction while I'm writing a novel, but never two novels at once. I'm always way too involved in one world to do that and it seems preposterous! (That may be because I write fantasy primarily and therefore have to be very involved in that world.)

So, fellow writers, have you worked on two novels at once? Was it hard to balance them? Did you feel like you weren't giving both of them enough focus? Did you find that one eventually became the predominant work?

Answer me, because I'm considering doing this but I honestly can't wrap my head around it, the idea is so foreign to me.

And now, something that has nothing to do with the rest of this blog post: I just want to throw this out there. While I've been planning and researching for Due South, I've also gone back and re-read most of From East to West, and I hope I don't sound arrogant in saying this but... I really hope True North gets picked up someday so that From East to West can get published as well. As it's the second in the series, it can't really stand alone, but DAMN is it good. It is really good. Even though it hasn't been edited yet, it's already tighter and better written than anything I've produced before, and the plot and characters... so riveting. I'm sure I'm biased, but really there is so much in the book to love: romance, angst, betrayal, lust, greed, hope, philosophy...

I just love it, okay? And not that True North isn't a great book, because it is, but it's just a warm up to the rest of the series, as I KNOW Due South will be just as good, if not better, than From East to West. Therefore, True North needs to get published so everyone will know the awesomeness of From East to West and Due South.

And that's that.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Spin, Little Spider, Spin

"You understand-- that the need to set down words-- this need is like the Spider's need who carries before her a huge Burden of Silk which she must spin out-- the silk is her life, her home, her safety-- her food and drink too-- and if it is attacked or pulled down, why, what can she do but make more, spin afresh, design anew-- she Must-- or die of Surfeit-- do you understand me?"

-A.S. Byatt, Possession

Monday, June 8, 2009

Learning From the Masters

LeakyCon was made of awesome.

For those of you who don't know, I work for a little Harry Potter website called The Leaky Cauldron. It's not really a 'little' site at all, actually. More like huge. And we're pretty much the definitive source for all things Harry. Specifically, I am an editor for Scribbulus, which is a site for essays and opinion pieces about the Harry Potter books. The website hosted its first ever convention a few weekends ago in Boston, and it was a raging success.

Not only was it great on a personal level because I got to see friends I hadn't seen in a while (or meet them face to face, finally, like my editor Nina), but I got to rub elbows with the likes of John and Hank Green, Lev Grossman, and Cheryl Klein.

Professionalism aside, there's nothing quite like hopping up and down on a dance floor with Hank Green and the entire Leaky staff, shouting "Don't Stop Believin'" at the top of our lungs, but I digress...

I went to a ton of lectures and presentations about writing. Lev Grossman's wit and intelligence basically left me a puddle of fangirl goo, and hearing about his process of writing The Magicians was wonderful. I think that a person's process can tell you a lot about their personality and how they think. By that measure, you could say that writing is exploration and thinking for me, and I felt Mr. Grossman was much the same. He likes pushing the envelope and challenging the world and the characters he creates, though, and I think my approach is a little opposite that. My characters begin challenged, and it's my job to help dig them out of the mess they've gotten themselves into (and perhaps in the process, they learn how to handle their world better).

I basically accosted Lev in the hotel lobby later that day. He signed a copy of his book, Codex, for me and we had a nice conversation about wizard rock before I felt myself go into fangirl mode and I made excuses and left before I embarrassed myself by squeeing all over him.

One of the most interesting and helpful keynotes I attended was a discussion between John Green and Cheryl Klein. (For the record, I am very envious of Cheryl Klein. Very.) They talked mainly about the process of editing and revision, and what it's like on both sides of the fence. It is very reassuring to hear an award-winning author say that his books started out nothing like they were published and that he still looks at his work and wishes he could change things. Sometimes I feel like I'll never be satisfied with True North, even though the changes Nina and I have made make it smooth like butter. I think we always just want to do better, as writers, we're always pushing ourselves. And I think that because artists create, that is what they do, we can't let things sit still. We want to keep creating, keep changing, keep it fresh.

Anyways... another thing they talked about was how essential it is for a writer to relinquish control to their editor, and to trust that editor deeply. I admit that I was worried about how I would handle the editing process, but I found that it was actually very easy for me. Not only did I trust Nina (she knew and loved my novel, plus she knew ME, which is very important. She knew what I was trying to say even when I didn't say it correctly.), but I honestly came to a point with my book where I knew that I was no longer the best thing for it. Another opinion was needed; a fresh eye was required. So I let Nina take the reins and it felt GOOD to watch my baby grow and fly.

Cheryl mentioned that there are a few authors who refuse to work with editors now, and so their work is basically published untouched. Stephenie Meyer is notoriously difficult, and I guess Anne Rice has now refused to let an editor touch her work.

Let me just pause to say that Anne Rice is by far the most influential author in my life. I started reading her stuff when I was only twelve, and her Vampire Chronicles and Cry to Heaven have shaped my writing in ways I probably couldn't even begin to explain. But here's my opinion: There are two people for whom a book is written. The writer and the reader. When I write, I'm exploring my beliefs and questioning the world around me. What comes out is a byproduct of that exploration. The second step is the reader, and the editor is essential in connecting the writer to the reader. I can lose myself in the process of writing. I can go off on tangents, lose a grasp of a character arc, leave a plot hole, etc. It's these mistakes that can lose a reader, and I think the editor is vital in making sure that doesn't happen. I think choosing not to edit shows a blatant disregard for that important second person in this process, I think you risk losing your message in your own pile of BS, and I think it's more than a touch egocentric.

There. I've said it.

Now that that's off my chest, I talked to Nina after this keynote and asked how I was to work with. Apparently, I wasn't too difficult. Ha. There were things I fought her on, things I believed in but had to be explained differently, things that she just didn't plain agree with, but she said overall I was more than willing to work through it. At one point, she suggested cutting a whole chapter. She was actually worried about telling me this for a few days and when she finally did I just shrugged and said, "Okay."

This is good. Editing needs to be a process of giving up the ego and letting your work achieve its full potential, which sometimes means it has to get there in spite of you. So, not to toot my own horn, but if I'm easy to work with now, I think it bodes well for me as a professional author.

Alright, I've rambled far too much and I didn't even get to the self-publishing stuff I wanted to talk about so... Soon I'll discuss self-publishing. What I think of the concept, if I would ever do it, and what it would mean if I did.

Oh, and being that it's summer, Kate and I are going to get A Writer's Notebook, our podcast, up and running. Be looking for that, too.

Until next time!

Monday, May 11, 2009

She Lives!

I am alive. The junior high play is over, and once again it failed to kill me. Now that that's done, I will have more time for, well, everything.

Just a few random things in no particular order.

1. As I mentioned, the play is over. The kids were AMAZING. Good lord these kids could sing. And act. And I'm a teensy bit emotional about losing some of them to the high school next year. And have I mentioned that I have the best students in the world?? (Expect an entry about the play later).

2. Strange Fascination is up to 60 pages, people. Honestly. This was supposed to be a short story! Brevity, I know you not.

3. I leave for LeakyCon in a little over a week. OMG LEAKYCON. Harry Potter nonsense, seeing good friends from Scribby and Leaky in general (and Sarah! OMG SARAH!), Boston, and rubbing elbows with authors. What, I ask, is not to love???

4. I auditioned for a musical called Urinetown. No joke. I feel the need to pee constantly.

5. I am gardening, and I love it.

6. Nineteen days of school left, though, counting LeakyCon and the fact that I take the last week to do inventory, it's really more like 12 days. This rocks completely.

7. Only three left on American Idol. Just so we're clear, I want Adam Lambert to win.

That is all for now, my pretties.