August holds a special place in my life of writing, so I figured it was finally time for me to start introducing writing updates. But first, allow me to tell you why is this month special and how my life of writing began.
Back in 2013, after hearing “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, this girl popped up in my head, jumping from rooftop to rooftop in a cloak and a mask. Eventually, this whole world started to unravel around her, and with it, a new sea of faces. These characters–particularly this girl–wouldn’t leave my mind. They consumed my thoughts each and every day, and yet I had nowhere to put them.
Then, in August of 2014, I devoured the Divergent series. I started reading in early of 2014 thanks to my sister–a true book queen. But Divergent is what made me obsessed with the literary world. In the midst of reading this series, I thought about writing down the stories in my own head. So I did.
Ever since that day, I fell in love with writing. Everyone who knew me growing up finds this quite funny now, being that I used to hate writing projects for school. But when I’m writing creatively for myself, it’s all I want to do, where my heart thrums with joy and my mind blooms with ideas.
Despite my first few unfinished drafts being complete garbage, an old friend of mine encouraged me to continue writing. I did, and I slowly became better. I started telling my family about my new passion, how I wanted to follow it with the whole of my heart and drop my old hobbies. They were extremely supportive and have been encouraging me ever since.
Once I turned 16 in December of 2014, I completely focused on my book. It wasn’t a story in my head anymore, it was a book in progress. After more sloppy writing, I finalized my plot sometime in summer of 2015. I had the ending completely sketched out and added a whole new character (which is my anti-hero/villain #2 who I’m always talking about). My duology would not be the same without this character, and he’s actually the main reason I extended it into a duology. He showed me that there are many more stories to tell, including his own.
I finished the first very underdeveloped draft in August (it’s obviously a special month for me). I then rewrote the majority of it and added more bulk. I completed the final draft in February of 2016. Looking back, that draft was quite rough and suffered from many amateur mistakes in storytelling, particularly that there was too much telling instead of showing, along with a lack of character development. I feel embarrassed that I had my beta-readers read such a mess, but it’s the life of a writer. We must hear critiques in order to grow and improve.
But I don’t regret sending out that rough draft to my friends, because I needed to hear that criticism and have my eyes opened to the mistakes I wasn’t seeing. Since then, I can say that my writing has improved greatly.
I practically rewrote my entire book again. And this time, I found a balance between my writing style with my protagonist’s unique voice. The main plot points were the same, but they are now delivered a little differently. I also added more character development and interactions, along with cutting out mounds of fluff and focusing on the important details. Lastly, I took out my silly prologue and made a new first chapter. I’ve always felt slightly insecure about my beginning, but after writing this first chapter, I felt confident in my material.
But even then and now, in this very moment, I still have many doubts about my writing. I always have and I always will. I will always think of ways to tinker and perfect my work, but I accpeted while writing my final draft that there truly is no such thing as perfection.
So once I finished the final draft and went through final edits in June of 2016, I decided it was finally time to start querying agents. Because I was (and still am) happy with what I produced. I know there are flaws. I know I could through it again and again and keep tweaking it, but then I would never send it out. It would never have a chance at being published.
It’s now August of 2016, and I feel ecstatic with my progress. I’ve sent out about thirty queries between June and July. I have three fulls out with incredible agents, two of whom are also editors, along with one partial. I never heard back from a handful of agents (which means it’s no) and receieved polite rejections from the rest. At this point, I’m waiting to hear back on the material I have out. Even if it’s a no from everyone, I’m an awe to have received three fulls within the first month of querying from agents who are behind books that I want or have read. And if it is a no, then I’ll do another round of editing and send out a new batch. I will continue trying until my next project is done, then I’ll give that one a go in the literary world. I am DETERMINED to get my work publsihed and become a novelist. I will do whatever it takes.
As of now, I’m in the midst of working on my second book, the final installment in my duology. And yes, I know this may not be the wisest idea being that I haven’t even sold the first book, but this story and these characters mean the world to me. After all, I started writing these stories for me (and I will continue to do so). I also wanted to get down the base of everything while it’s still fresh in my mind, especially because my next project takes place in 18th century Scotland with magic and mythology, which is quite opposite from my current project: a modern-day YA Speculative Fiction in Washington state.
I’m currently at about 35k in my second book. I’ve been slacking with my writing this summer, but a couple of weeks ago, I realized I was ready to dive straight back into my stories. So I created a new schedule to follow on the weekdays. Since I’ve had my schedule, I’ve been getting 1-2k each workday.
To celebrate these milestones, I thought it only seemed proper to share a sneak peek of my work. So here is the first chapter of my first book:
“What do you see?” My hands are flying over the flames, thumbs interlocking and fingers fanning.
“A bird.” Dad’s head is in his hands, a smile breaking across his face. He rolls his eyes. “You always make a bird.”
I puff out a bubble of air. “But what kind of bird?” My lips are curling upwards. “You can at least try, Dad.”
He looks back up to the ceiling of stone, watching the shadow glide. The moonlight is dripping through the glass panels and splotching the kitchen with its white rays, making the marble glisten beneath my elbows. The air is pungent of lavender and cotton.
“Well?” My breath prods the embers into a dance.
“It’s just a bird.” He wants to sound annoyed, but his grin is only growing. He loves the shadow puppet game more than anyone.
“Look closely.” I ruffle my fingers. The crooked bone of my pointer helps me curve the wings, as if they’re launching off of the ground and taking flight. But maybe it doesn’t look like that. I don’t know.
“Is it a—“
“It’s a crow.” Mom sips her tea. Her olive skin is richer in this dim light. “It’s obviously a crow.” She glances between us, unable to contain her smile. “You can tell by the wings.”
There’s that discomfort in Dad’s face, the pinch of skin around his eyes. It’s gone in a blink. “Obvious? How could you—never mind. Of course, you would know. You and your knowledge of nature.” He meets my gaze. “Wait, is she right?”
“Of course she is.” My smile is wide. “She’s always right.”
She’s grinning back at me, nose scrunching at the sides. Even in the dark, her smile is glistening. “My turn.”
Her limber hands are bending and twisting over the flame. But the shadows behind her are prancing, filling the mouth of the hall. They’re reaching forward and asking for my hand, for my heart. I look up at the curve of the ceiling. The shadow is stagnant, splayed into fragments.
“It’s an iris.” Like the one hidden in my closet, the gift from Mom that seemed to whisper a breath of hope, a possible promise of the outside world. A promise that’s still unfulfilled.
Dad throws his hands in the air.
“Yep.” Her fingers settle on the white marble. “You got it.” Her dark brows tug together. “Hero, what’s wrong?” But she knows. She knows I’m still scared. “It’s getting dark. Let’s blow out the candles and get to bed.”
I nod, pushing myself off of the stool and swallowing the last drops of lavender tea. My hands are quick in the sink. The cup is washed and polished and tucked away in the nearest cupboard. The flames hiss out with each blow, evaporating with the light. The moon doesn’t seem bright anymore. The shadows hands are on my arms and shoulders, dragging me down and—
“Have you been having nightmares again?” Mom’s hand in on my shoulder. It’s soft and gentle, so unlike the beast. But it still makes me squirm.
“No.” I shake my head. “I’m fine. No nightmares.”
“Is it the beast?”
“You know I haven’t seen that thing since I was seven.” The lies are hurting my heart, poisoning my tongue. But there’s no other way, not with the beast’s threats that loom. “I was scared of the dark.” I still am. “It was just something my mind liked to make up. But it’s long gone.” It’s never left. “I promise. I’m fine.”
“Okay.” She’s watching me. “Well, let me know. We’re not perfect, Hero. Perfection is the only impossible in this world.” She turns, and the moonlight paints half of her face. The auburn of her hair bleeds through. “Remember? We’re the same as flowers: we can grow to any height as long as we’re not clipped by others.”
I’m smiling again. Her quotes tend to lift my heart—most of them. “Who said that one?”
Her mossy eyes widen, a smirk tickling her lips. “Funny.”
“I remember.” My fingers are tight around the sink, trembling. There’s still paint and ink burrowed beneath my nails. “How could I forget? It’s one of your very own quotes.”
“Let’s finish that painting tomorrow.” Her hand is one mine, steadying the flutter of my fingers. “Maybe we can get you the day off from training.”
“Really?” Days off are so rare, too rare.
“I’m sure Dad wouldn’t mind. He could use a break, too.” Her voice is soft, a lullaby. “We all could.”
Maybe we could stop. Maybe we could all flee into the outside world and run far away from this mountain. We could leave the guns and the knives and the beast behind. We could just be free. “Yeah, you’re right. I would like that.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you.” She leans against the counter, standing a few inches shorter than me. “How has your gun training been coming along?”
I hate it, ever since I held that HK USP ten years ago on my seventh birthday. I don’t like the weight, all the power. One flick of my finger and someone could get hurt—maybe die—all at my hands. I drop it almost every time it’s handed to me.
“I’m getting better, I guess.” I don’t like that I am. “I still need more time. More practice.”
“You’re doing great, my flower.” She traces the long tail of my hair. “Never stop fighting.”
I can barely meet her eyes. There’s so much hope in her face, sketching her eyes. She can’t know that I’ve stopped fighting years ago. The beast has broken down my walls and sponged my hope with his words. And Mom and Dad can’t know that. They need to still think I’m trying to polish my skills, training harder for … I don’t know. Whatever it is that I’m training for. It’s not going to change. I’m not a fighter. Mom and Dad know that; the beast knows that.
You’re such a disappointment. Still scared of the dark and blood. How will you ever be able to fight?
“The bathroom’s free.” Dad’s leaning into the kitchen from the hall, a flashlight in hand. The yellowed beam dusts the shadows away. “Who’s next?”
I nudge Mom. “You go ahead.”
“Are you sure?” Her fingers are tapping her arms, the gears in her head spinning.
“Yes, Mom.” I force a smile. “I’ll be fine.”
She nods and strides around the bar, heading into the hall. She tosses a mumble into Dad’s ear and collects the flashlight, diving into the darkness of the hall. I expect it was something mocking about the shadow puppet game, a taunt of how she won. But Dad isn’t smiling. His muscles constrict against his shirt.
“I’m sure you’ll win next time,” I murmur.
“Yeah, definitely.” A smirk climbs up his cheeks, black eyebrows quirking. “Maybe if you stop with all of those birds.” We both chuckle. “Hey, and maybe you’ll beat the alarm clock tomorrow.”
“Maybe.” I shrug.
“All done.” Mom’s voice bounds through the hall.
I walk around the bar, inhaling the lingering cotton scent of the candles and their smoke. “Good night, Dad.”
“Good night, my dear.” He squeezes my hand as I drift into the hall, into the ballroom of the shadows.
They’re lunging for me, constricting the hallway until the walls meet my sides. The moonlight can’t seem to funnel through the rounds of glass. The darkness controls the night, and it’s suffocating me. I can’t breathe.
“Good night, Hero.” Mom walks by and passes the flashlight over. I’m clumsy with it, frantic for the light. “Sleep well. Let me know if you need anything.”
“I will.” I can’t. “Good night.”
I’m quick through the bathroom, brushing my teeth and washing my face. The stone radiates the chill of the night, sending spindles of ice up my legs and down my arms. The minerals shimmer underneath the light, in grays and charcoals and hints of indigo.
I flick the flashlight off and balance it near the sink. Then I’m charging out into the hall, moving on my toes. The shadows are swirling, clogging my sight. Whispers are bouncing across the walls—Mom and Dad. I’m hearing too many things. None of it makes sense, it’s all too much. I shouldn’t be hearing this.
I’m running, turning beneath the arched doorway and leaping into bed. My breaths are falling fast against the pillow. I pull the blanket to my chin, up and around my head. My heart is galloping, swelling in my ears. Was I imagining things? Were they really talking about—
Tap. Tap. Tap.
It’s here. The beast is here, tapping along the bedpost. And it’s talking, speaking more words than usual. There are too many sounds—pencils raining across the ground, steel clashing, demands and chuckles. Someone is screaming. Is that me?
Do you want to know the truth?
I’m shaking my head. My cheeks are wet, blood ready to burst from my veins. The air seems thin. More shouts, more chuckles. My inkling is telling me to be strong, chanting it.
Be strong, my inkling says. Be strong. Be strong.
There’s a face.
There’s a new face and it’s—
I hope you all enjoyed learning about my writing background and hearing of my current progress. In the future, I will post more detailed updates, but I figured it was best to begin with my origin story. I’ll also tell you about my methods to keep track of my word count and stay productive in future posts.
If you’re interested in getting a deeper outlook on my book, be sure to listen to my Spotify playlist and check out my Pinterest board. Music and photography are my biggest inspirations when it comes to writing, so these should give you an insight into what intrigues and inspires my mind.
To my beta-readers, I hope you noticed a major improvement in this first chapter. To anyone else, let me know if you have any questions or comments. I love to hear other writer’s stories and their methods, so do tell.