Book Review: THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig

Photo credit: Goodreads
So when I initially first heard about The Girl from Everywhere back last year, I was insta-sold at "time-traveling pirates." Combine this with the beautiful cover and the fact that Heidi Heilig is a ridiculously wonderful person, and I knew I needed to read it ASAP.

Lucky for me, I temporarily got my hands on an ARC. And it was everything I'd hoped for and more.

Before I go on, here's the Goodreads summary:
"It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer. 
Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times - although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix's father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix's existence rather dangerously in question... 
Nix has grown used to her father's obsession, but only because she's convinced it can't work. But then a map falls into her father's lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it's that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever."
So 2016 seems to be a relatively big year for pirates in YA, which is lucky for us all because pirates are awesome, but this is the first time I've seen a story about pirates who travel through time and I loved it. 

Nix is Hapa (like the author) which was really cool to see, and she was also a really fun, spunky, and still sensitive protagonist. I connected with her quickly and really empathized with the way she tried to handle her complicated, messy situation. The dynamic she had with her dad, a drug addict obsessed with a single mission that could lead to Nix's not existing anymore, was real, raw and layered. 

Add Kash to the mix—the Persian, thief love interest—who very quickly jumped onto my favorite book boyfriends list, and an adorable dragon named Swag along with other quirky and memorable characters, and the cast alone made The Girl from Everywhere incredibly enjoyable. 

Then we get to the plot. While the timeline was a bit confusing at times (this is the kind of book, I suspect, you'll want to read more than once), the complicated magic and lush world building made it all worth it. I really enjoyed how the crew's travels wasn't limited to to just real places—they're able to travel to made up worlds as long as they have a map—and yet the rules to the magic system involved really made the whole system feel authentic and unique. As a bonus, the ARC I read had soooo many spots for maps to come—half of my excitement for the hard copy alone is just to see the gorgeous maps in all their splendor. 

All in all, The Girl from Everywhere hit it out of the park. If time travel stories and pirates are your thing, I really couldn't recommend this one enough. And even better—you won't have to wait very long because it releases February 16th.

Diversity note: The protagonist, Nix, is Hapa, one of the love interests, Kash, is Persian, one of the crew members is lesbian, another crew member is Chinese, and another is Sudanese. 

What have you been reading lately?

Twitter-sized bites:
.@Ava_Jae gives 5 stars to THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig. Is this time traveling pirate YA on your TBR? (Click to tweet)  
Looking for a clever pirate YA w/ a diverse cast? Check out THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig. (Click to tweet)

Yep, You're Still a Writer

Photo credit: on Flickr
So back in September 2011, I wrote a post in which I tackled the question "can you lose the ability to write?" It was a blog I was relieved to be able to post, both because it'd been a question I was struggling with for some time and because I finally had an answer.

While I occasionally get comments on old posts from time to time, that post seems to be the one that most consistently continues to get comments. And more times than not, those comments are from people who have never read my blog before—people scouring Google to answer that very same question. 

Because honestly? Writing is really friggin' hard. And when you combine that with the all-too-common syndrome prevalent amongst creative types, Imposter Syndrome, and you combine that with our tendency to compare ourselves to others, it leads to a ton of self-doubt. Especially when slogging through a stage where the writing isn't coming so easily. 

So I want to clarify some things. 

If you love writing but...

  • only just started writing
  • have never published a book
  • have never finished a manuscript 
  • have never queried
  • have only received rejections when querying
  • have come close, but still don't have an agent
  • have had to shelve one, three, ten, twenty manuscripts
  • don't have a writing-related degree
  • have never taken a Creative Writing class
  • don't write every day
  • haven't written a new project in [insert amount of time]
  • [insert qualifier here]'re still a writer. And nothing and no one can take that away from you. 

I know how tempting it is to think that we've lost "it" during hard writing stages. I know all too well how it feels logical to think I can't come up with a halfway decent story idea—how the hell can I still call myself a writer?

I know, because I've been there. I know, because some days I'm still there. 

Short of a traumatic brain injury, you can't lose the ability to write. You can't lose the right to call yourself a writer if writing is what you love.

We all go through phases where writing stuff comes easily, then not at all. We all go through cycles of doubt where we feel like a fraud every time the word "writer" passes our lips. But I promise you writing and being a writer are not things that just disappear. It's not something you can lose. It's a part of you, even when you're not writing, even when you haven't written far longer than you feel comfortable admitting, even to yourself. 

You are, and always will be, a writer. 

Have you dealt with this kind of self-doubt? What has helped you get through it? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Can you lose the "it" that makes you a writer? @Ava_Jae says no, and this is why. #writetip (Click to tweet
Afraid you aren't a writer because you haven't written in a while? @Ava_Jae explains why that doesn't matter. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: 5 (More) Ways to Become a Better Writer

When you're a writer, there are always ways to continue to push yourself and further your skills. Today I'm breaking down five more ways to keep your writing skills sharp.


What tips would you add to the list? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Want to become a better writer? @Ava_Jae vlogs five (more) tips for improving your writing skills. (Click to tweet)
"The best way to write something that rings true is to live sensitively." #writetip (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #19

Photo credit: hdes.copeland on Flickr
So February is nearly upon us, which means a lot of exciting things, but mostly importantly here means the next Fixing the First Page critique has arrived!

As it goes, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I'm one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.

Let's do this!


Genre/Category: YA Paranormal Romance

First 250: 

"I crumpled the exam and tossed it into the trash as I exited the school building. My A proving Lysol killed more germs than bleach was hard earned. I should’ve been proud, but the grade made me feel like Dad. Being a brainiac was a nerdy-coolness I needed to smother before I obsessed over science experiments like him. 
'You could fail intentionally, yunno?' Tara suggested, walking into the parking lot by my side. Of course, my best friend knew my score. She also knew my grades were important to me to get into college to escape this gawd-awful town—away from my absent-for-life father, where at least he’d have an excuse not to see me. 
I combed my fingers through my mop of hair. 'That’s stupid.'
Gravel crunched under our feet walking to her car. The sun warmed our skin. Tara stared past me and batted her lashes toward Anath. He gazed at me from a few cars down. 'Seriously Raeni, I think he’s crushing.'
I peeked over my shoulder at his tribal tattoo as his bronze arm swooped through the strap of his backpack. Long dark curls caressed his high cheek bones. It was hard not to look at him. His brown eyes locked onto mine. Caught, I turned away. 
'Stop ogling.' I laughed at Tara, dropping my backpack on her hood. He watched. 
'Talk to him, but not about your nightmares,' she whispered. 
Now she thinks I’m brainless? Telling a guy I’m a nut-job won’t ever be on my to-do list."

Hmm, okay! I kind of have mixed feelings about the wanting to fail to look cool thing, if only because I'm not totally convinced that's really a thing? It's been several years since I've been in HS, but when I went it was super competitive and kids who got As were definitely not looked down on. In fact, the popular kids kind of had to perform at least decently well because they'd get kicked off their sports teams otherwise.

On another note, I like the slice of life thing you've got going here, but I'm wondering if there'd be a way to inject more of a hint to the upcoming conflict. This all seems very normal and I'm not sure it's functioning as a powerful enough hook.

Now for the in-line edits:

"I crumpled the exam and tossed it into the trash as I exited the school building. My A proving Lysol killed more germs than bleach was hard earned. I feel like this is grammatically off in terms of subject/object. The "A" didn't prove Lysol kills more germs than bleach—the report did—but the way this sentence is structured is a little confusing. I'd reword this to avoid anyone tripping over it (like I did). I should’ve been proud, but the grade made me feel like Dad. Being a brainiac was a nerdy-coolness I needed to smother before I obsessed over science experiments like him. 
'You could fail intentionally, yunno?' Tara suggested, walking into the parking lot by my side. Of course, my best friend knew my score. She also knew my grades were important to me to get into college to escape this gawd-awful town I'd make this just "god-awful." To me, the "gawd" placement feels too much like an adult trying to sound teenager-y.—away from my absent-for-life father, where at least he’d have an excuse not to see me. This is great—really gets across her bitterness in a realistic way without drifting into woe is me territory.
I combed my fingers through my mop of hair. 'That’s stupid.'
Gravel crunched under our feet walking to her car. This is another place where the structure is confusing—it looks to me like you're saying the gravel is walking. I'd go with "Gravel crunched under our feet as we walked to her car." The sun warmed our skin. Tara stared past me and batted her lashes toward Anath. He gazed at me from a few cars down. 'Seriously Raeni, I think he’s crushing.' Do teens still say this? I would check with some actual teens to be sure.
I peeked over my shoulder at his tribal tattoo as his bronze arm swooped through the strap of his backpack. Long dark curls caressed his high cheek bones. It was hard not to look at him. His brown eyes locked onto mine. Caught, I turned away. There's nothing technically wrong with this protag checking out hot guy/gets caught looking encounter, but it's used a lot in YA, to the point where I feel like it's drifting into cliché territory. Be careful. 
'Stop ogling.' I laughed at Tara, dropping my backpack on her hood. He watched.  How does she know he's watching if she's not looking at him anymore? This may be a good place for some sensory details if she feels that prickly someone looking at you feel.
'Talk to him, but not about your nightmares,' she whispered. This kind of comes out of nowhere to me, in the sense that I don't see a logical reason why she would say that (and your protag doesn't seem to think there's a logical reason for her saying that, either). Like, telling a hot boy you have a crush on about your nightmares is not a common thing, so it looks to me that you're just trying to tell the readers your protag has nightmares, and if that's the case I think you may want to consider going about it in a more natural way. 
Now she thinks I’m brainless? Telling a guy I’m a nut-job won’t ever be on my to-do list." My thoughts exactly. :) 

Overall, I don't see too much technically wrong, but I feel like this is an opening I've read before. Not literally—I know I haven't read it—but these kind of set-ups are rather common and thus it doesn't really pull me in anymore. Spicing up the opening with a bigger hint to the upcoming conflict might help, or you may want to consider adjusting it to something a little less overdone. As is, if I saw this in the slush, I would pass.

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, P.D.!

Would you like to be featured in a Fixing the First Page Feature? Keep an eye out for the next critique giveaway in February!

Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae talks familiar openings and writing teens realistically in the 19th Fixing the First Page critique. (Click to tweet)

5 (More) Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors

Photo credit: Carlos Porto on Flickr
So back in July 2013 I wrote a post about five ways to support your favorite authors. And now that time has passed and I’ve learned a lot more about publishing and things involved in authoring, I thought it might be a good time to expand the list.

So without further ado! Five (more) ways you can support your favorite authors.

  1. Cross-post your reviews. Goodreads is a great place to post reviews where bookish people will see them—but not all readers are Goodreads-savvy people. It is super helpful to cross-post your reviews to major retailer sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, because that’s where regular people shopping for books will look. As a bonus, it’s super super easy and takes maybe five minutes to copy/paste your reviews to other sites. :) 

  2. Pre-order books. Lisa Schroeder broke down why pre-orders are so important better than I can, so I will refer you to her post. But the short version is pre-orders make publishers and bookstores more confident about the book, which ultimately means more book deals, support, and sales for the author. 

  3. Request their books at your local library. I totally understand that buying books isn’t always possible at all times—but this is a way you can support authors without spending money. Requesting books at libraries encourages the library to purchase said book, especially if they get enough requests. And more requests or checking out of a book means more orders for the book, which is good news for authors. 

  4. Read their book in public. Visibility s a great thing for books, because the more people who see a book, the more people are likely to get curious enough to check a book out. Which can lead to sales. Which are yay. 

  5. Attend their events (when possible). Again, I completely get this is not always possible, but if you hear one of your faves is going to be near you, it can be very awesome to go to events. Both for you (because fun and signed books!) and for the author so the event is not lonely and awkward. 

Have you done any of these to help support your favorite authors? What other suggestions would you add to the list?

Twitter-sized bite:

Want to show some author love to your faves? @Ava_Jae breaks down five (more) ways to support them. (Click to tweet)

What Social Media is Right for You?

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For writers in 2016, social media has become a thing that is pretty much expected of authors. While I suppose it would be theoretically possible to launch a book without any social media presence whatsoever, the days where that was the norm are long gone. But with so many social media options out there, it can be a little overwhelming when you’re trying to decide what to use when and what not to bother with.

So since I do a lot of social media-ing, I figured I’d talk a little about each one I use and particularly how you might utilize them as writers.

  • Twitter. So Twitter is what I started with and what I talk about most often, and I’ve written approximately a bajillion posts about it (here, here and here) so this will be a short entry. But basically, Twitter is where you go if you want to connect with other writers and publishing people (and you do, don’t you?). 

  • Blogging. Blogging has served multiple purposes to me: it keeps me writing, it’s allowed me to connect with other writers by helping, which is really nice, and it’s forced me to analyze my writing process which has actually helped me learn more about my own process, which is an extra bonus. Also, my blog functions as my author website, which has proved to be pretty valuable so far. 

  • tumblr. Tumblr is an interesting place. I cross-post nearly all of my blog posts there, so it’s given me extra exposure I wouldn’t have had otherwise, including several posts that have gone mini-viral and ended up with thousands more views than what I would’ve had just posting on Blogger. Tumblr also has some really incredible inspirational gems I’ve come across, and just really educational and helpful posts (I’ve learned so much from tumblr—you’d be amazed). Also, if you’d like to blog, but aren’t up for the commitment of having a static blog like Blogger and Wordpress, tumblr can serve as a great micro-blog with little commitment and a lot of versatility. 

  • YouTube. YouTube really surprised me. I started my vlog channel a year and a half ago or so, simply because I thought it might be a fun and different way to connect. I figured there were probably some writers there, but I never imagined the outflow of positive response and support I’ve gotten there. It turns out there are a *lot* of writers on YouTube looking for writing-related channels, and I am so, so glad I took the vlogging plunge. If vlogging is something you might be open to, I super highly recommend it—the writer community there is shockingly lovely. 

  • Pinterest. Pinterest I definitely haven’t utilized to it’s fullest potential—I mostly just use it to keep track of debuts, hair and clothing things I like, and also sekret inspiration boards that are helpful while I’m drafting. But if you’re a visual person, Pinterest can be a great source of inspiration and a creative way to get your writer gears turning. 

  • Instagram. I haven’t mastered Instagram either, but it’s a fun way to share pictures and bookish love and get to know people in a way totally different from Twitter and blogging. I use it casually and it’s been a nice way to remind myself to pay attention to stuff around me because there might be something I could share. 

  • Facebook. I’ll be honest, I rarely use Facebook at this point. I’ve only ever really utilized it to share my blog posts and like stuff from my writer friends—but I only use a fan page so I know there’s probably way more that could be done with an actual page. But eh, it’s just not really my thing, so I’ve kept it as a way to share news and posts and that’s about it. 

What social media sites do you use for writer-related things? Which are your favorite?

Twitter-sized bites:

Fixing the First Page Giveaway Winner #19!

Photo credit: looking4poetry on Flickr
Quick post before today's post is up to announce the winner of the nineteenth fixing the first page feature giveaway! Woot!


And the winner is…


Woohoo! Congratulations, P.D.! Expect an e-mail from me shortly.

Thank you to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in February (February!), so keep an eye out! :)

Vlog: How to Read More

It's shockingly easy to have books you haven't read pile up—I would know. So today I'm sharing some tips for squeezing extra reading in throughout the year.


What tips do you have for reading more throughout the year? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Falling behind on your TBR pile? @Ava_Jae vlogs some tips for getting more reading time in throughout the year. (Click to tweet)

On Never Enough Syndrome

Photo credit: Raban Haaijk on Flickr

It’s been a weird couple of months in my writer brain, lately.

As I’ve mentioned before, last year was the Year of Revisions for me—I spent my months heavily revising two manuscripts, ended up putting one aside and am full-steam ahead with the other and hoping it may one day be a Thing I can share. But last year was also the first year in a long time that I didn’t write a new manuscript, and that was kind of rough, in it’s own way.

Because even though, word-count-wise, I probably wrote enough during those revisions to equal up to a new MS anyway (did I mention how extensive the revisions were?), I still finished the year feeling like I’d failed, somehow, because I hadn’t written a new project.

Probably what compounded the issue was I’d wanted to write something in November, but my chronic illness disagreed and I ended up needing the time I would’ve been NaNoing to rest, instead. And even though I knew very well about the importance of rest (and hey, I’ve even vlogged about how important it is!), it didn’t stop me from entering 2016 from feeling kind of gross about it. Which is silly because I knew I’d progressed (revisions! were awesome!) but, you know, writer brains.

Combine this with experiencing my very first List Season, which even with the preparation of other authors talking about how List Season is tough and ultimately doesn’t mean much, even with the expectation of being left off a bunch of “upcoming” lists, I entered a kind of weird brain space.

The truth is, writers deal with a weird blend of imposter syndrome, the comparison game, and this pervading sense of standing still even when you’re progressing. This sense of you’re not doing enough spreads into so many aspects of the writer life, whether it’s drafting (you’re not writing enough), marketing (you’re not marketing enough), or stuff totally out of your control (you’re not on enough lists, you’re not getting reviewed enough, etc. etc. etc.).

I know, from listening to many other writers talk about this—writers who have been doing the career writer thing for wayyyyyy longer than I have—that this feeling never really goes away. And honestly, there isn’t really a lesson here at the end of this post, but you guys asked me to talk about the becoming a published writer thing, and this is a thing that is happening a lot lately, so here I am.

It’s a common thing for writers. And it’s not an easy thing. But I guess it helps knowing I am so not alone with this, and the best I can do is to just keep moving forward and try to focus on the really awesome things coming up, like my hardcover book in my hand (soon!), and my hardcover book possibly in many of yours. 

And even when my brain tries to convince me otherwise, that alone is a really incredible thing. :)

What cool writer things have you guys been doing lately?

Twitter-sized bite:
On the writer reality of never feeling like you're doing enough. (Click to tweet

Book Review: BURNING GLASS by Kathryn Purdie

Photo credit: Goodreads
So I was really intrigued by the whole idea of empaths in a Fantasy setting, which is why I requested the ARC, and whoa. Did this book deliver.

But first! The summary:

"Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer. 
Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. One mistake, one small failure, will cost her own life and the lives of the few people left in the world who still trust her. 
But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, her feelings easily usurped, and she sometimes can’t decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself. 
As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray."

Right from the start, Burning Glass drew me in with probably one of the most intense first chapters I’ve read in a long time. I mean, just look at my Goodreads status updates:

Burning Glass is the type of book that grabs you by the throat from the first page and doesn’t let go until the end. With fascinating court politics, very complicated characters (and no pure evil antagonist), intense conflict and so many fascinating layers of world building, I really loved reading this. The world vaguely reminded me of a Shadow and Bone Russia-type setting, but the magic was completely unique and soooooo interesting to read about. I loved some characters, hated others, was suspicious of many more and all in all really enjoyed reading this.

I will say there was one background mythology and a throwaway line about it that was kind of ableist, that I didn’t love, and the love triangle didn't work for me in that one character was...not a viable option to me at all for spoilery reasons. But neither of those points ruined the book for me, personally, and I still found it a very enjoyable read.

Overall, Burning Glass is a wonderfully written, very exciting and emotional YA Fantasy, and I can’t wait to read the next book.

Diversity note: Sadly, I don't remember there being much of any.

Twitter-sized bite:
Looking for an intense YA Fantasy with an unusual magic system? Try BURNING GLASS by Kathryn Purdie. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #19!

Photo credit: JLS Photography on Flickr
It is January 13th, which means we are nearing the midway point of the first month of the year, which means it's time to start gearing up for the next Fixing the First Page feature! Yay!

For those who’ve missed it in the past, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a PUBLIC (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the nineteenth public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Tuesday, January 19 at 11:59 EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vlog: About Pen Names

Today I'm talking about a very common publishing thing: pen names! Specifically, on why many writers choose to use them.


What do you think? Would you ever consider using a pen name? Why or why not? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Wondering why some authors use pen names? @Ava_Jae breaks it down in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)  
To pen name or not to pen name? @Ava_Jae vlogs about reasons some authors choose to use pseudonyms. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: Are You a Plotter, Pantser, or Hybrid?

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So as I have frequently mentioned here on Writability, I'm a rather devout plotter—though I didn't start that way. When I first began writing, the idea of outlining my novel ahead of time gave me hives. I told myself it'd be boring and take the fun out of drafting, and I firmly stuck to that belief until I finally gave plotting a try.

Unexpectedly, plotting turned out to be a very effective method for me. I learned plotting ahead of time allowed me to write faster and helped eliminate most of my writers block, which turned out to be actually "don't know where to go from here" block.

While I don't necessarily stick 100% to my outlines while writing (as I've said before, I use them more as guidelines than rule books), I now don't start writing until I've fully plotted out the book idea. It's been an effective method for me so far.

That said! I am more than well aware that plotting doesn't work for everyone, or sometimes only works half the time, or only works up to a point for some. And if there's anything writing with the intent to publish for a decade now has taught me, it's that everyone's process is different. And sometimes one person's process is different book to book. And that's okay.

So since I haven't talked about this recently, I'm curious, and thus am making this discussion post: How many of you are plotters? Pantsers? Somewhere-in-between-ers? What do your first drafting processes look like?

Twitter-sized bite:

What's your first drafting process like? Are you a plotter? Pantser? Both? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Never-Ending Editing Syndrome Part Two: Publishing Edition

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So way back in June 2011 (as in, a month after I started blogging), I wrote this really hyper post on Never-Ending Editing Syndrome, which basically describes that ever-present feeling of never really being done with editing when working on a book. (You can read it if you want, but you’ve been warned—it’s hyper, as many of my 2011 posts were.)

One of you lovely readers happened upon that very old post, and asked about my take on it now, close to five years later with my debut on the way. The question specifically was: “How did you find the NEES when agents and editors tell you to change things?”

As I have, as of this morning, submitted (probably) final edits for Beyond the Red, I figured now was as good a time as any to answer.

I have, at this point, read through Beyond the Red a lot. A LOT. Like, I’m honestly not sure how many editing rounds I’ve done, but I’ve read those words more than I care to think about. A from the first round of edits, I already knew which round I was dreading the most: the final round. Where the edits are in and no more changes can be made.

There’s a safety net in knowing that you can always make changes later if you need to (and for that reason, I never really worried when working on revisions with my agent). Every time I hit “send” with the new round of edits to my editor, I reminded myself it’s okay, I can change something next round if I want to.

Except now I know I probably can’t. Not really. Not with anything significant, at this point anyway.

In a way, reading it over and over again helped, because by the time I got to that final round I was feeling pretty good—like in all likelihood I’d already made the changes I wanted. And I did, and sometimes reminding myself of some of those changes was reassuring, because I knew okay, but I fixed x.

The other part of me knows that once I get the final “no more changes at all” copy from my editor, I probably won’t read it. Partially because I’ve read those words so many freaking times but also because I’m afraid I’ll inevitably find a typo or a word choice I decide I don’t like and I won’t be able to do anything about it. And you know, ignorance is bliss and all that.

At this point, I’m keeping some truths locked away to keep in mind when I inevitably start worrying about not being able to change something:
  1. I wrote and edited to the very best of my ability—and then some. 
  2. A stray typo or eh word choice isn’t going to break the book. Or me. 
  3. I’ll always continue to learn and improve, so I can write and edit better next time around. 
So that’s where I’m at right now. It’s an exciting and nerve-wracking time, but overall, I’m proud of myself and of my book. And in less than two months, I’ll be able to share it with all of you. :)

Do you struggle with never-ending editing syndrome?

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae talks dealing with Never Ending Editing Syndrome during her debut's the pre-publication days. (Click to tweet)

Book Review: SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo

Photo credit: Goodreads
There are so many things I loved about this book.

Six of Crows has been on my TBR list pretty much since the moment it was announced because a) more Grisha and b) Leigh Bardugo, and this book totally lived up to my expectations. But before I go on about how amazing it is, here's the Goodreads summary:

"Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone... 
A convict with a thirst for revenge. 
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager. 
A runaway with a privileged past. 
A spy known as the Wraith. 
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first."

Right, so first and foremost, the question I've seen most about this book is whether or not it can be read without having read the Grisha trilogy. The answer is yes—pretty much everything is explained, and the only downside is you'll come across a few spoilers. But if you don't mind, Six of Crows is definitely understandable without previous Grisha universe knowledge.

I'll admit the first couple chapters were a little slower than I tend to like, pace-wise, but the story drew me in very quickly after that. I totally loved the vibrant Ketterdam and Fjerda setting, and I thought it was really cool that we got to see parts of the Grishaverse only mentioned in the previous books. The cast of characters are super diverse and I found that each POV (Kaz, Jesper, Inej, Matthias) were really interesting and drew me in for separate reasons, which was great because frequently in multi-POV novels, some POVs are more interesting than others, but I thought these were equally balanced.

Then the plot! The whole heist narrative was so ridiculously fun to read—it was incredibly smart and clever and I loved all the twists and wrenches in the plan. It reminded me very much of the Artemis Fowl series, in that the heist plot was super elaborate was unlikely odds and high stakes and the mastermind behind the plan (Kaz) repeatedly impressed me with his ability to think his way out of many problems.

And so many ships! I loved all the pairings in Six of Crows and was cheering for every single ship with equal fervor (which, when you have six mains/major characters, is impressive since again, I didn't find myself massively favoring one character or POV over another).

And finally, the thing I loved most—hello disabled protagonist in genre fiction! I actually didn't realize Kaz was disabled until after I bought the book, which was a really nice surprise. His disabilities (PTSD and chronic pain that causes a limp and necessitates the use of a cane) were very much part of the story and he didn't require a miracle cure to get around them—Kaz dealt with his disabilities in very real ways and I totally loved how he leveraged his cane to his advantage in various circumstances.

All in all, this book hit a home run. If you like fantasy and heist books or just really enjoyed the Grisha trilogy, I couldn't recommend this one more.

Now to wait impatiently for September when the second (and final) book, Crooked Kingdom, releases...

Diversity note: Kaz, one of the main protagonists, has chronic pain and a limp from an old injury and uses a cane to help him get around. He also deals with sometimes-debilitating PTSD. Another POV character, Jesper, is black and (slight spoiler) bisexual and (slight spoiler) Wylan also seems to like boys. 

Format note: I'm sure this book is equally excellent in e-book, but if you're able to get the print hardback, I do recommend it. It's one of the most beautifully designed books I own.

What have you been reading? 

Twitter-sized bites:
.@Ava_Jae gives 5/5 stars to SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo. Is this clever fantasy heist book on your TBR list? (Click to tweet
Looking for a smart YA Fantasy w/ a disabled MC? Check out SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Writer Resolutions

It's a new year! Which means, among other things, many people are solidifying their 2016 resolutions. So today I'm talking about making healthy writing-related resolutions.


What writing-related resolutions have you made for 2016?

Twitter-sized bites:
Do your writer resolutions rely on external factors? @Ava_Jae vlogs about why this isn't the best option. (Click to tweet)  
Finalizing your 2016 writer resolutions? @Ava_Jae vlogs about choosing resolutions you can control. #writetip (Click to tweet)

How I Dive Into New WIPs

Photo credit: Justin Ornellas on Flickr
So I’ve written a post about my plotting process and also vlogged about how I plot, but I haven’t actually talked about the step between drafting and plotting, where I start putting down the words. And the truth is, those first couple thousand words of a manuscript are super volatile for me.

Even though I’m a plotter, when I start writing, I don’t really know everything about the MS. My characters are, perhaps, the most vague of the information I start with—I generally know what they look like, their names, how they are marginalized (if at all), and while I’m plotting I usually start to get a sense for their personalities. But the most important element to me—the voice—is still very much out there and I don’t usually know much of anything about it until I start writing.

Which, for me, is the dangerous part. Because I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve started and abandoned because the voice just didn’t click with me. But for me, discovering the voice is very much a sink or swim experience—it either works or it doesn’t, and I usually know a couple thousand words in. Sometimes, if a voice is especially strong, I’ll know after a page or two that it’s going to stick. Many times I stop two or three or five or seven thousand words in because it just didn’t manifest into something that’s clicking with me.

This is why I tend to be so secretive about my WIP ideas before I start drafting—I don’t tell anyone, not my CPs, not my agent about those initial ideas until I’ve written at least 10,000 words and decided that the story is definitely going to get completely written. Once I get into the Safe Zone, so to speak, then I start being a little more open about what I’m working on. But before that, talking about it feels too risky, since my rate of abandoning projects early on is probably around 50%.

So starting a new WIP for me tends to be a scary thing. I mean, the blank page is always somewhat intimidating to me, but knowing especially at first that whatever I’m working on might not make it past 5,000 words feels a bit like walking along the crumbling edge of a cliff.

Last year I was too busy revising trunked manuscripts to start anything new, but this year I intend to write a new project. I don’t know what it’ll be, not yet, but I know I’ll be walking along some cliff sides and hoping for the best.

How about you?

Twitter-sized bites:
How do you start writing a new WIP? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)  
Author @Ava_Jae talks voice, character development & more when it comes to starting the first draft. (Click to tweet)

End of Year Countdown: 5 Top Fives of 2015

Photo credit: derekskey on Flickr
It's 2016! Except I ran out of post days to post this annual tradition, so I'm squeezing it in here, on the first day of the new year. YAY 2016!

So here we go! My top fives of 2015. :)

Top 5 Most Popular Posts (On Writability)

As per usual, these are calculated with blogger’s page view counts. Like last year, the list is the same as the year before, with a little rearranging.
  1. Why Write Blog Posts Consistently? 
  2. Do You Listen to Music While Writing?
  3. Tumblr for Writers
  4. Writers: Start Acting Like Professionals
  5. Pirating Books: It's Not a Harmless Download
  6. How to Write Awesome Kiss Scenes
*Technically this is more than five but it was close-ish so I added a bonus post. Because kissing.

Top 5 Most Active Commenters

As explained every year, I use Disqus’s very nice widget on my sidebar to keep track of how many comments every lovely commenter makes. The system isn’t perfect and only keeps track of accounts, so if you comment on multiple accounts, it thinks you’re more than one person, but regardless, these five fabulous readers are the most active commenters of the Writability community—thank you!

Note: Those with two asterisks have been on the top five list for two years, and those with three asterisks were on the top five list the year before that! All the thank yous!
  1. Robin Red**
  2. RoweMatthew***
  3. Heather
  4. Jen Donohue**
  5. Daniel Swensen***

Top 5 Favorite (Writerly) Tumblr Blogs of the Year

Over time, tumblr has become one of my favorite social media sites. I’ve learned a ridiculous amount from the incredible finds posted there, and I’ve also really enjoyed the nerdy randomness that frequently appears on my feed.

These are my top five favorite writerly/bookish tumblr blogs, as calculated by tumblr based off which blogs get the most reblogs and likes from me.

Top 5 Favorite Books of the Year

So in previous years, this used to be favorite blogs, but I really haven't been keeping up with my blogs this year, so I decided to do books instead. Not-so coincidentally I reviewed all of these or in the case of the 2016 books, I have reviews on the way. :) So! Here are my favorite reads of the year, in no particular order:

  1. Focus on Me by Megan Erickson (Review)
  2. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Review
  3. Half Wild by Sally Green (Review)
  4. Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie
  5. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Top 5 Favorite Twitter Accounts

Twitter remains my favorite favorite. And these Twitter peoples are amazing, uplifting, and insightful in topics like writing, marginalizations, publishing and more. (Again, in no particular order):

So those are my top fives of 2015—do you have any favorites of the year you’d like to share?

Also, Happy New Year, everyone!

Writer @Ava_Jae shares her top fives of 2015—what are some of your favorite writing resources of last year? (Click to tweet)
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