The aged writer

On roughly a daily basis, I have a crisis about my age. You see, I feel quite over the hill. Far, far over the hill. I’ve got an aching back and sore wrists and I’ve never gotten a book published. I look at my whole long life and think, “Aubrey, you’ve accomplished nothing. Better throw in the towel.”

Thing is, I’m 26.

I know. IknowIknowIknow. Twenty-six is young! I graduated college only 4.5 years ago (note that my earlier comment about accomplishing nothing means that I don’t consider college an accomplishment. Figure that one out for me, would you?). I started writing seriously only 3 years ago. And yet…


There seem to be a whole lot of really young YA writers these days. Maybe there always were and I just wasn’t following the industry then. But there’s nothing to make you feel old like reading about a 20 year old getting a three-book deal. I’m jealous not so much of the book deal, but of 20 year olds who have their shit together enough at 20 to know they even want to write a book. And then to do it. And do it well enough to sell it. It’s sorcery, I tell you.

I’ve accepted that I’ll never be the 20 year old with a book deal because A) I’m already 26 and B) At 20 I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. So, I’m 26, and I know what I want to be. Now what?

Now I set unreasonable and arbitrary goals of course. Come on, you do it too. “I want to accomplish X by age Y.” “I need to meet my future spouse by age Y if I want to have kids by age Z.” “If I start a grad program now, I’ll have my degree by age Y and maybe pay off my loans by age Z+18.” Life doesn’t last forever. It’s normal to try to plan what age you’ll meet certain goals by. I need to assume that I’ll have to meet all my goals by age 100 if I want to meet them ever (yes, I’m giving myself a generous 100-year life span. Don’t burst my bubble, please).

This is normal, but not necessarily helpful. In fact, it’s super unhelpful for me to feel like an “old writer” at 26. And to tell myself I’d better give up writing if I don’t have a book on shelves by 30. And to feel like a loser for not having made a name for myself.

It doesn’t even make sense. I know almost nobody in their 20s who’s happy with their job. We’re all working really hard so that maybe, possibly, one day, we’ll have the careers we want. I’m in good company.

Besides, what won’t I be able to do at 50 that I’m doing now? I’ll still eat cookie dough and read children’s books and play board games. I’ll still write books, and they’ll probably be 1,097,532x better than the ones I’m writing now, because EXPERIENCE. I might be published, but I’ll still have unmet goals and panic that I won’t meet them all before I die.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to go try to finish my 2014 reading challenge of 52 books. Because arbitrary goals, you know?

October writing progress

Whew. Another month of writing almost over. *Wipes brow* So how’d I do this month?

I didn’t write quite as many words as in September (about 16k as opposed to 24k), but I got a lot of act 2 planning done in the first half of October and am now well into act 2. I’ve reached the point where word count milestones have started blending together. At 10k and 20k, I get so excited to be over those hurdles. But today I reached 42k and have stopped patting myself on the back. I’m just trudging through the middle. I’ll save the back-patting for “The End.”

But there is something very exciting about getting this far: I’ve only ever surpassed 30k in the two books that I went on to finish. So, I can conclude that I will, indeed, finish TSS one day. And I might even be able to predict when that day is.

40k in two months means I’m about a 4-5 month first drafter for YA books (figuring on 80-95k because I write genre fiction). If this book winds up being around 90k like I expect, I’m looking at a completed first draft by the end of January. Yes please.

Self imposed deadlines are tough for me because…well, because I’m myself, and I can be quite forgiving when I’m curled up in a ball feeling bad about being behind. There are a couple of factors that might throw me off schedule–namely, the holidays and the fact that this book might creep up past 90k–but for now, I’m content with my loose deadline.

When I’m in the middle, it can feel so hard to see the end. For some reason that’s not the case right now. I don’t feel horribly overwhelmed. Maybe it’s because I’m not trying to look too far ahead on any given day, or maybe it’s because I’ve planned this book out so carefully (hint: it’s not the latter). Whatever the reason, I’m grateful.

How’d everyone else do writing-wise in October?

P.S. – I just read this YA thriller called Dangerous Girls that was awesome and twisty and I couldn’t put it down. Give it a read, if you’re so inclined…

This book must be the One

Beth Revis did a little inspirational video for 2011’s WriteOnCon in which she talked about the 10 books she wrote before Across the Universe, the first book in her best-selling trilogy. I saw this video about two years ago, and it really stuck with me. Give it a watch if you want:

The gist of the video is in this quote: “I treated every single book as if it were the one.”

She didn’t know when writing each of those 10 other books that they wouldn’t get published. I wonder, sometimes, if I’d want to see my publishing future. Would I want to know if I ever get published? Would I want to know how old I am when I do? Would I want to know how many books I had to write before the One that sold?

The answer: no freaking way. Because what if the answer is that I don’t get published for 10 years? What if the answer is that I don’t get published until my 15th book? If I knew that now, I might be so discouraged by all the work ahead of me that I’d give up. The only way to keep going as Beth Revis said: treat every book as if it could be the One.

I’m working on a YA fantasy (henceforth referred to as TSS) right now that I’m falling increasingly in love with every day. That is both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because it means I actually kindasorta look forward to writing, as difficult as it is at times. But terrifying because, after each chapter or page or sentence that I love, I wonder: Will anyone else ever read this?

I don’t know. I don’t know if TSS will be the One that sells, the One that flings me into real author-dom. In fact, I’m still not sure that THE FADING HOUR, the book that I’m querying, isn’t the One. There’s so much uncertainty. I hope it’s THE FADING HOUR and that TSS is my follow-up. If not that, then I hope TSS can be my debut. And if not that, then whatever I write after TSS.

For now, as I chug along toward the 90,000 or so words that it will take to make TSS a complete story, I will try to believe, with certainty, that it will be published one day. I will believe that an agent will love it, and then an editor. I will believe that it will get thousands of readers. I will give it the effort it deserves, telling myself every day that it is the One.

But even if it’s not, even if all those beliefs are wrong, I still have this: I love this book. I want to explore its world. I want to make it real.

one down, one up #1

This week, I decided to blog more often (which shouldn’t be difficult because I had only been blogging once a month. I know, I know, I’m a slacker). What better way to keep the posts going than to join up with a weekly blog linkup that my good friend ChrystinaNoel started? (Is it a weekly meme? Maybe? I don’t know what a meme is. That knowledge is beyond me. This might be a meme.)

Basically, with #1down1up, you tell the best and worst things that happened to you this week. Worst first, best for last. So, here goes:

one down

This didn’t happen to me personally, but I feel that it affects me. A women was almost mugged on my street the other night, in a neighborhood that I consider very safe. Someone drove by and tried to grab her bag, and I think she had to run along beside the car because the bag was on her shoulder. I heard her screaming from my apartment and was worried, so I went out. It’s very scary to realize that you can so easily become the victim of a crime. The good side of this? Ten+ other neighbors went out to check on her too. No bystander effect in this neighborhood, thank you very much.

one up

I felt optimistic about writing this week. Not quite sure why, but I’ll take it. When I feel this good about writing, I believe I’ll never be discouraged about it again. When I’m discouraged, I believe I’ll never feel good about it. Both beliefs are wrong. There are ups and downs. Some weeks, my one down will probably be writing-related. Right now I’m up, and I’m grateful for it.

YOUR book could be the next big thing

Last night, I was watching Catching Fire, and my husband wondered if The Hunger Games trilogy had sold as a trilogy or first as a standalone. I recently subscribed to the handy dandy Publishers Marketplace so that I could look up agents, but I can also look up authors there and see their deals. So I looked up Suzanne Collins, clicked back through a bunch of pages of foreign rights deals, and found this:

Hunger games PM

I promptly forgot all about the trilogy question and stared at this little snippet of information. Eight years ago, the world’s knowledge of The Hunger Games was just this tiny little blurb. And even that, very few people would have known about unless they followed the publishing industry. I had just graduated high school mere days before and wasn’t reading much for pleasure anymore. Suzanne Collins wasn’t even on my radar.

Jump forward to now, and EVERYONE has heard of The Hunger Games. YA readers, adult-novel readers, non-readers. It’s nothing short of a phenomenon. But Scholastic didn’t know it back in 2006. They bought the trilogy in a “significant deal,” which means $251,000-$499,000. While that is a lot of money and most authors don’t earn that much, it’s nothing compared to what Collins has earned by now. Which means Scholastic couldn’t predict how popular the books would be.

That’s because no one can predict such things. Through some combination of great writing and magic, a book or book series takes off and becomes the thing everyone wants to–has to–read. Do you think Suzanne Collins thought she’d be where she is now back in 2006? Granted, The Hunger Games wasn’t her debut (she already had a middle grade series out), but nobody expects such massive success. She was writing a book about kids killing each other. She probably worried nobody would pick it up at all, they’d be so turned off by the premise. But people did pick it up. A lot of them.

As hopeless as you might feel as an unpublished, unagented writer sometimes, you have to remember that no book is a guaranteed success, and may successes sneak up on the author. I know most authors will never see the kind of success Collins has seen, or even close to it. But some will. And how do you know it won’t be you? How do you know the long and winding unfinished manuscript on your hard drive isn’t destined to be the next big thing?

You don’t. And the only way you’ll find out is to keep writing.

Act Breaks

I posted a couple of weeks ago about how September was my most productive writing month ever (word count-wise). The words were flowing. My total word count leapt up by 1,200+ words almost every weekday. I was zipping through my WIP like it was nothing.

Fast forward two days from that blog post: Screeching. Halt.

I’d hit it again–the end-of-act-one slump. There’s just something about that act break between acts one and two that leaves me feeling like I’m lost in the woods without a map. Where did I come from? How did I get here? And where the hell was I going?

I needed a break myself.

This had happened to me two times before. For each of my first two books, I hit a similar wall around this point in the story, so I don’t know why it surprised me. And both times before, I beat myself up over it, wondering why I hadn’t outlined more extensively. Or why I couldn’t just push push push forward until the got my flow back. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Don’t wait for inspiration–write! Write even when you don’t feel like writing!

To some extent, I agree with that, because writing is excruciating 99% of the time. But this time, I decided to look at my between-acts break differently. Rather than sit at my computer and stare at the ever-blinking cursor as some kind of punishment for my lack of inspiration, I stepped away from Scrivener. I considered it a necessary pause in my writing. I let the fantasy world I’m writing squirm around somewhere at the back of my mind, spending no more than an hour a day “actively” brainstorming on paper. I just let the ideas be.

It worked. Twelve days of not writing later, I have a much better image in my head of the world, a bunch of names and terms for things that were just blanks before, and a new, better idea for the climax. Some might call those 12 days unproductive because my word count didn’t budge, but they were invaluable to me and to this story.

So maybe this is just my process. Maybe I’m not a “plotter” or a “pantser,” but something in between. I like to plot the first act in detail, then have some signposts along the way for the rest of the book. It works for me. It makes the process as un-agonizing as possible. And, most importantly: I kind of enjoy it.

Everyone knows women can’t bust ghosts

Today, I read a blog post about the Ghostbusters reboot that’s in the works. Have you heard of it yet? You might have. It’s making big news because the Ghostbusters are all going to be women. The writer of the blog post I read isn’t thrilled about that:

“And how do you even begin to explain an all-female Ghostubsters [sic] team in a script? Are they going to have a sign on the front door that says, “Female applicants only?” What would be the logic in eliminating males from becoming Ghostbusters? I suppose you can write it in that the three main characters are friends from graduate school, just like the original Ghostbusters, but this setup is already feeling a mite forced.”

Source: Scriptshadow

I have to say, the guy has a point. I mean, how in the world is Hollywood going to come up with a good script for this if all the Ghostbusters are women? Women can’t bust ghosts. What are they going to do–squirt breast milk at them? Twirl around bloody tampons and fling them at the ghosts like modern-day feminine maces? Flash a little cleavage and flip their hair to distract the ghosts, then catch them while they aren’t looking?

Absurd! Hollywood is taking us for fools. I mean, come on. We all know women can’t fight gho–


If your biggest problem with the Ghostbusters reboot is that the Ghostbusters are women, you need to take a step back. You’re willing to believe in ghosts and a group of people who are hired to fight them, but not that those people could possibly all be women. At least not without some explanation.

Suspend your disbelief. There are a lot of women in the world. Sometimes, we bust ghosts together. Get used to it.

writing/reading/watching update #2

It occurred to me today that it is September 30th, and I have not written one blog post this whole month. I don’t know if I’ve ever skipped a whole month in my nearly 3 years of blogging, so I thought I better get my butt in gear and stop neglecting this poor blog.

As a way to jump back in, here’s another writing/reading/watching update…

What I’m Writing

Normally, lack of blogging means that my writing isn’t going well and I’m too miserable about it to share on the ol’ blog, but that actually isn’t the case this time. I started (or rather, restarted, because I wrote 10k over the summer and scrapped it) a new book, a YA high fantasy, this month. It’s an idea that has evolved in immeasurable ways since I first had it 2 1/2 years ago, and it still evolves every day as I write and brainstorm. The world is expanding in my mind, and I just hope I can capture that on the page. We’ll see.

I’ve set a new writing goal of at least 1,200 words per weekday, up from 1,000 for my last book. I wanted a little extra challenge, but nothing that would make me too discouraged or seem unmanageable. I hit that goal on 17 out of a possible 21 days (not counting today, because I haven’t written yet). Not too shabby. Once, I deleted all 1,200 words the very next day, but shhh, it still counts. Excluding the deletions, I wrote 21,700 words this month. With the deletions, more like 24,000. That’s as much as I’ve ever written in a month, and I still have today. I’d say I’ll aim for more next month, but 20-25k will yield a first draft in 4-5 months, and that is totally acceptable to me.

What I’m Reading

I’m reading–gasp!–two ADULT books! I tried to throw in a few more adult this year, and I also read a bunch of middle grade, so my reading list hasn’t been quiet as limited to YA as in past years. The two books right now are Rooms by Lauren Oliver and The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. So far, so good! But I’ve got to finish them fast, because October will see the release of Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, Cat Winters’ The Cure for Dreaming, and Maggie Stiefvater’s Blue Lily, Lily Blue. I guess the 22 unread books sitting on my shelf will have to wait a while longer.

What I’m Watching

I’m behind on Masters of Sex and trying to catch up, but I’m just not enjoying this season as much as the last. The most recent episode I watched had a bunch of time jumps, and I found it disorienting and, frankly, boring. I’ll probably finish the season, but if it doesn’t get better, I don’t know that I’ll watch next season.

My husband and I are watching season 1 of The West Wing and loving it. I know, I know, I’m like 15 years behind the times, but I was 11 when it started so give me a break. It’s a little intimidating to start now because there are 150+ episodes, so it’ll take us a while to get through them.

As for movies, I watched The Shining the other night. I generally hate scary movies because I’m easily scared and the freaky images stay with me for too many days afterwards, but for some
reason, I’ve seen The Shining many times and can handle it. I think I have new appreciation for it now that I’m a writer myself. It also made me very glad that my writer husband and I don’t go at each other with an axe when the writing isn’t going well. See, it’s the little things in life.

Used bookstores: Whitlock’s Book Barn


I was visiting family in Connecticut in July and remembered this weird used bookstore that my mom used to drag me to as a kid. I say drag because I hated it back then. It only kept my attention for about 10 minutes since there wasn’t a very extensive children’s section.

But hey, I’m an adult now, and I thought I’d give it another try. So my mom and I drove to Whitlock’s Book Barn in Bethany, CT, one sunny afternoon, hoping to find some cool/cheap books. Whitlock’s is aptly named because it is, in fact, in a barn. Two barns, actually.


Upper barn


Lower barn


Front of lower barn

I liked it considerably more than when I was a kid. I only bought a few books, but I loved browsing all the old books, seeing what covers used to look like and feel like. Here are some more photos…


Creepy Little Golden Book that my mom bought for some odd reason


Side by side covers from two different years (one in 60s, one 70s I think)


British edition of Harry Potter! I’ve always wanted to see what’s different.



IMG_0620 IMG_0622 IMG_0623

On the off chance that you wind up in or near Bethany, CT, I highly recommend this strange little book barn. I got Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Road (hardcover!), and Never Let Me go for only a few bucks each. If you avoid the lower shelves where the books are covered in dust and dead bugs, you can get some great used books for cheap!

Fantasy binge

I’m happy to say that I broke ground on my YA high fantasy this week! I’ve got about 3,300 words, which is nothing compared to the 90,000 it will probably be. Yet the distance from 0 to 3,300 seems so much greater than from 3,300 to 90,000 in some ways, so I’m grateful to have started. It already feels more possible now than it ever has.

The Fading Hour, the book I’m querying now, is a historical fantasy that takes place in a sort of alternate version of 1920s America. Though it’s not actually America and our world, it doesn’t really have other features of second-world/high fantasy, so I wouldn’t call it that. That means my new WIP is my first high fantasy novel, so I’m nervous about how I’ll pull it off. Because of that, I’m going on a fantasy-reading binge. I finished The Golden Compass and am well into the second book in the series, The Subtle Knife (fun fact: I think Will Parry as depicted on the cover of the paperback that I have was my first literary crush). Then on deck, I’ve got (in no particular order):

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
(not YA, but has a teenage protagonist)

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove
(middle grade)

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

One thing I’m paying particular attention to is the use of third person vs first in high fantasy. Based on books I’ve already read, I find that I prefer third person for fantasy. I’ve started my WIP that way for now, though who knows if I’ll wind up changing it. I like the freedom that third offers, and I think I like my writing voice better in third. I know some people find it too detached, but I think first person in fantasy can be tough since the tendency is for it to be more conversational and therefore feel too much like a person in our own world narrating. I don’t want my MC just to sound like a teenager plucked out of high school and dropped into a fantasy world. That said, I’m leaving my options open in case I realize third isn’t working out.

Do you have any high fantasy (YA or otherwise) recommendations for me? I have many more on my list, but the ones above are the ones I’m planning to read soonest.