Good evening, campers –
Yes, it’s another dead-of-night post, but that seems appropriate for our next guest blogger, YA novelist Kate Evangelista. If her name seems familiar, well, it should: Kate is a longtime Author! Author! community member, a diligent commenter, and, as those of you who tuned in earlier this month may recall, a proud first-time author: her debut, Taste, was released in e-reader format by Crescent Moon Press earlier this month. Now, it’s also available in hard copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or, for those of you that prefer patronizing indie booksellers, Powell’s.
Today, by special request (okay, outright blandishment), Kate is here not only to contribute her wit and wisdom to our ongoing series on series writing; she’s also going to share her direct-from-the-front-lines insights on breaking into print in the hyper-competitive YA fantasy market. Can’t you feel the atmosphere crackling with excitement?
You should, because Kate is one of Author! Author!’s homegrown success stories. To apply the overused phrase properly for once, she was once standing (or, more probably, sitting) precisely where most of you fine people are right now — reading through these posts, writing her heart out, hoping someday to break into the biz.
Do I hear an it can be done?
Because Kate is one of our own, I’d like to take a rather unusual approach to giving you a sense of her authorial chops, one that’s more reflective of the progression from composition to published book. First, let’s take a gander at an excerpt from Taste in manuscript form, as we might have seen it if we were lucky enough to participate in the same critique group as today’s guest. As always, if you are having trouble making out the individual words, try holding down the COMMAND key and pressing + to enlarge the image.
Quite the intriguing YA voice, isn’t it? The tone is evocative, yet the prose is nicely spare. Here’s what some reader reviewers — including another longtime member of the Author! Author! community — had to say about Kate’s voice and story:
“Intriguing, mysterious, and a taste is not all you will get! Must read!” — K.M. Whittaker
“My new favorite novel.” — Wendy Russo
“Awesome-sauce! A delicious book to taste and devour.” — Book4Juliet
What is this story of which they speak so highly? Glad you asked. Here’s the publisher’s blurb for her book.
At Barinkoff Academy, there’s only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.
When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn’t realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka, the more she is plunging them all into a centuries-old feud.
Or, as the book trailer puts it (and rather well, too):
Rather fun to see her writing move through the stages, is it not? Often, when an aspiring writer is in the throes of nailing down her voice, it’s hard for her to see beyond the page in front of her — or to dream beyond holding the finished book in her hand. But a story goes through many, many more stages than that on its way to publication: the first baby steps toward showing one’s work to others, the incorporation of serious feedback, wrestling it into professional presentation format, working with an editor’s expectations, a blizzard of production decisions, and finally, unveiling it to the world.
Kate has been kind enough to join us under cover of dark to talk about all of these things — and why we should all keep the faith. Speak to your people, Kate — I’m sure they are listening intently.
Gather ‘round, campers. I’m Kate, and I will be your hostess for today. Yes, you too, Charles. *points at skeptical camper in the corner who refuses to join the group*
The awesome-sauce Anne has graciously allowed me to take over Author! Author! for this discussion, and I must say it is both a terrifying and exhilarating experience. Well, maybe more like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and hoping Superman will catch you before you splat on the very hard ground below.
Now that we’ve all gathered, I would like to begin by asking, does anyone need a bathroom break? *looks at the campers gathered* No? *claps hands once* Well, buckle up, ladies and gents, it’s going to be a long one. Please feel free to raise your hand and ask a question at any point during this discussion. I welcome them, and as one of my professors used to say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” Of course, many of my classmates got sent out of the room for testing this theory one too many times. I suggest we not do that here. *sly smile*
As you can all see from the title of this post, I am here to discuss commitment and when it’s time to cheat.
I see lots of skeptical faces in this group. But, Kate, I thought we were talking about writing today? One or many of you might be thinking.
Put away the pitchforks, folks. We are in fact discussing a few fundamentals of writing. And I’m very happy to help in any way that I can. Here comes the disclaimer: please bear in mind that I am basing what I’m sharing here with all of you based from experience. I am by far not an expert in the topic of writing and everything the profession/hobby/passion/insert-how-you-see-your-writing-here entails. It has just come to my attention that sometimes it’s easy to get attached to a single work for years without any inclinations of moving on.
Ah, I see a raised hand.
Kate, I love the story I have written. It has taken me years to write it and I will submit it over and over again, no matter how many years it takes until it finally finds a home. Are you saying I shouldn’t do that?
All good and valid points. Of course you should keep editing and submitting your work. After all, you never know when an agent or publisher would say: “Hey, there’s something here and I want to represent/publish this.”
I’m not here to dissuade any of you from improving your work. If fact, I admire your tenacity for continuing to submit. What I’m here for is to hopefully open your minds to a little sum’n sum’n on the side, if you know what I mean. *winks* Surely, as a writer, you have more than one story in you?
Yes, I see you, Tess. *points to the camper with raised hand*
Are you saying we should write more than one story at a time?
*smiles* Bingo! Gold star for Tess.
Writing is a commitment. But where is it set in stone that you should commit to just one story all your life? Surely there are a multitude of characters in your head begging for attention? But before we get into the gritty, I first want to define commitment.
According to Webster, a personal friend of mine, commitment is an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled. There are three other definitions for commitment, but for this post, we’ll stick to the sense of obligation that comes with committing. Usually, commitment is used in the context of relationships.
In this case, we will see writing as a relationship between the writer and the work. There are many times when we become attached to the work that we no longer see the forest for the trees, or the bigger picture, as some of you might say.
Still with me? *scans the crowd and nods* Okay.
There is nothing wrong with writing more than one story. By all means, I encourage it. Your first work will not begrudge you spending your time on a new WIP (work in progress) now and again. Mistresses are allowed in this union. In fact, this is one of the only times I will give you permission to cheat.
I see your shocked faces. I know. *takes a deep breath* What I’m proposing is crazy.
Kate! *someone stands in indignation* I cannot leave the story I have worked so hard on to start something new! It’s sacrilege, I say.
*raises both hands to calm the increasingly agitated crowd* I understand your concern. Please, take a seat and give me a few more minutes of your time. I never said this discussion would be an easy one. If you step away from this thinking of the possibilities, then my job here is done. I ask for nothing more. Just an open mind and a patient ear would do.
Maybe it will be easier if I immerse this discussion within the context of my personal process as a writer. It would definitely be easier for me. Write what you know, they say.
So, huddle up and give me your eyeballs. Okay, not literally. How morbid would that be? I digress.
When I decided to take my writing seriously, I began with a high fantasy YA novel entitled Queen Rising, which during years of editing evolved into an urban fantasy YA novel entitled ‘Til Death (now a trilogy contracted with Entangled Publishing). I was young and naïve when I started writing Queen Rising. I knew nothing of the publishing business, much less about writing query letters and submitting to agents and publishers.
I didn’t even know the difficulties of breaking into the high fantasy genre. I was horrible at what I was doing, hiding behind the mask of thinking I was actually walking in the right direction. But that’s something I reserve to discuss with my future shrink.
Once I finished writing Queen Rising, I was eager to submit query letters. Note what I wrote in the paragraph above: I knew nothing. This lack of knowledge led to several rejections. Discouraged by these rejections, I thought to start something new. A new story that I’d been thinking about for quite some time.
Why did you let the discouragement of rejections stop you from submitting Queen Rising? you might ask.
Well, I was young and naïve, and very sensitive for my own good. Little did I know that this moment of feeling discouraged would lead me down a better path. One that would lead to three publishing contracts with three different publishers.
As I started writing my second novel (Lunar Heat eventually evolved into Taste, available now where books are sold. Yes, I am not ashamed to plug), I made sure to do my research. I joined several websites that cater to writers. I don’t feel the need to name them here because they are not what this post is about. And I’m sure you know which ones I’m referring to. I also stumbled upon a blog called Author! Author! You might know it. *laughs*
Armed with new knowledge and a new book, I began the submission process again. And this time, while I was waiting for responses, I went back to Queen Rising and began editing. The great thing about my time away from the text (writing something new) is that it allowed me to reenter its world with fresh eyes.
If you stick with one manuscript for years on end, you potentially lose your fresh eyes because you already know what happens in every twist and turn and forget there are other possibilities within the story, new avenues to take. Since I had written Lunar Heat, I discovered different ways to plot, found answers to character motivation, and learned to develop character further, to name a few, that I didn’t know about when I was writing Queen Rising.
With each new novel you write, not only are you increasing the chances of getting published, but you are also evolving as a writer. Each story allows you to be different. To stretch your creative muscles and explore different characters, situations, and writing styles. In this case, cheating actually makes you a better lover to your first.
If your first novel is in the third person point of view, why not try writing in the first person for the next novel?
But that’s not the way I write, Kate.
That’s the point of trying something new, stretching those writing muscles. If you don’t practice, like any skill, you can become stuck and start to stagnate. This is not good for you or your writing mental health. You owe it to your sanity to explore other avenues. And in the process become a better writer because of it.
If you’re still averse to cheating on your current manuscript, let’s take a different tack: during this road to publication, I realized the one thing about writing that writers don’t often mention: The waiting.
There’s a lot of waiting involved when submitting to critique partners, agents, and editors. During this submission process, tweaking your novel on submission can be counterproductive, because anything new added would not be to the knowledge of those who have your manuscript.
I would suggest that while waiting, start a new story. That WIP you’ve been itching to write. That character who’s been bugging you for his or her own novel.
Writing is never a waste of time. If it’s something you truly enjoy, then sticking to just one story is almost like disrespecting your talent. I know there are many published writers out there who only have one book out, but we can’t all be Harper Lee. You’re doing your craft a disservice if you restrain yourself from writing something new, because you never know who will say yes to your latest WIP.
Since you already have one novel under your belt, you have the experience needed to start a second one. The confidence of having completed a novel is invaluable when starting a new WIP.
Your growth as writer can depends on the number of novels or WIPs you’re willing to explore and create. When I broke up with my agent (long and horrible story), I had in my possession four completed YA novels with a fifth on the way. Lunar Heat became Taste. Queen Rising became ‘Til Death. Blind became Reaping Me Softly. And my fourth is called Impulse.
Believe it or not, I submitted all of them at the same time…to different people, of course. When one agent rejected one novel, I would submit the next, which helped me maximize the chances of receiving partial and full submission requests. Because of this method, Taste is with Crescent Moon Press and out now. ‘Til Death is a trilogy with Entangled. Reaping Me Softly is another trilogy with Omnific Publishing. Impulse is currently on full submission with Entangled.
It was because I took a chance in writing something new that now all the novels I have written so far have found a home. This is what can happen to you too. *smiles at everyone*
Hide those skeptical faces, ladies and gents. Having more than one novel to offer definitely increases your chances of getting published. Once one door opens for one of your novels, the rest will follow.
There is nothing wrong with taking a chance on writing something new. It doesn’t mean your abandoning your first novel. It means you’re gaining experience so when you return to your first novel you are a whole different writer, a better writer, which could only benefits everyone involved.
So, campers, if I haven’t shocked you into a fainting swoon, switch genres. Explore the possibilities.
You don’t need to commit to just one novel. There are many, many more that you could write, that you could develop. In this commitment, it doesn’t have to be “‘til death do us part.” Open up your relationship. Cheating is very much encouraged because you never know what your new fling might bring.
I end this discussion with a parting thought…well, more like a parting hope: start your new novel today. I can’t repeat it enough.
Okay, that’s about it for my stay here at Author! Author! It’s been a blast sharing my experiences with all of you wonderful campers. *smiles and waves*
I would like to take this moment to thank Anne, not only for allowing me to crash the party today, but for all her guidance. Anne, your posts are invaluable to writers. I wouldn’t have achieved my goals without learning from you. And I don’t think I would have been published without the wonderful insights your blog has given me. Thank you, thank you, thank you! *tackle hugs*
When Kate Evangelista was told she had a knack for writing stories, she did the next best thing: entered medical school. After realizing she wasn’t going to be the next Doogie Howser, M.D., Kate wandered into the Literature department of her university and never looked back. Today, she is in possession of a piece of paper that says to the world she owns a Literature degree. To make matters worse, she took Master’s courses in creative writing.
In the end, she realized to be a writer, none of what she had mattered. What really mattered? Writing. Plain and simple, honest to God, sitting in front of her computer, writing. Today, she has four completed Young Adult novels.