Books Before They’re Books

Inspired by fellow 2015 debut, Adam Silvera, here’s a look at where my books are pieced together.

photoI have a journal for each of my manuscripts. I bring them around and jot down notes/ideas/scenes as they come to me. The full book isn’t written in them (i’m a much faster typer), but they have a ton of details I like to go back and look at.

On the left is, obviously, the one for TNWSY. My friend Katie got it for me because it’s circus themed. Before it tragically lost its cover, it said “reach for the sky, be adventurous,” which is kind of fitting for writing your first novel.

The middle one is for my second contracted book with HarperCollins (more on that later, but yes, I have a second book set to be published-!!!!-it’s also a YA contemporary, and this one takes place in Tallahassee because I clearly only like to write about places I’ve lived in). My friend Sarah got it for me. It’s blue and thick and hasn’t lost its cover…yet.

The one on the right is for something I’m currently working on. My friend Michelle got it for me, and the story is fun and sweet like her.

I used a journal I bought myself once, and the manuscript fell apart. So i’ve decided to only use ones given to me, because then I associate the person with the book. And I wouldn’t want to let my friends down, right?

So those are my books. And it’s weird thinking that inside them lies actual books that one day will see the light of day. (And the inside of a library!)

It’s All In The Details

There’s a minor character in TNWSY that works at a mini-golf course. He hands people their clubs and oftentimes has to fish discarded balls out of the small lake by hole #9. He has to wear khaki shorts and a green polo shirt everyday, and he sweats through both in the Florida heat. He doesn’t like the job much, but it’s a job.

None of that is in the book.

It’s weird knowing that much about a minor character, right? I brainstormed a scene that included all of that, but never wrote it. It just didn’t fit in the end. So the character’s back story (and related scene) never came to fruition. Readers of the book won’t know about it. And yet, I know about it.

There are so many extra details that go into book that might never be read. Be it scenes never written or moments edited it out, there are always these little bits hanging around the writer’s mind and, possibly. computer. And I have so many of them!

Sometimes I forget what was cut, and just assume a certain part is still in the story because I know it so well. I assume everyone will know a main character’s favorite song because I know his favorite song.

Maybe i’ll reveal some of these things once the book is out – i’d like to, really, because otherwise they’re small details lost.

Or maybe I won’t and I’ll let readers decide where said character works in order to pay for dates with his girlfriend. Who knows. Books belong to their readers, right?

Forget How You Found Us

photo-3A bit ago I mentioned contributing to a book called FORGET HOW YOU FOUND US, part of Burrow Press’ 15 Views of Orlando series. Well, the book is out and I received my author copies yesterday! I’m in a book! So exciting!

photo 2

A bit about the project:

Burrow Press, an Orlando publisher, started a series called 15 Views of Orlando, where 15 writers each contribute their own chapter, with each chapter taking place in a different part of Orlando. The chapters, though separate, must somehow continue the story, whether by elaborating on a character, a location, a theme, etc. So, when writing, there’s no outline, no concrete plot. The first writer creates their chapter, then the second tacks his or hers on. The cool part is that writers have no idea where the plot is going once their chapter is contributed, and have no say in how the story – or even the character they create – concludes.

I had the privilege of writing the epilogue, so I was able to read the entire thing. It was weird, concluding a story that I didn’t create, and utilizing characters that started out as other people’s creations. But also extremely fun, because it was a challenge. It was something new and unique. And the plot? So different from the stuff I usually write.

And so, the book is out! It’s so neat seeing my name in print, and only adds to the bubbling thrill of TNWSY’s release next year. I’m so honored to be a part of the publication, with all the other talented authors, and can’t wait to hear what people think.

Here’s the synopsis for the book:

Forget How You Found Us is a loosely linked literary portrait of Orlando, FL as told by the city’s best writers. The stories within follow Olivia and Sabrina, two teenage sisters brand new to the “golf course community” of Lake Nona. Olivia is tired of living in the shadow of her older sister’s rebellion. Since the move, their only communication has been through notes and poems written in each other’s journals. But when Sabrina runs away from home, and Olivia’s only friend mysteriously disappears, a sequence of strange events follow both sisters, as well as a peripheral cast of characters that includes the distraught mother of the missing girl, the groundskeeper of the Kerouac House, a homeless bridge troll, and William S. Burroughs.

Read the first chapter here (which was written by a high school student, as part of the publisher’s literary outreach).

Editing Process: Step Two

(A continuation of my “editing process” series for TNWSY.)

“Dee, turn it up!”

That was the first line I ever wrote in my very first variation of TNWSY. I won’t even say draft because it was merely a scene, not even a chapter. In the end, I didn’t use much from that first bit of writing, mostly just the setting (a bedroom) and the two girls talking, but even their names changed. (There is no “Dee” anymore.)

But, somehow, in all of the drafts and revisions and edits and craziness, that line remained. It’s not the first line, but it’s still in the book. Which is kind of cool, at least to me.

Because currently I’m going through my book another time. There are line edits now, corrections and suggestions in track changes for me to go through and revise. I like these kinds of edits because I know exactly what my editor is looking for. It’s not “elaborate on this theme,” It’s “elaborate on this scene.” It assures me that the rest of the book is succeeding, and that there’s still a chance to make small moments bigger, better. And after going through all of the edits and thoughts, I’m super happy to be with the editor I have because she gets it. And that’s really awesome.

In theory, this might be my last revision before copyedits, so I’m a bit nervous about making everything as perfect as possible. I suppose we’ll see.

But as I go through it and see how things have changed and evolved from that first draft, I smile whenever I find an original piece. Because it all started from a thought, a line, and now here it is. It was a simple note played once, and now it’s a full song getting ready to be heard. It’s bigger, better, louder.

Turn it up, indeed.

Color My Shelf – Part 2

Here are the results of my highly unscientific study hinted at in my previous post.

I decided to test out two things in my study: how fast multicultural books go that have said ethnic characters on the cover (face covers), and how fast multicultural books go that have no hinting at all about their ethnicity on the cover (non-face covers). The books pulled were random, I just wanted books that weren’t extremely popular at my library (such as Clockwork Prince). I had no preference to titles nor nationalities, though I did want a range of genres (fantasy, contemporary, etc.) and nationalities. Unfortunately, nationalities were hard to find. (Note: I KNOW there are a lot more than these titles, these were the ones that were in stock. As mentioned, this was not very scientific.)

First, the face books:

  • Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (Japanese)
  • Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (Cambodian)
  • My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman (Jewish/Indian)
  • Liar by Justine Larbalestier (Black)
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick (Nepali)
  • Spirit’s Princess (Princesses of Myth) by Esther Friesner (Japanese)
  • Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald (Mixed race, black/white)
  • Transcendence by C.J. Omololu (Black)
  • Joseph by Shelia P. Moses (Black)
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst (Honestly, I’m not sure, but the cover is beautiful.)

Now the non-face books:

  • The Vow by Jessica Martinez (Jordonian)
  • Death Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez (Hispanic)
  • Good Enough by Paula Yoo (Korean)
  • The Living by Matt De La Peña (Hispanic)
  • He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander (Black)

Before I discuss what happened, here’s some information about my branch library. It’s located by a university, and also surrounded by both richer and poorer developments. According to SimplyMap, and the 2010 census, the area is 39.25% Hispanic, 6.49% Asian, .53% American Indian, 12.43% Black, 69.77% White, and 6.79% other. I realize this does not add up to 100% – a large portion of our population marked two or more races on the census. Also, the general population does not reflect the library’s population, but you get it.

Anyway. The face books (of which there were more) were placed on the top of the display, with the non-face books placed below them. This was due to my theory: non-face books would check out first, so I gave priority to the others. This is what I’ve seen in the past, at least, when placing these books out on display. Once they were out, I patiently waited.

To my surprise (and delight) in the first day, the following titles were checked out: Never Fall Down and Sold. Two face books taken by two different patrons! As books were checked out, they were not replaced, I just waited for the display to empty.

The following day, the first of the non-face covers was checked out: Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia. That same day, Liar and My Basmati Bat Mitzvah also went. Again, more face covers!

By the end of the three days, there were three titles remaining in each category: Battle Royale, Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood, and Spirity Chosen from the face books, and The Vow, The Living, and Good Enough from the non-face covers. Yes, three and three, but still, the face covers were going faster.

I had the display up for a week, and by the last day the only titles remaining were Battle Royale and The Living. By the end of that day, The Living found a home. This surprised me quite a bit, because I thought both books would have gone much sooner. Sadly, I shelved Battle Royale and analyzed what happened.

Books were checked out. Books were wanted, and liked. My initial thoughts, due to previous experiences, that these face books wouldn’t go was disproved. Whatever the reason, they were wanted, and I was really pleased about that. And the fact that they went faster than the non-face covers was extremely interesting.

Clearly there is a demand for these books, if even in the smallest sense. They are checked out, they are looked at (and, as it seems, patrons seem to prefer people on their covers)!

As a follow-up, I looked back at some of the titles we weeded and found something incredibly telling – the majority of the multicultural ones were historical. Sure those books are great, too, but it seems like the majority of the popular books are contemporary or fantasy or dystopian or science fiction. Readers want multicultural characters of today. They want them in books they can relate to, not older tales. Again, not a scientific observation, but still one that’s worth mentioning.

So what does this mean for my library? The other books are still more popular, as our checkouts show, but clearly there’s a demand for these. I’ll definitely be displaying more of them each week. I’d like to do this experiment again in the future and see if the findings change. I’d like to get more titles similar to these, too, because clearly they’re appreciated. And I’d like to thank the authors for writing these characters that my patrons  want to read.