Last week I got a bit of bad writing-related news. While the news had nothing to do with publishing (so don't worry!) it did mess up some of my plans which had been in the works for over a year.
So that sucked.
After I got over the initial shock and disappointment, however, it forced me to really reprioritize my projects and consider what the best next step was for my writing career.
The answer was honestly easy enough: finish revising the manuscript I've been working on forever so I can get it to my CPs and agent.
Having a productive response to bad news helped me feel better about it. I spent a day just a couple days after I got the news completely dedicated to revising that manuscript. I didn't finish, but I hit the halfway point, and I think I should be able to pound out the rest of the revisions with another dedicated day or two.
You can't always control the way various writing opportunities come and go, and there are a lot of external factors that are entirely out of our control. But you can control the way you respond, because ultimately, writing the next book is what matters.
How do you deal with writerly disappointments? Twitter-sized bite:
How do you deal with writerly disappointments? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)
I've been thinking, lately, about how much of myself I put into my characters.
It used to be more subtle. With Eros, I put a lot of my own struggles feeling between cultures as a pale Latinx person navigating Cuban and Mexican identities while benefitting from light-skin privilege, and frequently being assumed to be white. With Kora, I put my own experience of feeling overburdened with responsibilities as a young person, and what it's like to live with that kind of pressure.
With the projects I'm working on now, it's not so subtle. And I like it that way.
I'm currently juggling three projects that I'll be tackling in different stages after The Rising Gold is completely done. All three of them feature Latinx, trans masculine protagonists. Their stories, personalities, worlds and experiences are all different, but they have that in common and I'm delighted that they do.
But long before I'd come to terms with my trans masculinity, writing was quietly teaching me about myself.
Before I began actively questioning my gender identity, I gave myself "permission" to learn about trans masculine people by writing a manuscript about a trans guy. It was a terrible manuscript and will probably never come out of the trunk ever, but at the time I needed that excuse of "this is research for a book" to feel safe enough research and learn.
Around that time I also wrote a Mulan-esque "girl disguises herself as a boy" story, in which the protagonist realizes she's much more comfortable with a masculine presentation than she ever was with a feminine one. That's another WIP that will stay trunked for reasons, but I wrote that WIP—and most tellingly, a scene where she cuts her hair off, looks in the mirror and really sees herself for the first time—something like six months before I did that very same thing myself. Before I was even actively considering cutting my hair so short.
I look back at my writing and laugh because so much of what I was unconsciously keeping quiet was there in my work, completely unintentionally. Writing gave me permission to explore boundaries that felt off-limits in my everyday life, and for that, I'm incredibly grateful.
Writing taught me about myself long before I knew just how much there was left to learn.
Now my choice of characters and themes are absolutely purposeful. But it feels good—really good—to put the things that have been not-so-quietly living in my head on the page. And I hope, one day, others like me will get to read it and think look, it's me.
Has writing taught you anything about yourself? Twitter-sized bite:
Has writing taught you anything about yourself? @Ava_Jae opens up about how their writing helped them discover their trans masculinity. (Click to tweet)
Judging by the various critiques I've done over the years, point of view, it seems, trips a lot of writers up. It's easy enough to understand why—when you come up with a great cast of characters, it can be tempting to think the more perspectives in the story, the more readers will connect with characters—and therefore, the story. Furthermore, exploring different character perspectives can be a great way to get to know the characters, which then makes it much easier to write them as fully realized people in your novel.
Only problem is too many POVs in a novel can make a story confusing, unfocused, and leave writers connecting with no one at all. But how many perspectives are too many?
The truth is, there isn't a magic number, because it's going to vary novel-to-novel. But the key to figuring it out is answering this question:
Whose story is this novel?
This requires paring down to the core of your story. It means thinking about what the story is really about and who the story is really about. Usually the answer will be one, maybe two characters, but sometimes the answer will be a little bigger than that. That's fine, the key is to just be honest with yourself when you answer the question.
Remember, when it comes to novel-writing, readers rarely need the perspectives of various periphery characters in order to understand the story. Sometimes—I'd wager many times—a minimal approach really works best.
How do you determine who your novel is really about? Twitter-sized bite:
How many POVs are too many? And how can you tell? @Ava_Jae breaks down this common WIP problem. (Click to tweet)
Like many writers, I juggle a lot of things at once.
Right now I have grad school. A part-time job. Freelance editing. And I'm an author with an active social media presence.
This month, alongside my regular responsibilities (the part time job, freelancing, social media things, everyday life stuff, etc.) I also had my third book due to my editor, as well as two essays. I tackled the book three revisions by doing what I know my brain does best: binge editing, in which I literally dedicated an entire day to revisions until it was done. That worked really well and allowed me to get that major responsibility out of the way so I could then focus on...everything else.
I won't pretend it's perfect—the stress has literally made my chronic illness flare up multiple times this month. But as I'm nearing the light at the end of the tunnel I'm feeling as though it might just be possible to do everything I need. Hopefully.
I still have all the other things due. But I've been realizing, as of late, the way I have to handle things is one at a time. I feel a little lighter knowing I got one major deadline down, and now I'm tackling the rest with new energy. And I'm thinking that maybe I should handle the some of my responsibilities the same way.
I compartmentalize a lot, but as I'm often juggling A Lot, I've found that it's really how my brain works best. If I can focus on one aspect at a time, and ignore the others while I'm getting one thing done, then I don't get overwhelmed with the mountain of things I need to tackle. And with each completed compartment, I feel even more prepared to handle the next.
This is going to work for everyone, obviously. But it's how I've been handling what is essentially four jobs, this semester, and I think I'm going to implement it even more as I go on. Because figuring out what strategies work best for your brain can go a long way toward not dropping all the balls at once.
Do you compartmentalize? Twitter-sized bite:
How do you juggle multiple, major responsibilities while still meeting your deadlines? @Ava_Jae shares their experience. (Click to tweet)
I'm currently in the middle of revisions for both The Rising Gold and my #ownvoices project, so to say I have revision on the brain is an understatement. I use a couple programs to keep me on target and keep track of my progress, including:
Scrivener. I do all my first drafting and a big chunk of my revisions—any revisions before I send my project to my agent and/or editor, basically—in Scrivener. I like how I can visually track what I've added with different colors, so I can watch the unfolding development just through the colors in my manuscript. Plus Scrivener makes big picture edits—edits that involve moving scenes around or deleting them entirely—a lot easier because you can edit through the cork board.
myWriteClub. I still use myWriteClub to track my revisions! I enjoy having progress bars so I can see how much I've done, and it helps particularly on those days when I feel like I've worked hard but made little (or not enough) progress.
Tide. This is a new app I've added to my arsenal thanks to Katie Locke! This app basically has a timer and focus mode, where you work while the timer is going and then take a break when the time is up. If I'm having trouble focusing, it sometimes helps me shut out the distraction of my phone and focus on my work in snippets. Unrelatedly, I've started using the sleep mode too that has calming sounds to lull you to sleep then wakes you up with birds singing, which is kinda nice.
What programs do you use to revise? Twitter-sized bites:
What programs do you use to revise? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)
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