12 October 2011

My First RTW: Keep Calm and Write On

In honor of YA Highway's 100th Road Trip Wednesday, I am participating in my very first RTW! :)

Before, I always either couldn't think up of a good answer to the prompt or couldn't make time to participate (there's a reason why I only blog once a week)...but this time I HAD to because 1.) I love YA Highway and 2.) The prompt had me thinking...and reminiscing...

So, yes. My writing road trip. It's certainly not been a smooth/continuous one, since for all of the 8-9 years I've been writing, I have been in school, whether that be elementary, middle, or high school. I've always had to stop every once in a while when I had to focus more on school and not writing, but I always somehow was able to come back to it, usually over the vacations or weekends.

I started my first novel in fourth grade. It was about these two children who had to go down to the basement to do some chores but ended up being transported into another planet (OCTORA, PLANET OF THE EIGHT. LOL...I can't believe I still remember that) when the stairs collapsed beneath their feet. They end up traversing through a field of blue roses and red violets (clearly, I already had a love for irony back then) with dangerously soporific scents, being chased by carnivorous fur-ball monsters, and being recruited by sky pirates in order to defeat this evil queen (who was actually--SPOILER--the sister of the captain of the sky pirate ship...who was secretly a prince that chose to be a pirate rather than a king).

(And you thought the novels I write NOW were complicated. LOL.)

I sadly never finished it, though...most likely because I wrote this by hand in a Spongebob spiral notebook and basically stopped when I ran out of pages.

Then came an assortment projects here and there, which included a detailed look into the rebel-prince-pirate's childhood, a virtual reality fighting competition, and elementals.

"But wait," you may be wondering. "What about the demons? Doesn't this girl always write about demons?"

...it all started when I was twelve. After trashing my elemental idea, I decided to write a YA novel (I was devouring YA novels left and right by then), finished it, and started querying it two years later. This is one of the queries I sent out (I still have all of them--and the rejections!--saved in my inbox LOL):

Dear ___,

I read your listing in Publisher's Marketplace and thought that you might be
interested in taking a look at my 71,445 word fantasy young adult

Aurora Han, a half-Korean, half-white sophomore who wanted nothing in
the world other than a good GPA, is thrown into a war between Angels
and Demons when she is kidnapped and imprisoned in Eden, the land of
Demons and other creatures of the night. There, she meets and falls in
love with Sebastian, a Demon who has been genetically engineered to
destroy her and the rest of the human race. With the help of Sebastian
and her best friend Fia, Aurora must develop her powers and find a way
to rescue her sister from the Demons, whom she has unwittingly joined.

To be honest with you, I am soon to be fourteen years old. However, I
have been writing for the past six years and have won many local
poetry contests and had an essay published in Creative Communication's
"Celebrating What is Important to Me."

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time and

So obviously, I made a lot of mistakes such as not rounding my word-count and actually mentioning my age. I got 25 rejections and one partial request. The agent later on declined, leaving very helpful notes but basically saying that the main problem was my MC, who she didn't think was relatable.

I was devastated. But since the agent said that she loved the MC's best friend, I decided to rewrite the novel, basically throwing out the original MC and replacing her with another one. (It was actually pretty hilarious because as I was writing it, I couldn't get over the fact that Sebastian was totally cheating on the previous MC...). I finished but decided to trunk it, just because by then I'd lost all hope of getting that particular project published.

And then came AMARANTH. (And yes, that was my old blog--the one I imported into my Blogger one this year.)

But about half-way into the book, I stopped. Why? Pressure. Pressure to write "the perfect book," pressure to write about what would catch agents' attention, etc. Granted, I wasn't agented and didn't have any obligations like that, but I felt pressure from myself about writing this novel. I felt this stupid need to do everything right. As a result, I kept deleting scenes/adding more scenes/correcting random grammar mistakes until I developed this major writer's block and ended up ditching that project for another one I was writing for fun.

Yes. I was writing another novel for fun to get over the stress/pressure of another novel.

And that novel was NOCTURNE. I basically threw all the rules out the window for that one. My MC was a guy. And not just a guy, but this angsty high-school drop-out who collected souls from a demon and has his douchey moments. I wrote in third person (before, I always wrote in first person because I was afraid third-person wouldn't be marketable enough...or something). I included edgy elements that I would have never DARED to add in my previous novels. And by doing all this, I started writing the novel my sixteen-year-old self would want to read, as opposed to what I thought would sell.

 And the best part? I couldn't stop writing.

It actually got to the point that I was basically ditching all my friends and going into the library during lunch to write NOCTURNE, since I knew I wouldn't have time to write at home with all the AP classes I was torturing myself with taking. I spent entire vacations writing NOCTURNE. I woke up thinking about what to write next and went to bed reflecting on what I'd just written that day. And once the first draft was finished, I revised, found myself a critique group, participated in Write On Con, and basically did everything I could ever think of doing in order to make my novel better.

And so here I am, now. A senior in high school. Finishing up revisions and submitting to agents.

I'm not sure whether or not NOCTURNE will make it out there. I'm not sure if I'm even going to get a partial request that the agent actually responds to. But I'm slowly submitting, taking the time to learn more and more about the publishing world and getting to know a few friends along the way, as opposed to being the horse-with-eye-blinders I was back when I started this journey. And I think I'm much happier this way.

Hopefully some day, I will not only get an agent for my novel but will also see it published. But even if it doesn't go that far, I won't have any regrets on spending so much time working on it/trying to submit it since through my efforts, I've learned A LOT about the industry, learned how to be a better writer, and last but not least, found an AWESOME community of fellow writers that knows exactly how it feels to get a form rejection, to have writer's block, to juggle real-life with writing, and to go on submissions. (By the way, in case you don't get the message, this means I LOVE YOU ALL <3)

No longer am I afraid of failure as a writer. In fact, I already have another novel planned and ready to go for NaNoWriMo. It might take me months or years or decades, but I will keep on writing, keep on submitting. Because that's what being a writer is all about.


  1. I completely agree! Writing is all about trying and failing but then trying again until you succeed! I don't think you learn as much if you get published on a first try. Great post and good luck in NaNoWriMo!

  2. ^ This. All of this.

    My first queries were AWFUL. I mean BAD. Bahaha, I did the "mentioning my age" thing, too. Horrible idea.

    But I think you hit the nail on the head--as soon as you start writing what you want to read, it makes the whole process so much easier. Half the time I'm convinced the only reason I wrote TN is because I can't find anything else like it.

    Also: Before this summer, I wasn't involved with the online writing community. Like, at all. Like, I didn't even realize it existed. And I don't understand how I wrote anything decent before I found you all. X_X

  3. I'm impressed, Lyla! It sounds like you know where you're going and how to get there. It probably gets old hearing people commend you "considering your age"--but since I have a daughter your age, I can't help going there. What's really great, though, is that writing is not age-sensitive. Agents and publishers don't care how old you are--it's the story that matters. All the best to you! :)

  4. This is awesome! I especially love your first novel-in-a-sponge-bob-notebook! It sounds very adventuresome and fun and exciting! LOL!

    You go, Lyla! You'll get there yet.

  5. That was wonderful. :) Your Writer's Block novel reminds me of my first-ever (It didn't get finished). :P

    I bet Nocturne'll do great. If not, you'll write another. :)

  6. I'm sneaking back over here to say I gave you an award over on my blog. ^_^

  7. Hi. New follower. I've seen you commenting on Leigh Ann and Gina's blogs, so I'd thought I would swing by.

    I'm doing NaNo this year too--super excited about that!

  8. Um. How did I not realize you were a SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL?

    Where are you going to college? (Please say Ohio State.)

    Ahem. Also, your fifteen-year-old request rate was about the same as my twenty-nine-year old one. So that pretty much rules.

    So glad I'm (officially!) following!

  9. What a wonderful and inspiring story! I'm glad you're sharing it. I think your experiences will help a lot of others.

    Nice to meet you, by the way!



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