Posts in Brightly Woven
The Comic Con One

Hi y'all!  Sorry for not dropping in on Sunday or Monday (I'm trying to establish an actual blogging schedule with limited success), but I was busy, busy, busy trying to finish the story I've been working on since last October!  And I did!  Last night, around 12:30 in the morning. I decided to suck it up and push through to the end, even though I've been feeling under the weather and I kept turning around to gaze mournfully at my bed. I'm really proud of myself for finishing this one--I'm allowed to say that without looking like a d-bag, right?  I've had the idea in the back of my mind since 2009, but I didn't start working on it until Columbus Day weekend last year (when I took a research trip to Boston).  I was going to be all dodgy and secretive about it, but I flat-out said it was Middle Grade in that post and, well, no use pretending.

That's really why I'm proud that I finished it--writing MG is out of my comfort zone, but I wanted the challenge after feeling a little burnt out on YA.  I honestly have no idea if I actually succeeded. Initially, I really struggled with the stylistic changes you have to make to write for a younger audience.  I tend to be a long-winded writer both on a micro sentence level and a macro storytelling level, so it was an uphill battle to change my usual syntax.  It ended up being 65,000 words (just under 250 pages) which is still a bit long for MG, but, hey, that's 100,000 words shorter than the first draft of the last book I finished (she says, trying not to cry).

In any case, it needs a bit more polishing and time to settle before I talk about it, but--I'm excited!  Finish it was one of the goals I had for October, so I'm actually ahead of schedule. Even if it all comes to nothing, I learned a lot about writing MG and I'm really fond of the characters and story.

(I was going to write some slick transition here, but I'm feeling pretty miserable/not-so-clever/headache-y today. This morning on the subway train--which, of course, was running "at slower speeds due to an earlier incident"--I started feeling REALLY ill. I woke up thinking, "I should probably call in sick to work today," but in the two years I've worked here I've never taken a single sick day... and, well, this girl has pride.  Anyway, bad choice.  I felt worse and worse and worse when I transferred to the Q, and, lemme tell you, there are few places worse when you're sick than a super hot, super crowded train.  I started stripping off my scarf, my coat, my knit vest to try to cool off, but I could feel the sweat pouring off me. And all I kept thinking was, YOU WILL NOT BE THE SICK PASSENGER, BRACKEN.  YOU WILL NOT HOLD UP THIS TRAIN BY PASSING OUT, NOT AFTER SO MANY JUDGE-Y TWEETS ABOUT SICK PASSENGERS GETTING ON TRAINS.

This is when the train stopped all together and I basically gave up on life and set my purse and lunch bag down on the ground so I could lean against the pole and puke on the evil person sitting directly in front of me, watching all this happen, and not offering me the chance to sit down.  A girl a few seats down finally got up and thank God for that--I think I was two seconds away from sitting my ass down on the floor of the car to avoid falling onto it.  So yeah, not a super fun day.)

I just wanted to remind you guys that this week is NEW YORK COMIC CON WEEK!!

I would LOVE to meet you guys if you're attending!

Friday, October 12th

11:00 AM-12:00 PM. Disney Publishing Worldwide Booth 1132

I'll be signing THE DARKEST MINDS galleys in the Disney Hyperion Booth alongside Dan Krokos (author of FALSE MEMORY).

1:30--2:30 PM, 1A14  PASSION, POWER, AND PARANORMALS! Panel

Authors Keri Arthur, Maureen Johnson, Tahereh Mafi, Tonya Hurley, Margaret Stohl, Dan Krokos, Alexandra Bracken, and Kalayna Price discuss the inclusion of romantic elements in their action-packed novels. If dating the undead wasn’t tricky enough, these protagonists must also battle the forces of evil while trying to keep their sanity and the world safe from destruction. Moderator Jocelyn Davies will have the authors divulging the steamy details behind creating their characters and their tricky love affairs.

1. Keri Arthur (Beneath a Darkening Moon) 2. Maureen Johnson (The Shades of London series) 3. Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me) 4. Tonya Hurley (The Blessed) 5. Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures) 6. Dan Krokos (False Memory) 7. Alexandra Bracken (The Darkest Minds) 8. Kalayna Price (Alex Craft Novels) MODERATOR: Jocelyn Davies (A Beautiful Dark and A Fractured Light, Editor at Razorbill)
(I'm SO excited about this panel... and super, super nervous!  Luckily Jocelyn is captain of this ship, so I know we're in good hands and the audience is in for a real treat.)
3:15 – 4:15, Autographing Tables 2,3 and 4 Panel Autographing
I'll be signing BRIGHTLY WOVEN after the panel ends, but I'll have a few copies of THE DARKEST MINDS to give out, and--if the shipping gods smile down on me--TDM postcard-sized prints I can sign for you, too.
The Long One

FIRSTLY... I'm late with this, but I just want to send out a HUGE congratulations to my friend and critique partner, Sarah J. Maas!! Her debut novel, Throne of Glass, released yesterday earlier this month (oy. It has taken me three weeks to finish this one entry.). I am SO thrilled for her! This book has been ten years in the making, and to see it finally hit the shelves makes me super emotional and sappy. Check it:

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I absolutely cannot talk this book--or Sarah--up enough. I mean, do you like any of the following?

- Well-rounded characters - Detailed, richly imagined settings - Lovely writing - Bad ass heroines - Swoony love interest(s) - Fighting! - Mystery! - Magic! - Courtly intrigue! - Girl friendship! - Did I mention MAGIC?!

THEN THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU.

When I read an earlier draft of what was then called Queen of Glass, I immediately fell in love with Celaena, the heroine of Throne of Glass. Not just because she is, indeed, bad ass when you hand her a weapon, or because she's always quick with a clever retort, or the fact that she's strong enough to survive slavery in truly punishing and horrific salt mines, but because... she's not perfect. She's the kind of character that, despite her training and upbringing, has a strong moral compass and tries hard to do the right thing even in the most dire of circumstances--but she can also be arrogant about her abilities and a little vain. There's so much to love about Celaena from the start, and you have an immediate sense of her potential for greatness. My favorite scenes with Celaena are those small moments in which you see her cherish something she really loves--there's this moment in the fourth novella that completely captures this, but to tell you about it would, of course, be a huge spoiler. :)

Okay, so, starting this entry with Sarah is actually perfect, because it dovetails nicely into something we both (depending on your point of view) excel at/struggle with, which is: word count. Sarah and I both write long books. LOOOOOOONG books. As in, our first drafts tend to be on the cray-cray end of the word count scale. The first draft of The Darkest Minds was just over 150,000 words. The final manuscript was just over 130,000 words (496 type-set pages). The first draft of Brightly Woven was about 130,000 words, if I remember correctly, and ended up being between 70,000 and 80,000 in the end.

Sarah has me waaaay beat, though--the original draft of Throne of Glass (then  Queen of Glass) was 240,000 words!

Why do I bring this up now? Well, because I finally finished a draft of Sequel. And that draft was...

(Editor Emily, look away, look away!)

187,000 words.

187,000 f'ing words.

How long is that page count-wise? Well over 600 pages. I actually had to adjust the font size to 11.5 so I wouldn't have a panic attack every time I opened the document. I think I actually wrote the last 100 odd pages over the course of a two week long panic attack. I am surprised that those pages are even coherent, considering all I wanted to do was crawl under my bed and never crawl back out. Writing this book has been THE most frustrating writing experience of my life. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting to hit the end of the book, only to find that I needed to insert another scene to flesh out this relationship or connect the dots on the plot. I write long books--but 187,000 words is too long, even for me.

I cut just shy of 15,000 words through line editing alone. Some of the length is just me overwriting: using repetitive descriptions, choreographing every single character's move in every scene, unnecessary adverbs.  I've talked before about how difficult writing a sequel is; it took me a good 100 pages before I even figured out who the new characters were, and what the actual story should be about. But most of the length is just the result of over-plotting. And by that I mean... there's just too much story.

One of the earliest critiques I got about my writing (I believe for Brightly Woven) was that the initial drafts felt too "episodic," meaning that while they did build up to a climax, it was slow-going and every step along the way didn't necessarily lead toward that end goal.  I'm naturally inclined to writing stories about physical journeys--Syd and North have to travel across their country, the Black Betty crew is looking for East River--so this usually takes the form of me spending too much time getting them where they need to go.  Too many little, self-contained scenes, too many steps along the way--basically, if BW or TDM were TV series, I was writing filler episodes.

I'm aware of it now when I write and I try very hard to avoid it, but sometimes I just can't think of a way to condense two locations into one, or slip in key components of one conversation into another one.  I'm very grateful for Emily and Laura, who are geniuses when it comes to stuff like this (Editors: They Work!).  Likewise, I try to pay attention to the physical shape of the book, too.  By that I mean... okay, let me give you an example:

Let's say Character A is searching desperately for Character B, traveling around his/her country, trying to follow various different leads.  It won't feel like a struggle to the reader if Character A sets off looking for Character B on page 50 only to find him/her on page 60.  I mean, unless Poor A has to cross volcanic pits and fight their way through a family of hungry jungle cats in those 10 pages.

I find it very disorienting, too, not to give a sense of time passing--it's hard for my brain to really buy that a story is taking place over years or months if it's a slim novel.

 

Anyway, I'd better finish this up here and now before I write you all a novel-length post and/or it takes me another three weeks to get around to posting it.  More from me later including a recap of my recent Virginia adventure and some reading recommendations :)

 

The One About Sequels (Pt. 2)

All of this sequel talk had an unforeseen consequence for me--it brought up more questions about whether or not Brightly Woven will ever have a sequel. To put it simply, probably not.

There are a couple of reasons for this, and none of them are that I'm bored or tired of the story/characters, or that I have no idea what the sequel would be about.  When I sat down and wrote and rewrote and continue to rewrite and revise BW, I had, in the back of my mind, the plot for at least one more book that would have tied up loose ends.

I realize this confusion is all my fault--I'm the one that intentionally left the ending of BW partly open. The editor who worked on the book with me really tried to get me to wrap everything up with a neat bow and I resisted, both because I tend to hate endings like that, and because I wanted to leave the option to continue open in the future.  But the truth is, I don't think my publisher was ever all that interested in a sequel, and I'm not sure they will ever be.  BW did pretty well for itself, thanks mostly to enthusiasm from readers and bloggers, and I'm forever grateful for it.  But the hard truth of the matter is that even though I get questions about it almost every day, there really just isn't a big enough demand for a sequel to go back and get everyone (including me) working on the project again.  And I realize there's always the option to self-publish, but I'm a real believer in traditional publishing, and, well:

There's also the not-so-small fact that I'm under contract to write the two sequels to The Darkest Minds through next year.  These are big books.  They are long.  I'm at 40,000 words on Sequel, and it's probably only a third of the way done.  I work full time in publishing, which means my writing time is limited to whenever I get home from work, totally exhausted, and weekends.  When I say I don't have time to write a sequel at the moment, I really mean it.  Even if I sat right down and started working on it right this minute, you wouldn't see it until 2015.

And... well, the truth is, I feel very distanced from BW.  I started writing it five years ago, and I'm not convinced it would be easy to just pick up right where I left off.  The other day I was reading a blog review (!! The fact that it still gets reviewed, two years later, is incredible) and the blogger quoted a section of the book that I did not remember AT ALL.  I know that's awful to admit, but my brain is truly elsewhere.  It still loves Syd and North and thinks about them out in the desert trying to make cabbage grow, but my brain moved on even before I did emotionally because it had to. Brains are sort of pragmatic about this kind of stuff.

I've said this a few times before, but I think it's helpful to reiterate: the only part of the sequel I have written is the epilogue.  I've always thought it would make for a good little charity/silent auction piece, and if time ever allows for it, I WILL offer up some kind of short story in their world.  Eventually.  One day.

The One at Home, at last

Hey! It's been a while, huh? First things first: Brightly Woven is now out in paperback! I can't believe it, and wish I had something half intelligent to say about it. For now, all I can say is: AHHHHHHHHHH! My sweet little bookie wook, in a lovely new format. ♥

On the Black is the Color related front, I turned in my first round of revisions a few weeks back and I'm still waiting to hear what my editor thinks (nervous!). No cover or official description or anything of that nature, but I thought, since I've been getting questions about this, that I'd point out that the book has sold in the following territories: Germany, Poland, Australia/New Zealand, Thailand, Spain, Russia, and, today, France! I always feel weird about announcing stuff like this, but I do keep track of the publishers (and will update the list with pub dates and covers as I get them) here on the story's page.

SO! This past week-ish, I was in New Orleans for the American Library Association's Annual conference. I can't really describe the experience in a word, or even fifty, but it was crazy, and busy, and touching, and exciting, and all sorts of interesting. I was there for work, as a good number of you discovered, and spent much of my time working the booth and handing out galleys. Alas, I didn't really get pictures of the convention center this time. I only got to walk around and see the other booths once, just before the conference opened on Friday night. I totally grabbed a zillion galleys, though--Variant, How to Save a Life, and, the one I'd been dying for, The Night Circus just to name a few.

I did have a little bit of free time while I was in New Orleans because we finished set up early. AND! I got to see one of my very best friends, Carlin, (she of Brightly Woven fame), who is in medical school down there. Bonus: my freshman suitemate, Rachel, was also down for a visit, so I got to meet up with them one night for dinner. :) Other fun stuff: sampling beignets at Cafe du Monde , walking around the French Quarter, and eating more seafood in one week than I had in my entire twenty-four years of existence. There was this one moment, just after I tried the charbroiled oysters at Drago's, that I wondered if maybe I was allergic to shellfish (my mom is, and--my hand to the big guy in the sky--I'd never had shellfish before going to New Orleans) and I freaked my boss out a little bit. But, good news! I'm obviously not. I will live to tell you terribly unfunny stories another day.

The highlight of the trip for me was the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder award banquet. Dinner was totally disgusting (some kind of beef, I think, but mine was about 89% fat and seemed to melt into a gelatinous puddle on my plate at the lightest touch), but the speeches were amazing.

banquet1
I'm also maybe a little bit in love with the program for the event. The winner of the Caldecott medal designs and illustrates them, and Erin E. Stead did a really beautiful job. My pictures don't do it justice, but it was designed to look like a library book, with flaps and a card (made to look like the cards you'd stamp in a library) with past winners of the award:
banquet2

For us, the banquet went from about 6 PM to 1 AM--a lot of dinners, cocktail parties, and late nights all around.

Anyway, I'm so grateful to have a quiet weekend to clean my apartment and start looking for a new one for August. One of the more frustrating things about living in New York is how mad the apartment hunt is--my parents can't figure out why Roommate J and I don't have a place lined up already. But, if you were to go on Craigslist right now and search for apartments in Manhattan, the bulk of them would be for a 7/1 or 7/15 move-in. There really is a two week turn around to finding a place, and it's very hard to get a head start.

What are your plans for this weekend?

The Quick One

Hey! Breaking my vow of silence to say that I just received a nice big box of Brightly Woven paperbacks. Which got me to thinking... I haven't done a contest in a while, have I? So, because I'm super lazy, I'm hosting the contest over on Twitter. The only rules are 1) you need a Twitter account because you need to @reply me and 2) you can't be going to BEA next week. All you need to do is @reply me with the reason why you can't go this year, and you're entered to win. I'm running the contest through 10 PM tonight.

For those of you who ARE going, you can find me at Table 20 on Tuesday morning :)

The One at Westminster Abbey

Wedding day is here! Congratulations to the beautiful bride and groom on their happy day. Everything went off beautifully, and the only slight hitch was that it looked as though the now-Duchess of Cambridge's ring wasn't going to fit. Stressful! Jules and I got up at 5 AM to watch the event, which ended up being perfect timing since it was right as the princes were leaving for Westminster Abbey. I loved Catherine's wedding dress and thought it was very appropriate both for the venue and the magnitude of the event. And it WAS McQueen (or, at least, Sarah Burton for McQueen).

will

Jules made scones last night and waffles this morning (yum!) and our friend, Jill, ending up hiking it in from Brooklyn to watch the event with us. The ceremony reaffirmed several things:

1) That this event felt much happier and more comfortable than Diana's and Prince Charles' (which Jules and I totally rewatched last night--thanks TLC!)

2) Prince Harry is adorable. Did you catch him turn around and peek at Catherine as she was coming down the aisle? I think he said something like, "Wait until you see her." D'aaawww. Just a couple of crazy kids in love.

3) American newscasters trying to understand British culture = hilarious. They kept confusing all of the different Dukes and Duchesses and Meredith, in particular, was really fixated on the idea of some of the royals arriving in buses. Also providing some comedy gold: Anderson "Silver Fox" Cooper shutting down all of Piers Morgan's sentimentality and keeping the newscast strictly business.

4) I somehow know all of the words to the "Jerusalem" hymn (Otherwise known as William Blake's poem "And did those feet in ancient times.") How. HOW. HOW DO I KNOW THIS SONG? It felt very appropriate for the ceremony.

5) Princess Shiny Hair's full title is now: Her Royal Highness Princess William Arthur Philip Louis, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus, Master of Arts. Get it, girl!

6) Little children do not like loud crowds:

unhappy

I hope everyone has a wonderful day! I'm working on revisions this weekend (Have I mentioned how sickeningly in love I am with my editorial letter?) and hopefully parking myself out in the warm sunlight. I did want to let you guys know, though, that I'll be signing at Book Expo America this year. Here's my listing:

Autograph Session Tuesday, May 24, 2011 10:00AM - 10:30AM

Location: Table 20

Will sign: Book

I should be signing paperbacks of Brightly Woven. See you there??