1) You always re-write the beginning pages.
Before I even had a plot for Leveling Up, I wrote the first two pages. They were basically Max introducing himself and telling the reader what he was about. When I finally had a story to go with those pages, I got a lot of positive feedback on them.
Then I went to a writer’s conference and learned in one of my first workshops that the first pages always get scrapped or re-written. I thought I’d be the exception. I’m a painfully slow, careful writer, which certainly has its drawbacks. But the positive of that is that I usually have a lot less editing to do later.
When I finished my first draft, I hired a developmental editor to help me get my story in shape for querying. And guess where we focused the majority of our efforts? ON THE OPENING. It was hard to admit that I wasn’t special. But it made sense. When you write the first few pages of your novel, you’re just starting to feel out your characters and settings. You’re just finding the story’s narrative voice. That makes those pages very important. And very special. But, as my editor pointed out, they were just for me. Once I had my narrator’s voice, I had it. I could use it to craft an opening that set up the proper expectations for the novel, and the work would be stronger for it.
2) Writing the middle is the hardest part and you’ll feel like giving up.
I was at about 30k words when I ran out of outline for my first novel. I knew from the beginning that Leveling Up was going to be a series, so I’d envisioned the first book as an introduction to my character and the issues he’d be struggling with throughout the series. Thing is, that’s not enough plot for an entire novel—even a shorter YA novel. I only had half a book and felt completely lost and discouraged. It was such a relief later when I learned that it’s a common problem amongst writers. Middles are just hard. But once you get past them, it gets easier again.
3) Trust your characters
I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about my characters and getting a vague, misty idea of what their stories are, before I ever start writing. So by the time I’m into the plot, I expect to have a good idea of who they are and what they’re all about. But often they surprise me. They want to do things I don’t expect from them. They have reactions and emotions I didn’t think they would. It almost feels like a betrayal at first. But I think it’s actually a great sign. It means they’re realistic.
4) Nobody wants to hear about your book while you’re writing it. But everyone wants to hear about how it’s doing once you’ve published it.
Hearing about another person’s work in progress, unless you’re an extremely good friend (which I’m fortunate enough to have), is super painful. Maybe not as bad as listening to someone’s weird-ass dream, but similar. Even once we’ve completed a draft, it’s difficult for most of us to come up with tag lines and an “elevator pitch” (one-sentence summation of the book). When we’re in the middle of a novel, it’s very hard to narrow it down. We’re too embroiled in the intricacies of the plot. Therefore I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to hear me yammer on about it.
It’s just that for me, that’s the exciting part—getting the story down. But once it’s published, it’s a real thing to other people. They are excited for you, and proud, and happy, and so supportive. And that’s when they want to know how it’s doing. Are sales good? Is feedback positive? What are you doing to promote it? Those are all extremely valid questions and they are coming from a good place. Buuuuut, I always want to answer that the book is done. I finished it years ago, in fact. I still love it and care about it and yes, of course I am trying to make sure it does well. But my head’s already in book two.
5) That it’s like having homework. Forever.
Writing isn’t a hobby; it’s a job. It was easier to lie about that when I was writing my first novel. Because any aspirations I had for it were kept secret, even from myself, for a long time. It was just something I was kind of working on, and I’d just see how it went.
But once I got serious about it, once I started thinking about the sequels and signing book deals, and coming up with other, unrelated series to write as well, that’s when I knew it had me. I was committed. There wouldn’t be just this one trilogy, there’d be other stories. There’d be other multi-book sagas to write. And before I knew it, it wasn’t a choice anymore. The stories had found me and I had to write them.
Max McKay gets a second chance at life when, after a bizarre accident on his sixteenth birthday, he is reanimated as a new breed of thinking, feeling zombie. To secure a spot for his eternal soul, Max must use his video game prowess as well as the guidance of Steve the Death God to make friends and grow up. As if all that weren’t hard enough, Max discovers that he’s not the only zombie in town. As he enlists the help of his new friends, Adam and Penny, to solve the mystery of their un-dead classmate, Max discovers that he must level up his life experience in order to survive the trials and terrors of the upcoming zombie apocalypse. And, even worse, high school.
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Genre – YA
Rating – PG
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