It’s been a transformative few weeks. 

Right after NaNo, I jumped back into my old TeaNovel. I posted that lovely calendar for myself in a burst of energy. 
And then I reread TeaNovel.
It was…not as good as I expected. 
I began to see some of the flaws that I hadn’t seen before. I saw that though the pacing was good, the mood wasn’t set, and it was all a bit shallow. It didn’t have enough depth. 
And I was moaning and groaning to myself, whining that I had already rewritten TeaNovel 3 times, that I thought that I had mostly untangled knots that weren’t supposed to be there. 
I was afraid, really afraid that I would spend so much effort to do this, but in the end, it would all be for nothing. The publishing world really is fair. I believe in that strongly. 
Today I realized something. 
Now, I have to be willing to work. 

This isn’t the school world, where you write snippets of essays and turn them in for a grade, and if it was long and well-thought, it got high marks. Not to mention that the teachers are obligated to read the papers. 
The publishing world isn’t like that.
It is real. I am on the real arena, the real stage, being evaluated. In short, I have to ask myself: would someone spend potentially hours, weeks reading this? 
I was used to half-ass my way through school and get good grades. Now that I’m in high school, it’s considerably more challenging, but still I’m not walking along the edge, completely focused, my stakes hanging on the tightrope.  
But for writing, I finally realize what it means to completely devote yourself to something that you love, to be willing to put in hours and days and potentially months and years to dedicate yourself to this one story that could potentially fall short.
I have to try anyways. 
The fear is there, real and ever-present. It resembles a small house-elf, staring at me with its spiteful little eyes. “You can’t do it,” it says. “Go back and do legitimate things. You’re not good enough.”
I try to be patient with the little monster. Give it cake and listen to the sharp, brutal words. 
And I try really, really hard to take in the fear. 
It still is difficult. 
But what else can I do?
Because in moments like these, there is no choice other than to pour your heart into something like this. 
Don’t complain, Christina. You’re doing what you love and in the end, you have to work as hard as you wish for it.

This is a TED Talk she gave a while ago.

I actually watched it for the tenth time when this message finally sank into me, but she gives great points and charming anecdotes, with that dry, Maggie humor of hers.

The point of the video? Don’t blindly believe in the labels others stick onto you. Stay true to your own self.

It’s a great talk.Watch it.

Okay, so today I played at my last piano competition.

*whew* That’s out of the way.

(After a hugely stressful week, you have no idea how much joy it brings me to sit in sweats and type out a blog post.)

So after these few crazy weeks, I will have the entirety of Winter Break to study for final…and revise!!!

Yaaay!

I have tests, projects, stuffs and stuffs to do, so for this week and the next, well…I hope it passes fast.

Right now, here are my goals:

-Dec-Jan 2013/2014: Finish last edits on TeaNovel, and then start querying/sending it out.
-Rest of Jan 2014: Plan out my SuperShinyNovel.
-Feb-April 2014: 2nd draft overhaul/rewrite of SuperShinyNovel.
-Nebulous time in the summer/fall of 2014: Query SuperShinyNovel.

That makes me a tiny bit nervous to type out. But my plan is to wrap TeaNovel up, and then while I’m querying it, I’ll take my mind off of it by focusing on my current novel.

I seriously have no idea what to expect.

So yeah.

End word count: 80.184 words.

A few days before NaNo started, I posted a letter to NaNoWriMo.

I wrote that letter in a stage of general fear.

I hadn’t written down a single word of plot plans, and I had no idea what my novel was going to do. I had the first scene, and one smidgen of the conflict, and the last line.

That was it.

I never knew that roughly 30 days later, I would stand, my novel completed, at 80,000 words.

I never knew how exhilarating, how beautifully frustrating and challenging this novel would be. All in all, in might be my favorite novel yet.

But the best part of pantsing the novel was the act of throwing caution to the air and being open to any ideas. It’s that sudden, unexpected twist your story takes that changes the arc drastically. It’s the discovery of truths and beautiful lines hidden in the drivel. It’s the feeling you get, in a coffee shop; you are shaking, literally shaking, as your finger stumble across the words that slams the plot together, and you discover the truths and revelations that only become clear the moment the words touch the screen. They leave you surprised, shocked, and absolutely breathless.

It’s an experience unlike any other.

Thank you. For everyone who supported me on Twitter. For NaNoWriMo, the program that kicked me in the pants and made me leap into the unknown, with abandon, only to come back on a badass steampunk parachute and with a velociraptor perched on my arm.

I feel so, so…overwhelmed. And giddy. And proud.

So many feels.

*crash*

Another post for today.

So a few weeks ago, I posted about meeting up with Sarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series (No, like seriously. Read it. READ IT.) I talked about how I was so awed and humbled by her, because she worked on the story for a freakin’ TEN years and now she has tons of amazing fans and she made it on the NY Times bestseller lists.

Her books are amazing. But look carefully on her blog, dear reader. There, she has the most honest, beautiful, inspiring posts.

I go on her blog often when I’m down, because she doesn’t have technical posts, such as how to worldbuild or how to submit to publishers. She tells us a story, a long, winding tale of her road to publication.

It starts in 2007/2008, when she first starts blogging. And as I read her posts, going back all the way to when she first graduated out of college, revising Throne of Glass (it was Queen of Glass at the time) .

She talks about her rejections, about life, about how to reach for your dreams. And she posts this: http://sjmaas.livejournal.com/382573.html

I read that today…and I teared up.

Because she works so hard, and she shows it. She doesn’t hide her troubles, but she doesn’t complain. Sarah is honest, thoughtful. She tells her story like no one else.

She works. Hard. She wrote the book through high school and college. Through vacations, cutting classes. She rewrote and edited it until it was better, many times over. She is the only one who even dared to kick Celaena’s ass–her amazing, steelhearted, stubborn main character.

She writes; “If writing had things like boot camp or practice or tryouts, I would have been the first one on the field and the last one to leave. I would have been the one running so hard they puked.” 

“But I’d go to sleep at night, unable to stop dreaming about this one book, which had gobbled up so many years of my life, for which I’d honestly walk through hell to get published. 

That’s what you do, though–when you want it badly enough, you start to realize that the only limitations are the ones you set for yourself. And once you realize there are no limits–THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO WHAT YOU CAN DO–nobody and nothing can ever hold you back.” 

And I admire her so. much. more. 

Because I want to dream, too. Sometimes I go to bed, so excited about the book industry, dreaming so hard, that I can’t fall asleep. There’s this constant ache in my heart, where I want something so badly, and I’ll do whatever the hell it takes. I look at the shelves of a library or a bookstore, and they are my heroes. They are the ones I look up to. 

Because I want to share a story of my own. And I don’t know where the path will take me. But I’ll work, harder than anybody. I’ll write and rewrite. 

Because I’m going to write an effing good book, and no one is going to stand in my way. 

So I’ve been working on this novel for a while. Let me just call it TeaNovel, because it involves tea in some aspect and that’s what I’ve been telling my friends. It was my NaNoWriMo novel last year, and it has had me twisted in pretzels to make it work.

I have rewritten it about five times and each time, it gets way better. And each time, my morale pretty much sinks a bit.

I no longer have that super-shiny-novel-OMG-wheee! buzz. The plot still has problems. It has rounded out in many ways, and my characters have really developed, but it’s still…I don’t know. There’s still a long way to go.

And I’m sitting here, at my desk, chomping at it. I want this ready for this online conference I’m attending. It’s in six days. I need to write a query and a synopsis. It’s supposed to be a 70,000 word novel.

I have 45,000 words. 25,000 of which were written in the last four days. Which nearly killed me. I need to write 25,000 more.

On the bright side, it’s an incredible motivator. On the not-so-bright side, well, I can’t write Thursday and the weekends are pretty off limits, so I have today, Friday, and Monday. You can do the math.

I am listening to everything from Celtic jigs to Lana Del Rey to Christmas carols.

It’s the middle of August.

What’s worst is that my inner editor won’t shut up. It gripes about plotholes and inconsistencies and my nemesis; the too-convenient events. I love my inner editor sometimes. It makes beautiful prose. It gets me an A on my papers. But…not when I need to rewrite my novel in like, a week.

I am completely, totally, procrastinating right now. But I don’t have time to even procrastinate. It’s a self-made (well, conference-made, I guess) deadline that doesn’t even give me room to breathe.

I…need to go.

See you in a week, if I make it through alive.

It is rather confusing here. Sprawling, lush hills with roads that twist about, jungles you get lost in, and when you emerge, a searing hot desert.
In short: it’s fun, overwhelming, and hard. 
So many ways! I have seen outlining scenes with index cards and writings 20 page outline and highlighting and color coding.
I am also deep in research–something I did not go deep enough, and now my brilliant friend (and writer) has pointed out that my supposed “fantasy” world is like sheer strands of thread that cannot form a tapestry rich enough. 
(She also very rightly pointed out that I needed description. As you hopefully tell, I have been practicing that in this blog post.)
It’s really a lot to take in. Because though I rewrote my novel two times already, I wrote them in a Nanowrimo-style madcap dash to the end. And while my plot improved SO much, well, my prose? My characters that sound all the same?
I think I may need to do another kind of rewrite–the scene level rewrite. 
I went to an Office Depot and got myself some index cards. And sticky tabs. And I did not really know what to do with them. 
But just I was getting lost in all these index-cardy tricks and highlighting fashions and color-coding I felt like I had stumbled upon this unwelcome pit of quicksand–

Just as I was writing the title of this post, I was thinking of this very word–revision. Revision. Re-vision. It kind of hit me, made me think for a second. 

I am re-visioning my novel. 
Creating higher standards. Ratcheting up stakes. Making characters move and dance and make crushing mistakes, and pay for it. I am seeing it not in the flat, two-dimensional plot arc I have had for too long. 
I may have to rewrite most of my scenes–but this time, the plot structure is there. I have the foundations and the supporting beams. 
Index cards may help, but what matters most is my vision. 
See y’all,
Christina

You know, the other moment I had a little bit of a realization; novel-writing was a lot like that one scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where Harry, Ron, and Hermione are going through the layers of protections such as lethal plants, a deadly life-sized chess game, the winged-key room, and finally, the potions room in order to reach the Sorcerer’s stone. 
(It is actually a very popular theme in fantasy, the thing about going through many obstacles before going reaching a goal.)
But nevertheless, I feel like writing a novel is a lot like that. Nanowrimo was the first gate, with the enormous suck dragons to conquer, where I created something out of nothing, even though it was horrible and out of the 52,000 words I wrote, I kept about 5,000 of them. I called it Draft 0. Then I went through two sets of rewrites, lovingly named Draft 0.5 and Draft 1, and by the end of the second rewrite, I had a solid “first draft” to edit. That was the second gate, with flaming carnivorous reptiles or something. I made it through that.
And now, I pause in front of the third gate, called Revisionland. According to authors, it can either be a desolate wasteland of purgatory or beautiful world of whimsical discovery.
I prefer the latter. 
I researched “revision checklist” on Google. I came up with nearly a dozen lists. I chose one and dropped the rest. To be honest, I don’t even think I am going strictly by that one checklist.
I am wandering with my manuscript, my pen, and a very basic notebook. 
I keep shying away from direction. I don’t know why. For some reason, though it’s revision, I cannot go towards an index plotting card for my life. 
I don’t know why, but I’m just following my instincts. For this first actual *revision* round (I’m excited!) I will be focusing on plot, character, and worldbuilding, but I am going by my own intuitive agenda.
The day after tomorrow, I am flying to BEA, and after the conference, I am going to go to Baltimore and Philadelphia. I will be traveling the month of June, which means that either I will be busy, or that the traveling will set my creative juices free. Or both.
But the gates are opening now.

Actually, I would like to call it Draft 1, because the manuscript I just finished was the first draft I wished I had. The two previous drafts can be called Draft 0 and Draft 0.5.
But the ending word count is 78,148.
Lordy.
I just compiled it from Scrivener to  MS document, and it weighs out to a whopping 295 pages.
All I gotta say is, I deserve my celebratory chocolate. 

Wrote 10,000 words yesterday.
It was hard.
basically, that was all I could say about it. The first four thousand were relatively easy. By 7k I was losing steam. And by 9,600 words, I wanted to kill myself.
The last 400–four hundred!–words was like a death march.
But I made it through.
My novel stands at 75,062 words. I am past the climax, towards the resolution.
I think I have about five thousand words left.
So instead of being at 85k as predicted, my novel will end at 80k words.
Which is perfectly fine by me.
I’m writing the last five thousand words tomorrow. And finishing the pinata for my Spanish class. It looks like a train wreck.
But I have recently discovered a band called Of Monsters and Men. And I know, I might be a bit late to the party, but they are freaking amazing. 
Check out their song King and Lionheart:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A76a_LNIYwE
Not to mention that they have some of the best music videos I’ve seen.
It’s that band, Imagine Dragons, Two Steps from Hell, and various other music that is going to get me through the last stretch tomorrow.
I am so close…..