In the before days (several months ago), I had a very specific and painful process for cutting words, sentences, scenes, and chapters from my books:

 

1. Procure chainsaw.
2. Slice off limbs.

 

It wasn’t the kind of approach to cutting I wanted to use long term. Mostly because I only have four limbs.

 

Fact is, cutting a manuscript hurts. After days and weeks and months of writing a story, the last thing you want to do is trash words. It feels wasteful. There are writers in the world starving for words, and there you go throwing yours out.

 

During my last round of revisions, I had a breakthrough. I’ve actually been holding onto this gem of a tip for months because I kept forgetting to post it I had really important things to do and stuff.

 

So here it is—four pain-free* steps to cutting your word count:

 

1. Print your manuscript.
After reading my book so many times on screen, doing a full read on paper is super helpful.

 

2. As you read, strike out words, sentences, paragraphs, even full scenes and chapters to cut.
Do not freak out. You’re simply scribbling out ink on paper. Your manuscript is still safe and sound—and in its original, lengthy glory—on
your computer. Later, you can veto any marks you make, so go wild.

 

3. When you’re done editing on paper, open your digital file and highlight all of the sections you marked to cut.
Forget about all of your other edits. Simply go page by page through your printed manuscript and, whenever you’ve marked a word or passage to be cut, highlight it in the file.

 

I use Scrivener, so at this stage I simply highlighted words or chunks of text bright yellow, as noted on my printed page. I didn’t stop to think about whether I wanted to cut that text. It’s a very fast transfer from paper to Scrivener file.

 

4. Revise.
Now it’s time to revise as you typically would. I should point out that, at this point in my revision, I was completely unaware I was a genius. I feel very humble pointing that out.

 

Here’s what happened: Whenever I got to a word or section highlighted yellow, I knew I had two choices: cut or keep. Except in my mind, I’d already let those words go—twice. And so cutting wasn’t punch-to-the heart terrible like it was in the past.

 

It’s sort of like telling your brain to be prepared because some time real soon you’ll be getting rid of words and scenes and it better not put up a fight. And then telling it again. By the time you get around to cutting those words and scenes, your brain will be like YES, THANK YOU, I GET IT —NOW STOP.

 

Alright, lay it on me: What’s your best writing or revising trick?

 

*Results may vary.

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Listen, I know Currently posts are supposed to go up on Tuesdays but I’m a hard-core rebel and nobody, not even the internet, tells me what to do.*

When you finish rolling your eyes, read on:

LOVING

The flowers are blooming, the sky’s ultra blue, and stepping outside feels like walking into someone’s mouth. It’s summertime.

For me, that means drive-in movies. I’m lucky to live close enough to two drive-in theaters that I don’t even have to build a time machine and rewind to 1955. Though I’m sure I could rock a conical bra.

Last weekend, The Man and I saw X-Men: Apocalypse at the theater. Days of Future Past is still my favorite, but this one was fun, too. Bonus: James McAvoy’s voice.

READING

About a billion books came out on Tuesday and I pretty much want to read all of them. But I’m most excited for My Lady Jane, a not-quite-true tale of Lady Jane Grey.

To be honest, the Princess Bride mention in the blurb sold me. But on top of that, I’m a big fan of Jodi Meadows’ Orphan Queen series and Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy (best love triangle ever—even if you hate love triangles).

WATCHING

I’m in that in-between space where all of my usual TV shows have gone on vacation and I spend 60 percent of my time explaining to The Man exactly why overpaid Hollywood actors shouldn’t get months and months of vacation when none of us do. And then he puts on his noise-cancelling headphones and I have to feel the injustice alone.

Anyhow, I recently found this trailer for Space Between Us. It’s about a teen who grew up on Mars and steals a rocket to fly to Earth for the first time. It looks a lot less crazy and a whole lot more adorable and heartbreaking than my description. And it’s starring Asa Butterfield, who I absolutely adore. (I just saw him in A Brilliant Young Mind, and he did a fantastic job portraying a boy with autism.)
LISTENING TO
I’ve been revising Gray Wolf Island, so naturally I’ve been listening to the playlist on repeat. (You can see the entire playlist here. One day when I befriend a web designer and exploit our friendship for a fancy website, I’ll have the whole playlist on here.)

Here’s one that will make more sense when** you read GWI. It’s the song I imagine for two of my characters’ first kiss. I’m pretty sure connecting this song to the scene makes me super cheesy (and not, like, Roquefort or something fancy; I’m talking neon orange “cheese”) but WHO DOESN’T LIKE CHEESE?

I guess maybe the lactose intolerant? In any case, cheese is delicious and I’m keeping this as my first kiss song:

THINKING ABOUT

My first round of revisions for Gray Wolf Island are due back to my editor on July 1, which means 80 percent my brain is dedicated to my revision. In case you’re curious, the other 20 percent is split like this:

15 percent: cute puppies on Instagram
5 percent: food

But the unexpected good news? I’m enjoying the revision process. A long time ago I thought I was a pantster who loved drafting and hated revising. Now drafting is a bit like bloodletting and revising is freeing.

If that makes no sense to you, just mutter “perfectionists” and give a disapproving shake of your head.

This round of revisions also reminded me that I had a breakthrough during my first round of revisions and never shared it with you. How greedy. So next week I’m blogging about the painless process that helped me cut words from GWI when it was just a young WIP.

Yep, painless. It’s a trick-your-brain kind of trick.

ANTICIPATING

All the 2017 books. I’m lucky enough to belong to the Swanky 17s, a fantastic group of YA and MG authors debuting in 2017. There’s been a ton of cover reveals recently and some of them … you have to check them out for yourself.

WISHING

You’d like my brand-spanking-new Facebook page. I’m cringing so hard while writing this. You can’t see that because of the whole being on the other side of the internet thing, but it’s true. I’ll probably have wrinkles from it years later, and I will call them my cringing wrinkles, or crinkles for short.

In any case, if you like Facebook and you like liking things and you think you might like my page, then have at it.

MAKING ME HAPPY

I’ve been playing this puppy video on repeat. I can’t tell you why I love it so much (I don’t want to spoil the twist) but it has the power to restore even the most shriveled of hearts.

So, what’s new with you this week?

*I forgot.

**If

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I’ve been slacking on my book reviews. I do have a reason, though: I’ve been lazy.

 

(I said nothing about that reason being a particularly good one.)

 

But I want to be better, like those on-the-ball women who have kids and jobs and still manage to polish their nails before Instagramming pics of their coffee mugs.

 

So here’s what I’ve been reading—and you should be, too:

 

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.
 
But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

 
I held off on reading The Accident Season for a while because I was a loser who judged the book by the cover, and the cover said horror (who knows where I got that idea) and I wasn’t in the mood. But I read a review that made me insta-buy this book.
 

It’s the mystery that first got me reading—why does the accident season happen? Can they ever overcome it? But Fowley-Doyle’s prose is what really sucked me in. It’s beautiful and atmospheric. There’s a bit of magic to the story, and it’s not always clear what’s real and what’s not. You won’t get all the answers, but for me that was okay. This book is meant to be experienced and the writing savored.

 

 

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?
 
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.
 
In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

 

I’ll admit I was drawn to this book out of hunger. But waffles! And then when I heard Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda comparisons, well, I was sold.

 

Like Simon, Tell Me Three Things has an email romance between the main character and a mystery admirer. I guessed the identity of the mystery guy (called Somebody Nobody), immediately, but that’s okay. The book is more about Jessie coming to terms with her new life, making friends—and, yes, guessing who Somebody Nobody is.

 

The romance is great, but what really makes the story is Jessie growing into her new life. That, and the great cast of characters—especially Jessie’s new step-brother and Somebody Nobody.

 

 

Smart. Responsible. That’s seventeen-year-old Breanna’s role in her large family, and heaven forbid she put a toe out of line. Until one night of shockingly un-Breanna-like behavior puts her into a vicious cyber-bully’s line of fire—and brings fellow senior Thomas “Razor” Turner into her life.
 
Razor lives for the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, and good girls like Breanna just don’t belong. But when he learns she’s being blackmailed over a compromising picture of the two of them—a picture that turns one unexpected and beautiful moment into ugliness—he knows it’s time to step outside the rules.
 
And so they make a pact: he’ll help her track down her blackmailer, and in return she’ll help him seek answers to the mystery that’s haunted him—one that not even his club brothers have been willing to discuss. But the more time they spend together, the more their feelings grow. And suddenly they’re both walking the edge of discovering who they really are, what they want, and where they’re going from here.

 

I’m such a sucker for Katie McGarry books. If they’re somewhat predictable—two characters with Big Issues fall in love and there are Major Complications—it’s in the best way possible. I know what I’m going to get, and it’s going to be good.

 

Here, we have a boy raised in a motocycle club just trying to get through each day and a girl whose family either ignores her or treats her as a surrogate mother for her many brothers and sisters. My heart broke for her, but it was Razor who really tugged my heartstrings. He tries so hard to be good, to do the right thing—man can McGarry write a bad boy who’s not really so bad.

 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Katie McGarry book without romance, and I was totally on board with this one. It’s at times sweet, at times steamy, and truly full of heart.

 

What have you read (and loved) recently?
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LOVING

It’s official: I am addicted to sheet masks. This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that wearing one makes my husband scream like a girl, douse me in holy water, and chant, “The power of Christ compels you!”

I mean, it mostly has nothing to do with that.

They make my skin all soft and glowy, like the “after” shots of an acne ad. I bought Tony Moly’s masks at Katy Upperman’s recommendation and was pretty sure she was having an exaggerating day, but it really did make me feel 76 percent prettier.

And then Alice sent me the loveliest birthday present, including my favorite lip balm and a gorgeous necklace that I can’t photograph right now because it’s last night and super dark in my house. It also included a couple sheet masks, one of which made me look like I’d just worked out—but in a good way. Like the way celebrities look after the gym.

READING

I’m on a hot streak—back to back books I absolutely loved. Considering The Raven King and The Rose & the Dagger come out today, I’m 150 percent sure this will continue. Go me.

So I finally set aside time for Jessica Love’s In Real Life, which I read in one sitting and then immediately wished I’d gone slower to make it last longer. This book is all sorts of adorable. I’m a sucker for pen pals meeting in public, and on top of that In Real Life offers up some really great characters and a fun twist I’m not going to reveal. And the romance? Oh man. It’s Stephanie Perkins cute.

Next up for me was Elizabeth Briggs’ Future Shock, a YA sci-fi thriller with a group of (mostly) delinquents, a mysterious mission, and nonstop action. The goal: travel to the future and collect data on new tech—though things don’t go quite as planned. My favorite part of time travel novels is the moment everything clicks together and you can see how the past and future are entwined. Future Shock didn’t disappoint. I also loved the characters, especially Elena, who was supremely badass, and Adam. Nerdy, awkward, sweet-as-sugar Adam. If you liked Karen Akins’ Loop, you’ll like this.

WATCHING

Three cheers for the new season of Game of Thrones! I loved the first episode, but I want to go on record right now and say that if they kill off Tyrion I might send a herd of White Walkers to HBO studios.

LISTENING TO

This is the perfect song for my male POV in my current WIP. And not just because it’s called “Thief” and he’s a thief.

THINKING ABOUT

Fear.

Am I ever not thinking about fear? I mean, I guess so. Like when I’m thinking about pizza. Or when I’m thinking about Matthew Daddario’s perfectly appropriate eye rolls as Alec Lightwood in Shadowhunters.

But aside from that, fear.

So naturally I’ve been all fearful while trying to write my current WIP. What if it’s not good enough? What if I don’t love it as much as Gray Wolf Island? How is it possible to write so slow?

Then the lovely Liz Parker (aka the personification of my sanity) reminded me that I wrote Gray Wolf Island super slow and whined about it the whole time. Okay, she’s to nice to say whined, but let’s get real: I whined.

Which turned out to be a good thing, because I was able to reread my blog posts from my Gray Wolf Island–drafting days and remember that, yes, I wrote that slowly. Also, I was all angsty about it. Basically everything I’m feeling right now, I was feeling back then.

It appears my writing process goes something like this:

  1. Think I’m going to write perfect words super fast.
  2. Realize the words don’t pour our perfect.
  3. Realize getting the prose right slows me down.
  4. Worry I write too slow.
  5. Believe I am a hack.
  6. Angst.
  7. More angst.

So, yeah, it’s my thing and I think I need to work through it so I don’t let fear mess with my head. And so I can actually write. I might do a post about this in the future if I can get it under control. In the meantime, send hard alcohol.

ANTICIPATING

I have never anticipated anything as hard as I am anticipating The Raven King. But I bought mine autographed, and the last time I did that, my copy took a while to get to me.

In the meantime, I will not be thinking about Gansey or the thing Maggie Stiefvater promised to do to him.

Also, should any of you spoil the ending, I will be forced to send you links to the most disgusting health-related Google image searches I can find.

WISHING

This is not a test. I have an actual book. ON ACTUAL GOODREADS.

I am not freaking out, per say. Just enjoying how immensely cool this is. Like the professional I am.

Ahem.

So, yeah, Gray Wolf Island is on Goodreads. You can add it to your to-read shelf if you’d like. Or you can add it to your authors-who-overuse-gifs list. It’s really up to you.

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So there I was, fumbling my phone. My hands were shaking—my whole body was shaking—and my fingers couldn’t find the right button or my brain couldn’t compute. There was something about an offer. And then I hung up.
I should back up. Give you the whole “once upon a time” story.
Once upon a time there was the girl on fire. When my phone rang that Thursday, I’d been burning for 24 hours straight, and I was in the sort of pain that settles into your mind. I was also on the furious side of angry that my EM wouldn’t leave me alone.
It was a bad day.
And then the phone rang. My agent, Sarah, said something about an editor and my mind exploded. My cheek bumped the FaceTime button and I was too out of my mind on excitement to know how to get back to the regular call.
And so, the hang-up.
I was shaking. Even when Sarah called back and kindly laughed at my half-crazed mumblings, I shook and shook and tried to take notes because it seemed like the smart thing to do.

They read like the ravings of a mad women, which I guess isn’t too far off the mark. Because, guys: Karen Greenberg, and editor with Knopf Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Random House)(!!!) loves my book.*

I’m just going to sit here and let that sink in some more. Because at this point, it’s still not real.

We’d gone on submission for my YA magical realism novel, Gray Wolf Island, in January. A little under two months doesn’t seem long, but what you may not realize is that submission time is like dog years. You have to multiply it by seven then add 1,000 and that’s how long it feels when you’re waiting to hear from editors.
Incidentally, that math holds true when considering the wait between selling a book and being able to tell the world about it. Oh how I wanted to tell you all.
I wanted to tell you that all of the insane time we put into our writing pays off.
I wanted to tell you that writing the next book is always a good idea.
I wanted to tell you that your friendship over the years has kept me going, even when it felt like I’d never, ever get here.
But I am here, still not sure how it’s possible that an editor loves my book as much as I do. I’m a weepy mess of excitement and gratitude.
I suppose that some time before fall 2017—when my book (!) is set to release (!)—I’ll be a fully functioning human again.

* But WHAT IS IT ABOUT!?! I’m just going to go ahead and steal the Publisher’s Weekly blurbfor this. Gray Wolf Island is a magical realism story of “five teens looking for a legendary treasure on a mysterious island, only discover they must reveal their darkest secrets in order to succeed.” Goonies never say die.

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LOVING
My head is not misshapen. I mean, it could be misshapen—I’ve never shaved my hair to find out—but I’m pretty sure it’s just round. Which is why I’m severely annoyed each time I put on a headband only to have it slip off a few minutes later. But I have finally discovered one that stays put all day. With glasses. And without inducing a migraine. So, yeah, I’m loving Athelta’s Thin Sparkly Headband.
READING
I’ve been trying this thing where I wait for an entire series to be published before beginning book one. This has to do with my love for binge reading, my inability to remember the details of a book a year later, and my extreme impatience during the wait between books.
So anyway, I never read Becky Wallace’s The Storyspinner when it came out. But The Skylighter, the second book in the duology, released on March 22, so I began the series. It has so many elements I love: hidden identities, hate-to-love romance, a world that comes to life, and great character arcs. Both books are told from multiple POVs, and I have a hard time picking a favorite. This is a fast-paced fantasy with characters who feel real and romances that are compelling and (for my two favorites) incredibly sweet.
 
WATCHING
Eleven-year-old Tracey is rolling her eyes right about now. It’s just that, well, I tried to do the Fuller House thing. I really, really did. But not even nostalgia could get me through that cringe-fest.
(I know, I know … how rude!)
LISTENING TO
So my WIP has absolutely nothing in common with Cinderella, but the song itself is inspiring some later scenes in the novel.

THINKING ABOUT
Nova Ren Suma’s blog post about getting unstuck. She talks about her struggle while drafting The Walls Around Us (am I the only one who loves hearing successful writers talk about the struggle they had writing their books?)—specifically the struggle to just get words on the page. She says she started thinking about all of the things the book should be, all of the books it should be like, instead of trusting her gut.
It’s a great read, and one that spoke to me as I was struggling with my novel’s opening. When I stopped thinking about what the beginning of my book should do and trusted what I wanted it to do, I finally found the words again.
ANTICIPATING
I can’t wait until Friday, when Elizabeth Brigg’s YA sci-fi novel, Future Shock, hits shelves. Two words: time travel.

WISHING
I used to think I was a fast drafter, but that was back when I spent millions of years revising my quick drafts. It was … not ideal. With my last book, I wrote so slow I was basically inactive.
I hated my book, then I realized it wasn’t my book’s fault, so I hated myself. I still do sometimes, especially now that I’m drafting again. I’m constantly wishing I was a fast drafter. But I try to remind myself: What works for one writer, doesn’t have to work for me.
More than that, I tell myself this: Writing Gray Wolf Island may have been excruciatingly slow, but revising was so very fast. It’s what’s saving me from crazy as I write Carnival Novel.
MAKING ME HAPPY
I mean, Pinterest is always making me happy because it’s basically procrastination in picture form, but I’m loving the board for my current WIP. I’ve been finding so much inspiration in images. Here’s the board if you want to check it out.

 
What’s new with you?

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I’m just going to be honest with you: The fancy gold-leaf type here is about as exciting as this blog is going to get today. I can’t compete with gold lettering. I just can’t. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s catch up: 
You might remember my brief yet impassioned treatise on opening chapters, those works of the devil meant to whittle away the confidence of even the most self-assured writer. At the time, I was trying to write the first chapter of a new story.
(Trying really is an overly kind word for the thrashing about I was doing.)
So there I was, nearly dead from all the blood I lost while poking my brain out with my pen. And I realized I was missing key research that wouldn’t make writing the first chapter easier (because nothing can help that except maybe a tranquilizer dart) but would make all the chapters after that easier.
I paused that WIP to gather research-y books. While I was waiting, I jumped to another WIP. I quickly finished outlining it. And then one day I wrote the first line. This is strange for me. I never write a first line in a day. And don’t you start in about how a line shouldn’t take an entire day, never mind and entire week. I get enough of that from my brain.
But this one is just flowing. It’s like falling in love the day after a terrible breakup. I plan to keep going with it until it until it realizes it’s still in love with its ex.
I have been dying to read Jessica Love’s In Real Life since I first heard the words pen pals. See, my just-for-fun project is a pen pal story. I was craving a book like this, couldn’t find one, and decided to write it myself.
I don’t work on it often, so it’s barely written. Which is okay, because In Real Life will fill my craving for a good pen pal story. After years of seeing Jessica talk about it on her blog and of hearing about its path to publication, it’s finally in my grasp. I almost cracked it the other day, but I want to wait until I have a big chunk of time free so I can read it all at once.
My sister and I belly-laughed our way through the second season of Galavant this weekend. We would have watched the first season, too, but Hulu didn’t have it. Guys, this show is unexpectedly hilarious. Or maybe you do expect it because you’ve heard how it’s the Broadway version of Monty Python and The Princess Bride. It’s ridiculous and silly in a self-aware way. But it’s not guaranteed another season, which is the opposite of funny.
One of my main characters is mostly evil, so I’ve been listening to this song nonstop. To be honest, it felt much more vicious before I watched the video. So, you know, shut your eyes.

My grandmother, who passed away a little over a week ago. She’d been suffering from dementia, and I’m glad she’s not struggling anymore, but I still miss her.
We got a glimpse of spring last week, when the temperature finally rose above obscenely cold. I’m ready for spring’s mild temperatures. Actually, it’d be great if nature could just stick with spring and fall forever.
Celebratory macaroons go to Elodie Nowodazkij, whose Love in B Minor comes out today. I love this series, so I’m excited for more dancing and more swooning.

See also: hints of spring.
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