book one

A Dream No One Can See

It’s become a tradition each year to choose a word that will carry me through 365 days. There has been CREATE, BELIEVE, BETTER, and last year, there was PERSEVERANCE. And persevere I did. Through 164 literary magazine submissions, 133 rejections (query trenches included) and 16 pieces accepted, including my debut collection of poetry, These Are the Women We Write About, I’d like to think my own perseverance got me where I needed to be!

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But now it’s a new year, which means a new word. Getting here, I once again was a bit paralyzed with fear that I might choose the wrong word. I suppose it’s become another of those superstitious writerly things that I cling to as the days move along. It wasn’t until Christmas preparations took over that I found my word, one which stuck in my bones and felt too perfect to pass up. I ordered three necklaces and a bracelet from The Giving Keys, because I truly love how they strive to help homeless people in L.A., all the while, reminding us of the power of words, and the magic of passing them on to someone else. If you haven’t heard of this company or their mission, I suggest checking them out as they create beautiful products with special meanings.

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Yet, I digress. Upon purchasing these items, I was eligible for a complimentary “classic” key necklace, which would come with a surprise word and color and design. When it arrived, it brought a certain sense of knowing that I didn’t know I needed. My key said DREAM, and I’m not sure it could’ve been more perfect. And now, I have my word.

Dream.

Writing a novel about a world in which dreaming always means death, I have come to understand just how powerful dreams can be. I often dream too big and have said on more than one occasion that my ambition and penchant for dreaming bigger and better will be the death of me. But as a writer, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

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As I edit DREAM CATCHERS once more before diving back into the query trenches next month, I cling to the dream of seeing this book published someday. And it’s difficult, I must admit, to be back in this story. I joked that I can’t wait for this book to be on someone else’s shelf someday just so I won’t have to read it anymore. Because it hurts to read sometimes. I’ve exposed too much of myself between those pages, and perhaps this is what will help future readers fall in love with my writing and this story. But for now, it terrifies me to find myself back in that time and place again.

Such is the life of the writer, I suppose. If the words don’t hurt, if what is being written doesn’t scare the writer a little, I’m not sure the story is worth telling. So I’ll tinker with this story once more before sending it out to the next 10 agents on my list. And when I say this will be the year I make this dream no one else can see into a reality, I feel the truth of the words ring through my bones in the way that some of my most authentic writing does.

I’ll keep focusing on this dream. Instead of simply listing my goals for 2019, I’ve separated these things into goals and aspirations; the things I can personally attain versus the things I so dream of coming true. I am taking better care of myself, how I judge my failures and accomplishments, because I have succeeded, even in small ways, and that is worth remembering. And for that I am so proud of myself. Already I’ve had 2 poems accepted for publication, and January hasn’t yet ended.

But as I continue to risk everything: sanity, time, sleep, future stories, etc. for this dream of publishing DREAM CATCHERS, I know it is worth everything in between. And with this knowledge, I will continue to dream too big all the year through, and I hope you will too! To stay up to date with this journey beyond this blog, check out #dreamlikekaylaking on Instagram and Twitter!

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A Little Spark

I don’t have many words to spare this morning as I work toward today’s word count goal. Last night, however, I reached 25,164 words; the halfway point of NaNoWriMo 2018! To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to take part this year because I couldn’t fathom going back to that place from last year. But I’m doing it. Throughout writing, it feels somewhat like madness. Some days, it’s a little spark. Other days, it’s a blaze. Yet, it’s kept me going in these beginning days of NaNoWriMo!

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The last time I wrote here, I was just weeks away from the publication of my first collection, These Are the Women We Write About. Amidst waiting for that book, I was outlining a short story, which today, is published in Mistletoe & Magic: A YA Holiday Anthology.

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My short story, “in the Valley of Stars,” features three women from and a hint of magic from current work-in-progress. The anthology is now available for purchase from Amazon as an ebook for $.99 for one last day. And all too soon, print copies will be available, too, just in time for the holidays! There is also a giveaway running to include the authors’ books (my collection included), which can be entered HERE!

Now all these months later, that short story helped bring me back to my NaNoWriMo project as it grows like every story: word by word by word. There’s a very good chance I’ll “win” NaNo this year by making it to 50,000 words. But there’s also a chance I might finish the novel I dreamed up 9 years ago. I like the odds.

And yet, to say the writing is easy would be nonsensical. To say anything other than writing is work would be a lie. I love the work. And some days I stare out at the blank sea of a wordless page with blurry eyes knowing I should get to bed lest suffer the next day at my day job.

This time, however, the work of this story is urgent, even when the page appears wordless. I want to finish this not so first draft. I need to write this book. Whatever it takes: tired mornings, notes on my lunch break, talking out plot points with myself in the dark of night. I’ll make it happen. It’s what I do. And while I drifted from that place in September and October, I’ve written myself back to better. So here’s to better writing. Here’s to progress. And here’s to finishing my next book by the end of the month!

All That Remains

Amidst drafting my current work-in-progress, I have found myself reevaluating my writing process. With DREAM CATCHERS still out in the query trenches, I have found this current project to be just as magical as it's always been. After nine years working on the Falling series, it feels like I finally know what BOOK ONE needs to be. And through this learning process, I've reminded myself how I've grown as a writer and how writing this book can be different than the last four years spent on the Dreamer Duology. 

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What I've discovered since being back in this fantastical world, is that writers can change many things: the process of plotting and writing, revision and editing. But as my best friend reminds, "you can't change your emotional truth." While she may have said this in reference to another moment and memory in time, I've continued to repeat the words through my mind like a mantra. Much can change. But when hurts and heartbreaks and heeded warnings are all that remains, it is best to remember them.

It is with this knowledge that I proceed into the drafting of the WIP, taking my burdens with me. It is the best gift and the greatest curse of writing that we may spill ourselves into fiction. Such remains a reality in this WIP. There is darkness and there are shadows within these new pages. But there is also goodness and light and hope; everything I know to temper the harsh reality of feeling too deeply about the world and its inhabitants.

As I continue to craft the beginning of this book, I won't try to change my emotional truths because to do so would deny the validity of feeling. But I will keep writing. I'll keep building a world of my own creation. I will plot and plan because that is the kind of writer I am. Unlike the early experience of writing DREAM CATCHERS,  I won't shy away or detach from writing the difficult scenes within this book, because those are the ones which ring and resonant with truth.

If anything, I have learned what works for me in the here and now instead of focusing on what I can't change about my lyrical style and voice. These are the things which I've never had to force, because they've always been there. I'm not sure it's worth dwelling on those things when there is so much power to be had in creating myself anew. So this time, I will write the chapters in a linear way. I will share them with my critique partner as I go. I will check in with the story from time to time to make sure character motivations are clear, that voices remain distinct, that what I am writing feels true to the story I'm trying to tell. But such are the fickle foes of writing.

Much as I would like to imagine writing to be magic, it is work. Alas, it is work that I so love. Maybe that emotional truth is the greatest of all because it reminds I will make this story into something real. And even as the world tries to break my spirit, as people depart and new ones emerge along this writing journey, I will cling to the dream of the Falling series and all it has done to make me into the writer I am today. 

Should you find yourself in the middle of burning bridges broken beyond repair, or breaking bad habits, writing or otherwise,  I hope you'll remember that even if you can't change your emotional truth, you can acknowledge the fear, the hurt, the joy, etc. and use it to grow. Become better. Remain true. 

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From the Person Who Wrote It

I recently had a conversation about the difference between author and narrator. As a writer of fiction and poetry, I know the readers of my work might confuse the narrators from my writing with me as the author. And this thought became most clear in writing the title poem of my collection: 

"And so it’s done; this endless, spirographic lie where they think you the narrator, instead of the ghost of a poet. Haunted by the writing. Emptied by this poem. An echo. Yes, an echo."

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So yes, this notion is one that has been on the brain lately, especially as I dive back into edits for DREAM CATCHERS. My goal for the end of the week is to make it through the first five chapters, and I'm right on track. And through this process, I'm reminded that while I'm not my main character, I've found myself while writing her story. There are times when a certain line or scene resonates, and it feels like home. 

This may sound strange. How can writing feel like home? At least for myself, home has always felt like understanding. And when I feel understood on the page, I imagine a reader might feel the same way. Somehow this makes it easier to fathom the fact that I might be confused with fictional people, even if they feel real. Because yes, they are flawed and messy and kind and honest; everything I know myself to be now. 

As I make my way back through DREAM CATCHERS, there are certain scenes that stop me in my tracks because they feel too real. And while I am not my main character, nor the other characters on the page, I understand their belief. I believe this book will be published, and I'm just as much of a dreamer as my favorite characters. Maybe they get that from me, or maybe I get that from them; I'm not so sure I could argue against either possibility. But they do make me believe this dream of writing is possible. 

I won't spend too much more time trying to prove the difference between narrator and author. And to be honest, there's a line in one of my favorite Plath poems, "Electra on Azalea Path," which makes me think she must be the narrator, that Sylvia herself must have had some vision of the future and relayed such divinity on the page for all to read: 

"I am the ghost of an infamous suicide."

But I know thinking this is Sylvia is not entirely fair. Yet, people are more than one thing, and by default, that must mean characters are more than their authors. They must be inspired by life and past loves, best friends and maybe that stranger seen every day at the red light.

Maybe we're all a little bit of the people we love best. 

I suppose this idea comes from the very real fear of confronting vulnerability and judgement once this book finds its way into the hands of readers. But such is life, and I'm used to such feelings. So for now, I will make my way back to the page to find myself, both the person who writes and the person now written therein. 

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A Little Perseverance

Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month. Though I managed to reach the 50,000 word goal two days prior to this post, I still wanted to commemorate this ending.

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In years past, I’d always wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo. But alas, other writing projects seemed to dominate my Novembers, and I never felt I could properly commit, and so, I never took part in the magic and insanity that is writing 50,000 words in a month. 

Until now.

For those of you following my journey to publication, you will know I am currently in the query trenches with the novel I conceptualized during graduate school. With that project done, and waiting for agent responses growing by the day, I knew I needed a distraction. This realization occurred last month and afforded me the time to take part in Preptober to get myself ready for the official start date of NaNoWriMo. I took the month of October to begin outlining for a somewhat new work-in-progress; BOOK ONE in the Falling series demanded to be written again. This time I knew it would be better. 

I originally wrote the first book in this series back in 2012, and it was the first novel I wrote. But long before that, I’d written a short story, and from those fourteen pages came the formation of this projected pentalogy, which I outlined in a British literature class during my undergrad. It’s been eight years since I first delved into this world, and it remains one of my greatest loves, and favorite escapes. This story is the one I took to grad school, too stubborn to let go my first semester, and then later set aside to begin the Dreamer Duology. In the three years I spent writing my other novel for grad school, I never gave up on the Falling series. Though I wasn’t writing in that world every day, I spent that time getting to know my characters better, and brainstorming all that will come to pass over the course of these five books. 

And now, at the end of NaNoWriMo, I have 51,032 words of this new draft, and it’s just as magical as I remember all those years ago. 

Before undertaking this challenge, I feared (what I now know was somewhat irrational) that I couldn’t write another book. Maybe other writers experience this same thing after working on one project for multiple years. You see, the novel I’m querying was not easy to write, and if you ask those closest to me, they might mention the toll completing this novel took on me and my writing.  Now that’s not to say I don’t love that book. I wouldn’t be querying agents with it now if I didn’t adore what I’d written. But the actual process was difficult. And through it, I’d started to doubt the magic of writing. 

But I digress. 

Starting this newish project for NaNoWriMo proved that writing and drafting are still magic, and not just because there is a fair bit of fantasy within this WIP. Writing this story reminded me how extraordinary it feels to get swept up into a world crafted entirely from your own mind. And while there were days more difficult than others this month, days when I did not write a single word, I still achieved that 50K goal. 

I think it is a common misconception that writers need to write every day to be writers. Frankly, that’s bullshit. Most writers, myself included, have day jobs, which pay bills and student loans. And we have family and friends and pets and other obligations, which sometimes prevent the act of writing every day from actually happening. But through NaNoWriMo, I discovered there is a difference between writing every day and writing consistently. Though I went four consecutive days without writing, those days away were much needed to prevent creative burnout and to brainstorm a rather difficult chapter. But still, my mind never left this fictional world I so love. 

As I scroll through the 183 pages I managed to complete thus far, I know I’ve tackled something important. I also discovered a new tool to help drafting, which was born out of my proclivity toward visual learning. With the help of Pinterest (which for those interested in what inspires my many fictional worlds, you can follow my book boards HERE) I created inspiration boards for each chapter, which are pictured below! In doing so, I had to narrow down what I was trying to accomplish most, which helped in the process of outlining, all while keeping me on task. 

And with the help of friends cheering me on from near and far, a fantastical Spotify playlist curated the month before, and many cups of coffee, I have a start to a story I’d always hoped to return to one day. 

I’m not sure where the querying process will take me in the months to come, but with the start of this newish story, I now have an escape for when rejection feels too real or the world feels too wrecked. I’ll make my art. I’ll write my stories. And with a little perseverance, and a little uphill climb (and maybe, even the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack), I’ll write the next 50,000 words. 

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Only Time Will Tell

One week ago, I was watching the episode of Parks and Recreation where Andy and April drive to the Grand Canyon, and "All Will Be Well," by The Gabe Dixon Band plays on the radio. As I sat constructing a chapter by chapter breakdown of editorial notes, I knew that everything I needed to accomplish would happen, that eventually, all would be well.

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And what was I trying to accomplish?

Well, rewind back to the day before.

I sat beside by brother as we binge-watched Riverdale, and my phone buzzed with a new email, and I ignored it for a few minutes as that current episode wrapped up. And then I saw the sender of the email, and my heart beat a bit faster. I looked at the agent's name, and braced myself for the rejection.

Upon opening the email, I discovered it wasn't a rejection, but rather a request to send my full manuscript for consideration! Maybe most people would've screamed something profane, or exclaimed their exhilaration, but in that moment, I couldn't say anything. The tears filled my eyes, but I didn't actually cry. I was too stunned. My brother asked me what was wrong, and I passed him my phone, and though he doesn't quite understand the query process, he said "Congratulations."

Now the first thing I did was reread the email, just to make sure it was real. I needed the verification that after reading only the first five pages of my manuscript, plus my query letter, that this agent really wanted to move forward and read the rest of my novel. The words were still there, and I knew I needed to call my mom and my best friend, but neither answered. I left one rather shaky voicemail, and sent a few texts with the same request to "please please please call me." They both thought something horrific had happened. They both called back. They both were just as ecstatic. And I reminded them both that this could still mean rejection, because it might. But in that moment, I knew it was still a huge step toward publication. 

That day the best friend and I talked for two and a half hours, and he mentioned his amazement at how grounded I stayed through it all; knowing the chance of rejection was still viable. And since receiving the exciting email, I have gotten a rejection from another agent, sent without personalization, but kind all the same. The first thing that came to mind after this long-winded phone call was my dissatisfaction with the overall end of the book, because I wasn't sure how it would lead into the second book within this duology. And just as the excitement dissipated, the stress took hold in its familiar place. 

My anxiety appeared based on the fact that I have a penchant for perfection. It is, I believe, my biggest flaw. I feared the fact that my book still wasn't perfect, and knew I needed to make adjustments, even minor, before sending this off to the agent. In the meantime, I let all the other important people in my life know what was happening, and they offered congratulations, and I existed in a kind of haze the rest of that first day. 

By Friday, I'd made it to the end of the book. I had a shower epiphany. I knew what final bit had to be added to the finale. I didn't change the last line, because that was what I wanted from the start. But I found a small way into what comes next for my story in BOOK TWO, and it felt right. I wrote the words. I texted the best friend about the ending. He read. I wrote. The day went on. 

At 4 PM I started reading my novel through from the beginning. I luxuriated in the fact that I'd finally killed the darling paragraph that opens the novel, in exchange for something that reads much more clean and offers higher stakes for the story. I read each chapter out loud to try and catch as many typos as possible. And somehow, even after the hundreds of times I've read through this manuscript, there were still stupid errors. (I'm still wondering if I will ever get credit on Goodreads for the many times I've read through my own book). I read straight through until 2:30 AM when my voice started to crack, and the view of my computer screen blurred through the veil of exhaustion. I slept four hours. I woke, and finished the read through. I compiled the manuscript from Scrivener into a word doc, and began the arduous process of formatting for submission with the updated word count, title, page numbers, etc., and ensured each chapter started on its own page. I finished the last of this from the back seat of my sister's car as we drove toward our hometown for the morning. As we made it back to the place I grew up, the place my story was born, I realized there wasn't anything left to do but send this back to the agent. 

And I did. 

Now it's been a few days since submitting, and all that's left to do is wait.

I hate waiting. But like that song reminds: All will be well. You can ask me how, but only time will tell.

Only time can tell what will happen with this agent and the future of my book. 

Now a week later, I can't say I've learned how to combat my perfectionism, but I can say I let go of the idea that my work is perfect in time to send this whole manuscript. Sometimes all we can do is let things go without knowing what will come back. I'm not sure if this will bring me an offer of representation, or a rejection. But I do know this is one step closer to my dream, and maybe, all really will be well. Until then...

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Into the Trenches

Leading up to this point in my writing career, I always knew I would submerge myself into the murky waters of traditional publishing. It's taken research and advice from my grad school mentors, and what's more, it's been coming to terms with the fact that this journey is far longer than many understand, for the waters of traditional publishing to become a bit more clear. And after all of this research, preparation, and waiting, I've finally thrown myself into the query trenches. 

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Last Monday, I submitted to the first agent, and yesterday, I submitted to ten more, including my #1 pick. This isn't to say I felt ready in the moment, because hitting send on those emails was one of the most terrifying experiences in my life as a writer. But I did it, because that is the next step. Going into this process, I know what usually happens now--rejection. 

I look back a year ago when I last wrote about rejection (which you can read HERE) but since then, I've become more accustomed to being rejected. From the beginning of this year, I set a goal of 50 rejections for 2017. At the end of last year, I had a total of 36, and now it's August, and I'm already at 44 rejections for this year, which means I will probably exceed my goal of 50. But that doesn't horrify me, because it means I am being aggressive about sending out my work, taking leaps, and putting myself out there to the publishing world. And no, it's not always easy, but that's okay. 

Now, less than 24 hours since sending out my queries, I keep rereading my first "rejection." I thought it would be more of a soul-crushing experience, and once I have a few more book rejections, that feeling might change. But right now, I have a personalized rejection, which for those outside the realm of writing and querying, is something to be proud of.

Most agents when passing on work will send a form rejection to expedite the process. But this agent personalized mine, offering words of encouragement about my dialogue and concept, which he found "really intriguing." He even offered me the opportunity to resubmit pending significant revisions.

At this point, I am confident in my first chapter, but am waiting to hear back from my lovely BETA readers to see if this is a recurring problem. Either way, whatever I choose, it is thrilling to think someone took the time to read and respond to my work. I'm sure this will be the only one I hear from for a bit since most agents say they take anywhere from 2-3 weeks to 4-8, sometimes even 12 weeks to respond. And they might send a form rejection after all that waiting, but it doesn't matter, because I believe in this book and this process and the future of my publishing career.

Staying positive through this really helps, I promise. But there have been a few other things, which have helped along the way:

1.) Support:

First and foremost, I must once again share my thanks for the ever-amazing army of supporters (who I wrote about HERE)Even from within the query trenches, they're still going above and beyond to support me and this book. They are reading my words, sharing their thoughts, and offering me their guiding light from near and far away. 

2.) Organization:

We now live in a time where resources such as Query Tracker exist! For any writers out there nearing the query process, I suggest you use this free service to help organize (and research) the many agents you will be sending your work to in the future. There is an option to add agents to your list while keeping updated on the query as the days pass. It shows when certain agents are closed to queries, and will even show the success and failure rate of other writers querying their work. 

3.) research:

I don't know what I would've done without Manuscript Wish List: both the website and the hashtag. Many of the agents I've submitted to have been ones I found using #MSWL on Twitter. Here agents will tweet about their must have books, and I found many tweets, which seemed to correlate with what I was writing. By using the website Manuscript Wish List, writers can either search certain agents or just go through the alphabetical directory to find specific information based on what agents may or may not be looking for, what genres they represent, and how to query them. It is a great resource, which can help writers personalize their queries to agents. 

For those non-writers who've been following along on my journey, I hope my time into the trenches has taught you just a snippet about the arduous process of traditional publishing, and I hope it helps you understand the magic and madness of being a writer. 

And for those of you struggling through writing your queries, I suggest using Writer's Digest Successful Queries series to help you write a letter that will stand out from the slush pile. But for any of this to happen, you need to finish that book. So finish it! Stop waiting to be ready, because as Lemony Snicket says:

"If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives."

To all you readers who are also writers, I believe in you. I believe you can do this, and I can't wait to read your books someday. And I can't wait for you to read mine! Until then...

It Takes a Kingdom

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that it takes a village to raise a child, but I promise you, it takes a kingdom to raise a book. Now I've written here many times that I *finished* my novel. And I'm not going to say that any of those parts of my journey were not exciting, because they were. But I'm here to say I *actually* have a finished novel. My novel.

How do I know this is THE completed draft?

After sending the document to my Kindle, (which not only worked as an extra editing technique, but also made my book seem real) I read and read and didn't have anything more to add.

Now I'm not going to say I didn't find any stupid mistakes, though, after all this time, I was hoping the writing would be perfect. Oh, what a fool I still am sometimes! But what I did discover is that this feels and reads like a real book. And I had a thought of, "wow, I wrote this. I actually write THIS book." I'm not only proud of all I've accomplished, but I'm proud of the writing, the story, and the actual book. 

Maybe you're wondering what this has to do with my journey as a writer, and the journey of this book, so I'll tell you. It takes real commitment and courage, not just creativity to write a book. And sometimes I forget that a non-writer might not understand what this experience is like from day to day to month to year. It took someone talking about "real" jobs and expectations and frankly, not understanding anything I do, to prove my own resilience and my own determination to make the dream of publishing this book a reality.

Now I'm used to rejection. Really, I am. But these words from someone I love and respect hurt more than I thought. I went back to my computer that night, and reread my words. I typed END OF BOOK ONE, and I sent the draft to be spiral bound for someone else to read. And at that point, I knew the support I gave myself was enough. 

The next day, however, I posted a picture of my book on my Kindle. I didn't want to forget the excitement of reading this straight through for the first time without a red pen. It was just me and my characters and the words I'd so lovingly crafted and killed and reconfigured to be the best they could be to tell this story.

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My aunt was the first to comment on the post. She'd volunteered to read the pages that night even though she's not much of a reader, and the gesture was so heartwarming because she's been with me on this journey for the past three years. She was there to road trip for residencies in New Hampshire. She's listened to me prattle on about possible plot points, and she even brought champagne when I finished my final chapter a few months ago. She's amazing.

And then a childhood friend (Jess, I'm talking about you!) wanted to read the pages. And then my cousin (Lindsey--this is you!) also wanted to read. And all at once, the people with whom I'd found a real kinship in grad school started volunteering to beta read my book. One even wanted to see a chapter from a peer workshop, which still exists, but is much better now. And she reminded me of my army of supporters, my kingdom of people willing to love this book, to love me and my writing; they believe this will be published someday. 

Before this day, however, I had other support, too. My mentor from grad school had already helped with my query letter. She is amazing, and she is the reason this book is what it is today. The best friend called and talked for a few minutes and helped me see how Chapter Seven could be better, and now it is. My other two best friends from grad school (Erin & Alicia, this means you!) have the pages and they, too, have been my strength through these many months, nay years, of writing this book.

I have my mom who taught me to be a reader first and who's let me be the person I needed to be to write this book. And there are others, too, who I knew would read this, including friends who are more like family (Amanda Maher, I'm talking about you!), and people who I've never met who remind me that my story idea is intriguing and as someone said, "impressive." Then there are the wonderful members of my 1:1000 family who will be reading this in their own time, and who continue to cheer me on from different states and countries and time zones! 

But my people, my tribe from grad school (Mell & Erika & Meg & Amanda) were the people who reminded me it takes more than a village to raise a book. It takes a whole fucking kingdom. And their support means the world to me. 

Now this wasn't the post I was planning for this week, but I never want to forget the way it feels to be loved and appreciated and uplifted from the brutality of rejections and revisions and editing to this feeling of absolute belief that I can do this!

And I can. 

I believed it so long ago, and now I'm making it happen with the support of my kingdom of writers and readers and kind souls who are here to raise this project to be a real book you might get to read someday. All that's left is to finish the synopsis (insert dread), revise the query letter one more time, and then throw myself into the query trenches. Until then...

Finis

This time last week, I was handing over the *finished* draft of my manuscript to the best friend. I had spent the days leading up to that moment inputing the last of my hard-copy edits, and writing a few new chapters to fill remaining holes in the narrative. The process was extensive, and without the best friend's looming departure back to NYC, I'm not sure I would've finished in time. Since writing "End of Book One" two months ago, I have been editing and polishing words I'd already written. And I'm not sure the act of revision will ever not seem strange.

I wrote the last words. I printed the draft. I even added a faux cover just to make it seem a bit more official. And with the pages in the envelope, I had an overwhelming sense of excitement and terror. Now I know the best friend will be honest and will read these pages with care. He has been my editor since the moment I started writing. He was the first person to read my first book all those years before. He read this book back when it was only 100 pages of my thesis, which needed to be edited overnight. And now I am excited for him to read where I've taken this book, and also terrified that it won't live up to the years of work I've already put into the writing. But I suppose being a writer is like that most days; always teetering between fear and fragility and obsession and love. Or at least that has been my experience with writing. 

This same day, the lovely ladies at Hooked to Books sent me the loveliest of gifts; a signature pen, which this writer will put to good use. And it felt like a sign that I was really done. The kindness was too much. Too often, as writers, we do the work alone, and we forget there are other people in the world. But this gesture reminded me that there is support beyond the writing and the world crafted in the mind and put down on the page. 

Maybe this doesn't feel noteworthy, or rather, blogworthy to those reading from a different time or place. But as I compile names of possible agents and rework the synopsis and try to craft a query letter that will stand out amidst the slush pile, I'm not sure I want to forget any part of this process, which is why I am committing it to the memory of this blog. 

I've since sent the manuscript to my two other best friends, and I know they, too, will handle this work with care. They will also be honest and critical and everything else we were taught to be in our time in the MFA. They understand the work and edits and the writing better than most. They are my people. They once again reminded me that this process doesn't have to swallow me up alone. 

All best,Kayla King.png

Be Better

I was meant to write a post with a similar title just after the new year. But alas, life has already gotten in the way. The post I'd planned to pen had to do with hope and belief and the word better.

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You see, for the past two years, I've chosen a word instead of a list of resolutions. The new year hasn't been about changing myself, but rather, my outlook. And this year, I chose the word better because it has such a prominent place within BOOK ONE of my Dreamer Duology. 

That post was delayed because I finally finished the novel! And I wasn't sure I would return to this word or this post until the moment I opened my journal to a bee sketch from two weeks ago.

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I am writing this now from the same chair at the same Starbucks where I completed this novel exactly two weeks ago. Two and half years after I began this strange story for graduate school, I completed the chapters, and wrote the words: END OF BOOK ONE, which have been four of my favorite words written the past month. 

So I finished my novel. 

You might be wondering what happens next, or maybe you are some future version of me returning to this post to remember what it felt like to have this story as only your own (hi, future Kayla). 

For the past two weeks I've been editing, which has meant red pens and reading whenever I can find the time. These edits were done long hand on a printed version of the manuscript. Now I am putting the edits back into the document. It's a rather arduous task, but one that is necessary to my process. 

When this is complete (and I can read this story throughout without an eye twitch from stupid mistakes and plot holes and syntax and character arcs and motivations and everything that culminates in the magic of storytelling) I will send this off and away to New York City so that the best friend can read this whole thing through. And I'll share with a few others who I trust with this story. 

While they read, I might finally tackle that TBR pile that has grown too precarious in the past two and a half years since I started this story. But I will also be researching agents that are looking for a story like mine. I will write the much dreaded query letter. And then I will take the next step. I will send the novel out into the world, and see where my words take me. 

But for now, the scent of fresh ground coffee smells like possibility and endings, because when I took that deep breath after finishing this book, coffee was all I could smell. 

And now, maybe, you're left wondering about that bee sketch. I can tell you honey bees play a prominent part in my novel, as do many other things. I can tell you I wrote the last chapter of this novel to Amber Run's new single, Fickle Game, and that the middle was produced with the Strumbellas in my ears and wine in my veins. I can tell you I cried writing a chapter and cried when I wrote the last chapter. But I don't want to tell you too much about this novel, because I am hoping you will get to read it someday.

While the following quote is spoken by my wonderfully broken protagonist, it was written by me, and I suppose there must be some truth in such a sentiment:

 "I’ve always been wonderful at writing endings, but have never been good at goodbyes."

Though the ending to this book was much more difficult to write than any other I've written before, it is true that I've never been good at goodbyes. I can't imagine what it will be like when BOOK TWO  in this duology is written and comes to a close, when I have to leave my world of dreamers behind in exchange for new characters and new worlds and new words. But for now, the journey persists, and the writing persists. 

And through the possibility of perseverance I will be better. 

I hope you will, too. 

The Process of Revision

For the past three months, I have been revising and editing BOOK ONE with the two  amazing peers in room 309 of Ketchum Hall. Our time together is almost done, and so, too, are the changes I've made. Before this whole process, I thought my book was finished, but this experience has taught me the benefits of a writer community when it comes to both revision and editing.

You see, invisible reader, sometimes being a writer is solitary. Sometimes it's lonely, and somewhat painful. But it's also wonderful and exhilarating and rewarding and filled with   characters created from the writer's own imagination! But getting to work and revise with fellow writers is something, which makes this whole process of bettering a manuscript more enjoyable.

I'm sure you've noticed that updates about the progress of BOOK TWO have somewhat stalled for the last few months. But fear not. I haven't given up on this sequel! On the contrary, I've learned that trying to work on revisions for one book while writing the next installment at the same time is just too much.

So what's to come in this new year?

To begin, I will attend my first winter residency of graduate school where I will be able to share this book with another writing community, and hopefully I will be able to make this book the best it can be!

I think it's true when people say you shouldn't rush your first book. It needs time to be revised again and again and again. That's just part of the life of a writer. But even amidst these revisions, the future is bright and exiting! All that's left is to tell myself there is something divine found in the act of this process, and that no matter what, I have a story I believe in. After all, at the end of the day, that's the best a writer can hope for. 

All best,Kayla King.png

Kill Those Darlings

"In writing, you must kill your darlings." William Faulkner said this, and many other writers choose to agree. Until you come to the point where your finger is poised over the delete button, this doesn't make sense. Growing up, I never thought I would be someone capable of killing. But as a writer, the act of murder is often necessary to rid pages of unnecessary details, scenes, dialogue, etc.

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During the first two rounds of revisions,for BOOK ONE, I didn't  kill much. Sure, I made changes, multitudes of them. I cleaned up plot points, and it felt good knowing that I had finally finished writing my first book. I suppose, because I actually killed a character, I thought that alone might be good enough. Looking back, I know I was scared of actually going through and making big cuts. Maybe I thought if I left any details out that my future readers wouldn't get it. It wasn't until this week, however, that I found out this fear was irrational, and most likely normal for someone who has never done a full round of revisions. 

I could never imagine killing my darlings, but I have to say, I did it. And I haven't broken down. I haven't rethought my entire existence as a writer. On the contrary, I feel more strongly than ever that my book matters. I guess in writing the book I love, I might have written a book other people may love someday.

That's my dream. 

I'm not sure I could live without writing, even if I wasn't actually crafting stories. I think I could be content just writing for me. But now that I have finished revising my book, killed my darlings, and gotten rid of ten pages and three thousand words, I'm not sure it is enough to keep this story just for myself. I want to share it.

So what comes next?

Well, research. Then query letters, belief, and faith. And hopefully, I'm on my way to sharing this story with readers like you.

All best,Kayla King.png

Author's Note

Dear Reader,                                                                               

Here is the story of this story as chronologically factual as I can remember:

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The Beginning—So almost three years ago I was sitting in a classroom with my fellow seniors. The class was Experimental Writing, and with the exception of one or two other people, I was the only one who enjoyed writing. I had been writing poetry for five years, even used a few of those poems for the class. But I'd never written real fiction until this class.

As soon as I started working on flash fiction pieces, I fell in love with the written word all over again. So when the teacher gave us the freedom to create our own project I thought, that sounds like fun. I liked to write, even seemed to be somewhat good at writing, so I thought it would be easy to come up with an idea. 

The amazing thing was that I didn’t have to come up with an idea on my own. My best friend leaned across his desk, mentioning something about a story involving fairytales, about fairytale charactersperhaps. I immediately started getting ideas about all the stories I'd loved as a child. I knew I wanted the final project to be an actual storybook, pictures and all, yet I waited until the last minute to write the story. Being an extreme case of human procrastination, I had a slight notion as to how I was actually going to conquer this idea, but in waiting to the final moment, it transformed into something I hadn't expected. "Falling" turned into something I actually liked.

I handed the project in, all fourteen, single-spaced pages of my short story, and I received a 100%. Perfect score. Imperfect story. Fast forward to the end of the year. To graduation. To pictures with aforementioned best friend. To a really long plane ride across the ocean to England with said best friend, and an incredible trip abroad. From there, I wrote one poem and some essays, but this story, the one you might someday hold in your hand, it was buried deep in my brain, and I had no intentions of ever digging it back up. 

I was going to be an interior designer instead.

It was the plan. 

Interior design was something I had planned for from middle school onward but writing…writing was a passion, which came naturally. Writing was something I'd always done.  It helped me get through the difficult things. (Well writing, mixed with Time, and a best friend, the same best friend previously mentioned.) So I felt I owed quite a bit to writing, to the art and craft of writing, to my own writing. Imagine my surprise when the thing I thought I feared, the decision I never thought I could make, felt easy. You see, after about two weeks at college, I loaded a fresh document in Microsoft Word before restarting a story. THE story. The one I hope you will see on a bookshelf someday. I finished the first three chapters, and then stopped to pick up another project. The funny thing is, I never gave up hope for this story. It sat in a binder labeled BOOK as it didn’t have a title at the time, and the entirety of this magical world stayed dormant until October 2011. 

The Middle—October 2011 was a rather boring month of the fall semester. I still hadn’t been admitted into the Writing major just yet. I wasn’t taking any writing classes. So I was thinking what is the point? I was taking a Literary Analysis class, Sociology, British Literature part deux, and Intro. to Math. The closest thing to my kind of writing was an essay about The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston. Imagine my surprise when one day, bored to death in my Brit. Lit. class, it was there, a seedling of an idea; instantaneous. And from there, for the next three weeks, I took pages and pages of notes, researched Grimm’s Fairytales, translations of "Ring Around the Rosie," fleshed out characters, documented what will be five books worth of information, and created a name. A working title.

Around the third week of note taking, I decided it was time to get my thoughts organized. Looking back now, I think I needed an excuse not to start writing. It seemed scary, because for the first time, I didn’t feel like I was telling the story, but rather my characters were. I always thought it pure insanity, maybe even nonsensical when people would talk about how make-believe people would tell their own story. But somehow, they did. It is something you might only understand if it happens to you.

But I digress.

Out of fear or paranoia or whatever, it took me until the end of October to actually start writing. The first four chapters were fairly easy, because much of those pages grew out of my rough draft from the fall of 2010. After that, it was new, especially because my fifth character was a brand new addition. Nine months later, I finished a book, my book, my novel! I guess it is right in saying it feels like my child (nine months…get it?). So I will beg you to someday handle this story with care.

The End—This is still unknown. The book is finished, and with several rounds of revisions under way, it is definitely much more grammatically correct. For the next few months, I will be polishing, and when aforementioned friend returns from Australia, we will sit and fix what's broken so that I can start sending this out to agents. And from there? Well, I guess I leave this to the hands of the literary gods in hopes that someday I will see this next to my Harry Potter books and my bright pink copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I hope one day you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. But I guess that is half the battle as a writer; truly enjoying your own book despite all the late nights, the revisions, the paper cuts, the timelines, genealogical charts, character sketches, maps, and the plethora of information that is only pertinent in your own head. But know this is the story I always wanted to write, and I suppose deep down this story always wanted to be written. It persevered through senior year of high school, a change of school and major, a change of title, and almost two years later, it is the story my best friend inspired me to write: a story about fairytales. 

I am leaving this story here so that one day when the memory becomes somewhat blurry, when the details are too difficult to remember, I can look back and say yes, that is how it happened. Until then, I can’t wait to fall through!

All best,Kayla King.png