Today I'm excited to have debut author Hannah West here to share about her YA fairy tale/fantasy KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS. It sounds really good, and I'm hoping to read it.
Here's a blurb from Goodreads:
Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two - now three - after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince's band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.
Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.
See what I mean about it sounding good? Now here's Hannah!
Revising and Compromising
There’s no shortage of pointers about revising out there. It is, after all, half of the process of completing a novel. However, when I finished up the first draft of KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS as a 22-year-old recent college grad with naught but an English writing minor (I majored in French), I didn’t know that. I wasn’t involved in the online community of writers. I wasn’t desperately soaking up every ounce of info on the process of getting published - only the basics of submitting a manuscript to agents and publishers.
I know, recipe for success, right? But truthfully, I chose ignorance because I knew how sensitive I was. I knew the information out there would overwhelm me. I didn’t want to crunch the numbers to find out just how high the odds were stacked against me because I was afraid I would give up on a story I loved. And while that may have been the right thing for my emotions, it was not the right thing for my little draft. You see, I cleaned up the grammar and edited for errors and dusted the tiny little modest thing up before sending my ONE-HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FOUR THOUSAND WORD MANUSCRIPT to my dream agents.
Yeah, that thing? Revising? I thought I had done that. Turns out a decade of reading and cherishing Robin McKinley and J.R.R. Tolkien can shoot you in the foot in the form of wordy wordful wordiness and seeing absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Miraculously, a few agents took interest, among them one of my top-tier dream agents. But after requesting a partial and then a full, she let me know her take on my manuscript: it had wonderful elements, but needed a lot of work and cutting. Since she didn’t offer me an R&R (revise and resubmit), I knew she didn’t mean trimming off a little fat.
And between her request and rejection, I learned just by digging around online and...idk living?...that 154k is preposterous for a debut novel. Even for fantasy. Even for high fantasy.
So straight out of the gate, I knew: there was promise in my story, but making that promise shine much brighter than its garish faults would take work. Humility. Compromise.
Most debut authors who understand a thing or two about the industry don’t have a problem with humility.
To insert an epic metaphor: informed writers are ready to catch the friendly-fire arrow whose point is painful revising notes, and instead of whining “you tried to hurt me,” they turn it around and use it as a weapon against the enemy: a story that needs WORK! All that to say, they have humility in the bag.
So I want to talk about the sticky in-between. Where you’re not so desperate that you would surrender your manuscript, your soul, and your firstborn daughter. But you’re not so prideful about your amazing story that you think every painful note is simply wrong.
This is where compromise comes into play. When you’re revising based on feedback from someone you very much trust, whatever stage you’re at. You’ve taken criticisms in stride. But this note just doesn’t sit right.
Side note: my advice for receiving an email or earful of notes is to take a deep breath, take a break, and maybe even take a nap. Or a bath. Do not react on impulse. Do not immediately shoot an email back explaining (respectfully, of course) how those ideas won’t work for your story. Because they might. Let it all sink in, and let the ideas start flowing. That panicky-indignant feeling will go away and you may even start getting excited about the changes.
But sometimes it doesn’t, and you don’t.
So those notes that continue to sit wrong - what do you do with them?
Thankfully, the answer to a difficult note doesn’t have to be “yes” or “no.” Toward the end of a beautiful and smooth revision process with my editor (whose praises I will sing forever), there was a magicky element of the story that she felt needed to be cut or replaced with something else, something clearer and stronger. But when I tried to conjure up ideas to replace it, nothing else rang as true as that element. Nothing made as much sense.
This is where refusing to getting worked up over every big note pays off for a writer. Because if you say yes, yes, yes 25 times over and then you say “I don’t know,” the other person should recognize that your instincts are kicking in and that you, the creator of this story, know there’s a better solution out there.
Look for a little elbow room. When someone says an element doesn’t work, it may just mean it doesn’t work the way it is now. Instead of getting rid of a precious something that feels vital to your story, looks for ways to adapt it until it just clicks. Turn “this just doesn’t work” into “what if I could make it work?” Revisions take just as much innovation as drafting.
There’s only one time I can think of that I said no to a structural revision suggestion. I’d wholeheartedly agreed with most notes and found middle ground on others. This cut, in my opinion, would have meant losing something very essential to the story and very precious to me as its author. So when my editor left it up to my judgment, the “no” felt clear as day.
Your no’s should feel very clear and intentional - not based on an emotional reaction but on a logical evaluation of what works.
Sometimes compromise is seen as a negative thing. Someone who refuses to compromise is viewed as strong and steadfast, while someone who’s willing to compromise is viewed as pliable or disloyal (e.g., “she compromised her morals!”). But in my opinion, there’s often a solution waiting in the middle ground that’s a million times better than what either side could have thought up alone. Being loyal to your story means seeking out the fixes that make it shine.
You can find Hannah at:
Link to pre-order book: https://www.amazon.com/Kingdom
-Ash-Briars-Hannah-West/dp/ 0823436519/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8& qid=1470423783&sr=8-1&keywords =kingdom+of+ash+and+briars+by+ hannah+west
Link to Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hann
Hannah and her publisher generously offered a copy of KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIAR for a giveaway. To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through September 10th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This is for U.S.
Here's what's coming up:
I'll be back on Wednesday, September 7th with an interview with debut author J. Keller Ford and a giveaway of her YA fantasy IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING.
The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Traci Chee and her agent Barbara Poelle with a three chapter critique by Barbara and a giveaway of THE READER, a YA fantasy, by Tracie.
On Wednesday that week, I have an agent spotlight interview with Catherine Cho and a query critique.
The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Jennifer Bardsley and a giveaway of her YA speculative fiction GENESIS GIRL
Hope to see you on Wednesday, September 7th! Have a great Labor Day Weekend!