rachelcoker


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Writing category.

Now Offering–Personal Writing Lessons!!

fan letter

This is something I’ve been planning for a looong time, and I’m so excited to finally get to make the announcement on my blog! Many of you have heard my story of how I grew to become a published author at the young age of sixteen. Well, I credit a huge part in my success to my wonderful writing coach Jonathan that I worked with for about a year when I was twelve/thirteen. Before I started working with Jonathan, I knew NOTHING about writing AT ALL. So I had to learn all the basics–adjectives, adverbs, characterization, plot building–you name it! And yet, somehow along that journey, I learned something else. I learned how to embrace my passion for writing–for crafting stories and developing characters and expressing myself through words. And now, I want to be able to do that for other young people out there in the big wide world of writing. I know that there are other girls (and maybe boys?) out there who have a passion for writing but maybe need a little push to help them fine-tune their craft. Maybe you’d like a second opinion on your work, or you think you could use a bit of help “perfecting” your writing before sending it out in the scary world of agents and editors and publishers.

That’s where I come in!

Basically, I want to be your friend and mentor. I want us to have an open relationship where we can talk about writing and where I can give you writing assignments once a week  and then see what flows from that. Ideally, you, as my student, will write short stories and I will look them over and write up my notes. Maybe I’ll notice that you need work developing your characterization, or setting up scenes, or working on pacing. Or maybe I’ll notice a bigger problem if I see you struggling with plotting out ahead of time or developing your tone of voice. As a seasoned writer and fresh set of eyes, I would be able to pick out these problems and work through them with you, helping you to learn to edit your own stories and stay on top of your own weaknesses.

Every month, I would also give you reading assignments based on whatever we were talking about. If I was trying to emphasize to you the importance of powerful dialog, for instance, I might have you read a play and would point out to you how that author used nothing but dialog to craft a strong story. Or we might read some poems as we study the rhythm of words and the flow of an idea. The power of literature is so important when you’re a writer, and everyone can benefit from reading (or re-reading!) the great classics that have paved the way for authors to come.

The main objective of my coaching would be not only to help you hone your writing abilities, but also to discover your artistic voice. To help you try out different styles of writing and storytelling, and help you discover what style of writing is really “you”. How can you best tell your story to the world through your pen?

It would also be a very personal and open relationship. If you were able to, I would love to start off our relationship with a little Skype chat and “get to know” each other. To talk about your goals and your favorite books and stories, and get to know a little about me, too. We would work our way through short stories, novellas, and eventually novels, all the while really analyzing your writing and discovering how to make you an even better storyteller.

I will admit that I knew practically nothing about writing until I was eleven years old, but I have learned to much over the years and I want nothing more than to share my passion with others! And to this day, no matter how nicely I think I’ve written something, I still have editors and agents who will go through and point things out and help me fine-tune my own abilities. I just want to do that for others!

Anyway, the tutoring would probably consist of an email a week. I would give you an assignment, then you would have a little under a week to complete it. You would send it in to me and I would email you back in a day or two with my comments, ideas, and your next assignment. You would (hopefully!) be constantly growing and learning and becoming aware of both your strengths and weaknesses.

Obviously, I will work on writing up a contract for my students. The cost will probably be $100 a month, and I will probably make the contract to be signed for three or four month increments at a time. I will also work on discovering contests, teen publication opportunities, and other fun opportunities for my students! The basic idea is that this should be like any other “sport” or instrumental lesson you might take in life. Just as if you were paying me to teach you piano, you’re paying for a professional opinion and for someone to work with you to develop your skill in this area. And then you would be expected to work on it your own throughout the week!
So when would this fabulous writing opportunity start? Haha, good question. Truth is, I’m pretty flexible. Right now, my schedule is pretty tied up until May, but starting at the beginning of the summer, I will be totally free! In fact, I’m stepping out on a limb with this and quitting my day job so that I have more time to work with my writing students. I’m praying that God will provide the number of students I need to make a decent living, but I feel like He’s laid this on my heart for this season in my life, so I’m optimistic that He will provide the writers!

If you and your parents are interested in lessons, or would like more information, please email me at rachelcokerwrites@hotmail.com. That’s right, I changed my email address. I’d really like to keep my private life and my professional life separate, so if you all could start emailing me at this account, I’d really appreciate it!

Even if you’re not interested or can’t afford it at this time, I do sincerely hope that you continue writing and know that you can email me any time with a question. I always answer, no matter how long it may take me to write up a reply!

So what do you think? Would this be like a dream come true for some of you, or do you think I’m crazy to be quitting my job to teach writing, of all things?

-Rachel


A Big, Giant Weird-Fest

lucy and ricky

Have you ever heard the Dr. Seuss quote, “We’re all a little weird, and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them in mutual weirdness and call it love.” Yeah, I figured you had. If not, then I probably just made your day with that quote, because it is the coolest. 😉

One thing that I have found to be confoundedly true when writing fiction is that no two stories are ever the same. Seriously! Sometimes I wish that there would be more similarities between my characters and my plot lines and my settings, but there just aren’t. Every new story and every little thread is unique and different and frustratingly hard to sort through at times. And the hardest of all is usually the romances.

I’m so, so bad at writing romantic fiction, you guys. I’m not even joking. If you could see my first drafts and the awkward dialogs between my guys and gals, you would probably laugh. And say, “Well that was definitely written by a seventeen-year-old.” Because it can be so jumbled up sometimes. I tend to make things way more subtle than they probably should be, and in my mind, a three-minute dialog about whether or not you’d rather experience death by asphyxiation or being eaten alive slowly by fire ants constitutes as a romantic scene. (No joke–I actually wrote that into a book once)

But one thing that I’ve come to realize, is that it’s the weird scenes that I end up loving the most. The ones where things are a little bit awkward, a little bit funny, and very, very sweet. I guess because that’s the way people are in real life! Just like Dr. Seuss said, we’re all a little weird. We’re messed up, strange, and sometimes socially-awkward human beings who are just trying to love each other in the best way possible. So why shouldn’t our books reflect that?

Seriously, when you think about it, how much more do you love those kinds of scenes than the stereotypical love scenes where the couple rides off into the sunset, their equally gorgeous locks tousled in the wind, without even a saddle or stirrups or any kind of equipment to help them because they’re just so darn perfect they don’t need any assistance? Gag me with a spoon. If that couple actually exists, I probably hate them. And you should, too.

I talk all the time about adding humor to books, or subtle wit and sarcasm. But I think we should also make more of a conscious effort to add a little weirdness. Romantic scenes are a pain in the neck to write. But they become so much more beautiful, sweet, and realistic when a little oddness is thrown into the mix. Like throwing a shoe at a guy? Classic. 😉

-Rachel


Writing Q&A

Q&AI literally freaked out this morning when I woke up and realized it was FRIDAY and that I hadn’t posted anything since MONDAY!!! I don’t know where this week went! I had something going on literally everyday, and I feel like I was only home for a few hours every day. 😦 But I haven’t forgotten about you guys! I swear I’ll still post things throughout the busy holiday season, even if it means waking up at the crack of dawn to write a blog entry. Yes, you’ll see my zombie side come out. It’s not pretty. 😉

Anyway, I figured I’d finally get around to posting my answers to all those writing questions you all sent me a few weeks ago! These are the *abbreviated* answers, so I may actually end up posting whole blog posts on some of them, if I find I have even more to say. (Brace yourselves!)

  • When writing a first draft, do you just try to get the basic story down first, and worry about all the other details later?

Yes, definitely! Whenever I’m first coming up with the concept for a story, I just have to tell myself that it’s okay if my writing stinks. First drafts aren’t supposed to be perfect, they’re supposed to be real. When I’m working on a first draft, I’m not worried about whether or not all the dates match up, or the living room is described, or the dialogs are flowing smoothly with an even amount of speech tags. All of that can and should be added later. When I’m working on a first draft, I’m asking myself the questions: “Does this story work? Are these characters realistic? Is the plot line moving along? Is my main character growing?” It’s the emotions and the story that I’m most worried about, not all the little details.. Those can always be added in later, so I wouldn’t even worry about them until you’re finished with your first draft!

  • Do you think it’s better to write the whole novel now, and then put in your chapter breaks later?

Oh, yes! I never put in my chapter breaks until I am completely finished with all of my drafts. Like, ready-to-send-it-to-Zondervan finished. Why? Because I do edits. I go back and add in entire three-thousand word scenes. If I stuck with the chapter breaks that I made on my first draft, the chapters in my books would either be insanely long or snippy and short. Both of which are problems. You can’t really tell where to put chapter breaks until you’re entirely finished with the story. Once I consider a manuscript “done”, I go back in and add those breaks after every three thousand words or so. That way, I know all the chapters are pretty even!

  • What are some things that help you regain interest in your story when you’re facing writers’ block?

The first thing I do is take a break. It’s hard to clamp down on a story when you’re so tired of it that your brain isn’t working anymore. So I take a break and go for a walk, or watch a movie, or read a book. Sometimes I’ll even break for a few days, if I feel like I really need the extra time to get my head back into it. Then I return to the book with a clear brain and a fresh vision for the story and the characters.

Another thing I like to do is go back to the beginning of my story and just start reading. It’s amazing how inspired you can get to continue if you just start at the beginning and read through your story. You’ll start remembering why you love those characters and why you initially felt inspired to tell this story to the world. It’s so helpful in overcoming writer’s block!

  • How do you normally do the research that your books require?

Very poorly. Haha, just kidding! Well, most of my books take place in the mid-20th century, so luckily that’s a very easy time period to research! So many people who lived then are still alive today, and love hearing my nosy questions! 😉

Usually, I start off with basic historical research. Who was President at the time? What was the average household income? What did schools and towns look like? Then I start thinking about aspects of everyday life. What kind of car did the average American drive? What clothes did they wear? What songs played on their record players? To get answers to these, I do all kinds of research. Yes, I read books, but mostly I look at vintage magazines, listen to old vinyls, watch black and white movies, and talk to older friends and relatives who have real-life answers. And I still make mistakes sometimes! I always laugh about the time my agent laughed at me for having Allie Everly walk from one room to the next while holding a telephone. Silly me! There were no cordless phones in 1943! 😛

Well, hopefully that answered all your writing questions! I got a few more questions that I’m saving for a really exciting feature I’m planning starring (drum roll please)…. My sister HANNAH!!!! Yes, that’s right. Hannah and I are planning a video blog together, and we want to hear all of your stupid, silly questions. Anything even remotely funny or odd, ask away! We’ll pick our five favorite random questions, and answer them in a video blog that will probably be posted next Friday, so you have until this weekend to send us your questions! Remember that we are teenage girls, and that we absolutely love being silly and strange, so don’t worry that your questions will freak us out. If you want to know which limb we would first cut off in a freak rock-climbing accident, we’d love to tell you!

You can either post your questions here, or message them to me on my Facebook page. 🙂

-Rachel


It’s That Time of Year…

And no, I’m not talking about “when the world falls in love”. I’m talking about “when Rachel starts freaking out and losing sleep at night and tells all her friends to refrain from Googling her name for the next three months.” Yes, this is (da-da-dum)…. BOOK REVIEW SEASON!!!

I remember when Interrupted came out last spring, I told myself I would not read a single book review online or in a magazine. Ha! As if! I’m a girl and I’m nosy and I’m self-conscious, so obviously I ended up reading every review that was sent my way, both good and bad. And let me tell you something, I don’t remember the details of a single good review. Honestly. Out of the hundreds of reviews of Interrupted floating out there in cyberspace, I probably only read half a dozen that were truly terrible. And yet, those are the six that I remember most vividly and could probably quote in my sleep. Every derogatory comment or snarky criticism–they’re stuck in my brain forever!

And now, here we go all over again! It’s Christmastime, but it’s also Book Review Season, and so my brain is probably going to be on overload for the next month or so. My publicist/family members/friends will be sending me just about every review on Chasing Jupiter that possibly exists, and I’ll probably end up reading them all. Because that’s the weak person that I am! And while I’m sure I’ll read all the sweet reviews and be very blessed by them, I also know that I’ll be a little bit scarred by the negative ones as well.

But you know what? That’s going to be a great thing for me. I can’t live in this bubble where everything I produce is hilarious and witty and insightful and poetic. Sometimes people are going to disagree with me and that’s okay! My prayer throughout this whole process is that every negative review or criticism I receive in the next month and a half will do nothing but strengthen me in the Lord and help grow me into a better person.

At the end of the year, it’s all going to be okay. I know that I’ll get through reading every great and not-so-great review and make it out just fine. I’m looking forward to the journey, and seeing where God leads me throughout it! 🙂

Aaaaaannnnndddd…. You can now pre-order your own copy of Chasing Jupiter. So get it now! And then eagerly anticipate every second in between now and the moment you hold it in your hands! 😉

-Rachel


How to Be a Visual Writer

Sometimes I think it’s just so funny how I ended up being a writer. Because I always think of writing as being a part of that analytical, logical side of your brain that I just about never use. I am so not an analytical person! I have friends who are, and I totally respect and envy them, but that has never been my strong point. I figured out a long time ago that I am a visual learner and communicator. I have a photographic memory, and I have this constant need for things to be described and explained through pictures. This probably explains why I need to look people in the face when I’m talking to them and why I can never figure out what people are talking about through email or phone messages. It’s bad.

Anyway, somehow all of this has translated into the way that I write. A number of readers picked up on a very big aspect of my first book, Interrupted. And that is the idea that Interrupted reads like a movie. Many friends and readers told me that once they got a few chapters into it, the story started feeling more like a movie than a book. That is because I like to write with a technique I call visual writing. I’d love to explain it a bit to you all, and get your thoughts on the concept.

Interrupted is probably the first full book I wrote where I attempted to keep things very visual, but I’ve been trying to keep it up since then, because I find it so refreshing and interesting. The first thing you should probably know is that the majority of books written nowadays are not visual at all. That’s totally not a bad thing! I’m just clarifying a bit. Nowadays, there’s a big movement in literature to be as “bare-bones” as possible. That’s why you’ll find so many books on store shelves today that are gritty, gripping, and as dialog-oriented as possible. Visual writing is not dialog-oriented. You will probably never find a page in one of my books that consists of nothing but a back-and-forth dialog between two or three characters. That can be powerful and modern and fresh, but it’s not my style at all.

So let’s talk about what visual writing is, shall we?

  • Visual writing is…. Not afraid of descriptions.

I actually wrote a whole post for my friend Stephanie’s blog, Go Teen Writers, on the power of descriptions. So many people are afraid of using descriptions nowadays in fiction! One of my best friends brought up the point that this is probably because writers are afraid of developing the Anne-of-Green-Gables-complex, where you start writing these huge, lengthy chunks of description that just end up being really fluffy and unnecessary. While I was at first offended by this idea–I mean, I love me some L. M. Montgomery–I know that my friend is totally right. So don’t even go there with your descriptions, people. However, the idea of a small section of a beautiful, well-written description can add so much to your book. It makes the reader feel like she’s really there, soaking it all up. She can see the moonlight bouncing off the frothy white-capped waves. She’s actually able to visualize the muddy footprints on the front steps. It’s an amazing power to add to your story.

  • Visual writers must… Be able to hear music in their heads.

Or if you can’t hear it in your head, put it on your computer or something. Seriously! The only way your book is going to feel like a beautiful movie is if you can literally hear the soundtrack while you’re writing. I’ve talked before about what kind of music I listen to while I write, and I would encourage you to make a playlist of your own. Have you ever noticed that the best movies are the ones that have utterly perfect soundtracks? That’s because music has the power to evoke strong emotions in us and cause us to view things in a different way. So even though your readers may not be able to actually hear the music playing when they’re reading your book, you have to somehow find a way to capture that essence in your writing. I do it by referencing different songs in my stories. In Interrupted, Sam and Allie dance to “Cheek to Cheek”, by Fred Astaire, which is the absolute perfect song to describe their feelings at that moment. It’s bubbly, swingy, romantic, and full of promise. In the scene where Allie’s mother dies, Allie plays “Pavane for a Dead Princess” by Ravel on the piano. Even someone who’s never heard that song before can probably imagine just how solemn and heartbreakingly beautiful the music was in that moment. Your readers aren’t just going to imagine this music on their own. As the writer, you have to create that bubble of music and emotion and wrap it around them so they can fully feel the moment.

  • Visual writing… Knows how to slow down and freeze the best moments.

In movies we call this “slow-motion”. Now, it would be totally cheesy to talk about something happening in slow-motion in your story, but there is a way to express that idea without coming right out and using that terminology. The key is to identify the best, biggest, most absolutely beautiful moments in your book. This could consist of love declarations, sweet family conversations, intimate moments with best friends, and dreams coming true. Then you have to find ways to slow those moments down and stretch them out until their beauty just intensifies. When you’re writing, make sure to take the time to “look around” your scene and take notice of everything around your main character. Is there a breeze in the air, bending the grass and tickling everyone’s necks? Is there a train in the distance, running along on its everyday schedule despite the extraordinary things happening right here and right now? Is the tea kettle whistling, or the dishwasher running, or the windchimes tinkling in the wind? Notice those things, and write them down. Fully experience the moments and record them. By slowing down those moments and recording them, your readers will be able to see and visualize everything.

*

Well, in the end, I could talk about this topic forever, but I don’t want to reveal all my big secrets. 😉 Haha, just kidding. I honestly feel like I reveal so much through this blog that you all know exactly as much about writing as I do. 🙂

Oh, and before I forget, I’m planning on doing another Q&A segment soon! So if you have any questions for me about writing, the publication process, my life as an author, or just random silliness in general, ask away! You can comment below or message me on Facebook, and I’ll do my best to answer in an upcoming blog entry. No question is to random or dumb, I promise. 🙂

-Rachel


Video Blog: The Problem With Killing Off Characters

Went back to my preschool roots today and decided to wear my hair in pigtails. No random reason, just thought it would make me come off as mature and intellectual as I discussed literature with you all.

Haha, totally kidding. 😉 We all know I couldn’t come off as intellectual if I tried. What I really wanted to do was to discuss when a dramatic death is important to a story, and when it comes off as just plain depressing. So I’m shedding some insight into when it’s okay to kill off your characters and when you’re better off keeping them alive. Heavy stuff.

-Rachel


“Christian” Romance Novels???

Ugh. A topic that I am both dreading and dying to talk about. Obviously, this is something that both interests and impacts me personally, as a popular YA author in the Christian market. I’m also a teenage girl and huge reader, so this is a topic that has come up probably a million times among my friends. So obviously I’m going to have opinions on the subject and I figured it’s about time I wrote about it!

So this is the great debate: Should Christian girls read “Christian” romance novels?

(I guess you could add guys in there, too, though I’ve yet to meet a teenage guy who likes reading romantic fiction, although maybe they do and they just don’t like to admit it. Who knows?)

I have heard both sides of this argument. Some of my friends argue that unmarried Christians should have absolutely nothing to do with any type of romantic fiction because it leads them to wish for unrealistic things and spend all their time dreaming about the future, which can be very harmful for their wellbeing. Others believe that it’s absolutely fine to read romantic fiction as long as you remember that no one’s perfect and don’t get carried away by silly daydreams.

So what do I think? Hmmm… You’re not going to get a definite answer out of me that easily. Because, truthfully, I don’t think it’s a black and white issue. I believe it’s something that has to be carefully thought-out and considered, and a lot of prayer has to be applied. We don’t want to be legalistic and absolutely condemn something that God hasn’t forbidden us to do. I mean, the Bible certainly has its share of love stories and I’d say there are quite a few things in there that might even be considered highly romantic. Just saying. 😉

In thinking through this topic, I want to refute five statements that Christians make about romantic fiction, and then ask a few questions to help everyone come to their own opinion.

Statement Number One: When young women read romantic fiction, it opens them up to desiring a whole new world of things they’d never thought of before.

Um, not true. While filling your head with thousands of pages of romantic stories and dialog may obviously cause you to obsess over love a little bit more than a girl who spends all her time solving calculus problems, romantic fiction isn’t what makes teenage girls desire romance. That’s just the way God created women. They don’t need to read books about Amish women giving up their community to be with handsome outsiders with sweet motorized vehicles to want a romantic relationship. Just put a teenage girl in a room full of guys for more than three minutes and she’ll start to realize that all on her own. That’s just the way God made us! While fiction may not always be helpful in this area, it most certainly isn’t what causes young women to desire relationships. That’s a natural thing.

Statement Number Two: God doesn’t want us thinking about marriage until we’re actually ready to get married.

God certainly doesn’t want us spending all of our free time dwelling on what our lives will be like when we’re married and how much happier and holier we will be then. However, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to think about the future! In our family, we’ve always openly talked about what our lives might be like as adults and prayed for our future husbands together. Our parents ask us what we think of the young men in our lives and we have reasonable, God-focused discussions on what attributes we would like in our husbands and what tendencies we want to stay away from. It’s an open topic and it’s not something that we shun until we reach the magical age of 18, or 21, or whenever it’s suddenly appropriate to discuss marriage.

However, there’s obviously a difference between thinking about the future and obsessing over it. If reading romantic fiction causes you to think an unhealthy amount about your future husband, then don’t read it! Use common sense, people.

Statement Number Three: The men in romantic fiction don’t exist.

Um, obviously. That’s why it’s called “fiction”.

Seriously, though, I’ve heard this one a million times. So many, in fact, that I’ve made it my life goal to go and find an exact replica of Rhett Butler just to parade in front of the world (just kidding!). And, I have to admit, I’ve struggled with not being happy with men in real life too, which may prove that this statement has a bit of truth in it.

HOWEVER, just because the men in novels are incredibly good looking and sweet and funny and charming, that doesn’t mean we have to dismiss them as utterly unrealistic and evil. Why shouldn’t we have high standards? I don’t want to marry someone spineless and lazy and rude. That kind of man doesn’t deserve my love. It should be the same for all of you young ladies! No man is perfect. But neither are you. We all have faults and flaws, but that’s what marriage is: Two sinful people trying to glorify God together. Plus, if you’re really in love with a guy’s heart and character, he’ll be attractive to you, okay? Just because Gilbert Blythe doesn’t exist in real life, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect our future husbands to be sweet and godly. We shouldn’t let fiction raise or lower our own personal expectations.

Statement Number Four: Sitting around and reading silly novels is a waste of time.

Can I get an amen? I mean, obviously if sitting around and reading is all you ever do, you’re wasting a good amount of time! You should be spending your unmarried years serving and learning and working, doing your best to glorify God with your time. Reading novels isn’t exactly up there on the list of priorities.

That being said, there is nothing wrong with sitting down and enjoying a good, edifying book in your free time. If you’ve been working hard all day and you’ve spent time with the Lord and your family and all you want to do is unwind with a great story—then do it! I know my sister enjoys reading for an hour in the evenings, after everyone has gone to bed. How is that a waste of time? I personally like to read after supper, or on Saturday mornings, or during finance meetings at church (okay, I need to kick that last habit). In other words, whenever all my other duties are done and I have some free time.

However, even after all of that, I know that some Christians will still have questions and arguments on this topic. So here is what I think: You should make your own decision, and just stick to that. Okay? I don’t think it’s a big enough issue to try to convince everyone to come to one “right” decision. Just pray about it and let the Lord lead you in this area.

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When deciding whether or not to read a book, I would encourage you to ask the following questions (this is my checklist):

  • Does this book meet with my standards of purity? (For example, my books don’t have any kissing in them because I want to be sensitive to my readers, but since I don’t think it’s a sin to kiss before marriage, I don’t mind reading a book that includes kissing. Just no further, please!)
  • Does this book reflect Biblical principles of love and marriage?
  • Is God at the center of relationships in this book, both romantic and non-romantic?
  • Is reading this type of book going to cause me to change my opinions of the young men in my life now?
  • Does this story cause me to feel discontent about my current situation and where God has me in life?

I think that as long as you’re asking those questions and keeping God at the center of your life and thoughts, you’ll be just fine. 😉 Luckily for me, all my favorite books were written a hundred years ago and don’t contain any more than a few innocent kisses and wishy-washy speeches. But the guys wore suspenders and danced waltzes, which makes it infinitely harder for the men of today to compare, so maybe I am doomed, afterall! Haha…

-Rachel

Image via weheartit.com


The Publishing Process

As all of you probably realize by now, this is a blog about my life and my thoughts and my ideas. And, obviously, a HUGE part of my life is writing, which is probably why I talk about it all the time! So while it never fails to amuse me to talk about James Dean, and vacations, and mortifying childhood memories, I always have to come back to writing and my life as a writer.

Today I thought I’d share with you all a sort of timeline of what the publishing process actually looks like. I remember before I was published being really curious as to what exactly happens in the real publishing world, and how long all of it really takes. So now that I’ve sort of figured it out (and I’m still learning, by the way), I thought I might share some of the details with all of you inspiring writers and avid readers!

As an example, I’m going to give you the timeline of my second book, Chasing Jupiter, from budding ideas to complete publication (which hasn’t even happened yet–so I’m going to have to guess a few things!)

April, 2011 – The beginning ideas of a new story entitled “Peaches for Sale” begin swimming around in my head and I start working on a word document (one month after my first book was published!)

May, 2011 – I call up my agent and let him know that I’m working on something new. We discuss the next book idea and both grow very, very excited. I promise to send him the first fifty pages soon.

July, 2011 – I finish the complete first draft of “Peaches for Sale”, which runs at approx. 46,000 words, and send it to my agent for review

August, 2011 – I have multiple hour-long conversations with my agent over the phone discussing my new book and brainstorming revisions to make it even better. He writes up his notes and sends the document back to me to edit.

November, 2011 – Zondervan starts asking my agent about my new book and when they can finally see it. We start realizing that we’ve got to get this thing finished and in their inboxes ASAP.

January, 2012 – After months of revisions and editing, I’m finally happy with “Peaches for Sale”, now at over 52,000 words, and give the okay for my agent to send it to my editor at Zondervan

February, 2012 – Zondervan accepts my submission and gives me an offer on my second book!

March, 2012 – I sign the contract for my new book and receive my first advance check from Zondervan

April, 2012 – Multiple creative geniuses at Zondervan meet and brainstorm title and cover ideas for the new book. They eventually email me with the suggested title “Chasing Jupiter”, which I absolutely love! It definitely fits the feel of the book and is much more versital than my previous title, which felt too summery.

I passed this sign on our way back from Florida. I guess I was “Chasing Jupiter” and I didn’t even know it!

May, 2012 – I finally get my hands on the cover to “Chasing Jupiter” and post it here, where I find out that all of you love it as much as I do! A release date for the book is set for December 2012.

May, 2012 – I set up a date to get new author photos taken for publicity purposes–when you’re a teenager, you can change a lot in just a short year and a half! I send a few of my favorites to my editor and publicist to use for promotional ads and the Zondervan website.

The main picture chosen by Zondervan to be my new author photo.

June, 2012 – I receive my first round of major edits from my editor at Zondervan. There’s a lot of work to be done to the book, but I know that all of it will work to make the story stronger and more cohesive for my readers. My deadline for revisions is July 20th.

September, 2012 – I begin making arragements for speaking engagments after the publication of my second book, including schools, libraries, homeschool conventions, and churches (By the way–if you are interested in having me speak at your school, church, or homeschool group, email me and we’ll see if we can work something out! REC804 at hotmail dot com)

At my first ever book signing in Philadelphia with my editor Jacque!

October, 2012 – I send in the dedication for Chasing Jupiter. I forgot about that for Interrupted and I really want something meaningful for this book!

I receive the second round of edits from my editor. This time it’s nothing major, just a few slight tweaks here and there. I give her the okay to make those changes and move on with the production of the book.

November, 2012 – My publicist and other Zondervan workers start putting out ads, arranging interviews, and preparing for the launch of Chasing Jupiter next month!

December, 2012 – I’m sent the mockup cover for the book and look over it to make sure there’s no mistakes, my name is spelled right, and my bio info is correct. Once I give the okay, the book goes to print!

Zondervan sends me the advance copies of my book several weeks before the publication date, as well as sending reading copies to hundreds of lucky bloggers all over the world! Soon, those bloggers will write reviews (good or bad) and start getting the buzz going about my new book. It’s a very scary thing!

My second novel, Chasing Jupiter, is released and should be available at your local bookstore!

Whew! Sometimes I forget about how much work goes into publishing a book! It certainly makes one want to take another vacation, haha! Like I said, this is all just leading up to the release date of the book. After the first of the year, I’ll start doing book signings and speaking engagements again, so like I said, email me if you’re interested in having me sign or speak somewhere near you!

-Rachel


Video Post: Historical Fiction Versus Contemporary Fiction

This is an interactive blog post. Because in this video, I give my thoughts on historical fiction versus contemporary fiction, but I’m dying to hear your thoughts! Which category of fiction do you prefer, and why?

-Rachel


Sequels and Why I Hate Them

When the news first came out that I had written a second book that would be released later this year, the automatic gleeful question from everyone I talked to was: “Ooooh — Is it a sequel to Interrupted?” I got a few crestfallen faces in reply when I reluctantly answered, “No, sorry. It’s not. It’s a totally different book with a whole new set of characters.”

“But whyyyyyyy???? Why can’t you write a sequel to Interrupted? I loved that book/those characters/that setting.”

 

 

This is always an awkward situation. It doesn’t make sense to a lot of my readers why I wouldn’t want to go back to Interrupted and continue writing the story. They sometimes jump to the conclusion that I hate that book or those characters or that setting. Obviously, that’s not true. I don’t hate anything about Interrupted. However, there is one plain and simple truth:

I’m sick and tired of that book.

But wait — I don’t mean that in the way you think I do! I absolutely love my first novel and I really enjoy talking about it with people. It never fails to put a smile on my face when someone emails me to say that they enjoyed it. My voice always grows slightly higher when I ramble on and on about the book and how I published it. I truthfully do enjoy discussing Interrupted and hearing from people who enjoyed it.

That being said, I also feel like that book represents a certain period in my life that is closed now. When I first started writing Interrupted back in 2009, I was a much different person than I am now. And so the book reflected everything that was going on in my life and personality at the time. When I re-read the book now, I can definitely see huge chunks of who I was and what I thought about life and the world at fourteen years old. However, a lot of that is much different from who I am now. I’m older, and (hopefully!) more mature, with many different ideas about who I am and what I want out of life.

When you’re as young as I am, so much about yourself can change in just a few short years. So it’s very difficult for me to even think about re-approaching Interrupted and continue working on that story. While I’ll always have an emotional attachment to those characters and that story, I don’t relate to it as much anymore. And it’s so, so hard to write about something that you’re not emotionally in tune with anymore. I love Allie, but I understand her less now than I did when I was fourteen.

It’s a sad thing to be a writer, in some ways. You get these characters into your head and think about them constantly for months and months on end. They’re a part of everything that you do and everywhere you go. When having a normal conversation with a friend, you’re constantly searching for ideas and inspiration for scenes. When brushing your teeth, you start wondering what your character sees in the mirror and whether she likes it or not. When going to bed, you wonder if your character’s bed is hard or soft and whether or not they care. It’s so much different than just picking up a book, reading it, and moving on to something else in a few hours. No, as an author you have to keep coming back and coming back again and again.

By the end of the six or seven months it takes to write that book, you’re very tired of it, in a way. Sure, you’ll always love talking about it, and promoting it, and hearing what everyone else thinks about it, but it always feels like a chapter of your life has just ended. You stop writing that book and start working on something else. And then, before you know it, you’ve detached yourself from that story. It isn’t yours anymore. Now it belongs to everyone, to read and judge and love or hate. And, as the author, all you can do is throw your hands up and say, “Well, I enjoyed it while it was mine.” And then you move on to something else.

That’s very much the way I feel about Interrupted. Once upon a time, those characters were everything to me. I lived, breathed, and slept them, in a totally non-creepy way. But that was years ago, and now I feel like they belong to everyone. I don’t understand Allie much better than a fifteen-year-old girl living in Ohio does. We can all enjoy her, and think about her,  but none of us are really qualified to write her sequel.

I was talking about this with my uncle one day, and he made some really wise remarks on the subject. “You’re not ready or qualified to write her sequel right now, Rachel. You’re still too young to really understand what it would be like. But wait a few years, and write a few more books, and then one day, when you really know what it means to grow up, you can go back and write about her life again.”

So maybe I’ll do that, or maybe I won’t. I think only time will tell. What I do know is that I still love Interrupted, no matter how tired I am of being in the heads of those characters all the time. That book will always be a part of who I am. It was a chapter in my life that was unlike anything I’d ever experienced up until then, and it will always stick with me. I hope that all of you who have read the book sort of feel the same way.

-Rachel