5 Ways to Celebrate When You (Finally) Finish That Novel

It's been a quiet month for me on the blog, but a very, very busy month in my writing life. Most notably: I finished self-editing EVERY LAST MINUTE, the first novel in my Time Wreckers Trilogy.

The finished book is 90,000 words. 90,000 words, y'all. Turns out I had a lot to say.

Anyway, once I finally hit the last page and realized that I had done everything I could to tell this story, I felt an odd sense of loss. This story idea has been churning around in my head for six years. I wrote and edited this book once, put it in a drawer, wrote and published another book, and then came back to this one. I re-mapped it. Made a new outline. Wrote another draft and re-wrote it again. I spent the last few months grueling over some pretty tedious self-editing. 

Mara and Will Sterling have lived in my head for a long time. I am so ready to send them out into the world and tell you their story--but letting them go is bittersweet. 

However, there are a lot of exciting things ahead! Right now, EVERY LAST MINUTE is out with beta readers (thanks, guys!). Then I'll take their suggestions and make some more modifications before sending it off to a professional editor. I also get to work with the cover designer, send out some copies for early reviews...and maybe even plan a launch party. 

Speaking of parties, I strongly believe that those of us in a creative profession deserve to celebrate every step in the process. When I finished prewriting, I posted about my progress in an online writers community. When I finished drafting, for example, I bought myself a pretty scarf I'd been eyeing. Now that I'm done self-editing this behemoth of a manuscript, I picked five (yes, five) little ways to celebrate this moment in my writing life. Here they are:

5 Ways to Celebrate When You (Finally) Finish Your Novel ||

1. Have a celebratory drink (or two)

It doesn't have to be alcohol (although this is definitely a champagne-worthy moment.) I finished my self-editing at two in the afternoon on a brutally hot summer day, so I fixed myself an ice cream float. Yum.

2. Take a walk

Seriously. Writing and editing involves a lot of time hunched over the keyboard. Get outside for a minute and re-acquaint yourself with the great outdoors. Breathe some fresh air. Remind yourself that your fictional world is pretty cool...but reality isn't so bad, either.

3. Call a friend

You can totally start the conversation with "Guess what? I finally finished editing that book!" But maybe try to follow that up with "Let's get together and hang out." Self-editing is a really intense time--once you come up for air, it's good to make time for your loved ones!

4. Read a book

Before you were a writer, you were a reader. Always make time to reconnect with your first love--books!  

5. Start another story

Because you already know that there's nothing like building a new world entirely out of words.

5 Ways To Celebrate When You (Finally) Finish That Novel ||

How do you celebrate your creative accomplishments? Let us know in the comments!

What Does It Mean To Be A Millennial?

Growing up, I heard my generation described by a number of different labels: New Boomers, Generation Y, and Generation Wired, just to name a few. Now that we've stumbled our way into our twenties and thirties, we finally seem to have settled on one label: Millennial.

I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about what it meant to be a millennial myself until I started writing Every Last Minute, my current work in progress. The main characters, Will and Mara, are about one or two years older than I am. Like me, they were in their twenties during the three years in which their story takes place: 2011, 2006, and 2015.

Do all these similarities mean that I can skip the research and write Will and Mara's story based off my own experience? Of course not. I'm far too Type A for that. :) Part of the pre-writing for this story meant researching what it meant for Will and Mara to grow up in the Millennial generation.

Writing Millennial Characters: What Does It Mean To Be A Millennial? ||

My preliminary research did not inspire a lot of confidence. At first glance, it seemed that millennials had a pretty bad reputation. Here's the gist:

Millennials are lazy.

We're entitled.

We're obsessed with ourselves, our social media, and our tech gadgets.

We require constant praise and can't handle correction.

No one knows how to work with us, market to us, or kick our free-loading selves out of their basements.

Yowch. All that said, I'd hardly say we're any more despised than previous generations were in their heyday. This quote about "kids these days" was written over two thousand years ago:

They [Young People] have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things — and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning — all their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything — they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.
— Aristotle

So if the young people of today are full of idealistic extremists with illusions of grandeur, then it seems we're right on track, historically speaking.

Personally, I think it's been pretty interesting to grow up in this generation: while the Internet was coming of age and taking on the world, we were, too. I was in third grade when the school librarian showed us how the school computer could connect to another school's computer through the miracle of the World Wide Web. I remember sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor of the library, listening to the extremely long dial-up sequence and thinking, "Ugh, this is taking forever. Nobody's going to want to sit through this more than once."

Boy, was I wrong.

Technology aside, there are a few more traits that set the millennial generation apart. Here's what else I found while doing research for my millennial characters:

Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open To Change.

I like stats, so I thought this article from the PEW Research Center had some interesting details about millennial demographics. Here are just a few:

  • 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce
  • About one-in-eight older Millennials (ages 22 and older) say they’ve “boomeranged” back to a parent’s home because of the recession.
  • One-in-four are unaffiliated with any religion
  • Only about six-in-ten were raised by both parents
  • About a third of millennials are parents themselves
  • One-in-five millennials are currently married

This tracks with a lot of what I've seen in my own life and with my character's lives too. We graduated during the Great Recession, after all: it's no wonder so many of us are unemployed, underemployed, or currently living with friends or family.

So what are millennials doing while we're waiting for our ships to come in? Well, most of us aren't waiting, actually:

Millennials are the True Entrepreneur Generation

When I was growing up, I pictured "having a job" to mean living the 9-5 life. I figured I would have a boss, a biweekly paycheck, and regular work hours. At the beginning of my adult life, I actualy did: I was a special education teacher for several years. Then I went in a new direction and branched out on my own as a freelance writer, editor, and author. I work from home, contract with individual clients, and work a somewhat flexible schedule. My work life looks nothing like I pictured growing up, but it looks a lot like many of my peers'.

Interestingly, both main characters in my work-in-progress work 9-to-5 jobs. Will is a middle school music teacher and Mara has a new job as a research assistant. Emphasis on new: when the story begins, Mara has been unemployed for several years. She's a millennial, after all, and finding a job in the recession is no easy feat.

Millennials: The Cause Generation

Studies are finding that our generation is plugged in to humanitarian and social issues around the world--and we're doing something about it, too. This article from YouCaring shows that 84% of millennials (those of us with jobs, anyway) made a charitable donation in 2015. I'd say we're also pretty likely to take up calls to action we find online, such as making donations through websites, signing online petitions, and sharing news and calls for help on social media.

This was a lot of fun to research, since Will and Mara's story centers around a fictional social issue. In my story, timeline rectifications are available for rehabilitated criminals. In short, a repentant offender can agree to go back in time and undo his or her crime. The new timeline will pick up from there, ensuring that no one will even have a memory of the original crime.

The catch? The victims of the crime have to agree to the rectification. When Mara and Will discover the shooter that nearly took their lives could go back in time, the social issue of timeline rectification becomes less theoretical and all too real. The premise of the story may be science fiction, but the feelings of these two characters as they take on this issue? Not too removed from real life. 

If millennials are particularly involved in social justice or other causes, it's often because we have a personal connection. Maybe something as simple as seeing a good friend posting about an issue makes us want to join in the cause. Maybe our own experiences with unemployment or even poverty make us empathetic to those who have even greater needs. Or maybe, like Will and Mara, a cause involves us personally, and we have to decide where we stand.

So...what does it mean to be a millennial?

Whatever we choose.

How Much Science Should Be In Science Fiction?

I'm about a quarter of the way through editing my current work-in-progress, and believe me, it's slow-going. I'm checking every detail for consistency, ironing out the tone, and rewriting the scenes that I raced through during my marathon drafting sessions. At the same time, I'm trying to balance big-picture considerations. Who am I writing this story for? What readers will enjoy reading it? Just what genre is this story, anyway?

My current work-in-progress is a time travel romance that blurs the lines between science fiction and...well, romance. In the beginning of the novel, I introduce Will and Mara Sterling, a twenty-something couple starting off their new marriage with old scars:

Will and Mara first met six years ago. They were freshmen in college: young, ambitious, and full of plans for the years ahead. Within seconds, the actions of one gunman changed both of their lives. Although Will and Mara survived the campus shooting, the attack left them with permanent injuries, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The last six years have been challenging to say the least, but Will and Mara count themselves lucky. After all, they have each other.

So far, this story has the romance covered: while Will and Mara have struggled through horrifying circumstances, they're deeply and genuinely in love with each other and the life they share. Enter the science fiction elements, neatly disguised as their call to adventure:

A new initiative from the Justice Department offers Will and Mara the chance of a lifetime. The shooter has been rehabilitated and his crime qualifies for an event modification. With the consent of his victims, they can all travel back to the original scene of the crime, giving the gunman a chance to undo his deeds and put things right.

Event modification is my idea of how time travel would be used today if it existed. It's not fancy, flashy, or even a lot of fun. It's a heavily-moderated, overly bureaucratic system intended to give both offenders and victims a second chance. Since the criminal is rehabilitated, why not give him the opportunity to go back and undo his crime?

I know what facing this decision will mean for Will and Mara, and I know how the possibility of event modification will affect the culture around them, the justice system, and the gunman himself. Here's what I don't know: how much of an explanation do I give on how event modification works? How much of the mechanics of time travel would readers really want to know?

In other words: how much science should be in science fiction?

How much science should be in science fiction? |

The answer to the science-to-fiction ratio lies with the readers. Who would be interested in Mara and Will's story? Why would they pick up this book, and what would they expect to find?

"People who like science fiction," is an easy answer, but it's not the whole answer. Some sci-fi readers are into hard science fiction. They'd like a detailed description of how time travel works, along with the timeline for how it was developed and the blueprints to the machine. If I gloss over the mechanics of event modification, these hard sci-fi readers might stop reading for a minute and think, "Okay, Will and Mara went back in time, did it work? What was it like? What makes that possible?"

On the other hand, some readers prefer soft science fiction. These are the people who read about a new technology and think, "Ooh, and what will happen next?" rather than "Whoa! How did that happen?" They don't want to spend time in the engineering room of the Event Modification Division of the Justice Department, learning how it all works. They want to be up in the observation room, finding out just how people react when they're offered an unexpected second chance.

At its core, my work-in-progress is a combination of romance and soft science fiction. Time travel is a big part of the story, but it's not the center of the story. The focus needs to stay on Will and Mara, two characters that struggle to understand who they are and how the events of their lives have changed them, for better or for worse. much science should be in science fiction? I know my answer:

Just enough to cause a reaction.

How much science should be in science fiction? Just enough to cause a reaction. |