I Have a Deadline
Regular readers may have noticed that my posts have been more infrequent as of late. Don’t worry. It’s for a good reason! I’m finally allowed to talk about it too.
Although I started Eyes Open in 2018 and worked on it with the brilliant Louise Hawes as my advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts, I set the project aside a year later, when Zetta Elliott approached me to co-author the verse novel that would become Moonwalking. Having written poems for Eyes Open, I felt confident enough to accept the challenge.
I learned a lot from working with Zetta and Moonwalking editor Grace Kendall, and when I returned to Eyes Open a year ago, I wasn’t so sure about the book. To begin with, I was stuck on the ending. The story was a love triangle, and I didn’t know how Sónia, my protagonist, would get herself out of it. I sent what I had to amazing agent Jacqui Lipton, who solved the pacing problem of Torch, and once again, she came to the rescue. I had to get rid of the love triangle, but it didn’t mean getting rid of the two boys who were points on the triangle. It did mean changing them and their relationships with Sónia.
In the meantime, Moonwalking came out to great critical acclaim, which not only increased my own confidence but also let other people know I could write a legitimate verse novel. Publishers generally like to see how an initial novel does before signing a second one (the advantage of getting a two-book contract, by the way, as it pretty much guarantees a second chance), and my synopsis and sample poems weren’t ready until summer 2022 anyway, at which point Torch received its first review — the Kirkus star — as well as a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.
Like Moonwalking, Eyes Open sold on proposal, which means I had a specific amount of time to finish the rest of the book. I like selling on proposal. I find deadlines motivating. Other people find them terrifying. They probably shouldn’t sell on proposal, or if they do, the proposal should contain a more significant share of the book than I had for either of my verse novels. But I’m the opposite. If I have to write something “on spec” — creating the entire product without the guarantee of being able to sell it — I feel demotivated and procrastinate. I didn’t used to be like this. In fact, I’ve written four entire YA novels over the years on spec that are sitting on my hard drive or in the case of the first “practice novel” deleted and all hard copies shredded.
Over the next couple of years, you’re going to hear a lot more about Eyes Open, so I should probably get back to, um, finishing the book. I’m thrilled and excited to be working with my PW Star Watch finalist editor Amy Fitzgerald again. Eyes Open is due out in spring 2024 and I can’t wait for you all to meet bad-girl Sónia. For now, I’ll just say she’s the kind of girl I wanted to be but was afraid — the one who says what everyone else is thinking but wouldn’t dare to say.