Monday, June 30, 2014

Why I Ain't Even Mad at John Green

Today I saw this BuzzFeed post, which essentially implies that John Green’s “Okay? Okay.” was stolen from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

At first I was all like…


Because John Green is basically the god of YA authors. And plagiarism? Not cool.

But it only took about 0.4 seconds for me to change my tune.

I ain’t even mad at John Green.

Reason #1: “Okay” is a pretty common word. Have you thought about how many times you say it per day? (If you haven’t, you will today. You’re welcome.) It could be pure coincidence.

Reason #2: Eternal Sunshine… came out in 2004. From what I can tell, John Green came up with the idea for TFIOS in 2006. So is there a possibility that he saw the movie, unintentionally filed the “Okay?” tidbit in some back corner of his brain, and accidentally retrieved it while writing 2+ years later?

Yes. Absolutely.

How do I know? I’ve done the same thing.

See, I’m pretty particular about my characters’ names. I have to love them. And for whatever reason, I couldn’t come up with a name for the main character in my WIP. I tried out several, but none of them felt right.

Then one morning, it came to me. The perfect name: Skylar. Sky for short.

I slapped the name on top of my character worksheet in Scrivener, and started writing.

This perfect-name honeymoon lasted for about a week. Then I realized. The name Skylar?

Already been used.

By one of my friends.

In a book that I beta read.

A book that has the word “Sky” in the title.

A book that I loved.

Even though I’d only read the manuscript 16 months prior, and had talked about the book a ton since then, when it came to my WIP, I honestly did not make the connection to Blackfin Sky. It took a tweet from someone about the book for my “duh” moment to happen.

Maybe this is just John Green is having his own “duh” moment.

Everything we read, see on the screen, and hear on the radio becomes part of us. Maybe it’s a big part that we remember constantly. Maybe it’s a part so tiny we don’t remember it ever again. But maybe there’s a middle ground. Maybe there’s a part small enough that we forget about it for a while, but big enough to make a reappearance. Even years later. Even if we don’t realize it.

There’s a theory that there are no new stories, only new ways to tell them. That there’s a finite group of “things” that can be mashed together in different and beautiful ways, but can never increase in number. Maybe one of those “things” is a character name. Maybe one is “Okay? Okay.”

You know what? I bet Eternal Sunshine… has it’s own “thing.” Because its creators have read books and seen movies and listened to songs that became part of them, too.

Yes, plagiarism is wrong. But I’m proof that “duh” moments happen.

So I ain’t even mad at John Green.

I’m just short one main character name…

Monday, June 23, 2014

10 Truths...Publishing Your First Book

I realized last week that my most recent blog post was from 2013. Oops. The topic of said blog post was "my book is going to be published!" Since then, Where You'll Find Me has been published, and I've had ample time to reflect on the experience.

See, I thought I was prepared for publication. It was my dream. I'd worked at it for years. I was beyond excited. But looking back, I wasn't prepared at all. I'm not sure that a dream becoming reality is something you can be prepared for.

Things that I thought would happen did not happen, and things that I never in a million years thought would happen...did. Though everyone's experience is different and YMMV, I have a feeling a lot of what I went through is fairly universal.

Not all of what I'm about to share is bad. Not all of it is good. But all of it is 100% honest and true.

10 Truths about Publishing your First Book

1. The month before pub day kind of sucks. The list of last minute things to do was exciting, but endless: final proofs, blog tours, interviews, giveaways, etc. It left very little time for sleep, which was actually okay, because sleep was replaced by nerves. I'd sit straight up in bed at 1:47 a.m. in a cold sweat, thinking this is a horrible idea this book sucks it's not ready I'm not ready! But, of course, it was too late to back out. That month was also the time ARC reviews started rolling in...

2. The good reviews are better than gold. Wrapped in chocolate. With a puppy. At Disney World. The very first review of my book came through while I was home for the holidays. When I saw it on my phone, I was sitting in the passenger seat of my mom's car. She got all excited and asked me to read it out loud, but I only got half way through before I started crying happy tears. The fact that a complete stranger read and loved something I wrote pretty much made my life.

3. The bad reviews? Suck. I told myself I wouldn't read the negative reviews. But when those low-star reviews showed up, so did my curiosity. So I tried to prepare myself. I thought of everything anyone could hate about the book. I took a deep breath. I clicked a few links. And not only did they hate the 14 things I thought of, but they hated 32 other things that never crossed my mind, which was somehow so much worse!

The good news? Six months later, the sting of the negative reviews has faded, but the giddiness over positive reviews is still strong.

4. Pub day is AWESOME. The never-ending stream of tweets, texts, e-mails, and phone calls is overwhelming in the very best possible way. The writing community is incredibly supportive, and there aren't enough words for the gratitude I felt. Tip: Endless alerts all day = a dead phone battery. Have a charger on hand!

5. People react to the book in unpredictable ways.  One of my devout Catholic retired co-workers absolutely raved about the book, despite the characters' language, drinking, and questionable life choices. A friend who loves everything else she reads really didn't care for my book, and wasn't afraid to tell me so. One of my best friends didn't buy it or attempt to read it, but people like my cousin's cousin's cousin read it and told everyone they know about it. Totally unpredictable.

6. Friends and family are incredibly curious about sales. At least once a day, I was asked how the book was selling. Tip: The answer "I don't know yet" only encourages people to ask again the next time they see you. Go with something vague, like, "Pretty good, thanks for asking!" and then change the subject immediately to something like the weather or baseball.

7. Very cool, surreal things happen. Like the first time I was able so say I was an author, not just a writer. Like every time someone tweeted at me saying they loved the book. Like the time a high school student did her book report on my book and sent me pictures of it (!!!!!):

8. Requests for a sequel are inevitable. Despite the fact that my book was written as a stand-alone, I was constantly asked, "So, are you writing a sequel?" When I said no, the follow-up was always, "But I need to know what happens to Character X!" Tip: Have a ridiculous, sarcastic response prepared. For example: "Well, Character X has the baby, but it turns out to be a vampire who falls in love with Character Y, who really was a wizard the whole time!" Reactions are priceless, and questions about a sequel come to a screeching halt.

9. Publishing one book does not guarantee publication of a second book. This is one of the harshest truths. Just because I published a book did not mean that my agent said, "Yes, let's sub everything you write from here on out!" While on sub, no editor said, "Oh, you already have a book? That makes my decision to publish your next manuscript so much easier!"

Publishing is difficult. Rejection happens. The end.

10. Despite the ups and downs, it really is a dream come true. A couple of weeks ago, my friend and I were walking through the mall when she nudged me and said, "Hey, that's Miracle Face Lotion Guy!" I looked over, and she was right: it was like one of my characters had jumped off the page and into real life. But for just a second, I was confused. I've known Miracle Face Lotion Guy for years. Since my very first Garage Boy draft. But how did she know Miracle Face Lotion Guy? That's right. For a split second, I honestly forgot that my book had been published; that it's out in the world, and people like her have read it. Remembering that fact all over again?

Pretty much the greatest feeling ever.