Why I Really Do What I Do (and Why It Matters to You)
Let’s try a little experiment. What comes to mind when I say, “It’s time to edit your story”?
For many writers, the notion of editing conjures an unwelcome memory of brutal critique or derision—a time you offered your story to a peer or mentor only to be shot down.
Maybe for you, it was a stern English teacher in grade school who filled your papers with inky red hieroglyphics. Or perhaps that college critique group who ripped your idea to shreds and laughed about it—right in front of you. Maybe you’re visualizing the relative who scorned your dream of becoming a writer and told you to find “real” aspirations instead.
Or perhaps—if you’re lucky—you don’t have any specific negative memories of critique; there’s just a general tightening in your midsection at the thought of sending your story child off to a total stranger who probably collects red pens and blogs about comma abuse.
Whatever the source of your apprehension, I get it. Writing stories—even fictional ones—is a deeply personal endeavor, and there’s something terrifying about revealing your creation to another human being, especially when that human’s job (and possibly joy in life) seems to be identifying all of your flaws and weaknesses.
Pen Friends ~ Please welcome YA Author Candice Yamnitz talking about her debut novel, UNBETHROTHED, publishing journey, writing dreams, and so much more! It’s always a joy to interview new authors, and I’m excited to have Candice here with us today.
SP: UNBETROTHED will come out in February 2022 by Illuminate YA. Please add on Goodreads while waiting! Here’s the blurb:
Around Agatha Sea, princesses are poised, magically gifted, and betrothed.
So, when seventeen-year-old Princess Beatriz still fails to secure a betrothal, her parents hold a ball. Forming an alliance could mean the difference between peace and war, but Beatriz doesn’t want just any suitor. She’s in love with her best friend, Prince Lux. Marrying Prince Lux will always be a silly dream as long as she has no magical gift.
Princess Beatriz will do whatever it takes to obtain a touch of magic, including making a deadly oath to go on a quest to Valle de Los Fantasmas. A valley where no one comes out alive.
If she can manage to succeed, Princess Beatriz could have everything she desires and secure peace for her kingdom. If she fails, she’ll lose not only her greatest dream but also her kingdom, and maybe even her own life.
SP: How long did it take you to write UNBETHROTHED and how did this story come about? Where do you get your ideas?
Candice: I wrote the first chapters of UNBETROTHED in January 2018 after taking a 3-month break from writing. I had been discouraged about my writing. During that break, I had a character developing in my mind. She was someone so caught up in finding her value that she didn’t think of anyone else. I took another long break after typing out the first seven chapters until I buckled down in July 2018. This is where the magic happened. I squeezed in writing during every lull in my day and stayed up late enjoying the twists and turns. When August strolled around, UNBETROTHED was done. In my mind, it just needed another run-through. In reality, it took about 12 complete editing passes before I signed with my agent. Then, it took another 3 run-throughs before I signed my first book contract. After another 3 passes with my publisher, we have the UNBETROTHED being published today.
SP: Can you tell us more about the beautiful setting and Latina-inspired places or characters like the Valle de los Fantasmas? How did that come about?
Growing up, we’d visit family in Mexico and Puerto Rico. When I was a young adult, those visits became more frequent. We’d tour the Puerto Rican countryside. In Mexico, we visited Huasteca where I got to climb waterfalls and jump from the tops of them. Some of Beatriz’s adventures come from those experiences. Valle de los Fantasmas is an actual place in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, but it’s not so tropical. You’d have to travel a couple hours East to get to the more lush lands over the mountains. I wanted my reader to enjoy those experiences that I had devoured as a young adult.
SP: What part of the writing process do you enjoy most? Which is the hardest?
Candice: I enjoyed writing the first draft of UNBETROTHED most. I can’t say that about every first draft. There was something fun about coming up with Beatriz’s blunders. The hardest part of this book were the edits. The first few chapters went through about 30 editing passes or more. Though the heart of the first chapters haven’t changed, everything else adjusted to better thrust the story forward. I’ve written about three other manuscripts since UNBETROTHED and some of them had more challenging first drafts and easier edits.
SP: How did you come up with the magic system in your book? What’s your favorite magic power from the story and how would you use it?
Candice: I love the idea of everyone receiving a magical gifting, and it seemed different than a lot of the stories I was reading. I wanted everyone’s magical ability to be somewhat unique like the people who wielded them. I soon realized; superpowers needed to be more tangible in stories so I made each gift come with a special marking on their bodies. My favorite magical ability is only an inaudible whisper in UNBETROTHED. I love portal making and delve more into the gift in a novella I am editing, UNBOUND. I’m reading through UNBOUND in my podcast. Check it out here: https://unbound.buzzsprout.com/
SP: Any writing tip you’d like to share?
Candice: There are so many. 1.) Learn how you best cope with criticism (You need others speaking into your story without you becoming discouraged). 2.) Have fun; it comes across in your writing. 3.) Be an always learner; your writing will suffer if you aren’t constantly learning the craft. 4.) Find a time to write and stick with it. Practice makes better.
A few fun questions. Is Candice a…
Plotter/pantster? I’m a plantser. I write a synopsis and character sketches first.
Last book you read? Realms of Light by Sandra Fernadez Rhoads
Current dream vacation spot? I’m not sure. I’d love to go visit family in Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Current favorite K-Drama? I haven’t seen a K-Drama episode in a decade. I have some old telenovelas I love to rewatch.
Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? OR? None of the above.
Favorite childhood book? I didn’t like reading as a kid. If childhood includes my senior year of high school, Lord of the Rings would be my favorite.
What do you want? No, really…what do you want? If you’re like me, sometimes that’s not the easiest question to answer. I have lots of wants vying for my attention. They barge into the forefront of my mind as soon as I wake up, each of them screaming, “me first, me first!” Like a classroom full of unruly kindergartners, I try to get them to sit down and be quiet. Then, with each of their hands raised in the air, I call on them one at a time. That’s on a good day. On bad days, I get overrun and just want to hide in my bed until they all go away. Each of us struggle with life’s legion demands and desires.I think this is why I like hurricanes.
I would swear that every time I have a leap of inspiration for THE BIG IDEA the very next thing that happens is a series of small obstacles, or something wherein I’m the caretaker and it’s a priority interrupt. It’s so hard, I know, but the key to thriving when this happens is to not see it as the death of your BIG IDEA but, instead, to know that perhaps you actually were on the right track and this is your challenge: to allow your creative spirit to still have a voice and not be trampled into the dust by circumstances.
In literature, the Romantic Hero is an eternal optimist. They somehow know how to turn even the most desperate of situations into an opportunity and—to the outsider at least—may appear to rebound quickly from setbacks. In truth they keenly feel every bump and bruise. They just stubbornly choose to believe that the heartache is worthwhile, that each obstacle and roadblock is temporary, and that their eventual victory will be all the sweeter for all the tears.
Cress and Winter from The Lunar Chronicles are two of my favorite examples of romantic heroes. I love the way that Marissa Meyers took two fairy tales about damsels in distress and transformed them into examples of women of substance. Despite the cruel abuses they suffered at the hands of a wicked Queen, they still held onto their hope of seeing a better world for their people. They didn’t just work within the system they lived, they found ways around it—not to benefit themselves in the short-term, but to benefit others in the long-run.
“[The queen’s] words carried too much weight, but Winter didn’t try to decipher them. She was busy nudging at the girl with her toe, gesturing for her to get into the crate.“
In literature, the Reckless Hero is someone who jumps into the fray with abandon (and often without a clear plan of action). The reckless hero doesn’t mind picking things up as they go along, but as a result, they may find themselves having to loop around or in a spot of trouble because they’re not always the best at listening to the warnings or advice of others.
One of my favorite Reckless Heroes is Rachel from C.J. Redwine’s Defiance Trilogy. She’s smart, she’s capable, she’s deadly, but her impulsive nature constantly lands her (and others around her) in hot water. Other favorite Reckless Heroes include Tanwen from Lindsay Franklin’s The Weaver Trilogy and Carswell Thorne from Melissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. One of the things I admire most about the reckless hero is that they are fully committed to their cause—even if they’re working from questionable motives.
In fiction, the Reluctant Hero is a protagonist who has to be jolted or dragged out of their comfort zone (even if it’s an unhealthy/unsafe one) at the beginning of their story. And even then, it takes them a while to fully commit to the journey. It doesn’t matter that they weren’t fully satisfied with where they were in life when we first meet them. True, they might not be happy being stuck where they are, but ordinary, predictable days are far safer than venturing out into the unknown where there is the risk of failure or even worse…success.
When I think about favorite characters who fall into this category, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, El from Sara Ella’s Unblemished trilogy, Nym from Mary Weber’s Storm Siren trilogy, and Fawkes from Nadine Brandes’ Fawkes immediately come to mind. Each of them start out reluctantly, but through the course of their story learn to face their fears, recognize their strengths, and overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against them.
I’ve been writing and telling stories in some form or other for most of my life. Like most, it began with my make-believes as a child. And then it slowly grew from there. But it wasn’t until I was midway through my junior year of college I began to realize that we don’t all have to grow up to become doctors and astronauts and future presidents. We could also grow up to write (and publish) stories of our own.
That realization came to me 19-years ago. Since then I’ve published a few short stories and several articles, and I’ve gone on to build a small freelance editing career working with both fiction and nonfiction writers that I love. But my own writing journey hasn’t been the smooth path I’d first envisioned it might be. It’s been filled with twists, turns, dead-ends, and obstacles that have often left me feeling lost and ready to give up
Freedom never felt so sweet! You sit down to write and have TEN different points of view (POV) to choose from. Who should you go with today?
Hold on! Not so fast. Before writing a novel with multiple POVs, let’s take some time to assess whether this technique is best for your story.
On Tuesday we talked about when to write multiple points of view. Today, we’re going to focus on parsing out the pros and cons of using this writing technique. As I was curious (for top secret reasons of course) about this topic I spent way too long googling all the pros and cons for this. I’m hoping I can save you some time through my learnings here.
You’ve had a brilliant idea for a book! You’re scribbling down notes as fast as you can. Worlds are coming into focus, intricate plots are woven together, and new characters are demanding your love and attention.
You sit down to write your first chapter and realize there’s one thing you’ve forgotten: point of view (POV).