ON WRITING MY FIRST NOVEL AND THE LESSONS I LEARNED

Before we dive into the process of writing my first novel, I have to tell you a little bit about my beginnings as a writer. I don’t remember when exactly I began writing as a child, it must have been in my early teens. Back then it was mostly fanfiction and all of it was still in German (because my English was abysmal). So technically I already wrote several novels back then, but as I’ll outline below, writing a novel is about so much more than just putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

The beginning

In the summer of 2014, after many years of dreaming about writing a book, an idea came to me and I latched onto it. For months I plotted, researched, fantasized, and planned. I let the story play out in my head over and over. And it wasn’t until March the following year that I’d worked up enough courage to actually write the damn thing. Progress was slow in the beginning, because I was so focused on writing the perfect book. Once I had realized there was no such thing, I really got going. I wrote most of the first draft over the following summer.

I wrote something—now what?

And then I abandoned my project. Perhaps it was because I didn’t really know which step would come next. I’d finished stories before, but as a teenager I’d been happy just making up stuff. Now, as a somewhat grown-up, I wanted to take writing to the next level. So I was back to researching: how do I self-edit? How can feedback help me improve my story? What even makes a great story?

For most of 2016 and 2017 I taught myself the craft of writing. Though writing a good story is ultimately a question of talent, I believe, there are still a few techniques and “rules” that can help along the way. So I ploughed through several writing books and websites and even took a class on creative writing during my semester abroad. I gathered feedback from my wonderful writers group. I equipped myself with all kinds of tools so I could face the next step of my novel: the dreaded editing.

Taking chances

I spent the better half of 2018 ferociously editing my novel. In August, I handed it in to PitchWars and sent it off to agents. I was devastated when I didn’t get picked in PitchWars and the rejections apppeared in my inbox. In retrospect, I think I needed those rejections to realize that 1) my book wasn’t ready after all and 2) I’m drawn more toward self-publishing.

What followed were another few months of figuring out how to do the self-pub thing and if it was really worth trying. In the end, I chose the indie path and began revising my manuscript, looking for a cover designer, and researching editors.

Determination and perseverance

At the end of this 5-year journey, I’ve learned many valuable lessons, but I think the most important one is that writing is worth it. It’s worth all the time, energy, and heart I can put into it. It’s worth all the determination and perseverance, the heartache and the fear of failing. I wanted to give up at least a million times. A voice in my head kept telling me that I’ll fail, that I sucked as a writer. And there were certainly times when that voice was so loud I was too paralyzed to write a single word. But I always found my way back to writing, and now I’m on the home stretch to my first published novel.


Click here to learn about my debut novel Seelie Princess (coming September 2019).

THE KING’S DAUGHTERS: New Look!

Spring is in the air and it’s time for a new look! More than three years ago I published my first short story on Amazon and while I’ve been mostly quiet since then, the year of 2019 will finally see the release of my debut novel. (To learn more about SEELIE PRINCESS, click here.) In honor of the upcoming release, I gave THE KING’S DAUGHTERS a new look, inside and out.

Here’s the blurb:
In this first part of a series of magical tales about the Fair Folk, the Faerie King of Tír na nÓg is caught in a battle between his two warring daughters, Titania and Ophira. As one strives to bring down her father, the other is plotting her revenge against her scheming sister. The king now has a fateful decision to make because he can’t save them both.

Click to buy it on Amazon US, UK, or DE.

Cover by Angela Fristoe

To receive updates on the upcoming release of SEELIE PRINCESS, sign up for my newsletter here.

Writer Q&A #2

You can find my Writer Q&A #1 here


26 :   What would you like to see more of in your genre?

More LGBTQ+ protagonists

27 :   Where do you get inspiration from?

All kinds of places, really. Life, books, movies, dreams,…

28 :   On a scale of 1-10, how much do you stress about choosing character names?

Maybe 3? I usually know what kind of “vibe” I’m looking for and then I’ll scroll through lists of baby names until I find one that sounds good. 

29 :   Do you tend to underwrite or overwrite in a first draft?

I’ve done both. The first draft of my first novel was way too long, with a lot of unnecessary scenes I had to cut later. In the sequel, I totally underwrote. It’ll need a lot of revision.

30 :   Does writing calm you down or stress you out?

It can do both. Nothing’s more calming than finally solving a plot problem and have the words flow onto the page. But nothing’s more stressful than staring at your screen, unable to produce a single sentence. 

Continue reading → Writer Q&A #2

Writer Q&A #1

What’s the best way to beat writer’s block? Write! 

I guess when people tell you that they mean you should write an actual story… but I decided to play a little fun game and answer these questions I found on tumblr!


 

1 :   What age-group do you write?

YA (mostly upper-grade)  

2 :   What genre do you write?

Fantasy (and some Sci-fi, though that’s still in its baby shoes)

3 :   Do you outline according to big ideas or small details?

Big ideas. But sometimes I like to focus on small details as well. 

4 :   Which do you prefer–line-editing or plot-revisions?

I like to look at the bigger picture, so plot-revisions. 

5 :   Do you write better with or without deadlines?

With deadlines, but if they’re unreasonably close they’re too much of a stress factor. I like to give myself deadlines that make sense for my project.

Continue reading → Writer Q&A #1

Happy New Year!

It’s the first week of 2019 and the internet is filled with everyone’s new year’s resolutions. And so I have to ask myself: Should I set some resolutions for myself? Is it really worth the pressure? I’ve decided that instead I will start off by looking back at 2018!

Accomplishments of 2018

I might not have published something, but it was a very successful year for me as a writer. I..

  1. wrote 8 flash fiction pieces (as part of my writers group challenge that you can find here)
  2. edited my first novel The Seelie Princess and received tons of great feedback
  3. entered both PitchWars and AuthorMentorMatch with that novel (and even though I did not get picked, I learned how to write a query letter and a synopsis)
  4. queried several agents
  5. tried NaNoWriMo and wrote 22,000 words in 15 days! I could not finish my project, but it was a valuable lesson to learn (read more about that here)
  6. outlined the sequel to The Seelie Princess and wrote approximately 40,000 words
  7. participated in two local writing workshops
  8. went to several Open Mic nights
  9. enjoyed at least one meeting a month with the most wonderful writers group (plus several fun evenings)
  10. read a few good books on writing and editing, including the very helpful Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King (available on Amazon)

Looking at this list now, I’m realizing how much I’ve accomplished! I’m going to be honest here and tell you that during the last year, at the end of most days, I felt as though I’d done nothing worthwhile. As though I was standing still and hadn’t progressed in my journey as a writer (and life in general) at all. But things look a bit different if I consider the sum of all those days. At the end of 2018, it didn’t matter that there were some days when I couldn’t get any work done (for whatever reason). There were plenty of other days when I was productive and creative, and those days all accumulated to that amazing list of accomplishments.

Goals for 2019

Since I can’t entirely resist the urge of planning this new year, I’m going to go ahead and make a short list of goals for 2019. This year I want to…

  1. revise The Seelie Princess and get it into the best shape possible
  2. learn more about traditional and self-publishing and see what works best for my novel
  3. finish writing the sequel
  4. participate in more writing workshops
  5. continue to meet with my writers group

To finish things up, I want to share a quote that is hanging on the wall right above my computer screen. It has guided me through difficult times in 2018 and it will continue to guide me through 2019. Sometimes we are so harsh on ourselves that we fail to see all the good that we’ve accomplished and that whatever we do is enough. HAVE A GOOD YEAR EVERYONE!

SEELIE PRINCESS – What’s it about?

I’ve briefly talked about this before here – but I want to tell you a bit more today. SEELIE PRINCESS is my first full-length novel, which I finished revising back in August. As of now, it has not been published, but I’m querying and excited to share this story with you. So today I want to rave about my book baby. 

UDPATE MAY 2019: After doing some research, I decided to brave the life of an indie writer. My book will be self-published in a few months.

A quick recap of what to expect:

  • YA Fantasy with LGBTQ rep
  • faeries! lot’s of them
  • f/f romance
  • strong female characters
  • a magical realm 
  • elements of Celtic mythology
  • names that are pretty on the eye but you won’t be able to pronounce them (sorry, not sorry)

Meet the MC – Kayla Whittemore

Everyone knows that faeries only exist in stories, but Kayla is certain that they are real and the reason why her father vanished when she was little. Even almost 10 years after his ‘death’, she holds on to the hope of finding him. When she finally receives word from the faeries, she doesn’t hesitate to strike a bargain with their queen. But finding her father is not as easy as she’s hoped and Kayla has to face treacherous faeries, hidden family heirlooms, and her first heartbreak. How far is she willing to go? 

Kayla was born in 1998 in a small down in Illinois. After her father disappeared, they moved to the bustling city of Chicago. When Kayla isn’t researching how to find faeries, she spends her time cuddled up with a good book or drinking way too much coffee with her best friend Abby. 

What inspired it? 

1 – Celtic Fairy Faith

In the summer of 2014, I was obsessed with Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles. And even though I was a huge fan of all the badass Shadowhunters in the books, what fascinated me even more was her portrayal of the faeries as beautiful, cunning, and complicated creatures. So I began to research how she’d come about that idea and I soon learned she’d taken a lot of her inspiration from the Celtic Fairy Faith (as did her wonderful writer-friend Holly Black).

The Celtic mythology is filled to the brim with magical creatures and fantastic folktales. I could write for hours about this topic! But I don’t want to digress, so I’ll give you a little overview of characters that found their way into my story: 

  • faeries: also known as Daoine Sidhe, inhabitants of the magical Tír na nÓg, divided into the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court
  • pookas: the underdogs of the faerie realm, shapeshifters and forest creatures
  • pixies: smallest inhabitants of Tír na nÓg, also the friendliest of the Fair Folk
  • merrows: merfolk living on a small island off the mainland, telepaths and constantly suspicious of the faeries
  • faerie cats: an ancient type of faeries who can perform magic and shares both a cat’s furry ears and its heightened senses 

2 – Diverse Storytelling

When I began this journey of writing SEELIE PRINCESS, I had decided on two aspects early on: there would be faeries (plenty of them!) and my main character would be a girl falling in love with another girl. Throughout my writing process, many ideas appeared, shifted, manifested, or disappeared again, but these two facts persisted until the very end. 

There has been an abundance of great stories where girls were whisked away to far lands by incredibly handsome boys (I’m looking at you, Jace Herondale!). I believe it’s time for girls to get whisked away by gorgeous girls, too. Or boys being seduced by other boys. Or just generally people falling in love. All mixed with a fair amount of faerie dust! 

So who’s the Seelie Princess? 

I can’t tell you just yet… but keep your eyes open for little excerpts and sneak peeks! If you’re interested in reading more about faeries and Tír na nÓg, please check out my short story set in the same world: The King’s Daughters. Feel free to talk to me on twitter @sarah_tanzmann or leave a comment below! 

My NaNoWriMo18 experience

-How I defied my inner demons-

On November 1st, I set out for my newest adventure as a writer. For years I had dreamed of participating in NaNoWriMo, but it never worked out due to other responsibilities. But this year, my schedule for November was clear – finally! So with a rough outline in my head, I put pen to paper and began to write. Soon, however, doubt settled in. 

Can I do this? Am I really able to write a WHOLE BOOK in just a month? Of course I’d written a book before, but that had been a long process. Months of research followed by months of planning, writing, and ultimately revising. The prospect of going through most of this process within just a month seemed daunting. And then another question settled in my mind like a parasite: What if I can’t write another book? What if I’m really an impostor, a fraud? What if I’m not really a writer? Maybe I had placed all my cards on this dream of being a writer, only to realize that I’d never make it. 

So on November 15th, halfway through NaNoWriMo18, I stopped writing. I just couldn’t continue. The thought of returning to my project was too much to handle and I turned the other way. The remainder of the month I spent licking the wounds of my bruised ego. One sentence ran through my head on constant repeat: I HAD FAILED. I had failed NaNoWriMo. I had failed writing another book. I had failed building up a writing habit. I had failed as a writer. I had failed as a human being. That was the only thing I could think of, until a friend of mine opened my eyes. It was true, I had not completed NaNoWriMo. “But you wrote 22.000 words in 15 days,” my friend said. “And even if you choose not to continue with this particular novel, you still did something! In the very least, you can consider it as practice.” Huh. I sat back in my chair. Others had told me similar things and somehow deep down I had always known that you could not fail NaNoWriMo. But this particular friend had highlighted all the things that I had accomplished and slowly the doubtful demon trying to tear me down from the inside started to subside. 

Yesterday, for the first time since November 15th, I sat back down to write. I did not continue my NaNoWriMo18 project (at least not now), but I tried to write something different. And I wrote this blog post as well. I’m not going to lie, it was hard to get back to writing, but it felt like the first sip of water after a long drought. So maybe NaNoWriMo just isn’t for me or maybe I try again next year and write even more than 50.000 words in a month. Or maybe I really needed to “fail” this year to realize that every single word I write is an achievement. Every written word can be the start of something new – or maybe it doesn’t amount to anything. Whichever it is, every second spend following my dream is an accomplishment in itself. 

So, to wrap this up, whether you finished NaNoWriMo or not, even if you wrote only a couple of words, YOU ACHIEVED SOMETHING! Be proud of what you did rather than mourn all that you could’ve done. Every single word you write is worth it!