An Open Letter to the Nine

I was torn about writing this, an open letter reflecting upon each of the novels I’ve written. Some of these books belong in a dumpster fire; some books I am pretty sure have succumbed to the ether as I’ve lost track of where they went between all the flash drive and laptop changes throughout the years. But as I ponder upon all the stories that have tumbled out of my fingertips clacking against a keyboard, I know each one has played its critical role in my writing journey. And at the end of the day, I choose to appreciate them for simply being (yes, even the shitty train wrecks). That although they may never see the light of day, I would like to give them some form of recognition, even if it’s just a letter here on my blog.

An open letter to my books:

To my first novel: I’m so proud of you for existing in all your trashy glory. You were proof that I could sit down and peck out a full-length manuscript, a relief after half a dozen false starts and abandoned stories. You were the beginning of all that is to follow, and for that, I thank you. But I’m not sorry that you are probably forever lost to the universe when I tossed out my high school flash drive. Because let’s real: the world really does not need to witness 65k of thinly disguised Maximum Ride fan fiction.

To my second novel: You embodied my courage. I dared to share you with a handful of beta readers—something that felt both exhilarating and terrifying all at once. There’s nothing quite as vulnerable as exposing my truest self to strangers over the internet to critique. Although I would rather eat a bowl of worms than let others read you nowadays, I think I might have a printed copy of you lying around somewhere in the basement. Which is where it’ll stay.

To my third novel: I still think about you from time to time—I still think about Ger and Cy, my fictional darlings, and cannot help the nostalgic smile that twitches onto my lips. You were filled with fresh ideas and plot, wove questions such as Where is the line between individuality and duplicity? and Who—or what—deserves human rights? into a dazzling dystopian adventure-turned-mystery. From you, I was finally developing my own voice. Looking back, I now see your wording was still clunky and the paragraphs filled with cliches…but I hope that one day, perhaps, I can take your core ideas and rework them into a story that does them justice.

To my fourth novel: You were my first heartbreak. I remember creeping onto writing forums and critiquing communities and forming lasting friendships because of you. You started off with a short story, that turned into a novella, then exploded into a full-length novel. I poured everything I had into you, I lived through your characters and I dreamed of your world. Everything felt so shiny and hopeful with you. I stormed writing competition and twitter pitches with you as my champion—and gosh, I remember, feeling so triumphant and believing you were the one with the positive response we received. I remember believing you’ve found a home with a wonderful indie press. I remember drowning in hours upon hours of work with editing you from a 70k fledgling to a 110k beast, fleshing out characters and subplots and worldbuilding. I remember falling in love with your cover when it landed in my inbox. I remember feeling crushed when the publisher closed down, less than six months before your publication.

To my fifth novel: You were my secret creation. I rarely talk about you. Nobody except me has ever read you. You were the late-night concoction of a writing frenzy that overtook me while I waited for editorial feedback on your predecessor. You were the sequel cloaked in shadows. But still, you taught me how to write fearlessly and heedlessly. And you were the first and (thus far) only sequel I have written, so perhaps that is something.

To my sixth novel: You were my so close. I thought you were the REAL one after novel #4. You blended together so much of me into a delightful, action-packed romp with characters I’m still rather fond of. Again, I stormed the writing world with you, believing we would finally land an agent, a book deal, something. Again, we made our way into competitions and pitching events and did well—I was so confident our break was coming! But then, the “couldn’t connect enough” and “not quite right for me” responses started rolling in, and thus, I set you aside. It was a bittersweet feeling, knowing we were close but not quite there. Matox and Ava, I hope that one day you’ll get your chance to shine.

To my seventh novel: You were my constellation in a sea of stars. You saved me when I was drowning. You kept me sane when it felt like my life was being upended. Ishara and Quinn and Augustus—you were my found family, my crew. I thought it was impossible to love a world and characters even more than I did with novel #6, and yet, I found myself falling head over heels with your story. With you, I finally had the skills to tackle poignant and raw topics. With you, I met a wonderful mentor who shaped both of us up to the next level. And together, we finally landed two wonderful agents, a dream that had been in the making for years. Looking back, I now see some potential issues that will need to be addressed and ways to make you even better—but rest for now, Seven, there is still much work to be done later.

To my eighth novel: You were my relief novel. My step back into the world of fantasy after spending so much time with my head wrapped in nebulas. You were a quiet story, but no less fierce than your siblings. I was feeling weary, somewhat jaded, done with the flashy action and galaxy-crossing adventures. I wanted something contained and visceral, something personal and bittersweet. I wanted you to echo with nostalgia. I wanted you to be small but mighty. To be honest, I don’t know where you will go. You don’t quite fit into any boxes neatly. You’re not quite YA, you’re not quite Adult. You’re not quite historical, you’re not quite traditional fantasy. I don’t know what you are, but I’m still glad you’re around.

To my ninth novel: Hi, nice to meet you. I see we’re still getting to know each other. I furiously tapped out your first form during a tumultuous time in my life, set you aside for a few more months because, well life, but now I’m finally ready to bring out your full potential. You’re something I’ve never quite taken a stabbed at before: a thriller-mystery with dystopian vibes. Your characters fascinate—and scare—me, if I’m being honest. But yours is a story that needs to be told, and I can’t wait to see our adventure unfold.

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