Everything You Need to Know About My 16th Book, “The Manager”

Well, it looks like once again I’ve fallen off the blog bandwagon for a while. While I may have stopped blogging frequently, writing is something I’ll never quit doing. I mean, I’ve already written 15. Why stop there? 

As I prepare to start writing, here’s some insights and sneak peeks when it comes to my “sweet 16” novel, The Manager! 

So our story takes a break from the action of my past novels and steers more towards comedic relief. It follows 20-year-old Carmen Rodriguez, a college student who works at a hardware store in her hometown of Miami. Carmen’s store, number 7711, (an homage to my hardware store which is number 1177 in the chain), has struggled for years. 

Carmen, although she is just a seasonal cashier at her local “DIY Depot,” nicknamed the “Double D,” loves her store and the people who work there. With another store manager being fired, the 5th in just three years, the store is in danger of closing. No one is willing to step up and save the store. Carmen, wanting to save the jobs of store 7711’s 100 employees, along with making sure the store she loves stays afloat, agrees to drop out of college and train as a manager. 

Although 7711’s employees love Carmen, they have serious doubts about her ability to manage a failing store. However, driven by her love for the employees of 7711, she searches for ways to cut costs that aren’t at the expense of employees, and finds new, yet original ways to create success for her store. Carmens strange and unconventional methods, from motivating her employees with expensive gifts to taking the store’s delivery truck on a road trip to hire the homeless, may actually turn out to be more effective than the store may have planned. 

But with managing a store comes more stress than Carmen originally thought she can handle. Carmen constantly battles with herself emotionally, trying to stay awake during 14 hour shifts and staying calm during all the customer complaints. As the youngest and first Latina manager in DIY Depot history, she also has to deal with pressures and judgement from the higher-ups at corporate. As time goes on, Carmen begins to wonder how long she can actually go on as 7711’s manager. Eventually she still wants to finish her degree, but if she leaves 7711, the store will end up closing. 

So there you have it! The full, non-spoiler details of my sweet 16 novel. More info on The Manager will be coming up soon! 

Getting Close to Finishing a Book

So I realized rather late that it is a Sunday and I haven’t written anything for my lovely blog here. Instead of an advice piece, because I can’t come up with anything else, tonight I’ll go with a “Progress Piece,” or what I’m doing in my writing.

I’ve been working on my novel Fangs and Fortune for a while now (in my opinion, because I tend to finish books super fast). I started in early December, and now that the end of March is approaching, so is the end of my story…I think. I hope, at least. I’ve had a lot of different things going on within the book and every time I think that I’m getting closer to the ending, something else comes up.

But, I learned from all this that in my situation, all of these things coming up has been leading to a much greater word count. At 37k with a lot of stuff still to happen, I’d be glad to be at novel length, the 50k gem. Mostly because this book is a big deal for me. I’m pretty impressed with myself, being only 22 years old and a few weeks away from finishing my 15th book. Maybe even less than that, depending on how much I can get done this week.

I think the hardest part of being close to finishing a novel is knowing that you’re close and just wanting to hit that finish line. That was how I originally gave myself carpal tunnel. With Fangs and Fortune writing combined with writing all day at work, it’s a lot for my hands to hand-le. Back when I was in high school, I’d write 10-15 pages a day just to try and finish something.

So I guess what I’m trying to say, because I can’t just write a personal post without advice, is that if you’re close to finishing your novel, hang in there. Don’t overwork yourself to the point of carpal tunnel, or even ganglion cysts, like myself. If you think you can finish your book tonight, then that’s great. If you need a few more days or a week, then don’t sweat it. Stay focused and stay calm, because the finish line is in sight.

How to Stay Interested in Your Book

Imagine having a great idea for a book, but not necessarily planning out the whole thing. You’ve got your setting and main character, you know what is going to happen to them throughout the book, but you start writing and just don’t feel that same passion. This happened to me once, and I hope it never happens again.

Writing a book you’re not passionate about can be a total drag. Of course, if you have OCD about finishing your books like I do, you can’t just stop writing it. After suffering through the writing process of a book I didn’t feel connected to, I devised a list of five ways to change your book so that you can not only make it to that last-chapter finish line, but have fun getting there!

1. Go Outside Your Comfort Zone

There’s nothing more interesting than writing something you haven’t done before and have no idea about. It’s fun to research and then apply what you’ve learned into your book. In my current novel, Fangs and Fortune, my main character Taliah is an expectant mother. I chose to go this route because, well, I’ve never done it before! It’s helped me get excited about the book and learn about something I didn’t know much about.

2. Write About Something Close to You

Grief, loss, and trauma happens to everyone at some point in life. If you can’t think of a struggle for your character, try incorporating something that was difficult for you in life. Maybe they were bullied or had anxiety. Maybe they lost a loved one or were a victim of a crime. If your character shares the same experience, no one knows how they feel better than you.

3. It’s Okay to Change Course

My action story, Saving Flight 926, was originally going to be the thrilling tale of my main character Arabella, an aviation-obsessed 17-year-old, landing a plane full of people and becoming a hero. When the plane landed on page 30, I knew I had to have a different approach. The second half of the story describes her struggle with PTSD. If something isn’t working in your story, just try something else!

4. Bring Out Your Fun and Crazy Characters

Now I’m not talking actual characters here. I’m talking about real people. In high school, I loved incorporating people I knew into my stories (and sometimes still do). Bringing in people from your real life takes away the process of having to think of personalities for all your characters, and for me, was a ton of fun to write. I loved incorporating common things they said and their personality traits. Just be sure to have them go through a name change.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

We all like to think of ourselves as novel-writing geniuses. And then we hit writer’s block. After the plane landed in Saving Flight 926 and Arabella was home with her family, I had no idea what to do! So, I reached out to some friends for help. One said, “Why don’t you have her struggle with PTSD?” It was the “eureka” moment for me. I never even thought of that! I truly believe that it would have taken me so much longer to finish that book if it weren’t for the help from my friend. Friends and family help us when we’re stuck in life. They also help when we get stuck on books, so reach out to them!

 

 

Never Giving Up on Your Blog

For this weeks entry, I chose to stick with a more personal topic instead of an advice post. Well, not really too personal, but just not an advice post. It’s fun to change things up, right?

Over four months ago I started consistently blogging again, sitting down and writing  a post every Sunday, usually in the afternoon or night because I can never think of what to write. In that time I’ve gotten maybe ten new followers, an okay amount of likes, and so on. I’m honestly surprised that I haven’t given up and stopped updating on Sundays. This is probably one of the most consistent things I’ve done in my life.

Looking at the stats page and seeing days with no views, seeing posts get no likes at all, sharing my blog over social media and seeing no improvement-it’s difficult, and sometimes I question whether or not I should stop writing on here.

But I definitely won’t until something literally inhibits me from doing so. Just like with our stories, some posts will be more successful than others. My most popular post doesn’t even have anything to do with my blog. I mean, it is technically writing advice because it warns everyone that they shouldn’t write for the scam website University Primetime. It’s just like how an unexpected story we write can become so popular.

Giving up is something that writers literally just can’t do. If we don’t market ourselves or finish our work, we’re never going to get published and achieve that dream of walking into a bookstore and taking a book off the shelf with our name on the cover.

No matter how little views or likes you have, never give up on your blog. Never give up on writing consistently, sharing it, or constantly trying to improve it. Someday, you are going to write that post that will get a lot of attention. Will today be that day?

How to be a Great Wattpad Critic (In 5 Easy Steps) 

For this weeks post I’ll be focusing on something that has been a big part of my Wattpad journey: critiques. They’ve helped me not only teach others, but gain friends, followers, and feedback for myself. While it is tons of fun, being a Wattpad critic isn’t as easy as it sounds. Here are 5 steps to get your critic journey going, and going well.

1. Advertise! 

Wattpaders won’t know you’re a critic if you aren’t advertising! Head straight to the designated help thread and post an advertisement. Here’s mine, made from a simple photo editing app. Picture advertisements will help you stand out in a long thread. 


2. Ditch the Complicated Sign Ups

I’ve mentioned in past posts about how much I hate special forms when seeking help from other Wattpadders. Forget forms, special passwords, etc when having others request your service. Keep is short and sweet. Explain what you’re willing to help with and your payment. Don’t ask for story descriptions, titles, or say, “what you’re looking for help with” etc, either. I’m going to get real here. If you’re a critic, you should be helping with everything, not ignoring some things and pointing out others. 

3. Don’t Sugar Coat, but Don’t be Mean Either

ALWAYS be polite and honest when performing a critique. Even if the book is literally the worst thing you’ve ever seen and every sentence makes you want to rip your eyes out, don’t resort to saying things like, “this sucks.” But don’t only point out the positives either. Our job as critics is to help others improve their work. Even seasoned writers feel hurt when getting negative feedback. It’s part of the writing process. 

4. Always Re-Read Your Feedback

Having a sophisticated, grammatically correct feedback post or comment will not only improve your reputation with the author, but can even attract others to seek your feedback after seeing your post in the comments section. Always re-read your feedback before posting to make sure there are no errors, and to see that you’ve said everything you meant to. 

5. Respect the Author’s Feelings

Many times, authors will be very unhappy with even the slightest amount of negative feedback. They may say things like, “Thanks, but I disagree.” Or “Thanks for your feedback, but I’m not changing that.” And you know what, that’s OKAY. Never feel like you wasted your time doing a critique for someone who doesn’t want to listen right now. Eventually they may change their minds and fix their work, and your comment will still be there for reference. 

You “Watt” not Believe it: 5 Years Since I Joined Wattpad

Five years ago, I was a senior in my Christian high school, talking with one of my friends from the drama club during lunch. She loved to write, and I loved to write. She suggested I join Wattpad.com, a website where I could share my stories, and read the stories of others.

On a Wednesday night, bored after finishing my homework and without something to watch on TV, I opened up my laptop and registered as the user “dreamsmadereal,” simply because being an author was/is my dream and this was helping to make it a reality.  That night began a journey that would change my life. To celebrate this five-year milestone of being on the site almost daily, I’m counting down the five biggest highlights that have happened over the years.

5. A Whole Lot of Books

My first night on Wattpad, I posted a few of my poems. Today, I have 19 posted stories on my profile, three of which are short story and poem collections. At the time, I’d written only three chapter books. Right now, that number stands at a monstrous 14, with number 15 about halfway done.

4. So Many Numbers

A lot of things can add up over five years. The night I started I had zero followers. Today, I’m at over 1,100. All those followers mean a lot of reads. After freaking out that my poems got ten reads each overnight in 2012, today all of my Wattpad works have a combined total of 136,673 reads. Yes, I personally went and added all that up.

As an editor and critic, I actively use the discussion boards, or “clubs.” In five years, I’ve posted on the discussion boards 5,358 times, mostly in the “Improve Your Writing” club. Hopefully I’ve helped a lot of writers!

3. I’ve Got the Power

For a few months back in 2014, I was an official Wattpad moderator. It was so exciting to help out on the site and have face-to-face video calls with people who I considered Wattpad legends, who I was working alongside. Sadly, due to college life and my internship (that turned out to be a scam) eating up a lot of my time, I had to exit the moderator train, and would someday love to get back on.

2. The VIP

Back in the summer of 2013, I was a rock star…an editing rock star. For a short period of time, on the “Find an Editor” thread, Wattpad would be listing a section of VIP editors. They would appear at the top of the thread so everyone could see. After recommendations from a lot of satisfied Wattpadders, I made it to the VIP list, getting tons and tons of requests a day.

1. What’s Hot? My book is!

My number one Wattpad highlight involves me actually being number two…of 22,000, that is! Still a newbie to the site in April 2012, I posted my most recent finished chapter book, “Hype.” Since my main character was a devout Christian, I put it in the tiny Spiritual story category. Hype was slow to catch on at first, but then took off like a rocket. I suddenly found myself getting 700 to 1,000 reads a day. At that rate, I climbed all the way to the number two spot in the “What’s Hot” list for Spiritual stories. In this case, I’m fine with being number 2 out of 22k.

Well, there you have it, my top five highlights in five years of Wattpad. Here’s to another five years or reads, edits, critiques, and whatever else comes my way!

 

The Seven Deadly Sins of First Chapters

A first chapter can make or break your story. In the publishing world, the opening line of your story could mean the difference between the person judging your story moving on or setting it aside in the rejection pile. After being an online editor and critic for nearly five years, I’ve seen my fair share of bad story openings and have compiled this list of openings so terrible that they’re practically sins. 

1. The Alarm Clock

I’ve seen many stories starting of with things like “the alarm clock started ringing” or even “BEEP! BEEP!” The first line of your story should be exciting and drawing the reader in. Instead of the noise of an alarm clock, start off with your character being late for something important. It’s still extremely cliche, but at least a little more exciting. 

2. The Fashion Show

Most of the time after said alarm clock goes off, I see teenage characters getting ready for school. The authors tend to get a little carried away, describing the character in full, including each individual element of their wardrobe, including jewelry, makeup, and even nail polish. Remember, first chapters need to hook the reader. I’m sorry, but as nice as your character’s outfit is, it’s just not that interesting, and as a matter of fact, neither is the whole school thing, which brings me to my next point:

3. School Time!

I’ve seen way too many normal characters heading to normal high school on a normal day, which makes for a very uninteresting first chapter. Of course, there’s a lot of exceptions, like being a new student or having something exciting happen at said school. 

4. Being Different and Letting Everyone Know

As writers, all our characters are special in their own way. Every main character has something we love about them that sets them apart from everyone else in the story. That’s why we chose them to be the star. Every main character in every story is different from the rest of the population in that story in some way. Never start off with your main character explaining how “different” they are. Stay focused on action and leave all those explanations where they belong, in chapter two. 

5. Breakfast

I’ve had to critique and edit stories where all of the above happened except for the character actually getting to school. Unless your character’s breakfast is crazy or something really important happens during it, the best thing to do is just save those sit-down meals for a later time. 

6. The Big Backstory

A lot of things need to be explained in stories, including a character’s background. However, every detail of your character’s life doesn’t need to be said in a first chapter. Again, save all the mundane details for the second chapter. 

7. Super Exciting Letdowns

Imagine reading a great first chapter. It’s interesting, exciting, and you can’t wait to see what happens next. You’re reaching the last few lines of the chapter, ready to turn the page to chapter two, and suddenly the character has just woken up, about to get ready for school. A word of advice: readers do not like being disappointed! 

Fellow authors, I guarantee if you stay away from these writing sins, your first chapters will benefit!