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.

Diversity in Writing

Earlier this week was International Women’s Day. While using my incredibly bad artistic skills to draw a picture of all the main characters from my books celebrating, I noticed how different many of them were. All different heights and shapes, all with different personalities, but what stood out to me the most was the array of different colored faces.

Since I started writing novels at sixteen, I made a promise to myself that I’d have “something for everyone.” I wanted every person to like at least one of my books, so I set out doing all different genres, from comedy to horror, from fantasy to action. I also wanted to have characters with different backgrounds, from rich to homeless, from regular two-parent households to those with single parents or being raised by someone else. I’ve had characters that were adopted, characters that lost a sibling, and characters with up to five siblings.

Most importantly, my goal was to feature characters of different races and abilities. So far, I’ve made main characters that are Armenian, Native American, Asian, African American, Latina, and in my upcoming book, Indian.

Diverse doesn’t necessarily have to mean a different race, it can also be someone who goes through life differently than us, from a mental illness to reduced mobility. Two of my main characters suffer from a physical issue, like Lia who is blind and Violet who is a little person. I’ve also had characters with mental health issues, like Arabella with social anxiety and Freya with depression. Billions of people go through life with the same issues, and I want them to have relatable characters too.

I started thinking about famous modern novels, ones that you see or here about everywhere and have been adapted into movies. Most, if not all, of the main characters are similar. It makes me wonder why there aren’t more ultra-famous novels starring characters of different backgrounds. Mental health issues seem to be covered, but main characters with a physical disability are few and far between. When you think about it, our world is diverse. In a room full of people no one looks the same, so why should our characters?

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!

 

 

Five Steps to Help Start Your First Novel

When I tell people that I’m a writer, sometimes I get the response, “Oh, I’ve always had this great idea for a book!” or “I started a book years ago that I just never finished.” 

Writing a book and then finishing it is an incredible feeling. I’m always excited and extremely proud every time I finish a book. I want everyone to experience the joy of writing a book. 

If it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, here are five steps to get started on your book writing journey. 

Step One: Plotting Your Plot

Before writing books myself, I thought writers instantly thought of their whole story when they got an idea. A lot of my stories came from just a sentence, like, “I wonder what living in a mobile home park is like?” or “This is so good, it’s like I died and went to Heaven!” As long as you have an idea, your plot will build around that. 

Step Two: Insert Main Character Here

I would say don’t just think of who is starring in your story, but what their aspirations are and how they’ll change at the end of the story. 

Sometimes writers name their characters accordingly with what they do in the story. In my book Saving Flight 926, my main character’s name means “heroine”. It’s fitting for a girl who saves the lives of her classmates. 

Step Three: This is InTENSEifying! 

A story can either be told in past or present tense. Personally I just prefer past becuase it’s easier, but I have written a story in present tense. If your story is full of “in-the-moment” action, you may lean toward present tense. 

Step Four: You, Me, or a Fly on the Wall? 

After picking your characters, decide how you want your story to be told. Point of view, or POV, can be in first, second, or third person (aka the fly on the wall perspective). I prefer first person because I feel like I can better connect with my characters that way. If you want to be more neutral, choose third person. Writing a choose-your-own-adventure story? Then second person is the way to go. 

Step Five: Sitting Down to Type

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when starting that first chapter. Sometimes writing can be so scary that you don’t want to start. Just remember that this is a first draft, and it’s okay for it to not be perfect. 

So don’t worry when writing your first novel! It may seem scary or overwhelming at first, by following these steps and writing a little at a time, you’ll be on track to finishing your first novel in no time! 


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! 

Five New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

Everyone has goals that they set for the New Year. Maybe you want to go on a vacation you’ve been putting off or want to get in shape. If you’re a writer, your resolutions might look something like this: 

1. To Finally Make that Social Media Page

We’ve all thought about our own offical author pages on different websites but have been putting them off. Just go for it! 

2. To Hit that Magical Number of Followers

No matter what sites you use, we all have that number of followers we dream of getting. Start working on sharing your pages and driving up those followers! 

3. Getting Our Blogs in Shape

A lot of us have blogs. Some are doing really well. Others…not so much. Maybe you don’t know when to update or, like me, never know what to talk about. Try setting up a day of the week that you update. That’s helped me stay consistent. 

4. Sending out a Manuscript

If you’ve been thinking for a while about getting your book published, make this the year that you start editing and get a manuscript ready! 

5. To Finish the Old

I’m sure that we all have that old story sitting around that even though we probably will never publish, we still want to finish. Don’t spend any more time dwelling on it, and just finish!