Indulge Your Various Creativities

Right now, I’m editing a manuscript that took me about five years to write. I don’t think another book will ever, ever take me that long. This was a book that, if I hadn’t believed in it as much as I do, and loved the characters as much as I do, I would have probably given up on it long ago. I know it’s a possibility. I’ve given up on other stories, left them to dwindle in files on my computer, some of which I forget exist 95% of the time.

But this story would not let me go. Even when I finished it and I knew, and I mean KNEW that it wasn’t ready. That it was NOT in a place that I could send it out to the world and give it the chance it needed. But I also didn’t know, at the time, what it needed. So I wrote some other stuff and tore my hair out a bit and worked and relaxed and didn’t look at it much. Finally with gentle nudging from my CP and not-so-gentle nudging from my husband (let’s face it, I needed it at that point!) I started working in earnest on the rewrite. I sort of knew what needed to happen, but it started slow.

So I did the thing I like to do to keep my creativity fresh… I made things. Other things. Things that have very little to do with words and writing (though not nothing, all the time).

Here are a few examples of some things I’ve been making/indulging in the last few weeks:

craftiness

This is, clockwise:

1) yarn for a new yarnie project—I’m going to be making this Abalone vest, all goes well… I usually knit shawls and hats, so….,

2) I wrapped a new pair of headphones with embroidery floss on account of I thought it would be pretty and I often break my headphones at work and am sort of hoping this will provide extra protection, though I don’t really know that it will. Mostly, I thought it would be pretty.

3) Really  all this is is a rub-on decal that I put on my book journal—where I write notes to myself about whatever I’m reading while I’m reading. It’s not much, but it made me love the simple plain old thing much more. I’ve had the journal for years and finally used it for this because I was never interested in using it for actual journaling purposes. Oh what a difference a little bit of pretty makes! I prettied the title page a bit, too… Oh I just had a lot of fun with it. :)

4) A year or two ago I bought a bag of floof scraps (read: roving, AKA fiber AKA what yarn is made up of) and I’ve decided to lay it out in somewhat of a gradient and just spin it all up into one long yarn that may or may not all make sense together. We’ll see.

And as I was doing all of this… along with another top secret project for my mom and one or two other things… I’ve kind of solved my stump over what needs to happen to make my manuscript sale-able. Sellable? WORTHY OF SALES.

Something worth buying, anyhow. Something cinematic and poignant and full of grim justice to go along with the pretty, pretty I had before.

Even The Mr agrees that my new ending idea has a lot of potential. And that’s big.

So excuse me if I’m busy the next couple of months. This baby is finally getting ready to see the world.*

*You know… eventually. Or at least a few dozen (?) agents’ eyes.

Why “The Day of the Doctor” made me forgive Steven Moffat for everything I didn’t like about his version of Doctor Who. Or: Good storytelling and how it can sneak up on you.

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(Spoilery, but not by much.)

So first things first: while I had no history of watching the classic Doctor Who as a young British child (yes, I’m well aware I never was quite such a British child) I flop-hearted nonsensical in love with Russell T. Davies’ reinterpretation of it. I watched it sporadically at first, more eavesdropping on my sister’s viewings than being willing to trust my heart to some wonky British show with latex and silicon aliens.

I guess you could say what I fell in love with, at first, was not the Doctor, but that young, fragile companion of his, Rose Tyler. She

rose

was fresh-faced and eager, wholeheartedly willing to experience everything and yet tumbling with the knowledge that the universe was so much more than she ever would have imagined.

I loved her.

And of course, the Doctor was wonderful. Funny. Madcap. Full of yearning, but not for anything nameable. And always, always impressive. I thought I would never love another Doctor the way I loved Nine. And then came Ten. And everything expanded and got better and hurt more and made me love it more. As much as I loved Rose Tyler? I wanted to BE Donna Noble. When they were both taken away from me (and of course by me, I mean the Doctor), I was heartsick, heartsick, heartsick. Satisfied in their storylines and loving the show for hurting me that much, but heartsick all the same.

endoftimeBut not as heartsick as when I heard that both David Tennant and Russell T. Davies would be leaving the show. That seemed like too much to bear. In fact, I put off watching Tennant’s last specials for a full year, totally unwilling to move on to Moffat and Matt Smith. I thought that that would be enough time to prepare myself, but I was wrong. Tennant’s last episode destroyed me.

And then there was Matt Smith. And… no one knew what Daleks were? Or any of the media-hey-day bits that Ten had gotten into? No one knew who the Doctor was?

I was thrust into confusion, and then skepticism, and then dislike. But I was a year behind by then, and I was assured by some that Smith would “grow on me.” He did not grow on me. Every episode I watched, rubbed me just a little wrong. Amy and Rory were fun,

curseoffatal

sure, but I felt distant from them. And where oh where was my Doctor?

Naturally, I blamed Steven Moffat, new helm of the show, for everything. I felt as if he wanted to distance himself from Davies’ Doctor Who as much as possible. I could understand that, in a way, but as a fan I also felt kicked in the gut. So, so much of what I’d loved in the show was gone, and Moffat seemed to refuse to even acknowledge Davies’ reign, though  he did reference the classic show what seemed to me a lot more (again, speaking as someone unfamiliar with the classic show, other than a viewing of The Curse of Fatal Death, which doesn’t really count). I saw this distance from the previous season as a slight betrayal to the fans of the more recent incarnation of the show, and as a big mistake on Moffat’s account.

Eleven’s first season of Doctor Who was darker and creepier than I wanted to see, to be frank about it. While I’d been deliciously chilled by Don’t Blink just like everyone, I did not watch Doctor Who to be creeped out. I watched it to feel wonder, celebration of humanity, and hope in the face of everything. Still, I don’t give up on shows easily, and there was just enough of a glimmer of the Doctor I was familiar with to make me wait it out.

karen-gillan-amy-pond-matt-smith-doctor-who-new-costume1Eventually, I’m not sure when or how, Matt Smith did grow on me a little bit. And bit by bit, it seemed like Moffat was willing to embrace the more recent history of Doctor Who. Rose Tyler’s name was even dropped out of the blue. It was great. The last couple of seasons, I admit, have been a lot of fun, and much more like what I fell in love with the show for. It seemed as if Moffat had learned from his earlier mistakes of distancing himself and was finally willing to embrace the feel of the show the way I had always hoped would happen. It didn’t quite make up for things in my heart, but I was happy to look  forward to the future.

And then, “The Day of the Doctor.” And all of my frustration and grievances against Moffat were swept away with two lines of dialogue that turned all of Moffat’s mistakes (or clever, long-held plans? I’m still going to go with mistakes) and swept away everything I hadn’t liked about the Eleventh Doctor.  Those two lines, both spoken by John Hurt’s “lost” Doctor, were these:

“You’re children, both of you” (okay, can’t remember the precise wording on that one)

and

“The one who regrets and the one who forgets.”

That sound you’re hearing? Is my brain bursting with applause. Because with two lines, Moffat justified everything that I had disliked about his first taking on as the head hauncho behind Doctor Who.

Oh, Doctor.

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I’d already been leaning towards this thinking myself, after reading a fan posting I wish I could find right now, about how Ten was so, so human that it hurt him immeasurably, and in response, Eleven more or less drew away from everything about that life and forced it into a drawer to collect dust.

But Moffat went further than that. If Christopher Eccleston had been involved in this special (though it would have had to have gone quite differently) I think that second line may have been “The one who rages, the one who regrets, and the one who forgets.”

Let me explain why I love this so, so much. We understand from this that John Hurt is the “Doctor” (though he doesn’t call himself Doctor) in between Eight and Nine. The one who destroyed Gallifrey. The one the Doctor does not want to remember being. He is the one that becomes Nine—the one Ten alludes to as having been “born of blood and anger and revenge.” As I said, the one who rages. Nine had a tendency towards anger, and was often fed up with humans (“stupid apes”) even though he would defend them to his last breath. If you look at this from the Doctor’s personal timeline, it’s likely he was angry at his own humanity—his ability to be at fault, or rather his inability to save his people in a way he could accept.

But then there was Rose. This young girl who trusted him openly and was fallible and imperfect but was willing to offer mercy when even the Doctor could not. And that humanity the Doctor had been suppressing? All came flooding back in with his new regeneration. Ten was impossibly human. Formed attachments even when he thought he was protecting himself. And was always so, so sorry.

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I had been so mad at Moffat for forgetting about all those people Ten loved, but then Ten lost more people than it was prudent to remember. A love, a best friend, a pseudo-family, a possible wife, even a daughter (though I’m still hoping Genny will show up again). Even his greatest enemy! The weight of all the people Ten lost is astounding. And even after all that, he was afraid of letting it go and changing.

So as Eleven, he forgot. Forgot his deeds on Gallifrey. Forgot Rose Tyler and Jackie Tyler and Martha Jones and Donna Noble and Mickey Smith and Captain Jack and every single person he could. Even forgot his current companions for long stretches of time. Ran further away than he ever had, only to run smack into himself.

And now with Peter Capaldi coming in, it seems as if the Doctor is willing to admit that he IS an adult. That he’s done running away and hiding from everything, done regressing.

Basically, storytelling genius. I won’t even go into how fantastic the uses of Billie Piper and Tom Baker were in the special, or how beautifully the story was resolved and set a new course for the show. That’s been said elsewhere, I’m sure. I still think Moffat made some mistakes when he first took on the show as Executive Producer, but like any really good storyteller, he’s taken those mistakes and put some sense to them, hiding that they were ever mistakes in the first place. There’s a lot to learn there, and I take my hat off to Moffat. I could not have been more pleased or impressed.

Write What Scares You.

Photo credit: iconriot on livejournalThis is old advice. It’s stuff I’ve been hearing and wanting to follow for years.

I say wanting, because… well, I can’t say that I’ve ever been particularly good at it.

It’s not that I avoid the stuff that scares me, exactly, just that it doesn’t come to me naturally. My main characters and their backgrounds and their personal demons—that’s cake.

But, bad guys.

Bad guys are not my forte. It’s not that I’m afraid of them, exactly, it’s more that I don’t know how to handle them very well, so I avoid it as best as I can.

Except you can’t exactly write a lot of genre without having to deal with one or two bad guys.

I admit, this is a reason why it has taken me so long to get where I’m going. Because I knew that this story needed a better bad guy. But. But I did not know how to do this thing.

A friend of mine ended up giving me a very basic bit of advice just from hearing the background of what my story was about—not to put too fine a point on it, she basically gave the advice that instead of inventing a wholly character-driven tale for my villain (note that I said wholly character-driven), I should use elements of the bigger themes in my story—in this case, namely, magic.

And as soon as that little suggestion was made to me, a lot of what needed to happen involving my bad guy suddenly made a lot more sense. I knew how and why magic was a part of what made him bad, or why and how he was involved with magic, anyhow. And the way things do in stories when you’ve found the right idea—things sort of fell together with what I already had.

But I was still a little afraid to actually get to the writing of it. This new angle involved not only interspersing scenes throughout the novel from the villain’s POV, but also inventing and introducing at least two whole new characters (I was going to do three, but now I think I’m good with two) and altogether altering a lot of my book.

Still, this is what I need to do to get it to where it needs to be—which is great. (I know not every book has to be great, but can you blame me for wanting my books to be?)

This post is meandering a little bit, but I won’t apologize for it. I’m also getting away from my posting schedule, but I thought a non-post-day post was better than no post. I’m still a long way from my goal of having my first round of edits done by the end of the year, but we’ll see. I have a new fire under my feet now, and that’s always a good thing.

On the Terrifying Notion of Change

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Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I’d say I’ve been busy (because I really, really have) but I’ve also been a little bit overwhelmed by something that I am just starting to really wrap my head around.

I recently returned home from a writer’s conference with a buzzing sense of clarity on how to fix my novel. My novel that is 80,000 words and “completed” but just not done. Not ready.

I was already going to have to rewrite it to pretty it up, but I’d been putting that off until I figured out what I needed to do to strengthen it into what I really needed it to be. Now I feel as if I have a good strong idea as to how to make this book as good as I can truly make it on my own, but And here’s the kicker: I would have to change all of it.

Okay, not all of it. My story really in its basic form is almost exactly the same. But I am working to rewrite it with more conflict, higher stakes, and stronger motivations.

And while it was a little bit terrifying, when I got home from that conference, I ignored my 80,000 word document and opened up a new, utterly blank one.

I’m not going to lie, I don’t think this will be easy. I don’t know how long it will take. But I’m thankful that I knew what I was doing well enough to know that I wasn’t doing it well in the first place. If that makes sense.

Right now I have some 1600 words in my new document. It is… nothing. So far I’m working from my head and my heart and rewriting things word for word. Soon I’ll get to patches that I can more or less transcribe, but right now it’s a whole new terrifying ballgame. I feel a bit like I’m freefalling. Which isn’t new for me on this project.

But you know what else? For the first time since I finished the first draft? I’m thrilled to be working on this project. For he first time, the freefalling is actually fun. Is another project still distracting me a little bit? Yes, I have to admit that it is. But I’m not too worried about that.

This is a big change for what Isabelle Santiago calls my “heart story,” but if it takes it closer to becoming something that will last in the hearts of others, I’m all for it.

Have you ever had to start something over completely before? Where did it take you?

Three Things I Needed to Hear Today.

I have a confession. I like to listen to commencement speeches. A caveat to that: I especially like to listen to commencement speeches given by authors. I don’t particularly seek them out, but when I find them, I give a listen.

Today I stumbled upon one by Neil Gaiman, one of the premier names in fantastic literature today. He gives a lot of advice, but he said three specific things that I really needed to hear today:

1) ENJOY THE RIDE

The road to success in any creative field is difficult and unsure. Even when success is at hand, there’s usually the worry that the success won’t last, or that somehow someone will take it away from us, and it’s important not to let those worries distract us from the triumphs we do achieve. Even without success, though, we should be enjoying the things that we create. Otherwise, what are we doing it for? And if we don’t enjoy it, who else will?

2) MAKE GOOD ART

This seems like a no-brainer, but it is something to be remembered. In Gaiman’s speech he talks about making good art in reaction to everything, good or bad. This is something that I try to do, but I wonder if I get lazy sometimes.

and

3) FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT

This is something I have to admit I heartily believe in. After all, I’ve publicly admitted that I like to Author-Interview myself in my head. Whenever I want to shy away from my dreams, because it’s just taking me so long to get to them with life in the way. Plus, let’s face it, you never really know how to write a novel until you’ve… finished writing a novel. That’s just a fact. But until then (and I’m moving ever closer! Hi 75K!) I’m just going to keep pretending that I know how to do this thing.

If you want to see the rest of Gaiman’s address, it’s here:

Booking Through Thursday: One or Many?

Vampira2468 asks:

Series or Stand-alone?

I know this question is about reading books, whether you prefer reading a series or a stand-alone novel, but since I’ve answered that before (somewhere… don’t quote me) with a resounding “Well… both….” I’m going to instead look at this today from a writer’s point of view.

Forgive me if my answer stays more or less the same. Do I prefer writing a stand-alone novel or a series? Well… both.

If you look at my “Works” page, you can see that my two main WIPs at the moment (though really, I’m letting the one wait in line as I finish the other) are a stand-alone (Daughter) and what I at least hope might have the meat to pull off a series someday (Jethro). Both of them are very different writing experiences. One is an epic-fantasy-adventure that’s somewhere between The Princess Bride and Anastasia (figure that one out) and the other is about a bunch of high school kids in a small town who have to face the fact that they all have unexplained powers. One is focused very closely around one main character and a few of her closest connections, while the other technically has a main character, but also has an ensemble cast list as long as my arm.

I cannot tell you which one is more fun to write.

I really can’t. And I’m not going to make any comments about it being like picking between two children (though really, it is) but what I will say is that both stories have their own challenges and benefits, and I love that. So let’s talk about those challenges and benefits… let’s call them bonuses, though, because that’s what they really feel like.

Writing a Stand-Alone Novel (One or Two Main Characters)

 Challenges:

  • Typically you only have one (or two) perspectives to work with, even if you’re working in third-person. Unless of course you’re working in third-person omniscient, but that’s not often the case. This can make it hard to show the audience something without letting your character see it, which is sometimes vital.
  • Your character also has to be strong enough to carry a full-length novel. There’s really no half-ways-ing on this. Either you have someone who feels like a real person and is exciting or relatable, or you don’t have anything. Really. Because if your character doesn’t hold up, nothing else will. There’s no room for it to.
  • This is your one shot. Everything you want to say in this story, has to be said in this book. It’s a little bit different with the internet now, because we have the opportunity to do ebook tie-ins and things like that, but it doesn’t change the fact that if there was something you wanted to happen in this story and it didn’t make it there, it will never be there. The end.

Benefits:

  • The story has a clear-cut ending. This may not be the case with a series, at least with an ensemble cast like I’m planning. The story could well go on forever in an ensemble piece, but with one character, it’s easier to see where to say goodbye. (Clarification: this does not make it easier to actually SAY goodbye!)
  • You get to really fall in love with your characters. Not saying you can’t do this in a bigger cast (and obviously you can if your series is all based around one character, but that doesn’t seem to be the way I work), but fictional characters are often enigmatic and untrusting, and it takes time to peel away their layers. You get to do this if most of your time is spent with only one or two of them.

Writing a Series (Ensemble Cast)

Challenges:

  • Think making one character strong enough to carry a book was difficult? Now you have to have half a dozen (or more!) characters and they each have to be different enough to feel like different people. No use having a lot of characters if no one can tell them apart.
  • You also have to be very, very careful that your characters don’t fall into archetypes. Or if they do, that they have something about them that really makes the archetype worth it. Make sure there’s a twist. If the character just really needs to be an archetype, make sure that they feel organic. Avoid clichés as best as you can.
  • You have to make sure that your ending lets everything be said. Again, this is a little different now that we can offer side novellas and what not, but if you have half a dozen important characters, you have to make sure they each get their due and that their storyline ends by the time you say “The End.” This may not be an easy thing to balance out.

Benefits:

  • So. Many. Voices. Really that’s what’s fun about an ensemble cast and the time a series will give you to feature them. You get to experiment with so many different characters and write in their distinct voices. You don’t get “stuck” with one or two characters.
  • Time. Really a big benefit of a series is that you have room and time to get to a lot of things. In my case, a lot of different characters with personal storylines that play into the bigger story arch. You can even end a book halfway through one character’s personal struggle… it will bring some back to read the next book, to see how it turned out.

So… sorry to turn a reading question into a lecture about writing… but really, I’m not. I wonder if anybody else can think of benefits and challenges to the two?

Writing? What’s that? Oh that’s right… my DREAM.

This photo is kind of a free-association of what my life has been like this past month. Not bad, per se, just so ridiculously busy that when I wasn’t working or stealing a spare few hours to be human with my husband and friends, I was sleeping. But mostly, I was working and sleeping. I have never felt that falling into bed warranted the word “crashed” so often in one month before. There have been many, many days where I intended to do one thing, or six, and instead fell asleep. My last Tales From the Hollow Tree short, “Mooniversary,” was written the day it was supposed to be posted, and last Friday’s still hasn’t been written, and it’s the next Thursday already.

This has largely been because I have recently acquired a full-time job. This full-time job is graveyards. I don’t really blame the full-time job or the graveyards, though both of those things have been factors, but it was the fact that I was (am) still working my first, part-time job that really has been the clincher on my time, because as I said above, whenever I wasn’t working the night job, I was sleeping in preparation or recovery of it, or I was working the other job.

I worked so much this last month that besides missing my Hollow Tree story—which I hate to say I still have not written, but may be written tomorrow… ish… possibly—but I also missed my deadline of having my manuscript completed by the end of June, which was a very important initiative for me that I’m very sorry to have failed at, and I was frustrating people at the part-time job in the meantime. And so, I have decided to part ways with my part-time job. It’s a little sad, because it was a fun job and I’m going to miss interacting with both my coworkers and the customers, but on the other hand, I can’t deny that for the most part I’m counting the days.

Because the fact of the matter is, giving up writing, or postponing the writing of my book is not worth three or four hundred dollars extra each month. And I mean, that’s not an easy thing for me to say, because before I got the full-time position, this part-time one was the first normal job I’d had in… well, years. And the first job either me or my husband had had in a little more than a year. Basically this job saved us in more ways than I can count, and walking away from it feels a little ungrateful, but again… it’s not nearly enough to postpone my dream. Especially when I’m so close I can taste it. I mean, I’m still a long, long way away from being on bookshelves anywhere, but I’m close to having that finished product, that whole, gleaming manuscript.

To be honest, I was expecting my manager to be disappointed in me. To be frustrated that I was walking away when I wasn’t even fully trained. And I was expecting to have to justify myself, to say “No, see, I know it sounds crazy, but I already have two jobs, and I’ve been neglecting my primary one as a writer since I started the third.”

But thankfully it didn’t work out half as dramatically as I was worried it would. I have three shifts left at my part-time job. And a new adeptness at staying up nights. I think this writing thing will work out just fine.

How are you all doing, you lovely people?

Music Monday: Skylar Grey – Love the Way You Lie

It’s my day to post at the Dojo! Hop over there and see about going through the motions—in a good way!

I know you know the Rhianna/Eminem version… but have you heard the original? It’s gorgeous. And apparently about an abusive relationship with the music industry, which makes it much more interesting than the “I’m sticking around for because my man is mine” whatever story the more popular version tells.

Just think about that. Think about how packaging changes the way a story is told, especially with something as subjective to the reader/listener as a song is. Some may say that as a writer you have to make your “point” clear to your audience. Others would say just the opposite: you can’t make your version real for the audience, what matters is their account.

Me? I’m somewhere in the middle on this. I don’t think that I can write a story about one thing and have it secretly be about something else. Not intentionally, by any means. I don’t demand for readers to see  the story exactly as I see it either, though. I want readers to get a chance to come to their own conclusions about certain characters, actions, etc.

What do you think?

Five Things Friday: Five Awesome Things About NiNoCon

What are your plans for next Saturday? Have you heard of NiNoCon? Or of writing ninjas? Did you know that there are writing ninjas that will have a writer’s conference on February 4th? It’s going to be seriously awesome, and here are five reasons why:

1) THIS CONFERENCE IS FREE. There is absolutely no cost to participate!

2) THIS CONFERENCE IS ONLINE. Have trouble getting to writer’s conferences because you live in the elbow of the middle of nowhere? As long as you have an internet connection, this conference is for you! And hey, you can show up in your PJ’s and your curlers, we won’t tell. (We won’t even know!)

3) THIS CONFERENCE IS INNOVATIVE. The publishing world is changing, and this conference is going to teach you all the hows and whys of “nontraditional” ways of publishing. If you’re even considering self-publishing, this conference is for you.

4) THIS CONFERENCE HAS CREDENTIALS. There is a panel of experts and and authors who will be available for you to pick their brains on all things writerly, bloggerly, or self-publishy. Thy all want to help YOU. For free! That’s how awesome this conference is.

5) THIS CONFERENCE HAS PRIZES. Oh, did I mention? There are going to be giveaways. How do I know this? Well, because I’m donating one! A full-manuscript edit from Type Set, Inc is going to go to one lucky participant.

So mark your calenders, ladies and gents! There’s no need to pre-register for this event, just head over to www.ninjaswrite.com. The more the merrier!

Tuesday Talk: The Art of the Possible

- G.K. Chesterton

My title comes from a song in Evita, which calls “politics” the art of the possible. I think writing is really the art of the possible, though. Even if we like to slip into impossible once in a while. Because really, we deal in possibility. If _______ happens, what could possibly be the result?

What would it be like if an elven-year-old boy got a letter saying he was really a wizard? If a teenage girl saw her younger sister picked to fight to the death? If a boy turned into a wolf when the weather got cold?

Maybe these things aren’t likely to happen—but that’s not the point. The point is, in order for fiction to work, the reaction has to be real. The consequences have to ring true. Every character, every place, every society has to have an echo of truth to it, or it will not read as true. It will not hit home for the reader with the force that it’s supposed to. Science fiction has to be based on science. Fiction has to be based on fact.

Now, I’m not saying that all books have to be autobiographical, of course, but that people can tell the difference between something a writer understands, and something they’re just hoping will sound good. Someone who’s experienced pain and loss can tell if your character is really feeling pain and loss, or if you’re just hoping they’ll take your word for it. Someone who’s fallen head-over-heels in love will know if the connection between your main characters is there, or if you’re only hoping that it is.

There’s a reason why people say write what you know, and a reason why they say that writing is like opening a vein—people want stories that feel lived, because each of your readers have lived, and they want to feel like your book is another life they can slip into. Whether that new life is something familiar to them or something they can only dream about doesn’t really matter. It just has to feel possible.

Does your book offer that?