My First Five Books


I can now say I’ve written five books.

Book #1: Teen Angst + Melodrama + Unresearched Spy Thriller

College.  Cue endless loop of a single track from the soundtrack of a movie we’d begun watching in German class.  I hadn’t been to class in two weeks because I was busy finishing this novel – but I was a writing major, and wasn’t this what all those classes were for?

Finally my frantic typing reached its end and I reveled in the accomplishment: I had produced a novel!

I quickly sent it out to everyone I knew.

My mother, who reads murder mysteries and watches homicide police procedurals in her free time: “I can’t believe you wrote a story where somebody got killed!”

My father, who reads nonfiction but enjoys spy thriller movies: “They would never really act like that.  Did you do any research on this?”

Me: “Of course not!  It’s fiction.

My high school creative writing teacher: “Well, you finally figured out how to write a plot.  But what happened to your characterization?!

Don’t worry – I will never, ever let you see that novel.

Instead I keep it around for rainy days.  Reading self-indulgent, under-researched fiction has much the same effect as eating unbaked cookie dough or guzzling potato chips, but it’s free and looks much better on my figure.

Book #2: YA Fantasy + Inevitable Consequences

Cue leave of absence from college.  (It turns out you do need to attend class regularly to maintain good grades.)

My father: “When will you get a job?”

My mother: “Have you done your taxes yet?”

Me: “I’ll worry about all that stuff once this book is finished!”

It was a novella, and within two weeks I’d finished it.  (Don’t worry – the first thing I did next was file my taxes.)

Having learned my lesson the first time, I only let my parents and some close friends read it.

My father: “I’m so glad you wrote a second book!  Now I can stop pretending that I liked the first.”

Now I always take praise from my family members with a grain of salt.


After I finished college – yes, miracles do happen – I stopped writing for a while.  After all, one of these days I needed to stop mooching off my parents and earn a living, right?

So I moved to Korea.

Book #3 – Contemporary YA + Baseball

This, too, I wrote in a short spurt.  I used to do the NaNoWriMo, but eventually I figured out that even though I can write 50,000 words in a month – in fact, I often write 10,000 words a day when I’m really on a roll and have no other obligations – somehow I never seem able to do it in November.

This one I wrote almost entirely during a long weekend in January, then finished up over the next two weeks.

It was done, but I didn’t want anyone to read it.  Instead I had to find some other way to ease the story out of my mind.

I started watching baseball practices at a field I’d stumbled across while riding my bike.

Then I realized: “Wow, if I had watched these before writing that book, I would have been able to do a much better job!”

I should mention that I know nothing about baseball.

That was when I realized I needed to stop being a lazy writer.

I went home and researched baseball.  Then I started researching writing.  I began to learn about scenes and story structure and how outlining really can improve your plot.

I learned everything I could.

Book #4 – YA Dystopian Science Fiction

I’d begun this book before Book #3, but I didn’t finish it until much later.  It was too late for me to implement the things I’d learned about preparing before writing, but I put a lot of thought into my writing as I finished it.

I did my own version of revisions and didn’t let my parents see it until the third draft.

My mother: “It’s so violent!”

But violence worked so well for the Hunger Games!  Maybe next time I’ll write a murder mystery instead.

My father: “I really like it.”

Grain of salt taken.

This book is the one that’s on its way to publication now.  It’s in the editing stage, where I expect it to stay parked for a while, because I won’t ask you to read something subpar.  But once everything is finalized, I’ll let you know.

Book #5 – Contemporary YA

This, too, I’d started much earlier – even earlier than Book #4, in fact – so much of it was pantsed.  But I’ve finally finished the first draft.

Every Writing Resource Ever: “Put your draft away and don’t look at it for another month!”

My Best Writing Friend: “Seriously, don’t touch it for at least two weeks!”

Me: “I was writing so fast at the end I don’t even remember much about the climax!”

I feel like I need a padlock on the folder where the file sits.  I try to think about the revisions I should make to Book #4, but end up thinking about Book #5.

“It’s okay,” I tell myself.  “Once Book #4 is out you can revise Book #5 to your heart’s content.”


I could get back to work on finishing Book #6!


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