Notebook with 2018 Review written on it

2018 Year in Review

I’m probably the last to the “Year in Review” party, but I have a good excuse! The mountain behind my house was on fire. Literally.

See, where we live is very dry and fireworks are banned in the entire municipality. But, someone decided to celebrate the new year with a flare. It landed on the mountain. And spread.

11,000 hectares of burned land, 31 houses gone and 28 damaged, 5 helicopters and hundreds of firefighters and volunteer support teams later the fire is out. Sixteen days of uncertainty and fear.

Thankfully our house was never in direct danger, but the wind was whipping the fires and they can travel quickly. We did pack in case we had to evacuate.

But that’s 2019, and the danger is past. I’m here to talk about 2018. I’m going to look at two areas, writing and reading.

Writing in 2018

I had three big projects last year: IN HER OWN SKIN the YA I was revising and then querying, THE MONSTER NOVEL STRUCTURE WORKBOOK which I revised and published(!!!!), and UNCHURCHED which I outlined and then drafted during NaNoWriMo and December.


In 2017 I and this book were selected by author Sophie Cameron for mentorship via Author Mentor Match (Round 6 starts soon!). Incredibly exciting and validating. Sophie gave me excellent, really helpful feedback and I dug in with serious revisions. The bulk of the work was done in 2018.

In addition to Sophie’s feedback I used Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course to guide me in making changes. Between these two factors I did more in-depth revision than I’ve ever done before. It was empowering and I’m so grateful for this experience.

Then it was back into the query trenches in June. Overall I had a 6% request rate, which isn’t terrible but isn’t great either. Having learned a lot about my book, and about the industry through AMM, I came to the conclusion by the end of the year that this isn’t a grabbing enough book to be a debut. I’m really proud of it, I’m immensely pleased with all I learned and the opportunities I got through this book, but it’s time to let it rest. I’d rather have a strong ace in my back pocket than not.


The Monster Novel Structure Workbook: How to Plot Without Getting StuckI began working on the theory behind this book in 2016. It came from my frustration with what I hadn’t found in researching novel structure. There was conflicting information from different sources and I needed to use my graphic design skills to make it all cohesive. And then the obvious next question was, “Wouldn’t this help other people, too?” So I wrote a book and prepared downloads to go with it.

Writing this book was so much faster than writing fiction. Fiction requires lots of layering and subtlety and cause-and-effect planning. This nonfiction poured out of me (I wrote 5k in one day without sweating). I have a lot of experience writing documentation for work, and those skills came to bear here.

To launch the book I recruited a beta reader team who gave me invaluable feedback, and went on to leave stellar reviews. Highly recommend this method.

I sold what I consider a good number of copies between the launch on Sept 15 and the end of the year, and I’m going to continue promoting it in a low-key but consistent way.

(I’ve got the next Monster book lined up, too—THE MONSTER GUIDE TO WRITING GROUPS! You can sign up to hear more here.)

UNCHURCHED (YA contemporary)

Oh, this book. I’ve taken so many cracks at it and learned so much along the way. The last time I looked at it seriously was in 2015, when I determined that that wasn’t the draft I needed. I put it aside to work on IN HER OWN SKIN. In 2018 I picked it up again, made some mega changes, and wrote an absolutely massive outline. It was 13,000 words by the time I was ready to draft.

Why so big? First of all, I’ve been working with these characters and this story for years and years. There’s a lot of nuance and subtlety I wanted to make sure I included. Secondly, I’ve learned that the more thorough my outline is the easier it is to draft. If I outline what I want to happen then turning it into a scene is much easier. Of course, I didn’t pull this off flawlessly. I still had places where I’d basically said, “And then the character says something witty with major implications,” but hadn’t put in any legwork to figure out what the actual words would be. So that slowed me down in places.

Still, giant outlines are definitely a plus for me. Will do again.

I got a bunch of beta readers for the outline, and then drafted in November and December. There were some really difficult points where I was itching to revise already. I’d revised effectively with IN HER OWN SKIN and I wanted to be back in that place, with a draft already down and able to make it pretty and perfect. But that’s not how drafting works. So I put my head down and cranked out words, painful as it was. By the end I was making a bunch of notes for planned changes, which is the best case scenario.

Quick shout-out to Pacemaker which helped keep me on track after November. It helps you calculate and track word goals (and page goals and more) over a given period. Really cool.

I now have a 72k word draft waiting for me.The 20th will be a month since I finished it and then I can reread and make a plan for revision.

Reading in 2018

I use Goodreads to track my reading habits. All the below stats are from running my eyes over and over the list, so I might’ve screwed up somewhere.

  • I read 55 books last year.
  • 12 were writing craft books, 43 were fiction.6 were graphic novels.
    20 were fiction books aimed at adults. 15 were aimed at young adults.
    19 could be defined as Own Voices—books by and about marginalized identities.

Books I really enjoyed in 2018:

So that was my year. A lot accomplished, a lot learned, a lot of enjoyable books. How was your year?


#AMMConnect: Fall 2018

In October Author Mentor Match (AMM) will open to submissions from YA and MG writers! The program matches unagented writers with published and pre-published author mentors who help with revision and career strategy.

To learn more about AMM, like how it works and how to enter, check out the AMM website and follow hashtags #AuthorMentorMatch, #AMMfam, and #AMMparty on Twitter.

Here’s what’s in this post:

About #AMMconnect

You can also use #AMMconnect to meet other hopeful mentees! Connecting with other writers is one of the big benefits of AMM, whether you’re selected as a mentee or not. You could meet a new critique partner or your biggest cheerleader.

#AMMconnect How-To

  1. Create an #AMMconnect Bio post on your blog. Tell us about yourself, what you write and why, and why you’d make a great mentee. Be sure to include your category and genre, and a link back to this post. Have fun with it! We love gifs, aesthetics, images and videos!
  2. Enter your name, category, genre, and link in the Google Form here.
  3. Head over to Twitter (Writer Twitter is amazing, you want to be on Twitter!) and share a link to your post. Make sure you include #AMMconnect so others can find you! Pin the tweet to your profile so it’s easy to spot.
  4. Browse the hashtag and interact with other AMM hopefuls! Read bios, like, and comment! Drool over incredible book concepts and offer to swap sample chapters with potential critique partners. You could make a writing buddy for life.

Also on Twitter we’ll be having fun answering prompts at #AMMparty! Learn about your fellow mentees and their work, and make more connections!

Why Submit to AMM?

I’m a Fall 2017 Mentee and I’ve gotten so much out of this program. Not only did I get a wonderful mentor whose feedback made my book so much better, I also got the ongoing support of other AMM mentees. Here’s what some of them have to say (emphasis mine):

“There’s a thousand reasons to submit to AMM, but here’s just a few… My mentor provided amazing insight on how to take my manuscript to new levels, closer to being the book I’ve always dreamed about. Before and even after signing with an agent, he’s been around for me for everything from reading recs to questions about book covers. In addition, the AMM mentees have become my writing family — we cheer each other on, pick each other up after difficult days, and word sprint together after our day jobs.

I hope you’ll submit to AMM and find your writing family, too.

I am beyond grateful for Sean, Alexa, and my AMM family!”

Julie Abe
Agent: Sarah Landis, Sterling Lord Literistic
Fall 2017 Mentee, Mentor: Sean Easley

“Author Mentor Match has been a huge deal for my writing career. With every round of revision I did with Jaime, my book and my writing in general became so much stronger. Beyond revising my manuscript, Jaime was still with me through every step of the querying process, from helping me with my query letter, decided which agents to sub to, to talking me through the stressful process of deciding between multiple offers. I recommend this program to anyone who feels like they have a strong manuscript but know it’s not ready for the next step and need some help getting it there. I couldn’t have made it this far without Author Mentor Match, and now my mentor and I are agent silblings!”

Jordan Marisa Kelly
Agent: Jordan Hamessley, New Leaf Literary Agency
Fall 2017 Mentee, Mentor: Jaime Olin

“Author Mentor Match is everything I never knew I was looking for. This community has revolutionized my writing life in every aspect, from confidence to ability and everything in between. My mentor has equipped me with a trusty arsenal of plotting spreadsheets and puns, and her feedback is always spot on. But most importantly, my mentor isn’t just investing in this one manuscript—she’s investing in me as a writer. We’re in this for the long haul. And that makes all the difference.”

Sarah Harrington
Fall 2017 Mentee, Mentor: Rosiee Thor

“I’m blown away by how great AMM has been. My mentor is amazing, insightful, and generous, and has helped me grow so much. Not only is she just a great person to talk to, she also has years of experience as a published writer, and has shared her wisdom and connections with me. In addition, my cohort of mentees has turned into a supportive, resource-sharing, cheerleading group of role models and peers that I’m so glad to have met. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of AMM.”

Carolyn T. O’Neil
Fall 2017 Mentee, Mentor: J. Albert Mann

“Kevin has offered such a fresh perspective on my manuscript and really pushed me to find my story. His knowledge of writing resources and the industry has proven invaluable, and he’s always available for a comforting word or brainstorming session. I feel so lucky to call him my mentor and have him (and the whole AMM family) on this journey with me!”

Debra Spiegel
Fall 2017 Mentee, Mentor: Kevin van Whye

“Joining AMM has been such a positive experience for me! When I submitted I was feeling pretty lost. I’d been working on a manuscript for awhile and knew I’d gotten as far as I could alone. I needed some guidance to take my work to the next stage, so when I saw a post about AMM applications it seemed perfect! Working with a mentor has been invaluable, with Kim’s help my writing and story craft has improved exponentially.

I love how it’s an ongoing relationship, and the focus is on mentoring rather than competing for a showcase. I’ve been able to work at my own pace, and know that our relationship will continue long-term. She has been such a wonderful teacher and has supported me as I’ve reshaped my story to be so much better than I ever thought it could be. With Kim’s encouragement I did a full rewrite of my YA manuscript. I’m currently finishing up my second round of revisions, and I’m hoping to dive into querying at the end of 2018. Eep!

Also through the AMMfam and application process I’ve connected with so many wonderful people, including some amazing critique partners who I now consider my bestest friends <3 I feel so supported and connected as part of this entire community.”

Lyndall Clipstone
Spring 2018 Mentee, Mentor: Kim Smejkal

“AuthorMentorMatch is an amazing program. My book has improved by leaps and bounds since I began revising with my mentor’s input and ideas. My mentor has been so supportive—she’s helped with everything from edit letters and brainstorming sessions to query materials and publishing advice. Anyone looking for a program where you’ll get a great mentee-mentor relationship, help with your book, and amazing community of other writers, AuthorMentorMatch has what you’re looking for.”

Emily Grey Feldman
Spring 2018 Mentee, Mentor: Rosiee Thor

“I found out about AMM three weeks before the deadline, and on a whim I decided to apply. I can’t believe how this amazing opportunity almost passed me by! My mentor has been absolutely amazing, quick in her responses, supportive, and firm in her critique. Getting a long edit letter was overwhelming, but reading her ideas and talking them through with her opened my eyes to what my book could become. Having access to the other AMM mentees as well has been great since we can share our struggles and our triumphs with each other. The AMM community has made me a stronger writer, and the resources it provides has me excited–not scared!–of the next steps on my path to being a published author.”

Linnea Garcia
Spring 2018 Mentee, Mentor: Jaime Olin

AMM has been everything I hoped for. At the end of March, when I got into Round 4, my amazing mentor Tae Keller sent me a 10-page single-spaced edit letter complete with graphs. Her critique was so insightful and helped me re-work my manuscript entirely. Two months later, after essentially rewriting half my novel, I sent her a revision. She gave me another edit letter, this time three pages long. A month later, I’d made some more significant edits and sent my manuscript to beta readers and other critique partners. A month after that, and a bit over four months after receiving my first edit letter, I was ready to query my novel.

Coming into AMM, I was ready to put in the hard work of revising my novel, but I couldn’t have done it without my mentor or this program. To have someone believe in my project and help guide me through the Blow-It-Apart-and-Put-it-Back-Together stage of novel-writing was absolutely invaluable.

Sylvia Liu
Spring 2019 Mentee, Mentor: Tae Keller

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