Saturday, January 7, 2017

Starting Anew

Hi, blog.

It's been a while since I'd shared my thoughts on here. I don't quite know how to explain it--

Well, let's start with 2016.

Though not without its highlights, 2016 was, for the most part, a spectacular mess. I remember scrolling through newsfeeds and panicking about the horrors going on in Syria. I remember hearing news about Orlando and sitting in the car, numb with shock and thinking, one more reason to not be who I am. I remember spending hot, sweltering summer days making phone calls and handing out flyers for the woman I believed should be president, only to spend November 9th sobbing with classmates as we saw a man who spewed bigoted views get elected to our highest political office.

Personally, 2016 found me in a state I'd never been in before. I was stuck in a state of fear and anxiety. Words were hard to put on the page, and the constant background hum of characters and plots and pages to write had ceased. Having unreservedly charged through things for much of my earlier life, always building a presence for myself, always trying to give myself a platform to stand on, I shrank back this past year. Doubt reigned, and in addition to very personal losses in my family, there was always, always this cynical fear in the back of my head; fear that I wasn't doing anything productive, fear that I was taking risks that would never pan out.

Then, this November, I watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. 

For two hours, I sat in a movie theater, truly spellbound, seeing the magic I'd loved as a child play out before my eyes again. I gasped at the resplendent colors and characters of Newt's briefcase; I adored the novelty of the story.

I watched J.K. Rowling's beautiful world she'd created, thinking that despite everything, there was still magic in this world.

The fear receded. I started watching more movies and reaching out more to others. I girded up my political activism; I called representatives and donated and vowed to fight for what I believe in for the next four years. I read Maggie Stiefvater's wonderful post about choosing to be the hero of your story. And I chose to write again, realizing that, like Elizabeth Gilbert had said in one of her TED talks, the desire to create superseded my fear of failure.

Slowly, I'm finding my way back the thing I love to do. I'm finding my way back to the caffeine-fueled adrenaline of NaNoWriMo, to the home of crinkled pages and the click of keys against the muggy summer rain.

Here's to hoping that 2017 is a year of intrepid beginnings and sweet resolutions, of courage and moxie and everything in between.

Oh, and how about a song? :)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ch1Con Twisted Blog Tour: Interview with Anne Brees

Hi all!

Welcome to the Chapter One Conference Twisted Blog Tour! For the past few weeks, the Chapter One Conference Team has been mentoring young writers through the process of authorship and publication. Today I have the absolute pleasure of interviewing one of my mentees, the incredibly talented Anne Brees! Her short story, Onyx, will be in the Chapter One Conference anthology, Twisted: Short Stories by Young Writers. 

What beautiful secrets and story gems lie behind this chilling cover, you ask? Well, here's a clue:

 From dueling families to an insane asylum, these short stories are... twisted.

During the autumn of 2016, the team behind the Chapter One Young Writers Conference mentored two talented young writers through the publishing process, giving them a head start on becoming the successful authors of tomorrow. Now, read the stories on which these up-and-coming writers worked, along with four by the Ch1Con mentors themselves.

Each of these stories comes with a twist. You'll never see what's coming next.

Intrigued? You can get your very own copy for yourself, digital (here) or paperback (here).

Onto the interview!

1. Hi Anne! Tell us a little about yourself!

Hi! I'm a high school student who loves writing novels, reading every book I can find, playing piano, and eating more chocolate than I should.

2. What do you like to write? (Novels, short stories, poems, etc.) 

I write mostly novels. Whenever I try to write short stories, they always seem to turn into novels. I hope that someday I figure out the secret to writing poetry.

3. That's awesome! (I can totally relate with the poetry thing). What's your writing process like? Any special rituals? 

I wish I had a normal writing process. (I would probably be a lot more productive if I did.) Usually my writing process is just me forcing myself to put my hands on the keyboard and hoping for the best.

4. If you could describe your short story in just three words, what would they be? 

This is a cruel question. :) Family decides all.

5. What's your favorite book/series, or a great book you've recently read? And if you could live within any fictional world, which one would it be?  

It's impossible to pick a favorite, but I just recently finished the Crooked Kingdom, the second book in the Six of Crows series. It was as amazing as Leigh Bardugo's books always are. I wish I had her talent to create such intricate plots and lovable antiheros.  I also love the Raven Cycle, with its amazing realistic characters and unique take on the supernatural.  I'd love to spend a day with Blue and the Raven Boys in Cabeswater.  (The Henrietta of The Raven Boys sounds a lot safer than the Ketterdam of Crooked Kingdom.)

6. Oooh, I love the world of The Raven Boys too! What's your top piece of writing advice for others starting out as writers? 

KEEP WRITING. Every writer says this, but that's because it's true. It can be really frustrating to just write and write and not get any validation or success from it, but that's because you are still growing. When I first started writing, I wanted to be published right away as all writers do. Now, I'm so relieved that my first works weren't published. (Thinking about some reading my old manuscripts makes me want to cringe.) While it may be frustrating, you have to grow as a writer and try a bunch of different things until you find the ones that work for you. So just keep writing.

Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Anne! 

Everyone else--pick up your copy of Twisted and check her story out! 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ch1Con Blog Tour 2016: Interview with Kira Brighton

Hey all! Sorry for being MIA on this blog for so long--between revisions and the crazy that is junior year everything (if you  want to find me, I'll just be hyperventilating under a stack of AP prep books). 

BUT! I'm absolutely thrilled to be hosting a part of the Ch1Con Blog tour for the day. Some things about Ch1Con: it's this awesome writing conference for teens and young adults (ages 12-23) that takes place in the Chicago suburbs every year. This year it'll take place in St. Charles, IL, on August 6th, 2016. Come for a cozy, tight-knit writing community and a day of informational sessions taught by both bestselling authors and young, up-and-coming novelists alike (this year we're hosting the incredible NYT bestselling Susan Dennard, who wrote the SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY series and TRUTHWITCH, Francesca Zappia, author of MADE YOU UP, Jennifer Yu, author of FOUR WEEKS, FIVE PEOPLE, and Jordan Villegas, an incredible novelist who's represented by Emily Keyes of Fuse Literary). Also, you'll be surrounded by like-minded writer peers your own age and meet our bookish, Panera-loving team (including yours truly.) More info about it here!

Today I'll be interviewing the wonderful Kira Brighton, the Master of Marketing at Ch1Con. Y'all, Kira has the lowdown on all things marketing, from organizing the annual Ch1Con blog tour, to co-running the Ch1Con Twitter and Facebook accounts. Kira is a senior at BYU-Idaho, studying English with an emphasis in Literary Studies, and a novelist, primarily of YA fiction. Besides working for the Ch1Con team, she participates in a few other writing communities, including NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which she has won five times. She has written nineteen novels so far, won various titles in the annual Write It! Awards, including “Best Writer”, and has published short fiction and poetry in many small compilations, such as through Creative Communications, Greensprings, Pegasus, and more. She was a speaker for Ch1Con in 2012 and 2014 and has been part of the team from its inception. In her spare time, Kira plays cello, squees at cats, and obsesses over the BBC. She’s also prone to social justice rants and fangirling about Harry Potter and the Hunger Games.

Now, onto the interview! Today I’ll be talking about making writing a habit, where Kira has graciously agreed to address questions about ritual, organization, balance, and perseverance.

1. What are your tips for balancing a busy school schedule with writing?
If it works all right for you, take a notebook everywhere while you're in the midst of writing a draft, so you can pull it out and write in any moment of free time/boredom. Stay focused, be excited about your story, and you should be able to make quick progress while accomplishing the rest of your work. I also highly recommend NaNoWriMo. Honestly, though, writing styles and processes are very personal and varied, so my ways won't work out for everyone.

2. What habits help you in drafting? In revising? Are there any must-have items, rituals, or mandatory cups of coffee?
Seeing as I'm Mormon, the coffee would be ix-nay. ;) I'm fortunate enough to be pretty adaptable when it comes to writing. I can write just about anywhere with great focus. Revising is more of a butt-in-chair situation--every time I take a break, I have to force myself to start again, but once I'm working, I'm in it to win it.

3. Speaking of ritual, how important is an organized writing schedule to you? Or do you prefer to write on a whim?
I have OCD, and writing is something I love partly because it has this magical property of somehow being OCD-immune for me. I'm a pantser with few, if any, writing rituals, and no writing schedule to speak of. My writing life is the most disorganized part of my existence (though not the publishing aspect, of course--business requires organization). My OCD makes only two notable appearances in my writing process: occasional bouts of anxiety about whether my work has any value and that fortunate ability to sit down and be (obsessively, but not in an anxious way) focused on finishing the work. Whoo-hoo!

4. Do you have a goal-setting system for your writing/noveling aspirations? What is it like?
NaNoWriMo is key to my writing process, but I don't really need that end goal. I just like that fun graph where I can see the wonder of my progress. I'm a self-motivated person. I do set general goals for my career every New Year, and with my latest book, I had to set a deadline (that I slightlyyyy crossed over) to get myself past my editing anxiety so I'd send the draft to my first group of readers. But overall, it's free-form.

5. How do you deal with writer’s block? Do you believe there is such a thing?
I believe that writer's block occurs for one of three reasons: writer's doubt, not listening to your characters, and/or a failure to perform the holy act of butt-in-chair. With the first and the third, you have to force your way through. With the second, however, you do need to take a step back and reconnect with the creative flow. You have to give your will over to the character and let them tell you what they think and feel and how they would honestly react to the situations you've put them in. If you do that, you should be able to find the point in your story where you ignored them and amend it. After that, the story will flow more naturally. 

6. What resources, authors, or familiar quotes do you go back to when you find yourself stuck in writing?
My writer friends (hello Ch1Con team!) are my top resource for any writing-related problem. They're intelligent, supportive, and have a variety of ways they work, so I can turn to them for new direction whenever I need it. Otherwise, I remember the lessons I've learned myself through years of working--butt-in-chair, ignore that writer's doubt, get your draft down before anything else, etc. I also find sketching my characters and locations to be a helpful source of inspiration when I'm drawing a particular blank.

7. Do you have any general advice for cultivating writing as a habit? 
Develop OCD. No, I'm joking, don't do that. What you really need to do is practice! Go write. And read. All the time. The more you work, the more you'll understand what methods speak to you and the more you'll know what to do in the difficult moments. Butt-in-chair, my friends. Get your brain working.

8. What is your advice to a young writer just starting out and hoping to become published or professional?
Don't give up. As with anything worth doing, becoming an author takes a lot of work, a mountain of time, and a fair amount of heartache. You have to be stubborn. You have to decide upfront to continue working towards your dream whatever happens. If that's not something you feel you can do, you should consider writing for enjoymentwithout a clear professional goal. Maybe you'll find your will along the way. If not, you'll still have cultivated great skills and had fun along the way!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

An update of sorts

It's strange to come back to this blog, because although the last few months have been relatively calm for me, it feels as if so much has happened, personally and in the writing life. 

First things first--I was absolutely blown away by the response I had to my last blog post, the one about ageism in the YA industry and community. It was the product of a lot of feelings I'd had for years, and I wrote the blog post in an one ragey dash because, well, I'd finally found the words I needed to write about it. And I wasn't expecting to get such a big response to it because it pretty much hadn't been talked about *at all* and I was waiting for some sort of denial. Or, worse yet, radio silence. But so many of you read the post and reached out to me about your own thoughts on it, and I'm so beyond grateful for that. 

So, writing? I should probably, you know, talk about that. Because it's been a while since I've updated y'all on my progress. Basically my last few months have been, in no particular chronological order: 

1. Revisions! Revising revising revising. There haven't been super developmental edits as of yet, just some scene rewriting and scene adding. TeaNovel was 80K words when I queried it, and now it's ballooned into a 97K words (O.O). It feels weird, too, because I was so used to rewriting my novel over and over again, like, doing complete overhauls, and scaling back and focusing on the nuances of every scene was different for me,   

2. Brainstorming! I've been doing a bit of idle thinking on the side of revisions. Mostly, I've decided that my next novel will either involve alchemists and secret tabloid societies, or feature lots of ships (among other details). 

3. Ch1Con! I attended this incredible teen writer's conference called Chapter One Conference. It was an absolute blast--meeting like-minded teen writers (some of whom organized this whole event!) and getting to hear authors like Kat Zhang, Ava Jae, and Karen Bao speak and offer their own insights on the writing and pub process. Aaaand, I got to finally meet the lovely Kaye (@gildedspine)! I've learned so much from her these past few years on issues of social justice (she started #YesAllWomen), Islamaphobia, and diveristy in the publishing industry, and it was an honor to finally meet her. 

Aaaand, it turns out, I'm actually part of the Ch1Con team this year! *squeals* I'm thrilled I get to be a part of the gang, and we're doing some awesome behind-the-scenes planning to make this our best year yet. 

meeting up with some of the team members! may or may not have involved the eating of crepes...

4. Sooz's bookstore signing! I got to see her this year at Anderson's Bookshop, and it was awesome, meeting her for the third time. The very best thing was getting to tell her that I had an agent--Sooz had helped me so much with her blog posts on revisions and querying, and had been so encouraging in the whole process, and when she was signing my books we had a mini celebration. Y'all, I am SO SO SO pumped for when her book TRUTHWITCH comes out this winter. Everything I hear about it just makes me EVEN MORE PSYCHED for this series. 

Us! :)
That's pretty much it for this time around! *retreats back into revision cave*

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Unspoken Ageism in YA

Today, I ran across an article by written by the New York Daily that said that in order to sell YA books you need to write about threesomes. Because I don’t want to generate site traffic for them, here’s a safe link:

Not only was that article biphobic, written by someone who didn’t know the first thing about YA and also didn’t know how to honestly quote authors, but it was also incredibly ageist.

There is ageism in the YA community. It’s not talked about often, but it should be. There, of course, is ageism against YA, too, but today I’m going to talk about the ageism that occurs when teens decide to read and write Young Adult fiction.

I just want to throw a disclaimer out there that this is not an attack against any YA adult writer or reader. I love how YA is a wonderful reading experience for every age group. I love that adults read YA and stay active in the YA community. The YA community has been thoughtful, sensitive, and engaging in many social issues, and some of the books themselves are incredibly relatable. But the ageism and the way some people conduct themselves has gotten to a point where teen readers I know, including myself, are not sure if we even belong in the YA community or not, and it’s ridiculous to think that teen readers feel so distanced from the books that portray teenagers. I’ve talked to teen readers, and some of us have concluded that, frankly, sometimes we don’t see ourselves in YA anymore.

Don’t know what ageism in YA is? It’s:

-When adult school boards decide what Young Adult books teens should be denied to read, and teens don’t get a say in it.  

 -When I’m in a room at a conference and there’s a panel of adults instructing YA writers how to “write YA”, but you know they’re thinking of how to write for YA trends and how to write for the industry because there is not a single mention of what teen readers want to see on shelves.  And I, a teenage YA writer who does not identify with anything that's being said, shrink behind my conference badge. Because the adults Must Be Right. 

-When several YA authors try to deny and shame a teenage reader’s sense of discomfort regarding an author.

-When teens I go to school with and the friends I have care about grades and AP scores and tenuous friendships. They cry about family troubles and college apps and fear for unknown futures and unknown careers. But many protagonists in YA, incidentally, just overwhelmingly care about kissing that hot person. (Relationships are major, but they're not the only thing teens think about.) 

-When adults write articles saying that all teens want are threesomes, and out of all the woefully misquoted people in there (who may or may not share the same opinion as him), none of them are a) YA readers or b) the very teenagers who open YA books in an attempt to see some of themselves in the author’s words.

I think Kate Brauning tweeted the other day that teens shouldn’t be grouped and written about in a single narrative or manner, because teenagers are diverse. And it’s absolutely true. It’s infuriating when adults decide how teens should be collectively be portrayed in books. When they arrive on a consensus on How All Teens Should Act And Do, they inadvertently co-opt our voices, and tell US what we should read and what we should write. There is no dialogue.  

And that should change.

We are not your perfect high school fantasies. We are not your constantly witty, gorgeous, and sexually confident characters. We come from all races and from every type of social situation. We develop all kinds of identities of sex and gender. We can love boldly or hesitantly, or not at all. There is no one “right” way to write YA. The next time you write about teenagers, listen to us. Respect us. And please, please don’t try to speak for us without considering our voices.    

And Allen Salkin, the next time you decide to write about “What YA Readers Want”, maybe you should consider also including a teenage reader to purposefully misquote as well. And for your information, New York Daily News, I’m a Young Adult reader, a young adult, and I’ll still like a book even if there isn’t a threesome in it.   

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I Have an Agent!!!!!!!

I've read countless "How I Got My Agent" blog posts in the past, and yet, when I sit down to attempt to write mine, I totally blank out. Am I really at this step? Have I really made it this far?

I just pinched myself.

Long story short: I'm now represented by Jessica Regel from Foundry + Media!!!

Long story long: 

I began writing this manuscript I informally called TeaNovel back in 2012, and you can follow its journey through the archives of this blog. It was a NaNoWriMo novel (National Novel Writing Month), meaning that it was a sucky first draft dashed out in the confines of 30 days. But to me, it was such a big and crazy idea that the only way I could have gotten the first words down was through something equally big and crazy as NaNo.

I had written two finished manuscripts before I wrote TeaNovel, and while I liked those novels and thought they improved my writing immensely, I always gave up after the first draft. I knew I didn't believe in them enough to revise them. They weren't ready. TeaNovel was different--maybe it was because I wrote about a story and a world that was so close to me. But it, too, wasn't ready: I knew that much.

So I decided to make it ready. I decided that at some point, when TeaNovel was ready, I wanted an agent to represent it.

It was a difficult novel to revise. I went through about six or seven rewrites before querying, starting almost entirely from scratch each time. I visited websites like PubCrawl and Susan Dennard's blog weekly. I would finish a rewrite or a major overhaul, and know that I was much closer to my vision of the story, but the MS wouldn't be quite there yet. I had to acquire multiple writing skills through my development of TeaNovel. It was, in every sense of the word, a challenge.

In the beginning of 2014, I thought it was ready to send out. I began querying. Requests began to trickle in, as did rejections. I had a mini heart attack every time I saw Inbox(1). (Seriously, the waiting is the WORST). I got more rejections. Full requests turned into rejections.

Every time I came across a rejection from a requested full, I got a sinking feeling as I read through the comments. The thing is? 98% of those comments were absolutely right. The manuscript was not quite there.  Storylines weren't connected. The writing was choppy at times.  I got one of the nicest, most helpful rejection letters ever from a rockstar agent, and after compiling the other rejections and discussing it with my CPs, I knew, in my gut, that this version of TeaNovel was not true.

So I started thinking. And brainstorming.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2014, I went to a Writer's Digest conference. I signed up for the Pitch Slam, this event in which writers go around a ballroom to give 90-second pitches to agents and said agents possess the crazy stamina to basically sit through a 3-hour pitch session with maybe like 3 bathroom breaks. Jess was the first agent I pitched to--I had always kept her in my periphery for my query list, because she happened to represent one of my favorite MG authors of all time* along with a ton of super cool YA, but I'd always held off from querying her, because I wasn't sure if my novel was too quiet for her tastes.

Somehow at the conference, I'd screwed up the courage to approach her with my pitch. I was terrified. Maybe I stammered. Somehow, I still was able to speak English. Jess asked a few questions about the setting, and then asked for the full manuscript.

At which point I thought, no way am I sending a half-assed manuscript, and then I was like, "Um...I'm kind of revising it?"

She was super gracious and requested to see it when I was done with revisions. And then let's just say I burrowed into a hole and didn't know how to think for a few months. Or something like that.

I started  my final revision of TeaNovel in January 2015. I kept the backbone of the plot and the characters, but I ripped out each scene and rewrote it until it was exactly the way I wanted it to be. I sketched out character arcs and strengthened relationships. I asked myself questions of why and how each character would fight for everything to get what he or she truly wanted, and wrote the answers between the lines of my MS. I rewrote a world that I loved. I listened to Lana del Rey on repeat and my friends probably secretly judged my Spotify playlists.

I finished the draft. I sent it to a CP, and she agreed with me that it was ready.

I began re-querying in late May. I did my research and kept the query list small; I did my research, because I wanted to get it right this time. I sent a long-overdue manuscript to Jess, praying that she hadn't forgotten me. And two weeks later, when I got my first email from an agent asking to discuss my manuscript, I started laughing hysterically in the middle of an English class discussion.

I was absolutely nervous for my first call. My hands were shaking. I had a whole list of questions prepped out. We talked about revision notes and she was super kind. And then halfway through the call, she offered!!!

And then came the crazy.

I notified the other agents who had my MS. Within a few days, Jess Regel, who represented one of my favorite MG authors of all time*, wanted to speak to me.

I was freaking out up until the second she called, and then I managed to get my shit together. (I'm totally lying. I think I was still flipping out all through the convo, and Jess was just this wonderfully nice presence on the other end of the phone listening to me ramble.) Somehow, talking with Jess put me at some sort of ease. We discussed the manuscript, and I found myself agreeing to everything she said. It was surreal, and it was magical, and I was a happy lolcat on cloud nine. 

By the end of the week I had three offers, and I had to make a decision by Monday. And it was very, very difficult. Dahlia Adler wrote this post about this agonizing process, and I couldn't agree with her more. After a year of rejections and waiting, I kind of resigned into this mindset that no one really liked my book, and I would be lucky to get a full request. And then to have the switch flipped, and to have three awesomesauce agents offering on me? 

I was totally unprepared for that part of the process. I spoke with the agents' clients, who were all lovely and wonderful, and took a whole legal pad of notes. My brain went into overdrive. I basically didn't eat for the entire weekend. Or sleep. 

I was still heavily deliberating through Sunday night, but all along there was this tiny gut feeling about Jess, and sometimes, all things considered, that's really what you can go on. As Monday approached, I became more and more sure that Jess was the right agent for me. And so I ended up accepting her offer of representation!!!

So yeah! After more than a year of querying, I signed with the incredible Jess Regel, with a novel that I loved very much  Multiple happy dances ensued. 


*the lovely Adrienne Kress, whose novel Alex and the Ironic Gentlemen is still one of my favorite books ever. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

How to Create a World

My entire style of writing changed from the second draft of TeaNovel to the third, I used to be a plot-driven, fast-paced writer. Characters were just on the page to provide reactions. The world just existed for me to, like a finger painter, to swipe a background behind a set. That's how I wrote my first, and my second, and the first two drafts of my third novel. When I first wrote TeaNovel, I wrote it just to write the twists and turns of a plot. I hurriedly wrote about an opera and a palace, but never brought them alive.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, changed everything.

In that book, I came for the plot and stayed for the world of Thisby. Yes, there were deadly horses that rose from the sea, but beyond that, there was the island. There was that rocky crag of civilization with the roots of a pagan culture. There was an untamed rawness to the cliffs and the November sea. And there was a fierce pride from the characters that you only feel when one's culture is deep in his bones, a pride that I only can admire.

Oh, man. I'm failing so hard at describing this right now. But Maggie created a world and a home. A tangible home. She described things in a way that made Thisby very, very real to me. At times, the characters became the setting, and Thisby became a person.

And when I went back and reread that novel countless times, each time Thisby entranced me all over again. There was this soul, this essence to that place and the only way I can describe it is with that moment in The Night Circus, when you open a scent bottle and the entire essence of a place comes through. Like, when you get a whiff of sunscreen, and all your childhood summer camp memories flood you? That was it.

I always wondered how she did that. I went to TeaNovel, and I thought myself of how to do that. I knew I couldn't just paint descriptions. I had to do something more. Maggie wrote this wonderful Printz speech, a passage of which I'd like to share with you:

"...the answer is this: 42 Century Butter-Pies. That’s right. Those imaginary pies that tormented me as a ten year old are also the solution to making a world. Because instead of baldly presenting a culture to me, Diana Wynne Jones showed me the symptoms of the culture. It wasn’t just the sights and the sounds. It was the taste in my mouth and the feeling on my skin and the sense that no matter where I turned my head in this book, I’d experience something new about the world. It was, as they say, the little things. So that’s what I did. I filled The Scorpio Races with as many of the little things as I could remember from my trips, and when I thought I was missing a little thing, I went looking for it. in the end, I feel like Thisby is a big place made of tiny, true sensations."
-Maggie Stiefvater, YALSA Printz Honor Speech

That was it for me. Although I didn't come across this speech until many many more drafts of TeaNovel, but I had also essentially focused on the little things. I had a lovely Opera and a magnificent, cutthroat Palace. What did I love about the Opera? What could I do to make the characters feel the same way? How do I make it so the characters don't necessarily have worlds to save, but rather homes to fight for? The answer, for me, was in the little things. They add up. Believe me, they do.