Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Writing a New Story: Where I Start

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She has a podcast/vlog at www.StoryworldFirst.com. You can also find Jill on InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. Tagboth (Tag for short) is a goldhorn dragon from Belfaylinn, a hidden fantasy realm on the western end of the Sargasso Sea. Jill is working on the first book of this tale for this year's Grow an Author series.

Happy 2018!

I am ready to write. Are you?

I'm so excited about our Grow an Author series. As we move through 2018, Stephanie, Shannon, and I are each going to take you through our process of writing a new story. Because I am me, I can't do this without having a story to work on. So I dug through my files and pulled out Onyx Eyes, the book I was writing on my author blog back in 2014. I had to stop because I sold the Kinsman Chronicles. And four years later, I have completed that epic saga (whoo hoo!), and Onyx Eyes is still calling to me. Especially, Tagboth, the goldhorn dragon in my picture above. Tagboth is an important part of the Onyx Eyes story, so he is going to be sitting on my desk, reminding me not to forget him.

Another perk to writing this story? I named my main character girl Kaitlyn, after my daughter. Four years ago, Kaitlyn was ten, and this was all silly fun. Today, Kaitlyn is a month from turning fourteen, a bookworm, and she will have her say as to what happens to her character in this book. She has already vetoed several things I had planned to do back in 2014 and insisted that Kaitlyn's character get to have a romantic storyline with hero Drake. So, yeah. Buh bye, fairy princess love interest. The human girl Kaitlyn is calling the shots for herself this time around.

This shall be fun, methinks. *grin*



Where I Start

I'm the kind of person who always has a dozen story ideas I want to work on. All the time. I pine over old story ideas I've had to put down. I wish I could write everything that pops into my head. Alas, I cannot, and so I must choose.

How did I choose this time around? Well, I narrowed it down to the top two stories I was desperate to write, then I chose the one that best fit my target audience: you, teen writers. Onyx Eyes is a YA fantasy, so it best fits my needs for this year's blogging plan. Not only will it help me to have a story to work on as I explain my process, it will help me work on a story that for the past five years, I've been desperate to write!

Now, if I had narrowed it down and all my stories were YA fantasy ideas, then I would have chosen the one I wanted to write the most. And if it was a tie, then I would have chosen the one that I felt was the most salable. The one that would appeal to the greatest number of readers. (Because while I do write for fun [and because I can't not write], I also need to make a living, and I really, really, really don't want to have to go and get a part-time job to help my family pay the bills. So, sometimesmany timesI have to think business.)

That decided, let me tell you where this idea came from. Five years ago, my husband was working as a youth pastor with me as his trusty sidekick. This also meant that I did a lot of volunteer work with our church. One of the things I did was work with little kids, teaching Sunday School and making crafts. One such craft was a bracelet with beads that tell the story of Jesus. This craft has many incarnations, like colored jelly bean "jewels" in a jar or the wordless book version. I'm sure there are more. The point is, as the littles and I were crafting, I got thinking about the themes each color in the bracelet represented. And I thought, What if I wrote a series of books in which each story had one of these colors as a theme? And that got me thinking about color as a magic, which got me thinking about gemstones having power, which got me thinking about what kind of people would use natural stones for magic, which got me thinking about fairies.

Yes. I would write a book about fairies in which magic was powered by colored stones of all kinds.

Epic, right?

I started with a list of the themes from the colored bracelet craft. They are: black = sin, red = sacrifice, white = rebirth, green = growth, and yellow = eternal home. There are several variations as to the order. Some start with yellow, some end with green. Some include blue and purple. But knowing how long it takes to write a series of books (I still haven't finished the Mission League series yet, which has six books), I decided to stick with five themes.

That decided, I was itching to draw a map, but I wasn't ready yet. I needed a basic story to give me a foundation to plan from. Since the first book would have a theme of black = sin, and since I didn't want to start out the series with a lawbreaking antihero, I decided to have my main character break a magical law out of desperation and lack of trust in those around him. I came up with the idea of two nations at war. One kidnaps the other nation's princess, and my hero, her guard, must get her back. As I thought more about my fairies, I wanted them to be the size of humans. I pictured something more like Tolkein's Legolas than Disney's Tinkerbell. This led me to creating two races of fae, which I tentatively called aerials and grounders. (Still not sure I love those terms.) Aerials have wings. Grounders do not. My hero, a grounder, must sneak into the aerial kingdom to rescue the grounder princess. He believes he can only do this by impersonating an aerial, and since he does not have wings, he sets out into the mountains with the intent of wielding a forbidden bonding spell with a dragon (enter Tagboth), which will enable him to grow wings.

That was a good enough start to get my brain working hard. Next week I'll show you how I make lists of the things I will need to worldbuild for this series as I gear up to create a map.


Have you chosen a story to work on in 2018? Share in the comments what you're working on.
And let us know where you start planning a new story.

51 comments:

  1. I’m working on a bunch of stories this year. At the moment, my WIP is an epic fantasy series about a princess, a morally grey soldier, a bunch of spies, and powers that manifest themselves through things like writing and creating thunderstorms. Loads of fun, and I’ve been trying to write it forever. I have a feeling about this version, though (it’s the fourth time I’ve tried writing this particular book.) this is gonna be the one. My early readers are saying so and I think so too.

    Your dragon is so cute! I love this story idea. I’ll enjoy following along with your process—which is 120% relatable, btw. As far as ideas go—I currently have a file with 23 of them. TWENTY THREE. And there’s more all the time. Help me.

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    1. AAAHHH I get so excited to see when people know their current draft is the one!! Congrats, Faith!! I'm so excited for you! <3

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    2. Ahhh, thanks! I'm low-key thrilled!!!! :D

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    3. Very fun. It sounds like now is the time for this idea. That is always so exciting. :-)

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  2. I'm mainly going to work on editing my first novel, but I have other projects and ideas thrown in there for balance. I'm really excited about what lies ahead this year!

    Your story sounds super intriguing. I love the dragon! Dragons are awesome. Can't wait to see what comes of the story!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. New years are always full of hope and "what ifs."

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  3. I'm working mainly on my WIP right now. That idea originally sparked to me as characters who got to play around in my daydreams and a few attempted stories for two years. Then, I got a plot idea -- "what if there's a great story behind those 'donated in memory of'?" and brainstormed. I chose it because it's the story of my heart. :P
    Your story sounds awesome! I can't wait to hear more about it as this series goes on. (And bonus points for jewels, dragons, and love interests named Drake.)

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    1. So fun, Josie, to get to work on the story of your heart. Thanks for sharing. And, yes! So excited to write about dragons and Drake. :-)

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  4. I don't have a title for my story yet, but it's going to be 8 six-year-olds (3 of which are main characters) at a magic school. One character is trying to escape school, one character is trying to make a girl love him, and another character took a dare from her sister to kill the first main character. I'm so excited to get it done. ~Amanda

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    1. Interesting idea, Amanda. It's great that you're excited. That makes writing the story so much more fun. Are they really only six years old?

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    2. I have recently changed it. I can never stay with a story idea, so now they are in high school.

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  5. I'm working on my second book in my trilogy as I'm hoping to publish the first book this summer. I also have loads of ideas I'll probably work on when I let the second book set for a month or so before editing. I have a story about a girl with depression and last night I came up with a new idea that will be totally heartbreaking and I love it!!

    Your book sounds really awesome, Mrs. Williamson. I can't wait to see what the year brings for you!

    Thank you for this awesome, inspiring post! <3

    ~Ivie
    iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    1. Sounds like you have lots of plans, Ivie. That's a great way to start. And I love it when a new idea comes along and is perfect for a work in progress.

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  6. I'm so excited for this!! It kind of reminds me of #WeWriteBooks ... I LOVED that series.

    I'm finishing up editing the first draft of my (Contracted!) WIP and then it'll be off to my editor. Then it's on to writing my next book! I have an idea pulling on my heartstrings, but it doesn't fit with my series. I'm going to brainstorm with my editor to flesh out a few other ideas...

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    1. It is kind of like #WeWriteBooks, but this time, everyone is playing along. And I'm continually fascinated by how much everyone's writing process differs, yet gets the same job done.

      It's going to be an exciting year for you, Taylor. I'm glad you have an editor to bounce ideas off. That's fun.

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    2. Yes! It is so fun having an editor to help. And I'm just...I don't know...soooo excited about what's going on at GTW this year!

      I started writing my debut novel during #WeWriteBooks so this brings back all the memories 🙂

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  7. I loved hearing about part of your writing process, Jill! It's really cool that your daughter is such a big part of your story, I love that <3. And Tagboth is adoarable! (I also love the titles aerials and grounders, for the record xD)

    I'm going to be working on my YA dystopian novel, Killing Snow, this year. I'm hoping to maybe get it a little more presentable by July, so that I can pitch for it when I go to Realm Makers. But that's kind of wishful thinking, since only half of it's first draft is done, haha. But I guess we'll see what happens!

    Savannah | Scattered Scribblings

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    1. Sweet! I'm sticking with aerials and grounders for now, so I'm glad to hear they work okay. Yes, Kaitlyn started sketching her character yesterday. I'm curious to see what she draws. :-)

      That's a great goal, Savannah. And I love that title. Is it a fairytale retelling too? Or am I reading that title wrong?

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    2. Yup, it's a retelling of Snow White. At least, I think it is. The story's a pest, and it keeps deciding it wants to be different things ;D. So we'll see if it sticks to the fairytale path until the end, or if it pulls a quick one on me and turns into something entirely different xD.

      ~ Savannah | Scattered Scribblings

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  8. In my current project I'm trying to combine floating islands, dragons, magic, and steampunk air ships among other things. We'll see if it gets finished. Hopefully I can create a fluffier plot this time around.
    - Book Dragon

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    1. That sounds amazing. I'm rooting for you!

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  9. Wow, what a great story idea, Mrs. Williamson! I always love your books. They're so interesting.
    Speaking of loving your books, feel free to write as many for the Mission League Series as you want! My little brother has decided that Spencer is his character, since they both have red hair, and I adore that series (and all your other books) as well. No pressure! :)

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    1. Thanks, Olivia. I'm so glad you like them. And I'm glad your brother likes Spencer too. Spencer was the first character I ever created, so he will always be dear to me. Even though hearing me say that would probably make him gag. LOL

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  10. Right now I'm focusing on finishing the last round of edits for my novel that still needs a title! (It's had several tentative titles, but none seem to fit) And then I'll be working on the 2nd book in the series, in which my hero escapes from a prison and is trying to find the heroine, while hero #2 is trying to find his long lost half-brother and avoid being thrown into gladiator type games. All fun stuff!

    -Olivia

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    1. Are you really another cow-milking novelist gal named Olivia? And here I thought I was the only one! That sounds like a fantastic story (and I can't help but notice that you write with heroes instead of heroines as well)! Best of luck finding that perfect title!

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  11. Your story sounds very interesting!! And the dragon is absolutely adorable. XD
    I haven't yet decided what story I'm going to focus on this year, but I plan on editing my time-travel novelette and possibly drafting the sequel. I have one idea that is a mix of time-twists, warped space, and murder mystery, but I'm still debating if I can write all of it without getting bored. :P

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  13. I love your idea! The color-based magic sounds really fun.
    My current project is a long series of short books--I have about 20 planned so far, but haven't actually written any of them! I had the idea to combine two of the most popular types of fiction right now, superheroes and fantasy, and once I started creating superheroes with fantasy-based powers I couldn't stop! They're so much fun to invent! I like the idea of shorter books because it gives me a way to flesh out each character out of a massive cast.

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    1. Those sound cool. And totally not on topic, but I LOVE your profile pic! Toothless and Hiccup are the best!

      ~Ivie

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    2. Hi, Christine! I am plotting a superhero novel, so I have extra reason to be curious about yours. Do you mind sharing in what way the powers are fantasy-based?

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    3. Sure! I took deliberate inspiration from several superhero origin tropes: dangerous chemicals (like the Hulk), otherworldly origin (like Superman), or just intense training (like Black Widow). Instead of dangerous chemicals I used potions, instead of aliens I used fairies, and instead of physical training I used magical study. Of course, some things are unique--one character has powers granted from a phoenix, another has a magical link to a dragon that grants him strength, speed, and stamina far above a human's, though not as high as the actual dragon. And, of course, there are always magical artifacts that grant power.

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    4. Wow, interesting! That's a fantastic combination of genres. I have some semblance to fantasy in my superhero story in that the powers relate to telepathy, empathy, and the like, but it's geared more toward science fiction. I think it's neat how you have similar elements to mine in your story and yet came up with something so different! Best of luck with your story!

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    5. Thanks! A lot of superhero stories have minor elements of fantasy. I hope your story goes well too!

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  14. Can't wait to see where this series takes us all!! And we have a lovely little bookdragon to help us along the way!

    I'm mostly editing my trilogy during this year, but I will be writing a few books as well during NaNo months, just to keep things from getting too monotonous and give myself a break!

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  15. This story sounds so interesting! I'm really excited to see how it turns out! And that's such a fun story about its inspiration. Stories really can come from anywhere. My current project was inspired one night when I was wearing a blanket like a cloak. :D

    Finishing the second draft of that project is my goal for this year. It's a Greek-inspired tech famtasy about a brother and sister whose kingdom is invaded by raiders and who fight in different ways to get it back. I've been working on this project off-and-on for about five years, and I really want to knuckle down and make some progress on it.

    Also, as someone else mentioned, your Mission League books are amazing. I eagerly await the next one!

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    1. I love that you got a story idea from wearing a blanket as a cloak. That is awesome. Hope you do make progress on your story this year, Rachelle. And thanks for your kind words about the Mission League. It's coming! :-)

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  17. I love reading about your process, Jill! I'll share more about mine on Friday, but this reminds me that there is no ONE WAY to write a novel.

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  18. I'm so excited about this new series. I can't wait to see the different process you each go through. :)

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  19. Whoa... Onyx Eyes sounds AWESOME!!! I can't wait to see what you do with the story! :)
    As for me, I have three stories I plan to work on this year. All of them are in different stages. One of them is a middle grade novel... I'm not sure what genre it classifies as. I guess it's fantasy with supernatural elements added in. I'm currently working on the very first draft (it hasn't really gone anywhere yet, and honestly I'm kinda bored with it, but I'm determined to finish because I believe that in some small way God inspired me to write it. Therefore, I want to finish it.)
    The other two are both YA--one fantasy, the other sci-fi. I've been working on the fantasy one for over a year, and right now I'm still waiting to hear back from beta readers, so we'll see how that goes. I'm hoping to publish it before I graduate college, which gives me just over five years.
    The sci-fi story was my NaNoWriMo novel, and I've been taking a break from it before I go back and write the second draft. I'm really excited about this one... all the books I write are connected to each other, except the connections are very subtle. This book is kind of the climax of the series, where I reveal the thing that connects them all. It was a LOT of fun to write! :)
    Sorry for the super long comment! Best wishes to everyone's writing projects!

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  20. Oh I love this idea! And I'm so excited for this years blog theme.
    I've got two story ideas brewing that I want to tackle the first draft of this year. The one I'm most excited about and going to spend the most time on is a YA Fantasy story about a lawbreaking antihero. The other is a prairie romance, because alas, I'm turning into an old fogie who likes that sort of thing.

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  21. For 2018, I have chosen to postpone for a time my master work (epic fantasy) so as to be able to finish a shorter one (heroic fantasy), in which I have already reached about the halfway point. The plan is for that book to be the first of mine to be published. I also hope to write an even shorter work (only about 30k words, very short for me)--I don't know what I'll do with it, but I've been itching to start it, and I just did last night. Hopefully it'll go well.

    As to where I start planning a new story: for me it always starts with an idea, generally expressed in a random exclamation somewhere along the lines of "WHOA! What if...." From there I think of at least one major character (usually the main character, around whom I can structure the story) and the pivotal plot element.

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  22. First of all... the fact that 2014 has been four years ago now literally just sunk in. Whoa.

    Second of all... this story sounds SO COOL!

    I haven't decided which of my stories I want to focus on this year yet... partly because I know I won't stick with it. (I bounce back and forth between my ideas... it's hard to focus sometimes, but I can't say no when a story calls to me.)

    Usually when I come up with a new story idea, I replay it over and over in my mind until I get a chance to write down SOMETHING about it-- enough so that I don't forget it. Sometimes it's just a few words. Sometimes a lot more of the story hits me at once. And usually, when I sit down and start putting some thought into my hint of an idea, more of the story starts flowing in until I have a main character, a rough idea of the plot, etc.

    Unfortunately with my last few story ideas, my MCs' personalities/motivation have been a little hard to get a firm idea of. It gets easier as I spend more time "with" them, though. :-)

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  23. This year I plan to finish my novel Sparks Like Stars. It will be my first ever completed draft of a novel and I am very excited. Then, as I plunge into the editing process that it will need horribly, I might start a new story I've had for a while. It's where there are three different worlds, one is steampunk, one is fantasy, and one is sci-fi, and they are all connected by a gateway that is in between all of them and the Gatekeepers (might change that name later) that belong to no perticular one of the worlds have, well, kept the gate for a long time... But now, the three realms are fighting for control of the Gate (or whatever I end up deciding to call it) and the main character, who when her father dies will inherit the position of Gatekeeper, is trying to bring peace to the lands for reasons I haven't decided on yet. We'll see if I get to that story. If not this year, than some day. Otherwise, I have a couple Christian-themed stories that I would like to write, so if I finish Sparks Like Stars I will write the Gate idea or a Christian themed novel.

    Alas! You used it. Alas is a good word. Alas, I do not say it often. I should.

    ~Mila

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  24. I started my WIP when my oldest was 4. I have started other stories, but this one I continue to go back to. I'm hoping to finish editing this year.

    So, when my boys were 4 and 2, they would watch Cinderella over and over and over and ... you know. I didn't mind. It's my favorite Disney movie. I asked myself, 'what if ..." From there, I continued to ask that question until I couldn't sleep at night and had to get it down on paper. The story starts during a masquerade ball. She does't leave a shoe behind, but something personal, an unusual family heirloom. Of course, she's really a servant. As he tries to find her, he loses the heirloom and has to figure out another way to find her. When he finds her, he discovers her life is in danger. Then, they have to figure out who is trying to kill her and why.

    I might have to use some of that for the blurb. So, even though I like reading sci-fi and fantasy, when I think of stories, I think more in a historical setting, so my WIP is set in early Victorian era. I think it's because I grew up reading paperback romances and my favorites always seemed to be historical.

    Anyway, about Onyx Eyes, I think it sounds great. I'm probably your oldest fan with an 18 year old and an almost 16 year old, but I would definitely read it. I love the idea of the colors based on the story of Jesus.

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  25. Onyx Eyes sounds interesting. I'm looking forward to learning more about your process.

    As for way too many ideas, I've always thought I was excessive! Of course, I did finally find one idea I can stick with.

    For this year, my project is one that doesn't exactly have a name yet, but I'm working on that. It's a sci-fi series and I'm having lots of fun working on it. It's The Idea for me, the first one I've ever managed to stick with for longer than a month. (I've been at it since August last year)

    As for my idea process, sometimes a fragment of a dream I had sparks an idea for me, sometimes it literally just comes out of nowhere and I have to frantically search for a piece of paper and a writing utensil.
    My current WIP came to me when I was heard a song on the radio. It was just a little impression of an idea, but before long, it pieced itself together.

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  26. Great idea with the colors! I'm already excited for the

    For this year I decided which manuscript I really wanna finish and I'm very motivated about it even since I begun it. I called it Gangland for now. I got the idea when I kept hearing about gun and police violence in the US and Black Lives Matter and terrorism and I randomly thought: what would anarchy look like if I emphasize on these elements? So it's dystopian I suppose, and I already have 25,000 words written. Can't wait to finish it!

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  27. I love how your daughter is demanding plot sway :D

    The novel I'm working on has just kinda happened. I was working on several smaller things when I started it. And I've kept working on it. It's suddenly 63k words and has so much of me in it. I'm almost done writing it and I'm wondering when I even ever wrote it? It's been the most interesting writing journey ever.

    For 2018 after I finish the first draft of this novel I plan to do a huge rewrite of a sci-fi novella series I've been working on. Excited :d

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  28. You guys! I came back to glance at the comments today, and I love all of your story ideas! I'm so excited to see all of you work on them this year and watch you authors grow!

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