Assassins of Ghadid, Book One

What a Difference a Year Makes

November 1st last year, I started writing draft zero for Book One of what we’re now calling the Assassins of Ghadid trilogy. I had a character and a scene and a vague idea of where it was all going.

Several rewrites, revisions, and now an editorial letter later, I think I can safely say Book One is done. Of course, we’ve already touched on what “finished” means, so I suppose we should define “done.”

Done, right now, for this book, is a book that has been cleaned up on both the line level and the plot level, is a book that has been tweaked and finessed and had most of its problems excised or otherwise fixed. It’s still not perfect, but the bits and pieces of doubt that hung on after it was “finished” have largely been shed.

Of course, this is just another step in the process. There may (will) be another round of edits. There will (definitely) be a round of line edits. I hope for and expect as much, because I – and my publisher – want this to be as close to 100% as we can make it, without, you know, having to sacrifice our souls and selves.

So in a way, it’s not done done, but on the very long road that is publishing, I thought it significant that almost exactly a year after starting a book that was little more than a scene and a character at the time, it’s now become this: a rewritten and revised and edited and re-edited and tweaked and thoroughly-loved book, about many characters and with many scenes, that even has a plot.

As for when it will be out – assuming there are no Super Major Oh God No edits on the horizon – the current word on the street is March 2019. So we’ve still got some time yet. And I’ve still got two more books to finish.

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, writing

Ending Stats for Book One

Started writing: November 1, 2016
Manuscript sent: June 27, 2017
Total days: 239
I.E.: 7.9 months
Percentage of days spent writing: 94%
Estimated days spent writing: 224
Average hours/day: 2.4
Average hours of sleep/day: hahahaha
Number of drafts: 4
Word count of draft one (aka draft zero): 56,649
Word count of draft two (aka draft one): 63,686
Word count of draft three (aka beta draft): 84,638
Word count of draft four (aka final draft aka finished MS): 95,069
Number of times I knew I wouldn’t get this done on time: 220
Number of times I knew I would: 4
Number of times it mattered: 0
Number of cupcakes eaten in celebration: 1
Number of days I’m taking off between books: 0

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, writing

When is it “finished?”

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As of Friday, Book One is done. And yet it’s not really “finished,” per se. It’s sitting quietly on my harddrive, resting and dreaming, before I slog through it for one last read-through, then it’ll be off to my editor who may (or may not) tear it apart and declare it an abomination. Either way, there will be more edits.

Which made me wonder why I felt like I could label it as it is, done. A big part of it is definitely a feeling, a big sigh of relief, a rush of pride. Yet I have been here before with books I’ve written, only to turn around and completely rewrite them 2 months or 2 years down the line.

So what does done mean?

For me, at least now, at least in this moment and for this project, it appears to mean that it’s at a point where I’m comfortable sharing without caveats. When I gave it to my betas at the end of May, I also gave them a ton of caveats. I was as far as I could get on my own at the time, but I also knew there were still problems, could feel them even if I couldn’t quite put my finger on them. So I told them that, told them to expect that it wouldn’t be perfect, and that it definitely had problems, and to please help me find what those problems were.

Now… it still has problems. It will never be perfect. But I feel like I can hand it off without caveats. That it can stand on its own. Within all those words is a complete story with a full character arc and logical consequences and big stakes, and minimal, if any, plot holes.

Again, there might still be things I’ve missed, things I’m blind to. I’m going to read through it one last time and then other, fresher eyes will have a go at it. But for now, Book One is as done as I can make it.

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, WIP, writing

#amediting – Make it Bleed

The best decision I’ve made so far with this round of edits – aside from, you know, doing them – was to turn on Track Changes. Now whenever I feel like I’m treading water and getting nowhere, all I have to do is flip to “show all markup” and see just how much I’ve done.

Aaah.

Of course, all that red doesn’t say anything about the quality of the edits, but it sure is pretty to look at.

T minus 10 days and counting and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m going to make it, and not just at the last second. 60-ish pages left to edit, 2-ish scenes let to (re)write. I’m starting to get it into my head that I’ll have time for another read through. But let’s not get too cocky – something is bound to happen and eat up all my soft deadline cushioning.

But I’m already starting to plan what I’m gonna do when this is off my desk. Sleep. Read. Buy a chocolate cake. Eat it all. And then start writing the next book. Which I am SUPER excite about, FYI.

In the meantime, I’ve still got 10 days, so here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! raucous gambling, mythology tweaking, and polite civic discourse.

Chapters: 25 chapters out of 33 edited

Current word count: 94,090 out of 90,000

Fun Google searches this week: “Does a camel chew cud?”

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, book three, WIP, writing

Stop! – It’s Beta Time!

Betas, man. What would we do without them? They’re magical creatures, willing to take the time out of their days, weeks, (months?), to glance over an unpolished manuscript and not only give feedback, but give supporting details and thoughts and comments and maybe – hopefully – a few ideas on what they think might help.

When we’ve been elbows-deep in the entrails of our book for months (years) on end, a beta helps us step back and see the body instead of the gore. Or, perhaps, a better metaphor: when we’ve been behind the scenes, constructing the scenery for our play, all we can see is the bare wood, the struts, the bad paint jobs. Our betas help us see the scenery from the audience side, where it’s clearly a quiet night scene in Paris or a warm rooftop in Peru.

Thing is, we writers spend a long time trying to capture what’s in our heads in words that will somehow, perfectly and exquisitely, recreate those same scenes and moments in the reader’s head. This is, of course, impossible. Until we become telepaths or create the technology for brain-to-brain transfers, that translation will be imperfect. Some things will always be lost. And we, the writers, will always be acutely aware of those gaps and errors.

Our betas, however, cannot see into our heads. They can only see what every reader will see in the end: what’s on the page. So – thank you, betas. Thank you on behalf of all writers, but also thank you on behalf of just me. At a time when I was 100% frustrated and done with my WIP not lining up with what was in my head, you helped me to see what was actually on the page. And also fix what was there. Without betas, I’d be running endless editing loops for the next 5, 10, 15 months. Instead, now I have a plan and a way forward, an end in sight.

That said, where have I been the last few weeks? I usually update on Tuesday because that’s when I have the most time, but these past Tuesdays I’ve been feeling the crunch. First I was finishing up one last round of edits so that I could get Book One out to betas, then I was beginning the next round of edits courtesy of those amazing betas. Now I’m 100 pages into the last heavy edit / mad attempts at polishing with my deadline fast approaching. Today I added 2600 new words and an entire new chapter that will need to be polished once they’ve had some time to sit and ferment. I have 160(ish) pages left to go, two more new scenes to write, and seventeen days. I got this.

…right?

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! tense talks over tea, avuncular uncles, and exciting! research! scenes!

Chapters: 14 chapters out of 33 edited

Current word count: 90002 out of 90,000

Fun Google searches this week: What the parts of a screwdriver are called

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, goals, writing

The Final Countdown

I’ve hit the final stretch which means I just want to be done already. If there were writing goblins, I would leave out whatever fruit or knick-knacks they desired to finish this for me.

I can see the end in sight, but I still have to get there. In the meantime, I’ve reached the previous Rocks Fall Everyone Dies point I’d left myself at before, so it’s a bit slower going. These are all new words, so I’ll have to go back and polish them. Just have to remind myself that I will polish them and that it’s okay for the first round to be crap.

Now more than ever I’ve got to keep my head down and focus on the words.

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! violent storms, knife fights, and angst. So much angst.

Chapters: 31 chapters out of 32 edited

Current word count: 80035 out of 90,000

How done am I?: So done.

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, goals, helpful tips, WIP, writing

Accountability and Stars

The way I’ve held myself accountable over the years has shifted a bit. In the very beginning, there was NaNoWriMo and its daily word count goals coupled with an awesome little graph that rose slowly, encouragingly, over the course of a month. Outside of November, I tried to replicate that beautiful graph by plunking my words into a spreadsheet and that worked for a while.

And then, almost overnight, it stopped working. I couldn’t keep up with the minimal effort it took to use the spreadsheet. And when days (or weeks) of not writing struck, it became too easy to just… not. I tried starting a new spreadsheet, but inevitably I started too many new spreadsheets and progress stalled and I stopped completely.

After that I floundered a bit. Wrote a little here, a little there. But without accountability, it was difficult to hit my self-imposed deadlines.

Then I discovered calendars. They were perfect – something I could mark at the end of the day if I’d met my goal, and each month was a built-in fresh start. Plus, they served the purpose of, well, telling you what day it was, so I always had one around anyway.

I started by just crossing off days that I’d met my goal. Then I tried writing word count goals on the days and crossing them off as I hit them. This was great for days I inevitably fell behind and also days that I got ahead. And no matter how far behind or ahead I got, I’d recalculate my goals at the start of the next month and better manage my expectations.

Of course, with editing, word count isn’t always a reliable indicator of progress. Sometimes you rewrite an entire chapter, sometimes you add in a few paragraphs, and sometimes you just edit heavily. New words written doesn’t tell you much, but chapters edited does.

So for this round of editing, I decided to mark off whenever I finished a chapter. And I decided to celebrate that with a gold star sticker. Because of course I have gold stars. Doesn’t everyone?

I also tried to project out my goals, but even adjusting for May I’m still wildly off. But that’s okay because lookit all those stars! (The other colors are for exercise-related endeavors. Those are a little… less exciting.)

And here’s the complete month of April, for comparison:

Note that I started editing this draft on April 1st, so this shows my whole editing process so far. And no, I honestly don’t remember what happened on the 8th, but it must have been pretty exciting for all those stars.

Not every writer needs daily accountability, but as someone in the slow-but-steady camp of writing, it really has helped me keep up momentum and avoid some panicking. Note – “some,” not all, panicking.

As far as the actual editing goes, I have reached that point where I kind of want my betas to read it, instead of simply dreading them reading it. I’m still in the Not Sure If This Is One Hot Mess Or Not stage (which includes such great hits as My Editor Will Regret Me and Oh God Everyone’s Made a Big Mistake and How Did I Con Anyone Into Thinking I Could Write??) and likely will stay there until I can finally take a step back and look at the proverbial forest.

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! thunderbolts and lightning (very very frightening [me]), family feuds, and questionable intents.

Chapters: 27 chapters out of 32 (or 33) edited

Current word count: 72,075 out of 90,000

Coffee’d netbooks: One 😦

Average Hours of Sleep a Night 5-6

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, goals, writing

The Nitty Gritties

The baby is sleeping better and the days are gradually lengthening. I can see an end in sight. The threads of this story are coming together, tight and snug, while at the same time the notepad I have open on my desktop continues to accumulate little changes – tone shift here, reordering a scene there, small continuity notes for the next run through – the last one before this goes to betas.

This is my favorite part. I love the nitty gritties: attending to details, tracking whose hand is where and what phase the moon is in and just when to drop that teeny tiny tidbit of important information so it’ll seem organic. I love chopping out words and smoothing sentences and fixing a character’s voice.

This WIP no longer feels like I went out to the backyard and dug up a pile of dirt and just left it there, an untidy mess, but it doesn’t feel quite right yet, either. I’m too close to it right now and don’t know what to think. Part of me is confident that this is the worst thing I have ever written. But part of me recognizes that every WIP at this point is the worst thing I have ever written. So: I don’t know. And I can’t know.

And that’s okay. Worrying about how awful this really is can come later. Right now, I need to keep my head down and write.

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! ominous weather, grievous wounds, and rooftops on fire.

Chapters: 23 chapters out of 32(?) edited

Current word count: 60,144 out of 90,000

Coffee?: Coffee.

Number of times I’ve listened to that one song while writing this book, according to just the iTunes on my netbook: 128

Random fact of the week: Undyed baby camel yarn is a smooth cream in color. Also, baby camel yarn is a thing that exists.

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, goals, writing

Write when Baby Writes

Another week, another 10,000 words closer to my goal, another seven days closer to my deadline, another notch up on the panic scale. I think we’re around abouts purple, going on plaid. Thankfully, I do my best work while panicking. It’s also good for the skin! (No, no it’s not.)

Despite a week of horrendous sleep on mine and the baby’s part, I’ve managed to continue making progress. Sometimes, it feels like, through sheer force of will alone. Well, what else is will for but to meet deadlines?

Alas, alas I feel like I’m finally in my element. Am I alone in loving the editing process? It’s so satisfying, like filling a hundred tiny holes so that you finally have a uniform, cohesive surface. If you do it right, it’s as clean and smooth as glass. Nobody can see – or even find – all the cracks you’ve filled in, all the holes repaired. It’s a process of bringing order to chaos and finally, finally seeing a real story with real characters.

Of course, this feeling will only last for another day or two, then we’ll be right back in the depths of despair, but at least the process is predictable, eh?

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! self-inflicted angst, broken promises, and more (always more) corpses.

Chapters: 16 chapters out of 35(?) edited

Current word count: 40,731 out of 100,000

Body count: 3

Excursions outside: What is this “outside” you speak of?

Cups of coffee: Let’s just… not go there.

Assassins of Ghadid, Book One, goals, writing

Sunny Days Ahead

Ever since that snowfall two weeks ago, Michigan has been all sunshine and flowers. Within the space of a weekend, every tree here has burst forth with leaves or blossoms. Spring is quite literally in the air. And by spring I mean pollen.

Here’s to you, allergy-sufferers. May your antihistamines not make you drowsy.

Instead of enjoying the everything’s-not-covered-in-ice weather, I’ve been holed up working on this (semi-)final draft. But I can see the neighbor mowing his lawn from my window so it’s just like being outside. Right?

But the end is in sight and soon – so soon, but not that soon, maybe another month, honest – I will be handing this not-so-shabby draft (can we just start calling all final drafts the not-so-shabby draft from now on?) over to my handful of delightful and I-swear-I’ll-pay-you-in-wine-and-chocolate betas and then picking up a glass of lemonade while sitting and relaxing on the front porch with all the windows open and nothing to do but watch the cars go by and the fireflies wake up and –

Aah, who am I kidding. I’ll be busy working on the next book while my betas read. Who needs rest and relaxation when you can have caffeine and anxiety, amiright??¹

 

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! desiccated corpses, moonlit vistas, and awkward flirtations.

Chapters: 12 chapters out of 35(?) edited

Current word count: 30,116 out of 100,000

Desiccated corpses in novel: 2

Desiccated corpses in real life: 0

¹No really I’m fine mom, I’m just exaggerating and not drinking 10 cups of coffee a day that would be entirely too unhealthy of course