Unnamed (Book 3), Writing Tips

Book 3: Beta Time!

Book three. Is. Done.

Well.

Let’s caveat that.

It’s done enough. Enough that I need to put it in someone else’s hands and step away and breathe and focus. Enough that at this point, I’d be going in and tweaking and finetuning and adding details and subtracting paragraphs and not wholesale stripping out and rewriting chapters – which is what I spent most of May and all of June doing.

There’s a plot and events proceed (mostly) logically and it all comes together and actually ends, instead of dropping unexpectedly off a cliff. It’s not perfect, not by any long shot or under any fancy filter, but that’s good. It shouldn’t be perfect. If my betas do their jobs well – and they will – then I might still have some structural work to do. And better to do that and clean it up before the finetuning.

It’s a bit like building a body from scratch. You’ve gotta build the skeleton first, bone by bone by bone, and that’s your rough draft. And then you shove in the guts and veins and layer that all with muscles. That’s your second draft, the one that actually looks alive and might even function – it just wouldn’t be pretty.

At that point, you could begin putting the skin on and adding hair and all those little details that will turn your attempt at playing God into something less unsightly (you don’t want your story oozing on the freshly scrubbed lab tiles, do you?), or you could have someone look at it and make sure all the organs are properly connected and the veins go where they should.

Sometimes you’re so up-to-your-elbows in guts and organs that you don’t realize you’ve attached this ligament to that joint when it should really be attached to this joint or maybe you mixed up your orders for organs again and you’ve got a sheep’s heart instead of a human’s. How much easier it’ll be to fix if you haven’t already put the skin on and ratcheted up the lightning rods!

…okay I admit this metaphor got a bit out of hand.

But putting this gooey, skinless experiment of a book into my betas’ hands is scary. It requires a lot of trust. Trust in myself, that I know my process and I know what I’m doing. Trust in my betas, that they can see past the gore to the underlying logic and story. That they are willing to dive deep with me, get a little messy, and laugh the entire time. That they won’t just hold their noses and go “ew.”

Because we’re still a long way from done done.

But this is as far as I can make it on my own.

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Draft Zero, Unnamed (Book 3), Writing

Juggling Plots

I wrapped up this draft of book three last week and then dove straight into edits for book two and today page proofs for book one arrived.

My work is never done. Which is good since it’s, you know, my work.

I’m still reeling from finishing that draft – it’s a mixed bag of awful and bad and maybe, just maybe, all right -but thankfully the other two books are in a state much closer to Done and therefore can help ground me and remind me that I can, in fact, write. And that awful first (ish) drafts are just a part of the process.

I’ve been asked a few times how I juggle three books with three distinct plots and three entirely different characters and somehow keep them straight.

The short answer is: I don’t.

The longer answer:

It’s not the plot or the characters that make it difficult to switch between the books. It’s the emotional arcs and weight of each. I really have to take a day or two and just sort of… sit with it to get back into the right frame of mind. It helps that I’ve built a distinct soundtrack for each of the books, with specific songs for specific sections. Putting on the song I need for the section I’m writing/editing/revising/what-have-you makes that transition a heckuva lot easier. Also, you know, going for a long walk.

But for sure, I’ve started writing one book only to find myself typing out the name of the MC from another. It takes a little bit of time before I can sink into another project. Which is why I try to minimize how much I switch around, and (probably) why I’ve been having a harder-than-usual time for book three. I started that beast back in July, while I was waiting for my edits on one, and then dropped it to do said edits, and then picked it up again only to drop it again to do edits for two. Now I’ve been sitting on a second round of book two edits just so I can finish this draft.

And this draft is done. So. Time to put on some music and switch again!

*

Here’s current progress on Book Three, working title The Unconquered City, the story of an assassin turned monster hunter who’s really sick of people threatening her city. Now with more! rain, rain, and rain.

Project: Book Three, Draft 0.5

Deadline: August

Current word count: 74,209 / 74,209 words.

 

What’s next?: A few weeks to finish book 2 edits, write a synopsis, read through page proofs – and then on to the next draft.

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Draft Zero, Pre-pub, Unnamed (Book 3), Writing

What I Wish I Knew, Now

Ice on witch hazel blossoms

A common theme among blog posts by debuts, post debut, is the What I Wish I’d Known post. These are inevitably helpful in pointing out all the gaps in one’s knowledge, the I-didn’t-know-what-I-didn’t-knows.

But I call rubbish. I am impatient as a toddler and I don’t wanna wait until after my debut to know what I didn’t not know (huh?). I wanna know now. So here’s a list of the things I (currently) really wanna know, ’cause that’s how I role.

 

10 Things I Wish I Knew, Now

1. Will I actually be able to smash this wreck of a first draft into shape by August?

2. Is there a secret way into my publisher’s internal system so I can know exactly what’s going on with my book at any given time, including how long it’s sat languishing in Carol’s inbox? CAROL*?

3. At least tell me my pub date, Carol.

4. What kind of cupcakes do you like, Carol? Oh no reason. Just, you know… wondering.

5. When will this snow end??

6. How does this book end????

7. What is number seven? Does Carol know?

8. At what point does the sheer terror become outweighed by the excitement?

9. How different is terror from excitement, really? I mean, physiologically speaking both release adrenaline, increasing heart rate and perspiration and breathing, dilating the pupils and – OMG THEY’RE THE SAME THING.

10. …will the next thing I write be anywhere near as fun as this?

*

Here’s current progress on Book Three, working title The Unconquered City, the story of an assassin turned monster hunter who’s really sick of people threatening her city. Now with more! impressive amounts of steam, heart-to-heart chats, and bonding over corpses.

Project: Book Three, Draft 0.5

Deadline: August

Current word count: 70,024 / 80000 words. 87% of the way there

 

Days of spring: *sobbing*

Days left to finish this draft: 7

Days until I start the next project: 7

* If, in fact, there is a Carol at my publisher, I’m certain she is the Best and not easily bribed by any flavor of cupcakes, even if they’re red velvet with proper buttercream and they just happened to appear on her desk Thursday morning. 

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Draft Zero, Unnamed (Book 3), Writing, Writing Tips

Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go Again


Small human helping me plan for my deadlines.

I took a brief tour down memory/blog lane and huh – looks like just about this time last year, I was also struggling with the last 1/4 of my WIP and worried to death that I wouldn’t be able to make it work and my betas were going to hate it and everything was awful. Of course now, that WIP is The Perfect Assassin and I think much more fondly of it, but. Well.

There are certain elements of the writing/rewriting/revising process that you begin to anticipate after enough times around this delightfully slow and yet somehow also nauseatingly fast merry-go-round.

For instance, I know that at some point, I will love my story. The words will be easy. The scenes beautiful. I’ll itch to share it and every song I listen to will remind me of it and help create new scenes, fresh backstory, deeper emotions.

That point usually occurs about one week before I actually start writing the story. Sometimes it lasts a full two weeks into it.

Then the rollercoaster begins. The ecstatic, newly-in-love feeling fades. The writing is still fun, but it’s a Thing to be Done. It’s not a grind, not yet. There are still flashes of OMGWOW when bits and pieces of plot start to come together, when characters surprise you, when you briefly think you’re a secret genius.

And then, right about 3/4 or 5/6 of the way into your first (and second [and third]) draft, you realize you’re a fraud. There’s absolutely no way to save this mess of a story. Why even bother finishing it? You know it’s gone all wrong and you should probably just find a nice place in the woods to dig a hole real deep and drop it in. You know what, why not go ahead and drop your whole laptop in?

Then go home and take up beekeeping because wow, who decided to let you become a writer?

But as you try to remember if you even have a shovel – or maybe you should borrow your neighbor’s – I’ll tell you a secret:

You’re almost done. Keep going.

This is a part of the process. We all hit this bump. Fledgling writers often don’t complete a single story because they hit this murky awful point and don’t know that it just means they have to double down, that they’re almost through the worst of it. Heck, I wrote and rewrote (and rewrote [and rewrote]) the same fanfic for years and years and even now it stands uncompleted, only a chapter or two left to go. And it will never be completed.

But this story will be, and not just because I have a deadline. Actually, no: because of a deadline. I’ve been setting myself personal deadlines for years, well before I signed with an agent or snagged a publisher.

Keep going. Finish what you started, even if it means pulling teeth the entire way. Even if you just summarize what you think should happen. Even if you reach a point where you truly can’t go any further without reworking the whole plot and you type out “rocks fall, everyone dies.”

Because this, too, is a part of the process. And you have to get through it to have any chance of reaching the next part of the process.

Then when you’re here again, around mile 22 of 26, you’ll grimace but remember and know you’ve pushed through this before. And you will again.

And again.

And again.

*

Here’s current progress on Book Three, working title The Unconquered City, the story of an assassin turned monster hunter who’s really sick of people threatening her city. Now with more! conflagrations, omnipresent doom, and bittersweet homecomings.

Project: Book Three, Draft 0.5

Deadline: August

Current word count: 60,025 / 80000 words. 75% of the way there

 

Days of spring: 0

Snow: Why

Screams into the void: Yes

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Draft Zero, Life, Unnamed (Book 3), Writing

Hello Twitter, My Old Friend

I just finished a six week hiatus from Twitter. Or at least an attempted hiatus. To be honest, I dipped my toe in a few times with the excuse of checking DM’s only to get swept up into reading a few tweets before realizing what I was doing. But my slip-ups only reaffirmed my need for a break. Twitter is designed to be highly addictive and I clearly wasn’t immune.

Being away has given me a new perspective on Twitter and – hopefully – a new way to approach the site. My FOMO was pretty high those first few days (*coughs*weeks) but in the end, I didn’t miss as much as I’d expected. I still heard all the news and was able to celebrate some acquaintances accomplishments. If anything, being off Twitter helped me have a healthier relationship with the news, as often I’d learn about Things What Had Happened somewhat after the fact and therefore had a chance to understand the whole of it, instead of getting everyone’s instant, kneejerk reactions.

But I don’t want to drop Twitter entirely. It is useful in keeping in touch with a number of far-flung friends, and while I read my news on actual news websites now, a lot of publishing news happens on Twitter, so it’s a good idea to keep the ear to the bird, if you will.

To keep that bird from nibbling my ear and distracting me from writing, though, I’m going to set a few rules for myself.

One: as many news-related terms as possible are gonna be muted. I rode that rollercoaster all last year and it’s time to get off because I’m tired of the motion sickness.

Two: I’ve installed a new blocking app that will only let me on Twitter at certain times. No more endless scrolling.

Three: I will engage more than I post.

And four: if I have a thought that is more than a tweet, it will be a blog post, not a thread. There’s something to be said for the lost art of blogging and I aim to keep this space alive as much as possible.

Of course all that also means that if you catch me breaking any of those rules feel free to publicly shame me. 😉

*

Here’s current progress on Book Three, working title The Unconquered City, the story of an assassin turned monster hunter who’s really sick of people threatening her city. Now with more! necromancy, large bodies of water, and sudden, yet inevitable betrayals.

Project: Book Three, Draft 0.5

Deadline: August

Current word count: 50,017 out of 80,000

Cats scritched: Two

Cadbury eggs consumed: One

Toddlers chased screeching around the house: Yes

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Draft Zero, Unnamed (Book 3), Writing, Writing Tips

Worldbuilding: Layers of Paint

Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash

For the longest time I labored under the impression that most writers sat down and spent a few weeks building their world(s) and then they were done. This notion was fueled by the way a lot of writers talk about worldbuilding, especially when it comes down to the details: you gotta know this, you gotta know that, you gotta take this into account, you gotta cast your stars across the sky and meticulously describe their patterns and spill sand across your deserts and account for every grain – all of which was implied necessary to have in place before you could begin crating the story itself.

There are certainly writers out there who do exactly that, and do it successfully. But in my experience, worldbuilding is less a single act of creation and more a continuous layering of paint.

Side note: check out the world’s largest ball of paint. At the heart of that beast is a single baseball. The rest is layers upon layers (upon layers [upon layers {upon layers}]) of paint.

You have to start with something, yes. A canvas of some shape for your paint, be it actual canvas or a baseball or a soccer ball or perhaps, a moped. But then you start writing, and that’s where the layers come in.

Layer upon layer upon layer, you build your world. Each draft another layer, each revision another layer, each edit another layer, until you’re dabbing paint here and there and that original baseball or moped is so buried as to be invisible and it looks as if you’d planned the story that way all along.

But looks are deceptive and it’s easy to gaze upon others’ finished works and pretend they’d been that way all along. Yet I can all but guarantee there’s a sports object somewhere under those layers that doesn’t look much like the end product.

Case in point, I was still tweaking minor worldbuilding details as I read through my copy edits for Book 1 and am still adding to the world in book 3. It could easily be never ending. Thank goodness for deadlines, amiright?

*

Here’s current progress on Book Three, working title The Unconquered City, the story of an assassin turned monster hunter who’s really sick of people threatening her city. Now with more! magic fights, adoring crowds, and messy laboratories.

Project: Book Three, Draft 0.5

Deadline: August

Current word count: 41,216 / 80000 words. 51% of the way there

 

Cups of tea: 3

Cups of tea, IRL: 23

Sunny days: All of them

Sunny days, IRL: 1

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Draft Zero, Unnamed (Book 3), Writing

The Reason Why

Some days, you struggle and struggle and struggle to find the right words. You wonder why you chose such a profession. You spend some time researching other potential professions. Every idea, every thought, every word you manage to eke out feels ridiculous and wrong.

Some days you pull forth each word with great effort, occasionally stumbling through a paragraph in a rush of words only to hit another wall just like before, again. You can glimpse the reason you do all this during those stumbles, just ahead and always, always out of reach.

And some days, the right song comes on while you’re driving down the road and story plots and ideas and pieces start to click, click, click together in your head and the next thing you know, you’re sitting in a coffee shop drinking apricot tea and you’ve just written 1k of backstory for a character you didn’t think needed much backstory but now all these other parts make sense and you can feel the story growing, expanding, solidifying into something real.

The pieces have turned and moved and shifted and now the wall you were standing in front of has a door and you can’t wait to find out what lies beyond. And it’s exhilarating and it’s beautiful and it’s painful

And you remember: this is why you write.

*

Here’s current progress on Book Three, working title The Unconquered City, the story of an assassin turned monster hunter who’s really sick of people threatening her city. Now with more! awkward conversations, wholesale confrontations, and… snow?

Project: Book Three, Draft 0.5

Deadline: August

Current word count: 33455 / 80000 words. 42% of the way there

Mountains, high: One

Valleys, low: Zero

Rivers, wide: Zero

Times I’ve Listened to That One Song On Repeat: 57

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Draft Zero, Pre-pub, Unnamed (Book 3), Writing

From the Debut Trenches: The Copy Edits Are Among Us

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Things that I have been unduly excited about since I discovered they were a Thing:
– Flannel sheets
– Bat boxes that have the Batman logo
– Copy edits

One of the things I’ve realized I’m good at over the years has been picky details. Since learning the exact nature of copy editing, I’ve been more than a little eager to see them in the inky flesh. Going through a novel line by line, hunting out spelling and grammatical errors, as well as continuity errors, sounds like my kind of party.

But ohmygoodness, was I not prepared for the style sheet.

See, in order to catch those continuity errors, a copy editor must first figure out what the continuity is. Which for any book can be a load of biscuits and fun, but for fantasy novels gets even trickier. All those made up terms and systems – aka worldbuilding – become Real. And the copy editor must not only understand those terms, but make sure they’re used consistently within the established rules of the world.

So they make a style sheet. And in it, they list all of the characters, major or minor or sub-minor, and their relationships to the other characters. They also list all the bizarre terms you made up. They also create a timeline. It’s meticulous and it’s picky and it’s beautiful.

If this whole writing thing doesn’t work out, I think I’ll try my hand at copy-editing. Just saying.

If it’s weird to see all your made-up people and terms treated like Real, it’s even weirder to see the copy edit document itself. I knew it’d be marked up. What I didn’t realize was that it’d be formatted to look like a book. Guys. This is getting legit.

I did a first pass of the copy edits already, and it doesn’t look nearly as frightening or intimidating as I’d feared/expected. I’ll take my time going over each change, but so far it breaks down to:

– 94% changing an en dash to an em dash
– 2.7% saving my bacon by catching continuity errors
– 1.2% fixing typos/homophones
– 2.1% highlighting echoes*

Bless you, Copy Editor. And bless all copy editors everywhere, because it takes a very keen and practiced eye to catch this stuff.

Progress will slow a little on book 3 while I go through my copy edits, but I planned for that and also one of these is due MUCH sooner than the other, so.

Here’s current progress on Book Three, working title The Unconquered City, the story of an assassin turned monster hunter who’s really sick of people threatening her city. Now with more! terse conversations, monster hunters, and quiet cups of tea.

Project: Book Three, Draft 0.5

Deadline: August

Current word count: 24558 / 80000 words. 31%

Fancy bracelets: 2

Awkward conversations: 4

Broken glass: All of it

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Draft Zero, Unnamed (Book 3), Writing

Spring-inning

The forecast predicts we’re gonna get 40s from here on until March, the trees are budding, the bulbs are bulbening, and the river has claimed most of the nearby park and golf course – which means we can officially call it. Winter is fading. It’s Spring-inning.

I can’t lie. I’m going to miss the snow and the painfully cold 10 degree days. But time keeps churning and soon we’ll be eyeballs-deep in bugs and humidity, so it’s best to enjoy each day as it comes.

That’s my mantra in general lately. 2019 stills seems painfully far off, but I will only get to live through the pre-pub debut process once, so I’m gonna enjoy it. So far it’s been pretty calm and chill, with just the occasional inkling of the excitement (and terror!) that is to come and the occasional context-free flailing. I appreciate the slower-than-usual ramp up, because I’ve been able to stick my toe in and begin mentally (and physically) preparing for the Actual Thing because wow, if the last month has been any indication with its softballs, I am Not Prepared.

Wow, how is that for vaguebooking/subtweeting/whatever it is the kids are calling it these days?

 

Here’s current progress on Book Three, working title The Unconquered City, the story of an assassin turned monster hunter who’s really sick of people threatening her city. Now with more! rioting, Shocking Revelations (TM), and one-on-one rooftop “lessons.”

Project: Book Three, Draft 0.5

Deadline: August

Current word count: 17,723 out of 80,000

Knives thrown: 7

Double-entendres made: 3

Times that I have made myself blush: 11