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

Life, Pre-pub

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

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If you ask any writer (or artist [or human being]), they’ll say that 2017 was a rough year. Full of distractions and worry and dread. Yet despite all of that, we kept on keeping on. I’m not exception – while I wasted countless hours on what-ifs and not sleeping, the work still had to be done. And it got done.

But man, am I exhausted. Hopefully 2018 will be a little less emotionally draining.

But 2017 wasn’t all bad. Personally, it was pretty great. My highlights:

– Wrote the first draft of Book One
– Wrote the second draft of Book One
– Revised Book One
– Sent Book One out to betas
– Revised Book One based on beta feedback
– Sent Book One to my editor
– Revised Book One based on my editor’s feedback
– Turned in Book One (🎉🎉🎉)
– Hacked 20,000 words off of Book Two
– Going line by line, entirely rewrote Book Two
– 2/3rds way through first draft of Book Three

 

And that’s only the writing highlights. Outside of that, I also:

– Broke my personal 5k record
– Turned 31
– Took a baby to Germany and survived
– Attended my first conference (Sirens ’17 wot wot!)
– Dayjobbed the stuffing out of my dayjob
– Learned how to throw a proper punch
– Held back the tides of unwashed dishes and dirty laundry
– Kept a baby alive and helped her evolve into a toddler

 

Writing it out like that makes it seem as if I was riding the waves, but at the time it felt like I was drowning more often than not. 2018 should be better (and easier?) for a number of reasons, not the least of which we’ll have a toddler and not an infant who refuses to sleep more than 45min at a time (oh god never again).

2018 is actually shaping up to be pretty fun/exciting for me, personally. And maybe for you, at least come the end of the year. So what have I got going in 2018?

– Polish up Book Two
– See/reveal the cover for Book One (!!)
– Write, rewrite, revise, edit, & polish Book Three
– Hit up Tucson Festival of Books
– Sirens 2018 (!!)
– Bid farewell to my lovely desert assassins and start a new project
– Keep a small human alive

 

Yeah. Okay. No small task. But if I survived 2017 and all it entailed, I can certainly survive – even thrive in? – 2018.

May you let 2017 go and embrace the new year with hope and light. ❀

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, The Impossible Contract (Book 2), Writing, Writing Tips

How to cut 20,000 Words

First – and this is the most important step – write a novel that is 35,000 words too long.

Be told by several people that you really ought to cut some of that. Agonize over every word for a month and manage to cut 15,000 words. Rejoice!

Realize that the novel is still 20,000 words too long. Decide it will be a problem for future you.

Let the novel sit for two years.

Revisit, because finally you really need to trim that beast down. You ask your betas to point out places that should be cut, places where the plot dragged or they got bored. Your editor highlights entire chapters. Realize that those two years actually made it easier for you to see what you can cut. Notice a few patterns:

– You over describe everything.
– You over describe everything.
– You really like to talk about sand.
– You over describe everything.

Begin cutting a word here and there. Then a paragraph. Now, drunk on power, start cutting entire pages. Cackle maniacally. Stay up too late. Drink too much coffee.

Convinced you’ve cut at least 10,000 words, doublecheck your word count.

You’ve only cut 300 words.

Yell into the void that is Twitter. Pour another cup of tea. Start again with a word here, a word there. Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Congrats! You’ve cut 10,000 words. You still need to trim another 5-10k. You wonder if your editor will notice. You know she will.

Decide it will be a problem for future you.

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, The Perfect Assassin (Book 1), 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.

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, The Perfect Assassin (Book 1), Work In Progress, 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?”

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, The Perfect Assassin (Book 1), Writing

April Snow Showers Bring May… Final Drafts?

Evidence of said April snow.

Well, one can hope!

I’ve been down on myself a lot during this particular writing process. I feel like my first draft was wildly different from my draft zero, which of course was the most awful awful that ever awfuled. And my first draft still has a lot of problems. How could I have been so far off? How could I need so much rewriting, and now, so much editing? I thought I’d come so far as a writer, and yet –

Despondent, I picked through the old drafts folder for the Impossible Contract. I rediscovered its draft zero and idly skimmed through it – and was quickly surprised by what I found. My fond memories of the process, where everything went smoothly from the very beginning, complete with candy and unicorns, were 100% incorrect. No, it hadn’t gone smoothly. No, I hadn’t known what I was doing from page one. No, it hadn’t been a neater process than the one I’m going through now. I’d still needed to rewrite and rethink my draft zero going into my first draft and my first draft going into my final draft.

If anything, that draft zero was more of a mess than this one. For instance, Amastan, a side character in TIC who is the main character in Book One originally didn’t even exist. And yet, that draft zero still became a book that I’m proud of.

And I’ve been bemoaning the fact that I’m struggling a bit with this ending, but how did the draft zero of TIC end? “Rocks fall, everybody dies.” Not even kidding.

So okay. I’m willing to admit that the despondency is just a part of the process. That my draft zeros are always a mess – and that’s okay. It’s to be expected, even.

Just remind me of this when I’m neck-deep in Book Three, mmkay?

 

And now we have the 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! angry spirits, angry drum chiefs, and angry cups of tea. J/k on the cups of tea. Of course tea can’t feel anger. Everybody knows tea only feels contempt.

Chapters: 8 chapters out of 30 edited

Current word count: 19,500 out of 100,000

Scenes Changed: 5

Cups of Tea, consumed by characters: 1

Cups of Tea, consumed by Author: 12

Bees?: None. Most pollination is done by flies in this world.

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Pre-pub, Writing

My Not-So-Meandering Path Towards Publication

It’s clichĂ©, but I’ve always wanted to be an author. I tried to find another, better paying career path – I did, really – but nothing held my attention like writing. My eclectic employment situations over the past ten years holds the truth of that. I bounced from retail to foreclosure to secretary to data entry to property assessment to web training development. The only consistency over the years is that at every job I wrote on my lunch and breaks. Daily.

Persistence. It’s another tired but true clichĂ© that stubborn, consistent persistence is how you break into the publishing industry. That, and a little bit of luck. My wife will the be first to tell you I am stubborn af*. And I’ll be the second.

Since graduating college, I’ve averaged writing a book every 1.5 years. Of course, some of those were rewrites – and re-rewrites – of old stories. And after a few years, I started querying. At first, it was more just to see what would happen. I made all of the beginner’s mistakes and received only form rejections.

Then I had a mini mid-life crisis. I was years out of college with nothing to show for it. It was not too late to go back to school, it was not too late to find a Real Career Path(TM)**. But if I did, if I committed to extra education and a Job That Mattered, I wouldn’t have the time or the mental energy leftover to write. I had to decide.

It was a surprisingly hard choice. I love writing, but every successive year that I had nothing to show for all the hours I put into it I felt like more of a failure. Where would I be if it never went anywhere? What would I tell people when they asked me what I did? Who was I to think that out of the thousands, millions of aspiring authors, I could be one of the few made it?

But then again, if I didn’t try, if I didn’t throw everything I had at it – I would never know.

I chose to put writing at the center of my life and treat it like a profession – because it was. I made plans and set deadlines and from there devised daily word count goals to meet those deadlines. I frequently sailed right past my personal deadlines, of course, but I was rarely more than a month off.

I set up a system of writing, rewriting, editing, beta-ing, and querying, each stage with its own expected timeframe and deadline. I returned to the metaphorical drawing board for querying, researched the heck out of it, read Query Shark’s entire archive (twice [thrice]) and revamped my approach.

My queries improved and I got a few personal rejections. I kept writing. I kept querying. And then I took everything I had learned, wrote TIC, and queried again. After two months and many rejections, quite literally one week after I had decided to let TIC go and write something new, I received an offer of representation from my now Awesome Possum agent.

I’m writing all this not to say, hey lookit what I got, but hey lookit what I did. The clichĂ© is tired because it’s true: persistence is key***. It’s important. So is trying new things and continually (constantly) learning. Write. Rewrite. Query. And then look critically at what you wrote and move on to the next project. No word or sentence or paragraph or novel written is ever wasted, because you are constantly learning from what you’ve done.

Some writers sell their first book. Most don’t. I sold my third****. Others sell their fifth or eighth or nth. Keep going. Practice. Read. Write. Repeat.

 

* AF = as foretold, or at least that’s what the Kids These Days(TM) tell me.

** I.E. Microbiology, like my wife, or accounting – which I might have (definitely) considered.

*** Necessary caveat is necessary: the privilege & luck of having the time to write is equally important.

**** Third distinct and separate novel that I wrote as an adult and consider Whole and Complete.

 

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, The Impossible Contract (Book 2), Writing

Assassins of Ghadid has been Acquired by Tor

cz2ntzzw8aamrvbYes! I can finally shout it from the rooftops! My book, the Impossible Contract* – which is about assassins and camels and magic and queer romance – has been acquired by Tor! Not only that, but they also acquired two more books to make it a solid three! If you don’t believe me or think that I photoshopped the above (which is fair, I’m still not sure if it’s real!) you can find the original Publisher’s Weekly blurb here.

This means that not only do I get to share the world and characters of TIC with you, I also get to go back and write two more books in the same world. TIC will actually be the second book, so right now I’m hard at working writing the first one. The three stories will each feature a different character and stand on their own, but work together as a greater story. I’m so excited to be back in the TIC world!

Here I come, Winter 2019!

 

* As always, titles are apt to change. But I think for consistency’s sake it’ll be easier to keep referring to Book Two as The Impossible Contract, aka TIC.

Writing

NaNoWriMo with a Baby

If you’ve ever had a baby or been near someone who had a baby then you’ve probably heard the phrase sleep when baby sleeps. Sounds simple. Almost sounds luxurious when you think of how much a baby sleeps.

Which is all well and good, except there comes a point when you want to do something human and prove to yourself (and your cats) that you’re more than just a baby feeder/diaperer/sleeping apparatus. So I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have a novel to write, that doesn’t want to wait for me or baby, and I can finally write again, so why not? I should have plenty of time.

Ahahahahaha.

See, the thing about newborns is that they’re deceptive little creatures with powers over time. One moment you’re feeding baby and it’s 7am. The next you’re still trying to get baby to sleep an it’s 9am. Where did those two hours go? You have no clue. Then it’s 9.30am and baby’s asleep and you think, finally I can write!

Except: you really need to pee, you haven’t eaten in six hours, you’re dehydrated, the cats are dying from hunger, and omg is that smell you?

If you’re lucky, you have a snack at hand, a water bottle, and someone else to feed the cats. The shower can wait. You can get some writing in!

If you’re unlucky, you scramble to meet your basic requirements of survival and then it’s 10.30am and, oh shit, baby’s eyes just flew open.

Occasionally, you get a longer stretch. And then it comes down to a different choice because, remember, you’ve been repeating this same 2-3 hour cycle for weeks now and you. are. beyond. exhausted.

Sleep when baby sleeps? Or… write when baby sleeps?

It’s a fine balancing act. Too much sleep and you start to think you’re a normal human being again. And, well, you don’t get any writing done. Too much writing and you don’t get enough sleep, but the hallucinations from sleep deprivation fuel your creativity and plot. They also fuel your loved one’s reasons for an intervention.

So each time the baby sleeps, I have to choose. Sometimes it’s an easy choice, sometimes it’s not. But no matter which I choose, I’ve had to lower my expectations. Just like I will probably not get more than five hours of accumulated sleep  each day, I will probably not reach 50k this month. But that’s okay – 5 hours is better than 4, 3, 2, or 1 and whatever amount of words I write will be better than nothing.

Has anyone else tried to write with a newborn? Succeeded? Failed? I’d love to hear your tips!

Work In Progress, Writing

January Review

january

First off: Happy February!

Second: What happened to January??

Life happened. In quite a spectacular way. I knew January was going to be tough, writing-wise, what with every distracting thing going on, so I made the (very wise) commitment to simply write every day. No daily word count, no monthly goal, just a no pressure commitment of putting a few words on the page every day.

To hold myself accountable, I marked off each day that I wrote with a blue highlighter. You can see above what the month looked like towards the end. My final count was two days missed, and those were loooong, crazy days without any breaks. I usually write on my lunch breaks, but I have sacrificed many of those to doctors appointments, haircuts, last-minute meetings at work, and therapy at the gym.

Now that some of that Life Stuff has been resolved (but not all of it), I need to regain my focus. I’m going to recommit to writing every day in February and continue making small, but real, progress on this WIP. Hopefully by the end of the month I will have less on my plate – and cluttering up my mind – and will be able to zone the noise of the world out and get back to writing more.

For now, I’m going to celebrate the small victories. I could have easily let January go and written nothing at all. But instead, I got 13,080 words and four chapters into this WIP, plus I read three of the books on my 2016 TBR list. All things considered, I’m going to call that a win.