If you’re not caught up on my writing journey so far, I signed a contract selling my INITIUM series late last year. A month or two later, my editor said I needed to write a prequel because my world is very complex, and she was worried I started to far into my character arc.
You may have noticed I didn’t write a blog post for May (or June or July, for that matter, but that was mostly procrastination). I was still writing the prequel in June (as discussed in the previous post) and mostly digesting my edit letter and writing through July, and I felt it was better to write a post encompassing more of the process to get a better picture. Mostly because I’ve never done much writing that’s arrived out of another’s suggestion, so that was kinda a weird ride for me. I’ve never even really used writing prompts to start a story. Somewhere between always having massive novel projects and lack of interest, I just never did it.
And then my publisher requested that I write something. Something that didn’t arise from genuine interest and creative spark.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I knew what this prequel entailed, plot wise, as it’s my main character’s backstory, but hadn’t ever considered it interesting enough to actually write a whole book about. And it definitely became a whole book (I really cannot apparently write anything short — this is the shortest I’ve written at 52k. And I’ve added almost 10k now).
To start, the prequel is 5 years before the original first book. My character is shaped and grows from a lot of things that happen in the prequel, so she’s almost a different character in this prequel book. These characters are in such different places in their life. This is before everything that makes Fairian who she is.
She’s also 14, compared to the 19 year old Fairian in book one. There’s something to be said for the age difference. Which, for the first time, actually became a little problematic for me. I’ve always written teenage main characters, so it shouldn’t have really been an issue, but I’m in an odd place where I’m not a teenager *myself* anymore. Which, has been a weird thing for me personally, because I don’t really feel like an adult, either.
I think the reality is I’m psyching myself out too much about it. I know how to write a teenage — I just can also relatably write a 20-something.
But anyway. This was the first time I wrote something that’s original inspiration to write it did not come directly from me. It was also a little weird because in all the books I’ve finished before, it’s gone through a lot of inward processing before it comes out on the page. The prequel? Quite of bit of it was just throwing sand into the sandbox as it came.
I wasn’t all that excited about writing it, which made it difficult to actually get the words on the page. So what should have taken a month or so took over three months.
I think this took a toll on the richness and vividness of my world and characters, too. As I mention below, quite a bit of the first edit letter was “write this out MORE.” I wasn’t as into the characters and plot, and I think that becomes obvious.
(Honestly this isn’t all a bad thing, because this will be a great project to learn how to actually write revisions… but still, it was annoying how flat the end result felt)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I think it’s a typical dilemma (or at least one that I’ve seen writers lament about before) to be torn between making something you’re supposed to do and making something that seems to be coming out of your very soul. I feel like I constantly waffle between liking the project and ambivalence. I find a part I like and feel invested, but then I step back too far and I lose track of what I like about this project.
There’s a balance there, I think; you’ve got to make a living somehow, but if you don’t care about what you’re writing, I don’t think readers will either. You know what I mean? I’m sure you’ve read a book where it seemed like the author just stop caring, or wrapped things up too quickly, or whatever. Not wanting to do that.
Now, I got the first edit letter for the thing a few weeks ago now. Shockingly, the main consensus for the first round of edits was that I didn’t write enough. It seems bizarre to me that not writing enough is my problem, at 100k-130k length finished novels. But this isn’t the first time she’s said something like this soooooo…
To be honest, re-reading the manuscript weeks later, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. There were some parts in there that, in rereading, I felt pretty damn good about. I mean, we’ll see what my editor thinks when we actually get there — but it was relief to find things about it I liked.
We could all probably say that about our first drafts though. Writers tend not to like drafts very much when we first complete them.
This is the strongest character arc I’ve ever written, to start with. In the beginning, she’s insecure, kinda shy, a little lost, and a little needy. By the end, she’s paranoid, angry, depressed, and driven as hell. That part was fun. The difference between the beginning and the end. (This is also relates to something I learned at the Willamette Writers Conference which I will be writing in another blog post!)
Anyway, based on the comments from my editor, the main issue was that I didn’t immerse my reader into Fairian’s head and the world fast enough (as mentioned above). I’m really great at the slow burn — in plots, in romance, in characters. Probably TOO good at the slow burn. And this book really came into existence because I needed to introduce the world and character more fully, more quickly.
So. I’m currently revising the first few chapters with A LOT more world details and thoughts in Fairian’s head. Turns out, adding words later really is more difficult than subtracting. I’ve spent my whole author life trying to reign in my excessive wordiness and now I’m supposed to do the opposite! Oh boy.
Since I originally had a different book exploring a lot of these introduction world elements, there are a lot of the same things that I need to be expressing in this book (as it’s now technically going to be the first one out) only somehow different. So that’s interesting. I feel like I’ve actually been delving deeper into the mechanics of my world because of this book… and building further details. Interesting and unique details.
I don’t know if I would have done this much exploring of the world if I hadn’t wrote this prequel. Partially because by the time the original first book starts, Fairian doesn’t care about a lot of the society norms and structures (as her rebellious self has set in), so she doesn’t think about or explore them much. In the prequel, she’s more concerned with trying to fit in and being a part of society, which lends itself to talking about said norms in society.
(At the Willamette Writers Conference a few weeks ago I mentioned above, I took an Urban Fantasy workshop that heavily emphasized establishing the ‘norm’ before exploring the magical — and this seems to be fitting into that right now…)
Anyway, the other big thing that was mention in the edit letter was that my ending was way too fast. It felt like I jumped to the end too quickly or got bored, she said.
Funny story: I was trying to keep the ending short and snappy to keep up suspense (which I was told was important) and went too far with THAT one too. So I’ve added a chapter and a few big scenes to bridge and extrapolate a few points.
All right, all of that gives you an overview of what’s been happening in my writing world the past couple months. I’ll be returning to my editing now — the Willamette Writers Conference (that I keep mentioning) was really helpful for so much of what I’m learning right now. I picked up some great tips about world building and character development that I will be immediately implementing thank you very much…
Just in the past few days I’ve had a few things click. I have a whole segment that is going to do amazing things in establishing the alternative-history timeline which I am DROOLING to go write into the first pages (adulting = getting in the way of everything).
Questions? Comments? Concerns? I’ll try to not to have such a gap between these posts next time around!