Tag Archives: series

Behind the Scenes In Being Published: Contract Writing vs. “Free” Writing (June 2017)

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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.

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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)

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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! 


Prequel Problems: Likable Characters

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So I’m writing a prequel to my INITIUM series, the first book tentatively due out in Fall of next year. I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a prequel, as the events in it are fun mystery details throughout the first book, and you learn about them and why my main character is the way she is as the novel progresses.

But, it’s a lot of information, and my editor thinks I need a prequel so readers aren’t lost and/or inundated with too much information right off the bat. So I’m writing a prequel. The first draft is almost done — I wrote the final chapter, but I also left a bunch of ‘holes’ in the manuscript, scenes I felt I was forcing too much at the time, to come back and complete later. I’m writing those scenes now.

My biggest frustration so far is that a lot of the events in the prequel are what make my main character interesting in the first place, so before the events happens, my characters are…

Not that likeable. Actually, they’re coming across like spoiled little brats. Which goes with the territory, are they’re the daughters of a rich upperclass businessman — but I’m really worried it makes for some difficult reading. Or apathy about reading them, anyway.

And if people don’t want to read the book for your characters, they’re not going to read the book.

Fortunately, characters being likeable isn’t so important as characters being interesting.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my main character is either at the beginning. Perhaps I’m being too critical, because I’m so used to her, 5 years later, being a snarky badass. Or maybe I just haven’t written from an insecure 14 year old’s perspective for so long it’s hard to believe that readers will really connect with her voice and struggles…

I believe my main character is interesting (and even likable) by the end, but if the beginning doesn’t hook someone, then it’s kind of a moot point.

I’ve also never really written ‘on contract,’ or written a character arc from the very beginning like this, so I might just be out of my depth and scaring myself (I’ll be writing about this whole process here soon).

I’ve also never really written a prequel (at least something this big), which I’m beginning to understand has it’s own difficulties. Not the least of which is writing a character that you know… but isn’t the fully formed character of the later book who is probably more interesting in first place.

Either way, I’m becoming more thankful that I have an amazing editor who’s excellent at developmental editing, because I’m going to need some perspective on making this work. I think I’m too close to this character, or the character arc in general, or too concerned about the ‘writing of a relatable 14 year old’ to just write the 14 year old. I was a 14 year old. I remember. Why I be making this so hard.

Anyway, it will be educational to see what my editor suggests going forward. And I feel a little lazy, looking to my editor for direction instead of figuring it out myself. But the truth is, I’m still pretty shaky on what revisions really need to look like, which is my real fear. I don’t know if I’ve fully ever revised a manuscript in it’s truest meaning, so my skill level there is… dismal.

So there’s some anxiety about my meh-characters not becoming interesting enough with this lack of skill.

Anyway, this is all a moot point if I don’t have the draft done in the first place! I’m off to finish those few more thousand words. I want this draft done by the end of this month (which gives me like two days). It’s going to be far from perfect — but all that’s left are a few holes to make this thing complete.

 

Stay tuned for the regurgitation of my thoughts about writing my first ‘on contract’ piece… in a week or two.

 

Questions? Comments? Similar anxiety-rants?


On Editing Hatred… but not Hatred of Editing

I’m about halfway through editing the second book in the series I’ve been working on for a few years now. And I’m finding myself in the inexplicable situation of hating the thing.

With my first book, I was surprised during the editing stages, because I found myself really loving the manuscript. I’m sure it’s not perfect, but I am very content with it overall.

Yet again I’m finding myself surprised, but with the opposite emotion: I’ve never felt so much negativity towards a novel I’ve written. Frustration, sure. Annoyance that I could have written certain things better, definitely. But not this.

And I’m not sure where it’s coming from, either.

I’m worried it is because I started reading this AMAZING series, by an author who is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Her world-building capability is… astounding. The way she weaves physical world differences alongside cultural differences alongside language… I’m blown away. And I’m learning a lot, though I’m not quite sure how to implement it yet.

But the point is, I’m starting to see how much improvement could be done to my second book in the realm of world-building. The first book started building the world I’ve created, but because it was the first book, and I was setting up characters more-so, there was some pieces of world-building that needed to take a back-burner.

For the second book I do not have that excuse. This is where I really should pull out more intricacies of my world and hammer home some of the things I touched upon in the first. Use my characters I’ve set up so well to pull out those interesting threads, further explore the social and political commentary that I talk about so much.

Yet I feel like none of this is happening. It is too similar in feel and structure as the first; I’m not sure exactly what I’m looking for, but I know it needs to be different enough to stand on its own power. And I don’t get that feeling.

I should have known better, actually; writing this book was too easy. The first in the series actually felt like work; amazing, challenging, thrilling work, but work all the same. The second book was a little more like putting scenes together until I said done. It didn’t feel like it was progressing or inducing more skillful lessons. And each book is supposed to teach you something, right?

Taking a moment to be easy on myself, however, this could all just be a reaction to immersing myself in this book for too long. I left it alone the bare minimum amount of time before editing, and I probably should have let it sit much longer (maybe until I start to pick apart how my new favorite author does things, and implement what I learn). For sure I need to take another break before I try anything extreme with this manuscript.

Have any of you felt this way about something you’ve written before? What did you do? Just leave it alone for longer? Did you have to re-write the whole thing, or were you able to save yourself some work?


Secondary Characters Stealing the Show

I used to write my secondary characters as place holders. They served a purpose and maybe had a name and then move on. I think they’re exerting revenge, because they’ve started coming out the woodwork and stealing my plot.

I didn’t notice at first. I was naive. It started with the innocent-seeming, doe-eyed character in one my series’ that dutifully played the best friend role. She was important, yes, and events surrounding her were sure to move the plot forward. One book is almost practically driven forward because of her.

Now my innocent little blonde friend is force-feeding me new interesting twists about herself that oh so conveniently set the stage up for her own story. Her own book, possibly even series, and I’m not even done talking about her best friend yet – who is supposed to be the star, hello. She’s whispering in my head when I should be working on different things. And just when I think she’s nice about it, she yanks me off my feet in a direction that she would like to go, thank you very much.

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(^Look! My first gif!)

So okay. Maybe she just really needs to tell her story.

But now it’s spreading.

Enter the second series, the first book of which I’m almost done with. This character was supposed to play a role, get a theme across, and provide a contrast to my main character and lay out some of that social commentary I have mentioned previously.

But oh no. Now she’s making herself really complicated and providing all this depth. The little vixen keeps hijacking what I’m trying to do with her character and pulling out these aching moments of vulnerable strength you can’t help but love. She’s not demanding her own book (yet) – thank god – but she’s seriously exacting her pound of flesh.

Arunninggoatsnd now she’s encouraging the other characters, too. Like a little circus master, her friends are starting to do and say things that I didn’t tell them to do.

It’s all going new and unforeseen places and I’m just stumbling along behind for the ride.

Okay, fine. Truth is, I can’t really complain. Writing for me takes on a life force of it’s own. I am not the master of my story; at some point I am just the tool of which these ideas enter this world. (Okay, well, obviously I control my craft, my art, my talent – but you understand, right? Right?) The story seizing it’s own destiny ends up creating something richer and better than what I had originally planned. It’s amazing to be along for the ride.

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