Let’s Call It Book E – Writing Update

Over the last two months of the new year, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my writing. I set out this year with a goal in mind and it has already changed. Partly because of weeks and weeks of thought and partly because of a post by Morgan York that solidified my feelings on what I should be writing and what I should focus on to become a published author.

I’ve been writing several projects since I first started taking writing seriously. The first book I ever wrote and finished the first draft of (but definitely not the first book I ever started) is the first in a series of eight books (let’s call it Book A and Series 1). The second book I wrote, was a standalone (Book B). The following, the first book in a series of five (Book C and Series 2). And then, another standalone (though not quite finished) (Book D). My plan has been to work on both Book A and Book C and whichever I deemed the strongest, I would query with. (Book B is terrible, and I think I’ll be shelving it forever, and Book D is the book I won NaNoWriMo and want to finish writing this year, just on the side when I feel stuck on the others, a thing I do often. It’s actually how Book B and Book C were written in the first place, as side projects I worked on when I was stuck on Book A.)

For a while now, I’ve been thinking that trying to query the first book in a series is a bad idea. Almost every author and agent and editor that spreads their knowledge on the internet says it’s better to start with a standalone, but I’ve been stubborn, too attached to the story and characters, too attached to the idea that Book A, and Series 1, would be my first books published. And it didn’t really sink in until I read Morgan’s post, even though I’ve known it for years.

For many reasons, I’ve decided to move on. First, there’s the fact that Book A is going to need a lot more work. As it was the first book I wrote (started in high school and finished in college) it’s not the best. But I have a soft spot for it, it’s my passion project. I’ve rewritten it several times over the years, trying to get it just right, and last fall I realized the major problems with it—which means another rewrite, a realization that came partway through a different rewrite. It’s a mess. I still love the series, I still love the world, but I know it’s just not right. Second, as Morgan states in her post, it’s super hard getting a series published and it’s a lot of work once it is. (Though, I never wrote the sequels of said books, having previous advice to just focus on the first one and try to get that one published first. But it’s hard selling books as a series, especially as a first time author.)

After reading Morgan’s post (and eerily similar writing histories, especially because we’re almost the same age) I realized that maybe the universe wasn’t allowing my books to work quite right because I should be focusing on something else. So I decided to move on from Book A and Book C, shelve both series and work on something new—not just revamping Book B or finish Book D—but something completely new.

Uh…but work on what? I spent the last week or so of January and most of February searching through my ideas folder and disliking everything. I felt like I was in limbo—it’s the first time I’ve never been actively working on a book. So I stopped looking for ideas I’d already had and started trying to think of a new one.

And you know what happened? I ended up thinking about Book A and the entire Series 1 and the world I’d created. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then, something blipped on my creative radar. It was too far away to see what it was yet, but that first spark of an idea is often shy at first. And then it slams into you and you have to spend a solid day writing and thinking and getting everything down that you can. That’s how it happens sometimes. And that’s how it happened for me with the new book.

Let’s call it Book E.

Book E isn’t new, exactly. That’s why it took a while for me to figure it out. Partway through figuring out the idea, I realized that it was connected to Book A and Series 1. It’s in the same book-universe. It even shares a character. But the best part about it, it’s entirely different from Book A, though threads of that world are woven in. And the best part? It’s completely contained. It’s one book, a standalone. A story that starts and finishes all between two covers. Book E could be published and Book A and Series 1 could never be, and it wouldn’t matter (except I’d be sad, because I still love Series 1) but the point is, it’s a better book to query with.

I did it! I practically ran up and down the road screaming with excitement. But I was too busy with that second phase of an idea: Writing everything down before I forget it. Characters, names, places, plot—everything on paper. The last part of February and all of this month has been full of plotting and outlining, piecing together a coherent story from all the ideas that I’d written earlier. And I’m in love with the story and have started drafting. I’m nearly 4k words in and wrote just 1.6k today, the day I posted this.

So now, with Book E in the works, I have new writing goals for the year:

  • Finish drafting Book E and begin revising/editing.
  • Possibly query? Probably begin in 2018.
  • Finish first draft of Book D (NaNoWriMo 2016 Book).
  • Complete NaNoWriMo 2017
  • And maybe, possibly, probably, work more on Book A and Series 1, even just on the side. [insert Brokeback Mountain ‘I wish I knew how to quit you’ gif here]

In all honesty, I think this is for the best. Book E is making me incredibly happy and I think it’s the smartest thing to do going forward on my path to becoming published.

(PS I’m not being secretive with all the Book A, Book B business, most of them don’t have titles yet and it was just easier this way. Book A is tentatively called The Infinite Light and Book C is called Thoughtless.)

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NaNoWriMo 2016 – Wrap-Up: I Won!

It happened. I’m finished. NaNoWriMo is over and I WON. I don’t understand how I was able to write 50,000 words in a month—not to mention 13,000 in a DAY—but I’m incredibly proud of myself for actually accomplishing this insane challenge.

The final four days, I knew I had a lot to write, and each day I didn’t write what I need to, I figured I’d be done. I’d never win it. But on that final day—the day after I dropped my laptop on a tiled floor (long story, it’s fine, I cried a lot)—I was determined. I had the day off, I stopped only to use the bathroom and eat and walk around my yard screaming at trees, and I wrote and wrote and wrote. By the end, after writing 13,379 words, my hands were cramping, my eyeballs were raisins, and I cried for twenty minutes afterward out of excitement and relief to be able to finally stop.

The most I’ve ever written in a day is 6,000ish words. Now I can say 13,300. That’s insane. I’ve never written 50,000 words in a month either. And now I can say that I have.

Now, the novel is far from done—maybe three quarters or a third done—and obviously a first draft, so not very good, but the point is that I did it. And because I’m still digging the story, I’ll be finishing it until the full draft is complete—sometime later, at a slower pace.

Words Written:
November 27th 243
November 28th 6,090
November 29th 2,100
November 30th 13,379 (!!!)

Total Weekly Words: 21,812
Final Total: 50,027
Where I Should Be: 50,000

MY WHOLE NANOWRIMO MONTH:
November 1st
2,247 (2,247)
November 2nd 0 (2,247)
November 3rd 520 (2,767)
November 4th 1,862 (4.629)
November 5th 2,479 (7,108)
November 6th 0 (7,108)
November 7th 0 (7,108)
November 8th 0 (7,108)
November 9th 0 (7,108)
November 10th 1,059 (8,167)
November 11th 1,898 (10,065)
November 12th 84 (10,149)
November 13th 296 (10,445)
November 14th 1,828 (12,273)
November 15th 359 (12,632)
November 16th 2.083 (14,715)
November 17th 702 (15,417)
November 18th 1,704 (17,121)
November 19th 1,729 (18,850)
November 20th 0 (18,850)
November 21st 1,703 (20.553)
November 22nd 314 (20,867)
November 23rd 1,780 (22,647)
November 24th 532 (23,179)
November 25th 1,258 (24,437)
November 26th 3,778 (28,215)
November 27th 243 (28,458)
November 28th 6,090 (34,548)
November 29th 2,100 (36,648)
November 30th 13,379 (50,027)

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Update #4

Last week I said if I could get to 40,000 by the 26th, I’d be in the clear. Well. I didn’t do that. I’m 12,000 shy of that. But! I still have faith! I’m still going! On the 26th, I wrote the most I have all month with 3,778 words. So I know that I can do it, I just have to focus all my time on writing on the last few days where I can write. I’ve written 6,000 words in a day before, so if I can just knock out the last few days, I can still win this!

I’m still optimistic even though I’m only just passed the halfway mark! I can do this! I can do this! I can do this! (I probably won’t.)

Words Written:
November 20th 0
November 21st 1,703
November 22nd 314
November 23rd 1,780
November 24th 532
November 25th 1,258
November 26th 3,778

Total Weekly Words: 9,365
Running Total: 28,215
Where I Should Be: 43,342

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Update #3

This past week of NaNoWriMo has gone better than last week, but since I’d fallen so far behind last week, I didn’t write as much as I should have. It would have been a short week anyway, but now it’s put me well passed the halfway mark of the month and I’ve yet to reach half the words.

But we move forward! I plan on writing a lot over Thanksgiving weekend, having two whole days off plus two half days. If I can get to 40,000 by the 26th, I know I can cram in 10,000 words in the last few days. I need to focus on writing when I can instead of just in one long session at the end of the day—50 to 100 words here and there will add up on top of that.

Words Written:
November 13th – 296
November 14th – 1,828
November 15th – 359
November 16th – 2.083
November 17th – 702
November 18th – 1,704
November 19th – 1,729

Total Weekly Words: 8,701
Running Total: 18,850
Where I Should Be: 31,673

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Update #2

Yikes. This week sucked for more than one reason. At the start, we cleared out our entire kitchen (all cabinets empty, stacked up on tables and chairs) and cleaned. Then slowly started reorganizing and putting everything away. That’s taken a lot of time and energy on top of a normal work week. So writing stopped there. And then the election happened and my brain hasn’t quite recovered yet. Slowly, by November 10th, it started to return. A bad week, putting me way behind, but that’s okay. I’ve written 10,000 words of a new story that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do without the NaNoWriMo pressure.

We press on! We write more!

Words Written:
November 6th 0
November 7th 0
November 8th 0
November 9th 0
November 10th 1,059
November 11th 1,898
November 12th 84

Total Weekly Words: 3,041
Running Total: 10,149
Where I Should Be: 20,004

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Update #1

First (sort of) week of NaNoWriMo is complete! And I didn’t totally fail yet!

With an easy start to the week, I was able to write a lot on the first day, which brought me about half a day ahead right away. But with a busier mid-week (out of town on the 2nd, working on the 3rd) I wrote almost nothing. Then on Friday, I had some time after working on school assignment and wrote over my daily 1,667, then dominated today and almost caught myself up to the 8,335 I should be at.

As a writer, I’ve been able to write at a pretty consistent 500-1,000 word session on the regular, with my record being 6,000 in a day (maybe I can do that again on a nice long day off this month???). I knew that I could do 1,667 words in a day easily, but having the time to do so is the trick with a busy schedule. So knowing that I would have days with 0 words, I knew I’d have to make it up with higher word counts on days that I could write. Hopefully this strategy will get me to 50,000 by the 30th—so far, I’m not too far behind.

Words Written:

November 1st 2,257
November 2nd 0
November 3rd 520
November 4th 1,862
November 5th 2,479

Total Weekly Words: 7,108
Where I Should Be: 8,335

My novel is about a girl going missing and a town (told from seven perspectives) in search of her, alternating between two timelines: one before she went missing and one after she’s been missing a while and a second event shakes the town once again. So far it’s been going well, the only trick is keeping the timelines straight and making it all work in one coherent story. Outlining all October really helps with that.

Anyway, I’m having a great time with NaNoWriMo and I’m excited it’s going well so far!

NaNoWriMo 2016

I first heard of NaNoWriMo a several years ago, possibly while still in high school, and tried writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I failed miserably. But I had a lot of fun. I think I might of tried a few years later, but never got back into doing it. I love the concept and I think it’s really fantastic that so many people write during a single month. There’s something about it that adds a word-and-magic-filled excitement to the air. It makes you want to write, to reach your daily goal, just knowing that thousands of others are doing the same thing.

Because I’ve been struggling with my writing projects lately, I’ve decided that, even though I don’t have any extra time next month, I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo. I’ve been working on the same few projects for the last few years, struggling with both of them, and I just want to have some fun. I want to start a fresh, new project, and just go for it.

I’ve been outlining my novel for the last week in preparation (I’m a planner when it comes to writing) and I’m really liking where it’s going. The book is about a missing teenager and an entire town looking for her. There’s multiple points of view, a dual structure with different timelines (a “before” she went missing and an “after”). I’m really getting excited to start writing it!

So I’ll be busy all of November writing my 1,667 daily words when I can and posting my weekly progress here! 50,000 words. Let’s do this.

The Book

A while ago, I posted about my current writing projects. Among them, I mentioned the book series I’ve been working on for the past eight or so years (outlining and planning the series, first book is nearly done). It’s been a slow moving process between school and work—and stopping and starting and stopping again to work on other writing projects when the book just wasn’t working. That happened recently, before this summer, and I had been working solely on the sci-fi book I had started writing.

The series is about a fantasy world with people who have extraordinary abilities (a cross between X-Men and the Chronicles of Narnia) and a young girl, who’s from there, in our world. There’s a superhero element throughout, sort of like it’s an elaborate origin story. In our world, there are others from the other world with abilities, and that bring the story forward from the beginning.

Because I’ve been writing the first book off and on since high school, it’s been difficult. My writing skills improve more and more as time goes on, so having to fix things that had been written when I was seventeen is challenging. I’ve rewritten, revised, destroyed, rebuilt, smashed—all the things I could possibly do to a book over several years (when I have time to actually do it). And about 9 months ago, I realized that it just wasn’t working. So I decided to shelve the project and move on.

I returned to the science fiction book I’d been working on off and on, too. And, of course, while I was working on it, I realized what had been missing from the other project. It all clicked together and I rewrote and restructured the entire first third of the book. Since then, I’ve been struggling to make time to continue with any writing projects, but I’ll hopefully have more time once this semester is over and I’m done with school completely in January.

I just posted how I’d shelved my old project for something new and now I’m kind of going backward, shelving the new project (temporarily) and going back to the old. I’ve come to the realization that being published so young and rushing to get something finished by a ridiculous deadline I made for myself has just caused stress and took the fun and love out of it. I still take it seriously, I just now understand that I have other priorities that need my attention—mainly, things that will make me enough money to, you know, live. I still want to be a published author, but I know that it won’t happen right now. I have a lot of time. I’ll get there eventually.

Reading & Writing Style

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and reading and style. A writing style isn’t just the author’s way of wording sentences, it’s the words they use and what they write about, how they structure a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter, the entire book. It’s what makes their work unique. And I’ve noticed how my own style had changed and adapted with every page, chapter, book I read of another author’s work. Even in small amounts, sometimes barely at all.

When you’re a creative person, you have to refill the creative well by taking in any form of media. For a writer, any type of storytelling (film, television), most especially reading, is most important. You can’t be a writer unless you’re a reader. You have to learn the words and know them in order to write, you need to see what works and what doesn’t. One of the largest parts of being a writer is being a reader, reading anything you can get your hands on. By reading, you absorb talent. No really. That’s what it is. You’re learning how to write. If you want to be able to write as good as the author’s you admire, you have to read their work. You have to read what they read. And then you have to read even more than that.

While reading certain books and stories, my writing changes, often for the better. I can feel the improvement after reading something I loved and admired in my own work. I noticed once, while reading my favorite author’s (Victoria Schwab) book A Darker Shade of Magic, my own writing was reflecting hers. Notably, I started to use the word “bones” in my writing more frequently. She uses the word often—not too much or in a negative way, just often enough to notice—and I realized I started to do the same. She uses the word not just to describe literal human or animal bones, but describing ships and emotion and in the name of a tavern.

     “No eyes watched her cross the deck. None saw her descend the steep set of steps that ran into the ship’s bones and bowels.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, page 65

     “His skin, his muscle, his very bones…everything ached in a steady, horrible way, as if he were nothing but a bruise.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, page 186

     “Lila was used to hunger, but the stone left her feeling starved in a bone-deep way. Hollow.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, page 274

While writing, I’d never used the word bone often, if at all, except for a single scene involving a broken one. Her use of it makes the writing connect more to the character, going deeper—literally—in a way that makes it richer, more full, instead of just referring to the surface, the surroundings, in both a literal and figurative sense. Schwab also uses the word “blood” an incredible number of times in the same book.

Her sentences are always fluid, they have a poetic rhythm to them, and whenever I read something of hers, I write in a similar way. This isn’t just for her work either, it’s any time I read something. For instance, while reading one of my favorite young adult series, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater—who writes just as beautifully and poetically through a modern teenage perspective—even my dialogue improved to a point where I found myself impressed by a line I wrote. She has a way of creating dialogue that feels real and not forced like some dialogue can feel. She slips in humor and wit seamlessly in conversations that keep even general day-to-day conversations exciting an interesting to read.

     “Well,” Persephone corrected, “that is not quite true. Maura told me Neeve approached her first. Neeve said she might be able to find him.”
“Out of the blue?” Calla asked.
“I’d prefer if you didn’t use that expression,” Blue said.
“Out of nowhere?” Calla repeated.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, page 323

Now, the difference in my writing while reading certain books or writers and when I’m not isn’t significant. It’s a subconscious absorption of their style and addition to my own. Most of the time it’s slight, barely noticeable—there isn’t some parts of my work that is more like one author’s style than other parts. It becomes one with my own style, blending in seamlessly in all parts of the process. And over time, growing as a writer, it will continue to change, little by little, until I have a style that is uniquely mine. The more I read, the better my writing becomes. The more I write, the better my writing becomes.

It’s all a part of the process.

What I’m Working on Now

In an earlier post from January, I talked about why I write and what I’ve written. In it, I mentioned the book I’m currently working on and that I would expand a bit more about it in another post. That’s this post. The post is happening now. Right now. Here it goes.

(I should mention, I don’t do the greatest of jobs making this book sound like an actual book right now—because it isn’t. It is not a concise, “back of the book” type explanation. I’m just rambling about it. First draft, people, we’re at a FIRST DRAFT LEVEL of description.)

Future Book—as I call it, since there is no title—is set in the, you guessed it, future. How far into the future? The year 2334. Or 2234. I haven’t decided. The book’s set in a very different U.S. from today. Over the last 200/300 years, the cities have grown to become enormous, limits blurring, and there are now only seven Great Cities, broken into sectors. Some states are viewed by locals as regions, containing a handful of sectors, but for the most part, they’re gone. A lot has happened to shift this—war, politics, rising sea levels. There are some sectors that are more well-off than others, with its residents being the richest in the world, and some are incredibly poor and rundown. There’s also a lot of new technology—there are some new providences on the Moon and a colony on Mars. In this future, people have become more evolved and have a telepathic ability. Everyone has it, everyone uses it, but it’s hard to control. And it’s caused problems—war, for one—and remains an affliction rather than a useful tool for most people. No one really knows why it happened—technology effecting our minds, a dormant gene that started to show up over a long period of time, or that it started from scientific experiments and it started to naturally trigger itself in offspring and surrounding people, passing it on for the last few centuries. For the rich and people who can afford it, a device can be implanted in the brain to control it. For the poor, there’s nothing. In less-off sectors, crime is low—no secrets, no hiding. In the rich sectors, crime is incredibly high in comparison to the poor (about the same as it is now)—secrets can be kept and crimes committed without anyone knowing.

AND HERE COMES THE STORY PART. God, I need to work on my elevator pitch. Good thing this is a first draft. And I’m not on an elevator pitching to an editor or agent.

Lily is seventeen (did I mention this is YA?) and is at the top of her training class, aspiring to be a Force—the police/law enforcement in the future—detective like her father. She’s the youngest ever to graduate. After she escapes an attack by a mysterious terror group, she develops PTSD and struggles with her first murder investigation. There’s a lot of DETECTIVE STUFF and TELEPORTING and MURDER and CONSPIRACIES and TELEPATHY and FUTURE THINGS.

Basically, I’m in love with it and am excited to work on it every chance I have.

For the most part, I got the idea of Future Book because I was thinking a lot about evolution and wondering how much change humans have gone through, how much more change there could be, and how technology will change. Then I read an article about experimenting with mice and telepathic connections between them and I thought about if humans could communicate telepathically, and how cool that would be. And how awful that would be. Would it be constantly on? Would we be able to control it? How could we control it? That’s where the device came in. How expensive would it be? What about the procedure? Could poorer people afford it? How would that effect people with less income? Would that effect whole areas with a lot of poor people? With a lot of wealthy people? What about the middle class? Would there be a big change in the US and there wouldn’t be wealthy/poor/middle distinction? How would we change as a society? What else would be effected? How would the country run? How many US Presidents would the country have in a few hundred years? I’m tired just thinking about all this?

Crime would probably decrease if there were no secrets. That thought started it. I thought about how the police system would shift, focusing more on the wealthy because crime in poor areas would nearly come to an end. It all started from that idea, and then Lily came in saying, “Give me a murder case to solve. I’m good at solving those.” And that’s that.

There’s a lot of work in writing about the future, though. Research on technology growth: how things work now will be different. Will we have cell phones? An equivalent to them? Cars? Trains? Planes? TVs? Computers? What will be new, what will just be different? There’s a lot of making stuff up. I can’t predict the future. A lot of the time I think, “Is that how police stations work? Is that how law enforcement works at all?” I usually just say, “Who knows? 300 years is a long way away. Do what you want, self.”

And there’s a lot of things to consider with fiction set in the future. Look at Back to the Future: Part II—October 2015 came around and we had no hoverboards, no flying cars, no more sequels to Jaws than we had before. The future isn’t always what we think it will be. That’s how I’m approaching this book: it’s probably not going to be as advanced as we think. Though, 300 years is much more than the 30 years from 1985 and 2015. Exactly 10 times more, actually. But there’s also other things to consider that could set us back: war, natural disasters, literally anything could change at any time to thwart technology from advancing anymore. Who knows? Within a 200/300 year time frame, society could collapse and we’ll have to start over again, and by 2234/2334, it might look exactly as I imagined or exactly as it does today, or it will be much more advanced than I wrote, or everyone will be dead. Either way, it’s just fun making it all up.

Anyway, that’s my current WIP! I’m having a blast writing it.

That’s all for now!