Today, I’m guest posting at All the Way YA about the emotional and professional lead up to my decision to shelve my first novel. Here’s a snippet of the post.
The Order of the Key was my dream novel, the book of my heart. I invented the idea for it when I was fifteen years old and I never expected to be shelving it, unpublished, twenty years later.
Jeez. Twenty years later. I don’t think I ever thought of it in those terms.
To be fair, I haven’t been working on it this entire time, and the book I’m stuffing in the musty shelf of my mind is definitely not the book I started with. The version I’d created at fifteen contained a completely unlikeable, hormonal, emotional (possibly based on myself) super-cool highly powerful sorceress teen, and she hunted vampires as she romanced her way through a team of stalwart heroes. Hey, cut me some slack. It was the age of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it showed. The current, much cooler, much more mature version involves a fun and likeable geek who blunders her way through a semi-corrupt organization that fights interdimensional monsters and manages to find herself leading the rebellion to overthrow the corrupt portion of it.
When I say it has grown by leaps and bounds, I’m not just talking about its intriguing premise. The writing of the original novel was horrid. But it was the first thing I’d ever finished. I was proud of it.
The below is a collection of my most important thoughts through the first wave of edits I received for #p2p16, or Pitch to Publication 2016. This is just the first set of edits, so we’ll see what’s to come, but so far, the general view of this process is a very excited two thumbs up. Read below to take the journey with me.
Friday, November 4, 2016:
Today, my edits came in from Kaitlyn. I read her reader’s guide, had a momentary panic, paced around my desk for a second, sat down and typed out an email with some legitimate questions and thoughts. She wrote back super fast with helpful and insightful commentary. Yes, there are big changes that need to be made, but nothing that hits the core of my story and nothing that compromises me artistically, so I’m much happier already than with my previous editing experience. Plus, Kaitlyn is so encouraging and excited about my project, it’s hard to feel anything but excited, too. Also, checking out her individual opinions throughout the document, rather than the overview, made it much clearer how I could go about instituting some of the changes. I was still afraid about the word count getting higher, as it’s already at the limit of where the book could be…until I worked on the first chapter and it came in a couple hundred words shorter, after I added some voice and a bit of extra geeky flavoring. So, that word count situation is feeling much better. I even decided to alter a scene she didn’t ask me to, because I felt it clearly gave her the wrong opinion of a character, and that meant I needed to rework it. Something I was communicating went wrong. In the end, the most important lesson I learned is that, though I have plans for a series, I need to focus on what benefits this book, and then worry about Books 2-6 when I get there. Yes, I can plan, but if there’s something in Book 1 that takes away from it, I have to pull it and figure out how to fix that mess with Book 2. I can alter my canon if nobody else knows it yet. The rest is up to my creativity. I’ve often preached not getting too attached to your outline, and staying flexible, and I’ve been doing the opposite. That changes now. I need to make this book the best it can be. I can’t do that with a closed mind.
Kaitlyn has given me until November 18th to return my revised manuscript to her so she can start another pass. That’s going to take some pedal-to-the-metal speed. My son is going to miss me for the next two weeks. 😛
Saturday, November 5, 2016:
Today involved a lot of weirdo moments. I realized quite a few things. For one, I realized that half looks like it’s spelled wrong if you look at it too long. I also determined that my left knee is shitty, and I messed up my already post-surgical mess of a bionic back (scoliosis – had a double rod spinal procedure at 15. Hooks and rods and steel, oh my!) with just a few hours of editing at home. This has taught me that I need a more ergonomic typing situation than sitting on my couch and balancing my laptop on a pillow. I probably should have already realized this. What is wrong with me? Also realized? My computer screen needs a cleaning. I just mistook a smudge for an extra period and kept trying to erase it.
I also faced the very random occurrence of the edit document randomly switching to French several times while I was working! Thank you to this site for saving my life.
I worked through Chapters 2 and 3 and part of 4. Only cut about 30 words from Chapter 2, but I cut about 400 words in 3. This is good, because I have a few things to add, and had no room to add them.
Another thing I’ve noticed: Once you get a note that makes you rework a line, it makes you rethink all the unnecessary words in that entire paragraph. A lot of the cutting I’ve done have just been about me tightening things because I’ve zeroed in on a paragraph.
Well folks, my mother has arrived. She needs help with some computer stuff she needs done, as she doesn’t have one. So, off I go. I’ll write in my journal again tomorrow.
Sunday, November 6, 2016:
Woke up with a migraine and some serious allergy bullshit this morning, so this should be fun. My head hurts, my nose is stuffy, my throat hurts, my aforementioned knee and back are killing me, and I feel like a slug. On to editing!
I got to invent a couple of brand new scenes for the purpose of altering a certain narrative thread that wasn’t working. That was fun. I managed to get through Chapters 4-6 in this one day. And cut a few hundred words. I’ve gotten through the first 100 pages. YAY!
Monday, November 7, 2016:
I’m not working at my work desk because it’s a slow day. Nope. Not at all. For Chapter 7, I had to rewrite almost the entire chapter due to a change in the plot point. Chapter 8 is complete as well. Between the two of them, I have cut three whole pages. We’re getting somewhere! I discussed some of what I was working on with Kaitlyn and she was, again, awesome and gave me great feedback and helped me to make sure I was on the right track. I may have to hand her every book I write forever. Seriously.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016:
Things were going relatively well until I got home and proceeded to watch election results. Then, there was no working.
Wednesday/Thursday, November 9-10, 2016:
Yeah, I tried to work, but nothing got done. Without going into politics too far, I mourned. I cried. My artistry got squashed a bit. It took a lot to recover. Friday, November 11, 2016:
Today is a very good day. Not only is it a day of honor and respect pledged to our veterans, but it also happens to be my best friend’s birthday, and spending time with her always manages to rejuvenate me. I struggled through my day, but managed to get through a couple of chapters. Then, I got to participate in a very successful surprise party for this awesome, inspirational person (I’m not being hyperbolic. The lady is a hero. She saves lives for a living). I feel ready to attack tomorrow.
Saturday, November 12, 2016:
Woke up with a migraine again! Have I mentioned that I have three cats and they are all over eight years old and I just recently discovered I’m allergic to cats. Meaning . . . that’s not going anywhere because my cats aren’t.
I did finally pull myself together by around 1 PM and continued working through the night. Then I shocked myself by making it through five chapters! I even shot a question off to Kaitlyn, who quickly answered and told me my suggestion on a fix for an issue was on point. So I ran with it. And got pretty far.
Sunday, November 13, 2016:
And that’s it! With seven chapters to go, I managed to finish just in time to watch The Walking Dead. I’m kinda shocked. She gave me until the 18th! It just went so smoothly. Once I decided what I wanted to do to help cover the edits she requested, it was easy sailing and I felt so much better and more confident about the story. Plus, I got my enormous word count under 100,000 words! That made me happy, because it helped open up my options a little more, in case I don’t land an agent in the agent round. Either way, I’m a happy chica. Time to crash and await more edits from my editing partner.
Hey there, my friends! I am in the very fortunate position of having more good news to report to you today!
About a week ago, I entered The Order of the Key into a contest called Pitch to Publication, or #p2p16. To learn more, go here. Each contestant submits their query letter, along with the first five pages of their novel to three of the participating editors. The editors ask for more as needed.
If selected by the editor, the author gets 5 weeks of free editing work with that editor, and then moves on to the agent round.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I waited one panicky, edge-of-your-seat week, and guess what?
I won! I was selected by the wonderful Kaitlyn Johnson! I already love her and can’t wait to work with her.
It looks like my new NaNoWriMo novel will have to wait…but for a terrific reason!
Once again, thank you guys for all of the support. I can’t wait to get to work.
I have this main character named Jacklyn. As I delve into who she is, I find I love her more and more. She is a strong woman, vulnerable but bad ass. She is confident in her sexuality. There is never a question of whether or not she thinks she’s pretty. She knows she is. She is foul mouthed, sarcastic, and a bit of a geek. Her logic? “If I’m going to be a superhero, I want to be just like the ones I grew up with.” She’s dramatic and romantic, believes in fighting the good fight and, as her character grows and evolves, she begins to see the guns she carries as the only source of power she can truly rely on.
Whoops! Where did that last bit come from? There are plenty of things about that description of Jacklyn that feel like natural extensions of portions of my psyche. There are some, one more decidedly than others, that I don’t feel terribly comfortable exploring.
Guns scare the crap out of me. I view them as death machines. I hate them. HATE. THEM. Which is why it’s so weird that one of my favorite characters to write loves them so much.
So how do you write a character with values so different from your own without completely endangering your belief system? Well, for one, you can create a counter balance. The story’s co-lead character is Kyp. He refuses to touch a gun, thinks they are instruments of destruction. He feels that if a tool can only be used for destruction, it should not exist. He is not against violence to protect others, but he understands the danger of relying on it too much. He prefers to use his supernaturally-gifted strengths to find another solution. In this way, he is my voice in the story. In many other ways, he is nothing like me – there are moments in which he can be an emotionless drone, and he often behaves as though everything is a game of strategy and not the lives of other people. But he provides that ability to speak my views on the topic within the story. Is either correct? No. They are two characters, disagreeing as people do in real life. There isn’t always an easy yes or no answer.
You can also try to understand the reasoning behind the value in question. Jacklyn likes guns. Why? They make her feel like she has power. Why? Because her own personal supernatural powers were taken away from her before and she feels like guns are a more reliable, more concrete, source of strength. Does she struggle with this? Yes. She isn’t entirely comfortable. But she isn’t entirely uncomfortable either. Do the guns help her out of situations Kyp’s “alternative methods” may not? Yes. But other times, Kyp’s method is smarter. Is Jacklyn’s gun toting a departure from her core personality? Somewhat, but it also plays into her need to be dramatic, to be showy, to be the next Lara Croft. Does it matter? No – Jacklyn needs her guns.
There’s a danger in opening yourself up to that method of thinking. You can actually develop sympathy for the other side of an argument – an interesting journey, and one that might frighten you. But the important thing is that you remember your role as a writer. You write what you need to write because it’s what the character dictates. You never ask yourself what you are okay with writing, what would embarrass you. You never ask yourself what would make the plot easier. You never ask yourself what other people will think. You write the thing based on the characters you have created.
You are the conduit through which your character reaches the world. You truthfully ask yourself how a girl like Jacklyn would cope with a loss of power that led to her own injury as well as the deaths of others. And when you find your answer, you don’t question it. You simply write. The rest will, hopefully, fall into place.