I intended to more or less take a break this week. It was Thanksgiving (even if it’s not a holiday here in Australia, we still have dinner in our house), I sent out my first ever query letters. I was allowing myself some time to luxuriate in being a total basketcase, refreshing my email every five minutes even when it was 3 AM in NYC. I intended to start on my next project on Monday.
Well, as so often is the case with me, my subconscious had other plans. I was just this evening wailing to my CP Amie about how my imagination was running away with the sequel to THE IRON WOOD and not HUNTED, when I don’t plan to work on said sequel unless the first book goes anywhere. Whyyyy, I kept asking, whyyyy do I always want to write the wrong book at the wrong time? I was dreadfully excited about HUNTED halfway through TIW, when I knew I had to focus and finish TIW. Now that I have time to write HUNTED, all I want to do is write the sequel to a book that isn’t even close to being published yet.
I’ve gotten off to a rather rocky start with my revision process. I suppose it’s only fair, because when I started writing the first draft I got through the first 30,000 words of it almost without a hitch–it’s about time I hit some speed bumps. Part of the problem has come from outside the writing sphere–I got the mother of all migraines this past weekend, landing me in the ER for treatment and then unable to look at a computer screen for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time for a couple days. Mostly I’ve been rewriting the first chapter over and over, until I got to the point where I started feeling a bit like a broken record just skipping through the same words over and over again, stuck in that one groove.
…I’ve finished the first draft of The Iron Wood!
I have to say I’m pretty excited and happy and all of those things. Yes, I cried when I finished, as I was pretty sure I would, but then I had cake and a block of chocolate and a cup of tea and I was all smiles.
I’ll have a longer post tomorrow or the day after, once I’ve figured out what to do next. During the rewriting and revision process, it doesn’t really seem appropriate to have the same 500 word/day metric, just because words per day doesn’t reflect the work I’m doing. Not everything will need complete rewriting–so how do I score revision? Anyway, I may end up doing a certain amount of time per day, I’m not really sure. For now I am taking the teensiest of breaks, and tonight I don’t care in the slightest about what I will do in the morning.
I’m nearing the end of my book–I’m currently at approximately 75,000 words, and I forsee maybe another 30,000 words to go. It’s not quite close enough to make a mad, sprinting dash for the finish line, but that’s not really what I want to do anyway. Although I always was a sprinter rather than a distance runner, in this case I think consistency and a steady pace are going to be what sees me through.
That said, I’m close enough to set myself a deadline. So that’s what I’m doing, here in public so everyone can see, and therefore can hold me accountable if I don’t manage it.
So: By my birthday, July 5th, I’ll have this first draft completed. That’s a promise. Please judge me and hate me and all-of-my-irrational-fears-of-failure me if I don’t hold up my end.
To pass the time until then (even though it is no longer Teaser Tuesday) I’ll post another excerpt. I had so much fun with the last one, but it was such a brief, superficial moment in the book. It was really the first serious danger Lark encounters outside the Wall, and its purpose is mostly to show her just what she’s let herself in for, and that nothing–absolutely NOTHING–can be trusted in this new world.
This scene comes from a somewhat more character-driven part of the book. Lark has joined company with a young man named Oren, so far the only person she’s encountered who hasn’t been twisted into a monster by the magical vacuum and storms ravaging the wilderness. He’s unused to company and terse to the point of rudeness, but he knows how to find food and water, how stay ahead of the monsters, and when to seek shelter.
Lark has been struggling with fairly significant agoraphobia ever since setting foot outside the Wall. She grew up never having seen the sky, and now finds it overwhelming. Though she’s made significant progress over the past two weeks since her escape, the wilderness still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Time for me to throw myself on your mercies, dear readers, and ask for some help. Let me lay out the issue.
Characters, for me, often live inside my head. Many writers will say this, to the point where I think non-writers will roll their eyes a bit (though quietly and in private where the writers can’t see and kill them for it). But it’s just an easy way to say that we spend so much time thinking about them that our characters become fully-formed, fleshed out people with their own decisions, and it’s hard to sometimes get the characters to do what you need them to do because the motivations you’ve already decided upon for them just won’t push them in that direction.
Of course, for me, it’s only main characters that live in my head. The lesser characters don’t really need to be known that well.
In THE IRON WOOD, my current WIP, we’re just coming to get to know a new character. Is he a monster? A spy for the Facility? A nice, misunderstood boy in dire need of a bath and a hairbrush? A potential love interest? WHO CAN SAY? (Actually, I can, but that’s beside the point.) And yes, I’m only introducing the potential love interest 60,000 words into the story. I am aware of this. This is an issue for the rewrite, folks. Stay focused.
The point is that I’m really struggling to write him. Part of it is that Lark, my main character, has been alone for almost the entire novel, and I’m used to her solitude and how she handles it. Part of it is that I am seeing this new character the way Lark does, because she is the predominant voice in my head–and she sees him as confusing, inscrutable, and possibly quite frightening. And part of it is the issue of buildup–he’s been behind the scenes throughout the whole book, with tiny touches here and there, and now he needs to be finally revealed as a fully-formed character, but it really is the first time I’ve met him, too.
So here’s my question: how do you guys get to know a stubbornly shy character who refuses to introduce himself? Do you fill out character sheets? Write vignettes about his childhood? Pretend to interview him? Have conversations out loud, pretending to be him? I’ve tried all of this in the past (yep, even the conversation thing–I’m a writer, I have no shame) and none of it seems to be appropriate in this situation, though I may just be being stubborn myself.
I’d love to hear any input or suggestions! Don’t be shy, I’m ready to try absolutely anything. And even if all you have to offer is commiseration, well, I could use some of that right about now too.
Hey folks! In honor of Teaser Tuesday, I’ve decided to post a scene from my current work in progress, which has the working title THE IRON WOOD. I’ve chosen a scene out of the middle of the book, but it’s an action-y sort of scene that hopefully doesn’t require too much context.
All you need to know is that Lark, our heroine, has untapped and previously unknown magical abilities and is on the run from the scientific Facility that wants to turn her into a magical battery for the rest of her life. She’s discovered that in the wilderness lie pockets of highly concentrated magic, which serve to camouflage her from the Facility’s machines: half-magic, half-clockwork creations called pixies. When she steps inside the magical, violet-tinted pocket to escape, she discovers a forest unlike anything she’s ever seen. Lulled by its beauty and the sense that for the first time in weeks she’s at least temporarily safe, she falls asleep…
I’ve had several people lately go “So, uh, what are you actually working on?” I’ve been twittering like mad about my word count, and occasionally posting humorously poorly written excerpts, and very rarely talking about the actual content of the book. But I guess I haven’t ever really talked about what it’s about.
Well, if you’ve been wondering. . . . Sorry. You’re going to have to keep wondering. I’m just not really ready to broadcast it yet. A few people know every detail (Sarah, Amie) and a few others know the general idea (Kim, Ellen) but in general I’m still mulling. I realize perhaps it’s a bad thing to be still mulling when you’re 30,000 words into the piece, but there you have it.
I can tell you generally what it’s about, though. The working title is THE IRON WOOD, and that may or may not end up being its final title. It’s the first in a possible trilogy, and it is (for lack of a better term) science fantasy. It is also post-apocalyptic, and dystopian, and YA. It’s very different from my usual stuff, and I think that’s part of the reason I’m having so much fun writing it. Lark, my main character, is very unlike me–another difference from my usual work.
The shivery exciting part is that, right now in the story, location-in-the-world wise, she’s actually standing not far from where I sit writing this — just several hundred years into the future. It feels almost like I should be able to see her, picking her way through the rubble, like a ghost that doesn’t exist yet. Getting to write about what my world would be like then, given the circumstances that I’ve invented, is both exhilarating and totally terrifying. Because if I don’t get it right, it’s certainly not due to lack of knowledge or experience, as I’ve lived here my whole life.
Anyway, I’ve just recently finished act one of the story. It finishes with a tremendous bang (you’ll have to just wonder if that’s literal) and I admit I’m having some trouble getting going on the next act. I would love to hear some advice from you guys about what you do when you hit a stumbling block in your work. It’s not that I don’t know what happens, generally-speaking. It just feels like I’ve been holding my breath, writing this so frantically, and now that I’ve hit a spot in which to take a breath, I can’t find that gut-twisting tension again.
So, advice? What do you do when you need to reignite your excitement about a work? How do you brainstorm? What propels you through the less-exciting parts of your stories?