I’m back. We won’t even discuss how hard it was to get the internet back. It was an ordeal. An EPIC ordeal.
BUT, I came out with two wonderful things…
Oh, what’s that? Why yes, it IS a book. In fact’s a A FINISHED SEQUEL. Yep, that’s right. A Darkness Strange and Lovely is now complete. It’s with my agent and will hopefully ship off to my wonderful editor soon.
As some of you know, I had an incredibly difficult time writing this book. It was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Harder than my undergrad thesis. Harder than my Masters. Harder than roughing it in the Arctic. Harder than writing the first book.
As many other authors have already said: sequels are really intimidating monsters for debut authors. The pressure is surreal (and most of it self-induced. I don’t mean deadlines, I mean meeting readers’/editorial/etc. expectations). The writing itself is innately more demanding (unless you’re smart and start writing early on) because you do have that deadline, you’re probably working by an outline/synopsis, and you have to delve back into a world you probably haven’t writen in for a while.
I cannot tell you how many times I thought, I can’t do this. I’m not cut out for this. I should go back to fish and biology.
But I did do it. Somehow, in the last two weeks, the entire book just magically seemed to come together. It stopped looking like this:
And started looking more like this:
A Few Numbers to Ogle:
- Total Word Count: 90,200
- Number of drafts: I roughly estimate 7
- 2 of those were complete REWRITES. Almost everything tossed and restarted.
- 2 or those were major REVISIONS. Reordering the story, adding in new characters, removing new characters, cutting huge chunks of story, etc.
- The other drafts were smaller, though by no means minor revisions.
- Times I rewrote the first 100 pages: 3
- Times I rewrote the middle: 2
- Times I rewrote the end: 3
- Total # of words cut and not used at all: 37,000 (can you imagine how much wasted time that is? It makes me sick.)
The Lessons I Learned:
- I will start book 3 sooner. Way sooner. Like, I already started over the weekend. Why? Because the hardest thing for me was rediscovering my main character’s voice.
- I wrote and wrote and wrote, and it was all like my early drafts of Something Strange and Deadly–the drafts that never could have sold because they SUCKED. Eleanor was light and fluffy and NOT RIGHT for the darkness of the story. Not until major rewrite #3 did I FINALLY rediscover Eleanor’s real voice (but it literally took me reading my own ARC to find it again).
- Now, I have the voice firmly in my head, so why not go ahead and make a dent in book 3?
- I will let go of self-doubt. The book is always, always better than you think.
- As a very wise writer once told me: the fact that you think your novel sucks means you understand reader expectations, and the fact that you understand reader expectations means you will automatically write a better book.
- My wise writer friend was right.
- I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT MY CRIT PARTNERS.
- My Fantastic Crit Partner Super Hero, Kat Brauer, had to read some of the worst drivel I’ve ever written. She read draft 4, which was still in TOTAL CRAP MODE. But she slogged through, gave me brilliant feedback (as she always does), and I managed to rewrite the whole thing (yes, rewrite #3 involved throwing out a multi-revised book. It hurt.).
- I OWE HER. So much. So much.
- My Fantastic Crit Partner Soul Twin, Sarah Maas, read the fifth draft–the rewritten but now pretty good version. She had amazing suggestions for where to tighten, amp up tension, and bring out character motivations.
- I OWE HER TOO. So, so much.
- My Fantastic Typo Reader…MOM. Yes, you read that right. My mom totally read this book to help me catch final typos before I sent the book off. I was so burned out on the book and so sleep-deprived that she came in and do what Mom’s do best: helped me out.
Now, in other freaking exciting news:
I’m going to Las Vegas for New Years with my BFFers! My writing BFFers. I’ve never been, nor have I done a real New Years Eve throw down in ages(last year I actually slept through midnight). I figure it’ll be my little reward for surviving A Darkness Strange and Lovely.
You tell me: have you been to Las Vegas? And what was the HARDEST THING you’ve ever had to do?