I’m back from the drafting swamp! And with exciting news in tow!

I’m BACK! Oh my gosh, that was an intense couple of months.

But I come baring some news! First off: TOMORROW, me and several other authors have a very big, very COOL announcement. So stay tuned!

Second: I’ll be doing this super cool event in Dallas on April 27th. Along with 9 other YA authors, I’ll be selling/signing books at a huge concert called Edgefest. This is easily the “hippest” event I’ve ever done, and I am–needless to say–SO excited for it.

Third: I’ll be in Vermillion, SD for a series of events on May 15th. If any of you are from around there, I hope to see you!

Fourth…there is no fourth. There is just a long post in which I pontificate on book 3 and the woes/joys of being a writer.

So, after having a tough time with book 2 (A Darkness Strange and Lovely) because I only started it 4 months before it was due…and then got whooping cough, I had vowed I would not be so foolish for book 3.

I also vowed, after having such a hard time with the novella (A Dawn Most Wicked), that I would never write another crappy, wasted draft again…

HA. Well, I started working on book 3 during last May. I had 20K written by the fall, and then by the end of NaNoWriMo, I had almost 60K. But I’ll be honest: I wasn’t feeling good about what I’d written. I kept thinking, “Oh, I can just revise it into a decent book. I just need to wait for my Muse and not pressure myself.” But deep down, I knew that wasn’t the only solution…

Then the holidays came, and I indulged my fickle Muse by writing 50K in something else (Screechers) over the space of 2 weeks (So. Much. Fun!) when I knew I should be working on book 3…

Then New Years hit and I admitted to my soul twin, Sarah J. Maas, that I didn’t think my book 3 would ever come together. We talked out what I’d written and what I had planned…and it hit me as I was talking: I had approached everything in book 3 WRONG.

I was planning the wrong ending. It was an ending where everyone lived Happily Ever After and there were no consequences. It was ending for ME so that I could finish the series and not forever feel like there was more story left to tell.

But here’s the thing, guys: There is ALWAYS more story left to tell. Maybe they are mundane bits of an ordinary life, but there will always be heavy emotional consequences when you put your characters through the stories I’ve put them through. They can never truly be Happily Ever After with battle scars like they have. They can have happiness, certainly, but there have to be emotional consequences.

And yet, my planned ending just didn’t match up to that…

Essentially, in all the 60K I had already written, I wasn’t pushing Eleanor hard enough–or myself. I was projecting her toward a Fluffy Happy Ending, and the whole book felt WAY too light because of it. If Eleanor cried, then I needed to be crying as I wrote that scene. If Eleanor felt pain and loss, then I needed to feel it as sharply as my own…

But on top of all this, I wasn’t putting enough thought into the secondary characters. Joseph, Daniel, Jie, Oliver–they all needed character arcs of some sort. I was so proud of what I had managed to do with everyone in book 2, so why couldn’t I do it now?

So one day, in the second week of January, I laid out 5 rising action lines (like the one on the right), and then I figured out the emotional position of each character as the book opened…Then I figured out what their emotional breaking point was and when it needed to happen in the book.

Holy crow, that was a lightning bolt. NO ONE was dark enough. No one was being pushed hard enough. If I wanted these people to grow, then there needed to be harder losses and bigger consequences.

There was no denying it now: the ending I had planned absolutely had to be tossed.

In hindsight, it seems so obvious. But this ALWAYS happens to me. I draft along–ladeedadeeda!–and I don’t want to make my characters unhappy because them I’m unhappy. It’s easy to write the action and romance scenes because the emotional darkness is briefly pushed to the side…

But then I reach the 2/3 point in the book and ALWAYS realize I have a horrible first draft and that absolutely none of the “emotional growth” scenes (i.e. EVERY SCENE) will work.

Always, always, always I end up cutting at least 50K in a book.

And so, in the middle of January 2013, I started the entire book over from the beginning and I kept…maybe…9K of what I originally wrote.

Then, in 7 weeks, I rewrote and then revised the entire book. All the romance I’d written previously got canned.  Even action scenes had to be completely reworked. A character I thought would feature in the book got cut. A location I had planned for years as the final showdown also got slashed (and an even better setting presented itself).

As always, I had to let the first story go to find the right story. But, unlike in the past, I was ready for this. Once I had accepted things weren’t working, I thought and thought and thought…and then the lightning bolt hit. (Muses LOVE to show up right before your deadline. I swear, they do it on purpose.) And I started over.

As I wrote, revised, and polished bit-by-bit, my amazing best friend, Sarah J. Maas, was there every STEP of the way. I could not have gotten through all of this if not for her. She would read every new bit I wrote/revised and cheer me on–while also pointing out what didn’t work. Then I would revise again and pass it onto my other dear amigo (as in, we’re the Three Amigos, you know?), Erin Bowman. She would read and point out issues. These ladies helped me SURVIVE this book.

Also, since I was pretty much a non-stop sobbing mess from mid-January until yesterday, they held my hand…or occasionally cried with me. Even my amazing mother, who so very kindly read book 3 to check for typos before I turned it in (my mother is the best mom EVER), called me yesterday sobbing. My mom NEVER cries during books or movies, so as twisted as it sounds, I was really proud I had made my mom cry! I realized when I heard her tears that I had done it.

I had pushed Eleanor and the Spirit-Hunters to their emotional limits. I had pushed myself to my emotional limit. And they came out better, stronger people for it–as did I.

Now let’s all quickly pray my editor lets me keep it that way. 😉

And, for those readers out there scared of what the ending may bring: there ARE silver linings. There IS a bittersweet sort of happiness at the end–the sort of peace that can only come after a really horrific storm. But it’s not devastating, okay? For every low moment, there is a moment just as high.

Doesn’t that music make you feel like there’s hope on the horizon? (I pretty much listened to this on REPEAT during my final revisions of the last few scenes).

But there is hope on the horizon. I may feel a bit broken right now. A bit shell-shocked. But fortunately, there are other worlds to write and characters to follow. As soon as I hit “send” on book 3 yesterday, I dove right into a Shiny New Idea and hammered out 5K.

As the Shakespeare quote goes, “Things won are done, joy’s soul likes in the doing.” Book 3 was a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows, but I don’t feel any huge sense of accomplishment. The pleasure was all in the journey, and now it’s time for a new journey.

You tell me: Do you ever treat your characters too lightly? Or do you ever read books where you don’t feel the consequences were as harsh as they needed to be?