Tag Archives: First Draft

First Draft Completed: Blood Price Edition

Something really neat happened last week.

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After almost eight weeks of writing five times a week (some days, 200 words, other days, 4,000), 151 pages and 80,000 words later, the first full draft of Blood Price is complete. I write “full” with extra emphasis because, in case you haven’t stumbled upon this tidbit in previous posts, Blood Price was an idea I originally tried to write last year, getting 50 pages in before starting over from scratch, only to write another, new set of 50 pages before shelving it entirely. Yet it was a novel–an idea–that I couldn’t get out of my head. I really wanted to write this story.

Here’s what it’s about, if you’re curious:

For the Hanoak, the Creators have blessed them with the resources and land they need to survive, yet granted them the free will to live as they see fit, with little intervention from their gods–with one serious exception.

Only a woman may kill.

It is an responsibility, honor and burden that only women have been equipped to handle, for the price of killing creature or beast and absorbing the soul that once lived within them into their own, is high. The price a woman is able to pay is revealed during her first period as a young girl, the amount of blood lost reflecting the type of souls she can steal during a kill—light periods for animals, heavy periods for humans. For the rest of their lives, women are expected to pay the blood price once a month to cleanse their souls from the corrupting poisons within them.

For Natanni, she is the greatest warrior the Hanoak have ever known.
Her blood price is heavy.
Until the Creators take it away.

Suddenly, Natanni’s problems grow beyond understanding her promised betrothed, defending her border from neighboring tribes and worrying if they can survive the winter after a surprise attack leaves them weakened. Instead, she is thrust into a world of confusion and betrayal as she goes through the ultimate test of faith, forced to choose between her people and her soul, embarking on a journey to the heart of the Creators’ Realm: The Peak, seeking answers only they can give before she loses herself entirely.

So, I pulled up the old draft and opened up a blank document and was truly, pleasantly surprised when the first 10,000 words were salvageable. But not only that. I actually enjoyed reading them. The next 10,000, thanks to a change that I made, didn’t make the cut, but the fact that I got a 10K headstart is the reason I was able to finish this book three weeks before my self-imposed deadline.

Honestly, I don’t think Blood Price is my favorite novel I’ve written. Artemis truly does have that place in my heart and I’m not giving up on that story yet. In fact, I’m going to do one more read through of Artemis, starting in July, to try and catch any missed errors and little things, before I go and widely query it. Then, while that is on submission, I’m going to edit Blood Price once through, before I reach out to some awesome betas I’m hopeful will be willing to help me out. After that, I’ll edit the hell out of this manuscript and get it up to top shape by the year’s end, so that if Artemis doesn’t get any bites, I’ll be ready to go back to it with Blood Price.

Even though I just admitted it isn’t my favorite novel, I don’t want that to come across as a novel I don’t love. I do. It’s probably the scariest novel I’ve ever written–not in it’s content, but in it’s risks. It’s the first book I’ve written from a female protagonist’s perspective (I know, I can’t believe it took so many for me to finally do that) and her background is very different from my own, yet she has a strength I only wish I could emulate. Considering the plot centers so directly around periods, as well, I think, if it does get published, there is going to be a lot of discussion around that very fact.I am not shy in my descriptions, as readers will discover from the very first page. That makes me excited–and nervous.

But those are potential problems for a future me.

I know I have a lot to do, editing wise. I definitely want to make the Hanoak’s culture more prominent and amp up the descriptions throughout. I need to also amplify and solidify Natanni’s voice. Wouldn’t hurt to do some character arc checks. The ending scene could be better. The middle definitely needs some work (since it was the hardest bit to write, so I know there is something wrong there; just a matter of figuring out what). There’s a lot of work ahead for this novel, but right now, it isn’t about the work ahead.

It’s about the work that’s been done.

Coming back to a novel I trunked (something that resulted in almost a year long writing drought for me, thanks to a lot of internal demons) is something I’m ridiculously proud of. It’s a new accomplishment for me. Digging deeper into this story and finding the heart of it was a really awesome moment and I do honestly believe this book has a place out there in the world, as controversial as that place might be. I’m excited to work and hone this book so I can fight for that space.

Not only am I excited about this book, but I’m really excited about all the opportunities ahead. I’ve written two books this year: the first draft of Blood Price and the first draft of Artemis Smith and the Steam-Powered Fallacy, the second book in Artemis’s quintet. For the rest of the year, I am going to focus on editing, like I outlined above; editing and querying. And for the first time, if querying doesn’t work out, I’m going to start seriously considering self-publishing, at least for the Artemis series. Because it’s a series I really want to tell and I’d like it to make it out into the world, just to see if people will love it like I do. Then, there’s looking even further beyond, to series I haven’t even considered yet, because I know there are so many stories still inside me, waiting to be discovered. I just haven’t thought too much about them, yet. Yet there is this character, by the name of Echo-451, who has a story I think she wants me to tell…

Cheers.

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A Small, Mental Quandary

Writing this latest book has been….really different, especially from the last one I just finished a few weeks ago. Before, I was hitting every word count goal I made each day and usually surpassing it, averaging between 2,000 and 3,000 words each day. Sure, I had the harrowing experience of knowing exactly what was wrong with the book and exactly what I need to change about it the entire time of writing it, but I still made really good progress and was particularly excited about the ending chapters, giving me hope for the entire book as a whole.

This book, I’m struggling to meet the bare minimum word count every day. I do. I push myself and make sure I make it and sometimes go a couple hundred words over, but it’s not nearly as impressive as how I wrote the second book in the Artemis quintet.

I’m not exactly sure how to read that, if I need to read into it at all.

Part of me fears that this book is just horrible and everything is wrong with it (beyond the usual happenings of a shitty first draft) and that’s why I’m struggling to write it. Another part of me wonders that, because I’ve increased my writing output so much this year, writing five to six times a week on a consistent basis since February, if I’m not potentially burning out (though I really don’t feel that is the case, in my gut).

But mostly, I’m not sure why I’m not cranking out the word count left and right with this one.

Don’t get me wrong: a thousand words a day is nothing short to balk at. And I do think the pace might increase once I get my characters out of this maze and into the next hurdle they have to endure–that one, I know is going to be really fun to write and explore. I recognize that, though I also can’t help but get hung up on the fact that I’m not writing as quickly as I usually do.

Honestly, I’m probably just overthinking the fact that I’m writing less and comparing myself too much to other writers, authors and even my own past works. I don’t want to give up on this novel (again). And I have no intentions to, because I know I can make this story something really special. I think, instead of focusing so much on how much I’m writing or how quickly I’m writing, I just need to be happy that I’m finding time every day to write and I’m making progress on this novel and am still well on pace to finishing a draft by the end of June. Once I get a draft written and can look at all the flaws together, then I can decide if this is a book worth editing or a story I truly need to give up on.

But not before. Not with this book.

Cheers.


A Pointless Fear

I started writing the first draft* of a fantasy standalone novel called BLOOD PRICE last week. I’m pretty excited about it’s progress, considering I have 20,000 solid words down that, once upon a time, I thought were complete rubbish, and still over two months to get the rest of the words written, so I’m pretty ahead in my writing game at the moment. I’m really excited about the idea. Though I’m not sure if it’s the most original idea I’ve ever had, I do think it has a nice blend of originality and marketability that gives this idea a lot of promise; so much so–in my mind, anyway–that I’m actually really excited to get this book written, edited, beta read and then edited again, so I can actually send it out into the trenches and see how it does.

A foolish, brave part of me believes, on my good days, that this idea, this book, will be the one that helps me find an agent to partner up with me during my career.

It’s a really promising thought and helps keep me going during those days where I feel like everything I write is shit and I’m not ever going to go anywhere.

And yet, I find myself having another thread of thoughts which have the exact opposite effect: inspiring fear and worry where, honestly, I shouldn’t be feeling them.

I’m an aspiring author, but a definite writer. There’s no doubt that I have the chops to be a writer. I’m writing the first draft of my seventh book. Of course I’m a writer. Now, am I good enough writer to actually get anything that I write published? That remains to be seen. It’s probably not surprising, though, that I daydream about becoming an author all of the time. All the time. With the confidence I feel at the promise of this novel, it’s impossible not to continue dreaming about getting an agent because of this novel and then this novel getting published. But, of course, I don’t stop thinking there and I start thinking about my career as an author, finally getting started after over a decade of chasing it.

And I grow terrified.

Because, say that does happen. Say I finish this draft, take it through the necessary rounds of edits in order to get it up to snuff and query it. I get an agent. It gets published. But even before then, while my book is on submission, my agent asks me question. A simple one, but one that, in this made up, fantasy scenario, has me terrified.

What are you writing next?

At this moment in time, I have no idea how I would answer that.

I have a trilogy that I know will never get published traditionally, because everything about it is saturated for the traditional market. I have a quintet where I have the first book written and polished, the second book drafted and the other three I still need to outline, let alone write. It’s a series I plan to write to completion, even though it has been rejected before due to marketability concerns. So, even after getting an agent, it may not be the project they want my main focus to be, as I’ll probably do the hybrid author thing and self-publish that series. I have an idea for a sci-fi duology that is pretty rough and I’m not sure I can even make it good enough to actually write it.

Other than that, I have no other ideas floating around in my head.

In my made-up scenario, I’d have to answer with, Nothing, at the moment, which then, of course, results in me being a one-book-author who is dropped by their agent and oops, there goes the dream you’ve always wanted.

I hope you’re laughing, at this point. Or at least shaking your head.

Because, wow, Nicole, can you overthink any more?

There’s a lot of problems with that fear. One, there is so much, “if this, then that,” going on, that almost all of it is pointless to worry about, because there are too many unknowns within the scenario to really concern myself with, especially considering the first step to jumpstart any of this being possible, is a book that doesn’t even have a finished first draft yet. But the underlying fear is that I’ll somehow stop coming up with ideas and stories to write about.

*snorts*

I know, right?

When that fear takes me fully, I almost believe that’s even possible, even when I already have evidence stacked against that. Most noteable: the fact that I am currently working on my seventh book since I started writing seriously, at 15. Seven books in 10 years isn’t too shabby, if I do say so myself. And when I first started this journey, I couldn’t imagine completing that first draft of my first book, let alone the entire trilogy. The quintet I was working on wasn’t even a thought. Neither was the sci-fi I shelved or the book I’m working on now, that I’m seriously so jazzed about. Not to mention the fact that, last year, I joined a short story blog project that has resulted in, already, 12 short stories from yours truly. I write a new one every month; something I never thought I could do, yet here I am, writing at least 12 short stories a year. All of those come from prompts, but there are at least two that I wouldn’t mind thinking about a little bit more and trying to see if I can coax a novel out of them.

And you’re telling me, brain, that you’re nervous that I’m going to run out of ideas once my career “officially” starts, even though I’ve been at it for ten years, already?

Brain, hush.

I’m just getting started.

Cheers.

* I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, but this draft is technically the third, if you count the first time I tried to write it and then I deleted that draft and started over, before shelving the book. So no, I didn’t write over 20,000 new words in one week, I’m sorry to report. But it’s tiring to continue referencing this as the book I shelved but I’m now working on again, so first draft it is!


My Fears Over My Next Book Project

As you might have gathered from reading this post, I’m about to start my second project for the year of 2018. My goal is four completed writing projects for this year, whether that’s writing a first draft of a book or editing a previous project. To do that, I’ve got three months dedicated for each project. The first project was a success, finishing the first draft of my second book in a quintet, with three days to spare. Over the weekend, it was time to decide what I wanted to work on next.

Though I know what I’m going to work on now, it was a struggle.

First was trying to decide whether I wanted to edit or write something new. If I went the editing route, I had a couple of different options. I could edit the first book in my quintet one more time, before querying it more widely. I could edit the first book in the trilogy that I wrote, the first completed series I’ve ever finished–and first book ever written. I know it could use a long of editing, especially since I’ve written five books since then and I like to believe I’ve grown as a writer because of that.

Part of me wanted to go back and start editing my trilogy. Though I’ve moved on to other ideas and projects, a part of me misses those characters and that story. I still want their story told. Yet I was hesitant to start working on it again, as much as I miss it. Because I know it’s something that’s not going to get published–traditionally, at least. There are too many tropes–and the main subverting does not happening until the end of the third book–and it centers around vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters. All saturated markets in traditional publishing. Not so much in self-publishing, however. Even so, working on that trilogy felt like a potential waste of time, almost, with that knowledge in place?

With the first book in Artemis’s series, I only need to do some minimal editing, yet I’m also hesitant about querying it again, based off the feedback I got over my only rejection regarding the plot. I do plan to query it again, but I’m worried the market just isn’t right for it, right now. So part of me wants to wait.

And I also really want to write something new.

Well, new…ish.

You see, even as I debated–so much so, that I asked my boyfriend for advice–I knew what I wanted to work on: my shelved novel from last year, Blood Price. It creates a new mythology about the purpose of periods and I am just so jazzed about the concept. Out of all the ideas I have right now, I think it might be the most unique and, potentially, the strongest contender for helping me find an agent. Obviously, that’s something I’d like to work towards, so, logically, it feels like the novel I should be working on, next. I still wouldn’t be looking at querying this novel until at least early next year, at the earliest, if you count writing the first draft, editing that, a beta reader round and the edits based off that feedback. But I’d really like to work on this novel and actually finish the first draft.

So why did I go through all this back and forth?

Honestly?

I’m scared to write it.

I love the idea. And my main character, Natanni. I don’t know her fully yet, but what I do know is her strength, her unwavering support for her people and her ability to persevere. She inspires me already, without even writing her first story. After I shelved this novel last year, I came up with some new ideas that I’m really excited about and I think this could just be so much fun to write. None of that is what scares me. Although it’s set in a fantasy world, it’s in a tribal setting. As a white woman, I don’t believe I have the knowledge, experience or culture to accurately write about that setting, even if it’s a fantasy tribe. I’m scared to attempt it and completely misrepresent an entire culture.

Yet I still really want to write this story.

So.

Here’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to write it. I’m going to do my research, look into the groups of people and tribes who will influence the tribe I am creating within this book. I’m talking about a lot of research. I know a lot of that research will be done after writing the first draft, as well (I do that with most of my books; it just works better for me). And, when I finally get to the point where I’m ready for beta readers, I’ll search for a sensitivity reader, who is from or an descendant of that culture. And I’ll listen to what they have to say and then edit accordingly.

I’m still nervous to write this story, even though the idea originated because I wanted to write about a world where periods weren’t taboo or shameful, but instead talked about openly and even played an integral role into society. As a woman, I know I’m completely and totally qualified to write that narrative. But as the outline and the story has evolved, now it incorporates major elements, like tribal culture, where I am in no way qualified to write about that. So I’m going to do everything in my power to write the tribes of my story with that awareness in mind and do my best to learn about a culture that I don’t share, but want to write about it as well as I can, especially as an outsider.

And if turns out that isn’t something I can do? That this story, after everything, needs to be shelved, because I cannot write about that culture without my privileges and prejudices tainting it?

Then so be it.

But for now? I’m going to chase it and see if I can do this story that won’t stop bothering me justice.

Cheers.


I’m Psyched

It’s crazy to realize today’s the last day of February, but I think it’s almost crazier still to look back and realize that, on February 1st, twenty eight days ago, I started writing the first draft of Artemis Smith and the Steam Powered Fallacy.

And today, I surpassed 40,000 words.

Meaning I’m writing, on average, 10,000 words a week, over a span of six days (but usually five).

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I’m seriously excited about this, friends.

Especially since today’s writing session almost stopped at 600 words.

I just wasn’t feeling it. I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the problems this story has and how difficult it’s going to be to ever get this story published in the first place. I started to feel, honestly, a little hopeless, as I know this story started too slow and we’re just about to start getting into the thick of it and yet I’m almost 90 pages in, so I’m going to have to do a lot of work on the half I’ve already written. My brain kept being drawn to all the “negatives” around this story right now and how problematic it is, even though it’s a first draft and they’re honestly meant to be this way.

I’d already closed out of all my social media accounts, so that wasn’t distracting me, but I couldn’t help looking at my To-Do List and wondering if there was something else I could do to take up my time, instead of trying to push through and make my writing goal for the day. I was already ahead, so what if I feel a little behind again after one bad day?

Yet I kept pushing and I kept writing. I knew where this scene was headed, I just needed to do the work and actually write it.

3,000 words later and I’m not feeling to shabby.

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I actually really like how this scene turned out. Do all those problems I worried about before still exist? Oh, absolutely, without a doubt. Yet the best parts of this novel, I still have to write. And I’ve already been so pleasantly surprised with some of the scene and events that have popped up already, that were never in my original outline. I’ve put in the work and I’m in a great spot to have a finished draft (or at least reach my word count goal of 80,000 words) by March 31st. And that’s including starting two weeks late, thanks to the flu. That’s including the days were I couldn’t push through and either missed writing or didn’t meet my word count goal. That’s in spite of the fact that, the last two attempts I tried at writing a new novel, I stopped 40 pages ago.

I’ve developed a pretty regular routine over the past 28 days, writing at least five times a week consistently. I have a story that is just the bare bones of what it needs to be, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a reflection of hope, a result of work, a symbol of persistence and the product of following my dreams, no matter what.

And for that (and for the sake of puns), I am positively psyched.

Cheers.


Permission To Be Shit

I’ve needed this a lot lately.

Why?

Because I started writing a new book.

Granted, it’s going pretty well, considering I’ve written more in this book than I did the last two books I attempted to write (I made it to roughly 50 pages each before I tabled both of them for other projects, whereas with this one, I’m almost at 80 pages and still going strong at almost 40,000 words).

It’s been really amazing, to get back into the swing of things, writing wise, and form a routine once again (and even more amazing to actually stick with it). It’s also been pretty difficult, to try and keep up with writing practically 2,000 words a day, five times a week, with another 1,000 on Fridays (which I’ve consistently not done, which is telling for when I start a new project later this year). I’ve had a mix of sessions, as a result.

Some days, I’m checking my word count every other second, just trying to reach the minimum of what I need to stay on track. Other days, I am flying past my goal and actually have to force myself to stop writing, sometimes, if only so I can get the rest of my To-Do List accomplished. Part of this is, in thanks, to me being stubborn, and I’m giving a lot of credit to using WriteTrack, a program I’ve mentioned before.

But another huge reason, I think, is because I’ve accepted that what I’m writing is shit.

Okay, maybe not necessarily that bad, but I’ve given myself permission to let it be so, if it comes to that, if only so I can get the story down. And that’s really important, especially when you’re working on a first draft. Especially since I’m coming from editing the first book of this series, the last edits being draft…four, I think? Maybe even five? I’m forcing myself to switch from a mindset of trying to “perfect” every element within that story, so I could query it, to trying to write a brand new story–even if it’s a sequel–down once.

That’s not always the easiest switch to make, especially when you’re trying to keep up meeting word counts, to boot.

It’s almost harder when I know, in the back of my mind, that most of what I’ve already written is going to need to change or be edited, in the future. There are already elements I know I want to improve upon: increase the settling details, make the characters more realistic, figure out the nuances of the technology I’m implementing, etc. Yet if I continue trying to edit and perfect the story now, without having a full draft to work with, I’m going to run into roadblocks and get discouraged, which is a road that dangerously sets up to unfinished first drafts.

And it’s really hard to tell a story without a finished draft, first.

I’ve just been reminding myself that, no matter how “shit” this story potentially is right now, that’s kinda where it’s meant to be, right now. That’s the whole purpose of first drafts and, honestly, is one of the hardest parts of writing. Getting the story down is difficult and editing is no easier. But at least, with editing, you already have something to work with and someone to improve upon. At this point, I’m not trying to write the next bestseller. I’m trying to write consistently and get the basic plot written, being surprised by it as I go, no matter what my outline says.

With that in mind, so far, it’s going surprisingly well and with one more month to reach 80,000 words, I’m ready to see what the next 40,000 bring.

Cheers.


A Writing Update

the hobbit writing GIF

In February, I started writing the next book in the The Adventures of Artemis Smith quintet, Artemis Smith and the Steam-Powered Fallacy. I had originally planned to start writing it on the 15th of January, but after some plotting woes and then coming down with the flu from hell that knocked me out for two weeks, I got a late start. Yet still, I didn’t want to change my deadline of having a complete first draft by March 31st.

Through using the amazing WriteTrack program, if I wrote five times a week (plus an additional 1,000 words on Fridays), writing roughly 2,000 words a day, I’d reach my goal of 80,000 words by my deadline.

I thought that was totally doable.

And it is.

Yet it’s also proving quite…grueling.

Don’t get me wrong: I love this story. I’m stoked to see where it goes, especially based on what I have outlined. Already I’ve had some scenes pop up that I wasn’t expecting, but they’ve always surprised me in the most wonderful ways. And it’s such a neat feeling to write something new that’s inside my head and see it come to life on paper. This sounds braggy–and I apologize–but sometimes, my own creativity just surprises me. Like when I read back a scene and I just sit back and think, Seriously? came up with this? That’s brilliant. 

(I mean, usually I spent most of my time thinking my writing is shit, my characters are pointless, my stories are going nowhere and I’ll never make it as an author, so I’m going to take my braggy moments when I can.)

I’ve never written with a “rigid” deadline before. Granted, nothing is going to happen if I don’t make my 31st deadline, yet it is something I really want to do. And some days, writing 2,000 words is a breeze. I’ve even doubled that in one session, so far. Yet other days, it’s constantly checking my word count and wondering how I’ve only managed to write 50 words in thirty minutes.

But it’s also a really neat process, to be using WriteTrack and have a specific word count I need to hit in order to keep that goal (I also love the “weighting” feature on there, that allows me to change the percentage of how much I think I’ll be able to write one day so that my word goal for that day changes, e.g., if I think it’ll be a normal writing day, 100%. If I’m crunched for time, I lower it to 50% and then my word count goal drops and the rest of the challenge adjusts also).

Usually, my goals around writing are a little less structured. Write for 30 minutes. Write four times a week. Finish this chapter, things like that. But with trying to keep pace with this deadline, I’ve forced myself to keep writing when I’d normally stop, which has resulted in some pretty killer writing sessions that wouldn’t have happened with my old habits. It’s also forced me to rearrange when I write. When I look at my To-Do list, I do writing first, not last, not after I accomplished everything else that day. I’ve been making writing more of a priority.

Damn, did I need that.

It’s just been a really neat experience. Since I started on February 2nd, I’ve written 15,000 words. Which is fantastic. I have no idea how long this book is going to be. 80,000 words is just the benchmark since that’s how long the first book in the series is, roughly. I have a feeling this one might be a little bit longer. And because I’ve stayed tenacious, consistent and stubborn, I’m now 2,000 words–or one day–ahead of where I need to be to stay on schedule. If I can keep this up and reach my goal by the end of March, then not only will I have the second book in his quintet “done” (!!) but I’ll also have proved to myself that my goal of editing two books and writing two new ones this year is totally, utterly and completely achievable.

All it takes is a little work.

Cheers.