Monday, December 30, 2013

I'm scared. I'll admit it. (and this is kind of a ramble so maybe you should be scared too...)

The sequel to Moonlit - currently dubbed Windswept - is in my publisher's hands for the final stages in the pre-release process: type setting, layout, cover design, etc. This means I'm free to begin work on Book #3. I'm about 20K words in, and this is where I admit I'm a little scared. There's this big BIG moment in book #3 that I can see so clearly... "crystal" as Jayce would say. But first I have to get there. Me and Tanzy and Lucas and Hope and Vanessa and Asher and Jayce and a whole cast of fellow candidates who you haven't even met yet all have to get there. It's like herding cats.

I learned a ton during the drafting and revision processes for the sequel. Most importantly, I learned when to look at a section of my writing and realize: there's a big problem here. This is not right. And I realized, for the way I work at least, a real fix comes in stages. It's like archeology, an analogy Stephen King uses in describing how he unearths his plots. In my case, it's how I fix pacing/tone issues in a chapter. One gentle fix reveals more bone, more of the picture - and more of the holes in the picture. Then again, maybe it's better to say it's like surgery. There is an awful lot of bleeding and cursing, and I envision an archeologist to be the subtle, whispery type.

Anyways, what scares me is how much of this first draft of book #3 is not going to make it into book #3. Of course right now it feels like all of it will - the major plot points, anyway, but I know that's not true. In book #2, the early drafts had a ferry boat, a tidal wave, a funeral, a truck plummeting to the bottom of the ocean with two major characters inside, a trip back to Kentucky, this scene where new character Jayce lines up little figurines on all the window sills that I freaking LOVED, and lots of explosions. None of those plot points made it into the final draft. I lied - there are still some explosions, but they're in different places.

Some scenes/sections I cut early on, and some I clung to like a mother to her baby. Until I sent the I-think-I'm-Really-Finished draft to my beta readers and they didn't coo where I was sure I'd have them near tears, holding their breath. In fact, they reacted to a few of my favorite moments like one might react to, say, a poopy diaper. And they were right.

Have you ever had a whole "darling" of a chapter (referencing the "kill your darlings" rule here)? How about a couple chapters... how about a 40K word section of "darling"? Welcome to the 8th draft of Windswept.

So now I'm beginning the very first draft of Book #3, and it is by far the most complex of the three books. And I want it to deliver. I want it to tie up every thread I've woven into this web. And I'd really really like to get it right on the first couple shots. HA. Never going to happen.

I'm a subscriber to Anne Lamott's idea of a "stinky" first draft. (She uses a different word beginning with S, something that can be found in the aforementioned diaper, and never smells like roses...) A first draft helps me see how I think this is all going to play out. It makes me see if the I can get to the last page with the ideas from the first page still intact. I'm not big on big outlines. I have a few key moments I want to incorporate if the characters arrive in the situation where the moment would apply, but otherwise I like to turn them loose and see what happens. Downsides: this means I stare at my computer screen a lot, knuckles buried in my cheeks, and force my brain to stop editing the line above so I can see what's coming next in the plot. It also means I spend more time on my drafts (at least I think it does,) and it definitely means I cut. A lot.

So here we are. And I'm scared. I don't want to stare and sweat and bleed all over this new draft just to cut 99% of my work like it never happened. It can be paralyzing, sometimes. But it's part of the process. I will no doubt do this every time. Every book. The funny part is that I still love those times where I glare at my screen all morning with no progress. In fact, I find I'm most intolerable to the outside world following a particularly lackluster drafting session because I can't wait to do it again.

I'm terrified, and I'm excited (and I'm writing this blog post because I'm totally stalling because another character wants a POV in book three and I told her we'd talk about it in a little bit...)

So, now that I'm sure you're sure I'm crazy, tell me what - if anything - scares you about the writing process?