Don’t Look Into the Light!

…unless you’re looking into the light at the end of the tunnel. In that case, by all means, keep those eyes fixed right there, dear. Bring sunglasses.

Now, this here is the first post of this blog, and as can be expected, it’s going to feel a little awkward and contrived and all around amateurish. I feel a little like a virgin on a first date; for all we know, this could end with someone crying in the backseat of a 15-year-old Civic stalled in a Carl’s Jr. parking lot (don’t judge). I’ve written blog posts in the past, but those were about music and/or depression and adolescent self-realizations and/or whining, and we really don’t need to revisit those moments of childishness. This blog is meant for a greater purpose (oh, here we go…) because it is here that I wish to share with you my journey through becoming a novelist.

I haven’t published anything… yet. There are lists upon lists on the internet about “the best way to get published!” and they all tout the same twaddle about the importance of the writer’s social media presence (as though there aren’t enough people on the internet already bombarding everyone with ALL THIS INFORMATION I’VE AMASSED THAT NO ONE ELSE KNOWS). It’s all a bunch of baloney; we know this, everyone knows this, and maybe that’s not the point. Not my point, anyway.

The purpose of this blog is to share with you my journey of becoming a published novelist.

“But what if you never get published?”

Then this will be a blog about what not to do to get published. So there.

You may ask what I have done to suggest the possibility that I may get published at all? Well, I’ve written two novels, one young-adult novel which is mostly complete, and another adult fantasy which is a part of a series and is in the middle of a major re-write.

We’ll start with the adult-fantasy series. The stage of my life titled “the moment I finally got my head out of my ass and got serious about writing” started a few years ago when I created a character and a basic story to support her. It’s a low-fantasy historical fiction, which is to say the story takes place in the real world and is interjected with fantasy and supernatural elements (why historical fantasy? Well, that’s likely got something to do with my fascination with history and my being obsessed with the TV series Charmed in my late teens… but that’s a topic for another blog post). Victoria Hart, is the name of this lead character, and I’d fallen in love with her journey through centuries of time. At first, I’d thought I’d make her story a long two-parter encompassing over a century in each book (ha!), and when that seemed impossible, I thought I could cram the story into four books. Nope. As it stands, it’ll be a challenge just fitting the entire story into 7 or 8 books. Talk about biting off more than I can chew.

The Victoria Hart series also requires a great amount of historical research. It’s one thing I greatly enjoy, sure, but also takes a whole lot of time and I found myself bending my narrative to fit these historical marks.Needless to say, I fussed with this story for two years, cracking open the characters and the story bit-by-bit until at last I’d completed a first draft. I plotted the hell out of this story (I needed to, especially since many elements tie into the later books) and even still I found myself diverting from my original plan, often introducing characters for one purpose only to have them run out screaming “Hey, dumbass, I don’t belong here! I belong over there!” and then the whole thing got twisted and diverted. I often felt like a mother of quadruplets trying to wrangle the kids into the bath–it was only a matter of time before someone would end up face-down in the water.

Writing the Victoria Hart story has proven to be a monster of a task, albeit one I’ve enjoyed greatly. It’s a little like training for a half-marathon; I’ve found myself in the middle of a long stretch, beaten, exhausted and drenched in sweat shouting to the heavens why the hell am I doing this to myself?! until I cross the finish line and plop myself on the grass and look at the lazy jerks in their Mercedes driving a quarter-mile to the nearest Starbucks and think to myself, you don’t know this, but I just did something you’re likely never to even have the guts to attempt. Yup, that’s what it feels like to tap out those last few words of the first draft of a manuscript.

And then there’s Tick.

What is Tick? It’s the young-adult novel I mentioned above. I’d always considered myself more of an adult novelist, not a young adult writer. I wanted to be literary, with fancy-schmancy prose and life-changing wisdom and yada yada get the hell off that high horse you’re gonna hurt yourself. Tick came out of nowhere (really, I can’t for the life of me remember where I came up with the hook for that one–and no, I won’t tell you what it is just yet, sorry) and it sat on my computer as a single chapter for the few months it took me to finish the first Victoria Hart draft. I’d assumed Tick would be one of those stories that maybe I’d revisit once I get the series rolling and it would be a little break from the more intense work. I spent months fussing with the Victoria Hart draft, plotting my rewrite (that month I spent “not reading the manuscript” to give it space was actually spent thinking non-stop about how I was going to fix it) as Tick sat deep in some other file folder.

And then one day I had a dream. See, I thought I knew what Tick was supposed to be about. The hook is still more-or-less still the same, but the heart of the story had eluded me… until I had that dream. The dream didn’t propose the real purpose of the story–it was only a small scene that eventually became a part of it–but I was so caught up in the vivid visuals of this scene that I got up the next morning and started writing. I had just a smattering of characters, a basic thought of story arc, a basic hook. No plot. No scene structure. I couldn’t see further than two chapters ahead, but it didn’t matter because as soon as I wrote one chapter the next one revealed itself.

I wrote the 105,000 words of Tick in 3 and a half weeks.

It was–to say–easy. I didn’t spent days banging my head on the desk trying to sort out plot points like I did for Victoria Hart. I never got stuck. I never stopped writing. Sure, it’s less complex, it’s more direct, and it’s 50,000 words less than VH Draft 1; but it’s still 105,000 words in itself. Tick just flew out of my head mostly intact, and I’ve hardly revised anything at all. It was that easy.

Is that a good thing? I don’t know. But I can say that I feel like I was meant to write Tick. I was meant to write it for my teenage self. I was meant to put that story to the page in the most direct and entertaining way possible. And at the same time, it’s a story that is more self-revealing than any other story I’ve got rattling around in my mind. Tick was created from my soft-spot, and perhaps that’s why it was so much easier to write.

Two stories. Two books. Two completely different monsters.

That’s where my story begins. I certainly hope you’ll stick around to see where it ends.


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