Thursday, February 09, 2017

#AuthorLifeMonth Day 9: Challenge Overcome

Yeah, I missed Day 8 (Awesome Moment). I've actually drafted a post for that but didn't get around to revising or publishing it, so if I find time to do that, I'd be happy to do it retroactively :-). But, for today, I'm going to talk about a "challenge overcome." And this one's easy so easy I can say it in two words:

Dark Immolation.

But what kind of blog post would be only two words?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this book was rough on me. Let's look at the timeline first.

I began writing DI in the fall of 2014. I finished a very rough first draft a little less than a year later, I think sometime in the summer of 2015. I took a couple months off from the book (to hang out with my brand new daughter and do some work on a YA novel I've had swimming around in my head for a few years now), and then started revising it in December of 2015. Revisions spanned from December 2015 until August 2016. Then, after a long talk with my agent, more revisions happened between August and October. After getting some feedback from my editor, my writing group,  and some beta readers, the final round of major revisions took place in January of this year.

So, yeah. DI took me almost 2.5 years to write. (In case you're wondering, that is a long time to spend on a book--even in epic fantasy.)

What made it so difficult, you ask? Well, let me count the ways:

  1. I've never written a sequel before. That may not sound like a big deal--and I did not think it would be--but I was absolutely not prepared for what writing a sequel would be like. I typically think of myself as a discovery writer, and that's how I approached DI, but I didn't take into consideration the events I'd already set in motion and the promises I'd made to the reader in Duskfall, and how much they would dictate what I needed to do in later books. This was one major reason writing the book took me so long; I used my regular discovery writing approach, letting the characters sort of do as they wished, but as I wrote I saw myself moving farther and farther away from some of the promises I'd made to readers in DF. That frustrated me, made the writing process more than a bit confusing and daunting, until finally I finished a very weak first draft. Revisions, in turn, took me so long in part because I had to spend a lot of time cleaning up and fixing and rewriting all of the crap I produced in the first draft. Let's talk about word count for a moment: DI, at it's largest, was over 260K words long. The ARC draft that's being produced right now is barely 150K. That means I cut at least 43% of the book (and that doesn't even count all of the stuff I cut and then rewrote in revisions). That is insane.
  2. A lot of crazy life events happened in the span of DI, and I hadn't prepared myself enough to juggle them efficiently. My beautiful daughter was born, we moved, my wife started working longer hours at her job for a while, among a few other things. Most of those things were actually incredibly positive, but did not make it easy to write a book that was already giving me a hard time in the first place.
  3. Some other personal issues that I don't feel inclined to expound on at the moment took a lot of my mental energy in 2016. Suffice it to say that, while on paper, 2016 should have been one of the best years ever, it was, in fact, hands down, the absolute worst. Like, there isn't even another contender for the bottom slot. 2016 was, far and away, unquestionably awful. (And, for the record, I'm not talking about celebrity deaths or anything on that level. While I'm certainly saddened by talented people passing on, it doesn't shake me up that much unless it seems significantly premature.)
Those three aggregates developed into a perfect storm of execrableness and writing hell. Each compounded the other until I was so depressed and discouraged that it was almost impossible for me to get any work done at all, some days.

To be clear, I'm not looking for sympathy. Things are actually exponentially better in my life right now, on all fronts--my life seems to have stabilized once more, I'm learning to either let go of or face and resolve the personal issues that came up last year, and, most visibly (and getting back to the subject of this post), Dark Immolation is FINISHED! The relief I felt at turning in that final draft was immeasurable. Ineffable. All of that means I'm feeling quite good right now, thank you very much.

To get back to the book, my relief (and sense of accomplishment, I might add) doesn't only come from the fact that DI is finished, but also from the fact that I think it's a pretty freaking awesome book. I'm very happy with the character work and events that occur in book two of the Chaos Queen Quintet, and I love some specific scenes in particular. (And I can't wait for you to find out what those things are!)

One more thing. As terrible a process as writing Dark Immolation was, there are some really great things that've come from it (in addition, of course, to a freaking awesome book). Namely, it's been a huge learning experience for me. I've approached the first draft of Blood Requiem much differently than I usually approach writing first drafts, and it's going quite well so far. I absolutely attribute that to everything I learned in writing book 2.

So, yeah. As a professional writer, the work isn't always cool fight scenes and character epiphanies. It's rarely that stuff, actually. But the cool thing? The end results are always worth the effort.

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