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Category Archives: work in progress

Shifting gears

My inner critic is confused.

For the nearly six months I was working on the first draft of The Polaris Uprising, I kept her locked in a room, with nothing but jigsaw puzzles and Angry Birds to keep her entertained. Occasionally, I’d let her out to take a whack at a particularly egregious typo (I couldn’t let her muscles atrophy, after all–I needed her in tip-top shape when I unleashed her for the editing process), but for the most part, I was pretty disciplined about keeping her in that room, no matter how many times she’d bang on the door and beg me to unlock it.

But then the editing process came, and I set her free, and boy did she have a field day. How she mocked me with her cruelty and hinted I was a hack writer with flat dialogue and repetitive phrasing and plot holes the size of Rhode Island. I bowed to her whim, fixing everything I could, pouring out blood, sweat, tears to get to a draft that was a far cry from what it was when I first typed “The End” (ok, I never actually used those words, but you get my meaning). It was a grueling process, but one that brought me results I was proud of, and when it was all over, I thanked my inner critic for all her hard work, and then…

… forced her back into the room and locked it up again, because I had a new first draft to write as I begin book 2.

She’s in there now, whining and pouting, calling me all sorts of nasty names. I can hear her still. The thing is, she had a taste of freedom, and she was enjoying it a little too much. Now she’s back in her room and the jigsaw puzzles ain’t cutting it, and she wants out again.

See? Confused.

That’s the thing about switching gears. You get used to one thing, and you start to get proficient at it, and then you change things up again, and it’s like starting at the beginning. In theory, I know it’s not the absolute beginning; I know I’m starting from a far stronger foundation than I did before. I know this world. I know its people. I know the story inside and out, backwards and forwards. I’ve constructed a story structure that’s very sound, mapped out a character journey that’s compelling and (hopefully) moving. And yet, all my inner critic can focus on is the crappy words I’m producing right now, and she’s sure letting me know it (even from way inside her locked room).

It took me a while to get good at learning to ignore her. I suspect it’ll take me just as long this time, too. Beginnings are especially hard; it’s where I struggle most in a story (once I get in my groove though, man, there is no stopping me!). But the only way to get through it is… to get through it. Just keep hacking away at it. Eventually, she’ll get bored and go back to putting together those puzzles. She’ll leave me in peace to just get this draft down, knowing I’ll let her out eventually so she can have a field day with it. I’m in those negotiations with her right now.

Until then, it’ll be painful for both of us.

At least until I let her out again temporarily after I get my editor’s feedback on book 1 and need to shift gears again back to editing mode–boy that’s going to be fun. But then, back in she’ll go, and hopefully she’ll give me a good 5, 6 months of harassment-free writing.

Pardon me if I stall out a few times as I get back in the first draft mode...

Pardon me if I stall out a few times as I get back in the first draft mode…

It has begun…

Revision has officially begun! I’m in day 4 of working on the second draft and in the process of writing new material for a chapter I need to put in place of one that had to be scrapped. How good it feels to write new material for this world again :).

And because I’m so excited to be back at it, I’m sharing a new little tidbit from this new draft:

“Is that what you were hoping for, then?” he said. “That this time would be different? That maybe if you went to university with everyone else, you might get to make some real friends?”

She pushed herself off the desk. This wasn’t something she’d ever given serious thought, but his words had hit a nerve she wasn’t even aware was exposed to begin with.

“I’m not so sure that’s possible anyway,” she said. “From what I’ve seen… presidents don’t really have friends. Allies, maybe. Supporters. But… I don’t know about friends.”

His mouth curved in a smile. “Well then,” he said, “let’s prove that thought wrong.”

Like it so far? Stay tuned for more tidbits… 🙂

tp3

Here goes nothing…

I survived my taper.

Ok, so I shortened my planned taper to 2 weeks instead of 5, and… ok, I may have written an outtake during that time (if my defense, I’m not planning on including it in the book; it was just my way of keeping connected to the world). And fine, I did some prep work these last few days.

That’s allowed, right?

I don’t do cold turkey well, guys. But I did stick to my plan of not reading the first draft during this cooling off period, and as I put together my beat sheet to plan the second draft, I did stick to the very high level look at the overall structure, pacing, and tone. I also took a hard look at how things progressed and saw that there were definitely changes that needed to be made in terms of rearranging some scenes, adding new ones, removing others.

There were some pretty major changes I identified, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little terrified. Making these changes will no doubt impact everything that comes after them (and probably what comes before them, too), so I know I’m looking at a ton of work ahead.

I’m eager to jump in, since I’ve missed this world and its people so much, but I’m also really anxious. I didn’t do a thorough revision of my first novel, so this will be an entirely new experience for me. And while I know the work involved will be worth it, there’s that tiny voice inside me that keeps whispering, “What if you don’t have what it takes to transform this first draft from a rough, raw pile of words to a focused, gripping story?”

I can’t afford to indulge that thought, though. I’ve worked too hard and believe in this story too much to let the intimidation factor get the best of me.

So here I go, about to step into uncharted territory, and I hope to emerge from it not only unscathed, but triumphant.

This beat sheet will act as my blueprint for the second draft. Don't fail me, brain!

This beat sheet will act as my blueprint for the second draft. Don’t fail me, brain!