Of course I could. I buckled down and got to work.”
So first up, edits for CS&I. It was a hard task – beefing up the character of Christien de Lacey and cutting the scenes with Davis Savage. In a novel this big, EVERYTHING needs to serve the plot, and while Davis’ scenes were very entertaining, they did not do this effectively. I put them in a folder (read the next blog entitled “Little Folder of Love”), had to reimagine how the rest of the story would be impacted and moved on. I finished the first round in two months and sent it off to Jen for approval.
At this point, I had pretty much fleshed out how SONGS would go and had been writing that on and off since January but I put it on hold to attend the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. It was a great conference as it focused on being a hybrid author, (having works both traditionally- and self-published) and it was looking like I was falling into that category. I had the good fortune to attend a workshop with Donald Maass, the head of my literary agency, and the things he said turned my writing upside down. Immediately, I emailed Jen to tell he that, based on Donald’s input, I was revising CS&I a second time and I plowed through that like a surgeon, cutting and stitching and reimagining this Empire of Steam through Ivy’s eyes. Another two months and I sent it back to her, exhausted but pretty happy with how it was shaping up. Christien’s role was increased even more so that it was a trio of main characters now and their voices were equally strong and true.
Add into the mix, an offer for the Upper Kingdom series from PYR Publishing, a division of Prometheus Books. I had submitted them over a year ago, when I first began that new and sparkling submission process without an agent. Here, more than a year later, it was plucked out of the slush pile by a lovely young editor and she was excited to learn that I was now repped by an agent of Jen’s caliber. Less excited, however, to learn that in that year and a half of slush limbo, I had self-published the books on Amazon. Pyr had just instituted a new policy closing their doors on self-published works and that disqualified them from joining their stable. Anything else I would write, they would be delighted to look at, just not the Upper Kingdom. I was sad. Really sad. Really, really sad and second-guessed myself for weeks. Hind-sight is a killer.
But I’m not one to wallow and I needed to finish SONGS. The interesting thing about this process was the fact that I had given myself a deadline. I had never written under a deadline before. I had just started and worked on a project until it was finished and with me, that could easily have taken years. In fact, with JOURNEY it did, years and years and years. With WALK, it was quicker, only one year or so for the first draft. With CS&I, it was 7 months. It wasn’t that I was getting more efficient, it was rather the fact that I had ‘come out of the closet’ as an author and was setting aside dedicated time to write. My family was surprisingly okay with it and they knew they could always find me in the evening, sitting on the couch with a glass of wine, three happy sleepy dogs and my laptop. Every evening.
I gave myself to September. 3 months. I had already started. Surely I could write a novel of 125,000 words in 3 months. Deadlines were a reality in the publishing world. I needed to see if I could do this, if I had the chops and the discipline and the talent. And so, as August wore on, I knew SONGS would be a very different book than either of the three I had previously written. I could easily have written an entire book on Solomon, Kerris and Fallon’s journey to the New World and maybe someday I will. But pragmatically speaking, because of the differing timelines, their story was best served in flashbacks. Not generally my taste or style of writing but other than two gigantic tomes that I didn’t have time to write, SONGS needed to be lean and sharp and cinematic. Because I had a deadline. A line of dread. A Dreadline.
But finish it I did. Sent it off to beta readers, polished off that gorgeous cover and put it up on Amazon. And yes, it sold. The writing in that book (deadline constraints and all) is pure cinematic imagery and I am very proud of it, despite the fact that I would like to have had more time. Maybe, one day, I’ll rework it and publish it as a ‘Director’s Cut’, with a Book 1 and Book 2. Just a thought.
Jen had sent CS&I back for yet a 3rd round, this one requiring some serious word-count attention and some lagging middle bits. But I had just turned out a 125,000 word, 500 page novel in record time so I was hot. I was smoking. And I did it, tightening the middle (beginning of Part II) and changing the ‘quirk’ to ‘threat.’ Once again, it required some serious reconstruction and by the end of September I was completely lost inside my own head. I had read and reread, edited and re-edited to the point of confusion. It had become so blurred in my mind – what had I changed, what had I hadn’t. I had lost my handle on the story and just couldn’t keep it straight anymore. I was sure it was good, but I really couldn’t be 100% certain. Not anymore.
So I sent it off to Jen, still 144,000 words but 144,000 words of tight thrilling paranormal steampunk spookiness. The Upper Kingdom books were selling nicely and I was learning the world of marketing (something you must do if you make that decision to self-publish). I was taking webinars, writing blogs, working my FB page (which you should totally check out if you haven’t already) but still, even with all this writing work, it’s not the same as writing. It was cold, it was October with a new NaNoWriMo around the corner. COLD STONE & IVY 2 was calling…