I spent the last five days at a writer’s retreat, deep in Olympic National Park in Washington, overlooking Lake Quinault. I have many thoughts on the amazing folks I met, and the feeling of camaraderie and joy is worth its own long post.
But I wanted to take a moment to talk about my own work, because this retreat was a rather remarkable milestone. You see, I’ve had never had the opportunity to write without interruption; in fact, I wasn’t published until after my son was born. I did not know what to expect, honestly.
When it comes to works in progress, my initial thought was to work on Cinderglow (my secondary world frontier fantasy). But then, being A Grownup, I thought about it in terms of Best Usage of My Very Grownup Time. And that would be tackling my revision on Watcher of the Skies.
For those who don’t read every book I write (also, it’s been a while) this book is the follow up to my debut (well, not a sequel, but really a prequel of sorts) — the story of Joss Raddick, the godling of the sea. But Natania, wasn’t your debut in 2011? And haven’t you published other stuff? Yes, but the fact is, I had a pretty severe writing drought for about five years. I wrote things, yeah. Between Watcher and early drafts of Glassmere, it wasn’t that I wasn’t producing anything. But the spirit of the writing was a dark one; which explains why those books have darker themes.
Yes, this book has been in progress for six year. While I was writing it, I experienced two devastating deaths in my family, learned my child was special needs, and was the primary breadwinner in my family for most of the duration. Joss’s story has always meant a great deal to me, but I couldn’t have made it easy on myself: Second World (where the story takes place) is a world where Rome never left Britain. It’s Regency in all but name, and features cameos by my favorite Romantic poets. I’ve described it as The Stress of Her Regard meets American Gods… with Aquaman.
I knew I needed to fix the book. It was too long, too doleful. Joss is a funny guy; self-effacing, roguish, passionate… but he was very caught up in the sadness of the book. Makes sense; I was sad, too. It was hard to see the humor of the story when my world felt so desperate.
But, I did it. I ended up with a negative word count (I wrote 15K, but I cut 30K off the final MSS). It was a “pull it up by the roots” revision, with great feedback from my editor, and a focus on the heart of the story. I can’t give away that detail, because it’s a romance and I love it and it’s part of the surprise of the plot!
Now, as I re-enter the world of the internet, I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. I emailed my editor last night to let her know it’s finally on its way. But the book is no longer that initial book. It needed a change. So it’s no longer Watcher of the Skies. It’s Gods of Londinium. And they are all coming — Joss, Trita, La Roche, Verta, and Miriam — with mischief, magic, romance, and revenge, soon.
If you’re writing, and it’s hard, and life is hard, and everything sucks, I just want to say: keep going. Keep focused. But be forgiving of yourself. Know that things will change, life will change, and your writing process will change. That’s okay. That means you’re growing. When our lives become a miasma, it only contributes to our struggles if we try and bang our heads on the wall because things don’t feel right. Rest if you need. Take a break. Writing is about emotion, about feeling, and about experience, after all. You will be many different writers on your writer journey, and you must learn to love, respect, forgive, and embrace, each and every one.
“We come into this world wild, Joss,” La Roche said, at last. “And we are monsters. We have to work backwards to find our humanity. It is the best part of us. But it’s the monstrous bits that hold us, we godlings — we human-shaped beasts — together. In the end, our long lives make it impossible to avoid the creatures we become, but if we have each other, if we share a common story, it stings a little less. We all let go, we all eventually fade. But it’s connection, between us, that makes the long years worth while.”From Gods of Londinium