Being as Good as My Word: On Getting Distance from Writing

image cc by sa 3.0 - Natania Barron
image cc by sa 3.0 – Natania Barron

Writers. We’re a funny bunch. I fully believe that in order to cope with the general stress and chaos of having many worlds and stories and people in our heads, we impose odd deadlines and limitations on ourselves. We don’t always share these with the masses, and some of them are downright personal. But it helps us make sense of all the fractal patterns spinning around us on a daily basis. Because otherwise I’m pretty sure we’d never get anything done.

I do this quite frequently. And after the nine months of writing drought that came during pregnancy, I wrote a little book called Rock Revival about a fictional rock band. I wrote it, edited it, sent it to beta readers, edited it some more, and then casually set it aside. I told myself that as soon as I finished Watcher of the Skies, I’d pick it back up and get a better look at it. Because at that point, I had zero ability to judge it.

I remember reading Stephen King’s On Writing about a decade ago, and how he talked about this practice. Letting a book go for a while, after it’s finished, and doing something else. I had no specific timeline on Watcher–it was a far slower book than anything I’ve written in a while. But as I finished it, the melodies of Rock Revival started thrumming in my head (not the least of which was because Karen and Michael think it’s the best thing I’ve written to date, and have poked and prodded a good amount on the subject).

So I took out the draft and started reading it. Oh, there were some edits to be made. But what I found as I went through was that I wasn’t editing, or re-plotting, or rearranging. Really, it was just some tidying up here and there. A scene here, a deleted sentence, the removal of a cuss word. And it hit me, in a strange way, that I may have leveled as a writer. It used to be that I was so frustrated with my old drafts that I’d rewrite everything. EVERYTHING. Instead of going through and picking out the bits and pieces, I ripped the entire foundation down and started anew.

Now, I have trunk novels. I think at this point I know them when I see them. And it’s a hard, sad process to realize that something you wrote is never going to be good enough. But it’s something else altogether to step back and take a deep breath and realize… you did a good thing. You wrote something moving. And… weirdly… it doesn’t feel like you wrote it at all. In the time that I let Rock Revival sit, I got a new job. My daughter learned to walk and run, and now she’s having little adorable conversations. The seasons went around once, and then some. I gained a sense of confidence I didn’t have before. And it’s not about sales or markets or any of that junk. It’s just about me. Hey, sometimes that’s what it’s gotta be.

Distance is hard to get. And while letting a book sit for a year seemed like some wild hallucination to me the first time I thought about it, now it does make sense.

I have promised to find Rock Revival a home. I began that process last night. Another promise. Another process. I’m not worried about where I’ll be standing in another year. Who knows, really? All I can think is that I hope I’ll feel as if I’ve grown as much as I have between the last two books. Because while that growth is painful, it’s also thrilling. Without that growth, it’s just stagnant. And if there’s anything that kills a writer fast, it’s stasis.

Watcher of the Skies: Drafted!

Poseidon upon the waves: Walter Crane (fun fact: this does actually happen at one point in the book)
Poseidon upon the waves: Walter Crane (fun fact: this does actually happen at one point in the book)

It’s been a while since I was able to make such an announcement–but lo! I have completed another novel. This time, it’s the follow-up (I won’t say sequel, because it’s part prequel/part standalone) to Pilgrim of the Sky. While it took much longer than anticipated, mostly due to the ungodly amount of research that was involved, I’m happy to report that I’m quite pleased with the product. It’s a more solid draft than I usually write (see: time to write) and plot-wise it’s a lot more dense. (Even Michael, who’s a surprisingly insightful and critical reader felt the same way.)

How am I going to pitch this to you? It’s sort of… Timelords meet Odysseus in an alternate history coming of age tale. There’s love. There’s magic. There’s Kraken(s). Our main godling players are Trita Oye (Athena), Verticordia (Aphrodite), La Roche (Apollo), and of course, our main character and narrator, Joss Raddick (Poseidon). Plus Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, John Keats, William Blake, Dorothy Wordsworth, William Wordsworth, Leigh Hunt, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Just to name a few.

The book starts in a lake and ends on the high seas, with travel in between from the Lake District to Rome and to the New World. It’s about war and good and evil, and the burden of living too long. And mostly its about the nature of love and madness and the fine line in between, and the responsibility given to those who possess power. If there is such a thing.

It’s also the longest thing I’ve written in a long time, surpassing my original goal of 100K. But, as you can see by that paragraph above, there’s a whole lot going on.

“There is no wrong, and there is no right, Calvin. It’s just a mess of mad monsters rutting in the dark.”

The Perils of Early Success: Or, Writing With the Pointy End

So I started blogging “as a real writer” at the very beginning of 2008 in order to share a draft of my novel, The Aldersgate, with the world at large. I had already written two drafts, and then decided to start again and record the new chapters and launch them out into the world for feedback. It’s a steampunk western sort of fantasy story, with low magic and high politics and many point of views. You know; as you will.

While I commenced blogging in that first year or so, I had pretty immediate success with my short story writing and network building, and I felt like I was on top of the world. I was writing very unfettered, gamboling around in precious little Snowflake land (though I’d never have admitted it).

I was simply sharing my story. And I honestly believed that everything would fall into place. Having listened to a bit of Cory Doctorow I felt that, as long as what I was putting out there was good (which I was convinced it was) someone would find it, and I’d ride that golden pegasus out into the sunset and become a True Published Author.

People did come, it turns out. Wonderful readers, writer friends. And wouldn’t you know, but a year and a half later after I’d just about finished the entire podcast of the novel (and attracted quite a few positive responses which made me feel Truly Awesome) I was approached by an editor at Ace/Roc who wanted to listen to my story and read the manuscript. At first, I was entirely sure that the whole thing was a hoax and that someone was trying to mess with me. But no, she was totally legit. So in a state of utter glee and terror, I sent the manuscript to her, expecting to hear back in a few months. I knew that publishing was slow, so I didn’t expect a fast turnaround from a very busy editor. I was willing to wait for glory… or rejection. Either way, I prepared to wait.

No, I didn’t commit the first sin of writing. I didn’t stop writing. In fact, I wrote a few more novels: Pilgrim of the Sky, Peter of Windbourne, Indigo & Ink, and Queen of None. But the entire time I waited, I froze as a writer in many ways. To be honest with you (and me!) I don’t think I thought I had much room for improvement. After all, my book was with a Big Publisher. While I was realistic with myself, even preparing for rejection, I got lazy. Everything seemed to live in the shadow of that hope.

It’s been two years, now. And since you haven’t heard me jumping up and down and shrieking about a contract with a big publisher, you can imagine the result. Actually, I never heard back at all. I pinged the editor a few times, but never heard so much as a peep. Just… silence.

It takes a long time for hope to die. I can still tell you that I sent that manuscript out on June 23, 2009. For the first year, every 23rd was like a new mile-marker bringing me ever closer to the possible answer: yes or no. But by the 18th month, I was starting to doubt that it was ever going to happen at all. (I don’t even think about the editor and that hope these days, albeit in a passing, wistful sort of way.)

The thing is, well, life went on. Life got hard. And as life got hard, writing got harder. And it got harder to look at my own writing and be absolutely honest with myself, even after I stopped believing in the muse!

It’s funny how much something like this can impact one’s entire writing approach. Writing The Aldersgate was a mighty powerful experience. I was smitten with words, high on storytelling. And I think that comes through in the draft that’s out there on the internets (I’m not ashamed; the story has a lot going for it). People seemed to love the characters*, but the nuts and bolts of the story really need work. Work that for the last two years I haven’t given it. (Even though, on occasion, I tried.)

But I’ve always been someone who worked best with tough love. I was smart, but lazy, during school. I never pushed myself until teachers pushed back. “Any other student would have gotten an A on this project, but this isn’t your best work.” Even a resounding rejection of the manuscript would have most likely lit a fire under me.

But nothing? NOTHING? Nothing left too much room for hope.

Hey, I have lots of excuses why things have not gone as well as they did in the magical year of 2008, writing-wise. I have enough excuses to fill a damned book. But the only real reason that I didn’t grow as a writer is because I wasn’t honest with myself. I let hope cloud my better judgement.

Sure, I spent a lot of time editing and rewriting. But rewriting isn’t editing. Rewriting isn’t taking a cold, hard look at the way you write, which is the only route toward improvement and, well, success by extention. (Thankfully I’ve had the pleasure of working with some fantastic editors in preparation for Pilgrim of the Sky’s publication that really wonderfully helped in that respect, as well as advice from a seasoned pro writer friend that helps toward this rather jarring realization on my part, but that’s another post…) Rewriting is simply making another draft. Granted, it’s practice, and practice is part of the improving part, but editing is essential. You know, those fancy book editors don’t rewrite your book. They tweak it.

And that’s not to say that being a taskmaster is the only way to go. It’s got to be a combination. The successful, holistic approach to writing, revising, and editing, is a balance of fact and fancy. The fancy drives it, but the fact improves it. To use a martial simile: Your arm is the fancy, the creative drive, the raw excitement and energy and thought–but fact is your sword, cutting and shaping and ultimately turning your strength into something more. They work together, y’see? (It takes practice, but soon you’re carving through like a Braavosi.)

There is no easy path, it turns out. Would I trade early success for early struggle? I don’t know. But the thing is that early success can be maddening and counter-productive in its own right. (I’m admittedly  still a baby about rejections, probably because I didn’t get enough early on!).

My only hope for myself is that I achieve balance, and, more than anything that I find fancy again. Since I started work in December, fancy has been hard to come by; the muscles have gone weak. Fancy has to come first, before fact, otherwise progress can never be made. But it doesn’t always linger in familiar places. Sometimes you have to summon it up.

We all know that writing books is hard. Finishing books is harder. But the hardest part of all comes after all that. It’s being honest about the draft. And that honesty will usher in growth. For without growth, in any career or creative endeavor, nothing magic can happen.

* Much of this post was inspired by finding a trove of “pending” comments in the Aldersgate blog. For all my lack of growth, the experience of reaching readers who really felt a connection my story is not something I take lightly. I will finish the story.

July July July

Edith Wharton

Life has been spinning by at a trajectory altogether too fast for me these days, but that’s what happens when you smoosh an actual career in between being an author, a blogger, a mom, a sister, a wife, and an editor. It’s really unfair of me to complain, since it’s the bed I’ve made, but thankfully our summer beach vacation is looming just around the corner and I am looking forward to a week with as little technology as possible, and basking in the sun reading books and maybe (just maybe) doing some writing.

Which is not to say I haven’t been writing, only that the writing is slow. Instead of writing at usual breakneck pace, I’ve been reading quite a bit in preparation for writing Glassmere, and am currently about three quarters of the way through Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (which won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 — the first time it was awarded to a woman). I’d read Wharton before, in college, during a modern novel class. We read The House of Mirth and I was rather depressed after reading it. And at the time I was pretty much opposed to anything American and modern, so I really didn’t read her as I ought to have.

But that’s the joy of growing up and continuing to read. I am absolutely besotted with Wharton at the moment, and in love with her ability to turn a phrase and move me with words. I often speak of Keats as being delicious to read — that is, his words seem to taste good when you read them. There’s a musicality to Keats, to his careful words selection, that just makes my brain vibrate. Wharton is very similar, though obviously through prose. Take this bit, for example:

“It would presently be his task to take the bandage from this young woman’s eyes, and bid her look forth on the world. But how many generations of the women who had gone to her making had descended bandaged to the family vault? He shivered a little, remembering some of the new ideas in his scientific books, and the much-cited instance of the Kentucky cave-fish, which had ceased to develop eyes because they had no use for them. What if, when he had bidden May Welland to open hers, they could only look out blankly at blankness?” — Book One, Chapter 10

The book deals with many of the same issues I’m working through on Glassmere (though it’s set in the 1870s, much still holds true). And the tone is just… well, it’s very similar to the tone I want to achieve with Glassmere. Initially I attempted a more complicated tone, hopping from character to character in that English style, but I find it doesn’t achieve what I want it to. Part of it has to do with the fact that it’s a historical book, and the readership now isn’t familiar with the setting–adding even more complication with multiple points of view just muddles it up. So, even though the book has made a decent start, I’m going to rewrite it all again strictly from Evelyn’s point of view. Wharton does this with Newland in The Age of Innocence to great success, with a narrator following him closely and revealing his innermost thoughts. However, the narrator’s voice is distant enough and strong enough to be able to zoom out on occasion to comment on the society at large, which would work far better in the context of Glassmere as well.

Glassmere needs to be smooth, especially considering where the story ends up (low, low magic, but it’s there). And Evelyn is the heroine of the story, even if entirely unconventional.

Still, what strikes me the most about writing this book is how much reading I’ve done just to make the first 10K. Between the diaries of women written at the turn of the century to the countless historical articles to the novels of the period (most notably lately The Edwardians and Howards End — two very different but marvelous books) I’ve spent the majority of my spare time these last few months ensconced with books. It even inspired me to buy a Kindle for my birthday, which has proven wonderful for reading all these public domain books (and it doesn’t cost me a penny past the purchase of the device!).

But enough about that. Additionally I have been following the creation of the book cover of Pilgrim of the Sky by my friend and astonishingly talented artist Brigid Ashwood. Her ability astounds me, and to see Maddie come to life in vivid color (down to the mille-fleur jacket!) has got to be one of the most exciting moments of my writing career to date.

The book is slated for December, but in the mean time I am also working on a bit of a novelette that will accompany pre-orders for the book, which is an epistolary addendum to the book. It’s written between two of the main characters and serves as a sort of appendix to the book, by explaining some of the more complicated magical workings of the twains, while revealing some back story. For the first time I’ve been able to slip into first person with Randall, who serves as Maddie’s love interest in the book, and I’ve got to say it’s immensely enjoyable. And easy. Some characters have such loud voices that writing them seems to take no effort at all.

And there, a post. There are many other things going on in the realm of the real, where my father is preparing for a second heart surgery (very risky) and work is eating me whole. But the written word is a solace in the storm, and even if I don’t have time to write it I’m doing as I’ve always done: reading. Just as when I was little, curled up with C.S. Lewis for the umpteenth time, so too will I weather this… clutching my Kindle.

Adventures in Editing

Last night I turned in my book to my editor, Kate, over at Candlemark & Gleam. This is a first for me. You know, editing a novel that will actually get into the hands of readers. I’ve spent lots of time editing my own books, and I generally enjoy the process quite a lot. I know many writers find it tedious and awful. And it can be, absolutely. But I have a good feeling about this draft; the second I sent it off to Kate, I missed it.

As I saved the file, I thought of the last two years. In late 2008, I completed the first draft of Pilgrim of the Sky; it was somewhere around 65,000 words. It grew from a flash of an idea: a female protagonist getting sucked into a Neo-Victorian/steampunk world that’s a near mirror to her own. Now, in 2011, that one idea is a 93,000 novel.  A real novel. And it encompasses so much more than steampunk now; it really doesn’t even fit into a genre. Speculative, sure. But it’s got elements of fantasy, the Gothic, romance, and some heavy mythology and philosophy. It’s layered, like a painting, which makes sense since Maddie, the main character, is an art historian. Her eye is tuned to read into things, and so the book–told in a very close third person–reflects that.

But the book itself has undergone a journey, and most of it has been through editing. I submitted the novel in 2009 to another small press, and it was rejected on some rather curious reasoning. You can read the post I wrote, “Novelfail: Facing rejection with grace, or learning to” if you want more of the story. At the time it really did feel like the end of the world. I was furious at being rejected for such a stupid reason. Yet now, thinking on it, I am so glad the book was rejected. Sure, at the time it was a good 80K of a book. I’d beefed it up since its first draft, and done a significant amount of editing. But it wasn’t there yet. And thankfully I’ve had a brilliant editor help me get it to where it needs to be.

And that’s the thing. Editing isn’t just about dialogue and grammar and pacing. Yes, those are all important things. But editing gives you a chance to dig deeper, to find the themes that you might have missed the first time, that bring the book from good to truly complete.

The editing process didn’t just help me fix dialogue and tighten up the plot. It revealed a better story. This last edit was no simple run-through. It took a ton more research, and an editor who had the ability to, on one hand understand the book, and on the other challenge me to make it better. There are elements in the current draft now that would never have been there if Kate hadn’t made me sit back down with the draft and consider a few things. Of course I went a little deeper than she probably expected, but it’s only because I found so much room for improvement, so many places to make broader or more delicate strokes.

And most importantly, in this almost final iteration, my main character is someone I’d actually like to take out to coffee. The first draft, Maddie was so acerbic. She was crass and had a foul mouth, and as a result wasn’t a terribly compelling heroine. But that changed in the course of edits. She became softer in some instances and stronger in others. And most importantly, I dedicated a whole new section of the book to her truly discovering her own power. Before, she was passive; now she’s active.

Anyway, that’s a long rambly way to say: pay attention to edits. Take the time. Work at it. Use your editing time to push your novel to its limits, to stretch it far beyond your initial imagination. There are bits of magic hidden that will only out with work. The book will reward you in the end, I promise. It will make you a better writer, and it will surprise you at every turn.

That’s the magic of creation. People so often bemoan the difficulty of it all. And yes, it’s a tough world out there. Publishing is rarely rewarding, and the book industry is turning on its head right now. But you have the power to do remarkable things, to be better at every turn, regardless of the details out there. Writing and editing are in your control, completely. And that is power. You can always get better.

Updates in Nutshell. Or a Clam Shell.

I’ve been inexcusably quiet here the last few weeks, and no, it’s not because of NaNoWriMo. Again, real life and things got in the way of that. Let me tell you, there’s nothing I would have rather done than write a novel from scratch, revel in the joy of creation, and bask in the awesome of writing for the month of November. But life has a way of being a stinkypants sometimes, and that’s totally what happened. I won’t get into the details of the personal life stuff, but it comes down to the fact that I’ve been job hunting, working on GeekMom, doing the holiday thing, working on Crossed Genres, and using my extra time to catch up on some anthology submissions (and a sale) as well as edits for Pilgrim of the Sky. When I had less work to do, NaNo was far easier.

In addition, we just released the first issue of Crossed Genres edited by Jaym Gates and myself. A momentous occasion, to be sure, as I’ve never been an editor of such proportions before. I really enjoy the process of finding those stories that shine. I’m particularly fond of the steampunk/Chinese influenced world of Jaymee Goh’s story “Lunar Year’s End“, but the TOC is really strong all throughout. What other magazine brings you such a width and breadth of genres? It’s truly fun to be part of the Crossed Genres team, and we have lots in store for the months to come.

Also important to note, I decided to axe the original ending of the Pilgrim of the Sky in favor of something more… transcendental. The book now contains 100% more quahog and 100% sphinx. I will rework some of the 10K I chopped, including the climax scene, but my heroine needed more punch. And now she’s got it.

Meanwhile, I am doing my darndest to focus on Pilgrim and edits and publication and try not to let other issues in the publishing industry get to me. But it’s hard. My husband is always the first to remind me that I’ve made a huge amount of progress in the last few years, but I can’t let go of that annoying voice in the back of my head. The one that doubts. That tells me I’m really not terribly marketable (squids and exploding eyeballs and whatnot).

Then I tell myself to shut up. Because, in the end it doesn’t really matter, does it? It comes down to the fact that, hell or high water, I write. And writing will happen whether or not I’m marketable. Maybe one of the weird ass books I write will start a trend. Or maybe it won’t. It makes me happy. And that’s the most important part. *cue the strings*

Anyrot! The gears do keep on moving, and I am the machine. So tally-ho!

The Gnome and the Necromancer

With the month of November looming, it’s time to consider NaNoWriMo. Last year it was NaNoEdMo for me, as I was busy doing edits on Queen of None.  But this year,  I haven’t been writing much at all since I finished Indigo & Ink, and figured I could use November to focus. Edits on Pilgrim of the Sky aren’t due until early 2011, after all. Things have been… well, meh in a lot of ways, and I’m seriously in need of some writing therapy. Not to mention, it’s really fun being involved in something creative with a group of awesome friends.

So: enter The Gnome and the Necromancer. This is a departure for me. For one, it’s Urban Fantasy, and takes place in the modern day, here in our world, and not in a secondary world where the rules don’t apply. It’s also YA, the main character, Ruby, being all of fourteen. The other MC is a gnome, for lack of a better term, who is a professional kidnapper. He’s supposed to steal magical children and bring them to his side of the world, but he sort of slips up in Ruby’s case, and she ends up unleashing her powers inadvertently on our world.

Anyway, here’s the synopsis:

Ruby Benson is fourteen, and her life couldn’t be worse. Or so she thinks. When her cousin Calvin passes away in a tragic car accident at the age of sixteen, she accidentally brings back his soul from the Underworld: into her corgi. Her inadvertent magic spell triggers the Changeling Court, who realize–for the first time since her birth–that she was not taken as a baby, as she should have been.

Talfryn Windwake, the changeling gnome in charge of her case, gets sent back to Ruby’s side of the world to retrieve her. He expects the transition to go smoothly: after all, aside from not taking her when he should have fourteen years ago, he’s got a perfect record. But Ruby isn’t going down without a fight. As Talfryn struggles to redeem himself after his unforgivable error, Ruby must come to grips with her new abilities, and decide whether or not she wants to trade her old life for a new one… the life she should have had in the first place.

A bit more marketable? Perhaps. Nothing wrong with that, I don’t think. But it’s going to be both lighthearted and sad at times. Themes of death, loss, love, duty… you know, those sorts of things. And shorter. Hopefully no more than 65-70K, which should work well for the genre and the time!

Anyway: if you’re doing NaNoWiMo this year, feel free to friend me! You can find my page here!

My October Projects*

Novel editing has taken a pause in order to attend to two anthology submissions I want to finish. The good news: finished one last night, edited it tonight, will submit in just a bit. It takes place in the world of The Aldersgate, featuring three familiar faces to those who follow such things: Sir Gawen, Sir Renmen, and Sir Din. It takes place ten years before the events in the book, and tells the story of how Sir Gawen–once known around the Continent for his prowess and crazy mad skull-crushing skills–gave up his cushy captainship and joined the Order of the Asp.

The second story is posing more of a challenge. I am setting it in 1920s, post-Revolution Mexico City. And it has a jazz singer in it, as well as a Zapatista woman. Details are a little murky. Hoping to tease that one out in the next few days. (Now that I’ve written this down, chances are when I start to write I’m going to end up in Zimbabwe or something entirely different than I planned.)

Additionally: it’s almost Halloween! And it’s my husband’s birthday this weekend. So, I’m in Betty Crocker mode. Tomorrow is going to be dedicated to the making of sugary things, the sewing of creepy and cool things, and the entertaining of the child whilst attempting order. I have some truly intriguing stuff planned, including a host of squid-themed cocktails (a Squid Blood Martini, anyone?), spider chocolate eggs, and oh yeah, a birthday cake for my husband. I’m debating whether or not I should go for geeky or sappy. I have one idea that would likely make him cry in front of his friends.

At any rate, writing will stall out this weekend most likely. But once this second story is done, I’ll be able to resume edits on Pilgrim of the Sky (at the moment, it’s entirely a re-write; I’ve decided that the end needs to be redone. For the better. Really, truly, it’s a good idea… and only about 50 pages or so… parts of it I’m keeping, but the… well, clearly this requires a post in and of itself, but that will have to wait!).

I should totally be in bed.

*October Project was also a delightful musical group. I have them to thank–and my friend Elijah who introduced me to their album–for finishing my first novel, Peter of Windbourne, the first time. I finished it two other times since then, but y’know… The characters in the book are inextricably related to their self-titled album; I can’t even listen to it without thinking of scenes from the book.

The Pits of Research

Technically it's a chasm.

I did it. I fell into the Pits of Research.

Don’t get me wrong. I love research. At a point in my life I wanted to be a professional researcher, i.e. a professor, so the hankering to discover new information is definitely strong with me.

However. There are good and bad ways to go about these things. I’ve been adding to and editing Pilgrim of the Sky, which, as I mentioned, has a lot to do with religion. Sort of. In the book, the premise revolves (haha, revolves…) around eight worlds. These worlds are all connected, are part of infinite worlds, yet still have similarities between them. The main character’s world is mostly ours. Now, on top of that, the book relies heavily on concepts of the reincarnation of divine beings and, well, divine beings in general. I won’t say too much because it would ruin some of the story, but our heroine gets involved with these quasi-divine, reincarnated people.

One of my goals in this edit was to branch out the various pantheons I include, away from Celtic and Norse to something more interesting. Now, I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last week sifting through research on every pantheon I can find. And it’s helpful.

But I was totally misguided.

The thing about having these eight worlds is a connection to but not a dependence upon each other. My mistake was leaning too heavily on research and not heavily enough on my own imagination, on the fantasy freedom I meant to explore in the first place.

Rule #1 for fantasy writers: research from the real world is great, and knowledge is power and all that jazz — however, relying too heavily on it can cloud your mind and slow you down. The most important thing for me, at this moment, was not mapping god to god across every known pantheon, but rather, just telling a good story and having some cool things happen. Which is what I’m doing at this juncture with my main character. I decided she needed some real testing. A gods’ gauntlet. But the thing is, the gauntlet isn’t in her world. Yet for some reason I spent hours this week reading up about the Mesopotamian and various Asian pantheons. Not that it won’t ever help me, or help me in another section of the book… I was just doing it all wrong. This is not the research you’re looking for, in other words.

Okay, so I lost a few days. It’s not the end of the world. Just be wary of research. As fun as it is, as thrilling as it can be, it can also blind you from your task at hand.

Anyway. Back to that gauntlet. Time to roll for initiative.


Wait. Are you telling me Jesus was a dragon?

So. I’m editing. After talking with Kate at Candlemark & Gleam on a few plot issues, we agreed that expanding Pilgrim of the Sky in a few places is definitely the way to go. Initially my goal was to write an 80,000 word novel. For some weird reason in 2008, when the book was written, I was under the opinion that this was What I Needed to Do. Keep in mind that the second draft of The Aldersgate was a whopping 160,000, and you can probably see that my intentions were well-founded.

However. To get the book to where I want it to be for publication I need to add some stuff. I need to fluff out the world a bit, bring out a few of the characters who fell by the wayside (Joss Raddick and John Iosheka in particular) and just generally go in with a finer brush.

At this point I’m about 1/3 through on the first pass edits, and just finished my first bonus scene in which there is a magic compact and frequent use of the word transcorporeal. Also, some debate as to whether or not Jesus was a dragon. (He wasn’t.)

But anyway. I’ve got a net gain of about 1K at this point, but I anticipate much more heading into the meat and potatoes of the book. Oddly I also cut down on cursing. Much of the dialogue was written ages ago (what feels like) and I’m spending a lot of time making it flow better. It’s not so hard with Randall, who speaks more or less like most of the characters I write (i.e. a sort of casual Victorian thing)–but my main character is from the present. And this whole talking like a normal person thing is just harder for me.

Yes, I like editing and I have a hard time writing modern dialogue. I’m weird. (My husband Michael thinks that the difficulty stems from years of MUSHing; I think it’s just from years of reading very little that takes place any time after 1900).

So, considering I’m back in the swing of things I thought I’d present a shorter update/status/metrics thing. Behold!

One thing I loved: The elevator. There’s an elevator in the Roths’ house and I absolutely adore it. It’s all shiny and weird and steampunk and uber-Victorian. It’s really dorky to love an elevator, but there you go.

One thing I loathed: Well, there are quite a few things I loathed, but I got rid of them. This is why editing is fun. Mostly they were large chunks of exposition that said something to the effect of “Maddie felt frightened and/or on the verge of panic and didn’t know if she should trust Matilda/Randall.” The delete key, it is my friend.

Best quote: Randall has just taken Maddie to his office, which he shares with one J. G. Iosheka, who is apparently not in attendance.

“Who’s J. G. Iosheka?” asked Maddie, shivering into her stole. It was alarmingly cold in the office. There was a fireplace, buried behind a chest of drawers, but likely not much of a chance that it was in working condition.

“That’s who I’ve brought you here to talk to,” Randall said, going over to the cluttered desk. He removed a ring of keys from his pocket, and after a few tries—no doubt due to the decidedly dim light—he got the drawer open.

“He’s not in your desk, I hope,” Maddie said. She noticed a row of pickled specimens on the other side of the room and pointed. “Or over there.”

Randall laughed. “Dear me, no. But those are his. He’s a bit of a biologist. But it’s been some time since we shared the office, though I keep his things here as a matter of sentiment, I suppose.”

“He’s not here and you want me to talk to him?” Maddie asked. Perhaps Randall was more addled than she had been led to believe.

Worst quote: (Not a quote, but some juicy pre-dialogue mess) Randall shook his head, shaking his hand. (He’s all shook up, see?)

Thoughts: I really like Maddie’s sense of humor, her dry sarcasm and occasional wise-cracks. I’m trying to make that a little more apparent in this draft. But she’s one of the most humorous main characters I’ve written (at least intentionally so; I’ve got plenty of MCs who have no idea how hilarious they are at all). Her situation–being sucked into a weird, Victorianized version of her own world–makes for plenty of absurd moments.

Around the Bend: More John Iosheka, the Wilds, and Mother Mary. Yes, this all makes perfect sense to me. Also, going to have to tidy up those more intimate scenes… wait, that just sounds wrong.

Anyway. Onward!