In my 2013 Reflection post, I talked a little bit about what I was writing in 2013 and my vague plans for 2014. I want to talk more in detail here, and give a kind of outline for 2014 and what I want to accomplish.
2013 marks the second year in a row where I sat down and completed a novel from start to finish. Not a rewrite, not a revision. A zero-draft. A make-it-up-as-you-go-along draft. A crap draft. A dogfood draft. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the draft where you have an idea and want to explore it and see where it takes you. No pressure, no outlines, no real deadlines, just the need to sit down and prove it can be written. In 2012 that zero-draft was Magic Elves (codename). 2013 was the LB Prequel (I don’t even have a real title for this project, but it’s a prequel to Telepathic Soulmates). I didn’t QUITE finish LB Prequel in 2013. I did spend a good chunk of New Year’s Eve pounding out 33 pages, getting me through the major climax and turning points of the novel. I thought, afterwards, I’d only have two scenes left to wrap up the book, but when I sat down on New Year’s Day, I realized I was very much mistaken, and it took me all afternoon/evening to write 21 pages. A lot of that time was spent staring at the screen, trying to figure out just what the right note was to end the book on. It’s a different sort of ending for me. All of my novels (three to date) have bittersweet endings of sorts, but this one is happier than the other two (though my daily readers might disagree with that once they see what I did in the climax), which is a nice difference. I made a conscious effort not to do certain things in this particular ending, and I think I’m growing a bit, even if the bare bones of the zero-drafts still need a lot of work.
That being said, considering I started the LB Prequel thinking it’d be a novella and a straight up romance at that (SF romance, mind you, but primarily romance), this project turned into something quite different, something much bigger. It’s still a romance, and it’s still set in the SF world established in Telepathic Soulmates, but calling the story SF might be charitable. Let’s go with soft/social SFR, how’s that?
Yet I have to give myself some props: for Magic Elves, I basically wrote for 309 days to complete the zero-draft. I can’t tell you how many pages it is or how many words it is as I’m still compiling a full manuscript from my daily pages (stupid me not doing that as I went along; consider that lesson learned), but the goal was a page a day for a full year.
With the LB Prequel, it took me 117 days to write 107,262 words, which averages 916.77 words per day (and by per day, I mean per writing day). That is the fastest I’ve ever written a zero-draft, I’m pretty sure. I’d have to go look at the zero-draft of Telepathic Soulmates to be certain, but considering how long it took me to get to the point where I could even churn out a zero-draft without starting over? I’ve come a LONG way, baby, and I think this paragraph alone is a testament of why it’s important to have projects, to have some kind of daily goal, to have some kind of structure. Because even if you tell yourself you’re writing crappy, zero-drafts that will need a shit-ton of work and should never see the light of day until said shit-ton of work is finished, you’re still teaching yourself how to be a writer.
For me, it’s learning that unless I’m taking a vacation/sick/mental-health/drinking-too-much day (aka, take the night off), I need to head to my office around 9:00-9:30 pm, sit down, and start writing until it’s bedtime (and since I work a full 40 hours a week, that means going to bed before midnight on most days). In 2012, it was a page-a-day of Magic Elves. In 2013, it was progress in LB Prequel. My unconscious minimum was always at least a single, double-spaced page, but for the LB Prequel, I often wrote far more than that. Maybe I shouldn’t be so proud that it took me less than half a year to write it, because I was familiar with the world and the characters, and so what I was discovering wasn’t coming from the ground up. But whatever: the LB Prequel had a lot of surprises for me, some outright delightful ones in terms of plotting and character and motivation, so even though it needs a lot of work before I’d ever consider submitting it, I’m pretty happy with what I was able to do. I’m pretty happy with the habits that I’m instilling in myself as a writer.
What have I learned? That I’m happiest when I dedicate myself to a specific project for a set amount of time (beyond REASONABLE set amount of time, mind you). That I’m pretty much a night-writer, with exception of coming right up on my self-imposed deadlines, in which case I can plunk myself in front of a computer and write my ass off. You’d think these lessons would’ve been learned and instilled in my during my 2.5 years at my Master’s program, but there were other factors demanding my attention there, so I’m not surprised it’s taken me doing this on my own (with the help and encouragement of my daily readers, as I would literally be wallowing in self-hatred without them) to learn these lessons.
So with that in mind, what’s in store of 2014?
Yesterday, I sent a survey to my daily readers to fill out once they finish reading LB Prequel. Because while I have no intention on revising this beast this year, I do want those comments handy for the day when I do sit down and whip the sucker into shape. I wish I’d done it with Magic Elves, because 2014 is the year I plan on whipping Magic Elves into shape. The plan is to compile all those daily pages into a single, full manuscript, read the sucker and take notes (and hate myself and how bad and awful it is), and then write a synopsis as it stands. A long, detailed synopsis. Which will be critiqued by a highly intelligent and awesome group of writer friends and colleagues, and then using that feedback, and all of my notes, I’ll brainstorm the bastard with one of my daily readers and come up with an official outline for revision. It’s a funny thing, outlines: I’ve learned I can’t use them for zero-drafts. If I do, I drive myself crazy and fall out of love with the story. So essentially, the zero-draft is my discovery draft. But once that’s done and I can see the shape and potential of it? Outline all the way, baby.
The brainstorming session will happen end of March, early April. Which means from early April on, I’ll be rewriting Magic Elves (unless something new and shiny distracts me. I should always allow for the possibility of distraction when it comes to cool new ideas). I suppose the deadline to finish that rewrite will be the end of 2014, but I think I’ll wait to make any promises until I see what the rewrite will entail. I may need a shorter period. I may need a longer one.
Until then, I plan on using my evening writing time to focus on submitting short fiction for both the Charles Coleman Finlay guest-edited issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (deadline for submissions January 14), and the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue of Lightspeed Magazine (deadline February 14th). Once those deadlines are passed, I should be working hard on that synopsis, the crafting of which will take me to my March/April brainstorming session.
So that’s that. Plans are subject to change, of course, and while I’m not currently working on a new novel, I may designate some of these night-writing times for blogging, because I’d like to do more of it this calendar year, but I’m not going to make any goals or resolutions for that. Writing fiction is the priority. Everything else is just icing on the cake.