Raindrops on a spider web, and an I-don’t-know-what monster bloom, both in my garden.
Nature is still my most patient photography subject.
After my last post where I waxed poetic about some of the things I’d learned about writing, I went ahead and finished the novel I’ve been working on.
If you’re into stats…
– Started on February 13, 2017
– Daily word count goal was officially 2000 (but I like to push that)
– Finished the last scene on April 8, 2017
– I wrote measurable words 32 out of those 54 days (you can check my math, I think that’s 54 days)
– Ended up with my goal of 85,000 words, give or take a few depending on what tool I used to count them
– That makes an average of 2,656 words per day
– Highest one-day word count was 4,550
– Lowest one-day word count was 920
This is what it looks like for those like me who think graphs are awesome (not including the days I didn’t write):
I read the book all the way through on my tablet, made my notes, and now my favorite part: turning into something smooth, seductive, sweet, sexy, and satisfying. I already know what I need to do to turn this thing into the book I envisioned (although the characters always surprise me along the way).
And I ask myself: is this the sequel, or is my Pitch Wars book the prequel? I think this one’s even better, because I had all that experience during Pitch Wars and am now aware of some of my crutches and tendencies. That makes for a cleaner first draft, although it’s nowhere near ready to be shared.
But I know what I need to do, and I can’t wait to get started. A lot of people dread revision, but I love it to pieces. It’s where I can take the words and make them shine. And flow. And sing.
A year ago, I was about a month away from tackling yet another rewrite on my little rock & roll romance/women’s fic novel. I knew I needed to revise it heavily, but shit, I’d already rewritten it a bunch of times over the course of a year and a half. I knew I wanted to change it up one more time (hey, four is a good number), strip out all but one POV, and punch it up a bit romantically.
Then something happened that changed my writing life: I opened up a copy of Romance Writer’s Report and found an article by a category romance writer. She outlined a basic 55,000-word romance novel beat sheet. I read it, told myself “hey, I can do that with this book!” and got to work. I overshot the 55k by about 10,000 words but when I was done, I had an adorable and sweet little novel that actually flowed. It worked. The pacing was great.
I entered it into Pitch Wars in August.
To my great surprise, my novel made it into the contest. This was the same book that was rejected the year before…but really, it wasn’t the same story at all. It had some of the same characters, but it was wildly different from the previous year’s draft (which I found out belatedly had been under serious consideration but ultimately was rejected because it wasn’t ready).
Funny thing about rejection: it doesn’t sting as much when it turns into an acceptance. My mentor had seen the story the year before and one of the things that helped nudge her in my direction was the scope of the revision. She’d seen that I was able to take something that didn’t work and turn it into something that was a lot closer to working, and she also knew I was neither afraid of nor averse to rewriting. Score one for me!
It’s been a while since I was in the heat of Pitch Wars, but I want to talk a little bit about the things I learned going through the process.
1. Waiting can be excruciating (but patience is a virtue).
But we’re writers, a lot of us querying writers, so we already know this lesson. A sub-lesson is never make assumptions. Odds are the moment you’re convinced you’re going to be accepted/get into a contest/get a request for pages/get an offer of representation, the exact opposite will happen. Lesson learned: wipe that smug little smile off your face and go about your business, Gwynne. You’ll be much happier.
2. Being accepted comes with its own set of interesting circumstances.
Only so many people can ever get into a limited acceptance contest like Pitch Wars. I did. My critique partners didn’t. This effectively put a wedge between what I’d been working on with them and what I needed to work on for Pitch Wars. I only had a month and change to revise my novel, and that meant little to no time to read for anyone else, much less have time to make viable critiques. Could I have managed my time differently? Sure, but it actually worked out for the best.
The Pitch Wars Class of 2016 is a great group of people and we will always be members of this exclusive club together. I’ve made lots of new writing friends, found critique partners actually writing in my same genre, and have been able to share successes and failures with them all.
3. There are no guarantees.
Right after the agent showcase, a lot of people attracted a lot of agent attention. A lot of Pitch Wars people were signed right away. A lot of us haven’t found agents yet. What does this prove? Even getting into a prestigious contest like Pitch Wars doesn’t mean it’s a path to instant fame and fortune (unless you’re Tomi Adeyemi–beautiful outlier, you!). This goes back to what I consider Every Writer’s Words of Wisdom: no one path is like any other. Some people have the story everyone’s looking for. Other people have the story it’s going to take longer to place. That doesn’t mean one is fantastic and the other sucks. It just means the ones that got scooped up right away are the ones that got scooped up right away.
4. Get used to the sound of an ego deflating.
No manuscript is perfect. They all need work, revision, rewriting. Mine went from 65,000 to 91,000 words over the course of my insanely feverish September 2016. I was a little bit smug going in. Imagine the smile dropping from my face when my mentor (the fabulous Mary Ann Marlowe, whose debut novel Some Kind of Magic just came out in January–you should all read it if you haven’t) said “you have a pretty good story. But it’s not a romance.” But what do you mean, Mary Ann? There’s love! There’s conflict! There’s a Happily Ever After!
I’ve learned so much about the structure of a romance novel from this contest and I’m forever grateful. Like a lot of first-time romance authors, I had the cocky notion that the classic romance formula was, well, tired, and I could show the world how it could be redone in a better way. Wrong! The formula exists for a reason. That doesn’t mean it has to be adhered to rigidly, but the basic tenets of a romance have to be included, even if the author messes with the order or placement of those tenets. Romance readers have expectations, and if the author doesn’t satisfy the expectations, it’s not a romance novel. End of argument.
5. Writing query letters doesn’t get easier.
But we can learn to become more effective at writing them, and at writing a synopsis.
Just a few weeks ago I had to take my three-and-a-half page synopsis and distill it into one page. With a little merciless slashing-and-burning, I managed to do it.
6. No word is sacred.
Murder your darlings, they tell us like it’s so easy. You know what? It is easy, but it requires a moment’s distance from our writing and a healthy dollop of dispassion. Things will fall by the wayside. Sometimes they’ll be our favorite things, the ones we swore up and down were fundamental to the story, without which it couldn’t go on. Nope. None of that is sacred. As Mary Ann advised when I lamented losing a whole series of scenes, I could have a mock funeral for them and send them on their way. I did. Guess what? The story is much stronger without those favorite scenes bogging it down.
Ultimately, crafting a novel relies heavily on the art of letting go.
7. Never stop writing.
Write, write, and write. When you think you’re done, start something new. While you’re querying, keep writing. While you’re researching agents, keep writing. While you’re waiting with bated breath to see if any of the agents who’ve requested your story will respond–and if so, favorably–keep writing. The only way to become a better writer is by writing. That’s all there is to it.
8. But don’t be afraid to give yourself a break.
Sometimes, a vacation needs to be a vacation. I did something last month I’d never done before: went on vacation without my laptop. This was actually incredibly liberating. It allowed me to relax, enjoy myself, and refresh. When I got back I had so many writing ideas juggling to get out on the page that I started a writing spree and now I’m about to write the last scenes of my book. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t allowed myself some time off to recharge.
And that’s all she wrote.
Of course, there’s more. I could go on and on. Ultimately, no writer’s path to success is the mirror image of any other writer’s climb up that mountain. This is all just my experience, and one I’m so grateful to have had.
And now I’m off to write the final chapter for the sequel to my Pitch Wars novel. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to write sequels if we haven’t sold the first one yet. What can I say? It’s the story that wanted to be told, and even with everything I’ve learned, I still like to buck trends and test new waters. Happy writing, everyone!
Every now and then I get a kick out of my spam email here at WordPress.
Thought you’d enjoy that one.
(To answer the question, a lengthy time.)
So, Gwynne Jackson, how’s that novel-writing going for you?
Thank you for asking. It’s actually going quite well. I’m nine days in and up to 23,000 words, for those who like metrics. This is the sequel to my Pitch Wars novel, but it’s also a standalone that doesn’t require knowledge of the first book. That was an intentional decision on my part. While I love duologies and trilogies, I also love when each book in a series can be read as a distinct entity.
Writing this book has been more fun than I expected. It’s been a pleasure, and it’s easier to write to my chosen romance formula than ever before. It’s a salve for my soul at a time I wasn’t so sure I’d be able to muster a lot of creativity.
I honestly don’t know how much blogging I’ll be doing. When I was employed as a technical writer, the most difficult thing was coming home from writing user manuals all day and switching over to a more creative writing brain. It’s much the same with blogging versus novel-writing. I’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, how are all of you? Let me know in comments if you get the chance.
Sunrise this morning was bright red under a perfectly flat line of clouds. If it hadn’t been 5-something in the morning, I would’ve taken a picture of it for you.
Oh, my poor neglected blog, I’ve missed you. I’m always of a mind to tell you that if I have nothing to say, it’s better not to try to force a post. Like so many other people I’ve been digging my way out from the dark days of winter. Here in northern California it’s been raining pretty much non-stop, so when the sun finally peeked out a few days ago I was reminded of the time I spent at the beach sand bars as a child. When the tide went out, hermit crabs would emerge from their shells. Timidly at first, because a wave could always come crashing back down on them, but eventually they’d get brave enough to peek out and stay out, and finally to start scuttling around.
That was the Bay area this week. It was like the aftermath of an apocalyptic event: the sun was finally out, and people stepped outside for the first time in a long time, shielding their eyes against the sudden onslaught of beauty pouring down on them.
But I spent a long time living in Oregon, and I know winter sunshine is more of a tease than a reality. We’re getting ready for another week or more of rain now, and I’m holding my breath along with the majority of the country in hoping that dam in Sacramento holds. In other news, okay, thank you for the much-needed water, skies, but you can stop for a while now.
As far as writing goes, I started a challenge to do a personal novel writing month this month. I decided to finish the novel I started during NaNoWriMo. Every day, the writing was a struggle. I hated all the words coming out. No, not all the words, just the way the story was unraveling, so I stepped back and took a break for a few days. I know this goes against the whole “don’t self-edit, don’t second-guess, just write every day” rule that usually works so well during NaNoWriMo, but I decided that in February I ought to play by my own rules.
I’m so glad I took the break, because the introspective navel-gazing made me realize I needed a reset. If I was going to tell this story, I needed a whole new book to tell it instead of tacking it on to the end of the November one. So I pulled up my big-girl panties and decided to scrap 3/4 of the 60,000 words I wrote in November, keep the other 1/4 as a standalone novella, and begin again. Now the writing is fun! Now I’m convinced I’m telling the right story the right way. What a relief. For a while there, I thought I’d forgotten how to enjoy writing.
Those of us who write rock & roll romances know there’s a certain beat you have to meet to keep readers entertained and interested. Unsurprisingly, it’s a lyrical and flowing pace, and I’m so happy to say this book meets the mark. An earnest, honest musician? A discriminating, snarky scientist? A family connection to the music biz? All those items get checked off in this lovely debut book from a talented and accessible writer.
My favorite thing about Some Kind of Magic has to be the writing. Marlowe’s prose doesn’t try to seduce readers into appreciating it. It’s simply there to tell the story in the manner of some of my favorite authors. She doesn’t need smoke and mirrors to be engaging or to draw readers in–her plot and characters do that all by themselves.
If you’re looking for a light, fun, breezy, and sexy romp through the world of rock music (and science), you can’t go wrong with this book. It’s thoroughly enjoyable.