Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pressing Pause.

Delirium: "Um. What's the name of the word for things not being the same always.  You know.  I'm sure there is one, isn't there?"
Morpheus: "Change."
Delirium: "Oh.  I was afraid of that."
--'The Sandman', issue #43, written by Neil Gaiman

This is not the journal entry I planned to write last week.  That seems to happen a lot in this blog.

I spent from last Wednesday to last Saturday in the kind of deep mental funk that we writers get into (I'm sure I can't be the only one) when a project isn't going well.  When my writing isn't going well, nothing in my life is going well, so the comedown from DragonCon was worse than the usual post-convention mental hangover.  And it stemmed from the kind of doubt that, were it mold, would devour an entire city block.

It started when one of the mentors for Pitch Wars said THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK didn't read like YA.  And I started wondering if I really want to write YA.

It's kind of strange thing - I'm not even sure why I made TAW a YA novel.  It just seemed to fit.  The teenage years are a time of discovery, so why not make those years even more interesting by having Shiloh discover she wields a forbidden magic?  But that one comment got to me in a way none of the other critique I've received for this book did.  It got me thinking, y'know, I can do a lot more if the main characters don't have to be teenagers.

Then, like dominoes falling, the thoughts kept coming.  I don't want Abraxas to always be a YA-only world.  Working with Shiloh and Alexi in their early twenties could be fascinating.  I'll relate much better to older characters, and thus be able to write them better.  I'd like to be able to have these characters age as the series goes on, since Shiloh's at the upper limit for YA and Alexi's actually a few years older.  And all this was going on in my head while I was trying to write the sequel to TAW.

As I'm sure you can imagine, that didn't go so well.

For the record, I haven't settled on anything yet.  But after a lot of thought, I'm putting TAW on hold, and won't be doing further querying or contests for now.  I'm also not writing the sequel for now.  I don't know what's going to happen with it.  I might do a rewrite to fix a lot of issues I've realized about the story.  I might write yet another story for Shiloh and Alexi.  And by 'might', I mean "My Muse was hard at work yesterday, and now I have a basic plot summary, half a page worth of details and ideas, a title, and a frickin' pitch line for a brand new Shiloh & Alexi adventure".  Not actually complaining, just mildly bewildered.

But in order to truly figure out what I want to do, I need to work on some other stuff for now.  I have been, and that's going well so far.  Here's hoping it continues to go well once I actually start writing it.

I want to thank everyone who's read TAW, and everyone who's helped me with advice and encouragement along the way.  I well and truly appreciate it, and I hope y'all will be willing to put up with further badgering about reading when I have Something Completely Different sometime down the road.  Eh heh heh....

Next entry: on engaging characters.

16 comments:

  1. These kind of revelations happen, and while they might put you into a well of doubt for awhile, they are a sign of progress in our writing. When you think of all the ways you can revise a novel, it's like endless alternate universes! Of course, just because one person in Pitch Wars didn't think it was YA doesn't mean they are right. But if YOU see the potential in it, then you should pursue the thought.

    I have a book that I tore apart and revised endlessly in my search for an agent. I switched from first person POV to third. (Then had to revise 2 sequels I'd written accordingly.) I played around with switching the verb tense, then changed it back. I slashed chapters. Wrote new ones. Rearranged the order of the events. Wrote more new scenes. Deleted ones I loved, loved, loved, but which slowed down the story. Stole a scene from the second book and moved it into the first. (And yes, I was depressed before each of these changes, exhilarated afterward.)

    Eventually that book got me my agent! Then, like many first agented books, it didn't sell. I did write other books, which did sell. But I LOVE those characters who lived through so many re-writes. I recently re-read the manuscript and realized how weak the central conflict is, compared to all the secondary conflicts.

    Dare I say, I might not be done with tearing apart that story and re-writing it?

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    1. Understood; I've been there with a lot of stuff. I've rewritten massively, changed about a third of a book because a character was no longer blind, so on and so forth. And it is a lot to think about. That's why taking a break is the best thing right now - just thinking about making massive changes to TAW gets me tense and nervous, so I have to set it aside.

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  2. Just let it sit and stew for a while. If you need to change things to make the book 'older,' they will come to you.

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    1. Yeah. As I said above, this really is necessary.

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  3. Ok, I'm with Alex. Stop. Pause. Let it percolate. When some time has passed (like a few months at least), reread TAW. You might find that you want to revise TAW and make them older. You might find that you like them young, and can write them as they age. You might find that you want to trash TAW (I REALLY wouldn't recommend this, though, because it's great) and start again. You might find that this is just one person's opinion and others might not agree.

    You've said that these two characters have lived in your mind for a long time. Trust that.

    And I know this is going to be flying the face of Traditional Publishing Wisdom, but who says the book has to be YA just because Shiloh is a teenager? Just saying.

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    1. I had a feeling you'd have something to say about this. :P

      And yeah, I know there are a lot of different ways I could go about this. What I worry about the most is going back to TAW and not wanting to work with it, seeing the problems with it as insurmountable. And there are other issues, some of which I'll cover next week. But it's all something to think about later.

      As for that last part, I know it's not necessarily required to be YA with a teenage protagonist, but I'm having a hard enough time getting anyone interested in this book. I don't want to risk shooting myself in the foot and watching rejections with "the protagonist is too young for adult fiction" fill up my inbox. Grr. Arg.

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  4. You know my feelings. But I do know like there can be value in going back to a project, but it's useful to understand that sometimes, when you go back, you've changed and it doesn't work. Or you're too busy for it. There are so many things, you have to be willing to roll with the way the world actually works out, but you know all about not forcing.

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    1. I think seeing if TAW is still the story I want to tell will be a major factor in what I do once I go back to it. I just know I'm thinking only of its flaws now, so now's not the time to read it. O_o And I do know all about not forcing. It only took writing a few bad books to learn it. >_<

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  5. I'm glad you're open minded enough to consider the feedback, but don't let it sway you unless it suits you. Remember you are the only one that can tell this story. Stick to your guns and change only what you truly believe will make your story great. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

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    1. It's less that it's swayed me, and more that it's made me realize some of my own doubts about the book. Sorry if I wasn't clear enough on that. But we'll see what happens.

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  6. Something similar happened to me after a writers conference. Suggestions were made about a WIP that sent my head a-spinning like you wouldn't believe. I ended up agonizing over it (and not enjoying the rest of the conference), and eventually ended up cutting the first two chapters. There are so many possibilities for you to consider that I don't think you should make a decision right away. Sit on it for a while, write something new, and then go back to it with fresh eyes. No matter what you decide, I'm sure it will be great. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks. ^_^ As I've said, I'm definitely sitting on this one for a while. And I hate how easy it is to get caught up in others' criticisms - it's bad enough when you have to keep telling yourself they're wrong, but much worse when you realize they might be right. >_<

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  7. Write whatever the heck you want. Then find an editor who likes it as much as you do. Setting it aside for now and returning to it later might be a good idea, but don't let it gather too much dust. Get it out there where it belongs. (Hope you don't mind my posting the sort of self-talk I recite in the mirror on a daily basis...)

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    1. Heh! That's the thing about writers giving advice to each other - it's usually stuff they have to tell themselves as well. ^_^ And yeah, I plan to get back to TAW after I write something else. I just need to keep telling myself the "something else" is just for fun. It's not working yet.

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  8. With one of my first books, I wrote MG. The problem was, the rest of the series was for adults. I stepped back, took ten years, and went back to write it all as YA. Surprisingly, it works really well and was the right call. You really do have to just step back sometimes and let the pieces come together. Oh, and it's totally acceptable to write a teen protagonist for an adult book (I'd just make him 18). Why not? As long as your story follows the trope guidelines, you're totally set to go.

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    1. I have been considering aging up the characters a little. I'm not sure if it would work, as even at 18 or 19 people are expected to be less involved with their parents than at 17, but I'll see if it works when I get back to TAW.

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