Revising Again

Hello, lovely people! It’s been a while since I did one of these. I’ve been working on revising A Compass in the Shadows the last few weeks, and it’s going a lot more slowly than I anticipated. Between deciding to completely change Draea’s arc and adjusting Aurea’s arc and cutting the first two chapters, which meant doing some pretty large rewrites of the few chapters after those, it’s been a ton more work than I expected. This really just feels like more fixing from the mess this book was at the beginning of last year. I know, though, it will absolutely be worth it when I’m done, and the book will be that much better.

The piles of chapters I still have to get through

I read somewhere that a book is never finished, only abandoned, and that sounds pretty accurate right now. I feel as if I could keep editing this book for the rest of my life and never be satisfied. Even as I finish a chapter, I think of things I want to add or take out or rewrite. At some point, I’ll just have to call it good enough or I’ll be here forever, and I have other things I want to write, too. That said, this draft and these changes I’m making now do feel entirely necessary to make the book as good as it can be. The problem with pantsing my way through the first draft is that it was such a disaster that revising it once wasn’t enough. So that’s really how I’m viewing this, as just another round of me fixing the mess I started with. I feel significantly better about the two books I actually planned out, and I don’t believe either of them will require nearly as much rewriting as this book has.

So while I’m somewhat frustrated by the need to rewrite a third of the book again, I am grateful for the lesson I learned along the way, and the lesson I keep being reminded of: Pantsing is not the answer. Plotting only, please, future me. It will save you many revising headaches.

What I wrote this week

Chapters Six through Ten of A Compass in the Shadows

What I read this week

Mistborn: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness

Sometimes Schedules Go Awry and it’s Okay

This year continues to be a lesson in being flexible with the writing plans I make. Well, that and maybe being more reasonable in my expectations of myself.

When I first planned out my writing schedule for the year, I gave myself a month to finish writing The Children of Oher, three months to revise A Thistle in the Ruins, and two months to revise A Compass in the Shadows again. Well, none of that has gone the way I expected. The first took me an extra month. The second took me two extra months and grew much larger than I intended. And the third? Well, as I’m rereading it now, it’s becoming clear to me that this revision is going to be more work than I thought it would be.

I was supposed to be done with all of that by now, and then I was going to use the second half of this year to plan out a bunch of books and revise The Children of Oher and maybe even start something else. Obviously, most of that isn’t going to happen. Instead, the rest of this year will largely be taken up by revising A Compass in the Shadows. Which, as frustrated as I was initially, is fine. Whatever it takes for that book to be ready for querying, because right now it’s certainly not at its best yet.

I’m also trying to take things a bit easier the rest of the year, because I tend to not only expect too much of myself but also not to give myself breaks. Since January I’ve been just going nonstop, spending basically every free moment writing or revising, and so I was barreling dangerously toward burning myself out. Part of that is giving myself too much to do, but another part is simply impatience in wanting to get A Compass in the Shadows out into the universe. So if I got those other two projects done quickly, then I’d get to this book quickly, but things don’t work that way. So as much as I want to work on the other numerous books I have plans for, my sole focus will be this first book until I feel it’s ready to be sent out. Well, except for the break in December, during which my bestest writing buddy and I will be writing a possibly ridiculous, horror Christmas tale.

 Anyway, it’s okay for things to go terribly wrong and for all your writing (or any other) plans to go out the window. Try not to get too caught up in schedules and self-imposed deadlines. Be gentle with yourself. It’s okay if things take a little longer than you expected.


What I wrote this week

I read chapters eighteen through forty of A Compass in the Shadows.

What I read this week

Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

Why Do We Write?

Hello lovely people!

The other day, someone on Instagram asked, “If I knew I would never be published, would I still be writing?” and I really had to sit with that question for a moment. Of course, my goal is to be published, and these days it’s not hard to self-publish, so even if traditional publishing doesn’t work out for whatever reason, it’s not as if I couldn’t just do it myself. I know plenty of people write just to write, but what about me?

If I’d asked myself the question four years ago, the answer would’ve almost certainly been no. My relationship with writing has changed dramatically since then. I was using every excuse I could not to write. I got into crocheting for a while; I spent my time drawing and painting; I played hours of videogames. Anything except writing. Which is part of the reason why this Enorians series has taken me so long. And when I first started taking writing seriously, it was like pulling teeth. I haaaated sitting down and writing, and I think part of that stemmed from just not knowing where I was going with it. Sometimes I would sit down and have no idea what should happen (pantsing is very obviously not for me) and I would just put words down to get my word count goal out of the way, and a lot of that ended up being nonsensical fluff. Which is how I ended up with a 300,000 word draft of A Compass in the Shadows that was a hot mess.

Thankfully, things have changed now, including the size of that book. I write (or revise or do some kind of book-related work) regularly – I won’t quite say daily, though I do try – and I actually look forward to it, most days. There are still days, of course, where I don’t feel like writing, and sometimes I give in to that and take the day off. For the most part, though, I love it.

And yes, of course I do still want to publish, and I fully intend to. However, if I knew that I never would, yes, I’d continue writing. Not only because I have at least one person who would all but demand it of me, but also because I want to know what’s going to happen. I want to see what’s going to happen in the third Enorians book. I want to see how everything with the gods plays out in books four through six. I want to see what happens next with Kora, in the sequel to The Children of Oher. I want to write that book that’s based around a Dutch tradition of taking horses down to the sea. Sure, I would probably spend fewer hours writing, but I would continue writing anyway, for me, because I’m writing books I want to read.

It’s such an interesting question to consider. So, if any fellow writers are reading this, if you knew you would never be published, would you still be writing?


What I wrote this week

I’m making my way through rereading A Compass in the Shadows for another revision, so I didn’t write anything besides notes for myself, but I did read the prologue through chapter thirteen.

What I read this week

Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland

Blackbird Crowned by Keri Arthur

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Waiting For the Right Time to Write a Story

I’m doing a final (well, final for now) read through of Enorians book two, tentatively titled A Thistle in the Ruins, this month before I send it off to a few beta readers. It’s quite a surreal feeling to have actually completed Vivian’s story, because she’s where all this Enorians business began.

Back in high school, a few friends and I used to role play in notebooks that we would pass back and forth during and between classes. What’s the fun in focusing on class when you can write stories with your friends, right? That’s where Vivian was born. The enorians weren’t called enorians then. Enrik had another name and was dramatically different than he is now, and the relationship between him and Vivian looked absolutely nothing it does in this version. Basically, everything except Vivian’s name has changed.

Over the years since then I’d tried writing versions of her story, including during an undergrad fiction workshop, but nothing ever seemed to work. I have so many copies of partially completed drafts, none of which ever went anywhere. Some of them go all the way back to 2010. Eventually, I just left Vivian alone for a few years while I focused on the first enorians book, A Compass in the Shadows, which takes place twenty years prior to Vivian’s story.

I think part of the inability to finish stems from just not knowing where I was going with it and trying to pants my way through the story (which I’ve since learned is not the best method for me), but maybe part of it was just me not being ready to write it yet. Another possibility is that I didn’t have the help and support I do now, which comes from the most wonderful boyfriend, who has helped make all the Enorians stories and the world infinitely better; and also from the best writing buddy ever, who has also helped immensly with her feedback and questions and unsolicited advice.

I don’t know the true reason behind my previous failures, but I’m actually grateful I never managed to finish before last year. It helped that I put it aside for so long, because I was able to just start from scratch rather than try to salvage something I might have been attached to that just didn’t fit anymore. I think sometimes you just have to wait for the right time to tell a certain story, and I’m so glad I waited with this one, because I couldn’t be more pleased with the way Vivian’s story turned out, incredibly dramatic changes and all.


What I wrote this week

Well, nothing, but I did read chapters fifty-three through seventy.

What I read this week

A Thistle in the Ruins 😉

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

Books From My Childhood That Stuck With Me

Some books just stick with you, even 20 years after you read them. These are the books that stuck with me in some way, even if it’s just by a vague feeling.

The Unicorns of Balinor by Maggie Stanton – I loved this series so much when I was a kid. I loved Ari and Finn so much that I named the two main characters in my first story after them. And, of course, it’s about unicorns in a magical unicorn-run world. What’s not to love? I fully intend on giving this series to my god daughter when she’s old enough.

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry – It will surprise no one that the first two on this list are all horse books. I loved a lot of Henry’s books, including Justine Morgan Had a Horse and Misty of Chincoteague, but King of the Wind stuck with me for so long that I actually bought another copy a few years ago. I don’t even remember what it was that made me love it so much, but there’s just that feeling, you know?

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke – I only read this once, but I loved it so much. The only thing I remember about it, though, was a moment when the truth came out, and it destroyed my soul. Would it be strange to reread this as an almost 30-year-old adult? Because I kind of want to reread it.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton – Again, I only read this once, but I remember that it messed me up emotionally. I read the entire book during a trip to Holland, even though we were reading it for class, and by the time I came back, everyone else was still only about a third of the way through. Whoops! I was definitely mildly obsessed with this book for a while after I finished it.

Harry Potter – Given this is the series that started my love of reading, I couldn’t leave it out. It will always be dear to my heart, especially because my mom read the first three to me. It’s one I’ve continued to reread every couple of years, and probably will continue to do so no matter how old I get.


What I wrote over the last week

Enorians Book 2 – Draft 2 Chapters Four through Ten

What I read this week

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (10/10 would 1000% recommend)

A Phoenix First Must Burn by Patrice Caldwell

The Artful Edit by Susan P. Bell

On Writing Schedules

Years ago, I read a book called The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack M. Bickham, and the first thing on the list is “Don’t Make Excuses.” The entire chapter is basically just saying you have to write every day and not make excuses for why you don’t want to. The thing that sticks out to me now is, “Writers write; everyone else makes excuses.” When I read this the first time, it apparently didn’t speak to me, because I didn’t actually stop making excuses until years later. 

Somewhere around the time I read that book, I went to a book signing for Cassandra Clare with some friends. This was during my undergrad years, and someone in the audience asked her what advice she had for aspiring authors. She told us to write every day. Even if it was just 100 words. To at least write something. And I did for a while that summer, but then the habit fell away again.

Then my mom gave me The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I don’t remember exactly when that was, but I think that was finally the book that made me look at what I was doing. The author talks about being a professional when it comes to writing. He says: “The amateur plays part time, the professional full-time. The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week.”

He goes on a few pages later to say, “All of us are pros in one area: our jobs” and gives a list of ways in which that’s true, including: showing up every day, showing up no matter what, staying on the job even if we don’t want to, and a number of others.

This is the big difference between how I viewed writing up until two years ago and today. I always said I wanted to be an author, but I never put in the time and effort needed to get anywhere near that goal. I did basically everything except write. I drew and painted and played videogames for hours on end. I took up crocheting for something like a year, and while all of that was fun, it wasn’t getting me to where I wanted to be. It wasn’t helping me finish Rowan’s story.

It wasn’t until the end of 2018, when I decided if I wanted to be serious and actually get somewhere, that things started to change. I told myself that during 2019, I would sit down to write every day, whether I wanted to or not, even if I was tired or not in the mood or just over it that day. I made a goal of writing at least 500 words daily. And, of course, I didn’t write every day, because life happens. My mom was sick and then passed away. My sister got married. I was doing my Master’s program and working, which kept me busy. But I tried so hard to sit down every day and put at least something to paper.

And by the end of the year, I’d managed to finish the third rewrite of Rowan’s story. And sure, it was a mess, and I rewrote two-thirds of it last year again, but it helped me form a habit. There are still days where I don’t want to write. There are days when I’m tired and just want to take a nap. There are days where my motivation is in the toilet, but I sit down at my dining table or on the couch and put words down anyway, because writing anything is better than nothing. And if it’s terrible, I can always fix it in revision.

That seems to be the advice most authors give when asked that question. In his Masterclass, Neil Gaiman basically says the same. He keeps it simple, “You should write.” And “Finish things.” But the thing is, that’s the best advice there is. Just write. If you’re really serious about writing, sit down and put words on the page, whether that’s in a notebook or in a Word document or on a typewriter. You can always fix it later, but there’s nothing to fix if you don’t get anything written.


What I wrote this week

Revised a short story.

What I’m reading right now

Bloodsworn by Scott Reintgen

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Yes, Horses Do Show Up In Most Things I Write

There’s a video of me at the age of six where I proudly announce, in Dutch, that I want to take horseback riding lessons (or, I guess more accurately, “horse lessons”). Lucky for me, there was a small horse farm fifteen minutes from where we lived. When I was seven, I started taking lessons there. And my intense love of horses has never faded. All through school, including Undergrad, I rode at least once a week, usually more. I even started showing in sixth grade through 4-H, though I was never the biggest fan of it. The first show I went to wasn’t one I was in, but one I went to watch. I don’t recall most of it, but I strongly remember getting stepped on three times by various horses while wearing flipflops. Which insane parent let me wear flipflops to a horse show?

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From riding them to reading about them to playing with horse toys to collecting Breyer statues that I still own to this day, I fully immersed myself in being a crazy horse girl. I even wrote about them.

The first story I remember writing was started in an unlined journal while sitting in the airport, probably on the way to or from Holland, and to no one’s surprise, it was about a girl who had horses. Now, I can’t remember what it was about beyond that, but I’m almost certain it was inspired by The Unicorns of Balinor, because I’m pretty sure the characters were named Ari and Finn, both of whom are characters in that series. Either that or I just liked the names.

Horses have never stopped appearing in my stories since that first one, nor have I stopped reading about them. Once again, shocking to not a single person, one of my favorite books is The Scorpio Races, which is all about horses, both real and mythical. All throughout school I read horse books, many of which I still own (including the entire Unicorns of Balinor series), and even as an adult I still seek them out, though they’re surprisingly harder to find unless you want to read non-fiction, which is generally not something I’m searching for. This is even more true if you’re looking for fantasy. Don’t worry fellow horse lovers, I’m coming to your rescue 😉.

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Maybe that’s partially why horses play such a big role in most of my stories. That’s not to say I can’t write something without horses in it – The Children of Oher features exactly zero – but if there’s a place for them, I’ll make sure to fill it. There’s a quote by Toni Morrison that goes, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” and I certainly seem to be doing that when it comes to including horses. So yes, I do fully intend to write Spirits of the Sea solely as an excuse to write about them, because I know some other crazy horse person out there will appreciate it as much as I do.

What’s something you love that you just can’t help putting into the things you create?


What I wrote over the last week

Chapters twenty-one through twenty-four of The Children of Oher

What I’m currently reading

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

The Importance of Flexibility

This month has been a lesson in not getting too hung up on writing plans. I made myself this very specific, month-by-month schedule for writing for the year at the end of 2020. But as this month has progressed, and The Children of Oher has kept growing beyond what I can reasonably finish by the end of January, I’ve had to accept that this year probably won’t go quite as I’ve arranged. I might need more than three months to revise the second Enorians book, and then I might need more than two months to give the first Enorians book another look before I start querying it.

This week the owner of the horse I ride every Wednesday told me she would be out of town this weekend and next weekend and said I could ride him a couple extra days. While I obviously very happily agreed, because I’d never turn down extra pony time, it does mean that my writing has and will continue to suffer a little. I simply have a significantly smaller number of hours after work to write when I ride.

So, I’m trying to be flexible and forgive myself if things don’t go quite as I planned. It’s important not to get too hung up on how you think things should go. It’s important not to beat yourself up if you don’t write that exact number of words you were hoping for (guilty of doing that myself on many occasions). It’s important to remember that there will just be days when life gets in the way, and it’s not the end of the world that you didn’t get to write.

I have a whole second half of the year schedule, but honestly, if I can get the two Enorians books revised and start querying the first one, I’ll be happy.


What I wrote over the past week

Chapters eighteen, nineteen, and twenty of The Children of Oher

What I’m reading right now

The Archive of the Forgotten by A.J. Hackwith

Red Dust and Dancing Horses by Beth Cato

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Brown & Dave King

Revising

“The process of doing your second draft is the process of making it look like you knew what you were doing all along.”

– Neil Gaiman

I know a lot of people who moan and complain and say they hate revising, and I can absolutely see where they’re coming from. It’s tedious. It’s frustrating.  It’s a pain to have to restructure, cut entire chunks, remove entire characters or merge two because you realize you don’t need both of them. It’s particularly annoying when you get to rereading the same chapter for the seventh time, and you’re just tired of reading it again and again. It’s even worse when you end up entirely rewriting two-thirds of your book. Twice. And then realize you’ve got to remove 100,000 words, because it got wildly out of control during the last revision, and you’re cursing your past self.

Revising can be the worst, but also, I’m actively looking forward to revising the second Enorians book and later this year, giving the first another edit, too. During my final quarter of my Master’s Program, I got really bummed, because I missed writing about Rowan and Aurea and Vivian and all the other characters from the first and second books. I ended up writing a bunch of scenes just for the fun of it, and it was amazing to go back to them.

So while revising can be a pain, it means I get to spend time with those characters again, characters I’ve been missing for the last few months. Not just that, it gives me a chance to do those characters justice, to fix the bits of them and their stories that aren’t great yet, to take out things that don’t fit, to make them and the story better. It gives me a chance to fill in missing details and explore everything again. It gives me more time with my favorite characters. Characters that I know I’ll miss when all is finally finished, because I’ve been writing these people for years, and I love them. If you look at revising as a way to spend more time with the people you’ve created and care so deeply about, it’s really not so bad.


What I wrote over the last week

Chapters twelve, thirteen, and fourteen of The Children of Oher.

What I’m reading right now

The Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

Red Dust and Dancing Horses by Beth Cato

Favorite Books and Authors

Let’s talk about my favorite books today.

“What’s your favorite book?” is always a hard question for me. Not just because my favorite books typically change, but also because I don’t have just one. Who has just one favorite book? That’s crazy, right? So, here we go.

My Favorite Books:

I have to start with the Harry Potter series just because it’s the reason I started loving reading, and writing, in the first place. It also continues to engross me with every reread, even knowing what’s going to happen. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has and always will be my favorite, though.

And in no particular order, here’s the rest (for which my lovely foxes will be helping me show off each wonderful book):

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I read this first years ago, and then last year during my Masters program, I took a Neil Gaiman class. I’d somehow forgotten everything about the book. It was like reading it for the first time all over again. I don’t even know exactly what it is I love about this book so much, but I do love it. It’s strange and beautiful and full of magic.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Have you ever read a book and thought, “Damn, I wish I wrote this book”? That’s this book for me. I freaking love this book so much. I honestly think part of why I love this is just because horses… It’s about horses. Carnivorous water horses. And people who love those horses so much. It just speaks to me. And I love the characters. I love all of it. And ever since I read it, I wanted to write something about horses, which is, I think, another reason I wanted to write Spirits of the Sea.

Under the Skin by Michel Faber – I loved this book the first time I read it seven years ago in Scotland, and I’ve loved it every reread since. I even managed to convince the boyfriend, who never really reads, to read it. He didn’t seem to understand my love for it, but, honestly, I can’t even tell you why I enjoy it so much. There’s just something about it that makes me want to reread it over and over (which I guarantee I’ll continue doing).

Fledgling by Octavia Butler – I flew through all of Octavia Butler’s books in like a year and a half, and my favorite is really a tie between this one and Kindred, which was the first one of hers I read after it was recommended by a professor during my Masters program. Fledgling is strange and uncomfortable and somehow wonderful at the same time. This seems to be a theme, but I don’t know exactly what it is I love about it. I just loved all of it and its change on vampire ideas.

Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown – This has to be one of the best sci-fi series I’ve ever read (or, well, listened to in this case). I am just so impressed with the world building – and thoroughly jealous of Brown’s skills in that department – and the characters are wonderful and real, and the plots are insane. Before book six comes out, I fully plan to reread the first five, because there is just so much going on it’ll be a good reminder.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carman Maria Machado – Only recently have I started enjoying short stories, and this was recommended to me by my wonderful writing buddy. And I enjoyed every single one of the stories. I’ll definitely be going back and rereading them again.

There are so many more I could list, but I’ll leave it there, otherwise we’ll be here all day.

Other books I read this year that I absolutely loved:

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The Killing Moon, The Shadowed Sun, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of Gods all by N.K. Jemisin

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Favorite Authors – aka I’ll read anything of theirs you put in front of me:

N.K. Jemisin

Margaret Atwood

Neil Gaiman

Keri Arthur

Octavia Butler

Both Hank and John Green

What is/are your favorite book(s)? Favorite authors?

What I Wrote Over the Last Week

Chapters four and five of The Children of Oher. I am determined to finish this by the end of January, so I can keep somewhat on my planned schedule of revising book two and then book one and starting book three of the Enorians Saga by July.

What I’m Reading Right Now

Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Horsemanship Through Life by Mark Rashid