This week I finished revising A Compass in the Shadows again. I’ve honestly lost track of the number of revisions this book as has by now (the joys of having pantsed my way through it the first time – I am once again reminded that I will never do that again). It took me much longer and was way more work than I expected it to be; one point of view character (Draea) got a whole arc overhaul and another one (Aurea) had her whole beginning rewritten. I also added in a whole lot of new worldbuilding stuff that made certain situations make a heck of a lot more sense.
Despite everything taking so much longer and being much more work than originally anticipated, I’m incredibly grateful that I have the willpower to do so many revisions and not get super sick of this book, because I think it’s in much better shape after this last rewrite. I know people who would rather just move onto the next shiny fun thing, which I completely understand. While revising this I had ideas for my Dutch-inspired Spirts of the Sea running around my head, but that will just have to wait until next year.
Books are so much work. If only they were perfect after the first draft, but alas… that is never the case. It’s a good thing I really love my characters, because I’ve now read A Compass in the Shadows three times between pre-revision reading, revising, and my post-revision reread. Finishing this means this year I’ve revised two very long books (just over 200,000 words each) and wrote one, too. Imagine the things I could get done if I didn’t have to work full time!
Now that this revision is done, I’ll take the weekend off (to clean and decorate for Christmas… And maybe relax a little) before jumping into my next project: a dark Christmas tale I’m co-writing with the best writing buddy ever. I’m very excited to dive into the world of carnivorous reindeer, overworked elves, and children being kidnapped by Santa. Don’t worry, there’s some hope and queer side-plot romance to level out the darker aspects.
I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a lovely holiday with friends and family eating entirely too much tasty food!
What I read this week
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling
The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia
Listening to The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
What I wrote this week
Reread Chapters Forty-Six through Seventy-Two of A Compass in the Shadows
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Over the last month I’ve been revising Enorians book two. It’s been so great to dive back into the world and fill in the gaps, to make it just that much better than it already is. Thankfully this rewrite is significantly less intense than the two I did on the first book, so I should have it finished in a couple of months.
I thought it might be fun to introduce the main characters like I did with the first book a few months ago. For an explanation of the gods and races, see here. And away we go!
Vivian Darrow is the 20-year-old Veroxian x Aesan descendent of the Aesan king, Aldar of Aynsi. Vivian was brought up by her adoptive father, Enrik, on a small, secluded farm in the highlands of Scotland. Through her first twenty years, Vivian has never ventured farther than the woods surrounding their little farm, though she longs for something more adventurous than her simple, boring life of caring for crops and animals. But when her fate comes calling, Vivian will realize adventure and excitement comes at a cost.
Vivian held out her arm, and Aphra, the osprey, landed gently, flapping her wings to steady herself. She stuck out the leg that clutched her prey.
“Hello, my love. Is that for me?” Vivian grinned, stroking Aphra’s sleek head before taking the hare. “You’re too kind.”
The bird’s talons dug into Vivian’s arm as she balanced herself, her yellow eyes peering at Vivian is if waiting for something.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Vivian slung the hare over her shoulder and dug in her pocket for a piece of dried venison, Aphra’s favorite treat. She held it out for the bird, who gently plucked it from her palm. “You deserve all the treats, my beautiful, vicious predator.”
The absolutely amazing drawing done by the incredibly talented Fran Matos. More drawings of the point of view characters to come!
Enrik Darrow is the 217-year-old Lorosian x Gorien former member of the council that once protected the mother of the prophesied savior. Enrik didn’t expect to love the daughter he adopted as much as he does. After determining the only way to keep Vivian safe was to keep her with him, Enrik took her in and spent the next twenty years doing everything in his power to keep her happy and protected. But when she learns the truth he’s been hiding from her, he’s finally forced to allow her to leave the safety of the farm to fulfill her destiny.
“Atta girl.” Her father, Enrik, stood in the doorway, grinning. A doorway that stretched far above Vivian’s six-foot height, a doorway that could’ve easily fit three of Vivian side by side to accommodate her father’s massive frame. In human years, Enrik looked to be in his early thirties, though no one could’ve ever mistaken him for human. In his true form he towered above her at just over eight feet.
Droken Ensori is the ancient Enosian leader of the Loyalists, those loyal to Enos, the god of war. Droken is one of the rare few alive who came through the portal from Enoralori. He has spent his life working toward creating a special marking that will allow him to return his long-lost children to him, a marking similar to the one that has kept him alive well beyond the point of his would-be death, though lately he’s been working on something special for his god, something that will finally allow Enos to take London and bring down their human foes, the Londoners.
He pulled a small journal out of the inner pocket of his long, fitted coat, taking a few minutes to write down the results of his work. Then, after slipping it, his pen, and his spectacles back inside, he put all his books, the ones he’d carefully collected and written over the years, the ones about markings, and how to create new ones, back into their trunk along with the papers he intended to keep. The ones on the floor he tossed into the empty fireplace. They could be dealt with later. Still holding the lantern with the metal fingers that had been grafted onto the bone joints of his right wing after he’d removed the useless bits, he locked the door behind him.
Important side characters:
Aphra – The osprey Vivian saved and raised is her only friend until she meets Mira.
Mira Fogore – The Mersian helper of Ulvan Zahr is Vivian’s first non-animal friend.
Ulvan Zahr – The Lorosian x Enosian holder of the god-blessed Martyr’s Plate, bestowed upon him by Enos before the enorians came to Earth.
Draea Sandoval & Akrin Ensori – Siblings and children of Droken Ensori.
Enos – God of War who has been trapped in the mortal body of the Aesan king, Aldar of Aynsi, for over 1500 years.
What I wrote over the last week
Enorians Book 2 – Draft 2 Chapters nineteen and twenty (it’s been a rough week)
What I read over the last week
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
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.
People think writing has to be a solitary affair. I thought so, too, for a long time. But you know what’s so much better than doing it alone? Having a writing buddy. Some people call them critique partners, but it’s so much more than that if you find the right person.
Writing buddies are a beautiful thing. You get a critique partner, but also someone who you can just talk to about your book or short stories or novellas or whatever it is you’re working on. It isn’t the same, trying to talk about your book with someone who might not actually be interested or who may not understand. And, of course, there’s the fear that you’ll annoy someone if you talk about it too much, but that’s not an issue with your writing buddy, because ideally, they’re as into the book as you are.
With a writing buddy you have someone you can bounce ideas off. You have someone who can give you unsolicited advice that you didn’t know you needed until she suggests it. You have someone rooting for your work and asking for more. It’s a great feeling to see “Ready for moreeeeee” at the ends of feedback emails. Even better is hearing that they’re having fun reading the 738-page book they’re beta-reading for you, because “it’s almost like a reread cuz I already know the story and the world, so it’s just comforting.” You have someone who not only looks forward to your work but whose work you look forward to reading in return. Maybe you can even buddy-read books with them because you’re basically the same person and so, of course, you enjoy the same books.
A writing buddy like that, who has also become a dear friend, is invaluable and a literal blessing. They’re someone who can urge you to write when you’re not feeling like it, someone who can help keep you accountable or also acknowledge that, no, sometimes it’s okay to take a break and take that nap you’re just really wanting to take. I know a lot of people say they write for themselves, and sure, I do, too. I wouldn’t be writing the stories I am if I wasn’t interested in reading them myself, but you know what else is nice? Having someone to share those stories with that’s excited about them. And they make you feel like, oh, maybe I don’t entirely suck, and maybe my work is worth the time and effort put into it.
I decided, partially, to get my Master’s because I wanted to surround myself with other writers, but I somehow never expected to actually find a friend that I would end up talking to literally daily. So, thank you a thousand times over to my writing buddy’s partner for pushing her to message me. I will be eternally grateful to you always.
Now go check out her website, because the trilogy she’s working on is amazing. And also, her post about writing buddies here, because naturally we organized posting these at the same time ;).
What I wrote over the last week
Inserted two more chapters into The Children of Oher, because apparently I just can’t stop expanding this book.
What I’m reading right now
Blood Sworn by Scott Reintgen
The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
And finished Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer yesterday
It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, so let’s talk about love in fiction.
I love me some subplot romance. It doesn’t need to be the whole plot, but please give me a background love story. The moment the love interest shows up, I’m automatically more invested (haha, is that terrible?). That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy books with no romance aspect, because I definitely do, but I’m never unhappy to see it show up.
But you know what drives me nuts? When the couple doesn’t get together until the very end. Even worse, making me wait until the end of the series. I’m looking at you Ember in the Ashes series and Witch King’s Crown trilogy. That’s not to say I don’t love both series, because I do, butI want to see the cuteness. Show me the love before the end of the story!
Anyone else feel that way? Or is that just me?
I mentioned this quote by Toni Morrison a few weeks ago when talked about horses – “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – and I think this relates to how relationships shows up in my books, too. Or even that love shows up at all. While I did manage to write a book with no horses in it, I don’t know how often it’ll happen that I write something that doesn’t have at least the smallest bit of romance. At least, all my currently planned books have a love aspect.
And when it does comes to the stories that do have love in them, I am fully in the get-the-characters-together-early boat. In the first Enorians book, the couple gets together in the first third of the novel (and then have issues to work through). In the second, the couple gets together also in the first third of the novel (and then, again, have problems to work through). In the third, there will be two separate love interests for two separate POV characters, and one won’t get together until the end, but you better believe the other will get together before the halfway point, because I want to see the love! And with The Children of Oher, the relationship is already a thing when the book starts, which was even more fun, because I didn’t have to worry about them meeting and all of that buildup.
Anyway, point is: gimme some romance and don’t wait until the last 20 pages to get the couple together. And to any future readers who feel the same as I do about getting to see the couple get together early, you’re welcome 😉.
Also, check out my instagram this weekend for some love-related quotes from The Children of Oher and books one and two of the Enorians Saga.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
What I wrote over the last week
The two final chapters of The Children of Oher. I also rewrote parts of chapters 1 and 2 of The Children of Oher and beyond that reread the whole book now that it’s finished.
For those who don’t know, plotting and pantsing are terms we novelists use to describe how we work on a story. Pantsers typically just take an idea and run with it and see where it takes them with minimal planning. They fly by the seat of their pants, if you will. Or, at least, that’s how I understand it. A plotter, though, plans out their story ahead of time, makes an outline of some sort, and then follows it while they’re writing. Some people, of course, fall somewhere in between.
Back in the day, during my undergrad years, I was a pantser. I don’t think I even considered plotting out a story. And so, I pantsed my way through the very first version of Rowan’s (first Enorians book) story, mostly while sitting in my Ancient World on Screen class, in the dark auditorium, as movies likes Alexander and Clash of the Titans played on the giant screen.
I also attempted, multiple times, to pants my way through the first version of Vivian’s (second Enorians book) story and failed every time. I never managed to make it to the end.
I stuck with being a pantser for years after that. In fact, I continued to flounder my way through Rowan’s story up until just over a year ago. Over the years since that first version, I pantsed my way through not one, but two rewrites. The first, I don’t remember well, but the second I wrote during 2019, and it came in at an insane 300,000 words, mostly because I didn’t know where I was going with it, so I’d just throw in scenes that I thought would be useful.
Turns out I was wrong.
It wasn’t until my amazing and wonderful writing buddy (who has here own website dedicated to her work here) told me about Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody that I even considered changing the way I was doing things. Save the Cat quite literally changed my life. I realized that while pantsing may work for some people, I am not one of those.
Writing has gotten so much easier since I started plotting, it’s kind of ridiculous.
It took me something like eight years to actually finish the first rewrite of Rowan’s story, and then it took me another full year to do the second rewrite. Neither of which were good or planned out well and felt like disorganized messes. I mean, part of what took me so long in finishing Rowan’s story was just not giving it the attention and time it needed, but I think the lack of structure and planning didn’t help.
The third rewrite, after using Save the Cat to create beat sheets for all the POVs and actually planning out the book, took me like five months. And Vivian’s story, which I hadn’t actually finished up until last year, took me six months to write after I plotted it out. To be fair, part of it being finished so quickly was because I ended up having two months off due to COVID, but still. If I’d been trying to pants my way through that, I never would’ve finished in that amount of time, nor would it have been anywhere near as solid of a first draft as it is.
I’m now a and a half chapter away from finishing the unintended Children of Oher, which means I’ll have written that in two months. If someone had told me ten years ago I’d write a nearly 90,000 word book in two months, I would’ve laughed so hard, but I did it. And the reason I could finish it so quickly is because I knew exactly where I was going with it. I am 100% certain that if I hadn’t sat down and created beat sheets and plotted out this book chapter by chapter before starting it, I wouldn’t be anywhere near this close to the end. And it would likely be a mess.
I’m not saying everyone should be a plotter. What works for one person, doesn’t work for others. I know some people see plotting as restrictive – though, it’s not like you have to stick with the plot you came up with. The Children of Oher started as a 24-chapter outline. I added chapters where I needed them and changed some along the way, but overall it stayed relatively the same – and others say it ruins their motivation to work on the book because the story’s already figured out. I haven’t personally had that issue, but I can see where that would be true.
I don’t know, maybe I was just pantsing wrong? Maybe there is a right way to do it and I was not doing it that way. Or maybe it’s just that certain people can’t be pantsers, which, yeah, I now fully believe I am meant to be a plotter. But if you’re a pantser and you’re struggling, I highly recommend Save the Cat Writes a Novel, though I’m sure there are tons of other books out there about plotting your novel. Just try it and see how it goes, and if it doesn’t work for you, well, that’s okay, too.
What I wrote this week
Chapters twenty-five through twenty-seven of The Children of Oher
What I’m reading right now
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone