This year I grounded myself to my office (and now, my new office since I've recently moved) because I need to finish the book I've been working on since May 2011. No book tours and no traveling to conferences or conventions (save for local events). My next convention will be Legendary ConFusion in Detroit in January, which will be my prize for completing my book. All I've been doing for the past year is writing(!!!), riding my horse, and hanging out with my biffle Aimee Carter (author of THE GODDESS TEST). (like really that is all I've been doing.)
Publishing is hard. I can't get more accurate or blunt than that. 99% of authors can't hand in everything they want and get it published. We have to study the market scrupulously to figure out what we will spend months or years working on. That's one heck of a commitment. Most times the book we spend months or years on will never see the light of day and that's heartbreaking. There's no worse feeling for any writer who dreams of publishing a book than to trunk that book and have to move on. We've got to write the right book and nail it.
If a book is to be bought and published, it has to fit into the market. The problem is, publishers have a list of all the things they don't want (no vampires, dystopian, ect.) but none of them has a list of what they DO want. So what are authors (and agents looking for unpublished books) to do? Guess. Hope. Pray. Sacrifice a goat or two (but really please don't do that or I will hunt you down and sacrifice your face). Nobody knows what will be "the next big thing," but they're all looking for it.
A lot of times, we might have the right concept at the right time, but the execution isn't right. Perhaps a publisher wants us to change things in order for them to say, "Yes, we want this." It's up to the author to agree or disagree to those terms. Publishers usually know best, but the author has the final say.
Yesterday I had a great phone chat with the ever darling Cynthia Hand (author of UNEARTHLY) and she helped remind me that no matter how difficult a job being an author is, we have control over the writing. We don't decide what our covers look like, what languages our books are translated into, or where we go on tour, but we decide what happens in our stories.
This is my book. These are my characters living in the world of my invention.
Today I hit 80,000 words in the book I've been working on forever, the book of many titles (TLK, C:WP, Project: Ramen Noodle Sandwich, ect.). 80k words was supposed to be the goal, but I have proven incapable of writing short books so now the end word count should be 100k-ish. I'm on the third act, so we'll see how long it will end up. After two years of struggling, my agent (the inimitable Rosemary Stimola) told me that at last I'd "nailed it." There are no words in the English language to fully describe how elated and relieved I was to hear her say that. Instead of rage-cleaning my house as I tend to do on bad days, I joy-cleaned my house, texted Aimee the good news, and then went to ride my horse. Honestly, without her support through the best and worst days of working on this book, I wouldn't have made it this far. I would've thrown in the towel long ago. She is the moon of my life.
Why has it taken me so long? The answer is so simple, yet so complicated: I hadn't gotten it right, yet. I have written and rewritten and rewritten and rewritten this draft so many times that I've honestly lost count of how many times or what planet I live on. I don't even remember what the original draft looked like, which is unusual as authors remember most details that have been revised. This book has been revised so many times that I've been confused at as to what has even happened.
What has been so hard about writing this book? A million things, but mostly the main character and the world building. The heroine will be difficult to describe without giving away too much, but I will say that I couldn't get her voice right. Once I can share what the book is about, I will go into full detail. The world building has been an enormous challenge for me, because (oddly enough) I know too much. I know so much about this topic that all of the information about the world had become muddled and confusing. I needed to figure out a way to unveil the world in a beautiful way rather than shove the reader into a world as dense as Jello.
My editor for ANGELFIRE described this issue the best and simplest way possible: I was trying to color a picture with too many crayons. Instead of picking a handful of my favorite colors, I was coloring with all of the colors and the picture was turning out to be a big mess.
I finally have figured it out. I got it. I nailed it. I decided on my handful of favorite crayons and now my picture doesn't totally suck. The finish line is just ahead.
And I'll be honest, writing this book turned me into a real writer. I feel like I've reached the point in my career where I can write anything now. I finally know what I'm doing.
I've promised to be a better blogger and I will post my progress on this word count meter. In the meantime, I'm much more active on my Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram.
Ramen Noodle Sandwich
80,000 / 100,000
I've been posting quite a bit on my Facebook page, including a couple of vague excerpts from Project: Ramen Noodle Sandwich, to keep you updated and to thank my readers who've waited so patiently for news on this project. Here you are!