Last year was crazy for me, nonstop working. While this year feels like I'm treading water with nothing being accomplished. A few hazards popped up unexpectedly- I don't feel like getting into any of that -which twisted my emotions, tossing productivity and focus out the window.
The words are stuck in my head. The stories and plot threads rich and multifaceted. It's not a matter of sitting at the keyboard and pouring the words on the page. Those words exist, they just refuse to reach my fingertips.
My confidence has taken hit after hit. It's hard to be real with yourself, to the point you remove an entire series from sale to be rewritten, without admitting defeat. The triumph was rewriting those books the way they should have been written the first time around, but that in and of itself means I made a mistake to begin with. I admit it. I accept it. I changed it. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have an impact on my confidence.
Hero is the redheaded stepchild who is getting the brunt of my lack of confidence. Up and down. Left and right. Sideways and straight. I'm all over the place. The plot doesn't change, only gets better as I step away. There is so much pressure, after rewriting Restraint - Integrated, simply to create a strong foundation for Hero, only to fear I'll muck it all up like I did its predecessors.
I will never rewrite another novel again. Not a single one. What I publish from here on out, it will be its final form forever. That puts pressure on me to write the book the way it deserves. I don't mean editing and formatting, as those things can be fixed. The plot, the flow of words, the motivations of the characters. I can't put myself through republishing rewritten work again.
This sets me up for failure. Performance anxiety. There are many drafts, that's not what I'm trying to convey. It's the confidence that what I publish is the best it can be.
I want to share something with y'all, using it as an example.
Hero (which is now Heroism, but I will still call it Hero) is refusing to be written. The muse puts up a roadblock, because the closer I get to the finish line, the more confident I'll have to be in order to hit publish. That's not the example. I'll shed light on the progress of that later.
The muse is a master of creation, but she gets bored easily. A bored, unfocused muse is catastrophic. I have to feed her, and feed her often.
I write tomes. 500 - 700 pages on average per book. But some of those books are closer to 1000 pages, a few much longer. That is a lot of pressure. To help curtail this pressure, I fed the muse Wexler.
A short novella, featuring Auggie Kline's dad, set in the Blended universe. In case you're curious, Adam Wexler from Wicked is a dual-narrator with Patrick Kline. Good Girl - Widow was the winter and spring. Warped - Wager was the summer. Wicked was in the past. Wonder was far in the future. Wexler is the fall in the current time frame, with Wayward running alongside all the others.
I got about halfway through a short novella, and the pressure came back, because this novella seeded the much-larger, much-anticipated Wayward. The content is deep and dark, but fast paced, with a message of hope. It matters what I write in so few pages. The muse went limp as soon as she realized this.
It's like I had ED for writers. Not writer's block. Performance Anxiety.
Wexler is currently half completed, shelved in a folder, awaiting the muse's attention, along with many, many other projects with a similar fate.
Here is the example, only I'm working through it, learning about myself as a writer.
Last Wednesday, I woke to a daydream/dream of sorts, with a story rapidly solidifying in my mind. So I sat with my laptop and wrote out a few chapters. That night, as I struggled to sleep, I decided to make changes. That's how the writing process works, as frustrating as it may be.
In a long-standing series, there isn't much wiggle room. You know the characters and their universe, almost as well as your own life. It's like a long hallway, with a few doors here or there, able to branch off to rooms you already recognize, but you'll still be in the same house. You can't go anywhere, except to wander around the various rooms, maybe discovering things you hadn't realized were hidden there. If you go out the front door, the series is finished. If you go out the back door, the series will head in a new direction.
A blank slate. A new project, something from scratch that you're breathing life into from nothing, it's a puzzle without a picture. The pieces continually need to be rearranged as the picture solidifies. Sometimes the puzzle forms a picture, but that last piece refuses to fit. So you tear it apart, dump the pieces back in the box, shake it up, and try to put it together again, hoping against hope that it will eventually fit.
30,000 words into Followill. The story changed. I have a beta-reader who points out when I tell vs show. Storytelling is a narrative where the characters aren't in the moment. Showing is based on placing the character in the thick of it. One is where the reader gets suffocated under a pile of info-dump, the other flows organically in an easily digestible treat.
I kept hearing Diane scolding me as I reread passages. There's a lot of story to tell that isn't happening on the pages, and even I as a reader hates that. I went back to the beginning, reworking the entire draft, trying to eliminate it by showing it in the now. Then I hit the same roadblock. Found myself back into telling.
Another sleepless night. Another epiphany. Another reworking from the beginning (at this rate, I'm just happy it's only 75 manuscript pages to keep reworking) I hit another roadblock. Didn't write yesterday at all. My house on Sims Mobile is looking pretty swank though.
Another sleepless night, too many in a row.
Something shifted last night. Delusion? Sleep deprivation? I don't know. But the newest epiphany removed most of the telling. Instead of reworking those same 75 pages, because I'm sick of those pages, I'm writing this blog post.
This is where a lack of confidence kills a book. If I closed out the document, put it in a folder, and let it go with the rest its ilk, it would never see the light of day. Unlike Wexler above, Followill and the others are not in a series, where it is dependent on them being completed to move forward. Wexler will see the light of day, when my writer's ED vanishes, because the novella is not independent of Wayward. If Wayward is to exist, Wexler must be completed.
Under pressure. Pressure pushing down on me... Under pressure. Under pressure. Pressure. (did you just sing that? Because I know I did)
Instead, I look at Followill as a learning experience, just as I did when I started writing Hero and discovered that 11 books, some well over 1000 pages long, had to be rewritten, or the series was dead. Dead and in a folder, never to see the light of day.
I promised I wouldn't write anything else until Hero was finished. Not just a promise I made to my readers, but most importantly, a vow I made to myself. But the muse dies when she is not creating. She goes quiet, resentful. She is an entity of creativity, and with her death, there goes my imagination. It's the confidence in feeding her that is my malfunction.
Lessons learned, a journey of honing my craft awaits, the muse will be fed by breaking my vow, if only for a short while.
As soon as I'm done writing this post, I will go back to page 1 and fix those issues in Followill. Remove the telling. Slowly weave in the new changes to remove the telling. Then get back to a place where I can let the muse run with wild abandon, and start the process again. Over and over, until my confidence returns. The confidence in my abilities. The confidence in my stories.
This is a lifelong marathon, not a sprint to the finish line, leaving me unable to race again.
Now, onto what you really want to know...
What's up with Hero?
Hero is approaching 300,000 words.
What does that mean?
If you're not in the publishing industry, you might not understand why some authors/publishers use word-count instead of page-count. Page-count shifts dependent on the device vs print- it's not an absolute and up to interpretation. I'll see x-amount of pages for a specific word-count listed, and wonder how the publisher managed to bloat a 200-page book into 400. Even I get confused when a book is listed as say 400 pages, when my 400-page book has twice as many words. A writer's version of penis envy, since it fits with the overall ED theme I have going here...
I use word-count for all working drafts and ebooks because it's accurate. Page-count will only be used on books published into print, where I personally numbered the pages. Again, that is up to interpretation, as font size matters. I'm not a size queen. Again, PE, some bloat the font to make it look longer. All I care about is a full story that offers me escape. Don't care if it's 20k or 200k. But length matters to some. I only mention it when giving updates, simply because I'm notorious for being long-winded and fear y'all think I'm slacking off.
By saying Hero is currently 300K, that is my way of justifying why it's not on the shelves. My way of offering proof that I am not twiddling my thumbs and making no headway.
What's the industry average?
On average, a full-length novel in my genres is between 50k-120k. Many books we read, a quick little escape, are 35-60k. Authors from major publishers, who release one book per series a year, generally those books are averaged 120K.
Hero is 300k in 6 months. Just a little over halfway finished, maybe closer to 2/3.
I'm not treading water. In 6 months, Hero is the length of what some authors output in 3 years. This is not me saying I'm better than anyone because my book is longer (the longer it is, the more hassle it is- trust me, this isn't a good thing). It's me weighing why the book is not for sale. I feel guilty for breaking my vow of taking a step back, but 3 years worth of work shouldn't be rushed. As that is the lesson I learned from the entire series needing to be rewritten and republished.
In the breaks I've taken during this 6-month journey, major changes have occurred. Epiphanies, like I used as an example with Followill. Hero wouldn't be the cerebral-f@ck it will become, without those steps back to let the story marinate, then evolve.
The pressure and performance anxiety stem from allowing the book time to become what it needs to be, to allow the muse to become inspired, to ensure I will never regret what I publish. There's no takebacksies anymore.
What's new with Hero?
Hero has a new title: Heroism. It's dual-narration, and Hero is masculine singular. Hero has a new cover for the same reason. Lips were zipped on whether or not anyone liked the cover, so I'll go by the loaded silence that like is not the emotion felt.
As its creator, do I think the cover fits the content?
Yes. Do I wish Kat's hair was more crimson? Yes. Is the cover final? Yes, unless I can somehow isolate that hair, because I am unhappy to report that her skin is the same shade as her hair, and we don't want a Kat with red skin. Snorts. I spent a good 3 days on that hair. I'll try again at another date. Maybe I'll learn a new trick or two before the book's release.
What happens next?
When Hero finally reaches the beta-reading process, I will work on updating my website, formatting a slew of books for print, as well as promos. In the mean time, I have to do right by Hero, by the muse, and for my sanity, which means I have to work on something else. There's a reason most authors either write standalones or numerous series, as no muse would be satisfied being stifled, and it would harm the story.
Followill is both a town and a surname.
Clearly it's still in its inception phase. Rayna Scott is a 17 year-old girl, deep in the south, interacting with a prominent family from the other side of the tracks. This coming-of-age angst fest is filled with struggles, heartbreak, triumphs, and failures. Going by the path set, it will evolve into a duology or trilogy, on the short side for me.
Will Followill see the light of day, when the others have not?
Yes. But I'll be a headcase before, during, and after, fearing readers' reactions, because I'm writing out of my comfort zone. A young woman of color. Venturing away from LGBTQ with a girl who only has the feels for boys. Relocating from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast to the deep south.
Writer Rule: write what you know. I'm ditching those rules.
Par for the course, I have to lob angst bombs at the girl, witnessing her struggle to avoid them, drive through them, or suffer because of them. You can take me out of my comfort zone, but you can't take away my need to emotionally torture my characters to witness how they will react.
Will Hero ever see the light of day?
I'm known for short writing bursts, where I bang out an upwards of 50-70,000 words in a session, anywhere from 3-10 days without a break. One of those sessions would net me the foundation of an entire novel. Two of those sessions would finish Hero. I write based on my mindset and emotions, neither are in the right place for Hero at the moment. Never fear, Kat and Caleb run in my blood. I even have the foundation and outline created for the next in the series, Thief.
Thanks for listening to me ramble- Erica Chilson, the wicked writer isn't feeling too wicked or much of a writer at the moment. Like every novel in creation, humans are also a work-in-progress.