WIP Wednesday – The Minor Flirtation, part 2

My last novel, MIRRORPASS, took me three years to finish. I am not normally that slow of a writer. Spending so long on a single novel was torture. It was three whole years of having new ideas and not being able to write them. When it finally (finally, FINALLY) came time to pick a new novel to focus on after shipping MP off on submissions, it was a pretty even tie between two ideas.

One was Shutterbug.

At the time, Shutterbug was brand spanking new. Like maybe six months old, or even newer. It was the idea I had begun because I wanted something entirely unlike my other novels to think about; I wanted sweet, early teen romance;  I wanted a boy protagonist, and dual POVs; I wanted to set it in a city, which I’ve never done before.

The other idea was old. Very old.

Before I wrote MIRRORPASS, I took a whack at this big-concept story called “The Eternity Shift,” about a girl with a deadly disease getting frozen in cryo, by accident, and waking in a world where everyone was cursed with immortality and couldn’t manage to die. They wanted to die, though, because immortality sucked, and they were all cryo survivors in a weird new world, and nobody knew how they’d gotten there. And somehow this girl have managed to stay mortal when everyone else hadn’t. So she had this cure.

It was a great idea, but I didn’t realize how many flaws it had until I got that iconic 20k into the first draft. I pushed through, though, for another 10k, until the story petered out just short of 30,000 words and I had to trunk it. It was the first novel in years that I’d gotten so far with and had to trunk. It was a colossal failure. And even worse, the idea refused to release it’s grip on me. I still liked it, after all that waste.

So. I told the idea, fine. I’ll keep you. But you have to sit nicely on the shelf with the other bits and bobbins and percolating concepts, and every once and a while I’ll try solving you again.

Which it had done quite nicely. Over time, especially while writing MP, whenever I got bored I would take my Eternity Shift idea down off the shelf, poke at the beginning (and by poke I mean write 2,000, or 5,000, or even 8,000 words) until things went wrong again and I had to stop. I never managed to get it right. Ever. I’d solve one piece of the puzzle, but find the others were still mucked up.

Thing was…while writing MP…I started getting close to solving The Eternity Shift. (Which abbreviates to TES. Do you mind if I just call it TES? I’ve been doing that in my head, and it works great.) By the time I finished MP, I felt TES was almost ready to go again. Maybe was ready.

But Shutterbug was maybe ready, too.

And so was Time Travel story, come to think about it.

As you know from my previous post, The Minor Flirtation, trying to write two novels at once is, in my opinion, not only a very bad idea, but also pretty near impossible. I had to let all but one go.

I spent a tortured month or so turning them all over in my minds, writing bits and pieces of their beginnings while trying to figure out which one I wanted to spend the next 6 months+ with. And in the end, as you may have guessed, I chose Shutterbug.

Time Travel story behaved nicely. It kind of like, sighed, and went back to sleep.

But TES did not play nicely. TES hovered. It waited a month or two, and then presented itself with brand new solutions that made everything which hadn’t worked before work. Crap.

But I told myself, no. You are writing Shutterbug. You can poke at TES, but you cannot write it.

Okay. Poking at TES. Writing Shutterbug.

That seemed to work okay. TES, it seemed, still had a few minor details to iron out. (Does she run into the forest? What would motivate her to do that? And like, do I really want her to be a dancer? Should she have another hobby, maybe?)

And that was fine. Shutterbug roared ahead and lurched to halts during finals. Roared ahead again. All in all, things were going good.

And then…

Sigh.

Then this month happened.

TES happened.

I was doing my poking thing to TES, as I commonly do. This was on the wings of a sudden spurt of inspiration, as it usually is. Nothing unusual here. Except that for the first time ever, I was landing those first chapters with voice.

VOICE. The voice of TES has eluded me for so long. I have known the plot I wanted to write, much of the feel of how I wanted to execute it; I have even known the voice I wanted it to have. But the subject matter was so…strange, sometimes, that it was nearly impossible to hang onto the voice.

And this time I did.

Not only that, but I got the love-interest-sortof-maybe guy right, first try. And I got the tricky opening plot points right, first try.

EVERYTHING WAS WORKING RIGHT AND WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE SHOULD I STOP SHOULD I KEEP GOING I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DOOOOO.

I kept writing. Couple days ago, I tweeted about writing 8,000 in one day. Yeah, that was in TES. This morning I woke up, sat up in bed, had an important paragraph I knew I needed to type before I lost it, and ended up writing 2,500 words before breakfast. I added another 1,300 this afternoon.

TES is going nuts, guys. I’m already at the 14,000 mark and it’s been less than fourteen days. Because I’m switching back and forth in time, I have a good first third of the novel plotted out almost in entirety. And I am already very close to getting over the speed bump I’ve always encountered during the first plot movement–the second plot movement is where things always used to fall apart. Thankfully this time I’ve solved that.

I know, once my characters enter the third plot movement, things will have to slow down because I am very vague now where things go from there. Which is kind of a relief actually, because hey. Backup plan! I’ll be forced to stop writing and just think for a little while. Which will give me an opportunity to pick Shutterbug back up. In case, you know. I dropped Shutterbug to write TES.

Which I don’t intend on doing.

I intend on writing Shutterbug and TES at the same time.

Even though that never, ever seems to work.

Even though you always say to yourself, “but this time is different!” and it turns out, no, it’s not.

What can I say? This time is different.

*Headdesk*

 

*

 

And that, guys, is my crazy WIP update. I’ve decided to start including some kind of stats with these WIP posts, so, here goes:

SHUTTERBUG MEETS (INVISIBLE) GIRL — YA magical realism with romantic elements. 16-year-old Toby McCleary sets out on a renewed quest to find the mysterious disappearing girl of his childhood, with only the clues in an unsolved mafia case, the pictures on a lost camera to guide him, and his own faith to guide him.

Current word count: 82k out of 85k
Why this is not as good as it sounds: because I’m just wrapping up Act 2. I lingered too long on a specific plot movement, and now I need to get the plot back on track by hammering out some important scenes so we can get to the good stuff. Am working on hammering out those now–successful so far, in that I wrote one already this month (between writing TES. Hah, hah.)

And speak of the devil! Introducing, my second-possibly-WIP…

THE ETERNITY SHIFT — a YA dystopian. A girl who loves to dance wakes up in a future cursed with immortality, where, as an accidental beta-tester for the first cryogenic pod, she’s the only mortal left.

Current word count: 14k out of 90k
Status: Moving from the opening, establishing chapters (which have always given me grief in previous drafts) to the exciting part, when Robin starts digging into her relationship with the guy who she really, really shouldn’t fall in love with, because he was bred to be a killer and oooh…tension!

TES also has a Pinterest. In case you’re interested. (Because getting a Pinterest is, like the first thing I DO with new ideas nowadays.)

So ANYWAY. That concludes my massive two-part WIP update.

 

What about you guys? How are your WIP’s going? Does anyone else out there storyboard with Pinterest like me? Share!

 

Truly and always,
-Mandy

The Minor Flirtation, part 1

 

 

At some point in every writer’s life, typically sooner rather than later, they are tempted to write two stories at once.

Sometimes it’s because they have two brilliant (or three, or four) ideas at once, and they CAN’T CHOOSE. Often it’s because they had a brilliant idea, started writing it, and around the 20k mark things got…a little less exciting. A little slow. A bit tricky. They looked out the window to stare moodily at the landscape, when BAM. Brilliant new idea goes flashing across the glass. And, well. Brilliant new idea just won’t go away. It becomes a minor obsession. The not writing it, the idea of giving it a try.

Especially when it’s a really good idea. That makes it easier to justify. (This one is more marketable, I should be writing it first.) (This one has a better hook. Agents will like it more!) Yeah. Right.

There is also a third scenario, which involves crazy deadlines and being forced to write two things at once, but that’s an entirely different beast and I’m nowhere near qualified to discuss it.

Tonight I want to discuss the minor flirtation.

 

 
Ahem. The minor flirtation with IDEAS, you know: the idea flashing past the glass.

We all have this, I think, through the course of writing novels; and I’ve learned to channel these flashing ideas into short stories, to give me something new to think about that will resolve neatly and allow me to continue writing my WIP. But in the past it was always like, OMGOSH, this is such a good idea, I have to write this. No, I mean I really just have to write this. I can’t abandon old novel…but I could do both! At once! They’d inspire me to write each other. They would give me breaks from each other, and that way I’d be twice as productive.

That’s always how our thought process goes, isn’t it? But the answer is…no. Even if you think it’s part of your process…it’s probably not.

 

 

I used to know people, great writers, back on the Absolute Write forums, who did this. They’d start out with one WIP in their siggy, and then they’d have two, and then three, and then four…until the old ideas were trunked and the new ones became old ones. It was a never ending cycle. And the only way out of it was to  shut the door, pick one idea, and write it until it was done.

So that’s always been how I’ve done it. Once or twice, very rarely when I simply can’t STAND it any more, I’ve tried writing two things at once. Usually it’s with some sort of stipulation, like, when story #2 stalls out around the 20k mark like I expect it to, it’s back to WIP #1 with you. Or sometimes I’ve allowed myself to pick away at a secondary story that has had a sudden resurgence in interest, because I doubt it’s going anywhere at the moment. I’ve noodled with this idea before, and it has a long way to go before it can become a full-fledged novel. So there’s no worry it will try and take over. I’ll ride out the flirtation, learn what I can learn, and go back to my WIP without any guilt.

 

 

*

 

So.

This is the point when I normally start giving you examples based off my own novels. The problem with that is, the examples are long. They involve an Awful Lot of Blabbing. So this time, I decided instead of making one incredibly massive posts…

I’d split it into two. Part 2 comes Wednesday, when I will be discussing one of the other alternatives, that I may or may not have slipped into. COUGH. But for today, what do you guys think of about the minor flirtation? Have you ever struggled with it? How do you deal with it? Has anyone out there ever managed to write two novels at once and done so successfully? Because, despite what’s coming up in Wednesday’s post, I just have a hard time believing that could work unless you were really, really motivated.

(You people with deadlines, I feel for you. Deeply. How do you stay sane doing that?)

Until Wednesday!

 

Truly and always,

-Mandy

No please, take your time. I’ll wait.

 

 

*I wrote this post late at night without any proofreading whatsoever.
You guys needed to know that. In case of, you know. Grammatical wretchedness.
That was all. Continue.

So today a friend and I were walking, discussing whether we liked the idea of the new Finding Dory film that Pixar announced. She has positive feelings about it. I said I was very, very hesitant because I was afraid they might ruin it. And then we got talking about how hard sequels are, how even when the film industry is trying really really hard to make an excellent sequel, there’s still a chance it won’t work. And then we got talking about book sequels and how those are sometimes almost even worse.

Especially when you liked the first book.

Especially when you LOVED the first book!

Laini Taylor did this post (semi-)recently about how lots of people wait until a series is finished before they start reading, and how she couldn’t understand it, and I felt a little bad, because I am Definitely One Of Those People.

I wait to read series as a rule. And I don’t think this is as bad as it sounds. It doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the author or not supporting them. What does suck is that my waiting three months, or until the end of the entire series, can injure that series while it’s in progress.

That is tough.

I try to be an optimist, guys I really do. But as someone who reads a ton of YA and as someone who also writes novels, I have extremely high standards when it comes to my books. So it takes a lot for me to love a book. Like really love it. And if I’m only “meh” about it, I know right away I probably won’t enjoy the sequel. That’s just how it is.

But if I LOVED the book, or if I quite enjoy it, then I have hopes for the sequel(s). I sort of cross my fingers and shut my eyes and maybe peek at the author with a mix of hope and trepidation.

Then I wait for their book to come out.

Then I wait for the reviews.

Then I read the reviews.

From the reviews and the collective census of other readers, I can tell with a huge level of accuracy whether I will like the sequel or not. (I know this because I used to read reviews and then read the book. And nope. It was pretty accurate.)

There have been times, like with Daughter of Smoke & Bone for example, or with the Shiver trilogy, that I trusted the author enough to read their sequels right away. But most of the time I wait. Because sequels are hard to write, and awkward in terms of where they land in the story arc of a series, and just, UGH. Most of the time I don’t want to know. I don’t want the maybe-okay or oh-dear-why? sequel to ruin the series for me. I would prefer to wait.

Did I mention that sequels are hard?

Thing is, I have a huge amount of respect for writers working on a series. The first book is such a different beast. It’s a shiny new idea. It can go anywhere you want. No only do sequels land straight in the middle of sophomore slump–the time when authors suddenly have pressures and struggles they never faced before, when they were unpublished and relatively free–sequels also have about a zillion requirements. There is PRESSURE. There is this intense clash of wants and needs–pleasing the fans, pleasing the publishers, pleasing yourself, making it enough like book 1 so everyone enjoys their favorite bits, making it different enough so it’s not a rehash, making it unique enough so it’s not all filler, developing all these characters whom everyone cares about and suddenly you have twelve people you have to fiddle with instead of three, figuring out how to make this romance interesting after happily-ever-after, figuring out how to stay true to these characters and the story and yourself and yet figure out ways to make their lives fall apart so you have actual PLOT and where is this all going? What will happen in book 3? How does this all tie together? There have to be implications and hint-dropping and surprises and in the end it has to be a story, a unique, crazy awesome story, and all that has to be as good or better than book one.

You guys. This is hard. Hard. HARD. I have never written a sequel, although I daydreamed enough about a MIRRORPASS sequel that I know mostly what I would write if a got the chance. Which actually is how I knew it was hard. Almost halfway through MP I started thinking of the sequel. (This is how we writer’s work. It’s insane. Plots just explode and spiral out into eternity.) And as I finished MP, I got a bit worried, to be honest, because my sequel ideas sucked.

There were all these freakin requirements.

  • I knew, to be a good sequel, characters needed to spend time on both the worlds.
  • I had to avoid conspiracy theory/dystopian government/government cover ups.
  • I should probably solve the Big Unsolved Mystery I’d hinted at all through MP, which would send everyone out in deepspace.
  • I needed to explore the relationship between my MC, Aria, and her brother whom she rescued by the end of MP.
  • I needed to show Aria developing as a character and all the fallout from her physical and emotional injuries in MP.
  • But I didn’t want a post-traumatic-stress-disorder kind of story. It needed to be positive, and she needed to be even more proactive than ever.
  • It couldn’t be messy. All had to make sense.

So essentially, I needed to get Aria to leave her home world that she just got back to, and go to Earth again for some reason that had nothing to do with government conspiracies, and also somehow go into deepspace at the same time and solve the Big Unsolved Mystery that had to somehow relate to why she was on Earth, aaaaaall while in rehab for her physical injuries and while diving deep into the relationship with this brother she barely knows.

Oh. I also maybe wanted romance in there. Because yeah. It’s what I wanted.

Do you know how long it took me to come up with a sequel idea that worked, and that I also liked, and that I actually felt like writing?

Three years.

Published authors writing on contract do not have three years to think about their sequel. They have maybe six months. Probably less than that.

And I think this, more than any other reason besides the general pressure of fans/publishers/expectations, is why so many sequels struggle so hard.

Writers have to dig to find the story. You take all this input, including your own doubts and such, and you have to worry and kvetch over it and sort through until you find the important bits worth considering. And then you have to throw the rest out and just write. Write what you want regardless of what you ought to do. Write with the door closed, as Stephen King (it was him, right?) said.

Write write write write write.

Then you can take a deep breath, show it to the important people, and ask them to help you turn the thing you had to write into something that will meet the most important of the important requirements.

And this. Takes. Time.

Which is why, when I see a sequel or third has been pushed back another year–or two–I don’t react with wailing. I actually breathe this sigh of relief. I’m like oh, thank goodness, they’re taking some time with this one. I fervently hope it will do them and the story good.

Because even though I can be very critical, it’s not because I doubt the author or the book; it’s because I want so desperately for it to turn out well. The friend at the beginning of this story told me once that every critic is secretly a romantic. Meaning that critics become critics because they were people who hoped the hardest, and therefore disappointed the worst, but who are still in that deep secret place hoping anyway.

I love it when a sequel turns out good. I love it when authors take their time (so long as they don’t abandon it altogether. In which case, AHEM. Trust = shattered.)

This is why I can wait patiently for The Host sequel (she is writing it. SHE SAID SO RECENTLY. THERE IS AN OUTLINE AND THINGS.) And the Robin McKinley Pegasus sequels. (Pegasus, cliff ending and all, is one of my favorite books ever. I would wait eternity for this sequel.) (If I’m being honest, I wrote this entire post because I was thinking about the Pegaus sequel. Le sigh.) And why, when I saw just today that the Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3 just got bumped back to Spring 2014, I was totally okay.

I want these books to turn out good. I am excited and hopeful. I want to authors to do what they need to make it happen to make themselves happy, because if they are happy, odds are I will be too.

I AM ROOTING FOR YOU GUYS. I support sequels. And trilogies. And series.

Even if it means waiting a while first.

Truly and always,
-Creative A

 

P.S. I’m too busy to be blogging and yet I keep right on blogging! This is what happens when I can’t write the current work in progress. STUFF JUST COMES OUT. Gah.