For those who have been wondering about the radio silence: This is what I’ve been up to for the last year. I’m so sorry it’s put me behind on the last Brethren book, but it’s been an itch I’ve had to scratch, and as you’ll see from the post below, it’s been the most challenging writing project I’ve ever had. Thank you for your readership and patience. I promise it will not be in vain.
So this has been the most unique WIP I’ve ever worked on. I came up with the idea for “Freak of Nature” last summer, and spent several months, beginning in August, outlining it in a lot of detail. I’d anticipated this would help me write it quickly. However, once I actually got into the writing itself, I threw the outline out the window, figuratively, and forged ahead by the seat of my pants, plotwise. And the more I wrote, the more I realized my original idea just wasn’t going to work. The characters all would, but most of them changed backstories, personalities, even perceived “faces” in my mind at least two or three times.
I have probably written more than 300,000 words in this manuscript. I’ve cut or changed at least half of them, and rewritten some scenes at least two or three different ways at different points as the story progressed. My “might use, might not” file (or “YUMN” for short) is as long as the manuscript itself. But in the end, it all fell together like a giant puzzle, with scenes I’d written months ago that I’d subsequently cut finding new homes in new places further along in the work. I’ve reworked, recycled, and reconfigured “Freak of Nature” so much, I’m surprised Pinhead and the Cenobites haven’t come to get me yet.
Even the end turned out to be a work in progress, even of itself. I finished the manuscript last month. Sort of. Because I already had ideas in my mind, and a list on my computer, of loose ends I needed to go back and work out, and of subtle little things I felt I needed to add. More scenes were reworked. Some were cut, others readded.
It took another month for me to go through more revision rounds, during which time, I chopped 18,000 words from the manuscript. This might sound like a massacre, but as with any editing project, I feel it’s tightened the book and improved it considerably, enough so that I am now comfortable trying to market it to literary agents.
It’s taken 15 months to get here.
By comparison, my first published book, “Dark Thirst,” was based off an idea I’d had for years, and a submission of three chapters that had taken me about a month to write. The rest of the book, I finished in 2 weeks. The biggest difference is me. When I wrote “Dark Thirst,” I had just had my son. I was able to write pretty much full time. I had few outside responsibilities besides my job. And the idea behind it, the world and characters, had pretty much been cemented in my mind for a long, long time.
“Freak of Nature” was a whole different beast. My kids keep me hopping when they’re home, even when they don’t have afterschool activities. My house has become the one where the neighborhood kids congregate and play – I’ve had nine at a time running in and out and all around, whooping and hollering. I work long hours; part of the 15 months it’s taken me to write “Freak,” I worked at nights. My job was stressful, and my outside responsibilities have grown increasingly stressful, too. Writing often has to take a back seat, whether I like it or not.
“Freak” was also a brand new world. Brand new characters. A new landscape for writing, a new mythology to master – one that kept changing in my mind, so the story would have to be changed to accommodate it. I was getting to know all of the people, places, and things in this new and exciting place that I was beginning to fall in love with. And then there was the science behind it all. Because I love writing speculative fiction, but there’s always the Scully to my internal Mulder – I have to be able explain why even the most outlandish ideas in my story have even a modicum of scientific possibility. If I can’t explain it, I can’t write it.
My originally idea morphed time and again, but in the end, the center of it remained unchanged. I wanted to write a book targeting young adult readers, where the protagonists are gay, but the fact that they’re gay isn’t the central focus of the story. It’s a secondary plot line, sure, because it’s something they have to acknowledge and try to deal with, but I didn’t want to write a “gay” book, or a book “for gay kids.” I wanted to write a BOOK. You know – a regular spec fic adventure story. Just with two lead characters who happen to be gay. And I also wanted them to be the HEROES, for a change, instead of the sidekicks to the guy and girl who eventually triumph over evil, fall in love, save the day. Like in the Mortal Instruments books – I love the relationship between Magnus and Alec, and thought they were a million times more interesting, complicated, and engaging than the “heroes,” Clary and Jace.
Anyway…am I happy with “Freak of Nature”? Yes. I’m sure I’ll find a million faults with it every time I look at it, because like most writers, I’m my own worst critic. But I’ve got my beta readers reviewing it, and like I said, today I begin the Great Agency Hunt to see what we can make happen next. Yay, me!
And what does this mean for the last Brethren book? I have more time now to dedicate to it — in fact, with NaNoWriMo coming up in November, I’ve decided to allot that time to firing out my draft for the book. I already have some of it finished, but I need to go back and catch myself back up on the previous books so I can pick up where I left off.
A special thank you to my readers for being patient with me, and hanging in there. Y’all are the best, and it’s you more than anything that keeps me inspired and imagining the possibilities.