It Takes a Village to Raise a Book

The process of getting The Darkness of Light ready for publication has made  me realize that it really does take a village to raise a book.

When I started writing it, I had no idea how many people would be involved in developing it and perfecting it. So far, I’ve needed the aid of 6 beta-readers, 2 critique partners, 1 professional critique, and a copy-editor. Then there is the cover designer, and a second editor that will do a final read through just before publication.

That makes 12 people who have had a hand in the creation of my book.

Whether you’re publishing traditionally, or going the self-publishing route, it’s pretty amazing to look back at that moment you sat down at your computer and wrote the words “Chapter One,” and now you have a completed novel, and a team of people trying to help you push your book to the surface.

No matter which way you choose to move forward, publishing a book is certainly not a one man/woman show.

 

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The First Draft HAS to suck!

I’ve had a hard time pushing through the writing of Boy, which is a novel about an Elizabethan child actor.

The more I struggle with it, the more I want to abandon it. I keep telling myself that this project is too ambitious, that I can’t pull it off, that the history is too hard.

Then I remember the first draft of The Darkness of Light.

The very first, off the top of my head draft, sucked BIG TIME! In the first 3 chapters the characters were 10 years old. Then I came to the conclusion that they needed to be older from the start in order to have a shorter story. I skipped chapters. I knew what would happen in them, but I didn’t know how things would unfold.

So instead of fighting through the hard parts, I would write (in red font) an outline of the chapter and what I knew needed to happen. Then I moved on to the next chapter and it began to flow.

By the time the first draft was done, it was completely unreadable, inconsistent, and a grammatical mess! But I loved it! And I was so excited to write the next draft.

I have to keep that in mind as I continue to write Boy. I really want to get to the part where Mathias arrives in London. So in order to get there, today I wrote some notes and jumped chapters.

Tomorrow will be Mathias’s first day in London and I’m really excited to go there with him. The rest can be dealt with later. As long as I get a shitty first draft written, then at least I have something to work with. If I abandon it, I’ll have nothing.

The Lesson: A shitty first draft is workable. Giving up is not!

 

 

 

Sequel writing thoughts

I should really be working on my manuscript that is completely unrelated to The Darkness of Light. I know I should. Especially considering I have no idea what will happen with TDOL as it makes its query rounds.

But the sequel is so much easier to write than the new one.

Here’s why…

I already know my characters.

If you ask me “What would Malcolm do?” I totally know the answer to that!  If I start on a new book, I’m going to have to struggle through getting to know my new characters. That’s always fun, but it’s stressful too.

I already know my setting.

With all the research I did for the first book, I better damn well know the setting! Sure, I still have to ensure my facts are right. I still have to look things up. I still have to scoot over to google earth from time to time. But I am comfortable with the era, the landscape, the wildlife.

It’s so easy to write about a place you feel like you already know. My other novel is set in Elizabethan England, and even though I’ve studied it thoroughly,  bringing that world to life with accuracy is daunting.

I know where I’m going.

While I may not be 100% sure how I’m getting there, I know where my characters will end up. That didn’t happen with the first book. I had to write several drafts before I was settled on an outcome. It was a good learning experience, but it was nerve-wracking at times. If I start working on a completely separate book, I’ll be back in that space of uncertainty, sleepless nights, minor freak-outs.

So what does this tell me?

While it’s okay to work on The Darkness of Light sequel, I’m too comfortable in that world. I need to step back and give the new book a go. I need to challenge myself to keep my mind sharp, to keep learning, and to make sure I am constantly perfecting my writing skills.

Starting next week I’ll be setting aside my comfy slipper-like sequel for the painfully high-heeled walk with my new project.

When my students are frustrated or don’t understand the material, I tell them, “If you’re not struggling, you’re not learning anything.”

It’s time I take my own advice…