You won't know what your own REAL writing process is until you begin work on your second (maybe even your third) book.
First books are where you learn how to unlearn all your rookie mistakes
I've talked several times about how my 113,000 word YA became an almost 50,000 word MG. That was the same story - one book - cut by more than half because I was repairing all the mistakes from an almost hopelessly flawed manuscript.
Now that work is under control. When the day comes and it needs to be edited or changed further I'll know exactly where and how to begin. It's handled.
As of this moment I am excitedly churning out my first actual YA project!
*this is me when I write - except there's more typing involved*
A little backstory:
Before there was my MG...there was the idea for this book. The year was 2009, and I was finally doing it: writing my debut novel!
I had the whole world built. The whole story outlined. The characters itching to find their way onto the pages and say all their lines. Alas, it didn't click with me, something was missing.
I shelved the project in August of 2009.
I came back to it in 2011. After what felt like centuries of a writing hiatus, I had met L, I had a good steady job (no more writing by candlelight because the electric hadn't been paid!), I had a reason to be successful! Real-Adult-Life was starting and I didn't have a MS in hand to find an agent. I was behind! So I dusted off the 2009 project and set to work.
I changed the story around, I added a couple of characters, I took certain elements out, and I realized that the world wasn't as complete as I originally thought then fixed it.
I wrote six chapters, and I came to another stopping point.
I wasn't feeling it. Not only was it poorly written, but it lacked the immersive quality that would keep me entertained while writing it (the same quality that keeps me reading fantasy.)
There was no hope for my 2009-2011 project.
Back on the shelf it went.
In November (November 15, 2011 to be exact) I got the idea for what became my first book. It is now complete, and in the hands of agents.
After I sent it to the first agent who requested I was outlining "Book 2" (my MS is *hopefully* the first of a series)...and in the midst of fleshing out the outline for Book 2 I discovered It.
It = the missing part of my 2009/2011 failure.
The Story never left me; I actually pirated multiple things from that world, and several characters that made it in to the final draft of my current MS.
I freaked out. The excited Freak Out.
When I inserted the once-missing link into the 2009/2011 YA Fantasy outline I panicked for joy. Oh goodness, the entire story underwent a massive overhaul. Only three of the original characters remained. The MC became supporting cast, and one of the supporting cast members became the MC. The world became completely three dimensional.
I had all the tools I needed - so the outlining began.
The outline was quick. The Story was waiting patiently in the crevices of my brain for a very long time. It was like taking all of your dishes out of a box and finding their proper places in the cabinet. It was a little too easy.
This time I got nine chapters in...then I went back and re-read.
See, the worlds of my MG and my YA are...subtly linked, and what I had written of the YA didn't jive...at all.
I understand the voice for a Young Adult story and a Middle Grade story will be ever-so slightly different...but what worried me was the Horror element in this (what was supposed to be) YA Fantasy.
Murder, bloodshed, gruesome - all in chapter one. I worried, pacing through the house thinking "Well, it is supposed to be darker, and it's for an older audience..."
But No. There was no excuse. Anyone who read the first chapter would think "horror" and if that isn't what they signed on for then it meant that they would put the book down long before we get to the fantasy element.
It was time for a Re-write.
I didn't shelve it. Because all the pieces were there. The world is now perfectly complete - outlines for mulitple future stories are done. The time is Now.
So I went back...and re-outlined. Created a whole new beginning without a hint of bloodshed. It allowed me to introduce certain important characters much earlier. BOOM! BOOYA! ...or whatever the kids say nowadays.
Now as for my process. I had no idea how much that would...refine itself.
My Middle Grade MS was an arduous project; a labor of love; created in the throes of literary passion and almost divine inspiration.
My Young Adult is all blood, sweat, and tears. It's a story that has to be told, but I'm still uncertain as to how to tell it.
My MG - the characters appeared in my head. They never changed from who they were. I had one character with a stutter (that stutter was written out between drafts 5 and 6) but ultimately the essence of who each and every person is has never changed.
My YA - even as I write there is only One character who remains constant, and it isn't my MC. My Main Character even her appearance fluctuated greatly in my head until I wrote it down.
Is she black or is she white? ...Both
Is she blind or can she see? ...Both
And it goes on...
Her personality is even worse. She isn't an artifact I'm digging out of the sand like so many of my other characters. She's someone I'm getting to know; like I would get to know you if we were sitting on your couch while we watched tv and drank a glass of wine. Which means sometimes she leaves the room and I can't ask her questions. So I wing it. She isn't a badass, she isn't desperate for vengeance, she isn't funny, she isn't quirky, she isn't high strung, she isn't easy-going...Eden just is. She is all of those things and more. She's perfectly lovely. But I'll be damned if I can tell you everything about her - she's still a mystery.
As for my speed....
Oh the words still pour like a fountain - when I'm "in the zone"...but I'm forcing myself to write outside of my comfort zone. I did that with the first draft of my first book, and though the draft was terrible and almost nothing but character names have survived from it - I still had something to fix.
So it will be with this.
The writing has improved. My prose are less purple (not as many adjectives/adverbs), but I still write everything down.
That's my process.
Like a film that's four hours long but has to be condensed to 90 minutes so are my stories. I'll cut all the fluff away. That time they traveled here, the idle conversation there...those can all go away. I have to write them down though. Because the first draft is for Me. This is my time to find out what I'm writing. I'm discovering these characters and building their relationships as I go - which is an entirely new experience. I know where they end up...I know how all of my stories end...and I'm having great fun finding out how this one begins.
So there will be more blog silence from me (unless I have earth-shattering news to share) until this book is complete. Then I'll be back to my regularly scheduled appointments with you.
What have you learned working on your second or third book?
Have you picked up anything that you shelved years ago?
What have you created recently?
Until we meet again...