The not-so wise words of Adrienne Lecter

Category: update

My writing plans for 2018

As it’s Monday and I’m having a really hard time concentrating this morning, I figured I’d do another post here. And because we are closing in on the ides of March now and I still haven’t done my “What to expect in 2018!” blog post… and yes, I’m procrastinating right now but sometimes the busy brain needs a downtime, please bear with me.

The tl:dr (too long, didn’t read) version: I’m planning to write a shit-load of books this year, and some personal stuff update at the end of the post.

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Writing is Rewriting. Not.

I should be writing. No, seriously, that’s what my brain is screaming at me right now. Writing. As in, new words on the virgin white page. Err, screen. Scrivener file, new chapter. You get what I mean.

What am I doing instead? Sifting through a manuscript that I’ve already written, started on Tuesday, July 26, and pretty much finished in late November–when I realized that what I’d written was not the first half of a book, but the complete book, and what remained of the idea would be the next volume. If you’ve interacted with me in any shape or form in the past weeks, you probably know that already.

Writing has been a bit choppy for me over the past couple of months, either no progress at all or happily puttering along, and while the manuscript feels fluid–and very solid–to me, it has its flaws. They all do at the first draft stage, that’s how it’s supposed to be: it’s the very first version of a story. I love writing first drafts, and I’m a relatively clean first draft writer, so sometimes all that’s needed is a light copy edit (hunting typos that I missed while I was typing fast, and the odd repetitive phrases) before it goes out to be presented to someone’s eyes who is much better at polishing these things–and doesn’t have my uber smart brain that thinks it’s a good idea to read what it was supposed to have typed rather than what is actually on-screen. That’s why everyone needs an editor. You simply can’t do it all yourself. You’re too bright for that.

This time, not so much. Yeah, the smart thing, too, but I was referring to the clean first draft. Well, it is clean now that I’ve gone over it twice, but it’s not a finished draft ready to head to the editor and beta team. Not only is it a little on the short side, but it’s missing a few cohesive bits that as I keep thinking about them become more and more important. I hate downtimes when writing, for obvious productivity and related paycheck reasons, but this book needed it. For instance, last weekend I worked out details of the backstory that will factor more heavily into one of the future books but I ignored it so far as I didn’t need it now, and a vague sense was enough. Now that I do know I’ve realized that, in fact, the backstory already is causing ripples in the books, has been the driving factor in actions of various parties in book #7 (yes, I’m looking at you, Bucky!), and can have a huge impact in this book as well.

Long story short, I’m in rewriting hell. Not only am I adding a few details and the odd conversation that I cut before because it wasn’t necessary, but I’m also retroactively influencing my characters’ actions because of that new information that’s suddenly there.

I can’t tell you how much I hate this.

Not the new info part. And not the influencing. That’s actually great. I can’t wait until I’m in the later chapters where there’s an entire new conversation that is probably the second most fun scene in the entire book for me to write. It changes so much for me, the creator, and I love having those enlightenment moments when I myself go “A-Ha!” at something that’s been roiling around in the recesses of my mind for years.

No, I hate the actual rewriting of the book.

I’ve done it before. My first ever published book had 4 versions, and some parts of that have been regurgitated and reused so many times that I pretty much know them by heart. As in verbatim. And then they were cut because they weren’t essential. Turning Incubation from a biotech thriller to the starter of a zombie apocalypse series was peanuts compared to that. Including changing the time table inside the book and switching the title from “24 hours” (or at one time, 48) to what it is today. I also ran into massive pacing issues with that first romance series of mine when I realized I needed a 4th book to finish the trilogy. Yes, I’m one of those writers! I was. One of the reasons why I generally guard my romance alter ego like a hawk is because those books are decent, but they have massive flaws. I learned so much since then. Actually, I’m pretty sure the Green Fields books are 300% better because of the mistakes I made in the past. But even in this series, I’ve had to break my outline with every single book, and the 5th, Resurgence, had at different times two different endings. The first was earlier, when Bree came to the Halsey settlement, and realized someone she’d presumed dead was still alive (trying to keep this spoiler free). The other possible ending was at 1/3 point of the 6th book, Unity, before they set out south (again, trying to avoid spoilers! I’m sure you remember what happened). Both were great ending points. Both were mild to moderate cliffhangers. I ended the book in the middle of the story between both events because it also felt like a good place to stop, and it was already at over 142k words or almost 600 paperback pages. It was good that I stopped there because Unity ran even longer, anyway, and would have started with a drag otherwise. My point is, just because when I plan a book I think I know where it ends, that’s often not the case, and experience has taught me to trust my gut on this. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not.

But for the life of me, I wish I’d known two months ago that #8 (still untitled, eeeep!) would actually become two books so I didn’t have to streamline it that much to begin with… and wouldn’t be sitting in rewriting hell now.

Not all writers are first draft writers. A lot, in fact, hate first drafts; for them, the magic is in going back in, fleshing out the skeleton of the story they pretty much vomited onto the page in the first run, and in several turns craft this magically perfect manuscript that then ends up being the final book. I sometimes envy them because they can’t measure their productivity as actual words written each day, so taking longer to hone the tale doesn’t feel like constant failure to them. It does to me. That’s part of why rewriting is stressing me out. Yesterday I “wrote” five words in four hours! Of course I know that it was much more, that I deleted words and entire sentences and later added others at different points, but the bottom line I have to show for all that is five fucking words! Argh!

I also hate that I couldn’t get it right the first time. I hate that I’m chewing through parts of a story that I’ve been over what feels like at least three times too often. I’m afraid I’m smoothing over too much and that I’m losing what’s “unique” to my writing voice. I’m spending my entire day with my editing hat on, the critical voice in the driver’s seat, and I’d rather run around screaming wildly like the 2-year-old that my creative voice resembles. Critical voice is also awesome at making me feel like the worst writer in the world. Creative voice is 120% convinced I’m the best writer to ever tell a story!

So why this blog post? Because I’m miserable, and now I’ve stolen five minutes of your time and we can be miserable together! No, not really. I’m still convinced my blog posts are hilarious, funny, and very deserving of the time they take you to read them. I know you’re waiting for the book. Or the beta copy. Or the promised open call for beta readers so you might start waiting for your beta copy. It’s going to take me a little while longer than I expected. No, actually, I expected to take until right before Christmas to get this done but I was hoping to have it wrapped up sooner. That’s the first draft writer in me talking, who calculates a book to take two months to write, one week to proofread myself, then four weeks with the editor and beta team, and then a last week for me to implement all that before I release it into the great wild world out there. There’s no time calculated for having to go back in and turn half a book into a working full book that reads as if it had always been intended as such. That probably adds a month, which fits the realistic schedule perfectly. I’m just not happy about it because, miserable. Fuck. Rewriting.

Every writer is different. Heck, every book is different. As I told a friend yesterday, this is my 15th book, you’d think that by now I’d have a clue what I’m doing. I don’t. Not always, and not in all the details. If you gather ten writers, they’ll likely tell you fifty different ways to write a book, and all fifty, plus the hundred extra ways they forgot to mention, are all “the right way” to write a book. So if you’re a newbie writer, never let anyone tell you that what feels right to you isn’t. If it’s actually wrong, sooner or later you’ll realize that and move on to do better next time. If you’re a seasoned writer, you’re likely cringing right now at all the right books that are actually wrong but sitting on kindles and shelves all over the world right now that you can’t change anymore. I’m cringing all right. I think it’s part of what makes me a better writer than I was in 2014, so that’s okay. But if you’ve ever wondered why sometimes we, the authors, can’t tell you when a book will be done although we technically have finished writing it, now you know. I’m back to rewriting now because complaining about something never made it easier, and with every line that I correct, I’m closer to that phenomenal extra scene. Mwahahaha, mine is an evil laugh!

NaNoWriMo 2017 roundup + update on GF#8

So I “won” NaNoWriMo yesterday at officially 50,188 words. Never mind what the site is saying, validation always screws with the final word count. I take mine from Scrivener every day so it’s a good benchmark. Did a great job, I’d say, as I almost, accidentally, finished a book! Now how did that happen?!

Let me explain. As you probably know (or read in my facebook fan group) I’ve been slogging my way through the 8th Green Fields book. The plan was to finish it in September October for NaNoWriMo, but when I finally got to what felt like the halfway point of the plot and I was shy of 100k words, I realized I might have miscalculated. I also wrote the perfect last line last week and thought, so sad, I’m not done with the book, but this would have been the perfect light cliffhanger ending!

Also factoring in that last week I only wrote 6k words (which on a good day I can do within said good day easily) I should have realized that something was going on. My subconscious has a habit of slowing me down when something’s not quite right (which in 9 times out of 10 is the reason why I get writer’s block, which really is “you wrote yourself into a corner and need to fix this” block). I guess the problem was, what I WAS writing worked well, so I didn’t see the issue.

I’m right now at 110.9k words for the novel, with about 5k of that over the mark where the book will end. I have a list of five scenes that I want to add to / introduce to the book, something that I’ve NEVER done until now. So yay, learning something new on book #15, or something like that. Being a writer can be very fascinating (and scary!) sometimes!
Looking over what I’ve written, it feels like a solid plot, but because I thought I had to pack it all into one book, I think I took a few too many shortcuts. It feels to me like I hewed my way with a machete through high grass without ever pausing or taking the chance and exploring something appearing along the way. Those are usually the best parts of the book so I really shouldn’t skimp on them…

I still think that my original idea is a solid one, and it would have made a solid book, but seeing as no one was angry with me for splitting the book when I asked, I think I can take a hint. Fact is, since that week in early 2015 when I had a massive boost of creativity that ended up turning a stand-alone biotech thriller into a 6-part zombie apocalypse series, I haven’t really had to go back to the drawing board and play around with plot arcs. When book #5 came out and readers wanted more, it was easy to leave some questions unanswered and add some foreshadowing, so #7 was a wrap when I sat down to write it. If you’ve read it already, you know that, like book #2, it has a very road trip like feel to it, and that’s pretty easy to write. You just check off boxes, and each of those boxes ends up being a part in the book about the same amount of words, usually 10-20k.

Book #8 (and now #9) doesn’t work like that. For starters, I wrote an extra 35k in the beginning that wasn’t planned, yet it just happened. I started writing just after finishing the first draft edits of #7 and sending that to my editor and the beta readers, and until I got everything back from them, I wrote the first half of the book, including that unplanned chunk. The opening chapter was supposed to be what ended up being chapter 10 or 11 now. It’s a great opening chapter, don’t get me wrong, but not the right first chapter if you consider how #7 ended. Because unlike every other book, #8 needed to start with what happens an hour after the end of Affliction. The day after. The week after. No spoilers here from me, but I think you would have all killed me if I’d just hashed over the next five weeks and confined what happened to a paragraph of reflection. Seriously, what writer can pass up 35k words of emotional and physical anguish!?

Well, not this writer, it seems. And so the “issues” started.

Everything I write usually runs long. Just ask my high school teachers. What ended up being Incubation, the first book in the series, at just over 90k words, used to be a 40k novella concept. Two of my books have gone to almost 150k words, which is 1.5x of what I’m always aiming for. Only the first stayed below that. It’s like once I’m writing, I need more words than I plan, and my plan for #8 was very tight, and very crammed. Oh well. So now you get to have two books, one coming out soon, the other likely in early spring, and I get paid twice. The horror, really!

So will it be two shorter books? Hell, no. #8 will likely clock in at 120k, just like #7, Affliction. And while right now I can delude myself into thinking that #9 won’t be as long, I’m not holding my breath there. That book will have a pretty heavy climax of about 50k realistically (I thought I could do it in 10. Ha!), with a beginning round-up section that’s 35k, I’d say, and I need connective tissue between those, so another 15k, plus the end, which will be around 10-20k… so about 120k again. Sounds legit! Now for real. Come to think of it, on the writing and structure part #9 is starting to feel a but like Resurgence, book #5–that ended up at 140+k. Damnit!

Have I mentioned I make most of my money with Kindle Unlimited, and I get paid by pages read for that? So actually, writing more means moar monayy! Bring it on!

Oh, right, I’m the one who has to do the writing. Never mind.

So what’s on my agenda for the rest of the week? I’m almost done proofreading my first draft, as it is. I will finish that today and type in all the changes (5-10 per page, printed in double space, 8pt font. Yes, I’m crazy, and apparently have a paper saving fetish). I have my short list of content additions that I will work on after that. One scene gets a massive addition, another some elaboration, and then some extra, mostly conversation stuff in a few strategic places. I definitely told Bree’s story in this book, but she’s not an island, and the other characters deserve some time on screen as well. Today I’m tired as hell as I only got 4 hours of sleep last night, and tomorrow I have some social obligations that involve great company and booze (plus, I really need a haircut!) so that will cut into my productivity, but I will have this wrapped up soon. I think. As I said, I normally don’t go back in and add stuff. All my foreshadowing is already in the book. I usually do that in a way that feels like throwing little balls of plot forward so my future self can then catch and unravel them, or continue to throw them forward. What’s missing from this book are non-essential things, but things that carry the very soul of the book. Details that make it feel more real, bits of research I was so excited about when I discovered it so I decided it needs to go into the book. Since I don’t have an agent, publisher, or developmental editor that tell me no, not essential so it needs to be cut, you’ll get your extra 15% soulful content! And, who knows? It might be those extra scenes that turn out to be the starting point of yet one more plot ball getting lobbed into future books. Yes, I plan my plot, but sometimes connections develop that surprise me as I write them. I believe that’s the secret of a plot that keeps readers on their toes. Have a good, solid foundation, but be prepared to catch a random ball that ends up fitting perfectly.

Damn, I need more sleep because that mental image just made sense to me.

So maybe you’ll get a book this year after all. If not, you’ll get it in January, and starting next week, I’ll work on the next one so that it will be out sooner rather than later. After all, I’m smack in the middle of the story and my head is in the right place. Gotta use that momentum!

Q4 Plans

Instead of boring you with a September recap (hint: September was kind of a dud for me) I’ll entertain you with what I have planned for the remaining quarter of 2017!

But first, a very, very short recap of what happened in September, because I’m a glutton for punishment. Beware, personal stuff ahead.

Exhaustion hit me like a freight train at the beginning of the month. You’d think that after publishing 13 other novels, I’d expect this to happen, particularly after a very, very productive summer, but noooooo. Not only was I toeing a mini-burnout from several months of constant productivity, but as usual, the release was strong, but numbers only started to really pick up in week 3 post-release. A lot of writers who still have a day job dream of doing it full-time. Let me tell you, if you’re all in, waiting until you have the data to start crunching the numbers is excruciating. Or maybe that’s just me. Don’t worry, most of my fretting was for naught, but it adds a nice layer of stress. Of course then karma had to swoop in and remind me that good things come to writers of gory horror stories, and one of my all-time favorite authors shared a promo I was running, giving it a great kick that still keeps burning. Yes, I once again embarrassed myself fangirling all over Bobby Adair. I swear, if I ever meet him in person, I will apologize. But I have no regrets!
Then there was the vacation in Italy (I posted a pic in the new facebook fan group, and the header image is taken from our room’s balcony as well), which was amazing, but since my mind was still on a bender, it took until the last few days for me to really come down and relax. Then, of course, within hours we left the sunny, warm late summer beach of Bibione and drove home to November weather Vienna. Cue in the worst case of SAD I’ve had in years! I’m a little better now but damnit, I’ll need a long, sunny October to get me ready for actual winter!
Oh, and this week I bought a new motorcycle after selling my old one. You only live once, as they say!

Now what’s the plan for the next three months:

  1. Finish the 8th Green Fields book (that is still without a title)
    Sounds easy (and it looks good and almost complete in my head, just today I worked out a few more pivotal scenes), but I still have 50-70k words to write, which is possible, but means I need to do a lot of writing. Did I mention I bought a new bike?
  2. I will be doing NaNoWriMo in November again. I was planning to write the first novel in a new series, but since I got the go-ahead for my Patreon project from my accountant, I will instead write 50k words of short stories for Patreon instead! Yes, I know it’s called National NOVEL Writing Month, but considering I’m a pro, I think I can cut myself some slack. Plus, 50k short stories would make up about half a year for monthly stuff on Patreon, so it would take off a lot of priority tasks for the start of 2018. I could also launch my Patreon in January 2018, so that’s another bonus!
    Short stories that will be included in this are:
    – What the gang was up to while Bree was gone in GF#5, Resurgence, Nate’s POV
    – How Bree and Nate met (alternating POVs, so we get some backstory from before from both of them. And there will be two versions, a smutty and not quite that explicit one, for everyone to choose their poison)
    – A story from Pia’s POV that ties into hints that are dropped early in GF#8
    – Maybe the backstory of Sadie and Bates, but not sure about that yet. Might get a little raunchy as I would write it from his POV
    – Either Burns’s or Andrej’s POV of the parts early in GF#5 that Bree blacked out on. That’s going to be super fun and uplifting! (/sarcasm)
    – Something that happened at the bunker during the first winter – either a late loot run to Cody, a typical training day for Bree, or someone being a nuisance in connection to the apple-sauce-pocalypse.
  3. Someone has to proofread and edit all this! And while I have a kickass team of beta readers and the best editor in the world, that someone will also be me! I might have mentioned that before but I hate proofreading with a vengeance! Also, the audio version GF#7, Affliction, should be ready for proofing soon as well! Looking forward to that for real!
  4. Depending on how much October will bleed into November (90% chance), and November into December (depending on how long it takes me to need to write something longer than a couple of pages with a given setting – 50% chance) December might just be the month to finish what needs finishing. I plan on publishing GF#8 in December as well, so that will easily eat up a week, plus cue in another round of exhaustion after that… and Christmas, my least favorite holiday of them all!
  5. Or I get everything wrapped up on Nov 30, and December is all free for the next novel! Might be GF#9, might be the first of a new series (still trying to decide between three possibilities. Maybe four. My mind is a crowded place!)
  6. I have a lot of socializing going on:
    Winter of Zombies blog tour, a 30 day-long zombie extravaganza all over facebook, and blogs!
    – November to Dismember at the Reading Horror facebook group – my day is Nov 29
    – and some more interviews I’ve signed up for. I should compile a list one of these days…
    – Oh, and there’s that matter of that anthology coming out on October 10. Almost forgot! (Just kidding. I’d never forget!)

If you haven’t joined my super duper Fan Club on facebook yet, do so now! It’s a great place to stay up to date with information, and it won’t get swallowed up by endless processions of cute cat pictures! Unless I post a few of my cats. Promise, never more than one or two at a time! Great stuff going on there right now! Including me being a dork, but what else is new?
You can read an exclusive teaser for GF#8 in the group, and more to follow.

On the future of the blog:

Not sure what I will be doing with this. Right now, the fan group is the best place to share information. Of course, I can share the blog posts there, too. I still have some written that need editing before posting. I will get there eventually. I will also be sharing stuff all through November for the events, and I have, tentatively, considered abusing the blog for an accountability thing for NaNoWriMo, kind of a way to give you a real-time behind-the-scenes update how things are going (an almost-guarantee for me to get stuck, but hey, not the craziest idea I’ve had this week!). We’ll see! Not fretting this. Just telling you that if you want to stay up to date, the fan group is the place to go, also for blog updates.