Ten years ago, I was just finishing up The Rise of Renegade X. (It was the summer after I graduated college–at 25, not 22 like you might be thinking–and the last Harry Potter book had just come out–I remember devouring it in between writing sessions.) I wrote book 1 in a 28-day whirlwind from concept to finish, and it was by far the best thing I’d ever written. (In fact, for a long time, I worried I’d never write anything as good as that, which thankfully wasn’t true.) A year and a half later, I added another 20k for an editor (which I wrote in a week), but otherwise, it was the same book it is now.
I didn’t write book 2 until six years and six books later, hence the jump in quality. That one took me three months to write, if you don’t count the five chapters I wrote before that but then couldn’t work on for, like, a year due to illness and having, like, no words in my brain. Despite getting temporarily better enough to work on the book, it didn’t last, and I went back to being blank and empty.
(If you’re wondering, I have an autoimmune disease–Hashimoto’s–and adrenal fatigue, which it turns out were caused by crazy severe food allergies. Mostly gluten. And grains. I know what you’re thinking, but gluten is seriously bad news and it sucked out my soul like a Dementor. It turns out autoimmune disease in general is caused by food allergies (mostly gluten, grains, and dairy), so if you have one, please Google the Autoimmune Protocol–it saved my life.)
Somehow I wrote book 3 while being blank and empty. Sometimes my brain would just go blank in the middle of a sentence, and I would have absolutely no idea what words to put next, and I’d have to walk away from it for a couple weeks until I could start thinking of words again. This forced start-and-stop method was really hard, and I don’t think I can express how frustrating it was. Once I finally started healing, I also realized how dampened my emotions were at the time. It’s not exactly that I couldn’t feel feelings… but I kind of couldn’t feel feelings. And yet somehow I wrote a book full of feelings. Just like how I wrote a book full of thoughts and words when my brain was very low on them. I honestly don’t know how I managed to write that book, though I know it was mostly done in little chunks over two years, so I guess that’s how, but still. The more I heal and the better I get, the more I look back and think, WTF? How in the hell did I manage to write any of that, let alone a whole book?
Book 4 took me a year and half, but I wrote most of it in the last six months. Coincidentally when I had some health breakthroughs and started feeling better. (Crazy, right?) It, too, was written in starts and stops and little chunks, though there were less starts and stops and the chunks were bigger, and my brain stopped crapping out in the middle of sentences. I still have trouble writing for long periods of time, and sometimes I hit my limit way earlier than I would like, but overall it’s getting easier. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write a book in a 28-day whirlwind again (though I wasn’t exactly healthy then, either, it just wasn’t as bad yet, so who knows?). I think these books have gotten too complicated for that, though I’d settle for a three-month writing binge, or maybe even a six-month writing binge, or maybe even a “just being able to write steadily in general” streak.
Anyway, I can’t believe I’ve been writing Renegade X books for ten years. In that time, only a year and a half has gone by for the characters. At this rate, even if I lived to be 100–and kept writing Renegade X books at the same pace the whole time–Damien would never be older than 27. How bizarre is that? Not that that’s how books work, and not that I’m saying that’s how it’s going to go. I’m just saying the time difference between my life and theirs is very different.
Am almost done with WIP. Disclaimer, it is not Trials, which I know is what everyone is waiting for right now. (Understandable!) But it’s still a book that’s very important to me. It’s much darker than my other work–sort of a dark fantasy YA version of Dexter–and I am, like, 8 scenes away from being done with it, though some of those scenes might turn out to be more like plot points and actually be 2 or 3 scenes, especially near the big climactic boss battle part.
I started this book about a year and a half ago now, or at least this version of it, and as I mentioned in my last post, I was pretty dead last year, thanks to poor thyroid treatment. It feels like I’ve been working on this book a lot longer than that. I keep recounting the time in my head and being like, “Are you sure it wasn’t two and a half years?” Still, very slow for me, and there were times when I worried I was just going to be stuck in the middle of this book forever. And I finished no books at all last year, and it wasn’t very long ago that I was also worrying that I might never finish any books ever again. Even though I know from experience that that’s not true, it certainly felt true when I was a thyroid-less zombie with hardly enough thoughts to survive, let alone put in a book.
This also isn’t the first version of this book I’ve written. I’ve talked about this before, but this is a book I first wrote 6 or 7 years ago. That version was pretty flawed, though I loved it so much at the time. And it got me my first requests from agents, though ultimately that was all it got. And it kind of broke my heart that nothing ever happened with it. I spent years blaming this book for being a failure, and resenting myself for loving something so horribly flawed. Well, the book had issues, but there were still things about it that made it good–reasons why it got any agent interest in the first place–and so I’ve taken those good things and transported them into a new, better book.
So, anyway, my point is that while it’s always amazingly awesome to finish a book, finishing this one is going to be extra awesome. And then, once it’s done, I will be working like mad to finish up Trials. Which is also awesome–I know because I was rereading some of it the other day and had to force myself to put it down and not get sucked in, at least not until I’m officially working on it.
What about you guys? Are you close to any finish lines of your own?
Gah, apparently it’s been a week since I posted. The days just slip by!
So what have I been doing the past week? What breaking news is there to report from Chelsea Land?
Er, not a whole lot. Mostly I’ve been writing. And freaking out and deleting scenes and then deciding I like them and putting them back in again. (With minor tweaks. Remember what I said about minor tweaks being so useful.) I am loving this book a lot, but trying not to push myself too hard when I get frustrated. At this point, it’s less about adhering to a strict word count every day as it is just being happy that the book is going well and that I love it and that freaking out will only lead to more stress, whereas stepping back a little might lead to answers. I’m up to 40k, and if I finish it by the end of November (for fake NaNo), I will be SO HAPPY. This book is a sequel I’ve been struggling with for, erm, a couple years now, and this incarnation of it is one I’m finally happy with (and so’s my agent, and let’s hope my editor is too), and it has gone from being a frustrating, unfinished burden (while I had the day job) to being something I don’t ever want to finish because I looooves it, Precious, except that I do want it to end someday so I can BE DONE with it and move on with my life, even if “moving on” is just fantasizing about the next volume. This is the writer’s dilemma: Odi et amo. I hate and I love.
I read through my ARC. It was good times. I still have it in my stack of books on my night stand, and sometimes I leave it lying around in my pile of junk next to my beanbag, just to see it sitting around, being real. Like it could be any other book, piled somewhere in my room or on my desk, and it’s MINE. Also, speaking of my ARC, I heard Egmont gave away some copies at a YA festival thing in Austin, among other awesome ARCs like Anastasia Hopcus’ Shadow Hills and Bree Despain’s The Dark Divine–both of which I have not yet had a chance to read, but AM DYING FOR. Ahem. Anyway, how cool is that that people I don’t even know might have my ARC sitting around? Very cool.
Also I changed the description on the Rise of Renegade X page to match the jacket copy. It goes like this:
Damien Locke knows his destiny–attending the university for supervillains and becoming Golden City’s next professional evil genius. But when Damien discovers he’s the product of his supervillain mother’s one-night stand with–of all people–a superhero, his best-laid plans are ruined as he’s forced to live with his superhero family.
Going to extreme lengths (and heights), The Rise of Renegade X chronicles one boy’s struggles with the villainous and heroic pitfalls of growing up.
I’m reading Heat Wave, by Richard Castle (I know, right??), a tie-in book for ABC’s show, Castle, which, if you didn’t already know, is awesome. I’m almost done with the book. It’s pretty good–just like the show, except that Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook, the NYC detective and the reporter following her around, are characters Castle supposedly made up, so unlike most tie-in books, life changing stuff can actually happen in it. Which is brilliant!
I’ve also been watching Supernatural. I’m about 3/4 of the way through season one. I love it. It has it’s really stupid, cheesy moments, and then there was that hillbilly episode… but overall, they always get me with whatever emotional dilemma is going on even on the episodes where , and I love the roles the Sam and Dean play, both in their demon hunting team and as brothers.
ARCs for those who might not know are Advanced Review Copies (or some variation, same meaning, same letters). Pronounced arc, like in math, or ark, as in the boat. I used to think it was spelled out, A.R.C., but my experience in hearing people in the industry talk about them says otherwise. They’re paperback not-for-sale versions of the real thing, released several months (give or take some months) before the release date. They’re kind of like a dress rehearsal. You get to see how it all comes together–cover, layout, etc.–and it’s the author’s last chance to catch any typos or glaring errors before the real thing. It’s also the first time random strangers start getting copies to review. That in itself is exciting and crazy, but the reason I and other debut authors go nuts over this ARC stuff is this:
The ARC is the first time the book is REAL. It’s the first time you get to hold your book in real book form.
You can print out manuscript pages, you can read your file on the computer over and over, but it’s not the same as your book being book shaped. As in it has a cover, and you have to turn that cover to get to the first page, but before that first page is info about the publisher and all that good stuff, because it’s published. And then after that you can turn the page to the actual story, with real layout (I am so excited to see what my layout looks like), and you can keep turning the pages. You can stick a freaking bookmark in it. You can touch it and show it to people and they will instantly see that it’s real, that you’re not just a wannabe who’s never going to make it. And I’ve been wanting this so bad I could taste it for sixteen years.
There are a few key moments where this whole publishing thing feels really real. It felt real when I got the offer, when I signed the contract, when I got paid, when my book appeared on Amazon. But seeing my ARCs on my publisher’s shelf in that picture? That’s the first time my book has been on a book shelf, because it was never book shaped before. And I would be lying if I said that a year ago I knew that would happen, because I didn’t. You can read more about my “how I got pubbed” story here, but what it basically boils down to is The Rise of Renegade X was the best book I’d ever written, all my friends loved it, and we all knew this book was The One, the one that would get published, but it almost didn’t. Things got dark and bad and everything in my life was wrong, like the world was stuck on nightmare mode.
The universe, like a good novelist, pushed me and pushed me and took everything I cared about away until I broke. And then once I broke, it put it all back. It said here, you’ve passed the test, you can have what you wanted. (That is how you write a book, btw, in case you were wondering. I could go on for years talking about how to write a book, but that’s what I’d tell you if I had to give you the short version. Don’t give your character what they want, make them suffer until you’ve pushed them to the breaking point and they’ve had to make hard decisions and rethink who they are, and then maybe–maybe–they can get what they wanted.)
So the fact that sometime very soon I could be holding physical, tangible proof that my book is real is pretty big. Not just, “Wow, that’s pretty cool,” but I’m talking Life. Changing. Big. As in “a year ago you were a failure and this close to running away and joining the circus, if even the circus would have you” but now your book is book shaped and real and people can just go ahead and touch it if they’re not sure. It’s a physical manifestation that all the hard work and sacrifice and pain and torture weren’t for nothing, and that the happy times meant more than the bad ones after all.
It’s also pretty magical, if you think about it. Once upon a time, there were words in my head, and I wrote them down. Words in your head are probably the most intangible thing ever, and even typing them on the computer is still fairly intangible. You can’t touch it. It exists, sort of, but it’s like this limbo of existence. And yeah, you can print it out and it’s sort of real, but it’s not as real as being in a physical book shape, the shape the words were always meant to be in.