Rewriting Old Memories

I think it’s fitting that I finished my first round of “tweaking” edits today. I didn’t plan it that way, it’s just the way it worked out. Something bad happened on this day, last year, something that changed my life forever. I haven’t been dwelling on that too much today, but I did fear that today would forever become the anniversary of something I didn’t want to relive.

That still may happen. I’m not likely to forget to what this date means, but now I’ve given it new memories to overlay the old ones. I finished something today. I worked hard, and I accomplished something. My completed manuscript is now a little more polished, hopefully a little more coherent. I sent out emails to my beta readers for Origins, telling them I have a new story ready and asking for their help.

Today doesn’t have to be marred by what happened in the past. It can be celebrated because of what’s happening now instead.

This Town Is Dead

I actually said those exact words a couple of weeks ago at the doctor’s office. I was having some blood drawn, and I mentioned that I work from home. People usually  just accept that, but the two lab techs were nosier than most, and asked me what I did. I told them I was working on a novel.

It isn’t an answer you hear a lot, and they were surprised and interested. One of the techs told me there used to be a novelist in town, but not anymore. He was from New York City, and had moved out here to find inspiration in the quiet of the country. It didn’t work, and he ended up moving back to the city. The tech lamented that there’s no inspiration at all to be found out here, and creativity just dies.

I agreed, uttering the words, “this town is dead”. The techs laughed, but we all agreed it was true. And if you take a moment to look around, it makes sense. This town is literally in the middle of nowhere, with the closest big city 100 miles away. It sits on a plateau before the land descends into desert, and the landscape is utterly desolate. There are no tall trees here. The dust and sand stretch on forever, always the same, giving you the impression that no matter how fast you move, you’re still standing in the exact same place. It gets pretty depressing.

And yet, I did find inspiration here. My young adult project was born out of this landscape, and I hope that shines through in my writing. The story begins in Canyon, Texas, a town just outside Amarillo and one I drive through every time I make the trip to that city. Bo, the protagonist, loves the outdoors, and is quite knowledgeable about the beauties and dangers of the desert. She discovers a parallel dimension, and it’s even more barren than the view from my backyard. I named it The Wasteland with good reason. Most of her story takes place here, as she explores and searches and learns about herself.

I couldn’t have written this story from the comfort of the Midwest. It took moving out here, and experiencing the barrenness and desolation of my current surroundings, for this story to be born.

Tweaking

After my week-long self-imposed hiatus, I am more than ready to begin my first round of edits on my young adult project. The problem is, I have a really hard time editing myself. I’ve also been told by others that my first drafts tend to read like finished works, which doesn’t help matters any. I’m good with the little things here and there, but big-picture flaws? Not so much.

There are a few things I already know I need to change and/or clarify, based on how my story ended up and the changes the characters went through. Some of them appeared at the end when I didn’t expect them to, so now I need to go back and do a little character development on them. I also need to shore up the character development I’ve already done. There are a few plot points I want to add, nothing that will dramatically change the story, but things I want to be able to draw from moving forward into book 2 (hopefully).

So, yesterday I started with a simple read-through. It’s been almost 3 months since I wrote chapter 1, and while I remember it, it isn’t as fresh as it was 3 months ago. I discovered that I still love chapter 1. Often, once a writer reaches the end of the story, their writing has improved so much that chapter 1 needs to be completely revamped to match the ending. I don’t feel that way. I feel like chapter 1 starts Bo off as a strong, independent character. If anything, the rest of the story doesn’t do her justice (hence, shoring up my character development).

My plan is to read through and tweak the entire story as quickly as I can, hopefully within the next week. Having all the information in my head at once will help me navigate and decide which changes need to be made. I’ll polish it as much as I can, then get in touch with my previous beta readers. Hopefully they can fill me in on all the big-picture stuff I’m not so good at.

Done!

I did it. Today I finished the first draft of my young adult project. It’s been an incredible ride. The last three days have been intense for me. After deciding to chain myself down and knock out this ending, I really made myself proud. I wrote chapter 24 on Monday, chapter 25 on Tuesday, and I just finished chapter 26 a few minutes ago.

This first draft contains 26 chapters, 75,515 words, and took me 75 days to write. Unheard of for me. And incredibly interesting. If you remember, when I first started this project, I laughed about my ability to write 1,000 words a day, because my writing habits are inconsistent and I don’t write every day. But check out those numbers. 75,000 words in 75 days. I still managed to average 1,000 words a day.

So, what happens now? Life gets a little more complicated. As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, now I actually have to do something with the story. First things first, though. I need a break. I’ve taken little ones here and there throughout this project, but this one actually has a purpose. It’s a common warning to not go straight from finishing a project into editing it. It needs time to marinate, and the author needs to take a step back and distance themselves. So, I’ll be spending the next week or two drowning myself in library books and resting my creative genius.

When I’m ready, I’ll begin my first round of edits. I’m not very good at editing myself. I tend to believe I do things right the first time, and finding a different way to look at it doesn’t come easily to me. But, there are a few things that came to mind while I was working, and I need to fix those things.

Then I’ll get ahold of my beta readers. I used four for Origins, and I think they did a good job. I need to contact them and see if they would be willing to read for me again. Their feedback will identify the flaws I can’t see myself.

After that, we’ll see how it goes. I’ll probably be editing for most of the summer. I’m also considering hiring a professional editor, to make absolutely sure it’s in the best shape it can be for submission.

For now, though, it’s time to simply breathe. Take it in. I wrote a book.