On Writing Rise of Orion

I’ve been laboring quietly on my third Serengard novel since the beginning of March, my only outlet being an occasional complaint or victory shared on Twitter, and I thought it was about time I shared some details of the throes I’ve been in. Accompanied by some cute gifs. Because, you know, cute gifs are the best.

First, there was drafting.
I’m a messy drafter. I go off on bunny trails that end up having nothing to do with my outline. Somewhere around the middle, I end up losing my way and questioning the entire story. And that often leads to a Netflix binge, which, you know, is never fun (oh but it is), but then there are beautiful epiphanies and new ideas and ZOMG finally finding a voice for the novel and loving it. Rise of Orion was one of the sloppiest drafts I’d ever written, in spite of how long it took–just ask my critique partners. It was all over the place, and not for lack of trying. In some ways, I was embarrassed by my crazy and how long it took me to produce this tangled mess, but in other ways, I think I really needed to get some of the story out in such a raw form before I could make any sense of it at all.

And second drafting.
I ended up doing the same thing I did with Knights of Rilch: drafting the first half a year in advance (November/December 2012), letting it sit, and then completely reworking it (March/April 2014) before drafting the second half in May/June. Then I actually sent that second draft to two CPs and got notes back that helped me know where to go before my inevitable rewrite. I kind of hated to do this, because the version before my rewrite was sooooo bad, but their help (Darci Cole and Brett Jonas, you are superheroes) saved me from bunny-trailing into another 50k of turkey carcass shiz.

Behold, a rewrite.
My rewrites are funny things. Sometimes they’re more of in depth revisions, but I call them rewrites because I cut so. Freaking. Much. and then they turn into a rewrite midstream. The poor manuscript is unrecognizable when I’m done slicing it. I fill in the gaps with new words, puzzle the hot mess together into a third draft. All in all, I think I must be getting a little better at curbing my bunny trails, because with Rise of Orion I only had to scrap half the scenes during that rewrite. The rest of them just needed full overhauls. The trouble was, none of it came easily. I spent hours staring at the screen, knowing what I needed to say, just unsure of how to say it. In essence, I have two months worth of writing time spent in contemplative thought–or maybe in backspacing and retyping–because that’s how many months behind schedule I am.

And then came revisions.
The next phase is when I get more notes back from CPs and betas and start making tough micro decisions (special thanks to Amanda Aszman and Jenny Perinovic for the in depth help with my beginnings and endings!). At this stage with Knights of Rilch, I was still moving scenes around and nixing lines that I really loved. It got painful and involved many a late night moaning session, too much caffeine and too little sleep. But this third draft was a thing of magic. I found myself wanting to stay in this phase for months–adding dialogue, changing emotional tone, adjusting scene openings and closings–because I didn’t want it to end. I caught myself wishing I had time to put off my final revision because I just didn’t want to be this close to done with it. That’s not to say it didn’t hurt at all…but mostly it hurt when life got in the way and I couldn’t find time to be with it.

Killing a few more darlings.
The last revision is pretty much supposed to be full of pain, but it was bittersweet for Rise and I reveled in it. Even when I had to search and destroy passages that I’d held dear since 2012, it just…it didn’t sting. I’ve rewritten the entire ending sequence about eight times already, and I’m not satisfied with it yet. But I’m not sorry, because it means I get to mess with it a little more.

Line line line line line edits!
Last time, I loved line edits, because I finally hit a huge groove in tossing and tearing. People asked me how life was and I spewed gibberish about how in love I was with this story and these characters and their heartbreak but…nobody cared. This time, I’m just crazy nervous as I realize I’m almost done. It’s almost ready for ARC production. People are going to actually read it. You would think the pit in my stomach feeling would go away once I’ve successfully released a few novels into the world, but apparently not. I don’t think I’d be holding it together at all if it weren’t for the wonderful and amazing writers and friends who’ve been holding my hair back and reading my words and telling me they don’t suck.

Final edits, copyedits, proofread, artwork, ARCs, apples and bananas.
So that’s what it’s been like. Right now my fully revised manuscript is with my two fabulously irreplaceable line editors as well as two more of my longsuffering CPs, and when I get their edits back I’ll commence a final read through before sending the finished product to my editor (I would say copyeditor, but she does more than that because she’s a super ninja warrior). After she fixes the remaining issues in my manuscript, it will be ready for ARC production, artwork, proofreading, and actual publishing. That’s when I’ll be pumped on an endless high because it will be out in the world and YOU’LL BE READING IT. It won’t matter how many tears I shed over it or how nervous I was IT WILL BE A REAL BOOK!

The end. I love you guys.


3 thoughts on “On Writing Rise of Orion

    1. Rachel O'Laughlin says:

      Aww, thanks hon! You’ll get there! It sounds counterproductive, but sometimes it helps to work on more than one project. I have a manuscript I’ve been working on for 10 years that I can’t get past the first draft state. It happens to all of us! :)

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