A mood board, just because.

These days I have to remind myself that, once upon a time, I released two books in one year.

I do not feel like that person right now.

I have been working on Blood of Ashlin for three years now. I know, “years” can mean procrastination, or not many actual hours logged, or too much distraction, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m prone to those pitfalls. The truth is, though, I’m enjoying this process immensely. I love writing this book, maybe too much. I keep adding more and rewriting bits of it and just in general being indecisive about what I want to cut out and what I want to keep. For the first two years of writing it, I would open the document and just kind of stare at the scary complexity of this story thinking, what have I done? But this third year, I am able to simply enjoy.

I do feel a bit guilty, because I know some of you are waiting for the final installment in Serengard. You might want me to actually finish so you can actually read. There’s a thought. Oh man…I want you to read this so badly. I do. I’m just in way over my head right now, in a good way. So, I’ll mood board like nobody’s business.

That’s actually just the first half of the book.

I’m starting to realize I have been this way before. This is actually the Rachel of the Teen Years. I used to write like no one was watching, because no one was. I’m a firm believer in keeping aware of the fact that people will be reading my words (hence the muchos editing), but I also believe we have to be true to each story’s core. I almost wish I could revisit Coldness of Marek and work on it long enough to find this blissful stream of agreement with the story. I know I encountered it while working on Knights of Rilch–I know because I remember wishing I could begin the entire series with that book–but I didn’t revel in it very long. I needed to be done. I honestly was concerned I would over-edit if I didn’t finish up, and probably, with that book, it was true.

All of that said, this has been in my head and in my Scrivener doc for basically a tenth of my life now, and I’m finally not struggling against it any more. I’m moving with it, and it’s glorious.

This is the second half. Completed novel coming this October. Or November. Or December. Soon, guys. Soon.

*All pictures used are referenced on my Pinterest board. Photo credits are there, as well as links to original files if you wish to like and share them yourself.

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So this is what I’ve decided.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve probably observed my recent indecision surrounding publishing options for this next book. I’ve finally made my decision, and so I’ll treat you to a chronological narrative of my thoughts, interactions, and OH MY GOSH I’M SO CONFUSED moments.

Originally, I was pretty set on self-publishing KNIGHTS OF RILCH as the sequel to COLDNESS OF MAREK. I had a good experience in the self-pub world, in spite of some definite mistakes I made in the process (more about this in my post: Can I please/has/do a remix?).

While writing RILCH and participating in NaNoWriMo for the second time, I finally joined the writing crowd on Twitter… and discovered that they are a warm, sharing bunch of people. As bad as this sounds, I was completely floored by this. Much of the arts I’ve been involved in– school-related and professionally– have been competitive to the point of being snobby and cruel. So I was not prepared AT ALL.

This opened up a new world for me. Suddenly I was excited about traditional publishing. I had assumed, from my limited reading on the publishing world (which pretty much stopped at magazine and Internet articles), that agents and publishing houses were not interested in writers succeeding. (Seriously, this is a THING. I don’t know if it’s just the media being negative or what, but somehow all those “big bad, big five” tales are everywhere, and it was all I was exposed to for a good while). When I finally found the bloggers and contests and actual agents of the writing world, I learned that this could not be further from the truth. And as I read all these success stories, soaked up all this encouragement, and perused all these agent wishlists, I realized I would love to be a part of this.

And then I started reading a lot of depressing stuff about the Indie movement. Turns out self-publishing is also a shortcut for people who haven’t worked to get their writing completely polished, and this scared me because this is what I did. I wasn’t trying to shortcut the system, but I also wasn’t trying to launch a career. I just wanted all my friends to read something I wrote, so I bought an ISBN and spent the money to get 200 copies printed locally. I didn’t plan on marketing it all over the place, or even allowing another author to read it EVER, but when I started hearing how this could sink you into the abyss of the low quality eBook crowd that grates on the nerves of authors and agents everywhere, it seemed a good reason to panic. I immediately copied my finished manuscript of COLDNESS OF MAREK into a Scrivener file and began a rewrite. I wondered if there was some way I could justify burning the remaining 40 copies of the original that haven’t been sold… and I started looking at the sequel and wondering if I could possibly market it as a stand-alone novel.

Enter the amazing world of contests. I started with Cupid’s Literary Connection’s Blind Speed Dating. At first, I figured this would be a wonderful way to test the waters, to see if there was any interest in the traditional market for what I had written, before I began querying agents individually. I really, really wanted to learn how to do this, but more than that I wanted to network with other writers and get feedback on my query and storyline. Is it comparable to what other people are writing? Would an agent even glance at it? I was hoping my fellow writers could answer these questions for me… and I was not disappointed. Especially with the Kissing Scene Competition, the feedback and advice that they were willing to share made me feel like someone had dumped a huge bucket of love all over me.

But I learned something else in the competition. As soon as my entry went up on the site, I knew this was not what I wanted to do with this particular novel. The idea of landing an agent with KNIGHTS OF RILCH was actually a little scary. I started reading all of the other entries… queries that had been polished to a high shine by writers that had been querying for months upon months; writers that had been studying this business for years, that wanted an agent so much more than I did. I wanted that validation, to be sure, but  I feel that it would be very, very unfair to seek that relationship only halfheartedly, and halfhearted is how I feel about it. It is tough, because I read so many agent wishlists, agents that I admire and stand in awe of, where I felt, “that’s what I have! I just need to pitch it in a way you’ll be interested!” but I am not comfortable pitching this book. I don’t feel certain enough to tell an agent, “This is the series. This is where the story will end, this is how many books will be involved, and it will all fit into this genre and be marketable to this crowd.”

If there is anything I have learned over the past year, it’s that I am not quite ready to have anything set in stone, and any kind of publishing contract is very much a permanent thing. As much as I respect the traditional publishing route, I am grateful for the flexibility self-publishing provides. The fact that I can pull COLDNESS OF MAREK off the market and rewrite it without hurting anybody else’s long-term plans or pocketbooks is a blessing. I can fix these mistakes. I can learn and grow. I can let this series go where it will, and it doesn’t have to be read by a huge audience to pay off an advance and make it worthwhile for an agent, an editor, a design team, etc. In the end, I am responsible for the quality of my work.

I’m actually very excited about going Indie with this novel. Thankfully, by now I have my wonderful CP, Michelle, and a few beta readers (one of whom is the amazing EM Castellan) who are helping me look at my work critically and shine it far beyond what I had attained with COLDNESS OF MAREK. I’m going to be much more patient this time, and I’m going to approach this as a writer, not as a girl who wants her friends to read her work… even though that was fun while it lasted.

To everyone who has been so helpful and supportive as I’ve been making these decisions, thank you for your advice and encouragement! And to everyone who has been following me since I started writing novels, thank you for hanging in there with me! You mean the world to me.

Can I please/has/do a remix?

So. I’m sure you already guessed this is about my 54k self-published Coldness of Marek. When I pushed it into print in a short run of 200 copies, I really wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it. I thought this was a little bitty story to hand to my friends who had been patiently waiting for NINE YEARS for me to have something I considered “good enough” to send to a publisher. This seemed like the happy medium. Not “good enough” to query with, but good enough for my buddies to read.

The response I got was, truly, a surprise. Four and five star reviews, and one three star (for which I am very grateful. I need that three star review as much as I needed the five and four). But the resounding refrain was that I needed a sequel. Seriously?

I guess I didn’t end the book as well as I thought I did. And my world-building was just getting started. The whole idea of Coldness of Marek turned into a springboard for a series. And as such, the original little story of a naive, passionate single mother who learns how to grow up and be responsible for herself felt way too small. I always said I might be embarrassed by Coldness of Marek someday and that I wouldn’t mind, but the more I learn about the publishing world and the more I write of this world and these characters, the more Coldness just doesn’t fit anymore.

And I find myself wanting to rewrite it to jive with the revamped story I find in the 90k NA sequel manuscript.

DangIt

But I can’t do that! It’s already published! It’s available in eBook form! It’s copyrighted and it has an ISBN and the thousands of hours put into designing and formatting cannot be in vain!

I don’t know what to say. Except that I am so sorely tempted to try to start this journey all over again, from the top. *big sigh* What to do? I’m ready for any and all advice right about now.