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Lessons From Magic Bird Book, Part 4: Trust The People You’ve Chosen To Trust With Your Work

It sounds obvious. It’s not.

For most of us (not all) gone are the days when writing happens in a bubble, a lone person at a typewriter or keyboard or notepad. We have friends near and far, local critique groups and online crit partners who get our chapters in email. Plus agents and editors, some of whom might be our agents and editors, others who hold those jobs but are just friends to us. It’s easier to be connected now, and easy to share.

Obviously, it’s important to choose who you want to share with. Showing a piece of writing to someone can be scary, even if you love it. Sometimes especially if you love it.

With all the other challenges I faced with Magic Bird Book that I’ve already detailed, it was a long time before I felt comfortable showing people any of it. To date, only four people in the world have the full manuscript, a significant drop on the number of people who read CODA for me, chapter by chapter, as it was being written. When Magic Bird Book finally started to click, there was a delicious terror in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, it was really good. And a not-so-delicious terror that I was totally wrong about that.

The only way to get a sense was–if you’ll forgive me for this–to set the baby bird free. I started to show people chapters. Not many people, and not many chapters. They offered advice and criticism, enthusiasm and support. Enough to help me keep going.

When I finished what was, on the whole, the second draft, it felt book-shaped enough to give my agent and one of my critique partners the full, everything beyond the chapters they’d already seen. I held my breath. Brooks, with my knowledge, shared it with someone else whose opinion I value enormously. I held my breath some more.

I was terrified. Not so much terrified that it was a bad book, but terrified that I was wrong in thinking it was a good one. That I’d well and truly lost perspective on it, lost my eye for my own work. A bad book is fixable or trunkable. Loss of judgment is a much trickier demon to face.

I don’t think I need to elaborate any more on my pride in this book and that was never the point of these posts, so I’ll only say that, thankfully–according to people I trust–I haven’t lost my judgment. It’s not perfect, but that’s okay for now, and more importantly, that’s part of the reason I work with the people I do: because I trust them to tell me that. Relationships with critique partners, agents, editors, and friends who read my manuscripts don’t work if I don’t believe them when they tell me something needs to be fixed. They also don’t work if I don’t believe them when they tell me something is great.

Doubt happens. Fear is, or can be, a fantastic tool if I let it fire me up but not burn me. Confidence and a thick skin are both necessary in this business. But if the people who read my work–by my own choice–tell me there’s a problem and I think they’re idiots, THAT is a problem. If they tell me something’s awesome and I still think they’re idiots, that’s a problem, too. Those relationships can’t work, and if I felt that way, my attitude would probably need a hefty smack with the clue-by-four.

I’m lucky to work with an agent whose vision and opinions I trust implicitly, critique partners with breathtaking talent, an editor (for CODA and CHORUS, at least) who gets me in an amazing way, and friends who aren’t afraid to tell me hard truths about my books. If there’s one thing I’ve never appreciated more than I have while writing Magic Bird Book, it’s the value of those relationships.

At the time this goes live on the blog, National Novel Writing Month will be drawing to a close. I have no idea yet how “well” I did or whether the draft I wind up with resembles the plot sculpture I have in my head at the time of writing this post. I don’t know if I lost the story and found it again, or if Third Book Syndrome is a thing, or if it had totally different needs than CODA and Magic Bird Book. We’ll see. A lot of you will have participated in NaNo, some of you might have the first full draft of a book you’ve ever written. Congratulations, seriously. That’s an awesome thing and you should be really freaking proud. If you read this whole series, I hope even one sentence of it was of some use to you. But if I could wish one thing on everyone who has just finished the first draft of first novel, it’s what I talk about in this post specifically. Don’t settle. Choose to work with people–from friends to agents to critique partners to editors–whose opinions matter to you. There are times for doubt and modesty and confidence and terror, and there are times to throw those things out the window and believe the people to whom you’ve entrusted your work, maybe even your career.

With that, Lessons From Magic Bird Book are over, school is out (for now) for Emma. Back to normal posts about music and cake and whatever I decide to rant about when the mood strikes. Thanks for reading.

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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A November Blog Series

Anyone who saw me collapse, breathless, elated, and half-dead into Twitter a few weeks ago–or read Book Math–knows that I finished my second book in October. Affectionally hashtagged as #magicbirdbook, it was slightly more privately known as The Book That Killed Me.

It was VERY difficult to write, and there were a lot of reasons for that, reasons which I’m going to explore in a series of posts throughout November. They’re already scheduled to go up, because I’m spending November participating in NaNoWriMo and probably won’t have a lot of time to sit down and write blog posts.

In hindsight, it’s probably better–when not calling it Magic Bird Book or using the actual title only a handful of people know so far–to call it The Book That Schooled Me. I got owned, hard. The act of writing any book is, I think, a learning experience, and this one taught me some very brutal lessons. Lessons I needed to learn, or re-learn in some cases. Lessons that will (already have?) made me a better author and more prepared for a career as one.

The first Lesson from Magic Bird Book will go up next Thursday, November 8th, then each following Thursday throughout the month. In the meantime, CODA has a cover and you can enter to win an ARC!

~Em

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Math

Plot ideas too good to pass up: 1
Approximate words written: 125,000
Actual length of MS: 53,500
Times I considered throwing my computer out the window: approx. 10,000
Caffeinated beverages: I can’t count this high
Cookies: See above
Months taken: 7
Play count of “Lovegood” from the HP7 soundtrack: 1035
Famous landmarks twisted for my own crazy purposes: 4
Misappropriated fairy tales: 1
Mad scientists: 1
Evil sorcerers: 1
Mischievous fairies: lots
Gateways to other worlds: 1
Airships damaged: 3
Characters killed: 10 1/2
Dragons: 2

= 1 finished book I’m prouder of than I’ve ever been of anything I’ve written.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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No rest for the wicked (and I don’t want there to be)

It’s a busy busy time.  I might, in a moment of madness, even go so far as to refer to myself as a bee. 

But busy is a good thing, especially the things I’m busy with.  I’m now officially free to start making real headway on Second Novel – YAY!  (Not that I wasn’t free to before, but other things took precedence.)  I’m SO excited to be really writing again, or at least to be staring the blank page in the eye.  Brainstorming comes first, and that in itself is a ton of fun.  I’ve got a great piece of mind-mapping software that lets me go off on all kinds of crazy tangents and keep track of ideas both utterly lunatic and potentially viable.  As much as I’m a “pants” writer (as in, by-the-seat-of, I do very very little outlining) I do need to know where I’m going to start, some major events along the way, and where I plan to end up.  Everything else, well, I trust that my mind and the words will take me to the right places most of the time, and that I’ll be able to do a U-turn when I wind up on the wrong track.

Caffeine: check.

Second Novel playlist: check.  (This will probably change as I get down to specifics, but for now I have one that suits the overall mood.)

Brainstorming file open: check.

A Google history full of truly bizarre searches: check.  This is one of the funniest things about being a writer.  I think most of us must be on watch lists somewhere.

Ready to go!  I’m so excited.

On a somewhat related note, my online critique group is setting up a blog.  We’re all at different stages of the writing game and will all be talking about where we are in the process, how we write, etc.  I’ll be blogging about writing Second Novel here, but will also be doing it there and will post a link just as soon as the blog goes live.

Happy writing!

xoxo

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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