Sunday Smatterings

Smatterings - June 23 .png

Happy Sunday, blessed solstice, and welcome, Summer of ’19! 

Here we are, halfway through the year. Rather amazing, that. And a wee bit terrifying, as I have a hard stop December deadline for my next standalone. 

I always build my year around my deadlines. I have some strict rules—no appearances in the weeks prior to a deadline, a short vacation halfway through drafting, monthly word goals to keep me on track, built-in time for the inevitable I’ve finished a draft and caught a cold that happens with every book.

For the past several years I’ve been juggling the deadlines of two publishing streams. Now that I’m back to solo work, and technically writing 1 book a year, I can look at my calendar differently, schedule things more in line with the rhythms of my year. That’s not to say I won’t write two books in a 12-month period, it’s entirely possible that I will. But for now, I get to start looking at things on an annual basis. Which means finish a book December 1, start a new one January 1. And add some touring in for the most recent releases, which, for now, will be winter.

Best case scenario sees a finished book in June, giving me a few weeks off in July, and starting a new one in August, wrapping before Christmas, but we’ll see how that works. I want to throw some short stories in there, too. I have two brewing, and one promised, so soon enough there will be some more work to do on those, too.

(Feel free to jump ahead to the links, because I’m going to talk craft for a while…)

 
 

In the midst of last week’s very excellent new books news, I had an “all is lost” moment. I just could not figure out why the new book wasn’t working. I’ve had the concept and been excited about it since the end of March. My agent was excited about it. My DH was excited about it.

But when I turned myself to building the story, nothing would work. The characters just didn’t zing. And then I wrote a prologue that had exactly zero to do with the story I thought I was telling. 

I finally publicly lamented that I’d forgotten how to write books, which I think every author feels at one point or another, but an agent friend very kindly reached out and gave me a bit of bootstrapping support, which reminded me that even though the writing life can be quite isolated, and success therein isolating, we aren’t really alone. There are agents. There are editors. There are writer friends, partners, and other sounding boards available to us, should we care to crawl out of our holes and seek help.

So seek help I did. I spoke at length with a developmental editor friend at a party (poor girl, so sorry to have dominated your evening.) I listened to agent friend’s advice. I talked to my BFF, and my husband. And then I called my editor and talked to her. 

We pretty quickly hit upon the major stumbling block—the premise is cool, but my awesome characters were just plain wrong. The POV was off because the characters weren’t right. I have all the awesome elements for a great story, but I wasn’t connected to the characters. They were too old. Their motivations were wrong for the story I wanted to tell.

So I tossed them, and the 5,000 words I had. (Gulp) (and by “tossed” I mean moved them into a new folder inside the WIP Scrivener file. I NEVER actually throw out words.)

That same day, my BFF sent me a get well present, and in it was a note written on a Jane Austen postcard, with the following quote:

“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

It hit me light a lightning bolt. A—I had no epigraph for the story: me, the queen of epigraphs. And B—this quote was *perfection*. Hello, epigraph! (I also have a mediocre working title that I know will change, another weird stumbling block.)

And then I watched the James Patterson MasterClass, which I highly recommend for every level of writer. I was worried it was going to be too basic, but Master Class is the best name for this, because it wasn’t basic at all. Like many craft conversations, the more you know, the more you’ll take away. Plus, Patterson is a hoot.

Thinking about the story in terms of the craft gave me what I needed. I changed the main character’s name, which altered her totally and completely, and that started the ball rolling. After circling the opening for weeks, I finally, finally hit upon the right POV, the right characters, and the right setting, and it meshes with the prologue, and the epigraph, and the elements. Phew!

This all sounds SO messy, I know. I’m a very instinctual writer, finely attuned to my subconscious. My stories usually find me, I don’t set out to find them. I’ve learned an excellent lesson from this. When I try to hunt and kill a storyline, it doesn’t work. I have to let it develop organically. Push too hard, and I simply shove the ideas away, like two north pole magnets trying to connect.

So. Now I can happily participate in #1000wordsofsummer and get going on the damn thing! I will keep you apprised of my progress, natch.

And with that, onward!


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Harry Potter-Inspired Café, Steamy Hallows, Is Brewing in NY. Let’s go! Right now! (Or at least during Thrillerfest, if anyone’s in…)

The Hit Books of the First Half of 2019. See any favorites? I am continually astounded by the level of talent out there. Literature just keeps getting better and better.

What I didn’t know about the writing process.  A lovely introspection from Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Buy This Thing. So fighting with this... all the time. Apparently I am susceptible to good marketing.

The Silent Productivity Killer Nobody Talks About. So true… the “getting ready” plague hits us all from time to time, me included. It makes you feel like you’re accomplishing so much, and yet…

Weeding is Fundamental. Fascinating story about what happened at the San Francisco Public Library after the earthquake in 1989.

Advice for Millennials: The Case for Spacing Out. “We’re all in this miserable boat together...” Isn’t that the truth? Though I must say, we also have the power to switch boats.

A Time Capsule From The Greatest: PW Talks with Hana Ali. “I know my dad was not perfect. But I respect and love how we handled his faults.” 

This 10-Minute Routine Will Increase Your Clarity And Creativity.  I do this all the time. Again with the subconscious writer pro forma, I know…

Author Platform: How to Build Your Online Audience and Stay Sane. Good tips! One of my web threads just had the social media discussion. And the advice is always the same - pick what makes YOU happy and do that. To hell with everything else.

Wine of the Week from The Wine Vixen…


What I’m Reading:

THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER by Patti Callahan Henry

I am a huge fan of Patti Callahan Henry. Beautiful, nuanced writing; characters you are rooting for; deeply relatable situations; and fabulous settings; these are her forte. Her wonderful BECOMING MRS LEWIS, the story of Joy Davidman, wife of C.S. Lewis, was on my Favorite Books of 2018 list. And now Patti is back with a remarkable family drama that explores the vagaries of memory. It’s so good, I bought a second copy so I could share it directly with one of you. Enter the giveaway on Instagram. What are you reading?


That’s all for now. Thanks for hanging in this big huge blog this week. Refresh that cuppa, see if you can spend a week not buying anything, journal for a few, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,
J.T.