A Failed Book

I have been unhappy with Kringle on Fire since the first draft. This is not usual for me, as I love my first drafts with the drunken happiness of accomplishment. I have to work to be critical in the edits.

But I didn’t experience that with Kringle on Fire. It felt flat. It felt trivial. It felt wooden. It felt all the things you don’t want to see in a romance novel. I thought I was missing something until I started writing again on Avatar of the Maker and it sparkled. I had characters who responded to each other and action that flowed. I liked the characters. I felt like I wanted to write it (although I had taken a break from it to write the Kringle novel.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I let Richard read through it to see what was wrong, and he picked up on the same thing. The book just didn’t sparkle.

What happened to this book? I think it was a combination of factors that were bound to doom it. First off, the female main character is a 22-year-old single mother to a two-year-old. Given that, she needs to be very cautious about exposing her son to potential male partners so as not to confuse him with father figures. (Staying the night is a definite no-no.) So that part of the relationship has to go slowly. It’s a Christmas season instalove novel, which is the defining factor of the entire series. Instalove is the polar opposite of cautious. This puts me into the situation of either putting the son in an unhealthy place or stretching out the action for longer.

There may be a way out, but I don’t know if I want to take it. I have written four Kringle novels, and I think that may be enough if the muse leads me this badly astray. I would be better served by finishing Avatar of the Maker and the other novel I have started. I feel guilty about abandoning a novel, but the Kringle book does not speak to me.

Maybe later.


Now, finally, as the summer winds down, I’m feeling motivated! The book and cover for It Takes Two to Kringle are almost done. I have brushed up my query letter and synopsis of Apocalypse in case I get motivated to query it. I have done little with Avatar of the Maker, but I have reconciled myself with the fact that Leah is going to be a pregnant eighteen-year-old.

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

I think I’ve said this before — my mind needs to be split between two things for me to be productive in writing. I’ve proven this every summer, when the first half of the summer is free, while the second half sends me chasing down interns and expecting the beginning of fall semester.

It’s possible that this is what it takes to be distracted from my perfectionism. Maybe it’s inertia taking over during free times. Perhaps I just need the dichotomy of work and writing to turn my mind toward writing. The best use of my time is all or nothing. But at least I’m making progress.

Another edit

Staring at my keyboard

I have a lot of editing to do today. Apparently I have a lot of idiosyncratic punctuation, using em-dashes instead of ellipses. I blame Emily Dickinson for that.

I never saw a Moor--
I never saw the Sea--
Yet know I how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be.

I never spoke with God
Nor visited in Heaven--
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the Checks were given--
 -- Emily Dickinson

I just always thought em-dashes are for shorter, faster, more dramatic pauses. Not true, I guess. Lots of editing in my future.

I’m weary of editing

I really am tired of editing. I know it’s necessary, but darn, this is getting tiring. I want to go forward, but I keep being pulled backward. I’m hoping a search/replace takes care of most of the problem.

Going forward

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

I’m contemplating writing something new in the Archetype series — this would involve the Archetype civil war and a young human woman who has lie detection as a talent. The woman, Leah, also seems to be present at certain important episodes of Archetype life to represent The Balance. She becomes part of the unfolding history.

But first, editing.

What I’ve Learned From Editing

Sorry I’ve been gone for almost a week, but I’ve been busy with Camp NaNo. I’ve been putting 3 hours a day in editing Reclaiming the Balance, which means almost no free time to journal. Today I will make my 30k goal for camp, but I will likely continue editing once I’m done with the goal, because I haven’t yet gotten Reclaiming the Balance where I think it can be.

I’ve done a lot of editing lately between Gaia’s Hands and Reclaiming the Balance, but these are a couple of my first books, so it’s expected.* I’ve learned much about writing novels from editing previous novels and don’t want these past novels to go to waste because their characters deserve to see the light of day.

So what have I learned about writing from editing? Let me think …

  • Structure really helps guide the reader and satisfies their expectations. I use two systems now:
  • Save the editing for later — get the ideas down
  • Don’t repeat first names in your characters (there are some exceptions, such as Senior and Junior)
  • Don’t make people follow too many characters in a third person omniscent**
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

And some things I’ve learned about editing from editing***:

  • Sometimes I have to cut one of my favorite scenes or chapter because it didn’t fit the flow of the book. This happens more if I didn’t use a structuring scheme
  • Sometimes a sentence that made perfect sense to me when I wrote it makes no sense when I read it later
  • I need help — developmental editors, sensitivity readers, beta readers.****

* I’ll admit that both novels are basically romances with somewhat “non-standard-reality” plots. I really don’t know how to classify the fantasy version. Contemporary fantasy? Magical realism? I certainly don’t write elves, sword and sorcery, or vampires. I like to think of my stuff as anthropological fantasy.

** The collective featured in Apocalypse, Gaia’s Hands, and Reclaiming the Balance has 60-70 members given the time period. Apocalypse was a third-person omniscient point of view. I had to pare point of view characters to about 9.

*** I’ve learned more than I’ve written here (action verbs, some description, because vs since, transitions) but those are more about words than writing

**** I proofread really well after the second or third pass, so copy editors and proofreaders are not on my list. They might be on yours.

PS: If anyone can help me with the footnote add-in (Easy Footnotes), I would greatly appreciate it!

Another Camp NaNo

It’s April first, and (jokes aside) today is the beginning of the first session of Camp NaNo. This is the training wheels version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is an international movement to help people come up with 50k words toward a novel.

In Camp NaNo, the writer sets a goal — hours revising, words, etc . The minimum goal is 10k words or 10 hours, although most people set higher goals than that. Then the writer fulfills that goal. There is accountability in the daily timer where the daily word/time count go.

My goal is to revise Reclaiming the Balance for 30 hours. That’s reasonable at 1 hour a day, although I think I will probably edit more than that most days. The story desperately needs editing, may even be unredeemable, but I’ll never know until I try.

Here’s some bling from Camp:

Talking About My Books

The cover blurb (if I get that far) for Gaia’s Hands:

Dr. Jeanne Beaumont’s life has escaped her logical, scientific notions – a seedling in her lab has grown into a monstrous vine, and a man half her age courts her.

Josh Young’s world of spirits and visions informs his writing but isolates him. Then in a vision of his current crush naked in a lush orchard of trees and vines, he realizes he wants more.

As Jeanne and Josh discover each other, pieces fall together: the vine’s lush growth, Josh’s visions, the attacks on Jeanne’s life’s work. What brought them together threatens to push them apart, unless they realize that things don’t have to be logical to be true.


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I’m bad at writing book cover blurbs, and not that great at writing cover letter blurbs. It’s hard for me to find the essential pieces, keep the suspense in place, and communicate the gist of the book in as few words as possible. I’m lucky that this blurb only took two tries (but I thought the first, too long draft was perfect. Go figure.).

I might have learned something from this, however. Don’t repeat, don’t tell the whole story. I need to go over all my cover letters now and see if I can capture what I learned there. Wish me luck.

I see the light at the end of the edit!

I am done with the revision of Gaia’s Hands! I think I finally have it in a place where I like it, although it definitely needs some revision on the revision as any good novel would.

This is momentous, because Gaia’s Hands is the first novel I ever wrote.

To give you some background — I had a dream. And it was a pretty raunchy dream, raunchier than the book finally ended up, but it was also romantic. So I kept interrogating the dream, and particularly its characters, and it kept developing further.

I kept writing excerpts of the dream and its spun gossamer threads, and I kept making my husband read them. (My husband is very patient.) After maybe a half-dozen of these, Richard said, “If you’re going to write all these stories on the same topic, you might as well write a novel.”

Photo by Olenka Sergienko on Pexels.com

“I can’t write a novel!” I squeaked. “It’s too long! I don’t know how to write plots!”

“Try,” he said.

So I wrote the first draft, and didn’t like it. I then wrote several other drafts, adding voiceovers and deleting them, adding a couple new characters, deleting them, turning it into a novella, giving up on that. and leaving the story in the metaphorical drawer for a while only to start again. Toward the end of the process, I handed it off to a writing coach, who pointed out that there were so many editing errors from having gone through it so many times my eyes bled, She also informed me that Gaia’s Hands was, in fact, a romance novel and I should emphasize that.

This was a revelation. I knew there was a romance involved, but there was also this fantasy element of Jeanne’s talent and Josh’s visions and the build toward a miracle at the end. Primary to the book, however, was Josh and Jeanne’s unorthodox relationship with its age difference.

So I emphasized that romance, not forgetting the fantasy elements, but using the romance as the backbone of the story. Jeanne and Josh, it turns out, make a great couple. They fight and break up in a totally believable style, and come back to each other within a week just as believably. And they make sense as the unprepared wielders of talents that come from — Japanese spirits? Gaia?

I think I’m happy with Gaia’s Hands. I think.

Odds and Ends today

 First off, my newly published story “Come to Realize” can be found here. Honestly, I didn’t know the story would be considered humor! 

Second, I just got back from ten minutes (that’s all I can do right now) walking the track. I have runner’s high and I didn’t even run! (I think it’s called hypoxia). 

The big thing, though, is that I’m still working on getting more racial/ethnic equality in my writing. I’ve completed two stories; I’m down to one story, Prodigies. I feel a bit uneasy making these corrections, afraid they’re going to be considered clunky (although they’re just like the ones that describe Black skin color). I decided that my discomfort was part of the problem — the subconscious ruling that white people are the “default”. I have one book left to do, and the irony level is that the book was written by the viewpoint of a multiracial narrator, and still assumes whites as default.

Anything I can do to make the world richer, I will do.

A Slap

So these last few weeks have been a great growth time for my writing. I have revised two out of my four novels (Whose Hearts are Mountains and Prodigies) to give more of a development of character at the beginning instead of barreling into the plot immediately. I am working on a third, Apocalypse for the same, and the fourth, Gaia’s Hands, is going to require a lot of work, especially now that I know it’s a romance novel. 

And I would never have known to do this without rejections from agents sending me to developmental editors and beta readers and books about writing. I haven’t been revising just to pay my dues; I really feel like I have a better product because of it. 

My mother once told me it took two people to paint a picture: the artist and the person who slaps the artist when they’re done. At this point, I feel like I need a slap. I need someone to read something and tell me if I’m done. 

And then, in my next set of queries, what if I don’t get accepted by an agent? What’s next? I have really no idea to be honest. I suspect it will feel like a slap in the face.

Feeling discouraged about my writing

I’m feeling a bit discouraged about my writing this morning.

All I’ve been doing is editing, and editing more than one work’s beginning. This gives me a pretty myopic view in many ways, as I’m focused on the first moments of the work, trying to give my readers a setting to react to.

I’m feeling very discouraged. I’ve been doing this for, what, seven years? And I’m still fixing mistakes. And I don’t know, through all this, if I’m getting any better, if my work is getting any better. I don’t know if it’s worth it, because I don’t know if I’ll ever get published. Or, if I self-publish, if I’m good enough to get published. I don’t want to be published until my stuff is good, really good, and I don’t know if I’ve got what it takes to get there. 

I need a breakthrough, not a breakdown. And I don’t know if I can find my way to it.