January seemed to pass in a blur. I held the Captive Prince giveaway contest (congrats again to the winner, Jen!), and, in the first week of February, traveled to Cuba. Cuba was so different than anywhere I’d ever traveled before, usually preferring Europe and Japan, but well worth the trip. Even with the food poisoning on the last day.
Also, I’ve been reading The Modern Mrs Darcy‘s blog, and loved how she does her monthly updates. So I’m trying it out. Thus the new format.
What I’m Writing
First round of edits for the Snowmancer sequel are complete and returned to my editor and sent to my beta readers. While I’m waiting for those back, I’m working on edits for Damon Snow V.
Meanwhile, I’m making steady progress with the first draft of Blood Cursed, Cursed Book #2, although it’s looking already to be a lot longer than I had envisioned. (I was thinking 80k… Now it seems I’m writing 100k).
One of my goals this year is to speed up my editing (while ending up with better books). I see and listen to all these interviews with writers who write a book every month or so. Good books people love, too. For all they share about how fast they write a draft (I’m not too far behind, at 2,000 words an hour), I’m always left wondering — but how do you edit that fast???
For me, edits take the bulkhead of my time. So I did some Internet research, and found K.M. Weiland’s many-step editing process, a few of which I’m now testing in my own writing. Like starting the day by line editing what I wrote the day before, so not only will I have cleaner copy by the time I start my serious edits, but I’m mentally inside my story by the time I start typing Word 1. This has helped me, on occasion, reach 1,000 words in a 25 minute sprint, a personal best.
Now, since I hit the 25% mark, I’m taking a rather controversial step — I’m pausing in my writing to undertake some more serious editing before I head on.
Some writers like Weiland and James Scott Bell (both of whom I love!) advocate taking a pause to get yourself on the right track. Others wail no! You’re going to lose all your forward momentum.
I’m usually on the side of cranking the first draft out fast so I can get on to editing, but I’m experimenting to see if this works better for me. Usually, at the end of that quick first draft, I’m stunned silly by the sheer enormity of words I need to edit. That’s not to say writing quick leaves a worse draft, only the size of the task! And the complexity! But editing 25,000 words should be easier than editing 80,000, and hopefully ironing out the smaller chunks will make it easier to edit the enormity at the end.
Meanwhile, I’m outlining Cursed Book 3 (To Be Named). I’m also experimenting here with some new methods, especially with combining the Internal and External Plot arcs. The Internal plot arcs for Daniel and Valere are so vital, and so delicate, this book. They’re what’s going to leave you gasping.
I usually do focus a lot on Internal Plot Arcs (the inner character changes), but I’ve never focused so much on making sure the external affects the internal, and vice versa — and having the challenges of the internal plot arc echoed in other characters.
Cursed Book 3 is a story of betrayal, and regaining safety and trust when someone hurts you so much it’s unforgivable. So yes, lots of Internal Arc.
What I’m Daring
- Taking a resort vacation in the first place. I’ve always turned up my nose at them. I’m a backpacker, and resorts don’t fit my mentality. I mean, what do you do all day?? Relax on the beach, apparently. I agreed to try, so I could figure out whether I actually didn’t like it or I just thought I wouldn’t (like pickles). I also seriously need to learn how to relax and recharge. As it turns out, I like sitting on the beach and reading in the shade, but only for about half the day, and then I grow restless and want to explore. I could do this for a weekend, but not as a whole trip.
- Who says resort vacations should only include resorts? I took with me my backpacker mentality, and we ventured out to Varadero town (which is as much a tourist town as you can imagine, even in a communist country), to the nearby city of Matanzas (which is about as different from Varadero as possible), and then took an overnight trip to Havana (which was way too short — you need at least 4 days in Havana, especially if you unexpectedly find yourself in love with Colonial history). Did I mention I only speak about a few words in Spanish?
- Learning to play the violin. As soon as I recovered from getting ill in Cuba, I threw myself into figuring out how I could learn to play the violin. As it turns out, getting started is easy. Step 1: go to music store and rent violin (for only about $20 a month!). Step 2: find a local music teacher. Step 3: watch tons of youtube videos.
What I’m Researching
- A lot about psychopaths, especially the non-criminal, non-violent kind, for the Cursed series. Yes, there are psychopaths in the world who aren’t serial killers (or corporations). Particularly, they’re marked by a disregard for the feelings of others, a living in the now mentality, and the need for thrills without thinking about the consequences. Psychopaths can feel empathy with others, but only if they try. For them, it’s a skill, like anything else. Actually, some psychopathic qualities are also positive qualities for the rest of us — like taking action now rather than wading through choices and procrastinating, and taking bold risks (although knowing the risks is important for avoiding them).
- About PTSD, some on the symptoms, but more on the process of recovery. Things like finding safety again, finding one’s own power.
- How to forgive the unforgivable. You can’t force forgiveness, and it’s really unhealthy to try even to move your therapy ahead. Acceptance is the first step.
- A lot about Cuba — it’s history and how it is now, and not to mention what to do and what to see. I think we managed a nice mix of Colonial and Revolutionary history.
- After seeing the Colonial-era cannons of Havana and having a strong visceral reaction reminding me of the Temeraire series, I want to learn how cannons work. I also learned a lot about ship-building at the Museo de Navegación at the Castillo de la Real Fuerza.
What I’m Reading
- Lord Mouse by Mason Thomas. The Dark Defiles meets M/M Romance.
- The Telling, by Eden Winters. A contemporary m/m romance following the recovery and coming out of a PTSD soldier in a small backwater town. This isn’t my usual fare, but a reader really sold me on it.
- Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. A vision for how schools should be (without the extra-surreal elements).
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway. I struggled to find the right book to read in Cuba. I was advised to bring something light for reading on the beach. I decided to go the opposite approach, after remembering an article wondering why we gave up on tackling difficult reads on our lake holidays. I’m no where near finished, as it took a turn to the horrifying when describing the overthrow of a Fascist town. Too depressing for the beach.
- Captive Prince 3 is also on my list. I had to delay reading it because I was in Cuba without Internet access, and then I was horribly sick on my day off afterward. So I’m shoving it out of my mind until I have a full day to sprint through it, because let’s face it, that’s the only way to read C.S. Pacat.
For writing craft:
- The Shy Writer Reborn by C Hope Clark. Strategies and tactics for selling and promoting yourself.
- Making It in Historical Fiction by Libbie Hawker. Brilliant break-down of the essentials for creating historical fiction readers love.
- Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer. This isn’t one you should get in ebook form. With all the artwork and formatting, you definitely need the paperback for the whole experience.
- Play it Again by The Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger. Poking around the library after a symphony demonstration, and this fit my staying awake mindset this month. Rusbridger carves out 20 minutes (approximately) from his eighteen hour days to learn to play one of the most challenging pieces available.
- Listened to: 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam and Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Both excellent works on how to make the most out of your time!