It’s that time again. Last month, I did NaNoWriMo, and ended up drafting over 60k words in a single month. That was insane, and left me with drafts of five (and a half) novellas. I intend to work on polishing those, and then the struggle for finding them a home (or do I try the self-pub route?) Novellas are funny animals, and generally e-published, though I’m lucky enough that my first novella, “In Memoriam” was printed in a collection with three other novellas in On the Run.
Part of last month was also sending in a pitch on the next novel I’d like to work on, which is Triad Soul (a second Triad-based story, though I’m hesitant to call it a “book two” or a “sequel.” I’m hoping that, for the most part, the books stand alone self-contained, with threads of larger tales running though, but not to write a trilogy or a series in the strictest sense.
Part of sending in the pitch is giving yourself a deadline. Or, put another way, I had to let my publisher know when I could deliver a manuscript draft. I talked it over with my husband, who is—as you likely know—pretty much the smartest person I know, and he pointed out that last month I did indeed write 60k words. In a month. I tried to explain that was easier since it was five novellas, but he gave me a look that said, ‘Uh-huh. Give me another excuse.’ And the thing is, he’s right. Well, we’re both right. I do find it easier to write a novella than a novel, but there’s no reason I can’t write a bit faster on the next novel.
With Light, it took me three years to write the first draft of the novel. I was working full-time, sneaking in writing time between short stories, and trying very hard not to burn myself out (did I mention I was working full-time?) I didn’t pitch the book until it was mostly written, and even then I was scrambling to get it done once I had a deadline.
To this day, I’m stunned I managed to accomplish it on time, and I sent that sucker in with a profound sense of relief. It was hectic, but it was worth it, and it taught me something truly valuable about writing a novel: I needed to be way, way better at planning out my strategy. Novel writing was nothing like short fiction, at least not to me, and I made my work so much harder by not doing more prep-work.
When I sent in the pitch for Triad Blood, I had a bit more of an idea about what I was intending to do, but I had nothing really written ahead of time, beyond a couple of scenes I’d worked on that would become a part of Triad Blood after I’d realized they wouldn’t work in a short story I’d been trying to write for the same characters. That short story, in part, became one of the major plot-arcs in Triad Blood.
The pitch was accepted. My awesome publisher, Bold Strokes Books, wanted the manuscript… in a year.
To say I panicked would be understating. My husband listened to my panic, and we sat down and gave it a think. I had a week off from work, and that was the week I decided it was time to say goodbye to the full-time retail management job. The Monday after, I gave my notice, and though I allowed myself two weeks after my last day to take a breather, after that it was full-steam-ahead on the novel.
And I did it. In fact, I did it with time to spare – I was done a draft of Triad Blood two months early, though I tweaked and played with it for another month before I sent it to my beta-reading friends. It took me ten months (or eleven, if you count tweaking).
It turns out that like nearly any skill, practice helps you improve. I avoided pitfalls I’d dug for myself with my first novel and plotted out the notion of Triad Blood in much more detail before I started typing. And I’d picked up a neat tip from fellow writer Jeffrey Ricker about blocking major scenes on cue-cards, which I could re-arrange and lay out in front of me visually to see how things progressed. I colour-coded. I noted which characters appeared in which scenes. I saw problems before I created problems, and solved them preemptively. It was fantastic.
I also discovered new mistakes, but had far more time to deal with them.
So, I just gave myself a ten-month deadline this time, starting from next January. By the end of October, my goal is to have Triad Soul not only written, but tweaked and read by some beta-readers.
Here we go again.