I have just sent off my first round of edits for Nicholas, which is beyond exciting. Since December 2014 or early 2015 maybe when I sent my publisher a handful of manuscripts for novels, a series, and a novella (Nicholas is the latter), I've been kind of languishing from the wait. I received contracts August of last year, performed a happy dance, and then the waiting game began.
Well, more or less. I wrote a whole new novel about art forgers in Paris, NYC and Poland and sent that to them as well, but then since college started up again in January I've kind of been hanging out to dry. The superhero story doesn't want to write itself, and college has been pretty stressful. Then--this past Sunday, I got edits!
I hadn't written anything in months, and diving back in was kind of overwhelming. I was at school in my apartment, and started on a day when my Intro to Hispanic Lit class was canceled: I edited half the novella in one day and had no idea where the three hours had gone off to. I also realized how much I loved editing.
Nicholas takes place in early 1700s England, on an alternate timeline where the Palace of Westminster never burned down in the 1500s and turned into Parliament. I hadn't touched the Word doc in over a year, and had to regain the feel of my characters. It was like getting in touch with old friends. It was a little fuzzy as to whose character traits were whose, and I actually found shadows of future characters buried in the text.
Editing is like getting your characters ready for a job interview. The editor takes a look and maybe your main character has a couple traits that don't sync with his backstory or need further explanation (like Nicholas is a thief, and my editor asked me point blank why he had a moral compass; I explained that he'd been forced to attend a Christian boarding school when he was very young and, even though he ran off, the values stuck with him). The editor sweeps through your writing and point out things you never noticed, because you've run through the manuscript 12,000 times and it all blurs together, things like:
a.) oh, God, you wrote the word "as" or "but" five times in the same paragraph
b.) you really enjoy explaining where people are looking/gazing/peering/squinting and you really should mix it up with the body language
or, the ever pleasing
c.) yo, hon, you have a really weak scene where the villain finds out who's helping the princess. I mean, he could tell who it was based on some eyes he saw peeping through a portrait? Skilled man, that evil duke!
But I love it. I thrive off it, and usually my editor tells me to expand on a scene as often as she tells me to drop others, so the story always emerges for the better.
Editing is like brushing stray hairs off your character's jacket, smoothing their shoes, adjusting a tie. They go from begin a rabid little though in your HP laptop to--bless--a grand stage. They get cover art, and blurbs, and page numbers and--the best of all--you get to introduce them to people. Recently, a man in Cairo, Egypt, read The Christmas Lights and rated it on Goodreads. It blew my mind that someone thousands and thousands of miles away met my characters and now knew their story.
Lately I've been doing lots of little snippets and mood boards/character studies on my Tumblr. Everything on Tumblr about my writing can be found here. It's my main outlet for my more silly, creative side with my stories.
No word on a set release date, or cover art, yet, but once I get word, it'll be all over my social media. :3
This Month's Topic: Secondary characters have many functions in stories. Have you ever had a secondary character surprise you in some way? How? How about in other author's books that you've read? Do you have a favorite secondary character in either your own work or in books you have read?
Wow, okay, that's a lot of questions! Um, some of my secondary characters have totally blown me away. I have a series that is going to be e-published within the next year or so I believe, and it has the largest band of character I've ever had to work with (not up to George R. R. Martin standards, but big for me!). One is actually a minor character from an Ancient Greek myth, and I elevate him-or-her to a major villain. Like, terrifying. I freaked my family out a bit when they read the book, and they openly asked me how I came up with her. I'm not going to name drop because that would ruin EVERYTHING. So I was absurdly shocked when I found myself crying over him/her while writing his/her backstory. I wasn't supposed to care about this person! After all they had done to my main characters! But I did. I still get oddly protective whenever anyone mentions them, often referring to them in the negative. It's the only time I would consider saying, "fight me" about Greek myths.
In the same trilogy, there's Jay. He gangly, young, freckled, and supremely unsure of himself. He's actually one of the most powerful demigods in his group of friends, but he's also the youngest and doesn't get paid much attention. He was just sort of a filler character, a helpful kid I wrote more for his powers and he even started out in early drafts as a villain-turned hero. As the books progressed, I actually found myself relating a LOT to him. He reacted how a normal person would to the crazy situations, and his need to be loved, quiet demeanor, politeness and usual meekness were different than my other heroes. Jay interested me so much that I wrote a short story from his point of view where he stars as the main hero.
One of my favorite secondary characters from my own novels is Jonathan Hadrian Emmanuel Hosey, or just Hosey, as he's known in Shubiao's Girls. I love that he is a bit privileged and struggles with budgeting. I love his ridiculous name, and that he spends his nights learning Tolkien Elvish to get into upscale secret parties and acting out Sherlock Holmes mysteries with his Lit club. But when he is faced with real life monsters, he gawks.
A character NOT of my own who surprised me is Carswell Thorne from the Lunar Chronicles series. The series as a whole tripped me up; I'm not big into sci-fi, but I do love fairy tales, and the books are great. First--Carswell? What an off-putting name. But he goes by Thorne, and is this striking, devil-may-care spaceship pilot who turns pirate, basically. But he has this whole redemption arc and ended up being one of my favorites. I've never really liked flirts, in fiction or real life, but Thorne was interesting, admittedly. He provided comic relief.
Want to learn more about other authors' secondary favorites?
Dr. Bob Rich
(TWIP: This Week in Progress)
Hi, guys. Whomever is reading this, I’ll presume you’re a writer, or at the very least you like to read. And if you like to read, probably at least once you’ve daydreamed a story of your own or wanted to. I wrote my first novel when I was about twelve. It was about wizards and selkies and was the purest form of a Harry Potter knockoff, but since then, my life could be broken up into a cycles of brainstorming, writing, editing…and empty periods. Those periods are usually dark for me. There have been times when, if I’m not head over heels in a story, I experience symptoms eerily similar to depression. I don’t dream (I’m not even joking. If I’m not writing or don’t have time to read books, my REM cycle is blank)…and I’m just a little…off. I feel as if I’m wasting time.
I feel truly alive when I write. I tear up, laugh (audibly, which can be awkward if someone’s in the room), and cycle through a whirlwind of emotions. So when I’m just doing normal work, I feel like I’m missing something. I haven’t written anything new since I returned for my spring semester of college. Well—I’ve written paper proposals and essays, etc., but nothing with story thieves or winged boys or high adventures. And I feel okay. After closing the page on a story, I feel pressured to think of a new one. Who’s next? Where to? I write to vent, to relax, to live. There’s always that sheer panic in the back of my head, snuggled into my cranium at the tip of my spinal column—the fear that I’ll never pen another tale. That I’m used up. Then come the wild stories, the mad grabs that are half-formed: a superhero story, of course! It’ll be a girl, who’s Dominican and her best friend will chronicle her stories because he’s a cartoonist, and she’ll have the power to manipulate anything ink-based, so she can change what newspapers or books say or turn the ink into its toxic gaseous form to protect herself—blah blah blah. They sort of sound cool in your head, but once you put them on paper you’re stuck. Who’s the villain? What’s the point?
I often find that my point is to answer a question, to right a wrong. Why would you risk stealing something from an impenetrable museum? Why is this mouse spirit haunting this college student? How did a narcissistic country girl become one of the most threatening villains in Greek mythology? The answers usually involve loveable characters, a handful of pitfalls, a trip to the library or Wikipedia and usually Google Translate, and I’m on my way.
But, until I find my next question—until the next character comes knocking on my subconscious, hands out for a quest—I’m going to rest. Think of all the books you love, all the adventures the characters have. They all rest, at least for a bit, right? If they don’t, mental breakdowns usually ensue, am I right? It’s okay to take a break. You have your entire life to create new stories. That’s one of the coolest things, and why I’m so grateful I started young: I have until the day I day to create new stories and go on new adventures. And I think a little break won’t hurt too much. So if you, like me, are on a writing break, ease down. Read lots of books. Go on your own adventures. Watch TV. Do whatever you want. What usually happens to me is that something utterly everyday pops a question into my head, whether I’m in class or eating soup or walking down the road. Your next adventure will come. Just have your mind open so you can embrace it when it does.
P.S. -- Also, I have like five signed novels/novellas whose edits I'm waiting for, so a girl can hope that soon she gets an email with a huge attachment filled with little red comments so she can revisit old friends and get them nice and spiffy for their world debut, am I right? ;3