August 18th, 2017

from the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival. There's metaphor in here somewhere.

Summer is tilting to a close, winding down into the cooler days with a spike of heat. It’s been nuts, juggling kids and writing and marketing and family and the world as it currently stands and all manner of things but still, here we are, hanging on by our claws.

I finished Draft #3.5 y’all. Somehow. <a cacophony of horns>

It’s been three years — two years really, adjusted for baby-having — of working on this Novel about ghosts and identity and prejudice and grief and steampunk-iness and birds. The story itself saw its very first incarnation (the first half of a short story) way way back in 2009. It was a little over 3 pages, single-spaced, and just shy of 2000 words.

Draft #3.5 is 95,736 words, aka 307 manuscript pages.

For those keeping track at home, word counts for the drafts, as compiled:

Draft #3.5: 95, 736; 307 pages (~8 months)
Draft #2.5: 92, 038 words; 295 pages (~5 months)
Draft #1: 96, 089; 327 pages (~ 1 year)

I’ve been working on the third draft since January. So roughly eight months — six adjusted for child sick-time and extended vacations. I haven’t been tracking my revisions with this draft you guys because they have been so extensive. I hacked up Part I and rearranged so much that even I forgot the changes I made when I went back to do my ½ draft this past month. I literally had folders labeled “Rearranging” for each Part so I could move scenes out of order without losing them. I hit two major snags — Chapters 13/14 and Chapters 23/24 — that stalled me for weeks each time.  I feel like I’ve taken this draft as far as I can go.

So what now? It’s with beta (gamma?) readers again.

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More readers? When do I get to read it??

Patience, young padwan, and thank you for your vote of confidence. It’s on my ten year plan to be published before I’m 40, so there’s that?

The truth is it needs more eyes but right now it needs a finite number of eyes and the right kind. What I mean to say is I’ve identified several of the problem areas and potential problem areas. I need other writers to look at the manuscript and help me work through those sections. Those who can give me constructive, actionable feedback. I want you to read it —I do!— I can’t wait for that glorious day. But for now I’m still keeping it close because I want it to be as perfect as I can make it when you do get to read it. I want it to flow and make sense and sear you right down to the inner chambers of your heart.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned during this draft?

This will sound silly, but I changed my chapter length. In the last draft, my chapters were usually around 5000 words, give or take a thousand. I cut that down so now they’re more like 3000 on average. That isn’t to say I cut words. Au contraire. Instead I changed where my chapters ended to increase momentum. So now I have more, shorter chapters. I heard a podcast about chapter length on Writing Excuses and it changed my whole outlook. I think it’s made the book stronger, even as it made some transitions much more difficult.

So what’s next?

I’ll be reading some books and some other folks’ manuscripts over the next month. But mostly I am turning my attention to my nascent marketing business huzzah!

I am hosting TWO marketing events this September:

Bookseller Panel FlyerBehind the Bookshelves: A Panel on Building Relationships with Bookstores

Sept. 10, 2 – 4pm, The Writer’s Loft
I’m moderating an awesome group of bookstore folks —managers, booksellers, connected authors— and we’re going to talk about how stores can be community hubs and advocates for writers at all stages. Join us! It’s (pretty much) free!
Class Spotlight Marketing WorkshopBuild Your Own Event: A Marketing Workshop
Sept. 16, 10:30 am – 1:30 pm, Grub Street Inc.

Yup, I’m teaching my building events seminar again but this time at the illustrious, Boston-based, non-profit creative writing center Grub Street Inc. They have a lot of famous instructors y’all. Steve Almond even teaches sometimes. Anyway, I want to make a good impression so if you’ve been wanting to get a crash course in events/marketing, PLEASE SIGN UP. Or if not, SIGN YOUR FRIENDS UP. Nothing makes a good impression like a full roster.

But what about the writing?

I need a little break. Maybe I’ll writing some poetry. Or revise an old short story. There’s a time travel one that’s been kicking me for a rewrite.

But really, prove to me you wrote something. C’mon.

Well, alright, if you insist. From Chapter 8:

Instead, she leans forward so her hair hangs down on either side of her face and she begins to braid it, cleanly and methodically. The braid is tight and small, right next to her face. “Here,” she says, tilting her head towards me, her dark, straight hair caressing my arm, soft as feathers. “Help me.” I want to ask my questions but I don’t. Instead I take a handful of her hair and clumsily separate it into three strands. She is already onto her second braid.

“Where I’m from, mourners wear their hair braided for a year. New braids, every day. Right after a death, you fill your hair with braids, as many as you can make. Members of a family or community will help each other. By the year’s end, you have one braid. Down the back or to the side or tight against the skull. Some people wear their hair that way for the rest of their lives. Others go back to living.” She gently shakes the bottom of the braid she has just finished, tugging on one of the strands and the whole thing unravels. She begins it again.

“Am I allowed to mourn myself?” she asks “How many braids is that?”

“I don’t know.” I try to focus on the braid, distract myself from the soft feeling of my fingers tangled in her hair. But I’m no good at braids; it’s messy, hairs straying all over the place, uneven. No mourning braids in Eidolon; we have the Order of Days and rituals that are supposed to help. Corna would say following the old ways connects us with the Living and the Dead, the wheel and the Valley. Tearing our sleeves, marking our bodies. But it is never finished is it? Just a never-ending circle of deeply etched grief. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way. What am I missing? When you can visit your dead face-to-face, what reason is there to grieve? I know a hundred reasons but I still don’t know how to speak them.

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