20 March, 2018

Pub Day! (or: Things About Finishing A Trilogy)

ALLY is here! This one was tough, for a lot of reasons.

Things that I learned, finishing a trilogy...

First and most obvious, the publisher dropped the series before the book got into the wild.  Thanks to the best agent (and agency) in the history of ever, we took this book the independent pub-route, and here it is. You can get it from Amazon in paper or e-book. I recommend, well, both! I am the author! But the paper version has this gorgeous cover that benefits from being held in one's hands. Just sayin'.

Second, and less obvious: this book was tough to write. I have heard tell that it's the second book in a series that's the worst, and as I am writing one of those now, okay, yeah. I get it. But for On the Bones of Gods, that honor went to ALLY. I wrote it like I had until that point written everything: total pantser, no idea what's coming, whee! (I swear, Lisa, if you are reading this: I can plan plots. Plot plots? --That. I can. I do it with RPGs all the time.) That led to a lot of omgwtf moments in the prose, digressions, me trying to figure out what the hell to do, what payoff would possibly suffice for what had come before, how I could knot off all the threads (while trying to remember what those threads were) and resolve character arcs. I knew what the climax would look like. It was all the rest of it.

See, here's the ass-pain about world-building. You find cracks and unfinished bits all over the place, even in book three, even when you think you've figured it all out. I worked out backstory that ended up getting cut out. I wrote plot twists that turned into plot-tangles of the Gordian knot variety, and had to be similarly solved. And because I know where every seam is, every knot, every mistake... I see those first, every time. I hear from people whose opinion I trust that ALLY is good, really good. Which--well, good. I'm pretty proud of it.

Third (it's a post about trilogies. It needs three learning points): I've changed my writing habits a lot since On the Bones of Gods.

I wrote all three books in the evenings, and with ALLY, I wrote while drinking (not like Hemingway, but enough to get past the inner voice who was screaming that I was doing it all wrong, all of it, what was wrong with me). This made for steady progress through the first draft and an awful lot of revising before it was even fit to send to my first reader, much less to my agent. I stopped writing at night after ALLY partly because Nous finished his damn dissertation and suddenly I had a husband again, and also because I have finally achieved that imperial stout level of Oh fuck it, just write without needing the imperial stout. I've finally internalized what I tell my students all the time: just fucking write it. Revise later. It can be awful. Write the awful to get to the good.

I've also shifted to morning writing. I think this is because On the Bones of Gods was "hobby" writing, which is to say--I wasn't sure it'd ever become anything. I wrote with no agent, no prospect of sales. It was... I don't want to say fun, because writing rarely is for me, but it was definitely that thing I was doing for me, so I had to fit in after the teaching and grading and cooking and cleaning and all that because I am just that way. Sometimes there's not much brain or energy left at the end of the day, so... the beer helped. I also had a soundtrack for On the Bones of Gods, one for each book; the music also helped punch past the anxiety of figuring out wtf I was doing.

Now--after getting an agent and two book contracts*, knowing that this writing thing can be a thing--producing wordcount is a job, and one that competes with the teaching and grading for my daylight attention. That means with coffee, cold sober, all my attention, no soundtrack.*** 

 I wrote Rory mostly over a summer. TCFF (not a sequel to RORY, but in the same world, a sort of proof-of-concept for space fantasy) I wrote during a school year, in fits and ferocious starts, in the mornings when I had neither class nor grading. I rearranged my syllabi to guarantee me 2-4 mornings a week for writing, not teaching or teaching related stuff. Now, with RORY 2, I am repeating that process: scheduled time to write, which goddammit, I adhere to. (I have tried to fix that sentence. It's ugly. I think we're stuck with it.)

I'm still anxious about wtf I am doing, of course. But I've shifted how I deal with that. I work through plot-knots the same way I work through game-planning: by hand, in a journal, with an actual pen. (Neil Gaiman likes fountain pens. I like these super fine-point felt-tips. Ballpoints are for teaching.) I give myself permission to sit and think, instead of fretting that I might not make wordcount and writing crap to make that magic number. I think my writing craft has leveled up, but I think my process has too.

So anyway. ALLY is loose in the world. My first trilogy is finished. I'm both elated and a little sad. I'm gonna miss those people.

Now I'm going to make some more coffee and get back to work. RORY is coming.

*Yes! I have three books forthcoming from DAW**, staring in 2019 with How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse.
** DAW!!
***There is a future project that I'm already planning which will get a soundtrack again, but because most of it will be in languages I don't speak (at least fluently), it'll be fine and not distracting. I just can't write the Rory stories to Scandinavian progressive folk metal.