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Predictive Text Chapter

First of all, if you haven’t yet seen Botnik’s Harry Potter chapter written with a predictive text keyboard programmed with all seven books, you should go read it now. It’s the funniest thing I’ve read all year. Then come back and read this post much later, because just about anything will pale in comparison.

I was so inspired that I decided to use Botnik’s app to upload the text of THE TETHERED MAGE and see if their predictive text keyboard could write a chapter of the sequel for me! I didn’t have the time to invest to get good at using it, but here, for your amusement, is my predictive text chapter of an unspecified Swords & Fire novel.

(Note that this will be funnier if you’ve read THE TETHERED MAGE.)

 

CHAPTER ???

I tried another time to leave the Mews without thinking about fire warlocks. I was hoping to find Marcello in the ducal library. Gray walls held nothing more than a perfunctory smile stretching toward disappointment. I maneuvered between rows of sleek men, fishing for young courtiers.

A new voice said, “The Empire depends on our hospitality.”

A disturbing figure that was worse than any doubt of my own limits flicked his fingers through his hair. Prince Ruven leaned against a wall, like a terrible idea.

Ruven smirked knowingly. “I can change your empire.”

I said lightly, “Here I almost missed your presence in my gut.”

Ruven placed a hand on my shoulder, and I gagged. “You should take my kingdom without hesitation, or ambition burns in my heart.”

My throat was nothing casual. “I couldn’t commend you to my mother.”

Ruven chuckled. “So I suppose it could be dangerous to tell her this foolishness.” His heart was done with my mother. He sighed and sipped a little dish of cheese.

My mother glided through the crowd with a spyglass, watching for assassins. Of course she wore a new diplomatic dagger. It seemed designed to keep any trouble from her life, like some foreboding of nine Hells.

I stared at my mother’s things as she sucked down the whole cursed hall. A moment lengthened under the assessing stare of her intrigues.

She smiled faintly at my breeches. “The Mews has secrets, like a terrible idea about your projects.”

She shrugged wearily at my marred design. It seemed designed to tighten my corset without fuss.

I wanted to protest that she knew nothing of my life. “I tried to do something for you. You have no choice about my overly intricate schematics.”

She raised an empty glass. “That must hurt. You should think of Raverra and your duty.”

“You know I wanted to make everything fit in this gown.”

She shrugged. “I could only imagine what you meant. Destruction, undergarments, and your dignity seem bent with powerful magic.”

A moment later, all my friends from Ardence said that my mother was untouchable.

 

***

 

The doge himself occupied my favorite chair at our table. I gestured to the steaming cups already awaiting us on the table, with both hands on fire. It could be anything, at our family dinner.

I stared past the doge, and Zaira lifted her hand in despair. Marcello bowed stiffly, with a grand resignation.

It could never happen that we wanted a quiet moment for private conversation. I wanted to ask him before breakfast to make sure that she wore her own ignorance as a swarm of ants.

The doge said wearily, “A certain unctuous merchant conveyed bodies in his robes to get into your corset.”

My mother would never stand for that.

“You should preclude comfortable trousers,” I said. “Anything that we can spare to keep them from being unimpressed.”

Marcello murmured, “They want to join your family in their ruthless cruelty.” He leaned against my side and hurled a glass of wine from the room.

In my mind, that was mere noises. I said carefully, “To make the empire covered with their power.”

The doge said, “The Empire stands to keep hidden among the Serene Envoy’s mistresses.”

My mind lacked precise control of my anger. I wanted to protest his attention, for his eyes gleamed with a soft echo of his own ignorance. “You should pay more attention to the imperial seal. The imperial palace is not what you truly wish it were.”

Zaira shrugged ruefully. “A few seconds without fear could change the world.”

The doge dictated a long answer. “You’re a trivial terror, for you know why I can hate you.” His elegant disapproval shaped Zaira’s cellars with his bold voice, and Zaira laughed at his face.

She gave me a challenging smile, and Zaira snorted, “I could survive your presence if you weren’t selling meat to the ragpicker.”

He ordered her to make assumptions, or the generals would pounce. His face burned, as if he might argue with her in the foyer of our palace.

Lace cuffs flew out of her coffee, and Zaira hesitated. A moment later, as he gasped in recognition, she tossed a little orphan girl at him.

I stared at war.

Zaira raised her fist and tried to clench the doge in her hand. She slipped a handful of powerful magic in her hair. Fire leaped at his face, as if he expected something simpler than a pure breath.

Zaira yanked the doge from his seat. His brows lifted toward the spreading flames. I tried not to flinch at her reflection, with her dark fire flickering between us.

She tore his heart, fluttering like a pigeon, with her courtly coiffed hair.

Marcello winced as he scooped a handful of shrieking tendrils in his hands. I asked Marcello for a cake, and he spread the city into flame.

Zaira snorted in her hand. Her arm hung over a hundred deaths. A fire gnawed at the stones scattered around the doge’s door.

I was done at last: vulnerability cluttered the floor.


Writing Female Characters

I’ve now had a few variants on the question, “How do you write such strong female characters?” This always makes me blink a bit, because you know, they don’t ask people “How do you write such strong male characters?”

BUT! It occurred to me that maybe I should actually answer this question in a blog post. Because I’m sure there are many writers out there (guys and otherwise) who would really, honestly like to do right by the fictional women in their writing lives, but aren’t sure how.

So here are some handy, friendly tips to help you!

(Disclaimer: This is by no means definitive, opinions may vary, I’m sure I’m missing stuff, etc. This is only a start, and you don’t have to follow every one of these rules all the time. But I like bullet lists, so here you go!)

The 50% Rule:

  • Make 50% of your characters women. This might sound crazy, but is actually how it works in the real world! (And you may be shocked if you stop and think about the overwhelming proportion of movies and books in which this is not remotely the case.)
  • Carry that 50% through to all levels of narrative importance. Main characters: 50% female. Random passerby: 50% female. Etc.
  • Also carry that 50% through all different roles/jobs/etc. Military and political leaders? 50% female. Caring parents, innocent victims? 50% male. Good guys and bad guys? 50% each. Obviously you don’t need to hit exactly 50% all the time—that would be weird—but shoot for it, roughly speaking. If all your generals are guys and all your hapless murder victims are girls, that kind of perpetuates a really creepy narrative.

Great! Just by following the 50% rule, you are already so, so far ahead of so, so many books out there. (Including, to be clear, many I absolutely love.)

Also, I should add that nonbinary characters are extremely awesome to include, too.

Treat Characters Equally:

  • Make your female characters as competent as your male characters. And make them stay as competent as your male characters. Nothing is more disappointing than doing a character intro where a woman seems to be a badass and then she’s just kidnapping bait for the rest of the story. (Glares bitterly at certain anime and also a certain Robin Hood movie)
  • Avoid sexualizing your female characters more than your male characters. (Sure, if your POV is a horny hetero dude, he’s going to be seeing the world through a certain lens, but think about how your female characters are presenting themselves to the world, and make sure your lens as a writer is more objective than your character’s, if that makes sense.)
  • Make sure you have important female characters who have their own role in the story, besides “Mother figure” or “Love interest.” Don’t always define women by their relationship to men.
  • Make sure most or all of your female characters’ backstories and character arcs would work equally well if they had no reproductive equipment. One grows weary of reading womb-and-vagina-based backstories all the time.
  • Relatedly, avoid including rape or sexual assault as a cheap plot device. Murder works just as well to show how bad your villain is or to give your hero a reason to want vengeance. Maybe they could even murder the hero’s male best friend rather than his childhood sweetheart!
  • Avoid sexy=evil (I mean, let’s face it, evil is sexy, but that’s very different than sexiness being a sign of evil). Also avoid pretty=good (and its nasty corollary, ugly=evil). This is not at all to say you can’t have sexy evil people or pretty good people, but make sure it’s not, like, a hard and fast rule in your universe, and that the relationship between appearance and alignment does not come off as causational.
  • Basically, just write your female characters as people. If you could gender swap the character and the story would still work, you’re probably doing a good job.
  • Remember to let your guys be sensitive and caregivers and fashion-conscious and so forth, too, and to portray “softer” male characters in a positive light!

If you’ve written stuff that breaks some or all of these rules, don’t feel bad. These stereotypes have been around a long time, and it’s hard to weed them out of your own brain. Honestly, MOST SFF breaks these rules, including many of my favorite books. (Though not all SFF! A great example of a recent book written by a male author which is fantastic about following these rules is Stephen Aryan’s MAGEBORN, for instance.)

I would loooooove to see more new books that really treat female (and enby!) characters with the same seriousness they treat male characters. If you would, too, perhaps consider these tips as a non-exhaustive starting point to being part of the solution.

GO FORTH AND WRITE AWESOME LADIES!


An Interview With Past Me

I just finished my first month as a published author, and Past Me has some questions for me. Here goes:

PAST ME: Holy shit, you did it! You’re a published author! What’s it like? Is your life totally different? Are there beams of light and singing cherubim (A Wind In The Door style, naturally) and clouds of glory?

ME: First of all, let’s be honest, that thing looked like a Beholder. Second, it’s amazing. Third, life is exactly the same, except with really intense deadlines for Book Two.

PAST ME: Aw, c’mon. It’s gotta be completely awesome. Are you famous now? What’s it like? What’s different?

ME: Uh, no, really super not famous at all. Mostly it’s still just kids and work and laundry. Some things are definitely different…For instance, party conversations with people who haven’t seen you since the book came out are pretty much guaranteed to be about the book. Everyone makes jokes (I think they’re jokes?) about when will the movie come out. Like, you think other writers are kidding about that, but they’re not—it’s totally a thing. You also wind up doing a lot more interviews and guest posts, and oh, I even did a bookstore event! With S. A. Chakraborty! It was REALLY COOL.

PAST ME: Pics or it didn’t happen!

ME: Okay, here! It was a blast. The audience was great and had fantastic questions, the bookstore was wonderful, and S. A. Chakraborty was totally lovely.

More Booksmith Reading

Booksmith Reading

PAST ME: That’s awesome! What else has been cool and different about being a published author? Anything you didn’t expect?

ME: Okay, so the very coolest thing, totally unexpectedly, has been hearing from friends who’ve read it (or listened to the audiobook)—or even better, while they’re reading it. Because they’re your friends, and they don’t hesitate to do things like text you going OH MY GOD when a surprising twist happens, or send you emails about how they totally caught this subtle clue you put in there without knowing if anyone would ever notice it, or post at 2 AM being like “DAMN YOU MELISSA I HAVE TO WORK TOMORROW BUT I COULDN’T PUT YOUR BOOK DOWN!” It’s AMAZING.

PAST ME: Seriously? I didn’t even think more than one or two of them would even have read it by now?

ME: Someone has already listened to the audiobook twice. You have the BEST FRIENDS. And the best readers. They are all awesome.

PAST ME: Tearing up, here. What else should I know about? What did you decide to do about the release party? I know I was waffling about whether to try to do it at a bookstore or what…

ME: Oh! So I realized that if I did it at a bookstore, I’d be performing the entire time. And I also realized there were a LOT of friends who wanted to celebrate with me, even on a weeknight, and that nearly all of them had already preordered the book or had plans to buy it in a bookstore on release day. I just wanted to be able to celebrate and relax and enjoy their company, and be myself in all my goofiness rather than being all author-y. So I just rented a hall and invited all my friends and had a BLAST. Best decision. Plus, I decided to buy a “Screw it, you only get one debut” dress, and I have no regrets.

PAST ME: PICS OF THE DRESS YOU MONSTER.

ME: SERIOUSLY LOOK AT THIS CRAZY OVER THE TOP THING!

Debut Dress

PAST ME: Niiiiiiiiiiice! So, I have to ask….Did you blow up all those balloons by hand, or…

ME: Jesse did most of them. Best husband ever. But I drove them, inflated, to the venue in the minivan, which was kinda wild. They filled the entire van. The kids could barely squeeze in among the balloons.

PAST ME: It sounds like it’s been a really fun month!

ME: It’s been incredible. But also really busy. You don’t really understand about writing to deadlines yet, Past Me. You think you do, but you don’t. BUT YOU WILL. OH YES, YOU WILL.

PAST ME: That’s…ominous.

ME: HA HA HA HA HA HA (gasp) But no, seriously, it’s incredible. Everything is totally worth it. All those years, all those rejections, all that work—worth it. OH! Wait, you have to see the cake!

PAST ME: Cake? What caaa….HOLY SHIT!

20171024_185200

ME: I KNOW! Laughing Oak Bakery, of course, and that pic is totally hand-painted on the frosting! And it TASTED EVEN BETTER THAN IT LOOKED. You are in for a huge treat, Past Me. Just you wait.

PAST ME: That’s SO COOL!

ME: It is! And now, I really have to go catch up on everything I blew off while I was making that deadline I mentioned. Don’t forget to take a break from work to enjoy all this awesome stuff, Past Me!

PAST ME: I will! WOOT!!!


IT’S HERE!!!

My debut novel is out in the world! HOLY CRAP!

It’s been a wild month. My debut moment has both been everything I hoped it would be and nothing like I thought it would be.

You have to understand that I’ve wanted to be a published author since I was in kindergarten. For a fair chunk of my adult life, whenever I’ve browsed the Science Fiction/Fantasy shelves, my eyes have lingered at that spot somewhere around Orson Scott Card and Gail Carriger where my books would go. Someday.

Well, hey! Someday was last Tuesday! HOW ABOUT THAT?!

20171026_161521.jpg

I took that picture right before getting my laughing 11-year-old to take a bunch of pictures of me pointing at the books which really didn’t come out well, because, well, laughing 11-year-old. (See what I mean?)

20171026_161530.jpg

And then I asked the nice lady at the info desk if she wanted me to sign them, all dorky and excited and shy as you could imagine, and she got all excited for me that it was my first time seeing my debut on the shelves and was very nice and got me Autographed Copy stickers and turned them face out and everything. It was lovely.

My friends asked me if I cried, but as I told them, I’m more of a squee-er than a crier. And there has been SO MUCH SQUEEING!

Not everything was what I expected. I spent a good chunk of October focused on trying to get my first round of edits done for THE DEFIANT HEIR (Book 2 of Swords & Fire) rather than on anticipating the release of THE TETHERED MAGE. People would say lovely things like “I loved THE TETHERED MAGE and I can’t wait for the sequel!” and I would inwardly be like “OH GOD I’M WORKING ON IT AS FAST AS I CAN.” But then I turned in edits, and was finally able to just revel in the moment!

I also would never have guessed how much work goes into publicity, even for a traditionally published author. The idea that I someday would have trouble keeping up with my laundry because I had to do a whole bunch of interviews seems farfetched even now that it’s actually happened. It’s been a ton of fun, and I’ve had a great time with every one of them, and hope to do more, but there were definitely some WHAT EVEN IS MY LIFE moments.

Another thing I didn’t anticipate was the wonderful, incredible feeling of seeing my Facebook timeline light up with my friends posting selfies with my book, or photos of it on bookshelves all around the country, or posting about how they’d already finished it the day after buying it. That’s been probably the most magical thing of all, and has really driven home that holy cow, my book is really out there, and people are reading it, and this isn’t a dream. And feeling the love from all my awesome friends and family, both at my release party and online, has been truly amazing.

Right after my release party I rolled straight into a boiler replacement, a broken dishwasher, a visit from my brother’s family, my husband’s birthday, Halloween, and a day job deadline, so it’s been a week that’s been more about HOLY SHIT HOW AM I GOING TO CLEAN THIS HOUSE and WHAT DO I GET THE NERD WHO HAS EVERYTHING AND ALSO IT HAS TO SHIP IN 2 DAYS and FINE SO YOU DON’T WANT TO BE LINK AFTER ALL OK I CAN MAKE YOU A PIRATE FROM STUFF IN MY CLOSET LET’S DO THIS than about my debut.

But those pics of my friends reading my book have been coming in all week, so I’m still in seventh heaven.

You did it, kindergarten-me. High five!


So Many Drafts

Hey there, writers in the trenches! Let’s have a little talk about tweedle beetles drafts. Specifically, numbers of drafts.

I know that when I started out writing novels, I had no idea how many drafts a book went through before it got published. Thinking back on it now, I get all Ming the Merciless and want to tell my past self, “Pathetic writer. Hurling your manuscript out into the void, without the slightest inkling of what is out there. If you had known anything about the true nature of publishing, anything at all, you would’ve hidden from it in terror.”

Uh, no, really, actually, it’s totally great and awesome. BUT! I sure as hell needed to revise more.

So, in case any of you are despairing about how many times you’ve overhauled your book, here is a bit of data for you on my debut novel:

THE TETHERED MAGE went through around 6-7 drafts before it was ready to go on sub to publishers. Once Orbit accepted it for publication, it went through several official rounds with my editor—a major structural edit, minor structural edits, little fine-tuning kind of edits, copyedits, etc. But I did a couple rounds for each of the structural passes before my editor saw them. So it came out in the end to around 13 drafts.

Now, some of those drafts were me getting 20K words in and then going “Ugh! Start over!” Other drafts were just polish passes, where I was buffing up the language to a high shine and not making any major changes. But one of them was me revising from YA to adult, historical fantasy to epic fantasy, AND adding 50K+ words (almost doubling the length of the book from first completed draft to final draft), so I feel like it all evens out.

I created the doc for the very first draft of THE TETHERED MAGE in early 2014. I took some time off from it in there to work on revising an earlier book, but finished the draft that went on sub to publishers around the beginning of 2016. It sold in June of 2016 (BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER), and I continued to revise it for several months; it finally comes out next month (WHEEEE!).

Mind you, that wasn’t the first book I wrote. The book that got me my agent went through about 10 drafts before it did (I started querying it way too soon, though, on like draft 5). And I wrote other books before that.

Every single page I wrote, every revision pass, made me a better writer. The me of 2 books ago couldn’t have written THE TETHERED MAGE. Heck, the me of draft one of THE TETHERED MAGE couldn’t have written draft 13. Revision is where I learned the most, and still where I do my best work.

I’m working on revisions for THE DEFIANT HEIR now (the sequel to THE TETHERED MAGE). I’m really excited about them! I feel like this draft is going to be a big step up from the last one, and it feels so good to see the shape pulling true, and the pieces falling into place. I used to hate revision, but now that practice has given me a better understanding of how to spot areas for improvement and fix them, it feels awesome to make my book sharper and shinier with every draft.

Writing on a deadline, with an editor, is very different than writing on my own, and I don’t have the luxury to allow myself draft after draft. But I’m nonetheless already on draft 5 by my own count (my editor saw draft 4 as my “first draft”), and the version I’m giving her next month will probably be draft 6.

So, my as-yet-unpublished writer friends, if you haven’t already done so, I urge you to embrace revision! The difference between my first drafts and my final drafts looks a lot like the difference between my writing 5 years ago and my writing now, and that’s not a coincidence. You never know how many times you’ll have to tear down and rebuild before you get it just right, but it’s well worth the effort. Every draft teaches you something, and takes you one step closer to the end of the publishing rainbow…

…Even if it’s NOT ACTUALLY A RAINBOW IT’S A WEIRD RAINBOW-COLORED NEBULA THING WITH AN OMINOUS FLOATING CITY IN IT AND YOUR ADVENTURES ARE ONLY BEGINNING.


Reset to Save

I just turned in the first draft of THE DEFIANT HEIR, Book 2 of Swords & Fire, to my editor today! YAY!!!

BUT WAIT! Let’s walk that back. While this is the first draft Lindsey is seeing, this is not even close to the first draft I wrote of this book. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you what draft it was. Because in the process of writing this book, I kept going back to the beginning so much, I might as well have been trying to fight the end boss with insufficient levels and mid-tier equipment.

And you know what? It worked out really well for me. So now I’m going to tell you about it, in case this is useful to anyone else.

My saved-off incomplete drafts look something like this:

Early drafts: 15K words

Middle draft: 70K words

Late draft: 125K words

Final “first” draft: 140K words

Weird, right? I KNOW! Here’s how that happened.

One different thing about writing this book was that since my publisher wanted to put a teaser chapter at the end of THE TETHERED MAGE, I had to get the beginning into really good shape very early in the process. So I wound up writing several drafts of the first 3 chapters before moving on to the rest of the book.

This was actually SUPER helpful. It gave me time to re-find the characters’ voices, feel my way into the story, and get some new characters and elements more solidified in my head before proceeding. It got the early, derpy, HA HA I’M JUST SPLASHING AROUND IN THE WATER I CAN’T ACTUALLY SWIM DURRRHHH stage of drafting out of the way.

After that, I was in a strong position to launch into the rest of the book. I forged ahead, pushing onward even when I hit a section that I knew I wasn’t nailing, because there was this pivotal sequence I was really, really excited to write and I just had to get there and get it out of my system. Both because I just HAD TO WRITE THIS PART, but also because it was SO pivotal that it was going to affect how I looked at the rest of the book.

After I finished that part, I was at about 70K words. I was halfway done—though at the time I thought it was more like 2/3, but that’s another story—and I was eyeballing that section I’d blown past which I knew wasn’t working. I had ideas on how to fix it, but they were story changes that would affect how the rest of the book would turn out.

It was a tough choice. Press ahead and finish a draft I could show my alpha readers, to get feedback while there was still time to act on it? Or go back and do some significant rewriting, so I could do a more final first pass at the rest of the book? It was especially tough because I had a deadline staring me in the face, and if I went back to rewrite, I’d miss the first draft milestone I’d set for myself.

I decided to rewrite. And it was the right choice. I had a much better sense of where I was going because I now knew where my characters had been. The new stuff I wrote when I caught up to where I’d been came out well on the first try.

Then I got almost done, and I hit another dilemma: I was writing the climax, and I was second-guessing my plans for the ending. I had ideas for more changes to that same @$!#$% section of the book that had given me so much trouble the first time around, and I also needed a sanity check on a few other elements of the book, and all of it might affect the ending.

So I sent the 95% complete draft to my patient alpha readers, with an incoherent email basically going “GUYS I DON’T EVEN KNOW IF THIS IS ANY GOOD WHAT IS HAPPENING I’VE BEEN WRITING ALL DAY EVERY DAY AND HAVE LOST ALL PERSPECTIVE HEEEELLLLP MEEEEEEEE.” And they were really awesome about getting back to me super quickly with encouraging noises and their thoughts on the various dilemmas I was facing. It gave me the clarity and morale I needed.

I had to go back and edit that one stupid section AGAIN, and then write the ending, and FINALLY I had a draft I could show my agent to get her feedback! It was much later than I’d wanted to get it to her, but… BUT… the draft I sent her was SO MUCH STRONGER than it would have been if I’d pushed ahead and finished that earlier draft instead of going back and restarting all those times. I’d worked through a lot of problems on my own, and the draft I sent her was in good shape and much closer to done. In the end, it SAVED me time.

So I guess my takeaway is this: Trust your instincts. If your instincts are telling you to go back and fix something before you keep going, DO IT. The rest of the book will be much clearer and better and more on track as a result, and you won’t wind up writing a bunch of stuff you’re just going to have to rewrite in the next pass. But if your instincts are telling you to press ahead, because you’ve got some other stuff you need to sort out first before you go back and edit, do that.

There is no magic in a completed first draft. It’s okay for the first complete draft to actually be the third, or the seventh. Or, hell, the fifteenth, if that’s how you roll.

This book will still go through a lot of revisions before it’s done. But I’m really glad I got some rounds of them out of the way when it was only 15K words, or 70K, rather than 140K!


Writing On Deadline

Why haven’t you posted in a while, Melissa, you ask?

To which I twitch a little, and laugh nervously, and say, why, because Book Two is due at the end of the month and I MUST SPEND EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY WRITING!

That’s right, you say, this is your first book written on deadline! What’s that like?

HA HA I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED.

Here’s the biggest difference, in one sentence: There Is No Time For Puttering.

I used to fret about whether I was in the right mood, whether the stars were aligned, whether I was really feeling it that day. I used to like to let drafts sit and simmer for a while before diving back in, so I could get some distance and perspective and see what needed fixing. Heck, I used to swear it was vitally important to go work on another project for a while and then come back with my palate all cleansed so I could look at a book with fresh eyes.

And you know what? I can totally skip all those things and just roll straight from writing into editing, as it turns out. Heck, I can write when I’m sick! When I’m traveling! When there are wasps building a nest in the headrest of the deck chair I’m sitting in! (This actually happened, no lie, and I was like WHATEVER THEY SEEM LIKE PERFECTLY NICE WASPS BECAUSE THEY’RE LETTING ME WRITE UNLIKE MY LOVELY CHILDREN WHO ARE INSIDE THE WASP-FREE HOUSE.)

If I got stuck on something, instead of mooning around for days masticating it, I’d be like RIGHT THEN, I’m gonna go walk this here dog, and I’m not gonna stop walking until I have an answer. And you know what? Maybe dogs are magic (OF COURSE THEY’RE MAGIC THEY’RE DOGS), but it usually worked.

And the really weird thing is, so far it all seems to work just as well as when I take my time and putter around and let everything stew in my subconscious for months. (Of course, it really helps that I already know these characters and world quite well. Not sure that’d be the case if it wasn’t a sequel.)

You know what else is different about writing on deadline? The stakes are waaaaaayyyyyyy up on your choices. I got 2/3 of the way through a draft, and then I was like, crap, I just thought of a way to make this much better. And I had to decide whether to go back and rewrite large chunks of my unfinished draft, with the deadline looming, or go ahead and press on to the end and get a completed draft to send out to my alpha readers that would contain a bunch of stuff I knew I was going to change.

I went back and did the edits. It was totally the right thing to do. I love how the book is turning out, and it was a much better direction. But it was SCARY. It set me back weeks.

Deadlines are terrifying. But they’re also really motivational.

There’s none of this “Eh, I’m too tired to write.” None of this “I guess I should do this boring pile of laundry instead.” None of this “I’m going out with friends” or “I should take a break because I’m forgetting what my husband’s face looks like.” THERE IS ONLY THE BOOK.

And wow, when there’s only the book, you can get a lot of shit done.

Speaking of which, excuse me…I gotta get back to these edits. I’m on deadline.