Despite Excuses

I’m at a writing retreat called Despite Excuses, up along the California coast. One week, nine writers, an amazing view of the ocean, and words words words.

This retreat is called “Despite Excuses” because there will always be excuses, reasons to not write, other things that take priority or precedence. But we get together somewhere beautiful for a week and we write anyway.

We workshopped my next novel for an hour before dinner. I got great feedback and new ideas, and was proclaimed “ready to go and write this thing.”

I’ve tried to write this thing before. This novel’s been in my head since 2010. It’s the hard science fiction manuscript that brought me to LaunchPad. I have eight(ish) chapters of a draft, which I apparently wrote to bring myself to the realization that I was using the wrong point of view, and possibly starting at the wrong part of the story.

Today I’m converting those 14,000(ish) words from first to third person, to see what they feel like there. Then I’ll build on them. They might all stay, they might all go, but I need to look at my foundation to decide whether it fits the house I want to build.

Margin Note of the Day

The margin notes I leave for myself are more blunt and less kind than the margin notes I leave for other people, but I do still try to be nice to myself. Today’s example:

Regarding the protagonist’s name: Her dad changed his own name legally the moment he was eighteen, against his parents’ wishes. Is that a person who would give his child a blatantly odd first name? Without a good reason, it doesn’t feel authentic. Supply good reason, or it’s back to the baby name books.


Next Up…

My next novel-in-progress (working title: Hearts Are Jerks) is a big departure for me. It’s Contemporary Young Adult, which means the main characters are in high school and there are no science-fictional or fantastical elements. It’s kind of a non-traditional romance, in that it has LGBT main characters, gender fluidity, and positive, realistic portrayals of polyamory.

It’s the first novel I’m writing that isn’t a tie-in to someone else’s world, and that isn’t already under contract. I’m trying to resist the urge to worry about what I’m going to do with it until it’s finished, but of course…worry is the one thing writers don’t procrastinate on, right?

Because this novel brings up a lot of questions for me.

Do I publish it under the same name I use for my genre work? Do I use a variant, like adding my middle initial or something? Do I use a new name entirely?

Do I try to use this novel to get an agent? Is this the sort of novel a mainstream publisher would even want? If I get an agent for this book, would they want to represent my future works in other genres too? Would I want to seek out someone who would want that, or would I rather have an agent who wouldn’t want that? Who do I hire to edit this for me before I start submitting it around? Who do I ask to critique it for me before I’m ready for an editor?

What’s ironic about this: when I’m wearing my editor hat, these are questions I help other people answer ALL THE TIME. Seriously, all the time. Which is to say, I do know the answers because I know how I advise other people, and how I would advise them if they were me.

I’d use a variant name, I’d seek an agent who represents writers who write books like this, I’d refer this colleague to edit and these two to critique/beta-read and ask these three if they’d be available to give me a blurb. I’d send it here, here, and here for review, and submit it to these three awards.

What’s amusing about this: I know all this stuff. But then I feel like I don’t, all of a sudden. The tables turn when it’s my manuscript in the spotlight. I have become every writer I’ve ever worked with.

What’s fascinating about this: everything I go through as a writer makes me more sensitive as an editor.