Feeling really good without the voices of millions screaming for attention. Who knew? (I did, because I’m an old who didn’t even have internet in the house until I was 22 and alert enough to track the long-term trajectory. Let’s just say it’s not a coincidence Grave Oversight‘s villain is using it as a tool to accelerate the end of the world.)
Sadly, I didn’t spend so much of my time doomscrolling that I now have extra hours every day in which to blaze through this revision, though dumping that source of mental garbage has made the time I do have a bit more fruitful.
Since earplugs have saved me from the TV and Fuckitol has saved me from social media (do not operate heavy machinery while taking Fuckitol; do not take Fuckitol if you are allergic to any of the ingredients in Fuckitol; common side effects of Fuckitol include unfamiliar feelings of serenity and contentment), Book Five has gotten in my face like a drill sergeant to yell, “Now that I have your full attention, word monkey, perhaps you’d like to know where all this is going so you can write toward it!” The note pile grows apace.
94 rough draft pages have become 143 revised pages.
I remember a hundred years ago in January when I thought a summer release was a possibility. It’s MAY, and we’re 39% through the first revision pass. Every time I attach even a vague date to a project, the Universe’s ears perk up, and it remembers I’m overdue to get sick, be slammed by other responsibilities, drop my computer into lava, anything to remind me I’m forbidden to scry the future because I “misused” this power in an alternate universe and can’t be trusted with it here.
Anyhoo, this stack of pages slowly added to the improved pile was dedicated to Road Trip! (Day 2 of 2)
A long, long time ago, I asked both a mountain hiker and a USian “pioneer” expert about reasonable dimensions for mountains traversable by horsedrawn wagons and how long it would take to get over them on able-bodied human feet under favorable circumstances… and now I look at what I wrote a long, long time ago using the information gleaned from those conversations, and it just seems wrong. It’s going to be one of those “the name Tiffany actually dates back to the 12th century” issues, where I do my due diligence and report the facts and everybody who sees it says, “Sounds fake, loser.” Either I’m overthinking it or I need to make those details fuzzier so there’s less to find faux fault with. But for now, I’ve punted that problem to Future Me.
I had some concern that making the last scene from the previous in-story night more emotionally fraught would cause problems with some things that had been written for this day… and I was right! Fortunately for Past Me, I don’t have access to time travel and a bone saw. Fortunately for Future Me, I was able to tweak the jeopardized portion into an apology of the “dude, you should really stop talking” variety so the tension that was here doesn’t evaporate completely despite being downgraded from a peak-tension situation.
Future Me should probably do a tension map at the end of this draft to make sure I haven’t gone wildly astray from the one that worked at the outline stage. (If you’re reading this, either Future Me still lacks access to time travel and a bone saw or it all works out in the end.)
Heroine’s latest name (the one that’s one letter off from Hero’s original name) appears to be sticking. For the first time, I can type her name without a nagging sense of wrongness. Fingers crossed I don’t encounter something in the text that smashes this beautiful accord.
Alas, because all but one of the main characters for the series make an appearance in this book, I need that level of certainty for all of them, and two are still at the “_____” stage when they appear. Once Book 1 is out in the wild, they’re stuck forever with how I identified them in it, so there’s no “figure it out after I get to know them better” option.
In further nitpicking no one will ever notice or care about if they do but it will bother me until I die, I had invented a gender-nonspecific title for the supreme leader of a kingdom… and then noticed I use the word “kingdom” a lot, which makes no sense when there’s no such thing as a king to dom over it. My suggestion to Future Me is to use “king” regardless of who’s sitting under the crown rather than reinvent the “kingdom” wheel and waste words at the beginning of the story awkwardly contextualizing my needless-but-frequently-mentioned invention, but that decision can wait until the next full read-through. I think I’d have to find somewhere early on to slip in a “then the king was thrown from her horse” type of reference to establish the ground rule so it doesn’t jar when a king who isn’t a dude is introduced much later, but we’ll see.
Elsewhere, I said something about flagging a turn of phrase I liked to see how many pre-pub readers (including my editor) call it out as garbage, and some people got bent out of shape about me being “stifled.” Ummm… it’ll be self-published. I can ignore every single comment and click “publish” on complete gibberish if I so choose. But these aren’t random strangers with no credentials who think their opinions are objective facts and I’m their personal word monkey. These are people I asked/paid for their feedback because I respect their knowledge and trust them to guide my story toward a better version of itself. Most of their comments are immediately recognizable as good points and can be fixed. Some of them I don’t like, but upon dissecting the issue, the problem was really caused by something elsewhere (e.g., a failure to adequately set up the thing called out as troublesome), which can be fixed. I can’t even think of an example that made me want to shriek “You know nothing, peasant!” and flounce away clutching my flawless book baby to my bosom. There are always things that one reader marks as bad, another is heart-eyed emoji about, and nobody else remarks on, and that’s just reflective of the range of opinion the book will be subjected to when it’s out in the world. But if 5/5 early readers single out the same thing with “this sucks,” I’m not being “stifled” if I change it—I’m doing my job.
The whole point of getting feedback about a product before putting it on the market is to make it suck less. It would be self-indulgent to not change things about which there is a consensus of suckage. The act of writing is, itself, self-indulgent enough—when you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you come to accept there’s a non-zero chance each thing you write will never be read by anyone other than yourself, so there’s no point writing anything other than what you want. However, the moment you decide you’re going to make it available to other people, it can no longer be just for you. In exchange for a hypothetical reader’s money and time, you have a responsibility to provide something that sucks as little as possible. “It’s impossible to please everyone” isn’t a license to distribute a product riddled with fixable problems you were told about in advance. The whole point of identifying problems is to fix them. The only thing being “stifled” by doing so is your freedom to be perceived as doing your job poorly. Hey, we all have different goals, but that’s never been one of mine, so I’ll just be over here getting “stifled” by my hand-picked Quality Control Team.
I’ve cut scenes, subplots, and acts because they weren’t good for the story and killed entire books halfway through revision because their foundational flaws would never support what I wanted to build. Meanwhile, people are losing their damn minds over the sanctity of one precious sentence.
I’m feeling very “back in my day” and “get off my lawn” in writer spaces lately, so I must be overdue for some hermit time.
Next up: The Big City!