Exactly as the title suggests, the twenty-first and final draft of Storytellers arrived from my editor this morning.

The dream I had many years ago inspired the first draft. I was somewhat sick, but not too sick to type, so I wrote it down within the first two weeks of January 2017. At the end of September 2017 I sent what was in my head the final version to the editor, asking only for grammar and spelling corrections. Sixteen months later we both declared the book ready. January 1, 2017 – January 28, 2019. Exactly two years and twenty-eight days.

Obviously, I didn’t spend every single day working on those drafts. When the book was with the editor, I busied myself writing an outline for another book that didn’t work, two drafts for God of Fire which is now in my “perhaps one day in the far future” folder, and recently started rewriting the Norse mythology as a character-driven epic fantasy series. I don’t mind revealing that, because the idea is the easiest part of writing a book…

 

Idea

It all starts with the idea. Many people say they have no ideas. I believe this, generally, to not be true. If you ever looked at your ex and thought “I wish you’d fall into a sewer during the first walk with your new girlfriend”, you came up with an idea you could elaborate on. You, or rather your heroine who would definitely not be you at all, could curse the ex – every time he went on a date, something awful would happen to him. Instead of a werewolf, he could be a wererat or a werecockroach. If you had a conversation and came up with the perfect answer half an hour earlier, you came up with an idea you could write down. Once you had enough of those mini-ideas, you could start writing.

Continue reading

A young (ahem) writer reads about promotion, building a brand, social media presence, regularly updated blog/website. The young writer makes a list of things he is able to do on top of the actual writing. And then the young writer gets really, really ill and everything goes to hell.

As you may have heard, I have a book coming out soon. I’ve prepared a marketing plan, started work on the soundtrack, the final – hopefully – version is still with my editor and should be here soon so that I can send it to the proofreader. (By the way, I will be writing about the whole process soon.) The cover is ready. The text is almost ready.

I am not ready.Continue reading

Luckily, this doesn’t mean Storytellers being cancelled – this book is in its final stages and will be published next year. In the meantime, however, I began work on my second book, Nordic urban fantasy. The WIP title was God of Fire, which is cringeworthy, but then the working title for Storytellers was Liquid Fire, Solid Ice, and I would prefer not to explain why and how that happened.

God of Fire was a book about a pretty normal, boring graphic designer being bothered by Norse Gods until he suddenly found himself in the position of being the only person able to stop Ragnarök. I wrote the first draft, which was meh – but all the first drafts are. I wrote the second, did some revising and editing, then sent it to the beta readers. Some never spoke to me again, which is feedback in itself 😉 Some told me they liked it. Some told me they liked some of it. One of them wrote two pages of super useful critique. One made a short mention that changed the book’s structure completely – that he felt the initial chapters were clearly rushed. He was right. They were. So I cut them all out with no harm to the rest of the book, small chunks reappearing as backstory here and there later on – and proceeded to the third draft, incorporating betas’ feedback.

I didn’t need to ask others to know the third draft wasn’t good. I fixed the problems that were pointed out, but in the process inadvertently introduced – or uncovered – new problems. The bad guy was a bit too bad, and attempts to make him less two-dimensional left me with a character that seemed to have two distinct personalities he switched between. I gave up the idea of the protagonist working on a game, since I have no idea how creating a game really works. I replaced the game with hyper-realistic TV series, then I realised I had no idea how that would have worked either. My MC would need to be in a management position, but he had no time for that, because he was busy saving the world.

Draft three was saved as a backup in case I needed something from it (I keep backups of EVERYTHING), I mourned for two minutes, then opened a new file for the fourth draft.

Draft four felt off starting with the first sentence.

I’ve been working on Storytellers for two years, killing my darlings left, right, and centre, changing things, dropping entire story arcs, cutting chapters, adding or removing characters. I would have lied if I said I never felt super done with it, but every time I picked it up and continued. God of Fire, renamed to The Reluctant Deities, became a chore. I read a lot of writing advice, some of it being “just sit and type until you get to your word count, even if it’s shit writing”. I disagree with this wholeheartedly. The Reluctant Deities has proven to me I was right. Every day of work on this book made me feel less and less interested in writing, until I got the latest round of corrections from the Storytellers’ editor and suddenly felt like writing again.

If I didn’t even want to write a book, why would anybody want to read it?

How was I supposed to advertise it? “Yeah, well, it’s kind of shit really, but please buy it” doesn’t sound super-enthusiastic. I think by now I developed mah mad writing skillz to the degree where if we lived in a parallel universe where Storytellers was published traditionally and became a hit, The Reluctant Deities would be accepted for publication. But as I’ve said multiple times my goal is to write books I won’t be ashamed of five years later. I was ashamed of The Reluctant Deities as I was writing it.

And this is why I shelved seven months of work, including research, beta-readers, multiple drafts, outlining, re-reading, outlining again (a good hint that the book wasn’t going well was that it kept on going outside my nice, logical outline no matter how hard I tried). Sometimes a book, a sculpture, a song, even a dish just doesn’t work. There are elements in The Reluctant Deities that are already being reused in the new WIP2. One of the characters, Maya (the betas know whom I mean 😉 ) is in the new book. Some of the research is useful, and so are the Gods’ personalities – they’ve been transplanted from 2018 into the 6th century, but their personalities didn’t change.

I’m still writing the first draft – I only started in September and had to take breaks for Storytellers, this blog, other blogs I’ve been contributing to, being really quite sick for months, then recovering, and – you know – eating, sleeping, that kind of unimportant stuff. But that first draft is flowing. I’m curious myself what will happen next – it’s half-plotted, half-pantsed (for non-writers – this means I sort of have an outline, but it’s a sketch I’m happy to alter at this stage). Will it be a good book? Will it get finished, published? I have no idea. One thing I know for sure is that when they say “kill your darlings”, sometimes that means killing off the entire book.

Photo: completely unrelated to anything, but purdy, right?

*

There will be one final post this year, probably on the 31st (I am HORRIBLE with any deadlines, so this probably means January 4, 2024) – summary of the year and goals for 2019.