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?

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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.

(Note: there is a chance “Awaiting the Solstice” is an Enya song title. I didn’t check.)

I have a very complicated relationship with Christmas (called “Xmas” further on).

I grew up in a country that is considered 105% Catholic despite the fact that only about 35% people actually believe in God. My entire family consisted of atheists or agnostics. Nevertheless, we always gathered around the table twice a year: for Easter and for Xmas, which we actually called either “Holidays” (with the capital H) or “Gwiazdka” (“Little Star”). There was a tree, generally a plastic one, full-on decorations, tons of food and drink, but mostly – when I was still a kid – the important bit: PRESENTS!!!

Our family habit was that you had to try all sorts of food on the table. Even if you didn’t like something, you had to eat a tiniest bit because it was a tradition. I actually don’t know whether it’s a Catholic tradition at all, but it was what our family did. As kids we generally ate everything at record speed, but still, the presents had to remain wrapped under the tree until the last person tried everything. To call us slightly impatient was an understatement. We knew very well there was no Santa, but there were PRESENTS OMG HURRY UP WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU OLD PEOPLE!!!

As the years have passed I didn’t even notice that I, too, began to turn into an Old Person (i.e. over 15 years old) and started to pay more attention to the food than the presents. This might or might not have been related to the fact that my grandma 1) always gave me longjohns, and 2) they were always too small. The food, however, was always delicious and a lot of the dishes were prepared exclusively for Xmas. The extra plus side was that it was prepared by people who weren’t me.

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I am currently spending some time at my family home, with mom and brothers (and husby, of course). And…I have no motivation to write. AT ALL.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal. But since I started on Storytellers on Jan 1st, 2017 I haven’t stopped writing for longer than 2-3 days when my health issues made it impossible. This is my first actual “vacation” from writing in two years. Brain’s all like “we are on holiday, bugger off, I refuse to do gramer en spelink”.

I forgot how it feels to actually take some rest. I always told people writing relaxes me. Which it does, but perhaps after two years of going nearly non-stop a week off might be a good idea…? It’s not burnout, although had I gone at this pace further I might have reached one. Brain is just not interested. There’s snow, there’s my mom’s food, my brother’s kids (send help – 7-year-old twin boys), a new tattoo tomorrow. Even when we were in Iceland I kept writing, in fact being there gave me extra motivation. Right now? Nope. I do absolutely nothing useful, don’t bother getting dressed before noon, eat tons of sweets. (Note to self: you WILL do extra workouts when you come back home.) I don’t even read anything more serious than music magazines.

Do you find it easy to take an actual break? A real holiday without either feeling guilty about not doing Things And Stuff? I’m new to this and need pointers…