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.

As I might have mentioned once or twice, I am (hopefully) getting close to finishing my first novel, Storytellers, historical suspense with fantasy elements set in Iceland between 1885-1920. Here’s an honest confession about my delusions…

 

Drafts

Having read approximately 15823098 articles on writing, I was under the impression that a book is written in three drafts. The first is for the writer. The second is for beta-readers. The third is when everything gets fixed, becomes perfect, and I get my first Pulitzer Prize.

Things didn’t turn out that way.

On January 1, 2017, I started working on the first draft of the story I’ve been carrying in my head ever since I dreamt it years earlier. I vomited rather than wrote that first draft. It took me two weeks to produce roughly a hundred thousand words. At this point, I didn’t know yet where the book would be set, so I went for generic “village” and “ocean” terms. But of course, I was already starting to get obsessed with Iceland. When I read Independent People and Wasteland With WordsI realised it was the perfect setting. In fact, it seemed as if Gods created Iceland with the sole purpose of helping me write the novel.

Continue reading

As mentioned previously, I am working on two books at once.

The first, ‘Storyteller’, is the novel set in Iceland between 1885-1920. I believe we are in final editing stages before querying agents. I would like to try traditional publishing for this one, which most probably means I have to have lots of patience. I am aiming at American market, which means my road to $ucce$$ is going to look like this (based on research and partly guesswork):

I have to find an agent. I know of people who had three rejections. I know of people who had more than 100. The process lasts a very long time, because there are many writers, not just me (shocking!) who would like to be published. Imagine you are an agent, and you receive 100 book proposals a week. Obviously, nobody has this sort of time – heck, I’m reading two books at once, and I’m on fourth day with Amanda Palmer’s ‘The Art of Asking’. (Recommended!) Therefore, agents require queries.

A query is basically a short summary of what the book is about, and why someone would be willing to read it. The query can’t be too long. Each agency (sometimes each agent) has requirements of some sorts. Those requirements need to be met, because otherwise you are not sending a query, you are sending proof that you are nowhere near published yet, and you already don’t care. Those go in the trash. This initial selection process is often done by interns, who have to go through 100 queries a week, and sometimes more. I am not jealous of their job.

The next thing to include (depending, again, on agent’s requirements) are sample pages. Five of them. Which means first five pages must be interesting enough for someone to want to read further. This is, of course, assuming the query didn’t land my manuscript in the trash already. When you get 100 books a week, and remember this is a conservative estimate, that means 500 pages to read in case all queries are murderously good. Some agents find time to respond with critique. Most, I guess, don’t. (Which is partly because enraged writers “respond” to them…) If my first pages are good enough, I will receive a request for partial (say, first 50 pages), or full (well, duh, full manuscript). And then I will WAIT, since agents tend to have a pile of books that they requested half a year ago. Which is because agents don’t just read the book within half an hour, then press the magical “publish” button. They actually have other things to do than read my masterpiece!!! Do they KNOW who I am?! (No. They don’t.) I am important and so is my work! But…so is everybody else’s.

Once I found an agent, which may take a month or a year or longer, the search begins for an interested editor at a publishing house. Again, editors receive a lot of manuscripts, although less than agents (whose job, among others, is to make sure the editor doesn’t receive 100 half-baked books per month just from this one agent). That editor must be interested in my genre, which for ‘Storyteller’ is historical fiction with fantasy elements. Sending a fantastic historical fiction to someone specialised in non-fiction is a waste of time, both editor’s and agent’s. And, dare I say, mine. Therefore I do the research to find an agent interested in my genre, after which the agent has to find an editor interested in my genre. This can last up to EIGHTEEN YEARS. So I may be in the situation where I have a super enthusiastic agent totally in love with my book, and then wait for years until the right editor falls in love with it as well. Largely because a genre might go out of fashion for a while, and there is nothing anybody can do about it, unless 100000 readers suddenly send a petition demanding immediate release of my book.

This is not the end.

Traditional publishing process takes many months. First of all, the publisher’s editor will request more edits from me, because that’s their job – make the book as good and marketable as possible.

Marketing plans need to be prepared. Cover designed. Layout done and approved. Galley copies read and corrected, because typos exist no matter what. Advanced review copies (ARCs) distributed among reviewers. I don’t even know what else, since I didn’t quite get that far yet. What I do know is that my book will not be published a day after the editor receives the manuscript from the agent.

All this means that if I pursue traditional publishing, I will wait for years before the book is out. Which is a part of how it works. First, though, I will have to deal with tons of rejections. Again, it’s not personal unless I have proven that I am a horrible person to work with (beginning with ignoring the agent’s requests – which are not what they are to make my life difficult, but rather to make the agent’s life easier). It’s just how things work. The editor might say the book is fabulous, then ask to add vampires and zombie babies to the book. It happens. Publishing is a business. Piracy is hurting it a lot. Competition is stiffer than ever.

I estimate if I am lucky ‘Storyteller’ might be released in 2020. At which point I better have another book ready to go. Because if I now take a two-year break and wait for ‘Storyteller’ to be published, I will find myself in a spot where I have no follow-up of any sort. Before I have a follow-up, it will be 2022. Before it gets published… etc.

The second novel, tentatively called ‘God of Fire’, is urban fantasy, where a bunch of Norse Gods decide a nerdy graphic designer from Amsterdam is the only person that can save the universe. No pressure. I finished the second draft, and sent it to beta readers. I made a mistake of asking on my Polish blog’s fanpage whether that one lady who commented on my old YouTube clip could contact me. Now I have 28 beta readers. Their feedback might come in all forms and shapes, including “I died of boredom on page 60”. I will be using this feedback to rewrite the whole thing until I feel it is good enough…to start working with an editor. (FYI, regarding ‘Storyteller’… So far I’ve been working with Crystal Clear Resources for 10 months, while writing the book took nine months.) There is a chance that feedback will be overwhelmingly negative, and then I will scrap the whole thing. This is why beta readers are incredibly important. I can’t objectively judge my writing.

Once I have that feedback, I estimate research and rewrites will take at least six months. And then I will be hitting the editor for help again before…that’s right! Querying!

All this, for some reason, makes me feel happy. I am not under pressure of any sort right now. I can go on writing, then querying and writing, then waiting and writing. Right now nobody except my potential readers is waiting for me to deliver anything. There are no deadlines. And if I run out of agents willing to look at my query, then I can self-publish and pray for the best. (Which is, by the way, why most authors who don’t publish one book per month on Amazon have day jobs.) Again, without deadlines.

I have no idea how this all is going to go. But that, too, is exciting. It will be considerably less exciting after my 100th rejection, I suppose. But I am not there yet. I will keep you posted.

Photo: working hard on research. If you like this picture, why not check our photo book on Etsy?