July 9, 2014

Writing Club Wednesday: Staying Sane While Writing on Deadline by Lori M. Lee

Happy Wednesday! As always, for the second Wednesday of the month, we've got a special guest today. Please give a warm Misfit welcome to Lori M. Lee, author of GATES OF THREAD AND STONE, debuting August 5, 2014!

Before we get to Lori's fab post, here's a little about her upcoming book and where you can get it:

In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.



And now, on to the post!
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Staying Sane While Writing on Deadline

I struggled to plot out the sequel to GATES OF THREAD AND STONE for over a year. I’m not sure what it was: lack of inspiration, performance anxiety, fear of failure, my editor deciding I was a one trick pony. Whatever the reasons, I found myself in January of this year going: Hm. I should really write this book. Commence panicking.

Also, I didn’t want that awkward moment when my editor finally asked about the sequel and I went: Hahahaha sequel yes of course it’s right—OMG WHAT’S THAT? *points over her shoulder and runs*

So I began weaving together all the random story threads I’d been compiling over the last year and somehow, I ended up with a plot that wasn’t horribly disappointing! (Note: a plot that “isn’t horribly disappointing” probably is not what you should aim for.) But after a year of frustration, I was pretty happy to have something resembling a somewhat fully realized plot.

Then, because the Universe has a sense of humor, my editor emailed to ask about the sequel. I happily told her I was working on it. She asked to have it in two months. My brain went OSIMJEKNVIEKSE!!!! I told her: Okay!

You should know that I’m an incredibly organized mess. Or a messy organizer. By that I mean at any time I can have a dozen detailed lists of things I need to do and still flail like I have no idea what to do next or how to go about it.

When it comes to writing, unless I have an outline, I’m useless. And because I was now working on an extremely tight deadline for a book I had yet to even fully outline, I needed to be as organized as possible. This book had to be outlined before I got down to the nitty gritty of writing it because if I’ve learned anything in the last couple years, it’s that if I have a detailed outline, I can bust out a first draft in a few weeks.

Now, for someone notorious for obscenely long outlines (50 pages is my record, and that’s not counting the various other documents devoted to world building and character profiles), I knew I had to hold back. I somehow kept my outline to 13 pages.

Yes, this is me holding back:


I color coordinated my characters’ individual story arcs and the various plotlines. Then, at a pace of 2k words a day, I gave myself 3 weeks to write the first draft (I approximated 40k – 50k words based on my previous first drafts), and 5 – 6 weeks to make it presentable for my editor. Because no one is allowed to read my first drafts. They’re a mess. (Note: my CP Mindee Arnett writes AMAZING first drafts. She’s crazy.)

On January 20, I started writing the book. I hit 40k words a few weeks later and was distressed to find I was only halfway through my outline. So I kept going. Another 3 weeks later, on March 4, I finished my first draft at 74k words. I was horribly behind schedule, but on the bright side, the story was considerably more fleshed out than my previous first drafts.

I had to ask my editor for an additional two weeks, but I managed to wrangle the first draft into something presentable in 4.5 weeks. I was exhausted. My husband complained about how he hadn’t seen me for 2 months. I was so ready to pass the manuscript on and let my editor rip it apart. BOOK BE GONE.

At the end of it, I told myself I would never do that again. Next time, I’ll outline early. Give myself more time to really nitpick the details and the word choices.

Yeah, I doubt I’ll listen to myself either.
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Lori is the author of young adult fantasy Gates of Thread and Stone, coming August 5, 2014 from Skyscape. She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, kids, and a friendly pitbull.


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