Every year I like to put together a month by month look at writing journey over the past twelve months. But thanks to the draft of doom (WHICH I FINALLY TYPED THE END ON LAST NIGHT!!!) I'm a couple of days late with this. OOPS. But hey, if anything sums up the craziness of my 2012 writing year, it's that!
THE SECRET IS OUT!!!
It's hard to believe there was a time period where you guys didn't know about LET THE SKY FALL--but there was. I sold that series in early July 2011 and sat on the secret for SEVEN MONTHS while we figured out contracts, and--most importantly--the title. My agent didn't want to announce until we'd landed on the book's final title and, well, let's just say getting there was a PROCESS. Apparently I write hard to title books. But it was worth the effort because I LOVE that title. And I finally got to share the news with you and let everyone know why I'd been whining so very much about deadlines. I had a LOT of them. But I was sure I would have NO PROBLEM hitting them. Oh naive Shannon, you were so cute!!!
Sequels are... fun?
I'd already started the sequel to KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, but... it was going slow. REALLY slow. So slow, in fact, that I only had about half of the book written, and I'd roughly mapped out my year to have the first draft done and turned into my editor by March 1. CUE PANIC. The worst part was, I didn't know why it was taking me so long. I wasn't procrastinating (well, more than I ever do). I had it all plotted out in my head. But every time I opened the draft, I froze. I was also starting to discover how very much more work there is to this publishing thing besides just drafting. There's copyedits. And first pass pages. And marketing. And I had it all happening x 2 and it was seriously starting to pile up and freak me out. My editor and I talked and she assured me that it wouldn't mess things up if it pushed into April, and I tried to tell myself it would all be okay. I just needed to relax and remember that I loved my job and was super lucky to get to share both of my series with people. And there were plenty of things to remind me how awesome publishing is, a major one being: I got my first ARCs of KEEPER!!! Holding a real version of my book for the first time was pretty much the most exciting thing ever.
Okay, sequels SUCK!
If you can't tell by that subtitle, the whole writing KEEPER 2 thing wasn't going any better. I felt like the ending was running away from me, and no matter how many chapters I added I wasn't getting any closer. And I was seriously getting scared. Writer friends assured me that Book 2 Woes were normal. But I felt like I was drowning. Which made for a very bipolar experience because there were also EXCITING THINGS happeneing. KEEPER got blurbs from two of my absolute favorite authors (yes, I totally cried) and foreign rights on both of my books were selling and all kinds of crazy internal marketing things were happening and it was feeling very much like, Wow, THIS IS SO AMAZING AND SO TERRIFYING AND HOW DID MY LIFE GET SO CRAZY??? Debuting is a wonderful, confusing, stressful, impossible-to-wrap-your-head around thing.
So, it was April. And I still didn't have a draft. My wonderful, long suffering editor had told me it would still be okay pushing into May, but I knew that I absolutely COULD NOT go any longer than that. I still had another book to write that year. And I knew the delay had to mean something was WRONG. I just couldn't figure out what it was until one day when I was driving (I do my best plotting behind the wheel) and a song came up on my iPod that gave me an EPIPHANY. The good news was: I FINALLY KNEW HOW TO WRITE KEEPER 2. The bad news was: Without realizing it, I'd been writing KEEPER 3, and the story was running away from me because it wasn't ready to be told. I had other stories I had to tell first. So I... had to throw away at least half of what I had and start all over. The only thing that calmed the panic was that I FINALLY had a plan. I FINALLY knew what I was doing. I just had to do it in a very tight space of time. So I basically didn't sleep or leave the house for 2 weeks while I wrote about 2/3 of a very very very long book. Yes, it was as tiring as it sounds.
She didn't hate it!!!
Turning in your first book 2 is a SCARY thing. It's the first time you give your editor something they bought without ever seeing, and yeah, there are all kinds of voices in your head wondering what will happen if she hates it??? In my case those were multiplied by like, 50, partially because, well... I'm me and I'm paranoid. But mostly because I'd written a completely different book than what I'd told her I was going to write, and I had no idea what she would think. Luckily, she LOVED it. I actually do too. After all the grief that book gave me, I'm pretty darn proud of it. Though it still needed work. A LOT of work. Like, 8 page revision letter work. So back to the writing cave I went. I also had the reality of 2 series at once start to sink in as covers and blurbs and all kinds of other madness started happening for LET THE SKY FALL. It was seriously awesome, but also made me realize how many different ways I had to use my brain when it came to writing/promo, and well... I'm not sure I have enough brain to spare! :)
It gets REAL
June began the two month period that looking back I call the, "I should be writing" months. I had my revision letter. I had my plan for how I was going to solve the issues. But... there were so many other CRAZY EXCITING THINGS that I let distract me from working as hard as I should have been. Like going to NY for the first time for my first ever BEA. Or a couple of weeks later when I was at ALA in Anaheim. There really are no words for those experiences. They're just so humbling and amazing and yeah, a little scary. Huge towers of KEEPER ARCs went out into the world, and even though I love my book--and I knew many others would too. I also knew that no book ever has EVERYONE love it. So the whole concept of reviews and criticism became a very big reality, and I found myself a bit scared to go online (I still am, honestly) because I didn't want to let any of that negativity creep into my writing process.
Okay, now its REALLY GETTING REAL
The thing about releasing a book is, it builds. The closer you get to release, the more THINGS are happening to try and get the buzz going and get people excited. And when you're doing it for the first time it's all very thrilling and confusing and exhausting and terrifying (especially when it's happening for 2 series in 2 age categories coming 5 months apart). Ads were popping up places, as were reviews--even though I was trying to avoid them. Contests had to be run. I had Comic Con to attend and launch parties to plan and my first early fan emails were coming in and it was all so very distracting, that once again I was not focusing as much on the most important part of an authors job: writing books. Which brought me to the end of July with a draft only about a 1/3 of the way revised and an August deadline. Reaping what you sow--not fun.
Long Books FTW!
The first half of the month was basically: reviserevisereviserevise. I had a LONG, messy book to clean and not a lot of time. So I worked on it every second I had. Brought my edits with me everywhere. And FINALLY got it done. Only problem was, somehow in all that revising I'd made the book longer--and it was already pretty darn long. I turned it in, telling my editor tell me where to cut and I will. But the funny thing about wordcount is, there are no real rules. The book turned out to be exactly as long as it needed to be. Even better? It was DONE. I couldn't believe it. I thought for sure I had another revision to power through (in fact, I'm sure that will never happen again). But miraculously, other than a couple tiny tweaks, the book was done. MY FIRST SEQUEL WAS DONE!!!
I'd love to say that I got to celebrate finishing KEEPER 2 with some much needed time off. But alas, thanks to the months I'd wasted, I had to jump right in to the other sequel I owed my editor, which we'd agreed I'd have to her by November 30. That... wasn't a lot of time. But I was sure it would be easier this time. After all, I'd written a sequel now. I knew what to expect. I was pro at this. Once again, Naive Shannon was so very adorable!!! Especially since I was also thinking it would be easy to get in the habit of working while traveling. I had all kinds of events on my calendar between the end of September and the end of October--but surely it would be easy to write on the plane and go back to my hotel room and get work done right? RIGHT??? Spoiler alert: not so much.
IT'S HERE!!!!! ITS HERE!!!!
Honestly, October is kind of a blur. 2 days into the month my dream officially came true and shiny copies of KEEPER were placed on shelves for all the world to buy (well, if they wanted to. Here's hoping they want to). There really is no way to describe the feeling. I still don't think I've processed it. But that's probably also because I had so many launches and signings and events and school visits. I think I was only home about 12 days all month. It was AWESOME. Getting to meet with actual kid readers is hands down the BEST part of this job. But... it's also a bit tiring. And horrible for my writing schedule. It takes a LOT of discipline to stumble back to your hotel room after traveling all day and get to work--and apparently I was not very disciplined. I did finally get a bit better about it toward the end of the month. But... it was a little too late.
Sequels Suck--THE SEQUEL
Once again, I was way behind. Part of it was everything else I had going on. But I knew it was more than that. The story just didn't want to be told. (Have I mentioned sequels are hard? THEY ARE!!!) I was less than a month away from my deadline and I had barely a quarter of the book written. And I hated pretty much every word. I'd love to say I had another epiphany that made it all come together, but LTSF 2 wasn't that cooperative. It DID tell me I needed to delete about half of what I had--which was so much fun!!! (not). But after that, it still fought me every step of the way. It would give me tiny glimmers of guidance, and then get all stubborn and murky again. I tried to fight through. But no matter what I did, I couldn't catch up. So once again I had to go to my ever-patient editor and beg for more time (have I mentioned she's AMAZING???) Luckily she gave it to me. Though I still knew it was going to be tight.
VICTORY (a day late--but still!!)
December was pretty much a repeat of November, with the added desperation of I CANNOT MISS THIS DEADLINE. I went dark on the blog. Started staying up late and then getting up early. Email had to be ignored. Housework too. I pretty much lived in my sweatpants and batman shirt with my hands chained to my laptop. I'm grateful you guys were willing to put up with me (and dude, my poor husband). It took every single minute I had--plus one extra day (SIGH). But I made it. A little after 11pm on 1/1, after the three longest drafting days of my life, I FINALLY typed "the end" on LTSF 2. It still needs a LOT of work. But it's done. I did it! I wrote 2 books in one year (well, one year + one day--but work with me people that is pretty darn close)!!!!
Now I know why I'm so tired--it's crazy seeing it all spelled out that way. The good thing is, I can see my mistakes and hopefully plan a bit better for this year because wow was some of that stressful. AWESOME too. But wowza. I would like to sleep at least a *little* more in 2013. I guess we'll see how it goes. Either way it'll be an adventure. Especially since I have TWO books releasing this year. MEEP!!!!