What I’ve Been Up to in 2021

What I’ve Been Up to in 2021

I realized this morning it’s been a year since I wrote an update about my writing projects. (Oops!) There’s a reason why it hasn’t occurred to me to say something sooner. (More on that in a moment.) But still, I should rectify that situation.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on my blog before, but I use a draft cycle. After I write something new, I put it on a shelf and let it stew in its own juices for awhile before I touch it again. It stays in that state anywhere from a few months to a year. (Most of my big projects get at least a year to simmer before edits.)

During that time, I pick up the last thing I wrote – the thing that has been simmering for awhile – and edit it. When I write first drafts, I immerse myself in the act of raw creation. I don’t bother with polish. I just want the scenes to exist. This means that my initial editing process is fairly intense. Stories get torn to pieces and rebuilt in a form that feels worthy of being viewed by other eyes.

When I’ve whipped a manuscript into shape, it goes out to my betas. Once I’ve sent those dedicated readers something new, I pull up the last thing I sent to them and sort through their notes. I call this round of edits polishing because it tends to be faster than all my other edits. At this stage, I’m just looking for mistakes. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t scenes that need more intensive attention. (Sometimes there are.) But I usually get through this edit twice as fast as any previous passes.

Recently, I have tried to make this cycle line up with the year.

Stage One: Writing Wrap Up

I try to start the year with edits. But my projects have grown so much bigger than anticipated, I usually spend January (and sometimes February) finishing the previous year’s big writing project. This year, that was The Beast’s Wicked Gleam, the second book in the Aruvalia Chronicles.

I thought about writing a post when I finished that draft. It was a pretty big deal because that story has been kicking around my brain for more than a decade. And I’m pretty happy with how it came out. But the manuscript has problems. (They inevitably do.) And right after I finished, I just didn’t feel like looking at it anymore. I wanted to push it out of my brain and move on to the next thing. (This happens a lot with manuscripts, honestly).

Once Upon a Dream, the first book in the Aruvalia Chronicles, came out largely complete. For the first time I can remember, all the side plots managed to make it on the page right away. I only had to add two scenes to the entire trilogy. Every other change grew out of scenes that were at least partly in the first draft.

But The Beast’s Wicked Gleam gave me more trouble. There are definitely pieces of that story that didn’t make it onto the page, and I’m not entirely sure yet how to fix that. (That’s next year’s challenge.) So I pushed the story out of my mind for awhile, hoping the missing pieces would drift into my brain while the manuscript simmered.

Stage Two: Edits

My big editing project for this year was Once Upon a Dream. Though the first draft came out fairly complete, it was still a massive train wreck. This has been a very ambitious project for me. I would say Aruvalia Chronicles is the series with the most moving parts I have ever tried to tackle. There are a lot of little details that have to be in exactly the right places in order for things to work later.

I started editing this trilogy in March and didn’t finish until July. (I’m writing this post on September 3rd. So it hasn’t been long since I finished!)

I spent many long hours agonizing over this manuscript. When a scene has been playing over and over in your head for years, you want it to hit a certain way when people read it. I had a lot of grand visions and no confidence in my ability to pull any of them off. So I took my time with this one. I combed through scenes over and over, trying to get them just right.

The process was exhausting. The fact that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and have been dealing with several other factors of mundane life didn’t help. There were days I thought this project might actually break my resolve. But I got through it. And it was with a small cheer of relief that I finally packaged the first book (Eyes of a Stranger) and sent it off to my betas.

Initial feedback from my fastest readers indicates that some of those scenes I slaved over are, indeed, hitting the way I want them to. So this 5 month block of work feels like a massive triumph, despite how much it drained me.

Stage Three: Polishing

July was devoted to polishing Soul of the Sun, the final installment in my space opera, Celestial Serenade. After several months of heavy lifting, I was ready for the break. Having fewer tiny details to juggle meant I had the mental real-estate to catch up on other things. (Like formatting for the paperbacks scheduled to release during the final part of this year.) And Soul of the Sun is one of the most solid series I’ve written to date. (If I may toot my own horn just a tiny bit.)

I had also fallen a bit behind my usual schedule by the time I reached the polishing portion of the year. In order to finish a new writing project by December, I needed to start well, in July. Instead of basing my writing goals specifically on projects this year, I’ve tried to actually calculate how much I can reasonably get done in the time available. After tracking my word counts closely for the last 4 years, I have a pretty clear idea of what max productivity looks like for me.

There’s no way I’ll be able to finish Visions Unlike they Seem, my next big writing project, by the end of 2021. But if I’m industrious, I can polish off the first two installments, leaving only one left to tackle in 2022. The level of polish already applied to Soul of the Sun during its heavy editing pass allowed me to gain the time I need to make that happen. (Though it did also require a little bit of hustle.)

So here I am. After a weekend to rest and recharge, I’ll be starting my last big writing project for the year. Visions Unlike they Seem is the third installment in the Aruvalia Chronicles, my longest series to date.

Side Hustles

Of course, I’ve had smaller projects on the go this year too. Although my first Eternity’s Empire release this year was a box set, I did write two new installments for the series in between the flurry of bigger projects. I wrote Tales of the Exiles back in January and edited it during March and April.

As part of the mad flurry of June, I wrote the penultimate installment in the series, The War for Freedom, though I won’t have a chance to edit it until October.

The novels in the Eternity’s Empire series tend to be shorter than my larger projects. 50-60,000 words on average, as opposed to the 90-110,000 words possessed by each installment in Celestial Serenade or Aruvalia Chronicles. This allows me to get through their draft cycle much more quickly. Which is nice because, when it feels like you’ve been working on something forever and you still have forever left to go, tiny victories keep you going. Having finished books to move ahead with in the meantime keeps my energy fresh.

I actually used to write each new installment of Eternity’s Empire without planning (the way I do with my bigger novels). But as the series grew longer and more complex, I had to start making at least a minimal outline to make sure I didn’t lose track of anything. That series requires a lot more research than some of my others, since it’s heavily grounded in real-world mythologies. But it’s also one of my most fun projects, so it never feels like a burden.

And that’s my year in more or less a nutshell. What have you been up to in 2021? And how has it been going?

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