On Dreams (Within Dreams)

If I know anything about writing books, it’s this: I know nothing about writing books.

I can do it. It’s something I can do. But each time I get to the end, I don’t know how it happened. It’s like I black out for a couple months, and when I wake up, there’s a story in a Google Doc where no story had been before.

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It’s a pleasant surprise!

But oh, wait, here’s what I should have led with: I finished the first draft of A Dream Within a Dream!

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As a brief refresher, this is the sequel to the book I have coming out THIS MAY (whoa.), All That We See or Seem. It picks up very soon after the action of Book 1, in terms of the book timeline, but in terms of the me timeline, I wrote it a year and a half after I finished writing the first book.

So… that’s a hefty break. I was really worried upon starting it that I would have trouble getting back into the head of my heroine Reeve, especially since in between writing these books, I wrote The Weight of the Fire, which is VERY DIFFERENT from these books, in terms of what head space was required of me to write it. That was more like this kind of head space:

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Reeve is a fiery girl, but she’s not trying to burn the world to the ground. So I was worried.

But then, this past November, I started writing it.

And, whoa, hi Reeve, way to have been lurking in the back of my head this whole time.

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Such a creep.

But really, it came right back to me. Her voice, the way she has of looking at the world. And finding her meant finding everyone else and their voices.

BRIEF TANGENT: By everyone else, I mean EVERYONE ELSE. This book has so many supporting characters, and I love them all, but good lord, Kristina, fewer supporting characters next time, please. The third act of the book involves pretty much all of them, and I actually had to sit down and write where everyone was during each scene, even if they weren’t in that scene, because there are so many of them and I kept losing characters. Literally, losing them.

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Anyway, where was I.

I found Reeve.

And in finding her, I immediately fell back in love with this world and these characters and the story. It was a true pleasure to write this book. I didn’t know if I’d get the chance to, to be honest. I hoped I would. But I wasn’t going to write this one unless the first book got signed. And that is by no means a guarantee in this industry. So that is, by far, one of the best parts of getting my publishing contract for ATWSOS: it meant I got to finish my story.

This is certainly the fastest draft I’ve ever written. As it turns out, working on a deadline is a very motivating thing. Here’s how it shook out in terms of word count by month:

  • November: 12,324 words
  • December: NO WORDS (I was working on the content edit for ATWSOS, and then the holidays took over.)
  • January: 18,886 words
  • February: 42,414 words

Phew, February.

Here’s a handy chart of word count by day. Because while I’m a writer, I’m also an accountant, and I love charts.

Writing Tracker - ADWAD

As you can see, I’m not a daily writer. I don’t think I have that in me, working full-time as I do. But I write as often as I can, four to five times a week, and I write about a thousand words an hour, when I’m in the groove.

The productivity of this month is due entirely to my writing partner Jenna. ENTIRELY. I met Jenna at the Madcap Retreat nearly two years ago now, and she has become one of my favorite people in the world.

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She lives across the country from me, so we don’t get to see each other nearly often enough, except technology bridges that gap for us. We’ve been doing weekly Skype chats for the past couple years to keep in touch and talk all things writing, but over these past couple months, with both of us working on deadlines, we decided to step it up a notch.

Cue: co-writing.

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I’ve said before that writing is a very solitary thing, and it is. I am the only one who can write my story. People can help me with plot holes and to bounce around ideas and figure out the word I’m looking for, but they can’t write the book for me. But it’s really, really nice to have someone to write along with. So each Sunday, Jenna and I have been checking our calendars for the week ahead and blocking off evenings and weekends to Skype with one another and write.

Which confuses a lot of people. Yes, sometimes we literally just sit in silence on Skype, the only sound the clicking of our fingers on our keyboards, with a little Skype window in the corner where we can see each other. And other times, we bounce ideas off of each other, or just complain together about HOW HARD WRITING IS, or I turn my computer around and make her watch something cool that just happened on the Olympics.

ANOTHER TANGENT: This book is sponsored by the Olympics. It has been on in the background, muted usually, since it started a couple weeks ago, and it’s been delightful. Something that I can glance up at every now and then, but won’t pull me out of my story. And THE THINGS THOSE ATHLETES CAN DO! I’ll be sitting there complaining that I can’t word an action scene just right, and then a skier does eighteen backflips in a row in the air and lands backward on their feet, and I quickly shut up and write my scene.

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(COME ON.)

(WHAT IS THAT.)

Ok, self, focus.

So, having set times throughout the week to sit down with Jenna and write our stories was HUGE. It took away those times I come home from work with plans to write and then get lazy or distracted and it just doesn’t happen.

Not to mention our weekend sessions. For example, this past Saturday, when I finished the draft, we wrote from 4pm – 11pm my time, with only a few intermittent breaks. Sunday, we wrote from noon til almost 6. They’re beastly sessions, but they’re SO PRODUCTIVE. And it’s so nice to be working alongside someone else.

So, to summarize (whoa this got long), I finished writing a book for the third time in my life, and this feeling is still not yet old. I’m really proud of it. It’s a story of hope and love and loss and sacrifice. It’s the story of a girl who cried a river and drowned the whole world. (I really have to stop saying that.) (If you don’t get the reference, here.) No, it’s just the story of a girl, a girl full to the brim with hopes and dreams, and some of those dreams are within her reach, but some are not, and some of those dreams are nightmares, but some are not.

I have the next week and a half to tidy it up a bit and do some edits before I turn it in, but for now… I’m happy to have given my characters the send-off I wanted for them. And I’m a little bit sad to say goodbye to them.

It’s such a strange thing. You create these characters out of thin air, and then you upheave the lives you’ve created for them, and then, when the story has been told, you leave them. To presumably live out the rest of their lives (those that have a rest of their lives, oops), without me looking over their shoulders and transcribing their conversations and adventures.

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I’m going to miss that crew.

But I can’t wait for everyone else to get to meet them. You will get to know them in just THREE MONTHS, and then, I believe next year, you will get to find out how it all shakes out.

I CANNOT WAIT.

AND ALSO I’M REALLY NERVOUS.

I hope you like them as much as I do.

Maybe not as much. They are, after all, my babies. I will probably always love them most.

But I hope you like them.

“The characters that I create are parts of myself and I send them on little missions to find out what I don’t know yet.”

– Gail Godwin

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