This is the book I wanted to write at this precise moment of my life. Unequivocally.
As scale goes, it’s much smaller than my prior three books. For one thing, it’s almost entirely rooted in reality. There’s just one teeny tiny detail that veers it into the fantasy realm (that whole hearts-going-up-in-flames element, no big.) And it’s contemporary, so no historical research required of me. There’s also no villain. No evil to be vanquished.
I feel like with each book I write, I’m getting closer and closer to figuring out exactly what I want to write. What kind of stories I want to tell. With the short story I wrote as source material, it didn’t take me long at all to figure out what the novel version would be. I didn’t want the story to be “how to stop heartfire.” That’s certainly a direction I could see taking someday. But first, I wanted to explore something smaller scale: why would people still fall in love in a world where heartbreak could literally kill you?
Combine that with the fact that I’ve fallen in love with contemporary YA novels over the past year. I wanted to write something that would pull the reader into a love story, a first love story, with characters you can root for.
Juliana couldn’t be much more different from Reeve. Head-in-the-clouds Reeve wants to fall in love more than she wants just about anything else. Feet-on-the-ground Juliana wants nothing more than to live. To not have her life cut short by something as stupid as falling in love and dying of heartfire.
I wrote this first draft more quickly than I’ve written any other draft. I started it on May 10th and finished on July 3rd. Because I love stats, here are my word count stats:
May – 10,735
June – 43,484
July – 17,956
Total word count: 72,175
It’s pretty much all I did for a little bit there. I ate, slept, and breathed that story. There are a few reasons why I wrote so voraciously. There was the fact that my Europe trip was looming, and I wanted to get it done before I left. There was the fact that I was about to turn 31, and I’m a weirdo about birthdays. I wanted to add this to my list of accomplishments for the year. And then, there was just the fact that I really, really liked writing this story. I wanted to keep finding out what happened next.
This is also the closest I’ve ever followed an outline. I stuck pretty darn well to that thing instead of going entirely rogue, as I’ve been known to do. So that certainly helped keep me on track to writing this draft so quickly.
I wanted to set it aside for the 2 weeks I was on vacation so that I could attack revisions with fresh eyes. So, I read 2 books. I relaxed. I soaked in the free time. But… ok, fine, I missed my characters. I wanted to hang out with them more. So I opened the manuscript, and one thing led to another, and I was knee-deep in revisions before I even intended to start.
I go home from vacation tomorrow at an ungodly hour, but I go home with a half-revised manuscript, which I did not expect. I’m really, really happy with it so far and excited to wrap it up.
And then, it goes off to my dear beta readers! I’ve warned them all that this is unlike anything I’ve given them before, and they all seem game. I’ll wait for them to read it and give me their comments, I’ll do a final round of revisions based on their input, and then… it’ll be a wrap on Heartfire.
This book-writing thing… I’m forever grateful to have it. To love it the way I do. To write something, to finish something, and then to find another story to tell and love. It’s a wonderful thing.
“I’m up to my ears in unwritten words.”
– J.D. Salinger –