I didn’t know how to plan out my year with Vacancy being unfinished going into 2022, but now that it’s done, it’s time.
I had a plan for 2021, and I did a lot of the things I hoped I would, but I also fell behind. Considering we…
- moved four times between September 2020 and December 2021
- lived in three states
- had a tree fall on the house we were trying to sell
- lost the contract and had to redo everything to sell that house all over again
- lived in my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s basement for a month
- had all our stuff in storage for almost two months
- lost Husband’s grandmother which involved him being gone for multiple weeks
- dealt with Husband’s company being bought out and the possibility of him getting let go (a “threat” that had been hanging over us for well before 2021)
- spent more time apart over the course of the year than we had in the previous ten added up together
- fought with a rental company and an HOA over still-unresolved issues that preexisted to us ever moving into a house in a community that was pretty stressful to live in in general
- dealt with Husband ending up getting a new job anyway
- and finally all the Covid bullshit and my own mental and physical health spiraling at an alarming rate
I’m pretty proud of getting out two books in 2021 (even though I planned for four). This year, though, I’d like to produce more.
I came very close to a mental break multiple times in 2021. It was a lonely, disheartening, soul-crushing year for myriad reasons. I had a lot to be thankful for, many successes and happy moments, but no amount of goodness can combat your brain breaking if it’s determined to do just that. Thankfully, it seems like the curse has been lifted in these last few months, and with The Willful Inheritor out, I’m starting anew just in time for February which is as good as the first of the year in my book.
But looking at the whole year from its start is like looking at a blank page–beautiful and terrifying. Anything could come of it, but also (and more likely) nothing at all. To act without a plan feels like writing without a plot: a mad dash to an ending you can’t see and fuck all when you finally get to wherever there ends up. (I know a lot of people say this isn’t their experience, so pants on if that’s your thing, but I know what works for me, and I have the six published books and way more struggles to prove it.) So, I’m going to at least loosely outline my year and strive for something.
First of all, Working Title Bad Blood has morphed. I thought it was going to be a lovely, simple, standalone palette cleanser between two bigger projects. Little did I know, that was not meant to be.
The three books that will make up whatever this series will be called are evolving into something I am loving. I didn’t expect that, especially while I was in the dregs of Vacancy. I was starting to loathe the concept of another series and the predicament I knew I’d be in as a self-published author according to existing, successful ones: either write series or don’t bother. Standalones are objectively easier, faster, and more satisfying in the short-term. But I’ve come to learn the only parts of Vacancy I really didn’t like were the un-plotted parts. It wasn’t a struggle to bring to life the things I knew needed to happen based on past events, it was all the missing stuff, the stuff I added that I would have loved to tie back into the beginning, the things I wish I’d explained more cleanly on those first pages, the threads I wished I’d weaved sooner, and the strings that got snipped because there was no room to tie them up. (Sorry black, backless box–maybe someday.)
But I have all those opportunities with WTBB laid out like shiny rocks on a windowsill. I can add to them, move them around to see what sparkles best, stack em up, knock em down, taste one, decide that was a huge mistake, discover one is actually a melted lego that belongs on a totally different shelf, and it’s all good because no one gets to see any of this until it’s all done. I may not have another book out until mid year or even later, but you won’t see book one of this thing until book three is done.
I plotted the heart of this story late last year as a single book. The idea came to me in one of those moments when you’re just falling asleep and everything’s extremely vivid, and I managed to wake myself up enough to type out on my phone, half-asleep, a few lines of banter so that when I woke the next morning it all came rushing back. I stopped everything else for about three days and ended up with an extraordinarily tight plot. I mean, 20k words, just about every scene, moody opening image, a banger of a catalyst, some sexy fun and games, a total plot twist of a midpoint, bad dudes closing right in and surprising everybody, and a finale that ended up surprising me! And then I put it away and said “this is the gift I give myself when Vacancy is done.” Of course, when NaNo came around and Vacancy still wasn’t done, I started drafting because of other circumstances, but then I put it away and switched gears. When I pulled WTBB back up in the last week or two and read it all over, I still totally fucking loved it, but then found myself saying, “but…there’s so much more to this world.”
And, if I’m being honest, I just really want to go all in on a slow burn romance. There’s romance in Vacancy, and for a B-plot, it starts to really take over about mid series (Christmas will do that to a story), and that, coupled with the fact WTBB was already A-plot romance, and the Blightwood series I had planned next were heavy romance too, I just kind of learned something about myself: I’m a little bit in love with people falling in love. So, ya know what? Fuck it: I’m just going to indulge myself because what the heck is the point, right? I should be enjoying what I’m doing. And if I write it, they will read it, right? I mean, hopefully someone will.
So, I’ve let my demon-spawn and wandering thief’s romance blossom into a three-book arc, and yes, there are some big, empty spaces still, but every day I get a little closer to filling up all those holes (that’s what she said), and meanwhile, drafting this thing has been a breeze. So, that’s where the year starts–draft three books from beginning to end, no stopping to go back and polish and edit until all three drafts are laid down. Then go back and revise them all, right down the line, and continue that process until I’m looking at three clean copies. Get some covers done up (I’m really hoping to get some traditionally illustrated ones with character art on them), and release one a month, rapidly. This is a lofty goal. Here’s how I intend to do it (and hopefully not how I jinx it):
Starting word count: 55k
Drafting stage: 2/1 – 3/31 = 59 days
Daily word goal: 4k
Planned total word count by 3/31: 291K
This doesn’t account for a single sick day, time off, weekend, anything, so it’s already setting up for borderline failure, but I am an under (as opposed to over) writer in my early stages, so even if I end up somewhere around 250k, which accounts for about 10 days of lost time in just two months, I’ll definitely add on in the revision stages.
So, I intend to have three very rough manuscripts done by end of March at which point I go back to the very first word and rewrite (what I consider my initial revision). Imagining I actually do produce 4k a day, I could then revise 5k words a day and get through all three manuscripts by the end of May with two whole free days and an extra 3/4 of another day just for funsies. At this point, starting with a solid outline, drafting all three books in a row, and then doing a close revision in order, I shouldn’t have any questions, I should be ready to focus on narrative voice, pumping up character personality, and adding in the fun that will make the world inhabitable for the reader. Is it fair to give it another two months? Sure! So, I will.
This will leave me at the end of July with what I hope to be a completed series. An extra two weeks for beta/ARC readers and tidying up the prose, and I could start releasing mid August with planned releases for mid September and mid October, but be diving into the next project. Is that my zany Christmas standalone? My super-serious, dark fantasy romance Blightwood? Or a totally new urban fantasy series set in the Vacancy universe I’m calling The Lockport Mysteries? Or maybe I pull out a very silly heaven-n-hell-i-verse sitcom-ish set of stories about some demons and an accidentally dead lady? Right now, I don’t know, but they’re all at a stage that I could sit down and plan them out and dig in, and following this trajectory, start releasing in January 2023 which both feels impossibly far away and too soon to not know exactly what I’m going to do yet.
The complications come in all the other things I want to do like writing a new reader magnet, cleaning up She’s All Thaumaturgy and The Korinniad and marketing them, doing something with Creatures and Covens, figuring out Facebook ads and getting better at Amazon ads, cobbling together enough money to pay for the production of audio books for Vacancy 2 and 3, deciding whether I should be going wide or staying exclusive to Amazon, trying to get paperbacks into physical stores, getting an anthology together with some of my fellow authors, and, like, all the normal human stuff I need to do that doesn’t involve chaining myself to my laptop with my brain a million miles away in some fantasyland.
I know some of those numbers might look insane, or to some writers, they look pathetic. I just read this post over, and I would hate reading it if I were anyone else, but I’m not, I’m me, and this is my blog, and it’s basically just a diary that I have to censor myself in because anybody can see it. But I have to set some kind of goals to at least try and reach something, and just imagine if I really can get all that done. Publish a whole series mid year, one right after another? Hot dayum.
There’s a push in self publishing to shit book after book out, like one a month, and just constantly produce whereas traditionally published authors are closer to one book every year or two unless they’ve got ghost writers. Maybe that’s really all anyone actually has in them, I don’t know, and I do think, as a writer, constant production is good and necessary, but sometimes production is revision, not drafting, and I can’t ask people to pay for first or even second drafts. Maybe some authors are good enough to sell that step in their work, but I am not. Plus, the revision is what I love. Authorship isn’t drafting, authorship is editing, it’s turning your words into something pretty. I’m into the pretty stuff, and that’s what I want to give you, Dear Reader. Hopefully you’ll still be there once I’m ready to.
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