Goals · Novel · Reflection

A February Fresh Start

It’s been a strange month, but then which month of the last year hasn’t been strange? I wanted to focus on my writing in this post, as I finally feel like I’ve had a eureka moment, and wanted to think out loud with some of my ideas. (It’s also been a slow reading month for me, as my attention span has gone back to feral weasel levels, but I’m trying my best.)

Writing-wise, I gave myself a break after submitting to AMM in January, and then sending my Venice book off to CPs. I knew I needed to seriously noodle on how to fix my first novel Honors, because while I didn’t (and don’t) want to give up on it, I also knew I’d essentially need to re-outline and rewrite most if not all of it. And I didn’t want to dive headfirst into a total gut job without having a plan of some kind, and I wanted to feel confident in that plan. Also, depression kicked my ass again this month, and I had quite a few blob days where I couldn’t really do much of anything. So it was a weird few weeks of blob days interspersed with job applications, and then despair. As per usual.

But last week I had a few days in a row of extreme hyperfocus (hello ADHD self-diagnosis!), in which I GOT SO MUCH DONE. Life admin and errands I’d been putting off, three new job applications in one day after redoing my go-to cover letter, and I finally registered with an online therapist. I also had a minor breakthrough when I was listening to the Manuscript Academy Podcast, one of my favorites, in the shower. The episode (#114) had a big panel of authors talking about their querying experience, and what advice they wish they had when they started querying. Two big takeaways I learned:

  1. A catchy way to sum up the query format: the HOOK, the BOOK, and the COOK. I’ve heard other authors emphasising the importance of a snappy and ‘oooh’-inducing hook as the opening of your query, but I knew that would be tricky for Honors. SO I then began brainstorming (in the shower) different hooks that set up the historical context and danger/stakes in one go, as well as general changes I wanted to make to the whole story.
  2. One author mentioned that they wished they had acted immediately whenever they heard advice that resonated. They said that listening to all the podcasts and reading all the blogs and liking all the twitter threads is great, but it won’t help your work unless you apply it as soon as you can!

Armed with this new knowledge, I emerged from the shower like a swamp hag and (after drying my hair) attacked my query and rewrote most of it. I not only added a new hook at the outset, but also integrated my new ideas for the story into the query itself. I figured, better to test them out in the query first, and make sure the concept is working before yeeting myself blindly into a new trash draft/rewrite.

I polished my new query, slept on it for a day or two, polished it again, and then sent it to a few trusted peeps, and so far everyone seems to really like it, and has said it makes sense!

Next, I remembered I downloaded the 30 day free trial of Scrivener before Christmas and never used it all up, but thought it would be good for the big rewrite/rejig I’d need to do with Honors. So I fired it up again, and started by uploading the first few chapters, which I think I can mostly still use, since I rewrote them in January. Yesterday I tweaked the first chapter to hint at my new ideas, and it felt good to get back into the story. I’m still figuring out all the Scrivener features (and had a scary moment where I moved a folder and it seemed to jump into the trash of its own accord), but I’m liking it so far, and I think it will be a big help in my rewrite. I also cranked out a bare-bones outline with all my new ideas, which still needs refining, but it’s definitely helping to lessen the dread of the total rewrite.

I’m also setting myself a deadline, in Scrivener itself, in my physical planner, and here for accountability, to finish the rewrite by the end of March. Then I can go back to my Venice book after hearing what my CPs think of it, and decide which one to start querying. I’ll still work on job applications each week too, but I always need a deadline to aim for, so that’s my plan for now.

I’m also thinking back to this time last year, when I had the goal of finishing the first draft of my Venice book by May (or “80k by May”, as I called it), and while I ended up finishing it in July (and it was wayyy over 80k. . .), I can see now how much I really needed that deadline, that plan, that project to work towards and help me escape from, well, everything else going on.

I’m honestly so grateful that my partner and I, and our families and friends are doing ok. It’s been such a hard year for everyone, but we’ve been so fortunate, so I’m trying really hard to appreciate the little things each day. (Like all the flowers starting to bloom! In February!! It still amazes me every year. . .) I still got sucked into the depression valley a lot over the last few weeks, especially because the job search is feeling increasingly hopeless. But as soon as I started working on Honors again, honing the query and devising a revision plan, I felt SO MUCH BETTER. As cheesy as it sounds, my soul felt happy again, and I just had this moment of recognition and acknowledgement when I thought “This is what I want to do.”

For now though, I’ve got a plan, and some momentum again, and a gosh-damned idea of how to actually fix Honors, and I’m going to ride this wave as long as I can.

The big changes are going to involve replotting a lot of the book, embracing the fantasy/witchy elements wayyy more, and leaning heavier into the romance. Oh and changing the title! đź‘€ I’ve also found some new songs (and memes!) that immediately made me think of the characters, and I think they’ll help inspire my rewrite as I play my spotify playlist ad infinitum. (My 2020 spotify wrapped was literally the top songs from my Venice book playlist because I had it on repeat for most of the year. . .but I’m ok with it.)

I’ll reveal more soon, hopefully once I’ve made more progress, but I’m so grateful to have found writing again, and to have a plan. It’s actually giving me a little bit of hope, dare I say it. I’m really trying to focus only on what I can control, or fix, or change, and that’s my writing right now. Just as my Venice book was my lifeline last year, I’m going to embrace this new vision for Honors and see what happens.

As always, thanks for reading. Let me know what you’re working on, or what’s inspiring you lately?

~M

2 thoughts on “A February Fresh Start

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