#PitchWars Progress 2: Edit Letters and deciding to add 40,000 words…

So yesterday was dramatic! I woke up to my edit letter from Mónica in my inbox and read it before I even had coffee I was so excited. All 17 pages.

Then I really needed coffee.

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like a lot of it

After a flurry of brainstorming emails, I decided what I needed to do to make my manuscript “the best version of itself”… see, I had originally conceived The Demon King as the first of a duology. Which isn’t a terrible idea, but it meant that the cool twist and major bad-guy screen time was reserved for the second of the two books, and the first one ended on kind of an unsatisfying cliffhanger.

Which is no fun.

So what did I decide to do after bouncing a few ideas off my mentors?

Collapse the duology into a single manuscript.

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scuse me wHATT

NO BIG DEAL, RIGHT? Just casually squash the entire second book into the first and see what happens.

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i defo needed more coffee after that decision

No big deal, I thought. I just revise 18ish chapters and then tack on another 40,000 words full of bad boy Demon Kings and magic mirrors and ‘ifrit warfare. No sweat. I wrote the last 9,600 words of my last draft in a single day, didn’t I?

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yeah that happened

So yesterday I wrote up a new character arc for my MC that includes the aforementioned escapades with bad boy Demon Kings and ‘ifrit warfare. Then this morning I finished my chapter-by-chapter+goals outline for the new draft.

Then I opened up a new document.

And I wrote the first line of my book.

In Kairouan, there was coffee for guests, coffee for war, and coffee for marriage.

And I stopped. Because I felt overwhelmed by the task before me.

Whenever I’m feeling discouraged, I go back to an interview that Sarah J. Maas did a few years ago with Swoon Says where she talks about her writing process. She talks about how she wrote A Court of Thorns and Roses (aka one of my favorite books of all time; shoutout to Kara for making me read it), and how even though it was a “magic” book for her, she had the same routine:

It’s that simple. Some days are better than others; some days every word is painful and I want to throw my computer into the street. Some days I just reread what I’ve written and either strut around the house, bloated on my own genius, or start quietly, thoroughly panicking that every word blows and I’m a hack-loser. But I still eat my breakfast, drink my tea/OJ/water, and show up.

There’s no magic to it. No special formula. There is no one process to creating my books beyond that: showing up. […]

So that is my process.

Show up. Write. Repeat.

So I’m here.

I’m going to eat some breakfast, get some more coffee, and maybe head to a cafe to get some fresh air.

And then I’m going to show the fuck up. Write. And repeat.

Even when classes start up again and the anxiety of being a PhD student at a stupid elite little university sets in again, I will show up for The Demon King. I will show up for Ramzy and Soukaina. For myself. For my mentors. For my readers, present and future.

And I will write.

(To an excellent soundtrack.)

 

That’s all for now. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

xo sp

#PitchWars Progress 1: the calm before the storm

Deep breaths. This is going to be a wild ride, ladies and gents.

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My mentors have given some initial comments for me to chew on while they prepare my edit letter, and daaaaamn. I guess it finally hit home how much work I’m going to be doing over the next two months.

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dksjfsdf

This is the first time I’ve had anything near this level of outside feedback on any of my novel manuscripts (I’ve workshopped short stories and academic writing), and it’s terrifying and AMAZING at the same time. For a moment I stared at the comments on my first chapter and thought “wait, I thought my mentors liked my book?” and despaired.

For like, 2 seconds. Then I pulled myself together.

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…and realized that this is what the next two months of me and my manuscript are going to look like

Of course they like my book. They like it so much they want to make it better. That’s what they volunteered to do, and I’m so, so grateful for them and all the Pitch Wars mentors who choose to give so much of their time to corral the wild dreams of fledgling writers like us mentees and push us to be better than we could ever be on our own.

 

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So *cracks knuckles* I’m opening new documents and folders in Scrivener. Poring over Mónica’s initial comments. Brainstorming new titles, ways of introducing my complex fantasy world and the jinn that inhabit it, etc. Gearing up for that edit letter so I can hit the ground running with my rewrites the minute it hits my inbox.

And I’m reading poetry and reading and re-reading novels that inspire me to push my writing to be better (Six of Crows, A Crown of Wishes). I’m determined to make this manuscript sing, baby.

Speaking of singing… here’s some music off my Iron Queen writing playlist. I have no idea how I’m going to balance re-drafting that project as I work on my Pitch Wars manuscript… I guess I’m going to figure that part out as I go!

 

Catch ya later, 7abayeb!

xo sp

I turned my phone off for an hour and became a #PitchWars mentee & other news…

So, I mentioned in my last post that yesterday I made dinner plans to either celebrate becoming a #PitchWars mentee or to celebrate being rejected and getting right back on the goddamn horse.

Well, spoiler alert: I celebrated the first one.

Reader, I flipped.

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i can’t deal

But I didn’t figure it out right away. My boyfriend–loyal stalker of every Pitch Wars-related tag on Twitter that he is–insisted that we both put our phones on airplane mode before we went out to dinner. So, as we left the house, I did, and gave my phone to him to put in his pocket.

We had a lovely dinner on the Thames as the sun set.

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this is from a different dinner at a different restaurant on the thames but i didn’t have my phone last night so i didn’t take pictures oooooops but you get the picture. it was cute and nice and stuff.

The food was delicious, we had wine, talked about all sorts of things, and I only mentioned the word “pitch wars” ONCE. I was so well-behaved.

Then we asked for the check, and my boyfriend turned to me and said “do you want to see your phone now?”

I did. I turned airplane mode off.

And then my phone blew up.

I am SO GRATEFUL to be working with Monica and Kerbie this Pitch Wars! I can’t wait to see what plans they have in store for The Demon King and where this journey takes me!

 

I’ll be blogging regularly during the weeks of revision leading up to the agent showcase in November, so stay ‘tuned!

 

xo sp

Accountability, Etc: Daily Goals #25

IT’S PITCHWARS ANNOUNCEMENT DAY. I’M DYING.

Because the official announcements are later today, I feel okay finally revealing that uhm yeeeeeaaah, I got a handful of full and partial requests. Yeeaaah, I swapped emails with some mentors. Yeeeeaahh, it was a confidence booster.

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SELF FIVE YEAH

It’s been a wild ride. This is both good and bad, because 1) I have strong reasons to be optimistic about today, but also 2) that means that not being picked could sting.

So I’m gearing up for either positive or negative outcomes.

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£6 tho bc hello i am not a peasant

There’s no set time for the announcement, but according to Twitter murmuring it’s likely to be in the evening. I’ve got some dinner plans in the works to either celebrate becoming a mentee or celebrate falling and getting right back on the goddamn horse. GIRLFRIEND IS PREPARED.

But in the meantime, I’m 5 hours ahead of EST, so I have a whooooole day ahead of me to wait. Luckily, I have a lot of writing to burn through and distract myself with!

I made good progress on my daily goals yesterday.  My top priority was:

 

  • Scene Weave + Once Upon A Time + Chapter Divisions, because if I don’t get these done I will get mired down, and, worst case scenario, ruin the momentum of fast-drafting this WIP
    • I FINISHED THE SCENE WEAVE! CELEBRATE
    • I’m 85-90% done with the Once Upon a Time draft!!

So today will be about finishing the OUAT draft (lol that acronym reminds me of OUAI which makes me think of a either sloppy drunk Quebecers toasting my writing success or that fancy amazing hair product line I will never be able to afford) and hammering out the chapter divisions! Stretch goal: finally nailing Ch 3.

Wait. Goals that aren’t in bullet points?! LE GASP, SYLVIA. HOW COULD U.

  • Finish Once Upon A Time Draft
  • Divide that draft into chapters
  • Write 2-3,000 words of Ch 3

There. All fixed.

TIME TO GO DISTRACT MYSELF FROM PITCHWARS HYPE

Have a track from my WIP playlist while you’re here:

 

xo sp

Accountability, Etc: Daily Goals #24 (BONUS: my fast-drafting process!)

It’s Wednesday. It’s Wednesday. PITCH WARS MENTEE ANNOUNCEMENTS ARE TOMORROW.

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eeeeeeeeeeee eee eee eeek

I NEED to write to distract myself from giddy excitement/butterflies in stomach/fear of impending rejection! Yesterday I did all right—let’s look at my goals and how they stacked up at the end of the day:

  • Write 3,000 words
    • Ok, 2500 isn’t the worst. I did finish Chapter 2! and threw in a flashback chapter for some more action at the beginning.
    • But today I want to start to catch up…!
    • I think while my partner is out of town over the weekend I’ll aim for 5-6k days.
  • Write Scene Weave + Chapter divisions, goddamnit, or you’ll freeze up about moving forward
    • I ONLY BARELY STARTED AND I REALLY NEED TO FINISH THIS TODAY
  • Unpack for fuck’s sake
    • Did this at last! yay!

I’m a bit mad at myself that I didn’t make more progress on the Scene Weave/Chapter divisions, because that step is key to my hideously high-octane fast-drafting process. My first draft MO is putting in a lot of work up front before I even write the first chapter–that way I can rip through the material I’ve outlined/sketched.

Hey, I have an idea… wanna take a look at my WIP first draft process?

What am I saying? Writers are nosy folk. Of course you wanna creep on my process.

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aw yis

 

TADA, SYLVIA’S PRETTY DAMN GOOD FIRST DRAFT PROCESS

  •  Idea spark!
    • I write down a plot bunny and, if it’s a particularly powerful one, create a new Scrivener document
  • Gestation
    • I spend the next 3 weeks-3mo-sometimes a year scribbling down things that occur to me. Scenes, dialogue, plot points that excite me, etc. I put everything in documents I call notedumps, with every entry dated so I know what information is most “canon”/current
    • This is usually going on while I’m fast drafting or editing another project, because I have serious fidelity problems with WIPs
  • Outlining
    • I take my main characters and most engaging plot points from my weeks or months of notedumping and begin to hammer them into novel-shape using Libbie Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants! and John Truby’s Anatomy of Story
      • Literally Hawker’s book is LIFE CHANGING. No matter if you’re a pantser looking to convert or a plotter looking for new strategies, I highly recommend it.
    • This stage can take an afternoon or three months, depending on the project. My Pitch Wars manuscript (The Demon King) took a day to outline back in December. My current WIP, Iron Queen, took… Jesus. Ages. It has more POV characters and convoluted storylines, so that’s to be expected, but… yeah. It took some time to tease the right weaknesses, desires, and needs out of my two main POV characters. BUT NOW I’VE GOT ‘EM, MUAHAHA.
  • Scene Weave
    • This is where I take my outline and make a chronological list of every. Single. Damn. Thing. that happens in my project, beginning to end. No gaps allowed.
    • Here I have the opportunity to analyze the pacing and character development from a bird’s eye view–if something is amiss, if I need to remove a scene or combine it with another, I think it’s best to do so now before I get bogged down in thousands of words and lose sight of the forest for the trees.
      • (That happens often help)
    • This is what I’m struggling with today. It usually takes a long day.
  • Once Upon a Time/Stage Direction Draft
    • I like having two screens open in Scrivener at any given time, so in this stage I have my Scene Weave open on one side and a new, pretty, blank page open on the other side.
    • Then I write “Once upon a time…” which is, like, my magic spell for allowing myself to sketch the roughest of the rough drafts.
    • I call this rough writing “stage directions.” It’s a mix of dialogue, blocking, and “he does this, then she thinks this, then they go here” prose that reads something like this:

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      THIS IS AN ACTUAL EXCEPT FROM MY CURRENT DRAFT PLS BE NICE
    • *cringes* Pretty rough, I know. But what I do in this stage is vitally important for me. Basically, I take every single scene from the Scene Weave and pad it out with the pages and pages of notes, world-building, and dialogue from my months of Gestation-stage notedumps. That way, when I’m actually trying to write sort of nicely, I don’t have to slow myself down by stopping and thinking “damnit, where did I put that sketched scene of the intro to Gazanfer?”–because it’ll already be there, incorporated into the stage directions.
    • Last summer, my final Once Upon A Time document ended up being about 10,000 words for a 150,000 word project. But it can vary. My guess is that because I’m taking material from old drafts of Iron Queen and slipping it into my Once Upon A Time doc along with stage directions, it’ll be pretty long this time around.
  • Chapter Divisions
    • My Once Upon A Time draft ends up feeling like a long patchwork quilt of scenes poached from old drafts, newly sketched scenes, and dialogue.
    • The next step is to read through the whole thing and make notes about where I want each chapter to begin and end. I take each of these chunks and copy-paste them into documents of their own, in chronological order.
    • These are my chapter rough drafts. Because of these, every morning when I sit down to write, I have a road map, a plan, a scene to blast through right from the get-go. No time for writer’s block because I have a plan.
    • My Scrivener sidebar ends up looking something like this:Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 9.35.46 AM.png
  • On your marks, get set… SPRINT
    • AT LAST.  I set up my timers, get settled in, and blast through fast drafting.
    • Basically, I take the “stage directions” prose that I showed you above and turn it into actual writing, filling in gaps and adding/editing dialogue where need be.
    • I carve through the project chapter by chapter until I reach the end.
  • Cry, celebrate, ice your poor battered typing hands. Also wine.
    • YAY, CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS STEP

The result of all this? A pretty damn clean first draft with solid momentum and strong character arcs building up to one hell of a cliffhanger… on the first try.

I highly recommend this method if you, like me, have limited writing time during the year. I gestate/outline/notedump all school year long and then binge write my first drafts in the summer or during winter break when I don’t have classes (or during NaNoWriMo!). It’s worked pretty well for me thus far!

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So, long story short, today’s top priority is:

  • Scene Weave + Once Upon A Time + Chapter Divisions, because if I don’t get these done I will get mired down, and, worst case scenario, ruin the momentum of fast-drafting this WIP

Lower priority:

  • 3,000 words/Chapter 3 – aw yis I’m looking forward to this because it’s a nice and spooky chapter with witches and oracle bones

 

That’s it! *cracks knuckles* Let’s get Scene Weaving and dividing my Once Upon a Time Draft into chapters!

xo sp

 

Accountability, Etc: Daily Goals #23

Heeeelloooo, yesterday went sort of well!

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YAY CELEBRATE

This update is going to be quick because I want to start sprinting by 8am (it’s 7:45am right now… gotta rush!).

Let’s look at yesterday’s goals:

  • Write 3,000 words (this is going to be my daily minimum goal)
    • ok 2800 words pretty acceptable especially because I had some POV struggles
  • Scene Weave + Chapter divisions
    • Uhm no not yet goddamnit I need to do this
  • Decide whether I’m going to stick to 3rd person all the way through or throw in some first person
    • CHECK DECIDED!
    • Going to go the Roshani Chokshi/A Crown of Wishes route and do 1st person for my heroine/3rd person for my hero
  • Unpack and do some laundry…
    • Unpacked a leeeettle bit, no laundry though, much to my partner’s chagrin…

Ok, that’s 2/4 at least! Yay!

I’m going to keep binge-writing today (with a break for brunch with one of my besties) because it’s an excellent distraction from the #pitchwars and #pwteasers tags on Twitter… actually, come to think of it, I’m just going to block Twitter today. I can’t handle the excitement/anticipation/squeeeeeeeeee!

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actually me

What about today’s goals? They’re mostly the same as yesterday, with some adjustments (read: swear words):

  • Write 3,000 words
  • Write Scene Weave + Chapter divisions, goddamnit, or you’ll freeze up about moving forward
  • Unpack for fuck’s sake

That’s about it! One of my friends printed out my outline at work so I have that in my paws and I’m READY TO GO.

But before I bounce, a track from my brainstorming/daydreaming playlist:

 

Time to BINGE WRITEeeee

xo sp

 

 

Accountability, Etc: Daily Goals #22

Heyyyyy. It’s been a while…

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Remember how I said I was too exhausted to write in Turkey? Well, that continued for the rest of the time I was there. It was just too damn hot, you know? After 4 hours of languages classes, by the time I sat down to write I always felt as if my brain had totally melted.

BUT NOW I AM BACK IN LONDON. And it’s time to be productive af again!

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So, I entered a thing called Pitch Wars (you might have heard of it)… and I hear back about whether or not I will be a mentee on Thursday. Naturally, I’m dying to know, and naturally, it’s driving me crazy. To distract myself in the meantime, I’ve decided to (once again) binge write a new project.

I want to write 70,000 words of my new Iron Queen manuscript by 21 September.

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And this time I’m serious! Which means that the daily accountability posts are going to be up and running again… are you ready?

Today’s goals:

  • Write 3,000 words (this is going to be my daily minimum goal)
  • Scene Weave + Chapter divisions
  • Decide whether I’m going to stick to 3rd person all the way through or throw in some first person 
  • Unpack and do some laundry… 

No time to waste.

I’m going to bounce, but have a peek at my Pinterest board for Iron Queen if you’re curious!

 

xo sp

Accountability, Etc: Daily Goals #21

Oh heyyyyy, it’s been a while.

I’m in Turkey and have been consumed by work for my language program! Between oodles of difficult translations and 90F+ degree heat (for a while we were averaging 35-37C, kill me please), I’ve been way too exhausted to write.

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omg the heat u don’t even know

…unless that writing is queries. I’ve sent off 12 now! I’ve had one form rejection and one full MS request, so I think I’m doing pretty well thus far. I’ve decided that Mondays are going to be my query-binge day–I’ll send off around 5 queries every Monday for the rest of the summer. Or until something fantastic happens (fingers crossed!!). Whichever comes first.

In the meantime, I’m following the Victoria Schwab rule: ALWAYS BE WRITING.

 

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this should be me

 

This month I’m binge-writing a novella for a publication I found and fell in LOVE with called the Fantasist.

They’re a magazine of fantasy novellas and are open for submissions until 25 August. I wigged out when I found it and read their (sassy af) submission guidelines. Like, where else am I going to send a historical paranormal urban fantasy novella about Arabic-and-Spanish code-switching vampires and grumpy undead Janissaries stomping around fifteenth-century Istanbul and the mountains of Abkhazia?

Remember my Ottoman Vampire project? I thought it was going to be around 10,000 words, but I outlined it and filled in most of the beats… and yes, I think it’s definitely novella material. My aim is ~20,000 words by 19 August, when I leave Turkey to go back to London. Then I have a few days to rest and edit and format it before sending it off!

Ideally. I usually write lean and clean first drafts, so it shouldn’t take too long to edit. I currently aim to write 1000 words a day, but I might have to push for a little more than that to give myself more editing time. A Saturday afternoon 4k binge or two should do the trick.

(I’m also going to eventually give it a less generic name than Ottoman Vampire. Still brainstorming that one. I keep scrambling/rearranging words like “blood” “hope” and “Constantinople” to no avail.)

In the meantime, it’s fast-drafting time!

And you know what fast-drafting means.

IT MEANS I NEED SOME GODDAMN ACCOUNTABILITY.

New projects give me the heebie jeebies at first, especially when I haven’t settled on all the characters’ voices and/or don’t know them very well yet. So I’ve jumped back on the MyWriteClub train–add me if you’re working on a project too!

OH, I ALMOST FORGOT–

Daily Goals!!

My goals for today are:

  • Edit first 800 words
  • Write another 1000-1200 words/ Ch II

Simple. To the point.

Let’s goooooooo!

xo sp

Accountability, Etc: Daily Goals #20

Hey y’aaaaall, I’ve been super busy getting ready to leave for Turkey (TOMORROW NIGHT, WHAT THE ACTUAL F). But I’ve gotten a lot done over the last two days!

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i’ve gotten so much done wtf

Let’s assess our goals etc:

  • Continue agent hunt and editing
    • I spent five hours over two days agent hunting and query editing
  • Send first ever query!
    • AHEM, OKAY, I SENT THREE BECAUSE I AM EXTRA AF
    • am now spazzing out every time my phone buzzes BECAUSE WHAT IF IT’S A MANUSCRIPT REQUEST
      • i even changed the notification sound for my gmail to something really unique so it really grabs my attention
      • yeah
      • i did that
      • ok moving on
  • Continue ghost/needs/desires/flaws/antagonists for Iron Queen POV characters
    • I THINK I FIGURED OUT A FEW MASSIVE CHUNKS OF THE OUTLINE AND I’M SO PLEASED
  • Read for fun, goddamnit!
    • Mostly reading Vis & Ramin at the moment as inspiration for Iron Queen. Dick Davis’s translation is transcendental.
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i’m really proud of myself

Speaking of transcendental, my latest writing jam is Lewis Capaldi’s LOST ON YOU. It’s fucking magic:

 

For today’s daily goals, I’m going to keep it simple because I already sent off a query before 11am (BOOM BABY). Aaaaand because I need to do laundry so I can have a massive packing binge tomorrow:

  • Type up material from green and black notebooks for an hour
  • Begin synopsis for other project
  • Continue Iron Queen outline

 

That’s it, kiddos! Catch you on the flip side

xo sp

Accountability, Etc: Daily Goals #19

HAVE BEEN EDITING AND AGENT-HUNTING LIKE A MADWOMAN TODAY

 

I crushed my goals yesterday too!

  • One hour of typing up handwritten notes
    • CHECK WHEEE I WROTE SO MUCH
  • Continue ghost/needs/desires/flaws/antagonists for Iron Queen POV characters
    • CHECK and I think I’m really starting to get somewhere with them! I even figured out the precise emotional note where one of their storylines end, snuck in a wee cliffhanger, and called it a WRAP. Well, not really… because I plot backwards from the end moment, I now have to build up to it. And ohhhh boy, is it going to be a wild ride >:)
  • Send query letter draft to my mom for editing
    • CHECK. Also I sent my pitch to my older sister to look at and might query my very first agent TODAY. Isn’t that crazy???

 

Because I put off my Daily Goals blog post until like 1pm, I’ve mostly finished my work for the day because I’m meeting a friend in a bit and then have an evening watching movies in Hyde Park with my s/o and panicking about packing for Turkey.

What did I do today? And what do I still want to get done in the late evening, when I come back from the park?

  • Continue agent hunt and editing
    • I spent two and a half straight hours editing and agent hunting
  • Send first every query!
    • I WILL DO THIS TODAY SO HELP ME GOD
  • Continue ghost/needs/desires/flaws/antagonists for Iron Queen POV characters
  • Read for fun, goddamnit!

 

OK LET’S DO THIS