Back at the beginning of June, on the 8th to be exact, I got an idea for a YA Fantasy story about dragons, which is now called Beneath the Empty. I won’t go into too much detail because there’s been a lot of plagiarism lately, but it’s about a princess who has the ability to shift between her human and dragon form. With her dragon guardian by her side, she goes against her mother’s wishes and ventures into enemy territory to figure out why her kind are being killed. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s how it gets started.
I finished the first draft in October and the second draft in February, but my work wasn’t done there. In that time, I got an amazing critique partner (CP) and several beta readers who have helped me so much. Their help has been invaluable, but I’ll go into detail about why you need a CP and beta readers in another blog post. With their detailed notes, I have started writing the third draft of my book, which is currently sitting at 54,000 words (it was 109,000 at the end of the second draft). So far, they have only read the first half as I was writing the second half while they read it, but after this round of revisions, they will be able to read it all, which makes me slightly nervous.
I’ve lost count on the number of times I have read through my book, but I know it so well and the changes I am making have made it much stronger. However, it hasn’t always been easy to stay motivated, especially when new ideas start to pop into my head (which happened a couple of weeks ago).
Creating an Outline
A few of my betas suggested big changes which would have meant rewriting most of the first act, which was daunting in itself. However, I embraced the changes because I knew it would make the story better and improve character development. One of the ways I managed to stay on track was creating a detailed outline for all the changes I would be making. It’s hard to keep your mind focused when you’re jumping around from document to document, so having everything in one place helped.
I started by going through all my beta readers notes, jotting down all the changes I needed to make, before visualizing what the story needed to be, what I wanted it to be. I wrote down where I needed to expand on details or cut any info-dumping, as well as drafting completely new chapters that hadn’t been there before. The outline I made helped keep me on track instead of feeling like I was losing my mind trying to sort it out.
Setting a Goal
This may not work for everyone, but I am a very goal-oriented person. When I set myself a goal, most of the time I am able to achieve it. When I was first drafting my book, I set myself a target of writing at least 1,000 words a day, which I suppose is the reason I was able to complete the 92,000-word draft within 4 months. Of course, I didn’t always write that much because life gets in the way sometimes and I also went through a low period when I was made redundant at my previous job. But it worked and I decided to set myself a similar goal for this draft.
If I want to finish this draft by the end of March, I need to be writing at least 2,500 words a day. Recently, I’ve been writing more than that because I am at the point in my revision where I can copy and paste certain pieces into the new draft as they don’t need any changes. This will be the case for the second half as I don’t have any beta notes for it, only a few CP ones, but some of the earlier changes will echo through the later chapters, causing dialogue and descriptions to change. At this point, I feel confident I will be able to send the new and improved document to my betas by the end of the month.
Listening to a Playlist
Unfortunately, I can’t write all day, not when I have a job to do and an art commission to finish. Even when I’m not writing, I am still thinking about my characters and the world, and having a playlist dedicated to my book helps a lot. The one I created for Beneath the Empty is full of haunting and cinematic songs which represent the book perfectly. Some songs make me feel emotional and others have me wanting to ride into battle on a dragon. Some have provided a lot of inspiration for certain scenes which wouldn’t have happened without it.
On the days where I’m feeling a little unmotivated to sit down in front of my laptop, I simply pop my headphones in and listen to the playlist. It’s amazing how much my mood can change by doing that and before I know it, I’m typing away. I don’t listen to it while I’m writing (I need to be able to hear the characters in my head, which doesn’t sound creepy at all) but I do when I’m stuck on something.
When I finished the first and second draft of Beneath the Empty, I rewarded myself with my favorite meals, a bottle of wine and a new book. I’ll probably do something similar when I finish this draft, but in between, I give myself smaller rewards. When I reach the end of a chapter, I allow myself to indulge in my favorite treat or watch my favorite TV show. It helps keep me motivated, especially if I’m addicted to what I’m watching. Everyone loves to be rewarded, so don’t be afraid to do it for yourself when you’re writing.
That’s all I have at the moment and so far, they have been working. I feel so excited every day when I finish work to get home and improve on this story. Before my current manuscript, I never edited a book, ever. I always got better ideas, but Beneath the Empty has my heart and I cannot wait until I can start querying it.