Pour vous, mon ami

Unrelated sidenotes:

  1. Cross-stitching goes well but is taking FOREVER. For those who don’t know what I’m doing, I am making a project for my BFF and it is just taking a billion years because I was being a snob about larger stitch-per-inch counts when I made the pattern.
  2. I feel like I’m getting back on track with God in some really good ways and am contemplating making some decisions I’ll share here later probably, and it’s great.

Main post:

So, this is mostly just a shout out to Kraven, one of the main characters in my newest book, because as I’ve been writing, I’ve been finding out that he is WAY more awesome than I expected. Also, he speaks French (it’s called Fransec there), so hence the title.

See, originally Kraven was supposed to be this weak, spineless little thing who was sickly and pale all the time and pretty much expected to die within the next six weeks of his little quest.

And as I’ve been writing, he’s just been like, “NO. I’m stronger than that. Stop saying I’m not.”

It’s been AWESOME.

When my characters do amazing things. Also probably the closest I will ever be to being Zendaya.

It’s one of those amazing times where as a writer, I realize just how easy it is for me to be surprised by my own work. For example, I was on probably my sixth restart of this novel (it’s been a particularly tricky one to get going) before I even knew he had magic. And he does. Super strong, pretty much one use only magic. I didn’t even know about it until finally he was like, “Hey Mom, you know I can just fix that problem for you with this, right?” (Also, as I am writing this, this is the first time I’ve ever realized that my characters call me Mom, and now it seems impossible that they have ever called me anything else, soooo, weird?) And I was all, “Wait, you have magic?” And he was like, “Yeah, of course.”  “Why didn’t you tell me!?” “You didn’t ask?” as if having magic is not at all a big deal, which even in his world is not entirely true.

That’s only one example. Not only does this kid have magic, he’s also way more competent than I’d expected. Turns out that besides being compassionate and peaceful, which is something I already knew, he’s also a fairly competent, almost entirely self-taught veterinarian. Bracing broken squirrel legs, birds’ wings, he’s just all up on it, and strong enough to do things that I for sure thought that he couldn’t. Climbing trees, helping to lift and carry things, etc. Here I was, planning this slender little twig of a thing who was 5’4″ and malnourished from years of neglect and here he comes, 5’7″, still growing, and actually pretty well built from spending all his days in the woods.

What’s really weird is that he’s not even a different character. It’s not like he’s turning into someone else or that I’m replacing him and keeping the real, weak-bodied Kraven locked away for another story. This is the real Kraven. I’m getting to discover who he really is first, and it’s positively wonderful. This is the kid I almost cut from the story entirely to focus on the two that I thought were more interesting, but no, not only has he pulled his way back into my head, he’s also forced his way back into his proper spot as both leader and glue in the group, a position I didn’t even know was his until he came back.

This guy. This kid. He’s going places, just watch.

Anyway, I’ve been just enthralled by his progress (he has weaknesses too, by the way, in case any of you were starting to get worried). I am so excited to see where he goes and just wanted to share that with all of you. Thanks for putting up with my gushy pride over this lil munchkin. If you have any stories where you have been surprised by characters or how they develop for you, please let me know in the comments! How people write is super fascinating!

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Writing is hard

I take a long time to process pretty much anything I go through, so I usually try to wait before posting about a subject until I have a stronger grip on how I actually think or feel about it. This is useful in that the writing of the post itself often helps me decide what those feelings are and that I don’t really post things that I feel I’ll soon regret. Today however, I really want to capture something as it is before I have time to forget or warp it through retrospect.

Today I’m going to talk about what it’s like starting a new book.

I recently started my newest novel (Number five! Yay!), and started it, and started it, and started it. I think this one has taken me about five or six tries to get right, and though I have had that “click” that told me that this was the right way to start, in the midst of getting the right beginning, waiting for characters to tell me what I needed to know about them, figuring out the world, hating the boring drivel I had on the page, etc., I got to thinking: Is this always this hard?

The short answer is yes.

James Vanderbeek
Me trying to write something that isn’t terrible in the first few chapters of any new novel

I remember having to start over several times when I wrote my fourth book. In the fogs of time I see myself puzzling over finding momentum, throwing away useless scenes, struggling to figure out who or what these people “represented” (a mistake I’ve mentioned before which I will not cover here), free flow plotting, angst as things wouldn’t gel. That book was hard to start, just as this one is, and though I remember other books that were far easier to start (the first page of Machine has remained relatively unchanged since the day I wrote it, for example), as I am finally starting to turn the corner on this one, I also remember the ease with which book number four eventually started to come. I remember more distinctly than the initial struggles the rapidity with which words flew onto the page as I continued to write, the plot points and characters which came from nowhere to be just what I needed.

I write this not to brag about how good I am once I get in the zone. I don’t write it to complain or rehash how much I struggle. I write it as a record so that when book six comes into being, and I find myself wondering if I’ll ever write anything decent again, I can look back and say “Yes, I will.” Book five is starting to gel. The characters and world are coming together, and while I can’t say it hasn’t been difficult, would not like to say so, in fact, I would say that it’s going to be worth it.

It’s really hard when you have spent so much time on editing and polishing one book to come back and start another. You forget the work that’s gone into polishing, think of your polished work as your first draft level.

It’s not, at least for me. The first draft is hard. It’s ugly, it’s boring, useless extra words and phrases clutter the page. Writing the first draft sets me up for what will be hours and hours of cleanup, hacking the debris, wiping the dirt off to find the silver and gold. I say this for my future self, for you reader, if you write.

Writing is hard. It takes courage, faith, endurance. If you can’t handle the work, don’t do it. If you can, don’t give up. Something marvelous is coming your way. Keep writing and see what it is.