And now! On to the questions.
What were your writing achievements last year?
2016 was a very productive writing year for me. Or at least, it was very productive first-draft wise.
At the beginning of the year, I drafted the second book in my space trilogy, tentatively entitled The Prince of Erdania. (Haha, that's funny. That space trilogy seems so far away and long ago. Oh, those characters...I love them still, but I'm in the habit of forgetting they exist, in a way.) That draft turned out to be 40,931 words. And it's messy. Very very messy. That entire story world is messy. Let us move on.
After finishing (ha! "finishing") The Prince of Erdania I started "pantsing" a fantasy story, which became my project for Camp NaNo in April. This story, at one point entitled Ellen of the Wildlands and now dubbed The Pearl and the Horn, turned out to be 61,725 words long and is also hideously messy. And cliche. And messy. Like, I-cringe-when-I-think-about-it messy. Maybe someday I'll go back and try to coax it to life.
Over the summer I kinda took a drafting break. I did, incidentally, write (chiefly for the enjoyment of myself and my siblings) a really long and extremely silly fan-fiction. Usually I call these sorts of things "Tintin Stories;" this one was the "Tintin Book." It's 13,682 words long, and mixes characters from The Lord of the Rings, Tintin, The Great Gatsby, Tom Playfair, and Hogan's Heroes, among others. Even though it was incredibly silly (the authors of the original characters are probably rolling over in their graves), I feel like writing it gave me some experience in drawing two plot-lines together towards one climax.
Sometime during the summer -- towards the end of it, I suppose -- I started yet another rewrite of Lillian, the fairy tale I first started work on some ten years ago. (It's actually probably more like nine years, but ten years sounds cool.) And this time, I honestly think it's going somewhere. This most recent draft is only 32,362 words, as opposed to the last draft's 69,613 words, but it's by far the best.
What's on your writerly "to-do list" for 2017?
Agh! To-do list for 2017! *jumps around in a tizzy of mixed feelings for a minute*
My first priority is Lillian. I really, really, really want to edit Lillian, and rub it down with a polishing-cloth until it shines. After that....I don't know. I've got a sequel for Lillian in mind, and I'm kind of impatient to get started on that. But I might decide to go back and work on, say, The Time Traveling League.
I'd also like to draft the third book in my space trilogy, if only to make one of my sisters happy.
And ooh! April is blocked off as the month Anna Deubell and I finally write a story we've been planning on for forever -- a retelling of Cinderella/The Wild Swans. Camp NaNo will hopefully ensure that that gets done.
Then there are all the story ideas I'd like to start drafting...mainly historical fiction. Oh, drafting is just so tempting for me. Maybe I'll have to save one of these ideas for NaNo 2017, although whether or not I'll be able to do NaNo with college coming up is questionable.
Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!
I suppose I've already done that a bit, haven't I? Well! I'll blabber a little more, because it's fun.
Lillian has me extremely excited. It's the oldest of my surviving story-children, so the story is quite close to my heart. But it's changed a lot in the last year, so it feels new and exciting at the same time. Because I've finally accepted that it's meant to be middle grade and not YA, it feels nice and small and manageable, not like some stories I could mention (*cough*myspacetrilogy*cough*). I know I can make it into something really worth reading, if I try hard enough. So I'm gonna try.
And oh! The characters and settings I get to write about in it! The fairies and lillidies and turvies and mice and redwing blackbirds! The woods and mouse holes and dollhouses! It's just so much fun -- like a trip into my childhood imagination.
As for that Cinderella/The Wild Swans retelling. I really don't know much about it yet, but it's been hovering on the edge of my imagination lately and it's going to be fun. I just know it is.
How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?
Well, I know I want to work on editing. That's my #1 area of intended improvement this year. And then...I don't know, I want to improve on every front.
I've been letting myself fantasize about publication for Lillian sometime sooner than later, so that's one hope (however unlikely) for the end of 2017. Who knows? Maybe by the end of 2017 I'll have my first rejection letter!
Describe your general editing process.
My general editing process.
Okay, okay, I've edited short stories before. Kinda. And written second drafts of novels/marked finished drafts up. But really I don't have enough experience with editing to tell you what my editing process is like.
I plan for it to be something like this:
1. go through current draft with pencil
2. fix glaring plot holes/make major changes that can be fixed by rewriting one or two scenes
3. write way through draft working on characterization
4. read through again to make sure everything makes sense in the major areas
5. go through with a fine-toothed comb fixing wording and stuff
6. start over
On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?
The Time Traveling League: Oh, about a six. I'm being generous because it's a first draft and, what with writing it so quickly, I really can't expect it to be pretty. There's a ton of stuff that needs improvement -- characterization (especially for the main character), plot twists, character motivation, world-building/story-world rules, historical accuracy, and the list goes on. Overall I think it's a decent germ to start from, though.
Lillian: About a nine. The biggest problem is Lillian's characterization. Besides that I'm thrilled with it -- the plot, the story-world, the supporting cast. After ten years, the whole thing is finally starting to bloom! *deep sigh of writer contentment*
What aspect of your draft do you think needs the most work?
The Time Traveling League: The bad guys. They're still as boring as mashed potatoes without any salt or butter, and, as a result, the conflict is quite lacking. Another big issue is my protagonist -- she isn't involved in the story as much as she should be. I guess you could say the whole thing needs more centralized.
Lillian: Lillian's characterization. She's not sympathetic enough, mainly because I haven't shown why she's acting the way she's acting -- what she loves, what she fears. And her personality/quirks are kind of all over the place. On one page she's dreamy and sweet and obedient, on the next she's feisty and adventurous and giggly. I conjecture that this is from having so many different drafts and different versions of Lillian vying for dominance. I know all her current character qualities could fit together somehow and make her a really interesting character. But right now she's just plain inconsistent instead of interesting.
What do you like the most about your draft?
The Time Traveling League: The ending. I feel like there's a nice mixture of merriness and optimism at front and center with strains of wistful heartbreak running through it.
What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?
The Time Traveling League: I haven't even thought as far as editing it yet, really, so probably hiding it in a dark hole forever. :)
Lillian: First round of edits will probably be followed by beta readers. Then more edits. Then more beta readers, I suppose. And then hopefully querying. And a sequel at some point. :)
What's your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?
Don't beat yourself up for it not being perfect, because first drafts are never perfect. If you get critical about your first draft, you're running the risk of getting critical about the entire story and possibly dropping it.
(And if you're like me, embrace the fact that it might take ten years for an idea you like to turn into a draft you like. I'm starting to think all my stories need to simmer for a decade before spreading their wings.)
Well! What about you? What kind of writing adventures did 2016 hold? What kind of writing adventures are you setting out on in 2017? Are you participating in Beautiful Books this month? (If so, leave me a link to your post so I can read it!)