Writing Updates

Hi, guys! I’ve been doing a lot of writing recently, despite the fact that my first exam is in 5 days. It’s fine. I’m fine. I’m taking a break to study, I swear…

First of all, I finished Villainous!! I finished it on the 4th June, which means it took about 3-4 months to write, and its current length is 125,000 words! It’s a chunky book baby. My biggest so far. I’m excited to dive into a long read-through of the whole thing so I can start editing (and hopefully straighten out some sentences that don’t make sense), but I think I’m pleased with its current state, as I had a really detailed plan when I started writing! I always think I’ll never be able to do the big, epic scenes justice, but I usually manage okay, I think, when it actually comes to writing them! Self doubt is a writer’s worst enemy.

I also have an idea for Villainous’s sequel! Villainous has turned into a duology now, which is cool, but the idea’s still only vague at the moment…

In other news, I’ve caved in to my weaknesses and started writing Soul Seeker Book 3, even though writing it right now won’t help me get published at all… In May (the 17th, to be exact), a new character exploded into my mind. I was practically bouncing off the walls. I became so excited for the plot and how he was about to influence it. A whole new layer of the story had opened up in front of me out of nowhere, and not only that – this new guy also helps tie Books 2 and 4 in more closely! I plotted out his story and ended up fleshing out some of my important characters’ backstories, too, so I was over the moon when I’d written all my new ideas down!

I doubt I’ll be able to finish Shield Breaker (which is the working title) any time soon, but I’m pleased with what I’ve got down so far! I’m way too emotionally invested in Ciara’s story. I had to take a break after writing two intense scenes in a row, because it was affecting ME too much to continue.

I’ve started uploading Shield Breaker to Wattpad, and as I was really excited, I wrote about how honestly amazed I am that people have been interested enough to venture past Chapter 1 of Soul Seeker, let alone continue reading until Book 3! To my Wattpad readers, if any of you are reading this: thank you, thank you, thank you so much for taking an interest in Ciara and her Ice Age world!

In book news, I’ve been looking forward to reading Caraval by Stephanie Garber and my copy arrived yesterday! It’s so pretty. I’m going to start reading it now…

On Writing A Book In A Month

So I finished Soul Seeker Book 2 in roughly 3 weeks. Aaand it came out at 91,000 words, making it 10,000 longer than Soul Seeker! (I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages now, it’s a bit late – I think I finished it on the 2nd April, which means I started writing it on like the 16th March.)

I always tend to write my books in a month, usually just by staying focused on it. Which means I end up writing constantly when not at school. I’ve always written this way and I honestly can’t relate to the majority of writers who seem to take 6+ months to finish a first draft. Am I rushing? Am I not spending enough time on each scene? Or am I just really weird?

I have no idea, but whatever I do, it seems to work for me. Writing this book was honestly just for myself. My A Level exams are coming up and I’ve just struggled through my last round of mock exams, so I desperately needed a creative outlet. And the plot ideas have been slowly building in my mind for a year – since I wrote and finished Soul Seeker! It felt satisfying to finally get down those scenes that have been floating in my head for so long. And when it came to it, I had such a detailed plan in mind that I didn’t even have to think about what I was writing. I knew exactly what I wanted to happen, pretty much. Sometimes I think I was born to write the Soul Seeker Series.

Writing the book was such a good way of relaxing and de-stressing. I could just tune the outside world out and focus on the project, falling in love writing every scene.

I think that’s the main reason I write. If Soul Seeker never gets published, I’ll still write the rest of the series, but for myself rather than for money – which is what I’ve done with the sequel. It’s on Wattpad at the moment, but without Soul Seeker being published it will never see the light of day. I just can’t stay away from the series and its characters. I’d be SO depressed if I couldn’t keep writing it.

I’m about to go on a complete writing hiatus until after the exam period, which I’m dreading, but I need to focus on grades and science for the next couple of months! I’m sure I’ll end up coming up with about 5 new story ideas during that time…

Oh, and speaking of: Villainous’s plot just keeps growing and growing, and I’ve ended up planning out what miiight also be a sequel! I can’t. Stop. The ideas. It feels like the story already exists, and it’s my mission to write it down.

AND I’ve dug out my old Soul Seeker notebooks to compile an overview of each separate book, so I can figure out what order everything happens in, and wow I’m excited to write Book 3 now! And Book 4. And Book 7, which will probably reduce me to a crying mess while I’m writing it. The septology is going to be epic.

On the subject of crying:

I’ve figured out why I don’t cry while writing emotional scenes. I DO get very emotional, I tend to bounce off the walls when I get new ideas for a scene, and sometimes my hands actually start shaking while I’m writing something big, but…

I’m one of those evil writers who LOVES writing misery. Angst, depression, pain… I love it. It’s so fun to write, especially when I know it’ll terrify my readers. So I tend to grin rather than cry while I’m writing, probably with the exception of character deaths. Those are hard. I hate taking complex, exciting voices out of my books.

Now I’m gonna go read The Fellowship of the Ring. I binge-watched all the LOTR movies last weekend and I think I’m obsessed. Seriously – I fall more in love with Middle-earth every time I rewatch a movie, and I’m determined to read the books all the way through.

Staring at the edge of the water

Thought I might update my current progress with the writing journey. Maybe if I get published, people will look back and see these pre-agent posts and become filled with hope for their own writing careers? Or maybe some of my current Wattpad readers will find this post? (If you’re reading this and you’ve come from Wattpad, hello! I love you all! Your comments brighten my day!)

So I got a full manuscript request from an agent a couple of months ago. I can’t even begin to describe the agony of waiting for the reply, or how crushed I was when the agent told me she’d enjoyed the book… but it wasn’t her thing. It all comes down to personal taste, and she wasn’t after a book like mine.

I’ve had a couple of really nice rejections recently, from agents telling me they think I’m a strong, polished writer for my age, and that I’ll go from strength to strength in the future. And I feel torn between wanting to go curl up and cry, and being… happy.

I’ve realised that for the first time since I started querying my (old, bad, unpublishable) novels, I feel hopeful. I’ve dragged myself out of my pit of fear and despair and hopelessness. The one I’ve been inhabiting since the age of 14. Because now, I’ve learned how to query, how to write a synopsis, and how to hook someone – the hard way. I’ve learned by failing, by picking myself up again, and although achieving my dream and becoming published seems very impossible most of the time…

I’m making progress.

And I feel hopeful for the first time because after years of trial-and-error, I know that my current book is good enough. My current query letter and synopsis is good – I’ve spent hours polishing them and discarding old drafts. And as these agents (real people in the industry who have read the full manuscript!!!) have told me, I just need to find someone who likes this kind of story.

Someone who will fall in love with it like I did. When a girl with messy blonde hair called Ciara walked into my head, holding a crossbow, wearing a snow leopard fur coat. A fiery, brash, reckless, loyal girl who isn’t afraid to speak out, to challenge, to make a mark on the world.

A girl who demanded I write her story; whose loud voice and personality refused to leave.

Thinking about how close I could be fills me with hope and also terrifies me. A lot. Because I’ve dreamed so fiercely for an agent to say ‘yes’, for someone else to believe in Soul Seeker as much as I do – someone in the book industry, no less. It is scary to keep putting yourself out there when it’s all you’ve ever wanted and you only ever get rejected.

I let my mum take over querying a few agents back in January, and she emailed a couple, but I’ve taken the reins again now. I feel like it’s time for me to query again, to feel that rush of sickening terror and adrenalin when I press ‘send’ on the email. I have to take every step of this journey – writing is purely independent (until you get an editor, I suppose) – and I need a backbone of steel if I actually want to become published.

I can feel some of that steel already.

And I don’t think it’s come from me being good at taking rejections/critiques (I’m not and it always hurts), it’s the simple fact that my dream won’t let me stop. If I ever stop writing or querying, I’ll have failed myself. I’ll have failed 12-year-old Sam, the Sam that spent hours after school writing a wolf story. I’ll have failed 15-year-old Sam, the Sam that wrote her very first full-length novel and sent her very first query out (stupidly optimistic about all the requests she thought were going to come her way). Even if there’s the slightest chance an agent will like my story, I’ll send that email.

So I’m on a mission to send queries out regularly, maybe a couple a day for the next few days or weeks. Since reading is very subjective, I have to do as much as I can to get Soul Seeker to as many people as possible. Some agents’ websites are so formal I read their bios and still have no idea what sort of story they like. Every email is a leap of faith.

But surely, surely I’ll find That Person. Surely he/she is out there. (Why does it sound like I’m talking about romance? If I had to choose between the agent of my dreams, and the guy of my dreams – the agent would win, hands down. Sorry, imaginary-guy. You’re not important enough. 12-year-old Sam and 15-year-old Sam want the agent, and I have to listen to them.)

So, if you haven’t already gathered from this post, I tend to be naturally optimistic, which also usually ends in my dreams being crushed time and time again.

During this querying spree, my other go-to hobby after I come home from being bamboozled by Chemistry (more like CheMYSTERY) and Biology is writing a new novel. (Wow, she’s a writer and look – she’s writing! Surprise, surprise.) Seriously, I read an article a while ago and saved a screenshot onto my phone – I wish I remembered what it was from – that basically said something like “be proud of being a writer. Be proud of where you’re at no matter how many rejections you get. Loads of people say they’re going to write a novel, but few actually do. You’ve done something really unusual, so keep telling stories. Enjoy telling them. Enjoy being a writer.”

Something like that. I found it really empowering, and I know that even if every agent in the country rejects me, I’ll keep telling the stories I have burning inside me. For myself. Because above all else, I write because I love it – I love creating characters, writing banter and epic action scenes I can see playing out in my head like a film, cackling like a Disney villain when I throw in unexpected plot twists, tossing my characters into hell and dragging them back out again…

Is this blog post getting too passionate? I planned on the first one being the most passionate, and the others being more chill. I hope I’m not repeating myself too much, and I hope no-one’s sat reading this like “yeah, yeah, we get it. You like to write. Whatever.”

Anyway, back to the point. I’ve started another new book, and I love it almost as much as Soul Seeker! This one was vaguely inspired by some of the amazing fanart I’ve seen for Tolkein’s The Simarillion (never actually read it, just seen the art) and Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s set in a classic high fantasy world (with my own unique touches, of course) but the twist is that the villains are the main characters. And it’s not like Maleficent, or the Grinch – these characters are purely evil. Not misunderstood. Evil. *cackling in the distance* *lightning flashes*

And I love it! They’re so morally ambiguous, and it’s so refreshing to write. Throughout the plot (it’s gonna be huge, I can tell already) I’ll be exploring my villains’ human sides and how they’re really conflicted about what they want. As well as their bloody histories and motives. An interesting fact: so far, I’ve got the whole plot outlined… by accident?

I hate outlines. Hate, hate, hate them. I love plunging in and writing blind until I get stuck – it’s way more fun! As long as your idea is solid enough, why not? But this story… I’ve been getting random scenes and characters and inspirational moments popping up in my brain as if this story exists already, in my subconscious. Seriously, the plot has taken zero effort. I haven’t even tried. I’m actually a little disappointed, because I like making some things up along the way (I’m kidding, there will be loads of room for that as well), but there we go: an outline from start to finish has somehow surfaced in my mind.

I’m not in a rush to get this one published, as it’s nowhere near as dear to me as Soul Seeker (for now), but I’m going to enjoy uploading it chapter-by-chapter to Wattpad to see the response it gets. It might just kill me to take a break when my final A Level exams roll round in June (so close *shivers*) but the story is making me enjoy being a writer again, and it’ll hopefully stop me constantly checking my emails, and honestly, it’s been a lifeline for me already.

It’s been the only thing keeping me going through a gruelling week packed with mock exams. I’ll think about Delilah and Dante, their snarky comments to each other and their vicious passion for what they believe in, and I’ll feel better.

I’m at my happiest while writing. I know that for sure.

This post is reaaally long! Sorry! I’ll end it here! Does anyone want me to talk about a specific part of the writing process next time? I can give advice, if anyone wants to hear it?