On second drafts

510Cy7ZwEHL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_This, much like my blogwanking posts, will be of some interest to a handful of you, but the rest of you may end up wanting to skip it.

I’m at about the 40% mark on Sunlight, just underneath it, in fact.  And when you count snippets of later parts that I’ve already written (the final scene is done, for example) the bit that I’m at is probably right at the 1/3 mark of the actual book.  I’ve gotten the action in Sunlight moving a lot faster than Skylights did; a slow start is one of the more common criticisms of that book and I wanted to make sure that dangerous/scary shit was happening to my characters much more quickly this time.

I’ve hit a stall point, though, and I suspect I won’t be adding to the word count for a little while, and part of the reason I won’t be adding to the word count is because of the way I write.  I don’t do multiple drafts.  I write a thing, and then I take another tinkering/editing pass at it– correcting grammar and typographical errors, fixing clunky sentences, occasionally adding short scenes or deleting others (most frequently when I realize that characters have a conversation in Chapter 6 that they just had in Chapter 5, because by the time I got to Chapter 6 I’d forgotten they had it) and all that, but rarely the type of large-scale modification that I’d call a full-blown draft.  I know I’ve called that phase “second draft” in the past, but it really isn’t.  It’s mostly cleanup.

Once the book is out of first draft, it’s basically done.  This isn’t because I have such supreme confidence in my writing process that I think I’m perfect.  It’s because my first draft is so slow, and so roundabout and circular.  It’s because sometimes I go two weeks and don’t write a single word, because I’m stuck on the next scene and I can’t write it if it’s wrong.    While I tell other people “just do it, and fix it in second draft,” I can’t actually write that way myself.

I finally figured something important out about writer’s block: it’s not that I can’t write.  It’s that what I’m about to try and write is wrong.  So my brain won’t even let the wrong stuff come out of my fingers.

I’m at a point in this manuscript where, if I do this wrong, Sunlight will end up just basically being a remake of Skylights, and that’s really not what I want.  The stakes need to be higher in this book, and they need to be higher in a way that I haven’t quite wrapped my head around, and the structure of this book needs to be different than the first book.  And I’m at the point where those raised stakes need to be made clear quickly.  So until I figure this out, I get to sit and stare at a blank screen, because I can’t write another word until I know what the right ones are.

In which I am way ahead of myself

510Cy7ZwEHL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_I am telling this story primarily so that I can find the date I did this a year or so from now when I need it.

I am currently approximately one third of the way through the sequel to Skylightsa book I’m calling Sunlight.  It was originally called Starlight but I decided the new title was better so I changed it.  The series is going to become known as The Johannes Cycle (the Johannes is the name of the ship they fly to Mars on) once the second book is out.

Like I said, I have the first third or so of Sunlight in first-draft form and hope to have it finished within a month.  I also have the first few paragraphs of the third book in the Johannes Cycle written, along with the last few sentences of Sunlight.  I already know what the title of Book 3 is, too.

I still tentatively plan on Casey Heying, who did the cover for Skylights, to be doing the cover to Sunlight, provided that I can afford to pay him what he’s actually worth.  But we haven’t discussed the cover to the third book at all, and I already had a strong concept for it in mind.

Last night, in about half an hour, I sat down with an image editor and created the cover for the third book.  As in, other than some tweaks to text, it’s, like, perfect.  So I have no cover to the book I’m working on and a damn-near completed cover to the sequel to the book I’m working on.

The kicker?  I can’t tell you the title of the third book, or show you the cover, because they both constitute mild spoilers for Sunlight.  So I just have to sit on this awesome thing I did and not show anybody.

Well, okay.  I showed Casey’s wife today.  And she thought it was awesome too.  But not anybody else.  🙂