What a Difference a Year Makes

Appa and my Cawfee mug keeping me company through revisions planning

Hi everyone! I’ve been heads-down this month revising my YA desert adventure novel, FLARE, but I wanted to take a minute to reflect on the last 12 months.

Last August, I wrote the full first draft of this novel. It is by far the fastest I have ever written, and sometimes I’m still amazed that I actually did it. I had taken a page from NaNoWriMo, the write-your-novel-in-one-month phenomenon that happens every November. Only, I did it in August, and I did it solo.

That said, I had gone into last August with a full outline and synopsis that was reviewed by a few trusted friends. Those people later served as my very first beta readers this past April, and I’m so thankful for each of them. This story still has a ways to go, but it’s on the right track, thanks to them.

But last August, I was only focused on getting words on the page, not worrying if they were great words or not. In the past, I’ve agonized over the blank page, questioning every word choice, every sentence. Not this time. I simply let the words flood out of me, whatever they were, and promised to fix them later.

After pouring my soul out last August, I took a writing break for about six weeks — and really, it was longer than that, when I remember my half-hearted attempts to sit at the computer and begin the monumental task of revisions. Then the holidays came, and wedding planning, and work, and life in general, and well…I really came back around January 2nd, 2019.

Thus began the months-long endeavor to complete my first earnest round of revisions. During that time, I kept an eye out on Pitch Wars’ dates: the ’18 class had their showcase in early February, and I was DETERMINED to have my manuscript ready to apply for this year’s competition (which is why my summer is extremely busy now and not at all stressful, nope, definitely not). Eventually, Pitch Wars announced a Sept. 25-27 submissions deadline, and I began to tweak my game plan around those dates.

I sent off my good-not-great draft to my first round of betas in mid-April. Of course, I wanted it to be better. More polished. More depth. But Pitch Wars was keeping me to a tight timeline, so I swallowed my pride, told my perfectionist butt to be quiet, and sent off what I had, with a mid-May requested turnaround time.

The five of them actually…liked it. I’d been bracing myself for harsh criticisms, and though not everything was glowing, they all liked the core story. And if they liked *that* version…it meant I was on the right track, and it reinvigorated my desire to keep revising.

Mid-May to late-June, I revised what I could. Anyone who works in the games industry like myself knows this time of year is BRUTAL because of E3, so I wasn’t able to do as much as I wanted. But I once again swallowed my pride, because I had a late-June deadline to work with a freelance editor.

I have never worked with an editor before, and wow, this was an experience. I was amazed by her turnaround time, and equally amazed/frightened by the many, many, many notes she had for me. I got those back in early July, and I’m not going to lie: I was scared to even open the attachments. It was daunting! But on a Sunday morning, I made a vat of coffee, sat in my comfy chair, and opened everything up.

And read. And digested. And re-read.

And created a new game plan.

I took about a week just to rework my new outline and piece everything together. Some things needed more work than others, and those would be the top priority. One of my biggest issues has been pacing in the first half, and I am forever grateful to this editor for helping me see those issues.

Since then, I have been revising almost every day, with rare exceptions for NYC work travel days or this strange illness I got the other day. And here we are, back to August, one year after I first started this draft.

I cannot believe how much it’s changed in a year, and how much I’ve grown as a writer. And I don’t just mean on the page: it used to TERRIFY me to share my work with others, or to even talk about the fact that I’m working on a book. Now, I talk with friends about it frequently, seeking out knowledge and shared passions and claiming that, yes, world, I *am* a writer.

I’ll be revising this draft until the bitter end of Pitch Wars submissions come Sept. 25, and whatever happens, I am damn proud of my work and progress on this book. My first book took about 5 years to write, on and off; this will be just over a year.

Wishing all the luck and coffee to my fellow prospective Pitch Wars mentees! You’re not alone if you’re hunched over your computer today, and tomorrow…and the next day.

Hugs and new pens,
Valerie

2 thoughts on “What a Difference a Year Makes”

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