Sunday, 14 October 2012

My life? What life?

That title pretty much sums up my last four weeks.

Last month I went onto some forums I frequent and discovered a post saying Harper Voyager was starting a new line of ebooks and looking for new authors. You can imagine my excitement. Then reality came crashing down on me. The books were fantasy/sci-fi and could only be submitted from October 1-14th.

I have two books. One is a completed novel called "Small Dreams" that I was in the process of proof-reading, the second was not even named and maybe a quarter completed. The second was young urban fantasy. Small Dreams isn't.

I'd started the second novel after a weird dream. The dream was so bizarre I just had to write it down. Once those couple of paragraphs were written, I expanded on it. What could have happened? Why did it happen? Who did it happen to? How did those characters meet? Soon I had the makings of a novel.

I'd set the main character, named Tamara, as a 35 year old woman and created a love interest for her by the way of 37 year old Thomson. However, the remaining characters were all in their teens. By close to halfway through the book, Tamara and Thomson were relegated to the role of babysitters. I tucked the book away and ignored it.

A year later I opened it again and decided to change Tamara from a 35 year old to a 17 year old. Thomson followed suit, turning into an 18 year old. They were still older than the other characters but close enough in age to be friends instead of babysitters. And frankly, Tamara's relatively immature personality suited being 17 instead of 35. As a teenager she comes off as smart and mature for her age, as a 35 year old she ended up being immature and a bit whiny.

Faced with rewriting this novel or brushing up on Small Dreams, I chose the latter. It was a lot closer to being ready to submit and it made more sense to focus on it. Then came this opportunity. My first thought was despair, there was no way I could finish this book in time. I work full-time and have my autistic teenager living with me. There's only so many hours in one day.

That was when it dawned on me. If I never tried then I was right, there really was no way I could finish this book. The only way I'd know for sure was if I tried. When I opened the novel, it was at just under 30,000 words with at least 10,000 words needing to be deleted. I needed to bring it up to a minimum of 70,000 words.

My life for the past month has consisted of me waking up, getting ready for work, and racing out to the bus. On the bus I sit with a notepad and pen and jot down novel ideas in point form. I work for 8 to 8.5 hours then take the bus home again, re-reading my notes. Then I sit at the computer and write, squeezing out a brief time for eating dinner with my son.

Slowly the framework for the novel built up, I hacked out everything that spoke of "babysitter" and chucked in a new murder to keep it a bit more face paced. Everything in my life revolved around my novel. My son came home from school one afternoon and asked me how my day went. My response? It went fine. Tamara and Dre are on the bus now and she's in labour.

Another evening he asked me what I was making for dinner. I turned around wild eyed and said "I can't make dinner right now. Tamara's giving birth and having rape flashbacks". Son shrugged then said "okay, I'll get out the leftovers". My life? My life was the book.

October first came and went. I was halfway through my novel word-count wise and rapidly running out of plot. Co-workers would ask me if I'd have the novel ready on time and I'd smile and say "of course" and "I'm giving it my best shot". In reality I felt only the second was true. I was trying my hardest but still had 30,000 words to write in two weeks, while adding a lot more plot. I didn't think I could make it but still, the only option was to try. I'd never make it if I gave up. Thanksgiving flew by. I cooked ravioli and begrudged the time it took for the water to boil. We ate and I went right back to my room.

Yesterday morning I sat down at the computer with 60,000 words written... 10,000 words to go. Then I did nothing but write. Our fire alarm went off in the afternoon. I picked up my netbook and wrote downstairs outside our building. By evening I was averaging 1,000 per hour. I was going to do it.

Just before midnight I was at 69,200 words. I decided to save my novel in Word format and finish it up there, just so I knew I had the right word count for submission. My heart sank. Open Office counts every  word written for their word count. Word ignores small words like "a", "and", and "the". Within seconds I'd gone from being 800 words away from minimum to being 3,500 words away. I'd hoped I'd have the novel finished by midnight. By 1am I was up to 68,000. By 1:30am I decided I'd open the submission form and get that finished so I could just attach the novel when I was done. I had the form bookmarked but, when I scrolled down it wasn't there. Instead was a bunch of letters wanting to know why the page had closed so soon. I closed the page and went to bed.

I woke six restless hours later and decided I was going to just keep on trying. I'd find a submission email on the page and email my novel instead. It wasn't the best option but it was better than sitting in my bedroom and crying. I sat back down and wrote the last 1,500 words then edited what I'd written the previous night, adding a few badly missing transitions (note Kathleen... your characters are telepaths, they can't teleport). It was done. At least as done as I could make it today.

I went on the website and found a message saying there'd been a technical error and the submission form was going back up soon. I felt like singing. I felt like dancing. Well not really, that was when I realized it was 1pm, I'd been up for five hours and I hadn't eaten anything. I was also so exhausted my eyes were crossing and I desperately needed a shower. By the time I woke back up and had a shower the submission form was up. I ate before my nap, I think I had soup, I wasn't that awake.

Of course there were a few glitches after that. The biggest, most heart attack inducing was when I made a new word document so I could make sure I had 1,000 words for the submission. I saved it as "first thousand words" then closed it and opened my novel. Piece of Mind opened up as 1 of 3 pages, 1,005 words. I usually save my novel every single night but, last night I'd just gone to sleep. My last saved version was Open Office and I'd written almost 5,000 words since then. I was able to retrieve the novel and restart my heart.

And I am so grateful for my friends who really came through for me, answering questions on Facebook like "what colour is the umbilical cord during birth?" "if someone got shot, where would the best place be?" "are chest tubes removed through surgery and would a minor need someone to sign paperwork?" "what would people grow and raise on a small farm?" and my all time favourite:

Also, lets say someone's killed by a mental attack, described as a thought that pushes into the mind like a knife. In an autopsy, what would make more sense to find, a stroke or an aneurysm? I'm waffling between the two and frankly don't know enough about either to make a decision.

A friend of mine emailed her mother multiple times before we decided it was six of one half dozen of the other, both were similar and an aneurysm could cause a stroke.

And my friends pulled through for naming the novel as well. I tossed out a synopsis and asked for name suggestions. My friend, Robert, came up with Piece of Mind. Which doesn't even get him a cup of coffee but will net a mention in the credits if this ever gets published.

If my friends didn't know I was insane before I started this writing blitz, I'm sure they've guessed by now. A friend of mine posted this on my Facebook page and I felt it summed things up nicely:

And now I need to restart my life. I haven't set foot in our pool in a month. It's in the basement, a 30 second elevator ride away. I haven't read a book other than briefly on the bus. I haven't gone for a walk. And you don't want to see my kitchen or living room. I don't want to see them either. It might be easier to burn them and start fresh. I haven't blogged here either.

I don't know what will happen now. I won't stop writing, that's for sure. I've got Small Dreams to whittle down and polish and I left enough open ends for sequels to Piece of Mind. This opportunity was just that, one opportunity. But first I'm going to go grocery shopping and shovel out my kitchen and then I'm going for a swim.