NaNoWriMo 10: Black Wolves

I interrupt this series of posts on writing with a bit of news.

The revised manuscript of BLACK WOLVES, volume one of a new epic fantasy series, is complete and has now been emailed to my editor at Orbit Books. It’s not the longest book I’ve written by a long shot, and unfortunately it is not the shortest either, running as it does to a little over 700 pages (that’s about 225,000 words in the font I use).

At the moment I have no easy way to explain this novel except that it is about how the past pervades the present. I can’t even figure out a handy Chthulhu meets Pokemon shorthand description, not yet anyway. The story is set in the same universe as the Crossroads Trilogy but is specifically written to stand alone from that trilogy (you do not have to read the earlier trilogy to read this).

It’s almost 1 a.m. as I write this so I’m not sure I can do justice to my feelings.

I was about a third of the way into the first draft of this novel in Summer 2013 when my father was told that his cancer had returned and he entered hospice care. I could not write first draft during the last 2 months of his life, and I could not write first draft for several months after his death, which meant I could not work on this novel. Somewhat strangely, I was able to revise the already completed YA fantasy manuscript, so that’s what I worked on.

However when the YA was complete and turned in, I picked up Black Wolves again and the work became a morass. I always hit a point in every book where I think it is the worst thing I’ve ever written; where I wonder if I should stop writing; where I think maybe THIS TIME I have really lost my writing chops and should just quit while I’m ahead.

I call this phase of the process the Chasm of Doubt.

Tied as it was to my beloved father’s passing, Black Wolves became a grueling emotional and psychological battle. I pushed through a monstrously uncooperative first draft (with the encouragement of Karen Miller, Andrea Chandler, and Paul Weimer) that to be frank was a mess. I seriously considered abandoning the novel more than once because I thought I could never get past the despair it engendered in me (not the story; the book itself).

But I’m stubborn, and my editor insisted that I absolutely could fix the things that didn’t work because the stuff that did work was all there ready to be polished and shiny. Plowing through revisions was almost as hard — and seemed to take just as long — as writing the first draft, and I want to thank Tricia Sullivan in particular for saying the words I needed to hear to not give up.

Yesterday my sister said to me that it was time to let the book go and stop worrying about what it is, if it’s good, if it’s worthy. It is what it is. It’s done. Now it has gone to other hands. What happens next I don’t yet know.

But I do know that if there is one thing a creative artist needs it is sheer stubborn persistence, the ability to trudge on and on despite the mire, to just keep going even when you despair the most and the road seems impossible, impassable, and endless.


7 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo 10: Black Wolves

  1. For what it’s worth, I want to read Black Wolves, so I’m glad you were able to get through the Slough of Despond/Dark Night of the Soul/Chasm of Doubt. (Really, they should do a better job of marking that place on the maps. Why else are there maps at the beginning of fantasies?) Also, victory dance time! Yay!

    (I truly do not think you could lose your writing chops even if you tried with both bands for a week. Not even if you used a scary Chinese cleaver on them and then hid the bits from yourself in all the places you never think to look. Nope.) (This comes from someone who never quite forgave you for not telling me who Alain’s parents were.)

    When I was young, I was told that life got easier when you were older and more experienced. It was such a convenient lie. You’re brave.

  2. Susan,

    thank you so much for your encouraging words. Writing — all creation really — is such an odd endeavor. As others have said long before me, it takes a curious combination of intense inner confidence and drive (or passion) and yet the ability to critique oneself in order to improve. And it is so intimate (for me, anyway), so much of my emotional and psychological core gets pushed through what I write whether or not I mean it to.

    Some things about life are easier as I age but, yes, others I see as far more complicated.

    Sorry about Alain. 😉 But as you doubtless realized, his parentage in the end would just have been a distraction.

  3. “so much of my emotional and psychological core gets pushed through what I write whether or not I mean it to.” Which no doubt feels like exposure, but it’s also what imparts the dimension and intensity to your worlds and characters. I’m glad for you that you’re free for now from the discomfort. I’m grateful that you make the effort to go through it. The product of your labor has mattered to me.

    I’m having trouble judging the tone of anything I write today. My husband is (I think) going through the process of losing his job in one of those odd, inglorious, political melees that periodically overcome corporations in the wake of 2008. The gracelessness and ingratitude of it all have left me wanting to say “well done” and “thank you” to someone. Thanks for putting up with over-familiarity from a stranger on the internet.

  4. Susan, first of all, I am so sorry to hear about your husband’s situation and for all the repercussions it has for him and for those who are with him, like you. May you both find ways to take care of yourself in a difficult time.

    I’m really struck that your reaction to such a rough and hostile situation is to reach out and share kind words with another (and they really mean a lot to me). Thank you so much.

  5. Pingback: NaNoWriMo 12: Don’t Think. Just Write. | I Make Up Worlds

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