Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

The Evolution of My NaNoWriMo Novel – The Cogsmith’s Daughter

Recently a fellow blogger, coffeennotes, wrote a three-part series on her  “Writing Secrets,” in which she described her writing process. Today, I want to take a leaf out of her book and be a bit more transparent. I realized that I have never actually shared with you all anything concrete about the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo. In case you are new to my site (if so, hello!), I recently participated in and won NaNoWriMo 2014 and have walked away with plans to revise and independently publish my the resulting novel. In this post, I want to tell you all more about my novel and the inspirational process behind it.

Title: The Cogsmith’s Daughter

Genre: Dystopian steampunk with a strong romantic subplot

My visual inspiration for Aya Cogsmith.

Brief Synopsis: In the land of Desertera, three crimes are punishable by death: murder, treason, and adultery. When Aya Cogsmith’s father is sent to execution by King Archon for treason, she is thrown into poverty and forced to turn to prostitution for her livelihood. For ten years, Aya shares this life with her best friend, Dellwyn, until one day, Lord Varick, Marquess of the Stern, offers her a way out. Like Aya, Lord Varick has lost a loved one at the hands of the king, and he is ready for vengeance and a regime change. All Aya has to do is agree to trap the king in adultery, a fate King Archon has inflicted on many of his wives, and Lord Varick will help Aya reclaim her old life. However, when Aya enters palace politics, she learns that no one can be trusted–not even Willem, the gorgeous young nobleman whom she would much rather seduce.

To answer your questions: Yes, I know I’m terrible at synopses. No, this will not be my book blurb.

The Germ of an Idea: The tiniest germ of an idea for this novel came to me in university, while I was formatting Wiki pages for one of my English professor’s classes. The class was about The One Thousand and One Nights (aka The Arabian Nights). If you are unfamiliar with the story, the basic premise is that a Persian king believes all women are unfaithful, so he marries virgins and then kills them after bedding them. In the story, his newest queen tells him fantastical stories that end with a cliffhanger every night before bed to keep him from taking her virginity and then killing her the next morning.

This concept made me think: what if adultery were punishable by death in this world? And, what if the king used that to his advantage, either tricking or framing his wives into adultery so he could get a new wife whenever he were bored of one?

The Recording of the Idea: Once this idea hit me, I knew it was worthy of The Notebook. You know The Notebook: it’s that standard notebook that writers are told to carry at all times for when inspiration strikes. Luckily, as you can see from the image, I had mine handy and recorded away.

Spoiler Alert: This is not what happens at all.
Spoiler Alert: This is not what happens at all.

The Subconscious Plotting: I am a big believer in the subconscious as a realm of creativity. I feel like mine must have done a lot of the legwork for me, because even though I did not return to this idea until it was time to select a novel for NaNoWriMo 2014, I had dozens of scenes imagined the moment my eyes spotted my notes.

The Mood: Originally, I intended this story to be set in a desert landscape, much like The Arabian Nights. However, for some reason, when I described the story to my husband, he said “steampunk,” and it just clicked. My vision is nothing like the one he originally imagined, but I think my genre and setting create the perfect mood. Steampunk without steam. 

The Conscious Plotting: Once I decided on my genre and setting, I moved to conscious plotting of my basic scenes and even drew a map of my world — for fun and my own logistical reference. For a full overview of my plotting process, go here.

The First Draft: Again, I will discuss this in a later post, but obviously, after planning came drafting. My first draft ended up being 80,060 words, all written within the 30 days of November.

The page count, when formatted to mimic CreateSpace's parameters.
The page count, when formatted to mimic CreateSpace’s parameters.

The Expansion: Originally, I intended for The Cogsmith’s Daughter to be a stand-alone novel. However, the world demanded a series before I wrote a single word in my first draft. I have plans to make it a six book series. The first five books will each be from the perspective of a different character in the series, and the sixth book will be a combination of the five characters’ perspectives.

The Title: The title came about, because the entire book is about Aya and her journey. I couldn’t think of anything more fitting than to name it after her. Even though most authors say they change titles many times, I do not foresee mine changing at all. It just fits the genre and mood, and given that each book will be from a different perspective, it sets up a solid theme to continue.

The Next Steps: I plan to revise The Cogsmith’s Daughter in January-February 2015, after which I will open it up to beta readers and solicit professional editors. I hope to have it published and available for purchase by next November, NaNoWriMo 2015.

Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed a better glimpse into the fruits of my NaNoWriMo labors!

What was the initial inspiration behind one of your favorite manuscripts? What is your NaNoWriMo 2014 novel about and what do you plan to do with it? Let me know!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Your First Novel Will Suck

2606380637_51aaf290f8_zImagine a budding writer sitting down to write her first novel. Put yourself in her shoes, or put me in her place, if that’s too painful (Universe knows I hate envisioning myself this way). Now imagine that freezing terror, that sinking gut, that unshakable certainty that whatever you write will, without-a-doubt, suck. 

After all, pretty much everyone in the writing community has been telling you this for years – either online, through interviews about their own career, or in person. It is a fact among writers: the first novel will be bad.

But, hey, Kid, it’s okay. We all go through it. It’s a (w)rite of passage. Just get that steaming pile of crap out on the page and get onto to your second novel. When you’re a best-seller and the interviewer asks you about that first book, just laugh and say, “Oh I was young, I was inexperienced, I had no clue what I was doing!” It’ll be fine.

Now go back to that image of me, sitting down to plot a story. I have a list of novel ideas in front of me, all in different stages of creative development, and all I can think is…which one do I sacrifice to the alter of sucky-ness?

It’s like the writers’ version of Sophie’s Choice: all of these novel ideas, these characters, are like my children. Each contains a piece of me, a tribute to a loved-one, a gripping social statement. Which one can I afford to let suck? Which ones should I save for when I’m a better, more-experienced writer? What if I choose the wrong one, only to realize 10 years from now that I could write it so much better then?

These concerns have been at the forefront of my mind lately for two reasons. One: “The First One Sucks” guarantee was recently reiterated on my favorite podcast, The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast, which usually dismantles unfortunate writing “rules.” Two: When my wedding is finished, I plan to write my first novel. I’ve got about three weeks until it’s my time. Yikes!

So, I did what I normally do. I shared my concerns with my fiance during what he would call one of my “Kate spirals.” Daniel sat me down, and in true testament to why I am marrying him, fixed everything. He helped me re-frame my perspective in a positive way, and quite frankly, I think we (yes, this involves you!), should change the “The First Novel Guarantee.”

Instead of “Your First Novel Will Suck,” I am proposing the following creed:

8387187808_7823babc7a_zYour First Novel Will Be Good (It Just May Not Be Your Best)

First and foremost, know that your first novel will be good. It may not be literary genius, but it will be good. If it helps, do a downward social comparison. Your first novel may not be the best novel ever written, but it will not be the worst novel ever written. There will always be someone better, and there will always be someone worse. I believe this wholeheartedly, not only because the odds are in your favor, but because literature is subjective. Someone, somewhere, will always be perceived by someone, somewhere, as better or worse than you.

Second, let’s face it: we’re not all Harper Lee and S.E. Hinton. More than likely, your first novel will not be immortalized in the literary world, and you won’t be a one-hit-wonder. You’ll write more and more and more. And, maybe, your first novel will be your best work. Then again, maybe it won’t be your best work. In fact, wouldn’t the true definition of sucking be if your first novel were your best work, and the only way you could go was down, not up? (If you feel that is your situation, see the subjectivity clause above).

I can’t say if this new creed will help cure your fear, if you worry about your first novel being garbage. Hell, I don’t even know if it will work for me. But, you know what? It doesn’t matter. That first mountain must be tackled so we can traverse the range. I’m doing it, whether the first one sucks or not. Now who’s with me?

Have you heard “The First One Sucks” rule? Does it make you apprehensive about your first novel? If you were to amend this “rule,” what would your new rule be?