The first draft is finished!
I started this book in April 2020, while I was home trying to figure out whether or not we were ever going back to school. It’s based on an idea for an interlocking series I had been taking notes on for a while (which is just to say, there are a lot of spinoff series that might happen some day).
This first one is an origin story for a character who will go on to have lots of magical adventures, despite not being a magical creature herself. I was interested in exploring the differences between skills, which can be learned and improved on through practice, and talents, which seem to be a kind of natural blessing. You might have a talent for music that comes with an ear for harmony, but you’d have to practice to play a piano well, for example. People with natural talents might have a head start on certain skills, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t learn them. What if the same is true for magic?
Once I had the big What If sorted out, I started playing around with plot ideas. I kept coming back to the monomyth framework that I’ve taught for so many years. My opinion on this changes sometimes, but currently I’m subscribing to the idea that all stories come down to the hero’s journey if you drill down far enough. Boy Meets Girl, A Stranger Comes to Town, A Child Grows Up, they’re all still somebody going on a transformative journey and coming out different on the other side. Plus, I’m a human who needs structure, and the monomyth framework has some very specific steps to follow.
So, I had the premise and the frame. What about the transformation? I wanted to work with something that had emotional resonance. Having lost my father abruptly and unexpectedly a few years ago, I’d been doing some reading on grief, and specifically, the kind of grief that young adults experience when they lose a parent. I’d done some journaling at the time, and I thought it might be interesting to explore some of the weird things your mind does when it’s trying to make sense of something that you will never fully understand, and from which you can never fully heal. Plus, I was sick of reading about orphans who finally get to go on an adventure after losing their parents. It seems like a lot of YA books kill off Mom and Dad just so that the kid can get into some unsupervised, high-stakes trouble, but never actually deal with the loss. Grief is its own adventure.
Two years later, I have a better handle on my own grief and my relationship to someone who isn’t there. I also have 200 pages of fiction that starts to build a new world for me to play in.
Well, first I’m going to spend some time refilling my bucket. I’m reading a bunch of different things for fun. I’m watching a bunch of silly tv. I’m engaging with some educational resources. I’m reading a class book with my son. I may even finally finish reading 1984 (but don’t count on it).
Here are a few things on tap:
- Maggie Stiefvater’s TED Talk and her 8-hour Video Seminar
- Neil Gaiman’s Sandman on Audible in preparation for the upcoming Netflix show
- A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
- Willodeen by Katherine Applegate
When all of this is done, or probably, when all of this is kind of in-progress, I’m going to start working on the next thing. At the moment, the next thing is a cheesy paranormal procedural about a group of college kids who fight ghosts and monsters between classes. Here’s the blurb:
America’s oldest colleges are home to some not-so-secret societies. When six new freshmen are tapped to join one that specializes in the supernatural, it’s up to them to protect their classmates from the things that go bump in the night. Can they keep everyone safe while watching their grades, avoiding the freshman fifteen, and competing with rivals who don’t even know they exist? Who’ll know if they fail? Who watches the watchers?
Sort of Buffy meets The Order meets Gossip Girl meets Scooby Doo. Or what the funny episodes of Supernatural might have been like if Sam had gone to college. Set in Williamsburg because history is creepy, but historic tourist attractions can be cheese factories.
It’s going to be 13 episodes released twice a week, starting in October. I’m planning for these to be shorter than the episodes I wrote for Cate, and more honestly episodic, where an entire adventure will happen in around 1000 words, but characters and larger plot lines will continue to develop throughout the season.
It’s going to be called Sixes, and it will be available on Kindle Vella.
I’m going to go ahead and give NaNoWriMo another shot. I’ll have the details of my last attempt in another post. This year, I’m going to try and get a reasonably complete first draft of the sequel to Cate the Curst finished in a month. We’ll just ignore the fact that Cate took two years to build out. Cate, Undercover is coming at the end of November. Just in time for my birthday. Fingers crossed.
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