Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday to Me!

Merry Christmas! Today also happens to be my birthday!

This post will be short and sweet, with a quick update on Grigory’s Gadget:

Last week, I received my copy edits from the editors at  Writership. My sentiments about this are summed up well by this quote from one of my favorite authors, Gail Carriger:

Meanwhile, I get Book 1 fixes from editor. I had been led to believe I might cry, so it is a nice surprise to find I can cope with equanimity. Of course, most of the edits were ones I knew I should do, but didn’t want to because I’m lazy. Mark my words; a good editor ALWAYS catches you out.


So, moving forward, I will be spending all of my time curled up in a cozy corner of my apartment, sipping either tea, coffee, or hot chocolate (as I see fit), editing away. I need to have my text and interior formatting complete by mid-January (so the designers at Deranged Doctor Design can create the cover!), so I will be a busy bee for the next couple weeks!

I hope you all enjoy the holidays, and if you’re in the Northeastern US like I am, enjoy this beautifully mild weather!

Music and the Muse

This is a topic that comes up a lot in writing circles, and there are no right (or wrong) answers: What music do you listen to while you write?

There’s a range of possibilities here, from classical to hard rock to good-old-fashioned silence. My own answer to this question ranges pretty widely too. Different types of music inspire me in different ways, and at different points in the process.

When I’m brainstorming/daydreaming/etc. about my story, there’s a huge variety of music that inspires me. Dramatic scenes, more often than not, are inspired by movie soundtracks, especially ones by Hans Zimmer. Character development and character-relationship development is often inspired by the music I listen to day-to-day, namely alternative rock.

When I’m in the throws of writing (not revising or editing) I tend to find that silence works best. It allows me to get lost in my mind as I write, to better connect to the characters and the scene.

When I’m editing and revising, I go back to movie soundtracks and other instrumental music. I find it keeps me focused and inspired.

Here’s the music I listened to during the process of writing and revising Grigory’s Gadget:

  • All of the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks
  • The Sherlock Holmes (the ones with Robert Downey, Jr.) soundtracks
  • The”Jazz Goes Steampunk! Electro Swing Invasion” album
  • “Steampunk Fantasy Rock” by Ian Cecil Scott
  • the “My Head Is An Animal” album by Of Monsters and Men
  • Lots of songs by my favorite band, Guster, especially their newest album Evermotion
  • “Hero” by Family of the Year inspired a particular plot change (sorry, no spoilers!)

So there’s my take on music and writing!


Why “Writing” a Book Should Be Called “Editing” a Book

I’ve taken a step back to look at my writing process for Grigory’s Gadget and made a realization: most of the process was not, in fact, pure unadulterated “writing”. Most of the process was editing.

I wrote the first draft of Grigory’s Gadget in 30 days, in November 2010 as my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) story. I then determined I hated-HATED-it, and didn’t touch it again for 4 years. In November 2014, I overhauled the story into a second draft in another 30 days (NaNoWriMo again).

Depending on how you slice it, that’s between 1 to 2 months of pure, unadulterated writing. The second month is less unadulterated, however, since I was using the first draft as a guide for the second.

In January 2015, I started editing my draft. I edited from January through June 2015 (six months), then sent my manuscript to beta readers for feedback. I received that feedback in late September, and edited again through mid-November (two months). I then sent my manuscript to my professional editor. After receiving that feedback, I’ll finalize my manuscript over the course of approximately one month before moving onto interior and cover design. That’s a total editing time of nine months.

In total, that means I spent approximately 15% of my “writing” time actually writing, and 85% of my time editing.

This is a point I want to highlight, not to scare anyone away from writing, but to actually boost any fellow writers’ confidence. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have an amazing, marvelous story from the start. Then we start to find plot holes, inconsistent characters, weak sentences, etc. and we start to doubt ourselves. But that first draft, that rough draft, is not the end product. Through editing, we’re able to reacquaint ourselves with our characters, further explore our world, and polish our story into something great.

I think it’s perfectly normal, even expected, for a writer to hate their story with a burning passion at least once during the writing/editing process. We’re often our own worst critics, but we can use that energy to look at our writing objectively, and to improve upon it.

World-Building: Creating a Universe From Scratch

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my map for Grigory’s Gadget (which will then be beautified by the wonderful artists at Deranged Doctor Design), so world-building has been on my mind.  World-building can be a rough ride. Where do you start when you place a story in a fictional place? How much detail should you include, and where, and how? Here’s some advice I have from creating my own fictional world for Grigory’s Gadget and the Gaslight Frontier Series.

  1. Chicken or the Egg? Which comes first, establishing your fictional world, or establishing your story? For me, this is an iterative process. The world informs the plot, and the plot informs the world. Are your characters traveling by ship? Great, that means there’s an ocean. How big is that ocean, how far are they traveling? What type of ships exist in your world, and what does that mean for speed and the feasible length of the trip? Plot and setting ask and answer questions back and forth like this, likely throughout the entirety of your story.
  2. Real-world inspiration: All fictional worlds take pieces from the real world, in one manner or another. Architecture, social structure, religion, climate – there are a myriad of inspirations throughout the world and throughout history. What makes your world unique is how you combine these elements, and give them your own spin. In the case of Grigory’s Gadget, I took inspiration from the Russian language and from Russian history, particularly from the first half of the 20th century.  I also took inspiration from the “Golden Age of Pirates” that occurred in the 1700s. I tied these bits of inspiration together with steampunk and a sprinkling of dieselpunk.
  3. Keeping track: Building your own world is a big endeavor. How are you supposed to keep track of all this? There are a lot of specific answers, but one general one: keep note of EVERY. LITTLE. DETAIL. Details slip through the cracks very easily, especially if it’s a detail you decide on the fly to include in a brief conversation in the middle of your novel. As far as how to keep track of those details, here are some of the things I do. The big one, of course, is the map. That map determined a lot of the plot of my book, because it determined how long my characters would be at sea between points A and B. It also determined how quickly the climate would change as they headed south. Another tool I found very helpful is the software Aeon Timeline. I used this software to keep track of the various goings-on in my world, from weather events to political events to the more minor details of my plot. It’s a nice way to see how those different elements overlap, and will definitely come in handy as I work on the sequel, which runs concurrent to Grigory’s Gadget. The other tool I use is Scrivener. This software is amazing for keeping your writing organized, and that includes all of your research and world details as well. I have a folder in Scrivener for my world, which includes reference photos, relevant Wikipedia articles, and a Glossary of terms for my world. That Glossary is to help me keep track of what I named places, objects, etc, and what they mean.

So that’s my advice on world-building! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Happy writing!