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Progress with Nameless and its Prequel

Today I was cleaning out some old desktop files on my laptop and I found the file where I’d stored all my querying drafts and partial request pages. Hiding in that folder was also the querying version of Nameless, back when it was still called Woman’s World. I gibbered and shivered and squealed.

You guys, I thought I’d lost it. The draft, I mean. 2 harddrive crashes ago I lost the first ever version of Nameless, and gmail decided to mysteriously eat the one where I sent the full manuscript to my agent. I thought this version from all the way back in July of 2008 was something I’d never see again, but it was hiding in this dusty folder all along.

I take this as a good sign from the Universe, because last night I had Ideas! Ideas led to Revelations. Revelations led to scribbling in bed when I was supposed to be sleeping. And it’s pretty much all your guys’ fault.

Readers are still finding me back from the old days on Fictionpress, even all these years later. Lately I’ve had several comments and emails asking about the status of Nameless. One reader really touched my heart when he expressed how dearly he wished I would make at least the old version available. And now the universe hands that old version to me on a silver platter.

Now, don’t get excited. I want to sell this thing one day so I can’t release it to the public again, but I did want to give everyone an update on how I’m feeling about Nameless and what the forecast for it is:

The Official Nameless Update

In April of last year, I told you guys I was just so worn out with trying to make the pieces of this story fit together. Just a few months later I announced I’d had a very interesting new idea for how to restart the story, but my progress stalled out again. Even with a new beginning, I still had this problem with the plot of the last half of the book, and how to fix it or trash it entirely to make it fit for YA.

The problem, of course, was how attached I was to the plot of the ending, and how much sense it made, and how it brought the entire story (including the prequel) full circle. But to keep the ending I had to keep the middle. But I couldn’t keep the middle, because it was too adult.

I went round in circles this way for some time.

Today I’m pretty sure I have the solution which allows me to keep most of the original plot. Unfortunately, it means giving up on the dream of Nameless being a YA story, and accepting that it’s an adult story, with crossover potential. You guys know I hate to do this, since my audience has always been young people, but I have a feeling this story would jump the barriers for teens who like to read adult fiction.

The SECOND part of my realization is what I’m super excited about, because it’s something that hasn’t been on the table in a few years, but with my new plot ideas I think it’s the only way to really make this work. Are you ready?

MULTIPLE POV’S!

Did you feel that? It’s the breath of DESTINY!


For some of my older readers, you might remember how the second book on Fictionpress had alternating points of view for the first half of the story. We saw the Poetess in first person, and Shae in third. That’s a format that stuck with me; I can’t imagine her or him written in anything else. Two points of view would give me a chance to naturally show readers the realities of the slave system, and what it felt like to be a part of it. There’s so much that goes on behind the Poetess’s back now, that part of the reason I struggled last year was how to imply or show it when she herself wasn’t really aware of it.

Ack, I wish I could really dive in and tell you guys all of what I’m thinking, and exactly why multiple POV’s is so exciting because of plot changes. You are going to love it, seriously. So much tension!

The third reason I’m super excited is because how it will work is so clear in my mind, which is pretty rare for me, actually. I can feel the tone and language I’m going to use. Laying in bed there, all of these sentences and openings and tension hooks came to me and I just saw it so tangibly… I want to work out exactly the new plot before I dive in, but I have a feeling (cross your fingers!) the new work is going to just flow out from my fingers.

But all of these realizations came second to what got me started thinking about Nameless that night, which was its prequel, Cuaranth.

An Update on Cuaranth

Cuaranth (kwor-anth) was never posted on FictionPress (though it is a term I used in the original trilogy), so it’s okay if you’re scratching your head and wondering what I’m talking about. Cuaranth tells the story of how the world in Nameless came to be, through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Siddalee St. Clair. That name might mean something to older readers.

In Nameless we see an abbreviated version of how their society and the slave system started, basically by the Poetess reading the diary of Siddalee and summarizing it to the reader. It was always my intention to go back and write Sidda’s actual story because it’s a pretty cool one. But I held off because if Nameless never worked out, then there was really no point to Cuaranth.

The weird thing about Cuaranth is how I held the entire story in my mind, but never really wrote any of it. So there I was, trying to sleep, and then Sidda loomed out of the shadows and presented herself, full grown and just waiting for her story to be written down.

Something I have often lamented is that I had the idea for Nameless too young. I just didn’t have enough life experience, or the writing talent and insight, to really give it the treatment it deserved. Cuaranth was the same way. Except suddenly I knew how to write it; what it would feel and sound like. How to handle everything that happens to Siddalee, and effectively communicate the neuroses of everyone around her.

This fills me with great relief and contentment. Details of the plot I’d never thought of before surfaced, and so I’m ready to start work on that story, too.

Where This Leaves Us

As soon as I get ACORAS back from my agent it will become my first priority. But I guess Nameless and Cuaranth are now my second ones. Boy is that weird to say. It’s been a long, long time, you guys.

Thank you for staying with me and waiting for my subconscious to work everything out. The wait will be worth it, I promise.

As always,

<3, Savannah

 

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Good News about NAMELESS and ACORAS

When I wrote this post about Nameless and my burnt-out-ness, you guys were very gracious and understanding about the continuing trek that is my struggle to revise that book into something publishable. Which is why today I’m breaking that unwritten rule that writers shouldn’t talk about their projects until they’re complete, because I have good news for you!

I think… I think I figured out how to fix it.

My friend Kat Zhang (whose amazing debut WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is coming out this fall!) has been a soundboard for various Nameless ideas for a few years now. A few months ago when I was complaining about voice and tone in YA, she made a brilliant suggestion that immediately became part of the Nameless cannon: what if the book didn’t start with the MC already being the Poetess?

Always before we’ve met the Poetess when she’s already established in her role. She has already joined the adults and triumphed over one of her biggest personal challenges (the Poetess selections). But what if she was never meant to become the Poetess? What if she was too young, too inexperienced, and unfortunate circumstances prompted by the Rebellion left the government with no choice but choose this teenage girl for a demanding and isolating public role?

The reason I shied away from this idea is my unwillingness to change the first chapter that has gotten so many people’s attention. When you hear about the story you want to see the slaves. You want to go through the selections and see the beautiful boys and pick one to be yours. It’s a harem and a nesting fantasy, and you don’t have to wait through several establishing chapters to get it. It’s right there, first chapter.

And I love all the subtleties of the world building and the pressure on the Poetess, stuff that would be absent if she wasn’t the Poetess when we first meet her. So I was left with this conundrum and facing those horrible, needling rules of slaying your darlings and ripping apart your favorite bits for the sake of the story.

I am an acolyte of this writing religion, and I know the dogma. I just balk at it sometimes.

So then we had my post about being worn out and not knowing how to fix it, and life moved on with my ACORAS rewrites, which are going swimmingly, by the way, but I’ll talk about that further down. Then Saturday night as Chris and I went to bed very late, I told him about my progress with ACORAS and how excited I was, and how in as little as a month I could be sending it to my agent again. Casually he asked me what I would work on next.

Umm.

Uh…

I… don’t know?

The sequel to ACORAS, probably. I thought it would be a trilogy but now I think it will just have a sequel. Or I could work on the adult fantasy I’ve been quietly tinkering with, about a female sociopath and the warrior who accidentally becomes her companion. Or maybe return to the Sirens story, with a complete do-over.

Or Nameless.

Chris drifted off to sleep but I, over-caffeinated, stayed awake with Kat’s suggestion and my resistance to change tumbling about in my mind. I knew even when discouraged that given enough time my subconscious would dredge up a solution, but still I kept worrying away at the idea. How could I make her the Poetess and not-the-Poetess?

And then it hit me. So hard I had to get up out of bed and tiptoe down the dark hallway and turn on only the lamp in my office so I could scribble down the words jumping seamlessly from my mind:

I was not meant to be the Poetess.

Not yet anyway. But when the smoke cleared and the body of the true Poetess lay crumpled on the floor, I was the one who spoke into the receiver, who turned my face to the still-transmitting cameras and told the nation not to fear the Rebellion.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. We didn’t need chapters of introduction. We didn’t need to see her working as a lowly scribe and aspiring one day, after decades of study and obedience, to be chosen as the next Poetess. We just needed a summary of how she found herself 17 and in charge of the nation’s mental well-being.

So there you have it. I’m a dork, but the obstruction has been cleared, and though we’re far from out of the woods (I’ve accepted I’ll probably have to dump 10 years worth of the plot of the last 3/4 of the book), I’m at least back on path again. Just thought you might want to know :-)

I also wanted to share a few tidbits of information that I just today recalled about the origin of Nameless. After so long with these characters it’s easy to forget the alarmingly haphazard way they came about. For example:

  • Number 23 was originally based off my girlhood crush on Tobias from the Animorphs series.
  • The real reason he’s mute? Because when it came time for them to interact 15-year-old me had not a CLUE what Shae would realistically say.

Blind luck, subconscious soup, and an unhealthy Animorphs obsession. These are my writing origins. Let’s move on to more professional news so I can pretend I’m a real writer:

ACORAS Update

I’m rewriting ACORAS again.

It’s not that the first version was bad. It just wasn’t as amazing and heart-stopping as the new version I began to envision. Beginning with the flashback I mentioned in the weird tenses post and blooming from there, the story slowly grew into a far more nuanced version of the tale I’d first told. Motivations cleared, plot threads thickened, characters enhumanized, and the resulting layers of truth and lies were much closer to the original pitch.

But for a time there everything was growing somewhat out of control, as I filled page after page of notebook paper with ideas and snippets of conversations or thoughts. I had to make a story bible, a document for cut bits so I could refer to them later, a document for bits that hadn’t happened yet, and of course the ever-expandingly detailed Plot Notes bullet list. Computer programmers call what was happening to me ‘feature creep’.

It was very overwhelming. But after a lot of doubt and despair everything settled down, like it usually does, and I started taking those slow steps towards untangling this mess and figuring out what had to go where. As of this weekend my first 110 pages are solid and there’s only about 20k missing to connect the beginning with the last third. 20k for which I have detailed, consecutive notes.

I’m so pleased and relieved I could burst. I wish you guys knew ACORAS like you know Nameless, because you should totally look forward to how this one’s gonna rip your heart out. I even put it on my About Me page: If you come away feeling like I’ve kicked you in the heart, then I consider my mission accomplished. ;-)

<3, Savannah

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An Update on NAMELESS

My first book, Nameless, got me where I am today. It’s the reason I had fans, the book that got me an agent, the reason I was invited to be a part of LTWF, and probably the reason a majority of you follow me.

Here’s the run-down on Nameless’s history:

  • I wrote it when I was 15, and it was put on Fictionpress
  • At the time it was a trilogy, which I completed
  • I signed with my agent in 2008
  • The first book, under the name of Antebellum, was put out on submissions and did not sell. It was greatly enjoyed, but no one knew how to market it.
  • My agent suggested combining the trilogy into a single book and changing it to a YA voice.
  • This was a good move. It made me cut a bunch of crap, and I’d always envisioned the story as being for a younger audience.
  • I sent the rewritten version to my agent. She liked the plot changes, but the voice wasn’t YA.
  • It turns out I didn’t know how to write YA. I found my YA voice, however, by writing the sleeping beauty story.
  • I attempted to rewrite Nameless in a YA voice
  • I failed.

I’m at the point with this story now where I don’t know if the plot is inherently YA at all. It’s about a girl trying to be an adult, running her own household, grappling with sex and the pressure to have children, getting involved in politics and making big leadership-type decisions that affect a nation, and ultimately contributing to a complete social revolution while navigating the requirements and sacrifices of a mature relationship.

Now what part of that really reads as YA? Even if you’re a 15-year-old reading this and thinking, ‘That story sounds amazing!’ and wanting to read about a teenager doing all that, the fact remains that this doesn’t really fit in with today’s YA market.

Which is so unfortunate, because the genre of the book sort of needs to be YA in order to be successful. YA is amazing; it can take all sorts of things. But because this story isn’t really Dystopian or strictly Fantasy, and definitely not Literary, it seems I’ve written myself into a very tight corner from which I’m struggling to escape.

I wanted to tell you guys this so you would understand why it’s taking so long, and why I’m sort of burnt out with struggling. I love this story, and it’s my baby, but trying to fit it into something it’s not has pretty much worn me out.

That’s why I stopped working on it, and focused on my sleeping beauty story. Which I also love. Which I am also invested in. Which has also made me cry and given me goosebumps and which I CANNOT WAIT to share with you, because I know you’ll love it as much as I do.

Now, I’m not giving up. That’s not what this post is about. I’ve promised myself and I’ve promised you that I will deliver this story to you one day. I will find the right angle and I will find the right way to tell this story in a fashion that is both amazing and still marketable. I will.

But I’m also probably going to deliver you the sleeping beauty story first. As we approach the 8-year anniversary of Nameless’s first draft, I just wanted you to know why.

Thank you to everyone who still reads my sample chapter and gushes. You guys remind me why it’s so important to keep working <3

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Dropping out of NaNo, and I’m taking the Big Apple!

Well I might as well make it official. Despite how much I love it and how outspoken I’ve been about it this year, I have to drop out of NaNoWriMo.

My reason is simple, and the best one of all: revising other projects to make them more sell-worthy.

After speaking to my agent, I’m putting down NAMELESS for a bit and preparing  my zombie book, THE DEAD-FILLED HALLS for her eyes. I need to add a few chapters to the beginning (the first chapter excerpt I shared will no longer be the first chapter).

Then it’s moving on to the sleeping beauty retelling :-) I’m adding in a few things, doing some slight world-building changes, and modifying the somewhat-heavy middle section. If I’m a very good writer I think I can be done by the end of the year and return to writing brand new NAMELESS stuff.

Which leads to my next point: I’m going to NYC! My sister and I will be in the city from Dec 8th to 12th. I’ve already made plans to meet up with my fellow LTWF Sammy Bina, who works for a high-profile literary agency.

I went to NYC once when I was 13 and did all the touristy stuff; this trip is more about visiting family and hanging out (read: shopping).

I’m not really one of those people that romanticizes NY. True, I had the bug when I was 17 for about 6 months, but it’s passed. I blame Sex & the City. Yes I know how pathetic that is.

And yet NY is still one of those places I visit frequently in my dreams, so I’m particularly excited about going back and seeing it now that I’m an adult and can wander off and explore on my own. Plus it’s a city known for growing writers and hosting both publishers and agencies, which makes it part of the culture surrounding my passion. You could call it the holy land for American writers.

I guess it’s about time I made the pilgrimage :-)

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Seven Years of NAMELESS

Today is a very special day.

It is the 7-year anniversary of the day I finished the first draft of NAMELESS, back when it was still called WOMAN’S WORLD because that was the name I hurriedly gave the very first document when I was called up to dinner that first day I started working on it.

I had the idea and wrote the first few sentences in September of 2003. I don’t know how long it was when it was finished because I lost the original in a harddrive crash two years ago. I do have a copy I mailed to myself in 2006, way before I acquired my agent, but I’m not going to open it until NAMELESS is published. :-) So I can look back and see how far it’s come.

And will NAMELESS be published? Some days it is hard to imagine. I’ve been working on it so long sometimes it feels like it will never be finished. Sometimes I wonder if this is one of those stories that will never be able to piece itself together in a shape that can be published. Maybe the characters or the plot don’t quite fit together in a way that’s sellable, and never will.

But those are only fears. With every draft I see the manuscript growing stronger. Even when the problems are a pain in the ass, when the changes feel like trying to mold a new shape out of concrete, when I feel like I’m punching the manuscript in the face instead of fostering growth, I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I know it. It may still be a long ways off, but this book will find a home one day.

At the very least, I’m grateful for the process. All of the rewriting and waiting and thinking has bound this story to me. No matter what it will always be my first project, perhaps my favorite project. I don’t regret any of these 7 years of waiting. In fact, I might regret when it’s over.

But at the end of the journey, I will be beyond thrilled to share it with you :-) For me, that’s what today is about: marveling at how far I’ve come, and looking forward to the day it will all be worth it.

Now I’m going to go do what I’ve done for the past 7 years, and work on my book.

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Nameless Trailer!

The magnificent Kat Zhang has been a very busy girl. Not only did she accept a major book deal from HarperCollins last week, and keep up on her studies, but she also put together this completely beautiful and wonderful trailer for Nameless.

I love it SO much! I’m also working on putting together a trailer for the sleeping beauty retelling for you.

Also check out a trailer Kat made for Sarah J. Maas’s book Queen of Glass.

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Do I Secretly Hate My Characters?

Last night as I was attempting to sleep, I thought I’d sign off on consciousness for the day by spending some time with my new characters on a potential novel called SOULMANCER. I figured I’d follow them about their day, maybe imagine up some interaction, etc.

Then, out of the blue (or black, since it was night), I found myself telling them that they shouldn’t expect me to get too cozy with them, since I would never love them as much as I would the characters of NAMELESS.

What, what, what?!

Sitting bolt upright in bed (not really), I realized I had just vocalized an issue that has been bothering me for the past few months as I seriously considered moving on from NAMELESS and working on new projects. Perhaps the reason I’d had so many stories suffer from Sudden Novel Death Syndrome in the last year wasn’t due to insufficient pre-plotting, but instead a self-sabotaging, unconscious profession of love for NAMELESS.

September 2010 marked the 7-year anniversary of the day I first started working on NAMELESS. That’s SEVEN years with these characters, getting to know them in all their various emotional states. Let’s face it: these are my imaginary friends. I know everything about them. Give me a situation and I’ll tell you their reactions, instantly. I enjoy them, love them, and never want to let them go.

Turning NAMELESS into a single book from a trilogy means I will get less time with them than I thought. Yes, I still have a few years ahead of me where I will interact with them in edits, then in promotions, and then in releases, but they only get one golden age. My time with them is limited, and that makes me sad.

So when I have new characters cropping up and beginning to sidle closer for the chance to get their story told, I guess I got a little defensive. I didn’t WANT to fall in love with other characters. Spending time with them felt like cheating on NAMELESS.

Has anyone ever felt like this? I want to give my stories the love and dedication they deserve, but I don’t know if writing a book in 3 months gives me enough time to really get to know and love the characters. I want to write books that connect with people, which means they must connect with me as well. Otherwise the characters end up shallow.

But you don’t get years and years in publishing. I want to have a career. A book out every year. Will that mean sacrificing the close relationships I want to have with my characters?

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Fake Nameless Cover

I was having a bit of fun last night with photoshop, and had downloaded some awesome spray brushes, so I decided to make a fake cover for Nameless:

I can’t imagine what the actual cover will look like some day. Clearly this modern look isn’t in keeping with the theme of the book, but I’m no visual artist so it’s the best I could do.

<3

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Rewrite Approved (mostly) and My Response to Your Book Recs

My shrewd and insightful CP katzhang looked through the ending’s rewrite and dealt me this shocking news:

It did not suck.

Amazed, I went back and looked through the 33,000 words I had either edited or [mostly] rewritten from scratch. To my great surprise and happiness, she was right. Somehow, in the days between when I turned it over to her and when she judged it as worthy, the manuscript had transformed into something that even I was excited to read again.

How the heck does that happen? Lesson learned: Perspective is everything.

I ended up adding another chapter to complete Carowyn’s character arc (do you guys know who Carowyn is?) and redid the final chapter to give it more of a bang, and we’ll see if Kat can work her magical transformation from bad to good writing again merely by deeming it acceptable :-)

Then, as I explained to a lovely young woman who emailed me to express her impatience in receiving the published work, I will send it to three additional CPs for their feedback (two of whom have never read any drafts of the story ever, which you will come to learn is one of the most valuable characteristics of a trusted CP), then to my agent.

If she approves we can begin to construct the submissions list. :D

As for all this time I have between making edits, true to my word I’ve been reading, reading, reading. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet gotten to any of your awesome recommendations. For a very good reason.

Her name is Patricia A. McKillip, and I was introduced to her by my friend sjmaas. More specifically, Sarah recommended ALPHABET OF THORN and then I read IN THE FORESTS OF SERRE (and am now finishing up OD MAGIC).

So here’s my recommendation back to you: Go now, now, NOW and read ALPHABET OF THORN (though I think I preferred IN THE FORESTS OF SERRE, though it won’t be for everyone).

Patricia’s way of fantasy writing is itself magical. I haven’t felt so transfixed by a book in years. Just get a load of this sentence:

“…the woman who had, for an instant, reached into the prince to hold his own heart in her hand like a sweet, ripe pear.”

Her writing is all like that. I’m a sucker for metaphor and simile, but how could you not appreciate the beauty of that imagery?

Thank you again to everyone for your recommendations! I’ll be referencing back to your comments for months to come.

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Finished the Rewrite!!! And please recommend me some books!

Yesterday I finished the rewrite of Nameless!

I had decided to scrap the entire last third that I wrote during NaNoWriMo because it wasn’t organic and I cringed through every chapter. Pro tip: When you cringe, you cut. End of story.

The end result is 100% better but it still makes me nervous. I sent it all away to my first CP so we’ll see what the verdict is. In the mean time… I want to catch up on my reading!

What YA books do I absolutely HAVE to read? I’ve already read the following:

Sabriel
Paranormalcy
Living Dead Girl
Anna and the French Kiss
Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Summer I Turned Pretty
Mistwood

Conditions: I’m not really a fan of sarcastic narrators. Fantasy preferred, but not mandatory.

Show me what you got!