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I am happy to report that a week ago today, I finished the rough draft of my latest novel, The Academy of Forgetting. It clocks in at a little less than 77,000 words, which is ideal for a YA novel with a speculative element, and gives me a little breathing room in both directions as far as final length is concerned.

Some of you may remember that I started this novel as part of Theodora Goss’s YA Novel Challenge last summer. I wrote the outline, banged my head against the beginning, and stopped after having written 10,000 words. In retrospect, I believe I wasn’t ready to write the book: my skills weren’t quite at the right level, my concept of the setting and main character weren’t clear enough in my own mind, and some of my ideas regarding the plotting of the beginning of the book needed to be rethought.

This photo makes me want to read my own book by candlelight. Or really just any book.

I started again this January. I threw out the 10,000 words. I kept most of the outline but made some key alterations. I began writing in first person past tense instead of first person present tense, and I conceived of a narrative structure that was very exciting to me. I had some different ideas about the tone I wanted to start with as well. With all these changes, the novel began to form itself in my mind in a new way. And three months later, I have a complete first draft. I am so relieved to have finished!

This novel is definitely the most complicated of the three I’ve completed to date. It’s a psychological thriller with a vastly unreliable narrator that plays around with memory, so it had to be quite twisty and involved by its nature. I really don’t think I could have written it pre-Taos Toolbox, which is a testament to the excellent teaching of Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress.

So what happens next? Revise, revise, revise. I’m going to do my own pass first, addressing all the notes I took while writing it, replacing brackets with actual decisions, and adding a soupcon of description along the way (I tend to go too light on description). At the same time I’ll be writing my own scene and chapter summaries for future reference. Then I’ll send it to my amazing friend Daniel, who is the ultimate plot whisperer. And I’ll revise it again. And then I’ll send it to more amazing writer friends. And I’ll revise it again. At some point I’ll write a query letter (which, if I do it well enough, will be somewhat similar to the copy on the back of a book) and a synopsis (which I really detest doing). The whole process will take several months.

But this week, I’m resting and enjoying the feeling of satisfaction that accompanies typing the words “The End.”

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