1) When will Book 4 be out?
2) I want to be a writer. Do you have any advice?
As to question 1, the answer is still, sorry, not quite close enough to quote a release date, but working hard on it every day. I am many drafts into the story now and it simply isn’t good enough.
Which brings us to question 2. What’s my advice for writers? Rewrite. Or better, let me modify Stephen King’s classic advice from On Writing. Write a lot, read a lot, and rewrite a lot.
Go back to the beginning of the chapter you just wrote and try again. Plow through to the end of a draft, then start with page 1. Throw out scenes, chapters, sections, and sometimes, entire drafts. Know that the work you are tossing aside isn’t lost. That work was crucial to help you see what you really needed to write.
It’s a process many writers would find maddening. Some writers, like Robert Heinlein, would say it’s exactly the wrong advice. But to me, rewriting is what this game is all about.
The first draft of Demon Queen had a troubled boy stumbling through a portal into a fantasy world where he saved the day and learned something about himself, like that’s never been done before. It wasn’t until I was a few drafts in that I wrote a scene where my main characters were gathered around an elm tree that, without warning, snapped at the base and fell down. What came next in the story (readers of that novel know that the book gets pretty darn weird after the tree falls down) was pure serendipity, and it worked better than everything I had written in multiple drafts beforehand.
The same happened in Homecoming Masquerade, which started as a short story about a vampire coming to dinner, then morphed into one novelist’s misguided tribute to The Lost Boys, then transformed into a dystopian vampire novel, before finally becoming a spy novel where the heroes are teens and the villains are vampires.*
There was a time in the drafting of Rose Ransom where Nicky and Ryan were staying at a vineyard in the Italian Alps with a family of European vampire hunters whose personalities were part Von Trapp and part Van Helsing. I’ve forgotten what I named that family, but in my mind, they will always be “the Von Helsings.” The book was better without them.
Festival of the Moon was originally titled The Date Auction and was meant to take place over the night of the Date Auction with flashbacks to the rest of the story in a structure similar to Homecoming Masquerade. But the break-in at Art’s house and Brawl in the Fall both turned into giant set pieces that were too big to be told in flashback, so I scrapped the early drafts and wrote the book in chronological order.
I had hoped Girls Wearing Black 4, which is a story I’ve told in my mind many times over the past two years, wouldn’t take quite as many attempts as the previous novels. Alas, I am five months in and the novel just isn’t good enough yet. But I have faith that it will be. It’s getting better every day. Hang in there! I promise you that when it’s published, it will be the very best I’ve got in me.
All of that is to say, when aspiring writers ask me for advice, I tell them that in my experience the book gets better the more you work on it, so if you want to write a really good book, work on it a lot.
I’ll be back in a few weeks with another update. Thanks everyone for your encouragement and your patience. I love you all and feel lucky beyond reason to have people waiting for my next book!
* – For my readers who are too young to know about The Lost Boys, here’s a link to the trailer.
** – Yes, this post was heavily revised before I hit publish. What can I say? It’s how I work. It’s also why I’m careful not to blog too frequently, lest I lose my life to reblogging!
*** – Looks like I’m not the only one who has thought of Von Trapp and vampire in the same sentence.
**** – On Writing collage from StephenCJames.com