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A novel from start to finish – The Arbiter & The End of Time

So I was pondering what to write this week and a friend of mine wanted to know about the process for my latest novel, The Arbiter & The End of Time. I did a similar post aaages ago about my Children of the Temple novel, but why not? Each novel process is a little different and it’s for sure that each novel experience is always different. If the Arbiter title rings a bell, it’s because I’ve brought this novel up once before in a different post about writing from a limited point of view.

Because the world and characters already existed when I started the novel, I didn’t go through my ‘normal’ process of writing a novel from scratch. If there’s interest in a kind of ‘novel-blueprint’ post, I can go through that another time? Let me know.

Cecily – the main character – came to me through a short story series. The main premise is a woman goes into a coma and comes out not just with the ability to make people tell the truth, but the unwanted ‘job’ of mediating between the Others (vampires, fae, weres, etc)  in a place called the Shadowedge. I created the Shadowedge because I wanted my vamps and weres to be able to move around whenever they want and think it’s neat to have an almost alternate world riiight next to ours that only magical humans can get through to, even though the Others can prey upon humans whenever they want.

Every year I attempt to do NaNo (National Novel Writing Month in November) and every year (except once), I fail. In 2013, I was bound and determined to complete it. This year, I had a built-in world and characters already created with my Arbiter shorts and had been promising myself to write a novel in the ‘verse anyhow. I dithered about trying to figure out what story to tell because logically, I should have written the origins story where Cecily actually became the Arbiter. And I toyed with that for a week or so, even wrote up some of the outline before realizing it was doing absolutely nothing for me. And if I couldn’t even interest myself…

I changed gears and latched onto what had been an idea for another short where time keeps stopping and Cecily needs to stop it. Mostly, I just thought the title was really cool. ;o)

So the outline was up first. I always outline (as you all know from my many, many posts about it in the past) and novels are especially good to have a roadmap for. TV scripts you could probably get away with writing sans outline outside of a writers room. Shorts of any kind you can fly by the seat of your pants if you want to. Novels and features? No. Must have an outline, imnsho. It didn’t take me long to finish the outline and I had some fun bits of dialogue as I went through. Also, I love being evil to Cecily because she’s just such a smartass and doesn’t react in a ‘typical’ way. Or so I like to kid myself.

By the end of week 2 in November, I started writing the actual first draft. I tend to self-edit as I go along, but I’m not generally so focused on it that it will stop the actual writing. Week 3 started up and I suddenly decided (“I” meaning a distinct lack of finances and continued lack of roommate) that I had to move 1/1 and OMFG nothing was done! Writing limped along and I made it to chapter eight before it trickled to a stop.

Here’s one of my problems as a human being, not just a writer. When I have a hard and fast deadline, shit gets done. I’ve written 2 novels in the 3-Day Novel Contest period which is – you guessed it – 3 days long. When you give me an entire month to write a novel I tend to go, “Pfft. Plenty of time!” Right up until about 4 days before the deadline and no Labor Day weekend to hide away from the world in plus a full-time job. Add in getting ready to move and you guessed it, I did not complete 2013 NaNo. (Right about here, my friend Lynn is laughing her ass off at me like she does every damn year. One of these years, Lynn!)

I forced out a couple of more chapters at some point in December and ended in mid-chapter twelve. There Cecily and Justin stayed for about a month as the holidays happened and I moved. It wasn’t until mid-January that I finally got back into the writing thing and that was only due to forcing myself to finish the damn thing. I broke 2 editing deadlines (sorry, Katy!) because the writing was like pulling teeth. And it wasn’t as if I didn’t like what was coming out but – as stated in my ‘limited pov’ post – it was a completely different style of writing than my usual and I just didn’t take that into consideration.

Finally done, I had no desire to look at the thing ever again. I asked a few friends to read it and sent it off to them in hopes of loads and loads of comments tearing it apart. Also shipped it off to my editor at long last. I figured I would get comments from everyone around the same time in a couple/few weeks and would rework the first draft into the second.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t just happen to me and no comments were forthcoming from anyone other than some high-level “I like it!” which is gratifying, but not helpful when one is working on a novel in a vacuum. I left it alone for another couple of weeks in hopes that someone might get back to me and someone did. They weren’t editorial comments so, while better than general – I got one really good point that I was able to address in the novel – it still wasn’t quite what I’d been hoping for.

But hey. The world doesn’t revolve around me (damnit!) so it was time to just get into the nitty-gritty my own self. This is the point where I kill a small sapling and print the entire thing out. I make the font small and print double-sided, but still. I’ve given up some karma points with it for sure.

And here’s where it gets kind of surreal. At that point, I’m on draft two because I’ve read through the entire thing three times and already made continuity and editorial changes. I don’t really expect to find a hell of a lot that needs doing by now… yeah, keep dreaming! There was so much red on certain pages that it looked like the paper was bleeding. There were less than a handful of pages with no marks at all; I think 3 was the golden number. And yes, yes that hurt. I don’t know what the difference is between editing on the screen vs. paper, but everyone I know says there is one and I agree. I would never send something to an agent or publisher or self-publish without at least 2 paper edits.

This is where I make a liar of myself. I only had time for one set of paper edits before suddenly it was time to submit to the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) contest. It’s a first-come, first-serve contest so I don’t like to submit more than a day or two after the opening date for the contest. There’s a LOT of unpublished writers looking to win that thing, after all. We’ll see what happens in a month, if I make it to round 2 in a fit of giddiness or go out drinking to drown my sorrows… again.

Because now we’ve reached the point in the process where success is up to other people. I’m sure I will obsessively re-edit Arbiter a few more times before I consider it actually done, but for the most part, I’m done with this one, which means… Time for the next one! Actually, the next one is a feature script. Drama! Talk about a new mode of writing for me: no magic, scifi, or vampires to be found!


About Nancy M. Griffis

Author and screenwriter who loves scifi/action/adventure/urban fantasy genres. I have two published novels, Mind Games and Eternal Investigations, as well as a short story published for charity called "Home Fires Burning." All are available through amazon.com and barnesandnobles.com.


One thought on “A novel from start to finish – The Arbiter & The End of Time

  1. I am SO sorry I haven’t edited your book yet. As my mom used to say, my get-up-and-go got up and went. Seems I can’t be awake more than 3 or 4 hours before I start zoning out and wanting to go back to sleep. I’m hoping (HOPING) to work on it next week, March 10, but no guarantees. I’ll try to let you know beforehand so you can send me an updated file with your edits.

    Good luck with ABNA this year. Looks as though I wasn’t tapped this year for the first time in several to review on Round 2. More’s the pity on one hand – I enjoy it, and I really enjoy the gift certificate – but on the other hand it’s very serendipitous, since I’ll be doing chemo and probably not have much energy to do much of anything.

    Oh, and hey – if you ever need to have a character with a colostomy, I can tell you more than you’ve ever wanted to know about the damn things… 🙂

    Posted by katyasozaeva | March 2, 2014, 9:38 pm

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Nancy at the Tim Burton exhibit in L.A.

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