This is not a dream, and other things I learned this week…

            Madness, I tell you. It’s madness. Here I sit, a Sunday morning, and I find myself facing the real possibility that I might have the first draft of the third and final book in my series complete before the first book is even released into the world. If you asked me a year ago if I thought that such a thing was possible I would have laughed. And laughed. Promptly told you that you were crazy and then, yes, laughed again.

            But here I am. It is true. It may just happen.

As it stands right now, I have officially reached the halfway point in that novel and I only started writing it on June 23rd of this year. 33K words later I can hardly believe that this adventure has unfolded this way. But I’m immensely glad it has. Crafting this story has been a labor of love and to finally be at the point where I am now, writing moments that have lived in my imagination for years, is about as a surreal as it can get. I spent a long time imagining each of these chapters, working over in my head how each scene might play out, but it always felt like such a distant thing. An unformed thought that was fun to dwell on, but too far away to ever be considered real. And yet, I’m here. Those moments I imagined a thousand times over are unfolding as I write, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to bring each one to life. There’s still a long way to go, of course, and a great deal of editing left to wade through. But that’s just part of the process, part of the work that it takes to bring an idea to life.

            Editing itself has been quite an experience as well. I had a lot of dread going into the process, as I’m sure any writer would. Seeing your work examined, turned over and cut apart is probably one of the most nerve-wracking moments in the life of an author. But it’s worth it. Even as I watched my novel whittle down from 103K words to 91K to 76K works (likely the final word count for the novel), I reminded myself that it was worth it. That this was the necessary step to turn my wild idea into a tightly paced, exciting story that readers might enjoy. My dread, it turned out, wasn’t justified at all. Yes, I had to slaughter a lot of darlings, but my work will be better for it and that experience has helped me to grow as a writer too.

When I finished the first draft of “The Girl in the Storm” it was over 103K words, as I mentioned above, but when I looked over the first draft of its sequel, “The Woman in Darkness”, I had already managed to pare down some of my excessive need to ‘paint a picture’. (It currently sits at 95K, an improvement to be sure) And as I work towards the halfway point of the third and final novel, “Elegy”, I find myself actively applying many of the things I learned over the course of working with a professional editor. There is always room for us to grow as writers and I hope that I can continue to take from these experiences as my adventure carries on.

Another thing I discovered this week: Genre. Or, more aptly put, ‘I really need to get better at finding where my story fits’. I latched on to the term “Young Adult Fantasy” very early on, because I simply could not find a better way to describe it. It is a story of Angels and Demons and a special girl with gifts that can only be described as ‘magic’. But it’s also grounded in the real world, and the more I began to look at the story itself the more I realized that “Fantasy” just didn’t fit at all. Not as well as it should. Even my cover design, which is still being tweaked as I write this, elicited some confused remarks from the author groups I peruse on Facebook. More than once I saw someone say, “I’m getting a thriller vibe from this”, “This doesn’t look like a fantasy story”. And I resisted. A thriller? It is true, I never really gave much thought to genre until after the book was written, but did I really write a thriller instead of the fantasy novel I kept telling myself it was? So, I decided a little research wouldn’t hurt. And that is when I found this:

The Thriller is an arch-plot (Hero’s Journey) external genre combining the primal genres (Action, Horror, and Crime)….The thriller…concerns the individual coping with omnipresent and often difficult to even comprehend antagonism. The external becomes internal, forcing the protagonist to make fundamental choices to unleash critical gifts..” —Shawn Coyne

As it turns out… I really did write a thriller. Yes, the term ‘supernatural thriller’ would be a much better fit, but I was surprised to see just how well my little story rang true with that description. It was one of those lightbulb moments. The kind that seems so obvious when it strikes and leaves you feeling ridiculous for not arriving at it sooner. There are probably a lot of good arguments to be made over the fact that I should have figured all of this out before, but I was so wrapped up in telling the story that it never occurred to me how important it was to find where that story lands. I’ve learned that lesson now, of course, and I’m extremely glad I did. I could have figured all of this out too late, when the book was already released, and readers were scratching their heads wondering what kind of story they were about to read. Better late than never, as the saying goes.

So, there you have it. “The Girl in the Storm” is still well on track for its release date this November 4th. Book one in an (Upper YA) Supernatural Thriller series titled, ‘A Season of Angels’. Stay tuned. It’s going to a fun, strange ride for sure.

Published by Christopher Stanfield

Christopher Stanfield is a West Texas native whose love of writing began at the age of fourteen, inspired by a love of mythology, science fiction and fantasy. And though he’s spent the past twenty years in IT for a small bank, writing is the one passion that never quite let go.

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