Cadence Drake and the Darkness

Cady and Warpaint
Cady and Warpaint

I’d originally set Cadence Drake: Warpaint (my current work in progress) three years after the events in Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood. I did this because I wanted to get back to Cady’s story after she’d beaten the darkness from the first book, after she had found her way back to being a whole human being again.

But over the weekend, I realized that in doing this, I was missing the big picture and a huge, powerful story—the story of how Cady reclaimed her soul.

So on Saturday and Sunday, I put aside everything I’d already done with the draft I’d been working on. I’ll save that draft as a possible later book in the series.

And I redrafted a new, forty-scene outline for Warpaint the way it needs to be told: Cady the Weapon of Vengeance goes to war against hell and wins her way back to being Cady the Human.

I know I’m on the right track this time. How do I know?

Because this is the Cadence Drake book I’m terrified to write.

People who don’t write novels generally can’t imagine why writing one might be terrifying. I’ll explain.  My process includes living inside my character’s head while I’m writing. Cadence Drake is the person I would be if I were her—to borrow a description from Lawrence Block—and to write her honestly, I have to slip inside her skin and live through everything she goes through. And I have not given Cady an easy life.

But there’s more to this, because Cady is also the character I created who ended up fighting through an alternative version of personal darkness I was facing when I wrote her. I didn’t want to go back to the place where I left her, and I didn’t want to look too closely at why I didn’t.

It turns out I hadn’t fully answered for myself the questions I’d left her with—questions about how and why you choose to live; about how you pick your fights; about how you decide in a world in which darkness is falling and where no good answer is easy, what is right and what is wrong.  It would have been much simpler and less painful to have just blown by those questions with a quick “Three years later…”

Only I hit a point in the draft I was writing where I had to look at Cady’s questions anyway, and ask myself how she’d come through that hell, and what price she’d paid to win back her soul, and how she’d stepped out of the darkness.

And…no good answer is easy. The good answer doesn’t scream “Here I am!” at you.  The good answer whispers, “You’re going to have to fight to find me and earn me.”

This weekend, in brief form, I fought, and found in the good answer the true story of Warpaint.

This is the story I have to tell.

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17 responses to “Cadence Drake and the Darkness”

  1. Elmi Avatar

    I love reading these types of posts from you. They always force me to be honest in my own writing. I’m at a similar point with a story I’m writing. I’ve been a little stuck the past few days, but after reading your post I suddenly realized why — I’ve been avoiding the hard questions and without them the story can’t go on. Thanks for always laying it out there for us, as always you’re an inspiration 🙂

  2. Zelda Zerafa Avatar
    Zelda Zerafa

    Hi Holly.
    have been following you a good while and have your ebook Mugging The Muse. I’m writing my first novel and my question is : In your opinion how many POVs are allowed? I wanted to write from 3 POVS: the good guy, the bad guy, the girl caught in the middle. However, a friend I asked to critique it said he’d rather I kept to bad guy (occasionally) and good guy (main POV). What is your opinion on POVs(Points of view)?

    1. Holly Avatar

      There’s no such thing as “allowable number of POVs.”

      There is the number you can handle and keep track of and make interesting for your reader, and there is one more than that.

      The number increases the longer you do this, if you’re continuing to learn and build skills. But it remains a matter of writer’s choice plus writer’s skill.

      1. Eileen Avatar

        Hi Holly,

        I’m one of your HTRYN, HTWAS & HTTS students.
        My book has multiple POVs. There are 3 main story threads. In the first scene the 4 major characters are ripped apart and the resulting stories detail their lives until they are reunited. (The struggles, quests, emotional and physical battles they have to overcome in order to be reunited.)
        Within a given chapter the PoV is mainly one of these main characters, however it also switches to minor characters sometimes.
        I’ve noticed that some authors switch merrily between characters, while others have one main PoV per chapter.
        What are your views of possible pitfalls etc..
        Thanks for your time Holly. I know its valauble and I’m really enjoying your courses.

        1. Holly Avatar

          Hi, Eileen,

          You have a good question, but log into the student boards and ask there. I’m moving my weblog from being about writing to being about what I’m writing, and to hanging out with my readers. You’ll get a lot of good discussion on that question in the Boot Camps. 😀

  3. Chalan Avatar

    Hi, holly I have to say that you have inspired me much. And in regards to righting you are my template. And I’m writing this to you because of a personal victory. I won 2nd and 3rd place in my colleges writing contest and those prices will be published. I owe u a measure of thanks you inspire me. And I will continue to reach

    1. Chalan Avatar

      For my dreams

      1. Cat (from HtTS) Avatar

        Wow! Congrats. That’s quite an achievement. Keep going!

  4. Johanna Avatar

    I third the goosebumps/shivers/chills. I’m so excited for this book. And “Warpaint” is the best title EVER, just so you know.

  5. Sylvia Avatar

    Goosebumps for me, too. I thought I must be just silly until I read the other comments! I love Cady, thank you for writing her story the way it should be done, Holly.

  6. Anushka Avatar

    I got shivers reading this…I cannot wait to read this.

  7. April Avatar

    Holly, you are absolutely right that that’s the story you need to tell.

    I adored the first Cadence Drake book, and THIS is the story I really want to read about her. I’ll follow the series after that too, but I’m very glad you aren’t skipping over it.

  8. estuary Avatar

    oh, I needed to hear this. My WIP is wringing me out (through what the story itself requires, in who it requires me to be in order to write it, and in what the process tells me about who I am).

    I wish I had previous successes under my belt so I’d know I’m not wasting time and space in my lack of reliable productivity, but I’m just going to have to continue clinging to the ephemeral thing that tells me to not give up, to keep showing up even for one sentence (sometimes it’s that bad).

    I AM looking for my good answer and all the time am confronted with “You’re going to have to fight to find me and earn me.” I’ve just mistakenly thought it was saying, “if you can’t find me, you’re not worthy.”

  9. Texanne Avatar


  10. Roger Lawrence Avatar

    Anyone who thinks writing a novel is easy should be forced to read this post. Well done.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Except for the “force” part. No one should be forced to do anything, especially not for their own good.

  11. Harald Avatar

    I joined holly-l right around the time that Corrigan’s Blood first came out – and I’ve been patiently waiting for this book ever since! So – w00t! Sign me up…

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