The Ohio Novel #1 Is Done! (Or what it’s like to disappear into a black box)

By Holly Lisle

I wrapped up my final draft yesterday.

In spite of best efforts, I came in over my 90,000K wordcount by about 12,000 words.

I don’t have a title for the novel yet (Matt comes up with my best titles, and I’m really hoping he can pull out something amazing, both for the first book and for the entire series).  

I do have my pseudonym. I can’t give either until — BARE MINIMUM — the first five books are out and starting to find their audience.

And then I’ll only be giving it to the folks on my mailing list who are genuinely interested in the genre. 

Since I’m publishing the Ohio series independently, since I’m bringing the series and world (with possible subsequent series) out under a pseudonym, and since I have to plot the next four novels, then have to complete the entire 5-book series — have all five written, revised, edited, bug-hunted, formatted, covered with pro-quality covers, and get them all up into Amazon-exclusive KDP and print formats, and then launch them at the speed of one book a month for five months, I have a long, long way to go.

But… THIS TIME, I’m trying to work with Amazon’s algorithms, and see what I can learn from doing that. 

It’s an investment in manpower. A BIG one — primarily but not exclusively mine. We’re talking the time, effort, focus, dedication, that goes into thinking and then writing 400,000+ MORE connected, related, compelling words of fiction that must be outlined, first-drafted, finished, revised, edited, bug-hunted, typeset, put into Kindle, print, and other formats (the Ohio novels will start Amazon-exclusive, but probably won’t stay that way past the completion of the initial five-book launch) have cover copy written and tested and re-written, have title testing — so I’m talking about an all-in commitment of a big chunk of my life, with no feedback (except from Matt, Becky, and my bug hunters) until this whole things goes live.

It’s also an investment in money: All mine. Just the cash outlay for five great, professional covers, is significant. But much, much more expensive than that is opportunity cost — the things I don’t get paid for because of the time and effort I’m putting into this project that I hope I might get paid for… that isn’t a new writing class or a couple of classes I KNOW I could get paid for.

If it goes big for me, THEN my writing students will get my numbers and how I did it, along with this really cool story development process I’ve come up with and am using for these. Maybe some workshops. 

If it doesn’t go big for me, they’ll get the really cool story development process… but that’s not a cool new workshop that might be able to give writers willing to do the work (as outlined above, so we’re talking BRAVE writers) a path to building a live-on fiction income. The story development thing is just a few lessons. Probably added into an existing class or two.

And here’s the thing that’s making me a little nuts.

The entire process has to be done completely in the dark. I have to build EVERYTHING, pay for EVERYTHING, set up EVERYTHING, write EVERYTHING, and publish EVERYTHING… with nobody but Matt, Becky, and myself seeing what I’m doing. (Well, at the point where I’m ready for bug-hunters, I already have a couple lined up, and will bring in a few more, and this handful of readers will go through all five novels back to back to back. And sign an NDA beforehand that they can’t tell anyone who I am, or what my pseudonym is, or where the website is, or anything. Not until the books are doing so well that I can bring in my other genre-related fiction to the new writer under a “written as Holly Lisle” label with the pseudonym as the author name.

I can’t share snippets of any of the Ohio stuff — not snippets or scenes or teaser stuff or worldbuilding — on my blog, on the podcast, in the writing community forum. Nothing.

I can’t put links to the books when they come out here or in the writing community or on the podcast page.

I can’t link my old novels to this new set.

I have to become invisible.

Not my strong suit.

But for this test to mean anything, for this process to mean anything, this is where I am.

At some point in the future, I hope to be able to share some crazy great news. Or at least, “Hey, I’m making enough to pay off the house.” That would be really cool.

 

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Still kicking, still writing

By Holly Lisle

So Ohio Novel #1 is pushing hard toward completion — or rather, I’m pushing hard and it’s fighting me all the way to the finish line.

As I’ve discussed on the Alone In a Room with Invisible People podcast, having this book done doesn’t mean there’s going to be a new book. Not soon, anyway.

  • This one is coming out under a pseudonym.
  • I have to write and finish the next four before any of them come out.
  • When they do come out, they’ll be coming out a month apart on Amazon exclusively to begin with, and will,  by Amazon’s terms, stay exclusive for at least one full term per book. 
  • And this particular book and its series are set up to introduce a brand new world, brand new characters, a solid core of layered conflicts that cross and intersect through the entire series… Five books minimum, possible spin-off or connected other characters, other books, and other stories beyond this series for the characters in this one.
  • It’s a big, big project.

I have been head down, learning a lot of new things about revision while doing it.

The How to Revise Your Novel class revision and update is on hold because of what I’m learning, and because I need to figure out how to teach what I’ve learned, and also (only slightly less important) how to present my new discoveries while not giving away my pseudonym. 

But I’m pleased that the book is now over 90,000 words. My objective for all five is 90K apiece. It makes for a nice reading length, and gives me a good writing rhythm for each 3000/word-ish chapter.

 

 

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


First draft of The Ohio Series First Novel is DONE! Includes FRIDAY SNIPPET

By Holly Lisle

I did not expect to finish the first draft today. Thought it would take me a couple more days to get there, but while Becky and I were running ten-minute work sprints together, what had to be in there just clicked, two complete chapters flew off my fingertips, and all of a sudden, I have a done first draft in my brand-new Urban Fantasy world.

I wrote it using the same process I teach in How to Write a Novel, I had a blast doing it…

And now it sits in a corner of my hard drive for a minimum of one month while it cools down. 

Because I need to NOT be wildly in love with it when I do the read-through. I have to be tired, and grumpy, and bored, and wishing I was someplace else. In THAT frame of mind, the good stuff with hook me in, but I will be unable to make excuses for the bad stuff.

But before I put it away for the requisite month (and possibly a bit more), I have the Friday Snippet for you.

The Snippet Disclaimer: This is raw first draft, copyright Holly Lisle and all rights reserved. Do not quote, review, or bug hunt. The contents of this snippet are subject to change, and during revision I will not see any problems you find here.

THE FRIDAY SNIPPET

Now here I was with a cookie junkie who’d just heard there was a new dealer for his long-lost favorite drug, looking at me with eyes that were shining with need, that said he was jonesing pretty hard.

People.

“I could get you the ingredients so you could make them,” he said. “If you told me what they were.”

“Didn’t Grandma give you the recipe so that you could learn how to make them yourself?”

I was watching him. I work the streets, I know what addiction looks like, and I was seeing a guy who’d gotten a hit of something that had sunk hooks into him and dragged him out on a cold, mean day to a dead woman’s house in search of cookies. Nobody does that.

Nobody.

Only the look people get when you’ve pulled them over and they think they’re about to pull one over on you was on old Mr. Yeager’s face, and that cop sense kicked in and all of a sudden I knew this wasn’t about cookies. It was… but there was a lot more here, and for some reason I didn’t know, it was important.

Really important.

In no universe are cookies a big deal.

So this was something else. Something was wrong with my picture.

When in doubt, poke the problem with a stick.

“I’m not going to be baking cookies here,” I said. “I’m just going to be going though the attic and the basement, clearing and cleaning, and then I’m going back home.” When I said the word home, it sounded like a lie in my ears. No matter. I was watching his body, watching his eyes.

And I saw a whole lot of panicked crazy go skittering beneath the surface. “Could I buy the recipe from you?” he asked.

The answer to that question came out of my mouth unbidden, instantly, like someone had programmed it there. “Old family recipe,” I said and shook my head.

And he hung his. “That’s what she always said, too.”

And though I could not understand what made me do it, I grabbed my metaphorical stick a little more firmly, and said, “Tell you what. Why don’t you bring those papers by the house for me so I can look them over while I’m cleaning. If you do that, I’ll think about making some more cookies.”

When it came out of my mouth, I knew it was a mistake. No lawyer would say yes to that. There was no guarantee, there was no promise, there was nothing to pin down. It was an utterly one-sided deal.

“All right,” he said, and sighed.

And that gut thing I had going said, Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. Whatever Mr. Yeager is, he is not a lawyer.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


The Ohio Series — 2842 words, and a series-anchoring question

By Holly Lisle

Yesterday, I discovered the dark secret in Tori’s past. It’s grim, harsh, and leaves her with some questions she’s been fighting the whole rest of her life to answer.

Today, I discovered the long line of dark secrets in Duncan’s past. This over a breakfast he and Tori share.

Everything flew, came together, answered some earlier questions in the book for me, and set up one of the BIG questions that will be asked only implicitly for most of the rest of the series.

It was a damn fine writing day.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


The Ohio Series: My main character’s past gets darker.

By Holly Lisle

Still hanging with the objective of 2000 words per day. Hit 2084, and with them, something I did not know about my MC. Something dark and grim and gory — because far be it from me to write a main character who’s past was full of sunshine and fluffy bunnies.

I’m 64,012 words into this now, with my objective being to hit 70,000, I’m discovering that I might have to run a little long to tie this novel off.

It’s planned as the first in a series. I cannot wait to find out what happens next.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Streamlining During Chaos: Fiction? YES.

By Holly Lisle

Nothing is yet cast in stone… but in about a week the full force of this particular Chaos Storm is going to hit. The Current ChaosTM is pretty close to becoming the Big Right On Top Of Me Chaos — a state that could last from a best case of one month to a worst case of maybe three. 

(See me bravely ignoring the “Wanna bet on that worst case?” utterance from my Muse, who has ridden this train before.)

I can’t accomplish everything I want to do and still do what I need to do. So I have put some things on hold for a while in order to accomplish anything.

My brain turns to fiction when things get rough, stressful, difficult. It always has — reading when I was a kid, writing when other people’s worlds stopped being what I needed.

I won’t complain. Being able to fall into fiction when things are hard is a Big Damn Advantage when you’re a novelist. I’ve decided this time to play to my strengths, and to NOT try to do everything.

So from today until we’re out the other side of this, my writing is going to be exclusively fiction.

Objectives:

  • WRITE: Complete the first novel in The Ohio Series and get it into its month of cool down. (I’m only a couple chapters from the end, so this is a small goal.)
  • REVISE: Finish the write-in and type-in revisions of Dead Man’s Party and get it out to beta readers. (I’m most of the way through the write-in revision, but still have a significant type-in ahead of me, and I do a LOT of on-the-spot revision and adding things during type-in, so thing is a BIG goal.)
  • OUTLINE AND WRITE: The Emerald Sun first draft. (And this is a big goal, too.)

I’ll do a worksheet or two for the podcast as we need them.

I will NOT be starting into the Canary Revision of How to Revise Your Novel. until after I’m through the biggest part of the coming mess.

My plan had been to pick that up on Monday and do it as an after-fiction thing. At this point, by best-case scenario moves that to early September.

Absolute worst case, the first part of next year. (Never start a massive project in December.)

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


The Ohio Series – Basements Can Kill You

By Holly Lisle

In general, “what’s in the basement” is a staple of scary stories.

They’re easy to ignore, but you do so at your own peril. 

Especially if you fail to notice the monster that really is down there in the glow-y green light waiting for you.

I’m at 59,777 words total, and got 2339 words total today (in spite of having to throw away about a thousand words.

Love, love, LOVE the twist that smacked me over the head today.

Not sure what I’m going to do for tomorrow’s Friday Snippet. It has to be early stuff. I’ll make sure it’s fun.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


The Ohio Series – N1: When magic goes privately public… And a FRIDAY SNIPPET

By Holly Lisle

Today’s word’s flew. And I love what I got — My cop decided that the only way she was going to be able to win the assistance of the people she needs to have help her is to tell them the truth.

Followed by realizing that she CAN’T tell them the truth. It’s too impossible.

All she can do is show them.

So that’s what happened today.

For the snippet though, I’m pulling out something from earlier in the first draft.


The Snippet Disclaimer: This is raw first draft, copyright Holly Lisle and all rights reserved. Do not quote, review, or bug hunt. The contents of this snippet are subject to change, and during revision I will not see any problems you find here.


The town itself was lifting my spirits. No one loitered on street corners. There were folks out doing things — but they were moving the way people do in the cold. With purpose. With destinations. It wasn’t a town that would give a cop like me much to do, but I thought it would make a great vacation spot. Go to Grandma’s. Sit on the porch swing for a week in summer and just watch people not being criminals.

And then I felt that chill again.

That certainty that something was wrong — that someone was watching me, and that something big, bad, and potentially deadly was about to go down.

I had the bag slung over my right shoulder.

Was armed, but the gun was under my coat, concealed, and I was going to have to drop the bag to go for it. I was regretting the purchase of two jars of jam in class containers.

I could sense rapid movement across the street — not on the sidewalk, but behind the houses, through back yards, over fences. And then I stopped myself with one simple question.

How? How was I sensing this?

There was no noise.

I could see no movement — and the chain link fence my mind insisted the something that had climbed over had not made the tiniest sound when the person my brain insisted had gone over it moved.

Out loud I said, “Yeah. Definitely need a damn vacation.”

And heard something snicker behind me.

When I turned, of course there was nothing there.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


The Ohio Series: Novel 1 – The first big secret comes out.

By Holly Lisle

And I’m not going to report it here. But one of my two MCs just confessed to his big secret, and my other one said, in essence. “Isn’t that nice? Now help me get this giant monster out of my basement.”

2018 words, and a scene that started rough but smoothed out at the end. The rough bits will have to wait for revision.

I love this book, though, and this world.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Wordcount doesn’t reflect progress on the Ohio Series, Novel 1 today

By Holly Lisle

I built the first part of my series Octopus Map, uncovered the secret behind how the magic works, did a big rethink of a couple of items on my provisional outline, and if I only have 622 words of progress to show for that, it’s okay.  When I get back to this next week, I’ll be on much sturdier ground.

I know how the magic works now. And WHY.

How and why are the core of the whole thing — and it’s a very cool kind of magic, and something that’s going to change my protagonist in ways she cannot yet even imagine.

The trick is to set a hard limit on what the main character can do so as to avoid “Superman Syndrome” in which the heroine has a superpower for every problem.

Today I made sure that will never happen.

It was a good writing day.

 

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved