Last month, I finished my book!
I’ve got to say, I’m pretty freaking proud of myself, and not just for the normal reasons. I’ve talked about this a little on the blog, but not for a while, and not in any real detail, so here goes.
A little over three years ago, in December 2016, I wrote a book in 18 days. I’d been struggling with the same story for 12 years, writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting some more. I’d started the story when I was thirteen, and it literally carried me throughout high school, college, and after. It was the only story that I wrote because I was determined that that would be the one.
Obviously, it wasn’t. It might never be, and I came to terms with that a while ago, so we don’t need to dive into that. But when I finally decided to let it go, I was terrified. If I couldn’t write Ronan’s story, how the hell was I supposed to write anything else? Well, enter Mason.
I wrote Mason’s story in 18 days. It was 80k words long, and it was somehow the longest thing I’d ever written. I still wasn’t quite used to what a standard length for a fantasy novel was, though I’ve finally settled into a comfortable 100k benchmark. I believe this works for me because, otherwise, a lot of the details get lost and it’s just plotplotplot with no breaks or development in between. But, it was the first time I’d written something new in over a decade, and I was really excited.
I quickly gave it to my best friend because we had literally always been exchanging writing with each other. We started writing Good Charlotte fanfiction together, and even co-wrote a story waaaaaay back when we were just barely thirteen. He was writing mostly poetry now, but the occasional short story, too, and I was beside myself with excitement to see what he might think of it. He’d been with me from Ronan’s beginning, and now, finally, I had something new.
His comments, as always, were very helpful. I started to reshape the story, started to figure out how to make it better, started to slowly peel back the layers of who I was as a writer now. It was not an easy process, but I had a lot of support, and I was excited about the potential.
And then, everything changed.
There were a lot of different things going on at the time. I had recently moved into my first apartment, and we were now thirty minutes away from each other instead of three. He didn’t have a car, and so getting into the city to see me was difficult. Thus, we spent a lot of time together after work or on the weekends. We had a standing Tuesday night date to get dinner at Life Alive, talk about the stories/poems/chapters we’d exchanged that week, and then chat about what was going on in our lives. Often, he came to yoga before our dinner, or we hung out on the weekend while I was home on Saturday. We texted and called in between. We’d already survived college with me in Maine and him in Mass, and then him moving to California for a few years. We’d grown together through so many different things, and I never once expected what was to come next.
Lately, he’d been saying and doing a lot of hurtful things. “I have no friends here anymore. I want to leave.” I would get to dinner, and he would be off somewhere having dinner and coffee without me, leaving me to wait an hour for him to arrive. “All of my friends here suck.”
I knew, in my heart, that he wasn’t talking about me, but it still hurt. And so, I tried to open up communication. I tried to talk about how his words and actions had been sitting badly with me lately. I told him that I wanted to try to mend what I felt like was a crumbling bridge. I told him that I wanted to support him if he wanted to leave, but also needed to know that he still valued our friendship.
“I hate you,” he said in response, “You’re the worst friend I’ve ever had. I’m so glad to be done reading Mason’s book because it is literally the worst thing I have ever read, and I was so relieved when it was finally over. You are a terrible writer. Don’t ever speak to me again.”
We had been friends for twelve years, and it was gone in 20 minutes.
It still hurts. When I tell this story in yoga, my heart beats faster like I’m afraid it’s about to happen all over again. I get nervous when I drive by his street, and I can’t go into my local Barnes & Noble because he works there. If I’m alone in Salem, sometimes I stress that I’m going to see him. I’m terrified of going to our old haunts. For months, I kept waiting for him to show up at the yoga studio at a different class. I would obsessively check the classes to see if he’d gone, and then obsessively check his social media to see if he was happy.
I’ve never cried as hard as I did that night. I felt like someone had reached inside of me and filled my veins with tar. I felt like I had no heart and no lungs.
I texted my boss and said that I needed to take a half day the next day. I texted my yoga boss next and asked if she was free for an emergency healing the following afternoon. I texted my mom and asked her what I’d done wrong.
When I woke up in the morning, I felt like someone had run me over with an eighteen-wheeler. I had to wear glasses, and I couldn’t eat breakfast. I drove to work in a miserable haze, and when I arrived in the parking lot, something miraculous happened. Another of my best friends, one I’d known literally since the day she was born, had just had her second child, a sweet boy named Jacob that would save my life that day. He was here, and he was healthy, and I was okay.
I still took a half day. I still went to the healing. Jenny told me that she could feeling Mason burning through my left arm, and I cried. I didn’t want to hear that. I couldn’t stand the thought of him still waiting inside of me. I never wanted to write again.
I didn’t tell anyone, but the thought was there nonetheless. I wanted to quit writing. It didn’t matter that literally thousands of people loved my fanfiction. It didn’t matter that I had other best friends that were telling me that he was wrong, that I was a good writer. It didn’t matter that he was just one voice. I’d trusted him since I was a child with my words, and he’d torn them into pieces in a few neat words. I wanted to be done.
I shelved Mason, and I moved on. The next few months were harder than anything I’ve ever gone through. I would wake up fine in the morning, happy even, and go about my day, and then, suddenly, like an anvil being dropped from the sky, the tar would rise in my veins and try to choke me. It was not just the destruction of my confidence in writing. It was losing my best friend. I felt like he’d died. I was grieving a loss, but it felt so much worse than the truth. It literally felt like death.
Eventually, I had to make some steps. Block him on social media so I wouldn’t keep checking. Accept the fact that he wasn’t going to come to the studio. Stop avoiding Salem.
It wasn’t long before I also admitted I wasn’t ready to give up on writing, and what unfolded over the summer of 2017 was a wild, mad dash through another brand new idea. The Pen boys was 180k words long because I had a lot to work through, and they helped me through it. They’ve also been shelved, but eventually, I’ll come back to them. Saintsverse was about to be born in October, and a dozen other new ideas were starting to pop up. Stories about planets as teenagers, about boys falling in love in bookstores, about eight souls sprawled across the globe but somehow connected, about a desert witch with a vendetta, about a vampire who was also a detective, about three witches who came together to fight for a better world.
And there they were–sister witches.
I’ve written before about why I wrote sister witches, and the reason still stands.
I am writing this book for women like me. Women who are disenchanted with the world around them because it is cruel to them, because it bares its teeth when we ask for fairness, because it whispers seething words at us when we walk with our heads held high. This book is overflowing with women who see that dark, cruel world and go, “Is that all you’ve got?” This book is full of women who wear black and boots and red lips and say, “Give me your worst.” The book is bursting at the seams with women who bite when provoked because they are the women I need.
But it’s a trilogy, and eventually, it starts to become other things, too. In the second book, we’re introduced to more people. Mainly, a new coven of witches, and a new demon. It’s not just a trilogy, either. I think I’ve mentioned this briefly, too, but all of my novels connect. All of them. Even Saintsverse, though I’m not saying how. Yes, even bookstore boys, which has no magic in it whatsoever.
And sister witches? Well, they’re kind of the epicenter. I mean, what’s a more perfect setting for bringing everything together than a ridiculous, silly novel about witches befriending their accidentally summoned demon? It’s the easiest place possible to put all of it. All of my other books are too serious, or they don’t involve enough characters that suddenly dumping a smorgasbord of new characters on top would make sense.
But sister witches is already crazy. We get introduced to, like, seven characters in the first four chapters. In the second one, there are an additional four new main characters, plus two new side ones. It’s kind of stupid at times. But it works as the center of all the crazy, so I was starting to realize, about halfway through the second book, that this was it. This was how I brought everyone together.
There are three heads of power in this giant universe. Saintsverse doesn’t count because it’s out there in a different world. But right here, on Earth, we’ve got Henley (witch), Andrew (vampire), and Mason (faery).
I knew this going in. I knew that Mason’s story connected. I knew that, eventually, I was going to have to face my past and the demons lurking in it and finally duke it out with him. I knew this.
But knowing something and being ready for it are two entirely different things. It’s been a little over three years since my best friend told me that Mason was the worst thing he had ever read.
In December, I started approaching the end of the novel. You know the end, where you’ve got a solid 100 pages left to read, but suddenly, everything is happening, and you just have to power through those last 100 pages. I was getting really close to that, and the same vibe happens when you’re writing them. You just gotta write it in one fell swoop. There were two things that needed to happen before then, though, and it was going to take a lot of courage to do them.
Writing this scene was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It also took the longest out of everything I’ve ever written. I had to keep getting up and walking away. It felt so strange to be writing Mason, but even stranger was the version of him that I was writing. The version that I’d written previously was way before this point. Sister witches is the future for both Mason & Andrew, though only a little bit for Andrew. But for Mason? This is years beyond where he was when I first wrote him. And when, someday, I get back to his novel, I’ll have to travel back in time because those years are the story I want to tell.
But it was interesting, introducing him at this stage in his life. It almost felt like we’d suffered through those three years together, and here I was, confident in my writing again, and here he was, powerful and healing and capable of so much.
Truthfully, I think it’s the only way I could have gone back to him. If I’d tried to write the Mason that was broken first, I might never have pulled myself out again. But this? I can do this. I can write this version of him.
But don’t let this trick you into thinking for one second that the following 30k words weren’t some of the most difficult. I immediately took a break after writing this scene, and while I kept saying out loud that I was breaking because the end was here and I needed to have space and time to write it, that was only half-true. Yes, I did need the space & time, and I was about to turn my life upside down, so it was a really bad time to try to write the end of a book. But it was also terrifying, willingly stepping back into those memories.
Here I am, I seemed to be saying to all that sorrow and grief, come and get me.
It took a while to be brave enough. I tried to write in January and mostly just ran in the other direction. It wasn’t until February that I finally said enough was enough and took the plunge. It was scary. It was exhausting. It was both good and bad. I introduced Andrew, and I gave Mason a purpose. It ends on a cliffhanger that’s going to force me to keep writing with Mason, and I’m honestly a little bit excited.
I have three writing goals this year. Write sister witches 3, which I’m already craving. Write the first book in Andrew’s series, which is slowly being ignited. And write the first book for Mason, which I think might actually be possible this time around.
It’s not been easy getting here. Writing a book is never easy, but this one was definitely the hardest one I’ve done. But I think I’m finally on the other side, or at least taking powerful steps forward, and I’m so eager to see what comes next.