Well, this should be interesting.

This might seem like a weird time for a check-in. We’re past the halfway mark of the year and not yet at my normal quarterly check-in for September. But this is not an overall goals check-in, rather just one to see where I’m at with writing. I haven’t been talking about my individual projects a lot lately because it’s been a weird year, so while there have been a lot of #marywrites posts this year–the Madhouse savasana story and the Ronan story, a revision update that I totally forgot I wrote, posts on introspection, high fantasy, and a three act structure, books that inspired my books, my favorite men & women characters that I’ve created, facts about my writing, my favorite queer moments in my writing, and, though it’s not connected to why I haven’t been talking about my individual projects, why I’m no longer talking about writing–I’ve only kind of hinted at what’s been going on behind the scenes.

2020 was really good for my writing. It was awful for literally everything else, but it was damn good for my writing. I was at a job that was making me miserable, but that also refused to give me any concrete work to do because they had “trust issues” that “started before I was there” that they were “struggling to let go of”, and I spent more time crying than I did actually work the entire year I was there. In March, we went fully remote, which made the small amount of work I had to do even more minimal since a lot of my position was taking care of the physical office and the people that worked there. Thus, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, a boss that didn’t want to speak to me on a good day, and a whole slew of ideas.

I wrote a lot in 2020. Like, way more than I can even possibly fathom. I was hitting 70k words a month because I was literally writing every day for hours. I would wake up, eat breakfast, and start writing. I would pause for lunch, go to the office for about an hour, and then come back to keep writing. I would only stop when 5PM hit, and it was time for yoga, dinner, and bed, but damn. No wonder my word count was through the roof. I had nothing but time.

There is zero chance I would have stayed at that job just so I could keep writing, though. My boss was awful. He mentally and emotionally harassed me at every chance that he got, and he is the sole reason that I left. He was manipulative, cruel, and would constantly threaten my job security just so he could say, “But I’m not going to get rid of you. Just know that it could happen.” Regardless of how much I was writing, I couldn’t stay there, and so, I started job searching.

In 2021, I started at a new company that I’m not allowed to say all that much about because it’s a startup still in stealth mode, but I can tell you this–I love my coworkers. My boss is amazing, the guys I work with are just truly the best people in the world–I want to take them all home and keep them with me forever–and the work is interesting and fun. And while I’ve started to get into a rhythm and find some time to squirrel away a few pages here or there, it’s much less than it was before, and it’s taken about this long to find that rhythm.

Starting a new job is hard, and it’s scary, and it takes a long time to adjust to. I went from writing 70k words a month at all hours of the day to having to force myself back into writing at night and only managed about 15k a month. And I know that’s still a lot for some people, but that math is very clear. It’s a huge jump from 70k to 15k, and my mental health took a nosedive because of it. On top of that, I finally started to work on some serious health issues that were effecting my yoga practice, which I won’t go into huge detail about here since I’ve talked about it a lot in my wrap-ups. The tl;dr of it is that I wasn’t able to practice for several weeks, and even when I could again, it was much less than I was used to. And though I was reading a lot more than I had been before, the two great loves of my life were suddenly gone, and it was a lot.

In January, when I set my goals for the year, I don’t know what was happening, but I can only call it foresight.

  1. Rewrite sister witches 2 & edit into a final draft.
  2. Edit researcher & librarian 1 & 2 into final drafts.
  3. Write the first draft vampire detective.
  4. Get crazy, and write something unexpected.

That ^^^ is not actually a lot. It’s much less than what I normally shoot for during a year. Normally, I want to write a minimum of three novels and edit one or two more. And while SW2 was going to require a complete overhaul, there’s really only two novels on this list that need to be built from scratch. It was like I knew that this year was going to be insane. It was like I knew, somehow, just how monumental that third bullet point was going to be. Because sure, I’m a novel short, and I probably wasn’t going to get to the second researcher & librarian since my CPs haven’t gotten it yet, but that third one?

Guys, that could easily be six books in one.

I think, somehow, this is the first time I’m ever actually explaining Andrew’s story. I’ve talked about it vaguely a lot, and I know that, if you piece together all the different hints across my posts this year, you can see the shape of his story, but I haven’t actually sat down and said, “This is what I’m doing.” I have a post sitting in my drafts titled the lovers that would explain all of it, but I keep trying to schedule it and then sticking it back in my drafts. And honestly, I probably won’t be able to write it until the whole novel is finished, which is probably not going to be until next year.

Wow, there we go. This is the first time I’ve said out loud that Andrew’s novel is going to take me longer than a few months to write. I’ve talked about this somewhere, but I generally write a novel in about 3-4 months, and that’s become the norm over the last several years. Those novels are usually around 120k words, which I think is a pretty feasible amount of words per month. Andrew is different.

I talked about Andrew a long time ago in a character spotlight, and while all of that still applies, there’s also a huge piece missing. Andrew is a little over 2000 years old, and the original story that I was going to tell, fondly referenced as vampire detective, is at the very tail end of that story. When I tried to start writing the Boston half of his story, though, it occurred to me that I didn’t really know anything that happened in those 2000 years, but that I really needed to know in order to write him correctly.

I tried to take a shortcut in the summer of last year and write a novella of just the 600 years that Andrew & Rafael (his eventual final lover) know each other, and while that was kind of working, it also really wasn’t. There’s so much to Andrew’s story, and I needed to figure out just what, exactly, all of it was. I needed to know the story in order to write the Andrew that’s been in my head since 2015.

Thus began the lovers.

How do you structure 2000 years? How do you shape it into something that can be digested and understood? How does that become a book?

“The fourth,” Rafael confirmed before he shoved Andrew bodily into his room, slammed the door shut, and continued, “John was king from ’40 to ’56. God save me. When did Alexander die? Ares, stand down.”

Andrew barely had time to feel exasperated at the fact that Ares listened, for his voice was tight when he said, “323.”

“You were of an age?”

“Naí.” They’d grown up together, fought together, loved together, and Andrew had always expected to die together, as well. And yet, here he was, unable to remember when he’d crossed over into his second millennia, but the year of Alexandros’ death still like an open wound across his heart.

It was nowhere near the first time that Alexander was mentioned, but it was the one that stuck out to me the most. I’d known that Andrew was born around Alexander’s reign, that he knew him and likely loved him, but it finally struck a chord in me, this incongruous conversation in the middle of the novella where Rafael is trying to figure out how old Andrew is. Alexander was the great love of Andrew’s life, and yet, there is no one in the world that he loves quite as he does Rafael. But how did he get from 300 BC to the 1500s, and what came in between?

There are a lot of ways that I might have focused Andrew’s story and given it structure. The most obvious would have been to do it by history’s big events, but Andrew is someone who barely remembers what century he’s currently in, never mind the finer details of such events. Yes, he remembers that there were elephants at one of the battles with Alexander, but not which one, not who won, not why that was important. What he does remember, though, is that Alexander was glorious in Gaugamela, but he was also teetering toward something that even his army would not support. Gaugamela was the thing that finally drove Andrew & Alexander apart, and that is what he remembers, that the man he loved was finally someone he could not be around anymore.

It made sense, all at once, that the way to structure Andrew’s story was through the great loves of his life. He may not remember the wars he’s fought in, but he does remember why he fought in those wars. He knows it was Stephen who died during the Crusades, Rafael that was at his side in Spain, Leonidas that made him loathe Macedon again, Philip that let Crete come between them.

This is now starting to turn into the post I keep putting in my drafts, so let’s switch gears.

I started writing Andrew’s 2000 year story, fondly referred to as the lovers, in May of this year. It starts with Andrew realizing he no longer remembers what Alexander looks like, and, panicked, he asks Rafael if he’ll help him remember, if he’ll write it all down. Rafael is a historian and a total nerd, so he’s 100% into this idea. Each lover, then, is told as a story to Rafael, a slow sprawl from beginning to end with little scenes of Rafael in the early 2000s in between. We start with Alexander the Great, and over the course of Andrew’s very long life, we meet eight lovers in total before, finally, we come to Rafael.

When I first started writing in May, I decided I was going to split up the POV between Andrew & each lover. It was only when I was 12k into Alexander’s story that I realized this made no sense given that Andrew is the one telling the story to Rafael, and so, I had to go cut 6k and rewrite it into Andrew’s POV. And though I was sad about this, it also quickly elevated the story. Suddenly, I was writing almost like I had the year before, as fast and furious as I could, whenever I had a single opportunity to. My word count was still way below what it’d been over the last year, but I was finally writing again after months and months of nearly nothing.

And now, here I am, in July, feeling a little bit panicked again. More like hilarious hysteria? I don’t think I quite realized what eight lovers meant. Alexander came in at a whopping 40k words. Usually, in a normal novel, that’d mean I’d wrapped up act one and was a third of the way done with the story. With Andrew, that’s just one out of eight, and that doesn’t even count Rafael. Alexander, however, was always going to be one of the longest ones. Out of the eight lovers, the only person that spends more time with Andrew is Thanasis (my personal fave of the eight, probably because he’s the last), and though Thanasis’ section will probably be a bit longer, I didn’t really want every single one to be 40k words. That’s–wow, way more than even I can handle.

But even if I cut the other six off at 25-30k, that’s still a lot. Like I said somewhere above, probably about six novels’ worth. And I knew this, theoretically, but I’m finally starting to actually know it, and I don’t know what idiot thought I could write Andrew’s book in one year, but wow. Heck, maybe I still can. When I look back at what I had planned for each month, I wasn’t supposed to start Andrew until June, and I was supposed to write three lovers a month. Then again, that was before I understood how little time I’d have with the new job, and that’s still not feasible, but–

It’s July, and I’ve both written Alexander in full and started Philip. I can probably write Philip in his entirety this month and even start Aurelian. August will wrap that up and probably only get to Dimos. Nikolaos & Leonidas are both short, so let’s say September for both of them. Stephen, though he’s short and sweet, will probably wreck me, and I’ll only just be able to start Thanasis in October. Thanasis will take a while, given that he’s as long as, if not a bit longer, than Alexander, so I’d say give him all of November. Realistically, I could wrap up all eight lovers by the end of the year, but to write the entire first draft of Andrew’s story? Not without Rafael.

Each of Andrew’s eight lovers are human. He’s with Thanasis for a little over fifty years, I think, and the rest are all around twenty. Rafael? Well, he’s not human, and he’s just about to cross over into his second century when he meets Andrew. They don’t even have their first kiss until the 1700s, which means Rafael is just under 400. Sure, 2000 years is a lot of time, but if I’m going to correctly establish Rafael as the love of Andrew’s life, as well as the final one, that’s going to take some time, too.

This novel is not going to be written in a year. It’s definitely going to bring me well into 2022, and, you know what, I think I’m okay with that. I wasn’t certain I’d get to a second novel this year, and now that I’ve finally realized just what the scope of Andrew’s story means, I’m ready to fully embark on it. I don’t know how many novels it will end up being, and I don’t really care. I plan on giving each lover the space that they deserve (within reason) and just taking as much time as I need with this book.

I didn’t write for the first four months of the year, and now that I’ve finally started, it seems only fitting that I’ve embarked on a story that’s going to hold my attention for a long while to come.

Posted by:Mary Drover

she/her | yoga teacher | Tibetan Buddhism | part-time witch | full-time author | astronaut in a previous life

3 replies on “Writing Check-In

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