I started When Stars Die when I was fifteen–now 22. I had finished its sequel (a whopping 180,000 word monster) and decided my sequel needed a prequel. The book was once titled Croix Infernal, Hellish Cross. It had the same characters and similar plot thread, but the writing was juvenile as was the storytelling itself. So I put that on the back burner for a few years to pound away at its sequel, Witch Tourniquet. I eventually parsed that novel down to about 90,000 words many years later, but after Georgia McBride told me the plot had de-railed, I knew it was not going to work as a first book and that I needed to resurrect the prequel.
I called it Lady Tourniquet to match the Tourniquet theme. How did I plan to go about fixing this book?
For one thing, all the details that were lumped together in half the book of Witch Tourniquet needed to be sprinkled throughout the entire book of what is now When Stars Die. I took Georgia’s de-railed comment as a sign that an outline was a must for the revision of When Stars Die.
I went through and carefully outlined each chapter, making certain to note important themes, plot threads, twists, and even character development. I noted every tiny detail to prevent plot holes. I also took a lot of Georgia’s advice from Witch Tourniquet and used that advice for the revision. The most important piece of advice I ever received from her: Make sure SOMETHING happens in every chapter, whether that be character or plot development. So each chapter I revised needed to either develop character or plot in some way. Thus, I made certain to note what would develop each chapter, whether it be one or both. Once I had the outline, I sat my butt down and began pounding out the revisions, trying to keep with my goal of a chapter a day.
Once I pounded out the revision, I took everything I learned from Georgia to self-edit the manuscript. I chipped away at everything you can imagine: plot holes, needless sentences, poor sentence structure, awkward character interactions, ect. I constantly referred to Georgia’s advice because I had learned massive amounts about how to edit my own work. The outline, more than anything, was my most vital tool for self-editing.
But the book had to be cooked again, so I stuck it back in the oven for a beta reader, Mariah Wilson, to read. I knew she would finish it because she loved the new version of its sequel (and she only read half). I’m a bit bitter about beta readers. I find them, offer to read their stuff, and they start my book, but they never finish or have to drop out due to life. I also never learned as much from them as I thought I did. Especially having Georgia critique my writing made me lose faith in a beta reader’s ability to truly help, until I realized they’re beta readers, not editors. I needed to take care of the iffy stuff first before using a beta reader to take care of the excess dirt.
But apparently I’m a decent self-editor. Mariah never found anything wrong, and Raymond Vogel of AEC Stellar even told me I have a gift for self-editing. But it was all because of Georgia McBride. Without her, When Stars Die would probably be flailing around somewhere.
That was the basic planning for When Stars Die. I can’t even tell you how inspiration struck. All I know is I always wanted to write about the 19th century with nuns and a convent and have witches thrown in there somewhere.
Now that I’m back from a social media break, I really am curious about what you guys would be interested in seeing more of on this blog. We all blog for a reason, and we all read blog posts for a reason, and I would just love to know what you guys seriously want to see.
Here is some of what I have planned:
Posts about my book
I would love if you guys could add to the list, or give me some ideas for the things I already have listed. Would you guys like me to start doing videos? I have no idea what videos I could do, but I’d be willing to try. Would you guys like to see tips? You know, stuff like that.
It’s not easy blogging every day because one’s treasure chest of ideas must be limitless. Once my contract manager and I start diving into When Stars Die, I may not even be able to blog every day, but for now, I’d love to build up the content of my website for you to enjoy. In any case, I look forward to your suggestions in the comments below!
I cannot fathom for the life of me why there is such an unabashed stigma against mental illness. Mental illness has been recorded since the invention of writing. Though the symptoms explained had no specific name, even our ancestors had no doubt such illnesses were real. Of course, believing in their existence isn’t the only problem. When you have a mental illness, society brands you as incompetent, incapable of living your own life.
Look around the internet, at the media. Some people believe those with mental illnesses should be locked away so we can do no harm to anyone, even though we are more likely to be harmed by those who are “normal” due to our vulnerable personalities. I can’t own a gun because I had to be involuntarily hospitalized so I could get a bed; otherwise, I would have been in the ER for another day or two–I wanted to go in, but I couldn’t do so voluntarily. I don’t think I can own a gun for another two years, which is a shame because we’re so hell bent on protecting ourselves with fatal weapons. It’s not that I care to own a gun, but, really, it’s the principle of the matter. I want to understand this, but there are other weapons we’re allowed access to that are more used than guns in harming ourselves or others–knives, for instance.
But gun rights are not on my bucket list. My fiancé has one, so I’m good to go.
I used to use Tumblr to express my darkest thoughts because I was too ashamed to let others know what sometimes goes through my mind. Then I realized people express personal stuff all the time on Facebook: what they ate, what sickness they contracted, the color of their babies’ shit, how crabby they are, so on and so forth. So now I’m choosing to reveal the rawest parts of me on my website’s blog because it is the only way to get people to recognize that a mental illness can be like any other illness. I’m a very self-aware person, and I hope that’s obvious in some of my posts.
We’re just afraid of mental illness because people sometimes hurt themselves to cope. People can become suicidal. In rare cases, people can become dangerous, but this is rare, so rare it shouldn’t even be a factor because “normal” people can be just as dangerous. I’m more likely to hurt myself than others.
So I’m coming out and saying that I have bipolar Type I Rapid Cycling. I hate it. I hate that I have to deal with this, but it’s here to stay and so I must. All I can do is use it to my advantage, and it does have some perks: I feel more creative, I’m so much more sensitive toward other people, I’m more self-aware now, and I feel like I have an even greater capacity to help those in need. Plus, I can just think of all the greats in history who have my illness. Sure, some of them didn’t survive, but they also didn’t have treatment. So on days where I feel a pity party emerging, I think of all those greats and wonder if they would have been able to do what they did without their illnesses. It’s possible, their works just would have been different, I suppose.
Don’t hide behind pity, shame, self-hate, or stigma. Come out and be loud and demand to be heard. It’s okay to hate your illness, but don’t drown in pity because of it. Make the best of it and be proud that you’re managing it in spite of how sucky it can be.
How am I doing today, specifically this morning? Crap. I didn’t sleep well last night because my anxiety kicked in out of nowhere. So all I want to do is sleep, and, frankly, not wake up for a while. A long while. When a depressed person doesn’t get sleep, symptoms are intensified.
My Stars, this is a very honest post. I hope you can handle my honesty because I want you to be able to know me, all of me. I don’t want to hold or hide anything back, so if you’re the kind of person who is uncomfortable around real people, stay away from this post.
I’ve decided to up my blogging to twice a day, in case you haven’t noticed. One blog post will be personal, and another will be purely writing related. This one I’m writing because I’m feeling the depression puppeteer pulling on my strings and trying to make me do its bidding.
I hate the way I feel right now. I’m irritable and exhausted and feeling a little hopeless. I finished chapter one in my new novel and am 1/3 of the way through chapter two. I know I can finish chapter two by dance class tonight–well, rather, I should–but I’m exhausted and don’t have it in me.
It honestly sucks breathing right now. I just want to stop. I just want to sleep. But I can’t. Not without meds. It’s terrible. It really is. I feel like my brain has given up on me. It doesn’t want to function right without meds. It hates me, and I hate it. It’s a terrifying thought knowing my moods are at the whim of chemicals in my mind. Certainly I can control the way I think, but not the way I feel. And I’m trying to remind myself that I can become better again, but it’s hard when you’re at war with your mind and your mind is telling you that it’s hopeless, how can you feel better when you feel this way.
Right now, I feel like I’m not good enough, as a human being and a writer. I feel like this new novel will turn to crap because of my traitorous mind. I feel so dispassionate right now, about everything. I don’t want to go to dance tonight. I don’t want to be around people. I just want to take my meds and go to bed and wake up hoping for a better life, a better day.
I shouldn’t be feeling this way. My website, my blog, is finally kicking off. I’m getting lots of likes on posts. I’m finally getting followers. I should be proud I was able to outline 37 chapters plus an epilogue last week, that I finally imagined a story that can rival When Stars Die. I have so many ideas of what I’m going to do to market When Stars Die that I should be bursting with motivation to hunker down and pound out the chapters for my new novel (I already have a freaking cover design in mind for this novel!).
But I can’t feel anything but apathy and seething hatred for feeling this way. My therapist tells me I need to accept the feelings, but it’s hard when these feelings prevent you from doing what you want to do–because you don’t want to do it at the time but you know you normally would.
Depression does this. You are its puppet. You cannot break the strings. Some days you can control what the strings do, and other days you cannot. This is one of those days for me. I pray during work tomorrow I’m not so run over that I can’t work on my novel during the lulls at work. I’m a freaking writer. It’s what I do, what I need to do.
I’m on a new medication though. Abilify. My therapist thinks I’ll like it. Unfortunately, I’m on a child’s dosage, so I probably won’t feel any improvements. Another torturous month, I suppose. But Stars, I’m not giving up. I might be giving in, but I know things aren’t always this way.
I talk about my depression a lot, what it’s like to be back into writing even though I’m still in a depressive episode. But I have never told you what it was like to be a writer during a manic episode. Let me first distinguish between my hypomanic and manic episodes. During my hypomanic episodes I’m crazy energetic, but I’m not irritable or prone to fits of rage. I have no inhibitions, but I can still stop myself when I know I’m getting too high. The energy is just productive and a nice break from being depressed. During my manic episodes, however, I am prone to fits of rage, I can become irritable at a snap, and I cannot put a cork on the frenetic energy that pours from my brain. Because I lack inhibitions, I am not afraid to be mean or nasty or honest–and that is very problematic because I end up hurting those I love. The energy can easily turn into anxious energy, and this is when my psychomotor agitation kicks in: I have to be moving in some way, or else I explode in a fit of rage. Expecting me to sit still is like expecting a sex worker to remain celibate.
Luckily, my mania is treated.
In any case, the last time I was manic, I wrote 15,000 words in a day. In a day. With no problem. I did a million other things during that day too. I thought the story I was producing was pure genius. I’d finish it during my manic episode, revise it, and some publisher was going to see the genius in it and it’d hit bestseller’s lists all across the globe.
But that’s what happens when I’m manic. My self-esteem is inflated to obnoxious degrees. I’m not simply The Dancing Writer. I’m The Dancing FUCKING Writer. With this book, I was trying to combine my reality with the reality of a 19th century boy. So if you’ve ever read Emilie Autumn’s The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, I was pretty much trying to do what she did. I was using my experiences in psychiatric wards and trying to blend it with the voice I heard in my head (I’ve never heard voices) that happened to belong to a young boy from the 19th century trying to tell his story.
It was bad. Really bad. As in, I couldn’t even revise it to save it. But my manic thoughts were not a waste. In fact, they gave me creativity–uncontrollable creativity, but creativity nonetheless. A lot of artists who are afflicted with bipolar disorder can become more creative. They might not be able to utilize that creativity during the episode because it is hard to harness and control it, but they can use it later, after the mania has ended.
For me, even though the writing I did when I was manic was unsalvageable, I never let go of the concept. And I am using that concept right now to plot my current novel, which is much more controlled and less, well, frantic than it was when I was manic. The plot is different. The story is different, but I took the concept my overload of creativity gave me, and I am controlling it and harnessing it.
I am in no way glorifying mania–not even hypomania. What comes up must come down, and it often results in a crash that leaves you a crying mess the next day. I would never wish a manic episode upon anyone. The lack of inhibitions can be dangerous, the rage is destructive, and if you’re self-aware like I am, you hate yourself more than ever during these moments because your mind will not shut up and you have no idea where all the energy is coming from. You’re like Superman on red kryptonite.