Now that it’s out (which I’m still not entirely sure I believe, even though I’ve seen a photo of the hard copy!), I’m kinda thinking back over the process of writing Before the Sun Fades, and how it all went. Or didn’t go, for a lot of the time.
Before the Sun Fades started life as a roleplay story arc concept that was never actually explored, with the valley and its reasons for existence vaguely known, but still more than a little bit hazy in places. A little after, NaNoWriMo came along, and I decided to finally do it, after years of never quite getting up the courage — and what better thing to do it with than the one concept I’d had but not yet written anything about? (I write pretty much compulsively. NaNo’s rule about nothing that’s been started going up means that, despite my eight million unfinished ideas, I very rarely have an available candidate without bending the rules a bit. Now that I’ve done it a few times and feel more relaxed about it, I’m more comfortable with bending the rules.)
So that was my first NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been back every year since; the only one I haven’t finished was 2014 and that was because something 12,000 times more awesome happened on the last weekend and took precedence. Anyway, I wrote like I’d never written before, using tactics I thought would never, ever work for me: I timed my writing, left in typos, let sentences stay horribly constructed… and reached the 50k goal easily, then carried on for the next week or two to the same words-per-day pressure in order to get the story finished. (The fact that I routinely write at 40-50 words per minute made that easier than it could have been: I can clear a NaNo daycount and then some in an hour without difficulty once I’m ‘in the zone’.)
One of my biggest problems is getting distracted on the job: I have enough parallel trains of thought that there’s always some stray wisp of brain capacity floating around that starts focusing on the most absurdly irrelevant stuff in the universe, and inevitably ends up with me browsing the Internet because I absolutely have to find out the mass of a giraffe for a lunar slingshot manoeuvre. (I don’t think I’ve actually done that one, but… now I’m curious. Somebody stop me!) For that first NaNo, I needed — and found — a way to stop myself doing that: I chose a CD I knew well that I could play in the background, and that fit with the feeling of the story, and set it to infinite loop. My trailing wisps of thought got distracted singing along, and every bit of that simply reminded me of the story I was already writing, providing a conveniently closed loop: I could distract myself right into writing the story I was distracting myself from writing! It worked so well that I’ve used it ever since. The particular music I used for Before the Sun Fades was the Within Temptation CD “The Heart of Everything” — while it’s not a story match, the theme and tone are pretty much perfect, and also it’s just plain a great CD (in my opinion, obviously). If your tastes are anything like mine, I absolutely recommend you buy it! (I don’t actually have any idea where to look on the Internet for music outside internet radio; I get all my CDs physically like the strange little anachronism that I am. That link therefore goes to HMV as the only place that wasn’t Itunes that I could think of in a hurry! I’m sure those of you more experienced than me can think of — and suggest? — much better ones.)
Then I cleaned up the most egregious flaws… and then I left it alone for something like a year. After working on it that intensely, I just wasn’t able to look at it and see the trees, only the forest I’d created. In order to cut, prune, and sculpt bits, I needed to get a lot further away from it again, until I could actually see what was there instead of what I knew I’d meant to put there. It went through another pretty heavy redrafting, sat around some more, got read through and cleaned up one last time… and then it was off to various vaguely traditional publishing options.
It came close in the open submission contest Angry Robot were holding at the time (they have great ebooks for sale and also may or may not be our new robot overlords, so go take a look!), but didn’t make it. Once that was confirmed, I then tried an agent… they never got back to me (which is fine, they’re busy), and so I decided that it wasn’t worth the delay time any more, if that makes sense. I still have the mindset I did as a fanfic author, and hopefully always will: I want the book to be out there, I want someone to read it, and maybe it’ll mean something to them. I’m not in it for the money or the publicity (ha!), I just have all these stories that I can’t stop writing, and I want to share. So after a bit of poking about and finding out what I could and couldn’t do, Before the Sun Fades went live via Smashwords and Createspace under the Creative Commons license I wanted, and really, that’s pretty much just perfect.
The rest, as they say, is history — or at least is about to become history!