Why STAND (Shift Series #4) has been the hardest thing I’ve ever written

I got to looking back at some of my past posts/dates/messaging regarding the release of STAND the other day, and realized that over the course of the last year, I’ve given you all many, many prospective dates on when I expected STAND to be born.

STAND Placeholder Cover

STAND Placeholder Cover

Normally, I try not to put dates/set expectations on anything unless I feel reasonably confident in the estimate–and the thing was, I did feel confident each time I threw a date/season/year out into the universe. So what in the heck was my problem? Why couldn’t I pick a date and stick to it? I figured if I was asking myself these questions, that you were probably wondering the very same thing. And, really, there are two facets to the reasoning. So here they are: why STAND has been the single hardest, most contentious, painstaking, blood-sweat-and-tears book I’ve ever written.

1) Outside influences

I don’t post about my family life much online (beyond the random mention of the “hubby”) because I figure you all have plenty of family in your own lives–including the drama, excitement, accomplishments, and everything else that comes with that. You probably don’t need to hear about mine, but in this case, family played a big role in knocking my writing train off the tracks. In November 2012, I became a first time Mom to a healthy, beautiful boy (all 9lbs, 11 ounces of him.) Mommy-hood is awesome–and also, easily the hardest, most time- and brain-consuming thing I’ve ever done. I released Augury not long after returning to work from maternity leave, but Augury was a completely different writing journey than STAND. Augury was a rewrite of a book I’d already written once in its entirety, consisting of characters that had already lived in my head for years (tens of years, truth be told.) That kind of writing is like going to the spa; it’s relaxing and creative–all the hard stuff had already been ironed out: all I had to do was make it beautiful. And that was the perfect thing for a brain-addled first-time mom. It was easy and smooth, and finishing Augury fed my soul–it gave me back some of the me that had been set aside in the months immediately following my son’s arrival. So, as soon as Augury hit the interwebs, I started in on STAND, eager to get it out to you all. I had written iterations of STAND before (more on that later) so I figured its birth would be similarly easy to Augury’s. But while Augury was smooth and supple as it slid from my mind through my fingers, STAND was not. Which leads me to the second part of the reasoning behind my tardiness.

2) Inside influences

If you all have read some of my past posts, you know that I wrote all of the Shift Series before ever publishing SHIFT. Which is true. I thought I had written STAND. But, as I revised and edited each book in the series, I grew less and less satisfied with STAND’s original story. For each book in the series (SHIFT, RECAST, and DRIFT), there is a rough draft of STAND. There are two additional rough drafts that were written before SHIFT was published, and two rough drafts written since the release of DRIFT. In total, I have seven (or more) drafts of STAND, each ranging from 50-100% complete. And each one contains multiple, pivotal differences from the others. I knew how I wanted the story to end–the final two chapters have stayed mostly the same for the duration of my efforts. But I could not, for the life of me, create a storyline that got us to those chapters that had any staying power. I would write a draft, and think ‘yes–I like this–I think I have it right this time.’ Then I’d put it away for a month, or two, or three, while I finished and released another book. And, invariably, when I would pull it back out, I would hate it. Ask Kate–I can’t tell you how many times I told her that I’d finally figured it out, only to tell her later that what I’d written was awful. And I couldn’t figure out why. I’ve never had this problem before. Normally, I write a draft, and while I re-read what I’ve written, I add layers of details, flesh-out descriptions, maybe even add a side story-line–but I rarely hate the skeleton outright, in its entirety. But that just kept happening. So I had to have a serious conversation to myself: why was I doing this? What I figured out was this:

a) I am sad to see the series come to an end. Releasing STAND marks the end of an era–the end of a personal journey that has been the coolest, most awesomely rewarding thing I’ve ever done professionally. (It even trumps some personal accomplishments.) But also, releasing STAND marks the end of a story–the end of a relationship between me and two characters that I love to an unreasonable degree. When STAND is complete, Drake and Leah’s story is complete–at least as far as I am going to write it directly. It feels like cutting off a limb.

b) I found it very difficult to tie up all the loose ends–to eat all the cookies I had dropped over the course of the books leading up to this finale. Some I left there, uneaten, on purpose–but those were few and strategic. I’ve never written a series that follows one set of characters, one story arch, across multiple books, so this has been a new experience for me. I’d do it again, for sure, but next time I’ll know how to organize myself from the start to make the process of glutting out on story-cookies more manageable as I near the end of the series.

c) I am in love with Drake King. And I desperately want all of you to understand why. Drake is easily the most complicated character I’ve ever written. I said in his character study that he’s like the guy you sit next to all year in English class–he asks you about your family and your plans for the weekend, and you chat it up before class every day. But come the end of the school year, you realize he knows everything about you–but you don’t know anything about him. That is really freaking hard to write. It means there are all kinds of things in Drake’s head that he doesn’t say. That sometimes, he doesn’t even consciously think about. But that is Drake and so help me, I couldn’t change him no matter what I did–and I didn’t want to. He’s private, and pensive, and sarcastic, and, to be honest, a little dark. God, and I love him so much! So, when I was writing, I was constantly holding that candle to my words: will others see in Drake what I am trying to portray? Or, put another way, am I doing Drake justice with what I am writing? I think, finally, I have, but I’m not certain. I hope I have. Drake was never meant to be the Jace Waylon or the Edward Cullen of the story–he wasn’t ever intended to make you swoon; that’s not his style. Instead, I hope Drake has quietly worked his way into your psyche–or if he hasn’t yet, that he will–until suddenly, you realize that you never had a crush on Drake, but instead you’re in love with him. I probably just set myself up for failure with that statement, but there it is.

Hopefully this helps you be less mad at me for all the reneging I’ve done on the STAND release over the months/years. Rest assured that STAND is now in the final phases of editing (and I still like it!) so at this point, there’s no going back. I’m sticking to my 3.31.2014 date come hell or high water. And I sincerely hope you like it.

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One response to “Why STAND (Shift Series #4) has been the hardest thing I’ve ever written

  1. Pingback: Happy Birthday, Drake King! | ellebeauregard(.com)

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