So, Tashué decided he trusted me enough to give up his car... Now what?
There were some things I knew we had to save. Tashué chasing the serial killer who murdered children was some of the strongest writing I've ever done for him. It allowed me to examine parenthood and family, and let me write a male character who values those things. It let me look at the pressure we put on ourselves as parents, and all the many ways we fail, even though we love our families so much.
What makes a good parent? How do we measure success or failure when it comes to the humans we're shaping? Is loving them enough? Or maybe loving them is all that matters.
So Tashué carried that burden with him into the Dominion. Finding the body of a girl on the riverbank is central to the entire plot. Look, fellow parents, I'm sorry. But it had to be this way.
As for the rest...? I'm going to admit that there were a lot of pieces that I didn't know.
With Logan & Bronwynn, I tried to write a fully formed story, with all the threads figured out in advance, and all the characters fully realized, and the tone hitting exactly how I imagined it. When I got stuck or frustrated, I would scrap everything and start again. And again. And again.
But by the time Tashué and I were trying to figure out his place in the Dominion, I was on Twitter. I was following a lot of authors I admire. And watching them talk about how hard the drafting process is for them was a massive lightbulb moment for me. I realized I was expecting way too much of my drafts. I was also EXHAUSTED for parenting-related reasons, so I didn't have much mental energy to chase down the things I couldn't figure out. But I couldn't not write anymore. I needed it. Some days I only wrote a single sentence. But I never started over. I never went back. Always forward, always advancing, even if it was a single, miserable step at a time.
If I realized that something needed to have happened six chapters ago, I left myself a note mid-scene and kept writing like the event had happened. If a character popped up and I didn't know what their purpose was? Who cares? Keep going. Figure it out later.
(I'm not going to lie, Illea Winter threw a massive wrench things, shifting the story I thought I was going to write into something super political, and then she said she was going to-- well, you'll see.)
The result was everything that a first draft should be: unreadable, muddled, jumbled, confusing, not fit for human eyes, but FINISHED.
And 275k words.
With a lot missing.
It was immediately obvious that this "first book that starts the war" wasn't a single book. So I chopped off the first bit, the spot that had an obvious conclusion. Since the child is key, that arc had to have some answers. The relationships that were building had to have some future to them... or an end. I always knew what the book was about, but I needed to figure out what came before. Mostly I needed to figure out who Tashué was in this new setting, what life he had led here. Get rid of the car, get rid of the history we had built. Some of the characters that used to exist in his orbit didn't fit anymore. Pieces of his past didn't fit anymore. The early revision passes were about figuring out the sequence of events, and which order the scenes were in, and what needed to happen when. Later passes were about figuring out the emotional burdens characters were carrying, figuring out who fit where, figuring out how their pasts were affecting the storyline.
But every pass was about figuring out who Tashué was in this new world, this new time period. Who he was as a father, as a lover, as a friend. As a Regulation Officer. A big difference this time is that it's not actually his job to find out who killed the girl from the river. As a Regulation Officer, he's not a police officer in the way he was before. But I knew him. Even though it wasn't his job at all, I knew there was no way he would be able to let go of that girl.
While I was revising Tashué, I was invited to participate in a beautiful anthology called Dark Ends with my amazing friends. Doing that book with them really forged bonds that I'll never forget. (Guys, if you're reading this, I adore you!) Dark Ends got the story Tainted, which takes place from a POV from one of the characters Tashué encounters in his books, Glaen Forsooth. Glaen took me by surprise a little. He was a character I was using to examine the world, the magic system (Talent) and how the people with Talent were treated by the Dominion (not well). Glaen has a hard time, I'm not going to lie... But he kickes back. He makes some decisions that change the course of Tashué's life. And, well, the anthology is called Dark Ends, so...
As Dark Ends was getting ready to hit the world, Tashué's first book was making progress. It felt like I was really on to something, but I wasn't totally confident yet. I wasn't sure about the ending, and I couldn't tell anymore what bits were working and which were weak. I needed some outside eyes.
I sent it off to some fantastic writers. I can't say this enough: get to know other writers. They will inspire you, they will encourage you, they will lift you up, they will give you perspective on things that you can't see yourself. Helping them with their projects is an amazing experience. Having them help you is just perfection.
Tashué and I owe so much to you, Angela and Bjørn. He wouldn't be where he is now without you guys.