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The Official Un-obligatory Project Update

2017 project title plate: Namesake

I finally finished my experimental manuscript. I’ve battled this beast for over a year, and my brain wanted it done a long time ago, so the last stretch took a lot out of me. I typed “The End” on April 4, exported the text to Word, and closed the Scrivener project file.

And I haven’t opened it again.


I’ve learned enough of my writing patterns to expect a creative depression to hit me after I finish a draft. The focus required in that end-game sequence of tying all my plot elements together really jacks up my everyday life. I forget how to live outside of my craft, and when the project closes and I have to come back into the real world, I experience a loss of purpose and become despondent for a spell.

Not so this time around.

The Boondoggle Project

When I started into Namesake, I didn’t think much of it. I had jotted the idea down almost a decade ago. I even sketched out some scenes, gave some characters names, and outlined a couple of major events. But I did it almost flippantly. The concept seemed too predictable and the conflicts too trite, so I hadn’t considered further development a good use of my time.

I can’t remember why I picked it up again. I think the throes of real-life drama made me want something brain-candy-ish to experiment with. It was an escape. I changed the POV from 3rd Limited Omniscient to 1st Lyric Present and made my protagonist a sarcastic little punk. I wasn’t going to do anything with it, so why shouldn’t I play?

The plot merited a novella, a quick there-and-back-again adventure where my bitter protag could get some perspective knocked into her. For kicks, and because I wasn’t working on anything serious, I brought it to my critique group.

And that’s where I ran into trouble.

The Questionable Joys of Critique

Critique groups are awesome. They make you accountable for your work and help you refine your craft. And sometimes—sometimes—when you phone in a brain-candy draft, they demand that you get your act together and develop it properly.

I didn’t want to. Rachel and Jill insisted. When I told them last summer that I was five chapters away from the end, they looked at each other in alarm and said, “No you’re not.”

I balked. They lectured. I revised characters and scenes and villains and plot points and lived in dread of that weekly meeting.

(Sometimes accountability really bites, y’know?)

But the process refined me. I had to take my craft seriously instead of flouncing through self-indulgent mediocrity.

And the end-result? This story is wayyyyy better than I ever expected it to be. Color me pleasantly surprised.

 The Moral

My grandfather used to say, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” but in the literary world, “right” can be subjective. The road from Mediocre to Fantabulous requires slogging through a lot of hard work. It definitely helps to have course checks along the way.

(And yes, “Mediocre” and “Fantabulous” are both subjective as well.)

Further Reading

Curious about Namesake? I’ve posted a couple of excerpts over on my critique group’s site, Novel Three:

From Chapter 1, here.

From Chapter 6, here.

Look for the book sometime this summer. If I get my act together, I should announce more specific dates soon.

6 thoughts on “The Official Un-obligatory Project Update”


    Mostly because I love sarcastic little punks 😀

    I totally get the after-project depression (though I’m glad you didn’t get it this time), and I envy your critique group experience–mine hasn’t been so good 😀

    1. I lucked out with my current group. There’s definitely some trial-and-error to get the right dynamic, but sometimes it’s just easier to keep to oneself. 😉

  2. I discovered your books after the last one was published, so I was wondering whether you normally have a long pre-order period, or if the book becomes available soon after you submit it?
    (It probably doesn’t make a difference on when the book will actually be available, but I’m still curious.)

    Also: I’ve really enjoyed your blog, especially the “Linguistics for Writers” section. You make what could easily be a boring subject (based on the ways most schools teach it at least) truly interesting.

    1. Sorry for the late reply. I will make the excuse that’s I’ve been busy formatting a book to publish…

      I’ve never done a pre-order period. As an indie, I’m supposed to, but by the time I get finished with all the logistics of getting the book put together, my marketing usually amounts to, “Hey, everyone. This thing’s available now.”

      I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the blog. I love linguistics, but I worry about wading too far into the weeds when I talk about it. It’s nice to know not everyone’s eyes are glazing over, haha. Thanks for your comment!

      1. Getting a book ready for publishing is a pretty good reason to not reply right away.
        Thanks for answering!

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