From Brain to Bookshelf: Gambit + Sequel

April 25, 2016

“If even one person falls in love with my book, I’ll be happy.”

 

That’s what I told my husband the day Gambit was released. After years of investing time, energy, and passion into a story that came straight from my heart, I knew that if even one reader ended up loving it, the whole thing would be worth it.

 

So please let me convey how humbling and beautiful and awesome it has been to receive so many positive reviews, tweets, and e-mails about Gambit’s story and characters. I’m truly overwhelmed by your love and support. Gets me teary-eyed just thinking about it!

 

Many of you have asked when the sequel will be out. I’ve been pretty vague, mostly because I’m still working on it. A lot has changed in my life since Gambit’s rough draft days, and it’s been a huge adjustment. I decided it might help to share some of that.

 

If you’re interested, keep reading…

 

 

My youngest son Caleb first gave me the idea to write a book. Bless his heart, right? That was all the way back in 2005. Yep, many moons ago. He wanted one specifically written for him, and it took forever to gear up for the project. Once I started writing, I kept getting frustrated and giving up. At one point—after letting it sit for a year—I decided to try using first person POV to see if that would help. It did! And in 2009, I was ready to go.

 

The main character was a boy named Caleb Wolfe, and I worked on the story for about three years. By 2012, I was 400 pages in with no end in sight. I also realized that over those three years, my writing style had changed. The first half of the book didn’t really match the last half. An alarming discovery, let me tell you. But I put on my big boy pants and started editing the first half to match it up. I’d finished about 100 pages and was taking a short break…when the idea for Gambit seized me.

 

 

 

 

The feeling I get when an idea hits is hard to describe. I literally freeze. My senses dull, and my thoughts whirl like a hurricane. I vaguely remember my oldest son Garad, who has special needs, rocking out to his music in the corner of the room. And I remember muting an episode of Alphas on TV so I could think. The concept came all at once: future world, Scottish tavern, teenage girl. My brain said GO. I grabbed my laptop and started typing.

 

EDITS = 0

 

By the end of the day, I’d written ten pages. By the end of the week, it was seventy. I was deep in the grip of the story, and revising “Wolfe” had helped me find my writing voice. I had few distractions—just my family and my INFJ Café blog—and poured myself into my work. Six months later, I had a 130,000-word rough draft.

 

But like any rough draft, it wasn’t very good. Seriously. If you went back and read parts of the original, you’d laugh. I still can’t believe my beta-reader, Sarah, liked it. But she told me the story was good and to keep going. So I edited the entire manuscript twice and signed up on Figment to get more feedback. And I edited each chapter again before turning it over to Figment reviewers.

 

EDITS = 3

 

It was on Figment that I met Kisa Whipkey from REUTS. The company was just being formed, and she was out there in editor capacity, scoping for potential authors. I touched base with her and, two full edits later, had the courage to send her my story.

 

EDITS = 5

 

In May of 2013, REUTS offered me a contract. WOOT! I totally freaked out when the e-mail came (just ask anyone in the coffee shop who witnessed my happy dance). Kisa asked for some structural changes to the story, and I knew I had more editing work to do. Like, a lot more. Each time Kisa pointed out something I should fix, I’d realize that it would have to be fixed all the way through. I cringed at all my rookie mistakes.

 

We had the original release date planned for March 2014, but I kept editing the story and didn’t feel ready. A year later, I was okay to release…but I was still smoothing things out the week before it went live. If I remember correctly, my total number of full-length edits between May 2013 and March 2015 was 8.

 

EDITS = 13

 

By now, you should have an idea of the amount of work I put into this thing. That doesn’t even begin to include the work REUTS did (cover art, editing, teaser images, trailer), or the marketing stuff involved. I had to leave my comfort zone and do things like write back-cover copy, create tag lines, have a website developed, and create a social media presence. And the promotional effort after release day? Yikes! A blog tour, finding reviewers and book bloggers, signing up for book review services, navigating social media, trying to start an author blog...and all while keeping up with my INFJ Café blog and starting the sequel.

 

On top of that, I had to stop everything last summer and take on full-time care of my special-needs son. He was getting ready to move into a group home, and my other two kids were prepping to move out, and life got CRAZY. I couldn’t keep up. I’d spend all week with family obligations, social media stuff, and promotional work, and then try to write/blog on the weekends. One kid moved back home and then out again. This went on for months, and it was exhausting.

 

Fast-forward to present day. My kids are all tucked away, and it’s just me and my husband at home. I have two blogs, two Facebook fan pages, a published book, and plans for three more in the series. Then two different books after that. I’m also on Twitter and Instagram. Still promoting, too (that never stops). It’s a whirlwind, but it’s finally getting manageable.

 

 

Still, eight arms would be nice...

 

 

Now, about the sequel. I was really excited to begin. It didn't take long, however, to realize I needed to do something I never did for Gambit: plan. I pretty much made Gambit up as I went along. You can do that when you’re building a world. But the sequel has to live in that world and abide by its laws, rules, and boundaries. I had to stop for a month and do quite a bit of research and planning. Because, you know, destroying the planet and creating a bleak dystopian future for all mankind is hard work. A lot of wine was involved. But it was fun, and I now have a solid cache of backstory, documentation, and world history to draw from.

 

I also have a title. I was waffling between two different options and have mostly decided on one. Just to be safe, though, I’m saving it until I finish the rough draft. Sorry! But once I announce the sequel title, I should be able to announce the other two as well. They have a neat backstory and a cool tie-in to something personal. I’m excited to share that in the future.

 

One last thing. Now that I’ve been through the editing process with Kisa, my writing process has changed. See, the awesome thing about Kisa is that she doesn’t simply tell me to fix something—she explains why I need to fix it. She knows her stuff and intuitively ferrets out my weak spots, showing me different options so I can improve as a writer. Did I mention she’s awesome? Well, I can’t say it enough. Gambit wouldn’t be what it is today without her.

 

But I'm slower now. As I write, my internal editor works a lot harder than it did before. It knows just how primitive Gambit’s rough draft was and is trying to raise the bar. This threw me off at first. I had some serious self-doubt and did a lot of second-guessing in the beginning chapters. I rewrote one chapter three stinking times before deciding that the original was the best version (yeah, that was frustrating). I’m learning to trust my instincts again, though. And my rough draft quality is improving…I probably won’t need 13 edits to whip this one into shape.

 

 

Sorry for such a long post. I’ve wanted to write this for a while, just so you know what it’s like for an idea to go from brain to bookshelf. The process is amazing and fun and hard work and torture all at the same time. LOL. Book Two is certainly turning out to be an adventure.

 

But if even one person loves it? Totally worth it. <3

 

Image Credit: Idea Baby, Multi-tasking Octo

 

 

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C.L. Denault is the author of Gambit, a thrilling YA dystopian novel released March 2015 by REUTS Publications.

 

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