What I’m Writing: The Private Life of Jane Maxwell, super-detailed line edits.
What I’m Reading: The Twenty-Sided Sorceress by Annie Bellet
What I’m Loving: Loop Habit Tracker (see below)
When Jane was fifteen, she almost died.
This isn’t an exaggeration. It wasn’t that she was caught doing something and that her mom was going to, like, literally, kill her for it—no, this was actual, life-and-death death, and it had come so close that Jane had felt the coldness of its jaws against her skin.
Only six other people on earth ever knew this story, and those only because they were right alongside her when it happened.
It wasn’t as exciting as it should have been. Jane was out with her friends: Cal and Devin and Keisha and Marie and Tony… and Clair. Always Clair. This was the night of Tony’s sixteenth birthday, and he was pissed because his parents hadn’t let him schedule his driving test yet. Everyone agreed that this was vastly unfair. He was the oldest, and they’d been counting on him to be their ride. Now they’d have to wait who knows how long—God, maybe all of the way until summer, when Keisha would be next.
For seven teenagers stuck in the outermost stretches of the suburbs, this was as good as death.
They rode their bikes out, then, since fine, they didn’t have a car. Like a bunch of dumb kids. Tony wanted to do something different, so they were out hunting new hotspots to meet up. That’s what they called it, “hotspots,” like if they started hanging out there, then obviously all of the cool kids would follow. Never mind that it had never worked before. Tony had heard of an abandoned building on the far edge of town, a chemical factory that had been empty since the eighties. This seemed the ultimate height of cool, so they’d peddled out farther than they’d ever gone, the night sky stretching out endlessly above them. They roved as a pack, whooping it up and riding down the middle line of the road or in the oncoming traffic lane—feeling like total badasses—until they’d see headlights in the far, far distance, and then they’d all scramble not to collide as they jerked out of the way.
Years later, when Jane drew the version of this that didn’t happen, the infinitely cooler one that needed to appeal to the all-important 18–25 demographic, she’d crammed them all into a bumblebee yellow-and-black Camaro from 1973. There was beer in the backseat, and the hint that maybe someone had a joint hidden away for later. But in real life, they were on Schwinns and Walmart specials, helmets safely strapped to their heads, Pepsi and Snickers bars crammed into Cal’s backpack.
Oh, the mad month of May! Where do I even start? Where did it go?
Actually, I can see exactly where it went, because I started making heavier use of an app called Loop Habit Tracker this month. Basically, it’s just a chart of everything that you want to make a habit of, and each day that you complete that habit, you check it off. There are charts and percentages, too, which are addictively fun to watch grow in strength. The app sounds simple, and it is—that’s the beauty of it. I’ve tried various other productivity trackers and such before, including Habitica, which tries to turn your daily chores into an game, and none of them have really stuck because they all offer some form of punishment if you fail to make your goals. Listen, I don’t know about you, but I don’t need that kind of stress in my life, okay? Failing to raise my stats up, breaking my habit streaks—these are “punishment” enough to get my butt off of the couch when I’m feeling lazy. I get a thrill out of watching Loop’s charts go up, out of seeing a screen full of colorful checkmarks. So that’s working really well for me, and you should totally try it out if there’s a routine that you’d like to integrate into your life.
If you talk to me these days, I’ll probably make it sound like I am omg swamped with work, and on the one hand that’s true, and I am. The fun thing about The Private Life of Jane Maxwell, though, is that it’s teaching me a lot about editing that I never knew before, because it’s different than the other books I’ve released. Which isn’t to say that I don’t challenge myself with every book—I absolutely do, and if the book I am writing is too much the same as the books I’ve already written, I change it. And it’s not that I don’t learn something new from every book. But the others are all part of the same series, and as such, they need consistency in tone, in styling, in mood. The editing process is pretty much the same thing over and over again, because the problems are pretty much the same things over and over again, and the way to go about fixing them is kind of the same thing over and over again. I flip to editing, and I can basically do it on autopilot.
This book is different. This book, I have to use a whole different part of my brain to look at it. It’s absolutely delightful, and frustrating, and weird, to know how to edit one thing, and then throw most of what I think I know about the process away, and start fresh.
Such is the value of working on new things.
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