good morning, cyberspace!
Well, here we are! The post you’ve all been waiting for. I hinted
last week two weeks ago now (lol, oops) that I had some exciting news to share, and this post right here is the one in which I spill the beans. *rubs hands together gleefully* I may or may not be a little too excited about this…
But anyway! Some of you may already know my news. Some of you may not. I’ve been trying to keep it a secret until this post could come out, but if you’re in my inner writing circle, you proooooobably already know what this is. Maybe. I don’t know for sure. But we’re all here today and I’m ready to finally–officially–announce it to the universe.
So here we go!
Here it comes…!
I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF PROJECT SUNSET!
Oh my goodness. OH MY GOODNESS. I can’t believe I’m actually typing these words right now! But it’s real and it’s true and I finished it! I mean, of course the first draft is kinda … you know … less than ideal. But it’s mine. This tiny child of trash and sunshine is mine, and oh, how I love it. It’s everything I never knew I wanted it to be and so much more. And–not to give spoilers away or anything–the last three chapters that I wrote almost made me cry.
Like actual, eye-burning, cheek-wetting tears. Of course, I was able to suck it up like a man and didn’t actually shed anything, but it was still really weird to have something that I wrote make me tear up. There was one specific moment where I literally shoved my laptop away from me in frustration (not from the writing itself, of course, but an event within the story that was … unexpected), and I’m pretty sure in that moment I realized how horrible of a human I truly am.
i’m sorry, my children…
It was, in a nutshell, an all around strange day.
But I digress! Now that the first draft is done, I’m forced to reflect on this project as a whole, and I just … what a whirlwind this story has been. I first began drafting this book in April of 2019, tried NaNo-ing it in November, scrapped the majority of what I’d written (with the exception of exactly two chapters), and then wrote 90,000 words during quarantine, with 60,000 of that being written in April alone.
Just… *head implodes* This has been a crazy experience. And today I’d like to share some of the whirlwind with you all! (and also some sneaky peeks into the story itself, but SHHHH. that’s a surprise.)
PROJECT SUNSET: THE FIRST DRAFT
Where to begin, where to begin. Project Sunset first came to me on a Saturday morning about two years ago, when I was reading through blog posts and thinking about basically nothing at all. I think that’s when the best ideas come to us, actually. Those spare snatches of time when our brains are filled with a blissful nothingness, perfectly open to whatever random, beautiful ideas may come knocking.
The idea for Project Sunset wasn’t my typical plot bunny, however. It wasn’t a scene or a character. Not a setting, a theme, or even a plot twist. Instead, it was a single, specific sentence. One sentence–a concept, really–so intriguing that the minute it fluttered into my brain, I knew there was no hope of shaking it.
In my experience, there are many forms of plot bunnies. Some of them are “maybes”, some of them “somedays”, and others are bunnies so floofy and smol that you just know this was a book you were always meant to write. It’s like it was designed for you, waiting for you to finally think the right thought to blossom it into existence. That’s what happened with The Dragon Elements. It’s what happened with everlost. And it’s what happened with this particular manuscript, as well. As soon as I had the idea, I knew that this was it. Project Sunset was supposed to be my next novel.
As with all things in my life, though, there were many detours along the way to this manuscript’s completion. But now, almost two whole years later, it is here–rough, choppy first draft though it may be. Project Sunset is written, and while I’m sure a road filled with excruciating editing is before me, I’m still so excited to be able to have something to edit. Something hard and concrete–more than just a few blank pages and an idea.
I won’t go into the details of the plot right now. (some things must still remain secret, of course! mwahahaha!) but–as promised–I will be sharing some snippets from the book! (but please keep in mind that this is VERY rough draft material. like, so rough it could probably impale you if you touch it. Ye’ve been warned.)
And for anyone who enjoys playlists, I’ve got one of those coming your way, as well! *thumbs up*
— SNIPPETS —
Ed woke up with a frown on his face. It was there when he first looked in the mirror as he rolled out of bed, there when he got dressed—his green-checked flannel shirt fit a little bit tighter around the middle than he remembered—there when he smoothed back the grey wisps of hair crowning his head, there when he yanked his cane off the hook on the wall and plunked it into the carpet, and there—more pronounced than ever before, shrouded beneath two thick grey eyebrows and one big, bulbous nose—when he finally found himself squished at the rickety table in Setting Suns’ sunlit dining hall between Samuel Plinkett and Eugene Crandall.
As it turned out, Eleanor was not joking about the ice cream. Much to Shelby’s shock and Ed’s very transparent, very audible displeasure, Carlos whipped Stanley’s van into the teeny parking lot of Mel’s Ice Cream Shack, nearly hitting a child on a glistening green tricycle in the process.
The child, quickly attended to by his frantic mother, dropped his baby-sized mint chocolate chip ice cream cone and proceeded to promptly have a temper tantrum right in the middle of the parking lot.
“Nasty kid,” Carlos muttered, jamming the stick into park and dislodging the key from the ignition. “Has no one taught him the rules of the road?”
“He’s three years old, Carlos,” Eugene pointed out from the back seat.
Now that Liam and Beau were absent, everyone fit perfectly on the back bench, and for the whole fifteen minute drive back to the city center, no one bothered to complain about the cramped quarters.
The silence had nearly been deafening.
“And I’d be willing to bet my left foot that he knows more about the rules of driving than you do,” Sam added.
“Your left foot is the one with the fungus, right?” Eugene asked.
“What are you ladies getting up to over here?” Eugene sidled into the booth beside Shelby, handing her a slightly lopsided Super Mega Chocolate Fountain Sundae with a plastic spoon stuck into the side, its indent already dripping with gooey hot fudge and a few dislodged sprinkles.
Shelby blinked down at the sundae, and her eyes caught on an already scooped out section, where someone had clearly taken a scoop and a bite.
“Hey!” Shelby said. “You ate my ice cream!”
Eugene licked hot fudge off his thumb and bit a section off his mint chocolate chip cone without acknowledging her.
Eleanor and Juanita pulled apart begrudgingly as Sam puddled in beside Eugene, his hands cradled around a massive milkshake in a Styrofoam cup.
“You two look like you’re scheming,” the old man said knowingly, draping his white cane across his knees. He pointed his milkshake towards them, jabbing the straw their way like an extendable finger. “Spill.”
“We’re not scheming anything,” Eleanor answered. “We’re talking. There’s a difference.”
“When two women get to talking, rarely anything good comes out of it,” Sam said, and shot Shelby a wink.
“You can’t just leave me here!” Shelby’s bare feet slapped across the kitchen floor after her brother, but Stanley was doing a fine job of ignoring her. Grabbing his wallet off the counter, he walked out of the kitchen without even bothering to glance her way. “Stanley!”
Stanley sighed—she could see his shoulders rise and fall with it—but even though he spoke, he still didn’t turn to look at her.
Maybe he couldn’t.
“Shells… You know I don’t like being the bad guy, but—”
“I wasn’t just wandering around!” Shelby argued. Plowing forward, she pushed herself in front of him and spun on her heel, forcing him to look at her.
Or, at the very least, to stop walking.
Stanley sighed again, and this time he turned his gaze out the front window. “Those people you were with—”
“They weren’t trying to hurt me!” Shelby insisted. “They were protecting me!”
The words slipped out before she could stop them, and she froze, her teeth chomping down on her bottom lip far too late.
Now she’d done it…
Stanley’s eyes met hers now. The confusion inside of them was tangible. “What?”
“They wouldn’t hurt me,” Shelby repeated, dodging his question. “I know they wouldn’t. They’re kind.”
“How much did you talk to them?” Stanley asked. “Shells, if you told them anything about us—”
“Why are you so concerned about a bunch of old people?” Shelby asked. “You’re always telling me to make friends. I’m just doing what you wanted me to.”
“Yeah, make friends with kids your age, not some crackpot band of old folks rotting away in a nursing home.”
“Retirement village,” Shelby muttered.
“Whatever.” Stanley waved her away. “People were talking about them, Shells. They were telling stories about the strange group at table two, and I just … I don’t want you hanging around with them anymore. I don’t trust them.”
Maria was late. Shelby had time to make popcorn and find the perfect angle of squish from the couch before the doorbell rang.
Tossing a slightly burnt kernel into her mouth, she rolled her eyes. “COME IN!” she screamed, her voice rising above the television, which she’d cranked up to 20. Captain Blade reruns were supposed to be enjoyed at maximum volume—a fact her mother had taught her, and one that Stanley greatly disagreed with.
Why was Maria even bothering to use the doorbell? She was always Shelby’s babysitter—not that she really needed one. Maria was more like a super cool older sister who typically barged right in, throwing assortments of chocolaty snacks and watercolor supplies everywhere with a soft, “Today—we create.” She was an amazing artist, and an even better friend—one who wouldn’t complain that Shelby’s breakfast of choice had been buttered popcorn—so it was no surprise that Stanley had a huge, secret crush on her. Of course, he denied it every time Shelby brought it up, but the beet redness of his cheeks was enough of a tip-off. And why else would he insist on Maria always coming over whenever he left? Shelby was almost twelve. She could totally take care of herself by now.
The doorbell rang again.
“COME IN!” Shelby screamed. This time she was positive her voice exceeded that of Captain Blade, who was mid-battle with a zombie from planet Gorgon. “THE DOOR’S UNLOCKED!”
The doorbell chimed for the third time, and this time Shelby groaned, pulling herself off the couch with some difficulty.
It was rare she was able to find the perfect amount of squish. She’d have to wriggle around for another thirty minutes just to find it again.
Her bare feet padded across the wood floor, and she whipped the door open without thinking to check the front porch first.
“The door was open,” she said, swinging it back so that a warm autumn breeze swept in. “Are your hands full or somethin—”
Shelby stopped short. It wasn’t Maria standing on her front stoop. Short, beautiful Maria with the caramel skin and the hair that always seemed to be changing colors.
It was a man. A tall, thin, horribly familiar looking man.
“Well. I must say I was hoping you would have better manners for someone your age,” Casey said, staring down at her. He was neither smiling nor scowling. It was a sizing-you-up kind of stare.
The kind that made Shelby’s heart drop like a stone.
“You’ve been taking lessons from Sam and Eugene, no doubt.”
Shelby’s fingers tightened against the door, but something kept her from slamming it closed in his face. She was frozen. Completely, utterly frozen.
“Oh, come now, don’t look so frightened,” Casey said cheerfully. His voice was like a strange, methodical coo. “I’m not here to hurt you, my dear. Not yet, anyway. Aren’t you going to invite me in?”
Shelby’s heart hammered against her ribs, and her eyes flicked out into the street.
Please, please come, Maria. Please, please, please, please…
“That won’t do you any good, Miss Westburn. Let’s just keep this little thing between you and me, yes? We wouldn’t want anything to happen to that special big brother of yours, now would we?”
Shelby’s eyes widened.
“What…” Her voice cracked, and she tried again, forcing her legs to remain steady beneath her. “What do you want from me?”
“Ah, nothing much, my dear. Nothing much at all.” Casey smiled at her now, and the sight was so warm and genuine that it almost had the reverse effect—it was cold and cruel and horrid and welcoming all at once. Slowly, he extended one wrinkled old hand towards her, veins flashing blue beneath the sunlight. “All I ask is that you come with me.”
I can’t remember if I’ve shared the playlist of this book before, but either way, I’m pretty sure there have been some new additions to the lineup. So, here’s the newest version of the Project Sunset playlist! (for all you peeps out there who enjoy listening to music…)
I also have a few songs that are “character specific”, so for anyone who’s into things like that, here are some of the songs which my darling have adopted for their own:
ED – Song for Ten
SHELBY – Song for Sienna
EUGENE – Honeycomb
LIAM – Time Warp
CARLOS AND JUANITA – Sway
CASEY – Who Wants To Live Forever
SAM – The Show Must Go On
Obviously I’ve left out some major factors of this book. The plot is still something that I’ve been meaning to tweak, the characters are still going by their pseudonyms rather than their actual titles, and there is–I’m not going to lie–something rather obvious that I’m not ready to share yet. But I’m so beyond excited to share this story with you all someday–because I WILL share the entirety of this story with you all someday–and when that time comes, I can’t wait to spill every single bean I’ve been collecting over the course of the past two years.
For today, however, I hope this is enough to tithe you over until the book is a little more polished and “shareable”!
talk to me, peasants!
- Do you have any questions about Project Sunset? I can’t promise I’ll share ALL of the gory details, but I’m definitely open to answering any non-spoilery things!
- How long does it typically take you to finish a first draft?
- How long do you wait after finishing a first draft to dive into edits? I’m thinking I’m going to wait at least three months for this one, but I’m not entirely sure yet. (I may or may not have a smol goblin story that I want to write next, so we’ll see if that happens or not!)
- Is there a particular character you would like to see interviewed for a sort of celebratory interview post? I’m open to anyone as long as we don’t pit Sam and Eugene together again. I don’t think I can handle that right now. XD
And most importantly…
WHICH SNIPPET WAS YOUR FAVORITE?
Assuming, of course, that you had a favorite. XD
As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below! And until next time…
14 thoughts on “Another One Bites The Dust”
Yay, Kenzie! Good work! Finishing a first draft is a HUGE accomplishment! And wow, this book sounds like it’s going to be ah-may-zing. This may be a spoilery question, but what was the sentence that started it all?
I haven’t finished a first draft in…awhile…but it often takes me up to six months, sometimes more. And once I’m done, I usually drop it like a hot potato for as long as possible before beginning edits. XD
And aaaah I loved the second snippet! I cannot wait to learn more about this!
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EEP! Thank you SO much, Samantha!!! I really hope it turns out as amazing as I see it in my head. Obviously the first draft is slightly akin to trash fire, but I’m excited for the potential it still has!
Ooooh. Okay, so that IS a very spoilery question, and unfortunately I can’t answer it at this point in time. But I promise–pinky swear!!!–that once I’m done with the second or third draft and have a bit more of a substantial plot that I’ll DEFINITELY share that with you all! Currently I’m not sure how long this book is going to take, and I don’t want to spoil too much of it before I’m able to share ALL of the things. XD (I know this sounds weird but IT MAKES SENSE IN MY HEAD. XD)
Oh goodness, SAME. Currently Project Sunset is now rotting away on my harddrive. But it’s fine. I’ll get back to it eventually. XD
MEEP! Oh my goodness, thank you so much!! I can’t wait to SHARE more with you all! I’m honestly considering jumping into revisions earlier than I thought, but I’m also kinda scared to. XD This draft was…a lot. XD
Congrats, Kenzie!!!! That’s super exciting and such an amazing feeling, having a rough draft finished!
Eugene taking a bite out of Shelby’s ice cream was definitely my favorite, though the “nursing home / retirement village / whatever” line also had me cracking up.
But that last snippet! YIKES! I need to know who these people are, now, and what happens to them. I have an inkling that Stanley and Shelby aren’t… quite… human? Perhaps? You don’t have to tell me if that’s spoilery, but that’s the vibe I’m getting from the snippets. Or that they’re in some sort of witness protection program.
Rough drafts take me a varying amount of time. Anywhere from 2 months to 2 years, currently. Usually somewhere in the ballpark of 6 months, that seems to be my average speed lately. A lot often depends on what all else is going on in life.
Edits are the same kind of vary-ing-ness, too… some books I edit immediately. Others I wait and write the rest of the series first. It just kind of depends. :)
I’d love to see Stanley interviewed, but I get the feeling he wouldn’t be super cooperative with his answers :)
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EEP! THANK YOU SO MUCH, JENELLE!!! I am so, SO excited about this draft. It’s absolute trash fire right now, but I’m excited to dive back into it in a few months and make it pretty!
Oh my goodness, those characters. I seriously could NOT control Eugene and Sam at ALL throughout the duration of the drafting process. They were their own entities, and I’m not sure how i survived writing them. XD
Okay, so I actually CAN tell you the answer to this, because it’s not spoilery! Shelby and Stanley are very much ordinary humans! But I’m REALLY glad that you’re getting that sort of vibe, though. That’s perfect and EXACTLY what we want… Mwahahahahahahaha!!! XD
6 months seems to be the standard for rough drafting! This one took me about 3 months, but I had already started and stopped the book multiple times before that, so I already knew quite a bit about the backstory and the characters themselves… This was my first time really setting myself a schedule and sticking with it, though, so I’m really excited to try that again and see if it holds!
OOOOH. Someday I’m going to have to pick your brain about writing series’! Those things TERRIFY me, writing-wise. (and I have a dualogy that I’m procrastinating on, much to my writing group’s despair. XD)
Stanley is….yeah, he’s a strange one. XD He’s actually the most normal out of any of my characters? Which obviously makes him the black sheep in the group, but it’s an adorable chemistry and I really enjoy writing him. XD I might have to interview him sometime! He’s a little bit on the quiet side, so getting him out of his shell will be a fun challenge!
I LOVE ALL YOUR SNIPPETS. WHAT IS THIS TALENT. AHH. Congratulations on finishing the draft! I’m so excited for you! I’m dreaming of the day I get to read it 😊
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MEEP! Oh my goodness! Thank you SO much!!!! <3333 I cannot WAIT for you to read this one! It's definitely a favorite of mine… XD
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*SHRIEKS FOR A THOUSAND MILLION YEARS* THIS JUST MAKES ME SO RIDICULOUSLY HAPPYYYYY!!! There is truly nothing like finishing the first draft of a novel. It is one of my most favorite feelings in the world. I’M SO PROUD OF YOU. CONGRATS!!!!!!!
AND SNIPPETS. WE GET SNIPPETS. THIS IS THE BEST DAY.
Excuse me, but THIS is your first draft writing??? Can I have your magical SKILLS?! Because WHAT. THESE ARE AMAZING. Oh my goodness, you should have seen my grin while reading these. I LOVE THEM. SO MUCH. That first one is GOLD. It portrays SO MUCH in so few words. And I was just giggling all the way through with all of these! I LOVE YOUR VOICE. The amount of wit is just GOLD. SO MUCH WIT. SO MUCH GOLD. Shelby finding the “perfect amount of squish” on the couch was such a hilarious and perfect detail, oh man. XD I CAN’T. Just…ALL OF THIS!
One of these days I’ll get to say, “Why yes, I am friends with THE Kenzie Keene” because GIRL. YOU ARE GOING PLACES.
CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN!!!!!! I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU AAAAAHHHHH!!!! *throws a million cookies and a pound of glitter everywhere*
MEEP!! *SQUEALS RIGHT ALONGSIDE YOU WHILST FLAILING LIKE A MANIAC* Oh my goodness, I can’t believe it’s actually done??? And SAME!!! This is one of my favoritest feelings in the whole entire world, as well!!!!
YES!!! YOU GET SNIPPETS!!!! *hides face in paper bag*
OH MY WORD… Christine, you literally just made my MONTH…! I am so happy you liked my smol snippets!! (and AHA. HAHAHA. Do you know how difficult it was to find some first draft material to share that WASN’T trash fire?? A lot of it I just sat there scratching my head at. No clue what I was trying to get at, but that’s second draft problems, right there. XD) MEEP. OH MY WORD I CAN’T STOP SMILING… You are literally the sweetest bean of EVER and I don’t deserve you, not one bit. <333
(also thank you for the million cookies. they will be devoured promptly.)
I know you said that the characters are going by their pseudonyms…but they’re amazing????? Like Shelby and Jaunita and Eugene Crandall. THEY’RE AMAZING.
Also I don’t know if you meant to do this, but the order of snippets like…at first I was all “oh this sweet story of a mismatched group of people getting ice cream” and then the last one…AHHHHHHH. WHAT ARE THESE SINISTER OLD PEOPLE DOING????
And the “perfect amount of squish” was just gold.
I usually wait a few months before editing a first draft. I personally feel like longer is better (though obviously you don’t want to you know wait five years or something). I typically take about two months to finish a first draft??? Though mind you I’m an under writer so when something hits 100k I’m just like wow. A lot of words.
Oh my goodness, Bernadette!!! THANK YOU! That honestly means so much to me? Naming characters is something that I take VERY seriously, so it makes me so happy knowing you like the ones I’ve chosen! (even if a few of them are pseudonyms. technically they’re still their real names, but….shhh spoilers. XD)
I’m not sure if I intentionally meant to do it or not, but I DEFINITELY meant to do that with the actual story, and since the snippets are taken linearly from the book itself, I’m going to count this as a victory. XD Also it seems like a lot of people liked the perfect amount of squish and MEEP. THAT MAKES ME SO SO HAPPY.
I’m definitely thinking a couple months away from this project is a good idea. I’m beginning to outline/draft a new book, but I’m unsure whether I should start writing it completely and let Project Sunset simmer for five-ish months or not… It’s a difficult decision, let me tell you. XD UGH! Please teach me your underwriting ways!! I need to learn to write smaller books, but it’s just NOT happening…
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Naming writing is THE most serious thing (and difficult XD I swear I slave over finding the right name)
Teach me your over writing ways!!! I honestly have finished drafts at 60k and am like um….so this needs to be longer. For whatever reason I get hyper focused on the main plot and NOTHING can drag me away from it, though I could often use more subplots. XD
KENZIE!!!!!! YES!!!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! your writing is incredible how is it so clever and delightful and your characters I cannot oh my I love them. WHEN DO WE GET TO READ THIS???? EH????
MEEP! Oh my word!! THANK YOU!!! You are the sweetest bean, I can’t… And oh goodness. I have no clue when you guys can read it. Currently I’m roasting it over the fire like marshmallows because it is TRASH FIRE but ah well. We can clean it up in the second draft, right? XD
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[…] years, one more edit of everlost, and a whole new book child later, I’m finally ready to dive back into this story from the ground […]