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"new year, new draft!"

kat kourbeti
kat kourbeti
welcome to the first edition of honest to blog (working title), a hopefully-weekly newsletter with thoughts about writing, movies, music, science fiction and fantasy stories, and general creative process blah.

yep. we're redrafting.
please allow me to introduce myself.
hi, i’m kat, i’ve been writing the same book* for the last eight years**, and i’m about to scrap what i have and start from scratch for the fifth time.
… well, sort of.
for those who know me irl, the book updates have been a rollercoaster over the last few years. the tl;dr is that i’ve been co-writing a modern fantasy story about “angels, demons, the end of the world, that sort of thing”. over the years, one book turned to four. the world got bigger and more complex, characters were added, then removed, then added again, and at one point we even shifted the action to a different country. (all stories i’ll tell someday, when they’re more relevant.) what felt like small changes to the setting and worldbuilding meant we had to ditch entire drafts and start over, four times. we’re now going on to the fifth iteration of book one. dear me.
this latest one was a biggie. we were on a good trajectory and staring at the finish line of a first completed draft, the closest we’d ever gotten. then we went to worldcon in dublin, and attended a lot of panels about writing and story and fantasy worlds, and something began to bother me. i got stuck. my assigned chapters sat unfinished, mocking me, for months. every time i sat down to write, it felt like i was going nowhere. or perhaps, like where i was going was the wrong place entirely.
at this point both me and my co-writer/best pal athena were familiar enough with the signs that the story wasn’t working, that something was bothering us on a level deeper than “this bit of the world needs fleshing out” - my go-to procrastination technique, by the way, is falling back on research and worldbuilding - and that it needed fixing. we had to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and see what we needed to do for it to all make sense.
a couple of weeks ago, athena said “new year, new draft!” and we laughed about it, and then we cried a bit, and then, inevitably, we got to work.
we’ve killed a lot of darlings this time. a setting we’d worked on for years - with countless hours of research and worldbuilding, might i add - gone in favour of something way simpler, that actually ties all the threads together that are coming up in the next books. characters we’d loved writing about will never see the page now; though perhaps you’ll get to meet them someday, in different guises, in different worlds. who knows.
for me, with my obsessive playlists of songs that inform all sorts of different aspects of the story and characters, the most painful thing i’ve had to do is remove swaths of happy lovesongs from my book 1 playlist, because they just don’t fit anymore. every time i took a song out was a shot to the heart. i’m gonna miss them, but it was the right thing to do.
because now, the series is an unfractured whole. where before we had book 1 (the almost boringly happy, yet complex alternate history world) and books 2-3-4 (the apocalypse stuff with the angels and the demons), now we have an entire series that is thematically and tonally coherent, and one book will lead into the next and the changes won’t feel jarring (…we hope).
none of this could’ve happened, really, until now. all the previous drafts needed to be written and then dumped, because each time we added something to the story - a character, a worldbuilding detail, an emotional beat - that gave it flavour, like herbs in a hotpot. a lot of that stuff will show up in the next books, and because we know where the story is going, after eight years of work, we get to plot out this book in a way that will seamlessly take you through a journey of love, betrayal, innocence, kindness, war, despair, death, fragility and power.
i can’t wait, honestly. our current outline finally reads like this song sounds:
Keaton Henson - Elevator Song (feat. Ren Ford)
Keaton Henson - Elevator Song (feat. Ren Ford)
i’m kind of ecstatic about that.
(more on my music obsession some other time, don’t worry.)
so hi. i’m kat. i’ve been co-plotting a four-book fantasy series based on paradise lost for the last eight years, and have attempted co-writing the first book four times thus far. we’re starting over, hopefully for the last time, because now the story finally makes sense as a whole.
as a question to you - what’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do for a project? something you had to let go of, or change, or realise in order to move forward? do you have any advise for me or others in this boat? tweet me or email me your thoughts, i’d love to know them.
take 5, baby. here we go.
sff convention news
eastercon is coming up soon; it’s like worldcon but smaller and more british, and has the huge upside of being easy to get to. i’ve just bought my weekend membership so i aim to be there friday to monday, and possibly help out with the programming and/or be on some panels. details will be forthcoming in the next few issues of this newsletter.
if you like science fiction and/or fantasy, it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet people who like what you like and mingle with them. this year it’s in birmingham, and you can even come for one or two days - last year i only went on the monday and it was super fun - so if you’re not busy over easter weekend, come along!
quickfire linkage
  • if you, like me, have been driven mad by google chrome’s constant self-duplicating bookmarks, this extension is a godsend.
  • hugo nominations for the 2020/1945 retro awards close on the 13th march; info on how to vote and nominate is here. if you, like me, have not been fantastic at keeping up with everything that’s been published in the genre this past year, i will be tweeting (and retweeting) eligible works over the next couple of weeks.
  • the official music video for bts’ new single on dropped literally minutes ago, so i feel obliged to share it here. i think the fandom was expecting a continuation of their ongoing cross-platform story, but instead they’ve given us dystopian vibes (i’m talking maze runner, hunger games, even noah’s ark..?) which will take a while to unpack. this band is wild, you guys.
BTS (방탄소년단) 'ON' Official MV
BTS (방탄소년단) 'ON' Official MV
that’s it from me for this week. if you have any comments in response to anything i said, or suggestions for next week’s issue, or something you’d like me to check out, feel free to tweet me.
speak soon and stay creative,
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kat kourbeti
kat kourbeti @darthjuno

writing, media and arts commentary from a queer g(r)eek writer of science fiction and fantasy works.

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