Swoon Authors Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas' Editing Update: A Day in the LifeTarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas
*Cautiously creeping into the light, waving a little*
Oh, uh, hello everyone! We… we missed you! In fact, we missed our friends, our family, and conversations that go beyond, "why yes, dear barista, I will take a fifth cup of coffee, thank you kindly.”
You see, we are very slow writers, as we mentioned here, and we wrote our first book over about six or seven years which we talked about here. So when we realized we had about 1/7th the amount of time to write These Ruthless Deeds, we may have, uh .... panicked? Is panicked the right word?
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Yes. Yes it is.
And then we hid away for a year.
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(Unrelated: Kelly is mildly obsessed with Chrissy Teigan. Just a fun fact for you.)
People usually say writing a book is like running a marathon, but this felt more like a Groundhog Day-esque writing time loop. The days sort of blended together and we started to make weirder and weirder choices until we slowly happened upon the right ones and magically ended up with a book. We thought it would be fun to show you a little bit about what a typical day in the loop looked like for us:
7:30am: Kelly blearily opens her phone, and sees four emails from Tarun sent between 12:00am and 3:00am. All four are suggestions for different endings for These Ruthless Deeds.
Kelly emails back: No, stop, it's fine the way it is. Though, ok, that one small detail is good—keep that.
8:45am: Kelly was supposed to edit her chapter on her commute to work but the trains were packed so she couldn't really use her phone and instead she came up with an idea for a contemporary book set in high school.
Tarun still sleeps.
9:00am: Kelly arrives at work, sends Tarun a panicked email about the chapter she was supposed to edit and how behind schedule she is.
10:30am: Kelly stops in the middle of work, suddenly worried that she may have stolen a phrase from her favorite book.
10:34am: She did not. Thank you, Google Books.
11:00am: Kelly knows Tarun wakes up at 8:00am PST, so she sends him five panicked texts asking if he got her panicked email about not editing.
But that’s not the REAL problem, he says. He has been lying in bed for the past hour, trying to solve a plot hole from Chapter 4 that only bothers him and no one else would notice. Unsatisfied, he grumpily crawls out of bed and gets ready for his day job.
12:00pm: Kelly squeezes in some editing during lunch, while Tarun randomly keeps interrupting Kelly with texts suggesting possible solutions to that plot hole.
3:34pm: Tarun asks Kelly if she's ever heard of a super specific magic system—for a totally different book he wants to write in the future. Kelly tells him to please think about this book instead.
But no she hasn't heard of that and it's a great idea and he should totally write it down!
5:45pm: Kelly does not get a seat again on the subway ride home. This leaves her alone with her thoughts, that sound a bit like this: "HOLY SHIT YOU ARE NOT A REAL WRITER!!! THE REAL WRITERS ARE OVER THERE!!! YOU ARE JUST A HUGE FAKER AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT! JUST LOOK AT HOW HARD BOOK TWO IS FOR YOU, SEE??? THAT IS PROOF YOU ARE A ONE-TRICK PONY AND ALSO A FAILURE AND ALSO YOU ARE TERRIBLE AT EVERYTHING YOU HAVE EVER ATTEMPTED!!!"
6:00pm: Kelly texts Tarun to ask if they are, in fact, terrible writers. Tarun says "probably" and Kelly sighs, opening up the next chapter that needs editing.
6:30pm: Tarun still hasn’t solved his truly imaginary plot hole, so he goes for a run and takes a long shower.
Kelly braces herself: Historically, his showers have either meant a brilliant solution to a frustrating issue... or a suggestion from left field that changes everything.
7:30pm: Thankfully, today it is the former. He has managed to come to terms with the invisible plot hole in Chapter 4 and solved a glaring one in Chapter 12 instead. He can finally start writing. He fantasizes about the 2,000 words he’s going to write this evening with all these brilliant new ideas.
9:00pm: Tarun asks Kelly if she is free to chat. He should have written 1,000 words down by now, but instead there’s maybe 200 measly words and he is lying face-down on his bed in despair.
9:10pm: FaceTime, with a good 30% of the call dedicated to blank staring at the screen. But a few issues are sorted out, a few new directions are plotted.
9:44pm: Tarun remembers he hasn't eaten yet. Kelly gets on Twitter and Tarun reads a romance novel that Kelly suggested for inspiration.
10:00pm: Tarun keeps sending Kelly his favorite quotes.
10:36pm: Kelly texts Tarun frantically, telling him why the thing they figured out on the phone call doesn't actually work. Tarun re-explains why it does. Kelly is relieved, but over the course of the explanation, Tarun has realized there’s a new huge logic problem. Kelly tries to assure him it really isn’t that big a deal. He doesn’t respond for a while.
11:08pm: Kelly is falling asleep in front of her computer.
11:09pm: Tarun is pacing, drinking too much Chai and desperately resorting to drafting his current chapter in a handwritten notebook because by some strange logic that feels less permanent?
11:34pm: Kelly can't write coherently anymore. She apologizes to Tarun fifty times, promises to get up early to write, he tells her it's fine fifty times and she gets into bed.
12:24am: Tarun emails Kelly a new idea for the ending that potentially solves the new logic problem.
12:35am: Tarun emails a retraction. That idea was already used in another book.
1:35am: Tarun starts typing up and editing his drafted chapter. For some reason, all of these sentences now read like he’s not yet gotten a grasp of the English language. He comes very close to texting Kelly and waking her up for reassurances that the book isn’t terrible. Instead, he sneaks a peak at one of her chapters and feels better.
3:00am: Tarun sends Kelly another idea for the ending, and this one, he's sure, is perfect. In fact, they would only need to rewrite half of the book to make it work.
Kelly sleeps, blissfully unaware of the emails awaiting her the next morning.
…And somehow, all this eventually lead to book two actually being written. By the end of it, we were exhausted and gleefully avoided talking to each other for a week... and then moved on to the next book! We are in the same time zone now and at least we know a little more about what works (thinking showers!) and doesn’t work (putting in thirty new characters and rewriting the ending fifteen times before going with the original). But we’re also learning that every book is its own beast and at some point, you have to charge in and trust you’ll make it out. Here’s hoping we can do it again.
See you all on the Book Three side!