Archive for June, 2010

24
Jun
10

How to write a book

When writing a book, you need to start with these little tiny things called letters. You take those letters and make words, the words add up to sentences, which turn into paragraphs, and then scenes, then chapters, and finally you find you have a complete book. Oh, you need things like plot and characters, and having a good understanding of craft helps, but when it all boils down, what is really important is sitting down in front of the keyboard and tapping a key to create a letter. And then another. And another.

Okay, that is rather tongue in cheek, but sometimes I do have to remind myself that writing is contingent upon, you know, writing. To write a book you have to sit down and put words on a page. To edit a book you have read and rewrite those words. Seems easy enough, and yet I’ve been sitting at my keyboard staring at my pages for two days. I’m trying to fix a plot gone askew, and while, yes, a certain amount of planning and replotting is required, I’ve crossed the point where I should be thinking about it and moved into the territory where I should be doing it.

It’s time to make those letters work for me.

If you’re stuck or floundering in your writing; if you’ve been avoiding your story; it’s time to get back to work. Remember, a book is built one letter at a time. You can handle a little letter, right?

Advertisements
22
Jun
10

The Voices in My Head

I, too, have been lax in posting. However, I can now happily report that last week I finished the sequel to Blood Law, which is tentatively titled Blood Secrets. (As with all things in publishing, the title is subject to change.) I handed it over to my editor on Thursday and was looking forward to a nice relaxing vacation, at least a week, before breaking out the white board and Post-It Notes to plot the next project.

The voices in my head had other ideas.

Don’t misunderstand me. The voices were very nice. They actually slept in and waited a full twenty-four hours before demanding my attention like the demons they literally are.

I forced myself to ignore them for the weekend and take a little time to bask in the glory of having finished my second book. However, the more I ignored them, the louder they shouted. Now, instead of spending the week organizing my office after a massive relocation effort, I find myself standing in front of a white board with a dry-erase marker in one hand and a pad of Post-It Notes in the other.

It sounds crazy, and perhaps I am, but even though this new project will be written in first person POV, I “hear” the other characters interacting with the protagonist and all have distinctive voices. With Blood Law and Blood Secrets, which are written in third person with multiple POV characters, it seemed natural to “hear” these other characters and give them a view-point. For the new project, however, it seems really odd.

As a reader, I like both first and third person, as long as the characters are engaging, and have even seen second person POV used effectively in A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans. As a writer, I think I like working in third a little better than first, but I’m comfortable writing in both. I try to pick the point of view that will carry the most impact for the story. Although, there are times when a central character simply steps forward and says, “This is my story and no one’s telling it but me.” That would be the scenario I’m facing with this new project.

So, my fellow writers, do you have a preferred POV from which to work? Do you switch them up depending on what best suits the story? Have you ever had a character dictate the POV of the story? Am I the only one who hears voices?

21
Jun
10

Like most human interactions, it’s all about power

Gah, sorry about the lack of posts. I have no real excuses, life has been about the same level of busy as always. I can only chalk it up to the fact that I’m starting a new novel, and whenever that happens I suddenly have nothing to say. SO, let’s switch the subject entirely and talk about that other other new novel I’m thinking about writing (only once I finish all my contracted work, but of course!)

So I’m thinking about a new novel, and it has a romantic plot as its central element. Well, actually I’m thinking about 5 or 6 new novels, and they all have romantic plots (new ideas are not a problem writers have, it seems). The trouble is that, traditionally, I tend to fail at romantic plots. I can do sword fights pretty darn well, I think. Cliffhangers, no problem. Same for political tension, magical apocalypses, so on and so forth. But romantic tension? Not so much. I just can’t hear it in my head like I can other things, and it drives me nuts.  I love love stories. I’ve never been a romance reader, but I eat books up when they have tasty romantic twists (see Reason #354 why I love Nora’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, aka “Can I have a Nahadoth?”). So why can’t I ever seem to write one?

I was thinking about this a lot this weekend (ok, I was being emo about it a lot this weekend), and in the course of boo-hooing, I realized something. Looking back at all my books where I tried and failed to write romance, I was writing the wrong heroes. All of my heroes were guys I’d love in real life – nice, clever, responsible, talented, earnest young men with pretty faces. But that’s not what I want in my romances. If I look at the love stories I love, we get a very different type of hero. So I sat down to take an inventory — what turns my crank in a leading man? To start, I made a list:

  • Mr. Darcy (Austen, P&p)
  • Jareth the Goblin King (Labyrinth)
  • Wolverine (X-Men)
  • Nahadoth (above mentioned 100k kingdoms)
  • Alucard (Hellsing)
  • Mr. Thorton (North & South)

I could go on, but you get the point and I need to stop swooning. The next question is: what do these men have in common? I mean, Mr. Darcy and Wolverine? Jareth and anybody? Other than Jareth, they’re all dark haired, but I think that’s more coincidence than any marked preference on my part. So, what? I ruminated on this for a while and then smacked myself, because the answer was staring me in the face. It’s power. All of these men have great power in their own ways. They all have different kinds of power, Mr.Darcy and Mr. Thorton have money and status, Alucard and Wolverine are inhuman combat monsters, and Nahadoth and Jareth are otherworldly gods (Naha literally, Jareth more or less). All of these men can be very cruel with their powers, and most are, but they can also all be won over by an intelligent, determined woman who doesn’t care about their power and can not be won by it. That’s the angle I go for, apparently. Powerful men humbled by love.

Once I figured this out, I started scrapping my heroes. They were nice boys, but they weren’t leading man material. They just couldn’t hold up their end of the conflict. They were too nice, too good, too earnest. There wasn’t enough danger. The new heroes were much, much more messed up, and way more interesting. Soon as I got that in hand, the stories suddenly snapped into place.

Once again I learn the fundamental lesson of writer’s block: It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just that I don’t understand it yet. Once I understand it, everything falls into place.

So, does anyone else have a type of hero they gravitate towards, or am I just weird?

10
Jun
10

Writing the easy part.

I have determined that I lie to myself. A lot.

When I start writing a new book, I tell myself I just need to get through the beginning, then it will get easier. Once I’m trudging through that endless middle section of the first draft, I tell myself not to despair, once I get closer to the end it will be all down hill. Of course, I forget that the downhill ride toward climax and resolution is full of treacherous cliffs and jagged rocks. Not to worry though, once I get through the first draft I’ll have words on the page and I can start revising. That will be easy, right? Not so much. While revising I tend to tell myself to just get through the revisions, then I can go back to the easy part of writing fresh new words in a new book. But wait . . .

Yeah, I lie to myself.

Writing isn’t easy. It just isn’t. Oh, some days are easier than others, and sometimes writing is tons of fun, but it isn’t actually easy. I’ve written four (five?) complete novels at this point, and if anything, it’s getting harder, not easier. Apparently I’m a masochist because I keep coming back to my keyboard. Of course, being difficult doesn’t make it any less rewarding. (Also, I’m pretty sure the characters living in my head are vindictive enough to drive me insane if I refuse to write their stories.)

So what is the point of this blog post? Am I trying to scare the potential writers out there? Quite the opposite.

I was a guest at ConCarolinas this weekend, and after one of my panels (I think it was a panel on procrastination) a young man came up to me and we chatted about what was said on the panel and about writing in general. He eventually said, “It’s so hard. I have all these ideas, but I have so much trouble getting them down on paper.”

All I could do was stand there and nod because writing is hard. I totally agree. It’s hard for me too. I could lie to you like I lie to myself and say, “just get through this and it will get easier” but then when it doesn’t, you might think you’re doing something wrong or that you’re just not cut out for writing when the truth is that it’s hard for all of us. (That, or maybe I’m the one doing something wrong. LOL)

So, if you are writing and it’s all up hill, keep your chin up. Those who came before you had the same struggle and they made it. You can too.