Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

It came to me earlier while I was doing non-writing related things and my mind started to wander as it often does: why outlines sabotage me. I think sabotage is the right word. I know a lot of people swear by outlines, whether they be loose or written with beat by beat precision, and I’ve expressed my share of jealousy at how nice it must be to know what’s going to happen in your book before you actually write it. Sometimes I wish I had that kind of certainty. But I don’t have it. I go into my stories with a vague sense of what might happen and a fair bit of bravado. Just like my characters. That’s what keeps me going. I write so that I know how the stories end. Even when it seems impossible in the beginning. Even when I’m terrified that I don’t have the skills to tell that particular story. If I don’t write it, I’ll never see how things fall into place. That’s generally an effective motivator for me. But it isn’t always enough.

Endings.

Endings are the things that destroy me the most. Putting a fitting end to the story, something satisfying, something exciting enough to justify the pages that went before. But not just that, something to preserve the mystery and the uncertainty that came before. That is what is the hardest for me because by that point I have a vague idea of how the story will end. My characters don’t. It’s more difficult to pretend like I’m with them when I know that their plans will or will not succeed. It’s hard to let go and let them plan daring attacks that are obviously doomed to failure when I’m sitting in the passenger seat thinking “But you should’ve known they would betray you.” To write from that sense of I can’t wait to see what happens next when I already know. Instead of being with them I’m ahead of them, looking around corners for danger. That’s just a fancy new version of outline sabotage. That’s me writing things the way I think they should happen and not the way they actually do.

It seems it’s never too late to do things the wrong way.

Now I know why everything feels like a holding pattern in this book. Instead of letting my characters march their stubborn asses into danger I was trying to lead them around like a string of kindergartners on their way to the park. Well the end of this book isn’t going to be the park. You don’t break hearts in between the slide and the merry-go-round (well, maybe you do but this is not that kind of book). It’s time to go back to fumbling in the dark (sadly not as dirty as it sounds in this case). I just need to figure out how to forget what I know. Somehow. If that means throwing out the ending I thought this book had, so be it. Hopefully the ending will be better for it.

the boulders conflicted feelings

Okay I lied. I might still be over here crying over my garbage can for a while. I really liked that ending.

 

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I’m not much of a planner. I don’t plan meals. I don’t plan trips. And I sure as hell don’t plan ahead when I sit down to write. A premise, the desire to entertain myself, that’s about all I have going in. The benefit of making everything up as I go is that I can start writing a story as soon as I have the idea. There’s no world building or character naming to deal with. I don’t have to title. I just have to write.

Here. Let me provide a handy gif of my process:

corgi splash

Do I have stories bomb due to poor planning? All the freakin’ time.

Do I have to edit out pages and pages of random scenes involving cats and stolen jars of jelly when I’m done? Hell yeah.

Do I mind? Yes and no. If I’m being honest.

Sometimes I envy the people who can sit down to outline and have it work for them. I wish I could do that. I’ve tried and I suck at it. I’ve sort of gotten the hang of keeping a loose mental checklist for things that could happen in the next scene/chapter/20,000 words. But that’s as friendly as outlines and I are ever likely to get.

What’s my point with all this?

It goes a little something like this: I never know where my stories are going to go. Not really. I might have an ending in mind but they can (and often do) change. (I’m looking at you over there, Sef. You were supposed to die, not get three books and a novella.) So by now you would think I would stop being so surprised when stories twist out of my greedy little fingers and run away to do their own thing.

And yet.

Any of you who have seen me lamenting on twitter know where this is going. My current story was supposed to be the trashiest, smuttiest piece of throw away crap EVER. I have a list of favorite tropes and I planned to check some of them off the list in one fell swoop. (On a side note, if you haven’t tried writing trash you should give it a go. I’ve never had more fun with my writing.) This was the plan. Write trashy smut. Bang out another novella while having some fun. Emerge refreshed and ready to edit an older novel.

It started so innocently.

I still don’t even know what happened.

confused staring

No. That’s not true. I know.

My character Farrow happened. He may be fictional but he is also a force of nature.

I didn’t get the trash I was aiming for. No. Instead I am nearing 70k on the weirdest, most complicated, strangely personal story I’ve ever written. There’s magic and intrigue and an awful lot of blood for something that I swore was going to be a romance. It’s still fantasy but at its core it’s also very much me talking about issues I didn’t know I was still holding onto. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t INSANELY nervous about it. About sharing it. About reading it. About having to imagine once again, in full surround sound and Technicolor, the anxiety of being in a situation from which there is no obvious means of escape. But I’m doing it.

This wasn’t the story I was looking for. Apparently it was the one that was looking for me.

This novel’s not trashy or smutty (Thanks for being asexual, Farrow. You’re awesome) but I love it anyway. Even though Farrow is an asshole with horrible fashion sense. Even though there are days I want to throw the whole thing into the lake instead of finishing it. (Admittedly, I probably would have done just that if certain people hadn’t kept asking about it.) So… thank you, Farrow, for being an asshole and ruining my hopes of a bit of trashy fun. And thank you to everyone who took an interest in his story. You are the reason I kept writing it. Especially during the aforementioned throw-it-in-the-lake-where-it-will-never-be-heard-from-again moments. Maybe someday you’ll get to read it. (Yes, even the parts that make me remember that I have feelings when I would rather not.)

blowing kisses key

Editing is hard, you guys

Posted: September 4, 2014 in writing

In case anyone didn’t know this already, editing is hard. I spent an hour this morning working on about 200 words. Taking them out. Putting them back in. Rearranging them. Looking at the next ten pages of manuscript and wondering if all this dialogue should move somewhere else. It’s nightmarish. I’m still not even sure that what I ended up with is in English.

clue flames heaving breath

There are some writers who seem to enjoy the process. I am not one of these people. If I had my choice I would never edit anything ever again. Ever. Ever ever. Sadly this is not a thing I can do. Readers seem to want these things called “endings” and apparently they also enjoy coherent plots in their books. Go figure.

So I’m editing.

It’s the downfall of my pantsing process (aka: no outlining and making stuff up as I go) that it also requires extra work to insert things that I didn’t know I needed or to remove the extended scenes of my characters making breakfast while I figured out what they were going to do next. (True story.) You would think that my intense dislike (loathing, hatred, paralyzing fear) of editing would make me switch to outlining. And you would be wrong. Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment. You would also think that after spending the last year and a half on edits (for two different stories, mind) that I would be better at this whole thing. And you would be wrong again.

Editing is still hard. I’m pretty sure it will always be hard for me.

Some days I’m overcome with a manic kind of joy at every hundred words I finish. I like those days. I wish I had more of them. Right now I’m back in that place where I stare at every paragraph and wonder if I hate it because it really needs to go or because I’ve been editing too long. Am I killing my darlings or am I taking a meat cleaver to them just for the sake of doing it? It would be easier if someone could tell me the answer. Maybe I should invest in a Magic 8 Ball. It’s liable to be about as accurate as any real person’s opinion, including mine.

fuck this shit hannibal

So hello from the land of editing! I’m procrastinating now and writing a blog post for the first time in months because it’s just that awesome. Wish you were here. No, seriously. I wish you were here. Editing this book for me.

That’s right. It’s finally happened. I can’t think of a single clever title for this Trifecta post. I’m amazed I lasted this long. Anyway this week’s Trifecta prompt was the word crack. More specifically this definition of it:

And here is where I went with it:

Smoke sat on the night sky like an oily film. It obscured the full moon. An ugly curtain over the only decent light. There had been screaming earlier but now everything was silent. It wouldn’t last.

Someone had opened the door, just a crack, and Death had slipped through. Now the door was open, there was nothing to do but breathe. In and out. In and out.

Tomorrow the city would pick itself up and wipe the dried and dusty blood from its hands. They would collect the bodies that had once been friends and family. They would clean away the evidence of what they’d done.

But Sara wouldn’t forget. And she wouldn’t forgive either.

Image

Those of you who stalk me on twitter may have heard that I have an idea.

*cue shocked gasping*

For those of you that don’t know, here it is:

I’m planning to host a story collection on my blog later this year (hopefully in October). It has no name as yet because naming is really not my forte but it has a (loose) theme and I’m getting strangely excited about it already.

I used to paint. A lot. I had two solo shows and did a handful of other gallery showings of my paintings. But in recent years I haven’t done much and that makes me sad. Of course most of my creative energy is going to writing which is also good. Even so, I miss painting. This story collection is kind of like the kick in the ass that I’ve been missing.

The idea is relatively straightforward. I’m going to do twelve illustrations (maybe thirteen if I get really crazy). The participants get to pick one of the illustrations and write a short story to go with it. I don’t care how the picture figures in. It can hang on the wall of the main character’s house, it can be the cover of a book they saw once when they were five, or it can be something internal. It’s up to the story writers. When it’s time, the picture and matching story will get posted together. I’ll probably contribute a story of my own along the way. Guess I need to remember to draw myself a picture too.

So I hope this sounds entertaining to you all. I will no doubt be around to harass some of you into volunteering. Be prepared.

You knew it was only a matter of time. I wrote a Trifecta post with Taisce and Sef. I even made use of every single one of my allotted 333 words this time. Be impressed. This week’s prompt was the word crude:

3: marked by the primitive, gross, or elemental or by uncultivated simplicity or vulgarity

When the last guest had departed and the house was once again quiet, Taisce found Sef sitting on his bed paring slivers of plum with his knife. Fingertips stained pink with its juice. His legs and still booted feet stretched over the coverlet raising wrinkles like waves. Taisce shot them a thin frown but Sef only smiled.

“All done then, milord?” He popped another morsel of fruit into his mouth and smiled.

“It would have gone faster had you helped.”

“I don’t think you care for my variety of helping.”

“No. I don’t generally.”

“Then you have your answer.” Sef raised an eyebrow. “Come. Sit. If you ask nicely I’ll even feed you.”

“You’ll get sticky juice everywhere,” Taisce complained.

It was only after Sef began to laugh that Taisce realized how his words might be taken. His cheeks flamed as pink as the tender flesh of the plum. “Don’t be crude.”

“Twas you that said it, not me, milord. But I’d be happy to oblige in any case. Sit.”

Taisce shot him another warning glare before settling beside him on the bed. It was a rare moment of peace.

He watched Sef turn the fruit against the blade, the movement delicate and precise. When he was done he held up the piece to Taisce.

Taisce scowled.

“Open,” Sef said. “It’s sweet.” As if to prove it his sticky thumb dragged along Taisce’s lower lip, leaving a trail of sweet. His mouth followed a moment later, replacing one flavor with another. The fruit. The tang of wine. Sef’s knuckles dragged along Taisce’s cheek, down to his jaw.

Taisce stopped him there. He wrapped his own hand around Sef’s stained one. “I missed you.”

Sef drew back in mock surprise. “Such honesty from you, milord. Perhaps I should reward it.” He dropped another kiss on his lips. “What is it you would like?”

“Silence,” Taisce said with an answering warmth. Then he wrapped an arm around Sef.

Not another word was spoken that night.

Ha ha, I punned. I’m sorry.

Okay I’m not sorry.

Anyway, this week’s Trifecta prompt was the word rusty, third definition which goes a little something like this:

3a : of the color rust  

b : dulled in color or appearance by age and use <rusty old boots>

And without further ado here’s my entry:

Darkness.

The tang of copper.

Shane sat up with a metallic jangle and a groan of protesting muscle. The air smelled of salt, the same salt that had reduced the walls of his cell to a rusty patchwork that longed to give him tetanus. He shot them a cautious glance but the walls stayed put. So he wasn’t set to be crushed to death. That gave him some hope for the future. The shackles around his wrists and ankles were less comforting. They showed no signs of the wear that his cell did. Their bright silver winked at him mockingly.

What had he done to deserve this?

Then he smiled.

Oh. Yeah. That.

People were awfully touchy about assassination attempts it seemed.