Tuesday, August 22, 2017

All the Little Pieces.

This entry might be a little disjointed, but I'm trying to capture what something feels like right after I felt it, so there you go.

As much as I swear by plotting, not pantsing, I've come to realize that they're not all that different.  The major difference is that we plotters pants our way through our plotting, instead of the story itself.  And when it works, there's a ridiculous amount of magic in this part of the process.

The project I'm working on now (abbreviated WP; guess what it stands for and I'll give you a cameo if I ever write the thing) is something I've sort of assembled and whittled down from a bunch of other ideas.  But once I got those ideas into a coherent story-like shape, not only did I see how they all actually fit together, but the thing truly started to blossom.

Yes, I'm going to be mixing metaphors like a dictionary-wielding chinchilla on espresso.  Deal with it.

What has me so excited about this is all the little details that come up as I work on it, and how things are all fitting themselves together, in a way that makes it feel like I'm not even doing it consciously, just watching it happen.  After so much trouble with plotting over the past year, I'm thrilled to see this working out.  And so much of it comes from so many different places yet fits together in one massive dysfunctional jigsaw.

Also, thanks to the positive comments on that short story I posted a while back, I've decided to embrace creating a completely evil antagonist and holy shit, this guy is ridiculously fun to write.  Immortal, undead, ruthless, and above all, bored and looking for something to make an eternal existence more interesting.  "I wanted to see what would happen" is possibly the best bad guy motivation ever.

Granted, some of this rapid story stuff could be the product of sleep deprivation brought on by the stress from working fifty hours a week thanks to mandatory overtime, but this book is crazy enough that I'll take it.  I'm not in favor of we writers putting ourselves through unnecessary stress to feed our art, but if someone else is doing it, we might as well take advantage of it.

Anyway.

There's still a lot to work out, of course; there always is.  There's also the eternal possibility that it could all crash and burn and I'll look back on this entry a year from now and depress myself with the memory.  But I'm doing my best not to worry about that.  Because it feels too damn good to have things working out again (and on more than just this plot!) and I want to keep it going as long as I can.

One last tangent: my other major plot-in-progress right now is abbreviated S7, so apparently I'm working with two-character nicknames these days.  No fair guessing what that stands for, since I've blogged about it before.  :P

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Choosing what to Write Next

Starting off with a question again this time, and it's a pretty simple one: how do you choose what to write next?

I think most writers don't have just one idea at a time.  There are some who write only one book, or one series, or what-have-you, but it seems like most of us have a bunch of different stories bouncing around in our heads.  I know I'm no exception; I've used the phrase "I keep universes in my head" more than once.  (Though I usually preface it with "I'm a writer" so I don't sound completely insane.)  But when I see writers talk about their processes, most only write one thing at a time.

For some people, what they write is partly determined by a contract.  They need to produce some number of books for some series by a certain time, so they do.  Or they miss their deadlines, but that's another entry, one I'll write if I ever have a deadline to miss.  I'd call these people fortunate, both because their books are selling and their publishers want more, though I don't know if they'd say the same.  It seems like it would be nice to know what you're writing next, but what happens when you get struck by that thing you just have to write?

Which brings me to the next possibility - writing something you just plain have to.  I've read about this one a lot.  There is something special about the writing compulsion being too strong to ignore or delay.  I think the closest I've hit for that was book eight on this list, which I plotted in about two weeks and started writing right away.  I thought I'd finally figured out how to write something I'd been wanting to write for years, a college story, but I crammed in everything else I wanted to write and it came out kind of a clusterfuck.  I haven't looked at that one since I finished it and I haven't felt like I absolutely had to write something since then.

(I'm not trying to be down on myself in every paragraph, I swear; it just comes naturally.)

Part of why I'm contemplating this is that my plotting is actually going well, and I have two stories I'd like to have ready to write by the year's end.  However, I'm not sure how things are going to go between now and then, so I don't know which one I'll want to write next.  Both have a lot of things in them I like, and I still want to write both of them, but I don't feel any great draw or need for either of them.  I think one has a much higher chance of selling based on the premise alone, but I try not to make decisions based on that.

To be fair, this has been a very difficult year for me on many levels, so I guess I can understand it being hard to drum up enthusiasm for anything.  I'm just hoping neither plot crashes and burns before I can get them into workable shape.

So.  What about the rest of you?  How do you choose what to write next?  Have you had the idea that drove you mad until you got it onto the page?  Those of you who've had contracts, how did that affect your desire to write the next book?  And is anyone putting odds on whether either of my plots will be ready by the year's end?

(Yes, I'm joking, because really, who'd bet on that?)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

On Character Transfers.

To anyone who also plays WoW and reads this blog: no, I'm not talking about that kind of character transfer.

Now that I've started with a joke that will go over most of my readers' heads, what I'm actually talking about is: have you ever moved a character from one story into another?

A few days ago, I made the sort-of difficult decision to set aside a plot-in-progress.  This is nothing new, and since this was the second incarnation of this plot and I'd been struggling with it already, it was for the best.  But there was one character from the dozen or so I'd been working with who would not leave my head, and even if I wasn't going to write the story I created her for, I still wanted to write her.

Then, as I was trying to get to sleep on Saturday night, I realized I could drop her into another story I'm working on.

I'm not really surprised I thought of this; the character has an incredibly harsh background, and putting her into this world will make things worse.  (I might have finally learned to enjoy tormenting my characters, but that's another blog entry.)  And having a different set of characters to interact with brought out new sides of her.  She'd always been a little passive in her initial story, and putting her in a post-apocalyptic fantasy tale that's part the anime "Black Lagoon" and part "Mad Max: Fury Road" gave her more of a reason to find her strength and take things into her own hands.

Imagining her interacting with the story's cast also gave me a new opportunity to write a sort of relationship I've been wanting to try for a while, so there's that too.

There was a time when I would have thought this impossible.  I would have said that character background and personality are an intrinsic part of where they came from and where they are now, and that pulling a character from one story into another was really just writing someone new with the same name and a similar personality.  And that might be true for someone who's actually been written.

But when a character's three pages of notes and an absolute personality that still only exists somewhere in my head, things are a little more fluid.  While where she comes from has changed, being part of this harsher world has brought a defining moment of hers into greater light, and it'll make for a better character in the end.

Because there, near the book's end, she finally realizes that while others can hurt her, they cannot stop her.  And that's something that might have taken her an entire trilogy to learn in the original story.

Next week: probably more story babble, but things have largely been going well over the past few days, so at least it'll be positive story babble.  ^_^

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

IWSG: Doubt and Fear and Hope.

A week ago, this would have been a very different entry.

Writing-wise, most of 2017 has been one big mess of things not working out for me.  Not only has this slump made it hard for me to get anything done, but querying seems pointless - searching for agents for STARWIND makes me feel like nobody will want the book, because very rarely do I see anyone looking for anything like it.

I'm sure there's at least one vicious cycle in there somewhere, and I'd hash it out but I only have so much space in a blog entry.  :P

But yes.  I've probably spent more time this year blogging about the double team of doubt and fear than actually getting any writing work done.  So when I saw Alex's news about the IWSG Twitter Pitch, I kind of shrugged.  It didn't seem like there would be any point in trying.

As odd as this is going to sound, I depressed myself into participating in the contest.  I was feeling low on the day before, so I prepared my pitches, figuring that nothing would come of it.  And I spent the morning checking my e-mail from work, tweeting out more pitches every hour or two, letting that dark part of my mind revel in the feeling of being rejected all day long.

(This is part of what depression is like for me.)

And then, something happened: I got notification that someone had liked two of my pitch tweets.  I looked at them and shrugged - the likes were from small presses, and despite my earlier intent to query small presses for the book, I've never found one that I thought would work for me.  So I disregarded them, and figured those two likes were all I'd see.

My next two notifications were from agents.

I made pitches for four of the ship's crew, figuring that throwing in some more character stuff could be good and because I had no other ideas.  One that got a like from an agent was about Captain, because apparently a magical wargolem draws some interest.  The other was about Lukas getting set on fire, because as the comments on my "STARWIND Statistics" entry showed, people really tend to fixate on characters getting set on fire.

This whole thing made me feel so much better.  I sent the queries out that night, and it gave me the hope I needed to start querying again.  Whether it'll help me feel better about my writing and get some stuff done, I don't know, but things have been going reasonably well since, so we'll see how it goes.  But this is the first positive reinforcement I've gotten from anyone in the business in nearly a year and I'm not going to question it.

I needed this hope, and I'm going to run with it for as long as I can.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Changing the World.

Sadly, this is not a post about how writing can change the world.  I mean, we all know it can do that, but it's not something I've personally experienced.  My stuff would have to be read by more people than I can count on two hands for it to even start changing anything.

Yes, I'm opening with self-deprecation.  It's what I do.  :P

One of my current plots-in-progress has always felt like it was missing something.  As per usual, I was having trouble with the antagonists, and last week, I finally figured out what might work to solve the problem.  Making this replacement led to me getting a new perspective on what the world's magic should be, and that led to some significant rearrangement of both the plot and the cast.

I'm still working on a lot of this, but it's going fairly well so far; I've mostly been figuring out how the difference in the world is going to affect everyone's backgrounds, particularly when it comes to manifestation of personal magic, which is kind of a taboo thing.  Delving into the changes to the world that the new magic system makes necessary will be an entirely different thing, and it leads me to a troubling thought:

I'm not sure if this new world is the right one for this story.

Part of why I've been having so much trouble with this plot is that it's largely based around a single image that inspired both the main character and the third act.  Most of my work on it has been about building toward that moment.  And the changes in the world have me wondering if that moment would actually happen.

This is the part where I'm glad no one has ever asked me "Aren't you the writer?  Can't you just make the story do whatever you want?", because I don't need that kind of frustration.  >_<

I understand that the only way to figure this out is to keep working on the plot.  I have a rough outline of the actual story, and I've made room for all kinds of trouble for the cast, which is something I still struggle with.  But the problem is that I won't know if these changes work until I've put everything down.  And the doubt that's already riding my back on this makes it very hard to sit down and get to work.

As I've talked about over and over this year, I've had so many things not work out.  It is very, very hard not to think about that.  I'm trying not to let that keep me from trying something new.  But every time something falls apart, it gets harder to try to put anything together again.

I will keep trying, of course; I keep telling myself that this is what I do even when I have trouble believing myself.  And maybe this one will finally work out.  We shall see.

One thing I have been thinking about is taking the time to just create a world, and worry about the stories that happen there later.  Maybe I wouldn't have so much trouble with things if I knew more about where they take place.  And blogging about that process would be more interesting than another entry about my troubles.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Quotable, Part 3.

To make a long story short, last week was full of stress and overtime, and the only reason last week's blog entry happened was because I typed it up on Sunday.  I'm still trying to relax and recover, and I have barely been able to work on anything writing-wise for a week, because there's just been too much going on and this week is full of even more overtime.

So.  For the third time (Part 1, Part 2), you get quotes:

"A world in which there are monsters, and ghosts, and things that want to steal your heart is a world in which there are angels, and dreams, and a world in which there is hope."  --Neil Gaiman

"Write to write.  Write because you need to write.  Write to settle the rage within you.  Write about something or someone that means so much to you, that you don't care what others think."  --Nick Miller

"If you don't feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then what you're doing probably isn't very vital.  If you don't feel that you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it?  If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you're not trying to tell enough."  --John Irving

"We need to make books cool again.  If you go home with somebody, and they don't have books, don't fuck them."  --John Waters

"You own everything that happened to you.  Tell your stories.  If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better."  --Anne Lamott

"Don't be afraid to write crap, because crap makes great fertilizer."  --Jessica Brody

"It is only a novel... [or in short] only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language."  --Jane Austen

"Writing is the only thing, that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else."  --Gloria Steinem

"Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion.  Rather, follow your own most intense obsessions mercilessly."  --Franz Kafka

"Everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of fear."  --George Addair

And the last one I'm throwing in here for myself:

"A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden.  A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway."  --Junot Diaz

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

On Losing Interest.

I've been thinking about writing this entry for a while, as it's something that's been bothering me for quite some time.

If you're a regular reader here, you've most likely heard me talk about having ideas that don't work out.  Either I can't figure out how the story goes, or I never figure out how to develop it beyond the original idea, or I hammer away at it for so long trying to make it work that there's nothing left but a metaphorical pile of dust.  But what's bothering me is when I simply lose interest in a story altogether.

Before I started writing STARWIND, I finished a rough plot draft on something new; I've talked about this one before.  I had six pages of plot, a good deal of world and character development, and a magic system that worked without people knowing they were using magic.  It seemed like I had something good, but when I went back to it many months later, I just plain didn't care about it, and couldn't bring myself to work on it.

As much as I'd like to think that no time spent working on writing stuff is wasted, that one definitely feels like a waste.  And I'm trying to figure out how to keep that from happening again.

I know that I can't force myself to work on something I'm not interested in; a lot of the problems I had over the past six months came from thinking I had to be working on something all the time.  But I don't know how I go from "I want to work on this every day until it's ready for me to write it" to "I don't care about this any more and it's going to languish on my hard drive forever."  I've never been one for apathy, so it feels very strange to think that way about my own work.

One cause, I suppose, could be that I just wanted to see where the story went - I had an idea, I pursued it, and once I reached the end, that's all I needed to do.  But that seems really weird to me.  What's the point of developing a story if I'm not going to eventually write the whole thing?  Pretty much everything I've ever written has ended up with anywhere from zero to four people who actually read it.  So writing something and stopping at the halfway-plotted stage because that's as far as it needs to go seems . . . ridiculous.  Especially after making a page or so worth of notes on the theoretical sequels.

To make everything worse (because I need to do that, really I do), I can think of easily half a dozen different plots-in-progress that I was having trouble with, then figured out something to make them work, and got all excited only to stop working on them again after a day or two.  Call me melodramatic, but this is the sort of thing that feels like the slow death of me as a writer, sitting here unable to dredge up enough interest in my own work to do anything.

This has gotten depressing, so I'm going to cut off my pondering here and ask if the rest of y'all have ever dealt with the same thing.  Whatever your process is, have you ever just plain lost interest in what you were working on?  Did you figure out what caused it, or did you move on to whatever came next?  And did you ever regain interest in that abandoned project?