Monday, July 30, 2012

Uncertain Steps in Giant Boots

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”  --Joseph Chilton Pearce

Not sure if anyone noticed, but I missed last week's blog entry.  I have a good excuse, though: last Saturday, the 21st of July, I started writing a book again.  Since then, I've written an average of 3000 words per day, and spent nearly every moment I'm not writing wondering if this is the book I really want to write.

Things like this are why writers go insane.  @_@

It's been a weird sort of dichotomy.  When I'm working on the book, everything is beautiful.  Characters are mostly acting according to plot and expectations, the words are flowing pretty damn quickly, and at the end, I'm exhausted and yet still wanting to continue.  It's what happens afterward that sucks.  I swear, as soon as I step away from the keyboard, I start thinking back on everything I just wrote and it doesn't seem good at all.

For example, last night's writing was largely prelude to the planning of the first major plot twist event.  Said prelude was five pages of hangover recovery, back-and-forth discussion, and character introduction.  This doesn't seem that interesting to me in retrospect.  But it involved a six-armed hug and the phrase "elf booty waits for no man", so I don't think it can be all bad.

Part of me says I should scrap this and not waste time finishing it.  But I'm ignoring that part, for several reasons.  First, I've seen too many pieces of advice from well-known authors that basically boil down to saying "Finish what you start."  They don't add "even if you think it sucks", but I'm sure at least one of them was thinking it.  Second, the real reason I wanted to write this particular story shows up halfway through the book, and damn, do I ever want to write like that again.  (I tried to make it happen earlier.  I tried very, very hard.  Trust me, it doesn't work.)

The third reason is the most important to me: good things can come from what once seemed a failure.  I wrote a book in 2009 and 2010, Shattering the Firmament.  I was so done with it by the time I finished, I didn't even bother to edit.  I just shoved it aside and moved on.  But the rewrite of that book became Skyborne.  Something seriously good came from a book that will never see the light of day.  So there's always hope.

Like any journey, I try to keep the "one step at a time" thing in mind.  One step at a time, and I'll reach my destination.  And only once I'm there will I decide what to do with the journey's results.

Granted, for the ridiculous nightly progress I'm making on this book, I seem to be wearing the literary equivalent of seven-league boots, so I might get to the end faster than I once thought.  Please don't shoot.  ^_^

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Research and Development

Funny how looking through stuff I wrote almost two years ago can count as 'research'.  Not nearly as funny as some of the stuff I wrote almost two years ago and thought was good...  But I digress.

I'm still at work on the plot for the next book, as I've talked about in the past few entries.  Over this past week, a conversation with a friend sparked an idea that wouldn't leave me alone.  Said idea meant re-plotting large chunks of the story, as well as some significant character changes, because one does not simply change out the main character of a novel without consequences.

This is something I stressed over quite a bit.  Swapping the book's main character for another meant I could write some things I really, really want to write.  (Sorry for the vagueness, but there's really no way to explain it without making this entry much longer than it should be.)  I was torn between making the changes and keeping things the way I'd initially intended them.  And I worried that this would turn into yet another story that I keep trying to find, another story that goes through dozens of plotted versions without ever actually becoming a book.

After talking this over with the friend who inspired the change, she pointed out something simple.  It's one of those things that seems so obvious but is also so easy to forget when you start thinking about anything other than just telling the story.  She told me to just write what I most wanted to read, to think of everything I liked and just put it into the story, because I had to be excited about writing it.  Yeah, I know.  It seems like that should be the first thing to consider when you start writing something, but it's easy to miss.

Changing the main character brought its own issues with it, though.  This goes back to an earlier entry I wrote about gender-swapping characters, because the new main character is female while the original one was male.  I had to change quite a few things, such as living quarters, and I changed the gender of another character to balance things out.  This has the added benefit of me now getting to write a snarky Englishman loosely based on one of my favorite writers.

The change has also affected the planned romance, and I now have no idea what will happen in that area.  I figure the characters will let me know if they want to get together, and I'll just have to sit back and hope that doesn't screw up the plot.

It took me a while to chew through all of this; major changes to a plot are never easy to deal with.  But I think I have a stronger story.  I'm hoping to start it sometime soon.

And hey, now I get to write about someone beating the hell out of dragons with a hammer.  There's no way that won't be fun.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Starting now. No, now. Wait for it...

"We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action."  --Frank Tibolt

I've talked about plotting in advance vs. making it up as you go along before - the 'plotter or pantser' thing.  While I stand firmly among the plotters, there's something I envy about those who can make up a book as they go along: it seems like it must be much easier to know when to start.

I'm in the middle of plotting my next novel, after my revelation of nearly two weeks ago, and it's going well so far.  But I know there's going to come a time when I have to start the book.  There will come a time when I've looked over the plot as many times as I can, fixed as many plot holes as I could spot, made sure everything that happens is important and every character has a significant role to play.  I'll know that, soon, it will be time to write.

Which means opening a new document with a blank first page and hoping like hell I realize what the first few words need to be.  I think we've all stared at the blinking cursor before, wholly unsure of just how to get something started.  The cursor mocks us all.

I expect false starts.  I expect that what I write at first won't even make it into the final book, and might get scrapped before anyone sees it.  Something like that happened with Skyborne; not only did the first draft have a prologue, so did every single revision, up to the point where I tried cutting it out and found the story worked better without it.  (Yes, I know there's a huge ongoing argument about prologues.  That's another blog entry, I'm sure.)  I expect to doubt myself every word of the way for those first few pages.

I know that I might write the first few pages, feel like it's not working, leave it, come back to it later, declare the entire thing crap, and wonder what I've been wasting my time on and why nothing ever works.  But I'll get over that, and I promise, it will not be a blog entry.

One reassuring thing about all this, though, is that when I get started and it works, I'll know.  When I sit down to write this and stand up an hour and a half or so later, utterly exhausted and giddy with a subtle kind of excitement, it will be a great day.  This is a story I've been wanting to write for five years.  I know that, once I start, I'll be able to keep it going, because I know this world and these people like nothing else.

I'm just not quite ready to begin yet.  I'll get there.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Suddenly: Plot.

There's a quote from John Francis Moore, the writer of the first comic book series I ever got hooked on. Unfortunately, I don't have the exact wording, but it goes something like this: "A good idea never goes to waste. It just shows up somewhere else."  And there's nothing quite finding a new use for an old idea to prove this true.

Shortly after finishing college, I started writing an urban fantasy series about college in a world where magic had come back to Earth, along with elves and dwarves and a feline humanoid race.  There was no real plot - it was just the lives of these people in college, going to classes magical and mundane and dealing with all the stuff that comes up in college life, with the additional factors of flying to class, magical duels, and dating outside one's species.  After writing about fifteen parts, I finally started posting it online.  What happened was a bit of a surprise.

People loved it.  Through a total of sixty-five parts, I got nothing but good reviews for these tales; I hadn't thought it was possible to post something on the internet and never get flamed.  More than a few people told me I should get the stories published.

I didn't really consider it, not at first.  For one thing, as I said, there was no plot.  College life was enough of a plot, as a friend of mine said, and when I tried to apply an actual storyline to the thing, it fell apart.  Also, if I'd had any thought of publishing the story, I never would have posted it online.  I did try querying a revised version to precisely one agent, but I didn't really believe in it; I half-assed the query letter and got the expected rejection.  I never expected to go back to the characters or setting, and was content to just let it be.

Until this past Friday.

Out of absolutely nowhere, I suddenly had the one idea I needed to give the series a plot and make it work as a novel.  I found the story mixed in among the college days.  I realized it was exactly what I needed to work on next.  I've been plotting, and have figured out most of what I need to actually write this thing.  And I can't wait to get started.

Part of why I'm thrilled to have figured this out now is that I've been big on the New Adult thing ever since I discovered it. While Skyborne features a late-teens protagonist, and could be considered one giant allegory for growing up if you squint, this story is different.  This is undoubtedly New Adult.  This is dealing with all the usual issues of moving out and learning to live on your own, all the joys and disasters of college, mixed in with the knowledge that magic is real and there are things from other worlds studying right along with you.  This is teleporting to China not only for a test but because Chinese food sounds good right now.

This is the main character introducing his girlfriend to his parents and hoping the spells hold so they won't realize she's a catgirl.

This is going to be fun.