Sunday, January 26, 2014

Two too many?

I blogged a while back about the second time through a plot being the better one.  Considering that I'm now on the second version of the new plot for that story and two other second versions of the two different plots I was set on getting straight so I could write them this year (deep breath), I'm now starting to wonder if I'm not driving myself mad.

Yes, this is a post about wondering if I'm doing it right, and it's not even IWSG time.  Fear not!  I have another post full of neuroses already planned for next Wednesday.


I have a horrible habit of second-guessing myself.  I do my best to follow my instincts, especially where writing is concerned, but lately it feels like I'm doing the same thing with every plot I write down.  I like it for a while, I work on it a lot, and then one of two things happens: either it falls apart and I shove it aside, or I come up with a different angle that sounds like it will work better.  So I write down stuff on this new angle.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

And either way, I'm left staring at a plotting document with a higher word count than some short stories, wondering what the hell I'm supposed to do with it.

It often starts with this vague sense that something about the original plot just doesn't work.  For the one I've worked on the most, an interplanar adventure, it's the involvement of Earth.  Yes, even with a theoretically infinite multiverse to work with, I'm still telling tales about the home turf.  But by taking out that element, by giving the big bad (who's played by Benedict Cumberbatch in my head) a different goal, the story takes on a remarkably different set of stakes.  It becomes more about saving someone special from being horribly used, and less about saving the old homeland.

I think I've mentioned it before that far too many of my plots fall into the 'save the world' trap.  I have to actively work to prevent this.  That's why I took down a page and a half of re-plotting notes tonight, because I know the story will work better if it's smaller and more personal.  Taking that step was a huge difference between the plots of SKYBORNE and THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK.  And I know the latter book is better for it.

What will come of this?  I don't know.  But I do know this: I have to do the courier route for work tomorrow, which means I get about three hours of doing little but driving.  I get some of my best story ideas when what I'm doing doesn't require my mind's full attention.  (Which explains why I get so many good ideas in the shower.)  So now that I have a half-formed re-plotting in my head, tomorrow I'll have plenty of time to flesh it out.

As for the rest of it, the frustration has put me into "Screw it, let's go play WoW" mode, so I'm off to set some pixels on fire.  Grr.  Arg.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Theme music!

No, not the song you wish would start playing when you walk into a room.  ...though that would be pretty cool.  I'm talking about music for writing, songs played while working or before working, all that kind of thing.

I've developed this habit of finding a CD (yes, I still get my music in old-fashioned physical form) that suits the book I'm working on and listening to that every time I sit down to write said book.  For THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK, it was U2's "No Line on the Horizon"; I don't really know how to explain it, but somehow, it fit.  I also edited the entire thing to the double-CD 20th Anniversary edition of "The Joshua Tree", so now I know both those albums pretty much by heart.

All of TAW is from Shiloh's perspective, but if I ever get to write the sequel, some of it will be from Alexi's POV.  I've realized that, when that time comes, I'll have to write Alexi's scenes while listening to U2's "Achtung Baby", as it's better-suited to her.

Also because Alexi does in fact move in mysterious ways.

While writing to music is nothing new, I've also gotten into the habit of finding a song to listen to before I start, sort of mentally preparing me to get back to work on the story.  Finding this isn't always easy; feeling out how a book is going to be is difficult enough, so figuring out what song suits it before it's even written seems kind of ridiculous.  But I found one for TAW: "My Eyes" from "Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog".  The whole thing is this awesome duet of duality, and duality is a big issue in TAW, as the main character learns to deal with two very different kinds of power.

I'm still in the plotting process for two different novels, though I haven't yet given a lot of thought to what to listen to while writing them.  I feel like it's the kind of thing I won't really know until it's time to start writing.  Here's hoping I actually figure it out by then.  O_o

So: am I the only one who does this?  Do y'all work in total silence, have playlists or other music set at random, or do you just need a certain amount of background noise?  I've heard some people say they prefer film soundtracks, and while I can say that the extended soundtrack to the first "Hobbit" movie has done me very well for plotting, I don't know if it'll do as well for writing.  So what does everyone else out there listen to while writing?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Insecurity, not Anonymous

So, I decided to join the Insecure Writer's Support Group because. . . .  Okay, seriously, do I need to list reasons?  @_@  Fine, fine.

Because I go to bed every night and wake up every morning knowing that I could spend the rest of my life trying this writing thing and never getting anywhere, never finding an agent, never having any of my work read by more than a few people.  Knowing that I could, utterly and completely, fail.

Because while I have two plots that are going great, it's the third one that's tying my guts in more knots than usual, and that's not even for something brand new - it's for the sequel to THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK, which I haven't even started querying yet.  So I'm driving myself batty over something I might never need to write.

Because as a good and true friend of mine has pointed out, writing is in fact the hardest job in the world.  Perhaps the most rewarding one, true.  But still the hardest.

Because I get nervous about how people will react to characters I haven't even written yet.

Because I still beat myself up over stupid stuff I wrote years ago that no one ever read.

Because most, if not all, of the writers whose work I love had started their careers by my age.  I know there's no age limit on this job, but I'm thirty-four and I always thought I'd be doing conventions and seeing movie deals by now.

Because I'm both optimistic and neurotic enough to imagine myself doing conventions and seeing movie deals.  :P

Because, like most if not all of us, I'm in need of help.  But therapy is expensive, and blogging is practically free.

And most of all, because I'm not going to let any of this stop me.  So, hello.  My name is Mason, and I am tremendously insecure about this whole writing thing.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Okay, this is more than a little silly, but I figured we could all use a good laugh this early in the year.  ^_^  In the interest of making my query letter a little more exciting, I decided to write it as melodramatic and overblown as I could.  Then I dialed it back a little, so I could actually post it and admit to writing it.  I also had Two Steps From Hell blaring while I wrote this, because why not?

So, without further ado, the Melodramatics At Eleven query letter for THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK:

Shiloh Donovan’s dreams tell her of a book only she can see.  She seeks it out, desperate for answers, but a demon leaps forth as soon as she opens it.  The demon’s claws of crystalline smoke scar her face and awaken a terrible power with her, a warped and chaotic magic.  Shiloh turns this new power against the demon, and banishes it back into the book, but knows its actions have doomed her.  Demonic magic is forbidden in her homeland, under penalty of banishment or death.

As fate would have it, Shiloh meets Alexi RiLeon that very day.  Alexi hails from a powerful merchant family from the desert Cordobrae, and has come to broker a deal with Shiloh’s father.  Shiloh is drawn to the dark-skinned beauty from first blush, but knows her feelings cannot be requited – the deal between their families demands that Alexi marry Shiloh’s elder brother.

The two women make haste to Donovan Manor, where Shiloh’s parents reveal a long-hidden truth: Shiloh is adopted.  Her birth parents were part of a cult that worshiped the very demon Shiloh holds in the hidden book, an ancient being called Ak’tagth.  Shiloh herself was prepared before birth to serve as Ak’tagth’s new body. Her dreams mean that the cult has found her, and though she’s foiled their first attempt, they will now stop at nothing to see that she becomes the demon’s vessel.

Donovan Manor is not without its safeguards, though; Shiloh takes a portal to a safehouse across the city.  Alexi joins Shiloh, claiming she can offer further protection.  But they are too late.  The portal sends both women to a distant coastal city, and Shiloh realizes only demonic power could have so altered its magic.  The cult has people in her house, and now, she’s exactly where they want her.

Alexi believes they can find safety in her homeland, so the two seek passage on an airship.  But the demon’s cultists come after them once they’re airborne, and Shiloh’s new powers blaze out of control, sending the ship toward Cordobrae’s golden sands. . . .

THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK is a young adult fantasy novel of 94,000 words.  Thank you for your time and consideration.


Mason T. Matchak