Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Unnamed Blog Entry

Yes, the title is because I can't think of a name for this entry.  Because sometimes it's hard to come up with a name.  And sometimes that name makes all the difference.

For my current plot-in-progress, I started off with two characters I've written before as the main protagonists.  This was both to make sure I started off with people I knew and to give me a kind of character shorthand, a way to determine these characters' thoughts and actions with ease and without worrying about it too much.  Yes, it's lazy plotting at its finest, I know.  It got me started, which is what I needed, considering how long I'd been trying to find the story for this world.  But I knew I couldn't keep using those characters.

So I came up with new names, applied them, and everything changed.  One character grew about six inches and was suddenly from the eastern US, grew up on a farm, and had a love for knee-length sweaters.  (She kept her hair like she's Merida from "Brave"'s stunt double, though.  Cleaning blood out of it is going to be a pain.)  The other character gained a background in the film industry as well as uncles he'd hunted with in his youth, and went from being white to half-black, half-Scottish.  (Why half-Scottish?  Partly as a shout-out to a game I love, and partly because kilts.)

I swear, even knowing this is all happening in my head, it's weird as hell to see characters spontaneously change like that.

With the name changes, these people went from characters I'd written before to new people to explore and discover.  Working on their backgrounds has been fun, but seeing what they do now as I work on the plot is really interesting.  I no longer automatically know how they'll react to all the weird crap I'm going to put them through, and watching that come about as I plot is both fascinating and occasionally worrisome as they develop in unexpected ways.  Yet at the same time, I can see how they interact much better than I could before, because they now only exist for this story, not in several others.  And even though most of the story's events will still happen the same way, I really feel like these new characters could throw me a bizarre curveball.

And then there's the one who is a bizarre curveball, the one who currently has no name.

Seriously, this is one of the most frustrating aspects of character creation.  I know who this character is, where she comes from, her lengthy past and how she got to where she is when the others find her.  I know why she does what she does, and why she considers the others' mission so vital that she's not only willing but enthusiastic about joining up with them.  I know how she looks at life, how her view is significantly different from her companions', and why that will prove vital over the course of the story.  I know she 'hunts' by singing to forest animals until they get close enough, then snaps their necks.  She's a raging berserker elven Disney princess avatar of a war goddess, and I have no idea what her name is.

Next entry: IWSG and all the stories I once wanted to tell.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Process This.

So!  Last week, Liz Blocker tagged me for the writing process meme.  Little did she know that giving me a chance to talk about myself and about my writing at the same time is one of the few ways guaranteed to get me rambling at length and depth.  Let's get started, shall we?

What am I working on now?
In June, I'll start the query process for THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK, a story about a young woman who discovers she was prepared before birth to serve as the body for an extremely powerful demon.  I've been polishing this book for months, and I'm eager to see how it does once I start querying.  I also have three or four plots in various stages of development, one of which I've had all kinds of success with over the past nine days.  No details about those, because I have no idea which will actually become books.

How does my book differ from others within its genre?
Both the heroines are gay, and the main couple is an interracial one.  Sad to say, those are going to be the major differences people see if TAW gets published.  I really wish both of those were more common in the fantasy genre, where in theory books could feature all kinds of people and worlds and situations never before seen, but the idea that heroes have to be straight, white, and male is still far too prevalent.  -_-

Why do I write what I do?
Because it's in my head and needs to come out.  Seriously.  I came up with Abraxas, the world TAW takes place in, back in 2003, and my only first published story took place in that world.  I have over a dozen documents developing the place, some of which I deliberately ignored when writing TAW because they didn't fit the story.  I've also been writing Shiloh and Alexi, the two heroines, in various forms since 2002; they've appeared in about half of the books I've written.  I love these two, and this world, and would like nothing more than to start my writing career bringing them to the rest of the world.

How does my writing process work?
Before I begin writing, I take a shot of liquor (usually rum) and eat a little bit of chocolate.  Alcohol loosens up the brain, and has proven to affect the language centers, while sugar has always been fuel for my writing.  (I used to eat lumps of brown sugar before writing when I was a teenager.  Don't judge.)  I then play the song I've chosen for the book - every book gets one - and pace about my apartment, mentally preparing myself.  Then, I put on a CD - every book gets one of those too - and pull on my headphones.  By then, the first sentence for the night's work has usually come to me, so I write that, and then I'm off and running.

Most of the time, what I'm writing flows out of my head without too much trouble.  Not bragging, it's just the truth.  And much of that stuff that flows so easily gets the hell beaten out of it with the editing stick.  My editing process is lengthy and intensive, but it's totally worth it.

Music is an absolutely essential part of my writing process.  I can write without it, but it just plain doesn't feel right.  I am thankful to be able to drop a CD into my computer, though.  Way back in high school, the stereo at my dad's house was around the corner from the study where the computer was.  That computer was a DOS machine with 640K of RAM and an amber monitor.  So I had to put a CD in the stereo, crank it way the hell up, then hurry to the study and start writing.  Many times, my dad came home from work to find me in the study, pounding away at the keyboard with seven fingers since I didn't know how to touch-type yet, with Meat Loaf's "Bat out of Hell II" cranked up to eleven.  Sorry, Dad.

So now I need to tag some other people for this thing, hmm?  Let's see...  I'll tag Rena, because she and I have had more than a few rambling back-and-forth conversations about our processes before, and I'll tag Anna, who said she liked hearing about others' processes.  ^_^  Have at it!

Next entry: what's in a name?  Or, for some characters, What the hell is your name?!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rise and Fall and Rise Again

This is not the entry I expected to write.

More important stuff first: I finished writing the book this past Sunday.  And I don't like it at all.  It was fun at first, and a real thrill to be writing again - I hadn't written a new book since I finished TAW last year.  And there's always that rush of starting, of the infinite possibilities before you, when the book can be anything.  Unfortunately, that didn't last.  I grew disenchanted as I kept going - the characters felt flat, the settings felt lifeless, and I realized some major plot holes revolving around the ending that I somehow didn't discover with the dozen and more times I went over that plot.

This was a book that came from my head, not my heart.  It was something I pushed ahead with writing because I was so bloody-minded in my determination to make an interplanar adventure work.  And I should know better.  I've written books before with concepts that I had failed to make work before but I was so sure, this time, I could get it right.  It didn't work.

So I wrapped up the story with some decent explanations, and set it aside.  I might go back to it later, I might not.  But the day after I finished that book, something awesome happened.

I read this article, over at Fantasy Faction, about creating layered antagonists.  From this article, I got the sudden idea of an antagonist for a story idea I've been working with for a while.  I had nothing but setting ideas and character bits, not a real story.  But once I knew who the antagonist was, the story started forming.  On Tuesday, during one of my breaks at work, I pretty much pulled the entire book out of my head.  I now have a rough plot, with plenty to flesh out and figure out.  I love the new characters, the empire that both is and provides the much-needed antagonist has some great concepts for me to work with, and more than anything, it's something I haven't done before.

If nothing else, it's good to know that I haven't lost it.  I just need to be sure that I'm really working with it, not just what I want it to be.  Whatever 'it' is.  You know what I mean.  :P

So, yes.  It's another learning experience, and another new plot.  Par for the course, really.  But at least now I know better what to watch for, and how much I have to listen to my heart about this, not just my head.

In other news, my computer completely died this morning.  I'm typing this on a tiny and very slow netbook that's connected to my new mouse and keyboard.  My computer-related stuff will be limited until I build a new machine.  Fortunately, I have a friend who's one unbelievable guru for all things computer-related, and he'll be sending me a list of parts to build a new machine soon.

It's been a week of endings and beginnings, death and soon-to-be birth.  Let the creative cycle continue.  ^_^

Next entry: Liz Blocker flagged me to discuss my writing process.  I'll be talking about music, sugar, and alcohol.  :P

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

IWSG: Let It Go

Today's IWSG post is about worrying.  Not about being worrisome, which is part of a writer's job around mundanes, because having others be concerned about our sanity just goes with the territory. But no, this is about getting past all the worries that come with this profession.

I'd love to just say "STOP IT!" and end the entry there, but sadly, nothing is that easy.

Here's the thing: the book I'm working on is an interplanar adventure.  I've written interplanar adventures before.  I have three different versions of an interplanar adventure book, all of which failed in different ways.  Believe me when I say how badly I wanted that book to work - I think I have a longer plotting file for the various versions of that book than any other plot document.  But I just couldn't make the story be what I wanted it to be.

The first version also would have run into copyright issues due to one character wielding The Power of Rock and my inclusion of actual song lyrics, but that's different.

Naturally, some of the same worries crept up on me when I was soon to start my current book.  This book is a completely new story, but I couldn't help thinking that it would fail as well.  I've also heard that interplanar adventures don't sell, which is exactly the sort of thing I shouldn't be thinking about before I even start the damn thing.

The solution to this came, of all places, from a Disney song.  (Yes, I'm sure many of you guessed it as soon as you saw this entry's title.)  I actually heard the titular song on the radio the Thursday before I started my writing vacation, and I just kind of sat there in my cube, realizing it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I've blogged before about how important music is to my writing.  I have CDs for plotting and writing and editing each book, and the music helps me get into the right mindset for each project.  But I also have a pre-writing song for each book.  "Let It Go" became that for this book because of one specific verse:

It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through,
No right, no wrong, no rules for me - I'm free.

That, right there, is what I needed.  To approach the new book as an experiment, to see what happens, to just sit down and write it and not worry about anything else.

And seeing as how I'm about to enter Act III after working on the thing for only a week and a half, I can say it's working incredibly well.

Next entry: on writing a wargolem.