Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Six months later, the time has come to let go.

I started querying THE BOOK OF LOST RUNES back in November - on the first of November, naturally, because it seemed like a good time and I liked the symbolism of starting something new with the new month.  I sent out my first letters to seven agents whom I thought would make particularly good matches for this book, and had a list of twenty-something total.  Since then, I've delved into a bunch of different sites and lists, and sought out a great many agents who are looking for adult fantasy.

In the time since then, I've sent out a total of ninety queries, and received largely rejection and silence in return.  The only bright points in this process have been two partial requests (both said no), two "likes" from Twitter pitches (both said no), and one dodged bullet.

Being able to call those "bright points" is yet another reason why writers drink.

This is the farthest I've ever gone with a book.  After writing so damn many books (most of which were bad), I really thought I had something with BoLR.  I'm not sure if it was the "book of my heart", as some writers say about some of their stories, but most anything with Shiloh & Alexi in their various incarnations is a story that's close to me.  Which, of course, only made the rejections feel more personal.

I know they weren't personal.  They never are, unless an agent checked my twitter feed and was grossly offended by me making bad jokes or something.  :P  But the fact that some people wanted to read even part of the book gave me hope.  It felt like a sign, y'know?  Like I really had something and I just had to find the right person.

But that never happened.  I still have queries out, and I don't think it's going to happen.  I told myself that I'd query for at least six months, and consider my options then.  Over that time, I've lost faith in BoLR, and mostly think about how I could do it better.  Maybe it just wasn't the right sort of story, maybe I didn't do my original ideas justice, maybe I tried to make it too many things at once.  I'll never know.  I just know it's time to trunk the book and move on.

No matter how much it hurts to leave this one behind after all that I've put into it.

It does me a lot of good to know that the current book is going well.  I hit 30K words tonight, and I'm having a lot of fun with this.  Even though I started plotting this back in 2014 and thought it could have been ready last year, I'm still discovering all kinds of things about the characters and the worlds it takes place in, and working on it is constantly surprising.  I can tell it'll need a lot of edits, but that's nothing new; working with a half-dozen completely new characters and worlds means I'm not going to get everything right the first time.

Especially when I realize that most of a character's development is post-mortem.

Anyway.  This is, I'm sure, just another step in the grand learning experience of being a writer.  It's not that I have a problem with the learning experience, I'd just like to experience some other part of it eventually.  Which is, of course, why I keep trying.

Next week: IWSG: Embrace Your Weird.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What Won't You Write?

Warning: the following entry contains a brief discussion of rape, in terms of it as a plot device.

First off: I have to apologize for not stopping by anyone's blog for the past two weeks.  >_<  I've been ridiculously busy with preparing to start a book and actually starting said book, along with mandatory overtime from work (which started in the first week of February and only ended last week) which kind of sucked the life out of me because it meant many weeks of taking my work computer home on weekends and thus feeling like I only got one-day weekends for all that time.

In other words, I've been kind of out of it and trying to get too much done, and I've neglected to stop by and see how others are going.  Especially now, in April, when a lot of people are posting every day.  I apologize for that, and I'll do better.

Anyway.  I started writing a book this past Saturday (current word count: 11077), and somehow, that got me thinking: we keep hearing the advice to write what we want to write.  But what about what we don't want to write?  I think that's worthy of a little discussion.

As I said a few entries ago, I don't want to write dark, hopeless horror.  I need endings that aren't grim and dour, and I need whatever the characters are dealing with to be something they can actually fight against.  I've seen this sort of darkness done well, but it's not for me.

While we're talking genres, I no longer want to write sword-and-horse fantasy.  Classic high fantasy, Tolkienesque stuff, you get the idea.  I've noticed over the past few books and plots that my ideas are getting stranger and stranger, and I'm much more likely to play with what having magic and active gods and active dragons and cool stuff like that would actually mean in a world than to say "Go get me precisely one dwarf and one elf, we have a quest to undertake."  I'm good with this.

I don't want to write standard boy-meets-girl relationships.  They're everywhere, and quite frankly, they bore the hell out of me.  :P  Okay, I'm exaggerating a little.  I don't mind them when they're done well, and I'm used to them popping up in most stories in any given media.  And I'm not saying I'd never write one; if I write two people who are clearly interested in each other, I'll go with it.  But it just feels like no matter who the cast members are, people expect the lead guy and the lead girl to get together, to the point that it's a subversion when they don't.

I also definitely don't want to write "good girl meets bad boy" relationships.  Ye gods, that shows up in so many books I see these days, and it always sounds the same.  Is there really that much of an audience for "I know I shouldn't want him but I do anyway"?

On a darker note, I will not write rape.  I've read various discussions of rape in fiction, and I'm convinced it's never necessary as a plot device.  No matter what a rape is supposed to accomplish in a story, there's always another way to accomplish it.  I did once write a scene of attempted rape, and if I went back to that story, I would find another way to make that plot point (which ended in the attempter's death) happen.

Lastly (and much more cheerful), I don't want to write anything that's completely humorless.  Because that would be the most dull, boring thing I could ever write.  Seriously.  Can you imagine an entire book without a single joke in it?  Without anyone in it having any reason to laugh?  How much of a downer would that be?

So, now I'd like to hear from the rest of y'all.  What don't you want to write, or what do you refuse to write?  And has any of that sprung from you wanting to write it and learning it wasn't for you?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Adjusting Trauma Levels

There's this problem I've had for a long time.  I might even have blogged about it before; I've been doing this thing for about four years now and I can't remember every single entry I've made.  :P  It's a simple thing, but it still stymies me:

I have serious trouble putting my characters through serious trouble.

Some writers have a real gift for putting their characters through hell.  The trope "Trauma Conga Line" exists for a reason, and there's a reason that page has so many examples it needs separate pages to hold all of them.  The best example I can think of for this is Harry Dresden of Jim Butcher's "The Dresden Files" series - over the course of fifteen books, Harry has had maybe fifteen things go right for him.  I'm exaggerating a bit (it's at least twenty), but if something bad can happen to him, it either has or is probably going to.  Especially in book twelve.  Ye gods, book twelve.

This is something I love as a reader, but I've never really been able to do the same as a writer.  And as I plot and prepare to write yet another book, it's starting to bother me.

As far back as I can remember, this is an issue I've had to deal with.  In my early stories, characters figured things out with ease, fell into the information or plot device they needed with little effort, and were always able to figure out how to triumph in the end.  I've gotten better about it over the past few years, even been able to have people lose limbs and eyes and occasionally get killed.  And then there's the emotional trauma.

But I can never shake the feeling that my characters get what they want and get their happy endings too easily.

I think part of it is that I want to see these people succeed.  As I talked about a few entries ago, I don't want to write stories that are nothing but doom and gloom.  I have no trouble coming up with challenges for my characters, as that usually makes up the heart of the story.  In the book I'll be starting soon, the entire middle is the crew gathering items they need for the race/scavenger hunt from across half a dozen different worlds, and that's a daunting set of tasks that changes them in unexpected ways.

None of them come out of it the same in the end, and not everyone comes out alive.  But I still feel like it's all too easy for them, despite everything that happens along the way.

I know that if I wanted to, I could drop mountain after mountain on my characters.  But I think there's a limit to that.  Eventually, stuff like that stops being a story and starts being just a laundry list of things going horribly wrong.  Everyone has a breaking point, but I don't think that every story needs to be dedicated to finding that point.

This leaves me not entirely sure how to find the middle ground.  Obviously, I can't go too easy on these people, as that would be boring.  Going too hard on them would likely result in character rebellion by way of them refusing to continue on their stories because I'd done too much to them and they were ready to lay down and die.  And trying to find a middle ground leads to . . . this blog entry.

So now, I ask for advice.  How do y'all deal with this?  How mean do you think you can be to your characters and still get a story that works?  And how do you know when you've hit that point?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

IWSG: Once More, With All the Feelings

I planned to start writing a book in April.  April is here, and I haven't started.

Yet.  I mean, c'mon, we're only five days in.

But this is where it all starts, isn't it?  This is the point where it starts to sink in, when I know it's time to get started on this mad process again.  This is the time of reviewing a plot I've been working on for nearly two years, going back over character and setting notes to make sure everything works and I haven't missed a plot hole I won't find until I've nearly finished the book.  (Again.)

This is, for this particular story, the time I make sure all the character name and gender changes I've made are reflected in the plot, lest I confuse myself forty-two thousand words down the line.

So it seems natural that this is one of the times of greatest insecurity, hence me saving this moment for IWSG.  No matter how much I talk about the story finally being ready to write after so long, knowing that it'll soon be time to sit down and get to it brings back all the fears.  As much as I like writing interplanar tales, I've never written one that turned out well.  And while I know those were all different books and that doesn't mean anything for this book, the fear's still there.

To say nothing of feeling absolutely sure that the book itself is going to turn out too damn odd and defy categorizing too much for anyone to ever want to buy it.  "Interplanar fantasy space opera race/scavenger hunt" might be the best way to describe it, and who the hell's looking for that?  I think this even as I take steps against it.  Yes, everyone says to not even think about publishing at this stage, and I'm trying not to.  But five months of querying BoLR has embedded those thoughts in my head.

I am, of course, not letting any of this stop me.  It's impossible to know how a book's going to turn out when it's still inside my head.  Every story changes in the writing, and this one will be no different.  I've been going over scenes in my head as I work on other stuff, and it seems like things have gelled and it's all ready for me to get started on this giant chunk of literary weirdness.  And I have not, and will not, change a single damn thing because I think it'll make the book sell.  That way lies madness - okay, more madness.

I just . . . I can't escape the fear that this will turn out like everything else I write.  (I refuse to call it "knowledge", as I can't predict the future, and I'm forcing myself not to listen to the parts of my mind that insist it will happen.)  That this book, a year or less from now, will end up my fifteenth trunked book, possibly never even queried, possibly with nothing of it ever seen by anyone but me and the few people I somehow got to read it.  I know that everyone says to keep going and you'll find the book that works.  I know that trying a bunch of different things is the best - perhaps the only - way to make that happen.  And I know there's no way to see what will happen than to start writing it and find out.

So I will.  Soon.  Wish me luck and/or skill, as I think I'm going to need both.

Final note: I nearly called this entry "Once More, With Eeling" since one of the book's characters is a snake from the waist down.  But I figured no one would get the joke and she'd be very upset at being called an eel.  And I'd be ripping off WoW.

Next week: how to make things harder.  No, not for me, I can handle that on my own...