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.