Playing With Craft

“Are you a pantser or an outliner?”

“What’s your favorite part of the writing process?”

“How do you deal with writer’s block?”

“Where do you get your characters?”

“Do you hand write the first draft?”

Over the last few years I’ve heard variations of these questions from different interviews and the like and I have to be honest … at the time I didn’t really pay them too much mind.

This year, however, I’ve reached the point of my craft where I’ve begun asking precisely why I do things the way I do.

I “pants” the first half of a novel and then I have to outline it … but why?

Is an outline too restrictive for the beginning of my process or am I just afraid of losing that spark of inspiration if I try?

Well, I won’t really know the answer to that question unless I try something different.

So!

For the last several weeks I’ve been playing with my craft. Scrivener makes this curiously easy, especially with the 3×5 card approach, so I’ve been working on an outline for a paranormal romance.

Why not, right?

Just because I’ve never written in that genre before doesn’t mean I can’t. I’m only limited by myself here, and I’ll only grow if I stretch those boundaries.

And just to make things interesting … let’s try the young adult market.

For those who follow this blog you’ll know that I cringe at the young adult market. I disliked High School while I was in it, why would I want to go back, even in fiction? (Though now that I’m working with this outline I believe most authors hated High School and that’s how they infuse the pages with all that angst.)

Again, we’re looking at self-imposed limitations here and I’ve decided to break free of them.

And, given that this is a writing experiment, I’ve decided that I’m going to share this process here. This is a writing blog, after all, and maybe what I learn along the way will help someone else.

As with any experiment, I have to lay some ground rules to follow.

  1. I will post once a week on the project beginning in December.
  2. The post will consist of comparisons between what I used to do, and what I am forcing myself to try. (Example, this book will use an outline from start to finish.)
  3. The Hard Deadline schedule will not be moved. (This means that this is a side project and cannot interfere with what I already have planned for 2016. Which is plenty, just so you know.)

Those are pretty simple rules. The Hard Deadline schedule will be discussed next month when we start looking at New Year goals, but to help clarify a bit, I’m to begin work on Dead Weight (the sequel to Tapped) on January 1st.

Yes, this means I will essentially have two books being created around the same time. If it proves to be too much I’ll have to focus on Dead Weight, complete it, and then resume with the experiment.

That’s the glory of a side project. It can be moved if it needs.

In the meantime …

Everyone participating in NaNoWriMo … you’re awesome! Keep writing!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving (if they celebrate it) or just an awesome week!

 

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Owning Your Craft – Sedition Version

I began reading Sedition to my son recently. He’s seven now and the whole Fantasy world of Dyngannon seems to appeal to him.

Sedition-WEBThat or he just really likes the sword on the cover. I’m pretty sure much of the story is over his head but, he picked it and all. (Don’t worry, we read picture books before we settle in for a chapter of this one.)

In any case, it’s been nearly six years since that book was first published and Trenna Silvanus remains one of my most popular characters. I get loads of commentary from people wanting to know when the next segment of her story is coming out (soon, I promise) and … yes, this does make my little writer’s ego fluff up in pleasure.

That being said …

If Sedition weren’t already published I would be doing a major overhaul on it.

The dialogue is hard to get through in places. There are dozens and dozens of peripheral characters whose involvement in the story itself could be richer – sometimes shorter, but richer in content at least. The exposition is clunky. The narrator’s voice bounces (particularly in regards to Brenson and Nelek, which I’m going to blame on the fact that I wasn’t handling the male POV right).

The one bright, shining light in the book so far (and we’re only in Chapter Seven) is that Trenna really is likable. She’s spunky, tough, and has a sense of humor that exerts itself in some of the oddest places.

Why am I telling you all this?

This book is out for sale. What sane writer points out the flaws of their own work in a public forum? Who’s gonna go out and buy this thing now?

Honestly?

Because any sane, professional writer also owns their craft.

I own the fact that the book I wrote nearly ten years ago (NOTE: it did not get published as soon as it was finished, it took a long time to find a home) is not as strong as the books I’m writing now.

I own that my personal style has changed with every book I’ve written.

I own the mistakes that are in Sedition just as much as I own the things I did right.

What did I do right?

Trenna.

In fact, the main cast of characters were done right; Nelek, Brenson, Faolan, Marsali, Brock. They have individual voices, concerns, arguments, and motivations. And while I remember it was complicated to the max trying to get all those individuals out into the open without making a 300,000 word book, it worked out in the end.

So this is me owning my craft. Maybe I’ll start working on a 10 year anniversary edition of Sedition and clean up some of my mistakes.

Maaaaybe.

Probably not, though. Because after Usurper is done there’s at least one more book in this series. And the Tapped series has at least 4 main books with several novellas in the queue. And I have a Civil War/Western that has been simmering on the back burning for a while now. Annnnnd … my Dragon Noir.

You get it. There’s lots going on in my head. But hey, if there’s enough interest maybe I will.

How to Write a Dude

Devon Barlow is a headstrong young man nearing his twenty-first birthday. He’s highly intelligent, very physically active (he goes spelunking on Pluto, how cool is that?) and he has a strong suspicion that his parents might just be pirates. Save for brief forays on Mars or Earth during the holiday seasons, Devon has lived the bulk of his life on board Zephyr, a hauler-class space ship. 

I am a thirty-something single mother who reads too much and spends an embarrassing amount of time on video games. (Hey, games help keep my creative brain fresh and stuff. Don’t judge.)

So how does a thirty-something single mother find the “voice” of a twenty-year-old boy in order to believably display his character on the page?

Well … I read a lot. 

I did say I read too much, didn’t I?

In this case I deliberately hunted for books with young male points of view (really not that hard to do, you can find them in just about every book you pick up) and I studied them. I looked at what they thought or felt or did differently from how I might have reacted in any given situation and I jotted it down in a notepad. 

I also talked to guy friends. If there was a situation happening on Zephyr in the book that could be easily translated into day-to-day life, I would nudge a guy and ask; “Hey, when you were twenty what would you have done if …”

Disclaimer: These friends know I am an author. They find it highly amusing when I quiz them about what it’s like to be a dude and are more than happy to help out. However … most of them still think I’m crazy so … do this at your own peril. 

That said, Devon Barlow might be a twenty-year-old young man but he is also a human being. He may think and feel differently from me but that does not mean I cannot relate to him. (Except for the pirate thing. I never suspected my parents of being pirates.)

Fiction is the place where we can mind-meld with the world around us. It helps us understand people precisely because we find ourselves relating to characters vastly different from us. It teaches us to look at the core motivation in people because we know that, male or female, that motivation is what’s going to define them as a person.

So!

How to write a dude when you’re a girl?

1) Read. (You should be doing this anyway if you’re a writer.)

2) Observe and/or ask your guy counterparts.

3) Find the core motivation.

… and if anyone else has tricks to writing the opposite gender I’m happy to hear them. I’m sure I missed a few.