Friday, November 25, 2011
Plot if you have to but only if you have to.
Many authors I know are extreme plotters. They will plot the living daylights out of their stories before writing the first chapter.
They’ll have flow charts and colorful graphs and, yes, even point-by-point lists of what comes after what. Some even plot for 50 or more pages before writing a single word in their book.
It works for them and they’ve proven it because, yup, they’re published.
Me? I’d rather light my hair on fire. Still, maybe it’ll work for you and you’ll join their crazy-assed club.
Or maybe you’re a pantser like me and some other cool authors. (Pantsers = Write by the seat of your pants.)
Truth is, there’s no wrong way. Plot or pants. Just do it! (Sorry, I had to channel a little Nike there.)
When I start a book I have a few vague ideas about my protagonist. I also have a solid nugget about the premise. After that, all bets are off.
I write scene to scene and character to character. This means that I write the scene that I believe will logically come next and I write it as it comes to me with very little questioning. If it’s the next step for my character to take, they take it. If they’re standing on the edge of the cliff, sometimes they turn around, sometimes they jump, but often I have someone else push them.
When I’m writing a mystery I don’t know whodunit until I’m about two-thirds through the book. If you read The Remains of the Dead you’ll remember there was a bit of a surprise ending there. When I realized that outcome during my first draft, I had to take a week off to recoup.
I was like, “Holy crap! I can’t believe it!” Seriously.
As secondary characters come up, I uncover their personalities as they interact with the protagonist, particularly during dialogue. I keep a separate Word document for my characters and I write out their descriptions as I make ‘em up. This helps me keep all the players straight and prevents me from creating four redheads in one book (which I actually did once).
This may sound easy and simplistic. It is and it isn’t. I guess if I’ve confused you my work here is done ;)
Just trust your instincts and trust your muse will provide the words. Don’t over think it.
Personally, I get in the most trouble when I don’t go with my gut. Right now my gut is telling me I need coffee. It’s also saying I need to go write MY stupid book.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
But does it have legs?
Everyone gets ideas. Some are better than others.
For example, the other night I had a particularly vivid dream. Sometimes I get great book ideas from my dreams so when I woke up I quickly jotted notes. Then I let it simmer during the day. As the day wore on I mulled it over. In the end, I decided that using my nail gun on a certain delicate part of my ex’s anatomy might make a great scene but, ultimately, it would be difficult to pull an entire novel out of that one idea. As much as I’d like to.
Whatever your premise, it might start with a wee nugget of an idea. But then you need to nurture it and walk around with it in your head. You should contemplate the premise over dinner, pour that idea a glass of wine then take it to bed. When you wake up in the morning, if it’s still under your skin and growing inside you like a nasty STD, it might be time to take it for a spin.
I’ll use my Ghost Dusters series as an example. If I told you my book was about a housekeeper who solved mysteries, you might be polite and say, “That’s nice.” Or go all “Church Lady” on me and say, “Isn’t that special.”
But if I told you my book was about someone who, not only cleaned houses, but cleaned them after crime scenes and, oh yeah, she’s able to talk to the dead, you’d probably be more likely to say, “Holy sh*t!” or “Wow!”.
Publishers are tight wads and they don’t want to buy a book that’s just “nice”. They want one that’s “holy sh*t”.
Truth is, your idea needs to be BIG. HUGE. It needs to have substance and biggest-loser-contestant size weight to carry you through a few hundred pages. And if you do write a few chapters and you feel the idea drying up it’s not necessarily because it was a bad idea, it could just be that this particular premise was more suited to be a scene, or a chapter, or a subplot in your next book.
Off to buy a nail gun and do a little research.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
I get a number of emails from fans and writers and also a few from weirdoes. Assuming you’re a fan or writer, chances are good you’ve asked the question “When is your next book coming out?”
Maybe you’ve shouted it in all caps or sent it in accusing mother-guilt tone (It’s been a long time since you wrote your last book and I’m patiently waiting). To that I say, I’m sorry. I am writing. I’m just not selling at the present time. But I'm doing everything I can to remedy that and so is my agent. You’ll be the first to know when I sell the next book. Well, maybe you won’t be the first but you’ll definitely be up there on my top 100.
If you’re a fan who’s also a wannabe writer you may have sent me the second most asked question, “What writing advice can you give me?" If you’re a weirdo you may have asked, “What color panties do you wear when you write?”
I’ve decided to do some random blogging to hopefully answer the wannabe writer inside of you. I won’t be tackling any panty questions. At least not today.
Tip number one is what I like to call: BICHOK. (Pronounced Bick Hock)
I didn’t coin this term. Within certain circles of my writing clan we’ve been known to say, “Off to BICHOK.” Or “Gotta go BICHOK.” Or even "Someone kick me in the ass and tell me to go BICHOK."
BICHOK = Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard -- put your ass in a chair and use ass glue if you need to.
The only way to get that best seller written is to write it.
Sounds simple. It’s not.
Sounds like I’m mocking you. I am.
I hear it a thousand times at book signings and in random conversations at cocktail parties.
People say, “Hey, you’re a writer? That's cool. I’ve always wanted to write a book.”
And I always say, “You should do that.”
But I’m always thinking, “You’ll never do it.”
It’s not that they’re not smarter because they could be and, hey, they might even wear nicer underwear when at their computer too. But people can SAY anything but most people lack what they need. They lack the BICHOK.
And for the record, BICHOK should actually be BICHOKWBNOFOE (Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard Writing Book Not On Facebook Or Email) but that would be really awkward to say.
So you wanna write? Go write. The only thing stopping you is you.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
At least she ASPIRES to be an Ewok.
Off to the groomers for a short-terrier cut and a new red coat. Don't know if you can see the green bow in her hair.
She was not pleased.
Sometimes this is how it is with my characters.
They may have their own aspirations but it's my job as an author to wrangle them into how I need them for the sake of the story.
Hey, I still aspire to be a rock'n roll star. We can't get everything we want, can we?
Monday, November 14, 2011
Every single morning I walk downstairs with one thought on my mind: COFFEE
So important is that first morning cup that I intentionally get up earlier than anyone else in the household so I can enjoy it in peace and quiet. There's just something simple and wonderful when it's just me and my java while I check emails to see if anyone from THE-GREAT-WORLD-OF-PUBLISHING has good news for me (NYC is 3 hours ahead so my crack of dawn is their noon time crack). Usually there are only ads about enhancing my manhood but a writer can dream, can't she?
It used to be that the precious moments before the pitter patter of annoying kids' feet was ME time. Then I got pets. Specifically, Bella the diva yorkie and the pigs.
So now Bella gets to go out in the back yard and receives fresh water and kibble before I get my coffee. You'd think the rodents can wait but nope. The minute I open my refrigerator to get non-fat, non-taste milk for my super strong coffee, those oinkers start squealing like they will positively DIE if they aren't fed IMMEDIATELY.
The problem with these sows is that they earnestly believe it has been days, no, WEEKS since they last ate even if it's been hours. It's like constant pms for them.
So now I've adjusted my morning routine to wake up EVEN EARLIER just so I can attend to furry divas and still have ME time before everyone gets up.