It is 12:32 A.M. on Christmas Day, and I am in a hotel up the road from my parent’s house and I have finished Book 2.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
It is 12:32 A.M. on Christmas Day, and I am in a hotel up the road from my parent’s house and I have finished Book 2.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Thank the universe I’m still on track; I only managed around 710 words today. I’m not sure I trust this counter, either. Feels like it should be more. Oh well.
Started the day by forgetting to set the alarm and oversleeping. The neighbor’s carer has been bringing her dogs to work, but they didn’t bark like apocalyptic car alarms this morning, thus letting me stay in bed far longer than I wanted to. How dare they.
Then, a job rejection. After which I went on Twitter, which actually made me feel worse, because stupid people, oh my damn.
I wanted to take a walk because I haven’t done it for days, but it started to drizzle. I have cold weather gear but no wet gear so that killed that.
Sat down to write and mentally felt like this little constipated cloud from the Rocko’s Modern Life Christmas special.
Now there’s a mysterious pain in my back and I might be getting a migraine, yay. I already gave my protagonist one; it’s only fitting.
Still, I got some writing done. It’s frustrating when it doesn’t just slide smoothly out of your head onto the page, but that’s the nature of this beast. Sometimes it bounds out happily to meet you and sometimes you have to drag it along.
I started re-reading IT and I’m in despair over how poor my writing is in comparison to Stephen King’s. I know I shouldn’t do that; IT was his thirteenth novel and Tunerville is only my fourth, so I don’t have as much practice as he did when he wrote it. But it’s so hard not to, especially now that I can read books and see the mechanics that went into writing them.
Mel Gibson allegedly said about directing, “I can’t watch movies anymore. I can see the strings.” Yeah, mentally ill or not, Mel kind of sucks, but this quote illustrates very well the phenomenon that happens when you begin to see how your craft actually works.
I feel exactly like that now–I can not only see the elements that make up the whole, I can understand WHY they don’t or do work. It’s akin to watching figure skating before and after I learned to skate.
At the time Lipinski performed this program, her elements made no sense to me. I could not see a jump coming and had no idea what it even was until she did it and the commentator remarked on it. Watching a figure skating program then was an experience in surprises—stroke stroke BOOM! stroke stroke BOOM!
After fifteen years of skating myself, I can see the jump setup. I notice many more technical details that I didn’t before, such as whether the edge is good, shorted rotations, etc. I can even tell if someone jumping is likely to fall (sometimes they manage to save it when I think they can’t, so I’m not totally accurate). Even if I can’t perform all the elements Lipinski did, I recognize them. I can watch the jump and know with at least some certainty whether the judges will mark it as well executed.
Of course, you don’t have to be a skater to know these things. If you have a keen eye for observation and have been watching for many years, it’s possible to understand and analyze a sport with great accuracy. Many people who enjoy American football have never played it, but they can look at the formation during a game on TV and tell you exactly what’s about to happen.
Doing an activity, however, provides you with a deeper understanding of its execution. That doesn’t make you an expert unless you’ve put in the hours and practice to become one. However, it does give you just enough information to be dangerous…
…to your self-esteem.
Writing is, in its nature, a solitary activity. You must enter the cavern of your mind and search for treasures there, then haul them out and attempt to convey them–and the quest for them–in a way that resonates with the reader, so he or she will buy your work.
But one man’s treasure is another’s trash. And a clumsy attempt at presentation will sell no merchandise. In your solitude, you can lose your objectivity regarding the quality of your presentation. When you run into a master’s-level piece, you may feel your work is just a sad little flea market tchotchke.
We know it’s all too easy to measure ourselves against others, and we shouldn’t. A quote attributed to David B. Schlosser has been going around on the internet lately:
Easier said than done when you’re confronted with the exquisite reality of a more seasoned writer’s technique. It’s enough to make you swear off writing. Hell, it’s enough to make you want to quit reading.
Since we are artists and we must create or die, we have to use these moments not as cudgels with which to beat ourselves, but as tools to sharpen our ability. You simply cannot write effectively if you don’t read.
But Elizabeth, you say, reading in an analytical manner spoils the story for me. Yes, it can. However, you will not know if the jump is good unless you watch it. I “headit” when I’m reading, and yes, it can spoil a poorly executed story–all my attention is on how I would fix this sentence or that phrase or what was this idiot thinking that is not how a semi-colon works.
But I can still pick up books and lose myself completely before I remember I’m actually reading and not crawling around inside another person’s head in a land far, far away. A skilled writer can employ these techniques so well that a reader will remain unaware of them.
Pay attention to the techniques you see–do they work? Why? Why not? If you’ve read the book before and you don’t remember how the author used them, go back and read it again. This time, watch and learn.
Sometimes we can’t see what isn’t working. We’re too close. In that case, we can put our work in front of another person’s eyes. Beta readers and writing groups can provide helpful feedback.
If you have the money, consider hiring a professional editor to give you an in-depth analysis. Work can change; it can be improved. Someone with industry experience can help you not only make your story better but in the process, help you become a better writer.
I decided to pursue professional editing for Tunerville. I have little money; this is going to hurt financially, but I’ve reached an impasse. After countless rejections and two with the same critique, it’s time to admit I might need some help.
It feels a bit like I’m sending my baby off to war. Maybe I’ll find I just need more time and more practice before I get there. Maybe this will actually help me get the book published. I will not know until I give it a chance.
Don’t dwell on YOU when you read for analysis or solicit feedback. Think about your WORK and if the techniques you see can help it or not. Your personality and self-esteem are not the focus here. This isn’t therapy; it’s called improving your craft.
If you need help, ask for it. And be nice to yourself. You probably don’t suck as much as you think.
So I’ve been busy/not busy.
You might know (or not) that I’m still not working at the moment. Most of my time has been spent job hunting, and while that’s not entirely a full-time job, it does occupy a lot of head space.
July is a Camp NaNoWriMo month (also April), the summer version of NaNoWriMo. Since I’ve been scouring job listings and writing cover letters until my face bleeds, I missed it. My intention was to use it for something, but that did not happen. I tend to actually work better when I have something else going on. Like you know, a job.
I’ve got five queries out for Tunerville at the moment. A couple of them don’t look like they’ll garner any results, but you never know. The period for a no reply = no isn’t up quite yet. Should someone decide they want to represent me, one of the first questions they’ll ask is “What else are you working on?”
I realized I have no answer for that question.
Secret Book is finished, but it’s such a hot mess that it could take me years to work it out. Not only would I have to do a ton of research I’m not ready to do, but I screwed up so badly that it requires an extensive rewrite. That’s okay; it happens. The book failed in its first iteration, but even if I can’t salvage it as a whole, it contains a ton of well-written prose I can cannibalize for something else.
Rose’s Hostage is so old I don’t know if I can even sell it. I’d like to, but it probably needs another edit. I don’t have time for it right now.
Tunerville’s first full manuscript was rejected in September and I was so disappointed, but I received a (rare!) critique. I’ve done some revision and I’m editing it now to reduce the word count again and clean it up a little more. I thought it could be a stand-alone or the start of a trilogy.
In keeping with the great maestro Ludwig van Beethoven, I thought of a really cool way to carry the trilogy idea forward while on a daily walk. Beethoven was big on taking long walks, but of course he had the Vienna Woods for that. I get to walk among discarded liquor shots and condemned houses.
That’s the only thing we have in common, as Ludwig was a genius and I am decidedly not. (Confession time–I used to have an ENORMOUS crush on the guy.)
The entire month of August, I will be writing. In between job hunting, interviews, studying, and a total eclipse of the sun for which I have a front-row seat, Book Two is going to blast out of my computer. First drafts suck, I hate writing them, and sustained torture seems to be the only way I can do so.
Should I bother? I don’t know if anyone will ever publish Tunerville. People have told me they’d like to read it. People who have read it liked it. Industry folks have said I’m very close. Either way, I’m a writer and that’s what I do. I won’t get any better at it if I sit on my arse and click hearts underneath pictures of cats on Twitter all day.
So I’m gonna sit on my arse and write. I’ll try to stay up-to-date on social media (I have to, as a member of the #Resistance) and keep you informed here as much as I can. Don’t expect any word count posts. I’ve placed a widget on the main page, at the top right. I’m shooting for 80,000 words or until I’m finished, whatever comes first.
Do expect eclipse photos and video, assuming it’s not cloudy that day. If you need anything, follow me on Twitter at @DameWritesalot; that’s the best place to catch me.
And here we go.
I’ve tried to write this post a couple of times in the last two weeks, but with a big rejection, the election, and losing my job a couple of days afterward, it’s been a little tense around here.
So, the weekend of November 5 and 6, I went to my first writing conference ever, the ShowMe Writers MasterClass. Put on by the Columbia chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild and Mizzou Publishing, it took place at the University of Missouri.
It wasn’t Worldcon or anything, but I live within driving distance, so I went for it. (And got lost — thank the universe I allowed extra travel time!)
The conference attendees ranged from college-aged folks all the way through senior citizens (for some reason, I noticed a LOT of seniors). Some were published, either self or small press; many were not. Everyone I spoke to was very nice–each of us had the same goal, to improve our work and get it published.
About the Masterclass
Featured speakers included Chuck Sambuchino, freelance editor, the editor of Guide to Literary Agents and the blog of the same name, and author of the humor book How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will). Chuck spoke on various topics including social media marketing, getting an agent, and publishing itself.
Chuck is funny, knowledgeable, and confident. He knows how to keep a Q&A session moving. If he doesn’t know the answer to a question, he doesn’t bullshit you; he says so. You got it wrong? He’ll let you know bluntly but respectfully. He talks very fast, so you have to pay attention. And trust me, you don’t want to miss a thing.
He’ll probably kill me for posting this, but he also moves fast, so it was hard to catch a better pic of him.
Photo: Elizabeth West
Listening to Chuck talk about traditional publishing, I realized I’m on track to get there eventually (I hope). That was a good feeling.
Mary Buckham, a fantasy author who also has a couple of books out on writing, gave a talk and taught some craft sessions on setting and hooks. She is hilarious and cool and I loved her. I bought her book A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting: How to Enhance Your Fiction with More Descriptive, Dynamic Settings. I’m considering taking Tunerville’s characters a little bit out of their time and space. Judging by all the great information she presented in that session, I felt it would be a worthwhile investment. I haven’t read any of her fiction. This must be remedied ASAP.
Mary is also a delightful person and she loves helping other writers. She peppered her talks and lessons with a sharp humor; we laughed as much as we learned.
Photo: Elizabeth West
Recently, an agent I queried re Tunerville requested a full manuscript and sadly, they rejected it. BUT–I received a critique, which is the gold standard of rejections. Agents have so much to read they rarely bother to tell you why you were rejected, but this one was very specific regarding what worked and what didn’t. It was so nice and kind that I sent a thank-you email.
Mary told me that if I’m getting those kinds of rejections, I’m very close to publication. I hope she’s right; I don’t want to give up on Tunerville just yet. It pains me to move on from a book when I have expansive plans for sequels, etc.
However, we writers know it’s best to keep working. When that call comes, the question will arise: “What else are you working on?” And we need to have an answer ready!
The conference broke writers into tracks inspired by famous Missouri writers:
Each track had sessions pertaining to marketing, craft, and mentoring so we got the most relevant information for our categories. As much as it pained me to miss the screenwriting stuff (a thing in which I have interest), limited time and concurrent scheduling kept me from it.
I also would have liked to attend the visual storytelling session, led by presenter Cole Closser, a Will Eisner Comic Industry Award nominee whose art has a really cool 1940s vintage vibe. Because a story is a story–but again, I had to pick between him and something else. Eeny meeny miney mo.
The mentoring sessions with some of their featured experts were set up as either one-on-one, which cost extra, or in small groups of the first six people to arrive. During the character building session, which comprised an analysis of character elements in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, I think I hit on ways to fix Tunerville. That was probably one of the most valuable bits of the conference for me. Thanks to Gordon Sauer for lending his expertise.
You can also use these gatherings to network with other writers or even agents. ShowMe Writers Masterclass also offered a pitchfest, which is an activity where writers can actually spend a few minutes with a real, live agent and tell him/her about their book (pitching it–this is like a mini-query, but in person). See the link for more information.
This also cost extra, and none of the featured agents represented my work, so I skipped it. But I did get to chat a bit with one of them at their table and took the agency’s business card, because who knows?
Things I Learned from the Masterclass
Aside from the craft and marketing stuff.
I had a great weekend, despite the driving. Bonus; a chat room friend lives close by, so we got together for dinner and went to see Doctor Strange with her friends and her husband (it was awesome! Go see it!).
If you’ve never attended a event like this, I highly recommend it. Google writing conferences in your area; you’re bound to find some. Get out of your cave and mix and mingle.
I love being a writer. I love talking about writing and its sometimes maddening accoutrements. But I’ve discovered that you have to be careful with whom you discuss certain aspects of this most excellent and odd activity.
So many people subscribe to common myths about writing that I often find myself patiently (or not so patiently) debunking them, when I really want to knock them right out of people’s heads with a dictionary. Common beliefs about writers include the following.
That we’re all drunks
Many, many, many people consume alcohol or use other substances for recreation, inspiration, or escape. Why is this so persistent when people talk about writers?
Being an artist of any kind means you will spend most of your free time putting your innermost thoughts, dreams, ideas, and visions in tangible form for others to consume. It has a personal element. Rejection can hurt. Self-doubt is rampant. But a lot of us cope just fine with these issues and don’t need to self-medicate.
Photo: Elizabeth West
In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King says, “Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do. Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what? We all look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.”
Well said, Mr. King.
That we’re crazy
Anyone who thinks outside the box or who has an imagination, or who is even slightly different from the accepted norm of whatever society or clique you’re talking about, is often branded with this label. Okay yes, we enjoy looking up stuff like what sound it makes when you hit someone in the head with a hammer, but it’s research.
True mental illness is nothing to joke about. There have been famous writers who suffered from various ailments. But there also exist great works produced by artists with no discernible pathology. Despite the Lord Byron quote at the end of the linked article, we’re not all crazy.
And as Chuck Wendig points out in this post, our lifestyle can make us look (and act) a little bit unusual.
That we have or will earn lots of money
Even Batman thinks that’s hilarious.
Writers can make a decent living if they keep more than one iron in the fire. If you’re lucky enough to go viral, speaking fees or workshops can be quite lucrative. Freelancers can work as independent contractors for corporations. They can write for publications, do copywriting, grants, white papers, and proposals.
Creative writers, especially novelists, have it a bit harder. Traditional publishing doesn’t pay very well, and most new writers don’t get million-dollar advances. Indie authors can make more money overall these days (see this blog post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch for an illustrative breakdown of numbers), but it still takes a long time and a lot of work. Almost every writer I know who has published one way or the other has a day job.
Acting is a good analogy. Out of all the working actors in the entertainment business, the big moneymakers only comprise the tip of the pyramid. And like writing, acting isn’t a steady job. It’s freelance work. Fame doesn’t last for most people, so you’re better off grabbing what you can get while you can get it.
So if you want to make money writing, diversify your income.
That we welcome advice from non-writers
Okay, here’s where I get bitchy (thanks, Vivien). I figure skated for fifteen years. I met tons of people during that time who had never been on the ice. They came mostly from two camps:
Writers get number 2 a LOT. If there is any phrase in the English language that will make me grind my teeth to nubs, it’s You know what you should do is….
Writing is a craft and it takes time to do it well. Publishing is a complicated business. I don’t know everything about it. But I’ve tried to do my homework, and it chaps my britches when people who know next to nothing about it think I couldn’t possibly understand what I’m talking about.
Or that I’m being NEGATIVE when I say that a positive response to a query does not mean I’ll be able to fly first class to Europe next spring. That’s not being negative; that’s being realistic.
If the advice is coming from someone in the actual field, then bring it on. But someone whose aunt self-published, does not know what the word query means, or who has never written anything beyond an email is not qualified to tell you how to run your career.
Family, friends, and even coworkers speak to you from a place of caring. They want to help and show support. Some of them cannot do this without trying to fix things or offer suggestions. But remember, communication is a two-way street. If you just want to vent, let them know this. Say, “I’m not looking for advice; I just need to unload. Can I have an ear?”
That writing isn’t work because we enjoy it
Writing a book is like doing the same homework assignment for six months. It’s exhausting mentally because it requires intense concentration. And physically because you’re sitting still and using your hands to perform a dexterous task (typing).
Sometimes writers have to work instead of come to the pub quiz or the girls’ night. Sometimes they have to disappear for a few hours over the weekend or a holiday because they have a deadline or a client request or they just don’t want to lose momentum.
Yes, we love it. We also hate it. We want to have a drink and come eat birthday cake with you and wash dishes while drinking wine after the turkey or ham has been decimated (okay, no I don’t want to wash dishes, though I’ll take the wine). But we have to work.
I could go on, but this post would never end and I’m sure you have things to do. When you talk to writers about writing, ask questions. We love to discuss what we do. Listen to what we tell you. If you’ve read our work, let us know you appreciate it and enjoy it.
And yes, if you’re so inclined and we are too, buy us a drink.
I need to make a small announcement.
After fifteen years of figure skating at my local rink, I’ve decided to take a break from the sport. It has nothing to do with anyone there, with the city I live in–my dislike of it is separate from how I feel about skating–or anything related to the rink itself. I’m just getting burnt out. I was going to wait until after the Christmas show this year to quit, but I think I need to take a step back from it now.
Skating has done a lot for me–it’s given me something constructive to do, it really is fun, and I learned to sew with really difficult materials (stretch velvet, anyone!?). But lately, I’ve found my focus shifting to other things, and showing up at the rink every week has become more an obligation than something I look forward to
It’s not just a weekend thing–my workouts have to take it into consideration, there is the clothing aspect, music, etc. Anyone who skates knows that it’s not just a sport; it’s kind of a lifestyle and a mindset.
I don’t want to start hating it. I don’t want to go to the rink and feel like I don’t want to be there. I’m not ruling it out of my life completely. As long as I can physically and safely do it, I can return to it later, even as a senior. Check out this skater if you don’t believe me!
Right now, there are a few things I want more than I want to skate. And in order to get them, I can’t divide my attention any longer. Plus, skating costs money–and I want to spend that money on leaving this place because there’s nothing here for me. With Pig gone (RIP little kitty), I don’t need to worry about finding a place that would suit her.
Recently, I received a request for pages from an agent, which was kind of a wake-up call—I had gotten into a rut of thinking I would never publish anything and nothing would change. But hey, someone asked! Even if they reject it, another might not, or they might not reject the next book. (When) that happens, I want to be totally ready to do whatever I need to do.
I have books I want to write. I need to focus on coming up with good ideas and getting them down on the page. I’m trying to stay creative–I’m teaching myself to draw. And I’ll still be working out to stay healthy.
The skating program at my rink has grown a LOT since I started. We now have more organization, we have other adult skaters–for a long time, I was the only one. I wish them all the best and hope all their dreams will come true.
It’s time for mine to come true.
Photo: Elizabeth West
I am slowly crawling out from the cocoon of heartbreak and back toward my Secret Book manuscript. However, I’ve reached an impasse that has held up the story somewhat. The road has two forks, and I need to go down both of them.
My attempt to brave the first fork has shown that my research into the period and especially the English setting is sorely lacking, to the point that it’s holding me up. I’ll be in London again in two months, and I want to spend much of my time there doing research. So I’m making plans to organize where and when and who and how.
The second fork led right back to Heartbreak Hotel (I should just buy real estate on Lonely Street, seriously). I couldn’t write the lovey-dovey part of the book because it’s been so long since I’ve been happy in a new relationship that those scenes are coming off wooden and stilted. I can’t tap into those emotions right now, even in my imagination. That realization made writing them and listening to the book’s Einaudi playlist exquisitely painful.
Shit like this all over Facebook right now does not help.
So I’ll take First Fork Road for now. (And I’m listening to Einaudi again, which is a good sign, I suppose.) Meanwhile, stuffs be happening:
This past weekend, I attended VisionCon with my Whovian friends. I went dressed as Donna Noble in an outfit very similar to this one:
I clipped a small adipose plush to my jacket just in case no one realized who I was supposed to be, but everyone got it and a couple of people even wanted to snap a pic. So my first cosplay ever was a success.
While I was there, I attended a panel on traditional vs. self-publishing hosted by horror/fantasy authors Ben S. Reeder, JM Guillen, and EM Ervin. All three of them are self-pubbed; only Ben Reeder has gone through traditional publishing. EM Ervin’s book had only been out for two weeks when they had the panel–I could totally relate to her excitement.
Overall, the three writers were in favor of self-publishing. Guillen said he had never gone for the regular method. Reeder told the audience that you certainly do not get much money from traditional publishing–advances have shrunk to ridiculous amounts, especially for first novels. I knew this already, so no surprise there.
Reeder and Guillen both said that while the slush pile and queries are still a thing, agents have a new tool to find writers–they go online and see what is selling. And according to Reeder, whom I spoke with the next morning on my last pass through the dealer’s room before heading home, you can make a living this way, if your sales are decent.
I have my doubts about that last, but they definitely gave me something to think about. I’ve been avoiding self-pubbing for several reasons:
This last is why I do not want to self-publish Rose’s Hostage or Tunerville. I’m still querying the latter. I got a rejection this week that said the query sounded interesting, but that the agent in question was inundated with work and not taking on new clients. Maybe it was a form email, and maybe not. It’s difficult to tell sometimes.
You will not see any self-published books at Barnes and Noble, unless they’ve been picked up by one of the Big Five, and that is very, very rare. Still, it does happen.
I want that legitimacy. It’s like getting instant street cred. If I get it, I will have passed the initiation; industry professionals will have declared my book worthy, and I’ll become one of the club. For me, right now, self-pubbing is not going to happen with those two works.
I thought–and I keep thinking–that it might be a good way to offer something shorter than a book to you, my readers. Because I feel bad that you haven’t got anything besides this twit of a blog to read.
What do you think? If you would like me to put some stories up, let me know in the comments.
You might have noticed that the Secret Book meter hasn’t been moving much lately. In fact, at all.
Yes, I’m stuck. No, there is nobody to pull me out. I have to do it myself.
Not indefinitely; I just hit a character snag and I’m trying to work it out. I don’t think that meter is the greatest anyway; it doesn’t show progress as well as I’d hoped.
The stuck isn’t all book-related, unfortunately. I’ve been rather distracted by several stupid things lately. A writer friend posted this Salon article by Ann Bauer and now I’m even more bummed.
Read it; I’ll wait.
Done? That article hurt. I know if I work hard, I have a shot, but sometimes it seems like a longer shot than I ever anticipated. And to be totally honest, at this exact point in my life, getting a book published has not been my main goal.
I’ve tried everything to find someone like this, to no avail (yet). In my medical writing class, we were given an assignment to make up our own medical term. This was mine:
Cardiorrhexisopathy: A process where the patient persistently falls in love with the wrong damn man, causing the heart to break repeatedly.
rrhexis/o—rupture or burst
pathy—disease (negative term)
Yes, I do suffer from this condition. Apparently, the only cure is marrying the right person, but so far, the subject of this research has proved elusive. It’s almost too late for the kid thing (but not yet), so the universe better get cracking.
Three queries out, and one rejection from a publisher. Bummer.
Rose’s Hostage news:
Secret Book news (yeah, I know I talked about it earlier):
I’m not that far from the end of the first draft. Some scenes need a great deal of research, however, and they will end up lightly sketched until I can finish that. The tough part has been writing about the development of a relationship. I’ve almost forgotten what that feels like. I keep telling myself, it’s a first draft, dummy; just write down what happens, and you can rewrite it later when your heart doesn’t resemble a pigeon smashed into the pavement by a passing car.
Some of the research has been tedious, and other things fun. I signed up for the Doctor Who class at Syracuse University, where my homework is watching numerous episodes of Doctor Who online and then discussing them. I don’t get any credit, so I don’t realy have to do anything. It’s perfect!
Since the show was created during the exact period my book is set, it has helped me get into the mindset of that era. I also follow a page on Facebook called Old Photos of London and the East End. Other followers post reminisces in the comments, which often yield tiny tidbits that may be useful.
I still need to make a plan for further exploration when I return to London in April. I’d like to make the most of the time, because I’m only going for a week. You may not get a post then unless something very cool happens.
I’ll be back soon with another vocabulary post. We’re nearing the end of that series. If you have any ideas for another you’d like me to do, let me know in the comments.
A friend asked me recently if my novel-writing process differed from what it was before, now that I’ve had more experience putting a book together. My answer was yes and no.
Every writer has a different method. There is no one way to crank out a book. Some people approach it in a straightforward manner like they’re on a mission, and others meander about like they have no idea where they’re going. I can’t speak for anyone but me, so today I’ll attempt to answer my friend’s question in a bit more depth.
Yes, but it depends on the book
I wrote Rose’s Hostage in a mostly linear fashion, from the beginning to the end. The fanfic that inspired it was written the same way.
Tunerville, on the other hand, not so much. I started with a rough idea of plot and wrote scenes out of sequence as I went, much the way a movie is filmed. If my mind was on a certain section of the book, that’s the one I worked on. Then at the end, I edited it together and smoothed out the transitions.
Secret Book is definitely out of sequence. I have a complete outline. I also have two main protagonists, who have separate lives before they meet. I’ve done a lot of Protagonist 2, and now I’m working on Protagonist 1 and some of the scenes they appear in together.
Actually, their lines should converge slightly before you get to the heart, but I screwed up and I don’t feel like drawing it again. And I ended up writing an ending scene before I was ready, to discharge some of the bruises I had when the Universe socked me right in the feels (didn’t work, BTW).
Yes, and it’s more efficient
I mentioned the outline. Some writers avoid these, because they feel an outline locks them into a set path for the book. That makes sense. But I see it as a fluid thing, something I can change as I go, that keeps me on track. The only book you can’t edit is the one that is printed and on the shelf. And since I haven’t published any of them yet, anything goes!
It took me about six months to write Rose’s Hostage, but that was mostly because I was learning how to tie the story together as I went. It took another five to edit it into a cohesive narrative, again thanks to the learning curve.
Conversely, I finished the first draft of Tunerville using NaNoWriMo 2012 in a month, not counting the bits I already had.
No, because I still think it through in the same way
Sometimes it starts with a plot, and sometimes it starts with a concept.
No matter what I start with, I make notes. Lots and lots of brainstorming notes. Pages of them. Secret Book started with the title, and later I attached a different idea to it. Then even later, I thought of something else that married well with the original idea, and off we went.
Notes happen throughout the writing process, too. I make character lists, notes on settings (this is especially true for Rose’s Hostage because I want to make Detectives Pierce and Rossberger series characters if I can), and anything else I might think of.
No, because no matter what the preliminaries are, I still have to sit down and write it
I use music geared toward the mood of the book to help me write. Only instrumental—no songs, because then I’m tempted to sing along, and I can’t concentrate when the music has lyrics. But whether I’m listening to Ludovico Einaudi (Secret Book), Hans Zimmer (Tunerville and Rose’s Hostage), or Beethoven (because he’s awesome), my butt still has to be in that chair and my fingers must be engaged with the keyboard.
There is no other way to write a book. Chuck Wendig in his book 500 Ways to Tell a Better Story points out that while the old saw states that everybody has a novel in them, lucky for us writers, most of them can’t be arsed to drag it out. (I’ve paraphrased a bit there.) You simply cannot do it without actually doing it.
One thing my friend hit on without actually saying it is this: every time I write something, I learn something. I would add that every time I read something, I learn also. From plowing through a self-published bag of rat droppings and seeing mistakes I shouldn’t make, to consuming the exquisitely rendered prose of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, every book contains a lesson for the writer.
I can only hope that someday mine will hold value for someone else, but that won’t happen if I don’t actually do the work. So I’m doing it.