Why I Participate in NaNoWriMo

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This will be my 6th year in a row participating in NaNoWriMo (if you haven’t heard of it, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.) I’ve been asked a few times over the past couple of years why I participate, since I’m always writing anyway.

For me, NaNoWriMo is a time to play. It’s a time to mess around with one of those dozens of little  “side project” ideas I have, a chance to see if it goes anywhere. Sometimes, my NaNo project ends up being something that I work more on, revise, edit, and eventually publish. Almost as often, though, it doesn’t go very far, and I know it’s an idea that maybe didn’t have much merit to begin with. I can happily abandon those ideas, knowing that I at least gave it a shot.

NaNoWriMo: A Personal History

I was looking over my novels on the NaNo site for the past six years. Here’s what I found:

2011: I had a book tentatively titled “Guardian.” This ended up being the second draft of the book that became Lost Girl and was published first on my blog and then as a book in 2013.

2012: I worked on Broken, which was a first draft to the follow-up for Guardian. This title stayed the same, and Broken, book two in my Hidden series, was also published in late 2013.

2013: I worked on a project called “Last Chance.” This project went nowhere, and rightfully so. It was my first attempt at a contemporary romance, and it was terrible. But I learned a few things, such as what definitely does NOT work for me in writing contemporaries!

2014: My project that year was just called “Copper Falls 1.” It eventually became Shadow Witch Rising, which is the first book in my Copper Falls paranormal romance series.

2015: The “Untitled YA” I started last year went nowhere. My heart wasn’t in it, no matter how much I wanted to write something my daughters could read.

And this year, I’m working on the first book in my Paradise Bay contemporary romance series. I’ve been playing with the idea for this series for a while, writing notes, writing bits of dialogue and character bios and all of the other fun stuff I do to prepare for a series, and so far, I’m off to a decent start.

But here’s a dirty little secret. Well, not so secret if you look closely at my NaNoWriMo profile page. I have never won NaNoWriMo.

Never.

Even though my writing pace is usually somewhere between 50,000 and 80,000 words per month, I’ve never managed to complete 50K of my assigned NaNo project. Part of this is my own work process: I’m almost always working on a  couple of scheduled books, things that I know I want to release soon. And before I was actually publishing, for those first three years or so of participating in NaNoWriMo, I was working as a web content writer, editor, proofreader, and garden writer. So I just didn’t get it done. And I get that, really, that’s the whole point of participating in NaNo: starting something, and finishing at least a loose, rough draft of it.

But one thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that the best thing we can do as writers is find our own way of doing things and then honor that. Don’t compare  your way to mine or anyone else’s.. just do what feels right. For me, these past few years of NaNo have been periods of stealing time for side projects, for playing, for making myself stretch beyond my schedule and grow as a writer. I’ve tried genres I don’t ordinarily write in. I’ve made myself work that extra time in.

No time spent writing could ever be considered wasted. You’re always learning something, either about writing or about yourself. At best, you’re doing both.

So as we begin NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to be unapologetically yourself. To write the things that make your heart beat a little faster. To work within even a rigid framework like NaNoWriMo, and make it your own. This is a time to have a deep and obsessive love affair with your story. I do my best writing when it feels like I’m almost having too much fun, like this can’t possibly be work that people will someday, maybe pay me to read.

So that’s my NaNoWriMo story, and it will continue this year. If you’re participating and want to be writing buddies, you can find me here, and I will cheer you on.

And if Paradise Bay ever becomes something I release into the wild, you’ll be the first to know.

(I’m also participating in NaBloPoMo this month, which is National Blog Posting Month. My goal is to post something here every day. I find that writing begets writing, that the more I make myself write, and the more varied the writing is, the more fun I have. So if there’s something you’ve always wondered about in regard to my writing or my books, this is a good time to ask — I’m still looking for post topics for this month. Feel free to leave a comment below!)

“How Do You Write So Fast?” and Other Thoughts on Creativity

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I get this question a lot, both from people who actually want an answer and from those who, I think, maybe don’t care about “how” I do it as much as using the question as a way to veil the “oh, you hack” thoughts that they’re really having (you can just tell, sometimes). Either way, I figured I may as well answer this in today’s post, because I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and happiness and balance and envisioning what I want the rest of my life to look like.

You know, no big deal.

“How do you write so fast?”

A quick answer to this is: I don’t. If you compare my productivity to some indies, I look like an absolute sloth. When I’m going on all cylinders, when I have a solid outline and I know my characters and I feel comfortable in my world, I can write an eighty thousand word novel (first draft) in a month. That’s at a pace of just over 2,500 words per day, and roughly matches up with Stephen King’s daily word/page goal that he talks about in his amazing On Writing. Of course, King’s books tend to be gargantuan, and at this point in my life I can’t imagine writing anything as enormous as, say, The Stand. I think this pace has stuck with me because it works. It doesn’t tax me too much, and I can do 2,500 words in a couple of hours if all is going well. And then there are revisions, which are a lot more difficult for me. Revisions might take another month or two, but writing the first draft usually ends up taking about a month.

BUT. Always a but, huh? Everything is not always mapped out perfectly, and sometimes, even with an outline, I change course mid-book and everything is a mess. Sometimes, I’ll go a week or two, making barely any progress at all on a book because it feels wrong and I can’t figure out how to make it go right. I know enough about my own process by now to know that trying to force it, trying to make myself sit there until I figure it out will only end up in being blocked and feeling like I’ll never write again. (I’m a writer. I’m allowed to be overly dramatic about some things.)

Which is why I am never working on only one project at a time. At any given time, I am actively working on two and sometimes even three stories. When one starts coming together, that’s the one that gets the bulk of my attention, and the others may sit untouched for a week or two while I’m writing hot on the one that has become the main project. When the main project is finished, one of the other projects takes its place.

So I start and finish things in a kind of staggered fashion. I guess what I’m saying is: it all looks much faster than it actually is. Granted, sometimes I’m fast. I wrote Strife in about two and a half weeks. And other times, a book just seems to take forever. It’s just the way things work.

And this is NOT to say that doing it this way is the “right” way or whatever. I’ve read enough articles/tweets/etc. telling the world that this is precisely the wrong way to work if you want to finish things, but it hasn’t been true for me. As in anything related to creative work (or life in general) we each have to find our own way and not compare our process to anyone else’s.

Creative Joy

I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast, and it is fabulous and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a little bit of a creative push, or just to anyone who enjoys thinking about creativity and art. In a recent episode, she and her guest talked about the pure joy of creating, of creating just for yourself as a way to affirm your own worth as an artist, independent of sales or praise (or, conversely, lack of sales and awful reviews). She recommends making something just for yourself, something you never plan to put out there. Something that is free of expectations.

Yes.

I had no idea I was doing something right with all of the stories and poems I write that will never, ever see the light of day! Usually, one of the two or three projects I’m working on is just something I’m goofing around with. It might be a story I’m writing in another genre, or it might be a story where I’m trying for a different tone. Maybe I’m writing something filthy just to see if I can. I usually know before I even begin working on these “for fun” things that they’re not for anyone’s eyes but mine. Writing the work that I publish, sticking to a schedule and delivering (hopefully!) good books regularly is the business side of what I do (and I know there’s a lot more I could be doing in terms of marketing and strategizing, but I just don’t care. More on that later, maybe.) And my fun projects, the ones that will never make me any money, are the ones that help me grow, even more, as a writer. They remind me to play, to try new things. To take risks. And the joy I feel when working on those side projects carries over into my more structured writing.

So there’s something to think about as we begin NaNoWriMo. Some of us are dreaming of writing something that we’ll publish, that will make us rich, make us famous, whatever. And some of us are doing it just to see if we can. Me? I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year to play around with another genre, and we’ll just see what happens.

“Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ideas are constantly trying to get our attention. Let them know you’re available.”

— Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

 

Playing with Words

I’m hard at work on Copper Falls #1 — I should actually have a title for it soon so I can stop calling it that. Titles are hard.

I’m still grinning over the response Nether has received. I seriously have the best readers in the world, and Nether has stayed right around or higher than #1,000 overall on Amazon since its release. So thank you!!

I was talking to my husband last night about writing stuff, and we got into a discussion about the fact that, at our core, writers are entertainers. We may not see ourselves as having anything in common with a comedian standing on a stage or an actor shooting a scene in front of a camera, but we are entertainers just as much as they are. We talked about how, when I let myself get too bogged down in worrying about responses to things or “being taken seriously” the writing suffers. I get timid, and I start dreading the page.

But when I remember that writing, at its core, should be nothing more and nothing less than playing with words, with entertaining myself first, the writing flows. And it’s fun. Still hard a lot of the time, still something I struggle with, but I enjoy the struggle.

That makes no sense. But it’s true.

I started writing Hidden because I couldn’t not write it. Because I had these characters in my head and they were interesting and I wanted to see what they would do. The entire Hidden series was written in that spirit. I never expected anyone to read it, so when I did crazy shit like kill off a major character or add a crazy twist to Molly’s heritage, I didn’t do it wondering if I’d be taken seriously. I did it because I wanted to see what would happen next.

It’s easy, when you make your bread and butter from selling books, to obsess over rank and awards and the number of Twitter followers you have who actually give a damn about your books. But when that happens too much, we lose sight of what we’re really supposed to be doing: playing with words.

My Writing Warm Up

I don’t know how common this is, but I find that I need to warm up to write in the morning. I get up around four, take the dog out, pour some coffee down my throat, and try to get my brain in working order. (I am not, nor ever will be, a morning person. Having four kids requires me to get up and write early to have that time to myself.) And I can’t launch right into the current work in progress. I don’t want to goof around on Twitter and Facebook, because you lose hours that way. So I usually work on a story I’m writing only for me, something I don’t expect anyone to ever read. I’ve written stories about my World of Warcraft hunter, stories about characters who I just find interesting and I want to see what happens to them. The stories are never structured, and they usually just kind of end abruptly when I’m tired of them — I don’t have to finish, because they’re only for me.

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Iounn and Zig-Tarash have a complicated relationship.

My current writing warm up? Smut fiction about my warlock from World of Warcraft and her wrathguard. I don’t actually write erotica, obviously, but I’m having fun and seeing what happens next. And I find that, once I’ve reached my couple-hundred words of that story, I can launch into Copper Falls easily, my brain already working and ready to create. Giving time to something I’m doing just for fun, I think, extends that sense of fun and “let’s just see what happens” into the work I’m actually planning on publishing. It lets me take risks, try things out, without worrying “oh, I’m going to have to revise the hell out of that later.” I can play, and stretch my boundaries, and then come to the pages of my current work-in-progress in the right mindset.

This is also a great tactic for those struggling with writer’s block. I suffered awful block during the writing of Nether (again, because I let myself become WAY bogged down in worrying about how it would be received) and I started a romance fanfic about a comic book character I like. I remembered what fun it is to play, and the writing of Nether went a lot easier after a while.

So, it’s something to try. And I think it’s something I’ll always have to remind myself, especially when the writing gets hard. I need to remember that instead of taking myself seriously, I need to let go and play.

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What I’m Writing Wednesdays: Week Three

It’s Wednesday again, which means it’s time for another tiny sneak peek at what I’m currently working on. Unlike the last snippet I shared, this isn’t something you’ll have to wait much longer to read! This is from the upcoming installment of Earth Bound, which you’ll (hopefully!) have in your inboxes on Friday.

The set up: Meaghan goes into work the morning after she and Heph have their date/Zeus battle. Nain leaves, and, for a little while, it’s just Meaghan and Molly in the loft. Here’s some of what happens.

* * *

“Do you have any questions?” Molly asked.

“About?” Meaghan responded, knowing full well what the goddess was asking.

“Christ, I feel like a mother giving ‘the talk’ for the first time,” Molly muttered. “About Hephaestus, or what he is, or his parents, or whatever. This must be overwhelming,” she said, taking a seat on one of the stools. “And Heph is so wrapped up in you, he’s probably not even realizing what a shock all of this might be.”

“Is he wrapped up in me?” Meaghan asked quietly. When she looked back up, Molly was watching her, empathy in her features.

“You have no idea,” Molly said with a small smile. “He’s nuts about you. He’s told you that, though,” she added.

“He has. I just don’t quite believe it.”

“Heph isn’t a liar,” Molly said.

Meaghan sat on the stool next to the Angel, her tea forgotten. “If I ask you stuff, do you promise not to tell him? I don’t want him to think I’m prying, but I just—“

“It’s okay,” Molly said. “It’s between us.”

Meaghan took a breath. “Aphrodite.”

“Was a coldhearted bitch who never brought him any happiness and murdered two of my closest allies right in front of me,” Molly said, ending with a snarl.

“That whole goddess of love thing, though,” Meaghan pointed out. “And she must have been gorgeous, right?”

Molly let out a small laugh. “Goddess of lust, maybe. I don’t think Aphrodite loved anyone but herself. She was gorgeous. Physically perfect in every way. I hated her,” Molly finished, and Meaghan laughed. “She had kids with Ares, not her husband. Theirs was an arranged marriage, and they never should have been forced to be together.”

“Did he love her?” she asked softly.

Molly shrugged. “I doubt it. He lusted after her, for sure. He’s admitted as much. Early on, he wanted a real marriage with her, but the longer it went on, the more she insisted on continuing her thing with Ares, Heph went from being hurt, to pissed, to just not caring.” Molly paused. “Their relationship was not good for his ego. Not in that department, anyway,” she finished quietly. After a few moments, she added, “I think the two of you have that in common, probably.”

Meaghan nodded.

“You’ve been thinking you couldn’t possibly live up to what he had,” Molly said. “Really, the thing is that maybe you’re showing him what an actual relationship feels like, for the first time in his existence. And if you mess around on him, if you break him, I hope you can run really, really fast, because I will have a problem with you.”

“I wouldn’t,” Meaghan protested. “We might not work out,” she finished quietly. “I don’t even know what we have, really.”

“Not working out is one thing. It happens. I’m just saying: be honest with him. If you decide you’re done,  then you’re done, but don’t sneak around behind his back, and don’t lie to him. And for the record, he’d never lay a hand on you in anger,” she added, reading the concerns in Meaghan’s mind.

“You didn’t see him last night,” Meaghan said, speaking the fear she’d been trying to shove away. “So much rage. And that kind of power is terrifying, and I barely lived through being with somoene who had a tiny speck of the amount of power Hephaestus has.”

“Heph and his father have issues,” Molly said, toying with an envelope from the ever-growing pile of mail on the kitchen counter. “You should ask him about it sometime if what you saw last night worries you that much. That’s his story to tell. Not mine.”

“But you were fine telling me about Aphrodite?” Meaghan asked, confused.

Molly shrugged. “You knew all of it already, or at least you started to put it together. You know Aphrodites’s sons aren’t Heph’s. And you’re not dumb. It doesn’t take a genius to know what that means.”

Meaghan crinkled her brow. It was slightly annoying that she was broadcasting her thoughts to Molly and Nain all the time, but she guessed it was also kind of convenient, too.

“I think I love him,” Meaghan said.

Molly met her eyees, gave her a small smile. “Well… duh.”

 

* * *

That’s it for this week!

What I’m Writing Wednesdays: Week Two

For this week’s “What I’m Writing Wednesday,” I thought I’d share the beginning of one of the side projects I’m working on. I need to have at least two things in the works at all times, because then, even if I get stuck on one project, I can be working on something else. Right now, I’m working on finishing Nether and Earth Bound, but I also have this book in the works for those times when the HIDDEN world is just driving me too crazy.

This is the beginning of the first book of what I’m calling “The Copper Falls series,” which will be out next year. It will be paranormal romance, and not at all related to the HIDDEN series. So, here’s the opening scene in the first book (which I don’t have a title for just yet, so we’ll just call it “Copper Falls #1” for now.)

 

* * *

Copper Falls #1

Chapter One

Sophie unlocked her front door with a sigh of relief. Long day. A busy day, which was always good, but she was more than ready to take a cup of tea out to her garden and lose track of everything other than the perfume of herbs and the trilling melodies of the birds in the woods that bordered her cottage.

As she turned and grabbed her mail out of the box, she noticed a rumbling motorcycle turn into the driveway down the road. The farm had been empty for nearly a year. She grimaced. The idea of hearing a motorcycle all the time wasn’t exactly appealing. She shook her head and went into the house.

The second she walked in, everything just felt right. She breathed in the clean, natural scents of the herbs drying from the beams above, beeswax. The soaps she’d made the day before were curing on wooden racks in the next room, and they perfumed the entire house. She flipped on the radio, started bobbing her head immediately as Rihanna wafted from the speakers.

She shrugged out of the white button-down top she wore to work, shimmied out of the crisp khakis. She pulled on a pair of well-worn jeans and a faded Detroit Red Wings t-shirt.

She was  in the kitchen, debating over whether she wanted a salad or scrambled eggs for dinner, when there was a knock at the door. She glanced in that direction, then at the clock. She never got visitors out here. That was the entire reason she’d been so thrilled to have inherited this in the first place.

She sighed and glanced out the round window in the door. There was a man standing on her porch, clad in denim and a t-shirt. He was facing away from her, looking across the road. Longish, wavy, dark blond hair. Very, very broad shoulders.

Sophie opened the door a little, kept it braced with her leg. “Yes?”

The man turned around, and Sophie’s mouth went dry.

His hair was a little unruly, and he had a short, neat beard. Long black lashes. Icy blue eyes.

Eyes she’d dreamed, not knowing what it meant. Visions that spoke of danger and heartbreak, and always, those eyes. Sophie tried to force herself to remember to breathe.

“Hi,” he said, and his voice was deep. Low. Almost a growl. “I just moved in across the road. There’s a goat in my yard. Wondering if it’s yours.”

She blushed. “Oh, shit. That would be Merlin. Sorry.” Sophie slid her feet into the sandals she kept by the door and stepped out onto the porch. Beside him, she felt tiny. He was easily over six feet tall, and her five-five put her roughly at chest level.

And what a chest it was, she thought to herself.  Holy broad-and-muscled, Batman.

“I’ll get him. I’m so sorry about that. I just got off work and haven’t even checked on them yet.” Stop babbling, she told herself, and clamped her mouth shut.

“It’s not a problem.”

“It will be if you plan on having livestock. I’ve been putting off reinforcing the fencing. I’ll have to get on that.”

“Not planning on any livestock,” he said as he followed her across the road.

“No? You’ve got over sixty acres, right?” she asked.

“Yeah. Mostly, I just wanted somewhere quiet and where I could spread out a little. No neighbors on top of me.”

She smiled to herself. He sounded like her. “And your first day in, you have a neighbor’s goat in your yard.”

“Well, goats I don’t mind so much,” he answered, and she could hear the smile in his voice.

They crossed the two-lane road side by side, and it occurred to her that she was walking away from her home, her sanctuary, her safe haven, with a man she’d (maybe?) seen in frightening visions.

If she was one of those witches who could summon fire or wind or something, she’d have less to worry about it.

She cursed her stupidity, but walked with him nonetheless. It was entirely possible this was not the man from her dreams. And, anyway, she was new at this witch stuff. What the hell did she know about visions?

She followed him around the side of the house, up a long gravel driveway, and there was Merlin, standing there, calmly chewing at some grass near one of the fence posts.

“Merlin, you devil,” Sophie muttered under her breath. She clicked her tongue at him, and he raised his chocolate-brown head and studied her. She walked toward him calmly, nonchalantly. As if she had no intention whatsoever of grabbing the blue nylon collar he was wearing and leading him home. She was aware of tall, muscled, and gorgeous watching her, and felt even stupider for the ploy she was making.

Sophie sprung at the goat and he tried to buck away, but she grabbed his collar and held tight when he tried to fight his way away. He pulled, and tried to pivot, and she planted her heels in the soft soil and tried to hold him fast. After a few attempts of breaking free, he just gave her a bored look and bent to chew at the grass near their feet.

That settled, Sophie chanced a glance toward her new neighbor. He was watching her, an unreadable expression in his eyes.

Sophie gathered as much dignity as she could and led Merlin back toward the driveway.

“Sorry about that,” she muttered, well aware that her face was burning with embarrassment.

“No problem,” he answered. “Does he get out a lot?”

She was walking down the driveway, and the fact that he joined her only made her nervous. “Yes. I’ll fix the fencing. I just need to get the replacement fence.” And the money to pay for it, she thought to herself. “Goats are a major pain. Wish I’d known that before I bought them,” she said aloud.

“Why do you have them, then?” he asked, putting his hands in his jeans pockets as they crossed the street again.

“For their milk. I make soaps,” she said, shrugging. “Made more sense to have them around for that. I was stupid to accept a male, though, since I could just borrow a male when I need one for the girls. I felt sorry for him,” she finished, feeling like a babbling idiot.

She glanced toward him, noticed a blank expression on his face.

“Anyway. It won’t happen again,” she said, looking with hope toward her door. Something in her told her to run from him, to get away and stay away. She’d be setting wards tonight, she thought. Weak as hers were, they were better than nothing.

“If it does, at least I know who he belongs to,” he answered. “I’m Calder, by the way.”

“Sophie,” she said, glancing toward him again, feeling relief once they stepped into her yard. She could feel the energies of her own magic, that of her ancestors, there. It was the only place she felt safe.

“Well, Sophie—“ Calder began, when a delivery van pulled up. The driver jumped out and passed a clipboard to Sophie. She knew what it was already, tried not to show her panic. She signed, and the driver handed her the thin brown envelope, departed without another word. She looked down at it, hating that her hands were shaking.

She’d failed.

She took a breath. “Sorry again about the goat. Welcome to the neighborhood,” she said absentmindedly. “Excuse me.”

* * *

And, that’s that! Have a great day, all!

 

Trusting the Process

Strife is done. The lovely, awesome beta readers are giving it a final look (because they rock, completely) and I am reading through it again on my Kindle to catch any errant goofs, but…yeah. It’s done. And I’m recognizing that finishing a book leaves me with a mix of emotions: exuberant, relieved, nervous, and maybe a little depressed.

Writing a book is a roller coaster. Theres’s the “I am goddamn unstoppable!” sense in the beginning, when I’m writing hot and reaching five to seven (and as high as ten) thousand words per day and the story is flowing and everything is perfect. And then there’s that middle bit, where things vary between “this is so much fun!” and “please for the love of god can this just be finished now” depending on the day. And then there’s the mad rush to the end, that moment of pure “oh hell yeah!!” when I type “The End.”

Editing requires an entirely different mindset: cold, cool, detached focus. It requires me to cut entire scenes that really don’t work, to recognize my own wordiness. It requires me to lose any sense of preciousness about the work. The good thing about it is that, for my entire life, no one has ever been harder on me than I am. 🙂

And then, it’s done and I’m nervous and having little panic attacks about “oh, should I have done THAT?” Closure comes when I’m starting the next book. And that’s where I am right now.

Starting All Over Again

It kind of boggles my mind to realize that I’m starting my sixth and seventh books (Hidden, Book Five and the next Hidden novella). And even though Lost Girl, Broken, and some of Home were written long before now, It’s really only been a year since I decided to take the idea of actually publishing them seriously. Lost Girl came out in December. Less than six months ago (and what a crazy six months it’s been!)

One thing I’m recognizing is that, just as I have a process during writing, I have a process for beginning writing as well. It looks like me screwing around, or faffing about, as one of my lovely Twitter pals would say. I read comics. I scroll through Pinterest and Tumblr a lot more than usual. I can’t seem to fill my head with enough things, enough images, enough music. I play World of Warcraft and observe the weapons and armor. And I get annoyed with myself, because I am supposed to be WRITING, for crying out loud.

I really don’t like this part of it. It makes me feel lazy and restless. But this is my process. I will reach a point (and I feel like I’m nearly there) when I just can’t stop myself from getting started. When the words will come, and I’m pulled into my own little fictional world again.

Here’s to trusting the process!

Advice for Writers via Stan Lee’s “How to Write Comics”

I can hear it already.

“But I don’t write comics. And, uh, neither do you, Colleen.”

Doesn’t matter. There isn’t a single genre that writers can’t learn from if they take the time to do so. I’ve learned helpful tips and techniques about writing from books and articles about screenwriting, writing poetry, writing literary fiction, writing military fiction, and writing erotica, even though I don’t (currently) write any of those things. I picked up Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics because (as I’ve mentioned before) I really would like to write comics eventually. But the more I read it, the more I realized that the Generalissimo’s advice applies to novels as well. Here are some of my favorite bits from the book.

On Writing Superheroes: (which I do actually do!)

“‘I decided to treat the superhero adventure strip as though it’s a soap opera story that just happens to be about a superhero who has to defeat villains. But rather than predicating it on great action scenes, I determined to predicate it on characterizations, and on whatever personal problems a superhero might encounter living in a realistic world.'”

I felt really happy when I read this, because for better or for worse, I’ve done very much the same thing with Molly in Hidden. Yeah. She’s insanely powerful (too powerful! a person or two has lamented) but her biggest problems don’t always necessarily come from her enemies. Often, it’s the interpersonal issues that really test her, and the asskicking she has to do is in addition to trying to live a “normal” life.

On Creativity and Ideas:

“The funny thing is, the more you do, the more it seems you’re able to do.”

This is another way of saying that creativity begets creativity. The more you write/draw/sculpt/knit…whatever, the more ideas you’ll have for future projects. So if you feel at a loss for ideas, create something! More “somethings” will follow.

On Creating Your Antagonist:

“…they mustn’t just be evil. They mustn’t just be strong. They’ve also got to be unusual, exciting, provocative, and surprising.” He also says: “Too many times a villain simply attacks the hero for the same reason men have given for climbing mountains — because they’re there.”

No cardboard characters. The villain should be just as interesting as the hero. You can’t just have a villain or antagonist come on the scene and start causing trouble just for the hell of it. There has to be a reason. They have to have their own motivations, and they have to be just as strong as the motivations of  your hero. I’ve read this before, and it’s something I try to keep in mind with every story: Every villain is a hero in his own mind.

On Working with the Classic Three-Act Structure:

Lee has a whole section in this book on the three-act structure, but this little tip may be especially handy for anyone trying to figure out how much of their story constitutes an act:

“How much of your story should be devoted to each segment? Well, that depends on the demands of the story, but the rule of thumb says one-quarter is reserved for Act One, one-quarter for Act Three, and the remaining half for Act Two.”

On Flashbacks:

“There has to be a compelling reason to use a flashback since it interrupts the narrative flow. Don’t just use it for what’s become known as the ‘info dump,’ with a lengthy explanation. That will stop your momentum dead in its tracks and possibly put your reader to sleep. Everything on the page has to be there for a reason, and you, the writer, have to justify the choices you make in composing your tale.”

On Subplots:

“A good subplot will allow you to set up the introduction of new characters or complications. It can break up the main action of the issue and build tension. Subplots can rise to become the main plot, but they can also be a parallel story to the main plot. But just as your larger story comes to a conclusion, so, too, must your subplot.”

Subplots can be tricky to work with. The main trouble I have is keeping my focus on the main plot once I’ve become enamored with one of the subplots I’ve started on, and I think that balancing how much subplot you include is something you learn over time. I am still definitely learning in that regard, but it’s a lot of fun trying different things out and seeing what works.

This was a great book. Whether you write comics or not, it’s definitely worth checking out, and the amount of comics history you get, from the man who has been a HUGE influence in the industry, makes it even better.

 

 

Finishing HOME

I am in an uncomfortable place right now. Home will be released in a few days, and I’ve been working on the next book in the Hidden series for a few weeks now, on and off, between revising Home. And, just like with Home, and with Broken before that, I’m in a slump. The words come sluggishly. Stubborn. It feels like I forgot how to put one word after the other, as if everything I’ve done up until this point has been a fluke. Clearly, I cannot write.

I’ll get over it. This is a normal part of my process, I’m starting to realize. I need a few days to let my subconscious sort through the plot. I’ll find my way. I’ll write hot again. But I need to get through this phase first.

While I’m stewing and remembering how to write, I’m catching up on my blog reading. This morning, one of my favorite authors EVER, the lovely Marjorie Liu, wrote a post telling her story about finishing her latest, Labyrinth of Stars (February 25th can’t come soon enough!!) and she invited us to share our stories about finishing our most recent work. So here’s mine:

I thought Home was finished back in early December. Put it aside, then read it again a couple weeks later.

Oh, hell.

The ending I’d written was too clean. Too perfect. And not at all Molly. Nothing is ever that simple for Molly. I was writing kind of a wish-fulfillment for her. And it just didn’t fit.

Scrap the final third of the book, start writing again, being true to the story and my characters. Stand aside and let the story unfold as it should.

I consumed ridiculous amounts of coffee. I listened to Eminem’s “Survival” on autoloop.

I had a few days where I wrote seven to ten thousand words. Those left me bleary-eyed and wondering if any of them would hold up once I looked at it again. When I finally wrote the final words, I was sitting at my desk, in the same seat in which I’ve written the entire Hidden series, and I felt drained, yet excited. I was full of nervous energy, energy that I had been putting into my writing. I didn’t know what to do with it. I ended up shoveling snow, folding laundry. Cleaning under the furniture.

Trying not to obsess over whether I’d just messed the book up or not.

The good news is that when I did look at it again a week later, the words felt true to me. I told the truest story I could, and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. Just because my characters are fictional doesn’t mean they don’t have their own truths. They must. Otherwise, cardboard characters and cookie-cutter plots result.

Wrote more, revised like mad. And now, I’ll just wait until Monday, until my first readers start reporting back, and hope that the ending felt as true for you as it did for me.

So, there’s my story. Not the most exciting thing, maybe, but I know I fought for every word.

 

 

 

Book Three Update

We wrapped up our webserial Hidden time here together last week, and I want to start off by thanking everyone who read along. Doing the webserial was an experiment that really taught me a lot of discipline. Sitting down to write on those days I didn’t especially feel like writing was one of those habits I needed to improve on, and posting a webserial helped me do that.

The downside of the webserial format was that it really doesn’t mesh well in general with my writing style, and I found, especially after season one, that posting everything as webserial episodes was really slowing me down. I want to keep the stories coming!

Home: Hidden, Book Three

So, when I started posting the episodes for book three, I believed I pretty much had the book written. But in the editing process and getting it ready for publication, I realized that I hated my original ending. I mean…HATED IT. So I scrapped the final third of the book (basically everything that happens after that final episode I posted last week) and I’ve been busy re-writing it. I just wrote “the end” on it this morning, and I feel good. It’s a stronger book than it was, and I hope you guys will enjoy it. Now comes the fun part: revisions!

I actually do mean that. Revision is when I can let my more strict side out. It’s when I make my words behave. I love every part of the writing process. That initial “oh holy crap this will be awesome!” messy story creation time is a blast, and that’s my play time. It’s hard sometimes, too, but I love every moment of it. Revision is when I have to face my inconsistencies, my tendency to misspell the same damn words over and over again, my apparent adoration for certain words. It’s when I realize “wow, Molly says ‘fuck’ a lot” and edit them out, and still end up leaving plenty to satisfy my inner pottymouth. Writing is fun that way.

So this is all to say that we’re still on track for a February release for Home! I thought I’d have to push it back, but rewrites are going really well. Reviewers should have their hands on the book in a couple of weeks, at the latest, once the edits are all finished, and then it will be available on Amazon shortly after that.

Newsletter

I also have a newsletter available now, for those who want updates about book releases and other events. I swear you won’t hear from me often; I’m planning on sending the newsletter monthly. If you’re interested in signing up, there’s a link in the sidebar where you can do that.

Okay, back to revisions. Thanks for reading. ♥