Presents! For the Holidays!
While I’m busy working on my projects, including the Magickers, I thought you might be interested in taking advantage of some specials. THE UNICORN DANCER and its accompanying novella, THE WILLOW RING, will be up for !free! on Amazon from Nov. 26th to Nov. 30th. Dancer is linked at
The Ring, which is sandwiched between THE UNICORN DANCER and DANCER’S DESTINY, is at
The Willow Ring Free Nov 26-Nov 30
And then, the triumphant sequel DANCER’S DESTINY is available for special pricing from Nov. 30th through Dec. 8th, but the earlier you get it, the better your price!
A writer died the other day, far too young and with far too much promise to see her go. I never met her, but even if I had, I might not have said hello. I am, unfortunately, very shy. I would have hated to interrupt her, to impose on her, to even suggest that I might be a good friend. And that’s a terrible loss for me personally, on the heels of a tragic loss to writing.
It’s a little late to make New Year’s Resolutions with the year heading into autumn, but I think I must. A number of other very good writers are also heading into the unknown, and I don’t know them either. I know they’ve enriched my life because I read their writings, sometimes avidly, sometimes out of simple curiosity and then discover they have published gems I value.
I had a new agent a few years ago, one I parted ways with rather quickly because she did nothing for me, although she’s done a lot for other writers. In my musings, I realize I did little for her. I went to a major SF/F conference impulsively, at the last minute, and she was able to find time to introduce me to several editors I might not otherwise have met. I’m left coast, they’re right coast. I didn’t take advantage of my introductions. I didn’t tell them how much I admired the lines they worked on for their publishers, or how I heard they’d nursed some new writers into relative prominence, or even how I appreciated their hard work in a vastly changing publishing environment. I did; I just didn’t tell them. I left the conference without having made new friends or contributed my knowledge to the general pool. Without being the least bit memorable to anyone. And I do have something to contribute, I remind myself. I’d published more than 50 books by then. I ought to have experience as well as imagination. My fault in not having found a way to share.
Now I’m not suggesting you drool over people. Or fawn upon them to ingratiate yourself. Just never assume that you’ve nothing to offer or contribute. Don’t interrupt but don’t hang back unnecessarily. Almost every one in publishing works hard. Let them know you realize and appreciate that, if nothing else. It’s a lot easier today than it was even four or five years ago. There is twitter, tumblr, facebook to leave your notices upon. It might reach them, it might not. There are more direct ways. I’ve vowed to review where I can, when I can. To go back to attending what conferences I can afford by time, distance and cost. To blog.
And even though it might take the bracer of a stout strawberry margarita for me, to say hello!
Writing this week had its ups and downs--pages that came easily and pages that felt like pulling teeth. I had my rewards in Dragons, though...first look of Smaug (though I would have loved to hear his voice), Dany's 3 flying off in the finale of GoT season 3, and my own dragons in The Prince of Nowhere.
I like the idea of dragons. A deep rumbling voice, an imagined intelligence and arrogance as well as being burdened with vices like avarice and hunger and vanity make for an interesting character. Good dragons and bad spice most of my favorite books and they are not the passing fancy many publishers feared they would be. In fact, they seem to grow stronger year by year. I think readers grow up into yearning for them, and older readers seldom lose their liking for them, which leads many writers to --
Gratuitous Dragons! Oh my. This, of course, is what publishers fear and what writers hate: throwing a dragon in just to boil the plot and hide weaknesses in world-building and planning. I am always amused, as well, by dragon books that are well done and well read but feature an army of reptiles which eat so much I wonder how the world could support them, let alone the tiny country in which they are featured. Less is more is one of those rules which would definitely apply to meat eating raptors. It is, ironically, an echo of historical times in which average peasants couldn't afford horses because of the cost of feeding and other care, not to mention defending it from stronger men in medieval times who simply took what they wanted.
Still, dragons are glorious. I love them. I'll continue to write about them and hope that my writing avoids plot holes and character weakness and badly imagined worlds so that my readers will love them as much as I do.
For today, though, I have to work on a book which does not feature dragons and hope that my writing is strong enough I don't have to throw one in at the end, just to make it readable.
Writing when you don’t know where you’re going and how I do it.
And yes, I outline. I don’t outline intensely, however, and there are times when I just plain stumble. I can’t work the way some writers do. I know one who outlines about 200 pages for a 500 page book. That sounds like torture to me, but she is a well-respected, award-winning bestselling author and the only criticism I can make of her system is that it might slow her productivity down because it would mine. But no one else is complaining. All I know is that I can’t work that way. There are things that occur to me when I write that don’t occur any other time, and I like having the freedom and flexibility in my project that allows me to go with the new inspirations.
For instance, in my bare bones road map, I might say Chapter 10 The three of them argue and split up. That might seem comprehensive enough until I actually get there. But then you have to stop and ask yourself: why do they argue? Is it a valid argument or a stupid one cause everyone is tired/drunk/under false assumptions? Do they come to blows or does everyone just stomp off? Do they make threats? Or do they make up, but the truce isn’t sincere so one sneaks off in the middle of the night? All are valid pathways and at least half of them will mesh with what I have planned in succeeding chapters. So while I, as writer, might stare baffled at the dreaded white page, I won’t do that for long. I try to choose the options most rewarding and startling to myself and the reader. It’s fun. It can also take a full writing day or two for the option to occur to me. Have I lost time in my project? Maybe. I can spend that time (while thinking furiously) doing re-writes, flushing out character sketches of future appearances I’ve scheduled in my outline, or I can clean house. I don’t like to clean house. I love to write. So my mind usually spits out some nice inspirations and I’m back in writing mode.
What if I get there and I don’t like where I’m going. That can happen. It usually happens when the writer hasn’t fully flushed out the characters and is forcing one of them against their nature to perform for the sake of the outline. If I hit this point, I have two things I can do: change the character or change the outline. Since my outlines are bare bone, I can do that—particularly if, again, it’s rewarding and surprising. Can you say plot reversal? But if I’ve planned something that is really important, and integral, and I want to do, then I have to explore the nature of my stubborn character. Can I manipulate them into doing what they wouldn’t do and still have it organic? It’s possible. Not necessarily believable or something the reader would accept though (how many times have you read something in a book and said to yourself ‘Oh, come on!’ and closed the book for a while). Or if what I am writing has magic or paranormal parameters, I might bring the influence of the supernatural into it. My character has gotten cursed! That’ll do it. Maybe. Most often though, I simply have to go back to the root of that character and define them fully and naturally, and follow through with their behavior. If they can’t adhere to the plot line, sometimes they just have to go.
For myself, though, I generally have a plot. I know my beginning, middle (or muddle) and end. Middles are tricky. If you find yourself getting bored, imagine your reader will be. Look at your plot. Is it too linear and manipulative? Change it before you start writing. Try plot reversals. If you are uncertain how to work them, may I suggest watching the classic movie “Romancing the Stone”. It’s full of surprising and rewarding reversals. No time for a movie? You can get a copy of the script online. Even reading an act will teach you the reversal.
Even the writer who says they don’t outline probably has a vague idea of the end in mind. Figure out a way to get there that makes you happy. Follow your characters. Put a roadmap in their hands so they can get through life and its speed bumps. If all that doesn’t work, there’s always aversion therapy (house cleaning).