I’m working on finishing Brittany’s trilogy, Blood and Bone Legacy, and I realized that I forgot what I wrote. I was plotting everything out, putting post-its up on my wall and suddenly was like: Shit! Did I write that or imagine it. Right now, there are a lot of empty holes on my walls where colorful post-its should be. We’re not talking about the major plot points, at least those I remembered. It was the little things, like; did he tell here that thing? Oh wait…i have no idea. So, I decided to reread them. I picked up each book (not the digital file, because I would want to change it), but the actual paperback and broke those open.
The first thing I realized was that I write a damned fine story.
The secong thing I realized, and to my horror, was that there were some loose ends that needed to be cleaned up in the final book. Things that are kinda important too. Because, as I said, I forgot.
All of this stuff bleeds together in my mind. Thank GOD this was only two books. I almost feel like I need a murder board or two on my wall to keep things straight. I don’t have the space for that though. Could you imagine though? That would be amazing. When I become independently wealthy…ahem…I’m building myself a gigantic office where I can have all the murder boards I want.
The kicker is, that having gone through this exercise with the Blood and Bone Legacy, I already know i’m going to have to go back and read The Blushing Death Series and that’s up to 9 books. Keep me in your thoughts.
Right now, I’m reading Residual Magic which is the second book. I’m almost done with it which means I can get back to my list of loose ends and plotting and actually start writing this thing. While reading this book last night, there was an incident. I was sitting at a table at a restaurant waiting on a friend to show up. I got to a particular point in Residual Magic and i started getting teary. Its my own GOD DAMNED book! I’ve read it, edited it, and reread it like 10 times. This damned scene still got to me.
Now, I don’t know if its just that wretching of a scene or if I just hit my own triggers so hard that it doesn’t matter if I wrote because I will never be immune. Or, if its just an amazingly gut wrenching scene. I would like to think the latter but its mostly likely the former.
This will be the first book series that I finsh-like tie up all the loose ends and close the book on, so to speak. Wish me luck because I’m not sure how this is going to go and if i’m going to be okay.
When I first started writing, I was writing for me. I didn’t expect the things to go anywhere. I had a story to tell, and I worked on getting it down on paper. I had been writing since my teens in short stories and pseudo-novel length stories. None of them were any good but it proved that I could complete a thread from start to finish with a cohesive arc. That’s an important thing to be able to do when writing. I have to thank my English teachers for some of this. Not necessarily because they taught me how to write a story, because they didn’t, but because they taught me how to frame an argument. They taught me how to structure a paper to bring everything around to a close. So, in writing those early short stories-which are all gone now because this was in the time before cloud storage-the arc was there. it’s the detail where I get lost.
At this point, I’ve published 12 books and written close to 20 in total. Again, some of them are horrible and have been shelved never to see the light of day. Some of them are lost, literally. The pages are actually gone or the floppy disc is no longer readable with advanced technology. Some of them are in pieces, pulled apart and rewritten enough times to make me forget where I started. And others in line for revision when there’s time to get to them with life, work, and other obligations.
I’ve lived in the world of Dahlia Sabin, The Blushing Death, for almost a decade now. When she’s all said and done, Dahlia will have gotten 10 of her own books, 3 spin-off books and countless short stories. It’s been fun. Living and breathing in this world has taught me so much about writing. We all get better with each page we write. Editors, readers, and ultimately each and every review (good and bad) brings something else to the table that you hadn’t considered before. Afterall, each writer is only an individual and we mess up. But there are some things that you only learn from your own mistakes.
Like I said, when I started writing these books-well, the first book anyway-I was writing for me. I actually ended up writing Pool of Crimson from start to finish almost three complete times. This was my pantser style effort with no plan and no guide. This experience is something I also learned from. I learned that I do not like to do things multiple times.
The first draft was sloppy; a grouping of disjointed scenes that I couldn’t see didn’t make any sense until they were all together. The second was me trying to fix the first one which didn’t work. The third time, I threw almost everything out. I sat down and picked out the points of my story that needed to happen and finally figured out how the hell Dahlia was going to get there. This is where I learned to plot. No one sat down and told me how to do it. I didn’t sit in a class or lecture to learn the finer points of plotting. I was simply presented with a piece of crap, realized it, and in a more methodical way figured out a way to fix it. It was almost like a lightbulb going off in my head. I didn’t fly by the seat of my pants after that.
Another lesson happened when I was four or maybe even five books in before I got someone willing to even take a look at Pool of Crimson. She loved it. But, like I said, I was four or five books in already. I knew in book two that I took some drastic steps with my characters and maybe this wasn’t a road she would want to go down. I told my, now current editor, that I wouldn’t sign the contract until she took a look at book two. All of the rest of my work was based on what happened in the previous books, I couldn’t go back. That would mean starting over and my character was where she needed to be. I was willing to not be published to keep Dahlia’s journey intact. Within a week, I had a contract for both books.
It was about this time with my contracts in hand and book five almost finished, that I realized I hadn’t written down some of the pretty important details/descriptions/events/timelines/etc that happened in my earlier books. I was writing for me and my friends, I hadn’t needed a series bible.
LOL! I was horribly mistaken.
My husband once asked me why I couldn’t remember the details. “You’re the one who wrote it!” he’d said.
Yes, I did. I wrote it like 17 times through edits and rewrites. I don’t remember. Sure, I remember the big stuff and the plot points. I even remember in which books I mentioned it which has proven helpful as I leaf throw my own books searching for the paragraph I know exists. But as a general rule, I don’t remember the tiny little conversations that characters have or the throw away descriptions I add. You know, the ones I love reading and memorize in other people’s books.
But it was too late for Dahlia. I couldn’t go back and fix the bible-or in this case create it. I was too far in to go back now. Plus, I was being super lazy about it, if I’m being completely honest.
This was a mistake that I had to learn the hard way. For every book or series after Dahlia, I now make sure there is a bible. This has saved me a crap load time, not only searching for items I may have forgotten but keeping me on track for the outline. I like to use airtable now and my grids can get pretty complicated, but they have saved my life when dealing with looking at the structure, the journey, what a character’s eye color is, and all the little details you (aka me) forget as a writer. As an example, here’s the type of bible I have now for my books. This is a screen shot from one of my airtables:
This means that everything is laid out for me in plot, character, worldbuilding, and really any additional information I need to write the best book I can.
The third and probably most important lesson was adapting to how my brain works. I went to a lot of different conferences and sat in sessions that told me a myriad of way to do things, but they all said theirs was the right way to do it. They weren’t. I had to figure out what worked for me.
I’m a visual learner and it helps me to actually see the path. In addition to the upfront work I do on airtable and the colored post its I use for basic plot structure before I ever write a word, I also have a visual check at the end of the process. I go through and use color coded index cards to lay out the story and see the distribution of chapters/topics. This way I can see if I’ve been in a character’s POV too long or if there needs to be an additional scene added . . . or several.
In this picture, the green cards are Dahlia’s POV. The orange cards are my villain. If you can see, there are wide lengths of the book that are just Dahlia’s POV which led me to notice that the villain’s motive may not have been developed enough. The yellow cards are the additions to fix that problem among others.
Writing a book is hard. Writing a good book is even harder. That doesn’t mean you have to make it hard on yourself. I can’t guarantee that everyone’s process is as involved as mine, especially with all the odd things I do as a writer. I have a notebook and write conversations and chapter outlines out longhand before I sit down at the computer. I don’t know anyone who does that but it helps me as I go. Plus, I always have a notebook to write when it strikes me. I don’t always have a computer.
Right now, I’m starting the last installment of the Blood and Bone legacy. This is my first step. There are alot of colored post-its involved and moving things around so that it makes sense. I didn’t write on my wall, by the way. Its all masking tape.
You have to figure out your process. We each learn and form our stories differently. My suggestion is, to find what works for you and work from there, instead of the other way around. You’ll be happier for it.
Can we talk abut Bridgerton on Netflix for a moment?
Some of the criticism coming about season 2 is that there isn’t enough sex. Not enough graphic, raunchy sex scenes to satisfy all the new people who have discovered Romancelandia (a term coined by those people who religiously read romance novels). Or that those not affiliated or tuned into the romance domain don’t understand why there are new people in season 2. These clearly come from people who don’t read a lot of romance, especially not the Julia Quinn novels these are based on. Let’s take these criticisms one at a time. We’ll start with the second since this is pretty easy to address.
The reason that there are new people, is because that’s the way Romance novels/series are set up. Each book has it’s own HEA (happily ever after) and their story is done. Oh sure, you might see them pop up in a future book in the series as a check in to remind people of their favorite characters, but for the most part their story is done. The series moves on to a different person in the family, a friend, etc. These new characters are always laid out in previous books, dangling them before you like a carrot. That’s how you get sucked in to the next book. I, personally, always wait for the broken ones. I’m a sucker for some hero/heroine that doesn’t think their good enough and those are always my favorites. Hence the reason i’m waiting patiently for Eloise and Penny’s seasons on Netflix.
Yes, I already know they’re going to get their guy but the journey is part of the fun.
You don’t normally see a series of books with the same main character in Romance. That happens in Urban Fantasy, Romantic Suspense, or those types of books where the Romance is NOT the main element in the book. These can follow the same couple over many books and may end with a HFN (happy for now) situation but the character, plot, and romantic arcs are much bigger than your typical romance. In these books the plot and character arcs are the main focus but these can be some of the most rewarding. Ilona Andrews does this in her Kate Daniels and Hidden Legacy books, as well as Kim Harrison in the Hollows books. My own books are tailored after this model. The Blushing Death Series and the Blood and Bone Legacy are definitely a HFN series.
However, Kresley Cole (whose books are legitimately like crack) is a master of the paranormal romance where each book is a different couple and has an HEA for each but the larger arc is also in play. In the IAD-Immortals After Dark-books, the HEA is the most important and the larger arc is just cake.
Let’s take the first criticism now, the lack of sex. I think we need to talk about a few things first.
In Romance books, there are quite a few classic tropes that can be the basis for the plot and everyone has their favorite. There are more but these are the most common:
Friends to lovers – this is where people have been friends for a very long time and somthing changes and they discover they want to bone. Penny/Colin.
Second Chances – think divorced couples or reuniting lost loves
Pretend Relationships – First half of Season 1 of Bridgerton
Forced Proximity – Second half of Season 1 of Bridgerton
Destined to be together – this takes place in paranormal alot with fated mates. This is manifested with a lot of Alpha males yelling MINE
Forbidden love – you all know what this means although don’t get gross with it. More like outside your social strata, your race, your religion, etc.
Love Triangles – 3’s a crowd. Think Twilight
Enemies to lovers – This is what we have in Season 2 of Bridgerton.
So, the enemies to lovers thing is all about the steam, the anticipation, the rising passion as they get over their initial dislike of each other and get down to the animal attraction and passion underneath. You’re not going to spend the entire show banging somone you hate. That’s revenge sex and that’s completely different. So, instead, we have a lot of fighting, misunderstandings, heat, and sexual tension.
Now, it’s my understanding that the book makes a shift from Friends to Lovers to Forced Proximity with the bee incident about half way through (I can not verify this since I haven’t read this particular series. I don’t like to mix book and tv/movie if I like one. I’m always disapointed in something). However, I could see where the show runners sat back and said, that’s too close to season 1, let’s draw this out a bit.
I don’t mind the anticipation and the build up, but the payoff better be worth it. I think where they went wrong was in season 1 and laying the ground work for the Viscount’s story. They set up the vicount as in love with the opera singer and ready to run away with her, thereby shirking his duty as the heir. So, the dramatic turn around of him ready to fulfill his duty and get married, produce an heir, etc seemed a bit forced. We needed a bit more ground work to make that believable. A conversation could have done that for us or maybe the opera singer’s death, marraige, etc. Something to take this other woman out of the picture permanently and his realization that that dream was now over and he had to move on. There was some resignation evident but, I was left wanting. That’s my own personal preference.
Infinite Azure ARC is up for review. If you are interested in reading the ninth installment of The Blushing Death series before its actual releaase and posting reviews, you can access one of 25 available copies at the link below.
Halloween was last week and it went well. We have a shit-ton of candy in the house, both left over and then what she got going around the neighborhood. She got 4 full size candy bars and now I feel like we’re slacking on the halloween scale for my neighborhood. I’m not ashamed to say that the entire family dressed up as Care Bears. My daughter even got a costume change for school the next day; someone from the Descendants.
It rained for most of trick-or-treating and we had been outside which means that those costumes got soaked. we hungthem up onn our closet doors and it looks like we murdered a family of Care Bears. I say “looks” because I haven’t taken them down. They’re still there. LOL!
2. Nanowrimo is going . . . meh. I’m getting words down most days but not nearly close to the 1667 per day average you need to meet that goal. ARGH! We’ll see how that goes for the rest of the month. I’ll keep you posted.
3. I might have a cover reveal coming in the next month or so for Infinite Azure, the ninth installment in The Blushing Death series. Keep your fingers crossed.
4. Since it’s November, we’ve now offiially moved into the holiday season. You might be thinking, wait . . . but Thanksgiving. Don’t forget about Thanksgiving. I’m not. Trust me. I have a load of baking to do for Thanksgiving. But my in-laws combine Thanksgiving and Christmas into Thanksmas and there are presents to buy, wrap, and give which shifts Christmas into a two month long holiday. I’m not sad about it. I LOVE Christmas time. Beside my Birthday, Christmas is one of my favorite days of the year.
The end of October always feels as if I’m standing on a precipise and moments away from falling over. Not because of the impending holidays or all the baking i’m going to have to do. Nope. Its the 30 day sprint to get something accomplished for National Novel Writing Month in November. I’m not sure why I feel so much pressure for this. It’s voluntary. I don’t have to do it.
I succumb to pressure this most years when i’m not already bogged down in either editing or finishing a pre-existing book. It’s a good jump start but most of the time, I end up feeling a bit like a failure. I never meet the goal of 55,000 words – okay, once. I’ve done it once. Mostly because this is at the worst possible time of year. Who the fuck picked November anyway. April! April would be a great month for this shit.
Also, they categorize 55,000 words as novel length. . .which is technically true. However, my books run anywhere from 90,000 to 110,000, so that arbitrary number feels wrong but should feel doable. However, since I can’t actually seem to hit that number, it feels doubly wrong with a splash of failure mixed in there. So, that’s nice for me.
So, here we are again. On the cusp of November and I just turned in Infinite Azure for editing and stuff. I won’t hear back from Debby @ Soul Mate Publishing for another month at least. I’m technically free for November. . . I guess. Once again, I have bent under the weight of NANOWRIMO pressure and have set up my project to mock me as I log my pitiful word counts each day.
Here’s my plan. I’m going back into one of my old projects, mostly because I’m sitting on 26,000 words and it’s driving me insane that it’s not done. This project has been the topic of previous Nanowrimo years but I’m going in with a plan this time. I think the reason, this project went nowhere fast the previous go arounds, is because I didn’t have the plot flushed out enough. I’m working on the plot this week so that it won’t be so daunting when I go back in to put words on the page. I don’t think I’ll average 1667 words per day but maybe I can get close. Even if it gets this project back on track, I’ll count that as a win.
I’m working! I promise but it’s taking me much longer than expected. To keep everyone motivated, here’s a snippet. It’s unedited so keep your comments to yourself. Unless you want to tell me how awesome it is. Then, by all means, comment away!
Taking a regret-filled step back, I glared at Wynne around Ev’s solid form. “Fine!” I snapped at her, genuinely angry that she’d disturbed my very magical moment with Ev. “I’ll put the amulet back in the drawer.”
“You will do no such thing!” she pronounced vehemently. “This is the most excitement I’ve had in quite some time.”
“After your body snatching request, I’m not taking the chance that you might sneak in and try to take over,” I said, honestly.
“I wouldn’t!” she sounded almost appalled but I knew her better than that.
“You would,” Ev snarled. Apparently, Ev knew her better than that too.
“Ah, wolf,” Wynne cooed, “we were getting along so well.”
“Were we?” he asked.
As the conversation ping ponged back and forth, more noise echoed up from downstairs. It sounded like an army down there. Ev probably heard everything that was going on but I couldn’t and a wash of guilt made me nervous. I’d asked these people to leave their home and come talk to me and now I was making them wait. If I didn’t hurry this argument along, Ev and Wynne would be at it forever and then we’d miss our chance.
“They’re waiting downstairs and it sounds like an army. We don’t have time for this,” I said, anxiety making my words clipped. Ev nodded his agreement, took my hand in his and guided me toward the door.
“I cannot help you if I don’t know,” Wynne added absently and as I glanced over at her in the mirror, she was peering down at her nails as if she hadn’t a care in the world. Which, of course, she did. She must want to hear all of it very badly to play such and obvious ploy. Wynne was much more manipulative than this, I’d seen it first-hand.
I glanced at Ev and met his disapproving glare and tight shoulders. I didn’t have to say anything or plead, all I did was shrug. Afterall, she was right. She might hear something that we’d miss in the retelling. It was better-nope, scratch that-more prudent to have her there. Nothing was better with Wynne in the mix. With a sigh of resignation, he nodded once and picked up the amulet. “Behave,” he growled at Wynne before shoving it into his pocket. He held out his hand to me and waited until I clasped my hand in his and a bit of my stomach fluttered at the newness of the touch and the surety in it. Together we strode down the stairs .
Because I write series books, it’s very important that I can keep facts straight;descriptions (which I forget), magical items (which I make up, sooo, that can be hard to remember), and random shit I include that does’t seem important at the time and turns out to be pivotal. Continue reading Organizational Aids→
I’m re-listening to Sherrilyn Kenyon‘s League Series. I’m preparing for the release of Born of Vengeance which is dropping on February 7th. I’m super excited because I love these books. They’re dark, brutal, and apologetically graphic.
Listening to them back-to-back though, I’ve noticed something that I wouldn’t normally notice if I were reading them one per year. She does a lot of info dumps. For those of you asking; what the fuck is an info dump? I and Google will enlighten you.
a very large amount of information supplied all at once, especially as background information in a narrative.
An info dump is the first thing they tell writers not to do. Any editor, critique partner, published writer, and agent will give you a giant lecture about how this is a HUGE faux pas.
You’ll get advise. Reveal it slowly. Work the information into the narrative in stages. Express information through dialogue. These are all ways of working backstory into your narrative.
Sherrilyn Kenyon has incredibly dense info dumps but in a sneaky almost genius way. There are quite a few…”I don’t understand” statements in her novels. What this means is a character is presented with a vague or cryptic piece of information and then responds…”I don’t understand”. What follows is the explanation of the whole history of this person/event explained in wide sweeping paragraphs. You don’t really notice until you’re listening to seven or eight books, one after the other, and you keep hearing the same device used again and again.
Another issue I’ve noticed in my binge listening stint is something Laurel K Hamilton fell into somewhere after the The Killing Dance in the Anita Blake novels.Maybe this is just a product of long series and you can’t avoid it. I don’t know but as the books go on; these feel less and less about the atrocities and fascist tendencies of the League (the over arching ruling body of the 9 worlds) and more about cultural norms of a particular species. I get it. You created this amazing race of people with cultural norms that, I’m gonna be honest, sometimes blow my mind. I wish I were that awesome to create something like that. Maybe one day I will be.
I get there has to be character development but there also has to be plot development. And in a series, this becomes particularly difficult. There has to be series plot development, always moving the over arching story forward. But there also has to be book plot development. I too find this difficult, to always be moving the larger story along as well as the smaller individual book plot ahead. I’m not complaining. I still love this universe she created and will follow it until the end. There is, however, an issue of getting lost in the trees.
I am a writer and a reader. I understand that no book is perfect. Mine sure aren’t. In the first few Blushing Death novels, I might use too many metaphors. This was pointed out to me by a goodreads.com review. Thank you to that person, by the way. I now go through and eliminate unnecessary metaphors and similes in my edits.
I guess the lesson we take from this is that the rules don’t really matter. You can break any and all of them, if you do it well.
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