Archive for the ‘plotting’ Tag

Quick update – still alive here, just busy writing

Just wanted to put up a quick note to mention that I’m still alive (although temporarily short a breast that was thinking about killing me again—I’ll tell you about it later).

I’m deep into the middle of the story of Tasha Ocasek’s half-brother Stephan, who—ten years after The Valmont Contingency—is busy saving the universe from an Ancient Horror (yes, that’s their official name) while trying not to fall for the intriguing Ekaterina Avondale. And failing, at least in the not-falling-for Kat department.

Kat was raised in a society of dragons. In this particular instance, “dragon” is the slang term for an alien species formally known as Saurians because they come from a parallel line of evolution where the “dinosaurs” became sentient rather than extinct. So they are part velociraptoroid, part parrotoid, and, like T-Rex, the girls are bigger and stronger than the boys.

So Kat scares the bejeebers out of most men, but Stephan is a little different from most men. His big problem is that she’s the result of a union between to major cartel families, and after the way his father died, he’s extremely allergic to cartel families.

It’s going to take both of them to destroy the group-mind insectoidal colony ship that uses carbon-based life forms to incubate its eggs and larvae. I know, right? It creeps me right out, so Stephan and Kat had better get it together and destroy these things for good, and they only have another 30,000-40,000 words to do it.

For anyone waiting impatiently for Talyn’s story, I’ll be doing the final edit on it just as soon as I get this first draft finished. My goal is to get it published by the end of the summer.

Back to the story now,
Val

So, I Wrote A Book in About Two Weeks

This is me sticking my head up, well, from writing most of a book in two weeks. I discovered something about myself this month. Several things, actually. This post is primarily for writers, so if you don’t care about the novelist’s process, check back in a few days for updated pet pictures.

In the meantime, here’s some stuff I learned:

1. If I can get characters and plot really nailed down, I can write forty thousand words in two weeks. Now, I’ve never written more than 25K words in a month before, so this was a revelation.

Unfortunately, it took me fourteen months to get to that point. Next step is to figure out how to speed up *that* process.

2. I have a hybrid plotting process. I start out by writing with no concrete plan, but maybe a vague idea of the major plot points. Then when I get 30-50 pages, I can’t go any farther without knowing what happens, which is when I start to plot in earnest.

Now, that first 30-50 pages isn’t necessarily all the first part of the book; it might be all the really pivotal scenes from beginning to end. Or it could be one or two of them.

The first kiss, the turning point where the hero(es) figure out the big conflict is inevitable and decide how to handle it, the closing scene–any or all of them could be in there. After that I have to figure out the holes and fill them.

For this last book, I ended up making a list of scenes, then color coding them: pink for the heroine’s character arc, blue for the hero’s character arc, green for the relationship arc, black for external plot, and yellow highlighting for scenes that hadn’t had a version written yet.

From June 1 to June 26, I added more than 43,000 words to this manuscript, cutting about two thousand (that I counted). The next step is to send it out to critique partners and beta readers and see if what I wrote actually makes sense.

And then I send it to my editor with fingers crossed, LOL.

When Instalust Isn’t Really Instalust

I have seen a review of The Valmont Contingency accusing me of Instalust and lazy writing.

This is hilarious, because I have difficulty getting my characters to get to the lust portion of the program in the compressed time schedule I’m allowed by The Main Story Question. They’re always, “Yeah, but the zombies…!”

As a result, I made danged sure both Hero and Heroine had plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of motivation before they ever did anything about it.

Please note that the reviewer is absolutely entitled to her opinion, because it’s her opinion (could have been his opinion, but this particular reviewer was female). The book, as an artifact, has to sink or swim on its own merits. Period.

But this is my website/blog, so I’m going to explain things because I can. So there.

Garrick, Our Hero, has been primed by two years of Kardashian-level tabloid coverage of Tasha with wardrobe and makeup worthy of a Playboy shoot.

Combine that with his engineer-personality compulsion to “fix this” and her damsel-in-distress circumstances when they first meet in person, followed soon after by the realization that she has saved his life. “The poor bastard never had a chance” was how Spooky Man (my spousal unit) described it.

Tasha, Our Heroine, is in an extremely vulnerable state of mind when confronted by the first adult male in her life — ever — who actually seems to 1. see her as a human being, 2. care about her well-being (as opposed to her utility to him), 3. give credence to her intelligence, and, for the win, 4. need her help to stay alive.

Oh, and did I mention he’s three generations from a complete designer makeover to the family’s genes, so he’s pretty much physically perfect?

Like the panty-and-tank-top clad heroine who goes after the spooky noise in the slasher movie, my heroines have to have a lot of motivation to do something really dangerous, like fall in love.

Read the book with my list and see if I haven’t included all the necessary and proper motivation for “instalust.” (See, this is a subtle advertisement, because you have to buy the book to read it.)

And that’s all I’m going to say about that, LOL.

Writing What I Don’t Know

Specifically, Japanese and Chinese traditional culture. I am working on a novel where the hero is from a space-faring culture based in East Asian cultural traditions and genetics, and the heroine is the equivalent of Japanese-American or Chinese-British. The more research I do, the more I find out exactly how much I don’t know about Japanese and Chinese culture.

I’m ethnically Irish, which means I have light hair, light skin, and round blue eyes. So, what do epicanthal folds feel like? Nobody who has them can tell me, because they don’t know what it feels like not to have them. At least I can figure out the hair — my mother had hair so vehemently straight it rejected poodle perms in about four weeks.

I’m culturally American, specifically Western American, which means I have one of the largest personal-space bubbles in the world. You get closer than four feet without a good reason and I’m going to be uncomfortable and backing away — just because of where I grew up.

Compare that to the Tokyo subway system, where they employ people to cram commuters into the trains with the personal space of, say, canned sardines. Shakiro (Our Hero) isn’t going to equate physical proximity with intimacy. Well, there goes that scene. He’s also part of the imperial security clan, which means researching the Samurai Bushido, the ninja/shinobi Oniwabanshu, and multiple schools of Chinese martial arts philosophy. Good stuff (Sun Tzu was fascinating), but still…that’s just the deep background of his world.

Because of my day jobs in technical writing and localization, I know that Japan has three different writing systems, one of which was co-opted from Chinese writing (kanji), one of which looks like Gregg shorthand (katakana), and one of which looks like a cursive version of Gregg shorthand (hiragana). And you read it from top to bottom, right to left. Yesterday, I had to look up the name of the Japanese short sword often used as a left-hand weapon by the Samurai class: wakizashi. Or at least that’s the Romaji for it (phonetic approximation using the Roman alphabet).

How would that shape someone’s brain? Does Shak trust written language at all? Would you?

It’s a good thing this is fiction, so I can make stuff up.

Need for Subconscious Speed

“Your job is done for now, so pat yourself on the back…then go write me a new book. ” This is how my editor ended her latest e-mail, the one accepting the copy edit changes and stets (which is copy editor-speak for “don’t make this change”) from me.

I’m working on it. Unfortunately, last night I was writing the scene where the hero and his father meet again for the first time in years, and dad started apologizing. Huh?

I realized that the reason Our Hero has been in the Republic (and not the Nipponese Empire, where he was born) is because he was passed over for a clan leadership position — by Dad. He went into self-exile to save face.

Which explains a lot, actually. You, in the basement — Muse — you couldn’t have sent this up three months ago? Whaddaya mean, you were working on the editorial changes for the last book? You’re supposed to be able to do both at the same time.

This little nugget changes motivations for half the plot. It makes perfect sense, but now I have to scrap most of the paltry 5,000-word first draft I have written. And I have to rework the synopsis/outline. Le sigh.

I need a faster subconscious.

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