The end is the beginning

I have a confession to make: whenever I have a book in hand that I’m not sure about, I’ll flip to the end to see if it goes happily ever after.

It’s a habit that for years earned me, at best, bewilderment, and at time outright derision. “You’re ruining the story” people would say, “why read it if you already know how it’s going to end?” But that, to me, was a price I was willing to pay.

When I was in middle school, I went through a horror-novel kick. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Saul – I devoured these books like crazy. But in doing so, it gave rise to a terror all its own, something I’d never realized about myself: I hated sad endings. I wanted the hero and heroine to win, save the day, destroy the bad guy.

That didn’t always happen, and as that phase (quickly) passed, I learned that other grown-up books also had similarly not-so-great endings. It was then that I started reading from the end first, making sure good triumphed and evil was vanquished. There have only been a handful of books I’ve read where I suppressed this urge, wanting to enjoy the process without “ruining” the final climax and resolution. The last Harry Potter book was one I remember, which was a series that really captured my heart. The final book was more of an “event” in my mind, the ending of an era, and I wanted to drag that out as long as I could.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, I’m one of those people who needs to know the end of my story before I start. Years ago, I could start writing and just GO, get out thousands of words without knowing anything except interesting characters. But as my craft evolved, I started wanting something to strive for, a place that I knew would be The End. I’d do sprawling epics that meandered all over the place, and eventually lose interested in these stories because I had no idea how or where they ended.

There is a series of videos on YouTube by Dan Wells that I often go back to for inspiration. He explains structure for story, both for plotters and pantsers, and I think it’s a useful discussion for writers to see.

Advertisements

Three more days!

Only three more days until the release of “Anything He Wants 6: Castaway”, which continues the story of the novel and serials! Yesterday I took the first steps, uploading the book to iTunes. Unfortunately, Apple takes the longest to approve a book for distribution, so it might not be available on Monday like the rest. As soon as there’s a link however, that will be posted to you all.

Hugh Howey posted an excellent writing guide to today’s publishing world. He says everything I’ve noticed myself, so if you’re an aspiring author looking to publish in today’s market, this is an excellent introduction to today’s world of publishing. πŸ˜‰

I got the MOST AWESOME VIDEO EVER today in my inbox: my newest niece/nephew’s sonogram!!! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ My sister didn’t want to know the sex but the doctor was 99% sure she knew, so now all is family are making guesses and trying to decide what colors and toys to get. I’m so excited; my sister is due in July right during RWA Nationals (which I will be attending), so if you are me and I’m a little distracted, that’ll be why. πŸ˜‰

Right now the Dude and I are heading down to San Diego to pick up a refrigerator that my sister is giving us. I’ve always loved that coastal city, but holy crap driving through Los Angeles is almost not worth it!! While I’d love to live in SD, I don’t think I’d be heading north out of town too often… πŸ˜‰

Everything and the kitchen sink

Writing can be such a balancing act.

I make no excuses: I’m a pantser not a plotter, the kind of writer who learns about the story as she goes. I may have some structure, such as knowing scenes or events that will come later in the story, but for the most part I don’t plan things out beyond the next scene. Not having an end game in mind right off the bat, of course, leaves me open to the possibility of meandering storytelling, or of putting too much in that would need to be taken out later.

One of the toughest parts (IMO) about writing is knowing what path you want your story to go down. For example, is it a revenge tale? A beach romance? A shoot-em-up action thriller? There are certainly stories out there that incorporate elements of all three of these things, but at some point something has to give. You can’t, for example, have werewolves and vampires attacking your heroine in a contemporary tale (unless it’s urban fantasy). Having space aliens show up in your sheikh desert romance might be…confusing to some readers unless you’ve set it up earlier that the story has scifi elements. Some surprise is good, keeps the conflict up, but there’s a tightrope to walk if you want to keep it believable.

For AHW, I kept my story tightly plotted, but because sequels up the ante I wanted to think outside the box. My resulting idea had the story including everything and the kitchen sink, so many ideas rolled into one book. That wouldn’t do – fun to plan, but when I looked at the logistics, it was a nightmare. So I backtracked, removing all the aliens and werewolves and vampires from my story plan (just kidding, but it may as well have been!) and tried to figure out a theme. What I want my heroine to learn. What I wanted my heroes (!!) to go through. Redemption? Revenge? I needed to figure out my motivations, or how their pasts affected their near-future (aka, the book’s plot line).

What did I come up with? Well, like I said, I’m not much of a plotter, but I do like having the bare bones sketched out so I don’t write myself into a corner. For years I couldn’t finish anything because I’d get to a certain point, then hit The Wall (other writers know what I’m talking about), and couldn’t bear to backtrack/delete words I’d written to go around it. By then anyway, another idea would beg to be written, so I’d leave the story promising to come back. Heh, yeah, that didn’t happen. *sigh*

The thing I’ve found, the more words I put down on paper, is that there’s never an end to learning. If it’s not learning your craft, then it’s learning how YOU craft. Every writer is different; I know folks who cringe when I tell them I don’t have a detailed outline for my entire series, down to hair/eye color and what shaving gel they used. Then again, the idea of writing from a detailed synopsis has my eyes crossing from boredom – I mean, the story is already written, why am I writing it again? Learn how you do things, and unabashedly DO THEM. Don’t let others dictate what works for you; listen, maybe try adopting new ideas into your pattern, but don’t be afraid to discard them if they’re not for you. Write your story as you see fit. FINISH your story. Then you can start thinking about how to incorporate all those fabulous ideas you came up with into your next book.

Oh, and leave the sink at home. πŸ˜‰

The Loneliest Profession

I used to think that writing was the loneliest profession.

Often, when a person tucks themselves away with their computer, laptop, notebook etc to start slinging words, the silence allows us to hear words in our heads. Some writers enjoy music, like making playlists to inspire them for a particular story, but usually the room we’re in is a quiet respite from the rest of the world (unless you have kids, but that’s another story). Over the last few weeks however, I’ve been blessed to be able to do some writing sprints (or word wars, or competitive writing, or whatever you wish to call them) with some friends. I can be a pretty competitive person, but these folks kick my butt in words per hour!! I’ll tell you what though, my productivity went way up doing these short spurts. In between these writing jags, we just shoot the breeze and chat. In a chat room.

I feel like it’s 1999 again!! πŸ˜€

Over the weekend I had several things happen which make me giddy. I finished the rough draft BDSM novella for the FLING anthology due out this summer by Avon. It’ll need a bit of editing but I’m pretty proud of this short story. Now I’m able to focus on AHW2 and I’m so excited!! A lot of you have been asking when I am going to start on it and I can finally answer: NOW. It’s technically begun already but I decided to give myself a project in the middle, sort of a palate cleanser, so I don’t write the same story accidentally. I have big plans for the sequel and…well, you’ll see.

I also found out yesterday that (squee) I may be on a panel at RWA Nationals this year!! The panel would be about serials (a format which I adore, if you didn’t notice already) and will also include Lauren Hawkeye/Jameson, Beth Kery, and possibly a couple of our editors. I ALSO made the decision to attend Romantic Times this spring in Kansas City; I’ll be rooming with some friends who I can’t wait to see. Yes, I will attend the book signings – look for the introverted redhead in the corner. πŸ˜‰

2012 was an insane year for me, and I hope to make 2013 just as marvelous. There are things being planned in the background while I write: books are being translated into foreign languages (hello to all French-speaking readers, it’s so awesome to hear from you!), conventions, tours, and…wow. Just, stuff.

I’m on a rollercoaster barely to its first high point! πŸ˜€

Beat ’em til their bloody

I love to read. That probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to most folks as they assume all writers like reading, but books have always been an important part of my life. Christmas and birthday gifts were almost always books I wanted or gift cards to bookstores, which were always used immediately to restock my TBR pile. My favorite place (and my parents’ – free books for a voracious reader!) was the library, both public and at school. I read any and everything I could get my hands on; my nose was constantly in a book. Adulthood has lessened that to a large extent, sadly enough, but I do have brief bouts of manic reading.

What does this have to do with my subject line? Well, I learned early on that I most enjoyed reading about suffering characters. The more dire the situation, the more I relished the read. Cliffhangers were awesome, provided the next book was immediately available, but I’d eagerly await the next part to see how it all turned out. I didn’t like stories with unhappy endings (still refuse to read or warch “The Road”) but I enjoyed watching characters grow even as they suffered.

Where am I going with this? Well, for the last week I’ve been on a reading frenzy (and yes, my writing has suffered to my dismay) of a scifi YA “Molly Fyde” series by Hugh Howey. It has everything a girl could want: action, adventure, kick-ass heroine, angst, love, betrayal, genocide, politicking…

*looks back at that list* Okay, so this girl doesn’t want everything on that list, but it makes a compelling read. I love smart series like this, the kind that give characters impossible situations and, when they choose, they have to live with the ramifications of their actions. When they make a mistake and it comes back to haunt them. Reading books like this make me realize how much I as a writer still have to learn – its HARD to beat up your characters, even if it’s for their own good or the good of the story.

But boy, does it make for one heck of a ride.

Beat 'em til their bloody

I love to read. That probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to most folks as they assume all writers like reading, but books have always been an important part of my life. Christmas and birthday gifts were almost always books I wanted or gift cards to bookstores, which were always used immediately to restock my TBR pile. My favorite place (and my parents’ – free books for a voracious reader!) was the library, both public and at school. I read any and everything I could get my hands on; my nose was constantly in a book. Adulthood has lessened that to a large extent, sadly enough, but I do have brief bouts of manic reading.

What does this have to do with my subject line? Well, I learned early on that I most enjoyed reading about suffering characters. The more dire the situation, the more I relished the read. Cliffhangers were awesome, provided the next book was immediately available, but I’d eagerly await the next part to see how it all turned out. I didn’t like stories with unhappy endings (still refuse to read or warch “The Road”) but I enjoyed watching characters grow even as they suffered.

Where am I going with this? Well, for the last week I’ve been on a reading frenzy (and yes, my writing has suffered to my dismay) of a scifi YA “Molly Fyde” series by Hugh Howey. It has everything a girl could want: action, adventure, kick-ass heroine, angst, love, betrayal, genocide, politicking…

*looks back at that list* Okay, so this girl doesn’t want everything on that list, but it makes a compelling read. I love smart series like this, the kind that give characters impossible situations and, when they choose, they have to live with the ramifications of their actions. When they make a mistake and it comes back to haunt them. Reading books like this make me realize how much I as a writer still have to learn – its HARD to beat up your characters, even if it’s for their own good or the good of the story.

But boy, does it make for one heck of a ride.