(c) istockphoto.com, marekuliasz 2012
I learn something new with each story I write. Both about me and the craft of writing fiction. As I’ve shared before, my current novel has been through a rocky schedule in terms of the actual writing, but it has had some of the biggest lessons for me when it comes to the “how” of writing.
Here’s what I’ve learned or had reinforced into my writer’s brain this past week:
- It’s amazing how many bits of dialogue or even entire scenes I thought were important that never make it in the final manuscript. They are the moments that seemed to be at the core of the story and its meaning when I was writing the outline, yet once I’m into the story on a deeper level, those “darlings” just seem to lose their punch. But they were important for the journey. They helped me get to where I wanted the story to go. Writing is a process.
- I can’t be afraid of moving a scene to a completely new setting. Sometimes I’m telling the right interactions and dialogue in the wrong place. The scene can take on a new intensity in the “right” location. Setting can influence the entire tone of a story. If two characters fall in love while moving from public place to public place, that story will have a very different feel than a story about two characters falling in love while staying at one of their homes, just the two of them for days on end.
- When I’m stuck on a character’s emotional reactions, I should always go back to the basics. What are the character’s goals, wants, needs? And how are those driving his actions and his responses? I can’t be afraid to make the story primal. Humans are complex creatures, but we are also driven by simple, personal motivations.
- I have to be “feeling” a scene to revise it. Sure, the writing hasn’t been polished yet, some of the sensory details are missing, and I have yet to write parts of the emotional responses and dialogue, but if I’m not interested in the core of what is going on in the scene, who the hell else will be? I give the scene two chances to pull me in. Maybe I was in a bad mood the first read through or maybe my mind was on something else. If I’m still not feeling it on the second read through, it’s back to the drawing board. Every scene, every interaction doesn’t just need a purpose, it doesn’t just need to move the story forward, it needs to grab the reader and hold on. The least it needs to do is get me excited to revise it.
And yet again, I think I’ve proven how crazy my writing process is, but I’m more than okay with that. It works for me.
Another thing I’ve learned in the past couple of years is to appreciate every moment I’m writing and to embrace the story I’m working on. Each of my novels has been quite different from the others. Over thinking the process and the act of writing, or doing any sort of comparison between works, is counterproductive. Enjoying the journey of storytelling and the characters I’m creating is a big part of what makes writing such a joy.
I try to start every writing session with that in mind.
It’s all about the story.
I blogged at my RWA group blog today about naming characters. Would love for you to stop by and see what my crazy writer brain is up to now.
Name? What do you mean Naked Guy needs a name?
(c) istockphoto.com, palantir 2006
Here’s what I’ve learned writing TAKE ME HOME (tentatively due out December 2011):
- Characters do not always listen to my outline.
- The book isn’t done until it’s done. I added some really great stuff in the last week.
- Reading a manuscript while walking around the house is dangerous. For my cats. Sorry, little dudes!
- In order to really put myself into a scene it’s possible to simulate being freezing cold in a blizzard during 100 degree days using just the power of my mind. And a fan.
- Writing a scene set during any other time than the past decade requires a lot of research. Even when it’s a simple journal entry from 1953.
- In the process of editing I read faster during the action scenes and forget to actually edit. “Uh, this is YOUR book, Sloan. Pay attention.”
- Making my poor characters wait to get off is kinda fun. It makes the sex scene more explosive to write.
- I should not have two books “in process” with characters names that start with the same initial. In this case…Kyle and Kevin. I had to tell Kevin to get back to his own damn book way too many times. “Dude, get off Evan and go find Walter!”
- I really love the male body and can describe a blowjob for way too many paragraphs (okay, pages) than necessary. More than anyone would want to stick around to read.And the last thing I learned writing my latest m/m romance:
- It’s helpful to take a character’s clothes off BEFORE attempting anal sex.
Check out the new book I just got: The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby
No, I’m not having a baby. I just get wickedly excited when I find a writing resource that’s a gem (at least for me).
Lately when it comes time to give my secondary characters their names, I’ve been drawing a blank, selecting the same ones over and over or not finding something that fits the character. For my current works in progress I had two secondary characters whom I affectionately called “Editor Friend” and “Prof Guy” for far too long. For a while I was afraid I’d get so dang used to “Editor Friend” and “Prof Guy” that I’d send it off to my editor like that. It was nice to finally pull out my baby name resources and search for actual names for these guys.
Lists that are organized or searchable in specific ways (by first letter, sounds like, meaning, popularity per year, etc.) are the most helpful. So far The Baby Name Wizard is the best naming book I’ve used, along with these websites:
Baby Names Finder
Baby Names World
Popular Baby Names
And for last names I almost always end up using a printed phone book.
For any writers who are interested, these links have also been added to my website on the Resources for Writers page.
I’m off to work on revisions for my next installment of More Than Just a Good Book. Hope you all have a great week!