I'm swamped with family things, getting ready for a huge yard sale to clear out the clutter, and I've got several writing projects that I want to get done this summer, so this post is going to be short and sweet- (not to mention that I've temporarily run out of ideas for posts.. something will come to mind by next week when everything calms down).
A lot of writers are asked how they write their novels; are they plotters, where they outline the entire story first, or are they pansters, where they sit down and just write, letting the characters and action dictate the story? Do they have a schedule or write all day? Do they complete all their research first, or only the basics before they write? Do they know the ending before they begin?
The easy answers: I always know the beginning and the end, but not all the middle stuff. I write in between yoga/swimming in the morning, and afternoon around housework. I rarely write at night because by then, I'm done mentally.
Now the hard part: All writers have their own unique routine (or lack thereof). Here's how I wrote Sirenz 3: A New Trend:
First, there were several things that had to be addressed:
1- I resolved to write the third book, even though it was going to be a solo effort.
2- Certain things had to change; since I was writing solo, I did not feel comfortable writing the character Meg that my former co-author created. So Meg had to be cut out.
3- Of course Hades had to figure prominently in the story, but there had to be a twist on the too-suave, all-powerful, intensely-smug Greek god.
4- I wanted to keep the alternating viewpoints.
5- It had to flow from the first two books, but be able to (mostly) stand alone.
6- I might have to self-pub because the first two didn't make the NYT bestseller list.
Second, I had to determine what were the basic plot points:
1- There has to be trouble brewing among the Greek pantheon and Sharisse has to be caught up in the middle.
2- Persephone is the prominent antagonist.
3- Hades is going to need a favor from Sharisse- the tables are turned on who works for whom...
4- Let's humble Hades- take away everything that makes him who he is...
5- Sharisse and Hades come to a romantic understanding.
After listing these plot points, I was really excited to start writing. In order to produce a fast draft, I did a rough outline, one or two sentences per chapter. When I hit a snag, not knowing which direction to go in, I did a little more research into the Greek pantheon, NYC landmarks, Persephone's background- and I'd always find a little fact gem to spark ideas on how to proceed. Sometimes, it mean backtracking to add additional chapters between the beginning and where I was.
After the rough draft, I had some people look at it and offer basic criticisms on plot, pacing, and characterization. Several more revision run throughs and off it went to my agent. Now I hold my breath to see if an editor will love the chemistry between Hades and Sharisse. I don't know how anyone could resist him... Right, Sharisse?
Time to take an opposite viewpoint to stir some trouble. (Relax, no politics.)
Author Barbara Delinsky wrote a piece called 5 Rules of Writing. I have to disagree with her on one point:
Create Likable Characters
Here's her advice (paraphrased): Create likable characters. The reader has to care to move on. You need a sympathetic character in an untenable position to hook the reader. I've had editors and agents say this to me, and so if people in the business are saying it, it's probably true? Sure, if you want to follow the crowd. There is a perk for stepping out of the box, away from the herd. To that advice, I say au contraire...
Honestly, I'm tired of all the 'nice' characters. I know a lot of nice people. I like to think I'm a nice person. Maybe that's why I'm drawn to bad boys/girls. It's easy to love the hero, but few love the villain/unlikable character who is a necessary part of the story and without them, we'd be bored. So I say let's salute the 'unlikable' character.
Did people like Snape before we found out his secret? No. We loved to hate him, comparing him to some of our teachers.... Other characters- Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. While she's not a villain, to me she's unlikable because she's hard and cold. But then you learn her story... What about Dracula? He's killing people and in some versions of this story, there is no redemption. Raise your hand if you'd like to have a chat with Hannibal Lector - (no hands up). Let's go classic; does anyone really like Miss Haversham in Great Expectations? She wastes her life, pining for some jerk who stood her up on her wedding day. There is no liking Charles Manson, unless you're as weird as him. And Frankenstein? I don't think anyone has shown him the love.
How vanilla if we didn't have these characters! But one thing that we forget is that even unlikable people have their story, and unlike Snape or Lisbeth, not all of them have redeeming qualities. There is nothing noble about Manson, or Lector (okay, he didn't eat Clarice, but it's only because he's enjoying a game of cat and mouse, not because he's a gentleman). How about Mean Girls (2004 movie)? How could anyone like the characters played by Lacey Chabert and posse? And what about Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Yeah, he changed later on, but initially we loathed him. And what about Darth Vader? That menacing breathing, that black cloak... He was way more interesting than a young 'nice' Anakin.
Unlikable characters fascinate us. They add spice. They have stories from a different perspective. So I'm not going to make all or even important characters 'nice' because I want to see things from the other side. I love stories where you have an unlikable character who draws you in and fascinates you before you learn the how/why he is like he is. And sometimes you don't learn why they are like they are- like Stephen King's evil clown Pennywise in It or Alien. How about Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction? You never want to run across them, but yet... you secretly are drawn to them.
Photo courtesy of Vijay Putra, Pexels, Inc.
Embrace the darker side, the unlikable person. They will enthrall you...
When I visited my son in California, I ordered takeout from the local restaurant. ALL the utensils, EVEN THE BAG THEY CAME IN, WERE BIODEGRADABLE. It's called PotatoWare.
I LOVE that it says, "We're the solution, not the pollution." There is NO REASON every restaurant can't use these. (Please make this happen, all you food industry big wigs....). Check out http://www.earth-to-go.com/. Let's STOP using plastic and thinking it's the only way.
I'm big into conservation and recycling and saving the planet- and everyone doing SOMETHING. I believe in it so much, it's been a sub-theme in my books- both the Sirenz series and the Evolution Revolution trilogy. I'm trying to use recyclable bags and avoid using plastic ones, I don't use straws, I support causes like 4Ocean. When you buy a 4Ocean bracelet, not only are you supporting an organization that HIRES local people, but they clean the ocean AND the plastic is recycled- into the bracelets! Each bracelet represents 1 pound of trash cleaned from the oceans and shores. It's a win-win-win situation.
And the bracelets look cool. They come in a variety of colors depending on what 4Ocean is highlighting- the ocean, its creatures, etc. Check them out at https://4ocean.com/.
It's organizations like these, and the people behind them, that give me hope we can stop the destruction to our earth. Now go buy a bracelet, volunteer to clean up trash, and spread the news!
I type a lot. No, A LOT. Like millions of keystrokes a year. As an author, I spend hours writing and revising on my laptop. After a year, this is what it looks like:
As you can see, some keys I've completely worn off the letters, and some the textured surface. It's cool because no one can use my laptop because the missing keys frustrates them (especially the hubs because he was never taught the proper way to type; he uses the hunt and peck system and well, good luck hunting on this keyboard. Normally, not a problem, unless I have a problem with my laptop and he's trying to fix it.).
I usually replace the keyboard because I get a 3 year warranty. But this laptop passed the three year mark and no more warranty. If I pay Geek Squad, not only will it cost a bundle, but my laptop will be out of commission for probably 3-4 WEEKS. I can't live like that. So, the youngest son had an idea....
Why not simply paint on new letters? So he bought me these. They are permanent silver markers. Brilliant! So that is what I did.
Hey, it looks pretty good! I'm not anal-retentive enough to be bothered that some keys looks different. It works and in 2, 3 years, I'll get another laptop because this one will be totally exhausted and begging for the sweet release of death.
After using it for less than half an hour, this is what happened....
The keys got all smudgy-smeary and started to wear off even though I let the marker dry for over an hour (they are supposed to dry instantly).
And my fingertips are silver. A friend suggested stickers, but they wouldn't last and I'd have sticky keys. Back to square one where the eldest son is checking for a new keyboard and will put it in (he's good at stuff like this, when he has free time to do it.).
I'm skipping a writing post this week in favor of something that I feel is too important NOT to post. At my church (no religion, I promise), in the bulletin was a sheet:
It's #NationalMentalHealthAwarenessMonth. Our pastor asked us to take out our phones (a first!) and take a picture of the list. Now everyone has these vital numbers for emergencies- for family, for friends, for a stranger.
Put together a list for your area. Click a pic. Now you're part of the growing awareness and helping to de-stigmatize mental illness. From middle school to old school, everyone should have this on their phones.