How It Starts

I sent the first 14,000 words to Lani and Krissie, and Lani got back to me with damn near superhuman speed. And her conclusion was (my words, not hers), it’s not baked yet.

Okay, we all knew that, but I needed to hear it. I know I knew it because I kept saying that I was in love with the sound of my own voice, but as Lani pointed out, the problem is that I still haven’t found who Nita and Nick are. I know what they want, but it’s not on the page and worse, they’re not on the page. Everything I’ve written is set-up, but I’m not writing story yet. I’m following my nose as I reveal the world of the story to myself.

This is a good thing. This is a necessary thing in the process of writing story. I don’t know what my story is until I see what I’ve written. The transition of the story in my head to the story on paper–especially actually printing the draft out so I can see it for real–is a huge transformation. It’s never going to be as great on the page as it was in my head, but the page is what’s real.

I think at the bottom of all this is the question: What is my relationship to this story? Am I just fooling around with it to keep from real work, or is this a story that deserves commitment? If it’s the Real Thing, I need to stop playing fast and loose with it, even in the first draft, and treat it seriously as a WiP. That’s harder because the whole thing started by goofing around because I was annoyed by a TV show. It was play, and then I got caught up in it.

So looking at this now, the question is, “Is this real?” Is this something I’m going to invest in, hunker down for months in, even though it’s a supernatural story which generally isn’t my strongest genre? Because if not, the time for playing around is over and I need to get back to work.

I’m trying to think of why I started the other stories I’ve written. Maybe This Time started because I’d wanted to do my own version of Turn of the Screw since my first grad degree in the 80s; that nameless heroine bugged the hell out of me. That was a terrible reason to pick a story, but once I found Alice, I had a real story.

I can’t remember why Bob and I decided to Wild Ride.

Agnes and the Hitman I remember vividly. It was our second book, and we each picked a character we wanted to write. He wanted to do a hitman, and I wanted to do a food writer because my cousin, Russ Parsons, is one of the best and most successful food writers in the world (easy research, also I’d get to talk to Rusty). That worked really well because they were so different, so the idea came with its own built in crunch.

Don’t Look Down was the same process: He wanted to write a Green Beret and I wanted to do somebody involved in movies since Mollie was working on movie sets at the time. The crunch there didn’t work quite as well, but that was our first book and we were still getting the hang of it.

Before that was Bet Me, which was a STUPID premise in a book I’d finished in the early nineties that Jen bought with my promise that I’d rewrite. A fast polish morphed into a year-long rewrite that became a completely different book based on fairy tales.

I could go on, but the takeaway I’m getting from this is that it doesn’t really matter where the story comes from because it becomes its own thing as I write it. No matter what my intentions are–Welcome to Temptation was supposed to be about sexual freedom for women and became about mothering instead, go figure–the Girls in the Basement are hard at work in the background, ignoring what I thinking I’m writing and sending up what I need to write.

And I think I might need to write this book. The fact that it’s fun is secondary–they’re ALWAYS fun in the beginning–but the fact that I like the world and I love the supporting cast and I understand how the supernatural works, and that the biggest problem is that I don’t know my heroine, hero, or story yet, all of that is classic first draft status stuff.

One of the most illuminating things Lani wrote was this: “You can afford to move slower, to have Nita investigate the reality of her world as well as Vinnie’s murder. Have her in search of the truth, rather than just passively receiving it.” I thought the problem was that I was moving too slow, that I need to cut four thousand words from the set-up, but I think she’s right, that I’m moving too fast, that I want to get to the partnership without putting the legs under it. That maybe what this 14,000 words needs is not four thousand less, but fifteen thousand more, so that the end of the chunk that I have now becomes the end of the first act.

I still think it starts with the first scene I have. But I really need to look at this first chunk and at Nick and Nita. I know what they want, but the reader doesn’t. That’s a big, big problem. I know that Nick is literally dead, not breathing, deceased, past his sell-by date, defunct, and I know that Nita is spiritually dead, and that they’re going to bring each other back to life, but none of that is on the page. It’s the reason the second scene is so awful. I knew it was awful, I just couldn’t see why. I know how to fix this.

The big question is, am I going to stop flirting and commit or am I going back to my steady, decades long involvement with You Again? Because this is the part where it stops being fun and becomes real work.

So today, while I haul all the stuff I dumped in the office from the bedroom so I can take that progress picture, I’m going to be cogitating. It would be smarter to go back to You Again, but I’m starting to think that spring might be a great time to write about a woman rising from psychic death and bringing a dead guy with her.

So here’s a question: So much of this stage is waffling around, making a decision and then reversing it. I’m not sure that’s much fun on the blog. There are other things to write about, definitely finishing the office which is going to take me the rest of spring and probably the rest of summer because I’m slow. There’s the Character chapter of Writing/Romance I haven’t started yet. There are TV shows I want to write about, Agent Carter and The Abominable Bride and Limitless and Grimm and Person of Interest which is definitely ending this spring so now is the time to write about it. I’m not sure how valuable posts that keep saying, “No, that’s not it, nope, not ready yet” are, and I’m sure they must be frustrating. So what do you think? We have such a great small community here that I’m good with whatever what you want; we’ve been together a long time and I have faith you’ll be honest if this stuff is boring and annoying. Believe me I can take criticism; I’ve been a published writer for over twenty years, I’m damn near bullet-proof.

And now I must go get the bedroom stuff out of the office because I’m two weeks behind on that progress picture.

127 thoughts on “How It Starts

  1. Noooo! Don’t stop! I love listening to you think about your story and I love watching your story grow.

    That said, I will read and enjoy anything you write. But I still vote for keeping on telling us about Nick and Nita. I learn so much from watching your writing process, not to mention, it makes me feel like less of an idiot for spending so much time thinking about and rewriting my own.

  2. LOL, you can absolutely take criticism. What you can’t take is a compliment. I also told you the worldbuilding was fantastic, and I loved Button. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Honestly, I don’t care what you do as long as I get another Crusie out of it. If this book is calling to you, there might be a reason.

    What I see is this; you have been really resisting doing traditional Crusie. Mostly, I think, because you’ve done that. This is new Crusie, like the Monday Street stuff, and I think there’s tons of potential there, but part of you is pulling back into the traditional space. Maybe you feel like that’s what people want, maybe you know that Welcome Back to Temptation or Bet Me Again would be a safe and expected path. You Again kind of falls into this category; you’ve worked on it and worked on it and don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome, but you had to add ghosts to make it more New Crusie, and I’m not sure that’s enough. I think you need New World Crusie, and that puts us in Nick & Nita/Monday Street territory.

    Whatever; you’ll figure it out. But I feel like there’s what you want to do and maybe what you think you should do? If that’s the case, go with what you want. It’ll be amazing.

    1. See? THIS is a good critique partner. And therapist.
      She said many wonderful things, too, I didn’t mean to cast her as Debbie Downer.

      As for New Crusie, the stuff scares the hell out of me, it’s so far out of my comfort zone.

      Yes, I know what that means.

      1. Sweetheart, it’s so good. And it’s where your heart is. I will forever mourn You Again because I freaking LOVE it, but this new stuff is your evolution. It’s what’s calling to you, and I think Jen will love it. I sympathize with the cold terror, trust me, but you can absolutely do this, and it’ll be amazing.

        1. And you can always come back to You Again after you do this. We want and love the old stuff, for sure…but this…it does seem to be calling you. And anything you put your mind to will be amazing.

          1. I’m afraid she won’t be able to go back if she moves on from it. Perhaps, it is already too late and the only thing to do is move into the next genre. It will still be a Cruise, because Jenny wrote it.

  3. I vote for keep going. I especially like stories about the development of a character so this sounds (in potential) wonderful.

  4. I love Lani. Every time she reads something, she pulls no punches and she’s dead on. You can trust her. Even if she’s being scary talking about New Crusie. Bottom line, any Crusie is something we’ll all buy.

    So write what you want.

  5. “Do one thing that scares you every day” Eleanor Roosevelt

    Delurkng here to share one of my favorite quotes. I think that mentality is what makes us spring out of our ruts and challenges us to take the leap into the mystic.

    Also, the Girls in the Basement should always be trusted.

  6. As someone teetering on the brink of a new medium (I’m adding paint. It is freaking me right the hell out) I am all for reading about other people navigating new territory. Of course I read here because you always say something interesting, and frequently something funny, and reading your stuff makes me happy.

    Carry on.

    1. Ditto. I’m ripping up kitchen floor tile which is definitely new territory for me. Scary too because I’m having 100-150 people over to the house May 1st and I have to have the new kitchen floor down before then.

  7. So basically, you’re all enablers (g).

    Thank you very much. I’m so lucky to be part of this group.

  8. Honestly? This is great stuff. I admire your cleaning posts, but since there is no way in hell I am ever going to be organized, there’s a limit to how much I take away from them. The writing posts are my favorite, whether it’s the craft stuff, or the emotional searching do-I-jump-off-this-particular-cliff-or-not stuff.

    Plus, I’m feeling my way around the third draft of my WIP, and it’s comforting and enlightening to watch how you handle various writing struggles.

    But yeah, I’ll read whatever you write, both for blogs and books.

    If this helps with the decision making at all, I’ve been reading your blog for years and I don’t actually have a clear idea of what You Again is about, but I feel like I could already summarize Nick and Nita’s story. That might just be what you happened to have shared here, but maybe it means your subconscious blogging brain has got a firmer handle on Nick and Nita’s story? Or not. Either way, thanks for sharing the process with us.

    1. I’ve been looking through the WiPs and had the thought that I should just put up the openings to all of them on the website and put the links here on a limited time basis. You all have been going through all of this with me without any idea of what I’m actually working on. They’d have to be limited time links, but at least all that work wouldn’t be wasted.

      I thought at first you’d said you didn’t have any idea of what Argh Ink was about, and I was going to say that I don’t, either. It’s not like this blog has a focus.

  9. I’m new to the community and read a lot more than I post, but I wanted to say that I find these posts about your process and plotting completely fascinating. It’s made me realize that when I studied literature as an undergrad and grad student, we never discussed structure or plot. I have a difficult time explaining why one book’s pacing feels off and another book’s feels right. These posts have clarified a lot of that for me, so I thank you for it.

    Also, I would absolutely love to read a finished Nick and Nita book based on what you’ve written so far.

    1. When I did the general exams for my PhD, I’d become a novelist between then and the time I’d been in class. And one of professors told me that my criticism had changed a lot between the time I was a scholar but not a fiction writer, and then when I was primarily a fiction writer and then a scholar. He thought it was interesting that my focus had shifted and he was definitely in favor of it, but it was the first time I’d thought about it. Moving from being a reader studying writing to being a writer studying writing was huge.

  10. I’m currently obsessed with Person of Interest — obsessed! — which is all your fault for posting that clip of Bear a while back — but while I’m all in favor of you writing about that, I enjoy the writing posts, too. It’s your blog. Think out loud. I’ll keep reading.

    But… now that I’ve mentioned it… Person of Interest. Shaw & Root. I find their relationship so appealing, that it makes me question my own complacent heterosexuality. But if either character was male or if both were male, I don’t think that relationship would work for me at all. I think it would feel creepy and uncomfortable and imbalanced. Instead, it’s surprising and funny and hot. But there is something about the sociopath finding the hired killer (or vice versa) — the way they both click and conflict — that fascinates me. And while I suspect you’re probably more interested in writing about community in PoI, which is certainly another aspect to the show that I like, I’d love to read what you have to say about relationships in it. (If Then Else — watched three times. I never re-watch television!)

    1. “If Then Else” may be the best hour of TV ever produced. It’s like “The Rashomen Job” in that you have to know the story world and have been with the characters to really appreciate what GENIUS that is and to experience that roller coaster of emotions–I’ve never watched anything that legitmately played with my emotional investments in characters like that–and the ending is such a gut punch that the whole thing is just perfect storytelling. But you really have to have been watching all along to even understand what’s going on.

      I think I’m going to do a PoI series. I think the first four seasons are on Netflix now. God, I love that series. It reinvents itself every season while keeping the same amazing core community. Maybe I’ll take a break from all this angst and start from the beginning again, do it the way we did Leverage.

      As for Shoot (Shaw and Root), that’s one of the best relationships on TV. They’re both so nuts, and Shaw absolutely wants nothing to do with Root, and yet when you start from the beginning, that attraction has been there from the moment that Root tied Shaw to the chair and plugged in the hot iron to torture her, and Shaw said, “I kind of enjoy this,” and Root said with such delight, “I do, too!” And the dozens of throwaway lines between that and “If Then Else.” It’s marvelous. One of my absolute favorite moments from the show is that shot of Root and Shaw drinking umbrella drinks in some island country with the bodies of thugs strewed around them. Or Shaw saying, “That’s kind of hot” as Root blasts away at the Russians in “The Devil’s Share” which is right up there in the running for best hour of TV ever.

      Yeah, we have to do a PoI marathon. And the good news in the bad news is that they know it’s endings, so it’ll have a real end, even though I have a feeling it’s going to be tragic. And wonderful.

      1. I think it’s going to be tragic, too. Alas! When the network execs know what’s coming and cancel the show, it’s likely to be a dark ride. But I’m glad we at least get to see it. And I’ve convinced two people to watch the whole entire series so that I can talk to them about If Then Else because it is just so amazing. The moment at about the forty minute mark where the numbers start rising (deliberately vague, I would hate to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t watched)… it’s a roller-coaster. But you need to have seen all the previous episodes to have the investment to understand the ride. As for favorite moments, I love when Root throws Shaw a granola bar and Shaw says “Don’t make me look bad.” Root replies, “Nothing could make you look bad, sweetie” (or something similar) and Shaw’s look is such perfect perplexed disgust. She portrays “you’re flirting with me and I have NO idea what to do about that” so beautifully. I’ve seen that one three times, too.

        1. Oh, when the numbers start rising, I lost my breath. And it was just numbers changing on a TV screen, but what it MEANT . . .

          1. That moment was fantastic. And then a minute later I almost cried. I recently convinced friend to watch the show on Netflix and she was texting me about it every day. Now we’re both angry at CBS for taking it away and impatient for May.

            A series of PoI posts would be extremely welcome. As would any of your thoughts on Grimm; maybe that would help me sort out my thoughts on it. But if you want to think out loud (or in writing, I guess), about Nick and Nita, I’d love to read that, too.

          2. Definitely Grimm, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be renewed, so there’s a lot of time for that. Also Limitless. And Agent Carter. And the Sherlock/Abominable Bride. I’ve been so obsessive about things lately that I haven’t given my brain a break with TV, so all of that would be good.

          3. Oooh, Agent Carter. Unfortunately I’m still like 6 episodes behind because I work on Tuesday nights. But Peggy Carter is my hero; that show is excellent. I’m kind of worried about its renewal chances. Must go check that at TVLine.

  11. Hi Jenny – Iโ€™m new to this community and to your books.

    Iโ€™ve read a lot of writing blogs, but seeing this naked thinking-out-loud about your Nick and Nita story is a wholly unique experience. And a real gift. I hope you continue.

    With your example, Iโ€™m now asking myself tougher questions about my own wonky scenes. Instead of dithering, Iโ€™m getting to the heart of the matter quicker.

    PS โ€“ As a new reader, all the new Crusie v. old Crusie bits are lost on me. New or old, the story that’s taking shape here is yummy (he’s dead dead and she’s spiritually dead and they’re going to bring each other back to life = awesome).

  12. I’m all for enabling you. Basically to write anything. This one has you right now and I say to trust it and go with it. (Though maybe with some of the “retirement” awareness you talked about last week?)

    Glad you’re feeling better!

    1. Any Crusie novel. Any blog topic. Do exactly what you want. If that makes us enablers, well, so be it.

      1. Count me as an enabler. If this new story needs to go back in the oven, or basement, do it. Move out of the comfort box. After that , please, write You Again.

  13. I enjoy reading about your writing process. However, if you feel that you don’t have enough material for a writing process blog post for that particular week, then write about something else. We’ll read it no matter what! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I’d love you to go on writing about your process – as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your involvement with it.

    Lani sounds an amazing beta reader.

  15. I am with everyone above, write what you want.
    I don’t care what you write as long as I get to read it – blogs about the weather, rough drafts of things you are never going to finish, reports that you haven’t done anything – all good.

    My only request, and I am serious here, is that if you ever really give up on any of these books, you let us get our hands (well eyes really) on the goodies before you ditch them. I don’t care if you never wrote the end, (middle, coherent sentences, et. al.). You don’t have to publish them, we could have a club. I’ll be president, collect the membership dues and get Molly to smuggle them into your bank account without your knowledge. It would be fabulous.

    1. I’m seriously considering this. I wrote this in a comment above, but I’ve spent the afternoon looking through the beginning rough of Monday Street, the one I’m writing with Toni if we ever get back to it (her life is as nuts as mine is right now), and I have my stuff for it, and I really like it. And I have the beginnings of the Zo stories, and a mass of You Again stuff.

      I could put up one every week on a 24 hour or 48 basis. Maybe put it up on Friday night, take it down Sunday night. That way my roughs wouldn’t be out there permanently, but the Argh people could read them, since you’ve all been suffering along hearing about them.

      Actually, I thought about putting up the 14K I already have of Nita’s book. You all already know that’s it’s a rough–I’m posting Lani’s critique e-mails tomorrow with her permission–so I could put up the rough that really is a rough on the website and put a link here, and those of you who wanted to read it could see where the story is–it’s bad–and then when I talk about it here, it won’t be so confusing.

      You’d have to keep it here, though. No telling other people who haven’t been suffering through this process with us because newbies won’t understand that it’s discovery draft and they’ll think I suck as a writer. I’m okay with that if people think that after they read the published books, but not the rough drafts.

      1. I am reading Toni’s Saint of the Lost and Found . If you are working with her , please, get back to it.

        1. She’s very busy right now, but we’re still partners on the Monday Street books. I just think it’s two books now.One book would be 100k, and I’ve 40K of my own and I’m only at the halfway point. So . . .

  16. Please write the story! Please write the story! Please – would you write the story??? A Crusie is a Crusie is a Crusie. Cracking dialogue, fully fleshed out characters, heaps of fun and yet emotional punch – an all round rollicking ride. These characters and premise sound so interesting. I am selfish I know but may I say it again? Please write the story!

  17. Sharing process = good. Keep it coming.

    The fact that this new book got your writing juices flowing is fab. Whichever book you choose to write first, you’ve already won.

    Like too the spring/renewal angle. Good points:)

  18. (*raises timid enabling hand*) You haven’t given us Nick, and yet I *want* with all the write-around. That’s how strong a writer you are for me.

    I love New Orleans, the real city, the one in my head, the place with all the old roses and Ramos gin fizzes and Tujaques and rain. However, since reading what you’ve given us of Monday Street, that book has morphed into my New Orleans. See what you’ve done with your writing, you.

    Would love the weekend Draft Posts. Also appreciate the seasonal tie-in to rebirth you’re doing with this island book. Thank you for allowing me (us) to ride along on the process.

  19. I will read whatever you write. It’s all been good so far.
    I have found these posts very interesting and I am beginning to think that books are like sausages. The end product is wonderful but their creation is not for the weak of heart or stomach.

  20. Since you asked, I’ll be honest–I skip most of the posts about TV shows. Most of them are shows I don’t watch, and even if they are, I guess I just don’t care about dissecting them. I love the pictures of your house and your dogs, and I can listen to you talk about writing until the cows come home, give birth to other cows, and THEY come home.

    Also, I think you have to write this book. Why? Because I’ve been coming here for a long time, and I can’t remember the last time you were this excited about writing anything. I’m pretty sure that’s what they call a clue.

    I’d love to read your bits and pieces. How about putting up an ongoing poll and we can vote for the ones we like best? And then you can write this one anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I think you might like Person of Interest. You’d definitely like Root and Shaw, tough, smart women who take no prisoners unless the situation demands it, and then the prisoners wish they hadn’t.

    2. As you always say, Jenny, listen to the Girls in the Basement. Don’t get in their way. If it were someone else having this dilemma, what would you say to her?

      I’m with Deb–I don’t spend a lot of time on your TV posts, because I haven’t watched those series (except Agent Carter and Sherlock), and I don’t have time to go back and catch up on them. (I’m all for a discussion of the Abominable Bride–and then you should add twins to your story.) But your writing and organization and house and dog posts, oh yeah.

  21. I’ll decloak a bit to say that, like everyone else, I’ll read whatever you post or publish. But the path defined by Monday Street and Nick & Nita is the one that seems to be calling you, frightening or not. I’m facing a similar transition and find it reassuring to see somebody I admire so much navigating it (and discussing it).

    Long time ago, about the time You Again was released, you wrote a very heartfelt post about authors evolving and reader resistance blocking that evolution. You talked about reactions to Wild Ride, among others. It’s seemed to me since then that you’ve known/felt that you needed the new path but weren’t “allowed” to take it. Please, take it!

    As much as I love your existing ouvre, I *want* to see the emergence of New Crusie.

    Oh, and I’d love to read whatever bits of the exisiting in progress stuff you want to post, too.

  22. You waited a long time for the voices to come back. And then you were bopping along, getting solid work done on You Again and then bam! you watch a couple of badly written episodes of Lucifer and you turn into Whoopee Goldberg in Ghost.

    You’re the only one who can decide what you need to work on, but I don’t see how you’re going to get anything done with all of the Upper Peninsula and half of Hell yammering at you.

    1. Kind of Mackinac/Nantucket/Island of My Own Creation more than Michigan. It gets COLD in Michigan.
      Of course it gets cold anywhere in the Great Lakes. And on Nantucket. They’ll just have to dress warmly.

      In other news we have snow headed our way and I was so sure it was spring. But after that, THEN it will be spring.

      1. Here, too. Everyone keeps saying, “It’s so weird for it to be getting cold again.” No, it’s not. It’s MARCH, for heaven’s sake. It was weird for it be 75 degrees. THIS is normal. Now to go dig out every old bedsheet I own to keep my early spring flowers from freezing because the silly things came up too soon….

        1. I thought I was the only one who covered plants with old sheets. One of my neighbors said that every time we have a late cold spell, property values on our street drop by $25 K after I spread my sheets over half my yard. I have some really strangelyed pattern sheets from the 70’s with polka dots and psychedelic daisys.

  23. I’m going to have to metaphor it here. Bear with me.

    My horse in the race has never been You Again. It’s just that you said you wanted to train it.

    This story doesn’t just feel like a foal, but like one that came from draft horse and will not be race ready. Even Lavender’s Blue and Monday Street sounded more like your style, adjusting for content.

    Straight up, I’m holding out for Haunting Alice and Stealing Nadine (I can totally hear our Durban July commentator calling those horse names).

    To me, those two would be the sire and dam for Nick and Nita, a link from previous Crusie to New Crusie.


    1. That was . . . very much a Sure Thing comment. I think you lost me on “draft horse,” but I appreciate the effort.

      1. Draft horse = wagon puller, knight carrier, Budweiser Beer horses. They race not, and neither do they win, but they used to be the equivalent of 18 wheelers.
        although here is a clip of racing Clydesdales:

        race horse = thin, fine, fast and slightly nutty, bred to run for its life on demand. They race mostly, and retire to other horse things we will not go into right now. Any Derby you’ve watched for the hats has these horses heavily involved.

        just, yanno, to clarify

        1. “They race not” Hahahahaha. If I ever feel I am not with my people I can come to Argh and fit.

  24. Just found this blog and wow. I bought Anyone but You when I was in a Romance writer wannabe group up here in Canada and brought it to the next session, saying “This is what I’d love to write like.” The group leader’s face fell as I think she cherished a belief that her (unpublished) writing was our ideal.
    Never did finish a romance but followed everything Jennifer Crusie ever wrote since. Along with a few others, including Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess, Crusie’s narrative voice is an addiction.
    I think you could write in any genre but I would miss it sorely if you left behind the humour and the strong wacky heroines.
    I send greetings from Canada ( also condolences in your times of travail down there in the States) and I mentally do the kneel and bow my arms forward several times in devout homage.

    1. Just looked at the Collage page. Zowie!
      I KNEW Mare was yours! Best sister. (Just re read the Miss Fortunes)
      Exciting about extra rooms in King Tut’s tomb, no?
      Ever thought about a Victorian Steampunk setting? (Have been reading me some Gail Carriger- fun tales but she is less of a wordsmith, by a country mile)
      You would also do a great diary-style narrative. Loose, flow-of-consciousness, full of profanity (heh heh)–ooh, I sound like that creepy little dog of Mina’s…

      1. Victorian Steampunk, nope. Turn of the century steampunk fantasy, yep, that’s Paradise Park and Monday Street.
        I really need to start putting up some of those drafts. They’re just sitting on my hard drive doing nothing.

      2. I recently read Gail Carriger’s Soulless. Very much a paranormal, steampunk version of Crocodile on the Sandbank, except the romance was primary & the mystery secondary. However, Blameless has a rotten ending that left me feeling betrayed by the author.

    2. Thank you for the condolences. We’re deeply ashamed, but I have confidence that we’ll be okay when the chips are down in November. Because otherwise, I’m moving in with you.

  25. If I ask the question do I want to hear the rest of Amanita and Nick’s story the answer is yes. As far as blog posts I am happy to join in whatever conversation you initiate.

  26. I love it. And I’m not the least bit bored. I love reading about how you’re cracking this nut, digging and digging to get at the meat. It’s illuminating for my own process. Which is just as messy sometimes.

  27. I have been reading this blog for years, and I don’t comment that often, but I had to add my vote for definitely yes more of the writing process posts. I loved reading Crazy People; I find the extra and behind the scenes sort of stuff fascinating. Same reason I love editing/critiquing for writers–I really enjoy watching a story be shaped and changed.

    And from a purely selfish note, as someone moving into a new way of writing/story structure (comics), these posts about the actual work of writing and constructing story are insanely valuable.

    1. Oh, COMICS. I keep talking with Alisa Kwitney about collaborating on a romance comic, but I need to get a novel done for SMP first. Actually a couple of novels. But absolutely, let’s talk about graphic novels. I love that form.

      1. And man, do they sell! My fourteen year old son talks me into buying one and then he has it done by the time the car pulls up at our house. Talk about argh.
        He and I are thinking of doing one. I am a bit of a cartoonist and he is an oh so cool gamer boy, so it might work. However he is a bit Manga inclined now, which is all Greek to me.
        All the graphics I have seen are either Manga-ish, classic novel adaptions, or porn-ish. I’m trying to picture a smart sassy chick-lit but failing. Women readers love all the visuals to take place inside their heads, I think. Although Min’s shoes would make fun visuals.

        1. I love this idea. I know there is a sort of visual cannon for graphic novels and coloring books, and I don’t mind them in some contexts, but I would also like to get away from apish body figures. I’d love to see a chick-lit graphic pulled off, just to shake up the visuals. Snobbery be damned.

          1. Maybe less cartoony, more arty watercoloury visuals? Or alternately, go very urban India Ink graphic style with lots of odd angles on scenes, from above, or low dog’s eye view; extreme close ups on raised eyebrow glares, linked fingers…
            There are possibilities for a good brainstorming session!

          2. Lisa mentions water-colory-y visuals — I’m a casual fan of Yoshitaka Amano. By which I mean, when I see his stuff, I go out of my mind, but I don’t actively look for it. I really should. He did some stuff for Neil Gaiman, some sort of fantasy adventure with Bowie and Iman, and that sounds like what you are looking for. He also did this totally charming children’s animation with a bunch of vegetables. His Chinese cabbage is so regal and matronly, yet drawn with magic and a certain coy frilliness.

            When you say “sassy” though, I see Mindy Klasky’s covers for her Jane Madison series. I think it’s done by Lee Jay Stura, according to the copyright page.

            I’m only allowed one link, and I think you’ll have a tough time finding a Cabbage Queen, so . . . . Does that even work? It’s a google image search with all his floaty, romantic pics . . . .

          1. Yah, those are really nice. Fun with fashion. Peep toes with cherries on the. Poodles on leashes encountering English Bulldogs illegally off leash in Central Park. Possibilities!

        2. Yes to all Lisa and Micki! Something new and entirely different. And Lisa, I know what you mean about working with other people. I’m much better and focus when it’s not for “me” but to show up to not disappoint others. (I think I need to work on this for part 2 of my life) ๐Ÿ˜‰

  28. After reading so much about the process with You Again, I would love that 48 hour link to the opening. The other in-progress books, too, but especially You Again. I’d love to read everything you have in progress right now, and I’ll take whatever you need to write. It really seems like Nick and Nita are going to keep talking to you until the story is done, so why not go for it? Personally, I fully expect to love New Crusie.

  29. Forgive me, but I’m going to be blunt: I want you to pick something and stick with it until it is done. I do not know you personally, but I’ve been reading your blog for awhile. It seems like you get excited about something for awhile, but once the freshness wears off a little, you stop writing or switch to something else. I’m incredibly selfish. I want a new book to read.

    Also selfishly, I want the stories of Nadine and Ethan sooner or later. Pretty please.

  30. I desperately want to know what happens to Nadine and Alice because I love them and I want to continue following their stories. And maybe find out what’s been happening to the other folks in their lives as a side note in the book. That being said I want you to write the book you’ll actually finish. Because I’ve reread on my cruise he’s at least five times each and I really would like to have something new. As for blog content I’m loving this insight into the writing process. end it helps me understand why it takes so long for you to write a new book. (Well anyone but right now I’m focusing on you) intellectually I know you don’t just sit down start from the beginning and write it all through. But by the time the book comes to us the world is so finished and complete and as it should be it’s hard to understand that it doesn’t just start out that way. I know it but I don’t understand it reading your post now I understand it and I like that. So basically, write on!

    1. As many of my friends have pointed out, I probably make the process too hard.
      But as I have pointed out, trying to make easier has not worked for me. Also, I’m a wonk, so tinkering under the hood is my idea of a good time.

  31. Count me in as one of the many here who love to read your thoughts on process. I think there’s a reason you keep coming back to this story that’s more than the “Shiny thing!” syndrome. I think you may need to go through the process of discovering this story and work through your hesitation to expand your fiction world with the supernatural.

    Did you ever watch the TV series “Saving Grace” with Holly Hunter? There’s a vibe about Nita in your excerpts that put me in mind of Grace. But that could just be the drinking. Nita’s, not mine ๐Ÿ˜‰ It might be worth a look, there are some parallels to what you’ve written so far.

    1. Actually, that’s a good reason NOT to watch. At this stage, everything bleeds into the story I’m working on, so I have to be careful not to watch anything or read anything similar.

  32. Write about the book. I love seeing your cogitations. I agree with Lani, though. Whatever gets us another Crusie is the way to go. I feel kind of sad for your other draft books though. I feel like I had begun to know and love the plot and Characters in Welcome to Temptation. If I got the name wrong, I apologize for my brain deadedness. Long week!!!
    Sitting at the New Economics for Women waiting for my first tax client of the day. Have to leave early cause I have an audition as an eccentric old lady.

  33. De-lurking to say: I’m with all of the enablers! All of the wips you’ve discussed here are books that I want to read. Genre isn’t nearly as important to me as the crackling goodness of the writing. Basically, everything you write crackles, so you do you, in whatever direction that takes you.

    And I’m also all for the TV posts. Once upon a time I was a Critical Studies major at USC Film School. (I think “Critical Studies” was their fancy term for “person who absorbs and must analyze everything.”) That didn’t work out but I still love to absorb & analyze. And more-so TV than film, because I love the follow-through of community and character development in a good TV show. Probably also why I love your books. And this place. Even though I mostly lurk. I don’t have much time for a good TV show these days, but, when I’m in the mood to binge, I have a running list from this blog that’s my go-to.


    1. A critical studies major from USC Film School is desperated needed here. My degrees are in art, lit, and writing, so I’m adjacent to, but not actually from a film background. So glad you’re here!

  34. Just finished Temptation for the third time and wondering if you really are a Dusty Springfield fan or if that was characterization. Also just picked up Dogs and Goddesses again and read first few pages and wondered if it is frustrating collaborating with writers who may have lower standards of woodcraft perfectionism, shall we say?
    Idle rumination so to go with an Australian Shiraz and black licorice pipes and goat cheese(I am Dutch. And obviously single).
    I also wonder what is in the possible two new rooms off King Tut’s tomb and wish Barbara/Elizabeth were still alive for the thrill. Would they have buried any treasure with Ahkenaten or was he too reviled? Surely they would have sent Nefertiti’s jewelry with her. Open the g-d doors already!
    Elvis Costello is better than Elvis Presley. Not as photogenic tho. Well, now he is, being alive and all.
    I should stop drinking now. ‘Shiraz sheet’ I will regret it tomorrow! Do you like Wodehouse? I cut my eye teeth on him — he was also quite the WordPsmith. I really would like to write, however am too lazy to plot. Perhaps I should turn out 40,000 words of flow of consciousness. Quel horreur, as we say up here ( actually nobody does, considered tres gauche)(particularly in Alberta)(the Texas of the North)(a hanging offence, actually)(well, no, but an apology is expected)and, yeas… I really liked Wild Ride, so if you would like to do another with supernatural undertones, I will be the last to stand in your way (not that I could, at the moment). Have I exceeded maximum word count? Oh dear. Good night, dear Americans and exceedingly talented and disciplined author.

    1. Definitely a Springfield and Wodehouse fan.
      Wrote Dogs and Goddesses with my two very talented best friends.

  35. Everything you write is helpful to me, I’m like a big kid, a sponge, and I soak it all up. I did like Lani’s advice and it seemed sound. I went right back into my WiP and checked for if I had jumped ahead with my characters too soon in having them work together to solve the mystery. It seemed so. Then I decided to add another chapter into the first act that allows them to get to know each other, and the reader to get to know them. It feels right, and I don’t think it slows the story pacing at all. I would have missed that if not for this discussion. ๐Ÿ™‚ So, thank you.

  36. I am pretty much entertained by whatever you post. I like hearing about whatever WIP you have going on, and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Just post, as long as it isn’t stressful. I know I don’t like to talk about what I’m writing when I’m stuck, well, with certain people. Sometimes, with others, it’s a big help. So post on the book when you want.
    I also like to see developments in the house, what you’re crocheting, etc.

    Ditto everything Lani said. Also I agree with Deborah Blake; I often skip or skim posts on television, because I haven’t watched the series and have no idea what’s going on. I liked the PopD format, because I was able to keep up with that better, at least in the beginning. Also, I liked voting on the movies. That was fun. If I know a POI schedule (loose one, mind you) I _might_ be able to play along at home, but really, I have 3 TV series going (almost 1/2 through Downton Abbey, thank you), which all fight for time with me Mom-ing, working, trying to build a freelance career, and trying to read more books. But that’s just me, so I’ll skim those as I can.
    Anyway, happy writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I finally gave up on network TV and went to Netflix. Then for the new series I want to try, there’s Hulu Plus. And for the series that I know I want, I buy the whole deal on Amazon and they e-mail me to let me know when a new episode is in. They tend to pile up, but then I get to binge watch when I finally have time. All of that is cheaper than paying for cable TV, so I’m happy, but then there are only a few series I buy–Person of Interest, Limitless, Grimm, Arrow, Flash, Galavant, Agent Carter. Netflix gives me Daredevil and Jessica Jones (still haven’t seen that).

      If Galavant gets renewed, we should do that in fall to get ready for a new season. We’d all be so happy. Except I think it’s going to get cancelled. Of course, I thought that last year, too.

  37. Argh. Do not post on blogs while drinking.
    Actually this is my first blog, but I picked a goodie. If I start a novel, can I be a member one day?
    Instead of going to bed like I really should have, I stayed up reading Dogs and Goddesses once again and retract any negativity about the other authors. There was only one line on page one that bugged me. But I looove Mina and her evil little Chihuahua, and Shar, and Abby’s fragrant cookie ingredients, and Daisy’s clicky pen and Grandma Bea’s colourful clothes and Vera’s three taps of her stir stick. God is in the details for sure. Goddess, I mean.
    Keep on writing cool characters!

    1. You’re already a member and lots of people on here aren’t writing novels, so no worries. We just hang out.

  38. Whee!
    Gotta say, it absolutely floors me that you personally reply to people in this way. On the one hand, I am delighted, and on the other hand, I am thinking, “what the heck are you doing? –get back to your real writing!”

  39. 1. My favourite part if If Then Else is when The Machine realizes she’s running out of time and inserts things like “Suggestive comment” and “Snide Remark” in place of the dialogue. It was amazing how well the dialogue tags worked. It was also funny and scary at the same time.

    2. I’ve never read your books as romances but rather as books about women who have a bunch of crap to do when along comes someone who makes their lives better in the romance department. For me, whether the crap is some guy saying he’s the devil or a cheating husband it all still has to be dealt with. I will buy and read what ever the Girls tell you to write.

    3. Love the writing process posts. They have changed me as a reader. I even read the crochet posts and I don’t do any of that stuff.

  40. I would like to enable you to do whatever you want (-:. I figure it’s all there for a reason. I have to skip a lot of the TV until it shows up in my local video stores (translation means it’s a year or two later), but it’s nice knowing the analysis is there when I finally get around to things.

    I am fascinated by the development of Nick and Nita, and want to hear more!

    And earlier in the comment thread, you mentioned something about posting things temporarily . . . I instantly thought, “Yes! Channel your inner Dickens! Serialize those babies!”

    Comfort zones can be so cozy, but they really don’t seem to be a good source of creativity. I have to remember that every time I dip my toe outside my comfy zone. The water is supposed to be cold and invigorating.

  41. If anyone is looking for a collaborator, I am write there! Humour, har. (Note Canadian sp.)
    I love to write, and have in the past won a romance novella contest (fifty free copies of the pulp magazine was the prize– try giving those away!), but I am congenitally lazy on my own.
    Actually, screw the self-denigration– there is just too much good stuff to read ( and too many teeth to clean and insects to sort– two jobs– I try not to mix them) but I am really good when I have someone to not let down, if I may split infinitives here.
    Also I tend to have that sinking ‘it’s all been done before’ feeling, whenever I attempt to plot. If there is anyone out there who is like, ‘wow, I am a plotting maniac but hate he actual writing..’ maybe consider dropping me a line, hopefully without anchor attached.

    1. PS: I have a vague heroine in mind, well, she is not vague, my mind is vague, but she is or may be a mosaic artist. And I have signed up for a mosaic course in April, a whole weekend, so I will get up on the lingo.
      But this in not written in stone… Heh heh

  42. OMGoddess, I have just found all the back posts on this blog– I will never have to go to the library again! I will save so much on library fines!! I feel I should send you money– does anyone want some loonies and toonies? Pretty but heavy in the wallet. Seriously, I will send, in padded envelope.
    It is snowing up here. Argh.
    Our prime minister is also prettier than your president, although your prez is I think sexier. He has that depth in his eyes, that weight of experience and that unmistakable patois of having stared into the abyss and survived. Perhaps our PM will acquire this over the years. I have an uneasy suspicion that he may be a skater-over-the-surface tho.
    I do not have cable TV (YES, we can get it up here) but I am taking careful note of the shows you folks find so intriguing– PoI, If then Else, etc.. Once I decipher all your cryptic acronyms I will set about hunting them down on Netflix (YES, we can..)
    I really feel a bit like a stalker reading all these communiquรฉs that I was not part of but fortunately that feeling does not prevent me from doing so. I am learning a lot. One thing I have not learned is how to insert a photo into the little circle beside my name. Oh well.

  43. I may have missed it, but has anyone put up the link to the chocolate bunny with Benedict Cumberbatch’s face (the “Cumberbunny”)? Unfortunately, all sold out, but the picture is a little bit of happiness.

  44. Oh, I vote:
    1) Yes to sneak peaks of drafts
    2) Yes to any book you want to write
    3) Maybe writing about demons, deadly mushroom heroines, and death can bring you back to life as well?
    4) What I love about your characters is that they have a little bit of something I can relate to and something that I wish I had (usually snark). All your heroines also remind me a little bit of you. I always have the sense that your characters have a life outside the pages of the book which is a beautiful thing. Do you think that the more successful characters deal with issues in the book that are personal to you?

    Thank you for whatever worlds you want to share with us!

    1. My protagonists are not me by any means, but I try to always find something I share with them so I have a way to them. Having said that, all my stories in general are about issues I’m obsessed with, so yep.

  45. My take is that the most important thing now is for you to finish a written project. So I’d say, whichever of your projects you can make a firm commitment to sticking with until you get to the end and finish the thing…. That’s the project to choose now. I think that finishing something is more important at this point than whether the book is on your career path, or what readers or editors expect, or even what the quality of the finished work is.

    At a guess, I would think that it might be less daunting to stick with and finish a brand new project, rather than picking up and trying to start over or pull together and recommence one you’ve previously set down unfinished (and particular one you’ve previously set down unfinished more than once). And I think it would be a clear barrier to finishing a project to work on a collaboration with anyone who does not have the time or space to work full-throttle on it, now through completion.

    1. It’s been interesting going through my WiPs and uploading them to the website. I’ve only done three so far, but it reminds me how much I like them, and how much of the story I still have in my head. But I agree, I think Nita and Nick might be the way to go. Although I still have WiPs to upload. Getting the on the website is clearing out a lot of my Dropbox.

      1. I need to update my website. And clean up my computers files. And finish this book. And build a patio. And paint my closet…

        I think I’ll go take a bath.

        1. I just searched your books and got very excited; Esther Diamond sounds like my kinda gal! Can’t wait to go get the first few– I was looking for a new addiction!

  46. You know what might be a fun side project? ‘Cause it sounds like you need another…
    Do a story as letters back and forth between two confidants that progress a narrative along, with a lot of commentary and opinion thrown in.
    As It is popping into my head right now I am thinking of a late twenty something girl, maybe grad student/part time barista or maybe something more creative like part time birthday party face painter (for the slapstick)– this girl communicates in emails with her older aunt/ grandmother/ godmother, who writes longhand letters back in an elegant script, much underlined.
    The girl bitches about her life while the older woman comments and compares to her own life experience and during the process each of them develop relationships. Or alternately, each of them develops a friendship with a younger/ older guy who turns out to be the ideal mate for the other woman, if that makes sense. Maybe the young guy is helping the older woman figure out her computer (‘first, you turn it on’) and ends up reading the girl’s emails and laughing and falling for her sight unseen.
    Ok. Go to it.

  47. AND… Authors must hate when people do that to them. Sorry.
    I will not always talk this much. This is just my honeymoon period with this blog. Also tomorrow I go back to work.

  48. Even though you’ve had more than a hundred comments from your ArghInk readers on this topic, I’ll add my two cents. If writing books is anything like sewing projects, well then I can relate to having several unfinished WiPs lying around, waiting for you to pick them up and finish them, grappling with whatever issue that caused you to not complete them in the first place. You know you can go back to them, but in the meantime, something else has presented itself, and for WHATEVER reason, you’re itching to work with that new material or idea. If this sounds like an endorsement to continue on with Nick and Nita, well, OK, it is!!

    1. Oh, thank you Gene. I get it now. I have 5-6 tops waiting to be quilted, another 6-10 in the started to be pieced stage, and about 1,000 more I want to make. And I did just start a new one this past weekend, so that’s the one I want to work on.

  49. You’ve gotten enough feedback to know what to do about postings and writing. Still, here’s my 2 cents after reading all the comments.

    I’m not a writer and your postings on writing have spoiled other authors who I used to like but now annoy me as I see them tell me but don’t show me. I’m more finicky now. I expect better. So, if your posts on writing help other writers to be better, then I benefit. I’m also clearly reading them so they are still interesting in their own right.

    I usually read all the posts regardless of my interest. I may skim/skip some of the tv show analysis because I may not be watching along.

    Love the cottage, dog and sneak peak posts!

    I loved reading the Haunting Alice chapter and then was sad as I realized I couldn’t finish reading the story. If it weren’t creepy, like Ethan standing too close, Argh nation would rally to your place, fix it to your specifications, wait on you hand and foot just as long as you were writing while we took care of everything else. Sadly, it’s creepy, but the sentiment comes from the best of intentions.

    Also Lisa L’s comments have made me giggle. Did we all squee like that when we found this blog? I think maybe…

    1. Squee!!
      I know, eh? I feel like a bull calf in a china shop.
      Decided I may go with the heroine being a mosaic artist/ part time kids face painter (which makes her nuts). Hero has his own landscaping co.– is putting in rock and water features in aunt’s yard.
      Only logical title? ‘Written in Stone’! Unless I search that up and find it overused, then I will beat my head against the wall.
      Is the Alice I hear referred to by any chance the young girl who was haunted in the big old house with her brother and her young aunt who was pushed over the railing? Or different Alice? I enjoy d that book very much. I would also enjoy hearing more about some charmingly crooked Dempseys, but I expect they are all happily gone straight now, except perhaps Papa.
      Just booked June trip to Switzerland! Modified squee! As I do not want to be caught up in anything combustive. I can get chocolate for people and send it with the loonies. My brother lives there.
      Anyone want me to take notes on locale in Basel? They have a great 76 hour pre-lent festival there in early spring. Like Carnaval, but not so naked. more mulled wine/chestnut/pot type thing.
      I am sorry, I keep diarizing– plz do not ban me! This will wear off, I swear. Or I will get some meds or something. I have been re-reading all the Crusie I own for the last week and it is coursing through my veins like bubbly wine (my aunt once had a dog named Tiny Bubbles-large dog, furry). Gar! I swore I would not keep doing this. No more!
      One more day hacking at teeth and two days squinting at bugs ought to settle my hash. Then this weekend I will go search for a copy of the haunted house/ little beetlejuice -stockinged Alice girl book, name temporarily forgotten.

  50. Definition of a wasted morning– reading about politicians insulting each other’s wives.

    1. Oh, go check again. The National Enquirer just said that evangelical Christian Cruz has had five affairs while married, including one with Trump’s insane spokeswoman. It’s like a book where all the different threads start to come together . . . Except who would believe this?

      Clinton and Sanders must be laughing their asses off today.

  51. I saw that but was considering the source… thought it must be too good to be true.
    This election is so odd- it probably wouldn’t hurt his numbers anyway. People would just say at least his hands are bigger than Donald’s.
    Would love to see Bernie in , but wouldn’t that be like mixing matter and anti-matter– Washington would explode?


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