One Thing Not To Do If You’re Writing A Book and You’re Me

So I had this idea of the love interest in the Anna book, a guy who would look trust-fund rich in a suit and then turn out to be very different (because Anna would be looking for somebody who would annoy her ex which would also pay off later), and I’d added eyelashes and cheekbones because I was looking for universal markers. I forgot jawline which according to an article in Vanity Fair is essential for testosterone laden characters:

“That chiseled, rugged jawline, as well as prominent cheekbones and heavy brow ridges, are all built by testosterone,” said Dr. Helen Fisher, Biological Anthropologist and Chief Scientific Advisor for Match.com. “Testosterone is also linked with the behavioral traits of dominance, interest in sex and aggression. As a result, those with these angular features can signal confidence and manliness (in good characters) and aggression and predatory behavior (in bad characters)—depending on the context.”

The problem was, I had no real idea of what this guy looked like. I’d pretty much built him from things that would bother Anna’s ex and intimidate Anna so that when she went over to him, it would be a really brave thing to do. That was a bad idea.

So here’s what never to do if you write like me: Don’t describe characters until you have their placeholders. Continue reading

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Every Book Makes Its Own Rules

I have just realized that I’m writing this book in chapters in chronological order. I NEVER do that. It’s the weirdest thing, but that’s the way it’s coming to me in chunks of 5000 to 6000 words. It’s just bizarre. I’m fairly sure I’ll break free by the time Act One is done, and of course there will be copious rewriting, but I’ve never written a book like this before. It would worry me, but I figure I can blame Bob. He’s very linear. We’ve been talking about writing for weeks. It’s his influence and his fault. Continue reading

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You Gotta Have Friends, Part Two

My other penpal is, of course, Bob Mayer, with whom I wrote for five years. If there’s one thing Bob and I can do, it’s communicate, often in short pithy phrases. Bob was career military, so he’s great at giving me parameters on that, plus we wrote together for so long that we speak the same fiction language. And, like Toni, he points out the places that tripped him up and gives me possibilities the story evoked in him. So below are some of the exchanges we had; as with Toni, there’s a lot more in my e-mail folder.

(He was particularly helpful with the strangling stuff.)

To begin with, I described my idea of Nate’s back story and got this: Continue reading

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You Gotta Have Friends, Part One

I have the great good fortune of having Friends Who Know Stuff, in my current case, two who are invaluable, Toni McGee Causey and Bob Mayer. I’ve been e-mailing like crazy with them about Anna.

Toni and I have been pals forever, and we think a lot alike, plus she knows a lot about the FBI from her Bobbie Fay books and from real life (like she me, she benefitted professionally from giving birth to somebody who grew up to be an expert) and she has background in the mob because Toni knows everybody, so she’s been reading and giving me feedback, talking through the back story basics with me. It’s not invasive, more like setting up guardrails, aka “The FBI wouldn’t do that,” and again, that’s not messing with story or discovery, it’s more giving me parameters so I can keep this within the bounds of improbability instead of impossibility.

So, on the theory that everything I do is fascinating, (sorry, Argh), here are some of things Toni and I talked about. Continue reading

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HWSWA: Talking About Starting Anna

Here’s the latest HWSWA post on starting Anna’s story.

We talk about the new book I’m working on as I try to explain the basic idea using some really bad conflict boxes and the a too-long sentence idea to focus in the fog of discovery. Bob asks good questions and makes me think about things and justify my decisions, exactly what a critique partner should do.

Next week, Bob’s one-sentence idea and conflict lock for his new book, where I will try to make him justify things and he will answer, “Because.”

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Thinking About Anna

So I have 10,000 words done on Anna’s book and Carter is in it, and for some reason it has mob back story, which I had not planned, and I have no idea what happens in Act Two or Three (or really most of One); Act Four ends happily but we already knew that. I mean, the Girls definitely have a direction they’re going in, and I have this whole double identity thing to play with in the romance, and I’m starting to really love the heroine, and the hero isn’t bad, either, but I am once again confronting a wimpy antagonist who probably isn’t the real antagonist.

I just don’t understand how all this mob stuff got in here. Continue reading

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I Am Hopeless (Edited with a Note)

So yesterday Bob and I were talking about if we wanted to keep going with the HWSWA chats, and he suggested we show up next week (a week from tomorrow) with the conflict box for a new book he’s working on and one of the old books I’ve been working on (Lily, You Again, Lavender, whatever). I said, “Or I could start a new book,” and he said, “Finish something,” which was the right answer because the last thing I needed was a new book.

Then around midnight last night, I was reading a Book Bub blurb, and started to think what I could do with that very common premise and suddenly these people were talking in my head and I loved it and I wrote 4500 words. Continue reading

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A Word About the Old HWSW Blog Plus a Few Words About Revising Lavender’s Blue

The Old HWSW Blog:
The 2007 He Wrote She Wrote Blog has all the posts and comments. That’s good. They’re all on one page. That’s bad. It’s that way because it’s a rescue site: Mollie just captured the whole blog, put it on one page, and then hid the site from bots since it was essentially an archive. That was a great, efficient way to save the content, but it makes searching for anything a nightmare (whatever you’re looking for is on that one page). I am slowly trying to reconstruct the blog into posts. It’s gonna take awhile. Therefore, if you go to the old HWSW blog in the next weeks, some of it is going to be in posts, and some of it is still going to be in that mammoth page. Everything is there, I swear. I’m just trying to make it easier to access. Slowly.

Revising Lavender’s Blue
I’m also going back to Liz because having done all the Getting Started posts (three) for the new blog (second one will be posted Saturday), I went back and applied them to Lavender’s Blue. That was illuminating. The Getting Started posts are The One Sentence Idea, the Central Conflict, and Outlining, so I tried to put Liz into one sentence, isolate the conflict, and do an act outline. Surprise: It’s all over the place. Is it a romance? Is it a mystery? (This coming Saturday’s Central Conflict post on HWSWA has me talking about the same problem for Nita. This may be a recurring problem in my work (YA THINK?). Continue reading

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He Wrote She Wrote. Again.

And we’re back.

This time, the blog is called He Wrote She Wrote Again, but it’s the same two writers (Bob Mayer and Jenny Crusie) and (mostly) the same topics (see below). We’re just older, and more experienced, and a lot more tired.

The plan is that Bob and I will meet once a week to talk about some writing topic from the past, each of us posting a short (ha) essay in the chat first and then talking about it. Then we’ll edit the transcript and on Saturdays, we’ll put it up as a post on the new blog with links to the old blog. I thought we’d be arguing again, but it turns out we’ve evolved toward each other, so in the first set of posts, we’re not that far apart. (All bets are off when we get to flashbacks and prologues, but that’s not until September.)

Below is our tentative eighteen-week plan: Continue reading

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