HWSWAnswers: Ideas and Writing

You all were good enough to ask a lot of questions, and we answered them in Slack, and then I tried to group the answers together so they were at least somewhat related. The plan is to put the answer posts up here tonight, tomorrow (Saturday) and Monday. If there are any more questions, put them in the comments on any of the answer posts and we’ll hit Slack again on Tuesday. This first bunch is all writing questions.

DeniseTwin asked:
I read on Reddit a sub where it has writing prompts – I love some of them, they are such clever ideas! So how do you decide what is a great book idea, one that will last all the way to a finished story and what is destined to be nothing but a series of fun rabbit warrens? Do you jot down the rabbit ideas just to get them out of your head so you can focus on the “real” stories or ??? Continue reading

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And Anna Staggers On

I spent an hour yesterday on Spark with Bob trying to sort through my non-plot for Arresting Anna (chat goes up tomorrow on HWSWA), then woke up today to two e-mails from him that solved most of my back story problem. The man is a genius. He also read and made notes on the first five chapters, so he’s a hardworking genius.

Below are some of his notes on the latest iteration of Anna: Continue reading

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So it’s been a week . . .

I fully intended to have the entire Act One of Anna up today. Then I got my flu and pneumonia shots and have been flat on my back for three days thanks to what I’m fairly sure is an immune response. I’m getting better every day so I’m not worried, but ye gods I do not want that pain again. I never thought anything could keep me from writing if I wanted to, but when it hurts to move your arms, typing is not fun.

Having said that, obviously I am typing again. Continue reading

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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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