Writing is hard.
Now that my whine is out of the way, I really thought when I sent the severely rewritten Act One to Krissie and Bob that I was done. I knew it was kind of slow, but you know, it’s Act One, so there’s some set-up there . . . .
Nope, it’s slow. I have analyzed this sucker, charted it, looked at conflict boxes, I’m ready to scream. And the horrible thing is, I can hear the wrongness of my rationalization even as I make it: But I need that information.
Readers don’t need information, they need story. Must tattoo that on the inside of my eyelids.
So I have this thing about “smirk.” Perfectly good word, but I think it’s misused a lot. In my world, good people do not smirk, it’s an asshole kind of expression, condescending, arrogant, superior, and jerkface. It’s being used A LOT in romance fiction right now as a kind of general grin. So a couple of people have weighed in on my distaste for that and an another expression, and I realize I had no idea of how Bob used expressions in his work. (Yes, in spite of writing three books with him. It was awhile ago.)
I think this would be a good topic for a complete post. There are a lot of facial expressions that are hard to describe without going into a whole lot of detail — a slight smile, a pursed-lip crinkly smile, a sneering look sometimes mixed with smile, a doubtful smile, a “glad you see I was right” smile, a raised eyebrow “oh really?” smile, etc. etc. Smirk and smile both have the same Old English-y root, and I think various authors use the terms sort of differently. The “heroes never smirk” test doesn’t quite do it for me.
If smirks and smirking are reserved for bad guys, or usable by good guys only if immediately followed by an apology, what about The Rolling of One’s Eyes. In Huston’s Uptime Pride and Downtime Prejudice, Our Heroine (Mary) rolls her eyes six or eight times in twenty or so chapters. Then in chapter 21, I noticed in Whiskey Rebellion. Liliana Hart, that Addison Holmes plays craps with her eyeballs as well, rolling her eyes at least twice per chapter. Is there some emotion or attitude for which eye rolling is the only suitable expression? How should it be used, and how often. Continue reading
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.
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
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
I’m trying to write a blurb for Anna (Krissie just sent me her blurb for the book she’s working on, so I thought I’d try Anna’s), and for some reason, it wasn’t until the fourth graph that the Lucy-and-Charlie other shoe hit the ground like an anvil:
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
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
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
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
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