NSFW: Dogs and Goddesses Plotting Chat for McDaniel

Hello, Argh. I’ve been on the road forever so I owe you a post, and the McDaniel students asked about how Krissie and Lani and I collaborated on Dogs and Goddesses so I’m posting a piece of a chat transcript here (with digressions edited out) that shows how we worked out the climax of the book while we were writing it. It’s NSFW, so if you’re squeamish do not keep reading.

And all of Argh Nation keeps reading. Continue reading

Shar 12: Not So Bad

This is the 12th Day of Shar and I’ve actually gotten a lot done. This is the first time the 12 Days thing actually worked–well, it worked pretty well cleaning my office–and I think it’s collaborating that really makes the difference. As long as we give ourselves lots of space, we can really push ourselves and each other. This past month has been really interesting as a lot of what we’ve been doing is figuring out how we each work, and how that changes within the collaboration. We’re all seat-of-the-pants writers, but Lani and I have really taken to doing one rough and then analyzing the hell out of it. Krissie needs more time with her drafts before we come in with our scalpels but she loves to brainstorm. So a lot of it is just seeing where everything fits. It’s such a good collaboration.

So this was the day that I went through all my Dogs and Goddesses file. There are literally hundreds of them since I’ve been working on this for over a year. Got rid of duplicates, organized the images, recovered all the fragments that are going into the last three acts, wrote more on the scenes, skipping around. Lots done. I’ll definitely have Act 3 done by Dec. 31 and may even have Act 4 done. Now if I can just hold onto this process for Emmeline, I might have a really good year (Bob will keep me moving on Wild Ride, it’s just the solos I get blocked on).

I love this part of the book, when a story that started because it seemed like a fun thing to do suddenly reveals itself to be so much more. This is when things really get crunchy and the rewrite becomes a whole new book. So the last week of 2007 is going to be good times and dogs and goddesses and great friends to write with. Can’t ask for more than that.

Shar 11:No Killing, No Cookies

Lani posted her first scene for Act Three and made me applaud. It’s so sad how much she needs reinforcement. Krissie printed out the book and did rewrites on hard copy which makes a huge difference. I’m trying to hold off on the hard copy edit until we have the whole book but it’s hard because I so want to see this on a page. And we talked in the afternoon in Campfire and got this fabulous idea for the third book and were brainstorming a mile a minute and then Lani started screaming, “No killing! No killing people!” She wouldn’t last a minute in a book with Bob. Krissie, on the other hand, was all for it. Krissie is not wimpy like some people I could mention. But won’t.

And I wrote some but not much. Reread my research on Sam, worked out a move in a Kami scene that’s going to echo a Shar scene, it’s all coming together. But as far as writing goes, I was worthless.

Oh, and I made cookies. They weren’t the right recipe, either.

Shar 10: Death and Laundry

You know, I worked all day and I don’t think I got anything done. Well, some laundry and I went to the grocery, but I didn’t write anything. I did do a lot of research on Mesopotamian kings and death, but I fell asleep and lost the afternoon. Just a weird day.

But we got a lot done in Campfire, including some very crunchy Christopher brainstorming, and then I googled for Mesopotamian death. And I pretty much know all the scenes I have to write for Shar now, I have Act 3 completely blocked out and I have a good idea of Act 4. Oh, and Kira asked if there were big scenes after the climax: not generally. The climax finishes the story, so anything that comes after that has to be fast and then out the door. No cuddling. Kills the end of the book.

So I have maybe nine Shar scenes left to write, and two or three Kami scenes. And I have pieces of those written. I have no idea why this is going so fast, but I’m not questioning it, either.

Shar 9: Act Arcs & Other Stuff

After patting each other on the back for the good job the three of us did on the first two acts, Krissie had to go out–and where she lives that means out–so Lani and I brainstormed for three solid hours in Campfire, doing the act arcs of Shar, Sam, Daisy, and Jamie.

It’s an easy concept: the book is divided into four acts that diminish in size (for us Act One is about 32K and Act Two is 28K and the remaining 40 to 50K will be divided into Acts Three and Four). And in each act, the character is at a certain point in his or her character development. If you go for classic character development, it’s a 180 degree arc. Shar begins as a mortal too withdrawn to assert herself and ends as an enraged goddess. Sam begins as a god from another time and place and ends as a mortal with a hybrid SUV. Our markers for each act are a little more sophisticated than that, we look at what’s happening to them not only internally but also externally so that what’s happening in the plot echoes and reinforces what’s happening to them as characters, but we end up with a sentence for each character in each act that tells us what we’re going to be writing. I think it was crucial for us to write the first 60K and look at what we’d written, plus we already knew what the climactic scene was, so we could sort everything out and focus the acts we’d done to figure out what the characters were doing in Three and Four.

Then we blocked out the scenes we had to have to keep the plots going. Lani and I each had four we needed in Act Three, and they were probably going to run between eight and ten K for each of us, so we’d already used up sixteen K before Krissie got there (she’ll write whatever she needs to, of course) and then there’s the Big Bad’s POV because she has crucial scenes in this act.

So we’ll write what we need put it together, and start cutting when we’ve got everything we need. You can revise acts as you go and make them better, but at a certain point, you just have to see the whole book, knowing your character’s arc (which you discover writing the whole book in the first draft), and then cut it so that every word is essential.

And then we talked about the sequel. We couldn’t help it. There’s so much we didn’t get to do in this book, and frankly, just because these couples are together at the end is no guarantee that they’re going to make it. They have real issues–she’s a flower child, he’s a math professor-and some of them have the most hellacious in-laws you’ve ever seen. And as Lani and I talked we realized that there would probably be a third book, and the good news is, the trouble gets worse in each book. We have no idea if we’ll ever do more than this one, but it was so comforting to know that even though Milki just gets a drive-by mention in this book, if we do another one, he’s going to be there. Being a complete pain the ass, but still, we had to cut him from this book and we miss him.

Brainstorming and business took up most of the day, so I took the rest of the night off, read a book on how to make stuffed animals, talked to the dogs, and then went back to work and wrote 1400 words. Which isn’t bad. Especially if they turn out to be good words.

2020 Note: There is no sequel and never will be. I had fun collaborating, but I think I’m done with that now.

Shar 8: 59,000 Words

That’s how much good draft we have done, the first two acts. It’ll need revised of course, but it’s good solid draft. I’ve never written this fast before. And I love what I’m writing.

I’m probably doomed.

Speed has it’s drawbacks. I haven’t done anything on the collage and I keep forgetting the music, which is crucial because that gives me so much of the emotion. So when the first draft is done, I’m going to collage fast and the go through my scenes again, revising with the music. There’s no depth to my stuff right now because I’m going so fast, but I think the speed is good. This is such a great collaboration.

And the book is even better now that Milton is in it. Of course, in real life, tonight Milton ate my shoe. One of the black flats with the crisscross elastic. Which crisscrosses no more. You put a dog in a book, he becomes a diva, going right for the expensive stuff.

Shar 7: Brokeback Publishing

We’re rewriting Act Two this week, now that we have all the scenes done, but we’re all exhausted. Krissie’s taking a break until Wed., Lani took yesterday off, and I’m looking at a book called “Stupid Sock Creatures” that came in the Amazon box and thinking that maybe tonight I will watch TV and sew instead of beating my head against D&G again. Crashing a book is okay for publishers, not so much for writers. Brain hurts.

But I did have a break-through on part of the book. I have two characters, Shar and the Goddess Kammani. And I was having a hard time getting Kammani on the page, and then I read an article on How to Be An Alpha Dog and realized that that was what Kammani was, the Alpha Dog. So we’re going to use the Alpha Dog Guidelines for Kammani. Should be fun.

Meanwhile I tried a butter cookie recipe last night that wasn’t anything amazing, and then did a variation with honey instead of granulated sugar which was better but still not D&G-worthy. We’ve been writing about magic butter cookies all week and it was making me crazy, but now I’m sated. And full of honey-butter cookies. Moving on to another recipe . . .

And today Veronica tried to eat my monkey slipper. I don’t know how Milton missed it.

Oh, and the title for today’s post came from a conversation I had with Lani. I told her publishing was like a bad relationship with a hot guy: as long as publishing tells me I’m pretty and gives me money to buy groceries, I’ll stick even though it makes me feel like hell. Lani said for her it was more like Brokeback Mountain, aka “I don’t know how to quit you, publishing.” We’ll be okay again tomorrow. We just need some tea and a cookie.

Shar 6: I Don’t Know What I Think Till I See What I Wrote

This writing fiction is not for wimps.

My last two scenes in Act Two are truly lousy. Lani’s screaming about her last scene. Krissie . . . well, the farther in we go, the harder it gets. But I think this book is amazing, and if I can just figure out what I’m trying to say as I’m writing it, it’ll be even better. This is when Bob always said, “Just shoot somebody,” but it’s not that easy. We’ll get it. We’ll hash it all out tomorrow now that we have all the Act Two scenes written, even if they do have problems. And then once we put them together in a single act file, we’ll really see where we need to work.

Just in time for Act Three.

In other news, we’re writing about cookies constantly and all three of us are dying for some but none of us have time to bake. I did buy all the ingredients but so far it’s been keyboard 24/7. And I figured out that Milton’s always sitting on the keyboard because he’s trying to dominate it. Dogs climb on top of people and animals they’re trying to dominate and the keyboard is warm and I spend all my time with it, so . . . Also, tonight Milton ate a hole in the duvet. And it’s a nice duvet, too.

But by god, we got Act Two done.

Shar 5: Finding Shar and Milton

We got hit by snow and ice last night and today, but since it’ll be in the forties by Wednesday, and I’ve got plenty of food and heat, it’s not a problem. Watching Oklahoma and the other states get hit so badly puts it all into perspective. I probably can’t get out of my driveway, but I don’t need to, either. But wherever we put Clitoris, there’s going to be sun and no snow. Seasons, yes, snow and ice, no. What’s it like in North Carolina? That seems like a good compromise. We were talking about Oregon and Washington, but I need sun; these grim winter month knock me out.

On the other hand, snowed it with dogs and a SAD light makes it bearable, plus I had a lot of work to do today. Krissie was working all day since she got her computer back, and Lani took the day off since her Act 2 scenes are done and her kids were home, so there was nobody in Campfire to talk to. Very sad. So I started at the beginning of Act 1 in an effort to find Shar. I’ve been writing her off the top of my head, trying to get to know her, and I just wasn’t getting her on the page. But with all by one of my Act Two scenes done, it was time to figure her out. So I spent a lot of today just thinking about Shar, figuring out where she’s been and what she wants and how the things that are happening to her are going to change her. And then I got Act One out again and tweaked all the scenes with what I’d figured out.

Then I let the dogs out into the cold, icy night, figuring they’d be back in record time. I left the door open because it was so cold and went to check in a storeroom for something, and when I came back,there were Wolfie and Veronica at the top of the stairs, finished with the cold. No Milton. I stuck my head out the back and yelled, “Milton!” and didn’t hear anything, so I shut the door, figuring he’d gone upstairs with them. Nope. No Milton. So I put my boots on, saying bad things about a puppy, and got a flashlight and went out to find him.

He was digging a hole. To China evidently since he’d gotten pretty far on it. I picked him up and said, “Moron puppy,” and carried him. We are definitely going to work on the “come here!” command as soon as I get a break from this book.

Then I went back and Lani had sent a description of Daisy’s mother that was terrific, so I did one for Shar’s mother, and then I went through the scenes in Act Two, tweaking them, instead of my last scene in Act Two. Next we’re meeting in Campfire to talk about Act Two and look at each other’s revisions, but I think Act One is really close to finished, and Act Two will be a snap to revise, too. Then Act Three and Four are the short acts and I’m thinking we’ll have that first draft done by the first of the year. I know I keep saying this, but I can’t believe how fast this is going. And it’s good stuff.

So the good news for today is, I found Shar and Milton. Who could ask for anything more?

Shar 4: What Not To Wear in Mesopotamia

Today I looked at Lani’s last scene for this act and realized I’d wandered off from my research and not told her what Kami would be wearing. So I spent some hours on the net and figured it out. (I also took out the trash and made lunch and played with the dogs in the yard, but that’s not interesting.) At least I have enough to go back in and say, “Okay, she’s wearing a long floor-length cloth, probably embroidered, wrapped across her breasts and then crossed behind her back with the ends draped over her shoulders.” Later on, I will go get something out of my fabric stash and try this. I have a feeling that, with a couple of pins, this could work as a general laying around the house wrap. Or not.

Then I went back and looked at the elide and thought, “Oh, hell,” and added some things and cut some things.

Then I tried to figure out what the hell Shar’s story was by summarizing how she changes in each scene to make her act arc. In the first act, she changes from somebody who’s given up to somebody who’s a goddess; in the second act she changes from being unsure of using her powers because she knows there’s going to be a cost to being sure she has to use them to stop the antagonist. Now I have to figure out her arcs in Three and Four and then I think I’ll be able to write the last scene in Act Two, which is very cool because we set Monday as our goal for getting that done. And I’ll have plenty of time to work this weekend because we’re getting snow and ice tomorrow. Should be all thawed out by Wednesday or Thursday, though.

And I also caught up with Krissie in Campfire when she got home and then watched Project Runway because I had it Tivoed and needed to give my brain a break. So I didn’t get a scene written today, but I have a feeling that the work I did will make the scene i write tomorrow make so much more sense. And I did a four page Bible for Kammani, with photos, and uploaded it to Campfire so that Krissie and Lani know what she’s doing and what she’s thinking, which they will slice and dice tomorrow.

I can’t believe how much faster I write when I collaborate.