Sunday, February 22, 2015

I'm A Pantser, Sort Of

Just read a terrific post by Jami Gray on outlining and why she doesn't do it. Ms. Gray writes urban fantasy and paranormal suspense romances. Her post got me to thinking again about how I write.

A good book I can recommend that speaks to this subject is one by James Scott Bell, "Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pansters, and Everyone in Between". In his book, Mr. Bell describes the three categories of writers - pantsers, plotters and tweeners - and how each category has merits of its own.

When it comes to a new project, I tend to be a more of a pantser than a plotter - or maybe tweener would be a better description. Meaning, I do a little of both. I'll write by the seat of my pants most of the time, but there have been times when doing a brief, non-obligatory outline has helped. I've also done complete outlines that were later discarded because the story had gone completely another way.

When an idea first strikes me, I will mull it over for a bit before writing that first word. The ideas can come from anywhere. From something as obvious as a news story or as unlikely as seeing or hearing an interesting name. I once got an idea for a story from seeing the last name of a football player printed on his jersey. A scene flashed in my mind where the hero had been captured and was being ruthlessly interrogated. That led me to wonder what this hero did for a living and how what he did would result in the seen I'd imagined. All this led to a story idea that is still in my archives but one that I would like to further explore one day.

Once I have the spark of an idea and I've thought up the characters who might inhabit the kind of world the idea inspires, I will write a scene or two involving the main characters just to see how they'll get along. Will there be immediate sparks or will their relationship take some time to grow? Who will be the antagonist and how will he or she wreak havoc on their lives? Who will be the secondary characters who influence their lives? What is their world like? What do they do for a living?

The answers to those questions become the beginnings of the new world where my story will take place. So, in a way, I do a bit of outlining to start with. I might also write a bit of backstory for my main characters, how they came to be in the place where they met, any drama from their past that might influence their future, that kind of thing.

Once I have all that in place and have some idea of the direction the story will take, I like to write the ending. It always helps to know where the end will be and if I can make that ending written in stone, so much the better. Knowing how the story will end makes it easier to keep things on track toward that ending when my characters decide to go down a rabbit trail. Rabbit trails are fine, fun and even enlightening but can also derail a story pretty fast if the writer isn't careful. Then again, rabbit trails can reveal elements in a character's personality that might remain hidden otherwise. I've had new characters show up on rabbit trails and even had characters I thought I knew to show me they are something completely different from what I originally made of them.

One that comes to mind is a character from my current project. He started out as a peer of my hero but as I wrote one scene between the two, he began to sound more like a father than a peer. That's how the foster father of my hero came to be and he's been a well-loved character ever since. I've even met him in real life. Well, I met a man who looked and acted just like him. Really freaky experience, too.

My thoughts on outlining are that outlines can be useful tools at the beginning of the writing process but don't be so tied down to an outline that you miss those interesting plot twists that take your story in a different and possibly more interesting direction. Always be open to new directions while writing your story but don't let a new direction take you so far off track that you lose your way back to the path toward the end you had originally envisioned. Unless changing the end will enhance the story that comes before. In other words, know where you're going but be willing to alter that destination for something better.

Now, back to what I had intended to do today when I got sidetracked by a post that led to writing this post. Is real life imitating art?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Adapt What Has Already Been Written or Just Rewrite The Thing?

That's my dilemma right now. My current work in progress has been written and rewritten and altered and bears very little resemblance to the very first draft completed way too many years ago to mention.

And now I find myself thinking, "Oh, just rewrite the whole darn thing and be done with it."

A complete rewrite would take longer but then I already know the scenes and how they will unfold. Trouble is, the prewritten scenes sound a bit different from the newly written parts. One reason I'm thinking just rewrite the scenes over again. Another reason is that I have scenes in mind that I've already written but because there are so many versions of this same story, I'm having a hard time finding said scenes. Then there's the difference in my voice from when I first began to write.

This current story is the original story I began writing way back in 1995. Back then, my hero was - well, let's just say he wasn't the nicest guy in the universe in his younger days. My heroine was not nearly the strong female type she is today. Back then, she actually cowered before the hero. Today, she's liable to land him on his back the hard way if he puts a toe out of line. They're pretty well matched and at this point in their lives, the romantic chemistry is undeniable.  

I did make them quite a bit older in the current incarnation, which I think helped. Plus, I got older - but we don't need to go into that much detail, do we?

I suppose I'm answering my own question as I write this. Just bite the bullet and rewrite the thing, already. I really like these characters. I should. I've lived with them in my head for (counting fingers) a lot of years. Perhaps one day soon, they might even get introduced to the rest of the world.

But I gotta rewrite the darn thing first. Good thing Snowmageddon's happening this weekend in my little corner.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Be Sure To Read The Fine Print

I've been shopping for a cover for my book and I found one that I could have settled for and that my writing friends thought was awesome. Went to buy it and for once, read the agreement part. Glad I did because I ended up not buying the cover.

This particular book cover e-tailer sells covers using combinations of stock photos to make up the cover pictures. These stock photos must be leased. In the agreement, it stated that the license was for no more than a set number of copies, print and digital. Probably wouldn't be a problem but if the book becomes a best seller, the author would be required to pay again to lease the cover. The author would also be responsible for informing the seller of the additional sales or risk copyright infringement. I'm thinking that if they said that, they have a way of following up and will know if the author fails to notify them. Or maybe that's just my personal paranoia at work.

Now, I don't know about you but since I am planning to self-publish so that I can keep all the money my book brings in, why would I tie myself down to the possibility of having to shell out that same money for a book cover that I don't own? Kind of defeats the purpose of self-publishing, doesn't it?

There is the additional problem, for me, of the second book cover I would need. I am writing a series and the hero of the second book is the twin brother of the hero in the first book. However, because hero #1 does not know he has a twin brother, the twin has been sporting a holographic facial disguise to keep from being mistaken for hero #1 (yes, hero #2 does know about his relation to hero #1). By the second book, we know of the twin situation so that cover will require the same face, split in half to show the disguise face.

Yeah, a bit on the complicated side but it will come together in the end. Trust me. I've already written the first book and the second is in synopsis form so I'm pretty confident of the path this story will follow.

I say all that to reiterate the headline of this post - as with any literary contract, read the fine print very closely. If something there doesn't make you feel comfortable, don't sign said contract.

Now, I realize I'm probably thinking really big here but I've heard it said and I hold firmly to this statement - "I'd rather dream big and get half of it than dream small and get all of it." If you listen to Joyce Meyer at all, you've heard her say this one many times.

So, yes. I am dreaming big. I don't want to have to pay out more money down the road for a sale that puts my book over that set number of copies. Besides that, the man on the cover didn't resemble hero #1 closely enough to suit me - physically or facially.

Don't get me wrong. The covers they offered were very well done. I saw a few that I would have loved to get and then write a story based on the cover alone. A title even popped into my head with one of them. The prices were pretty reasonable, too. Much less than some quotes I've seen for custom covers. Still, that little stipulation in the contract was a deal breaker for me.

To sum up - if planning to purchase a premade cover for your book, look first at how that cover was created and then carefully read the fine print before committing. Save yourself a nasty surprise down the road.