Writing Wednesday: Drastic Measures

I tried. I really did. I took a great plot and tried to write the book. The problem? I hate the plot.

Not a little dislike. I hate the plot.

I hate it so much that over the past six weeks, I’ve stripped wallpaper, redecorated my daughter’s bedroom, sewed things, looked for work, looked for clients, planted a garden, weeded it twice, cleaned the carpets, taken a group of girls to the zoo, and today I’m about to go out and spray poison ivy. On a side note, it’s only taken me this long to realize that the stuff that will kill the poison ivy will also probably kill the weeds… The denial has to be pretty strong when you don’t want to obliterate weeds with a simple spray.

There’s a point where you have to face your demons. Today, in honor of Writing Wednesday, I am killing the book. I have to. It all started with a princess. Well, turns out, I really don’t want to write about her. While the idea was great — is great — on index cards, every time I sit down to write this story, a voice in my head (the hero) says, “No. Seriously?!!? We’ve talked about this. She’s not for me.”

Now, usually that’s what they both say on paper and we all watch in fascination as the story proves the couple wrong and they live happily ever after. But this time, I think he’s right. She’s not for him. Or she’s not for me. There aren’t very many things I’m not willing to write about, but it appears princesses are currently on the list.

I’ve tried re-plotting it twice now and I can’t break the cycle because I’m too close to the story. Usually I can walk away for a few days and strip wallpaper and have inspiration strike, but on this one, I’m pushing too hard. I know it, the characters know it, my critique partner must know it, so I’m accepting it.

The book is part of a trilogy, but lucky for me, they don’t have to be in a particular order. In fact, at one point I thought this book would be the last, not the middle in the series. So this week, I get to find out why Joe is in the coffee shop (actually, I already know that one), and figure out why he’d fall for the girl who walks through his door.

No, that’s not a spoiler. It’s part of the Heiress at the Door series. I suppose she could climb through his window…or maybe the princess will do that in book three. If she’s still a princess.

Welcome to the joys of writing. In college I painted my room to avoid a paper. As you can see, not much has changed. I’m headed out to obliterate the poison ivy and mull over my new idea. What do you do to avoid the unavoidable?



Writing Wednesday: Plotting or Pantsing

A book usually starts in my head with a scene. One minute I’ll be minding my own business, doing whatever it is the day job requires, or listening to the kids take over the known monkey universe on some game system, and the next minute, I’m seeing two people I’ve never met in some scene.

And presto, I’m going to write a book.

If only the rest of the book was as easy as that first scene.

I have a confession. I used to be a Pantser. They say you’re either a Plotter or a Seat of Your Pants writer. I’m a living breathing example of someone who made the switch. When I started writing, I was a seat of your pants writer. I sat down each day at the keys and I had no idea what was going to happen next. Which was great, unless I sat down and really had no idea what to type. Every day was an adventure, although it could be terrifying if the words weren’t flowing.

I joined Romance Writers of America and went to a conference, where by chance (I didn’t know anybody in RWA), I sat down for breakfast with a woman who turned out to be Cait London. Yeah, I know. Too cool. That’s conference.

We were talking and we got on to the subject of query letters. Those joyous letters that you have to send to pitch your book in order for an editor to buy your book.

“Why would you write a book before you knew if it was going to sell? I mean once you’re published, wouldn’t you like to know the editor liked your book before you spent months writing it?”

“Well, yes. But I have to write the book before I write the proposal. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

I think I missed the first workshop session as Ms. London kindly explained how she plotted out a book so she could write a proposal for her editor before she wrote a word. The way she explained it made complete sense, and it’s the method I still use today. I don’t know if she actually suggested index cards, but it’s what works for me.

That doesn’t mean it works for everyone. Snarky Daughter was working on her Novelist Girl Scout badge recently and interviewed Regan Black about how she plotted her books. I think I heard Regan burst out laughing before asking, “Can you define ‘plot’ please?”

Right. She recently told me about a scene in her current book where the heroine screams. So, she screams and Regan realizes she has to go to a meeting. Which was apparently good because she didn’t know why the heroine screamed. Came back from the meeting, sat down and found out why (and it’s really good!).

I used to write that way, but I can’t now. Well, I can, but not to the level she does. My index cards aren’t really detailed, just enough to know what I need to sit down and work on each day.

And that’s key because otherwise I’ll go strip wallpaper instead of writing. Actually, I need to do that today anyway, but not before I get one of my index cards worked out.

The nice thing about index cards? I can take one with me when I’m waiting for Snarky Daughter or Scout Son somewhere and work on the scene for the day.

Given the fact that I was once a Pantser, you’d think I’d be able to write the scenes out of order, but I don’t work that way. I can, but it’s harder because I have to make things line up. If a bit of dialog comes to me, I’ll add it at the end of the file to write towards, but overall, I write the timeline of the book as it happens.

I guess what I’m saying here is, it doesn’t matter how you get the words on the page. It only matters that you get them there. It’s easy to go to conferences and hear professional writers share their process and think, “that’s the way it has to be done. I’m a hack.”

But that’s not the way it has to be done. It’s one way it can be done.

Process and muse go hand in hand. We can give them different tools to play with, but at the end of the day, you have to do what works for you. Even if it involves colored pencils, a pack of index cards, a bottle of wine, and a deck of Tarot cards. Don’t fight the process.