Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Plotting Backward

Anyone that’s been following my blog or knows me know that I’m a panster. As in flying by the seat of my pants.  I don’t do a whole lot of plotting, and I don’t outline at all except for revisions.  I always know how a story starts, and have a sort of idea of how I want it to end.  Everything that happens in the middle I just sort of pull from my ass.

I’m going to be trying something different for the Kassidy books.  I’d like it to be an open-ended trilogy.  It’ll work with the series arc I have planned, and I’d like for there to be more books in the series than three.  There will be more in the series than three.  

Here’s the thing.  If I land a contract Kassidy (after finding an agent, of course) it’ll most likely be for two to three books.  If for whatever reason Kassidy doesn’t sell, I won’t get a new contract for more books.  That actually happens a lot in the publishing world, and I don’t want to frustrate future readers by leaving them hanging on the edge of a cliff at the end of the third book when there’s no guarantee there’ll be more.

So I want to get the series arc set up, but concluded satisfactorily in the first three books, so that if worst comes to worst, my fans won’t be disappointed.  

That’s fine.  I already know what’s going to happen in book three, and how it’ll end, and it’ll be a very satisfying ending indeed, but there’ll be enough set up that I could—and hopefully will—continue with more.  How many more, I’ve no freaking clue.  I’ve never planned a project on this scale before.  Not seriously.  I write lots of first books, but they never go anywhere.  

Kassidy, though.  Kassidy’s story and her world will carry me far, I think.

Okay, so my panster instinct is to just go with it, right?  I know where I’m going to be ending that third book, and that’s all that matters for me to write the journey to get there.  But I’ve been doing that with my YA trilogy, and while it’s been working, I feel like book two is just one of those blah bridge books.  Hence the reason I’ve never been able to work myself up to finish the stupid thing.

I do not want that to happen to Kassidy.

My outliner friend is going to laugh herself sick if she reads this, and take great enjoyment in pointing at me and saying “I told you so!”

Dear readers, I, the panster extraordinaire, am going to try outlining the next two books.


Chances are good that something surprising and unexpected will happen and I’ll end up throwing the whole outline out the window, but I’m going to try.  I have my end, so I’m going to work backward from that, focusing mostly on the beginning, middle, and end of the two books needed to complete the trilogy.  That’ll give me plenty of wiggle room, but also give me a firm guide to keep me on course so I don’t get distracted by shiny subplots.

We’ll see how well this works.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Always a Sad Day

I’m obsessed with white boards.  Those that follow my twitter stream and/or facebook feed have seen me rant and rave about white boards.  I recently bought a new one, so have more space for plotting, and when that wasn’t enough, I resorted to using my office window, making good use of the wet erase markers I bought.  The Kassidy book—and that feeding into the series, and it’s definitely going to be a series—took up a ton of space.

Yesterday I finished the first draft.  Today is the sad day when I need to start clearing whiteboards for the next project.  

A sad day indeed.

That’s not to say I’m going to lose the information and ideas I figured out while writing on the white boards and the window.  I’m going to carefully transpose them into a notebook, where they will be kept nice and safe until I pull out the Kassidy book for revisions in another couple months…or a year.  It depends.  

But it’s sad to see those thought processes condensed down onto paper and neatly organized.  My thought process is not organized, and the whiteboards reflect that.  

A picture would preserve that, and I will be taking pictures of the whiteboards, just in case something should happen to the note book.  

The fact remains.  Today, those thoughts and ideas are going to be wiped away, clearing space for the next project, the next idea.  It’s sad to see it go, especially when I had so much fun with Kassidy and her world, but it’s exciting to see what’ll come from the next project.  What sort of ideas will sprout from a thought written on a white board, and spread across the entire office as I track things as they come together and coalesce into something more, something better than the original thought that started the whole writing process.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Difference in Character

Recently I’ve started working on a new urban fantasy, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  I’m enjoying the story, the convoluted plot that I haven’t quite worked out yet, but most of all the characters.  As I write along, I keep thinking about what Jacky—my most worked with character—would do in a given situation, then sit back and watch as Kassidy—my newest UF heroine—goes and does something completely different.  

It shouldn’t surprise me the way it does.  Kassidy and Jacky come from two very different worlds, and have two extremely different backgrounds.  Jacky grew up in a small family, being taught and coached and supported as she learned about herself.  She’s always had someone she could turn to for help when things went wrong, even if it was just venting to her mom.  Kassidy grew up alone, in the wild 1860’s, in the west.  She spent most of her time alone, learning to depend on herself, with a few people making strong impressions that shaped her into the woman is she today.

The scene that really caught my attention was after a fight, where Kassidy had been hurt, but not horribly injured, and she and a new companion—she’s not sure what to make of him yet—are sitting against a wall in a triage area chatting.  Jacky would have accepted the companionship and comfort that the companion offered.  Would have found strength in the knowledge that she didn’t have to fight the upcoming battles alone.  

Kassidy, on the other hand, pulls away.  Isolates herself.  She’s used to working alone.  While she’s glad to have someone watching her back while she heals, she’s convinced he’s going to get in her way.  (Again. Because he’s already interfered with her job once.)  

I’ve written plenty of other characters before, in different genres and settings and circumstances, but none of their differences struck me quite at hard as that between Jacky and Kassidy.  Maybe it has something to do with Jacky once being my favorite character to write with ever, but that I’ve fallen out of love with her and her world.  Kassidy is bright and new and it could be her differences that make her so appealing to me at the moment.

Kind of an interesting thought.  I’m anxious to see if this new relationship with Kassidy will bud into something that will span years, or if the attraction will wear off once she’s no longer shiny and new.

I guess only time will tell, right?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Unexpected Question

I actually meant to publish this Tuesday, but my older brother got hitched.  I'm still kind of boggled, if truth be told.  It was a very secretive, shotgun wedding, but I think they'll be happy together, and that's what matters.


New Year Day was my family party.  Word had gotten out that I’d self-published a novella under a pseudonym.  I’d expected to get asked a lot of questions about it, which I did, but there was one that took me kind of by surprise.

“Why didn't you publish it under your real name?”

Err…I’ll admit to being a little gobsmacked.  I mean, I’d published a regency romance, and most romance writers publish under a pen name.  It seemed so natural, so reasonable, that it took me a second to gather my scattered thoughts.  Cause I really did have a reason for publishing under a pseudonym.

I still want to publish my urban fantasies.  More, I want to publish them through a more traditional means (agent -> editor -> pub house -> bookstore) and I’d like to do that under my real name.  Although maybe not.  I still can’t imagine seeing Jennifer Milligan emblazoned on a cover with a kick ass heroine with titles like Lightning Strike or Blood and Dust.  Still, I’d like that option available.

And it’s not that I’m ashamed of self-pubbing.  I’m not.  I’m actually quite pleased with myself.  I’ve made no secret about being Diana Connell.  The other big consideration is separation of genre.  

There are a lot of authors out there who writer in multiple genres.  Some of them do it all under one name.  Mostly those that have well established, well known names.  Some write in genres that are similar enough to be shelved next to each other.  Others write in genres so different that in order to avoid the possibility to disappointing reader expectations, they writer under a pen name.

Hell, I know a couple authors that write in the same genre under two or three different pen names.

There’s a lot of reasons for publishing under a pseudonym, and my family accepted my reasons.  This whole publishing is a bit of a mystery to them, but that’s all right.  They support me, encourage me, and are glad to listen to me attempt to explain the complexities of seeking publication without really understanding any of it.

Because, you know, that’s what families are for.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

That Old New Year Post

2012, the only (writing related) resolution I had was to get shit done.  I’d been spending a lot of time working and reworking one particular book (#TBTRTD) and there were a lot of other ideas clamoring for attention, wanting their time in the limelight.  

I think I managed swimmingly.

I think there’s a post here somewhere that ear marks some of the accomplishments I’ve achieved this year.  Or at least talks about the books I worked on.  

Here’s the grand sum of things, though.

I Wrote:
Dragon Flute (Sort of, I revamped the first half, started rewriting the second half, and decided I hated it and never wanted to talk to it again.  It’s still sulking somewhere on the mini-drive.)
Faerie Bad Luck (querying)
Faerie Curious (sequel, trunked forever, it’s awful.)
Elements of Fire (getting ready to query)
Lighting Strike (also known as #TBTRTD. It’s halfway through it’s second draft.)
Elements of Air (50/70k, stupid NanoWrimo) 
The Kissing Bough (a novella by pseudonym Diana Connell)
Blood and Dust (Started. As of New Years Eve, it’s at 25/80k)

Yeah, and that novella?  That sucker got published, yo.  

Did my career get farther?  Well, sort of.  Self-published novella or not, I’m still agent-less.  But, that’s not something that I have much control over.  I can only keep doing what I’ve been doing.  Writing.  Revising.  Revising again. Querying.  Eventually one of these lovelies will end up with an agent that’s willing to go out on a limb for me and help me find publication through a traditional publisher.  Not necessarily traditional publication, things are changing too much too quickly to expect that, but still.  I have starry-eyed dreams of advances and paying off student loans, and seeing one of my books at the local Barnes and Noble.

Will this year be the year?  Maybe.  I have plans (like querying the snot out of EF, FBL, along with LS and BnD once they get polished up), I’m going to keep busy and get more things done (like the two regency romance novels I’d like to get written, revised, and self-pubbed).  Every book I write is another toe in the door.  Or another straw on the camel’s back.  Another chance to hit it out of the park.  Or something.  It’s late (when I wrote this, which is not the same time as when I published this) and my brain is on the fritz.  

Anywhar!  I hope everyone has a wonderful 2013.  May it be filled with good books, better booze, and the best people to share it with.