Tag Archives: writing technique

Tricks, tips, revelations, and anything else related to the art of fiction writing.

On the Revision

I’m 114 pages in, and I’m loving it.  There is a kind of freedom that comes with this — the freedom to change.  Nothing is truly set in stone anymore.

So as I’ve been ripping my manuscript apart, cutting things, adding things, planning things, I’ve been keeping my eye on the prize: the finish line.  And a novel that will be one step closer to submittable.

Twenty pages a day (roughly 2 chapters) has been my goal.  I started on Jan 1st, to hopefully give me good luck (I’m very superstitious about numbers, and the Ace in Tarot is usually a positive, very new thing, so it worked) and I haven’t stopped since.  Every night, I print off 20 ages and I slice ’em and dice ’em and pray.

Part of me worries that these changes I’m making are not for the best.  But, I really don’t think that’s the case.  I  feel positive and empowered and renewed and happy.  I always thought Revision would be a sloggy, torturous process.  It’s not.  It’s actually alot of fun.

As mentioned before, I’m using Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision process.  I feel that this is a great method and I wanted to give it a shot.  I believe that using this process will help make the novel better than if I’d done something else.  I feel it.  Much how I feel like I’m getting closer to my goal.

So the next 20 pages await me.  Imma gonna fly.

New blog

Just a heads up…I added yet another blog to my growing list.  This one is called Vamp and Fae.  It’s actually Alisia and Lucien’s joint blog.  😉

For me, it’s a good way to get to know my characters outside of the book.  The posts do follow the chronology of the book as I write it, and there could be spoilers.  I’ve asked them to try not to spoil anyone, though.

So far, there are 3 posts. Two are for Valentine’s Day, and the third is a revelation for Lucien.

Enjoy.  Please do comment — they WILL respond!


Plotbunnies, Inc.

My writing partner and I were brainstorming a new book idea, and I thought I would talk about my brainstorming process in the hopes that maybe someone out there would find it useful in some manner.

There are a few things I regularly use for plot ideas:

1) Conversations.  Any and all.  Often, it will be a nondescript, non-writerly type of convo, but something said will spark an idea.  For instance, recently a friend of the beloved’s parents was talking about live TB germs still hanging around someplace.  Scary huh?  So then I wondered what would happen if someone came into contact with them, and then others came in contact with him, and so on.   It’s still fermenting, but the wick has been lit.  😀 

2) News.  Not usually the local news, either, although occasionally I’ll find something intriguing.  Nope, I’m talking about world news and the Peculiar Postings on MSN.  A plot element from What Lies Beneath came from a story about a boy who’d drowned.  Sometimes health or science news also gets the gears going, too.

3) Science.  On Thursday I discovered Discover Magazine.  Found some very interesting information on the sleep cycle (which is always interesting, after having almost been diagnosed with narcolepsy), minimally-conscious states (not a vegatative and not a coma –a cross between the two), and some intriguing news on memories (another passion of mine — memory in some way or another always creeps into my books).  Just from persuing the headlines and reading articles that looked interesting.  I should have been a scientist, I swear.

4) Dreams.  I have very vivid, very unusual dreams that I can usually remember in graphic detail.  It could be that I’ve trained myself to ponder things unconsciously, or maybe it’s my meds (a certain medication is known for inducing vivid dreams and nightmares).  I have at least 3 plotbunnies connected to dreams, and other plot elements that came from a dream.  If you find you can’t remember your dreams, tell yourself as you’re drifting off that you will remember.  Be prepared to jot down anything upon wakening.  Dreams tend to dissolve the more awake you become.  I try to latch on to something and more or less “memorize” it before it vanishes.  Those few minutes upon waking are the most critical.

Another thing I do is ponder any issues I’m having with a novel as I’m drifting off, which insures that I will dream about it.  Recently, a tiny part of a dream spawned the sequel idea for Pirouette.

5) Juxaposing two or more very different ideas.  I purposely look for strange or contradictory ideas to combine for novels.  I take what I mine from other sources and work it out in my mind, asking myself “what if?” questions.  The entire concept of Requiem in Blue was built this way: combining cyborgs, underwater, and mind control.  Same with What Lies Beneath — empathy, insanity, and dolphins.

6) Other books.  Books inspire me.  I don’t ever copy; rather, I twist and bend the core idea (sometimes juxaposing stuff as above) to come up with my own spin on it.  This I disocvered from Holly Lisle’s workshop: How to Steal Ideas Ethically (or some such.  Can’t remember the exact title).  Requiem in Blue was originally one of these.  I read Starfish by Peter Watts and fell in love.  What I liked the best was the underwater millieu and how the people were modified to live in deep sea.  I took that, and ran with it.  If you hadn’t known this ahead of time, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell: the plot, combined with the mind control, is completely and entirely different, as are the circumstances as to why these people are living deep in the sea.  The only resemblance to Starfish now is the core idea that sparked it. 

Same thing with Holly Lisle’s Talyn.  If you haven’t read it, go read it NOW.  It is awesome, thrilling, terrifying, and beautiful all at once.  Well, the idea of enemies joining together (and a few other things too — don’t want to spoil it) intrigued me.   What Lies Beneath has elements similar to that, in the romance end of it.  But the similarity ends right there.

7) Song lyrics.  Now, I have what I call “movie images” appear in my head as I’m listening to music, pretty much without any conscious control.  I’ve always done this, even as a kid, and it helps me brainstorm and get new ideas.  But some lyrics will actually inspire plots as well as the imagery.  Queensryche’s “Suite Sister Mary” became the template upon which I plotted (ok, semi-plotted) Requiem in Blue.  “Silent Lucidity,” also by Queensryche,  inspired a VR plotbunny very recently.  A song by the band Creed inspired an alternate reality romance plotbunny I’ve had for gosh, years.  Queensyche’s “The Hands” inspired parts of Requiem in Blue (it’s also the protagonist’s theme song).  It’s really amazing what cool things happen with music.

I also use music to help me write.  Oftentimes if I’m stuck, I’ll just close my eyes and let it do its work.  Usually, it’s enough to get me moving again, and that’s what counts.

8) Real-life events.  There are a few novels that started out purely as semi-autobiographical, as a way to make sense of something that had happened to me.  Usually, they grow beyond that, and take another form, but that’s how some of them start.  One such novel, “Transparent Eyes,” started out as a way to get back at someone (fictionally)  who’d hurt me.  TE grew beyond that, and is now Footsteps of Ghosts.  The original elements are completely gone, and it’s a story in its own right.

Take caution when plucking things from your own life — there’s always the chance of lawsuits.  Granted, the law can be a bit ambigious, but it’s always good to hide any real-life stuff behind a good fictional situation. 

Another old plotbunny is a multi-generational family story that I’ve been meaning to write, to help cope with some of my own personal issues.  It’ll be fantasy or sci-fi, most likely.

And, Dagmar, another plotbunny, came from my grandparents’ love story.  War romance, Irish heritage.  The rest is completely different, but that was the inspiration.

Once I get the kernel of the idea, I let it perculate.  I have a good memory so that’s not hard, even with multiple ideas (although I have been writing them down as of late).  I always ask myself “what if?” questions, and try to tighten the screws on the poor characters.  Torture, that’s the name of the game.  I’m evil, LOL.

Sometimes I use Tarot cards, using them to answer those “what if?” questions.  I’ve come up with some awesome ideas that way.

So now you know my process.  It works very well for me.  And it’s basically just being aware of things, and always looking at different perspectives.  The belief that anything can result in a story idea helps.  😉  And perhaps that’s why I have so many…..because I see them everywhere.  I don’t think I will ever run out of ideas.

Hopefully this helped you in some way!

What Lies Beneath has a plot!

Thanks to a sweet writer friend of mine, who asked some very insightful and interesting questions, WLB has a plot.  A beginning, middle and end.  It has a culture.  It has a couple of villains.  There’s a few betrayals in there, and dead goddess resurrected.  And possibly quantum magic, if I can work it into the magic system.

The whole thing started like this: quantum magic –> shapeshifters –> dolphin ‘shifters (to be different) –> a world without sanity –> the price of sanity –> water –> drowning –> drowning as a magical ritual –> empathy (psychic) –> warring races.

This book started as simply two races pitted against each other for control of the world, and a man and a woman –enemies — falling in love.  And it just grew from there, as I took bits and pieces and fit them together like an intricate puzzle.  Inspirations? The MSN’s peculiar postings page (drowning), various books already written (bits and pieces), psychic abilities, insanity. 

Sometimes, I don’t know how it all comes together, but when it does, it’s magic.

So this one is going on next year’s schedule for sure.

Not dead, just busy.

Very.  My beloved fiance and I went camping the 3rd week in June, and the prior two weeks were taken up by Planning and More Planning and then Shopping.  It was a lovely, kick-ass time, got lots of pics, caught 3 fish, actually ate some fresh-cooked perch, and wrote ALOT.  Massive…12,000.  Yeah.  Can hardly believe it myself.  If only I could do that daily…

Yeppers, I am officially engaged.  The beloved proposed on Wed, June 27th which was a complete and utter surprise.  But not a shock.  He’d planned on doing it in December but couldn’t wait.  Such a wonderful guy I’m marrying!  We’ve set a tentative date of June 27, 2009, which will give us enough time to do what we need to do, get me moved in, and not have to rush planning the wedding. 

On writing.  Been doing mostly character prework for the Pirouette Rewrite of Doom.  I’m nearly done with Alisia, and will start on Lucien tonight or tomorrow.  I used Holly Lisle’s Create a Character Clinic which I highly recommend.  Even if you’re good a character creation, it still can give you some kick-ass insights, stuff you haven’t thought of before.  Case in point: Alisia’s dance partner, Adam.  From the get-go, they’ve had chemistry, and I (literally) danced around it, not letting it go anywhere because of Lucien (stoopid reasoning, I know).  I read the first few scenes today and it dawned on me: Adam should be a factor in this complicated equation of a story.  And…using Holly’s cool techniques, I also “discovered” a human lover that apparently my dear Alisia has been keeping under wraps.  Oh my.  It will be very interesting to see how this works on the page.

Been figuring and re-figuring the magic.  Suffice to say that it’s tighter, more logical, and very unique.  I have since added things and subtracted others.  Added more today in fact.

I’m changing Alisia’s …place…in the world again.  She’ll be unique, which was the point, but it will be due to the will of the world.  The Otherworld.  The secret slayer-society that shows up in Dance of the Obsidian has also changed…although they still slay.  And now there’s a sort of Council that polices the otherworldly peoples.  Alisia and her arch-nemesis have something in common, having to do with this Council, and that makes them uneasy allies.

 All from a book on character creation.  I’m telling you, it works. 

Oh! And I also found out a bunch of things that Alisia neglected to tell me the first time.  *wags finger*  Bad girl.  Bad, bad girl.  She’ll be a tortured soul, but she will rise above it to become something of a legend.  Muuahhh.

On other projectos: Requiem in Blue is swimming right along, with some kick-ass revelations while at camp.  I wrote 7.5k of that alone while on vacay.

Survivor is going slightly slower, but I can’t say I’m surprised.  It’s been tough, but that’s the subject matter– it’s not exactly warm-and-fuzzy material.  And this particular scene I am banging my head over is a doozie — it’s just the crux of the ending, is all.  No biggie, right?


So that’s in the works.

Indexing: got about half of my practice book indexed.  It’s been really interesting, and I can’t wait to see if I totally botched it or if I might be on to something.  That’s the only problem with correspondence courses — no real feedback or anything.  Just sorta flying blind.  But I have Plans.  Always.  *she says with shifty eyes*

So, I think that’s it.  I’ll try to get back more regularly.  Just fell into a black hole.  I’m out, alive, and I’m damned happy.

Life is good.

Requiem is *gasp* plotted. And, more ideas.

Ok, maybe not plotted exactly, but I had a cool new idea for the beginning that made more sense to me.  I started out with the characters in their natural environment.  Which is fine.  But at that time I had really no real direction.  I just started writing, and kept writing, up until now.

Today I did a little bit of a rethink on it.  Who were the real villains?  What’s the true nature of their situation?  Could they be totally mind-controlled to the point where they have no memory whatsoever of their experiences as Sentinels?  Who are they outside of the Globe?

And so on.

So, now I have a clearer direction, and some answers to those questions.  I wrote out as much as I could, in broad strokes — I’m saving the details for my muse.  It’s pretty much the same as before, with a few slight changes.  Nothing that requires any real rewriting.  I will, however, attempt to write that crucial first scene tonight.

It feels right, you know?  Like perhaps my muse has been keeping this from me, but has been throwing me hints all along.  And I finally got it, but it feels as if I knew this all along.  Pretty cool, this muse stuff.

So that’s the lowdown on Requiem.  Very excited.

I also want to drop off a few miscellaneous thoughts on What Lies Beneath, one of my more active plot bunnies.    While perusing the MSN Peculiar Postings today (I regularly mine them for story ideas), I found one article about someone who’d drowned trying to retrieve something from the river –I can’t really remember the deets.  But, naturally, this took my mind in some dangerously twisted directions.  Drowning.  Pominently figured.  Maybe even as the main conflict.  Drowning someone, or someones.  Yeah, I like that.

Second — a man who’d dug his own “underground bunker” in which he’s been living in for 6 years.  So, we have an underground living area, a small one, and we’ll just say for excitement sake, underwater.  Hmmmm.  I can hear the wheels turning….

Here’s where I am applying what I read in Holly Lisle’s Create a Plot Clinic.  There’s a section in there about taking stuff that strikes you — photographs, newspaper articles, etc, and using them in your plots.  I was going to do this with my Cosmo magazines, but I was derailed by the peculiar postings.  I’ve found alot of cool stuff in there.  Anyhoo, these two ideas are nebulous, but I’ll put the muse to work on them.  Maybe they will turn out to be really cool.

Zette Appreciation Day

I wanted to talk about Lazette Gifford, the owner of Forward Motion, the awesome community that I’ve been a member of for 4 years.  She has been very active, even before she took over for Holly Lisle, and has always found the time to help members with things they needed, or to give advice.

I’ve always admired Zette — for both her talent and dedication to her writing.  I am always in awe of her high wordcounts.  She has taught me, time and time again, that you can make time for writing, if it’s important enough to you.  I haven’t had a chance to read any of her fiction (except for the occasional snippet), and I want to change that. 

I was a member of the first session of Zette’s Only A Novel (2YN) class.  It was potentially the most challenging class I ever took on.  But it was a good kind of challenge — the kind that helped me master my craft more, and storytelling, and everything that goes into a finished novel.  It was in that class that my book Survivor was born — and while Survivor is still in progress, I always find myself looking back on the lessons and using the material. 

My best memory of the class, and Zette was when I suffered panic attacks over plotting.  I had plotted a few novels (while writing them) unsuccessfully and was a die-hard organic (note: was).  I couldn’t conceive the notion of actually plotting — it threw me into severe anxiety.  I’m not making this up — I really was freaked out about it.  Part of the class was to plot — in whatever form we deemed best–our novels.  I had to do it.  So I posted a message to Zette mentioning my anxiety. 

Zette, being the very bluntly honest person she is, gave it to me straight:
in order for me to succeed at writing professionally, I needed to be able to plot something.  It is an essential skill to have.  I needed to get over my fear and do it. 

At first I was a bit taken aback — but then, as I thought more about it, I realized that she had a valid point.  My goal is to write professionally, and if I couldn’t put a plot together, and be able to write a good synopsis, I wouldn’t get very far.  And then I realied that plotting wasn’t the problem:  it was me.  My attitude.

So I thought about it some more, and decided to take a crack at it.  I used the Snowflake Method, an awesome way to plot, and came up with a great plot for Survivor.  To my utter disbelief, it flowed well.  The book almost wrote itself, and I found myself going back to my initial plot and tweaking it, and letting it guide me.  One year later, the book was 180k — the longest of any of my novels.  So I was forced to conclude that plotting was actually a very good thing.

To this day I am a die-hard plotter.  While I still feed the organic in me with slight detours, plotting is still the first thing on my list of things to do when I begin a new project.  It has helped me time and time again to stay on track and not meander (not too much).

And I have Zette to thank — because had it not been for her advice, and tough love, I never would have made that critical discovery–and I wouldn’t be the writer I am today.  Some people don’t like to hear the blunt truth — but I am not one of those.  I’m here to learn, to improve, not to play at writing.  I’m serious about it, and being serious means hearing things I might not want to hear.  But it’s all for the greater good, for the writer I will someday be.

I hope someday to be able to do what Zette does — live my life with writing at the forefront.  To be able to reach those high wordcounts, and write novel after novel, and be published, too.  She’s a true inspiration to me as a writer, and I don’t think Survivor, which is one of my most cherished WIPs, would be the book it is today without Zette’s advice and her 2YN course.  I’ve learned so much, and I know I have alot to go, but I know that it will all be worthwhile. 

Zette has embraced the idea of paying forward, the vision of Forward Motion.  She pays forward with her very presence on the boards.  Thank you, Zette, for making a difference in my life.  Know that I appreciate it more than I can ever express. 

And by the way, Survivor now has a sequel.  It’s all plotted and ready to go for when it’s time. 🙂

Thank you. 

For more info on Zette and FM, go to:
Forward Motion: http://www.fmwriters.com
Vision for Writers: http://www.lazette.net/Vision/
Zette’s website: http://www.lazette.net/

I dream in infrared.

Well, not really, but I had a really bizarre, yet insightful dream about the Pirouette Rewrite.  Apparently my muse has been working overtime, while I wasn’t paying attention, because she handed me something really important for the ending.  Something that will be really good.

But first, the dream.  I was in this restaurant-like place and I fell asleep, and was dreaming (dream within a dream, how trippy!) that I was working on the Rewrite of Doom, and I thought of the ending, and was writing it.  Not gonna get into it here, b/c it’s a spoiler, but it’s a really good thing.  It ties in perfectly with not only the whole thing, but the basis of it — Alisia’s need to dance, and her ultimate undoing.  It also ties in an element from Pirouette 1.0 that I got rid of due to well….not fitting.  True, it didn’t fit the exact place, but it fits in the Rewrite as part of the end.  The freaky part is, I not only remembered this upon waking, but I see it as utter brilliance.  So, thank you, muse.

Two of my exes and my current beloved were also in attendence, but I don’t recall what they did or why they were there.  Weird.

S.L. Viehl had an idea for figuring out your story.  It involves asking your main character three questions:

1) Who are you?
2) What do you want?
3) What’s the worst thing I can do to you?

For Pirouette (Rewrite), the answers would be:

1) Who are you?  I’m Alisia, and I’m heir to the Faerie throne.  I am also a necromancer, having a rare power to control the dead and vampires (since they aren’t dead in my books).

2) What do you want?  To live in peace and safety outside of Faerie, and also to be able to dance, silence the ghosts.

3) What’s the worst thing I can do to you? Force me back to Faerie, back to possible danger and death; also, take away my ability to dance.  Permanently.

She loses her ability to dance early on, but later, this element will be revisited.

Also, let me just say that sometimes computers suck.  I spent my entire afternoon troubleshooting what I thought was a video card/motherboard/possible virus issue that made my puter unusable, only to find out that somehow, gremlins were pulling my leg. 

I was not amused.

We now return to your regularly scheduled life.

On magic.

Yeah.  Magic.

So what have I been up to lately?  Thinking.  Alot.  About. Pirouette.  I have a lot of the kinks worked out, and the muse is actually cooperating (go Muse!) so I actually have something to show for 2-3 days of no writing and thinking.  Let’s hear it for deep thinking.

Okay, all silliness aside, I think I’ve got it figured out.  Got a new type of demon, a Big Bad Demon, who’s hell-bent (no pun intended) on ruling the world.  Well, at least the alternate world where the otherworldly folks live.  And maybe ours, too.

I have a neat twist, which I’m not divulging, and a neat climax.  As with all of my books, it’s subject to change and prolly will.   I also have a few themes figured out, too: Love redeems, and Alisia’s personal theme: silencing the ghosts.  But what she silences and how are two very different things.  😉

What else?  Worked on the Plot of Doom after lunch.  Missed a few things, but got the bones.  Just need the meat.  Lots of it.  Will be going back to Create a Plot Clinic to see what the muse has for me. 

And the magic rules….are coming together.  It’s always been said that you need to have limits and consequences for your magic, that it’s not just a fancy plot device.  I was guilty of that a bit in Pirouette 1.0.  Now, I’m giving my folks limits.  Some of the magic has limits built in, but what about the new magic?  It needs limits, and it should be affected by death magic, as it involves the death of ….something.  Not tellin.’  😉  And overflow.  Yes, in my world, you can have too much magic.  Or not enough.  This is alot of fun.  It’s going to create a richer world I think, and nice conflict, especially when magic-things go wrong.


I’m happy.  I’m always happiest when I’m weaving words, inhabiting my world for a short time.  It makes life so much more than what it is…..I have this world of my own.  And it rocks.  And I love Alisia and Lucien.  They’re my supercouple.  Kind of like Terry Goodkind’s Richard and Kahlan (now there’s an awesome couple, because their love endures EVERYTHING imaginable — if I can do something remotely like this, I’d be delighted).  Goodkind rocks.  He actually inspired me to start writing fantasy and weaving fantasy elements into my horror/vamp books.  Darkweaver is the result of those attempts.

Anyhoo, I’m off to go weave some more.  Also I have another blog, a “virtual notebook” as it were.  It’s primarily private, but I will post things there publically from time to time.  Mostly plot stuff, language stuff, worldbuilding…..just so it’s in one place and somewhere besides on my hard drive or scribbled on paper.  I’m paranoid that way.  Anyhoo, check in from time to time, you might find something cool.

 It’s called Flogging the Muse.  How appropriate, huh? 

Reconstructing Pirouette.

I’ve been working feverishly on Pirouette, and managed to plot about 1/3 of the Rewrite before I hit a wall. 

There were some failings in my plot –specifically, the villian’s motivations and conflict.  Yeah.  Trust me, you can miss something like this.  Hell, I missed it for the whole 400k manuscript!  Well, actually it was okay — just a Big Fat Cliche.  Which is death.

So what does the Weaver do?  She weaves.  A lot.  I sat down and went over the conflicts and my own goals for the book and re-did alot of things.  No more love/attraction for the sake of it.  No, no, no.  Must have a Really Good Reason for it –note the capitals –or else it goes bye-bye.

So that part went.  I’m also considering redoing the social structure of my vampires.  Not the hierarchy because I love that, but just….making some changes. 

Mythology — redone.  Again.  I like this one better.  For one, it gives my vamps and Fae an actual common source and legend; two, it satisfies my need for balance; and three, it provides –at least as far as I can see — motivation for the current wars.  Yes, that’s a plural.  There are 2 wars in this book. 

I’m not sure how any of this is going to fly, as I have few people to toss ideas around with.  I personally think it borders on near-brilliance, but I have thought that before, only to have that stomped on (it’s okay, it’s all part of the deal). 

I would love to say more about this, but I am very paranoid when I’m in the beginning stages of a project.  I’m afraid that if I say too much, it will just burst into a million pieces.  Or I’ll get plagerized. 😦    Yeah, it’s a cruel world out there, and frankly, I have put too much work into this project to see it copied.  Or bastardized.  Or somesuch thing.

But.  I think this is it for the main changes, anyways.  *sighs in relief*

Off to drool over watch House.  He’s my hero.  😉