Anybody up for a playlist recommendation or two? I’d truly appreciate it. 😉
It’s only two weeks since I posted my plan for the rest of the year, and I’ve already made a significant change. I sent off Alexis Book 1 to be edited, (yay!), but when I sat down to start work on the prequel, I realized that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell…not yet, anyway.
The prequel is the story of Alexis’s parents, Daire and Annis. It explains how Annis ends up running for her life, carrying little more than her unborn child and the most powerful jewel in the history of Caldermor. But, but, but… that story stems directly from Daire’s failure to secure the hand in marriage of a very different woman. All the characters from the debacle are major players in Alexis’s story, and I’ll need a novella to give away next year when I finally hit ‘publish,’ so I decided to write Kiran and Christal’s story now, and (hopefully) let the momentum carry Daire and me into the prequel.
I know where the novella is set (Darrochar, the kingdom adjoining Caldermor). I know how it ends, and I know the main characters. I’ve made a few pages of notes, but I need a playlist to really get my imagination working.
The story so far:
- One arranged political marriage;
- One clever, rich, handsome, spoiled princeling who’s too busy having a good time to stand up to his ambitious, power-mad mother;
- One elegant, clever princess, determined not to waste her life and talents on a golden loser.
- One scheming, murderous Princess Dowager (the mother-in-law from hell);
- One plainspoken, upstanding career soldier turned princely bodyguard-slash-advisor who’s wondering what the hell he’s let himself in for.
- Fighting (physical and metaphorical), in-fighting, hard truths told, harder lessons learned, risking all, expecting to lose all and (spoiler alert!) somehow the good guys emerge triumphant.
I’ll add to the list as I build up the story, but here’s my first stab at a few tunes: Continue reading
What do you do when you’re chewing on a problem, any problem, and you can’t seem to find your way to an answer?
I’m just back from a routine trip to visit my mum in Derbyshire. The return journey involves a minimum of six hours driving, closer to eight hours this weekend. It almost always results in some brainwave, useful insight about my WIP, or some other problem if Real Life is getting in the way of my writing.
I don’t consciously use my driving time to problem solve—I try to keep my eyes on the road and my wits about me—but somehow when my surface concentration is fully occupied watching the traffic, the deeper levels of my mind feel free to work on knottier problems.
I write sequentially, which means that I use each scene I write to provide the impetus for the next one. The good thing about my process is that the story grows organically. The downside is that when I hit a problem, I grind to a halt and spin my wheels. I can’t move forward until I resolve it.
Over the last few years I’ve tried various tactics to rescue myself when I get stuck. Here are a selection of the ones which work best for me, though your mileage may vary. Continue reading
“Where do you get your ideas?” is supposedly the question most asked of successful authors.
I collect and hoard story starters from here, there and everywhere (Alexis grew from the juxtaposition of two fascinating anecdotes shared by my hairdresser), but my all-time favorite source is the BBC website.
Most weeks I stumble across something weird or wonderful that makes my brain fizz. I bookmark them in a folder called ‘story stuff’ and forget about them until I’m looking for ideas or inspiration or just something a little different to get the wheels turning.
I had one of those days today, so I took a stroll through my story stuff file. There are more than a hundred nuggets in there, but here are a trio of good ones.
A sci-fi classic: Continue reading
Michaeline talked about the intersections of creativity – all those wonderful and sometimes seemingly random bits and pieces that the Girls in the Basement send up – in her post on Saturday. I’ll admit brainstorming explanations for one of her ideas, a gardener, who encountered a body buried beneath the forsythia, kept me happily occupied for hours this weekend.
Of course the last thing I need right this minute is a shiny, fun, new idea to distract me from what I am supposed to be working on. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I currently have an over-abundance of random ideas. It’s not too surprising. With all that is going on in today’s political climate – intrigue, collusion, unexpected developments, partisanship, protests – there is a seemingly unending source of material (as the late-night television hosts can attest).
I have overflowing notebooks full of ideas for stories. I collect them the way my mother collected recipes and quilt patterns. Like her collections, most of my ideas will probably never make it out of the notebook, but half the fun is catching them and daydreaming about their possibilities, even for a short while.
It’s hard to tell which ideas will stick Continue reading
Because most of us here on the blog write (and read!) a lot of romance, the week of Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity to talk about that core component of a romance story: love. More specifically, believable, happily ever after (HEA) love.
I thought about HEA love this past week when Maria V. Snyder posted on her FB page about the need for Valentine’s Day cards for 25+-year relationships, cards along the lines of “you annoy me and drive me crazy but I’m still willing to put up with it” or “we worked hard to mesh and I don’t want to train anyone else”. Yeah, those aren’t quite the messages we tend to read or write in our romance novels, but they are tongue-in-cheek reminders that there are real-life HEAs.
Back in the fiction world, though, that ‘believable HEA’ part isn’t always easy to write, and doesn’t always resonate with readers. For example, Continue reading
Portals of the Past, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA
Last week, when sharing some of the great wisdom imparted to me during the early November Writers Unboxed UnConference, I discussed the importance of theme as the heart of your book. This week, I’m going to discuss another essential element of your story: the decoder ring. Heart and a decoder ring. Makes sense, right? Er, perhaps I need to elaborate.
As Lisa Cron said many times during her workshops at the UnConference, when it comes to the story you are writing – the story your main character is telling – the character’s past is the decoder ring to the story. Quoting William Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” OK, he wasn’t talking about your story or mine, in that case, but the famous line has been applied to the craft of writing by many writing teachers.
So how does this idea of the character’s past being part of the present-day story jibe with the admonition to stay in the now and not bog down your book with the dreaded backstory? Paraphrasing Lisa Cron, it’s not backstory that’s the problem; it’s poor usage of backstory. In fact, she argues, we not only want the pertinent parts of your characters’ backstories, we need them to understand who the characters are and why they react and behave the way they do. But how do you include backstory without throwing the reader (or the contest judge, in Jilly’s case) out of the story? Continue reading