In which I muse and ruminate on what I write about, or what I try to write about, or maybe what I think I write about…
In which I try to contain my excitement at the continued joy and wonder I get from creating The Rupture…
In which I ask the questions that matter about creativity… Or I just waffle, you’ll have to watch it to be sure…
I was invited to participate in this tour by my wonderful friend and fabulous fantasy author, Autumn M Birt. To see her post, go here.
The aim of this post is for me to reveal a little something about my current work in progress and to share some of the thinking and inspiration behind it. After, I’ll nominate some other writers to share their progress. So without further ado…
The Planets: Book Five – The Enemy Within.
Since writing the first four books in my Planets Superhero series, I’ve written about fifteen other novels, of various lengths and genres. I didn’t think I’d return to the Planets, having not found anything that moved me enough to go there. However, in editing the third and fourth book in the series, I found myself falling in love with the characters all over again and realising where the story needed to go next. I also wanted to have another crack at writing a Planets story with all the new knowledge and skills I’ve gained from writing those extra books in between.
I can’t give away too much without giving out huge spoilers for book 3, The Long Way Home, which is out in about a month and book 4, Someone Else’s Statue, out in Spring. However, I can talk about the process and some of the obstacles I’ve come up against.
The Enemy Within begins three months after the end of Book 3 and the world is in a very different shape to how it ended up. The Planets are struggling, in some cases, to find where they fit within this new world. Others have too much on their plates as it is. Of course, things wouldn’t be fun if an old friend didn’t turn up to screw things over royally. This turns out to be the tip of the iceberg and soon all hell breaks out.
In writing The Enemy Within, I wanted to write something that felt truly global. I’ve always enjoyed the Planets books for taking me all over the world and in some cases, beyond. But I’ve also always been careful to keep the Planets themselves under the radar. Much of their strength comes from being covert. In this book, I’ve changed all that. Nothing can stay a secret forever and the issues that come with being a public superhero are numerous and lots of fun to explore. Needless to say, my characters disagree with me.
I also wanted to explore the fallout from what occurred in the first three books. So often in fantasy books, the war is over and all’s well that ends well. In The Long Way Home, the war ends but little is well. Seeing the characters three months on and dealing with the repercussions of that is endlessly exciting and great fun to write.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to push myself to use some of the skills I think I’ve picked up over the last year and a half. This book is tough to write because it has a cast of thousands, obviously, but it also has nine POVs. All of the Planets get a look in, and trying to keep track of everyone’s personal journey, as well as how all the events tie in is a real challenge. The best thing for me to do would be to create some kind of table or wall chart, to map everything out. However, time spent doing that is time I could be writing, so instead I keep it all in my head.
I’ve not been sleeping well lately.
But it’s fun. And I find having everything in my head keeps it moving around. This means that when a new plot twist rears its ugly head, I can just slot it in without worrying about previous plans. I began The Enemy Within thinking of it as book five in the series, but it is rapidly becoming books five and six. This suits me just fine, but has thrown up another conundrum. I have the final scene in my head, as I often do by this stage, but if that scene doesn’t arrive until the end of book six, how do I make book five end in a way that is satisfying and meets the needs of the readers without tying everything up too neatly?
These are the sorts of challenges I find when I’m writing. Fortunately, they make everything more fun, so I really can’t complain. If you like the sound of the Planets, you can find them on all the normal platforms. The links can be found on the homepage, which you can reach by clicking here or the banner above.
I would now like to nominate the following lovely people to take on the challenge.
Ace, serial romance blogger.
Spinner of tales both sexy and scary.
I chose Tamie and Karen because they, like me, write fiction on their blogs, which I think is ace and would like to see more of.
Since launching this blog I’ve now published over one hundred fiction posts. They have, for the most part, been the story of Scarlet, the Life Without Tumblr series. I have loved posting it, not least because I’ve stuck to my guns with regards to not having to blog the same way as everyone else. I’ve also loved it because I’ve received some genuinely lovely, supportive feedback, which has made all the difference to my continued posting.
But the real boon of posting fiction three times a week is the learning I’ve taken away from it. Without further ado, here are four things writing my blog has taught me.
1. Every post matters. I’ve put this first because I believe it counts for non-fiction just as much as fiction, but is less obvious. It’s far too easy when you’re posting three times a week to throw out a quick fix, easy post when the workload builds up. You can’t get away with that in fiction. For the new reader, that one post could send them away, never to return, and for the regular reader, any time they come face to face with a less than scintillating read, they will be more tempted to turn to their possibly more convenient paper back or e-reader.
2. The art of the cliffhanger. This wasn’t so true in my earlier posts, but for the last fifty or so, I was determined to end every post with a cliffhanger of one sort or another. So every 1500-2000 words had to not only be a complete scene, but also end in a way that drew the audience back two days later. I pants for the most part, which means figuring it out as I go along. The cliffhanger was a powerful tool for maintaining tension and keeping me focused while enjoying the ride.
3. Be organized and prepared. I tend to write my stories well in advance. As a pantser, I want to know what the end is before I publish so I can tweak where necessary, add foreshadowing etc. I always seem to get lucky with these sorts of things, foreshadowing something that happened in the fourth series with a throw-away line in the second. Or maybe the throwaway line gave me inspiration for the fourth… hmm, not sure. Either way, as someone with a full time job, a wife and child and trying to write and publish my books as well, having a couple of months of posts written in advance is essential.
4. Edit fast. Writing this blog has essentially meant that I have two projects running concurrently all the time. It also means that I have another set of deadlines overlaying the main ones. In order to get every post ready in time, I’ve developed some really good editing techniques. For example, reading the posts out loud has become standard procedure and had a huge impact. Similarly, my proof-reading has become much better. I have one lovely reader who messages me with any typos she finds, and out of the forty thousand some words of Scarlet’s web, she’s only found about four, which is a good ratio.
The key to this being successful is to give yourself some space from the story and when you return to it, read it through with an eye for the big picture. What is the scene supposed to be achieving? What progress do you want the characters to make, both internal and external? Once you’ve figured that out and ensured it’s occurring, you can then check it line by line for quality and rhythm. Editing fifteen hundred words at a time has helped speed me up because I’m taking each post individually, so rather than thinking about having forty or fifty thousand words to edit, I’m thinking about only two thousand and how to get them perfect.
That’s a few things I think can be gained from blogging serialized fiction. Do you do it? Have you thought about doing it? I’d love to know your thoughts and if you’ve been reading Scarlet’s stories, I’d love to know whether you think it works and what you think I should change.
I also wanted to give everyone a heads up about what’s coming next on the blog.
I’m starting an entirely new story on Monday. I love writing Scarlet, but I need to do something different and she deserves a break and some down-time with Lara
The story is called 13 Roses and can be described as a character study/zombie apocalypse/spiritual fantasy…thing.
The flower seller sets up his stall on Embankment every day. Every day, he will serve only one customer. That person will be on the edge. Maybe they have to make a decision they dread, maybe their world is falling down around them and they are faced with a choice. Or maybe they need to change and don’t realize it. Whatever it may be, the flower seller is there, nudging them in one direction or another and giving them more than a nudge when the need arises.
But who is the flower seller and why is he giving these people roses? And where do the zombies come in? All will be revealed…
That’s the blurb at the moment. Please check out part one on Monday and let me know what you think. See you then.
We’re having a brief interlude in Scarlet’s Web today because I was asked by the lovely Jonathon Fletcher to participate in a writing process blog hop.
Below are four questions and my answers about my writing process. Beneath them is a link to Jon’s blog where you can read his answers to the same questions. I’ve tagged another great writer, Kela Lewis-Morin and will add a link to his blog when I have it later. Please check them out once you’ve read this.
Without more ado…
1. What am I working on?
I’ve been working on the next story for the blog. The Life Without Tumblr series has lasted six months and come to almost a hundred episodes, so it’s time for something new. It’s tentatively titled The 13th Rose.
Every morning, the Flower Seller leaves his chambers in the Flights and travels to earth. He sets up his stall on Embankment and waits. Every day he meets his one customer, to whom he sells a bunch of twelve red roses and gifts one extra. His subject has already been chosen for him. His task is to pull that person away from the edge and save their soul, regardless of what state it’s in. For some the choice means life and death, for others, lies and deceit.
But this week isn’t going well. If he doesn’t hit his quota, he’ll get banished and what’s worse, the Father is coming to visit on Sunday.
One by one our characters are introduced and one by one, they make their choice. Come the end of the week, everything changes and the world as we know it will cease to exist. Who will still be standing to take their place in the wreckage?
It’s part character study, part zombie apocalypse, part fantasy. The usual mash up and so far, great fun to write.
In terms of editing, I’m mid-re-edit on The Spirit Room while the third book in The Assembly trilogy is with my editor. I’m tidying up the language and refining it more than anything. I’m also formatting the ebook and print editions of A Game of War seasons One and Two in time for late May release.
2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?
Hopefully the answer above gives you some clues to this one. My favourite reading genre has always been fantasy first and foremost, with science fiction and horror close behind. My favourite TV and movie genres have always been Urban Fantasy and Zombies/Horror. I’m a huge comic fan and have been all my life.
These genres all fit together so well, I couldn’t figure out why they shouldn’t be combined. So my Epic Fantasy assassin trilogy, ‘The Assassin Cycle’, features zombies, and my epic fantasy ‘1000 Hours’ features characters with super powers. My modern-day-magician series, ‘The Broken Circle’ has goblins running around London and The Assembly Series features superheroes, alien invasion and the world’s greatest magicians.
Aside from the genre-splicing, I’m hooked on characters and always have been. My aim is to create characters within fantasy that affect the reader as much as those in any other genre, something I feel has been missing in many of the books I’ve read growing up. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I’m working hard on it.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I write because I love to write and love to tell stories. I write what I write because I love the freedom and the escapism. Growing up, fantasy gave me new worlds in which to exist; an escape from real life and all it entailed. I get that in most books I read, but fantasy was always an especially exciting prospect because you didn’t know where you were escaping to. Plus, of course, dragons. And swords. And zombies.
Why content yourself with writing ‘person A travels to place 1, meets person B on the way and they fall in love’, when you can write ‘person A travel to place 1, finds the sword of Danelar, meets person B who turns out to have magic powers. Together they defeat the Witch King of Shail and fall in love’? Maybe it’s just me, but I know which I’d rather read and write.
4. How does my writing process work?
I’ve been working on this a lot in the last year or so. I’ve read countless blogs that tell me to plan and outline and so forth, so I’ve tried, in various ways. However, my basic process has stayed the same. I sit at my computer, open a new Scrivener project and start typing. I will have nothing in my brain. In fact, the emptier it is the better.
By the end of the first page I’ll have a character, maybe a place and some questions.
By the end of the first chapter, I’ll have the answers to those questions in my head and lots more I can’t answer.
By about five thousand words, I’ll have a world. My protagonist will have an aim, some baggage and if they’re really lucky, some friends. They’ll also have an antagonist.
By, hopefully, twenty to thirty thousand words, I’ll have an ending in my head. I’ll also know whether the book is standalone or part of a series/trilogy.
That’s the process. From there till the end I put my head down and write. I try to write my first draft as quick as possible in order to stay in the flow, so I’ll average 25-30,000 words a week and bash it out in three to four weeks.
I then put it in the drawer with the rest and let it sit. When I come to edit, I read it cover to cover. If it still excites me, I begin to pull it apart and make it work. If it doesn’t, it goes in the virtual bin of ‘useful things I might use one day but probably won’t but can’t bear to throw away’.
I don’t ever take a break from writing, so in the last fifteen months, since I started writing seriously, I’ve clocked up around twelve books and a bunch of novellas and short stories. The real positive about this is that it stops me being too precious about my work. I don’t feel I have to use everything and it has to really stand out to make it to the editing stage. Now if I only had a bit more time…
I hope you’ve enjoyed a little dip into my writing life, do pop over now and check out Jon’s blog on GoodReads for more writing related goodies. It’s interesting how different our processes are to achieve the same end goal.
I’ve tagged @KelaLewisMorin…link to his post on Deviant Art coming later.
Thanks so much for reading. Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts on my process or would like to share your own. Scarlet’s Web will return on Wednesday, when she’ll finally meet the Council…