Tales of Writing For Tanya

Here I am, once again, with questions about writing, and I saved some of the best–and longest–for last, all from my friend Tanya, she of the video I released just the other day.  If there is anyone who knows me as a writer it’s her, because she’s been with me from the start of when I began writing once again.  That means she also knows what questions to ask.

And those questions are:

 

What does your writing process look like? Do you have any writing habits that might be considered strange or unusual? Just how important are names in your books? What is your LEAST favorite part of the whole writing/publishing process? Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder to write than others? Have you always enjoyed writing and if so, what were some of the earliest things you remember putting pen to paper about? Do you tend to write your stories in order or do you skip around?

 

A lot of questions, so let me address them one at a time.

 

What does your writing process look like?

 

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to write, then I start gathering data for my story–if it’s necessary–and once that’s all finished, I plot things out and start writing.  While I’m writing I’m constantly thinking about what’s just around the corner in the story, and I’m working out future scenes in my head as I going through whatever I’m working on currently.  I also do that because with a large enough work–like this last novel–you find that some things didn’t work, some things need more explanation, and sometimes you just gotta add or remove scenes to have the story work.  I try to write every night, and I try to get in between five hundred and a thousand words a night.  Five hundred words doesn’t sound like much, but if you keep at it every day, it adds up.

 

Do you have any writing habits that might be considered strange or unusual?

 

Other that monthly sacrifices to Cthulhu, no.  I enjoy listening to music when I’m writing (as I’m doing right now, listing to a Genesis concert from Zurich, Switzerland, recorded during their Wind and Wuthering tour in 1977), but there aren’t any other unusual habits I have when I’m working on a story.  Though I suppose one could say that once I start a story I dedicate myself to finishing it and not working on or getting sidetracked by other stories that may pop into my head.  If that happens they go into the idea file and I move on.  Remember, kids:  stay focused on what’s before you, and stop with the “But this other story came up and I just had to work on it!”  If that’s the case, then the first story was never meant to be.  And if you get distracted by a third story after you start that second, don’t quit your day job.

 

Just how important are names in your books?

 

They’re important.  As I’ve pointed out in another post, I work on my names until I get them right, and I’ve worked on stories before (Her Demonic Majesty being one) where I had a character and I just had the hardest time writing about that person because I wasn’t diggin’ the name.  But once I know who “they” are, then I’m good to go and I get into them greatly.  Sometimes I get into a character’s name so much that whenever I hear it outside the story, I sort of flash on my character and wonder what they should do next.

 

What is your LEAST favorite part of the whole writing/publishing process?

 

Promotion is, for me, the worse.  That’s because I’m really not good at selling myself, and I always feel like I’m pushing my crap onto other people if I’m trying to get them interested in my stories.  Even though it’s the only way to get any exposure in these days of self publishing, I hate it.  And once you’ve seen another writer spamming every thread they can access with invitations to read their story, you feel like you don’t want to bother people with your requests.  Truly, I suck at this.

 

Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder to write than others?

 

A lot of people would imagine romance scenes are hard to write, but I’m actually go with those–I enjoy writing them, because if handled right, romantic scenes are great for character building.  Just look at Annie and Kerry and see how they grew in their romance.  (And, no, That Girl does not exist here.  Nope.  Not at all.  Move along.)

The scenes I have the most difficulty writing are action scenes, and here’s the reason why.  These days, action has become associated with visual presentations seen on movies and television.  We now have an expectation of how action is suppose to play out, and directors and special effects people know exactly how those are to look.

The only thing is, action on the screen is difficult to play out on the written page.  There are only so many adjectives one can apply to action before you start repeating yourself, or end up looking ridiculous.  And if you watch closely, some action scenes in movies play out forever:  it’s like they slipped into a Whovian Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey ball of stuff, and what should be over in two minutes gone on for twenty.

My action scenes tend to be short and quick, because if you were paying attention, the three main action scenes that were in The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced–Kerry fighting the Abomination; Annie and Kerry against the homunculi in Self Defense class; and the Battle of Link Bridge–went fairly fast.  Well, two of the three, but we’ll get to that . . .  The reason they went fast is either due to some heavy-ass magic flying about–the Link Bridge battle–or one opponent was outclassed by the other–Kerry and the Abomination.  In the second example Kerry quickly came to the conclusion that if he hung around trying to fight this thing he was gonna die, and did what he could to get the creature off Emma and to come after him thinking he could somehow outrun the beast.  In the first example you saw that magic fights were a little like modern day aircraft or submarine battles:  if you get through the defenses and hit, you’ll score a kill.  As I showed, the Link Bridge Battle was over in forty seconds, and most everyone was in bad shape after that little soiree–even the winners needed a quick evac.

The exception to this rule was Annie and Kerry fighting the homunculi scene–or as I lovingly titled it, The Walking Tests.  That went on for about nine thousand words, due to the set up, the preamble of one coven getting their butts kicked, and after the fight hearing about how the test may have been set up, and our two combatants wandering off to clean up.  The actually battle seemed to take some time, only because there was some butt saving, and some talking, and most talking, and finally–well, once the kids figured out how to dust those loser homunculi walkers, it was over quickly.  If I had to put a timer on the action, I’d say Annie and Kerry were on the mat no more than a couple of minutes at most–and that took four thousand words.

Though I have to admit that scene was one of my favorites to write, even if it did take me almost a week . . .

 

Have you always enjoyed writing and if so, what were some of the earliest things you remember putting pen to paper about?

 

While I like telling stories, I can’t say I’ve always enjoyed writing.  Mostly because, at least in the beginning, one, I have horrible handwriting; two, I can’t spell worth a damn; and three, I couldn’t type.  Once I learned to type I only had Point Two holding me back, and spell checkers help out there greatly.

The first story I remember completing was a horror tale that was really about as amateur as they get, complete with creepy, unknown things going bump in the night, and the overused trope of the author (the story was told in first person point of view) continuing to write as the Horror Outta The Basement came to eat his ass–otherwise known as the Apocalyptic Log with the writing making sure everyone read The Last Entry.

At the time I thought I was doing something great, but now it’s not hard to see it was complete crap.  I really had no idea what I was doing, and I was totally coping the style of a write whose work I enjoyed.  All writers do this (well, almost all), and I learned from that work, because my next two were much better.  The second story I wrote was done with original characters, and involved a trio of time travelers realizing the part they had to play in the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981.  It was the first time I worked with original characters who weren’t just there as part of the scenery, and there was the first inkling of a story starting to play out.  (True story:  this was written as an assignment for an adult writing night course I was taking.  The instructor had wanted something along the lines of four to five pages; I turned in twenty-eight.  She made certain to tell the whole class that I’d actually turned in a story, which I found a little embarrassing.)

And my third story was really sort of a fan fiction, as it took place inside a role playing universe that I was running at the time–however, I used all original character (save for two who were really in a position to help drive the plot along), and there was an actual history developed in the course of telling this story, where I was giving background on some of the characters, and even giving them, in the course of the story, motivation for their actions.  It was also my first really cinematic story, as I could see scenes playing out as if I was watching this play out on HBO–and given all the swearing and mayhem that occurred in the story, it would have been perfect for HBO before the coming of the show known as A Song of Breasts and Dragons.

The most important thing about the story, however, was the length:  it was about forty-five thousand words, which means long before I wrote my first novel, this was my first novel, at least according to the guild lines set down by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  And only a few friend ever heard the whole story:  I never posted it on the Internet, I never tried to get it published because I know, as a derivative entity of an existing work with a legitimate copywrite, I couldn’t do anything with the story.  I read it at writer’s meetings, and that was that.

None of these works exist any longer.  They all resided on the hard drive an old computer that eventually went belly up, and were lost to history.  I managed to find a hard copy of almost half of the third story about fifteen years ago (all these things were written in the late 1980s, early 1990s), but even that has vanished.  I could, however, rewrite the third story if I had to, because even to this day I remember it well, because, really, you never forget your first.

 

Do you tend to write your stories in order or do you skip around?

 

And we finally come to the last question, and the crowd goes wild!  Just kidding . . .

I write everything in order, and even I find that a bit strange, because as I have my stories laid out so well, it doesn’t make sense that I start at the beginning, work my way through the middle, and work towards the end, because if I know what’s going into a scene months before I get to it, why not write said scene?  Writing software makes this possible, and with all my scenes for my last novel developed before setting down word one, then why not skip around?  Why not write about what happened to Annie and Kerry in Kansas City long before they go to the Samhain Dance, or why not write the ending–which I knew before I started writing–and then get the kids together?

Because even though I know what’s going to happen before I get to those scenes, I don’t know what’s going to happen until I get there.

Allow me to explain.

When I laid out A For Advanced I knew the kids would go to Kansas City on a field op for the good guys.  And, in a metadata view of the story, I knew certain things would happen there.  What I didn’t know were the details, and I didn’t start working on those until I was about ready to write them.  This was after I had months to think about that adventure, and even when I started writing, I only knew maybe six events in any kind of detail.

Annie and Kerry talking about France outside the school?  Came to me that day before I wrote the scene.  Same with the Dreamspace scene; had that idea the night before because I knew it made sense given what they knew.  The CDC?  Also figured out the day before I wrote the scene, based upon what I knew of the world I’d developed over the last year.  And the Magic Show the kids gave in the park only came about due to knowing what they had already done magically, and want I wanted to bring up in a later scene.

In short, I couldn’t have written any of the Kansas City scenes without knowing what my kids had been through before getting there.  I mean, I could have, but those scenes would have been completely different, and it’s very likely I may have needed to rewrite them completely to fit with what I’d written if I’d decided to work the whole field op out of order.

There are scenes I could write now for later novels because I know them well–and believe it when I say I would love to sometimes, just to write them out.  But I would probably end up rewriting them later, and I hate to do that.  It’s best to get to them in the right order so I know that my kids have advanced the way they’re supposed to advance.

Though if I did write out The Polar Express now it would answer one burning question . . .

"She finally tells us if Kerry nailed that tramp Emma and ends up cheating on Annie, who is just way too good for him!  Yay!"

“She’s finally going to tell us if Kerry nails that horrible tramp Emma and ends up breaking Annie’s heart! Yay!”

Ummm, on second thought, I’ll just keep that information to myself for a few more years.

There you have it:  twenty-five hundred words telling you a bit more about me as a writer.  I hope you found it entertaining.

Because I remembered things that I thought I’d lost.  And that’s a good thing.

Raptor on a Half Shell

The last couple of weeks has seen the rise of Dino Porn, which if you haven’t been paying attention, or you’ve been living in a cave or meth trailer—which are pretty much the same thing—you’ve missed out on one of those things that tends to get the Internet tongues a-wagging.

Long story short, two women in Texas are writing tales of dinosaur on human female erotica, where lovely lasses from all walks of light end up getting bedded by various reptilian beasts who breathed their last during the K-T Extinction Event.

But that doesn’t stop the production of Ravaged by the Raptor, Taken by the Pterodactyl, T-Rex Troubles, and Dino and Wilma Make a Porno—oh, wait, that’s Kevin Smith’s next movie. No less than that esteemed cultural critic Cracked.com has weighed in on the matter, and have pretty much declared that the Internet can now be shut down and our libraries burned.

(On a side note to the lady writers in question, can’t Stegosaurus get a little love in your books? Or Ankylosaurus? I mean, if it’s alliteration that you seek, I can think of one for Ankylosaurus. Come on! Lets go for it together.  Call me!)

On first glance it’s very easy to make fun of this stuff. I first learned of these stories while roaming the Lousy Book Covers site, and posted the found cover a few days before the tales of Saurian Sex began appearing all over Facebook. I’ve made jokes on this blog about werewolf erotica, vampire erotica, tentacle sex, dragon fantasies that involve more than killing knights and hording gold, and my favorite erotica genre, unicorn porn.  I’ll look at these and wonder, first, who is writing this stuff, and that–damn, they’re writing it because there’s a market.  Roll over to Amazon and do a search on “Lactating Lesbian Babysitter”, and make sure all the shape objects in the house are put away.  You won’t get an exact hit, but the ninety-five you find may keep you entertained.

There is one thing I can’t fault them for:

They’re writing.  And they’re writing a lot.

I’ve heard from a few people who’ve said things along the lines of, “I couldn’t write crap like this!” and for a lot of people this is probably true.  I’ve written erotica, some of it pretty strange and fetishy, and it’s not an easy thing to do.  Sometimes it’s easy to skip the character building moment and go right to the hard core boning.  (That last is a technical term, so it’s okay to use it.)  Sometimes you just never get the right mood.  Sometimes one couldn’t write a sex scene to save their lives.

And then I’ll hear someone talk about the quarter of a million word Harry Potter/Mass Effect crossover fan fiction, where Harry has knocked up Fem Shepard and Luna is running a strip club out of the Hufflepuff commons, and my eyes go crossed . . . I know I shouldn’t do that, but if dino porn isn’t your thing, fan fiction isn’t mine.  Such is the world.

Neil Gaiman has written a list of things one needs in order to become a writer.  The three I remember the most are write, keep writing, and finish what you write.  That last is where I always used to fall down, because I’d start in on a story and about half way through think, “Who’s gonna read this crap?” and just leave it.  On another system I left behind about a dozen stories that I’d not finished, and knew I never would.  One was an actual novel that I was about a hundred thousand words into . . . it was also something of a fan fiction, and while I’d love to have finished that story, I know it’ll never happen.

Gaiman has also said that, when it comes to people writing fan fiction of his own work, he doesn’t care because no one is going to write something that will change what he knows about those characters, and as long as people are writing, they should keep writing.  The Dino Erotica women are not only writing, they’re finishing their work, and they’re selling–probably better than I am with my work.  So more power to them, because, like it or not, they are doing what I’m working towards, which is making something of a living off my work.

Which gives me an idea . . . fan fiction dino erotica!  I mean, think of the possibilities.  First up could be a HP slash fic called Hermione Rides the Hadrosaurus, and I know at least half of you saw, “HARDosaurus”, and now you can’t unsee it.  Now all I gotta do is find a picture of a Hadrosaurus and a sexy Emma Watson picture–like there aren’t any of those on the Internet–‘shope the pictures so she’s riding ol’ Hadro like a reptilian pony . . .

Yeah, I’m talkin’ best seller here.

As long as J. K. doesn’t get upset.

Mortal Changes

After a weekend of working on various things, it’s now time to–get back to work?  Seems like only Friday I was looking forward to a relaxing time of doing nothing.  Which doesn’t happen around here, because if I’m doing nothing, then I’m probably sleeping.  Correct that:  trying to sleep.  Here I am, up at four-thirty again this morning, and my head is feeling a tad woozy.

One day I’ll go to bed at ten-thirty and wake up at six.  It will happen.  But today is not that day.

I was reading film reviews on Something Awful–’cause if you’re going to read film reviews, you may as well read something that’s gonna be funny, or at least sarcastic as hell–and they were doing a review of The Mortal Instruments movie.  While they didn’t care for it–they did give it a four out of ten rating “As a Piece of Absurdest Humor,” so it’s got that going for it–they did mention the fact that “Cassandra Clare”, the pen name for one Judith Rumelt, got her start penning Harry Potter and Lord of the Ring fan fiction.  They also mention that there’s more than a passing resemblance between some of the characters in The Mortal Instruments, and some of the characters and passages in the HP fanfic, all of which was pulled from the Internet as soon as her publishing career got started.

As Neil Gaiman has pointed out, fan fiction is writing, and anything that gets people writing is a good thing.  He’s also said he doesn’t care if you do fan fiction of his work, because, hey:  nothing you’re going to do is going to impact anything he’ll do to his characters.  He probably wants to stay away from Coraline slashfic, however . . .

His point about fan fiction is well taken, however.  It’s very likely that Neil never reads it, or if he has he’s sort of skimmed over it and thought, “Hum, yeah,” and moved on to working on his HBO adaptation and Doctor Who scripts.  And he’s correct:  there’s nothing millions of words of fan fiction will do to his characters that will reflect what he’s going to do to them, so why sweat it?

I wonder how he’d feel, however, if someone wrote a million words of Sandman fan fiction, put the character through some interesting changes–like having him get hammered in a strip club while watching his sister Death gyrate to some Millie Cyrus crunk as she’s making out with a demonic Taylor Swift–and then, a year later, finds a book called, Sleepytime Sam, the Dream King.  Book One:  Down and Out in Sister Stripperville.  Oh, sure, it’s just a coincidence the characters bear a little resemblance to his . . .

Not that I’ll have to worry about any of this.  I doubt that anyone will start ripping off my characters and write stories of their strange escapades, ’cause anything you can do, I know I can do better–and I love being strange.  I need to open up the strangeness stuff a little more, ’cause I feel I’m getting rusty.  Maybe it’s time to write my magnum opus about gay cuttlefish shapeshifters–

Oh, wait:  it’s been done.