Thursday, October 01, 2009

Uncertainty

Guess who volunteered to schedule today's post to automatically publish, and then forgot? Yep. Sorry, Tom.

Dreamveil, the second Kyndred novel and Rowan's story is off to production, and while I refuse to jinx it by talking about it too much, it's definitely one of the strongest books I've written in a few years.

My editor didn't think I could pull off Rowan's book, but after reading the manuscript she didn't request any changes except some technical corrections and some additional clarification of one plot point for the reader. When that's the extent of your revision requests, you know you nailed the story. But from the moment I started writing the synopsis for this novel, I knew it was strong. I could visualize every detail. I knew the characters, down to what socks they wear and toothpaste they use. And while the twist was something I've never before attempted, and certainly not The Usual Stuff, it came together without a single hitch.

The ending of Dreamveil (again, not the usual sort) was in my eyes damn near perfect. I don't brag often because I'm not perfect and I don't do perfect. I generally rush endings and I know it. But this one made me so happy I was tempted to print it out and show it to people like a new baby while I cooed, "Look! Look what I did! Call my mom!" Actually I don't think I've ever been as satisfied with an ending for a novel as I am with this one.

When I have a story hit the pages like this, I try to analyze it, and see what it is that I did that made it work out so well during the writing phase. I want to be able to do that with every book, and I can't, and that frustrates me.

I know it's not me. My methods don't vary, I use the same basic routine with every novel, and while I always strive to produce an original, unique storyline I outline, draft and edit the book in the same way each time. Each series I write has a specific structure and tone that I put in each novel to provide continuity, and unless it serves the story I don't mess with that too much because that's the glue that provides cohesiveness.

I hesitate to say any book writes itself, because even with a strong story there's too much work involved. Every novel is a mountain to be conquered, and none of us can leap over them in a single bound. It's days and weeks and months of intense work, every time. When I think of how many years it took me to pull together all the elements, do the research and then work up the nerve to write Blade Dancer, I still wince.

Some books are insanely difficult to write on an emotional level, and I've had a couple of those. Endurance, StarDoc book three was the toughest book I've ever written; I fought my way through every paragraph and it kept kicking me in the teeth all the way to the last page. In the end I won, but the experience was such that after nine years (Lord, has it been that long already?) I still can't read it.

I'm not sure, but this time I think it was the constructs of the characters. I don't think I've put together a cast this defined and strong since I wrote Red Branch. I didn't have to write up worksheets for this bunch; they were all there from the moment of conception. And I have no idea why. None of it was deliberate. They just showed up.

Maybe the key to writing a strong book is not to question how you did it, or try to repeat it, but I want to know. It would make my writing life a hell of a lot easier.

What do you do when the story comes out clear and strong? Do you try to figure out what made it happen? Or do you accept it as a gift of the Writing Gods and move on? Tell me what you think in comments.

15 comments:

  1. When a story comes out clear and strong from the point the idea hit me, I thank the creator and the universe because I know it's not me it's some kind of gift. It's only happened once, so far, so I also know not to expect a string of gifts.

    Congratulations on finishing Rowan's story. I can't wait to read it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have experienced both the universal rightness of the words flowing on the page and the every word is kicking me in the teeth wrongness in each book I've written.

    And it doesn't seem to matter if I've done a huge amount of pre-planning and plotting, research, character sketches, or not. A detailed outline hasn't altered this curious splintering, nor has trying to write a more 'pantser' driven story.

    I'm not sure what that says about me. LOL.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Some of both, I think. I try to figure out what I did right so I can repeat it, but I also think some projects just get an extra dose of magic and all you can do is say "thank you".

    ReplyDelete
  4. I haven't had this experience with an entire book, but I have had it with particular characters and some scenes. It's a case that the character's voice comes through so loud and clear, it's as if they are talking in my head. Where with other characters, I struggled to capture what's unique about them.

    Or I'll see a scene so clearly in my mind, it's like a movie. The dialogue is there, the action, even the movements of the characters at any given moment. Other scenes, I have just a vague idea but no idea how it will play out.

    In both cases, writing is almost pure joy. The words flow onto the page, and when I go back at a later time and reread, I feel good about my writing, that I can actually maybe do this decently. It's these bits of writing that keep me going when I want to throw my hands in the air. It's also why I write - these moments define for me the concept of a writer being someone who can't not write. I live for these moments. They are a sort of Holy Grail I'm constantly trying to capture.

    I wish I knew the answer of why this happens because I'd love to bottle and sell it! Or at least be able to turn it on when I needed it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think, since you use the same method every time, not questioning it in this case and considering it a gift is probably the right thing to do. Sometimes a story just clicks. And you're not the first one who has had a story that stands out in a series.

    Don't question it. I know you think it might make your writing easier, but it could also go the other way as well, and you're too good for that. Just accept the gift and keep writing :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think it's just as important to analyze what you did right as it is to try and figure out what may have gone wrong. Otherwise you wind up focusing too much on the negative (I'm absolutely lecturing myself about this right now) and you'll stymie yourself. Because writing is such an intense and detailed and difficult process, I think it's absolutely a good idea to try to find out if what went right with a book is duplicable. It's too much hard work to believe that it's only the smiling of the proverbial gods or the lining up of the stars.

    ReplyDelete
  7. As if I wasn't already drooling to get my hands on Dreamveil you go and post this!

    ARGH!

    As to your question, if it ever happens to me, you'll be the first to know!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Do you try to figure out what made it happen? Or do you accept it as a gift of the Writing Gods and move on?

    Yes in my own work and in other books I've absolutely loved. I've racked my brain on what made this book different, why did this book just sing with every scene.

    It's the characters. Has to be. I've read books where the plot is interesting and new, but those books didn't stay with me. And, then I look at my first novella. There's really nothing special about it. The heroine works in construction. The hero is a spoiled and charming rich guy. Yet the energy of that novella can't match anything else I've written. (I've written about 11, maybe 12 books)I literally sat back and dictated that novella through the characters.

    For the life of me I can't recreate it. Doesn't make anything else I've written sub-par. (Ok, one novel, but it's hidden under my bed. Shhh!) They don't have the IT factor. I'm sure every author has one of those books, several probably, but it has less to do with them.

    Strange isn't it? We write the books so it would make sense we could do it again. Not so from where I'm sitting.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's a gift. I don't question it, because I want to enjoy it... and I want those sweet memories to keep my going when I'm banging my head against the wall, like I'm doing with this damn Hunter book I'm writing.

    Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  10. don't know a thing about writing but dang it I cannot wait to get my hands on Rowan's book. I fell in love with this character in the first book. Do you have a release date. Cause I need this one.

    ReplyDelete
  11. When it happens...I just am so happy and grateful. For me it is like asking Santa Claus where the presents came from. :)I just enjoy.

    I am also tres happy for you Lynn. Magic Happens!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I understand all these feelings very well. With my last manuscript, except for a few periods of time, every word just flowed and felt right and the characters revealed themselves without much effort on my part and it was beautiful. With my current effort, it's like I'm dragging the characters by their hair through every word of the already overinflated manuscript. I think I'm finally getting the hang of it, and the only reason I haven't given it up is that I know the story's in there, and could be quite good once I polish all the mud off the diamond within. (But there's a lot of mud to get through.) It's frustrating because it's not the story I envisioned, and it's so hard to even get through the first draft. I'm convinced, though, that once it's done and I've had time to analyze and rewrite it, it will be worthwhile.

    Also frustrating because the characters from the next book are beckoning to me, and I think they'll reveal themselves even more easily than the ones in the last book...

    ReplyDelete
  13. A confluence of genetics and upbringing. Kids who are encouraged to read, to explore their imaginations grow into creative adults.

    When a story comes out strong, I think it's a result of practice and previous hard work.

    Ideas are the gift and I'm hoping I'll be standing in an idea rain storm come November.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My current WIP is a story which just wouldn't let go but grabbed me by the throat and demanded to be written. I still get days where writing is a slog, but there are fewer of them than usual. And I feel that this novel goes deeper emotionally than my previous work.

    Unfortunately, it's also a genre I do not usually write, contemporary romance, while I have always seen myself as an SF and fantasy writer. And I fear that this novel can be considered as promoting a view of the world to which I do not subscribe and which I find problematic.

    So, in short, this novel that works really well is also one that I feel I shouldn't be writing at all. But I'm not sure what to do about it, either. I've considered trunking the damn thing, but I can't seem to write anything else either.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Keita Haruka8:32 PM

    I never really thought about what makes creativity tick. That's one of the reasons I don't want to really make a career out of it. What you mention in this post...I think it happens when the events in the story, or the people in it, have some sort of special meaning for you. They may relate to an unexplored side of yourself, or some deep inner fantasy. So I wouldn't call it a gift from some outside source. I think it's just that your conscious and subconscious hit it off really well with your skill as a writer. :D

    I can hardly wait for Dreamveil!

    ReplyDelete