Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keep it simple, stupid; or, how to write my novel faster

First, a quick shout-out to Fang-tastic Books, where I'm doing a guest post about what my characters do for Christmas, and giving away a copy of POISON KISSED! Yay! Thanks, Roxanne!

And, another shout-out to para romance author Hailey Edwards, who does a great job pimping my books (ahem! thanks, Hailey!) and has managed to find someone who named their Kindle after the magic mirror in my book SHADOWGLASS

And, finally, a yell for @Wenj_BL on Twitter from Black Lagoon Reviews, who has created my very first piece of fan art. Awesome! Two words, folks: Aidan Turner. Phwoar. Thanks, Wenj!

Anyway. Now we've got that off our busty chests...

Started a new manuscript last Monday, and I already have nearly 40,000 words. That's 40K in 8 days with the weekend off. This may not impress some of you :) but when you realise you're talking to a girl with a word goal of 2,000 per day that she often doesn't achieve, it's a little more noteworthy.

So how am I achieving this amazing -- nay, wondrous -- nay, prodigious -- feat of stamina and endurance? How have I turned this speedy corner from Slowville and raced off into the land of fuck it, let's get this sucker done in a hurry?

Well, of course, I get up early. I sit down. I write. I don't let other shit get in the way. I wreck my brain. I go to bed. But it's more than that.

I write to an outline, because I'm too scared to do it any other way. And I'm talking a mega-outline. My bad boy for this MS is 20 pages in 12pt TNR. I do scenes, plot lines, character arcs, romantic turning points, the lot. But I still can usually make only 2K a day.

Reasons? Well, the first is that there are a hell of a lot of words in my Shadowfae books. By which I mean the writing is, by design, laid on pretty thick. They're dark, sexy, dripping with colours and smells and sensations. Keeping up that level of sensory input for 100K and not boring the crap out of the reader (oy! no one asked you back there in the cheap seats, okay?) requires a lot of thought. This new MS, bless its skanky little romantic heart, isn't like that. It's fast. It's hot. It's darkly funny. It's got all the moves, baby. I can relax, and just let it dance.

The second reason? The keep-it-simple factor. Because I make such a monstrous outline, I tend to think the romantic conflicts to death. They're subtle and complicated. By the time I'm done, frankly, they're nuanced up the wazoo, and in every scene I have to include so many obtuse motivations that even I get confused. What's more: in revisions, I always end up cutting it all out and sticking to the basics.

Why? Because a simple, high-concept, tell-it-in-two-lines conflict is more effective. The simpler and more primal the conflict, the harder your crucial scenes will hit. The bigger your black moment can be. The more satisfying and climactic the resolution.

For four books I have done this. Think it to death, write it up, cut that sucker out. Learning curve? Very shallow, my friends. No one said I was smart.

But for this MS? What a brainwave! I said to myself: "Self, how about you cut it back to basics before you start? Yeah, it's all real nice that the hero was tortured by a rabid goat as a child and has issues with getting his hair to perm properly. But if the crux of his issue with the heroine (yeah, remember her? She's quite important, being as this is a romance and all) is that last time he fell in love, his demon enemies ate his woman's eyeballs through a straw and consigned her soul to eternal housework just to spite him, and he's terrified it'll happen again? Then fucking say so, you moron. No one cares about all that other stuff."*

Self was flabbergasted. "You mean, save myself days and days of work by (gasp!) keeping to the point? Figuring out what his greatest fear is, and making him face it? Without complicating it with goats?"

Patient sigh. "Yes, Self. No goats. It's not rocket surgery. Get on with it."

So there you have it. The goat and the perm problems haven't gone away. They're still there in my head, and will pop out on the page when I feel like it.**

But the big scenes? They're sticking with the basics. Big concept, big pay-off. Chk-chk-boom. And hence, I can write like a speedy madwoman and not get tripped up by irrelevant details.

And if at some point, demons don't tie Our Hero down and at least threaten to suck his girlfriend's eyeballs out and chain her soul to the Eternal Vacuum Cleaner of DOOM(!!) -- then I'm not doing my job properly.

45K to go. Wish me luck :)

* (As you can see, me and my Self have a tense relationship. We're in therapy. It's working out. For now.)
** Sigh. No, there aren't actually any rabid goats or perms in this manuscript. For exemplary purposes only, folks. Sorry :(


  1. No, there aren't actually any rabid goats or perms in this manuscript.

    There aren't? There must be something wrong with me, because I'm feeling somewhat disappointed now ;-)

  2. Ah, but there could possibly be eyeball-sucking demons. Does that make up for it?

  3. E, thanks for the chuckle this evening, I shared parts of this with Furball but he missed the point, and so, missed out on the reason I was LMAO. Ever seen a cat roll its eyes???

  4. Yeah the rabid goats sound good to me too :) Will make do with eyeball-sucking demons I guess.. *sigh*

  5. I was kind of looking forward to the rabid goat too. However, I suppose I could forgive you for dumping him if you keep the eyeball-sucking demons (and let me tell you what a freaking picture that makes in my mind at 5:30 a.m. on the first cup of coffee!).

    Meanwhile, I love the "Keep It Simple" philosophy! Loved the whole post!

  6. Who knew there were so many rabid-goat fans?!? An untapped market, for sure :)

  7. It’s a funny thing. I’d been in a reading slump for months, then here comes Shadowfae.

    I was so delighted, I read it a second time. Something I rarely ever do. Then I got other people to read it, too. Kind of like—do you see what I see? This is different and fantastic and the style is so original, I know I’ll always remember it.

    So, yeah. You might have to put up with my fangirlishness for a bit longer. ;)

  8. Hailey, you can fangirl for as long as you like :) thank you so much for recommending the book to your friends! I hope they enjoy it as much as you did.

  9. Everyone mentioned the goat! :P
    So that is covered.
    I can only make one contribution This because I love it too! lol