WELP, after about ten years of writing several novels a year (most of which will never see the light of day for very, very good reason), I went an entire year without turning out even a short story. Not to make light of that–short stories are way harder to write than novels in my experience, but just in terms of word count…
Okay, I did actually write one short story, a halfway point between two of my ero-rom novels for Loose Id. It’s actually pretty cool because if you get it from me in person it comes on a CD that looks like it belongs to the band in the story, which revolves around them recording their first EP–
But I digress. It was barely finished on time to be useful. And it was intended to be a thank you for a book I wrote about three years ago and another I wrote one year ago (but that came out this year). Basically, the only reason I still exist on any map as a writer is because my absurd productivity over the last few carried over just enough to keep me in stuff to publish. Short fiction included.
This blog used to function a lot more as a working writer’s blog, with me talking a little about the process or weird discoveries I’d made in how-tos–for myself, not as advice or anything, but just because writing is a lonely profession and the net allows us to discuss these things. I’ve talked a lot in the past about how I draft a book, but the basic rundown is: puke it up in one quick go, leave it alone for a month or two, come back to it, do some worksheets to clarify plot and character arcs, rewrites, beta readers. After three KV Taylor novels/novellas and six for Katey Hawthorne, I figured I had the process DOWN, right?
Yeah. Enter the year of NO WRITING EVER. Watch how it changes. Hollllly fuck.
At first, I thought I’d get back into the swing of things by picking up one of the half-finished novels I had lying around on my hard drive. Should be easier, right? The plotting and stuff was still there in my head. NP!
Haha, no. Wasn’t happening. And while I have had trouble with characters not doing as they’re told, I’ve never before experienced a complete and utter inability to just write. Now, some of this had to do with my health issues, for sure, and med adjustment, and general FML feelings at the time, but in the past when life has sucked, I’ve always turned it into fiction.
I got really cranky, y’all. So cranky. AM I EVEN A WRITER ANYMORE?
Then I remembered an email from my romance publishers, which had been kind of chilling in the back of my mind while all this crap was going down. A call for novella subs on a very particular theme (Missed Connections). So I sat down and thought about that, realized I had some pretty damn cool ideas, and decided to build it from the ground up. I’d never pitched a book that wasn’t actually written before, but it seemed to me that if my old methods weren’t working to get my engine to turn over, why not try something new?
I found some inspirational images, as usual–in this case those funny signs you see outside coffee shops, bars, restaurants, etc. I wandered around my city, getting reacquainted with it. I decided what my heroes looked like and got a sense of who they were and what they needed. I did my worksheets first–both plot development and character arc ones–and built a synopsis from them. (FTR: this is how I do all my synopses and blurbs–here’s a three year old post on the subject–and it’s basically my one habit that keeps my editors from strangling me, I’m pretty sure. I am a synopsis and blurb EXPERT, motherfuckers! Just, I usually do it AFTER the draft to clarify my focus and development on the revisions. Yyyyeah.)
Amazingly, I had a contract in hand like a week later. For a book I hadn’t written. Which is standard practice for most working authors, I realize, but noooooooot for me. I usually have such an epic backlog of finished projects to choose from, I’m more likely to just be like, “Golly, which one do I send them next?”
Haha, those were the days.
Anyhow, I wrote the book. I wrote it in smaller chunks than usual, too. There were some days where my usual 7k chunks happened and I felt like a rockstar again. But for the most part, it was more 1k days between trying to pull life shit together. And it was fun. Like really, really fun. A lot of stuff changed between that first synopsis and where it actually went–as the characters revealed their dimensions to me (okay yes I know it’s actually me revealing their dimensions, this is just how I talk/think about it, come on), things went in different directions, and it was exciting.
I’m about to get the book back from my editor Raven. It’s called In Distress, and it’ll be out from Loose Id mid-March. Ish. It’ll always be the book that reminded me what it is I do and why I do it.
Now for all these half-finished manuscripts. *cracks knuckles* You’re next, Vampire Boy…