Thursday, July 9, 2015

We Will Write No Book Before Its Time

I was supposed to have a sub out on the market this week. I thought it was finished. It should have been finished. I went through an extra draft on this puppy. Y'see, I thought it was done, but after letting it sit for over a week I went back and read over it and decided it was missing something. Paragraphs were excised, large chunks got rewritten. Then it got one final pass when I typed it onto the laptop. More cuts, additions, substitutions, etc.

That's when I hit another problem. The publisher I picked as my first victim market has a short-story line with a maximum word count of 14K. Their regular book line starts at minimum 15K. My final word count falls roughly in the middle, at around 14,300. The old system assured me I was under 14K. The laptop disagrees. The laptop version is the one that gets emailed out to publishers. Yeah well.

Just as well, because shortly after I finished typing I realized I'd made a factual error, in the sex scene, of all places. What the one guy does is totally in character, but would result in severe physical trauma in real life. His partner's going to have to take over and make sure nobody gets hurt. That should add some extra verbiage, which will solve the word count problem. In fact, I may just give the entire last third of the story another go-over. I kind of rushed it toward the end because I was trying to stay within the short-story line's parameters. Now that I know I have room to play in, I can go back and do it right.

This entire story ran late from the start. Originally I intended it for an anthology. I was hoping a set-in-stone deadline would make me write faster. I also thought I knew where the plot was going. Except inspiration threw me a curve. There I was, outside pulling weeds and minding my own business, when suddenly the reckless character up there told me what had happened to him in the past and why he was living as he was. There went my character motivations right out the window. Replaced by better ones, I think, but still.

That course correction messed up my timetable. It came down to a) plow ahead and fight to make deadline, or b) say screw the anthology and take however long I needed to tell the story the way it wanted me to. After double-checking the publisher's website and assuring myself I'd still have a market, I elected to let the deadline pass and be true to the story instead. Good thing: the anthology's maximum word count was 10K words. I was still going strong at that point.

Like I said, I thought I had it done. Then the problems I mentioned cropped up. I want to get a sub on the market. The more I put out there, the better my chances of making a sale. At the same time, I want my subs to be in the best possible shape before I kick them out the door. I owe that to the readers. Even more, I owe it to the characters.

Writing's a pain in the ass sometimes. You think you've got the story locked in. Then your muse heaves herself up off the couch and decides to do her job. Suddenly alternate plot ideas come flying at you right and left. Or the characters you want to end up together decide they can't stand each other and want to be with other people. You try to shove them down the road to Oz. They don't want to go to Oz. They abandon the Yellow Brick Road and take off for Mordor because the bars are better, and you're left staring at a blank page or screen and wondering what the hell just happened.

Writers both dread and dream of this moment. We all want the story to surprise us because that's proof it's alive. If our own stories can surprise us, their creators, imagine the fun the readers are going to have. On the other hand, those same demanding, chatty characters can shut up just as suddenly as they started yammering. This is known as writer's block. Now what do you do?

Recommendations abound. Force your way through the block. Let the story rest a bit and go write something else. Try writing the scene from another character's POV. It all ends up at the same bottom line: that story ain't going nowhere until it decides it wants to, regardless of what you the writer want.

Serena, if you're reading this, this is why you haven't seen Preacher's story yet. I started it a couple times. I wrote scenes out of order. Nothing helped. Gavin and Reese have issues to work out before they're ready to talk to me. I suspect it has something to do with that bad guy who wasn't supposed to be part of the story but decided to stick his nose in. He isn't talking yet. When I get a better picture of who he is, I'll be able to move ahead. Until then we're at a standstill. Sorry 'bout that.

This current story really wants me to write it, but it wants me to write it correctly. So I'll do what it wants. If it wants me to fix up the ending, okay. If it wants to be longer than 14K words, then I'll make it as long as it asks for. Another publisher just opened up a shapeshifter anthology. Their maximum word count is 18K and the deadline's next February, so I've got a backup market. There's also self-publishing, although I'm a bit leery of that at the moment.

Meanwhile, another idea just kicked down the door and wants me to commit it to paper. I wrote four pages this morning. I have no idea how it ends yet. I'm hoping the characters tell me and don't just lead me on and then shut up. Damn teases.

I miss regular work sometimes. Oh wait. No I don't.


Savanna Kougar said...

Amen, sister author! I'm having similar issues with Keina and Drev's story. It's working out, but it means a lot of additional scenes... love scenes, passionate sex scenes... more *defeat the bad guy* scenes... scenes where Keina has to resolve issues in her realm, so she can have the love of her heart... and I've had to do research on 80s romantic ballads because I discovered Drev came of age then, so to speak, and he has a particular fondness for them, and is romancing Keina with them. Oh, and I had to research the Hulk's origins, etc. because it relates to Drev being a super soldier, and resonating with that particular comic book character... not that he turns hulky and green... however there are some similarities in being able to increase his strength level when activated. Probably giving away too much here... but, oh well...

Glad you're pulling it all together... was it Liquid Silver you were thinking of subbing too... if you don't want to say, no probs!

btw, did you see where Siren has changed their Print guidelines?

Pat C. said...

Just don't quote actual lyrics. Those are copyrighted.

The thing that kicked off this story was a shapeshifter anthology call from Evernight. I had the basic idea and thought I could get it done in time. Little did I know. If they're not interested, Dreamspinner Press (strictly M/M) also announced a shapeshifter antho. However, guidelines say Dreamspinner pays a flat fee for anthology stories, determined by length. My sales haven't been the greatest lately, but I'd still rather take my chances.

The Hulk's origin has changed a couple times since he first debuted in the early '60s. Which version are you using?

Savanna Kougar said...

I changed all the lyrics to what Drev wanted to say to Keina, so they aren't the original lyrics -- however I did use one small line from Anita Baker singing "Sweet Love", which I could change.

Ah, Evernight... isn't that your YA publisher... a few weeks ago I did a promo for you on the LoveRomancesCafe loop for their YA promo day. Have no clue if it helped your sales or not.

Anyway, I would be somewhat leary of Dreamspinner Press... I know at least one author who had trouble getting paid... maybe that's why they went to a flat fee.

Yeah, I noticed that when I was doing research, the Hulk's story changed... OKAY, since you are the comic book expert, here's the scene I wrote... please correct whatever is wrong, most of it was from Wiki, so who knows if it's accurate... although, I did watch the first Hulk TV series, and loved it!... thanks in advance!

"I'll shift like much of the Peak's population. More than I already do. Or my inner Hulk will rise to the occasion. For real." Drev spoke teasingly, yet he had to wonder how close to the mark he was—that is, except for turning green and mindlessly savage.
"Hulk? Who or what is that?"
Keina's quizzical expression tickled Drev. He grinned like a kid. "The Incredible Hulk is a comic book superhero. Bruce Banner, a brilliant physicist, transforms into a giant green beast of man whenever anger gets the best of him. This happens to him because he rescues a young man who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the time, Bruce is testing his invention. He's caught in the gamma rays of the bomb blast when he saves the youth."
"So..." Keina tilted her head, "because of this bomb's gamma radiation this Bruce Banner changes into a green beast? Whenever he feels enraged?"
"You got it. Of course, usually the Hulk is a hero. However, because he blanks out when he turns into the musclebound giant, Bruce is tormented. He's always searching for ways to stop his transformation, or control what he does."
"You don't ever blank out, do you?" Concern darkened the depths of her eyes.
"Not so far, Keina. Although, my wild man does take over."
"My wild horse takes over." She frowned, even as she absently stroked his arms. "Do you think this comic-book Hulk character is a front story for what mad scientists have already achieved in the black projects' world?"
Drev felt his own frown form. "Could be. It's certainly possible. I think "The Incredible Hulk" started in the early sixties. As I recall it was written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Then, there was the TV series, late seventies. I've got those DVDs. They are one of my guilty pleasures."
"Guilty pleasures, we all have them. But, part of you must resonate with this Hulk." Keina spoke so seriously, Drev touched a kiss to her forehead."
"There are the Hulk superhero movies," Drev continued. "I'm not a fan of those. But you know, my filly girl, part of the comic book storyline—Bruce Banner and the Hulk are being pursued by the military because of the Hulk's destruction...however, what would make more sense is that the military industrial complex wanted to build their own super soldier Hulk, one who could be controlled. And replicated. Like they did when they experimented on me."
"That would make more sense," Keina murmured. "Experimented on you?"

Pat C. said...

Yeah, that's the original comic book origin story. Marvel's in the midst of rebooting their entire line so who knows what his origin will be next year.

On the TV show I believe Banner was experimenting with adrenaline, trying to tap into that superhuman strength some people display in moments of crisis. Things got out of hand.

Marvel's trying to keep their movies interconnected. I won't swear to this, but I think the recent movie Banner got his powers trying to recreate the Super Soldier formula that created Captain America.

Savanna Kougar said...

"I won't swear to this, but I think the recent movie Banner got his powers trying to recreate the Super Soldier formula that created Captain America." THAT'S WHAT I READ on one fan site that seemed to be about following these kind of storyline changes.

On the original TV show I'm not certain about the adrenalin, but Banner's wife had died and he was trying to create some formula... anyway, he ended up rescuing his assistant which caused his transformation, but she died.