Today’s guest post is from author Diana Rose Wilson. The book release party for Blood Feathers (Forbidden Secrets), her new book in the Forbidden Secrets series is September 28th from 6pm-7pm PST. Join the festivities on facebook or at spiritbeast.org.
I began writing believing that authors flexed their fingers and the stories flowed fully formed from their brains into their novels. From: ‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.’ To: ‘I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.’ –Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)Nabokov: Novels 1955-1962: Lolita / Pnin / Pale Fire (Library of America).
In 3rd grade, after reading Watership Down / Richard Adams, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I mucked through my masterpiece and my story came out in one start-to-finish jumble of awesome. No one explained with compassion that it should have sucked as a first draft and a first try. I tossed out hundreds of pages and started a completely new story. Results did not vary.
Years later I started again but my process was much different. Here is the important part to remember: a story doesn’t need to be delivered fully formed from A to Z.
When you begin, you don’t need to know every breath and every move your character will make.
The key is to keep things moving, and here are some ideas that I hope will work for you.
Start where you want. Anywhere you want. Start with the description of his eyes and then go from there. Throw yourself into the middle or the end but just go. The important thing is starting.
This goes for every day you write. If you sit and stare at the screen and don’t know what to do, pick up a conversation between some random characters. Characters in your story or those from the last book you read or movie you watched or even a conversation you overheard. Once you get going, your muse will guide you around to what is important.
Eventually you will have some bones and you can weave your scenes around and those can be strung together.
Respect the Muse
Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk ‘Your Elusive Creative Genius’ changed my thought process about writing and creating.
Part of my return to writing started when I watched that video and put a persona behind my muse. Besides, it’s fun having a character for my creative process. He needs a whole blog post of his own, so here I only encourage you to think about the concept. Embrace that muse.
Watch Bob Ross. His canvas begins as globs of color and only slowly transforms into beauty. Go ahead and be ugly!
I live in wine country, and during crush season it stinks. Literally. Someday it will be lovely wine but it begins as fruits, stems, seeds and skin all fermenting in tanks. It is allowed to smell nasty and you should allow your first draft to be too.
Accept it is okay to be really gnarly old vines. Just throw it in there.
Don’t know what color Mister Perfect will wear? Just type blue, highlight that sucker and move on. Mister Perfect might not be who you think he is when you get to the end. He might need a leather jacket instead of a suit. Don’t stress the small stuff.
This goes for spelling and grammar. Just throw it all in there. Stems, seeds, skins and all.
Have you ever sat down to write the scene you’ve been brooding over for weeks and suddenly the mind yanks the wheel away from the muse? You know the thoughts: ‘could/would that really happen?’
Since we’re talking about first draft, it doesn’t matter during this part of the process.
For example; the hero is trapped behind a booth in the donut shop with the entire police force there ready for a shootout. Hero must get away to move the plot forward.
How? Mind: should/could/would/can he really do <whatever your mind comes up with>?
It is a great question to ask and for the finished product you will need to make sure your story is believable, but not today. Besides, when your Hero is a vampire/superhero/alien/ex-marine-fireman/super-sexy-smart-and-also-rich-babe, we left reality a few miles back.
Write your character out of that scene.
Have Hero leap over the seat and throat-chop the douchebag ex-partner. Then throw the DEA agent into the DA who just walked in. Toss in an eye poke or two before Hero takes a bullet. Sliding out the door on both knees, Hero flips double birds as she vanishes into a blast of sunlight.
We’re through! *victory lap*.
Crazy? Meh. Sure. But hero sipping coffee for ten pages while you’re pulling out your hair unable to push forward is worse.
Now you can write the next scene, or write another way for Hero to get out. (Maybe she gets caught. Maybe her lady comes and save her butt. Maybe her new partner flies the helicopter in and zooms her out of there.)
Play around with it and have fun while you get the ideas out of your brain and onto the page.
You probably don’t read books because the hero is a normal person who goes to an average job and does average things.
It’s okay to write things that are over the top. Chip it out later if it doesn’t fit. If you’re stuck, don’t let reality hold you back. Let the hero be so smart she could shame Sherlock Holmes and beautiful and rich and she only works her dead end job because she enjoys talking to people at the call center.
None of this is set in stone. Even the best crafted, based in reality character isn’t necessarily going to survive the creation process unchanged. Your good guys may become bad guys, and your bad girl might become your hero. Allow some over the top characters and then when you edit, pull out those wild stems.
Same goes for scenes. Write situations as dangerous and unbelievable as you can imagine. If it doesn’t fit into the story, just tuck it aside or turn down the volume.
You might have your plot scripted from start to finish, but allow yourself to write a scene differently to test the waters. Try that side door and discover it leads to a back alley where a character can overhear an important secret. Maybe it will be useful, otherwise tuck it away.
If a scene fizzles, explore it at a different angle. Maybe you don’t have to kill that two-faced friend. Or maybe that cow has to go! You can find out a lot about a character when you put them in unexpected situations. Even if the scene is clipped, you have more information about how to detail your character.
Put Hero into a situation that really sucks. She has to go into the boss’s office and explain why she was using company time/money for her personal research project. Have hero get hit by that car and be physically/emotionally changed. Force the hero to face a fear to save someone important to your plot, but maybe not important to them.
Put yourself in the hot seat too. Try writing something outside your comfort zone. Drop your characters into a genre you’ve never tested. Maybe the serious story that has you stuck would loosen up in a different setting. You never have to show any of this, it’s just practice.
You finished that story/novel/novella! Now, leave it alone. Set a time limit of a week or a few months and do not look! No poking or overthinking about it. Continue to write but move onto something different. Create some blog posts or try another genre.
Do not uncork that baby until it has some cellar time.
Then, if you sample it and it tastes like vinegar, review what went wrong. The part about writing that you don’t get in wine making is that if you don’t like it you don’t need to start over from scratch. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments. Or, snip the pieces you like and put them into a new story.
Regardless of what happens with that story you will learn what no amount of coaching can teach you; the technique that works for YOU.
I don’t have any affiliations to this company/product and this is only my own opinion but this software is a great tool. It is easy to use. It allows you to break your story into acts and scenes and scenes within scenes. You can easily shuffle whole acts/scenes like they are index cards. There is also easily accessible pages to keep your characters/places and research.
It also allows you to strain out the scenes that didn’t work and keep them away from the real product.
I hope this was helpful. Just keep in mind, everything you write is practice so even if no one sees it but you, it’s not a waste of time.
Diana Rose Wilson grew up under the shadow of the Mayacamas Mountains, raised by outlaws and bikers. She has been involved in the lifestyle since 1989 including working at a high end adult boutique specializing in fetish, BDSM and LGBT merchandise. Her debut book is Wicked Masquerade, first in the Forbidden Secrets series. She has also been published in Finesse, a publication for the Thomas Keller Restaurant group.
Currently Diana lives in wine country with her husband where she enjoys good wine, better food, loud Harleys, 3-day eventing and the delights of deviant erotica. She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Redwood Writers, Snoopy Writers and CFTW Writer’s Block.
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