December Cometh

Oh my God, it’s December.

NaNoWriMo came and went. All told, I cranked out 72,000 words on two separate projects. It wasn’t one completed novel, but it was a boatload of writing, more than I’ve done in months.

So far, December has been taken up by revising a special project, reading (currently Jet by Russell Blake and Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds), and bouncing back and forth between freelance work. I’m enjoying both books, but one is definitely a daytime read (Jet being a fast-paced thriller) and the other is more for bedtime (Revelation Space is long, languid, fascinating…and I have the weirdest dreams after a chapter).

New music: Beasts of the Southern Wild soundtrack. Wowza. Never seen the movie, though I’m curious about it, but the score is fantastic. Great music – very different from the movie scores I’ve heard this year. I love it, but it makes me want to sit down and write something whimsical, loving, and borderline meaningful. Yikes.

Excited about this new project, but more on that later…



Story vs. Story

My stories duked it out this week.

I hit 32k words on the NaNo project before finally caving in and giving up on it. I still think there’s a fine novel in there waiting to be told, but it takes trial and error to get there. NaNo is great for that, but by the time I reached 32k, I realized I was exhausted and didn’t want to fight with the story anymore. Moreover, I didn’t know how to fix it (a week later, with some distance and clarity, I have an idea of how to approach it on the next try, but that’s another post).

So I took the easy way out and worked on another project, one I’ve toyed with every now and then but never really pursued.

I am liking it.

The decision to stop on a project is a very personal one; every writer will approach it differently. Some will stick it out with the thing they’re working on until the bitter end. I’ve done this before, and it’s just…it’s exhausting. I’ve got other things to do, and didn’t feel like wrangling with a story that wasn’t working. Hence the switch.

I still consider it a win-win situation. I learned something about one WIP and gained a lot of ground on another. Can’t beat that.

As for this new project, it’s been a great deal of fun thus far. Won’t say anything else…

Idea Monsters

As you may know, I’ve been having a little bit of trouble with my NaNo story.

Oh, all right. It’s a snarky, arrogant jackass who thinks it knows everything and thinks very little of harassing me while I’m trying to work on it, telling me I’m doing this or that wrong, and then generally engaging in deviant behavior. I’m pretty sure it’s spray-painting my garage as we speak.

Still, I’m 31,000 words in, which isn’t bad. I’m nowhere near where I wanted to be – I was thinking 35,000 by the weekend, except I wrenched my back and have been damn near immobile since Saturday afternoon – but it’s a respectable number. Hey, it’s the NaNo experience.

Except then Story’s younger brother, whom we’ll call Pipedream, came waltzing in with In n Out. He dropped the cheeseburger on my desk, perched on the edge next to it, and said, “Yo. Write this down.”

Pipedream is bad news. I’m pretty sure he smokes weed and engages in other deviant behavior. But he’s just so tempting. He’s like the bad boy your mother tells you to stay away from. I bet he’s got tattoos and a leather jacket.

He also likes zombies.

Bad, bad news.

Intimacy Issues

So my NaNo story pulled another fast one on me.

“Sup, SP?” it said, sauntering up to my desk at an ungodly hour this morning. I always figure Story looks a little bit disreputable – you know, holes in the jeans, a leather jacket, maybe some tattoos peeking out from sleeves. Oh, and he/she hasn’t combed his/her hair. Story is the person your mother warned you to stay away from.

Anyway, Story twirled my desk chair around so I had to look at it. “I know you haven’t had your coffee yet, and you’re really concerned about that project that was due last night, but I thought you should know that I should be written in third-person.”

I squinted up at Story. “You’re a figment of my imagination. Go away.”

“No, dawg, I’m serious. The first-person isn’t working for me. It’s like Anette trying to sing ‘She is My Sin’ in the original key. It’s cute, but sounds too thin. But if she belted it in her lower register, it would be damned sexy and powerful. Do you feel me?”

Story is like that awful person in your life who shows up looking adorable but never brings anything meaningful to your life. Yeah, they might drop by with pizza now and then, but mostly they just make demands of your time and ask for weird favors.

Not this time, I decided. Story had already changed around the dynamic of the novel by deciding it wanted to be a love story. No way did it get to mess with the narration, too.

“I should put on some music,” I said, turning back to the computer.

“Third-person, dawg! Third-person!”

“Can’t you go bother my landlord or something?”

I don’t know why my novel has decided to call me dawg. 

I caved in and wrote a segment in third-person limited, just to see what I could come up with. About half an hour and 1200 words later, I was suitably convinced and wondering why I hadn’t made the switch earlier.

Actually, I don’t really need to wonder. I remember why. I set out writing first-person present tense. Then I broke it into sections (first-person present and first-person past; the latter was the actual narrative, while the former was the narrator talking to strangers years later). It wasn’t sitting quite right with me…couldn’t say why. I liked the intimacy of first-person, the feelings we got as she embarked on her epic journey, but felt the story could stand to be a little larger than the limited viewpoint it offered.

Yes. My novel had intimacy issues.

So now I’m thinking sticking with third-person, and keeping a little bit of first person in the form of journal entries or something like that.

I will say that first-person viewpoints are easier (and more fun) to write when you’ve got a sassy protagonist. Vibeke and her stream of one-liners are fun. Alexis (you might meet her later) is also enjoyable. The protagonist in this story is more serious…I’ll have to go back after all this and check, but I’m pretty sure part of my problem with the story was that I was getting a little bored in her head. And if the writer’s bored, the reader will be bored, and that’s just no good.

Of course, this is going to mean going back and rewriting the 23,000 words I already had…but we knew that would happen anyway. Revision is the better part of valor.


Ah, Love

Love stories. I dig ’em, but I don’t usually try to write them. At least, not on purpose. I’m just not the lovey-dovey type (see: the zombie books)

Except my NaNo has decided it wants to be a love story. It started hinting about this at around 10,000 words. I decided to incorporate more romantic elements. Then, at 18,000 words, the story turned around and stared at me.

“Yo, writer, I’m really happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but I’m kind of a love story. Like, a real love story.”

This is not the sort of thing I ever want to hear. Ever. It’s kind of like being on a date with a gorgeous man who later informs me he just wants my help getting closer to my roommate (yes, this happened).

Love stories don’t usually pop up in my writing, unless specifically planned. Aliens might show up. Zombies, sure (that’s how Grave New World became Grave New World – the zombies showed up as a plot device). If I’m really strapped for ideas, I might send the characters to the lost city of Atlantis.

Weird stuff, yes. Love stories, no. Love is delicate. Love is mysterious. Love is awkward.

“Why?” I asked. “I thought you were going to be a sci-fi actioner. With spaceships and stuff. And space pirates, maybe.”

“I am,” the story replied. “There is all of that. But there’s also a love story. You need to focus on that. Also, your hero’s temporary name sucks, and you need to change that crap ASAP.”

Like I said, I like love stories. Hell, I love them. I love reading them. But writing them makes me a little bit twitchy, so I stick to what I like. Humor. Sci-fi. Zombie splatter.

But now I have this love story that I’m not sure what to do with, and a hero who needs a name change.

Come to think of it, the heroine needs a name change, too. I’ve been calling her by her last name, which is great, but she does need a first name, even if it’s just to have one.

But hey, wordcount! WOOT. I’m actually at 19k right now.

Oh, NaNo. You work in mysterious ways.

Newsflash! When I’m not awkwardly feeling my way through sci-fi love scenes, I’m apparently Official Zombie Correspondent (or something like that) for Pulsify magazine. I discussed the World War Z trailer yesterday. I don’t know if I’ll be writing about things besides zombies yet.

In other news, I actually had too much coffee and am jittery as all hell. My fingers are actually twitching on the keyboard.

Bombs Away

Day two of NaNo has come and gone; day three is still going. How’s everyone doing?

I’m at 8,452 words on this new story. Very happy so far.

Without talking too much about the plot (I seem to jinx myself when I talk about stories I’m working on), this story at this particular time seems to better fit the mood I’m in. GNW3 has been tough to plod through because there’s some…I don’t know, stuff…in my personal life that has not been going so well, and writing wisecracking Vibeke can be tough if I’m not in the right mindset.

This story, slightly darker and more serious, is flowing a lot better.

Will it see the light of day? Who knows. Maybe come 2013…

Genre Bender

I discovered L.E. Waters earlier this week while looking for books about past lives. Her Infinite Sacrifice is free for the time being, and it is gorgeously written. If you like past lives and beautiful writing, it’s a definite recommendation. I’ll be buying its sequel, Infinite Devotion, next week once I have some time to sit down and read!

When I like an author’s work, I check out their blog, and L.E. Waters brought up an interesting question in this post about J.K. Rowling. Namely, how do you handle writing in multiple genres?

As someone who likes to dabble in different genres, this post really got me thinking. My work under SPB fits into comedy-horror and sci-fi. The zombie stories are the big sellers; the sci-fi…not so much. What I mean is I track the sales, and I’m not getting a lot of crossover traffic. I do have a handful of emails from people who have read either GNW or Echoes and ventured to the other based on enjoying that one, but for the most part they’re very different sets of readers.

So…I guess what I’m asking is, is a writer betraying her readers if she tries a new genre? Reading Waters’ initial post, I’m beginning to suspect some readers will feel some level of betrayal:

My heart sunk when I saw that it was a black comedy, reminding me of a plot for new tv series. I know she is a great writer, but I don’t want to read about this sort of world. I want to read her fantasy.

She goes on to say that she’ll be changing her writing plans, and will probably release a historical novel after the Infinite series to better please her readers.

I’m of the opinion that Rowling was up against a brick wall no matter what she chose to do. If she wrote another fantasy novel, it would be forever compared to Harry Potter. If she switched, she’d be questioned for trying something new. She could always write under a pen name…but then how do you transfer the force behind the Potter brand to the new book? Clearly, her publishers are hoping some of the Potter magic will transfer to the new book and spur gigantic sales figures. Writing under a pseudonym probably wasn’t even an option for her.

And really, should she have to? She devoted years of her life to Potter and that fandom. She’s well within her rights to try something new. Her fantasy fans don’t need to read the new stuff, but I bet a lot of them will check it out, just because hey, it’s Rowling! Frankly, I can’t blame her for trying something totally new. It’s like the whole Tarja vs. Anette situation with Nightwish: they weren’t able to duplicate the Tarja voice, so they went with its polar opposite. And it worked.

Rowling discussion aside, I completely understand where Waters is coming from. It’s probably a question most working writers must address: what kind of stories do I want to write? What will sell?

The folks who contact me most about my work are zombie fans, but while I love zombies, I don’t want to write about them exclusively until the end of time (or until December 21, whichever comes first). But at the same time I want to make a living, and Vibeke vs. The End of the World has been helping me pay the bills for almost a year.

So no, I don’t want to alienate anyone who may be into me just for the living dead. But I also want to try other things.

At the moment, my plan for the Blackmore pseudonym is to use it as my main genre handle. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and its offshoots. The story I’m working on for NaNoWriMo looks like a sci-fi novel with a love story in it…is it a romance? Not quite. So if it’s ever published, it would be under the Blackmore name. But if I got the urge to write contemporary chicklit, then yes, I would publish it under another pseudonym.

But then I’d have to figure out how to handle the pseudonym. I’ve had some pretty good sales under Blackmore. The natural thing to do is say, “Hey, I’m writing under another name, check it out if you’re interested,” but doesn’t that kill the purpose of a secret moniker? Or is everything just an open secret on the Internet anyway?

Three Ways to Handle a New Pen Name

a) Create a new pseudonym. Tell no one. Hope the work stands on its own. (The Super-Secret Pseudonym.)

b) Create a new pseudonym. Announce it on your website and have a link to your second handle’s work. Casual readers may not know it at all; only your diehard fans who visit your site will be aware. (The Open Secret Pseudonym.)

c) Use some variant of your present name to keep the two handles connected. “Patrizia Blackmore,” for example, blazoned across Fabio’s chest on the cover of the new romantic novel. (The Lazy Man’s Pseudonym.)

Actually, I kind of like Patrizia…gives me an exotic flair I lack in real life.

Anyway, it’s an interesting situation to ponder, and many thanks to L.E. Waters, both for writing an outstanding book and providing fodder for my latest blog post!

Notebooking It

I love technology. Love it. Computers, iPods, Internet, smartphones…I want to gather them close and hug them all. I prefer not to imagine actually writing stories without them.

With that said, I still really like taking notes in longhand.

I can’t explain this odd fetish. I have Evernote on my cell and my computers, which, in theory, is all I need…I can take a note about my NaNo project and have instant access when I get to one machine or another. The weak link there is the cell phone; much as I like it, I’m not the most adept at typing on tiny screens, and I always want to take lengthy notes (otherwise I can’t figure out what the hell I meant; shorthand is lost on me)…so it turns into a project.

Hence I still have actual notebooks.

I wanted to get something special for the NaNo project; it’s a story that has been percolating in my little brain for quite some time, and I’ve written down ideas during the year, just trying to get a grasp on what it’s about. I have a regular notebook that I jot things down in on the fly, but I wanted something a little more special for this project, so I headed over to B&N and inspected their notebook selection.

I settled on this little guy. It’s small enough to fit into a purse, and has that aged, “been around” feeling that I like.

No characters yet. I have a general overall arc, and I know what happens, but it’s mostly scenes visualized in my head. Nothing is connected at the moment. I figure I have until November 1 to figure all that stuff out before throwing caution to the wind and running wild.

I still fully expect to type out my NaNo novel, unless I’m stranded somewhere with no computer and have to revert to The Old Ways, but I do like my little notebook.

What are you going to use for NaNo?

NaNo, Here We Come

NaNoWriMo is coming, folks. Are you guys ready?

I’m not.

I am trying to get through a good chunk of GNR3 during October, as well as finish up this short story I’ve been fiddling with. I want to do something completely different for NaNo this year, something I haven’t messed with already. Last year it was DBG…the year before that I was revisiting an old project…it’s time to start out with a blank slate. Part of this is probably drawn from me just wanting to try something that doesn’t involve zombies.

I have some ideas, but I’m not jumping into over-planning. This may seem odd, coming on the heels of my “I love outlining!” post, but there’s a difference here. It’s one thing to outline, but quite something else to plan everything within an inch of its life. I find the more I get bogged down in details (creating religions, starship types, etc), the worse I do when it comes to actual writing. I’m better off with just a plotline to follow; I can fill in the blanks happily on my own as I write.

It’s kind of a gloomy day here in SoCal. Good zombie weather…

Moving Right Along

I don’t talk much about ghostwriting, mostly because it’s technically not my work to talk about. Yes, I may write the words in many cases, but I don’t consider it my work; it’s something someone has paid me money to do, and it belongs to them.

I would like to credit it with teaching me to plot and write quickly, however. Ghostwritten work has a deadline; if I don’t meet it, I don’t get paid (or I am severely docked – not that such a thing has ever happened – I may slack off on my own books, but I never miss a deadline). I figured out how to develop a working plot, break it down into scenes, and then crank out the words.

GNW3 is the first book of mine that I’ve used ghostwriting tactics on. I sat down with a notebook – plotting, for some reason, is easier for me with pen and paper than on a computer, though all actual writing happens at my machine – and wrote down my plot, broken down by scenes. There’s a few hazy areas in there, where I sort of know what needs to happen in one scene but am hoping a dazzling action sequence will ensue, but it’s all written down. I’ve got the first 6,640 words, according to Scrivener, though I know they will need some revising before all is said and done. Still, it’s proving a lot easier to write than Death and Biker Bangs.


I don’t rightly know. DBG was a problem child every way you looked at it; I think it would have been a tough write even if I’d gone bonkers outlining. But DBG aside, I’ve been hesitant to do the mega-detailed-ghostwriting-plot-thing to my own work namely because…well, to me, ghostwriting is mercenary work. I’m a hired gun. I generally treat writing as a business, but my own stuff does still have a place in my heart, and the the methodical plotting process seemed…cold?

That’s not to say I don’t plot my work – I do – but not to that extent.

Yet now I’m wondering why I didn’t. Folks, it is so much freaking easier to follow an outline.

I’ve given myself permission to go off-outline if some wonderful idea develops, and I’ve already had a minor deviation, but having the full plot completed is just so much more efficient. Now I know where I’m going and how to get there.

Let’s just hope I don’t utterly hate it once I do. That’s always a risk with my work.

What have I learned after 6,600 words? For starters, things are a bit darker. I usually go in during revision and punch up the witty remarks anyway, but we’re now at least a couple months into the apocalypse, things are getting real bad, and everyone knows it.

(Fans of gallows humor, fear not. Snarkiness still abounds.)