Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Typing THE END

I just finished writing the first draft of VEXING THE VISCOUNT, the manuscript that's due to my editor later this summer. I know what you're thinking. "Big Whoop! It's just a first draft." For me, typing THE END is a big deal because of how I write a book.

I'm mostly a linear writer. Once I have a fully developed idea of the plot points and the characters solidly in my head, I start on the first chapter and write the story straight through in order. I sneak back from time to time to do line edits and make sure I've covered all the bases, so by the time I reach the end, my manuscript is really pretty clean. I'll spend a couple weeks tweaking and polishing, but it's essentially done. If I had to, I could turn it in today.

But it takes me several months to write a first draft, which is a little scary since even though I've written a synopsis ahead of time, I've been known to deviate significantly from it. So until I actually reach THE END, I'm not really sure how the story ends.

I know some authors who can pop a first draft out in weeks, or even a weekend! They write in layers and spend months fleshing out the skeleton.

Some plot extensively, down to the individual scenes and POVs, before they write a single word. Then like a drawn bow, they fling their story fully formed onto the page.

Still other authors are "puzzle" writers. Their stories come in chunks, scenes plopped down out of order, rising up from their psyches like some sort of literary magma displacement. Then they go back, reassemble them in order and string together the connecting narrative. This method almost sounds like magic to me.

Then there are pantsers (as in 'writing by the seat of their pants') who sit down to the keyboard and follow their characters around. They tend to write long and may have to shave hundreds of pages off the finished manuscript to conform to their publishers wordcounts.

Some say a writer should know their own type. I think I'm a conglomeration. I do start with a synopsis like a plotter (a very shallow plotter). I begin at the beginning like a linear writer. Once my characters start breathing on their own, I tend to let them lead a bit, like a pantser. Occasionally a future scene will appear in my head way before I set it down on paper, but because I'm linear I can't write it down like a "puzzler" would. I just let it percolate till the right time comes. And as I go back to do edits, I'm adding layers as I write. So what type am I?

I'm a plotting linear pantser who occasionally puzzles and layers. It's messy, but it works. And that's what every writer has to do--find a process that works for them. A novel is a big unwieldy beast that doesn't like to be cornered. How you bag the beast is up to you. There is no one right way to write one.

If you're an aspiring writer, please visit my website and check out the WRITER'S CORNER. I've just added several linked pages of content of interest to writers. While you're there be sure to enter my contest! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wanna meet a Pirate?

When I decided to add a dash of humor to my writing, I found one of the natural places to do that was through my secondary characters. I'd like to introduce you to a fellow in PLEASURING THE PIRATE.
Meet Joseph Meriwether, lately first mate of the pirate vessel, REVENGE. He's a scruffy, squint-eyed mariner with a faded tribal tattoo on one of his sagging cheeks (on his face, I mean!). Meri has a unique outlook on life. Here's a sampling of his take on things.
On progress: "There ain't no more islands left where the girls swim out to the ship wearing nothing but a smile. The whole Spanish Main's gone and got itself civilized."
On children:"Boil the pith out of 'em for an hour or so and they make a right tolerable stew."
On women: "Oh, she's strong-minded and a bit broad of beam. Not that I ever held extra flesh against a woman. But, I've been smelling those pies all morning. She's a goddess in the kitchen, is Mrs. Beadle. A man can overlook quite a bit if there's a cherry pie in the offing."
On watching the heroine, Jacquelyn Wren, attempt to gut his Captain with a smallsword:
"And I was a-feared life as a landsman would be dull!"
Hope you enjoy Joseph Meriwether and all the rest of the crew in PLEASURING THE PIRATE!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sex in Fiction

I'm conducting a workshop on THE JOY OF WRITING SEX at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association in July. Along with reading the book of the same name, I'm picking other writers' and readers' brains about the first time they read a book in which there was explicit sex. If you'd please help me out with your observations, I'd appreciate it. What I'd like to know is:

How old were you?
Title and Author?
How was the scene used to advance the story or deepen characterization?
How did it make you feel?

I'll start.

Most folks might imagine my first exposure to sex in fiction was in a romance novel. Not so. I was 17 years old, a junior in high school and in a Contemporary Fiction class. The teacher had given us a laundry list of "college-bound classic" which we had to read and write reports on. I dove into the work with glee. Reading was like candy to me. Still is.

One of the first titles I pulled from the list was John Updike's RABBIT RUN, a piece of literary fiction that has been roundly hailed by critics as brilliant. TIME listed it as one of the top 100 novels of the 20th century.

I was not ready for it. I was pretty naive for this bleak, depressing look at life and relationships. And I was totally shocked by the oral sex "Rabbit" Harry Angstrom coerces Ruth, a prostitute, into performing on the night his wife Janice is giving birth to their child. First, because I had no idea people did such things (told you I was naive) and secondly, because the relationships between Rabbit and Janice and Rabbit and Ruth are cold and abusive. There was no joy. No real pleasure in the exchange for either of them. No connection beyond flesh.

And perhaps that was the point. Updike seemed to be saying "Life is meaningless. We fill it with useless activity and people with whom we have little in common. Get yours." If that was his goal, he achieved it. I felt depressed as I read RABBIT RUN. It felt cheap and dirty.

If I read it again now, I think I'd still find it depressing, but I might have more pity for the characters who are frantically searching for meaning and can't seem to find it.

Ok. Your turn. I'm looking forward to hearing about your literary "first time."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pirate Banter

Gabriel Drake's manners suffered horribly during his stint at piracy. Jacquelyn Wren is doing her best to tutor him in the proper way to woo a lady. She's trying to teach him the gentle language of the fan, but Gabriel has another plan altogether.
* * * * * * * * *
"I fear you are not taking your responsibilities seriously, my lord."

"Since when is knowledge of fans such a serious responsibility?"

"Your goal is to wed," she reminded him. "When your female guests arrive for the ball, your future wife may well be among them. Wouldn't you like to be able to correctly read the subtle signs she sends you?"

"As opposed to your not-so-subtle ones?" When she glared at him, he threw up his hands in mock surrender and settled beside her. "I am clay in your capable hands, Miss Jack. Mold me into the fashion most suitable for feminine approval."

"Very well." She nodded, mollified for the moment. "We'll start with the basics. A wealth of information can be conveyed with a few simple moments. Now if a woman touches the tip of her fan to her right cheek, it means 'yes.'" She brought the fan up to demonstrate.

"And the left cheek means 'no,' I suppose."

"Exactly." Her lips curved in a fleeting smile. He suddenly wished he knew how to coax one to stay.

"My left or your left?" he asked.

"It's always the woman's left."

"Why am I not surprised?" He leaned toward her. Even in the midst of a wildly blooming garden, he caught a whiff of her rosewater scent. It swirled around his brainpan and nudged his groin to aching life. "But why go to so much trouble? How hard is it just to say 'yes' or 'no'?"

"This may be difficult for a pirate to grasp, but sometimes a situation calls for delicacy. In a crowded drawing room, wouldn't a subtle 'no' be preferable to a bald-faced one?" She hitched herself away from him on the settee.

"Actually, a 'yes' would be preferable." He hitched along after her. The bench would only allow her to scoot so far.

Her lips were mere inches away, softly parted. Sweet and moist, he could nearly taste them. The pulse point at the base of her throat fluttered faster than her fan.

"There are some men who will not hear a 'no' even if it is shouted from the battlements," she said. Her pointed little tongue darted out and swept her bottom lip.

"Maybe that's because we're not the dolts women take us for." He closed the distance between them, intent on claiming her mouth. "A man can tell when a woman is saying 'no' with her fan and 'yes' with everything else."

She shoved the fan between them right under his nose. It was nine inches long and had ivory spines webbed with stiff, itchy lace.

"Another improvisation?" he asked.

She arched an eyebrow at him.

"You seem to have a gift for it." He rubbed his upper lip when she finally lowered her weapon.

"I fear you are not attending, my lord." She snapped the fan shut and pressed the tip to her left cheek. Her gray eyes flared at him. "What does this mean again?"

He pulled away from her. Strategic retreat was often the path to victory, the old sea dogs claimed.

He'd wager none of them had ever crossed fans with Jacquelyn Wren.

* * * * * * * * * * *
Gabriel and Jacquelyn's first meeting is posted on my website at PLEASURING THE PIRATE will sail into bookstores on July 29th, but you can reserve your copy today at Amazon