Friday, July 15, 2011

Back To Pantsing It

Lately, I’ve been finding myself in a bit of a pickle. I used to be a 100% pantser. I wrote what came to mind, what felt right should happen next in my story, having no idea where the story was headed and often not even with any specific world building or character background in mind. That all just seemed to come out of the woodwork and mostly fit together perfectly as the story progressed.

I wrote my first book like that and was surprised when in the end everything did actually fit together and several of the major plotlines turned out to be connected. It was basically as much a surprise to me as it was to my characters. :-)

But this process also took two years. Two years for just under 100.000 words. Of course, the original count was far higher; too many side plots, too many insignificant characters that didn’t move the story along or enrich it in any way. Taking them out and rewriting things to fit again was what took the longest.

So I decided to do a little plotting before starting my next story, to eliminate the time and energy spent on unnecessary story development. I had an exciting new idea and started jotting down notes for world building, character backgrounds and vague plot possibilities before starting on the actual story.

I’m about ¾ done with that story. It was a lot of fun to write. I say ‘was’ because I’ve stopped. I already know how it ends and that’s taken all the fun out of it for me. It’s like at Christmas, when you know exactly what’s in the big present. It’s what you wished for and wanted for months, and you still love it when you’ve unpacked it, but that initial moment of thrilling excitement - your true squee - when unpacking something you really want and weren’t expecting, isn’t there. It has been taken from you.

Knowing the end of my story has taken that initial thrill from me. Without it, writing is an effort, one where I sit down in front of the computer with this feeling of ‘I could be doing something better with my time’, and that’s not how I used to feel. I used to hardly be able to wait to sit down and write again. Basically, it became a chore instead of fun.

I’ve started other stories, all of them with a good idea of world building and what I wanted my characters to go through.

I broke them off, too, most after only two or three chapters. I bog myself down with too many certainties to actually enjoy the sensation of creating something while writing. My characters' motives and events used to be a mystery even to me. As a pantser, I was living in my characters’ here and now. I knew what they knew, or often even less. The possibilities started out endless and remained open. As a plotter, I have the feeling I eliminate all possibilities. With the rules I set for my world and characters, there’s only one course the story can take. Or at least that’s how it seems.

And that’s capital-b Boring.

So, I’ve decided to go back to being a pantser. It may take longer to finish a story, but who cares? I have only myself to please.

I’ll probably finish that ¾-story at some point - it’s too cool not to. But I will try to continue it with fresh eyes, picking up right where I left off without thinking about the ending I had in mind. Hopefully I’ll be able to surprise and thrill myself again that way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hilarious Amazon Customer Reviews

I've never posted a review on Amazon, but I'm always surprised at how well they all seem to be written and not at all spoilery. Or at least, where there are spoilers, they are clearly stated as being present beforehand. Also, I've never heard of the reviewers dissing each other or starting flame wars. I figure there are guidelines you're supposed to follow when posting a review, and people abide by them. I can't imagine somebody at Amazon screening all the reviews before they are published - you'd need a whole planet of somebodys for that.

I guess that's how reviews like these are even possible. I especially liked number four.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Writing In German And/Or English

For the past five years or more, whenever I wrote, I did so in English. Mostly, I think, because I read more books and watch more movies in English than in German, so the language somehow flows easier for me. The English language has more distinct words (over 250.000, Oxford English Dictionary) than German (approx. 130.000, Duden Handbook) and is therefore more expressive in small details and nuances, IMO.

Yet over the past six months, while driving to and from work, I've been listening to mainly German Audio-Books (and two of my favorite authors are, in fact, German). I had this one reader's voice in my head, which fit the story so perfectly that it made it even more funny and entertaining. And there's been a story-idea slogging around my mind that apparently was just waiting for that voice to make it seem real. 

That idea has now taken shape and whenever I write more on it, I have this woman's voice in my head - in German. It's working so well at the moment that my protagonist is basically taking me through the story all by herself, based on this voice and the story's premise, which opens up a lot of fun possibilities and situations to play with.

So my English urban fantasy stuff is on hold for now. This German story is more chick-litty - no fantastic or magical elements, a surprise in itself. Maybe my "German voice" is more "everyday" because I live here, while my "English voice" is fantasy and magic because I need to fill in more blanks and tend to do that with magic.

If I finish this story, I'll definitely look into finding a publisher. As I understand, the process of getting your book published in Germany is a little different than doing so in the US, but I haven't fully immersed myself in the research yet. I'm hoping it turns out to be a little easier, though I'm not getting excited over the possibility just yet.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Flash Fiction: Lunar Enchantress

Another piece for a Flash Fiction Challenge from Sonia Medeiros, this one themed "Moonstruck". 

I had a (very) different ending in mind at first - I'm not usually this moony, har-dee-har - but the puck apparently had a different idea about his motives than I did. Very headstrong folk, them pucks. Scoundrels first...

Lunar Enchantress
by Pia Newman
(499 words)

The sky had been clouded during the past three full moons, so I hadn’t been able to collect any moonbeams. By now I was running perilously low - and the puck knew it. He would try to stop me from harvesting tonight. If he succeeded, my shields would run out before the next full moon and he could simply waltz into my den and steal my precious fairy dust. He’d been trying to do so for years, though he had yet to best me with his trickery.
Tonight’s moonlight electrified me. I couldn’t help but dance and float and twirl across the canopy of trees, despite the pending puck-peril. Moonbeams caught in my wings and hair, lighting me up like a silver flame.
“Hello Enchanté,” the puck greeted me, climbing from the highest branch onto the canopy’s ethereal landscape. He couldn’t fly, but he was agile and attractive nonetheless.
“Hello Rob,” I said, dancing past him, feigning indifference to his presence.
He watched me, eyes sparkling like the stars. “I see you’re busy collecting your moonbeams.”
Indeed, my wings were almost full with the first batch.
I twirled closer, almost touching. “What’s your trick this time?” I asked, brushing a finger along his jaw, teasing. Now his eyes sparkled with my reflection.
He held out a hand. “Dance with me.”
I spun away, laughing. “Seduction won’t work. You’re handsome, but no match for Luna tonight.”
“I’m no match for you,” he corrected. “You have conquered me.”
“How so, oh Mighty Trickster?”
“I have no more tricks,” he said. “You’ve seen through every one and thwarted me. Now I must try something I have no experience with: honesty.”
Intrigued, I stopped dancing. This ought to be good.

She didn’t believe me. I could read the incredulous ridicule in her beautiful eyes. If she knew my true motivation - making her mine - she’d laugh in my face. Who would ever trust a puck? Especially in love. Pucks fell in lust, not love. Except this one.
I pulled five strips of silk out of my pocket. Moonbeams clung to them, so thick they basically dripped off the fabric. “This is a night’s worth of harvest,” I said. “I shall give it to you in exchange for enough fairy dust to last me one dance with you.”
“You tried to steal my fairy dust so you could dance with me?” she asked. Truly, it sounded silly when put that way. But what can I say? I’m a scoundrel first, a rational being second.
“I have something to tell you,” I explained, “but you’ll never believe my words. You might believe in my honesty if we danced. But a puck dancing with a fairy is like pairing a butterfly with a dung beetle. I would only weigh you down. To truly dance with you, I need to be able to fly.”
“Why would dancing with you convince me of your honesty?”
“You’ll feel the truth in my touch.”

He was right.
I did.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cover Art Making Of (for Patricia Briggs' Fair Game)

Dan dos Santos is an artist (check out his gallery) who makes a lot of awesome covers for urban fantasy, fantasy and science fiction books, f.e.
Diana Rowland's My Life as a White Trash Zombie,
Richard Kadrey's Butcher Bird,
Gini Koch's Alien in the Family, as well as
Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series.

The latter is one of my favorite authors and here  Dan dos Santos describes the making of the newest cover in the last installment of Anna and Charles (Alpha & Omega #3), called Fair Game. The insight to the process is fascinating as always.

Here's the end result:

I adore this cover (though the first one would also have been amazing), it's so bold, rich and beautiful. Out of hundreds of books on a shelf, I'd pick this one up first.