I thought I knew what was going to happen today… and what happened did fit exactly inside my objectives for the scene, while at the same time turning everything I’d planned inside out and upside down on me and surprising me completely.

And the cool twist of the day operated on the following writing principle:

Always assume your characters are smarter than you, that they’re not telling you the truth about the situations that they’re in, and that when you think you have a thing figured out and are getting ready to reveal it, the character who was supposed to be shocked in the one who is going to say, “You thought THAT was the surprise? Oh, please… This is what’s really going on.”

I love that moment — it’s pure Muse, it shows me how parts of my mind have been working outside of my assumption of what I think I’m doing, so that when it all comes together, I’m shocked. And delighted. And the pieces all still fit — just not the way I expected them to.

It happens to me a lot — and today, it was especially fun.

 

A NOTE FOR URBAN FANTASY READERS ONLY

If you’re interested in the way these stories are coming together, and you want to be in on the five-book/five-month launch when I finish them and take them live, you can sign up for my launch list here.

Holly’s “Not-Yet-Revealing-the-Pseudonym” Pre-Launch List

Once I have all five books done in first draft, I’ll do the revision.

Of all five books.

At once.

This is what’s technically known in fiction writing circles as a “a big pain in the ass” (seriously… that is a bona fide technical term) — but it’s also the best way to make sure all five books connect deeply to each other, and the best way to get rid of weird “I changed my mind halfway through the series” continuity errors.

While I’m doing that, readers will start getting “urban fantasy girl” emails, where I’ll be asking you some questions, and we’ll be talking about urban fantasy in general, and mine in particular.

Once I have the revision done and have the books in Matt’s hands (he’s been my content editor for twenty-six years, and he’s a great one), the folks on the pre-launch list will start being invited to discussions about cover art, series titles, characters you love and why… fun stuff that will at the same time help me figure out where in the Urban Fantasy landscape these books will fit (and that will let you figure out whether they’re the kind of urban fantasy you like).

I’ll be asking some questions, answering some questions, maybe giving a few teasers, DEFINITELY giving away two free short stories for all launch participants… and once you’re comfortable that these either are or aren’t your kind of urban fantasy, I’ll invite the folks who are pretty sure this is your kind of thing to pick up the actual novel. Five books. Five months. Absolute best prices on all of them during the launch.

Once again, for urban fantasy fans only, here’s the sign-up form.

Holly’s “Not-Yet-Revealing-the-Pseudonym” Pre-Launch List

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This morning, in spite of what felt like a hard start of my brain with its engine cold, once I got rolling, I flew.

The story took a turn that surprised me, even as it still took me right through the events I was planning. It just didn’t present them to me in anything like the way I’d expected, and I didn’t end up where I thought I would. I landed someplace better.

There are villains… and they escaped.

Good guys… and they were left empty handed.

And a discovery about the nature of a key player that I’m looking forward to continuing tomorrow, and that I damn near couldn’t even pull myself away from today, because I discovered something so cool about, of all things… the owner of a private library that’s sitting in my MC’s house. And I wanted to find out the rest.

But I set limits on how much I write each day for very good reasons.

So I have big fun waiting for me in my end-of-the-week words. And I can’t wait for tomorrow to see what happens next.

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Today was a day for a bit of family history for my main character. It follows a big adventure scene, and reveals to my MC stuff she did not know about her grandmother — big stuff that ties into not just her present but to her past all the way back when she was in fifth grade.

The writing was fun — and I actually got almost a third more words than I get to count, because I spent some of the time doing essential worldbuilding that will let me, in upcoming novels (and probably retrofitted into the earlier ones during revision) — work in some very cool shit about Grandma.

Grandma was much, much cooler than my protagonist ever realized — and she always thought the old lady was awesome.


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Sometimes I scare myself.

I write words every day in a process where I give over a lot of control to my Right Brain Muse.

Small but important note: Right-brain muses — parts of the brain that don’t do much with words and spelling, but that do hold images and ideas and imagination — are theoretical, with the theory coming from studies done of people who had medically severed corpus callosa to stop intransigent seizures. It might very well be that with an unsevered corpus callosum, the brain is much more equitable in distributing its workload to both parts. I, however, like thinking of my left brain as the one that has the logic and reliably shows up for work every day whether we feel like it or not, while I like thinking that the right brain as the one infested with the nightmares and ghosts and really gruesome ideas for things to do to my poor characters that it finds disturbingly funny.

Either way, there is a part of my brain that comes up with wicked plot twists, that scares me, that makes me laugh, and that makes me cry, even though all the stuff it’s pitching at me is stuff it made up — stuff that never really happened — and I try to put that part in charge of the writing as much as possible.

This morning, this part stepped into the scene I’d planned, muttered “Oh, honey, that’s not even close to the worst thing that could happen in this situation” — and went to town.

Today I was almost a spectator to the words that rolled onto the page at ridiculous speed.

Today I scared myself.

No idea how much of this scene will survive in revision, but when my mind decided the bad guys were not going to win this round, it gave me something that I can see visiting me in nightmares for some years to come.

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I’ll take it.

The scene started like an ancient Ford on a cold day, and I had to beat several characters with sticks to get them up and moving… and I am voting this “The Chapter Most Likely to Need Heavy Revision” when all five books are in their pile.

But I got some good action, and some good worldbuilding (without being too heavy on catching up to speed those readers who pick up this book first).

And my main character is having a particularly rocky night, after already having had a painfully disturbing day.

So… good fun for me. <evil grin>


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I’m making good progress.

I’m also making a mess — I tripped over part of the mess in the last section of Book 3 when grabbing details there to continue into Book 4, where I discovered that I had not cleaned up the ending of THREE quite as well as I remembered.

This, however, is where process matters.

The process for finishing a series on deadline when you have to do all five books at once so you can revised them together and release them in series order over five months is this:

Save revision and tinkering until all five books are complete in first draft.

That way, once you know how the series ends, you can go through all the previous books, bring them up to the current story as determined by the epic ending you discovered while NOT following your outline, and make all changes just once, rather than continually dropping back, tinkering, smoothing, and debugging every time you figure out something that is better to bring to the current novel.

Here’s the thing.

If you don’t set this rule, and then never succumb to the temptation to break it (just this once — HAH!), the better ideas YOU WILL HAVE in each book will constantly have you tinkering with all existing previous novels, just to keep everything updated and matching — and by always going back when critical bits of the story are constantly changing — you will become a slave to the “better idea”, and you will never manage to get all the way to the end.

And you will delete good shit that needs to stay — only you can’t see it in the heat of “I need to fix this.”

Worse, every better idea dumps you into tinkering mode again. Over, and over, and over.

There will always be a better idea (including better ideas that turn out to be breathtakingly stupid, series-breaking nightmares). 

There will always be a “reason” to go back and tinker with finished books.

I didn’t. I won’t.

All five books get finished in raw, buggy first draft first.

ONE BIG REVISION comes second.


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I start each new novel with a template I built for myself.

It has my type styles (Courier 12, double space, first line indent, and thirty chapters all set up.

My pre-built Chapter 1 (I built it when I bought Scrivener, and it has survived ever since) looks like this.

SomethingClever Goes Here

The little “Something Clever Goes Here” sentence beneath the CHAPTER 1 header never fails to amuse me when I open the new template… but I’m easily amused.

So today, before I started on the words, I transferred my entire line-for-scene outline to the Scrivener document, sentence by sentence, in to the thirty blank chapters.

And discovered that somehow I had managed to write thirty-one Scene Sentences, and all of them were important.

So I added a new Chapter 31. 

I’m not sure where the extra chapter came from in the outline, but I’ll figure it out.

Meanwhile, the new blank document started with a word count of 228 — these are mystery words that I can’t find anywhere in the document.

Sooner or later, I’ll run across them and delete them. But for now, I wrote 1466 words (out of my planned 1250), and show 1674 total words in the novel.

I love the scene I got… and with it, I’m off to the races.


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So there it is. 

I already know the outline is not perfect.

I already know that there are parts of it I will change as I write them, that there are places where I will have better ideas, that there are places where I will decide a scene I’ve outlined is stupid — and will change it — and then will decide that I was right the first time, and go back in and do what I planned…

But this is the process — for me, anyway.

This is how my brain works… and I can’t even say it’s the way it works BEST.

It’s just the way I’ve figured out that allows me to write first drafts that are good enough to keep while I revise them into the stories I wish I could have created right out of the gate.

I have something that has shape and form and that takes me from where I am to where I think I want to be, and that allows me the room to find better destinations (and the net to save the story when one of them turns out to be an imaginary bridge over a very real cliff).

Now I’ll go through the rest of my list of things to do for today… 

And tomorrow, I’ll start on page one, word one of Ohio Book 4.

I’m excited. I always am.


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Long haul — I’ve been at this since 6: 30 am when I got out of the shower.

Today a hard slog — I did a fair amount of deleting, twiddling, rethinking… walking in circles in the office talking out loud to myself and presenting both sides of the “how should I do this?” brainstorming and “why that won’t work” opposition.

But today I got all the way through the BIG MESS of Book Four, and tomorrow I have just six sentences left in which to work out the chaos, mostly resolve the issues of this book…

And bring forward the one thing everyone missed that will form the CORE story for Book Five.

As work days go, I’ll take it.

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Okay. Today was not the best Monday I have ever had. 

I had a revelation this morning about the very strict limits I must maintain on the world… limits I’ve been maintaining subconsciously since I started writing the series without considering why.

Today, I got why.

It helped me a lot in keeping the series from drifting into Evil Series Sprawl, which is when the writer decides that anything can happen.

“If anything can happen, nothing matters,” to quote Jim Baen.

This morning I spent about forty-five minutes writing out exactly the limitations that exist in the series, and why they matter…

AND THEN I started building scene Sentences — 30-word structural plot sentences that let me keep the book on target.

I wrote some that I had to dump, had a big rethink about what cannot happen in book four if book five is going to give a strong, clean ending to the series (while still leaving room for me to continue if the world proves popular enough for me to keep writing in it).

So — tossed out the existing Sentences, started over from scratch, and at least for today, I really like what I got.

The question is, will I like it tomorrow when I come back in and read it cold?

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