When a house is not a home (and a READERS-ONLY request)… 1266 words, and 9439 total

By Holly Lisle

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

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Today was fun … 1344 words, 8,173 total

By Holly Lisle

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.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Special houses (may I never visit one on a bad day)… 1321 words of 1250 needed, 5573 total.

By Holly Lisle

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.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


NEVER GO BACK — Ohio 4, Day 2. Epic chaos begins. 1271 words for the day, 2945 total

By Holly Lisle

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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Ohio 4 Begins! 1446 words, and 1674 total.

By Holly Lisle

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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Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Finished all thirty Book Four sentences… Will start Chapter 1 tomorrow.

By Holly Lisle

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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Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Got eleven Line-for-Scene Sentences — nineteen to go

By Holly Lisle

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?

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


Getting ready to start the Line-For-Scene Outline of Ohio 4

By Holly Lisle

In the little image above, you can see the blue-outlined box with OH-3 CUR1stD in the middle.

Below it, a gray box with a blue text icon and Ohio #1-4.

Enigmatic, maybe, and not very informative. Until you see them in context and understand what a big deal this is.

If you’re a non-nerd reader waiting to read the Ohio Series when it comes out, you can read just this bit and get the good stuff.

OH-3 CUR1stD in the image above stands for Ohio 3, Complete Unrevised First Draft. It’s moved next to its two siblings (show in the big image below this section), where it will wait until I revise the entire pile of five novels in ONE pass.

Immediately below it in the image above there now sits a new blue document link. Ohio #1-4.

I’m building a NEW outline for that book today, because I broke all the old outlines when writing Ohio 3.

I’m hoping to start writing Ohio 4 on either Monday or Tuesday of next week.

 

!!!NERD ALERT!!!

Seriously nerdy writer process and software discussion ahead. 

If you are a reader or writer NERD… keep reading. From here on out, I’m talking about the BIG picture, from which I grabbed the little picture.

Here’s the big picture.

Screen Shot 2021 07 09 at 7 55 44 AM

This is the current organization of my fiction process and writing documents, aided by FREETER, the software that makes all the spiffy boxes, each of which is a link to a folder, a document, or something that I have to do each day, like go in and edit my newest blog post.

In the big image above, you can see two rows of stuff that I’m using to build the Ohio Novels. (Or will be once I’m that far.)

My link to my series storage folder, top file. Inside that folder, I have all the worldbuilding, all the notes to myself, all the character development, the books… everything.

Then there’s OBJ1- which is my list of objectives for the first five Ohio Novels (“first” assumes they will do well enough to warrant a second series. If they don’t, there will not be a second series).

A list of cover artists I might be able to afford when the time for cover art comes. Then a cluster of ideas (at the moment) for freebie Ohio stories I’ll write once the series itself is complete, revised, and with Matt for editing that folks who sign up for my pseudonym’s mailing list will receive.

The one-click link to my blog — it’s faster than typing.

Stuff for my UrbanFantasyGirl email list (empty at the moment — that list doesn’t get much love until all five books are done and revised, when I can start sending out teasers and goodies).

The series calendar… built around a real calendar (and a real year) so that I don’t make stupid date mistakes, so that I can track time and pay attention to changing seasons… stuff like that.

Also so that (SERIOUS NERD ALERT) I can make sure that I get sunrises and sunset times correct for specific days — which is important, but saying why would be A) a small spoiler, and B) massively geeky. (Warned ya. Hah!)

In general though, and not giving anything away, each of the books in the first series takes place over a couple of weeks in one month, and each book contains one complete adventure, as well as a couple of bigger stories that will only be complete within the five-book series.

The OHIO S1 W&C is my complete list of world conventions and the characters in the book. It’s very, very easy to just keep throwing new characters into new books. It’s much harder to keep track of existing characters and make sure they remain in all the books and experience changes and growth, and don’t just vanish into the ether because you forgot to write them.

(VERY easy. I have not yet forgotten the sting of forgetting to write Danrith in the rest of Fire in the Mist, or at all in Bones of the Past and Mind of the Magic.)

Romance beats are one form of story structure. Hero’s Journey is a second.

I’m working with both.

Finally, the three (YAY, THREE) completed first drafts, and then the last two novels, and their hero’s journey outline and Line For Scene outlines.

But of which are going to have to be redone before the writing starts, because while I’m writing, I constantly play “beat the outline”, trying to build something better in the story than what I already figured out.

Which means all the old outlines for later books become useless.

You’d think I shouldn’t waste time writing them  then, right? It’s logical.

But if I don’t have the vision of an entire story from book one through book five sitting in my head, complete with pretty good ending, and a lot of nice twists… there’s nothing for me to beat.

So all the work I don’t use has a real and essential purpose. If I don’t have “pretty good” and “not too bad” staring me in the face as I’m writing… I don’t have anything to fight, or anything to beat.

END NERD ALERT

Time to start outlining.

Contents © Holly Lisle. https://hollylisle.com All Rights Reserved


HAPPY DANCE!… Ohio 3 first draft finished at 89,556 words and 1828 for the day

By Holly Lisle

Today was a good day. I had to delete one whole chapter, and I ended up writing about three times as many words as what shows, because of that giant chunk of deletion.

But I landed the next to last chapter, and retrofitted the last chapter to fit the new stuff today.

The last chapter — it had originally been written as a middle chapter, but it had that perfect last line that, when I read it this morning, made me laugh and cry  — didn’t need much. I made it match the new next-to-last chapter.

And then read it again. And laughed and cried at the same time.

So. Book 3 of the Ohio Series is now done in first draft. And like nearly all my first drafts, it will probably get longer in revision. BUT not today, or tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I’ll read my raw outline for book for, and make that fit what happened in book three.

That might take a few working days, but best guess, I’ll start into Ohio 4 on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Today though?

Happy Dance!


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One more writing day left on Ohio Book 3 — 1552 words today, and 88,306 words total

By Holly Lisle

I am very pleased to report that the rethink on what had to happen to end Ohio Novel #3 worked.

Worked like crazy.

So did the revelation I had last night that I remembered to write down in my bullet journal yesterday, which was just this:

“B” tells “T” to carry the walking stick.

(Names disguised because all identifying details stay under wraps until the pseudonym goes live and the books are in print.)

But…

“B” tells “T” to carry the walking stick.

Is that a big nothing of a line, or what?

It doesn’t seem to have anything important in it. No promise, no wonder, no conflict… NOTHING.

And it didn’t have any promise to me last night when I wrote it down, except that my muse said, “Do it.” So I did it.

But this morning, it was magic. The final conflict in the story rolled out of that dumb line, wrapping into one solid scene a secret from a lost past, love of home and all its places, monsters and violence… and a couple of surprises I can’t even hint at…and it rolls perfectly into tomorrow’s work, which is to write the right scene to go before the LAST scene.

The last scene — my Book 3 Perfect Ending, is already written. It was a scene in the middle of the book that failed to fit or to mean much of anything until I saved it and just dragged it to the end of the book to save, where it revealed itself as THE RIGHT ENDING.

So… to sum up…

HOLY CRAP, today was amazing.

I’ll finish Book 3 tomorrow, and Friday, I’ll re-outline Book 4. (That might take more than just Friday, by the way.)

But, wow… my muse was on a roll last night.


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