Friday, January 2, 2015

My Writing Process

Happy New Year, all. As I look around at what has become unfamiliar surroundings (my last post having been written nearly three and a half months ago), my first instinct is to apologize. But then I ask myself, for what? I never promised to post in any regular manner, and in truth, really had nothing worthwhile to say, so why waste my time or yours?

Over the years, I've read a lot of so-called advice for writers from writers (and others) who consider themselves experts, and I've come to realize something. Just like with everything else in life, all writers work differently. The popular school of thought is that to be a successful writer, you must write every day.

Bullshit.

I tried that. While it probably works for most people, and especially if you're a newb who needs the practice, having a one-size-fits-all policy for success in any creative endeavor is just dumb. We're not all the same, and creativity is not like a tap you can turn on or off at will.

At least, not for me. I live with my characters and books inside me all the time, but sometimes they just don't feel like talking. And why should I force them if they have nothing to say?

I look at it this way: In my real life, I have spent years buying and renovating old houses. I do most of the work myself and use salvaged parts whenever necessary. I never have a huge budget for these adventures, but I do usually have some kind of plan or vision for what I want to accomplish. Often I'm so fixated on that vision that I'd rather do nothing at all than compromise on something less than my vision in the name of getting things done.

For instance, in one house, after tearing out the wall between the kitchen and livingroom, I decided I wanted to put a large, solid wood column between the two rooms. I don't know where the desire came from, but nothing else was going to do. And because I couldn't find that mythical column, I lived with a wall of bare studs for nearly two years because I knew if I did something else just to get the job done, I'd never be satisfied with it.

That's how I see my writing. I've rushed to finish books so I could publish, only to later be disappointed with the resulting story, wishing I could go back and rewrite it the way I originally had intended.

Which brings me to now. As I had mentioned in my September post, for the last year I've been busy between the day job and remodeling my latest house, leaving little creative energy to listen to the stories in my head. That was fine for awhile because, as I said, the characters were quiet. And while they flared up a bit a few months back, they just as quickly fell quiet again. However, lately they've started talking more than they have in years, and believe me, with two series and a couple of standalone books running around up there, it can get quite noisy. I revisited each of my in-progress projects (yes, I always have several going at a time), rereading my notes and what I had written so far, in the hopes of pinpointing the one that was making the most noise.

At first I thought it was Laec of the Erebus Files. I even wrote a couple of chapters on Hazard, then put it aside when nothing rang true. Then I read through last year's NaNoWriMo project, Random Trips to Nowhere, and while I enjoyed reading what I had written so far, I had no inspiration on where to take the tale from there.

And that's when the 'Ru started creeping into my subconscious. You'd never know by reading the first book, but the original concept for the series was born from my love of old gothic romantic horror. Since that style of writing has fallen out of favor the past few years in light of newer, shinier vampires, I allowed myself to be swayed by popular opinion. To be honest, by the time the first book was done, I could hardly tell the characters were vampires.

And that makes me sad, because truth be told, I love a good vampire story. The whole reason why I began to write paranormal fiction was because I couldn't find the kind of vampire story I wanted to read. That perfect balance of sexy power, romance, danger, and a reluctant touch of evil. I confess to being smitten even now with Lestat as the greatest hero of the genre.

So I began to revisit my old library of classic vampire paperbacks--Elaine Bergstrom's Austra series, Tanya Huff's Blood series, Fred Saberhagen's Dracula series, and the queen of them all, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles (books 1 through 3, though the new Prince Lestat awaits on my Kindle). I reread them all, absorbing that familiar, beloved fascination with the vampire legend.

I'm not going to sit here and try to analyze or justify my vampire addiction. It's quite simply, what I like. Frankly I'm worn out by the badass super demon/vampire/werewhatever heroes that populate the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre these days; the sexless, sword-wielding, tattooed women (and men) in tight leather and looser morals. I miss the romance of the forbidden dark world, and quite frankly, nothing embodies that like a good old-fashioned gothic vampire tale.

That's not saying I'm going to go all Victoria Holt in my next book. Books 2 and 3 of the 'Ru Lexicon trilogy have been plotted out for some time, and while I still want to tell the story I had originally envisioned, I'm just going to add a little old-school flavor to their world. Which means Book 2 will offer a nod to true classic vampirism. The characters have begun to speak to me again, interrupting my dreams and intruding on my sleep. Most of the necessary research  is done, and it's time to start bringing their story to life. If I'm absent for long stretches, know that it's because I'm spending my creative energies there.


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