donderdag 4 augustus 2016

about gore and sequel writing

One of my favorite things in the world is getting messages from people who have read (or are reading) my books. I’m not quite famous enough to get hundreds of fan letters, so every time someone takes a moment to seek me out and tell me they enjoyed my work, it’s very special.

Now, (bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this) I write stories in quite a few genres. I’m really into my speculative fiction, and can’t pick a favorite. Out of all the different categories, I think ‘horror’ one is the most awkward to talk to people about.

One of my most read books is Angel Manor, and let’s face it… it’s not exactly the fluffiest thing I have ever written. I didn't pull punches on this one. Not that I ever pull punches, because I would argue that Even Hell Has Standards: Wrath is by far the most horrifying thing I've ever written... but it's not horrifying in the 'disgusting' sense of the word. Angel Manor is.
I think the funniest review I’ve gotten to date for that is ‘ieuw’ (The reader gave it 4 stars, so I’m taking it as a compliment).

This is also the book where I’ve had to most awkward moments with readers. Some of them were funny, where people would send me messages wondering what I had against eye-balls, etc. Others could be quite emotional.

Once I had a conversation with a lovely guy who was in the middle of reading it. He was telling me how one of the characters made him very sentimental, because they reminded him of one of his departed friends. At that moment I was grateful he couldn’t see my face, because I was definitely having an ‘OH NO’ moment, knowing that I killed that character off quite brutally a few chapters later. Sure enough, I read on Goodreads that the reader needed a break from reading when he hit that particular chapter. In the end, he did finish it, and he was very positive about the book. But it was a moment I won’t soon forget.

One of my readers said something along the lines of ‘if you have trigger warnings, this book probably hits all of them.’ On the one hand, that’s a compliment, but at the same time, I’m not a fan of traumatizing people either. It’s part of that weird territory that comes with horror writing. I feel this mixture of pride and wanting to ask if the other person is okay.

Recently someone contacted me and told me that they weren’t sure they could read on, because the prologue was just too shocking for them. I felt terrible when I told them that it would only get worse as the book goes along (I always want to say in an ominous voice: beware of chapter 22). There was a reason why I made the prologue brutal: you can read the first chapter at Amazon, and I thought it would be fair warning of what was to come. (Not that the entire book is nothing but horrible deaths. I like to think there’s a story hidden in there too)
I totally understand if this is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Sometimes I wonder what made me go ‘all out’ with Angel Manor. I’m not usually an extreme horror
writer. Have I mentioned how squeamish I am? Because I am… it’s ironic, I know.
I’ll add a bit of blood and guts to all my tales of terror, sure, but I like to think that most of my stories are more psychological horror than a gore-fest. Perhaps Angel Manor was my proverbial middle finger to the people who told me that women couldn’t write scary things. (Yup, met a few of those online. Apparently we just can’t go all the way, when it comes to horror, and we write more gothic romances.) I don’t know what it was, I let the story guide me, and it took me to horrible places. The funny thing is, it seems to pull people towards it, more than my other work does.

Angel Manor is brutal, and when I started to write the sequel, I realized that it wasn’t half as brutal as the first. Don’t get me wrong, I still put in a decent amount of gore, but I don’t think the sequel is as ‘extreme’ as the first. It focuses more on the story that surrounds the manor and that which slumbers within. There is more adventure.

I’m not going to lie, I worry about the difference. Do people expect just another blood and carnage fest? Or do they want to read more about the actual story behind it? I went along with the story that I wanted to tell.

The Lucifer Falls series is part of a larger story, that I combine with the Celestial series which I’m writing. They’re much darker than the Celestial books, and focus on completely different parts of the story, but there is a cross-over. They’re also part of the same world as the Even Hell Has Standards series.
The benefits to having all these different books in the same world is that I have a really richly worked out setting.
The disadvantages is that it’s very complicated to write something this large. I constantly need to
consider when writing the one series, what will happen in the other series, so that I don’t mess up the bigger plot. (Even Hell Has Standards doesn’t really directly influence the story lines too much)

These series makes me nervous. I’m worried about what my publisher will think of it, and what my readers will think. Personally, I like the turn the story took, but will others agree? My Beta reader, Greg Faherty, was a huge support in the writing
process. He got me through the moments where I wanted to slam my face into the keyboard.

Writing sequels is quite a challenge. It’s nothing like writing individual books or stories.
When I wrote ‘Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly’ I hit a few snags too. There are so many questions that come up while writing a sequel. Does the second story live up to the first? Are the characters consistent? Does the story line still work? Did I forget something?

I guess we’ll find out when it comes out. And then I have an even more daunting task; not only do I have to write another sequel, it has to be the one that ends the trilogy. Now that’s truly scary.

If you want to read what all the fuss is about, you can find Angel Manor here or if you live in the UK you can find it here.

zaterdag 30 juli 2016

Plotters vs. Pantsers

*puts on her most impressive Ring announcer’s voice*

Ladies and gentlemen, in the blue corner we have the Grand Plotter, weighing in at whatever they weigh, all the way from all over the world.
Aaaaaaaand in the red corner we have the Classified Pantser weighing a few more or less pounds, and coming from where-ever.

Okay… okay… it’s not a match. Not at all. And even if it was, I’d not be in that ring, I’d be the one dinging the bell at inappropriate times, and confusing everyone.
But before I go off into a rambling tangent about boxing, let me first explain the Plotter vs. Pantser thing.

It is said that there are two types of writers (of course this is completely simplified and thus a for the most part untrue). There are the Plotters: those dapper dames/ fellows who have worked out their whole novel beforehand, knowing what each chapter will bring.

And then there are the Pantsers: those whimsical types who don’t plan anything, but just ‘fly by the seat of their pants.’ They let their muse guide them as they go along.

The two writing styles are very different, yet they do have some similarities, because in the end it all is linked to imagination and creativity.

I believe you can often (not always of course) tell if a writer is a Plotter or a Pantser. For example, I would not be at all surprised if George RR Martin is a Plotter and Stephen King is a Pantser. I just wonder if they are 100% one or the other, because I have my doubts if anyone can completely Pants a story, or completely Plot one.

Personally: I’m a Pantsing Plotter… or maybe a Plotting Pantser… who knows? I guess I like to be contrary. What I mean by that is that I plot certain elements in my book. I need to know where I’m going with my story. When I start a novel (or a short story), 9 out of 10 times I know how it will end. Okay… maybe 8 out of 10 times… I have changed endings before. 7 out of 10 max…


…. Eh… what? Who said that?

Back to what I was saying. Pantsing Plotter. *coughs* So I know certain things. I will make a ton of notes about them, and even work out incomplete timelines. If I don’t do this (and I’ve not done this in the past) my book will be a hot mess, causing me to spend even longer editing. And I spend a long…. loooong time editing to begin with.

When I write I start with an idea, and from that I do a little world and character building. How does my world look? What are the rules for things that are out of the ordinary? What metaphysics do I use for magic or other supernatural things? Who are my characters? What are their backgrounds? Etc. etc. You get the gist.

I have notes on things that will never even make it into the books. So… that’s my plotting part. It’s important to me to have a clear image of what I’m going to write. However, when I start writing, I get ‘in the moment’ and I let my characters and the story take over a bit. I try to imagine what it’s like to be there myself. What would I feel? What smells / sights/ sounds surround me?

Sometimes I get all these spontaneous good ideas, so I let them guide me—which, you guessed it, is the Pantser in me. When this happens, I need to adjust my notes, and make sure that I’m still heading to a solid ending. A pet peeve of mine is reading a book where the ending just leaves you baffled.

Endings are difficult things to write. I’m sure some writers don’t struggle with them as much as I do, but that last line is always a form of torture for me. What are the last words you leave your reader with, after you’ve just taken them on a lengthy wordy ride? How do you suddenly stop? To me, it’s important to have a plan.

That’s a personal opinion of course. And luckily for both Plotters and Pantsers, there are audiences for both.

It doesn’t really matter what your approach is, as long as you give your book the love and attention it needs. Make it the very best work that you can make it. My tip is to always run it past very critical beta-readers. The type that will find something wrong with it, and will take the time to point it out to you.

Your writing style should be your own. See what fits you, and what gives you your edge. And to quote Neil Gaiman: “Make good Art”.

Good luck! And may the Plotting or Pantsing force be with you!

And now... for some cheeky self promotion time! Please go check out my work, and if you've read any of my books, I would REALLY appreciate a review.

zondag 6 maart 2016

Reading my own work

One of the things most of us have to deal with is the faceless ‘they’ who seem to make up all the rules of conduct in this world. As a child I always pictured them to be a council of old and sour looking people who sit together and create the laws. One day, I’ll write a story about them.

But let’s get back on track. In the writing world I get slapped around the ears constantly with ‘you should feel this way’. A wonderful example of this, I hear everywhere that a writer has to love reading their own books. Because if you don’t love your work… why would anyone else?

You know what… by the time I finish a book… I freaking hate it, and the thought of having to read that *&^%$ again makes me cranky. That feeling fades rather quickly, but still, there is that moment.

That doesn’t mean I hate my work altogether. Not at all, because of course I am excited enough by my story to want to write it, or I wouldn't have bothered. I often fall in love with my characters, and I’m truly enthusiastic about my plot lines. So… plenty of love. But I just don’t enjoy reading it. For a reason…

First of all… I have read it. Over and over and over and over and over… and I could go on. There’s writing it, then reading it over, then editing it (which is more reading) so that I can send it to my beta readers. Then I read it again, one time for each beta reader (which are at least 3 in my case) then I edit it again, and again… and only then do I send my work to my publisher. Who will read it, give me more notes, so that I have to read and edit it again. That draft will get sent to the editor. There will be a few back and forth sending of the manuscript between the editor and myself, where I will read and edit again. When it’s finished the book will go to a proof reader (another editor) and then I get to read it for one last time. Blah, blah, blah... you get the point.

By this time I’m so sick of the work, I’m willing to ritually sacrifice it to a goat. Not a god. A goat. Not even a goat that will then be sacrificed to a god. Just one of those fat ones that jump against a fence because they think you have food. That kind of goat.

I’m digressing again.

It’s okay to reread a book, mind you. I love getting out my Harry Potter series at least every five years and reading them all again. But not the same book over and over again in a row. It’s not fun. Well, not to ME anyway. I don't like repetition. And I can’t just ‘read’ my own book. Even if I were to pick up one of my books in ten years time, I would still be editing the damn thing in my head. There is no way I can let go. If I were left to my own device, I’d
never stop editing. I’d edit until there was nothing left of my original story.

 Because I’m a bit loopy.

But no… I don’t enjoy reading my own books. I enjoy it more when you read my books. Especially when you like them. Then I can live vicariously through your eyes, and I can share my thoughts and my world with you. That works better for me.