Binge & Purge

Oh man you guys, I finished my draft. Holy shit. Hot damn. It’s done. It’s absolute trash, but it’s done. (I’m kidding, I really love some parts. Just the last 1/3 or so kinda went to shit because I was so tired of writing it I just wanted the suffering to end)

The process of writing this draft has made me realize that I operate in a series of binges and purges. Intakes and outputs.

Since the end of April, I’ve been writing this draft. So for two months, I’ve been purging. I’ve been on “output” mode. I’ve read one book in that time. I haven’t watched any TV or played any video games, I’ve watched maybe three movies, and I’ve been listening to the same handful of bands on loop until I hate them. I’ve purchased SO MANY BOOKS in the past two months, but I haven’t read a word of them. I’ve been getting anxious because I want to do other things, but I just couldn’t stop writing. Some people might advise “take a break and do some of the other things!” but if I did other things, I would be anxious because I wasn’t writing.

It’s a vicious cycle.

When I wrote the last word of this draft, I sat staring at it for a minute, thinking, “Well… I’m not happy with this ending, but this is the ending. I have no further ideas for this draft. I have written all of the ideas. I guess… that’s it. It’s done.”

It’s like stumbling out of a desert into a lush field of wildflowers. I’M DONE. I’M FREE! SO MANY OPTIONS FOR HOW TO SPEND MY TIME! SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES! SO MANY THINGS TO TRY. I CAN FINALLY RELAX!

So I will now roll around in the wildflowers for a while. It’s binge time. I will read some books. I will watch some movies. Maybe I’ll finally finish Yuri on Ice. I will load my brain up with SO MUCH STUFF after draining it clean of ideas with the single-minded focus I’ve had on my current WIP. I need to refresh my brain. I need to intake. I will devour all the media. All the ideas I can access. I will do new research. I will spend time outside.

I have declared on Twitter that I will take two weeks off from writing. That’s hilarious and untrue, but I will take at least two weeks off from this particular draft. I have a short story that needs to be revised and sent out to publishers. I had people beta read it for me a month ago and haven’t read their feedback yet because I didn’t want to split my focus off my novel draft. I have another short story that needs to be revised and sent to betas. I still have my NaNoWriMo novel from last year waiting to be revised.

But I am taking time off. I need to regroup. Maybe I won’t take two weeks off, but I’ve accumulated a seriously large number of books I need to read, so I’ll be starting on those. Plus there are a few authors I’ve befriended online and I’d like to read every book they’ve ever written. Plus I have things to beta.

How do you guys split up your “intake” vs. your “output” when it comes to writing? Do you intake and output a bit every day? Every week? Or are you a crazy person like me and you split intake/output periods over months? Leave me a comment!

Trust Your Broccoli

If you are a writer and you’ve never read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, GO DO IT NOW. I read that book in college and it literally changed my life. I’ll wait.

2000 years later

All right, so there’s a chapter in Bird by Bird called Broccoli. In it, Lamott cites a quote from a Mel Brooks skit: “Listen to your broccoli, and your broccoli will tell you how to eat it.

What does this mean? Well, in the context of writing, it means “Listen to your story, and your story will tell you how to write it.” In other words, listen to your intuition. Listen to your gut. Writing is a very heart-and-soul driven process, and if you try to over-think it, analyze it, make it a science, it’s not going to work.

That’s the gist of the piece, but I highly recommend you read it for yourself. That one and “Shitty First Drafts.”  “Shitty First Drafts” is the reason I finished my first novel instead of letting it waste away half-finished somewhere on my hard drive.

ANYWAY.

I had my own “listen to your broccoli” moment this past week which kind of blew my mind. I’ve written before about how music ties into my writing process. For my current WIP, I’d been listening to Saul’s music — dark, sultry, heavy on piano and violin and angst. I was writing from Saul’s point of view, so listening to his music made sense.

I hit a turning point in the story and I started slowing down. I was getting stuck. I slogged through it with help from a friend, and then I got stuck again. My brain suddenly decided that I MUST LISTEN TO FOLK MUSIC. Folk music? Okay, I thought, this is Alex’s music. He’s a small rural town kinda guy, bluegrass and folk and country-esque music is prevalent there. So, we’re listening to Alex’s music now, like the flip of a switch. Saul’s is absolutely not acceptable anymore. Alex was reaching a turning point in his character arc, so that made sense I guess.

But I was still stuck. For days. I was fighting my way through, feeling that the writing was slow and boring. I couldn’t figure out how to make it interesting. I kept thinking, “It’s really hard to show this from Saul’s point of view.” and “I have no idea where this is going.”

And one night I just hit a wall. I couldn’t write. Nothing. It wasn’t happening. I didn’t know what was supposed to happen next. I had ideas in mind, but none of it seemed right. The pacing was off if I executed the vague plotline I had in mind. It just didn’t work. I was so, so stuck.

Of course, I took to Twitter, because Twitter is my people.

I had a bit of conversation, and then an epiphany.

And something tumbled loose in my brain, like there’d been a rock stuck in the gears and that idea knocked it loose, and I starting thinking “Yeah… this might work. This would solve a lot of problems. This would solve so many problems. THIS WOULD SOLVE LIKE ALL THE PROBLEMS.”

And the gears started turning again. Slowly. It takes a little while for the machinery to go from total standstill to functional again. I went to sleep that night with a thought. The gears clearly kept turning while I slept, because the next day, I woke up with ideas. I tossed them out on Twitter so I wouldn’t forget, and then I kept simmering on it during the first half of my work day. On my lunch break I sat down with a notebook, and the flood gates opened. The clouds parted and sunlight broke through. I put pen to paper and the entire ending of the book spilled out over my brain with drunken enthusiasm. The pieces clicked together easily and logically.

Here’s where I get to the point. Remember up there where I said my brain randomly decided that Saul’s music wasn’t working anymore and it was time to start listening to Alex’s music?

DAYS before I got stuck, DAYS before I thought of switching POVs, my broccoli knew.

It knew.

broccoli

Writing is hard. There’s all kinds of advice out there. Not all of it will work for you. Maybe your broccoli is a lying little shit… but I doubt it. Your broccoli is your heart, your muse, your innermost self. Trust yourself. When you’re writing and things get rough, try to get quiet. Tell the doubts to shut the fuck up. Ain’t no one got time for doubts and fears. Cuss and swear and scream and throw things if that helps, and then get quiet. Sit. Focus. Stop trying to force words, and listen. Somewhere in the back of your mind, there’s a little green sprout saying “Do this thing. This is the thing to do. Trust me.”

Trust the broccoli.

(if you hate broccoli, feel free to think of that little voice as something else. Muse. Subconscious. Tiny person standing in your brain cavity shouting at you. Whatever form it takes, let it exist and listen to it.)

 

Rainbow Snippets – 5/6/17 – Trustfall

Hello friends! I’m still plugging away at this draft. It is so difficult. I love the characters but I feel like I have no idea where I’m going. I think I’m trying to fit too much into one book. And you know what that means? I MIGHT HAVE TO WRITE A SEQUEL. But I’m not even done with the first draft of the first book! Gah!!! (I certainly love these boys enough to write a sequel with them, though. They’re a lot of fun)

Anyway, picking up where we left off last week (well I skipped like one line for the sake of keeping this at 6… or 7).  Saul and Alex have just met, they’ve realized Saul’s sister Hannah has been talking both of them up to each other, and… here we are.




“Can you grab me a pen and paper?” I asked. If nothing else, he was cute, and it had been a long, long time since I’d been alone with a cute guy. Hannah was certain he was single, and I was reasonably certain he was gay. He stepped away, back to the desk, and grabbed a pen and a sheet of blank paper from the printer. “Write this down,” I said, when he offered them to me. I dictated my phone number and home address. “Tomorrow night at 6, if you’re free.”




Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

Rainbow Snippets – 4/29/17 – Trustfall

Hi everyone!

I thought up a working title for this piece! I hate it, but it’s better than just calling it “new story” all the time, so we’re going with “trustfall” since a huge part of this novel revolves around trust. I think “trust fall” is actually two words but I’m exercising creative license here and making it one.

Last week, in the first six lines of the novel, POV character Saul was “ogling” a handsome man his sister had told him about. These lines (slightly more than 6, sorry) pick up right after that.




Speaking of my sister… I glanced around, but didn’t see her. Ah well. The man I presumed to be Alex walked around the desk then to head elsewhere, and I caught him with a light touch on his forearm.

“Excuse me.”

He stopped and turned, polite smile in place. “Can I help you?”

“I’m looking for my sister Hannah. Supposed to be picking her up.”

His eyebrows went up and he gave me a quick once-over, taking in my black slacks and tie. “You’re Saul?”

I wasn’t sure what to think of the surprise on his face after that once-over, but I smiled. “Someone’s been talking about me. And I’m willing to bet you’re Alex.”

An adorable reddish flush crept up his cheeks. “Guess someone’s been talking about me, too.”

“She talks a lot.”




Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

Writing #OwnVoices – You Are Enough

I’m asexual. I wrote about this just a couple months ago when I realized it for the first time in my 10+ years of adulthood. Since then, I have joined the #ownvoices movement by starting to write a novel with an asexual gay man as a main character.

Let me tell you: It is hard. It is really, really difficult for me, despite being asexual myself. The temptation to put these guys into a regular old sexual relationship is strong. It’d be a lot easier to write. Despite not being sexually motivated or driven myself, writing sex is natural because it is everywhere, and I know it is expected, and a lot of readers live for the sex scenes.

Writing anything is hard. Writing gay men as a straight[ish] female[ish…person] is hard. Writing romance with a character who is not driven by sexual desire is a hard. Put all this together and add a heaping dose of crippling self-doubt on top, and it’s a miracle I’ve put a single word on the page.

“Self doubt?” you say. “Why are you drowning in self doubt? This should be easy. You’re asexual. You’re writing an asexual character. That’s like being a writer and writing about a writer. Right?”

Except I only realized I’m asexual like two months ago, and only decided to apply/embrace the label several weeks later. All in all, I’ve considered myself a part of the asexual community for like, maybe 5 weeks now. So who the fuck am I to write an asexual character? I have no idea what I’m talking about. Right? What if I accidentally write bad rep? Even though I am ace, and I have been ace forever, I could easily write something that offends someone else. I could write it wrong. The internet is a terrifying place. There are a lot of outspoken, aggressive people on every side of every issue (especially on Twitter, where I spend most of my time). What if I write this asexual character based on my own personal feelings and experiences, and someone comes along and says “He’s not asexual.”

But he’s based on me! And I am! Does that mean I’m not?!

What if I write this #ownvoices book and someone comes along and shits on me for it because I’m not repping enough? I’m not outspoken enough? I’m not… I don’t know what, but what if I’m doing it wrong?

TAKING RISKS IS TERRIFYING.

Somebody save me.

Do you see my issue?

And then, while I was musing over this hang-up I’m struggling with, here came Ana Mardoll with a miraculously well-time tweet thread:

If you could just pardon me for a moment, I’ll be in the corner, sobbing.

misha crying

Okay. Better now.

So this is what it boils down to, kids: You are enough, and the world needs your voice. No one is more enough-y than you. No one can write a marginalized character better than a marginalized person, and no one can tell you that your feelings and experiences disqualify you for the group you feel you belong to. There has been a lot of hate flying around lately–transphobia and biphobia, erasure of all sorts. There is no better time than now for writing #ownvoices, and there is no better person than you.

So I’m going to go on writing my asexual gay man, and if he wants to have sex, he will. And if he doesn’t, he won’t. He’ll find his boyfriend attractive, he will be infatuated and in love and make flirty comments and sexual jokes, and if anyone reads about him someday and says that his relationship is unrealistic, I’ll give them a great big middle finger, because I am an asexual person, and I have sex, get crushes, flirt, and make a hell of a lot of sexual jokes. Those things do not disqualify me from the a-spec. I am asexual enough to write an asexual character, even if I just realized it a few weeks ago. It’s my identity and no one will take it away from me.

(If you want snippets and lines from Alex and his asexual D/s adventures, you can follow me on Twitter. I post quite frequently.)

Rainbow Snippets 4/22/17 – New Story!

Hi everyone! I missed the last couple weeks of snippetting due to, well, frankly, a horrible period of self-doubt.

I started a new novel at the beginning of April, and it involves BDSM, which is something I don’t have much experience with. And one of the MCs is asexual, which is something I do have personal experience with, but that’s making it oddly more difficult to write because it’s personal.

Anyway, it took me a few weeks to decide that I don’t hate it and I’m fairly sure I’m going to finish it at this point (29,000 words later…), so I’ll start sharing. I don’t even have a working title yet. Goodness. These are the opening six lines.




I spotted Alex immediately based on Hannah’s description. Tall, with light brown hair styled in that “just woke up” intentional mess. Or maybe it was actually just a mess. A purple t-shirt and track pants did nothing to disguise his impressive musculature. As he chatted with a woman at the desk, his smile was quick and frequent. Yeah, I could see why my sister had wanted me to come ogle him.




Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

Writing “Process,” Step One – Birth of an Idea

As a writer, you hear a lot of “what’s your process?” and “How do you start?” and “Where do you get ideas?” and so on and so forth.

I’m starting a new novel draft for Camp NaNoWriMo, so I figured I would share my “writing process” while it’s still fresh in my head — at least as it pertains to this particular project, because to be honest, I don’t think I have a universal process. I don’t have a tried and true “method” for “getting ideas” and “prewriting” and then “writing.” Maybe writing this will help me figure out a more efficient method of shaping my ideas into coherent drafts, as well as give you guys some ideas.

I often start with a concept or emotion. For my NaNoWriMo draft back in November, I started with a concept along the lines of “opposites helping each other, sort of against their will.” For this new draft I’m starting, I woke up one morning with a thought in my head: I want to read a gay romance with a dom/sub relationship…. with asexual characters.

BDSM is a very sexual thing. I find it appealing in books because, as I discussed in my post a couple weeks ago, I am intrigued by the exploration of power dynamics in relationships (especially in m/m). BDSM is power dynamic exploration to the extreme. But it is very sexual, but given my recent realization about my own sexuality, I thought… how would a couple with at least one asexual member explore their BDSM kink?

So first, with this concept in mind, I went on a quest to find books to read for research. I wanted characters that are explicitly identified as asexual, so after posting a question on Twitter, my Facebook, and the Facebook M/M Romance group, I consulted the wonderful Aro/Ace Speculative Fiction Database first (maintained by Claudie Arseneault). There, I found one entry mentioning a D/S relationship, in the web series Iwunen Interstellar Investigations

Next I moved on to the M/M Romance Goodreads group and looked through their shelves. No shelf for asexuality, so that was a bust (get on that, guys).

I found a different Goodreads list of asexual characters – any gender, orientation, or genre, as long as it has a confirmed asexual character (with a whopping 105 books on it). I browsed through that and found one published novel that fit my ace BDSM criteria, from Dreamspinner Press – City of Soldiers by Sam Burke. I bought it.

Then I went back to my Facebook posts where I’d asked for recs. Nothing. I had three people who were interested enough in the same topic to follow the FB post, so I provided them with the two items I’d found.

So after several disappointing hours of searching, I decided FUCK IT. Guess I gotta write one. I’ve always thought there is nothing original left to explore in the world, but APPARENTLY, asexuality is pretty damn original. Asexuals are like unicorns or something.

So I had a concept, and two vague character archetypes to plug into the concept – In addition to wanting to write a “no sex” BDSM relationship, I also want to write a sub who is more physically imposing and/or financially successful than his dom and a dom who is not a suave millionaire stereotype. (on that note, if you have recs for m/m BDSM books with a dom and/or sub who fit those criteria, please drop them in the comments for me – they can be explicitly sexual, I don’t mind, since this is a different aspect of research than the asexuality aspect).

Anyway, with my concept in mind and a fair amount of excitement (I’m exploring new territory here, apparently), I went and got in the shower, because as a human being, I must sometimes do mundane things such as this.

And I got like FORTY MILLION IDEAS while I was in there. Thank God no one else was home because I kept going “Ooh!” and “OH MY GOD.”

When I got out of the shower, I sat down and wrote out about 2-3 single spaced pages of brainstorming. It was going to be urban fantasy. Magic! Danger! Curses and cures!

And then I went to bed, and at work the next day, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. It wasn’t quite right. Needed refining. The characters weren’t quite right for the plot I was trying to put them into. So I yanked them apart–these characters were not meant to be in this situation. So then I had characters in need of a plot, and a plot in need of characters. I also needed to do some worldbuilding, because if I’m going to write urban fantasy, I need it to be original. Urban fantasy is pretty popular these days and I don’t want to copy the Dresden files… So I consulted my sister for worldbuilding advice. We exchanged lengthy emails about worldbuilding for this story idea I have.

After another day of simmering, I ended up splitting the characters up, too. They had too many clashing aspects. I’d gotten excited and attached some feelings to one of the characters that I couldn’t shake off him, and they didn’t mesh with the other character. So I pulled my sub and dom apart, gave the sub a new dom, gave the dom a new sub……… and then I split some aspects out of each of those couples to create 2 more couples that could explore even more aspects of this idea I’d had.

So at this point, I had 4 potential couples/plots to work with. The characters were all still in the “vague concept” mode, but the plot was starting to have some substance. To decide which characters to work with and put into this plot, I brainstormed careers — I texted some friends and talked with my husband for career possibilities that would allow someone to be physically strong/imposing/able to handle themselves. I put together a list, but the vague notions I had for the plot immediately latched onto one career choice as soon as it came to mind, so the decision was easy. The same thing happened for the other character. I asked Twitter for career possibilities and the second I saw one of the suggestions I said YES. THAT IS IT. Almost like the characters were there, they’re in my head, but they don’t have any vocabulary yet. They know themselves, they know what they are, but they can’t provide the words. I have to drop words into the well with them and see which one they throw back at me, saying, “This one.”

It took me 2-3 days to shape that initial brainstorming session into something useful, and in the end, the characters that came out of it are nothing like the ones I initially thought up. This is why you don’t share first drafts! My original couple that I got excited about while showering was a magic-using bodyguard (dangerous/physically imposing sub) and a scientist (not so physically imposing dom). After shaking them down and peeling them apart and kicking the dust out of my plot idea and gathering that dust up and making a new plot out of it, my final couple is a personal trainer (or physical therapist, I have to do a bit more research) and a sociology professor. No magic. No danger. Just a nice, normal, contemporary romance… with an asexual character in a dom/sub relationship.

The characters’ names come to me with varying amounts of difficulty. One of them has had a name since I thought up his initial concept in the shower. The other one… I knew his name started with S. Throughout the day at work, various character facts come to me, rising up to the surface of my mind like soap bubbles, popping into existence with brillaint “a-ha!” certainty. I also begin to get flashes of scenes as those facts begin to appear, snippets of dialogue, vague notions of plot and events. All of this goes into my handy-dandy little memo book which stays on my desk at work and comes home with me each night, full of new ideas.

So to summarize, the birth of a new story, for me, goes: 1) concept or emotion, 2) research, 3) wild, excited brainstorming, 4) simmering & refinement. Of course, it’s not a nice even neat progression of events. It’s more like having a bucket of lego, and there are a few really cool bricks and a bunch of other pieces that aren’t as exciting, and you immediately grab onto the cool bricks and think I’M GOING TO MAKE SOMETHING WITH THESE. But then, when you try, it turns out you actually need all kinds of other pieces in order for the cool pieces to fit together, and some of the cool pieces just won’t fit no matter what you do, and you try rebuilding a couple times with a bunch of different types of pieces in a bunch of different ways in hopes of making your original “something” work, but eventually you have to discard some of your precious “cool pieces” and accept that your lego house will be better off if you sacrifice a little bit of “cool” in exchange for structural stability.

I’m always curious about others’ writing processes. Where do you guys get your ideas? How do you refine them down to something useful? Do you actually have a process? Let me know in the comments!