Well, In the Blood has been out for a week now. I thought I’d talk about some of the things I learned while writing it and how it’s altered my perspective in some key ways.
Original ideas for a novel rarely make it to the finish line. In the Blood‘s history of development is long and convoluted. It’s very first incarnation was as a retelling of “The Twelve Huntsmen” folktale. Now it looks nothing like what I had originally planned.
Whenever other writers despair over being able to start a novel or feel like the novel is not going in the right direction, I advise to simply write that first draft in an almost automatic fashion. Just write it. Let all the ugly ideas come out and then you can sift through them later. And don’t get too attached to anything because you never know where the story and its subsequent drafts will take you.
World-building is HARD. Fantasy writers have been called “gods” of their individual worlds. And it’s an apt description. But being a god is tough work. You have to think of the tiniest details and keep them all straight. Countries and societies have to be fleshed-out and made real. Animals and plants have to be cataloged and integrated into the plot. And, most importantly, you must create unique, memorable people to walk your world and give it purpose. Each of those characters needs a backstory (whether you include that backstory or not is neither here nor there) and needs to interact with the world you’ve built around them in a seamless, authentic way.
80-90% of writing takes place when I’m not actually writing. When I’m in the throes of book creation, I tend to think about my story a lot. Almost constantly. When I’m driving, laying in bed at night, cleaning the house, doing dishes, walking around the grocery store. And it is during these times of “mental writing” that I most often work out plot kinks or ways to strengthen characters.
Keep EVERYTHING you write. When I first began writing in middle school, I wrote several beginnings of novels. Then, when I grew frustrated , I threw them away! Can you believe that? Now I bitterly regret trashing those early efforts because not only would it have been amusing to read them at this stage in life, but I might have been able to recycle something from those immature attempts. In the Blood turned out to be two completely separate books blended together. One book was the work of YEARS worth of incidental writing. And the other was a month-long writing binge. Somewhere along the line I found that these two books belonged together, strengthened each other, and made a complete tale. So, don’t ever throw anything you write away. Even if it’s crap, keep it. You never know when you might be able to reuse those to make something fantastic.
Romance authors really do get the short end of the stick. There is, in my opinion, only one thing harder than world-building, writing a convincing love story. I must give romance authors credit, they have got a Herculean task before them and some of them do it remarkably well. Creating romantic chemistry between two characters and constructing a plot around them that is plausible and entertaining is a huge accomplishment. And romance authors just do not get the credit they deserve. Dismissed as trashy or written off as “not real literature” one well-written romance novel (and there are many out there) probably evokes more emotion than any ten mainstream novels put together.