I Am A Serious Writer

Hello, friends. Today in Writing A Book Is Tantamount To An Exorcism, I wanna talk about whatever comes nonsensically out How I Write.

Many times, you will be asked that very question. “How do you write? What’s your writing process? What’s your deal? What the hell is the matter with you?” people will say, or something along one of those lines, and the best way to answer that is by ignoring the Terrified You being held against their will in a small cage inside your head and power through as though Public Persona You knows what they’re doing. Make very declarative answers. Grand, sweeping and often moral statements that you intend to be broadly applied to writers you’ve never met – because that’s what the listener is going to do with it anyway, why fight it. The important thing is that you never, ever admit that every single book was written differently, and if you weren’t a colossal hoarder of self-records, you would have zero memory how it happened, because you woke up sore and in a stupor, your body beaten and broken, and beside you was a bloodied collection of pages, which you quickly threw at a passerby, thereby making them a CP.

I’ve written blog posts before about The Things I Need To Start Writing, which I’ll just quote here because sending you to a post from 2013 is just jarring (for me, no one’s thinking about you) and wow, life changed since then, I mean not specifically then, but in the time since, and this kind of mental scramble is precisely what I was trying to avoid. Thanks for your help.

[I have redacted references to projects you still know nothing about.]

a) Concept – This is one of the most AHA! moments – or at least, the first.

b) First look – This is either the first line of the story/book or a mental movie of the first scene. This one’s interesting because it’s not tethered to a particular point in the process. Sometimes the first line happens several times. Like in the case of rewriting. The thing is, it has to feel like “the one” every time for me to move forward.

c) Music – Yeeees. This is a big one. Again, this one isn’t set in stone, in terms of when this happens. I do not understand people for whom music is not everything. I do not. [ETA: As I’ve said elsewhere, this is about finding a song/usually instrumental that captures the …aura(?) of the story. The tone, fine.]

d) First query – [ETA: Yeah, this where one tests the stakes and the emotional logic flow, I find.]

e) Title – Man, this is another one that has become sort of paramount. Because titles come quickly to me, when one doesn’t, I’m missing something very important to my process. The title is everything. First of all, I keep a lot of “administrative” documents and I HATE them being titled after the main character, unless of course it’s also the title, which has only ever been the case with Keepsake, and even then, it’s not her given name. [ETA: ….AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA]

I need these things.

So. How much of this is still true.

Well for one thing, I’m 3/4 done with a project that’s still named after the main character, if that tells you anything. So Title, you’re not that important to me anymore. We’ve grown apart. It’s not me, it’s you.

Now writing a follow-up (and I am intentionally not saying sequel, yes, because sometimes it’s just a follow-up, kids, and I’m not sure companion book works for me either, if it does still necessarily chronologically follow the first book), a couple things are different from jump.

(a) Concept is locked in. Woot.

(2) You can get surprisingly far into writing without a Query because (i) you are very familiar with the character, due to having already written some of their story, even if they weren’t the main character in the first book, and (%) your First Look for this story might also have appeared in book 1.

But that still leaves Music, and in a follow-up with a different main character, this is still seriously important to me. Namely so that this character, who lives in the same world and concept, doesn’t sound like the first one.

Can we just talk about the things that are different this time around that I’m gonna unnecessarily declare are my new requirements despite that this is not my first or third or fifth rodeo and I should know better?! Thank you.

(F) First Chapter – this isn’t 100% new, but apparently I didn’t do it in 2013, so here we are. Pretty sure First Look evolved into this because before I was writing this book in earnest, I had three first chapters to choose from – one of which was so far from what I’d thought it was gonna be like that I knew I wasn’t ready to actively write it.

(D) Synopsis – homg, this was a game-changer. Allow me to pause here and say: Don’t come into my comments (where no one comes anymore anyway) telling me about how you’ve always written synopses first. That’s great. Good for you. I did not. But my life has undergone some very bandwidth-gobbling transitions, and I genuinely had my first experience of I’m Pretty Sure I’ll Never Write A Full-Length Novel Again Because Who Can Even Do That, so when I was asked for a partial (which I already had because Ease of Flowing Into Second Book) and a synopsis, it was a blessing. As well as an easy, two step process.

Step one:

terror

Aaand step two:

Phew

And of course, now I’ll swear by it, until it doesn’t happen for a future wip, at which point, My Process will change again, and I will die on whatever hill that is.

Because you see, the way in which book writing is like an exorcism is that whatever gets the demon out is the right way to do it. (I don’t know very much about exorcisms.)

I was gonna talk about this whole Every 15k Make A List Of Important Facts/Themes/Plot Points That Mustn’t Get Abandoned thing I’ve also been doing, but this is long and unwieldy and I’ve lost my devotion to it.

nonsense

The Dream I Dreamed

Who among us doesn’t have the Suddenly Realizing I’m Not Wearing Pants dreams? WHOMST?

The great thing about this is it’s not limited to one type or genre of dream. So last night, I’m dreaming about this extremely troubling three story, spacious mansion, and of course the walls are red, parce que why wouldn’t they be, non? And so this is a Serious Dream, and the top level, which you can’t avoid because the staircases are confusing and shouldn’t be because they’re all visible and dead center of the house and they’re just like branches off each other and why is this so difficult to explain (hi sleep brain imagery)? So yeah, the top level is all closed doors, but too close together, like is it just a huge floor of closets? Also the doors are also red up there, which just feels wrong, and I don’t like it.

Anyway, the second floor has every single bedroom. Not just in the house. All the bedrooms ever. They’re all there. And I’ve clearly been sleeping in one of them, but it’s anyone’s guess which one, now that I’ve been downstairs with people, but see, I have to remember which room (and stop accidentally going up to the third floor) BECAUSE I NEED TO PUT ON SOME PANTS.

The best thing about these dreams is that no one else notices you’re not wearing pants until you do. It’s very Emperor’s New Clothes meets The Garden of Eden. But now I’ve noticed so dude downstairs has noticed, and I NEED these pants, people.

The icing on all of this is that there’s an extremely wicked movie playing in a loop in one of the rooms, that involves children and torture and all the little things that make life great, and because this is MY DREAM, the audio is leaking out through an intercom system this house shouldn’t have, and so you hear this movie in the background no matter where in the house you are, but is it louder when you get to the third floor? YOU BET YOUR SWEET BIPPY IT IS.

So this is me, going into a bedroom I’m sure has pants, only to find it’s the wrong room, there are no pants, and I have to keep searching, and accidentally ending up on the third floor, doubling back, trying not to hear the movie playing, etc etc. And what was I doing in this dream before the Great Pants Search? Who can know such things, friends.

Pants

 

That’s it.

That’s the post.

We Need To Talk About Jurassic Park

“Now we all know the thirteen stripes are for good luck, but why does the American flag have exactly 48 stars?”*

Hi, and welcome back to I will be your immediate bff if you use random, well-placed, hopefully obscure Simpsons quotes.

For instance, last time I was at a not-my-book-event and someone said, “Don’t you hate pants?!” and I almost kissed them on the mouth.

But on to super important things.

I recently(ish) saw the latest Jurassic Park movie – which my son exasperatedly keeps reminding me is Jurassic World, but like, shuttup, kid, you’ve been on earth for like a minute and stuff existed before you – and since it was only slightly better than the beleaguered third Jurassic Park film (you know the one where Tea Leoni won’t stop yelling and running despite no fewer than four people immediately being brutally destroyed by dinosaurs and an expert telling her to not do that)…. it feels like we need to finally talk about Jurassic Park.

But first: a walkabout. (This is me, friends.)

#5’s first and most egregious offense was using Jeff in the trailer when…it literally showcased the entirety of his involvement. Sucks to your asmar, jerks.

Secondly, it … wasn’t super smart. Again, it’s no worse than Jurassic Park 3: The One With Tea Leoni, but since that was the previous Definite Worst One, that’s not saying much. Like, what the franchise has going for it is that each movie has some additional trajectory or revelation, usually to do with raptors. A big issue with #3 (and something that happened in #5) is that, while that “something necessary” is still present, it largely became a horror/monster movie. I mean, the big, ridiculous mouth in the plane scene? Who. Why. How come.

Also this:

Jurassic-Park-3-7

I mean.

::deep breath::

Okay, but we were supposed to be talking about #5. Wait no, we’re supposed to be talking about the whole franchise.

Things Jurassic Park Does Well:

(1) Characters: First of all, shout out to B.D. Wong for holding it down as the scientist/innovator who is really not tryna worry about the consequences, yo. He is singlehandedly handing the planet over to ever-wilder dinos, and I love it.

The fact that there are always kids, and they’re always smart. Unrealistic? Sure. But since these kids are always in the proximity of the scientific community involved in bringing dinos back to life – and since they never cease to be kids – I’ll allow it.

Full disclosure: they didn’t really do great with Dallas Texas Ranger’s character tbh. She has a complete lack of backstory, actually, which. Huh. And I literally cannot remember if Dallas is her first or second name, help me out. I can’t be arsed to google.

(2) Have a bleak enough view of humanity to sell that yep, we’d still be doing this, even after what the world saw in the first movie. Going into #4, I was like, HOW. WHY. And then, as soon as it started, I was like, naw this tracks.

Reasons Jurassic Park Is Ludicrous:

And it’s not because Michael Crichton never really explained how we got from point dna in amber to point dino egg.

My issue with JP is the completely self-aggrandizing, narcissistic assumption of dinosaurs’ preoccupation with humans. 

Like. We are just REFUSING to live in a world where a dinosaur might pass us by because we are simply not sustenance enough to warrant the effort. We will not ABIDE the concept that if LARGEST POSSIBLE DINOSAUR had scores of its natural food source available and had NEVER SEEN A HUMAN, it might not recognize us or be interested in investigating our existence, much the way we don’t stop every bug and destroy it in creatively grotesque ways knowing we would need to eat them nonstop for hours to be sated.

WHO HAS TIME TO HUNT HUMANS?! Whom?!

It’s the same issue with like every skynet movie. Artificial intelligence would SURELY immediately turn homicidal and try to kill us because WE ARE THE MOST INTERESTING MAN ALIVE.

I dunno.

I’m over it.

In conclusion:

(1) Jurassic Park

(2) Jurassic World

(3) Lost World

(4) Fallen Kingdom ties with Jurassic Park 3.

I will likely switch second and third place for the rest of my movie-watching life.

*The opening line of this post had literally nothing to do with the title or the topic, and I can’t honestly defend its inclusion. Stream of consciousness, kids.

You Cannot Make Sense Of This

The title is your fair warning.

Yes, I am here because I have nowhere else to go. You knew what this was. Do not be petty, just accept me when I randomly appear, and don’t make a big deal about how long I’ve been gone. That’s all I ask.

So, basically I am that dog in a room on fire. Like, outwardly, I am an object completely at rest, and then internally I am that spastic cat on the bed. (I’m apparently Gina Linetti and am unable to express myself without invoking comics, gifs or emojis.)

Serious question, for the writers among us. Why. Why do we do it. Not the writing – that’s life and necessary. I mean the part where we do a month-long marathon where we’re just like creatively bingeing. We know – WE. KNOW. – what comes after.

During binge:

DanceLiv

Moments after you write “The End”:

tumblr_inline_nj58cpuwep1rbhpj3

I don’t know, I couldn’t really find a picture of Kerry Washington looking ravaged, y’all. Basically she just did a color run, but whatevs. Anyway, my point is I am internally destroyed. And we know this happens. Like, seriously, the come down is the worst because my brain is still circling that story and even though I have another project I’m super obsessed with, I know I’m not there yet.

But no, this time’s different anyway; there’s a new, fun layer. It’s called waiting. LOL, waiting is not new, querying and revising and writing in general is totally all about waiting, but this is waiting for things that are going to be on shelves and sent out for public consumption and it’s oh so quiet, Bjork, but like maybe not in an hour or so? So my brain wants to stay on alert and therefore is ravaged, preparing, plotting other project, listening, stopping suddenly in the middle of conversations and then the other party’s like, ….are you okay? And then I lose my train of thought because what were we talking about?

AND I’m keeping secrets so I can’t even bother you incessantly about the one thing I can occasionally get my brain to run with.

So anyway.

This is fine

 

Speed-Dating With Bethany

As an aside, I considered reusing the blog title “Rando Calrissian” because I just really feel like it didn’t get enough affection and is one of the most underrated of my clever blog titles. Shoulda timed it to coincide with episode VII. The following are equally random tidbits*, in an attempt to reconnect with you, dear reader. The things I do for England.

(1) Yesterday, during our Montreal Sunday Funday – which is what I call our weekly return to the city for church and fellowship…because I’m not great with titles *all the time* – I took a bite of chicken salad and immediately had a full sensory memory of the last time I’d eaten chicken salad. Which was like twenty years ago. I am 33 and feel it is far too early for this sort of phenomenon.

(2) Relatedly, I awoke with the theme to L.A. Law in my head.

So. That’s…

Yeah.

(3) REDACTED IN 2019 but I left this gif because I love it:

(4) This season’s marathon of the original Planet of the Apes franchise has left me with three truths thus far – because full disclosure, Ezra and I haven’t watched #5 yet, but will today! I do not apologize for how much space will now be devoted to talking PotA.

I will never apologize.

(4.1) The 2nd movie – Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the one in which a strange subterranean enclave of telekinetic radioactive humans worships a bomb and which includes an unnecessarily long “church” scene complete with organ and hymnal – which I would have *EASILY* said was my lowest ranking in previous seasons, actually went up in rating, if not ranking. I AM AS SHOCKED AS YOU ARE.

(4.2) The 3rd movie – Escape from the Planet of the Apes, in which Zira and Cornelius come from the future to 1971 and are first the toast of the town and then, well, not – remains the absolute highlight of the franchise. Period. I realize this doesn’t sound like new news, but it was confirmed. Favorite.

(4.3) The 4th movie – Conquest for the Planet of the Apes, in which Caesar begins the revolution in 1991 – tanked in my rating. Just tanked. I think due to the overall comparative strength of the story, I’d given them too great a pass on the complete and utter lunacy. No more.

But, you, beloved…

Yes, you, MacDonald. You were just grand.

(5) They opened a huge Dollarama on Queen Mary as soon as I left Montreal. Thanks a bunch, friends.

(6) There is no Popeye’s in Northcountry New York. The implications of which worked me into a nearly destructive lather at one a.m. Still adjusting to being back in the States, but nowhere near to what I’m accustomed. We’ll get through this together.

*If perchance you followed the link to Rando… you would know that my Planet of the Apes ….fixation, shall we say, is inescapable.

You Are Hearing Me Talk

There are things over which an author has no control. This is never more easily understood then when you are the author. Lately, there’s been at least one dust-up over something the author of a very popular series could not really be expected to change. Because, the “not in control” thing. But I guess some people think we’re just kidding.

Expectation:

Reality:

(But she looks comfy, tho.)

And so anyway, the point of all this is who knows what will be, but IF I were to see an audio rendition of The Last Life of Avrilis (guess where that links to… guess!), I have but one request. That the narrator be one of the following:

Pictures

To be fair, I think everything should be narrated by one or both of them. No. Not both. We would not survive it.

While, on deeper meditation, it seems strange to have a grown man narrate a novel with a young female protagonist written by a woman… I don’t know how to finish that sentence. Have you heard them speak?! Was your soul not awakened?! (Apparently I have no convictions and stand for nothing. Because I think this could still work.)

But on the off chance that either selection would be off-putting, I will also benevolently accept another superstar narrator, in the form of Meagan Good.

 

And Start Again At Your Beginnings

New book, new process. That is the apparent fact of my life as a writer. So despite that I’m writing a “sequel” – and you’re all, Bethany, why would you put that in quotations, and I’m all, Friend, I can’t really go into that – writing Avrilis 2.0 is another exercise in learning to write the book. And that’s not a bad or hard thing.

It’s exciting to me to figure out what I need and what I need to know to really start a project. Once I had my grid process for Avrilis 1.0 (whose Goodreads page I SHAN’T neglect to foist upon you from here on in, get used to it!), I thought that would be the key to all future projects.

Shuttup.

Anyway.

So I still have the chapter grid, altho the column functions are different now because I graduated from needing all of them (YAY improvement!) and also identified which ones I don’t really rely on (like “dialogue” became “highlights”), but I have disabused myself of “pantser” or even “plotter” in the sense that I often see it used.

Hello-My-Name-Is-Label-LB-1992

I have accepted how very much happens on the page. I imagine the writer who can completely plot out a novel and know down which rabbit holes her mind will go, and I think, how nice for her. Or something less committal and equally uninvested. The thing is, go, her. Do you, everybody. But I am very aware that anything I plot will end up sounding super boring or will be so far-fetched that I’d never get there organically once pen goes to paper. Or I’ll summarize a conflict in one sentence and be like, this is gonna bloom once I’m actually writing it! And either, nope, that was it, wasn’t as deep as you thought, or yep, there’s no logic to that. Too intentional.

SO! What worked/is working with this one: I wrote down the major things I knew would happen and estimated where in the book they would occur. (That’s something I’ve never done, btw, tho it feels closely related to word-count segmenting, which I did for This Is Not Heaven.) And then I worked my way back from the first such thing (I mean, the first chapter inciting incident notwithstanding), and voila. First five chapter outline, give or take.

But to be honest, this time the thing that made everything pop-pop! (isn’t it cuuuute how Magnitude went on to be Sid in Galavant, d’awwwwwwwwww)

– wait, where were we?

YES! So the thing that ended up being the MEAT? Totes not the list of big things or whatever the devil I was talking about here. It’s what happened off-camera (Bethany, you’re talking about a book. I know, shuttup.) and how people feel about it. Seems so DUH once it’s decided. But something was missing and trying to just plot out a book and think about the things that would happen and even KNOWING the things that would happen didn’t make it WORK.

All of which is to say, that column I didn’t need on a grid anymore… is basically what I just circuitously defined as being the thing I needed to know.

What Is Life

Today I have been tested by way of:

(1) Letting the landlord and a worker into my bathroom only to realize that my dog had apparently gotten into the trash and strewn all its contents throughout. And so, yes, humiliated that in their minds I live in a constant state of abject squalor, I locked myself in my bedroom for the duration.

(2) Literally feeling my pulse in an eyelid vein set to twitching by the torturously simple and redundant song of what I can only assume was a mentally enfeebled bird directly outside my window.

(3) (In a return to abject squalor:) Tugging the garbage bag out only to find that said bag is decidedly NOT Hefty so when I had adequately stretched out the top and momentarily set it down to get a second bag in which to encase it, this happened.

Cartoon approximation.

Ewwwww, garbage water!

All of which threatened to lead me here:

Because I am but flesh and blood.

And this is not how you treat a Thane of Whiterun!!!!!!!!!

Everything She Wants

It’s about that time, no?

::5 days pass::

::and then literally 3 weeks::

So yes, Jelena, the blogging got away from me. It would be easier if…. wow, that gif quickly becomes distracting… as I was saying: if I were an open book and could just tell you everything I’m doing, writing, et cetera, because the source material never ends. Mais alors. Instead, lemme tell you about the wonderfully random and completely inconsequential minutia of life.

So Josh and I are sitting in a doctor’s wait room this week and people-watching, as one does. First of all, I love the number of people who have a translator with them – and I mean that. I love living in culturally diverse places and what is more interesting to watch than the translator her/himself, navigating two cultures at once? I’ll tell you what. The obligatory old woman pretending to be slightly senile because she is here to win, kids.

Old Woman (OW) has arrived for her appointment.

Receptionist requests her medical card.

OW does not have.

Receptionist says she’ll reschedule her appointment.

OW will see doctor now.

Receptionist like, whu? Gimme the card then.

OW left the card at home. She sees doctor now.

Receptionist is tryna keep the bite out of her voice because the whole wait room can hear whether we want to or not and OW got salty immediatement. Receptionist insists that cards must be proffered.

OW: (verbatim) I don’t have it with me, what can we do? (Rhetorical) I’ll see doctor now.

OW steps. toward. hall.

Reception door opens, refusals are stated strongly.

OW does not understand what you are not understanding. She should’ve brought her card. She didn’t. She is not going home, y’all. She will see the doctor now. She will.

It’s at this point that 2nd receptionist decides to help out because perhaps his being a dude will change something?

It doesn’t.

OW figures out how to grease this wheel. Pulls out OPUS card. That one uses to ride public transportation.

Receptionists are silent. Because what?

OW: (verbatim) Visa. (Shows credit card… and then immediately puts it back in wallet.)

Receptionists are silent. Because where are we. What’s happening.

You guys I cannot wait to get to this age. Head full of white hair – seriously, her tress game was crushing it – and using a cane while simultaneously holding a huge parka, a purse, several bags and clearly this woman has her faculties is what I’m saying.

OW will TALK to the doctor. Final offer.

When the receptionists tell her the doctor is leaving for the day very soon they should really have anticipated her attempt to break for the hall again. They really should’ve. I did.

Receptionist AGAIN insists that OW will be rescheduled. At this point, OW’s indiscernible muttering is her strength. That and she clearly has nowhere else to be. She will stand at this counter all day.

Receptionist, loudly, because she knows that we know that she has been bested: Just have a seat.

I mean. Better luck next time, baby girl. OW knew what she came to do.

Two Things.

First this:

Tweet

You have to know your story and – if they’re separate – your concept. Otherwise, yes, belabored, it will be. So I’m finding that if I’m writing in short 50 to 100 word spurts (if you can call it that) and then needing space, there aren’t very many words allotted. As in, each one counts and the story is trying to be captured in few. Which is happening with the new story, which means adjusting the expectations and because I’m me and excel is my lifeblood, noting the day and change in tracking. What once I gauged at 4k is looking more and more like 1200, 1500 at the most. Feels right. And to this point, never have I thought a story would be shorter and it ended up longer.

Pretend that’s the first time I’ve posted that. Because GAH.

Second thiiiiiing.

What if there were a movie… for real fans?

[Distant stadium cheers]

What if – finally – it wasn’t just about the love of the game? But the love…of the people in the office, on the phone, talking about the people who might potentially play the game?

[Distant, slight confusion]

Now there is.

 

It’s not about playing or watching or even commentating on the game …anymore.

*Totally gonna watch it.