Back when I first started writing fanfic, it was because I’d been reading fanfic, and both the reading and writing of it were a sort of escape from what my life was at the time. I was unemployed, my marriage was going down the tubes, and I was generally pretty miserable.
When I changed all of that back in 2011, suddenly I was happy, single, and it wasn’t long before I was employed. Which was fantastic on a whole lot of levels… just not the writing one. I had nothing to escape from. Now when I read, it’s for the pleasure of it, not for comfort and a desperate need to be taken elsewhere for a while. And for the longest time, I wanted to get back into writing, but it almost felt like I’d forgotten how.
Recently, a few different factors all kind of mooshed into an amorphous thing which made writing feel less like an I want to do this and more like an I need to do this. Not because I’m unhappy or depressed, but just because I’ve got all of these stories in me that really do want to be told. Or sometimes it’s just characters that want to come out and play. (Being a writer does require at least a little bit of madness, or so I’ve been told.)
So I did some re-reading to get back into the swing of things. I wrote that chapter for A Smarter Sookie, and I was so tickled with the way it turned out. But then very soon afterward, something occurred to me — a path not previously explored — and I took a mental jog down that path. As of this morning, I have outlined the first 6-7 chapters of The King’s Queen. There is so damn much going on here, I don’t know how many chapters this one is going to be. At least ten. Probably not more than fifteen. Maybe No telling, at this point in time.
I also want to run this outline by one of my best friends and pre-readers, just to make sure none of you want to kill me after reading it. She’s already read the first chapter, poor thing.
I feel could do this post in two columns: good news & bad news. Good in that I’m outlining stuff and have ideas of where things are going. Bad in that with this series, I don’t start publishing a single chapter until the entire thing is written in full, but then I can post a single chapter every day for 10+ days. But then the good part of that is you know, once you start reading, that you won’t be dangling off the edge of any cliffs for an unknown period of time.
Another good thing is that I’ve remembered some of my old writing tricks. Freeform is fun, butI really do work best with an outline. I started outlining things with Don’t Find Me, and I still think that was one of my best pieces. (Yes, DFM has been pulled from all sites; the original concept behind it was never intended to be used in fanfic, and will be rewritten as part of an original series I’m also working on. The outline for that original story is also about half-done, but it requires a prereq story or two. I do things all kinds of back-asswards, sometimes.)
For me, outlines are not statements of “this happens, then this happens, then this happens.” I mean, that is kind of how it winds up, but that’s not how it starts. It starts as a series of questions. That’s how most of my stories start: questions that only raise more questions.
What if Sookie were taken in by Queen Sophie-Anne after her parents died? Well, that could be interesting, but how would that even come about? How would her life be different? Start with the big questions, break it down into smaller questions. Ask the stupidest questions, sometimes. How would she survive when she smelled so tasty? Okay, so found a solution for that, but what are the side effects? And what other purposes might that solution serve?
The fun about writing a series, I’ve found, is that you can leave yourself hints and breadcrumbs. Sometimes they’re things that no one else will pick up on. Part of the trick to this is having an entire backstory written (or at least, kept firmly in mind) when you’re writing something. I went back and reread The Queen’s Telepath, and halfway through, I’d found a whole slew of things where I almost shouted “I CAN DO SOMETHING WITH THAT!”
Which can really be an awkward sort of situation when you’re sitting at the back of a city bus.
I’ve also discovered a way to trick the muses. This is kind of huge for me.
You know how you always seem to get your best ideas when you’re trying to sleep? You’re in bed, and suddenly, AWESOME IDEA! And you think holy fucknuggets, this is so awesome, I can’t possibly forget it. And in the morning? Gone.
It’s summer. Which, for me, means I barely sleep. I wake up somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30am. Without the alarm. And not on purpose. Because my body is evil? I dunno why. Even during the week I don’t need to get up for work until about 6am. So I’ll get up, go pee, then get back into bed and let my mind wander as if I’m trying to sleep. I know I won’t be able to go to sleep. But that’s when the ideas come. When an idea hits, I unlock my phone and tap it out into Notes. Then close the phone and my eyes, and go back for more. Like diving for pearls. This Saturday I got more outlined in thirty minutes by doing that than I did in three hours the night before, sitting in front of my computer.
This morning I did that for about an hour and managed to answer some of the trickier questions that had been pestering me about this plot line. I don’t remember them right now. But it’s okay, because it’s already been scribbled down. Now I can open my TKQ Scrivener file, to go the outline, and start answering questions I’d written for myself, and write down more questions to be answered later.
In any case. I just wanted you to know that I didn’t just show up, write a chapter, and then disappear again. Writing is happening. Well, the writing process, in any case.