There are several ways to approach fiction writing. None of them are better than any other, as far as I can tell. They are just tools in the toolbox. As you advance in your craft, you learn to make use of them as you go, depending on the needs of the story.
- You can work out every element of the story ahead of time, including every twist and turn. You’ll end up spending a great deal of time on the outline for the story, but the writing can go full speed, because you have it all worked out at that point.
- Write into what I call “darkened hallways.” I have a tendency to be there most of the time. You’ll have the characters, the overall plot, and the opening scene. You’ll have a pretty good idea how it ends. Everything in the middle will be guesswork, because you know roughly where you are going, but not when you’ll get there. Think of a long hallway with occasional light bulbs that are far too inadequate to the task.
- Writing into darkness. You start similar to the path of darkened hallways. But you get derailed. Or rather, you have a character, and she has a problem, and you (the writer/reader) are simply along for the ride, with no idea where it will all end up.
This is all fresh in my mind this morning because it happened to me last night. I’ve been working on the the third Javier Aritza story. I thought I knew how it ended. Turns out I had the exact ending (call it the last four lines of the epilogue). Javier had been lying to me about how we get there. He finally explained it to me last night.
I can’t say I blame him. It was not what I had planned. Or where. And it was a LOT darker than I had expected.
Let me back up here and share a confession. In my head, Javier Aritza is kind of a goofball. He’s snarky and sarcastic, mouthy, but generally harmless.
To prepare for the third volume, I went back and re-read the first two (The Science Officer and The Mind Field). Up until that moment, I hadn’t really been paying attention to how dark and gritty he really was. Or the stories. Writer-brain put those things in when I wasn’t looking. They make the story better, but it wasn’t the story I had expected. Or rather, it was, but nowhere near as dark as I had remembered.
Javier did that to me last night. When he finally revealed the ending to volume three.
For comparison’s sake, all three Jessica Keller books were darkened hallways. I knew where they went, and how they ended, and happily trusted writer-brain to carry me there. And it worked. I like all three novels.
I like all three Science Officer tales, too, but volume three (The Gilded Cage) is much darker than Jessica. And it was jarring to see what secrets writer-brain was hiding from me, right up to the end. (And no, no spoilers here.) This had been a slow write, because life kept intruding, and because I rarely knew what the scene after next was. I would sit down, and writer-brain would say “here’s the next scene.” “But that about the one after that?” “Shut up and write.”
And now I know why. Javier can be a cold, vicious bastard when you push him into a corner.
I’ll have the first draft done and ready for first readers this week. Dunno when it is coming out at this point. I’ve been pushing deadlines all year, and this one doesn’t have one. I’m guessing that mid-December is the publishing date, barring unforeseen complications. (Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) talked to Matt and he’s all set to do the audio book again. We’re going to try to get paper, ebook, and audio all done together. Watch this space for more news.) So that will make a nice Xmas present for everyone to round out the year.
I’m writing into darkness here. And it’s fun. The strangest part is that once I finish this story, I don’t have anything NEXT on my list. Got the anthology story done. Got the third Javier out. Jessica’s first trilogy is rounded off and I’m doing research for what will be book 4 next year.
What would y’all like to see next? I mean, I only have fifty things I could pick from. What would make your day?
shade and sweet water