Friday is for Writers
Continuing Ed (Part II of II- F*CKING FINALLY!)
Conclusions thus far (I’m halfway through Butch’s book):
1) The chapters are shorter and the POVs are shorter
2) There’s more story, less introspection
3) All subplots funnel into the main romance, no matter how tangential they appear in the beginning
4) V’s cursed hand has tattoos on both sides and I had forgotten that
5) The sexual chemistry between Butch and V is really intense, and my research assistant and I have decided I need to write the shower scene properly even if no one else reads it
6) Marissa was really repressed by the glymera and I like her arc of maturation
7) There was a sense of discovery to the scenes that is less prominent later in the series simply because the world building was still happening in some very fundamental areas here (how the glymera works, what the deal is with the Omega, how the Brothers work, how Wrath is, etc.)
I’m going to finish Lover Revealed this weekend and also start The Sinner’s actual drafting. I am really excited about Syn; I am chomping at the bit to start his story. I still feel that passion for him and for the Brothers. That burning need to write. This, at least, has not changed.
But yes, I do see what the reviewer meant. I don’t think I’ve lost my love for this world. But I do I think that with familiarity has come a lack of detail and discovery, and the only way to get this back is for me to reread the books, one by one. Even if all I see is mistakes. It makes me think about what Suz Brockmann said a long time ago, that in her planning process she always went back and read the last book in her series before she started writing the next one. I remember thinking she was better than me (and not just about that!!), but now I see the utility of being grounded in your world even though you’ve been in it for a long time. For example, Sue (Grafton) had a chart of her Kinsey Millhone books to make sure she never repeated herself. I’m sure there are authors who have other systems.
Now, when I draft The Jackal? Which is next year’s summer book? The issue with discovery is not going to be a problem because, though this is in the BDB world, it takes place in the prison which has its own sets of rules and conflicts. I can’t wait!
The Wolfen Series, which I hope to have the first book out next December (in mass market to keep the price down!!!) will be the same. New world, new rules, new conflicts. New discovery.
But the Brotherhood will always be my first and best love. And I really want to make sure the readers still feel this from me.
So I’m not stopping with the Lover Revealed-lead rereads. I also need to strengthen my plotting. I need to develop my story skills even further. Accordingly, I am doing two things. I’m taking Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass on writing right now. He’s phenomenal. I highly recommend these lessons. Not only is he a master, he’s an instructor at heart in a way I don’t think I could ever be. I’m listening to them when I run and I’m finding it refreshing and really on point.
You can find it here: https://www.masterclass.com/classes/neil-gaiman-teaches-the-art-of-storytelling
I’ve also bought my second copy of Story by Robert McKee. This is a book that Sue (Grafton) recommended to me after I got fired from my first publisher (along with the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell.) She said I need to learn story and plotting. That everything else flows from that. McKee’s book deconstructs the plots of popular movies to show why they work. It’s actually for screenwriters, but the principles really apply to novelists as well. I’ve just started it and I’m interested to get another look at it after all these years.
Anywho, that’s where I’m at. Given that there are no statutory continuing ed requirements for writers, I’ve started my own for myself:
1) Read first six BDB books (I’m not sure whether I’m going to be able to do Lover Awakened. But I hate weakness in myself, so I might well be able to conqueror that by calling myself a f*cking p*ssy and just doing it)
2) Finish Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass, and then take the Dan Brown one on thriller writing, and also the James Patterson one
3) Reread Story by McKee
I’m looking at this as a tune up. I think I’ve come a long way as writer since 2005, and aging is part of it. I think as we get older, the world gets both more dire and more nuanced. But the fundamentals to storytelling are as important as ever. As a professional, it is my responsibility to continue to develop and update my skills.
I can hear Sue’s voice even now. Right after I got fired, when I was floundering, she told me to deconstruct books that work for me, and read McKee and Campbell, and get the fundamentals of storytelling right. Then she told me to forget about all of that and just write. If you do your learning correctly, it comes out in your unconscious skill. You are not aware of everything you’re doing for the right reasons.
You’re just writing a helluva a book.
Sue always told me the work is the most important thing. Everything else can f*ck right off. She is still right. I’m a professional, and I need continuing education to make sure the knack I’ve been given through an accident of biology or genes or whatever the hell it is, is as honed as ever.
So now I’ll put this on you writers out there. How do you guys refresh your skills? What do you do to stay on top of your game? I’m honestly interested. And for those who are starting out, please remember… magic happens in the real world, and all you need to do is believe, believe, believe.
Both of those statements are true from us old-timers out there, as well.
Sending hugs from the frontlines, J.R. Ward