the writing process

Free for all Friday: Romance or Plot?

Trying out regular blog content, today’s is “Free for all Friday,” where I choose whichever topic I like, then maunder over it for a little while before opening it up to comments.

The topic that struck me today was: Do you prefer romance to take the forefront, or do you want your story to be plot-driven?

Let me first elaborate on the question before presenting my viewpoint. When reading, or writing, do you prefer it to be a romance-driven story, focusing on the unfolding feelings between the main characters (and/or supporting cast), or do you prefer it to be it to be a plot-driven narrative, focusing on the details that keep events rather than relationship moving forward?

For my own part, I began my creative writing endeavors focused on the relationships between people. It was a strength of my writing that was commented on by my professors, peers, and later on my readers. It was also my area of interest, honing in on what happens between two people when they begin to notice each other, whether that’s to create sparks or even rub each other the wrong way. My stories tended to be relationship-focused, in turn, and any plot that happened was either off-screen or incidental.

As time went on, relationship became a vehicle for plot. It took me a while to get there, maybe, but the plot points became as interesting to me as telling the story of the relationship itself. In a way, I credit this to a reader essentially challenging me to make my stories more than “these two characters get together.” And with some practice and refinements, I think I’ve managed to get there.

My preference as a reader is for a relationship story that is as important as, and ideally intertwined with, the plot points throughout. Accordingly, I find this is the kind of story that I seek to write.

A lot of people seem to seek out their stories for very particular reasons: they’re reading it for the sex (including the relationship), or they’re reading it for plot. Of course, there are those that seek both, in varying mixes. And of course, both are equally valid. Sometimes I’m in the mood for plotty, and sometimes I’m in the mood for sexy.

Most often, though, I seek the best of both worlds. What’s your preference?

Surfeit: A Review; and Current Projects

Out of nowhere, a blog entry!

I’ve been resting and recuperating after my week-long Appetite Tour de Foodie (and giving all of you a break), but I’m back and ready to talk about what I’m working on as well as my upcoming projects, and confess the fact that I may have gotten my head under water.

First and proudly foremost!

Surfeit for the Senses has netted its first blog review over at Joyfully Jay.

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Crissy at Joyfully Jay has high praise, and says “As a reader, I love to be shown the author’s vision and Andor certainly showed me everything she saw from the food, to the characters, to the restaurants, to the city. I simply loved it.” Check out the rest of her review to see what she has to say; it makes me really happy, of course, because not only is it a great review but seeing her talk about all those things is what I was really trying to bring forward and convey, so it’s always fantastic to feel like you got it right.

She concludes the review wishing she could see more of Alex and Nik, and I have to say, I’m hoping it’s not the last we’ve seen of them, either. I’d like to write two more novellas of their continuing adventures in cuisine, and already have the storylines handy for both. So if you thought I wrapped it up neatly, think again; there are more than enough recipes (and potential issues) to delve into the realm of Appetite again. Crossing my fingers hopefully that I can get to them next year!

Next on tap!

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I have the galley proof for Rocking Hard in my inbox, and it’s top of my priority list for this weekend to get that looked over and returned to the press. It features a slew of the rocking good serials that premiered at Less Than Three Press, bound together in one musically-driven anthology.

My story, Courage Wolf Never Sings the Gorram Blues, is part of the anthology, and I’ve been told I am now “on the list” of authors who’ve made themselves troublesome with long titles. Oops?

Courage Wolf Never Sings the Gorram Blues is the story of Bailey Kravitz (no relation to Lenny), the flashy and high-strung frontman for Courage Wolf Sings the Gorram Blues, a saucy internet sensation whose music-making duo enjoys riffing on memes and other social-networking jokes. Bailey goes on the prowl for bandmate Gunner Lansing, but when his interest is harshly rebuffed, his recoil threatens to tear the band apart.

It’s no longer available through the serial site, but you can pick it up with the anthology on Oct. 1st. I’ll unpack what went into the band’s name a bit closer to the release date. But if you already understand it, then you forever have my heart.

Also on my list for this weekend, Convergence is back from edits and I have some work to dig into. I’ve also secured the services of someone to Britpick it for me, because the main character, Chris Bryant, is a Brit and I completely failed to Briticise the spelling. (See what I did there? It’s a start.) First stop, figuring out how to re-configure my Word spellcheck to make it think we’re in the U.K.

In terms of what I’m writing, Klaxon at the Core is wrapped at a hair under 90k, I’m really happy with my pre-reader’s reception to the story, and it’s off for its first edit pre-submission. Body Option first draft is done, and I’m finishing up my own re-read and self-edit before I send it to its pre-reader and first edit. Next up is re-reading The More Plausible Evil to work it over for expansion, and I have some fan projects going on as well, with one of those due at the end of the month.

After I’m done with The More Plausible Evil, I want to write My Sexual Superhero for Less Than Three’s Satisfaction Guaranteed call, and I thought my dance card would be open for NaNoWriMo, but it’s filling up fast.

Piper Vaughn put out a call for Project Fierce, and I’m signed up, pending inspiration. (I did put dibs on a fairy tale I might like to re-imagine. Oops, now I have a title. The rest will come in time.)

Also, Less Than Three put up Geek Out – a trans* call, and I got a brain tickle for that one, don’t have a title yet but the ideas are slowly forming. I also have a story that would work very well for their Damsels in Distress call, but have to either pull it from SSBB, or re-draft it substantially enough to be considered brand-new.

Consider as well the fact that The Fall Guide will be out during the tail end of Fall, December 3rd. So I have those edits yet ahead of me.

Busy author? Yes, feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment, but loving it. I also have three things on my wish list project: a sequel for Fireborn, the final installment of a fan project I started years ago, and my pre-reader for Klaxon at the Core sparked ideas for a potential third novel in the Signal to Noise universe. Not to mention those after-Appetite novellas. (Should I call them Aperitifs?) And did I mention I want to write a sexy, short one-shot over the weekend?

A writer’s work never ends. Bless.

Where inspiration flows

I want to work on two stories right now: my mecha story, Body Option, and the outline for a later submission call, My Sexual Superhero. Of course, neither of them is what I’m supposed to be working on right now. I need to finish Klaxon and really, really need to expand my outline for The More Plausible Evil, because I’ve been putting off taking that back to second draft for far too long.

“Waiting for inspiration” is a concept that many writers seem to abide by, but the best advice (for me) is to keep on writing, keep pushing on, regardless of the presence or lack of inspiration. Writing isn’t only a creative endeavor; it’s a practiced skill. One of the easiest, and most important, ways to get better at it is to write, and write, and write some more.

As such, my method tends to involve a lot of comprehensive outline work and linear writing. That’s not always what I need, though. Sometimes, when you push the wall, it pushes you back and you land on your ass.

While I was on vacation, I didn’t do any writing at all. I did a lot of thinking about writing (I can’t disengage that part of my brain ever) but we were out and about at all kinds of fun locations, places that were new to me, and scenic. I’ve got more than enough projects to keep me afloat for the next two years, but the ideas kept flowing!

The short list of what I came up with during my trip:

– A romance between a townie and a rich visitor
– A romance between an island resident and a tour guide
– A romance between T—–, a Japanese exchange student working at Japadog, and nightlife-loving K—–, which seeks destined to be only summer romance until K—– enrolls at a local Vancouver school
– A kickass witch with unconventional character flaws
– A story where the hero breaks up with his love interest before he goes on a doomed mission to save the world, and intended to send him a final message proposing marriage should he safely return, but his last message was cut off

Whether I’ll end up writing them at some future point is anyone’s guess, but I’ve got the inspiration, and it all came from different places and experiences on this trip.

When I came back, I chilled out for an extra day and didn’t even try to write. It was on the list, but I spent the day reading instead. And, as important as it is to write and be consistent and push to practice that skill, it’s definitely necessary to recharge the batteries, too. I’d driven for eight and a half hours the previous day, I’d been away from home for six days, and it was important to simply relax. Finally I let go and did that without guilt.

Today I started up Klaxon at the Core again and got right back into the full swing of things. I’m really pleased with the results, and getting to the creepy, intense parts of the story. I’ll definitely finish it this month.

As for The More Plausible Evil, I’m starting to suspect either the outline approach isn’t going to work for this one, or I’ll need to unplug the internet and shut myself in a room until I get the damned thing done. There is, after all, no waiting for inspiration!

You can find it all around you, but don’t ever depend on riding its coattails. The biggest part of writing is the hard road: sitting down and just doing it.

Vancouver, B.C. was beautiful and I hope to post a few pictures soon. Everyone have a great rest of the week! Two days until Pacific Rim for me. I’m so hyped about the movie, I did a jaeger-inspired manicure.

Where the hard part begins

Concrit is hard…but it’s the most important aspect of writing, and I don’t think I can over-stress this point.

I’ve heard so many people say, many times over, that writing your novel, just getting it all down, is the hardest part.

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Respectfully, I disagree. Writing is the easy part. Writing comes naturally. Even self-editing, to a point, is easy because it’s proofreading for yourself. You know what you meant; you see what you expected to see. The absolute hardest, most challenging aspect of writing is, hands down, receiving and incorporating constructive criticism. The hard feedback. Your editor’s content edit.

My editor friend Amanda Jean has made a post regarding editing basics here, for the curious, or those new to the editing process. It’s from the editor’s perspective, and I’m going to touch briefly on the process from the author’s side of things.

In her post, Amanda mentions that the content edit “rattles the bones of the manuscript,” and when you get your novel back from that kind of shaking, what do you do?

Everyone familiar with the old Hemingway saying? “Write drunk, edit sober?” I’d say read your edits drunk, incorporate them sober.

The very first professional edit that I got back was probably one of the hardest blows I’ve ever received as a writer. I am not exaggerating one tiny bit when I say that I was utterly devastated. It was just so much. It was like a mountain of red. The more comments I read through, the more numb and horrified I got!

Looking back on it, I can admit that the manuscript needed a lot of work to bring it up to publishing standard. At first, that work–heck, even the prospect of that work–seemed insurmountable. I had issues, questions, and hell, even a few instances of “no, you’re wrong!!” How do you even begin to tackle that, especially when it involves a lot of work, even re-writes?

Back then, my reaction was basically to roll around feeling very sorry for myself before I started to piece things back together. I didn’t really have a method. It was more fumbling around in the dark, at that point.

Now, my practice is to read through the edits, and set them aside. Give things a chance to sink in a bit. Go through them a second time, and jot down questions for the editor, if you have them. Some edits are mandatory, like grammar or style; some are subjective, like re-phrasing, trimming clutter, removing scenes or adding them.

Sleep on your questions for the editor. You may get some insight if you let things mull around in your head for a bit. That often helps, too, if some re-writes are being asked for, but you’re not sure where to start.

When you’re ready to start, email any questions you still have for the editor, get your answers squared away, and prepare to dig in.

My preferred way of incorporating edits is to set aside large blocks of time and just go through them change by change. I use Track Changes, so I go through accepting changes (those damn commas!!) and resolving editor comments, tracking my own changes so that my editor can see what I’ve changed so that they can perform a final review.

Some of those subjective changes are where it gets dicey. What if your editor makes a change that you don’t want to incorporate? When it comes down to it, you’re the author. However, something to keep in mind is the fact that if something came up on the editor’s radar, it’s more than likely something that will pull your reader out of the story, or otherwise cause something to snag. Depending on your relationship with the editor, you can discuss it with them. You might also want to discuss it with a third party or two and get some outside opinions.

After working with concrit for over a year now, I’m starting to develop what I feel is a good sense for when to incorporate the crit, versus when to stick to my guns. On a recent manuscript that I received, my editor axed the epilogue. On my first read-through of the edits, my gut response to that was “NOOO! MY EPILOGUE!” (That’s the second time that’s happened to one of my stories, by the way.)

By the time I got through the linear edits and reached the epilogue, though, I was able to hit “accept” to axe the epilogue without regret. The story was definitely stronger without it, and the ending I’d crafted in the final chapter was a better place to leave it, overall.

There were two other places in the story where the editor recommended I trim a scene here, take out an element there. I made the case for keeping those things, and received a “fair enough, we can keep them” in response. Happily, I work really well with my editor, and I let them know at every step that if they thought further changes were needed, or if they felt strongly about cutting something I defended, I was willing to be flexible.

The editor usually has a wider view of things, more objective distance, than the author who’s so close to the manuscript and knows exactly what they meant to do, but not necessarily how that came across.

What this means is, frequently, the editor may be telling you things you don’t want to hear about your story. Even, to a point, things that you disagree with. And this is what makes concrit so hard. What do you have to incorporate, and what should you, even if your instincts first say “NOOO?!”

Alas, there are no easy answers for that question. This is one of those cases where everyone has to find their own path. Something really important to keep in mind, though, is the fact that it’s editor’s job to help make your manuscript better. They’re not in it to tear you down or make you feel bad about your writing – they’ve put a lot of work into editing. (Seriously, a lot of work – and editing is often a thankless task.) They’re putting in the work to help bring out the best version of your manuscript in order to get it published.

What gets it there, though, is the way you incorporate those edits and craft those re-writes. And in the best of all possible outcomes, it’s something that puts a smile on your face and has you writing your editor an effusive thank-you note for helping it get there.

And don’t forget the drink. Every time you despair, raise a glass and keep editing. And no matter what, keep writing!

Upcoming content … when I find the time!

Things I have meant to blog, not ranked in any particular order:

Book reviews:

I meant to roll out a book review feature every other week or so, but the sad fact of the matter is that I don’t get to read as many books as I’d like to. I have a veritable stack, physical and virtual – Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker, the new Melanie Rawn fantasy, and a pile of ebooks, including the copy of Queer Fear that I won during the Hop Against Homophobia.

Last month I finished a couple of books. I could review Bound, but it’s hardly a new release. Quite a popular book, though!

Consider the prospect of book reviews a work in progress. I managed a mega-review a couple of weeks ago; I may be able to roll out one a month and have to consider that good.

Conference/meet-up news:

I’m registered as an author for Rainbow Con 2014, so more on that later. What it means for the immediate future is I won’t be able to take my typical two-month writing vacation in November. I’ve got to reserve a week for February, because my parents rented a guest house in Florida and want me to join them, and I need another week for April to attend the conference. It’s going to be way too much fun, I can tell already, though I feel somewhat presumptuous attending as a full-fledged author.

Tips and tricks of the trade:

Coming soonest, hopefully, a brief tutorial on how to use the Word Track Changes feature, on MS Word 2010 and the earlier edition. (The two are very different, and now that I’m used to it, I prefer Word 2010’s version.)

It still surprises me that a lot of writers don’t know how to use this feature. It’s a basic staple of editorial work, so when the author doesn’t know how to use that feature to incorporate edits, it can make everyone’s job harder.

My plan is to give a quick rundown on how to turn it on and how to use it to accept/reject edits and add comments. The three basics! I really hope it’ll be something people may find useful. I planned on getting that posted this past Saturday, but the weekend provided some unexpected challenges.

No rest for the wicked:

I can’t remember the last time I talked about my current projects in any depth, but this summer is shaping up to be super busy.

Klaxon at the Core is the sequel to Signal to Noise, and I’m currently writing that one. It’s progressing really well, and I hope to be finished by the end of the month. The original beta editor for Signal to Noise volunteered to beta Klaxon before I submit it for publication, which is fantastic because not only is he a superfan, but yay continuity!

The More Plausible Evil is back to the outline-wrangling stage. An editor friend that I’ve had a writer/editor relationship with has reconnected with me, and we’re going to be working together to usher this from first rough draft to a much better, fully developed second draft! Right now the outline is giving me trouble (and there are only so many hours in the day) and I intended to have to outline finished last weekend. This weekend or bust! The More Plausible Evil is due in November.

Body Option is a mecha story I’m planning to write for a September anthology. So long as I get started by August, I think I’ll still be okay on this. There will be action, sci fi, and a man and his mech. It’s not intended to be a long story, and my outline is only two pages – that’s a good sign, for me. (Watch it end up being 40k.)

Somewhere in there I expect I’ll be incorporating edits and doing any necessary re-writes for Convergence and The Fall Guide.

And after that! You’d think I’d take a break, but I’ll be writing My Sexual Superhero, a story about a geek and the charismatic hook-up who saves him from his sexual doldrums. It’s for a submission call for December, and it’s early enough in the planning stages that making my poor geeky protagonist work two retail jobs will fit in just fine.

That’s it for updates – more to come! And if you’ve got content for the author blog to suggest, I’d love to hear it. 🙂 Have a great rest of the week, everyone!

Tour de Foodie Day Four

Did you check out Masterchef and the Spirit of Rivalry over at World of Diversity Fiction? Of this week’s blog tour entries, I think it’s one of my favorites.

If you haven’t told me what you think of the blog tour yet, I’d be mighty obliged if you took a moment to drop a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what worked, and what I could have improved.

So much has been happening this week, my senses are reeling as I do my best to stay caught up. I’ve got a new cover tease to bring you, signed two contracts, pre-registered for Rainbow Con, and pre-registered for the Gay Romance NW Meet-up in September. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. More to come on all that, and other things yet to come.

Writing for Klaxon at the Core is going really well right now. I’ve caught up with my deficit and I’ve written quite a lot this month, and though I’ll be writing into this summer, I’m really pleased with the outline and my pre-reader’s responses to the story. It’s been wonderful to explore more of Theo and Bastian’s lives.

Review for A Cut Above the Rest

Hooray, a review site left the most marvelous review for A Cut Above the Rest.

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Click here to see what Andrea posting on Reviews by Jessewave has to say. Andrea rates the story at 4.75, and says it would have been perfect if it hadn’t ended with “to be continued.” 😉

Of course, The Competitive Edge comes out May 29th and will be up for pre-order soon, so there’s not much longer to wait!

If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, you can put A Cut Above the Rest in your cart and add the coupon BOM40 when you’re checking out.

In writing news, the pieces for Klaxon at the Core, sequel to Signal to Noise, are really coming together. I’m working on the outline tonight because I figured out the ending. I just need to connect the dots between the beginning, middle, and end.

Besides that, I got an idea lobbed at me for a sexy contemporary story with a Dr. Who fan and a sexy Safe Sex advocate. It already gave me a title and some other lovely details, and I have a feeling I’ll need its lighthearted fun when the horrors in Klaxon at the Core become too much. I’m not even sure I should mention the title yet, but I kind of adore it.

Final piece of good news: Convergence has been accepted for Less Than Three Press’s Proud to be a Vampire anthology! I sent in my (surprisingly specific) wish list for the cover art.

Here’s the summary:

Chris Bryant and his faithful childhood friend Ling Tam travel the world in search of the rarest and exquisite of curiosities, but such treasure-hunting comes at a cost. At times, they tangle with danger in order to seek the most well-guarded artifacts. In order to retrieve a lost treasure deep within a mountain where they tackle the elements and walk the balance between life and death, Chris must hire on a vampire. In this great risk, he has the chance to find an opportunity he never expected–or lose it all, if the predator takes them for his prey.

Exciting things afoot in the writing world! With more to come, I feel sure.