Weekly Writerly Witterings ~ Crafting Angel Blue

witter (ˈwɪtə)
vb – (often foll by: on) to chatter or babble pointlessly or at unnecessary length
n – pointless chat; chatter

COLLINS ENGLISH DICTIONARY – COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED, 12TH EDITION 2014 © HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014

Can y’all believe it’s already July? I know I keep saying this, all over my social media, but I am somewhat flummoxed. I know June began yesterday, right? Now I’m wondering where all the days in-between went. Anyone else felt this way about summer?

It’s July, the month of American Independence Day, my parents’ anniversary, and my birthday. For those of you who were unaware, I was born on Bastille Day (French Independence ;). I shared my birthday with my grandma. Since she’s been gone, my birthdays always feel somewhat empty. But more about that next week. This week, I wanted to share a bit about the writing process. Namely, we’re gonna talk about Angel Blue.

Recap: Angel Blue is my first serialized Adult Urban Fantasy novel. I’ve been working on the story off and on since before I was published, circa 2009-ish. This is very much an action/adventure, thriller/romance mashup, so I felt it was the perfect candidate to try out a storytelling format I’ve enjoyed but never employed. I may be one of the few readers who truly loves a good serialized novel.

What’s a serialized novel? Wikipedia says: In literature, a serial, is a printing format by which a single larger work, often a work of narrative fiction, is published in smaller, sequential installments. The installments are also known as numbersparts or fascicles, and may be released either as separate publications or within sequential issues of a periodical publication, such as a magazine or newspaper.[1]

One of the first Indie novels I read was in this format, Saga Berg’s Nordic Fairies. I didn’t know what I was reading at the time. All I knew was the installments were short, but so gripping, I was excited to read more. Another I enjoyed was Blood and Snow by RaShelle Workman. I researched quite a bit on the modern serial. I’ve heard positive and negative thoughts from bloggers and industry insiders. I think a lot of readers have been put off by authors taking advantage of the format.

AB-01So what’s the appeal of writing a serial? For me, I love the challenge of writing in a serialized format. I chose to think of this overarcing series (Seven Deadly Sins) as a written “show.” Each season will contain five episodes, featuring multiple perspectives, but focusing on my core three: Eanna, Isabol and Charon. Each of these ladies are on opposing sides of an ages old war between supernatural beings. But each are brought together by events beyond their control.

While writing Silver Hollow earlier this year, I chose to divide the story into parts. For each part, I created rising action, a climax and the cliffhanger leading into the next. I confess I almost considered releasing this updated edition as a serial. But ultimately, I know my fantasy fanbase prefers full-length novels. Most fantasy is pushing up to 100-thousand words these days. And most authors know (usually from experience) if you fail to meet your audience’s expectations, there will be backlash.

Side bar: Sure you should write what you love. You shouldn’t chase a story idea because it’s popular this season. Next season, it’ll be something else, trust me. However, every genre has a set of conventional tropes. Romance likes their Happy-Ever-After (HEA), while Fantasy needs a heroes’ quest or an epic journey of some sort. You are welcome to play around with these tropes, but remember, you want your audience to enjoy themselves too. It helps to think like a reader, and to think who you’re writing for. Literary fiction thrives off circumventing tropes, but not commercial fiction. And while I occasionally blur the lines between my genres, I definitely want you to enjoy what you’re reading 🙂

So far, it’s been a blast pulling my multiple drafts of what is now Angel Blue together. I chose to write all present scenes in close-third person present tense. Flashbacks and prologues will be in third person past tense. Writing present tense was a crazy challenge, by the way. My critique partner, Melissa was thrown several times, because she always writes and prefers to read past-tense (you’re a saint, Mel!). Writing this in episodic format forced me to tighten every scene up. Every conversation and interaction needed to mean something, to lead into the next moment. And every episode needed to tie into the larger, seasonal theme, while also pushing us toward what I’ve got planned for season two. If it sounds complicated, well, that’s because it is lol.

To help me keep track while I’m writing, I keep so many notes. And I use mini-outlines for every episode. Here’s an example:

  1. Opening – Two unnamed soldiers are about to torch a castle in the distant medieval past. One feels remorse, the other banishes his brother. 
  2. Inciting Incident – Present Day Canada-Human Club- Meet Eanna who is not human pretending to be human for a night for unnamed reasons. She meets a tall handsome stranger. A scary thing enters the club, even Eanna is slightly afraid. The stranger and woman she assumes to be his girlfriend flee the scene.

 III. Plot Point #1 (the scene where everything changes. Throws your readers for a loop). – Etlu arrives to claim Eanna. They argue over why she’s there, about the cursed, hinting at overall arc stuff. Also hint at a romantic history and that time is running out for them. Malku is coming and he’s no bueno. When he tries to take her out of the club, she has an “episode” and nearly blows up. Etlu contains her and manages to flee.

I don’t always outline ahead of time. In this case, I already had written most of this book over past drafts, so I had a good idea in my head what I wanted. But every book comes with its own set of challenges, I’ve found. Somewhere around writing Episode 4 I ran into some roadblocks. This happened to me while writing Silver Hollow, around part 4 coincidentally. I’m not sure on the why’s. It could have just been another milder case of writer’s anxiety. I’m notorious for second-guessing myself. But I also think it’s because I typically don’t write “into the dark” as they call it. And so much the latter parts in this book I was writing into the dark. I knew where we would end up, but these scenes were very important, to set the right tone for the book.

I’ve attempted a new thing with this novel and how I approach publishing. This time, I have commissioned a developmental editor, the very lovely Victoria DeLuis. But I ended up having to push my deadline back, because this novel required more work than I realized. I may have bit off more than I could chew, with how busy June has been. (thanks a lot summer!) Thankfully, my developmental editor is a patient, wonderful person, as only editors can be. And because I’ve written this in episodes, I simply sent them over as I finished.

Silverwood FB Cover Titles Showcase

Last night, I finally finished and sent over Episode 5. It was such a relief, finishing this first, rough draft. Now that I’ve finished, I realize most of my issue writing this, has been due to the switch-up in my writing process. Normally, I write a chapter a night. The next night, I always re-read and revise the former chapter. This offers a two-way benefit, helping me get my head back into the world, while catching awkward wording. It’s a convenient way to tackle drafts 1 & 2 with one stone. This time, I wrote into the dark with this new version of the story. So while I feel relief it’s finished, the work has really only begun.

This is a long post. I hope you’re not reading this and thinking, “No way could I write like this.” Well, I’m here to tell you to stop that negative thinking. Yes you can!

Writing is hard work. There is a rhythm and secret language to every book you’ll write. Your job as the author is to crack the code. Some books will be harder to write than others. But it’s important to continue writing, never give up. Writing is about the long game. You aren’t guaranteed to write a best seller. Instead, think about it as a reader. Write the type of book you would want to read. Craft the heck out of it, treat it like your book baby. The process of creating a book can be a long-intense journey, but you’re not as alone as you think you are. We’re all in this together. No matter how many books we have under our belts, we’re all learning. 🙂

What book or story are you currently working on? I’d love to talk writing with you in the comments below!

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