Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Much of the inspiration for the characters and settings in On a Twisted Tree comes from "you can't make this shit up" experiences, either my own or my mother's. You see, my mom, who was born and raised in upstate New York and southern California, was once the Yankeeist Yankee ever to Yank. She's where I got most of my Yankee, I'm sure. But little bits of redneck have started to creep in over the 17 years she's lived in Arkansas. A couple years ago, she married the biggest redneck ever to walk the earth (and I say this with all affection, because I really do love the guy), and it's just gotten more pronounced.

Case in point: today we had a conversation that consisted of the following:

  • The state of the flooded creeks in town
  • Selling the purebred purse dogs they breed
  • My stepdad's professional fishing activities
  • The woodland squatter under their house
    • We think it's a skunk.
    • Cat food is better for trapping skunks than dog food (don't ask me how I know this)
    • She needs to call the neighbor to shoot it if she traps it while my stepdad is gone.
At least she hasn't gone feral enough to pull out the shotgun and shoot it herself.

Her mix of redneck and Yankee is kind of adorable. She's sent me phone pictures of the cows in the back yard, for example, as if they are something novel, and a few weeks ago she sent me a picture of the fiberglass owl (pictured--normally used to scare off birds who might nest in inopportune places) that my stepdad pulled from the lake the previous day while fishing. Which they put in the back yard, of course.

You can't make this shit up. And you see why I have to write about rednecks.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Writing patterns

I write really good beginnings, I must admit. Understand I'm not bragging when I say this, because beginnings are about the only part of writing I'm really good at, ha. It's a rare project where I've actually needed to fiddle with the beginning too terribly much--in fact, I can only think of one project in which I actually changed the beginning substantially. That project is still on the shelf because I can't figure out what the hell to do with it. Happily, On a Twisted Tree's beginning is still very strong. Aside from some inconsistencies, I really didn't have to revise much in the first third of the novel.

Yes, beginnings are easy for me. Part of the reason is that a story sits in my head for a while before it ever comes out. I have to know what the first scene involves and even what the first few lines are before I can start. I try not to make that one of those lame writer crutches, but it kind of is. Even the novel that's still sitting on the shelf still bears the original opening lines. I think it's because I have to capture my own interest before I can capture anyone else's.

Another part of the reason that the first part of Tree in particular turned out well is a combination of half planning, half pantsing. I tend to plan a little before I start writing these days. In the first third, though, I pants quite a bit. One scene inspires another, one character inspires another, etc. Building up a project is easy, and in my typical projects, pretty successful much of the time.

And then I get to the middle, where I actually have to do something with all of those doors I've opened and all of the plot threads I've begun. I can start making connections, weaving the threads together, seeing what's behind the doors, cliche cliche cliche. The middle, though, usually takes anywhere from three to ten times as long as the beginning. I wrote the first 30,000 words of Tree in about a month, IIRC, between sometime in May and sometime in June. The middle took me until probably January. I get to that point where I'm like, "....Fuck, what do I do with this?" Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

Here's the funny part. I write good beginnings. Middling middles. Disastrous endings. It's not that they lack in quality as far as writing or plotting goes. The plot is actually pretty tight in the ending of Tree, because I'd finally figured out where the hell I was going. And that's just the problem. Almost a year later, I'd figured out a number of things I didn't realize/didn't bother figuring out in the middle. I figured out at least half of the world building /character/plot loose ends in the last two weeks of writing Tree. The last 10,000 words or so. What results is a hot mess of exposition and development that should have happened a hundred pages ago. I had about a week of constant crisis writing that last 10k because I finally had to deal with some gigantic soul-swallowing plot holes. They were fairly simply resolved, but that means that, in the revision stage, I'm now doing an awful lot of cleaning up after myself in the middle.

I'm not really complaining. I write these blog posts because my own writing foibles amuse me in an ironic kind of way and I tend to write in hyperbole. I'm thankful for my analytical brain and my ability to solve my own problems. Er. At least as they relate to writing. Sometimes I wish I was more patient, though, so I could work this stuff out before I had about 70,000 words that look like a kaleidescope of scenes that I have to make into a real picture. But, in the words of a hypocrite who hates it when writers say this, that's not really how I work. So it's back to self-janitoring.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Revision progress

I have an insanely ridiculous amount of work work to do this weekend. I have to draw up a proposal for my division meeting next week, which will then go to one of the administrative bodies on campus if approved (eek), I have to organize student papers for workshops for one class and grade two sets of papers for three other classes.

So what am I actually doing this weekend? Revising On a Twisted Tree. Natch.

I've only managed to pick through about 30 pages in the last week, but today I hashed out a revised outline for the whole novel, noting where I need to add scenes from whole cloth or revise the ones I have to fit the breakthroughs I made in the last couple weeks of writing. One of these days I will develop a more efficient writing process that does not involve pantsing the first two thirds and then figuring everything out in the last third, in the most agonizing, frustrating way possible, complete with OH MY GOD THIS SUCKS I HAVE RUINED EVERYTHING I AM AN INCOMPETENT LOSER I SHOULD BE DRAGGED OUT AND SHOT BEFORE I BUTCHER ANOTHER WORD moments.

In the last couple of months, especially, while Tiger ( and I have been half-seriously futzing around with our future crossover, I've solidified a lot of ideas about Tree and the world and characters I'm working with. I'm eternally grateful and tickled that Tiger found my initial suggestion of, "Hey, let's throw our characters together!" intriguing enough to do this, because the book definitely would not be the same without him. And by that I mean it is totally more awesome because of him.

In other cool news, be on the lookout for a character interview with Amara ( and the Delaney boys sometime within the next few weeks (time permitting for all parties involved), as well as an author interview with Tiger and a character interview with his protagonist too. If you'll allow me the shameless plug, Amara runs a really great m/m book blog, which you should check out immediately. She did an author interview with me in March, and she's just awesome.

I am writing two different blog posts at the same time. Please save me from myself.