How do I do this again?

I’ve accepted a challenge to try and write a straight* mystery novel. Something with none of the usual weirdness that I like. Something a bit more vanilla. I thought it would be an interesting challenge, like limiting myself to the form of a haiku or a sonnet. I thought it would be fun.

I have a starting point and I have some characters and I have a premise but I don’t know where to go from there. The more I try to find my plot it the more my self-doubt screams at me that I don’t know how to do this.

But I do know how to do this. I know how a plot works. I know how to put one together. A plot is a plot and the supernatural and the fantastic and the weird are just trappings. It’s people and the things they do to each other that drives the plot. That remains the same whether the story takes place in the imagined past, in the alternative present and in all possible futures.

It’s like my self-doubt has latched onto the one thing I’m doing differently this time and is waving it like a fucking flag. Look at this. This is the reason you can’t do this. You should give up. You can’t be a ‘proper’ writer so you should just stop trying.

To my self-doubt I say this, “Shut up, bitch. I am a proper writer. A writer writes. I write. Therefore I am a writer. Sticking the word ‘proper’ in front of it is just a bullshit excuse for gatekeeping. Whatever I do as a writer you’re just going to claim that it doesn’t make me a ‘proper’ writer or a ‘real’ writer. I will write whatever I damn well please.”

Which is all very nice and assertive but I still don’t have a plot.

 

*Only straight in the sense of not having any of my usual magical or weird science shenanigans. It will definitely still be queer in every other sense.

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Semi-useful displacement activity

Right now I should be sending queries out to agents. Or working on one of the two potential follow ups to the novel that I should be querying. Or I should be cleaning the kitchen. What I’m actually doing is making notes on yet another attempt to write something that my kids will be able to read.

This will be my fourth attempt to write something suitable for the YA (young adult) market. Two failed because I wasn’t ready to write the story. The notes and the first drafts are still there and I will probably come back to them. These stories are probably only temporary YA fails.

The third one failed because I was writing across two time periods and the grown up version of my heroine decided she wanted to jump into bed with of her best friends. I can’t really blame her – he’s gorgeous and available and she thought she was going to die the next day – but explicit post 40 extra-marital sex doesn’t really work for in a YA book. I will probably come back to it and it might work as an adult novel but it’s probably a permanent YA fail.

It is deeply annoying to me that I find it so hard to write stuff that my kids could read. I think a big part of the problem is that I find it very hard to think about my own childhood and teen years. My childhood sucked. My teen years were a nightmare and I’m constantly surprised that I survived. All the advice that I can find about writing for teens says that you should try to remember what it was like to be a teen and my reaction to that is, “Hell no! It sucked enough the first time.”

Of course there’s nothing stopping my kids from reading my other novels. They probably will at some point but I’m putting it off as long as possible. Sorry kids. Your mother has a sick, sick mind and I’d prefer that you didn’t know about it.

The Annual October Panic Begins

In November I write a novel. Well, I write a first draft of a novel. I’ve done it every  November since 2004. It’s all because of NaNoWriMo.

If, for some reason, you don’t want to follow the link I shall explain. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual event where writers get together to write a first draft of at least 50,000 words in 30 days. There are local groups. Meeting other writers is encouraged. It’s how I met a lot of my friends. It’s a lot of fun when it’s not driving us all crazy.

All this means that it is now time for the Annual October Panic. It’s a lot easier to write a novel in a month if you have some kind of plan. So I should be using this month for outlining. But I’m also trying to finish the current draft of a novel (the sexy super-spy one). And I don’t want to get too into the new novel because then I’ll be bored of it by the end of week one. But I do want to have most of the plot sorted before I start. But if I spend too much time on it I wont finish the spy novel.

This is all pretty normal for me in October. What’s new is that this year my NaNo novel will be young adult horror. And I feel completely unprepared. I’m not sure about writing YA. It’s been a while since I was a young adult and I don’t think my experience is going to be useful. I love horror but I haven’t written straight horror before. My plot requires subtle which is not a thing I do well.

So, my loyal readers, here’s where you can help. Do any of you have any tales of real life things that scared the living daylight out of you. They don’t have to be supernatural, just creepy or scary. Do you have any unusual fears that you’re willing to share? Any family superstitions that you’ve never heard of outside your family? Any advice on writing YA? Stick it in the comments, or you could tell me via Facebook or Twitter.

Day 24 of emergency editing

Current total 74,491.  The penultimate day was spent in beginning to deal with another plot problem.  Spoiler warning for Beta readers – you guys might want to skip this blog post, particularly if you’ve already read anything I’ve sent you.  The rest of you should be fine because by the time you read the book these vague hints will have been forgotten.

The previous plot problem is mainly a practical one.  I need to get some of my characters to leave the building they’re in and go somewhere else and it needs to make sense.  I need to decide who is doing what.  I need to loose some characters before the final push.  They don’t necessarily need to die but the need to be somewhere else , partly because it wouldn’t make sense to take them into battle and partly because having so many characters in the scene would make it too unwieldy.

This new one is one of motivation.  I know that my villain is going to do something which will cross the line between well intentioned meddling with a horrific outcome to acts of pure selfishness.  This has to make sense to my villain even while the reader is internally screaming “Don’t do the thing!”