The Wall – Part 1


I am not 100% a “pantser” nor a “planner”–I’m more of a “road trip writer.”  I know the general direction I’m heading and some major landmarks along the way, but I’m not picky about how I get to the landmarks: I let the characters do their thing and I end up seeing some pretty spiffy side-jaunts, and we end up where we need to go.

Recently I hit the last big landmark, a massacre at Lanakila Camp (for years it was called “Litlen.”  One of my major characters also got a name-change midgame, from Marzu Makza to Marzu Mākaha, because I want POLYNESIA IN SPACE durnit!!).  After the massacre, I knew my protagonist would date a gal, get married and start leading his double-life with a family in tow.

Only one problem: the family wasn’t showing up.  And except for a name-drop a hundred pages ago, the date wasn’t showing up either.

For many years, I knew Lanakila Camp was my last big scene, and I didn’t have any solid landmarks after that.  I knew afterwards, this family thing would happen (I had bios and names and occupations for all the kids; I’d fleshed out different scenarios with these characters every night in my head while waiting for sleep to arrive) and I figured from there, the novel’d guide me.

It was extremely strange, realizing that this entire time, while I thought I was preparing for the second half of my novel, I’d basically been envisioning fanfic of it for the past few years.

Hunh, I thought to myself.  There was no way I could shoehorn a family in.  And I wasn’t feeling it anyway (I refuse to force things into my stories…they’re either there–usually extremely there, with making up mind-melting explanations as I hang on for dear life–or they’re not.)

Unsure how to cope, I did what any self-respecting writer would do: I wrote about it.  I wrote out all my fears about no longer having a clear direction to follow, about how, if I was honest, it was true, his wife had never had a character that gripped me.  I talked about how this made sense–my cast had grown to a point where it couldn’t sustain another five major characters…but also had enough different personalities to work interesting things with.  Plus, I realized, the story really got cookin’ when things were focused around my two leads–adding a third lead would just dilute the impact of that relationship.

Writing all this helped me let go of that alternate universe that I thought was going to be canon.  I typed out the aftermath of Lanakila Camp and reminded myself that if I showed up, the writing would show me what it wanted to do.

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door. ”  — Coco Chanel

Busy Writing

I just filled up a 95-page notebook in one month!! All but 5 pages of it is my novel!  8D That is a record for me!
My journey writing SCVK has taken some interesting turns since I last posted; I’ll try to set them down here for future reference.
“I haven’t had the time to plan returning to the scene because I haven’t left it.”
–Mick Jagger


Why You Need A Writing Buddy

Muse at 11, Writing

You don’t need a writing group.  (That is my personal opinion and I will explain myself later.)

But you do need an awesome writing buddy so that, when you realize your novel (which you originally thought would be this pleasant 200-page YA book) has hit 501 pages and shows no sign of stopping, you can have amazing chat conversations like the following:

Create Inspirational Mood Boards for Your Writing Project with OneNote


Guess what, fellow writers?  I’ve found a use for Microsoft OneNote.

While I don’t like it as a wiki, it’s perfect for making mood boards!

Mood boards are used by some visual artists to help them visualize a project.  You collect images that evoke the mood you want for your piece, then pin the whole collection up where you can see and refer back to it while you work.

In OneNote, collecting pics is as easy as dragging images from the web (or your harddrive) into a file for your novel.  I’ve been using it to collect pictures for different locales, characters, and fashions in my sci-fi world, and it’s much tidier than having the images scattered among my harddrive folders!

* * *

Another fun thing I’ve been doing in Microsoft OneNote is collecting photos of actors who remind me of my characters.

While I’m a have the ability to draw my characters if I want, my mental image of a character is fairly fluid–so why not grab some real life influences?

Here’s a few scientists my protagonist runs around with:

I was thrilled when I saw the trailer to MoneyballJonah Hill‘s character really struck me as a solid reference for my protaganist’s archrival-slash-boss, Vincent Harper.

I’ve always seen my protag’s weasely coworker Timothy Wallman as Steve Buscemi, but I didn’t realize why it was so easy to imagine Steve-o in a labcoat until I found this image of his from Spy Kids!

One of his other coworkers, Vanessa Chak, seemed to arrive as a crankier version of King of the Hill’s Minh Souphanousinphone, though when I drew Chak from imagination, I came up with this:

Have you ever used mood boards before in your writing?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Making Smart Decisions Stupidly!


As an author, your job is to ruin complicate fictional lives.  This is a way to do it.

In writing a scene recently, I saw 2 choices my character could make.  The first one was The Smart Choice (don’t give your blood to untrustworthy magical lady X).  The Wrong Choice (give your blood to untrustworthy magical lady X so she can create a magical entity that should kill off untrustworthy magical lady Y!  Also untrustworthy magical lady X HAS YOUR BLOOD ON-HAND should she ever need it in the future for her own diabolical purposes!) was a choice that would introduce a lot of fun story mayhem and be very interesting to write !

Now, I’m a firm believer in allowing your character to make stupid mistakes, wrong choices, misunderstand others, etc., because perfect characters who never make mistakes are boring.

So I was a little nervous when I wrote the scene and saw the character taking The Smart Choice.  when I tried to visualize the character taking The Wrong Choice, it wouldn’t flow–it was too out-of-character for him.

BUT THEN something else fun introduced itself.  When my lead character made the smart choice, he did it in such a spazzy way that he alarmed and alienated all his colleagues and he made his boss extra suspicious of him!

The moral of this story? When your character won’t make a stupid decision, it’s OK for him to make a smart decision in an incredibly stupid way.