Recently someone asked me how I wrote my books. I took a while to think about this and finally came up with an answer: I have no idea. Weird, right?
Writing is a mystery to me. It just happens. Sometimes I can force it to happen, but I can tell when I do. The best novels I have written are the ones that just happened. They started with a single word and just flowed…
When this happens, I can write a book very quickly. Fortified Dreams is one example; I wrote it in less than two weeks. Elysium Dreams was written in just under three weeks. The most impressive though for me, personally, is Dark Cotillion. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is November), 120,000 words in one month.
Books where I have to force the story along not only take longer, but they tend to be shorter in word counts. The average novel is 60,000 words. I always try to make a Dreams novel that length, sometimes though, it’s hard. The story just doesn’t flow from me and I have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is going on.
Then there are the weird books; Cannibal Dreams falls into this category. It started okay, I had to force the first several chapters though and then it hit a snag and Patterson showed up. Once Patterson arrived in the story, it started to flow and was written without any more problems.
I’ve often told people that I don’t control my characters. This is weird, but it’s also true. I can’t force Aislinn Cain to do anything… In my head, she’s her own person and as a result, she does her own thing. People who know me personally have trouble separating me from the characters as they read, but to me, the characters are people that live in my head. It’s like hearing voices and having imaginary friends, but without the need of psychiatric treatment.
If I have to force a book, it’s because my brain is at war with my imagination. My brain wants one thing to happen, while my imagination is telling a completely different story. This disconnect is weird and it’s even weirder as I write it. It just feels unnatural and occasionally leads to writer’s block.
I had this problem big time with Innocent Dreams. The original chapters are still there, but the story isn’t. It literally goes nowhere for eight full chapters. Even the two killer chapters are a disaster. It’s why I never published it; I never finished it and I never figured out what was going on in it.
I don’t plot out a story ahead of time. I try and try and try to do that, because I’ve been told repeatedly that it makes for good stories. But it never works. Someone always goes way off script. The last book that I used the pre-writing plotting for was awful. I’m surprised people still buy the books that came after it. It is among my least favorite books I have ever published.
They have a term for how I write; pantser. I just get an idea and run with it, no plotting or planning. For D&R, it’s a killer, possibly more. For Dysfunctional Chronicles, it’s a situation. For the Death Demon Trilogy it’s the knowledge that someone made a poor decision and years later, it has to be rectified.
This makes it nearly impossible to describe the plot of a book before I have completely written it. It also makes writing difficult for me sometimes because when I force a book to happen, the story doesn’t reveal itself to me, I have to search for it.
It also means that sometimes, I go long stretches without writing much. I don’t like the disconnected feeling when I can’t see the story unfolding because my brain and imagination are warring with each other. However, it never stops me completely. The ideas are always flowing. Most get rejected, but every so often, one gets latched onto and becomes a book.
Which is why I tell people I don’t know how to write a book, for me, it just happens or it doesn’t and I struggle to figure it out. It’s a strange position to be in.