Sunday, April 10, 2016

Things I Learned While Writing This Novel – The Path is Never the Same

I did this once before for my first novel and thought it would be a good idea to do it again. Since, as the title says, each story is different. They are living things that, even as their creators, we only have so much control over. No matter how much you try, they will do whatever they need to to be told.

1 ) Have a Map, But Don’t Depend on It: Nanowrimo has a great piece on the difference between panters and planners. And, for the most part, I’m planner. I like to plot out my stories in huge outlines, sometimes even writing out scenes that feel vivid in my head. And, for the most part, that works for me. This story, however, would not be planned. I got about halfway through this story and couldn’t find a way to the end I had planned. No matter how  I twisted and manipulated my plot, my characters just would not do what I wanted them to (I even have a very weird meta story, that will never see the light of day, where these characters berate me for not finishing their story). So I let the plan go. I, as a dedicated planner, pantsed it. I let my characters, who had already developed minds and motivations of their own, tell me where they wanted to go. I let them tell me their story. 

2 ) Re-Writing Is Not Starting Over: When I started this story, kink was still a very niche, closeted community. Then Fifty Shades came out and, in many ways, so did we. Our secrets, as a community, weren’t ours anymore. Suddenly, our stories weren’t ours, were being told by outsiders in a way not all of us were okay with. Suddenly, my story had a new layer of context that I hadn’t expected when I’d started and couldn’t ignore. I had a teacher in college tell me that literature—all literature—was a conversation. No story lives in a vacuum. For better or worse, they live in our world. They speak to every story that came before it, real and fictitious, and will speak to every one that comes after it. And, as daunting as it can seem sometimes—when you’re in the middle of a story and suddenly need to go back and re-write or add to this mostly-written story—it can only make your story better by acknowledging that inevitable connection.

3 ) Not Everyone is Going to Like It: I like to think that I don’t tell usual stories. That, like every writer, I have something unique and unsaid to say. And, of all my characters, I feel like these two feel the least mainstream. Which means, of course, they’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Max is a proud, sharp-tongued, self-labelled social justice warrior, unafraid to fight for what she believes in and stand up for her ideals. Hayato is a secretive, manipulative, often unscrupulous man, who does what he thinks is right, regardless of who may or may not agree with him. Neither of them fit conventional beauty standards. They are not people who are often the heroes of romance stories. Much less erotic, kink stories. And, along the way, I had people who, for one reason or another, didn’t like the story. Beta readers who’d dismissed the story early on because it felt like just another story portraying either feminism or kink as the bad guys, which as a kinky feminist, was never my intention. Publishers who took one look at my characters and told me that they were unsellable or even unbelievable. But, if you believe in your story, you have to let it speak for itself. Take in the critics, try to listen to them as objectively as possible—admit that, hard as they are to listen to or as much as you may not agree with them, sometimes they can lead to insights and ways to improve. And, remember, that for everyone that may not love your story, there is someone out there who will. Someone who wants to hear your story, your voice.

4 ) Things Rarely Happen When or How You Think They Will: This particular book release has been really intense. Without going too much into it, I’ve been wrestling with quite a few personal things lately—work and family and friends related—and, there were times where adding in trying to push a book out felt...overwhelming. But, when I close my eyes, when I wish on stars, when I think about the things I want more than anything in this world, writing and telling my stories is always at the top of things I want. It is my passion. And, if you want something, you have to be willing to work for it. If our dreams were easy, how would we know they were worth it?

5 ) Be Glad and Grateful For Any Help You Get: Like I said, I’ve been struggling. And I know that the people around me have been seeing it. And I will always be so grateful for the people who have my back while I do. From friends and family who have always been so supportive of me. To my publisher, Sinful Press, who has been such a delight to work with. And, of course, my readers, who remind me with every email, message, comment, and like why I do what I do. Thank you, everyone.

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