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How I Write a Book April 14, 2013

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in a-writers-life-is-never-dull, except-for-when-it-is, writing.
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My ideas come from everywhere. I’m a big fan of the “what if… what then?” line of thinking. But for some reason, the ideas of mine that have really had legs have been things that popped up in dreams. Which is funny, since I don’t usually remember my dreams. When I do, I usually have an image of something unusual, which makes me ask myself “Okay, who is this guy and why is he chained up in the middle of an abandoned ruin?” That question got me the rest of Princes of Air — if you’ve read it, you know that’s Niall. When I get these scenes, I have to write them down. HAVE TO. Because if I don’t, my very fickle muse decides that I don’t really want them and sends them away (in other words, I forget whatever it was that I dreamed.) What I do with them after depends on what answer I get to the “Who are you and what are you doing in my head?” question.

Boy, that makes me sound like a real head-case, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t help that I can somehow mentally keep track of epic plotlines that span the course of years, have a cast of thousands, and have extended years in the writing (which is happening in my fanfic universe. Over 200K words so far, not done yet, and not a note in sight. WHEE!!!!)

Most of the time, though, I do write down what I think is going to happen. Note that — what I THINK is going to happen. About half the time, the characters laugh at me and go off on their own, leaving me frantically typing and going “What are you DOING? You’re not supposed to be doing that! You’re supposed to have DIED in that scene!” (Yep. That happened. Twice. Same character. Little b*stard just did not want to lay down and die!)

In a perfect world, the characters behave. Mostly. And I get the story that I thought I was going to get. For the most part. Which means that I occasionally have a synopsis all ready to go when I pitch the story. It doesn’t happen often, but I love it when it does!

When it doesn’t happen, and the characters run away with me, I usually put the story aside and work on something else while I read the roadsigns and try to figure out where I went wrong and where this story really is going. Sometimes, this takes longer than other times — I handed a novel in to my editor last summer that my earliest story notes say I started in 2008. Talk about a left turn at Albuquerque!

I write historical-paranormal-steampunk-just-TRY-and-categorize-me erotic romances. Which means research. Lots of research. As in, my major annual expense is research books, for anything I can’t find online. Why do I do that much research? Because bad research drives me straight up a tree. There’s a certain book that was popular about ten years or so ago, that was made into a certain movie with Scarlett Johannsen, and that a certain writer might have seen because there was a certain Benedict Cumberbatch also in said movie. I certainly didn’t see the movie for the story, because they got the history wrong. I don’t want my book to be the one that people look at in ten years and say “That’s not right!” So I make sure I get it right. (And then have editors tell me “I know that in period they called it a Turkey carpet. But no one else is going to know that. Can we change it to Turkish carpet?”)

Current research books go on the shelf over my desktop. The rest are on the bookcase next to my desk, categorized by subject (and yes, there is a sex category up there.) I have a notebook for each project for things that I copy out of a book (with proper MLS formatting, because I am mildly OCD, and that’s how I take notes.) For things I find online, I use Pinterest — I have board for steampunk research, for Victorian research, for costume research, and for Inspirational stuff. (Inspirational as in “the Biltmore mansion is my inspiration for the palace in this story,” or “Benedict Cumberbatch in “To the Ends of the Earth” is my inspiration for the character in that steampunk pirate story.”)

My first reader is my husband, and people wonder how we stay married through it. Answer? He’s a grammar snark of the first degree, and he is always right. And understands when I tell him to get stuffed because I’m leaving that RIGHT the way it is. I have a fantastic crit group in the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, who have never steered me wrong. I also have two beta readers who I trust implicitly, and who tell me when I’m barking down the wrong well.

When I get the story back from them, I read it again. At that point, if I’m ready to through the manuscript out the window, then I know I am well and truly done.

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