I’ve been asked a few times lately how I write short books. (Which, hell, if you’ve read any of my rambles, it’s no shock that you’d wonder how I can manage to write anything under 200k epics.) So I thought I’d give explaining it a shot, even though this might be a bunch of incoherent rambling.
Okay, so, I write a series dramatically called “Ripples in the Status Quo” (or for those of us who are lazy, RISQ). In this world, supernatural creatures have taken over and turned humans into playthings and food and, well, whatever else they want that day. Humans have no rights unless they’re owned by a “supe.” And then they don’t really have any rights, but they’re protected like my car or your inflatable sex doll might be. Anyone who shows free humans too much favor runs the risk of being considered a sympathizer.
And this is very, very bad. Sympathizers run the risk of being deemed “legally human.” If that happens, they’re enslaved or executed. There’s no mercy, and it’s extremely brutal. Ten years after the Takeover, no one really speaks out against it any longer. But that doesn’t mean they’re all okay with it. They deal with it in their own ways, and it affects them in profound ways… which is what gives me my story.
Each “story” (novelette, novella, whatever) addresses what happens when characters end up faced with the SQ. The best way I can think of to explain it is that I write how the plot defines the characters rather than how the characters define the plot 75% of the time. It sounds boring when I put it that way, but it is what it is. I’m planning to write several books, so I’m in no hurry to get through the main plotline. I have four completed so far, and they’ve more or less introduced the world and some of the characters. (And though it isn’t obvious in the books, they each take place about a week apart.)
The first “major” plot point comes in during book four. Up until that point, we’re just learning the characters and the world, which means we’re seeing snippets of their lives. Each story is a character arc, though they become increasingly tangled with one another as things begin to shift.
I’m rambling, and I still haven’t gotten to the point. My process goes like this:
I get an idea. This is a spark of a character–a line from the story, a scene I want to write, a quote, or something. I start writing. Sometimes it’s the beginning, and sometimes it isn’t. I write until I run out of steam, and then if I get another idea, I don’t worry about “finishing” a scene. I mark that it isn’t done, and I carry on.
So I pretty much end up with a beginning, a middle, and an end. From there, I have to go back and flesh it all out. It’s sort of like having a jigsaw puzzle where you put together the outside first and then go back and do the center pieces. I know where the confines of my story is. I just need to go in and actually fill out what’s within the frame. From there, I write until I feel like I’ve satisfied the plot.
When I feel like I have all the pieces in place, I go back and re-read. I try to find any contradictions or repetitions, I smooth out edges, and I add details where I feel details need to be. I turn it over to my beta readers and let them rip it into shreds, and then I put it back together again.
Basically, in the whole thing, length is irrelevant. I want to tell the story of two characters and how their lives interact, usually through alternating POVs though that’s changing a little the more I write. But the focus is on their story, and the plot just happens to come along for the ride.
I have no idea if I’ve managed to explain it, but let’s see:
Bought (12,600 words) is a novelette that explores what happens when a werewolf is deemed legally human and is purchased by a witch. It introduces the world, and it follows Jace from when he’s purchased by Elias until the end of their first, ah, encounter. It’s about his journey; the plot is what he and Elias are doing and why, and it’s setting up for later books.
Ravel (23,600 words) is a novella that forces two characters to see what the world is like for each other. On one hand, you have a human thief who’s struggling to survive and resents the supes who won’t speak up for them, who really wants more but knows there isn’t much of a chance for that. On the other, you have a werewolf who’s hiding away from the world and refusing to see what’s in front of him. When those two things intersect, that’s where my story comes in. It ends where there’s a pause of, well, here we are. We’ve got a good start, and now… what do we do? That’s material for later on. It has a nod towards the characters in Bought, but it’s a stand alone.
Recoil (28,300 words) is a novella that brings in a vampire who isn’t all that thrilled with the SQ and a human who’s involved with the Rebellion trying to take it down. Khaz is still annoyed that the SQ made his life more difficult, and Noah has been raised to hate supernaturals with a passion. Khaz only has a certain amount of time to break Noah so he can be sold off as a slave, so you’re automatically given boundaries in terms of timeline. It does have a nod toward the characters in Ravel, but it’s a stand alone.
Owned (37kish words, still in final edits) is a novella that starts to bring the smaller pictures together. We get characters from Bought and Recoil, and there are spoilers, but this is the first book where the overall plot actually slams into the characters. It’s still technically a standalone, and I did have someone read it who hadn’t read Bought and they were still fine with it. It benefits from having read the others.
Book 5, Go, is in progress. It’s bringing in new characters, but it’s going to draw back in Reese and Ashton from Ravel as well as other characters from the earlier works where their lives intersect.
You might ask why I don’t just put them all together in one larger work, and the simplest answer is because I don’t want to. I know, it sounds childish, but it’s true. Beyond that, though, it’s about organization and style. I like that each story is the focus of a week, even if it isn’t really clear unless you know that outside of the story; I can fade in and out and tell the interesting bits without having to focus on the parts I don’t want to write–and I think that might be where some of the extra words come in. We feel the need to tell things all at once, and I don’t really like doing that.
I’ve had some criticism because I very, very slowly dangle pieces of information in front of people like fresh lettuce in front of a leaping duck (seriously, you’ll lose fingers that way). I’ve had beta readers who want me to explain things right at the beginning, but I leave things for later.
All in all, I have no idea if I’ve answered any questions. *sheepish*
I write a frame to contain myself within and fill in the frame.
I have a larger world, and I let that world define the characters most of the time.
I let things happen really slowly, because I like writing about the people.
I’m not plot-centric, and I don’t want things to happen too swiftly.
I only write what I want to. >.>
I’m not sure how I’d bring in the first four sets of stories. They are actually stand alone works, and I want the plot to develop around them rather than limiting myself. (i.e., if I write all of Jace and Elias’s story, then I have less wiggle room with how they might interact with other characters)
It’s basically a contained way of switching POVs, because the whole time, we’re getting the world from these characters’ eyes. Who’s to say that’s really how it is?
Okay, I’ve rambled enough. 🙁