Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Latest Writing Innovation, by Caris Roane

The last three years in publishing have been like being caught in high waves and trying to get to shore without getting smashed to bits.
In 2010, I wrote the first three books of my Guardians of Ascension series and savored the process because that’s all I was doing.  I launched a Caris Roane website and thought my job was nicely done.  Oh, and a Facebook page that I pretty much ignored.  My pub house would manage all the promotion, right?
January of 2011, when the first book of my series launched, Borders closed.  Borders, it turned out, was half my order.  My long sought-after path evaporated before my eyes.
As the reality set in that change really was here in the publishing industry, panic ensued.
So, in 2011, I tackled what was for me the confusing ranks of social networking:  blogging on blogs other than my website, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, gmail comments and requests from fans, and so forth.  And I wrote 3 more novels and a novella.
By December of 2011, with only 3 books out, my pub house cancelled my series because the sales weren’t strong enough for them to risk going past book #6.  But my editor then asked for a vampire trilogy.  Apparently, pub house sales forces love to sell brand new series.  So it was good news-bad news:  series cancelled but the pub house still wanted to continue to build ‘Caris Roane’.
In some ways, I felt I’d been sent back to square one and had to start over.  This isn’t entirely true, but in some respects it is.  The digital age has changed everything. 
I had to reassess my writing and publishing goals.  Though I’d already decided to self-publish paranormal novellas with the hopes of building a stronger digital readership, which apparently in turn boosts print sales (yes, I know, go figure), I knew the game had changed yet again for me. 
2012, therefore, has become all about writing as much as I can this year, about doing blogs less and building up Facebook more (blogs are time consuming, Facebook is just plain fun), and about getting organized to sustain a much heavier writing/publishing load.
One truth I’ve learned about myself as a writer, is that I need time as in weeks to properly develop a story before I begin writing.  I’ll put a story idea through many ringers before I’m satisfied.  I use the hero’s journey, Debra Dixon’s, Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, I’ll use notes that I took on Donald Maass’s work, and I’ll often review the concepts from Story Magic as well.  I spend time with my characters, getting to know what they want, what short-term and long-term goals they have, what they fear and how they’re wounded.  All of these things work better for me if they’re explored, again, over time.
But how is that possible with a heavier writing load?  Who has that kind of time?
So, sometime in March of 2012, after I’d turned in my sixth 145,000 word manuscript to my pub house, I decided to set up a file on each project I intend to write over the next 2 years.  The vampire trilogy, for instance, that I have submitted to my pub house, has three files: three couples, three separate stories, and one strong arc.  I also created a file for my second and third self-published novellas.  And since I’m launching my Valerie King backlist and hope to write companion novellas for each book I release, I set up a file for the first original novella as well.
What do I do with the files?  This has been one of the best innovations I’ve come up with in a long time for facilitating my writing process.  I spend my first hour with these files/projects.  And what I’m finding is that my brain, my creative spirit, and possibly my soul as well, has enough capacity to move from one project to the next in a very productive manner.  What does this give me?  Time with each project, each day, and I have been amazed at how much I can move each story forward with just 5-10 minutes a day per story idea. 
The left side of the file has a graph that I use to chart the plot-progression of the story.  The right side has a bunch of lined paper that I fill up with lots of random developmental ideas about the story and characters.  But the top sheet I call:  Summary of Ideas.  That sheet gets only those concepts that have given me goose-bumps, that one signature that tells me the idea will work for the story.
I use other forms as well that get stacked beneath the plot-graph on the left, things like:  Character Star which tracks development of each character, Fatal Flaw which is a form I created that helps me work through the steps of a character’s out-of-balance survival system, and a form I call Dynamic Tension, which reviews character goals and opposition.
This may sound super ‘organized’, but it’s meant only to give some structure to what for me is a writing process that involves a constant flow of tornados through my head. 
I hope this can be of use to you.  I heartily recommend you give it a try, especially if you’re like me and you enjoy working on a great diversity of projects at once.  Having done this for 2 months now, I can report that it has been a phenomenal addition to my writing/publishing arsenal.


1 comment:

Connie Flynn said...

Wow, Caris, sorry to be so late in responding. I was really impressed by your method. I'm preparing my backlist for printing and epubbing while polishing off my current submission to agents and also pulling together a couple of finished novels for epubbing. And I'm pulling my hair out.

I understand your concept completely. Break each project down into its own little segment, then schedule time for each segment. For me, maintaining the schedule is the hard part but maybe that's my next step in my lifetime improvement project.

Good blog. Thanks for sharing your terrific process.