Special Agent Matthew Roarke has abandoned his rogue search for serial killer Cara Lindstrom. He’s returned to the FBI to head a task force with one mission: to rid society of its worst predators. But as the skeletal symbols of Santa Muerte, “Lady Death,” mysteriously appear at universities nationwide, threatening death to rapists, Roarke’s team is pressured to investigate. When a frat boy goes missing in Santa Barbara, Roarke realizes a bloodbath is coming—desperate teenagers are about to mete out personal, cold-blooded justice.
Hiding from the law, avenging angel Cara Lindstrom is on her own ruthless quest. She plans to stay as far away from Roarke as possible—until an old enemy comes after both her and the FBI, forcing her back into Roarke’s orbit. This time, the huntress has become the hunted…
~ Xpresso BT
Guest Post: How do we choose what we write?
By Alexandra Sokoloff
Hello Butterflies! As we’re smack in the middle of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, I thought I’d guest blog about an aspect of writing I particularly love:
“How do we choose what we write next?”
When on panels or at events I have been asked that question, I have not so facetiously answered: “I write the book that someone writes me a check for.”
That’s maybe a screenwriter thing to say, and I don’t mean that in a good way, but it’s true, isn’t it?
Anything that you aren’t getting a check for you’re going to have to scramble to write, steal time for – it’s just harder. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, or that it doesn’t produce great work, but it’s harder.
As a professional writer, you’re also constricted to a certain degree by your genre, and even more so by your brand. Thomas & Mercer isn’t going to pay me for my next book if I turn in a chick lit story, or a flat-out gruesome horrorfest, or probably a spy story, either. My agent wouldn’t be too thrilled about it, either. Once you’ve published you are a certain commodity.
You’re even more restricted if you are writing a series. You have a certain amount of freedom about your situation and plot but – you’re going to have to write the same characters, and if your characters live in a certain place, you’re also constricted by place and the rules of your series world. It makes every decision easier in a way, because so many elements are already defined, but it also can feel limiting.
It’s a huge commitment, to decide on a book to write. That’s a minimum of six months of your life just getting it written, not even factoring in revisions and promotion. You live in that world for a long, long time. Not only that, but if you’re a professional writer, you’re pretty much always going to be having to work on more than one book at a time. You’re writing a minimum of one book while you’re editing another and always doing promotion for a third.
So the book you choose to write is not just going to have to hold your attention for six to twelve months with its world and characters, but it’s going to have to hold your attention while you’re working just as hard on another or two or three other completely different projects at the same time. You’re going to have to want to come back to that book after being on the road touring a completely different book and doing something that is both exhausting and almost antithetical to writing (promotion).
That’s a lot to ask of a story.
So how does that decision process happen?
If you’ve been working at writing for a while you have a lot of stories swirling around in your head at any given moment, and even more in that story warehouse in the back of your mind – some much more baked than others. But I find it’s not necessarily the most complete idea that draws you.
The way I really know what to write is when the entire world around me is giving me clues. Like when I keep getting into random conversations with strangers that turn out to be exactly what my book is about. Like when I am having no luck Googling the specific information I need on rumrunning during Prohibition and that night the History Channel has an hour special on rumrunning during Prohibition. Like when I am on a plane writing a scene about rumrunning, and I walk off the plane and the first thing I see on the causeway is a rum bar (I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a rum bar). Like I decide to set a story in the Bahamas and suddenly get two offers of pretty much free trips to the Bahamas. (Yes, that did happen, and yes, you better believe I went!)
A stranger really will walk up to you and you’re hit with some cosmic thunderbolt, because they are the living image of a character you’re trying to define, and suddenly you understand so much more about your story than you ever realized you were writing. You will find yourself in the exact situation that your main character is struggling with. You will walk around a corner and come face to face with the precise house your villain lives in.
It’s scary and mindblowing and ecstatically wonderful… and very, very disorienting. Reality starts seeming not so real.
In other words, it doesn’t feel like working – I’m in the flow. When you’re in the flow, your book comes alive around you and all you have to do is write it down. It’s being in love – an altered state in which everything feels ecstatic and RIGHT.
And you can feel the whole shape of the book in your head – it’s almost like being able to pick the story up in your hands and heft it and say – “Yeah, everything’s there. I can do this one.”
It’s a really palpable feeling for me, physical, visceral. And such a relief to finally get there, I can’t even tell you.
I don’t know how I’d write without it.
About the Author & Links:
“Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre.” – The New York Times
ALEXANDRA SOKOLOFF is the Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker, Anthony, and Black Quill Award-nominated author of the Amazon bestselling Huntress/FBI series (HUNTRESS MOON, BLOOD MOON, COLD MOON, BITTER MOON, HUNGER MOON – now in active development as a TV series), and the supernatural HAUNTED thrillers (THE HARROWING, THE PRICE, THE UNSEEN, BOOK OF SHADOWS, THE SHIFTERS, THE SPACE BETWEEN). The New York Times Book Review called her a “daughter of Mary Shelley,” and her books “Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre.”
As a screenwriter she has sold original horror and thriller scripts and adapted novels for numerous Hollywood studios. She has also written three non-fiction workbooks: SCREENWRITING TRICKS FOR AUTHORS, STEALING HOLLYWOOD, and WRITING LOVE, based on her internationally acclaimed workshops and blog (www.ScreenwritingTricks.com), and has served on the Board of Directors of the WGA West and the Board of the Mystery Writers of America.
Alex is a California native and a graduate of U.C. Berkeley, where she majored in theater and minored in everything Berkeley has a reputation for. In her spare time (!) she performs with The Slice Girls and Heather Graham’s all-author Slush Pile Players, and dances like a fiend. She is also very active on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. But not an addict. Seriously, it’s under control.
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