Creative Stretching

on October 25, 2012

Five days until STALKED is finally out! It should be available wherever books are sold. I’m excited because every book feels like a gift. Like kids. Hard work, painful at times, but hugely rewarding.

I’m currently writing a Lucy Kincaid novella, “Reckless,” which will be out in March. And I’m waiting for my editorial notes for the revisions of STOLEN, my 20th book. It’s also the first book that is mostly in the hero’s head. It’s Sean Rogan’s story, where his past affects his present and he has to make some very difficult choices. For me, writing the hero’s POV doesn’t come as easily as my heroines. Sean has been an exception because as soon as he came on stage in Lucy’s first book LOVE ME TO DEATH, I knew him. He’d been a minor character in two previous books, but once I got into his head, I understood his motivations. Writing what is essentially his book, while Lucy is stuck at Quantico, wasn’t easy — I wanted to fall back on my tried and true POVs. Lucy, for example.

But stretching myself creatively keeps me sharp, and reminds me never to become complacent in my writing. I still take writing classes when I have time because inevitably, I learn something. Just because I love Margie Lawson and think she’s an amazing teacher doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a box of multi-colored highlighters and start marking up my manuscripts. That would drive me insane. Just because I like to learn about story structure doesn’t mean I’m going to start plotting using the hero’s journey or the three act structure or any other formula. I understand structure without having to hang a book on it.

I love writing villains. I’ve been told I write very good villains, and I love getting into their heads. It was book #16, KISS ME, KILL ME, where, for the very first time, I didn’t include the villain’s POV. I excluded it for story reasons as well as the fact that there was no compelling reason to include it.

In LOVE ME TO DEATH, I wrote my first ever first-person POV villain. In STALKED I did another first: I wrote several chapters from the past in a major secondary character’s POV. So while the story moves forward linearly, about every 5 chapters, I included a chapter from fifteen years ago, then ten years ago, then five years, etc. Those chapters are in first person as well. Taken together, they’re probably my favorite thread in the entire book.

One reason I love writing short stories and novellas is that I can experiment more and the stakes aren’t quite as high (if it’s a total flop, you usually don’t ruin your career over a short story.) So I wrote my first first-person short story for a Horror Writer’s Association anthology and liked it so much, I wrote another first POV for the GUNS & ROSES anthology. “Love is Murder”, the Lucy Kincaid novella “prequel” is written entirely in Lucy’s POV, no secondary characters or villains. Again, a first.

I’ve already started writing the first book in my new Maxine Revere series. I have fifty pages done and I’m doing something different here, too. I’m writing it in deep third POV so that, hopefully, the reader will be so immersed in Max’s character and voice that they’ll think they’re reading first person, even though it’s in third. I’m not 100% positive I’ll keep the entire book in her POV, but that is my goal.

Creative stretching is important for everyone, not just new writers. I never want to get complacent in my books. I never want to feel entitled or keep writing the same thing over and over. If I’m bored, my readers will be bored.

I have a copy of STALKED to give away! Just tell me about the last book you read that you liked that was different from what you usually enjoy. And enjoy this fantastic book trailer my publisher made: