Friday, February 11, 2011

When Paranormals Attack...

Posted by: Dee Tenorio
Seriously, it happens. It's called "getting an idea". But when you get a paranormal idea, it's somehow far more...aggressive. Paranormal ideas tend to come with an entire world attached. Not to mention, claws, teeth, poison or serious steam burns. And yet, they're sooooo compelling.

But no matter how many books or stories you've written, sometimes you're going to get a book that is literally like brushing an alligator's teeth to get out. You're scared, you're pretty sure those teeth are going to sink into you and you're not at all sure you're getting out of that book alive.

So is there a solution for how to survive writing an Alligator book?

Well, all I can give is my own 5 Tip Advice, some tongue in cheek, some very real.

1) Don't Stop Writing: Overwhelming books and stories are usually like that because they are a challenge and you're likely upping your skills—which a painful process that makes you want to bang your head on the wall. When you stop writing, especially for days at a time, you lose momentum and those needed daily word counts can really add up once you get behind.

2) Don't Let Yourself Worry If It's Good: Truth is, rough drafts suck. Especially on Alligator books. Write what you need to, get it down and get going on the next scene. Editing is where you'll save the wheat from the chaff.

3) Don't Get Attached: Sure, follow the sparks of inspiration when they hit. Never be afraid of that, but keep in mind, some ideas just won't work, no matter how tempting. If they lead to dead ends, you don't have a story to work with any more. Weigh the amount of time you have against the amount of work you'll have to do to keep your little darling. And if it can't be done, slice that darling off like a bad haircut. (But DO save them in a file of cut scenes, because you might be able to use parts of it in later scenes or during editing!)

4) Gird Yourself With Snacks: My mother always said never to read (or write) with food because it will become a habit, and while she's right, sometimes a gal needs to do what a gal needs to do. Comfort yourself with something healthy but tasty. For the hard scenes, break out the chips and donuts.

5) Keep Your World Building In Mind: Nothing is more frustrating to a reader than having the author change the rules of the world because it would make this particular book easier to write. And trust me, they'll be able to tell. Especially if you get in the habit of doing it in a series of books. Now matter how good you think you write, readers do stop forgiving writers who screw with their favorite worlds. Respect your world.

And when you're done with your rough draft, take a few days—if possible, some deadlines won't have room for much—before coming in to edit. This is when you truly become the alligator tamer. Be ruthless. Keep the plot foremost in your mind and be sure that your leads maintain characterization all the way through—starting on page one.

Alligator books—even paranormal ones—don't have to mean you can't write. They usually mean you're learning something. Like how to write with the big girls.

Best of luck, Gang,


  1. I have an alligator book on the backburner as I finish a novella -- and alligator is a great description, Dee. Though, being Aussie, I might up it to saltwater croc -- and I have been known to say the only good saltwater croc is a suitcase (ie dead). Yeah, not politically correct, but they're so scary. Point is, you're right to remind us not to give into the fear and kill our alligator books. They're often the ones with the most potential. Stare them in the eye and keep on typing! cos I really like the idea that I'm learning to "write with the big girls"!

  2. Those kinds of books really are scary and maybe even frustrating to write, but we can be proud and satisfied with the result of all that hard work.

  3. Great post, Dee! I find I'm always the most satisfied with the book that has been the hardest to write, whether that's because of the intense world-building or intense emotional depth. Either way, those alligator books are worth it!

  4. Too true, and in the end, it's worth it. But man, when you're in the midst it's...awful, lol. Like you feel so incompetent and it can be so difficult to get confidence back. I think I have to do #2 more (tee hee, I'm so immature but i cracked up writing that) but seriously, because I am a compulsive editor in that every time I open a WIP I read it from the top and edit. It's grueling and life sucking and creativity busting, but my OCD willna sit back and just leave the f&%* be. Anyway, that's my new goal. Just WRITE. Great post, chica.

  5. I have permission to eat chips and donuts while I'm writing? Or is that just gator food? I used to have a problem starting crazy books like that and then losing the feel for them when I had to step away for a day or two. Once I started writing through regardless of problem areas in the story and real life to-do lists, it made a huge difference. #3 is HARD.

  6. My thing to have close by while writing is coffee. Sitting for hours while writing, I can't afford to take in the extra calories. I don't burn them like I used to! Is any book easy to write? I also write contemporary women's fiction, and they can go reptile on you real fast as well. :0) Nice post, Dee.

  7. Had my RWA chapter meeting yesterday, and oddly enough, we were talking about our writing "process."
    I've never done a rough draft novel. I, like Eleri, am slightly OCD. The chapter I'm working on has to be as polished and perfect as I can get it before I can move on to the next. A lot of writers power through, keep writing until the ms is done, then they go back and edit, layer, etc. I've tried to do that, and I just can't.


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