I’ve been trying to put together a series of writing-craft articles and I finally threw up my hands and gave up.
Because after picking apart my process, trying to write down starting points, plotting tips, character how-to’s, etc., I came to a realization. (Actually, my friend supplied one for me.)
I write like a sloppy 16th-century executioner. If a book were a body, I’d just start hacking.
1) Characters: Naturally Born or Completely Lifeless
Do I write character charts? Bios? Histories? Traits? Birthdays? Zodiacs?
No, not really. Well, never. At most, I’ll write down possible names for a certain character, trying to figure out what “fits.”
But honestly, I don’t know who a character is until he shows up on the page and starts talking. And then he just sort of…becomes. Yes, there are important things like habits, phrases, manners of dress, emotions, back-stories, etc. But I don’t make big charts about these things. I let them bloom gradually as the story progresses. I discover my characters as the reader discovers them. The process is highly intuitive, and completely authentic.
2) Research Everything, Always
Of course, I spend a substantial time researching my stories. Do I research before I start the book? During? After? Yes, actually–all three. I research when I need to. I research to overcome writer’s block, to solidify the plot (oh yes, I have one somewhere in that brain), to flesh out the world, to add detail. I’ll research anything from the history of feudal China to the exact methods of 17th century shoe-making if it makes the story stronger. I love researching. 4 years in an English program broke my mind and imbued me with a love of knowledge. So when I feel the itch to add more details…I google the subject and I add them.
But surely only while editing, right?
Oh no, not really. First draft, second draft, third draft–if it feels right, I do it.
3) Edit, like, Whenever
And there’s another thing–editing. I don’t write one draft and then edit in a linear way. I go about six chapters, then change something in the first chapter, then write through chapter 10, then go back and change or add something else. My whole process is like a bowl of spaghetti noodles (or a pile of intestines on the floor, if we want to keep with the sloppy 16th executioner theme.) I suppose it’s hard for me to describe my writing method because literally, I have none. I do what feels right in the moment.
Once that sloppy first draft is finished, I go back and streamline the story. I add in scenes, at times entire chapters, to flesh out the storyline. Sometimes I’ll delete dozens of pages. I input feedback from my trusty beta-reader, polish up the manuscript and send it to the copyeditors.
I love editing and I don’t mind spending hours making a single chapter perfect. Despite the chaotic gory mess of my writing process, I find the editing process pretty quick and smooth.
4) Plot, But Don’t PlotI have to beg the question–how can you possibly plot a book if you haven’t written it yet?
That’s right. How can you?
I can already imagine a lot of people rebuking this idea. Most writing gurus insist on plotting everything out before you start, and doing so in a linear fashion. But personally, I’d rather tell a story, and a story is a “gut thing.” A story is fluid–it changes as you go. Challenges arise that you didn’t think about when you drew out your plot. Or you gradually find yourself not liking the direction of your own story–something feels “flat” or “predictable” or “untrue” (stories, at all times, must feel “true” to the writer.) You won’t know the nature of the beast until you’re working through your manuscript scene by scene, word by word. Good writing happens spontaneously. Plots are a nice safety blanket but I tend to change them 100x before finishing a first draft. I hardly ever use the ideas I wrote down originally. I find the best ideas seem to spontaneously combust in the moment.
People ask me if this takes a long time, and I say–no, not really. And yes, it does. Procrastination takes a long time. Writing? I actually write faster when I don’t know exactly where I’m going, because I’m “chasing down” the story. I want to know what happens next! Take that curiosity away from me, and the story dies. The magic disappears. I feel…bored. And nothing will make you write slower than boredom!
I’ve been doing this writing thing for 14 years and let me tell you, there’s no “one way” to write a book. Use what works for you. If you’re just starting out on your writing journey, you might feel very comfortable using rigid plot-lines and sticking to them. They’re also very useful if you have strict deadlines with a publishing company. However, I’m a bit more touchy-feely. When I write, the story has to feel authentic, even if I’m forcing myself to finish a chapter. It has to feel true and right and good. For whatever reason, planning out a lot of charts and notes makes me feel bogged down by limitations and boundaries, rather than creative freedom. I love feeling free and limitless. I love not knowing what will happen next. I love discovering something new and unforeseen about my characters, my story, or the world I travel through. My writing process is the most non-linear process you can imagine, but I’ve tried different methods and this works best for me. The mystery of what’s going to happen next keeps me racing forward, breathless in anticipation, excited to reach the end. That’s when I fall in love with a story. That’s when it feels right.
Got a Writing Question? Feel free to ask in a comment below. I’ll do my best to answer coherently.
1) I don’t know what to say.
I see a lot of authors talking about “How to Plot Your Novel” or “Tips to Good Characterization” but honestly, whenever I try to explain my craft, it comes out a chaotic mess. Which probably means something about how I write my books, but eh, when you’re this crazy, why pick it apart? I spent 4 years in an English major and I’ve taught writing courses and tutor children so you’d think I’d have something to say on the subject. But seriously, if you want to write a book, just write it. If you’re stuck at writer’s block, just keep writing. If you lose motivation, just keep writing. And if you don’t plan to edit your novel, quit now.
2) My life is boring.
Honestly, I’m not that exciting, despite living in the middle of TV Land. Warner Bros. is a block from my house, Disney about two blocks, ABC, Nickelodeon, Lionsgate, HBO, etc. just a few blocks past that. Half my neighbors work in the studios. Me? I stay cooped up indoors all day writing. So unless I’m going to write endless blog entries about how cute my pitbull is (trust me, he’s cute), I don’t got a lot going on. Oh, we built a new fence today. Gripping!
3) I want to keep things upbeat.
I feel if I start blogging a lot, I’ll start ranting a lot. I have a lot of crankiness to offer the world. For one, I just started a new low-carb diet. Low-carb can be rearranged to spell Crab Owl. So yes, I feel like a Crab Owl, which means everything is getting on my nerves. Other authors are getting on my nerves. Amazon is bugging me. My writing is being annoying. My dog keeps barking at nothing from our front porch. There’s construction on my street every morning. My best friend hasn’t called me in a week. So yes, I am irking big time right now.
4) Sometimes, I write half a blog post, then decide it’s stupid.
I sit down filled with all this joyous enthusiasm wanting to share something mushy and meaningful about my writing. And then I get halfway through and think–who the heck wants to read this crap? You guys want my books, not my inner joy-joy monologues. And then I start craving bread and wanting to stuff a whole package of noodles down my face, so I eat snap-peas like a maniac because there’s 6g of sugar per serving. And then I leave my post in drafts because it’s all a bunch of piddly-puddly nonsense.
5) I hate following the crowd.
I’m just not a team player. The moment I see a lot of people doing something, I’m immediately repelled by the activity. This probably comes from all the deep-seated issues I had in highschool with cliques and cool kids and whatever. When I see a lot of people all jumping on the bloggety-blog bandwagon and writers trying to consolidate themselves into any sort of group, I dig in my heels. I became a writer because I didn’t want to be part of any group. It’s a solitary activity devoid of other people and I like that. I don’t have “writer” friends because I’d rather not build any sort of writing posse. (I’m a bit of a hypocrite, since I have a small online close-knit writing group called The Runaway Pen, but I picked those people because they’re awesome, humble, and they’re all really good writers, and let’s face it, self-publishing is hard to do alone.)
6) I don’t know what readers expect of me.
Honestly, my one true love in life is writing, second true love is The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, and third true love are my readers. You guys are awesome. But I have no idea what you would like to read about on this blog. More stuff about the book series? I mean, is that even interesting? Questions? Debates? Vacation updates? My favorite kind of tea? (Peach green tea.) I don’t know. You guys are wonderful but you also confuse and frighten me for various reasons. I want to entertain you, I also want to impress you, I want to revel in the series with you but I also don’t want to seem needy? I hate needy people. And I hate rejection. Please don’t reject me for struggling through carb cravings! Damn I could use a jalepeno cheese bagel right now. GODDAMMIT.
7) Surprise, it’s me, Crash!
I hate blogging. I took over the author’s computer so I could rant about how stupid blogging is, and her dumb low-carb diet, which is driving her nuts. Look at her, she’s crying in the corner right now clutching a loaf of Wonderbread. We didn’t have Wonderbread in the Hive. But right, blogging. What a waste of words. Save it for the story, will you? If you have to update, TL, then talk about me. I’m awesome. I once skinned a tiger and wore the fur for three days so I could infiltrate a Catlin colony (I made that up.) But this is blogging, so I suppose I could make anything up. If I could travel anywhere in the world, it would be India. I want to see the Bodi tree where the Buddha reached Enlightenment. And my dog of choice would be a Great Dane. Or maybe a German Shepherd, they’re pretty vicious. TL, stop eating that bred! Oh Gawd that’s disgusting. Put the loaf down! Oh no now she’s going after the sour dough….
xoxox <3<3 <3<3 Sora here! Crash leave TL alone she’s vomiting up bread in the bathroom right now. She doesn’t need your help.
(Brb Crash is trying to force TL to vomit.)
Brought to you by Becca Anne’s Book Reviews.
I was recently interviewed by Becca Anne’s Book Reviews where she asked me about my Top 10 favorite Crash/Sora moments from The Cat’s Eye Chronicles. It was such a fun list to make, I thought I’d share the article here with you guys on the blog. Enjoy!
T. L. Shreffler’s Top 10 Crash/Sora Moments from The Cat’s Eye Chronicles (in chronological order.)
Note: SPOILERS for books 1-3.
1) Sora’s Quest: When Crash saves Sora from drowning.
This early part of the story is fun because Crash and Sora are still at major odds with each other. Sora and co. escape into Fennbog Swamp with the king’s soldiers on their heels. They cross a rickety bridge over a flooded river. The bridge breaks and Sora goes under. The current is too strong to swim against, and she almost drowns until “someone” dives into the water and uses a rope to drag her back to shore.
I love the surprise Sora feels when she looks up and realizes her rescuer is Crash, the dreaded assassin. She feels disconcerted to find herself in his arms, but “too exhausted to protest.” She isn’t sure if Crash rescued her out of ruthless practicality or if he might just care about her wellbeing. To paraphrase Dorian the thief: “Careful, Crash. You almost seem concerned.”
2) Sora’s Quest: When Sora saves Crash from drowning.
An ironic role reversal! In an attempt to escape the Catlin colony, Sora and Crash take a plunge from a very high bridge into an icy lake below. Crash becomes trapped under the bridge as it sinks into the lake. Sora has to dive into the icy water and rescue the assassin. For the first time, Crash begins to see Sora as not just a burden, but someone of personal strength and courage.
The words hung between them, silent, a shade awkward. He frowned, still staring at her, as though she was not quite what he expected. He cleared his throat. “I…well, thank you.”
Sora felt speechless. Gratitude? From this assassin? Not bloody likely, she thought, and yet there it was. Loud and clear.
“Of course,” she said solemnly. Then she couldn’t help it. She cracked a smile.
To her surprise, Crash let out a quiet chuckle. He stood and gave her a hand up, helping her to her feet. He picked up her cloak and threw it around her shoulders. “Come on.”
3) Sora’s Quest: The Mud Fight.
I needed an innocent reason for Sora and Crash to grope each other (lol just kidding…well partly kidding.) We spent all of Sora’s Quest receiving dark glares from Crash, then finally at the end, we see that mask slip. Lo and behold, a heart resides beneath!
Perhaps the most touching moment is right after the mud fight when Sora returns to her cabin to open Crash’s gift. “For the first time I felt fear.”
4) Viper’s Creed: When Crash and Sora first meet again after a year apart.
At this point in the story, Sora has trained for a year with her mother and I wanted to show off her skills a bit! Mostly though, I just wanted Sora and Crash to roll around on the ground together. I thought it would be a fun way for them to reunite: an epic battle, a dynamic power struggle, and then (of course) lots of awkward staring when they finally recognize each other.
5) Viper’s Creed: “Date night” in Delbar.
We get drama, romance and dinner, just like a Saturday night date! First Crash and Sora argue outside the weapon shop, then they have a sweet bonding moment in the backstreets of Delbar. They discuss their strange friendship for the first time. And finally, they meet up with Burn and Laina at a fancy hotel for dinner.
I can imagine the city of Delbar so vividly in my mind: colorful paper lanterns strung across cobblestone streets, long alleys full of eccentric shops, and the wharf lined with massive seafaring vessels. Sounds like a place out of a dream. What I love the most about this magical night in Delbar is that, for the first time, you see Crash and Sora interact without some immediate threat nearby. We can take a breather from the journey and sit down on a bench to watch the ocean.
And of course, let’s not forget this extremely flirtatious moment from Crash at dinner (like a 10 on the “assassin” flirtation scale):
Sora looked at Crash curiously after the waitress was out of sight. They were sitting next to each other, so she leaned in close to speak. “I take it you don’t like seafood?” she asked quietly.
She leaned a little more toward him. “I said, so you don’t like fish?”
“Not especially,” he replied in an equally soft voice. Then a wicked glint lit his eyes. “Unless it has long, slimy tentacles and suckers, with tiny black eyes that have been boiled in soup….”
“Oh, hush!” Sora laughed. “Are you describing yourself? I think I’ve seen a few tentacles under that cloak….”
The assassin grimaced. “You’re very clever.”
“I learned it from you,” she grinned.
“We’ll have to put a stop to that.”
Sora’s grin widened. “You could always throw me to the sea.”
Crash laughed. “That wouldn’t work. As I recall, you’re a very good swimmer.” The compliment was unexpected. He had adopted a deep tone that Sora had never heard before. It sent shivers across her skin and she shifted in her seat, strangely excited.
“I could teach you,” she said.
“Why don’t we have our first lesson in the bath?”
Suddenly Burn cleared his throat from across the table. Crash quickly backed away from her, saying shortly, “Another time, then.”
6) Viper’s Creed: Sora cures Crash from a Kraken bite.
This was just an excuse to get Sora and Crash snuggling in the same bed. Lol! I love it when Crash takes hold of Sora’s wrist and doesn’t let her go. Almost makes me wonder if he did it on purpose…?
7) Volcrian’s Hunt: Crash and Sora reunited on the island.
There is nothing more entertaining…than when one character thinks the other is dead! I’ll confess, these were the most fun scenes to write. We get to see a great wealth of emotion from Crash, along with the resurgence of his demon. And then, finally, that climactic reunion when Crash saves Sora from being choked to death. (Wow, who writes this stuff? So pulpy!)
That all leads up to the sweetly poignant scene where Crash and Sora hold hands by the fire. As my beta-reader put it, “Aww they’re cuddling! And it happened so naturally, too!” So much can be said through a simple touch. Crash vows never to “die again.” Sora expresses her fears about the future. And finally, our budding lovebirds promise to fight side by side ‘til the very end. Aw shucks, guys! I’m getting teary!
For a moment, she saw a hollowness inside of him that was too great to bear. She looked away, unnerved. He obviously thought the worst. Expected it.
“And if I don’t survive?” she asked quietly.
His grip tightened on her hand. “Then I will go with you.”
She raised her eyes to his, looking him fully in the face, shocked. “What?”
“You won’t die alone, Sora,” he said quietly.
8) Volcrian’s Hunt: Crash and Sora in the Crystal Caves.
Finally Sora knows who Crash really is. Finally! Finally!
9) Volcrian’s Hunt: Crash and Sora in the jailhouse.
More than anything, this scene reminds us that Crash is strong. Even while being tortured and imprisoned, his control doesn’t break. Yet his vulnerability bleeds through when Sora appears. “You’re beautiful,” he says as he touches her face. And the rest of us get a little choked up.
Crash’s hand touched her face. He stroked the back of his fingers along her cheek…so incredibly gently.
She flinched in surprise and looked at him. He was staring at her, his expression hard and solemn. She knew that look: fierce and calculating, like a caged wolf. It was the face of a warrior—someone much stronger than she could ever be.
“You must convince the Harpies to set me free,” he said hoarsely. Then he lightly pressed a finger to her forehead. “Use your head,” he murmured. “You’re good at that.”
Sora felt a small smile on her lips. He ran his finger down the side of her cheek again, then pinched her chin, giving it a light squeeze. “Yes, smile,” he murmured. “You must look…like you don’t care.”
But I do care, she thought. The truth of it resonated throughout her body, her eyes widening fractionally. I care a lot.
His touch lingered on her face, a silent connection that slowly warmed her blood. She had never felt so close to anyone in her entire life. She didn’t want to leave. No, she wanted to stay in the darkness, gazing at him, listening to his ruined voice.
“What?” she asked softly, trying to understand his expression. It was fiery and soft all at once, as though she had spoken her thoughts aloud—as though he had heard every word.
“You’re beautiful, Sora,” he said.
10)Volcrian’s Hunt: Crash and Sora “kissing in a tree.”
Okay, so maybe “under a tree” is more accurate, but you get the idea. We’ve waited long enough for this moment–finally, some snogging! Not that I regret taking so long to get to this point. The fire burns slowly when you’re an innocent noblewoman paired with an extremely antisocial assassin.
I love this scene for the obvious reason: all that built up tension finally released in a single explosive, passionate kiss…or series of kisses…or several hours of kissing. As the author, I’m not sure how long it lasted, since after a while I felt the modest need to look away.
And, for less obvious reasons, I love this scene because it deepens the complexity of Sora and Crash’s relationship. Their undeniable attraction to one another is contrasted with the danger of their journey. Crash is aware of Sora’s inexperience and wants to protect her, both from their enemies and himself. He feels that he is not a good enough man to “have” her; that he would only put her in danger; that he would complicate things beyond reason. This passage best sums up that depth of feeling:
She buried her face in his shirt. He made it sound so simple, so easy. “Then take away my fear,” she said, her voice small, muffled by fabric. She didn’t want to be afraid. She had tried not to be. But when he was this close, she felt completely undone.
He reached between them, tipping her head up. For a brief moment he searched her eyes, looking for something, she didn’t know what. But he must have found it, because he set his lips against hers again, softly this time, gently. He kissed her with a sense of controlled power, as though holding back something monstrously strong. She could sense the shadows shift around them, moving on their own accord, clasping her in a dark embrace, an extension of his own body. She felt completely consumed.
He broke away again, muttering against her lips. “I will do this,” he said, “until you can’t think anymore.” He trailed his lips across her mouth, tendrils of fire slipping through her body. “Then we will go back,” he murmured, “and you will sleep.”
She began to tremble, barely able to stand. His arms clamped her to his chest, strong and secure, sliding across her back. One traveled up to her neck, cradling the back of her head, adjusting her position. He opened her mouth easily, capturing her tongue, controlling her.
After a long moment, he finished his thought. “Tomorrow we will fight, and you will be safe, and this will have never happened.”
Why? she wanted to ask. Why can’t this happen?
Because he’s an assassin, her inner voice answered through the foggy cloud of her mind.
I don’t care, she thought.
You do, the voice murmured. And he knows it.
She couldn’t argue anymore. Crash’s hand wove into her hair, and then she was truly lost.
- See more at: http://beccaannesbookreviews.blogspot.com/2014/03/caprions-wings-by-tl-shreffler-blog-tour.html#sthash.oFgZr8xq.dpuf
Thanks for reading! Now riddle me this: what was your favorite Crash/Sora moment from the series?
From Sunday, February 23rd to Tuesday, March 4th, we’ll be having the Caprion’s Wings Blog Tour!
12 amazing blogs will be posting reviews, author interviews and fun articles about this newest installment in The Cat’s Eye Chronicles. Find out the schedule below! Links will be updated as the posts become available. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest to get instant updates about the tour. I put these blog tours together purely for the readers, so I hope you enjoy!
Caprion’s Wings blog tour schedule and links:
2-23-14 | Spotlight Mimsey Style | Please Don’t Feed the Mimsey
2-24-14 | Spotlight/Excerpt | The O’Raven Chronicles
2-25-14 | REVIEW & Theme Song | Lindsay and Jane’s Views and Reviews
2-26-14 | Spotlight/Excerpt | Oh My Shelves
2-27-14 | Character 5Q Q&A Caprion | Intisar Khanani
2-28-14 | REVIEW & Would you Rather w/Caprion | TTC Books & More
3-01-14 | Spotlight/Excerpt | A World of Words
3-01-14 | REVIEW & Spotlight | Genieva’s Book Blog
3-02-14 | REVIEW & Author top 10 | Becca Anne’s Book Reviews
3-03-14 | REVIEW & This OR That with Moss | Paranormal Book Club
3-04-14 | REVIEW & Guest Post | Alina Popescu Writes
3-04-14 | REVIEW & Interview | Inkspelled Faery
Enter the Giveaway to win a FREE Ebook!
When writing The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, I find myself intrigued by the same question: what’s in a name?
Names define us. We build our identities around them. I remember being in sixth grade, starting at a new school. My family always called me Tess or Tessie because I was young, but once I hit the grand age of 11 years old, I no longer wanted to be called “Tessie.” No, I wanted to be Theresa. It was a more serious, adult-sounding name and I guess I was ready to start growing up…a bit.
It makes me wonder–if we change a name, can we change a person?
We see this sometimes in titles. When a boyfriend becomes a husband, or a girlfriend becomes a wife, or man and woman become father and mother, our roles change, our identities change, our responsibilities change. There is power in a name. Why? Because titles and names carry meanings; they define who we are, what stage of life we have entered, what our connection might be to another person.
The Sixth Race in The Cat’s Eye Chronicles has become quite an interesting study for me. By default, their race is called the Unnamed, and they are raised communally, without individual identity. And yet within the large pool of Unnamed, there is a much smaller pool of the Named, and an even smaller pool of the Grandmasters. In some cases, an assassin’s Name can change twice or three-times over the course of his or her life. Which begs the question–how much of a name can hold one’s identity? What if we were all born without names? How would that effect our sense of individuality? What would we do to have a name? How much would we covet it?
In Crash’s story, the various stages of his names run parallel to the stages of his life. In the Hive, he was simply savant, an unnamed child. Once becoming the Viper, he takes on the role of Viper, killing with deadly, ruthless efficiency. When he leaves the Hive, in many ways, he leaves behind his Name and his identity. He strips himself of everything he has ever known, so that one day, he might become something new.
When Viper is finally nicknamed Crash, he enters a new stage in his life. One of friendship and purpose. For the first time, he carries a name without prestige, without some inherent, deeper meaning. The name “Crash” is a special link he shares with Sora. She is one of the first to call him that, and the first to truly see him as a man and not just a trained killer of the Sixth Race. She may know him as Crash, but she knows nothing of the Viper, and this is where Crash becomes conflicted. He doesn’t see the person she sees. He hasn’t quite defined his new identity yet. He hasn’t come to terms with his new name.
As I write his scenes, I often wonder–who is Crash, and who is Viper? Because they are really two different people. When I choose to use the name Viper in the text, I do so with purpose. I am trying to communicate something to the reader. We are no longer contending with the Crash we know. No, we are now looking at the darkness beneath his skin. The place where he comes from. The killer, the warrior, the lethal assassin. Viper is cold and efficient. He works without emotion. He is purpose-driven, highly analytical and cut-throat. In Viper’s world, there is no sentiment, and the demon he carries inside is not his enemy–but his ally.
Crash, in comparison, is still in embryonic form. What are his values? What does he live for? How does he define the world? He doesn’t know yet. And this is where his conflict arises. He wants to be what Sora is, but she cannot be the backbone of his identity. No, he must find that for himself, and he is still searching.
In Ferran’s Map, Crash is going to come into direct contact with his past. He will face his history. As we navigate these waters, I think eventually, the Viper is going to have to die. Not a literal death. But a death of self. Crash cannot know who he is until Viper steps out of the way.
This, my friends, is going to be an interesting study indeed….
Caprion’s Wings by T. L. Shreffler
A novella of The Cat’s Eye Chronicles.
Release Date: January 31st, 2014
By the age of nineteen, all Harpies know how to fly—except Caprion. He has yet pass the test of the Singing and gain his wings. His family has disowned him in shame and people are beginning to talk. Now an evil voice haunts his dreams, taunting him, drawing out his worst fears—that he will remain wingless forever.
Caprion decides to find the root of this insidious voice, no matter what it takes. He journeys to the secret prisons of the Harpy underground, where he meets a young slave named Moss. In those sunless, decrepit cells, a forbidden friendship is formed. Can Caprion and Moss find the source of the voice? And can Caprion save Moss from a terrible fate?
Join young Caprion as he journeys down, down into the earth, finding his wings and forging a friendship that will change him forever.
*This is a novella of The Cat’s Eye Chronicles.
Enter the Giveaway!
T. L. Shreffler is giving away an early ebook copy of Caprion’s Wings and a Cat’s Eye necklace to one lucky winner! TTC Books & More will be giving away a swag pack that includes a one of a kind keychain made with tender love and care by Jess herself.