9 Things I Learned Writing CHEST OF BONE

 Photo: The Eye by Erik Lewandowski

Photo: The Eye by Erik Lewandowski

I learned a lot about my craft and about myself writing Chest of Bone.

1.    I love mystery. Writing an urban fantasy romance isn’t all that much different from writing a mystery novel, at least not plot-wise.
2.    I find stale bread (aka story cliches) tasteless. Writing must feel fresh to the reader. That’s not to say fiction can't contain tropes. Always seek out the twist, the unexpected, to look at a cliched situation in a different way.
3.    I find freshness always comes with a price. Have you ever picked up that “fresh” novel that turned wacky? Or a book bubbling with “precious?” Or a twist done simply for effect? Yeah, avoid that at all costs or your reader will put it down. Grow freshness organically, from plot and from character. Utterly satisfying.

 Clea's journey makes her feel pretty much like this.    Photo: Thinkstock

Clea's journey makes her feel pretty much like this.    Photo: Thinkstock

4.    I’ll twist myself into a pretzel to make my characters feel real. As if I could meet them on the street. Whether they have wings, can fly to otherdimensions, or work as accountants, each must express a visceral three-dimensionality. If I met Ildiko and Brishen (he of the sharp teeth and gray skin), from Grace Draven’s Radiance and Eidolon, on the street, I’d say “Hi!” Because I know them. I love them. For a writer to pull that off is hard. A lot has to do with the little stuff that can turn a character from cardboard to flesh. Brushing his teeth, folding her laundry, stopping for gas. Mundane tasks help make characters feel real. Think Anne Bishop and her “Others” series.
5.    I hate changing a character’s name once I’ve begun writing, but if the name no longer fits after thousands of words, I will do the deed. Clea’s original name emerged simultaneously with the embryonic idea that became Chest of Bone. Oh, her name wasn’t Clea. I’m not going to tell you what it was, as I don’t want to earworm you. Very late in the game and with much frustration, it dawned on me that her original name no longer worked. The name was too rigid. Too harsh. Too jagged. While she’s not a smoosh, she has softness within her. She cares. She’s an empath. She sometimes leads with her heart. Thus her original name no longer worked. And it took weeks—and many zigs and zags—for me to find “Clea,” which fit like a nitrile glove.

 Bernadette carries a derringer. Always.

Bernadette carries a derringer. Always.

6.    I can’t write characters who fall instantly in love. Some authors can, and they do it well. It’s not in my skill set. I need a relationship to evolve over pages. I need understanding to deepen between characters. I need that tension—like when you first meet someone and you find them appealing, but, whoa. I need evolutionary relationships, and not just in the romantic sense.
7.    I love denouements. After the climax, when the dust begins to settle, interesting stuff can happen. Compelling stuff. Meaningful stuff. I love to read ‘em, and I love to write ‘em.

 The Orobus, one of the symbols on the Chest of Bone.

The Orobus, one of the symbols on the Chest of Bone.

8.    I need closure. Sure, Chest of Bone leads into Chest of Stone. But each novel I write must have a high level of closure. I don’t want to dangle, with my protagonist teetering over the proverbial cliff. Rather, I want to draw my readers into the next novel with a compelling lure and a delicious promise.
9.    I always end up writing about murder. Because the “why” of homicide endlessly fascinates me. One caveat—as I write this, I’m a quarter of the way into Chest of Air, the 3rd in the series. No murder. Yet. But bad stuff happens to propel the book, so fret not.

How about you? I'm interested—have you learned stuff as you progressed on a book? A project? A craft?