Time to share the transcript (even if not exactly word-for-word, I do improvise somewhat!) from my Rambling Prose YouTube Channel, Episode 2: Starting a New Book.
Hi, and welcome back to another episode of Rambling Prose. I’m Kasey Mackenzie, author of the Shades of Fury series for Penguin Random House under their Ace imprint and represented by Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown. I write mostly urban fantasy and paranormal romance, but I do also write fantasy, science fiction, and romance. I’m currently working on revitalizing my indie publishing career with my Untamed Elements series. You can pick up Book 1, Reborn in Fire, from Amazon now; and Book 2, Forged from Flame, is available for pre-order. That book’s official launch date is May 1st. I’m hard at work on Books 3 and 4 of this first Quartet, Phoenix on the Rise, with the plan to launch those in the months after Forged from Flame so readers won’t have long to wait.
Since I just started Book 3, Embraced by Embers, this week, I thought it would be a great chance to talk a little about my own process at the start of a book. I’m what many in the writing community call a “pantser,” meaning I write “by the seat of my pants.” Other writers are what you would call “plotters.” Logically enough, that means they plot ahead of time. Pure plotters outline most (if not all) of the main details of their books before they ever set pen to paper, finger to keyboard, or voice to recognition software.
Now, as with most things in life, there are many people who fall somewhere in between those two extremes. I don’t even consider myself a 100% pure pantser. I do perform a little pre-planning as far as getting a vague idea of the main storyline, the major characters, and since I write mostly fantasy and science fiction, the most important elements of world-building like magic or government systems. Beyond that? I pretty much fly into the great wide open (as the late, great Tom Petty sang), making up crap as I go and hoping it all comes together in the end. Okay, kidding just a little bit. I mean, I DO totally make up crap as I go, but the beauty is that my subconscious is putting all the pieces together into a neat little package that my conscious mind just has to go back and polish to a prettier shine once the first draft is complete.
A few things make this process work well for me. First is that I write extremely clean first drafts. Second is that I genuinely love the revision process. When I first got serious about writing, that would have been the last thing I ever expected to say. The perfectionist deep inside that comes courtesy of my wonderful little anxiety brain had that infamous “golden word syndrome” where she thought everything she wrote was great the way it was and WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU THINK I NEED TO RE-WRITE A THIRD OF MY BOOK? HOW DARE YOU?!? Good day, sir. I said good day!
I’m exaggerating for comedic effect, of course. I only thought those things; never said them out loud. That’s a great survival skill for professional writers to cultivate, by the way. Just because you think a thing doesn’t mean you need to say the thing. But that’s a video for another day. The truth is that writing and revising are skills just like any other. The more you do them, the less intimidating they become. It didn’t take me too long to see the light with revising. Wait, I can just write out the words as fast as they occur to me without agonizing over them having to be perfect? I can smooth over the rough spots, tie together the plot threads, eliminate unnecessary characters and subplots, introduce red herrings when relevant, and just make things that much more badass in later drafts? SIGN ME UP!
So back to starting Embraced by Embers yesterday. Since this is book three in the series, I do have the existing framework of the first two books to build upon, which is awesome. I already have the world-building documents from those first books that include the cast of characters, plot notes from those books, how magic works in this world, and dangling plot threads that need to carry over into this book and even into the fourth. I decided to structure the overarching Untamed Elements series into interrelated quartets featuring various POV characters that we meet in the first quartet, Phoenix on the Rise. There will also be at least one more quartet featuring the POV character from this first series. This gives me the opportunity to explore other viewpoints and stories in this world while developing a dedicated readership who really connect with this series and its world-building.
My personal process requires me to find a really awesome opening line before I can write any actual words. Now, that really awesome opening line may or may not be cut during later writing stages (since I was fortunately cured of that deadly Golden Word Syndrome), but my writing muse has decreed that Thou Shalt Have the Right Opening Line or Thou Shalt Not Pass! Meaning I will have the displeasure of staring at a blank screen or page for hours cursing up a blue streak. Once I find that just-right opening line, however, I usually get into a really good flow and it’s “Away we go!”
Until the dreaded neverending story that can be the middle of a book. But that’s a topic for another day.
Hope you found hearing about part of my process helpful. Please click that subscribe button so you know when another video goes up, and thanks for watching! Keep on rambling with your own prose!