Monday, August 8, 2011

My two daughters ...

Guess who's two tomorrow! Can't believe what a person she is becoming.

The best best best. Mwah mwah mwah.

* * *

Meanwhile, my other daughter ... the teenager with blue hair ...

art by Jim Di Bartolo * see end of post

... is giving me some trouble.

(Isn't it funny I was writing a book called "Daughter" the year my actual daughter was born? 
Though it didn't get that title until she was almost one.)

So, okay, it's not really Karou giving me trouble. For the most part she's been a pretty exemplary daughter character. Yes, there have been moments where she let me know that she was not who I thought she was, or even who I, at that moment, wanted her to be ... but she was always right, and the book became richer for her exerting her independence. I [heart] Karou. 

It's just been a trying couple of writing days. My process is not the most efficient, guys. I do things like spend a whole day on a scene with fun dialogue and character development of secondary characters, get to love it so much I want to cradle it and coo to it, and then ... realize I can't use it. That it drags the book's momentum down. And then I spend another day agonizing over it, trying to salvage this or that passage, deciding to use it after all, resinstalling it in the document, and then taking it out again. Trying to compromise. Using part of it. Taking that out. 


But I am moving on. Telling myself this chapter can always be an outtake on my website, so that other people who love these particular characters can enjoy it too. It pains me to cut the line, "I can handle boy nipples," sooo much. And the affronted response, "Man nipples. Proud man nipples." But alas. It's easy to get caught up in these little things, but it's the story that's king. 

Ah, dialogue. Oh how I love writing dialogue, and I used to hate and fear it, in the very early days of trying to write. What changed? I think the trick to enjoying dialogue (which I think is the lifeblood of a book) is: to have characters who want things and are doing things. Then there's plenty to talk about, and their unique identities emerge more (for me) in the writing of dialogue than anywhere else. Voice. Since I write third person, this is where I get to play with voice.

Also, about dialogue: it helps me to write it in the spirit of "maybe it'll make it in the book, maybe it won't." Like a documentary filmmaker filming a ton and then only using the stuff that really sculpts their story? It's in this spirit of gathering material that often my best dialogue comes out, full of revelations both large and small that become integral parts of the story. Like: "inessential penises." This was from the very first freewrite I ever did on what would become this book. I had no goal but to have a fun writing day, I didn't start with characters even, and then Brimstone and Karou leapt out of nowhere and started talking. That had never happened to me in quite that way before, and it was so awesome. I swear my brain felt on fire, and I think I smiled all day. And so far "inessential penises" is the thing I see quoted most often in reviews! (It's pretty good parental advice, I think!)

So anyway, I try not to be too precious, but it's an uphill battle always because it's my natural state. My brain's screen saver probably says PRECIOUS. Like Gollum. Or maybe it says PERSNICKETY. And I get so caught up in the scene sometimes that I'm not even realizing it's the wrong scene at the wrong time. And then I'll have wasted all that time.

But. I don't really think it is a waste. Because often I find a place to use snippets of it later on, and it's great having it, I feel like I'm pilfering it, only it's from myself (the battlefield chapter in Daughter was one such). And then, even if I don't use it, it will have made the characters more real in my mind moving forward. 

[Wonderful serendipity! Writing the above, just this instant, I was inspired to look at this link Jim had sent me to Joe Hill writing about his own process, because he said it was a lot like mine--that is always so weirdly validating--and I found this: 

The current novel is, in part, about Charles Talent Manx, someone who is both more and less than a man: a fussy dimwit who has lived over a hundred years as a kind of road vampire (although he doesn’t suck blood… forget all that, kids). Part II of the book was an enclosed 120-page novella about Manx’s ramblings. I worked at it for two months; there were quite a few setbacks, but eventually I was able to get Manx’s voice right and tell some interesting things about his life.
And then in the third draft, I cut the whole thing. And before you ask, no, I have no plans to ever see it published. I had to write that part to figure out who Manx was. But in the end, it wasn’t dynamic enough to make the cut. So it had to go.

Joe Hill, kindred spirit. The rest of his piece is HERE, and if you haven't read his books, oh me oh my. Heart-Shaped Box is a really freaking scary ghost story, and Horns is hard to describe ... and very very wonderful. Says Amazon:

a dark, funny exploration of love, grief, and the nature of good and evil. Ignatius William Perrish wakes up bleary and confused after a night of drinking and "doing terrible things" to find he has grown horns. In addition to being horribly unsightly, these inflamed protuberances give Ig an equally ugly power--if he thinks hard enough, he can make people admit things (intimate, embarrassing, I-can't-believe-you-just-said-that details). This bizarre affliction is of particular use to Ig, who is still grieving over the murder of his childhood sweetheart (a grisly act the entire town, including his family, believes he committed).

So good!

So, okay. My process isn't always the most efficient, and sometimes it gets to a point where I want to knock my head against things (walls, pizzas, mailmen) but the only way through is through. So, I am getting back in there, folks. I will see YOU later :-)

*Karou portrait, above. Isn't she gorgeous??? Jim did it for me. I'm going to blow it up big and mount it on canvas, I think. Love love!


Unknown said...

I have to say I completely agree with you on dialogue that it is incredibly fun to write (most of the time) and, though a lot of it doesn't stay, it's all important. I actually didn't find my love of dialogue until I wrote a play but I love tags in fiction that tell you what is happening, it's what brings it alive for me, as there aren't any actors to do it for you.

Connie Onnie said...

I want Clementine's hat Karou's blue hair.

Emy Shin said...

Oh, I absolutely adore the Karou portrait. It's so very close to how I imagined her while reading.

And I think the dialogues is one of my favorite things about DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE, and it's wonderful that you love writing them. I have the hardest time with dialogues, but I'm still learning, and this post is such a great one to read!

Rhiannon said...

Gorgeous, it's a shame it's not the cover!
But I agree your dialogue is stunning, soo worth banging your head against pizza for, though i imagine the pizza sauce looks bad against your lovely pink hair.

Laini Taylor said...

Tamara, for me it was writing a graphic novel script that won me over to dialogue. A good exercise for writers: try writing a play or script.

Connie, that's her birthday hat :-) More to come!

Emily, thank you!

Rhiannon, ha ha, yes, pizza is not my color :-)

Mari - Escape In A Book said...

Greetings from Norway :)

What a cute daughter you have! I hope she'll have an excellent birthday tomorrow.

The portrait of Karou was wonderful; I agree that it should have been on the cover :) You and your husband are both very talented.

I just finished a early copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone this evening and I have to tell you that I LOVED it. So full of surprises and so rich a story. I think it is safe to say that DOSAB will be on my top 10 list by the end of this year.

Aleeza said...


Anyway, about the writing process thing: Mine's is quite similar! I often spend so much time on scenes that I absolutely love but have to cut eventually because they're slogging the pace/are too indulgent, etc. But yeah, it's not wasted time. It helps me move the story forward in a way, so it's totally worth it. And dialogue is one of my favorite parts too! I guess I just like making my characters say witty stuff, ha!

Great post, Laini! Also, your daughter? So. Freaking. Gorgeous<3

Diana Peterfreund said...

That is a fantastic painting -- the necklace is so much like I pictured.

I feel your pain. I cut two chapters today. They just weren't right.

June G said...

I think I tend to be too dialogue heavy in my writing, but it seems to capture so much of the flavor of what I want the story to say. I write in first person, but I've been considering third; striving to achieve that perfect balance. I love the sensibility of your writing and plan to get all your old books!

Your daughter (the little one!) is adorable, by the way. The painting is not bad either!

Unknown said...

Dialogue scenes are - by far - what keeps me reading a book. Good dialogue = brilliant novel. So, I'm looking forward to the extras you'll post once the novel is out!

Also, the art is absolutely stunning!

--jenna said...

As always, thanks for putting the painful parts of writing on display to hearten those of us who are sure we're the only ones whose writing is stagnating, agonizing, etc...

I am not sure I want to know an efficient writer. I might hate them. :)

Happy birthday to Clementine!

--jenna said...

p.s. I had a dream last night that you sent me an ARC of Daughter because you just KNEW how long it would take Amazon to deliver to Brazil. I woke very, very disappointed!

Mary said...

I really enjoyed your husband's contributions to your other books and this painting is simply stunning. Wish it was the cover.

Evie said...

Jim's portrait of Karou is brilliant! Would he be interested in putting it on canvas and selling it? It'll go perfectly with my picture of the alternate cover for Lips Touch 3X. And groupings need to be in at least threes, so I wonder what will he create next?

Can't wait for the sequel to Daughter. I'm very curious if you'll write a novel on the druj. I would love to see Hatchling, the movie.

Jenn said...

A) Yes! Karou portrait is amazing and Jim's talent is immense! Love it as much as I loved his illustrations for "Lips Touch."
B) Totally commisserate with your process and love for writing dialogue. I always keep portions even though I know I may (and often do) have to cut what I love.
C) Just finished ARC for "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" and love it so much! "Inessential penises" "Weasels" and "No, we're ON the cathedral" lines and everything else! Particularly the end with Madrigal and Akiva. Love, love! Have fun on the rest of the tour and so glad LB is putting so much love into your new series!

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