Thursday, July 24, 2008

mostly a pantser...

Trying to nail down the writing process for me is like trying to make goldfish march in formation. I'm really truly all over the place. It depends on so much--starting with the length of the story and whether or not it's erotic. If it's an erotic short, no, I don't outline. I just start with a premise and an ending in mind and figure out how many different positions I need to include to get from point A to point B in the proper number of words.

For a longer story, I do sort of outline. It's rough. Usually I just start writing. I get down the first chapter or three which introduces the important stuff: characters, setting, conflict. Then I decide if that's going to work, and where I'm going with it. Then I figure out the length I'm aiming for--say 70 thousand words. Then I figure out how many chapters that is. I run about 5000 words per chapter. So I've got about 14-15 chapters. I try for about 3 main scenes per chapter (though it rarely works out that way,) and sort of do bullet points. They get fleshed out as I go, and often the later chapters are blank until I figure out what needs to happen.

Here's a sample, from a work I started long ago for a publisher who no longer exists. Maybe one day I'll finish the thing...

Chapter 1:
Ø Witness drug deal, shooting, boat destroyed
Ø Jake’s transformation, sees shooting, rescues Heidi
Ø Heidi wakes up on Jake’s boat
Chapter 2
Ø Heidi’s shower, goes above, propositions Jake
Ø Love scene
Ø Jake’s regrets
Ø Coast guard-cops believe Heidi is involved in Brad’s disappearance
Ø Heidi’s apartment is ransacked. She asks Jake to help find killers

Here's a couple of snippets from that same work, tentatively titled, Fins.

Excerpt 1
Jake felt the tingles coursing through his skin, knew midnight was near. He dove, naked, off the rear deck of his boat, slicing cleanly into the calm dark waters off of Ensenada. Eyes adjusting easily to the moonlit night, he surfaced, inhaling great gulps of the warm salt air. He reveled in the feel of the gentle waves caressing his skin. They felt like—home. He dove deep and swam out toward the horizon, away from the boat and the lights of the town.

A pod of dolphins had been frolicking in this area all day, that’s why Jake had anchored so far out from shore. He’d planned to duck into town for supplies, but he hadn’t been able to resist watching the show. There was always hope—but it had been so long since he’d heard from anyone in his family. Still, the dolphins would be welcome company on his midnight swim.

He’d gone a few hundred yards when he felt the change come over him. His leg muscles stretched and morphed, feet fusing together as his spine lengthened. He drew in deep, deep breaths to fill the air sacs that now nestled below his rib cage. Then, once the transformation was complete, he allowed himself one joyful breach, leaping clear out of the water before diving below the surface and using his powerful tail to propel him through the night.

Excerpt 2
Heidi woke to darkness and pain. The last time her head had felt like this had been the morning after her one and only frat party as an undergrad. She wondered what idiotic stunt she’d pulled this time.

She reached out a hand for the bedside lamp, then whimpered in additional pain when her fingers slammed into something hard. Like a wall. The bed beneath her was hard, too. Hard and wet. Where was she, and why couldn’t she remember?

“Ssh. Relax. You’re going to be all right.” The words were gentle, the voice deep and soft and soothing. Fingers touched her brow, smoothed her hair. Heidi drifted back to sleep.

When she woke again, there was light. Sort of. She recognized the dim glow of an incandescent bulb. When her eyes cleared she could see that two lamps were on, reflecting off burnished pine paneling. Outside the small window, the sky was still dark. The bed beneath her was bigger, softer than where she’d been before. And it rocked. Ah. She was on a boat.

Boat! Heidi jerked into a sitting position as the memories cam flooding back. She remembered the plane, the cigarette boat, the drug deal. And then she remembered the shooting. She screamed, forgetting for a moment that she might be a captive of the drug-runners, that she might want to feign continued unconsciousness.

The door opened and a man stepped inside. He was tall, taller than Heidi, he had to stoop to enter. He was also one of the most gorgeous males she’d ever seen, with wavy black hair and eyes as dark as sin. There was a chipped black mug in his hand.


Oh, God, was she ever! She studied him for a moment, trying to remember if she’d seen him on the cigarette boat. She couldn’t be sure, she hadn’t seen them that clearly. She should refuse. Of course, if they’d wanted her dead, they could have just left her in the ocean. And she really, really wanted the drink. “Thanks.” Her voice was hoarse and cracked.

He walked closer, handed her the mug. He must have seen her hands shaking as she tried to grasp it, because he eased it into her grip, then wrapped his own hand around hers to help her bring it to her lips. She ignored the tingle she felt at his touch.

The tea was lukewarm and very sweet. Heidi hated sugared tea, but she drank it, recognizing that her body needed the fuel to fight off shock. She sipped slowly till she’d consumed half the mug, then pushed it away.

“My partner,” she asked again, her voice a little stronger this time. “Did you find him?”

“The man who was with you in the boat?” His eyes were dark brown, almost black, and mesmerizing. She felt like she could look into them for hours. And she saw the flash of regret in them even before he answered. “I’m sorry. I searched for about an hour, but I only found you.”

“Not even…” She hated to say it. “A body?”

He shook his head and the long, shaggy black waves tumbled around a face that could have been sculpted by Michelangelo. Empathy poured off him in waves. He couldn’t be one of the dope runners. Could he? She really wanted to trust him. “No. I’m sorry,” he repeated.

“Why? Did you shoot him?”


  1. Oooh, that sounds like a great story, Cindy and the excerpts are very intriguing.

  2. Oooh. Love the excerpts, Cindy. Do you plan to finish this? I love the idea of a dolphin shifter.

  3. I remember this! When are you going to finish this lady? What I read was wonderful!

  4. Thanks everyone. Reg, he's actually a mer-man. Anny, I knew you'd recognize this! Someday...

  5. Oh. Duh! LOL. see, there was this TAIL!!! snicker. Merman sounds verrrry cool. But Dolphins??? Knowing you, you might tackle that some day.

  6. Love this! Tell me you will keep writing on it?

  7. Very intriguing:) Regina, don't feel bad. I instantly thought 'dolphin' myself!

  8. Dolphin shifter isn't wrong. His people are mers who can shift between their normal half & half form as well as all human or all dolphin. He's just sort of stuck in the human phase for various reasons, with short episodes of the half and half. So top half man, bottom half dolphin, but most of the time, all's a complicated


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