Gimmees, Muddle Throughs, and Gremlins

Anonymous asked: “You said some books are hard to write. Why?”

If I had the answer to that question I would be a GENIUS and I’d never struggle writing a book again. (I’d also sell that secret for billions of dollars and all writers would bow to me.)

Alas, I am not a genius. (Don’t tell my husband.) But I will try to give my best guess.

All books are different. From a writer’s perspective, I never know which book is going to be easy to write and which book is going to be hard. I’ve written both. Some books seem to write themselves, and these are what I call gimmee” books. MARKED was a “gimmee” book for me. The idea came to me fully formed. One day I just started writing, and a few weeks later I had the entire book on paper and the start of a brand new series. EXTREME MEASURES, the first full-length book in my Aegis Security series (which releases July 8, 2014) was another “gimmee” book. I had the idea, I started writing, finished the proposal and sat on it until release dates could be worked out with my publisher. Then when I dove back into the book, I basically wrote it in six weeks. Writers LOVE these kind of books because they’re fun and they make us feel like, well, total geniuses. Unfortunately, most books are not this easy to write.

The “other” books…the ones writers normally get stuck with…fall into two categories. Most are what I call “muddle through” books. You have an idea, you start writing it, you realize your opening sucks, you go back and revise, you push forward and get to the halfway point, then discover your middle drags so you go back and revise again…on and on and on. It’s like two steps forward, one step back. “Muddle through” books aren’t miserable to write, but they’re not exactly fun either. They’re work. They’re the books that make a writer think a lot. They keep us up at night. They force us to research for hours on end. Sometimes we want to pull our hair out while writing them, but usually the excitement for the original idea encourages us to plod on even when we feel like we’re wading through a river of chocolate pudding. “Muddle through” books always leave a writer feeling a sense of accomplishment when they’re done. That “Whew! I did it!” feeling is a small piece of euphoria similar to scaling a mountain. For a writer, when you get to the end of a “muddle through” book, if you made it there in one piece, you know you can accomplish anything.

But there’s always that wrench thrown in. The lone wolf. The demon lurking in the shadows, whispering, “Try me. I’ll be easy. You want to write my story.” These are what I call “gremlin” books. Why “gremlin” you ask? Simple. You remember that movie, The Gremlins, from the 80s right? With the little fuzzy creatures who cooed and ran around looking all adorable? Everyone wanted one. They were sweet and easy to care for. But they really weren’t! They had a dark, evil side and turned into violent killing machines in the dead of night! Books can be like that for an author too. An idea hits, it seems innocent enough, almost easy, and the author thinks…”Oh, this is going to be a “gimmee” book!”, and foolishly sets off writing. But then something changes. That “gimmee” slowly transitions to a “muddle through”. The opening has to be revised. The characters aren’t acting the way the author envisioned. So the author, thinking she just misread the book from the start, pushes on. She revises. She keeps going. She applies the two steps forward, one step back principle. And it “seems” to work…until she realizes she keeps writing and writing and writing and…ISN’T MAKING ANY PROGRESS.

Yep, these are nightmare books. They don’t make writers just *want* to pull their hair out, they make writers *physically* pull their hair out! These are the books a writer complains about to her CP constantly, until that CP (Joan Swan) starts pulling *her* hair out. They are the books that never end and the ones that muck up a writer’s schedule. And every writer, no matter how successful or what she “claims”, has had a “gremlin” book. Luckily, they’re few and far between, but they’re out there, just waiting to strike. And a writer never knows when she’s going to be waylaid by one.

And that, dear reader, brings me back to the question of “Why?” Why are some books “gimmes”, some “muddle throughs”, and some “gremlins”? I just don’t know. My guess is it’s different for every author. For me, the first book in a series is always way easier to write than any that come after, and every book later in a series (whether that series has an overarching plot or not) gets more difficult as there are more threads weaving together. Likewise, intensely deep, emotional books are a lot harder to for me to write. Some, like ENSLAVED, are just really really tough “muddle through” books because the content is so dark. Some, like HOLD ON TO ME, are true “gremlins”, and part of that could be my mental state during the writing of the book, or the emotional toll the story is taking on me. I do know that the actiony books–the ones that are super fast paced–are easier for me to write. But if I wrote those all the time, I think they would get difficult in different ways. (I mean, really, how many various ways can you run from the bad guy? At some point just trying to change that up would cause me to rip out a few eyebrows.)

So, Anonymous, the answer to your question is simply…your guess is as good as mine. But I can assure you this. Whether a book is a “gimme”, a “muddle through”, or a “gremlin”, I will keep writing until it’s done. That’s my job. That’s why I’m an author.

(And for those of you waiting on HOLD ON TO ME…my most recent “gremlin” book is FINALLY done and currently in the hands of my editor. I’m hoping it will go live very very soon. I’ll post release dates as soon as I possibly can. Trust me…no one wants this book off my plate more than me!)

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