The Sound of Organic Writing

The New Hero

I got back from traveling the country late Sunday afternoon. This year, I attended New York Toy Fair for the first time and immediately following that show I went to Austin to the home office of Steve Jackson Games. I’ll follow up with a separate post about New York Toy Fair sometime this weekend, but the big thing I want to point out? The staff at Dark Horse Comics, PSI, and my fellow compatriots at SJ Games are pretty awesome. I had a fantastic time both personally and professionally.

Yesterday, I handed in galley proofs to Robin Laws, the editor of the New Hero anthology. Authors were tasked with created iconic heroes and I chose to write about a vampire. Why? Well, you’ll have to read Robin’s introduction. He understood why I wrote “Fangs and Formaldehyde.”

After delivering the proof for “Fangs and Formaldehyde,” I took a step back and focus on what I want to write versus what I have to write. I plan a few years out and the way that I do that revolves around what I’m doing to earn a living. When you hear more of me (e.g. publication announcements) it’s usually for two reasons: one, I’ve been writing like crazy to avoid eating mac-and-cheese all day or two, projects I worked on in the past are just now coming to fruition.

I learned a hard lesson last year and that was to trust myself — as an author and a businesswoman — rather than worry about how perceptions will affect my ability to get new projects. I couldn’t care less about rumors; they exist especially in an industry where everybody eventually gets to know everyone else. But money? The projects I’d kill to work on? Yeah, that I care about. I can’t plan for someone else’s perception, but I can manage what I’m doing and focusing on. People are going to think what they want, regardless. Half the time authors who make noise are doing it to get attention, anyway. (I forgive them. This is not an easy business to be in and if going down the path of sensationalism works for them? Then I wish them luck.) Sure, bad reviews sting and I could use a bottle of troll spray, but I have to focus on what matters — the words on a page. Fixing what someone thinks won’t help me achieve my goals. Writing and revising, on the other hand, will.

To sharpen my focus and balance the requirements of my day job, I am planning for “art” time. Jewelry, painting, whatever. These visual and tangible projects help ground me and make me so, so happy. I mentioned before about how I have a strange relationship with words; I’m not a literal person, I’m driven by *sound.* Now, you know I’m a writer and you may think: “How’s that working out for you?” It means that I usually write to get my message or story out and rework vocabulary as needed in the revision process. Speech is sometimes a challenge. The joke around my house is that I created my own language called “Monica-speak.” *I* know what I’m saying but that doesn’t always translate to everyone else understanding me.

My creativity has never been propelled by a word (though, I tend to fixate on the ones I like. Hah!) it’s supported by colors, themes, concepts, and emotions. Ever since my friend Maurice Broaddus told me to “push” I took that advice to heart. In the past two years I’ve dug a lot deeper because that’s who I am as an author and my characters have “felt” a lot more as a result. I think it’s easy enough to get plot and mechanics for a story right, but I feel if you only worry about that? Then it becomes formulaic to the point that the organic nature of storytelling is lost.

So what is organic storytelling? Well, to me that means the point of writing is to tell a story and not to put it through a machine. That means the tale may take on different forms and scene constructions. To be honest, I don’t really care about finding things like “pay-offs,” etc. in my work. If that’s there from a critical perspective, then cool. I write what feels right and what I can hear in my head. Novels are different because it’s better if I have an outline, but even then I have to have some flexibility because my characters never do what they’re told. If I have to force it, I write backwards. (No, really… I’ll write the end first.)

As you can imagine, organic storytelling is pretty challenging for long form projects. I know that and I’m planning for that. I am *not* afraid to revise and first drafts don’t scare me. After all, Argentum is now on round three.

    Mood: Contemplative with a touch of “Screw work. I want to play.”
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Making a trip to the coffee shrine soon. a.k.a Starbucks.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Housework and laundry.
    Yesterday’s Projects: Short Story
    In My Ears: Adele
    Game Last Played: Grepolis
    Movie Last Viewed: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End a.k.a. I have no idea what this movie was supposed to be about.
    Book Last Read: Which one? Read three or four recently…
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal cluster bracelet in silver
    Latest Release: Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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