Screw It, Let’s See What Happens

There is a school of thought that says writers (fiction writers, at least) fall into two categories: the architects and the gardeners. The architects must plan everything meticulously. Every plot point, every character beat, every theme and turn must be prepared and calculated ahead of time, and when the actual writing starts all that’s left to do is the installation. The gardeners, on the other hand, don’t plan much more than where they’re planting the seeds and what they hope to reap from the crop in the end. Gardeners tend to the ideas like flowers or vegetables, nurturing them, coaxing them out of the ground, but often not actually knowing exactly what the final garden will look like. Plants are alive, you see, and difficult to conquer. It’s better to simply help them find their most beautiful form.

I’m a gardener. I tend to start with a concept (what if a reporter found out that the superheroes he wrote about were frauds?) or an idea that won’t get out of my head (there’s a little bald guy in my closet holding an ice pick and I don’t know who he is but he is FREAKING ME OUT). I’ll add in some characters I find interesting, and I’ll think about where the characters and the concept might end up if I put them together. And then I start. 

Now to be fair, very often the answer to where they might end up is “nowhere.” Sometimes the combination doesn’t work, the marriage doesn’t last, and I end up with yet another orphaned story opening. (So many orphans. I’m really quite ashamed of myself. Lucien from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman could have an entire damn wing of his library devoted to me.) But when it DOES work, and it DOES come together, this storytelling alchemy frequently brings me to a place that leaves me unable to imagine it any other way.

This feeling is at its most powerful when I hit a point I refer to as “Screw it, let’s see what happens.” You see, sometimes it feels like something in a story is not right, like a character is fighting against your plan, like you’re trying to find flimsy justifications to make them do something (or stop them from doing something) that they don’t want. And often, it turns out the reason for this is because the characters are smarter than you are and realize that your plan is actually wrong, and you should just let them do what they so clearly want to do, and figure out how it’s all supposed to fit together later. That’s when, as a writer, you should say, “Screw it, let’s see what happens.” And damn if that can’t be great.

I’m going to give an example that spoils several of the more recent chapters of Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, so if you’re not up to date, you may want to go catch up and come back. (I mean, you should do that anyway. It’s a good time.) 

When I started the Meta-Crisis arc, you may notice that Keriyon Hall does not appear at first. In fact, he hadn’t appeared for quite some time, which was making me sad because he’s become one of my favorite characters in the story (even though he wasn’t in the original outline – he’s that flower that you didn’t actually plant in your garden but that turns out to be the loveliest one). So I thought, “Well, the crisis is affecting the entire city. I should just check in on him and see how he’s dealing with it.”

As it turned out, the way he was dealing with it was trying to figure out what Andi and Tony would do in his situation, and do that same thing. Which was perfect, it’s exactly the way Keriyon thinks, but that led me to a problem. He was SO good at predicting what Andi and Tony would do that he wound up arriving at the same hideout as they did, even though he wasn’t supposed to be there.

Well, screw it. Let’s see what happens.

And as he’s there and starts to meet some of the other characters in the story, I realize that Andi is having a very difficult time talking to Keriyon, because she’s dancing around the fact that Keriyon didn’t know about Tony and Vic’s powers. And while they were dancing, Andi kind of informed me that she likes Keriyon, she trusts Keriyon, and considering all the crazy shit that was happening all around them, keeping her friends’ powers a secret wasn’t even ON her list of priorities, let alone at the top.

Screw it. Let’s see what happens.

So she told him the truth and Keriyon, being the unshakably loyal and positive person that he is, not only took it in stride, but decided to gear up and join them on the quest. And when we got to the end of the arc, and the “Young LightCorps” was revealed to the world, all of a sudden Keriyon Hall was in the picture with them. A character who was never supposed to be th– no, wait, that’s not right. He was never intended to be there. But he was most certainly supposed to be there.The stuff I’ve written since then (that you haven’t read yet) has convinced me of that. 

“Screw it, let’s see what happens” is recommended by eight out of nine muses. Ask Oneiros if “Screw it, let’s see what happens” is right for you. 

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. If you haven’t read it yet… well, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself for the spoilers. 

80,000 and counting…

Can I just, though, for a minute?

A couple of years ago I had an idea for a story. And I took some notes and I puttered around on it a little, but ultimately it went nowhere. The thing is, it wasn’t an idea for a novel. It was… bigger than that. It was a very longform yarn (I hesitate to use the word “epic” because it kind of sounds pretentious, but in terms of length I can’t think of a better word to describe it), one larger in scope than a single novel. It wouldn’t really work as a SERIES of novels either, though, because the story contains dozens of arcs and episodes: some long, some short, some standalone, some interconnected. It includes a large cast of characters that would grow and develop and learn and change over time. If anything it felt like this was a project best suited either to the kind of storytelling we see in television or comic books — connected episodes, each a part of a whole, but with flexibility and a rhythm that novels don’t really have.

Now I don’t know anyone who owns a TV studio, and even if I did, I know enough about the industry to know that even if there WERE somebody interested in my story, I’d lose control over it almost immediately.

Comic books would have been perfect — this WAS the next installment in my superhero universe that began in the novel Other People’s Heroes, after all — but I don’t have a publisher, nor do I have the money to hire an artist to work with me. And I especially don’t have the skill to draw it myself.

So for these reasons (plus, if I’m being entirely honest, I don’t think I was in the proper mental state to really devote to this story at the time), it was put on the back burner. Now guys, my back burner is CROWDED. There are a LOT of stories there — books, short stories, scripts, comic book ideas — all sitting and spilling into each other and getting moldy. And I feel guilty every time I put something else there, because I fear in my heart it will never leave.

Then this spring, Amazon announced its Kindle Vella platform — a service via which writers could publish a story one. Short. Episode. At. A. Time.

For the first time in ages, I went to the back burner and took something off, bringing it back to the front.

I’ve been working on OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS since then. It launched in July, and except for a Hurricane Ida-caused blackout in September, I’ve posted a new episode every Wednesday.

As of today, I’m about 80,000 words into the story, and I’m not close to finished. For comparison, the original OPH novel clocks in around 90,000 words. This is the point where a novel is ramping up to the conclusion. In LITTLE STARS, today my main characters have just discovered their FIRST clue as to what is REALLY going on.

And my goodness, it feels phenomenal.

I’m not saying this just because I hope you’re reading it (although I very much DO hope you’re reading it). I’m saying it because it’s been a long time since I had a fire under me when it came to writing. And for that long time it was like there was a hole in my life. There was something missing, something I had lost. I feel like I’ve got my hooks in it again. I feel like I’m reeling in something special.

Everyone ought to feel that way, don’t you think?

Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars in the Amazon Kindle Vella Store

Dad Drain

Hey, all — a quick update. I certainly haven’t forgotten my vow to fill you all in on the tumultuous week of Eddie’s birth, and I’ve got every intention of talking about the ups and downs of parenting (for example, the fact that a loose nipple wound up soaking both the baby and myself in formula at 3 in the morning today.) However, as anyone who has ever had a newborn can certainly attest, those first weeks are draining. Erin and I have been about as tired as we’ve ever been, and even now that Eddie is sleeping a bit better overnight (a bit, I stress), between taking care of him and keeping up with the day job, I’ve been too pooped to pontificate lately. Fingers crossed that this will change soon, because heaven knows I’ve got an awful lot to talk about. In the meantime, all is well.

NaNoWriMo Kicks Off at Midnight…

Longtime readers of mine know that I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo, alias National Novel Writing Month, which is held every November. The challenge, for those who choose to accept it, is to write an entire 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30. I have participated many times, and all but once I made the 50K mark in time. Unfortunately, several of those attempts fizzled out after the 50K mark and the stories never wrapped, but you can still see some of my November efforts in print. My novels The Pyrite War and Opening Night of the Dead, as well as the title story in my holiday anthology A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas all began life as NaNoWriMo projects.

I know some people — some writers whom I have great admiration for — are very down on the concept of NaNoWriMo. They see it as a crutch, and they think people truly dedicated to the craft of writing should do so without it. While I respect their opinions, I must disagree. I’ve always found NaNoWriMo to be an excellent motivator, a chance to force yourself to action, secure in the knowledge that thousands of others are doing the same. To me, that somehow removes a little of the existential terror that comes with staring at the blank page. Just knowing you aren’t alone makes it better.

This year, however, I have a confession to make. I will not be participating in NaNoWriMo in the traditional sense. While I still believe in it, this year I find myself without a new project ready to work on. I don’t have any ideas fully formed enough to begin work at the stroke of midnight, as I have done so many times. What’s more, I’ve got several other projects in various stages of completion, and it seems almost unfaithful of me to start something new while these other things flounder.

So while I will not be kicking off a new project at 12 a.m., I will be using November to write. Actually, I’ll be using it to edit at first. Tomorrow I’m going to dive into the novel I began last year for NaNoWriMo, a work that I was immensely proud of, but that fell by the wayside as I did rewrites for my play The 3-D Radio Show (and special bonus cool points for those of you who saw those performances last spring) and that I never got around to finishing. And seeing as how that book is intended as the first in a trilogy, it really seems to me that I should get off my ass and get back to it.

Those of you who are doing NaNoWriMo this year, more power to you. I’ll be sending out all the moral support I can. As for me, I’ll be diving back into the adventures of Jenna, Ellie, Reggie, Colm, and their many-limbed friend as they try desperately to find something that belongs to them anyway. It’s an interesting story. It’s surprised me several times so far.

I hope I get to share it with you soon.

Hello, BayouCon!

writerI’ll be back early next week with a longer post talking about my experiences here in Sulphur for BayouCon 2016, but with one day left, I wanted to extend a warm welcome to the many fine folks I’ve talked to in the first two days.

I’ve sold some books, I’ve given out lots of bookmarks, and this afternoon I co-hosted a panel on world-building in a novel series along with horror author Alexander Brown. (I think that was some of the most fun I’ve had here — I talk about books and movies and TV shows all the time, but it’s rare that I actually get the chance to discuss my process and how I write.)

For those of you who got the address of this website from one of my bookmarks and want to know what I’m all about, here are the two most important links you can have. First, my Facebook Author’s Page. I update it frequently, any time I’ve got something worth sharing with people, from a new book to a new episode of my podcast. The other link is the Buy Blake’s Work page on this very site. This page features all of my work that is currently available, including all five of the books you saw on my table, plus lots of other stuff that’s only available in eBook format.

Enjoy the last day of the con on Sunday, come on over and say hello, and I’ll be back with more BayouCon thoughts next week.

Welcome to the new BlakeMPetit.com

ProfilepicHello friends, old and new, and welcome to the new BlakeMPetit.com. After several years at my old blog, I decided it was time for a new coat of paint, time to make things a little spiffier for a new era of (hopefully) new readers. In fact, I’m launching the new site now in order to get ahead of the  folks I anticipate meeting this weekend at Bayoucon. (More on that later.)

New readers — howdy! I’m Blake M. Petit, author of the novels and short stories  in the worlds of Siegel City and The Curtain, as well as a lot of other stuff. All of it is available right now, by the way, by clicking on the “Buy Blake’s Work” link at the top of this page. I’m also a high school English teacher, member of the board of directors at my local community theater, podcaster, and all-around geek. All of these things will be blatantly obvious if you stick around.

Old readers, any time I’ve got big news, announcements, or a major release coming up, it will be featured right here. Also, in the past, you’ve found my ruminations all over the internet. Now they’re mainly concentrated in three places: here, my movie blog Reel to Reel Movies, and the blog for my podcast and comic book discussion, All New Showcase. And if, for some reason, you really want to poke around at the content in my old blog, don’t worry, it’s still there. I’ve kept the old Evertime Realms page archived, trapped in internet amber, as it were.

IMG_0926As I mentioned before, I’m going to be at Bayoucon this weekend, June 24-26 in Sulfur, Louisiana. I’ll be part of a panel about world-building (Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Cypress Room), and my wife Erin and I will be there all weekend selling and signing copies of my novels and giving out bookmarks and high-fives. If you’re in the area, please, come on by and say hello!

That about does it for now, I suppose. I’ll be back early next week with thoughts and pictures from the convention. In the meantime, poke around at the links on this page and see what’s what.