First Book Friday: Gini Koch
Very imporant administrative note: Goblin Tales passed 100 sales yesterday!
Ahem. Where was I? Oh, right — First Book Friday, with Gini Koch. From Gini’s website, some of her hobbies include mooning over pictures of Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, and training her pets to ‘bring it’. I met her at World Fantasy, and… well, let’s put it this way. Her cover for Alien Tango features blue explosions, a rocketship, and an angry gator. Energetic, lively, fun, and a little random.
Gini’s a lot like that.
Her third book about “Super-Being Exterminator Kitty Katt and the Alpha Centaurian she loves,” is called Alien in the Family [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], and comes out on April 5.
I didn’t think I was cut out to be a writer because I don’t outline, and I was told by a teacher (who I knew, even at age 15, to be an idiot) that unless you outlined, you couldn’t write ANYthing. And yet, I believed her. For 20 years. And, for those years, any time I’d try to write an outline, I’d lose all the joy of the idea, bog down, and end up with nothing useful after hours of time expended.
But I always wrote in my head. I just didn’t think playing out scenes constantly was being creative — I thought it was how I passed the time while everything around me moved so slowly. I’m a multitasker of the highest order and if I don’t have something occupying at least the front and the back of my mind, said mind tends to wander into all those lovely worlds I wasn’t qualified to write.
My first novel came about because the particular voices in my head were SO loud, obnoxious and demanding, that I wrote their story down just to shut them up. I was supposed to be working (on the weekend) but looked up 8 hours later to see a lot of pages written — and a novel taking shape. I’d also discovered a joy I hadn’t known before and realized this was the thing I wanted to do, wanted to BE. I also realized that I was doing just fine without an outline.
As I wrote more and more, my technique got better. Most would have trunked that first novel, but I loved the characters too much — they were the REASON I was writing, the reason I’d discovered the thing I truly loved to do. So, I rewrote their story. In full. 9 times.
And am rewriting their story a 10th time, because while my agent loved version 9.2.2 and shopped it around, and also while we got some incredibly complimentary rejections, because it’s set in the Old West and has people on horses it’s considered a “Western”, and they don’t sell, dontchaknow. So, the characters gave me their blessing, and we’re off into a different spin. I’m excited, my agent’s excited, and the characters are excited. But I digress…
Fortunately, I didn’t know about, and then ultimately ignored, most of the writing advice out there. I’m a linear writer, I need music and chaos around me to get anything done, and I work on a variety of things at once. The idea of having to “finish one thing before you go onto the next” is alien and abhorrent to me. If I’d listened to it, I wouldn’t be published. In anything. I wrote well over a dozen novels (none published yet, some trunked, some waiting patiently for me to go back and fix them like I did my beloved First Novel) and triple that in short stories, with some novellas along the way. But I still wasn’t “there”, and I knew it.
Touched by an Alien [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], came about through a variety of steps, the most significant being these, all of which took place in roughly the same year:
- One of my friends was constantly nagging me to “write funny” — I finally listened to her, and the first professional sales I ever made were in short humor;
- I started playing around with different POV options, particularly going from 3rd person only to trying out 1st person;
- I finally found the crit partner I truly clicked with, and watched my writing move from really good to truly publishable;
- I realized I needed to understand pacing innately, which I didn’t at the time, and so I gave myself an assignment to write a variety of short stories in varying lengths, from micro-fiction up to 10,000 words. When I finished all of this, somehow, I indeed understood pacing and ended up with a large variety of stories to sell, many of which have indeed sold (under different pen names).
And then I had a dream — a dark, noir-ish, scary dream — and I fully intended to write a dark, noir-ish, scary story. I was still doing my short story assignments, and this looked to fit my 4,000 word slot.
By page 3, the character’s voice had taken over, by page 5 I realized this was going to be a lot longer than 4,000 words, and by the end of the first chapter that dark short story turned into a funny, sexy, science fiction novel. As I was writing it, I realized it was “the one”… the novel that would get me a great agent. It was, and said agent sent it directly off to DAW Books. The rest, as they say, is history.
Would I change anything? Yeah. If I could do it all over again, I’d ignore that teacher’s rule, like I ended up ignoring all the other rules, and start writing decades sooner. But, you know, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up with Kitty Katt and Jeff Martini and my Alien series. So, perhaps the journey’s gone exactly how it should have. As a person, that’s my view. As an author, well … there’s bound to be a story in all of that somewhere.
March 18, 2011 @ 2:01 pm
Touched by an Alien and Alien Tango have prime slots on my bookshelves (okay the top of my drawer) because they’re funny, quick and like reading crack. It took me less than 24 hours to read TBAA. Alien Tango took me a little longer, but that’s because I was writing.
Gini is a light for those who – like me – loathe outlines with a passion. Proof that, yes – just because you don’t follow every writing rule doesn’t mean that you can’t write a book.
March 18, 2011 @ 5:03 pm
Great post and really fun books.
March 18, 2011 @ 8:19 pm
I love the story of how Touched By An Alien was born and I am soooooo glad it gets to be a whole slew of a series because I am completely hooked.
Now, for the movie.
March 18, 2011 @ 8:30 pm
It’s always nice to know you don’t have to play by “the rules” to get published. I think everyone has their own routine. Whatever works, eh?
I am SO looking forward to Alien in the Family. Waiting for my pre-ordered copy to arrive.
Movie? Amber, that is such a wonderful idea!! I would stand in line for hours just to be the first one there.
March 20, 2011 @ 12:39 am
I’m going to tell my Daughter (who hates to write outlines, but who loves to write) that there is hope for her future in writing. And since I adore Gini’s books? There are TWO plus sides!
Jim C. Hines
March 20, 2011 @ 9:05 am
Neither publishers nor readers care how you get there, as long as you end up with a good book in the end. Part of learning to write is figuring out the process that works best for you. Good luck to your daughter!
Jim C. Hines
March 20, 2011 @ 9:06 am
Depends on the rules 🙂 But yes, everyone’s process is different. And actually, I’ve found that the process that works for one book won’t necessarily work for the next, either. (Libriomancer is throwing me for a loop that way…)
Jim C. Hines
March 20, 2011 @ 9:07 am
A number of comments have pointed to that as proof you don’t have to follow the rules to get published, but I’m confused — who said it was a rule you have to outline? Readers don’t care how you get there, as long as you end up with a good book in the end.
March 20, 2011 @ 2:49 pm
Jim, actually, if you hit any writer’s forum, any writing classes, any writing groups, read any of the how to write books, and so on, outlining, and a whole heck of a lot of other “rules”, gets shoved at you from on high as “the only way to write”. YOU know that it doesn’t matter (but that’s ’cause you’re awesome). Not everyone realizes that the rules can be broken. When it’s a successfully published big name telling you that his or her way is the only way, or a teacher, it does affect you. I’ve been told I should never use an adverb, never write in first person, and so on. Never been told that by my agent or editor, but in order to get TO the agent and editor, I had to wade through a lot of “rules” that, really, are more like guidelines once you take a hard look at them.
Jim C. Hines
March 20, 2011 @ 8:15 pm
Gini – I’ve been active on a number of writers’ forums, completed writing classes (including a Masters degree with a creative writing concentration, and a weeklong writing workshop in LA), and have a shelf full of writing advice books. There are certainly a lot of people out there who outline, but I haven’t run into that many who insiste that outlining is the only acceptable way to write. There are always going to be some people who insist that their way is the only right way, but I haven’t found that to be overly common.
And personally, an insistance that “My way is The One Right Way” is good shorthand for letting me know I don’t need to pay much attention to that person 🙂
March 20, 2011 @ 9:23 pm
Absolutely agree with you on that one! 😀