Thursday, June 27, 2013

Guest Post: Annabeth Leong - Three Tips for Writing from Short to Long

Hi Everyone!
Please welcome Annabeth Leong to my blog today. It's great to have her here.

A big thank you to Crymsyn Hart for hosting me today!
I started out writing short stories, and was daunted for a long time by trying to plan longer works. The idea of writing at novel length intimidated me, let alone organizing plots and creating characters that could stretch over multiple volumes. Considering that some writers I know seem to naturally think in chunks greater than 70,000 words, I sometimes wondered if I just wasn’t cut out for that type of storytelling.
I’ve been overcoming that fear bit by bit, though—Breathless Press recently released my short novel, Not the Leader of the Pack, which takes place in an urban fantasy werewolf culture I created for a previous title, Not His Territory. I’ve got some other longer works available as well. I thought I’d share a few tips that helped me go from short to long.
1.  Get interested
It may seem obvious, but it’s impossible to write a longer work or series without being very interested in the subject matter. I’m interested in my short stories, too, but I get to have drive-by relationships with those characters that last days or weeks. Longer works mean weeks or months inside a character’s head or living in a given world, and I need to have the enthusiasm to match.
In the case of Not the Leader of the Pack, I had plenty of things that interested me and carried me through: the Montana setting, the hero’s job as a minor-league baseball player, a conflict between societal law and shifter passion, and, of course, lots of hot sex. I found myself plotting and writing with ease because I wanted to know what happened next. Really, a writer is her own first reader, and it’s great to be invested in the book.
2.  Ask questions
When I wrote Not His Territory, I didn’t intend for it to have a sequel or become a series. The book does stand alone, but when I reread it once it came out, I realized I wanted to know lots more about the world and the people in it. Seeing it as a reader, I found a lot of mystery in the story, and wanted it resolved. As I promoted Not His Territory and wrote posts about it, I kept coming up against my own questions about the world. Finally, I sat down and wrote them all down.
Once I found myself facing that list of questions, I knew I needed to answer them. I started making notes, and soon had the beginnings of a plot for a new book. Not the Leader of the Pack is my first attempt to flesh out the world I’d created. I made sure that it, too, stands alone, but it’s set against a larger context that also contains mysteries. While this answers some questions, it raises some others. I plan to repeat the process, because there’s more I want to know!
3.  Shine your flashlight
Some writers may create complex outlines of a series, nailing down every detail before they write the first word. That might be necessary for a tightly interconnected series, where every detail depends on many others, but that’s not the way I write. As I wrote Not the Leader of the Pack, I discovered more about the world where it’s set, and created some canon details in the process.
However, there’s still a lot I don’t know. I’ve had to strike a balance between known and unknown to progress through the work. Each book is like a flashlight that I shine into a certain area. Once I shine it there, I know what’s in that place and it’s recorded and set that way for the reader. I’m comfortable with the remaining dark areas, because I can shine a flashlight into those places in the future.
To demonstrate this in action, I’ll give an example of one of the places I illuminated with Not the Leader of the Pack. In the first story I wrote, I mentioned an ongoing conflict in Missoula, Montana, that had tied up a bunch of the officials responsible for keeping the peace in werewolf society. One of the first questions I asked was, “What exactly is going on in Missoula?” Answering that through free-writing sessions gave me the idea of an unusual transfer of pack leadership, which became the foundation of my current release.

Darrow’s eyes opened wide, and he fixed his daughter with a look that she definitely recognized. Blue, piercing, and implacable, with just enough mischief to show he understood every irony the situation might have. In that moment, Juli’s dying father seemed very much alive and present. “Sweetheart, I wanted you to stay in Missoula because I raised you to take over the pack someday.”
He’d never said that to her before. Certainly not throughout the many battles they’d had during her adolescence, when he hadn’t accepted a single decision she wanted to make. Juli had thought they’d agreed to disagree when she went to work in Lewistown. Had he really harbored a hope that she would return to Missoula to become pack alpha? Juli licked her lips nervously. Her mouth had gone dry. “What about Neil? Isn’t he expecting...” Surely, Neil had stood by Juli’s father so staunchly because he anticipated being named as a successor.
A strange, beatific smile spread over his face. “You have a lot to teach Neil.”
“Me?” She was stammering. She’d never needed so many deep breaths in her life.
“He needs you. He’s a good beta, but he still doesn’t have an alpha’s heart.”
“Daddy.” Juli kept her voice as gentle as she could. “I love you. I’m glad I came to see you. But I have a job in Lewistown. I can’t stay here with Neil.”
“Not just Neil. The pack.” He released her and lifted shaking hands off the bed. He grabbed the leather ring of leadership and tried to work it off his finger.
“Daddy, wait!”
“I did wait for you, Juli. This needs to be done while I’m alive, or Neil gets the leadership automatically. I’m sorry, baby girl, but I can’t wait any longer.” The ring came free. He grabbed her hand. She could not believe the steel in his grip or the determination in his eyes.
“Daddy, no!” Footsteps slapped against the tile floor. The ICU nurse and Neil rushed into the room just in time to see Juli’s father force the leather ring onto her finger. She snatched her hand from his grip, but he continued to struggle, locked in a battle with an invisible force.
“Darrow!” Neil cried.
Before Juli could put together an answer, machines broke into a cacophony of beeping.

Rival alphas Juli Gunby and Neil Statham want to tear each other apart — but will they do it in battle or as mates?

When Juli Gunby left Missoula, Montana, she didn’t intend to come back. Not to her exacting alpha werewolf father, and certainly not to Neil Statham, the beta who rejected Juli’s girlish advances. Her father, as usual, has other ideas, using his dying breath to pass pack leadership to his daughter. Juli resolves to carry out her duty to her father and her pack, but the one man she wants on her side has made himself her enemy.

After years of loyal service to the pack, Neil expects to take over as alpha when his mentor dies. As good as it is to see Juli again, he knows he can’t trust her. After all, she abandoned both him and the pack years ago and never looked back. Neil determines to fight for his rightful position in the pack, even if that means going up against a woman who fills him with an overwhelming urge to mate every time she walks into the room.

Someone needs to lead, and the more Neil and Juli fight, the more they attract interference from those who would control the pack and destroy the ties between them.

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Annabeth Leong has written romance and erotica of many flavors -- dark, kinky, vanilla, straight, lesbian, bi, and menage. Her titles for Breathless Press include Not His Territory, Not the Leader of the Pack, and a contribution to the Ravaged anthology. She enjoys writing about the tension between passion and control that werewolves embody. Unfortunately, when Annabeth loses control of herself, she does not gain the power to change shape. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, blogs at, and tweets @AnnabethLeong. She loves talking books on Goodreads, too:

Buy One, Get One Free Offer:

Not the Leader of the Pack stands alone, but Annabeth has written in its world before. She’d love to share the previous title, Not His Territory, with current readers. If you’d like to participate, e-mail proof of purchase of Not the Leader of the Pack, such as an Amazon receipt, to annabeth dot leong at gmail dot com and let her know your e-book format of choice. Annabeth will buy a copy of Not His Territory for the first 25 people who respond.

Annabet Leong Blog Tour

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