Comments on Writing, Part 1


An author commentary

Where there are spoilers beyond what’s on the back of the book, I’ve written the text in white. Highlight if you don’t mind, or skip if you haven’t read yet and don’t want to ruin the surprise!


I abandoned a fully-fleshed outline for this story because it intrigued me so much.

It was almost NaNoWriMo, and while I’d decided not to register or do the full 50,000 word count, I had planned to jump-start a novel I had in mind, and partially plotted out. In preparation for a writing marathon, I was doing writing exercises each day. One day I went without a prompt and just began to write. The character described her childhood watching her mother work, and her voice was strong, lovely, but I wanted to add some conflict. Since I’ve always been tone deaf myself, I decided it would be interesting if she were also tone deaf… but to make that interesting it had to be ironic, so I decided she’d have music magic.

This added a new dimension to her story, talking about how her brother wasn’t magical but was good at music, and how her parents dealt with this. But that was more character development than conflict, and so I threw in a statement–“When the Tides hit, we lost them–we lost everyone.”

What were the Tides? How did it make her lose everyone, and who was everyone? How was she going to get them back? How was the rest of the country affected by this loss? Suddenly I had to know, because this character really drew me in. I wanted to know more.

The only way I could ever learn more, however, was to write it. And so I did, throwing away a more plotted concept to learn more about this woman and her world, how her loss dictated her relationships with her brother–the only person she had left–and her neighbor, who she found quite attractive but was afraid to connect to. I asked what her ‘useless’ magic did, and how it could be useful. And when she found she could hear the voices of the people who were lost, I asked her what she would do–she wanted to save them, of course.

Well, I wondered, how would she do that? And what about her brother, whom I knew perfectly well would never stand by and watch her risk herself alone? Or her neighbor, desperate to find meaning in a life that used to be defined for him, trying to move on after the loss of his own family?

And so I wrote more, and more, because at every turn I had to know what would happen next. And that was how the first draft of Into the Tides was born.


The story has changed since the first draft.

The introduction, for one, is entirely different. Originally the first section, the section that left me unable to stop writing, was a narrative of Kelly describing a memory of her mother and talking about how being tone deaf with music magic framed her youth. __Part of it is actually still in the book, in fact–her memories of her parents, and her loss of them, define so much of who she has become that I couldn’t write a story without them.__

There are also some character changes. One of the central characters, for example, is Elizabeth. In the first draft Elizabeth was two people, the pretty, steampunk-loving woman we come to love, and also a Midwestern woman named Johnna being the original member of the Recovery Team. Johnna was a blonde-and-blue counterpart to Elizabeth and played the same role as Elizabeth, a protector-type who acts as foil to Derik and a friend to Kelly. __However, since Johnna was originally not Powered, her encounter with Tides meant I needed someone else to be the Huntress. So Elizabeth came in. __ In later drafts, my beta readers asked why such similar characters weren’t just one character, and so I recombined–this time with Elizabeth on the Recovery team.


There’s a lot of video game references in this book.

I like video games! In fact, I had difficulty writing a main character who wasn’t a geek. I’m a big fan of RPG video games, although my collection is mostly older games, because of that pesky little thing I call my ‘budget.’

I wanted my readers to be able to identify some of the easter-egg references, but that meant constructing a world where video games hadn’t progressed much. That meant figuring out why a near-future setting would involve the characters referring to modern games instead of the newest and latest.

However, when I thought about it, the answer was obvious: nostalgia and reconnecting with things lost. People are comforted by things that are familiar, and we tend to like classics. Plus, escapism is a common method people use to handle stress, so it wasn’t a big stretch to say video game industries were cashing in on the insecurity caused by re-releasing old hits.

Of course, I imagine those hits have been tweaked to fit the newest and shiniest game systems. Trax has a lovely game system in his room that, like a Kinect but with better detail and more sensitivity and discernment, picks up movement. It comes with a floor pad to track movement, and is used for a lot of RPG-style games, making them more immersive.

One of his friends also has the latest system, which is also a set of floor pads, but each has a rail–because they’re also connected to virtual reality helmets.

Unfortunately none of this made it into the book itself, but now you know. 😉