When It All Turns Bad by Jami Gray

Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Jami Gray as she shares with us  “When It All Turns Bad.” Enjoy!


In January I started a new series project. This time I did it right. During my writing career I’ve morphed from a complete pantser (one who dives in with no set plan) to an assisted pantser (one who must have significant sign posts to complete the story journey safely). With my first series, The Kyn Kronicles, I resembled a sugared up five-year-old, feet off the pedals of the Big Wheel as I zoomed down the steepest hill in the neighborhood. With my second series, The PSY-IV Teams, I matured into a seven-year-old who knew when to use the Big Wheel brakes and how to steer away from the looming potholes. This time around I was determined take on the biking trails of Moab, confident in my skills and preparation.

Imagine my surprise when I wiped out within the first quarter mile.

Yep, that tangled mess of limbs and bike moaning at the bottom of the first hill, that’s me.  I can hear you now, “What on earth happened to you?”

Well, you see, it started like this.

I had an idea for a new series. An idea that didn’t disappear when I stepped out of the shower. In fact, it lingered and matured for many, many months. It lurked in the corners as I hit my deadlines, waiting (somewhat patiently) for its turn.

When it took center stage, I dove right into the research and stayed lost in it for weeks. (Have I mentioned how much I love research? It’s so…yummy.) When I resurfaced, I began to weave together my world-building, and when I found myself disappearing into the quagmire of too much details, my writing partners were there with a rope and stern admonishment to “FOCUS!”. Then it was time to put on my psychologist hat and give my characters depth. Again, I found a myself wandering down overgrown foot-trails, and being reined in by bloodhounds my partners let loose. Another smack upside the head to help with my focus, and it was time to bring together the series.

There are bad guys, some good guys, some kind of good guys, (think gender neutral ‘guys’, please), minor characters, dangerous, deadly confrontations, murders, giggles, and intense relationships. The motives to my major players began to spin into a stunning picture and I was rubbing my hands with glee. So sure I had this under control, I proudly announced to my writing partners that the planned four book series, will be seven—it works better for the series arc.

A round of absent nods (as they are all in the midst of their projects) and I was off to began my story. I sat down, my fingers poised over the keyboard, and the words came.

Then they stopped.

Stunned, I couldn’t understand what happened. I planned, I plotted, I did it all the “right” way this time. Why wasn’t this working?

For days I struggled. Frustration chased away the excitement and suddenly doing this project wasn’t for me. Maybe it wasn’t a good story idea. Maybe this is what I should be working on. Maybe I should try a different idea. It wasn’t ideal, but I couldn’t get beyond my big, canyon-sized hole in my story.

Once more I reached out to my writing partner. Whine, whine, cheese, and then, “What if I did this idea instead, since this one isn’t working?”

God bless good friends, and even better writing partners, because you know what their answer was: “Oh hell no! That idea sounds just like your other series. Get your butt back in the chair and keep going.”

Pouting (and I’m really good at pouting) I went back to my chair and glared at the screen. Once I escaped my self-pity party, I re-read my notes for the first book. Then the second, and so on. When I hit my notes for the last one, it hit me. Not hard, but with a whisper light touch.

The first book had no plot.

No, seriously, there wasn’t. I had a solid, well-built series arc, but my couple for the first book had no reason to be on the page. There was no reason these two people to be together or fight for a common cause. They had solid backgrounds, but their motivation was no where to be found. They could just as easily play secondary characters somewhere down the line.

No idea how I managed to mess that up, but I found a solution when I discovered the real reason these two had to come together for the roles they played in the series. Now, I’m finally back on the road, hands on the Big Wheel, feet pumping, gaze steady ahead.

The lesson this former pantser learned? Don’t forget the smaller picture when you’re creating the bigger one, or those details will come back to bit you in the butt!



Jami Gray Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. Surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and two female labs moonlighting as the Fur Minxes, she escapes by playing with the voices in her head.

If you want to hunt her down, she can be found lurking around the following cyber locations:

Website:     www.JamiGray.com


Twitter:   https://twitter.com/JamiGrayAuthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/JamiGray

Google+:  https://google.com/+JamiGray

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.com/e/B006HU3HJI


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  • Jami Gray says:

    Thank you, Beth for letting me come share my sob story!

  • Beth Barany says:

    My pleasure, Jami! You’re so funny! Good luck with your new series!

  • Great post, Jamster! It’s the truth, too. That damn little picture—don’t be deceived! lol

  • Loved the post. Very engaging and so true.

  • Jami- I loved your post! Great job, sounds very much the kind of stuff I go through. At least know I am not alone.

  • Jami Gray says:

    Thank you, all! Yeah, this writing gig, guys, it’s a cruel, cruel mistress. I promise if we all stick it out, WE WILL SURVIVE! (Notice, I didn’t go for dominate, because let’s be honest, that’s going to take a bit more time!) =0) Wishing you all a ton of luck as you face your devious muses!

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