“Go where the energy is” was a bit of a buzz phrase last month on one of the writers’ discussion groups I visit, Stringing Words, a lovely, friendly and supportive group. The goal for March was to write or edit whatever called to us most strongly at the time. It’s in my mind right now, as I am dropping (for the time being) the current story idea that I have done all the pre-writing work on, to change to a new story.
I started off with two characters, and a situation where she is forced to pretend to be his girlfriend for one evening, then they ultimately ended up in a forced marriage. The problem was, the plot just didn’t fit those two characters at all. So I kept the charcters (I like them a lot!) but changed the plot to one that flowed more naturally out of those people and the choices they would make. It moved from a forced marriage story to being more a marriage of convenience. After the morning pages work, it all hung together well, no plot holes, the situation and the choices they made in response to it were logical and believable. But I had to drop some elements that I loved and really wanted to include. And I just don’t know if I am a good enough writer yet to handle the level of external conflict and secondary characters needed to make the plot work.
Harlequin Presents / Mills and Boon Modern Romance, the series I am currently targeting following on from the contest, prefers stories with mostly internal conflict, and few secondary characters. What this does is puts the focus strongly on the developing relationship and keeps the emotional intensity high. This story seemed to have just too much external conflict, and even though it all linked in deeply to the hero and heroine’s internal conflicts, I didn’t feel I was going to manage to keep the emotional intensity strong enough with so much else going on.
Also ideas kept popping into my head about a different but similar story idea, closer to my original discarded plot idea, which just didn’t work for the characters I had. I couldn’t help wondering-what sort of people would find themselves in that first situation and have to make those choices? When I found myself thinking about these other characters in the middle of an important work meeting yesterday I realised that this is the one I really have to write first, this is the story that has grabbed my imagination and my energy. It still has some external conflict, but it has the effect of forcing the hero and heroine together rather than trying to keep them apart as it did in the first story. There will be fewer scenes involving only one of the main characters with a secondary character, so the emotional intensity will be easier to maintain. I also get to include the elements I reluctantly had to cut from the original story idea, which included a business trip to a little known, volatile, religiously governed, highly conservative country; a kidnapping locking the hero and heroine in together; then a forced marriage to satisfy local moral and religious values.
I feel right about this decision. I’ve even been listening to the right sort of music all week, drawn without realising it to the type of music would be made in a country like the one where this happens- eastern european folk music with a middle eastern influence (it’s an internet radio station from Russia- Special Radio Button 6- none of the words are English, so its fab writing music without any distractions).
James and Cassie’s story will be written one day, but I need to be more skilled as a writer to handle that level of external conflict and still maintain the emotional intensity. Also, possibly it needs to be directed to a different series, and I don’t want to waste that precious Compliments Slip for a Presents editor!
The frustrating thing though is that I had hoped to start writing story today as I have the day off work, and now I’m back to prewriting again! But perhaps thats a good thing. Kate Walker’s 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance has arrived from Amazon at last. It’s a writing workshop, so I’m going to spend this afternoon doing as many as I can of the exercises in the book, using these new characters, as my prewriting. Although every writer probably evolves their own unique and individual style for prewriting, I’m sure I can learn a lot from a writer who has sold an astonishing fifty million books!
This feels very very right. But I’m not changing again- I need to get the balance between going where the energy is; and flitting from idea to idea without committing to or completing any of them. Any enticing new story ideas or siren calls back to a previous story will just have to wait, I am going to stay with this story now until it is finished!