Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

Go where the energy is April 30, 2008

“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!

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3 Responses to “Go where the energy is”

  1. Hi Jane, I really enjoy reading your posts over at eharlequin and here on your blog. I too am just starting another book targeting Presents. I’ve got Kate Walkers “Writing Romantic Fiction: A Straightforward Guide” and it is really great. Can’t wait until I can get her new release you’ve got, but seems north america is slow… Oh well. Speaking of Craft books, have you ever read “On Writing Romance” by Leigh Michaels? After seeing the top 5 mistakes first time subbers make on iheartpresents I started going through all my Craft books and this one, other than Kate’s, gave real help with the internal conflict. I’m tearing apart the new authors releases to see where and how they are handling this. Love doing it, but I’m like you, anxious to write!

    Oh well, back to plotting and brainstorming and brainstorming and plotting.

    Melissa L. (aka nindespin on eharlequin)

  2. waitingforthecall Says:

    Thanks for visiting Melissa!
    I think the new edition of Kate’s book is available in the US now, there was something on her blog about it.
    I haven’t read the Leigh Michaels one I don’t think, though I may have doen when the original edition came out in the 90’s. I was living in Australia then, and I bought a lot of romance writing books, and went to a couple of fab workshops, but didn’t write more than about twnty pages before I gave up, defeated by an overcritical Inner Editor.
    I’m finding reading and analysing published stories a huge help (and enjoyable too!) I have started the new story, and I’m having great fun with it so far. I’m treating this as my apprenticeship, where I have permission to make mistakes and do it wrong, because that’s the best way for me to learn how to do it right.
    I hope your writing is going well! Did you enter the Instant Seduction compettion too?

  3. Hi Jane, you said: “I’m finding reading and analysing published stories a huge help (and enjoyable too!) … .” That’s exactly what I’m doing now! LOL And I’m learning buckets full of information. I’m at the brainstorming stage of a new Presents and I’m about 8k words in on a Romance story, BUT I’m going back to the plot board on this one. It felt off, and after lots of pondering, tearing hair out, and asking published authors of the Romance line questions, I now know my external conflict was driving the story. NOt good. Now I’m focusing on making the internal conflicts huge. Feeling better about it. 🙂

    No, I didn’t enter the Instant Seduction compettion! (Kicking myself here) I was away from the eharlequin boards for a while due to a major car accident. Now I’m getting back to the swing of things and really regret not getting in on that one. But there is always next time!


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