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!

The big plan… May 7, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:18 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Well, it’s not so big really. Just my strategies to get my manuscripts as good and as strong and as readable and hopefully as editor grabbing as they can be, before I submit them.

Not quite sure why I’m even worrying about this now, as the first draft of Nick and Kate’s story (aka The Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride) is moving veeeeerrrrrry slowly. I spent some time stressing about the infodump first chapter, which starts off not too badly, the first lines are- Kate Gallagher had been in love with her boss for years. Finally she decided to do something about it –  but then unfortunately the next two and a half thousand words are nothing but Kate and Nick talking, telling us all the backstory. Arrgghh! It probably needs to start two or three chapters in, when they actually get kidnapped.

I realised I was wasting precious wriitng time letting worrying about this paralyse me, and instead of trying to find a solution, the solution was to just go with it. After reading published writers who say they do exactly this sort of infodump beginning, as part of character development and setting building, then edit it out in the second draft, I realised it wasn’t a bad thing. Yes, it’s a cardinal sin in a submitted ms, but not such a disaster in a first draft. What I was slipping into was the perfectionist trap, probably the downfall of more wannabee writers than anything else. The cause of all those aborted first chapters that were all I had to show for years of trying to write romance, fantasy, anything! The trap of needing to “get it right”, in the first draft. This is posibly a hangover from my university days, when I was a lazy student and only ever submitted first drafts- I did not edit anything the whole time I was there.  I could get away with it when I was wriitng an 2nd year essay on Erikson’s Theory of Child Development, or whatever, but it’s extremely bad training for fiction wriitng. Anyway, I now have a new rule for myself, closely related to “permission to  write crap in first draft”. Today’s rule- “permission is granted to infodump in first draft”.  While I’m at it I’ll add tomorrow’s rule- “in first draft, it’s okay to break all the rules for publsihed stories”. Also “in first draft, grammar and spelling don’t matter”. There, nearly a week’s worth of personal wriitng rules in one go, that was easy!

It felt so liberating to let myself go for it, make my first chapter infodump central. I only wrote about twelve hundred actual story words today, but I feel as if I know a lot more about what’s going on and who these people are. Which can’t be bad.

The rest of the plan (besides making up my own silly rules) is to use whatever tools are available to help me to look at my stories and see what needs fixing, then find out how to fix it. Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance has questions to ask about the story for each main aspect like characters, conflict, sensuality. I think it could be a fantastic tool for identifying those areas of my stories that need more work. It also has questions to ask about the books we enjoy reading, to pinpoint what worked- maybe I will do a second reading and a proper analysis of some of the romances I’ve been reading. 

The plan was also going to include finding a critique buddy on the e-Harlequin board when the current story was written and edited. Having someone I can trust who both understands the romance genre and will be brave enough to tell me what totally sucks and what doesn’t quite hit the spot (that’s my family and friends out, on both counts!) reading and commenting on my story so my editing can be focused on fixing any issues has to help.  I really need someone honest enough and creative enough to find a postive way to tell me that my plot ideas stink, or at least need more than a teensy bit of tweaking,  if my hero is being a wimp or a cad, or my heroine is acting like an idiot (something that may be the case with my Kate, I’m afraid!). Fingers crossed I may have already found a critique partner a bit ahead of plan- I emailed someone today who’d left a message on the board, and I’m waiting to hear back. It’s okay if she’s found someone else to work with, I’m a strong believer in fate, what will be will be, although I also do my darnedest to make things happen too!

The other part of the plan is to join the Romantic Novelists’ Assocation’s New Writers’ Scheme  (I think I got those apostrophes in the right place this time!) next January – I missed out this year *&%# (insert swear word of your choice). I found out it’s essential to get in early as there are only 200 places. I’m not surprised it fills fast because it sounds amazing- for a small fee an experienced writer in the area of romance the unpubbed writer is aiming for gives a detailed critique, plus if she considers the work to be at publishable standard she may help it to find its publisher. After thinking about it, I’m glad I didn’t get in this year, because what I can submit next year will hopefully be that much better. Just like when I thought about it I was kind of glad I hadn’t won the Instant Seduction contest, because I really didn’t have enough to work on with the editor.

And of course, the most important parts of the plan- to write every spare minute I possibly can, read widely in the genre, spend too much time reading how other people do it on tgheri blogs and discussion groups.

So there it is, the Janey Jones Plan for Romance Wriitng Success, in Six Not So Easy Steps. Will it work? I just don’t know, but I do know there will be plenty of laughter and tears along the process of finding out!

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2 Responses to “The big plan…”

  1. SpeakCoffee Says:

    What’s the Romantic Novelists’ Assocation’s New Writers’ Scheme ?

    I dead with the “permission to write crap” rule warring with the urge to edit and then ponder the edits and re-edit edits by just putting all the questionable stuff in brackets.

    When I read what I wrote the night before to get me up to speed on today’s writing and I come across something I’m not sure I want to put right there I [bracket] it and move on. Since I don’t use brackets in my actual writing I know for sure that it’s an editing mark of mine but it doesn’t detract from the flow. I also feel better knowing that the mess is contained — even if it’s only by punctuation!

    – eiie

  2. waitingforthecall Says:

    That’s a good way to deal with it, eiie. Its a way to meet the need to “fix” without spending too much time fiddling with it. I’ve started doing something similar by not changing anything, no matter how bad, but putting it in italics, maybe with a quick notes about what I want there instead, and keeping on going. It may be even better for me to not read the day before’s writing at all, but just start again from where I think I was, and if I leave a gap, it can be filled in when I’m editing.

    Actually, I had no problem with the words flowing today- I was writing on the train and the heroine suddenly started having a somewhat saucy fantasy about the hero. I was so engrossed in the wtiting I nearly missed my stop! I’m not sure I can leave that in the final edit unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever read a Presents where the heroine fantasises about the supposedly unattainble hero.

    The RNA New Writers’ Scheme is here- http://www.rna-uk.org/index.php?page=nws
    I actually joined it, one year back in the late 1990’s, but I am embarrassed to say I never finished my story in time to send it in. Back then they wanted full ms, and would not accept partials- though as I never got further than Chapter One , that’s probably irrelevant!


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