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!

Riding the see saw May 11, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

 Just when I though I had things reasonably figured out and I knew where I was going with my wriitng, I’m confused again, and totally undecided about what to do next. I had a day off wriitng yesterday, as I’d been neglecting my husband, we hadn’t had any decent “couple time” for ages, so we took a day off togther and went to the Barkway markets.

Had a wonderful day, the best possible spring weather, sunny but not too hot; a drive through beautiful rolling Hertfordshire countryside that looked just like my picture postcard imaginings of what the English countryside should look like before I came to this country; a fabulous huge market with all sorts of bric a brac and craft items for sale, in the grounds of the medieval manor house; and the church was open so we could see the old stone carvings. As a Australian of British ancestry, I always had a hunger for that sense of a history that was my history. The oldest buildings I’d ever been in there dated to about the 1840’s. There are awesome aboriginal sites that date back as far as 40,000 years, maybe even further, the longest continuous culture on the planet, but I always had the sense of being on stolen ground. The line of continuity had been broken, and rather than giving a sense of belonging or security, it gave a feeling of wrongness and guilt. Not so here in England. It’s an amazing experience to stand in a 14th century church and know that this is my history, my heritage. (it’s not just in the UK, oddly enough I had the same feeling in a tiny medieval French village church, and a Tunisian hill-fort). I love Australia, but I don’t feel the same sense of belonging there.

Anyway, that’s a sidetrack and not what I wanted to write about. I need to work out what I should be writing. The plan was- have the day off the story yesterday, and spend at least four hours writing story words today. I’m doing a lot of words that aren’t story words, but wriitng about writing, or wriitng around the story, character building, plotting, but not writing story. My strong feeling and part of my experiment in trying out different ways of writing was that I shouldn’t spend too much time pre-writing on this one, but just write, and sort out the problems in the edit. So today was the “write as many story words as I can before I have to go do the duty visit to my mother in law this evening” day. Except now I’ve got myself confused, and I don’t know which story I should be writing on.

My critique buddy Melissa (who has the most fabulous story plotted out and in progress, I so want to read it!) and I were wondering about which series our writing was the best fit with. I love Presents/Modern Romance, but I only started targeting that line because of the Instant Seduction competition. I had been having doubts about whther that was the best line for me to aim for, that maybe the sort of stories and the sort of heroes I like best weren’t a good match with Presents. Now there’s a Desire contest, as an additional distraction /possibility. (I’ve got this image of us in a  dressing room, with an armful of lovely frocks, trying on first one, then the other. “That’s gorgeous, but I liked this one too, and maybe it you tried that one again with this belt, what do you think?”)

I’m still not totally clear on the differences between this line and Presents, even after listening to the thirty minute editor podcast and reading the guidelines over at e-Harlequin. I need to read some recent release books from the series- I ordered half a dozen on ebay last night (thank goodness for that £10 PayPal voucher they sent me!). They still want an Alpha hero, though possibly he can be a little softer than the Presents hero often is; and I get the idea that more external conflict is okay, as long as the focus is still firmly on the developing relationship. I’m now wondering if James and Cassie’s story, the marriage of convenience story I plotted out then put aside as having too much external conflict for Presents, would be a viable Desire story.  How can I know without wriitng the thing? Now I am feeling so torn! James and Cassie’s story is back in my head, with scenes playing out like mini-movies.

This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen. My big fear is that unless I commit to completing a story, I will just jump from idea to idea to idea and never get anything completed. Sure, it would be fun, I’d only ever have to write what I felt like writing, but it sort of knocks on the head any chance of ever getting published. I’m on a sew saw ride, with James and Cassie one end, and Nick and Kate on the other, and me sliding helplessly around in the middle, going to whichever end carries the most weight for me at the time.

But maybe it’s okay, maybe this is just the way I write. I asked to be shown the way of writing that worked for me, that was most natural to me. Maybe it is just this. Have an idea for characters and a situation and what might happen to get them to their Happy Ever After, then put them to one side to work on another story. Meanwhile, the original story is simmering away on the backburner, until it’s done enough to be ready to use. I’m not sure if I will ever finish anything this way and I’m especially doubtful of how it would work if I’m wriitng to a deadline, where I just have to focus on the story that’s due, no matter what else is demanding to be written. On the other hand, I shouldn’t ask for guidance on my personal wriitng style, if I’m not willing to at least give what comes up a try!

I need to trust that if I find and follow my natural process, I’ll be more productive that way than if I try to force myself into a way that I think I should  work. Great article I found yesterday about following one’s own wriitng method (though I must admit she is not advocating jumping from story to story!)- Writing without a net .

So it looks like it’s back to James and Cassie’s story again. I’m going to take a chance here. After all, the worst thing that can happen is I delay getting eventually published by a few months if this is a wrong turning, and I still will have learned something about what works for me and what is right for me in the journey.


11 Responses to “Riding the see saw”

  1. From what I can tell, the Presents males are meaner and more successful than the Desire males. In a Desire book, they might own the biggest business in town, but in Presents they own the biggest business on their continent, and sometimes the world!

    Also the Presents males are either European (Italian, Spanish, Greek) or Australian with a few Brits in there. The Desire males are seem to be mainly American.

    P.S. I’m enjoying your blog!

  2. waitingforthecall Says:

    Thanks Alyssa! My impression is that the job ad for a Presents hero reads ‘Multi-millionaires only need apply, billionaires preferred.’ Just being a millionare doesn’t crack it anymore.

    I wonder if an English hero would be okay for a Desire? Or if he needs to be American? He could be, but the main setting is definitely the UK (with perhaps a side trip to Monaco thrown in).

    I’m waiting for a bundle of recent release Desires I bought to arrive, then I’m planning a big readfest. It’s been a while since I read a Desire.

    What makes it harder as a writer wanting to break in is the range of books, and that multi-published writers have the skill and the fan base to get away with stories that break the rules in ways a new writer definitely should not try!

  3. “What makes it harder as a writer wanting to break in is the range of books, and that multi-published writers have the skill and the fan base to get away with stories that break the rules in ways a new writer definitely should not try!”

    Boy, did you ever hit the nail on the head! Look at Trish Wylie’s latest Presents book “Her Bedroom Surrender.” The back cover blurb describs him as a “self-made fitness tycoon” but in the book, he is co-owner of 3 gyms, plus works as a security gaurd in highly hostile countries. It made reference to him trying to support his family and owning a sleek BMW, but no other trappings of the uber rich. How is this guy a Presents hero? But in his defence, he was ABSOLUTELY dreamy in an evolving alpha kind of way! LOL

  4. Okaaaaaaay, Rory is a Modern Heat hero which isn’t quite the same as a ‘Modern’ hero.

    Modern Heat is a line that’s evolving very quickly and ‘Her Bedroom Surrender’ was written to last years guidelines as opposed to this years. Right now, Modern Heat is ‘Modern/Presents younger sister’ in feel. There are more billionaires than there were and it’s getting hotter.

  5. Trish Wylie Says:

    What she said 😉

    And Melissa I SWEAR I’m not stalking you personally – it just seems to be the day for author friends to IM me to tell me where my name has been mentioned… apparently I’m not the only one guilty of procrastination – AM I NATASHA???!!!

    Just wanted to say a huge YAAAYYYY to our hostess here that the blog and my ramblings proved useful to you. I sometimes wonder if all that ranting makes future writers consider taking up clerical work instead… GREAT to know it actually proved helpful. I shall resolve myself to rant another day! When I finish this book. And have a life. And clean laundry. And clean dishes. And I can see the floor. And I’ve spent quality time with my neglected horse. And emailed everyone I’ve ignored. And…

    I’ll see you in 2012…

  6. waitingforthecall Says:

    Trish writes so well that she would be able to make any man a gorgeous hero- he sounds like my sort of guy. I’ve fallen in love with her heroes just reading her blog!

    I haven’t managed to read any of the Modern Heat stories yet – the idea of the line sounds very appealing- maybe a bit lighter and more chick-lit than Presents / Modern. Was that story published as a Presents in Canada, Melissa, I thought they were calling them something different there?

    I don’t feel a man has to be a billionaire to be a Alpha hero, it’s an attitude rather than the size of his wad. Where did I read that a true Alpha hero would be able to lose all his money, and still command respect? The fantasy does seem to be getting pushed further and further to the extreme in some ways.

    Natasha, I wasn’t implying a criticism of any published writers with my comment. “Rules” are made to be broken, and it’s part of what makes reading romances so much fun. It’s just that as a newbie trying to get a sense of what editors might be wanting, there is both such a diversity of series, then such a diversity of voices within each line, and every month books come out that have elements that contradict what we are told we “should” be doing. Which is a good thing, romance is not formulaic and “all the same”, but does make it hard to get a handle on what’s okay with the editors and what is not.

    Your comment points up something important too- reading the latest releases shows us what the editors wanted last year, not what they are looking for this year! I guess in the end all we can do is write the best stories we can do, in the ways that seem most true and real to us, and hope we do it well enough to make an editor think “Yes”.

  7. waitingforthecall Says:

    Oops Trish, I missed your post while I was still wriitng my other reply. Wow, am I honoured, Natasha and Trish to visit!Melissa, please comment on her books more often!

    Trish, If I do ever make it as a published writer, I will have to dedicate my first book to you, because truly, I was on the edge of saying nope, can’t do this, just too hard, and your blog was what made me laugh and think WTF, keep trying woman, don’t give up yet.

    I have this mental image of you from the way you write, I’m soooo looking forward to Lincoln on Saturday so I can see if my imagining is anywhere near reality!

    Now go and do the wriitng you are obviously avoiding, you two, so you get more books publsihed and us poor struglling newbies have even more to be jealous of. And so we have some great reads to show us how to do it!

    PS Life is too precious to worry about clean laundry and dishes. Though I do worry when the floor has that odd crunchy sensation.

  8. LOL No I know you weren’t. Modern Heat is, perhaps, the most difficult to pin down because it’s very new and in flux. Initially it was Modern Extra and only went out in the UK. Now it’s Modern Heat and how the books are released in NA varies. Some have gone as part of a themed collection called Presents Extra, some a slotted as Presents. Quite often the titles are changed just to make it more confusing.

    It’s not as complicated as it looks from the outside. 🙂

    The editors at Richmond edit across the lines. So, in a sense, it doesn’t matter. Write the book you want. More than anything they look for ‘voices’.

  9. waitingforthecall Says:

    Thanks for that, Natasha, it is useful to know, I wasn’t sure quite how it worked. That was one of those questions I didn’t know who to ask – what do I do with the compliments slip from the Presents / Modern competition if my next story is more Modern Heat? It sounds as if it will be okay to send it in anyway.

    I am still very much in the process of finding my writing voice, writing different stories which are quite different in tone it seems. My current heroine seems to be developing a surprisingly sassy voice.

  10. waitingforthecall Says:

    Trish Wylie is in the winning for an award for the story Melissa mentioned! Congratulations Trish!

  11. waitingforthecall Says:

    Oops, I meant to say Trish is in the “running” for the award! Hopefully she will be in the winning too!

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