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!

Stone the crows! May 22, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:41 pm
Tags: , ,

Those wretched crows of doubt have been back again today, circling!

I seem to have ground almost to a halt on James and Cassie’s story. The romance writing workshop last Saturday was fab and stimulated lots of ideas for strengthening my plot, but I can’t seem to actually write anything. I’m finding it’s getting progressively harder to write. When I started writing again just for fun, I wrote more and better than I am now, after so much writing and workshopping and planning. I think I am falling into the trap of needing to “get it right”, and it’s paralysing me. I keep telling myself to just let it rip in first draft and fix all the faults later, but it’s simply not happening for some reason. I know I can write a whole first draft in a month, and yeah sure, it was total rubbish that needs serious work in editing, but I’ve been struggling for 2 weeks with a first chapter on the WIP that is still total rubbish and will be almost all thrown out in my second draft!

I’m not sure what the best way to deal with this is, whether to keep wriitng and hope I push through it like a rmarathon runner when they hit the wall, or to give myself some time off to read, relax, hang out on wriitng boards, and just recharge.

Part of what’s stopping me write is changes in my life too, which are affecting my wriitng time and have been an additional stress this week -like I didn’t already have enough! The question of balance is a tough one, we are all juggling so many competing demands. I wrote pretty obsessively for the first few months of the year, but now I’m thinking I really need to spend more time with my husband, more time doing other things I love. I don’t think it helps us be good writers if we are neglecting the other things in our lives. Does it matter that much if the book is finished three months later than it could have been?

This is a weird one, but it also occured to me that maybe doing the morning pages is blocking me too- my subconcious is thinking, ‘Okay, that’s it, I’ve done my writing for the day, don’t need to do anymore.’ Hmm. Might experiment with that one. I also read a long time ago that talking about the story or writing about the story could sometimes again make the subcounscious think that the story had been told and that it didn’t ned to write anymore. I don’t know about that, because otherwise plotters would never get anything written!

I’m hoping that my story is somehow simmering away beneath the surface when it looks cold and lifeless, and that the words will come in a burst. My hero is the real block in the WIP. James is supposed to be alpha, but every time he opens his mouth he’s nice. He’s powerful, determined, rich, and stubborn about getting his own way; but he doesn’t use people, he asks rather than demands, he has good reason to be cynical and he guards his heart closely, but he doesn’t act like a bastard because of it. I’m trying to make him be who he’s not, to fit my idea of what a Presents/ Modern hero should be. I just have to write him as he is, and see what comes out, I think.

I’m not sure yet where the “home” will be for my stories. I do like writing more sensual stories (not anywhere within shouting distance of erotica, but the bedroom door is definitely open!), but I just can’t get a grip on writng the Alpha hero. I think because in real life I’d run a mile from that sort of guy, and if I can’t write a hero who I can fall in love with, he’s not going to affect my readers either. I read a psot on Tote Bags and Blogs today about the attraction of the nerd. I have to say I adore the more nerdy type guy- and I married one! He’s still the sexiest man alive for me, so let’s hear it for the nerd! I had crushes on few Alpha-ish types when I was younger, but now I say give me a man who is smart, funny, great in bed and who adores me, even if his hairline is receding, his waistline is expanding, and he needs reading glasses! Okay, I doubt anyone else would want to read a story with my husband as the hero, but maybe the reason I’m struggling so much is that I’m trying to write Alpha heroes, and I need to write the oh-so-sexy, guy-next-door-only-better Gamma male instead.

Scared off the crows by flinging a handful of stones at them, going to the shops to buy a half-dozen Mills and Boon “Romance” stories (the pink cover ones that have been through so many incarnations- Tender, Sweet, whatever else they were called), as I haven’t read that line for years, and wonder if that’s where my stories belong. Also read an excellent article on Scene and Sequel here, thanls to Claire Baxter recommending it on e-Harlequin. It’s worth a read, beacuse it looks at pace, at deepening tension and emotional intensity, at POV- just about everything, in one brief article!

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11 Responses to “Stone the crows!”

  1. I see those crows circling too, and I can’t find my slingshot!

    Go the nerd I say! I’m sure there are romance possibilities in that idea Jane. Perhaps you can imbue the tenderest aspects of your husband with the alpha qualities of some movie star and create the romance hero you’re searching for? Personally, I’d like to read about a man who breaks the stereotype, but then, I’m married to a geek too. Hmm, I wonder how many of us are? Clark Kent still won Lois Lane in the end didn’t he? Maybe there is potential in your idea.

  2. Janet Says:

    It definitely sounds as though James belongs in the Romance line. (I’m targetting this line and I love it )

  3. waitingforthecall Says:

    LOL Jodie! I bet most of us married lovely but geeky guys in real life! I’d hate to be married to an Alpha male, we’d be constantly in a power struggle, but I do secretly wish my husband was just a bit more Alpha sometimes.

    I could be wrong, generalising here, maybe its just me, but that urge to nurture and care for my man competes with my desire to be looked after and swept away. The lure of the Alpha male, it just occured to me, is the giving up of responsibilty, surrendering to a stronger force, having someone else take over for a change.

    Aha! I just got it! I never really understood that before, why that type of male would strike a chord in so many women’s fantasies. Jeez, aren’t we all fed up sometimes with having to take care of everybody and everything!

    That’s the real attraction of the Alpha man then, not so much that he’s rich and powerful, but that he can take us away from the day job and making sure everyone gets fed and the bills get paid and the washing gets done and the car goes in for its service. And maybe sometimes it’s fun to dream of being with a dominant bossy man, if it means we don’t have to worry about the million and one decisions we have to make every day. It’s the fantasy of escape, of being carried away on the back of the knight’s horse to a different life.

    So possibly the man I want to write about can offer some of that to my heroine, while still being sweet and kind and having the best characteristics of the geek too. Some romance writers have coined the term Gamma male for these ideal heroes who combine the best aspects of both the Alpha and the Beta male. Thanks for getting me thinking more on that. I think the hero I want to write about is the man we’d want to marry in real life, but with that extra fantasy element added in.

    I wrote nothing on my story today, and i’m not beating myself up about it. But I am going to try to stop worrying so much it paralyses me, and just get the first draft done. It will be 90% crap, of course. There’s a very good saying which goes something like “You can fix a bad page, but not a blank page.” I need to remember that.

    How are things going for you? Here’s a slingshot for those pesky crows… I’m building mine now!
    http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2006/05/how_to_make_a_slingshot.html

  4. Janet Says:

    PS Was I sitting next to you at the Kate Walker workshop in Lincoln last weekend? I was wearing a blue top. 🙂

  5. waitingforthecall Says:

    Oh, lovely, Janet, I was wondering if that was you! I noticed how pretty your hair was, and you wore big chunky beads, was that you? I wished we’d had more of a chance to talk. I remember you said you had submitted to Richmond before and had a feedback letter from the editors- that’s fantastic! What are you working on at the moment? I’d love to hear about it!

    About James, the troublesome man! Yes, I’m wondering if he is a Romance hero rather than a Presents/Modern. (If you are reading this Jodie, I think they are called Sweet and Sexy in Australia). I went and bought a bundle of lovely pink covers today, as I hadn’t read any from this line for a while and I’m sure they have moved on since last time I read one, I need to get the feel for the series. I really only got hooked into targetting Modern because of the Instant Seduction first chapter and synopsis competition in February. Part of my problem is that I really really really want to finish that story, but the letter I got back from the editors said to use the Compliments Slip with my NEXT story, so I started something new, which was James and Cassie’s story. Ooh, bit of an aha moment- my buddy Melissa and I were planning to try for the Desire pitch contest in July, but there’s no way James and Cassie’s story will be done in time for that. But could I get Bruno and Rebecca’s story edited and fly that one in the contest? The first draft was just about done when I stopped writing, and I have a very strong sense of the conflicts and motivation there because I spent all of February and March working on it.

    I’m not convinced this current story will work at all as there is just too much external stuff going on, even though it all links in to the internal conflict. I have this sense that there is an important clue about James and his internal conflict and motivation that I’m just not getting. Cassie is very strong for me, but James is still a bit fuzzy. I’m feeling it needs to go back onto the back burner to simmer a bit more.

    So, am I going to jump story once again? I wish I could remember where I read it, but sometime in my blog and website hopping today I found a writer who said that she always had two or three stories on the go at once, and would move from one to the other as needed, if she got stuck on one she could move to the other. It seems to be a scary risky thing for an inexperienced writer to try. But maybe it’s okay for me to try that, maybe I’m going down another dead end, or it might just work brilliantly for me. I want to let this year be a year of experimenting with different ways of writing, different types of stories, so it’s okay to try it and see what fits me, I guess. Hoo boy. This is a big decision.

  6. Janet Says:

    Big chunky beads–yes, that was me! I was so pleased to find a ‘friend’ at the workshop. I was in Lincoln with my husband and he agreed to come to the evening talk with me, but I didn’t think he’d really want to go to a writing workshop so went on my own.

    “But could I get Bruno and Rebecca’s story edited and fly that one in the contest? The first draft was just about done when I stopped writing, and I have a very strong sense of the conflicts and motivation there because I spent all of February and March working on it.”

    That sounds a great idea. The Presents editors saw something in your comp entry that they liked and as Desire is very similar to Presents …

  7. Kate Walker Says:

    Hi Jane – and Janet!

    It was lovely to see both of you at the workshop in Lincoln on Saturday. Thank you for coming and I’m glad that it helped you.

    Jane – I’ve a feeling you’re ‘thinking’ your hero too much and not letting him grow and ‘be’. For one thing I’m never happy with the idea that an alpha hero has to ‘act like a bastard’ – I really hate that idea. Forceful, yes, determined, yes – in pursuit of the woman he doesn’t yet realise he loves . And if you’re forcing yuor poor hero into a ‘be nasty’ mould that doesn’t fit him then it’s just not going to work. Try reading Presents authors like Anne McAllister to see how much a hero can be strong, determined etc etc but never a bastard. That term may come from a heroine’s mouth in anger – but a real one would never be a hero for me. (Check out the section on Alphas in the 12 Point Guide for more of my thoughts on this)

    You’re still trying to find your voice so write James as you feel he is and then see where he fits. Here’s my suggestion – let those ‘morning pages’ be non criticial, free writing – just let go and write your story in the way that you WANT to write. Don’t thnk of line and styles and then see what you end up with. This may give you a better idea of your own voice.

    Romance heroes (that’s the Romance line) can be strong too. The stories just don’t have that high-voltage conflict that makes a Presents/Modern. Take a look at Liz Fielding, Marion Lennox – the authors from Lincoln – Natasha Oakley and Trish Wylie .

    My best advice is – again – that you’re trying too hard to come up with a “Presents hero” rather than a hero that you can fall in love with yourself and so write so believably that you make your readers fall in love with him too.

  8. waitingforthecall Says:

    Wow, Kate, spot on advice as always! Of all the weaknesses of my stories so far, the heroes are definitely the one most in need of sorting. I consistently just don’t seem to dig deep enough, I know that I am missing something vital that is at the core of this man, something I desperately need to feel and understand. I don’t really mean I want him to ‘act like a bastard’ that is shorthand and a poor way of expressing what I meant. It’s that behavoiur that makes the heroine think he’s acting like a bastard when he’s not, his strength opposing hers; when he’s being high-handed, doing things she may not think she wants but which are in her best interests; when as a natural leader he takes control, and she resists. James, as I’ve written him so far, lacks something I can’t quite put my finger on. He’s strong, he’s sucessful, he has honour and integrity. But I’m still not grasping something important about him. As you say, I do need to get to know him better. And the best way to get to know him better is to write him as he is, and not try to force him into that non-existent mould of a ‘Presents hero’, so that I can hear what he has to tell me about who he is.

  9. waitingforthecall Says:

    Sorry for the delay responding Janet! I’d love to know what you are working on, if you want to talk writing just let me know. I think you would write lovely emotional stories that would be a delight to read!

  10. Janet Says:

    Yes, let’s talk writing. I love talking about writing. Is my e-mail adress showing up on this blog. I know it’s hidden but maybe you can see it, as it’s your blog? We could exchange messages:)

  11. Janet Says:

    Oops. I know how to spell address. Really I do. 🙂


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