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!

Book in a Week progress report May 8, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 2:21 pm
Tags: ,

lukas-and-gabi Eileen noticed that my work count bar had gone back to zero. Had I scrapped what I already had on the story? Again?

Oops. Yes.

I wanted to completely rethink the whole thing and go back to the basics of getting to know my characters muuuuuuuch better. Go through the whole process of creating the book again, because I knew what I had wasn’t going to work. Too much external conflict, and the villain was a stronger driving force than either the hero or the heroine.

That had to change!

I signed up for April Kihlstrom’s Book in a Week workshop, mainly because the intensive writing week coincided with this week I have off between jobs. Her focus is strongly on character driven plots. Just what I needed. The first few weeks is spent asking ourselves questions about why we want to write this particular story, and about our characters. I had fun doing this! Fell in love with my hero. Felt I knew my heroine so much more. They’d shifted from being cardboard cut outs designed to fit the plot, to being the people who were going to make the plot happen.

Then this week I planned a grand write-fest. This coincided with the intensive writing week of the five week long workshop, which was one of the reasons I signed up. Worked out if I could average 7,000 words a day I would get a 49,000 word first draft done in 7 days. Which was fine for a Presents or Modern Heat as I would have space to layer in more lusciousness- sensuality, sexual tension, the stuff I know my first drafts tend to be light on.

Hah! My word count has been pretty much on target, my estimate of getting a first draft in a week was way off the mark. I have over 35,000 words and I’m nowhere near half way yet. I knew I was overwriting, and that I could chop probably 10,000 off the beginning without too much problem. Then things got even less predictable. Wednesday was a particularly exuberant day, I had so much fun writing! But oh,oh, it’s not a Harlequin Mills and Boon any more. The only way to make it one will be to chop out all the parts I love the most. (Though come to thing of it, I’m sure I’ve read a very similar quote somewhere describing the editing process as exactly that. It is possible that when I was having fun I was being self-indulgent and writing total bollocks.)

The thing is, now I have no idea what to do. Keep writing as I’m doing, and allow it to turn into an 80,000 word monster, or try to rein it in and make it what I originally planned? I want to just let it go wild and see what I get. If what I get is a huge crazy mess that can’t be edited down into a series romance, I can always aim for single title. A harder sell I know, but I do have the RNA New Writers’ Scheme to help. If my reader thinks it’s marketable, she’ll tell me, and make some suggestions where to try.

The main issue is, even if I go with it staying closer to Plan A, I can’t possible write this hero and heroine to their HEA by Sunday.

I really wanted to finish the first draft by the end of the week. With that gone, what’s to push me on? Yesterday was a real struggle. I hit my 7,000 words, just, through hard slog. I feel so demotivated, so tired.  If I’m only going to get two thirds  of the way through by Sunday, why knock myself out for the next few days for that? I can take it easier and be half way through instead. Start my new job Monday relaxed instead of exhausted. It’s now 3pm here, and I’ve written nothing yet today.

Of course, I’m not stopping, maybe slowing down a little.  I have a particularly good scene to start with today. I’ll use Write or Die to push me on. I’ll try hard to convince my husband that when I say “I’m writing now, please only interrupt me if it’s important,” that doesn’t include asking  me if we have any hummous in the fridge. I can probably get 5,000 today. But it does feel a bit, “Why bother?”

Okay. That’s where I feel I haven’t achieved my goal with Book in a Week. Maybe I’ll feel more motivated if I look at what I have achieved.

What I’ve gained (so far, may well be more to add to the list by the end of next week!)-

  • been given a method for planning a book and digging deep into characters that resonates with me and keeps me character focused and the plot character driven
  • discovered a tool to document my planning (Text Block Writer, a free program for organising notes) that works well for me,  and feels really intuitive
  • have created a template  in Text Block Writer that I can use for story after story that seems to help a lot with planning, keeping track of characters, and plotting. I’ve already worked out how I can use it for editing too.
  • discovered that I overwrite big time in first draft. Part of my way of continuing to work out the story as I go seems to be to write far too much. So if I want a 50,000 word finished story, better plan for at least 60,000 in first draft. Possibly this will change as I get better at writing. Possibly it’s just how I write.
  • found I like to write significant scenes twice, from both the hero and the heroine’s point of view. Probably when I edit, those two takes on the same event will condense down into one
  • know I can write over 7,000 story words in a day, if I try. Could come in useful!
  • worked out easy ways to save and back up my writing
  • discovered I probably don’t write Sweet. More Modern Heat or Little Black Dress. Need to wait until I finish first draft and reread to know for sure.
  • know I can manage to write without needing to go back and edit what I’ve already done. Keeping on writing forward at last!
  • even if I don’t get the first draft finished by Sunday, I know I can write an astonishing number of words in a week if I make writing my main focus
  • even if I don’t get the first draft finished by Sunday, two thirds of a first draft is a hell of a lot closer to finishing than what I had before

Okay, enough procrastination, I gotta go write!


10 Responses to “Book in a Week progress report”

  1. Janet Says:

    Well done on writing 35,000 words–You certainly don’t do things by halves!

    Just a thought…
    Maybe 7,000 words a day for a whole 7 days (without ending up demotivated ) isn’t an attainable goal (?)

    If you aimed for a 50, 000 word romance novel and wrote 1,700 words a day your book would be finished in a month.

    Then you could spend another month polishing/editing and have it ready for the NWS deadline.

    The M&B editor liked your writing and wants more. The single title can wait

  2. waitingforthecall Says:

    Hiya Janet! Yes, of course it was a totally unrealistic goal!

    But it has definitely done the job I wanted, which was to propel me past my “third chapter and no further” block. I was getting sidetracked by surface goals, being so disappointed that it wasn’t going to be finished this week. My real goal was just to get past that “this is crap gotta start again” place. Which, thank God, I’ve done!

    And it is going to be a Modern Heat, I think, once I edit all the other stuff out. Hey, if I get a big fat R from Richmond I can always go back to the first draft and see if I can make it a single title (and yay, I can put in some of the fun stuff I just know I’m going to have to take out to send to Richmond!).

    It’s also good to know I can do that sort of word count if I have to, though I know it’s not something I could sustain.

    Now, I’m aiming at just what you suggested, a steady 2000 a day to get this story finished. Then an hour or two a day editing, and then whack it in an envelope with that Comps Slip that’s probably getting all faded and curled at the edges I’ve had it so long. Then start on the next story!

    I’ve managed over 3,000 so far today, and I don’t feel like I’ve trying too hard at all. Didn’t start til nearly 5pm, have been to the shops, talked to my husband, made a couple of phone calls, sorted out a new credit card, and cooked dinner in that time too. Yippee for motivation and knowing what I can do if I try. Write or Die had helped too!

    How’s your WiP coming along?

  3. Janet Says:

    “How’s your WiP coming along?”

    It’s getting there 🙂 Slowly! I’m on the last few chapters now.

    “I’ve managed over 3,000 so far today, and I don’t feel like I’ve trying too hard at all”

    That’s so good. If I manage 1000 words a day, I’m doing well!

    Will your next one be a modern heat too?

  4. waitingforthecall Says:

    Oh, that’s excellent Janet! What a lovely feeling to be so close to the end. Is this a Sweet?

    Oh, and I forget to say, it was fab to see you as member of the month on the M&B community!

    Re word count, normally I think I’ve done well if I write anything at all! It’s interesting the change in perspective setting a target of 7,000 words a day gives!

    I’m not sure what I’ll be writing next. I have lots of ideas. There are a couple of possible Medicals floating around.

    I just want to finish this one first! I’m still not at all sure where my voice fits. It’s definitely too sexy for Romance. But not darkly intense enough for Presents/Modern. I’m not 100% convinced I have the MH sassiness and SOH either, but I think that may be what I’m working towards.

  5. Eileen Says:

    35,000! How exciting!

    I say just let it grow wild! Simply put, you can’t edit what’s not there! And if, for you, writing the first draft means over writing everything then do it. Get it all down, get inside everyone’s head and then pick and choose all the best stuff later on. 🙂

    I’m crazy envious of your determination. Yesterday I decided that I wanted to do 50k in the next three weeks. Part of that is because I work best under impossible, looming deadlines. We’ll see if i do as well as you did.

    I love that list of things you’ve gained, btw. It’s great to stop and reflect on all the positives. 😀

  6. waitingforthecall Says:

    50,000 words in 3 weeks sounds exciting! I know you will do it!
    What’s the story going to be?

  7. Julie Cohen Says:

    Hooray! You’ve done a brilliant job and learned so much in just a week. Go you!!

    My husband also asks about the content of the fridge when I’m working. What?!

  8. waitingforthecall Says:

    Thanks Julie!

    The funniest thing about how my husband interrupts is the way he’s genuinely surprised that I don’t think what he’s asking is important.

    First I kill him. Then I laugh.

  9. Jane Holland Says:

    My advice, FWIW? Getting a novel to publication stage is like dieting successfully. You have to forget about getting there with flair and mind-changes and bouts of carefree imagination that allow you to wander from the plot and the basic premise. Make a plan and stick to it strictly. Do not deviate from the path, however pretty those primroses are over there.

    Target the line, do the word count, finish the book as planned, polish and spellcheck and send it off. Whatever you do, don’t start a straight M&B that expands into a romantic saga or a ghoulish thriller halfway through. That’s a sure way to waste your time and never reach the Book Accepted stage.

    But then, you need to decide upfront what you want from this. Publication, or a fun hobby. If it’s the latter, feel free to do whatever you like. But if not …

    Only my opinion, of course! And many others will see the process differently. 😉

  10. waitingforthecall Says:

    That’s an interesting comment, Jane.

    I think you are totally right, and I also disagree with you.

    I ended up writing so much triggered by your comment that I’ve made it a separate post!

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