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!

Now for the real work (and some fun reading!) June 28, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:07 pm
Tags: , ,


 I’ve luxuriated all week in a delicious sense of achievement at finishing the first draft of Luk and Emma.

I’ve also read. Bliss! (Well, when I could read. I’ve had sinusitis this week and by Thursday evening I couldn’t even focus my eyes on the page or the screen. Slept for 16 hours straight after taking some knockout strong painkillers. After that I didn’t know or care if it was the sinusitis or the drugs that were making me see double!)

I do need to be careful what I read when I’m in the middle of  writing. I seem to have this sponge-like tendency to unconsciously suck up whatever I am reading and  then it appears in my writing. I know that excuse has been used in some high level plagiarism cases, and I don’t buy it when it’s a word for word lift of a scene! But I have noticed it’s something I do to a certain extent, a character type, a turn of phrase, sneaking into my writing that I know I read somewhere else. I don’t want to just be a washed out copy of the writers I admire, so I decided not to read anything in the same line as I was writing while  was first drafting.

I’ve missed my reading so much! First thing I did when I finished that first draft last Saturday was reach for my To Be Read stacks! Two Kate Hardy Modern Heats, and a LBD (The Farmer Needs a Wife) have been devoured so far. I have Julie Cohen’s Girl from Mars  waiting to liven up my commute this week. Also I’ve bought e-books of the latest Kate Hardy, Natalie Anderson, and Heidi Rice Modern Heats. Though I can’t read those on the train ’til I get another smart phone. I loved my old phone, which did everything, including working surprisingly well as an e-book reader, and I was stupid enough not to notice it being stolen sometime on the Underground section of my commute last week. That must have been one helluva skillful pickpocket! Moral of the story is- keep your bag zipped up when in London.

Actually, this has been a busy week. I visited a hotel on Tuesday, met a woman on Wednesday morning, and was talking to a man at work on Wednesday afternoon. Some connections clicked in my brain, I put them all together, and I now have a full synopsis written for my next story, even GMC charts for the characters, all ready to start writing. Woot! I can’t wait! That will probably be my entry for the new I Heart Presents contest that’s being announced July 6.

Anyway, It’s not time to start a new story yet. Now it’s time to read something else. Luk and Emma in first draft.

I’ve spent some time this week thinking about plot and character and motivation and all that stuff. I’ve done most of the homework for Kara Lennox’s Plot Doctor workshop, and it’s helped me dig a lot deeper and find some of the weak spots that really need fixing. I have a five page single spaced synopsis, that seems to vaguely make sense and hasn’t sent my crit group screaming. Now I need to find out if I have something that can be made into a readable story. I’m anticipating 95% dreck, 5% something I can work with.

Sure hope I am not disappointed!


It’s done! June 20, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:24 pm


I can’t find a picture to illustrate quiet satisfaction. Not fireworks, not champagne corks popping. Just a quiet sense of “I’ve done it.”

The first draft is finished. More or less. I confess, a little bit of fudging was involved. I wrote the last resolution scene in full, then went back and simply did extended outlines for the one or two chapters that preceed that. But the story is told.

It feels good. Bloody good, actually!

Now the real challenge- editing some sort of coherent story out of the 60,000 word mess I’ve created!


Out of focus

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 1:50 pm
Tags: , ,

out of focus

I have the whole weekend to write in, and no idea what to write.

Luk and Emma are still were they were, happily having lots of fantastic sex but just starting to feel vaguely dissatisfied with things as they are. Now something needs to change, one of them needs to trigger the chain of events that will lead to the Black Moment. It has to flow out of who they are and what their relationship blocks are.

This is where I have always come unstuck big time in the past. My conflicts have been externally based.

Maybe starting at the HEA and working backwards, writing out of order as  Karyn suggested, would work. The key thing I need to know is this- what has to change for them to get to that HEA? What are their emotional issues at the moment, and how do they need to change and grow?

Okay, the sex is great. But one or both of them needs more than that. What is stopping them moving forward into a full and deep loving relationship? What has to change for them to reach a satisfying believable these-two-are-going-to-be-together-for-the-rest-of-their-lives?

I’m starting to think the problem is that I simply don’t know these characters well enough, despite all the time I’ve spent with them. They still aren’t alive enough, too much of them is still vague, blurry, out of focus.

I need to ask Luk and Emma some questions, find out how they feel right now, what they want the most, what they fear the most.

Then maybe we can all move forward!




Two hours later

Yay! It’s working! I haven’t even done the interview thing with Luk and Emma I wanted to do, just started writing the resolution. The characters are saying out loud to each other what needed to be fixed to get them there!


The joys of writer’s block! June 17, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:48 pm
Tags: , ,

writers_block Image source











I wanted an image to fit the theme for my post, so I did a Google image search for writer’s block. It’s surprising (or maybe not, given the propensities of so many writers!) just how many wines there are named Writer’s Block.

I’m not planning on standing out the front and announcing “My name’s Jane, and I’m an alcoholic.”  I’m pretty sure I don’t have a drinking problem, though my teetotal husband may tell you otherwise! I was thinking about the usefulness of writer’s block,what I can learn from being stuck and not being able to move forward.  

When I whinged  posted about this somewhere (I thought it was the Mills and Boon forum, but I couldn’t find the post!) a kind published writer (again because I can’t find the post I can’t find the advice, but I’m fairly certain it was either Michelle Styles, Michelle Willingham, or Donna Alward) said that when they got stuck, it was because there was something wrong in the plot that needed fixing. I didn’t see how that applied to me at the time. Mini-lightbulb moment- I now feel maybe I do.

I have been so confused. Right from when I started planning the story, part of me wanted to write the story as a Presents, with loads of emotional drama; the other half wanted to write it as a lightly ironic romantic comedy, though still with its quota of emotional growth and change.

It seemed to make more sense to aim at Presents/ Modern. I love those stories, they are shorter (not that I am stupid enough to think that means easier, far from it!) and I have that Mills and Boon Compliments Slip that I don’t want to waste. But…but… as I was writing I seemed to lean more towards romantic comedy, and I had to keep pulling myself back.

As it is now, it’s neither one thing or the other. It’s a weird bastardised hybrid which will need huge amounts hacked out in the edits no matter which way I decide to take it.

The resistance to writing any more hit when I realised that to make this a series romance, whether Presents, Modern Heat, or a Sweet Romance, I would have to cut out all the bits I liked best and had most fun writing. Of course, those are very probably the bits that I will see I most need to be cut when I re-read the first draft! But I have this massive reluctance to let go of that fun, light, more chick lit voice. I didn’t really see how to make it work as a single title though. Now I think I have figured it out and I know what I am going to try and do. It’s the same story, but with a very different slant to it. The romantic comedy side is winning!

It won’t require just a little change to the story, but a massive change. Voice, tone, POV, whose emotional journey I focus on, all that will need to change. I don’t know if my idea will work or if it is totally crazy. It may be the sort of thing that could work fine for a short story or novella but get tiresome over a whole novel. Or it could work fine and be a fab romantic comedy.

I’m back in the saddle. I just don’t know yet it I’m galloping full tilt towards home, or the edge of a cliff.


Whose black moment is it, anyway? June 14, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 9:51 am
Tags: , , , ,


“… at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.” Joseph Cambell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces





I am not just procrastinating. I am going into a fully fledged depression.

If I don’t finish this story, I don’t have to submit it. If I don’t submit it, it can’t be rejected. If it isn’t rejected, I can keep on being a “couldabeen”. I won’t have to face the fact that I could fail at my dream of writing like I failed at my dream of being a mother. Because who am I if one by one I have to give up on all my dreams?  What am I left with?

I’ve been escaping into safe things, things I know I can do, or things where if doesn’t mean that much to me if I have a few projects that don’t quite work out. Sewing, knitting, cooking, jewellery making. If something doesn’t work, I might be a little frustrated, but I don’t take it personally. I don’t need to. It never meant that much to me anyway.

But writing does. It’s personal. It’s who I am. If my writing sucks, I suck. And boy, does my writing suck right now! This first draft feels so bad I don’t see any point in keeping on going, there’s nothing here that can possibly be turned into good story. And no point starting a new story, because it will just be the same.

I need to stop this right now, before I spiral down into a crash and burn I might never get out of.

Somehow, I need to find a way to step back, get some detachment. Allow it to be okay if I play around with writing, experiment with things knowing it might not work out, might not be anything I ever want to show another human being let alone submit to an editor. Just like I’ve made garments that have never been worn, but have gone straight into the rag bag; or a few jewellery pieces that sit in the bottom of my work box and no one has ever seen; or those recipe experiments that are too bad to even feed to the dog, and we just get takeaway for dinner that night instead.

Sometimes things don’t come out how we want, that’s part of life. Being okay with that is what lets us try, try again, take chances, do things differently, and enjoy the journey regardless of whether ultimately we succeed or not.

That’s the attitude I need.

How to get there from here, I don’t know!

But just saying that, I feel different. I want to go write, make things happen for Luk and Emma. Sometimes it seems just saying “I know I need to change but I don’t know how,” brings its own light to the darkness. Being willing to admit there is a problem, and being open to the solution, begins the change process. Unless our story people go through their black moment, they can’t win through to their lasting happiness. And unless we admit we are in the dark, we can’t see the light when it comes.

Step one is to look at my expectations.

The reason I can play and have fun with other creative stuff is that I am not expecting to produce a professional result. I don’t compare my wobbly-seamed homemade dress with haute couture, or my lumpy-but-yum carrot cake with the work of a top patissiere. Yet for some crazy reason I think my first draft dreck should be as good as published writing, that has been maybe been rewritten, edited and polished twenty times by the writer from her first draft, with the help of an editor too?

The reason I take it so personally is that writing has become inextricably linked in my mind with my other major life goals. From when I was a young girl,  there were three things I wanted to achieve in my life. Have children and be a good mother, be a published writer, and build my own little house. Though not necessarily in that order.

For a long time, writing was the thing I worked on the most. I also renovated two houses. Then, in my thirties, emphasis shifted. All my focus was on having a baby. I didn’t write, apart from some journalling, didn’t think about much else. It probably wasn’t too healthy a way to be, especially when no matter how “good” I was, how much I followed the rules, I couldn’t make it happen. I think I have been in danger of making writing a replacement obsession. Also not healthy.

It’s a good thing that I’m letting myself have some time off, play with other creative stuff, have other loves and other interests. Monomania is never attractive! No need to feel guilty or as if I am somehow betraying myself by taking a break from the intensity of focus.

What is not good is making myself depressed, feeling a failure, thinking that wanting a weekend off from writing means I should give up.

I needed a break, so I could stand back and see what was happening. Taking a break is NOT giving up, it’s having a breather and finding a different, maybe better way to head towards where I want to get.

I gave having a baby my best shot seven times before I gave up trying any more. Here’s my deal with myself- I will give becoming  a published romance writer seven of my best shots too before I give up on that. Hey, if I can handle seven lost pregnancies, I can handle seven story rejections, right?  One submission down, six to go!


Luk and Emma stuck in transition June 7, 2009


I finally got them into bed together, and boy, these two are loving it! The problem is, I seem to have got stuck in the bedroom. I need to somehow get through the three week honeymoon, and on to where things start to unravel for them.

I’m at that turning point in the Hero’s Journey where The Reward becomes The Journey Back. Something needs to change to impel them back into movement and action, which will inevitably lead to the Black Moment. I have a good idea what will trigger the change, but just don’t seem able to write the darn thing!

Several reasons-

  1. I am lousy at transitions. always have been. I can understand why newbie writers create 150,000 word epics. It’s easier to write in everything that happens than write a smooth transition!  Solution for that is going to be to just write any crap that gets them into the next scene in as few words as possible, and hope I can straighten it out in edits.
  2. I’m not convinced the motivation for the characters’ actions are going to strong enough to be believable and sympathetic, especially Luk. He has to do something that could appear highly unheroic, so he has to have good reason to behave that way. The motivation I had for him that seemed good enough when I was planning the story just wasn’t feeling right anymore. The answer there was to dig a bit deeper into his character and background to find out why he would choose to act like that. What I came up with was unexpected and changes his backstory quite a bit, but makes a lot more sense. Hopefully it will also make his choices when Emma triggers a crisis believable and acceptable.
  3. The toughest one of all. I like these characters. I’m so happy writing their love scenes. I don’t want to send us all out into the painful wilderness of the Journey Home and the Black Moment, even though the only way to our Happy Ever After is to get them through it. Writing this stuff is going to hurt. I will have to deal with pain and betrayal and people confronting their deepest held limiting beliefs. It is most emphatically NOT going to be fun. Don’t have a solution to this one. So far, I’ve procrastinated. I’ve read a couple of stories. I’ve done some work on this blog. I’ve signed up for an online workshop (Plot Doctoring- think I may need it when it comes time to edit! But I was also kinda hoping that wanting the first draft finished before I start the workshop would give me an extra push). I’ve visited lots of discussion groups and writers’ websites, kidding myself that reading about writing is almost the same as writing, so I don’t have to feel guilty about not writing. Because the other stories I’ve completed or nearly completed weren’t structured right for series romance, I’ve never had to do this before. My stories just meandered on to a HEA. I know the answer is just to take a deep breath, dive into the deep water, and hope I can swim. But sheesh, I really don’t want to!

Interesting writing contest? June 3, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:39 pm


I saw this contest today for a serialised novel in just about any romance genre, to be sent to readers in installments via email or text message. There’s a publishing contract with Dorchester as the prize. I like the idea of the discipline of writing what is in effect one  or two chapters in a standard romance (6,000- 10,000 words) as twenty chapters of less than 500 words. What a challenge to come up with all those hooks at the end of each chapter to convince the reader to download the next chapter!

What do you think?