Just when I thought I had figured things out, I completely confused myself later yesterday.
This story has been through so many different incarnations over the past ten months, though only one made it past chapter 4. I went looking for one of the earlier versions as I remembered a section I wanted to cut and paste that would work well in first person. I found something surprising.
One of the early versions was better! Not just a little bit, it was much, much better. And the voice is pure Sweet Romance. I got stuck with that version for the classic reason- I’d started with just two people in a situation, but hadn’t thought through the internal conflict. Basically, there wasn’t any, it was all external. No reason at all these two couldn’t get together, apart from the evil bad guy keeping them apart. Oh, and the heroine being a bit miffed that the hero manipulated her early on to get her to agree to what he wanted. When I realised that I stopped, and (shock horror, first time ever!) actually did some plotting, kept my basic premise but changed a lot about the characters.
Now I’m back to being confused again. I seem to spend a lot of time being confused about my writing! I need to welcome that, because it will get me to the truth of what I really want and need to do.
I loved writing first person, but by the end of my writing day I wasn’t completely happy with my first chapter. Reading the other version, I knew why. I was trying to infuse a false “sexiness” into it. It doesn’t come naturally to me. My voice is more Sweet than Modern/ Presents. So a lot of the heroine’s slightly OTT physical reaction to the hero can go. And though my hero’s background and motivation was not strong enough to carry the story in the first version, my heroine was stronger. I gave her a pretty miserable loveless life in the latest version, although I think I’ve still managed to show her as strong and likeable. I really want to make her a couple of years older though, and that does not fit. If she’s older than twenty-four, she’s pathetic to have stayed in that situation so long. In the first version, her life sucked at the start of the story, but she’d had a happy childhood and it was only recently that things had gone wrong in her life. That was mainly due to the hero manipulating the situation to force her to do what he wanted.
Hmm, I have a real mish-mash here, don’t it! A Sweet heroine, a Presents hero, and I want to write it as single title. So I somehow need to pull together the strong parts of each version- give the hero the background and motivation of the second version, so the manipulation of the heroine’s situation from the first version is understandable; keep the city setting and combine the best parts of the background of my heroine from both versions; stop trying to impose a falsely sexy tone, and see what I come up with.
I also need to think about the characters, their internal conflict and motivations more (can’t ever get away from that one!) Writing the story as a single title isn’t just a matter of changing all the “she”s to “I”s. The focus switches from the hero to the heroine. It’s her journey that counts, her emotional growth, her overcoming her blocks to being in a relationship. Not just with the hero, but with anyone. I think I’ve just seen what that could be, if I go back to the first version heroine (she even had a different name- Gabriella). Instead of the seriously unhappy childhood I gave Emma, Gabi had a happy loving childhood. Yes, she was orphaned aged eight, but her grandmother, Ellie, who she adored, gladly took her in. She was raised on stories of her grandmother and grandfather’s fairy tale perfect love, which ended after only a few years when he tragically died. So her relationship block is that she seeks the same impossible perfection, the love at first sight, “you just know” fantasy her grandmother raised her on. It probably needs to go deeper than that, but it’s a start!
I can put back all the secondary characters I cut out, add in that romantic subplot between even more unlikely lovers that I planned for the first version, and I have a feeling the ghost of Gabi’s grandmother has a part to play too.
Of course, this means unless I get some sort of Groundhog Day loop that stops time for everyone else but me until I get it right, I won’t be submitting even a partial to the New Writers’ Scheme. But I’m not sure there’s any point getting feedback on something I already know is broken, and I have a plan for fixing. On the other hand, my reader may see other things I can improve on that I’m not even aware of yet. I’ll just have to see what I have by next weekend.