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!

New directions or distractions? December 5, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 3:50 pm
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I’m trying to decide what to do with my work in progress. Do I keep editing it to fit Presents, or do I work the story a totally different way?

I’m doing an online workshop with the fabulous Susan Meier, and one of the lessons is about how to find different directions for stories that aren’t working. There are so many possibilities for any story! Doing it Presents style is only one of then for Luk and Emma. And I am so tempted by those possibilities, as I have been right from when I started this story.

What I need to do is decide what I want to do. Where do I want this story to go? How committed am I to targeting it at Presents.

I need to decide if writing for Presents is really my dream. If is is, I need to go for it. If it’s not, maybe I need to reconsider, do just what I played with in the last post, and take the story in a different direction.

I know it’s my friend Maisey’s dream, which is why it’s so fab she has this two book contract. It’s the dream of a couple of others in the writing group, so I hope they get good news from the contest. But is it my dream?

I’m just not sure. I drifted into targeting the line because I like the books, they had the contests, and all my writing buddies were aiming for Harlequin (that’s how we got together, actually, on the I Heart Presents blog). And I mean, Harlequin- the Holy Grail of romance! How could anyone serious about getting published in romance not target Harlequin? I must have read thousands across all the lines over the years. Plus I had the compliments slip from the first contest, and I wanted to use it.

When I was planning Luk and Emma’s story, it was meant to be Presents, but all sorts of fantasy elements tried to creep in. I had a fun weekend of worldbuilding and gave the island all sorts of myths and legends and its own creatures and magic places, before I realised I wasn’t going to use any of that.

When I finished the first draft of this story, it was a mess, a lot longer than it should have been and with a lot of scenes (whole chapters!) that would have to be cut out to fit Presents. I wanted to do it as a romantic women’s fiction single title (aka chick-lit, but it’s not done to call it that any more, is it, since we all overdosed on pink covers with high heels on them) instead, but my crit group convinced me to stick with Presents, and I had lots of good reasons to do that.

But ever since I decided to go for Presents, I’ve wanted to do it differently! Do the fun “Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Princess I Learned from Grace Kelly” version. Or the one that used all that worldbuilding and the myths and legends that told psychological truths about relationships, where magic is real and Royals have healing hands and the Melusine the island is named after still lives in her enchanted pool.

Maybe this is all a diversion, of course. Maybe this is another manifestation of the Bright Shiny New Story syndrome that stopped me from finishing anything for a long time. Harder to spot, and more seductive, as I can tell myself it’s not a new story at all, just a different version of the same story. Another way of coping with fear of failure.

Sour grapes- “It doesn’t matter if I get an R from the competition, because I never really wanted to write for Presents anyway.”

Damn! That’s it. Not a good reason to switch story type and start over. I don’t think I’d be writing this if I’d had a call from Richmond last week telling me I was the winner or runner up in the contest. That tells me all I need to know. My idea to rewrite the story is a way of trying to protect myself by telling myself I don’t care.

Of course I care!

I don’t want to quit for the wrong reasons. I’ve got to finish the Presents version, even if just to show myself I can stick to a project through to completion.

And- it’s fun. I want to write a Presents story. All through my teens and twenties and into my thirties, all I wanted was to write for Harlequin Mills and Boon. That hasn’t changed. This is just a weird form of psychological body armour.

I can always do the fantasy story later. And the women’s fiction one. Right now, it’s Presents.

My husband is right.

I really am crazy! All this to decide to do what I was planning to do all along.

Take that, Bright Shiny New Story Syndrome (*kicks it in its nasty little guts*)- foiled your sneaky attack!


3 Responses to “New directions or distractions?”

  1. Barbara Says:

    LOL. I have the same focus issue. I keep telling myself: one step at a time. One step at a time.

    And you’re not crazy.


  2. Ferdous Says:

    Hi Jane,

    just want to add my bit as well. Don’t be discouraged, I think its brillant that you’re able to discern your thoughts/feelings so well. writing is tough, no getting away from that. How about you continuing with the presents story and starting the fantasy one as well? it might give you a break – to have something new and different – while you edit? just a thought.

    I have the same issues as you, rather then finishing the historical I started, I’ve started a new story!! come what may, I promised myself, I will finish the historical by the end of the year!

    Take care,

  3. waitingforthecall Says:

    LOL, new stories are so seductive, aren’t they? I need to set myself a deadline and stick to it with the Presents story.
    Good luck with both your stories!

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