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!

Productive procrastination May 31, 2010

Filed under: What I'm reading,Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:19 pm
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Well, that’s what I hope I’ve been doing!

Still no actual work on the rewrite, but I’ve gone through all of the first draft looking at what needs changing and what works. The bad news is- nearly everything needs changing, there’s a lot of work involved. The good news is- the love scenes worked, the black moment made me cry, and the happy ending made me smile. Please God the final version will do that for it’s readers too!

I’ve spent the last two days going right through Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook: Hands-on Help for Making Your Novel Stand Out and Succeed, workshopping the story. Twenty pages of notes later I have a deeper knowledge of the characters and their conflicts, and a load of ideas to power the rewrite.  (And a fifty work pitch too!) I know how I want the completely new first three chapters to go, and I know the ending I have will work, with some tweaking. There’s a swampy middle bit I have not much idea about yet, so I’m hoping that will work out once I get the rewrite started…

I’ve also been reading as many stories as I can from different lines with similarities in the situation and the conflict, whether that’s the secret child, old lovers reuniting, or heroines who’ve been raped in the past. Not to copy other writers, but to see if how they handled it can spark any ideas, show me what I need to make sure I do to make it work.

Liz Fielding’s “Five Year Baby Secret” reminded me that the hero is not just going to be a little annoyed, he’s going to be angry as hell, majorly pissed off when he finds she’s kept his child from him. Donna Alward’s “One Dance With the Cowboy” showed me how reunited lovers will have that same sweet yearning for each other, despite what has come between them. Both those stories showed that the same issues that drove the couple apart in the past will remain unresolved now- and they can only reach their HEA by both dealing with the past issues, as well as their feelings about their separation.

No similarity to my current characters in any way, but a deeply emotional (three tissues needed!) and very hot Superromance- Sarah Mayberry’s “Home for the Holidays”. What was interesting there is that she has the same double BM/HEA I gave my characters- where it looks like things are resolving and they can be happy, then bang, something even bigger comes between them to push them apart. For her heroine it was something totally unexpected, while I hope mine still works even though the reader will know it’s coming.

I’ve just finished an old Presents- Jane Porter’s excellent “The Sheikh’s Virgin”, recommended by my crit group when I asked for stories with a heroine who had been raped. From this I’m getting the shame and yet paradoxical fierce courage of the survivor. My heroine has the shame and guilt, but she needs to show more of the tenacity, fight, and will for life that helped her get through something  so devastating and soul destroying.

Now I have to say- enough of the procrastination. I still have more books to read, but it’s enough.

Tomorrow I start the rewrite. For real. No excuses.


How not to promote your book May 23, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 1:25 pm

Laughed at this very funny take on book promotion from mystery writer Parnell Hall!

Okay, no more procrastinating, gotta go work on editing my story.


More time or more sass?

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:29 am

My post today over at Seven Sassy Sisters. It’s a bit of a cheat- it includes an article by the fabulous Shirley Jump she gave permission to use.  But that means more writing time for me, as long as I keep away from ebay, ironing, cooking, exercising, reading and any of my other excuses for not writing.


Pitching May 21, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 9:32 pm

I’m tagging along a day late as always, so it’s too late to pitch now, but this online pitch with Deb Werksman, acquiring editor with Sourcebooks, is fascinating reading and a masterclass in pitching single title!


Bodybuilding for wimpy characters May 18, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 6:02 pm
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It’s official. Both my hero and heroine are Too Stupid To Live.

My hero is inconsistent. An example- he says he doesn’t want anything to do with the heroine, then goes around to her place to check she’s all right and invites her to his house for dinner. He falls straight back into his old pattern of being there for the heroine. Except where it’s all too obvious I’ve thought “But there’s no conflict!” and made him suddenly resist her.

The heroine is weak and wimpy. She is supposed to be a successful business woman, who’s made it on her own despite being a single mother. She sure doesn’t seem like that reading the story. She doesn’t make decisions and go for things, she just reacts to what is happening. And yes, she’s in a difficult situation that’s just turned her safe organised life upside down. Her old best friend and one time lover, who may or may not be the father of her seven year old son, has just reappeared in her life. He’s demanding she go back to her childhood home town, as her mother, who disowned her when she announced her pregnancy, is ill, maybe seriously.

But she needs to be stronger, feistier, have goals of her own and not get pushed around by other people’s needs and wants. She was a victim of her mother’s perfectionism growing up. She was a victim when she fell pregnant aged twenty and dropped out of uni. She stopped being a victim the minute she decided to keep her baby, survive on her own no matter what anyone else wanted her to do. (So deciding to run away and hide from her best friend Lock wasn’t the smartest idea, but she was young and dealing with some big emotional issues, and she was afraid he would reject her as her mother had done.) Anyway, she can’t be a victim now. She needs to find the emotional equivalent of a Bullworker, to turn her from an emotional 90 pound wimpy weakling into a strong independent woman worth loving, worth a great relationship.

I was on eHarlequin buying books and I saw this quote from MIRA author Robyn Carr –

“I’m naturally drawn to strong, capable female characters, and when I begin a story I ask myself, ‘What is she up against?’ I try to write about issues that every woman faces at some point in her life, without ever losing sight of the basic sense of humor that helps us all through hard times.”

That’s what I need to know. What is Cady up against? What does she want to happen? (Given that once the inciting event occurs, having things the same as they were is not an option, no matter how much she wants it.) What plans does she make for dealing with this? How does she regroup when things go wrong? How do her strengths help and hinder her?

I’m getting some of the answers. Her goal isn’t and can’t be just to get back to having things how they were before the story started. The most important thing of all for her is making a good life for her son Josh. He not only doesn’t have a father in his life, he doesn’t have grandparents either. Maybe he’s been commenting on that, even getting teased by other kids at school. So when Lock erupts back into her life, she may not want anything to do with him, but she could decide her goal is to mend the damaged relationship with her mother. Not for her sake, or her mother’s sake, but for Josh’s sake. As I wrote, I had the sense that things with her Mum were working out too quickly.  This goal can’t come easily. So she’s struggling to reestablish the broken relationship with her mother, at the same time she and Lock are struggling not to reestablish their own broken relationship.Meanwhile, Lock is getting to know the boy who may be his son, and come to terms with his emotions about that. There’s a lot going on there, a lot to pull them together and a lot to push them apart. The conflict with Lock, and with her mother, is the Bullworker that brings out Cady’s strength. The big weakness of my first draft is the lack of conflict, which comes from the characters not having meaningful goals.

Okay, it’s a good place to begin the rewrite. I can see what I need now, the first few scenes are falling into place. Not much of the first draft will survive into the second draft, but that’s okay. It was the “getting to know the characters” draft. Now the real story starts!

Edited to add- make sure you read Les Edgerton’s reply below- it’s a writing tutorial in itself!


More on scenes and sequels May 16, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 3:07 pm
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Still reading my first draft and analysing the scenes, but the tool I’m using to record what I find isn’t good enough yet. I’m filling in the boxes, and I know what is wrong with my scenes, but I’m not seeing strongly enough how to fix them. (Part of the problem is I’m still using the old tool and not the new one I thought of last week!)

I read this excellent blog post on scene and sequel by Les Edgerton yesterday.

He talks about what is needed(and what writers do wrong!) in detail, but in briefly he says a scene is-

A. Goal
B. Conflict
C. Disaster.

Then the following sequel is-

1. Reaction
2. Dilemma
3. Decision (which becomes the goal for another scene).

My old questions for considering scenes- Who? Where? Action, Reaction, Decision- compressed things too much. It’s too simplified, and it totally omits the goal.

The new questions I made up are better (and why it took me all weekend to realise I wasn’t using them, I don’t know!)-

What does the POV character want?

What is he/she doing to get it?

What stops him/her getting it?

What does he/she decide to do about it next?

This leaves out a step  too, I think.  The reaction. I need to add in another question before the character decides what to do next- how do they feel about it?

LOL, maybe I’m making things too complicated!  But I want to go into the editathon with a solid robust plan for the rewrite. I only want to have to do one major rewrite, then just tweaks on the other passes through.

I think I’ll keep going analysing the first draft with the current questions (I don’t want to start totally over!) but will add a question about scene goal. 

Then when I’m planning the rewrite I’ll use the new questions to pinpoint just what needs to be in each section.

Fingers crossed it works!

Edited to add- Having added the question asking what is the character’s goal for each scene, it’s clear that a major problem is lack of clear goals. Things happen, but the characters, especially my heroine, aren’t proactive, they don’t go out there intending to change something. Cady seems especially passive, her only aim to to get through this and get back to her old life. Not good enough. This really needs work.


New hot romance competition May 15, 2010

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

Just heard about a new contest for unpublished writers with a full length senusal romance, paranormal, contemporary, or historical- Kensington Brava’s Writing with the Stars. The prize is publication by Brava, so could be interesting!

Thanks to the nearly-as-sassy-as-the-Sisters and definitely super talented Minxes of Romance for the heads up.