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!

So You Think You Can Write? November 21, 2010

I knew I’d neglected this blog for a while, but I’m shocked to see it’s been three months.

Warning- long ramble about my writing process and easy distractability ahead! This post could be subtitled- Ideas are NOT the problem.

It’s been a busy time- I had two weeks back home in Australia, visiting my family and taking my very English husband touring some of rural New South Wales in a tiny campervan. The campervan really was ridiculously small, and late September mornings were chilly, especially west of the Great Dividing range, but we had a marvellous road trip.

I wanted to get something in for the Mills & Boon New Voices contest, but work had  been too manic in the run up top the trip for that to be an option (12 and 13 hour work days). So on the flight over, I wrote a chapter, from scratch,  and managed to get an internet connection to post it the day before the contest closed (in a mad panic- I actually thought I scraped it in 5 minutes before the contest closed, then found out I’d messed up the time zone difference!)

Well, that was another useful exercise in what not to do! It was fun to write – I had a particular mental image that was the starting point and I then had to come up with a story line that could explain it- but Presents is sooooo not the line for me. I may still finish that story, but it’s not top on my list of priorities!

I started revising it, using it as the raw material for an online workshop I did in October with the ever fabulous Shirley Jump, but then distraction set in. A new idea, triggered by a poster I saw on my walk to the train station after work. I decided this would be my NaNo story and began to plot it and do some character development. A lot of notes and a week into NaNo, I realised I was writing the wrong story. This was part of a trilogy and I had to write her two friends’ stories first, as this story started with them both getting married in Vegas and her being left on her own, which is where the bad boy hero comes in. Of course, I could have stuck to it and kept going with the story I had, but I really really really wanted to write the stories in the “right” order. So I picked the friend whose story seemed to come first, and started it.

Well, 6,000 words in I realised I had it all wrong. It wasn’t hanging together right, the conflict was off, the hero’s distrust of the heroine was all out of proportion with the reasons for it. Then it clicked. I’d given the heroine the wrong job. She should be playing the role I’d given a minor character. With that little change, the things that weren’t working, worked. It only meant that I needed to rewrite everything I’d done so far! No great loss as it was all first draft dreck anyway and would have needed rewriting anyway. On with the story! This part of things is good- I know I write my way into the story to get to know the characters, and need to ditch most of my first 10,000 words or so. I was also reassured that a number of published writers (and prolific ones) work like that too- stop after a few chapters or however it takes to appraise what the story really is, and start over if needed.

Except then there was another distraction. My hero has two older brothers, who are both already married (well, I thought they were, turns out one is engaged). I wanted to know a little about their situation and backstory as fairly significant secondary characters, and in a Superromance these other characters and subplot are important. Before I knew it, these guys were telling me their whole stories and wanting to know why they weren’t getting theirs written before their little brother. Arrgghh! I am not stopping writing again to start over with a new story. I did take a few pages of notes and opened files for each of the brothers, and that settled them down enough to co-operate in this story. I got a bit more written. Then for some reason, I got thinking about pseudonyms for if I wanted to write hotter stories I may not want to have published under my own name (I know, a bit premature- first write the story, then find a publisher, then worry about this stuff!). So I spent hours not just deciding on a couple of names, but setting up blog sites and email accounts for the new personas too.  A bit ridiculous setting up new blogs when I haven’t posted on the one I already have for three months, but there you go, it seemed important at the time. Turns out one of them is actually very very sweet and wouldn’t write erotic romance anyway. Her blog is all pink flowers.

Then today, yet another distraction. I’d been going well, got 1600 story words. But the sexual tension between hero and heroine was just too… sexual. The sex part comes before the emotion part. Was this story perhaps a Blaze rather than a Superromance?  I thought I’d look at this month’s Blaze releases to see what sort of stories they were doing and if this had any chance of being a fit there. One phrase in one of the blurbs reminded me of a Modern Heat idea I’d had around the time of the Feel the Heat contest that had fizzled out before I even finished the first chapter, because I knew it wasn’t going to work. Suddenly, I saw exactly how it would work as a Blaze. Two page synopsis and another couple of pages of notes later, and now I have another story nagging at me to be written.

I’m not going to. I have to commit to sticking to this one I’ve already got going through to the end. Then I can give into all the lovely distracting ideas dancing through my head. I always laugh when I hear anyone say “I’d love to write but I don’t have any ideas”. Sheesh! How can that be possible? I have too many ideas! A few years ago my husband, knowing I wanted to get back into writing again, bought me a writing book for Christmas. It was, you guessed it, about generating ideas when you don’t have anything to write about. He got so upset when I kindly but firmly told him it was the last thing I needed. If however, there were any books on sticking with one idea and following through…

Anyway, the main reason to stick with one story is that I want to have something new finished, at least in first draft, to sub to the Harlequin So You Think You Can Write competition. These one chapter and synopsis contests, with a guaranteed response time, are too good an opportunity to miss. Especially as this one is at the Canadian Harlequin office. They normally only accept snail mail submissions, and I still don’t know for sure that the partial for marrying Miss Wright I sent off three months ago made it there. So I have to get “Visiting Redemption” first drafted, decide if it’s Super or Blaze, polish up the first chapter, tidy up the rough synopsis I already have, and send it off by December 15.

Then and only then, are any new ideas getting given more than an hour to write some notes.

What’s everyone else doing? (That is, if anyone ‘s visiting here after I haven’t posted for three months!) NaNo-ing? Entering SYTYCW? Too many ideas? Not enough ideas?


11 Responses to “So You Think You Can Write?”

  1. Lacey Devlin Says:

    Welcome back!

    I’m thrilled that you’ve recently been in Oz with us and amazing work getting an entry into NV under those circumstances!

    I’m not NaNoing this year – I wasn’t feeling suicidal enough 😉 but I am thinking of entering the SYTYCW challenge. Although, the MS I was going to enter I’ve decided just isn’t working so perhaps I’m not participating in this one either? 🙂

  2. Leah Ashton Says:

    Great to see you back!!

    I am envious of all your ideas! I am someone who needs to search hard for mine!

    I’ve been busy with New Voices, and now with my first proper deadline! 🙂

  3. waitingforthecall Says:

    Hi Lacey, LOL, I know what you mean about NaNo. The only way to NaNo, IMO, is not to take it too seriously. I still harbour vague hopes I can somehow write another 38,000 words in the remaining 9 days of the month. Unlikely, but not totally impossible! Only problem is, my word count today is not quite 300 and I’m off visiting the Mother-in-Law this evening. Maybe I’ll change my target to having the first draft done-ish (that’s the story written, but some scenes skimped on to come back and fill in later), by the 15th when it’s time to enter SYTYCW. I hope your story comes together for you in time, it would be fab it you enter! Sometimes it’s just a teensy flash of inspiration that gets you to look at things froim a different angle, like the Blaze thing for my non-workable MH. All it really took was making the heroine more feisty and proactive instead of the wimpy victim of the men in her life she was in my original idea, and letting it be okay for it to just about sex to start with. Anyway, sending the Inspiration Fairy your way, I clearly had my turn with him yesterday!

  4. waitingforthecall Says:

    Leah, great to have you here! your deadline is so exciting, and so close! I imagine a real deadline like you have would be far more motivating than an artificial one like NaNo!

    I need to trick my brain into believing the SYTYCW closing date is a real deadline too and see what happens…

    Good luck with the rest of your story- I’m looking forward to being able to see the finished version in the shops!

    Sometimes too many ideas is a curse- I’d rather swap half my ideas for a bit of stick-to-it-ivity. I have the Grasshopper Brain.

  5. Lacey Devlin Says:

    LOL Maybe we should change it to “NaNoWriMo: 50k-ish words in a month” that way we all win. I like to measure it by whether or not I’ve managed to be more productive than any other time in the year (yes I will manipulate the requirements in order to win 😉 ). I could really use the Inspiration Fairy right about now since I have decided that the MS is dead and there’s no saving it lol so it’s back to the drawing board 😉

  6. waitingforthecall Says:

    NaNo is definitely far more fun when we make our own rules!
    See next post!

  7. Rae Summers Says:

    I am right there with you on the so many ideas bit, Jane. It’s the sitting down and finishing them without being distracted that get’s me too.

    And what do you mean people need help coming up with ideas? They’re everywhere! Or are you telling me I’m the only one who can hear the voices?

  8. waitingforthecall Says:

    That’s the challenge, isn’t it Rae, staying with one idea long enough to finish it when all those new shiny ones are dancing around in front of me.
    Oh, and having ideas that actually hang together to make a coherent satisfying story with the right balance of internal and external conflict!
    One of the hazards I find of having lots of ideas is that if the story isn’t working I tend to throw in more external conflict (I have plenty of ways to do that) instead of digging deeper into whatever my characters emotional issues are. I need to force myself to stay with the two main threads of the story- whatever the external conflict is that’s brought the couple together, and whatever the internal issues are that keep them apart- and stop chucking in new things.

  9. I laughed through your entire post, Jane. I have so many first chapters written, computer files I opened to keep notes on different ideas, A plotting board with a mystery all plotted out. Sigh. So many ideas. So little discipline to see them through.

  10. waitingforthecall Says:

    Yes, so many bright shiny tempting ideas and characters, especially when that stardust honeymoon period of getting to know a new hero and heroine has worn off. I’m so shallow!
    Really like the sound of what you are doing with your Desire, BTW!

  11. Eileen Wiedbrauk Says:

    Love all your ideas. And can totally relate. I’m glad so many voices are talking to you though.

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