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!


Bright shiny new story syndrome November 28, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 2:06 am
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afrika32 Image source


I’ve fallen a victim to the BSNS Syndrome- the siren lure of the Bright Shiny New Story.

I feel like a drug addict trying to come up with excuses for my next fix. The truth is, I just can’t feel excited about what I’ve been trying to work on.

That’s the problem, I don’t want a story I have to work on, I want a story I can play with, have fun with, enjoy writing, not feel like “This is a chore but it’s got to be done” every time I sit down to write. Is that a realistic expectation? I know that not many stories would ever get finished if the writer didn’t keep going when the going got tough. I don’t want to be a serial starter, never getting anything finished.

Though that’s a damn good strategy for a writer with a massive fear of rejection. Just keep moving from unfinished story to unfinished story. Nothing ever gets submitted because nothing is ever finished, so nothing can get rejected. NIce and safe and comfortable. The no-risk method of feeling like I’m doing something to achive my dreams, without ever actually having to put myself out there. So I tell myself I have to stick with the Work in Progress, keep slogging on.

But the problem is, I’m so bored bored bored with the WiP, I feel like I will scream if I have to add another word to it. I didn’t choose this story because I loved the story and wanted to write about the characters. I chose it for all the wrong reasons, because I though it was the best fit for Modern Heat of the stories I had in mind and I wanted to enter the Feel the Heat contest. And it was the idea that appealed the most to my writing buddies who are also aiming at MH.

But it wasn’t the story I most wanted to write. The story I most wanted to write was this crazy mixed up thing set in an imaginary Eastern European country with a kidnapping and a forced marriage and all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Which I rejected because I thought “No, that’s too weird and wonderful for Mills and Boon. They won’t buy that.” So I settled for the safe boring story set in London with the usual billionaire hero and I’m bored bored bored and can’t write a word of it becauase it’s not really my story, it’s the story I think I should (horrible word!) be writing.

The story I want to write now is even more far fetched than the original idea I dismissed as too off the wall, though it does include a lot of the same ideas. And it feels like a story I could havea lot of fun writing. It feels like characters I could love. It feels like even if it gets an immediate big fat R from the editors in Richmond I won’t care because the story will have been the point of it all. It feels like a Good Thing.

So I’m going for it.

If I am whinging in a couple of weeks about being bored with the new story too, the people who said I should have stuck to the WiP have full permission to say “I told you so.”

But if I am still loving the story and the characters and powering on with my word count maybe, just maybe, I can silently whisper to myself “Yes, oh yes!”