I’ve been doing some thinking about my writing, and I am stopping work on the Presents version of Luk and Emma.
I just can’t settle to it, because the single title version keeps whispering plot ideas to me!
It’s the same basic premise but longer and with more secondary characters and subplots, and less tightly focused on the romance. More complicated internal conflict though. Also less sexy too, though the sex will still be there, which I think will suit my voice better. I really can’t seem to catch either the deep emotional intensity needed for Presents, or the lighter flirty tone of the Modern Heat. I need to play around more and work out where my voice belongs. Don’t think it’s Harlequin.
I was going to wait until the end of January, when we will have either had full requests or Rs from the contest, but I can’t keep plugging away at the Presents version till then. My heart isn’t in it, and it shows in my writing.
Part of what triggered this has been the wonderful success of Maisey, one of my writing buddies, who had her Call from Harlequin Presents this week. Maisey loves Presents, loves to read them better than anything else, never thought of writing for any other line. She’s been focused on one writing goal- becoming a Presents author. And she has done it, and I am so, so happy for her well-deserved achievement!
But it got me thinking about what I want. What is my goal, really and truly? Could part of the reason I am missing the mark be that I’m not aiming at the right target?
I’m a lot less focused than Maisey, that’s for sure. I enjoy Presents stories, but I enjoy a whole lot of other stories too. When I decided to put my energies back into fiction writing, around two years ago, I started with a single title romantic comedy/suspense. Then just when I was about to dive into rewriting it in February, I heard about the Harlequin Instant Seduction contest. I hadn’t read a Presents for years, so I bought a few. Liked them, put together an entry for the contest in just two weeks. Which got an R, of course, but a nice encouraging R with a Compliments Slip. But that R stopped the nearly finished Presents story dead.
Then for a year I played with lots of Presents/ Modern Heat story ideas, but nothing grabbed me, nothing went past one or two chapters.
Until Luk and Emma’s story. I made a promise to myself and my crit group that I would finish the first draft. I couldn’t write anything else, until that was done. Well, it got done. But it kept careening off the tracks in wild and crazy directions that weren’t where it was supposed to go. When it came to edit it, I had to decide- was it Presents or single title. It was a messy hybrid, that would need a load of work to take it either way and make it work.
What decided me was, again, the contest. This year’s Harlequin Presents competition. I edited it to fit Presents, so I could enter the contest, along with a couple of the others in my writing group.
It wasn’t a bad entry. It could even be a passably good, reasonably competent attempt at a Presents. But it’s dead. It doesn’t have that spark of life that would take it beyond competent and make it stand out from the rest of the entries. Passion. Commitment. That indefinable something that grabs the reader. That something I can see in several of my buddies’ writing, but not in mine.
I can go two ways with this.
I can decide I just don’t have the talent it takes, that other people have that magic something and I don’t, so I should give up. Or I can look honestly at what I’ve been trying to do and accept that if my voice doesn’t fit with Presents, maybe that’s because I’m trying to write what I think I “should” write rather than what I really want to write. Maybe I chose to target Presents because of the competitions, and because my writing buddies were aiming there, rather than out of a real commitment and desire to write for that line.
It’s an interesting idea- what if someone somehow managed to write well enough to win a contest for a line they really didn’t want to write for, and found themselves tied to writing books they didn’t really want to write?
Thank God, that didn’t happen to me! I’m assuming the editors would have contacted the contest winners by now, so not hearing anything means I’m not a winner or runner up. (Not that I expected to be!)
That means I’m free to take this story whatever direction I want. And I want to try it as a longer story, less focused on the relationship, though it’s still an important element. What if on the island fairy tales and magic are real? How will that affect Emma and Luk? How will that make a difference to their relationship? How will that make their issues different?
Maybe if I let my story run off the rails it will crash and burn in a hot mess. Maybe it will unfold its wings and fly. Let’s see!