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!

Insights… August 22, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 1:30 pm
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3197835930_cdc3acd212Elaine asked me- “What do I really want to write?”  That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it. (Showing my age there- a quiz show back when Who Wants to Be a Millionaire would have been called Who Wants to be a Sixty-four Thousandaire and our house cost the then so hard for my parents to afford sum of $12,000!)

“What did I think I “should” write?”  is an easier question to answer. Presents/Modern Heat. So many reasons. I enjoy reading them. I got that Comps Slip from the Instant Seduction contest. My writing buddies were targetting HMB. I posted a couple of excerpts from Luk and Emma’s story to the critique group, and they all agreed that the piece I thought was more Presents was far better than the piece that would have to be cut to make it Presents.

They all said- “Write Harlequin/ Mills and Boon”. That was my biggest  influence, I think. I trust their judgement. We’re all pre-published, but a couple of them are veeeeeeery close, and all are good insightful readers. I finished the first draft, and saw I had a mix of elements. I could push it one way in the edits to make it Presents, another way to make it a Sweet romance, and another to make it a single title story aimed at Little Black Dress. I was undecided, though I did know in my heart which way I wanted to go. I looked for outside validation, and posted those excerpts. I didn’t trust my own judgement. Sometimes we do get too close to our own writing to see what’s there

I chose to go Presents/MH, because of the girls’ advice, even though it went against what I really wanted to do.  I only just realised what was wrong with that.  (I mean besides the obvious- “Write what you love, not what other people tell you to write, you idiot!”)


They gave their advice based solely on the pieces I gave them to read.

The Presents piece was perfectly Presents. It could stay in the completed Presents manuscript as it was, with only the slightest of tweaks. The piece I gave them as an example of my Little Black Dress style, was all wrong, not at all representative of what the finished story would contain. Because I first drafted with Presents in mind, it was a LBD  scenario but written in a Presents style. Third person, hero POV, all wrong wrong wrong for what I wanted.  The criticisms of that piece were valid. It didn’t work well, and the section in the hero’s POV slowed down the action. Of course it did! It shouldn’t have been there at all.

I am a slow learner sometimes!

This morning, I started rewriting the story in first person heroine POV, with Little Black Dress in mind. It feels good. It feels like coming home. There will still be problems and pitfalls and places where I tear my hair out. But I’ve already had a massive insight into the heroine’s core emotional need. There was yet another layer underneath what I thought was her core need. As I was rewriting a scene I’d already written four times, some more of her thoughts popped out, because I was deeper in her mind. There it was. Her core need! How I missed it before, I don’t know. Even if I go back to writing it third person, that one insight makes the experiment well worthwhile.

It is a strategy I’ll use again, I think, if I’m feeling stuck. Shift POV, and see what comes out.

What do I really want to write? Contemporary romantic fiction, with an element of the fairy tale. Maybe magical realism, maybe real magic, maybe just the magic of amazing unexpected life changes, including falling in love. Possibly a bit wacky, off the wall in places. I feel like I’m taking my first steps into an enchanted forest, without a map.


On not writing August 16, 2009

Filed under: General strangeness of life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:26 pm
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I’ve been feeling low. Maybe it’s because I’m tired, maybe it’s because I’m post-viral, maybe it’s because I’m staring down the barrel of 50, and I haven’t achieved a single one of my life goals. Yeah, that’s it,because just writing it makes me want to well up in pathetic self-pitying tears.
I also think I have gone very wrong with my writing. I’m trying to write what I think I “should” write, not allowing myself to discover what comes naturally for me.
I know I need to just drop Luk and Emma’s story and start on the next one. Luk and Emma’s story has served it’s purpose. It was a learner story, not one that was ever meant to be submitted. I only started it because I hate those royalty stories second only to sheik stories (though I’ve read some good stories of both, I think it’s such a crazily unreal premise), and wanted to see if I could do one. Then I made that promise to my writing group that I would finish it, so I’ve kept going with it long after I wanted to dump it. Quite simply, the story sucks, because it hinges on the hero doing something too stupid- losing control and kissing the heroine where they could be seen, in the town square the night she is announced as the next princess. He just wouldn’t do that, no matter how tempted he was, because what he stood to lose was too important to him. To avoid that I created a whole convoluted kidnap thing, as a device to force them to spend the night together. But for that to work, the heroine has to do the stupid thing and run away and get herself lost. Only way to avoid that is to have a real villain kidnap her, but then that got even more complicated, with the villain a more interesting character than the hero. So I went back to the first idea, but I keep getting stuck on the fact that my hero would simply never make that mistake.

This story was never going to work, because I started with a premise and then tried to create the characters to fit it. I like Emma, but Luk has never felt real to me. It might conceivably work redone in first person, purely Emma’s POV, in a more chick-lit style. That idea excites me. If Luk doesn’t have to explain why he does something so out of character as kiss Emma in public, because the reader is in her head only, reeling with her shock and surprise, it could possibly work. I like the way what goes on inside the hero’s heart and head is a mystery in first person heroine POV, it’s more the feel of old romances before hero’s POV came in. Less emotional intensity, but more like real life.
Our lives are already too full of miserable things that have to be done, whether we like then or not. Writing was starting to feel like yet another one. I am going to forget about the NWS. There’s no point putting in a crappy story that bores me silly- what’s the point of wasting the reader’s time giving a critique unless I intend to follow through?

The idea of rewriting Luk and Emma in first person is interesting, and I’m tempted to do it, though maybe that’s just an avoidance strategy so I don’t start on Nell and Mace’s story.

On the plus side, taking the weekend off from writing has let me do the big clear-up at home I’ve known for ages was desperately needed, but had been putting off so I could write. I’ve thrown out loads of old paperwork I’d been saving for some unknown reason (every bank statement since I arrived in the UK thirteen years ago, for example- why?), and rearranged my bookshelves. I had dusty books packed solid two deep on the shelves in my bedroom, but the new shelves in the hall and the sitting room I put up months ago were inexplicably empty.

I’m hoping this represents something symbolic, some sort of getting my house in order on an inner level too.