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?

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Reading, reading, reading…but not writing September 12, 2009

Filed under: What I'm reading,Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 9:47 pm
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Okay, I confess. I’ve been a total slacker and have done no writing at all this week.

I feel strangely relaxed, like a kid let out of school. I know I’ll start writing again soon, the characters will start nagging me to write their story! But in the meantime, I’m realising just how much pressure I was putting on myself to write.

Somehow, I need to find a balance. Find a way to write regularly and consistently, but without turning it into a miserable, creativity-destroying chore. Somehow, find the joy in writing again. I don’t know how to do that yet. I do know that lately I’ve seen writing as a  miserable task to be completed, rather than a pleasure, apart from the odd moments when I’m in the flow and the words just come like magic.

In the meantime, I’m happy planning a trip back to Australia in a couple of weeks, sewing a suitcase full of clothes to wear (loving expressing that very practical side of my creativity again!), and reading plenty to refill the well.

I just found this link to ten free Mills and Boon ebooks, to celebrate a year of them doing ebooks. Yay! More fab books to read!  And there’s a Modern Heat from Heidi Rice in there! I’m even happier to see they support Mobipocket, the ebook format I use on my PDA so I can read on my commute or wherever, without filling my already ridiculously overloaded bag with paperback books  (I really do carry the biggest tote in the world to work with me everyday!).

So thank you M&B.

 

Save the Contemporary! August 4, 2009

Filed under: What I'm reading,Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:28 pm
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Just found that the fab girls from Smart Bitches and Dear Author are doing another Save the Contemporary campaign!

Lots of reader’s recommendations, plus a code for 25% off ebooks at Harlequin– yay! That’s gotta be good.

 

Riding the see saw May 11, 2008

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:11 pm
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 Just when I though I had things reasonably figured out and I knew where I was going with my wriitng, I’m confused again, and totally undecided about what to do next. I had a day off wriitng yesterday, as I’d been neglecting my husband, we hadn’t had any decent “couple time” for ages, so we took a day off togther and went to the Barkway markets.

Had a wonderful day, the best possible spring weather, sunny but not too hot; a drive through beautiful rolling Hertfordshire countryside that looked just like my picture postcard imaginings of what the English countryside should look like before I came to this country; a fabulous huge market with all sorts of bric a brac and craft items for sale, in the grounds of the medieval manor house; and the church was open so we could see the old stone carvings. As a Australian of British ancestry, I always had a hunger for that sense of a history that was my history. The oldest buildings I’d ever been in there dated to about the 1840’s. There are awesome aboriginal sites that date back as far as 40,000 years, maybe even further, the longest continuous culture on the planet, but I always had the sense of being on stolen ground. The line of continuity had been broken, and rather than giving a sense of belonging or security, it gave a feeling of wrongness and guilt. Not so here in England. It’s an amazing experience to stand in a 14th century church and know that this is my history, my heritage. (it’s not just in the UK, oddly enough I had the same feeling in a tiny medieval French village church, and a Tunisian hill-fort). I love Australia, but I don’t feel the same sense of belonging there.

Anyway, that’s a sidetrack and not what I wanted to write about. I need to work out what I should be writing. The plan was- have the day off the story yesterday, and spend at least four hours writing story words today. I’m doing a lot of words that aren’t story words, but wriitng about writing, or wriitng around the story, character building, plotting, but not writing story. My strong feeling and part of my experiment in trying out different ways of writing was that I shouldn’t spend too much time pre-writing on this one, but just write, and sort out the problems in the edit. So today was the “write as many story words as I can before I have to go do the duty visit to my mother in law this evening” day. Except now I’ve got myself confused, and I don’t know which story I should be writing on.

My critique buddy Melissa (who has the most fabulous story plotted out and in progress, I so want to read it!) and I were wondering about which series our writing was the best fit with. I love Presents/Modern Romance, but I only started targeting that line because of the Instant Seduction competition. I had been having doubts about whther that was the best line for me to aim for, that maybe the sort of stories and the sort of heroes I like best weren’t a good match with Presents. Now there’s a Desire contest, as an additional distraction /possibility. (I’ve got this image of us in a  dressing room, with an armful of lovely frocks, trying on first one, then the other. “That’s gorgeous, but I liked this one too, and maybe it you tried that one again with this belt, what do you think?”)

I’m still not totally clear on the differences between this line and Presents, even after listening to the thirty minute editor podcast and reading the guidelines over at e-Harlequin. I need to read some recent release books from the series- I ordered half a dozen on ebay last night (thank goodness for that £10 PayPal voucher they sent me!). They still want an Alpha hero, though possibly he can be a little softer than the Presents hero often is; and I get the idea that more external conflict is okay, as long as the focus is still firmly on the developing relationship. I’m now wondering if James and Cassie’s story, the marriage of convenience story I plotted out then put aside as having too much external conflict for Presents, would be a viable Desire story.  How can I know without wriitng the thing? Now I am feeling so torn! James and Cassie’s story is back in my head, with scenes playing out like mini-movies.

This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen. My big fear is that unless I commit to completing a story, I will just jump from idea to idea to idea and never get anything completed. Sure, it would be fun, I’d only ever have to write what I felt like writing, but it sort of knocks on the head any chance of ever getting published. I’m on a sew saw ride, with James and Cassie one end, and Nick and Kate on the other, and me sliding helplessly around in the middle, going to whichever end carries the most weight for me at the time.

But maybe it’s okay, maybe this is just the way I write. I asked to be shown the way of writing that worked for me, that was most natural to me. Maybe it is just this. Have an idea for characters and a situation and what might happen to get them to their Happy Ever After, then put them to one side to work on another story. Meanwhile, the original story is simmering away on the backburner, until it’s done enough to be ready to use. I’m not sure if I will ever finish anything this way and I’m especially doubtful of how it would work if I’m wriitng to a deadline, where I just have to focus on the story that’s due, no matter what else is demanding to be written. On the other hand, I shouldn’t ask for guidance on my personal wriitng style, if I’m not willing to at least give what comes up a try!

I need to trust that if I find and follow my natural process, I’ll be more productive that way than if I try to force myself into a way that I think I should  work. Great article I found yesterday about following one’s own wriitng method (though I must admit she is not advocating jumping from story to story!)- Writing without a net .

So it looks like it’s back to James and Cassie’s story again. I’m going to take a chance here. After all, the worst thing that can happen is I delay getting eventually published by a few months if this is a wrong turning, and I still will have learned something about what works for me and what is right for me in the journey.