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?


Presents contest winning chapters! December 22, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 7:04 pm


The winning chapters from the 2009 Harlequin Presents contest have been posted on I Hearts Presents today.

I’m thrilled to see my writing buddy  Jilly’s chapter posted there. I loved it the first time I read it and even more today! It’s so good to see she’s getting the recognition she deserves for her fabulous writing. I can’t wait to read more (we already had a sneak peek at chapter two- it’s even better than chapter one!) I hope everyone enjoys the start of Ross and Fliss’s story as much as I did!  She is the queen of sparky dialogue and I adore her characters. I think she has the Modern Heat voice nailed! This is Jilly’s moment to shine. I’ve had this idiot grin on my face on and off since Maisey had her Call and the contest winners were announced. It was back yesterday with Maisey’s Call story being on I Hearts, it’s back again now for Jilly. It’s a great feeling to see friends doing well!

I was interested to read the other winning chapter, Susanna’s chapter for Presents, especially as this was the line I was targeting. What an Alpha hero she’s created there. And a very Presents premise- I can see why it caught the editors’ attention!

My entry seems dull and pedestrian in comparison.


It’s Jillyday! December 11, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 7:29 pm

Woot! What a two weeks it’s been….

First my writing buddy Maisey gets her Call from Presents, then today the winners of the Harlequin Presents Writing Contest are announced on I Heart Presents.

Another writing buddy, Jilly, aka Gill Clegg, won the Modern Heat section with her fabulous entry “The Boss’s Intimate Takeover”!

I am so pleased and proud to say I loved her chapter and thought she was a winner from the second I read it.  I may not be able to write a winning chapter but I can certainly recognise one!

Well done Jilly, heartfelt congratulations and lots of love!

Sisters rule!


Wait for it, wait for it…. December 1, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 11:39 am
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Looks like there’s going to be a delay hearing who won the Harlequin Presents competition.  Amy from Harlequin said this yesterday on the I Heart Presents blog

the winners will be announced on the blog Dec. 11. I do not know at the moment if they have been chosen yet.

So for all of us who obsessively checked the blog yesterday for an announcement, or whose heart beat faster every time the phone rang, a little more of a wait.

I did it too, even though I know the best I can expect is a full request!

Patience is good for a writer, right? So much waiting for a response. Send a partial – wait for a full request or a rejection. Send a requested full – wait for revisions or a rejections. Send off a revised full – wait for more revisions, a rejection, or joy of joys an acceptance.

So if we want to keep playing this game, we better get used to waiting!

I’m off work with the flu today. Why is it when I actually have some time I could write, I feel too lousy to do it?

Edited to add- Amy just posted this-

Well I have word that the winners have been chosen but haven’t yet been contacted. But whoever the lucky people are, they will definitely be contacted before the 11th!

So looks like we are all hyperventilating every time the phone rings for a bit longer!


Contest update at I Heart November 21, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 1:53 pm
Tags: ,

No, they haven’t announced the winners!

Joanne Grant and Tessa Shapcott have put up some general writing advice at I Heart Presents for contest entrants- Secret Seven Sins

Best advice for me-

sit down to write, don’t try to be anyone but yourself: write with passion, originality and honesty

Not that I didn’t probably commit half a dozen of their listed sins, but my main sin is trying to write what I think will fit the line, and not writing what fits me.

Edited to add- see my post of December 1 for the link to the latest update- winners will now be announced December 11!


Good grief! November 10, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:12 pm

544 entries in the Presents/ Modern competition? That’s seriously scary.

I was hoping for something closer to two hundred.


It’s done! October 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Autumn Macarthur @ 1:55 pm
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I did it.

One final run through, yet again tweaking the first chapter of The Playboy’s Princess Bride, taking out the second paragraph, changing some words here and there, checking the spelling for the fifteenth time. Bet anything some typos still snuck though.

Attached it and the blessed synopsis (which did finally become two double spaced pages) to an email with a covering letter.

Hit send.

I feel sick.

Did my cover letter sound sucky? Could I have made the chapter better? Is my whole premise stupid, my characters cardboard, and emotion non-existent? Is my synopsis total rubbish (and will I get dinged for fudging the margin widths)?


Now I need to forget about the competition. Time to dive right into chapter two edits and keep on going. I would seriously hate to be lucky enough to get a full request and have to confess all I have is my rough as guts first draft. I haven’t even read it all the way through ‘cos I started cringing about chapter three.

Submission does mean surrending power to another. It’s up to the editors now. I think I’ve made my story as good as I can with the knowledge and skills I have right now. I hope they like it, but that’s outside my control. Now I have to get on with becoming the best writer I can be.

Good luck to everyone entering!