My first week as a published author* and my second guest post!
Come visit me at Petticoats & Pistols. I’m talking about my adventure is using a scythe to ‘harvest’ my lawn. My hero in His Forgotten Fiancée had to use a scythe, and I wanted to know what it would have felt like for him.
Spoiler alert: I survived. My lawn… well…
Plus, I’m giving away a copy of His Forgotten Fiancée!
*I keep using that phrase because I’m trying to make myself believe it. Eventually, I’m sure the reality will sink in. Maybe.
Found on a bookshelf in Indiana! Photo credit: Ann Mettert
I did it! I went to the store and had a Confirmed Sighting, in the wild, on the shelf, of a book that I had scribbled onto a yellow legal pad. And it looked like people might have even bought one or two. Inconceivable.
I will not admit to giggling madly when I saw my book on the shelf, but I might have burbled my excitement to the lady next to me when I asked if she’d take my picture holding my book.
“Oh, did you write that? Hmmn. I’ll have to take a look at it.”
When I walked away, she was reading the description. I did not look back, but I’m going to assume that she decided to buy it. Because that’s the way I want this Visit-to-the-store story to go, so there.
When I went to pay for my groceries (no, I did not buy a copy) I asked the cashier how her day was going.
“Well… I’m here,” she said.
“Hey,” I said. “Some days, that’s a victory.”
Then, because yes I was a mad, burbling fool by this point, I said It. “I just saw my first book for sale in the book department.” I might have beamed at her, if I’m being completely honest.
“Oh, that’s cool. What’s it called?” She wrote down the title and said she’d get a copy for her niece. And yes, I know, she might have been saying that to make me feel good, but by this point I was writing the Happy Ending of my Visit-to-the-store story, and in my version she rushed out and bought a copy.
Plus, we got to talking about stories and she was writing a story with her friend, and she loved reading Kresley Cole’s stories, and by the time she got through ringing up my groceries she was in a much better frame of mind than she had been at the start of our conversation, thinking of all the stories she still wanted to write. So there is that.
When you walk into a store and don’t see your book upon the shelves, there’s only one possible conclusion. Repeat after me: “I’m sold out!” -Julia Quinn
I hope your year is off to a good start. Myself, I woke up as a published author. It doesn’t feel real. Maybe I should go get a tweed jacket, the kind with patches over the elbows. Real writers always seem to wear one of those. Presumably their jackets get worn down because authors are constantly rubbing elbows with the rich and famous? One can hope.
I’m starting off the year with a guest post on Christian Shelf Esteem. Please check it out! I’m giving away a signed copy of His Forgotten Fiancée!
They also serve who only stand and wait.
(who clearly never had to deal with a slow waiter)
The nice part of waiting for your book to come out? The experience prepares you for writing in general. You are always going to be waiting for the next book to come out, the next Bookbub ad, the next royalty check… etc.
Of course you fill the time with writing the next fabulous opus, but you still wait.
I don’t have much longer to wait for my first book to be published. But it FEELS like it’s taking forEVER.
I haven’t been posting too much about the forthcoming publication of His Forgotten Fiancée. Truth to be told, I’ve been trying not to think about it.
Well, not completely. I have written some guest posts for a few blogs. But I’ve been trying to avoid most advance reviews and just focus on getting the next novel out. I am working my way through the first batch of edits back from the editor for Geoff and Lia’s story, The English Lieutenant’s Lady. I just submitted Neil and Sam’s story, I’m roughing out scenes for a new contemporary romantic suspense story, and I’m updating a Victorian romance for an agent who requested the manuscript.
Working on several projects at once does help me keep my mind off fretting about a book that’s out of my hands. But I wish I could get these stories finished now. I don’t want to have to stop writing to deal with the need to pay the mortgage and the myriad chores inherent in living in a fixed place on this planet. It is tedious to have to work a day job and clean house and tidy the yard and all those things. I need staff.
A couple dozen sounds about right… of course, I’d have to have a mansion to house them all… and a whole lot of money in the bank and… well… maybe I’ll hold off on these plans until after my first book is published.
I begin with writing the first sentence—and trusting to Almighty God for the second.
Sounds so simple when someone else describes the process. I envy people who can sit down and write the first sentence, and then the second, and then the third… People who write linearly, that is. I think they must be very organized mentally and have everything laid out. The characters do what they want, the plot marches along in an orderly fashion.
I did try to write like that.
I’ve tried outlining and drawing up character sheets and figuring out everyone’s motivation and then writing it all out in a straight line from beginning to end. And the result was as exciting as cardboard. The plot was predictable as clockwork. The characters weren’t people, they were cardboard cut-outs. Even I found it boring. I shudder to think what anyone else would think of it.
The only way I’ve found that works is to start with an intriguing idea and a likable character. Put the two together and then see where the story goes, let it develop in its own way.
For example, His Forgotten Fiancée, I thought: what would a man do if he woke up with no memory of himself, and a woman walks into the room and tells him they’re engaged? How would he react? I started out with the initial scene, then wrote the ending, then went back and wrote the middle.
With my next book, The English Lieutenant’s Lady, I came across a reference to British spies in the Oregon Territory in 1845. What if one of these spies fell in love with a local woman while on his mission? He couldn’t reveal his real identity, but he wanted to make her his wife. What would he do? I started out with them meeting, then wrote several scenes in the middle, then connected them up with the beginning before writing the ending.
I usually start with the beginning of the story, and I do try to write the next scene and the one after it. But the trouble is, an early scene almost invariably ends up having an impact on one or more later scenes, so I have to write down both the early and the later scenes while they’re fresh in my mind. Then I stuff the later scene into a later chapter to wait for the narrative to catch up with that moment. And those scenes tend to spin off ideas for new scenes that need to happen sometime in the middle of the story. Within a week or two of starting a story, I find myself with several handfuls of disconnected scenes that happen at various points in the story.
The secret of being is a writer is there is no secret. You do it one word at a time and that’s the only way. It’s totally terrifying. But the way you go about becoming a writer is by finding out how your brain works. Everyone’s brain is wired differently. I write in pieces. -Diana Gabaldon
Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon both write in non-linear, disconnected scenes. They discuss their writing style in this video. I found it very encouraging to know I’m not the only person who works like this!
If you really want the scene to come alive for the reader, you have to be wholly involved while you’re writing it. But that comes with its own dangers.
In His Forgotten Fiancée, my heroine Liza keeps getting abandoned. Her father leaves her behind while he goes out to the Oregon Territory to claim land. Her fiancée leaves her behind while he goes to California to earn a fortune in the goldfields. At one point Liza starts wondering if there is something wrong with her, some reason why people keep leaving her.
I was in her head writing this scene, and I started feeling sorry for myself, thinking I was always being abandoned… and I thought, “Wait a minute. This isn’t my story; it’s hers. I’m projecting it onto myself.”
But for a moment there, it felt so real, even though it had nothing to do with the reality of my life. That was when I decided that I was never going to write about a serial killer, no matter how tempting the plot.
That’s one reason that I think myself lucky to write romance novels. I get to fall in love with a wonderful man, over and over again.
University of Toronto researchers Maja Djikic and Keith Oatley (2014) studied whether reading fiction can change personality. “…there are specific ways in which fiction can engage readers that enhance important personality qualities.”