Swimsuits and Rewriting

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“Don’t be afraid”

Revising a manuscript feels rather like trying on swimsuits, except I can do it in the privacy of my own home. I keep discarding old ideas and trying on new ones. They’re pretty ideas, but when I try them out on my story, all I can see are the physical flaws.

On the other hand, putting this novel on a diet (i.e. throwing out much of chapter 1) yielded some unexpected discoveries. Suddenly, I understand why my hero was being snappish in Chapter 2. I knew he was irritable and defensive in that scene, but I had no idea why. NOW it makes perfect sense.

Chapters 1 and 2 are revised. I might go back and tweak a sentence here or there to make things flow better, but for now I’m calling them Done and moving on. Only 12 more chapters to go.

 

Image: Scanned from period postcard, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21660

Writing vs. Playing

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“You didn’t really want to use this laptop, did you?”

Sometimes, it’s hard to convince those around you that writing is more important than playing with them. I am trying a compromise. Five minutes play time, twenty-five minutes staring at the computer muttering under my breath and deleting content.

Link du jour: Harlequin Forums. There are some interesting discussions on writing, with tips on how to write for Harlequin and information on their latest writing contests.

Rant: “Oh, readers like the repetition…”

ThoseScenes

This morning, I was listening to a YouTube interview with a woman who purports to make a living writing romances. She originally wrote science fiction and fantasy novels, and she frankly admitted that she started writing romance because that’s where the largest reading audience was. It wasn’t that interesting an interview, but I kept it going in the background because I was working on something tedious and I wanted a distraction. And then…

Interviewer: So how do you handle writing “those” scenes?

Author: Oh, you know, “those” scenes are really repetitive, but you have to include them. Romance readers like the repetition, they really do. Of course, I don’t read romances myself, so I always try to include a bit of mystery or science fiction in my stories so that it’s interesting to me personally. But I’m telling you, the readers like the repetition.

This irks me.

WrathOfReaders

I had never heard of this author before this interview, but I have to wonder how good her books are. If she’s bored by what she’s writing, and thinks her readers love repetition, then why does she bother? Get a job as a plumber or a secretary or chicken farmer.

Writing takes a lot of time and effort. Writing a novel that bores you for people you don’t think much of because you think you’ll make lots of money doing it… no. Just no. Chicken farmer.

Neither the interviewer nor the author defined what they  meant by “those” scenes. They both smirked, so I imagine that they are thinking of some kind of scene that would be considered as a graphic love scene. But I don’t even think it matters how you define the term.

Romance novels are about the emotional connection formed between two people. Whether a love scene is graphic or not — even if the author is writing about a couple just holding hands, as I am — the author is, or should be, writing about the emotions involved. The characters in the book are unique. The scenes in which they express their feelings should be unique. A scene cannot be believable if you could replace it with a scene from another book.

Each love story is unique.

Putting the vision into revision

Water drop on a leaf

“Writing is rewriting… If you fall in love with the vision you want of your work and not your words, the rewriting will become easier.”
– Nora DeLoach

When I first finished this manuscript, I felt like a runner, one of those people that you see on television just making it across the finish line before they collapse in a heap. I really was not looking forward to the prospect of revising it. That would mean looking at it again, and that was the last thing I wanted to do.

Looking at the whole manuscript at once was… disheartening. But I didn’t write the original version all at once, and no one but me was expecting me to revise the whole thing at once, so I decided to focus on one chapter at a time.

As I go through the chapters, ruthlessly cutting my tender words of genius and brutally hacking out whole scenes, I feel like an explorer wielding her machete through an impenetrable jungle. But it’s changing how I see the manuscript. The more I cut, the more I am starting to feel as if I am coming back to the original idea that inspired me to write the story in the first place.

Useful links:

These are some links that I looked up while procrastinating found useful.

The Seekerville blog:

Rachelle Gardner’s blog:

After The Call: the revision

“I’d heard about these revision letters and expected to get one—in the same way I expect to die someday.” – Camille Eide, “What do you mean my hero isn’t sexy enough?”

“… revisions, editorial feedback, are there to make us the best writers we can be, which is really what we should want. It’s not just about getting a pat on the back and an ‘oh, good job, it’s fine’ It’s about taking it to the next level.” – Maisey Yates, “Revisions! (the musical)”

Everyone talks about what getting The Call feels like. You don’t hear so much about what happens next.

In my case, I got a list of things to revise.

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Each yellow sticky flag is a revision note.

I cringed every time I saw a comment pointing out some perfectly obvious error in continuity that I should have caught before I sent it. I know it’s inevitable to miss something, but even so… argh!

On the plus side, I am going to have a much stronger story when I get to the end of these.

The Call

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you write a book, you want to see it published.

We want our words read, want the reader to weep or laugh at the right places, want someone to put down the last page and be glad they took the time to travel through a world we created.

“Would I scribble in my room if no one would see my words except me and maybe a cat? I don’t think so… I like to be read.” – Julia Quinn, RWA 15

I have always written, but I have not always finished what I started. Once I started to finish the novels, the itch of curiosity needed to be scratched. Was this story any good? Would someone like it if they read it? I started sending the first chapters out to contests hoping for impartial feedback. Contests are a great way to learn how to take criticism, but they are also a source of confusion.

“This is fabulous! Publish this NOW!” – Contest Judge #1

“It’s going to take a lot of work to whip this puppy into shape.” – Contest Judge #2  (exact same story)

Once my stories started to final in contests, I got feedback from agents and editors. While their feedback was helpful, it was very high level. They told me the stories needed work, but not where the problems were exactly.

“I liked this story, apart from the hero, heroine, and the plot.” -NY editor

Obviously, I needed to find some way to improve, but how could I get better if I did not know what I was doing wrong exactly?

So when I heard about Harlequin’s Manuscript Matchmaker contest for the Love Inspired Historical line of books, and learned that the editors were offering personalized feedback, I decided this was exactly what I needed. I sent in the first three chapters of a story, with a synopsis, and a kind editor wrote back pointing out the strengths and the weaknesses of the manuscript.

Woo hoo!

Um, wait. You want to read the rest of it as well?

Okay, so I would get feedback on a full manuscript. That would be even better. I wrote every morning before work, while my inner editor was still asleep. And I managed to finish a 70,000 word novel in 4-1/2 months. By the time I finished, I could not judge whether it was good or whether it was complete, absolute, and utter tripe. But it was done, so I patted myself on the back and went to work on the next novel. I decided the best way to deal with waiting for feedback was to concentrate on the Bright Shiny Idea that had come to visit me while I was struggling with finishing this story.

I need the structure and terror of deadlines. – Mary Jo Putney, RWA 15

I gave myself until August 15th to finish the first draft of my new story, figuring that the editors would probably start sending out feedback on the full manuscripts by that time. I knew that getting a rejection would probably damage my self-esteem enough to throw me out of the writing groove for a day or two, so I was aiming to get the ms. to a stopping place before then.

Except… last week, I got a call. Oh, a New York number. Must be another recruiter wanting me to apply for a temp job at Intel.

But it wasn’t a recruiter. Instead, it was kind Shana Asaro, from Harlequin, saying that she liked my story. And wanted to publish it.

That was a surreal moment. It still doesn’t seem quite real. I think I babbled something urbane and sophisticated, like “Oh wow!” but I’m not quite sure.

It’s funny. I had planned out exactly how to handle rejection. I had never planned how to handle acceptance. I had thought that good news could take care of itself.

Note to self: plan for success.

Confetti in Toronto