Michille: A New Approach

HeronI am contemplating taking a new approach to my writing. I have a four-book series that I’ve been working on. I go to conferences and workshops and take online courses and I get excited about the revisions that are needed. And then I sit down to do them, start working through the list of what needs done and I get so overwhelmed that I just quit. In order to do A, I have to stop and hit D, L, Q, and P, and then come back to A. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And I stop.

In order to get my writing mojo back, my new approach is going to be starting a whole new story. The picture is a Great Blue Heron that I see when I hike at a park near my house. It’s my spirit animal so I’m keeping it close for motivation. Part of my motivation for this new approach is that I believe I am a good writer. I read. A lot. And most of what I read is crap, has crappy elements, or has my pet peeves sprinkled throughout. I’m going to write a book that I would like to read. My starting point is a list of what the story will have and a list of what it won’t.

It will have:
• An HEA.
• A plot outside of the HEA – like two strangers cross paths while hiking and stumble on a dead body. The relationship arc and the plot arc are distinct. The HEA isn’t the whole story. (This is the kind of story I like to read).
• Contemporary setting.
• Sex with consent.
• Smart main characters.

It will NOT have:
• Witty dialogue that goes on for pages.
• A stupid, incompetent, or immature hero or heroine. No one is going to stomp his/her feet in frustration (gawd I hate that) and they’re not stopping in the middle of a flooded river and kissing for two pages.
• Pages of inner dialogue while one person is looking at the other person and just waiting for them to think through whatever they’re thinking about (for pages) before the conversation can continue. Seriously, how many times do stand around for 5 minutes waiting for the next sentence.
• One member of the couple stepping out on the other, or having done so in the past.
• A dozen pages for one sex scene, lots of chatter during sex, impairment of either party, or words like sword and sheath. I’m reading one now in which the hero puts a condom over his desire. My hero won’t do that.

I may even try to plot it out in advance, which isn’t my usual method. I’m sure my list of what it will and won’t have will grow.

Any suggestions that I can add to my list?

10 thoughts on “Michille: A New Approach

  1. I’m with you on the “won’t haves” Michille, except for the first one. I’m a sucker for witty dialog and will happily read pages of it, even if it doesn’t really help the plot.

    If I was writing a “won’t have” list, I would definitely add: “a problem that could easily be resolved if the two characters would just talk to each other.” I loath stories that hinge on “the big misunderstanding”.

    I hope your new approach works for you. I look forward to seeing the results.

    • Oh, I forgot the just-have-an-effing-conversation one. That is definitely on the ‘won’t have’ list. The new idea came from the newspaper. Hikers found a dead body in the area where we hike. And I thought, oooh, that’s a great start to a romance novel. Several ways to spin it. Does he find it first, then she stumbles on it and is not sure if he did it? Find it at the same time? She finds it and he’s the first on the scene officer? I started to put the idea aside and then read several truly craptastic stories and thought, I can do better than that.

      So, here’s hoping I can.

      • 1) You can do better than that. (I know. I’ve read your work.)
        2) This is how I start writing new stories, with just a “what if?” Once I have the idea for the premise, I start thinking about what kinds of characters/backstories will wander into that what if. And then I think about turning points. Often, after that, I’m ready to start writing, but I need that much.
        3) I also love the idea of making a list of things you refuse to allow to sully your story. Good for you.

        Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  2. I know what you mean by being overwhelmed. That doesn’t usually happen to me at the end, although it often happens to me in the middle, when I realize I have no freaking clue about what I’m doing. However, this time I got to the end (yay!) and realized I have to write out Claire. She doesn’t have enough to do, and my critique partners are complaining about too many characters. She does have one great line, but I can give that to someone else.

    So I start at the beginning and search for all occurrences of “Claire,” and I’m doing fine until I hit the spot where I see that maybe the reason I added her in the first place was because by putting her in the house, she takes the room that the frustrated boyfriend would otherwise get. And I want the frustrations of the boyfriend to increase. So DANG. And I couldn’t think my way through that, so I closed the file and walked away. It’s been two days now. I think I have a solution, but really? Is it going to take me two days or more to figure out every solution for every problem? Of which I have many, and the frustrated boyfriend is the least of these.

    I think your list sounds great, and it seems like a good idea to keep that list and your spirit animal in front of you as you work. Seems like that would be a good way to focus from a calming point of view. Good luck!

    • Your editing sounds frustrating. I can so totally relate. Not having read it, it seems like Claire needs to be in the story. Can you combine another character with Claire who needs a room?

      And the heron thing is turning into the old-woman-traveling-in-an-RV-collecting-spoons-from-national-park-gift-shops thing. I now have pictures from the many many herons I’ve seen that let me get up close and personal (like the one above), and I have a pair of heron socks (thanks, hubby), a 4-ft heron sculpture (thanks, Girl Child), and a heron wine glass (thanks, cool wine glass seller at the art festival). I’m surrounded by them. Put great words in my head and on the page, please, my ego free animal spirit guide.

  3. “I am a good writer” — what struck me about this part is that I think a service-oriented motivation is a good kind of motivation. We are all good writers, and we need to use our gifts, and provide stories for the world to read. Stories that only we can tell.

    So, include an element that only you can tell: maybe allow yourself to have a heron motif. You can always take it out later. But let your heron speak in at least the first draft.

    (-: If that seems like a cool thing to do, of course.

    The world needs more stories, especially Happily Ever After stories.

  4. This isn’t anything new to add to your list, but definitely a dumb/stupid heroine. In the book I’m currently reading (a RITA nominee that I swear is a CHALLENGE to get through, but I’m doing it for the sake of “research” of dumb stuff not to do as a writer), she’s stupidly deciding to meet with the man who, eight years ago, led to her ruin so she can “tell him off.” Gimme a break! Leave the bastard alone! She’s just going to get herself in trouble again. I can see it before it happens.

    I also hate waffling. “Maybe he likes me, maybe he doesn’t.” He does one thing and she interprets it as “he likes me.” He does another and she interprets it as “he likes me not.” I think because I’m not the kind of person to care (hey, if you don’t like me, fine, that’s your prerogative…I’m not going to waste my brain cells on you anymore), this sort of thing drives me insane. I do want to point out a distinction between this and a someone who is consistently doing good things to redeem himself in her eyes — more of an “okay, he’s becoming less and less of a bastard.” My hero is definitely doing this in my book…trying to prove his worth to my heroine. But he’s not doing “a good thing” and then “a bad thing” in her eyes and making her waffle every time he acts.

    Going back to the “I can see it before it happens…” Horrible foreshadowing. Avoid. Please. Remember when Krissie told Jenny to throw a rock? Please throw rocks. Tilt our reader world. Don’t lay out something so obvious that it’s like a train coming through (I admit I have to do this in my book — I’m struggling with what my rock is going to be).

    I am with Elizabeth, though…I can handle some witty banter. Keyword “witty.” Stupid banter is just that. Stupid.

    Now here’s hoping I can pull all of that off in my book. 😉

    • I have no ‘stupid, incompetent, or immature hero or heroine’ because yes, I hate that, too.

      Your point on foreshadowing is a good one. I recently read a story where the bad guy came completely out of left field – no hints whatsoever that he was it. That is the reverse of what you’re saying, but still. I reading Eloisa James Wilde series. I fully expect the oldest child, who supposedly died in the bog but his body was never found, to make an appearance. It’s just too, something, to not be coming.

      I don’t mind snappy dialogue, but going on for pages of
      “What about your cat?”
      “What about my cat?”
      “Isn’t that why we’re here?”
      “Well of course that’s why we’re here?”
      for pages and pages until they finally get the damn cat off the roof. Or some such like that. I hate, hate, hate it.

      • IMHO, any dialogue involving cats isn’t going to be witty….I don’t care what else is going on. 🙂

        I am reading the Wilde series, too, and yes, the brother is going to come back to life. I’m with you on that. Saw it coming the second time they mentioned him. Because otherwise, why bother? I read a romantic thriller a few years ago by one of the ladies in my RWA chapter and I hated the ending because the bad guy was a cop-out. She chose someone who had about 1/2 page of “screen time.” I’d much prefer it be someone within our sight. Makes it more interesting.

        Several years ago I read a book that I’m pretty sure would have been labeled “Christian historical fiction” (although I didn’t know that when I bought it…that sort of historical fiction is fine for me so long as they’re not spouting a bunch of Bible verses — just my preference) and the entire relationship was a slow build and I loved it. There was a lot of dialogue (because what else are they going to do?), but it was all building to this great relationship. Meaningful, get-to-know-you-and-challenge-you dialogue. Simply perfect and I can’t remember the name of the book or the author. I lent it out to someone and never got it back. 😦 I’d kill to read that book again knowing what I know now about writing fiction.

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