Later this week, I will finish the final pages of the first draft of Three Husbands and a Lover. While I will then walk away from it for a few to several weeks before starting on revisions, there is one change I already know I have to make: changing the name of the hero’s sister. Percival (Percy) Carlyle, Captain Lord Granville, is an earl with three younger sisters. The younger two are sixteen-year-old twins named Lily and Iris. The oldest is eighteen and is named Priscilla, Prissy for short.
You can see the problem. Percy and Prissy. As much as the sister just felt like a Prissy, as much as the name suited the character, even I started getting confused and typing one name when I meant the other. Now this character, who plays an important secondary role in this story and who might get a story of her own someday, needs a new name.
This oldest sister is chatty, bubbly, and hopelessly romantic. She is has fallen head over heels for her first earnest suitor, who doesn’t really deserve her affections. And she welcomes her brother’s new wife with open arms, thrilled to have an older sister to balance out the two younger ones. She is tallish for a woman, and has pale freckled skin and light reddish-blonde hair like her brother, and unlike her mother and sisters who are petite, dark-haired, and dark-eyed.
The two younger sisters are named after flowers, obviously. Flower names became very popular in the 19th century, and it wouldn’t be too big a stretch to imagine a family naming all their daughters after symbols of prettiness and sweetness. So, like her sisters, the character formerly known as Prissy will be named after a flower. I’ve narrowed down the list to the following three, with their meanings, and the pros and cons of each from my perspective. Continue reading
This might or might not be an accurate depiction of me upon realizing I’ve done it again.
I like to say that I can be taught. That I can learn from my mistakes. That writing, like life, is a process, and part of that process is continuous improvement. Yes, I like to say I’m getting better, but then I do things that make a liar out of me.
Case in point: I’ve been working on the next book in the Harrow’s Finest Five series, Three Husbands and a Lover, for those of you keeping track at home. This is Percy’s story (Captain Lord Granville), who is the group cut-up, thrill-seeker, and all around flirtatious cad. But I knew, from the inception of the series, that all his light frivolity was hiding a dark inner life. This is crunchy stuff, the kind a writer likes to sink her teeth into. But it took a few bites for me to get there.
In the pre-discovery phase of the book, which is when characters with some vague motivations, snippets of conversations, and partial scenes float around in brain, untethered from each other and any kind of story logic, this was a very different story from what it is today. And that’s fine. That’s why I do discovery work – to excavate and sift and reveal a few tiny gold nuggets per metric ton of crap.
Turns out our heroine, Finola, had a goal in the initial story iteration. It was a good, strong, “close-your-eyes-and-you-can-see-it” goal. But it didn’t have anything to do with Percy, who didn’t yet have a raison d’être of his own beyond “get Finola in bed.” Continue reading
Can you read the caption? “Andrina Wood at the console of a BTM computer. Tabacus: The Magazine of the British Tabulating Company, August 1958.” The photo was republished on the Twitter account of Mar Hicks, a professor and historian of technology. Many of the vintage photos I’ve seen show women at computer consoles working with a legal pad or paper notebook.
I’ve started a new book. For lack of any better ideas, I went back to a project I last worked on in about 2006—the adventures of my genius computer hacker and the FBI agent who arrested her.
I wrote two books of these characters before I switched to lighter storylines—there’s just something about your hero sending your heroine to prison that tends to get dark pretty fast. And it’s hard to write genius, too, if you’re not genius yourself. Using Sheldon Cooper as a role model, especially for a female character, has its limitations.
The reception I got for these books after I’d finished them was lukewarm. The first book is about stealing an election, a topic that every agent and editor I talked to said would be stale in months. And we all know how that turned out.
“The more we stur a tourde, the wours it will stynke.” So said J. Heywood in the 1546 Dialogue Prouerbes Eng. Tongue. How true is that? I have muddied around with the first several chapters of my book for MONTHS now, but as the Golden Heart deadline approached on Friday, I found myself having to follow the equally proverbial “fish or cut bait.”
In other words, I had to make whatever changes I could get done before the deadline, then send it off on its merry way. (I have few hopes of finaling, but I thought because it’s the last time RWA will hold the Golden Heart–the “Academy Awards” of romance writing for unpublished authors–I should give it a go.)
When I finished my submission, and in conjunction with my Word Of The Year (which is DEADLINES), I told my husband that I was not going to touch those first five chapters again. And he made me sign THIS:
So it’s moving forward, starting with Chapter 6 and going until it’s done and I turn it in to my editor.
Do you put a stake in the ground when it comes to your MS? Do you only allow a certain number of revisions to a given chapter?
A few weeks ago at church, the minister talked about something called the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.”
This concept, defined by psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, describes the cognitive bias of inexperience that causes people who know almost nothing about a topic think they are experts because they don’t know enough to realize the extent of their ignorance.
If you’ve ever critiqued a manuscript for a beginning writer, you know exactly what this is. The newbie will bring you her precious creation and hand it over, dewy-eyed with confidence that the next day (because it’s so good you’ll stay up all night reading it), you’ll call to tell her that she is the next J.K. Rowling/Nora Roberts/E.L. James/Gillian Flynn. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I told you about the steady progress I’ve been making on my WIPs by working to a 20-page-per-week commitment with my writing coach. That’s approximately 6,000 new words per week. At that pace, I’d be able to write a 25K story in 4-5 weeks.
So now let me tell you about the 25K story it took me 2 years to write.
OK, I’m being a bit melodramatic. I didn’t take me 2 years to get through the new pages of the first draft. That took a few months, then the story went to critique readers who (rightfully) had some problems with the story. Then there were the inevitable months of compiling critique comments, formulating a revision plan, going back to the story drawing board, drinking before 4 PM, and reconsidering my poor life choices. And then I walked away from the story for a year.
Not to worry! I was not defeated, and the story wasn’t abandoned. I just needed to take a break. See other stories. Decide what I really wanted out of that novella. The answer was, a lot, and that’s why my time away from it was so important for fixing the story. My critique readers could give you lots of details about what was wrong with this book, like a heroine who was rather selfish, an out-of-the-blue physical encounter that would be a tough sell in a contemporary, let alone an historical, and that perennial first-draft favorite – wishy-washy goals.
But pulling back from all of that to take an big-picture view of my novella, I realized I’d written it too soon. It was under-proofed, under-baked, and just not ready for prime (or even critique) time. So how did I make such a mess of it? Oh, let us count the ways. Continue reading
As regular readers here know, several months ago, I finally gave up my high-stress, pressure-filled, deadline-driven corporate consulting job and set up my own high-stress, pressure-filled, deadline-driven writing and publishing plan. It’s a much better gig! However, one good thing about a corporate job is the structure. (That, and cake. People randomly bringing in cake. Why do my new office mates, aka the cats, never bring me cake? But I digress).
When you enter the full-time writer world, your time is suddenly your own, even with a very firm stake planted in the ground somewhere out there in Future Land. When it comes to publishing schedules, suddenly you’re thinking in terms of months or even years. Gone are the daily and weekly due dates, the guide rails that keep you plodding along on the straight and narrow. Take the girl out of the corporate world and chaos follows. At least, that’s what happened to schedule- and spreadsheet- and calendar-loving me. Continue reading