Justine: The Necessity of Do-Overs

resertI’ve been having a particularly nasty time with a chapter in my book. It’s an early chapter, the first in my heroine’s POV, and I’ve spent way too many hours editing and tweaking it. I’m struggling to get all the info I need to in order to lay the groundwork for the rest of the story without it being 6,000 words long.

There’s a lot of stuff I have to pack into it. Much of it revolves around my heroine’s misbelief…both revealing what it is as well as starting to tear it apart. This involves backstory reveals and confrontations – both character confrontations, as well as emotional ones within my character. Basically, truth versus perception, which upsets my character’s misbelief. (For more on misbelief, check out this post.)

After much consternation and gnashing teeth, I decided it’s time for a do-over. No more tweaking. Time to just rewrite it. And it turns out there may be science to back up my decision. Continue reading

Justine: Writing in a Vacuum Sucks

59612318 - woman with vacuum cleaner isolated on whiteI’m very fortunate to have two fantastic critique partners, Jenn and Lisa, that I meet with once a week. Every Tuesday, we hit the Red Robin in Scottsdale, AZ for lunch (because it’s close to Lisa’s office) and we talk about writing, swap critiqued pages, discuss story problems, or vent about our husbands and kids.

Jenn, Lisa, and I have all have a somewhat similar writing background. We’ve done multiple Immersions with Margie Lawson, so we all look for the same sort of rhetorical devices in our writing based on the lessons we’ve learned from Margie. We’ve also all taken similar plotting classes and while we none of us write in the same genre, we know each other’s stories well and we have a pretty good understanding of our respective writing styles so as not to suggest fixes that change each other’s stories into our own.

As good as that all is – and it’s really good – I think every writer needs Continue reading

Kay: Fine Lines

from self.com

#MeToo is an awesome thing, the zeitgeist of our times. It’s put everyone on notice: the old ways/jokes/behaviors/assumptions are over! Including how you approach fiction, especially (maybe) romantic comedy, which is more or less what I usually write.

Two days ago the Washington Post published an article that revisited some old rom-coms, analyzing how male rom-com behaviors that 10 or 20 years ago seemed cute and fun now look stalker-ish in light of #MeToo. And yesterday Jenny Crusie wrote a blog about that article and how her books appear in the glare of 20/20 #MeToo hindsight. (Spoiler alert: She thinks mostly her books hold up okay, in part because her heroes aren’t alpha males out to conquer. There’s a lot more to the discussion, so check it out.) Continue reading

Nancy: Oops, I Did It Again

This could be me in March.

There I was, just whistling down the primrose path, working through the problems in my manuscript that I’d identified during a Revision Sprint class and the subsequent weeks of revision. I didn’t mean to do it. Really, I didn’t think it would happen! But as I updated the final scene sequence of novel 1 of my Victorian Romance series, the next to last step (last step being read-through/proofreading) before sending it to a content editor, I realized it had happened.

I am in love with my story.

Now, being in love with your story in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, during the long, dark days that try writers’ souls, sometimes the only thing that keeps us going is our love for our stupid, ugly, misshapen mess of a (kind of, sort of, almost) story. But to spin the story mess into gold, at some point most writers will want input from other smart people, fresh eyes on the story to catch what we who are too close to it just can’t see. Those other people might be individual critique partners, members of a critique group, or a content editor (as ladies Jeanne and Jilly).

For this particular story, I plan to work with a content editor. Sounds great, you say. Should help clean up the hot mess, you think. So what’s the problem? you might ask. Continue reading

Nancy: When Your Book Is a Moody Teenager

You’ve probably heard some writers say their books are like children. If that’s the case, my current WIP is definitely in the cranky teenager stage.

In it’s nascent stage, I was content to nest and let the story incubate, finally letting it hatch when I knew the idea was ready to come out of my head and onto the page. Then there were the heady, frenetic days of discovery, of getting to know this baby story, of giving it guide rails and parameters as it grew from a blob of words to a someday-could-be-a-readable book, in the form of a weirdly gawky and awkward (I will not use the word ugly!) first draft. Then I assessed and worked and sculpted some more, until I had a reasonably stable story world and through line. In that process, I’d weeded out some unnecessary subplots and exposed some minor plot holes. (And had begun to mix my child metaphor with a gardening one, but stick with me!)

So now my book is on the brink of adulthood. The story is pretty well-formed. It’s easy to see what it will be when it’s finished and where it will find its niche in the world. But there’s stuff still to be done. This is akin to the stage of parenting where we have to nurse broken hearts and teach safe driving and prepare our almost fully-grown progeny for life in the real world. But we’re so close. Easy peasy!

Said no parent of teens or writer of books EVER. Continue reading

Nancy: A Journey of a Thousand Miles

You know how that journey begins: with just one step. While it’s a cliche, it can be a helpful one, especially when you’re staring down the barrel of a 100k-word novel, overwhelmed and blocked, ready to curl up on the sofa and get lost in ten hours of Netflix and a box of chocolate sea salt caramels. Not that anyone here has ever done that. (Ahem.)

I got a reminder of the importance of breaking down a long, difficult journey into do-able steps his past fall when I took a course called Get Your Scary Shit Done, taught by Jen Louden. We all need different motivators and encouragement at different points on our creative journeys, and fortunately for me, GSSD came at just the right time for me. I not only completed the project I’d identified for the 7-week course (writing an Act of one of my many writing projects), I finished early and started on the next mini-project (planning the next Act). As is often the case in a motivational program, it’s not so much that the material was brand-new, never-before-seen information; it’s that it was framed and organized in a way that made me use knowledge I already had in a different way.

I’ve recently returned to the 7-week course week to overcome the last mental obstacles I have in finishing my HFF series book 1 revisions. In the first week of the course, one of the core activities is Continue reading

Jilly: Evaluating an Edit Report

So how’s the New Year shaping up for you?

I started January with a new challenge—deciding how to respond to my very first professional content edit. I’d previously seen the excellent report the editor, Karen Dale Harris, wrote for Jeanne’s The Demon Always Wins, so I knew roughly what to expect. That didn’t mean I was ready for it.

The overview/summary report alone ran to 24 pages, and covered everything from subgenre choice and the implications of that, to characters, conflict, plot, plot holes, world-building, language choices, inconsistencies…you get the idea. I’ll just say that it’s not a comfortable experience to have one’s every last choice subjected to such detailed scrutiny. Continue reading