Nancy: The Hardest Hundred Pages

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

Nancy: September Accountability Thread

Welcome, September! Happy Labor Day to those who celebrate, and happy Monday to those who don’t. It’s the first Monday of the month, so it’s time for some accountability all up in here! As a reminder, first I’ll go over what I planned to do in August and report on how close or far I was from each goal.

August Progress

1) Write the short story prequel for the Harrow’s Finest Five series. Well, I’ve thought about it quite a bit. Does that count? Can I get a half credit, or maybe a quarter, or…OK, this one’s going to have to show up in September. Continue reading

Nancy: August Accountability Thread

I’ve been pondering the theoretical physics of time recently, wondering how time applied to the 24-hour news cycle proceeds at such a glacially-slow slog, while time applied to my writing goals and deadlines moves at warp speed. Alas, my only conclusion is that time and the current universe in which we live are weird and unfathomable. Regardless, time waits for no one, so let’s get on with our accountability thread on this fine August Monday.

July Progress

1) Finish the Story Genius foundational work and revise/polish the first 50 pages of HFF Novel 2. Done! Plus, I’ve written the ‘aha! moment’ scenes (that’s a Story Genius term) and the final scenes from the POV of both the hero and heroine, so I have something like a quarter of the book out of my head and down on paper. Bonus: I’m having so much fun with this story! It’s a bit more of a romp than the other books in the series thus far. Continue reading

Nancy: Novella (.5) Cover Copy

As I’ve mentioned a few (hundred) times recently, I have a lot of writing balls in the air right now. Partly this was intentional: I knew the writing and editing tasks for my multiple books in my Victorian Romance series would have to overlap to meet a rather aggressive publishing schedule (set by yours truly, so no one to blame but myself for that). Partly this was unintentional: I got behind schedule on a few different things, shifted some dates, zigged when I should have zagged, and suddenly multiple deadlines converged and…well, here I am.

Last week, I asked for your help for a 50-word pitch and 250-word opening sequence for Take the Money and Run, my Women’s Fiction manuscript. This week, I’d love some feedback on a totally different task for a completely different book, the back cover copy for Too Clever By Half, the kickoff novella of my Harrow’s Finest Five series. I’ve been working on this slippery sucker for a while, and now it’s time to get it nailed down so I can get my cover completed (and then share it here!). The goal of the cover copy? Convince a reader to pick up the book from a bookshelf or click on the ‘look inside’ option online. In brief, the cover copy should include a high-level hook, introduce you to the protagonist(s), introduce the conflict, and make you eager to read more.

Your task today, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me whether this cover copy does that for you. The more specificity you provide about what you like, what you dislike, or what makes you say ‘oh hell no!’, the more I can improve it. So leave your thoughts and – really importantly – your first reactions to reading this in the comments, please and thank you!

Two fierce competitors engaged in a battle of intellects might just be outwitted by love… Continue reading

Nancy: July Accountability Thread

Wow. June 2018. What a month. I’m exhausted on so many levels. But still standing (mostly), still fighting the good fight, and still hoping for a better month to come. Also, just returning from a weekend out of town, overseeing multiple house projects, and preparing for houseguests coming at the end of the week. And fighting with my web host over my site they broke two weeks ago and still haven’t fixed.

But that’s no excuse for slacking off on July goals! First, a quick recap of my progress in June. Let’s take a look-see at those goals from what feels like a century ago.

June Progress

1) Finish the first draft of the Women’s Fiction project. Done! I typed THE END on the first draft just this past Friday! Of course, it’s only the end of phase one. Now the real work begins. Writing: It’s a process. Rewriting: It’s a necessary evil.

2) Finish the romance novella and novel 1 revisions. Yeah, kinda sorta. Continue reading

Nancy: Big Reveal: Novel 1 Cover Copy

 Many, many months ago, I shared my cover blurb (aka the 150-word pitch) of my Victorian Romance series kickoff novella and got some great feedback. Since then, I’ve worked on the cover blurb for novel 1 of the series.

This time, I spent even more time on Amazon reading blurb after blurb on historical romance books. I took note of which rhythms and devices appealed to me. At its heart, the cover copy is sales copy; its job is to sell the story, so I gauged my own response to determine which blurbs had me itching to hit the buy button. Then came the hard part: applying those lessons learned to my own book.

As expected, a few hours into the agonizing process, I was pretty sure I’d written the first book in the history of publishing that absolutely would not, could not be captured in a cover blurb. But deep down, I was also pretty sure that every author who’d ever worked on cover copy’d had that same thought. And so I persisted, and came up with this early draft of the cover copy. I’ll work on it with my editor  – who has helped write cover copy for decades – after she has edited the story. But for now, I’d love to get your feedback! Continue reading

Nancy: Going Rogue*

One of the topics we sometimes cover here on the blog is that of writing rules. With the caveat that there are no ‘rules’, just loosely agreed-upon standards and conventions that can and will be broken at will on a regular basis. Still, those conventions give us lines to paint inside to make pretty pictures, and guardrails to keep us from driving our stories off the road and over a cliff.

BUT. But.

Sometimes the hot mess created by violating the lines is also a beautiful mess. Sometimes flying off the edge of a cliff is exhilarating. Thus flouting ‘the rules’ can be like catnip to the writer’s brain.

You’ve probably ascertained by now (because you are smart and observant!) that I’m planning some sort of leap over a guardrail. You are correct. The rule I shall break today is: start where the story begins, stop where the story ends. And in between that beginning and end, make sure every paragraph, every line, every word serves the story (and only the story!) you are writing. Continue reading