Fab image and inspiration from Winning Edits
A cross post with the group blog, Seven Sassy Sisters.
I’ve been the Slacker Sister lately. This is my first post for ages!
I do have a good excuse- a family crisis sent me jetting home to Sydney with no notice, straight into the twilight land of the Internet-Free-Zone. Even if I’d been able to get away long enough to buy an dongle, it wouldn’t have done me any good, my parents live in a reception black hole. In a way, though, I found it all strangely relaxing. No responsibilities except caring for my parents, a good and necessary duty.
Then I flew back to a clingy husband who’d missed me desperately, a psychotic cat who won’t leave me alone, and a Day Job that ate my brain and my time from the minute I walked back in the door.
The good news is, the Day Job have agreed to let me drop back to half time hours. Yippee! With care, extreme frugality, and with any luck selling a story sometime in the next year or so, we can survive on half my income. And I have a wonderful two days extra a week to write. Not just that, the Work-Life balance changes. I get a hell of a lot more life out of two days less work, because I’m betting two long days, with a day off in between, won’t leave me nearly as brain fried as four of those days do! My job role changes a bit too, as with luck in the dividing up of the different parts of my job between me and my job share-ee (does that word even exist?) I’ll manage to end up with the less stressful part of it. Looks like it’s heading that way, anyway!
Which isn’t what I meant to post about at all! What I want to post about is telling a good story. That should probably actually be showing a good story, as I do way too much of the telling side of things.
Coming back to Old Blighty, the Land of Endless Wifi Connection, I discovered what I’d missed while I was away. Harlequin annoucing a Romance Fast Track. Sweet! I’d just thought up a new story idea, just perfect for a Romance. Except I promised I the other Sassies I wouldn’t start a new story until I finished one of the many I already had.
Then I found an even better answer. A rejected story just shouting out to be rewritten. At the time the rejection hit, I had plenty of ideas how to change it, how to fix it, but I’d shelved them to start another story. Now the timing seemed ideal. Pull that story out again and go for it. I’d written it as a novella, but only skated across the surface of the characters’ conflicts. If I went deep, dug out all the potential for real emotion that already existed between them, if could be a fifty K story.
Rereading that story was fascinating! The first time I’ve ever had that experience of putting enough distance between myself and the first writing to read the story as if someone else wrote it.
What an amazing experience! I’m seeing it so differently now compared to when I first wrote it and reread it immediately after to do some surface edits. Some of it is wonderful, and really needs to be kept. Some is slow and draggy, the pace is all wrong. Some of the scenes I most wanted to include just don’t work for me now.
There are bits that work, sections that carried me along with the story and the feelings and when I came to the end of the scene I was all “I wrote that? Wow!” . Then are far too many other bits where I was “I wrote that? WTF, why? What was I thinking?”
The fabulous thing is seeing what needs fixing. Really getting why the story was rejected. And seeing what can be a cut and paste and tweak and work just fine, because it does work fine. Right now it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Some of the pieces are perfect and I know just where they fit. Some of the pieces are lovely but I have no idea where they can go. And some of the pieces seem to come from a different puzzle entirely!
I can see that my story arc is a mess. I structured it all wrong. It’s a reunion story, and the heroine held on to the “big sekrit” of why she left him before for far too long, meaning when she did eventually disclose it,, it seemed way too tiny to be a convincing reason. That needs to come out way sooner.
The emotional resolution comes way too early, and then it’s more external factors keeping them apart. So that needs to be switched around, altered more, taken deeper. The Black Moment, the change demanded of them both, the moment where they face losing the love of their life rather than surrender their defences, needs to be bigger. More of an emotional death, a death of their old ways of protecting themselves against hurt and pain. Reading this blog post helped me see that.
Plus the hero is just too nice! Sure, it’s going to be pitched as a sweet romance, so he’s not going to be a Modern/ Presents style Alpha, but that doesn’t mean he needs to be a wimp. He can be a whole lot angrier, and a whole lot less forgiving, at least to start with.
Lots to fix, lots to work with. And just two weeks to pull together a polished first chapter and a synopsis that makes sense.
I need to listen to the advice in the picture. Tell the truth. Think. Care. Let blood flow (mine, not the characters, dig into my own heart). Inject a splinter- find the characters’ painful spots and probe them. Especially as I’m editing an already written story- cut the crap. Drop the backstory. Lose the long scenes with secondary characters. hit the delete key on those scenes I thought I just had to have but really don’t work in this story.
Most of all- keep the focus. Characters, conflict, and a satisfying and emotionally real climax. Solve an emotional issue, and remember that’s the most important story problem, not anything external to the relationship.
I’m writing romance, and emotion is what it most needs to be about. Not my wonderful setting. Not the hero and heroine’s realtionships with other people. Their relationship, and the deep emotional blocks that keep them apart. The moments of tenderness, of yearning, of the magic of falling in love. The pain of knowing that it can never happen, this relationship can never work, of old hurts being uncovered, of defences being torn down and desperately rebuilt.
I always want to add more. More external conflict. More stuff in the characters’ pasts. But what if the stuff I already have is enough? What if instead of throwing more into the mix, I took them deeper and further into what’s already there? Maybe the three words I most need to remember as I write this story should be “Keep digging deeper.”
Keep digging deeper.
What three words best describe what you need to write a great story?