Monday, 7 February 2011

Displacement Activities

I haven't written a word for a week. That isn't entirely true of course, I have composed texts, sent some emails, produced an entire five page strategy at work, taken notes etc etc but I haven't spent as much as one minute on either my Valentine entry or the editing of the book.
Partly because it's been a bit manic. Stephen King wouldn't accept this as an excuse, after all he sits down and works every morning including Christmas and New Year. Jessica Hart wouldn't either; how does your inspiration know where to find you if you have no routine she asks reasonably? Even amidst the craziness I could find time to write. I have chosen not to.
Partly it's the problems with our broadband. OK, I don't need broadband to actually write but without it I can't access the crit group and their valuable advice, I can't research – or timewaste.
Partly it's a lack of confidence. Starting the big rewrite terrifies me; the longer I put it off, the longer I don't have to think about it (except, of course, I am always thinking about it...)
But secretly I have quite enjoyed a few days away from the tyranny of my keyboard. I have been reading, researching, realising the Modern line was never for me, I am far more suited to Cherish/Romance/Riva. Phew, I may still need to man my hero up but no longer do I have to worry about turning him into a swaggering bully. During the last few days I have read and enjoyed a number of M&B from a number of lines, noting the emotional conflict, how the story feeds then resolves it and studying the heroes closely. In my chosen lines the heroes are still generally rich and successful but they have a sense of humour, sensitivity, feelings. The one modern I read had the worst cliché of a hero possible – if I had been reading a paper copy I would have tossed it across the room! Billionaire, natch, womaniser, natch, cruel, insensitive, selfish - natch. Treated her like dirt before seducing her (he is a womaniser in his thirties, she is a teenage virgin), treated her like dirt again until discovering she is pregnant he tries to force her into marriage. She is supposed to be sparky but actually just cries a lot and loves him more the meaner he is. It made me uncomfortable to read it. I want a 21st century hero fit for my 21st century heroine. Now I have to stop procrastinating and go and actually write him.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

New shoots

Last week I attended the first week of Jessica Hart's course. Eveything you need to know is here:

She asked three fundamental questions - what do you want to write, why do you want to write and how are you going to do this. The answers to all these questions are, for me, in the posts below and I don't want to rehash old ground, but thinking about it has helped me through yet another difficult week. Flushed with the success of finishing nano I sent the first chapter to Harlequin's So you think you can write (sytycw) competition, not because I thought it was ready but because they promised feedback. TBH I pretty much forgot I'd entered, caught up in the stresses of editing, until the first replies landed in inboxes last week. On the Weds there were straight forward "nos", no feedback, Thurs one writer got some pretty encouraging feedback. I still didn't hear. By Monday the waiting was getting pretty stressful and, I'll admit it, I was starting to hope for some positive news. Well, I got feedback but, once again, it wasn't what I was hoping for.
" Unfortunately your story was not strong enough for us to consider further. We’re looking for heroes who come across as more alpha than Jamie, who isn’t projecting as a truly powerful man. There are some challenges in the dialogue, which at times sounds unnatural. Finally, we do see the premise of a heroine daring the hero to write a romance novel quite a bit, and find it can be a bit too insular – like the author is trying too hard to show how much she loves what she does. Which is nice, of course, but this self-awareness can interfere with the storytelling."
OK, then. Deep breath. I struggled, am struggling, to find the positive in the above. There is no "but/however we did like" nope, they don't like the hero, premise or my dialogue - and, I thought I'd nailed the dialogue!
On the other hand I got feedback where many didn't and I remember M&B's Lucy Gilmour saying how disheartening it was when an editor gives feedback for it to be taken negatively. So I am trying to look at the above positively - I even emailed Lucy to see what her take was on it; I am not expecting a reply but nothing ventured...
Making things even trickier we have had no broadband all week and my phone has been playing up, making checking emails a difficult proposition. Yesterday, fed up with writing, editing, and spending 2 hours trying to get on the internet I spent all my spare time (child's activities and a blissful evening in bed) reading. I read the new Heidi Rice which had been recommended as a great exercise in emotional conflict and steamy scenes (I agree on both accounts) and a book recommended on the course, Stephen King's On Writing. Well, if you haven't read the Stephen King and you have any pretensions to writing AT ALL buy it, read it, absorb it. As I edit I will be looking for passive tenses and adverbs with a gimlet eye.
So, I was ready to give up on Tabby and James, to once again consider Write for Love to be the experiment it was meant to be, to enjoy the achievement of 50,000 words, characters grown and fully realised, a beginning, middle and end duly typed and to start afresh with the lessons learned at the forefront of my mind. And then, I had an idea, a what if, a new take on it, a way to resolve the issues Harlequin raised. Will it work? I don't know, but I'm going to try. First though I am going to read - 2 cherishes and 2 new Rivas have arrived on my Kindle so I can work out where I am aiming this at. Reading is part of my work, sometimes being a wannabe writer is great.