Review Excerpts

Monday, April 16, 2018

Going Back to the Same Well

As my old series Trope-tastic Thursdays indicated, tropes are not a bad thing. We all use them, whether we're aware of them or not. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say there are some tropes I like better than others, and some themes or character types keep popping up.

I'm on Chapter 3 of the new project, Sonata for Springtime. (I had to take a little break due to Influenza B, but I'm better now!) The characters were pretty fleshed out in my head before I even started writing, but now that I'm actually writing, they're becoming more and more defined, of course. In writing my protagonist, Jonathan, I'm finding a lot of similarities between him and other main characters I've written in the past.

This character type that I'm apparently so fond of is not particularly happy or unhappy. He's just plugging away, letting life happen. No major struggles, but no great passion for anything, either. He's just kind of...there. But then BOOM! Romance happens. Or at least the chance for romance arises, because we still need some conflict to drive the story forward.

Let's take a look at my backlog and see how many times I've done this. Stephen from The Edge of the Sphere definitely qualifies, as he's probably one of the most passive characters I've ever written (in the first half of the book, anyway). Caleb from Flight of the Dragon Queen (the 1Night Stand series) probably also qualifies, though at least he was slightly more proactive in contacting Madame Eve for a date. In Out of Orbit, Aras was content with his life until Jasmine almost literally crash landed in front of him. And then we have a rare female example with Veronica in Seductive Suspect, who gets shoved into the story's plot by her sister.

I don't know why I keep coming back here. I've done plenty of other heroes and heroines, including some who have suffered great trauma but are cured by True Love Forever. (Or, as my college friends used to call it, the "fuck the pain away" plot. :D ) Maybe it's because even though I love sci-fi and fantasy and all these wildly imaginative worlds, I also like regular people doing regular things. We can't all be dark and brooding, after all.

So while I could probably use a little more variety in my writing, it's not like all these characters are exact clones of each other, either. It's working for the story I want to write, so I'm not going to create some tragic past or heroic adventure for Jonathan just to mix things up. He'll have plenty to worry about anyway as the book progresses, don't you worry.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Stop Overthinking Things

A couple months ago, writing/blogging buddy Krystal Jane posted a graphic depicting a (real) conversation between Stephen King and George R. R. Martin. Save yourself a Google and go here to read her post. If you scroll down to read the comments, you'll see me lamenting my similarities to Martin and swearing to be more like King for my next project.

I did start my next book. (And yes, I did wind up going with Option 1.) And I'm trying. I really am. I'm trying to just make myself write write write write write write write write write, and worry about everything working out with editing later. It's been...okay. I got a solid, fairly lengthy (for me) opening chapter done in about eight days. And I started Chapter 2 today, even though I'm not 100% sure where it's going, other than "leading into Chapter 3 on my outline".

It's so easy to slip back into overthinking things, though. Even if something's not perfect, I'm trying to commit to just getting the damn words on the page, but then I'll be distracted by the possibility of word repetition, or varying sentence structure, or other things that can TOTALLY BE FIXED LATER ON. I don't know if it's necessarily a *bad* habit, since everyone writes in their own way, but I'm not crazy about being like this.

I used to just WRITE and worry about everything later. However, as soon as I started submitting things for publication and working with professional editors, it seemed that the more advice I got, the slower I wrote. The more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn't know, I guess. :P And while some have been better fits than others, every editor I've had the opportunity to work with has been super nice and supportive, so it's not like anyone's ever yelled at me for not being perfect. Maybe I need to frame my writing goals as keeping editors employed....

(Abrupt topic change! I think I'm set for the title on this one, so I'll make it official with a new tag!)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

New Things For Spring

(almost nailed the rhyming title, but not quite)

Lately, it seems that all of my creative-minded friends have been talking about what new project they want to embark on. I would say something poignant and poetic about it having to do with the time of year, with spring just around the corner, and everything waking up and getting ready to bloom, blah blah blah, but I'm in the part of the country that got smacked by a number of storms in a row and not all the snow in my yard has melted yet. So we'll save that for another couple weeks. ;) 

My writing fingers are getting itchy already, even though it feels like I just finished up the most recent novella and sent it off. Usually I take a break to read some books, play some games, and see what's new and exciting on Netflix, but other than a couple books I'd wanted to read for a while, nothing else is really calling to me. I guess I might as well start something new, then!

Of course that leads to the all-important question...what should I start next? As any writer or other creative-type knows, there are always plenty of options and not enough hours in the day to tackle them all. Some of my ideas have been bouncing around for years, while others are fairly new. Some are pretty fleshed out, while others are nothing more than little snippets yet. Here's my list of mostly-baked ideas (all romance):

Option 1
Pros: Except for figuring out the order of some scenes in the middle, I basically have the major plot points outlined. The characters are fleshed out in my mind. I realized lately I haven't written anything in a male POV in quite a few years now and I'd like to go back to it for a change. One plot thread is something I've wanted to write about for a while.

Cons: It's...fluffy. Not that there's anything wrong with fluff, but nothing about the plot is particularly earth-shattering or ground-breaking. Also, it's in a contemporary setting, which I've been finding myself writing in a LOT lately, even when the stories have sci-fi or fantasy elements.

Option 2
Pros: I was so excited about this one, I almost started it over the summer. I even did some research with a friend. It's got a dystopian setting, alternate dimensions/timelines, and all sorts of more complex stuff to wrap my mind around. The two main characters are pretty well established to me.

Cons: All of that aforementioned complex stuff takes a lot of plotting, and I'm not quite all the way there yet. There are also some big issues I have to decide how to tackle - stick with familiar tropes, or throw caution to the wind and do my own thing? (The latter takes more work, of course.) While I have the major plot points figured out, there's still a looooooot of blanks to be filled in.

Option 3
Pros: Action! Sci-fi! Edgy smartass main characters! The plot is mostly done! Pew pew pew!

Cons: I don't feel like I know the main characters well enough. I still need to figure out their goals and motivations beyond "I want to meet someone attractive and bang them." 

Option 4
Pros: I know the characters and the plot. Though it's mostly a contemporary setting, there are some sci-fi elements to play around with. Also, the romance is a menage, which I haven't written in yeeeeeeeeeeears.

Cons: Even though everything is plotted out for the most part, I haven't 100% convinced myself that the plot is a good one and something I should commit to writing. And even in my head, the female lead seems a little bratty, and I need to work on ways to tone that down.

I guess this is a good problem to have, right? Nothing's set in stone, but as of right this second, Option 1 is calling to me, fluff be damned. And if it's calling the loudest, I should probably listen!

I should also probably save this list for the next time the same issue arises, but who knows how many options I'll have to add by then!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Just Pacing, No Racing

Since I last checked in 20 days ago, I did, in fact, finish the novella-in-progress. I'm wrapping up proofing/editing now, and then I'll write the %#$&-ing blurbs, and then I guess it's ready to ship off. Yay.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm not 100% thrilled with the pacing in parts. It is a bit back-heavy, but a lot of that is due to the romance scenes. I know, I know, the obvious answer is "go back and fix it!" I even know exactly where I should add another scene/chapter to help balance it out. (In between Chapters 4 and 5, if anyone's keeping track.) The problem is, I don't know *what* that scene/chapter should be about. And if I'm forcing it, it's probably not going to be my finest writing.

On the other hand, though, I had similar qualms about another chapter I inserted into my original outline to help with pacing. (And, um, hitting the minimum word count.) And that chapter wound up being one of the better ones, and I'm definitely glad I included it. But that might have exhausted my reservoir of logical scenes to include.

So...I don't know. I think I'm going to leave it for now, and then if wiser people tell me to go back and add something else, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. I guess this could go either way - either my instincts are right, or I'm totally overthinking this. One day I'll have all the answers, right? (haha no.)

Monday, February 5, 2018

Racing and Pacing

I've finally arrived at the final chapter of my novella-in-progress (okay, there's going to be a little epilogue, too), and as always, I'm sprinting toward the finish line. I don't know what it is about endings that gets me to write faster. Maybe it's because since I write in order, I've been thinking about the ending for so long, it's planned out spectacularly well in my head. Maybe I just want the accomplishment of getting the damn thing done.

Either way, as I ponder this, I sometimes worry that this phenomenon affects my pacing. I ran into this issue a bit with Seductive Suspect - so much happened at the end of the book, I had to go back and balance out the beginning a bit. (And then that all got chopped up in editing anyway, but I digress.) Same thing here - word count-wise, these last two chapters are taking up, like, a third of the book. I'm going to have to go back and expand on those earlier chapters, I think, but for now, I just want to get to the end before I start working on the smaller details.

Then again, as I ponder this even more, I wonder if this issue crops up often due to the structure of romance stories. It depends on the structure of the story, of course, but there is a certain...format? template? that focuses on the journey of the characters getting together, and then explicitly stating what happens when they finally accomplish that. Or, as I sometimes joke around about, there's the climax, and then there's the climax. ;)

I've done it both ways, either saving the big bedroom scene for the end, or peppering them in throughout. For me, it seems like shorter stories are more likely to have just one explicit scene in them. Obviously, those scenes require words, but since it's expected in my genre, does that *really* count toward the overall balance of a work?

I think I've been navel-gazing for too long, instead of just writing the damn story and figuring out the more minor things later on. Also, I should turn off the word count display to avoid more crazymaking, but that's a different story for a different day.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Happy New Year! (Also, Let's Talk About Word Count, Part the Next)

Happy January! I hope your new year has gotten off to a great start! I was so determined to kick off the new year with good writing It's been all right. I've gotten a chapter done in this first half of the first month, but it's not like it's the longest chapter ever.

So recently, I posted about how I was worried about going over the suggested word count for an anthology submission. Because life would be boring without variety, now I'm worried about not hitting the minimum word count for this novella. ARGH. I'm dutifully following the outline I crafted, hitting all the points I want to hit, but that number in the bottom left-hand corner doesn't seem to be growing at the same pace.

As I was looking over my outline around November (according to Google Drive's "last edited" line), I thought something was missing. I added in another scene to balance things out, yet I wasn't 100% convinced I should write it. Now it's looking like I'll *have* to, so I've been brainstorming on ways to make it not seem like an afterthought.

I'm sure at a certain point I'll do what I did for the short story and just turn the stupid display off so it's not making me (as) crazy. For now, I'm just going to keep plugging away and see where I land at the end. It'll work out one way or another, and if I have to go back and elaborate on certain scenes, so be it. But really, you'd think I'd be better at estimating by now! Maybe that should be a goal for next year....

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Happy Holidays!

Hope you all had fun celebrating whatever you celebrate! I finished my short story, persuaded a friend to give it an extra proofread, and submitted it the night of the 23rd, so I sailed through the holidays with a clear writing conscience! (It's well before the deadline, so I won't hear anything either way for a couple months.) We're leaving for a mini-vacation tomorrow, and then Mr. Landen and I are going to FINALLY watch the latest BBC adaptation of And Then There Were None over the weekend, so I'll probably take a few more days off from writing. Once the new year hits, though, back to the novella-in-progress I go!

Here's to a happy, healthy, and productive 2018!