Review Excerpts

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!

Friday, December 15, 2017

To the Finish Line! (Also, Let's Talk About Word Count)

The end is in sight for the current short story (which does have a title now, and no, it's not what I previously posted). I think I'll definitely be able to get the first draft done by the end of the weekend. Then comes proofing/editing, and I'll see which of my friends I can sweet talk into looking it over for me. I have plenty of wiggle room with the deadline, but I like to get things in early.

What I don't have as much wiggle room with is the word count. The "preferred" word count is 3K - 6K words, but according to the guidelines, 2K - 7K is acceptable, if necessary. I can read between the lines and know that the story has a better chance of being accepted if I keep it under 6K, which I don't think I'll have a problem doing. I'm quickly approaching that limit, though, and it's affecting certain choices I need to make.

I know I really should turn off the word count display, write the damn story, and then edit it down later. But at the same time, it's making me focus on what's important. This is erotic romance, after all, so as my friends and I like to joke, there's the climax and the "climax". The plot stuff is done, I'm just giving my characters their well-deserved happy ever after. (And yes, the submission guidelines state that a scene like that has to be in there.)

As always, there's no good answer. I'm sure I can put together something submission-worthy and get it to the right size. I just need to whine about it here a little. ;)

(Anecdote time! Years ago, a friend in my informal writing group told us he'd submitted a short story for a magazine, I think it was. He got a rejection letter, and we all commiserated. But then it came out that the submission guidelines asked for stories with a word count around 1K - 3K...and he sent them a 7K-word story. The ship had sailed at that point, but privately, some of us were all NOOOOOOOO!

So yeah, don't do that.)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Title Woes Part the Millionth

As planned, I've put the novella aside for now, and I started the anthology submission. I've frequently said here that titles either come to me right away or they don't. For this short story...I got nothing. Nothing good, anyway.

Okay, maybe I shouldn't say I have nothing, as I have been brainstorming a few ideas with friends. A lot of what I came up with just seems so generic, though, like it could apply to a hundred other stories. Also listed in my criteria was that I don't want the title to give away any major plot points. Unfortunately, with a ~5K word story, there's not a whole lot to go on except major plot points.

But then I realized something: Does a title matter as much in an anthology? I mean, obviously I do want something better than average, but if it does get accepted, it's probably not likely that the title of my story will make or break whether or not a reader buys the book. I guess it also depends on how people read anthologies—do they start from the beginning and blaze right through, or do they start with the title that grabs them the most and then jump around? (In what should come as a surprise to no one, I'm a "start at the beginning" person.)

I don't have a good answer. Right now, the frontrunner is "Another Hero". Which, yeah, I know. Snooooooore. It's not set in stone, and I still have some time to figure it out. At least I won't be kicking myself too much if I can't come up with anything better.