I’m back from my workshop in Atlanta, but I am not jumping back into my writing. Why? Because the answers I sought only led to more questions about my story. I am glad I went to the all day workshop, but now I must examine my story a bit more closely and make sure that my plot is strong enough.
Intuitively I already knew my story has plotting issues. This is what happens when you don’t shore up all the lovely scenes in your head with solid structure points. And every time I go back into the story to fix a major plot point, it affects the entire story. As one writer friend said, it’s like pushing down a domino and then a whole row tumbles.
I know my beginning, my set up, my ending and my pinch points. But the middle is a bit iffy. I believe it’s a decent midpoint, but I brought the middle to the workshop to make sure it was decent. And the leaders said I needed more. A bigger reason for why my heroine wants to do what she does. I need a very compelling reason for her decision to stay in the area she is living in. But I balk now at the idea of adding a HUGE plot element to fix the story. Why? Because another author who critiqued my work said to “keep it simple.” And there will be “more than enough conflict” to compel the reader to read.
I’ve brainstormed fun ideas to shore up the story with one CP. Suddenly I am on the Internet researching Burlesque dancing (don’t ask–long story). Another CP said “if the writing is compelling, the reader will read it anyway and why does anyone read the books they read?” Back to keeping it simple, right?
Repeat after me: writing isn’t for sissies or the faint of heart.
In the meantime, I got contest entries back for my opening. I scored well. My “writing voice” was strong and they scored me high in that regard. Whew. One problem solved. I didn’t final, but I didn’t expect to as the story was still in major revision at the time I entered. I sent in the first 10 pages to see if I was going in the right direction before I was told by the author I had a two tone story. I’ve worked my little writer fingers to the bone to fix the tone, but that was before the entry flew to the coordinator. So I was pleased that the comments and scores were pretty decent. Lots of perfect scores from two judges, one of the judges (a published author in romance so gotta heed that one) marked me low on my characterization and the other two marked me high. Two loved the original plot, but the author was iffy on the originality (there are only 12 stories in the world, the trick is to tell them in unique ways). Well, the plot is different now, but that’s okay. I believe the issues with characterization are cleared up by fixing the tone.
Right, so now I have even MORE information to digest and deal with before I trudge onward. And I eagerly (not) await my other contest scores (I know I didn’t final because they called the finalists on Sunday and I didn’t get a call). That entry was the same entry I sent to the critique author and has been changed already. I’m sure that one will not do well–I am praying for decent and constructive feedback.
Repeat after me: not all contest judges strive to be constructive and some of them are soul crushing critics who may not realize the pain they inflict isn’t necessary. I try to be constructive when I critique. I usually succeed.
Ironically, I judged another category in that contest. I hope my entrants receive my critique with spirit it was given. I want to build people up, not tear them apart. Why pi**on somebody’s parade? I sincerely hope I have judges who judge like me: with kindness in their intent.
On the way home from the workshop, my writing friend and I chatted about what we had learned. We had a four hour drive so we chatted a lot. We clarified her plot points (Larry Brooks’ book continues to help me understand plot and I wish I had read it BEFORE I wrote this MS).
But mine? Hmm, not so much. I did decide that I am not writing a thriller or RS (why are nearly all the examples for writing taken from thrillers and suspense movies?) and that the main conflict is, as always BOY MEETS GIRL, BOY AND GIRL WANT EACH OTHER, BOY AND GIRL CAN’T HAVE EACH OTHER, BOY AND GIRL FIND WAY TO BE TOGETHER. THE END. All the other plot stuff is just that, plot stuff. Romance readers want to be entertained, and they want a credible plot, but most of all they want to fall in love with our hero and they want our heroine to deserve him. They want the LOVE to be compelling.
Romance is MORE about characters than it is about plot.
So here I sit, at my computer with a lot of questions. And a lot of ideas and a lot of information. I sit here and wait for contest results to come back so I can digest them and think some more.
Repeat after me: writing doesn’t always mean writing words and counting them. Writing takes a lot of thinking, daydreaming, wondering and mulling.
And today I will do a bit more wondering and mulling. I’ve also decided to talk to my hero and heroine. I’m going to sit down with my Main Characters and ask them a lot of questions. Why? Because I have realized that I have played Goddess of their lives too many times and it is not working for me. I’ve tried to direct their lives with plots and schemes and ideas. And they aren’t cooperating. Therefore I will step aside and let them take charge. I need them to tell me why I should write their story.
Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if they reveal their story to me later. I hope they do because I entered this MS in the MAGGIES and the contest deadline is June 1, 2010. There’s nothing like putting all our proverbial derrieres into the fire to get the job done.