Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What I think I've learnt: Part 2 - plus, an exciting announcement!

I'll leave the exciting bit until the bottom of this post, and start with the second thing I think I've learnt thanks to Secrets & Speed Dating:

  • Use what I've already got
I'll be honest and admit I didn't figure this one out myself. My lovely friend Nikki Logan introduced me to this concept when I got really stuck about three quarters into the manuscript (the "right" version, for those who read Part One). My hero and heroine had just made love for the first time, and I'd written this lovely "morning after" scene. But... now what? I knew what my black moment was, but it was far too early for that. I knew I needed to show both my hero and heroine's reactions to this first night together and how nothing could ever be the same again... but the scene I was writing just felt boring.

I'd made the mistake in a previous version of the book of adding in a random plot twist ("ooh, let's have my heroine's mum turn up!"), so I knew that didn't work. But I needed *something* to happen. Something that wasn't contrived but that would keep the tension rolling along nicely.

And so Nikki said, "Didn't Sophie say in the previous chapter something something, why don't you use that?" (I'll let you read the book to find out what it was). This was a massive lightbulb for me. I'd had no idea I'd already set up the absolutely perfect scene (yay for my subconscious!) but I never would have noticed without Nikki's prompting. 

But of course, it makes perfect sense. By looking back what you are really doing is revisiting your characters - and their conflicts and motivations. By making sure you use something you've already got, you're ensuring it's the characters that are driving the story forward.

While I was fortunate to have a throw away line of dialogue to set up my next scene, I'd imagine that this probably isn't always the case. But I think the lesson still stands. Next time I get stuck, in a "what happens next?" moment, I'm going to go back and review what's come before. What have my character's already done? What have they talked about? What has happened? What would they do next?

So what do you think? Am I onto something here? (with apologies to Nikki who I have stolen this from - and quite possibly butchered in my expansion and explanation :) ).

And... now for the big news!

In about two hours, I become a LoveCat!!! I feel incredibly fortunate to have been invited to join the LoveCats - a group of Australian and New Zealand Harlequin Mills & Boon authors who have the fabulous LoveCats Down Under blog!

My official welcome post will appear very soon, where I get to answer some fun questions, and visitors get the chance to win an awesome book bundle prize!

Please come along and say hello - I'll be popping in as much as I can tomorrow.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What I think I've learnt: Part 1

Way to sound super confident, hey? But the title of this blog post is true, at this stage all I have is a list of things I *think* I've learnt through the process of rewriting, and rewriting, Secrets & Speed Dating. I think I need a few (lot!) more books under my belt before I'm vaguely confident I've learnt anything at all :)

But, as some of you seem to be interested in this (*waves at Autumn!*) this is the first in a series of blog posts that I'll write over the next few months, covering "the list" (which I emailed to myself a few days after my book was accepted while it was still fresh in my mind). I won't pretend that anything I'm about to share is particularly ground breaking, but for me, it was a combination of all these things (and sheer bloody mindedness) that got me over the line.

So...Part One:

a) Trust my instincts. If it doesn't feel right, it's not. 

b) This isn't the same as it being hard to write.

See, I said it wasn't ground breaking :) But here's the thing, even though I've always known this, I somehow managed to win New Voices even though I didn't think my Chapter Two was "right". It was quite literally the best I was possibly capable of at that moment in time (it went through MANY rewrites!) but deep down, I wasn't happy with it. Yet I got through to the Final 4, and then I won. 

So, my subconscious went...AWESOME! and started to let other writing through that also wasn't quite right.

This other writing is otherwise known as "Version One" of Secrets & Speed Dating, that made it to about 19,000 words before having to be scrapped.

Version Two was much better, it got rid of some of the "not right" stuff from Version One, but I still knew that something wasn't right. Like I'd make excuses for it while describing the story to my family and friends. It wasn't a bad story, it just wasn't the right story for me to be writing. But I was so obsessed with meeting my deadline, and there was quite literally no time for me to go with anything else. So I soldiered on.

When Version Two got dumped, I dumped it properly. ALL of the "not right" stuff went. Any line of dialogue, or piece of back story, or ANYTHING that I didn't like... even if it had been in the winning chapters, went. Even if I knew, logically, that there was NOTHING wrong with what I was deleting... if I knew it wasn't right - for me - I trusted myself.

And that's how I wrote all of Version Three. And yes, some parts were really really hard to write, and I stared at a white screen and flashing cursor and whinged, and cursed, and typed, and deleted... but I never let myself get past a page of "not right" without stopping, going back, and starting again.

I know there is a lot of advice out there about writing a discovery draft, or "you can't fix a blank page" and so on. And this is all perfectly valid, and I'm sure works for millions of people. But for me, it doesn't.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts!