Monday, July 27, 2009

So...
First draft finished: July 27, 2009 at 9:35 pm.
88, 435 words. 244 pages at 1.5 spacing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Linkage

This is a link to an article from USA Today about romance novels--particularly authors Julia Quinn (I just read her book today; plus, she has an awesome website: www.juliaquinn.com) and Eloisa James, who in real life is a tenured professor at Fordham University.

USA Today article

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Romance Novels for Dummies

Yeah, you're getting two in one day because I'm bored out of my mind while people are walking in and out my house, supposedly installing new heating. All I hear is saws and lawn mowers and my phone, but who am I to say nothing's getting done? Not that it really matters that I'm posting twice today, 'cause no one reads this blog anyway.

I bought a book yesterday called Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies. I thought it might answer some of my "Is the love scene okay?" and "Fuck! Pacing! Fuck!" questions I have. I haven't gotten that far yet (saws and lawn mowers are distracting! Plus, I'm sneezing like nobody's business.) It is helping on the level of "wow--this is going to be a hell of a revision process." I'm writing myself a revision letter of the thousand things that need to be better in the second draft
*going cross-eyed*

To be funny, I decided to double-space my doc (it's 1.5 spaced as I'm writing) and it grew to 315 pages. Talk about yikes! I got a little scared and returned to 1.5.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Story Overhaul

I'm on page 233--past the 84,000 word mark--and at a point in the story where I only have to prolong it long enough to get Madeline to meet Henry's sister, be needlessly nervous about the meeting, have Henry say that he wants to wait to marry until he can afford a house of their own, and then have him officially propose. Oh, there's a love scene in there somewhere and then I wanted to skip a month or so to a village assembly when Mady comes out of mourning and wears a pink ballgown threaded with silver in the skirt and dances for the first time with Henry.

After that love re-affirming scene (and crucial for Madeline's sister Alexandra's story--she's not of mourning at the assembly, for her own reasons), I need to mention the villain being punished (because don't you hate it when the villain goes unpunished?),skip till near Christmas and the wedding, have Henry and Mady getting ready to take off to their new home and have Alex missing at the send-off...with a guy...

So, yeah, quite a bit to go. Then I plan on going through it via Track Changes, snarking on my own writing, and adding/ taking away/refining/smashing my head into a keyboard. Deciding whether my characters makes sense. Deciding whether anything makes sense. You know, revising.

I remember being in like, I don't know, 4th or 5th grade, when we were all learning about the writing process. They had us calling the first draft the "sloppy copy," then you were supposed to rewrite whatever it was in your neatest handwriting and hand it in. I will admit, I was not always good at this. I'm impatient by nature and so having to do something all over again was not a prospect I enjoyed. Since high school, I have been told that everyone's writing process is different, but since I'm still discovering a process that works for me, this is all kind of unchartered territory.

How do you guys revise? Is revising fiction different from revising an essay? Do you revise by hand or by track changes?

I'm far enough in this story to know that the subplot (the bit with the villain) needs to be stronger. Descriptions need to be better. The ending pages probably need the most overhaul, since I have a dreadful tendency to run out of steam after a while. Another part of the plot needs more research--which is fine, because I bought a book on Amazon last night for 30 cents that'll help me with that.

Then, of course, the whole romance needs work, too.In other words--you know, everything.

Ideally, I'd like someone to read it over after I track change it. I didn't realize it at the time I was taking writing workshops, but intelligent, relevant comments are a huge help in figuring out why something doesn't work. Or if something works at all.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Musings on a Humid Friday

I'm now at 217 pages--79115 words, according to Word--and have now finished the big adventure part of the book. (According to the Romance Writers of America Contests Information page, that means I have officially written a novel-length work. Ah!) I'm definitely in the "falling action" bit of the story, the resolution after the Big Adventure (which could also be the Big I Love You Reveal), soon to be followed by what I call the "We love each other. It's 1814. Now what?" sequence: Courtship (no forced marriages for Mady!), Quick Engagement, Meeting Relatives, a love scene and an epilogue which will show the wedding...and a set-up for the next story I want to write.

Thank god for outlines. Apparently they work!

I was watching a re-run special on 20/20 last night about JK Rowling. (1) I'm amazed that she can write in public cafes. I can't do it. I have to be in front of my laptop (the days of me writing by hand are over) in my room, preferably in my recliner. (2) My favorite part was watching her finish the last Potter in the hotel room in Edinburgh, where she says, "It could be rubbish." (3) Signing for 7 hours! That woman's a saint! (4) How she wrote the epilogue at the end of the 7th book because, as she drew out the family trees of all of her characters, she wanted to know what happened to them all and she wanted it to be the canon.

I have an Excel timeline of these (hopefully) three stories I have worked out about the Keegan sisters. It goes from 1787, when Laura Windham's future husband was born, to 1822, when I figure the youngest sister might be married off. Toward the later part of the timeline, there is a proliferation of entries about the older, married sisters (Mady, Alex and Laura) having children. In romance series, sometimes characters from previous books play a part in the next one and it's kind of gross how happy and syrupy and fertile they are.

I think that was a complaint people had about the Harry Potter epilogue, that everything turned out a little too perfect. That Rowling was being self-indulgent because she wanted to know and wanted to tie up loose ends.

I started the timeline because I wanted to figure in things like monarchs, battles, peace celebrations, as well as when the Slave Trade Act was passed. I wanted to know how old my characters would be at certain times. It came in handy, when I wrote a scene with Henry going undercover as a French spy, mentioning Napoleon's Egypt campaign. It was in 1802. Henry is born in 1790, so he's obviously too old to have been born then, but the French men seem to buy the story at the time.

Or when I found out that there was a slave revolt on Barbados in 1816. Madeline, being from Barbados and being an abolitionist, is thrilled about it--and it just so happens to fall toward the end of Laura's story, so you know that's what she's on about at the wedding reception.

Watching the special helped me work out what my girls might sound like when they speak, too. They live between Bristol and Bath, in Gloucestorshire. Jo Rowling is from Gloucestorshire originally. Yay! Excuses to watch her speak about Harry Potter in interviews on YouTube!

~Comments are love

Friday, July 10, 2009

Amusing myself

I'm bored and in need of amusement, so like every self-respecting twentysomething I have turned to Facebook chain notes. Here are two:

Guidelines:
1. Put your iTunes or Windows Media Player on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your next answer.
3. You must write that song name down no matter how outrageous it sounds!

IF SOMEONE SAYS, "IS THIS OKAY" YOU SAY?
"All You Need Is Love"--The Beatles

WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
"Fall Back Into Me"--David Cook

WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
"Gold"--Interference

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE?
"The World I Know" (live)--David Cook

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
"Love Heals"--Rent Cast, movie soundtrack

WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
"This Time"--Jonathan Rhys Meyers

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT OFTEN?
"I'm Only Sleeping"--The Beatles
Hahahaha!

WHAT IS 2+2?
"You Found Me"--Kelly Clarkson

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
"Blueside"--Rooney
Umm....no, not really.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
"Long Shot"--Kelly Clarkson
Hahahahaha!

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
"Instant Karma"--John Lennon

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
"Inconsolable"--Backstreet Boys
*snark*

WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
"Breakaway"--Kelly Clarkson

WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
"Room for Two"--MWK

WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
"Incarcerate"--Axium
Incarcerate/ Rest peacefully/ Where you are...not a bad send-off, eh?

WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
"Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy"--Queen

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
"My Happy Ending"--Avril Lavigne

WHAT'S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?
"If You Want Me"--Marketa Irglova & Glen Hansard

HOW WILL YOU DIE?
"Help Me Find My Way"--Rooney

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU REGRET?
"Fearless"--Taylor Swift

WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
"MMMBop"--Hanson

WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
"All I Have To Give"--Backstreet Boys

WILL YOU EVER GET MARRIED?
"Bar-Ba-Sol"--David Cook
Huh?

WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST?
"Fairytale of New York"--The Pogues

DOES ANYONE LIKE YOU?
"I Hope You Dance"--Lee Ann Womack

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
"Mama Who Bore Me"--Lea Michele

WHAT HURTS RIGHT NOW?
"Collide"--Howie Day

WHAT WILL YOU POST THIS AS?
"Whyyawannabringmedown"--Kelly Clarkson
------------------------------------
Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.
Instructions:
1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.
2) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen X+
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien X+
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling X+
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee X+
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens X
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott X+
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (Complete? No. But a good chunk.) X
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien X
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger X
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell X
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald X
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams *
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck X
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame X
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen X
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini X
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell X
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan X+++
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens X
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov X+
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold X+
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker X
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett X
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Alborn
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole*
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas X
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare - X (Twice!)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl X
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo X

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Romance Heroes




I've read numerous posts and discussions on various romance/ regency/ historical blogs and forums about the importance of the romance hero. Hence, Johnny Depp is at the top. Because what blog would be complete without him, I ask you?

A lot of authors say that the hero in a romance (they're called heroes, not protagonists for some reason) pops into their heads first. So far, my female characters have come first. Whether that's to do with being a girl or because they have more backstory, who knows?

A romance guy has to fulfill a few functions: 1) He has to appeal in that great mythic fantasy lover kind of way. Or at least fit the story and the heroine perfectly. 2) In a historical, he can be over the top. 3) He has to fall utterly in love. Believably.

My younger cousin Elizabeth is 14 and all about the Twilight books. She slips phrases such as: "Oh, that's like in Chapter 3 of Eclipse!" or "1919. You know, when Edward became a vampire" into ordinary conversation. I read the series, I enjoyed it, but I don't remember it in any great detail. The only thing I do remember was that Bella got annoying after a while, I liked Jasper Cullen's backstory the best, Jacob is sweet, and Edward...yeah...He's overbearing. He's overprotective. He's too moody and self-loathing and angsty. Of course, he's also fictional, but let's remember that the fictional is real here.

Edward is supposed to be the lead romantic hero and by leaning toward him rather than other male characters, Elizabeth is only doing what Stephenie Meyer intended. She's also 14. I laugh when I think about what constituted romantic love to me at that age. And a lot of literary male characters share the overbearing, self-loathing, moody characteristics--Heathcliff, anyone?--...and yet I just like them better.

I was thinking of a few of them and why I liked them better. For one thing, the falling in love parts of romance novels (and other literary works, including my favorite book of all time, Atonement) just felt more right to me. It could be a matter of perspective, since romance novels tend to at least switch in POV between the hero and heroine while Twilight only switches perspective in Breaking Dawn. Could be better writing. Could be a matter of personal taste. But the guys that tend to be my favorites in the literary sense have a strong sense of humor. They're extremely loyal, as Noah is in the The Notebook or Robbie is in Atonement. They've gone through circumstances that are out of their control and they might gripe about it for a while, but they move on. They're quick, intelligent. They're protective without being overbearing. They have responsibilities, either to family or an estate.

As in, it's not Romeo and Juliet on vampire steroids. I used to think that story was romantic until I had to read it in 9th grade and realized what a pair of idiots they were. Now that I think of it, I was 14 or so when I studied it.

So who or what appeals to you in your reading? Your TV, movies, plays. musicals? Do you like 'em moody on paper? Do you like Mr. Darcy or Mr. Bingley? Was there a play or novel you once thought was romantic, then you read it and thought it wasn't? Why?

Henry Cavill from The Tudors: