Writing Wednesday: The Whole She-Bang!

Bernardo Velasco--my hero inspiration for Always the Last to Know

Bernardo Velasco–my hero inspiration for Always the Last to Know

As many of you already know, I was one of the thirty people lucky enough to move on to stage 3, the final stage, in the Blurb to Book contest sponsored by Harlequin’s Love Inspired line editors. To say that I’m gobsmacked and “chuffed” as my friends across the pond say is an understatement. To say that I’m terrified of messing up such a golden opportunity also goes without saying. When I entered, I had a vague notion that this could lead to “the call,” but that seemed ludicrous since I hadn’t made it past the first stage of a contest before (though I came close with the Valerie Parv Award contest). My only conscious goal was to make stage 2 and get that most precious and rare golden egg in publishing–feedback. I knew no matter what, if I made stage 2, I’d finally know what’s not working. So when stage 3 was announced and Always the Last to Know was there, yes, chuffed, gobsmacked, deliriously happy…but also paralyzed with fear and petrified off “stuffing up” a golden opportunity. I should also mention here that while I’m a zealous writer, I’ve only finished *mumbles*…fine…I’ve only finished one manuscript before. So now I’ve got to finish my second manuscript in about two months. How am I going to get from a proposal to the whole shebang?

*Synopsis. The best thing about submitting a proposal was the synopsis. (You will never hear me say THAT again, so take a screenshot of this). It forced me to think about the story as a whole and come up with a framework for the story. I now have more than a vague notion of where I’m going. I know what the black moment is and how it’s resolved. Now I just have to write it.

*Feedback. That promised feedback? It. Was. GOLDEN. The editors zeroed in on a few things for me to consider going forward that have already made the story much stronger. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to address everything in the feedback, but the suggestions flow well with the story and there aren’t many of them. I know I can use what the editors said to make the story better. And the editors also pop in on the boards to answer questions.

* The Harlequin Boards. Speaking of the boards, there has been a craft discussion on motivation that I’ve gotten a lot of useful information out of, and there’s a back to basics bootcamp coming up through the SOLD! blog. Harlequin has a lot of resources for writers to help us write our best books, and I’m going to utilize them.

*My awesome co-workers/resources. I’ve already tapped coworkers for baby knowledge and advice on all the legal stuff I need to incorporate in this story, and everyone is still willing to be pumped for information.

*Writing routine. The way I completed my other romance was simple: I wrote in the morning, I edited at lunch (and maybe added some words if I was in the zone) and reread the previous days work in the morning before going at it again. I made no major revisions during the first draft. I had fun with the story. I tried not to worry too much about what I was putting on the page in the morning so long as I got something on the page. When I finished the first draft, I read it through once like a reader and just made notes. The second time through I revise. If I was successful using this approach, I can be successful using it again. Right? Right!

*Critique Buddies. Having someone to send pages to and get an honest opinion is something I don’t take for granted. Turning over my writing daily to a co-worker was a big part of what made me accountable during the writing of DJ. Not only that, but it made it fun. Seeing how invested someone was in the story and the characters was great motivation to finish the story (and start the next one).

Lastly,

*the story. This is a story I really want to tell, and I feel like I’m at a place in life where I can tell it. There’s just something about this fictitious town and its cast of characters that has just grown on me. I have a few of the other stories started on my computer, and I will finish them, even if I don’t sell Always the Last to Know. I’m writing the kind of stories I want to read, with characters I care about. I want other people to get to read these stories, too. They can’t do that if they remain buried on my hard drive. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’ve never had an opportunity like this before; far be it from me to waste it being too scared to try.

What tricks and tips do you have for writing until you reach The End? Share your advice and stories in the comments section.

First Page: Always the Girlfriend

Happy Friday all. This past week, I entered into a contest for Harlequin Heartwarming called “Write From the Heart.” I submitted my first page for evaluation by the Heartwarming editors. If you make it past the first round, they request a synopsis and the first three chapters; after that, the full manuscript. Unfortunately, my entry wasn’t chosen. There wasn’t any feedback present on the page, so I’m not sure why it was a “no” for them. I wanted to share it with readers and fellow writers here and get a bit of feedback. I’ll share my own thoughts on why it may not have been selected later, but I want to know what you all think. OAN: You can read some of my non-fiction samples by clicking on the (Untitled) link. 

Always the Girlfriend

This was the moment she’d been waiting four years for?

Peyton Hayes shoved her hair out of her face as another strong gust of wind pushed her farther along the sandy shore. The skirt of her dress whipped around her slender frame and her heels sank into the sand with each limping step.

“Peyton! Peyton, wait!”

Peyton kicked off her heels and gathered them hem of her dress in her hands so she could run barefoot to the pier. She wouldn’t look back. She wouldn’t. She swiped a tear off her cheek, sniffed loudly. She increased her speed in case Dane had decided to follow her.

This wasn’t the romantic scene she’d imagined when the day began. It wasn’t even close to the life defining moment she’d been expecting. When Dane said he wanted to do something special this weekend, she didn’t let herself get too excited about it. After four years of dating, she’d lived through enough false alarms to understand that every “special” date Dane had in mind didn’t equal a marriage proposal. Even when he mentioned the name of an expensive restaurant along Lake Serenity, she fought back all fantasies of Dane on bended knee. It wasn’t fair of her to presume that Dane knew the restaurant was on the list in her head reserved for birthdays, anniversaries, major promotions and marriage proposals. For once in her life she would be sensible.

Sensible? Ha! She grabbed the handrails and raced up the steps to the boardwalk. If Dane was following, he wasn’t close enough behind to be on the boardwalk. She heard nothing but her bare feet slapping the planks and the rapid beat of her heart. Still, she didn’t slow down. The fall of her feet took on a rapid-fire accusation. Stupid. Fool. Stupid. Fool. Stupid fool. Stupid fool. Stupid fool.

Peyton skidded to a stop as she came across the horse and carriage. Tears blurring her vision, she turned sharply to the right and resumed her flight. What man in his right mind follows dinner at a swanky restaurant with a tour of the city in a horse drawn carriage with no intention of proposing? Dane Ashton, that’s who! Only the most oblivious man, or the most practiced torture artist, would do something like that to a hopeless romantic like her.

If there had been a proposal on the beach, it would have been the crowning moment to a picture perfect day. The weather was perfect. Not one cloud marred the deep blue beauty of the sky or hid a ray of the warm June sun. Dane had driven into Serenity Cove’s historic downtown and they’d wandered through antique shops and boutiques with her small hand tucked into Dane’s much bigger one. He drew circles around her wrist with his thumb while his free hand tapped the pants pocket of his loose fitting jeans. She caught him staring at her at odd moments, a smile tugging at one corner of his mouth.

 

When Great Writing Goes Wrong…

I have a confession to make: I have been avoiding #LoveThyEnemy. And Pleasure’s Payne. And a couple other ones. I haven’t been avoiding them for the usual reasons; I didn’t run into an issue with the manuscript that I can’t write past or am unsure what happens next. The problem is that my writing has been scaring me lately. Why? Because I think it’s…good. 

That may seem a little backwards, but here’s the thing: all the writing advise says that first drafts are bad. The great Ernest Hemingway said that the first draft of anything is crap. Anne Lamott has a whole chapter of her popular fiction writing book Bird by Bird dedicated to crappy first drafts. Some random twitter quote said that a writing who thinks he is writing well is probably writing really badly. The encouragement is always to get whatever crap you can on the page because you can’t fix a blank page, but you can fix a crappy one. But what about a good page?

I’m not saying that every word of #LoveThyEnemy or Pleasure’s Payne is golden. I’m not saying that I have proofread and revised the sections I have written so that they look as good as they do. What I am saying is that maybe, just a little bit, I’ve hit my stride and found my voice with these stories. The thing is, I’ve set the beginnings up well enough that I have to deliver something at the end. The thing is, I can feel great within my reach, and it’s a little scary. Intimidating. All of these great words are clogging up the well. I’m finding new and exciting ways to procrastinate…like writing this post. Bah!

There’s also the possibility that I’m wrong. Every word I’ve written could be drivel. It could be moving in the opposite direction of what everyone in publishing is going in. Or it could be to on trend. Maybe what I have is a steaming pile of crap that needs to be excavated for the evidences that at some point a decent story existed. Maybe I’m just a cockeyed novice with her compass all messed up.

So I called in the big guns. Instead of keeping this project to myself as I have been, I am getting my Beta Reader on the case. Having to turn over my words to her keeps me on track and helps me focus. Next week is my week to share writing with my critique partners, and I’ll send them what I have as well. I entered 10,000 words of #LoveThyEnemy into contest, and plan to enter Pleasure’s Payne into a contest as well. I am putting my work out there for both egregious praise to bolster my self-confidence, constructive criticism to help me fix things that are going wrong, and feedback from contest judges, with the possibility of them garnering an editor or agents attention.

ATGGT…

When I was in high school, I got a scholarship to attend a private school along with several other kids in the Horizons-Upward Bound program. One of those other students was a musical prodigy who played several instruments and was a talented singer. She wore a leather bracelet on her wrist like they make at Cedar Point at that leather making shop that read “ATGGT.” Given her interests, it didn’t take me long to figure out what it meant: And the Grammy goes to… It served, I believe, as motivation for her to keep pursuing her dream of becoming a recording artist and getting that top industry honor.

As I’ve watched her journey through websites, the occasional IM chat, Facebook & Instagram posts, I’ve often thought about that little scrap of leather and whether or not she still looks at it for inspiration. Is it still like a talisman, a physical reminder of her dreams, or is it just a piece of leather shoved into a drawer and forgotten? Is it even the phrase she dreams of hearing her name attached to anymore?

With the recent Oscar ceremony (that always falls around my birthday) and Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest brush with the golden trophy, I’ve been thinking about success and almost getting there but somehow landing just shy of the mark. Someone I follow on twitter said it best: even though Leo has four Oscar nominations over twenty years, he still has the same number of Oscars as I do. Ouch. It must hurt to have worked so hard and end up with the same result as the girl sitting home on the couch whose never even made the attempt.

Well, I can say assuredly that it does, in fact, hurt. Yesterday I received a very lovely rejection letter from the editor I submitted Delivering Justice to a couple weeks ago. Even though she had many positive things to say about my writing, she didn’t think it was a good fit for them. Even though I had crafted a good enough pitch to get an editor’s attention and wrote well enough to garner a few points of praise, I was still just shy of the mark for closing the deal. I now have the same number of manuscripts purchased as the person in living in the jungle who’s never seen a book. Ouch.

Here’s the thing: I can choose to drown in the negative, put DJ away and never submit a manuscript again, or I can focus on the positives of the situation. Since the latter is the only choice that will add to this entry’s word count, let’s go with that one.

During the last six months, I’ve entered three writing contests, wrote and revised a full manuscript, wrote three successful pitches, learned to write a query letter and synopsis, made a ton of writing friends, joined some writing groups, found critique partners, and written more than I have in years. In less than six months of taking this writing thing seriously, I got a full request for a manuscript for an imprint of my dream publisher. Instead of getting a form rejection, I was complimented on having a great premise, snappy dialogue and a well done heroine. I think I’ve found my voice; now I have to find my place.

I told the online writing community of my rejection yesterday. Twice a week we share ~100 word flashes from our current WIPs dealing with a specific topic. I suggested that we do a flash on rejection. The group agreed and the flashes have been pouring in. What I realized in reading and commenting on the flashes is that a) everyone experiences rejection b)rejection comes in many forms, and c) our characters suffer far worse rejections in our stories than we do of our stories.

I’ve decided to put DJ in a drawer for a while and not look at it (although I may allow my beta reader to read a copy of the version I sent out to the editor; she’s earned it for reading through the awful first attempts) until I’m ready to try it again. I’m stepping away from writing new words this week. Instead, I’m unearthing old words–words from when I was a teen and pre-teen and just wanted to get the story on paper. Words from when my classmate’s bracelet set off dreams of NYT Bestseller, Pulitzers, and the Nobel Prize in Literature for me. Words from when nothing was out of reach.

How do you deal with rejection? What keeps you going in the face of rejection?

XOXO,

Erica