Saturday, October 29, 2005

You can’t write with your fingers crossed…

Last weekend was the Austin Romance Writers of America conference, and I was lucky enough to make the trip up to the Texas Capitol to attend. Eloisa James was the keynote speaker and really wonderful. She is a Professor of Shakespeare at Fordham University and an amazing lecturer. She told us tales of her own pre-publishing woes, spoke of her determination to succeed, and even gave us the perspective of a New York Times bestselling author on many in’s and out’s of the publishing world. But beyond that, she offered us extensive advice on how to make our own stories fresher, richer, and more emotional. She shared her secrets.

So too did the other speakers I was lucky to hear. Kit Frazier, Samantha Saxon, and Julie Kenner all spoke from personal experience on how they had used certain techniques and tricks to improve their writing. I am constantly amazed at how willing other romance authors are to share their knowledge with others. The difficulty, I’m finding, is that I’m learning and taking so much from speakers that I’m constantly rethinking my own work-in-progress, wondering if I should play up this angle or that, deepen the emotion, keep the story light and humorous, up the suspense, add more characters, etc. From the perspective of this making me a better writer, it’s great. But it has the potential to seriously hamper my productivity.

I didn’t really plot my first novel, Unladylike Pursuits. I just wrote. And because of that, I did a lot of re-writing: plot threads didn’t work, secondary characters needed more devoted pages, timing was off, or there was simply too much introspection and not enough action. Well, nothing’s changes—I still want to write—but at the same time, everything’s changed. I’ve since joined RWA, I’ve joined my local chapter, I’ve heard various authors speak and share, I’ve read each month’s Romance Writers Report cover-to-cover, and my perspective is vastly different.

For this book, I did do some pre-planning. I have a somewhat detailed character matrix and a loose definition of the plot. Everything else, I expected, would fall into place when I came to it. The trouble I’m facing now is that I’ve absorbed so many new ideas and techniques over the past month or so, from a variety of different sources, that I’m being pulled in a multitude of different directions. I feel like I really need make some decisions. Specifically, I need to decide on both the heroine’s and the hero’s changing perspective in terms of relative positioning in the storyline. And I probably should decide on an ending rather than just have ideas floating around in my head. I write mostly during the breaks I have from being a full-time mom, so I can kind of lose sight of what I wrote just last week. (That translates into edits and rewrites). I think if I have a general, but somewhat specific, plotline, complete with external plot points and developing internal introspection, and a place for notes and changes, I should be able to easily catch myself up on what’s happening, and even pre-plan what I’m going to write next during my writing ‘down-time’. I think I’ll work on that next week.

I wanted just to write, to get things down on paper at a productive pace. But there’s so much more to it than that. And I suppose if you’re going to be successful at it, you’ve got to treat writing like any other job. Get organized, stay organized, and continue learning.

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