Friday, 24 June 2011

When To Hit Send

Photo by rayced
When is the right time to send your manuscript out into the world? After I’ve spent months slogging over initial drafts, nit-picking over editing rounds, checking every use of the word “gaze”, I find myself itching to submit the story.

Over time, I’ve learned it’s better to resist that temptation, and to let the whole story sit at the back of my mind and simmer for a while. But I’m impatient. And I feel I’m wasting time, not adding to the word count, not being a writer. But that simmering time isn’t unproductive. I know fresh ideas about my story will creep into my mind. Some will be big, but most will be little tweaks — a better adjective or verb, layering in some setting, using the five senses. It’s a bit like cooking a winter stew. You have to let your story simmer on the backburner for a while, add in a few seasonings — some pepper, parsley, maybe a bit of lemon rind. There are no short cuts to this slow cooking.

So I dither and fuss quite a bit before I make that plunge. It’s even worse if what I’m sending out is the result of a Revise & Resubmit. This happened to me a few months’ back when a senior editor sent me a detailed R&R letter. I must have read that revised manuscript until I got cross-eyed, until I wasn’t even reading the words anymore, they were so ingrained in my eyeballs.

But after a while I have to hit that send button. If I don’t, the story nags at me, taking up valuable thinking space which I should be devoting to the next piece of writing. It’s as if the characters won’t leave until I boot them out the door. I’ve done my best with them (at least, I think I have), and it’s time for them to venture out into the world.

And of course, when/if the rejection does come back, and I re-read my story and see all its flaws in crystal clear vision, invariably I thunk my head and say, “Of course! Why didn’t I see that before I sent it?”

Which just goes to show you, there’s never a right time to hit send.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Steampunk, anyone?

This month I’ve been using the RWA’s 50Kin30Days event to do a little experimenting. Up to now I’ve only concentrated on contemporary romance, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to flex my writing muscles and decided I’d try writing a steampunk novella. This has thrown up some interesting new challenges for me.
  •  Novella. I’ve never written a novella before. I initially aimed for between 20K and 30K, and I think I’ll end up with about 28K. Best-selling author Angela Knight has some good tips on how to write a novella.

  • History. My story is set in Victorian England, and I’ve never written a historical romance before. I enjoy reading historical, but I’m not so confident about writing them, especially when it comes to dialogue. I don’t want the characters to sound too modern, but neither do I want them sounding like stuffed shirts.

  • World building. A good steampunk story involves building a world filled with airships, aether, ray guns, and all sorts of inventions. The world building has to sound plausible, but it can’t occupy huge blocks of narrative (especially in a novella).

  • Steampunkery. To me steampunk has always been very visual, and it can be hard to get those visuals down in writing. It’s far easier to show steampunk in pictures than in words. I’ve read a few steampunk novels, and the best I’ve come across recently is Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Aagatha H and the Airship City. It’s actually based on their Girl Genius webcomic, so it’s also coming from a visual medium. Some book reviewers lament the book isn’t as good as the graphic novels, but I enjoyed the book even though I’d never heard of the webcomic.
So I’ve had a lot of new things to juggle, but I told myself what the heck. It’s a chance to try something outside the box, and I’ve actually loved it.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Morelli or Ranger?

If you’re a Stephanie Plum fan, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you’ve never heard of her, you’ve got some new books on your TBR pile. I have to admit, I don’t read these books for their plots. I can’t even remember half of them (and yes, some of them are repetitive). I read them for the humour, the dialogue, the crazy characters, and the relationships. Yeah, mostly for the relationships.

With the latest book about to come out, I’ve started wondering how many more books Janet Evanovich plans to write. By my rough calculations Stephanie must be well past thirty-five by now. I love her zany adventures, but, like her long-suffering mom, I also want to see her settled down. I don’t want her to keep circling the same territory without making a decision.

After so many books it’s time to start wrapping things up, in my opinion. So how is Evanovich going to everyone happy? I want Stephanie to end up with Morelli, but there’ll be others who think Ranger is just too HOT to pass up. We can’t all be satisfied, can we?

The wrap up of a popular series can leave a bad taste if it’s not done properly, but my money’s on Evanovich pulling this off sometime in the future. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to Smokin’ Seventeen.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

I Blame Gail Carriger (and Romance)

I have a confession to make. I’m not into paranormal romance. Vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, daemons...meh. Give me something grounded in reality, either contemporary or historical, not some made-up stuff about curses and full moons and silver bullets.

Or so I thought until I picked up Gail Carriger’s Changeless and decided I’d read it for its steampunk setting, even though it heavily featured vampires and werewolves. The author’s detailed world-building impressed me. I liked how she set out the rules and etiquette of vampire and werewolf society. Still, the story didn’t connect with me until right at the end. Suddenly I was hooked. (Spoiler alert!) When Woolsey throws out his pregnant wife and accuses her of infidelity, I had the perfect meaty romantic angst to sink my teeth into. I raced through the next book, Blameless, keen to know how this intractable problem would be resolved.

For me, romance puts that extra zing in a story. Without the romantic conflict, I wouldn’t have bothered reading the next book, but now I’m eagerly waiting for the next instalment. And without the romance I wouldn’t have bothered reading more paranormal stuff.

Now, I’m even getting story ideas involving werewolves. Yikes!