Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Get to Happily Ever After

I was poking around on Facebook the other morning when I ran across this...
(Image removed due to legal concerns. You can find it here:

The little girl in me loved it. Romance! Prince Charming! Happily Ever After! In a castle! With servants! And animals who fly through the window to make my bed and my clothes and do my hair!

Needless to say, reality cold-cocked me shortly after and I started laughing.

The ideas in that image are great... for fairy tales and romance novels. As someone who makes her living (in part) by selling romance, I get it. We want that. Where things just click and it's perfect and lasts forever with no fights and no messes. It's one of the reason women (and some men) love romance novels (or novels with strong romantic elements). We grew up on happily ever after and we crave it.

The fact of the matter is if real life is a fairy tale, it's more like the stuff going down on the new show Once Upon a Time. (If you aren't watching it, you should give it a chance, it's a great show.) Basically, it strips away all the shiny happy veneer and delves deeper. It's like the fairy tale world's seedy underbelly where happily ever after can happen, but you can bet the world's going to do its best to get in the way.

Aren't they adorable?
Kind of like life. Real romances, the kind that last, have a whole lot of struggle and more than their fair share of pain. My parents just celebrated their 52nd anniversary last week. They didn't make it that long because everything fell into place and the birds sang and the trumpets called and they were carried off to happily ever after on a flight of butterflies and rainbows. They busted their asses for it. They fought (sometimes in front of the kids, or at least loud enough for us to hear it), they had money issues, they had in-law issues, they had "bad" kid issues. The real world stepped in front of them on the happily ever after trail and blocked their path. But instead of running away, they fought that (even when it meant fighting with each other) to get back on the road again.

Over the years, my parents reached an understanding of who they each are and how they work best together. They still fight (dad retiring was a challenge for both of them), but they've had those battles with reality for so long, it's kind of a foregone conclusion they'll win (like the heroes in fairy tales and comic books).

So, yes, I write romance stories where the reader is left with the feeling that everything's going to be great and the couple is going to fly off into the sunset because that's the dream, the ending we all hope for. The thing about romance novels is the characters still struggle and fight, it just all happens before the end of the book. I often wonder if one of the reasons so many marriages end in divorce isn't because people look at the wedding as the real life equivalent of the end of the book. It's not. The end? It's that 'til death do you part deal. If you make it that far and you're still in love... that's your happily ever after.

Wait for your prince/princess, but then be prepared to fight every day to keep them. That's love. That's romance. My parents get it. I wish more people did.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Don't Like Boxes

Actually, that title is kind of a lie. As far as paper boxes go, I have what could be called a minor obsession with them. I like having all shapes and sizes of boxes on hand. I collect them like some people collect coins. But when it comes to writing? Yeah. I don't like boxes at all.

I'm not fond of genre boxes, and I have serious issues with writing for a word count box.

That isn't to say I don't respect word counts, I do. To say a novel should be between X and Y thousand words, I'm good with that (unless X and Y are really close together, in which case I do this --> O.o). Anyway, in trying to write a YA novella, I discovered that I can't do that very well. Some people are probably staring at the screen kind of funny right now because they know the other me (the one that writes for adults), writes a lot of short stories and novellas. This is true, and I can do short stories pretty well, but the novellas? Those just happened to fall into that word count. I didn't plan to write them that way.

So fast-forward to this YA novella...

The story was inspired by a trip into this cave.
A publisher that really interests me was looking for novellas, specifically YA and new-adult. I'd had this story idea tickling at my brain since I went to Poland this summer, but I kept putting it on the back-burner in favor of projects I needed to get done. When the call for submissions came out, I looked at it again and thought to myself, "This could be a novella." So rather than taking October to plot my NaNoNovel (Plot? We don't need no stinking plot!), I wrote a 42,000 word novella. Which was... 2000 words too long for the submission call.

Like a good little writer, I went through and trimmed some filler words, tightened some sentences, etc. Got it down to just over 41,000. But I couldn't see where to fix it more. So I sent it to my betas-of-awesome. Here's the thing about having betas-of-awesome, even if they won't straight out say "you need to re-work this and make it longer", you'll know because of their distinct lack of woo-hooing that something isn't right. It took a sit-down with one of my peeps for me to say, I don't think it works as a novella. She basically agreed and said the story was too big to fit in that box. That by trimming the word count, I was cutting it down to the bones of the story. Apparently they're really great bones, but that's not enough to make a really great book.

Now the place is pretty...
So I took that box, and that submission opportunity and I tossed it. I'm about a third of the way through revising the manuscript without the word count constraints, and it's already sooooo much better. My heroine's backstory is more present, as well as why she's fighting so hard against her demons and taking risks. The antagonist has better motivation for his goals beyond his training. Dude thinks he's being the hero, and it makes him a much better character. And the hero... well, he was the one aspect no one mentioned building on a lot. But he's getting tweaks here and there as well.

Without the tight little box pushing in from every side, Rory and Ashlyn's story is so much fuller and more alive. It's rapidly shifting from a novella that I liked to a novel that I love.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Best. Job. Ever.

Apologies for no post last week, but I was at Disney World!!!!

Yes, I'm a huge sucker for Disney. I have a Tinkerbell tattoo, and I would have a Stitch one, but I'm not sure it fits in with the whole motif I have going on. But Stitch did flirt with me at the Magic Kingdom, so that was kind of nice (I know he was probably actually a girl, but I'm okay with that. As far as I'm concerned, he was the adorable little alien I love.) No Tigger this time though :(


A bunch of stuff happened while I was gone and right after I came back from the trip that sent my writing world spinning. It made me realize how badly I needed to write up a schedule and stick to it. Self-imposed deadlines, people! I love them, but at the same time, since they are self-imposed, it means no one's accountable but me. (Well, that and I have a tendency to make them... uh... challenging is a good word.)

But here's a secret... EVERY writer should have deadlines. I don't care if you're only in the practice stages of writing that supposed million words of crap and you only share your stuff with your dog. One of the most important aspects to my writing life is to do something writerly every day. Just like working out, if I slack off for too long, it's soooooo much harder to get back in the groove. Even a page a day. If you can do that, you'll find yourself more inclined to write as it will become a habit, not a chore.

And, honestly, it should never be a chore. Writers, as a general rule, don't pull down the big bucks. Sure there are the Stephen Kings and the JK Rowlings and the Stephanie Meyers, but most authors? They have day jobs to pay the bills. Be in this gig because you love it. Love the writing, love the revisions, love it all. Get excited about the blank screen. Be giddy over opening a vein to spill your soul onto the page. Love your characters. Cry when you have to kill them. These are the people you've chosen to give living space in your brain to. You are their god.

It's a pretty awesome feeling. But back to deadlines. This month (and probably a chunk of next month) is all about revisions for me. I have two novellas that need significant revisions (at least one that will end up novel-length by the time all is said and done, which is awesomesauce). As of today, to make the deadline, I have twenty days to do them both. Ten days each. It's doable but tight. (See above-mentioned tendency to assign myself challenges.)

The thing is I can't wait to dive in. I LOVE these characters (some more than others, of course) and can't wait to make their stories shinier. Even though it's revisions, it'll still mean a lot of new words (even when it's not MORE words), so I should still get that page a day without any trouble.

Oh, and I get to beta read a book by one of my favorite new authors at the same time.


And with that, I need to get back to work. But really, for me writing is kind of like living at Disney World. Over the course of the next month, I get to hang out with mobsters, scientists, clockworks, legends and dragons. So, I feel the need to say it again...


Have a great week, everyone!