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Oh God! What if they hate it?!

18 Feb

I’m subtitling this post “Why Beta Reading is Scary Business” because, dude, it totally is.

So I’ve sent Promise Me Paradise off to a few people for beta reading. Until this point, the only people who have read it are me, my best friend, and my fiance. Only one of those people regularly reads romance novels, and my fiance didn’t even particularly like it. So the beta stage is the scariest damn stage for me. Sure, I’ve posted excerpts on a few sites but they were always examples of scenes where I felt I really nailed it. But now suddenly I have people who know the genre reading the parts that I didn’t think were so good? Holy crap, what was I thinking?

I’m not a fiction writer. I’m an essay writer. If you need a persuasive essay or opinion paper on a topic, let me know and I will bang you out something that will turn heads. That’s just what I do. It’s what I’ve always done since as long as I can remember. This isn’t bragging, this is stone cold fact. Once in 8th grade I had a teacher photocopy my rough draft and hand it out to the class as an example of how they should be writing. In college, we had the option to turn in a “revised” copy of all our essays for a better grade — I only took advantage of that on the first one, after which I was able to consistently get As on every single one. I once wrote a 12 page research paper overnight, turned it in the next morning and got an A. This is just what I do. Fiction isn’t.

The last piece of fiction I ever made public was a fan fic for the late, lamented show Daria. I believe it was a short story where the challenge was to “redeem” a minor character — this was in 2006 or 2007. People liked it well enough, but I ended up losing the challenge anyway. That prologue for “Another Pretty Nothing” I posted? Yeah, that’s basically the first piece of fiction I’ve shared with the general public since I was old enough to drink. Yeah. So, basically, sending out this rough draft for beta editing? Good God, what was I thinking? I’ve been having a back and forth over this particular book. I hate it, I really do. Everything I see in it is a failure — the prose is sloppy, the characters are flat — and as I read I’m composing the smart ass review I’d write on Amazon had I stumbled across it in a published form. Now, I fully accept that I am ridiculously hard on myself, but the thing about that is as long as I never show it to anyone I never have any confirmation of whether or not it’s truly terrible or if I’m just being too hard on myself.

That’s not to say I want the betas to compliment me and lie, I’d rather hear 99 horrible things than 1 comforting lie. A bad thing I can fix I will fix and as much as it hurts, I want to get better and this is the best way to do that. But it’s still scary as hell. I used to feel the same way about showing my drawings when I took a class in chiaroscuro. One day I almost burst into tears because I’d been working and working and struggling and I just couldn’t make this picture come out right. I knew what was wrong with it, but I lacked the skill to fix it. Fortunately, that day the instructor noticed I was at my wits end and gave me a fairly nice evaluation, but that was not an experience I care to repeat if I can help it. But here I am with another piece of work that I find subpar and soliciting for opinions. I’m going to be on pins and needles until the betas start coming back, so in a nice bit of self-promotion, if you could see your way to critiquing any of the chapters of Another Pretty Nothing that I’ve been working on I’d be much obliged. Chapter 2 is in process — I originally planned to have it pick up at the dinner Rue has been asked to skip, but Thomas decided he’d rather start his narration the next morning and we had a bit of a struggle trying to get the second paragraph into something we could both be happy with (read: he won) which cost me most of the day.

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I Hate This Book (But I’m going to finish it anyway)

15 Dec

Oh hey, so I still have a blog. How about that? I’ll admit, since it became December I’ve been slacking hard. The book is so close to being done, y’all, I don’t even want to give excuses. I’m basically down to all the boring parts that I skipped the first time. So as soon as that’s done, I’ll do a read through to fix the glaring spelling and grammatical errors, probably fix a few sentence constructs and then it’s off to the beta stage. If I had anything interesting left to do, it’s probably the work of about a day. As it stands, who the hell knows? I should probably just get drunk and see what comes out because I can fix bad writing. Oh hey, speaking of bad writing!

I hate this book. But I’m going to finish it anyway. Beside the fact that “it’s character building!” I’ve come to a realization (and a metaphor!):
See, I knit. I’m good at it. I don’t do it all the time, but every so often my fingers start to itch and all of a sudden my entire family comes into possession of new scarves. When I first learned to knit, I was about 10. It was impossible. I’m making these little tiny bitty loops with STICKS?! Are you high, grandma? My stitches were too tight, I was adding and dropping every which way, the entire thing slanted to the left and it was just impossible. How the hell do people do that, anyway? I threw it down in disgust and didn’t try again until I was in high school. Well, it turns out grandma wasn’t high, actually. When I picked it back up I had a book and a complete inability to knit in the round, but I kept trying. And you know what? I’m good at it now. I can cable knit in a movie theater or while taking notes. I’ve made lacey cowls and an entire shawl in 48 hours. I’ve written patterns. Once, after a long break from knitting, I couldn’t remember how to cast on but set it up anyway and as soon as I had the yarn in my fingers muscle memory took over and next thing I knew I had the cast on finished.
I thought about it harder. I took an art class that focused on chiaroscuro and suddenly my recreational art progressed in leaps and bounds. I didn’t draw anything for a long time and regressed to an earlier style.

I’m going to finish this book, not because it’s any good, not because I love it, not even because I want to at this point. I’m going to finish it because I want to get better and because I can get better. I will get better. That is my solemn vow to myself. I will get better and I will become the writer I want to be and the writer I think I can be. Cross my heart and hope to die.

Oh hey, apparently this is my tenth post! Yay me!

A Wild Excerpt Appears!

10 Nov

I have been highly productive this month.  I’m over 20k words already and just a few chapters shy of the best part of the entire thing.  With that in mind, here is an excerpt because I am quite fond of this particular part.

Despite her strenuous mental objections, Josie found herself standing outside on the terrace in the night air. It didn’t help her feel cooler, particularly. It was one of those summer nights in Florida that one could politely call “sultry.” The warm, humid air wrapped around her like a blanket, blurring the lines between her skin and the night.
“So,” she said, leaning against the bannister, “you got me outside. What did you have planned next?”
“Oh I don’t know. You don’t seem to like crowds, I figured you might appreciate the quiet.” She nodded slightly, acknowledging the truth of his statement. Truth be told, she’d rather be anywhere else in the world than back inside that party. She could hear the ocean waves breaking behind her and turned to face the sea.
“So tell me about Europe.” She finally said. He chuckled.
“What about it?”
“Anything. I’ve always wanted to go but I’ve only been abroad a few times. Egypt once with my cousin, and South America with my parents when I was a girl. During the war.”
“South America? That’s an unusual choice for a family.”
“My father is an unusual man.” He seemed to think about that for a few minutes.
“Europe is nice.” He finally said, “But it’s very old. Everything here is new and modern but over there, you can slip into a pub that was built before your grandparents were born and nobody even thinks twice about it – it’s the newest building on the street. And in France…I can’t even describe Paris. At night when everything is lit up sometimes you can look out from your window and see the lights reflecting off the Seine and you feel like if you were to jump into the river you would fall through it into space.”
“It sounds magical.” Really, what else could she say to that? “Sometimes when I was in Egypt, I would look out of our hotel window at night and wonder how many thousands of years of history were in each of the houses on the street.”
They were both silent after that, absorbing the night air and the company. After a minute that felt like forever but somehow wasn’t quite long enough, Josie became very aware that Leo was closer to her than was strictly platonic. She turned to face him, a smile slowly spreading.
“So…” she drawled flirtatiously, letting her eyes roam over his chest and shoulders, “what brings you back to Florida?”
“I was born here, actually.” He said with a grin, somewhere between flattered and amused.
“Really?” This actually startled her, “Then how is it I’ve never met you?”
“Actually, you have. My father was the grocer – Frederick Malcolm — and I used to make his deliveries for him until I enlisted.”
She knew exactly who he was talking about. Mr. Malcolm had been the only grocer when Josie was growing up. He was never a particularly wealthy man, but his family had been in the area almost since it was sold by the Spanish. They were well regarded in the area even after the Hudsons had moved to the area in the last decade. Josie vaguely remembered the delivery boy who used to bring her mother groceries. He was a charming teenager, but at the time Josie had been just a little too young to appreciate his youthful attractions and in fact had been much more enamored of his widowed father who would sometimes slip her a piece of candy or a peppermint when her mother would take her into town. And then one day, the teenager had been gone and in his place was an adult and she’d never thought much about it after that.
“You used to deliver our groceries!” She exclaimed. He nodded.
“Yours and everyone else’s. My father loved yours – he always threw such lavish parties. We could have built a second store just for him.” He hadn’t mentioned that this was the first time he or any of his relatives had been invited. They both knew that, after all. In the early days before the new house, the guest list had been significantly smaller and her father never would have thought to invite the grocer anyway, no matter how well thought of the family may have been.
“Well,” Josie said, with a touch of huskiness to her voice as she regarded him again, “You’ve certainly grown up nicely.” She tried to remember the instructions Sally had given her as a teenager on getting a boy to kiss you. She flicked her eyes down his body, before settling on his lips, letting herself smile before snapping them back to his eyes. She was rewarded by a slight intake of breath from him.
“Josie…” he sighed. “Josie, Josie, Josie…”
“Yes?” She parted her lips slightly looking up at him as he slowly leaned towards her.
“You’re going to be the death of me.”
“My grandma always said I’d come to no good.” He was so close now she could feel his breath – warmer even than the air around her. He smelled like Christmas trees and oranges and she wanted him. She wanted him more than she’d ever wanted anything in her life and he was right there – a matter of inches would close the gap between them. She was so very close…
“Ah! There you two are!” her father’s voice boomed out across the terrace, breaking the spell that had been woven in the air between them. “Josie, I’ve been looking all over for you. William Dean finally arrived. Come say hello!”
William Dean was one of her father’s employees and a nice enough man, if a bit dull. He was educated, intelligent, and kind. The kind of man who was entirely unobjectionable, but wasn’t inclined to inspire a woman to the heights of passion. Josie probably would have liked him much better if her father hadn’t gotten the idea in his head that Josie should marry him and provide him with a male heir. But immediately after being caught on the terrace with her face a matter of inches from the local rum runner’s probably wasn’t the time or place to press the issue.
“Well.” She said, mostly to calm her nerves, sparing a quick glance at Leo before walking over to her father, “I suppose I probably should. Goodnight, Mr. Malcolm. I hope you enjoy the rest of the party.”
And with that, Josie allowed her father to walk her back into the party and the rest of her life.

 

One thing I love about this particular couple is that Josie knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to go after it for herself.  She isn’t perfect, but she likes Leo, she finds him attractive, and she knows if she wants him then the onus is on her to go after that.  Leo is similar in that he is aware Josie wants him and he is very interested in her, but he’s also afraid.  He’s been hurt in the past, but he’s still open with himself about his feelings.  It’s a lot of fun to write people who are so open to the possibilities of each other.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I get to the third book in this series and the hero and heroine are both going to be awkward and shy.  I may end up banging my face into the wall.

On Outlining

21 Oct

Well, I finally finished the outline for Promise Me Paradise. I am very excited about that.

Ridiculously excited, actually. Last night when I finished I told all my friends, ate some gummi candies, and then promptly became so exhausted from how happy I was that I fell asleep for 10 hours.

Yup, I’m old.

Either way, the cold light of day brought to mind something that I keep forgetting. Namely, that Promise Me Paradise is the second book in a series of three. I don’t have the others planned at all. See, when I first conceived of Promise Me Paradise, originally Josie was a much more radical flapper and Leo had some fairly severe post traumatic stress. As the other subplots and character arcs started building up, I noticed I had a lot of characterization I liked but that the plots they were going to be getting involved in didn’t always fit their characters.

Enter Sinjin and Sally. It suddenly hit me that I was writing two separate books, one about a flapper an a war vet with PTSD and one about a rum runner and an heiress. It was actually a perfect solution to all my problems. I had accidentally done the wrong math and had been doing time period research for two years earlier than I needed to set PMP. Problem solved — new book was set in 1923! An article about King Tut’s tomb caught my eye and suddenly it was set in Egypt. The problem is I still had a lot more work done on PMP than on new book, so when it came time to choose a novel for NaNoWriMo I flipped a coin and it came up tails, so PMP won the which-novel-am-I-doing-first award.

Here’s where things get a little sticky. See, I’d like to submit both books for publishing. I really like the work I’ve done on PMP but well, you can’t really publish the second in a series first. So this leaves me in the uncomfortable position of needing to scramble to plot out and outline the first book (which is tentatively titled The Madness in the Moonlight) so I can start it in January. Right now the entire book literally consists of character outlines for Sally and Sinjin, along with the entire plot summary being “boy meets girl…IN EGYPT.” But that’s okay, because I am a writer, damn it and this is what I do.

And for the record, the three book series is so far going to be:
The Madness in the Moonlight
Promise Me Paradise
Another Pretty Nothing

The heroine of APN is not even sort of created yet, but the hero is a character from PMP!