The Möbius Strip of Revision

As some of us are stuck in the endless loop of cold weather, I find myself desperate to get out – of revisions.
It’s hard to get the beginning of a story right.

Really hard.

So much information needs to go in, and yet the pace needs to keep moving or else your book will probably end up as a drink coaster.

So you write.

And rewrite.
And rewrite.
Ad nauseum.
And … it’s still not right.
You get feedback that says to try cutting one thing, adding more to another, and then the next advice tells you to go back to the way it was.

Revision hell.

This month, right around Groundhog’s Day as it happens, I made the bold decision to move beyond the first fifty pages of my story. They still need work, but at some point, a person need to get off the twisty loop.

Quick Tip: When the author is the one thinking about using her own story as a drink coaster, it’s not a good sign.
I’m posting faster too, rather than endlessly polishing, only to have the first reader find no fewer than five typos.
It’s been good for my emotional energy level. Less obsession = less exhaustion. Also, a rougher draft means I’m not nearly as invested in thinking the magical unicorn named It’s great! I wouldn’t change a thing! will show up.

True fact: There’s always room for improvement.

So, counting the days till this bleeping month is over. Happy February is short, happier still to have gotten off the strip.

Plotting Along

Hear that wailing sound? That’s the sound of a writer in distress. Well, okay, not just any writer. Me.

As a newbie writer, I set off to write my story, knowing exactly what to do. Storytelling came easy to me at an early age and I excelled at it. As an adult, I figured it would be easy-peasy, because really, how hard is it to write?

Well, like most newbie writers, I learned how wrong I was.

When the time came for others to read the story and comment, I heard a chorus of: “Where are the sub-plots?”

“Sub-plots?  I have sub-plots. There’s a, b, and c.”

“Nope,” the chorus told me. “Not there.”

“What do you mean they’re not there? Of course they are!”

“No,” they said again, “Don’t see them.”

These comments forced me to go back and review the elements of my stories, which made me realize something; they were right.

Although my sub-plots exist, they don’t emerge until the second half of the story leaving the entire first half missing any sub-plot. As I’ve learned, this makes the story one dimensional and ultimately very boring for the reader.

Two things happened next; first, I freaked out. This is a big “oops”, and the bigger the mistake, the bigger the clean-up. I’ve put too much time and effort into this project to give up, and yet, it seems parts need to be completely rewritten, which involves more work and more time. Discouraging doesn’t come close to what I felt. Hopeless may be a more appropriate word.

But then I did my homework. Some amazing people pointed me into the direction of Dan Wells and Seven Point Plot Structure.   I also found Pixar’s story telling rules. Finally, I came across story board charts. So now, I’m going back and re-plotting. Each scene is being marked by character, plot progression and sub-plot. I’m making notes for additions/deletions to each scene. I’ve also made charts of each sub-plot to follow them from beginning to end.

Perhaps a little excessive, but it works for me. My work may need a rewrite, but with some careful planning and the proper tools, I’m hoping not to make a similar mistake the second time around.

That’s the synopsis of my “pit of despair” problem. As writers, everyone  encounters them. They‘re just different for each of us. Though writers tend to be isolated, we’re not alone. There’s usually someone else wallowing in the pit to commiserate with and share the virtual bottle of wine.

But once the pity party is over, get back to it. If the finished work is the ultimate goal, a rough journey to get there will make the end that much sweeter.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself right now.

Happy Writing!

7 Reasons why Anti-heroes are Hot

We all love heroes and heroines, but these goody two-shoe characters are being put in a corner. I’m putting the spotlight on their equally hot cousins. Today we are delving into what made me fall in love with the romance genre and spurred my quest to become a romance writer.

What are Anti-heroes?

Anti-heroes according to literarydevices.net are:

A  literary device used by writers for a prominent character in a play or book that has characteristics opposite to that of a conventional hero. The protagonist is generally admired for his bravery, strength, charm, ingenuity etc. while an anti-hero is typically clumsy, unsolicited, and unskilled and has both good and bad qualities.

Google says:

anti-hero

  1. a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.

Neither one of these live up to the panty- melting characters that have graced the screen and literature world. Below are seven in depth profiles of the heroes devious cousins.

  • Pretty Woman

Anti-hero: Edward Lewis

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100405/

Richard Gere played corporate raider Edward Lewis. Edward’s job was to literally rape and pillage troubled companies for profit. If that didn’t help his bad boy status, his best friend was a self-absorbed prick. When Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) comes into his life, she becomes nothing more than  another one of his many employees. But Vivian peels back the cynicism to reveal a kind heart inside this bad boy. He changes his pillaging ways and even tries to conquer his fear of heights to the get girl. When Vivian ‘saves him right back’ the bad boy is redeemed.

  • Silver Linings Playbook

Anti-hero: Pat Solitano.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1045658/

When Pat Solitano( Bradley Cooper) enters the screen he’s a text book anti-hero. He’s clumsy, neurotic, and selfish. His story begins with him freshly out of a mental institution. It doesn’t look like he has romantic bone in his body. He spends two thirds of the movie obsessing about his ex-wife, who clearly wants nothing to do with him. But underneath this mental movie is a sweet love story. But when Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) beats his crazy with her own, he wises up and ends the unrequited obsession. When he reveals his true feelings for Tiffany, Pat’s redeemed.

  • You’ve Got Mail

Anti-hero: Joe Fox

 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0128853/

This 1998 classic was single handedly my inspiration for becoming a writer. Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) was an absolute jerk in the movie. He pushed Kathleen Kelly ( Meg Ryan) to close her family business. Antagonizes her in public. But the worst one is when he finds out she’s the girl he’s been e-mailing. He pranks her, allowing her to think the man of her dreams is a faker. So how does this grouch redeem himself? Once Kathleen’s business is kaput she falls into a depression. Joe takes care of her, despite the fact that Kathleen calls him every name in the book. When Joe reveals he’s her dream man, Kathleen sighs with relief and says “I wanted it to be you.” I did too.

  • Secretary

Anti-hero: Mr. Grey

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0274812/

Love isn’t always sweet and pretty. This office romance is a dark one. Mr. Grey (James Spader) is a full blown sadist. He makes Christian Grey look like a cuddly kitten. Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a shy woman, perfect fodder for domineering Mr. Grey who her spanks her when she makes typos. But Lee is a woman who likes to cut herself when she’s emotionally overwhelmed. Mr. Grey’s strict nature and unconventional attitude provide her a safe environment where she can experience pain without the consequences. Her pushes to the limit, thinking she can’t possibly love his perverse mind. To prove she loves him Lee sits at his desk for days without food or water. In the end he rewards her undying devotion. He marries her, thereby giving her a life where she safely deal with the world.

  • He’s Just Not that Into You

Anti-hero: Alex

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1001508/

When Justin Long’s character says “you’re not the exception, you’re the rule.” Who didn’t want to jump through the screen and strangle him?

Alex (Justin Long) is your boy next door. Everyone likes and respects him. He’s also the cynic that’ll every ruin every romantic dream you have. That’s what he does to Gigi Haim. For two thirds of the move, Alex exposes her to the harsh truths of how men feel about her. Poor Gigi is a sweet bubbly girl, but men don’t call her after the second date.  When Gigi comes on to him, Alex shuts her down, breaking the poor girl’s heart. But when Gigi stops coming around, Alex realizes he’s fallen for her. The jerk rushes to Gigi’s apartment and he’s happy to discover his cynicism never rubbed off on Gigi.

Literary Equivalents

  • Beautiful Bastard

Anti-hero: Bennett Ryan

http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Bastard-The-Series/dp/1476730091

My favorite modern literary equivalent is Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren

This dynamic duo created a story that set the interwebs on fire. Bennet Ryan makes Edward Lewis look like a teddy bear. He’s ruthless, and his  acerbic mouth  is no match for any woman. Until he meet Chloe Mills. A sexy independent woman, who’s not afraid to tell Bennett off. The only problem is she’s his assistant. As they enter a secret love affair Bennett tries to keep a cold distance between them, but the more he gets to know Chloe, he realizes he’ll have to shed his bastard attitude and give  Chloe the respect she deserves if he wants her in his life and his bed.

Classic literary equivalent

  • Gone with the wind

Anti-heroine: Scarlett O’Hara

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_Wind

In this case our protagonist is an anti-heroine. Bad girls can be just as sexy as their male counterparts. Scarlett O’hara is desperately in love with Ashly Wilkes. Unfortunately the man only has eyes for one woman. His wife. Scarlett spends three fourths of the book pinning for Wilkes all the while marrying men for the money to rebuild her precious family plantation. When she marries Rhett Butler she realizes once it’s too late that he’s the truth love  of her life. When Rhett turns her down, Scarlett’s unwavering optimism prompts one of the most famous quotes in history. “Tomorrow is another day”.

What are some of your favorite anti-heroes?

Favorite Couple Types (And Why I’m Not a Conventional “Romantic”)

When I first heard my next blog day was Valentine’s Day, I have to admit I panicked a bit. I mean, most of the women on this blog are romance writers. And, I’m… not that romantic. Gasp! Shock! <covers head in paper bag> In fact, my husband and I stopped celebrating the day many years ago. Not because we don’t love and cherish each other, but because the mushy stuff usually gives us the giggles, and then we go back to our comfortable, happy stand-by’s.

 

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I’m romantic, just not so touched by the standard, check-box, normal things that are considered so. But I love love. Thoughtfulness, connection, and reading about the unique couples from different walks of life. Those that know me best, know I can get rather obsessed with a good love story. So when I thought about what I could possibly write about that has to do with Valentine’s Day? Favorite types of story couples is what this had to be about.

 

  1. The Hero and the Sweetheart

When I think about the most popular love story couples, I can’t leave out the strong man that will go to any lengths to rescue the pure woman. He’s doesn’t let fear, dangerous obstacles, or odds stand in his way. The only thing that stops this man is love. His female counterpart is deserving and needs help. She’s needs loyalty, and someone she can trust. She offers vulnerability and a place to call home. And in the end, she will bring him to his knees.

 

  1. The Bad Boy that needs reformed by the Good Woman

In real life, I’m not necessarily one for bad boys. But the misunderstood guys from the wrong side of the tracks in fiction totally gets me. He needs stability. He needs persistence. He needs someone to knock him out when he’s being a pain in the you know where. Maybe she’s damaged with daddy issues and that’s the draw. Maybe she’s never met anyone like him before. Or maybe she just sees a side of him that no one else has stopped to look at. Either way, with the two of them together, they both get a taste of what the other side looks like. And both (in fiction at least) are usually better for it.

 

  1. The Evil boy meets the Evil Girl?

This kind always gets my blood going. They’re fire and fire. A battle of wits and tension. They’re that scintillating kinship going blow for blow with their partner. Usually sparks fly, until they ignite together and set their passions ablaze. Maybe that’s cheesy. But they’re so much fun. And sexy to watch when it all comes together. In a strange way, this couple gets each other– maybe even more than all the others. Because unlike the nice guys that connect, they are usually scared and lonely people behind that mask of protection.

 

  1. The Nice guy and the Bad Girl

This is another favorite of mine. Even though I wasn’t a “Bad Girl” (most of the time), I had a rough life. These girls usually do too. They don’t get any breaks. What’s handed to them makes succeeding feel impossible. Until something good, in the way of a sweet, possibly nerdy guy comes along. He’s not over the top heroic usually. But he sees the part of her others have been missing all her life. Maybe he’s had too much normal in his life and she’s that fire he’s been looking for. She finds comfort and strength in his stability. These two give each other something special. An appreciation for how rare the other is.

 

  1. Best Friends Turned Lovers

Could there be anything cuter(and more sappy) than two people who are inseparable turning to each other and becoming sweethearts? Maybe I’m just a sap because I had a lot of male friends in junior high and high school, but this is usually a way to make me aw and sigh. They know each other better than anyone. And maybe there’s been a tension there the whole time, and they both ignored it, not wanting to take that risk. Until one night, when their guards come down, and they crash into each other in an explosion of lust. It’s the  love and respect that’s there before things even start. The certainty, yet tentative approach that has always gotten me right in the heart.

 

  1. The Best Friend’s(or Boyfriend’s-eek!) Best Friend

So, you’re going along reading a book or watching a movie and one of the leads(usually a female) is with someone who on the surface seems right at the time. And then that second person has a best friend. He’s either seems totally perfect, or so wrong they make sparks. Now depending on the circumstances, he’s either so good for her that you know right away they belong together. Or so many sparks fly, that the way he challenges her is exactly what she needs. I can think of at least a half dozen of these couples and every time I fall in love with it again. The conflict is the friend, but that resolution when done right make for an explosive ending..

 

  1. Two Perfect Sweethearts

These two can be a challenge. If not carefully written they can be nauseatingly sweet. Kind of like that icky romance stuff I was talking about. Why? Because they’re so perfect it makes you want to vomit.  Like too much candy. But, they also can show what to strive for. Trust. Faithfulness. Respect. They care about each other and the people around them. Many may assume their past is perfect too, but it isn’t always. Sometimes there’s a long road that’s caused them pain so unbearable the only thing that got them through is hope. So they create beauty. They need and deserve that happy ending more than anyone else.

 

Those are just a few I thought of, and there are many more. Of course, what’s equally fun(and sometimes more) is when the traditional roles like above are reversed. It puts an exciting spin on what we’ve grown to love. Maybe they’re a combination of two or more types. Maybe they’re same-sex or even polyamorous.


What about you? Do you have another favorite type? Why do you feel drawn to it? And what type of couple are you and your love?

Goal, Motivation and Conflict: A Plot By Any Other Name.

Several years ago, I signed up for writing classes with the excellent author and teacher, Shirley Jump. Although I had been a closet scribbler for years, I knew nothing about anything. I’d put fingers to keyboard without any idea of character or plot and one of the many things I took away from these classes was how to use goal, motivation and conflict. Continue reading

A Sneak Peak at A Romance Writer’s Life

What if Cinderella hadn’t lost her slipper? How would the story have turned out? Would the prince have gone to great lengths to find her? Even blackmail? Then there’s the idea of maybe she wasn’t a sweet perfect girl. What if there was a love triangle between the Prince, Cinderella and the Step-Sister. Sensing a lot of angst creating our voice! Continue reading

The awakening of a newbie writer

I started writing on Christmas Day 2013. It was my first day off in ages. I woke up from the chirping weavers outside the bedroom window and enjoyed knowing that there was no rush. And as I was lying there, dozing, my mind started to puzzle jigsaw pieces of different scenes or daydreams together into one large picture. Five years of day dreams and silly fantasies had, in an hour on Christmas Day, turned into one (awfully long) story. Continue reading