Three Little Problems

Yep, have sent a chapter and synopsis to the ed. No, not the NV entry as yet. This is my soldier story (though I’m thinking of losing the soldier part since it only adds to his character and doesn’t directly relate to the story). I feel paranoid and sick about it naturally. The previous two ideas haven’t gone down well so I have no idea whether this will fare any better. I have tried really hard to take what the ed’s been saying to me on board so whether I’ve managed it will be anyone’s guess.

You see, here are my problems:

1. I have been writing romances since I was 12. Now these were only for myself, not for publication. So I have had over 20 years of writing stories where I could do whatever the hell I wanted and that seemed to mostly be concerned with piling as much angst as I could into it. Hey, I didn’t have to please anyone but myself so why not? Flashforward 28 years and I’m still trying to stop myself from piling on the angst. Fear of failure? Sure. Why not add fear of being vulnerable too? Oh yes, and also fear of not being wanted, hating to be protected and stick an unplanned pregnancy in there too. Enough conflict for ya?

2. I HATE being hit over the head with the obvious as a reader. QED, as a writer I am not obvious enough. This combined with a fear of my characters being too self aware, means sometimes the conflict isn’t obvious in the first chapter. And neither is their motivation.

3. I came late to reading romance. I only started reading a lot of it 3 years ago. Up till then, the only romance I read was an M&B binge every 6 months or so. I’ve been trying to catch up on the genre but up until 3 years ago, I didn’t even know a romance had to have an HEA, let alone heroic, aspirational, sympathetic characters.

So these three little problems of mine have all conspired against me. Not only do I over complicate my conflicts so it’s not clear, I am also not obvious about them so readers (and editors!) don’t know what motivates them. Ergo this makes them unsympathetic because if you don’t know what motivates them, you can’t relate to them. Add to that a tendency to want to break the ‘romance’ mould with my characters because I want to do something different (and not knowing what’s ‘acceptable’ and what’s not), and you have a recipe for disaster. And rejection.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, it’s taking me a VERY long time to both be aware of these problems and to overcome them. My latest sub I have tried hard to stick to one conflict for both my characters, made sure it’s clear and have tried to follow it to its conclusion in the synop. I have also tried to make it more obvious in the first chapter. The thing I’m most worried about is my heroine. I’ve – again! – tried to make her different. I hope I haven’t overstepped the mark. She’s spiky and prickly, and kind of rude. There is a reason for this and I’d really like to think I got it across in that first chapter but…

Who knows? Only time will tell I guess. Anyway, it’s back to NTAI for me! Where’s everyone else at?

34 thoughts on “Three Little Problems”

  1. Yeah for getting that sub off to the editor. Way to get back on the horse. It’s hard being objective about your own writing. Fingers crossed this will be the one.

    I’m working on revisions for what I hope will be my next Desire. I’m tearing the whole book apart to strengthen it and putting it back together in a way that makes sense is taking forever.

  2. Good luck, Cat!!

    Jackie, it IS tough. And I think that’s because it’s not right or wrong so much as proper execution. Something might not work in one MS, but work in another. So yeah, it’s all about that motivation, the conflict, and conveying it to the reader.

    *rummages around* be nice if I could find that decoder ring.

  3. Jackie: I love this post. I think I’m the opposite of you. I’ve read too many romances and I’m scared I don’t know how to be original. Sending good thoughts your way.

    *waving to Cat.* Best of luck with your revisions. You know I LOVE Desire!

    Maisey: LOL at the decoder ring.

    I’m polishing up my editor-requested partial targeted for Desire. Plan to mail it off next week. I’m worried readers (i.e. editors) won’t empathize with my hero. 🙁

  4. Tina – we all have fears like this or similar eh? Great re your partial. I reckon as long as your hero has motivation that the readers understand, they will empathise.
    My heroine…well…dunno. She’s a gamble.

  5. Eh Jax.. I am too good with NTAI.. 🙂 simply because I’m easily distracted.. with reading or..just “slacking” 😀

    And on reading front.. I think I’m an oddball here.. cos, I read almost everything I get my hands on..romances or thrillers, presents to medicals and I love historicals. I read paranormals..but I love creating my own world better..if that makes sense..

    I do hope what you’ve figured out helps you overcome it too.. Locating the problem is like finding half the solution..

    Fingers crossed for your sub and hoping the editor luuurrvs it

  6. good luck Jackie! And surely they will see that you are trying, they are still accepting your subs so you must be still “glowing” for them!

  7. Well done on sending it off, Jackie. I’m waiting to hear about my partial sent months ago to MH – really hope I get a request for a full for this one, it would make a nice change! I really like my story, and am hoping the eds do too…

  8. am hoping to come and shiver with you on the NTAI bench in a while – fingers crossed I will be sending a 1st chapter and synopsis in to the ed later on today. Am already nervous!

  9. Ju – Well, at least I think that’s the problem. Only time will tell if I’m right!

    Veronica – Can only see how it goes huh? And have sub number 7 ready to go. Will check out that link!

    Lacey – I’m not sure actually. It’s not as light and flirty as CEO was.

    Kerrin – I dunno. I suppose so! 🙂

    Angie – Thanks lovie!

    Sally – m’dear, I hope I get a request too. Would make a nice change for me as well. 🙂 Crossing fingers for you!

    Jo – Crossing fingers for you too! Let’s hold hands and feel sick together! 🙂

    Susan – one can only hope. Not sure about this one. Like I said, it’s not as flirty as CEO so…ARgh! 🙂

  10. You know I have everything crossed for you. Best of luck chickie!!

    I think we are all pretty much in the dark as to what the *it* factor is… sigh…

    Oh, and trying hard NOT to think that I’m heading to 21 weeks, but am very aware that the higher you go, the harder the fall…

  11. I love this post, Jackie. First you’re giving us the brilliant news that you’ve subbed again (yay for you) and you have the strength to admit where you see your problems.

    The wonderful thing about recognising problems is that you have something concrete to work on. I’m floundering around trying to figure out just what it is I have trouble with… I know there are a few issues (obviously) but I want a fairy god-mother (or an editor) to wave a wand (pink highlighter) over my work and say ‘see, right there, that’s your problem, now fix it!’

    Instead I am madly dissecting everything I read, and having a major brain over-load in the process… especially since I’m reading Mod Heats, Presents, Sweet and Blaze all at once. Arrgghh… think I’m making things worse for myself.

    Anyway, you are inspirational as always… so, so happy to see you back out there subbing. Are you diligently writing too? And if you are, how is it gong?

  12. Janette – thanks sweetie. Fingers crossed big time for you, you know it.

    Jo – hey there, yeah, it’s just a small matter of going over obsessively what the ed has been telling me, thinking about the ms that nearly made it, and trying to see what is wrong with my present subs that are currently missing the mark. Figuring out where you’re going wrong is NOT easy.
    I’m not someone who can pick up a craft book and apply it to my mss either. I have to have someone go over my ms and point out some weaknesses before I can grasp it.
    Brain overload does not help either! The other thing is that this is just a surmise re what’s going wrong. I won’t actually know until my ‘fixes’ are either yessed or no-ed. 🙂
    Writing? Yes. Going? Not so well. On a downer at the moment. Coming back up I think though…:-)

  13. Jacks, aww thanks for the offer of help. My biggest problem is just the bloody fear of stuffing it up! My story is plotted, it’s percolating away in my head (like ALL day long), but I can’t bring myself to get it down on paper 🙁

    I’m procrastinating. I’m terrified. I’m brimming over with self-doubt. Like you, I’m on a downer, and I’m scrabbling around to find the motivation to make it happen. I think the fear and doubt have taken the fun out of the writing for the moment… blah, poor me 🙁

    I keep telling myself to sit the bloody hell down and get going. (I’m a mean ol’ boss to myself) but then I dither about until the time has gone by and the word count has moved by about 250 wds !!

    I will get over this little pity party…any day now.. right after I go and wash the curtains.

  14. Jo – my dear, I’ve been doing exactly what you’ve been doing for the last two days. I sent off my sub but I’m feeling sick, absolutely terrified and there’s a cold feeling in my chest that won’t go away. I don’t know whether the story is any good, whether I’ve shown the ed I can do what she wants, whether my charactes are acting unbelievably again…a whole lot of things.
    I got Dr Jax to read it this afternoon after I told him my doubts and wrote him a lot of questions about the characters to see whether I’ve answered them in the chapter. He seemed to think it was fine but only the ed knows for sure. I can’t relax about it either because every sub has been noed for the past 18 months. So I have no reason to expect this will be any different. The uncertainty is killing me.
    So I started a new sub. That’s the only thing that gets me through.

    Take a break if it helps, go watch a soppy movie. But then wrap up the fear and doubt and put it in a box. And go write for yourself. Not the ed or anyone else. Just write because you love it. 🙂

  15. could I please borrow Dr Jax… I promise to give him back 🙂

    And well done you for getting straight back into the next sub!

    As for your symptoms… sick, terrified, cold feeling in the chest – well, if you can get back into the writing with all of that churning away on the inside, then I can damn well get on with it too!

    Now, what’s my goal… hmmm, a sub before Christmas. That sounds doable!

  16. Yep, Dr Jax is good. But – very sadly – he’s not an ed. So basically, who knows?
    Anyway, yes, that’s what I do when I have that cold, sick feeling. And then I get enthused over the new sub and the feeling gets better, so I can totally recommend it.
    You CAN do it. I’ve read that NV chapter of yours and I thought it was fabulous, so you’ve got what it takes. So – one sub before Christmas. I shall remind you of that! 🙂

  17. Yay for your sub. Keeping everything crossed for you.

    I’ve kind of reached a full stop – haven’t written anything for ages, so I’m even more impressed than I’d normally be that you’ve sent soemthing away.

    XX

  18. Hi Jackie

    First off, fingers crossed for your new submission, let’s hope it’s a winner.

    I feel your pain on the whole conflict issue – it’s something that I struggle with on every single book and frankly, it never gets easier to solve. Some times I have lots of revs, other times only a few, but there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why that is. I think the reason for that is becaasue each one of your characters has to be an individual, who will respond to different situations in different ways and that makes them maddeningly unpredictable. Also for them to be believable as characters, their conflict has to be convincing and for it to be convincing it also has to be complex, but the complexities are only revealed gradually during the course of your story as your characters become aware of them.

    For example when writing my most recent story, I thought my hero’s conflict was basically a desire to avoid intimacy because of an inability to trust, which was all wound up in a childhood trauma when his father had used him as a ‘cover’, pretending to take him to a saturday morning judo class while he was really seeing his mistress while he made the hero wait outside in the car. Of course at the start of the story he didn’t know he had trust issues, he just knew he wasn’t comfortable with intimacy in a relationship.

    But then in the original draft of the story once the hero had told the heroine his guilty secret – of his involvement in his father’s infidelity – his conflict was effectively resolved… But once I’d written it, I knew that wasn’t it.

    So I had to dig deeper, and after lots of rethinking and angst, I realised it wasn’t actually the hero’s inability to trust that was stopping him from having meaningful relationships, that was just a symptom, the real problem was that what his father had done to him had made him desperate to control his situation and therefore his emotions — so that he would never again be so powerless and to do that he had shied away from being dependent on other people. And it was only when the heroine had forced him to relinquish that control that he could begin to admit his true feelings….

    Confused? I was, and it took me a long time – and a lot of hair-pulling – to figure it out (plus I needed some help from my ed).. And let’s not even talk about the heroine’s conflict… Which was even more evasive.

    So don’t beat yourself up for ‘not getting it’, there is no ‘getting it’, because ‘it’ will be different for every character and every story you write. A lot of times it really is just a case of trial and error to dig it out – and remember you may think you have a clear idea of their conflict at the start, which is great, but then it will grow and change during the course of the story as your characters and their relationship grows and changes. Which is a whole ‘nother pain in the backside!!

    Anyway, enough of my tales of woe. Good luck with your sub.

  19. Okay, the deleted posts are because I managed to post that comment four times, somehow… Thanks Blogger for making me look like a total muppet!

  20. Heidi – yes, but you’re an extremely helpful muppet! 🙂
    Seriously, that’s a fantastically helpful post. Ah, conflict, how I love thee, let me count the ways…NOT.
    I’m hoping the conflict for this latest sub is okay because I actually haven’t written it yet and so I don’t know. The ed particularly wanted me to send her something I’ve only just started.
    I DO know that the deepest level of it is the characters doubt about themselves and whether they’re good enough. And I’m hoping that the ed will give me the opportunity to explore it.
    Which of course is the difficulty with being unpubbed…
    And let’s not even go into the wondering about whether I’ve made my hero too nice. Groan. 🙂

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