Time Flies Fast!

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 3.21.55 PMHoly cannoli, where has the time gone?

In November, I typed my fingers raw getting about 50,000 words of Josie’s story down. I took a break for the holidays–I needed some distance from the story to assess how it was going and what needed to be changed. Plus, after pushing so quickly through the story,  I had quite a bit of content that needed A LOT of work.

*Blink*

And now it’s MAY! I’ve worked on the manuscript here and there, of course, but it should have been finished already.

I think the biggest problem is the enormous pile of stinking poo it was after NaNoWriMo. It felt overwhelming, and I had no idea how to tackle it. You have to understand, I’m the kind of writer who writes a chapter, revises it in a couple passes, then moves to the next chapter. As I progress through the story, the chapters I leave behind are, for the most part, done. Once the entire book is finished, I go through it two more times before I send it to the editor–once to amplify the emotions and squeeze everything into it I can (I think of this as “plumping it up”),  and then I make sure every sentence is exactly the way I want it. However, all the substance of the story is there after the first go-around.

Rather than try to pick up the poo and shape it into something useful, I decided to start over. As I progress through the story, I pull quite a bit from what I’ve already written, but I’m doing it in small batches. I try not to think about all those words I still need to incorporate (or worse, send to the trash) because it makes my heart pound and I feel nauseous. Baby steps are better, focus on the present, deep breaths, and all that.

In the meantime, I have lots of ideas for the fourth book in the Legal Affairs Series, and even a good handle on a spin-off series. I’ll get it all done eventually, but it takes one step at a time. Stay tuned!

By the way, if you’re curious about the picture, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!  🙂

Starting the Next Book

file000349823764Writing a book isn’t something you just sit down one day and do. Well, maybe some authors did that, but not me. There was a huge learning curve. First, I had to learn the elements of a good story and how to manipulate them. Then there was character development. It’s unbelievable what goes into that; it’s a lot more than name and eye color. Each character has to have a wound, and motivation, plus a thousand other things. They’re supposed to feel real to the reader, so they have to be well-rounded and, well, real.

Once you have some characters, what do they do? How do they interact? What happens? I really hate this part. For me, figuring out what happens is like pulling teeth. But once it’s done, then you have to have the skill and knowledge translate it all into the written word. Words can be powerful. They can convey enormous emotion and drive compelling stories that you can’t put down. They can also be so incredibly boring that you’d rather go  wash your baseboards.

A writer has to juggle all these things, plus a million more. She sifts them all together, then arranges them so they’re believable and authentic to the story and the characters, and most importantly, so they tell a great story. Nothing about the process is easy, but it can be incredibly satisfying when it all comes together.

My first book, Reading the Signs, took about three years to write. As an attorney, I spent years writing for a living, so I thought I knew what I was doing. I was wrong. The learning curve for writing fiction was enormous so I wrote, and re-wrote, then re-wrote again. I can’t tell you how many versions of RTS I wrote.

My second book, Fool Me Once, took only eighteen months. That’s half the time. However, it was a much more complex book. I had another steep learning curve to figure out how to juggle so many moving parts. Charts, timelines, mind nodes, calendars, and notecards stuck on cork boards are just a few of the things I used to keep it all straight.

I started writing my third book a couple weeks ago. The working title is Diamonds in the Rough, but that will probably change. It’s Josie’s story and while I’ve only written about 30 pages, I can tell it’s going to be a monster. There’s so much going on and some of the issues my characters deal with are big, gnarly, and intense. Even though I’m writing fiction, I feel an enormous responsibility to accurately represent what I write about. I’m always mindful that there are people in the real world dealing with the same issues as my characters. For them, I have to get it right— not only their suffering and struggles, but also the solutions and resources available to help them.

All of this boils down to the point of this post. Writing is very hard work and for me, writing the first draft is overwhelming. And that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m working on the first draft of Diamond on the Rough and I hope to have it done sometime in the next few months. Then I’ll start the process of revising, and that’s the part of writing that I love best. With any luck, I’ll cut the time it takes to write a book in half again, and I’ll get this one out in about nine months. Fingers crossed. Only time will tell.  🙂

Romance Writers Unite!

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Chocolate versions of the Rita Award

I think most writers would agree that the process of writing a book is not only personal, it’s solitary. While my baby is bubbling in my head, it’s hard to share it, especially with a non-writer who doesn’t understand the technical balance between character, plot, and the need for conflict. It’s a whirlwind of puzzle pieces that have the potential of being assembled in a thousand different ways.  The process of choosing which configuration best maximizes the tension and brings out the most emotion in a story is delicate and has to be done one tiny step at a time.  For me, it’s time consuming, exhausting, and something I take very seriously.

So, imagine my pleasure at attending the Romance Writers of America Convention in New York City last week.  Literally thousands of romance writers came together to talk about all those puzzle pieces, to make connections with other writers that last long after the conference is over, and to learn more about the craft of writing.  It was wonderful to indulge in those conversations that make non-writers think you’re nuts.

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My daughter and I at the Awards Ceremony

For me, it was especially fun because I shared it with my daughter. She joined me for the last couple days of the conference and got a glimpse of what writers are like in an environment where we can let our hair down and talk about all those things others just don’t get.

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Me with Jill Shalvis

But the conference isn’t only about writing. It’s a time to be a reader, too. So many of the legends in our field attended the conference, it was hard not to go a little fan-girl. Nora Roberts, Lisa Kleypas, Robyn Carr, Jill Shalvis, Julia Quinn, Roni Loren, Kristan Higgins, and so many others attended this year. It’s surreal to see them walking the halls of the convention center, willing to share their time and experience with anyone who approaches. To me, that’s the most amazing thing about the

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Me and Robyn Carr

convention–the complete and utter willingness romance writers have to help and encourage their fellow writers.  Frankly, without the RWA and the first convention I attended, I don’t think I would have ever finished my first book.

So, I’m back home now, completely energized and eager to get back to work.  I’m still hoping to get the next book out this Fall, but there’s so much to do!  I guess I better get to it.  : )