Thursday, June 6, 2013

Crossing the Home Stretch

Today is a day for celebration. After seven months, I finally completed the first draft of Amaryllis. In previous blogs, I mentioned my struggles with this project. Over and over, I came up against the brick wall. I wondered how I was going to make any headway when my internal editor sat on my shoulder and lack of enthusiasm made writing a slog. But I prevailed. That alone is well worth a toast.  
Among the many challenges of this story, two bear mentioning. The first relates to word count. Amaryllis is 103,000 words. Eliza and A Deadly Truth, my two previous books, finished at 80,000 words. The longer the story, the harder it is to keep the middle from sagging. I admit to getting lost a few times. For help, I resorted to a brief chapter inventory. It served as a sort of map. It was easy to see repetitions and what needed to be cut or added.
The second challenge revolved around the issue of plot-driven versus a character driven story. All books are a synthesis of each, yet in some genres, like thrillers and mysteries, the plot often takes precedence. Most romances rely heavily on character change to move the story. My style of writing is to lean more on plot. I worry that my characters will spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing. Thus, I keep throwing obstacles their way and the story races along.  
Yet in Amaryllis, a traditional historical romance, I purposely moved out of my comfort zone. I wanted the story to grow out of the interactions of the two main characters. For a number of chapters, they are stuck together on a ship bound for British occupied New York during the Revolutionary War. The male character is a spy for the Colonial Army. The female character is a British Loyalist dispatched to spy on the spy. It’s a cat and mouse game—a yin-yang of opposing political ideals and emotional tugs between a man and a woman. The challenge was to make the interaction between these characters sizzle and snap without the use of too many external plot devices driving their actions. Phew! The subtle and constant shift in interpersonal dynamics is tricky to write as each character constantly stirs change in the other.
At times the story sagged. I got bored so to fix that, I tightened the tension between the two characters. I set their personal stakes higher. Playing off each other, I made them sweat and stew, lust and fight and eventually fall in love. I hope this fine tweaking worked. The feedback from my critique partners is that it does. For now, I’ll set the story aside and let it age a bit before I tackle revisions.
Tonight I’ll open a bottle of wine and celebrate.  
Until next month…Happy reading and writing.






Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I applaud your method as well as your persistance.

joyce said...

I must admit my persistence does surprise me.