Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wanda Ottewell is so SMART!

And I'm not just saying that because she's my editor. If she wasn't my editor and I had seen the talk she gave at the Toronto Romance Writers meeting on Saturday - I would want her to be my editor.

I've been with Wanda for six years and, frankly, I can't always say that I loved her. She made me rewrite a book from scratch and pulled me out of editoral line up. She told me Flipside was over and then when I told her I wanted to write for Superromance she wasn't 100% excited about that idea. I got an agent because I wasn't totally sure how to deal with my editor. (Which is an excellent reason to get an agent for anyone who is wondering why you might or might not want an agent when you're already with a publisher. )

But, man, times have changed. And I was struck dumb on saturday by how lucky I am to have her making my work better. She has a great vision for Superromance - she understands that readers come to Superromance for home and family stories but that if we want to get MORE readers and younger readers we need to give them fast paced stories with lots of conflict and edge of the seat emotional drama. She wants readers to be grabbed by the throat in the first scene and wrestled to the ground by the end of the first chapter. I love that! I seriously love that! And as writers we have so many tools at our disposal to make that happen - emotion, suspense, humor, character - the list goes on. Let's use them. Let's use all of them!

She explained that in Superromance (this is my takeaway and paraphrasing so take that for what it's worth) each character has to have a conflict and goal with HUGE stakes attatched that will jeopardize the romantic happily ever after. EACH CHARACTER. So you've got two characters working through thier stuff, against external stuff and all that stuff has to come in to play against the romance. That's a lot of stuff. And it's hard. But it has to be real and believable. And something that I really loved is that the reader has to close the book feeling that this love the two characters have found is the safe place for them to work out thier crap. Not everything has to be roses in happily ever afters - but we have to believe that life is easier for these two because they've found each other. Isn't that beautiful?

She's opening up Superromance for all kinds of plot lines (except paranormal - she really really stressed that) but romantic suspense is welcome and light stories are welcome. Not every book has to have a kid or a baby or a cowboy. There can be a full range of sensuality. They are looking for new authors. Her big pet peeves are information dumps in the first two chapters. Slow pacing. Conflict that can be resolved by an honest conversation or conflict that is simply two people bickering for page after page.

My friends and I all talked about what she'd said at the meeting and we agreed that's good writing advice. Period. For Superromance, other category lines, single title romance or genre fiction of any kind. And that's why I love my editor.


Anonymous said...

Molly--Thank you so much for sharing this. Right now I'm upping the stakes for the characters in the book I'm revising and this is giving me incentive to really torture them, lol.
:) Jeannie

Anonymous said...

Hey Molly, glad you reported on this for us...I'm working on a proposal now and you've made several lights go off in my head. :) Sounds like it was a great meeting!

Anonymous said...

Truly insightful. Any tidbits of information that can help us write better stories as well as propose stories that resonate in a positive way with our editors is a treasure to discover. Thanks Molly and Wanda!

Kimber Chin said...

I loved the bit about if the hero and heroine have "the talk", it should make the situation worse rather than better.

A pet peeve of mine is "the big misunderstanding."

Why? Because if the couple isn't talking, they won't ever have a solid relationship. Next "big misunderstanding" and they're toast.

Natasha72 said...

Molly - Thanks for the great information. I'm going to print it off and keep it next to my computer. Conflict - yes. Info dumps - no. Cowboys - not necessarily. Mental breakdown - imminent.

Deborah Beckers said...

Man! I am really regreting missing this one! Darn Family, giving me "obligations".


Glad it was a great one though =)

Abby Gaines said...

Molly, this is great stuff - and refreshingly honest!

Leah Braemel said...

I was so ticked with the weather that I missed Saturday's meeting. I really wanted to hear what Wanda had to say.

I'm so glad you blogged about what she had to say - Thanks, Molly!

Molly O'Keefe said...

I am sorry for those TRWer's who missed the meeting - it was a good one. But the weather up here has been nuts.

Good to see all these Super authors! I have to say I feel like as a writer we go and listen to editors and agents talk about what they want and we always get this "I want a good story." "I want characters I can care about." And that's all well and good but it's so vague. IT doesn't really help. We all think we're writing good stories with interesting characters. And I felt like Wanda was able to articulate what she thinks makes a good story for her. Or good characters.

It's one of the reasons I love working with her because she is able to tell me in words I can understand and use -- how to make my books better. And you'd think in this business that that would be common place but the more writers I talk to - it's just not the case.

Heidi the Hick said...

That is solid advice she gave- for any writer!

Thanks for passing it along!

Unknown said...

Wow, lots of great information...thanks for sharing Molly! Much appreciated!

Jolyse Barnett said...

Molly, thanks for your insights about working with Ms. Ottewell. I also listened to an audiotape of an interview with Wanda and it helped me with revisions of my first ms targeted for Superromance.

BTW, I'm a voracious reader of all Superromance and am thrilled to see all these Super authors. Thanks to all of you for your wonderful stories!

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