Sunday, July 06, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough...

I read JR Ward and watch a lot of tv and eat cereal by the box full.

It's true. You know that little "rule" about creating characters: that your character is what they do - not what you say they are. And when characters are put into conflict - how they behave tells the reader everything they need to know about that character.

And if the same is true for people, which I think it is, the last two weeks have shown that I, 1. Know how to procrastinate. 2. Know how to rationalize. 3. Shouldn't buy boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats in times of stress. 4. Married a good guy.

I had a conversation a few days ago with my editor - the fantastic Wanda Ottewell. We've worked together for a long time and have developed a nice little short hand when it comes to talking edits. So, we're discussing a book that I really had a terrible time with and she has moved up in the schedule so that the rewrites are due And her edits are things like..."I just don't love the heroine." Which I know means - she's boring and bland and needs to be fixed in the first 5 chapters. And "I'm not crazy about the black seems familiar." Which means, it's exactly the same as the last book you wrote -- who are you trying to kid? So, fix heroine. Fix black moment. Got it.

I'm also trying to finish a novella that's due on the same day my baby is due and Wanda asks me about what I am working on next. I tell her my idea for a four book proposal and her response is "oh no... we're doing a 60th Anniversary Continuity with basically the EXACT SAME PLOT. Can you think of something new?"

Of course. Of course. Because I have all the time in the world and ideas are growing on the weed trees in my backyard. So, I hang up the phone and freak out. And by freak out I mean eat everything that has sugar content in my freezer. And then, because it's not like I'm on three deadlines I lie down and read the latest JR Ward. Which depresses me. Not because it's a bad book, or I'm disappointed as so many people have been. Sure, the romance is weak and Phury's angst wears thin - but because Ward proves in this book how brave she is, and how freaking talented.

Tell me, who on their fifth book (6th?) has the courage to totally destroy their world, possibly piss off their legions of romance fans with a weak romance all so they can set up the next five books to be even better than the first five? It's so freaking risky. And she goes so far out there sometimes - albino scorpions? Really? But because I am so sucked in - I go, too.

In the end, taking that day to read and to process all that I have to do - was a wise move. And I say that not just because I am the Queen of Rationalization...well, maybe. But I feel all shaken up, inspired and anxious to get my hands on something new and different of my own.

On a similar note - Rolling Stone Magazine is the WORST for spoilers. In reading about the new season of Madmen, I found out about every cliffhanger from season one. Every. Cliffhanger. Infuriating. They did the same thing to me with Battlestar. Rolling Stone is on my list. But the show is still amazing AND so is the HBO series John Adams. Anyone else watching this? Holy Holy Frack. The inoculation scene? The tar and feathering scene? Paul Giamatti? Laura Linney? Amazing.


Stephanie Doyle said...


Frosted-mine wheats PULEEZE. I sat for an entire day - July 4th - when I should have been out eating hot dogs and burgers... With friends at picnics....

Instead I purposefully scheduled that day to work on my f'ing, bleeping, motha'fing historical only to realize... I can't do it. I can't write as good as Bourne. I can't bring the heat as good as Cole. So I blew it off to read JR Ward and thought hookay there is the other thing I can't do... Can't be as courageous.

It took me about 14 hours of couch sitting and endless eating, munching, scarfing, as I read to realize that I can't shine that woman's shoes.

What was everybody's problem with that book? Sure the Phury romance was weak but WHO CARES. There was the Blay/Qhuin line, John/Xhex, Rhev and the ick lady. I cannot WAIT for his story.

Needless to say it was not a productive writing weekend. But as my nephew said when I told him my book sucked because I can't write for beans... "Unsuck it."

Unsuck it. It's my new mantra. And I think the only way to do that is to read Ward, and Bourne, and Hoyt and all the other ones out there getting it done so we can figure out how to do it.

Oh and saw John Adams - unbelivable. Best thing I've seen on TV in years and it only gets better.


Molly O'Keefe said...

"unsuck it!" I'm going to take on that motto too, Steph! Let me know what other brilliance your nephew has to pass on - I need it!!

You know I think if you're going to write an amazing series, not just a great one but an amazing one - that's longer than three books, you have to shake that stuff up. Brockman slayed me at the beginning - so smart, so readable, but the series keeps going and it's all the same. No shake up.

And the total crazy smartness of setting up those next three boys by showing us the formation of thier it.

Edits suck.

I am so loving John Adams. He's in France right now - unbelievable. What made you start watching it, Steph?

Stephanie Doyle said...

I'm a huge history fan - and HBO fan - so I knew I was going to watch it. Then I heard Paul Giamati and I thought I wouldn't like him at all - but he's amazing. How about that love scene?So intense with nothing said. Loved it!

For LE - love the 3 boys. Loved every minute they were on the page which is why I didn't care that Phury wasn't center stage. Loved that Z was still in the mix and still struggling. If I was going to lodge a complaint - I would say I missed Butch and V and would have liked a more of them. But how much can you put in a book?

Is it a romance? I don't know. But...going back to my post on the "experience" - it absolutely delivered what I as a reader needed.

Can't wait for more. Have you read Kresely Cole yet - you must she is just as off the charts good.


Sinead M said...

Must get my hands on the Kresley Cole books. I think I read her first historical and wasn't blown away, but haven't tried any recently.

Been thinking about that latest JR Ward book. How does she keep topping those romances? How does she keep writing them in a way that keeps them different and completely absorbing?

Instead she takes the focus of the books in a new direction, and the romance becomes a smaller subplot, so she can keep the books moving forward.

Or else she'd repeat herself, I believe anyway..

Sinead M said...

Oh, and unsuck it is now up there with make shit happen..

love that

Amy Ruttan said...

LOL!! For me it's not cereal, it's Fettucine Alfredo, cereal would be so much better.

I admired JR Ward all the more for setting up Phury's story that way. The segue book.

She's absolutly brilliant.

But then I feel that way when I read your Super Romances. Woman, you're the only SR author that can evoke a strong emotional reaction from me.

Where's that fettucine ...

Maureen McGowan said...

It can be too, too depressing to read someone really great when you've hit a bad point in your own book.

Many days when I feel like I really need some of that "unsuck" juice.

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