Thursday, August 19, 2010

Boundaries... I miss them.

I’ve talked a little (or maybe a lot – sorry!) about my current WIP. I had (what I thought) was this “great” idea. I wanted to do four different povs. I wanted to do romance and mystery and historical and mash them all up together. I wanted to make it BIG, BIG, BIG.

In a way I succeeded. My agent loved the idea. An editor read the proposal and liked it. (Although she ultimately passed.) So my agent decided that if we were really going to go for it I should write the whole book and try to sell it as fiction.

“FICTION!” I squawked. I really did squawk. “That’s crazy talk.”

I’m a romance writer. See my post on this from a couple of weeks ago. I only know romance. When my agent said historical with romantic elements… I was like okay. I get that. But now she’s talking FICTION.

There are no boundaries in fiction. There are no rules in fiction. I don’t have to do anything but write the story I want to write and not worry about any of it. Not the number of sex scenes, not whether my hero is heroic enough. Not how I’m going to tie it all together with a happy ending. Heck, if I wanted to I could pull a Nicolas Sparks and kill off one of my main characters for fun. There are four of them after all. (I’m soooo not going to do that.)

You get my point. My boundaries are gone. My path to the end is suddenly this foggy road. - I use foggy here because the story is set in Victorian London and let’s face it you have to fog. That’s at least one rule I know I have to follow.

I’m taking a week off from my day job to go all out on this book. I want to get the story out and rack up a bunch of pages and get back on a normal writing schedule. But just thinking about this week has me trembling in my boots.

I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about what it would mean to write a book without limitations. Without rules, guidelines, word count range, etc.

This is unchartered territory and I don’t know if I can handle it. I guess that’s part of the adventure huh? To just plant your butt in the seat and see.


Karen W said...

Steph, great post. It made me think. Mostly because I want to write a YA and the boundaries are completely different than what I'm used to.

But... YOU. CAN. DO. IT.

You can. You love this story, so just let yourself write. A week off from the day job sounds heavenly.

Go for it.

Molly O'Keefe said...

A WEEK OFF!!! Holy cats - that's gonna be huge! I'm so excited for you - I really really am. A week totally immersed in your world - you're gonna do some great work. Everyone else can talk more about the boundaries issue but I think the only thing you really have to worry about are the boundaries of the story - and remember, fiction, romance, urban fantasy, historical - whatever, a little romance makes those pages turn faster.

Sinead M said...

I'm with Molly, a week of just writing sounds heavenly... and the great thing about no boundaries is that the story is king.... there are no limits to where you can take it..

Stephanie Doyle said...

I just had my 15 year anniversary at my day job. With that comes 4 weeks vacation.

I decided to take it out for "spin".

It will be interesting. Total isolation for one week with me and these 4 people.

I did something similar years ago when I was a teacher and had the summer off. Because I was paid monthly year round I less motivated to find a "summer" job. I decided I would write for a summer.

The next year I sold that book - my first - to Intimate Moments.

One week isn't 6 weeks... but we'll see.

Eileen said...

I so hear you on the boundaries! It's comforting to have them, but this could be so exciting.

A week of being immersed in your story sounds pretty amazing, too. Enjoy it.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Eileen - I got the idea from you and the whole hotel thing.

Only since I only have cats I really don't need to go to that extreme. Although sometimes my kitten Grayson... can drive me to near insanity!

I'm not really an 8 hour a day writer. Two hours is usually my limit. But I'm hoping to break that into two sessions.

So two hours in the morning - break. Two hours in the afternoon.

I try to tell myself it's not because I'm lazy... but I'm really in awe of people who can do those marathon sessions.

Just physically it hurts.

Maureen McGowan said...

The less restraints you have, the scarier it is, to be sure. It was the idea of having some guideposts and at least a set ending that drew me to writing romance initially. (Turned out to be the wrong reasons to write romance, but that's another topic.)

That said, after writing two romances, I remember being really scared when I started my first WF manuscript.

But all great stories do follow a similar structure underneath it all. That said, historical fiction would scare the crap out me, too. Mostly because I couldn't face the research. I like making sh*t up instead of researching it. :)

Eileen said...

Ah, the writing retreat at the hotel. That's a lovely thing. I have to say, though, I've had a few days here and there when everyone leaves and I've done the same thing at home. It's better in a lot of ways. You can still do the laundry and it's less expensive. The phone is an issue, but that's another story entirely.

Maureen, I know what you mean! I think I was drawn by the romance structure as well and now I'm frankly having problems with it. I'm almost done with my WIP and, well, they haven't had sex. There's tons of tension, but tab A has not been inserted into slot B and I know that's a problem!

Stephanie Doyle said...

Maureen - the research is a killer.

I'll probably post about this too because I really think the magic of Sherry Thomas and Joanne Bourne is how effortlessly they use it.

Love her to death but Jayne Ann Krentze in her historicals uses tiny bits of facts like a hammer on someones head. LOOK - I KNOW THIS ONE THING LET ME USE IT 800 TIMES.

I just spent 100$ on books - because the internet really only takes you so far.

When they first arrived I was like YEAH!!! School books.

Now I'm reading them and I'm like... "Oh .. school books. Boring!"

Maureen McGowan said...

I feel for you, Steph.

It's funny for me, because before I really started writing, I'd have thought that one of the things I'd enjoy most about it was research. I'm someone who kind of loved school--aka a freak.
I also loved University (mostly) and did a Master's Degree and my thesis relied heavily on research... But I find with fiction, I just want to write and make it all up.

Often I'll make notes to find out some detail, then when I'm revising I decide it doesn't matter. Probably should not be saying this in public. :)

Maureen McGowan said...

Eileen. I know what you mean... It's amazing to me how romance gets written off as the easy genre to write, when I've come to believe it can be the most complicated. At least if it's done well.
You've got to deal with your external plot -- sometimes two of them -- each of your main characters' internal arcs, PLUS develop a believable relationship between them, including the physical part. And this is before you even start to consider sub plots, secondary romances, etc. Plus, you've got all these reader expectations to deal with and even if you don't handle them all in a conventional way, it's important to understand what the reader's going to expect...
Although, in my attempts to write romance, I never had trouble getting them into bed... had more trouble getting them to fall in love. Hmmm... what does this say about me.... ;)

Stephanie Doyle said...

Eileen - tension can be hot.

And some of the best sex scenes aren't always slot A into slot B.

You can steam things up in other ways - ways that might feel more organic to you.

Hell you can spend a page on a kiss. And if it's done right the reader comes away with that feeling like they learned something about these two characters. Something intimate.

I know I go on about it, but in DKTM - that "peppermint patty" kiss.... Oh man was that hot.

I think with romance that's what readers want (at least I want) is that sensual experience that really gets me into the middle of this highly tense and complicated relationship.

I think I posted about Ho-Hum Sex... that is my least favorite. When you can tell that the author just added it because he/she felt like she needed to.

Or sometimes like in a book I recently read (and was so very disappointed by) where I think the author just kept adding more and more sex - ramping up the kink factor - just for the sake of shocking me.

That doesn't work either.

Eileen said...

I feel like I've done okay on the steam, but I'm pretty my editor will expect them to seal the deal before the end. And me? I have him take her to his MOTHER's HOUSE. That's right. His Mother's house. How the hell am I supposed to get them into bed there?

Now, back to your original point, in some ways, this would be easier for me if I just said it was suspense and not romantic suspense. Nookie would be totally optional.

Lack of boundaries might be more fun, in the end.

Stephanie Doyle said...

"Oooh baby. I'm so hot for you. And that smell... what is that perfume?"

"I'm not wearing perfume."

"Oh. It must be Mom's. Maybe it wasn't such a great idea to do this in her bed."

You thinkin' something like that? :)

Eileen said...

See? Totally gross!

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