Monday, March 07, 2011

Cop outs: I'm Not Writing That Kind Of Book

Maureen and I were at the office the other day and I realized I had written fifty pages (not in one day, because that would be nuts!) without any chapter breaks. And for awhile it was fun to go through and stick in those page breaks, but then I realized with a sort of sick sinking in my stomach, that there were no chapters, because I wasn't writing to that chapter end - that little cliffhanger that I know from experience, keep readers up way past thier bedtime.

So, I mentioned this to Maureen, saying that I had gone into this book, with all of it's betrayals and secrets and damaged people with the idea that I was going to take a page from Hunger Games and write to a cliffhanger, and try to put in at least one reversal of expectation in each chapter - small ones, little bits of dialogue, something.

I laughed and said "oops."

Maureen nodded and said in this last book of hers, that she wrote every scene to a cliffhanger. Now, I love Maureen. I really do. She's totally swell. But I wanted to throw hot coffee at her. I did.

But then I thought - she's writing action/adventure YA. She's got monsters and danger and threats from all sides. I'm writing a romance. It's just not that kind of book. And I let myself think that for the rest of the day. But that night I laid in bed and knew it to be a cop out.

I might not have danger, but I have drama. I have hurt feelings and broken hearts and when paced right - that emotional plot is as gripping as an external plot. I know, because I've been kept up late by those books. So, I can't let myself off the hook with this. I have to hold myself to the bar I set.

So? What are your cop outs? What are the little lies you tell yourself in order to get through that first draft?


Stephanie Doyle said...

That I don't need to know the "answers" right then. I tell myself I can just add ?? or I can write a fact I'm not certain of and then I'll be sure to go back and fix it later.

But I won't. Not because I'm lazy - but because I know I will forget what I wanted to check.

And I have this ick feeling moving forward when I know I've put something inaccurate in just for the sake of it.

It does kill my momentum (this time it really killed it because in my research I clicked a link which gave me a computer virus. WWI British Military ranks... who knew!) but it's just what I have to do.

My IT folks are repairing my PC now... they all think I went to porn sites... I know it!

Eileen said...

That I can put in weather later. That I can put in physical movement and tags later. That my POV character doesn't have to have a specific goal and an obstacle to that goal and new goal for each scene. That it's okay to let my characters just fall in love and not make it difficult for them.

That's just off the top of my head. I'd probably tell myself I looked like Sofia Vergara when I was writing just to get through a first draft.

Maureen McGowan said...

I deserved the hot coffee for that comment. But I was thinking in the back of my mind, "because that's the kind of book I'm writing". And it's also what Hunger Games was.

You write these emotional, believable books and I think what keeps the pages turning isn't contrived chapter ending cliffhangers (like you want in an adventure story) but the constant tension and conflict.

And you do that better than anyone I know.

Maureen McGowan said...

My cop outs? Hmmm... Anything to do with setting or description. Picking the big emotional points, beefing them up, and taking out the weak heart racing ones from all the other places. (I should not be admitting this publicly). Choosing better specific details. Sometimes even choosing better character names. A few of my placeholder names went through to my final draft on this last one...

I almost always do a first draft telling myself I'll go back and fix things. But not all those things end up getting fixed. Sometimes it's laziness. Sure. But I think we need to give ourselves a break at times, too. Otherwise we'd be revising forever. "Best I can do in the circumstances" is what I'm currently shooting for.

Sinead M said...

I'll go back and add in the emotion later...

It's a lie...

Molly O'Keefe said...

Oh No Maureen - you never deserve hot coffee. It was probably luke warm at best. And thanks for the compliment, but when we talk about things we could do better - I feel like that kind of pacing is one of the things I could do better. But of course every book I have this list of things I'm going to do and then once I get going, I am just holding on for dear life. All my plans go out the window.

Research is a good one. And eileen - you TOTALLY looked like Sofia Vergara.

I just got your book in the mail today (NATIONALLY BEST SELLING AUTHOR, STARRED REVIEWS ALL OVER THE PLACE!) - hot cover, honestly, is the book about her breasts?

Eileen said...

Heehee. I should probably give her breasts some kind of superpower, shouldn't I? They do look like a particular nice set of tatas on that cover. Half the guys at my day job have asked if I know the cover model and if I could get her phone number for them.

I know what you mean about the hanging on for dear life, though. I have all these glorious plans for how it's all going to work and then in the thick of it, I lose track of most of them because just getting it down on the page is hard enough!

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