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Archive for the ‘Paranormal romance’ Category

I wrote this post last weekend and it has taken me until now to put it up. I’ve started a cake decorating course, which I’m a bit obsessed with. I’ve been creating fondant bugs and flowers. Today was all about baking and the baking day has been a big fail. Not sure what caused it. Oven settings. Me. So I thought I’d throw this blog up while the second batch of cupcakes are in the oven.

So to outlining…

I think I alluded to the issue in my previous post that I had not written down things about the paranormal romance I’m writing. I’m trying to do remedial outlining lessons and encourage my partner, Matthew Farrer, do a post here or on his blog about how he outlines. As he writes tie-in novels (mostly), they require quite specific outlines to be submitted before the novel is commissioned. Another writer friend also outlines for the novels she is paid to write and I remember her saying to me on one writers’ retreat we were on together: Haven’t you written an outline? I had written something like a short synopsis, which usually has a great introduction and then the ending and nothing in the middle. Not really useful for outlining as it was barely more than an elevator pitch. This probably mirrors the ideas that I have when I write a novel as a pantser—I know where to start and where it ends and the rest just comes.

I’ve been thinking about this lately. This has worked for me in the past where I’ve written the bulk of a novel at a writers’ retreat, two solid weeks of immersion and writing, which allow me to experience a creative ‘zen zone’ that carries me through with the draft. The draft gets revised and tweaked until it works. However, I don’t always have the luxury of going on writers’ retreats for two weeks and what about when I’m writing during the other 50 weeks of the year? Sometimes the impetus from the retreat carries me through, particularly if I’m continuing on with the story. Where it hasn’t seemed to have worked for me is this paranormal fantasy, which I have picked up, started, stopped, put away and pulled out again. The momentum is lost. I know the beginning and the end but what about the in-between bits? I need to write down an outline. I need to decide on the key plot points—like who is the baddy? Why are they the baddy? Why does X choose to do Y? etc.

There was always going to be a point where I hit a wall, where I had to get with the program and do some thinking, do some plotting. So I haven’t quite got an outline written but I have instead written down a series of questions to help me think things through. These questions are things like: Why does X do that? Did the person that killed person b also kill person c? Is the threat internal or coming from outside? (I had to do a serious think here because another novel has a magical society and I had to make sure I’m not doing the same old, same old). Also, I want to make sure that the mystery/thriller aspects of the story are robust. Paranormal romance readers need a good story to hang the romance off. I want to do a good job, of course. This takes serious thinking and hard work—that is the reality of the situation.

So right now I’m having a writing afternoon with Nicole Murphy (link) and I’ve cataloged all my questions and I’ve answered them. By answering them I mean I’ve developed the characters and the plot that will carry my story. I’ve also worked out who the baddies are and what motivates them and that then gives me ideas to fill up some backstory, which I have to go back to the beginning put in. Also this exercise has given me heaps of ideas and structure to go forward with because I have mapped out the essential plot points. Now, I have a worthwhile story to put between the sex scenes. Although, Nicole tells me that I don’t need too much plot between those.

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So I’m back to working on my paranormal romance, which I call a paranormal sexmance. It is really pushing the boundaries of erotica, I think, which is okay because that’s all the rage right? It sort of hugs the boundaries, I’m told, because of the bit of kinky sex in it. You see the baddy uses sex to power her magic, or to make it very strong. This causes me problems because there is a lot of sex as a result. (I’m trying to think of a character who hasn’t had sex yet. Oh him…).  My older son (33) said but that was your idea wasn’t it, mum, to make that the baddy’s power? I’m like ,yeah I guess, but really it was a cool idea in the beginning that is causing me problems, or may cause me problems in future. However, I’m not going to worry too much about it now, because the point is to draft the thing and then craft the thing. Sex scenes can be deleted, tension can be created, plot twists can be enhanced etc.  I need the whole thing to balance that and probably about 50 beta readers (lol) to give me hints.
The annoying thing for me is that I don’t think I did an outline. This has caused me problems because I know I worked through the story in my head, and in my head it was pretty brilliant but mmm that was two years ago maybe and I can’t remember key details (if I thought of them). Doh! So biggest lesson write down your ideas, do an outline (you don’t have to stick to it but it helps). So now I’ve edited the bits of what I’ve written so farand I have to write the bit of the story from there until the end. Guess what I haven’t figured out what word length I am aiming for.

Did you know that romance writers are generally clued up to what market they are writing for (category, historical, paranormal etc) and also know what word length etc? Well Ms Casual me is swimming in the mire here. This calls for serious planning, outline, estimated word count and probably an idea of what market I’m aiming for and possible strategies on how to sell it or get an agent. Lucky for me I’m heading the romance writers’ association conference in less than a month so I’m pretty sure I’m going to pick up tips. I need to get more professionally minded about writing and publishing instead of lingering in my imagination dreaming of being published and floating around in stories. This takes effort, of course, and as I’m co-chairing (running) a science fiction convention in April, 2013, my effort will be diffuse until then.

So the other day, I had a bright idea. I will read a paranormal romance that I haven’t read to keep me in the loop about the expectations. I picked up Moon Called by Patricia Briggs and well maybe it wasn’t a paranormal romance after all. I mean no one had sex. So I thought this must be an urban fantasy then. However, there was a lot of sexual tension and all unresolved at the end of the novel. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in two evenings. Needless to say, I’ve ordered the other two books and then I noticed that there is now a whole series of Mercy Thompson stories.

Lesson one-tension. Thanks Patricia.

Briggs used a very clear style and filled in nice, realistic details. I found that rather interesting because my story has some detail but not as much as Briggs. However, the effect was that the detail gave it an air of realism, without affecting the tension.

Lesson two-world building (research). These were things like getting on the freeway, the type of grass that grew in that part of the country, the details of being a mechanic for specific types of cars and nice details of face, clothes and other mannerisms. These I tend to underdo these, I think.

Also, Briggs had a vast array of characters, the main ones very defined, even if told in the first person. She described them from the Mercy’s point of view, but she also let them show themselves through their dialogue and action. Even walk in characters had a distinctive air.

Lesson three-character portrayal, find the little things that make a character stand out, whether its red hair, a slouch or a nasty demeanour.

 

And still keep the pace going and not get bogged down for paragraphs describing someone etc.

Lesson four-pace. Keep it going. Briggs knows when to dwell on something, and which scenes to milk for effect. Like the alpha using the moonlight and calling the wolves. That was a groovy scene and it was grown for effect. The pace of her story kept me hooked and reading way past my bedtime.

Reading Moon Called did not help me assess the level of sex in my story or the degree of detail when describing sex scenes, but I felt there were valuable lessons in the book for me, which are useful for all forms of writing and it is good to be reminded of them.

I suppose I’ll just have to reread Keri Arthur and hope that some nice readers can recommend some very hot and steamy paranormal romances for me to read for research (cough) purposes.

 

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