Friday, September 27, 2013

Do you want to be a romance novelist?


The winners have been selected and will be listed here pending notification.

Do you want to be a romance novelist?  Too scared?  Afraid what you write is going to be craptastic?

That was me.  Have you read Nora Roberts?  Diana Gabaldon?  Jill Shalvis?  Their stuff is incredible.  I thought it just flowed from their minds and out their fingers that way.  (And it might.  But if it does, I really don't want to know.)  Until I started writing, and I realized that first drafts were invented for a reason.

But then you come to the other side of writing - editing.  When you have to Kill.  Your.  Darlings.

No! you gasp.  I can’t!  There’s a reason I don’t write romantic suspense – having to kill ANYTHING is beyond my abilities.  I'm certainly not deleting the words I spent hours creating and rewriting and constructing with the perfect cadence!  Not the paragraph, the page, the chapter that is poetry to read.  Not the stock character, like the cute toddler or warm and beloved grandfather that is the heroine’s (really cheesy but I thought it worked, until I realized it didn’t) reason for doing what her mother said.  So what if it doesn't add anything new to the story?  I WROTE IT.  IT MUST BE SAVED.

 Oh, no.  It mustn't.

The second half of chapter 1 in Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy? was poor little rich girl having to deal with a society she doesn't want.  We meet her presumptive fiancĂ©.  We see her parents again.  She sighs and stares into the night.  I had a good line in there about her wanting to strangle Edward with the mauve napkin.  It even finaled in a couple of contests with that scene.  But it did nothing - NOTHING - to advance the plot.

So it had to go.

Once I accepted that, I highlighted the chapter and clicked delete on my keyboard.  There was no putting it in a file for possible future use.  There was no backing it up just in case.  There was nothing but me blowing out a quick breath and closing my eyes (I don't look at the keyboard when I type) and pressing that little button.  

After the first time, it became easier.  Half-written scenes that went nowhere in my first draft?  GONE.  Paragraphs of beautifully-written introspective prose?  KAPUT.  Pages of mind-numbing drivel?  Yeah, those weren't a problem to delete. At all.

Gone also were Cowboy Riley’s mother and nephew, the heroine Ainsley’s grandfather and her best friend’s daughter, and probably a slew of other characters I don’t even remember anymore.  Good bye, darlings.  You’ve been killed. 

Oh, but I did give Ainsley a sister.   She was fun.

You know what happened after all those Darlings went away?  Golden Heart final.  Signing with Agent.  Selling the book.

Giveaway:
Grand Central (my publisher) is giving away a couple of e-copies of Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy?  to two lucky commenters in the US.  In the back of the book is a sneak peek at Who Wants to Marry a Doctor?, scheduled for release in April.  Guess what made me write about killing my darlings in this guest post.  Comment with your answer and we'll see.  Or tell me about a time when you wished an author (or yourself) had killed her darlings instead of letting them languish in her novel.

About the author: 
Abigail is a Boston-bred Yankee now eating grits and saying "y'all" in North Central Florida. She dreamed more of being a stage actress or joining the CIA than being an author. While she still enjoys participating in community theater productions and singing karaoke, the secret-agent career was replaced by hours at her computer, writing stories of love and laughter and happily ever after. 

Abigail lives with her husband, two kids, and one crazy princess puppy. You can keep up with her on Goodreads or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/AbigailSharpeBooks or on her website - www.abigailsharpe.com.

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Sep. 28th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email maureen@JustContemporaryRomance.com with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway. This giveaway is for US residents only. Winners will need to be on NetGalley, or be willing to sign-up for an account. (It’s free!)  

19 comments:

  1. Maureen, you sweet thing! Thank you as always for the opportunity to babble on your amazing blog. It's like my monthly therapy. :)

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  2. revisions are my favorite (and hated) part of writing...I always know the book will be better, but it's so hard to kill off some of those words! Congratulations, Abigail, love the sound of your books!

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    1. Thank you, Kristina. I kinda like revisions, too - just not deleting THOUSANDS OF WORDS AT ONCE. My poor babies!!! *laugh*

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  3. I think Ms. Sharpe really did join the CIA and is writing romance novels as her cover. She claims to be unable to kill her darlings so that we won't realize that the bad guys are not her darlings. :)

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    1. Well, I could tell you... but then I'd have to consider you one of my darlings, and, well... you know the rest.

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  4. Soooo how many darlings have you had to kill so far in the editing process of Doctor? ;-)

    This is the hardest part of writing for me.... no matter how often I see/hear the advice. *bang head*

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    1. See, that's what you have to guess. :)
      hint: The preview at the end of Cowboy? No longer exists. *sigh*

      Delete
  5. It's a hard lesson, but after much angst, I now have a formula. I simply write the danged book...and then in the first revision session, I delete everything that's not part of the story. Sounds over-simple, but in the past, I spent way too much time making every line/paragraph/page as good as it could be. Once I delete all the fluff, the editing is much easier. Love your advice because it's the TRUTH. <3

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    1. That's great, Jaye. Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing what's part of the story, and then I have a problem. My poor words. :)

      Delete
  6. Hi Abigail,
    Wow this hit home in a big way. Anyone who knows me knows I write like I talk-- A LOT. I have to admit something here: the first draft of my new book got sent to my agent and editor way, WAY over word budget. I was just too close. But, it sat with them for several weeks and when I got it back with kind suggestions I was ready to slice up those darlings like Jack the Ripper. Believe it or not, I cut 15,000 words. It was an interesting exercise for sure. Now, though? I don't remember anything I cut except one 3-page scene. Goes to show you, you're absolutely right!

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    1. That's a TON of words!!! I think the most I've ever deleting in one bunch was 5K, but I did a lot of trimming to a 90K manuscript and ended it at 77. Still not as impressive as you.

      Delete
  7. Great post, Abigail. I love your final words: Golden Heart Final. Signing with agent. Selling Book. Um...yeah. It works. We become so attached to our darlings, but we are not the most objective readers of our work. (excuse, me: DUH, HEATHER!) It is so important to find critique partners, editors, and agents that we TRUST with our work. I've been very fortunate there, thus, it DOES get easier the next time to trust these people when they start singing: Dum dum dum dum. *slashes finger across neck.* It's got to go.

    Write On, Abigail!

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    1. It is! And more important than finding them is LISTENING to them. You hear something from one source, fine. Hear it from two... think about it, right? I think I had to hear something from five sources before I admitted they might be right.

      Not now, though. I'm all about the DELETE key. :)

      Delete
  8. I wish I could be more like you, Abigail, I can (after a TON of internal debate) delete stuff from my mss but I always save most of it in another file with the idea that I will use it elsewhere. Doubtful. Good for you on being so strong. :)

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    1. I used to keep my stuff, too. But I never used it! Ever! So, goodbye it went.

      You can do it. I promise. I'll hold your hand if you want me to. *grin*

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  9. I'm going to guess...and comment. Just call me an overachiever. LOL

    So my guess is that you probably just finished whacking a few of your darlings, which is what made you decide to post about it.

    My comment has to do with my own book. It has two main characters (the romantic duo) and at least sixteen secondary characters. Probably seems excessive, right? In some stories, maybe, but I felt like mine required that many characters to make the story happen the way I pictured it in my head. Perhaps I'm wrong and a few of these guys could stand to bite the dust. Who knows? But until an editor tells me that, I'm keeping 'em. :)

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    1. Yeah, I whacked the preview. Gone, gone, gone. :)

      I have character problems, too. Cowboy is like The Bachelor, ranch style. There were 12 women and one man. I kept getting comments - that's a lot of women. Finally when I signed with my agent, she had me knock them down to eight.

      When I started Doctor, I took that advice early and made it only four men instead of 16. *laugh*

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  10. My guess is that since "your darlings" were in the story and their roles are so minor that the story could do without. Otherwise, there are just too many characters for the readers to keep track of.

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  11. Good guess! I did make some characters disappear, but mostly, it's pages that just don't work or add anything to the story. Although I am having a hard time getting characters straight in Who Wants to Marry a Doctor? I just have to keep telling myself, the reader does not need to know everything RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE NOW.

    ReplyDelete

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