Back in January, before I got swept up into ALM, I was working on a story called “The Ghosts of Belize.” I’d spent several days working on an outline for it, mapping the whole thing out, trying a new technique of outlining, but it didn’t work for me. Today I opened that story up. I already have the cover, so thought I’d go back to it while I wait for ALM to get back from the editor.
It’s the first time I’ve let a story sit for a really long time without working on it but with the expectation of continuing it and it was a great experience. Re-reading it, I could see exactly where I was going wrong. I was trying to write it like a Nora Roberts book. For good reasons–she’s an entertaining author who sells a ton of books, and I’d decided to take writing more seriously and pay more attention to the market and all that.
But I can’t write that way. Or at least when I do, it feels stiff and unnatural to me. I had lots of description, lots of scenery, room descriptions, etc. For one of the first times, my sense of the setting was very clear–because I’d worked on it a lot to make it clear. But it didn’t interest me at all. Also, I was trying to make Akira’s experience of late-onset morning sickness very real. It was, because it’s a familiar experience to me–I spent the last couple of months of my pregnancy throwing up ten times a day. But story-wise? Boring. Boring. More boring. She’ll still start out nauseous because it’s funny there, but she’s going to start feeling better almost immediately because it’s not funny or fun on an ongoing basis.
I read a blog post today, 5 Self-Publishing Lessons I Learned Between Books #2 & #3, by Molly Green, who says that her first lesson was that she figured out what she writes. I really need to do that. Realistic settings and realistic experiences are all well and good, but I don’t think they’re me. Real characters in unreal, entertaining situations maybe.
I’m going to continue working on Ghosts of Belize for a few days and see how it goes. It may wind up being a true short story, under 10K words and that will be fine, as long as it manages to be entertaining. That’s where it was going wrong in January. It was dark and not fun and that’s not me.
I don’t know who I am as a writer. I find characters I like. I have settings and time periodsI want to use because I enjoyed being in them. I know I always want a romance flowing through though not the main focus. Plot is my challenge.
Sounds like you are getting more and more of a handle on your writing.
So is Ghosts of Belize going to happen now?
I think so, yep. I’m working on it, keeping the parts of the first version that I liked and playing with the tone. It’s not going to be the story that it was headed toward being but maybe it’ll wind up being a fun little short story.