Tag Archives: suspense

Sequel-Hell: About to Commit Manuscript-icide

I’m in that horrible, gut-wrenching place called “Sequel Hell.” Where you frustrated-writerquestion everything about the plot, the characters, even the overall plausibility of the trilogy. My confidence is near bottom on this thing.

I’ve finished the first novel in the trilogy and sent it out to several publishers (it’s a romantic suspense). I have the plot outlines on both the second and third stories, and I’m not quite halfway through writing the second. And I want to rip it to shreds already. Not just rip it to shreds, but make snowflake chains of it and watch it float over the edge of a massive canyon. Call this the edge of Manuscript-icide.

I’m hoping this is just a case of the ‘drastic willies.’ I’ve told a few of my friends who visited “Sequel Hell” recently that they were just overreacting. I helped talk one of them off the ledge of manuscript-icide as well. The stories were fantastic (because they are!!! *Cough* Kim and Chrissy.) But I’m not so confident that’s the case with mine.

My goal was to have the first draft of this novel completed by Dec 31st. Not going to happen. Mild panic attack set in last week when I realized there was only 2 weeks left until that deadline, and I still had a crap load of non-writing related stuff to do. Which takes away from my fragile writing time. Throw in a few minor complications with a pregnancy that requires more doctor visits…bottom line is that deadline is just unrealistic at this point.

So now I have a more realistic goal: finish the first draft before this baby comes.

That is, if I don’t have to start all over again. Which is very possible with the way my brain is functioning right now. *manuscript in hand, approaching the freakin’ ledge*PaperOffLedge

Darker Side of Writing

I started writing this story that planned to be more romance than suspense. As BookRoseI’ve written further into it, it’s becoming more suspense than romance, but what concerns me the most is this has become darker than I anticipated.

I realized my motivations for one of the major turning points wasn’t strong enough. But I had to get my heroine, Gemma, to abandon everything she knows to join the hero back to his home country. So instead of leaving to keep her home safe, I’ve forced her to leave because her home doesn’t exist anymore (for lack of better explanation, and I don’t want to give spoilers!)

But I’m struggling with how much darker the story has become. I normally don’t write this morbid, but it makes the motivation strong enough for the character. One particular scene had me in tears as I wrote it, but it was crucial.

The reason I’m so concerned is this doesn’t fit the standards of the current publisher I work with. Selling this story could prove to be more difficult than I’d like.

Writers: have you ever experienced something like this? Where a story morphs into a different genre or tone before your eyes? How do you handle it? Or maybe I should finish the thing first and worry about those issues later. Hm, conundrum.

Deceiving the Reader is Bad

Putting on my reader scarf for this post. Just forewarning.

Deceiving a reader is good in suspense or mystery novels. Not with reprints.

I ran across a few books this month that looked intriguing. Beautiful covers (yep, I fell for it), an author I hadn’t read before and I was excited when I sat down to read them.

And was immensely disappointed.

Found out it was a republished novel from the author’s backlist. And not just from 5 or 6 years ago. From 1989.

If it was a relatable story with vivid characters, it wouldn’t have bugged me. But this was clearly an outdated story, with un-relatable characters, completely unrealistic plot and an old writing style.

All the author did was recreate the cover and slap a new copyright on it.

This is deceitful in my opinion. Nowhere on the book or the website did this state it was a reprint. I had to find out on Goodreads afterwards (shame on me for not doing my research before I bought it) that this was a 23-year-old book.

And because I’m that kind of reader and feel deceived, I’m not buying any more of that author’s books. And have sworn off that publishing imprint entirely.

I understand an author trying to send out their backlist again… on e-pubs. With proper identification of it as such. But only if it’s relevant to this time and not outdated. An old plot or characters =  huge turnoff. It’s like picking up a ‘contemporary romance’ where the hero uses a typewriter or a massive brick-like mobile phone.

Come on. They should have at least revised the manuscript before sending it in. And shame on that editor for letting it get through without a necessary re-haul. And backlist stories shouldn’t go into reprints. Physical books. At least not series or category romances. Stick to e-pubs.

The deceit feels worse since I bought a physical book, one that takes up space on a real shelf. (Not mine- I’ll toss this sucker away). The author lost a reader for anything they do in the future because of this sneaky trick. Was it worth it?

Well, chalk this up to a lesson learned on my part. Be more careful to research before I buy. And it’s a practice I won’t participate in if I’m ever published.

Plotter or Pantser

The epic battle of writers. Planning it out, or going with the direction of the wind, on a whim.

Some believe that plotting everything out first- characters, settings, conflict, climax and ending- destroys true creativity. That it limits where the characters wants to go. Some say ‘pantsing’ it can lead you too astray from where you began. Example: Story starts out a horror/suspense with a dog, ends up a comedic romance with a pet monkey.

I’ve always been a planner. Not just in writing- school speeches, work presentations, and my first 3 manuscripts were completely outlined  before I started writing. I needed the road map to keep me on track. My safety net.

Just this last month, I did something I’ve never done. Sat down and wrote what came to my brain. No plotting, no character sketching. I ‘pantsed’ four chapters without stopping.

And I freakin’ loved it!

Scared a bit too, thinking the writing would be horrible, the pages full of back story and wandering motivations (and some of it was). But it was damn fun!

And I ended those four chapters with the same characters I started with. No road map and I’m still cruising along the highway with the convertible top down. Wind in my hair. No ponytail.

Not sure how far I’ll go before I give in to my plotter-side and at least put together character sheets. But it’s felt good to go with the flow of my creative side.

Who’da thought it?

Are you a plotter or pantser?

Have you ever tried both?

Consider this peer pressure…

Inspirational Settings

In a few short days, I’m heading to this lovely island with my family.

Guess which island? Nope- not in the Caribbean. It’s actually not even tropical.

Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

As I look at these photos knowing I’ll be playing on the beach with my son and hubby, it reminds me of the exotic and far away settings a lot of books have. I’m a big historical romance reader, so a lot of settings are in mist-covered castles all over Europe, all built against picturesque lakes, lochs, or cliffs. Those kinds of fanciful stories are a great escape from the every day life of toddler tantrums, runny noses, laundry, dishes, and fretting over potty training.

Then I compare these incredible settings to the ones in the stories I write. I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense. And they all take place in North Texas. Hardly exotic. And it brings up an interesting question in my mind. How can I love to read about unique settings and be thrown into fantasy worlds, but I write about normal people in every day settings? They could take place in a Normalville in any state. But perhaps its because I view contemporary hometowns (like mine) as my strength. Perhaps writing in far away islands or mountains is my weakness. I don’t know. I’ve never tried.

But they say to write what you know. And I know my state. I know my surroundings. And when I close my eyes and envision the setting my characters live in, I see Texas. And they always tell you to write what you see. Maybe that means I’m not very imaginative. And I’ll be the first to tell you that, if I truly am not as creative.

But then I widen my scope (literally, as I sit here and type this), and think of the vacations and exotic places I’ve been. And I’ve been to several. Heck, I’ve lived in several.

Maybe if I steal away a few precious, uninterrupted hours on my vacation I’ll try to write a short diddy in one of these locations: Curacao, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Belize, or Honduras. I mention Curacao first because its one of my favorite vacations I’ve ever taken. Pure white sands and the most awesome scuba diving ever. I could write a contemporary romance in that spot any day. But now I just have to imagine the characters and the jaw dropping storyline.

Any romance author or editor will always say setting is crucial; like another character intertwined in the storyline with its own personality and flavor. And I’ll admit, characters aren’t my forte. In the stories I’ve written I focus on the plot first and think secondly on characters. Which is why my local settings aren’t as creative. It’s like a tertiary character to which I hardly give any thought.

So that’s what the back of my mind will focus on while I’m bouncing around Hilton Head Island with my family. Widening my scope to more creative settings.

What about you? What settings capture you in your readings, and if you’re a writer, what places do you see in your mind?