Another New Life

Exactly a month after my last post, my next post is similar – and completely different. The draft of my last project is finished and the partial requested as part of the Mills and Boon Modern Blitz is with the editor. The full manuscript is with beta readers. So, of course, I’ve started something new.

This series has been nice and neat from the beginning, so I wanted to keep on going with the next book as soon as the first one was off with beta readers. The heroine features in two brief scenes in the first book and she took shape easily and formed the backbone of the next book.

But then it stopped being easy. I have seen authors say countless times that there is a stage of every book where you think it sucks. I haven’t found that necessarily true – or each book sucks in a different way, which makes it difficult to know if you’re on the wrong track and will have to revise the life out of it later or if it’s just that wishy-washy stage of writing when you don’t quite know if you’re on the right track.

The last book I wrote, I thought pretty intensely about it for two days (including four hours of walking around Vienna with my headphones in!), then I had a five-hour train journey and outlined the whole thing in one sitting. There were only minimal changes to the outline as I went along to flesh out the romance rather than the external plot. There was one wobble at the 30k mark (more than halfway through for a 50k manuscript for the Presents/Modern line), which I felt my way through and ended up writing one of the pivotal scenes for their relationship and it worked well. The research created a lovely shell of a plot, the characters formed organically and only needed a bit of sharpening in the outline to keep the internal conflict focussed, and the thing practially wrote itself in about four weeks.

This one, now… THIS one has been completely different. The hero’s internal conflict has taken a lot of working out and I’m still not completely satisfied with it (although I did come up with a bit of good background as I was going to sleep last night). Sometimes I worry he sounds like every other hero I’ve written recently because I can’t quite ‘see’ him all the time, yet. It doesn’t help that he’s a different sort of character to what I’ve been writing. He’s very much a gentleman on the surface, with a focussed, unemotional streak underneath.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of this project has been the balance between the hero and the heroine. Part of the hook of this story is that SHE is also an alpha personality and every bit as rich as he is. It’s enemies-to-lovers, so there are a lot of arguments. Plus the heroine has a serious back-story about why she made the choices she has. There needs to be so much of her on the page, that I’m struggling with him. Usually I experience this the other way around. I have such a forlorn, angsty hero that I run out of time to develop the heroine’s struggles.

I think this can be a good thing, because her story is very interesting and something I know quite a lot about. I THINK I can go back and give him a bit more form in editing, because I’m only 16k in and he hasn’t had a lot of POV time, yet, so he will come into his own (I hope!).

And I’m constantly forgetting that the first half of a manuscript written with the guidelines of a particular line in mind feels like groping around in the dark trying to work out what the shape of the story is. It’s getting easier to plan, but sometimes scenes just take fewer words than you expected – or more words – and then your plan starts looking skewed.

After writing my longer manuscript as a ‘single title’ release, planning seemed easy. I just outlined and then wrote from the outline as the story came. I was expecting a 75k manuscript and I got 83k. But the shape was what I’d envisaged from the start and was the natural progression of the story. When outlining the first in this series for Presents/Modern, I carefully kept the external plot minimal because I knew I wouldn’t be able to cover much. The first draft came in at 48k, which rose to 49 in the first edit. But I was biting my nails at one point that it would be too short!! There is an art to working otu how many words will be required for which bits and I’m slowly getting a vague idea of it.

But each story is different. I only wonder if experienced authors find that some of their books are just better than others.

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