Wait For It

Blessed be, all! Sit down with me a moment; I want to talk about something that’s near and dear to me right now. Or maybe a couple things. The first of which is the musical Hamilton, which I mentioned back in this post here. The second is taking the time to do justice to the story while also caring for yourself.

But wait! Doesn’t being a writer mean working even when you don’t want to? Even when the inspiration isn’t there or when you’re convinced the work is terrible? Even when you’re tired, even when you don’t have the time? Don’t you have to Write Anyway and keep your hands on the keyboard and all those platitudes?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer, though, is yes, but.

What brings this about is this: an agency that I follow obsessively is going to be holding a Twitter pitch party within the next month. Two of my top-choice pie-in-the-sky dream agents will be participating. And me? I’ll be playing Cinderella, stuck home from the ball.

The reasons I came to this decision are threefold. First, both of the two stories that I’d like to query are in the middle of intensive revisions, and I don’t feel that a month is adequate time to get either of them in shipshape. Second, I know that the month of June is going to be an extraordinarily busy one for me, and I don’t need the added stress of a deadline contributing to my load.

The third reason–and the one I want to focus on–is that you only get one shot to make a killer first impression. Just like with the query letter, you want your manuscript to showcase the best of your ability. While you may be eager to start querying or pitching your project right out of the gate, it’s better to sit back, let it cool, take another look, and then send it out when you’re sure it’s the best you can do.

You’d be surprised just how much your craft will improve between one draft and the next. Things that you’d never thought of before will suddenly be obvious; moments that you thought were beautifully rendered will feel flat. Holding back for just a minute gives you a chance to fix those things instead of realizing after you’ve gotten a rejection from your dream agent that, oh. That wasn’t my best work, actually. And being unable to take it back.

I speak from experience on this. The two top-choice agents I mentioned above have both seen an early draft of my vampire history. One of those being an incredibly premature draft with flat writing, an overdone opening, and–being frank–tons of plotholes that I was too underdeveloped as a writer to notice. Even after extensive rewrites, I will probably never get those chances back again. You can read Danielle Burby’s (one of the agents in question) thoughts on first impressions and if your manuscript is ready here.

All of this brings me back to Hamilton. I have friends who write, especially among my classmates from grad school, who are routinely selling short stories or talking excitedly about their latest novel’s release date or the agent they just landed. I find myself feeling like Burr in the song “Wait For It,” watching as life passes by and wondering when it will be my turn.

In recent days, though, I’ve decided to embrace the core of the song. I’m working to the best of my ability. I’m getting better every draft, honing my skills all the while. Sooner or later, my opportunity will arrive. All I have to do it wait for it.

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Five Things: Physical Intimacy

Blessed be! As of this writing, I’m up to my navel in edits for my fantasy romance. In general, the edits are going about as smoothly as I’d anticipated. I’ve added a lot more new material than I’d intended, but the actual changes themselves are shaping up just as I wanted them to. However.

Several things occurred to me as I was going through a scene that I’d tagged to dial up the heat in a little. First: I’ve never actually written a proper sex scene. Second: the character I was writing had never had sex. And third: there might be some gold to mine in that thar revelation.

  1. Stick tightly to your viewpoint character. This is easier in first-person, but probably even more crucial in third. Limit your perspective to what one character is feeling, thinking, and experiencing. Movie-camera or omniscient narration for something so intimate creates distance, and jumping between bodies involved can be confusing.  Unless you’re doing one of those two things intentionally–to create the illusion of bad sex, for example–probably best not to.
  2. Keep it realistic. Most people can’t have sex for seven hours straight without some pretty severe repercussions. They also can’t, as a general rule, have a quickie in the cab of a 19th-century carriage while in full Victorian dress without her being extremely uncomfortable; corsets and petticoats limit just how handsy a beau can get.
  3. Voice, voice, voice! What does your character call their erogenous zones? Would they use clinical terms like vagina, penis, or anus, or is it their twat, cock, or ass? This is a great way to communicate not only your character’s attitude toward sex or their partner but also to set the tone of the scene. Just one word can mean the difference between a romantic wedding night and a dirty one-night stand.
  4. Please, no euphemisms. This may be entirely personal preference, but if a character is too naive or uncomfortable with sex to use the proper words for what’s going on, I really don’t want to read it. Now, there are exceptions. Done deliberately, this can be used to evoke atmosphere, as in a historical novel, or to create an awkwardness between characters that can be endearing.
    More often, though, it just makes it sound like the author isn’t entirely comfortable with what’s being written. And that will pluck me out of a story.
  5. Fade to black. Now, sometimes there just doesn’t need to be an actual scene. Whether it’s because you’re uncomfortable writing it or because the event itself isn’t that important to the story, you don’t always have to write out the actual sex. There’s nothing wrong with employing a tasteful fade-out if it suits the character or the story.

Five Things: My Fave Literary Moms

Blessed be, all! Mother’s Day is coming up soon, which means I’ll be putting in a lot of time at the day job. I didn’t want to leave this week without a post, though, so I decided to go ahead and put this one up early.

This week, I want to look at my top five literary moms. It was… well. Much harder than I would have thought. Moms are strangely absent from a plurality of my reading material, both in terms of main characters who are mothers and moms of the protagonists. I managed to pull together a list, but this is something I want to address further in the future.

  1. Molly Weasley, Harry Potter series. Who doesn’t love Mrs. Weasley? The books don’t let us see her at her best, but make no mistake, this woman is full of love and cast iron. She adores her children without question and, while sometimes misguided in how she goes about it, would do anything to protect them.
  2. Ilane of Mindelan, Protector of the Small quartet. While Ilane only appears in a limited number of scenes, she warms my heart to think about. She encourages Kel to be brave, to chase her dreams, and not to let anything get in her way. She also wields a naginata as if it were light as a butterknife, which only further cements her in badassery in my mind.
  3. Jennifer Honey, Matilda. Even before Ms. Honey adopts Matilda, she’s a champion for the little girl. She courageously faces down Matilda’s abusive birth family and the terrors of her own past to be the mother Matilda desperately needs.
  4. Lark and Rosethorn, Circle of Magic series. Like Ms. Honey, these two women prove that a mother need not be related by blood. After circumstances bring our four protagonists to Discipline Cottage, Lark and Rosethorn become mother, teacher, and guide to their young charges. These fierce women form the lynchpin for a found family for our heroes that stretches over nearly a dozen books.
  5. Sorcha, Cousins O’Dwyer trilogy. Sorcha isn’t actually in very much of the series, as she gives her life for her children early in book one, hundreds of years before the main storyline. But everything comes back to her and the fact that she made the ultimate sacrifice to keep her kids safe from the sorcerer trying to steal her powers (and her babies) away for his own.

Review: Swift for the Sun

Blessed be! For this week, I wanted to look back at Swift for the Sun by Karen Bovenmeyer. I had to let the book percolate for a bit so I could come back to it and dig into my thoughts. In large part because I don’t read romances in general, I wanted to be sure I gave this book the time it needed to stand on its own. It feels like today is the right time to delve in deep!

Most of my issues with the book could have been solved by starting me just a scene or two earlier, a chapter at the absolute most. Conventional wisdom is to begin as close to the inciting incident as possible and right in the thick of the action, which I usually agree with.  For this one, though, I wished that I’d had a little more time to get used to the main before being thrown into the shipwreck that sets events in action. While I clicked immediately with Ben, the problem was that I didn’t feel anything for his crew or his ship or the life he was giving up to try to survive as a smuggler. So, when the inevitable happened, I wasn’t saddened by the wreck or the loss of his men, which I really needed to be for some of the events that come later in the book.

After that first chapter, I found my footing. Ben’s relationship with Sun and the way it progresses feels really natural to me, so I loved that. I ripped through the rest of the first half of the book, eager to see them get their happy ending.

Just after halfway, though, I hit another stumbling block. The novel changes direction, not in a bad way, just in one that I wasn’t expecting. I think, again, taking a little longer at the start to lay out some of the politics at play in the early 19th century Caribbean would have made the transition a little smoother for me, and I wouldn’t have been so disoriented by the sudden switch.

I lost a little precious time adjusting to the new path that the plot takes, but I was very satisfied with the way the novel ends. It’s sweet without being saccarine, and it rings true to the characters. At the end of the day, it’s exactly what I want from a romance!