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Archive for March 18th, 2008

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To paraphrase the late great John Lennon, life is what happens while you’re making other plans.  To paraphrase the late comic genius Gilda Radnor during her SNL days, “If it’s not one thing it’s anotha!”

 

To directly quote my mother—and mothers everywhere—“Don’t do as I do.  Do as I say.”

 

All three sage snippets segue albeit circuitously into my blog topic—how to write connected romance novels, or rather how not to write them, or at least how to recover from (cough, hiccup) going about it all wrong.

 

Like most writers, I’m pretty conversant with my strengths—and weaknesses.  Dialogue, characterization, scene setting—all of these areas come easily to me, a natural progression of the flow of words from my brain and heart to the printed page.

 

And then there’s plotting.

 

Ten years ago (gulp!) when I sat down to write the Regency-set historical that would ultimately become A Rogue’s Pleasure, I had no idea how to craft my story—or any story, period.  Oh, I’d lived with Anthony, my handsome war hero-cum-rake, for some time, as well as Chelsea, the plucky redhead who turns “highwayman” for the very best of reasons.  I had a pretty good idea of the set-up, conflict, and, of course, the Happily Ever After ending that is part and parcel of romance fiction.  Scenes filled with sexual tension and delicious Regency era banter flitted like fireflies throughout my head, eventually finding their way out into scenes that, in turn, began to take shape as chapters.  When my critique partners finished one chapter and expressed curiosity as to what would happen next, they weren’t alone.

 

I hadn’t a clue myself.

 

To be sure, a writer’s “process” is as individual as a fingerprint; no two writers tackle a book in precisely the same fashion.  That said, it’s a really, really good idea to have some idea of where you’re going with your story before you invest weeks, months, years in writing it.

 

Flash forward ten years—and one would hope eons of “lessons learned.”  My Men of Roxbury House trilogy—VANQUISHED, ENSLAVED, and now UNTAMED—is my first shot at writing connected books.  Like anyone’s first anything, in the aftermath, there are lessons learned, battle scars to be shown off—and FYI, I’m not just in it for beads. 😉

 

Seriously, I don’t write like grownups do.  Never have and likely never will.  For starters, I don’t write sequentially, linearly, or well, in any reasonable, replicable fashion.  You’ll never catch me at a writers’ conference touting my “process,” flashing charts and graphs, or God forbid, instructing others on how to write like me.  If anything, I’m the textbook case for what not to do.  I still do it all wrong—and yet for me, it works.

 

I still write scenes out of order, the characters voicing firing off like canon shot in my head.  I’m not a plotter (duh), but I’m not exactly a “pantser,” either.  I start out with a synopsis, though fat lot of good it does me.  I’m what you call a “puzzler,” which I’m coming to think amounts to starting down that path paved with good intentions that leads to You Know Where.

 

In the case of my trilogy books, I thumbed my nose at any notion of creating character sketches, a timeline, a “bible” of people, places, dates, you name it.  My muse must have free rein and besides that, all that set-up “stuff” felt like…well, like a lot of work.

 

Creative freedom tasted sweet for VANQUISHED and ENSLAVED.  Then I got to UNTAMED.  My challenge, otherwise known as “problem,” was that Kate and Rourke, my UNTAMED heroine and hero, had already met in ENSLAVED.  To keep the sexual tension at a slow sizzle building to burning point, I had to backtrack and start out UNTAMED *prior to* where ENSLAVED left off, all the while keeping clear in my head on where the other secondary characters were at each stage e.g., were Callie and Hadrian (VANQUISHED) married yet and just where were Daisy and Gavin (ENSLAVED) with opening that refurbished theater in the East End?

 

Memo to whomever manufactures those Post-It notes, please let me know where I can buy stock.  Ditto for Starbucks.  As to the guy who delivers my carry-out sushi/sashimi, the one whose twins are now contemplating medical school, no need to thank me.  I’m always happy to support higher education.

 

There’s no anchor in a free fall.  That said, once you take that leap of faith, there are some pretty amazing surprises that crop up amidst the brambles and screes scraping your knees.  In my case, my circuitous “process” has led me to think about adding a fourth book to my so-called trilogy.  It seems Rourke’s sexy friend, Ralph, former con artist turned valet is angling for a book of his own.  For sure, Kate’s pretty but prickly younger sister, Bea, will be pretty disappointed if he doesn’t get it.  I think I will be, too.

 

What are your experiences of detouring off the so-called beaten path in fiction or in real life?  Ever thumb your nose at conventional wisdom—and found yourself thanking the Universe that you did?

 

Hope Tarr is the award-winning author of more than ten historical and contemporary romance novels for multiple publishers.  To enter her more than monthly contest, and have a shot at winning the latest releases from romance buds Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Kathryn Caskie visit Hope online at http://www.hopetarr.com.

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