Saturday, October 26, 2013

How I screwed up by not having an epilogue

I've been reading a few books where I have been a tad annoyed at epilogues which are often a bit of a waste of space - a nice way to fit an extra thousand words into a novel and nothing more, really. So when I was editing Falling for Jack, I decided I wouldn't do an epilogue. I hadn't done one for the previous book and as a reader I'd gone off them as being quite unnecessary so I figured I wouldn't inflict that torture on anyone who was doing me a favour by forking out their money for the book. Well. Big mistake. Big, big mistake. Once the reviews starting coming in for Falling for Jack, there was one thing that really made me sit up and start thinking. A lot of people (not just one or two) were commenting that the book felt unfinished. That they wanted to know what happened after. It's not giving anything away to say that the couple in the story, Jack and Robyn, do get together! But I had made the mistake of having a plot line that did leave some things open enough that at the end of the book you were left thinking "But..." What happens? How does it go? Does Robyn's business get off the ground? An interesting faux pax on my part since I don't like books or movies that are left up in the air or leave it open to your own interpretation. You want to know that it's all going to be okay. I think of the movie Lost in Translation where at the end there is massive depth of feeling between Charlotte and Bob (who are both married, yikes) and while they don't necessarily get together (it would never have worked!) it does have closure to it and its happy closure. I think they accept their time together for what it was, they will probably still love each other til they die, and will go on with their lives, but it isn't unhappy or left in the air. You don't know what he whispers to her at the end, but they both got this one last moment. Especially since it was looking like they weren't going to. Sigh. (Which may lead to another blog post some time on the reverse sex difference - 55 year old woman and 25 year old man. Do we like that? Hmmmm...) So with the Jack and Robyn story, there were a couple of elements that did need a decent ending. You wanted to know how Robyn's gig at the trade show went, since her fledgling fashion biz was a pretty important factor in her life. And there were a couple of secondary characters, Sage and Ethan, who kind of got together - but did it last? I could have had one of those scenes a year later where Robyn is glowingly pregnant and Jack is absolutely besotted over her and his unborn baby (or maybe not cos, I mean, you know they are going to get married and have lots of kids). But something to tie everything up nicely there. So, I certainly got a nice smack over the hand on that one and have begun to see epilogues in a different light and in fact have added one in Blue Creek Bachelor as a result. I'm wary of prologues and flashbacks, too, cos as writers we kind of want to put everything in there cos they're the fun bits to write but they can be just wasted words or end up hitting the reader over the head too much. But there has to be some discernment on them and with Jack and Robyn, my discerning was a little whack.
But just in case you have read the book, and if you haven't, there are no real spoilers here, this is what happens.... Robyn's designs are a hit at the trade show and the business takes off without Jack-the-millionaire's help, but then she is with child, so Sage takes over more of the business, along with Harriet, so Robyn can be more of a hands-on mum and just focus on designing. And yes, Sage and Ethan stay together, not without plenty of rocky moments (maybe I should write their story). As to whether they have children... that, I don't even want to think about!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

So I Thought I Could Write...

While a few of my indie author colleagues are quite over the idea of pursuing traditional publishing for their novels, the attraction of it, for me, hasn't gone away. It still lingers, in spite of three novels and one short story collection now indie-published. After the RWNZ Conference in Wellington back in August, I was even more enthused about pursuing print publication. So a few weeks ago I was following SYTYCW - So You Think You Can Write - on e-Harlequin and decided I might as well enter. I'd entered before and I'd entered the previous incarnation a few times as well - New Voices. It's where you submit a chapter or so on line, people can read it, comment on it, and the prize is a publishing contract. I completely dipped out in all those previous contests, and I've always been a bit wary of them as they appear to be popularity contests to some extent - if you're active on social media and round up all your friends and rellies to vote for you, you'll do well. (Assuming you have written a good book, goes without saying.) This time, though, at least initially, its not based on popularity at all. In the early stage, it is purely based, I understand, on editors liking what they read so that even if your entry up there on the website had no Facebook likes or comments or re-Tweets, if the editors love it enough to make the top 50, it'll get through. So I entered the first chapter of a book that I felt sure would get through. I polished it and was pretty confident actually. I had submitted part of that to a cold read that a Silhouette editor had read a few RWNZ conferences ago, and she'd blown me away by saying it was terrific, it had all the elements and she would definitely want to read more of that. Its testament to how important these things are that I was on a high that whole weekend on a Sally Field "she likes me" moment, even though it was anonymous and she actually had no idea who had written it. And so I wrote the pitch and entered this chapter in the contest, and followed the Tweets and the forums on eHarlequin as I waited. And waited. It was not to be. Once again, I dipped out completely. To be totally honest, I'm not massively disappointed by this. I've been writing and submitting for 20 years - yes, two rejection filled decades of my adult life - and amazingly as time goes by, you just kind of chalk it up. Yet another notch on the rejection belt, because yes, it is a rejection. It is a rejection. My rejection belt can fit ten morbidly obese people inside it now. But as in all experiences, one should be a grown up and take "something" out of it. The problem is, I don't know what it is I should take out of this one, really. It is sending a crystal clear message that Harlequin don't want this book. That's fine, but is it also saying, ever so gently, they don't really want anything I will submit to them in the future, that there is just "something" about my writing that a ton of editing won't even fix, that twenty plus years of submitting should be making clear? Of course, I'm also a realist, and am aware that maybe the story does totally suck and has no conflict, no motivation, no plot, no characterisation, no emotional punch, a sucky storyline, amateur writing, shocking grammar... However. In the words of Oprah, what I do know is this. Thank You Jesus for self publishing. Thank you Smashwords, thank you Amazon. Thank you Diana Fraser for telling me I should go ahead and do it. I have four books that I have e-published over the past year. Falling for Jack has 39 reviews on Amazon. There is one two-star, one three-star, 20 four-stars, and 17 five-star reviews. I can tell you that these are not friends and relatives as I don't think family or many friends, beyond one or two, have actually read the books. They haven't told me they have and I think they would have mentioned it. Then there's "Daniel's Bride". Daniel's Bride has 15 reviews on Amazon. There are 5 three-star, two four-star and eight five-star. That's not bad either. And that's not mentioning Good Reads, iTtunes, Barnes and Noble etc. So... What do I make of the whole SYTYCW experience, bearing in mind I'm not just some person whose submitted a few manuscripts to publishers and entered a couple of contests over the past five or ten years. No. I've submitted quite a few novels. Entered them in a lot of contests. Won a few, wanted to slit my throat at the results of others. I have, as they say, been around the block a few times on this one. So what to make of all this? Interesting question. And I'm not entirely sure of the answer at this stage, besides the obvious. Just write the next book. But I do know this. I shall clutch my 25 five-star reviews, and remind myself that in spite of dipping out AGAIN in yet another contest, despite there being better first chapters the editors liked better than mine... maybe, just maybe, I Can Write After All.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bridesmaids

At the recent RWNZ conference, I was interested in a list of movies that Harlequin editor Sheila Hodgson suggested as good to watch if you're considering writing for the new KISS line - a short, contemporary line out of the UK. One of the movies she mentioned was Bridesmaids which I'd heard of, but had never seen. Naturally, I am totally up for watching DVDs in the name of business, so I did. And I loved Bridesmaids. So much so that I watched it twice. Yes, it was crude, disgusting in places, it was outrageous but it was so much fun. You can read more about it here on IMDB. It was completely over the top in places (the scene at the dinner where the two bridesmaids first meet was a bit much and too cringe-worthy for me) but there were so many funny moments. The food poisoning one especially - who can forget the scene of Melissa McCarthy sitting in the sink. My gosh, that woman is funny. I loved Kristen Wiig too. I'd seen her in "Friends with Kids (another movie on the list, which I shall discuss another day) but her role in that film was pretty low key. In this, she was great. Kind of like she could be your best friend. She gets a little crazy, but her boyfriend's a dick, she's lost her business... Wendy McLendon-Covey - just loved her as well. I had to google where I'd seen her before - Reno 911. I really liked the Chris O'Dowd character too - again, I'd first seen him in "Friends with Kids" where he had a bigger role, and he was lovely in this movie, too. So I would say if you haven't seen it, give it a go. It's probably not everyone's cup of tea, but there are so many likeable parts of this movie, that I'd watch it again in a heartbeat. Here is a trailer. Interestingly, there are some bits in the trailer that weren't in the movie. Hmmmm...