Thursday, August 23, 2012
Backstory of A PATH TOWARD LOVE
Confession time! Writing a 90,000 word novel is always daunting for me and probably for most of us. A Path toward Love was the most difficult story I’ve ever written. Or maybe I should say it was the most difficult to revise.
Each book has its own unique challenges because you can’t use a cookie cutter to make the writing easier or faster. After three books you’d think the fourth one would be a breeze. I should’ve learned enough to help smooth out the writing process. I guess I didn’t quite learn enough!
When my editor and I first started to talk about A Path toward Love, she suggested I change story locations. We decided to keep the same class of Gilded Age people, but move from Newport, Rhode Island to another New England resort. She suggested Martha’s Vineyard and few other fantastic places. But after researching the different locations I knew the primary settings in the northeast (the major summer playground for the super rich) were Bar Harbor, the Berkshires, and Saratoga Springs. None of these differed too much from Newport except for Saratoga Springs known for the Saratoga Race Course and gambling. Maybe not the best choice for an inspirational romance. So I kept looking even though the clock was ticking toward my deadline.
Then I remembered reading about the Great Camps of the Adirondack Mountains of New York. These camps were built on hundreds, sometimes thousands of acres of rural, rugged land. They were set on the shores of secluded lakes that gave their owners lots of privacy. Many Gilded Age millionaires from New York came here, but unlike those who summered in Newport, these were mainly people who loved the outdoors and enjoyed ‘roughing it.’
So now I had my setting.
Make sure you settle on a location you love.
I’ve been to the Adirondack Mountains many times, so this was a great choice for me. I researched the area, but I also remembered the mountains very well. I’d lived in Vermont right across Lake Champlain for twenty years. In fact, I could see the peaks of the mountains from the top of the road I lived on.
Here are a few tips to consider when you begin writing your novel:
Pay attention to your weaknesses and try to overcome them.
My primary weakness -- I like to write plot as much as character, so I tend to put more thought into the external story than into the romance. It’s like trying to keep your car going straight when the tires are out of alignment. This penchant for heading off the road into the ditch is just as bad for a romance author than it is for a driver.
External story is crucial, but romance readers really love the relationship between the hero and heroine and that’s why they read the story. Anyone disagree with that?
I’m raising my hand but not very high. The external story makes the romance for me. At its best it conveys a unique situation and difficult problems to overcome, interesting settings etc. Am I alone in thinking the story has to be as fascinating as the characters, or maybe even more so? After all, we all know the story will end Happily Ever After. The romance will work out by the end of the book. Otherwise, it’s not a true romance.
As soon as my editor approved the synopsis for A Path toward Love, I started writing. Admittedly, I got carried away with the plot. I added lots of characters and subplots, each of which was important to the hero and heroine’s romance. But maybe not as important as I thought they were! Of course the romance remained, yet looking back, I might have relegated it to the back burner. It might have been on simmer, not full boil for too long. I guess I forgot I was writing a romance, not a women’s fiction with romantic elements.
Don’t let yourself get sidetracked and so involved in the story line that you neglect the romance. It’s the romance, stupid! I have to keep that in the front of my mind or else I go astray. (I doubt most romance authors have this problem.)
Let your critique partners or reliable friends read the manuscript before you turn it in to your editor.
I did, but maybe I should’ve asked a few more people to read it over. More sets of eyes find more mistakes and inconsistencies. Lesson learned.
When I got my editorial letter, I knew I had a lot of revising to do in a short period of time.
Stay calm, buckle down and don’t panic!
At first glance the task looked impossible. But I didn’t have a choice. After a conference call with my two editors, I knew what I had to change. But I had to think through all their ideas before I began to revise.
There’s no time for writer’s block.
Always listen to your editor.
She’s on your side and wants you to produce the best book possible.
My editor asked me to strengthen the romance and downplay the external plot. The upside of deleting beloved characters and subplots – I have plenty of material for other books. And I know these characters will someday reappear in another setting. There’s always an upside to revisions, although it’s sometimes difficult to see when you’re struggling to finish them and get them right.
Once my editor read the manuscript she realized Katherine, my heroine, should be seen in her day-to-day world at the beginning of the book. The reader should see her managing her orange groves and understand what she’s endured to keep the business going. Her life in Florida is important throughout the story because it’s where the crucial parts of her backstory happened. It was showing, not telling. I agreed that writing a new beginning was a great idea. BUT I had to write an extra 60 pages from scratch. It wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be and that was a blessing.
Trust your editor’s judgment.
She knows so much more about the structure of a novel than I do. As a writer I don’t always spot plot holes etc. or how adding and subtracting scenes can improve a story. It’s easy to fall in love with your own words. So, ‘pick your fights’ and give your editor the benefit of the doubt.
Discuss your synopsis in detail with your editor.
I wish I’d done this more before I wrote the book. Make sure you’re both clear about the story and the characters because misunderstandings can cause a lot of painful revisions no one wants.
If you have an important question while you’re writing the story, ask your editor.
The process of writing and revising a book is like making sausage. Messy. But hopefully you’ll have a great product at the end.
I’m giving away a copy of A Path toward Love. If you’re interested, please leave a comment and your e-mail address.
Romantic Times Review – 4 ½ Stars!
A PATH TOWARD LOVE
This wonderful, fast-paced historical romance features family secrets and a mother who tries to play matchmaker, with results she doesn’t anticipate. The characters start out immature and sort of bullheaded, but as the story unfolds, they group up and realize people are only trying to help them. James brings new life to a sometimes overused storyline. Readers will not want the book to end and will remember it long after they finish it.
SUMMARY: In 1905 Hernando Country, Fla., Katherine Osborne is struggling to make the orange groves that have been in her husband’s deceased family for a long time turn around and make a profit. Her parents strike a deal with her: They will fund the money she needs to make the payments to the bank, to avoid losing the grove, if she comes and spends the summer with them in Raquette Lake, in the Adirondacks.
Her mother has matchmaking in mind, and she’d determined to find Katherine a wealthy husband. Andrew Townsend has known Katherine will look upon him in a different light, now that he works for her father. Will Katherine find a new love and be able to make old dreams into new ones?