Thursday, June 16, 2016

Lessons Learned From The Book That Nearly Did Me In

with guest Victoria Bylin.
 

When I submitted the manuscript for Someone Like You to my editors at Bethany House, I fully expected a revision letter. I even expected a long revision letter. But I wasn’t prepared for eight single-spaced pages that essentially said, “The only element that works for us is the goat.”

For those who haven’t read the book, the goat is named Ladybug. She’s a nasty old thing, and she raises havoc at every opportunity. When your best character has cloven hooves, you have a problem—a big one.

So how did I end up with such mess? And more importantly, how did I get out of it? Someone Like You is my seventeenth book for publication. I know the rules, the hooks, and the tricks. But for some reason, I missed the boat on this one, did a resounding belly flop, and sank to the bottom of the deep blue sea.

Not a good place to be, but swimming to the surface changed my writer DNA in the best possible way.

Let’s look at some of the missteps. 



Meet twin granddaughters. Family first!
Writing too soon. My first big mistake was writing too soon. During the time I would have typically brainstormed Someone Like You, I spent three weeks with my newborn twin granddaughters. I wisely and happily didn’t write a word for a month. Family comes first. I have no regrets whatsoever about that choice. 
But when I finally sat down at the computer, I panicked and rushed into a half-baked story. Predictably, I hit a wall around Chapter 5. Instead of pausing to think the story through, I made some tweaks, jumped into the deep end, and did a resounding belly flop. I started this book five times—and each time I became more confused until I latched on to the one character I understood—the bad guy.

The bad guy took over. Hunter Adams is a classic narcissist and the father of the heroine’s son. Readers hate him—in a good way. But in the first versions of the book, he dominated every scene. You don’t want that in a romance. But I was fascinated by him—a little like Julia, my heroine. Hunter was easy to write, so I ran with him—and did another belly flop.

The biggest problem of all: The hero wasn’t heroic. In the final version of Someone Like You, Zeke Monroe is intelligent, funny, courageous and kind. He’ll be a great dad to Julia’s son. But in the early version he was work-obsessed and miserable.

Why? Because I grabbed for another life rope. A friend told me I do tortured heroes well. In my state of panic, I made Zeke as tortured as I could. By the time I finished with him, the poor guy needed counseling. Instead he got a major rewrite.

Flailing in confusion. You can see a pattern here. In the midst of the first ms, I grabbed for life preservers wherever I saw them. When friends offered advice, I took it all. At one point, I made the heroine needy and waif-like, when in my heart she needed to be strong and nurturing. I spent far too much time in my comfort zone—internal monologue—and that was the kiss of death to the pacing.

Did I mention I had a significant surgery in the midst of all this? I still wonder if some of the problem was due to anesthesia fogging my mind longer than I realized.

In the end, I exhausted myself to the point where looking at the computer put tears in my eyes. Somehow I finished the mess of a story by my April 15th deadline, took a breather, and awaited the revision letter with both trepidation and relief. 


This disaster of a desk pretty much shows my state of mind while working on
 Someone Like You. Chaos! 
Let the Fixing Begin

  I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate the editors at Bethany House. What made that eight-page letter bearable and not utterly crushing was the kindness in every word. When I was at my lowest, I felt like Moses in the book of Exodus, where Aaron and Hur hold up his arms when he’s beyond exhausted.

Here’s how we fixed the book.

Excellent editorial advice. The insights in the revision letter cut straight to the problems listed above. It helped me to regroup, but I still had to write the words while stinging from all those belly flops. My brain literally shut down, or at least that’s how it felt. The words just didn’t surface. That’s when I called in the troops.

Talented Critique Partners. One friend read the first five chapters, told me it read like a first draft, and helped me with the critical opening scene. Another read the whole muddled mess and gave me general impressions.

And finally, my long-time critique partner came out of retirement to go over the mess line by line. Remember how I flailed during the first draft and grabbed life ropes? This time when she made suggestions, I knew my characters and defended them. It felt really good!

Show Don’t Tell. We all know the phrase. It’s basic. My personal rule is to focus on the external action. Since I default to internal thought, this is a challenge. During the revision, I added several scenes—all action—and it paid off. Two of those included Ladybug the goat, and she’s a favorite.

I also cut the scenes were Zeke and Julia talked about Hunter, thought about Hunter, or moaned about Hunter. Action only! I used the Find function in Word to count the number of times “Hunter” popped up and cut that number in half.

Accept defeat. Do you know what hurt the most through this entire ordeal? My pride! It wasn’t until I asked for help that the healing really began.

I want to say that I prayed a lot, leaned on God, and He pulled me out of the mire, but you need to know I was a wreck the entire time. I often write about characters who have hit bottom—that place where you can’t pull out of the tailspin on your own. I went there with this book.

I love Psalm 84 because it’s about blessed men and women going through tough times. It’s also about God delivering us by His grace alone. Funny coincidence—that just happens to be Zeke’s story arc. No spoilers, but you can be assured his joy returns.

And so did mine.

Now let’s talk about you. If you’re a writer, is there a book that just about did you in?

And if you’re a reader, what books hit closest to home for you? Which titles made you laugh and cry at the same time because they were just too true?


I can’t wait to hear your stories. I’ll be checking in throughout the day, but just an FYI—I have a part-time job (10-3pm eastern time) and it may take me a bit to get back to you.

Let’s chat!



Victoria is giving away three print copies of her books—Reader’s choice between Until I Found You, Together With You, or Someone Like You. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing! Three winners announced in the Weekend Edition.


Please note that currently, Together With You is on sale at the lovely price of $2.99 for Kindle, so get your copy! 


Victoria Bylin is a romance writer known for her realistic and relatable characters. Her books have finaled in multiple contests, including the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and RT Magazine's Reviewers Choice Award. A native of California, she and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky, where their family and their crazy Jack Russell terrier keep them on the go. Learn more at victoriabylin.com/


More About Someone Like You


 Julia Dare is trying to run her own business, raise her young son, Max, and help her widowed mother. Her biggest worry, though, is keeping Max's father from being a bad influence while still allowing the boy to spend time with his dad. When an account from her event-planning business sends her to Caliente Springs resort, she's shocked to encounter Zeke Monroe, her college sweetheart.

Zeke is determined to keep Caliente Springs running despite financial trouble. When Julia walks back into his life, he's surprised at the feelings she stirs up. As they work together on an important client's wedding, the fate of the resort soon depends on their success. With Zeke and Julia both pushed to their limits, will their history put up walls between them or bring them together?


121 comments:

Mary Connealy said...

Hi Vicki! Welcome to Seekerville. I don't know what the process was that got you there, but you came out with a great book!

Hard work paid off! And boy are those twins cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Debby Giusti said...

I'm first to comment? Wonderful! Welcome, Victoria.

Thanks for sharing your struggle. God bless your editorial team...and your critique partners. Of course, you were the one who made the changes and rewrote the story. Congrats. A work of love, I'm sure.

Lexington is a charming town. I lived at Fort Knox for a number of years and made trips to Lexington at times. Always enjoyed the Horse Farm. I did an article for a magazine on the woman who sculted the bronze racing horse figures in Lexington. She also did the statue at the Horse Farm entrance. Can't remember her name, but I was amazed by her art!

So glad you can be with us today!

Debby Giusti said...

Mary beat me! Okay, I was the second person to comment!!! :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome back to Seekerville, Victoria. Okay, I am jealous. A five hour a day job is like perfect! In and out and nobody gets hurt.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And I have to tell you I really felt your pain in this post.

Felt it.

Wept with it.

Been there, too.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.Friedrich Nietzsche

Terri said...

Oh I feel your pain! I admire what you accomplished. Absolutely amazing.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Terri!!! Hope you had a great vacay!

Mary Preston said...

As a reader any story that pulls at my heart is deeply felt.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Mary Preston, you faithful reader you. Thanks for dropping by. Is your day just starting DOWN UNDER?

Kara Isaac said...

Oh, how I love this post! The book that almost did me in is my October release, Can't Help Falling. I signed my contract in February last year and it was due in October (in parallel I was also doing three rounds on edits on my April release, Close To You). Like you I panicked and jumped straight into writing rather than taking my time to brainstorm. Oh my word.

I remember sitting in my hotel room in Dallas at ACFW in mid-September and saying wild-eyed to one of my critique partners. I HAVE 80,000 WORDS BUT I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT MY HERO WANTS! I was also sorely lacking in this minor thing called a plot and had allowed a pair of secondary characters to take over the story.

Like you it made it through the fires of developmental edits thanks to the world's greatest editor, amazing critique partners, my amazing husband who allowed me to hibernate in the library for the couple of weeks that should have been our Christmas holidays together and a whole lot of divine assistance!

Dom't put me in the drawing for any of the books - I own them all, already :)

Elaine Stock said...

Victoria, as I read your feature I smiled in writer's appreciation! Thanks for honestly sharing the ups and downs of what it's like to make a novel work and breathe life. I can pretty much--with a lot of hard work and sweat--unkink tangled stories, but there's one in particular that after several attempts I came to accept it won't work. I think it's because it's too much my personal story and not my characters' story. It took me a while to figure this out, though.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vicki! Welcome back! A fount of amazing and wonderful information in one marvelous post!

Thank you!

Tina's quoting Nietzsche.

OH MY STARS.

Not the quote.... the attribution. Well done, Tina!!! I use the quote constantly and I don't think I've ever given Fred the time of day. I am a bad, bad person.

Victoria, thank you for being frank about this hero struggle. I am not alone!!!! I have had to untwirl my baton numerous times, and then begin again.... This makes me feel less like a total failure!!!! (Laughing, but true!)

I brought coffee, ladies!!!! And gentlemen!!!! The coffee service is set up in the gazebo area, with a sweet tea station nearby. Lemon bars and croissants with a "Fillings Bar" are also available for all Seekervillagers! Set a spell... and enjoy!

The Artist Librarian said...

If you're a writer and you're a "pantster"'I wonder if you could still make the mistake of rushing into it and not planning enough? Victoria, seeing the response of your publisher made me think of an online discussion that several librarians were having about cautious of indie authors because according to them, so much of it was "crap" or vanity publishing. It was definitely beneficial to you to have that extra input from a "traditional" publisher.

I'm usually more of a historical fiction and fantasy fan, but off the top of my head, Susan May Warren's Christiansen Family novels hit close to home --the realities and struggles of being a twenty or thirtysomething Christian in today's world ... They weren't perfect,mbut strove to live out their faith ... And all the siblings found love in the process --what's not to hope? Kidding of course. ;-)

The Artist Librarian said...

*being cautious of indie ...

Jackie said...

Hi Victoria,

Thanks so much for sharing your struggles. Congratulations on your beautiful twins. How much fun they must be. And congratulations on your new book.

The Sister Chicks books always seemed to hit me hardest. I read them because Robin Jones Gunn wrote them even though there weren't romance. My heart was always touched by those books.

Have a great day!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Mary! The twins are adorable, aren't they? We're visiting them at the end of July. Can't wait for grandma time!

Hello Debbi! You can't drive a mile in Lexington without seeing a horse, real or sculpted. We live next to a thoroughbred rescue farm, so they come to our back fence for carrots. It sold us on this house. It's lovely city for sure.

Jill Weatherholt said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Victoria! I loved your honesty in this post. Somehow I find comfort in knowing that a seasoned writer like yourself does belly flops too. Boy, do the sting! Congratulations! Your perseverance certainly paid off.
TINA - I thought that was your desk. :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Tina! Five hours is perfect. I usually write in the morning, then it's off to work with real people. If you're going to write about contemporary life you have to live it, and I sure do.

The struggle with this book was very, very real. I've never experienced anything quite like it, but now that it's over and I'm working on something new, I can see HOW MUCH I LEARNED! I went from the hardest book ever to turning in the easiest book ever. What a ride! But you know how it is!

Thank you for having me at Seekerville today!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Mary Preston! It's nice to see you today! I, too, like the books that tug at the heart. Make me laugh and cry at the same, and I'm a happy reader.

Victoria Bylin said...

Oh, Kara! We could be twins! That panic is terrible, frustrating, and downright scary when you're staring at a deadline. Not having a strong plot makes everything so much harder. No hero? Then no story. And characters have to be more felt than imagined, at least for me. I learned the hard way just how much I need God's help.

Your husband sounds like a great guy. Gotta love the men in our lives! I'll be looking for that October book :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Elaine, I wonder if those stories that won't "un-kink" are still being written in our lives. In other words, God's not done with us yet, so we don't know the ending. I have a dear friend in that position. The story is there, but it just won't wrap up. Sometimes we have to set stuff down for longer than we'd like, move on, and maybe go back to that book that won't cooperate. What's the saying? No. Grow. Slow. Go. Some books are like that :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Ruth! I just blew my diet with those lemon bars. Yum! I didn't mention another little bit of fallout from the book that nearly did me in . . . stress eating. I gained about ten pounds in six months. Ugh! Tight jeans! But I lost the weight and am enjoying every bite of the lemon bar :)

Thanks for having me at Seekerville today!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Artist Librarian! I've read two of the Christiansen family novels and loved them both. Great stories with great characters.

There's no doubt that Someone Like You benefited tremendously from editorial input. I needed help--big time. And I couldn't see the problems. Editing is an art form just as much as any kind of storytelling. If I ever go indie, I'll gladly pay an editor for her expertise. I'm just too close to everything to see the holes.

Enjoy the coffee and Ruth's lemon bars. They're delicious :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Jackie, I'll have to check out the Sister Chick books. I have a non-writer friend who loves them. Romance is usually my first choice, but I like to break my reading with things that are completely new. Thanks for the suggestion :)

Kate said...

Thanks for sharing and for the advice. Your honesty is encouraging.

Books that hit close to home... Julie Lessman and Susan May Warren come to mind, Also Denise Hunter and Melissa Tagg. I love their honesty and flawed characters that I can relate to.

Thanks for the giveaway!!!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Kate! I'm reading Julie's Isle of Hope now and loving it! Denise's book is on my nightstand, and Melissa is awesome. Good luck in the giveaway!

DebH said...

Hi Victoria
Thanks for sharing your struggle. I was reading your writing and it sounded very much like my writing my first manuscript (not pubbed). I'm glad to know that I am not alone in my struggles (NOT glad that you had to go through it).

I think it's cool you have wonderful editors and they want to help a writer succeed. I would love to win your toughest book to write. I already went off and purchased Together With You. Who can resist a book sale? Not me. *grin*

Thanks again about sharing your struggles and also sharing the pictures of the twins. Sooooo adorable!

DebH said...

ps
Ruthy's books always move me emotionally.
Mary's books always give me a good dose of laughter mixed with emotional tugs.

That's off the top of my head. I know ALL the Seeker books hit me with good feelings at completion.

kaybee said...

VICTORIA, this is so great and what I love about Seekerville. It's heartening to know that published and even multi-published authors have these struggles. Thanks.
Kathy Bailey

Tina Radcliffe said...

hahahaha, Jill. My desk is much messier.

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello DebH! I'm always happy when my books go on sale, but I'm especially happy about Together With You. The story features a little girl with special needs in addition to the romance. I loved writing that one :)

Good luck in the drawing!

Cindy Regnier said...

Hi Victoria. First of all, I love goats. They play a part in some of my stories, so Go Ladybug! As an unpublished author, my struggles are mostly emotional. I don't have to please anyone, so I please myself. I love writing emotion, and therefore I get emotional which helps me write better emotion (IMHO-vicious circle) I fall in love with my hero, my heroine becomes my temporary BFF, and to make it worse, I have been working on a four part romance series loosely based on the lives of my 4 sets of great-grandparents. Nothing to bring on the emotion like some truth from my own existence! Anyway, thanks for your encouraging story. It's encouraging to me because (even though I KNOW this) I sometimes need to hear that even successful and published authors have disheartening moments - and not only that, but they can climb out of them!

J Baugh said...

Thank you for your post. Your book sounds wonderful!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Kathy! You nailed it. Being published or even multi-published doesn't guarantee a book will flow. My second book was a lot harder to write than my first, and No. 17 was the toughest of all! Go figure! I have to say, No. 18 (just turned in The Two Of Us) was one of the easiest. There's no rhyme or reason that I can see. I try to dig deep with every story. Hang in there!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Cindy! I'm so glad this post encouraged you. We all need a lift now and then. Your idea re: your great grandparents sounds like a terrfic place to start. Love the family tie-in. And with romance, lots of emotion is a plus! I sometimes struggle to add it in, because I'm so into the "how" and the "why." This is where my critique partner is amazing. Keep going! My personal motto is, "The joy is in the doing." Good luck in the drawing, too!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello J Baugh! Thank you for stopping by . . . Good luck in the drawing!

Vince said...

.
WHY
NOT
PLOT?

Deanna Stevens said...

I have been blessed by many of the authors here at Seekerville.. Reading the struggles and triumphs between the pages and here in fellowship, I do enjoy stopping by and reading the comments.
please toss me into the drawing :)

Marianne Barkman said...

Hello, Victoria. I read Someone Like You and loved it. I'd have to say that even though I read a lot of books, most of them touch my heart. I may not laugh or cry so others can see, but my heart cries and laughs with the characters

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Vince! Oh my, yes! I so wish plotting came easily to me. It grows out of character motivation, so when my hero was a mess, the plotting was a mess. For the proposal I'm working on now, I very deliberately took what I learned from Someone Like You and applied it: What does the scene look like--not what are the characters thinking and feeling, and not what do they want, but what are they DOING.

I need to write to find my characters, but plotting for me is an entirely different process, one I'm still learning. Love you caps and boldface for WHY NOT PLOT? My critique partner spouts ideas like crazy. Me? It's the hardest part!!!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Deanna! Good luck in the drawing. I agree about Seekerville -- it's an awesome website. So real and true!

Hi Marianne! I'm so glad you enjoyed Someone Like You! Laughing and/or crying with the characters is always the goal for me. Make it real! That's one of my mottos. Thank you for stopping by!

Victoria Bylin said...

I'm headed out to the day job. So glad it's only five hours and not all day! Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I'll be back In the meantime enjoy Ruthie's coffee and cyber pastries. When I come back, I'll bring something yummy :)

Julie Lessman said...

VICTORIA!!! How fun to have you in Seekerville!! And, OH HONEY, did your post resonate with this gal!!!

YOU SAID: "When your best character has cloven hooves, you have a problem—a big one."

LOL ... I truly laughed out loud over that, which gives me a hint that your books probably have a lot of humor in them, but either way, I certainly intend to find out!!

YOU ALSO SAID: "I want to say that I prayed a lot, leaned on God, and He pulled me out of the mire, but you need to know I was a wreck the entire time. I often write about characters who have hit bottom—that place where you can’t pull out of the tailspin on your own. I went there with this book."

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! I can't tell you HOW much I appreciate honesty and transparency in a person. So often authors have an image to maintain (I gave that up LONG ago!), which in my opinion, helps NO ONE!! We are Christian authors and our first responsibility is to love God and then others as our ourselves. And frankly, seeing a "perfect" image of what a Christian should be only brings me down, because I am SO very far from the mark and as a human being, always will be till I walk on streets of Gold. WHICH is why I take SUCH comfort in St. Paul's message that when I am weak, He is strong! THANK GOD!! Consequently, I'd much rather let people know that so that any success or goodness they may see in me is SOLELY because of Him! So thank you again for your honesty -- that one sentence alone made me want to know you better and read your books.

Hugs,
Julie

Myra Johnson said...

Victoria, thanks for being with us today and for sharing so openly about your struggles with this book. I can't say I've ever faced edits quite as involved as you described, but I've had a couple of books where my editor and/or agent made me jump through quite a few hoops to make the story a better fit for the targeted publishing lines.

But what a tribute to your editors that, as you said, kindness filled every word of the revision letter! And that they saw so much potential in the story and wanted to help you do what needed to be done. It's also a testament to their confidence in YOU and your writing skills.

And just ignore VINCE and his constant rants about plotting--LOL! As you said, "I need to write to find my characters." I'm exactly the same way. Plotting emerges from character, and no matter how many ideas I may have about how a scene should or could unfold, until the characters are immersed in the action, I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT WILL HAPPEN!!!

Chill N said...

Hi Vicki! Thank you for hanging in there through what sounds like an ordeal. One of my luckier days as a reader was when I picked up 'Wyoming Lawman' and found a new-to-me author to read.

Do you think you'll write historicals again?

Nancy C

Julie Lessman said...

VICTORIA, YOU ASKED: "Is there a book that just about did you in?"

Uh ... yeah, MAJOR!! That would be my third book in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Denied. I was 3/4 through that book when a friend suggested I read this other author, which I did.

BIG MISTAKE!! This author is truly exceptional and one of the finest authors I've ever been privileged to read. Her hero is top of the charts, in my opinion, bumping Rhett Butler out of the top spot of my favorite heroes after 53 years. In my humble opinion, no author has ever created a better romantic hero, so needless to say, I was blown away -- literally -- to the wall. Every time I would go to write on APD, I'd want to puke on the keyboard, certain it was the worst thing I'd ever written. So much so, that I hit the wall and couldn't write a word -- not a good thing with a deadline looming!

"Go back and read pages from A Passion Most Pure," my husband suggested, because not only was it the book that got me a 3-book deal from Revell (in a rare unanimous pub-board vote, I was told) but also won ACFW's 2009 Debut Book of the Year, so it had to be good, right? WRONG!! I wanted to puke on it too.

So I called my beta reader (my sister), told her I was 3/4 through with APD but hated it and feared I would have to start over. I asked her to read it, then went on a fast for a week that included ALL BOOKS by that incredible author who made me feel like dirt as a writer. When I didn't hear from my sister for a week (she ususally devoured my books in a night or two), I was really worried. AND, like you, although I prayed a lot and leaned on God, I was a wreck the entire time too. Turns out she was sick all week and had just gotten to it the night before, but told me it was the best thing I'd ever written.

Trust me, that was a very valuable lesson for me, teaching me to trust Him even when things looked bleak through my eyes, and never, EVER to compare myself to anyone else ever again. Easier said than done in this biz, but absolutely essential to one's sanity and spirituality. :)

Hugs!
Julie

P.S. Together With You is next up on my TBR list, so I'm excited to read it, although a little nervous to find out what I'm up against. Of course, I already KNOW what we're against with Denise since I've already read (and endorsed!) that book! :)

Chill N said...

Myra Johnson said...
Plotting emerges from character, and no matter how many ideas I may have about how a scene should or could unfold, until the characters are immersed in the action, I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT WILL HAPPEN!!!


Words of comfort for me :-) Thanks!

Nancy C

Sharee Stover said...

Victoria, I so appreciated the honesty in your post. I tend to over edit but I've taken Mary Connealy's advice and learned to put it away and work on something else. Still I know what you mean about appreciating honest criticism.

This was awesome: "Why? Because I grabbed for another life rope. A friend told me I do tortured heroes well. In my state of panic, I made Zeke as tortured as I could. By the time I finished with him, the poor guy needed counseling. Instead he got a major rewrite."

Rhonda Starnes said...

Victoria, thanks for sharing your struggles. These are the kinds of things those of us who are seeking publication need to know.

My daughter and one year old grandson have been visiting for the past week and a half (they go home Saturday). Sadly, I've not managed as much writing time as I'd like, but since my little man lives 7 hours away, I'm going to enjoy every moment of the time I have with him–even if it means I have to work double time next week to get my revisions done. So, your words of wisdom are very timely!

Sandy Smith said...

Victoria, thanks for sharing your struggles. It is good for us other struggling writers to hear that it doesn't always come easy. I am working on my first book, and I am tearing my hair out much of the time because it sounds so awful to me. But I will keep working. I would love to be put in the drawing for Someone Like You as I would enjoy reading your finished product.

Connie Queen said...

CINDY, you said, "I don't have to please anyone, so I please myself. I love writing emotion, and therefore I get emotional which helps me write better emotion."

I did this with my first book. I let the emotion build up and then transfer to the paper. When I went back and read my story, I realized I had a cry baby for a heroine. I had to go back and tone her down a bit. :)

VICTORIA, I hate that you struggled w/this story and it turned your life upside. But can I say I'm really glad--in an nice way of course? It's good to know everyone comes to roadblocks, even the multi-published. Your honesty is very encouraging.

Thanks so much!!!!!

Caryl Kane said...

HELLO VICTORIA! Thank you for sharing your journey. The books that hit home for me are Kristy Cambron's A Hidden Masterpiece series.

Please put my name in for the drawing. Thanks!

Angela K Couch said...

THANK YOU, Victoria! It really helps to hear your struggle...and that there was a fix! I just submitted my first book written under contract and have two more to write for the series. It's nice to know that no matter how bad an asked for revision, or even your writing, seems, there is a fix.

Also, Thank you Julie! I totally needed to hear about you wanting to puke on your book. :) I've been struggling with similar the last week or so. (It probably doesn't help when that author I so admire agreed to read the first of my book!) Eek! It is so easy to compare ourselves and our writing to others, but we all have a different voice. (And if we don't...we should work on that. ;) )

Thank you both for your openness and encouragement!

Janet Dean said...

VICTORIA, thanks for sharing your struggle with writing Someone Like You. As you say, family comes first. Life happens and we need to live it. We only get one round in this world. The pressure of living life with deadlines can force us to rush the process. Whatever our process is.

I was especially touched by your honest admission that you were a wreck the entire time you were revising the book. Sometimes I think we give the impression that Christians face struggles with nothing but peace and courage. Not always. Not me. But no matter how we're feeling, God is there in the messiness and will get us through. And like He did for you, He'll bring good out of it.

Your beautiful grandbaby twins are adorable. Lucky you to have real life models of writing twins, a popular hook at least with LI.

Janet

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, my goodness. I highly, highly recommend Michael Hauge's audio and DVD The Heroes Two Journeys for plotting help.

I cannot. CANNOT do anything but push the characters around the stage on my own.

His six stage structure really gets the ball rolling and helps you figure out what's going on.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, Connie Queen. I needed a spew alert for that one: "I did this with my first book. I let the emotion build up and then transfer to the paper. When I went back and read my story, I realized I had a cry baby for a heroine. I had to go back and tone her down a bit."

I've been working on a proposal all week and finally realized I did the same thing I always do. I make them too darn nice.

What is with that tendency to want to make them all peacemakers??

Tina Radcliffe said...

I agree, Janet. We can make it look so easy when in reality, for many of us writing is plain hard, work. And then for some of us, it's more than hard work. It's the hardest job we've ever had. Ahem. I've been an oncology nurse.

Writing is the hardest work I've ever done.

Myra Johnson said...

You're welcome, NANCY C! ;-D

Tina Radcliffe said...

I agree with Myra, the story must unfold organically from the characters.

Unfortunately, I need to get paid, so I can't let those characters dilly dally. They have to get moving.

Which is why Hauge comes in handy.

Vince said...

Hi Myra:

Would you hire a group of actors to write your movie based on their feelings?

Or

Would it be better to create a great screenplay and then hire the best actors to play the parts?

To paraphrase Humpty Dumpty, "The question is which is to be the master -- the characters or the author -- that's all."

Or, if you prefer, the divine Jane, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an author in possession of a goodly mess, must be in want of a plot.”

STOP
PLOT
JOT



Just a plea for sanity. : )

Vince

Julie Lessman said...

KATE SAID: "Books that hit close to home... Julie Lessman and Susan May Warren come to mind, Also Denise Hunter and Melissa Tagg. I love their honesty and flawed characters that I can relate to."

WOW, thank you SO MUCH, Kate, for putting me in such stellar company -- I am honored AND so very grateful you read my books in the first place. :)


ANGELA SAID: "Also, Thank you Julie! I totally needed to hear about you wanting to puke on your book. :) I've been struggling with similar the last week or so. (It probably doesn't help when that author I so admire agreed to read the first of my book!) Eek! It is so easy to compare ourselves and our writing to others, but we all have a different voice. (And if we don't...we should work on that. ;)"

LOL, Angela, I'm glad I could make you feel better knowing you're not alone, and YES, comparison is DEADLY for anyone, but especially authors because it can stop the flow of creativity. And, LOL ... yes, we DO all have a different voice, and you made me smile with your last sentence there because it is SOOO true!!

CINDY SAID: "My struggles are mostly emotional. I don't have to please anyone, so I please myself. I love writing emotion, and therefore I get emotional which helps me write better emotion (IMHO-vicious circle) I fall in love with my hero, my heroine becomes my temporary BFF ..."

LOL ... move over, Cindy, we're sitting on the same ledge, girlfriend!! But we emotional types have to channel all that goopy emotion somewhere other than our lives and marriages, right???


VICTORIA SAID AND MYRA AGREED: "I need to write to find my characters."

OH MY GOODNESS, ME TOO!!! Glad to know I'm not alone in this craziness!! And, yes, I just called you both crazy because true "crazy" does not like to be alone ... ;)

Hugs,
Julie

bonton said...

Hi, Victoria!!

Thanks so much for your transparency in relating your struggles writing 'Someone Like You', it only makes me appreciate the book more. Which, by the way, I just finished reading and loved!! I think your suggestion that anesthesia may have contributed to your problems in writing the book are valid - I've felt anesthesia has caused concentration, "foggy brain", and other issues for me in the past, so much so that I questioned doctors thoroughly about it. It can happen if oxygen levels aren't measured correctly during surgery.

I know that the themes of your books usually involve redemption, restoration, or rebirth and that the faith element in them is important to you - these ingredients are the most important to me in the books I read. I love reading the redemption of characters who have hit bottom, relatable characters with realistic problems and flaws, and topics consistent with the problems of life today. It all helps me better understand and reach out to the problems of others while reinforcing my gratefulness for my own redemption years ago.

Congrats re: 'Together With You' - I'm so looking forward to reading it. Since I live in the Louisville area, hopefully, I'll have the pleasure of meeting you at a local event.

Please enter my name in your giveaway drawing - thank you so much!!

Edwina said...

Victoria,

Thanks for your honesty and transparency. It helps to know we are not alone in our struggles! I've just finished a nonfiction book that is at the publishers now. So I haven't had the problems you mentioned, but nonfiction can have its own set of special problems!
Hopefully, God does not call me to write another nonfiction book - this one was extremely challenging and took forever to finish!

I've actually started 2 fiction books now - can't decide which one I want to finish first - and I'm sure I'll be using your information to help me along!

Please enter my name in for the drawing!

Myra Johnson said...

Hush, VINCE. Just hush.

My character are calling.

Tina Radcliffe said...

On the floor laughing at Myra and Vince.


Victoria, do you use any particular method of plotting? Any tools you find helpful to get to the bottom of things with your characters?

Dana R. Lynn said...

Hi Victoria! Loved this post! And I could totally feel your angst.

The book that comes to mind is actually one I have never published. I had started it before I knew a thing about writing. All I had was a passion. And while passion is good, in this case it made a hot mess. I had so many things going on, and a secondary character that stole scene after scene.

I finally decided to move on. Now that I actually know what POV means, and how to put together a plot, I am taking another look at it. It might just be one of those stories that is never meant to published. And at this point, I am fine with that.

Dana

Tina Radcliffe said...

Your hot mess book, huh, Dana?

I have a few of those I have deconstructed to make into two books. LOL.

Barbara Scott said...

Victoria, I love that you're so gutsy and transparent and brave enough to share your struggles with us on this book...and that you persevered and rewrote it! Truth, even spoken in kindness, can be devastating to a writer. But you put on your big girl panties, prayed for God's help, and fixed the manuscript. You're an inspiration to us all!

Jill Kemerer said...

Victoria, your covers are beautiful!!
I have been guilty of writing a hot mess more than once. Each time there have been good elements, but basically, the plots themselves have lacked that driving factor--depth. I'm working harder at raising the stakes with each novel. Thank you for sharing your struggle with us! I'm encouraged!!

Rhonda Starnes said...

Dana, I have a first-attempt-at-writing-hot-mess-book, too! LOL! It received a rejection, and rightly so, but Mountain Man keeps insisting I need to send it to another editor because it's my greatest work ever. *Sigh* Love is obviously blind! I have promised him that I'll rework it one day and try to find it a publishing house. Victoria's post definitely gives me courage to attempt that feat!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Rhonda, that is so sweet.

Mountain Man is a keeper for sure.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, my Jill. Can I relate. And it never gets easier being mean to your characters.

Victoria Bylin said...

I'm back from the day job and ready to dig into messages . . . The day job's not bad, but I'd rather be writing for sure! How about homemade chocolate chip cookies for an afternoon snack? or Dove Dark Mocha Latte Dark Chocolate? Yum!

Victoria Bylin said...

Julie Lessman, No wonder your books hit home with me. We're singing the same song. What you said about comparing ourselves to others? Oh yeah. I've been knocked upside the head with that one recently. The pastor of our church urged us to pray a very daring prayer: "Lord, reveal to me as much of myself as I can stand." I prayed that in the middle of Someone Like You and found out how easily my confidence can be shaken. But that's a good thing. When I lean on anything or anyone other than God, I'm in big trouble.

I hope you enjoy Together With You. I tell you, just seeing my name with yours and Denise Hunter's is more than I ever imagined :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Myra! You and I think alike when it comes to character and plot. In fact, one of the reasons I don't do more plotting is that I feel like I finished the book and lose interest. I like surprises -- but only good ones!

I hear you on jumping through hoops to make a book a better fit for a particular publisher or line. I had a revision like that for one of my LIHs. In the end, I really loved the story. In the middle of the revisions? Well, not so much!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Nancy C! I don't have any immediate plans to go back to westerns, but there's an idea lurking in the back of my mind. It hit me when my husband and I visited the Wyoming Territorial Prison. Did you know the place had a woman chaplain? I'm fascinated by that!

Thank you for stopping by! Good luck in the drawing :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Sharee, I hear you on over editing. Oh my stars! I can't tell you how many times I've written, revised, tweaked and edited, only to go back to the original. Mary's advice is excellent. There's nothing like pulling back and taking a fresh look at what we've written. When it comes to making everything just right, I can be my own worst enemy!

Part of the problem is that I actually enjoy editing. I like the tweaking, the word searches, all the detail. It's easier for me than the first draft, but at some point, you have to move on and finish the book :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Rhonda! Enjoy every minute with your grandson! I bet he's cute as can be. And full of energy and giggles and tickles. There's nothing quite like being a grandmother. I love writing, but I love those sweet little girls far more!

Hello Sandy! Good luck in the drawing. The finished product is light years better than the first eight drafts. We're always learning--whether it's a first book or a tenth book. Hang in there! The joy is in the doing :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

You had me at dark chocolate!!!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Connie! That's probably the main reason I wrote this post -- to encourage anyone and everyone who's currently pulling their hair out. As cliched as it might be, there really is light at the end of the tunnel--and like my mom used to say, it's not a train. There's real joy in writing, but it's not easy!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Caryl! The Butterfly and the Violin was amazing. A truly beautiful and poignant story. I have the second one on my Kindle. In a perfect world, I'd have more time to read!

Janet Dean said...

TINA, each book has its own challenges that keep me from feeling competent. I'm sure you felt competent as an oncology nurse or you wouldn't have had the courage to walk onto the floor. Once the story is in print, I think it's pretty good and maybe I'm competent after all. Till I start the next one. Does anyone think it's getting easier?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

VICTORIA, I'm honored to have been in Brides of the West, a novella collection with you. :-)

Janet

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Angela! For me, writing under contract is a totally different feeling than writing that first-ever book. Deadline pressure!!!! And then the worry -- is this as good as the first one? This is where editors are so wonderful. They can see the forest *and* the trees in a way I can't.

Hello Janet! The adult twins in Someone Like You were definitely inspired by K & C :) It's so much fun to have those two little girls in our lives, but now I want to put twins in every book. Re: being a wreck during the revision. Oh. My. Yes. Even when our faith is strong, we still have emotions. I don't think we really grow without some struggle--even a lot of struggling. This book really did change me--in a good way.

Janet Dean said...

I'm off to play golf with my dh in a couple's golf group. We play a scramble and the game today is to play with only three clubs. I'm sure the lack of clubs won't impact my game much. I'm there to make others feel competent. LOL

Janet

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOLOL, Janet. I like that. I could say that about my style. I'm only here to make others feel good about themselves. It could be pointed out that I have worn my hair the same for well over forty years.

Victoria Bylin said...

Tina! I love Michael Hauge's stuff! I heard him speak once and turned the notes into a template I use in the very beginning of the process. The hardest thing for me is visualize the actual story. Left to my own devices, my nice heroines and neurotic heroes would drink coffee and talk all day :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

No, it is not getting easier.

Let's nip that rumor in the bud right now.

As Victoria stated, some books are easier than others, but this writing gig is not for wimps.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Victoria, you must invest in the visual DVDs of Hauge. Mine are literally worn out. YOU MUST. It will at least give those tough books a fighting chance.

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello bonton! Thank you THANK YOU for that lovely post. You just put a wonderful handle on why I write the 3 Rs (Redemption, Rebirth and Restoration). It's all about understanding each other, the joy of our salvation, and getting to know the God who created us. My goal is write about tough subjects with great compassion.

Louisville is just a little ways down the road from Lexington. Maybe our paths will cross at a book fair or a signing. KY is a great state for authors :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Edwina! Fiction or non-fiction, finishing a book is a huge accomplishment. Let's celebrate with cyber cake and ice cream :) Good luck in the drawing!

Victoria Bylin said...

Tina asked: Victoria, do you use any particular method of plotting? Any tools you find helpful to get to the bottom of things with your characters?

Great question, Tina. I do a couple of things. To get started, I use the template I made from the Michael Hauge talk. That forces me to think in terms of "stuff that happens" vs. "stuff people are feeling." After that, I make a list of possible scenes. It'll say things like "H/h go to a high school reunion" or "heroine's surprise birthday party at a restaurant by the river."

After I've thought and jotted (to use Vince's word!), I take a walk. There's something about moving that helps ideas snap into place. I can work a problem at the computer until I'm half blind, but the answers usually don't come until I give up! It's amazing what a decent night's sleep will do for my creativity!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Dana! You never know . . . that hot mess of a story might turn into something amazing down the line. The first book I sold to Bethany House was sort of like that. I wrote that story three times, mostly because I loved it and didn't want to let it go. In the long-ago first draft, cell phones weren't even around! Rewriting it with technology in mind was a hoot!

Victoria Bylin said...

Thank you, Barbara! To God be the glory, because I really was at the end of my rope--a greasy rope without a knot in the end! My deepest hope here is that others will be encouraged.

Hello Jill! Digging deep is the best part of writing -- and the hardest. Also, thank you for the kind words about the covers. The Bethany House art dept did an amazing job. I love them all :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Janet! Brides of the West was super fun anthology. I was honored to have been in it with you. I will always love westerns . . . Cowboys make awesome heroes :)

Vince said...

Hi Victoria:

It just hit me!
You also write LI Historicals.
Your new covers had me thinking you were a new author to me.

BTW: I just loved "The Outlaw's Return". (If a romance has a German Shepherd on the cover, I buy it. I also loved Linda Goodnight's Alaskan Bride Rush, "The Lawman's Christmas Wish", too.)

I also really enjoyed your book with Janet Dean, "Brides of the West," which has received only 5 star reviews!


I hope this departure into Contemporary does not mean you are giving up on Love Inspired Historicals. We need both you and Janet Dean.

Winnie Griggs, wrote one LI Contemporary which became my favorite book of hers but she said here on Seekerville that she won't write any more contemporaries! : ( I guess you have to write what you like.

Which do you like the write best? Contemporary or Historical?

In any event, I just downloaded, "Together With You" in order to see if I like your contemporaries even more than your historicals.

Once again, I hope you are not letting go of the past!

Vince

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Vince! Yes, that's me. Same author, different century. The Outlaw's Return will always be a personal favorite. Fancy Girl was inspired by all the wonderful dogs we've had in our lives, though none of them were nearly so well trained.

I wish I had the creative energy to do two books a year--a western historical and a contemporary--but it would be really difficult to juggle family and the day job with additional deadlines. That being said, I have an idea I love for three westerns. Who knows? Maybe it'll happen, but right now, I'm fully committed to contemporaries. Reading wise, I bounce back and forth. Variety keeps things fresh.

Julie Lessman said...

VICTORIA SAID: ""Lord, reveal to me as much of myself as I can stand." I prayed that in the middle of Someone Like You and found out how easily my confidence can be shaken. But that's a good thing. When I lean on anything or anyone other than God, I'm in big trouble.

LOL, AMEN & AMEN!! I love your story about your pastor's prayer. It reminds me of one of my favorite Scriptures -- the last paragraph of Psalm 139, vs. 23 and 24: "Search me, Oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." I used to pray that every day until I couldn't handle it anymore and would have to take a break because He was showing me WAY too much stuff!! :)

I'm pretty sure Denise is reading your book right now too, Victoria, if she hasn't already because it's fun to see what our competition writes. I have to say, I absolutely LOVE your cover, so much so that I probably would have read it eventually anyway even if we weren't in the same contest. :)

Hugs!
Julie

Becky Smith said...

I LOVED, LOVED this interview!! I'm glad that you stayed with it and wrote this book! I like that we have to remember that, like a transformer, we can't change ourselves, because it takes a higher intelligence to put all the pieces together. Sometimes it's hard to see and to trust what God is doing with our lives. This is such a sweet, sweet book!

Victoria Bylin said...

Those final verses in Psalm 139 are burned in my brain. I didn't put it together with Jon's (the pastor's) prayer, but it's right there. That's one of the first verses I memorized, and it still sings to me. In fact, I used it for inspiration in one of my older LIHs.

Another biggie verse for me is Isiah 50:10-11. It about trusting in the Name of the Lord instead of walking by the light of our own fires / efforts. It's a powerful scripture, especially for this first born overachiever who thinks she's responsible for everything.

It *is* fun to see what the competition is, but I have to laugh at myself. This is one time where I'm finding it easy *not* to compare my book to yours or Denise's because I'm still so stunned to see my name on the list:) Stunned and grateful. And excited. And, okay, I admit it, just teeny weeny bit competitive :)

The cover for Together With You still takes my breath away. Her expression is perfect, and I just love the protective way he's holding her. And the cloudy sky ... all that emotional turbulence. Sigh <3

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Victoria Wow, looks like you got the group rockin today with your great post. Thanks for joining us today here in Seekerville and getting so many heartfelt responses. Yep, we all have those manuscripts that about did us in don't we?

I've had a couple of those myself. Mainly the circumstances going on when writing were the real cause. But the funniest thing is that when I had the "perfect" writing situation, I mean, plenty of non-interupted time, no outside job, no problems going on--that turned out to be the toughest time I had writing because with nothing going on in my life there was nothing to write about. LOL

Thanks again for joining us. Have fun.

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Sandra! You just made me laugh out loud! The perfect writing situation and . . . zilch! I had a situation like that when we first moved to Lexington. I discovered that I'm great procrastinator. Give me all day, and i'll take it. Working p/t actually helps my creativity. Like you said, I have stuff to write about. It's not accident that the heroine in Together With You is a social worker considering I work in a behavioral health practice :) I'm also more careful with my time.

I hear you on life situations interfering with writing--both creatively and time-wise. Thanks for having me today! It's been awesome!

Victoria Bylin said...

With multiple posts, I've gotten to prove I'm not a robot several times. So far I've clicked on lakes, mountains, addresses, storefronts, pancakes and commercial trucks. I think they need goats in honor of Someone Like You :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Try skipping the captcha and see if it lets you in. I always skip it.

Blogger is set for no captcha's but that STILL appears.

Valri said...

Victoria - now I know why I loved the book so much! Of course I love every book you write (and you know it!!!) but now, seeing the struggle you went through, it makes the book so much deeper for me! Thanks for sharing the struggle! I love when writers share these things! Loved the book and just so you know, the characters came out just right! Personally, I couldn't WAIT for Hunter to exit the book!!!!!! LOL

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Tina! I sort of enjoy the picture game :) The annoying Captcha's are the ones where you have to enter crooked letters and numbers that make no sense.

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Valri! You're making me blush :) Thank you! Hunter was a piece of work, wasn't he? In some of the early versions, I had Zeke deck him. I really, really wanted to do that! I still do :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Victoria, Just want to let you know how much we appreciate you spending the day with us! Praying for continued success for your wonderful stories.

Laura Conner Kestner said...

Sorry to be so late stopping by, but wanted to thank you for such an interesting post. And those twins are so precious! Family first, indeed. And I had to laugh when I saw the desk picture, because mine looks a lot like that. In fact, I'm typing this on my laptop in the kitchen because I can't even get to my desk, lol. Thanks again.

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL, Laura. And the sign over my desk (which is a disaster) says : If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then is an empty desk a sign? -Albert Einstein.

Laura Conner Kestner said...

LOL - love that, TINA!

Victoria Bylin said...

Laura, as long as you can find your laptop, you're in business! Thank you for stopping by!

And thank you, Seekers for having me today. An extra big thank you to Tina for inviting me and hanging out today :) And another big thank you to readers and writers for stopping by.

It's my hope and prayer that you've all been encouraged!

Dana McNeely said...

I LOVED this post, Victoria, and read it to my husband. All those books, and still, a struggle like that. It was encouraging to read about, so thanks for sharing your pain and how you got through it to become a stronger writer.

Regarding Tina quoting Nietzsche, I remember the first time I heard that quote, in a hilarious romantic comedy starring JoBeth Williams and Tom Conti, called "American Dreamer". An aspiring writer wins a writing contest that takes her to France, amnesia, wild adventure, and romance.

Just Commonly said...

Awesome post - Thanks Vicki! I love all your books and I have all of them, so no need to enter me in the giveaway. Just saying hello! I love Seekerville! So glad to see you here!

Vince said...

Hi Victoria:

It was fun having you here yesterday. Whatever you choose to write you have a wonderful voice and I wish you well. Fortunately there is room for dogs in Contemporary stories as well. Looking forward to your Contemporary adventure. I'll be starting "Together with You" tonight.

Thanks again.

Vince

Beth Erin said...

All your suffering, sweat, and tears paid off, I love the book! Thank you for all your hard work. This was the first title of yours I've had the opportunity to read and I'm excited to get my hands on more. I like your down to earth style and I LOVE all the Ladybug scenes!

Beth Erin said...

Oh and please throw my name in the hat if it's not too late! :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Checking back on Friday night. I'm ready for the weekend!

Dana, So glad you were encouraged! The minute Tina asked me to blog at Seekerville, I knew I wanted to share the story behind the story. Hang in there!

Hello Just Commonly! Waving hello to you from Lexington, KY!

Hi Vince, I'm going to think of you when I'm working on the next project: WHY NOT PLOT and STOP PLOT JOT. I wrote those two things down. I especially the STOP part. Ideas need time to simmer. It's been a pleasure to chat with you :)

Hello Beth Erin! Ladybug's a real charmer, isn't she? Thank you for your encouraging words. And good luck in the drawing. I don't know when it closes, but I hope you made it in time :)

Shecki Grtlyblesd said...

I really enjoyed Someone Like You! :) I'd love to see a sequel.

BreAnna Herron said...

I have loved all of your books! I couldn't imagine having to face eight pages of what doesn't work. I'm so thankful you took that made a wonderful book! Congrats!!

Victoria Bylin said...

Hello Shecki! You have fabulous name! Totally unique. So glad you enjoyed Someone Like You!

Thank you, BreAnna, for the congrats. It was a long, slow road, but I loved the story in the end. Happy Saturday!