• Uncategorized

    Finding the way

    I don’t write that often about how I write because for some time I’ve had a superstitious fear that if I attempt to analyze what I do I’ll somehow destroy it. It’s not broke, so I don’t try to fix it.

    But I’ve been thinking about this following conversations with other writers with whom I agreed that venturing into the unknown is part of the process. To write well, and above all, to write consistently and regularly (not to mention adverbly) requires a letting go, a surrender to something that just feels weird. So a bear enters the story (as it did in A Most Lamentable Comedy, on sale here with free shipping–was that good for you too?); a quirky character arrives and you don’t know quite what they’re doing but you feel they have to stay so you leave the scene in, just in case, and later they prove to be a major player in resolving the plot; and so on.

    It’s hard and frightening to let the process, the unknown, take over which I think is why so many of us dither around with deadlines looming. The procrastination factor means that eventually you have to dive in and let the angels or demons of the creative process take over. And there’s always the fear that, yeah, I love this character, but what if they never do anything significant to forward the plot? Or what if my editor wants me to take him or her out?

    The irony of course is that once you’ve got beyond the fear and doubt and procrastination, it’s great. It feels wonderful once you’re in the Zone and the story starts writing itself. And there are also the practical considerations like making the daily wordcount and meeting deadlines. So why all the avoidance?

    I think fear is a necessary part of the process. We don’t know exactly how the creative works (even if it can be explained in terms of hormones or electrical impulses) and we should treat it with respect. At the same time we have to learn to trust our instincts and accept that we can make the story work, fill in the (in my case, gaping) plot holes and find solutions.

    I suspect it’s pretty much the same for other creative endeavors and also for athletes. What do you think?

    Over at agent Lucienne Diver’s blog today talking about bad girl heroines, HEAs, and offering a copy of A Most Lamentable Comedy as a prize!

  • Uncategorized

    Originality

    Last week, a scene from the Project Runway finale had me thinking.

    The judges compared designer Kenley’s gown (left) to a recent creation by Alexander McQueen (right). Kenley complained that the judges called her a copycat. Annoying as Kenley is, I don’t think she ripped off the design. I didn’t hear the judges say so either. What I did hear is their advice to her to become more aware of what other designers are doing.

    I wondered whether this advice–no doubt excellent for the fashion industry–makes sense for romance writing. Many publishers do in fact advise aspiring writers to read their line before submitting. However, I think the intent is to get more submissions that suit the current line, not avoid similar stories, which is more often my concern. I sometimes worry that I’ve accidentally hit upon a similar idea to something that is already out there, even (horrors!) something so popular and successful that my own attempt would inevitably raise suspicions.

    But I stress about this less than I used to. When I heard that Victoria Alexander wrote a book with a balloonist hero, I steeled myself to read it, ready to ditch or alter my own balloonist story if it seemed too similar. As it turns out, HER HIGHNESS, MY WIFE is a fun read but the plot and characters are completely unlike mine. Even the ballooning element is different, as her aeronaut uses hot air and mine uses hydrogen. You may think this does not matter but consider the fact that in a hydrogen balloon an aeronaut can, um, stay up much longer. 🙂 But I digress.

    I know some authors who don’t read in their own genre because they want to avoid unconsciously absorbing others’ ideas. I won’t go so far; I enjoy historical romance too much to give up the pleasure. But I’m also not about to embark on a major survey of what sort of historical romances are currently out there, either to try to fit in or to deliberately make sure I’ve written something that is completely unlike any other story. I don’t have the time!

    Although there are a lot of elements in a single garment, a novel is still a more complex creation. Two writers working in isolation could very well come up with some similar ideas, especially if they’re fascinated by the same bit of history and using the same sources. But if they are drawing from within themselves, the resulting novels are still going to as different as the two writers.

    I found a cool quote by James Stephens:

    Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.

    I like that! How about you? Do you think authors should read in their own genre or not? Which do you think results in greater originality?

    Elena
    www.elenagreene.com

  • Uncategorized

    Setting or Story?

    Right now, I’m taking a break between drafts of my mess-in-progress to fill some research craters in my story. I know that the most organized writers say one should do research beforehand. I actually do that, but then my characters go places and do things I hadn’t envisioned at the start. Which means another round of research, going back through books I’ve already read to find things I didn’t realize I should have taken notes on.

    It makes me wonder which really comes first for me: the setting or the story.

    Many of my stories ideas come from tidbits of historical accounts I’ve read. Yet once I get going, the story comes over. I think (I hope!) this is where the deeper and more universal themes start surfacing. This is the point where I go back through my sources to try to make the history fit–or at least be able to write a good Author’s Note explaining what I’ve tweaked.

    I’ve heard some people say that a Regency (perhaps they meant the traditional Regency) should be a story that couldn’t possibly take place in any other setting. On the other hand, how about the transformation of Pride & Prejudice to Bridget Jones’s Diary or Emma to Clueless?

    I know these reinventions don’t work for some but they do for me. I think it’s because the characters and the stories are timeless. And yet there’s more to these adaptations than just translating clothing and cultural references. The setting isn’t just a backdrop, any more than Jane Austen’s “3 or 4 families in a country village”. It’s all in how the universal story finds expression in a new setting.

    So what do you think comes first, setting or story?

    Or do they feed each other, as I’m beginning to think?

    Elena
    www.elenagreene.com

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