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It’s spring break, so I’ve been in Florida visiting family.  I’m supposed to be enjoying the break—and I am, to a degree. But what non-writers (everyone in my family except my daughters, who write fan fic) can’t understand is that what I’d really like best is quiet time to write.  So I smile and go along with the planned activities, and I don’t tell them that there’s a part of me that’s eager to get back to cold and dreary upstate New York so I can write.

I’m finally getting close to the end of the balloonist story (current working title The Height of Desire).  It’s not the best time to take a break, because this is a time when there’s a risk of something Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls creative U-turns, i.e. fear-induced backsliding just at the point of a creative breakthrough.

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The good thing is that I’ve been writing long enough to recognize when I’m tempted to do a creative U-turn. The other thing I’ve found is that telling friends my plans can help me stay on track. So friends, this is my plan:

– I will finish this version of the story by the end of April.

– I will go on a writing retreat during the first weekend in May with my writer buddies at a house on Cayuga Lake. There I will do a deep, thoughtful review of the whole thing and very likely a lot of rewriting and polishing.

– Then it’s off to my critique partners, and probably another round of revision and polishing. Meanwhile I can start thinking about cover art. J

Wish me luck.  What challenges are you facing? What helps to keep you from backsliding?


Posted in Writing | Tagged | 3 Replies

Janet’s post yesterday dovetails in nicely with what has been on my mind lately: Finishing the darn book.

I don’t mean finishing reading it, but finishing writing and editing it. See, I’ve had this Regency-set historical I’ve been editing, and last night I officially finished editing it. Until my last reader reports in with her feedback.

Like Janet, I like the quick ending. I despise epilogues, especially if there are little bundles of joy around. Not that I don’t like kids (I have one, after all), it’s that I don’t romanticize parenthood. Overweight, exhausted women who resent their husbands for sleeping through the night? Not romantic. But I digress.

I do have problems with some authors rushing too quickly to the end. Janet mentions Judith Ivory in her post, and some of Ivory’s books seem like she just wants to get out of there.

Until recently, I wondered why she just didn’t take as much careful time to craft her story at the end as she had all the way through the book.

Until recently.

I was so excited to get towards the end of my book that I totally rushed through the ending, wrapping up all sorts of plotlines in a few quick sentences. I know I’ll have to go back and flesh things out a bit, but right now? I’m just happy to be done. My last reader is starting to read the ms. today, will have feedback over the weekend, so it’s not like I have a whole lot of time off from it. But it’s enough.

Not all of you are writers, but all of you do things in your lives that you start and finish. Do you find yourselves rushing to get to the end? Delaying it as long as you can because there’s just another task waiting beyond this one? Or are you that pinnacle of perfection, taking as much time and energy–but not too much–with the end as you did the previous 95%?

Meanwhile, wish me luck this weekend with the editing. I thought I was done.


Borrowed from fairy tales, known as the HEA in romance–does it always work? Do you appreciate the book that ends like a slow fade on camera, moving away from h/h? Or do you prefer the full monty of explanations, apologies, tears, laughter, the whole package of loose ends and subplots tied up with a pretty ribbon , followed by an epilogue where h/h are surrounded by babies and all’s well with the world? I have to admit I can’t write endings worth a darn. I write and rewrite the last few lines, then shrug and type in The End, and put myself out of my misery (several nights in a row for a week or so).

Here’s a technique for The End which I’m rather fond of: Black Ice by Anne Stuart, where you realize the heroine is indeed going to take up with that thrillingly scruffy French psychopath. All in one sentence. Any/all of Judith Ivory’s thrilling throwaway one-sentence enders–yes, I rather like the sensation of leaping off a cliff, particularly if h/h have spent the entire book jumping off minor cliffs and are now going for the Big One, the Commitment–marriage, the final frontier. I don’t want cosiness and domesticity and the patter of tiny feet. Let the dysfunctionality thrive beyond the endpages!

Some readers got very upset about the end of Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me where the h/h married but had a dog instead of children. It was seen as breaking the rules in some strange sort of way; even stranger is that Ms. Crusie claims she wrote it that way because the book is a fairy tale (lost shoes! Princesses in towers! Yes, the elements are all there). I think the only sort of dog that appears in a fairy tale would be a magic one, with eyes that roll round and round, for instance, and guards treasure. Well, maybe there was more to the dog than we knew.

Share your favorite endings–without giving away the plot, if you can.


I can’t believe it’s the weekend already!! (and many thanks to Megan for pitching in for me on Tuesday…hopefully now that deadlines are looking reasonable again, and warm weather is here, I won’t go down in my writing hole quite so often…). And Happy Easter to everyone, too.

I got an early spring present this week–author copies of the May Harlequin Historical release, The Taming of the Rogue! I am very excited about this book–it’s my Elizabethan theater/playwright/spy story. Plus it has a gorgeous gown on the cover. I covet it–deeply. If you would like a sneak peek at the story, I’m having a contest to win a copy until Tuesday. (or check back here at the end of this month when I chatter on about it some more…)
In the meantime, I’ve been catching up on my reading. I just finished Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. (and no, I don’t have any kids–I just always seem compelled to read any book that tells me how to be more French). Among lots of other interesting (and practical) info, she has a great take on the difference between American and French children’s books:
In the American books, there’s usually a problem, a struggle to fix the problem, and then a cheerful resolution…Lessons are learned and life gets better.
Whereas in French stories, There’s a problem, and the characters struggle to overcome that problem but they seldom succeed for very long. Often the book ends with the protagonist having the same problem again. There is rarely a moment of personal transformation, when everyone learns and grows.
One of her daughter’s favorite books involves two little cousins, Eliette (who is bossy) and Alice (who is passive). One day Alice kicks Eliette to the curb, deciding she has had enough. Eliette begs her pardon, Alice takes her back–then Eliette jabs her with a needle again. The end.
Life is ambiguous and complicated. There aren’t bad guys and good guys. Each of us has a bit of both. Eliette is bossy, but she’s also lots of fun. Alice is the victim, but she also seems to ask for it, and she goes back for more. We’re to presume that Eliette and Alice keep up their little dysfunctional cycle, because, well, that’s what a friendship between two girls is like. I wish I had known that when I was four, instead of finally figuring it out in my thirties.
Also–there is a lot of nudity and love in French books for four-year-olds. She has a book about the romance between the boy who accidentally pees in his pants and the little girl who lends him her pants while fashioning her bandana into a skirt.
Now that is love.
I kinda like this idea of an ambiguous ending. It doesn’t mean everyone isn’t happy–it just means that this is life, and these people have learned to make a life together. Isn’t that what a romance novel ending is about? Two people who care enough about each other to stay the course no matter who pees in their pants? Why don’t we ever see that in the babies and bliss epilogues??
What are some of your favorite book endings? How did your favorite books turn out when you were four years old? (I had a picture book I loved about a princess with immensely long hair, who was always tripping up princes and courtiers and hapless hairdressers in those impractical tresses and finally had to trim it. I am not sure what that message is. Maybe my mom was just tired of making my French braids or something. I also loved Eloise, who dumped water down the mail chutes in the Plaza…)
Posted in Reading | Tagged | 2 Replies

466px-Leighton-Till_Death_Do_Us_Part-1878This weekend was Kathleen Gilles Seidel’s Mansfield Park talk at our Washington Romance Writers meeting. As it always is with Kathy, the talk was intelligent, stimulating, instructive, and enjoyable.

In the morning we discussed what didn’t work for us in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, some of the same things I talked about in the blog last week. In the afternoon we speculated about alternate endings.

Some Alternatives

Mary Crawford is reformed and marries Edmund

Henry Crawford is reformed and marries Fanny

Tom is reformed and marries Susan, Fanny’s sister

The basic idea was that the flawed characters were more interesting than the wholly good Fanny or the easily besotted Edmund and that we like to see flawed characters change and be redeemed.

What Would You Change?

This got me thinking about other books or movies that deserve an alternate ending. The main one that comes to mind for me is Little Women. I always wanted Jo to wind up with Laurie. It still bugs me.

What books or movie endings would you change? Gone With The Wind? Wuthering Heights? Almost anything by Nicholas Sparks?


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