Leap the fence. Seize that chaos. Whet your own edge. Go weird. Go buckwild.
— Chuck Wendig
This is the first year I’ve felt 100% okay about not doing NaNo. No regret, no obligation, though I do give a hearty shake of the pompoms to all participants. This year, I am too excited to be working on Her Last First Kiss, immersing myself in the world of my hero and heroine (and the mutual friend caught in the middle, though I still don’t know if he gets a POV or not. We will find out.) to have much brain space left for the “oughts” and the “should” and the “everybody elses,” which is a good thing, and a goal I have been working toward for quite some time. So, that’s a win right there, in my book, pun intended.
The last few years have seen miscarried manuscripts, at various stages of viability. Some are still waiting for the bad juju to burn off, so that I can see what’s left. Others and I have parted ways, mostly amicably, while yet others are like the one night stand one passes at work with downcast eyes and a pretended interest in the pattern of the carpet until one is out of the other’s orbit. (Vampire story, I am looking at you.) All have been necessary steps along the journey, and those that are still viable will get a second look once the HEA has been inscribed in stone on this one.
For me, discipline is key, but the kind that works for me. When I have a schedule made out, then writing/researching/editing time is from hour X to hour Y, and that is mine. I am at work, whether that means a notebook in the park or fingers on keyboard. All those miscarried manuscripts have taught me that “um, I don’t know, England?” or “figure out why later” are not going to work for me, and the sanest thing I can do is hit pause, find out the specifics and then move forward. I love adding detail, adding layer on layer to make my story people into their own being, not my popsicle stick puppets, building locations I can see and hear and feel and breathe, so that I don’t have to stop and beat myself up because I don’t know the exact process of choosing a tanist :exchanges wary glance with time travel manuscript: or when house numbers came into general use :waves goodbye to novella idea that wasn’t strong enough to carry a story in the first place:
I’ve found out, the hard way, that my default setting at present, is Georgian England. Not that I can’t or don’t use other settings -far from it- but if I don’t know at the outset when and where a story takes place, that’s probably it. Part of this comes from being a child of the Bicentennial, and being a child of the Bicentennial while living in a town that was, literally, burned to the ground during the Revolution and rebuilt from a pile of ash. I can identify with that. The dress, manners, speech, and aesthetics of the Georgian era are second nature to me where historical romance is concerned. Love to read it, love to write it.
Studying the stories I love most to read tells me what I want to put into the stories I write. Deep emotion, the choices my characters make and the consequences thereof affected by the time in which they live. I love stories of identity, where the character breaks away from what others tell them they “should” or “ought” to be and instead, discover who they actually are, and live in that. Again, this is relevant to my interests.
I haven’t written a story like this one in a while, and it’s scary at times, but going back to my roots, the stories and characters that I love, fills me with anticipation rather than pressure. Piecing together my timelines, planting family trees and slapping down bullet points in notebooks and fresh documents lets me approach the work with enthusiasm, and without the feeling that I’m forcing anything. Challenging? Yes. Very much so. This timeline has me with one foot on the ledge already. There’s a gray area in a choice a character makes – maybe it’s not “likable,” but I’m not here for “likable.” I’m here to tell the stories that come to me, and, in this story world, that’s what happened, and I’m glad it did. When the characters start making their own choices like that, that’s when I know the story is real and alive. That’s when it goes from idea to book in progress, and this is definitely that.