Search

B Plot

My journey as a writer (to date)

Friday, October 22, 2021

Road through forest

In many ways, I’ve always been a writer. I wrote a lot in high school—hundreds of stories, poems, and three books. When my teacher asked for a paragraph on what I did during summer vacation, I handed in a three-page report.

Ten years ago, I decided to take up writing again. It was a challenge to define the genre I wanted to write in. I had read a lot of fantasy and thought that would be my genre, but it was always flat writing. I went to the local library and put a notice to local writers for a writers’ group. I had never been in a writers’ group, but I needed regular feedback and criticism of my work to improve. My writers’ group is a small and dedicated group of writers who provide invaluable, honest criticism of each other’s work.

I had (and continue to have) issues with prose. One of the main challenges was finding the right tone for my writing and the right balance between world-building and characterisation. I leaned heavily on the fantasy side. There were too many high action scenes that didn’t string together to form a story.

I read Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Galmourist Series and fell in love with the tone of historical romances. With romances, I discovered tropes.

Tropes saved my writing. Tropes gave me a structure to which to write, play with, and twist. Many sites provide support on tropes, including but not limited to https://tvtropes.org/ . The TV tropes website helped me with clarity. I learned, albeit very slowly, how to stack different genres. For example, my latest release is contemporary romantic suspense (aka a romantic mystery). I aim for a 50% romance plot and a 50% non-romance arc. In studying tropes, I learned how to align the different beats to ensure good pacing and layer conflict.

I wrote an entire fantasy romance series (29 books, 2.5 million words) that is in serious need of re-writing. I had the meta-arc of the series. I made a table of each book, the main characters, which tropes I would use and which genres I would combine (i.e. fantasy romance heist, fantasy romance mystery, fantasy romance adventure/quest, etc.)

I wrote 70-100 page, point-form outlines which I submitted to an editor for critique. The editor’s critiques were invaluable to me to understand tension, where and how to start/stop subplots, where to place key decisions, and how to ensure the story’s premise has enough oomph in it to drive a character for an entire book. The editor also provided excellent comments on the snippets of dialogue and world-building.

During this process, I also submitted a few sample pages to the professional editor to shred. It gave me a good sense of what to improve and how to improve it. I submit a few pages now and then to track my progress. Now the focus (her corrections) are more on flow and pacing. There’s less focus on grammar and syntax and POV issues than before.

I needed to write those 2.5 million words to understand the plot, pacing, and characterisation. I needed to write variations of stories to understand how to manipulate conflict and tension. I need to re-write those words to make them legible to the outside world…

C’est la vie.

Once I had my feet under me (or perhaps my fingers comfortably on the keyboard?), I joined the Ottawa Romance Writers. It is a professional association of romance writers that provides peer support and professional development opportunities.

I participated in writers’ conferences (romance and non-romance writers, in-person and virtual) to network, participate in workshops, and learn about the industry. Some of the conferences I’ve participated in include Romancing the Capital, Northern Hearts, CanCon, and Limestone Expo.

I take writing courses through Margie Lawson’s Academy. Her courses are geared towards romance writers. However, the lessons and techniques used apply to all genres. Through the courses offered in her academy, I’ve learned techniques in showing not telling, how to write humour, how to improve the pacing and structure of my stories, how to review a WIP within 30 days to have it beta-reviewer ready, writing techniques to improve my prose, and among many other valuable techniques. I continue to take courses through her academy because I have so much more to learn.

I also study books related to craft. Including but not limited to:

  • Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
  • How To Write Best-Selling Fiction by James Scott Bell
  • Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell
  • The Last Fifty Pages by James Scott Bell
  • Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes
  • 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox
  • 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron
  • The series by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. They have several books on how to heighten emotion, describe negative traits, rural settings, and so on. These are writer guides and references.

 

My craft development journey hasn’t been smooth. I’ve been called amateurish by a NYT-bestselling author. I’ve stared at five pages full of mark-ups a line editor took two-hours to edit (because there were so many problems with it). I’ve interacted with many people who consider romance a non-genre and not worthy of writing.  It took a ridiculous amount of time to show, not tell, find fresh ways of writing things, not have my characters smile every other sentence (they still do if I let them), and write witty dialogue.

I try. I fail. I learn. I try again.

I write boldly.

 

You can reach out to me on Twitter @reneegendron to share your writing journey. 

Thank you @LouSchlesinger for the topic suggestion. 

 

 

No comments yet