I’m in the process of revising my second book, ON THIN ICE, due out in December. One issue this story has had for me, is that Carter, my bad boy match for Penny, who is my good girl making bad choices seventeen year-old protagonist, is a bit…well…flat. Don’t get me wrong. Carter is cute, sweet, and sympathetic, but since he doesn’t get a lot of on the page time, I don’t know him well enough to fall for him.
Not that Penny does either.
Teenagers don’t always have to know the nitty-gritty depth of a person to let their hearts be swooped up and carried away. In fact, they are usually ruled by hormones, attraction, and instinct. But that isn’t enough for the fictional world of Contemporary YA Romance. We need to have a reason for our girl to fall in love with our guy.
In Heaven is for Heroes, Jordie and Alex had the benefit of a past—a friendship turned romance that was left unresolved, so they already had conflict and tension built in.
So what about characters that just meet, fall head over heels, and jump into bed right away? Where is the conflict, the build-up of tension, the oh-so-satisfying push and pull required for us to root for our couple to find their hopefully ever after?
I know there are tricks—like giving your hero a quirky habit, something about him that makes him real and more three dimensional. Maybe he’s nice to animals or shares a common emotional journey with our heroine, but how do we make him really deserve the love of a young girl who is putting her heart on the line for someone she barely knows?
Not everybody is going to like everything you do. It’s simply one of the laws of nature. For writers this certainly proves to be true. Go on Amazon and type in your favorite book and when the reviews pop up you’ll see that the book you loved somebody else hated. Why is that? We all have different tastes.
For my last work in progress, something I agonized over, I had six people read my first three chapters. Three of my fellow Scribes. One published author. An editor and an agent. All star line up, right? Of course, I wanted them all to say that they loved everything and that there were no faults with my writing. (Sigh.I’m such a dreamer.) In reality I knew that wasn’t the case. I knew I had some plotting issues. Some scenes that needed to be scrapped, but I thought my first three chapters were strong and that if I started off the right way my manuscript would be salvageable.
Here’s what happened…
About my heroine…
The editor said, ” I didn’t feel that Trinity was a heroine I could really identify with, because her mother issues seemed extreme and bordering on mental illness.”
The agent said. “Dive deeper into the issues with her mother. That’s the best part of all of it.”
One Scribe said, “I like that she’s kind of a nut over her mom dying and that she doesn’t know what to do.”
Another scribe said,”Trinity is very sympathetic.”
About my hero…
The agent said, “He’s just a bad character and I would rework him altogether. He comes across as someone without a lot of class.” (OW!)
One Scribe said, “Dan is very hunky and an honorable man to boot.”
Another Scribe said, “I like the guy, Dan. I like that he’s having a personal crisis at the moment too.
The editor said nothing about him at all.
About my third chapter…
The published author said, “I loved your ending.” This person also said. “It was well done and I enjoyed reading it.”
One scribe said, “Actually, this sentence (the ending ) is probably unnecessary.”
One person said the meeting between the hero and heroine was flat. Another said “Oh my!”
I got a bunch of other comments.Most of them conflicting. The only thing everybody agreed on was my writing style, my voice. The agent said (I’m paraphrasing here) ‘Your actual writing isn’t bad. I once told somebody to not quit their day job’. I took that as a thumbs up. Phew… That’s the only thing I don’t know how to change. Some people loved my supporting characters, one absolutely hated them and went as far to say that I should scrap them all together. The agent also said, “I’m not a big fan of all your snappy dialogue and funny stuff.” (Ouch, darn it!) He also really, really, really hated my hero. ( I kind of love him.) He also told me that he thought it would be much better suited as Women’s Fiction rather than Contemporary Romance. And that if I eliminate the unnecessary relationship that I would be in good shape. The editor’s only real advice was that I should look at what’s currently selling and write that. (Bad Advice! Bad editor!)
What did I take away from this? Not a gosh darn thing! Well that’s not entirely true but for a while I didn’t want to look even look at the manuscript. All the comments, all the different points of view threw me into a total tailspin. Here’s what I did take away…
1.I write romance novels. Contemporary, kind of funny, Romance novels and after years of genre jumping I feel like I have finally found my place. I will not write women’s fiction because it’s not what I do best. Write what you love. Write what you do best.
2. I learned that if more than two people say the same thing it’s probably true. If everybody says it then you might want to revise.
3. Not everybody is going to like everything you do. It’s impossible!
4. I won’t ask so many people to critique my writing. (You probably won’t be seeing me at the next critique group.) For me one or two trusted writers/ Scribes is all I need. It might be different for you. Do what makes you feel comfortable.
5. The most important thing I learned was to take everything they said in and let it go. Ultimately, I am the one who is putting my name of the work and it’s up to me decide how it goes. (I’m The Decider! And you can be too.)
6. I am greatful for their help. They took time from their own writing to help me with mine. Most people don’t critique to purposely hurt your feelings, only to help you become a better writer.
I want to hear from you. What do you think about critique groups? Critique partners? Love them? Hate them? Has someone said something about your work that will always stay with you? Do you take criticism well.? Any comments are welcome.