Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Writer's Wednesday - Lynn Raye Harris
How to Write a Book in Three Weeks (or, What I Learned from Following an Outline)
Writing a 50,000 word category romance in three weeks sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? It did to me, and it wasn’t what I intended to do. But other projects, revisions, deadlines, and a trip to the RT convention in Columbus, Ohio, left me with three weeks to write and turn in my next contracted novel.
However, don’t hate me just yet. Because, though I did it, there is a secret. One my pantser heart just hates to admit.
I had an outline.
For you plotters, this won’t come as any surprise that writing with an outline was easier, but it’s not the usual way I work. Nor will it be the way I work in the future. (She didn’t learn a thing, the plotters wail!)
I did, but you see, the outline wasn’t mine. The project I was working on was part of a continuity, which means the editors already thought up all the story details. All I had to do was follow the path they’d laid out.
Which wasn’t easy! And I can’t say I completely followed it to the letter, either. Because, as usual with a pantser, things occur to you during the writing that sound better (more organic) than the path you were following. I did not hesitate to take those side roads when they promised to be more scenic, I assure you.
Though the verdict is still out on how I did, my editor did tell me she absolutely loved what she’d read so far. I can only hope the love continues all the way through the book. ;)
On a related note, I gave a library talk last week about plotting and pacing. I sort of felt like an idiot talking about plotting, since I don’t consciously do it, but of course I know that I DO plot. We all do. It’s just that our processes are varied. My process involves a lot of thinking, a lot of what-ifs, and a launch into the story when I feel I know who the characters are and what they want.
But on my quest to provide the best plotting information to the people at my workshop, I did try to look at various ways of plotting. And I kept coming back to one word: conflict.
That’s what it’s all about, right? In a romance, you need an external and an internal conflict. In a Presents, for instance, you need a lot of internal conflict. External conflict is secondary in the books I write. But it is there.
What the editors had done for me on the continuity was think very long and hard about the internal conflicts of the characters. They gave me a roadmap of events that needed to occur, of course, but the internal conflict was so strong there could be little doubt how my characters would behave when confronted by the external events.
That was the secret to writing the book in three weeks. Strong internal conflicts and a roadmap of events.
Not that you want to write 50K in three weeks, but if you want to write quickly, make sure you’ve thought your characters’ backgrounds through completely. Then either plan a list of things that can happen, or go ahead and write the dreaded synopsis if you enjoy that kind of thing. So long as you’re willing to toss the roadmap out and take the side road from time to time, you’ll have a template that will get you to the end a lot quicker than if you’re constantly thinking about what happens next as you write.
I’ve already started my next book, and though I don’t have an outline, I know I have really great internal conflicts. I have a word document I saved in notebook layout (it has tabs, which I love) where I can jot things about plot issues, character issues, or just find and paste a lot of pictures for inspiration. Through the course of seven stories for Presents, I’ve learned what my process is – and what it isn’t. This saves a lot of time and trouble once you know who you are as a writer.
So if you’re just starting out, you’ll probably write a bit slower as you learn who you are and how you write. Experiment a bit. Don’t think you have to do it any particular way. If detailed outlines work for you, do it. If a combination of outlining and writing by the seat of your pants is your thing, you’ll figure it out. Just be willing to change the process as you go, to see what works for you, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing it wrong.
What other lessons did I learn from writing a book in three weeks? There will be a lot of take out meals, a lot of dirty laundry, very fast showers (if there’s the chance to take any), very little sleep, and a sort of dazed zombie look that lasts for several days after you’ve turned the book in. Other than that, piece of cake! ;)
My latest book, THE PRINCE’S ROYAL CONCUBINE, was not written in three weeks. ;) RT Book Reviews awarded the story 4 ½ stars and gave it a Top Pick recommendation. This book is also a USA Today bestseller.
Two glittering royal houses…
Prince Cristiano di Savaré hunts his prey by ruthless means. Tonight’s pickings…Antonella Romanelli, crown princess of a rival country and part of a dynasty he has every reason to despise…
…one majestic seduction
Antonella is rocked by Cristiano’s unexpected magnetism. But there’s ice in his wolfish smile… She’s far from the promiscuous, spoiled socialite he believes her to be, but Cristiano is here to persuade her into compliance. If bedding her is what it takes, then it will make his mission all the more pleasurable…
For more information about my books, please visit me at www.LynnRayeHarris.com.
Lynn Raye Harris is a USA Today bestselling author who writes glamorous, sexy romance for Harlequin Presents.