Hello there! Welcome back to My Little World, and thank you for not abandoning my blog while it has pretty much lain in a coma for the last while.
The past six weeks have seen me on hyper-focus, and that isn’t likely to change any minute soon, but I know at least a few of you would like to be kept more up to date with what’s going on in my little world.
In late July I was invited to join a crit group through ACFW. Wow, we’ve really been putting each other through the paces ever since! I submitted my contemporary romance novel, Joy Comes in the Morning, through the group in August and early September. They all gave me such encouraging feedback for the first few weeks. Oh sure there were things to pick at. No question it was a long way from perfect. But they seemed to be enjoying the story nonetheless. That’s the main thing, eh?
Until they began closing in on the last few chapters. Then they began to question how the story fit together. Basically it had morphed into something related to suspense by that stage of the book, where it hadn’t started out as one.
Bad Valerie. I do know better. I know that the reader asks story questions in that first scene that sets their expectation for the book. And the opening scenes of Joy Comes did not ask who would shoot whom at the other end.
Time was closing in on ACFW conference and I panicked. I’d expected to have a truly complete novel to pitch to agents and editors. Instead, I had a mess on my hands. My good friend Margaret volunteered to do an emergency plot read and came back a few days later to explain to me what I’d done: seen a weakness in my main character but instead of fixing her from within, I threw a bunch of external issues at her to make her act. Or react. Mar also said I was trying to wedge two stories into 60,000 words. (Honestly, at that length, there’s barely room for one!) She said I needed to pick which was the story I wanted to tell, and go from there.
And she was right. And the calendar showed me the conference was right around the corner. And I kept panicking.
I chose to whack the suspense plot OUT at its ankles. I brainstormed a new series of conflicts that came from within the characters. I created a new blurb based on the story’s new focus:
Artist Chloe Alonso has spent the last ten years on edge, anxious for news of her abducted daughter. It isn’t until she crosses paths with single dad Dean Odell that she begins to envision a new life in the present. Too bad his daughter, Paige, doesn’t want a mother as much as Chloe wants to be one. Chloe’s meddling adds tension when Dean seems blind to Paige’s antics.
Chloe discovers firsthand the challenge of parenting after her daughter, Raven, is miraculously restored to her. The strain of developing a relationship with a teen she’s never known sheds light on Dean’s situation with Paige. She and Dean vow to try again, knowing their lives are not complete without each other. But when his kids befriend Raven–one for good and one for ‘other’ reasons, Dean and Chloe’s romance hits a new crisis point. Prayer, intervention, and mature love must come together to purge their long seasons of sorrow and lift them into a joyful morning.
The week before conference was really busy at work. A bunch of new samples arrived that needed to be priced, being as a friend of mine unfamiliar with the store had agreed to sit in for me, and she wouldn’t know how to look things up when questions arose. Evenings were spent with my daughter, home for a visit, and canning tomatoes.
As I prepared to leave for conference on Sunday, September 13, I was aware that my pitch for this novel was still severely lacking. I had directions, but no details.
What saved my neck was spending a few days with Maripat, who turns out to be a darn good friend under pressure. Well, the rest of the time, too. I think that will be a subject for the next blog post, and I promise it won’t be a few months down the road!