Monday 20 August 2012

Saddle Up! It's writing time again...

I was doing so well, resisting the need to write, but then I saw this call and the voices in my head just would not be quietened and I had to get back in the saddle.

As an experiment, I thought I'd document the creation of this manuscript and clue you in a bit to my thought processes but, be warned, it'll be pretty jumbled up. Obviously, I'm not a published author - yet - so this could all be a load of tosh. Even if it isn't, every writer works differently and you'll need to find what works for you. I'm usually more of a panster and let my plot evolve in stages but with the limited word count and submission deadline in mind, I'm trying something a little different to see how it goes.

The brief:
Write for Avon!
Would YOU like to write for Avon Books? We want to read YOUR romance novels and novellas! Submit to us today through and read on for specific submission requests from our editors. We’re always looking for the next heart-warming, blood-pumping romance, so even if your story doesn’t fit the below, submit to us! Need an story idea? Here’s what our editors are craving right now...

How could he not know? After all, he’s the father of a child…but he doesn’t, because it’s been kept a secret from him—sometimes for years. Now it’s your chance to put your own twist on the ever-popular, ever-perplexing ‘secret baby story.  We’re looking for short contemporary novellas, 20-25,000 words that will convince us that a baby really can be kept a secret!
  • 20,000 – 25,000 words
  • Sensuality level: from Moderate to super-sexy
  • Contemporary
  • Must be received by November 15th

Day one: Brainstorming

Okay, so I'm starting with a completely blank canvas and I have my notepad at the ready, turned to a blank page and ballpoint pen in hand. At first I considered the New Year theme, one of the other submission calls, and got the faintest idea of an opening moment of crisis by thinking about my heroine and what she was doing at the time. This is where it all gets a little bit scrambled!

So, my heroine; she's in her car travelling to... a NY party?... or maybe she's driving home?... from a holiday or maybe a job interview?... but her car breaks down so she calls roadside recovery, anxious to get home because... it's the big party? she has a child to get home to and she's a single mum? The hero, her old flame if she can call him that (ooh, back-story!)... turns up to try and fix her car and she is shocked to see him, because... he's the son of a rich and powerful family and doesn't even need to work for a living. 

But why is heroine so nervous, so scared, about seeing hero again? She has a big secret... the child is his, the result of their one night together after their graduation prom... but hero doesn't know anything about it because heroine fled in shame after an encounter with the school bitch (oooh, more back-story!). Whoa, hang on, there's a child... a secret child

Time to rethink the brief and switch to the 'secret baby' submission call but the secret baby storyline is so common, I don't even need to explain it. If I want an editor or reader to want to pick up MY secret baby story - and finish reading it - I'm going to have to come up with some fresh and interesting characters with an intriguing story and a great opening hook. 

Maybe it's time to turn up the conflict then... what if the secret child was in the car too?... what if heroine and son were going away on holiday when their car broke down? Ouch, that would be awkward and terrifying and guilt-laden and upsetting and heart-breaking and... it looks like I have my opening hook.

That means it's time to delve deeper into my characters then. Who are they? How do they know each other? What's the back-story? Why aren't they together? What is stopping them from getting together? Yikes, slow down, let's start with the basics.

First up, my heroine... she's a genius, a bookworm, voted 'most likely to succeed' at graduation, until her life got flipped around by falling pregnant. Does she have a name? No, not yet. What does she look like? She's plus-size (really? Cool), with fairly long brown hair and she wears glasses (cliched but I'll run with it for now) and she was painfully shy at school, trying to hide away behind her glasses and her books.

Onto my hero... He was the heart-throb and pin-up boy at school and the most eligible bachelor, coming from a rich family... aristocratic maybe... but he's really down to earth and not at all arrogant... who doesn't love him? His name is Benedict and he has a posh surname, double-barrelled, but he turns his back on it all after falling out with his family and adapts his name by shortening it. He always had a thing for mechanics so gets a job as a roadside patrolman. 

So far so good, I have enough to create a new project in Scrivener but I need a title, or a least a file name, and after playing around with the concept, come up with Damsel in Deceit and it feels good so next, I can start filling in my character sketch sheets. Oooh, I need to add an image too, something else to help inspire me. And that means Google time, cue spending the next couple of hours trawling the internet for images whilst making little character notes. 

And bingo, I've got them and they feel right. Yes! Oh and my heroine now has a name, she's called Kimberley, Kim for short. I'd love to attach the images for you but don't want to fall foul of copyright so here's a little teaser... allow me to introduce my hero, Benedict Urquhart-Howard (AKA Chris Pine), going by the name of Ben Howard, and my heroine, Kimberley 'Kim' Baxter (AKA Chloe Marshall)

(Day 1/90)

Day two: characters and outlining

I carry on filling in my character sheets, getting much more in-depth, almost like carrying out an interview. At the same time, I start developing my outline. 

I go back into my Scrivener project and create three folders; beginning, middle and end, and give them each a target word count of 7,500 words. I then add four text files to each folder, which will hopefully become four chapters but it's completely flexible and can be easily chopped and changed. Going into corkboard mode, I am now faced with three index cards for the folders I created - BTW if you haven't tried Scrivener yet, you must - and I can start throwing some ideas down.

Obviously, I know how the story opens but what happens next? How do my H/h react to seeing one another? What would my they do? How does the external conflict push them together and how can I make the internal conflict pull them apart? What is the worst thing I could do to them? 

By the end of day two, I have my plot outlined and all the loose ends resolved. I'm pretty excited actually. Even my husband gave me a nod of approval. Hurrah!

(Day 2/90)

Day three: thinking time

The weekend is over and I'm back in full mummy-mode (remember my post Family First?) but I'm going to spend some more time getting to know my characters, keeping my trusty notepad and laptop nearby. Once the kids are down in bed, I'll probably update my sheets and play around with scenes but I don't expect to get any actual writing done until my little cherubs are back at school in a couple of weeks. At least I should be able to hit the ground running...

(Day 3/90)

I hope you enjoyed that little glimpse inside my brain and don't have a headache as a result - either from utter confusion or from hitting your head on the computer/desk after falling asleep - anyway, if you're still capable, I would love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment.


  1. I'm impressed with all that plotting, even if my eyes glazed over and my muse just stuck her fingers in her ears, lol. I'm such a panster I get hives just reading it, lol. Good luck with the wip!

  2. Aurelia, well done you for being such a dedicated plotter!! I wish I could be! I'm so slow and terrible at plotting. Go for it!


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