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A CASE FOR LOVE: Questions Answered

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sorry this post is so late. I got back to Nashville around 9:30 Wednesday night. Before I could even get into the house, I had to put everything in my arms down so that I could unblock my front door. I have a small wooden crate on the front porch that has all my gardening implements and outdoor tools in it (with some bricks in the bottom to keep the Tennessee winds from blowing it away). When USPS and UPS delivered the boxes and envelopes containing all of my copies of A Case for Love (Barbour sends a copy from their office with my cover flats via UPS, another box of five copies came via UPS, a box with two copies along with the two cases containing 24 copies each came via USPS), they put the envelope and one of the small boxes between the storm door and front door, then scooted the crate over to hold the storm door closed and put the second small box and the two cases of books on top of it. I couldn’t even kick it off to the side to be able to get the door open. Needless to day, after two nights of almost no sleep (and three hours in the car without stopping for, um, anything), I was somewhat annoyed by this obstacle to getting into my house. But, anyway, I got home and my books are here. And then, after several hours of trying to get my life straightened back out so I could hit the ground running today (not getting to bed before 1 a.m.), I slept for a little over ten hours, then lay in bed at least another hour just because it was so flippin’ comfortable.

(Hold on . . . must go get second cup of coffee.

      Ahhh . . . much better.)

Okay on to answering the questions.

Becky Miller asked . . . Do you feel like your creativity suffers when you’re under a fast-approaching deadline? When you have to churn out the words, do you ever end up feeling disappointed in the work and/or wishing you could have spent more time on a section?

Funny you should ask this, as this very question came up at one of the panel discussions I participated in yesterday. When I’m several months away from a deadline, there’s no rush, no hurry to get it done, so I’m more apt to wait for inspiration to strike. If I don’t feel inspired to write when I sit down to do it, I don’t force myself to write, even though I fully ascribe to Madeleine L’Engle’s tenet (emphasis mine): “Inspiration comes far more often during the work than before it, because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work and to go where it tells him to go. Ultimately, when you are writing, you stop thinking and write what you hear” (Walking on Water, p. 149).

When deadline is looming and panic-mode kicks in for me to get a book finished, all of the inhibitions, all of the analysis, all of the self-doubt is drowned by the rush of adrenaline that comes from the fear I’m not going to meet my deadline (and thus my editor, agent, and everyone else who knows me or knows of me will be disappointed in me). Most of my favorite scenes—which are those that come toward the ends of my books—are those that I’ve written in that panic-induced rush of creativity that comes from the need to get the book finished on time. Now . . . if only I could get that to kick in about a month before a book is due so that I have time to go back and re-read it for edits/revisions before I turn it in! Because, yes, there are times when I feel like certain (early to middle) sections of a book were short-changed or could have done with a couple of months of critiques and fiddling. However, I also know my penchant for getting caught in a rewrite/revision loop—nothing is ever good enough, it can always be fixed. So that’s the greatest thing about deadline—having to turn it in and not being able to spend months or years fiddling with it.

Adrienne asked . . . I was going to ask if it is difficult to go from a book in the Bonneterre series to a historical and back again? From what I have seen it seems you write a historical between every modern day based book.

After spending two and a half years working on Stand-In Groom (on my own followed by a year with critique partners followed by the first year of graduate school), the manuscript was “finished” and in revision/editing mode. I had never worked on any story that long (with the exception of the 200,000+ opus I started in college and worked on throughout the ’90s)—I had finished three manuscripts in the two years before starting that one. So I was ready to do something different. As I mentioned in my Inspiration post for Ransome’s Honor, I’d started toying with the idea of a historical romance with a Royal Navy captain as the hero. And since I needed something to turn in for workshop critiques, and I didn’t want to submit anything from SIG, as it was already in revisions, I decided to knock out a first chapter of this historical idea, just to see if I could do it and what reaction I would get. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive (from a romance-genre-focused critique workshop), and I was captivated by the story at that time too—and I needed something to be submitting to my critique partners for the next year as well, so I kept writing it.

Having moved from writing Menu for Romance straight into writing A Case for Love, after struggling with the story for a while, I realized that the reason I was having trouble was that I really needed to write a historical between each contemporary—because I use a different style of writing with the historicals, I feel like when I come back to the contemporary, my voice and style are fresher and I’m not repeating myself—my sentence structures, speech patterns for characters, etc.—as much.

Renee asked . . . Who was your favorite “hero” to write, Forbes, Major, or George? Who was your favorite heroine?

Jolanthe asked . . . Which one of your characters in the series do you most closely relate to?

Alexandra asked . . . I want to know, too…who’s your favorite hero in your stories?

You know, Tuesday, after reading Renee’s question, I brought it up with the other authors I was with down in Mississippi. Most of them had the same reaction I did—hmmm . . . tough question. Almost like asking a mother which child is her favorite. Although one of the authors I spoke with had the opposite reaction—by the time she finishes her book, she doesn’t like the hero anymore and thinks she could have come up with someone better for the heroine.

In the Brides of Bonneterre series, if forced to choose, I’d have to say that Major is my favorite of the three heroes. I spent three years with George and even though I do still like him, by the time I turned that manuscript in to be evaluated for my master’s degree, I was ready to say goodbye to him and move on to the new love of my life (which was William at that time). When I finished Menu for Romance, however, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Major. He’s the one who still makes my heart flutter when I think of some of the more romantic scenes in the book. I couldn’t pick Forbes, because he fought me most of the time I was writing Case . . . but that’s best left for another question.

The character I most closely identify with is Anne. Even though she ended up somewhat different from me, when I first started writing her story, I’d used my middle name as her name (Nell), so she was very similar to me, without my realizing it—until I changed her name and she started changing into a much stronger, more successful, more business-savvy person than I’ll ever be. I want to be Anne Hawthorne when I grow up.

Amee asked . . . How do you get past writer’s block (if you get it at all!), especially if there is a tight deadline? Was there any specific part of A Case for Love that really challenged you?

Alexandra asked . . . How do you fix writer’s block? I love my story and I’ve got lots of ideas, but I’m stuck. And I’ve been stuck for the last two weeks.

Again . . . another question I was asked yesterday at one of the panel events. When I’m at a point when I have got to sit down and write, either because I’m on deadline or I’m blocked (and on deadline), I make one of the characters go to the grocery store. I write it out in detail—they get a basket; they buy two apples and three oranges and a bag of spring mix salad; they wander through the bakery aisle and experience the smells of the baked goods . . . and so on (in the historicals, I have them go on a walk into town—remember William’s walk after the encounter with Sir Drake in the stationery store in Ransome’s Honor?). It’s something of a writing exercise, and almost always gets cut out, but it serves two purposes: I’m getting to know the character a little better and eventually they’re going to start talking to me again or they’re going to run into someone that will present a conflict which will get the action of the story moving again (or introduce a subplot). (For example, William’s post-encounter walk ended at the dockyard where his ship was being stripped for repairs, and, thus, I was right back into the story because he was talking to me again.)

Any specific part of Case that challenged me? Um, yeah, FORBES GUIDRY. That self-proclaimed control freak did not want to let go and let me get inside his head. I think it’s because he knew I was going to start taking away his control over everything in his life and he didn’t like it, not one bit. Eventually, we negotiated a settlement and he was much more forthcoming. But, oh my goodness, how he frustrated me the first couple of months I was trying to write that book (and, thus, why Major is my favorite of the three heroes).

Regina Merrick asked . . . I have a question about your writing process. Before you were published, what did you do to keep yourself on a schedule of writing? I have the most awful time getting back in a groove after a holiday, or after any major distraction!

There are a couple of different times of my “before I was published” life—there was pre-grad school and during grad school. In my pre-grad school days, writing was my escape, my joy, my way of destressing after a long day at work (in a job I didn’t necessarily enjoy that much) and school (from 1999 through 2004, I took 9 hours of undergraduate hours each semester) and ACFW officer stuff (from 2003 through 2005). I couldn’t wait to get home and sit at the computer a few hours (or even better, in bed with a spiral notebook) and write a chapter or more (about 3,000 to 4,000 words) at night and completely lose myself and not have to think about everything else going on in my life. Between May 2001 and April 2003, I completed three manuscripts (120k, 100k, and 75k words). First drafts, yes, with no revisions, but completed drafts nonetheless. In graduate school, I was learning how to write on deadline, because each semester, I had to turn in a certain number of pages each month to my mentor and critique partners—and I had a personal goal of having the first draft completed by the end of my first year (May 2005—a deadline that I met by writing the final 25,000 words in about 78 hours with about six hours of sleep that weekend—and those are some of my favorite scenes in the book!). I’ve never been good at sticking to a schedule for my writing. I need to be better about it, and that is one of my goals for this year.

Jess asked . . . This isn’t based on “A Case for Love” itself, but your post yesterday really got me thinking. Do you ever consider using the Sims game to help plan your houses or towns?

I haven’t, mostly because by the time that game came out, I was already so familiar with Bonneterre that I felt like I’d waste more time trying to get my mental image/map of the town laid out than I would writing. If I ever decide to do a new fictional setting (such as, if I ever get around to the story idea I have for a series set in a small, fictional town in the hills an hour east of Nashville), I might consider it.

Jess @ Blog Schmog asked. . . I wanted to ask how many words would you estimate you wrote (including any cuts) for your most recent book and how many is it completed. Did that make sense? IOW how many words had to be cut/edited. Obviously an estimate unless you keep everything.

Has this changed drastically since you started writing?

I recently cut 1/3 (10K wds) of my wip and though it was a big trim I am much happier with the result. Now I’ve got some gaps to fill. I’m curious how those who know what they are doing fare.

Since completing Stand-In Groom and Ransome’s Honor, and going through massive revisions/rewrites/critiques/edits on both of those manuscripts, I think the most I’ve cut from any of my subsequent manuscripts has been one chapter that I cut from Menu for Romance before I turned it in (about 3,000 words). My contemporary manuscripts are contracted at 100,000 words and my historicals are contracted at 105,000 words. Stand-In Groom because it was written prior to being contracted, is just over 90,000 words; Menu for Romance was turned in at 96,944; my final draft of A Case for Love was 99,533 words; Ransome’s Honor was 106,368, and Ransome’s Crossing was 106,946.

This is a good question for everyone who’s writing: How long are your manuscripts? How much cutting do you find you have to do once you finish writing your first draft? Or do you find you need to add words after you finish?

Rose Biles asked . . . When you write, do you just write whatever comes to mind regardless of its position in the story, or do you work on specific chapters at a time? Do you start each story with a storyline and general synopsis then create an outline, or do you just let the words flow with no formal organization?

I used to be complete a “seat of the pants” writer—not really knowing where a story was going before I started it. Now that I’m selling books based off of a synopsis of the idea for the book, I have to know who the characters are and what the main conflict and scenes of the story are. And because I write romance, I already have a certain structure of things that need to happen in the story. It’s actually been very helpful for me to have the main pieces of the story already figured out before I start writing, now that I can’t take a year or two to write each one, because when I get to a place where I’m feeling lost in the story, I can go back and reread the synopsis and figure out where I’m supposed to be going. And with the Ransome Trilogy, the story formed pretty early—which was good, because I had to know what was going to happen in the third book before I could write the second book. And I had to know what was happening in the second and third books to be sure to include setup for those events/reveals in the first book. I’m definitely not an outliner, but I do like to have a synopsis to go by. For example, when I got to the eleventh chapter of Ransome’s Crossing last fall and got stuck, I pulled out the synopsis (which was a good five or six pages long) and wrote out scene “cards” (on large Post-it Notes) of events that needed to happen in the book, then, when I sat down to write each day, I knew where I needed to go:

Those on top were the completed chapters,
those below were the scenes I needed to write.

I write from beginning to end almost exclusively. There have been rare occasions when a scene has come to me that comes much later than what I’m writing, and I will go ahead and write it so that I don’t forget it. But then I go right back to writing it in order.

Alexandra said . . . I’d love to hear about your writing on deadline, too. My first WIP has taken me three years and it’s still not where it should be. I can’t imagine getting a story from brainstorming to sending it to the publisher in six months.

Because my stories are contracted so far in advance of when I have to turn them in (with Love Remains being an exception—in more ways than one), I usually have quite a bit of time between when I write the synopses for the stories and when I actually have to write them—so I’m already thinking about them for a while before I write them. Plus, it helps that I’m writing series in which the characters in subsequent books are characters in the initial book—so, again, I’m already working with those characters for months/years before I start writing them.

I had years to develop the characters/stories for the Bonneterre Series and the Ransome Trilogy, having started them long before being contracted. And even though I’m not able to use any of it, Love Remains is actually taken from the third complete manuscript I wrote (using the same title)—the one right before starting Stand-In Groom. The second book in the Matchmakers series is a story idea I came up with and started developing in 2007. And when my agent mentioned I should have a new series proposal ready to go around the time I turned in the manuscript for Case, I pulled those two story ideas along with one I’d been toying with in which the characters’ grandparents were trying to get them all married off. I wrote out a treatment of the idea for the trilogy for the first time in August 2008, which was when I came up for the idea for the third book. So even though I may only have two, four, or six months to get a book written, I’ve been thinking about each one and figuring out who the characters are for months or even years before I ever write them.

Elaine asked . . . How did you choose the location, Bonneterre?

For the answer to this, I’ll refer you to the Settings post for Menu for Romance, in which I explained the development of Bonneterre in detail.

Did I cover everyone’s questions?

  1. Thursday, January 21, 2010 3:44 pm

    Thanks, Kaye! I feel like I’ve been to a writing workshop! Last night I was asked how long I’ve worked on my WIP, and I had to stop and think. Nearly TWO YEARS. I’ve set myself a goal, this year, of going through it one more time (I’m more than halfway there as of yesterday), writing the draft of book 2, and an outline of book 3 before the ACFW conference. I hope giving MYSELF these deadlines will spur me on!

    What is the best advice you can give someone about finding a really great critique group?


  2. Thursday, January 21, 2010 5:09 pm

    No wonder I like Forbes, “self proclaimed control freak”, Type A brats. He and I are two peas in a pod. 🙂

    I laughed when I saw the sticky note picture. Just this weekend I took a picture of all the sticky notes on my living room window. I’ll have to post it now! Ha


  3. Amee permalink
    Thursday, January 21, 2010 6:54 pm

    Haha, I’ve never heard of having the character take a walk instead of the author! Very creative. 🙂


  4. Jess permalink
    Friday, January 22, 2010 11:26 am

    I’ve cut about 50,000 from my novel. Because I didn’t know where the story was going…and then, recently, as I was finishing up, I realized it was about to clock in at about 114,000–a little too long. So I cut it down to 107,000.


  5. Lori C permalink
    Friday, January 22, 2010 12:54 pm

    Just so you know I used this blog as a sort of “how much do I know about Kaye” test. So I read the questions then answered how I thought you would answer and compared to see if I was close….Did fairly well…..not great on the true author stuff, but fairly well,. I however KNEW about Major!

    Keep in touch


  6. Friday, January 22, 2010 9:15 pm

    Thank you for answering my question Kaye!

    Poor Forbes…at least he’s MY favorite 😉

    xoxo~ Renee


  7. Friday, January 22, 2010 9:16 pm

    Nothing like home sweet home and your own bed! Don’t you love the UPS guys? They were always on my list of nice people (the ones in our area seem to be real considerate about making sure your packages are secure as well), but one day, they moved to the top of my list.

    I had gotten some furniture I needed for a room we had recently completed remodeling at a sale. I purchased it at a one day furniture warehouse sale, and had to get both items that day in our own truck, or wait a week or so for delivery at the stores convenience and for a fee. Of all days, my husband had to work late.

    Although I live in the country, these two UPS trucks pulled up in front of my house about the time I did with the first load (It was a huge office armoire–very heavy). They were consolidating all of the undeliverable merchandise for the day onto one truck. I saw them lifting all of these heavy boxes and thought, “Hmmm. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.” So I asked them how they would feel about helping a lady in distress. When I explained my dilemma to them, they laughed and said, “Why not.”

    So in exchange for a couple of canned cokes, they saved the day. They flipped the armoire out of the truck, I left it in the carport, and I was able to retreive my office sofa in the same day.

    By the way, your responses to this series of questions was awesome. I too feel like I have been to a writer’s workshop. Thanks for all of the information. How long do you leave your blogs online? [Pardon my ignorance if this is one of those “duh” questions. Yours is the first blog I’ve been involved in, but I’d like to go back and read some of the other ones. Do you have them organized in any way where the ones related to writing, versus Fun Friday, versus other topics are accessible by subject?


  8. Saturday, January 23, 2010 12:59 pm

    Oh, I always have to add words–usually several thousand–when I’m finished. Such a pain!!! I envy all you “have to cut so many thousand words out at the end” people! 😉


  9. Becky Miller permalink
    Sunday, January 24, 2010 1:05 am

    What a great “panel discussion” you gave us – thanks! This was a very enlightening look at the writing process. I think I write well under deadline too – it keeps me from second guessing. The gut instinct is often right. Now, about that story for the Case contest that I haven’t started yet…


  10. Monday, January 25, 2010 7:26 am

    Your comment about Forbes not letting you into his head just cracked me up. 🙂 LOL!!

    I’ve been without internet access this last bit, so I’m catching up on some of your past posts. 🙂



  11. Sylvia permalink
    Thursday, January 28, 2010 10:42 am

    Oh, I’m so looking forward to this book! My sister and I keep calling the bookstore/checking their website to see if it’s in! Personally, I think Forbes is going to be my favorite hero. It’s so hard though. All three have been great. I like how you have given each his own personality and not made them cardboard cut-outs of each other.


  12. Lizard permalink
    Thursday, January 28, 2010 2:08 pm

    Thanks for all the great info. Not being a writer myself it is cool to get in head of someone who does write and see all the work that goes into a book.


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