Yeah, I know. I've been kinda close-mouthed on my current project. I have mixed feelings about it, so I've avoided talking about it much. Which is ridiculous, since everyone reading this has been uber-supportive and all kinds of wonderful.
Most of my qualms are knee-jerk reactions stemming from the genre and my target market for this story. I mentioned already that it's an inspirational romance. The publisher I intend to target is Steeple Hill, which is an imprint of Harlequin. So, yeah. Category romance. And you know, as a writer of fantasy fiction, I should be above the whole inward-cringe-at-the-mention-of-genre-fiction. I've read a number of the Love Inspired books, and some of them I found not-so-interesting and reliant on cliche. But then, some of them were well-written and entertaining and even touching, albeit in a light-and-fluffy way. And you know, I'd probably come away with diverse opinions regarding individual books from pretty much any genre I chose to sample. (And have. Direct yourselves toward my foray into sampling YA fiction. Which I would link, if I actually remembered where to find it. Man, someone needs to put better labels on these blog posts.)
How did I make the leap from writing/plotting/planning YA fantasy and over to inspirational romance? At one point I'd done some research into Harlequin's supernatural/paranormal romance lines. I concluded at that time that I wasn't sure I was a natural for writing the general type of story they published in that line. As I was thinking idly about the Loki story one day a couple of months ago, it struck me that story's plot might work as a paranormal romance as easily as for a YA fantasy. (And maybe more, since there were a lot of overtly sexual themes emerging from the plot line. Reference my gtalk tagline: "The Norse gods were sluts.") At the same time, I'd been doing a lot of musing about how my natural story-telling style seems more straightforward than the complex world-building and plot-weaving I'd been doing for Crowmaker and then for Loki. And about how spiritual themes seem to shove themselves to the forefront of almost everything I write. And I stumbled across the Steeple Hill guidelines, and a little click sounded somewhere deep in my brain.
The basic plot formula for an inspirational romance (or Christian romance, more accurately) is fairly simple. Romance is about the personal development of two individuals and their romance with each other and the ways in which they and their romantic involvement change each other. An inspirational romance adds the relationships of each individual with God to the mix. I had a basic idea almost immediately, I hashed out a plot over a weekend in early March, and I blasted out a first draft over the course of... 6 weeks? 7? The word count requirement for the line is 55,000-60,000, which suits my tendency to write short and sweet.
What I've discovered while writing this story:
I started out half-thinking I would bore myself to tears midway through and have to force myself to finish in an effort to have something to throw at an "easy" sell publisher. I expected to feel like I was selling out. I do not feel that way. I like this story. I have begun the revision process, which for me involves layering in setting and mood and theme and additional character development bits. I find that I am excited about how well this story is turning out. I think I will be proud of the writing, even if the story itself never finds a home or earns rave reviews.
The writing has been easier than on recent projects, but not in a white-heat inspiration kind of way. Rather, I simply feel like I have a better grasp on what I'm doing. I am able to think to myself "I want to have this effect on the reader," and then I see how to manage it. I feel like I know what I'm doing. I feel like I am in control of the story, or rather that I am balancing with confidence on that tightrope between right and left brain functions as I am telling the story. It's a pretty good feeling.
Did I mention that I feel like I know what I'm doing? I've struggled for years to figure out a writing process that works for me. I feel like with this project, all the little bits and pieces I've picked up here and there are coalescing into a single, powerful process for me. Which vindicates my long-held belief that writing is like many other skills: You can't just pick up and do it. You can't just memorize a list of rules and procedures. You have to focus on the fine points of technique and practice them individually and often and to the best of your ability. And not only do you get better with practice, but eventually, hopefully, the individual things you do begin to internalize themselves and become part of a whole process.
Or maybe I'm just fooling myself, and the smoothness of this project is just a fluke.
I don't know how good this story will really be, objectively speaking. I don't know if I'll be able to sell it to Steeple Hill or to anyplace else. I do think that I am learning and growing as a writer from working through this story, though. I do think it will be a decent story, and I do think it's been worth my while to write and will be worth my while to continue working on.
Even as Crowmaker bubbles and boils and murmurs in the background.