I figure it is time for a status update since I haven’t mentioned my story in quite awhile. Trust me, I’ve been working pretty hard on it. In fact, I’ve officially come up with the title Though I’m Missing You. This ties into the fact that even though Poe and Oliver are around each other, they are still emotionally disconnected and missing each other. Also ties into everyone missing Jenna.
I stated back on December 12th that my 2nd draft was complete. I didn’t want to revise it until I got a critique by someone else. I didn’t know that finding a critique partner would be such a long process.
On December 29th, Chase approached me on Absolute Write to see if we’d be a good match. He was writing a mystery with the two leads falling in love, so he wanted my opinion on the progress of his story. Of course, I said “yes”. I thought it’d be cool to get a guy’s perspective on my story.
I enjoyed working with Chase, my FIRST critique partner ever. I always thought that in the critique stage, writers only share about two chapters and possibly a few scenes they feel they need help on, then call it a day. From there, they revise their entire story from the crit partner’s overall suggestions. So, I was very happy when he wanted to swap chapters until our rough drafts were complete.
He taught English, so Chase advised me on the correct usage of commas and told me to stop using short, simple sentences ALL the time. From him, I learned to use a variety of sentence structures, and I love my semi-colons (which my second crit partner dislikes, but that’s for later).
He let me know that Poe and Oliver came off as self-centered. I wanted Poe that way; it helped me know that I was successful in showing rather than telling. I wanted to express she was scared of children. This is relevant because for the majority of the story she watches Raven, who’s only 4 years old. Raven was Jenna’s daughter. But, Chase said it was coming off as Poe being unsympathetic, disliking Raven. From there, I wrote revisions because that wasn’t the expression I wanted to give off.
Overall, his feedback helped me. He never said my story was boring (I was afraid that may be the case for him since he’s not used to reading romance AT ALL), so that was a plus. We actually sent our chapter 4 critiques through email on January 9th, which I didn’t know that’d be the last I’d hear from him. No goodbye, see ya later, peace out, thanks for helping me. Not pressing the issue, I just moved on.
Chase, if you ever read this, thanks for being my crit partner. From your advice and suggestions, it helped me better edit my rough draft for the next person, which is—-
On January 7th, I approached Anam to become my critique partner because I wanted a female perspective (hello, female readers are who I want). I found her on LadiesWhoCritique; her story sounded interesting–a man and woman met 5 years ago, then meet again. She strictly writes romance, so I knew I could learn a lot from her. And, it’s a plus that we swap two chapters at a time until our stories are complete. As of today, I only have fifteen chapters left; so close, yet so far away.
Anyway, she’s taught me a lot. Anam is like a beta-reader and critique partner wrapped in one, and it’s so amazing. She’s going way beyond what I thought a crit partner does, so I’m very grateful. She’s teaching me about the unwritten rules of romance. Perhaps we’ve covered them all–who knows because I still have chapters left for her to make suggestions on.
Rule #1: Female main character doesn’t have to be sunshine and rainbows, but she shouldn’t be selfish or self-centered.
Like Chase, Anam was good in picking up that Poe was a little self-centered. From her suggestions, I decided to tweak Poe’s personality quite a bit. Romance readers have to like the female character in the novel.
Rule #2: Female main character shouldn’t think nasty thoughts about other people unless they’re horribly nasty first.
Poe is sarcastic; I refuse to change that. In fact, Anam seemed to enjoy some of Oliver’s interior monologue where he was snarky too, so I changed his personality to be a little sarcastic as well. I need my humor somewhere. Anyway, there’s a tension filled scene in chapter 4 where Poe wishes she could be anywhere else besides in the car with her ex Oliver and his girlfriend Kate. Kate’s made it pretty obvious that she hates Poe even though Poe hasn’t done anything to her. Kate and Oliver argue in the car, and it’s through Poe’s point of view. Of course, I made it as snarky as possible. Poe is one of those people who hides her discomfort or nervousness through wit and sarcasm. So, that’s the vibe I was going for with Poe’s interior monologue (or narration).
Anam advised me that this scene will make Poe unlikeable. Instead of the readers rooting for Poe to get back together with Oliver, they’ll be siding with Kate. I have to decide whether I want to keep the scene as is or change chapter 3 to make Kate do something nasty to Poe unprovoked. In that chapter, they all meet at Dominic’s (Jenna’s husband) house. Maybe I can add a scene where Kate is rude to Poe, so there’s a reason she has her guard up in chapter 4. Or, I can just change Poe’s perspective in chapter 4 a bit, so it’s not “cruel”. But, it’s so funny…
There’s a huge double standard in romance novels that I don’t agree with. It seems like the woman has to be perfect all the time; she’s not allowed any leeway. She’s judged so harshly while the man can do whatever he pleases. So not fair. Like, Poe seems bitchy for making fun of Kate in her thoughts, but Oliver gets a pass for throwing Kate out of the car.
I would think Poe could get a pass for some of the tension later on in the story since she is grieving the loss of her best friend. Besides there are unresolved issues with Oliver that she’s still upset about. I don’t see why Poe gets called bitchy for expressing some slight frustration with him. I don’t know anyone who’s conflict/argument style is one of acting rationally, or thinking ‘oh boy, I better not say this because it’ll hurt the other person’s feelings’.
How can I have tension and conflict if Poe is expected to be a Mary Sue about everything? I want something else besides sexual tension from the two exes.
Rule #3: Males in romance novels have to be strong.
Oliver isn’t a Gary Stu by any means, but I wanted him to be shy, nice, and respectful. The guy who wears his heart on his sleeve to counteract that Poe keeps a wall up. Think of how Dr. Carter acted around Kem on E.R. with emotional side,but one of Jason Batemon’s characters in anything he’s ever played in. You know, the responsible one, tends to his girlfriend’s or wife’s needs, the one guys make fun of.
But, I’ve been advised by Anam that he comes across wimpy. Yikes, I don’t want that. I’m editing to make him more assertive if you will. Think Pacey Witter–reasonable, low self-esteem, challenged Joey but always respectful.
Is it true that guys can’t cry at all in a romance novel? I mean, Oliver’s cousin did die after all. Is he not allowed to cry in the privacy of his own apartment? What about later during the funeral scene? Is there any leeway?
Rule #4: Relationships should take up a lot, if not much of the plot or it isn’t a romance.
In chapter 1, Oliver calls Poe to let her know that Jenna had passed away that night. Then, chapter 2 they officially meet at the airport. So far, Chase and Anam didn’t mind the opening, but I’m still debating if I should change it. Maybe I should start with chapter 2 to open up with all the awkward tension they have towards each other, leaving readers to wonder who Jenna is and why the exes haven’t spoken in a year, etc.
From Anam’s useful suggestions, I’ve managed to show rather than tell how much Poe and Oliver mean to each other even though she’s afraid to admit it aloud. Trust me, he has no problems shouting it from the rooftops. She pointed out in some scenes where Poe may be thinking about Raven or Dominic, but Poe should be thinking about Oliver because of what happened in the previous scene. I’m happy that she helped with that–the perks of having a critique partner in the same genre you write for. I probably wouldn’t have received that keen advice from Chase if he hadn’t jump ship.
I’m very excited how my story is turning out. It’s way different than my 2nd draft. It’s more improved with a higher word count. I have to give thanks to Anam and Chase. Hopefully, Anam and I can keep this steady pace going, so we can finish. We usually swap about four to six chapters a week.
I look forward to her suggestions and concerns because I see it as a challenge to fix. Anything to improve my story is a plus–no more just writing for myself. I have to consider what fans of the romance genre want to read. Anam gives me experience on how it’ll be like to work with an editor. To show that I can revise in a timely manner and am flexible. As long as the story is still my own, I’m good.
Hopefully, within a month, I’ll be posting that I’ve finished my 3rd draft and am looking for beta-readers. Right now as I receive my critiqued chapters, I begin editing straight away. I don’t send my next batch until I’ve worked on some (not all) of her suggestions. A lot of stuff I agree with, and some I have to stay true to myself. Like, she dislikes my usage of semi-colons, but I can’t get rid of them. Then, it would fall back to me having too many short, simple sentences all over the place again.
P.S. I didn’t expect this post to be so long; I guess I had a lot to say.