If each scene works, do they necessarily work together?

Over the holiday break, I sequenced the twenty or so scenes I’d written for Book Two (Justin and Gianessa).  Until then, the book felt fragmented, and, although I had ideas for additional scenes, I needed to see how the existing material worked together (or failed to). The result was not so much a “backbone” as an “emerald necklace” of Justin and Gianessa’s love story.

If that term Emerald Necklace doesn’t ring a bell, I should explain that I lived in the Boston area for about twenty years, and the Olmstead parks were a beautiful feature of the landscape. (Check out Olmstead’s Emerald Necklace at http://www.emeraldnecklace.org/map/). Gianessa’s necklace (not emerald!) is an important symbol in the book; perhaps that’s why her scenes with Justin looked more like an emerald necklace than a backbone to me when I strung them together.

In terms of the book, I found I that the twenty scenes fitted themselves well into twelve sketchy chapters. The chapters represent an emerging love story and fairly complete character arcs for both Justin and Gianessa. In short, the existing material hangs together, and I can see the work that remains.

At this point, I’m enjoying the supporting characters whose scenes help tell the story of the main characters’ development; I enjoy having them speculate on the changing relationship as they see it. These characters– Manda, Joel, Tony, Lyssa, Sara, Gwen, and Phil– feel very real to me since their debut in Book One. Old friends.

Back to work.

What inspires romance?

I took an interesting detour the last few weeks to explore a subgenre that I hoped would be a good fit for my romances. My books and stories involve 12-step spirituality as an integral part of the relationship, what I’m calling “higher powered romance”. I don’t see my stories as Christian romances, so they don’t fit well with what is typically called “Inspirational” romance or “inspired romance.” While some contests give a broader definition for “Inspirational,” the titles and blurbs that catch my eye all seem to be Christian in focus.

One subgenre I recently encountered is called “Inspirational with Edge.” Blogger Joy Tamsin David gives a detailed and interesting definition of Edgy Inspirational that is frankly Christian. Several sites explore these ideas, each in their own way. These include: Love Inspired Authors; Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers; Julie Lessman – Passion with a Purpose – Inspirational Romance for the Heart and Soul; Kaye Dachus – Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters; Shawna K. Williams – Author of Grace-Inspired Fiction; Michelle Sutton – Healing Hearts – Fiction making an impact on real lives; and others.

Two “edgy inspirational” authors in particular caught my eye, and I enjoyed their books very much. Author Pamela S. Thibodeaux‘s book The Visionary is an example of a Christian romance that deals sensitively with the impact of abhorrent sexual, physical, and mental abuse on siblings, all in the context of compelling, parallel love stories. Author Carrie Daws writes a series in Crossing, OR, (Crossing Values, Ryan Crossing, and so on) that feature family values, Christian transformation, and romance. Both these authors have firm footing in Christian values and in the transformative power of love between a man and a woman.

After exploring and reading with great interest, however, it’s become clear to me this is not a subgenre that fits my higher-powered romances.

Then I opened the cover (well, okay, clicked to page one!) of the e-book A Year to Remember by Shelly Bell (Soulmate Publishing, Inc.). This funny, fast-moving romance addresses food addiction in the context of 12-step programs. Sex? yes. Christian? no. The heroine is Jewish, looking for a Reformed or Conservative Jew. Resolving the addiction is part of her journey to true love with her soulmate. I think I’m coming home!

Reconciling feedback

I received a wide variety of feedback from the critique session, much of it directly relevant to the edgy inspirational romance books I’m currently writing. Even the non-romance-genre folks in the group had important observations. I was able to do a complete rewrite of the troubled scene as a result of the feedback, and it gave me a better foundation for continuing the book (that is, book two Justin’s Time Out).

While I was rewriting Justin’s Time Out, I also received feedback from the Golden Pen contest I’d entered over the summer with book one (Manda the Brave). The marks were good, I thought, as a new contestant in the field of romance (6, 6, and 7 out of 9, with one recommendation to advance to the next round). Is anyone surprised that some of the feedback from the expert readers was the same as I’d received from the critique group for the troubled scene? :-) The work I did rewriting the troubled scene from book two gave me a good jumping-off-point for a start-to-finish revision of book one. I am making final edits now in preparation for

  1. entering Manda the Brave in the Golden Heart contest in November,
  2. also in November, pitching Manda the Brave to a publisher who will be at a conference run by my writers group. (see Write On! Rochester featuring Write it Forward: Everything the Writer Needs from Craft to Publishing. with Bob Mayer.)

Above all, I’m still having fun with the writing and the characters, setting, etc. I’m very glad I read an article by Claudia Welch in the August 2012 issue of Romance Writers Report (RWA). “Protecting the Girl…”  addresses the stresses and strains that can divert a writer’s energy away from the joy of writing. Being mindful of those distractions has been really helpful!