Monday, January 4

So--where's your zone?

By Liz Flaherty

We’re back! Welcome to 2016—we hope your holidays were wonderful!

I’ve written a dozen or so books now. Actually, if I look under the virtual bed, I’ve written a lot more than that, but that’s neither here nor there for the sake of this discussion. I imagine my voice has changed over the years. I don’t hear the changes, but I’m sure readers do. Sometimes over the 16 or 17 years I’ve been published—I can never remember what year the first book came out, only that it was in the last century--trends started making me professionally itchy. The boundaries of my comfort zone have been compromised by What Marketing Wants.

I wrote the first book with one or two love scenes. During the editing process—one of the first great WOW! moments in my writing career—I had to add another. I didn’t think it was at all necessary, but it also didn’t hurt the story, so I added it. “I don’t like writing loves scenes,” I mumbled to anyone who was listening, “but I have to do it.”

Some people, most of them unpublished, encouraged me to refuse to write them. “I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want to,” a few of them boasted. Even now, I admire that kind of confidence. Even now, I don’t have it.

After I got this blog posted, I got a note from Cheryl St. John, whose new Love Inspired Historical, Want Ad Wedding,is available for pre-order and whose story I'd asked to use here. Rather than mess with it, I'm going to quote her.

"It was over the title of my first book. They wanted to change it and I was mortified.
I had called it Rain Shadow, which was the heroine's name from the book's inception. As you know, Harlequin always wants their own titles. So I went into a funk over it. I was sitting on the floor with an afghan pulled around me, pouting. My husband walked past and said, "Nothing is sacred, eh?"
I'd made a note and hung it over my pc as a reminder and it had been there a year or more.
NOTHING IS SACRED
That was a wake-up call. I brainstormed their list of titles and sent it off.
The final decision came a few days later--they liked my original title best."

The next “I don’t want to” was the language thing. I don’t like raw language much, nor do I use it unless I’m particularly ticked off or if it’s part of a really good joke. If a book has a lot of it, I don’t read the book because—for me—it’s like when you watch Jeopardy and you have the Daily Double. I hate the Daily Double because it takes me right out of the game. Language, including the ubiquitous f-bomb, takes me right out of the story. Would I put it into a story if an editor requested it? Unless I had a religious problem with it, probably.

But it made me think maybe inspirational romance was my wheelhouse. I’m a Christian, so that part was good for me. I read some inspirational romance, so I felt good with the cadence of it. So I wrote one (A Soft Place to Fall), that is still a favorite. But I didn’t fit there. It was kind of like when I travel—it was a good place, but I didn’t belong there. 

Then I got lucky and found Harlequin's Heartwarming line. I love writing for it. I hope I get to do it until they have to pry my cold, arthritic fingers from the keyboard. Sometimes it gets a little tight within the imprint’s confines. I’d like to cut loose with a swear word here and there. Some heavy breathing. I’d like to say “crap on a cracker” and win the argument with my editor over it staying in the story. Tight but not painful--I'm still at home there.

What this means is, like many other writers, I dip my pen into more than one inkpot. I’m never quite as at ease with the other things I do, but they do give my abilities a little stretch that does them some good. And when I’m done, I’m happy to go back to writing the “sweet” romance that is in my home room.  If I’m “in the zone,” that’s probably the one I’m in.

So—as I say nearly every time I end a post—what about you? Do you like staying in your writing comfort zone or do you like doing the stretching stuff? And, while I’m asking things, would you say No to a straight-out request from your editor?


Have a great week.
***
Coming January 18 to an e-retailer near you--any of them--Summer in Stringtown Proper, the story of Molly and Joe. It's a return trip to the Ridge where Early's quilt shop was in A Soft Place to Fall, and you're invited to Rahilly's Saloon to stay awhile. I'll have links soon--and this is one of those outside-my-zone things--an indie release without the "you can do it" support of a flock of really great fellow authors in a boxed set!

19 comments:

  1. I like the stretching thing...although sometimes its so comfortable in my comfort zone that I just want to wrap it all around me - like my favorite snuggly blanket - and never take it off. The Superromance (First Love Again) was a pusher. It was a lot more emotional than any other book I've written and it was so hard...but it was so much fun at the same time.

    Great post, Liz!

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    1. Thanks, Kristi. I think I repeat myself a lot! :-)

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  2. Great post, Liz! I don't really enjoy writing love scenes, but for edgy romantic suspense, they're a must. So I've gotten used to doing it. I'm fine with throwing in sh*t, damn, h*ll, etc. but the F-bomb makes me cringe. My heroes don't use it. However, once in a while my bad guy will. I just finished a manuscript, and I sat with my fingers poised over the keys as my villain said some nasty stuff to my heroine. I had to use the F-bomb. It was absolutely the only word that worked in the context. So, I sucked it up and did it. Often, I think I would prefer writing sweet romance without the swearing and sex, but I thrive on the suspense in my stories. So, I'll do what needs to be done to fit in the genre because I want my books to sell. Best of luck to you in 2016!

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    1. I've judged a few inspirational suspense titles in the Golden Heart and the RITA, and I have to admit I don't know how the writers do it, but they do it well! It's all a matter of taste (and how you grew up), I think.

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  3. This is all new to me, buy I keep plugging along. I think love scenes are hard, not because of being comfortable with it, but more I worry about describing it. Describing and doing are completely different, but I try. I've spent most of my life concerned about what others thought of my thoughts, but I've reached a point where I don't care anymore, so right now, I'm getting comfortable with uncomfortable.

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    1. Good for you, Lori! You can't worry about that. Although I admit it still bothers me that people will think I'm a prude because I don't like the f-bomb and get bored silly with sex scenes.

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  4. Wow--this is really food for thought because although I'm a relative newbie compared to you, I still see my writing changing just over the four books I've had published. The third WOWB book had way less sex--it just didn't seem all that necessary. And this new one, although the attraction is hot and immediate, probably won't have much in it either. The cursing thing--as you already know, I don't have too much of an issue with it. My heroes use the occasional curse word, so do my heroines, probably because I do. ;-) But there are definitely words that are no-nos in my book. So...the original question, do I like stretching or do I prefer staying in the zone? I think, like you, both...and one day, I'll figure out what my zone is. Great post!

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    1. And I will say I LOVE the occasional curse word, because they are freaking necessary! It's when they replace so many other adjectives and adverbs that I get sick of them. Same with sex scenes--they're great, but sometimes I'd rather read a conversation or even a recipe. :-)

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  5. Thanks, Liz! I am in the same boat with my inspirationals. Sometimes I want a bad boy or people who make real mistakes or get revenge--so I save those for my other publisher--me! lol

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    1. LOL. Yes, that "other publisher" comes in handy for a lot of us anymore, doesn't she? Thanks for coming by, Cheryl!

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  6. Oh, I forgot the other question: would I say no to a request from an editor? No--I got rid of the first five chapters of OMFTT and the first three of TSOSC and totally revamped SATWM at the request of my editor. If you trust your editor, most of the time, they will make your story stronger. But if you truly object, remember that it's your story...

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    1. And one of the things I love about my editor (he never comes here, but, you know, just in case...hi, Charles!) is that he alway stresses that, that in the end it's my story.

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    2. Always, not alway--he wouldn't stand for that for a minute!

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    3. Well, my long-winded comment was just accidentally erased! Let's see if I can recreate it....*groans and clutches hair*

      I've stepped out of my comfort zone a few times, esp when my alter-ego decided to start writing Sci-Fi Rom, venturing into menage, and getting frisky in the bedroom. In my Arbor University series, I stretched my boundaries when I wrote #6, the 'bi-curious' f/f story line, and made all the sex scenes 'behind closed doors'

      I've only 'rebelled' against an editor 3 times:
      -When my AU series was picked up by my (now closed) publisher, the first editor assigned to me wanted me to update the time period from the 1980s to present day. After throwing a private tantrum, I polled readers, who told me NOT to change it, then very politely declined and cited all the pop culture references in the books. Thankfully, I was allowed to keep the time period:)

      -I had an editor with another publisher (who has also closed its doors) who didn't know what she was doing, and while I bowed to her judgement on most of the changes, one I felt so strongly about, I told her I'd take the heat if anyone complained about it. When that book was re-released, my new editor reversed MANY of the previous editor's changes:)

      -My 2nd editor for the AU series tried to argue with me over certain things in #4, some of which I simply ignored and others I agreed to change. She hadn't read the others, so didn't know the back story of the characters, and questioned motives, even going so far as to tell me 'this character would NEVER act like that." Ummm....I witnessed this character's actions first hand, so yes, she DID. I was very happy she only edited two of the seven books, and by the time she was assigned for #7, she'd 'caught up' on the series and we had less issues!

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    4. I've stood firm a few times, and panicked when I had to, but it has worked out. Thanks for coming by, Molly!

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  7. I also agree with you on the 'F' word....I bought several books last week and had to stop reading three, due to the F word being on nearly every page! I've also read books where the H/H is fleeing from the bad guys and bleeding/exhausted/laying in a field and all of a sudden their clothes are coming off. REALLY?????

    I'm also a little ashamed to admit that my current WIP is stalled at the 1st sex scene....I'm just not 'in the mood' to write it. I may put 'insert sex scene' and come back to it later. See if that jogs my creative depression back into action!

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    1. Lol. I've gone back to it a time or two, because I need to be "in the mood" too. I don't hate writing them, and short ones are even fun, but when it's page after page of body parts and A fitting into B, well...

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  8. Some of the favorite things I've written have been when I "stretched", writing sci-fi and fantasy shorts. Sometimes it's nice to surprise myself. A big stretch might be to actually plot. LOL

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    1. It's so nice when a stretch becomes a favorite thing!

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