Confessions of a Romance Novelist: Begin at the Beginning

February 3, 2016

Confessions of a Romance NovelistI joyfully released When She Falls: Franconia Notch Trilogy Book Two into the wild on January 21, and I gleefully checked that book off of my to do list without batting an eyelash at the extravagant use of adverbs.  I sat back and basked in the anticipation of starting a new project.

Until I got this message on Facebook:

Opening scene in “When She Falls.” She pours herself Chardonnay, but then laments that if she falls off the slipper chair she will be covered in red wine. What did I miss?

I initially responded as any seasoned writer would.  I said to myself: “WTF?”

But not abbreviated.  And out loud.

You get the idea.

I opened the Scrivener file for When She Falls and searched for the culprit.  There it was in the sea of Chardonnay: red wine.  I cursed (as previously mentioned but with greater skill) and stomped my foot.  (Literally.)  And then I smiled.  Because that unknowing reader who had so innocently messaged me on Facebook didn’t realize the literary archaeologist she was.

Because that red wine was collateral damage of a lot of hard work by me and my editor.

The Story of the Red Wine

If you ever read a writing craft book, you’ll read the same piece of advice: never start a story with someone sitting on a train traveling towards something.  Start it when they’ve arrived.

The red wine was another way of starting a story with someone on a train.  The original opening scene of When She Falls was a snoozer.  No, not even a snoozer.  It was my writing partner Captain Licky after dinner next to the fire.  It was out before it even had a chance.

My editor pointed this out during content edits and suggested I work on it.  Work on it I did.  The original scene had Lydia knowing Cam was coming, and she was waiting in her townhouse, expecting him.  (Did you fall asleep just reading that sentence?)  Lydia’s story hadn’t started.  She was waiting for it to start.  That’s the first no-no rule of writing an entertaining story.

So it got changed.  It got changed to preserve momentum at the very beginning.  But when you restructure a scene so drastically, there can be causalities, even when going through round after round of editing.

So yes, there is some red wine in that Chardonnay, but at least, you didn’t fall sleep in it.

Writer’s Tip: Don’t get fooled by train rides in disguise.  Start the story at the beginning.

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