“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale Of Two Cities
I once had the opportunity to have my first chapter critiqued by a NYT Bestselling Author. It was a public venue and others weighed in as well, but this author’s opinion was the one I was desperate to hear. I was pretty sure I would be crowned a genius.
I had really painted my heart onto the page with this chapter. I’d recently learned about deep point of view and it had taken my writing to a whole new level. Already a student of Dwight Swain, I had my heroine react to every line of external action. A guy said something, she thought about it. Felt it. The rain started to fall. She experienced it. Had an opinion on how it was just like the universe to relieve itself upon her at this dire hour. The chapter was brimming—overflowing—with character reaction and emotion.
At first, this was well received. I was praised for bringing the reader so far into the moment. Then the big cheese weighed in. Pacing, my dear. It’s not only dead, but you’re flogging it, kicking it, and emptying a round into it.
Which was true. I had to admit it. So this really wasn’t the worst writing advice I’d ever received. It was the worst experience I’d ever had receiving writing advice. But stick with me. First I’ll tell you how it impacted my writing—detrimentally. Then I’ll tell you what I gained.
Yes, every time my heroine had a private thought I was stalling the action. I get now how that was a bad thing. However, I was so new to finding the emotion in a scene that I came away from this experience worrying only about keeping the action rolling. I wound up cutting introspection for the next several manuscripts, never engaging the reader and finding zero love from the publishing world.
So this advice was something I needed to hear, but I received it at a bad time from such an exalted authority, I took it too much to heart.
I am the person who always finds the bright side. I’m annoyingly encouraging. Given that I spent twenty-five years receiving rejection letters, I am not only adept, but I am a self-appointed expert at spinning negative experiences into positive ones.
First, this rather public dressing down taught me how to behave like a professional. I had asked for a critique and it sucked, but I asked for it. The remarks weren’t personal. They were meant to improve my work. I grew the sort of thick skin I needed to survive the next decade of rejections.
Second, I learned to take writing advice with a grain of salt. It’s really easy as a newer writer to take every tip as gospel, but Tools Not Rules, baby. I learned to try new techniques, but only make them part of my process if I liked the result.
Finally and most importantly, this experience taught me to find my own voice and trust it. To some extent this involved shutting out the world and simply writing for myself, over and over, but editors now comment on my strong, confident voice. This wasn’t something I appreciated until I recently judged the Rita and discovered a few New To Me authors whose voices leapt off the page and grabbed me by the throat. I’m not saying these were fast-paced stories, but the writing was gripping. I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing action or introspection so long as you’re engaging the reader.
Which hopefully I’ve done here and you haven’t nodded off! Because it occurs to me I haven’t tied this post to my current release. I can say very honestly that I had to unlearn a lot of the plotting and pacing skills I developed in reaction to the advice above before I sold to Harlequin Presents. I discovered that I’m a character-driven writer and thrive in a line like Presents where the readers devour emotion and introspection. If you enjoy character angst, you’ll find it aplenty in An Heir To Bind Them.
Now tell me your worst experience receiving advice and whether you asked for it. I’d be happy to draw among the comments for a signed copy of An Heir To Bind Them.
Off the boss’s payroll…and into his bed.
Jaya. Her name reverberates around Theo Makricosta’s head in time to the whirring blades of his private helicopter. He must find her; only Jaya can help with the care of his infant niece and nephew…. It’s not because he hasn’t stopped thinking about the single night of mind-blowing passion he shared with the exotic beauty.
Jaya Powers couldn’t refuse her gorgeous millionaire Greek boss when she worked for him, and she can’t refuse him now! Only this time she has a secret. Their night together had consequences that will change Theo’s perfectly ordered existence forever!
“There’s not a woman in the world with enough training to fix me. Don’t try.” Another warning, his tone a little cooler.
She shook her head. This was about fixing herself, not him. “I just keep thinking that if I leave without kissing you, I’ll always wonder what it would have been like.”
That sounded too ingenuous, too needy, but his quietly loaded, “Yeah,” seemed to put them on the same page, which was remarkable. He stared at her mouth and hot tingles made her lips feel plump. She tried to lick the sensation away.
His breath rushed out in a ragged exhale. He loomed closer, so tall and broad, blocking out her vision, nearly overwhelming her. But when his fingers lightly caressed her jaw and his mouth came down, she was paralyzed with anticipation.
There’d been a few kisses in her life, none very memorable, but when his mouth settled on hers, unhurried and hot, she knew she’d remember this for the rest of her life.
The smooth texture of his lips sealed to hers. He didn’t force her mouth open. She softened and welcomed his confident possession, weakening despite the nervous flutters accosting her. He rocked the fit, deepening the kiss so she opened her mouth wider, bathed in delicious waves of heat. Their lips dampened and slid erotically. His tongue was almost there, then not, then—
He licked into her mouth and she moaned, lashed with exquisite delight. This was the kind of kiss she’d only read about and now she knew there was a reason they called it a soul kiss. Her hand went to his shoulder for balance. She lifted on her toes, wanting more pressure, more of him settling into her inner being.
With a groan he slid his arm around her and pulled her tight against him, softly crushing her mouth while digging his fingers into her bound hair. It was good, so good. She reached her arms around his neck, loving how it felt to be kissed and held so tightly against his hard chest and—
He was hard everywhere.
Like hitting a wall, she pushed back, perturbed by how intensely she had been responding and the dicey situation she’d put herself in.
He didn’t let her go right away, kind of steadied her first while staggering one step himself, then he ran a hand through his hair and swore under his breath. “Hellfire, Jaya. I suspected it’d be good, but I didn’t know it’d be that good. Are you sure you don’t want to spend the night?”
After a brilliant debut in the UK with No Longer Forbidden, a Mills & Boon Modern Book Of The Month January 2013, Dani’s first Harlequin Presents, Proof Of Their Sin, won the Reviewer’s Choice by Romantic Times Book Reviews for Best First In Series. This summer she has five hot books from Harlequin, starting with An Heir To Bind Them in June. In August, watch for The Ultimate Seduction, the second book in the Harlequin Presents 21st Century Gentlemen’s Club mini-series. Also in August, she debuts with HarlequinE. Look for The Dani Collins Erotic Romance Collection containing two titles: Playing The Master and Mastering Her Role. She also has an online novella with The Chatsfield series, The Secret In Room 823.
Dani is celebrating her sexy summer books by offering you a chance to express your secret desires from behind a masquerade mask. Enter Dani Collins’ Masked Desires Contest here.
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