Writing a Romance Series the Hard Way

alwaysab_epubHappy New Year everyone! May 2014 be healthy, happy and prosperous for all of us!

I’m kicking off 2014 with the release of a new book, the third and final in my Left at the Altar series. ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID releases on January 17, 2014. I can’t tell you how relieved I am! Finishing this book, and the series, very nearly didn’t happen.

Almost ten years ago I had a notion to write a series where each book opened with someone being left at the altar. I wanted to explore the humiliation someone jilted in such a public way would experience. How would they get over it? How would they learn to trust again? Would they ever be able to love again?

So I created characters and plotted out three stories.  The first of these stories, HER BEST MAN, was released in 2007, my very first publication. I worked diligently on the second book, THERE GOES THE GROOM, but I ran into a big, huge roadblock – a lack of confidence. After receiving a critique from a published writer who questioned elements of my plot, I totally lost faith in my own work. She didn’t like that my heroine in the story had become engaged to someone else, after being dumped at the altar eight years previously by the hero. When Tony and Olivia meet again, she is about to get married. The published writer felt I should eliminate the fiancé since including him made the heroine into a cheater. She also felt I should eliminate the love scenes to make the book ‘sweeter’.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I did nothing. For a long time. I couldn’t write the third book in the series before the second since I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen in book two. So I was stuck. I ignored the series and went on to write other projects.

But I hadn’t forgotten about Tony and Olivia and the other characters from the series. I really wanted to tell their stories. So when the opportunity arose to go on a long weekend retreat in the spring of 2012, I decided I was going to deal with THERE GOES THE GROOM once and for all. I would do the required revisions and finally finish it.

So there I was, all set to axe the poor, unsuspecting fiancé, when it hit me: eliminating him and the conflict he brought with him took the beating heart out of my book. It would no longer be the story I wanted to tell. Same with eliminating the love scenes. I wanted Tony and Olivia to make love. After all, they’d waited eight years to do it! I decided to go with my gut and write my story my way.

THERE GOES THE GROOM was finally published in May 2013, more than six years after the release of the first book in the series. It took me a ridiculously long time, but I have finally learned to trust in my own vision for my work.

Have you ever lacked the confidence to do what you really want to do? Have you ever let someone talk you out of something you felt was right? Do you enjoy romance series books? What are some of your favorites?


Writing a Romance Series the Hard Way — 10 Comments

  1. Oh, man, I keep thinking I’ll get some of that confidence when I grow up–it hasn’t happened yet! I think my favorite series are Nora Roberts ones and Robyn Carr’s Virgin River. Good post, Jana, and good luck in the New Year!

    • Liz, lacking confidence seems to come with with the territory for a writer. I managed to push my way through this one (after a really long time)but I question myself constantly and wonder if I’ll ever make a name for myself in this business.

      I’ve read many Nora Roberts series, but I haven’t read Robyn Carr. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll look her up.

  2. Congrats on your upcoming release, Jana! I’ve definitely allowed my confidence to be shaken in a way that stopped me from writing. In fact, my first rejection as a teen led me to stop writing for nearly 20 years. Terrible, but true.

    As a member of a critique group, I’ve learned how to weigh advice I’ve been given and make the choice that is right for the story.

    Thank you for sharing your story!

      • Reese, that’s awful! As teenagers we’re so unsure that a cruel remark can send us reeling. Thank goodness you found your way back to writing eventually.

        I’m usually pretty good at weighing the advice I receive from critique groups, or at least I eventually learned to be. The time with the published author was the exception. And it wasn’t that she was dissing me or my work. The advice wasn’t mean-spirited. But it was advice for the kind of book she wrote, not for the book I wanted to write. I think it took me so long to finally say her advice didn’t work for me because, well, she was published and doing well. I felt she must know better. But someone else can’t write your story for you. Only you can.

        • Liz, that was some prize you won! Sometimes critique groups forget to tell the writer the good things about their work, the stuff they like. Instead they concentrate on everything that’s wrong about the book. That’s a good way to tear a writer down.

  3. Jana, I think your story pretty much illustrates that listening to someone else and ignoring what you feel in your gut is a bad thing to do. But it’s so hard when you’re presented with all these “rules” you’re supposed to follow. I’m so glad you decided to write your story, your way! Congrats!

    • Thanks Alison. Ultimately, it’s my own fault for letting myself be side-tracked. At one time, advice about not having another love interest in the story was sound, especially in certain romance lines. But in the years while the story was in limbo, I read several stories where a hint of ‘adultery’ was woven into a romance novel, such as an unhappily married hero who meets someone new. That helped to give me the confidence to say a story where the heroine ditches her fiance was acceptable. And btw, she didn’t sleep with the hero until she said goodbye to the fiance!

  4. I seriously question my talent every couple of days. On those days I tell myself that this is my last book. Some days I tell myself that this is my last day writing, that I won’t even finish the book. The next day I’m back to writing again. So yeah, I definitely lack confidence. Isn’t that a job requirement?

    • I have many days like that too. My book is crap, my ideas are crap. Many times I think I should just go back working full time at a day job and actually make some money. But like you say, the next day I’m back at it. It’s a crazy business and I think we need to be slightly crazy to stay in it!

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